Sunday, November 12, 2006

The New York City Marathon

I have waited a week before posting my account of the New York City Marathon. I guess I needed it to ferment in my mind before I really realized what my response to the marathon would be.

Right off let me say that I ran the race wearing shoes. I wore Reebok Circa Waffle cross-country shoes, insoles ripped out. They are very flat and minimal. One guy did the marathon barefoot. And the shoes did give me some trouble - I had to pull over and loosen my left shoe because I had pain under the ball of my foot because the shoe felt too tight. My foot must have swelled, because this wasn't until after the 59th street bridge.

My finishing chip-time was 3:19:28. That was way slower than my 3-hour goal. Part of the reason that I entered was because I wanted to run with Lance Armstrong. That didn't happen. For a lot of the race I was only a few minutes behind him. There were a lot of spectators yelling stuff like, "Lance is right in front of you!" But a non-runner doesn't realize that a few minutes is really quite a distance. I never saw the media entourage following Lance at all. Despite not hitting my goal, which I am a little disappointed about, it was a great experience and I can pull a lot of positives out of it.

First of all, though this is my 15th marathon, I haven't run a marathon for about 12 years. The last time I ran New York was 1986, 20 years ago. I ran 3:41 in 1986 and I ran 2:48 in 1985. The 3:41 was a negative split after running the first half with my friend Paul G. So at least, by finishing, I have a 40's PR.

Second, I remembered a bunch of stuff. Like I remembered how much a marathon hurts, compared to anything in the 5K-half-marathon range. I remembered how difficult the NYC Marathon course is. One does not think of New York City as a particularly hilly area. But the bridges, Central Park, and even 1st Avenue are quite a factor. The 59th Street Bridge, was especially difficult. It is about a mile of constant up-hill.

Third, I realized that even though I had more mileage behind me this year than in the last couple of years, I need to run faster long runs. My pace early on seemed easy, but that was just because I was tapered and the weather was so perfect. In reality, I was over my head to try maintaining sub-7 minute pace for 26 miles. All my long runs were too slow to expect that to happen. You can see below my analysis of my early great form, and subsequent decay.

I ran a great 30K - which is ironically the length of two trail races I did this summer with no problem, the Double-Trouble 30K and the Escarpment Trail Run. Each 5K after the first 30 was slower by three minutes! That means in 30-35K I ran one minute per mile slower than I did in my first 30, then in 35-40K I ran two minutes per mile slower than I had for the first 30. That is quite a slowdown. If I paced for a 3:08 or so from the start, I might have made it.

While running during the last few miles I knew I was damaging my muscles. I didn't want that to happen, considering that I want to run a good 15K next weekend to complete my Grand Prix. I actually thought about dropping out, but realized that as a president of a running club, that would not be a good example nor a good story to tell to the members of the club. During miles 24 and 25 I walked through the water stations, and probably another 100 yards after them, and I walked a little up the last steep roller in Central Park. You can see that I am walking in one of the photos by Brightroom here:
I am looking back to make sure nobody is coming up to run into my slow walking body. The Central Park spectators are deep and they do not let you walk for very long! I did run the entire way after hitting mile 25. But you can see my "Red Zone" info above, the pace there was 9:02/mile.

The second marathon on marathon day is getting to your bag of stuff in the UPS trucks from the starting area, and getting to the ride home. After crossing the finish line in Central Park, there is about a hundred yards of rehydrators, medal and solar blanket givers, chip clippers, photographers, medical help. Then the UPS trucks start. They are simply parked on the park road, starting with truck #1, then continuing numerically. First thing I did was take off my shoes and began the long slog. My stuff was in truck #26. It felt literally like a second marathon walking to #26. I felt really sorry for the people that had truck numbers as high as the seventies! Once I got my stuff, I exited the park at about 75th street & Central Park West. The church where the busses were was on 60th & Columbus Avenue. So I had to walk the 15 blocks back down to 60th.

It was nice that in the basement of the church there was warmth, bathrooms, food and massage therapists. I was one of the first ones arriving at the church, so I had plenty of time to get myself together. I toweled off, changed, ate and got a massage. This was good. After about an hour I felt pretty normal. Others got to the church, there was much congratulations, war stories, conversations. We left the church at about 5:30, but it took a couple of hours to get home because the driver got a little lost in the city. School bus seats hurt when it takes that long to get home after a marathon!

I think I will do it again to get it right next year, if I can get in. I think I have a qualifying half-marathon time again from Liberty. If I can pull off my run-to-work plan this winter, I would even consider running Boston, since my NYC time qualifies me.

One thing I have to note about New York, is that running that race takes a financial toll as well as a physical toll. It costs $9 to process an entry, then the entry fee is still an additional $109. I paid $50 for bussing to the starting line and back to Cranford. It cost $12 in train fare to get into New York to pick up my number. That is $180, not including incidentals like PowerGel.

Another toll the marathon takes is one of your time. And I am not talking about the time spent training. As the marathon approached, I spent a lot of nervous energy on Friday night preparing for Saturday and Sunday. Saturday I went to the expo, then to some family activities which I didn't get home from until about midnight. I had to pack my marathon bags and didn't go to sleep until about 1:30 AM! Waking at 6:30, then not arriving home from the marathon day until about 9 PM. The weekend of the marathon just sucks you into it and becomes all encompassing.

My recovery is good. Last week I took a couple mile walk on Tuesday, and I ran 5 miles barefoot on the road on Thursday. Friday I ran easy about 15 minutes, and Saturday I did 55 minutes on the D&R Towpath in the morning (shod), and another 15 minutes in the afternoon, barefoot on pavement. Today I ran the Giralda Farms 10K at 41:04. During the race my legs felt fine, just not too fast.

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