ING New York City Marathon 2013: Race Strategy

In the last few days before NYC, it seemed like potential-catastrophes were waiting for me nearly every day—just stupid shit that, any other time, I probably wouldn’t do, like, ya know, cutting myself shaving my legs so badly that I could feel the stinging 12+ hours later (insert fear of amputation here), or cutting my toenails and inadvertently taking off half of one (insert fear of… toe amputation here), ya know, things that fall under the self-inflicted-bodily-damage-that-would-seriously-implicate-a-marathon-performance category. With the controlled chaos that is the backdrop to my life right now, I felt like NYC was almost an afterthought for those 21 days between 10/13 and 11/3. I kept running and training immediately after 10/13 because I knew I had another mary coming up soon, but what I wanted to do in said mary was anyone’s guess.

In the final 10 days leading up to the race, I had no idea what I wanted to do at NYC. Chicago was my goal race, and though I was (and am) incredibly, incredibly happy about the PR, those 6 seconds stung and pissed me off enough that I thought I should try again to go sub-3:20.

I didn’t want to be greedy, but I knew that I could do it. I could feel it, my workouts pointed to it, and the idiotic and novice mistakes I made in Chicago cost me the time I wanted—not because the fitness wasn’t there. And? Probably most importantly? Even if I hesitated to admit it, I had physiologically recovered from Chicago. I don’t know how, I wouldn’t necessarily advise anyone to do what I did, but I just somehow knew (felt?) that there was still something left, that some cards were still in my mary 2013 hand that I needed to play before saying “enough.”

Going into NYC, I knew the course was decidedly different, if not also significantly more challenging, than Chicago, and that a super-tight 3 week turn-around time from race day to race day wouldn’t necessarily be in my favor…but my interest was piqued. Maybe this is denial, or arrogance, or something else entirely, but something was up, an idea that I couldn’t shake. For the months leading up to my Chicago-NYC dance, the goal was always to work in Chicago and play in NYC; hell, I was even entertaining the idea of not wearing a watch in NYC and just shooting for a sub-4. In fact, I distinctly remember in Chicago that I had begun bargaining with myself, saying if you work your ass off here, NYC doesn’t matter.

But by about Wednesday of race week, 10/30, I knew that I was going to try again and go for it. Some good conversations with a handful of run buddies, as well as my frequent ruminations about the idea during runs in those final ten days, set me over the edge.

I burned my mothereffin’ boats yet again.

Once I actually started to verbalize this goal, whatever fear or intimidation or thoughts of Erin?! What the hell are you doing?! immediately disappeared; strangely enough, it was as though a burden was suddenly lifted off me, a burden that I had placed there all by myself and that no one actually cared about but me. It suddenly became a fact of life, not a scary or terrifying idea, just something that I was going to be doing in NYC on Sunday morning, with 45,000 of my new best friends, and to an audience of a million strangers lining the city’s streets. It was just there, something that I needed to do before partying with my Bootlegger buddies (#BRC) in Manhattan Sunday afternoon and evening.

For what it’s worth, I have never thought of attempting to break a marathon PR (on a fast or challenging course) like this before.

Never.

In a fast and furious text message exchange with Austin Friday morning, when I was on a bus en route to the expo to meet Corey and Lynton, I finally put to words what I had been mulling over in the week leading up to NYC but hadn’t yet really said:

 I’ve been waffling for a while and finally was just like…dude…fuck it. No point to hold myself back here for fear of ____ (insert BS reason here). The training is there, I’m recovered, I know I can do it, and I know I can run tactically and strategically on a course like this that requires it. Maybe that’s arrogance or naivete or a combination therein, but I won’t know I can do this until I try (again). Run and race and live without regrets, ya know.

 I guess I finally realized that I have this awesome opportunity again, and all the variables are in my favor, so I’d be a fool not to go with it and see what happens.”

So. That was the plan.

16 thoughts on “ING New York City Marathon 2013: Race Strategy”

  1. I’m with you here. Never really understood about running races, especially marathons, just for fun with no regards to time. If I’m not trying to run faster than the last time I was out there, I’d rather not be running.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. This was new territory to me. Last time I did marathons in quick succession, the goal was just to “have fun” and not anything more tactical… and definitely not to try to PR. A marathon seems like a long time to run just for the hell of it.

  2. I can feel where you were coming from. I don’t think I’ve ever purely run a race just for “fun”. If I have, it has only been for~2/3 of a race, there always has always been a chunk of a race that I try and “race”. As long as you were not injured prior to NYC, why not see what you can do? Looking forward to finding out in Part 2!

    1. This is fairly new territory to me, Pete. I could probably point to 50-75% of my race history and say that they were just for fun. Weird how paradigms shift sometimes…

  3. I knew/felt the same when I decided to run Dallas after Chicago in 2010. The turnaround wasn’t as quick (8 weeks versus 3), but something told me despite conventional wisdom that my body and mind would show up ready to roll. It was totally worth it.

    1. I agree with you, Daniel. Conventional wisdom and every bit of rationality told me that I was taking an enormous chance, but it just seemed like my mind was telling my body that it knew what it was doing.

  4. I’m also intrigued to read the conclusion, and since I’m guaranteed entry into NYC next year due to Sandy (I deferred to do Chicago this year), the “Chicago-NYC dance” sounds equal parts awesome and scary.

  5. I think I took a page out of your book the other day — I was cutting my toenails the other day, and clipped a toenail I thought was ready to fall off. I only realized after starting to clip it off that it wasn’t quite ready to part with my toe. We’ll just leave it at that.

    Also, I love how your plan finally came to words while you were texting me. :)

    1. Austin! Yes! That text flurry we had was a turning point. I think that was when I finally exhaled and just let it go and put it out there. You were a huge help to me for this race; I can’t thank you enough.

      I also forgot to include that I almost sent my Garmin through the washing machine earlier in the week leading up to the race… though a mangled toenail probably would have been more worrisome… :)

  6. the last time you linked that “set the boats on fire” article it really stuck with me. been thinking about it quite a bit lately, and honestly think it’s the key to believing in yourself. cherish that share.

    and the taper tip-toeing around…yes, guilty of it myself this week. already bruised the hell out of my left calf walking and had what could have been a bloody massacre with a tree saw that my husband left lying face up in the garage this morning. wooo, saw my life flash before my eyes there!

    can’t wait to hear about the race!

    1. Yikes, Britt! Man, I’m glad there wasn’t a tree saw in the mix for me because it surely wouldn’t have ended well. SO stoked for you for Naperville!!!!

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