It’s been more than 24 hours since I crossed the finish line at the 2016 Airbnb Brooklyn Half, and I’m still feeling that runner’s high.
Yesterday was awesome.
I’ve never been able to say that after the Brooklyn Half!
Everything clicked during the race. It was a good day, and I finished in 1:46:31, smile fully in tact.
Normally I write really long, drawn-out race recaps, but since yesterday’s race was a bit more fun, I’ll try to keep this post fun, too. Or at least more readable. Probably still too long. Instead of a mile-by-mile play-by-play, here’s a Brooklyn Breakdown.
Pre-race goals: “I want to have a good day.” I also wanted things to click, wanted to run well for November Project, and ideally wanted to go sub-1:50. Check, check, check, and check!
The weather: Perfect for running! A bit humid, but otherwise cool-ish and overcast.
The wakeup: Brutally early.
What I ate before the race: Outback for dinner the night before, obviously. Two (fine, three) pieces of that warm brown bread with soft butter, followed by the coconut shrimp appetizer (shared with Brian, but sometimes he lets me have the last shrimp, even if I’ve already had more than half), then the 6 oz. Victoria’s Filet (medium rare), grilled asparagus, and a baked potato with butter. I love Outback Steakhouse.
My morning-of “meal” is one plain bagel. Not toasted. Nothing on it. Just chunks of dough, one bite at a time. And some water. But not too much.
What I listened to: Justin Timberlake’s new jam four times. Here’s my playlist. (Just for you, Scott!)
Number of porta-potties used before the race: Two. After using the bathroom three times at home, I obviously wasn’t done. Just like last year, the porta-potty lines inside the corrals were insane. They snaked around the entire corral and it was next to impossible trying to find the end of any of the lines. I waited in one long line, eventually got my turn, and knew I wasn’t quite done. “Not being quite done” was my downfall at this race in 2011, so I knew to just get right back in another very long line. I got out of the bathroom the second time just as the corrals were being collapsed and people started swarming to the start. Slight chaos, but NBD.
Number of porta-potties used during the race: ZERO. My stomach felt great the whole time. Aaaaamazing.
The start: With nearly 30,000 runners (the Brooklyn Half is the largest half-marathon in the country), this race is obviously going to be crowded. But I never felt too congested or overwhelmed. I was psyched to start the race with Mary Wittenberg, the former president of New York Road Runners and an all-around awesome woman, great role model, and total badass. She gave me some good words of encouragement as we crossed the start line, then took off and finished a full seven minutes ahead of me.
I love the first half of this race. The out-and-back is so exciting, and it makes me love being part of such a spirited team. I loved being on the lookout for my speedy teammates to my left, and felt so proud to be racing with them. Those miles flew by because I was just constantly scanning the crowd.
Greatest annoyances: I couldn’t figure out how to tighten my SPIbelt, so it was bouncing around the entire race, and my headphones weren’t really working, so the noise in my ears was half Bieber, half static. I forgot about both situations eventually.
Biggest surprise: How strong I felt on Ocean Parkway! The second half of this race should feel easy, since it’s flat, and technically net downhill. But the first time I ran this race, I spent the back half of the race dashing from one porta-potty to the next and melting in the heat. Last year, I was so beaten down (mentally, at least) by the time I got to the long straightaway to Coney Island that I was just jogging from one water stop to the next, where I would promptly “reward myself” with a walk break.
This year, I felt great on Ocean Parkway. Around mile two, I had found myself behind November Project’s fastest member, Ed “Hartdoggy” Hartman, who was pacing his wife. Instead of thinking “I shouldn’t be near them if they’re going for a 1:45,” I thought, “OK, let’s see how long I can hang.” Nothing to lose, right? I kept them within eyeshot, and was thrilled to be able to stick with them until the finish. I’m forever grateful for Ed’s unintentional pacing!
Favorite part of the race: All of it? I really did feel so happy the whole time. I felt like I was running hard and really racing, and told myself not to back off if I got tired. I was able to hang in and never got too in my head. I wanted to feel proud of my efforts by the time I got to Coney Island, and I was. I didn’t know my actual finish time until a little while after crossing the line, but I was pretty surprised by a 1:46. (There was a 4:30 or 4:50 delay on the clock from when I started, but a lot of the clocks along the course weren’t working — anyone else notice that?) I seriously struggled with doing math along the way, so I just kept running, hoping I’d be under 1:50 at the finish.
Least favorite part of the race: I always feel like the finish line is a lot closer to the end of Ocean Parkway than it actually is. I wasn’t miserable at this point, but I was definitely feeling like I had run 12 miles, and was ready to be at the finish line. Instead, I still had a ways to go. I remember seeing the “800m to go” mark and thinking a half mile felt far, and then seeing 400m to go, and still feeling like that was a lot. I didn’t have much of a kick left in me for the boardwalk, but I remember passing a few people, which is always invigorating.
Favorite thing to see at the finish: Brian and Ellie! They were stationed at the top of the ramp onto the boardwalk, and Brian was screaming, “Ellie, look! It’s mom! It’s mom!” (Brian said he met lots of people who came up to him and asked, “Is that Ali’s dog?!” He says it was nice to meet you all.)
Places chafed: For the first time ever, not my inner thighs, because they were properly Glided. But my right underarm has some brutal markings, my bum cheeks are raw (ugh, that one), and my underboobs are significantly scarred.
What I wore on the drive home: A whole lotta nothing. I packed a towel and change of clothes in the car, but by the time I peeled off my soaked race outfit, I just couldn’t fathom putting regular clothes back on. So I curled up in the towel, and that was good enough.
Duration of my post-race nap: Two glorious hours with a puppy at my feet.
What hurt the most when I woke up: See aforementioned armpit chafing. That post-race shower was not relaxing.
Number of brownie bites I ate in bed: Six, followed by three more once I emerged and reentered real life.
People who made the day extra great: Brian, for waking up at 4:15 AM, driving me to the start, then driving out to Coney Island and cheering, hitting up the after-party with the NP crew, and driving me back home. All with Ellie in tow. Husband of the Year. (It was our five-year dating anniversary, too! We went on our first date after the Brooklyn Half in 2011!)
Ed Hartdoggy, for semi-unknowingly pacing me for 11 of the 13.1 miles. I don’t think I would’ve hung in there as long as I did without keeping him in sight.
All the smiling spectators and volunteers. Especially the November Project cheer station at the top of the Prospect Park hill.
My Corral D girls — Emily, Sabrina, and Emma — for waiting in those porta-potty lines with me not once but twice, and keeping things light and fun while we waited to start running.
What I want to do next: PR the half-marathon distance. I tend to get so wrapped up in marathons, but I am really loving the 13.1 distance. I want to race many more half marathons, and would love to best my very outdated PR. I think I have it in me.
CONGRATULATIONS to all of this weekend’s racers! If you were in Brooklyn, tell me! How’d it go? Do you want to go to Dairy Queen with me to get celebratory Blizzards later?!