Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Race Report: NYC Marathon (run #126)

Part 1 written on 11/5
Part 2 written on 11/6 (starting with "And we're off")
Part 3 finalized on 11/8 (starting with "The Bridge, the-the the Bridge")

How much: 26.2
How long: 6:36:32
When: 11/2/14 10:55am (wave 4)
November miles: 26.2
Total 2014 miles: 581.4 you know if you are a regular reader of this blog, the last month plus has had me dealing with knee issues, and previous to that, calf issues. After my 12-mile taper heading into Chicago (marathon), I hadn't had a pain free run. I was worried and not at all confident. My last run was an awkward attempt at testing a knee brace.  Fast forward to marathon weekend.

I have running friends at work. One in particular knew of my concerns, and she also shares the "burden" of being a slow runner, and gets how any hitch in my step means even that much of a slower run...which brings a whole 'nother set of fears: the dreaded "being kicked off the course and onto the sidewalks because you're too slow." It can mess with you the whole race. So anyway, she emailed me some words of wisdom on Friday when BB and I had already headed off to The Big Apple:

"So here’s my last minute advice. Break the race down into 26 1-mile intervals. Only focus on the mile you are running.  Don’t judge the miles behind you (good or bad) and don’t anticipate the miles ahead of you. Just run in the moment. Pains come and go. You got this. "

That really resonated with me.

Marathon morning, BB....can I just call him Bob now? Sheesh! You like the mystique of BB? BB said "You will. Say to yourself I WILL. I will do this. Repeat it 25 times." I repeated it over and over in my head. We rode the R train over to the ferry. 

I didn't want to leave him, I wanted to stay with him til it was time to run. But alas, that wasn't possible. So off I went. I looked back for one last look but he was gone--or I lost him in the crowd.

I rode on the ferry, tuning out the mindless, nervous chatter of other runners. I will. I will.

Though having lived in NYC for nearly three years back in grad school, I'd been on the ferry all of two times before this day. I tried hard not to reminisce OR think too much about the task ahead. Just be here. Right now.

Soon we were in Staten Island, where we were herded like cattle out of the station and into a large mass of people, being corralled into a "line" (I use the term loosely) for shuttle buses over to the bridge. It was cold and windy, and I strategically positioned myself behind two tall, non-English speaking runners. Wind blockers,  literally and figuratively. I hate listening to other people's nervous pre-race chatter. I had ZERO idea what they were talking about.

I finally made it onto a bus. It was warm and lovely. Sat down, and some dude sat down next to me. I asked him where he was from (Cincinnati), he asked me, and we didn't speak again. The warm, swaying bus through residential streets lulled me to sleep. We were moving slow in a line of buses. I'd wake up, glance around and doze back off. 

People around me were getting restless. When are we gonna get there? Loud audible sighs. Calm your asses down, at least we're warm! 

I will.

We get close to the bridge, and then it was time to go. I waited til everybody got off that bus except a few other smart ones. We had to stand in line anyway to get searched, might as well wait in warmth.

Then came the walking. It sorta felt like an eternity because I didn't know where I was going. Orange corral go this way..this way...keep that way...there were hundreds of port-o-potties. While it wasn't a major concern, I went anyway. 

Then I went to the wait area. Oh SNAP! What's this?!?!? Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate, coffee, tea and bagels? Say what you want about DD, but Starbucks was nowhere in sight with free goodies to keep us warm...including free fleece hats. I had a life-giving cup of hot chocolate and some gatorade concentrate thing of pre-race carbs.

So about those hats...they were actually out. It's marathon do things you normally wouldn't do...kinda like you wouldn't normally drink out of a water fountain on the lakefront path that you KNOW has also been the site for doggiedrinks  and homeless bathing, but when you're 14 miles into an 18-mile run, it suddenly doesn't matter? (Runner rationale and reasoning.) Wave  4 runners were led up to another pre-waiting area before entering into the bridge, I snagged a knit cap that someone had tossed. I was freezing! And I said "if they have lice, at least my hair is short enough where I can get rid of it before I go home." (Runner rationale and reasoning.) 

I will.

Wave 3 was now on the bridge. BOOM!!!! A cannon went off, and the runners were on there way. Faintly I could hear Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York." It made me smile. "If I can (da da) make it here I'll make it (da da) anywhere!"  Damn straight! I came to NYC in 1995 knowing 1 person and with $375 in my pocket. 

Aww snap, Wave 4, it's time to go up to the bridge! Oh! There's one of those orange and pink DD fleece hats! So I ditched knit cap for this one. Yes. Two hats that had been on other people's heads.  Shudder. Normal me thinks that's gross. Race day me is surviving and keeping warm. My phone said it was 38 degrees in SI and the wind was whipping. I kept checking my app...where were the times for Illinois' own Tatyana McFadden, women's wheelchair champion? What's happening. I soon read that it was so windy that they didn't start on the bridge.

You don't say?! 

What was that? Oh, that's right. I will.

So being in Wave 4 Corral A, I was right up front. Ho-lee-crap.

And we're off
BOOM! goes the cannon...and off we go, serenaded by Frank Sinatra. "How's your knee feel, Lindy?" "I guess it's ok. A little stiff." Within a minute as we runners started to spread out, the wind became an instant foe. Whipping from the left and front, pushing me into the metal divider of the bridge. Others were facing the same. And then suddenly it would switch up, hitting you from behind. The first mile is entirely uphill, going up the first half of the bridge. The closer we got to the peak, the worse the wind got. In mid-step, several times the wind pushed my foot into my leg making it difficult to keep steady. People were cursing audibly. And by the looks of it, silently as well. At one point, I walked for a minute, but the downside was in sight. Against all things that preach about starting out too fast, I said "I need to be off this bridge like NOW," and ran hard. It was scary up there. I kept looking down at my Garmin at it was reading 9:57, 10:01, 9:58. I didn't care, I'd deal with the aftermath later--I wanted off that bridge. 

About 2 miles in and we're in Brooklyn. Holy crap these hills didn't look so big on paper. I ran/walked, mostly taking the opportunity to walk the inclines, as I was already tired from that windy start. The first aid station came around Mile 3, and every mile thereafter. THAT, my friends, is a beautiful thing. I knew this in advance and only had one little bottle as a security blanket. If I were to run NYC again, I wouldn't take any. (that's something I can't say I'd trust anywhere else.)

I knew BB and crew would be at Butler Street, midway between Miles 7 and 8. Where the course started in Bklyn was at about 96th Street (or at least that's when I noticed the numbered streets), and I knew I had to go all the  way past the number streets to get to them (as in 1st Street). Oh God, that's a long... 



My 5k time even with the run/walk was at a 12:00 pace. Alright! Alright! That'll work!! But the mini hills (also known as big friggin hills in Chicago) took their toll on me and I slowed it down a bit. As I got to 9th Street, I started to get excited about seeing my crew. I couldn't wait! The crowds were decent here, very supportive. Early on in races I try not to interact too much with them. There were lots of kids out, though. Lots of families. But I have to say, and I can truly make the honest comparison, the crowds are nothing like Chicago's. Marathoners in Chicago are truly blessed. Seriously.

Finally up on the left, there are BB and Candace. (1/2 of my ground crew for the day.) I stopped, chatted, grabbed some of my lip balm (my lips felt windburned and cracked), and then went on my way. Candace had made these awesome signs, and I can't remember which one she had up here, but I was totally surprised! And off I went! BB is a pro now at following me around a course, so I knew I'd see them at the next spot in Queens.

Off I go down to Atlantic and twisting around near downtown Brooklyn. Then suddenly it felt like we were heading uphill again for a long time. Wth, Brooklyn?! (I know...I coulda trained for hills. It's not the course's fault.) Somewhere along Lafayette St. we approached an area where a high school band was part of the course entertainment. As they finished their song, their band director for on the mic and said "That's all for this year, see you next year. Run faster next time." And the marathon course award for douchebag of the year goes to.....THAT GUY. You dumb fuck. You do realize it's a 4-wave start, you jackass. Way to set an example  for your students, you reject. (Excuse my language. I was and still am pissed.)

But further down the street, folks were showing us some love again.

The building was so Brooklyn that I stopped in my tracks, got my phone out and took this picture.

I was very tired from hills and wind, which wasn't as bad as on the bridge, but still whipping around constantly. Felt like my strength was draining out of me. But everytime a moment of despair set in, I said Nevermind where I am and how far I have to go, and I can't handle much more of this wind, and other fretting...I reminded myself: THIS MILE. Can I run this Mile 10 to 11? Sure I can.

At some point I was like "Ok Brooklyn, where the hell is Queens?" Omg why is Brooklyn so big?! Sheesh! Are there still lots of Jewish people in Williamsburg?! What's happening over here?? It's hipster-ish!! Up ahead: another bridge. Queens. And of course, with bridges come hills. $&@%#*+%!!!!!

So this is Queens, eh?
Being in Queens has always been a means of getting to and from someplace else. Usually the airport. But here I was. Struggling to keep it together. The wind feels like it's getting stronger. Just keep going. I wonder if BB and crew have been waiting long? Did Rabiya make it there? Was her mom (and my pseudo caretaker away from home during grad school) really going to come out? I have little memory of running here, other than for some reason being overly obsessed with the notion that I absolutely MUST be under the 3-hr mark at the halfway point (13.1 miles.)  And I was.

I had to focus hard on not thinking ahead, as the thought kept creeping in my head about the really big bridge in my near future. Nevermind that for now. My quads and left lower calf were really hurting from, most likely, running those downhills. Really sore! At Mile 14 I said "This Mile!!! Another ground crew meetup!" Those "meetup miles" gave me hope! I'd hit that mile and get excited.

There they were up ahead! With new signs in hand! There was Rabiya this time. And BB with his ever-encouraging words. My fingers had started to swell badly at this point and I needed to readjust some things, so BB helped me readjust my fitbit--he asked me if I wanted him to take it...Ahhh, NO WAYyyyyy???!??!!!!! Are you kidding me??? The opportunity for 50k steps shall not ever be missed. Took a little more time, stretched my quads, but then of course, I had to go on my way and make friends with the Queensborough Bridge. Of course, being in the bottom (middle?) level of the bridge and not exposed to open air would surely protect us from the wind, right? (Side eye glance at that silly notion.)

The Bridge, the-the-the Bridge (and beyond)
So we get to the Queensborough Bridge, and though another ginormous hill was upon us again, I looked forward to protection from the wind, since we were running under the covered part. Um...yeah. It. Didn't. Matter. One. Bit. It was windy. It was a big hill, and after the biggest hill and many little ones behind me, my legs found no power. I felt defeated, but refused to think about anything but my current mile. This mile. I will. I can and will complete this mile. Finally a downhill, but my quads protested even this. 

"If I can just get to 96th," (18-mile mark) which is where BB and crew were waiting. Were they wondering what was taking so long? My hands were crazy swollen at this point. Coming off of the bridge I've been told of the wonderful crowds. And while I'm not trying to diss NY, maybe they're good for your average race, Chicago has the Big Apple beat, hands down. That being said, there were lots of encouraging words along the way. 

The road was flat here, I should make up time and run. But I couldn't get my legs to cooperate. Thinking only of my present mile kept the negative thoughts at bay. I finally reached BB and crew, and they had pretzels. Salty, beloved pretzels. I snared 4 pretzel rods and went on my way after loving the love they were giving me. I walked as I ate my pretzels, and when I was done, I turned on my favorite podcast. After a few minutes it stopped. ?? So I stopped...pulled out my iPhone and saw the dreaded turning wheel/circle. Your battery's dead, sucka! At 18+ miles. Fantastic. Way to go, Apple.

I trotted along, running when I could. I've never wanted to be in the Bronx so bad. Because the Bronx would mean the far northernmost point, knocking out the final two bridges, and then in the home stretch. This mile. This mile. I looked behind me and kept seeing flashing lights. Is that the sag wagon? Oh no! But even though I was slow my Garmin didn't show a time that was that slow...right? (I never figured out what that was all about.

The Boogie Down (As in Boogie Down Bronx)
What's that? A bridge up ahead! The Willis Avenue Bridge. A small bridge, but at 20ish miles, it felt huge again. This bridge spans over the neighborhood where my final masters project was, so it was cool to take a look around. While every neighborhood was sure to remind you where you were, folks in the Bx were particular proud to welcome us runners. And honestly, when you're at the back of the pack and they've been out their all day, it makes you feel really good...very appreciative. For all the random jokes I've made about the Bronx over the years, I apologize! They were as friendly as ever, had the music straight jumpin' as if there were throngs of us coming through at the middle of the pack. We soon said goodbye to the Bronx and we were back in the upper 120's. This is to Nicole at the edge of Central Park (110th.) Run to BB and crew at 96th/5th Ave. This is the last stretch of road, and then it's Central Park. 

Harlem and the Upper East Side
I immediately switched into survival mode. You have a little left. Let's do this. Run a block. Walk a block. Can you run 2 blocks? Yes, I can! Great, now walk a block. Do what it takes. Just keep going.

Soon we came across Harlem's famed 125th St. Barely recognizable. Keep going, pontificate on gentrification later. Wrapping around Marcus Garvey Park (I think that's the name, can't remember for sure and too lazy to look it up) there were more loud and boisterous revelers. Again, being there at this late juncture was really inspiring...we slow runners need cheering too! And they were willing to stick it out for the long haul too, just like us.

And just like that, up ahead was Nicole and her friend.  Warning: this picture is slightly hideous. 
I think she might have texted BB to tell them I was on my way. From where she was to him was just 14 blocks, and on the streets, these are super short (as opposed to the blocks on the avenues in Manhattan.

Anyhoo...I'm trotting and suddenly, earlier than expected is BB. He was alone, he came ahead to walk with me for a few, which I really appreciated...just wanted some "me" time with my running angel/my ace, and no one else. I unloaded everything: my phone is dead! I'm sorry I've been walking so much and making you wait. Why is this on such an incline? When will it end? He said he'd take my phone, and we'd just meet at the place we all agreed on/no, you're doing great/yes this IS kind of a hill, huh?/I think that's the top of it right up there. It maybe was just a block or two before we got up to Rabiya, Candace and Rylona...but it was enough for me to feel rejuvenated. I swear, BB knows me better than anyone with my running, either on purpose or intuitively...those few minutes with just me and him were just what the doctor ordered. We said our hellos and goodbyes and off I went, soon to head into Central Park.

Central Park (mile 24-26.2)
I have NEVER been so happy to see Central Park. I ran when I could, walked when I couldn't run. The sun was officially down now, so it was dark. (A day before and it would have stil been light--daylight savings time change.) everyone around me was doing the same "run a little/walk a little." I actually appreciated being in the park and not knowing exactly what street number I was at...I only knew we'd come out at 59th/Central Park South & Fifth Ave. 

After what seemed an eternity, I finally saw the exit into 59th, at the circle-like area where carriage rides often kick off. I used to cut across here when going between my midtown office off of 57th over to my grad school on 68th/Lexington. 

Run a little/walk a little. I must have missed the Mile 25 sign. Hmmm. Shuffle, shuffle. Why did I tell them to meet me "somewhere between 7th Ave and Columbus Circle?" It was for-REAL dark now. The faces along the course were hard to see. I'd look up to try and scan the crowd, only to worry that I'd trip and fall flat on my face. Where ARE they? People along the street were saying things like "you're almost there!" And "you've got this!" And for once, they were  right. 

I knew that if BB was here, he wouldn't have missed me, so I turned into the park. I could see the 26 mile sign. There was a cruel uphill jaunt to the finish. There were huge floodlights shining along the very last of the home stretch. The clock ticked past my time for Chicago...just a few more steps and you're there. 

And then I was done.


And then I walked for what seemed an eternity. I have to say, being a race volunteer for anything past the medals and food is a thankless job. Few had any energy left to say thank you. People just want to leave, and don't want any more rules and regs. Finally I exited the park with my "recovery bag" of food, and upon leaving the security of Central Park, I was given a that can actually be re-used. (Picture in a sec...) I walked purposefully to my previously agreed upon place at BBQs on 72nd just west of the park. BB came to meet me...he hugged me, stank sweat and all.

It took awhile to be seated. I felt sick and dizzy at times. I just wanted to sit down. Blah blah blah

Anyway...and that was that. My race season is over. Did I end up where I initially wanted to be? No. But I made do with what I could. Calf pain, then knee pain at the end. Struggling through Chicago first, barely running in between, and then somehow in the wind and among the hills and on my second marathon in 3 weeks, I was only a few seconds difference from Chicago. Had I not bonked out against the wind, who knows?

Thank you again to the best running crew as seen below, less Nicole.

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