Sunday, November 11, 2018

NYC Marathon Race Recap

Shawn and I have run hundreds or thousands of miles together. If I had the time, I could check the exact amount on Strava, but suffice to say that between long runs, recovery runs, easy runs, speed such as tempo, fartlek, and track, hill repeats, commutes, and my pushing Miles in the Bob stroller, he's probably the person I have trained with for the most miles (my dog Sammy has definitely ran the most total miles with me). Earlier this year, I pointed out to Shawn that his half marathon time qualified him for the New York City Marathon. He had always wanted to run it so when he signed up, I signed up since I also had a qualifying time. I have entered NY by three different ways (In 2010 I had been rejected three straight times and was guaranteed entry the third year, but this was discontinued. In 2012, I raised money for the charity the Blue Card but since the race was canceled, they allowed me to pay for entry into 2013, 2014, or 2015, and I chose 2015).

Got our bibs
We took the train up early Saturday morning and found seats together where we could stretch out. We talked strategy and expectations for most of the race. As reported earlier this year, we planned to race Rock N Roll together but that fell apart prior to the first 10K. This race, we mapped out and followed a solid strategy. While we plotted strategy and logistics, we ate lunch which consisted of pasta we packed for the ride. The train was easy and when we got to Penn Station, we walked over to the Jacob Javits Center where the expo and packet pick up is held. While walking, I texted my high school friend Nicole was was running her second marathon and first NY. She was a little nervous but I texted her that it was the race that should be nervous since she was going to kick its butt! We breezed through the expo, got our bibs, took a few pictures, and parted ways. I went to meet my coach at his hotel near the finish and handed him my dry clothes. I chose the poncho option, so it was clutch that Ryan took my clothes for me to change into after the race. Everything I was wearing would be tossed and donated.
With Coach Ryan Vail. Photobombed by an unfortunate sign.

After meeting with Ryan, I met my cousin at NYU where he teaches. We went back to his place and he found an old blanket I could use to stay warm then toss at the Athlete's Village. I bought bagels to eat in the morning about three hours before the race and some to bring back to DC. We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant near his house in Astoria and I ate two baskets of bread in addition to my pasta and tomato sauce! My cousin's husband's sister is also a runner who has run several halfs. She was very excited that she was visiting during the NYC Marathon and could watch it before her plane left. I gave her my logistics booklet explaining the race, where to watch, and course information. That seemed to make her happy. After dinner, I went to bed. I woke up at 4AM (it was the end of DST so I got an extra hour and felt quite rested) and showered and ate a banana. I left around 4:45AM and his neighbors were still awake and on the balcony. The city that really never sleeps!

Bib 3211 for 2018 NYC, my 44th marathon
I took the subway from Astoria (Steinway stop) to the Midtown bus. Luckily there was a runner on the platform and I could just follow him through the subway and to the bus. We chatted with other runners on our train including a young IT professional named Sebastian from near Warsaw in Poland. On the bus, I tried to get a little more sleep. On the bus, I sat next to a runner from the Boston area who loves to run New York but has no interest in the Boston Marathon. His aversion to Boston is training in the cold. After passing through security, I found the meeting spot, the orange area therapy dog station (the dogs licked our faces as we rested). When I returned from the bathroom, Shawn was there. We rested and I asked a woman to "Share the sun" who was blocking it from warming us. Around 9AM, we got ready and headed into our corral. In the corral, we waited around with other runners. One was taking a selfie, so I offered to take his picture in return for taking our picture and sending it to me.

Shawn and I have a friendly rivalry that makes us both better runners. This race was our tiebreaker for the year since earlier, he won the 1 mile and 3K at the DC Road Runners Club track meet, and I bested him at the Rock N Roll DC Marathon and the DC Road Runners Club 20 miler. But, I would have been thrilled if we finished the race together having paced each other to a sub 3 finish. If that had come to pass, we could have raised our hands together in celebration as we crossed the line.

The weather for the race was perfect. Starting in the 40s and rising into the 50s, we really couldn't have asked for better weather. Thankfully, the heavy wind on Saturday was mostly gone for Sunday, just an easy 5 mph wind that wasn't a factor.  It wasn't too cold that we were shivering in the Athlete's Village and it wasn't too hot on the course. We brought some throwaway clothes and blankets that kept us warm while waiting that we tossed before and during the race. When the race started, it took us about 40 seconds to run over the start line. We ran on the lower section of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Our Garmins had trouble accurately finding our pace, possibly because we were on the lower bridge and also due to so many other Garmin users. I knew not to trust my watch that read an 8:30 pace (when I was less experienced, I would have freaked out thinking I couldn't get into my pace) and sure enough, we clocked a 7:30 first mile even though my watch displayed only 0.9. The next mile had us running a 6:14 mile, which was again off. I assured Shawn that our pace was perfect and not to worry. I don't think he was worried, but sometimes I like to verbalize my inner monologue.

The run through Brooklyn went very much according to plan. We were settling into 6:50 pace, the effort felt easy, and the crowds were amazing. Even though there were so many runners near us, we were able to stay together without dodging other runners or exerting more energy than necessary. We tried to stick to the tangents as much as possible - only I veered to get water as Shawn brought his own. I wore my Red Sox visor through the streets of NYC and occasionally yelled for a fan wearing a Red Sox hat to give me a cheer - 2018 World Series Champions! In Brooklyn, I looked for my friend Chris and his son Alex between miles 8-9, but I didn't spot them. We hit the 10 mile mark right on pace and cruised towards Queens. I would call out the splits for each mile and did some quick, sloppy marathon math to know we were on pace. As we left Brooklyn and entered Queens, we passed the halfway point. 1:29:35 - right on pace to break 3! Before the race, we had talked about running the first half in 88 minutes (he rejected that and stated 89/90 minutes was smarter), so 89 minutes and change was perfect.

Queens was fairly flat and uneventful. In Queens, I looked for my cousin's husband and his sister.  Unfortunately, I didn't spot them, but later they reported they got to watch the leaders. I prepared us mentally for the Queensborough Bridge which is long and slow. As we approached and began our climb, it became quiet as no spectators are allowed. Again, I feared Garmin might be off so we just held our effort and didn't worry about effort. It paid off as we ran a the bridge smartly and entered into Manhattan to huge cheers. Within half a mile, I heard my name and saw my friend Michael cheering for me. That was fun to be spotted by a friend - three years ago my friend from college not only saw me, he took a great picture.

Through Manhattan, we kept our pace and even pulled slightly ahead of the 3 hour pace team. We did not intend to do so, but our pace brought us slightly past them. The miles were adding up, but mentally I remained in a good place. As we climbed the bridge into the Bronx, the pace team overtook us but we kept them in sight. The segment through the Bronx is not that long and soon we were back in Manhattan. The last time I ran NYC, I thought I could break 3:10 and felt my chances were good but I faded. This time, I felt I was on pace to break 3:00 and pushed towards my goal. With about five miles to go, I felt a burst of energy and felt like I had lost Shawn. I don't think I increased my pace as much as he lost the pace, but in any event, I felt I was going to run the final miles alone. That is what happened. I felt strong and kept pace as long as I could, but the climb next to Central Park slowed me by 20 seconds a mile. I thought all I needed to do survive and once in the park, I could lay down the hammer. But, those rolling hills took its toll and I was fortunate not to lose anymore time. As I headed to the finish, I thought I heard footsteps and wondered if Shawn was closing in on me. I don't know if I had anything left to match him if he was going to push me. But I finished then waited a minute or so before I saw him cross. We were both very tired and excited for our effort. It was a PR for him by 39 seconds.

If the end were completely flat, I could have broken 3. Our 3:01/3:02 was a sub 3 on a flatter course. The fitness was there as demonstrated at the 20 miler. If there were no hills in Central Park, I could have broken 3:01. But, I know I gave it my all even though I came up a couple of seconds shy of getting under 3:01. I am so proud of my time and very impressed with how Shawn has continued to get faster in his mid 40s. A 3:01/3:02 in NYC is amazing for a 40 year old, and even more impressive considering my first ever marathon was a 4:10 and my two previous NYC Marathons were 3:26 (2010) and 3:12 (2015). This year, I finished 1275 out of over 52,000 runners, so I definitely beat my bib (3211). This was my fourth fastest time out of my 44 marathons.

Comparing my three NYC Marathons:

Course profile
2010 NYC Marathon (Bib 7702 / Age 33) = 3:26:01
Pace = 07:52
Place Overall = 4,047 of 44,976, Place Gender = 3,565 of 28,849, Place Age Group = 3,566 of 3,857
Place Age-Graded 6,023 of 28,850
Time Age-Graded 3:26:01
Percentile Age-Graded 60.6%
Splits: 5K 23:11 (23:11 = 7:29) / 10K 46:10 (22:59 = 7:25) / 15K 1:09:44 (22:34 = 7:17) / 20K 1:33:23 (22:39 = 7:18) / 25K 1:57:50 (24:27 = 7:53) / 30K 2:21:54 (24:04 = 7:46) / 35K 2:47:25 (25:31 = 8:14) / 40K 3:14:47 (27:22 = 8:50) / Half 1:38:43 = 7:32 / 26.2 full 3:26:01 = 7:52 (8:09 2nd Hal)

2015 NYC Marathon (Bib 5011 / Age 38) = 3:12:47
Pace = 07:22
Place Overall = 1,709 of 49,461, Place Gender = 1,558 of 28,788, Place Age Group = 302 of 4,562
Place Age-Graded 2,498 of 28,788
Time Age-Graded 3:09:38
Percentile Age-Graded 64.84%
Splits: 5K = 21:19; 10K = 42:42; 15K = 1:04:20; 20K = 1:26:13; Half = 1:31:10; 25K = 1:49:10; 30K = 2:12:20; 35K = 2:36:33; 40K = 3:02:13

My 5K splits
2018 NYC Marathon (Bib 3211 / Age 41) = 3:01:06
Pace = 6:55
Place Overall 1,275 of 52,700, Place Gender = 1,183 of 30,580, Place Age Group = 228 of 5,109
Place Age-Graded = 1,453 of 30,580
Time Age-Graded = 2:54:55
Percentile Age-Graded = 70.3%
Splits: 5K = 21:25; 10K = 42:25; 15K = 1:03:33; 20K = 1:24:52' Half = 1:29:35; 25K = 1:46:33; 30K = 2:07:34; 35K; 2:29:07; 40K; 2:51:13

Running more overall miles and more miles at tempo pace during training has made me a better marathon runner. Having to run-commute with a backpack and running my son into daycare in a Bob's Blaze jogging stroller has had no negative effect on my training - perhaps it even helped by adding a level of resistance. Adding doubles has helped me in distance racing. And, switching from a set long run on the weekends to more total mileage but no traditional long run has not impacted my training. I hope to be able to use this method to keep improving my marathon and other race times. As documented in previous blogs, since the birth of my son, my training has changed. I have had to move my runs, run/commute with a backpack, run my son to daycare in a stroller, and completely ditch large group runs. While I miss running with my club every Saturday morning and doing track with them every Wednesday night, I’ve found ways to not only continue to train, but to actually increase my mileage and effort. 

This New York City Marathon was the race I hoped Rock N Roll DC earlier this year could have been. Having trained with Shawn for several years now, we planned to race New York together, pacing and pushing ourselves to break 3. It has been tremendously rewarding to witness his transformation into such a strong and smart runner in just a couple of years. By committing himself to doing the mileage and adding in speed, hills, and tempos, he not only dropped his times and qualified both for Boston and New York, he also inspired and challenged me. Plus, selfishly, having a friend and rival to push me and motivate me benefits me. He keeps me from getting complacent. I look forward to training runs where we can talk running, Red Sox and Patriots, politics, or the day's news while testing our VO2 Max or running at recovery pace. Running alone is not as rewarding to me as having a good friend and training partner to keep myself honest.

We're not quite as fast and accomplished as Des and Shalane, but we have pushed each other to achieve results.