"I have arrived. I am home. In the here. In the now. I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell." --Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, November 7, 2013

NYC Marathon - Tough, But Proud

This was not the race I had in mind when I signed up for ING New York City Marathon earlier this year. I had many opinions and thoughts about the race that ranged from negativity to excitement, to getting a marathon PR, but things do not always play out the way you want them to go, especially in racing.

Bibs in hand!
Two weeks before this race, I was supposed to run the Runner's World Half, but was unable to start due to a foot injury I picked up (read about that here). Right away I though about this race and there was no way I was not starting this marathon. After all, I did spend $260 and that was not going to waste. I would start no matter what. I took 2 weeks off from running. I rode my bike 2-3 times and went on a short 4 mile test run where my foot was feeling a bit sore but ok. There was no doubt that I would start and finish NYC Marathon. But let's start at the beginning.

Police Escort
Amy, my brother Dino and I, were all running NYC as members of the team ING. What that meant was that we got some perks with our race, which was a bus for the team, heated tent at the start, meeting area at the end, and bunch of ING goodies. I am so glad that we were part of this team, and I can't imagine doing this race without some of the perks. In fact, I would refuse to do it again, unless I had certain things. Call me spoiled.

We got up to New York on Friday night, went out to dinner, and had a nice relaxing evening with my brother and his wife Jenna. We even got to sleep in the next day which is a great feeling when you have kids that like to wake up at the crack of dawn. Saturday was spent by going from ING Team check-in to the marathon expo, and some lunch refueling in one of the NYC's many delis. Marathon expo was simply great. There was added security, but everything was moving quickly. This was definitely the biggest expo I've visited, so we all spent time walking around, grabbing some free goodies, and checking out the latest gear. I even won a free entry to the Puerto Rico Marathon! It is yet to be seen if I make that trip. Saturday night was another quiet and relaxing night where we sorted everything out for the next morning 5 am wake up call. By the way, my foot was feeling fine after a long day of walking around.
Hobos ready to go! Donation bin clothes in tow.
Too early!
Sunday morning. 5am and "What Does The Fox Say" ring tone is blasting and signaling that it is time to wake up and go. Considering we had 5 hours before the start, we got dressed, got some baggles and coffee and headed out to the Hilton, where we would pick up the team ING bus for our ride to the start at the foot of the Verrazzano bridge on Stenton Island. The bus ride was actually very cool. Getting a police escort with flashing lights and all, and running through the red lights in NYC was such a great experience. The ride took about 40 minutes. As we made our way over the bridge, we could see the runner's village and the start line.
Getting in
The sheer number of people there was simply amazing. Even with additional security, we moved quickly and after wondering around for a while we made it to our team tent. It was idiotic not to look at the map before, but we just didn't realize how big this whole village was going to be. Not looking at the ING map would prove to be idiotic at the end as well as we couldn't find the meeting place right away.The runner tent was just comforting, with music playing, heat being pumped in, food, drinks and port-a-pottie lines being super short. On the way there, there were people lying around everywhere, huddled under blankets and extra clothes, just trying to relax and wait for their start time. Let me tell, I did not envy them at all. It was cold and I could only imagine how awful it was to sit outside for hours waiting for start.
Start village from the bus

We were in the Wave 2 that started at 10:05am, and around 9:15 we made our way to the corral, that actually shut down at 9:35. Next thing we knew, the cannon blasted, scared the crap out of us and we were on our way. Even though, we had to wait forever to get going, it really didn't feel that long. "New York, New York" was blasting as we took off and it was just great. Such a nice start. Everyone super excited, screaming, taking pictures and discarding a boat load of clothes.
In the corral, ready to go
We agreed that we would run together for as long as we can, as everyone had in mind breaking 4 hours. Well, we stayed together for 1 mile. As we were cresting the bridge, which was amazing, with great views all around, we separated. Amy took off ahead being a speed devil and a fast starter that she is, Dino followed, and I hung back. I would not see those 2 again until we reunited at the end. I didn't want to push it too hard as my foot was still on my mind. And sure enough, around mile 3 or 4 I was already feeling the pain on top of my foot. The first thought, was great, already, son of a bitch. Over the next few miles the pain intensified, but then it leveled off. I was still running under 9 minute miles. Even with the pain, I was making a progress, and I was thinking I can do this. Keep up this pace and 4 hours is manageable. I reached half way point in less than 2 hours. Shortly thereafter, I could feel cramps, tightness and tingling developing in my left leg. Panic mode. Quick regroup in my mind and the goal was bumped to plan B. Finish the race. At this point I stopped caring about 4 hours. I just wanted to finish. The 59th St bridge at mile 15-16 was a bastard and it really took a lot for me to keep going. At this point I was starting to feel down and doubt myself. I was forced to take walk breaks and my pace significantly dropped. I was trying not to look at my pace so I switched the watch to Time Elapsed mode. Relentless forward progress was all that was in my mind. I did more running then walking until about mile 23 and the incline on 5th ave. At that point I walked for few minutes at the time and ran when I could. I started to get emotional, and I just wanted this race to be done. With less then a mile to go I picked it up and pushed on through to finish in 4:26. Such a great and euphoric feeling running through that finish line. I was spent and my legs were dead. The crowds during the whole marathon were simply amazing. They definitely helped to get me going to the finish. I was not happy with my time, but at the same time I was very proud that I toughed it out and finished this race.
Tough, but Proud
Now, let's talk about my least favorite part of the race and a nightmare that laid past the finish line. I knew that I would have to walk a bit to get to the "early exit" since I didn't check any baggage, but I was not expecting to be walking for over a mile to get out! I was not expecting to walk 10 minutes after finishing just to get a bottle of water! The finish line was freezing, and while the little heat blanket helped somewhat, it was not sufficient enough to keep me warm for almost an hour before I could get my poncho! This is certainly one part where NYRR will need to step it up and come up with a different solution. I guess at that point you are done and they don't care anymore. I will end my rant here by just saying that finish line fiasco would be one of the main reasons for why I would not want to do this race again.

Hobbling, shivering, I eventually made my way to the ING reunion area where I met my brother, Jenna and her friend Emily. Amy got lost in the crowds and actually just made her way to the Hilton where ING was offering free medal engravings (perk!). After getting warm, we also made our way to the Hilton, went out to get some dinner and finally made our way home. Due to the race taking literately an entire day, we decided to stay over one more night and drive home in the morning. That was a great decision as we were in no shape to drive for 2 hours.

Done and proud
Final thoughts about New York City Marathon are as follows. NYC was definitely once in a life time experience. The organization was good for the most part, and I actually enjoyed it more then I thought I would. I had a lot of negative feelings towards the NYRR after their way to late announcement about banning of hydration packs, but I made my peace with it and went into this race with an open mind. Would I do this race again? Definitely yes, but only under certain conditions. It would have to be at the right place and time.  I would certainly recommend it for anyone that wants to experience what it feels like to run the biggest marathon it the world.

As for my current condition four days later, I am feeling ok. My foot is actually feeling pretty good. I still have not decided if I want to start the Philly Marathon in 2 weeks. I will need to make that decision a day before. I can't get a refund for it, so it really doesn't matter at this point. I've realized that my left leg was cramping up due to my right foot hurting. I believe that my gait was altered and I was overcompensating with my left side, which simply did not work for my body.

While I am proud of my finish time and accomplishment, I am incredibly happy and proud for my brother Dino, who ran his first marathon in 3:58, but most of all for my wife Amy who got her marathon PR in 3:55. I am sad that I didn't get to see her at the finish line to celebrate, but there is always a next time as that PR is only a stepping stone towards her BQ.

I ran the race in The One from Altra. Once again this shoe performed great. They are so light that I didn't even know I was wearing them. I also used the Ultraspire Quantum belt that I got only few days before the race. It performed amazingly good. Again, I had no idea I was even wearing it.

My nutrition plan needed to be altered as I trained with Tailwind for the entire summer. Hence, anger against the hydration pack ban. I was going to carry a small bottle with the high concentration of Tailwind, but due to my DNS in the previous race, I did not have enough time to test that solution. I decided to go with VFuel gels which were good. I had no issues using them, and did not take anything else other then just drinking water and Gatorade along the way.

Next up is the Gore-tex Philadelphia Marathon on November 17. At this point I have no feelings about this race, as I don't know if I will even start. Regardless I will be down at the start line supporting if nothing else. Stay tuned for that in 2 weeks time.

sooo cold

We did it. Amy is at the Hilton :(

Recovery time!


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