Usually, the first Media Challenge race of the season is my fastest because the conditions are the most hospitable. The least hot, the least humid. I was confident I’d be speedy in race #1, not only because of the weather, but also because of the two superb workouts I’d had this weekend, plus Tuesday off as a rest day. I was hoping for proof, or for a reminder, of what I have to look forward to in October in the marathon. Yes well. Humility is a helpful on race day, too, right?
Or rather: Doesn’t it just suck when the rest of life rises up to fuck with our running?
I work in book publishing, which affords me the specific pleasures of a constant supply of free books, of working with lettered and intelligent humans, and of racing in the Media Challenge Series every summer. I work in book publishing, which means I submit myself to lower salary norms, long hours spent working for little return, an insecure environment due to a changing consumer landscape (ebooks), and, once a year, the grueling schmooze-a-thon of Book Expo America.
I used to loooove BEA. Parties! Cute men in nerdy glasses! Free books! Celebrity authors! Parties! Cute men in… okay okay. Nowadays, I strategically maneuver my way through BEA to avoid as many phonies, succubus, aspiring authors, and exes (oops) as possible. This means my appointment book is pretty fucking lean (yo). (Who has time for meaningless or pointless? Certainly not me.) However, Wednesday (yesterday, a.k.a. race day) I could not avoid making an appearance, since I had numerous authors there I needed to dote upon. (If anyone requires references as to my doting abilities, just ask. I know it seems far-fetched but actually I am quite skilled at making others feel like they are the only person On.The.Planet.) What did all this doting mean, though, for my race? It meant there was no race, not for me. It meant that my legs were completely thrashed by the cement slab I had to walk upon all day long, and when it came time to race, my legs had morphed into that upon which they had been standing for six hours.
The Jacob Javitz Center is hell for racers. New York City Marathoners, take note! Do not belabor your spin around the Marathon Expo; it will needlessly exhaust your body.
As I walked to The-Building-Formerly-Known-As-Tavern on the Green, I couldn’t deny the complete malaise that had overcome my body. We’re talking zero zip. I thought perhaps I would catch a second wind once the Go was given–that usually happens–but then thought again perhaps not, since I couldn’t even walk quickly to the race (forget jogging, or even wogging).
The race definitely happened–without me. Oh, I was on the course, but my legs did not show up. They were on strike, having filled themselves with some sort of leaden substance that made it impossible to move quicker than a 10-minute-per-mile pace. Frankly, I don’t blame them–I would be pissed too if the rest of my body made me take the brunt of the abuse from a concrete floor for the entire day. At the start, I reined myself in down the hill because every step was so jarring I thought my teeth would fall out. After that I proceeded gingerly. And that’s about it. I never felt that tightness in my chest from pushing so hard I could hardly breathe. I never pumped my arms. A few times during the two laps of Central Park’s lower loop, I thought about walking (tra la). At one point I spent an inordinate amount of time politely chatting to a shirtless runner who had pulled up beside me, that was odd yet at least distracting (the conversation; I did not glance at his torso). Shirtless running: I remain conflicted. Rarely is it a good thing for anyone other than the shirtless one.
So, I finished the race in what might be a personal worst. 3.5 miles run in 34:13, average pace 9:41. Fastest mile 9:04; slowest mile 9:58.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve been upset over race results, but this is one of them. Fucking A I run my training runs faster than this! I ran 8 miles at a faster clip just this Sunday! Do over, do over! Oh wait–there IS a do-over, in 2 weeks, it’s called Media Challenge #2. See you there, folks.