I learned some lessons from my first marathon, and I put them to use this time around. For the most part, I was very confident about this race, I knew what it meant to run 26.2 miles, so I got my head in the right place, and kept it there.
Sure, I had my moments of doubt, because of my knee issue, and the fact that my longest training run was 18 miles. But I was confident because I had been active all year, running hills, training for a triathlon, and I considered the marathon my last long training run. I was also careful of pre-race fuel, I ate carbs at every meal for the three days before the race, and the day before I drank water, as well as Gatorade, but was careful not to over-hydrate.
I woke up race morning at 6:30, feeling pretty good, because of the time change it felt like 7:30. I got dressed pretty quickly, had some coffee, and went outside to meet Mike at the car. He had a salt bagel for me, and I put some peanut butter on it, although I wasn't really hungry, I ate what I could. We zipped down the West Side Highway, before I knew it we were at the Ferry. I got nervous for one second, kissed him goodbye, and joined the rest of the runners.
I was on the 8:15, but I was early enough to get the 8:00, I even scored a seat. I made friends with three other runners, we chatted through the ride, on the walk to the shuttle bus, then the ride to the start. That really helped to keep my nerves in check, I ate more of my bagel, and half a banana. There were three "villages" at the start, one orange, one green, and one blue, I was orange, so we wished each other luck, and separated.
The area had a long line of porta john's, as well as trucks to check your bags, coffee, water and bagels. I found a sunny spot, sat down and started stretching, then a cannon went off, and I saw the a wave of runners crossing the bridge.
I got a text from Mike, and I told him I was feeling surprisingly calm. Maybe too calm. I wandered around a bit, then decided to use the bathroom. I thought it was kind of odd that there weren't any lines. Then when I came out, I noticed instead of 12 baggage trucks, there was one left, and it was about to leave! I was such an airhead, I didn't realize they were closing the village, and that it was time to go to our corrals! I booked over to the truck, and thankfully was able to check my bag.
I was wearing a winter hat, and sweats over my running clothes, and as I walked to the corrals, I ditched my outer layer, there were volunteers collecting everything to donate. I heard they had a few tons of clothes, I guess 47,000 pairs of sweats weighs a lot.
The next thing I knew, we were walking up to the bridge, someone sang The National Anthem, then New York, New York, and we were off!
My plan was to stay at a 10:00 minute pace, until at least mile 13. I knew there were hills ahead, so I wanted to keep myself in check, which I did as we went over the bridge. It was a gorgeous day, and I was looking around, until a guy next to me fell down, after his foot got tangled in a wire. He was okay, but after that I kept my eye on the ground. There was clothing and banana peels right in the middle of the road, which was annoying.
Next thing I knew we were in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where my Dad lived for years, and where two of my sisters live. The crowds along Fourth Avenue were great, and the roads were wide enough that it didn't get too crowded, I met up with two other NF Runners, so we ran together for a few miles.
The one issue I had the entire time, were the water stops. There was one every mile, on each side of the road, with Gatorade, as well as water. You really had to slow down here, people would come to a complete stop, so I had to move around them, a few times I broke through people walking two or three across. There were cups everywhere, my socks would get wet from the water on the ground, and if that didn't happen, my shoes got sticky from Gatorade. I am so accident prone, that I really had to watch my step, and not wipe out like Bridge Guy.
The streets in Park Slope are small, and that's where it got really crowded, but the crowds cheering were just the best. I had a gel at mile seven, along with a saltine, Pez was behaving, I found my pace and locked it in. I felt great.
We went over the Pulaski Bridge, which leads into Queens, and I was getting excited because I knew my family was waiting for me at the 59th Street Bridge, mile 15. I had a second gel, along with a saltine. All of a sudden, there they were, Mike, my Mom & Dad, my sister Ali, brother in law Rob & sister in law Jeannine, right at the spot where Mike and I always cheered on the runners during past marathons.
It was surreal to be on the other side.
My Mom handed me a package of oyster crackers, and there was music playing, so I did a little dance as I went up the bridge. I put on my ipod and got into a good place, I was passing everyone who was walking, some who were running, and sailed right up, all those hills I trained on for the Mountain Goat really paid off. I was looking forward to the crowds that were going to be along First Avenue.
This stretch of Manhattan is known for it's crowd support, everyone is out, it was a perfect day, so there was a lot of noise. There were a some great signs, like "All I did today was have a Bloody Mary!"
I don't know what it is about me and mile 18, but once again, at mile 18, my stomach felt off. I was craving a can of Coke, so I figured it was time for some Gatorade, I had maybe half a cup. I was moving again, and then I puked up the Gatorade, but I swallowed it. I was determined not to have anything ruin my race.
I looked forward to mile 19, where Children's Tumor set up a cheering zone. After I passed them, I did the math, and realized I only had seven miles to go! I had some more water, and entered the Bronx.
That section went by pretty quickly, then we were in Harlem, and then to my surprise, I saw my family pop up again at mile 22!! I yelled out to my Dad that I was getting tired, and then Jeannine screamed "YOU LOOK SO STRONG!!"
That was the boost I needed to keep going.
We came down Fifth Avenue, with four miles to go. I was making due with water and Gatorade, I was afraid to take another gel, and I kept thinking of that Coke. There was an old man with a table full of cups of Coke, and I almost stopped, but I didn't know if I could trust a sketchy Coke. I thought my ipod would help distract me, I turned it on again, but it annoyed me, so I turned it off. The noise of the crowd was enough.
We turned into Central Park, and I kept telling myself to keep going, keep going.
I don't think I really hit "The Wall," I just skirted around it.
This last part was hilly, and such a tease, just when you think you're in the park for the home stretch, you come back out onto Columbus Circle, along Central Park South, then back into the park for the finish. I saw my friend Angelo up ahead, but then lost him in the crowd.
At this point I was on auto pilot. My head was powering my legs not to stop, and my legs were powering my mind to stay positive and finish.
Which I did.
With an 18 minute PR.
Right after I stopped running, my hamstrings cramped up, and were really painful, I tried to go to the side and stretch them out a bit, but the medic wouldn't let me. They gave me my medal, took my picture, wrapped me in a blanket, and gave me a bag of post-race fuel. We had to go through a long chute, we all hobbled along, and every time we stopped, I bent down to stretch my hammies, they were killing me. I drank some Gatorade, and it stayed down, so I alternated that with water.
Finally made it to the the trucks to claim my bag, and once I had my sweats and Birkenstocks on, my legs felt better. I called Mike, they were down on 58th Street, I was on 77th, so I started walking down to meet them.
The first thing my Mom did when I got there, was run and get me a Coke.
Part 3, Post Race, Coming Up Next!