Thursday, November 13, 2014

Church of the Sunday Long Run...My NYC Marathon report

Dear friends and family,

I have not blogged in; well, since we moved to Penticton in May 2013! Time just flew by!

But I got around to a bucket list race recently and wanted to share everything that is the NYC Marathon. I can't quite put my finger on what makes NYC just a dazzling place to visit. I thought at one moment of this line....

"An unapologetic awesomeness"

There is a buzz about this place, especially when there are 50,000 runners; 10,000 volunteers and 3,000 police officers throwing a party through the 5 distinct burrows from Staten Island, to Brooklyn to Queen's, onward north to the Bronx and back south through upper Manhattan and into Central Park. A tourist dream through 26.2 painful miles!

day before at finish line
 After the registration chaos we headed to Columbus Circle and into Central Park toward the finish line area for some fun. Here we are above at the finish line. I was super confident from my training. Some of my biggest weeks ever. Definitely dialled in race weight and by training tests of 5K, 10K, and the Yasso 800 tests I was on the ready for a 3hr marathon. 3:05 was my worst case scenario I thought, and that was still a PB by 3 minutes from Vancouver earlier in the year. I was feeling really great!


Of course, we had the added inspiration of #TRUENORTHSTRONG There was a tidal wave of cheering for Canada along the course. It was truly special in that regard.

race day kit

misfits off to mass.... 
So here is where the race report starts. 5:30am subway on 6 train; transfer to the 4 train and head to Staten Island Ferry terminal. Just about 10,000 people doing the same thing!! The subway was dead quiet but filled with pensive runners. Finally a wonderful italian gentlemen joined the train. While boarding he says, quote: "so, we all heading to mass?"

Exactly what the Dr. ordered! The subway erupts in laughter! Tension released strangers became friends. There was a palpable relaxation.

"indeed.." I said..."Church of the Sunday long run.."

yes, that is the NEW World Center

Upon boarding the ferry you realize very quickly Manhattan is the serious deal! It IS THE PLACE where it goes down globally. The day after the marathon that pillar above and below welcomed their first tenants. 14 years after 9/11 the World Centre was again a living, breathing workplace. This is a major milestone for NYC. It was palpable what was happening. Congratulations NY, you did it.

stunning skyline

police escort

Of course courtesy of Boston 2013 security was tight. Above we get a police escort on the ferry passing the statue of liberty. What many may not know that statue is a gift from France! Yes, FRANCE! 

So from a 5:30 depart from hotel I arrived at the start village at 9am! 3.5hr commute. WOW. regroup and just collect some thoughts before the start in 45 minutes! 

Now my friend Alyssa from Wisconsin gave sage advice leading into the race to stay relaxed, try to find places to sit, and generally take my team to soak it in. She was also awesome to calm me that there are lots of port potties both at Staten Island arrival and in the corrals. Priorities don't you know. 

Now if you didn't read about the NYC marathon. There was one BIG variable race day. COLD NOVEMBER WIND! And OF COURSE it came from the North west; meaning, for 18 long miles we are into a head wind of 20-30MPH with gusts topping 40+MPH. NYCRR sent out an email the morning of that all mile markers banners and signage will be taken down because of the wind. Our only checkpoints became the timing mats at 5K intervals.  The start was an amazing experience as the announced the pros up ahead, sang the anthem, and then boom - GO TIME! 50,000 starters! Being up front in wave 1 helped. I found it easy to run and feel my stride and the experience grew immediately as the helicopters swooped in on either side of the Verazzano Bridge right at our height and another directly ahead at the end of the bridge. It was a total buzz! Then the wind knocked some people around, then I saw hats flying off; then a few toques!! Yes, toques were getting blown off peoples head from the wind!  It was insane but at the same time I could not stop looking to my left at the beautiful blue sky and Manhattan skyline. It was an incredible sight. 

Pushing off the bridge and into Brooklyn I realized I was going a bit too fast. avg. pace for the first 3K was 4:07. I wanted 4:15 so I peeled to the side and in cyclist terms, sat up a bit!  By 5K i was right on pace and feeling ok but surprisingly laboured. At this point the blue wave from the lower deck of the Verrazano bridge joined us. Things went weird here. Instead of my Orange group staying on the three lanes to the left set aside for us we joined the Blue corral lanes on the right. So we basically stuffed all the runners into 3 not 6 lanes. It was TIGHT! As the 3hr pacer came by I latched onto the group. It was seriously tight. I was actually getting scared of crashing. Sure enough one went down. By 10K I was growing concerned. I was seriously laboured and couldn't carry on a conversation with my fellow runners. That is not the sign you want with 32K to go! The next 30 minutes I was doing calculus math on what to do. Only problem was I could answer anything. It was like I was already in the middle section of the Ironman run where the brain can't function. At 10K into a marathon. My advice here going forward, listen to your body NOT your GPS watch!!! I fell victim to the number not the heart. I carried on; pushing, talking to can...just do this! At 15K I was right on 4:15/km pace or a 3hr marathon. By 18K I was slipping into 4:25 per KM and by the halfway marker slipped to 3:02 pace. Now to be fair, I was thrilled with that split and was beginning to feel comfortable now running 4:20 pace. Clearly 4:15 was too fast and 4:20s will get me a 3:02. AMAZING. 

I chug on. Thinking WORST case I fade slightly to a 3:06. Up into Queen's I had my first taste of "I did not see this coming...".  I can't remember the bridge we went over but the incline saw me go backwards fast. I regrouped on the other side to a 4:36KM and was surprised thinking; ok, I am back on track. ITs your head, use your head. Power on. Power on. 

Then we hit the bridge that has a long incline before cresting downward and left on 1st avenue. On the uphill my plan was to push a 5min KM. I kept steady. The 3:05 pacer came by with a group and I said to myself go with got this...just go....and no reaction. NOTHING. There was nothin in my tank. I crest and the pacer is long gone. I couldn't believe it. I didn't feel THAT bad did I. On the downside of the bridge you can hear the crowds at the bottom as we turn left onto 1st Avenue.  Next to Central Park this is the loudest, most craziest section of the race. 5 deep on either side, tens of thousands. It is insane! I hang the left and soak their energy. I'm at 25K and can feel some confidence coming. I feel; well, ok at best. But it's supposed to hurt! 

Somewhere between 25 and 27KM everything went black in my mind. I couldn't hear anything. It was really weird. I was going to a very negative place. At one point I wanted to tell the spectators screaming their "GO CANADA" to shut up because I just couldn't think. 2KM later as we entered the Bronx it was over. I suddenly in one KM went from 5min pace to 7min pace per KM. It was just like that. BOOM. 

Immediately math went from finishing time to finishing and by that, how long? 7min/km with 12 to go is....holy shit; an hour and half basically!!! WHAT!! I can't do this for another 90 minutes???? 

Through the Bronx I counted for about a minute or two. I lost count quickly. It was surely over a thousand. A thousand people passing me! There were waves of passers. Some patted me on the back. Some yelled Go Canada. Some encouraged me as we were running together earlier. Mostly though, they just passed. Wave by wave. Thousands. It was soul sucking. 

Regroup. Just put on your Ironman shuffle hat and go. One step. Another step. 

Over and into Manhattan one thing did change! TAILWIND!! Thank god! I am quite confident some neighbours got their share of lower flashes from all the shorts and run skirts lifting up on the way up to Manhattan. I felt naked many times!! To have the wind at my back felt like a victory! But I finally stopped. Just took a break. My mind turned here. I had 5K to go. I was stopped on side of road. I was smiling. Suddenly my soul had a light on again. It was here tennis star Wozniak and her security entourage passed. 2 bodyguards running with her, 2 mountains bikes, and a biker cop behind. She was killing it and clearly suffering. Good for her! That pumped me up. I started running and had 2 guys swerve across the road to pat my Canadian Jersey and give a wink or smile. #TRUENORTHSTRONG. Another guy came by and begged I run with him, "come on Rhys, lets go!" I met him at registration. He was from Halifax but I forget his name! "Mate, you got this! I don't! Go after it. Go get it! RUUUUUUUNNNNN!" 

I was lifted going into central park. I became a cheerleader. I was filled with happiness. NYC lifted me to a very enjoyable final....well, it took a long time to finish the final 2 miles!! LONG TIME. But I soaked it in. 

Ironman suffle in Central Park. Wasn't pretty

I came to the line and without thinking said, "THANK GOD". 

I sense a theme for a guy who is agnostic at best.

Day starts with "so we all going to mass?" to, "yes, church of the Sunday long run" to "Thank god". 

I strong suspect I had my angel above pushing me on. I hope I still make her proud. 

Finally reunited with the super domestique Meredith. She really is the best. Truly. From pity party to can't wait to hug my beautiful wife and CELEBRATE! 

A valuable lesson I read from Simon Whitfield. The process. The relentless pursuit of....

That is what sport is. 

Some days you get the results you want from that pursuit. Most days; yes most days, you do not. That is why we keep coming back to drink from the tap. Relentless pursuit of...

I will be back. Guarantee it. 

Thanks for reading.