This was not the triumph I’d been hoping for.
I’d built this race up in my head quite a bit, convincing myself that this one would redeem last year’s injury hampered race. Despite those thoughts, I wasn’t able to train adequately. It likely wouldn’t have mattered anyway, temperatures dropped suddenly and my body never had a chance to adjust to running below-freezing yet. My left knee threw a cold-related tantrum near mile 8, tightening up and never letting go. The last few miles were something of a death march. These things happen sometimes, even with perfect training.
So why did I build this one up? After a fantastic running year in 2010, I went into 2011’s Manhattan Half with a mild foot ache and finished with a stress fracture. Probably two fractures, but the X-ray only showed one at the time. The spot where my foot gave out in 2011 has been haunting me ever since. Just past Cedar Hill behind the Met. 2012’s race was supposed to be when I confronted that demon and put it to rest.
The weather would have none of it. Saturday was the first snowstorm of the winter. Not a big storm, but cold, windy and with enough snow to mess things up a bit. Like the subway, but more on that later. NYRR switched the race to an unscored, non-competitive run; participants would get 9+1 credit whether we ran it or not. After the first lap one of the NYRR organizers was telling people to bag it at 7 miles. I didn’t. Again at 12 miles, an organizer said the last mile was too slippery and to stop early. I’d been fighting my stupid knee for too long to quit there, so again, I kept going. After two hours in a blizzard with a crap leg, this level of psychological torture was sort of existentially comical.
The race started out well, it was snowing, windy and 23° but everyone who braved the elements was in a great mood. This was my first snow run of the year, so my footwear situation was untested. This seemed like too long a run, and likely too wet, to try huaraches and socks in the snow for the first time. I ended up wearing a pair of wool Injinji socks and Soft Star DASH moccasins. The combination seemed fine, I had a similar cold knee issue a few weeks ago in huaraches, so I don’t blame the shoes.
Running in snow is hard work. At the finish I heard someone say it was like running on sand. I didn’t think it was that bad, but my heart rate was significantly elevated the whole time. Trouble sleeping the night before also didn’t help. Still, I didn’t “bonk” or run out of energy, and had my knee cooperated, I don’t think I would have.
Even after finishing with my worst Half Marathon time ever, the day just wouldn’t let up. Thanks to subway and bus troubles, I ended up finishing the morning with a 1.5 mile slog across 14th St. By the time I got home my feet were soaked, I was very cold and very tired.
But in the end, none of that mattered. It was an insane, amazing morning, and while not the triumph I was hoping for, it was a triumph nonetheless.
I’m looking forward to doing it again–and better–in 2013.
Postscript: Two days later I found myself running along the East River, no shirt, no shoes, and smiling in the sun. This has been a crazy winter.