The Ice Bath Cometh: NYC Marathon 2016

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While this was only my third marathon, I have run many races and feel quite confident in saying that there is nothing like the NYC Marathon. It’s like being in the biggest block party or parade in the world. Well alright, it’s like being at the best party ever in your favorite heels and then you stay too long and have to limp your way home with your shoes in your hands. But the great parts are really awesome.

So this year’s marathon was supposed to be my do over of 2014. However, halfway through my training I realized that I wasn’t feeling as strong as in 2014. I was on a different schedule and wasn’t completing my prescribed strength training workouts like I was supposed to and missed a few training runs. But since my 2014 time was hampered by the weather and a stint in the medical tent I figured I could still beat my time if I ran a smart race.

Race Day

Another runner and I partnered to keep the shuttered Lynbrook Runner’s Stop marathon bus tradition going. Shout out to Tova. I love it when a plan comes together. Special thanks to Lynbrook Bagels that opened up at 4:30 A.M accommodate us with coffee, tea and bagels. Michael, you rock. Yes, we were turning heads and riding in style.

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Loaded up and ready to go in our posh bus.

Thanks to our bus driver, Drew, we made it over the Verrazano Bridge and into Staten Island before the bridge was shut down for the race.

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Tova, me & Drew

As is our tradition, we hung out at Mickey Ds before being transported to Fort Wadsworth to the infamous Slum Village. As we were going through security, I overheard one of the police officers say to her colleague, “Look at them … all smiling and $#@%.” As I looked around at the beaming faces of lambs knowingly marching to their slaughter, I was extremely tickled by the comment. I guess we did seem like a strange bunch.

Slum Village

I spent a little more time in Slum Village this time around. I didn’t mind because the weather was great. Shout out to my village partner, Cami. I had another bagel, used the facilities and dealt with some phantom chafing. There was no way the chafing could have been real but I was convinced that I felt it and dove behind a UPS truck to handle my business. A volunteer tried to convince me to try a new Gatorade Endurance Formula. I self righteously announced, “Nothing new on race day” and slipped the packet into my pocket. There was some awesome Slum Village scenery this year. I thought air mattress dude was great but the Black Lives Matter guy had him beat hands down. Where he was going to pin his bib might be one of life’s great mysteries.

The Race

Before too long I was nervously listening to a stirring rendition of God Bless America and then “BOOM” the cannon went off to signify the start of my wave. Off I went, running the Verrazano Bridge. I made sure I stayed in the middle of the bridge because I was on the lower level and rumor has it that runners relieve themselves on the top level and it blows onto  the runners on the pee pee level below. Since there was an announcement warning runners that they would be disqualified if they urinated on the bridge I doubted it would happen but decided to be cautious anyway. the-bridge-is-overI was grateful to get mile 1 done because it was all uphill. After mile two the bridge was over and because I was in the Green Wave we were directed onto a parkway.

 

Now, I have run the other other route and no one can tell me that the Green Wave route doesn’t have more inclines. My legs are super hill detectors. They cannot be fooled. Anyway, it was completely different running this route because you don’t get the full on hype of Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn until Mile 3. There were people cheering but they were ALL cheering for Missy and Joey, a random couple with neon green shirts with their names in massive black print. I caught the eyes of a few runners and I could tell we were on one accord, we were not feeling Missy and Joey at all. I slowed down so M & J would run out of my range. Now there was a silver lining for me, which wasn’t the guy that I saw taking a whiz on the parkway (I’m not judging him … well maybe a little), it was that I picked up a running partner after Mile 2. I believed it happen just as we turned onto Bay Ridge Parkway. I met Houston. He was running next to me and looked at the happy and cheering spectators and said, “Wow, this is Brooklyn? I thought Brooklyn was rough.” I responded, “Try tomorrow.” We chuckled. Before you start sending the hate mail just know that Brooklyn is my favorite Borough. This man was in awe of the love we were getting in Brooklyn. I felt the need to warn him that he had seen nothing yet because Fourth Avenue is where the party really starts. We turned the corner onto Fourth and he was in awe. It was off the hook. The music was blaring, there was a choir on one side of the street and a preacher on the other. Strangers were screaming my name every few feet.  Houston seemed really amused by this. I bet he’ll wear his name on his shirt the next time. After a couple of miles Houston bid me farewell and took off to do his thing. It was cool though because I was having a blast. It was even better than I remembered. I was sooooooo happy.

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Brooklyn, what’s not to love

I saw one of my running partners at the Mile 7 water stop. What a great surprise. Thanks for volunteering Launette. At Mile 8 I saw my former tri-coach hanging from a scaffolding looking like Dr. Suess. Cheers Coach Jackie. Then I ran into a bunch of BGR! ladies. I stopped for a moment for hugs. Thanks V, Katrina and crew. I was having a blast. And just when I thought the spectator support couldn’t get any better, I turned on to Lafayette Avenue. Words cannot explain the hype of Lafayette. Since it is a narrower street than Fourth Avenue, the spectators flank the runners on each side of the street and the Lafayette folk came to cheer. They were calling my name like we were long lost buddies. The businesses were blasting music. Most notably there was a huge group outside of a restaurant wearing costumes doing the YMCA dance. I was hard to leave Lafayette after Mile 9. I decided to make a pit stop at the porta potty at Mile 10. The line wasn’t very long but unfortunately a few of the runners decided to take mini vacations in the facilities. I was stopped for five minutes. I had to get my legs going again after that and was moving right along until after Mile 14 when I felt the twinge. My left quad started to spasm. I pulled over to the side and retrieved a salt packet from my belt. After I popped the salt, I realized that I had no water. My face must have been puckered really badly because some spectators started to yell, “You can do it.” puckered-faceSuddenly I remembered the packet of Gatorade Endurance Formula that I picked up from the Slum Village. I washed down the salt and got going. Hallelujah, I was healed and just in time for me to begin the dastardly incline of the Queensboro Bridge. I ran off the bridge excited to hit First Avenue and the wild Manhattan crowd. I ran towards the Mile 16 water stop screaming BGR! It took me a few moments but I found my long Island ladies. There were hugs and encouragement. I asked for Gatorade and realized I was at the water table. No worries, someone brought me Gatorade. I soooo love my BGR! sisters. They sent me on my way and I did a mental check of how I was feeling and realized that I felt better at this point than I did in 2014. I was encouraged. I was doing my thing and moving up First Avenue and then, WHAM, a massive cramp developed in my right quad. I pulled all the way over to the railing and took the remainder of my salt. It wasn’t doing anything for me. My leg was killing me. I looked at my watch. I was only at Mile 17.5. I figured I’d push my way to the Mile 18 medical tent. So now I’m limping but still trying to run. I must have looked pretty bad. I could hear spectators screaming my name (I later realized they were my BGR! sisters who were right next to me, trying to check on me). I was in a fog and focused only on getting to Mile 18. I made it to the medical tent, asked for salt and told them that I have a cramp. They made me lay down on a gurney while the medic guy massaged my quad. They brought me salt and Gatorade. They told me they would look for Tylenol but they aren’t sure that they have any. WHAAAAT? YOU ARE THE MEDICAL TENT! I am silent and smile politely. I’m feeling better and they start to help me up off the gurney which triggers the cramp. I scream and fall back onto the gurney. This happens a couple of times. The last time it happened a cramp seized my left quad too and another person in the tent had to rush over to assist because both legs were gone and I was going DOWN. Now I’m worried. I asked them to massage me standing up. After awhile I was able to stand and they found me a Tylenol. I announced that I was leaving and one of the medical volunteers looked at me wide eyed and said, “You have eight miles to go.” I’LL SHOW HER!!! I thanked them and hobbled away. This is where I began my run walk journey. It was probably more walk than run but every time I would feel the slightest twinge I would switch from run to walk or from walk to run.

The Bronx is Bananas

Like Literally, they were handing out banana pieces.

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It was brown where they cut it but I was in no shape to be picky

My piece of banana was in bad shape but I peeled it and gobbled it down praying that the potassium would go straight to my quads. The energy was great in the Bronx too. Despite my discomfort, I had a good laugh when I saw a woman holding a sign that said, “Smile If You Peed A Little.” There were a few DJs there. One was playing the Wobble, I love the Wobble but this big girl was not trying to back it up. Forward Please!!!! After turning a corner I believe I saw DJ Kool Herc playing Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya. I considered getting a pic with him but I would have had to run a few extra feet out of my way and I just didn’t have it in me. I just wanted to get to Fifth Avenue. I kept telling myself, “It’s a straight shot from 5th.” I don’t recall there being so many turns, curves and bridges (maybe it was just one) before I got to Fifth.

Manhattan Part Deux

I was so relieved to finally hit Fifth Avenue but then realized that I still had four miles to go. The Fifth Avenue stretch is difficult. There is no other way to put it. The crowds are starting to tire and dwindle and the old legs feel heavy. As I was contemplating the drudgery of the stretch, I heard my name. Shout out to Candice, who was at 135th with her brilliant smile. You have no idea how much it meant to see you at that point. Syracuse University love in the house!!! As I continued on I tried not to look at the street numbers as I passed them. At mile 23, I thought about my 2014 experience there and reaffirmed that I would finish this race. TCS New York City Marathon 2014 Recap I was going to show the doubting volunteer at the Mile 18 medical tent. Yes I was!!! Before, I knew it I was turning into Central Park. A little over two miles to go. I looked around at the growing number of spectators and felt like they were all just staring at me. I’m not sure what came over me but I started screaming, “Cheer the runners, Cheer the runners.” I was waving my arms frantically like a Hip Hop hype man. flavA fellow runner next to me was encouraging me in this craziness. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he yelled. But for all of our efforts all we got were a few lackluster “WOOOS.” The poor spectators were beat but reinforcements were on the way. At Mile 24, there was a BGR contingency screaming for me. Thanks Tonja and company. I waved and in retrospect I should have stopped but I was in one of my run modes. Then at the water stop I saw another friendly face. Shout out to Tamika. Gatorade never tasted so good. I soldiered on with my run/walk. Now people were screaming, “You’re almost there.” The Mile 26 sign was in sight but it was still a tease because … well … that .2. Then I saw two guys holding up another runner. To me this signified that the finish line was right ahead. For some reason, I only ever see those sights at the finish. I looked for it and I thought i could see it. There were bright neon lights ahead of me. It was starting to get dark and I ran to the light. Please let me not be dying. Nope, it was the finish. As I crossed it, the NYRR President congratulated me. I thought, you sir have had a long day. I thanked God that I safely completed another race. I looked to my right and there was a runner crying like a baby. For a second I wondered if she was hurt then it dawned on me, we just completed the New York City Marathon.

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In Closing

It was the best race that I have ever run. My slowest time but the best nonetheless. I crawled in at 5:51:06. I was so happy to just be a part of it. I even suspended my Reasons Why I Hate NYC posts for a week (even though someone was tossed in front of a train). The TCS Marathon App was great. My friends and family were able to get a good read on how I was doing at all times. The medal was bigger and the weather beautiful. This race deserves all the hype and more.

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Brooklyn Half Marathon 2013 Recap

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The plan was for the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon on June 1st to be my next big event. But, since I had already completed my 12 mile long run, I decided that I might as well run the Brooklyn Half as a training run in lieu of the 14 mile long run on my schedule. So I registered for it two weeks before the race. It had previously sold out in one day but New York Road Runners reopened registration and began marketing it as a marquee race. As the race approached I started to get nervous about it, especially because I struggled through a 10K the week before and because it would only be my second half marathon.

Before I knew it, race morning was here. The plan was to take my time, try out my strawberry flavored Chomps and new playlist and have fun. The course ran from the Brooklyn Museum on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, around Prospect Park, down Ocean Parkway and finished on the Coney Island Boardwalk. My main concern was getting through the Prospect Park portion of the race. I am fast learning that the word “Park” is racing code for “Hills” and we know how I feel about those.

After the hubbster dropped me off, I went off to find bag check and my corral. There were people everywhere. This race was massive but the sun was shining and there was a great energy. When I finally made it to my corral, which seemed to be a mile away from anything constructive, I decided to line up for … Oh Yeah … the Porta Potty. Since I had tried to hydrate like a champ the day before and had been sipping water all morning, this visit was not negotiable. For security purposes, the Potties were inside the corrals. Let me tell you, my corral time was not the most pleasant experience as those throne rooms were stinking up the joint. We were lined up with our shirts over our noses. I got in and out as fast as I could and prayed that would be my only visitation for the day. Oh and here’s a tip. Always, carry a few squares of toilet paper with you. A guy who was two people ahead of me announced that our Porta Potty had no toilet paper and proceeded to look panicked. I had my little stash but started to fret because a man needing toilet paper means only one thing … enough about THAT.

There were two starting waves. I was in the second wave and we started 35 minutes after wave one. There were so many people it still seemed to take forever to get to the start after our gun went off. When we finally crossed the start, I realized that my corral mates were near sprinting and I was running right along with them. I slowed down and tried to keep a responsible pace but I was still running faster than I planned. Then we turned onto Flatbush Avenue and headed up to Grand Army plaza. Now I have driven this road countless times and never once noticed that there was a steady incline. Well my legs certainly took notice now. Check it out.

The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue
The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue

As we approached Grand Army Plaza Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” gave me an extra push as did the cheerleaders at the Plaza. A couple of the male cheerleaders were emanating a Studio 54 vibe while Sylvester was singing in my ear. This was a great moment and I waved and whoo-hooed at the cheerleaders. Good times. Before I knew it mile three was done.

We entered the park at around mile three and a half and yes there were hills. There was one particularly menacing hill that just kept winding and bending so you couldn’t see an end in sight. Anyway, when I hit mile four a bunch of guys from a local running club started chanting “four down and nine to go” and that army thing “I don’t know but I’ve been told … sound off, one two …” Then they broke off and started running really fast in between the runners encouraging everyone. It was a wonderful distraction. The next memorable moment came at about mile five and a half. I ran into a guy who was singing Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life” obnoxiously loud. Awesome. I sang with him for a little while, “Without love, it aint much, it aint much.” He had the nerve to look at me like I was crazy. More good times. At mile seven and a half, I ran out of the park in a blaze of glory. Ding dong, the park was done.
Parkway

The picture above shows runners on the entrance ramp to Fort Hamilton Parkway (at least I think that’s where we were). It was pretty cool to see a Brooklyn Parkway with no traffic. I couldn’t wait to get on it. By this time, the sun was no longer shining. It was cloudy and nice and cool. In a blink, I was on Ocean Parkway. I remember looking up and seeing the sign for Avenue C. I realized that I was starting to feel a little tired.

At mile eight, they were handing out Gu at the hydration station. I had one of my Chomps instead and washed it down with a good helping of water. There were 11 fluid stations and I hydrated at all but two of them. After the Gu station, the ground was sticky for a while. So in addition to being tired I had to peel my feet off the ground. Ew. When I passed Avenue G, I thought, “Well at least I’m getting somewhere.” Then of course I realized that I was getting nowhere because the next street was not Avenue H. It was some arbitrary randomly named street. I was annoyed. It felt like forever before I got to Avenue H. I decided “H” was for Hallelujah! At mile nine I was really tired and my legs felt heavy. Ugh. Then, BOOM! Like a mirage there appeared four or five Black Girls Run members on the side of the course. I didn’t know them but they cheered for me like there was no tomorrow. BGR rocks. I got my second wind. I was having a good ole time as I passed mile ten and headed towards eleven. But as I approached the mile 11 hydration station I was near limping. My left glute (or some muscle back there) was killing me and a toe on my left foot was hurting. Bad times. But at this point I had only two miles to go and so I kept at it. At mile 12, I stopped at the hydration station, I did the grab and run through the others. I made sure I got a good drink of Gatorade and Water because it was the last fluid station before the finish line.

soon after, I recall seeing the 800 meter mark and decided that I hate the fact that they feel the need to place a marker there. It’s just too far away to get excited about almost finishing. I decided to save my excitement for the 400 meter mark and I was completely psyched when I saw it. I got a little extra pep in my step. It was the equivalent of one lap around the track and I could do that. Soon I was on the boardwalk where there was a nice crowd of spectators and could see the finish line. Check out the boardwalk. Boardwalk

What a cool finish. I crossed the line and sought out my medal because after all, it’s all about the bling.
Finisher's Medal

I wound up running the race harder than I should have, considering it was supposed to be a training run. But a race is a race, right? I was pleased with my time of 2:21:07. This was my second half marathon and I ran a PR. So I was feeling really pleased with myself until I had started to walk down the steps to exit the boardwalk. It was bad folks, I let out quite the yelp. Holy soreness!!!