My life is headed in any direction—TCS NYC Marathon Take 2

MedalLoveI ran the New York City Marathon last year (if you ran, or read my recap, you remembered how miserable it was despite loving that I was running in NYC). I really didn’t want to attempt to race it again. Everything hurt back then, the course was awful. I regretted not stopping to hi-five the kids in Brooklyn.

It was my 5th official marathon distance and this time around, it was my 9th official (not counting training runs).

nineAlso, as if covering over 7 marathon distances wasn’t enough in 2014, this year, I uped it to a couple more… 9+ ultra distances which included Disney Marathon that I ran with a good friend (Delvin), 50K around Manhattan with Sky, 2 marathon training runs, 33 mile RAGNAR ultra, North Face Endurance Challenge 50-miler, Revel Rockies in Colorado, Marine Corps Marathon and finally, New York City. I also did my very first triathlon in the summer and registered for some random distances throughout the year, even winning top spots in my age group and first place female in our infamous beermile. What an encore—if I don’t signup for the 60K. I’ve got a problem.

Weekend of activities

Like last year, I represented my gorgeous country of birth, the Commonwealth of Dominica, again at the TCS New York City Marathon Opening Ceremony. I made my outfit again! This was one of the highlights of my year because I’m very proud of my background.

It was once again creole weekend leading up to Dominica’s own Independence Day on the island so seeing posts of madras on my facebook timeline just made me feel like I was celebrating with the country itself. I tried telling my grandmother and family members about the event but I don’t really think they understood the entire ordeal and how important it was haha.

Leading up to this day:

HandstandjadeI had quite the year, which I hope to write in my yearly wrap up. However, I had ran a marathon only the Sunday before and I honestly didn’t know what to anticipate for this one. Yes, I ran two marathons a week apart. I was in my very own headspace because I had lost my job some weeks prior and thankfully I am with someone who is super supportive of my goals because I was no longer certain whether I was going crazy by signing up for the two marathons or was I really just giving myself a challenge. I am convinced that it was the latter. I had some random crazy battles happening in my life as well and I was calming taking care of them. Running powered me through.

Race outfit“… and no matter what happens, be sure to enjoy the race.” –Jo Ann.

That was the first thought I had when I got to the start that morning. My intention had been to dress up (since I missed out on Halloween) like Michonne from the Walking Dead but when I saw the temperature, I felt better about my lack of prep. I decided to take my New Balance 890s V4 on their final race journey (they are falling apart since they were my favourite—I’m not purchasing new running shoes until I get a “real” job) and I color coordinated even with some fun sun glasses that I had from the Pride Run.

I had no idea what was going to happen but I knew that no matter what, I’m just going to laugh my ass off—even if I walked and just run happy.

Commuting that morning

Unlike last year’s commute to the start thanks to AirBnb, I got on the 2nd ferry—I missed the first one because of the train. I found out later that my boyfriend had been on the same one. I knew how important this marathon was to him because he only does one per year so we didn’t coordinate to meet. He doesn’t carry his phone on race day so there was no way for us to know.

I wore my space blanket from the marathon last year (I kept it—keeping this year’s also) and I brought an old towel and blanket just in case.

I chatted briefly with a few runners on the ferry to Staten Island and another woman (Miya), who BQed later that day, sat next to me on the bus that took us to the start village. We said our goodbyes when I took off to find my corral after going through security.

Seriously, how many times do I have to go potty?

Thankfully after grabbing some coffee I ran into some familiar faces (like Yenory who was running NYC for the 1st time) and we chatted abit. That helped me take the edge off and I made my way to the start with Eric (Ultrarunning friend) from the Trail Whippass. We decided to use the port-a-potties prior and made our way into the corrals 10 minutes before they closed. We had very different corrals.  I immediately lined up again in my corral to use another port-a-potty while downing my Generation UCan. I don’t know why but for some reason, I get nervous pees at these important races.

It’s go time!

Finally doing my business left me with less than 10 minutes before we were supposed to take off. We were able to make our way through the gates when they took down the ropes but I realized there were pace groups for 3:05 in my corral. I became frantic. How did I get here? Am I in the right corral? I felt at ease when I briefly saw something close to 3:30. Sure, I’ve been training at 7:50s for marathon pace and I assumed I would have ran at least a 3:25 at the beginning of the year but right now, NOT after another marathon a week from when I ran a 3:54 (with a bathroom break)—no where close to 3:25! I had made up my mind to run by feel—and feel it would be. I looked around calming myself down and got amused by all the men urinating on the buses that were dividing the corrals. One of the bus drivers tried, with no avail, to get the men to stop whipping out. I shook my head in amusement and realized I probably would have done the same also—however, I just hoped I wouldn’t have to pee in the middle of the race again like I had at Marine Corps Marathon.

I ran happy

Photo by Jason Pacheco
Photo by Jason Pacheco

The view at the beginning for me was much different. Last year, I ran beneath the bridge and thankfully this year I got to see the view from above. I took it all in, and very slowly. I remembered from the Marathon Preview Panel we had for my team that Simon told us to take it slowly and stay in the middle because people would be trying to exert themselves by passing each other. I went “sexy pace” and pretended that I was warming up and ran it in 9:16. Clearly I didn’t know what would happen so I just checked with my legs constantly to make sure they were doing ok. I had no idea if they were recovered already.

A FRNY running teammate chat with me a bit because he liked my gear. He seemed on the mission to finish so I waved him on and told him don’t worry about the bridge being so crowded. It would clear up. He took off as soon as it opened and I decided to speed up a bit since we were going to into mile 2. I was familiar with the downhills so 7:57 pace felt really comfortable. I could hang here, I decided. If I felt anything, I would stop. I was still treating the first 5 miles as warmup but the warmup just felt so good.

When I looked at Garmin Connect, I realized the upcoming miles were basically sub 8s except 3 & 11 which were around 8:02/8:03. I still didn’t think it was that bad. I wasn’t looking at my watch. Later, I realized I could have potentially BQed if I had planned better but that actually wasn’t the goal that day. It was perfect conditions! I wanted to be uninjured and do a possible PR at the end of the race. Besides, I had taped 3:45 on my wrist and not 3:30.

Staying focused

Someone at the back of me called out, “Hey, I follow you on Instagram!” I looked around and saw a familiar face. My boyfriend. WHAT was he doing here? I said, “Aren’t you supposed to be ahead of me?!”

Photo by Luciano Rezende
Photo by Luciano Rezende

The funny thing is, I wasn’t thinking of him during the race because I figured he would be way ahead. My goal was to hopefully make it at a decent time to contact him when he was done before he headed home (we had our separate after marathon plans). A few days prior we both agreed to run our own races and I had said whatever I needed to say to him before this race. Don’t get me wrong, I sort of wish we had decided to run this one together. 

He mentioned that his corral was packed with runners who weren’t supposed to be lined up there. I felt terrible for him because he was looking forward to this race all year. We wished each other luck and we’d call each other.

I continued on seeing some familiar faces and pacing along some fellow whippets. I tried feeding off their energy for a few miles but I really didn’t know how long I would have lasted. By mile 15, I knew I would get into my head.

If you start walking now, you’re going to keep walking.” I need to have more positive thoughts! This is when I wish I had my iPod.

It happened. I walked on the bridge. I knew it would keep happening. I got back into my brain and shook it off. I didn’t have a real goal anyway! F’ck it, let me just get over this boring section of the course! So, mile 15 and 16 (8:32 and 9:25) suffered with lots of walking.

Then miles 17-19 I was back! There were people! I took some Gu since I figured the fuel from the Ucan was done by now and suffered through the mileage. I knew that I was slowing down again. I kept alternating with Gatorade and Water because I was sweating profusely. As I was running up 1st avenue, my boyfriend’s mother and sister called out to cheer! It was great to see them! I also wondered why they were still area (maybe they were tracking me also or were watching other runners as well)  I hope that they were just spectating because I hadn’t seen him along the course. I actually told people not to track me haha since I thought I’d be walking the entire thing

Photo by Ben Ko
Photo by Ben Ko

The sun had started to come out (and I hate the heat) and I was beginning to feel it. I was beginning to annoy myself also. I somehow got something stuck in my shoe and I kept hitting my shoe on grooves to remove it. I was worried about twisting my ankle. I kept thinking that my feet would get damaged if I don’t get that object from under my shoe. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t tired, I was annoyed. This was a new experience at a marathon ever.

It finally came off, and I have no idea what it was but 20-23 were ran closer to 9 minutes for NO REASON but lots of walking. I remembered last week when I suffered on Marine Corps Course because of the emotional battles within myself. I pushed through there, I might as well now!

Photo by Thomas Yong Hwan
Photo by Thomas Yong Hwan

I met another whippet who was struggling. We decided to be each other’s run/walk buddies for a bit. I felt bad because I had to leave her and continue on. I hate seeing suffering through marathons! Even worse being teammates! Regardless, this is still a race and I intended to do my best even if I’m in mediocre shape—I knew she understood. I refocused to thinking that I was still having a good time. 24 was the slowest I did walk on that hill. I met Ray on there who ran to take my photo. It was great to see him!

Photo by Ray Schwartz
Photo by Ray Schwartz

I looked at my Garmin finally. When I realized I could pick it up and actually PR it was too late. I basically walked away a BQ!

I entered the park to make up some time. I was familiar with Cat Hill so going down would be easy. I heard one of the coaches calling out to me and I waved. I heard some others but weren’t sure who they were! Later I realized it was actually my boyfriend’s mother and sister again! They snapped a photo and I looked really strong when I got into the park! I felt strong!

However, I HATE going out of the park and reentering to end this race. I started walking again! A woman passed by and said, “Hey you’re wearing fast shoes!” I looked down at hers, she was wearing the same one I had! The New Balance 890s V4!

“Thank you!” I started jogging. I had gotten into my head again thinking “What if I run the same time again?” I ran 3 marathons, different courses, at the same damn time. I needed to get out of my 3:47/3:48 rot.

I did. 3:43—my best time. Well, it’s a great PR from last week… 11 minutes faster running a marathon a week apart and almost 5 minutes better than last year’s NYC marathon.

Happinesssssss

12208739_10101505812591535_1890836645623624556_nFor all that I’ve been through in these past weeks and months. This experience was needed. I needed something bright. I needed to feel like I overcame something. I’m certainly running from something. The marathon is filled with so many contradictions! What a rollercoaster of emotions I went through!

I’m really fortunate right now despite some setbacks in the past few weeks. I’m not signed up for any races for a while (because I have to find a job—or jobs—since I’m freelancing).

So, I’ll keep everyone posted. I’m focused on shorter—although that 60K is damn tempting.

I have a great support group of family and friends—along with a fantastic man who has made this journey bearable. By the way, I beat my boyfriend’s time unintentionally (he told me he owes me flowers). Apparently, while I had a great race, many others didn’t—but the marathon is like that. According to his mother, no runner is ever happy with their time.

Thanks so much for the final photo Wamsi! Also grateful to have received my medal from a fellow whippet. What a great way to end this race!

You’ve officially followed me to marathons 8 & 9!

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