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.


  1. Dude, no need for analysis and over-analysis. You wrote the obvious reason the race didn't go according to plan:"I toed the line this morning having slept 9 hours since Thursday and having worked 40 hours in the same three day period." I used to work a lot of shift work where I missed a lot of sleep - sleep deprivation will destroy a race. Get some sleep, regroup, and enjoy your PR at the next half. Oh, and we miss you down here!

  2. Thanks Allen. You're right, it is abundantly clear why the race collapsed, but I am still pissed about it. But, I am in the process of picking myself up and dusting myself off. I miss Charlotte New York (I saw that on a tshirt), but miss Charlotte.

  3. Hey man.. Mr Cody Angell told me one time they can't all be PR's and you can't appreciate the good ones without the bad...for me - that stuck. We all know you are in 1:13 shape and obviously the sleep/work deal is responsible but it won't be until you cross the finish in that next HM that this one can be fully appreciated.
    I've got a comp'd registration to Marshall HM 11.6 - let me know if I can help.

  4. You're still the man Jay! Good luck at your next half...

  5. These crappy races make the good one feel THAT much better. It's in the bag, just waiting to pop out. Thank goodness you have a wonderful wife to come home to...that's the most important thing. :)

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