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.