Wednesday, May 27, 2015

I Completed My First Half-Marathon!!!

The AIRBNB Brooklyn Half-Marathon

The excitement, nervousness, and post-race pain have subsided so I can now share the journey with you all. Yes! On Saturday, May 16th I completed the Brooklyn-Half Marathon. I ran the first 10 miles of the race nonstop until my wireless headphones, iPhone and body failed me and died :) Before I share all the tidbits on the race, let me take you back to the beginning of the journey. 

I've held a gym membership since I was about 16 years old, when my then varsity tennis coach pulled me aside before Christmas break one year (might have been Thanksgiving break, I cannot remember) and kindly asked me to begin the spring training routine earlier then my teammates. His exact words were "you're body has tendency to get out of hand." In those days I was between 130 and 145 and had a body that required exercised. (I actually miss those days when I could out-exercise bad eating :) ) Today, I have to exercise and eat right or things do get out of hand. So since that crazy conversation with my coach I've been on the exercise/diet train. 

Throughout college I went up and down, but could always bounce back in time for a vacation or summer :) This routine came to a screeching halt in 2005 when I was diagnosed with "Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome" and I gained about 80 pounds in 18 months. PCOS causes a serious hormonal imbalance in the body. Combining that with a diet high in animal proteins is a recipe for disaster. In 2011 I cut animal proteins out completely, eventually adopting a pescatarian diet and limited my diary consumption. I wrote about it here in 2011. 

In the last four-years I've been able to reduce my symptoms, bring a slight hormonal balance and drop about 40 pounds. I still have about 30 pounds left. In due time :) 

Exercise has saved me. Literally. For years I took spin classes, cross-fit, boot camps, and all sorts of boutique fitness classes across New York City. I even started biking to and from work last year with the launch of Citibike's in New York City. For the most part I am very active. However, the one activity that always eluded me was running. I live a stones throw from Central Park in New York City and was always envious of all those cool people running in the park, before and after work. So last summer I said "EFF THAT" I'm going to be down too. A close friend advised me to skip the baby steps, and plotting and planning that I'm known to utilize for most things I approach in life. He told me to sign up for a race. That is what I did. 

In late August 2014 I incorporated running into my regular gym routine. The first day I said to myself "run for ninety seconds straight" at a 4.5 speed on the treadmill. I did it, not bad. The next day I bumped up to two minutes. The rest of that week I did an interval training routine, run two minutes, walk five minutes. In week two I kicked it up and forced myself to run for five minutes straight at 4.5 speed. Okay! Not so bad. I continued this for that entire week. Week three I kicked it up to ten minutes straight at 5.0 speed. I'll be honest, it was little tough but I got through it. I did this for a full week. Then I declared - "Central Park Here I Come!"

On a Sunday afternoon that began week four, I laced up my sneakers, put on my hot pink head band, loaded up my fitbelt and hit Central Park with my "ratchet music" play list. I decided that I was going to run one mile nonstop in the park. I'll spare you all the details and just tell you I hit one mile at 97th street and I proceeded to sit for 30 minutes after that run, sweating, breathing hard and questioning myself - "what in the hell was I thinking, I'm not a runner, this is bullshit!" I phoned a friend out of breathe and declared that that was it. She didn't scream on me the way I probably would have screamed on her had she called me in the same predicament. She told me to walk home and get up the next day and do it again. The next morning I woke up before work and hit the park and ran another mile. This time it felt better. That Monday at work I signed up for my first race through NYRR (New York Road Runners). The race was a four-mile charity race taking place in November. I had more than enough time to get myself together. In typical fashion I recruited a friend to join me on this mad journey. She was my workout buddy anyway and decided to hop on the crazy train with me. 

For the next five weeks ish I followed the Nike Running App and completed a training program. It had a mix of running and walking, gradually increasing the distance. Maybe about three weeks in, I got lost in Central Park trying to complete a 2.5 mile run and ended up completing 3.5miles. I had that cathartic moment in the park where I didn't want to stop. It was freaky and an out of body experience that I cannot quite explain. I've heard runners talk about this moment, so I know it really exists. 

On November 23rd I completed my first race. I ran four miles in 1:08. My friend finished in 40 minutes flat. Not bad, for two non-runners. That morning over brunch we declared that we were now runners and were going to run the New York City Marathon in 2016. As a test we would complete the Brooklyn Half-Marathon in 2015. After that four-mile race I continued to run about 10-16 miles a week. 

In February I registered for the Brooklyn Half-Marathon and began an aggressive training routine. In week one I ran 20 miles. At the end of that week I got terribly sick and was out for the next few days. I had a coach and he advised that I take the sick days, but I refused and went back out after two days and got even sicker, knocking me out for six whole days. After recovering from that, I made it two full weeks and then pain started brewing in my ankles. My podiatrist then knocked me down for another few days (I actually listened to her). I have old injuries from my high school varsity tennis days that were starting to clear up, but caused me a tremendous amount of pain while running. I made it back out and made is about four straight weeks. 

I ran before work and at nights, in central park and on the west side highway running path. While training I was a walking zombie. I was tired most of the time. My coach advised that this was normal and recommended that I make slight changes to my diet to help. For some reason I always had a cold while training. Despite all of the challenges I kept going. Not even runner's trot on a few of my long runs, stopped me. 

Race Day! If you live in New York City, specifically Brooklyn, then you know what I'm about to tell you. The weather on May 16th sucked! I was assigned a wave 2 bib. I assume that this assignment was due to the pace on record from that prior race. My wave was supposed to take off at 7.45am. I didn't start running until 8.15. 

Here is where things get funny......

I took off by The Brooklyn Museum down Washington Avenue. It was clear and a nice breeze. I felt awesome. Unfamiliar with the route as I turned on to Empire Blvd a wave of excitement hit me because I thought that was the point in which I would enter prospect park to begin that loop. However, I noticed a swarm of people running down Flatbush Avenue. I wasn't entering the park yet. LOL! I was turning up Flatbush Avenue to run back up to the Museum and loop Grand Army Plaza to come back down. No problem! The Nike app had just clicked and I completed mile one in record time 14 minutes. As I began mile two the sky opened up and delivered a torrential downpour of rain. WTF! This slowed me down tremendously.

I can't recall what exactly happened, but all I remember is an official tapping me on my shoulder to alert me that the hospitality suite along with the NYPD were behind me. She explained that if the two passed me that I would need to begin running on the side walk, because that meant they were opening the roads to traffic. Huh?? This was on Flatbush Avenue as I was running back down. Did I really fall that far behind?? When I looked around and noticed I was the only person running, I realized I was that far behind.

Oh it gets better.....

I finally enter Prospect Park to begin the 3.5 mile loop. I'm not going to lie, I was very tempted to cut across the park to make up the time. However, that b!tch move would have made me a cheater and complete LOSER! So I kept running and finally made it out of the park. As I was exiting the park I heard the Nike App click at 6.5 miles and I then received another tap by an official. This time he asked "are you still running the race?" "Hell Yeah," I responded. With a look of disappointment this official said "oh man miss, there was a time limit. I'm afraid you are not going to be able to continue the route, we are opening up the expressway to traffic."

WHAT THE EFF!!! How am I this far behind? I was averaging about 17 minutes per a mile at this point, but was paced to pick up speed. Yes! I run slow!

The nice man redirected me and put me on a service road parallel to the Prospect Expressway and gave me directions on crossing back over to get back on course. Still by myself I continued running until I hit the 10-mile mark at around Avenue U and Ocean Parkway. At the 10-mile mark I could feel the blisters forming at the bottom of my feet along with pain in areas of my body I didn't know could hurt. All my electronic devices died and because I ended up giving my bib to a friend who couldn't get into the race, I had no way of tracking my official time. My guesstimate is 4 hours and 20 minutes.

When I finally crossed the finish line I had a crew of friends and family members with signs screaming and cheering me on. I definitely felt amazing and like I had finally defeated my mind. Of course I couldn't walk for the next two days and limped around for about four. It was all worth it though.

Next year I'll be ready and better prepared to not fall so far behind :) Until then, I begin training for the NYRR Five-Borough Series: Bronx 10-Mile Race in July. I'm back to running in the park on Monday June 1st!

Tell's about your fitness experience....

Are you a runner?
Did you run the Brooklyn Half or any other races recently?

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