After two weeks of taper, a disappointing marathon, two weeks of essentially no running, and then 3 weeks of around 30mpw, I was feeling … out of shape. I’ve gained a little bit of weight, I haven’t really felt sharp or speedy or fresh, everything has been a little blah. It’s not a great way to feel, for one, but it’s also hard to plan for a spring race schedule and set some goals when you have no idea where your fitness is.
So I decided to race the Empire State Half. The nice thing about hometown races is that it’s real easy to make a last minute decision to enter, albeit a questionable financial call ($85 for a half that goes through a park that I frequently run in? Yeah. That was a bit hard to swallow.)
I had no idea what to expect from this race. I really thought anything from a 1:35-1:45 was possible depending on how I felt that morning… and then I saw the weather forecast. 40 degrees at the start and 15mph winds gusting to 26mph? SWEET! Especially brutal because, as anyone who has ever run/roller bladed/biked/walked at the Onondaga Lake Parkway will tell you (there is nothing to block the wind coming off of the lake and it is fairly miserable to be heading into it for what seems like an eternity).
The one upside? We’d have a headwind for the first half, not the second. Therefore my strategy was to run by effort and make it to the turnaround feeling decent – then lay the proverbial hammer down.
I met up with Laura right at the start – we chatted, complained about the weather, and tried to stay warm in the car. She eventually took off to run a short warm-up; I opted out because my stomach was feeling unstable. The nice thing about this race is that the parking lot is right next to the start line, so I was able to hang out in my car until just a couple minutes before the gun went off. I scooted over to the start and quickly found a friend from my running group. Before I knew it, we were off.
I tried to settle into a comfortable groove; my feet were frozen solid but otherwise, I was feeling ok. We had a nice little group working as we ran up 370 towards the entrance to the parkway. I saw my friend Megan cheering around mile 3; it was great to see her and it definitely gave me a little boost. I knew the hardest wind section was coming up, so I committed to just keeping the pace honest but in control.
My feet started to thaw out around mile 3, but the sensation was replaced by what felt like the onset of a really bad calf cramp. I remember thinking that it was like there were icicles in my feet that had gravitated upwards into my calves, causing them to feel cold, stiff, and sore. I tried to back off a bit and make sure I wasn’t overextending myself by forcing a certain pace into the headwind. Splits for mile 4 and 5 were a bit slower, but whatever the issue was, it started working itself out and I felt a lot better by mile 6. (I think if I had actually run a warmup, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Oh well.)
Somewhere around here I saw Laura on the turnaround – she looked so great! Super focused and running well. I knew it was time to buckle down and see what I had left. I hit the turnaround and just started cruising.
The miles from 6.5 to 10 just flew by. I felt SO good – I knew I was working but it felt smooth and in control.
I saw Megan again at mile 10 and tossed her my gloves and my GU. My stomach hadn’t bothered me at all during the race but I was definitely feeling questionable before the start, and decided not to chance it. I didn’t take any water during the race either, for the same reason. (Typically I’ll take a gel around mile 7 if I think I can handle it – not really sure if this helps or not.)
Right after I ran by the mini cheer squad, I started to feel the hurt. I just reminded myself that the last 5K of a half should hurt and told myself to keep running honestly, no purposefully back off, and see what happens. The last stretch on 370 is pretty lonely which didn’t help either – no spectators and the runners were really spaced out at this point, so I was just humming along by myself.
Finally I made it to the mall and so started the series of turns that would take me to the finish.
My calves were so, so sore during the last few miles and it felt like I was crawling. I was trying to ignore my watch because I really didn’t want to know how much I had slowed down. Once I could see the finish line, I just thew everything I had into it. Making epic pain train faces like it’s my job.
I won’t lie – I was a little disappointed to see the clock at 1:38:xx when I crossed. I knew I had been running strong for the second half and I was in PR territory. Unfortunately, I ran the tangents like a moron. Nothing you can do about that except try to be more aware of it next time. That disappointment quickly went away when I realized I still ran one of my fastest times on a day when I wasn’t even sure I could manage 8-minute pace.
Net Time: 1:38:24
2/107 age group
After the race (which my incredible and amazing friend WON, by the way), we headed over to Sharkey’s to eat, drink and be merry. The official post race party was supposed to be there – I say supposed to because it seemed like very few runners knew about it. Which is a shame – not only is this one of my favorite bars, but they had a bunch of free food for the runners and plenty of space to hang out for a beer or two. Hopefully the race does a better job of advertising this next year!
All in all, it was a fabulous day and I’m happy with what I was able to do. On to the next!