Ahh, the 5:15am alarm. I’m either traveling or racing a marathon, because those are the only 2 reasons I’d be up this early. Okay, time to get dressed, eat my bagel, use the bathroom (TMI, but for reals: it’s a MUST before a race. Trust me), then head out to Eisenhower Park for the Long Island Marathon. I won the race in 2013, then in 2014 did a much hillier, but very scenic, race in Southern Vermont where I came in second by 2 seconds. Yes. Two freaking seconds.
Anyway, I digress. I’m back at the 2015 LI race, but I almost didn’t make it to the start line: a few days before the race, I was talking to my aunt and she was asking me things like, when does the race start? What’s your bib number? In other words, all things I really should know. So, I look on the website. OK, race starts at 8am. Great. What’s my bib number? I search for my name in the list of registered entrants and it says, “You are registered for 0 events.” Aaaaand commence freak out. After a string of 4 letter expletives, I take a deep breath, and search my email. Apparently, I never registered for the race. FAIL KELLY. Thankfully I was able to register in person two days before the race, but holy cow, talk about high anxiety.
The weather for Sunday was supposed to be warm — a high of 76 — which, if you ask me, is about 25 degrees too warm for a marathon. Plus, with almost half the course being on the Wantagh Parkway, I knew I’d have to be careful with hydration and not wilting in the sun. I spent the first few miles trying to settle into a comfortable pace, as I didn’t want to go faster than 7:05-7:10 (memories, painful horrible memories, of going out too fast in the 2014 NYC marathon have scarred me for life).
At mile 10, we leave the side streets and turn onto the Wantagh Parkway where we’ll be until just past mile 22. I actually kind of love this part of the course because it’s wide, mostly flat, and quiet. This is where the race really started for me — I picked up the pace and was running 6:50s pretty consistently and felt great (probably also due to the fact that I just had my first Honey Stinger energy gel). I saw Sam and got a surprise visit from my aunt, uncle, and cousin around mile 13, where I found out I was in 4th place and the 2nd and 3rd place girls were about 60-90 seconds ahead of me. I asked how far ahead the first place woman was. Sam said, “just run. Just keep going.” HA. Translation: She’s FAR.
Around mile 14, I picked off the 3rd place girl, and then at the turnaround point at mile 16.5, I saw the first place woman make her hairpin turn and head back. By my watch, she still had a good 4 minutes on me. Bollocks. At mile 17, I caught up to the 2nd place woman and the strangest thing happened: as I passed her, she stopped running. Like, literally stopped in her tracks and started walking. I asked if she was okay and she said, “oh yea I’m fine.” Uhh, ok…
Now I’m in 2nd place, about 4 minutes back, and I was on a mission: I had to catch up to the leader. Open Honey Stinger gel #2 and keep on truckin. For the next few miles, I notice something: all the female spectators would say some form of “you go girl!” and other encouraging words, whereas the male spectators were yelling things like, “she’s only 2 minutes ahead of you and she looks TERRIBLE!” or, “you’re only 90 seconds back, and she looks AWFUL. Go get her!” Hmm, I might actually have a chance at this.
I pass Sam and my family at mile 20, they tell me the leader is 90 seconds ahead and is apparently not shy about the fact that she’s not doing so well. I open my Honey Stinger Energy Chews, I know I’ll need them. I keep my pace a steady 6:50 or so, and… MIRACLE! I see the lead bikers! At mile 22 I catch up to them and the woman and I exchange a few words, I say great job keep it up, she tells me how awful she feels. I’m feeling pretty shitty too, but I think I’m hiding it better than she is. I pass her, and have just over 5km to go. Less than 24 minutes. If I can just keep it together for 24 more minutes, I’m good.
The lead bikers escort me off the Wantagh Parkway, and we cover 2 of the longest miles ever, down some road whose name I don’t know in a town I don’t recall because I’m running part of the time with my eyes closed, willing the race to be over. I’m really feeling it now and am up to about a 7:10-7:15 per mile. I open my eyes wide enough and like a mirage, I think I see orange cones. YES. That means we’re going back into Eisenhower Park, the marathon is almost over, and I can eat ice cream and drink soda. Mile 25 comes and goes, I have no idea how close the girl is behind me, I start having paranoid thoughts that somehow she got a second wind. Mile 26, thank freaking god I’m almost finished, I make the last right turn, I see the finish line ahead, I wave frantically to my family. I manage not to trip over the tape. I did it!
Phew. I could really go for some ice cream.
But before I do, I have many people to thank: thank you to Coach John Hirsch for getting my legs and my brain ready, to New York Health and Racquet Club and their amazing staff for getting me strong, to Honey Stinger for keeping me fueled, and to my family and friends. Thank you for putting up with all this running nonsense. You all are amazing.
It’s 15 degrees and I’m in Riverside Park at 9:25am on a windy and gray Saturday morning, focusing on keeping my hot chocolate upright as I’m doubled over. Sam asks, “but you feel good, right?” The truth is that, no I feel like shit, but what I actually say is, “I have never felt good after one of these things.” It’s my first 5k race since 2012, and that’s partially because the thought of racing 3.1 miles makes my legs and lungs hurt. This time was no different. I’m not sure if I’m doing something right, or very wrong, but I usually feel like the race ends just in time — any longer or I’d dry heave my way across the finish line.
I should have known that the day wasn’t off to a great start when my alarm went off at 5:45am. I jumped out of bed, got dressed, and then thought, “wait a second…” why was I planning on leaving the apartment at 6:40am for a race that didn’t start until 9am? Because I screwed up. I set my alarm and made my travel plans as if the race started at 8am. Mistake numero uno.
After taking the subway part of the way uptown, I jogged 2 miles to the start and saw exactly what we’d be dealing with: the course was hilly and covered in so much ice that it narrowed the path to single track (the race director actually said we might have to throw a few elbows on the out-and-back course). I just kept telling myself, “20 minutes. It will all be over in 20 minutes.”
The first half of the race, I thought I was in 4th, with the 2nd and 3rd place females no more than 15 seconds ahead of me. Just before the turn-around, I passed them both, thinking I was now in 2nd, with the 1st place woman far in front. I was feeling pretty yuck as we ascended a few hills, but knew it would all be over soon because I had mercifully passed the 2 mile marker. Just a few more minutes and the pain would be over. With 0.3 miles to go, we made a sharp left turn down a steep hill and you could just barely make out the finish line. Oh thank god, that means the torture is almost over. I was jolted from my happy place when I got passed by a girl (grr). I tried to keep up, willing my quads to go faster, but they were in no mood to cooperate. Okay, fine, if it was any consolation, I would still podium (mistake numero dos). I couldn’t keep up with her, and she finished 4 seconds ahead of me. I finished in just over 21 minutes, a disappointing time (aaand numero tres). Sam immediately came over and told me I came in fourth. FOURTH?! Ugg. You know what’s worse than coming in 4th? Coming in 4th thinking you were in 3rd the whole time. I grumbled for a few minutes (sorry Sam!), drank my hot chocolate (thank you NYCRUNS!), changed my shirt, and ran 11 miles home. I was pissed. I was cold. I was tired. I needed to declare a mulligan on the day. I got home, showered, took a short nap, and ate breakfast all over again.
I’m still a little grumpy about the morning, but am trying to use it as a learning experience. I need to get my speed up. I need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Also, I need to do another 5k. Preferably faster. And preferably in warmer weather. Until then, I’ve got some training to do.
For my pre-race nutrition, I followed advice from my nutritionist Christine Lynch and I minimized veggie and dairy intake the day before, had brown rice pasta with red sauce and a little bit of chicken for dinner and then ate a bagel with peanut butter the morning of the race. Conclusion: no emergency bathroom trips. WIN.
I won the Brooklyn Marathon in 2011, and it’s a special race for me because it was my first win and the first time I realized that I might actually be decent at this whole marathon thing. Fast forward a few years and this was my first time coming back to defend a title. I’m anxious and neurotic enough as it is before a race, so the added pressure didn’t make me an easier person to be around (sorry, Sam). There were no other previous female winners there so my main goal for this race was to work on pacing. I went out way too fast when I ran the NYC Marathon and I wanted to correct that mistake by running a negative split. Also, since I just ran NYC 2 weeks ago, I knew I really couldn’t afford to go out too fast — the consequences could be downright UGLY. I was tested right from the gun when 2 girls went out FAST. I watched them speed off, and thought, “if they’re that fast, good for them” and then thought maybe they’ll regret the quick start once we hit the hills. I reminded myself that it was a long race, with plenty of time for things to go wrong… or right. So, I stuck to my plan, and kept my pace at ~7-7:05 min/mile.
Sure enough, the hills got to them. I passed one girl to move into 2nd place around mile 8, just 1 mile after we crested the first hill. Around mile 13, Sam told me that the first place girl was about 3 minutes ahead and I chuckled and thought how tough it would be to make up all that time without crashing later on. It would be one thing to catch her, another thing to pass her, and a third thing to keep it up. As I passed other runners, I heard one say to the other “she’ll definitely catch up to the girl in first”. I’d be lying if this didn’t boost my confidence, but still knew it would be a challenge to make up that much time. I maintained my pace (ok, fine, maybe I sped up a tiny bit), heard from Sam that I was reeling her in, and got some encouragement from other runners (“she’s just ahead, go get her, you got it!”).
I passed her around mile 17. Phew. As I passed her, I said “good job, way to run” and she muttered something that I didn’t understand, so I knew if I could keep up my pace, I’d be good. But, while passing her, I was struggling to open my bag of Sport Beans — despite wearing mittens, my hands were so cold that my thumbs refused to work. So this is what it feels like not to have opposable thumbs (note: it kinda sucks). I couldn’t grasp the bag hard enough to open the seal. I was fumbling around with one bag and eventually dropped it. Crap. I got my final bag from my pocket and had Sam open it for me. After having a few beans, I picked up the pace a tiny bit, ran a negative split, and won the race! During my last loop around the park, my lead biker told me I was running my victory lap. I thought that meant I had a decent lead, but didn’t want to test things (I did that in the Shires of Vermont Marathon and ended up coming in 2nd place. That’s a mistake I won’t make again). So I kept pushing the pace. Turns out i was safe, as the second place female was 15 minutes behind me.
Overall, this was an amazing way to end a season. I achieved my goal of controlling my pace, and ended up winning, and feeling REALLY good doing it. As expected, NYCRUNS put on a fabulous race, with an attentive and professional RD, awesome volunteers, and hilarious spectators. This more than made up for my negative energy from bonking hardcore in NYC.