|The start corrals on Eastern Parkway|
After a string of local politicians told us to "run smart," it was time for the start. Several of us had decided to go out at between a 1:24 and 1:25 pace. This was pretty conservative given that most of us have PRs several minutes lower. The first mile of the course is a mix of gentle downhill and uphill. I felt okay but not great--it wasn't effortless like the way I felt the last time I PR'd in the half. I passed mile 1 in 6:30 and we headed towards Grand Army Plaza. As I looped back around the circle for mile 2 in 6:23 I was beginning to "feel Boston" in my legs. Still, I was trying to hang with my teammates for as long as possible. That's why I did mile 3 in 6:10.
As we ran around the outside of Prospect Park, I started to convince myself that there was no point in trying so hard since it was clear my legs weren't going to let me PR or even break 1:23. I was running with one of my teammates who had also done Boston and I figured I would stick with him and then reassess. We entered the park and I did mile 4 in 6:28. I knew the only real hill of the race wasn't too far ahead and I think I started slowing accordingly. Miles 5 and 6 were 6:47 and 6:45 respectively.
As the course headed south again I realized I had lost my teammates, though several passed me at this point. I did mile 7, the last full mile in the park, in 6:25. As we exited onto Park Circle I saw several teammates out cheering which was awesome. I smiled and made the turn onto Ocean Parkway. All I could think about was the long stretch of monotonous miles ahead of me. I never felt bad but I never felt the rush that I expect in a race--it never felt like I had truly hit my stride.
My miles on Ocean Parkway went by in 6:33 (mile 8), 6:42 (mile 9), 6:40 (mile 10), 6:33 (mile 11), and 6:38 (mile 12). At one point I saw Matt, one of the team captains. I had run with him earlier and he had gone ahead but a pit stop had lost him some time. I said hi but didn't try to keep up. Instead of worrying about my time I made my goal to thank as many volunteers as possible. At mile 12 there was a large group of Whippets members cheering which was tons of fun.
Before I knew it I was turning onto Surf Avenue for the final stretch. I saw the "800m to go" sign and then it was time to turn onto the Coney Island Boardwalk. I charged up the ramp--probably the only time I passed anyone in the final 5 miles--and could see the finish. The time was getting close to 1:26 and I decided I had to have a finish time with a 1:25 in it so I picked it up and crossed with a net time of 1:25:50. It was my second slowest half-marathon (only my debut race back in 2008 had been slower). I had a really fun time thanks to my teammates--we hung out at the beach afterwards and enjoy comically large beers at Nathans--but had I been running alone I would have rated the day a failure.
As I posted yesterday, it was a true learning experience. I've done some of the toughest workouts in my running career over the past 6 months and run intervals at faster speeds than I thought possible but I've simply done too much. There's a reason I haven't PR'd at any distance other than the marathon since 2010, I haven't been training smart. So now it's time for some serous R&R because I'm ready to run fast and feel good again.