Hey, guys! At long last…here’s my recap of the New York City Marathon. Better late than never, right?! (Also, I apologize in advance for the length of this post…you know how I am).
We woke up around 3am (ugh) on Sunday morning to start getting ready. I was going to drive to my parents’ house (who live closer to the Meadowlands), and then my dad had the pleasure of dropping us off at the bus stop in the wee hours of the morning. We arrived a little after 5am and jumped on a bus, and made our way to Staten Island.
Right from the beginning, I loved that I wasn’t feeling so anxious. This year would be different. This year, I knew exactly what to expect from the race, from the wait at the start village to the toughest parts of the course to the glorious finish in Central Park…so there was really no need to be terrified. I could just sit back, relax, and soak up the NYCM experience.
Of course, we arrived at the starting village with a ton of time to spare, so we grabbed some goodies (it was early, so no lines yet!) and found a spot near the bridge to chill out for, oh, 3+ hours.
We were both assigned a green start (the lower level of the bridge), but I knew Todd really wanted to experience running on the upper level…so we hung out in the orange village and hoped they wouldn’t give us a hard time for trying to change colors at the starting line.
My first major concern of the morning? Compared to last year, when I sat in the village in the BITTER COLD, shivering my ass off…it felt like a warm spring afternoon. The temperatures for that day were NOT especially favorable for me, because it was supposed to climb to the mid-60s, and I actually ended up shedding most of my layers in the starting village because I was hot. Really, really not ideal for me!
Wave 3 wasn’t set to cross the starting line until 10:40, so we spent the next few hours chomping on bagels, Belvita, and pretzels, sipping coffee and hot chocolate, and waiting impatiently for our wave to be called. Some of us were more impatient than others, haha.
I just kept hoping the sun would stay far, far away for the duration of the race. It was supposed to be a cloudy day, so even though it was a little warmer than I would have liked, at least we wouldn’t have the sun beating down on us.
They called our wave and we had no problem changing colors (just as long as you don’t try to jump ahead a wave/corral, they’re cool with it), and we were about to start my second NYC Marathon journey.
I was beyond thrilled. I couldn’t wait to experience this race together. And when they started playing “New York, New York,” I was about to jump out of my skin with excitement.
We purposely hung back towards the end of the F corral so I could snap a few extra pictures on the bridge without blocking fellow runners or causing any safety hazards. Worth it? I think so.
As we crossed the Verrazano, I felt freakin’ fantastic. There’s nothing like the thrill of running over the bridge and making your way towards that first stretch of cheering spectators. I think we were both feeling pumped and ready to conquer this marathon.
Todd kept having to remind me to slow down, because my classic error in races is getting swept up in the excitement and going out too fast. I was feeling super comfortable between a 10-10:30 pace, but he wanted us to hold back closer to an 11ish minute mile to conserve energy. Knowing how I crashed and burned last year from starting the race under a 10-minute mile, I knew he was probably right.
Honestly, the first 10K flew by for me. I was feeling good, Todd was feeling good, and I was certain that we were going to crush this race. We trained our asses off all summer, and it was going to pay off.
We were both taking in the sights and enjoying being called out as “THE APPLES!” Most people seemed to “get” our costumes really easily, and were cheering on “The Big Apples,” etc…but we did actually hear some other interesting cheers along the way. We were mistakenly called strawberries, cherries, and my personal favorite: “mistletoe.” Hahaha.
Somewhere around mile 8, my feet started to hurt. Why? I have no idea. Everything else felt fine, but my feet were aching like no one’s business. Other than that, I just felt warm. Very warm. Like, as in I was already sweating through my clothes. I know it could have been much worse, but I was NOT happy that the temperatures were already approaching the 60s by the time my wave started. To me, that’s way too hot for running for 5+ hours. I know myself well enough to know that anything over 55 degrees takes a toll on my pace and how I feel, so I knew I was in for a real treat.
Still, I managed to ignore my feet and soak up the energy and have fun interacting with the spectators, and we crossed the halfway point around 2:30. I honestly hadn’t been watching my Garmin all that much. The thrill of running NYC keeps me occupied to the point where I tend to stop compulsively checking my watch. I also end up turning my iPod off entirely so that I don’t miss a second of it.
Plus I was trying to just keep my pace comfortable. I was so afraid of falling apart like I did last year. I remember feeling a little disappointed because I thought we were doing a little better than a 2:30 half, and I didn’t say it yet, but I knew then it was unlikely that we’d meet any sort of sub-five goal that day.
Don’t get me wrong, I was in WAY better shape than the previous year, but the fatigue was setting in and with the way my feet were feeling, I didn’t know if I could negative split…especially knowing that I had a few tough sections of course still ahead. Like that damn Queensboro Bridge, for starters. Last year, it was the absolute death of me; it was the moment where I started to convince myself that there was NO WAY I was finishing this race, and I had a total meltdown.
But this time around, I knew exactly what to expect. I took the bridge slow and steady. I acknowledged the burning in my legs and reminded myself it was only temporary…the hill would NOT go on forever. I embraced the struggle and anxiously awaited the roar of screaming crowds on First Avenue.
And, most importantly, I looked for that spot on the bridge where I got an awesome photo last year, and I had my little mini-tripod ready to go so we could get one together, LOL.
As expected, the crowds on First Avenue were AMAZING, and we were both looooving the attention. Unfortunately, though, it was somewhere in this second half of the race when I started feeling…not quite right. My stomach hadn’t been bothering me or anything like that, but I was unexpectedly hit by a wave of nausea. I was fueling exactly according to plan and schedule, and I was definitely trying to make sure to stay hydrated; we walked through every water stop, and I diluted my Gatorade with water like I always do.
And yet, for some god-knows-what reason, I suddenly felt like I was going to hurl all over the sidewalk.
I told Todd I felt sick, so we took a short walk break or two to see if it would pass. And it did. For, like, a second. We’d start running again and I’d feel so unbelievably nauseous. I’ve had nausea during races before, but usually only in much warmer temperatures, and it typically passes within a couple of minutes.
I wanted to keep running, so I tried to ignore it as best I could. And for the the next few miles, it was bearable. But as we inched our way closer and closer back towards Manhattan, it was coming back with a vengeance…to the point where I kept having to crouch down on the sidewalk and stick my head between my knees for a few moments of relief. I didn’t want to go to a medical tent, nor did I want any medical volunteers to come and yank me off the course, so I kept our breaks as short as possible and kept scanning the sidewalks for trees where I could throw up (as far away from groups of spectators as possible) if I had to.
Hunting for vomit trees wasn’t exactly what I felt like doing that afternoon, but, there you have it.
In case you were wondering, physically speaking, I felt fantastic — the aching in my feet has subsided a bit, and I felt strong. Believe it or not, I felt like I definitely had another 9 or 10 miles in me. It was exactly how I’ve always wanted to feel in mile 17 of a marathon. So it just figures that I suddenly had to feel nauseous for NO APPARENT REASON WHATSOEVER.
But here’s the amazing part. Despite how sick I was feeling, I was not – I repeat, NOT – freaking out. I was not panicking. I was not crying. I was not insisting that I “can’t do this, woe is me, I’ll never make it, blah blah blah.” After I completely fell apart last year at the first sign of struggle, I made it my mission that no matter what happened on the course that day, I was NOT going to let myself succumb to my “old” ways.
I knew that, no matter what, I was finishing the NYC Marathon that day. Whether it took 5 hours of 7 hours, I didn’t care. And I was proud of myself. Really, really proud of myself. I felt so sick, and I was struggling so much, but I never for a second let myself think that I didn’t have it in me to finish this marathon. I still managed to smile for the cameras, high-five the spectators, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Meanwhile, let’s talk Todd. He was doing just as great as I was until we started approaching mile 19 or so. He’s dealt with back pain and various other leg/feet issues in previous races, but didn’t have any major flare-ups as we trained for NYCM. Unfortunately, that wasn’t going to be the case on this day.
Here I was about to barf all over the place (sorry for the TMI, but, hey, that’s the truth) and he’s slowly starting to fall apart because his lower back is absolutely killing him. At that point, I knew any time goal was long gone, so my new goal became getting both of us to that finish line. First I’d stop to put my head between my knees, then he’d need to stop to stretch out his back, and on and on we went.
As we crossed the last bridge back into Manhattan, one of the spectators was chanting “Last. Damn. Bridge. Last. Damn. Bridge” over and over again, which I thought was hilarious. But it wasn’t quite enough to help Todd’s back (or his feet…or his legs…) or to help me ignore the relentless nausea I was dealing with. When either of us felt like we had to walk…we just walked. It’s not like us at all, but that’s all we could do at that point.
Needless to say, that final 10K seemed to drag on for hours. The spectators saw we were struggling and it seemed like the cheers for “THE APPLES!” were getting a little more intense. I could no longer force down any sort of fuel, and I tried sipping just a little bit of water at those final water stops. Fortunately, I felt slightly better than I had earlier in the race. Todd was pretty much in physical agony any time he was running, so we did a run/walk all the way into Central Park. I wanted to keep running straight for the finish line, but he needed a few more walk breaks, so we stuck together and did the best we could.
He was feeling down on himself and making ridiculous comments like “maybe we’re not meant to run marathons.” But, honestly, I was feeling the exact opposite. I think it takes a special kind of person to have the dedication to train for a marathon for months on end, endure the pain of actually running 26.2 miles, and then keep signing up again and again in efforts to improve yourself.
Maybe we’re not the fastest runners in the world, and maybe we sometimes struggle just to SURVIVE a marathon (let alone RACE a marathon)…but you can’t say that we’re not tough enough to get to that finish line — no matter what it takes!
Sure, I was disappointed because things weren’t going our way, but I was so proud of us because I knew we were going to make it. And I was proud of myself because I didn’t fall apart.
Races don’t always go the way we planned, but I feel there are always lessons to be learned along the way. And there are some lessons that only running a marathon can teach you. On Nov. 1, I learned that I no longer have to doubt myself, and that not even the toughest marathon can bring me down. When I felt sick, Todd did everything he could to try to make me feel better, and when he was hurting, I did everything I could to cheer him on and get him to that finish line.
We both were falling way short of our expectations, but, hey, that’s life. To me, this year’s New York City Marathon became a representation of how we come together to boost each other up when things get tough. To me, that’s not a bad thing at all.
We finally, FINALLY saw the finish line up ahead, and I was excited to spot Karla from Run Karla Run, who was announcing at the race! She gave us a special shout-out, which made me feel like a rockstar, and gave us that final boost to FINISH. THIS. MARATHON.
Moments later, I successfully completed my 6th marathon!
We crossed the finish line of our longest marathon to date in 5:42. Given that our marathon PR is 4:57, and last year I struggled so much and yet still finished in 5:17, this obviously wasn’t a desirable time for either of us.
But I genuinely didn’t care, and I still don’t care. Despite our finish time, in my mind, this race was a success. It was LITERALLY the first time (other than a Disney race) that I didn’t have some sort of panic attack/meltdown. It was the first time I felt genuinely confident in myself during a marathon. And there is nothing that can take that away from me.
We both had a tough race, but we still managed to have some fun along the way. We basked in the sweet success of knowing that WE MADE IT for a few minutes before suffering through the slow death march out of the finish line area.
I had to sit down a few times because I was STILL feeling sick, and I tried to force down a pretzel and take a bite of apple (then immediately felt like I was going to throw up, so I put the kibosh on eating for a little while).
After about 10 years of sloooow, painful walking, we were wrapped in ponchos (which I removed immediately because I was still HOT) from the volunteers and were released on the streets of New York…and I was once again sitting on a curb with my head between my knees. WTF?! I tried again to eat some pretzels but could only force down a few, and I desperately wanted a soda or anything that I thought might help settle my stomach. When we both felt strong enough to walk a little more we found a bagel place, and I enjoyed what had to be the most AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS bottle of Cherry Coke that I’ve ever tasted. I started feeling a lot better.
By the time we had our dinner reservations at Joanne’s (where we went last year), I was feeling a little better and managed to eat some spaghetti. But I still wasn’t myself, because normally I want to #EATALLTHEFOOD after a marathon, and I still felt like I was forcing it down.
In conclusion, the New York City Marathon is unbelievably amazing. Period, end of story. I am so thankful that I had the chance to run it again.
This year’s race may not be meaningful to me because I PRed (ha, yeah right) or crushed any other personal time goals, but it will be forever meaningful to me because Todd and I managed to work together and support each other and boost each other up enough to get to the finish line. Cheesy as it sounds, there it is. Laugh all you want, I don’t care.
I didn’t get the redemption I was hoping for in terms of my finish time, but I will absolutely, positively be entering the lottery again every year forever and ever.
Have you ever fallen waaaaay short of a time goal, but been happy with your performance anyway?
Will somebody please tell me what can cause nausea during a race because I need to figure this out so that it never, EVER happens again?!