Thursday, November 5, 2009

NY City Marathon Report: Part 1

Splits: 10:13, 9:14, 9:37, 9:56, 10:00, 9:57, 10:16, 10:40, 10:09, 10:19, 10:59, 9:50, 10:55, 10:54, 10:45, 12:15, 11:01, 10:40, 10:33, 11:04, 11:17, 11:06, 11:10, 10:58, 10:44, 10:03, 4:54. (Garmin thinks I ran 26.65 miles). Official net time: 4:39:31 (10:39/M)

I woke up marathon morning at 4 a.m. and stayed up. Since I had gone to bed at 9:30 p.m. and gained an hour of sleep due to turning the clocks back an hour, I was well rested. After showering, I got dressed and watched the weather forecast on two different channels. Both said the rain would end shortly, and it was going to be in the upper 50's and partly sunny. I decided to wear shorts, a short sleeved technical shirt, my Autism Speaks tank top, and of course my socks and running shoes. I was hungry, and had about 3/4 of a bagel, which I always eat before my marathon runs. I also made sure to drink enough water to be hydrated. Nutrition wise, I was ready. I had been carb loading the previous three days, and had a pasta dinner with bread the previous night. I had followed my training eating strategy perfectly. With two hours to wait until the half mile walk to get the bus, I continued to watch tv and pack my suitcase in preparation for checking out. Fifteen minutes before I had to leave, I walked outside to check the weather. It was cold and drops of rain were coming down. I went back to my room, put on my $10 WalMart hooded sweatshirt, $5 Walmart sweatpants, and poked three holes in a large trash bag for use as a disposable raincoat. Even though it was the morning after Halloween, I looked like I was ready to go trick or treating. I checked out of the hotel, left my suitcase there for pick up after the marathon, and started the half mile walk to the Autism Speaks charter buses. I had walked the half mile the day before, and knew it would take me 20 minutes to get to the bus. I had 45 minutes to do a twenty minute walk, so I was in good shape. Autism Speaks had warned us that the buses were leaving at 7:30 a.m. sharp. NY city is kind of spooky to walk through at 6:45 in the morning when you're by yourself. There's not a lot of traffic, and very few stores are open. I was feeling lonely, since my wife and daughter were meeting me at the finish line. I arrived at the buses at 7:05. I was assigned to bus B. No one from Autism Speaks had arrived, and the grouchy driver told me and a few other people that he didn't know which bus was B, and to get on the first bus since everyone else that arrived before us was already on the bus. I assumed that the first bus was bus A, but did as told and got on the bus. The great thing about having a private bus was that our departure time was later than most of the other means of transportation to the starting line waiting area. It was about a 30 minute ride, so we were scheduled to be there at 8:00. At about 7:25, a woman from Autism Speaks started roll call. She started alphabetically, so I knew at that point that myself and some others were on the wrong bus. Sure enough, she finished calling out names, and hadn't gotten to the "H's." Me and about 20 others had to tell her our name so she could write them down. That was followed by her going to what turned out to be bus B and comparing her list of names with the list on bus B. With 125 runners between the two buses, it was taking forever. I received a text message from Lindsay, of Chasing the Kenyans blog, telling me she had just arrived at Fort Wadsworth. Not only were we going to meet each other for the first time, but I also had two GU gels for her. I replied that I would be there around 8:30, which was good since her wave started at 9:20, and mine at 10:20. I still had plenty of time to meet her and give her enough time to get to the start. Finally at about 7:50 (so much for 7:30 sharp), we were on our way. The bus route was from NY City to New Jersey and back to New York again. Our drop off point was at a point a half mile from Fort Wadsworth, which was divided into three villages, green, blue, and orange. We were to be driven there and then go from our bus to our assigned village, which for me and Lindsey was blue. The bus ride was going well. There's not a lot of traffic in NY City on a Sunday morning at 8 a.m., plus there were closed roads so that the shuttle buses could get to Fort Wadsworth without getting stuck in traffic. Along the way we were passing by snowplows parked all the way across roads, blocking them. It was a weird sight. All was well until we came to the one and only exit for Fort Wadsworth. We were stuck in traffic. I looked at my watch. It was about 8:20, and we weren't moving. I still had 2 hours until my starting time, but knew that I only had an hour to get to the drop off point, walk half a mile, and locate Lindsey. I text Lindsay to let her know what was happening. People on the bus were getting restless. We still hadn't moved very far, and traffic wasn't moving any better. At this rate we weren't going to get to Fort Wadsworth with enough time to spare for the 9:20 wave of runners on the bus. We continued to slowly edge our way forward. I saw a police officer walk up and talk to our driver. He took out his walkie talkie, said something, and motioned to our driver. Ahead in the distance, to our left, two snowplows slowly started backing up. They opened up a hole big enough for our buses to drive through. We were being allowed to drive down the closed highway. Everyone on the bus let out a cheer. Every time we came to more snowplows, they backed up and allowed us to pass. We were getting the VIP treatment. A short time later, at around 8:25, we exited, parked, and got off the bus. It wasn't raining, but it was windy and cool, and the ground was soggy and muddy from the previous night's rain. I hadn't thought to wear an old pair of shoes, or to wrap my shoes in plastic bags. We passed by a large amount of porta potties, and there were thousands of runners walking to the three villages. I followed the blue signs, and fortunately it was the closest village. I called Lindsay to ask her where she was. While talking to her. we both realized that we were at the same UPS truck, except she was in the front, and I was in the back. We met, I gave her her gels and we talked for a few minutes. She told me she was still not feeling 100%, and wasn't sure if she would be able to PR. I told her I was hoping to finish around 4:30 (not a PR), but would be ok if I finished slower, as long as I beat my 4:43 Hartford Marathon time from three weeks earlier. She went to the UPS bag check, and then volunteered to show me where the water tent was, sine I was dying of thirst at that point. Stupid me hadn't brought water along for fear of having to use the bathroom on the bus. After getting my water, it was close to starting time for Lindsay. We said a quick good-by, I gave her a hug, and headed back to bag check to leave my bag. I wish we had more time to talk, but was glad I had gotten the chance to meet a blogging buddy. Lindsay girl, you rock! (Side note: go read her blog http://www.chasingthekenyans.com/and see how well she did). Shortly thereafter I heard a loud "boom." A puff of smoke lifted up towards the sky. I couldn't see the starting line, but I knew that Lindsay and 14,000 other runners were on their way. I silently said "Good luck" to her. From where I was, I could see the Verrazano Narrows Bridge in the distance. A sea of runners was on it. The first 1 3/4 miles of the marathon is run across the bridge. Twenty minutes later, another loud boom, and another 14,000 runners were on their way. The blue village waiting area was hardly crowded. I was twenty minutes away from starting. One last trip to the porta-potty, a quick check of my shoes (no mud, good)and I headed towards a hole in a fence, which lead to the area where I needed to line-up. I took off my sweatpants and my plastic bag raincoat, and left them among a pile of discarded clothing. All the clothing left behind was donated to charity. It was 10:10, and we were allowed to go through the narrow opening in the fence. As we started walking, I had no idea where the starting line was, since it wasn't visible. It was 5 minutes until the start, so I took off my sweatshirt, tossed it aside, clipped my mp3 player onto my shorts, and followed the crowd. We went down a hill towards a bunch of rental trucks. Off to my right, as we reached the bottom of the hill, were toll booths for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. The tracks blocked our view as we walked, but I knew that once we turned left after the trucks, the starting line would be straight ahead. As I passed by the last truck, I was in awe. Ahead in the distance were thousands of runners ascending the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. To our left were double decker buses with police officers standing on top. To our right, a loudspeaker with last minute instructions blaring out. A countdown to zero, then the loud boom of a cannon. Out of the speakers came the voice of Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York." As we walked toward the starting line, I looked up and saw the police officers clapping. In front of me, a young couple kissed. I became emotional, and tears ran out of my eyes, and a lump was in my throat. Suddenly, it was time to start running. I looked up at the timer, and forty-two minutes and twenty-one seconds were on it as I crossed the starting line. My journey through the five boroughs of New York had begun. P.S. Pictures of me! Copy and paste the following (Sorry, I don't know how to create a link) http://www.brightroom.com/go.asp?62423112
(I'm #44355)

8 comments:

Mel-2nd Chances said...

so awesome that you got to meet Lindsay, and I think I'd get goosebumps hearing New York, New York being sung... while there. Wild! Can't wait for Part II!

Meg Runs said...

I have to say, your post brough tears to my eyes too. I remember a similar moment in one marathon and I know how emotional those moments can be. Thanks for sharing your account and your meeting with Lindsay, how fun!
You are an inspiration to us all and such a positive representative of running and the love for marathoning...thanks so much!

Believe said...

Rick your posts are always so inspiring! How amazing to meet a fellow blogger! your post was a tear jerker, thank you SO much for sharing, it adds fuel to the fire, I can't wait for my first positive experience like this in february :)

Lisa said...

Your post made me really want to run in the craziness that is the New York Marathon. I can't wait to read part 2.

Lisa said...

Very nice report Rick and so cool that you got to meet Lindsay. Yay for getting the VIP treatment on the bus, how cool was that. I looked at the pics and I like this one 47685-7913-010. What a sight to see all those runners on the bridge. I bet it was an incredible experience and how cool to be a part of it.

lindsay said...

very fun about the snow plows and vip treatment. i'm glad you made it so we could meet! (and not just for the gu's either)

thanks for the good lucks and thoughts! that's too cool of you to think of that when my wave started.

i sure hope all that clothing was washed and donated! my sweats weren't the best but they could certainly be used and appreciated by someone.

hope the writer's block is clearing up!

Anais said...

I got emotional just reading this! You just reaffirmed the fact that one day, I definitely want to run the NYC marathon :) It's on my to-do list! :) (I guess I should get going on that half-marathon first huh? ;)

Irish Cream said...

Oh man, this makes me SO excited to run NYC next year :) I had chills running down my spine as you were describing it all! Love it! Going to read the next part after class today--can't wait!! :)