Tag Archive for marathon fever

New York City Marathon Training: Round 2

nyc marathon entry 2015

new york city marathon guaranteed entry 2015

TCS New York City Marathon Training!

I’m back and ready for more miles.

I did a bit of running on and off the past several months, but between recovering from my knee injury last fall, planning a wedding, and recovering from planning said wedding, my consistency took a hit. It wasn’t until a few weeks after the wedding commotion died down, I suspected I was getting some summertime blues.

And then I woke up- the city was baking and I realized, guiltily, I’m behind being acclimated to the humidity. For god’s sake: there’s a marathon coming down the line and it’s time to make some moves!

NYC 2015: There’s a Sub-4 to Settle

Last year I stupidly, albeit mysteriously, injured myself three weeks out from the marathon and somehow hobbled through on race day without blowing anything out completely. So this year, my two main goals are as follows:

1.) Have an injury free training season! This means I need to:
a.) find and buy new running shoes immediately
b.) learn to take time for recovery tools, like icing and stretching.

2.) Fingers crossed- If I can stay injury free, I think I have a really good shot at sub-4 hrs. Before my late injury last year, I was right on track to finish around 4 hours, so hopefully I can get back to that zone.

That’s all I got for now! As I finish this, I am watching “Ultramarathon Man,” with Dean Karnazes. There’s a lot going on in this movie that could, and may be, talked about. But right now I think the main take away is Karnazes ordered and ate fresh pizza in the middle of his marathons.  Whikki-whaa?? (Record scratch) Make that my 3rd goal.

 

 

 

Part 2: Taper Sadness

For my first Marathon, this past spring, I experienced the Taper Madness for the first time. I had a slight foot injury and was trying to balance a light 3 week taper with not exacerbating my ankle problem. I felt like I was going crazy between tapering, trying to heal, and pre-marathon anxiety. And thus, “Taper Madness “ was born.

Marathon Training

This time around, I had entered into a period that could only be described as “Taper Sadness.”

Since the debacle on Staten Island, I was on a strict fast and furious regiment of…. rest. Rest. Ice. Hobbling. And…. more rest. No running for me whatsoever. Is that even technically a taper? My one goal at this point was to banish the knee pain into oblivion with the hope that I could test it out on a run during the Poland Spring Marathon Kick Off 5K, one week before The Marathon.

For nearly two weeks my knee would ache after merely being on my feet, which was frequently unavoidable since I waitress.

Ice, Ice baby….

I did a light mile jog to pick up my bib on Oct 25th, for the Kick Off. It was not terrible, but it still hurt. I made the decision to forgo the race so I could squeeze in more healing time. A zero mileage taper would be far from ideal, but no marathon would be a nightmare.

And so I officially DNS-ed my first race.

I picked up a knee brace at Jack Rabbit. I’m not a medical expert by any stretch of my imagination, but the braces always seemed to me a bit of wishful thinking hocus pocus. Obviously, I was desperate.

Lo and behold, I should have bought that thing weeks ago. It mushed everything in just right and all week it was like having a little miracle hug my knee in all the right places. One of my co-workers saw it and said “Isn’t that thing great? I’m wearing one on each knee right now. And I run with them.”

Where was this information all my life? I thought. I am but an infant in the vast ocean of running related knowledge.

New york city tcs marathon expo

On Thursday, I sprang out of bed and limped over to the TCS New York City Marathon Expo. It was bittersweet. I had dreamed of attending as a marathon entrant for more than a year, but now I felt like an impostor since I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to be healthy enough to run. It was incredible though and I tried to imagine that everything would be fine when I did the Dash to the Finish- that my knee would be great and I could finally put my head in The Marathon 110%.

Dash to the Finish

Saturday morning, as my family was in the middle of a 5 hour drive to the city for marathon spectating, I prepared for the Dash to the Finish. The race would be cold and wet. Quite wet.

We kicked off in front of the United Nations and almost immediately my knee began to ache. By the time I had finished at my “nice and easy” pace of 10 mins/mile, I was devastated. The last thing mile as we passed the mile 26 banner all set up for the marathon, I thought: There’s no way I’m going to see that sign tomorrow because I’m not going to be able to do the marathon.

As I funneled out with the finishers, I skipped the water and snacks; I couldn’t run fast enough to even get thirsty, and the more I thought about my diminishing marathon prospects the more I felt sick to my stomach.

I called the Mister and began to cry as I told him I wasn’t sure I should try to run tomorrow. I thought I would know with certainty what my knee would be capable of, and I didn’t. I thought I would know 100% whether to run or not run, but I didn’t.  I prepared for over a year and a half, and my family was already en route, for a Marathon that probably wasn’t going to happen for me. I was devastated.

Moreover, my Runner Brother has been dying for years to run NYC and I desperately wanted to gift my bib to him (so he could enjoy the race, and my family wouldn’t have driven for nothing), but NYRR strictly prohibits any sort of bib transfer. Period. So realistically, not much of an option.

The Mister and my family basically advised: 1.) Listen to your body, if you can’t run, that’s ok, you’ll do the race one day. It’s not worth permanently injuring something. 2.) If you think you can at least try, at least try.

I agreed with #1, though it wasn’t very palatable.  #2 made a lot of sense in theory, but I hesitated because I felt like everyone was underestimating the key element of my own stubbornness. If I started, I would want to push it as far as I could, as long as I could, no matter how bad my knee got (a la the Staten  Island ½ Marathon). And since that was a day of poor decision making culminating in one of the most excruciating days of my life, I wasn’t sure I wanted to turn what was supposed to be my marathon dream into my marathon nightmare.

I told my brother “Best case scenario, my knee manages to hold together for 26.2 miles but hurts the whole way and I still spend every minute of that run on an emotional roller coaster waiting for it to all fall apart.”

Ultimately, I told everyone that I would try. I would see what happens, but to know ahead of time if I drop out, it’s because the knee is bad bad bad. Either I run it and finish, or I drop out in Brooklyn and we all go to lunch.

I told everyone my mantra would be, I WILL drag my body through every borough of this city.

And just like that, it was on.

tcs new york city marathon expo

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.

The NYRR 18 Mile Tune Up!

We’re deep in the throes of marathon training now!

18 mile tune up bib

Last Sunday I joined over 4,000 runners as we attempted to tackle the full three loops it would take to hit the 18 mile mark.

I was a bit worried because my mileage has not been as high as I would have liked it to have been at this point, but that is partly why I committed to The Tune Up a few weeks back. I decided I would be content to hit 15 miles, since I figured I could at least go that far without risking an injury by over doing it. But in the back of my mind I knew, if I made it as far as 15, I would be too stubborn to throw in the towel only three miles from the finish (even if I had to walk turtle pace through the last stretch).

I knew as soon as this race started that it was going to be my kind of day. The slow and steady long run pace always seems to suit me and I was finally surrounded by other runners taking the same approach.

The toughest part of a truly long run, for me, is the mental aspect. One lap at a time, I told myself. And so it went. As we came through the first four miles or so we passed a table with Powergels of every flavor imaginable. I had a pocketful of shot-blocks, but after some stomach troubles from the Bear Mountain Marathon, I knew I have to continue to try different fueling solutions. Two months out from the marathon, it’s now or never eh?

Strawberry-bananna- with caffeine!- good enough for government. I took it with water, and continued back up cat scratch hill, with some good conversation in the form of a Judge John Hodgman Podcast to help keep my mind occupied.

nyrr 18 mile tune up map

The first 6 miles went great- I was feeling good, and ready to really dig into things. Around mile 10, back on the west side near the 72nd transverse, the fuel boxes were starting to really look like a hot commodity.

Runners were grabbing gels by the handful and I grabbed an extra on the off chance that they would run out (spoiler alert, they would). Another strawberry-bannana carried me swiftly back up through the second lap.

My pace for the first 12 miles was just about 2 hours- right on my nice and easy goal pace. I hope I have the time to work on a little speed in the next few weeks, but my #1 mantra is “Pacing, pacing, pacing; Don’t burn out.” You’re doing great, I tell myself- someone’s gotta keep the mind in a happy place.

And then it began. Around mile 13, I felt like I had a pot of coffee sloshing around in my stomach. I ate a pretzel or two, I sucked the salt off another one because my mouth felt too dry to choke down one more. Maybe it was the Gaterade? I thought, mental note, hold off on the Gaterade and take the water intake down a notch.

By mile 16 I was in a bad way and had to make a serious stop at to hop into the boathouse restrooms. Such timing! I was grateful for that at least.

Back on the course my stomach was churning, like heartburn and a million other stomach grievances. At least I wasn’t focusing on my potentially tired legs. Up Cat Scratch one more time- and then the crowds- and the final chute to the finish.

It was wonderful. And I got bleary eyed thinking of everything that had taken me here, in the past three hours, the past nine months, the past two years. And just less than two months I will finally be running through Central Park with tens of thousands of others runners, each with their own story, each finding their own meaning in that finish line.