Racing in the rain vs Sunshine: A review of the Popular Brooklyn Half

An ideal spring race day would boast an average of 65° temps and be cool and overcast. Lovely right? Lovely and rare. Most runners know we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature on any given day; we can plan and strategize as much as we want, but when it comes down to it – when we stand at the start line of a race- our run is dictated primarily by the weather conditions with ability and efficiency coming in second. I’ve had three races so far this year that have left me in little doubt of that fact.

Last Saturday around 25,000 of us ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon to the tune of pouring rain. Now, I’ll be honest, this was my fourth time running this race and while the course was consistent in its wretchedness in the latter half, it was the first time I felt better able to deal with that part of it. All credit to the rains that never let up. Past races on this course have either been hot or humid, not true of this past one and I was only too glad. Seems, for running, I’m partial to cool weather conditions even if it’s wet as oppose to running with sunshine or in the heat, and please, never when it’s freezing rain.

Conditions at the start of the race were wet and hazy that Saturday morning and one couldn’t really be sure how things would progress. Granted, there was a lot of shivering going on, but it was manageable. We knew it would feel much better once we started to run and thankfully it did. What proved treacherous was navigating the puddles and oftentimes slippery roads. I soon gave up that fruitless struggle and committed to running with soaked and squishy shoes. The advantage of running in the rain is that because one need not be concerned with the perils of heat exhaustion, energy can be better utilized focusing on maximizing running efficiency, thus improving pace. And so, once I chuffed my preoccupation with soggy-less shoes, I was able to run and let the chips fall where they may. This strategy allowed me to really enjoy running in Prospect Park and have a really good first half, hills and all. Unfortunately, it didn’t last; though I did feel great up to mile 10. As usually happens with me on Ocean Parkway, the final stretch to Coney Island, I started to lose steam, and myself a bit, as it seemed that stretch would go on forever. With no end or variety in sight, it took all I had and then some to try to stay under an eight minute mile. I managed to do so to finish in 1:39 but I remain hugely disappointed that I couldn’t improve my time by two minutes.

I feel certain that this was the race to get the personal best I’ve been chasing since last year, except there’s something that I’m doing that’s not working. I’m committed to figuring out what the heck it is and so it stands to reason that I’m looking to my diet, sleep, and/or training to get the answers. I mean we had near-perfect running conditions yet I couldn’t deliver on the time. Meanwhile, after crossing the finish line, while I was a bit breathless, I was perfectly fine in under five minutes. I was neither in pain nor exhausted. I felt great. That begs the question, why then wasn’t I able to push more feeling as good as I was at the end? I’m not sure but it’s a question I mean to have answered.

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Taking NYC Half Marathon Lessons to Boston

Three weekends ago over 30 thousand runners ran the new course from Prospect Park, Brooklyn through the streets of New York City, into Times Square to finish NYRR’s (New York Road Runners) famous NYC half marathon in Central Park.

It’s a morning that I will remember for some time to come. Starting out cold and windy, runners were left to improvise at the start with triple layers, blankets, heat sheets and various oddities with one aim in mind, that of not freezing to death, or at the very least, keeping the blood flowing so leg muscles wouldn’t cramp or freeze up. The weather wasn’t that much of a surprise, this race has always been a cold one, but what threw a lot of us off was the brutality of the cold, which was February-like in its intensity. With real-feel temperatures in the teens there wasn’t much we could do but run, run and hope like hell that it would warm up a little and the wind would be kind. This leads to lesson 1: Plan B is hugely important. Extreme temperatures requires plan and goal adaptations, which quite likely means a change in running strategy.

The new course proved that most times different is good. It made for interesting running with new sights, or at least sights seen from a different angle, and many unsuspecting spectators in midtown Manhattan. Bless the hearts of all those who came out in their numbers to support and cheer along the course. They helped me navigate the head and cross winds and to dig deeper when the going got rough. I felt that if they weren’t running yet were willing to brave the cold to support those who were, then it was only right that I give it my best shot. One thing I definitely will take with me is lesson 2: No future pit stops to use the toilet. I’ve always been good at running without that necessity but for some strange reason, that morning, coming off the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, at around mile 3, I had to go. Huge mistake; for though there were toilets lined up on the side, and while I jumped the railings to get to them, since there was no visible entry, and almost face-planted for my efforts, they were all locked save for one – the last one I tried out of a whole slough.. I sincerely lost about 8-10 minutes there and never really recovered. On the other hand, I felt really good about my hydration, there were adequate water stops, a gel station, and amazing volunteers behind those tables along the course. It is absolutely true that the race would not have been what it was without them. Lessons 3: Giving back blesses not only the one who receives but the giver as well. I am super appreciative to volunteers who give of their time and sacrifice their comfort for us runners.

As I head into Boston this weekend, I’m also mindful of being thankful for the opportunity to be there and to be able to participate in this amazing race for the third time. I remain committed to running my best race and to lesson 4: Never take a race for granted, no matter how much times you’ve run it before, or get complacent with a course. Have a healthy respect for it and always approach it with a strategy that it may become necessary to tweak.

It’s so important to see the opportunity for learning and development in every area of life and running is no different. If the goal is to be a better runner then there’s no better place to learn than in the field.

March-ING on!

Source: pop sugar.com

Gotta say I’ve been ready for Spring since the ending of January. And now that March is here, I’m talking myself into its sights and sounds wherever I go. But darn it… the weather just won’t cooperate. I can do rain. What I can’t do is cold rain and the snow/sleet that accompanies it, along with the crazy wind we’ve been getting. One can only hope it’s on its way out. Meanwhile, there’s been lots of running so as to keep up with my first official race of the year – the NYC Half Marathon – happening this Sunday.

Ambivalence seems to be the order of the day as I’m not sure how to feel. Part of me is excited about the new course for this race – a new course is always a thrill – on the other hand, past experience has left me in chills. Literally. The timing of this race almost always ensures it’s a cold one. One can only hope for a miracle of sorts this time around. Weather projections aside however, there’s the usual pomp & excitement that comes with runners taking over the streets of NYC – running through Times Square never gets old, and now we get to explore different parts of the city as well. No more West Side Highway and Seaport or Financial District for me. I think many of us will not miss that too much, if at all, since running near the water is no one’s idea of a fun race on a cold day. That being said, I’m not sure if it’s wise to describe this as a fun run. Well..maybe so, maybe not, it all depends on perspective. Since I’d love to run a PR I’m not looking for too much of excitement. But hey, I’m not opposed to having a bit of fun out there on the course if time allows, which it probably won’t and that’s not the view of a pessimist. On the contrary, I’m always optimistic about my runs, maybe too much so some might say. In any and every event, I’m hoping for a good race and plan on spending this week relaxing the running, doing a bit more cross training, eating well, and getting to bed earlier. Notice I didn’t say early, because that’s near impossible, but earlier will ensure I get between 6-7 hours sleep per night in order to be able to execute a good race.

Race-preparedness means that I’d do well to look over the course, devise a running strategy and a few days before (like Thursday) go through my race checklist to make sure everything’s squared away and I’m ready to go. Most likely, I’ll enjoy a short, easy run on Saturday morning, about 3-5 miles – mainly because it’s become more of a tradition before my races, but also because it simply makes me feel better.

There really is no magic to this sport. You train, eat well, rest and allow the body to recover, and then just go out there on D-day and give it your best. At least that’s what I plan on doing. Wish me luck!

Ready, Set, Run-ning Gear

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