Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015 Independence Series: New Jersey

Today, the Independence Series moved to New Jersey.  The fourth race in the series was held in Spruce Run Recreation Area in Clinton, NJ.  Our course was a paved out-and-back that we ran 14 times.

Yesterday, I imploded in the third race of the series.  I think that was at least partly because I was averaging only four hours of sleep before the first three races, and it finally caught up to me.  My hope was that if I slept well last night, I could bounce back with a good race today.

I did sleep well last night.  I slept for six and a half hours, which is the best I can expect when I’m getting up at 4 AM.  Unfortunately, I actually felt worse this morning.  I was dragging, both physically and mentally.  Even two hours later when the race started, I felt like a zombie.

They say it’s not the night before a race that matters.  It’s the night before the night before.  That would explain how I felt this morning.  I was still feeling the effects of the previous three nights.

I felt so sluggish that I wasn’t sure if I should even try to break four hours.  I considered just running at a casual pace for the entire race.  I made a last-minute decision to at least try a four hour pace for the first lap or two.

These races start pretty close to sunrise.  Just before the race started, it got light enough to see the clouds.  They had a pink tint from the sunrise.

The course took us alongside a lake every lap.  The first time we went by, the sun was still rising, and the reflection off the lake gave it an orange glow.  Our loop had a couple gentle slopes, but it was relatively flat.

I ran that first lap in 17:20, which was about 10 seconds too slow to be on pace for four hours.  In the second lap, I picked up my effort a little, but the result was the same – another 17:20.  I also picked up my effort in the third lap.  It wasn’t any faster.  At that point, I accepted that I just wasn’t up to running the pace I needed.

I was starting to feel a rumbling in my intestines, and it got more uncomfortable with each lap.  After three laps, I finally made a bathroom stop.  After my stop, I was more comfortable, but I was off the course long enough for my legs to stiffen a little.  After that, I never quite worked back into the same pace.  Now I was running laps in the 19 to 20 minute range.

I reached the halfway mark in 2:17 and change.  That was 10 minutes slower than yesterday.  For a time, I was hopeful that I could beat yesterday’s time, even if only by a minute.  Later in the race, my pace deteriorated significantly.

It was chilly at the start, so I wore a warm hat, a fairly warm shirt, and gloves.  Once the sun got high enough in the sky, it warmed up significantly.  I took off the gloves.  I couldn’t do anything about the shirt.  I considered switching into a different hat, but with only a few laps to go, I didn’t think it was worth the time.  I underestimated how long those last few laps would take.  I was overheating, and that probably contributed to my downfall.

I eventually finished in 4:48:40.  That’s 10 minutes slower than yesterday.  I’ve only had five slower marathons in my life.

I’ve found that I can run fairly hard one day and come right back and do it again the next day.  That only works if you don’t have a meltdown.  Apparently crashing, burning and dragging yourself through the late miles takes much more out of you.  You can’t recover in just 24 hours.  This doesn’t bode well for tomorrow’s race.

There was one consolation for having a slow race.  Finishing farther back in the pack meant I was still around to partake in the traditional round of fireball shots.

After refueling with chocolate milk, pocket pizzas, and pickles, I had to rush back to the hotel.  I was able to get a 2 PM checkout, and I needed that time.  I wanted to take an ice bath before getting on the road.

Tomorrow’s race is in New Paltz, NY.  I’m staying in Newburgh, where my friend Rick lives.  Tonight we’ll be having dinner.  I’ve known Rick since college, and he was the first of my friends to run a marathon.  It will be nice to catch up.

This was my 274th lifetime marathon.  It was also my 19th marathon of the year and the fourth one this week!  When I started racing more frequently, I had hopes that I could avoid sacrificing quality for quantity.  At first, I could.  Just three years ago, I could break 3:30 on three consecutive days.  Those days are gone.  As recently as one year ago, I could still break four hours on five consecutive days.  Those days may also be gone.

Four down, one to go.  I don’t expect tomorrow to be easy.

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