I ran with friends for most of the race, one of which was an official pacer for a 4:30 finish so my splits were pretty consistent. I did speed up during the second half of mile 16 (decline of the Queensboro Bridge) to bank some time for a bathroom break. Bathroom break time is included in the mile 17 split. I believe I lost about a minute, but my watch wasn’t tracking well at this point so I am not sure. During mile 18, I had to speed up a little bit to catch back up to our pacer friend.
Mile 23 and the first part of mile 24 was the toughest and after analyzing the elevation profile, the Fifth Avenue incline didn’t start until the last quarter mile of mile 23. We did run mile 23 about 13 seconds faster than average pace, but I believe this period was my wall regardless. I felt much better for second half of mile 24. I’m not sure if it was seeing my loved ones early in mile 24, the salt pill I took during mile 23, or the honey stinger that I took during mile 22 (about 20 minutes earlier). Being in the park and close to the finish likely had some impact, as well.
Mile 25 and going into Mile 26 was when my knee was bothering me and I was hobbling a bit. About halfway through mile 26 when we turned onto 59th Street, my knee pain went away and I felt strong. Very excited about that last .2 miles!
race day Gear, from head to toe
It was warm and overcast on race day with an average temperature of 66º and 62-70% humidity while we were running. I felt warm by the second mile and was sopping wet by the end of the race. I used Aquaphor for anti-friction/chafe for the first time and came away with virtually no chafing. Had some slight pinkness under the bottom band of my sports bra.
Day before the marathon Breakfast: Gluten free pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, orange juice Lunch: Folded eggs with ham, spinach, and mushroom. Home fries. Small salad. Snack: Gluten free, vegan pumpkin cookie Dinner: Gluten free pasta with spicy marinara sauce
Marathon day Breakfast: Gluten free pancakes with maple syrup Pre-race snack 1: Larabar Pre-race snack 2: Banana Pre-start fuel: 2 Organic Vanilla Honey Stingers Race fuel: 1 Organic Vanilla Honey Stinger at 40 minutes then 1 every 30 minutes until 3:40 for a total of 7 Stingers
1 banana piece during mile 21
2 salt pills, one somewhere during the first half (can’t remember) and the other during mile 23 Post-race: Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter packet and a decaf coffee
French fries with chipotle aioli
Burger with gluten free bun, lettuce, tomato, and chipotle mayo
Figured I could at least get a blog post written while I’m laid up in bed. It’s been a crazy 24 hours. 3 races and a total of over 17 miles including non-race mileage.
Friday was the 3.8 mile trail race in South Mountain Park. We decided to run to the start which we didn’t realize would be uphill the entire way. My watch clocked 525 gain over the 1.75 miles. PA is known for being hilly and rocky and this course was exactly that. I haven’t been on trail in about 4 months so it was both a ton of fun and tough. I started towards the front and held my position pretty well for the first half. The loose rocks posed a bit of a challenge and by half way I had tweaked my ankle a few times. Nothing serious, but enough to make me concerned about really rolling it. So I decided to back off and not risk and injury before the marathon. The finish was great, all downhill to a nice grassy shoot where there were some awesome cheerers. Started passing a girl in the chute during my kick so she fired up and we had a little race to the finish. People screamed and the announcer was all “WHOA!!!” as we ripped around the corner to the finish. I was 8th in my division, but still not sure how deep the field was there. After the race, we waited around to get our backpack with our jackets back from someone who locked it in their car. We were freezing for like an hour. They took so long to come back that we missed all our opportunities for rides down the hill and ended up having to run back to the room. It was getting dark and part of the way back didn’t have sidewalks or walkable shoulder and it was a busy road. That was pretty scary. But we made it and when we finally made it back we enjoyed some bourbon and showers before heading out for and awesome dinner and drinks. I hadn’t eaten a meal since 10am that morning (there was pizza at the trail race, but I can’t eat it) so food was definitely appreciated. After dinner, we were pooped and I had two races the next morning so we decided to skip the club happy hour. I got to bed at a reasonable time, but tossed and turned all night.
Saturday morning I got up and knew it was going to be a tough day. I was exhausted and felt sick. I jogged a mile down to the race start and picked up my race packet, got a photo with Deena Kastor (EEEEEE!!!), dropped my bag, then lined up. It was pretty cold and I wasn’t sure how I would get both races done. I decided to just take it one race at a time. I could always decide to not do the second. Once I got going, I felt pretty okay. Definitely wasn’t racing, but was running at a nice pace. I was happy with the run and felt pretty okay directly after, though a little hungry.
After the 5k, I cheered finishers and ran a club member in to the finish. One of the club members forced me to borrow a hoodie for my own good which was much appreciated. Cheered some more then started feeling really sick. Went to the bathroom then hung out in the expo center for a few minutes. I was feeling really horrible and I guess it was apparent because an expo worker asked me if I was okay and if I needed to sit down. I assured her that I would be fine and headed out to start the 10k. I was freezing, felt sick and dizzy, and had no idea how I was going to get this 6.2 miles done. I wondered if maybe I should just call it, but I am too stubborn. (And probably a little dumb.)
The 10k started and as soon as I started running, I started feeling a little better. I was still out of it a bit, but I felt like if I went slow enough I could get it done. This course was hillier than the 5k which added significantly to the challenge. I ended up having to stop to use the bathroom at some point and wondered if I should quit. I just kept telling myself that if I can get through this 6.2, I’ll be good for the end of the marathon. So I pushed on and by mile 5 I was chanting to myself under my breath. “You are okay.” “You CAN do this.” “One more mile.” There is a hill at mile 5.5 which was also at the end of the 5k so I knew it was there. I just kept pushing. One foot in front of the other. Constant forward motion.
Coming down the other side, I was feeling dizzy and like when I stopped I may fall over. I just kept telling myself to get to the finish. There are friends there and medical. Just keep going. Just before the mile 6 marker I drifted and grabbed onto a fence. I squatted down and put my head down. I was there for about a minute. Runners going by kept saying “you got this!” and “almost there!” and I so badly wanted someone to just ask if I was okay. (I would have told them yes, but the ask would have been comforting.) I snapped out of it and got to my feet. There was about .3 miles to go. Once the finish was in site, I wanted to push but I was scared I literally might fall over. I did manage a tiny kick just before the finish when I heard some yell my name then got across the finish and immediately pulled over to the side and squatted. Took a minute to collect myself then headed to get my medal. Then to get my bag. I sat down in the middle of the parking lot and layered on everything in my bag. I was so cold and tired and sick and dizzy and I wasn’t sure I could walk. I wanted someone that I knew to walk by, but no one did. I stayed there for a bit, but I was cold. I decided to skip picking up my race shirt, used the bathroom, and headed straight back to the room. That mile long walk uphill seemed to take longer than race.
I’ve spent the entire day in bed, resting and eating. My head feels better, but my body is pretty banged up. I don’t think I will be getting in my 4 miles tomorrow. I did get in some gentle yoga which seemed to help a bit. I missed all my afternoon events though and will miss dinner with my club.
I feel like a big dummy for not fueling better yesterday and drinking a few drinks last night. (I never drink before races or long runs!) That combined with a sleepless night set me up for a challenging morning. I also should have probably forced myself to eat more this morning (I had a banana and Justin’s nutella packet) and should have grabbed my bag with snacks between races. I probably should have slowed the pace in the 5k given I wasn’t feeling great. And of course, running the 10k was probably a really, really, horribly dumb idea. But what’s done is done and my body should recover in time for the marathon. I’m hoping I can get good sleep tonight, but I typically have a hard time sleeping after races and when I am traveling. My body needs good rest, though. It needs to heal.
It’s Tuesday night and I am headed to a bar in EV. It’s not typical that I would be headed to a bar on a week night. I’m headed there to meet up with a bunch of trail and ultra runners from my new running group, Trail WhippAss. After 2 ciders and a little conversation about race schedules, I have committed myself to my longest race to date–the GLIRC (Greater Long Island Running Club) Greenbelt 25K.
Mike (Stinkfoot & Chafe) picked me up around 7:15 am. It was a cool and grey morning, but the forecast was for sunny skies and a high of 77. It only took about 30 minutes to get out to the start in Plainview, NY on Long Island. Nestled in a small industrial area, the GLIRC headquarters provided a humble start to the race. We grabbed our bibs, got geared up, and headed to the start where everyone was very friendly and chatting about the course. The 50Kers had headed out an hour earlier so it was just 25Kers hanging out and waiting for the start. Pre-race announcements were made and me, Mike, and two of my friends, Natalie and Ash, lined up at the back of the very small pack of runners. The plan was to take it easy and treat it as a training run not a race. Most of us will be racing the Brooklyn Half Marathon just a week after this race.
The beginning of the race leads out of the parking lot and onto a few roads before you hit trail. We were pretty much back of the pack with just a few people behind us. Natalie set a good conservative pace and I was feeling good. We hit the first aid at 2.16 miles right after our first road crossing. I wanted to stay on top of nutrition and hydration so I paused at the station to take some pocketfuel, drink some water, and refill my water bottles. The rest of the group headed off without me and I told them I would catch up. Back on the trail it took a little longer to catch up to the group than I had planned since I was taking it so easy. We stuck together at the next aid at 3.46 and headed up to the meadow at 3.76. In the meadow we ended up breaking up into two groups with me and Mike taking the lead. Mike and I stayed together for a short while. I’m not quite sure where we got separated, but he wasn’t very far behind me.
When I got to the Route 108 crossing (5.66 mi) there was a runner that was injured and I asked if he needed help. He asked if I could call headquarters to have someone pick him up. I had left my phone in the car, but Mike was headed towards us at that point so I asked if he could call. No reception. So we told the runner we would let them know at the next aid station and headed back out on the trail.
I knew that going into miles 6, 8, and 10 there were substantial climbs. What I didn’t realize was just how substantial. The substantial climbs meant there were some significant descents as well. At some points there were steps built which were a foot or two difference between steps. Following my typical trail race protocol, I power hiked the ascents and charged the descents–well, the ones that I could anyway. By the time I got to the halfway point at 7.86 miles, I was feeling good, but really over the hills. I was in great spirits and had been saying “good morning” to all of the hikers that I passed and cheering the runners that had passed me on their way back to the finish. I paused for a bit and ate and drank and chatted with the volunteers. After a minute or two, Mike appeared and made his way down to the aid station, too. I took my time eating and refilling my bottles and chatting. I had found out that the only restroom on the course was just a little walk next door to the library so I decided I should go. (It ended up being a quarter mile round trip.) By the time I got back, Mike was gone, but Natalie and Ash were there. They were also in good spirits, but also over the hills. The three of us took off together hoping to stick together for the mean hills. At the first good descent I charged down and before I knew it they were no longer behind me. At some point soon after I noticed that my knees were bothering me a bit, but I didn’t think much of it and kept pace. I was hoping to catch up to Mike.
Just before mile 9, I caught a glimpse of Mike ahead of me on the trail. I gave a loud “YIP YIP” and he hollered back. I figured it would just be a few minutes before I caught up. But it wasn’t another minute or so before my knees really started to act up. It was the outside of both and it was a sharp pain so I knew it was my IT bands. My hips were pretty tight before the start and I had thought maybe they would loosen up once I warmed up. I stopped for a minute after the next road crossing just after the 10 mile mark to stretch my IT bands. There was an unmanned aid just a few hundred feet from there so I headed over to fill my bottles and take a salt pill. That’s when I saw Natalie and Ash. I gave them my other two salt pills and we took off for mile 10 together.
Natalie set the pace and I tried to hang on. I was able to keep up with her for most of it, but my knees were really hurting. The downhills were especially excruciating and I could no longer run them. I just needed to get to the meadow at mile 11.66. The meadow is flat and from there it is less than 4 miles to the finish. “Where is the meadow?!” I kept asking with each turn even though the distance on my watch told me we still had a little while to go. Finally, FINALLY we reached the meadow. Natalie and I paused for a celebratory photo and to make sure Ash was still behind us. Ash and I took a couple more photos as Natalie ran ahead. With the end so close, she was ready to go.
The next 2 or so miles to the last aid station were difficult. I was able to keep up with Natalie, but just barely. She got a little ahead of me, but I caught up at the aid station. I had to pee at this point so no bottle refill needed as I hadn’t been drinking much over the last mile or so. I did indulge in a few candies which were the sweetest tasting little slices of heaven. Since it was nearly 12:30 there was much more traffic on the turnpike that we had to cross. We waited several minutes to cross, but at this point we were getting near 4 hours on the course so I couldn’t have cared less. We finally crossed. Just 2 miles to go.
The last two miles were hell. No really. Every step I took while running hurt and I could barely walk down hills. As I hobbled down hills, Natalie pressed on. I could still see her, but there was no way I was catching her. I decided I would just walk until I got out of the woods or at least until I came across the next course marshals which happened around mile 15. I put on a smile and did a slow trot passed them, thanking them for coming out and volunteering. When I turned out onto the streets for the final half a mile I could see Natalie ahead of me. And then she was gone. The last half of a mile was downhill, then uphill, then downhill before entering the parking lot to finish. At this point all I could do was walk. As I headed back to the parking lot for the finish, a runner who was leaving rolled down their window and offered encouragement. And as I got within earshot of the course marshal directing us into the finish in the parking lot, he encouraged me to finish strong. He said, “if you start running now, no one will know you were walking!” I told him there was no way that was happening. I didn’t think my legs could even run at that point.
As I turned into the parking lot, the first thing I saw was my friends, Chris and Erik. They had surprised me and showed up at the finish. There was no way I could walk it in. I started to shuffle my feet. That’s when I started to hear everyone at the finish line cheering for me and saw that Mike, Natalie, and another trail buddy were there hollering with cameras at the ready. I felt a little silly that I couldn’t actually really run and made jokes as I hobbled in. I tried to push myself into a run, but my legs just wouldn’t do it. (And I felt a bit like I would fall over if I tried.) A man at the finish held up my medal and I felt my face light up. I shuffled directly to it with both hands reaching for it. Mike got a photo and I don’t think I have ever seen that level of joy on my face in a photo. It was pure bliss. It took me 4 hours, 15 minutes, and some change, but I got it done. Longest race ever (15.78 miles total) and most elevation change ever (2231 gain, 2267 loss).
The next few minutes are pretty blurry. I know I hugged a lot of people and there were photos taken. I also heard there was beer and rushed off to grab one. It was a Yuengling, but it might as well have been the best craft beer that I have ever had. It tasted magical. By this time it had started to lightly drizzle. I stood in the rain and drank my beer with my friends. I didn’t want to keep my non-runner friends waiting in the rain so I headed out with them while Mike hung back to cheer in our friend that had run the 50K. I proudly wore my race medal to lunch where I enjoyed soooo much barbecue and a couple of beers.
After I got home, I started tending to my “wounds.” I iced and elevated my legs. I did some gentle yoga focusing on IT band stretches. Later that night, I laid on my back with legs up against the wall and massaged my IT band from hip to knee. I went to bed hoping for the best. I was a bit surprised when my I woke up after just 7.5 hours of sleep. Surely my body needed more? I gently rolled out of bed, sure that my legs were going to be stiff and painful. To my surprise, my knees felt pretty good and my only significant soreness was in my hips and glutes. Heading downstairs for brunch was slow going, but not necessarily painful. The human body is truly amazing.
This is the second race in row that my body has “betrayed” me. Last week at Bear, I suffered from abdomen cramps and this time it was my IT bands. I now truly believe that “bad” races are the most rewarding experiences. I’ve learned so much about myself through the past two experiences and I wouldn’t take them back for the world. At the end of the day, it’s the heart not the clock that counts. I can try to convince myself that my finishing time is an indication of performance improvement, but it really just serves the ego. I think it is totally natural to want to be better than you were before. Or even to be as “good” as your peers. But I want to hold on to the fact that I am not doing these races for performance. I am doing them for the experience. For fun. To spend a day out on the trails doing awesome things with awesome people. There is no way to quantify an awesome experience.
Race fuel & hydration notes
Nathan double 9oz bottle belt
Pre-race dinner & breakfast
Mashed potatoes & chili (for both meals!)
170 pocketfuel .5 hours
100 vanilla stinger 1.25 hours
170 pocketfuel + 53 1/2 banana = 223 2 hours
100 vanilla stinger 2.5 hours
100 vanilla stinger 3.25 hours
2 small gummy candies, a few chips at last two aids
1 salt tab at unmanned around mile 10
Total: 700-800 calories for 4.25 hours, 165-185 calories per hour
Start: 18 oz
First aid: 18 oz refill
Second aid: 9 oz refill
Turnaround aid: 27 oz refill (Could have been 18 oz)
Unmanned aid: 18 oz refill (Could have been less/more)
End: 5 oz left?
Total: 85 oz of water total, 5.5 oz per mile
Felt great the entire time. I think the salt tab was timely. Definitely drank more than I do typically and think it helped. Don’t think I could have skipped the bathroom at the turnaround through without having to use the woods on the way back. Didn’t drink nearly as much on the way back as I did on the way out. Didn’t get through 18oz after the unmanned aid around mile 10.