Race Rewind: 2012 Empire State Half Marathon – Syracuse, NY

On October 21, 2012 my Uncle (Runcle Ron) and I welcomed a new member to the club. Cousin Kate finished her first half marathon, start to finish, with her Dad. In other news, I finally broke 1:50 on the half marathon.

I wanted this one bad. My prior two half marathons had fallen short of expectations. I was training for the Outer Banks Full Marathon in November. Distance wasn’t the issue. This one was about pushing back the wall and going for time.

Pre-Race

I felt great on the way to the race. Ready to rock and nervous all at the same time. It felt like my first race all over again. My training went awesome, better than ever, but there’s always a little doubt of exactly how training will translate on race day. I know. “Trust your training”.

We arrived an hour before start time. It was a crisp, clear and beautiful morning. A rarity for Syracuse, or Cleveland for that matter. It was October and I half expected snow.

The marathoners went off at 7:30AM. Once they did, it was time to hit the port-a-johns one last time. The most well decorated johns you’ve ever seen. We’re talking bathmats, mirrors, flowers and real hand soap. As a guy, for me to notice this stuff, is huge. Well done.

The Start

After wishing Runcle Ron and Cousin Kate good luck, I moved up towards the front. I wanted to get out fast. Without pace groups, it meant sizing other runners up and figuring out where I might fit in and not get trampled. One thing that struck me was that there wasn’t a National Anthem for the half marathon start. I remember one for the Marathoners. I always use the Anthem to collect myself one last time and focus on the upcoming task. Not for this start. I heard the gun and we were off. Caught me completely by surprise.

On the Course

I like to get out fast, especially for half marathons. It settles me in and makes the last five miles easier to pull back while still keeping a solid pace. Banking time is not a sound strategy. Where my training was, however, this strategy made a lot of sense.

Miles 1 through 4 went better than I could have hoped. There was a solid breeze coming off Onondaga Lake but I settled in with a group of runners to keep the breeze manageable. Under 8 minutes for each of the first 3 miles and right on 8 minutes for mile 4. At mile 5 I turned in an 8:03 and slowly walked through a water stop at mile 6 pushing that lap to 8:17. Still way ahead of my 1hr 50min finish time. Then I started questioning how long I could really keep this up. My previous half marathon PR was 1hr 56min. I was in uncharted waters.

I knew the sub-8s weren’t happening any longer and focused on 8:20 splits. Mile 7 – 8:11. Mile 8 – 8:09. Mile 9 – 8:13. I’m in the house with 4 miles to go. Don’t fall apart on me now.

As I approached 10 miles, I decided to downshift a little further. I knew I had my PR and even a sub-1:50:00. I had a marathon to run in 4 weeks and not compromising that opportunity won out in my head. Without that upcoming marathon, it’s tough to say what I would have done. Mile 10 – 8:25. Mile 11 – 8:28. Mile 12 – 8:27. Crowd support over this stretch was virtually non-existent. That never helps anyone’s state of mind.

The last mile I was out of gas. Something hit me hard and I had to walk for a solid minute with about a half-mile to go. Probably more mental than anything. I knew I would be well under my goal and it was better to play it safe. I hit mile 13 with a 9:07 split. Still hurts to type that.

Crossing the Finish Line

Great support at the finish. I probably finished harder than I should have. It doesn’t take much for me to toss my cookies after a good hard race. This was no exception. I even forgot to stop my Timex as I crossed. After a 13 second cookie tossing, I looked at my watch. What a beautiful sight. A solid 6 minutes under my previous best half marathon. I was on top of the world.

2012-10-21-laps

Official Chip Time – 1:48:06

Running and Family

Enough about my race. A PR is nice but I’ll get another one. My cousin was about to finish her first half marathon … with her Dad by her side. Runcle Ron and I have crossed the finish line together. I finished my first and second marathons with him. I knew what that meant to me as his Nephew and I can’t imagine the feeling of crossing the line with your Daughter.

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Father and Daughter with 200 meters to go!

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Welcome to the club Kater!

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Kate and her husband James. Every runner needs a great support team. He’s one of the best.

Race Synopsis

Pros

  • Most of the race took place through Onondaga Park which provided awesome views of Onondaga Lake.
  • Fast and flat course almost feels like there should be an asterisk next to my PR.
  • Easy exit finish line area. Size of the race made finding family and friends a breeze.
  • Volunteers were top notch.
  • Best Port-a-Johns I’ve ever seen.

Cons

  • 75% of the course was the same as the Lake Effect Half Marathon I had run the previous February. Granted, the weather was completely different, but I’d like to see the organizers mix things up a bit.
  • Spectators were sparse. With the exception of the start/finish, crowd support was pretty disappointing. Probably related to most of the course being through the park and not through a single residential area.
  • It’s an out and back course. Not a big fan.

 

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