Last weekend, before the chaos of upcoming trips and holidays, I met up with a Flyer friend for brunch in a quaint but lively section of Forest Hills in Queens. The food was good, but the conversation better as we caught up on each other’s lives and reminisced about old times as we both grew up not far from where we were eating. The highlight of our meeting though was when my friend analyzed some past relationship failures of mine and helped me realize some fundamental mistakes I’d made in assuming things that weren’t necessarily true. Case in point: I’d previously thought that when two people who may have been in a committed relationship once upon a time no long have direct communication with each other for several months, the relationship is, for all intents and purposes, over. Apparently, this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone else. Relationships are not over, even if all the evidence is painfully obvious, until both parties have had the “closure talk”. The “closure talk” can be short, sweet and succinct or long, drawn-out, and sad, but it is a necessary evil for both parties to move onward both psychologically and emotionally with their lives even if the physical bodies have long past left the building.
Huh…that’s interesting. Because I’m a pacificist at heart and naturally shy away from all matters of conflict unless absolutely necessary, I don’t think I’ve ever had the “closure talk” with anyone I’ve ever dated because from my perspective, what’s the point of just stating the obvious? But lately, since I haven’t been as successful in my relationships as I’d like, I vow to be a better person and re-examine my past prejudices with the hope that this exercise will foster more open, satisfying and fulfilling relationships in the future.
Towards this end, as I’m on a flight to Hawaii about to run my next marathon, I am drafting this letter in lieu of “closure talk” I want to have with the NYCM 2009:
Dear NYCM 2009,
It’s been said that marathon success is as fickle as a teenager in love, but I’ve always assumed that our bond was a bit deeper, stronger and more powerful than mere strangers who just happened to meet coincidentally at an annual running lovers’ tryst. After all, you were my first (marathon, that is) and every year since we’ve met, we’ve being getting better, getting faster, getting stronger, PR’s building upon past PR’s, until I thought for certain that this year, in this race, you and I would finally be joined together in holy sub-3 matrimony. But something went wrong in the program that day, as I arrived late and was left at the alter without my marathon bride.
Not a word has been spoken between us since, as I’m left to my own devices to figure out what went wrong. Others have certainly chimed in with their critique, sympathy and condolences, but I haven’t as yet heard your explanation or from your perspective of how I came to miss sub-3. Maybe you feel the silent treatment is an appropriate response given everyone else’s voices, or perhaps the point is that I’ve long since forgotten how to listen effectively to your messages, but for reasons that are unbeknownst to me right now, I need your permission to move on with my running life. I need your okay because there isn’t a passing day that I don’t stop to think about you – where I failed and what I’d done wrong. It’s been a month and my body still can’t separate fantasy from reality. No matter how many half-marathon PRs and road race PBs I’ve collected since, my mind still wants to paint my marathon failure as the sole epitome of my running life.
Maybe no one else knows, but I know where I’ve failed you. I know where I’ve done wrong. In the countless sleepless nights I’ve since had analyzing and evaluating my race, I could imagine five areas where my reckless negligence in training and racing doomed my rendezvous with you long before the final 10K:
1. Slow, Very Very Slow LSDs – In my exuberance to run long with others over the summer month, I inadvertently completed every single long run at 1:30 to 2:30 min/mi average slower than goal pace. So although I’ve doubled the number of long runs I was able to complete during this training cycle, I also did them all excruciatingly slow, which naturally left me unprepared to sustain marathon pace for longer than 20 miles. I was wrong.
2. Matters of the Heart – Although I wore a heart rate monitor for this race, I completely forgot to recognize my perfuse tachycardic state until it was far too late. By mile 18, I was averaging 170s and by mile 20, I was averaging 180s! This is crazy and incompatible with a sustainable effort for me. The fact that it escaped detection is completely inexcusable. I was wrong.
3. Training Others Before Thyself – In the week prior to race day, I spent so much time and energy preparing others for their own first dates that I did not even bother preparing myself at all for our annual encounter. If I had the opportunity to reverse time and start over again, I would run this race to have fun with the newbies and save my legs for a later fall goal race. That would have been a better strategy. I was wrong.
4. Out of Town Mentally – Work stress, newbie training, lack of sleep all contributed to my lack of mental preparation to run this race. I did not honor my commitment to run with mantras, quotes, questions, or any of my usual bag of motivational ammunitions. So although my physical body may have been ready to tackle the distance, my mental state was frail and ill-equipped for battle. I should have known better. I was wrong.
5. Racing Too Much Too Soon – In running my goal half-marathon for a PR in Staten Island three weeks before this race, I may have peaked in training a bit too early and a bit too soon. Afterwards, I gave myself the excuse that intervals and speedwork would no longer be important as I have clearly demonstrated my able to sustain a comfortable tempo-ish effort over the course of 13.1 miles. I fooled myself into thinking that my familiarity and success at the half-marathon distance would naturally translate to the full marathon as well. Obviously, I was wrong.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but these items are at the top of the list of reasons why I might have failed you that day. And although I fully acknowledge my part in this fiasco, you must also realize that you are one f*@king bitch of a race. We have a whole year to reconcile our difference and I hope for our sake that we remain socially amicable as we work on our own flaws gradually and individually. In the meantime, we must move on and have closure in this relationship, at least for the rest of this year. This is the healthy thing to do. Just so you know, I’m taking this opportunity to fly off to an exotic locale where I will try to find success in a marathon sibling of yours this weekend. Please do not try to find me or haunt my thoughts with your presence. If it’s meant to be, I will be back soon in town enough.
Thanks for all the good times and the life lessons we’ve shared along the way. The marathon memories we’ve had (Remember that first BQ in ’07?) will be cherished forever.