It was the worst of times, it was the best of times. OK, enough with the attempt to parody Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. Two weekends in a row I had a half-marathon each weekend. In one I did bad and in the other I did better than I thought I could. Conditions are not the same, but there are factors that affected the outcomes.
This past Sunday (September 25) I ran in the Newport-Liberty Half Marathon (N-LHM). I work in the area for maybe 6 years, not consecutively, but that's still a big chunk of time. Only in recent months that I decided to explore the area near the office, during lunch breaks. There is only so much time to explore, on foot, as I don't drive to work. Exploring is best done on foot. I always want to find out how to get to Liberty State Park from where I work, near the exit of the Holland Tunnel. I also want to run along the Newport waterfront. I often walk there during lunch breaks but never have the opportunity to run.
Unlike the typical NYRR races for which people can pick up bibs and T-shirts two days ahead of the event, for the N-LHM you need to do that on the day of the race. I pre-registered so I got my bib and T-shirt fairly quickly. I had no plan to check a bag so I wore a tank-top to the race then just added the race T-shirt on top. It was Mistake #1. It turned out to be a hot and humid day. I sweat easily and the two layers of shirt simply kept all the sweat on me and weighed me down. Only by Mile #5 or so that I had the brain to remove the inside and wrapped the tank-top around a hand, much like tapes on a boxer's fist. If I checked bag I would have wasted a great deal of time. The line was so long! The same goes for the bathroom line. Instead of having multiple lines going to the multiple portable johns, there were just two lines that snaked around the small street.
It was a good thing that I already explored the Hoboken area adjacent to Newport, via the somewhat recently opened waterfront connecting the two cities. The route according to the official web site for the N-LHM showed a short excursion into Hoboken but in reality we didn't even go past the rail yard. We went as far as just past Target and back we went on Washington Boulevard. The part of the short excursion that we would go has not much to show anyway. If the route was to include the waterfront then that's something else, but I suppose there were too many runners to squeeze through the construction area for some new condo and park, as well as the Hoboken transit hub.
It seemed like forever to see any mile marker. I think the tall buildings along Washington helped block out the sun somewhat but once we turned into Grand Street there was no shade. At some point we turned left and eventually ended up in Liberty State Park (LSP). It was indeed nice there but again we were pretty much out in the sun, roasting away. From looking at maps, I know that there is a bridge from the mainland to Ellis Island and at the end of Freedom Way I thought we somehow got onto Ellis Island. Silly me, it was a long way to go before we would pass by the bridge. I like it how the bridge/pier allows people easy access to sea-breeze while keeping some wild areas undisturbed. I can imagine myself running in LSP frequently if I live in the area. There were few photographers for the event but one or two were stationed near the bridge to Ellis Island, to capture the runners with the Statue of Liberty in the background. It really is the back of Lady Liberty but it still makes a nice background. Runners pass the photographers on the way to a U-turn so on the way back they knew ahead that they were there. I put on a determined face for the camera then slouched right afterward.
The hot and humid weather, plus the soaked tank-top, all worked against me. The day before, having to choose between (a) dying of ennui while some females relatives shopped, or (b) running at Marine Park, I chose the latter. Looking back, I think it was an unwise decision. I should have just walked instead. Since the beginning of September, when my son went back to school, he had to take a yellow bus to school. His new school schedule interfered with my running schedule, which is early morning. I used to run then rushed home to drag him out of bed then we walked to school, mere minutes away. Now I have a smaller window and can only run after he see him off on the bus. Instead of the usual 8 km each morning I was doing only 4 km or less. Running more on the day before the Newport Half did not help. Shortly after the start, my left shoulder ached and I couldn't maintain my normal running form. I had to walk more often or let the left arm droop. While the legs do most of the work during a foot race, the other parts of the body matters too.
Two hours and forty-two minutes was my finish time for the Newport-Liberty Half Marathon. The last time I spend 2:40ish for a Half Mary was for the Queens Half, when it was much hotter, in the middle of July. Before that it was the ill-fated St. Louis Marathon 2011 that for me turned into a Half Marathon. In the midst of confusion, I traveled a part of the route twice, once because I was diverted then the second time to confirm that the Full Mary was already cancelled. I would like to think that the more I run the better I would get, but the N-LHM indicated otherwise. The shorter, daily runs probably played a big role, then the extra piece of clothes, the unfriendly weather, and the lack of rest on the day before the race together really ruined it.
I am happy to report that for the NYRR Grete's Great Gallop (13.1 miles, October 1, 2011), my finish time was 2:28. Conditions are definitely different than last Sunday, but I will into those details later.