This is hopefully the first of several race recaps we want to spotlight for the 2023 season. This entry will be longer than the future ones (excluding the NYC Marathon in November), as with this one we’re setting the groundwork by the offseason, training strategies and then race at large. Hopefully this is enjoyable either way. Thanks in advance for continued support.
On the 19th of March, on a frigid Sunday morning in Brooklyn en route to Central Park, we kicked off our personal 2023 racing and road running season.
This was my 6th overall half marathon, with the first being in October of 2021 and first 13.1 to start a season. Generally, expectations are always lower for the first race of the season, we’re still in base running condition, still need some more cycles to get back into form, we’re coming out of winter in the Northeast etc. This is especially true for me given I purposely devote a large majority of the winter offseason towards rest, and strength training. With over 20 years of experience in strength and power training, it is a discipline I’m very comfortable with and keeps me rooted. However, as a relatively new practitioner of endurance racing (<3 years), I often find these two disciplines at odds with each other. At this current phase of my life, I purposely focus on mastering and maximizing neither fully, but rather aim on staying balanced and becoming the best version of myself across all disciplines with healthy balances in other areas of life as well. That all being said, I knew I had the strength and nutrition strategy to sustain myself through the race, but knew I was too heavy overall and in the legs specfically to make great personal time (that’s for later in the season).
In addition to the aforementioned strength training during the offseason, a big focus of training this winter was on swimming drills, indoor cycling, (primarily for performance in triathlons later in the year), and zone 2 running. The Zone 2 running is aimed at building a strong endurance base that will serve for greater performance later in the year with an emphasis on our season finale and signature event the TCS 2023 New York City Marathon, November 5th 2023.
During the zone 2 trainings, we incrementally increased tonnage one mile a week from January through March while consistently aiming to get slightly faster all while staying within our zone 2 heart rate each week. This was bolstered with a lighter 45-60 minute zone 2 run and either a weekly interval run, a zone 3/4 tempo run or hill training. Our general nutrition strategy for this race and winter cycle was our standard approach of 18:6 2x meals a day intermittent fasting with minimal caloric or dietary restrictions, high protein intake. Emphasis was on maintaining body weight while focusing body recomposition for the balance needed between high strength and endurance training. During long run trainings we had heavier stomach settlings with our Honey Stinger gels so which switched to Maurten powder mixes and gels for the pre race and race day fuels as they worked more effectively without any of the added sugars and syrups needed for flavors. The week preceding the race we tapered, emphasized hydration and carb loaded.
We started as we start most any other days , with a 10 minute meditation sit followed but a light dynamic stretch session. Breakfast on races that are longer than 10 miles is usually something a bit more solid, consumed with ample time to digest; for this one we opted for eggs, toast and a banana. It was freezing on race day, with commute times hovering around 25 degrees F and race start times at 28 degrees F. The key here was to stay warm as long as possible before having to bare down for warm ups and into the corrals.
Admittedly, waiting in the corrals was taxing on the fingers, but the adrenaline and timeliness of warmups was sufficient to get us going to the start line and having our wave’s gun go off at 8:20am EDT.
With the sound of the gun we kicked everything off in Brooklyn through Prospect Park en route to the Manhattan Bridge. The first miles were quite crowed and tight as expected and the appendages were also quite numb. By Atlantic Ave, near the Barclays Center (circa mile 3 [5K]), we were in full form and fully warmed. The energy of the crowds upon exiting Prospect Park and down Atlantic Avenue was truly outstanding, especially considering these folks were standing and cheering in 20 degree weather at ~8am on a Sunday morning. The fans and supporters made the first quarter of this race truly special and thrilling.
Around the 5 mile marker we hit the the crossing to Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge and this is where I knew I wasn’t anywhere close to full season form just yet. While the breathing rates and mind was beyond capable of moving much faster, my legs were heavier than they ought to be on the uphill ascent onto the bridge. This was a common theme throughout the race, the leg muscles and their size were using too much energy on the hill ascents degrading form and overall time. While taking mental notes on areas of focus for Spring training (cough cough more hills), we kept chugging away not stopping one time during the race. One note, the views running on the bridge we’re unmatched! Upon the descent of the bridge down into Manhattan the next wave of supporters emerged providing a much needed boost around that 7 mile marker (it’s like NYRR knew what they were doing with crowd placement ;)).
Miles 7 through 9 were on the FDR drive and were relatively flat and quiet with the occasional hills but allowed for some nice tempo/pace running and great sights of the Manhattan and Queens skylines. Once we exited the FDR Drive around mile 10 and headed down 42nd street from the East River through Time Squares the magic commenced.
Even though it was just yesterday, I don’t remember much about running down 42nd except hearing the roar and the cheers of the supporters powering us through. We were all in this sort of trance, where we are obviously tired and hitting end of race thresholds but the spirit of the city wouldn’t allow any of us to slow down or fail. They guided us to mile 12 into Central Park. That was one of the most exciting 2+ miles stretches I’ve ever ran!
While mile 12 t0 13 had some supporters in the park to aid us, I hit my wall just a bit too early. It may have been the push from the crowd a mile or 2 back which accelerated my pace more than intended combined with the combination of everything mentioned earlier about the offseason and placement of the race, but whatever it was mile 12 to the finish line was one of the hardest 1.1 miles I’ve run in a road race. We then saw 800 meters to go, 400 meters to go, Mile 13, 200 meters to go! We crossed with all joy, completely satisfied, proud and truly nothing left to give but ready to build on everything for the remainder of the year.
The United Airlines NYC Half was marketed as ‘The One to Run’ and it did not disappoint. It was challenging yet invigorating. It was scenic while bustling. Despite the frigid temperatures, it was a great course and great race to start off the ’23 season and I’m so grateful to have been able to participate in it and complete it. I look forward to running it again and am excited for a great 2023 season ahead!
0 comments on “United Airlines 2023 NYC Half Marathon – New York Road Runners | Race Review”