Tuesday, November 10, 2009

NY City Marathon: Conclusion

(My wife jokingly said it took me longer to type the 3 part marathon report than it did to run it. I think she's right)
Just after mile 2 the Blue line (me) and red line runners took a left onto 92nd street, while the green line runners stayed running straight ahead. I was running down Fourth Avenue on the right side of the road, and the red line runners were keeping us company on the left. I was still feeling cold, and cursing out the two NY weather reports I had watched earlier that said it was going to be around 60 degrees and partly sunny. They hadn't mentioned it being windy, and as I stated earlier, I wasn't dressed warm enough to battle the wind. Short sleeves and a tank top just weren't doing it. I was still feeling good, and continuing to interact with the crowd. Garmin beeped, and I had run a 9:37 mile 3. It was time for me to eat 2 of my orange flavored GU Chomps. I had three bags of them in my pockets (24 chomps total), plus a BerryBlast flavored PowerBar. My nutrition plan was to eat two of the Chomps every thirty minutes, plus the PowerBar at around the halfway point. At about 3 1/2 miles, the green line runners rejoined us blue line runners. From that point until mile 8, things were getting too crowded for me. My run-walk-run (rwr) race plan, based on Jeff Galloway's recommendations, was to rwr my first five miles at a 10:17 per mile pace. My marathon finishing time goal was 4:30. I decided that I was going to skip the scheduled walk breaks until mile 6, to help me regain time that I was going to lose at the water stations every mile because of the large amount of runners. I was going to be walking and drinking anyhow, so I figured it would even out. Mile 4 split was a 9:56, mile 5 a 10:00. Although I hadn't realized it, I was ahead of my 4:30 goal time at this point. I was doing a good job at this point of keeping a good pace and walking and drinking. Miles 5 to 8 I was supposed to be increasing my speed. I kept a steady pace, and reached mile 6 at 9:57. The crowds were still cheering loudly and yelling encouragement to me. However, it was time for me to stop "running stupid" (no walk breaks), and start following the plan. I started my first one minute walk break. I was now going to run for four minutes, and walk for a minute, at least until mile 18. Problem was, the fantastic spectators of NY didn't know that I was walking for a reason. For the entire minute, I heard way too many encouraging words of how I could do it, and to keep going. Damn, I hadn't thought about that. I was looking like a slacker, at least in my mind. I resumed running, and reached mile 7 at 10:16. Somewhere between miles 6 and 7, I decided to get rid of my hat. It was a freebie that I had received a while ago in exchange for the less than flattering review I wrote about it. The hat tended to make me sweat too much during warm day runs, and even though it was cool, I was sweating too much with it on. I left it perched on top of a fire hydrant. I'd like to think it found a good home somewhere, and no, I don't miss it! I was already having difficulty with the crowded street as I said earlier, and also now with coordinating my walk breaks as close as possible to the water stations. Mile 8 split time surprised me: 10:40. About this time the 4:30 pace people and their purple balloons disappeared from sight. To make matters even worse, the red line runners were merging with us. From mile 8 until the finish, we were all going to be running together. I was getting claustrophobic, and I was wasting time and energy avoiding the slower runners. Also I realized that I was still not warm enough, and the grey sky and cool winds were getting the best of me. Although I was drinking lots of water, I felt as if I wasn't sweating enough. Weird, I know. I took my one and only bathroom break (Here comes TMI) with several other runners behind a school bus parked on a side street. The porta potties were out of the question. Too few, and the lines were too long. My zig zagging around runners and increased pace resulted in a 10:09 mile 9 split. Not fast enough. From miles 8 to 18, I was supposed to be running at a 9:55-10:00 per mile pace. With the rwr, it would still average out to about a 10:17 per mile pace, and keep me on goal for a 4:30 finish. It was time for me to do some problem solving. First, how did I feel? I still couldn't warm up enough, nothing hurt, but my legs didn't quite have the "spring" to them that I'm used to. I hadn't had my morning cups of coffee like usual, and had switched from GU Vanilla Bean Gels to the Chomps for fear of having the stomach cramps and (TMI again) diarrhea I had after the Hartford Marathon. I think, looking back, that if I had had my coffee and a few GU Vanilla Bean Gels, it may have helped. I may have also done more harm than good by testing my rwr 3 weeks earlier in the Hartford Marathon. I don't really know for sure. I also was resigned to the fact that the crowded conditions were going to work against me. I regretted having changed my estimated finishing time from 4:30 to 4:45 after the Hartford Marathon. It probably cost me a chance to start in wave two instead of wave three. Again, who knows? Also, my music wasn't an effective motivator. The good thing about the noisy crowds and about 100 bands along the course was it was exciting and motivating. The bad was for the most part I was unable to hear my music. At best I could hear bits and pieces of my songs, and the songs all of you suggested. Don't get me wrong. If one of you songs started playing, I did my best to relate it to my situation, and say "thanks" to all of you. So your efforts to help motivate didn't fail. I also was losing some of the crowd support, which was by choice. I started taking my walk breaks towards the center of the road, instead of along the shoulder, where the crowds were. I never did get over the "guilt" of walking and not having people understand why. At miles 8-9, I was feeling like a defeated man. The initial excitement was wearing off. I wasn't feeling so psyched. I had a "left brain" moment of realizing I still had about 18 miles left to go. I wasn't even halfway, and I was cold, and it was my last marathon FOREVER, and I wasn't going to break 4:30, and I had no chance of getting a PR, and STOP!! Time to suck it up. Ignoring left brain became a priority. More obstacles, and a 10:19 mile 10, followed by a terrible job on my part figuring out a rwr that coincided with the water station, and a 10:59 mile 11. Getting mad helped, and a longer run before walking resulted in a 9:50 mile 12. Bad planning again, more obstacles (slow runners), and a 10:55 mile 13. It wasn't helping having thousands of slippery empty water and Gatorade cups to navigate through at the water stops. It seemed like I was running and walking on ice at times. At times the water wasn't poured, and I would wait for my cup(s) of water. Blame it on the massive amounts of runners/obstacles. I reached the halfway point,around the Pulaski Bridge in Queens, and did another left brain dumb thing, as I've done in my previous three marathons. I asked myself if I felt like I could run the distance I just completed; in other words, did I have enough left to finish the marathon? Another mental checklist, and my worse pain was slight pain coming from one toe on each foot. No sign of cramping-I guess I was drinking enough water. Everything else was status quo from miles 8-9. Mile 14, 10:54. Mile 15, 10:45. My split times were slow and depressing. Unknown to me was that the Queensboro Bridge and it's long, gradual 100 foot incline lie ahead. I had read about it, and how it causes runners to quit while running up it, since it's late in the course and a long, gradual incline. It didn't really occur to me that I was on it until I was about a third of the way across it. When it sunk in, it was too late. No amount of planning or problem solving was going to help. Most people started walking. I never walk up hills. I usually thrive on running inclined surfaces. The walkers were spread out and across the entire width of the narrow bridge. I found myself stopping, walking, and trying to get around and between people. Some of them were dropping off to the walkway on the left side, where other runners were resting and getting medical help. It was nearly impossible to do any running, and I was frustrated. As we headed down the deck of the bridge, Garmin beeped, and displayed a 12:15 mile 16 split. Talk about disheartening. Looking down and off to the right of the bridge, I could see down to First Avenue in the Bronx. It was a repeat of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge experience. Thousands of spectators were still out and about, cheering everyone as they left the bridge and turned right. Even though I knew I wasn't going to get a PR or break 4:30, it helped. At that point I vowed to beat my Hartford Marathon time of 4:43. I needed to have something to shoot for. I was not going to let all the obstacles, the cold, and the lack of a "spring" in my gait stop me from reaching my new goal. The pressure was on, but in a lessor, fun way. Between miles 16 and 17 I was offered a wet sponge, as was everyone else. For some reason, even though I was still not quite feeling warm, I took it. I guess I was copying everyone else. I took off my glasses, wiped my face with the sponge, and quickly threw it away. I was too cold, and the water smelled "fishy." GROSS! Miles 17-19 continued on First Avenue, and I was again having difficulty with my 4-1 rwr ratio, but in a good way. I was running between 4 and 5 1/2 minutes before walking for a minute. Blame it on ego and the water stations being at varying distances. Mile 18 was a 10:40, mile 19 a 10:33. I knew I had a good chance at beating the 4:43, and as I said earlier, also knew that 4:30 was a lost cause. I was looking forward to saying "Hi" to Michelle, who I had met at the Autism Speaks dinner the night before. I was supposed to see her and her friends as I crossed Willis Avenue Bridge just before mile 20. I knew that seeing them would help give me a lift. As I crossed the short bridge, I looked to my right, where she said they would be. No luck. So much for seeing a sorta familiar face. Around that time, I started feeling the beginning of cramps in not one, but both of my upper leg muscles (Gluteus Maximus?) started cramping in the back part. It was time for me to slow down and drink more water, both of which I did. I've had leg cramping problems in my left leg in two of my previous three marathons (Not Hartford 3 weeks ago), and I attribute it to not drinking enough water. So mile 20's split time was a slowest 11:04. My leg cramping issues were increasing after mile 20, and there wasn't water to be found nearby. I was very close to having full blown double leg cramping, and I could tell it was going to hurt like hell. I didn't know what to do, other than to slow down to a slow jog and walk. Just when I thought it was going to happen, a woman appeared from the side of the street. She was holding bottles of Poland Spring Water. They were bottles that she had bought, and she was glad to give me one. I thanked her profusely. I couldn't believe she had appeared out of no where, almost like (you can laugh) a Guardian Angel. I drank the water, and it helped a great deal. I passed the 21 mile marker at 11:17...slower yet. I then started to wonder if beating 4:43 was going to happen. My legs were now feeling better, but not well enough to increase my speed too much. Mile 22 came and went, at an 11:06 split. The cramping and everything I keep mentioning (cold, obstacles, etc) certainly didn't help. I knew that I was getting close to Central Park, as we were now on Fifth Avenue. Mile 23, and an 11:10 split. I was mad about another 11 minute plus split. Eleven minutes? I knew I was better than that. I looked for my last hope (I thought) of familiar faces to cheer for me. The Autism Speaks cheerleaders were supposed to be around the mile 23 area. Once again, no luck. I didn't see or hear them. I asked myself whether I was indeed going THAT slow? Central Park was now in my sight. I knew that even though the finish line was in Central Park, I would still have about 2 1/2 miles to go once I entered the park. I didn't want to try to increase my pace too soon. But I also didn't want to look like a quitter or a DNF candidate either if my leg cramps resurfaced. Mile 24; 10:58. FINALLY, despite a huge amount of slow runners and walkers, and possible leg cramps, I had run a sub 11 minute split. I looked at my Garmin, did a quick calculation in my head, and knew I had just under 30 minutes to run what would turn out to be 2.65 miles according to my Garmin, or 2.2 miles marathon distance. For whatever reason, my Garmin loves to torture me by telling me I'm running more than a marathon distance. Either way, I knew that as long as I didn't cramp and have to walk for a long period of time, I was going to beat my Hartford Marathon time. I decided to run for 5 or 6 minutes, walk for a minute, and then run the last mile and a half without walking. I wanted to finish strong, and was hoping my leg muscles would cooperate. I turned off my music, and off I went. Shortly after, I thought I heard someone yelling to me from my right. I was far to the left of the road, and I took a quick look to my right, and listened again. I again thought I heard someone calling "Dad," or something. Still not seeing anyone I knew, and at this point just wanting to get the marathon over with, I increased my speed. Later on I found out I had heard my 27 year old daughter yelling, and that she even was sprinting along the side of the road outside the tape trying to get my attention. I wish I had seen her and my wife there. We had only planned on meeting after the race, so I really wasn't expecting them to be 2 miles from the finish. Mile 25 seemed to come a little easier, as my possible leg cramps had decreased. Another slow but less than 11 minute split (10:44). I had just over a mile to go, and I threw caution to the wind. I was so ready to finish the race, and end my marathon running career forever. I was thinking about the "bling" I would be getting, the goodie bag, seeing my wife and daughter, and how warm and cozy I was going to feel in the foil blanket I was going to get and wrap myself in. I went into an all out, run as fast as I could, tell my leg muscles to deal with the pain, finishing last mile kick. I was high fiving people, and doing some yelling. Goosebumps were taking over my body. I was nearing the finish, and holding back the tears. I vowed not to be crying as I approached and crossed the finish line. I was going to finish like a champ-with my eyes dry, my legs churning, my head held high, and my arms and hands raised above my head. Ahead was the finish line, and I could see the cameras. I veered to my left, so there was a clear shot of me, then back towards the center towards another opening. Dammit, I was going to make sure that #44355 was clearly visible for the photographers. I neared the finish, crossed the finish line, walked several steps, and checked my watch. I had beaten my Hartford Marathon time by nearly 4 minutes. I was happy for that, but disappointed that I had finished in almost 4 hours and 40 minutes. A fitting finish to the day was I was now stuck in a sea of finishers, all heading to get our bling and goodie bags. But that's another post....P.S. Pics of me: http://www.brightroom.com/view_user_event.asp?EVENTID=47685&BIB=44355&S=230&PWD=

11 comments:

Teamarcia said...

I just found your blog! Congrats on a great race! I'd love to run NYC one of these years!

Lisa said...

Well you may not have had the time you wanted but you still FINISHED the NYC Marathon and for that you should be proud. You did it! What an amazing experience to be with all those other runners. Too bad you didn't see your daughter but you perservered and crossed the finish line! Huge congratulations for a job VERY well done. I am in awe.

Meg Runs said...

After your this last post, that fishy water just stuck out to me. Blah. Water, what you take in and gels, etc. are so important in a long race and I think I would have thrown up with that "fishy" water. I appreciated your whole experience and look forward to your next adventure. Your insights really make me want to give NYY a try. Thanks Rick!

Irish Cream said...

Dang, that DID sound rough. Sometimes I think the HUGE races are just WAY more mentally draining than smaller races. That was the number one thing I heard going into Chicago--and it was definitely really difficult. But the important thing is that you persevered in NYC and smashed your Hartford time despite all of the obstacles (both figurative and literal) in your way. You rock, Rick! I am seriously impressed with your mental strength!! GREAT JOB out there! :)

Also, if you use blogger, you just highlight the text you want the link to appear in (let's say you wanted to say, "See pics of me here"; you could highlight "here" with the cursor), then you click on the little icon that looks like a world with a paperclip type thingy (it's to the right of the text color box). It will pop up a little box, and you can simply paste your link into the "URL" section and click "ok". Then the hyperlink will appear in the text of your post. Hope that helps! :)

Anais said...

When you're writing a post, on top of where you're writing there's a list of things like font, bold, italics, etc. Then there's a T with a color palette, and then a globe with a "link" at the top. Click on that, and enter the link that you want to have us click on!

If you want to say a word that people click on and that sends them to the link, highlight the word in your text, then click on the globe with the link like I said up there, and enter the link :) LIke when you want to refer to someone and have us end up at their blog or something!

Anyways, GREAT race recap! I totally want to run the NYC marathon one day :) I definitely had tears and goose bumps reading your recap, and I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of ;)

lindsay said...

i enjoyed your recap! the never-ending crowd was tough to deal with at times during the race. that's probably the thing i don't like the most about big races (they are certainly nice in many other ways though). i'm with you on needing back up goals - that's why i put on 3 different pace bands so that i wouldn't mentally check out (hopefully) before the finish line.

too bad about missing your family before the finish, but at least they saw you (and hopefully got some pics?)

anyway, congrats again on a great nyc experience and i hope you are feeling better about it now. it was your grand finale, and you can't beat nyc!

Mel-2nd Chances said...

Awesome Rick, you fought hard for something you wanted so badly, and you did it! Tough, yes, but you did it. Be proud. You inspire!

Jill said...

Wow, I thought I could write a long blog ;). Seriously though, an excellent write-up and I absolutely LOVE your marathon photos where you're smiling with your hands up in the air! You did an incredible job, I am also in awe!

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

Great Race! You should be very proud. I have avoided the largest marathons because the crowds really get to me mentally and physically. I will one day run NYC, I hope, but it will be after I finish trying to pr.

See you @ Boston!

Lisa said...

Hey stranger, been wondering where you were. Good to know you are running but we want to read about it so get busy and start typing.

Denise said...

I was stopping by to thank you about the comment to my cookie review. I was just saying to my husband that I wonder if they thought I'd just write a good review cause they sent me something for free. But I just couldn't do that!

GREAT job at NYC!! I'm going to enter the lottery this year, I think. After watching it, I have to run it one day!!

I didn't know anyone would be interested in following the race, I'll have to post that info in my next post.