ING 2013 New York City Marathon, pt 2: Race Recap

My days in NYC leading up to the marathon were nothing short of amazing; I’ll revisit those in another post; at the rate I’m going, I’ll probably have a novella before too long. I have wonderful (if not also hilarious) stories, tons of pictures, and some excellent memories that I want to share soon, but for now, though, while the race experience is fresh, let’s get it all out.

Sit down if you’re not already… though if you read me regularly, you probably have a couple drinks next to you by now, too :)

As I said earlier, about my race strategy, you’ll know that I wanted to PR (anything sub-3:20:06) and, specifically, to go sub-3:20 at NYC. This was a belated realization and decision on my part, but no spoiler here—and besides, you can easily look up my time and see if I was successful.

What’s really fascinating to me about my NYC Marathon race though was the sheer experience of it all—and my deceptive time—but we’ll get there.

When I say that the NYCM is an experience, I’m not exaggerating. This was marathon #21 for me, and I don’t think any marathon I’ve done, even Boston x2 or Chicago x4, required the logistics or truly deserved the fanfare that NYC did. There are so many variables in any marathon, of course, but I think the NYCM puts those to shame. Maybe it was because of Superstorm Sandy cancelling the race last year, or because of Boston earlier this year, but I don’t really know.

This race really was one of a kind, though.

Despite the fanfare and magic of the NYCM, though, it almost seemed like the statistical likelihood of things going wrong, with the sheer number of variables that were in place, far outweighed the likelihood of things going well or, in a perfect world, according to plan.

Race morning: adventures in Staten Island

Since I was staying in the Upper East Side with a friend of a friend, and didn’t want to hang on public transit for an hour in the wee a.m. hours, I hired a driver to take me down to the Staten Island Ferry in time for the 6:45 a.m. shuttle, the same one that my friends Corey and David (and David’s Evanston Running Club-based group) would be on. Neither Corey nor David were checking gear, so that meant that neither of them had their cell phones, which necessitated that I rely on some serious ‘Where’s Waldo?’-style crowd scanning to find them.

After putting on approximately 15 layers of various articles of clothing (about 4 pairs of pants or tights, around 7 shirts or long-sleeves, two sweaters, a fleece pullover, old running shoes, thick/fuzzy socks, a toboggan hat, a scarf, and some gloves), and, correspondingly, making myself look like a 400-pound homeless, androgynous linebacker, I greeted my super-sweet car driver who arrived early (score!), and after he bid me adieu and told me, sincerely, that he hoped I would win (endearing), I waited outside for Corey and David. Around 6:30, I called it quits and entered the SI Ferry terminal so I could give myself enough time to go through security and figure out where the hell I was supposed to go.

Hangin outside the SI ferry terminal, waiting for Corey and David to magically appear at any moment
Hangin outside the SI ferry terminal, waiting for Corey and David to magically appear at any moment

How I managed to find Corey, who was sitting on the ground, in her own ‘homeless androgynous linebacker’ get-up, after not seeing her outside is beyond me, but it was so fantastic to have a Chicago buddy, someone whom I had also trained with over the summer, to hang with for the next few pre-race hours. (Sidenote: Corey reminds me a lot of my sister, and I think that’s part of the reason I really enjoy my time with her. aw. sentimental.) Anyway, we chatted away the morning on the ferry, stood in a forever long line at the terminal in SI so we’d have the luxury of shitting and pissing in indoor plumbing for the last time for the next few hours, and in that line, got the scoop (via text) from Lynton, who was already at the starting village, about where we needed to go and where we’d meet him.

400 pounds+ androgynous linebackers FTW
400 pounds+ androgynous linebackers FTW
Thug marathoner
Thug marathoner

I can’t emphasize how awesome it was to already begin my NYCM race day morning with a Chicago runner friend. I was pretty relaxed the entire morning, but it put me in an even more relaxed and happy mood, and any momentary stress-filled moments that we had, especially as Corey and I waited for.effin.ever to get a bus from the SI harbor to the starting village, practically vanished because we were able to just talk, and bullshit, and think about anything else.

Eventually, Corey and I got to the starting village and quickly met up with Lynton: again, mood score leveled up. By this point, it was probably in the high 40s with some wind bursts, and I had been feeling the beads of sweat dripping down my back and chest for the past hour from all the clothing I was wearing. I took a minute, right before we got in our first porta-potty line, to take off my two sweaters, and within seconds, two guys approached me, asked if the sweaters were mine, and asked if they could have them because they were “two dumb Texans who don’t know what the hell we were doing”; they were hangin’ in their race kits and noticeably shivering from the elements, against which they had no protection. I then offered them my pants—pretty funny reaction from them on that one—and two fewer pairs of pants for me (sharing is caring), and two fully-clothed (and grateful) Texans later, Corey, Lynton, and I porta-pottied for the final time together, fistbumped, and then split into our separate color waves (those two in blue, me in orange).

 

One of my favorite pictures of the weekend.
One of my favorite pictures of the weekend.

My only real concern this whole time was getting to my gear check in time for my wave. I was in wave 1, so I would be leaving at 9:40. I casually walked up to my gear check around 9:20 and then shuffled over to my wave starting line to find that my wave had closed LONG ago and that I’d have to start with wave 2, which I thought would be starting around 9:45 or so (spoiler: 10:05 start time for wave 2). I initially thought fuck—this is going to mean lots of weaving, lots of slower runners, more restraint than I want to think about this early in the course, but I almost immediately decided that it was probably a good thing that I’d have to start in a slower wave. Every article I had read prior to the race practically demanded that the first two miles be the slowest of the day, and while I was pretty confident I could do that in wave 1, I knew I could absolutely do that in wave 2. How I missed the important detail of when I was supposed to be in my corral is beyond me, but like I said, there are so many logistics to this race that I’m surprised that that was the only thing I missed.

I ended up hanging out at the very front of the wave 2 orange group and had a blast chatting with a gaggle of men, my new BFFs, from Germany, France, and Holland (or Finland?) as we all eagerly awaited the race start. The energy was electric, the combination of pre-race bodily smells INTENSE (and even moreso when you’re at many men’s armpit levels), but I felt completely relaxed and ready to run what should be the slowest miles of my day in the world’s largest marathon.

Miles 1-2: Staten Island

9:01, 7:54

Fortunately, I’ve three good friends (hi, Austin, Amy, and Jack!) who’ve run NYC and whose experiences taught me a lot about how to prepare for and execute this race. Reading lots of blogs and articles helped too, of course, but it’s always better when a buddy has gone before you :) All I allowed myself to think about in miles 1-2ish, going over the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, which was also the steepest hill of the day, was Austin’s advice to go as slowly as possible, as challenging as it would be to do, and to look to the left to soak in the awesome Manhattan skyline. Fortunately, I was on the left, so looking over was especially easy, and I saw only about 2 or 3 guys peeing off the bridge. The wind was variably strong and super gusty, a preview of what we’d have for the first 21 or so miles of the day, so I kept my long sleeve technical and gloves on for a bit longer than I expected. I couldn’t believe I was finally running NYC, after paying for it three times since 2009 (after getting in on the first lottery go in ’09 and deferring, and then qualifying in 2012), and I had already decided before the race began that I was going to have a fuckin’ blast, run intelligently, Cheshire like crazy, and race like hell.

always with the Cheshire
always with the Cheshire

Miles 3-13: Brooklyn

7:48, 7:28, 7:39, 7:43, 7:42, 7:35, 7:48, 7:44, 7:53, 7:40, 7:31

Once I hit Brooklyn, I again recalled Austin’s warning that it would be really hard to slow the eff down in Brooklyn but that it was critical in order to run NYC well. I repeatedly told demanded to myself do NOT barrel through Brooklyn. Do NOT barrel through Brooklyn. I mostly ran on feel but checked in to my pace bracelet periodically, to see where I was supposed to be, and then my watches (wore two, again) to see where I actually was. I happily found that I was off my goal pace, about 50 seconds or so slower than what I should have been, and I was satisfied. One of the most helpful blogs I read (repeatedly) before the race said that until around mile 15 or so, I should be +/- 90 seconds off my goal pace and time, so I told myself that I was doing NYC right so far. Brooklyn was absolutely electric though. Going through all the neighborhoods was just a thrill, and seeing how quickly things changed—going from a Latino block, to Eastern European, to African American, to Hassidic Jew, among others—was just really cool. We were running straight into some super gusty (20+ mph?) winds in Brooklyn, which made things a little chilly, but by mile 3, I was warm enough that I had already dropped my LS and gave my gloves to a little child on the corner.

I also made the executive decision early in Brooklyn that I was going to douche ham douche it up and side-5 and high-5 as many spectators as I could. I thought this was a minimally energy-exerting activity for me, and, more importantly, it would probably slow me down some, which is what I wanted. I wanted to finish Brooklyn 100% fresh and make my body think that we had signed up to run just a half today, not a full.

The Brooklyn spectators were incredible. I easily side- and high-5ed at least 100 people’s hands (oh, the germs!), and I felt like each of them was there just for me that day; having my name written on both arms and twice on my singlet and bib sure helped, too. They yelled for me, I cat-called back to them (heeeeeeeeeeeey babycakes!) and I was just having a blast at this running party. Sign me up for more, por favor.

Running is fun!
Running is fun!
Let's be friends!
Let’s be friends!

My body felt incredible in Brooklyn. I didn’t clock-watch very much, but I checked in periodically just to see what my margin looked like. I was fine. I was totally comfortable, I knew I was where I wanted to be, and my body was just rockin’. The only niggle that popped up was some chafing in my right armpit area. I tried tucking, then untucking, and then retucking my singlet into my bra, and then actually tearing my singlet at the seam (not possible with one hand mid-run, FYI), and nothing really worked. I thought I had lubed up in the morning, but I’m guessing it had dissipated in my 1000 layers of clothing I had worn. Fortunately, it wasn’t horrible, just tender, and slightly modifying my armswing helped a bit. After a few miles, I finally realized that the medics were only on the right side of the course (weird, right?), and I was able to score a popsicle stick full of Vaseline around mile 11. I lubed the shit out of my arm, so much so that I felt like my armswing was a veritable slip-n-slide, and successfully averted the potential crisis.

Miles 13.5ish-16ish: Queens

7:31 (mile 13 the Pulaski Bridge), 7:40, 7:47, 8:14 (Queensboro bridge)

At the halfway point, I saw that I was just under 3 minutes off pace; I wanted to be at the halfway around a 1:40 for a sizable negative split, and I came through at 1:42:47. I was completely happy about this and thought, again, that I was doing this right. I wasn’t stressed at all, though I had to have a few mini-moments to myself about trusting my training and trusting my dear and esteemed runner friends’ experiences with the course.

not sure which bridge this is, but I think it might be the Pulaski. Sunshine! Rainbows! Unicorns!
not sure which bridge this is, but I think it might be the Pulaski. Sunshine! Rainbows! Unicorns!
love the other guy's expression - YAY RUNNING
love the other guy’s expression – YAY RUNNING

The Pulaski Bridge wasn’t especially long or steep, but there were already a good number of folks strollin’ by the time I hit it. I wouldn’t allow myself to weave, since my watch was already about .1 off the mile markers (and once I realized that back in Brooklyn, I was more selective about when I’d go high-5 spectators), so again, I just figured that I’d stay steady, pick a path, and go with it. By the time I got into Queens, I had consumed about 3 gels: in the starting village, around mile 4, 9, and then at 13, right before the bridge. I had attempted to score an orange slice from a child in Brooklyn but dropped it (damn race day butterfingers), but my energy levels felt great. Just like with any recent marathon I’ve done, I decided early that if I saw food on the course—the usual suspects like bananas and oranges—I’d take them. Experience has taught me that besides pacing very deliberately, I need to consume a lot in order to really stay far ahead of bonking.

For the life of me, I couldn’t remember what the NYCM course map looked like, so I had no idea where Queens was in relation to Brooklyn or Manhattan. I felt great still though, though I had momentarily gotten rained on a few times in this stretch (and I didn’t know if it was actual rain or someone else’s flying perspiration…), but I eagerly awaited mile 15, the Queensboro Bridge, the part of the course where unicorns go to die, according to numerous recaps I had read.

While I’m happy to say I didn’t die here, I think this is where I really began to trip over people a bit. One line from a blogger’s RR really echoed in my mind on the Queensboro: whatever you do, run in a way early in the race that’ll ensure you get to the Queensboro in fighting shape. The bridge wasn’t terrible, just seemingly never-ending, and when I’d check in on my pace, I noticed my Garmin was reporting something like a 9 ½ minute mile. I quickly dismissed it (Grand Ave bridge much, Chicago runners?), and again, just focused on staying steady and not weaving a ton through the hordes of humanity who were dragging ass by now.

I had also recalled from the same RR that this was the quietest mile of the course and that this would be a good place to revel in the run, to think about the final 10-11 miles of the course, and to really begin to focus. I did a full-body assessment again, gave myself the all-clear, and just wondered when the hell the bridge was going to end. I knew that Manhattan awaited us on the other side, and if I got really lucky, I’d see Chanthana, Matt, and Kevin around mile 16, and then Lee Ann around mile 17, on the left-hand side of the course; I just needed to get off this bridge first.

Miles 16-20ish: Manhattan

8:14 (the Queensboro bridge), 7:32, 7:32, 7:37, 7:32 (Willis Ave. bridge around 19.7)

Leaving the Queensboro was a relief. It wasn’t particularly challenging; it was just hard to get around people who quickly realized that they messed up early in the course. I knew that the “wall of sound” in Manhattan was waiting for me, and I heard it before I saw it, making me think of the Wellesley women in Boston. I couldn’t believe the crowds in Manhattan; I think all of them on First Avenue had to have been at least 10 rows deep. It was like no other marathon I had ever experienced, and the energy was palpable beyond belief.

I scanned as best I could but didn’t see Chanthana, Matt, or Kevin, yet just as I gave up, I heard GOOOOOOOOOOOO ERIN!!!!! and quickly saw maroon (the color of Kevin’s racing team) in my peripheral vision, so seeing (or hearing, rather) those guys was a great pick-me-up. I cruised right along First Ave on the left hand side, amazed at the sheer humanity that was lining the streets and how much every spectator seemed to be yelling—never have I ever felt like that big of a celebrity before in a race—and I was feeling awesome. I didn’t check in a bunch on my pace at this point, but I told myself that this stretch was where the pros would often begin to kick—way too early—and regret it later. I told myself that steady was the name of the game and that I hadn’t yet hit 20, when the magic really started.

Looking back, I’m pretty sure many of the mile(s) on First Ave were uphill, but it didn’t feel that way at all because of the spectator support. Seeing Lee Ann, a Chicago Bootlegger, and her huge Yoda hat was amazing, and a solid side-5 from my BRC gal was just terrific. Her sunshiney face at mile 17 was like seeing Meredith’s sunshiney face at 25 in Chicago; talk about a wonderful pick-me-up.

do or do not; there is no try. spectator of the year.
do or do not; there is no try. spectator of the year. thanks for the pic, Lynton/BRC FB group.

I felt fantastic, I felt relaxed, I had managed to see the only spectators in NYC whom I actually knew, and I still had some race to run. Here again, my memory of the NYCM course map failed me, and I knew that we’d be heading north into the Bronx next, but where that was going to happen was beyond me. All I knew was that I had to be patient for a while longer, even though my pace was still about 3 or so minutes off my goal end time. I knew I was doing this right; I just had to trust myself.

Right around the 30k mark, shortly before we exited Manhattan for the Bronx, I had a moment with myself. I was feeling really well still, I knew I was about 3-4 minutes off goal time by now, but I deliberated if 30k was too early to kick in a marathon despite how good I felt. I was especially hesitant to begin to kick here because I think that’s part of the reason I didn’t finish Chicago as strongly as I wanted to—it was just too early to kick. I willed myself to be a patient grasshopper, to wait until I had 10k to go, and then—and only then—would I let the wheels fuckin’ roll.

Miles 20-21: the Bronx

7:32, 7:32 (Madison Ave bridge around 20.7)

Marathons are tough, no doubt. A lot of people come undone, for whatever reason (of which there are maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaany), around mile 20, and I knew that that might be in store.

That’s part of the magic and frustration of the marathon distance; you really never know what you’re going to experience mile-to-mile.

I was still feeling great, still very fresh, but I was trying to be realistic and acknowledge that things could go south at any time. Sure, I had felt like I had paced extremely well up until this point, but I figured this part would be where I’d learn, for better or worse, if I had, in fact, actually recovered from Chicago. My energy levels were fantastic because I had been ingesting AccelGels on the regular and had managed to score a ton of fruit from the spectators along the way. Energy-wise, I knew I was fine; physiologically, I felt fantastic as well, but I knew this could quickly become do-or-die time.

I wasn’t necessarily afraid of the (remaining) miles at this point; I was just hyper-aware.

Other RRs I read said that the Bronx is always sparse with spectators, which can be especially hard if you’re having a bad day, so I had that expectation going into this borough. I was pleasantly surprised to find a healthy number of spectators on the course cheerin’ their effin’ hearts out. We were only in the Bronx for a hot minute, the fewest number of miles for any of the boroughs, but it was great. Don’t knock the Bronx, folks. It’s not Manhattan or Brooklyn, but it’s not bad.

The only tough part of the Bronx was that the streets seem to be a bit more narrow, and if you’re deciding to begin your kick at the last 10k of a marathon, the combination of some marathoners’ final 10k death marches and narrower streets can be a bit problematic… especially when you’re really just now beginning your race.

Miles 21-26.2: Manhattan & Central Park

7:32 (right at the end of the Madison Ave bridge), 7:19, 7:06, 7:35 (Fifth Ave hill before CP), 7:09, 7:06, 7:01 for .2

It was time.

Again, acknowledging that things could go south at any moment, I knew I still felt great and that if I hauled ass, which I felt like I could do, I could go sub-3:20. It would be tough, but I could do it.

This is what Pfitzinger had been training me all year to do. Just like one of his chapters says, if you run a marathon well, intelligently, the last 10k is yours and yours alone. This is it. This is what your training is all about. Revel in your preparation; you’ve got nothing to worry about here.

Once back in Manhattan, fortunately the streets magically widened again, but the throng of runner humanity hitting the wall was tough. I didn’t want to weave, but I also had business to attend to, people! By this late in the course, I had nearly run down (as in, nearly smacked into their backside because they suddenly STOPPED running) about 3 or 4 people and had received no fewer than four people’s elbows into my shoulder, chest, arms, and almost my face. By this late in the course, I was beginning to think that missing my wave and starting with wave 2, while helpful early in forcing me to manage my pace, immensely challenged me on the back 10k, simply in terms of how many more members of humanity I’d have to navigate.

It’s hard to haul ass, even aggressively, when you don’t have a lot of space to do it in and when you’re only pushing 5’5.5”.

I repeatedly (and kindly, I think) asked people to watch where they were going and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T STOP! Despite the salmon-swimming-upstream feeling I had in trying to run quickly through many people who were running less-than-quickly, my body felt amazing—no indication of an impending visit to the wall—and for the last 10k of a marathon? My god, I felt otherworldly. I have never. ever. felt so strong during the back 10k of a marathon, on a flat or hilly course alike.

I cruised along, trying my best to keep a clear path without adding much distance, and even on the seemingly never-ending Fifth Ave hill between miles 22.5-23.75 (approx), I told myself to. just. keep. going. By now, I was on autopilot on the hill, trying to maintain an even effort, and when the hill fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinally crested and we entered Central Park, around 23.75 (or so), the only word on my mind was HAUL.

HAUL.

HAUL.

Saturday morning, Lynton and I had run a four mile shake-out in Central Park, so I remembered the topography of some of what I’d have left in the course: some rollers but, seemingly, lots of downs. As I look at the course map now, I know that we had to do some ascending, but in the heat of the moment, it simply felt like I was flying downhill. I was passing people left and right—what Lynton and I fantasized about the morning before, his exact words being imagine how awesome it will be to pass tons of people here tomorrow if you race well—and I felt like I was flying. As soon as I had decided to start my kick, I felt my stride opening up, and the images of all the MLRs and LRs from the summer, the ones that I insisted on having fast finishes, came flooding back to me. This was exactly what I had trained to do. What I was about to do was no different than what I had practiced doing all summer long on the lakefront and at WFG.

This last part is a bit of a blur. I know we had some hills to ascend in Central Park, but in my mind, it was just one enormous downhill. I wasn’t clock-watching at all at this point because I knew it was completely down to the wire, and I felt like any effort I expended reading my watch and comparing it to my pace bracelet would likely ensure that I’d probably end up in a runner pile with runners whose races ended long ago. I needed to literally keep my head up and focus on the final 2.2 miles because it was now or never that sub-3:20 was going to happen.

We exited the park around Columbus Circle, and I recalled reading somewhere the night before that the couple blocks outside the park, maybe around end of mile 25-beginning of mile 26, were two long blocks’ long. I was prepared to ride the pain train because I hadn’t yet touched it—maybe a douchey-sounding acknowledgement here but truly, very honest—and yet again, despite how close we were to the finish line, the throngs of runner humanity I felt trapped in, around, and behind seemed massive.

humanity everywhere
humanity everywhere
haul! haul! haul!
haul! haul! haul!
let's go!
let’s go!

At the 800m to go mark, in the name of ‘ride the pain train’ plan, suddenly my mind diverted to singing ‘the itsy bitsy spider,’ much as it often does in the throes of speedwork when I’m trying to concentrate (yet relax) on hitting a specific goal pace; this is what happens when you’re a SAHM, folks. Children’s music enters into your head and becomes an earworm at a moment’s notice. I immediately refocused and had an internal monologue about my emotional unavailability for sing-songy children’s music at this present time. A quick look at my watch made me realize that unless I could pull out the fastest 800m of my life, a sub-3-minute half mile—and at the end of a challenging course, despite my feeling still pretty fresh—the sub-3:20 wasn’t going to happen, nor would the sub-3:20:06, technically still a PR.

By now though, my heart had completely taken over, and as dramatic as it sounds, it felt like the entire essence of my running being was propelling me forward. I still dodged a ton of people in the final 800 meters because, though I knew a PR wasn’t going to happen, I still wanted to come in as quickly as possible. I knew that the sub-3:20 wasn’t mine for the taking that day, but I knew that I had executed a really fine NYC performance, with a time that’s decent, given the course’s challenges, a ~4 minute negative split (!), and just three weeks after my PR marathon in the flat lands of Chicago, my hometown.

just before finishing
just before finishing
seeing the finish line... and rockin' the cameltoe antithesis. one day I will find an awesome pair of running shorts suitable for a marathon
seeing the finish line… and rockin’ the cameltoe antithesis. one day I will find an awesome pair of running shorts suitable for a marathon

Crossing the finish line, hand over heart, I was elated. The sudden realization I was finishing NYC just 89 seconds slower than the marathon I had done three weeks earlier, absolutely floored me. I’ll own it: NYC is a harder marathon than Chicago, and the fact that my time difference here was negligible to what I did in Chicago three weeks earlier just blew. my. fuckin. mind. I knew a 3:21 NYC was “better” than a 3:20 Chicago, so I was stoked. The thought of being bitter or frustrated about not hitting my goal didn’t occur to me like it did in Chicago. Sure, I wondered how things might have transpired if I started in my correct wave, if we didn’t have a 20 mph headwind for most of the race, or if I began to kick at 30k, but the fantasies were fleeting.

hand over heart. problematic only because it looks like my heart is actually hurting me. noted.
hand over heart. problematic only because it looks like my heart is actually hurting me. noted.

Once I realized that I performed way better than I ever would have imagined in doing the Chicago-NYC double, by going from an easier to a harder course in just 21 days, my attitude quickly became how the hell did this just happen, and I absolutely became the hippy-dippy runner girl at the finish line, totally fixated on having an attitude of gratitude, and damn near wanted to hug every. person. I. met.

The walk from the finisher’s chute to the UPS gear check vehicles was long, and sure, it was a bit chilly, but that walk was easily the best thing the NYRR could have mandated its runners do post-race. It’s so counterintuitive, but at least in my experiences, the more I move immediately post-marathon, the more quickly I recover. With my attitude of gratitude and endocannibinoid-fueled essence in full tilt, I made eye contact with almost every single volunteer and medic I saw, and personally thanked them for helping make the race such an amazing experience and for sharing their beautiful city with me.

I so wish I am kidding here, because this sounds so ridiculous, but I was totally that girl. I’m surprised someone didn’t call a medic for the crazy ginger weirdo.

Miraculously, I didn’t cry, but just like in Brooklyn, I fist-bumped and high- and side-5ed practically everyone I could. I also quickly befriended all the runners!!! I could and learned from a woman named Demetra, a 50-something Brooklynite running her first marathon, that she BQed. Our eyes quickly locked in the finisher’s chute, and I could immediately tell she wanted to tell me something—she wanted to share her freakin’ huge accomplishment with someone, people!!!–and I damn near exploded with glee for this perfect stranger (and also managed to get some official course pictures with her, ha. Congrats again, girl!).

 

with my new bestie, Demetra
with my new bestie, Demetra

As I moved along in the 1-2 mile long walk to get my gear, I saw another woman runner who seemed like she was in bad shape, and we quickly established a friendship as I suggested that she take my arm and walk some to help with the cramping that she felt was about to commence (in retrospect, I’m not sure that this was the brightest idea, but she seemed to appreciate it). When she told me her name was Amy, I immediately got ridiculously sentimental—the endocannibinoids, people—and told her that a dear runner friend of mine was also named Amy and that it was really cool that I had met another runner Amy. (I’m shaking my head and rolling my eyes at myself now). New Amy and I shared our experiences of the day, and once I safely got her to her gear check, I grabbed my stuff and shortly after found Lynton, the guy whom I reaaaaaaaally wanted to see, and learned of his amazing, kick-ass, PR-busting performance.

My day was so made, and it didn’t even involve me hitting my own goal time. Hearing Lynton’s experiences, from Lynton himself, while everything was still so raw and fresh made me beyond proud—so indescribably happy, damn near joyful—and even now, writing this recap days later, the same flood of emotion that came over me in the immediate minutes post-race, when Lynton told me about his experience, is happening yet again. I’ve written about this elsewhere, but running is as much a team thing as it is individual, and when your teammate delivers, you celebrate the accomplishment like it’s your own because you know the effort you must expend to realize the goal, to make the dream manifest.

this picture makes me tear up. such an incredibly special moment. so very proud of Lynton. (and the teacup thing we're balancing is pretty BA.)
this picture makes me tear up. such an incredibly special moment. so very proud of Lynton. (and the teacup thing we’re rockin’ is pretty BA.)

My NYCM race didn’t give me the time that I wanted, or I guess, I didn’t give myself the time that I wanted, perhaps in part because I didn’t start when I should have, or perhaps because I should have kicked earlier than I did, but the race gave me a simply unmatchable experience that I have never felt in any of my other marathons.

My NYCM showed me that I’m absolutely capable of much more than I have imagined for myself, as bewildering and intriguing as that may be, and that if I don’t take chances, I’ll never really know what I can do. There really is something to saying fuck it and just burning our boats, people.

That I successfully and strategically pulled a 3:21 on a hilly and tactical course a mere 21 days after my 3:20 PR, a PR on a remarkably easier course, blows my mind and gives me a lot of drive for future training cycles. Some pace calculations estimate that a 3:21 NYCM time would equate to a +/- 3:18 on a flatter course, and this idea inspires me and makes me eager to try my hand again at my next mary.

For now, though, the sense of accomplishment and total surprise leaves me feeling enormously grateful for the opportunity to be able to run at all, of course, and to be able to trust myself, and my training, and the sage advice of my running friends whose experiences and wisdom shape nearly every single mile of my training. The sense of pride that I have in Lynton’s accomplishment, added to my own sense of satisfaction, makes my 2013 marathon cup damn near runneth over, and I can’t think of a better way to close out a year that began with a 3:31 PR in January and ended with a 3:20 in October. What this means for future training cycles is probably too soon to tell, but suffice it to say that I am incredibly pleased for how my 2013 marathons have progressed and what I’ve learned along the way.

The NYCM and experience was another race game-changer for me, and this time, it wasn’t because I hit my own time goal; acknowledging this is pretty powerful stuff and simply amazing beyond words. Instead, the NYCM was a game-changer because despite all of the reasons why I should fail, I really don’t feel as though I did, and ultimately, what I produced was exponentially better than anything I could have ever anticipated. Sure, we all want to PR at every race that we do, but the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.

2013 has been something of a defining year for me as a runner, and the energy and drive I now feel coursing through my body, when I consider future races, goals, and ways I can improve, is just remarkable. I feel like I’ve come a long way in a short amount of time, and if presented with the right opportunity, I can do even more.

The Chicago-NYC double showed me as much.

29 thoughts on “ING 2013 New York City Marathon, pt 2: Race Recap”

  1. So much to say here! First, this was such a well-written recap! I really felt like I could relate, and it just took me back to when I ran NYCM. But this is about you, not me. Congrats on your awesome race! To negative split ANY marathon is big, but to negative split NYCM by 4 minutes is HUGE. Second, is it terrible that I cracked up when I read that you followed my advice and saw guys peeing off of the Verrazano? More importantly, congrats on an incredible year of racing! I’m so happy I was able to be part of this chapter of your racing. Revel in these accomplishments as much as you can, and think about your other races when that time comes.

    1. Thank you so much, Austin. It has been such a blast getting to know you this year and running with you (and virtually training with you, cross-country!) Your words helped so much in the days leading up to NYC, and as you can tell, many of your words of wisdom damn near echoed in my head throughout the race. I owe a lot of my satisfaction and success in NYC to you, so thank you. First drink’s on me after Newport ;) xo babe

  2. OMG, that is not only one fantastic post but a FANTASTIC RACE!!!!! SO close to your Chicago time, with little recovery in between is pretty unbelievable (actually, i want proof!!!). NYC is usually 7 minutes slower for people in your time range from a flat one (Like Chitown!). Amazing. Seems like someone was PREPARED!!!! (Glad my post helped!). CONGRATULATIONS!

    1. Thank you SO much for your article, babe! It helped tremendously… and I’m sure you could tell as much from reading this super long RR. I’m pretty sure I came this close to memorizing your words of wisdom in the days leading up to the event. Thanks again for all the support you lent to all of us on the interwebz :)

  3. You are one badass racer, my friend! 2013 has been an incredible year for you! I’ve loved following your progress this year—you’re so consistent and disciplined, and you always know how to be ‘playful’ with your training and racing. (Also, agree with Jeff! You have an amazing memory!)

  4. Unbelievable that you did two speedy marathons within 3 weeks of each other. It blows my mind as well! NYC is a much tougher course than Chicago, but I found that the crowds enthusiasm helped me to power through most of it. I wish I’d read this post before I ran NYC with no strategy at all and crashed and burned to my worst marathon positive split ever! :) By the way, before the race, I do remember sprinting all out to get into the wave 1 corral, and almost missing the cutoff time. They closed wave 1 about 1/2 hour before the start. I was just sitting around at the athlete village spacing it at the time I heard the announcement that they were closing it. Anyway, it was probably best that you started in wave 2, therefore removing any temptation of doing a super-speedy start over the bridge with the elites/sub-elites! Congrats! :)

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Pete :) I agree; NYC is night and day different a marathon than Chicago (or any other race I’ve done). That article helped me tremendously!!

  5. I was happy with this post at “400-pound homeless, androgynous linebacker”, if you ever decide to change your blog name, i choose this.

    okay arm pit level part, BWAHA, Nothing says time to go like that!

    And I totally hear the kids songs in my head too!

    You totally nailed this! Illinois is losing an amazing person and runner! Great Job:)

    1. Thanks, Declan :) Maybe I should reserve the ’400 pound, homeless, androgynous linebacker’ domain name now, just to be safe… :) love and miss you and the fam! Can’t wait to see everyone again.

  6. You rock Erin! Such an amazing combination of powerful running and excellent writing. This is the best running blog on the world wide web!

    1. Thanks, David! You are too sweet and too good to me. :) It was awesome to see you in NYC and party with you some afterward! Congrats on yet another BQ, and even one on compromised training! You’re unstoppable :)

  7. Wow! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this. Everything about it. I don’t even know where to start. First, I cannot believe that our experiences were so similar. Even after we left each other that morning, our days played out so much the same (i.e. the way you felt about the crowds of Brooklyn, how you felt running up Queensboro, running into the WALL of humanity after the halfway point of the race, feeling over the moon about a time that wasn’t a PR). The only difference is how you felt in the last 3 or so miles. It is the same feeling I had in Bayshore where you just feel like you must run AS FAST AS POSSIBLE so that (forbid) you don’t finish the race with something in the tank. It is an indescribable feeling. It leaves you with that question of “did I kick too late” but if you had kicked earlier and run out of gas, you wouldn’t have felt so amazing in the end…weird spiral of ‘what ifs’. I am so happy for you. I teared up reading about your interaction with the woman who BQ’d and your reunion with Lynton after the race. There is nothing like the support of our runner friends and that feeling that no one else in the world can understand the highs and lows except one another. I also smiled saying I remind you of your sister. I can only imagine if she is half the person that you are, that is a HUGE compliment :) xo

    1. So much good stuff in your comment, Corey :) you are so sweet to me. I was so glad to be able to share my NYC experience with you. You played such a big part in it, of course not only on race day but even during training. How cool that we were able to end our “experience” at the actual race day, itself :) love you, darlin’!

    1. Thank you for your support, Chris! I have been truly humbled and had zero expectation for NYC until days before. It’s unbelievable what we can do if we just give ourselves the chance to try. Just unreal stuff, man. Thanks for your support, babe :)

  8. Wow Erin!!!! Well written post, as always. It was awesome to “watch” you running negative splits (nice marathon tracking page, btw). Can’t wait to get some run time together this winter!

    1. Thanks, Crin! Love you lots babycakes– looking forward to doing some winter running with you in the Bay! :) thanks for all your support over the years. Love and miss you lots sweetie!

  9. OMG – you missed the start!?!? What!?! And you ran a kick ass last 5k! And wow. Just wow. For the record, you need to give yourself more time back for the conditions. That was the hardest of the 14 NYCs I have done. Also, my PR on NY is 3:23 and I ran a 3:17 the next year and a 1:30 half, so I would say, start shooting for 3:15. ;) You are amazing!

    1. OMG, Erica! That’s so crazy to consider that NYC ’13 was the most challenging of the 14 NYCs that you’ve done.. wow, I had no idea. And holy shit, your words equally excite me and terrify me and inspire me.. a 3:15? and a 1:30?! whoa baby, whoa. You know how to talk to this Bootlegger. Thanks for your support, girl! xo

  10. I’m slow in getting to these, but I’m LOVING reliving the trials and tribulations, the strategizing and celebrating that only other runners can appreciate! The post-marathon endorphine and fatigue-fueled delirium is too funny (and all too familiar! : ) You write these so well, and your recall of the detail is amazing! You inspire me!

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