There is no good reason why I felt so attached and excited about the Manhattan Half Marathon. I waited all through November and then until early December until the date went live on NYRR. I made a vague effort towards training (okay, long runs, no speed work). And then, the weather gods decided to mess with our heads and make Saturday 22nd January the coldest day of the year. Of winter. So I spent most of this week freaking out that I was going to leave frozen body parts on the course. But unlike the last two races that I have signed up for, there was no backing out of this, not matter what.
Friday night was spent eating a plate of spaghetti bolognese as big as my head, followed by mint chip ice cream. What is the point of running if we can't eat as much as humanely possible beforehand. I even managed to get to bed at around 10.30 which is earlier than I've been to bed in weeks and a total luxury. I slept like a total baby and was perfectly fine with my 6.30am alarm.
In a weird moment of organisation last night, I had even laid our my clothes the night before, so the morning of the race was a total breeze. Dress, make oatmeal, leave. I took a tupperware of oatmeal made with almond milk, blueberries, bananas, agave, and peanut butter on the subway. People, this is the best race food EVER. This is just delicious any day of the week. When I stepped out of the building I was literally smashed in the face with the fricking freezingess that 14 degrees really is. Holy crap. It's the sort of cold that makes your head hurt and breathing majorly challenging.
When I got to 60th st there was an encouraging number of other runners who were clearly silly enough to be attempting to run 13 miles around the park with me. Everyone was wearing lots of layers (me included), but I started to doubt my "wear what I wear for 30F approach because it's a race and you'll be running harder" approach. I very nearly kept my extra jogging bottoms on and sleeveless puffa, but dumped them at the last minute.
The corral system was rapidly dissolved, presumably in an effort to get everyone moving as quickly as possible. I guess if you were a yellow or red bibbed runner arriving at 7:55am it must have sucked, but for the rest of us it was great. I guess that the cold weather meant that turnout for the race was around 60-70% of who had signed up, but there were stlll a lot of runners.
I use a little app on my phone to track my runs instead of a garmin. It works amazingly, but because I keep my phone in my back pocket, and I was wearing gloves, it meant that I decided to start it early and eat the first mile in time. Little did I know that I had done it 5 mins early, and my first pace update (a lovely lady tells me my distance, time, and average pace every 5 minutes) told me my average pace was 55 mins/mile!!! Things can only get better from here.
The first two miles of this race were incredibly uncomfortable. My nose was frozen (and by that I mean my snot - GROSS!), and so were my fingers. I pulled my cuffins down (thanks Lululemon!) and sensation returned with vengeance in mile 2 - you know that painful defrosting feeling? YAY!). I did look ahead of me at some point and saw the most picturesque scene - hundreds of runners silhouetted against the morning sun with the steam of our breath rising. Beautiful.
By mile 3 I finally relaxed into my stride and things started to feel fun. The Harlem Hills were just fine, for once. I remembered to take my gu's at mile 4, washing them down with the crunchy iced water that was laid out for us. My legs felt nice and strong, and I even started to worry that I had pushed myself too hard, too soon. However, my legs just kept going and going, feeling nice and good, and surprisingly, I was, well, not warm, but comfortable!
I'll admit that from mile 4 until 11 it was all king of a blur. I remember after the second go around on the Harlem Hills sighing with relief that they were done, so that must have been at around mile 8. At mile 11 I did start getting tired and a little bored of running - the whole "I want this race to be over" feeling that we all get during a long one. At one point a guy started yelling that he wanted pancakes which at least made me laugh. I was feeling that I had a little bit more in me, so I tried to pick up the pace a little, which I was actually able to do - go legs!!! I pushed for the last 2 miles and brought myself home in a final time in 2:02:36 - a full 8 minutes faster than my last half marathon! Upon finishing my legs felt good, not winded or anything. It felt so good to finish strong and feel like my training and strength was in the right place. I then took off my headband and found it was frosted - funny!
Oh, and afterwards I ate a brioche, croissant, hot chocolate, berry cup, and orange juice in Pain Quotidien. Other diners literally stared at me. Hey! I ran 13 miles in freezing weather this morning!