Posts Tagged ‘brooklyn


Race Report: 2011 NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon

Throughout the year the New York Road Runners hold a series of six half marathons (seven if you’re a lady) — The NYRR Half Marathon Series consisting of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island Half Marathons, Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, and the More Half Marathon also in Central Park (I don’t include the NYC Half Marathon because so few local runners get a chance to run it). In my mind the Half Marathon Series is better than the other two and the king of the Half Marathon Series is the Brooklyn Half Marathon (there’s a NYC pun in there…). Manhattan takes place in January, so you might freeze. Bronx and Queens are in the summer, so you’re probably going to bake. There could be good weather for Staten Island, but honestly, I’ve never really wanted to go there. The Brooklyn Half held in May is at an ideal time on a good course — twice around Prospect Park then down Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island Boardwalk. Sounds exciting, right? It is!

Unfortunately, there are some crappy aspects of this. First, it’s in Brooklyn, which even on good days mean that it’s going to take two hours of trains to make it there. However, even worse, the race started at 7am and baggage cutoff was supposed to be around 6:20am (in reality it was 6:40am). This meant I either needed to crash on a friends couch in the city and get up at 4am to make it to the race in time, or suck it up and get up at 3:30am and drive to Coney Island, park there, and take the subway to Prospect Park. It gets even better with the F train not running, which meant it was the day for a Q train. Ughh.

Nonetheless after going to bed at 10:30 last night I woke up a little past 3am ready to get in my car and drive the hour plus to Coney Island. I really don’t like driving and don’t consider myself to be good at it. I’m pretty sure the 45 miles from here to Coney Island is the furthest I’ve driven in the NYC area in almost a year. The fog had started to move in by the time that I arrived at Coney Island giving a bit of a surreal feel with the little bit of neon on at 5am. By the time I arrived in Prospect Park 5:45am the sun was starting peek through and there were signs that the fog would be gone soon.

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

The route seemed pretty straight-forward. Twice around the park, including the hill on the north side of the park, then a long straight run to a finish on the boardwalk. I had told myself that my goal was going to be 8 minute miles. As usual, I had no idea how fast I did my first mile because it was a little bit more than a minute before I crossed the starting line. The clock was somewhere around 9:15. For the rest of the race I would spend each mile thinking through what my next mile would have to end at to make me have an 8 minute mile. I failed for the next twelve mile markers. There were a few times, such as when I came out of the park toward Mile 8 when I thought I had it, but then I realized I was actually closer to a seven minute mile.

This race was made of three different parts. First was the two loops around Prospect Park, which was very enjoyable. I love running in Prospect Park, it has nice hills to keep it more interesting, beautiful scenery, is quiet, and, perhaps most importantly, lacks the mobs of tourists wandering about. Although the hills make me slower, I can tell that living at the top of a large hill has dramatically improved my hill running and made it significantly less painful. The second part was a straight shot for five miles down Ocean Parkway. While it seems like this would be a great chance to get to know Brooklyn, it’s not like the NYC marathon. The side roads along Ocean Parkway provide a strong buffer from the communities you run through. Also, running on a nearly perfectly straight road for five miles is horribly boring. Especially when it’s so wide and isolated as Ocean Parkway. Finally, we turned onto Surf Avenue and quickly headed over to the Coney Island Boardwalk.

I had thought the boardwalk would be this wonderful place to finish a race, and from a scenic point of view it was a simply wonderful place to end a race. But from a footing point of view it was a nightmare. The way the boardwalk gave inconsistently and how some boards were incredibly loose or had enormous screws sticking out. As it had been raining for most of the past week in New York the boardwalk was still moist in some spots which made for horrible traction. A great spot to end a race, but let’s face it, if you’re going to run a lot on a boardwalk you’re not aiming to set a PR for that span.

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

As I wrote earlier, I was originally aiming for 8 minute miles. This would put me slightly slower than my PR set at the 2010 NYC Half Marathon, but still very respectable. I realized after about four miles that I was on a PR pace and not only that I didn’t feel like I was running really hard. I’m certain I could have run harder, but hey, it’s supposed to be an off week.

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

That’s right, not a single mile was at my goal pace. This is exciting on some levels, but also horribly disappointing. It means that I’m far too stupid to properly set and run a pace. On the bright side, I felt just fine at the end of the race. I had the usual case of no appetite after a race and was tired, but that was much more because of getting up at that god-forsaken hour this morning. When I crossed the finish line, just like last week, my clock time was better than PR. So the question was by how much?

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

I wish I had known that I was so close to breaking 1:40. I’m certain that I could have kicked in a bit more over the last few miles and broken it. None the less, I am extremely pleased with my time and it portends well for running a good race in Chicago this fall.

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Race Report: 2011 NYRR Al Gordon 4M

Somewhere in my subconscious an alarm was ringing. Loudly. I bolted up worried that I had missed the race. My alarm clock read 2:57am, I still had another 1 hour 33 minutes until I needed to get out of bed for the race this morning. That’s right, I got up at 4:30am for a race in Brooklyn. It was one of those moments when you say to yourself “Wow, I didn’t know they made a 4:30am too!”. I think I only had to get up at 4am for Big Sur and that race started at 7am and required a 27 mile drive in the dark. Anyway, living out in Westchester has lots of advantages, 10 minute commute to the office, much cheaper rent, peace and quiet. One of them most certainly is not how early I need to get up to make it to a race in Brooklyn. Hello 5:10am Metro North trains!

The Al Gordon 4M is a pretty simple loop race in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. The course is the exact same as the Jingle Bell Jog. Start out on the transverse drive, go for a short downhill, then an uphill for mile 1, roughly level for mile 2, quick downhill, level for 3 and most of 4, and a short uphill to the finish. The maximum elevation change between the high point in mile 2 and low point in mile 3 is about 100 feet.

This is also the first New York Road Runners race that I’ve done more than once, having done it in February 2010 and finished in 30:19 (7:35min/mi pace). I distinctly remember having to wander around and freeze before the race because of the non-ideal timing of trains. Today was no different. Especially because I got there earlier than predicted, almost an hour and a half early. Bag check wasn’t even open for another 45 minutes. I took a brief walk around the park for about 2.5 miles to look at the condition of the course. Dropped my bag off at bag check, and proceeded to do a nice quick 1.6 mile warmup at a little over 9 minute miles. Apparently stretching doesn’t make you run faster, but warmup runs do. Anecdotally, my fastest runs usually have had short warmup runs before them.

Just a nice and easy warmup before the 2011 Al Gordon 4M in Prospect Park

The warmup also had the benefit of finishing right at the time I needed to be in the corrals. Rather than standing around and freezing in the corral, I was able to dart right in. Mary Wittenberg took some time to herald all the things that Al Gordon did, both in life and for the Road Runners (more info here from Forbes and The New York Times). I’m in awe of his accomplishments and am truly thankful for the ways that he helped clear the way for the Road Runners and also promoted physical fitness in his life. After the final instructions, including a warning about ice on the path, we were off.

As usual, I started RunKeeper way too early. I would love to have an overhead camera to study the physics and packing of runners at the start of a race as they run for brief bits toward the start, then have to walk, then run, then walk. It’s a little like waves on a slinky. At 42 seconds post-gun and 30 seconds after my start on RunKeeper I crossed the starting line. As has become routine, a bunch of yellow bibs were passing me at the start. I said that I wanted to do the run in about 8:00/mi, which would put me 14 seconds faster than the Jingle Jog, but still about 30 seconds slower than last year. When RunKeeper chirped up at five minutes I was annoyed, it said I was doing about 8:30 minute miles. That couldn’t be right — then I remembered that I had covered those 0.59 miles in 4:30, not 5:00. To keep myself occupied I did the translation to mile distance in my head, 7:38/mi. My legs seemed to be working.

I crossed the 1 milie marker at exactly 8:30 gun time for a 7:48 mile. I had slowed down some, but it was an uphill. After the relatively flat mile 2 I was averaging about 7:37 a mile. Mile 3 is where the downhill is. Even if you wanted to slow down here, it’s tough. It’s a great downhill. I had brought my mile average down to 7:32. My mind started to occupy itself with math…7:22 for the third mile? Wow. Yay for negative splits? I starting to get tired and over heated at this point. The b-tag meant that I couldn’t shed layers, suck it up and deal. The uphill was going to be hard, and it was. Coming around the corner to the finish I could see the clock ticking. “Damnit, this has been a good race, can I finish in under 30 minutes chip time?” My legs ached and I pushed. 30:42 would be the magic time I needed to beat to get a 30 minute chip time. The clock kept pushing and so did my legs. In the end, I wasn’t quite fast enough. the clock was 30:48 when I crossed. I managed to push it home at almost my exact average pace despite it being an uphill and me being exhausted.

Look at that beautiful and constant pace!

NYRR Results from the 2011 Al Gordon 4M - Net Time 30:06, Pace/mile 7:32

A 7:32mi pace? I'll take that. One of my best runs in the past year.

I really enjoy running in Prospect Park. As opposed to Central Park where you’re dodging other runners, cyclists, and clueless tourists, the only obstacle in Prospect Park is dog owners who don’t realize that a 30ft extendable lead is actually a bad idea for a dog. It’s a beautiful and serene course. If you’re only in Central Park, I highly recommend getting off Manhattan for a race once in a while. Or heck, even a simple little training run.

So, despite the 4:30am wakeup time, the day was a success. I managed to fall asleep on the train back home but magically wake up right before my stop. Maybe my internal alarm clock still works.

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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
For previous races, check out my Race Log