Sunday, September 25, 2011

Just not my day

No food screams, "I'm dejected and disappointed" like an Entemann's Chocolate Donut, straight from the cardboard box. So after crossing the finish line at this morning's Newport Liberty Half Marathon in Jersey City, New Jersey, I skipped the customary bagel and went right for the processed pastries. Simply put, I was pissed off. After eating the donut, I changed shoes and attempted to cool down, but I had nothing. I just walked along the Hudson wondering how I missed my goal by more than two minutes.

I've spent the hours since the race analyzing and over-analyzing what went wrong. My workouts have been remarkable. Track intervals and tempos have been as fast as they have ever been. My mileage has been consistent. I've been 100% injury free. There are some inarguable factors. It was incredibly humid. I ran the entire race by myself, and according to my Garmin, the course was 13.3 miles (which of course is not always accurate and probably has more to do with my inability to run tangents) But, as I groggily emerged from my early afternoon nap wishing I could sleep the rest of the day away, the answer was very clear. I was too tired to be out there.

I toed the line this morning having slept 9 hours since Thursday and having worked 40 hours in the same three day period. Call it bad luck. I could not have predicted that I would have such a monstrous stretch in those all-important days leading up to the race. Friday, I arrived at work at 6:45am and found out about a half-hour later that my services would be needed until 12am. The following day, Saturday, we launched the new studio. The date for launch was set after I put this race on my calendar. Since I am the weekend producer, the honor (and it truly was an incredible honor) of putting together the first shows in this state-of-the-art facility was given to me. With all eyes on my shows, I went in early to polish the programs as best I could. As luck would have it, coverage of college football didn't end until midnight, delaying our 11pm newscast and my date with my bed by more than an hour. I was in bed at 1:30am with a 5:45am wake up call to catch the train to Jersey.

Physically and mentally, that kind of schedule is exhausting. I actually think the latter is more damaging to a runner than the former. One day of lost sleep probably wouldn't have destroyed the race, but after three days of stressful and draining work, I should have had the maturity to scratch my entry, acknowledging that for the hobby runner, sometimes real life -- the kind of life that pays the bills -- gets in the way.

I got handed a bad omen before the race even started. When I went to get my bib number, they handed me bib #911. Is there any worse number to be wearing in a race in the shadow of Lower Manhattan?

The race didn't actually start that bad. At the horn, I got right into my groove. My plan was to run 5:35s which translates to a 1:13:10 finishing time. The lead pack, a couple of Saucony sponsored guys, two of the top guys from the Central Park Track Club, and one Kenyan took off on their own, leaving me in no man's land. And that is where I would remain. 13 miles with me and my thoughts. It was going to be a like a long tempo run from a mental standpoint. Through mile 4, I was high 5:20s, low 5:30s. At one point, I heard someone cheering for me. It was Ryan Korby, who lives in the area and joined me for one mile. He was also cheering at various spots along the course which was very helpful. Headed into Liberty State Park, I knew there were two guys working behind me, and I contemplated slowing my pace so I could run with them. In hindsight, that would have been smart, but I motored on alone along a greenway that ran parallel to the Hudson River.

Besides some pretty spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Lower Manhattan, the course itself was dreadful. It was pancake flat with absolutely no elevation changes. Terrain alternated between asphalt, concrete, mud and a number of boardwalks. There were also more turns than I have ever seen in one race. I will however, give the race organizers credit for marking the course well. Somewhere in Jersey City, there is a hardware store that is completely out of white spray paint. Not to mention the humidity. Last week was as perfect as it gets for running. Temperatures were in the low 60s and the air was dry. This week felt like July.

At miles 6 and 7, I contemplated dropping out. I was already feeling like I was running on an empty energy tank. But, I had no idea how I would get back to the start/finish area where Lauren was waiting for me (she is so supportive). My times had fallen off significantly. I knew that I had the fitness to go faster, but my body was not heeding the command to pick up the pace. I simply could not speed up.

In the closing miles, I was passed by one person, the only one I saw the entire race. As I came down the stretch, my Garmin showed 1:14:40 for 13.1 miles. But, with so many turns, it's more likely I ran a tactically poor race than the course was long. I crossed the line in 1:15:37. Not even a PR. 13.3 miles according to the GPS, but as I always say, before we had GPS watches, we just trusted the course. This race has been run for 18 years. I am sure they have a handle on it.

I'm pretty down about the performance. It's frustrating because after a great run for me at Boilermaker, I put all my eggs into this basket. I know for a fact that the fitness for sub 1:14 was there. But, I know I can't dwell on it. My first race as a married man and Urban Athletics team member and last race as a 27-year-old was a bust. But, there will be plenty more. I am fairly certain I know why I ran the way I did and I think there is still plenty of time to capitalize on all the hard work. I am going to consult with Mark and see how quickly he thinks I can attempt another half-marathon. There is an NYRR event in Central Park next weekend, but that seems too soon. The upside is, I get free-entry and it's close. I'd love to fly to Charlotte or Syracuse and hit either the Thunder Road Half, where I would have Paul to work with or the Empire State Half which would be like a homecoming race for me. There is still a lot of research to do.

After coming back to Manhattan and getting some pancakes for brunch with Lauren, I collapsed into bed and fell into a deep sleep. It couldn't be more obvious that my body was craving the rest.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Thoughts on Tying the Knot and Cutting Ties

Every wedding has a horror story. Leading up to my own nuptials, I heard everyone else’s. Perhaps over the years, they’d become embellished, but they all served as little hiccups in an otherwise perfect day. That’s why, as my wedding day approached, I waited for something to go terribly wrong and leave Lauren and I scrambling at the last minute. Would the restaurant we chose for our rehearsal dinner lose power, ruining all the food? Would our priest come down with dysentery, leaving him unable to perform the ceremony? Perhaps our caterer got the wrong day, or my parents’ flight would be cancelled. The eve of the wedding came and went with everything running smoothly. The rehearsal was easy. The dinner was fantastic. Some of our guests were delayed by a traffic jam on 95 somewhere between Washington and Charlotte, but everyone made it in time for the food to be served and the wine to be poured. There were speeches that made me feel as if I were at a roast. The perfect mixture of laughter and tears.

Saturday morning, I set out on 16+ mile run with a group of nearly 30 people. I watched every step, looking for errant twigs, branches and trash bags. No open wounds, or worse yet, broken bones for me! The hours between the run and the ceremony were filled with a delicious brunch, a stop to pick up the kegs, a brief shopping spree at Jos. A Bank and most importantly, a nap. I was at the church in time for pictures, and despite the humidity, it was a beautiful day. Of course, Lauren looked stunning in her dress, which I saw for the first time when I walked into the courtyard for our photos together.

At one point, I imagined a paralyzing nervousness would overcome me. Aaron said it could happen when I walked into the church for the first time and saw all the people staring at me. But, it never happened. I remained as cool as the other side of the pillow for the entire ceremony. I guess that’s one side effect of extreme confidence. The music was perfect, the sermon was perfect and Lauren said, “I will.” With the exception of jumping the gun on the kiss, the hard part of getting hitched went off without a hitch.

Our reception was the perfect party. It was a low-key Carolina Barbecue feast with local beer, good wine, delicious desserts and our best friends and closest family members. Lauren’s dad made the room in the church look like a bonafide banquet hall. The DJ didn’t play anything on my “Do Not Play List” (Nickleback, Nikki Minaj, etc.) and did play “Bye, Bye, Bye”, “Ride Wit Me”, and “New York, New York”…ya know, wedding classics. There was a champagne shower, heartfelt speeches and a photo memory book that will last a lifetime. There were so many friends we would have loved to have invited to share the occasion with us, but it just wasn’t possible. If we had invited our entire fantasy guest list we would have needed a bigger church and a bigger budget.

Our mini-moon was…wait for it…perfect. Farrell and Steve let us use their cabin in Ashe County for a few days. The entire time we were there it poured, allowing us to do absolutely nothing for a solid 48 hours. Until you have planned and executed a wedding, you have no idea how draining it is. And this, coming from me who did about 25% of the work to Lauren’s 75%. We were both totally wiped out. Neither of us stayed awake past 10pm and we slept both until at least 8. I managed to get some light running in, although, I didn’t push it on the hilly terrain and I had to stop and walk for territorial dogs. We ate like royalty. On the first night, we made a pasta primavera with hot Italian sausage. The second night, I grilled steaks (burning them a bit), while Lauren made asparagus and roasted sweet potatoes. It was a short, but sweet trip.

Now, we’re back in the big city. Our wedding marks not only the beginning of our life together, but the official end to our time in Charlotte. True, I’ve been in New York since June 18th, but with Lauren there, it felt like I had one foot in each city. Now, both feet are firmly planted in Manhattan. I plan to submerse myself in the community, the culture and the job here just like I did in Charlotte. I’ve already dove headfirst into my new position at ABC. I’m on a competitive running team sponsored by a local store and Adidas and a member of the New York Road Runners. I am getting to know people in our very unique neighborhood nestled in the heart of eclectic Chelsea. We are going to be here for at least three years and now that Lauren has joined me here, we are well on our way to planting roots and making this our home.

We will never have what we had in Charlotte, but we hope to have an experience that is equally as rewarding and life-changing. That said, I’d be lying if I said a part of me won’t stay in Charlotte. In the past, I’ve picked up and left town never to be heard from again. College. Syracuse to some extent. That’s all well and great for a while because it’s easy to vanish, but in the end, I’ve ended up regretting not making the minimal effort to stay in touch with people who were integral parts of my life. On my fifth major move of my life, it’s time to try a different approach. I won’t cut ties with Charlotte, I’ll just loosen them. For my sanity and the sanity of others, I will be a silent, paying member of the running club. But, I’ll keep in contact and follow the successes, trials, tribulations and major life events of my closest friends. For them, I want to remain no farther than a phone call away. Who knows what the future holds? It’s a cliché’, but it is so because it is true. Lauren and I love Charlotte, and after three years in the middle of Manhattan, we will find ourselves at another crossroads. Going back is not unrealistic. It is as much of a possibility as anything else. We have talked about settling down there because of its location, it’s climate and most importantly, its people.

Look, I don’t know where “home” is yet. I know where it is for now. I know who it is with. We have the rest of our lives to figure out the rest.