Flying Pigs in the Time of Swine Flu*, Part II

*With apologies to Mr. Garcia Marquez.

I’m breaking this race report into sections for logistical reasons: it would take me a whole other week to write one long all inclusive post. So I’ll start at the beginning, continue through the middle, and then finish at the end.

The flying of the pigs

Miles 1-5: The flood gates open

Mile 1: 9:26
Mile 2: 8:48
Mile 3: 9:10
Mile 4: 8:42
Mile 5: 8:27

Like most big races I had run the starting gun didn’t actually trigger anyone to move. Actually, there wasn’t even the whole step-and-stop action that usually ripples through the crowd after the gun. The pack must have stood there for a good minute or two before there was any movement in my section. Everything was so crowded that I didn’t even review my game plan or give myself a pep talk or anything. I was too concentrated on not getting knocked over or pushed aside to do any of that—I just had to get myself to the starting line.

Several minutes later I crossed the starting line officially starting my race. I cued up “Proud Mary” on Liam and hit start on Fenny.

Immediately I discovered the major problem with not corralling 16,000 starters: all the runners of various abilities and walking groups were all jumbled up together. So there wasn’t the normal bobbing and weaving to get through the starting mile. I had to dodge walkers and slow runners who had all crowded up to the front of the line.

I try not to be a running snob—I really, really do—but there are some things that you do out of courtesy. And one of them is that if you know you aren’t cranking out seven minute miles that you stay toward the back of the pack. These walking and 5+ hour Marathoners should not have been in the first segment of the starting line. So a big note to The Flying Pig staff: I know you want to keep this a people’s Marathon, but some corralling will just ease things up for everyone.

This ended up being the story for the first five miles of the race. Even the parts where the road was super wide (four lanes in parts) there were so many turns that the sheer volume of people forced me to slow down.

I got really frustrated during these first miles. My game plan was to run the first three miles at an 8:50 pace, but with so many people this was quickly becoming difficult. So I tried to make up for lost time on the many down hills during these first rolling miles—which is why my splits are so erratic.

Miles 6-8: Hungering for hills

Mile 6: 8:47
Mile 7: 9:07
Mile 8: 8:47

This was billed as the “hard” part of the race. Miles six through eight were essentially a 250 foot climb with no relief. Driving through the course on Saturday afternoon I could see the intimidation factor: long slow climbs dotted with sharp short climbs in between.

I wasn’t worried about the hills though. Training in Central Park and over the East River bridges I regularly had 100/150+ foot climbs built into runs. I knew how to deal with these hills. I had a different concern: I was hungry.

Yes folks, 40ish minutes into a Marathon and I couldn’t deny it anymore, I was hungry. It turned out that I burned through those Power Bars fast than I thought and since I was looking the doughy goodness of the bread I had no gut fill. I busted out my first Clif Shot at the start of mile six, relieved that I had packed six Shots just in case, but seriously concerned that less than a quarter of the way through this race my body was already throwing up the “check engine lights” that usually come in the final 5K.

Aside from the hunger, I did really well on the hills. I was getting closer to my pace goal and falling into pace with the people around me.

Miles 9-12: Glory

Mile 9: 8:26
Mile 10: 8:36
Mile 11: 7:32
Mile 12: 8:22

With the big uphill section behind I focused on regaining my pace through the (relatively) flat midsection of the race. And it was working! I recouped myself, eased into a comfortable stride, and focused on my breathing—I was barely listening to my music so that I had no disruption from my natural cadence.

The crowds were out in full force here, it was like we were back at the starting line. I was slapping fives and yelling back to the crowd. I gave a great big “thank you” to the patients at the nursing home loudly ringing their cow bells.

I was actually feeling a little too good. At one point I looked down at Fenny and saw my average pace had plummeted down to 8:17 (see mile 11 above). I knew I was tapping a bit too much into the endorphins and immediately slowed down. FYI: 7:32 is the fastest split I’ve ever recorded while racing, it is also :18s faster than my tempo pace.

I was dealing with the problems I had in the best way I could. I drank Gatorade at every water stop to get calories and keep hunger at bay. I had a small stomach cramp, but used controlled breathing to push through it. Overall, everything felt fine and a 3:40 race was perfectly within grasp. I had visions of my triumph at The Breakers Marathon starting to play in my mind.


The Laminator said...

Nice start to your marathon. You really did well climbing those hills at 6-8. Looking forward to more.

Jess said...

Nice first half, and I agree that larger races should be corraled. People don't have enough sense to arrange themselves in logical order.

Irish Cream said...

GRRRR. I hear you on the need for corrals . . . I seriously just don't get why slower runners and especially walkers can't figure out (or maybe just don't care) where they should line up. I mean, it's dangerous for them too! Whatevs . . .

Can't wait to read more!

Ted said...

How much longer till I can get to read Part III???

I agree that corral system should be implemented !

Now, get busy on the third part. I am anxious.

Nitmos said...

So far, so good...

Tackling that hill early was nice. In retrospect, I think that hill misdirects the focus away from the rolling hills later and gives you a false sense of accomplishment.

Le's see what happens in part 3!

Adam said...

Wow, nice work on the hills. A mile faster than tempo pace!?