While I had always hoped to run long distances likes my superstar mother and inspiring friends, I was never 100% confident that I could actually do it. I struggled with side stitches, knee pain, and, to be honest a little runners boredom, and I never got over the 5 mile hump. But this year, I made a pact with myself, grew some mental toughness, didn’t let up on training, and successfully raced my first half marathon!
A few weeks ago I wrote about the beginnings of my training process, and if I thought I had learned a lot about myself as a runner in the first 5 weeks, I learned even more in the 7 weeks that followed. More things I learned during training were:
- Do NOT mess around with strength training. Keeping those quads, hamstrings, calves, and core firing through biking, yoga, swimming (if you’re able), strength training, and stretching is an invaluable piece of your training plan that helps build stability and avoid injury.
- If you do get injured, get help! My IT band pain got to a no-fun place once I started to kick up my mileage and I knew powering through was only going to set me back further. I got a sports therapy massage, rolled the heck out of it, and used physio tape for support, and with a week completely off running I successfully bounced back without losing too much ground.
- Run as close to 13 miles as you can. My friend imparted this wisdom to me and I am so glad she did! I got up to 12 miles 2 weeks before my race and it put me in such a better place mentally- I knew I could push out 1 more mile!
- Plan your race fuel. I trained with my favorite energy bites, popping one before heading out on the run, and another one at 6 miles (which I had kept wrapped in foil in my leggings waistband pocket). Or go for gels, chews, or honey sticks if you prefer, I just recommend to practice with them during your training to avoid GI discomfort.
So, after 12 weeks of training, the day of the NYCRUNS Ladies First Half Marathon arrived! Luckily, after a solid 24 hours of rain, we had dry but cloudy skies at the start line out in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. I was oddly nervous lining up with the other 350 or so women, but as soon as I crossed the start and looked over at the Manhattan skyline I relaxed and settled right into my routine, as if it was another morning running in Central Park.
I’ll spare you the mile-by-mile details, and skip right to the end, where I crossed the finish line just 8 seconds over 2 hours- exactly my goal! The headwinds were brutal and my hip flexors were on fire, but I was so proud to finish, and I was lucky that my husband/#1 cheerleader was right there with victory hugs and warm layers.
I was definitely on a runners high, but knew where my priorities laid at that moment- FOOD! Let’s be real, most of my long training runs were all for the rewarding eats, and finally finishing 13.1 miles was certainly no exception. Coffee and carbs were the first things on my mind, so we headed to Coffee Rx for a full-fat latte (for protein) and cocoa nib Dough Doughnut. My husband had come in while I was somewhere around mile 2 and said the avocado toasts looked to die for as well, but we were too cold to stay and find out. With sustenance in hand, we headed back to Manhattan.
The original plan had been to grab pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens as we don’t frequently find ourselves that far out in Brooklyn; however, it was 10:30 AM and we were tired and cold, so we went home and fixed up some killer egg scrambles and avocado toasts (not pictured=devoured too quickly). Pizza was still on the post-race refuel plan, so a few short hours later we headed down to Gotham West Market to check out the new pizza counter from the ramen-king himself, Ivan Orkin- Corner Slice. Pizza from a ramen guy? YES. Just like his noodles, he studied and perfected his crust, which was doughy, but crispy at the same time and studded with cornmeal. We got a slice of the tomato pie and daily special of fennel sausage and spicy peppers. Both were amazing- the perfect snack slice.
A trip to Gotham West would not be complete without picking up some Ample Hills Creamery ice cream, a Brooklyn icon made conveniently available in Manhattan. Hand packed pints? YES. Two flavors packed in one pint? OH YES. We chose some Nonna D’s Oatmeal Lace (brown sugar cinnamon ice cream with oatmeal lace cookies) and Munchies (pretzel infused ice cream with clusters of Ritz crackers, potato chips, pretzels, and mini M&Ms). This pint may not last long…
While these food excursions were well worth it, it was becoming more difficult to bend at my knee more than 20 degrees, so it looked like the night would be spent in. We enjoyed some homemade turkey burgers, veggies, and fries, followed by more ice cream, naturally.
All said and done, 13.1 miles was no easy feat, but the feeling of crossing that finish line and the victory eats sure were sweet :)