In the 16 weeks between November 4 and now, I have only run 7 of those weeks, and none of them consecutively. SEVEN!! I know, right? Shameful.
It wasn’t for lack of trying – I had crazy lung issues off and on this winter, coupled with a sore foot from the marathon and a cranky left hamstring. I knew I was not going to break any records with this race, and I made a conscious decision not to stress about it. Therefore my plan was a bit laissez-faire: to have fun, go with the flow, take pictures, shoot the breeze.
But I didn’t want to lollygag it either. As race day approached, those competitive juices started to flow, not to mention the pragmatic side of my brain started twitching. I got into this race via lottery, with supposedly a 10% chance of getting in. The race fee was $117. No way I’m lollygagging a race like this.
I was aiming for laissez-faire without the lollygagging. Sooo…exactly what pace is that?
Two nights before the race, I spoke with Erin, my running coach. One of the things I love about her is that she is endlessly positive and supportive. Back in January, I had wanted to smash a new PR (which is 2:09) in this race, but after my maladies appeared it became clear that I needed to shift focus. She understood my setbacks and we decided I would aim for a sub-2:20 race. To achieve that, I would run at a 10:35 pace (which is a tad slower than my normal race pace) for the first 7-8 miles, then I would see how I felt and either keep that pace or crank it up. I’m a Nan with a plan.
Anywho, my running bud Lori was running this one, too. Due to the 7:30 AM start, we decided to make an overnight in the city out of it.
We stopped at the NYRR Expo to pick up our race packets and numbers, and headed uptown.
As luck would have it, Lori has an friend from high school that lives with her adorable family on the Upper West Side. Kelly (who is also a runner, so she totally gets it) generously let us crash in her living room the night before, saving us from having to get up at 3AM to travel down from Connecticut. So naturally, I woke up at 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. Bah.
After the alarm went off at 5:15, Lori and I got dressed, ate, caught a cab, dropped our bags at the bag-check, and headed off to join the 15,000 other runners in the 22 corrals in the middle of Central Park. That is (amazingly) not a typo: Fifteen-thousand runners in twenty-two corrals. Racing is not for the claustrophobic.
So. Damn. Cold. It was about 28 degrees. Normally, I’m like twenty-eight, schmenty-eight, as I live in New England and duh, it’s cold. But normally I am wearing a giant parka when it’s 28 outside. My parka-less self was bone-chillingly, muscle-stiffeningly, nose-runningly cold from the get-go.
NYRR wanted runners in the corrals by 7:00. With a few minutes to kill, we did a light jog through the park to warm-up (haha, warm up, yeah right). Then the New York City sunrise distracted us from the cold, if only for a few blessed seconds. Then we promptly froze again.
We hopped into our corral, the 16th one back, at about 6:50, waited in line for the port-a-potties (each corral had its own set – pretty genius actually). Finished that, then we waited. And shivered. And waited. And shivered. We could hear from the loudspeaker the race start at 7:30. Then we waited. And shivered some more. Luckily it was about two degrees warmer in the corrals (every degree counts, people), as we were packed in like sardines. Packed! Like if I bent over to stretch my back, my butt would touch the person behind me, or my head would be a little too close to the heiny in front of me. I stretched anyway. And we, the 15,000 of us, willingly put ourselves here, in this position. What can I say? Runners are weird.
Having had so much trouble with my asthma this winter, I was taking no chances. I wore my stylin’ fleece neck gaitor over my mouth, to warm the air as I breathed in. But the gaitor doesn’t stay up unless I pull it up over my ponytail. I say it makes me look mysterious. My husband says it makes me look like I’m at a demonstration ready for the tear gas.
Finally…finally..we’re moving! We shuffle-shuffle-shuffle-jog-stop-shuffle to the start. Lori and I say to each other, “See you at the finish!” And…we’re off!
My legs did not get the memo. Stiffer than all-get-out, I somehow was able to run a 10:20 pace for the first 3 miles. I got passed by a lot of people. Whatevs – I couldn’t go faster if I wanted to. At least it makes for good people-watching. And the people-watching in NYRR races never disappoints. First, this one with the rainbow tutu:
Then, this guy, wearing a Yoda hat, running with a little Yoda sticking out of his backpack:
And finally, a really funny and embarrassing giant head:
Around mile 3, at the top of a big hill, I spotted Kelly! She came out in this mind-numbing cold to cheer us. Mind you, she got to wear a parka. BUT STILL. That, my friends, is a trooper. I think I just made a new friend. She took a sweet photo of Lori…
And a smiley (of course eyes closed) photo of me…
We continued around the loop of the park. I was doing ok, but I just wasn’t quite feeling the love yet. I took a quick pee break around mile 5, thankfully without incident. (Don’t we all have a deathly fear of dropping something in a port-a-potty?) My legs were kinda-sorta warmed up. I took my first GU of the race.
Ah, the magic of a caffeinated GU and some gatorade perked me up very quickly. Next thing I know, I’m all, “I LOVE NEW YORK!” (in my head – I think) and I started to believe I might actually cross the finish line in one piece. I think I can, I think I can.
After mile 6, we took a turn out of the park and onto Seventh Avenue.
Now I know why the race fees were so high. We had the whole width of the avenue! The last time I was in the middle of a completely empty 7th Ave was about 14 years ago at 4 AM, wobbly looking for a
late night early morning eatery with some companions…um, never mind. I’m running down freaking’ seventh avenue, baby! I can see all the way down to Times Square.
I used to work in Times Square (not like that – get your mind out of the gutter) for several years and thought, “Times Square? Over it.” Turns out, it was kind of cool to run past the ole’ 1515 Broadway building:
I admit, the Seventh-Avenue-to-Times-Square part was my favorite. Like some sort of controlled rebellion, a mad event, cheers echoing off the buildings. Just crazy people, thousands of them, running the streets! Bizarre, weird, and oh so fun. Pure, dizzyingly, joyful, fun!
It’s about mile 7. We turned west onto 42nd Street, and I noticed my GPS Runkeeper App had gone berserk, due to the skyscrapers. It whispered in my ear that I was running a 4:30/minute mile. If this were foreplay I’d be happy about someone whispering that into my ear, but alas, it meant that for the rest of the race I’d have to run by feel. Alrighty then.
42nd street was another nostalgia zone for me. Not necessarily due to passing the Port Authority Bus Terminal (where I spent many an hour)…
…but because at the corner of 42nd and 10th, there used to be a building called National Video Center, where I met my husband. That building’s been torn down and in its place is now an apartment building and theater. Meh. I gave it a little wave anyway.
We got to the West Side Highway and headed south. I’m feeling goooood. Yeah, dude…sweet endorphins, man. It’s about mile 8. I ate a Honeystinger waffle. YUM. Alas, no caffeine, but just a little solid food to put in my (now empty) stomach. I felt pretty light, so I sped up a bit. The West Side Highway is a long, fairly straight stretch with a great view of the Hudson River and New Jersey. It’s also purely concrete (instead of asphalt) and it was rocking’ my bones. Despite the concrete, I plowed ahead, a bit faster.
This was also the first time ever where I made a running mix specifically for a race. I planned certain songs for the beginning, middle, and end. “All These Things That I Have Done” by The Killers came on around mile 10. I swear that song gets me EVERY TIME. Seriously, listen to it if you’re unfamiliar. Then, watch this video of the ’84 Women’s Olympic Marathon. It has that song. Then you too, shall understand what this song can do. My surge begins. I can do this. I can do this.
It’s mile 11, and I ate my last GU (caffeinated chocolate, natch) trying to be very strategic and time it for maximum energy impact for the next 2.1 miles. My feet felt excellent. My legs went faster. I came up on Battery Park City…
Well, the GU did its job because I was as high as a kite heading into the Battery Park Underpass. Faster I go.
And if those photos are blurry, it’s because I’m surging like mad. Seriously. In fact, that was my mantra as I was passing hordes of people left and right. Surge. Surge. Where the hell I got this energy I’ll never know and I can’t think about it now because I’m SURGING. All those people that passed me in the first 4 miles? Eat my dust, people! Oh, and that incline at the end of the tunnel?
As I look for Lori, I start wondering about my time, as I couldn’t rely on my Runkeeper app. I was pretty sure I was under 2:20, and I started to wonder if I had pulled off a negative split. What’s a negative split? It’s a quite elusive phenomenon, in which one runs 2nd half of a race faster the 1st half. Usually the temptation is to go pretty fast in the beginning and hope/pray to have something left in your legs to drag you across the finish. You have be patient (which I am normally not) to run a negative split. I checked the NYRR Race app, which I knew recorded splits every 5k. Here’s what I read:
Finish time: 2:17:08 (no PR, but under 2:20…woot!)
1st 5k: 33:05
2nd 5k: 34:42
3rd 5k: 32:19
4th 5k: 30:38 (surge, baby, surge!)
While I don’t have the actual split-in-half times, the above numbers means that I ran miles 6-12 almost 5 minutes faster than miles 1-6. I know I was going my fastest for that last mile. That means the elusive negative split is MINE, ALL MINE!! Take that, pneumonia! Bite me, bronchitis! Suck it, asthma! Laissez-faire? Who was I kidding? I feel pretty badass right now.
P.S. And what about Lori? She slayed her personal record, hit under 2 hours, AND also had a negative split. Now that’s ultra-badass.
P.P.S. Check out all the race photos in which my eyes are closed. Money well spent.