This week it was me vs. Brooklyn.
Brooklyn won, in case you are wondering.
The bib pickup for the Brooklyn Half was only available in the three days preceding the race, which meant all runners had to take a pilgrimage to the “pre-party” site to a somewhat remote pier (of course) in (you guessed it) Brooklyn. I was a pretty busy between intern-shipping and work shifts, but I hustled out via the AC train early Wednesday afternoon. After getting off the train, we followed a series of markers down to the water’s edge. And when markers would no longer suffice, volunteers held signs and dance- seemingly animating their arrows like cartoons from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”
The actual shin-dig on the pier was sweet. It was obvious that a lot of creativity went into its conception. This week I read a lot of complaints about the bib pickup situation, if you will. To which I would respond as follows: if you don’t like a ½ mile walk, maybe don’t sign up to run a half marathon. Runners get a bad rap for being self-centered and arrogant. Let’s try to tone it down a notch, shan’t we? I respect that even if this one particular bib-pickup wasn’t especially convenient for me, it was incredibly festive and creative.
But seeing as how I had to bounce in and out, I didn’t have too much time to roam around the expo portion. But I did pick up one of the most amazing pastries I have ever eaten in my life. It was a raspberry crumble square and as I walked back nibbling on this sweet that surely fell from the gods above (actually from Chickpea & Olive), I considered leaving all of my current obligations behind and going back to beg them to take me into their kitchen and teach me their secrets since it had suddenly become so glaringly obvious to me I have much to learn in the ways of baking.
I thought about this until I got back to the street and was sidetracked by the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, where I was duty-bound to buy a cone. It was pretty humid and I was still hungry. One thing was clear, if I ever moved to Brooklyn, it wouldn’t be to spend my time eating kale.
Back at the AC train I spent ten minutes looking for my Metro Card. It was gone, but I didn’t know that yet. It would be the first metro card I would lose this week.
Thursday morning I had lunch shift to work at the ol’ restaurant. But I began woke up at 5:30 and continued to slip in and out of sleep for the next two hours, delirious in the new humidity. In once instance I would wake up and think it was Saturday morning and I had to be in Brooklyn, ten minutes later I would think I was late for woke, ten minutes after that I thought I was late for Brooklyn. And so it went.
Friday night I tried my best to get to sleep early, since I wanted to be out the door as close to 5 am as I could, and I kind of succeeded. Until I woke up just after midnight and was stuck tossing and turning for about two more hours.
Before I knew it, 4:50 am had arrived. Luckily, I had the good sense to lay everything out and ten minutes later I was out the door. It was cool and quiet and windy. As I juggled my water and phone I thought I dropped something (but I was holding everything I needed, wasn’t I?) Of course, this would turn out to be the second metro card I would lose this week.
I headed cross town and took the 2 train toward the Franklin Av. stop. One thing I did not factor into my trip was that it would be running local. Sigh. Just have to make it into the corral by 6:40. I spent the next hour eyeing the clock feverishly. The train was PACKED- post Union Square I think runners had serious difficulty squeezing in and by the time we were coasting under Brooklyn, forgetaboutit.
We emerged from underground to sunlight and police and many more runners who had woken up at god knows what time. Security was quick and painless and I didn’t have a bag to check so I’m not quite sure what that looked like. Then into the corrals.
And we waited. And stretched. And tried to decipher the bathroom lines. Some announcements no one could really understand. Someone sang the national anthem and tore it up (good tore it up). And we were off.
As foreshadowed by two lost metro cards (I’m always losing things in Brooklyn,) this would not be my race. What follows will be a description of things slowly and agonizingly falling apart for me, beginning with the Garmin.
As we past the final front corals and came upon a turn, we went over a timing mat which I mistakenly thought was the start. Unfortunately, the start was about 30 seconds later. Beep. Boop. Blep. I tried to quickly fix my watch, but it was too late and I knew that was that. I would have a “rough” idea of my time but arrrrrgggggggghhhhhh.
The first 5 miles had a lot of spectators and the most up-hills ( and very gentle hills, at that). I knew the first half took place predominantly in the park, and that is probably so eager to get out of the park. And that is probably why the park seemed to take forever. But I was generally on track with my time goals.
And considering I accidentally drank all of my handheld water before the race and actually started with an empty bottle and had to fill it up at the early water stations, that ain’t half bad.
But by now it was starting to feel pretty hot and humid.
Lets start some tunes, I thought. Failboat city, up ahead: ipod was on shuffle, when it shouldn’t have been. Goodbye carefully crafted playlist, see you next time.
And then my stomach kicked into high gear. The bad gear. I had some shotblocks which I typically eat about three every four miles. I took some around mile 5, but that would be it for the day. I felt downright acidic in my throat, then in my stomach, and floating back to my throat. The last four miles I had to spontaneously stop for 20 seconds here, or 20 seconds there because this feeling was making me feel nauseous and I didn’t really feel like running over to the grassy medium to throw up next to some unsuspecting spectator. My goal time 1:55- 1:58 slipped further and further out of reach. After 1:30:00, I had three miles left. Perfectly doable- on any other day. I knew I probably wouldn’t PR due to my foot injury (4-3 weeks out) and my marathon recovery (2-1 weeks out), but I definitely didn’t want to PW (personal worst).
Like I said, this would not be my race.
Finally, finally, we are getting close. We pass the 800m sign! And I am hurting severely. My stomach issue is killing me and because of it I haven’t been hydrating or fueling like I should have been and the heat and humidity is gearing up to take me down. Seriously. The last 400m were one step above survival mode. Instead of kicking in everything I had and finishing triumphantly, I was employing the Finish-Chute-Emergency-Procedure. Step one: focus/ take it very easy, don’t throw up/pass out. Step two: don’t walk.
I executed both steps, just barely, and just like that it was over.
As they funneled us towards medals and photo-ops and underneath women on stilts (I was so shot I literally could not process the people on stilts), my only thought was whether I could beg someone for a bag before I was sick on their nice boardwalk.
It passed. And I began to hear several others around me. Two people talking about how they had bad races. One man saying how he had to chase down a police officer to help another runner.
Don’t get me wrong, the Brooklyn Half Marathon was awesome. It was beautiful, well-organized, energetic, and festive. It was also massive, and apparently the largest ½ marathon in the U.S. to date. And I know plenty of the 25,000 runners or so absolutely killed it.
But for me, this race was brutal. My body fought me every step of the way.
And that’s ok. PW? PW. There’s a first time for everything, for better or for worse. And it may literally be a worst for now, but it will make future runs better.
Brooklyn 1, Sam 0.
It’s safe to say, in 2015 I plan on evening that score.