06 Nov 2006 When Will the Pain Stop?
I hope it is soon. It is not pain as much as it is just general discomfort. And I have had enough of it already. I know I will be fine in a couple of days, but until then every little thing will nag me.
For those that were unaware, last Sunday I participated in the ING New York City Marathon. It has taken me three years to secure a spot and train for this race. This was my moment. This was why I had put in all of those hours of training. This is the reason I would continue to run, even if I did not want to run, because I knew this day would come. Yes, it all came down to this.
And I stunk up the joint. Well, not at first. I am sure I did not really start to stink until about two hours into the race. And believe me, I could not have smelled nearly as bad as some of the people that went past me. At first I was uncertain if that was the guy from Italy or if it was just Brooklyn in general. I am fairly certain it was a toxic combination of both, and I doubt the East River helped matters much.
Anyway, when my company, ING, began their title sponsorship a few years back it opened up the opportunity for employees to become part of ‘Team ING’ and participate in the marathon. How could I pass up a chance to take part in something so grand? Easily, I suppose. A better question at this point might be “why didn’t I pass up the opportunity”? After all, had I been smart enough to pass it up then chances are it would not hurt me to type this blog at this very moment.
So, the past few years have seen me train in fits and spurts, with 2006 being the first year that I was able to get through my training unimpeded. I started back in June, working my way up to 17 miles and three hours of straight running. All the while learning and gaining valuable running experience. I took part in the Hartford Half-Marathon in ’06 and ’05 (who can forget?), ran other smaller venues, trained by myself, ran with others, bought geek gear, learned how to eat, when to eat, when to drink, when to stop, when to go, how to dodge traffic, etc. Yes, a lot of time went into this day, this was indeed my moment.
When I started making plans to participate, I always had Suzanne in mind. No way would I want to do something like this without having anyone close with me. Suzanne was wonderful in her support these past few months and looked forward to joining me for a brief respite in New York this past weekend. We spent Friday night at her parents and then headed down to New York on Saturday, leaving Elliot and Isabelle with her parents until Sunday night. So, after three years of training, and heading off for less than 36 hours without the kids, what do you think my little girl says to me as I am about to leave?
“Papa, will you spend some time with me?”
Uh, yeah, but not now. Soon, I promise. As I head for the door, with my heart dragging behind me on the floor, I get in the car and think she is only three, she has no idea what she said, and she will forget about it in ten minutes. Well, I sure hope that is the case. Otherwise, that emotional scarring I have been scratching into her a little bit at a time has been advanced to a full blown incision.
Suzanne and I head to New haven by car, get to the train station and make the 9:32 train to Grand Central Station. Now, why did I never catch a train to NYC when I was a kid? New Haven was only 90 minutes away, I could have caught Yankee games, or seen a play, or got mugged in Times Square. Why not? I guess because I never knew how easy and convenient it would be. So, we get into Grand Central and walk to the Hilton on 53rd street, about 12 blocks away in total. We check in to our room and it is not even noon yet. Then, before we head to the room, I check in with the ING welcome table to get my tickets for some events, a T-shirt and goodie backpack, along with some nipple tape (very, very important piece of equipment). I also get info on breakfast tomorrow and the bus ride to the start line.
Next up, we need to find the shuttle bus to the expo where we pick up my bib, my chip, my UPS bag, and tickets to the pasta dinner at the Tavern on the Green for that night. We spend some time wandering around the expo, looking at the various booths and passing on merchandise that is clearly not a bargain. Thankfully, after being around this stuff for a few years, I can spot a good price from a horribly inflated one. I also take in a sample of this energy gel called GU (pronounced ‘Goo’, I believe). They had several flavors, including one named Just Plain. What does plain goo taste like? I tried a spoonful, decided it was not for me, and we moved on to the next booth.
We finish up at the expo and head back to our hotel. We arrive back at about 2PM and decide to take a nap. And yes Suzanne, that was a good idea. We get about two hours of rest in before we wake up and start reviewing a lot of the stuff packed into the bags I have been handed. Mostly advertisements, some coupons, a few sample food items (PowerBar makes a granola bar?), and some drugs (thank you, Tylenol). We then get ready to make our way down to an ING social hour before we head to the Tavern on the Green for our designated arrival time of 6:45 for dinner. Apparently, the only way to feed 7,000 pounds of pasta to several thousand runners is if everyone arrives in shifts.
The ING reception was some cheese and crackers along with an open bar. We stayed for a bit, had some drinks and some food, but did not mingle. I recognized no one, I believe they were mostly clients, not employees. And if they are clients, the last thing anyone wants is to have me talk with them about anything. So I knew it was best to keep quiet. I had a beer, thinking it might help me sleep later, but also made certain to have a bottle of water, because I was not looking to get drunk or dehydrated. And if you have read this far looking to count the mistakes I made before the race, I do not believe the beer counts as one. I am certain we will have plenty more for you to tally as this blog continues on (and on, and on).
We leave the reception and head over to the pasta dinner. The line stretched out onto Central Park West and took about twenty minutes for us to finally get through the door, which is really not that bad. We get in and are handed items to take as we go. First a tray with a plate and some plastic tableware, then a bottle of water, then some Gatorade (I passed), then some beer (well, not really beer, it was Coors), then a roll, then we walked to the pasta stations. At the station was a bucket of salad (the lighting may have been bad, but for a salad, it was browner than I like), and three pasta entries. I sampled two pasta dishes, then Suzanne and I found some seats.
The entire event was in a large tent, I do not know how many people the tent held but I am certain that we were over the limit of any possible fire code. We were packed in there and I kept hearing an announcement about how when we were done to get up and leave. Well, they said it ni
cer than that, but you get the idea. Suzanne and I took in the sights and decided that this was one event we could skip next year. Not even the entertainment would bring us back. There was a man doing his best to keep the mood lively. He was up on a makeshift stage dancing and he even had some women dancing behind him. The event was sponsored by Barilla pasta, so the backup girls had Barilla T-shirts on. I am not certain, but I do not believe that as an ensemble they had practiced very much.
But the guy was over the top. Or is it off the hook? Or is it off the top and over the hook? Anyway, what he did have was hair. Boy, did he ever. Think ‘Bobby Wheeler’ from Taxi. That is exactly who this guy reminded me of. The hair, this build, the facial features, hey…maybe it was Bobby Wheeler? What has he done besides Grease anyway? This guy probably does the same thing, drive a cab during the day and is hired out for his hair by night. I am sure he is talented in his own way, but I am not certain those talents were on display that night. Then again, maybe they were, and he was the best Barilla had to offer.
I grab another sampling of pasta and after our dinner we start to walk back to the Hilton. On the way I buy myself a big bag of popcorn, some ice tea, and 1.5 liters of water. $17 later we left that store and walked across the street. It was about 8PM and we were done for the day. Up to the room, eat my snack, get hydrated, watch some television, and relax. I set a wake up call for 5:30AM and try to get some sleep. We were on the 39th floor, so street noises were kept to a minimum. Yep, everything was falling into place.
I tried to sleep, but just could not. I recall laying in bed, aware of all the noises around me. The blowing of the room ventilation, the street noises, people walking through the hall. I remember thinking about the race tomorrow, wondering how I would ever complete 26 miles when I have never even done 18 at once. I am not certain if I ever actually fell asleep at all that night, but I am certain I must have for at least a few minutes at a time. And before you can say ‘sleep-deprivation’, the phone rang, I jumped out of bed, splashed some water on my face, and started putting on several layers of clothing as I got ready to head down for breakfast. As I left, I told Suzanne “Honey, I’m going to go for a jog, meet me in the park later.”
I made it to the third floor ballroom for breakfast. They had a complete spread, the whole nine yards. I grabbed some bacon, sausage, eggs, but not too much, as well as some pieces of fruit. The start line has breakfast for me, some bagels and such, and that will be the time that I want to load up on carbs, about an hour before the start I said to myself. So, I had my breakfast, and some orange juice, but no coffee as I was focused on making certain I was hydrated. I also had that huge 1.5 liter bottle of water from last night, and planned on finishing it off as the morning went along.
Now, right about here you can call me out for making a huge mistake. Go ahead, shout it out. Sure, looking back it makes sense now, and it should have made sense when I saw some other runners eating cereals and bagels and similar items. But even if I chose not to load up on carbs four hours before race time, I still should have eaten a much larger breakfast. It did not have to be perfect, but it should have been substantial. Legendary, even. I should have eaten so much that they would have had to ask me to leave. Instead, I minded my manners, made pleasant conversation with everyone, and left quietly. I did not take an extra bagel or two with me. I also noticed how a lot of people were wearing specific ING running shirts. I must have been sick the day they were passing those out, because I never got one. I am disappointed that I did not eat more, and I even had been told to have a huge breakfast about four hours before the race. Somehow, I forgot that small detail as I focused on what I wanted to do in the two hours before the race. Well, I guess that is what they call experience.
As I made my way downstairs to the bus I was wondering two things. First, did I eat enough (I had convinced myself that the answer was yes, because more food was in my future). Second, who turned up the heat in here? I was sweating from all the layers I had on. Because the start line is located outdoors and you are there for a while before the race begins, it is a good idea to dress warmer than what might be necessary. Your excess clothing can be left behind where it is collected and donated to shelters locally. So, I not only had my sneakers, my socks, my bicycle shorts, my running shorts, and my running shirt on, I was also wearing some thermal underwear, a sweatshirt, some sweat pants, and an old pair of rugby socks. I was also lugging around my goodie bag that I leave with UPS at the start and they bring to the finish line for me. It contains the items I want waiting for me after the race (some cookies, a pair of pants, a pullover) and it also contained a couple of jackets I got when I worked for AllPoints but had not worn in years. The idea I had was that their time had come, and they would be donated. (Of course, right now, I think I want one of them back). Oh, and I also had a hat, along with some gloves and a headband to protect my ears from the cold. Yep, it was warm in the Hilton.
I make my way to the bus, which I was told would be leaving promptly at 6:45AM. I am not certain what time it actually left, but I have a feeling it was later than that, perhaps 7:15 or so. We finally pull away from the curb and into traffic and I am thinking this is it. Yessir. Here we go. Everything has led me to this moment. I turn to the guy next to me and ask “Is this the bus to the Statue of Liberty?” He is from Holland, and speaks no English, but still says “No”.
Suddenly, we stop.
We went about thirty feet and stopped. I have no idea why, but we went from waiting at the curb to waiting for another five minutes in the street. The caravan of busses start to pull away finally and I get a quick count of six or seven busses ahead of ours as we curl around the block. I have no idea at this time, but two things are about to become quite noticeable. First, our caravan is about twenty busses long. Second, the reason taxis are stopping for us as we run red lights is because we have a bona-fide NYPD police escort through Manhattan. Everyone on the bus was abuzz when they realized New York’s finest were helping to move us along. Was it worth the wait? Almost. Was it cool? Definitely. Was it the only time in my life I want the NYPD to be escorting me? Probably.
We made it over to the FDR and down to the Verrazano. All the while I was taking in the sights of the city as we were escorted through. It was hard to not get excited as I head for the start line of the biggest race in my life and I am getting some VIP treatment on top of that as well. We waited a while in traffic before we could head over the bridge to the start of the race. Then, we got dumped out on the side of the highway like we were done hitching a ride or something, and we grabbed our bags and started walking to Fort Wadsworth to find our places. I showed my bib to gain entry and immediately went to stand in line for the SaniCan. The man in front of me informed me it was about 8:30AM. That’s when I started to realize I may not have enough time to relieve myself, eat, and get to my spot in the corral. After thirty minutes and one PowerBar granola bar later I finally get my chance
to make a lasting impression in the SaniCan and I head off to dump my bag with UPS. By this point in time I am fully dressed with all available layers having been activated. That would include the headband, the hat, my gloves, and two jackets. It is just enough to keep me warm. And I mean that. Anything less and I would have been too cold and lost energy. Anything more and I lose fluids. I had dressed perfectly, if you can believe that. Chalk it up to experience, I guess.
I find my truck, dump my bag, and head over towards the corral. I see numbers which would correspond to bib numbers, but I do not see anything for my bib number (2369). My number seems quite low when compared to others and I am starting to think someone has made a mistake. I quickly fear that it is I who has made the mistake by showing up to run. I find the food, Dunkin’ Donuts are handing out bagels and donuts. Well, the sign said donuts, but all the boxes had were bagels. Sadly, no butter, just cold hard bread. I actually would have given anything for a plain stick, as I could have used some comfort food to settle my nerves.
I find some water and then wonder why so many people are in line for coffee. I thought coffee on race day would be a bad thing? To each his own, I guess. So, I have a bagel and some water, having already finished that monstrous 1.5 liter bottle I carried all the way from Midtown Manhattan. I know water is key, and that I need to check my hydration before the race starts. How do you do that? Well, by watching the color of your urine, of course. You want it to be clear. If it is not clear, then you need more water. I also look around for some fruit or some yogurt and sadly find none. Thankfully, I did grab an extra banana at breakfast and find it in my jacket, as well as the Tylenol.
I work my way around a bit trying to find a sign that corresponds to my bib numbers. For some reason, I see a sign for 1-999 and another sign for 10000-14999, but nothing in between. I walk behind a tent and see a sign that says 2000-2999 which is guarded by two men in uniform. What is weird is that I do not see an entrance to what I believe is my corral. So, I grab a seat at a nearby picnic table and finish my bagel. I notice that runners are going to the soldiers and showing them their bibs and being let into the corral that they are standing in. Suddenly, I understand. You do not enter your corral at the head of the line, you enter from the rear and work your way forward. Thus, this is my entrance! I show them my bib, and they welcome me in and wish me luck. I turn left and start walking up my corral, thinking about what a low number I really have.
Now, I have never been to an Olympic event in person. The closest international event I have ever been to would be a friendly played between the Revolution and Benefica at Foxboro about eight years ago. But about this time I started to soak in some of the atmosphere around me. For example, there were many people from various countries all around me, speaking their native language. There was also a loudspeaker with Tokyo Rose explaining in three languages that I was in the Blue Corral and things like that. It really gave me a sense that this was not some race (no offense Hartford, or Manchester, or anywhere else I have ran to date), but this was an E-V-E-N-T. This is not something you slap together with a few buddies over drinks at the Yale Club. This is something that the entire City has to work together and coordinate, right down to having a loudspeaker with directions in enough languages for participants to understand what is going on. It was really starting to hit me and that is when I decided to start taking off my clothes.
By this time it was about 9:30AM, and I knew I needed to start getting ready. Off went the thermal underwear and the extra socks, as well as the hat. Each of those items held a memory for me. The hat I bought at Fenway 18 years ago with my friends Chris and Matt when we caught the Indians in town. (I got to speak with Bud Black during batting practice and later when he was in the bullpen and I kid you not the guy was a riot. I am a huge fan of his for the time he spent with us that night.) The thermal underwear was bought by Suzanne for me when we spent Christmas near Sandpoint, Idaho while we lived in Washington State. The extra socks were purchased years ago while I was still playing rugby, a sport I miss from time to time. I folded all the items neatly and set them aside, along with my now empty water bottle and banana peel. That was the last time I would see them, but did not think of that at the time.
I kept the sweat pants, the sweatshirt, the two jackets, the headband, and the gloves. I also moved to the other side of the road which had the outer fence, where I had seen other men making their own SaniCan adventures. I made an attempt to urinate as well, knowing that I needed to check my hydration level but more importantly because I knew that I needed to urinate. Unfortunately, I was having some issues, and could not get the job done. No big deal I thought, I can go after I get over the bridge. It will be fine.
At this point I noticed the corral in front of us (blue bibs 1-999) had some activity. The men in there had formed a circle and were essentially running laps, trying to warm up for the race. It was quite a team effort by a few hundred people that had never met each other before this morning. I made another attempt at checking my hydration (no luck) and was about the head back to my spot when I was overwhelmed by a sea of runners coming up on our position. See, as the race gets closer to the start time they drop the dividers between corrals. Naturally, everyone races to the front of the next corral. Since I was already there, I did not need to go anywhere. Well, except I still needed to go, if you know what I mean. But first I needed to strip some more.
Off went the two jackets along with the sweat pants. I hope someone needy gets them, because they are all in fine shape. I tossed them aside and briefly thought about checking my hydration when they dropped our gate. We now jogged together through the first corral, to the right and down a hill, back onto the highway, another right, then a left around a bus, then you see a wall of busses about six or seven long, we jogged to the end, then a left around the end of the busses and straight to the start line. And there it is, I am about a hundred feet from the blue start to the 2006 ING New York City Marathon. And I cannot stop thinking about my hydration level. In addition to my running outfit I also am wearing my sweatshirt, my gloves, and my headband. Oh, and the iPod, did I forget to mention I brought the iPod?
I cue up the iPod to play ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ by the Ramones. Can you think of something better to play as you jog through Brooklyn? Please do not say ‘Beastie Boys’. And you can skip the fact that Joey was from Queens, not Brooklyn. There was never a question as to who would be yelling at me when I put the iPod on, it was Joey Ramone all the way. Their music has a great beat to jog to, it really helps your pace, and I felt it was rather appropriate for the moment.
The idea at this point was to go over the bridge taking in all the sights and sounds that I could. Then, I would lose the sweatshirt, crank up the iPod, and find a SaniCan to call my own. After about twenty minutes of waiting, they fired the cannon and we are off, heading up and over the Verrazano Narrows bridge, off of Staten Island and over to Brooklyn. Surrounded by a bunch of strangers and with almost a dozen helicopters buzzing in the sky, my journey had begun.
By the time I get to the section of the bridge with a guardrail there is a line of runners urinating on the side. Apparently, I was not the only one needing to check their hydration level. A good portion of the bridge was used as a urinal that day. I did the first mile in about nine minutes, which I thought was fabulous considering I had 25 more to go and this mile was mostly uphill. The end
of the second mile was at the end of the bridge, and I dropped the sweatshirt and turned on the iPod. Joey took care of me at that point, and I was settling into a nice groove. Not too fast, not too slow, but full of excess fluids that needed to be vented as soon as possible.
I had also removed my gloves by this point, but not my headband. I did not toss the gloves aside, instead I held onto them in my hands. I am not certain why, since I intended to donate them as well, but for some reason I just felt I should hang onto them. I made it through the first 5k in about 26 minutes which was a fine enough pace for me, considering I knew that I had 23 miles to go. I also located a SaniCan and was able to finally check my hydration, and it was clear, so I knew I was doing fine at that point. I got back into the race and started to soak in my first ever trip to Brooklyn.
I was taking fluids every twenty minutes. Every station had water and every other station had Gatorade. I eventually got into a cycle taking Gatorade and water at the same stop, then skipping the water only stop, and back to Gatorade and water. It was good, because I was doing eight to nine minute miles, so I was drinking roughly every twenty minutes, which was the Plan. This continued through all of Brooklyn. I kept a good steady pace, not too fast, and kept up with the fluids. I felt fine. I hit the Pulaski Bridge which is the halfway point and it was about 1:53. Being there in under two hours was right on target for me. I could have done that stretch faster, but I knew there was so much longer to go and I would need that energy at the end.
We went briefly through Queens and I could sense that I was slowing, just a bit. I figured this was due to the undulating hills that I have been going up and down. Who knew that New York City and the boroughs had any inclines whatsoever? Never mind the bridges which always have a pitch, but the streets in general also had a slight pitch as well. After our quick stay in Queens we were heading into Manhattan over the Queensboro bridge. I was not expecting the bridge until later, so I was quite surprised to find myself on the lower deck. When I hit the bridge I might as well have hit a wall, over and over and over again. I was able to maintain a good pace up and over the bridge. I focused on the lines on the road and the people around me, keeping pace with them and even passing a couple of runners that were slowing on the ascent.
By the time I emerged from the bridge I started to realize I was in a spot of trouble. The exit was exciting as you emerge to a huge crowd and you curl back around and under the bridge to head up First Avenue. We were about 17 miles down, nine more to go. But nine miles is a long way to run when you are not certain you can run any longer. We were on First Avenue, along the upper east side of Manhattan, and heading straight for the Bronx. There was good support along this stretch of the route, even though by now these people had been cheering for hours waiting for us slackers to finally arrive. Looking back, this would be where I think I started to mentally break down. Physically, I could probably have kept going at a good pace, especially if I knew the end was near. But all I kept thinking about was the incredible distance that was left. Instead, I should have focused more on other things and perhaps that would have helped.
I think the initial daunting task was looking up First Avenue at a slight hill. At this point, the road was still thick with runners, I could see heads bobbing as far as I could see, across the width of the road. I tried to focus on getting to the crest of that hill and did, only to look down at what was a very short descent and another climb. I got to the top of that second crest only to see yet another short descent, another climb, two more hills after that, and a sea of bobbing runners all the way to the end of the horizon. Simply an amazing sight. And by now, I know I am in trouble. I cannot get my mind to simply focus on anything other than everything that is going against me. My GPS is off because it lost the signal while on the Queensboro bridge, So I no longer know how far I have gone, or how much further until the next water station. It was like flying without instruments, not that I would really know what that was like either. They always say that race day is the worst day to try something new. Not only was the marathon itself something new, but not having the tools I have been using for months at my disposal was also new.
I grab some PowerBar gel packets around mile 18. I have only tried a gel pack once before in my life and the experience was not pleasurable. But I knew what needed to be done. I tore off the top, put it to my mouth, squeezed, and…well…how about that…it tastes like a PowerBar! And since I have had a PowerBar before, it was something familiar to me, and I did not think about vomiting. I had two packs in total and then grabbed lots of water. I honestly felt at that time that I could still break four hours, and at the worst finish better than my projected time of 4:20. Of course, that means I would need to cover about seven miles in the next hour. Certainly not impossible for me, except for the fact that I had already run for more than 18 miles. Yes, I am that stupid.
So, we continue along First Avenue and I notice my pace is slowing. But that is not as worrisome as the fact that I am actually just walking. Holy crap! Why am I walking? I was now walking the entire length of the water stations. I would grab my cups and walk as I drank them, trying to recover and jog the two miles to my next station. It was also along this stretch that we had the dumbest spectators imaginable. More than a few times I had to dodge people trying to cross the street. I ended up pushing one person square in the back when they stopped in front of me. Morons.
We crossed over a bridge and a runner to my left tripped on a mat and fell flat on his face. Others stopped to help him but last thing I remember he was not moving. I think he needed a nap, I know I could have used one. He was probably staying still so that he did not trip anyone while getting up, because I do not believe he was seriously injured. We went into the Bronx for a short time and then came out over the fifth and last bridge. Well, it is short distance wise, but time wise I was in the Bronx about as long as I was in Queens, I think.
We came back into Manhattan on the Madison Avenue bridge that gave me a view of Yankee Stadium to the North. This would have been nicer to see if I was not blind. Two things I would like to have done over. First, to bring a case for my glasses to be stored in while I am running. I had to leave them in our luggage bag that we checked at the Hilton after checkout and stuck them in a shoe hoping they would not get damaged. Second, to wear my contacts while running so that I can truly see all the sights. Most of my memories from the race are fuzzy, and not because of the two beers at dinner.
At this point I am walking for one minute and trying to jog for four minutes. But my jog is really just a fast walk, a shuffling of my feet at a pace of about a 12 minute mile. My dreams of finishing in four hours have been lost, as soon so are my dreams of even coming in under a 4:20. We head back down and into Central Park. I am really only walking at this point. I have lots of thoughts going through my mind. I am thinking about my children, and my wife, and how much I love them. I am thinking about the reasons why I run. I am thinking about my grandfather, who passed a few years back but I continue to miss him. I am thinking about how I never got to really say goodbye to him, because I did not realize that it would be the last time he would be coherent before he passed. In other words, I did not realize it could be the last time I would see him, much like my clothes earlier today. Silly comparison, but the point is valid. You never know what life will bring you next. I am thinking about my parents, my
sisters, my brother. I am thinking about how disappointed I am that I spent years preparing for this one day, only to fail to accomplish a sub-four hour finish. I am almost moved to tears on two separate occasions, but hold them back both times. And to be honest, it is misty in here right now.
I see the sign marking the 25th mile and start to shuffle my feet. I eventually get to the sign that says 1/2 mile to go. I know that there is another sign that marks 400 meters to go, so I keep my feet shuffling along. I make it to the finish, shuffling my feet the whole way.
And my nightmare is not over yet.
There is a sea of people at the end, and we all gently press forward. First up, we get our medals for finishing. Then, we grab a bottle of water. Next, it is a heat-shield. Then, we all stop at chip removal. Next up is to keep walking until you get to your UPS truck and then you go off to the family reunion site. Before I can even get there I need to sit down. My stomach is having some “issues”. I felt like this once before in training, when I ran 17.5 miles and bonked. The same thing is happening now. I need some food, the water I have is not helping. I could really use a seat and some space. These freakin’ people are everywhere! I ask a park guard if they can lower the fence so I can sit on the bench for a few minutes. “You need to keep moving sir”. “No, I need to vomit, but I thought sitting down on the bench might prevent that.” She then suggests that I sit on the curb and she also stands next to me to make certain I do not get trampled. Thanks for the effort, but the bench would have been nice. I have recently learned that my discomfort was due to the current location of the blood in my body (legs) as opposed to where it needed to be (around the vital organs, please). As my body started to right itself, I felt the discomfort. Sitting down really helped, but what would have been even better is if I had laid down and elevated my legs. If only I had known then what I know now. Experience really does count.
I manage to collect myself after about three minutes and gradually make my way to truck 37. I get my bag and change into some pants and put on the pullover. I also notice just how cold it is now that we are in the park and there is no sunshine and that I am no longer running. So, I put on the headband and my gloves. See, I knew there was a reason to keep those things around! Unfortunately, running with them may have caused some undue strain on my back and shoulders. I may have been grabbing them too tightly instead of running loosely. I tried to run as loose as possible, so it is not clear if they were an issue or not. But running with gloves it not something I normally do, and the last thing you want to do on race day is try something new., right?
The truck also had some bags of food for us. There was an apple, a granola bar, some more Tylenol, and a bagel. I start to shuffle my way out of the park towards the family reunion area where I hope to meet Suzanne. Since neither one of us has ever done this before, we were basing our meeting up on the maps and information provided to us. It appeared that the family reunion area was located inside the park. Guess what? It is actually on Central Park West. Somehow Suzanne managed to get into the park and all the way to truck 37 looking for me. Sadly, she missed me be about 20 minutes. So, it got to be 3:45PM and I left the family reunion area because we had agreed to meet back at the Hilton for 4PM should we be separated. I assumed that she was not at family reunion because she was making her way to the Hilton. I left at 3:45PM because I had to walk (yeah, that’s right, walk) back to the Hotel. Suzanne had everything of mine. I had no money to use on a subway token. I had no phone. All I had were my two feet. So, after running for 270 minutes, what’s a 45 minute walk?
I’ll tell you what, it sucks. Plus, I stubbed my toe on the shoe of someone walking in front of me. My toenails were plenty tender by then anyway, but somehow I have managed to damage the base of the nail and at this point I would say I am going to lose it eventually. Unreal. I make it back to the Hilton only to find…no Suzanne.
I borrow the phone from the concierge and call Suzanne’s cell phone. Luckily, I knew the number only because she said it to me the day before. I never call her cell, and I do not know it by heart like I do other numbers in my life. Somehow, I remembered this one. And, of course, it went to her voice mail. I left the number for the desk and grabbed a seat. About five minutes later Suzanne calls back, telling me she is at 86th street because they would not let her get to family reunion. That makes no sense to me until later, when I realize that she was in the park asking to cut across to family reunion and she was told to take a route that took forever for her to walk. Did you know Central Park is really large? So, she is on 86th street and upset. She waited at truck 37 for an hour before she finally asked someone to see if my bag was there. It wasn’t.
I tell Suzanne not to worry, and to grab the subway and make her way back to Midtown. There is a stop right at 86th street and Central Park West. She finds the subway stop and grabs the train she is instructed to take. After a few stops and a general sense that something is wrong, the phone at the concierge desk rings again and it is Suzanne telling me that she is no longer on 86th street. She is now at 116h street. Apparently, the subway was only running one way. So, when she told the man at 86th street that she needed to get to Columbus Circle, apparently it was too much for him to explain that there was a derailment and that there were no trains going South. And I guess it was also too much for him to explain why sending her North was going to help her.
Suzanne hangs up on me but tells me to call her in five minutes. She happened to see a man that worked for the MTA, I believe, and told him what had happened. He quickly flagged down a bus and helped Suzanne get on. The bus would eventually take Suzanne back to within two blocks of the Hilton. By the time she arrived it was just past 6PM, about two hours later than we had hoped to leave the city.
We gathered our things and walked the 12 blocks to Grand Central. What’s another twenty minutes of walking, right? We made it for the 7:07 back to New Haven, and were home just after 10PM. What a day.
So, what did we learn? Well, we learned a lot about the marathon, and how not to get around the city during major events. We also learned that we both like being in a big city, despite whatever issues come our way. I learned that I should eat huge meals four hours before a marathon, and some lighter snacks in the time leading up to the race, because you never know how the morning schedule will play itself out.
My Garmin GPS also tracks calories. The device did not record the entire race because it did not get a signal while I was on the lower deck of the Queensboro Bridge. So, when I finished it was roughly a mile and a half short. Even then, it still registered 3,980 calories burned for the time and distance tracked. So, if it is possible that I would burn 4,000 calories during this event, then I need to figure out a way to get a good chunk of those into my body before the race starts.
I also learned that I truly believe that I am capable of finishing a marathon in under four hours. Yes, we know that I am that stupid. I still believe I can do it. I hope to have the chance to prove it. Of course, I won’t prove anything until I can do New York in under four hours. That is my benchmark for all time. But if I am given the opportunity to do it again, I will. next time when I train I will know more about what needs to get done in order to meet that four hour goal.
I also know that now that my body has done one marathon, it will be better prepared to handle that distance a second time around. I have an invite to the first ever Georgia marathon in March.
Who’s with me?