I PR’d at the New Jersey Marathon today! 3:49:08! It was a tough day — rainy, windy, surprisingly chilly — and it didn’t go my way, but I still nabbed a pretty big PR, so I’m calling it a win! Read on!
Start and conditions:
7:30 am start, with waves going every 1-2 minutes
Around 50 degrees, warming to maybe 54. Winds 8-15 mph. Began with a drizzle that turned into a light rain… but after 26.2 miles, I was definitely drenched!
3:49:08 – 8:45 chip pace; 8:40 Garmin pace (clocked it at 26.5, ugh!)
This is a 13.5 minute PR for me, so I will gladly take it!
Arrived at the race start around 6:15; parking was easy, but I know people who planned to arrive between 6:30 and 7:00 barely made it with time to use bathrooms and dart to gear check. For anyone looking at doing NJM, plan to get there plenty early to get parked, settled, and bathroom-ed with time to spare! Gun went off pretty much right on time; corrals were well-labeled and just the right size (not too full), with each corral going off every 1-2 minutes. I did the half last year, so I knew where to go and what to do, which was pretty fun.
I really wanted to BQ at this race — and looking at the results, you can see that I didn’t. I aimed to run 3:27-3:32, which would be a 7:55-8:05 pace. Looking at all the hard work I put in this training cycle, that was totally in the realm of possibility… but it was just NOT my day. Details below!
Gear and fuel
With rain forecasted, I went with basics: Oiselle Distance shorts, Oiselle Pacers singlet, a running cap to keep the rain out of my eyes, and my trusty Saucony Ride 8 shoes with my favorite Feetures socks. I treated my feet, sports bra line, under arms, lower back, and thigh chub rub area with a ton of Aquaphor (on and between toes) and Vaseline (everywhere else). I still ended up with thigh chafe, but that can’t be helped with how soaked I was by the end of the race. As for fuel, I had a cup of coffee and oatmeal for breakfast before we left at 5 am. During the race I had nuun in my handheld water bottle, plus I was drinking some water and Gatorade on the course. I planned to take 4 gels, but I ended up running 20 mins longer than I anticipated so I took my 5th & extra gel (gels at 1 hour, 1:40, 2:20, 2:45, 3:15). I also took 3 salt stick caps, one at mile 8, 16 and 21.
I was super jazzed about this race. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for weeks, and it was the main focus of this training cycle. I had a firm plan in place for the race: 8 miles at 8:00 minute/mile (ish) pace, then from 8-20 run 7:40s-7:50s, and then go as hard I could the for last 10k with whatever I had left in me.
Miles 1-8: 7:41, 7:55, 7:59, 8:01, 8:05, 8:10, 8:06, 8:12
Well… the 3:30 (8:00 min/mile) pace group started a tid bit fast. So I backed off and got behind the pace group after miles 3-4 were also too close to 8:00 for comfort…. And then I never caught back up. Oops.
Miles 9-12: 7:54, 8:07, 8:05, 8:24
After mile 8, I did what I always do during speedwork. I thought, “Ok, now race pace!” And… not much happened. That 7:54 mile felt like a 7:40 mile. And that was my last sub-8 of the race. My legs just had no “oomph.” I had been worried about this. Because of where I am in my cycle (ladies…), I knew that sometime soon my legs would get “flat.” I was just really, really hoping it wasn’t going to be today. My shakeout yesterday felt so good and easy. I ran an 8:22 pace and it felt effortless. That 8:24 mile in this stretch felt as hard as a 7:24 mile.
I felt blah, but I managed to smile for my teammate’s camera!
Miles 13-20: 9:06, 8:34, 8:54, 9:10, 8:34, 8:55, 9:20, 9:12
By mile 12, my shoes were getting HEAVY with rain. And so after I hit 12, I had a choice: a) Let my wet, heavy shoes stay tied as they were (a bit loose) and keep gripping them with my toes to keep them on OR b) Stop at a park bench and retie them so they wouldn’t fall off. I chose b. That’s why I had my (first) 9 minute mile at mile 13. But then my miles still didn’t improve. In fact… I just kept getting slower. By mile 16, I decided I was going to run by effort and run whatever time I could. While I was shoe-tying, I was passed by the 3:35 group, and while I tried to keep up… nope. I couldn’t catch them and they faded away into the distance. It was getting really rough. It felt awful to be trudging along at paces that any other day would be a cakewalk.
Miles 21-26.2: 9:31, 9:42, 9:26, 9:19, 9:32, 8:58; last half mile at 8:18 pace
The last 5ish miles were a suffer fest. I had determined by this point that the course was going to run long by about .3 of a mile, which means 2-3 minutes tacked on at the end of the race. I just kept trudging and trying not to walk, even though around 20-21 I got hit with the unavoidable quad cramps. I’ve gotten them at every marathon no matter the hydration, sodium intake, etc. And once they hit, there’s no real chance for stepping it up. You just gotta slog it out. A buddy of mine who was having an excellent day caught up to me at 23 or so and we ran together for a bit until I told him to go on without me since he was feeling good. (I out-kicked him down the 1.5 miles on the boardwalk, but barely.) This was just a really bleak set of miles. I couldn’t enjoy it because of the cramping, and the wind we’d run into for most of the race was at a weird angle so we were still running against it going the opposite direction. And knowing I had to run MORE than 26.2 was really disheartening. But I tried really hard to smile for the cameras, and I pushed it despite my aching, cramping quads in the last 2 miles because I knew if I put a little bit of effort in and kept below a 9:30 pace, a sub-3:50 was doable.
Finish and feelings
Was I disappointed in my time? Yes. I trained for a 3:30 race. I worked so, so hard. I ran 800+ miles training for this thing. I dedicated hours and hours to running and reading about running and thinking about running. But today just was not my day. I gave it what I had, but I just didn’t have much in me to begin with unfortunately.
All things considered, 3:49 is a great time. It’s a huge PR for me, even if there was no BQ victory at the finish line. It just feels a little anti-climatic to have my race totally fizzle out the way it did. There was no crash and burn… I just didn’t have it in me today. And I’m trying to convince myself that that’s ok. There will be more races and Boston will always be there. I have already scouted out late May races I could use to try to BQ, but they’re all pretty darn far away (6-7+ hours) and I can’t afford a hotel stay somewhere (yay grad student life!). I’m hoping I can find a favorable early September race before the BAA application deadline (which frustratingly isn’t posted on their site yet)… maybe VIA marathon? I really want to do Boston in 2017 because I have so many friends (online and IRL!) who will be running it, but if Boston has to wait until 2018, then I will have to come to terms with that. But I’d love to at least have the chance to give it another shot before I throw in the towel for 2017.
And, well, in summary…
I am happy with this huge PR. And I know I have a 3:30 in me if the conditions are right. But it’s also tough that this is my second lackluster marathon in a row… though at least this one I didn’t spend 10 miles in leg-cramping misery! I just know now not to schedule my marathons the Sunday before my period starts! I am even more determined now to a) figure out how to avoid my quad cramps and b) figure out how to RACE a marathon and not just SURVIVE it and c) get that darn BQ! But for now… ice cream, Netflix, and putting my feet up for a few days! And, you know, finishing my Masters… aaah!
General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running: