November 6, 2016
3rd time’s the charm
The first time I tried to get into the New York City Marathon, Scott, Jenny and I all tried. I naively thought that we’d get selected! Considering that you can’t link your names, the odds were definitely NOT in our favor. Scott was selected and he ran the 2014 marathon.
I was in the baking aisle in the early evening in Wegmans and Jenny texted me to see if I had checked my email about NYC marathon. “Oh dear,” I thought. When I open my email I’m either going to have nothing there or an email congratulating me. I’d been through this before when Scott was selected. His acceptance note arrived at 5 p.m. and my rejection note came 4 hours later. I opened my email and YES there it was – Congratulations!! I timidly texted Jenny back, “did you get in?” Yes she did too. Time to plan!!
I had a fun year of races planned, including my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. Unfortunately, after the tri, I struggled with the transition to running. I logged the requisite miles for the Wineglass marathon training, but my heart wasn’t as engaged as it should have been. Then, I injured my right calf 5 days before the race. I tried to run the Wineglass marathon anyway, and made it halfway, limping to stop at 13.1 so I had a chance of recovery for the New York City marathon.
I knew I had to play it smart to be able to go the full 26 in the TCS New York City Marathon. I waited two weeks after Wineglass to run again and took things very slowly. Then I entered a marathon training plan in the final 3 weeks of taper. My longest run in that timeframe was 12 miles (not done consecutively but at least done in one day – 4 miles slow, then a race of 6K followed by the rest of the miles).
By the time the big weekend arrived, I felt reasonably confident that Jenny and I would be good running partners. We’d trained together for our first marathon and our first 50K and knew we could run comfortably together. I was recovering from my injury and was pretty certain I could make the distance. She was not as trained as she would have liked to be, but had a solid 20 miler in so she was very certain that she could make the distance. We never planned to race it – even before lackluster training and injury our goal was to enjoy this race, run a conversational pace, and have fun!
The laid back runner
The morning of the race I grabbed clothes and threw things in a bag, watched some of Titanic with Elizabeth and Scott and bid Xander farewell as he headed out to Area All State chorus. As I drove to pick up Jenny I wondered what I had forgotten. I had my shoes though so I could buy anything I forgot.
As Jenny got in the car we started talking about the race. She brought headphones in case we wanted to split up. Hmmm… forgot those. What else wasn’t with me I now wondered? She brought breakfast like we both did before we ran Philly. Nope hadn’t packed that either. I was trusting on the hotel breakfast – food I wasn’t used to eating. This is unlike me. We started reminiscing about our early days as runners when we thought through every scenario, knew the course inside and out, and planned minute details. In that moment I realized that somewhere between those early days and now was that sweet spot.
Soon we were almost to the city! Jenny got a picture of our “welcome” sign for the New York City marathon.
We headed to our Manhattan-Seaport Hampton Inn in lower Manhattan. Located just a block and a half from the Staten Island Ferry it was a perfect location for us.
Packet pick-up for the New York City marathon
I had big plans for us to arrive at our hotel and then walk up the Hudson River Greenway to the Javits Center for packet pick up and then take the High Line back. Jenny is generally a more sensible person than I am, and she suggested that it might be prudent NOT to walk an aggregate 10 miles the day before the race.
Upon arrival to the Javits center we quickly grabbed our bibs and saw signs for shirts. The problem – no size medium sign. They were out of Jenny’s size! It was 3:24 p.m. and pick-up was open until 5. Jenny picked up a large and displayed grace. I couldn’t help but think that I’d probably have had a mini temper-fit if they were out of my size.
We looked at the expo for shirts to buy and jackets etc. They had a lot of great things in size XS but not too many smalls and nothing in medium. So, we saved some money and then went to tour the exhibits, take a picture of ourselves, sample some food (I sampled a lot more than Jenny) and we headed to the High Line.
Stroll to dinner
The High Line was crowded, but it was a more pleasant way to walk down to Union Square than taking city streets. I was in my purple Converse while Jenny smartly wore sneakers. Guess who had a blister later? Yup, definitely too laid back about races these days!
I had selected a short list of dinner options for us to choose from. We chose a Vapiano in Union Square. We enjoyed a delicious pre-race meal along with a glass of wine. Of course I grabbed some gummy bears to go (their signature thing and Xander’s favorite end to the meal) He asked me to bring some home, but I enjoyed each little bear myself!
The next morning we popped up early and headed to our 6:15 ferry. With a 10:40 start and about an hour in transit to get there we knew we’d be sitting around for almost 3 hours. It would be a long morning. Luckily the weather was very temperate. We found a sunny spot to enjoy the wait and watch people.
Kudos to New York City marathon organizers for their incredible pre-race organization. Pre-race amazingness!
- Never have I been to a race with so many port-a-potty options. No bio stress!
- Yes it was early, but waiting at the start for hours eased stress. This event was as relaxed as a community 5K.
- Free bagels, bananas, coffee, hot chocolate, tea, water. Wow!
- Free race morning hats in case you were cold from Dunkin Donuts.
- Frequent pre-race announcements so you can’t miss anything!
- Goodwill bins everywhere to donate your extra clothing.
And we’re off!
Suddenly just like that (after 3 hours) we’re in the corral slowly proceeding to the start line. Soon, they are making final announcements that we should not litter anything on the bridge, drop clothing or PEE! The last item risks being disqualified.
We’re running! It is surreal that we are finally running. People stop to take photos and view the skyline. Suddenly we see a man peeing on the bridge. Really? Even with all those announcements, porta potties, garbage cans and Goodwill bins people pee, drop litter and shed clothing on the bridge. I wonder how bad things would be on the bridge if they didn’t mention these things.
Once we crossed the bridge we shed our long sleeved shirts . We settled into a 10 minute mile pace. There were crowds and bands and the day was beautiful. Before long we were past the 10K mark and I was scanning to find the spot where I’d stood with the kids 2 years ago when Scott ran.
My longest run since my injury was 12 miles. Until we hit mile 12 I had a nagging worry about my calf. As we crossed the 12 mile marker I said aloud to Jenny, “every step is farther than I’ve gone recently.”
We hit a little bridge after the mile marker and Jenny said, “how is your calf? I heard, “Oh there’s a calf.” She meant my muscle and here I was scanning the crowd searching for a person dressed in a baby cow costume. A few moments later she asked again and I laughed as I shared what I thought she said.
Mid-way across that bridge they stopped us for the briefest of moments. Someone had collapsed on the course. I thought about my race just 5 weeks ago when I had to stop and limp. I hoped this person was not seriously hurt. After that point I started to notice people limping, stretching and walking on the course. I felt thankful that this was not me today.
We entered Manhattan and we were running along 1st Avenue. The streets were barricaded and lined with people. I remember this from watching Scott. The atmosphere changed from laid back and casual to the feel of a real city race. I looked in the distance and saw no change in terrain for what looked like miles. I looked at my watch and discovered that our average pace was 10:10. Wow, cool I thought. It is almost mile 17. We’d stopped at almost every water stop and we were still at a 10:10. Pace was never our goal, but still it was rather extraordinary that to keep almost even splits. Jenny had asked me not to share any data so I’d agreed to keep my mouth shut. But, I couldn’t help myself and said, “Hey I know you don’t want any data but this is cool.” “If it is going to make me have to run faster, I don’t want to know,” she replied. “No, it is just cool. You won’t have to run faster.” I shared the data and she said, “Oh, I thought we started faster than that.” This was my first inkling that she wasn’t in the same head space as I was.
A bit further up we stopped at another water station. Jenny nabbed a picture of all the cups littering the street.
As we continued, I opened my mouth again to say, “This is going to get monotonous,” complaining that we were on 1st Ave so it wasn’t very exciting. Jenny said, “you aren’t helping things.” I realized I most certainly was not! So, instead I jabbered on, speculating about how much more fun it would be heading down 5th on the return from the Bronx.
I was feeling happy and this was fun. The crowds were energetic and I felt supported. Early in the race I was grateful that I wasn’t racing this because of the cups all over at the stops, you would have to weave around people to hit a pace goal etc. However, here at mile 17, I felt the energy from the crowd. It is so different to have that support. If I ever try to BQ again, I may choose a city race precisely for this support.
The last 6 miles
The New York City marathon was my 6th marathon and the very first one for which the last six miles were FUN! At mile 21 Jenny asked how I was doing. “GREAT,” I replied. She wasn’t having as much fun as me and I felt bad. She told me to go ahead and finish fast. “No. That isn’t my goal for this race I said. I just want to have fun.” We’ve run enough together that we have experienced one person having a great training run and the other person struggling, but no matter how many times it happens, it isn’t ideal for either person. I feel like more often than not I’ve been on the struggling end (I still haven’t been back to one trail that we did a 26.2 mile training run on because it was such a tough day for me) but we both have handled these situations with grace and support. Today was no different. It was clear Jenny was struggling, but she kept putting one foot in front of the other with a great attitude. I was extra impressed because we are comfortable enough with each other to put aside the strong face and whine. She stayed strong!
At mile 22 we arrived in Central Park. I hadn’t realized we had 4 whole miles in the park. I thought, “glad I’m feeling good because this would be really HARD if I weren’t.” Less crowd support, waning light and cooler air made this part more challenging than the rest of the race. When we neared Columbus Circle I was ready for the race to end. We hit the finish, got our medal and had the usual post race happy feelings.
The long slog to ponchos
When Scott ran this race, we had selected a post race meeting place at a local pizza shop. We had literally sprinted there to make sure not to be late based on how he was running at mile 22. Then, we ended up sitting in the restaurant FOREVER waiting for him. Now I understand why.
When we finished, we got our medals and then continued to walk along. They had silver blankets for us. We almost didn’t take one because we knew we were getting ponchos (we hadn’t checked a bag so that was our gift). Soon, Jenny saw a group of folks clustered near the side getting bags. “What is that?” she asked. “Oh it appears that is the post race food,” she said a moment later after seeing people eating and drinking. At this point, Jenny was not feeling great and needed that water and post race food.
We headed that way and waited for what felt like forever to get our bag. After waiting awhile, a volunteer said, “there is more down that way.” I whined, “but we have waited a long time here. I don’t want to go start in a new line.” She promptly tossed me a bag. After getting the bag, Jenny said, “I really need to go over here and sit down.” We walked over to the curb and she asked the volunteer if she was medically trained. “No but I can get someone who is,” she said quickly. Before we could blink, someone was over checking out Jenny’s pulse and confirming that she was ok. Jenny got some Gatorade in her and some pretzels and perked up. We had to fully exit the park to get to the poncho station. I was freezing by the time we arrived there and so grateful that we had accepted the silver blanket!
We slowly negotiated the streets and then hopped in a subway back to our hotel. We’d forgotten to take a picture of the Staten Island Ferry sign on the way in the morning, so we got one as we exited the subway.
I absolutely LOVED this marathon. I very much wanted to run it 3 years ago, and really wanted to run it last year. This year, I totally forgot I put my name in for the New York City Marathon. I wasn’t that excited and I felt bad about that, especially when I talked to friends who have been trying to get in for years. Jenny felt similarly to me, so I didn’t feel quite so bad!
I knew from way back 3 years ago when I put my name in that I didn’t want to race this. I wanted to run for fun and enjoy every minute. My take away from this experience is that a good goal is to reduce my “comfortable pace” so that I could have a faster “non racing” time. I remember a friend saying he was going to “just enjoy the sights” at the Philly marathon and shoot for a 3:15 (he can run a 2:45). I was so shocked to think that a 3:15 could be “enjoying the sights.” Today I discovered that adding 30 minutes or more to your race pace makes for a run where you can truly enjoy.
We finished in just over 4:30. With just a bit to go I looked at my watch and saw 4:28 and thought, “grr we are going to be just over 4:30” and then quickly realized that it didn’t much matter. It felt the same as when we almost hit 6 hours in the 50K – we hadn’t had a goal beyond finishing but suddenly being so close to a time threshold mattered somehow.
Results: 4:30:40, half marathon split 2:06:18 and overall pace 10:20.
Thanks to the organizers for putting on a fantastic event!!