Monday, September 23, 2013

Newport Liberty Half Marathon USATF-NJ Championship, Jersey City, NJ. 9/22/13

Photo by Elaine Acosta
Today I ran the Newport Liberty Half.  It is a 700 pt USATF-NJ Race series Championship event.  It has prize money and many fast runners show up.  The top male runner won it in 1:08.  The top female ran a 1:20.  To have a shot at breaking into the top 10 as a female, you have to be able to run a 1:28.  I am not quite that fast.

My thoughts about the Course:
First I love how fast the course is.  If you are looking for a flat and fast race, this is one.  If you are looking for scenic, this one has some really wonderful skyline views and a phenomenal view of the Statue of Liberty worth seeing.  However, with the first 3 miles and the final miles being routed through Jersey city streets, under overpasses, over train tracks, etc.,  I don't believe the views are incredibly special.  In addition, the twist and turns as we wind through both street and the park roads in Liberty State Park can add mileage if your tangents stink. I did ok today, only tacking on about .2

Water stops are plentiful, but Gatorade (which I like) is provided only in the middle miles.  Unlike the RnR Half, which had gatorade starting at mile 3, this one started Gatorade at mile 6, then again at 8 and about 10, I believe.  If you are the type of person who needs sports drink early on, you may want to carry something with you.  If not, the amount provide seemed sufficient.

The Weather Trends - Expect Wind
Despite the weather being a factor no one can control, I find that knowing what to expect helps me mentally prepare.  For some reason, it always seems to be rainy or very windy.  The rain may be avoided if Mother Nature is in a good mood, but I don't believe this race is every going to be wind free. Several sections of this run are along the water on a waterfront walkway, where wind is just ever-present and always against us.  In the streets, the buildings block it on the way out,  but in the park and along the water, it is a real factor on the way back. I would like to say that the wind works both ways and we get an assist, but it really doesn't seem to be the case.  There may be a stretch along one short out and back part in mile 8 that is on the water where we get to run with the wind prior to running around a cone and then directly back into it for much longer. This break comes after a very long stretch  where we are running into the wind for what feels like forever.   If the wind isn't horrible, it may not slow pace, but it just adds work.

Besides the prize money for the leaders, this race does offer long sleeve tech shirts, and holds a raffle at the end worth staying for.  Three of us won gift cards of $25 -$50 for restaurants today.

My Training the Day before The Race:
Yesterday, I trained with a TNT runner who was running her first 20 miler.  As an assistant coach for TNT, it is my job to run with our runners, give advice, answer questions, pace them, encourage them.  Well, Kim, the runner I partnered up with was just awesome and we clocked her first ever 20 mile in about 10:10 pace with a negative split.  That is not a "fast" training pace for me, but it is a lot of time on my feet.  As soon as we finished, Coach Sue, Kim, Jess, and I all ran into the ocean for a wonderful cool soaking of our legs, then refueled at Dunkin Donuts.

Because I have been doing depletion training for my long runs, I took in 0 calories and only water as needed during the entire 20 miles with Kim. However, I did want to refuel for the half as soon as I was done.  Bagel, OJ, Coffee and I was good.

The Race:
I arrived about 7:20 for a 8:30 start but somehow still found myself standing in the longest portapotty line on the face of the earth at 8:20.   Last weekend I raced with 18000 people and manage to find a potty with 0 wait.  This weekend I race with 3000 people and all apparently were on line before me!

At 8:28 am, omg, yes 8:28 am, I finally get in and out of the potty, but still have to run to the start.  This is a Championship race and points are assigned by GUN time. This means I better get as far up front as I can.  I am basically running along the fringe of the crowd of racers hoping to make it to the front before the gun.

Just as I get to the front, about 2 rows back, I see Martin and give him a hug... and we are immediately off!

Because we are running through city streets, my Garmin is confused.  It doesnt know it we are running a 5:51 or a 7:48... oh boy.   But this is a local race, and despite its size I know who my "regulars" are and see those who normally run my speed around me.  I feel like I am running fast, but go with it because it feels good and I wonder what will happen with a more aggressive start.  M1- 6:45

We wind through the streets and I feel like I am ok.  In addition to the long run yesterday,  I also ran a PR half marathon last Sunday and everyday in between.  Today I needed to push for points, and to assist my Team, but I was not sure how long I could hold a fast pace today.  Part of me wondered if banking a little time early could help me later when I lose it or whether banking time would ensure I fall apart.  I know I am not ready for a half a 6:45 pace. I settle down and stop running like an idiot.  M2 - 6:59 

Ok that's better.  If I can hold 7:00s for a while, and finish strong then technically I should be sub-7 for the entire deal, right? That sounds like a plan.  I try to sit just around 7's to see how long until my body rebels.  M3 - 6:57

I am trying to pay attention to my competition. After all, I need to beat as many women as possible today to improve my score in the Grand Prix series.  Currently, I am leading the women in this statewide, year long, series but I know that is a product of me racing a lot and I will not hold that position once all those better than me fill up their scorecards.  However, I don't want to make it easy to be passed so I know I don't want to blow up today.  I try to find a comfortable pace and sit there as we wind through the end of the streets. M4-7:02

As we enter the park, I must have been fading as I am suddenly being overtaken by a small group of runners. This race does not have pace groups. There were  about 4-5 people all moving well.  It is extremely early for aggressive moves. The group is mostly men, but there is one female in the pack.  They are not moving much faster than me, so I decide to go with them.  The guy leading the charge hears my breathing and asks me if I am ok.  I hate this part about asthma.  I sound like crap when running hard.  I am used to it, but others often try to tell how to breathe. It is very hard to breathe when your bronchial tubes are constricted.  I manage ok and really the only way to sound better is to slow down and that is not an option. M5: 6:58

As we approach mile 6, the chick in the group asks me my age.  I tell her and she is relieved we are not in the same age group.  She comments that we can help each other.  I love this because, first I really dont mind helping anyone, but there is this incredibly competitive side of me that wanted to remind her that in this entire pack that the only person I am actually racing was her! LOL. But I don't say that out loud because even thought I think it would be funny, it would sound very unfriendly.  But the truth is I LOVE racing and therefore I think it is great to be in a great head to head race with an actual competitor, rather then race guys who are not actually my competition.  She is sweet.  I hoped she would stick around and make me work.  M6 - 6:54

Ok so now the hard part begins. First, I really dislike wind. Constant wind mentally exhausts me as much as it does physically. For the next several miles we will be running along the water.  The view of the Statue of Liberty is amazing and incredibly inspiring.  But soon we get slapped in the face by Mother Nature and her nasty wind. It was not an incredibly strong wind, but it was noticeably and constant and we are going to be running into it for almost 4 -5 miles between now and the end of this race!

We turn on to the walkway at the water's edge and the woman from out pack drops out. We pick up a few others briefly.  I tuck in to the middle of the pack.  An older gentleman, also named Martin, comments... "That's what you gotta do, tuck in behind the big guys" and then he tucks in behind me and comments "Why can you be bigger?!"  LOL.  This stretch is just rough, not impossible, just rough. Our group is alternating leaders, and the one leading the group comments about how the wind sucks.  The rest of us concur.  I know we have to deal with this for most of the rest of the race.  I was ready for this and I work hard to stay on pace.  M7 - 6:55.  

I feel wiped from the effort it took to run into the wind and I am grateful that part of mile 8 does have us backtrack with a wind assist.  However, that is much shorter stretch than the stretch we had to deal with between 6 and 7 and we also have to turn back and double back into again after rounding a cone.  M8-7:00

Once past the 8 mile clock we continue running into the wind along the water for almost another mile.  It is just miles of headwind with nothing we can do about it.  I am just grateful it was not stronger than it was. It was obnoxious, but it was manageable and it was something that could be fought through. M9-6:56

At this point last week, I was just starting to pick up my pace to start my attack on the finish line.  Today, the wind has beaten me down so much, I decided to take another mile of "rest" before I make any effort to try to pick it up, if I even could. My group was now 4 of us.  M10 - 7:02  

As we hit 10, hear someone in my group say, "If we want to break 1:30 we have to move!" I looked at the clock at 10 and unless my math was wrong, I was pretty sure 1:31-1:32 was more likely than 1:29.  I notice Sergio running close enough ahead now for me to reach him.  I never run with Sergio.  He must not have been having a great day, but I decide to make that move the guys were discussing back at the clock.  I assume they will come with me.

I catch up to Sergio and his reaction is just utter joy and amazement.  He is a very lovely person who is always so genuinely happy to see me run well.  When I caught up to him he said with such happiness, "You are going doing so great! You are going to beat me today!" as he started to pick his pace back up.  I responded with "I think I can PR.  Run with me!"  Sergio was up for the challenge.  I also think a part of him really wanted a good reason to pick up his pace and me asking for him to run with me seemed to perk him up.  He picked up his pace, faster than I could go and he called out, "Lets Go"!  I was pushing so hard, but I had not much more to offer.  I kept him in range, just a few seconds ahead of me.  M11- 6:53

We are back in the streets for part of the last 5k.  I don't like this part because just after you are beat down from the wind, there is an incline for most of the first half mile of 11 that feels like a challenge!  LOL  A chick is walking.  I tell her to "come on! let's go" and she starts hauling.  She passes me and I try to stay with her.  I hope she pulls me.  We get to the top of the incline and she start walking again. I feel grateful she was there to challenge me.  Then once again we are running along the waterfront. Wind, Again. Come on!  I am just so tired of the water and the wind. My chest hurts. I am wheezing loud.  Serge is pulling away. I am trying to stay with him.  Together Serge and I are passing lots of people. I feel like I am in a movie.  My legs feel wobbly.  I feel like I might fall down.  I am pushing my pace but the wind is pushing back a little. M12: 6:59

One mile to go and I am ready to be done.  We have to get back out into the street and finally we are out of the wind. Here I feel like my pace matches my effort.  Serge is ahead, I am trying to catch up. He would glance back for me periodically in this last 5k, I knew he was trying to pull me.  I feel like we are in our own race and no one else knows to go with us.  It is an amazing way to finish a half.  I have no idea how much further. I glance at my watch and it says 1:30. I can't imagine having 2 minute left of running. I am sure I will get a new PR but by how much.  (6:44 pace for the Last 1.17)

Finally I see the turn, I sprint. Serge does too. He is fast! We pass several runners on the final kick and we are done!  He was 4 second ahead.  I give him a huge hug at the finish! I am just so happy I PR'd after a hard week, a PR last week, and a 20 miler yesterday.

This race was much harder than last weeks simply because of all that wind.  Without focusing on chasing Sergio, I could have easily crumbled in the last 5k, but I didn't.  It wasn't as pretty as last week's PR, but I ran hard and I am very pleased with my result.

Time: 1:31:25
OA Place: 166/2696
Female: 17/1242
AG: 2/203
Award: Metal
Bonus: Stayed for the Raffle and won a $25 gift card.


  1. I am amazed at the conditions that you are able to PR in! You run a 20 miler the day before the race and then run a kick-butt PR time. Wow!

    1. Thank you Tony! I am starting to think that I just recover fast and i probably would not have run much faster had I not run 20 the day before.

  2. Great really enjoyed reading this. Great job on the running and the writing.

    1. Thank you Jim! I love writing these reports. It is a lot of fun to read them later.

  3. Excellent! Running 20, then racing 13.1 the very next day and not fading at all!! So impressive

  4. Holy moly! I'm really impressed. Fantastic job!