Thirteen miles is a long way to go for a hot dog in a rain storm.
The Brooklyn Half Marathon is one of the largest half marathon races in the country. And it’s easy to understand why – what with all the hot dogs and everything. All you need is a few thousand lumberjacks – cough, hipsters – lining the runway to the beach and you know the party isn’t too far behind.
It’s also a great course to PR on – it’s fast, net downhill and has equal parts sun and shade. Max King owned the mantra this year. While last year I was squarely in kill mode , pickings off people one by one, this year it was a different kettle of fish. “80% of the time you can go faster”. Very true.
The quest for infinite numbers
Honestly, I love to wrap data around me like a warm blanket. It helps draw conclusions about the world; about experience; about the demons that only live in the detail. Let’s talk about data.
There used to be a time when you would show up to a race, toe the line and you relied upon the kindness of strangers to tell you how quickly it would all be over. Sometimes you’d be on of those cutting edge savants with a digital watch to track your splits. The envy of all your friends. Those days are long gone.
Today we swim in data; a LOT of it. We can analyse every aspect of our training, performance and results in near real time and share it with the world at lightning speed. We are effectively eletronicslly enhanced by data – in body and in mind; fine tuned like a Ferrari ( or in my case maybe an Vespa ). They provide a historical context and a visual and visceral future – of what can be. But numbers also lie. They lie a lot. They tell the stories we most want to believe to be true. Selection bias and implied causation is the basis for disappointment.
The Brooklyn half marathon is one of my favorite races. It was the first race that I noticed an exponential step up in my speed and performance. The gains were unreal. Granted the course is net downhill but the numbers don’t lie. A personal best again and again tells me that it will forever be in my heart as the proving ground for what’s possible for me on the road. This year the gains were more modest – 50 seconds. A lifetime in the clock.
But how much longer will I be able to keep this up? One less water stop? A faster corrals? Better weather? ( it did rain the last few miles). Will the gains get so small that the race stops being fun? What if my performance reverses? Will the depression ridding adrenalin go away? Or if I manage to lose that final 10 pounds will there be another step in you futuree?
2010 – 2:10.
2012 – 1:55.
2013 – 1:46.
2015 – 1:45
There’s definitely a trend – we are decelerating Houston – time to deploy the HEAT SHIELD!
The only solution to this problem is to take an action that in my deepest heart of hearts I fear to do: race without my watch. Race by feel. And with that try to feel deeper than ever before. If I don’t track it did the race even happen? Will the emotional journey take me to untold riches of experience or uncover a darkness that is just below the surface?
It’s inevitable. The trend towards forward progress can’t continue forever in body; only in mind – only by letting go will the truly richest of experiences grip sustain us for the long haul.