Sunday, November 13, 2011

Race Recap - NYC Marathon 2011

The before picture...just a blank slate...
Why do I run marathons? Sometimes I fumble for the answer. “I run for health” is an easy one. “The training is therapeutic”—is another answer and the other more personal answer is, it’s my “ME” time. If ever I am in a bad mood, running “resets” me. But this time, after running NYC, my response is because running a marathon is always an adventure—a journey into the unknown. You never know how it is going to pan out. Even if you’ve trained well, the weather was great, there are a host of other variables that can throw things out of alignment. 

More importantly, the adventure lies into the soul. It’s not so much about just covering the distance, it’s about finding what you’re made of once the going gets tough—once you’re faced with the proverbial wall. How do you adjust with a missed gel at mile 4 and mile 23? How do you deal with the consequences of pushing the pace too early and risking the last 10k for a crawl in the park? How do  you move forward without thinking about the mistakes made along the way? All these gave me glimpse of my inner strength. The marathon is only a tool that allows me to measure and test my patience—to reveal what I’m capable of, as I would find out in the ING NYC Marathon 2011.

Marathon day was a magnificent day.  Just seven days before the race, a freak storm hit the East Coast with downed trees, rain and snow.  Fortunately, the running gods listened to 47,438 starters and blessed us with perfect running conditions of 54 degrees and 49 degrees at the start—cool enough for a short sleeve shirt, shorts and arm and leg sleeves. There was hardly any wind. My missing 4 minutes of my goal time cannot be blamed at all on the weather. Heck, the weather was so perfect that the first, second and third place finishers on the men’s division all decimated the course record!  The 2009 winner Meb Keflezighi had a personal best but it was only good for 6th place!

The ExpoJacob Javits Convention Center
Although I’ve run NYC last year, 2011 is a whole new adventure because this was the first time that I’ve traveled on my own. Traveling across the country all by myself from CA to NY, I had a little bit of trepidation.  I was encouraged however by the fact that I remembered my way around the City. Last year’s memories were still fresh on my mind.   
I arrived on a Thursday and I stayed with my dear friend, Cece, whom I’ve known since Jr. High School in Oakland, CA.  Friday was reserved for the Expo where I picked up my bib and all my race day goodies.

I walked from Penn Station to the Expo while eating a bagel and drinking coffee: I was running late and I wanted to beat the crowd.

What a beautiful building...Getting closer...
...Aw shucks too late, the line was already long, but it moved swiftly.
More lines, but we're getting closer to getting in to register...

I was too excited to complain about the line...Everyone was so friendly and excited to be here. The most asked question by a fellow runners, "Have you run New York before?"
While she was checking my ID, she's mouthing "Are you seriously taking my picture?"
I seriously am.

I was trying to capture the immensity of this place.

24-000? Yes, that's me. I'm in the right line. 

They wonderful Volunteers: They gave me my T-Shirt in Women's XSmall, (I scored) and my bib! Thank you volunteers!

And they took my picture too, grinning from ear to ear, I'm actually here.

Fellow SLDC member Alec Briones who finished in an amazing 3:19

On the other side of the wall was where the ING merchandise were--where the Asics jacket awaited me.

I did splurged on an Asics Storm Shelter Jacket which cost me $125.  I picked up some souvenirs for family and got the heck out of dodge. It got so busy and I felt claustrophobic. The longer I stayed at the Expo, the more dangerous it got for my wallet. The highlight of the day was meeting Dean Karnazes, the ultramarathon man. His face lit up when I said I was from San Luis Obispo. He said, “I went to school at Cal Poly!” "Errr" I was a bumbling idiot. I was so star-struck I didn’t know what to say after that. 
It's me and Dean, Ultramarathon Man, 50 Marathons in 50 Days

What am I thinking? Damn this guys is all muscle.

...and yes he was going to run the marathon the next day...

I also met Hal Higdon, whose training program I followed for NYC Marathon.  I made sure I thanked him in advance for my PR.  I told him I knew his program is going to lead me into a new PR, but by how much was the question. He chuckled.
It's me and the man himself, Hal Higdon.
I thanked him in advance for the PR that I was going to do..

You can't get in with any other bag in Fort Wadsworth. Got to use this bag.

The clear UPS bag that they want us to use for our post-race change up clothes.

My loot unbagged: my second favorite piece is the survivor buff in yellow:
Could be used as a pony tail, head band, neck gaiter, tube top, do-rag, and best of all snot-rag.

For $180 entrance fee, this is what I got: Bib#, ING NYC buff, water, race shirt, eyeglass cleaner, nylon bag, sweat band, trail mix, plus lots more of useless coupons, advertisements

This is one of my favorite items inside the goody bag. After the race, you peel off your time and whoala! A magnet with your time.

The perfect race shirt! Finally a women's XS, V-neck and long sleeves. I could tell I will be reaching for this shirt more than any other in my drawer.

The color from the computer is off: It's more a teal green than grey

After the Expo and examining my loot, I was famished.  I should have carbo-loaded. Suma Sushi this delivered to our front door! Wow only in New York.

Marathon Eve
I'm on the subway, notice the sign? No, I was not excited...
Cece and I had carbo loaded in Greenwich Village in a restaurant called Elephant & Castle. This was Cece’s favorite Italian Restaurant and the pasta was delicious.  Incidentally, this was my fourth pasta meal. (Sorry no picture for that one.)  The night before we ate at an Italian restaurant two blocks from CeCe’s apartment in Harlem. I’ve been carbo-loading since Tuesday. We retired about 10:30 and forced myself to sleep.
Cece and I on the subway to Carbo-load at Elephant & Castle.

Pasta load #3 for the week: Linguine with clams from Gran Piatto Doro in Harlem.  One of the best pastas I've had. Sorry the picture is blurry, I couldn't steady my hand, as I was ready to dive into this.

Race Morning
My alarm clock sounded at 3 a.m. Race day coincided with daylight savings time. I was sure my phone was “smart” enough to change on its own, but I still worried.  It was my friend, Cece’s reassurance, from the oven clock that it was indeed 3 am, because the oven read 4 am.  Great, that meant I had 3 hours of full sleep, I tossed and turned all night, I laid in bed awake with my eyes closed. I was too excited and worried that I was still awake.  The Benadryl didn’t help put me to sleep. I avoided my evening coffee on top of that. That too didn’t help.  The last thing I remembered was when Cece said, “It’s past 1 o’clock and you’re still awake?”  I also remembered thinking “and in two hours my alarm will sound!” Oh this comes with the territory. The night before a big race I don’t really get a good night’s sleep.
Am I excited? Nov 6 finally arrived...been waiting for it since I got into the lottery.

Got my race clothes on before I slapped on my throw-away sweats

I ate breakfast shortly after getting up.  I had oatmeal, banana and a swig of Gatorade.  I knew the village would have Dunkin Donut’s coffee, so I held out, plus I didn’t want to risk the urge of needing to go to the bathroom en route there. I've had too many white-knuckle trips to the start. I wanted to enjoy the bus ride to Staten Island. I checked the weather to make sure I didn’t overdress or under-dress. It was going to be perfect.  But the early wait at the staging area would be cold—we were going to be by the water so wind was always a factor.  I packed a gaiter and gloves. My throw away sweats and clothes were perfect. 
By 4:45 a.m. I had already gone to the bathroom at least half a dozen times, topped my glycogen reserves, all dressed up and ready to go. I had my UPS clear plastic bag with me bib # for the post race clothes.  Cece arranged a cab pickup for me at 5 a.m.  Mr. Rodney was waiting for me as soon as I got down to the street.  The concierge wished me luck. Everyone I met in Harlem was so friendly. Mr. Rodney said that after he drops me off at the NY Public Library, he would have one more pick up for La Guardia and that he was done for the day.  He said the traffic is always so congested on Marathon day that he avoids it every year.  I felt lucky that Cece hooked me up. I could have taken the subway to the library for $2.25 but that would have been stressful. I didn’t want to take the risk.  Mr. Rodney was delighted with $24.00 plus I got there in less than 20 minutes. 
All bundled up just before going to my cab, where Mr. Rodney awaits.
Getting to the StartNY Public Library Marathon Buses
When we drove to Mid-town Manhattan, the street lights illuminated the sky.  We were hitting all green lights. The city was so beautiful as if ornamented with Christmas lights. 

Marathon Buses to Fort Wadsworth Staten Island
Once we got about 3 blocks from the library, a series of first-class buses lined the streets with “Marathon” marquee on it.  I felt goose bumps. It was still dark when Mr. Rodney dropped me off at 5:20 a.m.   The instructions were called out on the megaphones over and over again, “Runner’s only, keep moving!” Runners were moving fast, because it was cold and also they were rushing to get inside the warm buses. There was a feeling of excitement in the air. People are funny. Once they see camera lens, or obvious video, they start smiling, waving their hands in the air, and acting foolish. Everyone was giddy with excitement, it was infectious. People were smiling, greeting each other with a simple nod. As if like a brotherhood and sisterhood with unspoken word and you know what you’re in for.  While I was mesmerized by the whole spectacle of it all, I stood by the side and waited to meet for the first time a fellow subscriber to my blog, MMV.  When we connected, she was only minutes away on the Queensboro Bridge.  I told her I would wait for her so that we can board the bus together. Moments later we found each other. We boarded the bus and chit chatted until we got to the start. I was sad to find out that we would be separated once we got to the village. She was green with a 10:40 start and I was blue with 10:10 start. This was a short meeting. After months of blogging and getting to know her and exchanging ideas it was great to finally put a face to the name. It was nice to meet someone across country and exchange ideas, running tips and such.  If you know me, I can talk about running forever.  She was fun to talk to. We enjoyed talking so much that I didn’t get a chance to see the way to Staten Island. We got there in no time.    
The Staging AreaFort Wadsworth, Staten Island   
We got to the start about 6:25 give or take. There were lots of runners all clad up in warm clothes. With thousands of runners, it never ceases to amaze me how organized the NYC Marathon is. Runners hurried towards their respective villages—Blue, Green, and Orange.  Security checked our bib numbers and UPS bags. Big signs were posted to inform runners of the different times to drop bags off at the UPS trucks, to get into the corral, when it opens or closes.   MMV and I wished each other good luck and we went towards our respective villages.   I was a little sad when she walked away…I’m not very good with goodbyes.

Got there just in time. Still dark yet, but folks are starting to roll in. In a few hours we would be on that bridge.
Blue arrows pointing to the Blue Village, my home for the next 4 hours.

There it was, my UPS truck where I would need to drop off my post race bag. Sweet, no line.

Every Village had this posted for runner's information where it shows you where you need to be at what time.
It was already too crowded inside the tents when I arrived.

Walking towards the Blue Village brought back memories from last year when I didn’t know where to go, I was just following people. Now I feel very much like a pro. I walked right to the Dunkin Donuts coffee, found the line for the bagels, and the power bars.  There were no bananas this time, good thing I brought my own. Then I noticed a commotion over the side and had to find out what was going on. They were handing out Dunkin Donut beanies. It was orange and pink.  I grabbed one, for sure my daughter would like it.
Got here a little early, no line for my first cup of java.  The second time was a bit longer.

It was fun to watch people while killing time.

As I soon as I had my two cups of coffee, Power Bars and bagel I picked up a warm spot to park. Of course I forgot one thing: my cardboard box to sit on and a lawn bag for cover up for post race. How ironic it was because I made this super long list of what to bring and even blogged about it. Thankfully, MMV had an extra lawn bag which she gave me. I had a tiny cardboard that I picked up but it was too small—beggars can’t be choosers at this stage. As I ate my 2nd breakfast for the day, I happened to sit next to a 20-something gal from Chicago.  She had a box of tissues and blowing her nose incessantly.  Should have been a clue right? As I would find out, she got sick with the flu on Friday and spent Saturday in bed all day.  I didn’t want to be rude and move away, although I could have. But I stayed and chatted with her for a while. We were sitting by a storage bin which shielded us from the wind. This was her first NY marathon and I of course wanted to share her some tips.  She was a bit lethargic at first.  But the more I talked about the race, the more she got out of the funk she was in.  I was happy to see that.

Gal with flu on the right, I wonder how she did.

There was nothing to do but wait and watch runners who walked by.  It was the same as last year. The village had a huge tent but it was all full when I peeked in.  Folks were either sleeping or eating.  Every spot on the ground was taken.  They were huddled like refugees trying to keep warm.  There were lots of funny costumes. Runners brought sleeping bags, yoga mats, blankets, bathrobes whatever they could bring to keep warm. Multi-lingual instructions replayed over and over again on the loudspeaker informing of runners the times for closure for the UPS bag trucks and the corral gates.  There were religious services available too.

One thing I love about this marathon is the thousands of porta potties, 1,700 in fact. The line was almost non-existent. If there was a line, it moved swiftly. I played it safe by grabbing several wads just in case we ran out of toilet paper like last year. I kept it in my pocket if I ever needed it. Glad I did it, because it came in handy.
The French Connection: They are dressed to impress.

If you look closely, by the ambulance, there's a couple inside the cardboard boxes asleep.

The huddled masses, trying to keep warm at 38 degrees!

My Fellow Blue Villagers, figuring out the times to drop off bags and corral opening and closing.

People heading off to their corrals, Wave 1 folks are now stirring.
Did you catch Napoleon? Bummer, he walked to0 fast...

Brit guy must be freezing his buns off.

...and I'm just chillin', having a good ol' time waiting. Gal with flu on my right, your left.

I had a long wait, but I savored every moment. As I sat and waited I had plenty of time to reflect on what it took me to get here and what I needed to do. My first day of training was July 4th and it was Independence Day.  I missed the very first day of training because I wanted to race a 5k in Pozo. From there it was 18 weeks with Hal Higdon's program. It was a tough program and I was glad I was fit enough to stick with it with no injuries. That was my biggest concern.

The CorralWave 2
After downing my last gulp of Gatorade and packet of salt, at around 9:15 a.m., I hurried over to the UPS trucks to dump my post race bag.  The trucks matched the bibs # so it as easy.  Then I scuttled over to the front of the line for my corral. I was ready to go. Some 1st wavers were begging the corral keepers to let them in.  They refused them because they missed the cut-off time. They had to wait and run in Wave 2 instead.  As soon as the corral keeper lifted the tape to let us in, we were off. People ran to the last rows of porta-potties inside the corral. I was almost going to make a bee line for it too, when at the corner of my eye, I saw some folks running.  Not really thinking I followed. Maybe the corral start is up ahead and wouldn’t it be nice to be near the front of Wave 2 instead of the middle—and even more important, more porta-potties up ahead, I had hoped.  At the end of the corral gates, there were two police officers waving in the “runners” to hurry up, I sprinted too! When I turned the corner, what I saw was enough to make me spew obscenities like Debra Morgan from Dexter. Holy s@#t!  This is effing Wave 1! WTF am I doing here?  I informed a fellow “run-away” couple that we were in Wave 1.  They both looked at me and said, “So?”  Their response sort of made me feel better, but I was still in awe that I was at the tail end of Wave 1! I couldn’t believe it. Wave 1 was waiting to get going. I had already discarded my throwaway jacket so my bib # was exposed. One fellow warming up with trunk twists gazed his eyes on my on my bib. I didn't know if he was able to read my bib, but that was enough for me to put the jacket back on. I didn't want to cause any commotion.  I looked at everyone’s bib and noticed a lot of Wave 2s. I was among many who were mistakenly allowed in.   After my initial shock wore off, I needed to take care of business, decided to water some plants over by the side of the bridge. Since there were no more porta-potties at this point.   There were lots of folks watering plants. While Sinatra was playing I adjusted my Garmin.  Then I realized my breakfast was wearing off.  I took one gel.  I didn’t want to use up my coconut water, so I picked up an unopened water bottle that runners from Wave 1 discarded and took a swig.  With 5 minutes to start, I took off my jacket and warm sweats and put them on the side. I was sad to leave them because they kept me warm. It was all going to a good home. I saw the guys collect them in a big plastic bag. “Good bye clothes for keeping me warm and toasty.
Before I could pull out my camera, the guys in yellow already swept up the clearing to get ready for Wave 2.
They had just swept up all the clothes that littered the ground.

Officer on top of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge Toll Booth.  Notice the throw away sweats still to be picked up.

The tail end of the Wave 1. Runners getting ready to rock and roll. Notice the top of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge?

They don't mess around. They swept off the area in 2 minutes.  I am literally on the tail end of Wave 1.
Getting ready.

Guy on the right better not be staring at my bib#, turn around, man.

What's happening right now? Sinatra's singing in the background. He's spreading the news...

See I'm really in the back and I picked up my jacket that I already discarded for fear of being thrown out. Guy in the back don't give a sh#$.

I don't belong here...

Here we go! 47,438 runners are going to take to the streets of New York and I was one of them! I could not believe this day was finally here.  I waited for this day for a year. I was overcome with fear, excitement and sadness all at the same time.   The second go-around of the Sinatra song I could see that we were inches away from moving. It took me over 4 minutes to step on the starting line.

(Following is my 2011 mile per mile splits followed by 2010 splits in parenthesis)

Mile 1 Verrazano Narrows Bridge 10:04 (11:08)
The first mile was uphill, the highest elevation gain of the whole course at 274 feet above sea level. I hardly felt the incline because it was so congested running with more than 15K+ runners in wave 1, I was  forced to slow down anyway. I paid attention to my pace and tried to stick to a slower pace. One thing that stood out for me right at the get-go was the men who relieved themselves on the side of the bridge.  I had to hop on the river that was flowing towards me because the camber of the bridges bed was sloped towards the middle. I don’t recall seeing this last year.
...Start spreading the news....

I'm doing it....I'm finally running...

Look at these fast feet. I'm trying to hold back, it's uphill for 1 mile on the bridge.

Runners are going fast! Wave 1 is fast!

Still trying to hold back.

Mile 2 Verrazano Narrows Bridge 8:29 (9:12)
This was the first steep downhill. Lots of runners pushed the pace here.  It was hard to slow down.

The one mile downhill section of the bridge...notice how far they have pulled away?! My 8:29 pace for the 2nd mile must have been tortoise-like compared to these guys and gals. See you all in Central Park!

Mile 3 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:48 (9:16)
The elevation levels off starting from mile 3 and the 5-mile long straight-away down Fourth Ave begins. We’re now in the 2nd Borough, Brooklyn. We would be in Brooklyn until mile 14.
Oh, what's this I see?



Nice! Muscle Man! I wonder how he did.

Mile 4 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:46 (9:10)
We are still on Fourth Ave and it is flat.

Mile 5 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:53 (11:02 pit-stop)
Still on flat ground and was enjoying the crowd of spectators that I forgot to take my gel.

Mile 6 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:49 (8:48)
We are half-way through the Brooklyn leg of the course.
There I go bottom of the screen, still standing...

Mile 7 Fourth Avenue – Brooklyn 8:51 (8:38)
Still flat.  I was trying to keep in the middle, but when I saw a line of outstretched small hands on the right side, I couldn't help it.  I ran towards them and hi fived them all!  I needed that.
Mile 8 Lafayette Avenue – Brooklyn 9:30 (8:59)
The terrain is up and rolling on for this mile.  Upon remembering that I skipped a gel some 3 miles ago, I immediately took it.  Now I have to adjust the times that I will take them. The next one would be mile 13 at the half way point.  Also at this point, all runners converged—Blue, Green and Orange. The landmark was the 512’ tall Williamsburg Savings Bank, the second-tallest building in Brooklyn.  This was also where I decided to make a pit stop—story of my life, right? I saw that there was no line so I took advantage of that. At the most I only lost 30 seconds.

But here's what I was thinking in this stretch. Ignorance is bliss. Last year, it was all new to me, the course, the scenery, the elevation—I had no idea of what to expect. Now that I've experienced all that. I'm more aware of landmarks and mile markers. In my head, I was anticipating seeing the familiar things that I knew that was associated with the distance. For instance I was waiting for this clock tower and it took forever to get there.

The Williamsburg Savings Bank marks the 8th mile.

Mile 9 Bedford Avenue – Brooklyn 8:51 (9:32)
Half way through this mile it flattened out, I felt some minor rollers but none too bad. Still feeling strong.

Mile 10 Bedford – Brooklyn 9:02 (8:31)
This was pretty flat mile. Quite interesting fact, the Williamsburg neighborhood became a magnet for Hasidic Jews displaced from Europe, also home to large communities of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Italians and Germans.   I heard people cheering Puerto Rico when they saw a Puerto Rican runner passed by. All kinds of nationalities were being yelled by the spectators who were cheering runners from different countries. Some runners were running with their flags.

Mile 11 Bedford – Brooklyn 9:00 (9:13)
There were some slight uphill in this mile, but it was hardly noticeable. I felt like the miles are coming too fast.  It seemed as if I blinked and now I was almost halfway done.  I really didn’t want this run to end.

Mile 12 Bedford Ave – Brooklyn 9:05 (9:10)
This mile was flat and I was just enjoying the Brooklyn crowd.  I stayed mostly in the middle to conserve my energy instead of hooting and hollering and high-fiving folks.  I was mentally preparing for the Bridges to come in the next few miles. 

Mile 13 Manhattan – Brooklyn 9:10 (9:29)
I was anticipating taking my gel in this mile so as soon as I stepped on the timing mat which recorded my time, I took my 2nd gel. I walked for about 30 seconds to take water in. It was uphill for the first ¼ of the mile. We were now leaving Brooklyn. Next stop would be: Queens.

Really I was smiling? Half way there.

Mile 14 Pulaski Bridge – Brooklyn 9:17 (9:28)
2nd Bridge--Pulaski Bridge, heading to Long Island City, Queens, the 3rd Borough. This bridge was alright. It was not that bad.

Mile 15 44th Dr to Queens Blvd– Queens 9:49 (10:02)
The ascent up the Bridge from mile 14.75 to mile 15.5 was taking its toll. The pace felt harder to maintain. It felt as if I was slowed down to 10 minute pace.  But the training paid off because it only felt like so. In reality I was holding a much better pace than I realized.

Mile 16 Queensborro – Queens 9:46 (9:43)
I didn’t want to look at my Garmin. I thought, the ascent was only ¾ mile long. If it took this long to crest it, so be it. I wasn’t going to worry about how much I was slowing down. Just as long as I was moving it was progress. When we got off the bridge it dipped to a downhill. I was careful not go overzealous. I was still a long way to the finish.

Mile 17 First Ave – Manhattan 8:56 (10:43)
It was flat for the first mile and dipped down from 17.5 mile to 18th mile. We were now entering the 4th Borough, Manhattan. The crowd was super thick and super loud. Usually I start to feel the miles right around here.  Fatigue was starting to knock and I tried block it out of my mind. I was anxiously waiting for the next mile marker to take my gel. 

The wonderful thousands of volunteers...Thank you so much!
The first trek up First Avenue! This was a long stretch...and notice all the gatorade cups? It was sticky running through this.

Mile 18 First Ave – Manhattan 8:43 (9:13)
This time I remembered to take my 3rd gel. This was a good slight downhill mile.  I love those especially when I was starting to get tired.  I stopped taking pictures from here on out.  Time to  focus more on running. I can hear my hubby, "Stop taking pictures, more running!"

Mile 19 First Avenue – Manhattan 9:11 (9:59)
It was flat up until 19.5 mile then it started to roll.  I was feeling the stronger fatigue coming on. I was walking longer to the water stops and taking my time more. I forget that this happens when I am tired and I should have been more alert to recognize this.

Mile 20 Willis Avenue Bridge- Bronx 9:27 (11:05 pit-stop last year)
Seeing the ascent to the Bridge was making me tired, but knowing that it was only 1/8 of the way up, I picked myself up. This was the 4th bridge. One more left and finally done with the bridges.

Mile 21 Madison Avenue Bridge/138th St Bridge Harlem Bronx 9:21 (9:31)
This was the 5th and last bridge it was only uphill for 1/8 of the mile, then it flattened out. I remembered to look out for Cece in the next mile. I told her I would be up there between 1:20 and 1:30.

Mile 22 Fifth Avenue Harlem - Manhattan 9:24 (9:09)
This was a fairly flat section, but I was already feeling the distance for the first time, fatigue has settled in for good. I was still trying to keep it together, but it felt harder to maintain whatever pace I was holding. We're in Harlem and back to Manhattan. Just as I lifted my head up, I heard my name called out and the familiar voice—it was Cece!  I wanted to stop and say hi, but I knew if I did might not be able to hold on to the same pathetic pace whatever it was.  I refused to see what my Garmin said, all I was paying attention to was the pace right in this mile. If I did look, it would have played games with my head.

Mile 23 Fifth Avenue - Manhattan 9:08 (9:14)
I was supposed to take my 4th gel but missed it. I should have taken it here in this mile because the next mile I hit the wall. The saying the wall is like "a monkey jumping on your back" made perfect sense to me. My legs felt like timber and it heavy to lift it, as if I was carrying 300 lbs. 

Mile 24 Entering Central Park - Manhattan 10:40 (10:01)
This was my rough patch--there's always one. It was uphill the whole mile on 5th Avenue.  When I felt like walking and losing focus, it triggered the time to take my 4th gel. I was surprised that my glycogen stores were depleted so fast considering I've had 4 pasta meals in this past week.  I had to walk for more than a minute.  I took my time with the water station. My legs were stiffening up fast. Lots of people were walking now.  As soon as I started running again, it was a challenge to keep a strong pace.  For one thing my legs were stiff, I felt like I was running like the tin man, my form was bad and to top it off, the runners turned-walkers were now the cause for a traffic jam.  I had to now bob and weave around the walkers. I knew I was adding more mileage to the 26.2 miles. But there was nothing I could do.  Even at my sloth like pace, I was now catching up to the fast starters who were paying the price at the end.  Running with the first wave seemed like it never got sparse throughout.  Now the end was even more crowded.

Mile 25 East Drive - Central Park Manhattan 9:22 (9:00)
The course elevation leveled up and dipped down on East Drive, where we enter Central Park. I have been waiting for Central Park, it seemed like an eternity before Mile 25 came into focus. The gel was now starting to work and I’ve picked up the pace just a bit. People were calling out my name and I had no more energy to say “thank you” or acknowledge with a weak “whoo hoo!”  I had nothing left for a high-five and whatever little I had, I wanted to save it for any kick at all for that hilly last fifth of a mile.

When the 40K banner appeared, again, I didn't know how much more I needed to go (as was my experience from last year), but I kept going, dragging that foot in front of the other.  It seemed endless. My legs demanded a walk, but I ignored them. I already gave them more than a minute walk at mile 24.

Mile 26 East Drive Central Park 9:31 (8:47)
I was losing focus, all I can think of was to look for that familiar Columbus Circle. Once I saw that familiar sight, I knew the end was near. I struggled to keep pace against the rolling hills of this last mile.  Someone starting seeing “Come On Eileen” and I was happy to hear it, but so tired I couldn’t even raise my hand in "thank you."

Mile 26.2 4:28 (3:31)
Finally the Jumbo-tron on Columbus Circle just before mile 26 appeared. This was sight for sore eyes because it signified that the finish was close. However, this last fifth of a mile was all uphill! It was a cruel joke.  The crowd was loud and encouraging. I wanted to touch them and be hi-fived, but I didn't even have the energy left to bring my hands out. I was that spent.  I finally approached the banner that read "800 meters". That meant two laps at the track on Wed nights. That’s one Yasso, you can do it.  Then I came across a banner that read "600 meters", then 400—That’s one lap and you’re done. Come on pick up the pace! The legs were not happy, they wanted to stop running, they were stiff as a board. I felt like I was a zombie dragging my feet on the ground. When I saw the finish line appear amongst the Central Park trees, I had nothing left. The urge to walk since the 40K banner was getting stronger. I pushed that out of my mind.  In training, I envisioned myself with a final kick with a killer surge at the end at the sight of the finish banner. Not this time. I was trying to keep it together from fading and maintain whatever sloth like pace I had left. And then, just like that—it was over. All that I've worked hard for 18 weeks was finally done. It was anti-climactic. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was overcome with sadness. I truly and deeply enjoyed this journey. I couldn't wait for the finish line, but at the same time, I didn't want this moment to end.   This was indeed an incredible adventure.

Where's the exit?

The caped crusaders...
The finish chute was uneventful. There was no melodramatic finishes. No one kissed the ground or weep uncontrollably. What I saw was a mass of fatigue marathoners who limped their way out of the park.  We were ushered like herds of cattle to keep moving and not block traffic, "Oh but hey congratulations, you guys are amazing, keep moving!"  Volunteers in succession, moved us along the chute. They hung medals around our necks, took our celebratory photos, wrapped us up in Mylar blankets, taped our blankets in place and handed us our orange bag of post race replenishment and nutrition.  Then we were escorted to our corresponding UPS trucks to retrieve our post race bags. While I was looking for my UPS truck, I've had time to call my hubby to verify my finish time. I knew I was off by four minutes from the clock because it took me that long to cross the starting mat in Staten Island. Invariably because of the jockeying I had to do, I made the course longer by running 1/4 of a mile more.  Unfortunately my hubby wasn't able to track me at all. My next call was my running partner, Heidi. She and her husband was able to track me and delivered the good news! Relieved, I got dressed on the side somewhere, where tons of folks were dressing up too.  Shortly, volunteers berated us for getting dressed on the spot. They didn't want us to block the walkway. But runners are hard-headed.  Finally I found my exit out of the park which took a good hour.  I walked for 2 miles to get out, but it was good walk since it helped clear the lactic acid in my muscles.   While waiting for Cece, I sat at a park bench outside Central Park West for a minute or two and stared at my medal that hung around my neck. I finally had a moment to digest this whole experience. So this was how it felt to run a 04:04:21. I was beat and I left everything on the course.  I was off by 4:22—I still had a personal best and a course record. I was proud and satisfied with my finish time. I was close and now I know what to work on next.  New York has been yet another wonderful experience. It didn’t disappoint.  Here’s to 2012!
Excuse me Mr. Italy, you almost blocked my shot!

 A juicy burger will do...

Juicy Burger from Five Napkin Burger in Manhattan
After walking 2 1/2 miles, I found Cece and we ate the biggest juiciest burger we could find in Manhattan. I’ve been craving burger for 2 weeks now! This was my treat.

...and after


  1. Wow! I absolutely loved the detailed blog. I almost felt like I was watching a movie as I read and looked at every picture of the step by step trip. I love it. Congratulations of such a huge accomplishment.

    ~Seneik Calloway

  2. What a great recap, Aileen! Love the pictures but mostly love how you stuck to your training plan, and executed on race day. You should be very proud!

  3. Seneik, thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Iwas worried it got too long, but it had to be to get the whole experience.

  4. Thank you for reading Rich. It looks like I stuck to my plan. I tried. next blog would be analyzing what I didn't do according to plan. :-) it will be interesting.

  5. Hey- loved your recap! You did awesome. I know that I told you that this was my first and last….but I have nothing to compare it with! I might just enter the lottery again!!! It was great meeting you as well and thank you so much for all the advice (the shuffle was the best :) Reading your blog made me less scared and really prepared me. Your Brightroom pics look real nice...did you buy them all?

    Did you have a chance to see Asics mural at the Columbus Circle train station?

    I had asked my daughter to stop by and take a picture of our names- hopefully one day this week before they take it down on Friday. Stay in touch.

  6. Awesome Race Recap and awesome job!

  7. Hey Maria! This won't be your last! I know it. No I didn't buy the pix, I "borrowed" them. :-) I'm so glad the blog helped you, that was my intent and I just love hearing it. Yeay! I really want to inspire people to run. Glad the shuffle thing worked out. I have to see that mural! thanks for letting me know about it. Also you have to send your email to nyrr to get invited to the lottery. I know a little bit tricky this year. They haven't opened it up yet.