As I type this post, a full week after the race, I am still listening to my race playlist! I really just love the songs and the order of the songs and I am probably getting to the point where it is no longer a race playlist but simply a playlist. I wonder if there is a statute of limitations on that sort of thing?
I’m not going to get into the music in this post since I went to town on it last week and this post is insanely long as it is, but keep in mind that my music is what guided me through this half marathon. And a big thank you who shared your favorite running songs with me! I started updating the Readers’ Running Songs page and I still have some more of your suggestions to add. I hope everyone finds the page to be a valuable resource. If you want to contribute a list, please feel free to send it along.
Time to discuss the race! I met up with Erica and Melissa at Hertz Car Rental to pick up the rental car I reserved for 3:00 to drive us out to Long Island, only to find out they had no cars. Terrible business practices, and you should never rent a car through Hertz if you want to be guaranteed a car. We didn’t have time to dwell on this because we needed to get to the expo before it closed at 6:00 to get our bibs. The three of us hopped in a cab and headed to Penn Station. We missed the first train and had to wait an hour for the next one.
It all worked out though. We took a cab directly from the train station to the expo and even though they decided to pack up some of the booths early (before 5:30 — really?!), we had time to pick up our bibs and buy some fun Bondi Band headbands. Erica found one that said Run like a BAMF. We inquired as to what a BAMF is and the saleswoman told us it is a Bad Ass Mother F*cker. Erica bought it! That is something I would not ever consider on my own and the fact that she bought it makes me love her very, very much. And now I kind of want my own.
The annoying part was lugging our heavy bags around the expo. We all went overboard in packing because we thought we would have a car. We cabbed it over to the hotel and checked into our basement room, where we discovered our balcony with a poolside view.
Uh, that would be our indoor poolside view.
Like my Bondi Band?
We also had a balcony view of the gym. (Gime? What’s a gime? OHHHH a GIME).
Funny, right? Have you ever seen such a thing? After getting settled we headed out to dinner. Again, we had to rely on a taxi and we had to wait a very long time for it to arrive. We were all hungry and tired, as evidenced by Melissa and Erica:
We went to Scotto’s in Westbury for dinner. We had a 30 minute wait for our table and by this point I was about to eat my arm. I hadn’t eaten in hours and I felt weak and I was running a half marathon the next day! I asked the bartender if we could get our bread basket early so I would have something to nibble on. He said no.
Eventually we got our table, our bread, our roasted vegetables and our giant portions of pasta. Yum!
The next morning, we were up bright and early for the Divas Half Marathon!
My bib says DIVA DORI — I loved it! My purple Bondi Band is sparkly. Melissa’s is really pretty and matched her top. I really love our expo purchases!
I showered (I don’t normally shower before working out but I do for very long runs because the warm water loosens up the muscles) and drank my pre-race green juice. I bought a juice at Liqueteria a couple of days before the race and had the hotel’s front desk store it for me in their fridge. I ignored the desk guy’s comment about it being gross (since when is carrots and mixed greens gross?!) and happily drank my breakfast.
In light of Marie Claire-gate OH TEN, I did want to clarify that the reason I only drink juice before I run is because it is all MY body can handle before running. Eating food before a run — even as long as six hours before the run — causes pain due to a GI condition. While I might not be getting the ideal combination of protein and carbs, I am getting plenty of nutrients, vitamins and nourishment from the juice. That said, you should figure out what works for you before you run — and if you can stomach real food (like a bagel and nut butter), that would be my amateur advice. I did eat Clif Shot Blocks throughout the race. Yummy.
We walked the very cold and windy mile to the race start from the hotel and arrived with some time to spare. I had to pee, despite peeing five times before we left. As you might remember from my NYC Half Marathon experience, I am a nervous peeer. I anticipated that this would happen and my only hope was to not have to stop during the race again because that took away a good two or three minutes at the NYC Half.
Erica and Melissa took my bag and went off in search of bag check while I checked out the bathroom situation. The portapotties were few and the lines were ridiculously long. So long that I knew there was no way I could wait and make the race start on time, so I found a spot behind some trees and found other women there with the same idea. I was happy to not be alone! After, I went back to the meeting spot and waited for Erica and Melissa. And waited. And waited. I directed some other women to the trees. And I waited. The race was about to start so I called Erica and she told me that they didn’t even get to bag check yet. Turns out, bag check was a full mile away from the race start.
Why would the bag check be so far from the start and why wouldn’t the race organizers communicate this fact beforehand? We could have planned accordingly had we known but there was absolutely nothing in the Diva race emails about this. Erica told me I should start without them. I was especially bummed because I planned to run the entire race alongside Melissa, my ideal running buddy who I was relying on for motivation and support.
There was nothing I could do and the race was about to start so I squeezed my way into the corrals, all the way im the back behind the walkers. In fact, I started behind the person who I later saw in last place with the police car and van behind her!
Because I was on my own and behind the walkers, I devoted my first mile to getting around those slower than me so I could RUN. Weaving is a stressful act and I knew I would calm down once I could run normally. I had to hop up and run on grass to get around the walkers on the pavement. Luckily, my music was awesome and I felt really great. Before I knew it I finished the first mile. By the middle of mile 2 I was running alongside people with a similar pace to myself.
I thought I started the first few miles too fast, but now that I see my splits it turns out I started just a tiny bit faster than I had planned — hovering around 10:13 (I hoped to start at a 10:15 pace). However, during mile 4 I looked down at my Garmin and saw that I was running a little faster than I had planned to this early in the race. I considered slowing down but I felt so amazing and thought, “I could easily maintain this pace for the entire race!” Silly, silly me.
My music was SO. SO. GOOD. So good. I was mouthing the words to the songs, smiling and just feeling awesome. I was rocking out! So during mile 5, I went with it and sped up even more. A rookie mistake but after all, I am still a rookie. And I am just not this used to feeling so amazing. I completed mile 5 in 9:45. A full 30 seconds faster than I wanted to be running at this time.
Sometime around mile 4 or 5 I was running on an out and back section (there were a few of these in this race) and on my way out I saw the woman in first place on her way back! EVERYONE on my “out” side cheered like crazy for her! It was so cool seeing the leading lady in the middle of the race like that! On my way “back” I kept my eyes open for my friends. I knew that if they started a couple minutes behind me I should be seeing them — and I was right! I spotted Erica first. Erica is such a BAMF! She looked awesome!
I kept my eyes open for Melissa’s bright teal shirt and sure enough I saw her too. She also looked great! I actually started crying after I saw Melissa. I was so happy and proud of both of us for getting to this point — our third half marathon, our second same half marathon. Melissa is such an amazing running and real-life friend and I felt so emotional seeing her looking so strong during the race.
Mile 6 is where things started to go downhill.
I was feeling great, still mouthing my songs, loving life when my right knee started hurting. It did not bother me during training, and it did not bother me during my super fast (56:05!) 10K back in June. But okay, I can handle a little pain. No big deal. I managed to finish the 6th mile in under 10 minutes too — again, faster than I planned. Oops . . .
I crossed the 10K mat at 1:00:16 — definitely a little faster than planned but I also love it! And I didn’t even notice that there even WAS a 10K mat. I must have REALLY been in the zone at that time! It is unusual for me to not notice something like this. Erica and Melissa were talking about it after the race and that’s how I found out it was there, and when I got my results there the split was!
Then things got worse. Suddenly my left knee started hurting, and it hurt badly. Much worse than my right knee. So now I had two knees that were stinging in pain on the outside sides with every step. The pain was intense. Not much later, my left ankle started hurting badly too. I twisted it when I landed on it weird at the hike I did in August, but it never bothered me while I was training so I figured it was nothing. The only time I noticed anything was off was when I was sitting at my desk doing nothing. I tried focusing on breaking up the mileage into manageable baby mileages, like: When I get to mile 8, there is only 5 miles left, that’s not so bad.
I was actually using this technique from pretty early on in the race. At the start: It’s just 8 miles and a 5 miles. After three miles: Just ran a 5K, now just need to go on a 10 mile run. After nine miles: Just two two miles, two miles is nothing! Twice!
. . . and so on and so forth. You’d probably laugh at some of the ways I broke up the mileage to make it sound easy to myself. Running is such a mental sport so you have to just go with whatever gets you through it.
Back to where I left off. Mile 7 was brutal and I believe it was during mile 8 that I considered quitting the race. Yes, I have had this thought during every half. But this time, my knees were hurting so badly and I just couldn’t fathom another hour of running in this condition.
Of course, I pushed on. At one point I noticed the song that was playing and was surprised I hadn’t realized it was playing sooner. That is when I knew I was truly struggling — when I stop noticing my music, that is a sign that things are not going well. The drastic decrease in my pace made me feel like I was crawling. I was starting to get upset about not finishing under my goal time; I was disappointed at not being able to maintain the strong pace I started out with. I was so sure I could hold that pace the entire race, and endurance wise I KNOW I could have. But knees and ankle-wise, there was just no way. And it turned out I was still holding a great pace, 10:23, but it felt so slow due to the pain and compared to my previous miles!
At mile 9 people were passing me and I was struggling mentally. I stopped at my first water station (I was carrying a handheld bottle with a gatorade and water mixture so I didn’t need to stop sooner) and walked through it. I hoped taking a walking break would help stretch and rest my knees so I could get started again, and I wanted more gatorade or water than I currently had left. I knew I needed to take a quick break in order to continue pushing through.
Also, mile 9 was a tenth of a mile LONGER than a mile. I know that courses are measured by the shortest possible distance, and if you are not near the inside curves or you are weaving, the Garmin will tack on that extra bit by bit until it adds up and the race displays as longer than it was. But in this case, my Garmin was exact with the mile markers the entire time, until the ninth mile. Here, I was running on a totally straight road and I had to run a full tenth of a mile extra to get to mile 10. Other women I spoke to after the race had the exact same issue in the exact same spot, so I know it wasn’t my Garmin acting up. Also, every mile after that was exactly correct as well, and I finished the race that same tenth of a mile longer from mile 9.
That said, mile 9 was my slowest mile, at 10:35 — which, just so you know, is actually not slow for me at all. It just felt that way after starting off so strong. Looking back, I am really impressed that I held such a solid pace while suffering. And for an extra tenth of a mile!
I stopped at another water station at mile 11, which was my second slowest mile at 10:34. Again, not slow at all, but to me it felt that way. And if both miles 9 and 11 included walking breaks and STILL came in at the 10:30s, I was clearly running much faster than I realized despite the pain.
By this point I was nearing the end and all thoughts of quitting vanished. Now it was time to focus on just finishing so I could STOP RUNNING! There were spectators throughout the course, but the ones that motivated me most were this group of pre-teen girls who were standing side by side and singing an organized cheer, offering out their hands for high fives. I fived them all and thanked them! Since my bib had my name (just like at the 13.1 Marathon NY) I am sure people were cheering for me by name, but I had my music in the entire time and didn’t think to stop it to enjoy those cheers. Oh well.
I sped up a bit during mile 12, knowing I was getting close to the end and could endure a little more pain if it meant stopping sooner. Also, I still had a goal time in mind and I am so competitive with myself that I had no choice but to push through. We had another out and back here, and all the women on their way back had boas and tiaras on, so I knew I was approaching the boa and tiara stations advertised for this women’s only race. We had to run to the back of a school’s parking lot, over the speedbumps, and back around for the tiara. It was a little disconcerting and a little annoying seeing how they tacked this random loop in to add mileage when I knew mile 9 was too long! Such is life. I got my tiara and my boa!
I look pretty happy right! You have no idea how much I was hurting. My knees were just destroyed. I was most concerned about my right hip before the race, because that’s what was bothering me during training, but it was totally fine! No pain at all, just a little tightness. And as I stated earlier, my knees felt great during training but were killing me at this race. My knees didn’t hurt me at all during my average 9:00 minute mile 10K, even though they were both in pain by that same point in this race. It just goes to show that as much as you train and as much as you become attuned to the little issues your body has during training, you really never know how your body will react to the actual racing conditions.
I look like I am in midair!
The final mile felt like it lasted forever. We ran behind some ugly truck facility parking lot or something, then onto a wavy trail that lasted forever, back into Eisenhower Park where we started. I was running as fast as I could but discouraged that I could not see the finish line to motivate me. How much farther did I have? How long would I have to continue on this final fast push?
Oh hi race photog! I forget my pain when I see you.
There were actually quite a few photographers throughout the race but whenever I got close they would put their cameras down. It’s like they saw me approaching and wanted nothing to do with me. I have the same effect on dorky Jewish boys.
But finally — FINALLY — I finished!
Hopefully at my next half I can cross the finish holding Melissa’s hand. While this was not my most emotional race finish (read: sobbing out of happiness and astoundment at the end of the NYC Half Marathon) it was certainly the most jarring. I stopped running and my knees just gave out. I didn’t fall but I wasn’t exactly standing either, and a volunteer rushed over to me to ask if I needed to go to the medical tent. I didn’t, I just needed to recover for a minute.
A race-advertised “sexy firefighter” (88 year old retired firefighter I believe) handed me a rose and I was given a cup of champagne. A lovely way to finish a race if you ask me!
I headed over to the line to get my picture taken because, well, I love pictures of myself. While I was waiting Erica called me and I told her where I was and she took the picture with me.
Me and my BAMF:
Don’t we look like sisters?
Shortly after that, Melissa found us as well. We all finished!
My official time is 2:14:44 — I made it under my main goal of 2:15! Although I might have had a secret goal for 2:10, but that was always a stretch, even without knee pain. So happy with this PR!
Not bad, right! As you can see, even in my painful miles I kept up a pretty decent pace. And in that pain I managed to finish the last full mile in just under 10 minutes AND was able to hightail it at the end, running the last two tenths (hmph) of a mile at a 9:14 pace.
Here’s course. As you can see, the finish line (where bag check was) is not very close to the start.
After the race we had to walk over a mile back to the hotel. I’m pretty disappointed that there was no shuttle services to and from the expo and the race with the host hotel, where we stayed. It was cold and windy and my knees and ankle were barely functioning. My left knee could not bend at all so I was limping, and my left ankle was radiating pain all over so I wasn’t yet able to tell where the source of the pain was. After we made it back and took the most amazing hot tub dip of all time (it felt better than I can begin to describe) where we ran into other race finishers, we showered and cabbed it to a diner for food. My post-half marathon meal tradition is french toast:
Although I was sad the diner did not have real maple syrup. I refuse to eat corn syrup “maple flavored” syrup, my meal was phemomenal and the sliced bananas I requested added the moisture I needed. We got another taxi to the train station and headed back to New York City. Here we are wearing our VERY HEAVY race medals and race tech tees, very tired. And yes, I insisted on wearing the same headband I just sweated for 13 miles in. Also, I might not have washed my hair for days but that is neither here nor there.
That medal has some serious BLING in the center.
And my third half marathon is over. I am really happy with this race. I ran as hard as I could have. My playlist was beyond amazing and fun and emotional and funny and I can’t express how much I loved it. Oh wait, I have. My knee pain went away after a couple of days and I am getting my ankle checked out tomorrow. I feel fantastic about this race, and I am itching to do another! With better training (I didn’t run nearly enough to properly prepare for this, and I let my long runs be too comfortable and didn’t push my pace enough), I know I can do even better! This is the last half marathon until the spring, so I plan to maintain a running base with Melissa, continue strenghening my legs at Core Fusion and come back for the next one stronger than ever!
P.S. I just joined dailymile so add me as a friend there and we can motivate each other.