40th Anniversary of the New York City Marathon and I ran it in my 40th year. Poetic, don’t you think? So, when thinking about what to headline this post with, I thought the following would be appropriate:
HOW NOT TO RUN A MARATHON . . . .
TRAIN ON FLATS WHEN IT IS A HILLY MARATHON
Know the course and train for the course. I mean, that’s a no-brainer, right? But, yeah, totally didn’t incorporate hill training in my marathon training and it hurt me big time. There is a reason the New York City Marathon is not advertised as a fast marathon. It isn’t. It is a hard, grueling, hilly course. Prepare for it and it is possible to have negative splits. Don’t prepare for it and you will, most likely, crash.
BUY NEW SHOES THE WEEK BEFORE YOUR TRIP
Yes, I did. Everyone knows this is NOT something you should do. Running in new shoes is a no-no. But the week before the marathon, I started developing shin splints–a sign, for me, that my shoes have reached the end of their lifespan. From my research, I read that it would be better to run in a new shoe, identical to the shoe you have been training in, rather than try and run a marathon in a shoe that is done. So, I purchased a brand new pair of my beloved HOKA Bondi 4.0s and tried to get as much running in them as I could during the last week of my taper. I should have been tracking my miles in my shoes better during training to avoid this. (The lifespan of shoes is usually between 300-350 miles). Or, I also read, that you should buy a new pair of the shoes you want to run your marathon in, run 50 miles in them to break them in, then box them up until race day. May try that next time around.
TAX YOUR MUSCLE GLYCOGEN STORES DAYS BEFORE THE RACE
The three days leading up to race day I had logged 34 miles on my feet and then threw in 4 hours on bikes–11 miles–the afternoon before the race. If you have a time goal, do your sightseeing AFTER the race. Come in a couple of days before the race–even just one day before if you can swing it–then sight see after. While I knew that would have been a better way to safeguard my vital muscle glycogen stores, I didn’t want to be in NYC with my son on election day and after. I figured, regardless of who won, there would be unhappy people and it could get dangerous. And it did. So, there really was no way for us to avoid putting the sightseeing at the front end of the race this year since the NYC Marathon was just a couple days before election day….
AND–this is a BIG ‘AND’–my top priority for my trip to NYC was to make some solid, beautiful, educational, foundational, AMAZING memories with my son and husband. I wanted to show him the NYC I have grown from and grown to love from my visits. So, when I look back on my marathon outcome, it was definitely a 3-star-out-of-10 experience for me compared to everything else we did. But, we had SO MUCH FUN in NYC, that I can’t look back on how we spent our pre-marathon days and hours with any real regret. I knew I was risking my race glycogen stores traipsing all over the city, but it was a risk I was willing to take. No regrets.
DON’T DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON COURSE STRATEGY, AKA: THINGS I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN
- Try and get on a color course that goes over the Verrazano bridge, not under. One, it is prettier; 2) your GPS won’t have as many issues–hopefully–and 3) the pacers are up there!! I really wanted to run with the 3:05 pacer, but the courses don’t intersect until mile 8! My race was already destroyed by then.
- GPS goes haywire ESPECIALLY if you are on the green course on Verrazano Bridge (which I was under the bridge on this course and GPS was crazy.) GPS also struggles in congested areas like: Queensboro, First/Fifth Ave, and Central Park.
- The bus ride from the ferry to Fort Wadsworth (athletes village) is like 45 minutes. If you don’t get a seat–which I didn’t–sit down in the aisle. Don’t stand the whole time-like I did.
- Force yourself to conserve in the first half of the marathon or you WILL die in the second half.
- Do train hills!!!! There are five,long, steep hilly bridges on this course! And undulating terrain throughout.
- Don’t go too fast on the Verrazano Bridge–it can–and will-kill your race in the first mile. The first mile is a 3% grade hill for 8/10 of a mile. Hold back on the 3.4 % decent for the mile down the bridge. Go too fast on that one and you’re a goner too. The first two miles should feel annoyingly easy. THIS IS WHERE I KILLED MY RACE.
- The race starts at mile 17. Get to mile 17 as if you haven’t started the race yet and you are good. Mile 16 has a mile-long 3.4% grade uphill. Oh, man, why didn’t I train hills!!
- Miles 20-23 in Bronx/Harlem are hilly! These are “the wall” miles and you will need to dig deep because of the hills.
- Mile 24…The ninja hill at 5th Ave. This is a mile-long 2.5% uphill.
- Mile 25-26 are all undulating hills, people. Again, why didn’t I do hill training? There is a 3.3% grade hill for a half mile up Central Park South. You will feel it.
- The race ends on an uphill. Yes, I’m serious. A 5.5% grade uphill. It isn’t incredibly long, but seriously, right at the end!!
- AFTER the finish line, you will then walk for about 30-45 minutes. I’m not kidding. (Check out the map graph above. See where it says finish line? See the teal line that merges with the green line that loops around to the red exit sign on 73rd? All of Central Park West was unaccessible until it intersected with 58th. My hotel was on 54th. I had to go all the way around.) Security is tight and they don’t let any family in, or any racers out, for blocks from the finish line. They do warn you in your race packet that it will take you approximately 30 minutes to get from the finish line to the exit. This was accurate. Herds of racers are all limping their way down Central Park West trying to exit the course. I think it was another mile (or more???) just walking to the exit from the finish line. Then when you finally do exit, you have to weave through all the family waiting for people and find out how to get where you need to go because they close so many streets! I had planned to walk straight through Columbus Circle by Trump Tower to get to my hotel, but had to walk several detour streets before I got to the hotel.
- Unlike some other races I have run, race etiquette is to wear your medal on Monday–on Medal Monday. I saw many racers wearing it on race day, but apparently, just Monday is the standard ritual for New York.
- Don’t rent bikes outside of Central Park and bike over to it. CRAZY you WILL die. It was a miracle we didn’t. Get your bikes right there in the park. And DON’T bike the park the day before the race thinking it will “keep you off your feet.” The park is super hilly. Sigh. Burned waay too much muscle glycogen the day before the race.
THINGS I DID RIGHT
- Train hard. Check. I did this.
- Get good sleep the night before. Lay out all your gear. Get a race-specific pace band. I like racesmartpacebands.com.
- When you know it is going to be a windy race, don’t panic. It was a VERY windy race. Beautiful, sunny weather, with temps in the high 50s–perfect–but incredibly windy. Especially on the bridges.
- Do take an Uber to the Staten Island Ferry terminal. Do plan on leaving at 5:15 am from your hotel if you have 6:00am ferry departure. DO get on the earliest ferry you can. Don’t miss your wave trying to get on a ferry while the Staten Island Ferry terminal gets crowded. Do your waiting in the village at Ft. Wadsworth. Subways are delayed that morning and crowded. Pay the $25 and take an Uber. So worth it.
- Do go to the bathroom before you exit the ferry. The lines at the bus stop after the ferry are crazy long.
- Do bring tons of clothes. They have donation bins all the way up to race start. I had fleece pants, arm warmers, a sweatshirt, beanie, gloves and a winter coat on that I found at goodwill before I left Fort Collins. I needed them all. Before I lined up for the race, I discarded them all in the donation bin, but kept my space blanket. I only ditched my space blanket 1 minute before race start. I was glad. You warm up quick after you start running up the Verrazano Bridge.
- Do take the ferry–so pretty and relaxing and lots of bathrooms on board to use.
- Do bring a couple of space blankets for waiting for the bus after the ferry and for waiting at Fort Wadsworth.
- Do hit the New York City Marathon Pavillion on Monday after the race to get your NY Times edition with your name printed in it, to see the wall with your name on it and checkout the finisher gear. Be prepared that if you want to do the medal engraving, the line is gargantuan. We skipped that part. I’ll engrave it at home.
- Do opt for the New York City Marathon race poncho at the end vs. using the gear check. The race poncho is super nice. Flannel lined, heavyweight material, velcro enclosure. It kept me warm while I walked for 45 minutes after the race and while I walked to my hotel.
Do run the Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5k with family. This is a great shake out run and SOOO unique to run down empty New York Streets!!
- Plan on hours at the EXPO. Best I have ever attended. SOOO awesome and the Javits Convention Center, with all its glass roofing is spectacular.
- Do get a pair of the New York City Marathon Special Edition shoes. Just keep in mind that ASICS–HUGE race sponsor–is NOT the only shoe company that makes them! I bought my ASICS then saw a cooler shoe made by ALTRA for the marathon, but ASICS wouldn’t let me return the shoes–even when only 10 minutes had passed since I bought them. They won’t tell you that “all sales are final.” It prints on your receipt AFTER you make your purchase, but they won’t tell you. . . until you try and return something.
- Do use the Subway as much as possible. The city is so crowded that Uber takes 2-3x the amount of time to get around. (Accept at 5am on race morning. Streets were empty.) Buy an Unlimited MetroCard when you arrive in the city. That $31.00 up front will get you far!
- Do get a hotel close to the finish line. It is worth the cost. You won’t be driving anywhere after the marathon – streets are all closed near the finish line. Subways are delayed and overcrowded. We loved staying at the Hilton Garden Inn Central Park. It was less than a mile from the finish line so we just walked there after the race.
MY SPLITS – A Race Unraveling
Start Time: 9:52 am: Green Wave, Corral 1 Wave A: –Goal: 3:07 finish; 7:10 pace. Trained for a 6:59 mile pace. . . .
- 1Mile: 8:40 (GPS tracking me totally wrong. Reporting 12-minute mile pace.)
- 2M: 6:50
- 3M: 7:10 (5k: 7:13 min/mile pace: Legs feeling weak. Knew I was in trouble.)
- 4M: 7:17
- 5M: 7:12
- 6M: 7:22
- 7M: 7:02
- 8M: 7:26
- 9M: 7:34
- 10M: 7:25
- 11M: 7:57
- 12M: 7:32
- 13M: 8:03 (Half Marathon: 1:37:23: 7:26 min/mile pace avg.)
- 14M: 8:02
- 15M: 9:16 (started to not feel well. stopped and walked through aid station. Decided to let go of time goal and just try to enjoy the marathon. stopped using watch at this point. ran just on what felt good.)
- 16M: 8:15
- 17M: 8:57
- 18M: 9:11 (stopped and walked through aid station)
- 19M: 8:53 (felt sick. stopped taking gels)
- 20M: 9:22
- 21M: 10:26 (felt sick; bathroom stop. first time I have ever stopped to use the bathroom on a course….)
- 22M: 10:40
- 23M: 11:51 (stopped to walk)
- 24M: 11:49 (stopped to walk. started to think marathons are crazy; that I should never run another one. 🙂 Took my one earbud out and ditched all music. Nothing was going to help me at this point. And it was really loud.)
- 25M: 10:00 (remembered running this mile with my son. made me smile. short time later see my son and husband! “We love you!” Made my race!)
- 26M: 9:11 (bottoms of my feet hurt. new symptom for me. rest of the body felt fine, just tight/stiff. Glycogen at zero).
FINISH Time: 1:39 pm
3:46: 56 marathon time (8:40 min/mile avg).
BIG MARATHON TAKE AWAY FOR MY BODY EXPERIMENT
- I may be comfortable with 7-minute miles on flat terrain, but my body is NOT comfortable with 7-minute miles on 2, 3, or 5 percent grades. Time to start training hills and if I do run on a treadmill, I will ALWAYS have it on an incline now. Let’s face it. Most courses are NOT going to be flat. Granted, they may not have as many challenging uphills as the New York City Marathon, but training on flat terrain really isn’t helping you out.
- Reserve your glycogen and get those carbs in. I failed to do both and I paid for it. Early.
SOME OTHER THINGS I WILL NEVER FORGET
I met a really friendly woman who was waiting for an Uber at the same hotel that I was race morning. (Heather Kiersznowski from Connecticut.) She and I hung out on the ferry and bus ride and parted ways when she headed to the blue village and I to the green village. Really enjoyed getting to know her.
Because of my predicted race finish time and my race qualifying time of 3:13, I was in the first wave, first corral of the green course. It felt really great going into that corral. I was one among a handful of women. Felt like a rockstar. Everyone looked super fast. I really thought I was going to be able to compete with this crew. With different pre-race preparation and some hill training, I think I could have. Fun to hang out with them. So many foreigners!!
So many porta-potties! So many, in fact, my longest wait in line was like three minutes–unheard of. Seriously, New York runs an amazingly organized event. I was really impressed.
They filled huge trucks full of sand to barricade off streets to the finish line–so no one could potentially try to ram their way through. (Pic by Stephen S.)
When we finally reached the hotel, after the race, and we went up to the room, housekeeping was cleaning it. Seriously. I had to wait in the hallway–on my feet–for another 10 minutes. It was kind of funny actually. Three cleaning women all scrambled in when they saw me and worked together to get it finished fast.
My husband and son were great. They went and got me “recovery” treats and had them waiting for me in the room. Baked by Melissa cupcakes and macaroons. Yes! I showered and they patiently chilled in the hotel waiting for me and then we headed to Shake Shack so I could get my sodium fix! Delicious.
I will never forget being in NYC with my boys! Priceless.
Did I mention that the weather was PERFECT while we were there? 5 days of sunshine, no rain, and the only windy day was on the day of the marathon. Temps were in the mid to low 60s. Perfect.
NEW YORK CITY MARATHON RECOVERY SURPRISE
One of the most astonishing pieces of body-experiment information for me was how my body felt post-New York City Marathon vs. the other eight I have run. I had virtually no soreness. Never had to walk down stairs backwards, never had any of the usual 7-day challenges. My body was recovered and ready to run again after day 2. I can only assume this is because I ran the latter part of the marathon so slowly? Or the other theory is that this race didn’t have the aggressive downhill that so many of my other races that I have run have. But, even Boston leaves me super sore and it doesn’t have aggressive downhill so I am chalking it up to having run a slower race. . . ?
NO PLANS TO RUN NEW YORK CITY MARATHON AGAIN
Although there is a part of me that wants to return to the New York City Marathon to conquer all the areas that I failed during this race, once was enough for me. I don’t have any plans to return. It’s a stressful marathon. Lots of moving parts to get you to the starting line. Long wait for the start. A really torturous walk from the finish line to the exit and back to your hotel.
And, as cool as it was to run from Staten Island to Manhattan–to see the amazing distance I traversed from the roof of the Empire State Building–I really didn’t enjoy all the hills and the 5 bridges you have to climb an descend. Was it an epic experience that I am glad I did? Yes. I will NEVER forget the feeling of walking down Central Park West and seeing my son and husband standing near Columbus Circle waiting for me. With my NYC poncho wrapped around me keeping me warm, and my medal dangling around my neck, I did feel victorious. I had to surrender to the pain each footstep issued me (new shoes..arrgh), but I felt honored to be among the other finishers as we flooded the streets; streets that had been barricaded and closed just for us. We shut down Manhattan! So many strangers congratulated me during my mile trek back to the hotel. So many smiles. So much positive energy. Even without the endorphins chemically lifting my soul, it would have been hard not to feel high and happy. Finishing a marathon–regardless of how you do it–always feels good when you are done.
I went to bed that night with my Garmin Vivoactive HR telling me my feet had gone 34.9 miles. It was a VERY full day.
FUN NYC EATS and ACTIVITIES
- Pepolino (Not in Little Italy: 218 W. Broadway) Excellent homemade pasta and sauces. Get the signature ricotta cheesecake. AMAZING!
- Bryant Park. Play ping pong if you get the chance. Stroll through the shops, people watch, and if you brought ice skates, skip the $20 rental and hop on the ice!
- WOOPS! Macaroons (Bryant Park)
- Hilton Garden Inn Central Park – cookies everyday, and GREAT location.
- The Metal Shop (Bryant Park)
- Cafe Habana in Soho (best street corn ever. and try the pork)
- Shake Shack.
- Crown Tour Statue of Liberty – Awesome.
- Blue Man Group at the Astor Theater. So funny. (I was highlighted as a 2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist for Synchronized swimming and asked to show some moves. So funny. I played along well, I thought.)
- Serendipity 33 (Frozen Hot Chocolates!)
- Times Square Picture taking in the hallway of mirrors art installation “The Beginning of the End” by Cuban artist, Rachel Valdés Camejo. (There until Nov. 21.) The art installation was super cool. Other recommendations….Times Square is great for people watching, but always great to leave in my opinion.
- Carnegie Deli – Pastrami Sandwiches and Cheesecake. (HUUUGE portions).
- Magnolia Bakery (Banana Bread Pudding)
- 9/11 Museum. Plan on at least 3 hours (Seeing this with my son–his first time, my second, was such an amazing experience.)
- Baked by Melissa – miniature cupcakes are SOOO good.
- Bike Central Park – Beautiful. Bring Bike lock to stop along the way at places. Eat a crepe from a vender.
- Maison Kayser Bakery (Ham and Cheese Croissants and their cookies are scrumptious),
- Bike the Brooklyn Bridge; buy art from a bridge/street artist; eat at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn. Get ice cream at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory.
- Empire State Building – 86th floor Observatory.
- Lemon Scones at Irving Farm Coffee Roasters. (At the Fulton Center.) Delicious.
- Angelina’s New York Style Pizza