NYCM 2011: the good, the not-so-good, the ugly

Well I guess this will be the official New York City Marathon report.  Figure after a week or so of thinking things over, I might as well have stuff in writing, so maybe I won’t make the same mistakes again…

So I will start this off by the numbers:

Mile Split Time Mile Split Time
1 8:47.24 15 8:43.63
2 7:30.04 16 8:31.88
3 8:14.00 17 8:27.13
4 8:15.08 18 8:25.93
5 7:57.00 19 8:42.48
6 8:03.23 20 9:08.05
7 8:07.63 21 10:37.85
8 8:23.78 22 9:43.07
9 8:18.85 23 10:11.45
10 7:58.28 24 10:25.60
11 8:25.70 25 15:25.37
12 8:13.28 26 10:01.75
13 8:21.43 26.2 2:02.81
14 8:28.04 Summary 3:55:30.58

And now, the words behind the numbers.

So again, even though daylight savings time gifted us with an extra hour of sleep, I still found myself awake way before my alarm.  Again, fine with me, more time to do the race day routine and not feel rushed.  Eat, have coffee, listen to music, stretch, get dressed, make sure I don’t forget anything.  And begin the 3-leg journey to get to Staten Island early enough to prevent any MTA or SI Ferry fails.  And within minutes of me getting to the Times Square station, there was a 1 train, which got to South Ferry with no problems.  Leg 1 complete.  Even though I was supposed to be on the 6:15 ferry and I knew I was a little early, I heard announcements that those of us who wanted to get on an earlier ferry could.  So why not.  Turned out to be the 5:45 ferry!  whoa.  Again, just listened to music and zoned out for this 2nd leg of the trip (except when someone pointed out the sunrise to me.)   Then onto leg 3-shuttle bus to Fort Wadsworth.  Then once there, walking into the Fort while showing our bibs to the security peeps, lest we get thrown out…

So inside, past security, in search of the Local Competitive area.  Actually not as tough to find as I thought it was, thanks to the nifty map NYRR gave us-just had to cross a little grassy area in the “open zone.”  And according to a couple of my friends, I actually got caught on camera by the news reporting live from Fort Wadsworth!  I apparently didn’t look like I knew I was on camera…annnnnd I was wearing my glamorous “throwaway” outfit.  Classy. 🙂

Anyway, I got past “security” and found a place in the local competitive area to just chill out.  I was the first Flyer there, but I was shortly joined by my teammate JD and one of my speedwork buddies, KL, where we all just chatted and chilled out til it was time to check our bags.  By then, the “Snuggie Posse” of AK, NPT and JS was there (their throwaway gear was Snuggies!) as well as other Flyers…Lam, DC, CM, EF, SJ and more!  To be honest-hanging with these people was the best thing about being in the LCS.  The food/drink/coffee offered was the same as it would have been elsewhere, the lines for the bathrooms eventually did get long, but having my friends and training partners around was actually a calming influence  (unfortunately it seemed like no one else would have really been in wave 2 if I wound up having to stay there.)  And I didn’t feel intimidated at all..I was owning it (my low bib #), I knew I belonged there.

So at around 8:50, we were given the green light to head out onto the bridge.  I could see the green start runners in their corrals, waiting to be unleashed…they were after we made our way onto the bridge and some of the people with 3xxx and 5xxx bibs got mixed in with us…which personally I was OK with.  I knew I still had a decent starting position (I could actually see the start line from where I was) and my intention was to line up at the back of the corral anyway.  I got separated from KL and the Snuggie Posse, but I found myself lined up with DC, DK, ML and MH (who scored points in my book for wearing Yankee temporary tattoos, in addition to running another great race!)  And again, they were good people to have around me while waiting for the start, especially DC who was taking pictures and giving me “run happy” (a la Brooks) vibes 🙂  We heard the introduction of the pro men and knew it wasn’t much longer.  The National Anthem.  Mary Wittenberg’s annual speech (“New York City awaits you…”)  The cannon.  New York, New York.  It was time.

Staten Island/Verrazano Bridge/first 5k

So the focus here-staying in control.  If others pass me on the bridge…let them go.  Tried to block everyone else out.  And as it turned out, the first 2 miles wound up averaging right on pace, so mission accomplished.  And actually, I didn’t mind being on the lower level of the bridge at all!  (And please let me be known..the supposed “golden showers”?  Total urban legend.)  However, the part of the green course I really didn’t like?  The part between the bridge and when we joined up with everyone else on 4th Ave…seemed like that part was lacking in crowd support, unlike that part of the orange and blue starts.

Brooklyn!

4th Ave and time to lock in.  Once again, I loved the support and cheering crowds here…sorry Manhattan, but I think this may have replaced you as my favorite borough in the race! 🙂  I was just along for the ride, having fun…and I guess some of my splits may have shown I was having a little too much fun?  But this part of the course felt sorta flat/downhill so that may be why.

By then, was still cool but very sunny and I kinda regretted keeping my arm warmers on.  I took my first gel right on schedule at the 10K point, but found myself having more water than Gatorade along the way…seemed more “refreshing.”

So then the mile 8 merge happened and slowed us up a little bit.  So much for the wave starts eliminating that congestion (thank you, “honor system”!)…anyways, just cruised along Lafayette Ave in Fort Greene.  Unlike previous years, I was actually looking forward to the Williamsburg portion of the course.  Why?  In a way, it sorta felt like “home” for me.  First was seeing Coach T cheering along with EK and KS in mile 10.  I realized that in previous marathons, the coach had never been out there on race day…so in a way, this meant a lot.  Afterwards, Coach T told me that I “looked like I was cruising…that I so had it, was right on pace.”  At the time, definitely true!  Then northern Williamsburg and Bedford Avenue, especially the part through McCarren Park was a “homecoming” of sorts…how many times have I walked along that street from the L train to the track?  Definitely familiar territory.  Turned onto the usually festive Manhattan Ave (oh the irony…Manhattan in Brooklyn…hehe)…a right turn, then a left on McGuinness…just like in the 3 bridges run.  And here was the Pulaski Bridge and the halfway point-1:47:34.  Hmmm a little slow for sub-3:35, but maybe I can run a more even 2nd half than in the past?  But at least you can’t say I went out too fast 🙂

Queens

Not to knock all you Queens bees (hey, I was born in Queens!) but in the past, Queens just felt like a “filler” borough…not really eventful (well except for the idiot knocking me down in 2006)  And I guess it was the same this time around.  I remembered seeing Celia somewhere in mile 14 waiting for her friend to run with but that was about it.  And as a matter of fact, I did start to feel a little bit of a fade.  I told myself to try and keep it together, knock out the bridge, Manhattan will make it all better.  So yeah, the bridge was actually a little bit of relief for me, knowing that once this was done, the worst would be behind me.  I knew I would lose some time on the incline, just wanted for once to get that mile under 9 minutes (which I did.)  Our Denver-ite Flyer TB passed me on the uphill…I knew his “taking it easy” would eventually catch up to my racing this thing (though he claimed otherwise beforehand…think there may have been beers at the after-party riding on it?)  Anyway, unlike the 3 Bridges run, the incline on the Queensboro didn’t feel like it increased in length and tried to pick it up on the downhill, but tried to be careful to not trash my quads in the process…still 10 miles to go!!

First Avenue

Always the part I look forward to most…but today it didn’t seem the same.  Compared to 4th Ave in Brooklyn, the crowds here seemed kind of…subdued?  I dunno.  I couldn’t seem to pick up my pace…looks like 3:35 may be out, but keep it around 8:30s and I can still get a sub-3:40 BQ.  8:30s…I can do that.  And I was able to for a coupla miles.  Oh was it great to see the Flyers at the PowerGel station at mile 18.  And my parents around 103rd with their signs (one sign said “Next stop…Boston!”, the other one along with the lettering had paw prints on it for my dog brother…that made me smile at least 🙂 ) 

But after that, upper 1st Ave had more fading…not sure what was going on.  On top of that, my stomach was bugging me a little.  I had taken all my gels on schedule, and these were gels I have used many, many times in training (tangerine PowerGel) that I knew it shouldn’t give me any issues so needless to say it was a little puzzling.  I saw LG right before the Willis Ave Bridge, he had a bottle of water for me which was much needed.  “Keep it up.  You look strong,” he said to me.  Oh if only you knew how I was really feeling…looks are deceiving…

The Bronx

And as always, PD was making his appearance in a kilt and bagpipes on the Willis Avenue Bridge.  That was the bright spot of this borough for me.  (and I didn’t even spot Yankee Stadium this time…damn.)

During Mile 21, I had to do the unthinkable and make a port-a-potty stop.  I’ve never had to do this in a marathon before, but I just hoped that taking care of “business” then and there would just help me gut out the last 5 or so miles.  Well losing a minute or so in that mile lost the BQ for me…down but not out.  Maybe if I can pull it together I can still PR.  I force-fed myself my last gel-just to hopefully give myself some energy-as we left the Bronx and hoped for the best…

Manhattan-5th Ave to the finish line

I had really lucked out in my first marathon.  If there was a wall, I never felt it.  But here today, in the marathon I was best trained for, I was experiencing the wall.  The gel I force-fed myself did absolutely nothing.  I was afraid to take anymore of the too-sweet Gatorade as I didn’t want it upsetting my stomach any more.  I just took water where I could and just kept moving forward.  NPT passed me around Marcus Garvey Park and said “come on, hang in there, you got this”…oh how I wish I could have stuck with her.  But it wasn’t happening.  So the “just PR” turned into “maybe get under 3:50?”  The 5th ave hill slayed me as always.  My parents were just past the mile 23 marker and as they said later, knew something wasn’t right because I wasn’t smiling like I usually would be at that point.  I just wanted to get to the park and finish this thing.

But I began to feel sick again after I entered the park.  I had to ask a couple of times where a porta-potty was, as I had to go AGAIN. :-\  As there was nothing, I was forced to make an emergency stop at the Boathouse, and thank god there was an empty stall.  But even after getting that done, it disrupted my rhythm, as I found it hard to start running again…I’d start up then slow to a walk.  And I was still feeling somewhat nauseous.  All the spectators yelling my name did nothing…and those yelling “almost there”…oh you know how I felt about that.  A mile and a half to the finish still felt like an eternity.

Anyway, with a million sets of goals out the window, I wanted to still salvage one-finish under 4 hours.  I looked at my watch and did some quick math, and made a deal with myself.  Run/walk it to 25, then run it in to the end.  Making the right turn onto Central Park South was a huge relief.  Even though the mile split was slow, the crowds did make it feel like it went by faster…and I heard a certain Katy Perry song that I really liked, but honestly I didn’t feel like a firework right then and there 😛  The half-mile to go sign was in sight and that brought relief, that I was gonna make it under 4.  I saw Flyer CN around there…she had passed me while I was walking but she was struggling here too…we tried to get each other through this last bit and it helped me to see a friendly face.

Milke 26 came and went, and then there was the evil Tavern hill and then the finish line was in sight…but for the first time, I sorta felt numb while finishing this one.  I mean yeah, I had a smile on my face, arms up in celebration for the cameras, but this just seemed…anticlimactic.  Anyway, another one was in the books and thankfully kept up my perfect record of sub-4’s with a 3:55:30.

After the finish line

Got my medal…and I will admit, I love the quote that is on the back of the medal-a quote from Grete Waitz “In New York, everyone wins.”  I had seen that at the expo and that was part of what kept me going in the late, painful miles…I wanted that medal!!  Got the heat sheet, food and drink bag, finisher photo…I immediately tore into the Gatorade recovery beverage but I still felt awful.  Everything was cramping, I still felt nauseous…and I was just being told to keep moving.  I saw a med tent, with a sign saying “last med tent before 77th street exit” (which was where I had to go to get my bag.)  I was supposed to meet my parents and grab a bite with them but I knew I needed some kind of help…I was in bad shape.  So I hit the med tent-where I got the cramps in my legs and one of my shoulders massaged out.  They also gave me chicken soup, a salt packet, and some regular Gatorade (not the sickly-sweet stuff that was on the course)…I was definitely dehydrated and in need of electrolytes. 

Finally I was feeling well enough to get up and go (and according to the medics, had some color back…I looked pale and sick before they treated me.)  Unfortunately, by the time I got to my bag and was able to get in touch with the ‘rents, they had already left…kinda sucked but understandable considering I couldn’t get in touch and explain the delay.  So was just me, replenishing with a Shake Shack burger and fries and cleaning up to head out to the Flyers’ post-party at The Parlour.  (oh and while showering, I noticed a “don’t do anything new on race day” mistake.  The HRM that came with the new Mr. Garmin?  I hadn’t used it on a long enough run and it chafed the hell out of me.  Plus it was giving me wacky readings all day…max HR of 233?  I don’t think so!)

As for the post-party, was a good time.  Hey, misery loves company, right? 🙂  It did help seeing my teammates and friends…unlike the MCM disaster where I had to drown my sorrows by myself afterwards!  Anyway, the emotions amongst my teammates about their races were varied…happiness, disappointment, indifference, acceptance, looking to get revenge in the next race…just to name a few.  But nothing Blue Moons can’t fix I guess 😛

As for my race?  I think the word that sums it up is “inconclusive.”  Meaning I’m not sure what was the cause-or causes-of it going wrong.  Maybe the 3:35 goal was too ambitious, should have just gone for 3:40?  (As I did not go out too fast for a 3:35 goal.)  Something nutrition-related?  Was the Gatorade on the course mixed in a way that was making me feel sick?  And I had been feeling a hint of a cold the day before and even that morning, maybe that affected me?

Well whatever it is, got 5 months to figure it out.  Hoping for redemption on April 16th…

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15 thoughts on “NYCM 2011: the good, the not-so-good, the ugly

  1. I sorry you didn’t have the race you planned, but that happens. last year I had a bad race this year I was back on pace (ran a marathon last weekend). I don’t think the 3h35 target was out of reach, I think the world was against you, and I know you can get it right. 5 Months is a long time and you can get a lot of training in that time.
    Good luck

  2. Lara –

    That is the stuff of a determined marathoner right there. You’ve run that course in the past and knew exactly what lie ahead late, which after running it for the first time this year makes me even more impressed by how you gutted this one out.

    I had “surprise” on my side a bit when things got tough for me around mile 22-23, 5th ave was a bi$%#, but I didn’t really know it was coming – you instead knew just how hard it was going to be, dug in and hung on sub 4:00.

    I know that wasn’t the time you were hoping for, but I’m impressed with that performance – you’ll knock ’em dead in Boston – just make sure you run a lot of “DOWN” hills in training – that first 14 miles can really destroy your legs before the course even starts to get hard – then once the Newton Hills arrive – you have nothing left.

    See you in Boston!

    • Thanks! I think the one saving grace was that not once did I quit…if I had to crawl I was gonna get that finisher medal 😛 The fact that I was still able to salvage a sub-4 was still something.

      Thanks for the warning about the first 14!! As you know, there are no shortage of hills around here to practice on. And I did get a taste of the Newton hills this past year-ran with a teammate to the top of Heartbreak, which was sort of good to get a sneak peek…

  3. You still looked good when I saw you and you clearly have the speed as evidenced by your shorter races. I am by no means an expert but just from personal experience I saw a huge difference in my running this year after running more 20 milers (and some faster), longer tempo runs and more miles in general. I just felt way more comfortable running. May or may not work for you too. I guess everyone is different! Anyways look to the future! Before your next marathon, you have a certain same half marathon trip as me in January, right? 🙂

    • Yeah, as much as I wanted to up the intensity, I also wanted to avoid injury…tricky balance. My coach did question in hindsight if maybe some of the 20-milers should have been faster, but my concern was running 20’s at MP would leave me too trashed to get other workouts in. (Not to mention the year I ran my best NYCM, I only had one run-13.1 miles-at marathon pace, all my other long runs were 9:20-9:30) Maybe I’ll have to change things up this winter, but I think marathon training over the winter will be a challenge in itself and I’m gonna have to be flexible with what the conditions throw me! And yesss to that certain half in January…man it snuck up on us!! 😉

  4. You know what, girl? I know you are disappointed with how your race went, but you finished way faster than I would be able to and you RAN A MARATHON!!!!! So congratulations on your race ok?!?

    • Thanks…believe me I am glad to have finished. That said…I trained hard for 4 months to run a 26.2 mile race-not a 26.2 mile long run. So after putting in all the work, it’s bittersweet that the end result was not to the best of my ability.

      And what’s to say you’re not gonna run faster than 3:55 when you start marathoning…hehe 😉

  5. You went out too fast on the first half and goal was too ambitious. You did not live up to your bib number. 3:35 what were you thinking?

  6. Hello! I got your comment on my Miwaukee Lakefront blog so I immediately came over here to find out more about you. Your experience sounds like me in New York. I ran NYC with my husband in 2010 and he bonked for no reason. I think I probably would have bonked a few miles later because I was getting stomach pains. New York is a really tough course. Maybe you needed more of a negative split? I don’t know much about your training, but let’s say you were in shape for a 3:35. Maybe since NYC is so challenging you needed to start out at a pace of 8:30 for the first 5-6 miles and then speed up to get that 3:35. I think that the bridges wore us out earlier than expected. You’re probably searching for reasons so that you can make sure this won’t happen again, but there are so many possible factors! You still ran an awesome time on a very challenging course so you do have a lot to be proud of! I am excited to follow your training for the next one.

    I also really enjoyed reading this race report because it brought back good memories of NYC. And not-so-good ones of the 3-leg trek to the start!

  7. marathons are tough. and it’s the worst when you’ve done all that (awesome) training and things go wrong on race day. i don’t think there’s any obvious reason when you had the results you had – it just sounds like bad luck 😦

    you are a strong and talented runner, and i know you’ll use this experience to help you with the next one. one of these days you are bound to have the perfect race (april 2012??)

  8. Hey L, as someone who’s done NYC 6 times now, I think NYC is just a really tough race to race well, much less to PR. Even if you didn’t have the GI issues, it would still be a monumental task. Because of all those hills in the last 10K, I think to have run well here it probably means you would have had to keep ALOT in reserve. Pushing yourself to run at GMP is probably too hard an effort for first 20 miles. I found that out the hard way too!

    Either way, figure out what went wrong and move on. You’ve got another half and another full to prepare for in the next few months. You’ll learn from this and be better the next time.

  9. Funny thing about courage is that you never know who has it until things turn ugly. Your ‘finish’ tells more about who you are than had you made the 3:35. Oh, and was it too ambitious? Who cares! People who never take chances probably aren’t running marathons anyway. Best of luck in Boston!!

  10. Have you disappeared. The net is not as interesting when you aren’t posting. Hope all is well.

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