First, no I was not registered to run the NYC Marathon.
Actually as of Friday, I was not planning to run a marathon this weekend. I initially wanted to run the Friend2Friend Thunder Run, a trail half marathon in North Jersey that raises money for free mastectomies. In light of the damage from Hurricane Sandy and the shortage of gas here in NJ (especially North Jersey) I decided to look for other races that made practical sense. Only today did I discover that the RD of the Thunder Run decided on Thursday that she was post-poning it two weeks since the park is not open.
I knew there was a marathon in PA, but I really wasn't sure I felt ready to run it. After a very stressful week of dealing with the storm and then the road conditions and now the gas rationing, I have been on edge and anxious. I have eaten like crap and not trained as much as I need to. I feel sluggish. But since there is gas in PA and I had friends carpooling out there, I thought I could help ease my own mind by bringing home fuel and getting in a long run. I am an evened number licensed plate, and today is an evened numbered day, but there are better things to do with a Sunday morning than sit in a gas line for a few hours.
Clearly, I am somewhat traumatized by the storm, as evidenced by my constant search for gas when I actually have some gas in my car and two cans in my garage. Power is being restored daily and more stations are opening to pump theirs. However, I just don't feel safe enough right now since another storm is coming this week. I don't want to be caught with a flooding basement and a gas-less generator. I know many people are less concerned about this than me. But this is where I am mentally right now.
I called Dave L. and asked him if I could get a ride out to PA with him. He was traveling with Jessi K. and he checked with her and she was happy to have me join her. Dave's girlfriend, Jennisse, was so awesome as to come with her diesel Jetta and drive us all out to the race. She wanted to run the half, but the night before there was a confusing email that said the race was full but there would be last minute registration in the morning. If you clinked on the race website, they posted there that they were not longer accepting race day registration. The quick email could have easily been misunderstood, as it was. Jennisse ended up taking the drive and being a good sport about not racing.
Last weekend, it was between 40-50 degrees and I was in a sports bra and shorts. Today was 35 and rising to 40-50 degrees and I was confused as to what to wear. I thought back to March when I ran a 6 hour race at 37 degrees in a long sleeve, a t-shirt, shorts and calf sleeves. I decided to do the same. I actually felt hot about halfway through and wished I had dumped the T-shirt (but it was not a throwaway).
The last long fast race I ran was one month ago. It was a PR 18 miler. It came on the heels of two back to back half marathon PR's. Based upon those races, I was hoping to PR today as well. The last marathon I ran was two months ago, also in PA. It was a point to point course then, but mostly downhill. The weather was warmish. I ran a 3:27. I was surely faster than that now!
I decided to got out hard and see what happened. I though I'd try 7:15s for while and see how that goes. At first, the cooler weather felt helpful. I was running 7:00s or under and it felt easy. But within a short period of time, I was feeling the extra work I was doing by running into the wind. The wind wasn't horrendous. It was just present and on this point to point course, it was going to be in my face the whole way.
As we hit the trail along the river, I could feel the slight incline. We were running upstream. Again it wasn't horrendous. It was present and it was going to be this way the whole way. I was slowing down to 7:20s and it was ok. I still had a chance at a PR if I could just settle in and get comfy.
Today just wasn't my day. I could not find a place that I was happy with the speed while feeling physically comfortable. My back was getting tight, with some pain radiating down my arms. My legs felt good, but I could not hold my head in a comfortable position with out feeling the tension and pulling on my spine. Before even 10 miles in, I was not having fun. I slowed down a little more and realized if I just give up the idea of a PR maybe I can make this more tolerable.
I had caught up the half marathoners at this point who had abt a 10 minute head start. I considered just veering off with them and calling it a 13 mile training run... but I got up a 4:00 am to do this and I need a long run, even if it turns out to be slow. I know I got a good 10 done, so 16 more to go. 16 just doesn't sound very long... except after you have just run 10 miles feeling stressed out and cranky.
I was directed to turn left as the halfer's went right and there my decision was made, at least for a while. We are routed to an out and back on a asphalt path. It felt a little better than the river side. With the idea of the out and back, there was some chance of relief from the wind. Just passed 15 miles we turned back and were routed back toward where the half marathoners were finishing up.
Again I pondered stopping once I hit the half marathon finish line. My back and spine were not getting any better. I ran past a spectator who called out form instructions to me "Drop your Arms... Try to Relax." Oh boy, I thought I must look horrible if a spectator feels compelled to help me. Aren't they briefed to say "Looking Good!" when you are not?
I see that half marathon finish line and just can't bring myself to turn in. I continue on, since I have about 7 miles left. I can do 7 miles. Then I end up on this even steeper, yet still not horrendous, incline and my pace finally slows to beyond 8:00. Can I do 7 more miles? I feel like a slug, but I am pulling away from those behind me. All I can do is run the course in front of me. I settling in to about 8:20-8:30 and just plod along. This is a nice Long Run pace. Too bad this is a race.
I get close to 20 miles and see Mike Arnstein flying down towards his finish. I was wondering where the leaders were. Mike had left the entire field in the dust. I call out some words of encouragement and think, "I wonder if I can finish in less than an hour after Mike does?" :) I wasn't sure.
I had heard that there was some super steep hill. We were at 20 miles, with 6.2 left. I started to wonder if that incline that slowed me down was "the hill." It just couldn't be since no one would call what we were on "a hill", but I could see mile markers 26 and 25 as I passed them on the out. Where the heck is it?
And then there it was. I just had to laugh. I caught the guy ahead of me just before the start of the hill. He tried to run up it. I just walked. I walked right past him as he cramped up and tried to walk up it. He tried to run a few step, then walked more, then stopped walking. I tried to encourage him to just hike it to the top with me because his running isn't any faster than my walking and we can start running again at the top. He waived me on and I did not see him again.
I hit the top and a volunteer reported "The worst it over, all down hill now." I really wanted to ask him if he was lying to me b/c I don't think I could take much more.
By this point my back was hurting more than ever and I slowed my efforts even more. I just wanted to stop. I pondered just turning back, but then saw the (misplaced) 21 mile marker and felt I had to just finish off the last 5, knowing 3 of them would be back down. It was the only thing that kept me going- knowing that once I hit the last turn around it was literally all down hill to the finish.
I got passed by 3 women in these last 4 miles. It made me sad to have no ability to stay with them. I think at this point, I just no longer felt this was my day and accepted it. I just wanted to be done. On the last turn around, I saw Dave L. and knew he was having a phenomenal race, despite all the things I found hard about this race today. I had seen Jessi earlier and she looked great as well. This was just not my day. On a good day, I probably would not have even notice the things causing me distress today.
I picked up the pace a bit in the final miles as I approached the finish. I saw the clock read 3:26:30 as I crossed the line. I was so happy to be able to stop moving. I sat. My back got so tight I could not even speak clearly. It hurt. I am sure this is stress related and hopefully it will pass.
Female: 13th place
With this all said and done, I am glad I went. I had a hard race today and it was a 3:26. I used to have to wish for a perfect race to be sub-3:30, now this is what a bad race looks like for me. I will gladly accept that.
We got our gas cans filled on the ride home and I made it back without blowing up my car. I anticipate my distress diminishing over the next few days as normalcy returns.