Monday started the week leading up to the NJ Marathon and I was quite excited for it! The weather report for Sunday looked ideal for a great day to go for a run.
On Tuesday, my left calf was still bothering me from the Lincoln Tunnel race the previous Sunday, but I still decided to rock out Speed Sessions with our group.
We did some sprint intervals followed by some core work which proved to be a lot of fun.
The rest of the week I biked sporadically and just enjoyed the weather.
On Saturday I ran for 20 minutes (to get my legs ready) up to Erika’s apartment. She had cooked french toast for me! What?! It was delicious… she’s quite the baker, no joke intended.
I went home and made rice and bean burritos for Sunday’s Marathon, then headed out to meet Ed.
It was a ‘Dad Posse’ plus family weekend. Ed (and family… Annalise, Jack, Isabelle and Ben) picked me up and we headed out to Mike’s house, which is 10 minutes from the race. Mike and his wife Kara offered to host us for the race similarly to the Little Silver 5K last R-october.
Once we arrived at Mike and Kara’s (plus Kelly and Kevin) we proceeded to have some beers and get ready for dinner out on the back deck. Jim and Lisa (plus Josephine and Elizabeth… and LOUIE) had beat us there and were already having fun. SIDENOTE: Who is Louie? Louie is Jim and Lisa’s 1 year old Boston Terrier. He’s adorable (in a tough way of course) and even purrs like a cat at times.
For dinner we had a spread of pastas and salads which was perfect for a pre-race meal. We also had a few Coronas, which only helped (in my opinion) the carb-o-loading.
We were in bed by 10:30-11 PM. Not bad at all…
I slept like a baby and woke up unaided at 6:30AM. Mike was up getting coffee ready. I grabbed a cup plus a bagel and chilled out on the back deck with the gang as they woke up. We were slotted to leave at 7:30 for the shuttle bus which was plenty of time to get my head together for the run.
Sitting out in the open air in my PJ’s having coffee, birds chirping and sun shining, I thought “Wow, what a beautiful day for a run.” Little did I know what was in store…
In preparation for battle, I grabbed 2 of my burritos and lodged them in my waistband. If you are wondering why on earth anyone would eat burritos during a marathon, you can read either my Knickerbocker Race Report or Disney for a better understanding.
We took the shuttle buses and arrived with ample time to get to the start. As we approached I noticed zero signage instructing runners or spectators where to go. We ended up running right into the side of the corrals (which were also utter chaos). Think… cattle (wait… udder chaos?). We all just hopped into the madness. As the wave 1 start went off I looked around and realized I was in the 4:15 pace area, which was 1 hour behind my goal for the day at least. Whatever… I thought I’ll just bob and weave once the race starts. We came to a halt right before Wave 2 got set off and as I crossed the Start Mat I realized I was 7 1/2 minutes back.
The Full Marathon course was 2 loops of the Half Marathon loop (which all of my ‘smart’ friends were doing).
Jim was on my heels and we started up the right side, weaving through people. As soon as we turned inland a wave of heat hit us similar to opening an oven door. Wow!
It was really crowded as I flanked everyone pushing forward. I tried to be as cordial a runner as possible, avoiding bumping people. I also had to pee really bad so I was watching out for port-o-potties in my peripheral. I knew that I would have to wait a few miles to get ahead of the early bathroom breakers.
At Mile 4, I pulled over to a port-o-potty for a hot second and whoa, it was an oven inside. “And that’s all I have to say about that… “
Moving forward I realized just what we (all 10,000 runners) had gotten ourselves into. It was scorching hot out. Right about Mile 5 I decided to have some kids at a water aid station hose me down with a water hose. 10 seconds later I was running without any music as I realized they also hosed down my iPod. Hmmm… 21 Miles with no music? Sure, I can do it.
I was cooking at a pretty good pace at this point and had high spirits. There were a lot of aid stations and I took every opportunity to grab 2 waters… one to drink and one for my head.
Not much to report for Miles 7-10… it was just freaking HOT out. The sun was relentless.
At Mile 11 we were running in the downtown area, then made our way left toward the boardwalk. SIDENOTE: I really like looped courses in a marathon as you can plan when you will use your energy reserves. Therefore, I was visually marking the course as I ran it, planning my attack on the second loop.
Cruising along the boardwalk was great as the ocean breeze was a savior. I liken it to opening the fridge after coming in from the summer heat. I think I even thanked the ‘ocean gods’ at one point…
Back at the Start/Finish I ran through the ‘2 loopers’ gate. After passing through and beginning along the path I had started an hour and a half earlier things got a lot quieter. It was at this point I looked at my Garmin and realized that my goal of a Boston Qualifier or a Sub3 Marathon were definitely NOT going to happen. Whatever, it was 95 degrees and humid, I needed to stay alive! However, the show must go on, never give up.
I was in the habit now of dumping water on my head at every aid station and if they had a hose, well I may as well have been a human 5-alarm fire. I was also dry 300 meters later.
Mile 15 or 16 I started getting very hungry (we will recap this fatal error at the end of our lesson) and so I ate one of my burritos. It was ‘beyond awesome’.
Chugging along between Miles 16-20 was maybe the hardest part of the race. Most distance runners will tell you that, but this wasn’t my ‘so called’ wall. I was just hungry, like starving hungry, like runnin’ on empty. The second issue was that the scenery was sub-par. It was very ‘Mayberry’ for those Andy Griffith fans out there. I was just trying to keep my feet going and every time there was a patch of shade or a sprinkler I ran through it. Seriously, did I mention that it was hot?
Around Mile 18 is when an Angel in Disguise came onto the scene. I was trotting along (possibly drooling) and on this quiet neighborhood street with zero traffic an elderly woman came into the middle of the street. “I have water! I have water for anyone who wants it!” Wow. I bee-lined it over to her and tried to stop. She said “No! Take the water and run, Im only going to affect your time!” I poured half the water bottle over my head and THEN I did something I have never thought to do. My feet were burning! Really bad, like they were on fire. I stopped and poured the ice cold water directly into my sneakers. It felt so amazing! I smiled and ran on.
As I approached Mile 20 something totally weird happened. I was flooded with an enormous amount of energy. All the pain (or hunger) I had been feeling subsided. I looked up and just started trucking! Watching my Garmin I KNEW I had fallen off the wagon the last few miles… BUT what if could make up some lost time?
I was passing people and staying the course. I grabbed a cup of water at an aid station and I realized I was as hydrated as I needed to be. (They say not to drink more than you need to and I truly believe this). I kept going and was throwing up the Bullhorns plus Thumb ‘Love’ sign to anyone cheering me on.
Not to dwell on this strange phenomenon, but I have never had a surge of energy like this at the end of a distance run. I normally just want to die, duh.
At Mile 23 I had started catching up to the tail end of the Half Marathoners and was running around them cordially. I had programmed the course into my head and was anxiously awaiting the point when it turned left onto the beach… the home stretch… the Ocean.
Cruising along at maybe a 7 minute pace I made the left and once again was welcomed by the oceans cool breeze. It cooled my core by ten degrees without even exaggerating. I was now 2 miles out running along the crowded boardwalk dodging walkers and random people who weren’t aware of a race taking place.
As the final mile approached I got very excited. I knew Ed, Jim, Mike, Annelise and Lisa would be somewhere toward the end cheering me on, which would only fuel my finish. There was an arch ahead that said something like ‘Finish.’ I sprinted, but as I passed through I looked ahead and could see the real finish 300 meters ahead! (NJ Marathon people… NOT COOL). I summoned up some more strength and gunned it again! This time I heard my name to the left and I saw the gang cheering me on! Overdrive! I cruised through the finish, grabbed my medal and hat and went to find the crew. I felt pretty good even though I knew my goal hadn’t been achieved.
We met up, exchanged a few high fives and took a few photos before heading out.
We wrapped up the day at Mike and Kara’s with a BBQ and some more Coronas. Thanks to Mike and Kara for once again being great hosts!
Returning to mighty Manhattan, I was greeted with a sweet surprise… Erika! She insisted she take me out to celebrate the marathon! We had some BBQ and bourbon drinks (she’s from Texas.) It was a great way to end the weekend.
I learned a lot after this race, as usual. I need to eat my burritos BEFORE I get hungry. This way the energy transfers into my body without any down time.
Im also really excited for the whole crew! All of us killed it out there in really rough conditions. For a few of the gang, it was their first Half! Congrats to all of you, that is quite an achievement and obviously only preparing you for the next step… Full Marathons! Awesome.
On a personal note, I was kind of down on myself for not breaking any of my records and not qualifying for Boston by under 5 minutes again. I was kind of in a stupid daze, as if nothing marathon related had happened during the post run festivities. When Erika said she wanted to take me out to celebrate my race and how great I did, even though I didn’t think I had done well at all, I got really happy and snapped out of my funk.
A lot of runners get down on their performances. They aren’t happy with their times, or if they PR’d. We can be really hard on ourselves. What hit me as Erika and I were eating dinner (which is the feeling that soaked in after my first marathon) was “Hey, you just ran a marathon, jerk! That in itself is an accomplishment.” That’s when I understood once again why I run Marathons or why I race in Triathlons: to feel alive.
There are only possibilities.