NYC 2011 was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.
Friday morning, we headed to the expo for package pickup. The expo was incredibly organized (hint hint, BMO??). We had to show our passports before picking up our packages. Counters were organized by bib numbers- package pickup literally took less than 10 minutes. Displays telling racers how to read our bibs. And the expo, was huge – and a runners dream. If I wasn’t careful, I could spend hours in the expo. Clutching my precious package in hand, I wandered the expo, just soaking it in. I found a pair of hot pink compression sleeves which I was sorely tempted to try for race day, but did not.
I averaged about 4 hours of sleep the night before the race – but I had slept well the previous night, so I wasn’t too fussed. I was up at 3:30am in the morning. I’d been warned of the cold – sitting around in Fort Wadsworth for hours. So I layered up. I had so many layers on, I practically rolled out the door. Shortly before 5 am, clutching my breakfast, gels, etc, I made my way to the subway two blocks from our upper westside hotel.
En route to the subway, I met a woman, who was a guide for an Achilles athlete. She told me they expected to be out on the course for about eight hours. Wow. Now that takes guts.
Our bus was at 5:30am in midtown (NYC Public Library). I followed the masses off the subway at 42nd street, towards 6th avenue. Volunteers herded us onto chartered buses- hello comfy coach seats. As soon as our bus was filled, we left. Absolutely no loitering or waiting around.
The bus was mostly silent. Well, at least my seatmate was. But that is the way I preferred it. I tried to get some shut eye. I gave up and peered out the window into the darkness, trying to get a sense of where we were going. The bus stopped a short distance outside of Fort Wadsworth. We had to show our bibs and our bags to get through. Again, super painless.
The village was HUGE, but I asked a volunteer which way to the Orange Village. The lineups for coffee, bagels, etc. were non existent when I arrived as it was not quite 6am. I snagged the requisite dunkin donuts fleece hat and an all important cup of coffee (An hour later, the coffee lineups were ridiculous). I staked out my spot, and ate the pb and bagel and banana I had brought with me.
Made some new friends who watched my stuff, as I made the first of many pre race porta potty visits. When I get nervous..
By the time I had made my way back to my spot, the sun had started to come up. And then it got chilly. I wrapped my fleece blanket around me and jammed in the headphones. I literally don’t remember thinking about the race (except to think about how long we still had to sit around:p). Shortly before 8 am I dropped my bags off and went off in search of the corrals.
The corrals were within a large fenced in area with their own porta potties. Each “corral” was literally separated by a rope. Sitting there, watching people warm up (definitely felt like there was a disproportionate number of males in our coral as opposed to female) I started to get intimidated. They looked fast. Really fast. And maybe I had chosen the wrong corral (Corral 16 was the last corral in our section). Maybe I didn’t belong. I watched a runner in a singlet, shorts, breathe right strip, and bright green socks, doing all sorts of drills up and down the corral. Other people were watching too – clearly he was providing some entertainment for the corral. Most people were sitting, stretching, and basically not wasting a lot of energy. Why bother when you have 26.2 miles to run?:p
About 40 minutes? before the race started, some sort of inaudible announcement was made and our entire wave started to move up. People (including me) scrambled for one last turn at the porta potties. Simultaneous announcements were being made that this was the last porta potty for three miles, and other volunteers howled at us to hurry up; they had to let the next wave in. Stern warnings were also issued about not heeding nature’s call off the Verrazano Narrows bridge, and threatening disqualification for anyone caught. Not that I was planning to…
And then, our last stop, before the Verrazano Narrows bridge. Buses (presumably belonging to the elites/sub – elites shielded our view of the bridge. Cops were standing around. People doing last minute drills. The star spangled banner, and the announcement of the elite men.
And then, we were off, walking onto the Verrazano Narrows bridge….helicopter buzzing overhead…
I hadn’t run at all the week before the race, deciding to let some niggling issues in my IT heal. So except, for a light pre race jog, and some strides, I hadn’t run since the previous Sunday. But race day, everything felt pretty good.
My biggest concern at that moment, was trying to figure out where the exact start was (so I could start my garmin). Crossed the first km in 5:40, and wasn’t too fussed. Next km (which felt identical to the first) was in 5:06. I had no finely tuned race strategy. I thought I would just keep the first 5km above 5 minute km so that I didn’t destroy my race before it started. I know we started on an incline, but it didn’t feel like it. I crossed 5km in about 26 minutes. 10km in around 51 minutes. I wasn’t thrilled but knew that my goals were still within reach.
I was a bit surprised at the pace and that running 4:45kms and 4:50s – felt like I was running at an above 5 min km. I told myself, that as long as I kept it 4:45km or above, it was fine.
I had wanted to hit the first half in 1:45 or faster. I hit it in 1:46 give or take. At this point, I thought that odds were I would run a 3:35 or slower as I anticipated slowing in the last half of the race.
It was so crowded – the entire race. Passing was a pain in the *$#*! but I could only take clipping at someone else’s heels for so long. I found stretches of (relatively) open space, and to keep my pacing even (thank you garmin).
While I was focused on splits and trying to run my own race, amazing things were happening around me. I ran past a wheelchair athlete during the race and the crowds were going completely nuts cheering the athlete on, while a guide was urging him on. I was in awe. It sucked running up inclines. Couldn’t imagine trying to do it in a wheelchair.
We hit the Queensborough Bridge, and I was wary, but I still felt good. And my pacing was even. I passed the 3:40 pace bunny, and a fleeting thought crossed my mind to run with the 3:40. Um. No. And then I passed the 3:30 pace bunny (I know he was in my wave, but having not seen him at the start, had no idea if he was on pace). I decided to run with the bunny a bit – there was a bit of back and forth but when I glanced down at my watch it read 4:21km, 4:19 km. No way. However, I again passed the 3:30 pace bunny and never saw him again (unless he passed me in the later stages of the race – quite possibly because things started to get fuzzy…)
Coming off the Queensborough Bridge (which took forever) First Avenue was CRAZY. I still felt good, and tried to control my pace (at times the garmin was registering 4:12s, and a couple times, some sub 4s). I quickly pulled it back. Way too fast. Yep, the miles along First avenue were way too fast.
After emptying my own handheld, I stopped at every gatorade/water station. My memory is fuzzy, and I’m not sure I had any gels after the 25km mark. I did drink full cups of gatorade at every station, so that kept me from completely dissolving in the latter stages. I am sure I stepped on spilled gatorade throughout the course; during the latter stages of the race, it felt as though I was ripping glue off my running shoes with every step.
At mile 20, still felt good (“good” being a relative term). However I swear I saw the 30km sign three times?:p Mile 22 was good. Mile 23, and the sight of the uphills did not make me happy. I had run straight through until this point, but seeing that climb made me want to cry. I made a deal with myself. Run two stop lights, shuffle, and then start again. I asked myself how badly did I want this? I told myself that I hadn’t come this far, just to give up now. For the first time in the race, I thought, this is really hard. I picked off a poor guy who was clearly suffering and made myself run past him, before I let myself walk.
I saw the mile 24 sign. D%^$t. Still two miles to go. Really, the last three miles felt longer than preceding 23.
The crowds (which had been insane for nearly the entire race) were unbelievable as we entered the park via Columbus circle. If it weren’t for the crowds, I swear I would have walked the last three miles. But I couldn’t walk for too long with what seemed like the whole world watching.
At the 800 meters to go sign, my thought was?!!! Still 800 freaking meters to go? I am proud(not) to say that I walked for a few steps and then made myself run again. I did get passed numerous times at this point, but I did not care.
The roar of the crowd was deafening, and when I saw the finish banner in sight, I forced myself to run across the finish line (though in the videos, I swear it looks like I am walking across the finish).
While I was hoping to sneak in under 3:30, I was thrilled with my race, and I can’t really complain.
I thought I would get all emotional crossing the finish line. I didn’t. However, walking back to the hotel afterwards, I did get a little er choked up. I thought about how it had been such long journey from January till NYC. The disappointment of my last marathon. Training for but not running Vancouver this past May. And then the opportunity to race NYC. That finally, it had all come together in a race. And to run the best race of my life thus far and a BQ in NYC, was the icing on the cake.