It has been just over a month since the race and I’m finally sitting down to write down my thoughts on what was an awesome experience in NYC.
I flew into New York on the Friday afternoon before the race and met my parents, who had flown in from Texas to watch race, at LaGuardia. We got all settled in our accommodations and enjoyed a great dinner before heading off to Broadway to catch “Waitress”. After the show I went back to my neat place just steps away from Central Park. I somehow managed to score an awesome Airbnb a few months ahead of the race that was in a great location right less than a mile away from the finish line of the race in Central Park. It was a cozy one bedroom apartment on the 4th floor of a brownstone and really helped to give me an authentic Manhattan experience while I was in the city. (If you need a place to stay for an NYC trip hit me up and I’ll be happy to share the info on this place for you, it is great!)
I woke up on Saturday morning and headed over to Central Park for an easy 4 mile warm up run. It was a cool, misty morning and an awesome experience to run through Central Park. As I was running, I was thinking to myself, if I wasn’t running the marathon tomorrow this little shakeout run would be one of the highlights of my trip!
The main focus on Saturday was getting to the expo to pickup my bib and shirt and explore all the awesome vendors assembled at the Javits Convention Center. There was a great energy in the building as all the runners converged and a lot of great photo ops at the expo as well!
After the expo it was time to grab some yummy pizza and relax in my parent’s hotel room while watching Aggie football on TV. We finished off the day with a good dinner and it was back to my place to attempt to get some sleep before race morning dawned.
Getting To The Race
After tossing and turning through the night, I got up at 5:00 to get dressed and start my journey to the starting line for the 9:50 starting gun. It was a short walk over to catch the Subway and about a 30 minute Subway ride down to the southern tip of Manhattan and the Whitehall Ferry Terminal. Once I got to the terminal I joined the swarm of other runners waiting in line for the next Staten Island Ferry to arrive. I found a good seat on the outside part of the ferry and had an awesome view of the Statue of Liberty as we crossed the harbor to Staten Island.
Now that the train and boat leg of my journey was complete, I stood in line for a good 15 minutes or so to add the final mode of aided transportation before it was all up to my legs, the bus. Over an hour later I finally stepped off the bus at Fort Wadsworth at the athlete’s village with just under an hour left until start time. That’s right, it took me almost 4 hours from the time I woke up and got dressed to get to the starting line, which was less than 20 miles away as the crow flies…. Despite the long time, it was a fun to experience all the different modes of transportation in NYC and quite impressive to witness the logistics it takes to get over 50,000 people to the starting line and off on their race.
All the months of preparation and the long travel led up to the race I’ve been waiting to run for quite some time. It was an absolutely perfect morning weather-wise with sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 40s/low 50s with just a light breeze. I made my way to my starting corral 30 minutes before the start and did the best I could to get loose amongst a huge crowd. About 15 minutes before the race they let us start the walk up to the start of the bridge and the starting line. After the national anthem and a few speeches the gun finally went off and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” began to blare over the loud speakers.
My corral was slated for the bottom of the bridge and it took two or three minutes to get to the starting line after the gun went off. It was a pretty amazing feeling finally crossing the starting line of such a huge race after the last couple years dealing with knee problems. The excitement didn’t wear off too quickly as I fought through crowds heading up hill for the first mile to the middle of the bridge. I had been worried that being on the bottom of the bridge was going to impede the views of the New York harbor and Manhattan skyline to my left, but those concerns were unwarranted. The views on that clear morning were awesome and it was a pretty cool experience to see the fire boats blasting their water cannons off in celebration of the start of the race. By the time I got down off the bridge at two miles I had managed to get into a bit of a rhythm and settled into my desired pace of 7:50 – 8:00 miles for the first half.
The crowds throughout the race were incredible and the first few miles off the bridge in Brooklyn were no exception. The amazing energy made those early miles click by easily and I kept cruising along around a 7:55 average right on plan. I felt like I needed to hold back a little at this point so I thought things were going pretty well. Coming off the bridge into Manhattan around Mile 16, I knew that my plan was to start ramping it up a little bit if I felt ok. Did I feel ok? That is hard to say, I definitely felt like I had the ability to pick it up a little bit, but it wasn’t as easy as I hoped it would be. I should have realized that was a sign that the end might not go as well as I wanted it to, but I still managed to reel off 3 sub-7:45 miles from 17-19 before I entered the Bronx. Around Mile 20 I knew it was starting to get tougher but I was still able to keep to my planned pace and was ready for the fight to the finish line.
And then comes The Wall…. In all my marathons I have run, I have managed to meet The Wall at some point between Mile 16 and Mile 22. One of the big positives of this race was that I met the wall at the latest point so far, right around 22.5 miles into the race. What is The Wall you might ask? I’ll skip the physiological definitions to tell you how it feels. While running long distances at a fast pace is never easy, when you come upon the wall, the ability to keep your legs churning disappears and your will power completely evaporates. At that point in the race I only had a vague sense of where I was and what I was doing. You keep moving forward, but it feels like there is no way you can continue running. I took a couple short walking breaks as I came through water stops and struggled through Miles 24 and 25 at just over 10:00 minute pace. I knew that my A and B goals were out the window at this point, but I felt pretty confident I could still manage my C goal of coming away with a PR. I dug a little deeper the final mile and pulled off a 9:30 mile to come to the finish line with a final time of 3:34:40, 80 seconds faster than my previous PR!
If I look back to what I thought I could accomplish at the beginning of this training cycle, I really have to be quite thrilled with my performance in this race. I didn’t have anywhere close to the base that I would prefer to have before starting a training cycle thanks to my knee injury. I had to cut my plan down from 18 weeks to 12 weeks and decreased my peak mileage from a planned 55 miles to the mid/upper 40s instead. With all of that in mind, I still was able to pull off the fastest marathon I’ve ever run on a pretty difficult course in NYC thanks to the ups and downs of the bridges and the hilly final miles through Central Park. While there is definitely some disappointment from not reaching my A or B goals and not being able to hold on to my pace those final miles, I couldn’t really ask for much more given the circumstances.
So what’s next in this journey? I obviously still have plenty of time to shave off for my goal of a BQ, almost 35 minutes, so how does that happen? The main thing in mind for me right now is to maintain consistent training and to build off the experience here and get ready for another marathon test in 2019. I took the first week after the race pretty easy, and have slowly ramped my mileage back up to 25 miles a week over the last month. My knee has bothered me a little bit more than I would like the last week, so I’ve taken a little bit of a break to hopefully get it feeling better. My plan is to keep a base mileage of 25-35 miles a week for the next few months while I figure out what my next marathon is going to be. I will probably run the Garmin Half Marathon in April and a marathon sometime late spring or early fall. I can’t wait to see what the next one brings!