Friday, July 15, 2016

Race Report: Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn Half Pre-Party
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half is one popular race.  The biggest half marathon in the country, with some 27,000 finishers each year, filled up in an incredible 52 minutes this year - a personal best. Last year, it took seven hours. Interest is always high because sign-up is first-come, first-served... and hopefully the NYRR servers can take it!  I last did the Brooklyn Half in 2014, as my third ever half marathon, finishing in 2:14:00 flat.  I missed it last year because I was in Portland, doing the Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half (the day after doing the Sage Rat Run in eastern Washington, and feeling SUPER sick the entire day)  I wasn't about to miss it this year, and also got a chance to add to my "9+1" roster of NYRR races, as a race to be able to run the 2017 NYC Marathon.

Too much fun at the pre-party
The course starts near the Brooklyn Museum, winds around Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park, before a long stretch down Ocean Parkway. The race ends up on the historic Coney Island boardwalk. The bib pick-up (aka the Pre-Party presented by New Balance), for the third year in a row, was on Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a beautiful venue right on the water including five acres of recreational space and sports facilities, all with amazing views of Manhattan!  However, it's a TREK to get to even with public transportation.  I went on the Thursday night before the race, meeting up with my friend and former coworker Lana, as well as Pride Run co-director Jason and fellow Broadway Barkada friend Sacha, all of us running the race this weekend.  We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the ambience of the park, the food trucks and beer, life-size scrabble tiles, as well as the great DJ playing tons of fun pop hits to dance to through the night.

My back bib!

39.3 miles for the weekend!
This was going to be my first race of a two race weekend.  Like a month and a half earlier, I was going to do the elusive half/full weekend combo, running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half on Saturday, and then get on a plane to the midwest to run the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Sunday.  I even made a custom back bib, complete with my made up hashtag, #BK2GREENBAY, which I wore to both races!

With some Front Runners, pre-race
On Saturday morning, I met up with two other Jackson Heights based Front Runners, and we shared an Uber to Brooklyn to get to the start area for the race on Eastern Parkway in front of the Brooklyn Museum.  Traffic was drama free and we got there with ample time for the other two, who were in the first wave, to get through security and get through all their pre-race essentials.  What's great about the large NYRR races is that there are TONS of portapotties, and they put them inside the corrals, and also have a very efficient security screening.  While I had quite a bit of time before my wave was to start (45 minutes separated Wave 1 start at 7am and Wave 2 start at 7:45am) everything went quite smoothly.  Wave 1's security entrance was at Franklin Avenue, and Wave 2's entrance was about a half mile away at Underhill Avenue.  Think about it -- a half mile of road closed off JUST for corrals alone... that is massive.

Purse first, purse first. Running to the beach, #pursefirst!
Sacha and I posing our faces
off before the race
At 7am, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and the wave 1 runners went off, heading southward on Washington Avenue.  It took about all of 40 minutes to get all of those runners out and onto the course before Wave 2 had our own patriotic song singer, and then went off, and with me back in corral E, we got out at 7:50.  Sacha had joined me in my corral, and we vowed to run together as much as we could for the race to help each other pace. I was outfitted with my Ultimate Ears portable speaker, and I was about to make this a PR we'd never forget...a PARTY RUN!  We hit the pavement running down Washington Avenue with some great beats, and fellow runners seemingly appreciating the "ambience."  We began with a fair 9:27 mile, heading toward Empire Boulevard, and made our way around to Flatbush, where we began an out and back that would take us around Grand Army Plaza, and then back down Flatbush toward Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenue.  Up near Grand Army, I was able to find my good friend Molly, with her son Kingston, enjoying the race. The next two miles, as we made our way to the south end of the park, went by like a blur, still knocking out sub-10 minute miles, and then we headed into Prospect Park from the southwest.

With Run Selfie Repeat
blogger, Kelly Roberts!
The loop of Prospect Park is just a little over 5K, but also has a pretty tough hill, as we run counterclockwise heading to the northeast corner of the park.  It lasts for a good half mile (maybe even more?) and you definitely feel it after a few miles of flat elevation running. Right as we began the hill, as if with perfect timing, "My Shot" from the musical Hamilton came up on my playlist, which has a befitting cadence for running.  And of course, it's themes related to perseverance and New York City were apt for this race.  Lots of fellow runners were familiar with the song, and ran right along to the perfect running beat, including Instagram celebrity and "Run, Selfie, Repeat" blogger Kelly Roberts, who I ended up meeting as we conquered Prospect Park's nasty northeast hill.

Finding Kendra in Prospect Park!
What a relief it was to take the steady downhill as we ran down the park's west and southwest sides.  Just after the hill as we went downhill, I found my friend Kendra, who was in charge of a group of volunteers at the mile 6 water station! As we made our way down the road, and exited the park back at the place we had initially entered, crazily enough, lots of people were STILL just entering the park - meaning these people had started as much as 30 minutes after Sacha and I had!  As we exited the park (by this point, mile 7 of the race), we took the downhill ramp onto Ocean Parkway, and began our steady slog all the way down to Coney Island for the next 6.1 miles.  Sacha and I decided to go on a steady 9 minute run, 1 minute walk interval to the end, and careful to not overexert over this super flat section of the course.  I wish there was more to say about these six miles, but there wasn't, as the run all the way down to Coney Island is fairly boring, save for the Hatzalah (the volunteer ambulance run by the Hasidic Jewish community, largely present in the southern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Kensington, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay) needing to make its way across Ocean Parkway at one point.

Sacha giving face down Ocean Ave!
We hit the last mile, and Sacha picked up the pace a little bit as we went underneath the Belt Parkway. I had to remind her that this wasn't my only race of the weekend -- only a mere five hours later, I needed to haul ass to JFK to get to a flight to O'Hare to connect to Green Bay, and run the Green Bay Marathon the next day!    We curved down around Surf Avenue, and made our way down the last little stretch of asphalt, before taking the slight uphill ramp (and the crowding... ugh) before making our way onto the boardwalk.  Sacha stayed right by my side, and we crossed the finish line hand in hand, in 2:12:18, a new PR for me out of my six half marathons run in New York, by 1 minute and 42 seconds!

Bling well-deserved!
Victory Headstand!
Bling photo in front of Nathan's!!

Yum, hot dog!
We took lots of post race pictures, including my customary headstand photo (right on the boardwalk!), and then spent a good half hour trying to find the Front Runners post-race party at a bar that had changed its name, just around the corner from the finish party at MCU Park.  I also ran into my friend Josie, who was supposed to run the Brooklyn Half, but got injured earlier in the week, but still came down to Coney Island to meet up with friends running the race.  I got together with some of my fellow club members, ate a Nathan's hot dog (also customary!), and then headed right back to Queens to shower and pack up for my trip to Green Bay!

Official photo by GameFace Media. Victory!!!  With exhaustion all around us, lol!!

Official photo by GameFace Media. High-five, friend!

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