On Sunday morning (4/26) I ran my 5th NJ Marathon/Half event! It was my first half marathon (2009) and first full marathon (2011) and is close to where I grew up so I think of it as a special race so there was no doubt that I wanted it to be my first goal race postpartum.
I went to the expo with Jennie on the way down to my parents’ house. Afterwards I spent the day with my family. My sister cooked an awesome pasta and eggplant parm dinner. She is AMAZING. It was nice to relax and spend time with my family. My niece and Jennie play so well together!
After Jennie went to bed (she slept at my parents’ house, Fizz stayed with his mom, who was running her first half!) I went to the hotel (BEST DECISION EVER, it was less than a 1/4 mile from the start of the race). I put out my race outfit and watched bridesmaids with my friend Staci. I got a solid night sleep and we were both up and ready to go at 4:45 AM. The hotel had a free continental breakfast so I had a few cups of coffee and an English muffin with peanut butter and jelly (my usual). After I ate, I started sweating through my sweatshirt because I was nervous and decided to write a motivational quote on my arm.
All though my training went relatively well, I didn’t feel ready for my goal (to PR, < 1:42:42) but I decided to go for it anyway. I trained as hard as I could. I missed some workouts and I nailed some workouts. Unfortunately, I was hella nervous and not very confident. I was/am exhausted from working, being a mom and training at odd hours of the day (yes I am aware than tons of women also do this) and honestly I didn’t want to do it again anytime soon.
Anyway, Abby gave me a plan, I wrote the 5k splits on my hand and knew that it would be hard work but I also thought that it was attainable. I was prepared to give it all that I had.
My husband dropped off my MIL at our hotel and the three of us jogged to the start. A lot of women from my running group were racing so we met up for a picture!
After the picture I said my goodbyes and good lucks and started a warmup. I ran slowly for about 10 minutes and then did a few sets of high knees and butt kicks and finished with some strides. I made it back to the corral just in time for the national anthem and the start.
The first four miles were uneventful. I stayed behind the marathon pacers that were running a 8:00 goal pace (looking at my splits after the race I realized they were running a bit faster). I did notice that even though I felt good, I was having trouble finding a smooth stride. It felt like work right from the beginning (which was worrisome). Splits: (1) 8:26 (2) 8:12 (3) 7:50 (4) 7:48
Around the 5th mile, my iPod died. I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me. I normally run with my phone but it bothers me during races because it is so big. This time I dug out my iPod shuffle and put 3 hours of awesome music on it and loved how small it was and that it could clip to my shorts. I guess it was too old to hold a charge or I didn’t charge it long enough. Either way, I was upset that it crapped out so early. That was the beginning of my demise in the race. Not long after, my knee started to hurt and I had to mentally pick myself up and talk myself off the ledge every few minutes for the next 5 miles. I knew my family would be somewhere around the 10th mile marker so I focused on that. I finally saw them and ran over to give Jennie a kiss and to get my phone from my husband so I could have some music for the rest of the race. Splits: (5) 7:49 (6) 7:34 (7) 7:32 (8) 7:39 (9) 7:38 (10) 7:58
Despite feeling pretty awful, I was still on track of where I wanted to be. Abby told me that for the final 5k that I should pretend I just started the 5k race and to find another gear and hang on till the end. I tried and tried and tried but I had nothing left and the wind was coming directly at my face (it always does off the ocean, every single year, so I was prepared for it to happen again). I kept telling my legs to speed up but they slowed down. The last 3 miles were a ride on the pain train. I kept wanting to stop but knew I would feel worse so I kept running. Splits (11) 8:15 (12) 8:20 (13) 9:02
With about a quarter-mile left I saw my family again (and the finish line!!!) so I ran over for another kiss, handed off my phone (which felt like I was carrying a cinder block) and shuffled off to the finish. I put a pep in my step (it was everything I had at the moment) to get myself in under 1:46.
I’m still not sure of my official time. My results are showing the gun time = chip time which is incorrect. I put a request in to have it looked at but it may never resolve. It’s not on the top of my worry list.
I spent the entire day complaining about my finish (sorry friends). It’s ok to be disappointed and upset to not reach a goal and to not have a race go as planned or expected.
I had so many questions for myself. Did I not train enough? Did I overtrain? Did I not do enough speedwork/long runs/strength? Was it because my hormones were messed up from stopping nursing or getting my period for the first time in 3+ years (3 days before the race)? Was it my nutrition? I drove myself crazy thinking about what possibly could have gone wrong to fuck up a race when the conditions were PICTURE PERFECT.
It’s been a couple of days and I have calmed down a bit and am more rational about the outcome. 1. I was not in shape or ready for the time I had in my head. 2. I had a bad day. IT HAPPENS. It’s happened to me before and it will happen again.
I received an awesome text from my friend Katie that put things into perspective…
She’s right. I should be proud. I’ve come a long way from where I was just a few months ago and about a light years worth of improvement from just a few months postpartum.
I immediately thought I needed to try again, that I wouldn’t let one bad day get me down. I’m signed up for the Brooklyn Half on May 16. I asked Abby what I needed to do to be ready by then (rest, recover, strength train and a pacer for the last 5k) and we talked about what lacked during this training cycle (QUALITY long runs). I decided I would go for it.
Then I realized my knee is probably injured and that I don’t actually WANT to run another half in 3 weeks. I have a bruised ego. I will eventually get over it. I am smart enough to not let that propel me into another injury and another bad race.
So what’s next?
Conquer the subway stairs everyday (so sore). Physical therapy. Yoga. Some spring and summer speed with shorter distance races (hopefully). Maybe a fall half marathon.
Thank you to everyone who reached out and showed your support during training, before the race and afterwards. Thank you to the ladies of my running group (and my friend Stephanie) who ran with me in the early mornings and late nights. Thank you to my family who came to cheer. It means so very much to me!!!
Finally, CONGRATULATIONS to my MIL, Ruth, who kicked ass during her first half marathon and is going to continue her training as Michele’s cadet for the Saucony 26strong project at the Chicago Marathon in October! I AM SO PROUD.