Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Marathon Update--a few months later...

Most of this blog has been sitting in my "edit" on Blogger account for almost 9 months now... so, here goes nothing!
The Marathon Recap:
(original text)
In some ways it was a blur. It all went by so quickly. And then I think how strange it is that over 4 hours of physical taxing could be a blur?
My day started at 6am in Brooklyn. The day before had been a busy one with the DBF's sister's baby shower and a coaching in Brooklyn so it made sense to just stay out in the borough and figure out the best way to make it to the marathon start point in Staten Island. You hit all 5 boroughs of New York City during the race, but Staten Island pretty much gets the shaft, since you arrive only to leave it via the Verrazanno Bridge. The question was how and when to get to start.
You are assigned a start time (mine was 10:10am) and you are also assigned the appropriate travel method depending on your direction from which you arrive. I was scheduled to take the Staten Island Ferry at 6:15. There was also a bus leaving from my favorite running store in Brooklyn at 6am. Now, I felt like this was too early. What was I going to do once I GOT to Staten Island? There's food, sure, and coffee... But it seemed to me to take advantage of Daylight Savings, sleep in a little more and figure out another, later, mode of transportation had it's advantages. Like enjoying more sleep, eating at home, not going to the bathroom as many times in a port-a-potty.
The DBF and I spent a long time trying to figure it out and eventually decided I could take a MTA bus from Bay Ridge Brooklyn to Staten Island. We checked three websites, all of them said the bus would be running at 8am, which would bring me to Staten Island via the Verrazanno Bridge by 8:30 and still give me more than enough time to do what I needed to do. But The DBF couldn't figure out how this was possible. He woke up at 6am on Race Day morning convinced it had to be an error, that since they close the bridge, there's no way there are buses running, and I would get there and be stranded in Bay Ridge.
So we changed plans: I took a car service into Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry and was on the 7:30 Ferry with thousands of other runners. It's overwhelming to see the first conglomeration of runners, all standing in the terminal of the Ferry. You see their bags and they say countries like Poland, New Zealand, Finland, and you just start to get a small sense of the magnitude of the whole event. 43,000+ athletes, plus thousands of volunteers, and thousands of spectators. It's like the state fair times a million. Except instead of people single minded about cheese fries, people are single minded about running the marathon.
It was at this point that I cried for the first time. I had brought my phone with me (wrapped in a ziplock bag so to avoid water damage from sweat), and was checking my Facebook updates while waiting in line, and read my friend Kate Clawson Kunkel's update, which said:

This is important: Stop right now. Look around you. Notice what you have. Now love it, with everything you've got.
Sometimes, we run out of time for these things.
And that was the first time I cried. Just amazed at the sheer magnitude of the number people, both the runners as well as the volunteers, overwhelmed by excitement and anticipation. There was no dread, which I had thought I'd feel, no fear. Just promise. It is very exhilarating to be with that many people focused on a similar goal.
Eventually we were shepherded from the terminal onto the Staten Island Ferry itself, and I decided to take this opportunity to find a vantage point on the right side of the boat so I could get a glimpse of The Statue of Liberty. This was the second time I cried. Overwhelmed with pride of being an American, of being a New Yorker. Watching all the other runners grab their cameras and take pictures, it is truly a wonderful site. I forget sometimes how wonderful this city is (I don't really ever forget how wonderful it is to live in America), but you take things like The Statue for granted when it's just "there".
After a short trip the Ferry arrives in Staten Island and there is another herding process to get the runners onto Shuttle buses to take you to the start village. This was the first time when I really noticed the amazing infrastructure of the whole operation. It was a very well oiled machine. Runners walked down a long side walk and buses would line up along partitioned exit points, their front and back doors opening for entrance, and runners would just get on the first one that was available to them. It was really easy. No pushing, no shoving, no over crowding. I found a nice seat and watched Staten Island go by as we drove to the start village.
The runners are categorized into a few different groups. One has to do with your projected running ability. Obviously the competitive men and women start at different times than those people like me who have a pipe dream to run a marathon, or maybe run often but don't run for a competitive (monetary) finish. And within the three different start times, there are three color groups: orange, blue and green. Each group has its own mini-village within the village.
The next thing I noticed was the amazing number of port-a-potties! I read online that in the start village alone there are over 1600! I have never seen so many in my life. But here comes my list of things I would recommend to someone running the marathon:
Bring along to the start village a pack of travel kleenex and travel disenfecting wipes. Even though it's early, there are a lot of people. By my second trip to the port-a-potties my chosen stall had run out of toilet paper, and could really have used a nice sanitary, antibacterial wipe to wipe down some surfaces. I happened to have kleenex, but without the latter I just had to make due.
My hydration and nutrition plan was enacted starting the week before the marathon. My goal to try to stay as hydrated as possible all week long. No alcohol, and no caffeine aside from one cup of coffee in the morning, and then as much water as possible all day long. Then race morning to wake up, drink a large glass of water, and keep hydrating until 8am. 8am was my cut off time, just a little over 2 hours before my start, giving my body enough time to process the water I drank in the morning, and hopefully not giving me the nervous/anxious/I have to go to the bathroom feeling, because I would know I was fine. I forced myself to throw away my water bottle on the Ferry when we hit 8am, which felt strange and I suddenly felt dry and naked, but I knew I was totally hydrated and would have water along the course, so I tried to remind myself that everything was fine.
I needed to use the bathroom immediately once arriving at the start village, and then I used it one last time before going to my corral to line up. When I ran my half marathon by the end of the 13.1 miles I had to go to the bathroom so badly I could barely run anymore, so I wanted to avoid making that mistake in the marathon (which would also last twice as long!). I can safely say that my hydration/bathroom plan was perfect!
I was really fortunate that I was in the first corral of my color to leave. This is partially a mistake. When I had first signed up for the lottery for the Marathon, and I was still using Nike+, so I hadn't quite realized that it was just a little off. Therefore I had estimated my projected time to finish at just under 4 hours. (I also remember that one of the guys on The Biggest Loser ran his marathon in 4 hours and I thought "I'm sure I can run just as fast as THAT guy!") More on this later. But there were two benefits to being in the first corral:
1. It was sunny. Though it was nippy, in the sun it was quite warm. So in our holding row at least I had some sunshine.
2. I crossed the start line very quickly, and with the other "athletes", so I didn't need to fight my way through throngs of people to find my stride, I had an easy path to start.
While we were waiting, I sat in the grass and finally shed some layers. There are tons of volunteers collecting clothing to be donated, since many people dress for the weather but then don't need to be dressed that warmly to run. So people shed layers throughout their runs. I had dressed in my Team Free Arts long sleeved tech shirt, and my black running capris. I wore my standard socks, my standard shoes, heart rate monitor watch and chest band, and a SPI Belt loaded with GUs, chapstick and $20. Just in case. Of what, I don't know. But The DBF always wants me to have money with me when I run.
To the start village I also wore: 1 long sleeved t-shirt, a zip up fleece, a pair of warm up pants, fleece hat, fleece gloves, and a pair of tube socks I stole from The DBF and cut the feet off of to use as leg warmers (this in retrospect was pretty brilliant). The long sleeved shirt and the pants were donated right away, but I kept my "leg warmers" on until the last minute.
At this point I sat myself down in a spot in the grass and just said a short prayer. I don't really remember what the prayer itself was, something like "Thank you for getting me here. Please let's make it fun!" I cried again a little then.
We couldn't see the profesisonals and the members of the first wave at the start, but we could hear their gun firing to start, and hear Sinatra start singing "New York, New York" (which made it feel like the end of a Yankee's game, which was just a little weird! Things were just getting started!...). A few minutes after that, we were shepherded to our start. From my vantage point of the start line I called The DBF just to check in and say goodbye (he was up early for two conference calls, on a Sunday morning, no less!) I remember him saying the calls went well and then I replied "Great. Okay, I gotta go run a marathon." and some people around me chuckled. I hung up the phone, got everything repacked in the right pockets, and got focused. Someone sang America The Beautiful (I couldn't see him, nor did I catch the name when the announcer introduced him). I sung along and two Germans in front of me took my picture, which made me want to cry again. A little chit-chat led to a little chit-chat auf Deutsch, and then we took pictures together. No clue who they are. I will probably never see it again!
And this is where I stopped blogging... Awesome, Anna Lise. Way to leave a whole year in between to write your recap.
More later.

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