In one of my first long-distance races, the letter in the program from the race’s previous winner talked about respecting the distance.
(I can’t remember whether it was the male winner or the female winner, but for the sake of this story, I’m going to go with female.)
She had won a large race the year before, yet she said that she approached each race and distance with an equal amount of respect. A 5K was as important to her as a 10-miler.
It’s something I never forgot, but have failed to internalize at times.
After a great season of marathon training last fall, I got a little cocky. I thought I could do anything. And when my training’s been on point, I have been able to accomplish quite a lot.
To be honest, a PR probably wouldn’t have been possible today anyway with my training. I’ve trained as well as I have the energy for, but that’s definitely not near the full potential I’ve had when I’ve had more time. I said I wanted it, but I didn’t really want it with every bit of me like I did my NYC Marathon time last year.
This morning, I woke up at 6 with plans to leave by 7:05 to pick up Leticia. I woke up excited…and I also woke up with my period. (Sorry to all three dudes reading this.) I’ve never had it during a race before, and I hoped it wouldn’t affect me too much.
I got dressed and walked Bailey and noticed a thick sheet of pollen coating the windshields of the cars in my neighborhood.
Leticia and I split a cab up to Central Park, and I did something uncharacteristic: I checked a bag. I never do this, because I’m always convinced there’s going to be a really long line to drop it off or pick it up after the race, and I can usually just suck up whatever temperature. But rain was forecast for this morning, and I thought I might want some dry clothes afterwards.
I checked my bag, put on my bib and headed off for my corral. I hastily scrawled the times it would have taken to hit 1:55 on my arm and then started getting antsy for the race to start. I was standing there and out of nowhere realized I’d forgotten to put my d-tag timing chip on my shoe, and it was in my bag in baggage check. Baggage check was at least a 5 minute walk away, and the race was starting in less than 10 minutes.
Oh well, I thought. Even at this point, I thought PR-ing was dubious. Either way, the prospect of running to get my dtag and potentially starting in the last coral sounded less appealing than no official time.
Obligatory crowded corral shot.
I started the race and wanted to keep around a 9:00 pace and then pick it up later. However, cramps started kicking in during the first mile, my legs were tight and so were my lungs from the pollen annihilating them. I was fighting hard to keep even a 9:30 pace at this point. It’s fine, I told myself. You just need a mile or two to warm up.
At this point, I was surrounded by a lot of much slower runners. I was pissed and convinced half of them had lied about or completely overestimated their racing ability to get into a faster corral.
Mile 2: Still tight, still fighting to keep sub-9:30. I started thinking about DNF-ing at this point. My time and race completion already wouldn’t count. I wouldn’t push myself to potential injury, and I could curl up in a ball and sleep off the cramps and allergy headache.
Mile 3: I somehow managed to take it back to a 8:50 pace, and thought that I’d finally found my stride.
Mile 4: I started hitting the hills, and my legs just couldn’t take it. They felt stronger at mile 24 of the marathon than they did at this point. I started thinking really seriously about DNF-ing at this point and formulating my plan. Okay, I’ll just run to baggage check, pick up my stuff and peace out. Around mile 4.5, I took a Gu and hoped and prayed that some sugar and caffeine in my body would help things.
Mile 5-6: The caffeine and sugar were starting to help, and I started to feel a bit better.
Mile 6: We were at the south end of Central Park, and the crowds were a little thicker. This is also my favorite part of the park (usually because it’s where I finish/end), so my spirits picked up a bit, but I was still wondering how the hell I could run 7.1 more miles. I eventually ran past someone who was yelling “you’re almost halfway there!” and I realized I still had it in me. Today was not the day I’d admit (total) defeat. I’d finish this damn thing. I picked up the pace a bit, and thought I might even still have a PR, or at least a sub-2 time in me.
Miles 7-9: I realized that any visions of PR-ing were totally delusional (oh! It also started getting much warmer here, which was not awesome) and tried really hard to banish all thoughts of time and just finish this damn thing.
Mile 10: THANK THE LORD. i have never been so happy to see the number 10 on a large blue sign.
Mile 11: I was at 1:45 at this point, and I started doing some math. Could I do the last 2.1 in 15 minutes? If I had been running at a good speed all race and then was about to negative split the crap out of this race, MAYBE. No way in hell was that happening today.
Mile 12: I couldn’t even pick it up for this last mile. My legs felt like I’d been running all day.
Mile 13: THANK THE LORD.
Mile 13.1: Uphill? WTF. I was wearing my marathon outfit, which I’d put on for good luck, and a few people yelled my name at this point. Finally, with something like 50 yards to go, I sprinted the hell out of the race to cross the finish line.
I need a massage and a mini-break from running before I start training for my next challenges: Reach the Beach and the triathlon I have in June.
At least it didn’t rain?
Thanks again to Fitness for hooking me up with a free entry!