JFK 50 Miler

Oct 9th, 2010 - Race - Hartford Marathon - 26.2

Day 282 - The running gods have a great sense of humor.

They first throw me in a van with Jess and EJ for our two hour ride down to Hartford, and then they make me go out to dinner with them, and THEN they make me sleep with them (get your mind out of the gutter). By the way, I discovered that spooning does not necessarily lead to forking.

We were all in dream land when the crazy drunk hotel neighbor from hell started banging on her room's door, trying to get in at some ungodly hour. She was definitely not running the marathon in the morning. At first I thought it was EJ talking in his sleep, but this voice was much more annoying.

I managed to get back to sleep after our unwanted wake up call, but I later found out that EJ didn't get much rest after that. Advantage, Jason.

We all got up at 6AM and prepped ourselves for the pre-race. Me in my parka, and EJ in his GLRR sweater vest. I opted for the GLRR whites, since it was expected to get warmer later in the race, and I expected to get plenty wet. Advantage, Jason.

It was already 60 degrees outside when we took the 5 minute walk from our hotel to the XL Center in downtown Hartford. It looked and felt like ideal conditions for a race.

We quickly got our numbers and our one-size fits Kong race shirts before heading back to the hotel. Once there, I had a bagel with peanut butter and a banana.

Thank you Jess for bringing all of the goodies. I have to say that this was the most well-prepared I had ever been before a marathon. Two days of pasta and the perfect pre-race breakfast.

I made one last pit stop, and managed to squeeze out everything I ate in the previous sentence. That's always a good sign. EJ wandered off, and I wouldn't see him again until Mile 18.

We were now ready to run this town.

I got down to the start and found Reno milling about in the elite corral, getting ready for his own half. I wished him good luck and I moved back a section to hang out with the regular humans. After a quick invocation and the anthem, we were ready to go at it at 8:05AM.

The Hartford course received a face lift this year, so it was going to be interesting to see how much faster this course could get. The race start itself was still in the same vicinity, but on a different street.

My goals for this race were as follows, in no particular order:

A) Win it all
B) Finish in 2:55:00, or less, to qualify for NYC (6:38 pace)
C) Finish under 2:58:30 to PR
D) Beat EJ who was going for sub 3 hrs
E) Don't die
F) Go to Heaven
G) Don't go to Hell

My plan of attack was to go out at about 6:30's while I was still fresh, and try to hang onto that pace for as long as possible. I expected to hit the mid 7's over the last 3 miles.

I definitely didn't want to repeat my performance from last year where I completely bonked, and never recovered, at Mile 18. Even though I did the death march over the last five miles, I still managed to BQ, so that shows you have fast this course can be.

Once the race was underway, I comfortably settled into the 6:30 pace, going through the first seven uneventful miles in 6:27, 6:26, 6:35, 6:37, 6:32, 6:29, and 6:22. I actually thought my Garmin had stopped working at one point with my average pace screen stuck at 6:31 through this entire stretch.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the race organizers had moved the bike path portion of the course to the beginning of the run, instead of having it at the end. There are a couple of "killer" hills on the bike path that really sapped me last year, so mentally, I was already on a high.

The new arrangement made for a much more enjoyable and scenic run. I was able to motor up and down the bike path hills without cursing.

Unfortunately, I started to feel a little tightness in my right hamstring, and a sharp pain in my left knee, as I went through miles 8, 9, and 10 in 6:31, 6:31, and 6:31, respectively (I guess I didn't need to say that). Seeing Dave Breeden (NE Timing), and getting a high five from him at Mile 10, gave me a really huge boost. It's always awesome to see someone from your neck of the woods this far from home.

The first official split checkpoint at Mile 10 had me running a total elapse time of 1:05:35 (6:34 pace).

The one thing that I kept in mind, throughout the race, was the fact that the course was running longer than what my Garmin was showing. Not a huge surprise since this tends to be the case with the Garmin. The course so far was at least .10 longer, so I had to remember to incorporate this into my Garmin's projected pace as I went along. That meant that my comfortable 6:31 pace was actually 6:34 on the official time-keeper.

By the second official checkpoint at the half-marathon mark, I clocked in a 1:26:08, pretty much where I wanted to be. If I were to continue on this pace (unlikely), then I would finish in about 1:52. So right now, I basically had about three minutes in the bank to withdraw later on. Hopefully, it's not like BoA and rounds up to the nearest second......

I typically have had some GI issues on all of my marathon runs, so I was amazed that I hadn't felt any urges yet. I was alternating between water and Gatorade, and began trying a new method of drinking to prevent cramping caused by ingesting air while taking liquids. This was an issue for me at Sugarloaf, and at some of the warmer races during the summer where I drank a lot of water on the course.

My strategy now was to put as much liquid as my mouth could hold, and then only swallow some after I breathed out through my noise. It takes a little coordination to get it right, but it was working. No cramping or side stitches throughout the race.

Fearing that taking GU might bring on some GI urges, I hadn't plan to take any GU until at least Mile 15, but Miles 11 (6:35) and 12 (6:35) showed that I was starting to slow a bit. I decided to take some GU a little after the half and managed to get through Mile 13 in 6:32.

As luck would have it, Mile 14 was the start of a long and steady climb before the turn around point at Mile 17. Without the GU at 13, I would have definitely bonked a bit going up this nasty climb, and I might not have recovered mentally. Instead, I motored up the hill at about the same pace as before (6:35, 6:35, 6:35, and 6:43 before the turn around at 17).

A cool aspect of this portion of the course is the opportunity for the runners to catch a glimpse of the lead runners as they head back into downtown Hartford. Patrick Tarpy was in the lead by about a minute when I saw him around my Mile 15. He was well into his mile 18-19. Titus was about five spots back and about five minutes behind. I was surprised to discover two time defending champ, Patrick Moulton, missing from the lead pack. He must have dropped out!

After the turn around at 17, I grabbed another packet of GU from the GU guys for the trip home (GU guys were riding the course, on bikes, to hand out the GU! Very cool and efficient!). I knew that Miles 18 through 21 were going to be very fast since we had just climbed up the same hill, but just on the other side of the road.

We also had the wind to our backs, so I was able to go into cruise control and make up a lot of time on this section without killing myself. Mentally, it was basically the opposite effect of miles 16-22 at Boston.

I couldn't believe how many people were still behind me as I went down the hill and saw the crowd of runners coming up. It was also very inspiring to hear a couple of GO GREATER LOWELL! from those same runners, including EJ who was about 5 minutes behind me at this point! GO EJ!!

I flew through Mile 18 in 6:24 for my second fastest mile on the day, and managed a 6:30 & 6:31 for Miles 19 & 20.

I was feeling great and couldn't believe how fast the miles were going by. This was definitely the best that I've ever felt this late in a marathon. I always love it when the miles remaining begin to fall into the low single digits.

Unfortunately, Miles 21 (6:40) & 22 became a different story. I struggled through a rolling Mile 22 in 6:44, but I did still manage to pass a couple of runners. I heard at one point someone yell out to me that I was in the top 30! I decided to take another GU for the final 5K when I started to feel the Wall begin to creep up on me.

Miles 23, 24, and 25 also became a struggle as I tried to catch one last runner. That runner, I later discovered, was a 46 year old lady. She was just motoring along and pulled away from me over the final twist and turns of downtown Hartford. Amazing!
The final bridge crossing of Founder's Bridge at around 25 was a killer. I couldn't bear to look up at the crown of the bridge ahead of me, so I just put my head down and started my silent cadence to get through it. There was also a strong headwind coming off of the water, which made the task that much harder. I remember seeing the water that I had dumped on my cap come whipping off in little droplets. I even started counting the droplets in order to get my mind off of my dying legs.

I tried to kick it back into my highest gear possible on the other side of the bridge, but just then, for a split second, my right hamstring came back to haunt me. I was actually surprised that it had held on for this long, but 25.5 miles was just too much for it to continue without screaming at me.

The hamstring locked up on me for about 2 seconds, so I did a stutter step to see if I could shake it loose. I continued to push it harder, hoping it would finally loosen up. Fortunately, the hamstring did let go of its death grip on me and I was free to go all out over the final mile.

I had about 5 minutes left to get under 2:55 over the last 3/4ths of a mile, but I knew that the course was going to be at least .20 longer than 26.2 based on what I had been seeing on my Garmin at the later mile markers, so I had to really start moving now.

I began my death sprint (eyes closed, gasping for air) down the wide avenues of State and Pearl St before coming upon the base of the finish under the landmark arches of Bushnell Park.

By the time I could see the finish clock from about .05 out, it read 2:54:55...56...57...58...59...

I was in a literal dead sprint when I hit the finish mat and saw 2:55:00 on the clock.

I felt a little dejected because I knew it shouldn't have been that close. I gave back a lot of time over the last mile when I thought I had sub 2:55 in the bag. That'll teach me.

Bitter sweet is the only way to describe the feeling.

It was now up to the running gods to decide my fate.

Reno was the first to greet me after the finish and congratulated me on the PR on a very tough day. I told him that I couldn't wait to race him next weekend in Lowell! What was I thinking? I must have been completely out of my mind!

I eventually met up with Jess and EJ shortly after EJ's finish. He managed a 3:02 (PR by 7 minutes!!), but he too was a little down, since he was so close to a sub 3. Again, bitter sweet victory.

EJ finished 49th overall and 5th (out of 215) in AG!!!!! Advantage, EJ.

I was real antsy as I waited for the official results to get posted at the race site. Jess and Fil had just gotten the text from the real-time results server, and they both said that I finished in 2:55:00!!

In the end, the official time for me ended up being an inglorious 2:55:01...basterds! I'm definitely laughing now, running gods.

It's close races like these that stick with you the longest because you begin to think about what else you could have done differently to shave off one friggin' second! I didn't stop to poop or pee or tie my shoe laces!

To put things into perspective, or make it even worse, I needed to run the marathon in 10,500 seconds in order to qualify for NYC. I ran it in 10,501 seconds. Percentage-wise, one second works out to be 0.009522903% of 10,501.

My head's going to eggsplode if I keep thinking about this.
I did, however, manage to limp away with some extra shwag for placing 3rd in my AG! At least this will help me swallow this bitter, but sweet, pill.

Well, it's time to move on and the road to JFK marches on through Bay State in 8 days!

Official Results

(Brother, can you spare a second?)


  1. You are ridiculously efficient and steady. Can I have your pacing? AMAZING JOB. Can't wait to run JFK with you, too bad you're not running MCM :P

  2. And by efficient and steady, I mean other than those last two miles... har har.

  3. Even accounting for the fact that it's IMPOSSIBLE to run only 26.2 miles on a properly certified course, Hartford was long. No question you ran well under a 2:55:00, which is GREAT stuff.

    You continue to amaze, congrats again J.

  4. SO did you qualify or not? they have to take you? Too crazy not to?

  5. I'll find out once I submit my time the day after this year's NYC Marathon in Nov. Stay tuned.