New York Marathon 08 Race Report

To see some of the photos referred to, go here.

At long last, I can strike this marathon off my ‘Bucket List’.  The only problem is now I want to add it back on with the qualifier to do it better.

I have wanted to do this race for a long, long time, but have never been able to justify the price.  It’s $220 for a marathon.  After having experienced the event, I now know that it is much more than a marathon, and would pay it again in an instant.  It is an incredible experience and for the Race Directors, truly a logistical nightmare that only works with their military precision.  At least from our experience it seemed that way.

Nancy and I drove down on Thursday night with Martine Clement on her way to visit her sister, who lives in Brooklyn.

Friday, we took the subway to kit pick up and the expo, where we bumped into thee time Hawaii Champ Peter Reid who was working at the PowerBar Booth.  We did the usual stuff and walked around a bit more than we would normally have liked two days before such a big event, but it was NYC.  There was so much to see and do.  On the way back to Brooklyn, we stopped in at Ground Zero, Wall St, Battery Park and the Staten Island Ferry, which we were going to take to the start instead of the bus.

That night, we checked out Hallowe’en the way it is supposed to be done—the houses and costumes in Brooklyn were amazing.  To see some of them, go here.

Saturday, Nancy’s taper induced hypochondriac syndrome was right on cue: she was feeling a bit under the weather; she was feeling all sorts of aches and pains and her shins were sore from all the walking on Friday without her shoes tied properly.  We stayed in and relaxed almost all day, with Nancy doing some school work between obsessing some more about what to wear in the race.  We did, however, venture out to the local open air market for some veggies, fresh baked bread, locally grown apples and a fantastic pecan butter tart the size of my fist.  Yum, yum, YUM!!

After a wonderful supper, probably the healthiest thing I ate all weekend, we organized our pre-race clothing and breakfast as well as our post race bags that would be shipped from the start to the finish. 

We chatted with Kelly, Nancy’s childhood friend with who were staying, and then hit the sack.  5 AM would come early.

And it did.

We had our coffee, got dressed and headed to the subway, ferry, bus ride to the start, along with a gazillion others.  All were kind of glassy eyed and somewhat serious.  Our trip to the start was very efficient.  Once there, it was time to find the rest of the Ottawa Zone3sports crew, Sheri and Steve McCready, Michelle Zunti, Bryan Reid, Kaireen Patton.  Others from Zone3sports included David McCaw and Valerie Allen, but we had no arrangements to meet up with them.  It took a while, but we did find them, just in time to wish them luck and head off to our respective corrals.  

The NYC Marathon is a huge undertaking with three different corrals and three waves, spaced 20min apart.  There are actually three different routes for the first 8 miles with each corral doing a different route.  This was the first year for such an extravagant start system, and I did not hear any comments as to how it went off, but theoretically, if everyone was in the right wave, it should have worked really well.

One of the neat things about this race is that because it is a point to point event, people have the option to wear clothing at the start and discard it on the spot.  The Race crews pick it all up and donate it to the needy in town.  The fact is was 6 degrees Celsius made warm clothing mandatory, so the haul would have been exceptional.  Some of the clothing being discarded was pretty nice, too. I imagine there are many well dressed needy folks in tights walking around today.

Okay, so on to the actual race…

Going into this race, even though I knew since May that I was going to do it, I was still not sure if I was going to race it or just run it.  My level of fitness rarely has much more than a few percentage points play in it and I knew I was not super race fit. I also knew that I was not far off a fairly quick run if things went right, or, I could really take my time, bring the camera with me and look around.  Even on the start line, I was not sure.  There were no usual pre-race nerves or jitters.  None at all.  I was actually a bit too relaxed in the assembly area: as I lingered, I missed the announcements that my corral was closing. I clued in that I might be in trouble only when they said it was closed, and anyone not in their starting pen yet would have to start in the second wave. When I heard that bit of news, I and about 50 other guys in a similar situation bolted through the crowd to the pen where we were given the evil eye and let in. I met Andrew Milne, another Ottawan, as I squeezed through the gates and meandered up to the final starting area. Due to my inattentiveness, I was way back in the field. I looked at the bright side of the situation and figured being so far away from the front lines would help remove some of the pull from the front that I often feel.

It was pretty windy and definitely cold standing around Almost on time, the canon sounded.  We went up and over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, one mile up, one mile down.  My original pace was to be somewhere around 6:15 per mile.  My first mile was over 7min.  My second was 5:30, third was 6:00, 5:45, 5:50, 5:47, 5:55, 5:55.  You get the picture—I was running too fast   Even my uphill miles were faster than what I was supposed to average.  I felt very easy, and because of the wind, found myself jumping from group to group as I moved up the field that seemed to stretch out forever in front of me.  I knew that each time I jumped groups, I was burning a match, of which I had a limited supply.  At one point, though, I had to get out of the group I was in: there were two guys in compression socks and another wearing worn thin skin tone duathlon shorts. It was fairly obvious he was also wearing a thong. I just could not stay there, so I burned another match and put them behind me so I could concentrate on running again.  It took a mile for the shivers running up my spine to stop. I also knew that each group was a successively faster group, and as I questioned my aggressive pace, reminded myself that this was one of the reasons I was here—to chase all the targets.  This was a totally new experience for me—I was far from the fastest person in the field and this was my chance to have a never ending supply of people to run with, no matter how fast I went.  I decided to continue for as long as I could, then hold on for deal life.  Who knows?  This day might be the one where it all comes together.

Yeah, right.  Remember one of my sayings “you get what you deserve.”

At 15 miles, things started to get a bit tougher for me, but then I realized we were on another bridge, going up.  I was losing the group with which I had been running, ever so slightly.  I forced my way back into it, lost it again, fought back in, lost it again and tried in vain to get back in but could not.  This was the beginning of the end.  I was imploding.  How far I would degrade would be a matter of intestinal fortitude, which was another of the reasons I was there: to find out how far I could push myself.  It would, one day, be so nice for this to happen a bit later in the race, but I asked for it, and knew I was playing with a mostly empty box of matches.

My 16th mile was 6:20, then 6:05, 6:03, 6:23, 6:40, 7:04 (oh God), 7:00, 7:03, 7:13, 6:56, 6:57 and the final .2 miles took 1:30.  My final time was 2:44:39, right around where I figured I would go.  I achieved my goal time.  I just did it the hard way.

Nancy apparently and unbeknownst to either of us employed the same strategy as I did and went out fast, losing 8min on the second half, but still crossing the line at 3:18, a full 6min better than her previous best marathon time. 

The walk to the UPS trucks holding our clothing was long.  Each UPS truck was to hold a few thousand participant bags, and with 37,000 participants, that’s a lot of trucks and organization.  They were logically lined up to empty from the far end first, so as not to bottleneck the finish area.  Unfortunately, that made it a long way to the lower numbered trucks when put end to end.  It was easily a 15min walk in the cold shade to get to the warm clothing in our bags.  Not very comfortable, but there really is no other way to do it. Along the way, I met up with Ian Fraser doing a fine impersonation of a salt stick. He was happy to be done like the rest of us.

I waited in the sunshine for Nancy to arrive and was overjoyed with her performance.  She was just ahead of Peter Reid who was with a PowerBar representative and the woman who was lucky enough to win the PowerBar Expo draw of having Tim DeBoom run the first half of the marathon with her, and Peter the second half.   She had her own private escorts to keep her on pace and motivate her.  What a cool way to run the NYC Marathon. Shortly after that, Val Allen came by glowing about her 8min PB run.  It seemed like it was going to be a great day all around.

We headed over to hook up with the rest of our Ottawa Crew and share the war stories.  Sheri started in the 2nd wave and had a rough day for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was tripping over a mat on the way to the start line, or getting caught up in someone’s iPod wires, or being sprayed with a gel at the crux of the back of her knee by accident so the gel stuck to itself gently pulling on the skin on each step for many miles worth of steps.  Lots of little things just seemed to add up and detract from her focus.  Michelle ran a PB, and Steve, well, his day was not as good as expected, but he’s taking it well.

So, back to the race for a bit—it was awesome.  It was everything I expected with the throngs of people cheering along on the course, the exceptional organization and the truly competitive field.

So what is it like running in a field that big?  Honestly, I cannot say as I never looked back.  I do know that it was fantastic having people around all the time to help push and pull me.