I wish I could tell you all that today’s race was perfect and wonderful and that I have a shiny new PR.
Sorry. That’s not the recap you’re getting.
Today’s race was my roughest one yet — but rest assured, you’re about to get all the lovely details.
Porta Potties are involved.
Last night I had a normal dinner. I didn’t feel the need to go crazy with carbo loading (for once), so I stuck with a piece of fish and some veggies.
I was in bed by 10 pm and asleep by, well, 10 pm. I didn’t sleep great, thanks to my neighbors having an all-hours screamfest in the courtyard right outside my window, but I did get a sufficient amount of sleep.
I was up at the ripe hour of 4:15 am, ready to follow my pre-race ritual:
- Eat granola bar
- Drink half a glass of water
- Do 200 crunches
- Lather up with BodyGlide
- Figure out what to do with hair
- Put race clothes on
- Pin bib and attach D-tag
- Smile, take photo, get out the door
Plus many bathroom trips. Naturally.
I was out the door at 5:26 to meet my new friend Donnie (we met on the Metro after the National Half in D.C. and soon found out we were neighbors — random!) and Ben. We shared a cab to Prospect Park, where the race would start.
It was so hazy this morning, and Prospect Park looked eerie before all the fog lifted.
All week my stomach has been in rough shape. I don’t know if it’s stress-induced or an oncoming Crohn’s flare-up, but either way it hasn’t been fun.
So going into today’s race I was extra nervous. I feared that at any point my stomach would start churning and I’d be rushing for a bathroom. I’ve never had to stop during a race and I didn’t want to start today.
I ate fine last night, and I spent plenty of time using the bathroom before leaving my apartment this morning. I still knew I would want to hit up the Porta Potties before the race though.
Luckily we made it to the park plenty early, so I got into one of the many long lines and eventually got my turn in the bathroom.
No toilet paper.
I didn’t get to go.
So I kind of just gave up. I didn’t want to jump back in line and wait for a different “bathroom.” I needed to get in my corral, even though I knew “not going” might prove to be a problem. I hoped that the uneasiness in my stomach was just pre-race jitters and that it would go away once I started running and found my groove.
I got into my corral with Donnie and as I tried to keep my body loose, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I didn’t squeeze in one last bathroom trip.
If at any point this gets to be too much information, you can skip to the end, but the toilet talk continues for at least a little bit more of this recap. Sorry. That’s my life.
The National Anthem went off right on schedule and soon I was crossing the start line, ready to run.
I wasn’t looking to PR (personal record) today, for the first time in my racing career. Because I’ve run so few races, I’ve always PR’d. I kind of knew that wouldn’t happen today, especially after emailing Coach Cane yesterday.
I asked him if I should be going for a PR in Brooklyn, and I asked what he thought about my current training runs.
He told me We agreed that I would use today’s race as a strong long training run, and that I shouldn’t go crazy trying to set a new record. (In my mind that basically meant run like Hell, try to PR, see what happens, but try really hard to make Coach proud.)
His plan for me was to hold back in the first [hilly] half, then power through the second [totally long, flat and boring] half of the course trying to pass people.
I felt awesome for the first three miles. Yay!
I loved running in Prospect Park because it was unfamiliar. I didn’t know when the hills were coming and was excited to see all the fans out cheering. I was surprised at the decent amount of people out to cheer for a 7 am race!
The second loop in Prospect Park wasn’t so fun. My pace stayed fast — I hovered between an 8:15 and a 7:30 pace — and I tried to stay right around 8-8:15 minute miles, which I knew I could hang onto for the duration of the race.
But then, it happened.
My stomach went from calm to crap.
Physically, my body started to stress out. My stomach got all knotty and I knew this wasn’t good.
Mentally, I went into a panic.
Do I stop? Do I try to power through? Seven miles is a long way to “power through…”
Suddenly I found myself going from really enjoying a new course to frantically scanning the view ahead for toilets.
I continued running through mile 8, at which point I finally convinced myself that it was in my best interest to stop. I didn’t necessarily want to lose the time, but my pace had dropped considerably and I just couldn’t find my groove with a stomach on the brink of something bad.
I ended up stopping at mile 9. There were no lines at the Porta Potties, so I dashed in. It wasn’t pretty, but at the very least I felt a huge mental distraction being lifted. I could go back into the race focusing on my run rather than on my icky health.
The hardest part wasn’t stopping — it was starting up again.
I was shocked by how quickly my legs tightened up during those few minutes I was in that quaint little makeshift bathroom.
It took a little while to find my stride again.
Mile 9 and 10 went pretty well. I still didn’t feel totally relieved, but I was happy to be running again.
Then it happened…again.
I was so annoyed at this point. I couldn’t believe that I was going to have to stop for a second time.
By this point, I knew my hopes of PRing were long gone, and I also knew that with a second stop I’d lose my sub-1:50 time goal.
I also knew that, again, if I tried to just “power through” I was going to be completely miserable.
So at mile 11, I made another stop.
It wasn’t pretty.
When I hopped back onto the course, I was determined to just get the next 2.1 miles over with. I put on my favorite songs and focused on the road ahead.
I tried not to get discouraged by the swarms of people passing me, but I just couldn’t get back to the pace I wanted to be at.
I was determined to finish with a smile, though, and I did.
Running that last strip on the boardwalk in Coney Island was so much fun. And honestly, once I lost sight of a PR or a time I wanted, I just kind of let myself enjoy the run as best I could.
(When I told Coach Cane that I took a photo as I neared the finish line he shook his head and said, “Oh Ali, you’re killing me!” So I probably won’t try to do that again. More running, less picture taking. Noted. Thanks, Coach.)
I crossed the finish line and forced a smile.
I felt frustrated. It’s so discouraging to train so hard and work so diligently toward a goal and then to have an outside factor mess with it.
Case in point: I’ve been busting my butt already working with Coach Cane, and I want to keep improving, but then Crohn’s Disease swoops in and basically says, “Nope, sorry, not today, Ali. Haha, sucker.”
It happens though. Not every race day can be a perfect race day.
I still finished.
And I finished with a time I’m actually pretty happy with (1:52:14), all things considered!
I ate a post-race apple and had a few bites of a bagel (They had the French Toast ones at the finish today, but silly me, I grabbed a plain one!) — and then I spotted Donnie, who PR’d!
It was so nice having company on the long subway ride back to Manhattan. I spent a lot of time analyzing how I felt at every point of the race.
If I could do it again, I’d jump out of the toilet paper-less Porta Potty, get back in line for one that was stocked, and get that one last bathroom trip in before the race.
And that may not have even made a difference. Who knows.
Instead of thinking of all the different potential situations, I’ll just say I gave it my best today. I didn’t give up. I kept running. And I smiled at the finish.
I have another chance to PR in June at the Fairfield Half Marathon. There will always be another race. You will always get another shot. And you can always learn something from every race, whether good or bad.
My day didn’t stop there though.
After going from Manhattan out to the depths of Brooklyn, then back to Manhattan, it was off to yet another borough: the Bronx.
We were filming another round of Run For The Rabbit commercials today, which was so much fun. I feel so lucky to be part of this program and I love the crew I get to work with.
We filmed in Van Cortlandt Park, which was new to me.
It’s also really far away.
So after being on set for four hours, then driving back to my apartment, I’m beyond exhausted. I spent way too many hours in a sports bra today.
My takeaway from today? Not all races are dream races. You can train your heart out, but you can’t control everything.
That’s my story.
All that being said, this is clearly why I’m raising money for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation with JackRabbit. While I was running — and Porta Potty searching — I just kept wishing there was a magic pill I could take that would fix this issue.
There isn’t one today.
There may not be one tomorrow.
But I’m hoping that by the time I finish the Hamptons Marathon in September — and I will finish that marathon — we’ll be a little bit closer to a cure.
Last note: Congratulations to all the racers today, in Brooklyn and beyond. Whether you had a kickass race, a mediocre race or the worst race of your life, I hope you’re celebrating tonight. Preferably with wine and a Celine Dion karaoke session.
Or maybe that’s just what I’ll be doing…