Sunday, November 7, 2010
So I survived my first marathon. And enjoyed it enough that I thought I'd share my experience.
I did all the NYRR races last year to get entry to NY for 2010. By December I was running great but then the cold set in and I lost my motivation. By Spring I was woefully out of shape.
I ran a 10k on Memorial day which was a big wakeup call. I was running a marathon in 5 months and if I wanted to do anything more than finish I needed to get it in gear. I downloaded pfitz's 18/55 plan and never looked back. Three weeks out I did my last long run, a 21 miler with the last few miles on 8-10% slopes. I was trying to simulate the dreaded bridges I'd heard so much about.
As race day approached I was feeling good about my training but anxious to see if I could actually execute during the race. My plan was to run 7m30s miles for as long as possible and if I lost some steam at the end, so be it.
On race day I got a lift over to Fort Wadsworth arriving just in time to drop off my bag and head to my corral for wave one. I was in green and would be running on the lower deck of the Verrazano. We waited around for about an hour which wasn't too bad. A little cold but I'd brought several extra layers to discard.
The cannon went off to mark the start and suddenly we were in motion. I crossed the line about 4 minutes after the gun and tried to settle into a nice easy pace. The Verrazano is the biggest hill in the race but I was barely feeling it. The wind and shade were much bigger factors in making the first bit difficult.
My first glance down at my watch was horrifying. I thought I was running an easy but steady pace. My gps showed 0.67 miles and 7m45s, way off my target pace! Then I looked up and saw the first mile marker about 100 feet ahead. Apparently my gps was having a hard time on the lower deck.
Before I knew it I was off the bridge and out into the brilliant Brooklyn sunshine. I ripped off my last few long-sleeve layers and ran the rest of the way in my club singlet, arm warmers and shorts.
I was surprised to see spectators already gathered out on the highway. From there the crowd started to build and build. By mile 3 the roadsides were already packed. The support in Brooklyn was overwhelming. Around mile 6 I had to remind myself to focus on running rather than high-fiving spectators and waving to the crowd as I still had 20+ miles to go.
At mile 8 I discarded my gloves which proved to be an unfortunate decision. At mile 10, in a crowd, I caught my foot on some uneven pavement and suddenly I was lying face down on the pavement. A spectator quickly helped me to my feet and I was off again. Glancing down, I assessed the damage. Several cut and bloody fingers but only a small spot on my left knee. I thought momentarily about stopping at a medical tent but then reconsidered. If my legs were still ok I'd worry about the rest after.
The next few miles were a blur and I crossed the half way mat at 1h37m. The bridge into Queens was a brief respite from the crowds but I remember a woman had walked out onto the span to meet us, enthusiastically ringing a cowbell and loudly proclaiming that Queens loved the runners.
After a brief jaunt through Queens and more amazing crowd support we quickly approached the dreaded Queensboro Bridge. I was still feeling good though and was able to power up the incline maintaining a steady effort. On the down slope I looked out at the Empire State Building, so much closer now than when we started on the Verrazano.
I was brought out of my thoughts by a low rumble which quickly became a wall of noise as we exited the bridge and turned onto 1st avenue. The crowds here were unbelievable. It was almost non-stop, people recognizing my club jersey and calling out to me.
Besides a few hotspots on my feet I was still feeling ok and steadily ticked off the miles still on my 7m30s pace until I crossed over the Willis avenue bridge and into the Bronx. This was the first time when I started to feel the effort required to maintain pace.
Miles 21, 22 and 23 fell away as I crossed back into Manhattan and proceeded down 5th avenue. My splits for these miles were all between 7m29s and 7m33s but the effort required was going up exponentially.
As I turned into Central Park at 90th street, I was back on familiar ground having run numerous nyrr races over the last 18 months. Mile 24 and 25 were a struggle over rolling terrain as I slowed to 7m50s pace but once I turned onto Central Park South I knew I was almost home. The 800 yd banner quickly came and went. Then 400, then 300...as I was racing by waving to the crowd it was a mixture of emotions. Relief that I was done and could stop running but bittersweet that it was all over so quickly.
I crossed the line in 3h17m8s well ahead of my C and B goals of finishing and finishing under 3h30m. I was planning to lose up to 15 minutes in the second half but ended up losing only two, finishing the last 13.1 in 1h39m.
Overall, I think I ran the best race possible given my current fitness level and am already looking forward to NYC 2011.
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