I know there are a lot of really upbeat, always motivating and really positive blogs out there. They are great- I love and follow many of them. And I know why people write them that way. To me, though, I like to try to keep it real. Marathons and Ironmans and ultras are hard. Period. There are good days and bad days. There are great moments and terrible moments- a lot of them- and they often occur in the same race. I think it’s important that people know the struggles and the obstacles we have to pull through to finish. People often say “You’re amazing” and things as such. I’m not. And it matters to me that they see I struggle just like everyone else.
I don’t really know how to get my feelings out. This year has been a very different year for me for racing and training.
After Lake Placid, I decided that my year wasn’t over and I wanted a new challenge. I found the NYRR 60K and figured it was perfect for me. I have wanted to run an ultra but was nervous about the trails for my first as I’m clumsy and I tend to trip a lot. This one wasn’t on a trail. This one was 9 loops of Central Park in New York City. This lit a fire in me. I have always wanted to run in New York City. I have never been in Central Park before. I’ve driven by it but never been in it. This race was perfect.
People thought I was crazy. “9 loops????” “Central Park is HILLY!” “That sounds terrible!”. But not to me. I couldn’t wait.
After Lake Placid I trained for the Wineglass Marathon. I didn’t have a full training cycle. I didn’t even have half a training cycle. But Geoffrey helped me get prepared to the best of my ability. Based on training and some faster runs we thought I had a 3:50-ish in me. I didn’t care too much about a 3:50 though, I just wanted to break 4 hours for my first stand alone marathon in 3+ years. I went out with the 4 hour pacer and stayed right in front of them until the halfway mark where I stopped at the bathroom. They went ahead and I lost a little steam.
When you run a marathon, you should see a somewhat steady increase in your heart rate across the race. My heat rate at Wineglass? Flat. What does this mean? It means I pulled back my effort pretty good in the second half of the race. I don’t know why. My only conclusion was that I was afraid to bonk and fall apart. I went very conservative and finished fine with a 4:05. Nothing great. Not good, not terrible. Fine. And I was happy enough. Not impressed with myself but okay for this race.
I can honestly say that the 60K was the only race I was fully prepared for this year. I built off the marathon and really had some great training runs. Even more than that…I loved it. Geoffrey started saying that I’m built for ultra’s and I started to think he is right. For the first time in a long time, I was really enjoying nearly all of my training. I was maintaining steady paces and still feeling strong in high miles. I was happy and I was excited. Two weeks ago I had a 32 mile training run. I ran 15 miles alone and then G and Aria joined me for the Red Baron Half Marathon. I finished the 32 miles at a 10:18 pace and I was so thrilled. I even ran 2,100+ feet of elevation that day. This was the day after a 10 mile run and a big week of training. I felt so ready. The two weeks of taper were incredibly stressful for several different reasons. Some being a few large projects at work and the other being, well,…..teenagers. Teenagers. Well, that’s a whole other blog post for another day. And most of you know that stress already.
Fast forward to this weekend. I was up full of beans at 5am Saturday morning. New York City day!!!!!! We were already packed so we pretty easily made it out the door by 7am (that’s kind of a miracle for us hahaha). We arrived at the city around 11. First thing we did was head over to the NYRR run center to pick up my bib. Man, that place is cool! A lot like the Adidas Boston run base but about ten times bigger. It was a mixture of store, group classes, headquarters and museum. I would have loved to have more time there.
I got my bib and headed to out hotel to leave our car and bags. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott in Midtown. A great location. We spent the afternoon walking around Rockefeller Center, Times Square and all the sights around there. We had reservations at a good Italian restaurant but when the kids saw the Hardrock Café and loved it, we decided to eat there instead. We saw the New Year’s ball, M&M World, Hershey World, the Broadway theaters and every other store/sight in between.
We headed back to the hotel to rest. Later we headed to Serendipity for dessert. Serendipity is a famous little restaurant known for it’s frozen hot chocolate and outrageous desserts. It was so worth it. Unfortunately, by this time, I was getting the sore throat, headache and neck ache that hits me when I’m getting a cold. I ignored it.
We went back to the hotel and after I set all my gear out I was asleep by 9:00. I was out. I woke up at 5am and headed to the café in the hotel for coffee. I definitely wasn’t feeling hot and I was 100% ignoring it. When I went in to get coffee there was a group of about 8 people in there sitting at a table. They were probably about 30 years old and they had about ten bottles of booze on the table. They had been there all night. They were singing and laughing and having a grand old time. I smiled…I was most definitely not jealous but I did remember was it was like to be able to have nights like that in my twenties. I grabbed my coffee and headed back to our room. I did not eat breakfast. It’s the first time I didn’t eat breakfast before a race or long run. But I didn’t feel well ad couldn’t eat. I knew I’d have to get food in me but I couldn’t yet.
I was struggling deciding what to wear because the weather was supposed to get up to 40 but at the beginning it was below freezing with real feel in the teens. I brought everything I had and headed out. I left everyone sleeping because it was too long and cold for them to be out there. I expected to see them sometime in the second half of the race. I jumped in to the taxi and after passing all the super upscale stores on 5th ave we were there.
This race was sold out with 500 runners. I really enjoyed how this was set up and all the volunteers were terrific. The NYRR know how to do it, that is clear. I was in awe of Central Park. I’ve heard so may stories through my life. It was beautiful! So clean and crews and police pretty much always in sight.
The first loop was a longer loop at 5.1 miles. This loop I tried so hard to get my head right. I really enjoyed seeing everything and hearing all the chatting and excited runners. I will say that I felt old. The average runner must have been 39 years old and I hear many conversations about being out too late the night before. Ha….so not my life. But everyone was really friendly and pleasant to chat to.
I was trying hard to ignore the fact that my body wasn’t happy. I kept telling myself “You know it takes several miles for you to warm up. Just give it time.” It was cold. Really cold. On the first half of the loop I would sweat because we had a tail wind and I felt comfortable. When we turned around I froze my tail off in the headwind. I kept reminding myself that it was supposed to get warmer soon, trying to keep my head right. But man, my toes and fingers hurt. I tried to turn on my music but my headphones would not work. I realized that it was not my phone but that they seemed not to work when many others were around with the same kind. A Pairing issue I guess.
After the first lap I stopped for the bathroom and to get my food bag. I grabbed a peanut butter and jelly Uncrustable to ate it. Okay, I thought, now I have energy. Soon, I would feel it.
On the second loop I started to panic. I felt lousy. I was struggling. My neck hurt. And the thing really getting in my head…I feel lousy and I still have 30+ miles to run. I started to get very, very down. I completely panicked. I was angry too. I trained damn hard and I wanted one damn race to go my way. But that’s not how life goes. We all know that. I continued to run, feeling very sorry for myself. I was messing up my planned walk breaks now pretty badly. I was panicked and cold. My first laps look slow but they weren’t. A few bathroom stops. After lap 3, similar to lap two, I stopped to get my food bag. Except they misplaced it and couldn’t find it for a few minutes. They found it and I took more fuel in. This was about mile 13. I kept telling myself that after the next loop I would see my family. So, out on another loop I went.
The loops were a blessing. I was able to look at one loop at a time instead of all the miles I had to go. Central Park was so beautiful and full of runners and cyclists and dogs and just so much to see that the loops were not at all an issue. A side from my body and mind not cooperating, I knew how lucky I was to be there. Every once in a while I would take in the buildings and excitement and it took me away from myself for a bit. After I finished the next loop and hit mile 17 my family still was not there. Truthfully, I did not expect them to be. It was still early and not out plan. But I hope they would be. This was the lowest point of the race for me. I felt terrible. Achy and headache and sore neck. I couldn’t take anything and risk kidney issues. I’m glad my family was not there because I think I would have asked them to take me home. That was how poor I felt. I decided that since they weren’t there I had to keep moving so, just one more loop wouldn’t kill me. I shuffled on slower and slower.
Then, around 18 miles came a something I desperately needed. Two years ago while on a training weekend at Lake Placid I met Eric. We were both in the Ironman Lake Placid training group and after running together for a bit realized we were both in that group. He was so supportive and great to chat to. We met up during the Ironman that year on the course. We stayed in touch and met again during the ironman this year. He knew I was running this and mentioned he would be out getting some miles. Well, around my mile 18 there he is. I could have cried I was so happy to see a familiar face. He ran with me for probably about two miles and we chatted the entire time. My times dropped back down to 9:30’s. I was out of my own head for a while. He split off to head home and I just couldn’t tell him how happy I was for his company.
Somewhere in here I got lapped a third time by Mike Wardian. Mike is a world class Ultra runner. One of the best. If you are going to get lapped…it feels a lot better if it is by him. But the third time he lapped me his speed was gone. He slowed down big time. He didn’t look good. But he was on his last lap so I didn’t feel too bad for him.
After the next loop I was at twenty one miles. My family wasn’t there yet and I was cold. I was disappointed in how the race was going for me and really wanting to see G and the kids. But I knew they’d be there the next loop so on I went. By this time I was leap frogging with so many familiar faces from earlier in the race. I started running with a friendly man and we started chatting. He ran a 3:40 at Berlin this year and he paced a 1:45 half marathon two weeks earlier. He was a vey good runner but struggling as I was. We chatted for the entire loop and it was great. He had so many cool experiences and it was really nice just to shuffle along and chat. I’m grateful for his support as he truly helped lighten my burden. At the end of this loop I saw some familiar faces…they were here!!!! I hugged everyone and smiled like I was having a great race. More on that later. G said he would run the following loop with me. Just one more loop to complete on my own. I caught back up to Dmitry and we shuffled on. For the next 4 miles each of us slowed at parts but we always seemed to end up back together.
At the end of that loop G cam out and ran with me. At the beginning of this race I learned that this is the only NYRR race where they allow pacers so we were good. I was so happy to have him there. Dmitry ran ahead of us for a while. But then he fell back and told us to go on. I was running. I was shocked at how slow I was running. But I was running. I was in a better mood by this point. There was end in sight. It didn’t matter how bad I hurt. I talked to everyone who had supported us all day- there were so many. I kept running. I gave the cat on Cat Hill the finger. Side note: does anyone know why that cat is there?
I hugged the kids one more time and told them I would see them at the finish. We shuffled on. G kept telling me to pick up my feet. By this time my feet hurt so damn bad. I realized that Kinvara’s were probably not the right shoe for this distance, going forward.
G thought I was crazy for wanting to run this race. But he loved running in Central Park and he understood why I wanted to after he saw it. We, after what seemed like the longest two miles of my life, finally got within sight of the finish. I made G say out loud that I never had to run again. I smiled at that. Then we got to the finish.
The finish was different. More low key just runners thankful it was done. And more than half the field still out there running with more loops to go. We waited a couple minutes for Dmitry to finish and then headed off to the car to make our way home.
Getting in to that warm car was one of the best feelings in the world.
So, I guess this is the year of just surviving races. Just not quitting. And that’s okay. Two things I did do right: I stuck it out and I did not let the kids see me fall apart. I realized a long time ago that they worry about me in races. They enjoy it so much more if I’m happy. So, I decided to be happy in front of them. No matter what. They both said that this year is the best I’ve looked in races. They have no idea that it was only for them. But I will continue to do that for them.
I learned a lot yesterday. I learned that ultra’s are a more relaxed environment because they need to be. Because the times of the runners are so far apart and it’s SO hard so a relaxed environment helps everyone get through the distance. I learned that I have a lot to learn. Shoes, clothing, fueling….it’s all different and I think some changes there will help me a lot. I learned that little things can change the game. Maybe I can’t control how my body is feeling that day but there are still ways to get through it.
I felt really down since the race. I just felt like it was another poor race by me this year and that I couldn’t do what I trained for and did so many other days. I felt that I disappointed people I cared about. I ended up having to take a sick day yesterday and still feel crappy in my head today but my legs feel completely fine. I know I wasn’t at 100% but I was disappointed because I felt that this was MY race. Even though every one of us knows that is not how life works. I know that. I just felt a little pathetic. I mean, how many times can you say “Oh, yay, I didn’t quit even though I was nowhere near what I wanted to do”. Not poor me. Just wondering if I just need to change things. Not set the bar high. Maybe I’m just not who I thought I was.
I’ve felt better after seeing a few things. Mike Warding bonked hard at 26 miles. That’s why he was running so slow (I mean, not MY slow but his slow haha) when I saw him the last time. He had a big lead but bonked and ended up in third place. I also saw that of the 30+ in my age group that started, 22 finished and I came in 6th. So after seeing those, I did feel better. I do not consider those to be excuses for the day but just maybe that I was a little too hard on myself. I work hard so I was disappointed. But that’s part of the game and if I cant handle that there were be those races…stretches and sometimes even longer like that then I shouldn’t be racing. So I’m working on all of that.
My friend, Hope, asked for me to put some live feeds on Facebook and I agreed. The supportive messages I saw popping up on my watch were wonderful and helped me so much. Thank you to everyone that sent me a message or commented.
I will say this. That race was excellent. I will definitely be back. It was well run and the support was great. There were a lot of people who stood out there cheering all day in the freezing cold. I hugged a lot of them on my last loop. I don’t know if one should be hugging strangers in Central Park but I felt like I knew them after seeing them all day long 😊 The race itself is one to put on the list. It was the only cheap thing in NYC ($45) with awesome swag- a shirt, belt buckle and a backpack. More importantly, it was just a great race. I wish my report reflected that better because it was. I’m definitely planning on being there again and next time I’m going to kick it’s butt.
I’m so grateful to my family. They always support my crazy adventures even though they can be long and cold and unpleasant. I am the luckiest person in the world to have this wonderful family behind me. And I’m incredibly grateful to Geoffrey for training me to get here. Even on my worst day I was trained to be able to finish this. Not everyone has access to that and I’m beyond grateful.
All in all, not a great day for my body. But I hung in there. And if this is the year of not killing it but “not quitting” then so be it. There’s a lot to learn in that alone because that monster can be a really big one.