Sunday, November 08, 2009

The Fall in New York

My less than adequate result at the SF Nike Woman's Half had me searching for answers. I completed that half in 1:46:57, with several walking breaks beginning on the second or third hill. When I took these breaks, my heart was racing; definitively atypical for me. It was just plain weird considering that my first two miles were clocked at 7:30 pace and I was feeling fine. The problems started during the hills. I should note that I have run this course before and the hills, while challenging, have not humbled me as much as they did this time around.

Fast forward to November 1st. ... and my last day on antibiotics.

I take the ferry to Staten Island. I arrived at the athlete's village at just after 9am. I see that runners with green bibs are heading to their assigned corral. Damn. I still have to take my clothes to the UPS truck. It's announced that wave one is closed, same as last year. I grabbed two eight-oz water bottles as I felt thirsty. Drink one. Hold on to the other one as I do not want to have to go again prior to the start.

I head to the green corral even though it's supposed to be closed. I am allowed to enter it; I move my way forward as much as possible. It's not nearly as windy as last year. I spot Dean Karnazes; he looks thinner than I remember. I ended up waiting 30 minutes.

The horn sounds and it takes me 1:20 to cross the start mats. I plan on running as easy as possible while maintaining a decent pace. First mile is as expected due to the incline, 9:10. The second mile is mostly downhill and it should be faster. Right before the two mile marker I find myself in front of a tossed out white plastic trash bag. It's quite large and I decide to set my right foot on the middle of it. Big mistake. As my other foot landed firmly, the bag somehow wrapped itself around both of my feet and down I went, landing mostly on my hands, with my right hand scraping badly enough that it burned for two miles. Interestingly enough, I bruised my left arm and hand, scraped my left elbow and knee but did not notice it until after the end of the race.

As I was tumbling around, I saw the wall of runners forming the 3:30 group. As I quickly made it to my feet, I heard two or three people asking me if I was okay, to which I replied yes. Mile 2, 7:38. 8:24 pace so far and feeling good in spite of my right hand bleeding more than it should have as the loss of skin and the cut were not that bad. I will try to finish this "thing" in around 8:20 pace as I do not want to crash as badly as I have done in three of my six previous stints at the course.

Mile three is in Brooklyn and I am handed two band-aids; I struggle to place them on my hand while still running. Missed hitting the split button. I turn into the wide avenue and now the three corrals have merged. My right hand keeps on burning and I keep on glancing at it. Why? I don't know. Instinct I guess. Miles 3 and 4 in 16:43. Still feeling good.

I continue the easy pace; the effort coincides with the pace. The stupor from the fall has faded and I am able to clock an 8:07 for the fifth mile; I might have subconsciously upped the effort. Cool. Mile six confirms that as my watch shows 8:05. Time in the bank. Mile seven is an 8:08 and I contemplate averaging 8:10s instead of the original 8:20s. Mile eight brings me back to reality as the split is an unexpected 8:18 (10 seconds slower???). It was at this point where my feet began to ache; not badly, mind you, more like a dull ache than painful; but I saw it as my body telling me to revise my "race plan." I decided if the aches continued, or worse, got painful, that i would quit at the half.

[Mile nine has a mild incline that has wreaked havoc with my mind in my failed NYCMs as I have always got a much slower than expected split. Add the Poulansky bridge midway and you have the final nail on my coffin.]

So I decide to try Gallo-breaks (TM) in this mile. I make sure to be on the side as I do not want to be a hindrance to those who are running well. Almost as soon as I start walking I feel a gentle but firm slap on my butt. I am naturally startled. It was a European woman whom I guess wanted to encourage me to man-up and continue running. I could not help but to smile. 50 secs later I resume my running. Not surprisingly the split is slower, 8:37. I decide to skip the break during mile 10 as it has a mild decline and I am rewarded with an 8:01. Wow, I might just be able to complete it in 8:20 pace after all. It's nice to be an underachiever :-)

I take another walking break at mile 11, 8:33. Mile 12, 7:52... woohoo, nice ego boost. The Polansky bridge is coming up and I cannot help but to feel anxious. Mile 13, 8:12 and I walk the incline of the bridge, or at least for a minute. I cross the midpoint in 1:48:42. I do the math and even splits will bring me in with a not-so-bad 3:37 and change. Mile 14, 8:20.

Now in Queens, mile 15 is one of the least enjoyable in the course as the area is mostly industrial and it includes the upslope of the Queensboro bridge. Again, I follow what has proven to be a "wise" strategy, walking the inclines, and picking it up on the declines. Mile 15, 8:29. Mile 16 has a very nice decline and I expect to bank some time; I also expect not to take a break. But I wasn't counting on spotting what looked to be a bill stuck at one of the expansion gaps in the bridge. I look to my sides to make sure that my u-turn will not result in an accident. I pick up what ends up being three folded bills (2-$20s and 1-$10). Even with this slight "detour" I manage an 8:01 (I expected it to be faster- oh well).

I am now in first avenue where both sides of the road are lined with huge crowds screaming their lungs out. I spot a pair of arm warmers and I bend down to pick them up without losing stride. Mile 17, 7:41... damn, to run this kind of split at this stage was a good omen. I take a gallo-break but start picking up the effort when I am running. My left knee begins to ache (later on I figured the pain came from the bruise I sustain in the fall). Mile 18, 8:02. Mile 19, 8:17. Mile 20, 8:20. These three miles had a moderate headwind, so I expected to see faster splits once we headed back into Manhattan. Mile 21, 8:20; this mile includes a brief stint in the Bronx.

I was proven right once I entered Manhattan. Mile 22, 7:50. I am tired, but not nearly as tired as I was last year at this mile. Note: I am still taking gallo-breaks in the inclines. Mile 23, 7:50. Mile 24, 8:20... I can only guess that this was steeper than how I "saw" it.

I now am running in Central Park. I seem to remember that once I crest Cat's Hill that it is downhill until turning on Central Park South. Mile 25, 7:50. I am weaving in-and-out to avoid fading runners.

I turn on CPS and I struggle to make a decision whether to take a break this close to the finish. I chose what has worked so well so far. Mile 26, 7:50.

At this point I was under the impression that I was going to be able to break 3:34... I run as fast as I can for the last stretch. It is a net gain of elevation with moderate rolling hills. I complete this section in 1:32. I am spent but more than satisfied. I have just ran a 3'18" negative split in the NYCM. Not bad; not bad at all.

Monthly mileage 16 weeks before NY: July=128, August=133, September=95, October=92. Coincidence that my volume and fitness dropped quite a bit right after I was bit by a tick? I think not.

Thanks for reading and keep on running.


Fran said...

What's $30 doing in the middle of a race? Strange. Nice finish for the year.

Mindi said...

NICE! Congrats!! Sorry to hear you fell. But am glad you did not end up getting trampled there! A 3'18" negative split is very, very impressive!

Recover well!

TK said...

Hiya sweetie. Nicely done, even though you have to dis my borough (Queens). That bridge is what makes me a stronger runner (I train on it all the time). And yeah, I've never known anyone else to have EARNED $50 while running a marathon who wasn't an elite runner. Now shave over an hour off your time and you can have a shot at the $800k tha tMeb won!

yumke said...

Congrats on a negative split and a great race. Getting into a fall like that in the beginning of a marathon would do most of us in.