Monday, November 06, 2006

Marathon Report!

I thought the race was great, but I'm definitely feeling it today. Marathon morning started dark and early for me. I wanted to avoid the congestion that seems to plague the “late risers” only getting to the bus at 6 or 6:30, so I made it to Battery Park just past five. J took me down there in a cab, we said our goodbyes, and I was off. I followed the droves of runners, all carrying the approved clear plastic bag distributed at the expo. I got on the second bus I saw, waiting only about 30 seconds and was off. The bus was humming with excited runners, outside the sky was still black. Not even a sliver of sun. the ride was quick to battery park. I sat next to a guy from Indiana, who was running his 5th marathon. We talked about other races, he did most of the talking which I was happy about. I just wanted to sit back, sip my Ultima and mentally prepare myself.

I exited the bus at maybe 5:30 to an overwhelming site. Volunteers were everyone and were already cheering us on. I followed the flow of people towards registration, flashed my number and was in the village. I headed straight to my corral, marked by giant green balloons. TV crews were set up as were many tents and lines of porta a potties as far as the eye could see. All the ultima was getting to me, so I took a chance with the porta a potties before the lines got too long. I chatted with a couple runners from England and germany on the line. After I finished up, I followed a line of runners toward another area of the green area. Around the corner there was a whole other area, right below the verazzano. I grabbed a bagel and sought out a nice cozy spot next to a fence where I planned on waiting the hours away. I didn’t end up lining up until after 10, which meant I would spend the next FOUR AND A HALF HOURS there. Luckily, I was somewhat prepared. I brought and old towel, some sweats, a hat, gloves, and the all important US Weekly. I saw for a while waiting for the sun to rise, just munching on my bagel. I forgot how good NY bagels are! After awhile my toes started going numb, so my energy was focused on contorting my body in any way possible to keep warm. It didn’t work, but did keep my mind occupied waiting for it to get warmer with the rising of the sun. I could focus more on Us Weekly and spend a lot of time people watching. So many people were from all over the world. I think I talked to more people from Europe than from the States. I was also kept entertained by a few calls from J and one from my mom.

At about 8:45, I set to prepping myself. I turned in my bag to the UPS truck, peed once more, and started stretching. At about 9:45, I was nervous and had to pee again. The lines were wicked long and wicked slow. I was worried I was going to miss the gun! I was lucky and made it to my space just in time. I shed my layers and threw them on the piles of clothing bordering the start up lines. We started edging up slowly and soon enough the gun went off. It still took awhile to even get near the bridge, though. I was in the green corral and in the 29,000s so I wasn't even on the bridge when the race started. At least ten guys were relieving themselves along the start up line. Then, when we got close to the bridge most of the people in front of me were going up this side route. I followed them, but soon realized it was a cut through. I was already running at this point, so I just went with it. There were some military guys I slapped hands with wishing everyone good luck. The start line was completely masked by discarded clothes so I didn't even know when I ran over it. (talk about anticlimactic! And dangerous! I almost busted my ass tripping over all the mounds of clothes) The upper deck had a big band of balloons denoting the start, but what if we had a slightly different starting point? (And where were our balloons?) I couldn’t even worry about that, because I started to get scared that I had hopped in after the line and was going to get disqualified or that my chip wouldn’t be activated. This worried me for at least the first 8 miles. I was kicking myself that whole time! Why couldn’t I have just followed the rules and turned around to get back on line?

That first mile and a half on the Verrazano (aside from the worry stitch I was trying to ignore) was pretty cool. I had somehow pictured the Manhattan skyline being closer, but it was cool thinking about how I was going to run to it. Kind of like my goal looming right in front of me. Physically, I was pretty cold. The wind wasn’t bad, but we were out in the middle of the water.

I made sure to keep my pace slow for the initial part of the race, but think I kept it too slow. Those first 13 miles went by at a snail's pace! The first couple miles, my corral was separated from the rest of the race. We had some fans, but nothing compared to what I would see later. Our fans had heart, though!

Sometime after the 5k point, we joined the rest of the races. That was cool. As soon as we turned that corner, the fans just exploded! There were so many on either side of the street and they were screaming and cheering on all the racers. I had a huge grin on my face that got even bigger the first time someone cheered me on by name! What a priceless feelingJ I’m shy and weird about that kind of stuff, so I would usually just try and make eye contact with the supporter. Some runners did an amazing job inciting the fans pumping their arms, slapping hands with the little kids, really getting into it. Aside from the nagging fear that I was running this only to have my medal stripped later on, I was having a blast. I wasn’t in my pace yet, but still keeping it slow. I really didn’t want to be tired later, so I was keeping things in check. Slowly, I was starting to get tired, which was definitely unsettling. It wasn’t even mile 5 and I felt like I could take a break. I know running’s all mental, but still it’s disheartening. You want to feel indestructible and you expect to, especially at those early miles. I just kept on trucking and tried to really take in my surroundings. It felt surreal; I had to keep telling myself that this was what I had been training the last six months for. It was almost like on my training runs when I would pump myself up just thinking about this day seemed more magical than the event itself. Kind of surprising. I think I always expect the physical aspect of races, think I’m just going to glide through the miles and forget that it’s actually work. I kept getting tired, especially between 8 and 13. I just wanted to get out of Brooklyn, but it went on forever. I liked running through all the little neighborhoods, some I had heard a lot about, others I probably would never see again. I tried to remember intersections to refer to on a map later.

I was drinking water consistently, just about every mile and had from the start of the race. I was steering clear of the Gatorade, though. Little kids were passing out their own water, and paper towels, even starburst. Queens was a blur as I started focusing my energy towards the upcoming bridge.

I kept it slow over the bridge, really trying to keep something in the bank. 75% of the runners were walking at this point, so I had to weave through so many people. The tunnel going through the island was pitch black and more than a bit scary. I was so nervous I was going to roll an ankle or trip. I called J at the end of the bridge to get a location on him and my family and to let him know to keep a look out for me. Before i knew it I was on the downhill and speeding onto 1st avenue.

What a high! I had just made it over the bridge, was feeling good, and there were so many fans! I started picking up my pace knowing the bridge was over and I only had 10 miles left. I saw J and my family and waved my arms frantically trying to get them to see me. I got their attention and I quickly said “hi” and kept going. I didn’t want to stop, my pace was up and I was feeling good. Who knows what might happen to my legs if I stopped? First avenue just flew by, I felt like I was in the 100s streets so fast. By far my favorite part of the race.

The Bronx was quick, too, but I really just wanted to get back into Manhattan to get this thing done. Fifth avenue went on forever. I didn't study this part of the map too much prior to the race, so I wasn't sure when we would shift into the park. not knowing what to expect coupled with all the walkers in the center of the course made this part challenging for me.

Central Park was fun. The hills went fast, the downhills faster. The fans were so alive and cheering everyone on the whole way. Central Park south went on forever. I didn't expect that. I was starting to lose some steam, but really trying to use all I had. Mile 25 to 26 were rough, but I kept up my pace and finally kicked that last .2 miles. It felt great to have some energy in the tank.

I finished a bit later than I expected. From my training runs I thought I would come in around 4:45, but was hoping for something closer to 4:30. I finished at 5:02. My real goal was finishing and having a good race, which I accomplished so I really can't complain.

Now i just have to hope I am lucky in the lottery next year!