New Jersey Marathon race report!

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!

img_2774

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!

Results:
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!

Event Logistics:
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.

Goal(s)
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.

The Race!
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.

img_2783
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.

img_2775

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:
http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/fat-girl-running/why-you-should-write-a-race-report_55754

 

River Horse 6k (Ewing, NJ)

Start and conditions:
10 am start, with pre-race packet pick-up starting at 8 am
Beautiful day to run! Bright sunshine, about 50-55 degrees, wind topped out at 8-10 mph gusts. Perfect day for a race!

Results:
27:19 (7:18 pace) for 6k (on the dot!)
6/103 Women 20-29; 15/416 women overall; 54/799 overall finishers

Event Logistics
I actually ran from Princeton to the race with a teammate buddy of mine. We both had to get long runs in, so we thought that would be easiest. Then we could use the race as a delayed “fast finish.” So we ran to the race, half on the towpath and half on the street. A few segments were a bit iffy because there was very little shoulder, but it was early enough in the morning that it was fine. Then we had a ride home after the race courtesy of my teammate’s husband, who also graciously looked after our stuff while we ran.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 2.22.27 PM
It was a beautiful morning to run-commute though, let me tell you!

Packet pick-up was quick and easy, and they let us come back to pick up growlers (for teams) and coasters (for all) after finishing the race. The finishers’ pint glasses were given out as you got your free beer after the race. No tote bags of flyers, which meant less trash, but also meant more finagling stuff in my hands. I made it work though!

Gear and fuel
I ate a Honey Stinger waffle and drank a cup of coffee before I left my apartment, and I took a 10 oz water bottle with me on the run since it was going to heat up about 15 degrees before the race. Around 9:25 I took the Power Bar gel that I’d brought because I thought a caffeine boost might be nice pre-race; not sure I really needed it though.

Goal(s)
I signed up for this race as a social event with my weekend running group. A weird distance at a brewery with a post-race festival? Yeah, the focus was NOT on the race, at least not for me! I wanted to run fast, have a good time, and get lots of cool swag, with time and pace being secondary. But of course, I like a plan, so I decided to try to go out between 10k and HM pace, so 7:15-7:20 min/mile. I figured if I could pull that off after running 10-11 miles, I could rest easy that I’m in good shape for my marathon. But if I didn’t feel good, I could slow down, enjoy the race as a fun run, and feel just fine about it.

The Race!
The race was really fun! I’ve never run a 6k before, but I basically thought of it as 4 miles in my head, so being done at 3.75 felt like a treat. The course was easy to follow with gradual, rolling hills, so it was a pretty ideal course, in my opinion (I don’t mind hills). The course wasn’t totally closed; some places we had just one closed lane so that cars could still come to and from their homes.

I started pretty close to the front, mostly because no one was bold enough to toe the line. I knew I wasn’t the fastest there but it was weird to start with so much empty space… and I wasn’t about to fill it and look stupid getting passed by a few dozen people from the word “go”! And because I wasn’t truly racing, I made sure to stay behind the people who had serious game faces on.

The first mile starts uphill, but then levels out. I got caught up in the excitement and ran a bit too fast… a 7:00 mile on the nose. I then purposefully slowed down because I wasn’t aiming for a PR. Plus, I’d just run almost 11 miles! My other miles were much closer to my target pace — I wanted 7:15-7:20 pace, and my next miles were: 7:28 (gradual uphill), 7:20 (mostly flat) and a 7:24 pace for the last .75.

I had a hard time getting my legs moving the last 1.5 miles because I was trying out my calf sleeves + a fast pace for the first time, and sadly it was not a good match. I’ve been loving my calf sleeves for recovery and slow, easy runs, but my calves felt like they were choking wearing them while trying to run fast! So unfortunately, calf sleeves will not be part of my marathon race-day outfit. Best to find out during a low-pressure 6k though rather than a couple miles into my goal marathon!

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 2.22.36 PM
Oh Beautiful Pink Calf Sleeves, how badly I wanted you to accompany me on marathon day…

Finish and feelings
I felt good at the finish, and I was really satisfied with my time (27:19). At halfway, I figured I’d be somewhere around 27 minutes, and I was. I wanted to pace 7:15-7:20, and I did (7:18). At the finish there were bottles of water and bananas, and then you could go to the post-race party and get your (empty) growler (if you had a team of 10+ people) and your metal coaster, then get in the beer line for your finisher’s pint glass + a free glass of beer.

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 12.51.55 PM
Great swag! No t-shirt (available for extra $$) but I am more than happy with a coaster and glass!

They also had some food trucks assembled in the post-race festival area. I quickly gave into temptation because the smells were amazing. I bought some fantastic BBQ pulled pork sliders for lunch and got to sample some fried cheese curds a teammate bought (as Midwesterners, our appetite for cheese curds was not quenched, but as far as fried cheese goes, it was gooey and delicious). The post-race party — the beer, the food, the awards — seemed like the focal point of the race, and it was very well put-on. I had a great time hanging with my team as well as meeting a friend from MyFitnessPal who was in town for the race from Philly.

And, well, in summary…
Great race! I will definitely look into other races in the Great American Brewery Run series in the NJ/Philly area. The course was nice and the field was fairly competitive, but the atmosphere was all about the post-race party, so it was a really fun way to spend half a day! I planned this into my race schedule as a bit of a marathon taper crazies diversion, and it worked!
Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 8.33.55 AM.png
Sun-in-the-eyes team photo!

General format is borrowed from this article in Women’s Running:

http://womensrunning.competitor.com/2016/03/fat-girl-running/why-you-should-write-a-race-report_55754