The World Marathon Majors are 6 races with 3 of them in the USA – Boston, Chicago, and New York. At Chicago, Bessy happened to earn the harder than “BQ” status of NYC-Q.
To earn his entry, Roger used a dollar for dollar donation match scheme towards the Breast Cancer Research Foundation charity of a $3000 donation, in honor of Bessy’s sister.
The ticket was set… we signed up instantly, without really looking at the course or details. This race is one of the hardest, being a net uphill gain, that instead of going through the flat skyscraper sections of downtown Manhattan, it passes through 5 boroughs requiring bridge climbs between each. The first one starts from Staten Island, on the biggest bridge climb of 1 mile up then down.
You have to be transported there, and we took the bus option… which was 4 hour wait before the start! Luckily we prepared for what nature would give us, and they set up a nice village with free Dunkin Donuts coffee, tea, cocoa, bagels, power bars, and short waits for the porta potties.
Training went well, but there was fear looming over my head with the flashbacks of bonking again the way I did at the Chicago Marathon. These were my options:
A = get that PR
B = beat Dean Karnazes time (the famous guy who ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 days, finished NYC with a time of 3:00)
C = BQ
D = Just finish.
I get to the windy start, with perfect temperature and overcast skies, my mind just forgets the plans… and becomes ‘get the hell off of this bridge!” Well it worked.
Mile 1: Slower people in my way (this is what is not fun about big races, too many people stage themselves wrong), I am stepping on heels, tapping people on the shoulder to clear the way. Time was 6:50, target time for a PR pace on the uphill.
Mile 2: 5:46 .. near 5k race goal pace… did I just end my race here?
Mile 3-5: things stable out, as I hit 5 I am on way to 10k PR… should I just lay it down hard and get it? hold on… its a marathon. Still got a PR 38:30
Mile 6-9.3 ok I didn’t blow up… flat and on track to a 15k PR. Nailed in 59 min.
Mile 9.3 – half marathon: Its more uphill from here… how am I holding this pace?? Once again on track for a good PR, but then again I say, hold on.. its a marathon. Still nail a PR of 1:23:55 (Appears as 1:25:11 on official site – because I stayed to the right on the course for water station reasons, so didn’t hit tangents)
Mile 15-17: This is the dreaded Queensboro bridge climb. I trained for this, and was doing well passing people who slowed down to a walk. At Mile 16-ish when the bridge goes down, I lost GPS signal… with .25 of a mile or more lost, so the mile pace read as 9 minutes +, this screws up pacing for the rest of the race, so I decide to just go by feel and watch the on course clocks.
Mile 18-26: Here is where we go through the Bronx and into an uphill climb through central park. This is why it is not a PR course, finishing up hill. So I just save myself to complete goal B safely… I just cruise in, and easily jog the mile 26 to finish line, but wanting this to appear on strava with my lost GPS signal, I continue running another .25 miles after the line to get 26.2 🙂
Strava shows 2:58, Official time 2:57:26. afterwards everyone does a 1 mile death march to exit the park. Only 1 bottle of water and a recovery food bag. Medics constantly asking if you are ok…. and some telling you to drink the Gatorade…. ugh no more sugar! I just want water. Some one next to me took their advice and immediately vomited.
Finally got to the family reunion area, where I had to camp myself on the ground for 2 hours in a Mylar blanket since no one got there in time. (Bessy was there in 45 min to camp with me at least). Our family somehow got split up after they saw us come in. We begged people to use their phones which some nice people did, and finally some of them found us.
I was in Corral Blue, and Roger was Orange so we had to split up as soon as we got off the bus at 6:30am. Corrals only opened at 9:00am. I found a good spot to sit and drink my free hot tea and watch the sunrise. I met 3 first time marathoners, this would be my 7th. It was humbling to feel the energy and fear of the first timers. One was from Italy who was celebrating his birthday today for this race. Another one was from Boston and the other Maryland. The best advice I’m glad I listed to from forums was to bring/wear a trash bag in case it rained or to protect from the wind.
While getting ready in the wave area I discovered I had lost some of my gels. I didn’t bring a spare like I’ve done in the past, so now I only had 4. The race only had gels on Mile 18, but what if they ran out or I missed the table? I took one at the start, mile 9, mile 13, I grabbed one for mile 18, and then mile 22 was my last one. I was running with just heart, and Gatorade. This was the first marathon where my family was supposed to be in the crowd but I didn’t know where, maybe in Queens or maybe at Central Park. Now I know a tip to help relax on the course, know exactly which mile your support crew will be at, so that you aren’t searching for them the entire race. I couldn’t help but to look for them at each new borough crowd surge, because I needed to save my energy and emotions for my legs. My watch went haywire at every timing mat and bridge, so many times I had to go by feel. The lack of gels made me cautious, I had been training for the elevation gain from mile 20-26 and now had to conserve calories so I could sprint through those last rolling hills of Central Park! The areas that looked “flat” in the course preview videos that lead to and from the bridges were not flat. The roads are all gradual uphills that extend 1-2 miles long, with minor descends, barely enough to allow gravity to help.
We reunited with our family and friends to have our traditional Brazillian steak dinner. The next day we hung around the city, noticing it had great protected infrastructure for cyclists like Chicago, but even used much more – especially by bike messengers. it is the only fast way to get things delivered there – even fedex, dominos, etc had bikers. We had extra goodies from the race, and left overs from my mom’s great polish cooking of pierogies, kielbasa, salad; that she brought from home to us (it was our pre race fuel)…. we walked back to the airport handing these out to the homeless.