Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Race I Had No Business Running
Race Report for the New Jersey/Long Branch Half Marathon (Part II)

Race Day Morning
6:15AM comes way too early for me as my FC wakes me about 45 minutes after we had scheduled to be up. He had showered, gotten dressed and eaten half his breakfast by the time I was able to convince my weary body to get out of bed and get ready. Thanks to my coughing fiasco in the middle of the night, I was exhausted and had a migraine upon waking. I knew right then that this day would not end well for me and gave a fleeting thought about not even attempting the half. But a couple of Motrins later with half a banana, and I somehow convinced myself to defer the decision until I got to the start area and see all my Flyer friends who had made the trek down from the Big City to run this race. Of course by the time I got there and met up with everyone about an hour later, I forgot all about my fatigue, exhaustion and sickness and made plans with Flyer JB to at least start off the race running together. In the back of my mind, no matter how crappy I felt, I was still thinking that I can run 13.1 with no problems. After all, this was my 22nd such race and never once have I had trouble completing the distance.

At The Start
The weather was sunny and already quite warm by the time JB and I made our way over to the race start a few minutes before 9am. Although everyone was weary about how hot it would eventually get, it was actually quite pleasant at the start on the boardwalk thanks to the constant breeze of the New Jersey shore. JB thought we should try to keep a 7:15 min/mi pace for the first miles so we situated ourselves adjacent to the 3:10 marathon pace group. Upon my arrival, I was greeted by a blog reader who recognized me and said he was a big fan, which was way cool! Then, as we waited, I tried to calm down my head which had been pulsating mixed annoying messages ever since I got off the bus. I still had my Gatorade bottle with me and was taking sips at a consistent clip which was good, but suddenly realized that I had forgotten to eat my orange and bagel which I left in my dropoff bag, which was bad. As I watched the final seconds tick off to the start of the race, I reiterated my plan to run this race to enjoy myself so I can cheer on the others running the marathon afterwards.

The "Good" Miles (1 - 4)
Although we were near the front, JB and I still had to do wiggle and tease our way through the heavy crowd through the first mile. Powered by the high emotion from the starting line I felt tired but okay in the early going. The spectators lining the course were loud and boisterous and it was wonderful to be cheered on by them as I made my way into Monmouth. Mile 2 felt smooth as I sped up incrementally to move slightly ahead of the 3:10 pace group. Although JB was still with me, matching my cadence stride for stride, I was already losing steam by the start of mile 3. It was getting warm and the cool ocean breeze could not be felt inland. My last good mile came in mile 4 as I battled the sun, my well-being and dehydrated state to run until after the overpass entrance to Oceanport. (M1 - 7:02; M2 - 6:57; M3 - 7:11; M4 - 7:24)

The "Bad" Miles (Miles 5-9)
Somewhere in the 5th mile, when my mind lost its battle with the sun, and I gave up all hope of running anymore, I excused myself from running with JB and surrendered myself to taking my first walk break. Now, I had never taken a walk break this early in a race before. My first instinct was to go back from where I come and just except a DNF. But doing so would mean walking against the crowd, potentially facing embarrassment and ridicule. So I walked until my heart rate was calm and stable and attempted to run again. I was able to make it half a mile before having to walk again. I also took time to refill my Gatorade bottle which I had been carrying since the start. The sun was much higher and brighter now, which was starting to have its effects on the runners all around me. Once I restarted running again by M6, I forced myself to run slow and slower than I had been having before and to make it as far as I could without stopping. M7 was faster. M8 faster still as I saw Jocelyn crossing the bridge and called out her name. I bargained, pleaded and sang songs aloud to pass the time. As I ran, I kept asking myself the same questions other had for me: Why was I/he running this race? (M5 - 9:30; M6 - 9:19; M7 - 7:56; M8 - 7:28, M9 - 7:37)

The "Ugly Miles" (M10-13.1)
By the time I crossed 10, I had no energy left to fight. I had seen others drop like a bag of rocks on other side of me. It was a bit scary to see paramedics running around like crazy trying to deal with it all. A big part of me wanted to stop and help out the first aide team but I knew without the specific training, I'd be as helpful as a commoner. Still, when i did try to help by holding others down as they scampered to their feet after falling badly a few minutes earlier, I got unintentionally wacked on my legs so hard, it added to the laundry list of injuries I was collecting on that same extremity. So I let them go and just went about finishing this race the best I could. I walked for the last time at 10.5 miles and raced myself in with the ocean breeze once again at my back. Needless to say, my 1:46:23 finishing time was a personal worst for me! (M10 - 9:42; M11 - 9:38; M12 - 8:53; M13.1 - 7:40)

After the race, I collected myself and did all I could to celebrate my friends who took the plunge to round up another lap around town and finish the marathon. I even went with JB to edge of the boardwalk at M25 and cheered on runners as they came in for the finish mile. I saw big people, little people, fast people, and slower folk each doing all they can to muster up even enough to make it one more mile (plus .2) to make it across that finish line. Just watching them made me realize why I bothered to race my half marathon that day, why I bothered even with my sick health, inadequate sleep and decrepit body to attempt to run 13.1. By reading this list, maybe I can make you understand too!

13 Reasons Why I Ran The New Jersey/Long Branch 13.1
1. Because every start line marks the beginning of a new adventure, a new story, just waiting to be told.
2. Because I was hoping to inspire Flyer and friends out on the course who might not have known I was coming.
3. Because running is an expression of health and I desperately wanted to feel healthy again.
4. Because I wanted to be recognized as living (finisher) rather than counted amongst the dead (DNS/DNF)
5. Because SLOW is the new FAST: You experience more, you see more, the crowds love you more AND You have more fun!
6. Because sometimes just winning against the mind and body is a victory enough all onto itself.
7. Because a race is not just about a time, but the thoughts, emotions, and experiences you had along the way.
8. Because I genuinely believe that someone somewhere will benefit by my starting, running, and finishing this race.
9. Because that's how I'm choosing to define my own awesomeness today.
10. Because sometimes you have to hurt a little to have a whole lot of fun.
11. Because I've met both the hero and the villain this week, and surprise, surprise, they are both just ME!
12. Because if I've messed up everything prior to this race, I can still do this one thing right!
13. Because I really wanted to like running again even if running didn't want to like me back.


Anonymous said...

you have the best attitude. and I can't believe you were running that fast while stopping to help people falling how hot was it?

carpeviam said...

#7 sounds like the Bolder Boulder slogan this year: It isn't about your time, it's about the time you have.

Jocelyn said...

It was a tough day! I am still so glad I saw you! Seeing you really did lift my spirits! :) And since it was 46372925 degrees outside, finishing is awesome. Personal worse? meh who cares. You made a last minute decision to run it. Better than a DNF! :) YOU ROCK

Anonymous said...

man you are so tough! and such a great person to boot. i love how your "bad" and "ugly" miles look like my "good" miles hahah. if you ever want to trek over to eastern ma and pace me for a race i'm all over it haha

also great reasons why you ran. i was nodding my head with all of them

Jamie said...

You are tough! Way to fight through until the end. And great list!

Julianne said...

I love the race report title! Haha. You're so funny. We all run races that maybe we shoulda sat out on but hey, that's part of the experience right?? I really hope I get to run into you at NYCM!!!

Lindsay said...

i like it lam. i'm glad you really kept a good attitude through it all. sometimes we can get too competitive/worked up about things, but it really sounds like you were letting this one "just happen". you definitely shouldn't be having second-thoughts, you were practically on your death bed!

i think i need to print this post out and frame it. lam ran a 9:42 mile! ;) kidding of course

C said...

I hope you don't mind if I borrow "Slow is the new Fast". I'll try to remember to give you credit when I use it though. :)

Also, I really like #13. That's what I gonna try to do post-marathon disaster.

J said...

I can't even believe you ran! Wow Lam! Well i hope you are resting now and completely healed!

X-Country2 said...

I love yoru list. Thanks for the race report.

runner26 said...

wow! first--way to finish! it took a LOT to just get to the end! also, i really hope you're feeling better!!

Questionably Texan said...

You're attitude despite a "less-than ideal" race is ver inspirational.

Aron said...

ewww the weather at this race would have been the end of me. great job sticking it out with both the weather and just getting over the flu. do you think the flu was a blessing in disguise so you didn't have to try an all out marathon effort in the heat? just curious ;)

hey we could have ran together in this one!

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