Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Finisher: NYCM 2011

I've been thinking about my marathon memories, enjoying how little signs or happenings make their way to my consciousness.

Like how I finished first in my name group, or how at least half the people who yelled my name yelled Laura! (Oh, don't worry, happens all the time!) Or how great the morning was, relaxed, catching up with friends, waiting for the start of Wave 2 with the other Maura. How much I love New York even more. How awesome it is to run down the chute to the finish line, next to spectators, hands out, getting high fives, hearing people cheer and yell for you! Perhaps the only time in my life I'll ever feel like a professional athlete. It's such a high.

Or how I was convinced for a bout in the Bronx that I might have to finish the race in my socks as something was happening with my sneakers and toenails. How much longer the last 6 miles felt compared to the rest of the race. Or the tapery knee pain that materialized on the Verrazano, that I'm convinced I willed away.

I loved every minute of New York City Marathon, and think I may have spoiled myself by having it be my first and second marathon.

I arrived on Friday afternoon to a gorgeous day. I quickly hit up the expo. I nearly teared up at the ID check desk, fought hard to hold them back when I got my bib. The volunteers from the expo to the finish line were all top notch, kind and professional. Nice job NYRR. I walked around the expo, scoping out the tee shirts. I didn't see anything that wowed me, and really, I have so many. I only run 4 times a week, I only really need 4 shirts. I was making my way through the New Balance both and I ran into Michelle! I gave her a big hug and congratulated her on her marathon finish. It was great to see a familiar face.

I left the expo and wandered to the High Line, as I walked downtown. I know I was suppose to stay off my feet, but FIT was only a mile away, and it would have taken MORE time to take the two buses, so I walked it. Hey, I trained for a marathon. These legs can handle a little street time. The Daphne Guinness exhibit did not disappoint, and I recommend it to fashionistas and couture lovers.

I relaxed on the UWS for a bit with my gracious host, before heading downtown again to have dinner with my lovely friends Heather and Anna, both Editors at Library Journal. We talked books, work, libraries, being a manager, and more. The place I was hoping to carb load at was closed, so we settled on a place in my old hood. A place I walked past every week for 3 years. And never ate there. Bryan was in town, and dining with his buddies so I walked a few blocks to say hi, and then headed back to the UWS to get some sleep.

Hello holy hot apartment. I forgot that October 1, the heat gets cranked and stays that way until April.

Bryan and I walked through Central Park to visit friends on the Upper East Side. It was another perfect day, runners making their way through the park, muscle memory their race pace or just out for their weekly long run. We had a bit of a challenge making our way through the park, many paths were closed because of the freak snowstorm. We eventually cut through it all, as it was starting to be ridiculous how many paths were closed.

Many bagels were consumed on the 30th floor.

I went to the NYCM brunch graciously organized by Erica Sara! So many happy, smiling faces that I missed! Sam, Maura, Erica, Neal, Susan, Josh, Sharon, Daniel Norton (fellow expat NYCer), Lam, Elyssa, Erin, and Claire briefly. I just wish I could have sat down with each one and spent a meal with them.

The rest of the day was spent hanging out, reading, interneting on the couch and carb loading at Gemma.

Sunday! Race Day!
Love that this day coincides with the end of Daylight Saving. I felt like I slept well enough, despite always waking up to see what time it was and getting up a few times to check my iphone against an analog clock.

I got dressed, and headed over to the subway to make my way downtown. I chatted with my seatmate. He was in from Mississippi to run NYC and was very excited. It's one of the things I love about this race- the diversity. It's so international, people from all over come to run this thing.

The ferry was the Staten Island ferry. I enjoyed watching people take photos of Lady Liberty, and shamelessly watched a man figure out how to use his new iphone. I stopped to use the bathroom in the Ferry Terminal and was in and out in ten minutes. However, the line was HUGE when I got out. On to the buses, which take foreevvveer. I was amused by a group of women from Tulsa who were decked out in Lululemon and full face make up. Like, the amount I wear for a fancy event.

I met up with Sharon, Joe, Maura, Steph and a slew of others at the JDRF tent. Whoa- marathoning in style. It was so relaxing and nice to catch up with friends while getting together my Spibelt and talking about goals. Joe was looking so fit and was great to hear about his new son! Steph and Sharon are just two of the best ladies around. I briefly saw Matt Six- barely recognized him in his all black I-like-hanging-out-in-parks-and-creeping-out-ladies sweatsuit. Chatted just enough to give him a hug and a high five and then he bounded off for Wave 1.

Maura H and I were both in Orange Wave Two, so we hung out and chatted in our Corral. I was getting a little concerned about how warm it was. I stripped down to my tank and sock arm warmers even before they moved us to the start. It was really wonderful to spend that time with Maura and Suzanne, a JDRF runner and just take in the day, talk about previous races and share our excitement. As we were at the start line and the cannons went off, we hugged each other and wished each other a good race. We were off.

Staten Island:
The Verrazano. This might be one of my favorite parts of the race. Not because it's the first mile and the least painful, but because it's just runners on the bridge. I'm looking out over all of Manhattan, taking in what I'm about to do. Feeling the sun on my race, knowing 4 months of training ended today, and a race began. I ran close to the edge and just felt thankful to be here. I heard a roaring noise and realized it was the people on the lower deck cheering! The upper deck people started to cheer back. Mile 1 was for us.

Oh, yes. It's on. One of my favorite marathon moments is coming off the bridge and seeing all the runners starting to come together. It's really something to see that many bodies moving in unison.

Miles 2-6
Super smooth running, felt like the miles were just melting away. (Also, all the pasta I had consumed the night before.) The crowds were amazing, hearing my name (and Laura's!) in a variety of accents. At one point, I turned my head and could see the front gate of Greenwood Cemetery down the street. I was so happy and loving it.
At some point, I heard someone yell my name, and not in a spectator sort of way. It was Joe and Erika! They were running together, hoping to push each other on for a time goal. I ran with them for a bit, but their pace was slightly faster than mine, so I said goodbye.

Miles 7-9
More of the same super awesome crowds, which while does really pump one up, it isn't good for pacing. I had to kept reminding myself to slow it down, don't race it now, just run relaxed. Lafayette Street is probably my favorite stretch of the marathon. The spectators are awesome, people 4-5 deep. The church choir. The brownstones decorated. You win, hands down. Thank you.
I saw Bryan and Greg on Lafayette and gave him a big kiss! I think I surprised him as he was fumbling for the camera and I was already back on my way up the street.
Another thing that makes me grin like a fool while running a marathon: witnessing people see their people. The hugs! The screams! Arms waving madly and the hoping up and down.

Miles 9-13
After a sharp turn onto Bedford, the scene changes. It becomes much quieter and thinner. We are running through the well know Hasidic Jewish neighborhood. For the uninitiated, it's a community that doesn't spectate or cheer for runners, but madly dash across the street going on their way. This is no way a judgment, but a fact. I was pleasantly surprised to see slightly more spectators watching this year and even gave a few high fives to young girls. This eventually fades into hipster Williamsburg, complete with ironic signs and day drinking. I loved running past some of my favorite spots, Catbird and Dumont burger, where we dined on anniversary burgers. I laughed at the image of me, in a running skirt and a tank to the spectators, in winter coats, hats, gloves. We ran up through Greenpoint, and I couldn't believe it was the halfway point. The marathon was almost half over, and really hadn't started yet.

Miles 14-16
Queens gets the shaft marathon wise. It's a lot of turns, you're barely in the boro and then a bridge. Pigtails was cheering here, but I forgot to make note of where everyone would be and didn't recognize any of the street names. I caught up with Erica again on the bridge and we chatted for a few, then quietly made our way up the incline. It's a strange part of the race, it feeds into the mania of First Ave, but it's so quiet, less the rhythmic cars driving above you. People start to fall apart, walk where the spectators can't see, stretch out their legs taking in the view. I watched my form and made my way across. The sound of the crowds reached my ears before they came into sight. Sitting above the road pass, my face turning up to look at them, wave a silent thank you.

Miles 16-19
Yay New York! Yay Big Apple! If last year, I thought First Ave was lackluster, this year I was blown away. My only only complaint is that the road is too wide! I like to hug the left side, which is where the majority of the crowds are due to park proximity. I was feeling great, easy running, watching my pace, knowing that I still hadn't gotten into the race yet. I'm really just having an amazing time, and soaking it all in. I think I ran these three miles with a permasmile. I saw Bryan giving out high fives, Nancy (my mother-in-law) and our friends Tom and Emily around 86th and got some awesome high fives.

marathons are FUN!

Miles 20-21
Bronx. Coming into the Bronx, I started to feel some pain every time I stepped on my left foot. This is not a good feeling. Without panicking, I started to panic. How was I was going to finish this race, and while meeting my time goals! Things have been going so well! Don't panic, just step. I stopped on the Willis Ave Bridge, pulled out my baggie of In Case of Emergency Body Glide and slathered my left foot. I lost about a minute of time here, but pushed off and felt my foot sloosh around in my sneaker. It wasn't great, but I was making up some time and moving forward. Coming into the Bronx, I loved the sign welcoming Buzunesh Deba, the Chinese Drummers along the course, somewhat seeming out of place. I was running towards the MetroNorth bridge, as a New Haven Line train passed overhead. I could see the passengers craning their heads to the windows, watching the sea of runners. As this whole race left like a homecoming, the closing of a chapter, this was a definite moment. That was me a few months ago, 90 minutes one way to work, burnt out on a commute and not loving work. How quickly things changed, our space, our outlook, the quality of our days.

Miles 21-23
Oh, I love Harlem so much. It was my first NYC home, where I spectated for two years before running it. My foot started bothering me more and I could feel blisters forming. I tried to refocus on my form, figuring out a way to step so I didn't need to limp and could keep moving forward. I was started to smiling less, and was relying more on the crowd support. By the way of my watch, I knew that a 4:00 marathon was out of the question, but I still had 4:10. I loved the Lululemon cheer squad with their "you're the sh*t" signs. I found myself focusing less on the crowds at the point and just moving forward. After I turned left around Marcus Garvey Park, I left slightly out of body, unable to really focus on anything and maybe lightheaded. I completely spaced out. I quickly checked to see if I was sweating, yes. I had been taking energy regularly and water at every other station. I ripped open another pack of Honey Stinger chews and grabbed some Gatorade at the next station.

Miles 24-26.2
I passed Bryan again around Mile 24 and gave him a gigantic wave and smile. I was feeling tired, was trying hard not to think about my toes. I was sort of glad they didn't spot me before I spotted them, because I was grimacing. (I am writing this nearly 3 weeks after the fact, so the pain has eased its way out of my memory, but ouch.) I was also getting hungry. I'm an inexperienced runner, so maybe there is a way to eat enough in the morning and throughout the race to help you be fueled and not go hungry. Oh my god, I almost grabbed a hot dog, I was so hungry.

note: i'm the only one smiling.

Turning into Central Park is pretty amazing, and there are wonderful crowds all along the way. A little less on the cheery side, maybe they are tired, cold and waiting for their loved one to run by, sooner as to get to celebratory drinks. I had managed to find a happy place with my toes, now they were only bothering me when I was coasting downhill. I grinned turning onto Central Park South, the Apple Store and the Plaza gleaming in the early November sunlight. Birds flying above the fountain, and just people going about their day despite the block party happening across the city. So much of the race was also about memories, and here I thought about when I met Sharon for a long run a year ago, and how we bonded over our families and loss. I felt amazing running along CPS, and near the end of Mile 26, a wheelchair racer was nearly giving up along the course. His guides were shouting at him, the spectators all shouting, "YOU CAN DO IT! YOU CAN DO IT!" His jaw clenched with determination and tears streaming down his face. I shouted along with them for a moment. It was a beautiful moment, of pain, to being so close. I hope he crossed the finish line and felt the glory.
Mile 26 and then the .2. I'm a cheeseball, in case you didn't pick that up by now. And I love high fives. I cruised into the chute, picking up high fives along the way, smiling WILDLY and precrying. It felt incredible to see the finish line, up that slight incline (damn you NYRR!) and cross it, arms outstretched, legs tired, tears already falling and smile wide.

It was glorious, it was 4:09:27, having met one of my goals. I wiped away tears, hugged a fellow marathoner with congratulations and collected my medal and spacecoat. Oh, the pain set it. My toenails were aching.

And I couldn't wait to do it again. Maybe not New York for awhile, but I know I've many marathons in me. Thank you. Yeah New York. Yeah Big Apple.

Favorite signs:
The Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl, I'm waiting for you at the finish line!"
Pain is Weakness leaving the body (when I saw that in Harlem. Yes, I needed that. In Central Park, yes, I needed that.)
On the Bridge into Queens- Unlike the G train, you run! (looking like an MTA card)

1 comment:

  1. Maura, I love this race report. The last section gave me chills! Sad I didn't get to see you that weekend but I know we will again sometime. I think of you and Bryan every time I run on Jane St :)