February 3, 2010

Manhattan Half Marathon 2010

Last year, a long hot soak in the tub. This year the ice bath.

That's the distance I've come in my first year of racing.

Last year's Manhattan Half Marathon was my first race. First race of the year, first race ever. It was 14 degrees, so cold that you had to break the ice on the cups at the water stations. My cell phone died of frostbite in the baggage area.

But I don't remember the cold. I remember the almost holy sound of breathing and shoes hitting asphalt at the start, not a voice anywhere. I remember the citrus feel of the winter sun. And I remember having no clue how fast or slow I was going. I almost wept when I realized I had come in under 1:30.

After the race I took a hot soak and actually did weep. It hit me that I had accomplished something that I could always hold on to. Since I didn't ice I even got to hold on to muscle aches for two days afterward.

This year's Manhattan Half was similar in some ways, but it was no longer an intriguing new acquaintance. I've made good friends with Central Park over the last year, its hills and twists. This year's Half was warmer and I was overdressed. I'd stayed up late the night before. But it felt great to be with those 2 long loops again.

I met up with Comrade Gregg before the race. Last year I didn't know Gregg, but I knew his name because it was next to mine in the results, which I had scrutinized obsessively. Later come to find out he was co-captain of my company racing team, and now my track club teammate. It's been a great year for meeting people.

Last year's race was so exciting because it was so unknown - I didn't know the Harlem Hills or even my own legs. This year's race was just fun since I knew what to expect, how to pace, and could just enjoy the ride.

I basically hitched for about half of the race behind a woman who seemed to know what she was doing - at least she kept an even pace, even if she stopped dead at water stations and didn't observe the tangents as rigorously as I did.

I ended up with pretty even splits, and pushed it to a sprint at the very end, bringing my system to the brink of real nausea. It's great to get that last little bit out of the toothpaste tube. The lady-who-stops-for-water bested me by at least 40 seconds. But I beat last year's time by a little and felt very satisfied by that. (Last year I was 29th in my age division; this year 28th - progress!)

Last year my wife tried to bring the baby out to the race, and had such a hell of at time parking she missed most of the race. This year we knew better and I just met her at home afterward. Nothing like the warm embrace of the family. I got a nice post-race hug before my post-race ice bath. Fourteen minutes in icy water will reset your clock pretty good. And the next day I had no aches.