Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Alternate title: Speed work makes you faster. But only if you actually do it.

Alternate-alternate-title: There’s a first time for everything.

Alternate-alternate-alternate title: If that tree grows in Brooklyn, it will be because I fertilized it.

So I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape going into this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d run a solid half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace a couple of months ago, but since then, I’d pretty much been cruising.  No speed work.  Decent mileage, but a total lack of quality work.

But nonetheless, as I hopped nervously in the start corral, I thought to myself: well, maybe I haven’t lost any fitness.

And I still believed that for the first few miles:

Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:24
Mile 4: 7:17

Circling Prospect Park, I thought about how I felt during the first four miles of Shamrock.  In that race, it felt like I was running easy.  This…didn’t exactly feel like that.

But as I would discover, that was the least of my problems.

Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 7:37
Mile 8: 8:11

As I headed in to mile five, two things happened:

One, my pace slowed as I headed up the dreaded Prospect Park Hill for the second time.  Fine.  But, more concerning…

Two, my tummy started to gurgle ominously.

Let me say that I’m generally not one to have running-related digestive issues.  Sure, I can obliterate a port-o-potty with the best of ’em on race morning, but I’ve never had to stop during a race to use the bathroom.

Until Saturday.

There’s a first time for everything.

Somewhere around mile 6, I decided to make a pit stop.  It made me cringe, the thought of pulling off the course, waiting for the plastic bathroom’s occupant to vacate, and passing precious seconds doing my thing.

But you know what really killed me?  Getting in to that plastic bathroom and not being able to do my thing.

Gah.  Frustrated and still full of shit, I headed back on to the course.  I hauled ass, trying to make up for lost time.  But my mile split was on the slow side of 8-minutes.

And with that, I headed out of shady Prospect Park and on to the long haul down to Coney Island.

It was the beginning of the end.

Mile 9: 8:17
Mile 10: 8:24
Mile 11: 8:12 
Mile 12: 8:19

I had a hard time getting my pace back after that pit stop.  I was mad that I’d stopped during a race – something I’d never done before! – and still hadn’t managed to relieve the rumbling roil of discomfort that was brewing in my bowels.  At some point I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal 7:30 pace, and I plodded along Ocean Avenue, seething.

For a couple of miles, it seemed that my tummy-ache had subsided, too.

Until somewhere around mile 10, when it returned with a vengeance.

Gurgling recommenced.  And then the internal spasms.  And then…well, I needed to stop and take care of business.  Like, now.

The only problem was that the next mile marker – and hence, the next possible location of a port-o-potty, was at least five minutes away.  As I saw it, I had three options:

  1. Attempt to hobble at a near-walk while clenching things together until I found the next available toilet-like apparatus.   Could be half a mile, could be longer.
  2. Pull off the course and find a place to let it go.
  3. Shit myself.
A grim situation, no doubt.  But I knew what I had to do.  So, on a wide boulevard lined with handsome brick brownstones, I ducked behind the widest tree truck I spotted and…well, you know.

There’s a first time for everything.  And hopefully a last time.

Mile 13: 8:19
Mile 0.1 + tangent trash: 0.29 in 2:12 = 7:42 pace
Finish time: 1:45:22

Once I’d accepted the indignity of what I’d done, I found myself facing the last mile of the race!  Well, I guess that’s the silver lining to having major digestive issues and stopping to crap on a tree in the middle of a major metropolis.  It’ll really distract you from the fact that you’re running a long race!

I thought about trying to make myself hammer that last mile, but honestly I just didn’t see the point.  I’d lost a ton of time to dealing with stupid shit (literally) and what did it matter if I ran 1:44 or 1:45?  In either case it was several minutes slower than it should have been.

So as I turned off of Ocean and on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, I just tried to enjoy the rest of the run.

Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

I would say there was a lesson to be learned here, but I’m really not sure what I did to piss my intestines off so royally before this race.   Late-ish pizza dinner the night before, perhaps?  Dish soap in the coffee pot at the bodega where I stopped for a cup on the way to the race?  Just bad luck and karma finally catching up to me?  Who knows.

(I must say that I have a newfound appreciation for those who battle tummy issues on the regular while running and/or racing.  Because damn, that is not a fun feeling.)

I’d hoped my spring half-marathon “season” would go out with a bang and a sub-1:38 performance.  I have to admit that it’s a little funny that I crapped out – both literally and figuratively!

But honestly, even without the stomach issues, I’m not sure if I could have come in under 1:40.  This race demonstrated that if I want to be a faster runner, I need to do speed work regularly – like I did before Shamrock.  I can’t just coast along on base miles and expect improvement.  In order to run faster, you have to practice running faster.  Speed work works – but only if you actually do it.

For now, though, I’m happy to take my requisite recovery week, then shift to focusing on shorter races for the summer!

Because there are always bathrooms at the track.  And I’m probably never going to have to worry about possibly crapping on myself during a 1500.

44 responses to “Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

  1. Um. You stopped twice for bathroom/tree breaks and still ran an impressive half.

    Sorry about those issues. I’m usually okay, but after an incident a few years ago I like sticking to the same old boring route where I know I can find a bathroom if needed.

  2. I’m sorry about the digestive issues. I think you still did very well! Those are some happy cats up there.

  3. How unpleasant :( Still, as Cindylu says, you finished in an impressive time considering you stopped twice and ran for a long time with stomach pain. Plus, you can’t PR every time, right? For me, 1:44-1:45 is my standard half-marathon time when I’ve been (like you) running a decent amount but not doing speedwork. In order to run faster, I need to do at least six weeks of twice-weekly intervals and tempo runs. Anyway, the good thing is, you know exactly what you have to do now (namely, whatever worked last time!) so all you need to do is pick the next goal race and start training! Don’t you love how I made it sound all easy :p

  4. oh poo. this doesn’t sound fun at ALL. sorry your race was kinda shitty (sorry, i couldn’t resist… again) but at leasat you got to hang with friends? and pizza is yummy, even if it may have caused tummy troubles. i guess. or not. hmmm.

    oh, and if you shat yourself during a 1500… i don’t know. i think i’d skip commenting on a recap post of that race. hahaha.

    • If I ever crap myself during a 1500, you all will never, ever hear of it. :)

      Sorry I missed you this weekend! It was the shortest trip EVERRRR. :(

  5. oh my goodness, I feel your pain Shelby! That has happened to me far too much, and it why I take immodium before every long run and race. It’s awful. I’m glad you got through it and now have a great summer of shorter stuff to look forward to! And sad I didn’t get to see you while you were up here for 2.5 seconds!

    • I wish I could have seen you too! I was longing to run in Central Park too. Next time we can have a pre-dawn rendezvous!

  6. Um. I’m sure you looked hot doing it?

    • Maybe we’ll find out? I would totally take a picture of someone if I saw them squatting against a tree outside my apartment window….

  7. Sorry you had a bad run Shelby. :-( That is still a wicked impressive time though! I can only dream of running that fast.

  8. I feel your pain. I think that race is cursed. I also never have any sort of stomach issues but apparently it caught up with me on Saturday as well. Hey, at least you can laugh about it, right? Nothing is funnier than bathroom humor. Great to have you over post-race too!

  9. Stomach issues are not fun to deal with, let alone during a race! Still, with 2 stops you ran a 1:45. I think that is pretty darn good.

  10. There is a bright side to everything. At least you didn’t finish with shit running down your leg as someone snapped that photo.

  11. 7:00AM start + late pizza + longer race is a recipe for disaster. Ask me how I know. Actually, I’ll put it this way: when I saw you guys ate pizza I had sympathy pain because I STILL REMEMBER when I did something similar. It was a 15k so I made it without a stop, but I spent 25 minutes dry heaving in a ditch after the race. The rest of the details are far gorier. I’ve abides by the “no dairy/no whole grains within 14 hours of the start” since then.

    But hey, you shit on the street in Brookyn! And you’re not a homeless person! That’s kinda fun, yes?

    • I usually get along OK with dairy, but yeah…maybe best to avoid it before a long race, like you said. Meh.

      • I honestly think pacing early PLUS foods that could potentially trigger stomach upset makes a difference. It’s just the extra stress and your stomach getting up to speed in the morning…with that extra stress. (See also, why I am not a morning runner!) I’ve had entire pizzas for lunch then ran in the evening with no issues but give me an early race where it’s had time to…well…and give it an early start and I think things get stirred up. It’s taken a lot of bad bad experiences for me to realize that kind of thing so I try and front load calories the day before long races. I’ll eat at 4PM for a 7am start if its 15k or longer, which has mostly solved the GI problem. :-/

      • err, racing early not pacing early.

  12. Haha you stopped twice to deal with crap (literally) and still would have beaten me, so there’s that. Sorry about the stomach issues, those are no fun to deal with at all.

  13. Hahahahaha. Oh my goodness, I seriously laughed my ass off while reading this. I just love your honesty!! All shitting aside, I am still impressed with your time!

  14. I’m always curious about the, er, “finer” details of incidents like these.

    Do you just…not wipe? (I would imagine this makes for an awkward sensation between the cheeks when resuming the race.) Was the tree conveniently equipped with a fresh roll of Charmin so you could pretend you were an animated bear in one of their commercials? Did you BYOTP “just in case”?

    • Didn’t have time to think about it. I made a pit stop right after I finished and it didn’t seem too nasty so…. ???? Sweat bath? Who knows.

      This is the first time I’ve ever had to deal with something like this during a race, so I don’t know what the proper technique is. Haha.

  15. Sorry you had teh tummy troublez. Thank the lord I haven’t had any major issues like that. It’s a fear of mine. I ate giant Qdoba burrito the night before my 1/2 this weekend. I must have a stomach made of iron or something.

    I think 1:45 is still impressive :)

  16. i haven’t done speedwork since the beginning of march. i keep telling myself that it’s okay.

    you just shattered my hopes/wishes/dreams.

    great job dealing with those pesky gi issues. you still got a decent time even though you wanted faster.

  17. As much as I know you weren’t happy about this race, I loved this report. And the fact that you ran around 8 minute miles in the ‘crap break’ miles really isn’t bad. :)
    And think about it…you’re now probably in a minority of people who have relieved themselves in the middle of NYC. hahahaha.
    Anyways, can’t wait to see how you do with speedwork and thanks for the hilarious report.

  18. You have major balls. I have taken care of many a GI issue in the woods over the years, but dealing with that feeling during a 13.1 race must be it’s own particular brand of misery. Like, ‘the 10th circle of hell is reserved for late-night pizza eaters and early-morning racers’ misery. In fact, I’m pretty sure there are VERY FEW feelings in the world as urgent/demanding and miserable as having to poop and not having a socially acceptable place to do it. Props for ‘gutting’ through that experience…

  19. Ugh I’m so sorry!! If it makes you feel better – I would have done exactly the same thing. When I’m having stomach issues – nothing gets in my way!!
    If it also makes you feel better – I have peed my pants during many a race.
    I am betting it was the pizza – looked amazing but I would have died.
    What are your favorite speed workouts? What do you think works the best? I’m working on increasing my speed for a few 10-mile races coming up and always love hearing what works best for others.
    You did amazing, regardless! Congrats – how did you celebrate??

  20. Ahhh!!! I am so bummed I didn’t get all the gory details in person. An old boyfriend of mine once pooped in the middle of his drive-way (he couldn’t make it to the house in time) and then blamed it on a deer when his horrified parents arrived home.

    Umm, I’m not really sure if that makes you feel better, but it always gives me a little giggle.

    NO 9pm pizza the night before our River 2 Sea Relay. Bananas and plain bagels only :)

  21. oh man — I give you lots of credit for ducking behind a tree….and blogging about it! You’re awesome – and with two stops you still rocked a good time. Can’t win em all, right?
    Here’s to hoping your next race isn’t as shitty! (sorry, had to do it!)

  22. This is very important: Did you stop your watch while pooping? If not, then I am very impressed at your speed. The running wasn’t bad either. 😉

  23. Hey be careful with those short races! In high school I had to pee THAT bad during a 1600m race… I finished the race and then sprinted to the bathroom so no one would see my awkwardly wet legs :/ Just guess I was lucky to have teammates who understood the desire to win enough that you pee yourself!

  24. Yikes… This post also makes me grateful I rarely deal with digestive issues while running. It’s still a very respectable time. I can dream of 1:45, right? :-) Really, way to keep going in spite of all your troubles!

  25. I think we’ve all been in that situation at least once and can sympathize. You managed to hold it together and finish which is awesome. I’m glad the rest of the weekend was fun for you!

  26. As someone with pretty regular digestive issues re: running (no dairy, no whole grains, no anything resembling good and tasty food….) I really truly feel for you. That’s me before every single race (and I don’t even push it on pace)… and your tree story is my No. 1 runner’s nightmare. I’d rather be bitten (lightly, but still) by a dog than have that happen to me…

  27. Ugh, I’m sorry! I’ve had my share of stomach issues and you’re right, they’re not fun. But seriously, an 8:17 with the stop behind a tree? Impressive.

  28. #1: Unbelievably respectable time considering you stopped twice
    #2: You’re not only someone who pooped during a race, you are also an organic gardener.

  29. You still had an awesome time despite tum troubles! I am one of those who has issues while running. During long runs I always have to have a bathroom nearby or go before I run. I had my first experience with mid-race poo during the Shamrock Half. I was lucky enough to find a porta potty with no line at like mile 10. But it was outa tp. I bet you can imagine how those last 3 miles went! Funny now, sucky then.

  30. Sorry to hear about your tummy troubles, but it’s a good reminder that it can happen to all of us!

    I’ve happily conquered my target distance and am trying to decide how to do speedwork, so please, do a post on it! Half the info out there is too intimidating. Run 2.5M warmup and 2.5M cooldown? That sounds like a complete run! How am I supposed to jam a *workout* in the middle of that!?

  31. I’d shit myself for that time. :)

  32. wow this is my biggest fear ever in a race. when I have digestive issues they’re on the immediate side. :/

    so bummer on your finish time, but congrats on not pooing yourself! 😀

  33. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve pooped not once but on two separate occasions in wooded areas on the University of Florida campus (while I was a student there- I wasn’t just roaming around) during long runs on the weekend when most of the buildings were closed. I know there’s a lot of nasty pictures on the internet that prove otherwise, but think crapping yourself should be reserved for Olympic gold medal attempts only.

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