Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Ocean Parkway Problem

In looking at other postings, and looking at my own experience on the day (which I'll eventually get about to writing), Ocean Parkway, from miles 8-10 (or 8-11) was among the toughest miles of the Brooklyn Half, even though it was essentially flat.

Perhaps I'm extrapolating a bit from experiences, but it wasn't so much the physical challenge as it was the mental effort. Ocean Parkway, is, well, boring. (I contrast this with the Wall Street Run, which took place earlier this month, where much time is spent preparing for the next hairpin turn, or dodging the oblivious Wall Streeter who is intent in crossing the street.)

There was a slight, slight downhill, there was a slight, slight uphill, there was a slight, slight downhill and it was, well, boring. (And it was hot, and it didn't seem to end, and the alphabet wasn't all that interesting and ....) It's not until the road curves near Avenue Z and the you can see the end somewhat in sight that it becomes ... a race again. I spent a lot of time looking at other people, regardless of sex, quite frankly ... .

It's not a physically difficult stretch, but coming at a point in the race when you're already mentally fatigued ... yeah, I can understand. (And I'd argue that when the race went the other way, you were still mentally fresh enough to cope with it, though the Prospect Park hills have their own problem).

If NYRR keeps the route for this race in this fashion, I've got a suggestion, however, on how to train for it.

Start in Prospect Park (anywhere) and then run down Ocean Parkway ... alone. Hit the water fountains (if they're working) at Coney Island, maybe even do some mileage on the boardwalk.

Then, run back. Alone. (Maybe the first time you try this run, you do it with people. But the second time. By yourself.) You'll probably hate it. But it's good for you (kind of like the medicine my wife and I are trying to convince my daughter to take right now).

In looking back at my training logs, I look at the language of how I've described the run back, especially when I've either separated from the group or am doing it by myself. I can think of a couple successful runs. Most of them have been a slog. (That sucked!!! is a favorite phrase that recurs). A friend of mine said he would pick up the pace on the way back, simply to get it over with.

(BTW, bring water. Yes, there are bodegas on the side streets, and one park, but water is missing, except for a local hospital).

It's a mental challenge. Combine that with the physical training, and it may work. Any others have suggestions?


Anonymous said...

Interesting that I read this today. I ran the parkway yesterday for the first time. My wife enjoyed the sun in Prospect Park while I made my way to Coney Island and back. So, I didn't want to keep her waiting too long. Lotsa luck, I learned, as it's a boring straight stretch and the stops are nearly unbearble. Seriously, every 1/4 mile is another red light. I got to the ocean and thought, hey, this is pretty cool. Only to find that I had that long, boring, frustrating run back. I tried to run faster just to get it over, but couldn't quite get into a rhythm. The only way I'm doing that again is if we're headed to the beach for the day. Run out, enjoy the sun, run back.

NYC Free Concerts said...

This was my first Brooklyn half marathon. It is something I will never forget. I had overslept and arrived at Prospect Park at 7:50 AM. There was so much chaos! I loved it. Ocean Parkway was a killer. I tripped a couple of times on bumps and ruts. Running on the boardwalk at the end didn't help. Anyway. I can't wait for next year!

Samantha said...

As the Anon person said, if you are running down OP on a nonrace day, you will invariably get stuck at so many lights on your way down, or back. I have run down OP many times, but all of those times I had music, and it was never too bad for me. I did 10 miles on OP a week before the Half, and I ran it with a friend so it wasn't so bad. I think if I had some other people to talk to (though, THANK YOU to the random guy at mile 11 that told me "You can do it!! Only two miles left!!!") it wouldn't have been so bad.

Brett said...

I think the closest training would be to run a treadmill with your eyes closed or staring at a wall.

The funny thing was I made pretty good time for most of Ocean Parkway so maybe it helped me focus. And looking back on it, it was just as much a challenge as the hills in Prospect Park. I'll bring an iPod next year!

ChickenUnderwear said...

I got into the zen of running on Ocean Parkway.

In my mind I was an Olympic Marathon runner and did not concern myself with lack of scenery or cheering crowds. I just focused on running.

Or I was dehydrated.

Michelle said...

I just focused on getting past all the boringness so that I could get a glimpse of the boardwalk.

Yes, running OP is boring. There is really no getting around that. It feels never ending. Even watching the Avenue's going up up up just wasn't working.

Still, I had a blast!!!

Lizz said...

Ha, I feel like I now have permission to admit that OP was horrible for me and definitely the hardest part of this race, also my first half marathon.

Zoo hill had nothing on that long, drab stretch of concrete, and it totally got the best of me: I was able to make it without stopping until mile 11, when my knee started screaming at me and exhaustion set in. I made the decision to walk that whole mile so I could run all of the last mile, in retrospect, a dumb move. I did run all of mile 12 to the finish, but at that point I had at least a full ten minutes tacked on to my target time. Finished in two hours and forty-six minutes. Blah. Oh well, could have been worse. And I still had a blast, despite it all.

Good job, everyone!

Kristan said...

This was my first Brooklyn half and my first half marathon ever and Ocean Parkway was a tough. The only thing to look forward to was each mile marker and the next water station. I had not run down Ocean Parkway prior to race day, and in a way I wish I had, just to understand how truly boring it was.

Still the race was a lot of fun! Once I got out of the mental funk that was the first 2 miles on the road and realized that counting down the lettered streets was not going to hold my interest, I concentrated on trying to pick off people. Sure it was painful, but at least it was interesting! Great job to everyone who ran!

Anonymous said...

I agree that Ocean Parkway is boring, BUT, it allows you to get into a really good rhythm. Problem with courses with a lot of turns (Queens half, YUCK) or hilly throughout make it hard to get a good rhythm. This race was also made easier by the tons of people also running - makes it a little more interesting.

erin said...

I spent so much time training for and thinking about those two PP loops that I never considered how long and dull those OP miles would be!!! I was so excited for this race (I feel like I'm always running halves in Central Park) but that long, flat stretch really killed me.

Glad I wasn't alone!

The 8-count said...

I'm a little late to comment but I'm with you on most of the comments here. OP totally sucked for me - thank god I had my ipod b/c the music pretty much kept me going. It felt so so so long :)

I've only ran PP once before this 1/2 and I love it...there were more people cheering on than I expected. Especially down OP as well which i didn't expect. I'll do it again next year :)

My race report on the 1/2:

Jen said...

Thanks for this post. I'm combining a run and a beach and was trying to figure out where the water fountains are. Answer: nowhere!