Me in my happy place
- Name: United Airlines NYC Half Marathon
- Date: March 19, 2023
- Distance: 13.1 miles
- Location: New York, NY
- Website: https://www.nyrr.org/races/unitedairlinesnychalf
- Time: 1:45:55
|B||Sub 1:48 (PB)||Yes|
I didn’t follow a training plan for this half marathon since I’ve always known training for more than one race per year tends to burn me out and deprive that pure joy of running, which is the last thing I wanna end up with. Also, I want to keep my schedule as flexible as possible to accommodate other activities I enjoy like biking and hiking during the goal race off-season. #YOLO
Here’s a rough breakdown of my fitness stages between the goal race last year (NYC Marathon in November) and the NYC Half:
Stage 1. Cycling focused: week of 11/21 ~ week of 01/09 (8 weeks)
During this time I was following a Zwift cycling training plan called Build Me Up, which consists of 3~4 1~2hr interval workouts per week. They were BRUTAL but (type 2) FUN, in a way that I’d never experienced from running intervals somehow. It felt like in running I could never push my heart rate and perceived effort to that level without risking injury. Also pedaling hard in the Pain-Cave™️ following the rhythm of my CURATED-WITH-LOVE-CAN-REPLAY-HAPPILY-EVER-AFTER playlist while watching pro racing clips or my fav music lives just felt incredibly in-the-zone 💃🏻.
Lives fueled Pain-Cave™️ is the best
At the same time, I maintained my regular fitness routine that incorporated 1 easy run, 1 solidcore, and 1 yoga per week. Though my weekly mileage during these two winter months was only around 10 miles, my easy run pace (~150bpm heart rate) had been shaken off 1 minute from 10/mi to 9/mi - my general aerobic fitness and lower body strength definitely benefit a lot from those WTF-IS-GOING-ON or HOW-THE-HELL-DID-I-GET-THROUGH-IT cycling intervals. KUDOOOOOO!
Stage 2. Days off for procedure: week of 01/17 ~ week of 01/30 (3 weeks)
Following the doctor’s order, I took three weeks off completely for my egg-freezing process. During this time I walked 30~60 minutes daily to keep me moving.
Well, actually it’s more about keeping me SANE 🤪.
Stage 3. Back to fitness: week of 02/06 ~ week of 02/13 (2 weeks)
I didn’t feel any pain, bloating, cramping or fatigue after the egg retrieval procedure and the next few days, so I thought that was a green light that signals I was fully recovered and could just go straight bringing back the intensity. Especially with last year’s experience of running the NYC Half right after recovering from COVID and running the NYC Marathon right after recovering from trochanteric bursitis, I thought I’d mastered the art of listening to my body and was pretty confident that I could get back the lost fitness safely yet quickly. But still, I underestimated what the whole process of egg freezing had done to my body - I mean yeah it was not as troublesome as I thought, but at the end of the day it was still a medical procedure, with two weeks of daily hormone hacks .
The steep regression of my fitness was all over the place: my easy run pace was 30 seconds slower; I struggled to hold the target power in those sweetspot intervals; The 9W state line climb I used to enjoy just felt crappy; And my legs felt like tofu when cramponing up Mt. Washington winter trail. Next time…next time…I would definitely be more gentle to my body even if I feel good - ease back with only easy runs and z2 rides. Skip the 4hr ride and the mountaineering summit attempt please .
Stage 4. Get ready for NYC Half: week of 02/20 ~ week of 03/13 (4 weeks)
To finish first, first you must finish.
This is a saying in bicycle racing, which also applies to “me getting ready for NYC Half”:
- First you must finish: Gradually build up the total and long run mileage - so that I can cross the finish line safely without taking another toll on my body.
- Finish fast (sorta): Set up a reasonable goal pace/time based on my current fitness - so that I can cross the finish line feeling good without big regrets.
My weekly mileage consisted of 3 runs: 1 easy, 1 tempo, and 1 medium long (8~11mi). And I still kept cross-training like yoga, solidcore, and a weekend 4hr endurance ride. During this time, my easy pace was still around 9:30/mi and my tempo pace started settling in 8:05~8:15/mi - the lower bound was pretty much my half PB (8:17/mi, 1:48), and the upper bound can lead to a (8/mi, sub 1:45) attempt, with a little help from the racing adrenaline rush 😈 - and that was where my A and B goals come from.
- The day before: Baguette sandwich for lunch; Pasta + pizza for dinner
- Race morning: oatmeal with maple syrup 2hr before the race; 1 gel 15min before the race.
Went to bed around 10:30. Fell asleep around 11~11:30 and woke up at 5:30. Had a pretty high-quality 6hr sleep (though my regular sleep time is 8hr).
- Weather: Clear, 30 F. Feels like 20 F. Humidity 43%. Wind 12.8 mi/h from WNW.
- Pre-race: An old cycling fleece winter jersey + NYC Marathon fleece poncho. They turned out to keep my body warm before the race effectively.
- Race: Merino wool long-sleeve top + long legging
For some reason running in New York has always felt like a film scene, full of temperature and emotions. It was a classic early Fake-NYC-Spring™️ morning, a bit chilly, a bit windy, yet you could still feel the twilight and the warmth from the rising sun. I still had the same song replaying in my AirPods. Then suddenly, the starting gun fired and the crowd erupted in cheers.
It was a strange yet consonant feeling. The song playing in my AirPods cut me off from the rest of the world - I enjoy running alone; I’m comfortable being alone; I THRIVE in my own space, soaking up my own joy and pain. But at the same time I also found myself being part of this swarm - something greater than myself; something scattered yet somehow connected, and clicked.
One step after another, one mile at a time, I weaved through Prospect Park, turned onto Flatbush, climbed up Manhattan Bridge over East River, til the course started to flatten out in FDR with the cheers from Chinatown echoing in my ear.
Then I found myself winding through those midtown streets around Time Square. I saw the city recede in the distance, everything was strangely slow-motion and blurred, yet everything was immensely absorbing. It was at this point that I remembered why I adore running. ALL THIS.
💭 I might love it a little less if I loved freedom a little less.
💭 I might love it a little less if I loved solitude a little less.
💭 I might love it a little less if I loved replaying a single song for hours and hours and hours a little less.
💭 I might love it a little less if I loved that fearless yet vulnerable teenager embedded in my body a little less.
💭 I might love it a little less if I loved the YOLO urge to bring the best out of myself against all odds a little less.
🗯️ WOW. NO SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE.
The last series of climbs started at 42nd Street - this was where I could feel most people around me starting to slow down. But unlike struggling to push through the last few miles in the NYC Marathon last year, this time I felt really strong and couldn’t help but picked up the pace. Faster and faster, my legs turned over. I felt something was expanding and bursting outward, and contracting and forming inward - it was the rhythm of being - of breathing, of heartbeat, of day and night - and the rhythm of my body set off an echo in my mind. When entering the Central Park I was most familiar with, I started sprinting to empty the tank.
Passing people toward the end just felt SO DAMN GOOD. I loooooooove negative splits.
Though I didn’t end up hitting the sub 1:45 A goal, I was really happy crushing a PB while feeling so relaxed and strong toward the end. If there’s anything in race execution that could be improved for the A goal, I think it would be to warm up 0.5~1 mi before the race and pick up the pace a little bit at the beginning.
Protein shake! Photos with Momo as an NYC Half tradition! Annnnnd pizza + beef noodle soup!
- The song I replayed for 1 hr 45 minutes from the beginning to the end is called 模样 by Deserts Chang (张悬) . It doesn’t even have a fast tempo, but it 10/10 fit my mood and the surroundings at the time. That chilly NYC spring morning.
- Funny I ran into someone I didn’t know before two days in a row - at a coffee shop near my home the day before the race, and on the subway car packed with runners the morning of the race. BIG CITY, small world.