When? April 30, 2017
Where? Long Branch, NJ
I had a bit of trouble getting to sleep the night before but that's to be expected when going to bed at 9pm to wake up at 3:30. Breakfast was two cups of coffee and a bagel with pb&j. On the bus down to the start I ate a cliff bar. 45 minutes before the race I drank a little water and had a banana. I felt good. Went to the bathroom one last time and joined the pace group on the second corral. Fired up, ready to go.
The first couple miles go fine. I'm not super into it yet but I figure maybe I'm not fully warmed up yet. But we're knocking out 7:10s pretty evenly. There are a bunch of turns but the ankle is holding up. It's probably like 60 degrees and overcast. Not ideal but not hot. I'm taking fluid and have four Gus, one for every fifth mile. By the time I take my first I'm still not really settled in but I'm managing. I feel OK. By mile five the markers are point one off, so by my watch the miles are 7:08 - 7:12. But it doesn't feel fast.
The next part of the race is where I figured to be settling in and running comfortably, but I'm still constantly feeling like I have to work. I'm not overheating but I'm pouring water on my head anyway. Every time the pacers surge a bit I work to keep up. Again, I'm not struggling but I thought it would be easier. By mile ten I'm still relaxed but getting antsy. Getting outside the moment. The pacers are helpful and encouraging in keeping the group together.
The big hurt comes halfway. The half checkpoint mat is apparently way off, so the pacers, who are judged on their ability to hit the mats, surge to meet it. At this point I'm afraid of fading, and kind of know in my heart the only way to have a chance to make 3:10 is to stay with them, so I surge to keep up. Only about 1/3 of the pace group is able to come along with us. This leads to a 6:45 mile in the middle of all those 7:10s. I'm happy I was able to stay with them, but I have the feeling that I will be paying the price. I see a friend cheering at 14.5 and that picks me up again. But now the race is starting to drag. I have to work harder and harder to keep up.
Around 18-19 the course moves to the shore, and we start seeing the leaders coming back the other way. As the race moves on we see more and more runners, but the turnaround point is still not in sight. My heart starts to sag. But finally, the turnaround comes. I'm still with the pace group but I'm struggling. When we hit the boardwalk for the beginning of the long straightaway back, the headwind hits. I cross the 20 mile mat at 2:25, still on 7:15 pace, but I'm maybe ten seconds off the pack now. Mile 21 is 7:35 and mile 22 is 7:48. When I lose sight of the pack, the wall hits.
The wall.. All those months, all those miles, all those workouts - for nothing. I'm hitting some pretty dark places. Mile 23 is 8:22. A BQ is all but gone. Even a sub 3:15, which would allow me to even ceremonially apply to Boston, is fading. My friend who was there at 14.5 picks me up between 23 and 24 - jogs with me a bit and tells me I still have a chance. He's run the course before; he talks me through the last bit: "You're up here, it's another mile, that building up there, you turn right, then you're right there". I'm plodding at 8:30/m but it helps. I'm trying to hold it together.,
After my friend leaves me I see a group cheering from one of the NYC clubs - one lady sees me struggling, looks right at me and says "Central Park (my club singlet) - STAY WITH IT" and this becomes my mantra for the rest of the race. Stay with it. Stay with it. I cross mile 24. I'm slow but not slowing. I try to focus on breathing. When I did NYC in November, my first, my wall was an arrow pointing straight down - my last two miles were in the 9:00s. That doesn't happen here. I'm rallying a bit. Mile 25 is 8:00/m. 3:15 is probably out but I'm going to fight for it.
Turning onto the last straightaway, crowd support picks up. More NYC clubs have cheering sections here. I'm feeling stronger - rallying. Still not enough - but now I'm just on to finish strong. I cross the line at 3:15:45. Short of my goal, but still a ten minute PR.
Post race was kind of lacking in amenities and organization but whatever. It's a small marathon. The only really aggravating thing was that once you picked up your bag from the bag check you were not allowed back into the post-race festival area. ANNOYING. So I got directions to the NJ Transit line from a cop and waddled over. I got there just as the train was pulling in and rode two hours back to NYC, wallowing in stink, with only a boxed water to nurse.
Not really sure where I go from here. I was banking a lot on being able to BQ at Jersey and it was a huge disappointment to not get it. I have NYC again in the fall but a BQ seems unlikely on a much tougher course. I might focus on a half PR in the fall and just run NYC for fun, retool for another shot at BQ next year, Chicago, Berlin, etc.