Archive for the ‘Race Reports’ Category

2009 NYC Marathon, Part 2

I felt pretty good when I got up for the race at 4:00 AM on November 1st. Things seemed to fall into place easily. My legs felt rested, my stomach was settled, and I was completely ready for this marathon. The rain was tapering to reveal near-perfect weather and the 4 train miraculously dropped me off at Bowling Green with just enough time to make the 6:00 AM Staten Island Ferry before the doors closed. And with each of us being assigned to a different color start village, my two brothers and I found a dry neutral spot in the center to chat and work through breakfast before we needed to go to our separate corrals. An easy Sunday morning with merely 26.2 miles ahead of me.

The marathon started perfectly. I stayed conservative in the first couple of miles and finally settled into a steady pace once I reached 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. I was aware that my pace was 10 to 15 seconds per mile faster than my target time, but I was feeling good about it and decided to maintain that speed. I hovered around this pace pretty consistently until I approached the Bronx – when my legs started to feel a bit heavy. By mile 21 I was stopping to walk every now and then. At mile 22 I realized that I could slow down to 10-minute miles and at least still come in under 3:30. After the water station at mile 24 my legs started to feel jittery and I suddenly noticed that I was starving. I finished my GU Chomps and alternated between running and walking (sometimes laughing out loud at myself in the process) until I finished in 3:31:08, more than a little disappointed with how quickly the race got away from me at the end.

Okay, so I didn’t make my goal time of 3:20:00. In fact, I was pretty far off. A big part of me really wanted to blow last year’s marathon time completely out of the water and I knew I had the training behind me to do it. What can I then say about all those months of focused training, of becoming one of those unemployed runners apparently creating stiffer competition, if I didn’t do as well as I had hoped I would? Well this is why I’m still proud of my accomplishment:

  • I still PR’d by cutting a minute and twenty seconds off of my 2008 finishing time.
  • Overall it was a stronger run than my first marathon. It took me longer to hit The Wall, and even then it wasn’t nearly as bad. I also found that I had far more emotional strength to battle the doubts and funny thoughts that run through your head when you push your body to such extreme limits.
  • I’ve started to figure out what kind of nourishment works for me on race day. This year’s menu: peanut butter pretzels and water for breakfast; GU Chomps and water only during the race. It still needs some tweaking so that I can avoid the jittery legs I had after mile 24, but I’m starting to understand how nutrition affects me.
  • I had much more awareness of my pace and I have developed increased comfort in recognizing the limits (or even the possibilities) of my training.
  • Speedy recovery. Physically I felt strong from the moment I crossed the finish line and I feel nearly back to normal only two days later.

As runners we often focus so much on speed and time. How fast am I going? Did I PR? But there are so many other things to consider when you think about your performance in any given race, and the reasons I’ve given above are just some examples. No matter the speed, it’s important to remember that pushing your body to cover 26.2 miles using only the power of your own two feet is an immense accomplishment whether you run, jog or walk.

Congratulations to everyone else who completed the 2009 ING NYC Marathon!

(And I’ll see you out there again next year.)

marathon medal

Finally, a Personal Record

I made one more step toward becoming an unemployed running superhero today (see also previous posts Unemployment + More Training = Superhero? and Maaaybe getting a little faster). Finally, after three months of focused training I finished a race in record time. At this morning’s humid Grete’s Great Gallop half marathon in Central Park I finished in 1:29:42, a PR by more than a minute and a half. I actually wasn’t sure if I had it in me when I got up this morning, though. I barely slept and when I did manage to snooze a bit I had crazy dreams, including one where I woke up to find dozens of clocks in the house – but all reading different times – so I had no idea if I overslept or not. Nothing like an anxiety dream before a race.

But just before the horn blew at the start I realized that this was my fifth and final half marathon of 2009 and it was going to be my last chance to break that record for some time. And I finally broke 1:30! (I’ll admit, though, that those last two tenths of a mile were really tough.)

Looks like this course agrees with me. My previous PR for the half marathon distance was set at the same race in 2008. Too early to set a goal for 2010?

Superman!

Reach the Beach, Part 2

Out of the 207 miles of the 2009 Reach the Beach relay I ran 19.09 miles, divided into three legs, over the course of 24 hours with only two hours of sleep. It was tough mentally and physically but a lot of fun. Here’s a quick rundown of each of the legs I ran:

The Start at Cannon Mountain

The foggy 3:00pm start at Cannon Mountain

Leg 6 (8.62 miles):
When I started my first run it was still light out, but I was required to wear a flashing reflective vest and a headlamp. The vests our team brought had a ridiculous number of flashing lights that made each of us look like running Christmas trees.  A moving disco might also be an appropriate comparison. It was a good thing we had them, though — at least the rest of the team was able to spot me as I came down the hill to the transition area in complete darkness. I was lucky to be able to run in the New Hampshire mountains during a beautiful sunset, but this long leg, mostly downhill, was very challenging. Also, I was passed by two people. At first I was dismayed but then I found out that they were both on top-placing teams so I shrugged it off. At the very least they helped me quicken my steps a bit and I finished with about a 6:40 pace. My van then took advantage of the handoff to Van #2 and drove down the road to Conway to get some dinner.

Transition area at AMC's Highland Lodge

Transition area at AMC's Highland Lodge

Nervously getting ready for my first leg

Nervously getting ready for my first leg

Leg 18 (4.89 miles):
With my hardest leg already completed, I figured this would be a piece of cake. Not necessarily so, I soon learned. This was probably one of the strangest moments I had during the entire race: running through small, sleepy Laconia, New Hampshire at 3:30 am with no one in sight, not sure if I was going in the right direction (I was, thankfully). The tough part was that last mile, entirely uphill. I think this might have been the first time in my life that I went running that late at night (or that early in the morning, depending on how you look at it). Finishing this leg meant that my whole van got to take a short, well-deserved sleeping break.

Leg 30 (5.58 miles):
By the time we got to my third leg it was around noon on Saturday. And by the time we got to my third leg I was also functioning on about two hours of sleep. We were able to crash for a bit at the last van transition area, but were woken up a bit early by our over-zealous Van #2, giving us a 90-minute warning before their arrival. A few hours later, and still desperate for a coffee and a meal of something other than granola bars and pretzels, maybe something like the delicious breakfast I had at Polly’s Pancake Parlor the day before, I took off on my final leg. Of all my legs, the level of difficulty for this one was the lowest, but it ended up being the hardest. My body was pushed to the limit, but I held my pace knowing it was the last few miles I needed to do. Can’t let the team down! When I finished I was tired and starving but exhilarated. We made our way to the beach, got some food and waited for the rest of our guys to come in.

My Final Leg

My final leg. Tired. Trying to fake a smile.

It was great to leave the city for a couple of days and enjoy the fresh air of New Hampshire. My team did a fantastic job, completing the relay in 24:49:43 to finish 24th overall. The training paid off and recovery went well – and now I’m back to focusing on the NYC Marathon.