Empire State Half Marathon, oh yet again, you have foiled me. I knew I’d be slower this year thanks to my nagging calf tear injury that has caused me to go into this race entirely and painfully under trained. (You can find my race report from last year’s race here)
The hubs and I decided to stay at my parent’s house this year. Last year we drove in on race morning, so this at least allowed us to sleep in later, albeit the nights worth of sleep was not as good as what we’d get at home. But it was fine and we both survived all well and good.
The weather, oh the weather. It was reported that it would be barely 40, windy as all get out, and pouring freezing rain. Yeah. Yuck. Thankfully the rain held off. It was still freaking freezing cold and super overcast and windy. We sat in the car with the heat cranked and the heated seats on as long as we could, but I finally conceded and went to stand in the bathroom line. Nothing is crazier than taking a bunch of people with minimal body fat, putting them in minimal amounts of clothing, making them stand around the freezing weather, to wait to sufferingly run over 13 miles. Bunch of crazies, all of us.
Finally 8am crept up and they herded all of us towards the start line. And they even sent us off a couple of minutes early. The RD must have felt sorry for all of us who were violently shivering in the wind.
Husband and I took off and of course clocked our fastest mile of the day at mile one. I knew when I saw the time for it we’d be in for a tough day. The wind on the parkway was the roughest. There seemed to be a cross wind that was constantly nagging at us. And by mile two I was aware of my injury. I could feel it. Normally in a short run I don’t notice it, but my leg knew it was in for a beating and it made sure I knew it’s intentions. Fabulous.
Last year the aid stations seemed to line up with my fueling plan better, but this race has an ample number of aid stations offering water, accelerade, and gels. I wore my fuel belt so I could carry shot blocks; I had one water bottle full of water and the other full of Nuun. I have a very cut and dry fueling plan that works for me during long runs- first shot block at mile four, then another one every two miles after that. I mostly stick to water since I’m not a big sweater and don’t always need the electrolyte boost. I did make sure I stuck to my shot block mileage and took in water at every aid station. I only used my water bottles when I felt the need for additional liquid which was only a couple of times.
The wind was a lot less once we got into the park, which was really surprising. I expected the wind off the lake to be brutal once we were running along the shore line, but it was fine really.
One thing that we noticed immediately was that the turn around point was different. Last year we turned around right behind the dog park. This year it was significantly further down the path. I mean, my GPS came up at exactly 13 miles last year, meaning the race was short, so maybe they knew that. But the turn around was a lot more than the extra tenth of a mile back. It was to the point where Rob nudged me as we passed the Mile 8 mile marker and asked when my watch passed 8 miles. I flashed me watch at him, which read 8.21 miles. A while back was my response. His GPS was ahead too. And it became clear what happened as we passed the mile 10 marker, sitting pretty in the exact same spot as it was last year, even though the course was longer. Woops. Good job whoever planned that change. Fail.
Our longest training run for this race had been 8.26 miles, and it was like my body knew what was happening as I crossed that threshold. I got tired and sluggish once we hit about 8.5 miles. Tough. Very tough. Mentally and physically. My legs weren’t having it. I’m sure my form was falling apart, but I did everything I could to just keep running. I knew my second wind would come.
After the mile 10 marker, we leave the park and head back out onto the parkway. Other than being tired and my legs starting to feel heavy, I actually feel okay. There’s something mental for me when we get back on the parkway. The same thing happened last year; I disappear inside the recesses of my brain, I turn off and just run. My body and however it feels becomes null and I am in the mind frame to just finish.
However, similar to last year, Hubby cramped around mile 11, and since I’m never going to win and we do these things together, I hung back with him. Stop for a quick stretch, drink some water, walk a bit. This last two miles, same as last year, became our downfall. And this year Rob ate shot blocks, drank Nuun, drank water, drank accelerade. He stuck to a plan hoping not to cramp, but something about mile 11 gets him every time. He gives my hand a little squeeze with about a mile left and we start to run again. I’m running in front of him but keeping him in my peripheral until the last quarter mile when I pull ahead. But I remind myself that I screwed my knee up last year sprinting full force through the finish line and I keep my pace and form under control.
I cross the finish line with an official finish time of 2:22:08. Rob crossed right behind me and for the second year in a row we’ve knocked off the Empire State Half Marathon. Grab a medal, a bottle of water, and a foil blanket. Once you stop moving you remember it’s 40 and windy and now you’re covered is sweat that is beginning to freeze.
Overall, Empire State Marathon puts on a good race. It’d be nice if they could figure out their course and get the distance right. Last year my GPS clocked in at exactly 13 miles, this year a ridiculous 13.35 miles. All that aside though, it’s a great course for a first timer. As flat as flat gets and you can always bank on the temperature being great for running, although the weather in general this time of year in Syracuse is hit or miss. And the full marathon is also super flat, PR friendly, and a Boston Qualifier. And with only 2500 runners across both the full and the half, the odds are definitely in your favor if that’s your prerogative.
Rob and I have already decided that even though this is a good race, we won’t be back next year. We’d like to branch out in terms of available races to pick from and honestly, if anything, we’ll be spending this weekend next year back in Bethlehem for the Runner’s World Festival.
All said and done, I’m really glad we raced ESHM again and I’m feeling a lot more confident about half marathon number two for this fall coming up in a mere four weeks. Time to get running. Run Disney, here we come!