Saturday, November 13, 2010

NYC Marathon Race Report

So it's taken me a couple days but I am finally getting around to doing a race report for NYC.  First off everything went great and I finished in 5:31:49, with a smile.   Now to the report.

First I need to thank many people.

  • My folks.  They've been great, and my dad has been a trooper as he's recovered from prostate cancer and my mom has been wonderful supporting him.   They're always and inspiration and I couldn't have done it without them.   
  • Noel.  She was an wonderful source of guidance and inspiration as I trained over the months for the race.  She had helpful guidance and kept me injury free.  More importantly, she also gave a ton of herself to make sure that the weekend was all about me and that I had a great time.  She's simply great.   
  • The munchkins.  Jake, Sophie and Rebekah were rockstars.   During training they never complained when I headed out for Sunday morning runs and were always excited when I got home.  During race weekend they were amazing.  There was never an "are we there yet" or a complaint about their sibling and they were a ton of fun to watch soak up all that is New York City.  They were also an inspiration to see along the course.   Noel and the kids spectated at miles 3, 7, and 18.  They cheered great - and particularly at mile 18 - brought a smile to my face.   Good job kids!
  • Zero - The Project to End Prostate Cancer.  They organized a great lunch and with the $75,000 that last weekend's runners raised are going to be able to ensure that even more men detect prostate cancer early.   
  • The people of New York City.  All I can say is wow.  For the 26.2 miles of the course there were people - often 5 deep - on each side of the course cheering on runners.  There were folks handing out potato chips, bananas, paper towels and holding signs.  The signs were great and inspiring.  Some of my favorites included, "You're feet hurt becuase you kicking ass."  "You're all Kenyans today." (which made me think of a funny video asking if the President is a Keynesian ... anyway) or at mile 24 "Your only fucking option is to finish."   Also big props to the guy at mile 3 giving out "Free Hugs."  I got a free hug and it was awe-some.    If some one's only interaction with New Yorkers was at the marathon they wouldn't be able to come away with anything other than a glowing opinion of them.    
  • Everyone who supported my fundraising.  Quite simply I wouldn't have gotten there without you.  Knowing I couldn't let you down helped me slog through the tough miles at the end.  

Onto the race.

Race day started at 4:30 a.m. roughly (although the hotel folks decided to goof on DST can call me at 3:30 am).   I rolled out of bed, got ready, did my stretches and headed out the door.  We were staying over in New Jersey and I was taking the bus from the Meadowlands to Staten Island.  We got there a little before six and I kissed Noel and loaded myself onto the bus (with my sleeping bag).  The bus ride over was uneventful until we got to the staging area.  The bus driver for some reason missed the drop off spot and started to get back on the highway towards New Jersey.  We literally had to scream at her to stop the bus and let everyone off.  She did and we ended up walking about a 1/4 mile back to the drop off.  Not the end of the world.

The waiting at Staten Island was pretty uneventful. I did get to join a minyan with the JRunners  while I waited which was an excellent way to spend some time before the race started.  I also used the sleeping bag as a pillow to try to nap a bit.

The start was a bit more daunting than I had really considered.  The race starts at the foot of the Verrazano Narrows bridge, so basically the first mile was a climb.  It wasn't the end of the world for me but I didn't have to worry about going too fast and getting carried away.  I quickly settled in to what would be a bit slower than usual pace.

After some of the downhill we were in Brooklyn.  I think the first thing that struck me was that there were an amazing number of people in front of me.  Forever.  There were just little bobbing heads as far as I could see.   This was in fact a very large race and there were definitely 45K people running this race.

Note Sophie's head and Bekah's pink beanie
I settled in and got ready for the long slog.  Everything was going well.  I wasn't running as fast as I had in my training runs, but I didn't really care and wanted to have fun with the race.  At mile 3 I got my first glimpse of the crew.  They were yelling on the side cheering for me and I was able to cut across the street and get a bunch of high-5s from my peeps.

They were able to give me the heads up that they would see me again around mile 7.   This was good because there were so many folks along the course that it could be hard to find them.   I was lucky that they realized that "Tom" and "Dad" we're going to work and they were going to have to signal me with "Tom Jones" to get my attention.

I'm the guy in the middle with the orange beanie
Bekah ran and screamed for me for a bit and Jake cruised along about a 1/2 block on his skateboard taking some pictures of me.

After mile seven, things went pretty well until roughly mile 10.  And then I just started feeling like crap and not really wanting to run anymore.

At mile 10.
Things were going in the crapper.

I had a momentary bout of "Oh my goodness this day is going to be cut short before I even get to Manhattan."  I refocused though and got through the momentary panic and reassured myself that I had run much farther than this for a long time and I could plow through.   Whatever it was lifted early into mile 11, but thinking you've hit the wall at mile 10 of a 26.2 mile race is not a good feeling.   Fortunately it passed.

I actually feel into a halfway decent stride between mile 11 and roughly mile 16 where we got to the Queensboro bridge.  I had come to grips with being a bit slower than my usual pace, but I was moving with a good rythmn and was enjoying the hoods.   When we turned onto the Queensboro the climb looked pretty steep, but I figured it was an on-ramp that would take us upto the deck of the bridge.   After about 10 minutes of climbing the on-ramp I realized that this was the bridge and we were going to be climbing for a while.   It was long and tiring, but I was able to distract myself with some spectacular views off the bridge of Manhattan.  Sadly when we finished the climb we did not get an equally long respite on the downhill, but merely got a relatively steep off ramp onto 1st Avenue.   Oh well.

Putting on a happy face
I started slogging up 1st avenue and caught the crew again at mile 18.  I was feeling a bit rough and I suspect wasn't looking too good either, but it was a treat to see them again.  I do wish I had some photos of the guys in their goofy hats.  We all bought bright cheap beanies from a street vendor so we would be easy to identify in a crowd.   The crew looked stylin in the $5 knit caps.

I actually got a second wind - or just blew whatever was in my tank as we headed into the Bronx.  I went over the bridge into the Bronx strong and came out strong, but when I hit mile 22 ish, things started to try to go pear shaped.   I had been good about not doing any walking and wanted to see if I could do the whole thing without any walking, but I finally got to the point where I needed to walk for a second.  My friend Steve had told me not to walk, but in the event that you did walk, count to ten and on ten just start running.  This strategy proved vital.  The little walk breaks were rejuvenating, but I didn't want to let my body shut down and I didn't want to walk any more than I had to.  I think all in all I probably walked a mile and a half for the whole race.  But Steve's strategy worked and I was able to keep myself from shutting down and I was able to run across the finish line.

As the video show's I finished.

I will very very likely do another marathon.  I think I will modify my training to make things a bit more rigorous though.

All in all it was an amazing adventure and very satisfying.  I'm extremely glad I got to share it with Noel and the kids.

Thanks again for everyone's support and I look forward to keeping you updated on the blog as I train for more events.

BTW: you can see some photos of me here: