Hi, I'm Petra and this is my weight loss/fitness blog.
I used to be on Weight Watchers from January 2011 to October 2012, dropping approximately 45 lbs. I've made the transition from unhealthy and unhappy to athlete and this is my journey to becoming a healthier, happier me. I frequently post about my exercise (mostly running, yoga and lifting), the foods I eat, recipes I liked and my daily struggles. You'll also find the occasional tree hugger post, (travel) photography or anything else I find worth remembering and collecting.
I follow most blogs back that follow me. However, I do stay away from blogs that promote EDs, unhealthy methods of weight loss or negative body image.
Feel free to say hi any time!
Today finally saw my final half-marathon of the season and the long awaited end of my taper. The NYRR held their annual Grete’s Great Gallop in honor of Norwegian running legend, Grete Waitz. If you’re unfamiliar with who Grete was, I really encourage you to read about her fascinating story. She was a true inspiration, not solely for her 9-time win of the ING NYC Marathon, more than any other person, but for her activism and support of women’s and children’s running. She was a major force behind the birth of what would become the NYRR’s Youth Running program until she finally lost the battle against cancer in 2011.
Going into the race, I was strangely calm and relaxed. My anxiety from earlier this week had faded away and I knew that whatever was going to happen today, was going to happen.
The race was originally scheduled for September but had been postponed to October, with a later-than-usual-start. There was a kid’s race in the morning, followed by a 1.7 mile race, then finally followed by the half-marathon at 10:30. Not having to get up at crack of dawn actually felt really nice. As I made my way to the baggage area to drop off my bag, I got hit by a little scare though - there were people with bibs running on the course. Was I too late? Had I mixed up the starting time? Once I made it to the main area of the festivities and saw all the usual pre-race hustling and bustling, my nerves immediately calmed now. Nope, everything’s fine. Just people warming up.
I dropped off my bag and went off to find my colored corral. My pace put me into the purple corral - the “slowest” I have ever been in. (I think it’s blue, red, yellow, green, orange, aqua, pink, purple, grey & brown.) I know it’s all relative to the overall amount of people signing up and what their paces are - I’ve been every color from green to purple and funnily enough, my worst ever race was when I was with the green bibs. Yet, I always wonder whether I should be where I am.
Thankfully, my calmness mostly carried over all the way to the starting line. While I was still intimidated by the course and its hilliness, I simply told myself that whatever was going to happen, well, it was going to happen. At this point, I was getting excited and anxious in a good way. I just wanted to get moving and then take it from there. I had trained with a run/walk strategy and I decided to stick with it for the race: I’d run a mile, walk for a minute, run for a mile, walk for a minute, etc.
We started on the 72nd Street Transverse and then headed clockwise toward the lower loop of the Park. I usually run the Park counterclockwise - like I guess the majority of runners does. For my training though, I had switched to running clockwise to get familiar with where the bumps and tough spots would be. Starting off on 72nd and then heading off to the lower loop before we had to climb up the hills on the west side made for an easier start into the race - something I certainly appreciated.
I took my first walk break after 1 mile as scheduled. I always have to force myself to take it because it feels weird. At this point, you obviously still have a lot of energy in your tank and everybody around you just runs by you, probably feeling sorry for you, because you’re the poor sod who has to slow down to a walk after only 1 mile, now have fun with the remaining 12! But no matter how strange it felt, I made sure I stuck with the the breaks.
Fuel-wise, the race turned out to be great: I had a big breakfast about 3 hours before the start, but I started early with Getorade - though toward the end, I got a little nauseous from all the sugar, ugh. I also carried a water bottle and kept hydrating well throughout the race and overall managed to avoid hitting the wall. At first, I concentrated on the people around me to stop from obsessing over the miles. I found that one of the worst things you can do in a race, especially a long race, is if you start counting down the miles. If you’re at mile 2 and you have another 11 to go, that’s going to be a long, miserable race. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way from my first half marathon on the very same course.
There was a couple stood out from the crowd: they playfully kept hitting at each other, swaying left and right as they did so. It was so annoying! If you’ve ever run a NYRR race, you know how crowded they tend to be. There is no room for people taking up the entire lane. Thankfully (?), they were faster than me and eventually took off to annoy other people.
Around mile 2, I started to feel as if I needed to make a stop at the porta potties. I wondered whether I’d hyrdated too much in the morning. I had a similar experience during the Brooklyn half marathon in May and back then it was all just nerves. I decided to wait it out and thankfully after a while I totally forgot about it. So yes, all nerves again.
During the first four miles I felt extremely strong. I found a good and steady rhythm and aced one of the biggest hills (it obviously had to be run twice) that happened around mile 4. My intervals told me that I should have taken a walk break mid-hill, but I decided to skip this walk break because I had such great momentum going up the hill. Around mile 5 I then had a little scare. I’d been feeling really great until that point (there was this first hill, then descend, only to have to run up another really steep hill). That’s when everything suddenly started feeling really hard. I realized how far I’d still have to go and got intimidated. I tried to chase the thoughts away and not think about that for now. Thankfully, it worked thanks to my awesome/scary (?) distraction:
I was just coming down on the eastside in the 90s/80s, past the Guggenheim Museum at around mile 5.5 (?) when the elites passed us by, almost finished with their second lap. It was sick! Seriously, they ran faster on their second loop than me, still on my first. It’s incredibly what elite athletes are capable off. Wow.
After I’d passed the start and had completed my first loop, things mentally got easier again. I finally was able to tell myself that each step I was going to take now, I wouldn’t have to take again. No more running up this hill. No more running past this turn. Just push through and you’re done.
At this point, I’d fallen back into a great rhythm with my run/walk intervals and I kept refueling with Gatorade. While I didn’t hit a wall, I still started to feel a natural fatigue in my legs. I’d had two almost-cramps in my calves yesterday and I was simply hoping that my legs would carry me through this without giving me major issues.
Running the big hill the second time was hard and I felt so slow and sluggish. I think at this point, I’d already done over 9 miles and running the hill on fresh legs certainly felt different. I told myself to remember how strong I had felt running it the first time (and how I hadn’t even needed my walk break!). I recalled some of the endorphins and positive emotions I felt back then. It seemed to help and I made it all the way to the top again - no more!
As I mentioned previously, after that big hill in Harlem, comes a downhill and then another big hill. On that second steep hill I actually suddenly realized that I was pacing really well and that despite the walk breaks, I might not only be able to achieve my official goal of beating my previous time for this particular course from my April half marathon, but that I actually should be somewhat on par with my overall half marathon PR.
It felt like such a boost!
The Central Park course is difficult enough if you have to run the full loop once, let alone twice. Would I be able to PR? On that course? Was it possible?
I decided to try.
Around that time, I was at mile 10ish and I decided to continue with the walk intervals until mile 11ish and then see whether I could run the remaining 2.5 miles strong and uninterrupted. I did have to take one short walking break in between (not a full minute, I think), but I overall managed to pick up the pace.
I didn’t quite have it in me to sprint but after I’d passed mile 12, I just wanted to be done and run, run, run. I was starving at this point and I had started chafing around mile 4 or 5 (why did I not once chafe in the summer, wearing the same shorts as I did today and in the fall this always seems to happen? Strangely enough, I also chafed around miles 4 or 5 during that really awesome 15 mile training run I did. Maybe it was a sign?) Anyway, I just told myself, the faster I’d run, the faster I’d finish and be done. As I grew tired and wanted to stop, I recalled Bishop, the trainer I really enjoy working out with at Reebok and the bootcamp class. I actually heard his voice saying sternly “Petra, what the heck are you doing??” whenever I try to cheat or don’t give 120%. I told myself that he’d want me to finish strong now. Besides, I had a chance to PR! I was doing so well!
I didn’t manage to do the perfect negative splits, but at least I was strong enough to run my second loop faster than my first overall. The last couple of yards were uphill to the finish line. Why does the NYRR always do that?? My thighs were hurting so bad at this point. I thought my legs would give out any second.
They didn’t. They are strong and they carried me across the finish line.
I stopped my Garmin at 2 hours 12 minutes and 7 seconds. Could I be? Could it really, really be? My Brooklyn half time was 2:13:22. Was this for real? I anxiously waited for the official results. Had I PRed? I didn’t dare hope. All I wanted to do was break my previous course time (it was 2:26:48) - that one was a given. The official gun time when I crossed the finish line was 2:17:something. Then I had secretly wanted to break 2:20 for the course. But had I outdone myself and even PR my all time best?
I actually yelped when I read the official time on the NYRR website: 2:11:59.
So yes, I PRed. I still can’t believe it. It wasn’t my goal: because the course is difficult, because I hadn’t done any speedwork, because everybody else seemed so much faster than me.
But I did it. I really, really did it. Fuck yeah, I’m so ridiculously proud of myself. Bam!
Official course map:
Can’t wait for the official race pictures. Since Grete was Norwegian, of course, there was a guy dressed up as Thor. I hope someone got a good picture of him!
I was a little disappointed though that they didn’t give out medals for this half. At least the Adidas tech shirt is really nice? O.o