Tag Archive for 13.1

Part 1: The Beginning of the End

At last, the New York City Marathon has come and gone. The last month has been crazy with training (and not training- more on that) so I will begin at the beginning of the end.

Staten Island.  October 12, 2014.

The plan was to complete my last long run in combination with running the Staten Island Half Marathon.

My Mister drove me to Staten Island where we parked near the start line around 7:00 am. That left me with about and 1 hour and 15 minutes to squeeze in a comfy 7 miles before getting to my corral. I set off along the course route and ran 3 ½ up towards the Verrazano, before turning around and returning. I was encouraged by the dozens and dozens of runners also adding in miles along the same route- we were all marathon bound and this was our final training stretch!

staten island running

Now the thing is, I had run Grete’s Great Gallop ½ Marathon the previous Sunday and experienced an odd twinge of pain in my left knee. I’ve never had any sort of knee pain, running or otherwise, and it shook out quickly during the Gallop even as it ebbed and faded during the Gallop so I didn’t give it much thought. Until now. During these 7 miles it was back. And it wasn’t exactly shaking out. It was a general pain that tightened as I rolled through strides on my left leg.

I returned to the start area around 8:15 right on schedule and regrouped with my mister as we headed towards the corrals.

Staten Island 1/2 Corral

The Mister tells me, “Make sure you step on home plate when you finish.” I told him “I’m feeling good, but I’m not sure about this knee. If I’m not on schedule during the ½ it’s because I’m having major issues. Major issues.”

 

The race began, and a FDNY fire boat kicked off the celebration in rare form.

fdny fire boat

Also in rare form, my knee which was already in twice as much pain as I had experienced that morning.  This is mile 1. 12 more to go, right?

It got worse, and worse. By mile 3, I was seriously considering stopping, calling the Mister, and getting the heck out of there. I have no clue what is wrong with my knee, hypothetically I have a Marathon in less than 1 month, and this is the now or never time for my last long run, the ever important 20 mile threshold. And the Mister woke up early on his day off and drove me out to Staten Island to see a Half Marathon.  If I wanted to do an everyday, plain Jane, sub-par distance training run I could have just gone to Central Park and at least he could have slept in. At least this is what is going through my mind since I can be tough on myself to the point of plain old foolishness.

So I continued. And hobbled. And walked. And welled up with tears as my marathon future flashed before my eyes and disappeared into a blur of ace bandages and ice compresses.

Near Mile 7, someone  came up behind me as I was walking and choking back tears yet again. He put his hand on my back, “You’re ok. What we’re going to do is run two of those lamp posts. “ He was still running and began to pull me too,  “I have two fake knees!” he added and I thought, “jeez, the universe is really laying it on heavy. If he is smiling with two fake knees and can give this another go.” So we began to run. I learned his name was Tommy, he was from Staten Island, and his current goal was to run a marathon on every continent.

Later that afternoon, I would actually discover via the Staten Island Advance that this was local legend Tommy Hart. And I couldn’t have been more gracious to experience such selfless encouragement from someone who clearly represents the best in our running community.

We passed a flock of the famous Staten Island turkeys. Too cool. We wondered together where in god’s name the turnaround was. Altogether we ran about 2 miles together until we parted.

At this point my knee is howling. Real bad. I have no clue what is wrong with it, or if I should even try to keep running on it. It hurts just to walk and half of the time when I try to start running again it is excruciating and impossible to put weight on it.

And all of these thoughts keep going through my head:

Even if I can’t run any more, shouldn’t I walk to the finish? But I’m still 4 miles out, won’t that take too long? They will close the course. So you want to quit because you’re embarrassed? Do you want to quit because of knee safety or pride?

And I couldn’t answer that last question so I kept going. I was so far off of my normal time bracket and falling deeper and deeper into the field of participants. And at first, it pains me to say, my pride was wounded. I was walking a lot, I was nowhere near a time I was prepared to deal with, and I imagined every single spectator judging me. It takes guts to be slow, I thought. And I thought some more, I’m an ass for even trying to define what I think is slow. A real asshole that completely undermines everything that is beautiful and meditative and, I hate to use the word, uplifting about running. I have always known running isn’t all about a number, but then again I’d always been fairly satisfied with my performance and, similarly, my time. This was uncharted territory for me and I learned what lies beyond is an experience far more evocative than running for a number.

On the topic of numbers though, this it what 13 miles of pain looks like with Grete’s Gallop as control data.

compare #2

And with wounded pride, a busted knee, and an entirely new view on running, I found mile 13.

finishing the Staten Island Half

I was, however, very disappointed to find that I could not, in fact, “step on home plate,” upon crossing the finish.

My First Half Marathon!

A little over a week ago, I was finally about to run my first Half Marathon, ever; it would be the Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Fred’s Team Presents Grete’s Great Gallop , in Central Park. Just one week before I had finished the Bronx Ten Mile and the two weeks before that I had little to no run time in do to a vacation run-amok. Not only would this be my first 13.1 miler, it would be my first 12 and 11 miler too.

That and I discovered I would have a last minute entourage/cheer group of eight people. Needless to say I was pretty nervous.

Ready

The night before, I laid out everything I might need for the morning, as usual….

Everything I needed for race morning ready to go.

Everything I needed for race morning ready to go.

 

… but when I woke up at 6:30 a.m. Sunday morning, my first thought was, “why are you doing this? 13 miles is ridiculous!” Of course, 6:30 a.m. race morning is way too late for second thoughts and I was glad I had laid everything out because auto-pilot was far less stressful at this point.

Did I mention the weather? This morning happened to be A. Dreary. All morning it was overcast and either constantly threatening to open up with ungodly drizzle. B. Humid. I don’t know where it came from, but even though it was only in the mid-sixties, humidity was at 90% and it felt gross.

To prepare, I ate my normal granola bar and half of a banana for a little extra oomph. I also usually try to drink about a full water bottle before my morning races or runs to compensate for 8 hours or so of without water during sleep.

Finally, the Mister and I hope in the new-again ol’ Super Bug (whole ‘nother story), and headed toward the park. We quickly found the rest of the group, which included my brother, aunt, mother, stepfather, and three young family friends (who were absolute troopers, in my opinion, for waking up so early to watch runners literally run circles for two hours).

Set

Our reunion was short lived, as I headed off to the Lines of Doom, otherwise known as the pre-race porta-potty gauntlet. This turned out to be slightly more eventful than I would have imagined. It went like this: the gauntlet was composed of maybe forty porta-potties in a row, and there were about ten lines of about 30 runners. Each line then filtered politely into one of the nearest units as it became available, in theory anyway. Two young ladies went down between two lines to form their own “new line” with no one in front of them. And let me tell you, that did not fly. After some brief crowd uproar, the gentleman behind me, in one of the best New York accents imaginable, yelled “Ladies, ladies, no! You can wait in line with the rest of us.” The young women paused and then, somewhat resigned, walked back past us, to the end of the line. Order restored, the rest of us in line chuckled and found some of the early morning pre-race tension broken.

Only briefly though, because less then ten minutes later we found ourselves in our corals at 8:59 listening to the national anthem and awaiting the start. And waiting…. and waiting. We inched forward, and then waited more! The way this coral was situated, not only could we not actually hear the start, but it would be a full six minutes before we were moving at a light jog and over the starting mat. This was it! This Half Marathon was happening!

And I was stoked.

Go

For me, the central park loop is one of my favorite weekly runs. Of course I usually run it counterclockwise, and I usually only run it once. This was definitely a race full of many firsts!

Another first: I finally figured out how to use the split feature on my watch. As I discovered during my first longer race (the 10 miler,) the first half is mentally challenging because I am thinking of all the miles ahead. To diminish this effect, I tried to focus on 1.) my new pace feature and hitting a steady pace somewhere around 8:30 per mile and 2.) the fact that a six mile loop is actually something I am comfortable with. The second half of a longer race, I anticipated, would be physically more demanding. To prepare for this I concentrated on taking a little water and or water/Gatorade mix in every mile or so, and I ate 1/2 a Cliff bar around mile 7.

And Grete’s Great Gallop was great. I especially loved the spectator who situated herself right above the cat statue at Cat Scratch Hill. She made me laugh, both times past, partially because I imagined how much her runner must have appreciated her unique position. My own cheering squad, surprised me by running back and forth across the park, so I got to see them not twice, but four times. It also kept me on my toes (literally) as I knew I couldn’t slack off for the next x-amount of miles because they were always just ahead.

And then their was my goal. I had decided a few weeks back that I would like to finish sub 2 hrs. I had run the 10 miler in 1:29:49, so hypothetically, it was realistic for me. But I wasn’t sure if I could maintain a quick enough pace after that point to keep me under 2 hrs. And at one point, I was convinced I couldn’t.

But at that point, I didn’t care. I was enjoying the race so much, I thought to myself, “2:05:00, 2:10:00, that’s cool and I don’t care.” Fact, my math during gets hazy (Apparently, my mind also gets hazy as I repeatedly read the backs of runners shirts- which said “Imagine a world with out cancer”- as “I’m a gine….” “I’m a gine?” I kept thinking, what does that mean?” But I digress).

First Half Marathon

 

1:58:15! Boom! I was stoked. I surprised hazy-math race self, meet my goal, and delivered on my ETA to my family. Done, done and done. 

My splits were 8:46, 8:39, 8:32, 8:50, 9:29, 9:14, 8:29, 9:46, 9:11, 9:13, 9:26, 8:43, and 9:49. Overall these splits are more consistent than I would have imagined possible on a hilly course combined with the fact I never had a chance to train with accurate splits before. At the same time, I am excited to have a baseline down, so I can work towards becoming steadier and punctual for future training.

All in all, it was a beautiful course, an amazing cause, an exciting new distance, and I was lucky enough to experience it all in the company of my family, my friends, and my Mister. And that, is just about as good as it gets.