Running in circles, Part III

Mile 14: 7:36
Mile 15: 8:31
Mile 16: 8:13
Mile 17: 8:22
Mile 18: 8:16
Mile 19: 8:32
Mile 20: 8:34
Mile 21: 8:50
Mile 22: 8:40
Mile 23: 8:47
Mile 24: 8:39
Mile 25: 8:39
Mile 26: 8:38
Mile 26.2: 1:26


The first loop of the second lap was an out and back along the waterfront—a bit different from the first pass at this loop when the course snaked around office parks and shopping centers.  This route was narrower, but more scenic.  Taking a look at my time I knew I was doing well but didn’t want to let that go to my head and sudden burn out.  I always feel weakest at those high-teen miles (17-19), and if I’m burnt out by then I know it will be a bad race (see The Pig).

However, at the turn around on this loop I could see that the blonde girl, who I thought I had finally shaken, was just a couple meters behind me.  I knew I couldn’t take it easy on this loop if I was going to stay ahead.
As I got back to the nexus of the course I saw Wifey again with camera in hand.  I learned later that she had been standing in the same exact place during the first lap, but I totally missed her.  I maneuvered my way through the narrow course and sharp turn through the relay exchange, hoping to not bump into a barricade (this area was extremely tight!).

Entering the second (and final!) loop of the second lap I started to pay some serious attention to my stomach.  Essentially since Mile Three it was telling me it had to go to the bathroom.  At first I thought it was just a one off wave, but it kept coming back every 15-20 minutes.  For about 12 miles I was trying to decide between taking a preemptive bathroom visit now, take the time hit, and then proceed knowing it was over, or press chance and plow thorough the last 11 miles and run the risk of a major issue down the line.  My head was saying to press on, but knowing that there was another pass at that big hill coming up I knew I had to listen to my body more.

At the same time I could feel the eyes of the blonde girl burning into the back of my head.  I would hear her get close and then I would pull away.  And then she’d get close again, and I’d pull away again.  And while that was fine for the flat part of the race, the hills were going to start and I was already pressing my pace into the 8:13 area.  I didn’t need someone forcing me to go too fast when I was holding down stomach issues.

Finally, around Mile 16 I gave up and decided that I wasn’t going to pull away from the blonde girl this time.  If she takes me over on these hills, well, then she would just be the better runner.  My 20-something-year-old-who’s-out-to-prove-himself ego would just have to be shelved for now.  But then something weird happened.  She parked herself on my right and did not pass me.  Through downtown we ran step in step.  We never got further in front of each other than a foot or two.

After about 20 minutes of this, I turned to her and said “hi.”  She turned to me and in a too loud voice said hi back and said that I’m really good at pacing myself and that she had been behind me the whole race (Ha!  As if I didn’t know).   She asked if we were going to make it under four hours and I told her at the pace we’re going we’ll make it under 3:50.  I didn’t even get to tell her that I was trying to make 3:40 because she quickly said that she was listening to really loud music and “let’s just run.”  While I appreciate the purist approach to running, I wasn’t exactly looking for someone to share my life story with.  I was just opening up the dialogue between us new-found running partners.  So I left it at that.

By this point we were crossing the Swinging Bridge again, where I had noticed her the first time.  I knew that there was now less than a mile before the big climb and that I should really find a port-o-potty, especially since my stomach was flaring up again.  I knew there was a port-o-potty halfway up the hill, but I would have to cross oncoming runners to get to it and would have a blind approach (and therefore I wouldn't be able to tell if there was a line).

But magically an empty port-o-potty appeared half-way along the course to the climb.  There was no line and the color on the handle was green—it was empty!  Knowing that the blonde girl was listening to loud music and that my decision to stop was made in about .68 seconds I gave her no warning.  I saw her head flick back around when I peeled off and headed into the bathroom.

Ninety seconds later I was back the course—perhaps the quickest time that the Browns have ever made it to the Super Bowl.  On the approach to the switchback where the climb started I saw the blonde pass me and marked the time.  I saw that I was about 1.5 minutes behind her.  In my head the intention was to catch up to her, and 1.5 minutes shouldn’t be too hard to make up, but I knew that would be a big task with the mile of climbing in front of me. 

I slowed down ridiculously on that hill, but this late in the race if I didn't slow down I was never going to make it.  Even though it was the same exact hill I had passed just two hours earlier it felt like it had tripled in difficulty.  The last 200m I could feel the energy pouring out with every step, and the scary thing was that the energy was not being replaced by more energy, it was getting replaced by tiredness--it was the closest I came to stopping during the whole race.  I was never so happy to see a Mile Marker as when I saw 20 at the crest of that hill.

Then started the twisty-turny section of the loop with sixteen turns in three miles.  While I should have been happy that this part was flat I felt like I didn't have anything left.  I guess I'm used to running on bridges and rollers here in NYC, so every uphill is followed immediately by a downhill.  Climbing for 10 minutes and then just going flat is not something I'm used to doing.  This section was going to be hard and it didn't help that the sun had just come out at full strength, bringing the temperature up at least 10 degrees from the starting time.  I did everything I could to distract myself until the downhill stretch where I would have some relief.

After all sixteen turns I came on the long downhill through a shady park.  I hoped to regain my speediness on the downhill, but I simply couldn't.  I was zapped, the special sauce--the gravvy--was gone, the hill had sucked it all out.  I kept on trying to push myself faster but according to Fenny my body was not responding.  I saw the miles creep higher and higher--23, 24, 25--but nothing, I could get nothing additional out of my legs, confirmed by the approaching hill I had to now pass to get through downtown.

On that last hill I looked at Fenny.  My top goal of 3:40 was out of reach, but a PR was completely doable.  Barring any disaster in the last mile I could "easily" make a sub-3:50.  So I didn't give up looking for gravvy, even though I knew I had none left. 

That last mile there was a guy close to my age who was running the last mile in fits and spats (run for a minute or two and then walk, and so on).  I was keeping a steady pace so we passed each several times in the course of the mile.  At Mile Marker 26 I passed him while he was walking and I shouted "Come on buddy, you're not walking now!"  He picked up the speed and came up next to me and said that's what he needed to finish.  He told me his name, where he was from, that his PR was 4:00 (or around there?), and that he was trying to break it.  I little shocked that he was bounding with this much energy at the end of the Marathon and that he had no clue what his finish time was going to be.  I told him he was going to break that PR for sure and probably shave off more than ten minutes.  He sounded really happy about that and sped off around the corner to the finish line.

I tried to use my grappling hook on him, but that was busted too.  And thanks to the two left turns to get to the finish line he was out of my site in seconds.  So I poured it on as much as I could--and it was definitely all I had left because my calves cramped up during those strides to the end.  In a tip of my hat to my great run at the Breakers Marathon I hopped on the timing mat to make sure it read my chip.

Final Numbers:
Net Time: 3:47:01
Watch Time: 3:45:33 (no potty break)
Overall place: 133/555 (top 24% of finishers)
Men: 105/345 (top 30%)
M25-29: 13/28 (top 46%)

While I didn't feel like this was my best race while running it, numberwise it was one of my best runs, second only to the 5K I ran in 2008.  And now that I'm squarely in the top 25 percent of finishers I somewhat feel like I can say that I've moved on from the middle of the pack.  Hooray!


Adam said...

lol - browns make it to the superbowl. Awesome. I'm a fan of taking the kids to the pool myself.

So, I am a walking contradiction - I love loop courses but I hate seeing the 2nd or 3rd loop mile markers. BLAH.

But, either way NICE race. While it didn't FEEL good, it was good on the watch - so that must mean that you are getting way faster.

Umm, top 25% is not only middle of the pack, but I'd say that it is pushing mid/upper.

Biscuitman said...

Nice run - and great report. I've been checking to see how it all finished up. Pity your stomach issues interupted your match race with your blonde friend - now we will never know who would have won.

Laura said...

WOW, congrats on the speedy time even with the bathroom stop!