2017 New York City Marathon Race Recap

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Pure Happiness

I was on the fence about running the New York City marathon after Chicago but I went with it.. shocker…I just couldn’t turn down a Friday evening with a best friend from college who I haven’t seen for far too long and a 26.2 block party through New York City.

I posted on Facebook about my decision (or lack there of )and received a variety of responses but one in particular stood out…”Do what makes you happy.”….Running through the streets of beautiful cities makes me happy.  Traveling for races makes me happy.  Connecting with friends from Instagram makes me happy.  Catching up with old friends makes me happy. Running makes me happy.  The smile in the picture says it all.  Pure and genuine happiness and gratitude.

Over the past couple of months, I have been thinking about different goals and the directions I want to head as 2018 approaches.  I wanted to run NYC as a way of closing this marathon chapter (for now) with a bucket list race.

Race Weekend

I stayed with my friend from college on Friday night and did a Saturday morning shakeout run around Rye, New York while she went to grab us bagels and smoothies because she is the absolute best.  We dropped my car off at the train station and she drove me right into the city.  I hated saying goodbye because I could spend forever catching up with her and because I was not ready to tackle this giant city by myself! 

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The first thing I had to do at the expo was get my transportation to the start line figured out because I just assumed I could casually walk to Bryant park and jump on the bus like it was no big thing.  Nope.  I guess with 50,000 runners, it is more organized than that.  The lady at the runner support desk was amazing and assured me that I was not the only lunatic to mess this up.  She also commented on my predicted time..I think I put 3:10. I quickly and humbly replied that I must have been in a good/confident mood when I filled that out because that was not going to happen.  I mentioned that I was still recovering from Chicago.  She was so excited because she is currently deciding between Chicago and NYC next fall and her goal is to get a PR so she wanted to know which course would help her get that PR so we exchanged contact info so I could report back to her. (I told her Chicago if anyone else in the same boat!)

Race Morning

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A 4:45 wake-up for a 9:50 race is always scary because you have to figure out fueling and you have 5 lovely hours to spend with your nerves.  I brought a bag and had all intentions of checking it but was running late when I arrived to the athletes village so had to ditch it on the lawn.  RIP my wonderful Gap sweats, my chapstick and my $4 Erin Condren black pen…whoever ends up with my bag, please know that you have an amazing pen for grading papers and the most fashionable pair of sweatpants!

When I travel for big races, I don’t worry too much about getting to the start line because I know the second I walk out of the hotel, there are crowds of people walking in the same direction… and only on race morning is it 100% normal to fully trust strangers at 5am.  Well, NYC marathon is different…know where you are going because you can’t trust strangers.  People are staying ALL OVER THE CITY and taking different forms of transportation (bus, Uber, ferry) so there are not a ton of crowds walking in the same direction.

The bus line was VERY LONG…and the bus ride was even LONGER…GO TO THE BATHROOM BEFORE YOU GET ON.  It is comical now thinking about all 30 of us sitting on the bus trying to keep our composure but are dying on inside because we have to pee so bad. The athletes village was within a quarter mile of us for a good 45 minutes but we couldn’t get off the bus until we were right in front of the drop off. Brutal. Now picture all 30 people sprinting off the bus… some rushing right to bag check so they could get to the bathroom sooner… and some throwing their dignity and class out the window and sprinting to any bush they could find.   I won’t tell you what group I was in but if you know me well enough you don’t have to think too hard.  READ: bathroom > dignity

By the time I got through bag check, it was already 8:45.  I had my bagel and banana on the bus around 6:45 and was hungry again so I jogged over to the athletes village, snagged a bagel from the Dunkin Donuts booth and shoved it in my mouth as I made my way to my corral for the last call.  Yes. Last call was at 9 for a 9:50 start.  We sat in our corral for about 15 minutes before we had to walk to the start line.  I met a ton of great women and we filled the time by creating a female barricade so we could all go to the bathroom one last time before the race went off. #girlpower #menhaveitsoeasy #thebeautyofrunning

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The gun finally went off and it was time to see what the next 3 hours had in store for me.  The race started off with a climb over the Verrazano Bridge. Based on all the blogs I read, a big piece of advice was to NOT go out too hard on the climb…and trust me I didn’t. I took my sweet time and just got comfortable with the pace.  The first mile ticked away at 8:27.   I was a bit shocked and thought to myself, I am either going to negative split the heck out of the race or I am going to rock a personal worst.  Mile 2 was 7:16 and now confirmed that neither of those two options were going to happen.  And that right there is pretty symbolic of how the entire race went.  I would have thoughts like ‘oh no! my calf feels tight and it is still early on’ and then 10 minutes later I totally forgot about it.  But of ALL the concerns I had, my left hamstring was NEVER one of them.  YupTHE HAMSTRING THAT ALMOST KEPT ME OUT OF THE RACE WAS NEVER 1 OF THE 4593 CONCERNS THAT CROSSED MY MIND OVER 26.2 MILES.  I sure am happy it was never a real issue but it really makes me question my sanity!

I stayed pretty consistent around the 7:30s and felt stronger than I had anticipated.  The first 10k passed by quickly and I really settled in and found a solid groove.  Whenever I had moments of doubt or negative thoughts creep in, I just told myself to make it to mile 16 where my parents were located.  It was the best mental strategy because rather than counting down from 26.2, I counted down from mile 16 and it was much more manageable.  I hit mile 16, ran down the Queensboro Bridge, rounded the corner onto First Ave and immediately saw them.  It lit me up and gave me so much energy!

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The next benchmark in the race was mile 19 because I knew I had a friend cheering on the Brooklyn Bridge.  She is just an Instagram friend but I knew she would be cheering her head off and her bubbly personality would be just what I needed…and sure enough, it was. I used her energy to power me through 19.  The infamous mile 20 approached and this is where things always get interesting.  This is where people randomly grab their cramped up leg or their face turns to pure agony rather than the usual mile 20 struggle face. After 9 marathons, you would think I’d be used to this part but I am not…it always breaks my heart even though I know they are fine and just experiencing a cramp.

I certainly wasn’t hitting the wall but my legs were getting that weird feeling like they could cramp at any point but were also still willing to grind out the final 6 miles.  I had to keep reminding myself that this is where it is SUPPOSED to hurt.  This where you embrace it, you keep fighting and like Deena Kastor said on a podcast I listened to the night before the race, this is where you DEFINE YOURSELF.  

We headed toward Central Park at mile 23 and although the end felt so close, there were still 3 more miles.  Mile 24 was definitely the most challenging mile with the gradual incline but my mental game was pretty strong because I knew my legs would hold up and I just needed to be able to fight through the pain.  I crossed at 3:22:22 and although it was slower than I had anticipated, I was so happy!   I got a little choked up because the day was just perfect.  Strong running, perfect weather and I really embraced every moment on there.

I had about 2 seconds to celebrate by myself before I realized that I had no idea where my parents were or how far away I was from my hotel and checkout was in an hour…even after spending $50 for late checkout!

Only in NYC do you JOG back to your hotel after a marathon.  City of nonstop rushing.  Thankfully, the front desk gave me an extra 30 minutes so I had the luxury of taking a shower while my parents questioned how they birthed such a messy human helped clean my room and pack my stuff.

We made it out with 15 minutes to spare and stopped for a celebratory meal and mimosa on our way to Grand Central.

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Fact – mimosas taste better after a marathon

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\So now what…

9 marathons completed over last 3 years, 3 of the World Majors and 4 in 2017.  There are so many more I would love to do but it is time to take a break from the distance.  The training is the easy part.  The maintenance, the recovery and the stress are the hardest parts.  I am proud of my accomplishments this year but there is no doubt that I have hit a plateau.  I could blame the heat in all my goal races this year but I am not going down that route.  The truth is, I have become a timid and fearful runner.  It may be due to the injury in the winter or the fact that the marathon is a slower and more conservative race.  It is a long distance and the idea of not finishing is always a possibility.  Before the marathon, I was very competitive in the half marathon distance.  I would still get those pre-race nerves but was never fearful of failing.  I want to go back to those those shorter distances where I trained hard but didn’t worry too much about mileage.  I pushed myself in all my workouts whether is be running workouts or strength training.  I wasn’t  worrying/training cautiously because of a 20 miler coming up or some big long run.  The 13-14 mile long runs were manageable and allowed me to be a faster and more diverse runner.  Plain and simple…I didn’t worry as much and that allowed me to push myself to become stronger and faster without getting minor injuries/setbacks.

I don’t have any concrete goals for the rest of 2017 or 2018 but I do want to find that fire and speed again.  To be completely honest, I think I’ve lingered around the marathon distance for so long because it is easier for me.  It sounds crazy but it is true.  The pain in a marathon is not nearly as painful as the pain in a 5k, 10k or half.  Yes, I am aware that this probably means I am not running it properly or hard enough but I will fine tune those things later down the road.  Right now, I want to have fun with my training, build strength and find some of the speed that I have lost.  Having a blank schedule and training plain and no upcoming races is the most refreshing feeling at the moment!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

To Run or Not to Run – NYC Marathon

I was scrolling through the internet looking for a picture that captures the current relationship between my legs and my brain.

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Yup.

Legs –  “PLEASE! NO MORE MARATHONS IN 2017. “

Mind – “OH BUT IT IS NYC MARATHON! YOU CAN’T TURN THIS DOWN!”

..also Mind – “Be smart!!!

…anddd also Mind – “Ugh that line so irritating. What IS smart.”

If you couldn’t tell from the snippet of inner dialogue that is nonstop over here, the decision to run NYC was not as easy as deciding to run Big Sur.  I have gone back and forth everyday since Chicago.  Just when I accepted the idea that NYC may not be in the cards for this year because recovery has been rough…I had a pretty good run that changed my entire mindset.  

The rough recovery after Chicago started almost immediately.  I was nauseous all afternoon after the race and my back and feet were killing.  The soreness in my legs hadn’t started yet but my back was immediately jacked up to the point where any sneeze, cough or burp would result in the most horrific/ugly pain face in public.

I continued to use my Normatec boots after walking around the city and was hoping to wake up with decent legs. Nope. My quads were destroyed.  We had an early flight and were home by 10am so I attempted a trip to the grocery store.

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This child and I had very similar experiences.

I spent the week foam rolling, getting deep tissue massages and just hoping and wishing for the soreness to be gone.  I wasn’t sore for very long after Boston and Big Sur so by day 4 of soreness I was like WHAT IS GOING ON!

I attempted a light strength training session on Saturday and felt confident that Sunday would be the day I attempt my first short run.  I slept in and was taking my sweet time making it out the door…until my Mom called asking me to bring something to the race that she was timing.  Naturally, my first reaction was, I might as well just jump into the 5k seeing as I will be there, it is supporting a great cause and my shakeout run was only going to be 3 miles anyway.  I headed to the start line and made my way to the back with all the young kids.  Do my legs remember how to do this???

In the first 5 minutes, I could feel that high hamstring ache that I thought I had put to rest back in September.  I ignored it because I pretty much knew this run wasn’t going to be pleasant from the second I put my sneakers on and because this ache has reared its annoying face many times before.  I finished that race and knew that my legs were not ready for more running yet so the following week I swam and did strength classes at Train for Life.  I tried out the new hybrid strength class for the first time on the Monday after the race.  It was not one of my best decisions because the soreness set in almost instantly.  The knots in my quads and hamstrings that I had spent the previous week working out had knotted back up.  Such a vicious cycle…..but I did like the class!!

Long story short, I tried to run a couple more times in the following week and they were all very slow and uncomfortable.  I went into the third week post Chicago ready to take NYC off the table.  I had set Tuesday’s run as the deciding factor but my legs were tired before I even got out the door from heavy strength sessions over the weekend.  Even though my heart was telling me to just call it, I gave myself ONE more attempt.  I took Wednesday completely off to give my tired legs some extra recovery and made Thursday’s run the real test.  I woke up Thursday to pouring rain which made me laugh at how much of a sign this all was.  I felt like the signs were SCREAMING at me and I was like ..

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I set out in the rain just waiting for it to feel terrible.  I was at the point where it seemed easier to have a crappy run, pull out from the race and move on. Simple as that. No more stress. But to my surprise – actually I am not surprised that everything became more complicated – the run was enjoyable and I felt pretty strong and bada** running in the rain.

Don’t get me wrong, I was ecstatic to finally feel a little like myself again, but this meant that NYC was now fair game after spending a good amount of time wrapping my head around my decision to bail on it.

My optimism for NYC grew more on Sunday after a solid 9 mile run along the Cape Cod Marathon course while my friend ran her FIRST MARATHON!  The run felt pretty good and I had minimal ache in my high hamstring after.  I ran another few miles this past week and it felt even better than all my other decent runs.  The race is 3 days away and as of now, I am following my usual taper week schedule, still have my hotel room booked and my travel plans are becoming more detailed and concrete.  But if you were to ask me if I am running NYC, I am likely to respond, “Ohhhhh I dunnoooooo.”  I am pretty sure you could text me the morning of the race as I am heading to start line and my response will be the same.  I am not indecisive at all. No way. Not me.

I am a pretty superstitious person which makes blogging before a race very nerve-racking.   I am always afraid I am going to jinx myself the second I post it.  This post has been sitting in my drafts since Monday.  SO…I am going to end this blog post saying that I am excited, nervous and happy for what is in store for whatever I do this weekend.  I want to explore New York City on foot, feel the amazing energy from the crowd and meet up with college friends.  I have zero expectations and just hope to have a solid marathon.  NYC has always been on my bucket list for years and I was fortunate enough to have run a half marathon time in 2016 that guaranteed me a number for 2017 NYC Marathon.   I do not have a 2018 guaranteed entry time so I will not be eligible for NYC next year.

This opportunity is something I can’t seem to pass up.   I have spent the last few weeks really listening to my body and listening to the signs it has been giving.  I have been trying to decipher between typical tired marathon legs and a brewing injury.  Not an easy task EVER but especially difficult now because I am simultaneously tapering…and we all know taper pains are vicious and real/not actually real.  I did my best to take care of myself and ditch any running ‘plan’ after Chicago so I could focus on recovery.  Prepared or not, we all go into races blind and unsure of how it is going to unfold so here is to another race where all I can do is hope for the best!

It has been 3 great years focusing on the marathon and falling in love with the distance but I think 2018 will be a year of shorter distances and different goals.  I look back at some of my 10k and half marathon PRs and can’t fathom cranking out those times.  I want to prove to myself in 2018 that those times are possible again.  I can’t think of a better way to close put a bookmark in this marathon chapter of my running career than on the streets of New York City.

…but I am registered for Boston 2018 so if I DO follow through with that then disregard that last paragraph 😉