May 30, 2009

Out of the corner of my eye... Brooklyn Half-Marathon 2009

My eyes opened at 5:30 a.m. and focused on the clock. Okay, I can sleep another half an hour, which passed in a heartbeat. Out of bed, splash some water on my face, get dressed, inhale some albuterol from the nebulizer, wonder how today will go. My advice to a friend had been to run the mile you're in. Don't think about the whole distance, just concentrate on getting to the next mile marker. This trick works for lots of runners. Yet I found myself mulling over the second half of the course and getting apprehensive about it.

As I walked up to Prospect Park from my house, I sipped some coffee and went over the course in my head. The two loops of the park - no problem. I did that and more last weekend. But then would come a whole lot of flat road, with little shade - and it was already pretty warm out, even at 6:45. I wasn't worried about fluid or fuel - I had that down pat, with a bottle of Sustained Energy to carry, a caffeinated gel for mid-race, and recovery food and drink for after the race. About two miles from my house, I located the baggage truck and threw my pack in, then headed for the start line. And walked, and walked, and walked. Jesus these things are getting big. As soon as I saw a high enough concentration of brown bibs, I ducked under the tape and strained to hear the opening announcements. Useless, all the way at the back, like that.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a familiar shape - a little black zippered pouch. Then I identified the glucose meter in it and really turned toward the person beside me. I didn't get his name, but he was a type I diabetic and was checking his blood sugar on the spot. He used that to adjust his insulin pump. We talked quite a bit about insulin and diabetes and he had some great advice. He's seasoned at this sort of thing. I let him know that last night was my very first insulin shot and how it was so not a big deal like I thought it was going to be. He likes the pen, he says, but was also very enthusiastic about the pump. He showed me his and I am once again impressed by how far technology has come. This morning, I am no longer worried/depressed about this diabetes thing. I think I will handle it just fine.

We all finally got going. It was disturbing to us back-of-the-packers to make the first turn onto the loop and see runners going by already on their second lap! Grrr. Well, at least it was a downhill start - that really helped me warm up and build momentum. I did well in the park. In fact, I walked only four times in the park (the hill twice, of course), so I was having stretches of well over a mile w/ no walking. I was making good time, feeling pretty good, and generally my biggest problem was being too warm. Not quite warm enough to make me stop and take my shirt off, but I was sweating pretty heavily. The shade of the trees was very welcome. There was a nice breeze going, too, and generally things were going well.

I'd assumed the park would be hell, to tell the truth. Hills are hard, of course, and now we'd have overlapping runners for two full laps and a few hundred yards of a third, plus all the regular park-goers crossing the road. Turns out, it wasn't too bad.

Then I turned out of the park and onto Ocean Avenue. All of a sudden, I was back in the Bronx: I was faced with a long, straight, flat stretch of mostly unshaded road. Crap. I think I might have psyched myself out, because I really did have problems in this half of the race. At mile eight, my hips started up and at mile 10, my form fell apart. For the last 5K, I kept to a rhythm of running/walking light-to-light, which is to say about half and half at 200 or 300 yard intervals. It is surprising how fast miles can melt away even at that pace.

I also started taking note of who I was actually playing tag with. Several of us were basically at the same pace, whatever our ratios of walking/running, and these were the people I kept an eye on as we approached the turn onto Stillwell Ave. A few blocks and we were jogging up a short ramp to the boardwalk itself.

I should have been looking DOWN. I nearly went ass over teakettle, as I tripped over something. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a nail had worked itself loose and that's what had caught my foot. From that point on, the boardwalk and I were adversaries. It is in bad shape. Parks and Recreation aren't doing replacement maintenance fast enough. There was only a single 100 yard section that was anything like runnable, IMO. I couldn't believe this is the shit that Michelle runs on every day. I figured since her body was adapted to this springy, uneven, difficult mess that once she hit the boardwalk, she must have ramped up to her usual 9:30/mile pace and finished strong. Me, not so much.

I determined to put my back into the last 400 meters and finish well, but I had no idea how I'd have to work for it. As I began ramping up my speed - just a teeny bit mind you - I began picking off runners. But with 300 meters to go, I caught a blur out of the corner of my eye and glanced over. This short, dumpy little girl, who had been one of those to keep an eye on and who I thought I'd left permanently behind me, was at my side and edging ahead! Okay, I thought, you wanna race, let's race! I thought I could lose her by adding just a little bit of speed, but she stayed right with me, even getting ahead a pace. Every time I poured on more power, she added it, too. With about a hundred yards left, really running now, I determined to make her eat my dust and dug very deep, ignored the screaming hamstrings and gasping lungs, and hit the nitrous, putting it all into a near-sprint. Finally, I was able to get ahead of her and in those last few yards even picked off two more runners.

It was the hardest finish I've had in a couple years, I think, and the girl and I thanked each other for the boost. I headed for baggage, so I could get my recovery drink and nutrition bar. Wolfed those down, picked up some pretzels, found the beer island, and spent the next hour with my bare feet in the cool sand munching pretzels and sipping at a Guinness. Very well-earned. Then met up with Michelle & her posse and we had a light lunch at a Russian place.

Net time: 2:34:18. Far from my best - #14 or 15 of the 18 half-marathons I've done. But it was 15 minutes better than January's Manhattan Half, and less the 5 minutes slower than February's Bronx Half. I'll take that. And - not to brag - but I beat Michelle by 4 minutes.
Blood sugars today are an interesting, confusing story. 114 when I woke up, which ROSE over the course of the race to 146. However, five hours, a bag of pretzels, a beer, a couple ounces of vodak, and a salad later, and my blood sugar was DOWN to 68 - nearly hypoglycemic! How odd. Three hours after that, with nothing but a banana in my stomach, back up to a good 106. Bizarre.

Well, we'll see what happens when I eat my post-race reward meal: sushi. Judging from previous week's tracking sheets, my blood glucose will climb pretty high. But as of last night, I'm now using Novolog with the big evening meal and any muffins I might eat. My nutritionist has me starting small - 1 unit per 60 grams carbs. Okay, let's do this. I need to be able to process the carbs. I can't afford to lose any more weight. I need to GAIN weight and that's not going to happen unless I get my blood sugars under good control. Just a warning: this is probably going to be a popular topic in my posts for a while.


Samantha said...

I had sushi for dinner too! It was a nice reward. Enjoyed reading your write up of the day, I guess we really are much more used to the springy uneveness of the boards ;)

*beat you and michelle!* :p

Michelle said...

Dude you ran a great race. You beat me by 6 minutes. Just to be clear!!! :O)

HangryPants said...


Christie said...

Love your race report. It was great meeting you. Hopefully, we'll meet again.

The Laminator said...

First off nice race report. Enjoyed all your thoughts and details.

Second of all, I'm a pediatric diabetologist so I was more than interested to hear about your experiences with handling your diabetes.

I can tell just from your blood sugars that your regimen probably isn't very precise yet. I'm assuming you'r on Lantus/Novolog regimen? I think you need a bit more Lantus to cover your morning and a tighter ratio than 1:60, but i'm sure your nutritionist will work on you on that.

Anyway, great race. Nice way to push to the finish!

Jennifer J said...

Great recap, congrats!

I like that "play tag" analogy for trying to beat the folks running at the same pace/lumped in the same group.

Melanie Tait (Mel Tries to Run) said...

Hi there - I just found your blog. I'm so interested in reading about your running life! You sound like an absolute trooper - I love that you and thegirl challenged each other at the end. I have to admit when I'm nearing the end, I'm just wanting to finish. Can't wait to get to the point of wanting to beat someone :). All the best, Chris!

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