Tuesday, November 26, 2013

My 20th Marathon Run – and First Sub-4:00!

My 20th Marathon Run – and First Sub-4:00!
Martin Bodek

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again.

I started running at about the time this selfie-obsessed Millennial-generation began being born, and it took until my 20th attempt at the marathon distance to finally get under four hours.

I’ll admit that four hours was not my original goal – it was 4:20 – but the expectation that others had for me – knowing my potential and capabilities – was always sub-4:00 (and truth be told, the expectation has been raised in recent years, but I’m allowed to bask in this accomplishment at least for today).

Over the past few years, particularly since the inception of my beloved JRunners club, I have made drastic changes and improvements to my running lifestyle. These included broad edits in clothing, nutrition, mileage, fueling, rest, injury management, race involvement, pacing, and adherence to good advice.

It was the above last two puzzle pieces that finally fell into place for me this year, after all the criteria above had been settled with a high degree of satisfaction, certainty, and quasi-perfection. For example, concerning clothing, I am now as physically comfortable with my gear as I can possibly be, and it causes me no concerns whatsoever. As well, with injury management, I have had nothing chronic, debilitating, or long-term for at least four years, as I over-rest minor injuries before they can exacerbate.

With the pacing and good advice, however – as opposed to the other items in my list – I’m afraid I’ve been historically stubborn. My friends have been after me for a decade and a half with tips and helpfulness, but I didn’t listen, because I’m a human with an ego, and it was a failing of mine.

Into my life walked Paul K. and Steven R., who imparted the same wisdom to me this past year that others did before, but it was something about the way they delivered their messages that made me listen.

There is a famous Yiddish expression, “Ehr herdt, uber ehr hut nisht DERherdt.” The English translation doesn’t do it justice, but roughly it means, “He heard, but he didn’t DEEP(or INNERLY)hear.”

This year, I DERherdt, very carefully, very internally, and I was successful.

I owe my accomplishment to the legacy of friends and family who showed me the way with their love and sagacity, very much before, so much during, and a heaping much after my first sub-4:00.

This is how it happened for me.

As with my NYC Marathon writeup, I’ll begin with the leadup and progress with check-ins at various interesting points along the way.

Here we go:

T minus 2 weeks: Shortly after beating by PR at NYC by 3:55 when I finished with a 4:04:41, and during my 48-hour junk food binge, I pondered why it was that I didn’t get under 4 hours. The reasons were three: 1) I love my family, I need my family, I can’t do this without my family, but I spent too much time at each family stop. 2) Overshooting my wife and kids and doubling back wasted precious minutes. 3) Wind. 4) I did not hold my pace for as long as I wanted to.

I would address each point at Brooklyn as follows: 1) I would have only one contingent this time, which I could find every time I looped the park, and would budget my time intelligently. 2) If I overshoot them, no biggie, I’ll be back in 3.35 miles. 3) No wind expected, but possibly rain, and if it does rain, there’s more tree cover here than in NYC, so I’ll manage. 4) at NYC, I held my 9:00 minute per mile pace for 19 miles, instead of 20, losing valuable seconds. I was determined to hold it for 20, or more, this time.

Game plan in place, we fast forward.

T minus 14 hours: I set up my outfit and gear golem-style, as is the established custom. For some reason, I’m in a declaratory Shakespearean mood. I upload a pic to Facebook with the following quote from Henry V: “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.” I get about 4 billion likes.

T minus 13 hours: I attend a bar mitzvah with my wife and am very mindful of what I ingest. I also have a spritzy-Prell thingy because there is no way I am going to let others get me sick with half a day to go to my sub-4:00. I use it. The banter around my table gravitates towards my ambition, and everyone wishes me well, particularly the rebbetzin of my shul. Her well-wish has a huge “royshim” (effect) on me.

T minus 9 hours. SNL sucks. Off to bed.

T minus 5 hours. Up and at ‘em a 3:30 AM.

T minus 2.5 hours. I arrive at Prospect Park and get a text from Shia that says, “Let me guess…You’re already in Prospect Park.” My snappy answer: “Ha! No, because I’m circling for parking J” Then some more banter before he finishes with, “Sub 4 it today!” Expectation is high. Before I exit my warm car into the surprisingly warm morning, I post this from Julius Caesar: “Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible.” Many likes.

T minus 2 hours: First in the porta-potty. The only thing in life that’s better than being first in the mikvah (ritual bath). As I approach the start area, I’m still feeling quite Bard-ian. I post this from Antony and Cleopatra: “Upon your sword sit laurel victory! And smooth success be strew'd before your feet!” Lotsa likes.

T minus 1.75 hours: I’m the fifth runner on scene. Almost nothing is fully set up. People make fun of me for being this way, but if you need somebody to be somewhere for some reason, who you gonna call?

T minus 1.5 hours: I pick up my bib and a bib for a friend, then for another friend when he texts me that he’ll be late, then for another two friends who text me that they’ll be late. What did I just say one paragraph above? You make fun of me at your own peril. One of my pickupees e-mails the JRunners group later saying, “Also, it should be noted that Mordechi, who lives in Passaic, was nice enough to come early and pick up the bibs for the Brooklyn runners who live a mere 5 minutes away from the park.” Thanks, man! My bib, it should be noted, has my first name on it. This was an honor given to all runners who will have run the first three Brooklyn Marathons. There are 28 of us. 6 of those are part of my JRunners club. I feel so elite!

T minus .75 hours: JRunners class photo! I post it to Facebook with the following from Henry VI: “Sound trumpets! Let our bloody colours wave! And either victory, or else a grave.” 5 quadrillion likes.

T minus .15 hours: We all head into the corrals. Corrals? What am I talking about? This ain’t NYC. There are only 485 of us (398 would finish – that’s a weird spread), and we line up wherever we darn well please! Menachem spots a girl named Anna dressed up as a banana. He needs to take a picture with her. I serve as photographer. We spend the next 15 minutes coming up with all different sorts of related puns: “She’s peeling away”, “She’s gonna give us the slip”, “Hope she negative splits”, etc.

T minus .01 hours: This is definitely the first time in history that an operatic soprano, Lisette Oropesa, currently in engagement (Giuseppe Verdi's “I Masnadieri”) powerhouse sings the National Anthem before daintily jumping into a marathon mix and finishing in 4:32:18. I am there, and it is so cool.

HOOOOOONK!: And we’re off! It’s a nice pack that heads out together. David and I intend to travel together the rest of the way, Mark will hang with us for as long as he can, Yossi intends to pace us for 13-15 miles, and Menachem for a bit less.

Mile 0.3: The first water stop is here. A sign is taped up on the table that says, “Almost there.” You must be joking.

Mile 0.4: Heck, we’re in a jokey mood too. We ask some runners which lap this is. Honestly, it can get pretty confusing pretty quickly. The course is two loops around the lower half of the park, six loops around the whole park, and one loop around the lower half. Got that? (Before the race, I went over to the director to say hello and thanks. He mentioned that he intends for the race to bust out of the Park in 2015. Looking forward!)

Mile 1.0: We clear the first mile in 8:40. Too fast! Everyone slow down!

Mile 1.7: We pass the “Lakeside” spot where I took a tumble last year because I was an idiot. I will not make that mistake again.

Mile 1.8: Two streaks of lightning explode through a seam between us and disappear ahead of us just as quickly. It’s the race leaders! Man, they’re fast!

Mile 1.9: A gentleman brandishes a sign that declares that runners, are, shall we say, ummmm, worthy of human relations. His friend holds a sign that says “Creep” with an arrow pointing to the first sign gentleman. Heh. Funny.

Mile 2.1: A fellow in a vegan-related t-shirt juggling three oranges – not balls, oranges - passes us, an utter indignity. The pack debates the level of insanity of this fellow, on a scale of 1-10. 1 being that he is perfectly sane, and is doing this to hone his craft and concentration, because he clearly does this for a living. 10 being stone cold nuts. We give him a 7.

Mile 2.3: We pass a disabled man in a walker, surrounded by volunteers. #349. Grimacing, but moving. He has gone .3 miles from the start, but I know iron will when I see it.

Mile 2.4: We pass the “Almost there” water table again. Yeah, they’re still joking.

Mile 3.6: The two streaks of lightning rocket past us again, in the same formation. These guys are blazing! The group begins a debate on whether or not they could indeed have lapped us twice. Did they miss a turn? Can they really be that fast? Are we really that slow? Answers: No, yes, and hey, it’s called an even pace!

Mile 3.8: We approach the water stop. David asks if I need any. Nope. I always have my first swig 6 miles into a run, and I am not veering off the game plan one iota, neither to the left, nor to the right (Deuteronomy 5:32/Proverbs 4:27).

Mile 4.2: Mark needs the porta-potty. And then there were four.

Mile 4.4: We pass #349 again. Oh my, he’s struggling, but he does not look like a quitter.

Mile 4.7: Mark catches right back up to us! That was fast!

Mile 5.1: I feel a slight twinge in my left calf. I attack these very quickly mid-race with nutrition. I reach for my first gel in my “utility belt.” David asks if I’ve officially begun my Bodie Marathon Feeding Program. Yes, indeed!

Mile 5.5: One member of our group – I won’t mention who – lets out the most flatulatively flatulent flatulence I have ever heard. Good heavens, it measured .9 on the Richter Scale. Cause and effect: his pace picks up a little bit, and we follow along. No, I’m not kidding about that.

Mile 5.8: Mmm…water.

Mile 5.9: No more mid-park turns. We head up towards The Hill. Here we go.

Mile 6.1: I spot Luis Rios and holler “Lu! Is!” He says “Hey, alright.” Who is he? Just a living legend. Read on: http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/09/after-a-jog-35-years-ago-hes-still-running-in-circles/?_r=0

Mile 6.4: We spot a man on a yoga mat. Now why would making mention of that be interesting? Because we’d see him there, in his lotus position, for the next four hours.

Mile 6.6: We get over The Hill nice and easy like, still maintaining our sub-9:00 pace. While climbing, I surveyed for the food and beer stops that are supposed to be there. I saw nothing. I ask the group if anyone saw anything. I get a unanimous “What? You didn’t see the table there with M&M’s, potato chips, and oranges?” Say what now? Oh, I’m gonna have me a meal the next time around!

Mile 7.9: We pass #349 again. Gosh, he’s advanced but less than a half mile since the start. Is he going the distance today? Is he aiming for a small loop back to start? Whatever it is, I send him my positive vibes.

Mile 8.8: Unconsciously, I follow after Yossi, who has moved ahead of the pack, and I leave David and Mark just a bit behind me. I begin to seriously begin to battle myself to slow down. I’m absolutely relaxed at this point. I am putting no strain on my body whatsoever, and my body wants to go faster. I stay in the huddle, though, but it isn’t easy. This is why I like pace groups, and succeed with them. It keeps me under my control.

Mile 9.4: Okay, one more time over The Hill. Here we go.

Mile 9.7: Food! I grab a handful of M&M’s and start popping them, when I suddenly realize they’re not M&M’s, they’re Skittles. What I don’t realize is that they’re not kosher. I had gotten so used to scarfing mounds of the recently-kosher version that it didn’t dawn on me that these weren’t. My conscience (AKA wife) was displeased when I reported this part of my run to her. She is correct. I should have been more mindful and diligent, and I leave this passage here as a way of doing teshuva (repentance). I regret my unmindfulness and resolve never to find myself in this state again. Al chait shechatanu lifaneicha bifrikas ol (for the sin we have committed against You by casting off responsibility). Al chait shechatanu lifaneicha b’machel u’vmishteh (for the sin we have committed against You with food & drink).

Mile 10.0: We went over the hill at sub-9:00 again. Very, very nice. We’re actually doing around 8:50 per mile. Also very nice. We’re all relaxed, though I am still tailing Yossi, while the rest of the pack is a little behind. I don’t see Menachem at all. I have no idea when we lost him (turns out he dropped out of the group at mile four and went on to do 15 miles).

Mile 11.2: Water stop, but no stopping. The water stops at the Brooklyn Marathon feel better-spaced today because of the weather. It’s warm, but water every mile is a bit too much. Because the park is a 3.35 loop, and because the water stops are at opposite sides of the center of the park, it means we have water stop every 1.7 miles. That’s working for me today.  At this point, I find myself a bit isolated. Yossi has moved ahead, the rest of the pack is a bit behind. I take inventory of my performance today. My body feels great and is working smoothly, and I break down the race for myself into three parts. I want to finish the first half miles in under 1:57, the first 20 in under 3:00, and the last 10k can last me an hour, to reach my sub-4 goal. So far, on target.

Mile 11.7: #349. Still moving forward.

Mile 12.7: Another round over The Hill. Here we go.

Mile 13.0: I grab some oranges from the food table. Oh yum!

Mile 13.1: I hit the halfway point at 1:55. 2 minutes ahead of schedule. Awesome.

Mile 13.2: Rain. Uh oh. It doesn’t come down in buckets, more like sheets, and it’s not soaking me terribly, and is refreshing, but if it lasts any longer, it will cease to be any fun. It’s good for now, and breaks the heat a bit, and I can bear it for about a half mile. Let’s see what happens. I can’t let rain stop me from going sub-4. I’ve got three pieces of electronics on me (GPS watch, iPhone, iPhone battery pack), but I’m going to not think about them. I have to race.

Mile 13.3: Over The Hill yet again at 8:45. Slow down, Bodie.

Mile 13.8: Yossi takes leaves of me, bolting away to use the facilities. This is what he signed up for. His day is over, and we’re grateful for his pacing assistance. I look behind me, I don’t see the rest of my crew, but they’re somewhere close by, and I hope they’re still on pace.

Mile 14.1: My family! Oh! They’re here a half hour early! I spot them before they spot me, so I have a moment to calculate whether or not I put my sub-4 ambitions at risk by running over to them. I decide that I would. I have to stick with the plan, even if I see my aba (joined by my sister and niece) standing with an umbrella and a box of pizza. Mmm…pizza. That pizza nearly breaks my will, but my family sees me and I yell, “I’ll come back around! See you in a half hour! Sorry you’re getting wet!” They say okeydokey, and I keep moving.

Mile 14.2: The rain stops, kinda.

Mile 14.3: A lady runner, with an accent I can’t pin but is certainly an English-or-its-offshoot one says, “Love the quote.” I’m wearing Churchill’s famous “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”on back of my Superjew t-shirt. I tell her the Brits love it. She says she’s not a Brit, but enjoys it just as much. Sweet.

Mile 14.5: Yossi spots me from the sidelines and tells me I’m looking good. I take his word for it.

Mile 14.7: The rain starts, not kinda.

Mile 15.0: #349, getting bashed by the rain. Oy.

Mile 15.3: I spot Anna banana, who is – literally – peeling. She’s not lookin’ so good. She’s frazzled, probably stifled by the outfit, and grimacing. I fight the urge to toss my puns at her. That’s not what she needs right now.

Mile 15.5: I spot Moshe, who has arrived, with David’s family in tow, to pace me and David, for the last 10 miles, to our goals. He asks me where David is. I say he’s behind me. He asks if he should start pacing me or go back for David. I say David, because I’m slightly ahead of schedule, and David might not be, or might be, behind. Roger that.

Mile 16.4: Mmm…oranges.

Mile 16.6: I am soaked, but on target.

Mile 17.9: Pizza time! I run up to my family, rip off the crust from slice #1, thank them for coming, and ask my sister to please call my wife with the following message: “I’m doing great, I can’t get to my phone because of the rain, but please text me chizuk (encouragement) anyway.” Crust in hand, plus a half of a salt bagel – which I squish into my utility belt - and I’m on my way.

Mile 18.5: Steven W.! With Powerade and other goodies! Aw, thank you man! His brother Michael is on the course, whom I will encounter shortly.

Mile 19.5: I run into Moshe again, who apparently hasn’t hooked up with David yet. He asks me the same question, and I give him the same answer. I’m on target, David might not be. Go back for him and begin drill instruction.

Mile 19.7: The irony is fascinating. I lost focus on the Skittles but maintained focus on the potato chips. I had no time to ask the people manning the table if it was kosher or not, but this time around, they’re pouring more chips into the container, and I spot the hechsher! Bango! I grab some chips and some more oranges and I continue on the way.

Mile 19.8: The yoga guy is still here, yoga-ing away.

Mile 20.0: I’m running a perfect race up this point. I hit the mark at 2:57, 3 minutes ahead of schedule. I’ve built in a lot of slack time, and I still haven’t stopped running or putting in my sub-9:00s.

Mile 20.1: Mordechai passes me! He’s wearing a wind-breaker (because he has no subcutaneous fat) and is looking strong. He says, “Bodie? Still on target for sub-4?” I say, “Yes, hayadoin’?” He says, “I’m in pain. I’m running a marathon y’idiot.” He’s lucky he appends the statement with a smiley face. Otherwise I woulda tracked him down and done unkind things, like remove his windbreaker.

Mile 21.0: My running streak stops here. Something funky happens to my balance. I’m not sure what it is. My left foot isn’t landing right, and as a result, my right hip feels kinda wonky. I’m off center. I have lots of energy in the tank, but something ain’t right. I’ve gone sub-9 for 1 extra mile than I intended. I have to hold on now for the finish.

Mile 21.1: Family stop! Much quicker this time. I grab the crust from slice #2, and some iced tea my sister is holding (I’m not even sure she intended for me to have it, I just grabbed it!), give thanks and praise, and I carry on the way.

Mile 21.7: Something happens to my thighs. They suddenly feel like they got shredded in half. Oh no, I have to manage this. I’ve been munching the salt bagel on and off, been devouring gels, enjoying my pizza, having enough water, but if it’s salt I’m missing, then it’s salt I’ll have. I don’t stop moving forward and I swallow the salt packet whole.

Mile 21.8: Steven W. with his Powerade! Perfect timing! I need that! Yum! Moving forward, moving forward, as is #349. Good God, how he must be suffering. He has traveled 1 mile from the start.

Mile 22.6: I hit the beginning of the last loop of the race, and I have in mind to thank, and I do, everyone who’s provided a repeated service for me along the course. The cowbell girls, the food table people, the yoga dude, the countless families who’ve remained rooted, and continued hollering (I’ve never received so many “Superjews” and “SuperMartins” in my life. I love this bib!), for hours. If I go sub-4, they’re a big part of the reason.

Mile 22.9: Michael passes me, and asks if I’m still on target. I am, he says let’s get going. I do, but I’m still wonky. My foot’s bothering me. What’s wrong with my foot? Do I have a blister? It’s difficult to feel what’s happening with your feet when they’re ensconced in Vibrams, and it’s possible I have a blister that isn’t letting me plant my foot right. I remain wonky until…

Mile 23.0: …beer! Oh, MAN! Beer! Some dude is holding it up, inside of a cup. I upend the contents into my mouth and over my chin, and I swear nothing has ever tasted so good in my life. I’m so refreshed, and despite what’s happening with my balance, I’m running once more.

Mile 24.3: My family’s still here, but I can’t stop now. I’m too close. I’m soaked, and my foot and hips are bothering me, but I’m still on target, and I have to remain so. It’s going to be close, and I can’t veer off course now. I holler, “Gotta go sub-4! Can’t stop! Thank you for everything!” My family says okeydokey, and I keep on keepin’ on.

Mile 24.7: Random dad: “Go Superman! Oh, wait, Superjew!” Son: “Why?”

Mile 25.0: I lose a lot of my steam, and I try to gather myself and recover my strength, but my foot is bothering me so much (let me not keep you in suspense, and let me mention it here so I finish my recap on a positive note: when I removed my footwear later, what I found wasn’t so pretty: a blood blister between my big and second toes that had actually spread to the webbing. The webbing ground [grinded?] against the Vibram webbing. The area turned black and is still black as of this writing, 9 days later. At least my imbalance had a good reason! Apparently, the rainwater breached a teeny-tiny seam and festered havoc). I recall all the backing I’ve received from my friends and family. I can’t stop now. I’ve come so far. I began running marathons in 1996, and this is the day, man, this is the day. The chizuk from the Rebbetzin of my shul (synagogue) is what finally gets me going again. Of all the people I’d disappoint if I don’t clear my hurdle, she’d be the person I’d be most embarrassed to confront if I failed. I can’t fail, I start the engine up again, like turning over a car. I’m moving.

Mile 25.5: The engine stalls, but precisely at that moment, I hear a voice behind me. It yells, “Bodie! Sub-4! Get moving! Come on!” I can’t look back. I feel I’ll fall if I do. I think I know who it is, though. It must be Moshe, and he must have David with him. This must mean we’re both on target. Ooh yeah. I’m running again.

Mile 25.7: Stall, “Come on Bodie! Sub-4! You got this!”, vroom.

Mile 25.8: Stall, “Bodie! Sub-4! Bodie!”, vroom. Clink, clank, vroom, clank, vroom.

Mile 25.9: Moshe passes me and says, “Move your derrière if you plan on going sub-4!” (he’s British by birth, hence he’s allowed to use the word and did so properly), I respond with “I got this, I got this,” and I go chasing after him. He’s now pulling me and David along. David passes me. He looks solid (though he may deny that). Moshe keeps yelling at me.

Mile 26.0: We enter the trench of the Death Star. The final run. That’s exactly what it feels like to me. As I approach the thermal exhaust port that is the finish line, several of my friends (including Mordechai, Aaron, Matt, and others) and a ton of shouting supporters scream at me to break 4. I can’t sort out who said what, but this is what it felt like in the stretch run:

“Come on Bodie! Sub-4! You got this!” (Mordechai?)

Stay on target.

“Bodie! Sub-4! Sub-4!” (Aaron?)

Stay on target.

“Ahhhhhh! Bodie! You’re gonna do it!” (Matt?)

Stay on target.

“Martin is about to break 4 hours!” (the announcer!)

Stabilize rear deflectors.

“Bodie! Come on!” (Moshe?)

I’m coming in! 3 marks at 5-8!

When I looked up and saw the “3” in front of whatever the rest of the time was, I was in complete disbelief. All I wanted to do was make sure that number wouldn’t turn to a “4”. I made sure of it, alright, and to punctuate the moment, I had the presence of mind to put four fingers on each hand, for posterity. It would work. That’s the picture I purchased from the race, though a better picture exists of David crossing the finish line (5 seconds ahead of me), with Moshe right behind him. Moshe is looking back, towing me in.

When I crossed the finish line (3:58:45!), all of the energy in my body suddenly drained out. All of it. I fell onto Moshe, babbling my thanks to him. I saw David on his back on the ground. Suddenly I was offloaded onto Chanan. “Oh hey, Chanan,” I wanted to say, but couldn’t, because I had no energy to speak. I wanted to lay down. He wouldn’t let me. He let me lean on him and he walked me while all the goodies were dumped on me: water, a nice hat, a heat blanket, and a medal that seemed to be about the size of my face.

We walked slowly until I was walking upright, then turned around when I recovered my power of speech. We slowly made our way towards the finish line, where we met Yisroel, Michael and Big Willie, who, like Moshe, also provided pacing services for the day.

Chanan bragged about my accomplishment to the race director, then he was concerned for my ability to drive home. I said by the time I amble back to the car – a half mile away – I’ll have poured enough nutrients into my system to ensure I won’t cramp while driving.

Chanan and I parted ways after I thanked him profusely. I picked up my bag. I removed my phone from my hip and found it in working order (pshew!), found all the chizuk my wife had texted me, and responded that she was now married to a sub-4 marathoner. I then posted the following to Facebook:

“Sub! 4:00! Ahahahaa! Woohoo! "What win I, if I gain the thing I seek? A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.” – Shakespeare"

Four drillion likes.

News traveled quickly about my accomplishment, and I spent the rest of the day texting and e-mailing thanks and love to every single individual I could think of in my life who had any part in making me meet my goal.

The sweetest comment was from my 8-year-old daughter: “Daddy! You broke your high score!”

Yes I did, sweetiepie, thank you. And thank you to everyone for your part in making this happen for me.

How perfect it was that three days later was National Hug a Runner day.

I wanna hug #349. I wonder how he did and is doing.

I also wonder how I’ll be doing a year from now, when I go for sub-3:45. You might think that’s a bold expectation I’ve set for myself, but I can’t take credit it for it. My friends are already telling me it’s the expectation they’ve set for me.

I’ll do my best not to disappoint them.

Besides, upsetting the rebbetzin would not be a very good idea.


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