I've been preparing for the Brooklyn Half for months. It was a constant in my head. Always a date hanging out there to be reckoned with. I built my base through the winter and then put in the work to get faster through the early spring. I added excruciating deep tissue massages into my routine. I knew none of this would be sufficient to get me where I need to be, but this is a long process and I am committed to it.
I woke up at 4:10 this morning to catch my 5:00 am ride out to Coney Island (thank you awesome VCTC teammates!). The logistics of this race are tricky since it's a point-to-point and we chose to park at Coney Island and cab it back up to the start in Prospect Park. It was a beautiful morning as we drove along the Belt Parkway out to the ocean. Patches of bright sunshine and--my favorite--FOG. By the time we got to the park, the fog was mostly gone, but it was still a pleasant and cool start.
I felt strong through the first few miles. Controlled and in command of my timing. The Prospect Park portion of the race is two counterclockwise loops that start near the southwest corner of the park. My first mile at 6:13 was twelve seconds faster than my overall goal pace, but I felt fine running with the crowd and I certainly wasn't pushing myself. The second mile included the park's "big climb" (about 100 feet of elevation change overall) and my pace dropped down to 6:32 as I worked to ensure I did not overdo it early on. I dropped it back to 6:23 coming across the top of the park and then 6:17 as we came back down the westside. So far, so good, right? And it was. I wasn't straining at all at this stage and had in mind that I would keep myself back until we hit the long straightaway down Ocean Parkway to the beach.
And then I threw up. Two sips into a cup of Gatorade and my whole world went sideways. My stomach cramped pretty immediately and violently and up came the Gatorade and my early morning oatmeal. I moved the inside, ran up into the shrubs, and managed not to spatter my fellow runners. This all happened way too fast for me to think much about what was happening or what I should do. I took two or three uneasy steps and just started running again. I was pretty shaken and may actually have been shaking, but I was still riding the great feeling of my previous four miles. I didn't consider stopping. I didn't consider anything. I just kept running. The hill took A LOT more out of me the second time round, and I was eager for the next water station as it approached. I skipped the Gatorade this time (although I probably needed something in my belly) and sipped gingerly at a cup of water. MISTAKE. Ten steps after the water went down it was back up and in the grass.
Now what was I supposed to do? I couldn't keep fluids down and I was approaching the mid-point of a race that was basically blowing up in front of me. I went from running just under my goal pace to standing, hands on my knees, staring at the ground. I wasn't going to drop out of the race. I just wasn't going to. I didn't know why I was puking, but I knew I wasn't injured. That was enough to get me moving again. I was cursing myself at this point, but I'd only lost about forty seconds and knew I could still contribute to the team if I could just keep moving.
Somehow, mile 7 was fine. Back down to 6:22 as we exited the park and headed onto Ocean Parkway. I generally have no problem with Ocean Parkway. Yes, it's long and flat and boring, but it's also relatively easy. I had planned to drop the hammer and see how close I could come to breaking 1:24, but as I entered the parkway I just couldn't do it. The sun was in my face and I felt overheated and shaky. I needed water and gel, but I couldn't bear to puke again so I just sort of put my head down and ran. I managed 6:32 for mile 8 and felt OK about where I was. I figured if I could hold 6:32 I come out of the day a damned hero (to myself, anyway).
No big shock that I could NOT hold 6:32. I needed water badly now and tried again at mile 9. I threw a cup in my face, dumped another over my head, and begged the third to just stay down. No luck, although I didn't push it far enough to do much more than spit it up. I used the rest of the water to rinse my mouth and spit and gave up on the idea that I'd be able to drink anything. Mile 9 was pretty much a collapse for me. I dropped to 6:52 and continued to drop. Miles 10 and 11 were 7:01. Mile 12 was 7:14. This is about as close to heartbroken as I could be during a race, but I was not done. There was a cool breeze off the ocean and I accelerated with everything I had left into the climb up onto the boardwalk. I was running without much regard for anything at this point. I'm sure was form was shot to hell.
The finish was ugly and uninspired, but I managed to take out a few folks at the finish with my 6:23 final mile (and a bit). I crossed the line and did my best not to collapse into the arms of the closest volunteer. My final time was 1:28:27 or 6:45 per mile. Ho hum and hum dee dum.
As I wandered down the boardwalk, I ran into Dave, a fellow VCTC runner who was hobbling along without his shoe sporting a blood-soaked sock (bad blister, but his gimpy ankle seems to be strong). Talking to someone helped me focus and I headed over to get cup of water. I walked with that water a good long way before I took a sip, but it stayed down. The effect was pretty dramatic: it kinda felt like I'd had a Redbull. I wandered through the parking lot and tracked down Kevin and Mike who were comparing their insanely impressive race stories no doubt. I was feeling better now but was (and am) disappointed and frustrated. I know I ran a fine race all things considered, but I'm not one for all things considered.
The rest of the day was enjoyable. I nice post-race soak in the Atlantic. Some schwacky beer along the boardwalk followed by a great lunch. I don't know if I'll determine what happened physically to me today, but I do know this: more training, more racing, more training, more racing....