Monday, October 12, 2009

Staten Island Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday we had the perfect weather for a half marathon. It was sunny, clear and a little crisp but not too cold. Since the NYC Half I had not done a ton of extra training; I did a few speed and hill intervals and ran a 10 and 12 miler in addition to my regular running to maintain my fitness. My general goal was the same as usual: to run in a way that felt strong from beginning to end. As far as time I wanted to break an average 10 minute mile after my last average of a 10:01 mile.

I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend Chris drive me to the start line. In Brooklyn we live so close to the Verrazano bridge into Staten Island that it seemed ridiculous to get up early enough to take the train into Manhattan for the SI Ferry. Also, the tolls on the bridge are high enough that it would double the cost of a car service and if I took the bus I would have had to change 3 times. How can something so close be so far? Anyway Chris was a trooper about getting up and drive in. He even wore his Lady Southpaw t-shirt which earned him an extra gold star.


My first stop once I found start was the the port-a-potty line. I naively thought that being 20-30 minutes early would give me enough time to get through the line and to the start. The lines were long but there were so many of them and these people were all racers trying to get to the same race, so no problem right? Well, I was still about a dozen people away when the start gun fired. From that point to john I was hopping from foot to foot in pure agony for what felt like an eternity. After peeing a liter bottle worth of pure spring water I applied my hand sanitizer and took off for the start. In all of my little adjustments (taking my GU, putting on my Fuel Belt) I completely blocked out the start line clock. This was a very annoying omission for the next couple of hours because I wasn't wearing a watch and had no idea how long I was standing in that line.

I crossed the start line after the pack in the corrals had cleared. At first I thought this would be a bad thing because I would be stuck behind all the slowest people. Actually it was great because by then pack had already spread out so it was easy to weave through people and I felt like I was more with the port-a-potty crowd so there were a lot of varying speeds to work off of as I made my way to a comfortable race pace.

The route was basically an out and back from the Staten Island Ferry Terminal to a bit past the Verrazano Bridge and back. It was along the northern edge of the island so we didn't get a many of the vicious hills in the middle. One of the nice things about being an out and back was that you could assess the terrain on the way out to strategize for the way back. Also, I have to admit, most of what I'd seen of Staten Island was the view from the highway passing through so it was nice to see some actual residential and commercial areas. There was also a lot of running through industrial areas too which would not have been so nice except that it's on the opposite side of the Upper New York Bay where I usually do my running in Brooklyn. It was cool to get a new perspective on it.

When I was about five miles from the end I felt great. I thought to my recent five mile race in Brooklyn and thought I could run that right now. I had a surge of speed for the next couple miles. I was prepared for the fact that there would be a big long hill about 3 miles from the end and then it was more or less downhill to the finish. I stayed conservative up the hill and prepared to speed to the finish. When I got to the top I found I wasn't ready to speed up. Then as I ran downhill a horrible thing started happening. At first it just felt like a little spasm in my calf. Then I realized I was dangerously close to having a full on cramp. I get these cramps sometimes after I've been working out really hard. I pretty sure it's a sign my electrolyte levels are off but I'm never sure if It's dehydration or low sodium, or both. I was drinking all along the route. I had my Fuel Belt and I was stopping at water stops. I had my GU, but I had it really late (I almost forgot about it) I had a packet of salt on the long hill, but again, maybe it was too late? Maybe it was the transition from uphill to downhill? Whatever it was, it was really annoying because I was running a really good race up until that point. I was pacing a sub 10 minute mile, I had no joint pain and my energy was still up. I just tried to stay calm and kept running. I knew if I stopped I would feel the cramps and whenever I sped up I felt the cramps. I was so glad I had my fuel belt because drinking made me feel like I was at least doing something to help. The cramps spread into my feet as well as my calves but the finish was so close. When I saw the time on the clock was 2:11 something I almost cried with joy because that was my net time for my last half. Whatever the time I still managed a Personal Record! Of course at that point I had no idea how much because I didn't see my start time.

Turns out the port-a-potty line only set me back about 8 minutes, which surprised me because in took me over ten minutes to get to the start in Brooklyn and Manhattan without the delay. Still, I seem to be improving and I'm doing it gradually, consistently and without injury so there you go. This will probably be my last half marathon for 2009. Ideally, I'd like to run a sub 2 hour half next. Until then I'll try to improve my speed with 5Ks, 5 milers, and 10Ks.

Here's the final half marathon stats for 2009:

Brooklyn Half Marathon - 2:17:28 - pace: 10:29/mile

NYC Half Marathon - 2:11:26 - pace: 10:01/mile

Staten Island Half Marathon - 2:03:31 - pace: 9:25/mile


Lela said...

Congratulations Erin! Great race! I had the start gun go off on me while I was waiting in a porta-potty line at the Bronx Half in February. Sorry about the cramp, that sucks, but I'm glad it didn't slow you down too much.

Lady Southpaw said...

Thanks Lela! We need to go running soon, it's been far too long.

Jess said...

You looked great and obviously did a fantastic job! Congrats, love.

PunkRockRunner said...

I love this race report. My favorite part? The progress you're making from one half to the next.

Well done!

Lady Southpaw said...

Thanks Ron!

Oh by the way, I didn't give you kudos on your mountainous epic bike ride followed by a half marathon the next day! You're completely nuts man:) but I mean that in the best possible way ;) Great Thoreau quote too.

Lucky said...

That's one hell of a porta-potty line!