Grete's Gallop used to be my favorite half outside of the NYC Half. But the race I ran in October was one not really worth recapping. Let's just say the excuses of yesteryear reared its ugly head, and I was happy to have even finished in under 3 hours.
From the moment I crossed the finish line of GG, I knew I had to redeem myself. I signed up for Fred Lebow this past Sunday, knowing it would be harsh. I needed the mental and physical punishment of training in cold weather. I've done this race before and came in third to last, knowing how brutal it can be in January. I needed it to get disciplined again and to focus on how well I know I can do. Let's face it; I've been a slacker all my life, and once in a while I have to throw in these types of challenges to wake myself up. Grete Waitz and Fred Lebow. Two legends that gave us this gift of running in the city. I have to pay homage and not take such things for granted.
Using HH's Intermediate 1 plan to train was something I've never done before. I always used Novice because of my pace. This time, I forced myself to step up to the plate and train in earnest, paying attention to things I never did back in the day. Things like tempo runs and hill repeats. And strength training.
Within the span of 12 weeks, I was able to drop the rest of the baby weight and gain a whole new confidence. It's been a while since I actually felt sexy. That wasn't my focus, but it certainly was a positive side effect of doing so much.
And my pace got a lot faster, my recovery times a lot shorter.
Somehow, something finally clicked.
Race day was the coldest day I've ever run in. Period. It never got above 18º. Even with 2 pairs of compression pants, 2 wicking layers, 3 base and active layers, Chris' down vest, gloves, wool headband, it wasn't enough. Secretly vowed to myself to get appropriate winter gear. I got to the runner's village at 7am to pick up my bib. For the next hour I ran from the porta potties back to the village to baggage to corral. Once in the corrals I was doing lots of shuffling to keep warm, wondering how on earth can the guy next to me wear one pair of shorts in this weather.
The race started, and the first few miles were fast out of the gate because it was so freakin cold out. My mile 5 the winds picked up. For some reason, that back stretch of the loop in Central Park is one of the hardest for me. It could be the rolling hills right after Harlem Hill, which I actually prepared for doing the loops at Prospect. Decided to take a gel then and realized I didn't like the chocolate Gu like I used to. Either that or it was too cold for my liking, but it did the trick. I picked up my pace on miles 6 and 7 completing the first loop of the course. In all honesty, those two miles felt the best. I caught myself thinking that I finally settled in, at the halfway point.
The next several miles I felt the familiar twinge of the right hamstring and wondered if I had done enough during training to push through it. It didn't hurt, but it was making its presence known. I think I held back a bit, but quite honestly, the bitter winds just have a way of amplifying all these minor issues. By the time I reached mile 11, I thought I was going to break. No sooner than I asked myself what else do I have in the tank? The wind whips directly head on. Back stretch after Harlem Hill again was where the mental battle happened. My thoughts started to get the better of me. I thought that sub 2:30 goal was slipping away slowly, and I was trying not to unravel.
For the next several miles I reeled my thoughts in and zoned out. Treat it like a training run. You've done this plenty of times. So what that it's a little (a lot) colder than what you're used to? You're almost done. I remember seeing the clock somewhere around mile 11 and thought it would be really close. I started playing games, doing everything I can to push ahead. Don't let that lady pass you! Imagine a giant hook and hook onto that guy running by. He'll pull you along! I used just about every mental trick in the book to stop myself from walking. I gave permission to drop the sub 2:30 goal and focused on just beating my PB.
Then when I was just about to accept the goal readjustment, at the last turn, a giant clock appears, reading 2:31xx. Then suddenly it dawned on me that I was RIGHT there! I started about 5 minutes after the gun! That goal is still within reach! As soon as I thought that, a random volunteer shouted, "Look straight up ahead and give it everything you've got!" My legs responded to both the revelation and random shouter, and I charged up the hill with this surge of inner strength. Somewhere in between the deeps breaths I heard them announce my name but I was so focused on crossing the line that I broke down when I did.
I thought I'd only cry at marathon finishes, but there was something special about this race, and all the effort I put into it.
Of course, walking out of the park after a half marathon in sub zero temperatures was another reason to cry. But I digress...
Official time: 2:27:10
6:44 off my fastest, which was back in 2011 when I was training for the full. I'll take it!