2014 New Jersey Marathon Recap

Sunday was a great day – and so close to being perfect (had I run just 27 seconds faster, I’d have a shiny new PR…so close, yet so far!). It was great for so many reasons – I ran smart. I didn’t bonk(!!).  I walked away with lessons learned, things to maintain and a couple of things to work on. And most importantly, I had fun.

The more I race, the more I understand that a great race doesn’t always mean the fastest time on the clock. It’s about looking back on the race with ZERO regrets or saying I should have or could have done this. This was one of those races for me – something I haven’t experienced in the marathon since 2011. It gave me back confidence about myself, my ability to pace properly, to push hard when things got hard and to not give up.

Race Week

Before I get into the details of the race, I want to share some of what went on in the days leading up to the marathon. I did several things differently and plan to continue these for the next goal race:

  • Sleep: This was huge for me. After a string of poor night’s of sleep (Easter, Boston Marathon), I focused on getting 7+ hours of straight sleep from Monday through race day. I also made sure I was in bed by 930pm which allowed me to get up at 5am and feel energized and rested. By Thursday, I was getting up at 4:45am without an alarm, so it made for an easier transition on race day. In the past, I would only focus on sleep a couple of night’s before the race and often never felt totally rested on race morning.
  • Nutrition: I began carbo loading on Friday but never went overboard, counted carbs or stressed out about what I was eating. I substituted carbs in a few meals (lunch on Friday and Saturday was pasta) but also made sure I was getting enough protein (Friday night: steak + sweet potatoes, Saturday night: pasta + salmon). My snacks were carb-focused – super pretzels (frozen ones) with lots of salt on top and bread with coconut oil and peanut butter. Last spring, I didn’t carbo-load very much at all and then in the fall, went to the other extreme and didn’t eat anything except carbs for four days. I think I finally found a happy medium.
  • Salt Increase: I increased my salt intake a bit in the days leading up to the race. Mostly just adding an extra few shakes of salt on meals but also drinking Powerade Zero and Nuun more often than I usually do.
  • Taper: I used a two week taper (as I often do) but included a long 10 mile tempo (12 total miles) 10 days out. Had to do this one on the treadmill due to my husband’s work schedule. Ran the 10 miles at a 6:59 pace (with .5-1.0% incline). Two days later, I did my last double digit workout – 10 miles with 6 at goal pace. From there, I really cut back on mileage. Race week included four days off from running (Monday because of the Boston Marathon, Tuesday because I was exhausted from little sleep the previous few days and then Thursday and Saturday). In the past, I felt so tied down to running a certain number of days or certain mileage leading up to the race (my own doing). This time, I decided to give myself more rest.
  • Feet up day prior: I did very little the afternoon before the race. My husband and I spent a few hours cleaning the upstairs level of our house in the AM (vacuuming, dusting, folding laundry) but tried to spend the rest of the day sitting down as much as I could. Usually, I am heading to the expo, walking and spending a lot of time on my feet. I made a concerted effort to rest (as much as I could!).

Race Morning

Alarm went off at 4:50. I drank a little bit of coffee, got dressed, ate 3/4 bagel (plain) around 5:30 and was in the car with my sister, Nicole, by 5:50. We hit no traffic and were in the parking lot at the start by 6:40 where we stayed until about 7:15.

At the one hour mark (7am), I drank 14 oz of water mixed with a packet of Generation uCAN. I had planned on eating a bit more (had a large pretzel and rest of bagel with me) but felt pretty full from the drink We made one stop at the port-o-potties (no waiting in line – bonus of a smaller race!) and then made our way to the corrals. By 735am, I was in the corral trying to stay warm – it was around 45 degrees but felt like closer to 40 degrees with the windchill.

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Wearing 3 layers over my tank

I stretched a bit in the corral but mostly just stayed sitting while I sipped water. It was so fun to have the company of my sister during that time (she was on the other side of the gate) – we were chatting and joking and it made the 25 or so minutes fly by (and with no time to stress or get nervous!).

Then it was time to strip down and get ready to start. Race outfit: Saucony Ruched LX Shorts, Saucony Velo Print Tank, PRO Compression Marathon Socks, Saucony Guide 6s, Sparkly Soul Wide Headband

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(*Note: all splits are based on my garmin, which says I ran 26.55 miles, so they were off just a bit)

The B corral started a minute after A corral, so at 8:03, the gun went off for us and we were off.  Mile 1 felt like my warmup mile for my long runs. My legs felt a bit tired but I reminded myself to treat it as a long run – start slow, warmup and then pick up the pace – so I held back. Mile 1: 7:38

Right after mile 1, the 3:15 pace group caught up to me and I decided to hang with them. I knew their pace might be just a touch faster than I wanted to go, but I also knew that we’d have a tailwind for a good number of miles and figured if I could stick with them through mile 20 or so, I could use the group to help break the wind for the last 7-8 miles. The runners really thin out after the break from the half marathoners (who started before us) and didn’t want to try to fight the wind alone on the way back. I’ve never run with a pace group before but figured it was worth a shot. It was really nice to just follow the leader for a few miles – not think about pace or worry about going too fast. It worked for a few miles, but we started having some quick splits (I think we were a bit behind on the pace) and I felt like I was pushing too hard this soon in the race, so I decided to let them go around mile 5. Miles 2-5: 7:21, 7:23, 7:16, 7:13, 

For the next few miles, my goal was to keep it steady and in control – nothing too fast. It was freeing to not be able to see my pace. I didn’t feel like a slave to my garmin and obsess over the splits every minute or so like I often do. I just had to focus on running what felt comfortable. But it was also good to get updates every mile so I could keep myself on track. I had a few moments during these miles where I questioned how I was going to keep this up for another 18 or 20 miles. Each time I did, I told myself to slow down and enjoy the experience. It should not feel like work at mile 6 of a marathon. I should be having fun. And each time, it made those negative thoughts go away. (I took my first gel during this stretch – mile 5.5.)  Miles 6-10: 7:21, 7:25, 7:29, 7:21, 7:19. 

Just after mile 10, I spotted my boys, husband, mom and sis on the left side of the road (during a turn). I had no intention of going over to them, but when I saw the boys, it wasn’t even a decision – my body just started running over for a hug and kiss. Mile 11: 7:24

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Making a detour =)

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After seeing my family, my focus was on getting to the half and then to the turnaround just past mile 18.5. I knew that the wind was behind me at this point and I wanted to use it. I kept telling myself that the wind was pushing me, that it was doing the work and that I was saving energy for the last 7 or 8 miles. I fought the urge to speed up despite feeling good. Steady and controlled was the goal. I took a GU just before mile 13 – a little later than I had planned but my stomach seemed a bit quesy so I pushed it off as long as I could.

I hit the half (according to official time) in 1:38 and was giddy with how I was running and most importantly, how I felt. There have been so many races lately where I hit the half and already feel depleted and questioning how I would sustain the pace. Not on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong – I was working for the pace, but it wasn’t an all out effort. I was still running consistent miles and they felt good! I saw Ashley, Danielle and Ruth during this stretch and it gave me a HUGE boost of energy! Miles 12-18: 7:20, 7:24, 7:28, 7:24, 7:25, 7:16, 7:29

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Half of mile 19 was with the wind, the other half was into the wind. The moment I turned around, I could feel the wind and knew it was going to be a fight for the last 7 miles. I felt like I was sprinting and my pace had already slowed down a bit. Mile 19: 7:31

The next 7 miles were torture. I was working SO hard but at times felt like I was barely moving. I was disappointed that I felt like I just couldn’t go any faster BUT was happy to still be moving. And it was a blessing to not be able to see my pace because I am fairly certain I would have lost so much motivation to continue the moment I saw my pace start with an “8”.

My plan was to fuel every 5.5-6 miles but after taking the GU at mile 12.5, I had zero appetite. I wasn’t cramping or in pain – just had an uneasy stomach, so decided to not test it with anything except liquids. Surprisingly, I didn’t feel depleted – my energy levels were still high – which I think is from drinking Generation uCAN before the race start. I decided to walk through the water point during mile 22 to force myself to drink a few cups of gatorade – I knew I needed the calories and salt (I had a layer of salt on my body/face). Miles 20-22: 7:48, 8:04, 8:23

By mile 23, I was fully on the pain train. But, I still felt good…well, as good as you can feel at mile 23 of a marathon. I was in pain, but I was smiling at and high-fiving spectators. Any time that doubt started to creep in or thoughts of stopping to walk, I reminded myself that it was just a 5k left…or just 2 miles. I told myself that the pain in my legs was just like the pain I love on a recovery run the day after a long run. I knew that a PR was going to be a long shot based on some of my recent splits and I came to terms with it before I even crossed the finish line. I wasn’t getting a PR but I felt like I was finally ending the poorly executed marathons chapter.  I also got to see Ashley, Danielle and Ruth again!! Miles 23-25  8:01, 8:06, 8:12, 8:05.

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When I hit the 25 mile marker, I told myself that now was the time to push as hard as I could. If I could run the last 1.2 miles at around 7:30 pace, I could PR. I saw my family again just before mile 26 and barely had the energy to acknowledge them. I was pushing as hard as I could.  Mile 26: 8:05

The pain that is Mile 26 of  a marathon

The pain that is Mile 26 of a marathon

I was with two other runners for the last mile or so and their presence alone pushed me. I wanted to stay with the guy ahead of me (in blue, above) and forced myself to keep up. Right after seeing my family, we were on the boardwalk and I could see the finish line. It was exhilarating to be racing to the finish line again – not walking, not sad about how the last 26.2 miles went. But pushing my body hard and having my body respond. I was in pain and I was happy. Last .55 – 4:20 (7:52 pace)

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THIS was the race I needed. For the past 6 months, I felt like the fire that I was used to feeling in my stomach was gone. That burning desire to go after those my crazy dreams. Philly was a sucker-punch to my stomach. Not because I missed my goal time. But because it opened the door for doubt to creep in. I stopped believing in myself. Which sucks. Sure, I was training for LA and then NJ, but the excitement and happiness was gone. And most times, I felt like I was just going through the motions. This race, while not a PR, or the time I thought I could run (3:17-3:18 or so), closed that doubt door again and brought back my motivation to train my a$$ off for the next race (which I will discuss very soon!).

And the sweet taste of redemption doesn’t hurt either =)

Thank you, again, for your support and encouragement the last few months. Excited to take some time off (from marathon training) and focus on shorter distances for the next few months before turning my attention back to the marathon.

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    33 thoughts on “2014 New Jersey Marathon Recap

    1. Congratulations on such a great race! I love, love, LOVE the picture of you running over to your boys 😀 It’s incredible to read the recap of your performance when running by feel and not using your Garmin, it’s amazing. So glad you were able to rebound and get your confidence back!
      Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen recently posted..New Jersey half marathon recapMy Profile

    2. Tears in my eyes!! Sounds like we’ve been battling the same lack of confidence! I’m so glad this race brought that back for you!

    3. So happy for you – getting that confidence back and especially conquering the race that was tough for you last year must feel great! Can’t wait to hear what is next!

    4. I could not be happier for you. That course (especially with the wind) was not as easy as it appeared at surface value. You rocked that and I am confident your next marathon will be a huge PR.
      Hollie recently posted..Dating a RunnerMy Profile

    5. I LOVE your race recaps. They are so detailed and really make you feel as part of the race. Truth be told, reading about this particular one was a bit sad for me, as I was supposed to be there as well but had to defer five weeks ago due to my injured tibia. That said, I couln’t be happier for you! One can really feel your joy in every word you wrote. Also, I can’t believe how happy and awesome you look in every single picture! Huge congrats to you!

    6. Congrats on the great race! It’s so refreshing to read a recap about a happy race simply because the experience went well (esp with the last several miles straight into the wind). I’m glad you were about to kick the doubt demons to the curb and get some motivation back!
      Amber recently posted..Make It HurtMy Profile

    7. Great recap!!! I have to say, I LOVE the picture of you running up to your boys- made me tear up, the look on your face is just pure momma love 😉 Beautiful moment! I am SO glad to hear that you have your confidence back, and it was awesome to hear a positive recap from you. Congratulations on your achievement!!!

    8. So happy for you! Congrats on a great race and thanks for the recap. Just got chosen in the Chicago marathon lottery so I will be channeling some of your positive energy and using your words of wisdom these next several months.

    9. Great recap and thank you for sharing your tips for the week leading up to race day! I can relate to doubt creeping in and it does suck. Recently, I ran a PR half and was so happy. Not because of my time but because I finally realized that doubt was sucking the energy out of me and that I am going to work on believing in myself more when it comes to racing. Can’t wait to hear about your next race plans, but in the meantime…enjoy yourself : )
      Jenn@Mark My Miles! recently posted..Life LatelyMy Profile

    10. What a great recap! It’s so refreshing to see how you properly tapered and rested prior to the race. SO many bloggers that are at your elite athletic capacity make me feel like rest is a bad thing and you are able to confirm the alternative. Way to be smart and have a fabulous race!
      Tracy Carson recently posted..Showered with Love!My Profile

    11. Great recap and congrats on running a fantastic race. I am interested in the fact that you had protein – 2/3 days prior to race day as I’m thinking the reason I bonk at 40k is lack of fuel. Carb loading alone is not working for me. I’ll use your example before my next marathon. Thanks!

    12. Amazing recap! Thanks for sharing what you did differently leading up to the marathon. I think your taper plan was spot on. I am still trying to figure out the “perfect taper” which probably doesn’t exist since each training cycle is different. I tend to over-rest I think with a 3 week taper, but for my fall marathon will definitely be trying a 2 week like you described. NJ marathon will always be a special memory for me (2013) since it was my first marathon and BQ. You look great in the photos! Really happy for you :)
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Seizing the (Free) Moment or Just Obsessive Runner Behavior?My Profile