In an article from RunBlogRun published online just after Kara Goucher’s NYC marathon performance, it stated that Kara had planned on a 2:28 marathon and held steady until the 30K point. Wind, cold, the faster pace got to her. She hit the wall for the first time in her career. Hal Higdon’s comment about embracing a personal worst as you would a personal best is easier to read but not so easy to embrace, as copied from the article. Kara finished the November 2nd TCS NYC Marathon in 2:37.
The elite athletes motivate me. They get nervous before a race and have the same worries and concerns we all do regarding what could happen on race day. They can also hit the wall. Even though the rest of us don’t come close to their abilities, at least we are reminded that we are all human and will be challenged by the same uncontrollable conditions and set backs.
Approaching the finish line, I’ve never wanted to cross that line so badly.
Race Day: Alarm was set for 5:05 am so I could get up and move around. I had to catch the bus at Midtown Library, about 1/2 a mile away. It would take over an hour to get to Fort Wadsworth. We planned to leave the hotel at 6:15 am. Ted would walk with me to the library.
Upon rising, I checked the weather again, for the 55th time, hoping for a miracle. It still looked bad. I stayed with my choice of clothing for the run which was capris, very light wind breaker jacket under which I wore a tank, high knee Injinji socks and my Brooks running shoes. At 5:45, I ate a little bit of Pumpernickel bagel. It wasn’t going down well so I nibbled at a cranberry nut whole grain roll instead.
Protection from the wind & cold: I put on old sweats, cut at the bottom so I could get them off without removing my sneakers. A thin zip up hoodie over my Patagonia wind breaker, a thick sweatshirt, and a thick sweater. All to be tossed prior to race start but good enough to keep me warm for the two hour wait. I also brought a large garbage bag to sit on and a cheap blanket to further shield the wind.
*There was a “no baggage” option which I chose so there was no bag check to worry about. We received a clear plastic bag to put anything we would take before the race to Ft. Wads. I put a banana and Cliff bar in it with Chapstick plus my garbage bag and blanket.
After fumbling with my bib and pinning it on and off about 8 times, we finally left the hotel at 6:20 am to find long, long lines for the buses. The line began at Bryant Park near the library.
An easy bus ride to the starting villages, for me anyway, for others, not so good. One woman had to pee in a cup on the bus. Talented, don’t you think?
Waiting at the Starting Villages: After arriving at Wadsworth, 1 1/2 hours later, I simply walked into the waiting area where porto potties lined the fence near the Corral entrances. I ate a banana. Porto pottie lines were short. Since I was right there at the Orange B Corral where I was to enter for the start, I found a seat on a parking block and talked to a couple of people as they came and went.
I stayed relatively warm but my feet began to get cold so I wrapped them in the garbage bag. I rose and sat about 3 times during my wait, getting back in line for the potties just for something to do.
Wave 1 was being called when I arrived at Fort Wadsworth but it seemed to take a long time before Wave 2 was called, which was supposed to be at 9 am. People were lining up but the wave wasn’t called until about 9:35 am. We passed through the gate quickly and no sooner were we through the gate when we heard that Wave 2 was now closed.
One last trip to the potties once inside the corral then the chore of taking off my layers. It was 9:55 am and we were to start at 10:05. I was ready. I felt good. The national anthem played. The announcer rang out “On Your Marks…” then the music “New York, New York” and runners sang as we ran.
The Verrazano bridge is the starting point and I was initially worried about taking off at race pace up an incline but ended up not even noticing the incline. *That is EXACTLY what the 3:45 pacer had told me the previous day. What I did notice was the wind. Clothes, bottles, paper was flying everywhere. My feet/legs felt like they were being lifted and pushed sideways by the wind.
Within a mile, I caught up to the 3:45 pacer. Perfect! Right where I wanted to be. There were two pace leaders and I set myself slightly forward of the 2nd pacer. The pace felt good. It felt right and very doable. *The two times I’ve run with the 3:45 pace group, it felt as if I were struggling but I did manage to kept up. I really believed this was going to be my day.
At the 5 mile point, a guy running near me began talking to someone on his cell phone letting them know we had just crossed the 5 mile point. I couldn’t believe it! Those miles had passed so quickly I was sure I had heard him wrong and we were somewhere around the 3 mile point. I wasn’t noticing mile marker signs and due to the roar of the spectators, I didn’t hear the Garmin chime off the miles.
As all runners from all starting colors came together, the road crowded. Even with the wind gusting, I felt good and thought there wouldn’t be any problem staying with the pace group. There were no conversations that I could over hear to get my thoughts off the long road ahead. Instead, my mind focused on breathing, body temperature, acknowledging the wind and navigating through runners and over the road. I didn’t toss my gloves until about the 9 mile point.
At the 11 mile point the miles passed by slower and it seemed as if there were more inclines than flat or declines. The pacer was still on my left shoulder as I checked to make sure he was still within sight. Passed the 13.1 point and a fleeting thought wishing I were done. That should have been a sign.
Along came the Queensboro bridge, around mile 15. I was looking forward to this point in the course, just runners with no loud screams from spectators. Coming off the bridge, the noise grew and we were suddenly in the throngs of people and noise. *I overheard a runner say “Listen! Can you hear it?” He was talking about the spectators below. As we came off the bridge, there was no sign of the pacer but I thought, I could do this myself so didn’t worry much about it.
1st Ave. We continued on 1st Ave. for what seemed like FOREVER and this is when I got bored. Just plain and simply got bored with the road and fed up with the wind. I saw the pacer a little ways ahead of me and was content to stay the distance. Eventually the 3:45 pacer from the Green Start passed which meant I had dropped off pace.
I looked ahead and all I could see was a straight road going up with runners everywhere. A forceful gust stopped me in my tracks as I said to myself "to heck with it." I walked at 19 miles. Ran a little to the next water station and walked through it. From this point on, it was run – walk.
The conversation in my head was torturous as I said to myself I wouldn’t give up. I wanted this PR in the TCS NYC Marathon so badly but then I didn’t want it that bad. After all, who am I? I’m no elite athlete. My time doesn’t matter to anyone but me. I was defeated and couldn’t find any motivation to run. I just wanted to end this race, get off this course, get out of this wind. I guess this was a wall I had never hit SO HARD before.
As we approached Central Park, the scenery was more enjoyable and I ran but then there was another hill and I knew I wouldn’t do it. A guy leaning over a fence said to me “Come On. You can do it. Just a little more now”. I said “OK” and picked up at a run once again. That last long incline into Central Park was not going to be glorious for me. Finally we arrived at Columbus Circle then into Central Park.
I had my mind set on reaching the circle then it would be just about over. I refused to look at the Garmin. I felt that a time of under 4 hours had slipped away from me so when I crossed the finish line and the time said 3:54, I was Initially so happy.
Final finish time: As each day passes and I gradually forget how difficult it was out there, I’ve begun to beat myself up. Even though I finished close to the top 10% of my age group and certainly exceeded the average finish time, it’s not good enough . I took a chance even though the conditions should have been respected. There will be more marathons and there will be better times ahead. Count on it. I just have to find away to improve my mental endurance and learn how to push through.
At The Finish: There is a very long walk after finishing this marathon. We all received our heat sheet, medal, then bag of food and fluids. The road was split for left side "No Bag" option and right side "Baggage". As a no bag person, indicated by my wrist band, I eventually received a beautiful lined blue cape with a hood. It was PERFECT for this cold, windy day and by that time, I WAS getting cold. 65th street was the meeting area for Ted and I but there were no signs and no indication it was the right location. After calling and texting Ted, we finally found each other. He handed me a Ginger Ale which my nauseous stomach needed so badly. It was another long trek back to the hotel from the west side.
Final finishing time was 3:54:42 which put me 154 out of my age group and 11677 out of 50,564 total finishers. Average finish time for the 2014 NYC Marathon: 4:34:45
5 km = 25:38
10 km = 52:04
15 km = 1:18:32
20 km = 1:45:18
13.1 mi = 1:51:13
25 km = 2:12:58
30 km = 2:40:05
35 km = 3:11:13
40 km = 3:42:06
Minutes per Mile = 8:58