Sunday, December 9, 2007

Race Report for 8/8 and Joe Kleinerman 10K

I believe in karma. I believe that no good deed every goes unpunished, which translated to running terms, means that after several better-than-expected race performances, you’re bound to have one that is less than desirable. Perhaps that’s the best way I can explain why I ran an anti-PR today.

Of course, there’s a more logical explanation, which is that I have been suffering from a nasty diarrheal illness for the past three days, making other activities besides laying in bed and sitting on the can utterly impossible; but that would be just a convenient excuse, and as a runner, I can’t allow myself to subscribe to such apparent reason. So I’m ditching common sense and invoking karma to explain my ails on the road. I should have seen it coming after setting PRs in my last three races. I was doomed from the beginning.

It was such a shame too because I was feeling better than I had in days this morning when I got up. I was relieved that the persistent dizziness and the stomach cramps had gone away and excited that I would get to run two races today. Well, it’s not exactly two different races, but two races none-the-less. I planned to run 1.8 miles on the reservoir, which is a little more than one lap around, then after a short break, I’d run the 10K race with NYRR around the park. By the time I finished, I would have run another 10K for NYRR, and 8 miles for Nancy and the 8/8 virtual race she had set up. I fixed myself some good old chicken noodle soup for breakfast, gathered up my running gear and was out the door within a half hour of getting out of bed. Because I had to do the 1.8 miles before the start of the race, I wanted to start early and make sure I had enough time to complete this first portion of my race without having to rush through the preparatory stretching and warmup.

The morning was damp and cold, but not as cold as it was last weekend. I decided to wear a tech long-sleeve shirt, thin sweatpants, a do-rag under a wool hat, and running gloves for my race. By the time I got to the reservoir at 8:15 there were already a few running clubs sprinting and prepping for the race. Were they there to do 1.8 miles for the 8/8 too? That’d be cool, but I doubt that’s why they were occupying the track 1.5 hours before the start of the 10K race. They were quite menacing with their matching uniforms and racing shorts. Little did I know until after my 1.8 that the Joe Kleinerman 10K was the final race that would count toward running club standings. So there was a logical explanation for why they were busting their freezing butts in the cold when the volunteers for the race hadn’t even shown up yet. Here I was thinking they were either participating in the virtual 8 with me, or I’d finally found myself some cold weather runners who were freakier (or more dedicated) than I.

I ran my 1.8 in 13:28 and felt good to be running again after my sickness. As I jogged over to the start of the 10K a short distance away, I had a fleeting thought that I should visit the port-a-potty again before the race. But because the field was crowded and I only had ~10 minutes to spare before the start, I felt I wouldn’t have enough time to go there, come back and still expect to line up toward the front of the pack. So I winged it and decided to hold it in, even though my stomach was making weird gurgling noises even as the race directors were giving us last minute instructions for the race. I was regretting not having relieved my bowels prior to leaving the apartment in the morning, but felt assured that since I have never had to use a port-a-potty mid-race, I’d be fine once the race start.

I managed to squeeze into the pack close to the front so I’d have a good start. However, because the field was so packed, after the horn sounded and we were off, there was still a tremendous amount of twisting and weaving for the first half mile. Because the race starts in the north end of the park, the first mile of the race is actually the toughest. The fast drop in elevation at the start followed right after with the biggest hill of the course all in the first mile makes it very enticing to lose focus, run too fast either downhill or uphill, and be fatigued for the rest of the race. As the road started to dip into the descent, I reminded myself to run my own race at my own pace instead of jostling with other people for position. I ran well that first mile, passing the mile marker at 6:24. The second mile was only slightly slower, at 6:31. However, towards the end of the second mile, I started to develop sudden intestinal cramps. They were similar to the ones I had had during the marathon, so I thought I’d be able to run with them. However, by the middle of the second mile, it was apparent that the cramping wasn’t going away and was growing more intense with each step. So finally, after climbing a small hill on the West side, I did something I had never done before during a race. I used a port-a-potty. Although I felt instantly better after I relieved myself, the two minutes I spent inside were the most psychologically confusing time I had ever spent in a race. On the one hand, I could hearing the crowds yelling and cheering for the runners and wanted very much to join them, on the other hand, I was confined to sit and not move until I was certain the cramps were completely gone.

By the time I was done and got back to the road, I had lost more than two minutes on my time was destined to run my slowest 10K ever in my life. Most importantly, since this was going to my last race of the year. I’d have to spend the holidays and the next month thinking about my poor performance in the context of a year of otherwise great running. I almost wanted to walk home and take a DNF for this race just to save my pride, but knew that I’d feel even worse if I didn’t finish what I started. So despite the time lost and the inevitable bad outcome, I ran the rest of the race as hard as I could, running mile 4 at 6:33, mile 5 at 6:42, and mile 6 at 6:20. During this stretch of the run, I felt guilty that I was feeling good and passing a lot of runners along the way. For the little while that I was able to remove myself from my pity party, I actually enjoyed running with the slower runners because it gave me some perspective on how it feels to be a middle-of-the-pack runner in a crowded race. It was interesting to note the differences in running attire, equipment, shoes, and even noises (or grunting and moaning) between the slower and faster runners. I even met Mary Wittenberg, the president of New York Road Runners, as I was making my way up Cat Hill on the East Side. I didn’t really introduce myself, but ran beside her for a short while. I was amazed that she looked just as preppy during the race as she does pre-race. It was a great sight to see, and I was glad I personally saw her in action.

I eventually crossed the finish line at 43:43 for the 10K, which meant a 55:53 for the 8 miler. Like I predicted, it was my worse finishing time in my running career for that distance, in other words, an anti-PR. But instead of blaming it all on myself or my physically ailments, I’m chalking it up to karma, and we’ll leave it at that.

Thanks Nancy for coming up with the 8/8 idea. I’m inclined to think I’d still be in bed if I hadn’t signed up for that race.


Topher said...

Good for you getting laced up despite the trots, runs, whatever you want to call "it". It was fun running with so many other bloggers; I think just knowing that everyone else was doing it was a great motivation.

Shilingi-Moja said...

Glad you joined us for the 8 on the 8th. Great time in light of the time spent midrace in other pursuits.


Non-Runner Nancy said...

So glad you joined us. I'm sorry about your unfortunate need to stop. I totally understand how that feels. I spent 5 min of my half marathon at a bathroom around mile 9. It was terribly frustrating. (although it is a nice little cushion for easy improvement next time!). As I am starting to peruse results, you are still leading the pack!!

Thanks for being part of my little idea. Take care of yourself.

nwgdc said...

i can relate...the first several marathons I ran included a stop in a port-a-potty, and the sound of cheering fans and shuffling feet while you're simply breathing heavy and "waiting it out" is a confusing one for you mind and body to understand. Still, you had a great time! Congrats!

L*I*S*A said...

Way to get the job done!

running private said...

I'm well impressed that you're back racing so soon after the marathon.
The toilet stop mid race is still my biggest fear and has yet to be realised. The worst I've had is having to turn around and head for home in the middle of a long training run due to the call of nature

Frayed Laces said...

I love how us runners don't think twice about discussing GI issues. I was trying to explain the "runners runs" to non-running friends the night before the marathon as I carefully avoided all greasy food and veggies. They were horrified.
And as far as your bad time, we can revel in our craptastic race times together.

Jamie said...

Don't beat yourself up too much. I would love to have that time for an 8 miler! But I'm glad you got to see how us middle of the packers run :) Good for you still getting out there and running even though you were having some "issues". And look at this way your next race is going to be awesome.

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Redeptemption can be yours.

9 on the 9th of February is in the works.

Hope you can join in!!

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