After three years of running and 15 races all taking place in Ontario, I finally made it back to my hometown of Brooklyn for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half! I couldn’t decide how I wanted to prepare this race report because the truth is, this wasn’t a race; it was an experience. So much happened in the span of two days, I’ll do my best not to ramble on.
I only trained for one half marathon and that’s the first one I ever did. Since then, half marathons always fell within a marathon training plan and were treated as long runs (albeit speedy long runs). With my Spring marathon three weeks behind me and my Fall marathon training plan starting the end of May, this race landed in an interesting spot. I cut down my running volume the past three weeks (I actually didn’t run at all the week following the marathon), so I was a little concerned about my fitness level going into this race; this resulted in me wavering back and forth between wanting to race it and coast it; I finally decided I definitely wouldn’t be looking for a PB; better to run smart than pay the price. The course and elevation maps were also in feet and not metres, which really threw me off (I really have been living in Canada a long time!); so when I saw that mountain in the middle of the elevation map, I was expecting to be told I should run with mountain climbing gear. More on that later.
My son and I flew into NYC Friday morning. I dropped my son and bags off at my parent’s house then hopped on the subway heading towards Brooklyn Bridge Park for the Airbnb Brooklyn Half Pre-Party Presented by New Balance. It was Noon and thousands of people were buzzing about downtown Brooklyn, many carrying their plastic bag containing their race bib and other goodies! I made my way over to Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park and stopped at a Mac and Cheese food truck for a quick carb fix. Next stop was the booth to grab my race bib and technical shirt as well as a race bib for my son and nephew. Wave 1. Corral C. This just got real.
I purchased a cool Brooklyn race tee and grabbed a bunch of swag before bringing my technical shirt over to another booth to have it customized; surely I had to add @RUNTHESIX to the back! I spent a bit of time chatting with a few runners, meeting some of the NYRR Team for Kids reps, and listening to a discussion about race strategies before heading back outside to check out the rest of the festivities. I could have spent the rest of the day at the pre-party, but I had to get back to the fam; I was also a bit concerned I would need a second carry-on for all the items I wanted to purchase!
Wave 1 started at 7am, so I called it an early night, but not before posting an obligatory flat runner photo on Instagram. NTRC would be hitting the streets of Brooklyn in the morning and no, I didn’t run with the flag, but in hindsight, I should have!
I got up at 5am, polished off a bowl of yogurt and granola, showered, got dressed, and headed to the start line near Eastern Parkway and Bedford Avenue (thanks for driving me dad!). Runners were asked to arrive at the start line an hour before the race. I suspected it had to do with the heightened level of security or the massive amount of runners descending on the area. This was the first race I participated in where I had to walk through metal detectors.
Prior to the race, I put the call out for Nuun temporary tattoos on the Team Nuun Facebook page. Since becoming a Team Nuun Ambassador, I always wanted to wear one of their tats during a race, but they never sold them in Canada. Turns out there were a few Team Nuun athletes running in the race and one of those runners, Erika Neola, was in the same starting corral as me! Erika and I met in the corral and hung out until the start of the race. I’m glad she was there because standing in that corral for an hour by myself would have been painfully boring and nerve-wracking. Before you knew it, Peter Ciacca (New York Road Runners President, Events & Race Director TCS NYC Marathon) gave the runners their starting instructions, someone sang the US national anthem, and we were off. I started my watch when I thought we were crossing the start line, but the start line was actually 200 meters ahead. Minor blip.
First 5K splits: 4:17, 4:41, 4:35, 4:16, 4:25
I’ll be writing about my inability to lock in to a race pace in one of my next blog posts as this is something I REALLY struggle with. I really wanted to hover around 4:25-4:30/km, but I went out fast. The first kilometre is basically the start of a 21 metre plunge down Washington Avenue. The crowds at the start are loud and it’s impossible not to get caught up in the moment. The course is also really crowded with runners at this point and I felt like a pinball getting bounced around. I found myself trying to jockey for position and fight my way through crowds of slower runners. The next kilometre is a 21 metre climb up Flatbush Avenue. The kilometre after that was one of my favourite parts of the race as the runner’s make the big loop around Grand Army Plaza. The spectators here really energized the runners! The next kilometre and a bit is mostly downhill.
Second 5K splits: 4:27, 4:17, 4:27, 4:28, 4:27
The next 5 kilometres were relatively flat, followed by a gradual incline, and ending with “that mountain.” This is the part of the race I was dreading because the elevation map gave the impression it was a killer climb. In reality, the hill would be considered a speed bump in Kleinburg and when I reached the top, I heard a a group of runners let out something that sounded like a victory cry. Really, it wasn’t bad at all.
Third 5K splits: 4:16, 4:20, 4:20, 4:43, 4:42
It was around this time I noticed I either rolled my right ankle or landed funny because I started to feel something in the top of my right foot near my ankle. It wasn’t anything that would knock me out of the race, but it started to weigh on me a bit for the rest of the race. I was also all over the course at this point; I grabbed water from the right side of the course and at the next mile, had to cut across to the left side of the course for more water. Perhaps I should have researched the location of the water stations prior to the race! My heart rate was starting to get pretty high, so I decided it would be a good time to take it easy and, if necessary, walk a bit to bring my heart rate down and ease my nerves. I think I took my first walk break at 14K.
Final 5K splits: 4:44, 4:39, 4:39, 4:41, 4:46
Walk it off, kid! There was no way I was going to finish this race without slowing down at this point even though the rest of the race was basically downhill. I was seriously anxious and my heart rate was all over the place. Here’s the difference between a goal race and other races. When I was taking walk breaks at the GoodLife Marathon, I was really upset; that was a goal race and I trained hard for it. This time, I took the opportunity to enjoy the moment. I soaked in the incredible support and cheers from the crowds that lined Ocean Parkway. Brooklynites are awesome race supporters and I can not wait to hear them cheer again when I race in the NYC Marathon in November!
At the end of Ocean Parkway, runners take a right turn on Surf Avenue and a left on W. 10th Street where they run up a small ramp and turn right on the boardwalk towards the finish line. At this point, you can barely hear yourself think as it is jam packed with spectators and loud! Crossing the finish line was a very surreal moment for me. For the first time in any race, I didn’t look at the clock; I didn’t care what my time was and I even stopped my watch without looking at it. I wanted to take it all in and I did. I thanked every volunteer I passed, received my medal, and stopped on the boardwalk to let it all soak in.
Official Time: 1:35:54
I met my dad in the family reunion area and we headed home. In two hours, we would be back at the boardwalk to watch my son compete in his first ever timed race. I considered adding my son’s race to the end of this race report, but my son really deserves his own race report, so he’s going to get one in a few days. For now, I’m going to continue eating and drinking everything in sight, because in one week, I’ll be kicking-off my Fall marathon training plan! My foot is a little sore, but overall, I feel fantastic!
What an incredible weekend! Family time, a road race, and a birthday party for my nephew! I can’t wait to return in five months!
For those interested in running next year, the race sold out in 52 minutes and I heard a rumor the NYRR may go with a lottery system similar to the one used for the NYC Half. Regardless of the registration process, I hope I can run this race again this year and I highly recommend you do to!