I was able to secure a spot into the 2010 NYC marathon through my friends at ING. Since my vacation schedule seriously interfered with my triathlon racing this Summer, I was quick to sign up. This is a race that I have always wanted to do. My original thought was to just complete the marathon and enjoy the day. I have never finished a marathon strong and I thought that I would like to just finish one without feeling like dieing would be great and I would worry about a time goal another time. Of course, as I started working with Coach Al to get my training plan in order, I couldn't help myself and I set a goal based on some testing. I was going to shoot to run the race under 3.20. Of course, my fastest marathon to date was 3.45. However, I know I have a better race in me. After all, I've run a 4 hour marathon in an Ironman and that involves a little warm up!
I pretty much left everything up to Coach Al for my training. Of course, I had to do everything I could to keep him on his toes. This Summer, my schedule just didn't line up with racing. I started really training for the marathon in late June and had a successful 5k in early July. My training was really going well into August. Then, Theo and I went on a 9 day cruise to The Black Sea in August - a little tough to do a long run on a boat and places like Bulgaria and Romania are not exactly runner friendly. Still, when I got back in late August, I had plenty of time to get on track. On Labor Day, I had a very discouraging New Haven 20k. I, once again, blew up in the final miles. However, I was on to something. For the first time, I realized it was water, not food or salt that I was missing. I had always assumed the opposite. I began drinking a lot more water on training runs and having much better results. I did have a a misunderstanding with Al during my training. I was focusing on the scheduled time of the workout and not on scheduled mileage. I was doing much of my running off road and not getting the required mileage. But by early September, we had that sorted out. Then I got a five day fever. My fever hit 103.5 and I wasn't exactly running. The fever did the most to derail my plans. I lost two more key weekends of running, now with the trip abroad, I had missed four key long runs. I never fully recovered from that fever. Before the illness, I was nailing my PMP runs and after I was struggling to hit my targets and was running slower. I only got one 18 mile run and one 20 mile run in during my build. I would have liked one more of each! With all this, in my head, I was thinking more like 3.30 than 3.20.
The Hilton had a three night minimum, so I decided to take the family down from Friday to Monday. Saturday did not go as planned. First, I ate or drank something that gave me the runs - ugh! I also spent the entire day on my feet and most of it with my 40 lb daughter on my shoulders. American Girl Doll, Rockefeller Center, etc. Not exactly off my feet and resting. I was terrified to take anything for my stomach because of the dehydrating effects. However, at 10.30PM, things still were not going well and I caved. I figured that I was better being a little dehydrated than stopping at 10 ports pottys on route. So, I got myself out of bed and walked to the CVS. Shot of Pepto at 11PM.
Saturday night was daylight savings time so I got an extra hour of sleep. Also, when you are in a hotel room with a 6 and 4 year old and they go to bed at 8PM, there is not much to keep you up. Sunday morning, my stomach wasn't good but better. Reluctantly I took another hit of Pepto.
ING really hooked me up. I was downstairs at 6AM for a 6.30AM bus right at the hotel. Very organized. Most people had to get up much earlier and haul across town to catch a bus / ferry. The only snag was there was a long line of buses in Staten Island when we got there. So, we got off the bus with less than an hour before I was to report to a corral. I hit one more porta potty - things starting to firm up ;=) I managed to get a little food and drink in my stomach. I was strangely relaxed. My time goals faded and I really wanted to take in the experience. I was in the corral at 8.20. The corral closed at 8.50 for a 9.40 start. More waiting around, mostly on my feet. Again an ING hook up, I was in wave 1, blue start which is the elite start and the actual course. There are three different starting points that come together at mile 3. And the third wave doesn't start until 10.40 instead of 9.40 which would have been a painful wait.
The elites are announced, the celebrities are announced, Mayor Bloomberg blah, blah, blah, National Anthem, and the the gun at 9.40 followed by Frank Sinatra belting out New York, New York. I get goosebumps thinking back! "These little town blues are melting away...." A very orderly start, I crossed the start about 2 minutes after the gun. The first mile is up hill (pretty darn steep) on the bridge and surreal. You can see the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan off to your left and runners everywhere as all three starting waves go over the bridge.
The second mile was very much downhill and in spite of the traffic, I was running about 7.45s and was still contemplating 3.20. My legs, however, definitely did not feel fresh. I didn't have the snap that a taper gives you. There was quite a bit of traffic and by mile 9, I was averaging 7.50s and started really thinking 3.30. I had to stop at a porta potty at mile 9 (number 1 only!!) and when I got out, a guy on the side of the road said "the pacer is right in front of you!!" After about 2 minutes I saw the balloons that represented the 3.30 pacer and I had my carrot. I followed as close as I could with the crowds. Runners were everywhere. It was very manageable but there was definately many points when I just couldn't run as fast as I wanted to. The pacer would get ahead of me and then I would get some daylight and I would catch up and I felt really pretty good. My legs were a little dead but I had no trouble keeping up.
Then we hit the 59th street bridge at mile 15-16. The road goes uphill and really narrows. By mile 16, the pacer had a 100 yds on me. At the end of the bridge after mile 16, you go on an off ramp and the road narrows even more and the course takes a 180 degree turn. That was it, the guy with the balloons really gapped me and the downhill off the bridge really deadened my legs even more.
Between mile 17-18, I had a choice. I could kill myself to get to the pacer or slow down a touch and take it all in. I was starting to feel my lack of long runs. I felt good but my legs were getting more sore by the mile. 1st Avenue was unforgettable. There were runners as far as the eye could see, huge skyscrapers and crowds six deep on both sides of the road screaming there heads off. I decided to take it all in.
NY is amazingly hilly (I came to find out that the course record is the slowest of the marathon majors by over two minutes). I was running around 8.30s, drinking like mad and feeling tired but good. At mile 20, I was a little shaky and decided to risk stomach turmoil and I switched to Gatorade. It turned out to be a great decision. My stomach held and the sugar/electrolytes were just what the doctor ordered. I was running a very comfortable pace and I had a smile on my face.
5th Avenue was just as memorable as 1st Avenue and Central Park was CRAZY. For the entire course, there was a band every 3/4 of a mile. The bands tended to mirror the ethnicity of the neighborhood, Gospel music, rap bands, salsa, rock, etc. The last band and the crowds at mile 26 were deafening!! I crossed the line in 3.37 and for the first time in a marathon, I felt pretty good. Very tired but good. None of the usual dizzyness, just tired legs and a sense of satifaction.
This is the one negative of the NY Marathon. You cross the line and then have to walk 45 MIN!!! to get to a random street in NY. No family meeting area and no after party - kind of a bummer. You pick a place and hope your family is there. Our family picked 77th and Columbus. My wife, with 2 kids, couldn't exactly just stand on the corner waiting for me. So, I got there before her and had to borrow a cell phone to call her. 15 minutes later, 1 hour after I crossed the line, I met my family and finally got to sit down!! I can't imagine how long that walk was for the people that started in the third wave an hour and 45,000 runners after me!
Overall, it was a great experience. It's a race everyone should do. I didn't get 3.20, but my 3.37 was a PR and given my fever, my stomach, a crazy day in NY the day before the race and a very crowded course I was very pleased. I REALLY had a good time! I am very excited to have finally figured out that water, not solids, has been the missing link. I feel like I cracked the Devinci Code!!