Saturday, April 3, 2010

INAUGURAL RACE REPORT: 13.1 Marathon - Flushing, Queens

RACE: 13.1 Marathon
PLACE:  Flushing Meadows Park, Flushing, Forest Hills, Queens NY
DATE: Saturday, April 3, 2010
TIME: 9:13am
DISTANCE:  13.1 Miles (Half-Marathon)
WEATHER:  Bright Sunshine, 52 degrees, 80% Humidity, Winds 12 MPH.

This had been the first time, I’ve done a race in Queens, since last September’s Queens Half Marathon.

The “13.1 marathon” as dubbed was an inaugural race being held in Flushing Meadows. I was a little skeptical about how the race officials were going to squeeze in a half-marathon at that park, and was even more skeptical about the number of reps around certain areas. I feared that there would be overlap, meaning that slower runners would be caught by faster ones. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The course was done very well. There was no overlap at any time. In fact, it was about as good as one could imagine, and I was very happy with the entire layout, including the finish. There were mile markers and clocks at every mile. And I was pleasantly surprised with the amount of water and Gatorade stations there were too. There was plenty of help along the way, and I never felt like the race directors had done anything questionable.

Having said that, the conditions in Flushing Meadow can be challenging. Meadow Lake has always been in my mind, Meadow Swamp. There is always flooding, especially after a rain. The way New York has been rained upon in the last month, I was expecting to swim part of the way. Even still, the race directors at the starting line warned us about it in advance.

They also had live music along the way which was nice, except around Mile 11 or so, there was a band singing something really slow. C’mon now! This is a race, not a Perry Como lovefest! Okay, it wasn’t Perry Como. But it was something slow and ballad-like, and in a race, there’s just no place for that type of music. It’s got to have some zip, you know? Something to get you going.

The finish line was well done in my opinion. Some people, including my fiancĂ©e had corroborated each other when they mentioned that it seemed somewhat confusing of a finish, that the double loop, threw them for one. I didn’t see how anyone could have been confused though. I saw the chutes, and that’s how I knew I was in the home stretch.

But the chutes were just about all I saw…..and that’s where the sad part of this story now ensues…

The weather was great for running, though a bit bright. Thus the sunglasses and visor/brim came in very handy. I had not been feeling right from a respiratory standpoint for a while now. My doctor, who has been telling me that it will go away, and has thus prescribed me nothing, for a cold I had since February 20th (night of the award dinner), is going to be going away himself. In other words, I will be firing him soon, and getting another doctor. Since the beginning of March, I’ve had a cough now on and off, lately mostly off unless I eat, that has been giving me fits. I’ve been coughing less now in the last couple of weeks, but since my 15K last Sunday, I’ve been feeling winded without having to do much. I’ve tried Benadryl, Claritn D, Mucinex DM, and Saturday night (after the race) I did a Zyrtec. All they do is make me feel sleepy, and make my hands and feet itch, but never cure my issue.

Now I am not making excuses for my performance on Saturday, but I will tell you that I was just not into it at all. Instead of being in “killer” mode, I was in “dread” mode, mentally. Scurrying around in the morning, like a chicken without my head on, and having to worry about being late, really drained me too. My next race, Run As One , is next Sunday at 9am near the band shell on 69th street. Race number pickup ends at 8:30am. I am leaving by 7:45am sharp, no exceptions, this time around, and I will make sure that Karen has everything ready even before we go out for her birthday celebration the night before.

When the race began, I decided that I was going to not start off too fast like I did at the NYC Half. I had moved up in the crowd of starters, and was able to do my first 2 miles, in 7:56.83 & 7:58.80. However, something was not right with my breathing. I could feel it. Mile 3, I did it in 8:01.34.

As a sidebar to my mile by mile breakdown, I’ve been wondering if this issue is related to asthma. I can breathe in deeply (and exhale too), but I don’t feel like I am getting a satisfactory amount of oxygen. My father had asthma himself, and got it in his late 30’s. Another possibility could be allergies, but if that were the case, then why didn’t any of those medications work (though I will tell you that I didn’t take any of them with any regularity).

Some point during Mile 4, a girl ran ahead of me, donning a Team World jersey. There were many people wearing these jerseys too. I decided to pace behind her, as such, because women tend to be better at holding pace then men. Well, I was right. I did Mile 4 in 7:44.32 and Mile 5 in 7:41.73. However, I could not keep up with her, as I started feeling a malaise within me. I was a bit alarmed, because I really didn’t feel I was running that fast. Ummm. Let’s see, 5 miles at a 7:54 pace. That wasn’t even my pace by the finish of the NYC Half. Something was wrong, and I could feel it. I did Mile 6 in 8:27.82. And that was just the beginning.

(that woman I was running behind...I remembered what she wore, and found her time through the photos (i know, creepy, but i was curious to see how she fared in the end).  She finished in 1:41:23.  My all-time best was 1:42:32.  Her pace?  7:45, which is pretty much what she did in the two miles that I kept up with her.  Living proof that women pace themselves better than us men do.

By Mile 7, I was fighting to stay alive, we were heading towards the ramp to take us over to Meadow Lake. People were passing me now. This was disheartening. I finished it up in 8:47.53. And then it got worse. Mile 8 which was at the southernmost part (furthest away) of the lake was completed in 8:55.88. Dreams of posting anything PR-like were so long gone, that I was wondering whether or not I would even be able to finish. Coming back north on the west side of the lake, were those “puddles” the race official had warned us about.

By the time I had complete Mile 9 (back to the northern part of the lake), I was totally out of gas. I somehow managed to hold on and still do a sub 9 minute mile (8:57.27). The temperature was getting warmer, and I was really exhausted and felt like blacking out even. This is nothing new. I’ve pushed myself plenty of times before, but never with such lousy results behind it. But now, I had even another thing to worry about, my right hamstring. Somewhere along the red, muddy, dunes along side the lake, I started feeling a slight pull. Funny. I didn’t remember over-striding. Then as we ran on the grass for a bit, I felt it again. The human body is like a car. When 1 thing breaks down, everything starts to break down. At 9:14.04, Mile 10 was my worst. Thoughts of actually quitting came across my tired brain several times. I just wanted this race over with.

A lot of why a runner does well or poorly has to do with the mind, I believe. Admittedly, I’ve had a lot to personally think about of late. It had a definite effect on my performance today.
I could just keep on whining here, so I’ll spare you the unnecessary drama. Miles 11, 12 and 13, were 9:01.83, 9:14.04, and an 8:08.22. The last .31 of a mile (since I wound up doing 13.31 miles) was done at 2:12.94 or a 7:09 pace. So for the last 1.31 miles, my pace was 7:55, which was respectable in an otherwise lousy race effort.

Going back to the positive side of this race, the race itself (not me), was the live band playing disco music with a horn section at the finish line bandshell, plus all the foodies they gave to us, to include blueberry muffin tops, bagels WITH spreads, and donuts, was a well-deserved treat. Last but not least at all was that we all finished with a medal over our heads. Though I told Karen (she ran too and did a 2:20 – not bad!) at the finish that I felt like handing back the medal, I will now look at that medal with the reminder that I’m no Superman. Just someone trying to do my best, whatever that best may be for that moment. 

Final stats: Finishers: 464 / 2103 = 22.06% ||| Gender: 320 / 923 = 34.67% ||| Age: 43 / 126 = 34.13%.

And now for one last whine:
If I had actually equaled my best ½ time (1:43:32), I would have wound up with these numbers instead:

Finishers: 166 / 2103 = 7.89% ||| Gender: 130 / 923 = 14.08% ||| Age: 17 / 126 = 13.49%.

What can I say? I can’t win ‘em all. Sure, it would have been nice to do better, but even with what seemed like thousands of people passing me, in the end, I came in 464th place in the entire race. Sure, if I had kept up my pace, I would have finished in the top 200. Hey, the way I look at it, we sometimes need bad races in order to renew the chase, and the motivation to kick-butt the next time. Which I will….grrrrr!

Pre-Race Photos:

Race Photos: (race photos to be appended once available)
But here's one from my friend, Jose Barrios who was at the park with his son and rooting us on righ by the finish line (see below)!

Post-Race Photos:

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