New Jersey = New Personal Best Marathon
The stars have to seriously align in order for a marathon to go off seamlessly. So much can and will go wrong over the course of 26.2 miles, that you have to be prepared for just about anything. Prior to the New Jersey Marathon on Sunday, April 28th, I was not necessarily feeling great about things. I knew I had done everything possible to get me to the point of being able to run another marathon only 56 days after my previous one. I initially suffered through a brutal period of training for about 3.5 weeks post-marathon (Newport News) because I got all eager to jump back into it too soon and I was not really recovered. As I have mentioned in previous posts, my runs were stinking. I was slow and my heart rate was too high and my Garmin was telling me I suck too by saying I was “Unproductive” for pretty much 2 weeks straight. I knew I had to change things up and that’s when I decided to rest more frequently. That worked like a charm and I got back to my old self just in time for this marathon and I was ready to go the distance again. I had signed up for this race last October 8th (6 days prior to my first sub-4 marathon) so I must have said my expected finish time was about 4:15. Therefore I got dumped into corral 5 with the 4:15 pacer. I was not too happy with this because I NOW KNOW that I can run faster and I was so afraid of getting stuck behind people and need to spend my time weaving in and out of runners. (Running pet peeve.) On race day, the traffic getting to the start line also sucked. Pat dropped me off at an intersection and I followed the crowd and walked the rest of the way. The porta potty lines were so long. It was unreal. I thought how I am going to have time to pee before the race? Thankfully NOW I am in corral 5! I literally ran out of the porta potty and to the start line. I snuck in the front of corral 5 so at least I can be the leader of THAT pack! I sent Pat a text saying how this race was going to suck because of so many people. Oh well. Got to deal with it now. I thought at the same time I was sending that text that the ONLY THING that would make it better was a Boston-qualifying finish time. But how was I going to do THAT among the thousands of runners?! I didn’t really know at the time. When it was time for our corral to take off, I started my watch, RaceJoy app and my music and proceeded to run down a little hill and then up a bigger hill to get out of the Monmouth Racetrack parking lot. I listened to my watch tell me my pace was in the 7’s for the first couple of miles. I felt pretty good. I mean I know I was working hard but I also didn’t want people to catch me from behind! Soon enough around mile 3, we easily caught up with runners from corral 4 and that’s when the bobbing and weaving started happening. It was kind of annoying and my pace was a bit slower then, but I had to deal with the masses. I knew overall my pace was similar to the marathon in Newport News so as long as I didn’t have to waste four and a half minutes in the porta potty again, I would be fine. There were so many turns in this race. I knew that from the map, but it was crazy ridiculous and we all know that turns slow you down. Another reason to be cranky!! I couldn’t even fully study the race course because the turns were too numerous to count. I simply had to follow the crowd and attempt to run the tangents as best I could. It was near impossible. During this race, I felt like I had to push and push hard if I wanted a BQ time. I remember feeling like I was willing myself to that damn finish line. I crossed the half marathon point at 1:51:02 which is my personal best recorded time within a marathon. I was happy with that and I was doing the math saying to myself, “Well, if you keep this pace, you can finish the marathon in 3:42.” Yes, but what are the chances of that actually happening?!? I have never run a negative split race. It’s so hard to do. You start out like a freaking maniac in the beginning and you can never capture that same kind of equivalent power at the end of a marathon. I simply had to stay the course and try to run as consistent as possible. I usually am a consistent runner if I get into a groove. I love having my watch tell me my current pace every 3 minutes. It’s frequently enough that I can make an adjustment within the mile if I need to do so. I enjoyed the course whenever I actually looked around and saw the big beautiful homes on the Jersey shore. But I had such a purpose about me this time. There was no time to really look around and ponder life. Every ounce of energy had to be on propelling me towards the finish line. Once we hit the straightaway on Ocean Avenue, we started seeing the super-fast marathoners on the other side of the road. You know, the 2:30 marathoners. I marvel at them. But they look just as tired. There were still some turns on this portion of the course, but it wasn’t so bad. As we got closer to Asbury Park Convention Center (where the expo was), I knew we were closing in on mile 17 and that’s when all the new twists and turns popped back up. I knew we had to run about 3 miles to get back to the other side of the road, but those 3 miles took forever it seemed! There were many turns and we were running on the boardwalk for half of the time. It was nice, it was beautiful, but it was confusing sometimes too at a few of the turns. I was afraid to admit to myself (especially DURING a marathon) that I was feeling a little tired, but I had to keep going and pushing hard if I wanted the BQ time. Throughout this race, my left hip flexor (you know, the one that has bothered me since 2015’s Reach The Beach) felt tight. It didn’t hurt and I wasn’t in complete agony, but I believe the tightness had affected my power in some way. It was definitely noticeable to me throughout the race, but I had to persevere. According to my watch, I crossed the 20 mile mark at 2:50:02 and the race clocked me at 2:52:54 but that’s because my watch says I ran 26.61 miles total. Clearly I was NOT running the tangents very well. I was happy with that time but I had to keep plowing if I was going to make it under 3:50. That would allow me just under an hour to run at 10K which is not easily accomplished at the END OF A MARATHON! I didn’t want to give up though. Mile 23 was my slowest mile at 9:21 pace. Which in the grand scheme of things, isn’t very slow at all, but for this race it was. I was feeling fatigue but I was trying to fight it so bad. I had to. I didn’t just run 23 freaking miles to blow a BQ time in the last 5K!! Even though this was the hardest part of the race, I had to get it done. That’s all I kept thinking about. I was wondering why I felt a little more fatigued in this marathon compared to the last one but that’s also because the last one was only 56 days ago! The time between the prior marathon (Newport News and Honolulu) was 84 days and probably a little more ideal for recovery. I would agree with most experts that the more marathons you tend to do, the more it will affect your next performance. But that doesn’t quite stop me now, does it? I still love the challenge of it. I was thinking about when to make my final push to the finish line. After all, I was racing against the clock and nobody else. You never want to make your push too soon because if you can’t hold it that long, you could run out of energy or you could cramp up. I even skipped a couple of water stops near the end. I started to believe that every second counts because what if I slowed later on? It was a gamble, no doubt. I took my last GU at mile 22 so I was hoping that energy would last me for the final 4.2 miles. Once I hit mile 24, I said, “OK, only 2.2 miles left”. I was trying not to repeat Newport News marathon when I didn’t leave myself ENOUGH time to get under 3:50. I knew if I was going to start pushing the pace, it started now and then I had to push even harder at mile 25. I knew I had a little buffer, but not much. Because who the heck knows when you are going to fall apart?! It started raining and we were running on the boardwalk which felt a little slippery. I was so determined to get it done. I was tired but I didn’t have a choice but to push an 8:56 and 8:49 pace for miles 25 and 26. I was wondering, “Where is that damn finish line?!?” It has to be soon. We got off the boardwalk and back on to the pavement where there was construction going on. The path was so tiny and it had some sharp turns. It figures I got behind a slower runner there and I was telling him to GO, GO, GO. As soon as I could, I passed him. No one was going to hold me back. I looked at my watch it said 3:48 and change. It was going to be so close! The seconds were ticking away faster and faster. I could see the finish line off in the distance and it always takes longer to run to than you think!! When I saw 3:49:16 on my watch, I’m thinking, this is it. You have to push it now before it’s too late. I knew Pat and the girls were somewhere along the finish line. I couldn’t even look for them. I know it sounds bad but that was wasted energy and there were too many people to look at. I wasn’t here to wave to the crowd (sorry guys!), I was here to get the job done, to qualify for Boston once and for freaking all. I pushed my pace to the low 8’s and 7’s and finished the race at a ridiculous 6:58 pace. I was only looking for that finish line. I stopped my watch at 3:49:33 and said “I did it!” It was an amazing feeling, but I was maybe too tired to really smile. Pat gave me a hug and so did the girls. I didn’t cry. I didn’t say much. They were telling each other before the end of the race “OMG, it’s going to be tight!!!” But I didn’t want to let them or myself down. No way, I came to New Jersey to BQ and that’s what I did. I feel like I got jipped in the last race missing it by 1 minute, 17 seconds. Today was my day. The BAA recently further tightened the qualifying standards, but I beat it anyway. It was very validating as a runner to achieve it, but I’m not done yet. This is just the beginning. It feels ridiculous to run an 8:46 overall pace for a marathon. It’s crazy that I can even do that. It all comes down to how bad you want it. How fast are you willing to move your legs and push yourself? Sure, I would love to run even faster. The cool thing is that I will do even better and I have a new training plan to test out once I recover from this one. So, what is my favorite marathon you might ask? This one for about a week and then after that, it is always “the next one”!
POST-RACE: This was my fastest marathon and also my fastest recovery. I attribute this to one thing and one thing only… putting my feet up in the car for the 6 hour ride home from New Jersey! Essentially, I finished the race, walked to the shuttle bus to get back to our truck at the start line and off we went! (Unfortunately, the hotel would not allow us to even pay for late checkout because they had a big group coming in that afternoon. But it is ok, I didn’t even smell bad!) Prior to the race, I had set up my comfy bed in the back of our giant Yukon XL with pillows and all. You would think when I got out of the car, I would be in complete agony but that was not the case. I’m not saying I didn’t feel pain on the ride home. My legs were aching and I took some Tylenol, but believe it or not, after we got home I could climb the stairs fairly normally. The day after the marathon, I even “trotted” around the corner at the high school to make sure I didn’t miss my daughter’s 800m run. It is now 4 days post-run and I feel completely fine. Actually, I feel pretty awesome. I don’t even have any major blisters or toenail issues this time. Weird. Maybe that’s the trick. Just run 26.2 miles faster!?
Additional note I forgot to add and wonder if this happens to other runners? The night before the race my left heel started noticeably aching. I couldn't quite understand why because I hadn't run for days and it was months ago that I had previously felt any aches in my heels that had since disappeared. Then on race morning in the middle of the night, my left knee hurt so much so I had to get up and try to crack it. (Didn't work.) Later, I woke up to my toes on my right foot throbbing intermittently for about 20 minutes. Weird. These were REAL pains I had because I don't just make shit up, but they went away and did not affect me in the race. I sometimes wonder if the body is playing tricks on you, but I also know I felt legitimate pain too. Occasionally before a marathon, I will experience some random pain that I have never felt before in my life. I think it is just a way of worrying us more and reminding us that we are not superhuman, but you have to try to put it out of your mind. It usually doesn't have a direct impact on the race.