New York City Marathon: Race Reflections

New York City Marathon: Race  Reflections 2018

The alarm went off at 3:50 AM. It was finally race day for the New York City Marathon! I was so tired, but I dragged myself up by 4:00 AM. As I prepared, I checked off each task that I had written out the night before:

Race Day Essentials

KT Tape On: Check

Body Chafing Stick: Check

Outfit: Check

Hydration Belt: Check

Gels/Bars/Waffles/Gum: Check

Music: Check

Eat Toast/Peanut Butter: Check

Drink Nuun Hydration Electrolytes/Caffeine: Check

Heading to the Marathon

I left my apartment at 4:50AM to catch the 5:30AM bus to Staten Island leaving from the Public Library in Bryant Park. When I arrived, everything was roped off and we had to wait in long lines for the bus. Props to NYRR though – everything went off without a hitch and our bus even left four minutes early.

The bus ride was supposed to last 90 minutes. I was planning to sleep, but I couldn’t – it was too hot. Instead, I listened to music and the two chatty runners behind me. They discussed their past races, the New York City Marathon course, past injuries, etc. Next time I’ll take a later bus – we arrived at 6:10AM nearly an hour earlier than expected.

After going through security, I arrived in the Villages. Each wave had its own village dictated by an assigned bib color: blue, green or orange. I was in the Orange Village. It was early but at least there was free food and drinks – something I didn’t expect. Dunkin had a truck that provided hot chocolate, tea and coffee – super helpful in the cold. They also were passing out orange and pink colored beanies. This was clutch since I didn’t bring a beanie. There was also a puppy therapy tent, a Gatorade tent passing out gels, and other tents too.

Once I grabbed some coffee and a beanie, I found a quiet spot to sit for a little bit to eat a Kind Bar. There were lots of runners huddled around shivering. Luckily for me, since I was running through TFK (Team for Kids), I knew there was a heated tent waiting for me. I found the TFK tent and stayed there until the race started.

Shortly before the race, the TFK athletes stretched and headed into our corrals together. As we made our way to the Verrazano Bridge, I chatted with a first-time marathoner from San Francisco. Right before we started, the National Anthem played, NYRR’s Peter Ciaccia gave his last official race start before retirement, and three helicopters flew overhead. At 9:55AM, the start gun went off and just like that the New York City Marathon was under way.

The New York City Marathon Miles Breakdown:

Staten Island and Brooklyn

Miles 1-3: I was put in a faster wave than what I expected. Instead of the 4:20 hour pace group, I was somehow placed in the corral with the 3:20-3:30 group. For the first mile, I purposely ran slow since we were running the incline on the Verrazano Bridge, but once we hit the decline I sped up. Needless to say, I started off a little too hot, but I felt ok. And just like that, we were in Brooklyn and already receiving crowd support. Fast forward a couple miles, I was heating up more than usual (long sleeves and compression tights felt great in the early hours leading up to the race but the sun was out now) and I was fatigued and hungry already – not good signs for the start of a marathon.

Miles 4-8: By Mile 4, my energy was low and my body wasn’t quite right. At this point, I was majorly overheating. I took a Go Isotonic Energy Gel earlier than usual, and I removed the Dunkin beanie and stuffed it in one of my already full pockets (I wanted it as a souvenir!). There wasn’t much else I could do besides roll up my sleeves and continue running.

Mile 9: I never walk in half marathons, but something was different. I was majorly off.  I started a run/walk combo on Mile 9. Knowing I wouldn’t PR, I pulled off to the side and used the outhouse, collected myself and ate a Honey Stinger Waffle to propel me forward. I also texted my wife to bring a short-sleeved shirt, Nuun electrolytes and water to Mile 14, where she was planning to meet me with my parents.

Miles 10-13: The crowd support was great as we raced down the streets of Brooklyn. The problem? I was walking for a good portion of this strip. It was deflating to walk so early when I knew I was capable of so much more. By Mile 13, I could see Queens approaching. Each step brought me closer to my family, my home running routes (I live in Queens and know these streets well), and most importantly at the time: a short-sleeved shirt.

Queens 

Mile 14: My wife threw me the short-sleeved shirt and I ran into an outhouse right off the course. Changing my outfit took longer than I expected since I had to transfer the bib to the new shirt and move everything that was in my shirt pocket to my pants.  However, I immediately felt better once I was out of that long-sleeved shirt and hydrated with Nuun.

Queens and Manhattan

Mile 15-18: Although I felt cooler, the damage had already been done. I had another gel and refocused myself, but my body was working overtime. When I made it to the Queensboro Bridge, I allowed myself to walk it up – only running when I needed to pass slower walkers. I tried everything to continue pushing through as I ran down the bridge and into Manhattan. I told myself, “I’ll walk the next block and then I’ll run the next three.” I did that through Manhattan until I felt muscle cramps starting. Then I would slowly halt to a walk. I was pushing all the gels, waffles and hydration that I could get my hands on.

Bronx and Manhattan

Miles 19-25: I was so happy to get into the Bronx. The music was better and I pushed myself harder than what I had in Manhattan – Thank You Bronx! I enjoyed their crowd support and atmosphere the best of all five boroughs. As I headed back into Manhattan, I could taste the finish line, but I was still a long way off and my body was thrashed. I was out of gels and waffles. All I had left was Run Gum, which helped put electrolytes and caffeine into my body – something I desperately needed. Then, I finally made it back to Central Park – the home stretch.

Mile 26: I knew my family was watching at Mile 26, so I ran as much of it as I could. I didn’t want them to see me struggling. This was good, because it pushed me to run. I saw them on 56th right before I entered the turn back into Central Park through Columbus Circle.

Race Reflections

When I crossed the finish line, I was relieved and in pain. I completed another 26.2, but it was brutal – a physical, emotional and mental challenge. I fought through it regardless, but this race was harder than it should’ve been.

Overall, I was a lot more prepared for the New York City Marathon than my first, the Disney World Marathon. I trained better and had matured as a runner. I had been looking forward to a PR.

Even though my time was slower, it felt faster. I attribute that to growing mentally and physically as a runner– my body is capable of handling harder beatings than it used to be. As disappointed as I am, I know there will be more opportunities to improve. I learned a lot during this race and know what I need to do next time to improve.

Disney World Marathon

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARAFINISHLINE1_20180107_407974441588My First Marathon at Disney World (January 2018)

8 months of training. Countless hours of running. 5 half marathons completed. It all came down to one moment.

On a brisk Florida morning, I waited in Corral D with 20,000 other runners around me. As each corral started, Mickey sent fireworks up in the air signifying our start. I waited impatiently for my corral to be called and to cross the start line.

I was antsy, anxious, and a little sleep deprived. The alarm had gone off at 2:30 am. I had stuffed a bagel with peanut butter in my mouth, got ready, and hydrated. I boarded the Disney Bus by 3:15am and arrived in the Epcot parking lot by 3:50am. Then, it was a matter of waiting in the cold for the race to start at 5:30am (TMI pro-tip: I hid in the out houses a few times to keep warm).

When corral D was called, I started my 26.2 journey at 5:51am. It was pitch black. It was cold. It was full of many Disney enthusiasts dressed in an assortment of costumes. I wore my classic, sleek black attire – black Under Armour compression tights, black Nike shorts, and a black Nike long sleeved shirt. And then I rocked my highlighter Nike shoes.

Miles 1-4: The first few miles were tough. I felt great, but I was continually weaving around people pacing slower. I was also keeping an eye on the road as lots of runners had discarded jackets and blankets in the beginning of the course (and it was dark!). I didn’t want to trip in the beginning and wreck my ankles.

Overall, I could tell this race was going to be phenomenal. The runners were energetic, the morning seemed magical, and the Disney staff were great. Before I knew it, I was logging mile 3 of my first marathon. I still couldn’t believe that all my training was for this moment happening right now.

The mile markers illuminated the clock time in red and displayed fun Disney characters on the signs. Lots of runners veered off the path to get pictures with the mile markers. There were also numerous Disney characters to wait in line to get pictures with. Naturally there were long lines to get pictures with the characters. As amazing as pictures would’ve been, I opted to stick to my game plan of running my first marathon with as few stops as possible (less chance of getting tired, wrecking my time, waiting around in line and getting stiff, etc.).

Mile 5-6: By mile 5 I was approaching Magic Kingdom. In my opinion, all Disney parks have an enchanting, magical side to them. Growing up in Southern California, we had Disneyland passes for several years. The magic never subsided. As I ran through the Magic Kingdom gates and approached the winter castle, I was so excited. I stopped for a few selfies with the castle in the background. I looped through Tomorrowland, veered through Fantasyland and ran through the castle gates. It was amazing. The spectators cheered all throughout Magic Kingdom which made me run faster. We cut out through Frontierland. Just like that, I was through Magic Kingdom and 6 miles into my trek.

Miles 7-11: At this point, the running crowd had thinned out and I was feeling pretty good. At mile 8, I had my first Go Isotonic energy gel – an apple sauce flavored gel with 22gs of carbs. I had a small hydration belt around my waste with 3 of these gels for the race. Miles 8-11 were great miles – I was excited, texted my wife and brother a picture, and enjoyed the race. It was fun looking at other runner’s creative costumes and letting the energetic vibrations fuel me further.

Miles 12-14: I entered the Animal Kingdom property (my 2nd favorite Disney World Park). I swung by Everest, ran by the Tree of Life and overall felt decent. However, I could tell my body was starting to break down a little bit.

When I was training, the most I ever ran was 16.25 (with a few rest stops thrown in). I knew going into the race that I would have to do a run/walk combo. My goal was to start that around mile 17-18.

Mile 15: I swung out of Animal Kingdom and started to feel a little discomfort and fatigue setting in. I passed the 15-mile marker and realized that I was going to have to start my run/walk combo earlier than expected. I considered pushing my body for an additional 2 miles, but I figured long term that would break me down faster. After mile 15, I started to walk a bit. I took another Go Isotonic Apple energy gel, had some Gatorade at a nearby station, and then took some electrolyte jelly beans they were passing out. After about half a mile walking (my longest walk without running), I felt good enough to push myself further and start running.

Mile 16-20: These miles were tough. I stopped at every water station and had both a cup of water and Gatorade from Miles 16-20. I headed towards the ESPN World of Sports Center (Miles 18-20). I started feeling it in my hamstrings and my body seemed to be getting a lot stiffer. I could tell I was losing mobility. I was doing everything I could hydration and carb wise to push forward. My mentality was strong, I knew I was going to finish, but my body was breaking down.

At mile 20, I took my last Go Isotonic gel. I got another pack of the electrolyte jelly beans they were passing out and continued to hydrate.

Miles 21-22: These two miles were tough as well. I was at the point where I had to stop running to give my hammys a chance to recover a bit before continuing. My quads were starting to feel it too.

Mile 23: By mile 23, we entered Hollywood studios and I knew we were close. The water station had candy. I thought it was electrolyte candy, but it turned out to be regular M&Ms. By the time we were running in Hollywood Studios, the park was open and people were cheering us on. I used that energy and started running faster. Unfortunately, as I started to hit my stride again, my left hammy started throbbing which forced me to walk. This was the worst it felt the whole race.

Mile 24-25: I walked for a bit. Then tested the hammy and it felt okay. I continued to do a run/walk combo through miles 24-25. I could taste success and the spectators grew louder and more encouraging. I felt like it was a disappointment to walk at this point. The spectators pushed me to continue moving forward (thank you!). I zoomed into Epcot with a mile left. I wanted to run the last mile, but unfortunately had to continue with my combo, a 1-2 punch.

Mile 26: As I passed mile marker 26, I started to get emotional. All the anticipation. All the training. All the half marathons. All the discussions were coming to a close. I never get emotional, but approaching the finish light got me excited, accomplished, emotional and energetic. I ran through the finish line at 4:43:08 with a 10:48 average pace.

I finished. I was relieved. I was excited. I was victorious.

I’m still in a high from last weekend. And I’m already dreaming about next year’s Disney World marathon and trying to decide what marathon I should train for in 2018.