We’re mixing things up a little bit today. Instead of a Monday race/run report from me (yes, it’s Wednesday, shush), I’m turning this space over to Reuben, my second-cousin-in-law. [Not to be confused with my second *space* cousin-in-law. Seriously. He’s married to my Dad’s cousin’s daughter. So I’m pretty sure that makes him my second-cousin-in-law. But I’ll take confirmation – or correction – from any of you family-tree-making gurus out there.]
Anyway, I started coaching Reuben to help him get past some nagging injuries and safely train for his first 10K back in mid-2012. About 6 months later, we worked together as he prepared for a half-marathon. And just a few days ago, he crossed the finish line at the ING NYC Marathon.
He was eager to write about his experience, and I think that a race report is a great tool for helping runners process and evaluate their race day – so I encouraged him to do so. Then, I had the fantastic idea to share his report with you. NYC is a big deal marathon, and although I didn’t run it, I no whave a way to bring you all a flavor of the day, through Reuben’s eyes. [This was also his first marathon. I haven’t quite figured out how to break it to him that no other marathon will be quite the same experience as this one. Maybe one of you could tell him for me?]
So with that, I’m turning things over the Reuben [with just a few Coach Holly comments added in bold]:
The day started at 4.50 am as I had to get dressed and make my way to the Meadowlands (across the river in New Jersey) to catch one of the shuttle buses to the start line. The buses were all scheduled to leave between 5 am and 6 am. There was a bit of drama getting to the buses, as there was only one parking lot entrance (due to poor organization) and only one lane, which was backed up. People started heading up the outside lane and trying to cut in which made it worse. [Welcome to NJ, Reuben. Hold on to your Kiwi hat.] One person on the bus later told us, “I usually have faith in runners not being s— people, but what I saw this morning is changing my mind!” In the end, we got to the buses just before 6am.
The traffic to the start was a nightmare, the road into Staten Island was scheduled to close at 7am, so every man and his dog was trying to get in before the closure. People on the bus who had run the marathon before said that this wasn’t normal, and it usually took only 15 mins to get there. I, for one, was much happier sitting on a warm bus than at a freezing start village for a few hours.
I got to the village at around 7.45 am and began making my way through security, which took a while. Once I got to the village, I had my breakfast – this was about two hours before my start, as planned and practiced [Good runner! Nothing new on race day!] – then proceeded to go to the porta john three times in the village. Cold and nerves, I’m sure. I met two other Kiwis who were running, so I sat next to them and chatted till our corral was called. It was so cold that I grabbed extra layers out of the clothing bin after the first wave went, and later donated my pants to one of the Kiwis when I headed to the corral.
Once in the corral, I had to use the porta john again. By this time, the first cannon sounded and our corral started to move forward. At the start line, it all became very real and warm (don’t worry, that soon passed). I dropped the two jerseys I was wearing but kept my woolen hat on over my peaked hat. Our cannon went off, and off we went. It took 5 mins for me to cross the start line.
The Verrazano was awesome, best view of Manhattan I’ve ever seen, and it was quite neat to see all the NYPD helicopters circling. It was amazing how many people were on the top layer of the bridge (where I was) and the bottom.
Miles 1-10 were really good, there was good crowd support and I think this was the area with the most room to run, so runners were quite spread out. The majority of the terrain was a steady incline, not steep at all but just a rise. This was the area that was hit worst with the winds. Winds were reported to be 30 mph and the temp was around 44°F/6°C, but the wind made it feel 38°F/3°C. There was a bit of downhill as well, but not as much as the incline. [Ain’t that how it always feels, folks?] I was feeling great at this point and running around 10.15 – 10.25 min/mile. I would look down at my watch when sheltered from the wind and see it reading 9.15-9.50, and I would slow down. This observation helped me realize that I was probably running too fast for the windy conditions – I was maintaining my goal pace, but with too much effort, due to the wind.
Miles 10 – 13. This was my oh s— moment: Williamsburg Brooklyn. There was still a lot of uphill, and although it was very sheltered and I sped up, I could feel myself fading a bit. This was when I knew I’d gone out too fast. I pulled back, hoping I hadn’t done too much damage and tried to bank the next 4 miles easy. Still, I averaged 10.20 – 10.30 min/mile for the next 3 miles, to the halfway mark. Williamsburg was also the beginning of the really amazing support. The first 10 miles were good, but Williamsburg was superb. I’m very happy I put my name on the shirt. [Note to those with upcoming marathons: Put your name on your shirt! People will cheer for you!]
Miles 13 – 15: Queens. As I came over the second bridge (which is actually a bit of a tough one) into Queens, I rounded the corner and was welcomed by a man who yelled, “Welcome to Queens, Reuben!!!”. I wonder if he knew that was my first time to Queens? Queens was really cool and mostly flat. I thought this section would be average, but it was actually awesome. Coming to the end of Queens, I was starting to get tired. I had hoped this wouldn’t happen till the 20 mile mark. My pace was slowing to around 10.37. I did take a toilet stop at this point though, so I was probably still around 10.30. [Depending on how many miles that is averaged over, your running time was probably much faster than 10:30. I know guys pee quickly, but 7 seconds is pretty incredible.]
Miles 15 – 16 took me over the Queensborough bridge. We ran that entire mile on the bottom level of the bridge, and it was quite unnerving to hear cars going above you. [You weren’t alone in thinking this, Reuben. I actually read the same thing in several runners’ blog posts.] The bridge could really break you, because it just keeps going, and lots of people slow to walk. I passed my two kiwi mates from the start village – they’d slowed to walk, but I kept running. The bridge afforded an amazing view of the city and the Hudson – I wasn’t stopping to look, but others were. I actually felt good on the bridge. I think it’s because when I run I mainly use my hamstrings (something I need to fix before my next marathon) and reasonably decent hills force me to use my quads. [Look at this body awareness, folks. I swear I didn’t teach him that – he figured it out on his own.]
Miles 16 -20. This was probably the most challenging part of the marathon. Heading uptown is 4 miles of steady incline. I hadn’t hit the wall but my pace was slowing. I was starting to pay for the first 13 into the wind. These 4 were also into the wind which wasn’t ideal, since I am 6 ft and 180 pounds. Guess I made a great wind breaker for those around me, though. My speed over this period was 10.40-10.50 min/mile. I planned to try run my last 6 miles the fastest. [This isn’t exactly what his coach advised.] I was using mind tricks during this period: “Four more miles till you are out of the wind, then it is easy,” and “Toughen up – you aren’t going to look bad in front of this many people!” First Ave had the most supporters by far, in many places they were 10 people deep. I saw Erica and Co [his wife & family] at the 18 mile mark with their sign, gave them a wave and continued on.
Miles 20 – 21. Just before Mile 20, the course crosses the Wills Ave Bridge. Some will tell you the Queensborough Bridge is the hardest they are WRONG! The Wills Ave Bridge is the hardest. It may not be the steepest or the longest, but it is dull gray and ugly and there are no supporters and the sun glares right at you. There are also a lot of broken runners at this point, and this adds to the “a lot of other people are walking, I can too” feeling. I hated this bridge and for me this was the toughest part of the marathon.
I was also preparing myself for less crowd support in the Bronx, based on feedback from others. Well they were WRONG: The Bronx was awesome – there was a band and a big screen TV broadcasting us on the course – we could see ourselves on the TV as we passed. This was my pick me up. It helped that there was a guy beside me who started to walk, and then a big muscly spectator dude said to him “I didn’t wake up and come out in the freezing cold to watch you walk!” So he kept going and it gave me a boost as well. [Coach’s Note-to-Self: Reuben responds well to drill-sergent-style coaching. Be less nice.] They also had bananas here so I ate half of one. Pace was around 10.50 min/mi.
Miles 21 -22 were pretty tough as well, we came out from the Bronx and crossed the last bridge – the Madison Ave Bridge. To be honest, once I came out of the Bronx, I started to feel pretty bad. I was now at the “one foot in front of the other” stage. As I crossed the bridge, a volunteer must have seen me slowing and asked how I was feeling. I said 100% so he said, “Don’t slow down then!” So I carried on. Drink stops were pretty much a godsend at this point – they are so congested that I had no option but to walk through, and this gave my legs a few moments to recover. Pace was at the 10.56 mark.
Miles 22 – 25, I was pretty much in “get to the end” mode. [Sounds about right.] I knew that mentally it was just the same distance as the shortest run in my training schedule, and I was envisioning where I was at at each point in that distance training run. Mentally, I was really good. In fact, I was saying things to myself like, “OK, for the next one I need to cover more weekly mileage and get overall stronger, so I won’t feel like this” (pretty much everything Holly told me to do and I didn’t do as much as I should have). I know it sounds weird, but it helped that it was all uphill because I was using my quads more and my hamstrings were getting a break. The crowd support was outstanding as well, but by this point I had no energy to give the crowd a wave when they said my name. I needed that strength to keep moving. Pace pretty much at 11 min/mile at this point. I also spotted Erica and Co again at the 23 mile mark.
Mile 26: Coming into Central Park. My bottles in my belt were empty, and I thought, “It’s time to finish”. There were a lot of walkers at this point and broken people that were feeling my shoulders as I was coming through, tossers holding hands in long lines were being told to move (not just by me but lots of people). I basically sprinted to the finish (well, it felt like sprinting but it wouldn’t have looked like it). I passed my two Kiwi mates and floated up the last little incline and crossed the line. [Dang, floating is an impressive verb choice for your movement at the end of 26 miles!] It felt pretty cool to have the crowd yelling my name as I came through.
I was pretty sore when I finished, but not in need of medical attention like lots of others – vomiting, fainting, looking like they were having seizures, being carried etc. [Eeks. Also, I told you that you were sufficiently prepared….] The next part of the race was the part that was poorly organized. I got my medal and heat foil, then walked down to baggage collection. Locals who hadn’t checked any baggage could continue out the early exit (a special pink wrist tag was required for this). Early Exit was at 77th Street. We got herded into corals and walked out to get our fleece ponchos (which was awesome), but then we had to keep going all the way to 62nd Street (this wasn’t awesome at all). Exit details had been kept secret for safety reasons, but I planned to meet my family back at 77th Street. Whoops.
It was a bit of a mission to get back to NJ, but the bit of walking probably helped my recovery today. Once home, I had a shower and some pizza and about 1/3rd of a beer [talk about self-control….] before calling it a night. Not too sore today, and have been for a small walk. I’m heading into the city tomorrow to get my medal engraved at NYRR and will be getting Shake Shack afterwards! Then getting back to stretching and coming up with a way to get faster, fitter and stronger. [<— Don’t you just have to love this guy? I’m going to stretch and recover, then come back to it and get BETTER.]
Overall, I would say that the crowd support is what makes this race – you don’t really notice the city, but you definitely notice the people.
P.S. I’ve entered the lottery for next year, so fingers crossed.
Now, back to Holly for the questions of the day:
Anyone else run a REALLY BIG marathon as their debut marathon? What was it like to transition to a smaller second marathon?
Were YOU at the NYC Marathon this year (as a runner, sherpa, OR spectator)? What was your greatest parting thought?
Other questions/comments/thoughts for Reuben? I know he’d be happy to answer them!!!