I was a little nervous going into this race. Let’s face it, I’m nervous at every race. When I got up it was raining and so I wasn’t super excited about that. My rain gear consists of a brimmed cap, period. I had a banana and some water for breakfast. That’s as much as I can stomach before a race. You are not supposed to deviate from whatever you’ve been doing on your training runs when going into a race. However, I do most of my training runs on empty, which really can’t be a good thing. So, I sometimes I do the banana thing because I know I’m supposed to fuel the tank before a run. I’m still working on my running fuel.
Speaking of fuel, I tried out Bikram Yoga the day before the race. I knew that was a risky proposition but I’ve been wanting to do it for so long and I was up early enough to make it, so I went. It was cool, well not really cool because they heat the room to 105 degrees. But it was an interesting experience. Who knew stretching could be so strenuous? I was dripping sweat early in the session. Due to the yoga water loss, I tried my best to rehydrate during the course of the day and decided that I would stop at all the hydration stations during the race. Otherwise, would probably only stop at one or two for a 6 mile run.
The race was in my favorite place to run, [cue sarcasm] Central Park. So I knew there were going to be rough times ahead. I am so unfamiliar with Central Park that I never quite know where I’m going so I followed a guy who looked familiar with his surroundings. I checked my bag and started off to my corral and was greeted by this sight:
Yes, an obscenely long line of porta potties. I could immediately hear angels singing and all was well in the running world. If you’re around runners long enough, you’ll realize that runners can get obsessed with porta potties … they are our friends. My personal feelings toward porta potties could be described as a love/hate relationship and so I was thankful that I didn’t need to make a visitation.
Race corrals sort the runners so the fastest runners are in the front and the slowest are in the back. My corral was so far back that they didn’t even put out a number for it. So, I went to the last corral and waited for the gun, which occurred right after the national anthem was sung. I think the singer of the anthem may have been having a bad day. That’s all I have to say about that. Then the race began.
When we finally crossed the start line, the woman in front of me saw family and/or friends cheering for her and decided to stop and cut across to greet them. There is always one. This happened during the Scotland Run but I have to say that this race was not congested like that one. Maybe they made the running lane wider. After getting by the greeter, I was off to a good start. I was feeling great and oops, I missed the first hydration station. It was less than a mile out and by the time I saw it I was too far to the right to cross over and safely get water. No worries, I was having a wonderful time and figured this is probably how Mo Farah feels when he’s running but decided to run closer to my left so as not to miss the other stations. Cat Hill was conquered and I caught the next hydration station and before knew it mile two was completed.
At this rate, I was looking at a PR. I was a little hot and sweaty and considered tossing my hat. No chance. I paid good money for that. But I felt like my form was good and was picturing myself bounding along like a gazelle and then … stop the presses. Before me was the ugliest hill ever. As I started to tackle it, I thanked God that I stopped at he last station. Then I realized that what I thought was the top of the hill was not, it just seemed to keep going and going. Then, I saw a woman about 50 meters in front of me throw up her hands in victory. At this point I’m dying and I’m thinking, “Does this idiot not realize that we still have almost four miles to go?” Then it dawn on me that she was celebrating the fact that she had finally reached the top of the hill. I was encouraged and kept going and sure enough I too was on top of the world. Yay, turns out I had just run Harlem Hill. I tried to enjoy the downhill but I was so wiped from the climb that even that seemed hard. I started to get my legs back and BAM, another hill. At this point, I realize I am sweating like crazy and I am not liking this race.
By the time I got to the third hydration station, I walked through it and made sure I got good drink. I had a hard time getting my running rhythm back, which is why I don’t like to stop a the hydration stations and if I do I try to keep running even if it is at a much slower pace. And of course there were more hills. I passed quite a few people who were walking. I was almost at mile four when I got to the fourth hydration station and I walked through but got most of the water on my face anyway because I just didn’t have the energy to focus on swallowing it. Mercifully the next mile wasn’t so bad but by this time I was so tired and was mad at myself for the whole Bikram yoga thing. I didn’t even see the five mile marker but I did stop at the fifth hydration station. I was probably delirious. I remember seeing the 800 meter marker and equating it to twice around the track. Quantifying that way just made it seem more attainable. When I finally crossed the finish line I started to feel light headed. I grabbed more water and wished it was Gatorade. A guy told me to take a bagel and said it tasted like French toast. I nibbled on the bagel. The guy lied. I managed to retrieve my bag from the baggage check and broke out my trusty chocolate milk. Bye, bye bagel. The milk was still cold and just a few sips hit the spot. For me, there is nothing like chocolate milk for post race recovery. I was still thirsty for Gatorade and remembered that I had a six pack in my trunk. I whipped out the GPS to figure out how to get out of the park and that’s when I realized that even after all of that pounding my achilles felt fine. Maybe Bikram wasn’t such a bad idea after all. I just won’t be doing it the day before a race. Turns out humidity was at 97%, so maybe all that sweating wasn’t from the Bikram class.
Next stop: THE BROOKLYN HALF MARATHON on May 18th … yes next week. And yes, I’m nuts.