This will most definitely be long but hopefully I can make it compelling so you don’t zonk out before you finish reading. And you should know I’ve cued up my DVR to watch the elite race as I type this. :) It’s such a different race for them as it is for the turtles like me! I’m going to put my race tips in bold woven throughout this so if you’re just here for that you can find the pertinent info easily. #yourwelcome But if you like to hear my dramatic diary of tales from the day read the unbold stuff too :)

VZ Bridge

Keri, Jane, Claire, Anne and me. My first time meeting Claire and Anne but I know it won’t be my last. Hope to see all these gals again for any of my Jersey and Philly races in 2016.

So first, I have to say that my morning started off a little different than my 2011, and 2013 NYC Marathons. I wasn’t driving to the start alone! My friend Jane and her Princeton, New Jersey crew came to my house to hang for a bit and then I drove us all to the start. The best thing about living ON Staten Island is having the luxury of literally driving just a few blocks from the start village and knowing about the “secret” start village back entrance. It’s not that secret in that it appears on the map but most people arrive via the ferry/shuttle buses which use the other entrance.

our secret entrance in the back.

our secret entrance in the back.

So we leisurely strolled through the security checkpoint and took some silly photos before I dropped my bag at gear check and then we went to hang out.

Strong women. Meanwhile in hindsight probably wasn't so smart that Anne screamed "Everyone: put up your guns!" right by the security checkpoint. LOL!

Strong women. Meanwhile in hindsight probably wasn’t so smart that Anne screamed “Everyone: put up your guns!” right by the security checkpoint. LOL!

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This past Saturday I ran the inaugural Rock n Roll Brooklyn Half Marathon.

Shirt and race number: CHECK!

Shirt and race number: CHECK!

I had run their 10k in Brooklyn in 2012 and 2013.

2013 and a shiny new PR

2013 and a shiny new PR

2012!

2012!

Last year they canceled the 10k and let us know they were planning to make it a half for this year, so as soon as registration opened I signed up!

I enjoyed both 10ks and had fast (for me) finish times. My current 10k PR is from the 2013 one. I definitely recall logistical issues each year and also recall saying I was not really too fond of Rock n Roll much anymore but that all went out the window when the half was announced. =)

Here’s a little recap of the day:

I got up super early and got ready pretty quickly despite the fact I was under the weather. I’m still sick as of today. I haven’t been to a doctor but I’m guessing it’s a sinus infection and I might need to get to a doc soon. I was in Brooklyn by 6:00am and 15 minutes later I joined the rest of my running peeps for the 15 minute walk from where I parked to where the start was. Easy peasy.

But then things got ugly. We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out how to get to the corrals. It was now 6:40 and instead of filing into the corrals we were herded in the opposite direction to get on this ridiculously long line that would eventually get us through the security check/metal detectors. Unfortunately since the Boston bombings this has become a norm at many large races and I get that. But what I don’t get is that they had 8 metal detectors for 17,000+ runners. I’m no mathematician but that just seems like a poor ratio.

lots of feet waiting to get thru security

These are our feet waiting to get thru security

Needless to say there was a lot of commotion, crowding and waiting. The 7am start time came and went and we had no idea if the race was starting on time. There wasn’t a single race representative to give us any information.

Eventually we got to the corrals and had to climb through the fence to get to our designated corrals. We then waited and waited until finally 45 minutes after the original start the race had begun. The start was a wave start and we were about the 8th group to go.

Running peeps

Running peeps…mostly the usual suspects but Lisa’s sister Valerie flew in from Texas to join us.

Things did get better. The weather was perfect for starters—a crisp cool autumn morning. And the course was fairly fast (well except for miles 10 and 11 which I’ll get to in a bit).

My plan for this race was to enjoy my updated playlist and new earbuds—and find a nice easy pace and treat this like a long training run. I started out a little too fast. It was hard not to. My first few splits were in the low 10s. But eventually I got closer to 11s. I noticed my hamstring getting tight around mile 5 but it didn’t really become an issue until the later miles. My breathing was perfect. I was so shocked that I never felt winded….especially being sick and all. I had taken a decongestant and some advil before the race. I am not a fan of being medicated during long runs but luckily this all worked out. I’m realizing that while my training is nowhere near as much as I’ve had for other marathons, it’s finally starting to pay off and my lungs are definitely endurance runner lungs again. YAY!

just keep swimming

just keep swimming

Another hiccup….the water stops. I guess I’m spoiled with New York Road Runner events. Gatorade is given in Gatorade cups and water in plain white cups. And Gatorade always comes first followed by water second. You always know where to “fall in” to grab your fluid of choice. This wasn’t the case on Saturday. All fluids were in the same cup and each aid stop was set up differently. You had to make sure to hear what the volunteers were saying. Luckily they were all wonderful. I drank much more Gatorade than I normally do. I was trying to prevent my 18-mile muscle cramp situation again.

Overall the course was crowded but it wasn’t impossible. I never had it prevent me from keeping to my pace. I don’t know if the faster runners had the same experience or not though.

By mile 9 my hamstring was REALLY tight but still manageble. Then came the hills… one at mile 10 and another at mile 11. I slowed/walked a little lot here and also started to become a bit more tentative with my stride so as not to aggravate the hammy any more.

I picked up the pace a little for the last mile and finished in 2:25 with an average pace just over 11 minutes per mile. Perfect! Actually about 20 seconds per mile faster than I had anticipated.

rnr-bk-half-waving

Brooklyn’s course has plenty of spectators and fun signs and there are times where you felt the same energy as the NYC Marathon. That was a huge plus!

I met up with my peeps afterward and we walked the 15 minutes back to where my car was parked. We all parted ways and then it was home to prepare for Sunday’s race. I think the walking post race and the heated seats in my car helped keep my hammy happy. By the time I was home, showered, stretched/foam rolled I was feeling great.

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bottle opener race medals seem to be all the rage.

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the heat sheet brigade

the heat sheet brigade

So pros of this race:

•Fast course with two out and back stretches and some scenic miles in Prospect Park
•Great time of year for optimal weather.
•Lots of spectators
•Easy to get to by public transport
•Plenty of fluids and fuel at the finish

Cons:
•Not enough security equipment for 17k runners
•Poor communication with runners to let them know race was starting late
•Inconsistent water/Gatorade placement at fluid stations.

The logistical hiccups are really all easily fixable will hopefully be addressed for next year.

Have you ever run a large race with logistical issues? Ever run a race where they ran out of water?

The Trenton Half Marathon is in it’s 3rd year. It consists of a half marathon, 10k and 5k as well as a kids run. I did the half last year as well as this year. And boy oh boy, what a difference a year can make. Last year I was only 6 days out from the NYC Marathon and had no expectations or goals other than to finish. Next thing you know I set a huge PR with a 2:07 finish. This year was very different =)

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Pre-race selfie

I didn’t even come close to setting a PR, but I’m ok with that since my goal was just to have a good run and finish in one piece. What I’m not ok with? I literally felt like throwing in the towel at mile 4! I was just struggling A LOT! And that was before the brutal hills (more on that later). But in my usual fashion I dug deep and pushed hard (when I wasn’t walking up hills) and when I crossed the finish line I was so happy and felt so proud of myself for making it to the finish without a stretcher.

Here’s a little play by play of the day:

4:40am Woke up, got dressed and ate a soft pretzel. No coffee :( I was running late.
6am. Dropped Duncan off at the BF’s house. (Thank you dear BF for making sure to be awake at 6am on a Saturday for Doodle Drop-Off).
6:15am. Drove down to Trenton. It was about an hour’s drive from my BF’s house.
7:15am. Met up with Jane, her hubby and the rest of their running posse.
7:45am. Took some pre-race photos and then loaded ourselves into the corrals.

Trenton Half 2014

The half marathoners! (photo: Jane!)

2014 Trenton half

I’m bending my knee to avoid the knee brace “muffin top” in the photo. #keepinitreal (photo: Jane)

Trenton Half 2014

The couple that runs together….Alex & Jane (Photo: Jane)

8:00am. The race was supposed to start but they seemed to be running behind. It turned out to be 22 minutes behind. Needless to say almost 40 minutes in the corral left me cranky and shivering along with a few thousand other runners. Last year they were running behind schedule at the start too! Bummer #1.

In the corrals. (Photo: Jane)

In the corrals. (Photo: Jane)

8:22am. The race finally begins. It only took a minute or two to cross the start but with a 5k, 10k and half starting at the same time it was really congested. Especially since many were walking the 5k and 10k. I literally walked across the start line and probably didn’t start running until we made our first turn out of the gates. Bummer #2. But very quickly the course opened up and I even found myself a little lonely in the later miles.

Mile 1: 10:13 split. This first mile flew. I felt good and just enjoyed what I love about the early miles of a race. I turned on my music and zoned out while enjoying some sun on my face. The bulk of the spectators for the race were in that first mile (which is also the last mile). So I looked around and read some of the signs people had. A little boy had a sign that said “Hurry up mom! I’m cold!”

Mile 2-3: 9:13 and 9:47 splits. I enjoyed these miles through the historic Capital District. The miles were flat and I knew there was a cool band that played last year in this area. I was happy to see them again this year.

This is Mill Hill

This is Mill Hill…

Mile 4: 10:28 split. Well, let’s start with the positive. This part of the course runs through Mill Hill. It’s a really quaint neighborhood that reminds me a lot of the West Village in Manhattan. Cool row houses with brick facades, lovely flower boxes and some great residents out on their stoop cheering us on. My favorite sign “13.1 miles of running seems like an awful lot of work just for a banana”. (Sorry I didn’t take any pictures of the signs!)

thalf4

I just can’t seem to stop the heel striking @#$!

OK and now the negative: I just wasn’t trained for this race and I knew that going in but man, falling apart at mile 4?!!!! First it was my knee starting to bother me. Then I got a side stitch (which lasted for most of the remaining miles). I was tense from shivering in the corrals and that left me with neck pain and shoulder pain. And in my blasé approach to race day I didn’t bring fuel with me. So I was relying on Gatorade more than normal. (all the extra liquid probably caused the side stitch). And toward the end of mile 4 I crossed the first of the 2 bridges on the course, the Trenton Makes Bridge. I made another dumb move here. Instead of running on the pedestrian walkways I just followed the bulk of the runners in front of me down the middle (where the cars usually go). The problem is that the pavement turns to open metal grates. So in addition to needing to slow down and gingerly travel over it so as not to twist an ankle I had a bit of a panic attack when I looked down and saw the water beneath me. I’m a wuss!

photo 2

Mile 5-6: 10:31 and 10:25 splits. Once over the bridge we ran through Morrisville, PA. I love races that span two states.

photo 3

Calamity Sally and metal grates don’t mix

photo 4

two states to run in are better than one

Mile 7: 10:33 split At this point I returned back into New Jersey. And enjoyed a straight flat stretch.

straight away!

straight away!

Miles 8-9: 10:41 and 11:47 THE HILLS!!!! Cadwalader Park! This park was really beautiful but SOOOOO hilly!!!!! I walked most of the hills. But that afforded me the time to take these pretty pictures =) Oh and because of my stupid knee I couldn’t even enjoy the downhills. I was actually slower and more tentative with each downhill step.

photo 4-1

uphill to mile 8 and downhill to mile 10

photo 3-1

photo 5-1

Miles 10-12: 10:52, 10:17, 9:47 The next 3 miles were fairly flat and straight. You basically run on Route 29. This is where I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I knew the hills were a thing of the past at this point and my knee was less of an issue running the flat straightaway since I didn’t have to worry about any sudden jerking movements. Also, I decided it really didn’t matter now about fuel or hydration because I was diligent about keeping up with it for 10 miles and I knew I could have water and a soft pretzel at the finish which was just 5k away. (oh yes! my favorite part of this race is the soft pretzels they give out at the finish!) So I made the decision to push myself. I wanted to prove that I wasn’t going to let my final miles be dictated by my struggles up to that point. And boom: my last 3 miles of the race were my fastest splits of the second half of the race :)

thalf2

pushing it and even smiling a bit. Don’t you love how I can’t ever let go of my throwaway gloves. I’ve had them since 2012. I take them off and then don’t toss them.

thalf1

I hate my knee brace muffin top! :(

Mile 13: 10:10 split
The last mile brings you back toward the stadium of the minor league baseball team the Trenton Thunder and ultimately you run along the warning track around the ball field and as you round the 3rd baseline you make a straight dash to the finish line at home plate. It’s one of my favorite parts of this race. Now let me mention that the finish line is narrow and would never be able to accommodate runners if the race were too big so let’s hope it stays the size it is 😉 Jane finished with a PR of 1:54 so she had plenty of time to wait for me to enter the stadium. She ran the field with me and when I rounded third base she snapped a few shots of me. 

Photo Nov 08-7

Home stretch! (photo: Jane)

Photo Nov 08-12

I love this picture. Thanks Jane! Better than the professional shots.

and DONE! Let's eat!

and DONE! Let’s eat!

So I finished in 2:16:34. And frankly I’ll take it!

All in all I really do like this race. Two states, two bridges, pretty neighborhoods and parks and some decent length flat straightaways plus a cool medal! Aside from the late/crowded start everything else is really enjoyable. As for the hills in Cadwalader park….I’m coming back for you next year!!!!

Meanwhile my knee is still puzzling me. It doesn’t even bother me the next day. I literally forget about it until I run more than 3 miles. I’m going to spend the next couple of weeks focusing more on stretches and strength like I did after my ankle injury. Even though it’s not aching all day or causing me to limp I need to treat it and respect that it truly is an injury. I MUST be 100 percent healthy come January because I am starting my training for the 2015 New Jersey Marathon and that is my goal race.

 

 

 

Holy bejeezus! I can’t even believe that Sunday really happened.

I completed the Jersey Girl Triathalon and managed to live to tell. Here’s how the day went.

3:40am Alarm clock goes off
I popped up and got myself together. I had packed all my gear the night before. I even put the bike in the car the night prior as well. My gear was all put into a backpack with 2 separate clear bags. 1 containing what I needed for my bike and 1 with my running gear plus a towel in each bag as well. Unfortunately I was too nervous to eat so I just put a few teaspoons of sugar in my coffee figuring at least I’d get some calories.

5:45am Arrive at race destination
I sat in the car waiting for Jane watching the pouring rain and wondering what the heck I was getting myself into.

bikes on a bike rack before dawn in the pouring rain...yup, they must be headed to the triathalon too

bikes on a bike rack before dawn in the pouring rain…yup, they must be headed to the triathalon too

5:55am Jane and her posse arrive
We start to unpack the cars and make our way to set up our transition area. I had planned on wearing flip flops to the transition area but I must have been half asleep and packed 2 right feet! (I have 2 of the same pair). Luckily this was the worst thing that happened all day. =)

two right feet

two right feet

6:00am-6:40am pre-race stuff
We first made a pit-stop to the ladies room and then took the time to set up our bikes and gear in the transition area and then went to get marked. I just assumed that they used wax crayons or something but they used sharpie markers! I still have some residual marker left on my skin 2 days later! Then it was time to grab a bunch of pictures since we all looked so sexy in our swim getup.

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I feel like a prisoner...but it's nice to be 29 for the day instead of 40 =)

I feel like a prisoner…but it’s nice to be 29 for the day instead of 40 =)

6:40am-6:53am Heats line up
We were the second heat and lined up waiting to go into the ocean. Not gonna lie, I was shitting a brick.

don't let the smile fool ya.. I was freaking out!

don’t let the smile fool ya.. I was freaking out!

The water was choppy I’m guessing due to the rainy weather we were having. The swim angels were all waiting to to buddy up with whoever needed assistance. As soon as they gave us the go I buddied up with Paul, my “angel”. He said to wait for the bulk of the girls to get in the water so we would have some clear space and then said we should wait for 3 big waves to come in before starting to swim past the break. I was so disoriented. The swim cap was squishing my head and the goggles had already become foggy and covered with rain drops and I think I just misjudged the waves and started into the water as a wave came crashing in. I panicked and of course opened my mouth and gasped in fear as I swallowed the wave (and this is not like eating hills for breakfast). After it passed over me I started hyperventilating (yep, keeping it real.) I almost made an about face until I heard Paul talking to me. He just kept easing my mind and instructing me on my breathing and told me to just point my arms toward the buoy. I told him I could only do the doggie paddle. Poor guy, probably had no idea what he was in for. I actually found myself enjoying the water somewhere around the 1/2 way point. Things were under control and I could see the second buoy was so close. Once I reached it I just had to make a turn and head toward the shore. Here’s where I really found myself chipping away at my fears. I now knew that the waves were out of my sight and I was freaking out that one would just come and knock me down. But I realized that you actually get a little warning as the water level drops a smidge just beforehand (oceanographist I am not. and no oceanographist isn’t a word but you get what I’m saying). Paul told me when I felt that to just let the wave push me forward. Before I knew it I could stand….almost done….but of course in the very last minute when I stood up and tried to walk gracefully out of the ocean a wave came and knocked me down to my knees. I laughed at this point. I was SOOOO freaking pumped that I made it through the scariest part of this triathalon and the rest would get easier. A volunteer grabbed my hand and helped me out of the water and I slowly trotted through the sand and up onto the boardwak where they hosed off my feet and I grabbed a cup of water. This was mostly to clear the salt water out of my throat. I wasn’t really thirst yet. =) The swim took me just over 10 minutes.

7:04am-7:08am T1
I spent 4 minutes here swapping swim cap for bike helmet, goggles for sunglasses, drying off my feet and shoving on socks and sneakers. I don’t have a road bike with clipped in style pedal/shoes so I just put my running sneakers on. One less thing to do in the next transition. I grabbed a couple of energy chews and a swig of water from my water bottle and then walked the bike out of the tranisiton and to the bike mount/start. The ins and outs of the transition was fairly foolproof and alleviated my fears of potentially being disqualified for missing a mat or mounting bike too soon etc.

7:08-8:09am Bike
The bike was fairly relaxing for me. It was along the same route as the NJ Marathon and I knew the ins and outs. Most of it was an out-and-back along Ocean Ave (parallel to the ocean). The roads were slick and it was still lightly raining but I tried to keep my mind off of that and just sang songs out loud (Sara Bareilles’ Brave and One Republic’s I Lived to be exact) as I heard the constant “on your left” coming from behind me. I averaged just under 11mph which was about 2 mph slower than I expected I’d ride. But honestly I’m still happy with my bike time. I wasn’t in competitive mode at all. I was euphoric about my swim completion and just processing the whole experience over and over.

sally-bike

Just cruisin’. Smiling and I didn’t even know I was being photographed so that’s a genuine smile

8:09-8:12am T2
This transition was much faster and easier for me (less than 3 minutes). I swapped the bike helmet for a baseball cap and pulled on a running skirt. Ate 2 more energy chews and grabbed another swig of water from my water bottle.

Photo courtesy of my surprise spectator Greg

Photo courtesy of my surprise spectator Greg

8:12-8:42am Run
Now the 3 mile home stretch was upon me. Just 1 1/2 miles out and then back. I was SO pumped for this. Just as I crossed the mat to officially start the run, I heard someone call out my name. I looked up and saw it was a surprise spectator…my friend Greg. I was so happy to see his friendly face. I felt like my legs were heavy but I finally had the chance to pass people. I was in my element and ironically the finish line for this is exactly the same as the NJ Marathon. And I FELT exactly like I was at mile 25 of the marathon. Exhausted, spent but exhilarated and so friggen happy!

closing in on the finish!

closing in on the finish!

annnnd DONE!

Happy Runner Girl (who swam and biked first)

Happy Runner Girl (who swam and biked first)

I was the last of Jane’s posse to finish and they were all enjoying massages and snacks at the post race festivities. Once everyone was refueled and relaxed we took some obligatory bling pics. Jane finished 3rd in her age group with a time of 1:11 (the overall winner finished in 1:02). And Jane’s mom finished in 1:27! Not too shabby for a 54 year old woman. She even had to stop to get one of her pedals repaired. I finished in 1:47 which is 13 minutes faster than I predicted. I know i can shave 15 minutes off my time easily if I just learn how to swim properly and get a little more confident on the bike (and maybe upgrade to a real road bike). But who knows what lies in my future as far as sprint TRIs go.

IMG_4610 Photo Aug 03, 9 28 45 AMThe entire event was just awesome. There were so many first time triathletes and so many supportive volunteers. It was the most inspiring and uplifting event I’ve done in a while. Girl power!!! I’d highly recommend this event for anyone who is curious about triathalons.

Do you know how to swim? Did you learn as a kid or an adult? Ever done a TRI? How about bikes? Do you own a road bike?