Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Race Report: NY Freaking C Marathon

As you know, I got into the NYC Marathon by lottery in 2018. It was exhilarating to have gotten in! And then... well, then 2018 happened, and I spent a lot of time in PT and not running. I didn't actually restart running until January, and rebuilt at a snail's pace, all for the goal of getting to one race: NYC 2019.

Training went mostly well, but in July I had an unexpected flareup in my IT band. I got that under control and training went back to normal (I mean, except for the whole falling off the treadmill thing) until September, when that IT band set itself on FIRE. This made for some extremely difficult training, a number of days off, as well as a couple of trips to the doctor for some creative solutioning. (pro tip: if your doctor says "try taking a muscle relaxer and running," don't. You will run but you will not breathe because the pill is not muscle group specific.) While I got a couple of the longest runs in (one thanks to my friend Amy, who suggested a one-way run and met me for the last 4 miles, then drove me back to my car and had brunch with me!), there weren't enough long runs to make me feel truly ready. 

We flew to NYC on Friday, took an Uber from Newark to our hotel in Manhattan, and met my cousin for dinner. We met up with John Anthony and went to a Scandanavian place where I could get a big salad for dinner topped with some smoked salmon for a good balanced meal. Fairly early to bed in the quietest hotel I’ve ever stayed in in the City (and was picked so because the reviews said exactly that!) Up Saturday for breakfast of yogurt and granola at the hotel, and then took the subway over to the Javitz Center for the expo and packet pick up. The expo was enormous and we spent probably 2 hours there. Lots of people, lots of fun vendors, great energy. They even had a station where you could try on samples of the race shirt so you had the correct size when you got it! THAT was such a bonus – women’s shirts are always sized wonky, and I literally have medium, large and XL shirts in my drawer depending on the race! Packet pickup was smooth – bib, pins, t-shirt, race information, spectator booklet and some freebies all in your start bag.

We tried to stay off our feet as much as possible on Saturday, but still ended up putting in about 5 miles of walking – welcome to New York. We had pizza for lunch, and went to a market and got pasta and fruit for dinner in our hotel room (we had a living room in our hotel so we could spread out!) We also stopped at Whole Foods so I could grab bread, peanut butter and jelly for the morning. Hung out in the room and went to bed early. 

I should note that 2 years of waiting for this race and Seinfeld ruined me. The clocks changed back an hour that night, and I was 100% paranoid that I would have the wrong time on my alarm... so I brought my old, janky 1990's alarm clock and made sure I put a new battery in it (in case of a power outage) in case the IPhone didn't automatically change times. And, I swear to you, I tried the alarm Friday night, and glad I did - BECAUSE THE VOLUME KNOB!

The alarm did in fact, go off at 4:30am race morning. I already had everything set out so it didn’t take too long to get ready – got the Body Glide on, double checked all my stuff, pulled on my extra clothes for the start village and was off. Transportation to Staten Island was by bus from the New York Public Library at 5:30am. The library was only about 3 blocks from our hotel, but we added another 6-8 blocks because they had you walk all the way around the library and Bryant Park to get in line for the bus, and then all the way back in line. However, the buses were ready and it was a steady stream of runners getting on the buses an the buses leaving. It was a 90 minute drive to the start village and I slept on the bus so hard I woke up and realized that we were stopped and everyone was getting off the bus!

The start village was organized into three “color” villages. To start the race, you had your Wave (1-4) that was the starting time, then color of corral which was your starting area (blue, green, orange), and then your letter which was the corral within the corral (so I was Wave 3, Blue, C and my gun time was 10:35am). Each color had its own village with water, Gatorade, bagels, bananas, Honey Stinger waffles, and Dunkin Donuts coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and nothing seemed to run out. Dunkin was handing out fleece hats and that was super helpful – it was cold! United Airlines also had a tent set up with yoga mats and cloth cubes you could sit or lay on – which was a super good idea! Being at the start 3.5 hours before the gun meant a lot of time outdoors and your choices were concrete or damp grass for sitting… I had on capri's and a pair of long pants over them, my running singlet, a long sleeve shirt and a fleece jacket, topped by a poncho from my freebie bag compliments of BioFreeze, and even that wasn’t quite enough. United was also giving away hand warmers – which they brought enough of to last the entire race morning. I spent the morning eating my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, apples, and Powerbars at the intervals I had set out for myself, laying or sitting on the yoga mat, and generally trying to stay warm. It wasn’t so fun to be by myself for that long, but runners are friendly, and you get talking with whomever.

Eventually, it was time to get into the corrals (Which had their own portapotties in the corrals as well, good thinking).I stripped off everything except the longsleeve, and then ditched the longsleeve just before start. You must walk more than a half mile from the time you into the corrals until you get through the chute and anywhere near the start line. The start is right before the Verranzano Narrows bridge, and the energy is high! I was also definitely in the right corral – everyone walked and no one started running until they crossed the start line, and then everyone I was around seemed to be at my pace. It was crowded, but you could constantly run, and weren’t getting stuck. I did some dodging and weaving, but never had to pull up short or go around a walker.

It took me 8 minutes after the gun to get across the start, and then you are on the bridge. The sun was streaming down and I was glad I was in a singlet – it was warm fast on the bridge. You get off the bridge at something like mile 1, and turn a corner into Brooklyn…and into a ROAR of people. The spectators were amazing! Flags from every country, signs, shouting and cheering – I’ve never been to a race like it. Incredible.

Coming from elevation, I didn’t feel the bridge, and Brooklyn felt totally flat. I saw John Anthony at mile 7, and then Eric at mile 11, at about which time you cross from Brooklyn into Queens (sign read: Welcome to Queens, now get out.) All those miles felt great and I was running exactly even and exactly at my intended race pace. However, after mile 12, things started to fall apart. I should have done more training on concrete (I mostly ran out by my house or on the Santa Fe trail), because my legs started feeling the concrete pounding.  Miles 14-15 is a long bridge with no spectators and no view – we were on the lower level of a double decker bridge and there was nothing to distract, and it was a grind. Uphill to the point I could notice it, but again, elevation and training helped with that. I got racers stomach somewhere after the half marathon mark… and for the rest of the race, that was a constant battle. I had a mantra going in miles 16-17, in Manhattan where there were so many spectators “don’t puke, don’t poop,  don’t pass out.” I really didn’t know what was going to happen, I just knew I had to keep running and not stop at all costs, because if I stopped I might not be able to start again. I also realized at some point that the Body Glide was no longer working. Fortunately, the race had Vaseline on Sticks they were handing on, and on it went like deodorant #greasestainsdontcare.

With all this, my pace fell off, and there were miles where I felt like I was barely moving forward. But, I kept running, took water and/or Gatorade at every stop (doing the run/grab/drink thing), and ground out the miles. Crossing into Harlem and the Bronx brought new sets of spectators, and I was starting to feel better after mile 20 – when a cramp in my left quad started up. I run with Hyland’s cramp medicine, and ended up taking several doses the last 10K, but it kept me moving and that cramp at bay.

By mile 22 you are back in Manhattan and headed for Central Park. The crowds got crazy and at points the road to run on was narrow because so many spectators were spilling into the streets. But the energy was AWESOME. I also passed a bunch of Achilles runners – this is the group that supports participants with disabilities in the NYC marathon. So many amazing people and volunteers supporting them – one woman in those external leg supports that people who are paralyzed use, one guy with cerebral palsy (I think), who had to do the race in a wheelchair – BACKWARDS – pushing himself along with his feet while guided by volunteers. Others with challenges that were less obvious to identify, but just incredible. I also passed a bunch of veteran runners – folks with race tags on their backs that said “this is my X NYC marathon” – 20, 25, 31 etc.

It felt like flying in Central Park and I could tell I picked my pace up again. Then you go out of Central Park and around to Columbus Circle, and then back into Central Park for the last 800M of the finish. This is where it got tricky because it felt like I wanted to kick, but I knew I didn’t have 800M of kick in me. So I kept going until the very last little bit, found my kick and wove around people to cross the finish. 

And promptly burst into ugly sobs. Yep. That's me. Crying at the finish like a toddler, cause I'm smooth like that. I wandered forward and ended up in a nonmoving crowd for longer than I would have liked. Since I had been drinking through the aid stops, I still had water left in my fuel belt, and drained it. Eventually, I got to where I got my medal and slowly got trucking forward. I got cold and wanted someone to hug me. Instead, I stopped for a photo (I take terrible race photos. I mean, like bad. See evidence for why I would never purchase race photos), I got to where they were giving out thermal blanckets and then eventually got to the place where they gave you a string bag with post-race food in there. I got a bag of pretzels down and kept trudging forward. I had signed up for the post-race poncho, and really, really wanted my poncho. I was tired and Central Park felt one million miles long. My mom called me and somehow I heard the phone in my pants and answered. I finally got around a long uphill and found where they were giving out the ponchos and they were like fleece hugs. Fleece lined with raincoat exteriors and velcro closure and hoods and I put it all on. I trudged forward and let a poor Bahrainian man use my phone to WhatsApp his wife to tell her where he was and where to meet him. I eventually trudged down to 67th street where Eric was waiting. I had mixed feelings about the race with the tummy trouble and the slower than wanted finish, but I was happy to see him and happy that I ran every single foot of that race, without stopping or walking once. We walked back down to Columbus Circle and I got a little weepy watching others take the turn into Central Park, and then we took the way overcrowded subway back to out hotel (regrets to the other riders. I know I smelled SO bad.)

That night, Eric and I had a drink and an appetizer in the hotel restaurant, and planned to go out, and then instead I took a post-race run... right out of the restaurant to the elevator and back to the room where I was so sick the rest of the night. You can Google Dante's hellscape and get a rather accurate understanding of what that evening was like. Needless to say, I wasn't super energetic the next day and overtired, but we got up, packed, had breakfast, and trudged back to Central Park for Marathon Monday... which I wouldn't do again, as it was basically a sales tent. However, being in Central Park was nice and we wandered around the finish, and then headed to the airport.

I needed to get to the airport early, as I was feeling the need to be overprepared on race day... so brought a credit card and my ID with me, which I've never done in a race. I was thinking that if something happened, I might need them. What actually happened however, is they fell out of my pants at the start and so I had to figure out how to get through airport security in New York without my driver's license. Turns out, its possible, but you have to go to second base with the TSA. Sorry, Eric, but I had to get home. 

Overall, this was the best organized race from start to finish I've ever been a part of. It was amazing to think of how the organizers could pull off such an event - race week, packet pickup, the expo, the pre-race village, the course, the post-race. For 53,000 people. This was something. Oh! And because runners are awesome, someone found my credit card and ID, and turned them in. The race contacted me with there I could pick them up.
So! Here comes the off season. Planning for some strength training, core workouts and getting on the Incline regularly. The plan for 2020 is PPM, and maybe a road marathon - I haven’t figured that out yet. I know I’ve got a 4 hour marathon in me… but I also know that training for the Peak is a different animal than road training, so maybe a 4 hour marathon doesn’t happen next year, and I’d be ok with that. I'm just hoping that 4 hours doesn't turn into my personal white whale.

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