ING New York City Marathon - RunMarathon

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New York City, New York
United States
New York Road Runners
55F / 13C
Total Time = 3h 38m 12s
Overall Rank = 7497/46,795
Age Group = F30-34
Age Group Rank = 271/3,068
Pre-race routine:

Disclaimer: I realize this is a ridiculously LONG race report. The reason is, it was an amazing race and I don't want to forget any of it and five years from now I'm going to re-read this and it'll make me smile. So there.

My goal was to hit a 3:38. I had a pace bracelet I'd made (even effort, slow start, medium fade at the end) that had me averaging 8:19 by the end, but mostly running low 8 min/miles throughout the race. I had a number of long runs, one a 22 miler, under my belt running 8:22 averages, so I knew I had it in me. But two weeks before the race, I came down with bronchitis (asthma sufferer here, too, so it's always just a tiny bit worse for me when I get a lung infection). It knocked me off my feet for a full week and when I finally went out to test a last 10 mile run a week before race day, my muscles had tightened up and I had some major ITB issues in my right leg, to the point where I had to stop and massage it to alleviate the pain. I went to PT, rolled it, stretched it, iced it obsessively and prayed for the best. The longest run I'd done those last few days (2, 3 miles) had no pain, maybe a twinge here or there. If anything was going to keep me from my goal, it was the ITB. I knew I had the fitness to make it happen. Needless to say, I was nervous.

Race morning, I woke up feeling weirdly well-rested. Rolled out my ITB ONE last time and said a little prayer in my head. Stretched lightly. Had a banana, took my inhaler, grabbed my stuff and headed out the door to meet friends driving me to the start.
Event warmup:

Ate another banana (and two candy corns my friend shared with me...yum). Drank TONS of water. I think I went to the porta potty four times. Stretched some more.
  • 3h 38m 12s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 08m 20s  min/mile

We got to Staten Island with time to kill. My friend and I were in different color waves (him: orange, me: green) but both in the 1st wave. So we dropped off my stuff at the trucks, grabbed some tea, and headed over to orange to drop off his things. I planned to sneak into his corral, because I had heard some horror stories about being on the lower level (sprinkling from above...ew!). We hung out, stretched, talked about injuries and race strategy. Drank a lot of water (and then used the porta potties countless times). Finally at around 9, we made our way over to the start corrals -- only to discover the 1st wave corrals had already closed! (No announcements, no signs saying anything of the sort in the start villages). My friend was upset for me (he'd done the race a few times before, so he didn't really care about it personally). Somehow, him being angry made me feel calm and I said to myself, only focus on the things you can control. It helped to have him be there for moral support. If he hadn't been, I think I would have freaked out a little. Instead, we chilled with the wave 2 crowd -- our start was now at 10:10.

It was SUCH a great idea to wear crappy sweats that I could chuck at the start. It was actually quite warm in the sun, so when I stripped down to my shorts and tank, I wasn't even that cold.

Then they opened up the corrals and began feeding us out onto the bridge. We were pretty close to the start line. I spent some time taking deep breaths (after another inhaler hit -- my asthma was acting funny that morning) to calm down. But I felt ready and nervous and excited to run. They sang American the Beautiful (guess they were over the anthem?). One last hug and a high five and we were off!

It was amazing running over the bridge. I was listening to my music but at one point switched it off just to hear the sound of feet running on concrete. It was so quiet and zen. Truly incredible. I was supposed to go super slow at the start -- something I had calculated not because I felt I needed to go slow, but because I was worried the crowds would limit my pace. My friend told me, "No way are you running a 9 minute anything that first mile." He was right. We were sub-8 by the time we hit mile 1. I told myself I was running too fast and tried to chill out a little, but I didn't feel that mile at all. It was easy and awesome.

My friend and I ran the first 12 miles within seconds of each other. He was recovering from an ultra two weeks ago and didn't think he'd stay with me the whole way. He told me at the start "run your own race," so I didn't focus on him and just ran my race. Still, it was fun to catch up with him, or him catch up with me as if we just happened to cross each other's paths randomly at this marathon. It was good knowing he was there, even when I couldn't see him.

My plan was to stick to my pacing chart, but after those first few miles, I was almost two minutes ahead of my time. That lasted for about 18 miles (which was fine, except it meant doing some math in my head every mile to figure out how far ahead I was...ugh). Within the first 5 miles, we blew past the 3:40 pace team. I gave myself a thumbs up (yeah, not mentally...I actually thumbed up myself during the race...I also talk to myself out loud during races. People around me must think I'm psychotic). I thought just drop those guys and keep going...3:38 here I come.

My Garmin was also measuring a few tenths of a mile farther than the course, which is to be expected with how they measure it. That made it a little difficult because I wanted to know what my pace was based on the signs, not my Garmin. But it worked out ok.

Brooklyn had great crowd support and some really funny signs. My favorites were the Occupy Wall St themed ones...there was the "Marathoners: you're the 1%!" and also the "Marathoners: You're the 99%!" (still trying to figure those two out...). The best was "OCCUPY 26.2" and "Beware of Hipsters!"

The Queensboro Bridge was rough. It was relentless and windy. I slowed down significantly going up it, which I knew would happen. My boyfriend and friends were waiting at the top, and that kept me going. I just spent the whole time looking at the spectators, trying to find his face. I almost wept when I saw them, well before they saw me (I recognized Dan's ski jacket) and I began flailing and waving my arms like a maniac. They had my old Ironman cowbells, which were making an unbelievable racket and yelling my name. I wanted to stop and hug them, but 1. they were standing on the barrier 10 feet above us, so no way was that happening and 2. besides, I had a race to run. I blew them kisses, grinned like a fool and kept going.

My pace chart said my fastest mile would be coming down the bridge at 7:48. I have no idea what I did that mile, but my legs did NOT have it in them. I just stayed at my 8 min/mile pace coming into Manhattan, relieved I had the 2 minutes of pad in the bank.

Everyone told me coming into Manhattan would blow my mind. Honestly? I was underwhelmed. Granted, we were wave 2 and I'm sure the spectators had already cheered on thousands of runners before us, but they sure were quiet. I actually gestured with my arms to cheer for me (which they did, obligingly). That was fun, but like I said...meh.

It felt great being in Manhattan. It's amazing looking up 1st Ave and seeing the sea of bodies stretched out before you. Insane. It's also a little demoralizing as you realize how much farther you have to go...

I was eating my chocolate GU gels every 45 minutes, right before the aid stations so I could grab some water to wash it down. I still stink at drinking while I run. I did everything people always tell you to do: poured out half, pinched the top. I would try to drink -- and inevitably, it would go up my nose. But I kept moving while I did it, and it was good practice. (One other note: I get that Gatorade and Poland Spring were the sponsors, but was it REALLY necessary to put both those beverages in the exact same color cups? At an 8 min/mile at around mile 17, the cups look identical and no, I don't have the focus to recognize the Gatorade or Poland Springs logo on the cup while I run... I ended up having to yell, "Water? Water?!" to the volunteers so I could get to the right crowd....annoying).

Throughout all of this, my ITB behaved beautifully. In fact, somewhere around mile 12, after not even a twinge, I said to myself, "We're good," and didn't think about it again the entire race. Note to self: I need to send my PT flowers.

1st Ave was fun with the crowds, but it began all looking the same to me. It's hard to feel the energy of the crowd sometimes. I don't know why. So when we went into the Bronx, I was kind of excited about the change of scenery. I was prepared for a Wall, but it never came. The Bronx crowds were amazing and energized. My pace was slowing slightly, but this was according to plan, so eventually I was running exactly on pace with my wristband. No more math! Woohoo! I was grinning like a fool running through the Bronx.

But then crossing over the bridge back into Manhattan (I was super excited!), I suddenly realized I was having trouble breathing. It always takes me a moment to remember this disease I have (I didn't grow up with it, so it rarely occurs to me that I have it)...Asthma. My lungs were constricted and I was puffing way more than I should have been, given my pace and effort.

I struggled to get my inhaler out of my armband (finally had to remove the entire armband as I ran to retrieve the inhaler), took a hit, managed to hold my breath for like, 2 seconds and not trip and/or pass out, maneuvered to put the armband back on, managed to stay on pace and was able to breath easier again. Whew. (But also: annoying. That has NEVER happened to me before during a race).

Going back into Manhattan, I realized I had very few miles to go. I was sick of GU gels -- which always happens to me...can someone invent a potato chip flavored gel? -- and grabbed a banana from the aid station. It was tough eating that and running, and I realize I must have looked kinda gross eating it, but it tasted good. The crowds were great (saw my boss at 100th, another colleague at 95th) which gave me SUCH a boost on that mean little incline. People around me were looking like they were hurting, too.

Entering the park, I had to start digging in. I was having a difficult time drinking and running, but now when I slowed down slightly to be able to get some fluids, my calf muscles stiffened. I freaked out and thought OMG, do NOT cramp up. I realized if I kept moving, they wouldn't (I don't know if that's true, but it worked). So I just had to keep going. No stopping now. The clock wasn't going to wait for me.

Running down Cat Hill, I knew I was almost there. Now I was seconds behind my clock time according to my pace chart and I said, "Just hang on." We left the park and began going on 59th street towards the finish. I was in the last mile. I felt tired. My legs were so brutally fatigued. I felt amazing. I was pushing and talking to myself and telling myself to keep going, stay strong. I kept thinking, what if you don't make it and you have to realize you had SOMETHING left in you that last mile that you didnt' tap into. TAP INTO IT.

Looking at my watch, I tried to do some math (and failed) to figure out if I was going to hit my goal. I think I had two minutes to get to the finish and I was pretty sure I would, but I didn't want to let up now. I was feeling cautiously optimistic, though.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere, the 3:40 pace team leader BLOWS past me, flag in hand, looking like he's out for an easy Sunday jog.

Oh f@#$! I thought. Where did he come from?! I can't let him get ahead of me! I panicked at the thought of letting my goal slip away at the last mile. I pushed to keep up, my eyes on his feet (which were like, floating above the ground, all bouncy and fresh...). Some skinny little girl was running next to him, looking serious, fit and fast. I latched onto her, ignoring the fatigue in my legs. I lost sight of the pace leader as we turned into the park and I sprinted past him. I stuck next to the girl as I ran under the MILE 26 banner and gritted my teeth.

That last push up the hill to the finish was brutal. I took one last glance at my watch and saw 3:38:07, and knowing I had done it, grinned (or maybe bared my teeth...finishing photo will tell) for the camera, and flashed him three fingers to show I had hit my "3:3X" goal.

What would you do differently?:

Not get bronchitis or injure my ITB two weeks before the marathon. :)
Post race
Warm down:

I wanted to collapse, dance, hug someone, scream, cry and laugh all at once. I was in a daze. My legs were dead and I'd hit my time goal. I think I was utterly destroyed and perfectly elated all at once -- possibly bordering on delirious.

What's left to do? I joined my fellow marathoners in the death march to our baggage. Got my mylar blanket, medal and the "leaves plenty to be desired" finishing goodie bag. I was dying for an apple, but somehow my bag didn't have one...I watched enviously as others crunched on theirs -- I also think my brain wasn't functioning very well, because every 4 minutes, I would dig around in the bag again hoping maybe I'd just missed it. Finally, after the fifth attempt I just told myself to cut it out and focus on getting to my baggage. Oh -- I was also the recipient of a Gatorade "PERFORM" bottle...not a "RECOVER" one. WTF?

We hobbled up to 77th (up...a hill) where I was told that I was wave 1 and needed to go back down the hill and up to 81st. In a daze, I said, "OK" while in my head I thought, "Walking is good for you, walking is good for you." I turned around to head back down. Going back down was brutal on the legs and the mind (try walking against a tide of marathoners...), where I found a volunteer and asked her to direct me to wave 1 bags. She said, "Oh, no. They're telling you the wrong info, it's all the should back up there, your bag is there."

I think it's a miracle I kept it together. But I was on a high, so I was like, "Oh. OK. Back up the hill. Sure." Turned around and headed back UP the hill again, thinking "Walking is good for me, walking is good for me." Got my bag relatively quickly (they were super organized). I immediately changed out of my drenched tanktop and slipped into a cozy sweatshirt and sweatpants. I put on my mylar blanket again. Then I put my medal in the bag and started walking. And then thought, wait WHAT? and took the medal back out again to put it on, after laboriously undoing my mylar blanket and getting tangled in my finishing bag. I'm ridiculous, but how long am I wearing a medal for? At LEAST until I get home, right?

The most brilliant move on my part was putting a bag of Honey Dijon Kettle chips in my baggage that morning. Chips have never tasted so good in my entire life. I inhaled those as I hobbled to Amsterdam. My boyfriend's apartment is on 80th...what a Godsend. I walked the three blocks to his home, got a huge hug (at the top of his 5th floor walkup...walking is good for me, walking is good for me). Took an icy cold shower, and then a hot shower and then we went out for brunch to celebrate.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

I can't believe I'm saying this -- I've never said it before and I might never say it again -- but: nothing limited my performance today. I trained for this pace. I stuck to every workout, every interval, every tempo run, every long run with an eye on my watch. And I did it. On marathon day, I executed the race I had trained for -- like I've read so many times on this site: on race day, you're just driving the engine you built.

I have never been happier with a race day effort and result in my entire life.

Event comments:

It's one of the best marathons in one of the best cities in the world. SO much fun. Great course, great crowd support. The most fun I've ever had at a marathon.

Last updated: 2011-08-11 12:00 AM
03:38:12 | 26.2 miles | 08m 20s  min/mile
Age Group: 271/3,068
Overall: 7497/46,795
Performance: Good
Course: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan. Some hills.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5