Holy Cramp!

Today I ran the ING New York City Marathon. It is my fifth running of the race. I ran it in 3:13:49* (7:24s), which is a new PR for me for this marathon. My prior PR for the NYC Marathon was 3:27:27, set last year. I shaved off 13:38 from last year’s time.

* Update11/7/2011: This is the official time. Yesterday, the unofficial time was reported as 3:13:50.

To view my splits and pace, visit http://trackmyrunners.ingnycmarathon.org and click Select Runners then find “Benjamin Hauck.” Then click my name to show my results.

Here are my Unofficial Garmin Stats:

First off, what ideal weather. The start was around 46 degrees, and the race warmed up only to about 52 degrees by the time I finished a minute shy of 1pm. The sky was sunny and the wind was light, except at a few points like on the Queensboro Bridge (crosswind), as well as when I was coming back into Manhattan from the Bronx (headwind). I wore a thin running singlet, shorts, and compression socks, and I was comfortable without ever feeling cold. I tolerate cold really well and even get warm really easily. Note that last year it started around 41 degrees and I did the whole race shirtless!

My first half of the race was quite impressive to me. I started only about 36 or so seconds after the gun went off, which made it easier to interpret my progress as the clock went on. I managed to pull off a half-marathon in 1:29:15, which probably is my second fastest known half-marathon time. (I probably did a half faster in the Philly Marathon 2009, but I don’t know the time.) By that time in the race my pace was 6:49, creeping up very slowly from a 6:40 5K pace. After the half was done, that’s when my energy started to change and my pace more noticeably crept up. I didn’t hit a 7:10 pace until Mile 22 was done, which is still quite respectable to me and had I kept that pace up, I would have finished with a 3:10 marathon or better. However, knowing I had some long, slow grades ahead of me on 5th Ave. and in Central Park, I didn’t think I’d be able to sustain my pace to achieve my goal.

Plus, I was dealing with calf cramps. I’ve never dealt with cramping in my calves before–my first real post-run experience of them was after a long training run about a month or so ago when I was lying in my bed and my left calf went into a 45-second lockdown. The pain was so paralyzing I yelled to my roommate for help!

In today’s marathon, I was afraid full cramp lockdown would happen. Here and there the during the 22nd mile (and possibly sooner–I don’t recall), each of my calves would “grab” a bit as if they were about to contract into a race-stopping cramp. To compensate, I only did what I could think of: I kept my toes and feet pointed up to counteract the movement of the cramp, which surely would have rendered my feet pointed down and stuck. This strategy worked, but it didn’t leave me feeling very secure. From what I know of cramps, they are the result of low potassium and/or the imbalance of electrolytes in my body, so I realized I also needed to get Gatorade into my system. Gatorade was available every mile but I wasn’t confident it would help me. I’d already had what I thought were plenty of electrolytes in my system from having a PowerGel every 5 miles, then eventually every 4 miles. I’d also consumed some Gatorade along the way. Whatever the case, whatever I did was not enough. (Given that my PowerGels had about 50mg of caffeine in them, maybe I was dehydrated by the caffeine?) I did escape the race without either of my legs making it into full cramp, but because of the threat of full cramp (especially when going uphill), I really couldn’t push myself harder for fear of disaster. (An afterthought was to take a banana that was being offered along the latter part of the course. Bananas are known to combat cramping because of their potassium content.)

Fortunately disaster was averted by the time I saw Elizabeth waiting to see me at the “Half-Mile to Go” sign across from 210 Central Park South. I’d looked forward to this for a while, especially as I entered the park, and fortunately we connected hands as I passed her by with a serious expression on my face. I emotionally broke down a moment after passing her, likely the result of seeing someone out there I knew was supporting me. She said I looked strong at this point in the race.

My goal for this race was to run NYC in sub-3:10. Around this point I knew I wouldn’t achieve that, so the point became to see just how fast I would finish. I didn’t push myself very hard upon re-entering Central Park, going only as fast as I could before I felt cramping. It was nice to see, though, that I was going to finish below 3:14. Something about finishing in the 3:13 range to me seems fast, while 3:14 seems somewhat slower. 3:13:49 is what I got.

I emotionally broke down only for a second or two, two or three times on the walk after the finish line. My mood, though, was upbeat and happy, which was indicative for me that I was healthy in running this race. My body felt pretty decent, actually. As I sit here typing this entry at nearly 6pm, 5 hours after I finished, my body is in really great shape. There were no noticeable blisters or chafing. I do have some specific groin pain (probably from the 3+ hours of pounding), and I have a little bit of “diaper rash.” But apart from that, I walked to a restaurant for dinner pretty comfortably and my spirits are still with me. (We’ll see how I am in the morning!) I lost somewhere around 8 lbs. in this race. I started at 176, and when I weighed myself at home I was around 170-171, after having consumed about 2.5 beverages.

I’m pretty happy with how I did. While I didn’t manage a sub-3:10, I did make a major improvement in my NYC PR. I also beat my Boston Marathon time from earlier this year (3:15:16). Today is the second-fastest marathon I’ve run, and probably the hardest course I’ve run.

In two weeks, I run the Philadelphia Marathon 2011. My original goal was to run a sub-3:00. After today and considering how I did last year (I did both last year, too), I’m not really sure I can swing a sub-3:00, even though Philly is a pretty flat course. Instead, my goal is to beat my PR for Philly, which is also my Overall PR (3:07:32). I think I’m within striking range. However, I still have to train. Let’s see how the training holds up. Tune in in a couple weeks!

3 thoughts on “Holy Cramp!”

  1. Well done you!! I followed you on my laptop as I was watching the elite runners on TV and I could tell you’d get a good time which was quite exciting! No sight of you on screen though…

    For the cramp – yep, bananas do work. Try one every night for a week or so – especially before a race. And yes, banana-peanut smoothies count 🙂

  2. Sure they count … but consider the calories! 😀

    Thanks for watching all the way in the UK, Helena! I’m pretty happy with the time. I finished just about 24 hours ago yesterday (I was probably on Central Park South about right now), and my quads have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and my ankles/Achilles are swollen making me a little limpy. But I’m doing pretty well for the day after!


  3. Well, yes, but healthy protein right? And have smaller dinner! 🙂 (not that I do though, ha ha)

    Of course! Would have loved to cheer in person but I guess if I’m over for that race I’ll be in it…

    Yay for doing well today!

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