Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Number 10, Part I

Um, so apparently, I am a ten-time marathon finisher.... Wow. That is still hard for me to fathom. Me, the girl who hated PE in high school, who drove across campus to go to the gym, who still refers to herself as the "laziest marathoner you know." I have finished TEN marathons, four of them this year alone.  I have to focus on this achievement for a little bit, because the other achievement that I was hoping to have finally reached this weekend as I ran in the 2010 ING NYC Marathon didn't happen.

At the finish, upright & smiling, kinda-sorta. Before the medical tent...
My finish time on Sunday was 5:29:14, good enough to come in third-fastest of my marathons and ahead of the Chilean miner, but not fast enough to come in ahead of Jared the Subway Guy. And not fast enough to reach one of my primary goals for 2010 of breaking 5:00 for a full. Am I disappointed? Yes, I am.  And I have received all kinds of compliments and kudos from friends, from FB peeps and from Twitter tweeps in the last two days, and they have all been telling me I should be happy to have finished, that NYC is a tough course, that it is an amazing experience and that I shouldn't be so hard on myself. And I get that. I AM happy to have finished. I am thrilled that I got to participate, after four long years of waiting and anticipating. I had an absolutely wonderful weekend with four of my beautiful close friends and I do appreciate all of it. But, at the end of the day, I am very disappointed in how my race day ended. I can't sugar-coat it, I can't lie. This race hurt me physically and it hurt me mentally.

I prepared myself for this race more strenuously than I have prepared for any race in my life. I ran 824 miles since June to prepare my body for the journey. I skipped exactly ONE workout in 18 weeks of formal training. I re-arranged mileage and altered my plan only three times in that same time period. I worked with a nutritionist for two months to get my food intake and body composition fine-tuned. I had three 18-milers, 2 20-milers and a 26.2 as long runs leading up to this race. I stuck to the plan. I slept well, I ate well, I rested when the plan called for it, and I Ran It The Fuck Out when the plan called for it. I did more than I ever have to get ready for this race and it still wasn't enough to get me from Verrazano to Central Park in five hours.

So, what happened?  Let's go back to my tried-and-true Good, Bad and Ugly for this recap. It helps me organize my thoughts, and usually by the time I get done using this format, I find the silver lining in the clouds. I need to find the silver lining in these clouds. My friends who traveled with me were ready to smack me with my medal after hearing me beat myself up all night Sunday and Monday. I had to promise them I wouldn't continue once I got on the plane to come home. And I am not complaining anymore about not breaking 5:00. I'm not, really, but I have to get all this out of my head and onto here, so that I can find some clarity about my next big race and my already-in-progress plans for next spring. So...

The Good:
  • Back in NYC - I LOVE New York City. When I "lived" here for a year, I enjoyed the hustle and bustle and the variety of people and just the busy-ness of it all. But I only got to spend a small amount of time as a tourist, enjoying it. It became a second home but I didn't have the opportunity to do the typical tourist things, and I honestly became kind of jaded by them all. My apartment was three blocks from Times Square - it was no big deal. But on this trip, it was all pleasure, and it was all fun, during my favorite part of the year, too. So it was a beautiful reminder of what a vibrant and fabulous city this really is, and why this marathon is so special. 
  • My friends - I had the distinct pleasure of traveling with four wonderful women this weekend. Two are great friends who have shared a weekend with before, one I knew through dinner club, and another who I'd never met. But, we had a great weekend and shared a great experience with each other, and we got to know each other well, as you only can when you cram women into a hotel room together for four days! It was great. And I was so fortunate to have them cheering me on at mile 25, and giving me an especially needed boost to get me to the finish. They were wonderful and I look forward to having many more equally fabulous weekends with them all in the future. In fact, Beth and Irene spent a large part of the expo scoping out races in exotic locales for ME to run, so they could come along for the adventure! 

My Posse: Irene, Denise, Sonya & Beth

  • Meeting Tweeps - I also had the chance to meet two other inspiring and great friends on this trip. My friend Erica met @multisportdad at the expo and they tracked me down, so I got to meet him in person and wish him luck before his first full marathon (he ROCKED it, BTW - speedster!!). Plus, he also set us up with about the most spectacular dinner ever at Oceana at Rockefeller Center, where his friend is executive chef. We were treated like royalty and the food was beyond delicious. Even my friend who didn't like seafood was impressed! And then on Monday morning, I met with @roynaim and got to hear the inside scoop on his amazing and inspiring story. He is a treasure and I feel privileged to have met him!

Me and Roy Naim at Columbus Circle. 
Me with Carlos & Erica at the expo.
  • Crowds - the crowds were great. Amazing support along every single mile of this course. All the different neighborhoods were so fun to see - you could see how the route along Brooklyn shifted from one ethnicity to another with the flags from different countries and the people on the sides of the streets yelling and cheering and encouraging. One thing I wish I had done: put my name on my shirt. I had my girls’ picture under my bib, to keep them close to my heart for motivation, but I hadn’t put my name anywhere on me. For anyone that did have their name visible, they got cheered personally all along the course. So encouraging and motivating. I had one lady somewhere in Central Park, while I was stretching and pounding on my quads and pretty visibly in pain, come over and put her hand on my back and very gently and very kindly tell me, “You’re almost there. You’ve done so well so far. You can do this.”  It meant the world to hear that, and to have her genuinely care that I was hurting right there. Awesome in every sense of the word.
Great signs from crowd in Central Park. 
  • Course – The course ran through the greatest city in the country. What do you expect? It was greatness, beginning to end. People talk about the Bronx being barren and sparse of crowd support. I didn’t find it so. The course was tougher than it seems. The elevation was more extreme than it looks in the maps. I was not bothered by the uphills onto the bridges like a lot of folks, I was hammered by the downhills. But overall, the course was awesome. My favorite part, by far, bar none? Entering Central Park off 5th Avenue. The energy was great, and I had so many memories of entering the park at that spot to run around the reservoir. Even though I was beyond hurting by then, it was just as spectacular as I remembered. Central Park is a treasure and I loved it just as much Sunday as I did the first time I set foot in it three years ago.
  • Weather – it was COLD at the start. Very, very cold. Especially walking along the sidewalk to get from the ferry to the buses before we even got to runner’s village. But once I got to the village and found a spot to sit in the sun and bask like a turtle for a while, it wasn’t too bad. I had my throwaway fleece blanket and a throwaway sweatshirt, and I was great. During the run, once we got off the bridge and away from the winds whipping at us up there, and my feet warmed up to where I could feel them again, I never felt uncomfortable temperature-wise until the last mile (more on that later). We couldn’t have asked for a more picture-perfect marathon weather day. And when you consider that the next morning we were greeted with hail and sleet and 30-something degrees, we were outright blessed!!
Beautiful clear blue skies and crisp temperatures greeted us.
  • Nutrition – My nutrition plan is fine-tuned and it works for me. I start fuel at 45 minutes in and then every mile marker after that I alternated sips of Gatorade/water mix from my belt-pack with clif bar (oatmeal raisin this time) and clif bloks. At Tyler I got really sick of the taste of the clif bar (it seemed like Hobbit bread and never got any smaller, no matter how many bites I took), so this time, I took the clif bar at one odd numbered mile, then two blocks at the next odd-numbered mile. That way I didn’t get burned out on either fuel choice. Plus the variety kept my stomach happy, and all along the course, even when I was hurting, I never felt like I didn’t have the energy to keep going. My legs were strong and I was fueled properly throughout. Fueling was not an issue.
  • Getting to the Start – I was very nervous about how I was going to get to the Staten Island Ferry. I had heard stories about crowded subways and not being able to get onto packed trains, so I took extra cash and my credit card with me in case I had to bail and take a cab at the last minute. I needn’t have worried. It was a quick two-block walk from the hotel to the 49th Street station, then onto the southbound R train and bam, right at the Ferry station. No issues, no mess, no terrible crowds. I even got to sit for the entire ride.
  • Running with Jared – My first celebrity sighting of the trip was at the airport, when one of my girls saw Geraldo Rivera’s mustache,  with Geraldo attached to it. The next celeb sighting for me was at the start. I saw a crew of about five people in matching black shirts with taped-on names next to me in the corral, but didn’t think anything about it until I heard one of them say, “we’ll try to keep him near the 5:00 pace sign so the cameras can find him.”  Well, of course, I had to turn around and see who merited camera attention, only to find myself two people away from Jared Fogle, the Subway Guy. I lost sight of him as we moved further into the corrals, but eventually we ended up leapfrogging for much of the first 20-22 miles. If you look at our splits, we are neck and neck for almost all of the race, with me surging ahead in some spots as he walked water stops and then him getting in front of me when I stopped for a potty break or to get my knees taped. He got ALL kinds of crowd support – at every Subway shop along Brooklyn, all the employees were in front wearing yellow shirts and waving signs and cut-outs of Jared and flipping out when he ran past and waved. Can I just say there are a LOT of freaking Subways in Brooklyn?!!  Seriously! But it was cool to see him and his Sherpa crew.
  • Mile 18 – I deliberately chose not to wear my iPod for this race, because I didn’t want to miss a thing. I knew there would be enough diversions on the course that I wouldn’t miss it. I had it for the subway ride, ferry ride and for the wait at the staging & corral areas, but tucked it away before the start. And I was right for the most part. There were bands, music blaring from open walk-up windows, people cheering. But I did miss “my” music –the stuff that got me through my training runs all summer long. I have been harassed in the past for listening to too much Tom Petty, but I’ve also said before that “Running Down a Dream” is my Major League at-bat song, I love it that much. It just speaks to me. So you can imagine the lift I got at mile 18, when right as I approach the bandstand, the  band begins to sing, “It was a beautiful day… the sun beat down… I had the radio on… I was driving.”  OH, HELLS YEAH! That few lines alone got me through that mile and the next. I just knew it was a good sign that I ran by as they were playing that – that’s not coincidence, my friends, that is NOT coincidence. 
  • Central Park – Have I talked about how much I love Central Park? I have? Well, that’s because I do. So I am going to say again how incredible it was for me, this girl from podunk South Texas, to run the last few miles of the New York City marathon in Central Park. In my wildest dream as a child, I never imagined I would do such a thing. And yet, I did it. It hurt, yes, but still. I RAN THROUGH CENTRAL PARK ON A BEAUTIFULLY PERFECT DAY IN NOVEMBER AS PART OF THE NEW YORK CITY MARATHON!! Talk about making dreams come true! 

To be continued... 


hokgardner said...

That's the thing with marathons - no matter how many you've run, you just never know what's going to happen on race day.

I swear all my problems were caused by two hours of shivering at the start. I was so cold despite lots and lots of layers.

Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

Darn you for splitting this up into parts... I want to hear it all!!! LOL.

Congrats on the finish!

Liz said...

You are awwwwesomme. Can't wait to read more! I'm laughing (hobbit food) AND crying (the woman who encouraged you in Central Park). And you are so right - that song was NO coincidence ;)