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.

TCS NYC Marathon

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:

TCS NYC Marathon

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.

TCS NYC Marathon

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.

TCS NYC Marathon

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.

TCS NYC Marathon

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.

TCS NYC Marathon

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!

Race Recap: Bronx 10-Mile, September 27, 2015, 1:00:20, 6:02 Pace

Bronx 10-Mile

Reposted from nyrr.org

The recap before the recap: I ran the Bronx 10-Mile on Sunday and finished in 1:00:20, good enough for a 6:02 minute per mile pace and 76th place overall out of over 9,000 finishers. I could not have been more excited about my performance and the great time I had before, during, and after the race, and am so grateful for all the cool people I know who inspire me to work hard.

Now for the full recap!

True to my race preview, I ran two miles on Saturday morning, the first mile at about a 10:00/mile pace, and the second mile interspersed with 100 meter strides. I ate good food (plus half a chocolate shake with my girlfriend – gotta love Shake Shack), and got a full seven hours of sleep. I prepped my race gear and made a mental breakfast checklist that evening.

So, when I woke up at 5:45 a.m., I felt refreshed and ready to go! That didn’t stop the nerves from creeping in, and I used the bathroom three times before heading out. I ate two slices of toast (one covered in peanut butter), a banana, and one cup of non-fat Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of honey. Stomach full and gear secure, I headed out at 6:20 a.m.

I jogged 13 blocks to meet my sister and our friend Mike at Columbus Circle/59th Street, and we hopped on the D train to Yankee Stadium. The ride took about 15 minutes, and we talked to the conductor about the race (she was very interested in all the runners on the train). Mike and I grew up in the same town, so we filled each other in on what we and our mutual friends are up to.

November Project Bronx 10-Mile

Pre-race photo 1: You all good?

Once off the train at 161st Street, we checked our bags, hit the restrooms (again!) and met up with our November Project NYC buddies at 164th and Grand Concourse to take a team picture. As usual, everyone from NP_NYC was cheerful and full of encouragement. We talked briefly about the course and the chilly air, and then split to warm up. I ran a half mile, found another group of NP_NYC folks in the same spot as before, and took group photo 2!

November Project Bronx 10 Mile

Pre-race photo 2: F*ck yeah!

I headed up to my corral about 15 minutes before the start and talked to some folks I knew, including Steve from NP_NYC and my good friend Sam from high school. I ate my first of two gels and stood at the back of the A corral, which was fine by me: I start too quickly when at the very front.

And then we were off! I crossed the start line 25 seconds after the horn. Runners jockeyed for position for the first quarter before spreading out. The Grand Concourse sloped slightly upward, and then rolled gently up and down for the first mile. I passed the mile 1 time marker at 6:30, logging a 6:05 pace. This felt very fast (I anticipated a 6:15 pace for this race), but I felt great and went with it.

The next two miles contained additional rolling hills, with a steep uphill during mile 3 coming out of an underpass. I paced myself and ran easy on the uphill as other runners surged past me. I ran mile 2 in 6:12, and mile 3 in 6:20, putting me at about at 6:12 pace for the first three miles. I cruised down the final downhill off the Grand Concourse and into the first part of the north course loops feeling strong and focused. A number of spectators yelled “F*ck Yeah!” or “Let’s Go, NP!” when I ran by with my November Project #grassrootsgear, and I smiled and screamed “F*ck Yeah!” right back at them. Having never run for a team before, I loved every second of this.

Around Mile 4 I sucked down my second gel, grabbed some water, and estimated my pace at about 6:15 minutes per mile. This seemed right to me, but I still felt strong as I paced off a runner clipping at faster than 6:15/mile. We pounded fists and fought through the flat loop.

As we emerged from the loop, we ran alongside the next wave of runners. So many familiar faces and “NPs!” from Billy, Tricia, my sister, Ashley, and Sam, and maybe others I left out. I may have gotten a bit too exuberant with the high fives, but whatever! I was feeling it.

The second loop at the top of the course found us east of the Grand Concourse on a pleasant tree-lined street. The out was a smooth downhill, and the in a steady uphill. I ran mile 5 in around 6:10, and mile 6 at a sub-6 pace. Mile 7, the smooth uphill, had me reconnecting with the Grand Concourse for the final push home at about a 6:10 pace. I danced a bit to the DJ music at the head of the Grand Concourse (where all the loops connected), and mentally prepared for the final three-mile push.

The second I passed the mile 7 marker, I accelerated and focused on passing the next runner. At first this proved easy: A number of runners who had charged up the mile 7 incline were slowing down, so I overcame about ten runners before mile 8. Once mile 8 hit and the course became almost exclusively downhill, it was on. Every step became more difficult, but I kept my eyes focused ahead on the next runner, reeling him or her in to the rhythm of my breath in sync with my steps. The field had thinned a lot, so when I would pass a runner I would hear his footfalls for a few seconds, and then nothing but my own feet and breath.

I passed the mile 9 marker in a net time of 54:35, which shocked me. If I could run a 5:25 final mile, I could break the one hour mark! I had not even considered this before the race, so I buckled down, grabbed some water, and pounded the pavement. As we approached the finish line, I heard cheers and saw lots of people gathered. No one was behind me. The runners in front of me were too far away to pass. I kept the pressure on myself and crossed the start line with an official time of 1:00:45, good enough for a net time of 1:00:20. Woot! I danced a bit to the awesome tunes of DJ Kool Herc, grabbed some official finisher’s photos with my finisher’s medal, slammed a bagel and apple down my throat, and reveled in the fact that I somehow ran a 6:02 pace, only six seconds off my BEST 5K PACE!

Bronx 10 Mile

Post-race photo with Sam!

I later learned that my sister ran a PR pace, which is amazing considering she never ran before two years ago, and only really started getting serious about it last year. She doesn’t believe me, but she is my inspiration for running. She stays consistent with her training plan, hits the NP_NYC workouts hard, and has shown such consistent improvement. Kate is great, and now you know!

Bronx 10 Mile

Post-race endorphin-laden smiles.

After a short rest, I gathered my belongings and ran about 5-6 miles home, crossing the Macombs Dam Bridge into Harlem, and then down through Harlem to Central Park. I didn’t clock these miles, but I imagine they were pushing 10 minutes each. My foam roller never felt so good!

Post-race celebrations found my sister, my girlfriend, and I down in TriBeCa with my parents, aunt, and Mom’s cousins. That group ran the Tunnel to Towers 5k, which they’ve done every year for the past four years. The event honors Stephen Siller, a member of FDNY who died at Ground Zero after running from Brooklyn to the World Trade Center through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on September 11, 2001, in an effort to provide immediate assistance to the relief efforts. The run tracks the path he took on 9/11, and it’s just a really profound experience. The foundation created in his name also provides amazing benefits to wounded warriors.

We ate a tasty brunch at Añejo, talked about our respective events, and smiled and laughed a lot. My legs felt surprisingly good, although my right hip was definitely more sore than the left (but not in a bad way). I was happy to get home afterward and chill on the couch, watching “Boyhood,” the Netflix DVD that my girlfriend and I have had on our TV table for about two months.

In conclusion, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I credit the Maffetone 180 Formula and training slow to race fast for my recent successes. I also credit NP_NYC and all their support. Also family, friends, and anyone who’s been reading this blog. It’s been a great journey, and I’m excited for the next couple of weeks of racing and all running beyond!