NYC Marathon – 2010

NYC Marathon – 2010

Nov 19

Race Entry

213 days after receiving this race entry e-mail, I finished the NYC Marathon in 4:44:10.  I wasn’t even planning on running this race back when I registered, with zero expectations of receiving an entry via the lottery.  I was looking towards the future, anticipating that maybe 3 years down the road I would receive an automatic bid after 3 failed lottery attempts.  Little did I realize that this e-mail would show up in my inbox, and I would end up having one of the best racing weekends of my life!

I flew out to NYC on Friday, popping my Virgin America cherry and realizing just how wrong the other airlines have it.  Wireless internet on airplanes is life-changing!  My brother Kyle picked me up at the airport, having driven down from New England.  He’s been on an extended road-trip visiting my mom and sister in New Hampshire, and he came down for the weekend to cheer me on at the race.  We checked into the W Hotel in Times Square, and not 5 minutes went by before we asked the obvious question that 2 huge basketball fans would ask, “I wonder if the Knicks are in town?”. Turns out there was a game going down at 7:30, so we hit the street looking for tickets.  There were plenty of scalpers selling seats, and we picked up a pair just before tip-off.  It was the first time either of us had been to Madison Square Garden, and it was cool to experience NBA basketball somewhere other than Staples Center.

Knicks/Wizards

I started off Saturday morning with a run through Times Square/Theater District, and was blown away by how many runners were out.  There was some kind of international friendship walk/run going on that was a pre-cursor to the marathon, and there were runners from all of the world out and about. Everyone was repping their countries hard, and I saw gear from France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, South African, Brazil, among many other countries.

Saturday Morning Jog

Kyle and I then jumped over to the Dailymile.com brunch where we met a bunch of peeps I’ve been following on DM, not to mention a bunch of new faces/friends that I’m hoping to keep up with for years to come.  The turnout was great, with 30+ people coming out, some running the marathon, others just there to cheer/hang.  Its always such a trip to put faces to names, and it was a huge treat to be able to go to a huge city like NYC and get to chill with fellow runners in an intimate setting like that. I made some new friends that I imagine will be a part of my life, running or otherwise, for a long long time.

Dailymile

The rest of Saturday was taken up by the expo, getting my race gear ready back at the hotel room, and a carb-loading dinner at a pretty kick-ass Italian Restaurant called Don Giovanni down in the Theater District.  I walked entirely too much throughout the day, and was a little concerned about it leading into Sunday’s race. Ultimately though, I was more concerned about the pending time change and how it was going to affect my iphone and/or the clock in my room.  When we got back to the hotel that night, I ended up setting at least 3 alarms…..surprisingly, I got a pretty good night’s sleep that night as well.

I was up at 5 for the race, which was early as hell considering my wave wasn’t set to start until 10:10.  I had to be at the Staten Island Ferry by 7, so I gave myself enough time to have some breakfast, drink some coffee, and let my digestive system do what it does.  The subway ride down to the Ferry was a trip….it was all runners, and no one was really sure which line we were supposed to take to get to where we needed to be.  We all eventually figured it out, but not without witnessing multiple people jump on lines that were heading to Brooklyn among other places, going nowhere in the vicinity of the Ferry Terminal.  When we finally got off the subway, there were so many people taking the escalator up out of the station that the escalator started buckling and shaking violently, coming to a grinding halt.  Somehow amidst all of the excitement of getting to the ferry this seemed completely normal and didn’t phase anybody.

The ferry ride to Staten Island was amazing…..it was a beautiful morning, and all of the runners that were jammed onto this boat had the same nervous anticipation.  We could see the Verrrazano Bridge in the distance, with a cruise ship passing underneath it as we made the trip over to the island.  When we got to Staten Island, the first thing I noticed when we got off the ferry was that it was COLD!  The wind was coming up off the Upper Bay, and we were being herded onto buses to get us to Fort Wadsworth.  I was wishing at this moment that I had brought a jacked, because the sweatshirt I was wearing just wasn’t cutting it.  When I finally made it onto a bus, I noticed that I was the only person on this particular shuttle that wasn’t Italian.  Even though I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying on the ride over to the start, I loved this part of the morning.  Italian is such a beautiful language and hearing the excitement in everyone’s voice as we neared the Fort was an amazing feeeling.

When we got off the bus, I found my staging area (green) and found a spot to chill for an hour or so before the start.  They had Dunkin’ Donuts coffee and bagels (holler!), and I met some people that were all running their first marathon. I get nervous just thinking about our conversation that morning and how eager, scared, and excited they were.  I never saw them after that moment, and wonder how they did?

Verrazano Bridge

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally were called to start the race.  The corrals were surprisingly long and narrow, but as we got closer to the start I realized that we were the group that would be running under the bridge, not on top.  I thought I’d be disappointed by that, but we were all so ready to start running that it totally didn’t matter.

Starting Line

I had worked out a general plan of how I was going to run this race to get me in under 5 hours with Nina Jack, and when I crossed the starting line I honestly thought that I was following it.  The plan was to start slow (slower than a sub-5 pace), and build gradually over the course of the race.  This meant running an 11:30/mile pace for the first few miles….sounds easy enough, but I found it nearly impossible to run that slow.  The first thing that screwed me up was that because we were under the bridge and not on top, the GPS/pace on my watch wasn’t working.  The second thing is that because I signed up with a 4:15 target time, the corral I was in was full of runners going way faster than the pace I was trying to run.  Still, I tried to stick the plan, letting people pass me and really focusing on keeping my pace down.

When we got to Mile 1 and I was at a 10:15/mile, I had an “Oh shit, I did it again!” moment.  I was running faster than I had been at LA back in March, a race that I completely ran out of gas at when I hit Mile 16. I told myself to slow down, thought I was, but when I got to Mile 2 my pace had crept up to 9:30/mile.  At that point I knew the plan had to be thrown out and I’d have to improvise. I needed to slow myself down, so during that 3rd mile I stopped to go the bathroom (behind a bush no-less), which got my pace back up to around 10:14/mile.  If a bathroom stop wasn’t going to get me where I needed to be, I knew at that moment that I needed to start taking short walk breaks to slow myself down.  I decided that everymile I’d take a :30 walk break to get my pace under-control, and it turned out to be the best decision I could have made.

Once I figured out how I was going to run this race, I could finally relax and start to take in my surroundings.  I got everything sorted out just in time to enter a gorgeous residential area on the southern side of Brooklyn.  It was at that moment that it hit me that I was running through NYC…..here I was in this amazing neighborhood that I had no idea existed until I got to run through it.  The streets were lined with people and I knew right then and there that this race was going to be different.  I had a plan, I felt strong, and the high of running in unfamiliar territory with people cheering relentlessly had me in a perfect running place.

Brooklyn

I had the rest of the race broken into 3 parts in my mind.  My immediate goal was to grind out the next 10 miles to get to Mile 14, where I knew my brother was going to be waiting for me to cheer.  These miles went by in a flash….Brooklyn came out strong, and they get a lot of love for their support.  Then all of a sudden things went silent as we ran through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood, where the streets were completely empty.  It was eerily silent, but when we crossed over into Queens things bumped up in intensity again.

Manhattan (from Queens)

I had recorded a mix of house music I’d been training to over the past 6 months that I had planned on listening to over the 2nd half of the race…..Again, I had to throw my plan out the window.  I was tracking my run with Runkeeper to try and unlock the NYC Marathon badge on Foursquare, and that app completely sucked my battery dry. My phone died at Mile 13, so my music plans were out.  I was less upset about that and more upset that I couldn’t take any more pictures the rest of the race.  That was the only real hiccup of this race for me.

I saw my bro at Mile 14, and started what I considered the 2nd section of the race which began the hardest hill of the race on the Queensboro Bridge .  This was a tough one…..things went silent again as there no people on the bridge, and the uphill seemed to go on forever.  I could sense that people were starting to struggle.  We were at mile 16ish, and people’s personal battles with themselves were starting.  I still felt good, but I was nervous as hell that at any moment the wall was going to creep up on my and bitch-slap me for starting the race too fast.

When we came off the bridge and entered Manhattan, those thoughts disappeared entirely.  As we turned up 1st Ave., the most unbelievable rush you can imagine happened…the streets were jam packed with people cheering.  It felt like we were the Knicks and we had just won the NBA Finals. I ran mile 17 at 9:28/mile, my fastest mile of the race. I again had to check myself and try and slow down.  I knew I had 10 miles left, and as any marathoner will tell you the true halfway point of a marathon is at 20 miles.  It was SO hard to walk with everyone cheering the way they were, but I forced myself to do it.  My focus was on getting up to the Bronx.  I figured it if I could get there, the final section of the race (from the Bronx down to Central Park) could be run on almost pure adrenaline.  I made it up to the Bronx with no hints that the “wall” was about to hit me.  Mile 19/20 of a marathon has always been unkind to me, so as I crossed that threshold I was shocked that my body was still feeling fine.

Around Mile 21 it hit me that barring an injury, I was going to come in under 5 hours.  I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, but I know my body and for the first time ever I knew the wall wasn’t coming.  I had finally pushed through that mental barrier that had plagued me the previous 3 marathons.  The next couple of miles were definitely hard, especially considering there was a long, drawn-out hill leading up to Central Park.  The hill didn’t bother me though.

In what was a mini-inspiring moment, at around Mile 24 I realized I was running next to Amani Toomer, former NY Giant.  He was STRUGGLING……I could tell that he was where I had been in each of my previous 3 marathons.  He would run a block, then have to walk to recover.  The crowd was cheering him on like crazy, and there was something really cool about seeing a professional athlete grind it out the way that the rest of us normal people have done it.  I made it my mission to finish stronger than Amani.  Its funny the things that will motivate you….I took on a personal challenge to finish stronger than a former NFL wide receiver.  Little did I realize that he was running for charity and that he raised a dollar for every person he passed.  Oooops!

I saw my brother again in Central Park, and the last 2 miles were as exciting as they come.  My body was tired, but I was happy as can be knowing that I was finally going to crack 5 hours.  I finally got my pace into that 11:00/mile range, albeit about 20 miles too late, and knowing that I was going to finally meet my goal I was able to just laugh and smile the rest of the way home.

In all honesty, the 1-2 hours AFTER the race were harder than the race itself.  The design of the finish line of this race would really be my only complaint….they herd everyone into a super narrow path through the park that took almost an hour to get through.  My legs were on fire, and all I wanted to do was sit down for a second, but there was nowhere to sit.  After finally emerging from the herd, I then tried to find my way back to my hotel, which proved to be its own little nightmare.  I couldn’t find the subway station that I had originally planned to go to, so I walked a few blocks to a different one…..then I waited 30-40 minutes for a line that turns out doesn’t run on the weekends.  I took a different line, and ended up having to walk some more to back to my room.  I went straight to the bar when I got to the hotel.  I needed to re-fuel, and beer was the easiest option at that point. :)

After resting and getting cleaned up, I was surprised at how good I felt.  My brother and I met up with a college friend of his for Sushi, Sake, and beer (more walking!!!).  Thinking back on that day, I must have logged at least 30+ miles with all of the walking.  I was terrified of how I was going to feel the next day, but was surprised to wake up on Monday morning feeling great.  My legs were obviously sore, but I was walking relatively normal.  With my NYC trip coming to a close, my bro and I grabbed breakfast at a local diner,  and made a quick trip over to the M&M store in Times Square to get my two boys a present.  Turns out that M&Ms don’t make the best present when I’m the one who ultimately ends up eating all of them.

All in all, this was probably the best racing experience I’ve had.  I’ll be honest when I say that prior to this race I was a little worried about having signed up for the Vineman Full Ironman Triathlon.  If I’d struggled as bad as I did on my previous marathons, how was I going to pull of an Ironman?  After this past race, I can say that those worries are completely gone.   In past marathons I’ve felt like I “survived”.  With this marathon, I feel like I “conquered” it.  Now its time to switch gears and start the slow build for what will hopefully be an even more amazing experience.

NYC Marathon Pictures