Monday, April 27, 2015

New Jersey Marathon = New PR and my first spring BQ!

I ran the New Jersey Marathon yesterday completing my 30th marathon in my 20th different state. I achieved my B goal of setting a personal record 3:04:01 (previously 3:04:54 at St. George, Utah); my A goal was to break three hours. After the lessons learned from the race, I have no doubt that I can break 3.

I chose New Jersey for a few reasons: 1) I qualified for Boston for 2015 but missed the cut (BQ - 0:33 while I needed - 0.62). I am sure that my BQ - 5:59 will be good for 2016. 2) I got married four weeks prior and we have a honeymoon coming up in May, so we wanted to keep costs low. 3) I needed it for my 50 state quest. 4) It is flat and mostly fast (we'll get to the wind). 5) Laura is from New Jersey, it is driving distance, and we didn't have to take time off of work.

We left Sammy in the care of my friend, neighbor, and running buddy and left around 9 AM on Saturday. In the days leading up to the race, I had a good taper and carb-load. On the drive right around noon we found a great authentic Italian restaurant where I could eat a big bowl of gnocchi for lunch. We arrived at the expo, picked up my packet, and went to check into the hotel. I mainly rested and connected with Ryan while Laura used the athletic center. She mentioned that she was not carb loading for a marathon. At 5:30 we were seated for dinner at an Italian place near the ocean, ate my big bowl of pasta, and then we took a brief scenic drive along the shore. We found a place to buy some famous New Jersey cookies (?) and frozen yogurt before going back to the room to call it a night. The hotel was housing two blocks of guests for different weddings, and while we appreciated the hotel putting us at the other end of the hotel from the guests, a room near us did house some of them. That in itself isn't an issue but when they come back to their room after midnight loud and drunk and waking me up, that is a problem. I called the desk and they sent security. Regardless, I got a decent night's sleep considering.

In the morning, I woke up at 4, did my morning routine, stretched, put on my gear, and at 5:30 we left. I resisted the urge to bang on the door of our neighbors sleeping off the wedding. It was a cool morning and I was appropriately dressed in throw away clothes so I didn't have to check a bag. It turned out Laura needed the clear bag to bring in her book and contents of her purse because the race didn't allow any bags in the starting area. I understand security, but I have run Boston, NYC, and Chicago and other larger marathons that simply know how to check bags rather than ban them. A police officer hassled us for no good reason. It gave me pause to consider that others have far worse experiences than ours.

I said goodbye to Laura and made my way to my corral where I met others with similar goals. When it was time to go, we set on our way. The first half had a lot of turns as we weaved through neighborhoods. There wasn't much to see, and I mainly tried to focus on my form, breathing, and pace. I started out at 6:55 before finding 6:45 in my third mile. I noticed early that the wind would be an issue. It wasn't too strong, it was just enough to steal 3-5 seconds a mile. Some miles had the wind to my back, but most had the wind pushing against me. I had my Red Sox visor to keep the sun out of my eyes along with my sunglasses, but the weather was perfect temperature-wise. I worked on my mental tools in those early miles - just getting to first Gu at 5, then the second at 10, and check in at the half. In the third mile, I took a cup of Gatorade, drank a little, then tossed it into a trash bin for two points! Later, the final volunteer at a water stop missed the handoff to me and I coaxed her to run after me to get me the water and she made it!

At the halfway point, I was in okay shape. I knew I shouldn't try to increase my pace and let it slip from 6:45-50 to 6:50-59. I came in at the half at 1:29:51, so if I could hold that I would go sub 3. Even if I couldn't, I knew that I could hold my current pace for quite awhile. And, a group formed around 12 and we ran around the small lake together before I let them increase in pace as the wind hit our backs as we headed on the long out and back. I just wanted to run comfortable for as long as I could and not push the envelope. Halfway through mile 16, we began a loop around the bottom of the course that took us on boardwalk and past piers and right along the ocean. Prior to approaching mile 20, I began to feel it - this wall of wind pushing me back. It took me off my nice 7:00 pace - I was holding that pace and knew I could do it for the rest of the race - but 19 was a 7:01 and 20 was a 7:15 and 21 was a 7:27. Clearly, the wind was stealing a huge PR and at miles 22 (7:40) and 23 (7:42), I was starting to feel down as even a PR was in question. Luckily, with about a 5K to go, I heard footsteps and chatter that sounded too comfortable to be a runner struggling. I asked two spectators if that was the 3:05 pacer approaching and it was. They had lost their entire group - I think they started with 10-20 runners. With no one to guide, I think they decided to pick up their pace and finish. One of them was trying to help some guy finish and I asked the other to get me to the finish line. They both worked together to help us along, and I remain so inspired by how they gave me the push I needed to run a solid 5K. It taught me that even though I thought I was done, I still had more left and could dig down. My aversion in the past was that I was afraid of the pain. I had read that I needed to embrace it, but I hadn't understood what that meant. Going forward, I now have the mentality to get to mile 20 and then pick up the pace slightly because I know I can do it, or at least hold on to my pace.

If there was no wind, I would have come in around 3:01/2. But, there is a rule among runners that when you set a new personal best, you can't be upset. I held a very steady 6:52 pace through 30K. The final 10K was a straight shot back to the finish into a headwind along the boardwalk. I was losing time until 5K to go the two 3:05 pacers caught me and I asked them to get me to the finish. They helped me will myself to a PR and another BQ and it was the first spring race I have ever BQ-ed. There are a lot of positives from this race.

Laura snaps a photo of my sprint finish.  While I didn't get under 3:04 for a 3:03:59
(which I thought I could get), a PR is a PR!

Takeaways: 1) I now know that I am able to lay down the hammer and pick up the pace in the final miles. I simply have to decide to do it. I've always feared or shied away from the pain and didn't understand until NJ that I need to embrace the pain and push myself. I cannot depend on having pacers or kind runners in the future to motivate me and give me inspiration down the stretch - that will have to come from inside of me. 2) I finally ran a BQ in the spring. I couldn't understand why in my previous seasons, I never could run better than 3:13 in the spring. Maybe it had to do with training in the winter (chance of losing days to ice and snow) versus summer (hot running feels easier when the weather breaks in the fall), but it could be other factors. This was my first marathon with my new coach, Ryan Vail, and I do have a 5K PR with him as well. I am excited for what I can do this fall coming off the hot weather. 3) I definitely have a sub 3 in me as soon as I decide to go get it.

Splits: 6:56/49/45/48/46/46/51/47/48/47/54/52/55/49/56/57/56/58/7:01/15/27/40/42/20/02/06/ 2:08 for final.33 (6:30 pace); 10K 42:26; Half 1:29:51; 30K 2:08:08; 40K 2:54:33

Results = 49/1918 OA; 11/196 AG I beat the first-place woman by a minute.

Next race: I signed up for Mad Marathon in Waitsfield, VT, for July 12, which falls on my 38th birthday. Here is the map with elevation. I may just have to treat this as a long run in the heat with hills. I also am signed up for Bismarck, ND, on September 19 and NYC on November 1. Hoping for a good and healthy rest of the year training cycle!

Back in our neighborhood enjoying a beer at Brookland Pint.

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