July rolled into August, and the days just seemed to melt into each other. Let’s face it: it was probably due to the daily 280 degree temperatures combined with the 1,500% humidity that hung over Manhattan for weeks at a time. Daily runs in the park became sluggish, and my focus on any particular day’s running goal was discarded soon after the first mile. (Note to my fellow runners: if you are training for an event – have a plan for your daily workout before you leave the house and begin running. Trust me: you’ll get more out of each session).
August’s marathon was scheduled for August 24th at Rockland Lake State Park. Nine laps around a 3-mile route that hugged the water. I knew it was going to be a flat race – but the benefits that the outline of the course provided were negated by the heat and humidity. I was worried about the weather for this one, for I know exactly how the heat and humidity affects my running efforts:
- I usually start a marathon at a pace that is quicker than my normal long training run pace. Why? Because I’m psyched up and, although I know that I must control my pace early on and hold back, I do not. My brain tells my legs to get moving because “today is the day that I set a personal best”. That’s the message pounding through my dense cranium. And do I argue back, saying “no, you dummy – start slow, and then get quicker as the race goes on”? Nope. Why? Because I’m an idiot. (Note to all Nuggets out there: start off SLOW. Seriously. So slow that it becomes difficult to hold yourself back from running faster. Starting slow will allow you to finish strong. The marathon is all about self-control. I have none.)
- On hot and humid days, the heat saps my energy quicker than normal. I, being an idiot, do not compensate by taking in more fuel or making sure I ate properly the night before. Two smores pop tarts should get me through it all – that’s how I’m wired. Well all I can say is that I’m an electrician’s nightmare. (Nuggets: take your fuel seriously. Give it some thought. Have a plan for the days leading up to Marathon Day. That way you have gas in the tank for miles 20-26.2. I’m lazy, and my poor results recently are evidence of my failure to properly plan.)
- As things heat up during the race, my programming also tells me to drink more. Well I am betting that I usually overdo it. I see Gatorade and I take a cup. Or two. Am I thinking about budgeting my drinking properly? Heck no. I just see free Gatorade being given away and I just have to help myself to free samples. I know that I need to follow a specific gameplan for fueling and drinking during a race in order to give myself the best chance of finishing strong. But do I follow directions? Nope. I just show up, eat a pop tart and run. Oh yeah: and then I whine about my lousy performance on this blog afterward. (Again, Nuggets: HAVE A PLAN. Plan out your fluid intake well before race day. Use your long training runs to figure out how much water you need and when you need it. Drink too little – dangerous. Drink too much – also not good. HAVE A PLAN. I cannot stress this enough.)
- I’ll usually get through the first 13-14 miles feeling pretty solid in the heat. Then the wheels come off quickly and violently. When the wheels come off I usually get nauseous, mainly caused by an abundance of Gatorade sloshing around in my otherwise empty stomach. I try to fight through it…but I never succeed. The crash is complete when I stop shuffling my feet through a water station and begin to walk. All positive momentum is lost…and I become broken. I’ve heard that term thrown around at a few marathon expos over the years, and that one word really sums up the moment. (Ok Nuggets, this is a big one: do not let the marathon break you. You begin the race filled with nervous energy, excitement and positive vibes. Then, as you close in on the last 10k of the race, those feeling wane and you’re left with quiet desperation. At this point, it’s easy to listen to The Tool inside of each of us and say “hey, let’s take a break here”. TELL THE TOOL TO SHUT UP. His goal is to break you. DO NOT LET IT HAPPEN. I’ve let it happen A LOT – and I regret it each and every time.)
The weather report for Saturday included a high temperature of 88 degrees with 85% humidity. After dinner the night before the race, I followed my regular routine of laying my race clothing out and packing a backpack for post-race. Over the past couple of months, I’ve begun to feel the effects of a very full running schedule – my legs feel like bricks, my energy level is low, I am healing slower after long training runs, and I am even losing my mental focus. I had no idea what to expect of myself when I began this quest back in January…I’m learning as I go on.
As I went to sleep the night before the marathon, I realized that the stars were not well-aligned for this one…
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