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Monday, November 7, 2011

ING New York City Marathon 2011

TLDR (Too Long, Didn't Read) Version:
I had a mixed up kind of race. I went in with three goals: 1) Set a new PR, 2) Make that new PR under 5:40 and 3) Have a great/happy/fun race. I made a new PR - 5:46:40 (previous PR was 5:52). And that's great, but I obviously didn't do #2 and I'm not so sure about #3. I had some stomach issues, and that made me dreadfully uncomfortable for the majority of the race. And, by the time I resolved the problem, my legs and body were too tired to make #2 happen. I was so determined to get a time under 5:40, and I fought and fought and fought as hard as I possibly could to get that time. It was incredible, and in the end, I am really proud of how I toughed it out. It was a more difficult race than I expected, that's for sure. Here are all of the gruesome details:

Yummy shake!
Friday, November 4
Todd and I both took off of work on Friday, so we left as early as possible (about 7:30am) to get up to NYC with plenty of time to do our thing. We made it into the city (via the Secaucus NJ Transit station) by about 1pm, and headed straight for lunch, where we had delicious toasted marshmallow shakes and burgers from Stand 4 in Union Square. I had seen this place on the Food Network quite some time ago, and I had to try it! It was worth the extra time and subway fare to get there and get the shake!! You can see more about it in the video from The Best Thing I Ever Ate. (Note: There are 3 desserts featured in that video, and I've had two of them - the CMP from Woodberry Kitchen is the other - yummm).

Next, it was off to the Expo. I had (of course) forgotten my registration card in the car back at the train station. I have never, ever to this day EVER remembered to bring my registration card to the expo of any race that I have ever been signed up for.  New York made it more difficult than the usual races for me to register, but I did finally find a helpful person willing to give me clearance to pick up my bib. I got myself a shirt, and then wahoo the best part of any race (well, ok, second to finishing) - buying merchandise! Since I figure this was my one and only NYC, I loaded up on logo items. I was quite pleased. Then, we roamed around the expo looking at various booths. As it became closer to about 5pm, it became more and more crowded, until we finally decided it was time to go.
Bart Yasso talks marathon strategy at the Expo

We headed back to Jersey, where we were spending the night with our friend Bill. You might remember Bill and his sister Terry from our 2010 trip to Belize and our 2008 trip to Turks & Caicos. We enjoyed a quiet evening with Bill and I headed to bed early.

Saturday, November 5
We kind of just chilled out in New Jersey all day Saturday. We had initially thought we'd go see a Broadway show, but the timing just wasn't going to work out. I was nervous about getting to bed on time and getting dinner on time, etc, so we kept Bill company, and then headed over to our hotel to check in. We had initially planned to stay with Bill, but I ultimately decided that the hotel made more practical sense, given my sleep needs, etc. Plus, the hotel was literally right next to the Meadowlands, where I was catching the bus to the starting line. I had everything laid out and ready, and then we went back to Bill's house. Terry had flown in from Arizona, and I cooked spaghetti for all of us to enjoy. Nice, quiet, relaxing evening. Then, it was back to the hotel where I settled in for a nice rest.

This handy door sign was in my
marathon bag
RACE DAY - Sunday, November 6
I was up at 5am, and I got dressed and ready. I normally don't eat much before a long run, but because I had such a long wait before my start time, I thought I'd have a good sized breakfast at the hotel. I had a full kitchen, so I made two scrambled eggs and two pieces of wheat toast. I kept worrying that I was eating too much, but I ate anyway.

Todd dropped me off at the Meadowlands, where a line of NJ Transit buses awaited the runners. I was all the way in the back of the bus, and I expected a 30 minute or so trip to Staten Island. However, I chose poorly and our bus driver didn't take us on the route to drop us directly at the runners village with the other offical buses. Instead, we were in line with all of the other traffic - the non-official race transport and cars dropping off runners. We sat and sat and sat in traffic, and it was 8:30am before we were off the bus - and we were almost a mile away from where we should have been dropped off. That was TWO HOURS on the race bus. At least I was warm, but it was frustrating and the people on the bus in the first wave missed their bag drop off time.

The runners village was clearing out as I headed to my corral
After a walk, I was finally at the runners village. I had been drinking water on the bus, so I decided to stop in the first potty that I found, which was right outside. I don't know why this is important, but I'm including it in my race report. Security was tight around the starting line, so after the gauntlet of security check points and a bit more of a walk, I finally made it into the green starting area. I had packed enough stuff to camp for several days, but the sun was warm, so I just sat on my garbage bag that I'd brought. I kept moving - once because the speakers were giving me a headache, and then again because the sun was giving me a headache. I turned in my bag around 9:15 (never having used the gloves, headband, fleece blanket, and hand warmers that I'd packed), and then found myself a delicious soft Dunkin Donuts bagel. I had also eaten my cereal bar, which was what I always eat before a long run. I was nervous that I was going to eat too much and get a stomach cramp, so I ate about 3/4 of the giant bagel and threw the rest away. Hindsight is 20/20, so I should have eaten the rest of the bagel and probably another bagel or two. Another potty break, and then at 10:15 or so, I headed into the loading area for the corrals.

The corrals had potties also, and at the last second, I dodged into one and went again. I was nervous about having to stop during the race and about waiting in line like I'd done at the 2006 Marine Corps, and I was very very glad that I'd gone a third time before the race started. We moved on to the bridge, and suddenly they were playing "New York New York" and we were moving! I'd been told to move as far up as possible, so I started before the 5:15 pace group.

Miles 1-4
It was surreal starting this race. I felt like It was almost 11am by the time I crossed the starting line, a whopping 6 hours since I'd woken up. I didn't feel like I was really doing it, it was like I was outside my body watching something else going on. The course was CROWDED. I was on the bottom of the bridge, so the view wasn't as good (and for the record, there was no sign of any urine raining down). It was impossible to maintain any real pace, but I did manage to start my 1:1 intervals right away. I was determined to not waste energy weaving around people like I'd done at the Indy Half Marathon earlier this year, so I just kept with the flow of everyone else. It was such an international crowd, so I enjoyed hearing other languages and seeing so many flags around. The first mile is a pretty big uphill - the Verazzano Narrows Bridge. I had worried about it, but to be completely honest, it was NOTHING. The crowd kept me so slow, I didn't feel the hill at all. My mile 1 time was slow, though - about 13:40, when I was trying to keep between 12:35 and 12:58. I knew I had to pick it up.
At the starting line

Suddenly, though, I realized we were headed down. The biggest hill of the race was OVER! A big downhill for mile 2, and when I reached the mile 2 marker, I had done the second mile in 11:40. I'd made up the time from mile 1, but that was too fast, so I slowed down some. At this point, I was getting hot and I took off my arm warmers in mile 3 and tied them to my belt. There were spectators everywhere, but I didn't want to use too much energy cheering. Some would yell "Go Fleet Feet!" and others would yell "Go Baltimore!"  Sometime early in the race, someone seeing my "Fleet Feet Baltimore" shirt yelled "It's ok, I have flat feet, too. Don't be ashamed, Sweetie!" LOL, I got a good laugh out of that one. My average pace at the 5K mark was 12:48, right on pace. I was so pleased and feeling great.

Miles 5-9
Brooklyn was nice. There were tons of spectators, and the road was divided. The green corrals (my side) were on the right side of the road, and the blue and orange corrals were on the left. The blue and orange runners were faster though, so the left side had cleared out. I took the first opportunity that I could to cross over to that side of the street, and then I didn't have to worry about weaving through crowds or that someone would crash into me when I took a walk break. I was basically on my own on that side of the street. I was still feeling good. There were so many bands and spectators that I had to leave my watch on the intervals screen rather than chrono so that I could tell when it was time to take a walk break. I certainly couldn't hear it beep.
It was at mile 6 where the trouble started. I started to notice that my stomach was just aching. Not a good sign. I was so early in the race, I didn't know what to do. I just kept following the plan, keeping up my pace and doing my thing. I was eager to see Todd and my friend Davida at mile 9. At the one hour mark, I had eaten half of  my bag of Power Bar Energy blasts, and I was taking water at every water stop. The stomach though, just kept hurting more and more. I thought it was gas, so I tried to make myself burp (Maybe TMI, sorry). It didn't work. I'd pass a CVS or Walgreens and think, "I have $40. What can I buy in there to make myself feel better?" I tried talking to my stomach in my head What do you want, stomach? What can I give you to make you feel better? It kept right on aching. At the 10K mark, though, I was at a 12:36 per mile pace, so I was still on track, and doing AWESOME.

At the 15K mark, I passed the first Jumbotron where we were supposed to see messages from friends & family, and sure enough, a message from Karen and Bobby showed up! Awesome! This would be the only one of the jumbotrons that was working, so this was the ONLY message that I got to see. That was disappointing, because I was really looking forward to those. Mile 8: 13:13. A little slow, but that's ok. Mile 9: 12:42. GREAT.

Miles 10-20

Immediately after the 15K, there were Todd & Davida! I gave them both a hug and stopped for a photo, and then headed on. I was happy and cheerful, and didn't let on that my stomach was hurting and that it was really starting be uncomfortable and worry me. Instead, I found myself at the 2 hour mark and ate the rest of my energy blasts. Mile 10: 12:44.

I started skipping water stops because I started to wonder if the stomach ache was being caused by me having to go pee. I'd been going like crazy all morning before the race, so I thought maybe that was the issue. It was NOT the other bathroom issue, I didn't have to go like that. But, I just didn't know. I was starting to be worried about eating, so even when people were giving out candy, I didn't take it for fear of hurting my stomach more. I was teetering on the edge of complete misery. I was watching for a bank of potties with no line, but was not finding one. And frankly, I was getting tired of being in Brooklyn and was ready for something new.

At a glance, I don't think that the elevation profile of this course looks too bad, so I was not worried about it. That being said, what I had heard was correct - the constant upward gentle grades were irksome and irritating. They were really making my life difficult, and I was longing for some solid flat parts. To be honest, there weren't many, and I was just constantly feeling like were going up, down, up, down, up, down. UGH. My stomach was REALLY hurting, and my mile 11 time showed it: 13:21. Mile 12: 13:03. Around this point, I saw my running friend Keely, whom I was really shocked to see. I was sure I'd miss her since I didn't know where she'd be.

Just before mile 13 (at the Pulaski Bridge) were a bunch of potties with NO LINE, so I jumped in one and took a quick potty break. Mile 13: 13:34, and I was in Queens.

The potty break did make me feel a tiny bit better, but to be honest, it didn't seem like I really had to go. At least I could drink freely again. I took my last photo at that point, because I couldn't focus on anything else except my stomach, wondering where I'd see Todd next, and trying to get my pace back into my goal range. At 3 hours, I ate a pack of Sour Patch Kids, worrying that I would upset my stomach even more. I thought it made my stomach feel better for just a little while. Mile 14: 13:15.

Then came the Queensboro Bridge. I was still feeling a tiny bit better (at least manageable) at this point, but it is a pretty big hill. Nearly everyone was walking, but I was faithfully doing my 1:1s, focused on getting my pace faster. Mile 15: 13:38, Mile 16: 13:14, which I think is pretty respectable given that this is the second biggest hill on the course. I was still not quite over my goal pace overall, so I thought I could make up some time in Manhattan.

First Avenue in Manhattan was a madhouse. A madhouse. There were people everywhere, spilling onto the street, crowded in the doorways of bars, up in the balconies of buildings, EVERYWHERE. I was starting to feel miserable and horrible, and I wasn't going to see Todd until 102nd street. All I could focus on was getting there, but the course was deceptively hilly through there. Just constant upward grades. Mile 17: 13:08, Mile 18: 13:20.

I saw Todd at 102, which was about halfway through mile 19. I told him that my stomach was hurting, but I still felt like my legs were ok, so if I could just figure it out... The whole race had been such a fight against my stomach and it was really dampening my spirits. I really couldn't even enjoy the crowds and the city. Todd wished me well and I carried on. Mile 19: 13:32.

At this point, we crossed the Willis Ave Bridge into the Bronx. My overall time had climbed above my 5:40 goal, so I was really getting frustrated. I KNEW that I could do better than this. Around this time, I passed the 4 hour mark and ate a packet of Sour Patch Kids. This time I was sure of it - I was feeling better after the candy. That was it, I was HUNGRY. UGH UGH UGH. And I started getting hungry around 12:30 or 1:00pm, right when I normally eat lunch!!!!!!!! I was so mad that I hadn't caught on to this earlier. So... at this point, I downed all of the rest of the food that I was carrying, which consisted of two more packets of Sour Patch Kids and four Starbursts. I was annoyed at myself for not taking the food offered by spectators earlier in the race. I have to be honest - I immediately felt better, and my stomach was fine. Overjoyed, I tried to enjoy the Bronx.

Miles 21-26
Mile 20: 14:16. WTF? Didn't I just say I felt better??? I was so pissed when I saw that mile time. I had been thinking about switching my intervals since getting onto First Avenue, and that did it. I switched to 30:30 intervals. I became angry and determined Kim, and I forced myself to go faster.

I had been really doing some negative talking to myself for much of the race at that point. I was mad that I was feeling so terrible. I needed to turn that around. For every single interval from that point forward in the race, I would start running while saying to myself It's just 30 seconds, just run a little bit faster than you feel comfortable running. Just a little bit faster. Just a little bit. I'm not kidding, it was the same mantra on every run interval for the next 6 miles.

Mile 21: 13:53. NOT good enough. It was weird, I would pass every mile marker thinking "Yeah, that was awesome. I was really pushing, this was a good mile." and then I would look at my watch to see myself STILL above my goal pace. I was back in Manhattan at this point, and there were some reasonably flat parts, but there were some brutal hills ahead in Central Park.

Mile 22: 13:45. Ok, I was feeling like if I could just pull out a couple of faster miles, I could get my time as close to 5:40 as I could, maybe even under 5:40 (I was hopeful, and I couldn't really handle math at that point). Around this time, I saw Todd again, and I told him how bad I was hurting. My body just wouldn't go faster. My legs were tired, and I was tired. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't go faster.

Mile 23-24: 13:40 average. Todd had said, "Is there anything I can do for you?" my response: "Yes, make this end." He told me I was almost done. Almost. The hills were starting to be pretty brutal.

And then it was like, holy crap, can Central Park take any longer? It was being a tease. From the course video, it sure did look like we were in it for a long time, but really we were just running around the outside. I wanted to be inside the park!

Then, I was inside the park, and I was just trying so hard to get myself faster. I can't even tell you about this, words cannot communicate how hard I was pushing myself during these last few miles. I was repeating my mantra, thinking about FAST, just trying to GO FASTER. I so wanted that 5:40, but I knew I wouldn't get it at this point, so I was just trying to stay as close to it as I could. Mile 25: 13:23.

Woa, the last mile smelled like crap. It was right were the horses usually line up in Central Park and EW! I was so close to the end, I could feel it. I was so ready to be done. Mile 26: 13:30

I tried to run it in, and in fact, I turned off my intervals at about 25 1/2. I kept having to walk. At one point, I bumped a French lady, and I told her sorry, and she said, "Sorry? What are you doing? Come on!!" because I was starting to walk again. I was probably running for around 40 seconds and then walking for 15-20 seconds at a time. I was doing my best to run non-stop, but I had to walk here and there.

At last, the finish. I HAD MADE IT. Final time: 5:46:40. A new PR. Not quite my goal.

I crossed the finish line and heard an announcer say "Someone will give you your medals ahead!" and I was like, hey, that's right, I get a medal! Awesome! I was so emotional that I don't think I was thinking clearly. I got my medal and started to cry (because I was happy to be done, and because I wanted to see Todd, but I had to wait to see him), and then had to get myself together so that I could get my photo taken. Then, I got  my space blanket and goodie bag (Yum, food), and then got in with the hoards of people trying to get our bags and get out of Central Park. I was totally prepared for how long this would take, but apparently no one else was, because they were all bitching at each other. I was just happy to be eating something, although I was eager to sit.

I found Todd at 77th street, and we caught the Subway (stupid people don't give marathoners their seats) and headed back to Jersey on the train. I washed up at the hotel and then we went back to Bill's where Terry had prepared an awesome surf & turf meal. It was delicious, and I enjoyed a glass of wine and we all watched "The Walking Dead" together.

Not much to say, we headed back to Maryland, and I took advantage of the nice weather to give my bike a bath. Tonight, Todd and I had a celebratory dinner out (since his huge 3 month work project is over also, yay!).

At first, my TLDR version at the beginning of this post was a lot more negative, and I've been a little negative on my race performance until I wrote all of this out and really stepped back and looked at how I'd worked through my issues. I mean, I was feeling MISERABLE and still toughed it out. I maintained a PR pace through a rough course and feeling bad. How awesome is that? I think I can be really proud of this race, especially given that I earned myself a new PR. That being said, I don't think I'd want to do New York again. I'm glad I did it, don't get me wrong. It's a bucket list race that's for sure. I am so happy to have done it and been involved in such an awesome race, but my next race will have an earlier start time.

So, another end to another marathon year. I am not set to do a marathon again until 2013. New York, I love ya. Thanks for welcoming me to your town.

And a thanks
Thank you to Davida and Keely for being out there, and thank you to everyone who wrote on my facebook wall or commented on my blog posts wishing me good luck! Most of all, thanks to Todd for doing everything possible to help me have a wonderful race weekend. I've got an awesome husband. I love you!

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misszippy said...

Congrats Kim! Way to tough it out. It sounds like looking back, you are starting to feel good about it and you should!!

Kitzzy said...

Wow! That does sound tough, yet incredible. Sorry you didn't run the race you wanted, but you still did amazing and gave everything you had for that PR! You earned it so be proud of that! I can't wait to do this race, but like you it will be a one time thing. The logistics, from getting in to the corrals, to the wait, to the race itself, sound maddening.

James said...

Great job Kim. I know you're proud. Now that it's over, would you recommend NYC Marathon to others?

Kim said...

James, I would recommend it. It's a huge race and the whole thing with the stars and the elite athletes and the HUGE deal that the city makes out of the race really makes you feel special. It's like you're involved in something awesome, and YOU are an important part of it, even if you're only one of 47,000. That being said, the whole fiasco with the transport to the start and the long wait for the beginning of the race (you have to be fairly fast to be in Wave 1 or 2 - at least a 4-hour person), means that you really have to think through and plan all of that. It's also a huge expense - hotels on Manhattan are $400+ per night. You really have to be ready for a big, crazy race and not something low-key.

Marlene said...

Congrats Kim! NYC MARATHONER! Nice PR! Sorry that you had a tough day out there... stomach aches/pains are so hard to read. Too bad it wouldn't just say 'FEED ME!' Way to hang there to the end! Great report.

abbi said...

Congrats on your PR...too bad about all the stomach issues along the way. I'm sure that sucked but you gutted it out! I loved reading all the details you included, like the messages on the jumbotron, the hotel door sign, etc!!

Kandi said...

Congrats on your new PR, Kim! You really earned it!

lindsay said...

Congrats on the new pr! Sorry it didn't go as well as hoped but you have a shiny new pr and deserve a pat on the back for toughing it out - not easy! Glad you're being level headed looking back on it, no need to dwell on woulda coulda shouldas. You should know you're still awesome!

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