Monday, November 8, 2010

Race Report: 2010 New York City Marathon

Thank God (and the government) for Daylight Savings Time! My alarm went off at 4:30 which felt like 5:30. I had everything packed so really all I needed to do was get my usual bagel and PB ready and put on my race-day outfit. I was assigned to a 5:30 bus from Bryant Park so rather than hassle with the subway I opted for a cab—amazingly there was one right in front of my building!*

I got to Bryant Park where the buses were being load like a well-oiled machine and by 5:30 I was off towards Staten Island. We got there sometime around 6:15 and then it was time to play the waiting game. I claimed a spot along the fence so I had something to lean against.

It was freezing even though I was bundled up. I passed the time talking with a woman from Scotland, a guy from Boston, another from NoVa, and one from Florida (he really enjoyed the chilly weather).

At 8:10 it was time to check my bag and bid farewell to my coat and phone. I made my way to the corral (which had port-a-potties too, score!) where there was more waiting and fence leaning. At 8:55 they shut the corral and gradually over the next 30 minutes they move us onto the bridge just past the tollbooths (I’m omitting a lot of the peeing that was going around me during this wait). I was in the blue group which was great because that’s the same group as the elites which means I could see all the speakers, TV cameras, etc. As the time approached, Mary Wittenberg, Mayor Bloomberg, Meb, Deena, and and the Chilean miner all spoke within a stone’s throw of where I was standing. Finally, it was time.

And They're Off!

A cannon shot off and the sounds of Sinatra’s “New York, New York filled the air.” We started slowly up the Verrazano Bridge—the biggest hill of the whole course. I was shooting for a sub-3:05 and my Greg Maclin Pace band had my first mile at 7:44. I was so excited that I did it in 7:24. There were helicopters overhead and beautiful views of the harbor off either side of the bridge. Good-bye Staten Island!

Mile 2 was all downhill to Brooklyn and trying to take advantage of the incline I ran a 6:20 mile, a lot faster than my goal 6:54 time. A nice runner alerted me to a sharp left-then-right so I took advantage of my first tangent as we turned onto 4th Avenue where miles 3 through 8 happen. Brooklyn was out in full force to cheer us on with music, signs, and lots of noise. Thus I did what should have been a 7:00 mile 3 in 6:46! Green runners merged with us around this point, but it didn’t seem to be much of a problem.

Mile 4 I did in 6:48, closer to my goal of 6:54. I was now in familiar territory from my long runs, but it was completely different running with thousands of other people and screaming spectators. I swear I almost had tears of joy.  Mile 5 was practically dead on in 6:51.  And right by mile 6 I saw some of friends from Georgetown which was awesome. They cheered me onto a 6:46 mile (should have been 6:55). I deliberately slowed down as we got closer to downtown Brooklyn. Here the crowds were slightly reduced and I did mile 7 in 6:58 (instead of my paceband 6:51). I knew my mom, stepsister, and aunt were waiting near mile 8 so even with a very sharp turn onto Lafayette, I did a 6:55 for mile 8.

At his point we were in Clinton Hill which has lovely brownstones and is quite different from the 4 to 6 lanes of 4th Ave. The crowds were still out in force which is good because there was a noticeable uphill for a half mile or so. I did this mile 9 in 6:52, 4 seconds ahead of my goal. I was still feeling awesome. We continued generally downhill as we turned onto Bedford and headed towards Williamsburg. There was some good hip hop along this stretch and I did mile 10 fast in 6:50. Once we passed into the Hassidic section, the atmosphere changed noticeable. The Hassidim weren’t happy to see us. There was no cheering, just sober faces and blurs as they rushed across the street between runners. I’d been warned about this, but it was still quite startling. Perhaps this is why I did mile 11 in 7:05, 9 seconds slow.

As we crossed under the Williamsburg Bridge, things livened up—we were now in the hipster part of Williamsburg. The road was extremely narrow, but there were tons of people out and many of them cheered my name as I went by! I did mile 12 in 6:55 as we passed through McCarren Park into Greenpoint. I still felt solid and knew that Queens wasn’t far off. I ran the tangents just as I’d practiced as we turned towards the Pulaski Bridge and mile 13 in 6:53. The bridge was noticeable but not awful and I passed the half in  1:30:23. I really thought I had a chance of breaking 3 (or at least coming close to it).

Queens, Where You Make It or Break It

Hunter’s Point in Long Island City was almost a total blur because all I could think of was the fact that the Queensboro Bridge was coming up. I’ve run this bridge many times before, but in the marathon, it has a reputation for being the make-or-break-you point. Mile 14 I did in 7:00, just 3 seconds slow. I could see the Citibank building ahead (it dominates the LIC skyline) and knew that it marked the turn to the bridge. Just before mile 15, which I did in a slow 7:14, we started onto the bridge. The incline looked as though it stretched on forever and everyone slowed noticeable. There were maybe 8 spectators on the whole bridge and the subways continued to rumble by on the right. Somehow I still did mile 16 in 7:10, 2 seconds fast.

The Island at the Center of the World...and Center of the Race

I stayed to the left as we began the descent into Manhattan and the incline became steeper. Well before we got to 1st Ave you could hear the crowds roaring in excitement. A quick loop and a hairpin turn dumped us onto 1st where the crowds were 6 deep on each side. Although I got a nice boost when I saw Footloose from the Boston forum with his HTFU sign, I did mile 17 in 7:03, which was slow for what should have been the fastest mile of the race according to Maclin. 1st Ave was full of energy but I was not. This is where the race started to become more mental than physical.

I knew my family was waiting at near Mile 19 so that kept me going strong, 14:08 for miles 18 and 19 (I forgot to hit the lap button) which was slow, but still put on pace for a sub-3:05. Seeing my family gave me some extra juice as we headed into the Bronx. I knew if I could hold on until we turned back into Manhattan, I’d be okay.

The Bronx and Harlem

There was far more energy in the Bronx than I expected, but all I could muster was a 7:20 mile 20 and a 7:15 Mile 21. As I entered Harlem, I just kept telling myself that as long as I kept upright, a PR was still a possibility. It helped that none of the spectators wanted to see anyone quit. As I headed down 5th and around Mt Morris Park, the thought of my family up ahead gave me a 7:17 mile 22.

The Final Miles

Now Central Park was in sight. I’ve run this portion of the course so many times that every dip was ingrained in my head; that didn’t matter. There was very little left in my legs. My breathing was fine. My upper body felt great, but there was only lead down below. The infamous 5th Avenue hill (which goes on for nearly a mile) was a case of mind-over-matter. I did mile 23 in 7:23, but was spent. As we entered the park, it was like coming home after a long journey. My law school friends cheered me on just before Mile 24, but all I could give was a 7:43. I managed to take a little advantage on the downhill on the rolling hills of the next mile and did a 7:23, but I barely remember anything about this part except that I took a Gatorade at two waters. We passed Mile 25 into the home stretch. There’s a nice downhill at this point, but I couldn’t appreciate it anymore. I turned onto Central Park South, which looks flat on a normal day, but is actually uphill. Thank God for spectators because I really felt like walking. I counted the Avenues as we approached Columbus Circle and the turn into the park. I passed mile 26 in 7:43 and could hear the finish area. I stayed left (the shortest distance) and felt like I was crawling until I saw I had fewer than 200 meters. Then I gave it all I had, which wasn’t much, and heard the announcer say “DAVID” as I crossed, the final .2 in 1:39, an 8:15 pace! I didn’t care, I had finished, PR’d with a 3:06:14 and had the time of my life. Too bad I had 20+ minutes of walking to the baggage truck.