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A Race I Had No Business Running:Race Report for the New Jersey/Long Branch Half Marathon (Part I)

Posted May 03 2010 8:40pm
Prelude to A Race That Wasn't
This wasn't supposed to be a race weekend for me. After all, I've been blogging, texting, twittering, e-mailing and telling everyone and anyone who would listen all through the week that the New Jersey Marathon was completely dead to me. Sick, injured, and untrained, I was supposed to be spending the weekend safe at home, resting and recovering and planning my comeback strategy. So how did it came to be that I confused everybody (including most of my friends) by showing up at the start of a race on Sunday that I practically swore off two days ago? Obviously, there was a motive, a plan, a failed execution and one GIGANTIC miscalculation...

The Motive
By the middle of the week, when it became apparent that running the marathon would be an impossibility for me, I immediately worried that my absence would be a detriment to the morale of the many Flyer friends who had literally and virtually trained together with me for this marathon. I really wanted to be there for them since they've always been there for me. And since my hotel room near the start was non-transferable and I had already confirmed travel plans with a friend (FC) who was driving down anyways to run the marathon, I figured I would go down to Jersey and surprise some people by showing up unannounced on the sidelines during the race and cheering them on as they ran strong to the finish. In my mind, this was always how it was supposed to go down. Maybe I could run with a few of them for a half mile or so, but that was the extent of the running I was planning to do.

The Plan (to Run 13.1)
The decision to run the half only came when I thought I had turned the corner on this flu-like illness and was solidified after my 10K run on Friday. Never mind the run itself felt like death and each breath I took resembled breathing through molasses, I was fairly certain that despite my sickness, I would have no problems with the 13.1 on this course. Why was I so confident? Was it justified? As I laid in bed later that night preparing for the next day's travel, I asked myself the same question. But given that I had done 21 of these (half marathons) previously, the most by far of any other distance, a couple of my best times were done on this same course in the two prior years (1:27:28 in 2008 and 1:25:16 in 2009 ) - both PRs by the way - and I felt a need for a longish weekend run to signal my return to the living (and possibly training), I made up my mind that I would run 13.1 slowly and unannounced before cheering like heck for all my friends running 26.2.


Failed Execution (a.k.a. A Day of FAILs)
The ride on Saturday morning down to the Jersey shore was uneventful and everything was going according to plan until I grew a conscience and decided to text one of my Flyer friends JB right before hitting the expo to ask whether everyone (who were planning to arrive on race day) had arranged for someone to pick up bibs (since race day pickup cost $20 extra while pre-race day pickup at expo was free). He told me that as a group, no one was able to find anyone else coming early and so they had all forked over an extra $20 each to arrange for race day pickup. Of course since I never bothered to inform anyone that I was not only coming to the race but a day early to change my race and pick up my own bib, I wasted $100+ that could've gone toward a sweet post-marathon celebration party. Nice, Lam, very nice...NOT =( This was FAIL #1.

FAIL #2 was a bit more insidious. Because we were busy driving from place to place, finding places to eat, sleep, shop, as well as hitting the beach for a little pre-race fun, FC (who was running the marathon) and I neglected to hydrate as well as we should. It was hot, hazy, and humid, and all the local weather reports publicized much of the same for the next day's race. Although I had a bottle of water with me at all times and took sips whenever I remembered, at no point during the day did I feel adequately rehydrated. Similarly, at no point did my pee resemble the pristine color of natural spring water. This did not worry me as much as it should have. FAIL #2.

FAIL #3 was technically not my fault, although in retrospect it should have counted as the third strike. Could I really have done anything about waking up at midnight with a coughing fit that just would not stop? I hadn't coughed at night the entire week and in my mind was already recovering. Could I have helped, rooming with marathoners on race eve, besides bringing my pillow into the bathroom with me, shutting the door and attempt to sleep in the bathtub so as not to wake up the others? Yep, I slept in the bathtub for about an hour until i was sure my coughing fits were gone before venturing out and climbing back into my own bed. So is it surprising then that I got less than four hours of productive sleep on race eve? Probably not. What is surprising though is that I failed to recognize the tremendous toll that the lack of sleep would have on my already decrepit body. Why can't I see that BEFORE the race as opposed to IN RETROSPECT? FAIL #3.

Little did I know all of these factors would combine to sabatoge my run, torment my soul and complete the race I had no business running in the next day...
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