On I went, out of the wood, passing the man leading without knowing I was going to do so. Flip-flap, flip-flap, jog-trot, jog-trot, curnchslap-crunchslap, across the middle of a broad field again, rhythmically running in my greyhound effortless fashion, knowing I had won the race though it wasn't half over, won it if I wanted it, could go on for ten or fifteen or twenty miles if I had to and drop dead at the finish of it, which would be the same, in the end, as living an honest life like the governor wanted me to. -Alan Sillitoe, "Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner"

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Race Report: Get Outside on Governors Island

Okay, lemme be upfront about something: I was disinclined to like this race almost from the get-go.

When I first heard about it, I was excited.  Flat course!  Great views! I've never been to Governors Island!  Yay!  And then it started getting weirder... I registered early, only to find out that people who registered later, in August, got money off their registrations (so I was effectively penalized for registering early).  On top of that, the course has 15 turns.  Yes: 15 over 6 miles.  You turn nearly every third of a mile.  Better yet, they told us all to look at and memorize the course before getting there to avoid race day complications.  Better yet, getting there meant taking a ferry, and (inexplicably) once on the island the start is a 20 minute walk from the ferry dock - and the ferry would only make three trips that morning, so you could either get there ridiculously early or risk being late.

It got weirder.  After emailing us that it was a 20 minute walk, they updated the website to say it was a 40 minute walk to the start ("bring your bike") AND the website said that you should bring your own water bottle as the race was going sustainable.  Students would be selling water bottles as a fundraiser, and otherwise water would be provided in "re-filling stations."

And then I discovered that my one small ace in the hole - the fact that my subway line runs direct to the ferry dock - wasn't.  That train was running extremely limited service on the weekends and stopping two miles short of where I needed.  That meant transferring trains, which meant hassle.  Even if I wanted to take a cab, which would be prohibitively expensive (probably (~$35), there aren't any in my neighborhood.

I'll cut to the chase: I got to the subway station well before the train was scheduled to arrive at 6:05.  And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Thirty minutes later, I was still 45 minutes away from the ferry dock (if things went well, which they don't on a Sunday morning with the MTA) with no signs of the train and I was facing the very real possibility that I would miss the last ferry.  I gave up and went home.  After a few more hours of sleep, I went out for a recovery run.
No race. this is totally what happened instead. Me and the dog. Both tired. In bed.

I didn't need to do this race and in fact my legs were tired and my body was tired and I needed sleep more.  I think this is a sign.  I spent the spring and summer doing races that I was only half committed to, running them casually rather than racing, and I've gotten nothing out of it.  And in fact, my times have gotten worse.  I'm not sure my body even knows what it means to run a consistent, strong race any more. Even when I set my 4m PR, I walked for part of the race.  That's not good race strategy.

After fall marathon season ends for me, I'm going to spend some time seriously re-evaluating my racing.  I've hidden behind my slow times - telling myself that it doesn't matter how I do because I'm not a very fast racer - as an excuse to waste time and money participating in races that I don't care about.  I have guaranteed entry into next year's marathon if I want it by having done 9 races this year, and it's time to focus my efforts on improving as a runner, not just on racing willy-nilly.


  1. Good call not to race. Especially with the legs being tired and your body saying 'nope, I don't think so'!

  2. That race sounded like a total pain in the ass. Geez. But glad you got some sleep.

    While I haven't started using the FIRST method yet (I'll start in January), they did mention something about selective racing. They suggested doing 4 key runs a year - four you really prep for rather than a bunch you half ass. It makes sense - but that's tough for us folks who like to get out there and run with hundreds or thousands of our non-closest friends. But there's good thinking behind it. Pick a few you really want to kick ass at and stick to those. It's easier said than done though, right???

  3. i agree, good call. i half ass eveyrthing and then find excuses. i purposely am not doing 9 races this year so i don't get suckered into NYC again. This year I wish I wasnt doing it. Isnt that sad?

  4. This year I signed up for less races than last year too. Last year I ran 12, and I'll finish this year running 10, but the quality of the races are a lot different.

    I'll finish the year with two 10 milers, three half-marathons and one marathon, while last year I did two 10 milers, one half-marathon and the rest were all 10k and below.

    A lot of races I ran last year, I chose to skip it this year because it was just not worth signing up for a 5 or 10k when I have long training runs that weekend.

    So while last year, only 3 of my races could be qualified as "long distance" and the other 9 were all 10k and under, this year only 4 of them were a 10k and under.

    There are two 5ks here that I really think are worth it in this area, but the rest are just fluff.

  5. Well, even as much as I enjoyed the ridiculous early-morning Twitter sesh, I'm sorry you missed your race. On the other hand...yeah...I could never run two 5Ks in a weekend, never mind a half and a 10K. In any case, I recently reevaluated why I was racing, and decided as well not to waste time and money on races I wasn't going to RACE. Once you give yourself the out to not run hard, it is too easy to take that back door every time.