Wednesday, November 4, 2015

TCS New York Marathon

There is so much to tell about this race. I feel like I should break it apart into 2 sections:

What was GREAT about the day
What was BAD LESS THAN IDEAL about the day

There was so much I did right, and so much I wish I could change, but that is the inner dialogue all most runners experience with every race.

New York was unlike any other race I have ever done:  50,000+ runners converging onto a bridge to run through the streets of the 5 boroughs.  These were city streets.  I was awestruck by the sights and sounds.  I loved the cheering of the spectators, runners and volunteers.  I experienced the quietness of the bridges, and then the surge of loudness of the bands, DJ's and noisemakers (insert:  need more cowbell!).  I also was impressed by the efficiency and thorough planning it must have taken to pull this event together.

The expo felt like a kid walking into Disney World for the first time. It is heavenly to see what is out there in our sport. Decades ago when I started running there were not all the gadgets, cute outfits and paraphernalia there is today. I am glad it is now a fashionable sport!

I am one of the lucky ones that got to stay 2 blocks from the South Ferry at my parents' condo on Wall Street.  I had an easy walk to the ferry that took us to the bus which took us to the entrance of all the color coded athlete's villages at 6:00am. It is hard to wait for a race with 50,000+ people walking/milling about, but they sure make it easy with food, 1700 port-a-potties, and a plethora of runners from many countries. I was settled into my assigned village with over 3 hours to go. For those of you who know me, I chatted with people, lots of people.

My starting corral was on top of the bridge.  They started funneling us towards the starting line with about a half hour to go before the start.  Each corral had several Goodwill donation bins that we threw our extra clothing into before the start. The temperatures were warm for a November day in New York. Well...they were too warm for me!

My goal for NYC was to run happy and Boston Qualify.  I wanted to run in the 3:20-3:40 range (which is a rather large time range) so I hid my Garmin from myself.  I wanted to run by feel and feel alone. It was a pretty crowded start so I settled into a pack.  We climbed the first mile up the bridge and I looked around smiling (didn't look down because the thought of 50,000+ runners on 1 bridge was scary to me). My Garmin was set to divulge only mile splits, no paces. The first mile was a 7:48 which was perfectly in the wheelhouse.  I actually felt like I was not moving at all.  The second mile was down. Down is an understatement.  When we reached the 2 mile mark I saw a 6:48 on my Garmin.  Oppss- didn't mean to do that, but I was in a pack and wasn't working very hard.  Besides, it was almost a completely downhill mile.

Mile after mile was comfortable and fun to see all the screaming/cheering spectators.  I was in a great groove because I returned to 7:30 pace miles just like I practiced at the Mini-Myrtle Beach (half) marathon 2 weeks earlier. Actually, when I cruised across the halfway point I was pleasantly surprised I was within 30 seconds of how I finished the Myrtle Mini run.  All was going great....until mile 14 (cue the screeching brakes).  Cups. Lots of cups. Ridiculous amount of cups I was dodging, jumping and sliding across.  Did I mention cups?  Well, there were also sponges, banana peels and assorted carbohydrate/electrolyte replacement gels.  It seemed there were water tables every mile. I slightly jumped over then landed on a cup. I then slid with that cup until I smacked my right foot into a subway/sewer grate.  I practically fell over and probably would have if a volunteer hadn't caught me. Then everything went bad. Very bad. My second toe was throbbing.  I kept running and grimacing and then watching me lose quite a few people I was running alongside. I wished them good luck and proceeded to question my ability to run further, but I was determined to Boston Qualify so I pressed on.

I altered my running gait to accommodate my toes that did not want to touch the ground again. For those of you who don't run, this can be a very bad thing. My body is used to running a certain way. I have been running that way for 40 years. I do NOT recommend doing what I proceeded to do. I then did what I tell myself never to do in a race. I walked. I think I walked a certain portion of every mile and then I would start running again because I felt guilty for walking. Why did I feel guilty for walking? I have no unearthly idea. I remember doing a 3:13 at a marathon at Myrtle Beach and getting beat by a woman who was doing the walk/run racing method. It was hard playing the yo-yo game with her, but she smoked me to a 3:11. I think I am stubborn (I am sure Dan is smacking his head in an 'aha') and wanted to BQ so badly that I didn't care what I did. I needed to get to the church finish line on time.

I saw Dan and Amber at mile 16. I was so in shock that I actually heard/saw them I look a little surprised in this photo, don't I? You can see my black Fellow Flower about to fall out on the side of my head. Amber is my son's girlfriend who is doing an internship in NYC and staying with my parents. Having Amber there was like having a piece of my kids with me on my journey.

I could not tell you what mile 17-23 looked like, sounded like or even felt like. I truly do not remember anything but focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. I took water/gatorade at every opportunity and had plenty of Honey Stinger chomps, so I know I hydrated and fueled during those miles. I started some cramping in my outer calf muscles due to the altered running gait and was trying my best not to touch my right foot to the ground each step. That is hard to do...just sayin'. I saw Dan and Amber again somewhere in between 23-25 and I knew I was going to finish in time to BQ. I remember whining to them that I was cramping and something was wrong with my right foot/leg. I pressed on and could not even enjoy the last mile which I am sure would have normally had me smiling ear to ear. I walked a little in that last mile and lamented on how I have NEVER done that before!

I finished the race and immediately squealed for the medic personnel saying there is something wrong with my calves and my right toe. They were great. They walked me to the medical tent which was right past where I took a finisher photo on the way. I thought I was grinning ear to ear but you can clearly tell I am grimacing. Oh well....(insert smile) I Boston Qualified!

Within 3 minutes of finishing, they took my blood pressure and it had dropped to 76/46 with a pulse of 56. I am going to watch my BP in the next couple of months to make sure there is not something wrong. They gave me ice for my calves and salty chicken broth for my tummy. They kept asking if I was dizzy and I actually felt great sans the calves and right toe! They let me leave once my blood pressure rose to 80/50 and I walked hobbled to get my post race poncho. The arduous journey was worth it. What an awesome plus! After collecting my poncho and walking 8 blocks I found these 2 lovelies. I am so lucky to have a supportive husband and family to do this crazy little thing called running. Running inspires me. Running challenges me.  Running keeps me grounded.

I have so much to be thankful for and so much work to do to stay running healthy. I am taking time to heal my foot and monitor this BP thing.  I did so much right in this marathon, and I did so much wrong. That is why I love running. Be grateful for days where you feel invincible and learn the lessons you need to learn on days things don't go as planned. Runners can be a little bogged down by numbers, past times, and paces. I am choosing to stay in the moment and enjoy every step!

In case you were wondering, I finished in 3:34:17. I was the 808th female and 4858 overall. I am a NYC New York Marathon FINISHER and I am proud!