Tuesday, November 15, 2011

NYC Marathon Race Report

Warning - This is gonna be LONG people, I’m sorry!

The NYC Marathon is different from other marathons in a multitude of ways. First of all, you wake up in the wee hours of the morning and take a bus from the NYC public library to the start of the race on Staten Island. I was meeting my Woodland’s Fit peep we'll call her RunnerC), and we were scheduled to take one of the buses leaving at 6 am. The marathon began at 9:30 am. Our wave started at 10:40 am. As you might have realized, there is a lot of waiting between when you arrive on Staten Island and when you actually race.

Pre-Pre Race
I was completely overzealous and woke up at 4:30 am. The time change that morning freaked me out and I was sooo worried that I was going to somehow screw up setting the alarm clock and not make it to my bus on time. Trust me, if anyone can screw this up, it’s me. So, I have 2 cell phones – one woke me up at 3:30 am (because the time did not change) and the other woke me up at 4:30 am (because the time did change). Stupid cell phones. It only took me a few minutes to get ready, so I took the time to double check and make sure I had everything I needed. It wasn’t even 5 am when I was done. Our apartment was a mile from the library and the Hubby agreed to walk there with me. In a hotel, I would have taken a cab, but since we were in an apartment, I wasn’t sure if we’d even see a cab on the way. Lucky for me, we discovered that we were only a block from where there was a perpetual line of cabs waiting and ready to go 24/7. So, we grabbed a cab which resulted in me having about 50 minutes to spare before meeting up with RunnerC. Rather than hanging out on the cold, dark street, I headed over to the nearby McDonald’s. I probably could have just sat down, but felt like I should buy something, so I bought an Egg McMuffin and ate half of it. While in McD’s, I encountered a couple of other runners, but mostly I encountered quite a few young people still intoxicated from their night out, LOL! They were quite entertaining.

Finally, it was time to meet RunnerC and head for the bus. It took about an hour to get to our stop, because the roads were already pretty congested as we got closer to the start. The “Athlete’s Village” was larger than I remembered and there were definitely more porta potties than I recall. The live band was already playing and people were dancing around. Once we found our designated part of the Athlete’s Village (it’s separated by wave colors – blue, green and orange), we laid out the small tarp I brought and just hung out. We grabbed the coffee from Dunkin’ Donuts and just watched the flow of people. I also had a small blanket and was wearing multiple layers, so the 38 degree temps didn’t seem too bad. RunnerC and I met a nice man from London and later a guy from France, so we chatted it up with them for the next couple of hours. The guy from France (Vincent) had actually been to Houston before, so we talked about his experience there. And, our new friend from London discussed our Governor, Rick Perry, with us….we thought it was funny that he even knew who he was! As the sun started to rise, the temps warmed up quickly and the blanket was no longer needed.

Here are some pics from the Athlete's Village:

The ever-important porta potties! This scene is sooo much different from 2003, when I had to wait AN ENTIRE HOUR to pee!

Me modeling the new trend in fashion - layering. Lots and lots of layers!

Here's me and RunnerC hanging out before the race. Yes, I am sporting an ultra cool Arthur Andersen sweatshirt circa 2000!

Here's the stage with the band already playing!

A view of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge from the Athlete's Village.

We got excited when we heard the cannon for the wheelchair athletes and the elite runners…one hour to go!!!! Time to eat my Pop-Tarts! Before we knew it, it was time to make our last pit-stops at the porta potties and head to the start. The entire time we were hanging out, we were also looking for Woodlands Fit peeps, Amy and Brian. We never saw them. However, as we started making our way to our corral, we suddenly saw them! Crazy that you can find someone you know among these masses (there were something like 47,000 total racing)! I felt a weird pulling on the back of my right knee, probably from sitting for so long in the cold…but it kinda freaked me out. We kept moving toward our corral, stripping off the extra layers of clothes as we went.

The Race!
Finally, we heard “God Bless America” and then the cannon. It’s so anti-climatic, because you have to stand there for several minutes before you can actually start moving. It’s a NYC Marathon tradition for the song “New York, New York” to be played after the cannon, so we just slowly walked forward while singing and dancing to the song. Finally, we began to pick up the pace and before we knew it, we were running (albeit slowly) onto the Varrazano-Narrows bridge. It’s a massive bridge and we were on the lower deck. Every so often, there’d be a work truck with flashing lights and the workers would cheer and then the crowd would roar. Fun! It was deafening, but completely awesome! My Garmin was all wonky on the bridge…I would look down and it would say we were at a 15:35 pace one minute and a 5:27 pace the next. The bridge is about 1 mile of uphill and 1 mile of downhill, and it felt awesome to finally be on the downhill side.

Next, we were in Brooklyn…and lemme tell you – Brooklyn knows how to bring it on race day!!! The next 11 miles are run in Brooklyn and you see a wide variety of people and landmarks. There were loud people cheering from the steps of their brownstones, people cheering from high windows of apartments, people cheering on the sidewalks and lots of bands and djs. In fact, every time you are starting to get into a song that a band is playing, you move forward a few paces and you begin to hear music coming from the next band. It was like one huge party! The only time the crowds grew quiet was when we entered the Hasidic Jewish portion of Williamsburg. In this area, there really weren’t crowds…it was really more like people going along with their normal lives. There were a few people grouped together here and there and we gave a few kids a high fives. Then, several blocks later, it was back to the rowdier, crazier Brooklyn again.

Next stop – Queens. We made our way across the Pulanski Bridge and into Queens, which was pretty much the halfway point of the race. It was about this time that I realized and thought to myself, “This is going to hurt tomorrow!” It was somewhere here that my inner thigh started to cramp up. I kept telling it (in my head) to relax and believe it or not, it did…but, it did this several times from this point forward in the race (even with my regular intake of Endurolytes). You only spend a couple of miles in Queens, but the crowds there are rowdy and crazy, too. In fact, when you leave Queens to go over the Queensboro bridge, it’s almost eerie how quiet it’s suddenly become. The Queensboro bridge is between mile 15 and 16…and this is where my lack of hill training came back to bite me in the ass. Right before going onto the bridge, I saw a sign that said something like, “Make this bridge your bitch!” There were also signs that said, “If less than 10 miles to go is easier” followed by one that said, “Then welcome to easier!”. The signs made me laugh, which did help…but, even with the fun signs I told RunnerC that I was sooooo ready to get off this damn bridge and get into Manhattan. The coolest thing about this part of the race is that as you are (FINALLY) going down the bridge, you round a corner and the sound goes from super-quiet to crazy –ass-roaring-crowds.


The next couple of miles are run on 1st Avenue in Manhattan along a row of bars and restaurants. The crowds are crazy-huge here. And crazy loud! It’s this stretch where it’s easy to get carried away and start running faster. But before that, you get to go under the Queensboro where there was a heavenly-long row of porta-potties….I was waiting until I found some with no line and there they were! HALLELUJAH! I ran into the nearest empty one and took care of business as quickly as possible.

After taking care of business, we could enjoy the crowds. It was here that I pulled out the cell phone (yes, I had one) and let the Hubby know we were on our way. He was going to meet us around 42 street with orange slices, a Coke, Tylenol, etc. RunnerC and I managed to find the Hubs with my Sister-in-Law and Brother-in-Law. We said a quick hello, grabbed a couple of orange slices, I took a quick swig of the Coke and we were off again. Nothing like seeing your loved ones to put a little pep in your step!

Here I am approaching the Hubs...yes, I looks like a spaz, but there's a smile on my face!

Me blowing the Hubs a kiss as we were on our way after grabbing oranges and saying hi.

The next few miles tend to be rough for a lot of runners. You leave Manhattan, which is such a tease, because now you have to go away from the finish line and into the Bronx. To get to the Bronx, you have to cross yet another bridge, but it’s so much smaller than the Queensboro that neither of us really seemed to care. You don’t spend much time in the Bronx, but the crowds here made it fun and memorable. Someone had a sign that said, “You’re in the Bronx, Keep Running – it’s not safe here!” There was another sign as we were leaving that said, “Welcome to the Bronx, now get the hell out!” I think it was somewhere between Queens and the Bronx when I realized that the bottom of my feet were hurting – ouch! All that pounding on the pavement, I guess. Also, somewhere between Queens and the Bronx we saw a bunch of people holding signs that read, “You’re the Sh*t!”

Finally, it was time to go over the Madison Avenue Bridge through Harlem and back toward Central Park. It felt good to finally be heading back toward the Manhattan skyline! But first, we were entertained in Harlem by a choir and dance group and a couple of rap groups. RunnerC and I were tired, but we were still on track – we were still only walking through the water stops and keeping a pretty good pace. I know our pace did slow a little, but we were still on track to finish in under 5 hours.

I remember being on 5th avenue and FINALLY seeing Central Park to my right. I pointed it out to RunnerC – I know Central Park is fricking HUGE, but it was a sure sign that we were almost done! WHOOT! At some point we skipped a water/walk break…we were getting sick of Gatorade and just wanted to HTFU and get done. But, we ended up taking that walk break a little later when it seemed like we were on a never-ending uphill in along 5th Avenue. Seriously, it seemed like it went on for MILES AND MILES! But, we only walked for a minute and were right back at it. I tried to point out interesting buildings and landmarks like the cougar statue in Central Park or the Guggenheim…anything to keep our mind off our legs. Before mile 24, we finally turned into Central Park, I remember telling RunnerC that we were almost there. HALLELUJAH! At mile 24, we came to a water stop and looked at each other….neither of us wanted to take our designated walk break. “At mile 25”, I said. It seemed to take forever to get to mile 25 and we did walk for a minute through the water stop there (which was dumb since we were almost done!). When I looked at my watch reality set in, we were slightly ahead of my goal pace – I really was going to finish in less than 5 hours! Then we started going again and RunnerC said something like, “Let’s make this bitch ours” (quoting the sign from earlier) and I responded with, “ ‘Cause we’re the SHIT!” (quoting another sign). We turned the corner and saw The Plaza…almost there!!! At some point, we saw a sign telling us that we had 800 meters to go, then 400. I told RunnerC that I really wish I felt like sprinting, but just couldn’t…she said it was okay, because she couldn’t either. I also remember thinking, “Hey, I can swim 400 meters, surely I can run it!” The crowds all through Central Park were awesome and I high-fived a few kiddos.

And then we turned the corner and saw it – THE FINISH!!!! It was an absolutely gorgeous sight! I wish I could tell you that I dug deep and found it in me to sprint to the finish…but I don’t think I did. I probably thought I did, but in reality I wasn’t going any faster, lol. After we made it through the chute, we high fived and hugged. WHOOT, we were done! It was an amazing end to an amazing day!

My Garmin post race - my chip time was 4:57:52, but I forgot to stop the watch right away!

Another unique thing about the NYC marathon is that once you finish running 26.2 miles, you have to walk another mile or so just to pick up your bags and exit Central Park. It’s pretty interesting…just you and thousands of your closest friends wearing medals, grasping mylar blankets, looking tired and spent, shuffling along at a snail’s pace. ! I joked with RunnerC that we looked like a bunch of refugees fleeing a war torn country, because some of us looked like we’d been through our own personal wars. I was feeling rather nauseous, but tried to eat something from our “Recovery Bag” that was given to us. Lemme just say, the Gatorade recovery drink is indeed NASTY. A lady behind us collapsed, so we had to yell for the medics to come over. Before we made it out of the park, we had to call the medics again, because another lady next to us was starting to feel faint. Scary.

We finally claimed our bags and headed out of the park. I called the Hubby to see where he was and I practically bumped right into him before the call went through. He was awesome, offering me coke, oranges, asking me what I needed – did I want a pretzel or hot dog from the vendor?

Because of the road closures and massive crowds, it took us about an hour just to get RunnerC back to her hotel. Then, it probably took another 15 minutes to find a car to take us back to our apartment. Crazy!

Here we are after the race proudly showing off our medals!

Looking back at the race, I think it was even more amazing this time around than it was in 2003. Seriously A-MAZ-ING! As much as I’d like to do this one again, I think it might be awhile. And yes, next time I will do hill training!


junieb! said...

GREAT WRITE Up! I just love nycm!!!

and that was my first sub 5 as well, and i had my Garmin, but i wasnt quite sure ... you question everything i think sometimes...and since I had my phone with me that one time! :O), I immediately called Sam and said 'what was my time?' 'what was my time?' since i knew he was tracking me, but all i heard was him saying you did it! you did it! meaning i had broken 5 hours. so so so excited for you!!!

Teamarcia said...

Congrats to both of you! Woot for the sub 5 on such a hard course.

Jill said...

Awe, look at your smile!! Congratulations on a fantastic sub-5 race, you did awesome!!! :)

Death Race said...

Nice pics, Congratulations for a great job well done and looking forward always. Great race, nice race report.

Robin said...

Congrats on the sub-5 race! Whoot, Whoot!!

Pony and Petey said...

You look fabulous in all your pics!! I especially like the one where you're blowing Hubs a kiss = )

That Pink Girl said...

Great recap - Imlove that you had such a great race and really enjoyed NYC! It truly is a race like no other. Congratulations!!!