NYC Race Recap 2015!
Well, I did it. It was everything and nothing that I expected. I was exuberant and humbled all in the same race. But now that my emotions have settled down, and I’m so happy to have had this experience. For all you race recap junkies, here’s how it broke down. And yes, it’s a long one!
Getting to the Damn Start!
This was perhaps just as exhausting as the 26.2 miles I was about to run. I had mapped and timed everything out to get to my ferry at 8 a.m. I left 30 minutes early. However, in the wise thinking of the NY MTA — they decided to close the 1 Train at 14th St for construction and divert the 35,000 runners making their way to the south end of Manhattan. Luckily, standing in my swanky fleece bathrobe in the NY subway at 6:30 in the morning I apparently looked in need of help. A local runner named Acacia and I chatted it up, and she offered to help me navigate my way through the detours. We hopped over to the Green Line at 96th St. to avoid the detour….and sat. Not. Moving. At. All. For. 20. Minutes. Finally we started moving – and checking our watches every 15 seconds. We saw a bunch of runners hop off the train at Chambers St., so in total NY fashion, we pushed the doors open and hopped out. Acacia said it was wise to follow the masses — and it was, there were shuttle busses waiting to take up to the Staten Island Ferry.
Success, for a moment. We get to the Staten Island Ferry and there is a MASS of 5,000 or so anxious and angry runners standing outside the terminal. There are volunteers on megaphones advising everyone that a) the ferries are running LATE, b) don’t worry about which ferry you signed up for, just get on the next one, and c) don’t push. People were freaking out. We were assured that everyone would get to the start — just relax. Easier said than done! Finally I got on a ferry a little after 8 a.m. The ride was nice, I sat inside to stay warm, and got a nice view of the Statue of Liberty to settle my nerves.
In Staten Island, I got off the ferry, and hit a Port-O-Pot line while the lines were low. I followed the masses up the hill to wait in line for shuttle busses to Fort Wadsworth. In what seemed to take forever, we finally got on a bus and got moving….only to stop and have to pick up several stranded runners whose bus broke down on the way to the start. Like everyone’s nerves weren’t high enough, I can’t imagine being on the broken down bus.
By the time i got to the starting area, it was after 10 a.m. This left me just enough time to pee, fill my water bottles, and make it to my starting corral. There was no waiting around, no getting my shit together, no getting my head settled. I hurredly shoved my GUs in my pockets and put on my belt, and watched Wave 3 take off, and then my Wave 4 was herded over to the foot of the bridge. A quick Star Spangled Banner, a canon shot, and Old Blue Eyes singing New York, New York and I was underway!
We took off and headed up the bridge. I thought I was in the corral that went over the top, but not so. I was in the creepy underworld with Frank Sinatra playing through a Doppler-distorted speaker behind me, and auto-traffic heading at me on the other side of the bridge. I felt good and comfortable, so I checked my GPS to make sure that I wasn’t heading out too fast and it read 14:32/mile pace. WTF? I kept checking. The first mile came in a 13:02. I was devasted. How could I fuck up the first mile by going too slow????? I was shooting for a 12:00/mile pace. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, maybe it was just nerves. So I put on the gas and sped up, only to realize that my GPS was all screwy because I was under the bridge, and all my miles were slightly off. Mile 2 came in at 10:53, way too fast! I finally evened out as we hit the middle of mile 2, and I was greeted with people shouting “welcome to Brooklyn!” as we came off the bridge on-ramp and into a 10-mile party.
Brooklyn is where the party is, people. NO joke.
The. Crowds. Were. Amazing. I finally found my rhythm of run/walk/run and was hitting my pace dead on every mile. I kept pulling out my camera to take pictures and video. People were calling my name. It was badass. I actually had to keep checking to see what mile I was at, because I was having so much fun I was worried I would get lost in the crowd and forget to take in my gels at the right miles. The first 12 miles flew by. I was still going strong, and did a half-way-over-happy-dance at mile 13.1. I started to slow down a little bit, but at Mile 15 and the Queensboro Bridge everything started to change.
Going up mile 15 on the bridge there was no crowd. I decided to put on my iPod and zone out for a bit — no luck, dead. It had a full charge on Thursday night, and I hadn’t used it at all since. It usually goes a week in between charging. The bridge seemed to last….for…ev…er… I got a side stitch, which I never got in any training runs, and probably haven’t had since I was 12 in PE class. Nothing I did would fight it. I walked for a bit, I saw the 5:30 pacer going by me and there was absolutely nothing I could do to keep up. Nor did I care. Mile 16 my slowest mile of the entire course (it does, however include a potty break!).
I came down the bridge and hit the potty. That seemed to help. I’m not used to having water station every single mile (usually they are 1 1/2 miles apart), I actually think I was taking too much water. This was Manhattan! The people were awesome, and better yet I knew that my crew was waiting at 86th St. At least I could count blocks, that seemed to make the next mile or so go by. I was SO happy to see Mom, Matilda, Lane, Dave, and Scott. They had signs with my name, and big smiles and cheers. It was a pick me up that lasted a few miles.
Don’t get me wrong, the Bronx was cool. It definitely had its own vibe. Very Grand Master Flash meets Mary J. Blige (both from the Bronx, FYI.) The crowds were smaller, the music was hip-hop, and it was a nice change. But I was hurting. Mile 20 was ok, Mile 21 was meh. We crossed back into Manhattan and into Harlem. At this point I remember less, stopped caring to take pictures. I heard people shouting my name, but I was only staring at the ground trying to avoid any uneven pavement and counting my steps — out loud — like an escaped mental patient. Everything started to hurt. If I counted the steps that my right foot landed, my right foot hurt; if I counted my left foot falls, my left foot hurt. I ended up only my right footfalls on my right hand (I count to 10 on footfalls, then hold the next finger, count to 10, move to the next finger, etc.) If I so much as thought about my left foot or using my left hand to count a searing pain in my toes shot up. We entered Harlem on 135th St., and I knew that I would need to make it to 90th St. to see my crew again. 45 blocks, I wanted to throw up.
I continued to count out loud. People continued to cheer and call my name. I wished they wouldn’t. I wished I could stop. My back hurt so bad I don’t know how I was holding my torso upright. Finally I looked up to see I was around 94th St. and looked up to find the family. They were right at 90th St. and I got high fives from everyone and a big hug from my Mom. And then she pushed me off and smiled “Keep going and finish.” All I wanted was to stay and get a longer hug, but I left.
Mile 23 was Hell. We entered Central Park and I kept up my count-muttering and appreciated the subdued crowds. The hills in Central Park are unfair and brutal, even in all their multi-colored leaf glory. My pace picked up a bit at Mile 25, and I skipped a little when I a saw the 800 Meters left sign on 59h St. The last turn into the park and .2 miles uphill was defeating. I didn’t give a shit. I was WAY over my optimistic time goal, and past my reality time goal by 10 minutes. There was no point in running anymore. I could hear the finish line, but I couldn’t see it. When I did finally pick up the pace, was when I saw the finish-line photographers. I may feel defeated, but I’ll be damned if my finish line photo is a walk!
And it’s over…
The next thing I know there is an announcer calling my name over the loudspeaker, pops of flashbulbs and everyone saying “Congratulations.” Honestly, I was disappointed at my finish time, and how I feel like I gave up at the end. I feel that I should have pushed harder, given more, not quit. But I’m happy that I finished, and that my first marathon was this amazing party atmosphere. And if I’m only going to run one marathon, this is definitely the one to run. Thanks, New York!