Brooklyn Half Marathon May 19, 2018 Race Recap

May 19, 2018, Brooklyn, NY; 6:15 AM

Already wet and soggy from my warm-up run, I worked my way through the throngs of other water-logged runners towards the starting line for the Brooklyn Half marathon.   Anticipation gripped me as I went through security, entered my corral and saw the other runners warming up.  And as my nerves starting kicking in, so did the doubts:  how fast could I expect to run today given the past few weeks? Did I bring enough dry clothes? Why hadn’t I checked a bag?  Was that a twinge in my calf I just felt…?  I stopped myself.  I had to remember how much it had taken me just to get here.  Never mind the fact that I somehow got myself up at 4:30 AM to make the long drive from Westchester to Brooklyn, nor the stress-inducing search for a parking spot.  Never mind that I had already been through a rough week of work stress….and never mind the assorted injuries that had plagued me through the winter and early spring.  I had made it to the starting line and that was improvement over last year (mentally, I just hadn’t been able to give it a go last year),  It’s a truism among runners: Just getting to the starting line in one piece is half the battle and, in my case something to feel immensely grateful for.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to or plan to run fast today.  My PR for the half is a 1:16:56 which I ran at the Fred Lebow Half-Marathon in January.  That race, however, was on a hilly and challenging Central Park course that went over Harlem Hill three times, not to mention Cat Hill at least twice.  Two months later, in late March, I had run the Sleepy Hollow half-marathon –  a stone’s throw from where I live: Over an extraordinarily hilly course, I had run a 1:18:03. The Brooklyn half course promised a much-less challenging course – the only real hill involved Lookout Hill in prospect park –  PBKH18_MapCourse_042318C with the rest of the course a long downhill after the 10K mark.    So a PR was definitively in the making.  I figured I could break 1:16, and quite possibly 1:15 with my current training and if all went right.  The question was whether the weather would cause too many problems.

My doubts as to whether I had prepped well enough for the weather soon turned to reality soon after running into my  Urban Athletics (UA) teammate Flavio.  Although we run very similar times, Flavio is my complete opposite when it comes to race prep and strategy.  While Flavio intensely prepares everything down to the very last detail, including the food the night before a race to the warm-up clothes he wears, I am generally a “just wing it” sort of runner.  Our diametrically opposing viewpoints came into clear view based on how we each dressed for our race; While I was wearing just a simply top over my singlet with shorts, Flavio was decked out in full warm-up gear with running gloves, track pants, etc. not to mention a plastic sheath keeping him warm and dry for the 45 minutes we had to go until race time. I silently cursed myself for forgetting to bring something plastic I could wear over my clothes before the race.  If I’m going to take this sport seriously, I should make a better effort to emulate runners like Flavio in their preparation.

Too late for that now.  As I shivered in the rain next to Flavio, we discussed race tactics and strategy.  Flavio stated that he want to run 1:15 which was an ambitious goal since he had never broken 1:17 before.  He matter-of-factly stated that if he wanted to help the team score, i.e. be in the top 3 UA runners, he (we?) would need to run that sort of time to have a chance to help the team.  Of course, he was right as a quick look at last year’s results shows. I told Flavio that I didn’t think that a 1:15 (sub 5:43 mile pace) was in the cards for me today, but that I would try to help him push the pace.  Of course, secretly, I did think that I had that sort of time in me.  But due to superstition, I wasn’t ready to state out loud that my goal today was to go under 1:15.  As we stood in line for the port-a-potties chatting, we saw teammate Sebastien B. (a sub 1:14 half-marathoner himself) warming up.  Along with about 50 others runners, Seb was running in repeated circles in the small 20 x 20 meter section of the corral that  was sanctioned for warm-up.   For some reason, the sight of so many shivering runners, obsessively circling the same tight circle struck me as funny and a bit absurd.  Here we all were, on this miserable cold, rainy day getting ready to run 13.1 miles through the slop and drizzle – and how did we prepare for this ordeal? By running in circles in the rain while we could have been curled up in bed with the rest of the people in the world with some semblance of sense.

But that’s not where we were nor who we are.  As my teammate and captain,  Paul Thompson put in more eloquently “We were, all 26,000 if us, in this together. It was 7am, piss wet and cold. But we would  not want to be anywhere else even St George’s Chapel. This was our thing. And we were hoping  for the best for each other.”     I didn’t see Paul, nor my teammate and neighbor, Javier anywhere. And after using the port-a-John, I had lost Flavio in the crowd.  Which was just as well.  For the last 20 or so minutes before a race, after the conversation and discussion of tactics/strategy (of which I usually have very little to add) are over, I like to be alone before the start of a race in order to get my head together.

So for the next 10 minutes or so, I stood by myself getting myself mentally prepared for the grueling run ahead.  Still upset myself for not wearing enough clothes – I took off my first top – my shirt for NYR New Year’s Eve 4miler –  already soaking wet and laid it on the ground to be picked up by goodwill after the race.  I was sad to this shirt go – that race had been run in sub-arctic conditions so cold that my muscles basically stopped working in the last 800 meters.    Another shirt gone, but a memory retained.   What sort of memory would this race bring?  Would it be a huge disappointment? Would I blow up after after going out too fast?  Would I get injured in this cold?   The same old doubts creeping up…the mind can be your worst enemy in times like these.  Just when you need it to be your best friend.   I suddenly regretted not staying with Flavio.

As I searched the crowd for teammates, a familiar face popped into view. It was my old college teammate, Carl Daucher, decked out in the black uniform of the New York Harriers.  Carl and I had been teammates for two years on the “B” team – both of us never breaking into the ranks of the “A” runners who competed at the higher levels.  While I was a bit faster than Carl in college, we trained together and suffered through some of the frustration of never getting to run in the big, important races.   His post-collegiate running career (20 years going now!) had been going well and he was now among the top masters runners in the NYC area.  Although he hadn’t raced in a while, he was clearly looking fit and ready to go.  I was genuinely happy to see Carl and we chatted for a bit about old teammates (one of whom, Neville Davey is probably among the best masters runners in the country), the upcoming 20 year reunion, club running, and how we felt about today.

At this point, we were 5 minutes away from the start and while talking to Carl had been a help in keeping my mind off the doubts and the cold, I was starting to shiver uncontrollably.  Whether it was nerves or the cold, I wasn’t sure.  Suddenly, everyone started to move as we pushed closer to the starting line.   I ditched my last top shirt and was now down to my racing gear of my UA singlet and the running shorts.   Lots of other runners were now doing the same and the area around the starting corral soon became littered with people’s discarded clothing.    As I moved with the crowd, I realized that I still had a few minutes before the race and if I kept shivering like this, I might have to quit before I started.  The race directors had some jawing to do and I listened half-attentively.  But mostly I was thinking about whether I should just reach over to the railing  and grab someone’s discarded shirt to keep warm…would the discarder of said article of clothing object and notice that I was wearing their gear?  I hesitated for a while, but then cold got the better of self-consciousness and I reached over and grabbed a black sweater from the railing.  Who cares if someone is watching?  Now feeling warmer, I was able to pay attention to the race directors and their speeches.  Deena Kastor, a former olympian and quite possibly the greatest American female distance runner of all time,  gave a short celebratory speech.  Then they announced the singing of the national anthem.  Just as that started, someone among the runners in the crowd, threw an article of clothing which landed directly on top of the flag.  It was impossible to tell whether this was some sort of protest or whether was done inadvertently.  I stifled a laugh at the absurd sight of someone’s old shirt hanging on top of the flag as we all stood solemnly with our hands on our hearts.

But my thoughts were soon jarred back to reality.  The anthem was over and Peter Caccia was now speaking which meant we were seconds away.  “Runners, ARE YOU READY?”  And then a bang. I inwardly felt relief when the gun when off.  The “hard part” was over and I had make it to the starting line.   Instantaneously, the nerves, the doubt, and the cold were gone and I was in motion.  It was a few steps up to the starting line as I was about 15 rows back of the first runners  I tried to glance up at the clock when I went over the start and it looked like 10 seconds or so had passed. I made a mental note of this as I do not wear a watch when I run and have to look at the mile markers to get my exact times.

In any event, we were off. Me and 26,000 other senseless souls who had no better business than to be pushing their bodies to the limit while most of the rest of the city slept off hangovers or sipped their coffee.  There’s something about the start of a race that’s been exhilerating and terrifying.  There’s the sense of being  part of something larger than yourself – a feeling of togetherness that comes with being ensconced in a crowd of runners at a start of a race.  But there’s also a sort of loneliness and terrible dread – of the miles and the pain to come.  The nagging thought that, although you feel great now, at some point, the wheels are going to fall off and it’s going to hurt like hell.  And when it does, you’ll be alone with your thoughts and your doubts.

I pushed past those thoughts and tried to get into a rhythm.  This was made easier by the fact that the first 1/2 mile of the race was a nice, undulating downhill on Washington Avenue past the east side of Prospect Park.  Often in those initial stages of the race, you can get a sense (or premonition) of what is to come.  Sometimes, tired legs or an overtaxed mind make themselves known right away and you know it’s going to be a long, tough slog.  Today, though, my legs felt springy – the tapering I had done over the week had worked and though, I had felt pretty bad yesterday on my 3 mile “shake-out” run, none of that laborious leaden feeling remained today.    On the other hand, my feet didn’t feel so great and I wondered to myself if I should have just ditched the flats today and gone with the trainers.  I’ve run on painful feet before and I was pretty sure they’d hold up over the 13.1 miles – tomorrow would be another story. I’d worry about my sore feet and simmering plantar fascitis on Sunday though…

As I cruised through the first mile and onto Flatbush Avenue, I kept a look-out for familiar faces and/or teammates.  Even before I hit the first mile marker, a jarring sight came into view.  It was Javier and he wasn’t looking all that well.    As Javi is a world-class runner, it was shocking for me to see him at all during a race, much less at the beginning.   I inquired as to his condition and he told me that he had hurt his lower back in the first part of the race and would have to take it slow.   Along with Paul, Javier was likely to be our top runner today with a half time of around 1:12 or quite possible lower.  Losing him meant that we had little chance of beating West Side Runners with their powerful top two Guillermo “Memo” Pineda Morales and  Mengistu Tabor Nebsi , both of whom are likely faster than our top two and we could now quite possible (if Flavio or I flamed out) could end up in third place or worse.  These things weren’t on my mind at the moment.  I was concerned for Javier who really has been having a tough go of it recently. I felt bad about passing him, but told him to relax and take it easy and that Flavio and I would bring this home for the team. Inwardly, I had my doubts though.

A couple hundred meters later, I sidled up to Flavio.    I made myself known to Flavio, but he already knew I was there.  I mentioned Javier’s plight to him, but he already knew that too.    So I kept quiet and settled into what I thought was a 5:30 mile pace with Flavio.  I made a plan to stick with Flavio for a while, at least until we were out of Prospect Park and onto Ocean Parkway.  Even though I  rarely ever keep to these in-race plans, I made a mental note to stick to the plan this time.  Flavio and I came up upon the first mile and I was shocked to see the clock read 5:09, 5:10..5:11.   Considering that I hadn’t run a mile faster than 5:20 since starting my Masters’ “career” this was way too fast.   Maybe the clock was wrong or maybe that downhill made the first mile faster than it felt?  No matter.  I still felt good and even though I had just run the first mile of a 13.1 mile course faster than I had run a mile on the track a month ago, I took comfort in the fact that I could “bank” the time saved in running that first mile.

Flavio and I were now in a crowd of a bunch of other runners from various NYC clubs.  Surrounded by the jet black of the North Brooklyn runners or the blue and yellow of the Dashing Whippets, we moved through the northern reaches off the park and circled Grand Army Plaza.  Upon passing through the arch of Grand Army Plaza, Flavio surged ahead for a few strides and I quickly caught up. I told Flavio to take it easy and save it for later, but given what happened later in the race, I probably should have saved that advice for myself.  We then entered back into the park and after a short and fairly painless hill, we passed the second mile in around with clock hitting 11:20, which meant I had run the second mile in 6 minutes. I knew then that first mile time had been wrong as there was no way the second mile had been anything less than 5:40 pace.  Whatever the problem had been with the timing, I was running ahead of pace and  I tried to force myself to settle down and ease up the pace as I knew in the back of my mind that Lookout Hill was looming three miles ahead.

Still running with Flavio, we left the park again at around the 2.5 mile mark and ran for a bit along Ocean avenue along the southeastern edge of the park.  We were now “in the race” – the first few exhilarating miles now gone and the adrenaline spent.  It was now time to settle down and mentally focus on getting into the sort of pace that would allow us to have something for the finish. I’m not really that kind of runner though – whether by design or instinct, my natural inclination is to push the pace.  And so, when a pack  of younger runners sporting Dashing Whippets, CPTC, and NBR attire came up from behind, I decided to go with them.  Flavio, being the wiser of us, did not go with the pack and maintained his pace.   With Flavio left behind, I continued with the pack and soon reached the 3 mile mark in around 16:45 – thirty seconds later, I hit the 5K mark with the clock reading 17:29. I calculated that I had just run a 17:19 which means that I had just run the first 5K of a half-marathon faster than I had run a 5K in march.

After I passed the 5K mark, it struck me that perhaps I had gone out too fast and was going to pay the price somewhere down the line. I didn’t know, however, that I would start to pay that price so soon.  My plan had been to take it relatively easy through the first 5K and save some of my energy for the second 5K where I knew that Prospect Hill/Lookout Hill was waiting for me. I had figured for a 17:35 for the first 5K and then a 17:55 for the second 5K which would take me to about 35:30 for the first 10K, forty seconds above my masters’ PR for the 10K.  That plan was sort of out the door now.   So now, “plan B” came into play – I would see how long I could keep up a sub-5:40 mile pace and basically just hold on to the finish.   I passed the 4 m at around 22:20. Mentally, I took note of the fact that I had basically run the first four miles faster than I had run the Al Gordon 4 miler back in February.  I’m not sure if this thought made my feel much better.

The Al Gordon 4 miler had involved Lookout Hill and I hadn’t gotten to that hill yet.  I was soon approaching it through.  And the dread of it started to weigh on me.  As we approached Center Drive, with the Prospect Zoo on our left, we were now closing in on what had been my downfall in two prior race this winter.  The hill starts with a gentle incline which makes it feel like it won’t be so bad, but then gets progressively worse.  As I started into the more difficult part of the hill, I shifted into a slower gear.  As I did that, another pack of runners came up to catch us.  One of these runners, I would later learn, was Sam Teigen, a nationally ranked masters runner who had just finished third at the USTFA Masters championships in April.  This time I didn’t make an effort to stay with the approaching pack.  I was too worried about the approaching hill to do so.  And pretty soon afterwards, I was too gassed to be concerned with passing runners.

Just as with the Al Gordon 4m and the PPTC Cherry Tree 10 miler, Lookout Hill took its toll on me once again.  The fast pace I had maintained through the first 4 miles slowed and my legs suddenly felt like jelly.  My stomach, too, was not pleased with the pace I had been keeping and let me know.  That familiar feeling of nausea took over. I knew I had to slow the pace down even further as I worked my way up the hill or else risk heaving up my breakfast of two bananas and half a bagel.  I made up my mind not to throw up and steadily climbed the hill.  A couple more runners passed me and I had now lost touch completely with the pack I had been running the last 3K with.   I was almost there – the crest of the hill was in sight, but of course, there was a little more to go.   The feeling of wanting to empty out my guts  had passed and I felt that I could now push the pace again… so with maximum effort, I got to the top of the hill and soon began the long descent out of the park.

As I began the slow descent, I took note of the damage incurred.  My feet still hurt, but hadn’t really gotten any worse.  That pain was going to remain the same throughout the race – the only worry there was how it would feel tomorrow and through the next week.  My legs felt much more leaden and all that spring I felt in the first 5K was gone, but they were still working and would keep going at 5:40 pace for a while…my stomach, I realized was going to be a problem.  I hadn’t thrown up, but I had come close and I felt that acidic taste in my mouth – letting me know that my acid reflux was going to flare up and cause problems later on in the race.  It wasn’t that much of a problem now though so I knew I could hold on for a while.  The rain was falling steadily now as I passed through the fifth mile.  Here is a shot taken by Paul’s wife Shamala that captured how I was feeling.

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Glasses still on…

I concerned myself with getting my mental state back together after the ordeal of Lookout hill and getting back into a steady rhythm.  The pack I had been running with had gotten away from me but they weren’t too far away that I couldn’t see them.  My glasses, meanwhile, were starting to become a problem though.  Beaten by the steady ran, and now fogged up through strenuous effort, my glasses were now more of a hindrance than a help.  In other words,  I was more likely to trip and fall with them on than with them off.  So I took my glasses and held them in my left hand for the rest of the race.

I passed the 10K point at  35:20, which means I had run the second 5K in around 18 minutes – slower than my plan.  I hadn’t planned on running the second 5K any faster than the 1st but a 40 second drop-off was fairly significant and meant that I had been hurting quite a lot in the second 5K.  My goal time was starting to look in doubt.  Was this race going to be a huge disappointment? Would I finish at all?  The mental struggle had begun in earnest.

Meanwhile , another pair of runners came up to pass me.  Here was the deciding moment of the race.  Already, I had been passed by half-dozen runners, it would have been easy to let two more pass me – particularly as they were going at 5:35 mile pace and I had slowed to the 5:45-5:50 pace.   Somewhat irrationally, I decided I was going to go with them.  In the back of my mind, I knew that the hardest part of the race was over and the welcoming thought of the long flat stretch along Ocean parkway beckoned.  I could stay with this pair for a few miles and let them carry me.  So I changed my pace up and shifted gears from 5:50 pace to 5:30 pace.  Every race has a key moment and this decision to pick up the pace at mile 6 was the turning point for me.

As we left the park, I picked up some steam.  I was feeling good again – the ordeal of Lookout hill was over and leaving the park felt like an escape.  There were people lining the course cheering now.  From along that blurred faces, there was a shout of “go urban athletics” and some upbeat music. I used the energy of the crowd and felt myself power up.  Roughly halfway now and no more hills.  In addition, the pair of runners I was running with didn’t seem to mind me drafting behind and we were actually catching some of the runners who had passed us before.

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Leaving the Park and Heading onto Ocean Parkway: Seb in front.

As we entered the ramp for the parkway, I saw a familiar face up ahead – it was Sebastien , who I later learned had been suffering from a sore calf.  I hadn’t actually introduced myself to Seb formally yet although I’m sure he probably would have preferred I did so some other time.  I pointed at my jersey and told him I was his teammate to which Sebastien replied “I know.”   I made a motion to come with me, but his calf was giving him too much trouble.  Seb, to this credit, would still finish under 1:17:30 despite having a balky calf – a testament to his fortitude as a runner.  At that point, I realized I was now UA’s second runner. Every second was going to count if we had hopes of winning the masters’ race. A third or fourth place finish was a distinct possibility depending on how Paul and Flavio were doing.  Such a finish would surely knock out any hopes for the year of catching WSX.  The pressure was on.

Ocean Parkway promised to be as flat as promised.  And although there were puddles to dodge, the parkway was wide enough that they were easy to avoid.  The amount of open space on the boulevard was a bit disorientating – and without my glasses, it was somewhat difficult to keep my bearings.  It felt like running on a huge, wide-open prarie with Coney Island and the beach somewhere out there in the distance.  But where? I kept close to the NBR and DW runners who I had made the decision to go with.  While they weren’t rude, I could tell I was kind of an unwelcome intruder as they were clearly running together on purpose and probably didn’t want an interloper to interrupt their rhythm.  When I got too close to the NBR runner, he made a polite motion for me to move back a bit, which I promptly did with a half-mumbled apology.   At around mile 7.5  I started feeling really good and actually surged ahead of the two runners.   They quickly brought me to my senses though and reeled me back in.

Now, we were cruising along at 5:35 mile pace.   At one point, we even passed Deena Kastor which was a surreal experience for me.  I tried not to stare.  We passed miles 8 and 9 and soon came up on 15K.  My PR back in December for the 15K was 53:30 and now I broke that with a 52:44.  The NBR runner remarked that he had just broke his 15K PR as well.   Things were going well and as often the case, that’s when events can turn.

It soon became apparent that I wasn’t going to be able to keep the pace of my new found friends.  Around mile 9 and increasingly into mile 10, that familiar feeling of intense tiredness and exhaustion started to build.  Laectic acid was fermenting up a storm throughout my upper body and my shoulders began to hurt.  Meanwhile, my legs started to feel more and more like solid pillars of lead.  The fact that I was soaked to the bone and my jersey felt like a heavy blanket by now didn’t help.  Had there been a hill at this point in the race, I would have been really in a world of pain – but it was still the long flatness of Ocean Parkway so I was fortunate there.

I passed mile 10 in under 57 minutes – another PR, by then I had become too disorientated to take notice of times.  Right at this point, my two running “buddies” took off ahead: “5K to go.  Don’t be a pussy.”  Did I say that or was that the NBR guy? I was deep into the mental struggle now.  My body was starting to wither and bring the mind with it.  Come on, Jordan.  Stay in the game.  You’ve done 5Ks before in worse conditions with your body and mind more exhausted than this.  Along the side of the road, I caught a vision of Javier, who had stopped earlier and gone on ahead to cheer us on as a spectator.  “You’re looking great” – he said in a quiet insistent tone.  Was he telling the truth?  I decided to believe him.  Then another vision – this one more shocking.  It was Paul, our captain and top runner.  What was he doing here along the side of the road at mile 11?  Had he already finished and was coming back to cheer us on? I did some quick mental math the best I could in my semi-delirious state and determined that it was impossible. He must have dropped out too. Later I would learn that Paul’s hamstring had tightened up around mile 10 and he had been forced to stop.  It barely registered at the moment, but this meant I was now the top UA runner.  While any hopes of us winning were now long gone with Javi’s back, every second counted if we were going to finish second. I wondered how Flavio was doing behind me.

My body was fast slipping away into that hazy area where all my gears are gone and it’s strictly in survival mode.  That instinctual sensation to stop, to go to the side of the road and lay down descended upon me like a vulture circling its prey. I pushed those thoughts to the side as best I could.  Mile 11 now.  1.5 more miles to go on this parkway  – which I was, frankly, quite tired of by now – and then Surf avenue and 200 yards along the boardwalk to the finish.  2 miles meant less than 12 minutes of pain left.  I was past the point of calculating pace and time with any exactitude now but I noted that I passed mile 12 in somewhere around 1:08 and change which I knew put me ahead of 1:15 pace.

At around 12 or so mile mark, we reached the end of Ocean Parkway and turned onto Surf Boulevard.  In my myopic and disorientated state, I could make out Luna park in the distance but all my focus now was on just finishing.  I was running alone by this point, but hadn’t been passed by any runners.   Then,  with 800 meters to go, the wheels came completely off.  My pace slackened and I was now running around 6 minutes mile pace.   For a split second, I reasoned that this probably was how the last few miles of marathon felt. As the pain increased in intensity and the thoughts of quitting became more consistent, I tried to think “happy thoughts” – my family and loved ones, how good I would feel when this ordeal was done….

I was a fraction of my earlier-race-self now – basically shuffling as I made the turn on to the boardwalk.   As I passed Nathan’s, a sea of NBR, DW, and CPTC jerseys flashed by on my right and left…No masters runners so I was good there.  Still, it didn’t feel great to be passed like that.  I  silently cursed myself again for going out too fast as well as cursed the energy of the young and the rigors of getting old.   In the last 400 meters, it felt like the entire world was passing me.   My mind was holding up but my body, though, wasn’t having any more of it. It wanted to stop. Now.  And it wasn’t in the mood to negotiate any more.  All of the sudden, my stomach seized up again and that feeling of wanting to puke returned – this time, with extreme urgency. I dry-heaved a bit, but there was nothing to toss up.  And i wasn’t going to stop now.  On the boardwalk now.  Ocean Parkway and Prospect Park long behind me.  Just the wooden planks of Coney island and Luna Park now right next to me with the beach to my left.  Warm salty air flowed into my lungs.

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On the boardwalk – finish line in sight.

 

Just a few more seconds of pain.  Hold on. Whatever you do, don’t puke.   Try not to slip either.  Get to the finish and then get warm.  I looked up at the clock 1:14:45, 1:14:46….and then three seconds later, it was over.

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I crossed the finish line just as the acid rose up in my throat and began to choke me.  (From experience, I knew that I had suffered a severe acid reflux flare-up – I made a mental note to get some antacids for tomorrow )

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The race was over now.  I had beaten my goal time by 20 seconds.  Soon after crossing the finish line, I heard a familiar voice: I was looked up from my haze to see Flavio.  I was surprised to see him finish so soon after me and realized he had set a massive PR as well.  True to form, Flavio had paced himself appropriately and run negative splits.  If the race had been another mile, he would have passed me.

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At the end of the race. Asking Flavio for a shirt.

Flavio, understandably so, was elated with his time. I felt like I should have been too. And some part of me was.  I had finished in 1:14:40 – a Personal Best by over two minutes.  A massive PR – the sort that obsessive runners dream of.  But along with the exhilaration came other thoughts: Could I have held on to that 5:35 pace longer?  The “what could of beens” that had been squashed by that last mile at 5:55 pace.   And with those thoughts were the feelings of intense tiredness brought on by that last mile along with the thought that I now to make my way back to the Prospect Park to my car and then the long drive home.

Now that I had finally stopped, the cold caught up with me and I started to shiver again. I didn’t check a bag so had nothing to wear for the trip home (again that whole lack of planning thing).  Flavio generously offered me an extra shirt that he had checked with his bag. We walked over to the baggage area and we talked about our times and what happened to our teammates; both of us very proud of our accomplishment but sad to hear what had happened to fallen comrades.  Flavio got me his shirt and took a quick selfie before changing into warmer clothing.

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After thanking him, I said goodbye to Flavio and made my way to the subway to get on the Q train back to Prospect Park.  Along the way, I passed the “post-party” and saw that it was starting to get underway.  I knew that although that party was meant for me, on another more important level, that was not where I needed to be. I needed to be on my way home to the more important task getting my daughters to their Saturday lessons.   The race had been run, and it had been run well and now it was back to real life.

I got on the train and after a dozen or so stops on the Q, I got out and made my way back to my car. The first thing I did was get on my phone to let my loved ones I had survived and next to learn how the race had played out for everyone. I learned that Paul had suffered a hamstring injury and had gallantly tried to finish but had been unable to do.  He still managed to run a world class 10 mile race somehow with the injury.  Paul wrote a moving post about his DNF and it reminded me of what was really important – not the times we run, but the shared experience of racing and pushing oneself to the limits, along with 26,000 other like-minded people.  The team hadn’t done as well as had hoped in scoring, but we ended up finishing second to WSX so had kept our hopes of a team championship alive.  Plus, there were plenty of good results to go around: Fiona Bayly (1st W50 and top women’s AG in 1:22:19), Ramin Tabib (all time PR of 1:27:37), Bob Smullen (2nd best ever of 1:36:08), Jennifer Harvey (3rd W50 in 1:31:24) and Kathleen Kilbride (2nd W60 in 1:45:15).

As I began the long drive back to Westchester, my thoughts turned from the race I had just run to the races yet to be run  The Queens 10K would now take on added important in our quest to catch WSX. I’d have to take the lessons learned today and apply them for that race- better preparation was a key lesson for sure.   Lost in thought of the future as I meandered my way back home through Brooklyn, I told myself to take a step back and enjoy the moment.  While I had a long way to go, I have come a long way from those first few laps I ran back in July 2016.  One day at a time, one race at a time, I go forward.

 

 

 

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