Monday, November 21, 2011

The marathon continues to elude me...a tale of two races

After running the NYC Marathon this fall, I swore off race reports.  I didn't feel like what I had to say was really worth writing down, and to be honest, I didn't feel great about my performance in NYC.  In talking with Amy over the first 14 miles of the Brooklyn Marathon (more on that later), she convinced me that it was worth doing - if for nothing else than to have a record of my races for me to read later.

I'll start with a brief recap of the NYC Marathon.  Incredible weather, perfect conditions.  Ran the first 13 miles with Erika, then she succumbed to cramping, and I continued on my own.  Held my goal pace (9:05 min / mi for a 3:58 goal time) through around mile 19, and was hit with SAVAGE cramping to my left quad.  Climbing the bridge into the Bronx, I looked down and saw my quad literally pulsating, and it felt like someone was twisting a knife into my muscle.  I walked, stretched, massaged, you name it - but by the time I got it back under control, the damage had been done, and my goal time was shot.  I ran/walked the rest of the way and finished in 4:20:36, which still represents a 2 minute PR over my last marathon in Philadelphia in 2009. 

Crossing the finish line, I felt really disappointed with myself and really upset with my performance.  In retrospect, there wasn't much I could have done differently.  I have come to accept my race, and the 2 minute PR, and have moved on from there.  Which brings us to the Brooklyn Marathon.

The Brooklyn Marathon was everything that the NYCM was not.  It was a local race, for the people of New York.  There wasn't an over-the-top expo, there weren't wave starts (or even corrals for that matter) - just a local race.  There were so many people (like myself) who had completed the NYCM 2 weeks prior (even the winners in Brooklyn had just raced New York 2 weeks prior), but what was more impressive than that was the fact that there were a good number of people that had completed the Knickerbocker 60K in Central Park THE DAY BEFORE!

The atmosphere at the start was low-key and jovial.  I saw Sam, caught up with some JRunners, and I met up with Ari and Amy, who had agreed to pace me for the first half.  The gun went off, and we started off on our MANY loops of Prospect Park.  Ari and Amy led me out at around a 9 minute pace, which was more aggressive than I had planned, but still felt OK.  We encountered Claire on the course, cheering like a madwoman (having just completed a 60K of her own the day before).  I crossed the halfway point in approximately 2 hours, and felt really good about my (soft) goal for the day of 4:10.  In truth, I shouldn't really have had any goals for the day, considering that I had never run Prospect Park before, and had completed a full marathon 14 days before.

Ari and Amy peeled off at mile 14 and wished me well.  For the next 2 miles, I realized how lonely of a day this could have been, had I not recruited a group of folks to keep me company on the course. Robin joined me for a while, then reversed course to go find Sam.  Then it happened.  I started to feel nauseous.  I reached the next aid station at mile 16, and grabbed some pretzels, thinking that it would help keep the nausea at bay.  All it really did was create a spackle like paste in my mouth.  At that point, Dave picked me up to run with me for a few miles.  I started running, but quickly was overcome with nausea and slowed to a walk.  Soon after that, Scott joined the party.  I ran/walked as best as I could, and tried various remedies at the next aid station to try to relieve the nausea (bananna? blech, flat coke? helped a little).  I was starting to think about Sam, and wonder how she was making out.

All of a sudden, at mile 22, I hear Maura and Sam coming up behind us.  I was still walking at the time, and feeling pretty miserable.  Maura just scooped me up, and took me with her to the finish.  Scott and Dave stayed back with Sam.  Maura was an unstoppable wave of encouragement, and something just clicked in me.  I found my stride again, blocked out the pain, and just kept going.  Around mile 25, Sam and her entourage caught up to us again, and we just hoofed it in to the finish.  Just past mile 26, Dave took a nasty spill, but Maura shouted at us to keep going.  I dug in, and got my finishing kick, turned around and saw Sam cross just behind me.

This race was great for me because I had my friends join me, pace me, encourage me, and just keep me company.  I could see this being a long and lonely race (and one I may not have finished) without them.  By far though, the highlight of the race was having  Maura pick me up and take me in to the finish, being able to dig in, and find that hidden store of energy and determination and just bring it in.  I think that was what I was missing in NYC.

Over the years, I feel like I have achieved a pretty good degree of proficiency with half marathons.  I can formulate a plan based on my current level of fitness, and execute on that plan pretty reliably.  For now, the marathon continues to elude me.  That doesn't mean I'm done with the marathon (well, I am, until next fall - or so I say now), but I know that I need to keep at it before my marathon performance gets to where I want it to be.


3:59:59. Bitches. said...

So glad I got to see you out there a few times (and walking to my various spots was my exercise for the day!). Congrats on another finish, especially after a PR in NYCM. Prospect Park is a BEAST, and that's coming from someone who runs there daily. You are a bad ass in my book. xo, Claire

Samantha said...

You really accomplished something great out there Sunday. The marathon distance is no joke, and it's not easy, no matter what your training is (so I've seen in my little experience) Glad I could be there to share in the glory with you! :)

Michelle said...

Great job Joe!!! Having friends along for the ride must have made it even more special. Inspiring!!!! Congrats to you!!!!

Dave B said...

That was quite a feat you accomplished yesterday: 2nd marathon in 2 weeks, while having a cold, and stomach problems, and on a day that was pretty warm for November. It was good to meet you & run with you, & to see you cross the finish line. Great job!

And thanks again for the lift back into Manhattan.