Alternate title: Speed work makes you faster. But only if you actually do it.
Alternate-alternate-title: There’s a first time for everything.
Alternate-alternate-alternate title: If that tree grows in Brooklyn, it will be because I fertilized it.
So I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape going into this race. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d run a solid half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace a couple of months ago, but since then, I’d pretty much been cruising. No speed work. Decent mileage, but a total lack of quality work.
But nonetheless, as I hopped nervously in the start corral, I thought to myself: well, maybe I haven’t lost any fitness.
And I still believed that for the first few miles:
Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:24
Mile 4: 7:17
Circling Prospect Park, I thought about how I felt during the first four miles of Shamrock. In that race, it felt like I was running easy. This…didn’t exactly feel like that.
But as I would discover, that was the least of my problems.
Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 7:37
Mile 8: 8:11
As I headed in to mile five, two things happened:
One, my pace slowed as I headed up the dreaded Prospect Park Hill for the second time. Fine. But, more concerning…
Two, my tummy started to gurgle ominously.
Let me say that I’m generally not one to have running-related digestive issues. Sure, I can obliterate a port-o-potty with the best of ’em on race morning, but I’ve never had to stop during a race to use the bathroom.
There’s a first time for everything.
Somewhere around mile 6, I decided to make a pit stop. It made me cringe, the thought of pulling off the course, waiting for the plastic bathroom’s occupant to vacate, and passing precious seconds doing my thing.
But you know what really killed me? Getting in to that plastic bathroom and not being able to do my thing.
Gah. Frustrated and still full of shit, I headed back on to the course. I hauled ass, trying to make up for lost time. But my mile split was on the slow side of 8-minutes.
And with that, I headed out of shady Prospect Park and on to the long haul down to Coney Island.
It was the beginning of the end.
Mile 9: 8:17
Mile 10: 8:24
Mile 11: 8:12
Mile 12: 8:19
I had a hard time getting my pace back after that pit stop. I was mad that I’d stopped during a race – something I’d never done before! – and still hadn’t managed to relieve the rumbling roil of discomfort that was brewing in my bowels. At some point I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal 7:30 pace, and I plodded along Ocean Avenue, seething.
For a couple of miles, it seemed that my tummy-ache had subsided, too.
Until somewhere around mile 10, when it returned with a vengeance.
Gurgling recommenced. And then the internal spasms. And then…well, I needed to stop and take care of business. Like, now.
The only problem was that the next mile marker – and hence, the next possible location of a port-o-potty, was at least five minutes away. As I saw it, I had three options:
- Attempt to hobble at a near-walk while clenching things together until I found the next available toilet-like apparatus. Could be half a mile, could be longer.
- Pull off the course and find a place to let it go.
- Shit myself.
A grim situation, no doubt. But I knew what I had to do. So, on a wide boulevard lined with handsome brick brownstones, I ducked behind the widest tree truck I spotted and…well, you know.
There’s a first time for everything. And hopefully a last time.
Mile 13: 8:19
Mile 0.1 + tangent trash: 0.29 in 2:12 = 7:42 pace
Finish time: 1:45:22
Once I’d accepted the indignity of what I’d done, I found myself facing the last mile of the race! Well, I guess that’s the silver lining to having major digestive issues and stopping to crap on a tree in the middle of a major metropolis. It’ll really distract you from the fact that you’re running a long race!
I thought about trying to make myself hammer that last mile, but honestly I just didn’t see the point. I’d lost a ton of time to dealing with stupid shit (literally) and what did it matter if I ran 1:44 or 1:45? In either case it was several minutes slower than it should have been.
So as I turned off of Ocean and on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, I just tried to enjoy the rest of the run.
Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.
I would say there was a lesson to be learned here, but I’m really not sure what I did to piss my intestines off so royally before this race. Late-ish pizza dinner the night before, perhaps? Dish soap in the coffee pot at the bodega where I stopped for a cup on the way to the race? Just bad luck and karma finally catching up to me? Who knows.
(I must say that I have a newfound appreciation for those who battle tummy issues on the regular while running and/or racing. Because damn, that is not a fun feeling.)
I’d hoped my spring half-marathon “season” would go out with a bang and a sub-1:38 performance. I have to admit that it’s a little funny that I crapped out – both literally and figuratively!
But honestly, even without the stomach issues, I’m not sure if I could have come in under 1:40. This race demonstrated that if I want to be a faster runner, I need to do speed work regularly – like I did before Shamrock. I can’t just coast along on base miles and expect improvement. In order to run faster, you have to practice running faster. Speed work works – but only if you actually do it.
For now, though, I’m happy to take my requisite recovery week, then shift to focusing on shorter races for the summer!
Because there are always bathrooms at the track. And I’m probably never going to have to worry about possibly crapping on myself during a 1500.