“The journey isn’t always perfect, but always worth taking.” – Kara Goucher
I think that about sums up how I feel about the New Jersey Marathon.
|Donating my retired shoes at the marathon expo|
I had an off week leading up to the race. I felt like I wasn’t eating enough healthy foods, drinking enough water, and was worried that I would come down with a cold since Josh was battling one all week. It might be all in my head, but no one will know.
Anxiety set in even more as I thought about a race strategy. My first marathon in Philadelphia felt surreal since it was just two weeks after when NYC was supposed to happen. I found out a week before that I was running it and going into the race with a minor hip injury made it that much more challenging. I finished the race with throbbing pain and then was injured for a month afterwards. After bouncing back from Philadelphia, I had about four weeks to get back into race shape for Miami. Miami definitely didn’t go as planned; I wanted to PR seeing that I ran Philadelphia with injury but I was overly ambitious given the weather and my short recovery time. I mentally broke down in Miami and ended up finishing after walking/running the last leg of the race.
Between Miami and yesterday’s race, I raced the NYC Half Marathon and partially raced the Women’s Half. When I was chatting with Coach Ali after Miami and before the NYC Half, we talked about some goal times for this year’s races. She mentioned trying to go for around 4:10 in New Jersey and then sub-4 in NYC. That would mean ideally racing a sub-2 NYC Half which I ended up being off the mark by a minute. So as I thinking about the New Jersey Marathon, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I half expected 4:10 to be a little out of reach and based on the different online pace calculators I used, they predicted that I could run between a 4:15 to 4:18 (which would be a 9-12 minute PR). Given how off I felt during some of my longer runs, I knew I had to bring my A-game if I was going to PR by that much.
I don’t usually like talking about my goal time for a race. My feeling is that I am not an accomplished enough runner yet to have a good sense of what I can physically and mentally run. There were very few people who knew roughly what time I wanted to run. That, of course, doesn’t prevent jitters though. All I could think about was that my first marathon ended in a worst injury, my second was a mental breakdown, so for my third, it would be expected that I could PR but who knows.
|Looking much happier between mile 9 and 10|
I guess, the long and short of it is that I did PR. I finished the New Jersey Marathon in 4:22:51, which is slightly less than a 5-minute PR. A personal record is great and I cannot complain, however, it doesn’t prevent you from thinking about what you could do differently. According to my watch, which is not the official splits due to the distance difference (I ran 26.38 miles, pretty darn close though, I am getting better at my tangents!), my first mile was the fastest at 9:25. If you had to plan a perfectly executed race, the first mile should likely never be the fastest! For the first 15-miles or so, I trailed the 4:10 pacer by no more than 200 meters and I felt great. I was on track for likely a 4:12 finish if I was able to maintain the momentum. I am not sure what happened for the last 11-miles. I know that my heart rate was starting to spike, so to control my breathing and pacing, I had to slow down. However, my pace got gradually slower and slower. I don’t think I ever “hit the wall” but my legs stopped moving with the same earlier efficiency and I had to mentally tell myself to take each mile one at a time.
|Excited to finish!|
Due to Hurricane Sandy, the course for this race had to be adjusted and while it was still a very scenic route, there were a lot of turns, uneven pavement, and I think that threw me a little. While the race did eventually feel mentally and physically exhausting, I kept pushing, much more than I did in Miami when I felt like I wanted to give up. It felt like the angel and devil on my shoulder – one was telling me to keep going (because darn it, you know you can) and the other was like, just walk. The angel ultimately won. I plowed through but not without talking myself through a zillion positive and negative thoughts.
|I wish my eyes were open for this picture, but loved having
my parents there! It was their first marathon spectator
As I contemplate this race experience, there are definitely a number of things that worked and some that didn’t (not excuses, just lessons learned):
- Having the support of my parents and Josh was very important and I am very lucky – I knew to watch out for them between miles 9-10 and again at the finish. It was something to look forward to no matter how bad I felt.
- Fueling – I feel like I ate enough Jelly Belly Sports Beans during the race and drank enough water and Gatorade along the way.
- The weather was perfect with the exception of some windy points; I really could not have asked for a better weather day.
- Training – I honestly felt well-trained. My teammate, Julio and I kept each other accountable for our speed work and long runs and that made a huge difference. I cannot imagine what it would be like to train for a marathon on my own; I am very spoiled with being fortunate enough to have the support of our coaches and teammates.
- Do not do something hastily on race morning! Since it felt colder than I expected the morning of the race, I hastily threw on my arm warmers as I was approaching the start. Even though I had run in them before, I definitely did not plan for the chafing they caused.
- Do not start the race too fast! I expected that I would be able to hold the pace since I felt so great after the half-marathon mark, but I definitely learned otherwise. I’m usually pretty conservative to start races but this time, I was off the mark.
- Not enough recovery time? This one I will never know the answer to, but this was my third marathon in six months. Even though I had over a three-month break after Miami, I raced a half in between and injured my lower back from snow tubing.