Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Walk To Forget in the Brooklyn Half Marathon

By now, everyone locally has heard about my 1:26 finishing time in the Brooklyn Half over the weekend. Part of it was because of word of mouth. Most of it was because I decided to post my race report on the Flyers discussion forum when someone in the club asked for feedback on the race. I decided to chime in not because I wanted people to know about my race. It was more because I wanted to point out some logistical things that detracted from my experience in hopes that the powers that be can bring it to the attention of the NYRR. At any rate, the response has been almost universal. “Good job, Lam. You walked and still finished with a great time. Congrats!” Although I’d sheepishly grin and modestly accepted the praise, in my head all I could hear are the words…”You walked…YOU WALKED…yes…YOU WALKED!” and nothing else. And although there were a bunch of mitigating circumstances working against me on race day (sunny, humid, lack of water being the most obvious), I still can’t get over the fact that I found myself walking again in the middle of a half-marathon. You see people, before I became the Running Laminator, when I didn’t know my own ass from my elbow in terms of running and only went to races because my best friend disguised as my running coach dragged me with him, I had a habit of walking in races. I’d walk in some of the 5-milers, a few of the 10Ks, and almost all the half-marathons I was entered in. It used to get so ridiculously bad that I’d consider it a success if I took only one walking break in the middle of the 13.1 miles. As a result, it took me forever (a year and a half) before I was able to break 1:30, even though I was hitting 1:31 pretty consistently. Eventually, at the Queens Half two years ago, I was finally able to run the full distance without walking and sure enough broke 1:30 for the first time (1:28:06). Fast forward two years, and I have managed to remain walk-free ever since. That’s why it was so horrifying when I succumbed to the heat/exhaustion/fatigue and reverted to an old habit that was so hard to kick. I can’t help but feel like I failed and regressed a bit as a runner – somewhat like an old alcoholic returning to the flask. It may be irrational, it may be far-fetched, but I cannot shake the image of me taking steps in every long distance race from here on out.

And it’s not like I haven’t tried. I took two days off running and went back to the track today to refine my form, practice my stride and regain the speed and confidence that I feel I’ve lost in the past six weeks since Boston. I looked back at my schedule and saw that my last successful interval run was 4 x 1 mile at 5:52 pace in the middle of March while training for Boston. In order not to be overwhelmed, I purposely set a softer goal for today: 3 x 1 mile at 5:55 pace. But even after the first mile, I found everything a complete struggle. I was so winded and tired after each one that I had to “cheat” and take complete rest for a minute or two before even doing the recovery half-mile jog. It was against protocol, but it was all I could do to not drop dead or jump into the East River (my track runs right next to it). In the end, my grade was still a giant FAIL because my three interval mile times were only 5:52, 5:58 and 6:03. And because it was now a possibility, the thoughts of stopping/resting gnawed at me in the middle of every interval as I was getting tired. Before this Saturday, it would never even have crossed my mind to ask the question.

In my mind, walking in middle of a race is completely inexcusable…regardless of the conditions. Before I regard myself as a runner again, never mind training for another marathon, I have to have to HAVE TO bury the hacket on this walking thing and not entertain it as a possibility. It is actually quite humiliating when you start with the fast group in the first corral and walk in the middle miles of the race. Believe me, I know. I secretly used to make fun of those people. Can you imagine Kara, or Ryan or other running elites taking steps in the middle of their races (unless they were severely injured)? Yeah, me neither. I rest my case.

Thanks for reading my semi-rant. Remember tomorrow is National Running (not Walking) Day! Make sure you do your part to promote the cause and celebrate!


Run For Life said...

I understand your thought process right now but you're letting it get to you too much. Give yourself some time to heal the "wound" if you will. Or even get pissed about it, let that fuel your next run. Totally cliche - think about the positive things and focus on them. Don't remind yourself of any of the other factors. Turn the focus on YOU and not other people.

You are a runner, Lam. Prove it to yourself.

Anonymous said...

You know, I think sometimes we have to forget the past and move on. Lam, you are a great runner. I know it is disappointing to you that you walked. Now, you just need to forget about it keep moving forward. Don't let this one incident bring you down. Just get out there and run for fun without knowing pace.

Anonymous said...

I have felt the exact same way... and recently. It feels awful to regress when you've been on a PR setting rage. BUT! I think your body is just adapting. Just get your mind there, too and you'll be good to go. You're a great runner and one race does not define your ability, mental toughness or race smarts.

lindsay said...

it's nice to see you are, in fact, human. (i'm also kinda glad i'm not the only one who is super hard on themselves!) i can understand what you are saying and how you feel. self-disappointment sucks. i've certainly felt it and complained about what others thought was a great performance.

many people are way impressed by a 1:26, including myself, whether you walked or not. time to move on lam. leave this race in the past, and focus on the future. it's all you can do.

hello, perhaps those mile repeats were off because haven't you not-done repeats since before boston? (doesn't it take a little bit of time to re-adjust to the stress of intervals?) did you ever give your body time to recover from boston, and the 12 races after it? didn't you just run a half marathon? earth to lam... ;)

Vava said...

Galloway would disagree with you. Lighten up, Man! All this self-depracation is very unbecoming.

J said...

I understand where you are coming from now with the walking during a race. I think maybe you should cut yourself some slack on the mile repeats though. Just because you walked doesn't make you less of a runner in my eyes and I know that you will continue to accomplish great things.

Chic Runner said...

It's weird because during my marathon when I was was walking I was feeling the same way. Like what the heck am I doing? Am I really one of those people WALKING? but alas, you've got to let these things go.

Mike G said...

I enjoy your posts and think that a 1:26 is super solid. It puts you in the top 3% or so in most any race I'm aware of.

I do think it's odd you had to walk. Was it the heat? Normal training weather for you northeasterners must be cooler on average? The fact that you still were able to put up a 126 boggles my mind.

One other thing that I wonder about is do you overhydrate? You talked in your race report about drinking a lot of water. I know everyone has different hydration patterns and needs, and it was a hot day, but I personally rarely if ever drink during a race. It brings me out of my zone and breaks my focus. When I ran my 3:10 Boston qualifying time at the Myrtle Beach marathon a few months ago I drank a liter of water and had 2 powerbars just before the start, and then took off - I didn't stop at any aid stations, only slowing to high five spectators. I guess I'm not talented enough to drink and run at the same time.

Regardless that 126 is a great time, nice job.

X-Country2 said...

I once had a coworker say they "saw me out walking" one day. Um, I wasn't "out walking", I was walking to cross the street in the middle of a 15 MILE RUN!

(Oh, was this your rant or mine? Sorry.)

You'll get there eventually. You're too good not to.

Running and living said...

I walked the first time during a race at the 1/2 over the weekend. Although I walked only 2-3 steps and I PR-ed, I am still beating myself up over it. It feels like a failure, like "giving in", being mentally weak.So I am working on it, and also plan on doing more "mental preparation" around this issue before next race.

It makes me laugh a bit that you are saying you lost your speed since Boston. Didn't you race almost every weekend and had a few PRs as well? Perhaps your body and mind are due for more rest, and they are just on strike at the moment until you give them what they need? Just a thought!

You still rock, though:) Ana-Maria

Spike said...

eh, so you walked, and you used to walk frequently. these things happen. we run in cycles, our progress is not an ever steady-rate decreasing line, sometimes it plateaus or even rises a bit before it will drop again. maybe some comparison to times after Boston to times after previous marathons will make you feel better about your progress as a runner.

Anonymous said...

Don't be so hard on yourself - you can't nail it every time out.

I wonder if Paula beat herself up after this incident. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/4454315.stm).

Also, when elites aren't having their day, they sometimes drop out. DNF is always another option, right ;)

NY Wolve said...

I hear you. In my quest to break 47 minutes in a 10K, I ended up cracking and...walking. I ended up with a decent race, and looking at my data, it didn't really affect my time too dramatically. But I felt terrible about it. A reversion to less fit days. And now when I look back at it I just want to forget that race and move on. A few days out, and I saw the good, and realize that goals are sometimes achieved and sometimes not. And its all good, right? There is another race soon.

The Happy Runner said...

Well, I'm not nearly as fast as you but I understand the feeling. I had to walk in my 5k last weekend (it was just a fail all around) and I felt like a chump. I think it happens, though. We want to do certain things and sometimes they don't work out. Don't beat yourself up. I'm over my walking and mental mistakes from my race -- I mean, the two things still bug me, but I'm over them. I can't let what I did weigh me down. You have FAR too much talent and ability to let a little walk break weigh you down!!

Ms. V. said...

Oddly, I'm learning HOW to walk. Granted, I'm 50, but I always thought walking was for those people.

It's not. At least for me.

You're very hard on yourself. Forgive yourself for walking. Close the door, and move on. You are a great runner.

Susan said...

One step back, three steps forward...that's how the saying goes, right?? At least, it's how I think it should go! This is your one little step back, and you'll be taking three giant leaps forward. Positive thinking goes a long way, as per Kara's video on your sidebar!

M*J*C said...

Lam- I think it's great that you are able to step back and look at yourself critically, and "call yourself out" with honesty about the level that you expect yourself to perform, It also says a lot about how passionate you are about running. HOWEVER...this one race DOES NOT define YOU....YOU are STILL Lam, the RUNNING LAMINATOR, the person that we all cheer for, the person that stops in our blogs and encourages us, the person that runs Boston and countless other races...and runs them REALLY fast! This race is another part of your running journey, and who knows, the lessons learned from it just might be the ones that lead you to your next amazing race.

Joe Garland said...

I too chastise myself for walking during a race. It's a bad habit to get into. I have you beat, though. A couple of years back I stopped during a 5K when my head was dealing with work-stuff. I started up again, but am still mad about it. And I've stopped briefly in other, longer races as well.

It happens in part because we're tempted to stop (or at least I am) in every race when we're pushing it and we get mad if we succumb to that temptation. It's good to be angry about it, but in proportion. It happens.

But sometimes stopping is not all bad. I did it 3 times at NY 2006 and each time it allowed me to calm down and get composed before starting up again. I also did it in particularly difficult (i.e., hilly) parts of Reach-the-Beach.

And remember that Orlando Pizzolato stopped over 10 times on his way to victory in NY 1984. (I DNFed.)

Irish Cream said...

Lam, I have to say, I hear you on this one. I am stuck in a walking rut right now--and it sucks. I try SO hard to tune out the voices telling me to walk, but I feel like when you've done it once, it becomes that much easier to give in the next time.

But, that being said, I also think that all it takes to get over it is one good run/race where you are SERIOUSLY tempted to walk, and you suck it up and stay strong. It proves that even when you feel like you NEED to walk, you don't.

Hang in there--you'll beat this ;)

(and just FYI, your word verification box is mocking me by having me type in "demon"--ha!)

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