Tag Archives: 18 Mile Tune Up

18 Mile Tune-Up – 18 Miles is a Lot of Miles – Sept 17, 2017

In the corral behind the 12:00 pacer – look at the hazy sky!

Yesterday I ran one of my favorite NYRR races – the NYRR 18 Mile Marathon Tune-Up in Central Park.  It’s three full 6-mile loops of the park and geared towards runners with fall marathons.


Although it’s supposed to be specifically timed for the NYC Marathon, because of my “beginner” training schedule it was 4 miles more than I was scheduled to run.  My trainer said it would be ok if I ran it, and that I could lower my mileage earlier that week and/or just bail after 14 miles and not finish the race if I didn’t feel like it.  “You’re the boss!” she wrote.


I tried to keep that in mind as my nerves got the best of me in the week before this race.  I’ve been having some left calf cramping issues (that’s the leg I broke last year which withered away) and I still can’t quite mentally believe I can run long distances after being a gimp for so long.  So my mantra heading into this race was “go slow, don’t step in a pothole, and you can always stop.”  Not very catchy but it was effective.


I stuffed my running belt and bra with Gu, gummies, and a last minute addition of candy corn pumpkins (which turned out to be really great since they were a tasty way to get sugar that didn’t stick in my teeth like the gummies always do!) and hopped in a cab to the upper east side.  I wasn’t going to exert any more energy than necessary that morning!


I lined up in the last corral so I wouldn’t feel pushed to run too fast at the start.  That strategy didn’t work as well as I had hoped, as many late, fast runners blew past me during the first mile or so.  But it wasn’t just the super fast runners blowing past me – for some reason my stupid calf decided to seize up right at the start of the race.  Maybe it was because the first thing we had to run was down the Harlem hills – not an ideal way to start any race.  Whatever it was, I had to walk and even stop and stretch my calf several times, being careful not to overstretch it and send it into a real spasm.  Eventually I felt like I could run a few steps on it, and a few steps evolved into a few more, and after about 1.5 miles it finally started to loosen up and feel almost normal.  By mile 4, I finally felt pretty good and was even cautiously optimistic about my chances of finishing the whole race.



It was a hot, humid day with a “real feel” of 86 degrees by the time I finished running.  It was so humid you couldn’t even see the skyline in midtown from the park!  At least it was overcast, and one could even argue the heat and humidity helped keep me honest and slow.  I would argue my out-of-shape body helped keep me slow, but whatever.  I plodded along mile after mile, sometimes hurting, sometimes feeling ok, but mostly thrilled that I was out there actually doing what seemed impossible only a few months ago.


A couple of random things I saw/heard on the course:

  • A man in a business suit on a Segway with giant tires, speeding up Cat Hill, with spectators laughing at him behind his back.
  • A runner so sweaty that his legs had soap bubbles all over them – maybe from the detergent still on his shorts?  It was unclear and I didn’t stop to ask.
  • At the start of my second loop, the announcer saying “That’s a big smile!  That is a… big smile…”


And just like that, I was finished.  Haha, no, just kidding, it was endless and took me almost four hours.  But yes, eventually I finished with a big smile still on my face and a bagel in my mouth.

So happy I found the finish!

Along the 6-mile looped course, they had water stops at every mile (aka 6 times), Gatorade twice, and PowerGel once (so you passed the Gel station three times during the race).  At the finish, however, they only offered cups of water and Gatorade, cut up bananas, and plain bagels.  Luckily I had a ton of food waiting for me at home (ground beef burrito for the win!), along with a massage and a lot of Netflix to catch up on.  Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.


In other news, the tech shirt for this race was quite a bit larger than the tech shirts earlier this year.  Maybe they got the memo that a woman’s extra large shouldn’t be skin tight on a size 10?  There’s no medal besides your aching legs.

The tech shirt for the race (front and back, women’s XL). It’s nice!

Today I have done a lot of nothing except realize that I have three NYRR races in three weeks – this one, the Bronx 10 Miler next Sunday, and Grete’s Great Gallop the Sunday after that.  Hope to see you out there!


Have your legs ever gotten soapy while running?  What’s your favorite thing to eat after a long run?  Have you ever tried the Trader Joe’s Pita Chips with Cinnamon & Sugar?  Share in the comments!

Race Recap (sorta) – Volunteering is the New Black

And they're off - for 18 miles!

And they’re off – for 18 miles!

I did my first stint as a medical volunteer for the NYRR 18 Mile Tune Up yesterday, and while it could have gone more smoothly (as you’ll see in my review below), it ended up being an interesting and enjoyable day and I’ll definitely keep volunteering in the future.


The worst part of volunteering for the 18 Miler is that you have to show up really early – like over an hour before the race begins.  The best part of volunteering for the 18 Miler is that you don’t have to run 18 miles that day.  I checked in before 6 (and before sunrise), grabbed some coffee and resisted the donuts (iron will!), found my way to the medical tent, and started filling an inordinate amount of Ziploc baggies with ice.


We had a few runners come in during the race asking for vaseline, Tylenol, ice, and a couple of runners who needed to get bandaged up from falls.  But most of our work was done as the runners finished and poured into the tent asking for ice wraps (i.e. baggies of ice secured to their knees or ankles or wherever with plastic wrap).  I wrapped more knees in ice than I can count, and I’m a pretty good counter.


I won’t bore you with all the details of the day, but one highlight was a runner who had just crossed the starting line asking us how many miles the 18 Mile Tune Up was (um… 18…).  But from now on I really want to ask a volunteer at every marathon I run just how many miles the race is and then look flabbergasted when they say 26.  (It would be better if the marathon were called a “26 Miler” but I’ll take what I can get.)


I have high expectations for any NYRR race – they do many, many races every year (70 in 2015!) and have been organizing races for 55 years.  They are also rich (over $74,000,000 annual income in 2014) and have lots of technology and resources at their disposal.  As such, all of their races should run like clockwork.  So my nitpicks about the volunteer process are indeed nitpicks, but they’re also something I think NYRR can and should fix.


I debated even including the following as it could sound hypercritical, but in the spirit of doing a debrief after an incident and learning how to make the process go more smoothly in the future, I’m including it (not just for the zero NYRR staff who will read this but also for future me).


  1. There was no orientation/welcome/coordination at the start.  From getting told three different things on how to bag ice (ugh), to having little to no instruction on anything, to simply being awkward and non-communicative with the professional medics, the morning did not kick off to a smooth start.  It would have been HUGELY helpful to have someone make an announcement before the race started on what was expected of the various volunteers, a quick introduction of the various staff members, how we were to work with the professional medics (of which there at least 6 in a small tent – about the same number as medical volunteers), instructions on record-keeping, etc.  It would have taken less than 5 minutes and yet ultimately saved much more time that was later wasted hesitating or correcting how things were done.
  2. We ran out of ice.  This is the 18 Mile Tune Up – not only is that a lot of miles, but it’s specifically designed as a training race for the NYC Marathon — so these runners are going to want ice after the race!  They should never run out of ice for any race, let alone an 18-miler they’ve been doing for years, regardless of whether it’s a hot day or not (Sunday was not even particularly hot nor sunny).
  3. We made runners “check in” before we allowed them into the tent.  We had one volunteer with a clipboard writing down every runner’s full name, number, and chief complaint (i.e., where they wanted ice).  First of all, why do we have to get their full name if we have their bib number?  Everyone’s name is known from their bib number already, so it just added delay and complexity for no good reason.  Second, I understand the importance of record-keeping (especially when it comes to doling out medications) but a volunteer told me that at the NYC Marathon they simply scanned the bibs and there was no line waiting for treatment.  I understand we might not be able to eliminate having to wait in general – there are limited volunteers and all that – but making runners stand in a line waiting for medical help while we write down names seems silly at best and irresponsible at worst.  After most of the volunteers were dismissed, I saw a staff member manually typing the names and numbers into a computer – a horribly tedious task.  If NYRR has technology that can automate this, it should be used at every race.
  4. There was no easy way to identify the medical volunteers.  We all wore the same yellow volunteer safety vest and lanyard that every volunteer everywhere wore, so proximity to the medical tent was the only way a runner would know we were the medical team.  There were plenty of uniformed EMTs and Paramedics (as expected), but I noticed runners were hesitant to approach them.  And since it was a relatively small tent and number of volunteers, I mostly figured out who had medical training and who did not, but since there were non-medical volunteers in the tent, it was confusing at times.


You do get a really nice technical shirt for volunteering, though.

Front and back of the free volunteer shirt - technical fabric in a woman's cut!

Front and back of the free volunteer shirt – technical fabric in a woman’s cut!

Since I’ve become an EMT and signed up to volunteer, I’ve been saying to everyone that I hope I don’t see them in the med tent (at the NYC Marathon or any other race), but I realized on Sunday that if I see someone in the med tent it’s actually a pretty good sign.  If you make it to the med tent, you’re probably ok – maybe you need ice or you’re chafing or you want a salt packet, but you have your wits about you and the strength to get the help you need.  If you’re rescued on course, that means you had a serious problem.  (I don’t know how many runners went down on Sunday – I only heard the radio saying “runner down” once, and I didn’t hear any follow up.)


So, I’ll now say that I do hope to see you at the med tent sometime, where I can promise to do a half-decent ice wrap on your knee and offer great sympathy as a continually injured fellow runner.


In other news – today I bought the most expensive pair of running shoes I’ve ever purchased, ever.  I then ran the fastest mile I’ve run in years.  Coincidence?  Absolutely.  But I’m keeping the shoes.


Have you ever volunteered at a race?  What are your tips for volunteering?  Did you watch the Emmy’s last night?  Share in the comments!

Getting passed while wondering where's the finish

I love the 18 Mile Tune Up

Getting passed while wondering where's the finish

So many people passed me…

My first thought upon crossing today’s finish line was, “I love this race.”  It’s a ridiculous race, with a distance that only makes sense if you’re training for a marathon, and a ridiculous course of seemingly endless loops of Central Park.  It even falls at a ridiculous time, as it’s supposed to be a “tune up” for the NYC Marathon, but for most (regular, average) runners, it comes too early in their training schedules.  But maybe because it’s such a ridiculous race, it attracts people who just want to run, and it brings out the spirit of running and the feeling that we’re all in this crazy marathon training together.  This isn’t a race people do “just for fun.”  It’s not a race for any cause or charity or holiday – it’s simply designed to help you pound out 18 miles on a Sunday, with course support and a t-shirt for doing so.  And if you finish it, you feel good, accomplished, and have a guilt-free day of TV and chocolate-covered almonds ahead of you.  As one of the finishers cheered along the course said, “You just ran 18 miles.  Think about it!”


My knee hurt for the first 5 miles until it finally got warmed up, which wasn’t awesome (and makes me think that my knee will hurt for 90% of my time during Ragnar, since the distances are broken into 5- to 8-mile legs).  Also, I got passed.  A lot.  Besides wondering what Fry wonders in the image above, I also wondered how people were blowing past me after 15 miles.  Shouldn’t they have passed me ages ago?


Also, at mile 15 I got hungrier than I can ever remember being.  Last night I read an article in Running Times (article not yet online) about bonking on training runs, and how maybe that was a good idea to see how little fuel you could get by with during training instead of during a race.  It suggested trying “the least complicated” fueling as possible before and during a training run, so that if it works for you great, it’ll be simpler for the marathon, and if it doesn’t, you can change things for the actual race.  So, I ate only one Bonk Breaker bar as breakfast (225 cals) an hour before the race, and during the race drank only a little Gatorade when I really needed it, plus 1 gel after 6 miles each (2 total, not counting the emergency gel discussed below).  But I was definitely hungry for most of the time I was running, and by mile 15 I felt like I was starving – just blind with hunger, with that hunger the only thing propelling my legs to reach the next aid station.  As soon as I reached it, I drank two large cups of Gatorade and ate one sugary gel.  It was horrible – like a sugar bomb in my stomach, but there was nothing else to eat and I was desperate.  It did make me feel a little better, and I wasn’t as hungry when I crossed the finish 3 miles later (although I still downed a banana and bagel in record time).  So besides learning not to read running articles before 18-mile runs, I learned that I need to eat more before my races so I don’t become famished during them.


All-in-all, it was a great day, with perfect weather and 5,000 other runners sharing the day (and again, because of the kind of runner this race attracts, it was the most running-etiquette knowledgable crowd ever – no abrupt stops, no splashing with water from dropped cups, no running 4 abreast – just great).  I had some over-11-minute miles in the mix, but I finished without too much pain, and that’s all I really hoped for.  Well, that and the dog and the pancakes.


Have you ever run the 18 Mile Tune Up?  Want to run it again with me next year?  Share in the comments!

NYRR Central Park 18 mile Tune Up 2013

18 Miles… Tomorrow?

NYRR Central Park 18 mile Tune Up 2013

I’m running 18 miles and all I get is this lousy t-shirt?

So I’m doing what now tomorrow?  18 miles you say?  You must be joking.  The idea of me running 18 miles (3 full loops of Central Park) right now is laughable.  It’s like a dog riding a bicycle, or a monkey making pancakes.  Maybe they could do it, but it’s gonna be messy and take a long time.


It’s times like these when I feel like the biggest long distance running fraud.  My friends and family think I’m a marathoner, a distance runner who laughs at anything less than 26 miles.  In reality I’m an out-of-shape, constantly injured couch potato who mostly surfs the interweb and eats candy.  How I got those medals I’ll never know.  Tomorrow’s “race” is actually called a “tune up,” as in, “after you run these 18 miles you’ll be all tuned up for your next marathon!”  How running 18 miles could make anyone feel tuned up for anything besides sitting on the couch eating burritos and binge-watching House of Cards is anyone’s guess.  But I guess that will be my reward tomorrow.  That and not having this dreadful race hanging over my head anymore.  This will be the fifth (!) time I’ve run the NYRR 18-mile Tune Up, and I can tell you that it’s an honor just to be nominated.  I hope I finish right next to that dog on a bicycle and eat some pancakes with that monkey.


Have you run the NYRR 18 Mile Tune Up?  Do you enjoy torturing yourself?  Share in the comments!