Hello, blog! It’s been awhile.
I’m sitting here, still in my jammies…yeah, I am recovering from NYC. Wow; what a fun trip! My roomie, KG, was so much fun. While neither of us ran what we’d hoped (in fact, we both set new Personal Worsts — it was fun to high five and laugh about that), we certainly had a great adventure.
For those of you who just want the low-down and dirty, well, I ran the marathon with a cold and had a really awful time (5:42 by my watch). I knew my race had blown up by mile 5, so at that time I just worked to finish. It was an awesome course (my buddy Paula Radcliffe held up her end of the deal and won; you see, the last time Paula and I ran together, she set a world record), one I feel I could’ve just burned up without having been sick…or sitting around for 5 hours before running.
For those of you who like alllllllll the details…
NYC Marathon Race Report
Race day, we got up at 3:30 a.m. Karen’s bus was leaving at 4:30 and mine at 5:00, and we knew from testing it out that the library was a 20-minute walk from the hotel. I just took my time and had coffee and a banana before heading out of the hotel at 4:20. It was a quiet, uneventful walk, and when I got to the central library, I fell right into line. Before I knew it, I was on the bus leaving for Staten Island. I sat next to a local guy who was doing his first marathon, and we chatted but after awhile I dozed a bit.
NYC Marathon: Pre-Race
The bus pulled up at Fort Wadsworth just around 5:00 a.m. It was dark as I walked into the athlete area and I wondered if I was going to be able to find Karen; we’d agreed to meet at the medic tent just inside the green area, as we both were in the green start wave. There she was, sitting right at the curb waiting for me. We found a sheltered spot near a tree (in what we LATER realized was the open area, not the green “Tegla Loroupe Village”) and Karen told me where to get coffee and a bagel.
I stopped to use the port-a-potty and almost vomited as someone had had a blow-out in there (UGH) but I made it out. Turns out we were picking up our coffee in the “Orange” village…shoot, it is DARK at 5:00 a.m.! I came back, ate, and then snuggled up with Karen. She had brought two big trash bags and a blanket, and I had brough a mat, so we put the mat down, the trashbags over our feet and bottom legs, and the blanket over everything else, including our heads. It was in the low 40s, clear and with a brisk breeze. Even with our throw-down fleece on over our running clothes, it was cold. I was coughing and so tried desperately to stay turned away from Karen as to avoid totally pollute her with my germs.
When the sun came up around 7:30 a.m., we both dozed off in the relative warmth. About 8:10 a.m., Karen got in line to go to the bathroom. I realized a bit later that we needed to turn in our drop bags by 8:30, so I got my stuff together.
I had taken my post-race shirt out and put it on over my short-sleeved shirt and arm warmers because it was so cold and windy, so I really didn’t have much in my drop bag. I wandered over to “our people” in the green village, dropped off the bag, and zipped back over to our cozy spot; Karen had obviously come back and left to drop off her bag as well. She appeared in a few minutes and we moved closer to our start corral, which was scheduled to open at 9:15.
We moved in as soon as they opened it up, as there was a line of pristine port-a-potties just inside (joy! rapture! toilet paper!). As the masses poured in (there would be some 13,000 people in our start wave ALONE), we huddled together and began to remove the sweats and get ready to run. Our wave was scheduled to leave at 10:00 a.m., some 5 HOURS after our arrival at the start. By the start of our wave, we’d already been up for 6.5 hours!
NYC Marathon: The Race
The start was disappointing. We hadn’t been able to hear any of the other starts (elites? When did they go?), we were so far from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge start line. Our wave evidently had someone sing “America the Beautiful” and a cannon went off (we did hear this vaguely), and we began to move up the access road to actually get to the bridge. Clothes and trashbags were everywhere.
Suddenly, the start line appeared and we were off…on the lower level of the bridge. So much for the classic view I’d been looking forward to! I could see the boats spraying water down below, and we were sheltered from the wind and the sun. My legs felt like blocks of wood and I couldn’t even stay with Karen for the first mile. I told myself I needed time to get warmed up and tried not to sweat it; it was fairly crowded at this point anyway.
I totally missed the first mile marker; the bridge is almost the first 2 miles, and it was really a very gentle slope, not bad at all. I hit my watch at mile 2 and was startled to see 22:03. Yikes. I reminded myself that I needed some time to warm up, but I was also being to simply feel very very TIRED.
I don’t really remember much of the first 10K, only that I realized I was struggling. At first, I thought it was just being stiff, then I thought the lack of sleep was catching up to me, and finally I realized that this kind of fatigue was from being sick. I’d had a cold (well, in hindsight…at the time, I kept trying to convince myself I wasn’t really sick) since Monday and, while I had gotten better, I wasn’t WELL.
By mile 5 (total time of 55:28), I took a short break for some Cliff Shots (I was carrying a disposable bottle with Gatorade in it so I wouldn’t have to stop the first few miles, but I wound up carrying it until mile 24). My 10K split was 1:07.19, and through miles 7 and 8, I spent some time trying to sort out whether or not I should continue at all. My miles went to 12:09, 12:26, and then 12:49 — there was some walking and talking to myself, and when I hit mile 9 for a total of 1:44, I said, “Quit your belly aching and go for the finish. Have fun, look around, enjoy the time, and quit doing these stupid splits.”
I shifted to my Sport Beans and finally thought to take some electrolytes (THANK YOU to the anonymous volunteer who happened to call out, “Salt?” as I went by) and actually, miraculously began to feel slightly better. I was still a bit iffy when we came to the short Pulaski Bridge after mile 13 but began to take heart in the fact that I was moving up the bridge at a faster pace than a lot of other people.
I knew from looking at the profile that the Queensboro Bridge around mile 15 was second highest “hill” of the course (that first mile was the biggest) and had been warned that it could be a bit of a downer. It was anything BUT — I got a huge boost. There was no hill; it was a gentle incline! I passed sooooooo many people who were walking. Now, granted, I was moving very slowly as there was just no get-up-and-go in me; I was in bad-long-run-survival pace. But coming off the Queensboro Bridge was amazing!! There was downhill, and then a huge TV screen plus lots and lots and LOTS of people, all screaming and yelling.
Miles 15–19 were without doubt the best part of the race for me; I actually realized that I had come out of the long “valley” I’d been in for a little bit of a “peak.” It’s interesting: I have absolutely no memory of the Willis Avenue Bridge and coming into the Bronx, yet obviously I got there. I remember the sign for the Madison Avenue Bridge and thinking, “Already?” not really understanding that I had a lot to see and do yet.
Harlem was a blast, with some awesome music…from rap to gospel…I tell you, Austin cannot hold a candle to the live music I heard at NYC marathon! At this point, I became aware of the avenue signs…somewhere in the 130s. I knew that the finish was close to 59th. Yeah, I could even do that math, though there was other math that seemed to elude me. Like when I knew I had 10K to go; I thought to myself, “Leah, if you can do the last 10K in an hour, you can still be in at 5 hours and that won’t be too bad.” Girlfriend, you hadn’t done anything REMOTELY resembling a 10-minute mile…and you’re going to bust out 6 right now? Well, the thought motivated me and I did try to run faster and harder, and I think I did.
Coming into Central Park somewhere in mile 23 was surprisingly downhill (I actually thought a lot of this race was downhill) but the crowd was gone and I really needed them. The park was a bit lonely, and I got down a bit. At this point, I just tried to pick people to pass, motivating people, such as the people in the red, white and blue wigs and the girl who’d been leap froggin me for the last three miles. As we came back out of the park onto the street and around Columbus Circle, I was truly thrilled to be where I’d seen the elites just two years earlier. It motivated me immensely to think about my form and pick my feet up and hustle. I did not think the uphill into the finish was bad at all.
NYC Marathon: The Aftermath
I was sooooo disappointed in my time; my only time goal had been to finish in under 5:00. This marathon was to be my new “base line” to work on reaching a new road PR. I had realistically put my finish at 4:40, and here I was an hour later. I immediately started coughing at the fnish and couldn’t stop; the long trek around the park to get my bag was miserable. It was an even longer walk back to the hotel, and to add insult to injury it was getting dark. HELLO! I’d started in the dark and was now finishing in the dark. What a day.
When I got to the hotel room, it turns out that Karen had not had her best day, either. We both laughed and high-fived our mutual PWs. After a shower, we headed off to a wonderful little Italian restaurant for beers and pizza, the perfect ending.
I am at peace with the day; I did all that I could’ve done given the circumstances and I DID finish, which was not at all a given. I have no regrets and am happy for the experience.
There is always another marathon!