Tag Archives: NYRR

NYC Marathon – It Moved Me – Nov 5, 2017

The Verrazano Bridge at the grey, misty start of the NYC Marathon 2017.

50,000 people is a lot of people.  Just so, so many.  How many is it, really?  It’s approximately the population of Monroe, Michigan.  It’s how many days there are in 136.9 years.  It’s how many M&Ms were used to make this.  And it’s how many people ran the NYC Marathon this year, plus another 1,307 (but “only” 50,766 finished).

 

I ran the NYC Marathon way back in 2005, when it was the ING Marathon and had like 2,000 runners in it.  Ok, there were a few more runners than that (about 34,000 more), but a lot has changed in 12 years besides the addition of 14,000 runners.  The race has become even more commercialized and sponsored and bigger in every way.  That’s led to some good things (lots of news coverage, fancy tracking technology with the app, and overall excitement in the city) and bad things (crowds, trash, crowds, lines, crowds).

 

Some things haven’t changed – you still get a tour of all 5 boroughs, you still get a lot of spectators, and you still hear “New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra at the start.  Other things that haven’t changed include the terrible roads (filled with humped asphalt and potholes and lots of other fun obstacles that desperately want to break your ankle), the stupid sponge mile at mile 18, and the long wait on Staten Island (which might actually be longer now because of the logistics of getting 50,000+ runners onto the island before closing the roads).

Approaching the midtown bus line… so many people!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  First up was getting to the NYC Public Library on 42nd to catch the 7:00 marathon shuttle bus to the start in Staten Island.  I was on one of the latest bus options because I was in wave 4 which didn’t start until 11 am.  When I arrived on the west side of the library at 6:20 am, the line for the buses stretched about 5 city blocks/avenues.  And this was no single- or double-file line – this was the entire sidewalk packed with people.  It took me about 35 minutes to get onto a bus.  There were several spots where volunteers checked your bib but nobody seemed to concerned with precise bus times.  I heard several people around me saying they were supposed to be in Wave 1, so there’s no way they took the appropriately timed bus (even though they’d still make it in plenty of time for Wave 1).  I did speak with a woman in the starting village who missed the last bus and had to get down to South Ferry to take the boat across instead (which was exactly one of my concerns when signing up for transport!).  She said they didn’t hassle her for using the shuttle buses down there even though her bib said “bus” not “ferry” (which was another big concern of mine).  Regardless, sign up for the transport you want and don’t make a last minute decision, since they might tighten up the security on that and you never know.

The “Bus Experience” courtesy of the NYC Marathon.

The bus ride itself was comfortable and only took about an hour (despite getting stuck in a long line of buses), and the walk from the bus drop off to my corral area in the starting village wasn’t very long, although according to my watch I walked about 6,000 steps before the race even began.  There was plenty of ground space in the village to stretch out and relax and wait (and wait and wait).  I brought a Runner’s World magazine to read during my wait (to conserve phone battery) and I was glad I did.  I was even more thankful that it didn’t start raining until just before our wave started, as there was only one small covered tent that would have sheltered the thousands of non-professional or non-charity runners from the rain.

From the top left corner: The security line, waiting and reading magazine, the tent, the corrals, E corral entrance, a fake smile before the race, and a panoramic shot of Blue Village.

The village had tons of porta potties everywhere you looked, and they even had lots of porta potties inside the corrals.  However, along the course they only had 1 or 2 every mile, and I noticed the lines for those were very long.

 

After sitting and waiting for over 3 hours, listening to wave after wave start (the first time I heard the cannon I immediately thought “bomb,” but since the police right next to me didn’t react, I quickly realized it was just the starting cannon), wave 4 was announced and ushered into the corrals.  Once you got into the corrals, it was like being in a real-life dystopian movie – there were high barricades on both sides of the chute, blocking the view, and everyone was crammed shoulder to shoulder, slowly shuffling forward to an unseen destination while loudspeakers played incessant messages directing us in multiple languages.  It was honestly such a strange experience and one I’m pretty sure didn’t happen back in 2005.  As I stood in the tightly packed crowd listening to the zombie warning in Japanese (at least I think that’s what they were saying), it did not feel like I was about to run 26 miles.  Haha, joke was on me!

Right before the start on the Verrazano Bridge, representing Lady Liberty!

Once we got out of the corrals and crossed the highway, it opened up a bit.  The first three miles flew by like a dream.  The bridge was really neat, even though it was drizzling and gusting winds threatened to take off your hat.  Tons of people were stopped on the bridge taking pictures.  There was a surprisingly large group of spectators at the base of the bridge welcoming the runners into Brooklyn.  And then the miles kept coming…

 

Most of the course had tons of cheering spectators, although there was a section in Brooklyn that was eerily quiet.  Like bridge-quiet.  Other runners even commented on how silent it was.  Maybe it was because of the rain, because even 1st Avenue was more subdued than expected.  At any rate, there was still enough cheering and bands and DJs that there was plenty to see and notice (and not once did I wish I had brought my headphones).  Was it just a coincidence that all the songs I heard being played and performed along the course were from the 90s?  Or was I hallucinating the Lisa Loeb, Oasis, Third Eye Blind, and Green Day that I heard?

 

It took a lot of mental energy to avoid all the other runners, the spectators who frequently crowded the course, the potholes, the garbage, etc. etc. – mentally, it was almost like trail running, but with people screaming and blowing air horns at you at the same time.  In retrospect, that’s maybe why I got so frustrated at mile 16.  I had spent the first half of the race running extremely conservatively.  Even though I felt pretty good (despite some minor knee, calf, and ankle pain in the first mile), I really reined it in, obsessively slowing myself to earn that negative split.  But when we hit the bridge at mile 16, I encountered a solid wall of walkers who had blown through the first half and were now suffering the consequences.

The Queensborough Bridge, aka The Bridge of Frustration

Now, you know I’m a slow runner, and I take my fair share of walk breaks.  But when I do, I always raise my hand to indicate I’m stopping, and I try to be on the side or somewhere in the course where I’m not blocking people (which is usually pretty easy since I run solo).  But the walkers on the bridge had no awareness – they were walking all over the course, forcing anyone who actually wanted to move faster than a snail’s pace to weave around and often stop completely when blocked by them.  It was soooooo frustrating.  Totally maddening.  And I was tired, and hungry, and my knee hurt, and I was so sick of the crowds I had been stuck in all day, and I got pissed.  And unfortunately that anger lasted pretty much the rest of the race, because the irritations kept coming (e.g. the hazardous course conditions because all the water cups turned to mush in the road from the rain and the 100,000 pounding feet, the idiots who grabbed a water-soaked sponge in the mother f’ing rain and then tossed it down in the middle of the course, the spectators who refused to stay behind the barricades and made bottlenecks for the runners, the lack of non-caffeinated Gu at mile 18, the relentless crowds, the incessant rain, and the increasing darkness – there was no irritation too small or large to not fuel my rage in the last 10 miles).

The gross paper cup mush that covered my legs and shoes after the race.

These irritations might not have mattered if I were not so focused on running a faster second half.  Why did I want to negative split so badly?  I think it’s because of this fun fact:  Of the 47,000+ runners who completed the 2011 marathon, only 790 ran negative splits!  (Source: NYRR Virtual Trainer email).  As a back-of-the-packer who’s never run an ultra, I’m rarely in a “special accomplishment” group in any race.  Could I even break 5 hours in this race?  Sadly, no.  But negative splits?  That’s something I could do.

 

After coming down off the bridge, I pushed *hard* during the last 9 miles. I ran the second half of the race almost 7 minutes faster than the first half, despite a slow mile 13, 14, and that horrible mile 16.

Coming across the Willis Ave Bridge around mile 19.5 and heading into the Bronx.

I tried to hold it together until mile 21.5 where I knew My Cute PT was waiting for me.  And there he was, with an amazing hand-drawn panda sign and a bag of food!  I couldn’t stop long because I was still going for that negative split, so I grabbed the bag of food, expressed my irritation and pain, hopefully thanked him, and ran on.  Unfortunately my mouth was too dry for the bagel (rookie mistake!) so I wasn’t able to assuage my hunger until I finally hit some water stops that hadn’t run out of bananas yet.  They were a godsend.  And less than a mile later I saw my other two friends with another sign!  (Or rather, they spotted me, since I was so focused on the mushy hazards on the ground).  It was definitely a nice pick-me-up to see all those friendly faces but made me feel more than a little bit guilty at being grumpy.

 

When I hit Central Park, I suddenly became very emotional – and I’m not an emotional runner!  (At least not in that way – &$(%*#@ bridge walkers!)  I actually tried to make myself angry again because if I got choked up I wouldn’t be able to breathe.  So I shook it off and focused on getting down the east side hills, up the surprising hill along Central Park South, and through to the finish.

 

The fastest mile of my race was mile 25.  At that point my feet were hurting along with my knee (and in the days after the race I’ve dealt with more black toenails and blisters than I’ve had in years).  But I was thrilled I was about to finish.  18 months after breaking my ankle, one year after getting out of my boot, and six months since my return to running, I finally finished a full marathon.  Huzzah!

12 years and 22 marathons apart…

Right after I crossed the finish, I hit a wall of stationary runners.  Literally every runner had stopped just steps from the timing mat to take a selfie.  Welcome to running a marathon in 2017!  I had to duck and weave my way through the pack because I was desperate to keep my legs moving.

The hell that was the excruciatingly crowded and slow walk after the finish to get your poncho.

The marathon wasn’t over at the finish – all runners had a long, slow walk ahead of them to exit the park.  I chose the poncho option instead of bag check, thinking I could make an “early exit,” but I was stymied by incredible crowds that would occasionally completely stop moving forward.  It was truly awful.  The finish line is at about 66th Street and the exit for the ponchos was at 77th Street, except you couldn’t actually get to the open city streets there because it was still barricaded off.  You had to continue south until 73rd where you finally got your poncho and were allowed to exit.  Fifteen blocks (about 3/4 of a mile) doesn’t sound like a lot, and even after running a marathon 15 blocks is a do-able amount of walking – the problem was the speed!  The crowd moved so slowly it took me half an hour just to exit.  Thirty minutes is a really long time to shuffle along clutching a plastic bag of gatorade and water (and a protein drink, an apple, a Powerbar, and some pretzels) in the almost dark rain, wet and covered in mush after waking up at 5 am and running a marathon.  Unfortunately, this was my last memory of the NYC Marathon, and serves as a powerful reminder of why I should avoid large city marathons in the future (although maybe Tokyo would be different… and London… and Athens…).

The NYRR virtual training runner meet-up post-marathon.

The Monday after the marathon I met up in Central Park for a group photo of all the people who used the NYRR virtual training program.  It was really nice to meet the trainers in person and chat with some of the other runners about their experiences running the race.  While I haven’t used a real training program in many years, I really liked the this one and I’d recommend it if you want a program that’s a little more personalized than just following a chart from a book (I paid extra for the “virtual trainer plus” to get email access to the coaching staff).  The daily emails and the online training log also helped keep me accountable (and often served as motivation to get out the door at all).  It was also uncanny how accurately they predicted my race time – my time fell in the narrow range predicted and I hit the exact same time as the “previous runner most like me.”

There was an insanely long line at the Marathon Pavillion on Monday.

Also as an FYI, the line to get into the Marathon Pavilion on Monday was bananas.  I think most people were in line to get their medal engraved (which wasn’t even free), but I think you had to stand in line even just to enter.  I skipped that line and visited the NYRR Run Center on Tuesday – there was a long line there, too, but not as bad as the Pavilion and at least you could wait indoors.  Also FYI, almost all of the New Balance merch went on sale almost immediately after the marathon (I could have saved $7 on my shirt if I waited 5 days!) and many marathon shoes are now 50% (!!!) off at Jackrabbit with code STEPPINGNYC.

 

Overall, I’m thrilled to have such a successful return to marathoning.  I’m grateful for all the help I’ve had in returning to running (I’m looking at you, My Cute PT), and I’m so excited to continue my 50 States quest with the Louisiana Marathon in Baton Rouge in January!  It looks like the medal is a bottle opener! 😀

 

Thinking of running NYC?

If you want a big marathon experience, there is no bigger than NYC.  It’s one of the World Marathon Majors, in case that matters to you, and it’s definitely a spectacle.  If you want to feel special for running a marathon, this is a good one, because people who don’t run seem to take it more seriously than many other marathons (as if 26.2 miles is somehow shorter when not in NYC).  Be prepared to have a lot of money and a lot of patience, and you might even enjoy it.

 

Scores on a 1-10 scale, 10 being the best.

 

  • Getting There (Transportation & Walkability) – 9/10 – There are 3 major airports (JFK, LGA, and EWR) and no need to rent a car when here.  24 hour subway, plentiful taxis/Ubers, and marathon courtesy shuttles take you from Manhattan or NJ to the starting line.  Not a 10/10 because it can be expensive or time consuming to get around town (sometimes both), and you have to get to Staten Island pretty early because they have to close the bridge you’ll be running on.
  • Staying There (Hotels) – N/A – I don’t really know hotels because I live here and have never stayed in a hotel, but there are tons and tons of options.  Pretty much every neighborhood in Manhattan and even the outer boroughs is pretty safe, but you might want to pick a hotel within walking distance from the finish line (like midtown or the UWS) or the starting transport options (midtown library or the downtown ferry), just for convenience.  Also note that most AirBnBs here are illegal (despite AirBnB being a NYRR sponsor) so think twice before booking one of those.
  • Cost & Registration – 5/10 –  As of 2017, entry fees are $255 for NYRR members, $295 for non-members, or $358 for non-US residents.  You only get the privilege to pay those prices if you actually get in to the race, which requires either getting lucky in the lottery (in 2017, only 17% of runners got in through the lottery), being really fast and time qualifying, paying raising money through a charity, or doing the 9+1 program for local runners.  Shuttle to the start, one shirt, finisher food bag, and one medal included.  You can’t afford not to run!
  • Organization – 9/10 – For such a huge marathon, they do have their ducks in a row.  Lots of emails from NYRR before and after the race.  The expo is huge and can get really crowded, but number pickup is straightforward.  The shuttles to the start had incredibly long lines but they got us there in plenty of time.  Lots of porta potties at the start and some along the course (although those ones had long lines).  They ran out of Gu options at mile 18 (only caffeinated strawberry was left), but they still had bananas in the later miles for the slow people, and I’ve never heard them running out of finishing bags, medals, or ponchos.  Overall, I thought it was well-organized.
  • Course – 8.5/10 – Yes, the roads are bumpy and crowded, but it’s a pretty amazing tour of NYC considering how much of the city they have to shut down to hold this race and the logistics of moving all those thousands of people safely around the city.  Kudos to them for still doing it.
  • Crowd – 10/10 – Pretty much the entire course is lined with spectators (except on the bridges) and the crowd was still pretty big even though it was raining.  I wish they wouldn’t have crowded onto the course (causing bottlenecks for the runners), and/or I wish police would have enforced the police tape, but oh well.
  • Other Factors – 9/10 – As discussed above, it’s NYC, so just do it already.
  • Overall Rating – 7/10 – It’s still not my favorite marathon… Out of the 25 marathons I’ve done, it would maybe make the top 10 only because it’s my hometown and such a spectacle, but …. yeah, I’m just not a big-city marathon fan.  If you are, you’ll love it!

 

Do you ever get grumpy/irritated/angry during a race?  How do you improve your mood?  Do you love or hate big city marathons?  Share in the comments!

The NYC Marathon Expo – Big and Buzzy!

Welcome to the Expo!

Usually I fold any coverage of a marathon expo into the marathon post itself, but since the NYC Marathon Expo is not your typical expo, I thought it deserved its own (brief) post.

 

The expo opened yesterday and is open 10-8 today and 9-5 on Saturday at the Javits Convention Center (11th Ave and 35th Street).  It’s free and open to the public so even if you’re not running the marathon, feel free to stop by!

Thursday morning at the NYC Expo guarantees seeing runners in business attire picking up their bib numbers.

I went first thing Thursday morning when it opened, expecting to avoid the crowds – but there were already a lot of people there!  Luckily there was zero wait at either the bib or t-shirt pickup.  Unlike at some other large marathons, there was no scanning or checking of the bib after you picked it up.  Just past the bib pickup there’s an area to try on the marathon shirt to make sure you get the right size.  I ended up getting a women’s large instead of XL since the large was baggy enough for me.

The 2017 NYC Marathon shirt – nice and thin, but kinda cluttered with logos (and note the large, reflective NB logo on the sleeve and hem).

While the bib and t-shirt areas were relatively empty, the New Balance store (the largest shopping area and the one you’re basically forced to walk through to get to the “main” expo area) was surprisingly crowded with medium long lines already forming.  I rushed through that area since it was unpleasantly tight and was quickly rewarded by a relatively empty main expo area.

The main floor of the NYC expo.

After buying the one shirt I “allowed” myself to buy (the New Balance NYC “arms up” shirt I’ve had my eye on for weeks now), I wandered the rest of the expo looking for bondi-band style headbands (surprisingly not available), picking up some Gingerade Gus for the race, and buying more things I wasn’t “allowed” (sunglasses, anti-fog cream, another shirt).  I picked up a few free things but avoided the food samples since I didn’t want tummy troubles before the race (some sort of egg white protein drink? no thank you!).  I also checked out the course strategy lecture (held every hour on the hour!) for tips on how to run the race.  In a nutshell – don’t go out to fast, don’t get swept up by the excitement of the crowds, and only let yourself open up after mile 20.

Tonight in Central Park near the finish line they’ll have opening ceremony events including the parade of nations at 5:30 and fireworks afterwards (at a runner-friendly time of 6:30!).  See you on the course!

 

Do you enjoy visiting expos or do you try to get in and out as quickly as possible?  What’s been your favorite free giveaway from an expo?  Did you buy any Halloween candy on sale?  Share in the comments!

Grete’s Great Gallop – Leopard Party – Oct 1, 2017

The happy couple 😀

Is there a better way to celebrate an impending wedding than with a group race?  Not if you’re all dressed in coordinating leopard outfits, that’s for sure!  This past Sunday I ran NYRR’s Grete’s Great Gallop 10K to celebrate my friend Ben’s wedding (this Saturday!).  Even if you don’t know Ben, you might actually recognize him as the almost naked runner who frequents NYRR races.

Ben at the Bronx 10 Miler, 2016.

Me and Ben at Beat the Blerch 2014

Me and Ben at Beat the Blerch in Washington, 2014.

A group of us decided to run this 10K together a while ago, but I’m impressed at the level of commitment to costuming displayed by all!  There wasn’t a single person who didn’t have at least some leopard on them – and two guys went “full-Ben” with tight shorts and no tops!

Ain’t no party like a leopard party…

‘Cause a leopard party don’t stop!

Even the spectators got into the leopard theme!  Ben was also surprised by his bride-to-be, who told him she was going to work that day but instead ran her first 10K with him!  She also sprinted easily through the finish, so I have a feeling more races will be in her future!

I even did my nails for this race – and was inordinately proud of my job.

After the race a smaller group of us went out to brunch and had chocolate chip muffins with strawberry butter, then went to Levain bakery for even more chocolate chip goodness.  Needless to say, this is the kind of running I can get behind.

 

The 10K itself was fine – another standard NYRR race.  We started in the very back so it wasn’t too crowded, and I literally chatted the entire way, so that was nice (thanks, D-lo!).  There were bagels and apples at the finish, along with cups of water and Gatorade.  My favorite part about the race itself was the shirt – it’s a cotton/poly mix and so so soft!  It’s a shirt you can wear running or just lounging around, and since 98% of my time is spent lounging around and only 2% running, I’m very happy with this shirt.

 

I love this soft, cozy shirt!

Ok, so maybe I spend 1.97% of my running time thinking about running.  Speaking of, I signed up for a couple more marathons next year – Tobacco Road Marathon in North Carolina and Martha’s Vineyard Marathon in Massachusetts.  Gotta get back on that 50 State quest – those states aren’t running themselves.

 

 

Would you run a race to celebrate a wedding?  What’s your favorite part about weddings?  Have you ever tried doing nail art at home?  Share in the comments!

Bronx 10 Mile – Hot Hot Heat – Sept 24, 2017

Getting to the start of the Bronx 10 Miler was a race in and of itself.

I ran the Bronx 10 Mile last Sunday.  Surprisingly, the insanely crowded, hot, and humid day only drove me to run faster.  (Sorry for the late recap, as I’ve been busy this week building Ikea furniture and racking up dental bills (from all the teeth gnashing?).)

 

The morning did not start well.  I had mapped out my subway route with the MTA Trip Planner the night before, but as any NYer can tell you, the MTA is not to be trusted.  I ended up getting stranded in Times Square about 40 minutes before the start of the race and seriously considered skipping the whole thing.  But then I remembered that this race had a medal, and it was a hot day and I didn’t want to run 10 miles on my own, so I bit the bullet and ordered an Uber to Yankee Stadium.

Runners (and birds) heading to the Bronx 10 Mile start.

$22 and twenty minutes later, I made it up to the Bronx and discovered I was there almost an hour before I needed to be.  See, even though they said the race started at 8:00, they really meant the elites started at 8:00.  The rest of the crowd, well, it was a staggered start for the remaining 15,000 runners, which sounds great if it actually controlled the crowds, but the course was insanely congested for the entire 10 miles (and I started at 8:30!).

Waiting (and waiting and waiting) at the crowded Bronx 10 Mile start.

Are you getting the sense I didn’t enjoy this race?  Good, because I didn’t really enjoy this race.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I ran it, because it was good to contend with crowds as part of my marathon training (I can only imagine how congested the NYC Marathon is going to be :() and I’m thrilled with my time, as I used the congestion to fuel my fire.  To get away from all the bodies, for the last 5 miles I ran on the edge of the course in the direct sunshine.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it was open, and I swear I passed 99% of the runners over the second half of the course (and I actually ran negative splits! very unusual for me!).

 

My 10th and final mile was the fastest mile I’ve ran since breaking my ankle, so I commemorated it on the back of my medal with NYRR’s free medal engraving service.

We can forget the race time, but that last mile was fast for me!

The finishing amenities were great – ice soaked towels that were desperately needed, the medal, and pre-made goodie bags with a bottle of water, a bottle of gatorade, two small bags of pretzels, a protein bar, and an apple (some bags varied but most had all of these things).  The finishing area, however, was packed, and security guards (?) incorrectly shouted at people that there was no exit at the track & field.  I ignored them because that was the exit the year before, and lo and behold, there was an exit (albeit a long walk from the finish line).

From top clockwise: the insane heat as recorded by my Garmin, the congested finish area, my gritted smile, post-run pizza (yes, Hawaiian, I’m a monster), Yankee stadium with an overheated runner in the foreground, finishing goodie bags, and the medal in the center.

Oh yeah, I decided to run in pearls for this race (with a flower clipped to my hat).  Only one person commented on it, calling it “classy!”

 

And to be fair, on-course support was pretty good, too.  While the cups were running low when I passed, they hadn’t run out of water or Gatorade yet (and that was available at every water stop, every mile).  I’m surprised race officials didn’t make a bigger deal of the hot weather than they did – usually they mention it and encourage the runners to take it slow – but maybe they thought all the congestion would do that for them.  ;P

Once again, please notice the temps my Garmin recorded. 😮

The shirt is fine – tech material, slightly boxy cut, with a weird line of red stitching across the back. Also, it looks almost exactly like the 5K shirt from last year. 😐

Was the race really so different this year, or did the heat just make me grumpy?  Who knows!  All I know is I survived this race and will tackle another this weekend, but this weekend I get to wear a proper costume and run with friends, so I already know it’s going to be much better!

 

Did you run the Bronx 10 Mile or 5K this year?  Are you enjoying this late heatwave or are you yearning for fall?  Do you like Hawaiian pizza or do you think it’s an abomination?  Share in the comments!

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!

Ferry vs Bus to the NYC Marathon

The eternal debate rages on…

Warning:  Long boring post ahead that will only be interesting to you if you’re considering baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon.  Mom, you can skip reading this one.  😉

 

This year the baggage and transport options for the NYC Marathon open on Tuesday, July 11 (and close on August 22). But runners won’t find out their bib numbers or starting corrals until much, much later (probably October).  So how do you choose between the options?

 

Bag or No Bag?

This one is pretty easy.  Most people say not to check a bag.  The upside of no baggage is an earlier exit from the park (relatively speaking – you’ll still exit 1/2 mile after the finish line vs 1 mile for those with bags) plus a free waterproof fleece-lined hooded parka.  These parkas are huge, thick, just massive things that really help you stay warm (and dry, if it’s raining).  They are ugly, and you’ll never wear it again, but you’ll also find it hard to toss because it’s so nice.  The downside is you’ll have to toss your warm layers and whatever else you want at the start but don’t want to run 26 miles with.  Use this as an opportunity to get rid of clothes you don’t want anymore (everything is collected and donated) or buy cheap or used clothing if you don’t have anything you want to leave behind (but I mean, c’mon, when are you going to wear that stained sweatshirt again?).

 

The only reason you’d check a bag is if you absolutely have to have something at the start that you can’t toss but can’t carry.  If you need something particular at the finish (but not at the start), I’ve heard you can check a bag at Jackrabbit on 72nd between Columbus and Amsterdam (for a small fee). Otherwise you can probably last until you get back to your hotel or car (or, heck, even buy it from a store near the park).  Ultimately, I haven’t heard many complaints about the choice either way – I think the bag check runs pretty smoothly, and those who don’t check a bag are fine, too.  Can’t really go wrong here.

 

Ferry or Bus?

This is the big question I’ve debated for a long time, but I think I’ve finally made my choice.  When I ran in 2005, the buses left from downtown and the ferry was not an official option.  Now, buses leave from midtown (next to the library at 5th and 42nd) and the ferry is an official transport option.  (I’m only going to debate the NYC options since if the bus from Jersey is an option for you, you’re probably not debating anything!)

 

The bus is appealing because it’s one-stop-shopping.  You get on the bus, you zone out, and you get off at the starting area.  Lovely!  My friend who took the ferry last year said it was cold and if he had to do it again he’d take the bus.  Plus, the bus is in midtown, which is easy to get to even if there are delays on the subway or something (I could taxi or uber or even walk if it came to it).  So at first the bus was the clear winner for me.  But then I realized they close the bridge at 6:45, which means that all the buses are really early.  Not a problem if you are in one of the first couple waves, but if your start time is 11:00 and you’re taking a bus at, say, 5:45, that means you’d board the bus more than five hours before your start time!

 

So what are the start times, and how do you know which wave you’ll be in?  I’ve found several old pace charts that really, really help with this question – this is from 2014this is from 2015, and this is from 2016.  NYRR will seed you based on what you said your finish time will be (and maybe possibly based on data it has on you, but I’m not 100% sure on that).  Basically, and assuming this year will be like last year, if you’re a 3:00 to 3:30 marathoner you’ll be in Wave 1 that leaves at 9:40 am, 3:35 to 4:00 will be in Wave 2 at 10:15 am, 4:00 to 4:30 will be Wave 3 at 10:40 am, and 4:30 to 6:00 (yikes that’s a big spread) are Wave 4 at 11:00 am.  Note that it might take several to many minutes to cross the actual starting line.  Last year I had friends who started almost at noon.  That means that even if they finished in 4 hours 45 minutes, the sun would already be set.  🙁  (Let’s note here that I’m gunning for a 5:15 finish, but will be happy with 5:30 and ok with 5:45.  So, yeah.  A lot slower than sub 5.)

 

So, setting aside the fact that there’s a decent chance I will finish this marathon in the dark, I will certainly be in Wave 4, and I will probably have a green colored bib and have to run on the bottom of the Verrazano bridge (rumor has it blue and orange get top, green gets bottom).  These are all depressing things to learn, but I guess I’d rather make peace with them now than be surprised on race day.

 

Back to the ferry!  The ferry is highly recommended on online boards, but why?  It seems like a hassle – you have to subway or taxi all the way to the tip of Manhattan, stand in a crush of people to get onto a ferry that holds 5,000 people, then get off in another crush and make your way onto another bus (one hopes there are enough buses there waiting), which then finally takes you to the start.  And as my friend said, it’s cold.  And it sounds like a lot of standing and walking and generally being on your legs to me!  So why so recommended?  Honestly, it sounds like the #1 reason is because the “view is nice.”  Yeah, you get to see the Statue of Liberty and feel like you’re really “in” New York City.  I mean… I guess?  But as someone who has lived here 17 years and has seen the statue many times, I think I can pass on marathon morning.  Other ferry advantages?  You can “stretch out” and there’s a bathroom on board (and in the terminal).  But there are also bathrooms on the buses!  (or so I’ve read)

 

The real reason I’m (probably) choosing the ferry?  (Gasp, yes, I think I’m going to deal with the ferry hassle!)  Because of the time cutoffs and my late start.  Even if they have buses as late as 6:30 (which I highly doubt what with the 6:45 bridge closure), that’s still 4 1/2 hours before my wave starts.  I could take the 8:30 or even 9:00 ferry and probably make it on time (although I’m sure my nerves will get the best of me and I’ll be on the 8:00 ferry).  Regardless, that’s a pretty big time difference, and ultimately makes taking the ferry worth the additional hassle.  And who knows, maybe I’ll be so inspired by the beauty of the Statue of Liberty that I’ll crush my time.  I am strongly considering dressing like the statue for my race costume anyway…

 

Either way, people say be on the bus or ferry 2.5 to 3 hours before your official start time to give yourself time for the transport(s), walking, security, bag check, porta potty visits, getting to your corral, etc.  Also note that in the past, bag check closed a little over an hour before the wave (e.g. 9:20 for a 10:30 start) and corrals closed about 20 minutes before the waves started (e.g. 10:10 for a 10:30 start), so you might need even more time to get to the start depending.  The upside is it gives you more time to eat the free bagels, Powerbars, coffee, tea, and water that’s at the start.

 

Ultimately, getting to the NYC Marathon start is a big hassle, no matter how you slice it.  And then after getting to the start, you will inevitably be waiting around a long, long time (in the cold and other unpredictable elements).  But then after all that hassle and all that waiting, you get to run 26.2 miles, so there’s that.  Why do we do this again?

 

TL;DR – take the bus if you’re in waves 1 or 2, if you’re staying in midtown, or if you don’t mind hanging around the starting village.  Take the ferry if you’re from out-of-town and really want the “NYC experience,” if you’re staying at a downtown hotel, or if you’re in a later wave and don’t want to kill too much time in the village.

 

Are you or have you ever taken the bus or ferry to the start of the NYC Marathon?  Checked a bag?  What meal are you planning for before and after the race?  Share in the comments!

NYRR 1 for You 1 for Youth 4 Miler – I Have Friends – Sat, July 8, 2017

Now, he is known only as… the Falconer!

Despite it being 1000% percent humidity (not a typo), this morning my friends and I had a great time at the NYRR 1 for You 1 for Youth 4 miler in Central Park.  I originally signed up for this race because instead of a race shirt you got a free* pair of shoes!  Despite it being a smaller race (for NYRR – only about 1900 runners instead of 5000+), I was able to run with 3 of my friends – two who I knew were going to be there, and one that I found along the way!

 

But first, the shoes.  Every entrant got a pair of shoes, and for each entrant one pair was donated to a child in the NYRR youth program.  That’s a lot of shoes!  When you first signed up, you had to indicate your preference between two different pairs of New Balance shoes – the Fresh Foam Zante v3 (neutral, men’s here ($64-$129) and women’s here, $80-$105) and the 860v7 (stability, men’s here ($112-$178) and women’s here, $110-$190).  I chose the Zante because… well, it was cuter, and I knew I probably wouldn’t run in either pair since you can pry the Hokas off my cold, dead feet.

The Fresh Foam Zante v3 (it comes in other colors but we only had this option).

I think they are nice-looking shoes, but they feel like… nothing – no arch support and very little cushion.  After trying them on I described them as “cardboard.”  Hopefully when I actually wear them more I’ll like them, but I’ll stick to (very) short walks in them first.

 

When you picked up your shoes you also got to measure your foot on this high-tech machine that worked no better than a standard brannock device, but it still was a nice reminder we’re living in a pointlessly high-tech future.

They only had people stand on the machine, no running involved.

When my friend picked up her shoes, they didn’t have anymore Zantes so she got the 860s, but luckily they still had some in her size (which was incorrectly measured by the fancy machine).  She also said they had good arch support, so maybe she was spared the pain of the cardboard Zantes.

 

Have I mentioned the new NYRR digs yet?  Last (?) year they moved from an Upper East Side brownstone to a temporary location on the Upper West Side, but now they’re in their new permanent location in midtown west.  It’s big and nice, but part of me misses that old brownstone charm.

It’s a big HQ! There are bathrooms (no showers) and lockers, plus places to charge your phone.

On race morning I texted my two friends who were running the race and we met up in the corrals.  I was already sweating like a pig from my warm up mile that I ran at a blistering 12-minute-per-mile pace.  Pretty sure I frightened them.

I think they were pretty excited to start running away from me ASAP.

Because it was a relatively small race, the corrals were close together and we crossed the start in only about three minutes.  I wasn’t running with my friends because they’re both much faster than me, so I lost them in the crowd almost instantly.  A little less than a mile from the start, however, I saw a very familiar back ahead of me.  After I checked to see if he was wearing minimalist shoes, I felt bold enough to try calling out his name (and steeling myself for the possibility it wasn’t him and I was just going to be some jackass screaming a name out in the middle of a race).  But it was him!  I have friends!

At the start of the race on the 72nd Street Transverse- can amazingly almost see the starting line.

I spent the next three miles running as fast as I could while pretending it was no big deal, and chatting about this and that with my running friend who I hadn’t seen in ages.  I felt bad because he’s training for Berlin (he ran 8 miles today, no big deal) and he’s much, much faster than me, and I didn’t want to ruin his race, but he stuck with me until the end (which was really good because I felt like I might die at the end – there was only water and pollen in the air at this point – no oxygen – which made breathing difficult).

 

But after sitting in the shade for a while, we all recovered and had a huge brunch/lunch at Fred’s.  It was an amazing morning and a super nice way to (1) get some shoes, (2) get some exercise and (3) eat a bacon club sandwich and then buy ice cream on the way home.

Proof we survived the race. My other runner friend is not pictured. But I swear he’s real.

*Free with your $50 race entry fee – but still not bad considering a typical NYRR race is $18-23 anyway.

 

Do you wear New Balance shoes?  Have you ever run a race with friends?  Do you watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend?  Share in the comments!

Achilles Hope & Possibility 4 Miler – A Hot & Sunny Return to Racing – June 25, 2017

😀

Today I ran (actually ran!) my first race since my injury last May!  It was a relatively hot and sunny morning, but Central Park was beautiful as usual and the crowd was energized and inspiring.  My goals were to hit 10:15 to 10:30 per mile and to not break any bones.  Mission accomplished!

 

Achilles International is an amazing organization that helps runners with all types of disabilities participate in road races.  Years ago, before various injuries kept me sidelined, I volunteered as a runner guide on a couple of training runs with Achilles.  It was amazing to run with blind athletes who ran better than I did with sight.  If you have any interest, I highly recommend checking them out.  I also wanted to return to running with this race, since it helps put my (relatively) small injury in perspective (especially as I get smoked by blade runners!).

 

This morning I scarfed a nectarine and headed out to the park.  According to my training, I was supposed to run a 1 mile warm up and a 1 mile cool down.  I actually managed to do a slow 1 mile warm up, which is honestly shocking to me because I never do those sorts of things.  Run more before a race?  No thanks.  If I wanted to run more, I would have signed up for a longer race.

These hot dog vendors know their audience.

After plodding around “warming up” in the hot sun and stretching like I had accomplished something, I got into my corral and listened to Jon Stewart (yep, that Jon Stewart) joke that he would need to be carried across the finish by his son.  I looked around to see who I could get to carry me, and cursed my lack of foresight on this important issue.  My starting corral was so far back that multiple waves went off before we even moved, and I wondered if the winners had finished the 4 mile race already.

Several waves had gone off and I’m standing here taking pictures.

I ran the first mile in about 10 minutes, which was faster than I thought I’d run and pretty exciting.  I guess I got too excited because my next mile was about 9:30, which is much faster than I had intended and I still had 2 more miles to run in the 83 degree heat.  I slowed down on the third mile and then picked up the pace again for the last mile, sprinting through the finish chute like a total poser.  I beat my time goal and averaged just under 10 minute miles, which at this point in my training I will accept!  I collected my medal and an apple, but I did not pick up a bagel because I have the iron willpower of champions.  Plus I still felt guilty about the pizza, cheesy polenta, meatballs, and frozen yogurt I had the day before…

 

All-in-all, I was really happy with the race and my run in general.  I’m so happy to be back out there running again, even if it is for only 4 miles (and slower than I was a year ago, let alone a few years ago).  I’ve also noticed the runger is back (i.e. the “running hunger”) as I want to consume everything in my kitchen all at once like a fat tornado.  So are the blisters on my toes.  And the stupid calf tan lines.  Welcome back to running!

It’s thin, white, see-thru, and small. 😐

I’ve also officially started the NYRR 20-week online marathon training program, finishing the first week today.  Yes, that means the NYC Marathon is only 19 weeks away!  Eeep!

 

How was your weekend?  What are your tips to beat the heat?  What do you like to eat when you feel unstoppable hunger?  Share in the comments!

I got into the NYC Marathon!

It already has!

I was just finishing my dinner when my email dinged – I checked and my stomach dropped – I got into the NYC marathon lottery!  Hooooooo boy…  I did not see that coming.

 

First, apologies for the incredibly long break in posting.  I still can’t run due to injury, so I haven’t been in the running mindset, so this blog has been gathering as much dust as my running shoes.  I was going to write a post about what I have been doing besides running, but I kept putting that off because, well, it is profoundly uninteresting.  I’ve been resting a lot, and walking a little, and just started rowing and going to the gym again, but then I played tourist in this beautiful weather we’ve been having and overdid it, compressing my ankle and causing pain and swelling, helping keep my PT busy and my running shoes dusty.

 

On a lark, I applied for the NYC Marathon lottery two weeks ago – the last day they accepted applications.  The odds of a local resident getting selected for the lottery were only about 23%.  Well, apparently I am one of the 23%, because I got in!  (You might remember I was only 2 races away from qualifying last year, but I couldn’t make it because of the injury.)

 

I really didn’t think I’d get selected, and I was okay with that.  I still can’t even run a block, so the idea of running a marathon seems farfetched.  But I also rationalized that if I did get in, it might be a good way to test the waters – I ran the NYC Marathon in 2005 (good lord, has it really already been 12 years?!), so there would be no pressure to finish for my 50 States quest, plus it’s a local race so I wouldn’t have the added expense and stress of travel and hotel.  But now I’m realizing it’s only 8 months away, which seems so so so very soon to learn how to run 26.2 miles.

It’s making my stomach do flips, that’s for sure.

 

So, I just won probably the worst lottery in the world and I paid $255 for the privilege.  As the immortal Forrest Gump(‘s momma) said, “stupid is as stupid does.”  I guess I’m back to being a stupid runner, even without the running!  Huzzah!

 

Did you get into the 2017 NYC Marathon?  Have you ever won any sort of lottery or prize?  How much would you pay to not have to run the NYC Marathon?  Share in the comments!

Bronx 5K – Beautiful Day – Sun, Sept 25, 2016

The finish area of the NYRR Bronx 5K leads to this track in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

The finish area of the NYRR Bronx 5K leads to this track in the shadow of Yankee Stadium.

On Sunday, September 25, 2016, I was supposed to be running 26 miles at the Clarence DeMar Marathon in Keene, New Hampshire.  Because of my injury, I was instead walking 3 miles in the Bronx.  Surprisingly, I was not terribly depressed about this, partially because it was a perfect fall day, partially because my ankle amazingly didn’t hurt too much during or after, but mostly because the rest of my weekend was so fun, I wasn’t disappointed that I wasn’t in New Hampshire.

 

There are two things I don’t recommend doing before the Bronx 5K – getting only 3 hours of sleep and taking the A train.  I don’t have much advice about how to avoid the former, but the latter can be avoided by either doing whatever you can to take the D train straight to 167th Street, praying to the MTA gods that another train will be in service that weekend (like the 2), or take a taxi or an Uber.  I waited so long on a hot, crowded platform for the A (and the D) that I actually arrived after the start of the race, despite allotting an hour and 15 minutes travel time for an estimated 40 minute journey.

I seriously thought I was going to die waiting here.

I seriously thought I was going to die waiting here.

Despite the transportation hassles, I perked right up when I finally got into the Bronx and had to hustle a few blocks back past the start and slip through a barricade so I could get into the chute and cross the starting line (about 10 minutes after the official start at 7:30).  There were still quite a few stragglers who began even after I did, probably also due to train delays and/or excessive Saturday night celebration.  Still, my slow pace and late start made for a blissfully empty course, which I enjoyed all the way to the finish.

I was just heading out when most of the pack was heading back in to the finish.

I was just heading out when most of the pack was heading back in.

Due to the pain I felt during and after my last attempt at walking a 5K, I forced myself to slow down even more than usual (to about 18 minute miles) which seemed to help.

The highlight of the race was seeing two of my friends who were running the 10 miler option.  Because I was so slow, I was walking towards the starting area when the 10 miler took off.  I got to see the elites sprint by and the rest of the hoard heading out strong – the sound of feet on pavement was stunning.  Because there were so many thousands of runners (about 10,000 total that day), I walked past several blocks of runners still waiting in their corrals to cross the start.  I’m still amazed I saw my two runner friends in that crowd!

The finish line is down on the left, Yankee Stadium is hulking on the right.

The finish line is down on the left, Yankee Stadium is hulking on the right.

I had a huge grin on my face for most of this race – the weather and taking my time really seemed to help.  Also, I love the Bronx 5K and 10 miler series!  Food afterwards included the standard apples, pretzels, a bagel, and a PowerBar protein bar.  There was a medal for the 10 miler but not for the 5K.  However, we did get an excellent (although unisex) technical New Balance race shirt included in the $15 registration!

A nice tech shirt? Yes, please!

A nice tech shirt? Yes, please!

Since my ankle held up so well for the race, after some stretching and PT work, I was able to walk another 5+ miles around Brooklyn that afternoon and night (not continuous, but still!).  And yes, the rest of these photos have nothing to do with the Bronx 5K, but my outing put me in a good mood so I’m gonna count it as part of my running life… (ok, yes, it’s a stretch…)

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge.

Sunset under the Williamsburg Bridge.

So, despite my ankle, it was a great weekend.  Today my ankle seems no worse for wear, so I’m cautiously optimistic about what the doctor will tell me on Wednesday… (knock wood!!)  Plus it’s fantastic because I clearly deserve at least 5 million dollars from the city for my injury – mine sounds much worse than hers!

 

How was your weekend?  Have you ever run the Bronx 5K or 10 miler?  Do you love, hate, or hate to love Williamsburg?  Have you ever sued the city?  Share in the comments!