Wishin’ and Hopin’ at Henry’s Hope Verrazano Festival of Races Half Marathon

Henry's HopeName of the raceHenry’s Hope Verrazano Festival of Races Half Marathon

Where: Shore Road Park Pier, Shore Rd & 69th St., Brooklyn, NY

Date: April 26, 2014

Time: 8:00 am (delayed to 8:30 am)

Distance: 13.1 miles

Terrain: Flat

Entry fee: $35 til 3/30, $40 til 4/13, and $50 afterward

Swag: Technical singlet

Post-race Food: Apples, EXCELLENT bagels with cream cheese and butter, water and Gatorade

Time: 1:49:54

Performance:Overall 90/264; Gender 23/134; Age (F 30-39) 11/46

Weather: 48 F, with 15 mph winds

The Verrazano Festival of Races (half marathon, 10K and 5K) was in memory of Henry Rodriguez, who passed away because of esophageal cancer. The purpose of the event was to raise money to fight against esophageal cancer and to raise awareness (Did you know that constant heartburn is a symptom of esophageal cancer?). Ben and I had done this race last year (when it was simply the Verrazano Festival of Races) and we thought this would be a nice tune-up for the Brooklyn Half Marathon in mid-May.

We got a couple people to join us, Nell (from our running group) and one of Ben’s co-workers, S. S. is a runner, but he had never ran in a race before and never ran this long of a distance. Ben convinced him to do a race because 1) races have fun atmospheres and 2) people tend to run better in races because of the adrenaline rush. He agreed to come out and spent several weeks seriously putting in the time to train for a good half marathon time. Because we’re all naturally competitive people, S. and I jokingly decided to “race” each other. Ben gave me updates on S.’s training, which I futilely tried to use as an incentive to increase my training (sometimes I am so lazy).

We drove from Jersey City to Brooklyn, which was a quick drive because of  the lack of traffic on an early Saturday morning. Nell was a little concerned the race set up, but I reassured her about the easy bib pick up, the number of port-o-potties, etc. Ben and I have done several races by NYCRuns and we really like their races. They’re a small and low-key race company. I love the small feel of their races, how well organized they are, how easy the bib pick ups and bag drop offs are, and how cheap the races are. So imagine my surprise, when we arrived and we realized there was exactly one port-o-potty for over 200 people.

Yeah, the line was epic-ly long.

NYCRuns had to delay the race to wait for the arrival of their port-o-potties. Once the port-o-potties arrives and the runners rushed in and out, we were ready to start. The race started at 8:30, which was a mildly annoying, but really I’d rather have the delay and be able to use the facility, than start the race promptly. I don’t know what happened exactly with the port-o-potties, but it’s never happened before.

Verrazano HMMy main goal for this race was to run at an 8:15 pace. (1:48 total time). I knew the winds would make pacing a bit tricky. The course consists of two loops – a smaller loop of about 5 miles, and a longer loop of about 8 miles. During the outbound part of the loop, you get the benefit of a tailwind. During the inward part of the loop, you get a headwind. I decided to run the first loop at a 8:15 pace, run faster than 8:15 on the outward part of the larger second loop, and do the best I could to run as close as possible to 8:15 for the last few miles to the finish line. The other fun goal I had was to beat S.

Nell and I started in the middle of the pack because I didn’t want to get carried away with the front runners. Nell intended to run a sub 1:47 HM, so I didn’t bother trying to run with her in the beginning. I let her run off in front of me. I had no idea where S. was. I just knew he started in the front with Ben, so I figured since I didn’t see him, it meant that he was off running really fast. I anticipated that I would eventually catch him later.

In a race, I like to find runners who are running at my target pace. I use them as pace bunnies. I hopped from one runner to another until I found someone I liked (in terms of pacing). When I find that person, I stick to them. If that runner is going too fast or too slow, I dropped them and eye another racer as a potential pace bunny. The first couple of miles I was busy trying to find a pace bunny and eventually I settled on a guy. Around Mile 3, I noticed S in front of me, waaaay in front of me. But I also noticed that I was slowly gaining ground on him. I didn’t allow myself to get too excited about catching up to S. I told myself to focus, to run at my target pace, which would allow me to slowly catch up to S. I caught up to S right at the turn around point for completing the first loop and we were now heading back out for the second loop. I ran right next to S and stuck next to him until he noticed me. When he realized that the little runner next to him wasn’t leaving his side, he turned his head and saw me. I waved hi and then dashed off! I slowed a bit to run next to S and I wanted to catch up to my self-designated pace bunny. I followed my pace bunny until around Mile 6, where he went off to the side of the road to give his girlfriend/friend/wife/someone his running jacket and everything else he wanted to ditch. ARGH! I lost my pace bunny. I didn’t want to wait for him, so I had to find another one. I wasn’t able to find another one, so I ran on my own.

While the Shoreline pathway is really really flat, in some ways it’s a tough course. When the sun is out, it can get really hot out there because there’s absolutely no shade. NYCRuns could have another water station out on the course between Mile 6 and Mile 9. I run with my Simple Hydration bottle, so I wasn’t hurting for water, but I know other runners were, especially because the race was delayed, so we experienced more of the sun out on the race course than if we had started earlier.

The other way that this was a tough race was the rather strong wind. The tailwind outbound was nice, but I lost a lot of speed running into a strong headwind inbound. I actually tried to draft to minimize the impact the wind had on my running. Unfortunately there weren’t many runners around me to draft off and the wind wasn’t coming at us straight head on, but at an angle. Even when I was drafting, I was still getting a fair amount of headwind pushing against me. I did my best to run at my intended target pace, but I just couldn’t do it. It was too hard. I ran close to a 9:00 pace when I ran by myself. I desperately wanted to run even slower, but I reminded myself that I was “tired, but not in pain.” This mantra kept me going and pushing myself. A couple male runners caught up to me and I tried to use them to draft and to pace me because they were running about an 8:30 pace. I told myself to just cling onto to them. I ran with them for about a half mile, but then I was forced to let them go because I got a searing side stitch. It was so bad that I almost walked. I rubbed my side, slowed down, and unhappily watched the pair of male runners get farther and farther ahead of me. I didn’t know what else to do. When the pain subsided, I picked up my pace to the best of my ability. I stared at various landmarks ahead of me and arbitrarily picked one. I focused on the landmark and ran to it as fast as I could manage (which wasn’t that fast with the wind and side stitch). I kept this going until I saw the finish line, where I then ran as fast I could.

My final time was 1:49:54, which is a few seconds off my PR that I set at Wineglass last October. Once I looked at my mile splits, I was happy with my race. For the most part I ran at the pace I wanted to. I slowed considerably in the last few miles because I was fighting a strong head wind.

Nell ran a great race. She got a new PR. S. had a good time. He was having a good race until the last mile, where he popped his knee. He felt some pain, but was fine, so he finished the race. Ben took it easy for this race and treated it as a long run for BK. We ate some bagels and hung out together after the race for a bit. Overall, another good race and good time with friends.

Mile splits

  1. 8:08
  2. 8:10
  3. 8:05
  4. 8:14
  5. 8:19
  6. 8:10
  7. 8:11
  8. 8:10
  9. 8:15
  10. 8:29
  11. 8:40
  12. 8:49
  13. 8:49
  14. 7:52 (for .1 mile)

As you can see from my splits, I ran the pace I wanted to run until Mile 10. You experience the headwind again right after Mile 9, and you can see the effect that the wind (and fatigue) played on my mile splits.

16 thoughts on “Wishin’ and Hopin’ at Henry’s Hope Verrazano Festival of Races Half Marathon

  1. Good race! That’s a good time considering the headwind and side stitch. I hate headwinds. There really isn’t much you can do about them, but do your best and not expect super fast times. That’s funny about the port-o-potties, sort of. At least more arrived eventually.

  2. Great job! Finishing a few seconds off your PR and with a headwind? Awesome! I know a lot of people who’ve run various races on that course–the wind can be killer. Funny about the port-o-potties. The same thing happened at the first Brooklyn Half. The port-o-potties were late. But I love the NYCRUNS post-race spread. Bagels WITH cream cheese? Now there’s a thought!

    • Sometimes I think I do their races just for the bagels.

      The wind tends to blow hard on that course. The first time we did that course, the wind was calmer. The last two times, the wind was a major factor.

    • Hahahaha, I’m willing to shill out a few more bucks to have a few more port-o-potties. I think the company that delivered them messed up or got caught up in traffic. Racing is fun, but racing with friends is even more fun.

  3. That’s a great pace! The headwinds definitely made it harder on the way back – I didn’t keep track of my splits (such a rookie over here!) but I’m pretty sure they were slower on the way in. Love your recap of the porta potty situation…WHAT a mess! I’m so glad to have come upon your blog & looking forward to reading about your races – maybe I’ll see you at another race someday!

  4. Ahhh what a lame bathroom situation!! I’m glad they got that all figured out. GREAT job out there and I absolutely love your pace bunny race strategy. I used that a little bit in my race last weekend and I think I’ll need to do that again for my marathon. Besides keeping you well-paced, it sounds like it creates kind of a nice distraction to pass the miles!

  5. Congratulations! I like NYCRuns, too. They are a more intimate alternative to NYRR. And I’ve run that course before. On a good day, it can be a nice PR, but on a bad day, it can be borderline torturous. For me, the repetitive scenery gets old pretty quickly.

    I’m running Brooklyn, too. It should be fun!

    • I’m really looking forward to BK. It’s one of my favorites. Good luck!~

      The course right by the Verrazano Bridge is not as PR-friendly as the NYCRuns description makes it out to be. I’ve had fun there, but I think I’m a little tired of the wind and the repetitive scenery as you put it.

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