Unite Half Marathon – April 21, 2013

I write this report almost 3 weeks after the race, for two reasons:

1) It’s my first post, and I want to get familiar with this high tech modern internet stuff before getting into the Bear Mountain race report
2) It was a pretty decent race, and I want to include it in this book of memories because this race is the anniversary of my running experience in the US

Starting from the very beginning: Spetember 2009.
At that time I was still living in JC, working between NJ and NY, busting my butt for 14, 16-sometimes even more-hours a day at work and pretty much coming home exhausted with no energy. I was accostumed to a sedentary life spent between the workplace and the bedroom, completely sucked into the work routine.
That’s when I found myself thinking about changing something and decided to become more active. Without even thinking too much I got an used treadmill and started running 20 minutes a day to get in better shape. Thinking back this was such a terrible idea: I hated running long distances since middle school and always hated running inside a gym.

So why did I buy a treadmill?
Good question.
I have no answer.

On the other side, I also got hooked up with a football (the real football: soccer) team and played some indoor tournaments around NJ. I had a good training regiment, sometimes playing games at 11pm, waking up at 5am the next day, going to work till 7-8pm and then training again for an hour or so in the evening.
I started to feel young again. I felt I was picking up where I left off years before when playing football with my old mates in Italy.
And January 2010. My old boss mentioned the opportunity to run a half marathon in Jersey and the idea was interesting. I got excited and signed up immediately, without knowing anything about running or anything about training, the plan was the same old I had from middle school and high school: play soccer, and run cross country races, having fun winning the events.

Too bad that the first week of march while playing the final for the 3rd place I got sent to the hospital with breathing difficulties, a bruised and swollen leg, and a half broken ribcage. Just the normal aftermath of playing soccer with the yankees.
What could I do now? The Doctor gave me pain killers and patches and told me to rest for a month. The pain slowly went away one week after the other.

With one week to go, during the first week of April, I felt decent but absolutely not ready to undertake the epic task of a HALF MARATHON. I did not want to show up.
My boss once again jumped in and convinced me to run. So that week I run 4 miles on Tuesday, 4 miles on Thursday and 4 miles on Friday. Average pace was probably around 8min/mile or a bit slower.

Sunday morning was around the corner and after picking up the bib on Friday, I showed up in Piscataway early morning on Sunday. Ran the race, and finished my first experience with running. I will write another post soon about this race, with more details, and more insight.
Bottom line: I completed the race, in a terribly slow pace, and with huge blisters that basically stopped me the last mile and a half. However, I felt like the greatest person in the world that day.

In retrospect it was really a weekend warrior moment, but I was so inexperienced and such an amateur as a runner, that I did not care too much. I conquered glory that day.
And I acquired a passion, a desire to master the distance; I wanted to live again the feelings I had through the race.
That’s why I started running, and that is still one of the reasons why I still do it.
Also, there is an unresolved issue with my old boss: I want to do this race over and over and over to kick his butt. Yogurt has got nobody to protect him here. No yogurt no party!

Fast forward 3 years and I run my 4th Unite Half Marathon. I came in with a decent preparation, tried Sebastien’s workouts for the “pre-race week” and they did work well, given the final result. The only complain was a sudden cold that did not allow me to breathe well, and even Thursday evening during the Tempo with Sebastien and Emiliano I was lacking some oxygen.
Michelle and I picked up the bibs on Saturday after running with Pascal in Central Park and took some pictures at the expo, a consolidated routine we perform every year. This is a very important race for her as well, since it marks her debut race in 2011.

After running with Pascal and Michelle we drove to NJ to pick up the Bibs.

After running with Pascal and Michelle we drove to NJ to pick up the Bibs.

Practicing the hawk, trademark of KJ and CA

Practicing the hawk, trademark of KJ and CA

Sunday morning we left early and headed back to Jersey from Yonkers. As usual we played a bit on the Turnpike, checking the cars we were passing or those that were passing us: were the people in those cars coming to our race? Were they our competitors? what do they look like? Strong? Well, in almost no time we got to Rutgers’ Campus, parked and got ready. Warmed up for 10-15 minutes after dropping off our bags and then….

The gun went off. There were a couple of serious faces in the front (and I knew the winner from the previous year, Demese Tefera, was back…WSX came back for some cash, evidentely), a few people that did not belong there, and a few good runners. I moved up a bit approx 6-7 feet from the start line. As usual I prefer to be sligthly back from the lead. There is no reason to show off in the first quarter mile.
In about half a mile it was clear that there were a handful of people headed for a sub 1:15 and another handful running for a sub 1:20. The rest was far back. I was not too worried about the pace or the position. I wanted to do an honest effort, but I also needed to save my body for Bear Mountain, so I was surprised to see that my pace was around 5:40 to 5:50 for the first couple of miles.
I was not pushing it, but I worked well in sync with another younger fellow and little by little we started picking up some runners that went off way too fast.
By mile 5 I counted I had 10-11 people ahead of us, and at that point the top 10 clearly became a goal. The sun came out and the temperature was now raising. I tried to hydrate myself properly conscious that this was not the race I wanted to give my best, but for some reason I could not pick up water or gatorade at the aid stations.
Volunteers were handing off the cups and it is so complicated to grab them from their hands.
So I did not drink too much during the race; maybe a cup total, no more.

Working with younger fellow runner along the course

Working with younger fellow runner along the course

Mile 7 to 8 was pretty refreshing, because it gave me the chance to see how far behind from the lead I was since we were approaching the first U turn: about 4 min from WXS and about 3 from the podium.
I got an accurate count of other runners and figured out I was in 10th position. That was good. Top 10 was the goal and I was going to make it. After the U turn I noticed that also the runners behind us were gasping and there was no need to push further. All I needed to do was locking a comfortable pace and bring home this precious morale booster for Bear Mountain.
And so I did, getting more confidence at mile 10 when approaching the second U turn of the race: I made sure to count again and confirm the 10th position, and noticed the gap from the podium did not change; actually from 4th to 8th spot I actually gained a few seconds. In other circumstances I might have tried to push a little more to catch a few extra positions, but not today. This was a test, not a race.

Along the course, final miles of this sunny Sunday morning

Along the course, final miles of this sunny Sunday morning

At mile 12 when we entered Buccleuch Park I lost contact with the guy that ran with me the entire race. I was looking around and almost missed a right turn. Well, he was gone and gained about 10 seconds that I never recovered. Not a problem: I did not even sprint in the final stretch, I was already happy with the performance.
I grabbed a bottle of water, and walked around the barriers to wait for Michelle along the final stretch.
She came soon after with a great PR even if running with no training in the last week due to the knee pain from the fall that occurred while training in Bear and with the fear of aggravating the injury. 1:30:52. Great time, 10th female, and a new Goggin’s family leadership regained. Bud (the Kid) needs to catch up now.

Michelle running through the finish line

Michelle running through the finish line

We were about to leave to go home, but decided to stick around for the award ceremony, cause we thought we were in the top three age group.
It took forever for the ceremony to start, then Michelle got her award for 3rd age group, so BIG CELEBRATION. Then they called my age group and I started to walk forward through the small crowd, thinking that I was in second place.

They called the third, then the second, and it wasn’t me. I felt almost embarrased that I was stepping forward. Ahahaha. I thought: damn, did I finish 4th in the age group? They they called my name and realized I was in first place.
Such a nice feeling. I got also a chance to perform the hawk on the podium.

Great day, great results, and nice feelings before the Bear!!!! the 50 is awaiting


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