I am literally the worst right now. This draft has been here for nearly a week and I haven’t scheduled it. With that being said, here is my novel!
To be frank, I was nervous at the start — more nervous than I was for Chicago. After last year’s DNF due to the conditions, I was fearful that I might do it again. I only ran 8 miles a couple times prior to this (since the Chicago Marathon) and what if I couldn’t finish the next five? It’s silly. I knew I could will myself to finish another five miles but what if I did terrible? I didn’t want to be embarrassed. That’s silly, too. I pride myself on being comfortable in my own skin in all aspects of my life. I own each and every one of my decisions, I will never be embarrassed for things I like or dislike, and certainly not be embarrassed for being me. Yet here I was, nervous that I’d be embarrassed surrounding running — something I do for me, myself, and I.
This was the first year J and I drove in a little later and skipped packet pickup. I have never picked up my packet on the day of a race. I’m not very trusting in the efficiency of race directors — but let me tell you, that’s not a fear you need for this race.
We arrived in Syracuse, checked into the hotel, and headed out to Eva’s European Sweets, a place we discovered last year. I don’t have any specific pre-race meals the day before races or even in the morning. I have a pretty good stomach for all kinds of food so long as I don’t eat them too soon before I run. I ended up having a beer, six pierogies, half a kielbasa sandwich, and later on a piece of orange chocolate cake. Even though we ate around 6pm, I was still stuffed when I woke up Sunday morning. Oops.
Last year I arrived about an hour before the race and had difficulties with parking so to avoid it this year, I got there at 7:30am, two full hours before the race. I think they capped at a lower number this year because I had no issues with parking and it didn’t seem like anyone who arrived later did, either. I picked up my packet and hung out in the car with J. As per usual, I whined. “Why do I sign up for this every year? I don’t want to run a half marathon!” And as per usual, he reminded me, “You say this every year and still do it.” Yes, I do.
The weather was about 39 degrees and cloudy with a little wind, nothing too drastic. I decided to wear shorts (Saucony Bullet Tight), a tank top (something random from TJ Maxx), a base layer (Under Armour UA Crew), and a wind breaker (Saucony Sonic Reflex), along with a headband and mismatched gloves. I had brought leggings but decided it was just warm enough for this Buffalo girl to ditch them. As far as the gloves go, I brought my warm fleece ones (a pair of Asics I scooped up for $5 at a sale) which I love, but apparently the maple syrup from my breakfast Friday hardened all over one of them! Thankfully, I had some random $1 Target style one on the floor of my backseat. I’m still not sure whose glove it is.
I didn’t warm-up before the race. There was no point; it was going to be a long run with a faster finish. I did some stretches, warmed up my glutes, gave J a kiss and walked towards the start to chat with Laura. Shortly after, the announcing started and people started to settle into their place in line. I walked back a little bit and settled along the right side, but I knew I was too close to the front still. I just figured once the gun went off, I’d stick to my game plan but move to the side so I didn’t get in the way of faster people around me.
Miles 1 – 3 [8:27, 9:00, 8:42]
I started off with adrenaline flowing through my legs; I felt great! Of course I did, the gun went off and I had two hours of running still to go. I regretted wearing my jacket, but I knew J would be waiting at the halfway point for me to ditch it. I was comfortably running with the crowd, feeling like the pace was slow so I assumed I was sticking to the plan early. Wrong. I glanced at my watch I saw 7:50s flashing at me. Whoa. I pulled back. A group of people pushed past me. I look down again and saw 8:10s. Not good enough. I pulled back more. Another group of people pushed past me. I looked again and saw 8:40s. I didn’t know if I could go any slower than that, so I just tried to settle. I started to feel a little cramp in my side and got worried. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that beer last night. My mind wondered and I eventually forgot about the cramp, so I turned my watch face to show my heart rate as a percentage of my maximum. I was going to aim for 80-85% steadily. Towards the end of mile 3, more people passed me and it stung a little, but I kept a focus on myself and my form.
Miles 4 – 6 [9:07, 8:48, 8:38]
Here we turn around and start heading back towards the finish. There’s a decent amount of crowd support and it’s nice to be able to see the faces behind you and glance at the competition. In any other race, I would care about the competition behind me, but this race seems to bring some speedsters so I don’t even think about who might be in my age group. The group in front of me began to surge ahead without reason. I knew that these people would pull back in another 5-10 minutes. It’s easy to pick up the pace here with the crowd cheering and you’re heading back to the start for the first time. It makes it feel like the miles are flying by, but I know better. I let a couple more people pass me and intentionally slowed down even more.
Somewhere in mile 5, I settled into a rhythm again. I spent my time looking to my right at the lake, it was so serene. The girl in front of me whipped out her phone for a picture of the lake before squeezing out a selfie. To be honest, had I run with my phone I might have done the same — two swans were swimming so gracefully and the only thing I could think of was how effin’ big these suckers were. I also grabbed gatorade at the water stop because I didn’t plan to fuel at all during the race. Of course, I spilled part of it on my hands and they got sticky. This is my biggest pet peeve because it’s the only thing I can think about after it happens. Sticky, sticky, sticky. My pace dropped back down to 8:48 and I decided to roll with it. As I headed towards the starting line and saw the crowd, I let my pace increase and passed a couple people. I then realized that after mile 4.5 or so, nobody had passed me.
Miles 7 – 9 [8:35, 8:51, 8:46]
I had ditched my coat and gloves at the start, throwing them at J. The problem with this is that while I was too warm with the coat, I had a nice layer of sweat underneath that was now freezing in the wind. I kept thinking about my form and pushing forward, trying to warm-up. As we headed back out, people that passed me early on started to come back to me. Finally I felt like I had a well executed race; I wasn’t being passed anymore but doing the passing. I felt good but was well aware that this was approaching “longest run since October” territory and tried to settle down to conserve energy. It didn’t help that there was a slight headwind picking up, either. Mile 9 always gets me in this race because you already ran everything once and the first three miles go by so quickly, but here you’re just waiting for the turn around to head back for the finish. I think the added little loop that you do before the finish is the killer. I just spent this time thinking about how close I was and how much I wanted to turn around and get my blues and booze brunch.
Miles 10 – 12 [8:38, 8:29, 8:23]
In the middle of mile 10, we turn around and begin heading back. My plan was to use this as the time to kick in and steadily pick it up. My left hip felt a little sore, but nothing like I experienced during Chicago when the going got tough. I soaked in the crowd support here to carry me through the miles that have nothing (which is essentially the turn around through the finish, just over 2 miles away). I kept the streak of passing but not being passed alive and tried to drop my pace steadily, leaving enough left for my kick without vomiting profusely at the finish which seems to be a feeling I experience often now.
Mile 13 – Finish [8:04, 7:28]
When I started closing in towards the finish, a lot of people were just kind of chugging along. Or maybe I picked it up a lot. I ran around the bend past a couple people, and had my sights set on two guys who were running at the pace I was closing in on. I knew I’d have to kick it into a new gear to pass them… so I did. Somebody yelled to the guy I passed last and told him to sprint it in and I heard him yell he was running as fast as he could. Good. One thing I hate is sprinting to the finish and having some person pass me on just before the timing mats as I’m going as fast as my legs can carry me. Also good because about 20 steps before the finish, my stomach lurched and I had to cover my mouth in anticipation of an embarrassing photo finish.
I had a nice negative split race by about 2 minutes, which considering my shape and the fact that this is a half marathon, I’m pretty happy. I kind of enjoyed seeing just my heart rate on my watch and it took the stress out of keeping some pace that I really wasn’t tied to for any specific goal. For anyone wondering, my average was 85% of my maximum and my highest was at the finish at 92% of my maximum. Looking at my PR, my heart rate was 88% average and 95% at highest which doesn’t mean anything to me right now, but is just a little interesting. How many seconds off my pace lies in that 3-5%?
If I had to guess, I probably could have ran a steady 8:15 to 8:20 per mile (my Garmin shows 8:38 average over a 13.2 distance) and finished under 1:50. That’s probably best case scenario. My next 8 weeks ramps up quite a bit with speed so I’m hoping to get closer to my PR for Pittsburgh, but will be re-evaluating my overall goals sometime in the next 4 weeks after two more races (with 4 solid weeks to go afterwards).