Where does one start when telling the story of a 26.2 mile journey on foot through the 5 boroughs of New York City?! Apologies in advance for what is sure to be an epic-ly long post, but I like to include as much as possible in my race recap posts both for myself when I go back and re-read them, and for those searching for information on a race.
So, without further ado, we’ll begin Sunday morning on Long Island at 4:30am…
Let’s just say the morning felt like a marathon in itself! We literally were traveling via train, cab, ferry & bus for hours just to get to the starting line!
Here’s a quick run down of our morning “commute”:
4:30am – wake up/ shower
5:46am – train from Long Island to Penn Station
6:30am – cab from Penn Station to Dan’s apartment
7:05am – cab from Dan’s apartment to Staten Island Ferry
7:45am – ferry to Staten Island
8:30am (about) – bus from ferry terminal to Fort
9:30am – arrive at Fort Wadsworth
9:50am – Wave 3 corrals open
10:30am – START!
That is SIX HOURS from the time we woke up to the time we started running! (Granted, we could have stayed at a hotel in the city, but for $300+ a night I figured I could deal with waking up a little earlier!)
Staten Island Ferry/ Bus
The ferry terminal was definitely crowded with runners and you can bet I literally attached myself to Daniel & Pat for fear of getting separated from them!
Interestingly enough, there was really no reason to be concerned about switching to the ferry or making sure we were all scheduled for the same time ferry since at no point did anyone check anything regarding our transportation choice or time (no sure if this was the same for the bus or not).
Once on the ferry we grabbed seats near the window on the Statue of Liberty side…
…and eventually watched as the city grew smaller in the distance.
From the ferry we boarded busses that took us to the starting area at Fort Wadsworth…
Fort Wadsworth/ Start
I was bundled in layers of throw away clothes (and even brought a throw away blanket!) ready for our wait in the cold and wind on Staten Island.
The forecasted weather for the day included 25-30mph winds, with gusts even stronger than that – not ideal for a 26.2 mile run, especially one that includes so many bridges! (For days leading up to the event I was having traumatizing flashbacks to the brutally windy Chanukkah Chalf Marathon!)
We even received an e-mail the morning of the race with this message:
As soon as we got onto Staten Island boy did we feel that wind!
From the ferry we followed the crowds to the busses and after a slow moving ride we reached the starting area at Fort Wadsworth.
We somehow lucked out and timed all this travel just right so that by the time we got to the starting area our corral would be opening, so we really didn’t end up with as much “sitting and freezing in the cold” time as we had expected!
We followed the signs to the Orange starting village and corrals and after some confusion we stopped and asked a volunteer if we were headed in the right direction. Apparently we weren’t. We were told to NOT look at the signs, because the wind was so strong it had blown them all around and they weren’t even pointing in the right direction!
We finally made it to the Orange start village and funneled into our corrals. A quick last minute bathroom break and we were moving towards the start – I had been so prepared for the long wait on Staten Island that I was actually kind of thrown off that it was time to run already!
I have to admit the start felt very anti-climactic. I’m not sure if there is usually more signage that just wasn’t there because of the wind, but it felt like we were just walking down the street towards the bridge and then BAM – we were running!
The Verrazano Bridge
Ok, so the bridge wasn’t as terrifying as I had imagined it to be, I didn’t get trampled or have a panic attack (at least not then I didn’t) and I didn’t sit on the median and start crying. (It certainly didn’t feel as overwhelmingly claustrophobic as the picture I posted a couple of weeks ago makes it look.)
We were on the left side of the upper deck, so we were treated to the view of New York City as we ran…and ran…and ran. Man, that is one LONG bridge! Just under 2 miles later we were safely on the other side, the largest elevation gain of the race in our rear view mirror and Brooklyn ahead of us…
My goodness is Brooklyn long!
I honestly don’t know anything about Brooklyn or the different areas within it, so (apologies to any Booklyn-ites) this honestly could have been 11 miles through any random city streets for me.
The spectator support really was great though – for almost the entire time there was screaming, cheering, signs and snacks (although I somehow managed to miss seeing Katherine 😦
Given my disastrous last long training run, I wasn’t really sure what to expect out of my legs for this race. so I was happy that at the halfway point they were still feeling pretty good.
Daniel, Patrick & I had agreed that we’d do our best to stick together for the entire race if possible since we thought it would be more fun to experience the New York City Marathon with friends rather than to worry about running it for time. (I’ll admit I had originally had a time goal, but given my not so great training and the ridiculous wind, I decided against trying for it.)
We crossed the 13.1 checkpoint at 2:09:32 (certainly faster than I had planned).
I had really been looking forward to getting to Queens because that’s where I was going to see Kellie!
If you don’t know Kellie, let me tell you this girl ROCKS. She not only came out to watch us crazies running 26.2 miles in the ridiculous wind and cold, but she made a sign, had a huge Mike Wazowski balloon so we could easily spot her (no idea how she held on to the sign & balloon without either blowing away!) AND she came prepared with my favorite race day fuel – pretzels and orange juice!
I was so excited when I finally spotted her!
I gave her a quick (sweaty!) hug, she passed off my fuel and we were back on our way to tackle the Queensboro Bridge.
I did not like the Queensboro Bridge.
My Garmin lost satellite reception on the bridge which means that for the rest of the race my mileage and overall pace were off on my watch. I wasn’t going for any sort of time goal at this point, but that still just made me NUTS!
We came around the turn at the end of the Queensboro Bridge and it was on to 1st Ave!
I’ve always heard that when you’re coming off the Queensboro Bridge and entering 1st during the marathon, the roar of the crowd is just unbelievable.
I’m not sure if they were just taking a break at the moment I ran by, but I distinctly remember thinking, “wow, it’s oddly quiet for there being so many people…”
I’d say the rest of 1st Ave made up for it though. For the next 4 miles thousands and thousands of spectators cheered us along as we ran uptown (and just an FYI – “uptown” is most certainly uphill).
1st Ave is also where we were keeping an eye out for our spectators!
First up we found our friend Christina…
…and a mile or so later I finally spotted Olaf and Lightning McQueen!
Jason had picked up Olaf and Lightning McQueen balloons so we’d easily be able to spot him in the crowds and it definitely worked – I saw him from about a block away!
The great thing about this stop was we pretty much got to see EVERYONE at once! With Jason were my parents, my Cape Cod run club friend Stacey and a few of her friends (including the totally awesome Beth who ran NYCM last year and took the time a few weeks ago to answer all my silly little pre-race logistics questions!), my friend (since 1st grade!) Alex who I cheered for at NYCM last year, her husband and Daniel’s girlfriend Tana!
We definitely took a little time here to say hi (sorry for the sweaty hugs!) and take some pictures before we headed to yet another bridge to take a quick trip to the Bronx…
(Before we left, Jason asked if I wanted more pretzels & orange juice…I said no. This was hands down my biggest mistake of the day…)
The Bronx honestly lasted about maybe a mile and a half, but the damn bridges to get in and out of the Bronx were a real bitch (excuse the language, but it’s the only way to accurately describe them!).
Up until this point, around mile 21, I had felt pretty good. The two bridges definitely took a lot out of me though and by the time we were back in Manhattan and ready to run up 5th I was definitely running out of steam…
So here’s a little secret – somehow all of Manhattan is built on a slight incline.
We ran uptown on 1st Ave…incline.
We ran downtown on 5th…incline.
I don’t get it.
About halfway down 5th I spotted the Olaf balloon again (apparently the wind got the best of McQueen somewhere between 1st & 5th).
We ran over to see Jason and my family again and this time I hugged Jason and I’m pretty sure I said, “I don’t want to run anymore.”
We were at mile 23.
When we started running again I knew I was spent. This was the first time I had felt drained in a marathon.
I can’t say I “hit a wall”, cause I don’t think it was quite that bad, but I was definitely ready for it to be over.
I knew Dan still had a time goal in mind that he had been hoping to reach, so I kept telling Dan & Pat to go ahead if they wanted while I took the occasional short walk break.
Honestly, miles 24-26 were miserable for me. I could see Dan & Pat ahead of me, but I just couldn’t keep up with them. I was at a point where I KNEW I needed more fuel – and I HAD more right in my pocket! – but at the time it seemed like too much of an effort to get. It seemed easier to just keep running and finish.
I feel like I was sort of out of it and was so focused and just being done with the race that I really missed out on the excitement of running through Central Park with all the spectators cheering you towards the finish line. I was literally in my own little world a) getting frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with Dan & Pat, b) worried that if I lost sight of them I’d never find them at the finish and c) thinking “I really can’t wait for this to be over”.
I remember seeing the finish line and briefly remembering to try to look around for my friend Karla who was announcing at the finish line, but again, I didn’t know where to look and the whole thing seemed like too much effort…
…and before I knew it I was across the finish line.
For some reason the whole thing felt really anti-climactic.
Beyond the Finish Line
I was carried forward by the crowd of other finishers and someone handed me a medal, but I remember being much more interested in getting one of the heat sheets.
A volunteer handed me one and another volunteer put a piece of tape on the front so it would stay shut without having to hold it.
In front of me was a sea of mylar blankets and I couldn’t see Dan or Pat. I seriously thought about making my way to the side, curling up on the grass and taking a nap.
Next thing I knew though somehow Dan & Pat were right in front of me (they had finished about a minute and a half before me) and we were being handed bags with recovery fuel (Gatorade, water, apple, pretzels, etc.).
I KNEW I needed to eat/ drink something in that bag, but literally all I could think was, “This bag is so heavy. Why would they give me such a heavy bag to carry when I just finished a marathon. I can’t carry this bag.”
I was literally holding it with 2 hands and couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get anything out of it to eat/ drink since I needed both hands to hold it and I couldn’t quite verbalize to Dan or Pat that I needed help getting something.
Apparently I didn’t need to because Dan quickly handed me his water, and Pat opened and handed me a Gatorade and we continued to move forward with the crowd.
I remember seeing volunteers that had vests that said “Red Cross Spotter” on them. They were there to identify people who weren’t looking so hot and may need a visit to the medical tent.
I was literally thinking, “I wonder how bad you have to look to be spotted?”, when suddenly someone grabbed my arm and said, “are you ok?”
I’m not sure I even answered him, I think I sort of leaned into him and next thing I knew he had both arms around me basically holding me up and was saying, “it’s ok, I got you, we’re going to go to the medical tent and they’ll take good care of you.”
At the entrance to the medical tent he passed me off to another volunteer who similarly held me up as we walked towards the tent, she asked if I needed anything and if I could walk and I remember handing her the heavy bag – I was so relieved to finally not have to hold it. I had no idea if Dan and Pat had seen that I had gotten pulled aside and wasn’t with them any more.
The staff in the medical tent were fantastic. I couldn’t stop shaking and I was definitely having a slight panic attack, but as soon as they sat me on a cot and wrapped me in blankets I started to calm down enough to drink some more water and Gatorade.
Eventually I noticed Dan and Pat were there with me and I asked Pat to text Jason to let him know where I was. I also was finally able to communicate that I knew I needed to eat something, so Pat handed me the apple out of my bag.
(And if you really want a laugh, check out the guy behind me in this photo!)
I started to feel human again and eventually they let me leave (and luckily with a blanket!).
We still had a ways to walk before we even got to the “no-baggage” ponchos and I quickly started shivering again.
When we finally got to the ponchos the volunteer was wrapping everyone up in one except me…
I think he thought because I had a blanket already that I wasn’t a priority, but at this point I was starting to shake pretty bad again and was on the verge of crying because he was ignoring me. Thankfully Pat (who had been handed a poncho like 5 minutes before me!) stepped in and literally said to the guy, “could you please give my friend a poncho, she really needs one, she just left the medical tent.”
Those ponchos may not look like much, but oh my goodness it was like being in a little cocoon! I was so warm and cozy in there!
And with that we exited Central Park and were on the hunt for a cab to take us back to Dan’s apartment. Our New York City Marathon journey was over.
2014 TCS New York City Marathon – 4:27:47*
(*The fact that this was over a 7 minute marathon PR was completely lost on me until well after the finish line when I was finally starting to feel human again*)