I was feeling a bit frustrated with my running after the Brooklyn Half Marathon because I finished slower than I wanted and did it feeling generally miserable. Ideally you want to finish a race with a little burst of speed and not feeling like your turtle paced hobble is the fastest you can go. So my main goal for Manhattan was to finish feeling strong and like I could speed up for the last mile. I didn't have a very specific time goal, although I couldn't help but want to go as fast as possible in the given situation. I decided at the very least I would be satisfied with something faster than my previous time of 2:17:28.
My strategy was to run Central Park as conservatively as possible, so not too slow but also careful not to blow everything on those hills. Then if I felt comfortable I would try to speed up going through Times Square and again in the last couple miles to the finish. Basically, when I got to Time Square I wanted to visualize I was starting a 10K race and the last three miles I visualized it was a 5K race.
In practice, it did not work out that way exactly. Although, I think the visualizing did help me maintain my momentum because I never felt like my engine dropped out completely the way it did in Brooklyn. I ran exactly the way I wanted in Central Park. I took those hills without dropping my inner tempo like they were just part of the course. I was fortunate to get in some killer altitude/hill training last month while vacationing in the dolomites. Also, I think the Bikram yoga helped for acclimating to the New York humidity.
My only big surge of speed came through Time Square. Holy crap was that AWESOME! There were musicians playing on almost every block. The musicians each had their own banners with their names on them flying high. I was in Heaven. Just the sounds coming from the guitars and drums and voices as I passed filled me with ecstasy. Performing is such a high, musicians are always pushing energy out to their audience and as a runner it's like you can take that energy and do something with it. It was fantastic. Of course I had the added motivation that maybe next year or in another similar situation I could get "Lady Southpaw" up on one of those banners and I could be performing and giving boosts of energy to runners. I started hauling it down Seventh Ave with a huge burst of adrenaline. Of course I had to try to participate in the "Mama Mia" sing-a-long as I rounded the corner onto 42nd Street. I couldn't help but get a little choked up thinking about my younger self back in high school in the Midwest who was so in love with Broadway theatre and the young woman fresh out of college first moving to the city and this journey I've been on since. Yes, this is what I want a big running event to bring out of me. I want that sense of awe that I can accomplish things that I work for and that I am part of this big celebration with others achieving their goals. Not everyone around me was having a great time, at this point I had to weave around a girl who looked like she was about to spew gatorade and GU without breaking her stride. It can't be wonderful every time but at that moment I was having the time of my life.
The last leg of the race went down West Side Highway to Battery Park. This was probably the most disappointing part of the race for me. The website made it sound like the party was going to continue with Capoeira (which I adore and was really looking forward to) and Samba dancers and DJ's all the way to the end. Unfortunately I think the dancers had packed up or were on a break and though there were some hard working DJ's and a couple of bands they were a bit too few and far between. There were long lulls of nothingness and because it was the last leg I kept thinking I was closer to the end then I actually was. As a result my energy started to wain for the first time. Also, my achilles started to hurt which was a completely new phenomenon for me and made me worry. Ironically, the achilles thing also made me realize other things that were going well. My IT bands and knees were not hurting which made me very pleased. Also, typically by the end of these races my stomach usually starts clamming up and afterwards I feel like I can't eat for hours. This time my stomach was not tied in a knot! This was the first race I used my fuel belt. In the past I use it for training but thought it looked too dorky to wear in a race with all the fluid stations. So, I think it was the Gatorade that was causing the aches. This race seemed to prove it because I brought my own electrolyte drink, which by the way was Propel so it's not like I have anything against the Gatorade brand it was just all the sugar and stuff in the regular formula.
I did manage to power through the last 800 meters and crossed the finish line with a net time of 2:11:26 a full 6 minutes faster than Brooklyn! Mission accomplished. Now, I wonder if I could cut that down even further next time? The journey continues...