Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New York City Marathon - Race Report

On Sunday, November 6th 2011 I ran the New York City Marathon. It was my fourth marathon, my first NYC Marathon. My time was 4:33:48.

For more details read on.
The map from my watch the day of the race.

The Back Story
When I was a senior in college doing some sort of graduation enrichment activity I was asked to write down a list of things I wanted to do with my life. On that list was run the NY Marathon. That was 1996. So I finally got it done - 15 years later.

You can read the back entries to see about my training. I will say that I was happy with my training. While I didn't do as much strength training as I could have I did stick to my schedule and did my best the whole way through. My goal from the beginning was to run my own race and train for my own race.

My goal was 4:30. I ran 4:33 - that's pretty close so I'm pretty stinkin happy :-)

Marathon Weekend
Friday Miami to New York
I get nervous the days before a marathon and sometimes grouchy. So, when we almost missed our outgoing flight because my husband was being a space cadet I was pretty pissed off at him and he knew it. We did make it though. I eventually started speaking to him again.
The family truckster loaded and ready. That's my little guy peeking over the seat.

I carried everything I needed for race day in my transition bag including the outfit and the Garmin packed as you see here.

When we checked into the hotel they asked are you here for the marathon and I piped up "I am!" and the check in attendant was super cheerful for me which was great. As a side note ... it's the nicest hotel I've ever been in :-) Thanks to my hubby for setting it up.

I had said I was going to wait until Saturday to go to the expo but I went ahead and went by myself Friday evening. I was a basket of nerves and it was best for me to get it done. My husband and kids were happy to let grouchy mommy go do her thing and they went and played in the park. I caught the shuttle and headed out. All around me were different languages - which was cool.

The expo was gigantic - I picked up my number and my shirt and then I had my first real stress reducing moment. I changed my ferry time from 7:00 to 7:45. That made me very happy since my start time wasn't until 10:40. It was probably uneccesary since nobody ever checked my ferry time but I did feel better.
That's a lot of runners!

I shopped my heart out in the Asics Marathon gear section, picked up a SPibelt and headed back to the hotel. I picked up a gigantic bottle of water to start hydrating on the way home.

It was a good decision for me to go to the expo early and alone. I was much more relaxed and beginning to feel like I could navigate this race by myself..

As a family we went to the park to watch the fireworks. We saw the tail end of the parade of nations (which appeared very un-parade-like from our spot) but the fireworks were great.  I swear their were bursts that looked like apples but my step-daughter thinks I'm insane.
Fireworks over the finish line. I'm telling you there is more hype before and during this race than anything I've ever experienced.

I went for a shakeout run Saturday morning. I had packed shorts to run in close to race day apparel but it was only 38 at 7 when I was heading out so I put on more layers.
I asked my step daughter to take this picture. She thought I looked ridiculous and was happy to do her part to document the moment.

It was chilly. But It was nice. I went by the finish line and followed the path the runners would take. The first exit I saw I took and it dumped me right by my childhood playground and my street corner.

It was a trip down memory lane. I headed back to the hotel. When the watch said 3 miles I walked because I really didn't want to overtire my legs the day before. I made my plan on this run to take the bus back from the finish. That turned out to be a dumb plan because all of Central Park West is closed after the race. But at the time it made me feel prepared - and feeling prepared is important :-)

I met my running buddy Carol for breakfast and we shared our pre-race jitters.
Oatmeal is never the same when somebody else cooks it but Europa Cafe is still a great place.

I had lunch with my husband, brother and father-in-law at a nearby bar, had my nails done and relaxed in the room watching movies.

Then I met my running pals for the pre-race dinner. Even though we were all in Mid-town our group had a dinner reservation in Tribeca. I still don't understand why. My husband and kids elected not to come all the way to Tribeca for dinner and that was a good choice for them because getting there was a production. We made it and the dinner was great. It is helpful to me to see everybody the night before and share my jitters. The big talk was about what everybody was wearing since we're all from Florida the weather was hard for us to plan for.
Carol got this huge pizza

One of two tables of crazy Floridians

Meli and Chris looking at somebody else ;-)

In the cab ride back to from dinner it was just me and Carol. We talked about the race and I said that while I had my time goal most of all I just wanted to enjoy the whole day and take it all in. I was mostly trying to remind myself of that I think.

Then it was home (to the hotel) set the alarms, order room service and into bed and try to sleep. As a side note - daylight savings was the night before the race. We gained an hour so it was a good thing but sheesh one more thing to worry about.

Sunday - Race Day
I woke up before the alarm but just by a bit. Then the wake-up call and the doorbell for room service all happened at the same time. This woke my young kids up - but they are always happy to be up. My adult step-daughter just pulled the blanket over her head - she didn't even groan. I've got my family well-trained for race day in a hotel.

Unlike other races I've done this start is so late that the wake up wasn't really early. In fact I saw both my kids and got to share my breakfast with them. I ate, I got dressed and was ready to go.
Dylan and I sitting on the floor eating my breakfast.

These are the most expensive hard boiled eggs I've ever eaten.

At 6:30 my phone rang and it was the car service. They said, we're running 20 minutes late. I thought I would have a heart attack. I told the person I was running the marathon and needed to get to the ferry she said, "oh, let me see what I can do, I'll call you back." I was in a panic. My husband suggested I go right down and see if I could find a cab. So I gathered my things and headed out feeling pretty anxious.

Getting to the Ferry
When I got to the lobby I had a voicemail from the car service. The car would be just 2 minutes late.   What a relief. In fact as I walked outside he pulled up. Then my friend Carol came around the corner and we were off. She had so much "stuff" on I didn't even recognize her. I'm not exagerating I was watching for her and I called her and her phone rang she was maybe 2 feet away from me. We stopped at the Marriot and picked up Melissa and Chris and we went to the ferry. I was now pretty relaxed. Everything was going smoothly.
Our driver who was very sweet once he realized we didn't want him to drive us actually to Staten Island - just to the ferry terminal in Manhattan.

This is a very unflattering picture of my friend Chris in the car.

Can you see that we're excited in the car. Also warm and not standing.
 We got on the ferry which was a smooth great ride. It takes about 30 minutes. We went right by the Statue of Liberty. This was where Carol learned that her "L" had fallen off the front of her shirt. :-)When we got to Staten Island we headed to the busses. I stopped to use the porta potty. Everything was getting more crowded because there were lots of us runners around.
When we got to Staten Island the energy level was awesome. Carol high fived this transit worker who was already cheering for the runners. We hadn't even gotten to the start yet.

Carol had on about 50 layers of clothes. On the ferry she was hot she took off her top layer and realized that her L had come off. She would be Caro today.

Me with my cold weather outfit. Those were great blue sweat pants - I'm gonna miss them.

I was excited and apparently took a lot of photos on the ferry.

more ferry.

random other runner I felt compelled to photograph getting on the ferry. I forget her name but she was from Texas.

Do you see how much luggage Carol has? We called her the bag lady but to be honest she was prepared for whatever a long cold morning would bring.

We got on a bus and we were off. The woman next to me was sleeping. I had a smile from ear to ear. It was just a great day. The bus ride was longer than I was expecting - maybe 15 minutes. I had no idea how big Staten Island might be or how far the Ferry terminal was from the Start villages.

Start Village
We got off the bus and followed the heards. I made a joke, "so what should we do today, I know let's run the New York Marathon!"

Another stop at the porta potties. Where we saw our buddy Marty getting ready to find his start coral. That was great. He's the only other person from our big Florida group that I saw that day.
Chris and Meli in the Orange Village

Those are the first runners on the bridge behind us.

On our way to the start village.

It was very exciting

We set up camp in the Orange Village because there didn't seem to be any reason to go to the Green village. I was the only person planning to start in Orange but my friends stayed with me because they are awesome. We checked our bags at the last minute and took off the outermost layers. We heard the canon go off for the first start and we could even see the runners going over the bridge that was awesome! Then we relaxed but only for about 5-10 minutes and then it was time to go find the corals. Really it flew by.

Finding the corals isn't overly obvious which I had heard and so we actually all ended up in the Orange area. Then we broke off and they went to find the Green. I found the sign with my number group on it and lined up. Then we were into the pen. From here we heard the 10:10 canon go off.

Then our volunteer said to our group - we're going to drop the rope but stay where you are. They removed the rope and we all ignored her and moved forward merging with the folks in front of us. I mean really, what did she think we were going to do?

At this point I should have gone to the port-a-potty again but to be honest  I thought that slightly urgent gotta go feeling was just pre-race nerves and decided it wasn't worth losing my spot in the coral. (I was sitting on a clean discarded jacket resting).

Here I was by myself getting ready to go into the coral. Yes there is a pre-coral staging area. So to entertain myself I took self portraits. I really did look silly in that hat but it kept my ears nice and warm.

We walked around and under and Orange arch and then up the ramp to the bridge. It was an amazing feeling because this is such a famous start that I've seen on TV so many times. Then we heard a fantastic singing of the National Anthem and then I think the gun went and then we heard Frank Sinatras "New York, New York" but I could have that backwards. I was only about 10 yards from the start mat so my start was my start - which is to say there wasn't much delay waiting for people to go in front of me. It was fantastic. I was smiling from ear to ear just trying to absorb the whole experience and commit it to memory.

There were a lot of people dropping clothes right away all over the bridge but the atmosphere is magical. It's uphill at the start so I didn't push it but my energy was all there. My first few miles were faster than intended but not by a lot and it was so much fun. There were bridge workers in the middle of the bridge high five-ing runners going by.

At the blue mile one marker I meant to hit lap on my watch but I hit stop instead. Oops. I restarted and also realized that it wasn't my mile marker anyway. It was the "blue wave marker" Oh well. So my splits were estimates the rest of the race but that's okay I wasn't going to panic.

The race is what everybody says it is. There are supporters on every inch of the course except part of the bridges where they can't be.

I should have started in less clothes. I was hot pretty quickly. Removing my top layer was awkward but luckily I was surrounded by sweaty strangers who could have cared less.

The crowds in Brooklyn were non-stop and awesome. Strangers cheering your name. Bands every few blocks. It was like a constant finish line.

My camera battery died at mile 3. That was a bummer. Apparently you cannot take a zillion flash photos with a little camera and expect the battery to last all day. hmmm - good to know. Also, not going to worry about it. I was just going to enjoy the day and give it my all.

I took off my hat, my, gloves and my shirt. Somewhere in there I lost my hat. Not the end of the world. Kept on trucking. Splits were looking good but a little too fast. I took my first quick walk break at mile 4 with the GU.

Something interesting that I hadn't prepared for was that my nose ran during the whole race. I think it was from the cold. I had some tissues in my pouch and I got an extra from a volunteer on the route so it all worked out but it was a bit strange to be running along and blowing my nose every mile or so.

The water station volunteers get these orange coats which on the kids are like dresses - it's very cute.

After the water stations the whole road was sticky from the spilled Gatorade from the 20k runners in front of me. That was bizarre.

I'm not familiar with the Brooklyn streets so I was just taking it all in.

I have two friends from College who were going to try to find me on the course in Brooklyn - I didn't see them and to be honest it was so crowded the whole way it would have been really hard to see them so I wasn't bummed out about that. But I was ready to hand off my extra stuff to my family in a few miles.

Just before we got to Queens I started to feel the fatigue from the speed of going out so quickly. I may have stopped smiling here. My 13.1 split is 2:10 which is close to my half marathon PR so I had a moment of thought of "uh-oh, can I do this?" and then I thought this is what I trained for and I mentally committed to keep going. A big chunk of the race is in Brooklyn so it was a boost to actually get to the Pulaski Bridge and know that one borough was done. Goodbye Brooklyn.

As a note - the advice I've read about pacing a marathon is to go out slow and then try to speed up if you can at the halfway point. This was actually my plan but it didn't quite work out. I was however thinking a lot about trying to go faster at this point :-) It just didn't fully translate to my legs.

At this point was the first ASICS Screen with support messages from family. I knew my brother and his family had recorded a message but I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw them on the screen. In fact I wouldn't have seen them if the runner in front of me hadn't shouted - there's my mom. And so then I looked and saw my message. I couldn't hear them but seeing them was enough. I mean if you hadn't seen this screen you wouldn't believe it - it was about 30 feet across. Just enormous and it filled with a picture of my nieces and nephew (looking admittedly puzzled) and my brother and sister-in-law. My eyes filled with tears and I headed off with more motivation to give this race my all. It was a really special moment. I don't know what magic they use to make that work but thank you to all the engineers who built it - it's great. Thank you also to my brother and sister-in-law for reading my email and recording the message.

At this point my HR Monitor strap was driving me crazy so I took it off. I figured whatever was bothering me at this point would be murderous by the end. I planned to hand it off to my husband in Manhattan and actually noted to myself that that was probably the same as throwing it away what with the chaos of the day but that turned out not to matter.

As you leave Queens the crowd is shouting Next Stop Manhattan. It's fun. It's a lot of fun.

Manhattan -1 time headed uptown

The Queensboro/59th street bridge is uphill - the whole way. It is nuts. People had told me about this but I hadn't listened or I forgot or something. All the hill workouts I did on the bridge I was thankful for on this bridge. Also it was shady and windy and I was freezing. A woman near me commented that the breeze felt good. Not to this tropical runner ... brrrr.

But I was happy to talk to another runner. Usually in marathons I talk to lots of runners around me but this race was different. First I was in a faster group and we were all working harder but also with all the cheering crowds you really don't have the chance to talk to others around you. Believe it or not the break from the cheering on the bridge was nice. But that's not to say I didn't love the cheering. I did. I really did. At this point there were lots of walkers I don't think I walked but I did slow down to make it up the hill.

As you approach the top of the hill which is the exit you can hear the roar starting to build from the crowd in Manhattan.  In fact people have climbed up the exit ramp and they are cheering looking for their friends. It's amazing. You exit and the crowd is just on the right you make a quick turn and the crowd is all around you. There are even barricades and police to keep the crowds back. For me ... and the other 4 and a half hour marathoners.

Then it's down the ramp and onto First Avenue. I can't even describe the feeling. There are people cheering stacked up 5 deep on each side all the way from about 59th street to the mid- 80s and then it calms down to just 2-3 deep. The cheering is just insane. It's very helpful because this part is also uphill. Good grief - the whole course felt like it was uphill. That's not possible but that's how it felt.

I was supposed to see my family around 64th street. Didn't see them. That was a bummer but I knew I was ahead of schedule and I couldn't see how they could have possibly found a space to cheer anyway. So I put all my stuff back in my pouch and hoped they'd be at the end. With so many people out cheering I was getting a little emotional and hoping that my family would be there to cheer for me.

Mile 17 I had to pee. That slightly urgent feeling I thought was nerves was starting to turn into stomach cramps and I finally saw porta potties with no line. So I quickly stopped and headed back out. In hindsight if I hadn't done this I might have actually made 4:30 even-steven but I really had to go and when you've gotta go ... you've gotta go. Why would I mention this - well because I know that at least one blog reader out there is wondering did I stop to go during the Marathon - yes, yes I did. I apparently cannot make it through a marathon without stopping in the porta-potty.

Bronx -
Into the Bronx. Out of the Bronx. My memory of this part of the course is weak. I was walking a bit at each water station and feeling mentally fatigued. I didn't "bonk" but I definitely was on auto pilot for this section of the race. I was having trouble keeping track of when I was supposed to take my Gu's  or drink Gatorade vs water and math was not happening for me. My plan was to take the Gu every 4 miles so I was trying to remember where I took the last one, 13 maybe plus 4 and going over and over it in my head. I never had any thoughts of stopping or anything but it was right foot, left foot repeat for a stretch.

I was thankful for each person who shouted my name.

Then a little miracle happened. I heard a voice behind me saying walkers please stay to the right or left. I admit I was a little annoyed at this person. I remember thinking "oh come on, it's a crowded race, relax" But a few minutes later she came along side me and guess what? It was the 4:30 pacer happily bouncing a long with her stick with orange balloons held in the air. I was no longer annoyed by her peppy attitude instead I grabbed onto her with my mental lasso and let her lead me forward. I never knew her name but she lead me out of the Bronx and into Manhattan and through the first part of Manhattan. Following her helped me clear my head and figure out that I should go ahead and take another gu no matter what the math so I could get my brain power back At the water station I stopped for water and gu and she did too but she was quicker and came out a bit ahead and while I never quite caught up I could see her balloons all the way until we went into Central Park. That was a huge mental boost that I was actually going to hit my goal.

Manhattan - 2 headed downtown
When you turn onto 5th Avenue back into Manhattan you meander a bit and then you have a perfect downhill view of New York and you can see the Empire State Building downtown. The fall trees were illuminated and glowing yellow and it was one of the most beautiful images of the day. It was fantastic. I wished I had my camera but you'll have to take my word for it.

At this point I knew I was close to the end. The name of the game here was to hold on and make it home. The crowd was great. The only downside was that I could see the street signs and I knew I had to go from 111th to 59th street and it seemed very very very far away. But I kept on plugging.

At some point there was a band or a speaker or something playing U2. That was like a dream and it was perfect. Excellent pick me up music for me.

Somehow as we were on the East side heading downtown this was also uphill. I remember thinking how can it be uphill "again."

When we finally turned into Central Park there is a shift in the crowd almost everyone at this point is there to try to see a finisher and so they cheer your name like crazy. They also have signs for other runners. It's very helpful. The only one in my family who makes signs is my sister-in-law but everybody should make signs for their runners because it rocks. I stopped to walk going up yet another uphill that I just couldn't face but somebody on the side shouted, "Amy! You can do this" and I'll be darned if I didn't just listen to her and start running again. So thank you, random supporter - it was helpful.

Also somewhere in here I saw a finisher sporting his medal. That always motivates me. 

I turned onto Central Park South and I had only 2 thoughts. First, I'm almost done... come on legs let's go. My legs were tired and I was feeling pain and soreness in my calves and quads. I've never cramped in a race but my legs were tired. Next was a very strong prayer that my family would be in front of the hotel. I was super emotional that I wanted to see them. I don't know why this mattered so much in this race because it's hard to time spectating at events this big so I know in advance that I might not see my family till the end and usually I'm fine with that.

I moved over to the left side of the runners and I went by what I thought was my hotel based on the large flags out front and unfortunately I didn't see my family there. I was really bummed but said to myself I can do it anyway. I moved back into the middle of the pack where there is less dodging and weaving and headed to the finish.

Then I looked ahead and realized that my hotel was actually in the next block so I worked my way back over to the left side and then I heard my mother-in-law say, "Amy, it's Amy" and there they were. I saw my kids and my nephew I gave some sweaty kisses and heard everyones voices and then I was off to the finish. That one little boost gave me all the energy I needed to make it to the finish with a beaming smile.

The finish of any marathon is unreal. You start out counting the miles. First I count up to 13 and then that's halfway. Then up to 16 and then I'm mentally counting down from 10 miles. Then down to a 10k and then 5 miles to go and when it's just 5k to go that's a good feeling but at the very very end when you see 400 yards to go that's awesome - just unreal because 400 yards is so short after 26 miles, then 300 yards and then you can hear the finish line announcer. And then you go under the finish line and it's amazing. So far for me it's still one of the greatest feelings there is.

I cried. Just a little bit. Tears of joy.

I got my medal. I love my medal.

Then I started the walk to get my gear. I won't go into too much detail here but for anybody who plans to run this race be ready that it does really take 45 minutes just to exit the park and you go from being warm to freezing in like two minutes. It's pretty unpleasant. I had been warned and I was mentally ready. I made jokes with the runners around me and the time passed not quickly but it passed.

Here's where not seeing my family earlier in the race came in handy. I would have given them my long sleeve shirt but I still had it. I started to shiver. Shivering at this point is bad because you don't do a great job of regulating your own temperature at this point but and then I put my long sleeve shirt back on and between that and the mylar blanket around my legs I made it to the UPS tent without freezing. 

At one point I looked up and above me in the hazy afternoon light were 2 elm tree leaves just floating above in the breeze. It seemed very special.

I finally made it out of the park at 77th Street and I'm happy that I packed dry sweats because the walk back to the hotel was much warmer and more pleasant with them. My plan had been to get the M10 bus down Central Park to Columbus Circle-- bad plan - very bad plan - the road is totally closed to traffic for the marathon. Now in hindsight let me say I could have walked one block to Columbus and caught an M7 bus but I had no brain power. So, like a lemming, I just followed the other sweaty runners all trying to go South and shuffled my way back to the hotel. At one point when blocked by a barricade I was completely confounded as to how I would get to where I was going. A very patient policeman explained to me (like I was a 5 year old) go one block this way, cross the street go to 58th and go left. I am thankful to him and all the other policemen directing traffic that stopped me from walking in front of moving traffic.

I got to the room and was met by my family all so excited to see me giving me hugs and offering to do things for me. Also the Jets had won so the my husband and father-in-law were extra happy. My father-in-law had the details of the mens and womens race which was great. While I didn't see them it sounds like they were both exciting finishes. We relaxed and I showered and took my ice bath and got dressed for dinner.

Then it was a great meal with my wonderful family. And then off to bed. And just like that - it was over.

In closing
Everything runners say about this race is true. I've never run a marathon like it. The crowd support and the pre-race hooplah is intense and fun. The course is tough it's a lot uphill and lots of sharp corners (that break your stride) with a huge crush of runners and also a non-stop crowd of spectators.

But even with all the runners the waves are correctly timed and I didn't feel like I had to juggle to get around people or that I was trapped with slower people at the start so it's doable the whole way. I PRd so it's possible. The water stops all had water and Gatorade and were well stocked and staffed. Logistically while it's huge and getting to the start and from the finish are a huge pain - it's really well done.

But that being said this might be my only New York Marathon. I didn't immediately enter the lottery for next year. We had perfect weather and now I have this perfect memory to go with my best yet Marathon time so for the moment I think I'll just keep it like that.

No comments:

Post a Comment