“Welcome to New York!” The TCS NYC Marathon

New York, New York!!! Wow!!!

I honestly didn’t think it would take this long to put my thoughts about this race on paper, but it did. I guess that is what happens when you not only get to run a bucket list race, but a race in a city where this running journey started a short three years ago.

As some of you know, and if you read my blog, that I’ve been entering the lottery for the last three years, with no luck. So as much as I wanted to run the NYC Marathon, my hopes of the opportunity were growing slim, until that one day. That one day was all changed by an email from BibRAVE, stating they just received ten entries from Ironman, and us BibRavePro’s could apply. Talk about excitement!!! How could I pass up this opportunity on the race of a lifetime. Pause one second.

2018 for me and running was an odd one. Work and life in general took over early in the year and I found my running shoes covered in dust. From February to April I ran just a total of 53 miles. So my first question when the announcement from BibRAVE arrived, was I prepared and in shape to run a full marathon? It was September 2, and fort the last four months I had been averaging just 88 miles per month. So I pondered and pondered and finally decided I was not going to let this chance slip away. So I trained and I trained HARD!!!

Fast forward to race weekend…the days leading up to NYC brought back memories of my childhood counting down the days to Christmas. I honestly think my family tuned me out because the marathon was all I talked about. Thank you to them for lending their ears and sanity. So the Friday before race day I packed up the car and made the 7.5 hour trip from Ohio to New York. I arrived safely and headed straight to the expo for packet pickup and an afternoon of navigating through all the various races and vendors. I then met up with those from the BibRAVE crew who were also running the race, which is always fun, as it allows us to meet fellow BibRAVE Pro’s in person! A great time and thanks to Andy and Stephanie for allowing me to tag along. So bib pickup and the expo was a bit surreal!!! It meant the two months of tough preparation was finished and all that was left was to run 26.2 miles through New York City.

My family arrived Friday night and we had a day planned of fun activities in Manhattan. It meant more than the world that my wife and daughter would be there to see my conquer this race. The day was filled with American Girl, Central Park and finished up with Time Square. By the time we made it back to the hotel it was about 10 pm and I knew I needed to get ready for bed. However Before I did that I needed to make sure I had all my gear prepared for the morning. This was a special race and my wife used her skills to make the shirt I would wear. Next thing I knew the alarm was going off.

Race Morning came early, as navigating to the start village is a journey, and the alarm went off at 4:30 am. I caught the subway out of Queens and headed to Staten Island Ferry Terminal. It was at that point that I understood what it took to transport 50k runners to a start line. The terminal was packed with runners waiting for their ferry departure. I departed on the 6:45 am Ferry and took the short 30 min ride. It was pretty cool seeing Manhattan as you departed the port with the sun rising. Runners were socializing amongst each other and taking advantage of photo opportunities as we passed the Statue of Liberty. We finally arrived at Staten Island to then be ushered to the buses that would transport runners to Fort Wadsworth, their final destination before starting the marathon journey. It was at this point that you could sense the energy, excitement and anxiety of the runners. The slowly moving line made its way to the buses, and when I say slow I mean slow. As we boarded the buses and departed we quickly were stuck in a traffic jam that was not moving. It was at this time that I started to get concerned that I would not make the bag check cut off time. Several runners were trying to exit the buses before arriving to the start village with denial from the bus drivers due to the safety of runners. Finally the bus drivers opened the doors and several, including myself, made the exit and walked the last .75 miles to the start village. The start village reminded of an image of what Woodstock would have looked like. Runners everywhere in a variety of clothing articles, trash bags and card board boxes conversing with one another. I headed towards my staging area for Wave 2, turned my check bag in, grabbed some snacks then quickly headed over toward the Wave 2 B Corral. Excitement building by the second. I made a quick FaceTime call to my wife as I heard the cannon’s go off for the Wave 1 runners and then they shuffled us to the Verazzano Bridge to the start line!

I will be breaking my recap up in 10k segments.

It was go time! What I’ve trained for the last 2.5 months! My dream race was about to begin and it would be my first Major Marathon. The national anthem was played and then the count down 3,2,1 and we were off. I told myself throughout all of my training to start slow and keep to the plan. Well there was no problem starting off slow that first mile as it is all up hill to the highest point on the course. I also have to mention I felt as if i was dodging all the runners stopping to take pictures of Manhattan, which is cool, but pull over to the side. Running over the bridge was pretty cool. The only time I see Manhattan from this angle is on the descent from the plane as we are landing at LaGuardia Airport. My first mile was clocked at 8:23 which was a little fast for my liking. Next is where once again I disregarded all of my training and picked up the pace. Coming down the other side of the Verrazono Bridge was FAST. For some reason I could just not slow myself down. I guess it was adrenaline, excitement, and the pull of gravity but I felt good so I went with it.

Oh Brooklyn thank you for the welcome! The crowds throughout Brooklyn were over the top. It felt like a never ending block party that made the miles go by quick. The streets were still crowded with runners, but for the most part I did not feel congested or the need to adjust my pace or cadence. My phone was buzzing with “Good Luck” texts from all those following me during my 26.2 mile journey. Then at around mile 4 the unthinkable happened, I looked down to see my one of my shoes untied. For a runner during a marathon this can be a nightmare as those seconds spent trying to tie those shoes is lost time. Not to mention a pace buster. I pulled over to the side of the street, bent down and fumbled with one of the laces. I think I spent 20-30 seconds getting my shoe tied. Ugh!!! I told myself not to worry about it and enjoy the moment of running in the NYC Marathon. The next couple of miles were a blur as I settled back in to my pace and rhythm and enjoyed all of the spectators, bands and entertainment that lined both sides of the street. Talk about the logistics to pull this race off. Quick hats off to all of the policemen, medical staff, volunteers, and fans that came out to protect, attend to, and cheer us runners on. I think it was around mile 6 that my wife text me to say that the first female elite runner had just finished. Just wow!!! Then she proceeded to ask, when will you be here?!?! Joking I’m sure. I felt amazing after my first 10k of the race and had the time of 51:00 mins. Right on track to where I wanted to be.

This point of the race or should I say the next 6.2 miles of the race was uneventful. I was in my own world enjoying the sites, sounds and company of other runners. If memory serves me correctly we were still in Brooklyn and heading towards Queens. The legs felt good and I was maintaining my pace and fueling appropriately. I actually took my first gel of the race. The temperatures were slowly heating up which is evident in the photos below. I passed the 20k point at 1:42:18 of my race. Still feeling good and preparing for Queens and the bridge ahead.

Passing over the bridge into Queens meant I had just crossed the midway point. The crowds of spectators welcomed us runners with open arms and much of the same cheering experienced the first 13.1 miles. It was this stretch where I felt as if it was very congested with runners. I actually moved towards the outside to provide some open space for me. I was hitting up each water and Gatorade station every mile to hydrate myself. I don’t know about you but I hate how the road is so sticky. Or maybe that was my mind trying to drown out the thoughts of what lie ahead, The Queensboro Bridge! I mentally prepared myself for this point in the race after talking to many runners who had run the NYC Marathon in the past. Their advice was to take the bridge slow and to enjoy the peacefulness of quiet. As no spectators were allowed on the bridge so it was you and other runners. Actually my hotel was near the Queensboro Bridge, so I had the chance to run over it the day before. Unfortunately today it was under different circumstances as I was 15.2 miles into my marathon. Well I’m going to be transparent and just say that bridge are me alive!!! The incline had the calves and quads feeling taxed. I actually walked for about 75m halfway up the incline. That was where I felt for the first time my late father in law kick me in the ass. (Side note…my father in law, Ron, passed away in July of this year. He was a huge supporter of my running journey and frequently came out to watch me run. The NYC Marathon was one race he wanted to see me run, unfortunately he passed to soon, however I knew he was there in spirit and watching down from up above. I actually dedicated my run to him.). So I picked up the pace and got my butt over that bridge and entered the wall of noise. Wowzers talk about loud. We definitely were welcomed by the spectators in Manhattan. For me I had finally made it to the point in the marathon and to the streets where I started my running journey. I spent many nights running up 1st Avenue, however never really realized that it was a gradual uphill climb. Mile 16 was pretty awesome. I received a 2nd jolt of energy from the crowds, but in the end found that I picked up the pace and it came back to haunt me. From there on out I fought urges of needing to urinate, but not wanting to stop. I crossed 30k at 2:36:42 and my hopes of hitting 3:40:00 dwindling.

The rest of the race for me was a struggle bus. My pace has slowed drastically. I was messaging back and forth with my wife and she was pushing me along. I knew her and my daughter were waiting at the finish line and I was doing everything in my power to get there. On the flip side I had text messages from my Brother-in-Law about my urges to urinate. I told myself just to go while running, tried that, but those two activities are not naturally supposed to be done together so on I went. We crossed over the bridge into the Bronx and the final stop before heading back to the finish line. We came around the corner at mile 20 and I immediately saw the BioFreeze station. The quads were extremely tight so I pulled over and lathered up. Cool streak!!! As I exited the station I found a portable potty and decided to stop. Between those two stops I admit I probably lost at least 2 minutes, but it was worth it. With the last bridge in sight I started to look for the lady paying her regards as we exited the Bronx! Come on Harlem and Central Park. My wife was pushing me. She knew I had a marathon PR within my grasps and was going to do everything to power me through. The emotional part of the race for me was as we entered Central Park. The place where running for me started. I knew every inch of the last 2-3 miles and was not going to let all the work I put in slip away. At this point the legs were on fire, but I found the energy to keep them moving. I passed several people (runners) who were seeking treatment along the roads in Central Park. With about 1.5 miles left my wife and daughter FaceTime me and boy talk about excitement. They provided me with information of where they would be and I was off. I picked up the pace and made the turn back into the park by Grant Park and just took off. I was scanning the crowds in the finish line seating but did not see them. I had my PR time by 5 mins, and as I was almost to the finish line I heard my daughter yell daddy!!! So what did I do, I turned around and ran back to her and gave her a kiss. She pushed me away and said Dad you stink. I turned and picked up the pace yelling like Shalane did last year and crossed the line at 3:57:18!!! A new PR!!! It wasn’t the 3:40 that I wanted but I accepted it and made my way to receive a long awaited NYC Marathon medal!!!

New York you out did yourself! The marathon I had my heart set on did not disappoint. Will I be back, you better believe it! Now that I know the course 8 know what to expect! Thank you to those who followed me along my journey!!!!

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