WHAT I DID ON MY NEW YORK VACATION
PART THREE: FINALLY!!! THE MARATHON....
ok, so from my mom i inherited my infamous "death stare" and from my dad, the inability to tell a quick story. it used to drive me crazy as a kid on road trips or at family dinners. we'd roll our eyes and tell him, "get to the point already!!" to which he would reply "listen, when i'm done, you're gonna have the whole story. there won't be any questions" but of course we always had questions, most often "what the hell took you so long??" so again, you've been warned. THIS POST IS LONG. THIS POST IS TWO WEEKS LATE. you can read it or not. i don't care. it's my blog for me to look back on when i finally become an ironman. does anybody actually read this thing anyway?? and there really shouldn't be any questions once i'm done. and then we'll get right back to regularly scheduled short posts about crotch itch and cool gear and of course the retarded love life....
i had my traditional pre-race sushi dinner with three of my close buddies, Wellington, my host and dear friend from my college days at NYU, Doug, my best friend from high school, and Ron who made it through Art Center with me. my plan was to try to be as lite as possible. this time, i wouldn't be carrying a camera or cell phone or any combination thereof (i seriously used to carry that crap). in training, i replaced my water bottle belt with a hand-held water bottle strap that has one small pocket for an i.d and keys and some money, that's it. i had hidden all my food in the bushes for all my long runs which posed a problem for race day. how the hell was i going to get my food?? that's were the boys come in.... and the meeting would convene. i handed them all baggies with Clifbloks, potato chips, and powdered gatorade that i'd want at different points on the course. the baggies included a copy of my proposed pace chart so they'd know when to expect me as well as spectator signs for them to hold so i'd be able to find them. Doug lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so he would see me first at mile 10.5 in Williamsburg where his brothers live. he was to wait on the left hand side of the street at Bedford and N. 4th. Ron's in Sunnyside, Queens, so i'd see him later at mile 15. He was to wait on the right hand side of the street just before i entered the infamous Queensboro Bridge. lastly, Wellington would be my Manhattanite waiting at mile 19, now back on the left side of the street just past the water station. he'd then hop over to mile 23 in case i was in trouble. they looked at me like i was insane. then Doug asked something like, "you gettin' paid for this???" as he politely excused himself to suck on a cancer stick outside the restaurant. i swear, i have the best friends ever!!!! it's always been really difficult for me to ask for help from my friends. i have no idea why, because i know that they would be there for me in a second, but it's still hard for me to ask. they may not be into this whole marathon and triathlon thing, but my friends will TOTALLY HAVE MY BACK when the shit goes down. this was going to have everything to do with whether i was to have a good run or not.
map courtesy of nycmarathon.com
before i left L.A., i typed out a pace chart and put it in this really cool dryfit wristband that i got as a freebie from Nike at the Honolulu Marathon expo last year. i have never been so obsessive about my pace, but i knew that if i was going to have any shot at running a p.r., i was gonna have to be on top of my pace as the New York marathon is not a flat, fast or p.r. type of course. my general plan was to run/walk a 6:1 ratio for the first 16 miles until i came off the Queensboro Bridge. then i'd assess my legs and my pace and probably adjust to straight running with short walk breaks through the water stops. anyone reading this who says your'e not a marathoner if you walk can SUCK IT. i was trained by Jeff Galloway himself, elite runner and proponent of the run/walk method, and that's just how i roll. 26.2 miles is 26.2 miles however you get there, and you're probably the same wanker who says only an ironman is considered a triathlon. considering the elevation chart and my memories of the two previous times i'd run this mother, i typed my chart up in microsoft excel using a formula that would add all cumulative miles as i entered them until the total time at the bottom was what i wanted. i would start out with an 11 minute mile to warm up and get up and over the Verazano-Narrows Bridge. there'd be some flat miles in Queens where i could pick it up to 9:45 and 9:30. i'd give myself an extra 2 minutes to get over the Queensboro Bridge as it is a mile long uphill. then i remembered how i felt the last time as i came UP 5th Ave. for miles 22 and 23. i asked myself for the first time ever, "why do you keep doing these friggin' marathons?" yep, better give myself 3 extra minutes per mile through that little pocket of hell. ok, guess i better run that first mile in 10:30 now. and just in case, i typed up a whole extra column that would give me a slowest possible pace of around 5 hours. i'm really hoping that my days of anything longer than a 5 hour mary are behind me, but you never know. and so it went as i entered and re entered the per mile times until it came out to 4:36. yeah, i'd be so happy with 4:36. 4:36 it is. then i resized the thing down so it would fit in the little plastic pocket around my abnormally small wrists. shit, i'd be lucky no to go blind trying to read the damned thing. and finally, i decided if by mile 10 when i got to Doug, if i wasn't on pace, i'd just throw him the bracelet. fuck it, i was gonna have fun no matter what!!!!
cool pace wristband great, now i'm cross-eyed....
my view from Wellington's apartment on 14th st.
got up at 5am on race morning even though the gun doesn't go off until 10am. the daylight savings change the night before helped with an extra hour of sleep since i still couldn't get off of L.A. time. so technically, it was 3am for me. ate my oatmeal breakfast and was out the door to the subway. while waiting on the platform, you could feel everyone's nerves, the stares from others as they checked out your shoes, your bag contents or your runner number. then there was the one lady who was so afraid she wasn't on the right train that she got up and checked the wall map a hundred times but was too intimidated to ask anyone else where to go. and she was right!!!! just as our next stop shoulda been Whitehall/Ferry, the conductor announced that this train was going to the Brooklyn Bridge. whoops!! we all scurried to get off, and as i passed the next car, i could see some runners who were still seated. i crammed my foot in the door as it was closing and yelled "this train isn't going to the ferry!!" everyone ran for the door as i held it open. unfortunately, not every car got the warning, and as we stood on the platform waiting for the next N train, we watched as the next few cars carried unsuspecting marathoners to the Brooklyn Bridge rather than the Staten Island Ferry. Damn, sure hope they made it on time.....
you may have heard people joke about the New York marathon that there are two events, getting to the race and then actually running the race. to add insult to injury, there was construction happening on the one and only bridge into Staten Island, so everyone was advised to take the ferry. in previous years, i've always taken this route, but with just a few other racers to avoid the crowds taking shuttle buses and cabs across the bridge. this year was a huge cluster fuck of 38,000 people all scrambling to get on the ferry and get over to the island. somehow i was able to find fellow tri club members, Summer and Brian, to make the ferry ride over with. this being there first New York Marathon, they were a little dazed by the whole production and happy to find someone who knew how it all worked. i had warned them that given all the time it takes to actually start the race, the breakfast they ate before they left their hotel wouldn't be enough to fuel them for the run. i brought an extra Uncrustable and a bottle of FRS which fueled me perfectly, and managed to get a good poo in at the relatively clean ferry bathrooms. sorry to gross you out here, but i have a superstition about pooing before a race. if i don't get a quality poo in on race morning, i might as well go back to bed. but i've got it down to a science now:
morning breakfast of organic oatmeal
chocolate soy milk (CANNOT DO DAIRY!!)
a bottle of FRS 30 minutes before the gun goes off
A GOOD RACE MORNING POO
once we got to Fort Wadsworth where the start was, we had about an hour 'til the race. usually plenty of time to find a place to lay down and warm up 'til the very last second before you have to drop off your personal belongings bag to the UPS trucks. again, with all the shuttle changes and whatnot, it all felt screwy. Summer's wave start was in a totally different direction than mine or Brian's. she stopped to go to the bathroom and Brian waited for her, but i could tell it was beginning to get crowded at the bag drop off, so we parted ways to accomplish our various tasks thinking we'd all meet up at a certain tent again. the whole staging of the start was different from what i ever remembered, and everyone got pinned in this fenced off area trying to drop off there bags and then exit back out the same way they came in. really lame planning on the race director's part. it didn't help that people panicked and started pushing and shoving. i kinda lose my shit in these situations, not by going along with the flow of panic, but by going off on the super negative people around me who can't do anything but complain incessantly about everything. but i didn't go off, didn't even flash anyone my death stare. i simply got inside my head, trying to tune the whining out, and meditated on the image of me PASSING ALL THEIR TIRED-FROM-COMPLAINING ASSES ALL OVER THAT COURSE!!!!
by the time i made it out of the cluster fuck of whiners, there was no time to waste. i went back to our agreed meet up spot but figured that Summer and Brian figured the same thing i did: "love ya, mean it. gotta run...." and so off i went to try to catch up with the orange wave women's start. got in just in time as we were ushered onto the bridge and heading towards the start line. the National Anthem was pretty lackluster, and then there was a moment of silence for Ryan Shay. there were lots of Notre Dame logos and "RS" written on people's arms, and one woman was handing out black armbands two wear in remembrance. i would be thinking of him a lot today for sure. just then the cannon went off, and the elites were heading out from the opposite lanes of the bridge. THERE IS NOTHING MORE EXCITING THAN THIS MOMENT!! ok, so i haven't experienced the start of an ironman yet, but so far this is it. you can feel the bridge vibrating from the weight of all the runners as everyone surges forward to the timing mats. Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" is playing and EVERYONE is singing along and doing radio city rockette kicks. holy crap, i'm about to run my 3rd New York Marathon, AND AWAY WE GO!!
leaving Fort Greene, i head into one of my favorite parts of the course, the rows of brownstones that line the uphill Lafayette Ave. in Clinton Hill. even though they lived in nearby Brooklyn Heights, this spot always reminds me of The Cosby Show, and i imagine that Cliff Huxtable, wearing one of his wacky sweaters and holding little Rudy's hand, is gonna be standing out in front handing me water, but alas, Bill Cosby never appears. i'm ahead of pace by about 3 minutes and flying by people as we head up Lafayette, but i really feel like i'm holding back!!! has it been so long since i've run a marathon that i just don't know what my new pace is?? am i going too fast and gonna pay for it later?? i guess i just have to go for it and listen to my body, but so far my body is sayin' we're just fine!!! moving along on the downhill of Lafayette, the crowds are so friggin' thick. i don't mean the cheering crowds, but the runners!! it's difficult to get around people. i'm doing more lateral side to side pivoting like i'm in a tennis match not a marathon, and everyone keeps cutting me off and forcing me to come to a jutting stop on the downhill. i can't keep this up or i'm gonna be in serious pain. watch your step, monica. no more jutting. you gotta float. you gotta float like a butterfly and sting like a bee!!!
next is the Hassidic neighborhood of South Williamsburg. all the kids come out and giggle while they hand out hard candy as their more serious parents, dressed in traditional Hassidic fur hats and long coats, stand curbside. coming up on mile 10, i'm starting to warm up and decide to peel off my under layer and ear warmers to give to Doug. and there he is with his brothers!!! i grab for the baggie, and shove a handful of potato chips in my mouth as they tell me i look great, i'm keeping a good pace and that the 4:15 pace group passed just ahead of me. yeah, they'll slip away, but i'm still ahead of pace and feeling good. "hug, kiss, love ya, mean it, gotta run!!!!" yeah, i'm feeling great, and I'M DEFINITELY KEEPING THE PACE BRACELET!!! leaving Brooklyn out of Greenpoint and going over the Pulaski Bridge, the kids of the Sikh Community cheer us on to the halfway point at the crest of the bridge, the 2nd of the five we'll cross today. as i head up the quarter mile incline i quickly check in with myself and my hill form. stay upright, baby steps, quick turnover, knees not too high, yeah, i'm good, let's get ready to fly....
checking my pace..... and stuffing my face at mile 19
i've always felt that The Bronx gets no respect at this race. as soon as you run in, you run out, but in that one short mile THE BRONX REPRESENTS!!! people yelling "you're in the bronx, baby!!! the best borough of all!!" it's kinda the same as my general love for the underdog, my love for The Bronx. little kids putting out their arms for high fives, little old ladies in their lawn chairs, reggae bands and da kind, irey smells that go along with that. it was a short visit, but i loved it....oh and more "VIVE LA FRANCE!!! ALLEZ ALLEZ LA FRANCE!!" see, they even know french in Da Bronx....ok, i get it....and now i'm right at pace.
going down 5th Ave., Central Park appears on the right and the crowds are insane. again, we're getting pushed into narrow chutes where i have to bob and weave around the hot dog heads and the French people. it's now the hellish uphill climb, and the pain is starting to set in. i'm now getting a little negative, a little bitchy, and my first victims are the French. if i hear "Vive La France!!" one more time, or if one more Frenchie cuts me off, someone is going to get worse than the death stare. it's not a threat, but i'm just sayin'....
the uphill along 5th Ave. went better than expected, so much better that i forget to find Wellington at mile 23. poor guy waited too long before he realized we missed each other and wasn't able to make it to the finish line. i'm still on pace, and i suddenly realize that i'm not going to need the extra 3 minutes per mile that i alloted for the home stretch. HOLY CRAP, I'M EVEN GONNA BEAT MY GOAL PACE!!!! just then, i hit east 75th where Ryan Shay had collapsed near the boat house. i got more emotional than i would have expected and started to cry. not to get too schmaltzy here, but i really did feel his spirit, at least the spirit of going for it, always striving to improve, going for a dream and following through with it and the empowerment we get from doing all of this. it is so very real and alive in all of us who do this, and i'm not exaggerating when i say that marathon and triathlon have saved my life. now into the park for some more rollers as the crowd starts yelling "2 more miles!! you can do it!!" again, i just thought,"this is nothing now. you got ironman ahead. BRING IT HOME!!!" coming around the south end of the park and around Columbus Circle, i started to read the signs. first, "1200 meters to go" and then "half mile to go", and i just started to BOOK IT. back into the park for a few hundred yards, AND I CAN SEE THE FINISH LINE NOW. "don't forget to look up!! get a good picture of this!!!!"
the victory subway ride
A NEW P.R.