Monday, August 17, 2009

The Deceptive Hills of Central Park

NYC Half Marathon - August 16, 2009
I didn't expect to run at a blistering pace and break any records. I was realistic enough to know that I may be using the Jeff Galloway method to surmount the hills of Central Park. But in the heat of the moment (literally and figuratively), I forgot there were hills. For the first 6 miles of the race, I felt dehydrated and was acutely aware of the discomfort in the pit of my stomach. I also felt very comforted by the sight of ambulances and paramedics every mile or so. I didn't realize till Mile 4, that all these emotions were caused by the very real, but extremely deceptive hills of Central Park. They were not ginormous hills you stare at in open-mouthed don't even realize you are on a hill, till you get near the top, or till someone yells out, "You're almost near the top". But they were hills all the same...and boy, was I glad they were the first 6 miles of the race and not the last!
Anyway, here's how it all went down.

I made a trip to NYC on Saturday to pick up my race packet. My hopes of spending an hour expo-shopping were dashed to the ground...all they had resembling an expo were a couple of technical T's hanging limply and begging to be bought, one or two lonesome backpacks, and some sport laundry detergent hogging all the limelight, thanks to its over-zealous saleslady.
Later, I met Pearl and Brenda at Chinatown and got treated to a sumptuous dim sum lunch. Burp! Rest assured, I am coming back for more. Thanks, girls!
Back home...I printed race instructions, picked out race clothes, packed race bag, ate leftover dimsum, rice and chickpeas for dinner, tucked myself into bed by 8:30.

***9:00: Almost asleep
9:30: DH comes to bed; I am wide awake
10:00: DH is fast asleep and snoring. Dear God, why can't I fall asleep???
10:30: Still awake and contemplating race pace. Do I dare to shoot for 1:55?
11:00: Desperate; counting sheep
12:00: Try meditation. Nope, that's no good
1:00: This is insane...I need at least 1 hour of sleep
Somewhere between 1:30 and 3:00: Finally drift off to sleep
3:00: F#%* the alarm!!!

(***Copyright: Cross Country Squared. Your post impressed me so much, I had to attempt a weak forgery of it... srry! Last time I checked, imitation was still the sincerest form of flattery).

I stuffed a bulky backpack full of bottles of water and gatorade, fruit, granola bars and a change of clothes. DH would be lugging this all over NYC. A blast of warm, muggy air hit me as I stepped out of the house. At 4 am, the temperature was already in the mid-70s! We picked Glenn up (he had a bag full of some of the same stuff) and headed to the city. Glenn had not had much sleep either.
We made good time, reached the city by 5:45, parked at a garage on 62nd street and decided to walk to the start at Central Park. I got a good warm up, while Glenn and DH were working up a sweat, with their heavy baggage. When we got to my corral where we had to separate, it was 6:35. Fumbling with the bib and D-tag, I didn't realize till they left (with the bags) that I had not tied my hair (had no hair clip or band on me), did not carry any water/gatorade and had not eaten anything since 3:30. There was some water at the start, but no energy drink and nothing to eat. Oh, well! I just hoped I would get to the first fluid station before I passed out!

I stretched while I waited to use the facilities. It was a good thing I did that, because by the time I was done, it was 7 am, and we were inching forward to the start. We clapped and cheered as they announced the elite runners...and I was feeling a little green that Glenn and DH were photographing them at that moment!

I didn't notice when the horn went off, but it wasn't long before I found myself running...well, sort of. I shuffled along, my hair loose and bobbing behind me (thankfully, it didn't get in my eyes), and soon, picked up a little speed. And then, the hills happened. The first two fluid stations had a lot of water and gatorade, but the cups I picked up had less than half an ounce of fluid in them. After the second fluid station, I started grabbing 2 cups of water and gatorade each, splashing half the water all over my face and legs. The fluid helped, for a few 100 yards...and then the effect of the hills and the humidity took over.

DH and Glenn were supposed to wait for me at the start but they were swallowed by the crowd. I finally saw them at Mile 3...they had crossed the park, half-jogging, half walking. It sure does perk you up when you see familiar faces, yelling your name and waving to you among thousands of people. Here is a blur of me.
Then, it was mile after mile of fatigue, nausea and resisting the urge to rush into the arms of the paramedics.

When we exited Central Park and hit 7th Avenue, the nausea vanished and I finally felt the thrill of running in NYC. There was music, bands, cowbells, people singing, yelling, waving was wonderful. I remembered Ken as I drank in the cheering crowds and hoped he would be running this race next year.

My personal camera crew appeared again at Times Square. I waved at them ecstatically, and DH snapped a pic of my waving hand, just as I disappeared behind a passing runner (look closely behind the lady in the purple singlet).The fanfare continued along 42nd street and swept me up. It was the coolest thing, flying down Broadway, my dripping mane dancing behind me like the Lion King.

We turned onto the West Side Highway. As we headed downtown, the adrenaline petered out. I remember chanting "Run For Ken" over and over...whenever the impulse of rushing into the nearest ambulance or medical tent overcame me. It really helped. I remember feeling oh so happy that this was a half and not a full marathon! I also remember feeling grateful there were fluid/water stations at every mile. I was drenched with sweat and the water and gatorade I was splashing all over myself. I ran through a couple of misting stations and sprinklers, hoping to cool myself off more, but what I really needed were water cannons!

Mile 10 was the longest mile. People were slowing down all around me, and though we were not running in open, glaring sunlight, the humidity was taking its toll. I watched the clock at every mile and knew I was at a sub-9:00 pace, but I didn't care much beyond that. The D-tag was recording our time at 5K, 10K, 15K and 20K...and that was more than I wanted to know.

Around this point, I suddenly felt a wave of heat rush through my left knee. No pain, just a streak of heat. I slowed down to a walk, expecting the pain to follow...nothing. After 30 seconds, I jogged slowly, then picked up the pace again...nothing. That was mysterious.

At Mile 11, I made a weak attempt to accelerate...and failed. It was hard enough to maintain the pace. I read these words off a T-shirt, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional". I had to pass the guy wearing it and turn to look at the expression on his face...he was pouring buckets and struggling like me.

At Mile 12, I managed to smile as I sailed past the medical tent...I would not be needing them in this race. And I didn't notice any other casualties...we seemed to be doing pretty well.

Mile 13: One more mile to go....and a little 0.1 nubbin. The end was near. I managed to sprint the last 200m. I passed Glenn about 150 yards from the finish and yelled his name...he was scanning the crowd and didn't see me till I passed. DH screamed my name 5 seconds before I crossed the finish at 1:52:23.

I limped along with the other "finishers" in the enclosure as we were handed cold towels, pretzels, almonds, apples and finally our medals. DH and Glenn looked almost as exhausted as me. They had been through a marathon of sorts...they had dashed across Central Park, rushed to take the subway to 7th Avenue, a cab and a sprint to Timesquare and a cab and a final dash to catch me at the Battery Park finish. And every time, they had managed to get to the designated spot just a minute before I reached. Glenn had orchestrated the spectating, calculating the window of time within which they could catch me at each spot...and they had executed it perfectly. Hats off to my awesome cheering team!

An ocean of baggage at the finish

More pics to follow!

NYC Half Marathon - Sunday, May 16, 2009

Splits: 5K: 25:54; 10K: 52:19; 15K: 1:18:13; 20K: 1:44:30

D-Tag Time: 1:49:46 (No PR, but I'm not complaining)
Horn Time: 1:52:27

Pace: 8:22/mile

Overall Stats: 1984 / 10,172 overall
Gender Stats: 480 / 5136
Age group Stats: 74 / 744 (not too shabby, considering Paula and Deena are in my age group, ha!)
Bib 4529


K*Tina! said...

Great job! I only wish that I could get out there and run a race like that!



VISITA mi blog:


Ali said...

Congrats! Great report and fabulous time.

Heather said...

Great race report! Awesome job on the race. I LOVE your finish line picture - has to be one of the best race pics ever.

J said...

Those are some nice pictures! Great job on the race!

Christie said...

Wow. You did great. Especially considering the conditions and your lack of sleep and fuel. Congrats!

The Happy Runner said...

Wow -- awesome race! It was so hot yesterday and you ran a speedy race. Congrats!

Love the pics!!!

Beth said...

Wow! That was an A+ race report for an A+ race! I love the pictures. I can't believe that the expo wasn't better since the one for the marathon is amazing. Still, you got to run in the footsteps of Paula and Deana and Ryan... not to shabby. And your time was very impressive. Congrats!

Erica said...

Girl! I think you did fabulous! Way to make it through despite the challenges! I loved reading the play by play!

joyRuN said...

EXCELLENT finish! You had a few challenges, but you still hauled!

Mica said...

Awesome race! I'm impressed you made it up those Central Park hills! They were rough when I WALKED up them.

lindsay said...

great job! i heard the heat was rough, way to tough it out. i hate not being able to fall asleep the night before a race, no matter how 'serious' (or not) i am taking the race.

Anonymous said...

You ran great! Running in the city must have been fun. There is so much to look at. Sounds like your husband did a fair amount of running around as well.

Roisin said...

Holy Crap CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Damn, that's speedy especially considering the heat! You rock!

And snaps to DH for those cool pictures!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Wow! Great race report and time! You did great, especially considering the heatwave that you've got! Congrats on another HM. And amazing pics that DH took! :D

X-Country2 said...

Ha ha ha! Your mental recap time line was great. Very well done. Glad I could provide some inspiration. :o)

Awesome time too. Sounds like it was quite the day. Way to gut it out!

Marlene said...

Congratulations! Sounds like a brutal race, but you did REALLY well. I'm so impressed with your time!

Scheri said...

CONGRATULATIONS!!! That is a great time! You did fabulously and I loved your race report :-)

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you! Thanks for the interesting race report!
Pearl F.

Laurel said...

Woo! Awesome race. Nice pace too, especially in that heat.

Thanks for all your kind words on my last post too. It's very much appreciated.

Although, I will say I was a tad bit jealous reading your race report. I guess I will just have to live vicariously through my running bloggers :)

Irene said...

I know too well about the not sleeping thing! I guess it's sort of like a kid anticipating a birthday or Christmas!

How exciting! I would love to do a run in New York City. It sounds like it was pretty exhilarating for you!

Awesome race report! Awesome pictures!!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome report! I love the pics and cannot wait for some more.

Thanks for sharing

You did a great race and I am kind of jealous about running it ;-)

I Run for Fun said...

Irene, well put! I was wondering if the sleeplessness was nervousness, but I don't think that was it. It was the excitement.

Coloradan said...

Congratulations Kavi! Thanks for sharing your experience in a great way.

Tony said...

Wow great job considering the heat and little sleep.

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

Thanks for stopping in on my BLOG Giveaway :)

LOVE this race report and the pro pictures. Note to self, must run in NYC..

Great time and way to stick it out. Heat in the knee, that is a new one, wonder what that was about??

Have a great weekend. Congrats on 200