The annoying buzz was my 5am wakeup call, and then I heard the angry-howling winds. What did I get myself into? Using Chico’s walk to gauge the weather, I decided it was windy but not that cold. It was 27 degrees with a wind chill of 12, it’ll be ok.
After Chico’s walk I ate my usual pre-race breakfast of a peanut butter sandwich chased with a cup of coffee and quickly packed my gear. Looking around, I couldn’t find my iPod. Checking the pockets of my coat and equipment bags turned up nothing. “I guess I’m running without music.” Taking Esther to work before heading to Prospect Park, she sent me off with a kiss and a message — “Go kick butt.”
When Esther picked up my bib Friday night she wasn’t given a clear bag — the bag that’s become standard after the Boston Marathon incident. Since I wasn’t sure about bag check, I didn’t pack one. I put my shot blocks in one pack and my iPhone in the other. My coat stayed in the car.
Walking into the park, I noticed a few icy patches on the course. It was white ice not black ice, but you could still wipe out on it if you’re not careful.
The course was just under four-laps of Prospect Park. I’ve run three loops in the Cherry Tree 10-miler a few times — the fourth loop had me a little worried. Prospect Park a long S-curve shaped hill that’s a tease—you think you’ve made it up and then you hit the curve. It gets me every time.
I treated the Brrr-ooklyn Half like a training race — 13.1 miles run more intensely than a training run — with Gatorade. My goal time was two hours. Running 9-minute splits left some leeway for when my legs started getting tired at 10 or 11 miles.
During the race I kept repeating, “Keep your ego in check Frank,” so I didn’t go out too fast. Last fall’s marathon training pace was about 30 or 40 seconds faster than I wanted to run today. Going out too fast means I could be walking at about 8 miles — I didn’t want that.
Starting at the bottom of the hill was a pleasant surprise. Keeping the brakes on at the top of the hill, the next three miles were mostly downhill. Running carefully along the icy patches and running single file in others my first three splits were 8:51, 8:14 and 8:07.
My second trip up the hill was quicker than the first. I’d like to say smoother, but there’s nothing smooth about it. It was pure grunt work. In a now swirling wind, the next three miles were clicked off in 8:35, 8:21 and 8:56.
The combination of wind and uphill brought out “the voices”. My stride and form were still good but my legs were getting a little heavy. Passing the start line, the NYC Runs crew cranked, “No Sleep till Brooklyn.” That carried me as towards my third trip up the hill.
The third loop was much like the first two, battling the uphill and getting smacked with swirling cross-winds on the downhill. Holding pace was tougher as my legs felt heavier but I wasn’t dropping back.
The theme of Chariots of Fire was playing as I finished my third loop — behind the races’ first three finishers. Heading for the hill one more time after seeing them, got in my head a little. “Suck it up and move Frank.”
At 11 miles I looked around for runners to draft of as my stride stopped being smooth. I found three.
Passing the 12-mile marker we picked up the pace as we headed for the finish. With about a half mile left I looked up and saw something familiar — Coach Maria.
All week she told me she would come out to show support, her timing was perfect. Running together I found a new gear. With the finish in sight I emptied the deck finishing in 1:54:52.
I thanked Maria for getting me to the end before she went to check on “one of her kids’” a runner she is mentoring. Since I didn’t check a bag, I headed to my car where and cranked up the heater before I cooled down.
Before heading home I stopped at Starbucks for a Venti Hot Chocolate. It wasn’t exactly Weight Watcher’s friendly but I scored few activity points, so I earned it. Although my legs felt good, I wondered about tomorrow’s challenge — the Fred LeBow Manhattan Half—I guess I’ll find out tomorrow.