Well, I know I was promising you the NYC marathon race report for exactly a week. I am sorry, I can be a very selfish blogger. Enjoying every single moment of my NYC after marathon high and vacation did not leave me with any time for blogging. I hope you will understand. Sitting on the plane back to Europe sounds like good moment to go through the race again and get my thoughts together. The first thing is that I totally relate to Christel’s experience from the Swiss Alpine Marathon. I totally enjoyed every single moment of the race and I am hooked! So hooked, you cannot imagine. For those who might have forgotten or did not get the post, my official time was 4:02:43 which I am very happy with. But let’s begin with the beginning. (Warning: this might get long!)
The decision to run NYC marathon came after I got all excited about running training when I was getting ready for the Prague half-marathon 2011. And since my first half marathon in 2009 was in the New York City, I got the thought of doing my first marathon in The City as well (do they do any ultras in NYC??? … just kidding, sorry Christel). Things got little complicated, but I got a waiting list spot to replace someone who couldn’t run for the Team Hole in the Wall and got in last moment. Actually, Christel was the first one to sing up with the Team and I was the last one. Since my work is healthcare related, running the NYC marathon to help seriously diseased kids made lot of sense.
Who is this Christel girl? She is the Silly Girl Running, the sweetest runner from Netherlands who same as me does not follow all the rules and loves crazy running fashion with touch of hot pink. We are the Badasstinista team. We only met for the first time on Saturday, the eve before the race at the team dinner (where I did not really eat, sorry, I stick to my routines). But obviously we “met” before through the blogging world and Christel was so sweet to propose for me to pace me through my first marathon. She was actually running the NYC while having PRed in a marathon three weeks ago and after unfortunately spraining her ankle. Taking the marathon as a training for her 65 km race next month. And you were thinking I was crazy???
The most nervous moment for me was actually two nights before the race on Friday evening. I don’t know why. Perhaps because I picked up the race number, went through expo and walked way too much for a resting first time marathoner before the race (in high heels of course!). On Saturday, I had kind of too much stuff to do and did not get a chance to get nervous. In the morning I went out for a short anti-nervousness and anti-stiffness run. Also to try out the outfit. Did lot of stretching and strides and then 2 km in a race pace. OK, I did not manage that one too well. Result = the most important thing for the race morning will be not to start too fast.
I picked up my team t-shirt with my name printed on it. And yes, the name was printed in hot pink color - how cool is that? Went back home to drop the things and went for the team dinner close to the Times Square. Christel finally got my text I sent there two days before ?!?!?!? and we agreed on meeting there. As I knew from her blog, she is the sweetest person and so is her mother who came with her and her mom’s service dog. Being a five time marathoner, Christel gave me some important advice - like forget the magnesium tablets, just get about three or four salt packs from a restaurant. And get Tylenol, no Ibuprofen. The substance in Ibuprofen actually proved to be possible cause of kidney failure during endurance sports. My great great great landlady and friend Lada got me some on the way from work, how sweet is that? She actually seemed to be more nervous than I was. Also she was very organized about my supporters and fans for the race day. She even kept the Czech flags my dad brought in for half-marathon in 2009, so she had everything ready for the race day.
I got back to the apartment around 7 pm and needed to prepare everything. Attaching the number to my t-shirt, sewing a Czech paper flag on the back of the t-shirt, laying out everything I needed for the race morning, going through my check list like trillion times. Cooking my dinner :) Became kind of my tradition eating pasta with chicken and zucchini the night before my races. My sis texted me that she would cook it for me if she was there … I wished she was there, but I did OK by myself. By the time I made the short pre-race post, it was 11 pm and I was really tired and ready to fall asleep. I managed to fall asleep even though the neighbors decided on having a party the exactly same evening.
My alarm clock was set to 4:30 I guess, but I woke up little bit earlier. Got my shower, applied Body Glide, dressed up and got my back ready. I needed to be careful about that, because I did not want put the bag in the storage. I needed to be taking everything with me for the race or be ready to trash the rest. I was wearing that cool white and gold sweatshirt with Brooklyn sign over my running gear to protect myself from cold before the start … it is really long wait before you get to actually run over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. I got out of the apartment around 5:20 which made Lada crazy since I had to be at Central Park South around 5:30ish. Did not make that much sense of going all the way uptown when the South Ferry was just 500 meters from our apartment, but I preferred staying on the Team bus with Christel, having company and absorbing all the advice. I got a great regular latte (no decaf finally!) and was lucky enough to get a cab immediately.
5:35 I was getting on the bus where Christel was holding a spot for me. Drinking the coffee after 6 am when we finally took off, I started on my breakfast = greek yoghurt + 2 bananas + peanut butter + raisins. The drive to the Staten Island was really long, we finally arrived at 7:30 am and both in desperate need of porta pottys and by desperate I mean really DESPERATE! We had to leave that early, because the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge closes at 7 am on the race morning and then the Staten Island is only reachable by the ferry. Imagine nervous marathoners with all the proper hydration, breakfast etc. going on with 2 hours of being unable to use restrooms. Enough said, no details needed, this issue should be taken care of for the future.
After fixing this problem, we were way more relaxed and headed to the “Charity Village” which is kind of VIP place, where you get support including your own way less crowded porta pottys - OK, now we know for the future :) The weather was great, not too cold, sunny. We sat outside in the sun, I ate a banana and we decorated our thighs with temporary tattoo of the Team Hole in the Wall logo! How is that for dedicated badasstinistas? :) Used restrooms like a trillion times and just before 9 it was time to go towards the corrals. We were in different corrals, I had lower number than Christel, but could join her in her corral which was great. We saw few runners freaking out when they did not get in their corrals for the Wave 1 that was starting at 9:40, their corrals closed at 9. But then there was the relief when they realized they can simply start with the Wave 2 (our wave) at 10:10.
Once in the corrals, we used the porta pottys again for several times trying to squeeze out everything. 15 minutes before the start first gel and getting rid of the sweatshirt and sweatpants - bought for this purpose together for 9 USD, but does not get wasted, everything is picked up and goes to the charity. And finally we started slowly moving towards the starting line. The temperature was very comfortable around 10-12 Celsius I would say. Took some badasstinistas pictures and there it was, Frank Sinatra started to sing New York, New York and we started slowly moving towards the starting line which we crossed about 4 minutes after the “gun”. Already truly overwhelmed, the energy of the crowd, the beautiful weather, my first marathon!!! Oh my God!
I looked towards Manhattan just once or twice, it is beautiful view from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, but you realize how f***ing far you are about to run :) But we signed in for this and we were going to have fun! Running with Christel took most of the over thinking out of the game. I simply followed her advice and adjusted it according to what I am used to in training and how my body felt. Over the bridge I had to move some of my GU gels from the skirt's pockets to the pockets in my arm warmers. See, I tested the skirt, but with only one gel in each pockets and this shows to be maximum for the Running skirt's swift skirt, since it is made of really light material. Fortunately I had the armwarmers to stack the gels in (had planned 5 of them for the race and one extra).
With the crowds of fans, the crowds of runners, crazy costumes and interesting slogans on the running gear the miles were flying by very fast. My toughest moment came still in Brooklyn, surprisingly around mile 8. I think the only problem was that I started freaking out. We were running in slight sub 9 min/mile (5:35 min/km) pace which felt OK. I just did not know whether I was going to be able to keep that pace and by slightly over thinking it for a moment I managed to get my hear rate pretty high. But my hero Christel managed to talk to me every few minutes, calming me down, explaining to me that this is the "easy" part, where we can gain some time for the crazy rolling hills of 1st and then 5th avenue. Oh God, she was right!
After this slight hiccup, the life became beautiful and more and more beautiful :) It is hard to explain, I am still overwhelmed even after the week that went by. Honestly, I did not hit the wall at all. Or I have some crazy perception problems. I followed the Runner's World advice of splitting the race mentally in three parts - miles 1-10, miles 11-20 and the last 6.2 miles. The part of miles 10-20 flew by very fast, we saw Christel's mom and the dog in Brooklyn, or was it already Chelsea? I ran out of my isostar and water at about the half way point that we hit at 1:59:23, so only slight chance of going under 4 hours, but I was OK with that. Since that moment, I had to plan my gels around the water stations that are gladly placed on every single mile. The gel strategy was - slightly after first 10 km, so between miles 6 and 7, then mile 11, 15, 19 and 23.
The Queensborough Bridge was not easy, but I knew I was going to search for Petra at around 74th street and Lada, Tomas, Guillaume, Francesco and Tim at 90th, so my mind was quite occupied. It was also occupied with following Christel's advice of not speeding too much on the downhills but using them rather for recovery and pushing the heart rate down. You can actually really influence it consciously for some bit. And there they were, Petra at 74th and Lada & co. at 90th. Tomas took great photos for us (actually most of the photos with this post are from Tomas - thank you!) and Lada ran for a bit with me. That felt empowering! As we got in to streets over 100, I was very familiar with the route, since I spent one summer living on 118th street in the East Harlem. My mind occupied for few more miles, yay!
As we entered Bronx, the cheering was becoming more and more intense and fun. At around mile 20 I stupidly asked myself. "Am I not supposed to hit the wall here?" But than I mentally slapped myself for such a thoughts - don't think about what you don't want to happen to you - the power of your thoughts is very strong. So I simply started believing that the last 6 miles vere going to be just fine and I was going to make it to the finish line of my first marathon. Unfortunately, Christel's sprained ankle started to get swollen at around mile 21 (I think it was there) and she sent me ahead. That was rather surprising, I am sure she had the thought going on her mind for some time, but did not want to bother me. I did not have much time to say bye and simply continued running on my own.
That was completely different experience. On the other hand, I ran on my own in all the other distance races I completed before. For a few minutes I was thinking about taking out the iPod shuffle with my arriva headphones (the best set-up), but then we reached the Central Park side on the Fifth avenue. No extra support was needed since then. Even though the Fifth goes quite uphill, the energy of the crowd was amazing. Increasing with every mile we got closer to the finish line. My excitement was increasing as well, it was not easy at all, going uphill after that many miles in my legs, but at 3-4 miles to go I knew this was really happening. I also felt that I wanted to finish strong for Christel, because she played a key role in how I felt and enjoyed the race.
Once I got in the park, I knew every single turn, hill and detail ahead and that helped a lot. I used to train a lot in the park and ran my first half marathon in NYC (main part is the park). For the last two miles, I started to feel how my feet are sore from all the pounding. But it was nothing unbearable, I just realized the fact. Out from the park, running on Central Park South to get back to the park at the Columbus Circle, the Central Park South seemed way longer than I thought, but you don't give up at the last mile. Once I saw the 800 yards to go sign, I became excited, I even sped up for the last mile and especially for the last quarter mile. I did not even feel that the last bit toward the Tavern on the Green was uphill. I was so exited, so overwhelmed, so happy, so crazy ... I still cannot describe the feeling with words. Few marathoners among my friends mentioned that I will feel like never running again, especially running another marathon. I was the opposite. I was so happy, surprised and amazed that I actually enjoyed every single step on my way towards my first 26.2 miles of race.
It was first time I covered such a distance. Christel, now I can tell you, I lied, my longest run before this race was not a 16 miler, it was only 14.5 miles. I am glad that the race worked out for me anyway. Given the right ankle and then the left calf troubles, I am more than happy with the result, wich is 4:02:43 (I know I keep on repeating that). There are the official splits and results on the race website and also my Garmin activity link. I did the laps on my Garmin manually, since one usually runs more in an official mile of the race than a mile, it can be clearly seen here. I hit the lap button late once while coming down from the Queensborough Bridge, but apart from that I was pretty consistent. Concerning my calf problems, since my arrival to the US it kind of shifted towards soreness and aching in my feet, but I felt that only for the first few miles and completely forgotten about it after. On the result note, I finished 16 278th among more than 47 thousand runners who started the race and 3 729th out of 17 thousand women competing in the race.
After hitting the finishing line, I kept on walking, realized a guy vomiting not far from me, so tried to ignore that and gave it no thoughts, marched and marched, got the medal and the warm up blanket, the finisher recovery bag. Kept on texting - parents, friends, The Coach. I felt so happy, I cried a little and walked and walked. It took me I guess around 40 minutes to get out. I texted Christel also the first thing, I owe her so much!!! We met with Christel and with Lada and Tomas finally at the corner of 77th and Columbus Avenue, because that is the first moment you can get out of the barriers and mix up with spectators. I knew I needed some calories in, because I was only able to drink few sips of the water and that was not good.
I will say bye with this lovely photos, I am speaking with my dad, totally exhausted but very happy. Will share some more after marathon fun and feelings, but this got really long and I should start adjusting back to European time as it is already 1:30 am here and I am working tomorrow (or actually today).
THANK YOU all my friends, family, The Coach ... I am not gonna state the names, because I am sure I would forget someone. But honestly, your support was so great, I could feel your energy every single mile. All the comments, emails, texts just before the race. All the people who followed me online or even watched the whole race online even though it was obvious I was not gonna be among those targeted by the cameras :) THANK YOU, I hope to see many of you in May at the Prague's International Marathon!