Friday, November 6, 2015

My NYC Marathon 2015 Adventure - 26.2 miles to shedding your doubts

Guess it’s time to get this post done! It’s been 5 days since the marathon and my body is finally feeling back to normal.  Tuesday was the worst.  They say the 2nd day after a big effort is when DOMS hits and believe me… IT DID!  I was so glad I had taken that day off work also.  We didn’t get back home until late Monday night and from the travel and marathon I was basically worn out.  

So here goes the details (it's long so be prepared.. ha):

We arrive in NYC Friday around 5:50pm. I had hoped to catch the ending of the opening ceremonies of the marathon but due to the World Series baseball game and tons of people arriving for the marathon it took us 2X as long to get from airport to our hotel. We arrived after 8pm! I was starving. However, my husband was dealing with bad bout of diverticulitis. It was so bad the night before we left that he debated on me taking him to the ER at midnight.  I was so concerned about him traveling and even told him before we left that morning that I would just go alone. However, he kindly told me he was going and would try not to be a distraction.  I wanted to really cry now.  He knew I needed to focus and not worry about him so he planned to try not to let me know how bad he felt.  So when we arrived at hotel finally all he wanted to do was go to bed. I knew I needed to be eating, but I didn't want to leave him. I had brought some cookies and protein bars in my bag so I grabbed a pack of cookies.  I slept really well for it to be the first night in a hotel. I guess because I had limited sleep during the week with dealing with my husband sick for several days. 

Saturday morning  - I wanted to get to the expo right when it opened at 9am to try to beat the crowd. I had read that so many people would make it into town Saturday around lunch to pick up their bib so it was good to go early. I arrived right on time but so did a million other people. It was so very crowded and HOT!

I had dressed warm because it was 45 degrees when I left the hotel for my 1.3 mile walk to the expo. I tried to shed a few long sleeves but had nowhere to put them so I ended up buying an Asics marathon backpack. I was so mad I left my St Jude backpack in the room.  I ended up buying several items. I really wanted the official marathon jacket. And I got it! For me, it was like I was doing Boston. Which NYC marathon was the biggest last year in the US with over 50,000 finishers!
 I tried to not spend too much time on my feet at the expo because I knew I needed to save my legs for the race on Sunday. I had left my husband in the room and told him I'd be back around lunch. I sure was hoping he would feel better. I quickly grab a picture with one of my team mates on Team Run4TheKids.  We had never officially meet and I was glad to finally be able to do that.  He’s a big marathoner.  He runs several a year.

When I arrived back at hotel my husband still wasn't feeling real good so I decided to take a nap. I had pre-purchased pasta in the park tickets for 5pm and hoped he would be able to go. I really wanted to take in the full marathon experience. I've ran races where you just show up and run.  But when I've done St. Jude in the past and attended the pasta dinner it just makes the whole experience much more memorable.  After my nap, I asked my husband if he felt like walking to the park. He said yes so off we went. It was a truly a beautiful night. It was chilly but the chill felt great. Plus the pasta in the park was at Central Park at the Tavern on the Green. Beautiful setting with lots of lights in the trees. We sat on the patio and it was amazing. The food was hot and very good. You could even go back for more if you liked. The volunteers working were awesome.
They had a cheer line you walked thru going inside where they all gave me a high 5 you and wished me luck. It was super! We headed straight back to room afterwards so I could get in the bed. Sunday was going to be a long day! However we took a different street heading back and ended up right at St. Patrick’s Cathedral so you know I had to stop.  It’s a beautiful church!  We went inside and I sat and prayed. 
I’m not catholic and I know that I can pray anywhere and God hears me, but being inside a church makes it feel a little different in my opinion.  I prayed that Gary would get better and that I would have the endurance to finish the race.  We both sat quietly for several minutes in the church then headed on to the room.

Sunday.... Up at 5am.. Coffee.. Get dressed... Head out to catch my bus right outside my hotel at 6:30am. When the NYRR marathon organization sent me my info packet where I had to pick my race morning transportation which was bus or ferry, I chose bus since it picked up at my hotel. I figured that would be easiest route with me being from out of town. Let me just say that the marathon workers are very strict. I had to show my bib a million times just to get on the bus! And when I walked out, apparently that bus stop was for several hotels…not just mine. The line was a mile long. I had to walk around the block to get in the end of the line. It took 45 minutes to board the bus. Right before you could board there was another security check point... Show bib again and they checked your bags. You were issued a specific bag in which all the instructions said you would only be allowed into start Village with that bag. I’m not sure why some people want to buck the system. Two guys in front of me did not have the proper bag. They were made to dump their bag right there at the gate. One of them empty all his prerace food and toted it in by hand. So it was 7:15 heading to Staten Island. Somehow I ended up on a bus with Brazil and France runners. I think I was the only person that spoke English on the bus! With no one to talk to, I tried to use the time to pray and get my mental focus on. However, one lady In a very bright yellow shirt with Brazil written across it sitting in the back of the bus directly behind me was screaming at another person at the front of the bus most of the one hour ride! I so wished I had picked the ferry as my transportation. You could see nothing on the bus! We went thru tunnels and I was on the inside seat not by the window. 

When we arrived at the start village we had to wait in line for several busses to unload before it was our turn to unload. Once off the bus, I followed the crowd to what looked like a big gate entrance. There were security guards everywhere.  The closer I got to where I could see, I realized it was like an airport TSA check. Everyone had to be screened and they were checking bags and bib numbers again!! I can honestly say it felt like I showed my bib a million times before the race ever started.  Once inside it was huge and very confusing with so many people walking around. I needed to find the blue corral so I was looking hard. I knew I had plenty of time before my wave started but I wanted to find my corral and get settled. I hate being late. Drives me crazy.  Blue corral was what seemed like a half mile walk to the left. I was so happy to finally get there. People were laying all over the ground. It reminded me of a refugee camp. Some were asleep. I walked directly up to the corral gate and the nice lady working told me that I couldn't go in yet. Only wave 1 was allowed. So I asked her what I was to do and she said find a spot and sit here in the staging area. You will be allowed when they call your corral. Now I understand why people were laying all over the ground. We were all waiting. Ha I quickly scanned the area and find me an empty spot on the grass close the fence. I saw people that were propped up against the fence and that looked better than just sitting on the ground. It was now around 9 am. My wave was not till 11 so I had plenty of time to sit and wait. I wondered why they make you travel there so early to just wait. I had to catch bus by 6:30am or find my on way to Staten Island which would have been crazy on race morning. I did see people rushing in when their wave was closing and they would beg the worker to let them in. Some got in and others were told they had to wait till the next wave. I was laying there on the ground at that point so glad I was early. I was right where I needed to be.
It turned out to not be as cold as past races so I was comfy. I had worried about wasting energy to stay warm before the race. Everything I had read said that gloves, at hat, and throw away clothes were a must while you wait. I saw one woman that had nothing but her race clothes (shorts) on and she was shivering the whole time. I felt so sorry for her. When wave 1 started and people shed their clothes, she quickly grabbed a few things that were thrown down on the ground. I was so happy to see her get warm. I tried to talk to her and offer her something, but she kept saying ... NO ENGLISH!  

I really enjoyed just watching and observing people. The excitement was indescribable. I read my note cards my sweet friends made me and prayed. I also ate my peanut butter sandwich, drank a Gatorade, had a half a bagel, and a cup of hot tea. They had tents throughout the village where you could get tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and bagels. I felt so relaxed when they called for my wave. It was now 11am and it was warming up. The sun was trying to come out but kept hiding behind the clouds. I quickly got up, discarded all my extra clothes and entered my gate to the start. It was loud. Everyone was cheering and ready to go. We were the last wave of the race. Luckily I was in C and not Z so I was at the front of the line to start.  The announcer made announcements, someone sang the national anthem and then the cannon fired. Off we went. 

I had read several blogs that runners who had ran the race gave very detailed instructions on the course. I knew the first bridge (Verrazano-Narrows Bridge)
was right out the start gate and it was a steady 1 mile climb, but I was pumped. I was amazed to see two helicopters flying over as we started up the bridge. I had read about it but it so different being there in person. I felt like I was in a movie. My body felt great. I was glad to have done my taper. Plus I was on the top level of the bridge!!! I had worried about being on the bottom level and getting peed on.  Which they say that really isn’t true..but you never know.  Mile one clicked and I had ran it in 9 minutes. I was like .... Oh no... Slow down.... Remember those that start out fast don't have anything left for the end and from everything I had read, I needed energy for the last 5 miles of hills going to the finish. So I slowed my pace way down. I had to remind myself again once we came off the bridge into Brooklyn.  The crowd was HUGE.  It was flat and easy to get caught up in the crowd cheering you.  They say some runners lose it here and will start flying and waste so much of their energy that they need to save for the end.  I kept playing that over and over in my head….. Don’t get caught up in the excitement…pace yourself… you’ll be glad for it at the end.  But it sure was hard!!! Sometimes I’d look down at my watch and be right at an 8 min mile, and would have to slow down to almost a walk to regain my steady average pace.

When I reached the 5K mark, my time was 32 minutes. I felt good and decided to try to maintain that pace. It was comfy. No breathing hard, no exerting, just running and enjoying all the people on the streets cheering.  And let me just say…..when they say 1 million people cheer you…. It’s REAL! There was not an inch of the entire 26.2 miles, except for the bridge where they wouldn’t allow people that was not covered by fans cheering, and bands playing.  It was the most unbelievable thing I’ve ever seen in a race!

Brooklyn is where you run the most miles on the 26.2 mile course.  It takes you to the half way mark (13.1 miles) where you cross another bridge (Pulaski) into the borough of Queens.  I was at a total time of 2:14 (which is a 10:16 min pace).  I still felt really good. Not pushing it. I started to think that I may just run another 4:30 or maybe 1-2 minutes better. However, I kept warning myself to get time off my mind. Run easy... Remember another marathon is just 4 weeks after this one. So I stayed right where I was at on pace. 

Around mile 16 another bridge (59th Street – bridge #3)
and my legs were getting tired.  Not to mention this was yet another hill and no one is allowed on this bridge.  It gets really eerily silent on this bridge.  The wall was hitting me now. The bridge was very quiet because no fans were allowed on the bridge to cheer us. It was another mile long bridge that is sort of enclosed.  It’s not the pretty part of the course.  I was thankful for my tunes at this time. I wondered why I hadn't gotten my cheers thru motigo yet. However most parts of the town so far were so loud with people cheering that I couldn't even hear my music so I figured maybe I had missed some. I was hoping the app would save them for me cause I so wanted to hear them so badly.  Coming off this bridge I was rushed with cheers for the next three miles.  It’s was incredible.  The crowds here carry you to the next bridge (Willis Avenue #4) which connects you to the Bronx.  The crowds here must really know that you are hitting that wall because they are even louder than the ones before.  People are holding all sorts of signs that will make you laugh out loud while running. 

Well, somewhere between 17-18 mile markers, my earbuds beeped and I heard a message that said battery low. I started to freak out! I figured now my phone will die and I'll have no tunes to carry me those last hard miles. I hoped the crowd would continue to be as great as it had been because I was going to need it. I had packed my extra power box for my phone in my flip belt but forgot to plug it into my phone. So I tried while jogging to get the dang phone and battery out of my flip belt but my belt was so wet from sweat and getting a dang iPhone 6 Plus out of that thing is hard so I had to stop and walk. Too me several minutes to get the phone out, plug the battery in, and get the phone back in my flip belt. I started running again and nothing. No sounds from my earbuds. I was so mad! This was my first time to run with blue tooth earbuds so I got to thinking that if my phone had died completely (I didn't check when I took it out) that maybe I needed to reconnect Bluetooth to my earbuds. So I had to stop and walk again! I got the phone out and the Bluetooth was not connected so I reconnected and there was music. Praise Jesus. But then I had to worry with that phone in a zip lock bag trying to get it back in my flip belt so I could run. Another several minutes lost walking. Grrrrr.  I finally got it back in and had not even ran a half mile and again the message... BATTERY LOW!  I was like you've got to be kidding me. I just hooked my battery to my phone and it normally works great. I have used it several times. So again I walked and got my phone out. It was fine. It was at this point I realized my battery on my phone said 78%, which there was no way my backup battery had charged it that fast so I realized it had to of been my earbuds all along saying low battery! So I took them out of my ear to look at the buttons which flash different colors. And yes, they were dead!! Oh I was furious. I had recently purchased them and the box said the battery should last 6-8 hours. I figured it would be plenty for the marathon. I didn't even use them while waiting to start. The only thing I can guess is maybe they got turned on in my suitcase or the battery wasn't fully charged or the info on box is just plain false. 

Oh and let me say that the water stations were covered with cups all over the ground.  Just imagine 50,000 people getting a sip of water and dropping their cup! They also gave out wet sponges at one point and the ground was covered in sponges.  You really had to watch where you stepped.  There was even a man with a rake at one water stop trying to rake up the cups quickly in between burst of runners. 

So here I am around mike 18-19 with no earbuds to get cheers from my friends and no music!! AND guess what happens?? I was grabbing a water and a guy came running up behind me and stepped on the back/side of my foot. Took my shoe completely off and turned my foot in a weird motion. I thought I was going to fall but caught myself (and sometimes that can make you so sore... Straining to stay upright).  He did stop and come back to check on me. Which he didn't speak English. Just kept saying .. Ok?? I had to sit down on the curb and put my shoe on. If you've ever ran a long distance, you know to stop and bend down hurts!! I got back up and started to run thinking to myself how much time I had lost fooling around with my phone and now this. As I was running my foot/leg started to cramp. Oh it hurt badly. I wanted to cry. I finally reached mile 20 and was honestly in so much pain I wanted to stop. The crowd was cheering wildly but I was not feeling it. My foot would not bend.  It was hard as a rock straight.  Normally in the last couple of miles, I will get like a 3rd wind and can push it on in to the finish line sometimes with negative splits. However, I had nothing left. No drive. I had to start walking off and on to get the cramps under control. I looked down at my watch and knew I was not going to make 4:30. One reason my mind kept thinking about that 4:30 was I had read that all finishers 4:30 and under would be published in the NY times on Monday. I had felt so good during the race that I just thought that just maybe it was possible. But not now. I was hurting.
I needed my music. Yes, the crowd was unbelievable with their cheers but I needed more. The last stretch into the park is rolling hills and then one final hill all the way up to the finish line. My husband and I had walked it the day before going to pasta dinner so I would know how the finish was laid out. I kept thinking about that last hill and telling myself I had to keep going. That's when Rocky Stage hit me. This is when you will deep dig and pull out every ounce of determination you have in your body. I begin quoting scriptures, quoting my favorite inspiration sayings and as I passed people that were struggling more so than me, I prayed for them also. I prayed for God to give us all strength to finish. And then I saw the finish arch. It was like no other finish. They had grandstands sitting on both sides in which fans could purchase for a nice high price to sit and watch the finish. The stands were packed and they were all roaring. It was amazing.  I still felt like I was on a movie or something.  I finished in 4:44.  Not a PR, but decent compared to what I dealt with the last 6-8 miles.  I don’t think I’ll ever run with Bluetooth earbuds again in a long distance race and I will certainly not run with my music playing on that big old iPhone 6 Plus!  I’ll go back to my iPod which is much easier to get in and out of the flip belt.  I’m not sure why I worried so with that stuff and wasted time! I could kick myself now. 

As soon as I finished a guy stood waiting to hang medals around our necks. He congratulated me and did so with sure delight. Then they ushered us to keep moving. It was crowded. Runners finishing on both sides of me. Another lady wrapped a silver sheet around me and told me if I had signed up for post-race poncho to keep moving forward on the left. I was so glad I had signed up for that and not a checked a bag. They said bag check runners would take another hour to get out of finish line area and you would not get the very nice poncho.  The sweet lady that wrapped me in my poncho was literally an angel. I was sweating badly and was starting to get cold. I was starting to shiver and it’s better to stay warm afterwards. I had read how long the walk was out of the park but until you have to do it after you've run 26.2 miles, you don't realize how long it is. The map said 3/4 mile and it seemed like 10. Ha.  As we were all walking another worker handed us a bag with an apple, water, Gatorade, and protein bar in it. There was no big after race food. But honestly can you imagine ordering pizza for 50,000 runners? 

Once out of the park there was more walking. I did reset my Garmin and I ended up with over 2 miles walking by the time I got back to my hotel.  They the street blocked off with barricades and security officers everywhere. My hotel was very close to finish but I couldn't get out of that area until I reached the end so another 1/2 mile walk. Boy I was tired. Once outside the fenced off area, I had to turn and go back almost half way and then turn to my hotel. So for the day, I think I got like 30 miles not just 26.2 miles counting prerace and post-race. 

My husband was waiting for me at the room. He had text me when I finished telling me how proud he was of me and I texted him back and told him to have ice ready when I got there.  And guess what? He had the bucket ready when I walked in the door.  He normally doesn’t say much about races, but he had flipped from football to the race on the TV all day long and was just amazed.  He called me champ and made me feel like a million dollars.  It really touched me.  As I was getting in the tub he asked me how the first bridge was and I told him tough.  He laughed and said the news casters were talking about how people get wrapped up in the emotions of the crowds and end up running too fast and then the hills/bridges kill them.  They even say Brooklyn is where an elite runner can lose the race if they don’t pace themselves. 

Oh and the best part was getting up Monday and as I was walking to Rockefeller Center, I grabbed a NY times just to save the article on the marathon for my scrapbook and guess what?????? My name was in there among the finishers!! I guess they decided to change the cutoff this year because everyone that finished under 5 hours was listed! Oh it was the best feeling ever! J 

It certainly was the race that will forever be etched in my memory.  I hope one day to be able to do it again.  I’m even tempted to go ahead and enter the lottery drawing for next year but I have another goal for next year that I’m already striving to obtain.  I’m turning 50 next year and my goal is to do an Ironman 70.3 in September if all goes as planned.   I know sometimes plans change.  Heck I even missed a half marathon this year that I love to do, but it wasn’t in the books for me due to a shin issue.  For me I need something in my sights.  It helps keep me focused so I will continue to train and not become happy with doing nothing.  Plus as I’ve aged, I’m starting to try to do different races that I haven’t done before.  I have a bucket list and I’m slowly but surely marking things off.  What about you?  Got any plans? If not, I’d say …. GET YOU SOME.  Find something to get you out the door and getting 1 mile at a time. 

Arrived back at work on Wednesday to a graph that my coworkers did on me and my race progress.   Talk about crazy analysts! At least they also supplied me with some sugar.

You can do anything you believe in! 

I had a blast! I didn't get to take all the picture I would have like to because of my husband being sick the entire weekend, but it was an awesome marathon and as the pictures says... when I look back.. I marvel at how far I've come.  It's all through God's grace that I can do the things I do.  He give me my strength!  God Bless! Until the next marathon! (just 28 days away..)

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