The NYC Half 2012 was anything but what I expected. Nearly three months of my training all boiled down to this roller coaster ride that lasted 1 hour 39 minutes and 33 seconds. Despite the fact that it’s a new personal record, I find it difficult to celebrate this achievement. The reason is simple: I overshot my goal time by quite a bit just to crash and burn.
The night before the race, I slept over at a friend’s apartment near Central Park. Well – that didn’t quite qualify as sleep in a normal sense, as I kept tossing and turning on the floor. I had previously anticipated this, because I am not particularly good at falling asleep. With the help of Benadryl, I managed to get 4~5 hours of sleep, collectively.
I woke up at 5:00 am before my alarm clock went off. The routine began as I stuffed my face with my pre-race breakfast – a bagel, a cup of coffee, and a banana. I washed up and got dressed, then off I went to drop off my bag.
The temperature was lower than what I had hoped – but it was ideal for running. I did some light jogging (yes, I jogged) and got into my corral for the line-up. After some announcements and the national anthem, I ate a GU and synced my watch. It was go-time.
I held my “dream pace” for the first 3 miles in Central Park without much difficulty – my 5K split was 0:21:42. However some time during the 4th mile, the rolling hills messed me up as I started to lose my pace. Then the unthinkable grabbed me from behind and all was lost.
I took a sip of water between mile 4 and 5. Then I started to feel a light cramp after mile 5, as I continue to fight to bring back my pace. The cramp would come and go several times more for the rest of the race. But as the first sign of negativity crept up in the corner of my mind, it wasn’t long before I was engulfed by an overwhelming sense of defeat. Near the end of the Central Park loop, my 10K split was 0:45:38.
My pace only returned once during mile 8. After mile 8, I started to lose my pace even more dramatically due to the lingering stomach issues and my mental struggle. It was during these miles I realized I had to do it all over again – it wasn’t going to be today. I felt like crap. My 15K split was 1:09:09.
After the excruciating 9 miles that I wish I could forget, it was the final stretch to the finish line. The West Side Highway never seemed longer in my life. Just when I thought the first 9 miles were absolute garbage, the next 30 minutes proved me wrong – it got worse. My feet were in pain. It wasn’t injury – it was just the general fatigue as a result of slapping my feet hard on the pavement for an hour. I realized that it was a mistake to wear my New Balance Minimus, because clearly I wasn’t ready to race in them. I must be honest – somewhere in the final 3 miles I seriously considered stopping for a bit. My 20K pace was 1:34:14. Less than one mile left.
I tried to focus on the remainder of the race with what was left of my will and determination. I thought of why I run, and why I love it. Then I gathered all my strength and sucked in the cool misty morning air. Almost there, I thought. It was a strange feeling when I couldn’t hear the crowd in the last mile – my ears were filled with the sounds of my own heavy breathing. I was tired and shaky as my eyes fixated on a blurry blue banner afar – the finish line was in sight. The NYC Half 2012 ended with a bittersweet – the PR that wasn’t good enough for me.
This race was many things. It was the first race for me this year. It was the first race after my injuries last year. It was my first half marathon in NYC. It was a checkpoint for my training progress.
In hindsight, it was clear to me that I should have done several things differently. For instance, I definitely ate too much and too close to the starting time – the stomach cramps should not have been a factor. Then there’s the problem with my choice of shoes. And finally, I was giving myself too much pressure to end up not enjoying running in the greatest city in the world. Next time I will not only remember to include “have fun” in my goals, but also emphasize the importance of keeping my spirit high.