Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 11: Breezing Through New York (2014)

After Boston, what is left for a runner? Well, plenty! I spent the next two years knocking off bucket list items:
Ran my first ultra - 50K in Portland!
Joined a trail running group, the Santa Monica Mountain Goats.
Climbed to the top of a mountain - Mt. Baldy
Got into coaching, helping PegLeg go from a newbie to a 3:46 marathoner
Crewed at the Western States 100
Ran the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
Did my first big relay at Hood to Coast
and I got to run in the biggest marathon in history, with over 50,000 others at NYC.

Here is my race report:

New York, New York, it's a wonderful town. And I got to run across all 5 boroughs with over 50,000 like-minded maniacs. This race was everything it is hyped up to be. Despite cold, windy conditions that apparently cut the crowds down quite a bit, it seemed like a big crowd to me, and I loved it!

The dear wife and I hit the expo on Saturday, and it was crowded! But everything was still smooth and fast.

We ran into Katherine Switzer, and she was very nice. She's a hugger. Buy a book, get a hug.
I managed to meet up with most of the Loopster contingent there. MJ and I posed for the paparazzi.

And we grabbed Cheeky Runner out of the pacer station for a jumping pic. Because when you meet her, you have to get a jumping pic, right? Our camera failed, but maybe someone out there has a better one?

It was nice to see some familiar faces. KeepRunningGirl came down even though she wasn't racing, probably to absorb some Loopster mojo for her 50-miler. And 50Stater (Omar) popped in to get his state count to 20 (I believe). He is doing 3 marathons in 5 weeks I think!

Then we met up with Fenwick Razzleberry, Christine.Eliz and Jen.M.Yee (all new meets for me)! It was great to meet them, and of course they were exactly like I expected them to be (osom). We braved the cold and rain and headed downtown for a tasty lunch. We talked about the weather and what to wear and race strategy - the usual. And probably a bunch of other cool stuff that I forgot about. And the obligatory photo op.


Race day!

I was staying in New Jersey at my brother's house, and he dropped me off at the start, which amazingly was very simple! The site does not encourage it, saying you have to take the assigned buses or ferry, but I would have had to be at the bus before 6AM. Instead we drove right up on side streets after 7:30 and I got out a block away from where the buses were unloading. Piece of cake! It was low 40's and VERY windy so I was bundled up in throw away sweats, gloves, hat and a garbage bag.

I found my way in through security, where we had to take off our watch for the metal detectors. It was smooth and everyone was in good spirits. Still lots of time to kill before my 10:05 start. Seemed like 1/3 of the runners were international types. It was cool to see the flags and uniforms and hear all the languages. Everyone was excited to be there! I got some free coffee and bagels and a banana and relaxed for a while. But first, let me take a selfie.


The other Loopsters were nowhere to be found, due to later start times, so I just chilled. Or tried not to. Eventually we moved into a corral and started stripping down as we walked onto the bridge. Nervous chatter and lots of smiles. The bridge is a unique and cool start to the race. And the ridiculously gusty winds made it quite the adventure! I was near the front of wave two, so once we got going, I had plenty of space and enjoyed the parade! People were holding up their phones and filming the start or taking pics as they ran. It was fun! Kind of like this:

Bridge start
The wind on the bridge was insane. Gusts would literally move me over by a foot or two, or knock my foot into my other leg. A few hats got blown off. I was trotting and laughing and smiling. The view of Manhattan was incredible. Most people were too serious, but I was having fun, even put my arms out like an airplane for a while. Just enjoying the moment and trying to go slow on the uphill first mile. Check out the whitecaps. This is about how busy it was where I was running.


Race strategy: My goal was sub 3:40 (8:20 pace). I wanted to try and start slow to delay the inevitable bonking, since my training was less than perfect. I averaged 35 miles/week for the last two months, so I didn't really have the endurance for 26.2. But I was close. I figured I would just run easy as long as I could, have fun, and hope I didn't fade too bad. Of course my "easy" long runs usually turn out to be about 8:00 pace because I have a hard time backing off....

I don't have all my splits because after the race my Garmin decided to delete them all. But I was watching during the race, so I'll give my best memory of them. Plus I have the 5K splits from the website.

We crested the hill on the bridge before mile 1, and I was just over 9:00 pace. Yay! Good job! Then mile two was coming down the bridge, and it was steep! And the wind was more behind us then blowing at us, so mile 2 was 7:40. Oops! I was trying to relax and go slow! Promise!

By now the sun was out and the 45 degrees felt pretty nice. I ditched my hat, extra shirt and gloves by early in mile 3 and was down to shorts and a tee, plus calf sleeves. I was very comfortable and was surprised by all the clothes people continued to wear for the whole race. Temp was perfect. I never got hot or sweated much, but wasn't cold either.

Brooklyn was awesome. People lined every road and cheered. A lot. They really made it fun and easy to enjoy the run instead of thinking about silly things like fatigue and pain. As I tired, all I had to do was acknowledge people with a smile or nod, or stick my hand out for high fives, and I would get instant bursts of adrenaline. I probably slapped hands with over 100 people. It always picked me up.

I hit 5K in 25:15 or 8:07 pace, which meant I was now running sub-8. I would try to relax and ease off, but 7:55 felt pretty easy. The next 3 5K splits to 20K were at 7:55, 7:49 and 7:55 pace. Just cruising. I hit the half in 1:44:10 or 7:57 pace. Awesome. There's a camera guy! Woooo!


The winds were occasionally gusty, but not too bad. I did tuck in behind runners frequently to draft, but never for too long because I didn't want to be creepy. I looked for KeepRunningGirl near her home in Brooklyn but there were just too many people. The sights and the bands and the people made it very fun, even when the fatigue started to set in. By mile 10 I was already feeling tired in the legs. It took some will to keep up the pace. There were a few little hills to get over, and the ups would make me feel like I was fading, but then the downs always replenished my mojo, and my pace would return to about 8:00.


The Queensboro bridge at mile 16 wasn't as steep as I feared. I just took it down a notch and powered on up. Getting tired. but still moving along. The views of Manhattan were great again. And then we got to go down and I looked forward to 1st Avenue and Manhattan.

But the crowds there were almost silent! I tried to wave them up to a frenzy, to little effect. It was the only disappointing part of the race, since I had heard it was so loud there. But it did pick up later. Ritz told me later that the crowds were MUCH quieter and smaller than normal. Still pretty great though.

20-25K were 8:13 pace but that included two bridges and ended at the top of Queensboro bridge. 25K-30K was 7:58 pace. Still got it at 18.6 miles!

It was windier in Manhattan, as the tall buildings made for wind tunnels. I was definitely very tired and my legs felt heavy, but I just kept plugging. My Garmin got messed up on the bridge so I was checking my real time at the mile markers as I was within seconds of 8:00 pace. 2:08 at 16, 2:16 at 17, 2:24 at 18, 2:32 at 19. Then another bridge into the Bronx. It wasn't much, but I was fading. Hit 20 in 2:40:20. 8:01 pace.

This was virtually a repeat of my Boston splits, where I was sub 8 through 18, hit 20 at 2:40, and then fell apart to finish at 3:45. But I felt a lot better today. I hadn't walked at all and didn't really want to yet. And I had kind of promised Ritz I wouldn't walk in Central park, so there was that. But I was slowing. Mile 21 was about 8:35 and mile 22 was close to 9. I did walk through one water stop there to get one last good drink of gatorade. I had fueled pretty well today. Good breakfast, 3 GUs, lots of gatorade. Seemed to be working. 30-35K was 8:38 pace.

We got to 5th Avenue and it was a mile long hill before getting into Central Park. And the hoped-for tailwind now that we were going South seemed to have turned around. Worst winds of the race. One gust at an intersection was like 50mph crazy! At this point I wasn't looking at my pace. I was just committed to keeping running, and not walking. And that helped me pass a lot of people. I slowed, but I was still moving OK and felt like I was going to do this. And I knew my family was in the Park waiting for me.


DW made me a sign. And my parents drove up from North Carolina for the race. For 30 seconds of seeing me trot by. Crazy.
I FINALLY crested that long 5th avenue hill and got into the pleasant Central park curving road and some downhill. I was past mile 24 now. I knew I was going to beat my goal and get a good time. I just needed to hang on and get it done. Because I was really fricking tired! Still, no real blisters, no cramps, no chafing. Just very sore muscles. Then I saw the family and swung over for some high fives. I didn't want to stop for even a hug, because I was worried about cramping or losing the little momentum I had, so I kept on plugging.

Then there was only about 1.5 miles to go, and I just had to keep on swimming. One step at a time. I didn't feel good. I didn't look good. But I was happy.

35 to 40K was 8:54 pace, and the last 2K were 9:29 pace. Yes, I was fading fast. I actually started to get blurry vision in the last mile, and foggy brain, and tingles in my back. I thought maybe I would be that guy who collapses at the finish line. So I slowed down more to be safe and just shuffled to the finish, where it all got better. I had seen these finish roads often on TV over the years, and now it was me turning that corner, me climbing that little hill, and me throwing my arms up at the finish!


Still flying!

3:36:02, 8:15 pace. Considering the hills, the winds, and my minimal training, that was an A+ result for me! I was ecstatic. May be the most fun I've ever had in a marathon. Placed 5,655 out of over 50,000!

I survived the long walk to the poncho and met up with my family. We walked to a friend's penthouse not far away, where I was able to shower and relax. My legs were not bad for post-marathon! I ended up walking over a mile that night and felt fine. After a bit, DW and I met up with the NYC Dashing Whippets party. Because I was not coming to New York without seeing Ms. Ritz!

Had a great burger and a beer, and ran into this Loopster.


And Ms Ritz hung with us for a while and shared her race story. Always so much fun to be with her. And I got to meet her husband too. Bonus!
 All in all, a wonderful weekend! Thank you Big Apple! Hope I can do it again sometime!

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 Next: Episode 12: L.A. Brings the Heat (2015)

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