So yesterday I ran the Empire State Half Marathon in Syracuse, NY. This was my third time running this race, as I ran in 2011 and 2013. Last year I ran this race with my sister as her first post-baby race, still one of my best memories- this year will tie that though.
The morning actually went super smooth- which looking back, was a good sign of things to come. I got up without a hitch, had my coffee (in the shower), and got ready and was on the road around 5:45. I got incredibly lucky- the weather/road conditions were good, the thruway was clear and I didn't stress one bit on the drive. This was a HUGE relief, because last time I went to 'Cuse for a half- I white knuckled through a blizzard the whole time and my whole body cramped from stress. Lord knows I didn't wanna deal with that again.
I quickly found Heather at the race, we hit the bathrooms and then pretty much hung out in the warm car until I needed to get a warm-up run in outside. I did an easy bit, and then some strides as planned. Much like the 5k I did the week prior- my legs felt good during warm-up strides which was confidence boosting.
I lined up right behind starting line and shortly after- it was time to go. I let loose a bit at the start, wanting to get through the crowd and around the first few turns before settling into a pace. The headwind started pretty much as soon as we hit the Onondaga Lake Parkway (as expected). This was a little daunting mentally because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I stuck behind some guys but realized it was too slow. So I ended up essentially running into the wind myself. I could see the lead female up in the distance as she had a cyclist with her, but I didn't think much about it.
When we got near the Salt museum I saw Heather's friend Megan cheering. I knew she would be there, and I had asked her that morning if she could have a shot of whiskey waiting if it was cold out. I asked where it was, bystanders laughed. She then looked at her watch and told me the lead woman was about 40 seconds ahead of me. Again, I didn't give it much thought at this point. I just focused on running a comfortably hard pace into the wind. My quads were numb and I just kept telling myself "get to the turnaround".
|Cold red quads in the wind|
As we were coming back and passing everyone coming towards us, the other runners were so incredibly encouraging. Yelling my place, cheering along and smiling away. Heather gave a big cheer as we passed each other and I was so happy to see her- she looked great and could tell it was going to be good day for both of us.
At this point I wasn't questioning "IF" about the lead, but "WHEN" I could/should. I finally brought the gap to a close, and took the lead a little after mile 8. Then it hit me....this was happening. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on pushing and not letting her come back. I was breathing heavily, and my heart rate sky rocketed a few times- I literally said BREATHE and told myself to calm the flip down. I saw Megan again on the way back, I smiled when I saw her face when she realized it was me with the cyclist and not the other girl. I threw my hands up, asking again where the whiskey was- she laughed and then told me to get going! Apparently I needed to focus on the finish and THEN the whiskey- who knew!
The last few miles it was essentially me and my cyclist. She was riding a little further in front of me than I would have liked, I could have used some company. I wanted to be done, I was getting tired but kept going. "The last 5k should be tough" was floating through my head, coach checking in again. The cyclist looped around and I could tell she was getting my bib number and then saw her radio in to the finish. HOLY SHIT- this is happening. As we went through the last few turns she was yelling "first female" to people, and they cheered and waved- I have to admit, it was a cool feeling.
Before the last turn to the straightaway, a woman was screaming and cheering for me- I gave her a look and just said "is she close?". She looked around behind me and smiled and screamed "no where near you, GO!". The home stretch was full of a lot of omg-omg-omg moments. I get to call my parents and tell them I won. I get to tell my coach that I won. I get to tell my friends and everyone else who supports me- I won. OMG all those long tempos that made me want to die, they're paying off today. WHAT?
|Almost positive this is when I gave that lady the look- wondering if I was safe. As my mother always says, I can't do anything without my tongue hanging out #classy|
I threw my hands up, smiled and tried to hold back the tears and also kept thinking "Don't look like an idiot!". (read: no blubbery crying face! no goofy face! For the love of god do NOT stop your garmin right now).
|Smiling like a fool, trying not to cry like a baby. Also, raising the roof.|
I then quickly (relatively) went to my car and bundled up with warm clothes and grabbed my phone. Let's just say my mom thought something was wrong because I mumbled half crying and smiling like an idiot- then she finally understood me and was screaming happy things. I then made my way back to the finish quick, and cheered in Heather! I was so psyched to see her run a solid time and finish feeling good- I also got to meet her dad who showed up! We sat in her car blasting the heat while we thawed out waiting for awards. I received a very cool glass 'trophy' for winning, and Heather got a sweet plaque for taking 2nd in her Age group!
1st Female, 11th Overall (out of ~1100)
Gun time: 1:28:46 (6:46 pace)
Net time: 1:28:44 (6:46 pace) [30+ sec PR] [7 min course PR]
Garmin: 1:28:47 for 13.24 (6:42 pace)
Pacing: 1st half all splits were between 6:43-6:57
2nd half splits were between 6:32-6:37 (with one at 6:45)
Post- Race Thoughts
I never went into this race with even thought of winning. I'm well aware that this was a 'pedestrian time' for this race, this time wouldn't have put me in top 10 last year. Yeah, there's that. BUT I will not sit here and discount my accomplishment. Yesterday, I was the first female finisher and ran a personal best time. I worked hard for my time, and in the last 5 miles of that race I built a 2 minute lead over second place. I played to my strengths yesterday. I was conservative, tactical and knew to take advantage of the wind for my negative splits. I am incredibly proud of this race, I did what I set out to do- and then some. I squeaked in under coaches goal time- and more importantly, I focused on the things I wish I had done in the full at Rochester a few weeks ago (which was the best thing coach could have told me to do). I stayed relaxed, calmed myself down when needed, ran strategically, and I didn't doubt myself. Physically I think I've been where I need to be the last few months- but the mental grit hasn't been there. I think it's safe to say this 'test race'/'tune-up' went as good as it could have, and I have no doubt that I can carry this grit to Memphis in December for the full.
I want to thank everyone for the AMAZING support, I was truly overwhelmed. Texts, calls, emails, social media explosions, it means so much. I'm a glowing proud runner today, but know that I wouldn't be without the friends/family I have to help me along the way. In fact many of my friends, family, and coach were all in my head during the race-all the things you guys say to me, I remember it and use it as fuel. Cheesy but true.