Race Recap: New York City Marathon, November 1, 2015, 2:57:56, 6:48/Mile

A prologue: My first NYC Marathon recap exceeded 4,000 words (the equivalent of a 13-page double-spaced college paper), so I decided to do multiple NYC Marathon posts. This post is a straight race recap. Tomorrow’s post will contain more course commentary and reflections on my race.

New York City Marathon New York Times

My medal and name in the New York Times!

And now . . .

The recap before the recap: I ran the New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 1, 2015 in a time of 2:57:56 (6:48/Mile pace), good enough for 629th place out of over 50,000 runners. Words cannot describe how amazing this race is, and how excited I was before, during, and after my time on the streets of New York.

And yet, I will now use words to describe my day.

The recap: After my Saturday 2-mile shakeout run, I traveled to Port Jefferson, Long Island to attend my girlfriend’s (Melissa’s) cousin’s annual Halloween party. Melissa and I dressed up as Bert and Ernie, and we enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with her amazing cousins. I left around 5 p.m. to get back to the City, while the party – a Victorian-themed murder mystery incorporating Pictionary, charades, a scavenger hunt, and various twists, turns, and multiple eviscerations – raged on until well past midnight. I really hated to miss the festivities, but I knew that I needed a good night’s sleep before the Big Race.

Bert and Ernie Halloween

We make a great Bert and Ernie. Here I am, closely following pre-marathon wisdom and taking it easy (Photo credit: Ana Santos: http://www.acsantosphotography.com/)

So, instead of charading and scavenging my ass off until the wee hours, I took the LIRR back to the City with hundreds of drunk Long Island Jersey Shore wannabes, many of whom were inexplicably dressed as lumberjacks (not kidding). I hope they all made it home in one, semi-respectable piece (not likely). Anyway, once home I watched “Sleepy Hollow,” checked my race gear one final time, and set my phone and clock alarms for 5 a.m., hitting the pillow at 10:30 p.m., which, because of Daylight Saving’s Time, equated to 9:30 p.m.

Halloween

Now this is how you do Halloween! Look at this group! (Photo credit: Ana Santos: http://www.acsantosphotography.com/)

Despite planning for a solid 7.5 hours of sleep, I woke up exactly at 4 a.m. and never quite fell back to sleep. I tossed and turned until 5, at which point I got up, toasted three pieces of sourdough bread, spread peanut butter on one, wrapped them up in aluminum foil, and put them along with three bananas in my race bag. I ate a bowl of non-fat Greek yogurt with agave, got dressed, loaded up my race bag, and headed out at 5:30 a.m.

TCS NYC Marathon

Barely awake but excited for the NYC Marathon!

Through a connection, I hitched a ride on a charity bus to Staten Island (The Thomas G. Labrecque Foundation – a truly excellent charity). The bus ride took almost an hour and a half, during which I slept. Once we arrived at the start, I was able to spend my pre-corral time in the charity village lying down on a painting tarp and eating my toast and bananas.

One guy in the charity village kept saying, “This is not a PR course.” I focused on the basic plan on which I had settled: Run the first half around a 6:40/mile pace, hit the 21k/13.1 mile mark around 1:27:00, go steady over the Queensborough Bridge, and then let it fly through New York, the Bronx, and push hard through the final 10k, hopefully coming through the second half in 1:23:00 or close to it for a final time of 2:50:00. I took a lot of deep breaths, joked with the other runners, checked my bag, and then headed off to my corral about 10 minutes before it closed at 9 a.m.

Around 9:15 a.m. our corral collapsed and we moved toward the start line, watching the professional women’s race begIn. I pushed my way as far up as I could, ate my first gel at 9:35 a.m., and talked with David, an Englishman from York running his first NYC Marathon.

FINALLY, after all these months of training, obsessing, writing, training, writing, and obsessing more, the race directors introduced the elite runners, the National Anthem was sung, and BOOM! A howitzer reported the race start.

And we were off! I crossed the start 50 seconds after the gun, and ran very slowly for about four minutes, people on both shoulders and right in front and behind me. I could barely make a half stride for almost a third of a mile, at which point the course opened up to the entire Brooklyn-bound side of the Verrazano Bridge. I pushed to the outside lane and ran steadily up the .8 mile incline, hitting the 1-mile mark in 8 minutes exactly, much slower than I wanted to run. I made up for it by running mile 2 in approximately 5:50, putting me onto 4th Avenue in Brooklyn right on pace.

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Cruising through Brooklyn! (Photo Credit: Ashley Sokol)

The crowds at the beginning of 4th Avenue cheered and bands played as we ran through miles 3 and 4. The Green Wave (the group who started on the lower level of the bridge) joined us on 4th Avenue at some point, and we continued to run next to the Orange Wave (the group which started on the Staten Island-bound side of the Verrazano). Some runners ran by the spectators and threw lots of high-fives; others stayed to the inside of the street. I stayed in the middle and tried to maintain my early race pace between 6:30/mile and 6:40 mile, running some miles much faster than 6:30/mile and others slightly slower. My face wore the largest smile I’ve smiled in a long time, and I soaked in all the cheers.

Miles 5-6 felt great, and all early race jitters or psychosomatic aches disappeared. I enjoyed the various musicians, and threw a lot of thumbs up at them and smiled at all the cowbells and cheers from the crowd. This is more than a race: It’s a citywide block party!

The Mile 7 water station manned by NP_NYC was EPIC. Everyone went nuts when they saw my tagged shirt, and I got a huge high-five from Brogan Graham, one of the co-founders of November Project who had traveled to NYC for the weekend to hang out with the NP_NYC crew and cheer on all the NP marathoners. Totally pumped me up!

I took my second gel, drank some water, and eased back into my pace. I saw Kat, another NP_NYC member, a few blocks farther down the road, ran out of my way to high-five her, and then returned to the center of the road. I felt smooth, confident, and ready for the next 19 miles.

At mile 8, I nearly missed my sister, Kimi, and Ashley, and only saw them as I ran past. This picture demonstrates my near miss:

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Even though I almost missed my sister and friends, I’m super excited!

Miles 9-13 wound through Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint, the neighborhoods in which I spent a lot of time when I lived in Bushwick. The crowds owned this section of the course, and I loved seeing some old haunts. I kept a consistent pace here, and hooked up with a fellow runner attempting to hit 2:50 like me. I also saw two law school friends, whose cheers got me super pumped and sent chills through my head and neck.

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More Brooklyn running! (Photo Credit: Ashley Sokol)

I took my third gel as we exited Brooklyn on the Pulaski Bridge. We passed through the midway point of the race on the Bridge in exactly 1:27:00, right on plan! My race buddy and I wound through Queens, maintaining a 6:30/6:40/mile pace as we approached the Queensborough Bridge. Despite all the rock bands out, we heard our first metal band playing Alice in Chains “Would.” This was a nice change from all the “hippie bands,” as described by an FDNY runner around mile 8.

And then we ascended the Queensborough Bridge. I kept my effort steady but dropped my pace a bit, focusing on a runner moving smoothly and wearing a Union Jack tank top, Union Jack shorts, Union Jack shoes, and sporting a low-cut Mohawk dyed the colors of the Union Jack. I turned around and realized that I had lost my race buddy, and later learned that he finished around 3:25. I focused on my hooligan friend until the Bridge’s apex, after which I picked up the pace and got amped as the First Avenue cheering wafted up to the off ramp.

Woot! 1st Avenue was awesome! The crowds were heavy and people cheered like madmen. I saw lots of NP shirts, screamed lots of “f*ck yeahs!” at people, and grabbed some high-fives. Realizing that all my gels had caffeine, I made sure to grab water at every aid station. I saw my buddy Patrick at mile 17, Melissa and law school friend Lauren at mile 18, and some more NP folks in East Harlem. I took my fourth gel at mile 18, and kept on moving forward.

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So excited to see Melissa at Mile 18 that I made this silly kiss face!

The crowds thinned at the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx, and as we crossed over the Bridge I saw numerous runners doubled over and walking– classic bonking signs. I pulled out my final gel and held it like a talisman through the Bronx. Before long we climbed the Manhattan Bridge and headed back into Manhattan on Fifth Avenue.

When I re-entered Manhattan, I did some quick calculations and realized that 2:50 was out of the question, but 2:55 was doable. I also began to feel the mental fatigue of the race, and I thought about slowing down. I fought those thoughts by visualizing my crossing the finish line with a huge smile. I checked my legs: They felt great! So, I took my final gel, grabbed two cups of water at the mile 21 aid station, put my head down, and plowed ahead. I found a few more pockets of NP folks cheering, drank more water at the mile 22 aid station, and just kept thinking, “You got this. You’re feeling strong. You are NOT going to hit any walls!”

And then we hit the dreaded Fifth Avenue Mile 23 hill. Everyone warned me about this hill. I saw it on the elevation map. I read about it in numerous race recaps. I knew it was coming. Nevertheless, it rose out of nowhere and rose much steeper than I imagined. More runners walked this section of the course. I kept a steady effort, got amped up when I saw Melissa and Lauren again, and counted off the blocks as I ascended: “98th Street, 8 blocks to Engineer’s Gate.” And so forth.

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Crushing Fifth Avenue as well as I could! At Mile 23.

And then BOOM! I cruised through Engineer’s Gate into Central Park! 2.5 miles left on roads I know better than any others in the City. I came through Mile 24 around 2:43, so I knew that 2:55 was going to be tough, but sub-3 was happening. This felt amazing! My legs were strong, my mind felt sharp, and I pushed hard, getting some NP love along the way. The downhill on Cat Hill felt amazing, and I pushed through the rolling hills near Summer Stage and then cruised downhill to mile 25 and then out of the Park and onto Central Park South. Through this section I passed a ton of runners, and was passed by only one, who I later passed on Central Park South. I simply focused on reeling in whoever was in front of me and, after passing them, reeled in the next guy. I could feel the finish line.

Running up Central Park South I spotted Brogan again, who practically jumped over the barricade to give me another high-five. I let out a primal scream and doubled my efforts. I passed that runner who sped past me earlier. I let the cheers wash over me. I saw Columbus Circle grow larger with every step. I kept moving forward.

And then I turned and entered the Park. An announcer said, “Welcome to Central Park!” and I wooped! So close! So many people lined the barricades. I thought about everything that had happened to me over the past three years, how lucky I was to be running today, and how grateful I was for the people who helped me through the toughest time in my life, at times literally picking me up off the ground. I passed more runners and worked my arms. On the final uphill, I spotted the finish line clock: 2:58:40. 10 seconds to finish sub-2:58 (I started 50 seconds after the gun). I sprinted through the finish line in what I thought was 2:58:50 exactly. Success! Completion! The culmination of so much more than training runs and nutrition plans. Tears welled into my eyes.

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Smiling post-marathon!

In my next post, I’ll discuss my thoughts about the course, other thoughts about the race, and why finishing this race was such a huge accomplishment for me.

Happy running, everyone!

Final NYC Marathon Reflections

You know what? I’ve done all the training, reviewed the course and elevation maps and strategy guides, talked ad nauseum about and obsessed over the NYC Marathon for months. I’ve also expressed my gratitude for all those who have helped me get to this point, and understand that even though I run for myself, I get to do so because of the amazing people in my life. So, if I were to post a “final marathon reflections,” I would just rehash old posts and yadda yadda yadda.

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Happy Halloween and Good Luck from Jim and H. B. Skeleton!

So, instead of posting all that, I’m just going to say this:

Good luck to everyone running the NYC Marathon tomorrow! Thank you to everyone volunteering at the NYC Marathon! Thank you to my family for organizing a post-race party! Thank you to everyone who has wished me luck! And thank you to everyone who has stopped by this blog, read my rambles, and maybe even enjoyed them!

Good luck, everyone! We got this.

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And an unofficial GOOD LUCK from NP_NYC!

10/30/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 6:25 a.m., Bethesda Fountain; NYC Marathon Thoughts

I’m going to break this entry into two parts: This morning’s November Project NYC workout, and my random marathon thoughts.

But first! Bib and newly-tagged NYC Marathon shirt! Soon to have my name and (possibly) blog URL tagged on it:

November Project NYC Marathon

Woot! Neon is the way to go!

NP_NYC Workout at Bethesda Fountain

So . . . Paula RadcliffeBart Yasso, Desi Linden, and Dean Karnazes worked out with us this morning. What?! No big deal. Also, Brogan Graham, one of November Project’s co-founders, pounded out burpees, push-ups, dips, lunges, and bear crawls with us because #justshowup and #whatisthis. We also had lots of people in town from other Tribes for the marathon. Just awesome to see so much NP love this morning!

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain, much brighter than it was this morning.

The workout consisted of two phases: During phase 1, we broke into two large groups. Both groups began by doing 20 burpees. Then Group 1 lunged through the terrace near Bethesda Fountain in Central Park while Group 2 bear-crawled. At the end of the terrace, everyone ran up a flight of stairs and then bunny-hopped up a second flight. Then everyone did 10 push-ups, 10 dips, and then back to the beginning for more burpees. Repeat for 20 minutes.

Bethesda Fountain Terrace

The gorgeous terrace.

Most of us NYC marathoners took it easy, and I got to do push-ups with Brogan and meet some members of the NYC Tribe that go to the 6:28 a.m. Wednesday workouts (I’m generally a 5:28 a.m. guy). There is something wrong with me when I think that 60 burpees is an easy, pleasant way to start the day.

Phase 2 of the workout was a “burnout.” Essentially, everyone not running the NYC Marathon started at the Fountain end of the terrace, did four or five burpees, and then ran through the terrace, up the stairs, down the stairs, and back to the start. The rest of us lined the terrace and cheered them on. It was wild! Each interval was timed, so if you didn’t make it back to the start in a set time, you joined the cheering squad. We went through seven or eight rounds before the final round, which was just crazy. NP_NYC’s Jason “won” the burnout, with Rob a few steps behind. NP co-founder Brogan also put forth a strong showing, demonstrating the meaning of “leading from the front.”

Marathon Thoughts

I’ve written race previews about my other recent races, but the NYC Marathon needs no introduction. I outlined the course in my pace strategy post, and all of my posts about training have essentially been about training for this race. I believe that, considering my injury which kept me from running between April and June 25, I trained as well as I could, and I am ready to run a solid race.

Of course, doubts have crept into my mind. During my 22-mile long run, I felt the burn in my legs at mile 21. I also did not log tons of miles, peaking at about 50 miles in my peak training week. These two facts could lead me to be concerned that I am not ready to run this marathon as fast as I want.

But poo poo to them! I have to remember these things as well:

  1. During those early weeks of marathon training in July and August, I was still returning to running after injury.
  2. During that return period, with the support of my doctor and physical therapist, I was biking upwards of 100+ miles per week as I prepared for the NYC Century Bike Tour.
  3. Also during the pre-return and return period, all the hours I spent in the pool, which, combined with my time on the bike, helped me build a solid aerobic base on which to begin marathon training.
  4. My solid performances in the Bronx 10-Mile (6:02/mile pace) and Staten Island Half (6:10/mile pace, with a strong sense that I could have run slightly faster if not fearing for my life on the boardwalk).
  5. Maybe most importantly, all of the love and support I have received from my family, friends, girlfriend, NP_NYC, coworkers, and what I might call the Spirit of the Universe, or, in a less spiritual sense, the feeling that I’m not in control of the world, and that my lack of total control is OK with me.

More thoughts to come tomorrow. For now, happy Friday and, if you can (I’m having a hard time), think about something other than the NYC Marathon.

Happy running, everyone!