New York City knows how to host a marathon. The entire weekend was an incredible experience and unforgettable in so many ways. I think if we let New York City run the world, we just might get world peace...they seem to have things figured out.
The days leading up to the race, the weekend, and the race had so much packed into it, it's hard to know where to start. I'm sure this will be long, but I don't really think "succinct" and "NYCM race recap" go together.
I flew out early Saturday morning, met my parents at our hotel, and we made our way to the expo. The expo was mobbed, but everything was well managed and things moved efficiently. Obviously it's not ideal to hit an expo of this size up the day before the race...but I happened to be there when all official race gear got marked down to 50% off, so it had its perks :)
One of my best friends, Kate, came in from Atlanta and we met up with her and her crew for a late lunch, sat and chatted with them for awhile, and then made our way back to our hotel. I picked a hotel on the Upper West Side to be close to the finish line and it was so convenient for all of the race events - the expo, the ferry, the finish line, and the marathon pavilion on Monday. We were all pretty full from lunch and didn't need a big dinner, so we got some take-out and I got to bed early.
Getting to the start line is kind of a full day in and of itself. You have the choice of taking the bus or ferry to Staten Island, I opted for the ferry. As with everything else, the organization is impressive and seamless, but it is time-consuming - I left my hotel at 6:00 and got to my corral around 9:00 for a 10:15 start time. Our hotel was next door to a Starbucks, so I grabbed a coffee, bagel, and water before getting on the subway.
The Start Village is big, but well stocked with volunteers, directional signs, and bathrooms....all of the necessities. I felt as if I got there with the right amount of time before the start. It was enough time that I wasn't worried about not finding my corral before it closed or having time to use the bathroom, but not too much time that I was waiting for too long. I got to use the bathroom three times and never had a line with more than a few people in it. It was already in the 60s and I didn't need all of the layers I brought. I shed my sweats before we started the walk to the start, but kept my arm warmers and gloves just in case....I think it was wishful thinking on my part that it wasn't as warm as if felt already.
Staten Island & Brooklyn
We heard the Anthem, Frank Sinatra's New York, New York, and then we were on our way up the Verranzano Bridge. I tossed both my gloves and arm warmers (I just cut the toe off of tube socks) within a few minutes. The first mile is almost all uphill and I was happy about this. One of my big goals for the race was to start slow, warm-up, and take my time getting to my goal pace...and I knew a big hill to kick things off would help accomplish that. I am never one to remember a play-by-play of each mile during a race, but I remember a few things about the first mile: (1) This is happening! This is the NYCM and I have been waiting months (years really) to run this. (2) Pick your head up and look around. (3) I'm already sweating and it's pretty warm out for this early in the race. (3) I already feel tired....I'm in the first mile and I feel tired. This can't be good. (4) Think positive things, no more negative thoughts!
I held back coming down the other side of the bridge and let everyone pass me. I wanted to know I could hold back and focused on banking energy instead of banking time. And then we were in Brooklyn and the party on the streets was already going strong. The course was crowded and that was to be expected, but one thing I did not expect was how crowded the aid stations would be. They were surprisingly short so you ran into a huge mass of people every mile and it was impossible not to get slowed down by them. They were so short that I missed the Gatorade cups a few times until I learned that I had to grab one right away to get one.
I started to feel really good and focused on maintaining an even effort. I checked my watch to make sure I wasn't going too fast and was usually hovering just above 8:35 - this was exactly what I wanted for this part of the race. Some of my splits were slower due to getting caught up in an aid station just before the mile marker or because of rolling hills. That was relatively short-lived though and maintaining the same effort started to become more difficult and my paces began to slip as I neared the half-way point.
Miles 1-13: 9:28, 8:43, 8:56, 8:44, 8:38, 8:47, 8:38, 8:52, 9:15, 8:39, 8:56, 8:53, 9:29
Queens, First Ave, & the Bronx
As I was going over the Queensboro bridge and onto First Ave, I knew I was losing steam and the race was slipping away from me....and I was actually okay with it. Maybe the race was predetermined by my mindset, but I had prepared myself to run this race for the experience and not for a goal time. I did not want to get too fixed on a goal that I would miss the experience if it wasn't my day to run my goal time. I knew my friend Kate would be on First Ave and I would see her shortly after the 16 mile marker. The crowds were so deep and I was worried about missing her that I was solely focused on searching the crowds for her and it took my mind off the race...it was awesome. I haven't had someone to look for or cheer for me during a race since my first marathon in 2007....so this was just beyond amazing. I got so excited when I saw her and it was a huge boost for me.
Then things really went downhill, I knew I was fading, and I stopped looking at my watch or thinking about finish times. I knew I had to get to the Bronx, then back to Manhattan, and that my parents would be there....so I focused on that.
Miles 14-20: 9:18, 10:09, 9:56, 9:45, 9:45, 10:20, 10:39
Manhattan & Central Park
I had to stop for the bathroom after mile 20. I was so hoping to get through this race without a bathroom stop, but no such luck. All of my focus during the Bronx and coming back into Manhattan was on seeing my parents. I wasn't even paying attention to the miles, only to the street numbers so I knew how close I was to seeing them. I was pushing back tears at this point and I knew my parents would be in a place where the crowds were thin, so I figured I'd be able to stop and talk to them. I had two thoughts: give them my water bottle and tell them to text Brian to let him know I was okay (I knew Brian would be tracking me and would be worried that I had fallen so far off my goal pace).
|"There they are! Take my water bottle!"|
|"Oh it feels good to stop."|
|"What? I have to go back out there?"|
After I saw them, I wanted to get to Central Park. Kate was going to be around mile 25 and I knew it was a sign that the end was near. My pace was completely getting away from me, but I didn't let myself walk. I knew if I let myself walk, things would completely unravel.
Having someone at the end of a marathon is gold. I wasn't positive where Kate would be since I didn't know what cross streets I was near so I just focused on searching the crowds for her while I put one foot in front of another. It took my mind off of how much further I had to run and it was wonderful.
|I think this sums up how I felt about finishing....it's obviously a keeper :-)|
I was a mix of emotions once the race was over. Half of me didn't care that my time was so far off from anything I had imagined and the other half of me was fighting back tears. I had my phone in a spibelt and somehow it was on during the race (the 2 dozen pictures and 3 videos of the inside of my spibelt were keepsakes) and the battery was dead. Fortunately I had planned to meet my parents at a Starbucks near where I would get out of the park so I didn't need to call them. At first I was disappointed that I couldn't call or text anyone and I couldn't look up times for myself or anyone else I was tracking.....but then it was kind of nice that I could just process my thoughts by myself as I made the slow shuffle through the finisher area and could wait to connect with everyone else later.
I finally shuffled my way out of the finisher area with my nice, warm poncho and met up with my parents. They had spotted a place nearby to eat and had a change of clothes for me. We finally got back to our hotel, I charged my phone while I showered, and then I caught up on all of the texts and social media messages that had come in since I started the race that morning and was truly overwhlemed. I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for all of the support, encouragement, and thoughtful messages.
The race didn't go as planned for me. It actually went far worse than even my worse-case scenario. Obviously that's a little disappointing, but I was prepared to throw my goals out and focus on the experience if it didn't look like it was my day and that's what I did. I have no regrets and didn't let my finish time....or the 11:00 minute miles....take away from the weekend. I trust my training, I know I have a better time in me, and it just gave me more time to really soak in the race experience :) In a way my finish time made me realize how far I have come. There was a time several years ago where I had a goal of running between a 4:10 and 4:20 and now that time hadn't even been on my radar for this race even if my entire race plan fell completely apart.
I think several things contribute to why I was so far off my goal. Many of them have to do with the race itself. The NYCM is an amazing race, but I would find it hard to believe that anyone (aside from the elites) can run their potential at this race. Runners may have a great race, but I would bet they have a better time in them under other conditions. In my opinion, the NYCM is best run for the experience and without hard goals.
The logistics of the race are a huge factor. I had three hours of travel to get to the start line. That is obviously part of the race and part of the experience, but it has to have a toll. I also got in the day before and was on my feet most of the day between the travel, the expo, and being in NYC. The race was so crowded. SO CROWDED. Especially at the aid stations and fighting those crowds is exhausting. Finally, I think runners spend significant mental energy on the stimulation of the race, the spectators, fighting the crowd, etc. I never even really noticed the difficulty of the course because I think I was so focused on so much else.
It also may not have been my day to run a PR. I came down with a cold Thursday night and woke up on Friday feeling awful. My doctor gave me something that kicked in by Saturday so I felt better quickly, but I was a mess on Friday. As I mentioned, I felt tired in the first mile....who knows if that was the effect of how busy Saturday was and that I had already been up for 5 hours or if I wasn't ready for my best race. I was happy that I held back in the first few miles and fell into my goal pace pretty easily....for a few miles :) I was also happy that I was able to keep running and didn't stop to walk.
All in all, the whole race experience was incredible and it was such a memorable weekend. I felt fortunate to be able to be a part of it and to have the opportunity to run it. I was also so touched by the support I got from so many friends, family, and readers. Marathon #10 is in the books!