JonRoig.com | Posted: 2007-11-06 19:48:17 | 5033 hits | View in Hi-Fi Mode
I beat 33,357 people in a 26.2 mile foot race this weekend. In your face! (Of course, 5,196 people got it together enough to beat me.)
I finished in 3:36:06, good enough for a PR, but not by much. 9 seconds. How strange is that? I'm nothing if not ridiculously consistent -- I finished Tucson AND San Diego in 3:36:15... all three are completely different courses run under completely different conditions.
There's really nothing like the NYC marathon. Talk about an epic event... there is truly no other road race like it. I'd gone and watched my Mom run it many times in the past -- it's really the race which sparked my interest in marathon racing -- but the chance to actually participate in it?
Amazing. So much fun... and how could it not be? With a course which slinks through all five boroughs with the complete support of the city behind it, and something like 2.5 million spectators, all cheering you on, it's totally unlike any other race I've run in my entire life.
For the scale we're talking about, the whole event just was remarkably well executed. I'll talk about the race itself in a moment, but I just wanna say hats off to all the volunteers who helped make this run work smoothly. From the nice folks checking registration cards and issuing race numbers and chips, to the people manning the water tables in various neighborhoods, to the chip clippers and medal givers at the end of the race, this event really, more than anything, is a tribute to the power of a community to put on a really incredible event. The energy level was amazing... bands and musical acts dotted the entire course. There was literally nowhere to hide and slack off.
It begins like any other race, with a trip to the expo. I'd flown into NYC the night before, hooked up with my Mom and Aunt Kerfe, who was kind enough to let me crash on her couch for the weekend. My impression is that we were pretty lucky to get that all taken care of on early on Friday, since processing almost 39,000 runners means really long lines and whatnot, but picking up the race numbers and whatnot went totally smoothly.
At the expo, I... uhh... tried something different this time. Here's the deal -- I trained for and ran that crazy 50 mile race out in Jerome a month ago on shoes that I bought back in July. (I remember that 'cuz the Brooks Cascadias were a birthday gift to myself.) After the race, I should've immediately picked up some new shoes and broken them in, but before I kinda came to my senses and realized I was about to plunge into another long distance run, I only had a week or two left.
Not enough time to break in a new pair of shoes, right?
So... I don't really know how to explain why I did what I did next, except to say that I suddenly became more worried about damage caused by "flat" shoes then I was about the prospect of blisters. I mean... blisters... whatevah! (I actually have gotten really lucky on that front in the past, but one doesn't train for and run 7 marathons without a certain amount of comfort with inflicting surface damage to one's feet.)
I bought a new pair of Brooks Cascadias at the expo and broke 'em in over the next two days, wandering around the city on foot. (Had some pretty awesome adventures in the process, too -- got to the Met and MOMA, saw Avenue Q with my Mom. I eventually wandered the entire stretch of Broadway from 14th St. to 111th St, where my Aunt lives.) Some creative stretching of the sides of the shoes seemed to eliminate the chafing on my right ankle... applied a little vaseline to the the general area, and was ready to rock. And yeah, I do realize that I'm a bit of a nut for running street races in trail shoes, but I never really did find a road shoe that I dig as much as the Cascadias.
Heck... I'm also one of the only people who runs these races with a Camelbak.
So... yeah... let's talk gear for a sec. I actually made use of the bag check this time, so I rolled out towards the race in a cab at 6:30 am, headed south for the ferry to take me to Staten Island. I was stylishly attired in my REI fleece, which is awesome in cold temps. It was in the 40's as I left, and I knew I'd be waiting for awhile before the race start. I was also rockin' the horrible target track pants I've mostly been using as pajamas. Good enough...
Since it was way colder than I'm used to, I checked in the pants and jacket and started the race with my awesome wool hat and long sleeve Brooks shirt. 'Course, I had the Camelback filled with 32oz of Accelerade. I dunno... I like that stuff. I also had 4 gu packets, which I transferred periodically from my pack to my shorts... since it was nice and cold, I wore my black Adidas shorts with the built in compression inner lining, and balanced it out with that Sugoi sleeveless black shirt I wear waaaay too much.
It's a system that works pretty well. I love that hat way too much to just toss it away, so I ended up tucking it into my Camelbak after the first mile or so. I suppose it was extra weight, but it was soooooo awesome to be able to dig it out at the finish and throw it on immediately after crossing the line.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The race begins out at the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, out in the Shaolin Lands of Staten Island. From the ferry, there was a huge, but orderly queue of people politely waiting for a thundering herd of buses to take us to the start. I had never been to that part of NYC -- nor, really, any of what was about to see in NYC. The people on my bus didn't seem to be Wu-Tang Clan fans, but it didn't matter... everyone was in a good mood, chatting about races they've done and offering little tidbits of advice on the course.
I don't really know how this happened, but I think I got seeded with a group a little faster than me at the start. We were pretty close to the front of the pack... the folks around me all looked like serious runners, most expected to finish in the 3:15 to 3:20 range. I love that little bit, right before the race starts... when you're all just sitting around, shooting the shit, preparing for the race. It was almost all guys, men from all around the world, really. One of them told me that it was really easy for foreigners to get in with a tour package.... and that's fine since local NYC runners can qualify all kinds of ways as well through a series of local runs...
We got started pretty quickly once the race officially began -- we were definitely among the first wave. I started nice 'n' slow, making sure everything was functioning correctly with my new shoes and just kinda getting warmed up.
I was halfway across the bridge when a huge wave of runners came up on me from behind, moving along pretty quickly. It was the 3:30 group. Since it was windy on the bridge, I just tucked in behind them and basically hung on 'till around mile 18.
I dunno who you were, Green Balloon official pacer guy for the 3:30 group, but you're a badass. I followed those green balloons for as long as I could, but by the time that I finally noticed that you'd gone out of my sight, I was pretty pleased to just be moving at all...
My impression is that my race was very different than that of the folks who came behind me. The group of dudes -- and it remained mostly dudes for the first couple miles due to the way they separate the starts and keep people flowing through different lanes by group -- was, as I said, mostly serious runners. There were a ton of us on the course, so there was a little jostling back and forth just in terms of navigating the crowd, but it was all pretty chilled out.
Whenever I got up onto any kind of hill and had a chance to overlook the course, the views of the vastness of the field were amazing. Still, I really didn't feel at all like I had trouble keeping the pace I wanted.
Things got a little uglier as we cruised through Brooklyn. orange and blue merge together around mile 2, while I was in green, which continued on in its own lane for quite awhile. At mile 8, the groups all converge and they do away with the remaining dual lanes, but by then, people were pretty much cruising along at a decent clip.
"Great going, Chicken Legs!"
For like 15 miles, I followed some dude with "Chicken Legs" written on his shirt in tape. The crowd responded enthusiastically -- yelling "Chicken Legs" over and over. There are sooooo many people on the course, watching... at first, you look at all of them, but around mile 6, you start to dig in, the crowd is ever present and fades into the background.
What an amazing tour of NYC. Running through Brooklyn was spectacular, with huge ebullient crowds along almost every inch of the course. Each little neighborhood was different and showed off its character... it's kind of a blur, but it was awesome. The crowds only swelled as the race progressed -- the roar was almost deafening, coming off the Queensboro Bridge at mile 16 as we entered Manhattan.
I caught up with my Mom, Aunt Kerfe, and Cousin Caroline at mile 17, feeling pretty good and very focused. I didn't stick around, just dropped off my long sleeve shirt, which had been tied around my waist, and kept moving. At that point, I was feeling the miles, but settled into a comfortable rhythm. Ben, some guy from Queens running for the Team for Kids, was kind enough to clue me in on the layout of the rest of the course while we rolled gently through a couple miles in the middle there, but by the time we hit 18, we'd gotten separated as I tried to make an epic push down First Ave towards the Bronx.
After one final bridge crossing at mile 21, we were back in Manhattan, headed for our rendezvous with Central Park. My legs were certainly feeling the impact of running the pavement for that long, but I really do feel like the compression shorts help. I slowed down a bit and just concentrated on the fact that I only had about 5 miles left to go.
5 miles... I've done that a million times!
So... from there, it was pretty smooth sailing. The family yelled my name as cruised down Fifth Ave, but since I wasn't really expecting to see 'em, I didn't really pay much attention. Just. Kept. Moving.
The park was packed with people and it just kept getting louder as I approached the finish.
This finish line was a model of efficiency. I cruised in, probably, within minutes of hundreds of other people, but the volunteers were right there with water, gatorade, and a space blanket. I was feeling pretty messed up as I crossed the line, although I did throw the devil horns to the assembled crowd and photographers.
Gotta give credit where credit is due, eh?
After that, it was a long walk to grab my stuff, then a long walk to the reunion point... I convinced my Mom to buy me a pretzel and gobbled it down as we ambled on foot back to my Aunt's place. It was a several mile walk, I guess, but people congratulated me the whole way and it was awesome for a post-race stretch. As a consequence, I'm actually feeling alright, not terribly sore.
So... yeah.... thank you, NYC! That was one of the most fun things I've ever had the chance to do. If you'll have me, I'll be back for more...
Here's a breakdown of my splits and whatnot:
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