4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Manhattan Half Marathon Race Report

with 3 comments

Word of the day was COLD.  No way around it.  14 degrees at the start and not much higher at the finish.  The CNN clock said 14 degrees at the start, still said 14 degrees one hour later at the 6 mile mark, and then was up to 15 degrees two hours later at the 12 mile mark.  After the race, the WeatherBug on my phone said it was 18 degrees.  Going back to 1999 (that is how far back my detailed records go), this was the 2nd coldest race I’ve ever run in.

My plan was to run the full race, and then another 6 mile loop of the park afterwards, for 19 total miles.  Since I’d be running longer than the half marathon, I layered up more than normal.  Ski hat and earmuffs for the head, three shirts and a heavy jacket for the upper body, tights and sweats on the legs, and 2 pairs of socks under my sneakers.

I drove in my car which allowed me to stay warm for a bit longer than if I had taken the subway over.  Was parked before 6:30 to get a good spot by the 72nd St entrance, and made 2 quick trips to the port-o-potties.  By 7:30 got in my race gear and headed for the start.  The start area was very crowded and all the corrals seemed very full.  It seems people did a good job of getting to the corrals on time.  I was in the 4000’s, further back than normal.  Considering that the last corral is 6000, it is a bit sad that with an 8:14 pace time, I was placed way back in the 5th out of 7 groups.  Maybe this is because the half marathons bring out a faster crowd than the shorter races?  Also frustrating was that the person checking numbers at the corral was not really checking and there were a ton of 5000 numbered people that incorrectly got through into my group.

After a rendition of the national anthem, we were off.  Due to the crowds, it took forever for me to cross the start line.  Well, not forever, but much longer than usual.  Took 4:03 to pass the start line.  Typically I can get through the start line in less than 1 minute.  The start was still pretty organized without a crazy amount of passing or being passed, so I guess the corral system is still working.  In the early miles, kept a nice steady slowish pace.  I was warm enough with all the layers, but felt completely bogged down and heavy from them.  Nice push up Cat Hill, Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the west side.  My slowest mile of them was mile 4, which is up the Harlem Hill.  I also made a quick bathroom stop at the end of loop 1, so that mile was slightly slower.  Water was a little tough because of the large chunks of ice in the cup.  Gatorade was much better.  I guess because it freezes slower, those cubs just had little pieces of ice, sort of like ice shavings.

  • 1 – 9:32
  • 2 – 9:39
  • 3 – 9:25
  • 4 – 9:54
  • 5 – 9:40
  • 6- 10:12

2nd loop was another story altogether.    Started well by pushing nicely up Cat Hill, and was looking forward to the next water stop.  Unfortunately, there was very little water to be had.  The volunteers were doing the best they could to fill cups, and there was a mass of runners trying to get the cups.  I just decided to skip the stop and keep going.  Most of the going is flat or downhill into the next water stop anyway.  In hindsight that was a mistake.  Somehow started feeling a little lightheaded after that, I think from the layers and the cold and lack of water.  Since I was still planning another loop of the park afterwards, I took a long walk break leading into the next water stop at the bottom of Harlem Hill, where there was to be Gatorade.  Unfortunately, there was no Gatorade at all, just half frozen cups of water.  I took 2 cups of water and a Gu.  The water was so cold, it made my insides somehow feel colder and I started getting brain freezes!  Got myself going again and charged up Harlem Hill pretty well.  It was around this point, though, that I lost all will to do another loop of the park afterwards.  With the extra layers, slight lightheadedness, very limited and frozen water on the course, and no street vendors to buy from on the way, I was really concerned about pushing ahead with the extra loop.  That decided, I figured I could turn up the pace for the last couple of miles of the race and call it a day after 13.1 miles.  So, ended up with a very strong last 2 miles, and finished in 2:08:50.

  • 7 – 9:38
  • 8 – 9:41
  • 9 – 9:47
  • 10 – 12:13
  • 11 – 9:47
  • 12 – 9:25
  • 13 – 9:04
  • 13.1 -0:48
  • In the end, I was disappointed I did not get all my miles in.  This is potentially really bad because the Austin Marathon is in just 3 weeks and while I’ve put in a lot of overall miles, I have not had quality long runs.  Since I didn’t push too hard, I’ll at least be recovered enough to do a speed workout on Tuesday night, and I’ll try to make sure my other workouts are on bridges or hills.  On the other hand, I was really happy with my pacing, which was very consistent – almost every mile (with the exception of my bathroom break, walk, and final mile) was between 9:25 and 9:54.  I’d like to be at 9:30 pace for the first half of the Austin Marathon, to give me a good cushion in the 2nd half to break 4:30.

    I want to know how dangerous it really is to not have all the layers on.  I’m sure I would have fared much better without my outer heavy layer, but I was afraid I’d be too cold.  Some runners had shorts on, and some seemed to only have a single shirt layer.  Is that healthy?  There was even 1 volunteer (or just a crazy bystander?) at the 102nd St cutoff on the East Side that had no gloves, no hat and a very light jacket on.  I could not believe that he was still there the 2nd time around.  How did he stand outside for 2+ hours.  Anyway, I’d love to be able to go out in fewer layers, but I’m afraid of getting sick, or some sort of frostbite from long exposure.  I can only hope that it will warm a little so I can get a good long run in on Saturday, and then potentially one more a week before the marathon.  Of course, this year, when running a Feb marathon, would be the year when the temperatures in Jan would be 4.5 degrees below normal (according to the New York Times).

    I did feel a great sense of accomplishment getting out in the cold conditions and getting a quality workout done.  Congrats to all the people that raced and finished.  It was not easy!


    Written by SCL

    January 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    3 Responses

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    1. Nice race!
      Don’t worry about not getting the extra miles in — I’m sure you got a good workout.
      As for layers, I think it’s good to be dressed light during the race. The catch is staying warm before and after.
      Hopefully, you will have perfect weather in Austin!


      January 27, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    2. honestly i was absolutely freezing! i completely agree that its good to be dressed light during but i was not. i was so damned cold! i have yet to master the cold cold.
      good luck on your long run this wkd. i still havent downloaded my splits but i know they were 30 seconds slower on average than when i ran in oct BUT on the flipside my last 2 miles were “fast” for the day 10:00 and 9:22


      January 28, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    3. […] year I ran the race, but didn’t ‘race’ it, (race report here) as I was planning to add on miles afterwards.  Turns out I didn’t because it was freezing […]

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