200 miles, 36 legs, 12 runners, 2 vans and 1 captain – it may take me a while to process the 27 hour adventure into words, but in the meantime, please enjoy the slide show I put together from our little journey.
Archive for the ‘race recap’ Category
Posted in race recap, racing, tagged #SWATED, 1 captain, 12 runners, 2 vans, 200 miles, 2012, 36 legs, GMR, Green Mountain Relay, Relay, Slow White and the Eleven Dwarves on June 27, 2012 | Leave a Comment »
Um, we’ll get back to the title of this post in a while. Yes, this is in fact my race report for the 2012 Sugarloaf Marathon.
After not getting into the 2012 Boston Marathon by a mere 33 seconds (a blessing in disguise in retrospect), I began searching for a marathon that could get me back to Hopkinton in 2013. With the Fall marathons occurring too late and the Summer marathons simply being to hot, I settled on the Sugarloaf Marathon – a late Spring marathon ranked as one of the 15 fastest marathons in the country. Perfect!
I began my training a little late, switching from one program (the Pfitzinger 18/55) to another (jumping in on week 5 of the Furman FIRST program). Training, aside from the last two weeks, was pretty solid, so when I made my way to the starting area with fellow RaceMenu members Jeremy and Tommy, I felt pretty confident that I was going to hit, or at the very least come very close to my BQ.
The three of us were all shooting for sub-3:15, and if there was one thing I learned at Smuttynose a year and a half ago it was that marathons go much better when you have a familiar face running with you. After snapping a group photo, we made our way to the starting area. Somebody asked out loud, “I wonder when we’re gonna start?” Moments later, without warning, the starting gun went off. We looked at each other – I guess it’s go time!
We had unfortunately not made our way to the front when the gun went off so we had to make our way through the crowd. We still managed to hit the first mile marker in 7:37. Our plan was to run the first 8 miles between 7:20 and 7:30 pace, not stress about our pace over the steady uphill climb from mile 8 to 10.5 and then cruise over the last 16 downhill miles to a sub-3:15. An overall pace of 7:24 per mile would get us in at just under 3:14. Despite a slow first mile, I wasn’t too worried. The second mile came and went in an easy 7:22. I noted that the temperature, though relatively cool at sixty some odd degrees, was still much higher than the online advertised 40° starts. The scenery was absolutely beautiful – the Western Mountain of Maine, lakes that were so still you could see the reflections of the trees around it as if it were a glass mirror. The three of us hung together as a loose pod with Tommy leading the way.
Miles 3 and 4 went by in a zippy 7:20 and 7:22 . This was all within range of our plan.
At around the 5th mile, the rolling hills began to kick in.
I took in a Gu – my plan was to have one every 5 miles. I started the race with two Gu’s in hand. The race director had said they would be handing out Gu’s at around mile 9 and at around mile 17. I would take my Gu at 5, grab one of theirs at 9 and take it at 10, take my last Gu at 15, grab theirs at 17 and take it in at 20. I wasn’t going to worry about the final 1.2 miles.
As Tommy began to pull away a bit, Jeremy and I felt like we wouldn’t worry too much about our pace going up any hills. There was still over 20 miles to go, so we didn’t want to kill ourselves simply to keep pace. There would be plenty of time to make back the time on the final 16 miles. Mile 5 was a bit slower at 7:35, but we got right back into our range with a 7:29, a 7:23 and a 7:20 over the next three miles.
We were feeling great as we hit the mile 8 marker. Everything was going according to plan and we had avoided that cardinal marathon sin of going out too fast.
Meanwhile, the temperature was rising.
We looked up to see the “big hill” of the marathon – a steady climb from mile 8 to mile 10.5. I looked at Jeremy. “This is it,” I said, “make or break.” And I truly believed that. Not having run this race before, I really believed that how we did on the hill would determine how we would finish. The back 16 was calling to me – just make it over the hill and it’s cake the rest of the way. All I had to do was to remember to grab a Gu at mile 9.
The sun was rising, so a group of us shifted to the left side of the road to stay in the shade. We hit the hill with a steady pace, but I refused to attack it. I wanted to be comfortable and not expend too much energy this early in the race so we ran at what was a comfortable effort. We manage 8:06, 7:54 and a 3:54 (7:48 pace) over the next 2.5 miles. Fantastic!!!
As we crested the hill, I looked at Jeremy – this is it. We. Are. Golden!!!
As we passed the aid station at 10.5, I asked where the Gu’s were. The volunteers shrugged. Somehow we had missed the Gu Station – this would be one of my 3 complaints about this particular marathon – if you are going to be handing out Gu’s, you must have your volunteers actively handing them out. I would find out later that they did in fact have Gu’s around mile 9, but they were on a table in the grass. That doesn’t work for those of us running for time.
I knew we needed to take it easy over the steep initial half mile, but gravity pulled us along at 7:00 pace and it felt like we were hardly working. The realization that I would have to take my last Gu at 10 and wait until after 17 to take another weighed on my mind. Psychologically I let it get to me.
As I looked out at the road ahead of us, I noticed something was missing – shade.
Jeremy started to fall back a little, but he was still within shouting distance. I forged ahead comfortably, images of me fist-pumping as I crossed the finish line with a BQ-time running through my head. The next 6 miles were a steady downhill and my pace reflected that – miles 12 through 17 went in 7:06, 7:21, 7:12, 7:16, 7:11 and 7:15. The plan was working flawlessly. But there were couple of things I hadn’t accounted for with this plan. One was the Gu issue, the other was the heat. As we made our way through Carrabassett Valley, the temperature began to soar right into the upper 70′s. With no shade to protect us, it felt like we were running in 80-plus degree heat.
As I reached the water station after 17, I looked back for Jeremy. He had dropped back significantly, falling victim to cramping in his calves and thighs – unfortunately, he would have to drop out at mile 25. I had to push on – I could taste my BQ. Going through the aid station, I grabbed a Gatorade and a Gu, and I tried to grab a water and another Gu, but the volunteer, for whatever reason, did not let go of the cup or the Gu.
I tried not to get upset, but as I took in what would now be my last Gu 2 1/2 miles after I had planned and with no extra to take at mile 20, doubt started to creep in. As the heat continued to beat down on me, I could feel fatigue setting in. I didn’t want to slow down because I knew my BQ was within reach. I was on target with just over 9 miles to go.
As I passed miles 18 and 19 I looked at my watch – 7:33 and 7:37. I was slowing down and I knew I was working harder than I had over the previous 6 miles.
That would be the last time I saw a 7-handled split.
Going into mile 20 the wheels simply came off of the bus – I covered the mile in 8:36, nearly a minute slower than the previous mile – it’s cliché isn’t it? I hit a wall, I knew it, and there was nothing I could do about it. The combination of the psychological and physiological effect of not taking in a Gu at 15 (as I had trained for) and the heat overwhelmed me.
At that point I knew my BQ was out the window but I still had a shot at a PR. Up until mile 20 I had been on target to hit sub-3:15. Now I just needed to hold on to beat 3:19:19 to score a PR. If I could just get back into the mid to high 7′s I’d be okay.
Approaching the next water station my legs overrode my brain and stopped running. Suddenly I was walking. I shook my head, half in anger, half in despair. I sucked down the watered down Gatorade (why the HELL to they water it down???) and poured some water on my head and back. 10 yards out from the water station I was trying to run again.
This would be my pattern for the rest of the race – walking through the water stations, trying my best to run between them. The next 6 miles would go 8:08, 8:04, 8:34, 8:21, 8:37 and 8:22. The last four miles were absolute misery. By the time I hit mile 23 I knew my chances of a PR were out the window and once again, I adjusted my goal – now I simply want to beat my second best time (2011 New York City Marathon – 3:26). I desperately had to fight to keep my pace under 9. As I made the final turn for the finish, I was overcome with a sense of resignation. I would not be running Boston in 2013. I would not be toeing the line in Hopkinton next April – and to a degree I was at peace. I knew I only had one more marathon on the calendar this year, and New York City 2012 was not going to be run as a qualifier.
As I crossed the finish line, I hit stop on my watch – it read 3:22:56.
Officially my time would be 3:23:00 (my last complaint about the marathon was that there was no starting mat – time was based solely on guntime, so if you started in the back of the pack, you lost nearly 30 – 40 seconds. Tommy actually covered the distance from the starting line to the finish line in 3:15:30, but because we had started in the middle, his official time was 3:16. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had missed qualifying for Boston by mere seconds because I didn’t start at the very front).
I would finish 68th of 574 total finishers (I heard that there were over 700 registrants), 60th out of 313 men, and 15th out of 59 men aged 40 – 44. Not bad for a guy who really didn’t get back into regular training until February.
3:23:00 is my second fastest marathon ever, but it was still 8 minutes off my goal of a 3:15 BQ, which brings me to the title of this post.
I am wondering if you would be too upset if we pretended that I was two years older than I actually am. Although my birth certificate indicates that I will be 43 come April 2013, I am willing to tell people that I will be 45 if you are willing to look the other way – I sometimes like to think of myself as an old soul anyway. If you are willing to believe that I will be 45 next Patriot’s Day, my 3:23:00 will allow me to register during the second week of registration, and I’m pretty sure that as long as there aren’t a whole lot of people asking to do the exact same thing as me, that the time should be good enough to get in as a BQ-2.
Whaddaya think? You think the B.A.A. will go for it?
Posted in boston marathon, race recap, racing, training, tagged boston marathon, BQ, cross training, first marathon training program, Furman FIRST, Half-Marathon, incremental improvement, marathon training, marathon training program, Pfitz, Quincy Half Marathon, race recap, race report, step in the right direction, Sugarloaf Marathon on March 30, 2012 | 6 Comments »
I remember way back in high school when I would get up in the mornings before a big test – I’d be a little nervous, wondering if I had studied what I had needed to, wondering if I’d remember anything…
…that’s how I felt two Sundays ago when I woke up before the Quincy Half Marathon. Several weeks ago I made the transition from the Pfitz Marathon Training Program to the FIRST Marathon Training Program. I’ve been fairly determined to make sure that I followed the new program as closely as I could. The very concept of running less to run faster struck me as counter-intuitive, but I needed to do something to get me out of what had turned into an 8 month funk.
3 days a week – that is all I was allowed to run; complimented by 2 days of cross-training – it seemed insufficient, but I was determined to give the program a chance. Really, what choice did I have? What I had been doing before was no longer working.
On Super Bowl Sunday I ran the Super Sunday 5-Miler in Boston and finished with a 34:56. My goal had been to comfortably cruise to a sub-35 minute finish, but in fact, I struggled to make it, pretty much leaving everything I had on the course. That 34:56 translated into a 3:25:30 marathon according to McMillan’s Running Calculator. A couple of weeks later I started the FIRST program. Quincy was going to be my first real test of how much progress I was truly making.
Upon arriving, I looked for my buddy JB. You may recall JB as one of the foursome I ran with at Vermont or the buddy who ran the Super Sunday 5 with me. Our plan was to run about 7:15 miles throughout, with the hopes of scoring about a 1:35:00 for the race. It would be a 2 minute PR for him, and would be an incremental improvement on my cardio-health from Super Sunday. Although a 1:35 half-marathon only translates to a 3:20 marathon (5 minutes long of my goal), I figured that it would be a step in the right direction, especially for only 3 weeks on the program.
We made our way to the starting area and stood silently for the National Anthem – and then it was time to go, literally! Not more than a second after the anthem was done, the starting horn blared.
We were off.
Fortunately for JB and I, we hadn’t moved too far to the front. We were forced to start a little slowly. After a quarter mile of jockeying for position, we turned up the pace and hit the first mile marker right on target at 7:15.
Without really realizing it, we slowly began to pick up the pace. It was still a bit crowded, but the two of us maneuvered our way through. Mile 2 arrived in a quick 7:07…maybe I was a little too enthusiastic?
We slowed it down just a touch for the next three miles, averaging about a 7:10 pace. Somewhere around mile 5 we saw the leader coming the other way…he must have had a good 30 seconds on the guy behind him. At this point, JB and I hit our first hill. My philosophy on hills has been to attack them, lean into them and don’t let them slow you down too much. For this first hill, that plan worked perfectly. I leaned in, JB followed and we passed over a dozen runners before cresting and allowing gravity to feed our recovery.
Once we flattened out, we hit the 6-mile marker (7:06) and we were able to see the rest of the field heading for the hill. At this point, my legs started to feel a little heavy. JB asked me how I was doing. I feel like I’m fading, I said, but only 6 miles in, I knew that it had to be more mental than physical. We continued to press the pace a little. I knew we had some time in the bank to hit 1:35, but I also kept reminding myself that this race was a test of how I was progressing. If I let up too early or left too much out on the course, there would really be no way for me to know just where I was with respect to where I want to be for Sugarloaf. I needed to know if the FIRST program was increasing my cardio-fitness or if I was stagnating.
We covered the next three mile at 7:06 pace. With just over 4 miles left to go, I started doing math in my head. I realized that I could slow down significantly and still hit my goal – but what would that tell me? I knew I had to keep pressing.
Unfortunately, that pressing came just as we hit a final group of hills – despite continuing to pass runners on a regular basis, we slowed into the 7:20′s.
With 2.1 miles to go, JB started to pull away. He looked back at me as if to say, come on dude! but the hills had taken their toll on me. I shouted at him to just go. He was well within range of not just beating his PR, but shattering it. I pressed as hard as I could – I was determined to come in under 1:35 no matter what. Mile 12 went by in a surprising 7:15.
1.1 miles to go. It was leave it all on the course time. I knew I was less than 7:30 away from the finish. I also knew that I could suffer for that long too. My legs felt heavy and my breathing was labored, but with each tick of the clock, I knew I was that much closer to being done.
As I made my way back into downtown Quincy, I could see JB in the distance. With about 800 meters to go, he was looking great and I had run out of real estate to catch him. I focused on finishing strong. Coming out of the final turn, I realized it was literally downhill to the finish and let it all hang out. Gravity pulled me along at a pace I hadn’t run all race.
With less than 100 yards to go, Racemenu Chief Alain stepped out of the crowd with words of encouragement and a high five. I could see JB waiting at the finish.
I barreled through the finish, and without slowing down grabbed a bottle water being held out…I couldn’t brake…staring at a table that was closing in fast, I panicked slightly. Fortunately a random runner stepped in to grab me and slow me down. It was enough for me to get my footing and stop.
I looked at the clock.
I wasn’t convinced that I had run that fast. I hugged JB, asking him his time.
1:31:59 – a nearly 7 minute PR for him. When the official times went up, mine was a 1:32:31. I had missed a PR by a mere 8 seconds. In most situations, I would have been mildly disappointed in missing a PR, but considering that just 4 weeks beforehand I wouldn’t have even considered the possibility of PR-ing, and that I had come into the day with an expectation of finishing in the 1:35 range, I was thrilled.
The FIRST program was working. My legs and lungs were getting stronger.
The very next day, I officially signed up for Sugarloaf. To be honest, I had been putting off registering because I was full of doubt as to whether I could even potentially run a sub-3:15 in May. Quincy convinced me that I was on the right track. My 1:32:31 translates into a 3:15:07 marathon. Just a touch on the wrong side of the clock, but a vast improvement from where I was on SuperBowl Sunday.
This Sunday I will face my next test of fitness when I was a local 5K. The goal is to hit 19:54 – which translates into a 3:14 marathon. If I hit 20:00, that still translates into a 3:15.
I still may ultimately fail at Sugarloaf come May, but I finally truly believe that I have a 3:15 or better in these legs – and that is a wonderful feeling.
My very first road race was the SuperSunday 5K/10K – all the way back in 2009.
I had no idea what I was doing and it showed. I entered the 10K and finished in a respectable 46:58. The following year I entered it again (again in the 10K) and ran what was probably my best performance in a race to date other than the Smuttynose Marathon in 2010, finishing the 10K in 39:29.
In 2011, due to bad weather conditions, the SuperSunday 5K/10K was cancelled. I was disappointed to say the least.
This year RaceMenu Chief, Alain Ferry, decided to change things up a little. He moved the SuperSunday Race from Downtown Boston to Cambridge and changed the distance to 5 miles (with a bailout at the 5K mark). The course is a large, relatively flat triangle, with just a couple of tiny hills.
As regular readers already know, I spent the second half of 2011 struggling to find my running motivation (and if I’m going to be completely honest, I was struggling to find motivation to do anything!). Despite having a 50-mile race in September and a marathon in November (you can also see the video of that marathon here), my training was minimal at best. In fact, I probably only ran 50 miles total in the 6 to 7 weeks leading up to my 50-miler. I ran even less leading up to the marathon and almost completely stopped running in the month of December.
I was at a low point.
But then I started to see posts on Facebook and dailymile of friends who were starting their training cycle for Boston 2012. At first it hurt to see those posts. I missed getting into Boston this year by 33 seconds. It wasn’t fun seeing so many friends (virtual or otherwise) running toward my hometown marathon knowing that I would be on the sidelines watching the crowd go by.
But then sadness and anger turned to determination. I may not be running Boston this year, but dammit, I was gonna get back next year – of course, with the new qualifying standards, that means taking at least 4:20 off of my PR of 3:19:19.
Nearly 10 seconds per mile.
I found my Spring marathon – Sugarloaf on May 22nd (I’d love it if you would come run with me). It is supposed to be one of the fastest marathons in the country. I started my training, stumbling out of the gate, unable to maintain pace in a Lactate Threshold run, but determined. After initially settling on an 18 week plan, I decided to build up my base for 6 weeks and then train in earnest for 12.
And that brings me back to last Sunday.
As of last Sunday, I am halfway through my build up period. I was scheduled for 14 miles, but decided that I wanted to race the SuperSunday 5, not just because I have always raced the SuperSunday race, but also because I wanted to see where I was physically.
Having found my Vermont 50 buddy JB and convinced him that we should shoot for 35 minutes, we made our way to the starting line. Temperatures were in the low to mid 20′s and everyone was bundled up in long sleeves and running pants…everyone that is, except for me. I was in my usual singlet, shorts, hat and gloves.
Right before the start one racer asked me, “why the hat?”
“Excuse me,” I said.
“Why the hat,” he said, “if you’re going with the singlet and shorts, why are you bothering with the hat and gloves?” I explained that since we lose a large chunk of heat from our heads, that wearing a hat in fact allowed me to run in a singlet and shorts. He nodded, muttering to himself, “you know, that kinda makes sense.”
JB and I had placed ourselves well back from the front. I had no desire to hang with the sub-6:00 milers. 7:00 miles was what I was looking for. I figured it would be a good marker to see where I was.
After the starting gun went off and we started to go, I quickly realized that we had moved back too far in the pack. We bobbed and weaved our way through, trying to hit out pace. It didn’t help that both of our Garmins were getting confused by the tall buildings. One moment we were supposedly running 8:00 miles, the next a 5:15. About a mile out, we finally found our groove, getting there at just about 7:00.
At this point, with JB trailing behind me a bit, I began to go back and forth with a woman who could not have been more than 5 feet tall, and that only on days when the moon and sun aligned properly. I would pass her and then she would pass me and then I would pass her again. On and on it went for a little over two miles. As we approached the 5K mark I pushed to pass her, but I knew if she passed my again, I wasn’t going to be able to catch her.
As we passed the 5K check off, I hit a wall. We had been running 6:50′s for a couple of miles and unfortunately, my legs were just not ready. As I watch the woman go by me, JB came up on my left. He was looking strong. He had been smart and maintained an even pace where I had let myself get sucked into the game of racing one individual. I was running out of gas.
I knew I had less than 2 miles to go, but my legs felt like lead weights. I told JB to stay with the group that had passed us. He tried to encourage me to stick with him, but I just didn’t have the juice. At this point, I just wanted to finish with a 35-handle. It wasn’t going to be easy.
The next mile was a daze. I was simply trying to run as fast as I could without completely running out of gas. Mile 4 came and went unnoticed (a van had parked in front of the mile marker). When my garmin beeped 4.5 miles, I looked at my watch.
I had 3:42 to get to the finish line. Just under a 7:30 mile. I pushed myself to go, dragging my legs behind me.
As I came around the final turn I could hear footsteps coming up on my right. I could see the clock with a 34-handle.
Those two things helped me find my kick. I broke into an all out sprint (the garmin claiming that I closed out the race at a 4:16/mile pace).
I left the footsteps behind me and passed a guy who had just passed me only minutes earlier.
After crossing the finish line, I nearly collapsed. That was a lot harder than I had anticipated. A year and a half ago I could have done a 35 minute 5-miler with a smile. On Sunday, I struggled.
But I did hit my goal. In the end, the official chip time was 34:56 – good enough for 6th out of 57 in my age group and 107th overall out of 744 runners. Not bad for someone just getting back in the swing of things.
Afterward JB and I hit the party tent and ad a couple of beers.
Alain knows how to throw a race and even better, he knows how to throw a post-race party – 5 different kinds of beer and all the wings you could eat – perfect for Superbowl Sunday.
Despite hitting my goal of 35:00 or better, I still have plenty of work to do before Sugarloaf in May. My 34:56 only translates into about a 3:25 marathon according to McMillian’s Running Calculator. Obviously, that is nowhere near good enough.
That being said, I’m pretty happy with the progress I’ve made so far this year. It’s not going to be an easy road back to Boston, but that’s kind of the point, isn’t it?
“Yeah, I had some, uh, bathroom problems at 12.”
“Promise me that if it happens again you’ll stop”
“Just promise me…please.”
-A phone conversation between me and Jess somewhere around mile 15
On Friday night I suffered my very first DNF (did not finish). It was a disappointment to say the least.
I may have been under trained, under motivated and mildly under the weather, but I kept thinking maybe fresh legs would carry me through the day. Man was I wrong.
I’ve had trouble writing this race recap – maybe because it was my first DNF, maybe because once one goes once around the 3.1 mile loop of the course, one has seen it all, maybe because after an hour of running it got so dark there was nothing really to see other than the few feet in front of me. I don’t know, regardless, this has been a tough one to compose.
I initially started at the back of the pack, not exactly sure what my game plan was gonna be. I had set my Garmin’s virtual running partner to run a 7:24/mile pace, figuring that would get me across the finish line at around 3:15. I like to start slowly, but inevitably in a race I always start too fast. This race was no exception, though I did manage to keep it close to what I hoped would be my overall pace. Through the first two laps I weaved my way through the crowd, eventually settling into a pace that had me chasing a pack of runner that I just couldn’t seem to reel in. In retrospect, I wondered whether keeping pace with them (around 7:20 pace) was not such a good idea. In the end though, I doubt the chase had any effect on me eventually dropping out.
I finally did catch the group at around 8 miles, at one point taking the lead in the line and then dropping half of the group 2 miles later.
At that point I was feeling pretty strong. Legs felt good, lungs felt good, mind was focused. Seeing my friends Maddy and Sarah who had come out to cheer me on, every 3 miles was also a great energy boost.
Meanwhile though I would sip at my Gatorade and take a cup or two of “water” every 1.5 miles.
During a daytime race, you can see what it is you are taking in. Water looks like water, energy drinks look like energy drinks. Even if you aren’t looking at what you are taking in, you sure as hell are going to be able to tell the difference between water and say, Gatorade or Powerade when you put it to your lips. At the Around the Lake Marathon/Ultramarathon they were serving water, just like any race, but they were also handing out cups of something called HEED. I had never heard of it before and quite frankly, I hope I never, EVER drink it again.
Initially as I made my way around the lake, I would grab a cup at each of the two stations, pour it over my head, grab another cup, pour it on my face and then grab a third cup and drink it. The problem was that this third cup was not what I thought it was. I downed it every time thinking it was water. It had a little bit of an odd aftertaste, maybe a little sweet, but I thought, hey! I’m in Wakefield. Maybe their water just has a funny taste…or maybe the waxy paper cups just have a weird taste to them. Either way, I didn’t think much of it.
I didn’t even really think about it when my evening started to rapidly unravel.
At around mile 12.5 I suddenly got hit with a massive stomach cramp. It wasn’t the old, I’ve got a little stomach ache kind of cramp – no, it was the GET ME TO A PORTAPOTTY RIGHT NOW!!! kind of cramp. Unfortunately for me, I was still 0.6 miles away from the portapotties. I did the only thing I could think to do, which was pick up the pace. As I flew into the check in station, there was a large crowd of spectators standing in front of the portapotties, blocking easy access.
“Coming through,” I yelled at the top of my lungs. They must have sensed the urgency in my voice because they parted like the Red Sea being commanded by Moses. I’ll spare you further details.
As I resumed the race, Maddy came up to me to ask if I was okay. I told her that I thought 3:15 was now out of the question but that I planned on finishing and finishing strong. She gave me some encouragement, Sarah handed me a cold water bottle and I was off for lap 5 of 8. Somewhere around mile 15 I checked in with Jess on the phone (I love my Oakley Rockr Pros). I told her the situation, told her I was fine and feeling like I could finish strong.
That’s when she made me promise.
At the end of May, when I ran the Run To Remember Half-Marathon, there was a runner who collapsed from pushing too hard and as a result, ended up in the hospital for several weeks with kidney failure. That scared the crap out of me, but even more out of Jess. With that story forever fresh in our minds (one that no runner should ignore – a post for another day), she made me promise that if I had another “bathroom” issue, I would drop out of the race. I hesitated. Since taking up running a few years ago, I had never dropped out of a race. No matter how bad I felt (New York comes to mind) I fought and I finished.
I thought about the speech I had given just days before (see it HERE) where at one point I mentioned that I used an Autism Speaks pin and the thought of my baby girl to give me strength when my legs would occasionally fail me. How could I drop out after that? How could I possibly drop out of a race after giving that speech? How could I let those people down?
But it occurred to me, that this was not a case of running out of energy or legs stiffening up. This was a much more serious condition – with the very real risk of severe dehydration. And so I promised, hoping that it wouldn’t happen again. As I hit the next loop (number 6 if you’re counting), I briefly stopped where Maddy and Sarah were to hand them my sun-glasses. 3 laps to go, a little over 9 miles. Time to gut it out.
Although I was moving more slowly, I was moving steadily. My pace was even and though I wasn’t going to get the time I wanted, I sure as hell was gonna get that Finisher’s Medal. Into the darkness I ran, and despite moving at a slower pace I was passing people – this is one of the nice things about running a marathon on a loop where there are the really crazy runners who were running the 12 and 24 hour Ultra-Marathon – by necessity, they must run at a slower pace so I got to consistently pass/lap them. Even knowing that I was only passing ultra-marathoners, it still felt great to pass people. I slowly tried to bring up the speed. If I wasn’t going to get my 3:15, I was gonna take a shot at 3:20 and a possible PR.
But then it happened again.
First just a slight stabbing at around 18. I tried to ignore it, taking a double-step and then moving on.
By 18.5 I knew my evening was done. I stopped, doubled over. The pain came and went, almost in waves. I tried jogging, but that hurt.
For the next mile and a half I did a combination of speed-walking, jogging, standing, and a little mild swearing. I hobbled across the timing mat, told the timer I was dropping out and made my way as swiftly as I could to the portapotty. Not a great ending to the evening.
Afterward I went over to where Sarah and Maddy had been cheering me on and watched the runners continue to go by…without me.
I was disappointed, maybe even a little bitter, but the truth was, there was no sense in risking my long-term health over finishing a marathon. If I were a threat to qualify for the Olympic Trials, maybe I just let it all go (Caroline White – look it up), but I’m just a middle of the pack runner, really only competing with one runner – me. I also find out later that several runners had needed to drop out due to GI issues they attributed to HEED. I’m telling you, never again.
Jess later tweeted:
@luau sometimes the greatest act of heroism is knowing when *not* to be a hero. far more proud of you for knowing when to walk away 2nite.
Although I understood that in my head immediately (and was touched by it immensely), it’s taken me almost a week to really take it to heart and truly be okay with a DNF.
There will be other races to be sure, other opportunities to get that elusive 3:15, but my biggest fear now is that I wonder, having dropped out of a race once, will it become that much easier to drop out of a race in the future when the going gets tough.
Only time will tell.
Maybe it was the high expectations I had of myself.
Maybe it was the fact that the heat & humidity beat me into submission.
Maybe it was that at one point in the race I quit – I simply gave up.
Whatever the reason, Sunday’s race did not go according to plan – and I’ve been struggling for over a week now as to how to write this race recap.
My thinking had been that since I had been able to cover the hilly Heartbreak Hill Course in 1:32 just two weeks earlier, that I would be able to take on the flatter Run To Remember course in 1:31.
Seconds before the starting gun I realized that I wasn’t excited; I wasn’t pumped. I kept telling myself to get psyched, but it just wasn’t happening. Yet for all the lack of adrenaline, I still felt like 1:31 was a very reachable target.
The gun went off, and after the inevitable walk, jog, run, walk, stop, run of getting across the starting line, I was off.
After covering the first 2 miles in 13:20, I realized too late that I had gone out too fast. I would cover the next two miles in 14:00 (7:00 per mile was the initial goal), but by that time, I was in trouble. The heat and humidity began to take its toll and every mile thereafter, except for the final 1.1 got slower and slower.
Still, through 6 miles I was still 20 seconds under target (having run miles 5 and 6 in 14:20 for a total time of 41:40). By the end of mile 7 however (a 7:22), with my pace continuing to drop, I finally dropped behind pace of my stated goal.
For a brief flicker of a moment I thought, “it’s rally time. Get our ass in gear Luau!” and I tried, I really did, but my calves just didn’t have it on that Sunday.
Truth be told, this race was uneventful and without the dramatics I have grown used to in my past races. There was no reeling in of other runners; no sprint to the finish to catch somebody I had been eying for the last mile. It was almost as if my attitude on the whole was simply blah. Maybe it was the heat and humidity, I don’t know.
I did close with a strong final 1.1 miles, but even there I was unable to catch any runners ahead of me. What pisses me off the most now is that I didn’t care (at the time anyway).
I would finish with a time of 1:35:54. Well off my PR two weeks earlier. Still I did finish 167th out of 5,248 total runners and 28th out of 474 runners in my age group.
In the midst of my slow implosion, I had what will be one of my more memorable racing moments:
Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 (it’s all a blur), a guy pulled up to the left of me.
He could tell I was lagging.
“Come on, Luau” he said.
“I don’t have it today,” I said trying to scan his face for some recognition, “my calves are shot.” We chatted briefly, talked a moment about the Boston Marathon and then it was time for him to keep moving. I was slowing him down. He tried to get me to come with him, but it just wasn’t happening. I still had no idea who this guy was. As he pulled away he said, “great blog! Long time lurker!” John had recognized me, either from my shirt or shoes or sunglasses or all three. It was a neat moment of realizing just how inter-connected this running community is.
Lifted by this, I rallied briefly, chasing John for about a half-mile before I once again had to slow down.
After I finished, I walked back about a 1/2 mile along the course to see if I could cheer/run in a friend who was running her first half-marathon. I settled next to some kids who I remembered cheering me in as I had passed them. Their enthusiasm had been fantastic and nearly 30 minutes later when I had made my way back, it hadn’t waned. These kids were cheering everybody on as they waited for their mom to come by. As disappointed as I was in myself, my spirits were lifted by the raw energy these kids were giving to the passing runners. You could see faces change as they approached and heard these kids yelling and screaming their lungs out.
It was standing here, cheering on the runners that I had another neat personal moment:
As I stood there clapping, shouting, encouraging, getting mildly dizzy from scanning the crowd for my friend, a tall guy with dark hair high-fived me as he went by.
“Hey!” he yelled.
I was a little taken aback, not sure what he was going to say next.
“I love your blog!” Another runner who reminded just how small our running world is.
Between John, Dark-Haired Runner and my dailymile friend Lynda B (who recognized me before the race because of my multi-colored shoes) I was able to take a lot of positives from a performance that was somewhat disappointing.
So to John, D.H.R. and Lynda, I thank you!
I did learn a few things though from this race:
•when the humidity is at 89% and then temperatures are rising quickly, DON’T go out too fast.
•don’t run a hard, fast-paced 12-Miler less than 36 hours before a half-marathon you are hoping to PR at. Friday night after putting the family to bed, I hit the treadmill to watch the Bruins while running my scheduled 12-Miler. In part because it was late and I wanted to get to bed, I ran it way too fast. As I trudged upstairs after my run, and despite being excited by the Bruins game 7 win, the weight of my legs gave me pause. I wondered if I had blown my race with that run.
•sometimes the random race where there is no expectation, like The Heartbreak Hill Half I ran two weeks before, are better opportunities to PR. It didn’t hurt that there was no pressure and it was a good 15° cooler.
I’m thinking maybe next year, especially if it’s hot and humid like it was for this race, I may switch to the 5-Miler and call it a day.
As I bolted out of the porta-potty, I thought, this is it! this is the moment! THIS is where all of the training kicks in!!! I looked up at the first of the Newton Hills almost with a smile.
You. Are. Mine. I thought.
I had been running along at a decent clip, averaging in the low 7 minute per mile range for 17 miles. My only trouble had been the urge to pee since before the start. I finally gave in to using a porta-potty when I saw one at the bottom of the first Newton Hill. I figured that this was just another star aligning to get me to my 3:10. I would have 20 – 40 seconds to relieve myself while simultaneously recovering for 20 – 40 seconds before tackling the hardest part of the course. Perfect!
So this was it! All I had to do was get through the next 2.5 miles and I would be cruising home-free on the other side of Heartbreak Hill.
I kicked it into overdrive. This was going to be cake…maybe not a tasty cake, but cake nonetheless. I had run these hills dozens of times. Not only had I run them often, I had run them late in long runs (17 miles late to be exact!). My plan was to attack the hills with speed and relax on the back sides. It had worked every time in training. EVERY TIME!
As I hit the base of the hill I shortened my stride and quickened my cadence.
Oh yeah! Showtime!
I got three, maybe five steps in, and then it happened.
I don’t know what asthma feels like. I don’t have it. I have never had a problem with it. But three, maybe five steps up that first Newton Hill, after running like the wind, after looking up at Newton “knowing” this was going to be my day, after having run those hills countless times, my lungs simply said “no”. This is what I have always imagined asthma feels like.
For the life of me, I couldn’t inhale. Whether you’re a car or a plane or a pair of legs, if you can’t take in oxygen, there IS no combustion. Every time I tried to take a breath, my airway felt blocked. I could force enough in to make an awful sound, but that was it.
No, my lungs said, We are not going to cooperate with you in this insane business you call marathon running. No, we will not assist you in achieving you goal. No, we will not let you run fast. We are done breathing.
And that was it. In one moment my day went from spectacular to miserable in the flick of a switch. My legs had felt good. My will was strong. My desire was burning. But my airways constricted and all hopes of a 3:10 or a 3:15 or even a PR (currently a 3:19:19) went out the window.
My bolt out of the porta-potty turned into a walk. A walk? Really? I mean REALLY!?! I was walking up this hill?
Every hundred yards or so I would try to start running again. At first I would start slowly and then try to build up speed. Every time I would get to what I perceived to be about an 8:00 to 8:30 per mile pace, my lungs would collapse on me again and I would be left simply trying to inhale, struggling to do what we all take for granted. I would make a sickening weeze for about 30 – 40 second as I staggered along before my breathing would become normal again. I’m surprised that I did get picked up by medical. Maybe I’m just lucky that they didn’t spot me at my worst.
For the next mile I kept thinking that it would pass. If I could just get through the next 5 minutes or so, maybe everything will reset! It didn’t pass. I struggled to 18 or 19 where I saw the medical tent. I staggered towards it. I sighed.
DNF (Did Not Finish)? Am I going to have to fucking DNF?
As I raised my foot to take another step toward medical, I thought of my little Brooke. No, I wasn’t running this race for Autism Speaks or any autism charity for that matter, but Brooke and kids like her are a source of strength for me.
My foot wavered.
Then I thought of my older daughter, Katie. I had made a promise to her when I put her, Brooke and Jess on a plane the Friday before the marathon. They were going away to Florida ahead of me and I was going to join them Monday night after the marathon. I had promised Katie that I would wear my 2011 Boston Marathon Medal on the plane and would have it around my neck when I woke her up with a kiss when I got to our hotel. How could I break that promise? If I checked into medical, there would be no medal. In addition, I wouldn’t be able to wear the commemorative jacket I had bought days earlier.
And so, I stumbled back on to the course, weezing, trying to catch my breath.
I was scared.
I wanted to cry.
I wanted to quit – I wanted to quit more than I have ever wanted to quit in a marathon.
I wanted to scream and yell.
But I trudged on.
This was going to be the dreaded “Death March”.
By the time I reached mile 20, I was in a pretty dark place, and I still had Heartbreak Hill ahead of me. My lungs continued to rebel and now my feet were beginning to hurt. And that’s when I saw my dear friend Alett. She spotted me and began to cheer. I shook my head. As I staggered over to her, she said some words of encouragement, but I told her, today was not going to be my day. The running gods had given me a lemon of a marathon.
It was at that moment though when my whole attitude changed. After 2+ miles of grumbling and wallowing in self-pity, I realized that I had a choice. I could do the death march thing to the end of the race OR I could embrace what had been given me and take advantage of the fact that I still had many friends on the course waiting to see me and cheer me on. I could stumble by them in misery or take this opportunity to celebrate that I was running Boston this year and a god-damned qualifier!!!
I decided to go with the latter and started snapping pictures with every friend I could find. Click —>HERE<— to see the pics I took over the last 6 miles.
As painful as it was to keep going, and despite having bursts where I tried to finish strong only to be slapped down again by my lungs, it was a joy spotting friends and taking a minute or two to yuk it up. My only disappointment in those last few miles was that I was unable to spot a couple of friends I knew were out there and that I was unable to keep up with my friend Ty who came up behind me with less than a mile to go and tried to pull me along (I tried Ty!) – Nic, Deb, Amelia, Hadar, Yigal, Ramana, TK and Mary, despite missing you, it helped knowing you were out there!
Looking back on my splits, I’m pretty psyched I was able to stop and chat, take pictures AND keep those last miles in the 8:45 – 11:15 range.
So I guess the question becomes, what happened? More specifically, what caused my lungs to go asthmatic on me? I don’t know. I’ll have to do some research on that one. Maybe I was taking in too much fluid? I had been training on about 10 – 15 oz. of Gatorade per 20 miles all winter and I’m pretty sure I drank much more than that over the course of the first 17 miles. Maybe I just sucked down some liquid down the wrong pipe? I don’t know. All I know is Monday, April 18th wasn’t my day. Maybe, if I can get in, April 17th will be.
There are a lot of titles that went through my mind as I contemplated writing this race report:
Opportunity Lost or Falling Short (it was all there), Breathless (for obvious reasons), Karma (was there a debt to be paid for leaving a man behind at Smuttynose?), Hubris or Foolish or Greedy (was 3:10 a realistic goal? should I have been content with gunning for 3:15? would I have lost my lungs had I been running 7:24′s?)
It was, to say the least, a rough day. A day of disappointment. A day where my goal of a 3:10 marathon seemed well within my grasp. A day where I watched that goal simply disappear with a single breath.
It didn’t start out that way. In fact, when I woke up on Monday morning, I felt great. I mean, I REALLY felt great. My training had been pretty much without incident. My times had been spot on. I was ready. The weather looked like it was going to cooperate too – 50° – 60°. We were even going to have a tailwind. In addition, RaceMenu chief Alain found me right before the start and said that he was shooting for a 3:10 just like me – I thought “perfect! Someone to run with, just like Smuttynose!”
Yes, everything was lining up for an A+ effort on Monday. 3:10 was a real possibility, with a 3:15 all but in the bag! Though my morning was a bundle of nervous energy, I did manage to stay relatively relaxed on the surface. I found my dailymile friends in the Athletes’ Village, and the group of us kept each other loose with small talk and funny stories.
I was so sure that I could feel the natural speed of this group. We were almost all qualifiers, and those that were charity runners were gunning for PR’s.
Speed was in the air.
Some days you have it. Some days you don’t. Some days, like last Monday, you have it and then you lose it. I’m just glad I had the where with all to make lemonade out of lemons. And have no doubt, YOU were the sugar that made the lemonade so sweet!
No, no, no, no, no, no, NOOOooooo!!!
-Somewhere near mile 22
I ran my very first marathon (the Manchester City Marathon) a little over a year ago. I went into it not really knowing just what I was getting myself into. Over the course of the next fifty two weeks I ran three more marathons (Boston, Providence and Smuttynose). In each of those I learned a little bit more about the 26.2 mile distance.
One full year after running the Manchester City Marathon, and with one week to go until New York, I thought I had the knowledge, determination and discipline to conquer the five boroughs. Unlike Meatloaf, I only got one out of three right.
I would love to go into detail of my whole weekend experience, but in the interest of time and space I will just say that on Friday and Saturday I got to catch up with the always inspiring Sarah Stanley, had the honor and pleasure of meeting my buddy Michelle, running with both her and TK, and having a fabulous brunch with a roomful of runners (too many to list here) and attended the Team Up with Autism Speaks Pasta Dinner.
Let’s get right to the race.
As I stood, shivering in the starting area, I tried to visualize my journey before me. Much like Smuttynose, I had a plan – I was going to break the race into 5 mile segments. I knew in my head that no matter how I felt, I could run 5 miles. In my head I told myself the moment I take that first step in each 5 mile segment, I was now down to 4+ miles. It worked to perfection at Smuttynose. I was sure it would work in New York. If could replicate my Boston Qualifying race, New York was going to be a breeze. Part of the plan also called for taking a Honey Stinger at the beginning of each of those 5-mile segments. Easy enough. I had run Smuttynose in 38-minute 5 mile segments. My plan for New York was to attempt 37 minute splits.
Although I had never run New York, I tried to imagine myself taking a Stinger and a swig of my homemade Honey Water at the designated spots. I saw myself crossing the finish line in Central Park. The clock read 3:16, which was fine, because I was about a minute back from the starting line.
After the introductions of the elite runners, the gun went off, and we were OFF! waited for the wave to make it’s way back to corral 12. I took one last look around for DP_Turtle, hoping to find a running partner, but to no avail. The sea of people began to surge forward and as we crossed the starting line, I hit my watch and we broke into a jog and then a run. My New York City Marathon had officially started.
People had warned me about the mass of humanity that I would be part of. I thought having run Boston from the very back that I already had a grasp of what that meant. As I began to climb the Varranzano-Narrows Bridge, I realized just how wrong I was.
The view of people ahead of me and behind me was almost overwhelming. Reaching the peak of the bridge, I looked out over the water at Manhattan. Having lived there in the late 90′s, I felt a tinge of sadness. Even today, almost a decade after 9/11, I still expect to see the Twin Towers standing there. I said a quiet prayer for those who lost their lives and loved ones that day and moved on.
As I passed the first mile marker, I took a look at my watch – 8:14. A nice, slow start. Unfortunately the second mile was downhill and gravity did it’s thing. Coming off the bridge I hit mile 2 in a too fast 6:43.
Too fast! I thought. But then I reconsidered, thinking that I was now on target for sub-7:30 miles. It had worked at Smuttynose. It was going to work in New York, right?
Shortly thereafter we got our first dose of the crowds. The cheering was absolutely amazing. The next 3 miles went quite smoothly. I hit the 5 mile marker at 36:02…a little ahead of schedule, but I felt good. Real good! Too good.
I pulled out a Stinger.
Now here’s the thing. I am a huge fan of NRG’s Honey Stingers. I am convinced that they helped propel me to my BQ at Smuttynose. Before traveling down to New York, I decided to defer picking up my Stingers until I got to New York. I assumed the local running shop would carry my brand. They did…just not in the original flavor I was looking for. My choice was banana and chocolate. I settled on a mix. But what could go wrong, right? They were Honey Stingers!
As I passed mile 5, I pulled out my Stinger, tore off the top, sucked the the honey and washed it down with Honey Water.
I grimaced and washed it down with another swig of Honey Water.
That is until a mile later. At mile 6, it started mildly. Small tiny waves brushing on the shore. But with every passing minute, the waves of nausea became bigger and bigger. They were soon crashing down on me. I tried to stay focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but I could feel myself starting to fade. Somewhere in the next mile or so I had to stop at a port-a-potty. I didn’t feel good.
44 seconds later, I was back on the road.
At mile 8 the three starting groups (for the uninitiated, the New York City Marathon starts in three waves, each wave broken down into three separate starting areas that run their own routes for the first 8 miles) came together. The crowds and runners became more congested.
Mile 10 was coming. The nausea wasn’t going away, but I knew I needed to take a Stinger. I tried to psych myself up for taking in sugar, but the closer I got to 10, the sicker I felt. Mile 10 came and went, and I decided to push the Stinger off until mile 15. I took a swig of my Honey Water, but even that was now making me sick. At the next garbage can, I chucked my bottle. I looked at mile split – 73:35 – that was a 37:33 split. Despite the urge to hurl for the last 4 miles, I was still on target.
I slowed down a touch, trying to give my body the opportunity to re-group. After about 10 minutes I started to feel somewhat normal. No longer feeling green, I pressed a little to make up for lost time. As we crossed the half-way mark I looked at my watch. 1:37:19. Sub-3:15 pace!!!
Ok! I can do this!
Just after the half, I spotted my friend TK. I ran over, gave her a hug.
Looming in the distance was the Queensboro Bridge. I took a deep breath. I was going to take the ascent slowly and let gravity do it’s thing on the back side. Passing mile 15, I realized that I needed to take in some nutrition. The very thought of taking a Stinger brought back a wave of nausea. I decided to wait just a little longer.
I took a look at my watch – 1:52:20 – a 38:45 split. Still within striking range and ahead of my Smuttynose pace.
As we began to climb the bridge, I was surprised to hear music. Led Zepplin’s Kashmir began pounding through my earbuds. I had forgotten that I was listening to music. The bands and crowds are so loud along the course that unless you have your music pumped up all the way (something I do NOT advocate), it is completely drowned out.
But on the bridge there were no fans, no bands, no sounds save the quiet pounding of running shoes on the asphalt. Robert Plant wailed away in my ears. I couldn’t help but smile. For some reason, it felt like the perfect song for the moment. Reaching the peak of the bridge, I forced myself to take another Stinger. The thick honey was so unappetizing to me that after forcing half of it down, I spit out the rest. My level of nausea kicked right back up.
I had been told that I would hear the cheering in Manhattan long before I came off of the bridge, and I did. Momentarily I was uplifted. Coming off of the bridge, I race over to the crowd and high-fived a number of kids.
The high was good enough to keep me going for a couple of miles, but I knew I was starting to pay for the lack of carbs I was putting in. At this point I realized I needed to put some kind of sugar into my body, so I decided to start drinking Gatorade at each water station.
I never drink Gatorade. Ever.
Through 18 miles I had manage to keep my mile splits under 7:50. I was still averaging under 7:30 per mile. Mile 19 came in at 7:57. I wouldn’t see another 7-handle the rest of the way. As I entered the Boogie Down Bronx, almost on the nose at mile 20 I nearly doubled over from pain in my stomach.
Stomach cramps? Really? My lack of drinking Gatorade while training was coming back to haunt me.
I had never suffered from stomach cramps before in a race. These were sharp and painful. I knew that my game plan had to change. Even as I had approached mile 20, I had been thinking that a PR was still a possibility despite the ongoing nausea. I had fought through it for 19 miles. I knew I could fight through it for another 7.
But this was different. I went into survival mode. I just needed to keep moving. Time was no longer the goal – finishing was.
We weren’t in the Bronx long, quickly returning to Manhattan and Fifth Avenue. I’m not sure how it is physically possible, but it felt like both going up First Avenue and going down Fifth Avenue were both uphill. Is that possible? It sure felt that way. The stomach cramps weren’t going away, but I felt like I could make it through to the finish…that is until somewhere before mile 22 when I felt a twinge in my quads.
My mind flashed to mile 20 of the Manchester City Marathon when my quads froze, leaving me with my legs planted to the ground like tree trunks for 10 minutes, unable to move.
The twinge became more intense. I could feel both quads tightening up. This is NOT good! As I passed mile 22 I thought about quitting. I was in official death-march-mode.
Is it worth trying to get to the end? I’m nauseous, my stomach has sharp pain and now my quads are seizing up. Maybe I should walk. Maybe I should stop.
But something kicked in. I knew that the Team Up with Autism Speaks cheering section was just a mile away. Autism Speaks, the families that battle autism every day and all those who had helped me raise nearly $3,500 had brought me to New York. I couldn’t let them down. I looked down at my singlet. “Run Luau Run” it said right above the Team Up with Autism Speaks logo. I thought of Brooke. I thought of my friend Greg and his son. I thought of my friend Sheila and her son. I thought of Jersey Jenn and her family….and Judith…and Drama…and Gaby…so many families…
No. Walking was not a choice. Stopping was not an option. I wasn’t running for me.
Each stride brought a shot of pain in each leg. I looked up to see a sign: Pain is temporary. Pride is forever! followed by Your Feet Hurt Because You’re Kickin’ Ass!!! Two better placed signs I could not have asked for.
I caught the Autism Speaks cheering section by surprise (they were still setting up) and soldiered on into Central Park.
Now, I love a good set of rolling hills as much as the next guy, BUT after 23+ miles? Oh my frakking God!!! The uphills simply brought a more intense pain to my quads, and the moment I began going down the hills, my hamstrings decided to join the party.
Gee! Thanks Hammies! I’m glad you could make it to the Pain Party!
Up and down. Up and down. But as intense as the pain was, I knew I had less than 5K to go.
Somewhere around 24, something made me look left. There was my sister! A sight for sore eyes! I ran over to her and gave her a hug. A big part of me wanted to stop right there and call it quits, but I knew I couldn’t.
A hundred yards later, I spotted my mother-in-law (Grammy) and her husband (Grandpa DD). I tried to put on a brave face.
I had nothing left. My body was working on sheer muscle memory. At this point, my hair could’ve been on fire, and it wouldn’t have mattered.
We exited the Park and ran along Central Park South. I knew that we needed to go back into the Park at some point, but it felt like it was taking forever. Finally, as we approached Central Park West, we cut into the Park for the last 400 or so meters. This was the final test of the New York City Marathon, because this very last portion was painfully uphill. Really!?!
Usually I have a kick at the end of these races. Heck, I even had one at Manchester for the last few hundred yards, but on this day I would have to be satisfied with just keeping a steady pace. There would be no passing people at the very end. No triumphant sprint across the finish line.
I looked at my watch – 3:26:31.
I mustered a smile. Despite everything, I had managed my second best marathon time.
I didn’t hit 3:15.
I didn’t PR.
But I have to say, that in many ways, I am more proud of what I did on that day than of my BQ time at Smuttynose. New York pushed me past what I thought was my limit. I could have quit. Heck, maybe I even should have quit, but I didn’t.
Yes, pain is temporary and pride is forever (at least I hope the pain is temporary – my legs and shoulders are still hurting as I write this!).
I wandered out through the bag pick up section, briefly checking into medical, probably leaving before I should have, woozy but proud.
I found my family, thanked them for coming.
We made our way back across the park to cheer in other Autism Speaks runners.
I got to see Edison the mining runner. Talk about a story of perseverance.
So what did I learn in New York? At least four things (though I’m sure others will reveal themselves):
1. Don’t mess with your nutrition. Last minute changes to what you put in your body can really mess you up.
2. Train for the terrain. Truth is, I spent the summer training on very flat roads in anticipation of Smuttynose, which is billed as the flattest marathon in New England. That was great for Smuttynose as I cruised to a BQ, but not so much for New York with it’s bridges, slow, long climbs and rolling hills in Central Park.
3. Running with someone makes a huge difference. At Smuttynose I was blessed to be able to run with my friend Brendan for nearly 15 miles and then with some strangers for another 7 or 8 or so. I ran New York without a partner and I’m pretty sure it didn’t help.
4. No matter how good you feel, if you’ve been targeting averaging 7:24 per mile, it’s not wise to run a 6:43 in the second mile.
As beat up as I am though, I’m already strategizing for Boston. Just this past Wednesday, I received my Confirmation Notice in the mail. Mentally I am ready to start running again! I am ready to start training for Heartbreak Hill! I plan on kicking it’s ass! The only problem is that my legs haven’t got the memo yet.
Some other photos from the race: