This post has taken me a long time to begin writing because I really have no idea where to begin.
What an amazing experience.
An experience I will never forget.
My parents and I arrived at LaGuardia around the same time Friday evening (after both having a 90 minute delay due to fog in NYC from both Louisville and Greensboro). We split a taxi to the hotel and then found a local pub a few blocks from our hotel for a very late (10pm) dinner!
If you know me, you know I’m pretty anal about the amount of sleep I get each night, especially before races. I’ve read that the most important night for a good night’s sleep isn’t the night before the race, but 2 nights before the race.
I slept like crap that night. Then spent the entire day Saturday being a tourist in NYC.
First up for the day was the expo.
I got my bib #, race goodies, checked out all the vendors, and I even scored a free pair of Tommy Copper compression sleeves thanks to #runchat! (Fun Fact: go to that link and my marathon picture is one in the banner!) I put those babies on after I got back to the hotel and before we set off on our day adventures.
I’m so glad I had them because we were gone a long time and did a lot of traveling by foot. Empire State Building, 9/11 Memorial, Battery Park, Wall Street/Lower Manhattan; there’s just so much to see!
I kept dwelling on how much walking I did that day and I was pretty anxious about it by the time we got back to the hotel at 6pm. What if I couldn’t run well the next day? What if my hip starts to bother me prematurely?
Run-cations (vacations with/for a race) aren’t like your normal vacay’s. I was in my hotel by 6pm both nights prior to the race. Sorry in advance to anyone wanting to go on a run-cation with me; it’s just the name of the game.
Saturday evening I did about 90 minutes of stretching + foam rolling + full compression socks vs. just sleeves + icing my hip flexor and outside left hip.
Did I mention that a week prior to the race, I had some bursitis flare up in my right hip? That’s the healthy hip by the way. So after my sucky run last Monday, I took the rest of the week off. I was sporting a pretty awesome, perfectly circular bruise on the outside of my hip, too.
So, on Saturday night I slept even worse than Friday night. I think I got TOPS 3 hours of sleep. I couldn’t stop worrying about my hip. Plus I could hear the set up for the race going on the street outside our window.
I kept thinking, “What if I do well tomorrow but them I’m back to square one with an injury on Monday? What if I can’t even run the whole thing? How am I going to get to the start of the race.. the subway station is closed.” (It wasn’t really closed, just the one we were supposed to use was closed.)
Type-A, worry wart, personality, classically kicking in the night before the race. I can’t say I slept very well the night before my first marathon, either. At the time, I blamed it on a too-soft pillow, but now I’m thinking it’s really just me.
The alarm went off at 5am Sunday morning and I got dressed and tried to eat something. I brought a lot of food from home but nothing sounded good. I tried to eat my banana and PB packet with a mini bagel, but I only got the banana down with a little bit of PB and half the mini bagel.
I’m an eater, people. I like to eat. This is so out of character for me, even before a race. Before the marathon I had oatmeal, 2 waffles with PB, coffee, and water. Granted, I had a lot more time to digest that meal before the start of the marathon but still, I usually don’t have a problem getting food into me.
My parents, little brother (who’s actually not little, he’s 21), and I headed out the door on time at 6am…just when the sound system was cranking up outside of our window! Did I mention our hotel was right at the finish line of the race?
We caught the subway with other runners and a mere 25 minutes later, we were on our way from the subway station to Central Park!
It was a cold morning, about 45 degrees, but I had my long running tights on and a dri-fit Brooks long sleeve shirt, so I was ok, especially high-tailing it to the park which was about a 10 minute walk after the subway.
When we got there I found my corral quickly and easily. It was so organized!
Thankfully I didn’t have to check a bag since all I had was my phone and jacket which I gave to my parents. In each corral, they had about 15 port-o-potty’s set up so people could be in their corral by 7am (which is when they closed) and still be able to use the bathroom. Genius. Thank you NYRR.
My stomach was a knot of nerves. I don’t know if it was because I was running NYC and I was so excited or the fact that I was unsure of how the race was going to go. Most likely, it was the latter.
I was more nervous for this race than my first full marathon.
After I said goodbye to my family and that I’d see them at the finish line, I went deeper into my corral and finished warming up, just like my training runs.
I wasn’t excited. I hadn’t felt excitement about this race but twice. Once when I applied to the race in December and again when I found out I was accepted. Sad, isn’t it? Why did I place so much value on this race? Wasn’t running what I loved to do?
I didn’t want to fail. What exactly my definition of failing was at that time, I don’t know. Was failing having to stop and walk? Not beating my last race time? Having hip pain? I knew no matter what, I wouldn’t be letting anyone down if I “failed,” but myself. My family, Brandon, friends, even PT gave me all the confidence I needed. I just wasn’t so sure myself.
I heard the announcers introduce the elite athletes, Kara Goucher (!!!), Desiree Davilla, and Meb Keflezighi, part of our USA Olympic team.
THEN I got excited. THEN everything changed. I was going to be racing on the same course as so many of my idols. They were paving the way for us, so to speak. It put it in perspective that I really have nothing to lose at this race. The elites are beginning their training for the summer games with this race, and $100,000 is on the line!
Suddenly, I realized that no matter what happened, I’d never have that kind of pressure and I need to remember why I signed up for this race in the first place. To do what I love in a pretty spectacular city.
I gun went off and although I was in the 8,000’s out of 15,000+ runners, it still took me over 10 minutes to get to the starting line. Then I was off!!
I knew the first part of course was going to be hilly. No big deal since I train on hills everyday, right? Well…I’ve never run 6 hilly miles at sub 8:30min/miles then went for 7.1 flat miles. You’d think it’d be easy but those hills were pretty demanding early on.
I was making pretty good time through the park, I kept glancing down at my Garmin and saw sub 8:30 miles (minus mile 5 – holy hill!), right on track.
This wouldn’t normally be my goal pace but since finishing PT and running the routes I’ve been running, I’ve been flying! I guess that saying about coming back stronger off an injury is true. I decided to take advantage of it and see what I could do on race day. I didn’t let myself down!
My 5k (3.1miles) split was 26:04 and 10k (6.2miles) split was 52:28, respectively.
They aren’t really that impressive. However, considering those were both in the park, both during the hilly portion I was happy with it. And holy cow batman, look at my splits!
Remember mile 5? Huge hill, seemingly lasted forever. Obviously I was being fairly cautious the first mile, too.
Basically, my splits were all over the place through Central Park.
Mile 4, I took 2 power bar energy chews and gulped down some Gatorade.
I was seriously going to die later in the race if I didn’t have anything early on. (ok maybe that’s being overdramatic) That “breakfast” I had was a joke.
I will say that with more races, I’m getting better at not sloshing water and Gatorade up my nose at the aid stations. My first half marathon last year ended up with me covered in a sticky film of Gatorade that missed my mouth.
Mmm I love inhaling neon green drank.
I would say I improved that skill at just the right time considering I really needed it this race.
As I left mile 6 we also left Central Park. This was the part of the course I’d been waiting for. Yeah it was flat and I could make up some time, but this was the part where I was running towards Times Square.
Fun Fact: Did you know they only close Times Square twice a year? Once is the NYC Half (NOPE! Not even for the marathon!) and second is New Years Eve!
7th Avenue was wiiiiide open.
The fog was eerie settling in just over the tall buildings and it kind of felt like I was racing through a snow globe.
I will never forget running through that wide open street with all the billboards flashing. I got goose bumps the closer I got to Times Square, it was so surreal.
When I glanced down at my watch as I turned to exit Times Square and run toward the west side highway here’s what it read:
My mom got to see me run through Times Square and turn onto 42nd street since she was standing on a bleacher thing, but my dad and brother missed me, street side. My mom said my eyes were so big like I was in awe of everything happening around me. I was!
Mile 7 was exiting the park, 8 was up 7th Ave and through Times Square, and mile 9 was 42nd street and the beginning of the west side highway. I really had to settle into a steady pace at 9. It was a straight shot from mile 9-13 and then then final 0.1 to the finish.
At mile 9 I knew I needed more energy so 2 more power bar energy chews it was, followed by Gatorade.
The rest of the time on the highway I was focused on staying on pace and trying not to focus on how heavy my legs felt. They were certainly fatigued.
I did an okay job of pacing during miles 9-12, but then things got a little screwy.
We ran past the World Trade Center and at mile 12 entered the Battery Park Tunnel. I wasn’t expecting that but was actually pretty relieved to get out of the wind. It wasn’t terribly windy, just enough to notice the relief once we entered the tunnel. It was also pretty neat to hear runners cheering and getting excited that we were almost to the finish. Such energy and motivation!
However, running in a tunnel doesn’t have good satellite reception, if you were wondering.
I once glanced down at my watch and I was no longer gaining distance and my pace was over an hour/mile. Sweet.
I tried to stay on pace as best I could by staying with the people a little further ahead of me. It was the last mile, after all, gotta push it.
Coming out of the tunnel I was greeted with a hill – SURPRISE! – and then saw the sign for 800 meters to go. I was so happy to see that sign.
I sped up what I could and passed the 200 meters to go sign, turned the corner and could see the finish line.
I sprinted (Or what felt like sprinting.. I never really think I sprint at the end of races, I just feel like I am. Must be psychological. hah) towards the finish line with so many people lining the sides of the street and cheering for their runner.
Here are some good shots my family got from the hotel room since that’s where we decided to meet afterwards.
I FINISHED! I was so excited! I felt so much relief and I couldn’t wait to see what my official time was. Homeboy next to me looks pretty pumped that he’s finished, too!
It took about 20 minutes to get my official picture taken, get my medal, aluminum cape, and goody bag, but I finally made it out of the finishers chute and met my family back up at the hotel since I knew it’d be a mess trying to find them afterwards.
1:50:26?! That’s a new PR! My last half marathon PR was 1:56:47! I can’t believe the improvement.
I checked my official time and it was actually 1:50:23 with an average of 8:26 min/mile! Even better!!
My official rank was 1,428 out of 7,880 women and 4,832 out of 15,336 total finishers. I am pleased!
Here are a few more stats:
The elite runners had a great race, too!
Top 2 finishers, (Kim) Smith from New Zealand and Dado from Ethiopia, respectively, heading down 7th Avenue.
Kara leading the line of women out of Central Park down 7th Avenue.
Strong is the new skinny.
Can you believe she just had her first baby 17 months ago at age 32?
Kara got 3rd place (1:09:12), Dado got first (1:08:35), and Kim earned 2nd place (1:08:43).
Here’s the link to the 2 hour live broadcast. You can see the elite’s highlighted, more of the course, and how graceful Kara runs as she finishes with a race against the clock and still taking time to wave to fans cheering her on. What class.
All while being a pretty funny mom to a pretty cute kid named Colt!
After I got cleaned up we went to lunch where I celebrated with a mimosa and lobster ravioli!
Cheers to a great race and believing I could do it, even though I had some serious doubts these past 3 months.
Cheers to the proudest medal I’ve ever earned and a race I will never forget!
How did your last race go?!