"...after the finish line, I stopped and smiled, and then disappeared, as my NYCM poncho fell empty to the ground..."
Nah, just kidding. I'll be back for more. (just like Luke)
Anyway, I felt like Luke before the race; A grumpy curmudgeon saying "what's the point?". But I decided to show up and save the universe for a happy ending, because that's what Jedi do.
OK, back to reality.
I flew to New York on Thursday with no big goals. I just wanted to enjoy the fabulosity of the New York Marathon for the second time. Planned to just run and hope I didn't die too badly. I was happy to be seeing a few of my best buddies there. I was happy about the weather forecast. I was happy to see my brother and his wife and enjoy the (free) hospitality at their house in NJ. I was happy my wife was able to come and watch. And I was happy to have gotten through a week of dental crises.
Two weeks earlier I had a toothache which was a large abscess. I needed a root canal, but couldn't get it scheduled until Tuesday of marathon week. That's fine, the dentist said. Better before than after, and you should have a quick recovery. He gave me an anitibiotic which killed the pain after two days. Tuesday I went in for the root canal which really isn't that big a deal. Just a long time in the chair. But the endodontist couldn't finish it - one of the roots was tricky and he wasn't in his office with his top equipment. So I had to reschedule for Wednesday with another endodontist. Once there, she said I really needed TWO teeth rooted out, but she could do them both right then and there. So she did. By Thursday morning I headed to the airport with no tooth pain and relieved that it all got taken care of.
But then the pain came back (which she said might happen). Thursday night it was so bad I was up half the night with a throbbing jaw. She had given me a prescription in case of this so I got the antibiotics again and super-ibuprofen for the pain on Friday morning. But it was still hurting a lot. So I called the doc and she got me another prescription over the phone for a corticosteroid (prednisolone) which is an anti-inflammatory. Picked that up Friday afternoon and popped three in my mouth. By bedtime the pain had subsided quite a bit, and by Saturday I was basically as good as new. Phew!
Met up with Carissa (with hub) and Gonzo (with wife) and Roger and Liz in Manhattan for lunch and bakery goodies. Great to see them and talk running. Having Loop buddies all over the country is such a great perk.
Sunday broke cool (45) and sunny with no wind. Just perfect. I got dropped off at the Fort Wadsworth start village by my brother at about 8:00 and had time to chill out. Potty lines were short and I managed to find Gonzo so we got to cruise around together. It all went smoothly. I had packed two GUs and my phone in my Flipbelt, as well as a little pill case with my steroid, antibiotic and pain pills I was supposed to take. Because I was still worried the stress of the race would activate the tooth pain and wanted to stay on schedule. I kept my phone out to take pics and video the start like so many of the people around me. On the bridge after the start, a lot of people stopped, climbed up on the divider and took pics. So many foreigners and languages. It's very cosmopolitan. And cool. Feels pretty special. I took a quick video, but I couldn't resort to actually stopping. My Garmin was running! This was a race after all!
Then, as I fiddled to get my phone into my flipbelt, the pillbox popped out, fell to the ground and popped open. Pills scattered across the roadway. I gasped and stopped for a second, but realized it was hopeless and kept running with the crowd. Oh well. What will be will be.
I was jogging easily and enjoying the view and the scene at about 9:30 pace, but eased into race pace and got over the crest and to mile 1 in 8:59. Then mile two is mostly coming down the bridge and I couldn't help running a 7:36, although I was just cruising. My pace "goal" was to keep it above 8:00, preferably around 8:15, and try to hold back as much as possible and delay the inevitable bonk. Yes, the goal was to go slow, not to go fast. And for the most part I was successful. I cruised through Brooklyn just enjoying the massive crowds. Brooklyn is my favorite part of the race. It's the loudest. Louder than First avenue in Manhattan. Lots of bands and music and people with microphones. And so many are screaming! I tell ya, it makes you feel like a rock star the whole way. It feels like they are screaming just for you. I did lots of hand slapping and smiling. The miles clicked by. 8:03, 7:56, 8:02, 8:01 through six. Feeling good.
At mile 7 I decided to take a GU, but I had a heck of a time getting it out of my flipbelt. Just could not find the hole. After about a minute I decided to pull over and stop and get it out. I knew the fuel was more important than the time. And again, I didn't really have a goal finish time that mattered. So I stopped, and it still took me about 30 seconds to get the darn thing out of the belt. But it finally emerged and I moved on. Hence mile 7 was 8:44. I was taking gatorade at every single mile, and occasionally water too. I wasn't sweating much, so dehydration wasn't a concern. But I feel like I never fuel enough, so today I was going to max out on the gatorade. And I never got sick of it. My stomach did fine. 8-10 were 8:06, 8:00 and 7:52.
After 8 miles of constant noise, we hit a quiet patch with almost nobody cheering. This was the Orthodox Jewish section where many men could be found in their black suits and hats and long beards. None cheering. Most seeming peeved. One broke into a trot to cross the street through the runners and gave me a little smile.
By now I was starting to tire and it became more workmanlike. 11-13 were 8:09, 8:07, 8:14 and I wasn't holding back any more. Now it was an effort to maintain the pace. The endless self talk of "just keep going" started up. Each mile marker was a victory. Hit halfway in 1:47:50 which is just a hair over BQ pace. But I had no illusion about running a negative split to break 3:35. Well, OK, I thought about it. As in, wouldn't that be nice. But I didn't feel that good. I could tell my body was wearing out and the usual price would be paid. The bridge at 13 was longer and steeper than I remembered. And the suffering began.
Well, not yet. For the next three miles you are getting close to the next bridge and anticipating Manhattan. The course turns a lot and there are some good crowds again. So much screaming. In mile 14 I went for my next GU and again had trouble and had to stop to get it out of my belt. Cost maybe 15 seconds. As I was stopped, bystanders gave me pity cheers like I was dying. 8:32 and 8:37 to 15. Yes, I was slowing a bit. My hips started to hurt. I tried to relax and just run, knowing there was still a long way to go. Mile 16 was the Queensboro bridge to Manhattan. It's a long, gradual hill with no people cheering. It's a grind. I maintained a steady pace and enjoyed getting over the crest. Although the downhill hurt my quads which were already getting sore. Ugh. Mile 16 came in at 9:46 but that was due to the bridge messing up the Garmin and adding at least a tenth of a mile. I felt pretty decent as we hit First Avenue.
Manhattan was great. The crowds are big, but not as many were screaming. Sometime whole sections would be quiet. And the road is wider so it is less intimate. But still pretty darn cool. Still a rock star. By now my legs were tired and my next goal was to make it to the Bronx and mile 20 without walking, hopefully staying under 9 minute pace. I figured I had a pretty good shot at my goal of 3:45 if I could just keep going. Success! 17-19 were 8:19, 8:16, 8:21 I had a friend handing out gels at mile 18 and that gave me something to think about and run for. I managed to spot him and yell at him as I went by and he gave me a gel. Every little encounter helps keep that momentum going. Often I would pull to the side to slap some hands when I needed a boost and it really helped. Hooking up with similar paced runners helps too. I formed little pacts (in my head) to stick with different runners for different sections.
The bridge into the Bronx had me thinking about walking but I had latched onto a runner that was at my pace and she helped get me over that hill and to mile 20 in 8:39. Then there was one more bridge to get back to Manhattan. (The sign said Last Fucking Bridge) I was hurting but I kept running. 21-22 in 8:42 and 8:57. Stopped to walk though the water stops for the next few miles. Pain was fully on board now. Hips, quads, back (but the tooth was fine!) Then I happened to see a guy we had talked to in the start corral go by me in mile 22. We chatted briefly like old friends. Every little thing helps. It gave me a boost and kept me going. Now I knew there was a long slog of a climb at 23-24 to get to the park. I just tried to maintain a trotting pace and get through it, knowing my wife was waiting in the park at 24. Also knowing I had a decent time in the bag if I just kept moving. I took a couple short walk breaks when it got hard but got through 23-24 in 9:12 and 10:01.
Did I mention the beautiful day? It was so nice. Sunny, cool, no wind. The trees in the park were beautiful with many colors. The crowds were huge. I was really enjoying myself throughout the day - happy to be there, feeling like a rock star with a million fans. Just had to repeat myself because I'm still feeling the awesomeness a week later. You should run New York.
Anyway, I got to the park. Couldn't find my wife because she was on the other side of the street than I expected, and it was too loud to hear her. But she got some nice pics of me going by.
I was a little deflated after missing her, but I kept on. A couple more walk breaks. 25 was 10:12. But then with only a mile to go, finish line adrenaline kicked in. I gritted my teeth and accepted the pain and got into a slightly faster pace. Turned onto the street with 1/2 mile to go. Kind of felt better and managed to cruise all the way in without walking. No cramps. No blisters. No chafing. Mile 26 was 9:25 and the last 1/4 mile was 8:50 pace as I cruised up the hill to the finish.
9,306th out of 52,000+
As I crossed the finish, Peter Ciaccia, the retiring race director, was right in front of me, and I got a high five and a pat on the back from him. That was cool. Then it was the long walk out. But on such a nice day, it wasn't bad at all. No shivering. I had the usual soreness, but I was happy for another successful marathon.
Carissa had a rental only two blocks from the park exit, so I headed there to meet up with my wife and the others. Showered, had the first of four beers and celebrated. Later we went out with the other Loopsters for burgers and more beer. An excellent end to an excellent day.