Thursday, May 9, 2013

New Jersey Marathon Recap - The 3.45 Mile Race

I don't really know how to start this post, so perhaps I'll begin with the ending. Then you can stop reading as soon as you get bored.

Result: a lifetime PR in quad/glute/hip/calf/foot pain, one giant blister running in between my big and second toes, and an inability to get down or up stairways without looking like a frighteningly decrepid geriatric. Seriously, HOW DO YOU PEOPLE RUN MULTIPLE MARATHONS IN A ROW.

Ok, no, actual results now, for reals.

Time Goals: 3:17:13, 7:32 avg pace for 26.2 miles (chip); 7:26 avg pace for 26.45 miles (garmin). 3rd place age-group (153), 14th woman (of 927), 160th overall (of 2267).

Non-Time Goals: Did not puke at finish line or die on course. Did not walk. Chafing was minimal and did not draw blood. Possible OD on gatorade. Finished with smile on face. Did not hate running, all runners and/or any and all running-related things.

Ok, now back to the start. Leading up to this race, I had a few taper-crazies... including a phantom injury that popped up after my last tempo. So the last week before the marathon, looked like this:

April 28th - May 4th:
Sunday: rest, Monday: 7easy miles, Tuesday: rest, Wednesday: 40 mins easy elliptical, Thursday: easy 4 miles (still feeling pain), Fri-Sat: rest.

Coming off 50+ mile weeks, by Saturday I was about to jump outta my skin. Or kill someone.

The weekend was, however, somewhat brightened by carb-loading fun. On Saturday I had my usual oatmeal brekkie, then pounded some homemade french toast for lunch:

Nom nom nom.
Saturday night I stuck to plain white rice and some steamed shrimp and broccoli from the angry lady at our local dodgy Chinese joint.

Sunday morning we woke up at 4:00am...My dad had flown ALL the way from Australia to watch me run the race, and despite his horrible jet lag, he and the hubs got up and out the door like champs. We took the 5 a.m. train from Penn Station, NY out to Long Branch, NJ.

Sleepy does my dad look more awake than me? Go Dad!
I ate my breakfast on the train: 1 banana, 2/3 cup of cooked oats, with 1tsp of peanut butter and 1 gatorade. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

We got off the train, and I picked up my bib (race-day pickup, yeah!) then headed straight to the portaloos to do my thing. The half marathoners were starting at 6:45am (ouch) so the queues greatly diminished after that time. Around 7:45 I headed up to the start line, then ditched all my clothes. It was a little windy and 49 degrees, so I was pretty cold but I knew I'd warm up once we got going. I located the 3:15 pacers, and introduced myself, and said I was going to try to stay with them for the first half, then see if I could push up the pace a bit in the later miles. HAHA. Silly girl.

They sung the national anthem... then we were off!
Im in the yellow and blue!
Oh wait. Thats pretty much everyone.
Mile 1-3: 7:38, 7:31, 7:33
I IMMEDIATELY lost the 3:15 group as we started to run. Not only was everyone else going out fast-ish, I was going out even slower than I meant to. During mile 2, I actually panicked a bit because my body felt so cold and stiff from not having run in so many days. My foot was slapping the ground, my leg was locking up and I was like... shiiiiiiit, how am I going to go through 26 miles of this?? I told myself to chill out until mile 4, because I always take about 4 miles to warm up.

I wish I'd been able to enjoy these first miles a little more; we were running through pretty tree-lined streets with tons of people having parties and playing music outside of their houses, watching the race. It was a great atmosphere, and those people were so lovely for all the inconvenience the race must have caused them!

Miles 4-8: 7:31, 7:25, 7:26, 7:30, 7:21

Lo and behold, I warmed up. I chided myself for being paranoid. I fell in with a crazy dude who was yammering away about this and that. He was really nice, actually and he would ask me questions requiring a yes or no response, so I didn't tire out. He had run a marathon only two weeks prior, and was just running for fun. We started running with another guy, Jeff from Boston, and the three of us stayed together until around mile 15.

Took my first gu, and ditched the hand-held water-bottle I was carrying (more on that later).

Mile 9: 7:18
I got to see the father and the hubs! Yay! At this point I was getting into a real groove and starting to enjoy the crowds. They were yelling somewhat embarrassingly loudly, but hey. I was pretty happy to have the best fans out there.

Yo fans! This marathon shiz is nothin. I'm straight chillin.
Jeff and I were matching! Boston strong!
Miles: 10-13: 7:20, 7:20, 7:18, 7:15
Chatter-box, Jeff and I stuck together through the halfway point, when I told Jeff that I was going to try to catch up to the 3:15 pacers a little. He was going to come along. Took my second gu, and was drinking gatorade at every water station. I fell into a great groove and running just felt good. The weather was perfect (this was before we hit the slightly windy shoreline). We were running through suburban streets and then the town area. The spectators were fantastic.

Miles: 14-18: 7:15, 7:16, 7:15, 7:05, 7:10

At mile 15, I discovered my dad and hubs again! I later learned they had hired a taxi to take them to about four separate points along the course to cheer me on. How great is that?!

The course took us along the shoreline, with little loops back through suburban streets, to make up the distance.

This is probably where I should have focused on keeping my pace a little conservative. Instead, I caught up to the 3:15 pacers, passed them, and dropped 2 miles well below my marathon goal pace. REALLY SMART THING TO DO PENNY. But at the time I actually had no idea I had done that, as I hadn't looked at my garmin for a while. AND THE SMARTS CONTINUE.

I'm like, whaaaaat, Im at mile 18 of a marathon. I got this.

Miles 19-23: 7:24, 7:24, 7:21, 7:28, 7:22
Mile 19 was the turnaround to head back up the coast to the finish line. At this point I had lost chatter-box, and I think Jeff was perhaps a little bit behind me. My quads were feeling really sore at this point, but I was still feeling energetic and determined to not let them slow me down. However, the slight (only slight) up-hill gradient of the road back up the coast, coupled with a south-easterly wind coming from the sea started to take a small toll. I had plugged in my ear-phones a bit earlier, so I turned on some music.

Ah Eminem. Your angry and abusive lyrics provide such great company through the lonely miles of a marathon.

Miles 24-26: 7:51, 8:04, 8:12 and then some...
My dad, who has run several marathons, told me once that the marathon is actually a 6-mile race. You just have to run 20 miles to get the start-line. 

That was kind of true, except for me, the race began at Mile 24. For me, the New Jersey Marathon was a 3.45 mile race.

And I'm not gunna lie. Those last three miles were a slog. I pulled out a motivating mantra or two.... Relax...Calm...Strong. They worked a bit.

Slightly more effective was the mental bitch-slap I gave myself about what a pussy I would feel like if I saw a 9 min/mile in my splits because I had decided that walking was an option. Ah, self-bullying and degradation. Thats the spirit!

At Mile 21, I saw dad and the hubs again. I was happy to see them, but getting a little too tired to respond.
If you start walking, I'll take away your crayons and you'll go into time-out.
While I wasn't walking, I was getting a little slower, and the 3:15 group eventually caught me. By that stage, Jeff had caught them and me, as well. I focused on staying with them as long as I could, and just maintaining an even cadence.

The last "0.2" miles was somewhat extended. The course had a lot of turns, and even more so since they had to re-route it due to Hurricane Sandy damage. I knew that my garmin was about a quarter-mile off at this point, so I tried not to let it crush my spirit when my watch hit 26.2. By this stage, I was looking at my garmin every 15 seconds wondering when this race would be over.

I finally hit the shoreline and the finishing chute. The spectators were cheering so loudly. Apparently my dad, the hubs, a coworker from my office and his girlfriend were all there cheering me on, but I couldn't see or here anyone. I could only see that. bloody. finish line.

The last 0.05 mile or so, I could see the time ticking away at 3:16:xx, and I tried to kick it in to get under the 3:17 mark, but couldn't quite make it. I was so happy to be done though, that I didn't give a flying hell what the time was. I crossed the finish line and stumbled and wavered a little...

... then thought the best option was to stand still with my hands on my hips, grinning.  An older race official came up and asked me if I was ok. I didn't understand that he was asking if I was physically ok, because I wasn't moving. I told him that was my first marathon, and I had so much fun! He laughed, and asked if I was ok again. I told him I was fine, but I just didn't know if I'd ever be able to walk again. Thats all. He saw that I wasn't in any immediate danger of passing out or dying, so left me to check on some others.

I finally hobbled up to the ladies handing out medals, and proudly posed for Dad and the hubs who had caught up to me.

Medal up close:

I dragged my very very sore feet to pick up my post-race food, and then quickly realized that I was not going to be able to walk back to the train station in Long Branch to go back to New York. My heroic husband piggy-backed me until we got a cab to the train and headed back to the City.

We got home around 2 p.m., and I managed to pull my completely trashed legs into the shower.  We then rested and napped a little. I ate some oatmeal, which was the only thing I could stomach for some time.  Later we went out for dinner where I celebrated/rehydrated with some quality carbs:

 And refueled on barbeque chicken salad and a bowl of fries...

 Roserunner is totally gunna spank me for eating salad after a marathon.
Unpictured: three large pieces of buttery garlic bread, a large brownie and apple crisp with ice-cream and several more glasses of delicious bubbly.

And then I went home and stared at my race goodies for a while, in complete and utter disbelief that I had finally run a marathon.

Did I make the time goal I had set? Not quite. I was aiming for closer to 3:15, and better yet, well below it (missing the tangents cost me about 2 minutes).

But frankly, to have a happy, smiling and OMGICANTWAITTODOTHATAGAIN-crossing of the finish line, was so much more important for my first marathon, than going for an aggressive time goal with the very distinct possibility of wall-hitting and utter misery.

And now I know what its like? Now I have the inside scoop on what happens to my body after running 20+ straight miles? Now that I know what I need to do and where I need to go mentally, when my body is fading?

I'm gunna get after this distance. You just wait, marathon. You're mine.

~ Penny


  1. Lady, that is amazing. A first marathon that strong? Stunning! You are killer talented! Fabulous job.

  2. Congrats! That is a badass first marathon. You should be really proud!

    1. Thanks Dana, I am! But judging by the number of complete strangers my dad stopped in the street to tell them about the marathon, I think my dad is even more proud.

  3. A piggy back! The hubs REALLY loves you. ;)

  4. The pictures really tell the story.... happy, happy, happy, blank stare straight ahead just finish the race, blank stare at the finish, then back to smiles and happy!

    I think you ran an excellent race. Three rough miles at the end, but they really weren't THAT bad... heck, I've run 8:00 pace for the last 1.2! Those final miles will never be easy, but with more experience you'll find a way to knock them out.

    Again, great job and congratulations.

  5. I so agree--for me the marathon pain hits at mile 23 or 24. But the BIG DIFFERENCE between you and me is that you are a first-marathoner miracle. You handled it so well, ran so strong, the splits look perfect to me! That's not too bad of a slow-down at all at the end!

    Your dad makes me melt. What a sweetheart. Taxis!? Flew from Australia!?

    Congrats again. Can't wait to see what you do next time. We've gotta pick a fall marathon to run. Grandmas in MINN? Portland?

  6. I am super late reading this, but you KILLED IT! Most people don't approach their first marathon with a 3:15 goal and you nearly had it. That is great success! To use a phrase from Borat.