Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Running Adventures: The NYCHalf 2012 (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1. This is the exciting conclusion to the NYCHalf Marathon post!)

We ran as far west on 42nd Street as possible, turning right (north) briefly on the West Side Highway, only to make an immediate u-turn and head south towards our final destination - the finish line at the financial district/South Street Seaport area.

Mile 8
Mile 8 already? At this point I had run further than I've run since last May - when I ran the Brooklyn Half.
There was lots of entertainment along the route - mostly music every mile or so but then there was the surprise of these adorable little girls doing traditional Irish dance.

Tiny (Irish) Dancers
The West Side Highway isn't the most scenic road in New York City but there were still plenty of people out there to cheer for us, so that made it more bearable. I was also looking forward to seeing my friend Jill and my new pals at NBR - all of whom were manning some upcoming fluid stations.

Nice shirt!
It's funny - I can't even tell you how many hundreds of times in my life I've been on this highway. But always in a car. Back then I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be RUNNING down this street - or running at all, for that matter. It was a nice reminder of how far I've come.

Between Miles 8 and 9 I found the North Brooklyn Runners volunteer crew at a fluid station. Here's Anna - she's an impressively fast runner. That being said, she's been very patient with me in the 2 runs I've done with NBR (I'm literally the slowest runner in the group)

Anna from NBR!
Anna, I love your enthusiasm!
I'm only sorry I didn't photograph the other NBR members but it was nice to see them out there supporting and offering refreshing liquids!

Mile 9
Mile 9?! Already?!
I passed Mile Marker 9 and was still feeling really good! I alternated running with walking, but really kept the walking to a minimum. I was trying to get a steady running pace I could live with instead of running fast, exhausting myself, and then walking for a long time. I was looking for that middle ground where I could sustain my speed. For the most part it was working out well.

Around this time I was a little concerned about Mile 11. I remembered that when I did the Brooklyn Half last year, I kind of wanted it to be over at Mile 11. So I kept that in the back of my mind since it was approaching. But I also reminded myself that all I had left was 4 miles - and that's the length of most of the runs I do. I could TOTALLY do that!

15K mark! (that's 9.3 miles, and it's Melanie's favorite distance!)
There was more love waiting for me at the next fluid station! This is my friend Jill. I've shown and mentioned her on my blog a few times. You may recall she's a WW Lifetime member and she ran the NYC Marathon last year - her first time too!

Jill, always a pleasure to see you!

I'm not sure who the woman on the left or the guy in the middle is (sorry) but he knew who I was
After a brief drink and chat with Jill, I was back on the move!

This woman said she's a blog reader too. I didn't have time to get her name but asked if I could use the photo in the blog. She said yes, and I was out of there again! Hello lady! Thanks for cheering!!

Mile 10
Holy moly! Mile Marker 10! That means all that's left is a 5K! Piece of cake!! (mmmm cake!)
By this time, I had been running for 2 consecutive hours and was still holding steady at a 12 min per mile pace, which I was more than happy with. And since it had been an hour since I consumed anything, I had the other half of those magical sports beans.

And right around this point I noticed that I was still feeling good as far as my breathing and legs were concerned, but I noticed the back of my upper arms were rubbing or slapping against something in a way that had caused chafing. (This is why I can never run without compression pants - trust me!) It was mildly irritating but I knew I could live with it for another 2 miles. The funny thing is, just moments after realizing the chafing I was experiencing, I saw an onlooker holding a sign. Imagine my delight when I read it - The timing was really uncanny...

"Chafe now, brag later" - lady, I adore you!
As I photographed her, I told her how much I appreciated her sign "I just started chafing!!!"

So many people were out cheering and supporting us along the whole route. Normally, during the park-only running events, there are very few people cheering - mostly just the volunteers and a handful of people that came out to support someone they know. But for this half-marathon, running through the park and streets, there were so many onlookers and supporters! I can't even tell you what a great boost that is when you're running. It absolutely lifts my spirits, makes me smile and inspires me to keep going.

I especially love to read the signs - there's funny signs and personal signs, memorials to people past and well wishes to people present. There are various noisemakers and pom-poms. The crowd makes it so enjoyable that you can easily forget you're running. Seriously - I was only aware of my running when I made myself become aware of it. Otherwise, for the most part, I was running on auto-pilot, motivated by the crowd and fueled by the love I have for New York City.

Naturally this led me to thinking about what else - the NYC Marathon! I know that thousands of people come out to cheer - so many that I often have a difficult time even getting a view of the runners on many corners. There's that many people cheering! So I couldn't help but start to think what that day will be like - the first Sunday this November, when I'm running my first marathon, and seeing and hearing all the people cheering at various points along the route. I know it will motivate and entertain me and help me to keep going.

The best part is that most onlookers cheer for everyone - shouting encouraging words for all, or reading the names or countries on the shirts "Go Italy!", "Great job, Megan!" - even though they don't know the people they're rooting for. I plan to have my name on me somewhere so I hear it all day - from friends and strangers alike...

This group had a bunch of good signs - "Don't Stop Believin" and "Spandex looks hot on you!"

I especially liked the Facebook reference - "Yes, it's facebook official. You are actually doing this today!"

This has nothing to do with the half marathon but I can't resist certain shots. I just had to stop and grab this one - I loved the old timey metal garbage pail, blue & yellow building & NYPD car that helped frame the shot
What Mile 11?! And I still feel ok??

Mile 11
Mile Marker 11!
After I passed Mile 11, I realized I was feeling better than I felt during the Brooklyn Half at this same point - "I don't feel like dying. This is good". I'm not sure if I felt so bad around this point in the Brooklyn Half because of the heat or if something else was going on. Either way I was thrilled to not have that feeling this time.

Only two miles to go!
Along the West Side Highway is a bike path. I saw many cyclists zooming by as I ran and paid them little attention. That is, until I saw THIS guy. I was on the far left when I spotted him coming and ran horizontally across 4 lanes of running traffic just to get this shot -

You, sir, are a biking god!
After I grabbed the shot he said "Let me take your picture! You're so beautiful!" But I ran off exclaiming "Sorry! Can't stop till the finish line!"

We continued south on the West Side Highway, passing the former site of the Twin Towers -

lots of construction down here... nearly 11 years later.
And then I noticed a bunch of NYPD officers lined up cheering, so I had to capture a shot of them applauding our efforts-

Thanks NYPD. Now please stop targeting cyclists with your ridiculous ticket blitz and start ticketing the deadly cars and trucks, OK? Thanks! Sincerely, *Bitch Cakes*
What's that?! Mile 12?!!! Really???

Mile 12
Oh my goodness! Mile Marker 12!
Here I was now at Mile Marker 12 and I honestly felt as good as I did as when I began! My allergies were barely an issue (my sniffles were at a minimum and eyes weren't tearing as bad as they usually do) my legs still felt strong -- not sore -- and my breathing and heart felt great. I wasn't thirsty (I guess my hydration plan worked!), I was still comfortable and couldn't believe I was so close to finishing!

1 mile left to go!
1 mile left to go!
We ran all the way to the southern tip of Manhattan, past Battery Park. We entered a very short tunnel that I don't think I've ever been in!

Woo hoo! Echos!
And in the tunnel, I passed the 20K mark. This number is significant to me because I know that for the full NYC Marathon, the 20K mark is in my neighborhood. In fact, it's right in front of St Anthony's Church on Manhattan Ave.

The NYC Marathon is coming!!
taken during the 2010 Marathon - 20K mark in front of St Anthony's on Manhattan Ave
I know that because of all the marathon watching I've done the last few years and because the spray paint never really fades. Seeing that number - 20K - made me once again imagine Marathon Day, when I pass that church (the church were they had the memorial for my friend Rasha) as I'm running through my beloved Greenpoint. I can only imagine how emotion filled that portion of the run will be. I just hope I feel at least as good physically that day as I did on this day, as I passed this 20K mark-

20K in 2.5 hours!
Before I knew it... light!  (I told you it was a short tunnel)

Oh my goodness we are so close to the finish!!!
We exited the tunnel on what I think is the South Street Viaduct. I saw a sign on the left that said 800 Meters to go. Since I'm American and have no idea what that means, I quickly tried to do math (800*3 feet (approx)) = 2400 feet. 1 mile = 5280 feet?), so I estimated we had about a half a mile to go. Wow!!!

800 meters to go! I can't believe it's almost over!
We ran for a bit and then made a left turn onto Old Slip - and now had only 400 Meters to go!

What?! Just 400 more meters!?
Right after taking this shot, I recall seeing a punk looking couple to my right. The guy had a multicolored mohawk and I can't remember what the woman was wearing but I remember I liked her look. They saw me coming, tattoos a-blazing and cheered loudly. I gave them the devil horns back to show my appreciation. It was quite a moment.

We then turned right onto Water Street and that's when I saw it...  Mile Marker 13 and the Finish Line not much farther in the distance!

Mile 13!
Oh my goodness! It's Mile 13!
After crossing Mile 13, I ran towards that finish line giving it everything I could. I didn't have the energy for a super sprint like I usually do in my 4 Mile runs but I gave it my all. As I was running towards it, I heard someone call my name from my left. It was my friend and co-worker, Jenn! (she actually has a very cute blog about running, simply called If you're new to running or afraid to run, I encourage you to read it. It's well written, fun and might just get you moving!). I knew she'd be out cheering around the finish line and sure enough she was there, and managed to see me in that last moment. She later told me that I was one of the few people she saw smiling at that point. How could anyone NOT smile?, I wondered. Not only was this a great experience but here's the finish line! Everyone should be smiling for this part!! (Jenn, I'm so glad I saw you cheering, just sorry I didn't double back for a photo)

What's that ahead? Oh I know - THE FINISH LINE!

there's the finish line!!
I'm coming for you, Finish Line!!!!!

I crossed that finish line, still smiling. I didn't cry, and that didn't surprise me because though this was a new course, it wasn't a new experience - I had already accomplished my first half last year. Even though I didn't cry, I was emotional - mostly beaming with joy and excitement! I was thrilled with how well I ran and how my body performed despite being in what I would consider "not as prime shape" as I was last May. The weather was perfect, the crowds were great, and I actually saw some friends along the way! I had an amazing time. In fact, I'd say it was simply awesome. A perfect Half-Marathon!

As I walked beyond the finish line, I saw this...

OMG Medals?! I didn't know we were getting medals!
They were handing out medals for the finishers! I had NO IDEA we were getting medals! This was just the icing on the vegan donut (oh I shouldn't have even thought about icing OR vegan donuts... do'h!)! After taking the photo of the volunteers who were handing them out, the Asian woman in the center said "Let me get a photo of you with your medal!"

Heck yeah lady, thanks!!

posing with my medal
Proudly showing off my NYCHalf medal soon after crossing the finish line
After that I was in my weird post-run haze. I was chilly, oddly numb in my fingers but trying to post my social media updates. I was hungry and confused about where I was going and how I was getting out of there -- but remarkably, I was not tired or sore! I just wrapped the aluminum blanket around my shoulders and followed the maze they set up to try to get out of there.

Congratulations, half marathoners!
As I was making my way out, this gorgeous young woman stopped me. She had come across my blog a while ago, so she recognized me. I put down all my stuff to get a photo with her. This is Danielle - she's another NYRR member and this was her volunteer event.

Hey Danielle, great meeting you! Thanks for volunteering!
I still had to get back up to Central Park to get my bike. It took me a while to get out of there and to figure out where the subway was. I finally made it to the 6 Train.

As I descended the subway stairs, something significant struck me - my legs didn't hurt. I recalled that after finishing the Brooklyn Half last year, for a full 24 hours or longer the muscle on the inside of my legs just above my knees was so sore I could barely walk down stairs at all. Here I was walking totally normally. I have no idea what I did in the last 10 months that built up that muscle, but I thought that was a great improvement!

6 Train
On the 6 Train. I had no idea my eyelash was loose until I saw this photo! Usually I can feel when that happens.
On my ride north I thought about what I had just done - did I really just run a half-marathon? It seemed almost like a dream. But I had, in fact, run the NYC Half. And I had the memories and photos to enjoy forever. Just like I wanted.

I took the train to 68th St. Walking from Lex to 72nd and 5th Ave where my bike was parked. On my way I had a chance to see this remarkable optical illusion art! I had read about it and it was even greater to see in person. I believe there are other pieces along Park Ave, but was happy to stumble upon the pink one. The artist's name is Rafael Barrios, if you want to look him up.

beautiful and very cool art sculpture on Park Ave in Manhattan
My bike was safe and sound where I left her. But the good times weren't over - the Hello Kitty Cruiser and I had another stop to make in Manhattan -

Visiting Dad, of course!

My Dad wasn't working far from Central Park that day, so this was very convenient for me. I proudly showed off my medal and summed up my experience for him (Awesome! Perfect weather! Times Square! My body didn't hurt! Only 10 minutes longer than last year! Medal!!!)

showing off my medal to Dad
Dad and me. I know we look alike. I'm the one with the lipstick.
From there I biked back to Brooklyn. But not to go home. I was hungry and needed to celebrate! I headed straight to one of my favorite vegan cafes/bakeries, Champs, where I was meeting Amanda's boyfriend, Robbie (Amanda had to work. Boooo!)

On the 59th Street Bridge. Of course I'm wearing my medal!
Just as I had crossed it at 6:15am in pitch blackness, here I was going back to Brooklyn on the Pulaski Bridge -

Yo... will you marry me?
Marriage proposal on the Pulaski
I'm not sure where I am but I like this shot -

on my way to Champs. I'm famished!!
Robbie arrived and we ordered quickly. I had the short stack of pancakes with berries. He had a biscuits and gravy thing. And we split an *amazing* breakfast burrito.

a vegan feast!
Vegan brunch of awesomeness at Champs!
Robbie was good enough to let me go on and on and on about what a great day it was, torturing him with every little nuance of my run, what I was thinking and how my body felt. He's a good man. I'm glad Amanda loans him out to me on occasion.

Champ at Champs
The Champ, posing in front of Champs!
Robbie and I parted ways...

with Robbie @ Champs
so long Robbie, thanks for celebrating with me! xo
... and from there I had two more celebrations! First I went to Berry Park to hang out with my new running gang, North Brooklyn Runners. I met a few very nice members and of course talked about my experience that day. I never thought the day would come when I couldn't shut up about running. But it has!

After two beers there, I went home to upload my photos because I was dying to see them and share them!

Then I had one final celebration - I went to one of my favorite bars in Greenpoint, Bar Matchless. I enjoyed yet another two beers (my favorite - Brooklyner Weisse) and Felipe met me there (yes, he's back. Sort of. Don't ask. I'm terrible at relationships and worse at breakups.)

celebrating with wheat beer (what else is new?)
Oh I earned this delicious beer!

Me & Felipe. Yes, he looks scary when he doesn't shave. Oh and he gave me that red white & blue medal.

Finally, after that, I headed home for a shower and to relax, even though I didn't want to. I was still bursting with excitement and energy and didn't want the day to end. It was incredible from start to finish, totally perfect. I absolutely loved the NYCHalf and am even more excited for the full NYC Marathon now!

Here's my heart rate monitor stats for the day:

Bike ride to Central Park:
  • Total Time: 38 minutes
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 15 minutes
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 39%
  • Average Heart Rate: 125
  • High Heart Rate: 144
  • Total Calories Burned: 240
  • Total Miles: 5    

Half Marathon:
  • Total Time: 159 minutes (2 hours, 39 minutes, 49 seconds)
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 159 minutes
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 100%
  • Average Heart Rate: 161
  • High Heart Rate: 177
  • Total Calories Burned: 1587
  • Total Miles: 13.1
  • Pace: 12'12"     

Bike ride home and for festivities:
  • Total Time: 97 minutes
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 48 minutes
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 49%
  • Average Heart Rate: 126
  • High Heart Rate: 156
  • Total Calories Burned: 635
  • Total Miles: 13


  1. This is so awesome - reading about your experience at NYC Half makes me inspired to train for a half, and then go to NYC to run this....and of course hope to meet you!! Maybe even for a run! So exciting!!!!!

  2. I loved reading about your half marathon experience! You are a rock star girl :-) What an amazing day you had! On my bucket list is to run a race and receive a medal. Some day....

  3. Congrats on an amazing race! I love reading your detailed recaps it makes me feel like I'm there with you!

  4. Congrats on finishing the half! You did an amazing job! And I am always impressed that you endure quite a workout getting to and from these races too. Your pictures always make me see my city in a new light. You make me appreciate it more, find beauty in things as obscure as the old garbage cans. You should a photo essay book on NY through your eyes. Use that volunteer Danielle as a model in it...she is gorgeous!

    One of these days I will need to catch you in action with my daughter. She is a Hello Kitty fanatic and will lose her little almost-five-year-old mind if she sees your bike in person. I showed her pics of your bike this past fall, which turned int her asking for a Hello Kitty bike for Xmas. Santa was a little late this year and didn't find one in time. : ( There's always next year!

  5. CONGRATS! What an awesome day! Loved reading about your experience, it's so inspiring! I just ran my first 10K on Sunday, and it was awesome. Now a few more practice 10Ks and then I'm on to a half marathon as well. Thanks for all the fun and insight and inspiration!

  6. Wow what an exciting post!!!! I have to tell you that I finally got my bike out after many years....didnt go too far but at least I got on it. It was directly related to you and reading your blog. Thank you Sheryl!
    p.s. nice medal!

  7. Ok seriously just reading your post makes me want to run !

    So proud of you Sheryl, you totally rocked it !

  8. Way to go! Amazing how great you felt!

  9. And to think, when you first started even an attempt at running (on the treadmill at the gym) you HATED IT! I distinctly remember from your older blog posts how much you hated to run and now look at you! You are AMAZING!!!!

    You are such an inspiration to me, you have no idea. Even my husband (who rolls his eyes at the mention of your name now since I'm constantly talking about your blog! lol!)is proud of you too and he doesn't even 'know' you the way this blog reader does!!!!

    Way to go Sheryl!!! Also have to comment how PERFECT your makeup still looked at the end of the day!!!! awesome!

  10. I'm surprised the NYPD wasn't randomly pepper spraying anyone for no reason.

  11. Congrats on your 2nd Half! It is a completely different feeling every time you finish. Glad you enjoyed it.

    I'm interested in joining NBR, but being slow makes me nervous. Maybe one day I will get out there and take over the place of being the slowest.

  12. Many congratulations! I started running about one year ago and if anyone had ever told me I'd become a runner, I'd have laughed. So far, I've been sticking with 5K races (doing the one the day before the Boston Marathon which I am psyched about) but am hoping to do a half marathon in the fall. Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. amazing achievement - did you find out the cause of the chafing? ;)

  14. I love your mile by mile check ins! Congrats to you on finishing it! I have my half marathon in Oakland, CA this Sunday. I hope to have just as an inspiring and wonderful time as you did on yours! This will mark a major accomplishment for me.

  15. It was so exciting reading about your accomplishment. I found out about your blog in WW last week and have been reading about you since then. I am so proud of you. I have lost almost 85 pounds and still have LOTS more to go, but I walked 3 5K's last year and I have registered for my first half marathon in Nashville, TN in April. I am just walking, but I still think that is a great accomplishment. My sister and I are doing it together. It will be both of our firsts. I may get to jogging at some point, but I am rocking the walking right now. Last night, while doing 3.1 miles in 47 minutes, I told my friend about reading about your half experience. It is so exciting and I am so proud of you!!!

  16. I am the chafe lady!!! I was so excited to see you and that you were still smiling. I also run and I also live in Brooklyn so maybe I'll see you around!

  17. You are awesome. Congrats. I am in awe of your activity after the half. After my first half, I was dead to the world. I was so thankful to my friend who took care of me. But maybe that gives me hope that for my next half, I won't be so dead.

    P.S.- What is it about mile marker 11? It was the same for my friend and I. And I heard other people say that between 10 and 11 or at 11, they just hit a wall or you just feel like death is upon you. You just want to get done.

  18. What a great race report! I'm so happy you had such a great time - it's very inspirational as my own training season starts gearing up.

  19. Congratulations!!! I love this! And it really brought back memories for me from last year. Isn't the medal fabulous?? I thought South Street Seaport was going to go on FOREVER!!

  20. I just started reading your blog after I joined WW about 4 weeks ago. Your posts are wonderful to read and really inspiring. Congratulations!

  21. Blanche MorrisonMarch 24, 2012

    One of the best race reports I have ever read!! Loved the pictures and all of the commentary on city, I too, heart NY!!!

  22. Awesome! You did great!

    The "calories burned" made my jaw drop. Wow. That is freakin' incredible!!

  23. that's awesome! congrats! and I just have to say how envious I am that your make up still looked absolutely flawless by the end! omg! so jel!

  24. Woo-hoo! Congrats! When you're toward the end of marathon training, you'll get to learn metric measurements way better than you may want -- you'll do all kinds of speed work on a track in the sharpening phase of training, right before you taper. A mile is 4 laps around a standard track, 1600 meters total, each lap being 400 meters. And besides doing mile repeats (or 1600s as they're sometimes called), you'll also do "Yasso 800s" which means 2 laps (half a mile) at a designated pace, then some recovery time, then another 2 laps, recovery, 2 laps, recovery, etc. So you'll know exactly how far 800 miles is and you'll know just as surely at NY as you did at this race that you can do it (and they put up count down signs by meters toward the finish, so it will be great that you'll know them from the track).

  25. Congratulations!!! I read your blog on WW (have lost close to 50lbs and am about 15lbs away from goal right now). Imagine my surprise when I saw my college buddy Jill in your pictures! What a wonderful run...thank you for sharing!

  26. Hi Sheryl, I found your blog through the WW website. I have been reading your current posts in which you are running, biking, etc. so I decided to read your blog from the beginning. I am up to February 2008. I loved reading about your first bike ride across the bridge! I am from the west coast but I love love LOVE NYC, and I am enjoying the city through your eyes. I have been on WW for 2 months and have lost 16 pounds so far. I have a long way to go, but like you this is the first time that I am changing my lifestyle and this time I truly feel that I will eventually reach my goal. You are an inspiration and you are motivating me more than you know! I wish you continued success in all aspects of your life! Your pal, Karla