Sunday. I’m recovering from yesterday’s Manhattan half marathon. I did okay. According to the statistics I did fantastic. This was the same race I did in August of 2005. According to the statistics in August I came in 6,310th. Yesterday I came in 3,478th!!! That’s quite a jump. In August I came in 2,728th amongst the woman and 142nd in my age group. Yesterday I came in 1,289th amongst the woman and 97th in my age group. That’s a phenomenal improvement, no? Yeah, you’re right, it’s a mathematical delusion. Half the number of people showed up for the race that’s why I looked so good. Or as a friend of mine says, I beat those 3,000 people who were too chicken to come out to run a half marathon in January!! Wimps. In August I ran it in 2:59, yesterday I ran it in 2:55. Yes that’s an improvement but it could have been even better had my brilliant strategy not backfired on me (literally!)
So my big strategy was to take even more nutrition than I needed. Hey if one gu is too few and three not enough, 8 would be about right, right? Ugh, my tummy is flip flopping right now remembering…. The race actually started out really well. I did the first mile in an 11:30 and was on track to keep everything under a 12:30 for the entire race. I was concentrating on my form — trying to lift my knees and I was definitely doing a little better than usual. The first six miles I breezed right through. I took about 4 gus the first hour. (That’s about double my normal inadequate dosage).
The race was two loops of the park which can be a little demoralizing. Basically as I am coming up on mile 6, all the fast people are passing me and heading to the finish line. They have two shoots. If you are starting your second loop you go to the shoot on the right. The people finishing their second loop and heading to the finish go to the left. Right before we split into shoots I am running with about a hundred people around me. When I get through the shoot to the second loop it is me and some woman who is limping. LOL. I knew this was going to be lonely but I had no idea how lonely! At this point in the race there are usually a good 50-100 people for me to compete with — we would normally keep trading leads until the end of the race. Well the one woman in front of me who had been limping became miraculously cured and she took off running really fast. Soon it was just me and my inner will.
Around mile 7 I had to take some water and walked through the water station so I took another gu (or was it 2). But then I started right up again and ran up Harlem Hill for the second time. Not bad. I was pretty proud of myself and made it up the Hill and allt he hills on the Westside without stopping. I also felt a little hip pain at mile 7 so just to be on the safe side I popped the two Tylenols I brought with me for emergency. That seemed to knock it right out.
(Can I just mention that I cannot remember taking a single Tylenol since the marathon for any muscle pain? I took some when I had that sinus headache back in November but not for muscle pain. Isn’t that amazing?!?!?!)
I have to say really wanted to quit. Not because I was tired. Not because I didn’t think I couldn’t do it. I wanted to quit because it seemed sooo unfair. All those people were finished already and it was only hour and twenty minutes. That was a nice little morning workout for them and it was going to be a 3 hour event for me. Not only that but I had to finish the race pretty much alone — nobody around me to motivate or be motivated by. If I didn’t have Stephanie and Michelle and Missy waiting for me at the finish line I think I might have quit. But then I had to think it through.
First I asked myself if I was in pain? Nope. Was I tired? Nope. Was this doable? Absolutely. Are you enjoying it? Uh, oh. That was an uncomfortable question. I don’t really love running…. Then I realized that it wasn’t really that bad. Oh my God, I thought, am I actually enjoying this run? The weather was perfect. I had absolutely no knee pain — not even a twinge. I wasn’t really willing to say it out loud, but I was feeling that I was not actually miserable. Then I thought, what if there was nobody else out here and it was just you and that finish line? Nobody else with whom you could compare yourself. Would you finish the distance just to see if you could do it, finish it in good form and see how far you could push yourself? I couldn’t believe the answer and I still can’t even believe the answer. I thought a definite yes. If I hadn’t had that demoralizing moment of seeing most of the people lap me and head off to the finish while I still had another lap to do, I would have been happy in my own little la-la land and finished the race. That realization helped me to keep going. I realized that yes, it hurts to know that most everybody out there was running under ten minute miles and yeah there were more people walking home with race numbers than there were out there still racing, but I just had to put my blinders on and remind myself that they are not running MY race. I yam what I yam. So I kept running.
Around mile 9 I stopped to go the bathroom. It was the first time I saw a bathroom without a line (because most people had gone home by that point) – see another advantage to being slow – instead of giving up five whole minutes for a bathroom break I only had to give up one. Since I has stopped right next to another water station I took some more gu (working on my more-is-better theory) I had some water and started right up again. Energy-wise my theory was working. I felt like I could keep going for another 2 hours.
Gu. What the hell is in that stuff? It feels like the consistency of molasses and it tastes worse. It is supposed to be fast acting energy fuel, but if I find out it is some kind of petroleum byproduct I will not be surprised. I happened to have packed Hammer Gel Espresso flavor for this particular run. Perhaps not the best choice because it is quite bitter and seems even more molasses-like. But my plan was to never feel like I was running out of energy because I was too cheap to carry an extra gu. So I had packed 10 gus for this race. Normally for a 3 hour race I would have packed 4. But I was sick of feeling short changed of energy, and I remember last August when I tanked on the last mile because I did not have enough gu. So by mile 9 I had taken approximately 8 gus. I think that’s about how many I took for the entire marathon in November.
Then it hit at mile 10. Gu-stronomical disorder. My stomach started cramping and I thought I was going to lose everything right there on the lower loop. It was pretty bad. I felt all this gu just sitting in my stomach and every time I started to run the jostling made my stomach cramp. It was like the gu was grabbing the walls of my stomach and sucking it in from the inside. I realized I had over-gu’d and my plan was backfiring in a bad way. I had actually pull over and bend over to stop the cramping. I took that as an opportunity to look behind me and I saw two runners behind me gaining fast. I didn’t see many behind them and I realized I was in danger of being last in the entire race. Oh no. I really wanted to stop and just go home, but I couldn’t because my friends were all waiting at the finish line and I had to make it up Cat Hill and to the finish line.
I had to walk a little bit because if I ran the jostling made my stomach cramp. Two runners passed me. Then strangely it went away as suddenly as it had come on. By mile 11 I was running again and one of the guys who had passed me was walking. We started a little pep talk with one another. I kept running and told him to keep going. When he would start running again he would say something encouraging to me. Then I saw Missy waiting for me at the base of the reservoir. Poor thing was finished at least an hour and a half already and was sick as a dog but was waiting for me to run the last mile with me. She finished the 13.1 race in a sub 8 minute mile — phenomenal. But she was feeling a really bad stomach. I told her to go home but she wanted to run the last mile and half with me.
So it was me, Missy and my adopted running partner — some older guy who actually had a pretty good pace going when he was running. The three of us just kept running. I let the guy go in front of me to finish (I felt it was proper considering I had pulled over to cramp). About 100 yards from the finish line I felt all the gu starting to come up my throat. I was so scared. Oh no, please God don’t let me puke here right in front of all of these people. There were no bushes just people at the finish line. I told Missy to move over because I literally going to puke right on her. I looked both ways, but now I was in the finishing shoot and if I puked it would have to hit somebody. Please, God, I beg of you, not now!!!! It is just feet away, please hold on. I commanded all of my pilates stomach muscles and I contracted my stomach and literally pulled as hard as I could to keep everything down. I couldn’t speak and I just had to get over that finish line. As I rounded the bend I heard Stephanie yelling so I knew I was finished and my stomach went back to normal as soon as I stopped moving.
So I had finished the race in a few minutes faster than I had finished in August. Had I not had to stop for the bathroom and had I not over gued, I think I could have taken another 3 minutes off my time. But I think the lesson learned that there is a happy medium between too little and too much gu was worthwhile. I am definitely switching to Enervite gel for my next race. It is much easier to digest and they have a concentrated calorie formula (I used it in the 10 miler last weekend) so I can take less physical gu and get more calories.
All in all I have to say it was a great race. I learned something about myself — I do have inner determination. Maybe I don’t actually hate running any more — that’s pretty amazing in itself. I also felt strong. I felt I was able to hold my posture and core for 3 hours and even at the end, although probably imperceptible to the observer’s eye, I was trying to lift my knees. I am also happy to know that I have much more room for improvement and for the first time, I really think I might get faster. It may not happen right away, but I think there is something in this knee lifting thing. I’m excited to see what will become of it.
One of the other things they do is grade you by your age performance. I’m not exactly sure of how they do the calculation but it always makes me feel a little better. For the August race they said my age graded performance was 2:43 and my overall age graded percentage was 40.20%. I don’t even know what that means, but I do know that it increased to 2:38:08 and 41.60% for this race. That must be good, right? I mean it shows improvement. Do you think I should be concerned that when I look at the results of the women in my age group there are only 100 woman and I am listed, gulp, 100th? Do you think it matters that when I look over the entire race results there are only 8 people who came in behind me? Hell, someone came in 10 minutes behind me, that’s a thrashing if you ask me.
So although I got lapped by all the fast runners (and even some of the not-so-fast runners), but statistically I was greatly improved. And, although I came in dead last for my female age group I managed to beat the first, second and third placed guys in the 80-85 age group. Yeah, eat my dust!!!
“Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.”
Homer (as in Simpson, not the poet)