Note to readers: I’m publishing this race report many weeks after writing it. With all the changes and obstacles that had to be overcome to get to race day I wanted to make sure my emotions weren’t clouding my perspective. Hope it was worth the wait.
Buck County Marathon Pre-Race
What I experienced in the training, preparation and execution of running my 2012 fall marathon I’m confident would send any type-A, obsessive compulsive runner to the psychiatrist’s couch. It got weird early and never let up, but in a good way. I’ve discovered the best learning experiences occur and my most fond memories are created when I venture well outside of my comfort zone. The farther, the better. It’s there where you have no choice but to let go of whatever preconceived plans and expectations you have and you give God an opportunity to intervene and send you in new directions.
While not completely intentional, this has been a major theme for the whole year. In fact I’ve been so successful in venturing outside my comfort zone recently I’d say with a high degree of confidence that I am now somewhat lost. I seem to be in the midst of a continual out-of-body experience without a compass to find my way back (…but in a good way?) along with a dead GPS on my wrist (more on that later). We’re not talking hallucinations here or scenes from a Quentin Tarantino movie, but weird none the less. With all that in mind let’s begin.
Back in April I had a fast enough half marathon time to qualify me for guaranteed entry into the NYC marathon. It was really exciting for me to get into NYC in 2012 since it was exactly 25 years since I ran it back in 1987. It was also my son’s 18th birthday on race day so we had a family mini-vacation planned for that weekend, we were all really looking forward to it.
Spring turned into summer and some exciting things started happening. I became an ambassador for Gatorade and got to met Greg McMillan who mixed up things a bit with my training and put together a custom training plan for NYC. As a result during the summer and fall months I spent a lot of time working with local training clubs and educating athletes on Gatorade’s latest products along with hitting the pavement hard and adapting to my new training plan. It was honestly the hardest working summer for me since 2004 where I was going to Grad school, working full time, and also consulting on the side. I remember taking text books with me on the family vacation that summer (yikes!). Also the record heat we were experiencing in the Northeast this year made all the additional speed work that much more challenging.
It was then in the late summer when I started having some hamstring issues. It wasn’t due to a pull or a specific incident, but just a tightness in the upper part of the muscle where it connects to the pelvis. This has been a reoccurring issue for me the past few years that usually works itself out with some rolling on a tennis ball and sitting on a heating pad during work hours. It was mostly on my left side and looking back I know I wasn’t as aggressive in treating it as I should have been. Over time some tightness then developed in my mid-hamstring area and during a few speed workouts I could feel some twinges shoot down my left leg all the way down to my calf. It wasn’t enough to cause a gait change or hamper my workouts much but I knew it wouldn’t get better on it’s own without some professional help.
By this time it’s early October so I’m getting concerned as race day is about four weeks away. A couple of appointments with a massage therapist did wonders but as most of you know, hamstrings take a notoriously long time to heal. My last massage appointment has 10 days from NYC and at that point I was just hoping things would just fall into place. Since I seem to always have issues leading up to a major marathon, I looked at this as just another obstacle. I mean it wasn’t like some apocalyptic event was going to hit us during race week, right?
In the days prior I saw the forecasts and listened to the typical “worst case” estimates but I honestly thought it wasn’t going to hit us. Since Jim Cantore and crew at the weather channel are always hyping up the most recent weather blip I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I realize the forecasters have the health and safety of all of us at heart but the cynic in me just can’t get passed the conflict of interest between alerting the public and the higher viewership the Weather Channel gets along with the higher ad rates they can charge. I continued to work on race day planning and preparations and focused on what I could control.
Thankfully there were just some sporadic power outages in my area and no notable damage. As you’ve seen from the news reports though, millions of others weren’t so fortunate. I have many relatives and friends in North Jersey and Long Island. Suffice it to say all the reports of power outages and damage you heard on the news was not over stated, in fact I’m very surprised there wasn’t much outrage in the media regarding the response of FEMA and other federal agencies. I can’t say I’m surprised though, media outrage has become more of a political tool than genuine concern for human suffering in recent years.
On the Wednesday prior to race day, the extent of the damage hadn’t really sunk in yet for me so when the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and Mayor Bloomberg announced the marathon was going to go on, I was excited. I thought the mayor and the NYRR would be in the best position to determine the feasibility of holding the marathon, unfortunately no one factored in the desperate conditions that many New Yorkers were currently in.
It was evident over the next day or two that the marathon had become a symbol of government mismanagement and New Yorkers were now using it to vent their anger and frustration. The negativity and anger had reached a point were I sat down and spoke to my wife about the concerns I had for my safety out on the course. I’d love to say it was out of concern for the suffering (my family among them) that had me thinking of not running, but in all honestly it was the potential of violence from protesters that gave me pause. NYC has no shortage of radicals and nut-jobs that wouldn’t give a second thought to hurting others if it supported some political agenda or protest.
On Friday afternoon we were having dinner at a local restaurant a mere 30 minutes from taking the drive up to NYC when my mother-in-law called us to say the race was cancelled. All four of us (Myself, my wife and two boys) were relieved. We decided to just head home and enjoy the free weekend.
Relief quickly turns into frenzy in Part 2 as I start the search for Plan B.