02 October 2011

A Tale of Two Half Marys, Part Deux

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  I already went into the details of the disappointing Newport-Liberty Half Marathon from a week ago.  I think my reasons are satisfactory: extra sweat-soaked tank-top; hot and humid weather; cut-back training distance; and no rest the day before.  For the NYRR Grete's Great Gallop, also 13.1 miles in length, less than a week later, I made sure I wouldn't repeat the mistakes.

Lucky for me, the week after the Newport Half my son was finally assigned a bus route closer to home.  I still don't have the luxury of running in the early morning but at least I once again had time to do an 8k run.  The Newport Half was on Sunday so Monday I rested.  The rest of the week I went back to training and even had a day running up Dyker Height's hills.  Learning from my mistake, I took Friday off in preparation for the Great Gallop on Saturday.  On the day of the race, I made use of NYRR's bag check so I wouldn't have to carry anything extra.  It was cold when I left the house so I had a long compression pants, a T-shirt, and a sweater.  At the race, I removed the T-shirt and sweater to put on the race T-shirt and left them with bag check.  It was my first time using NYRR bag check and I was glad the fellow runners I asked for help were helpful.  The race bib came with a small piece of paper that was to be attached, via safety pin, to the bag.  When we take the bag back, some NYRR personnel checked the small piece of paper against our bib.  It is more secure than the airport!

The weather was in my favor, too.  A few days sure made all the difference and the day before the race it rained heavily, so on race day it was just right.  What's more, I am familiar with the race route, which was pretty much twice the inner loop of Central Park.  It was my first race in Central Park running clockwise, I think, I am not sure if that mattered.

What else could I have done to ensure a better finish time with the Great Gallop?  All these years, I always run with an empty stomach.  I get stomach cramp and other stomach troubles if I have breakfast before a run.  I stop for water or Gatorade, or whatever else given out along the race route, but nothing before, other than a sip of water.  After the Newport Half, I read more into pre-race food and energy gels.  After checking runner friends on DailyMile.com and elsewhere, I decided to give energy gels a go.  The last time I had one of them was from some NYRR race, given out along with the T-shirt and bib.  It was pretty yucky and I didn't want to ever eat them again.  The salesperson at Runner's High store near my office in Newport said it was not true and sure enough the 3 packs I got there did not taste bad at all. I cannot remember what I got now but I do recall one was mint chocolate.  I had one about fifteen before the race, then another one hour in, and finally I used the third one after another hour.  (Next time I may follow the package's schedule of 45-minute intervals during race.)  It really helped!  I felt energetic during most of the race and had a finish time of 2:28, compared to Newport's 2:42.  I am sure other factors affected the outcome of the race, too, but it is good to know that I can have food before and during the race to better take care of the body.  I already drink Gatorade, when available, during races, so having energy packages is just a convenient way to feed myself.  I need to tell myself that because deep down I have this nagging feeling that I am traveling toward chemical dependency.  Today energy gels, perhaps tomorrow it'll be human-growth hormone or steroids?  Nah, it's just food in convenient packages!

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