Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running Adventures: The NYCHalf 2012 (Part 1)

Sunday March 18th, 2012 is a day I will never forget! I had the experience of a lifetime - I was one of the lucky ones who were picked in the lottery to run through Manhattan in the NYC Half Marathon. I'm going to have to do the recap in 2 parts because it would be way too long otherwise. I'll start off by documenting my food & activity from the day before so I have it as a reference...

Breakfast: I had my usual vegan pancakes & vegan sausage link w/maple syrup and coffee w/ unsweetened almond milk.

Activity: I didn't attend my weekly weights class since that sometimes makes my leg muscles sore the next day. I knew I had to take it easy, activity wise, so all I did was ride my bike to Manhattan to meet a friend. I ended up riding a total of 17 miles but totally took my time and didn't exert myself.

Late lunch: I stopped at Kate's Joint on Ave B on my way home and picked up a vegan spinach & bean quesadilla.

Dinner: I was going to make whole wheat macaroni but didn't have time. I just ate a whole wheat everything bagel with peanut butter & jelly.

Notes: I stretched often throughout the day, took my vitamins and tried to drink more water than I normally do on a weekend but probably only had about 8 glasses total.

9:30pm I was in bed!

4:00 Rise and shine! Why do I get up so early? Because I know myself. One hour is simply not enough. No matter how much I prepare the night before, I need 2 hours to get ready. I've cut it too close too many other times where I'm rushing to events and that's a terrible feeling. I'd rather wake up at an obscene hour and not feel rushed.

Breakfast: Coffee with unsweetened almond milk, 2 frozen Nature's Path waffles with maple syrup and 1 Tofurky breakfast (vegan) sausage link (loaded with sodium - I wanted the salt!)

Protein shake consisting of water, vegan vanilla protein powder, PB2, small banana and a little green juice from Trader Joe's (thanks for the tip, Fei!)

6:00 I was dressed and ready to leave-

bottom layer - I knew I wouldn't be running in my shirt for the whole event

Representing my new running gang, North Brooklyn Runners, with my shirt

I left my apartment in pitch blackness. It was shortly after 6am and the streets of Greenpoint were pretty empty except for the stray hipsters wandering home from a bar or one night stand.

The start was in Central Park, so I took the Pulaski Bridge to Queens -

On the Pulaski Bridge

I love NY too!
On the Pulaski- I <3 NY too!!

Look at the Chrysler Building with the fog!
view of midtown from them the Pulaski - look at the Chrysler Building! She's still lit up but the heavy fog covers the top of her a little.
...and then the 59th St Bridge to Manhattan. I made it to Manhattan around 6:30am. The streets were just as empty. Only me and a few cabs. I rode north on 61st St, to turn west on 72nd Street...

great shot!
Zooming north on 1st Ave in Manhattan
I made it! And parked the cruiser on 5th Ave at the 72nd St park entrance.

left my girl locked up on 5th Ave
the cruiser locked up on 5th Ave
6:45 I made it to baggage check just in time! After dropping off my bag, as I was entering the park and a man in a car wished me "Good luck!" I normally don't accept offers of "luck" because I really don't believe in luck. Luck implies leaving things to chance. I prefer to rely on my preparation and awesomeness. But I accepted it, and told him this time I needed it since I hadn't trained!

Runners at the 72nd St & 5th Ave entrance. The sun is trying to make an appearance for us.

Love this shot
I love how they line up the cups for these events.
I found my corral - the 20,000s. I had a long time to wait in line, so I made sure to stretch!

Yes, it was a tad crowded
The great thing is that it was probably just shy of 50 degrees. I couldn't have been happier. I hate the cold and to me 50 is very cold. But I love to run in the cold. I tend to get overheated quickly, so I like my running temps to be pretty low. Not only was it chillier than anticipated but there was NO SUN! I was super thankful for that too.

Waiting to begin and so glad it's chilly!
I stood there from 7:00 until the official start 7:30. But of course we were so far back that we didn't begin to move for a while.

I learned a little more about the course while I was waiting - we were starting with a full loop in Central Park before being unleashed to run free through the streets of Manhattan. Good thing I just ran the full loop with Lainy last month! That meant I knew what to expect.

We finally started moving up, making our way towards the starting line
As we were slowly making our way towards our own starting line, we saw the Elite runners come through. I think they were at the 4 mile mark already and we hadn't even started!

Elite men
Elite Men

Elite women
Elite Woman & Men
Shortly after that I realized the starting line was in sight! And we were about to cross it!!

I quickly consumed one of those Gu gel packs and ate a salt packet I had made at home (something I remember reading when I was preparing for last year's Brooklyn Half). Then I had to start all my electronics: Nike+/iPod (yes of course I listened to Girl Talk All Day!), my Polar Heart Rate Monitor, Runtastic app on my phone and the real time app I had downloaded called Glympse. Unfortunately I had little to no GPS reception in Central Park so I'm not sure if you were even able to follow along while I was running.

As I approached the start and told myself "This is it. You're about to run 13.1 miles. Let's do this!"

About to cross the starting line!
Nervous anticipation as I'm about to cross the starting line!
I started off with a nice comfortable pace. The first mile or so is always a little weird because I'm not quite in a groove yet - I'm almost unaware of the fact that I'm running yet and I'm trying to find a good clearing by going around people, I'm thinking about my breathing and whether anything is bothering me. It's really a blur. So much in fact that I didn't even see the first Mile Marker sign, which is why I didn't photograph it.

But I just kept going, taking in the experience and assessing how I felt. I was pleased that I felt pretty great! As I ran, in between tons of other thoughts, I reminded myself of my mantra "Run when you can, walk if you must, but never quit!" 

Go Runners!
My plan for fuel during the event was to eat and drink. I bought a pack of those "racing beans" which they recommend consuming 5 after each hour of activity. I also decided I was going to drink at every fluid station (there was one after every mile marker). I drank both fluids available - first gatorade (gross & vile, believe me, I know) then a cup (sometimes 2) of water. I didn't want to get dehydrated.

Fluid station
Running past the first fluid station. After I drank, of course!

Cat hill!
Look at that! It's Cat Hill!

she was really dribbing that ball while she ran!
I heard the distinct sound of a bouncing basketball behind me. I turned around and snapped this shot. She was actually dribbling while running.
Just before the Mile 2 marker someone tapped me on the arm. It was Greenpoint gal and super runner, my friend Jane! Naturally I had to capture the moment -

Hey Jane! Funny running into you here ;)
I told her to go ahead - I didn't want to slow her down. And shortly after that I heard someone calling me from the cheering sidelines - it was Weight Watcher superstar, crazy fast runner and super smart Hannah!

Hannah offered to run with me and was kind enough to take my sweatshirt, which I need to retrieve at some point
Then it was back on my own...

I like the way my eyelashes look here. I also like running straight down the center of painted lines

Mile 3
I missed Mile Marker 2 because I passed it as I was talking to Jane, but here's Mile 3
Before I knew it, I had completed a 5K!

The 5K time (note: I crossed the start at 38 minutes, so my time is about 35 minutes for a 5K. That's pretty much my standard pace)

Shortly before attacking the big hill at 110th St

As I was running, every mile or so I did a sort of self-check, asking myself if anything was bothering me. Much to my delight and surprise my allergies were not bad at all this day. That was a huge plus. My tendonitis was fine - I didn't feel any pain in my left ankle area. My right rib/chest muscle I had recently pulled was ok too. No pain over there. I was breathing well and feeling really good. Surprisingly good. It was such a relief!

Why yes, that IS a man on a unicycle on the right.

Mile 4
What do you know! Mile Marker 4 already? That went fast!

I always photograph those buildings when I'm in the park. I can't help it. I love them!

the Reservoir!
As I passed the reservoir, I smiled even wider. This is the Jackie Onassis reservoir in the park and the first time I ran around the park on my own and "discovered" it, I was listening to Girl Talk. At the time, the Ramones (one of my favorite bands and very NY) were on and it just struck me what an incredible moment it was - Here I was in Central Park, running, with The Ramones. I wondered how I got to that exact awesome moment in my life. Everything just clicked and felt great, so now I recall that memory and smile whenever I see the reservoir.

Behind the scenes at one of the water stations

Mile 5
Mile Marker 5 - I got there in just under an hour. I was really not worrying about my time/pace but was pleasantly surprised to see how I was doing.
Fuel: Since I had been running an hour, I reached into my bra to grab my packet of "energy beans" (hey, where else am I going to keep this stuff). I ate the 5 it recommended and put the other half a pack back in my bra for the 2 hour mark.

Yay! Back on the white stripe!

Black Girls Run!
I came up on the Black Girls Run! cheering squad. I know a few of the gals in this group (Hi Florence!) but don't think I met  these particular ladies. Regardless, it was wonderful to see them out there supporting their girls!

Mile 6
Well hello Mile Marker 6. I must be on my way out of the park soon!

cute sign
I thought this sign was adorable! (Go Team Hole in the Wall)

and what do you know, the 10K mark!
As I was running, I didn't have to go to the bathroom YET but I was keeping an eye on the port-o-johns along the route and so far all of them had lines. I didn't want to wait in line for one. Just before exiting Central Park, there was a lot of them with no line, so I quickly made use of one and got back on course. That was my only bathroom break during the run. I was glad I didn't wait until it was unbearable because I can hardly run when I have that kind of pressure!

Just as I was about to exit the park I heard my name and turned - there was Laura, to my left. I met Laura at one of my first ever runs in Prospect Park not even 2 years ago. Since then she completed her first full marathon (NYC last year!). I'm so proud of her! She was busting with energy and smiles when I saw her too. It was great running into her!

OMG Exiting Central Park - to run free on 7th Avenue!!
The next section of the run was on 7th Ave - from Central Park to Times Square. And it was INCREDIBLE!!! This was my favorite part of the whole run. The streets were closed to car traffic and there were people lined up on both sides of the streets watching and cheering. Cops were everywhere - I asked one for a high-5 as I ran past. He gave me a low-5. Whatevs, copper! You aren't going to ruin my good time with your half hearted low five! I'm still having a great time!!!

7th Ave. Closed to cars. Delightful!
This is, by far, my favorite photo of the entire day...

I actually stopped in front of them. I couldn't risk a bad run-by shot. I talked to them too "Seriously, guys?! I have no idea what is going on here BUT I LOVE IT! And you're wearing my favorite colors - pink & black!"
After seeing that unusual duo, I kept running as the crowd cheered from the sidewalk. And I knew it was going to happen - I had to scream "I LOVE NEW YORK!!!!" I just couldn't stop smiling. I was having such a great time! It was so amazing to be where I was, in the city that I love so much, doing what I was doing - running a half marathon!, and loving every second of it.

I kept running down 7th Ave with a huge smile on my face - I was just full of joy! I was looking ahead at Times Square in the distance and taking in the lights and signs that I was running past. I saw tourists who seemed confused about what they were witnessing and others that were clearly annoyed that they couldn't cross the street. It was pure magic!

still on 7th Ave

Running towards the Jumbotron

I turned around briefly to snap a shot of me in the middle of Times Square

Mile 7
Oh hey! There's Mile Marker 7!

once again trying to get a self portrait in the middle of Times Square. and by the way, where are all the other runners!?

we were not on the Jumbotron :(

This is the corner of 7th Ave & 42nd St. We were turning right onto 42nd Street to run west.

You KNEW I was getting a shot of the HK store!!

I love this building and that sign - I've always wanted to get a shot of it

This crowd was super enthusiastic and went NUTS when I ran past. I loved it!
Right after that crowd there was a "nutrient station". Since this was just beyond the halfway point, I knew I should eat something so I stopped briefly to get 2 packets of Gu, and consumed one immediately.

I was still feeling great and was already more than half way done!

To be continued...


  1. good job! love all the pictures! looking forward to part two!

  2. This is amazing . I feel like I am there with you. Thank you for doing this and taking the pictures and videos. I am so inspired by you and now must go watch part 2!!!

  3. Loving the recap so far! You're inspiring me to run NYC Half...even tho I really shouldn't train yet, don't have the time!

    Can't wait for part 2!

  4. I can't wait to read the rest ! I got teary-eyed at reading your post ! <3

  5. I can't wait to read the read of your adventure. I actually got teary-eyed at reading your post.
    Congratz Sheryl, you're awesome!

  6. Can I quote you back to you? "I wondered how I got to that exact awesome moment in my life. Everything just clicked and felt great." Those are the feelings/moments that make this life so great! And to think, that moment was brought to you by running! I love when soundtracks mesh up with a run. That seems to happen to me a lot in Central Park! Im loving the recap, especially since I'm running the half in April. I'm dreading the 110 street hill x 2!

    1. I swear that hill isn't that bad! Worst case scenario: you walk. Big deal! You can TOTALLY do it!!!

  7. I love this!! I'm running my first half in June and DREADING it!! But seeing how much fun you had doing yours is making me feel less nervous about it!
    P.s I can't believe how non-sweaty you are in all your photos! by mile 3 I'm usually just a sweat fest!!
    Sam xxx

  8. I can't wait for the next instalment - this is a fab recap and I'm loving the videos :) You can really feel your love and enthusiasm coming through!

  9. Fab so far! I'm loving the videos, you can really feel your love and enthusiasm coming through. Can't wait 'til the next bit :)

  10. This is a great recap! I am really impressed with how well you did without much training, proves you are truly an athlete and all that biking pays off!! Can't wait to read part 2.

  11. Running in NYC looks like such a blast!! I'm running a half this Sunday in Dallas, hopefully there will be some awesomeness to distract from all the running I'll be doing :) Can't wait to read part 2!

  12. Those guys in costume are part of the xylopholks. Www.xylopholks.com. I've seen them in the subway and sometimes they play in clubs downtown. I think my favorite banjo player sat in with them once, he probably wore his chicken suit.

    Great run!

  13. Looks like one amazing time!

  14. Awesome job Sheryl!!!!! Woo Hoo!!! BTW--Do you run with Nike Frees? How do they compare to a "traditional" shoe? I've been wanting to try them out.

  15. Brilliant! I run my second 5k this Sunday. It is the "Around the Bay" in Hamilton Ontario. I am not a runner (yet!) but will do my best. You inspire me Sheryl!! Maybe next year you can come to the Hammer and we can do the half marathon together...lol....

  16. Sheryl,
    I'm home now and got the chance to watch your videos! They're all awesome! You look so happy in all of them! Pure happiness!
    I'm so excited for you !

  17. I CAN'T WAIT FOR PART 2!!! And yes, all caps was completely justified there! Such an exciting read, as always an inspiration!

  18. I can't wait to read more! I loved this half marathon so much!! It really is a dream come true to run it, isn't it?? And that hill is a killer. I wasn't ready for it. But running in Central Park? Priceless. And when you spill out of the park and into Times Square? I just about cried.

    Can't wait for more!!

  19. Oh my god, I know the guys with the xylohpone and bass! My old coworker's boyfriend is the one on xylohpone and they crashed our office holiday party one year with their act (dressed up as Santa Panda and the Cookie Monster).

    Congrats on finishing the NYC Half! I'm currently training for my first half (The Bronx Half) and am so inspired by what you've accomplished!