The Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon was held entirely in Central Park (course map) on Sunday, December 8th 2013. This was my third half marathon but my first in New York, which made the entire experience feel fresh and new all over again.
I didn’t have high hopes for this race because I was battling a killer cold, but an unexpected visitor showed up at my door on Saturday evening and completely changed my outlook.
I had absolutely zero idea my mom was scheming away with this little surprise! It was by far one of the best surprises I’ve ever received. My mom has always been my ultimate running supporter and she wanted to be there for my first major race in New York. I love you, Mom!!!
The two of us hung out at night and planned her viewing spots for the race. There would be two races done in parallel (Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon and the Ekiden Relay) so we made sure she would observe the right one. I also did my best at carbo-loading for the race. In all honesty, I didn’t consume as many carbs as I thought I should’ve so I was a bit worried. I also ate a massive salad for lunch and started worrying about stomach problems on race day. Luckily, there were none.
I had the hardest time falling asleep…I’m pretty sure I drifted off only around 3AM. My alarm rang at 6:30AM and I crawled out of bed to start my morning. My congestion went away the day before but the hacking cough persisted through the morning. Overall, I felt fine and ignored the cough knowing from experience that it likely wouldn’t bother me while running.
(Breakfast: vegan buckwheat waffle + coffee)
I still had no idea what my race day outfit would be, but I chose thick tights and two top layers after checking the weather report and seeing it would be a measly 32°F.
(Wearing: Lululemon Wunder Unders, CEP compression sleeves under the tights, Lulu Run Swiftly tee, Lulu zip-up with finger covers, headband/ear warmer, Buff Wool Buff face protector, Brooks PureCadence 2’s, Garmin Forerunner 305. I also brought a small water bottle and held it in my hand the entire run.)
It was cold! Luckily, I was able to stay in my coat until ten minutes before the race started (my mom took it after). Central Park was beautiful as always, even with the bare trees and freezing temps. The runners gathered at the start line (no corrals) and we were off at 9AM sharp!
Miles 1 – 3
I was happy to see that my legs felt great as soon as I crossed the start line. I initially had to weave around the small crowd but we quickly dispersed and I attempted to fall into a steady pace. My mom greeted me with a happy scream and a wave around the 1 mile mark, which immediately boosted my mood. The first mile clicked at 9:14 mins and my pace continued to hover above the 9 min mark which, to my frustration, felt tough. Although I didn’t quite officially set the goal for a sub-2hr half, I wanted to keep the option open as the race progressed. I took my first Shot Blok (only half of one) around 3 miles and continued to take them, half a block at a time, every 2 miles ← this fueling strategy worked so well for me!
Miles 4 – 6
Right around this point I suddenly had a weird feeling in my right glute (i.e. my bum). It was a feeling I’ve never experienced before and had no idea what to think. There was no pain or pulling – the muscle simply felt noticeable, if that makes any sense. When I would press on the spot the sensation would disappear. It was so odd! I also battled with numb fingers and toes the first three miles but my body finally warmed up about 30 minutes into the run and I was able to remove my gloves and face cover (I was never cold during the race though). At mile 5 we hit the dreaded Harlem Hills and I pushed through without much problem. I finally saw my mom at the halfway point and told her in passing that we would see each other again in an hour.
Miles 7 – 9
The weird feeling in my right glute eventually went away I continued to fuel with half a Shot Blok every 2 miles. Right around the 8 mile mark my motivation wavered and I sincerely felt like stopping. This was my first mental roadblock in the race and I was glad it didn’t come any earlier. I thought about my mom, who flew all the way from Chicago to stand in the cold and cheer me on, and it immediately got the negative thoughts in check. I was running this race for her! My right ankle suddenly started hurting 9 miles in but nothing was going to stop me at this point.
Miles 10 – 11
The 10 mile mark has always been my “final stretch” moment. Reaching double digits and the thought of only a 5K remaining always light a fire under me. We hit the small yet challenging hills on the west side of the park and I actually started passing people! I ran past the official finish line after ticking off 11 miles and once again saw my mom waiting for me to finish. Gosh I adore her!
Miles 12 – 13.1
Tough tough tough! All I wanted to do was stop when I hit the 12 mile mark. Every tiny bump in the road felt like a mountain and I was running on empty at this point. Somehow, these last two miles ended up being my fastest…probably because I wanted to finish so badly! I finally let my mind accept the reality that I would finish in under 2 hours unless I really slowed down, so the stress was off. With only half a mile to go, I looked down at my watch and decided to aim for an actual finish time: 1:55 or less.
I sprinted with whatever energy I had left and crossed the finish line with a smile on my face. This was a race that I actually raced and my body felt it – I had nothing left in me at the end…I gave it my all and got a 9.5 minute PR in return!
Final Time: 1:54:38 (8:45 min/mile pace)
Age Division (20-29): 65/219
I immediately hugged my freezing mom and we walked (I hobbled) to the finisher’s area to grab some post-race goodies:
My legs hurt hardcore but I knew the pain was just soreness and not injury-related. I had just finished my first half marathon in New York City and felt phenomenal! Although I skipped out on the 0.5 mile walk home and took a cab with my mom instead…ha!
– Race location: the race took place completely in Central Park, which is beautiful basically all year-round. This race is perfect for visitors and out-of-towners who want to experience Central Park and all its glory.
– Race route: the race features three loops, all ranging in size, which is very convenient for observers.
– Size: both races combined only had about 1,500 runners total, making it easy to avoid getting trapped in large crowds.
– Post-race goodies: I’ve never seen fruit (strawberries/blueberries/apples) given out at a race and this was a welcomed change.
– Admission: the race only cost me $45 dollars and included a great long-sleeved tech tee.
– Confusing race route: since there were two races happening at once, both with different routes/turns, many people were highly confused as to where they needed to go. I studied the race route in advance and was familiar with Central Park in general so I had no issues, but I can easily see how newcomers got confused.
– No fuel along the course: I didn’t mind this at all since I brought my own, but I can see how others may get frustrated with this. There were a few water/Gatorade stops along the way but I also didn’t pay close attention to them since I carried my own water bottle.
– Sharing the road with non-racers: it’s obviously impossible to shut down all of Central Park for a small race, but at times I did get annoyed at the random walkers and horse carriages that shared the road with me.
Will I do this race again? Absolutely. It was a simple, stress-free race that was conveniently located in my favorite part of Manhattan (and near my apartment). The race fee is one of the cheapest I’ve come across (a rarity in New York) and it comes with a finisher’s medal! Only the weather is the true gamble here given that it’s a winter race, but I’ll take my chances and you should too!