Let’s flash back to my first “real” half marathon, shall we? December 14, 2013 – a day that will first and foremost forever be remembered as Frickin Freezing. That day was the Brooklyn Holiday Half – 13.1 miles along the water in Bay Ridge near the Verrazano Bridge. It was 27 degrees, snowy and icy.
I had run probably around 6 “unofficial” half marathons before this one, but those were just for fun. They were long runs that I did by myself – just me and my Nike+ watch – or with a friend as he was training for the NYC Marathon. They weren’t officially timed and documented races with a bib and swag and all the finish line glory. Just your run-of-the-mill half marathons on a whim! This was also my first winter half.
My friend Andy (who subsequently got me involved with Team in Training and the NYC Triathlon) and I ran the Brooklyn Holiday Half together. Here is my before picture. (Poor little girl is so excited and doesn’t realize she will soon be a living and breathing icicle.)
By the time Andy and I got our bibs and swag bag, my toes and fingers were getting more and more numb. I had layers and a fleece hat on, and awesome little running glove/mittens that I had gotten the day before, but thank God for the fleece neck warmer thing that I put around my face or I think it would have frozen right off. We took our minds off the cold by taking some pictures – it is rarely too cold for pictures.
While we waited and after we checked our bags, Andy ran up and down a dock several times to warm up and I pretended to stretch while watching the falling snow and wondering if we were all completely crazy. It was perfect fireplace and hot chocolate weather. Grilled cheese and tomato soup weather. Snuggly blanket and a stupid RomCom movie weather. Not really half marathon by the water weather, especially for a little girl who tends to hibernate in the winter (unless she’s snowboarding). But there were people there in shorts so I decided that if they weren’t complaining, then neither should I! I knew what I was getting myself into and had fleece-lined running tights keeping my legs slightly warmer than their shorts were keeping theirs.
Anyway – we lined up, someone said remarks about how tough we were for being out there in the snow and sub-freezing temperatures and told us to be careful around water stations because the ground around them were already starting to ice up and would no doubt become worse. Soon after we started I felt myself becoming warmer as I got into the groove of the race. I ran for warmth but, more importantly, I ran for the free post-race pasta lunch. I couldn’t wait. I probably smiled just thinking about it.
The course was pretty straightforward – down along the waterfront, then turn around and back to the starting line, and then repeat. The first half was fine. Since it was a new place where I had never run before I was taking in all the sights and sounds. I am a water girl, so just running by any body of water is always super calming and enjoyable for me. Even with the Arctic chill smacking me in the face. (And it was smacking me in the face pretty hard!) The highway was also right there and cars kept honking at us, cheering us on – I loved that. But by the time I ran the second half of the race, I had adopted a “been there, done that” attitude, since I had just literally been there, done that. Snow had started falling a bit harder and the flakes that landed on my eyelashes were no longer whimsical, and there were newly formed patches of ice scattered around. Parts of my face were numb and air that I was sucking in was so cold that it hurt my throat.
I was trying to break my standing record of 2 hours and Andy was using this race as a tapering run since he was doing a half Ironman a few weeks later (the man is a beast!) so we didn’t run together much. I used two girls in front of me as pacers for a good portion of the second half of the race and tried to avoid any snowy or slippery spots on the course. Somewhere along the way I pulled the fleece off of my face, rolled up my sleeves and considered taking my cool little glove/mittens off. (I ended up compromising and only taking one off.) I was warm – or fully numb – and running like it was just another practice run. Until disaster hit near mile 9!! (ok, that might be a little dramatic.) I reached out at a water station to grab a drink and spilled it all over my bare hand and wrist. The glove quickly went back on. I had to clench my hand into a fist inside the glove to warm it up while I wondered how I would be able to properly function after my fingers were amputated from the frostbite that I would inevitably get, and the pros and cons of a Robo hand. My fingers were fine after they regained feeling (poor little things were shocked!), but I refused to grab a drink for the rest of the race and let it sabotage me again. Take that, water.
The rest of the race was more or less fine. I slid once on some ice at one point but it was nothing major. (Later on my lower back was a little sore, and I think I tweaked it a little when I slid, but I didn’t notice it until a few hours later and within a day or so it was completely gone.) I know that I definitely talked myself through the last mile. Out loud. A full on pep talk. Sometimes you just need that extra push! But I crossed the finish line in 1:59:40 – juuuuust under my 2 hour record! I collected my medal, got a banana that I ended up throwing away because it was waaay under-ripe, and sat down on the cold ground. Bad idea – I was frozen again in about 30 seconds flat and couldn’t move. This must be what hypothermia feels like. Don’t people get a rush of warmth before hypothermia takes over? I waited for that warmth as I checked my phone. My fingers were moving so slowly. It took what felt like 5 minutes before I was able to send a text with my time. I decided to get up when I figured that I probably felt similar to how Rose in Titanic felt like as she laid on that slab of wood in the ocean. Andy and I had said that we would meet at the bar that was giving us the free pasta, so I dragged myself off the ground and headed over. Andy had a great run and we were ready for pasta! We ate, he had a beer while I had about 4 waters, and then we began the long journey home.
Overall – that half was a success!
The trek took nearly 2 hours because of the usual weekend train trouble, and I felt like I had been dragged to the edge of the earth and back by the time I made it home. I was sore, tired, and wheezing, and I had an old man cough for the next day. My lungs hurt from all that cold air. (I’m assuming. I’ve never had that happen before.) BUT by the time I got home, Katharine had grilled cheese, tomato soup, hot chocolate with marshmallows, a snuggly blanket, AND a stupid RomCom waiting for me as a surprise. All that was missing was a fireplace!