The NYC Marathon 2018

From the very beginning of my running career,11ish years ago, I dreamed of running the NYC Marathon. I said that’s how I wanted to see NYC for the first time, on foot, in the biggest marathon in the world. Pretty bold for a girl who’d never ran more than 4 consecutive miles, but when I say I’m going to do something, I usually do it.

I applied to the lottery of the NYC Marathon after running just one, super devastating marathon. I really didn’t think I would get in, I had heard story after story of people who had been applying for years and never made it in. Out of about 150,000 entries about 15,000 people were selected, and I was one of them.

My training started in July and went really well all summer. I was running some really fast road races, including at 20 minute 5K and a 41:35 10K in September. At the end of September I started having serious pain in my lower abs and hip flexor, a pain that made running nearly impossible. I was forced to take a couple weeks off while I let myself heal. I wasn’t able to run on my birthday and I had to miss a half marathon I was planning on racing. I was devastated. After my summer road races I thought would for sure run a PR, but my coaches convinced me it would be better to be heal and be healthy for New York. After the short break I resumed my training and was able to run mostly pain free up until the race. The longest run I had prior to the injury was 17 miles and once I resumed training my longest run was 13 miles. I was nervous that this was going to be a detriment to the marathon, but I wasn’t going to miss this race for anything.

I did a few things different for this race than I have for my last two marathons:

  • It was my first out of state marathon, so I needed a place to stay. My sister, Amanda Frances, booked us the corner suite at the top of the Mandarin Oriental. Our room had the most incredible views overlooking Central Park where the race would finish and the staff treated me like I was an elite runner.

  • Lisa, our Wahoo team dietitian, put together a nutrition plan for me. I was going to take in more carbs and calories before and during the race than I had in my last two marathons, around 800 calories.

  • Carlee with Wahoo! Running developed a race plan for me with a finish time of 3:28, this would be a 15 minute PR and a Boston Qualifying time. It was an aggressive goal, and I realized might not be possible considering the injury I sustained during training, but I wanted to give it a shot. I had been running with Wahoo for about a year, but this was my first Wahoo designed training and race plan.

Race Morning

I woke up at 4am, took a quick shower, and put on my gear. Room service brought in my massive order of oatmeal around 4:30 and I ate almost the entire bowl, despite not feeling hungry at all. I made my way to the subway around 5am, bought my ticket, and stood around anxiously with the other runners. This was my first time on the subway and I was grateful it was with a bunch of other runners all trying to get to the same place.

I made it to the Staten Island Ferry Station around 6am and laid on my back with my legs up the wall until my ferry arrived. Once I was on the ferry I ate a Clif bar and drank a full 20oz bottle of Gatorade, forcing myself to eat and drink, even though I still wasn’t hungry, trusting Lisa’s plan. The ferry took us to Staten Island where we had to hop in line for a bus that would take us to the start. The line for the bus took about 45 minutes and then the bus ride took about another 45 minutes. By the time we finally got off the bus it was 8:50, an hour until the start. I ate 4 Gu chews, at this point I had taken in about 300 grams of carbs. Throughout the race I’d eat 11 more Gu chews and drink about 36 ounces of Gatorade.

I made my way to the start corral just in time to hear the professional women get announced and take off. I found a place on the grass to stretch and reread the splits and nutrition plan I had jotted down on my arm.

Soon I was able to make my way to the start, not paying attention, I ended up in the wrong starting area, Green instead of Orange. (I’m not the most observant person). I figured it wouldn’t matter much and found a place to tie my shoes, and then re-tie them 3 more times before I actually took off.

I took a HotShot, said a little prayer and then it was time to go.

Staten Island (miles 1-2)

The start cannon went off and Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” played loudly as we crossed the start line and then it was quiet except for the sound off the thousands of runner’s footsteps as we crossed the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge. The first mile marker came quick, I was ahead of pace and tried to slow down.

Brooklyn (miles 3-12)

Once we were off the bridge so many men were running to the side to pee in the grass, I laughed thinking how convenient it must be to be able to do this, and ran on. Brooklyn was loud and full of energy. I was still ahead of pace, but not by too much, still I tried to slow down. I ran the first 5K at 8:26 pace, Carlee’s plan had me at 8:45 for these first few miles, but running slow at the start of any race is probably the hardest thing for me, and it’s definitely something I have to work on.

The Brooklyn miles were my favorite part of the race, my pace and effort was easy, the crowd was incredible, and I was able to easily follow my nutrition plan and get water or Gatorade during the race as Lisa intended. I high-fived every little kid that had their hand out from the sidelines. Each time they’d get so excited and look up at their parents, like a high-five from a marathoner was a big deal, which really makes an average runner feel extremely important.

By the 10K I was at 8:37 pace and at the 15K I was at 8:12 pace. I was still faster than my race plan intended, but I felt good. At mile 11 the noise from the crowd went from nearly deafening to completely silent when we entered the Hasidic Neighbohoods of Williamsburg, all you could hear were the other runner’s foot steps around you while a few men on the sidewalk went about their regular Sunday business. I enjoyed the noise from the crowd in the first 11 miles, but the silence through the neighborhood was a little refreshing. My pace was around 8:04. I kept saying to myself “this is incredible.”

I was feeling really great, until I wasn’t.

Queens (miles 13-15)

Around the half way mark the pain in my hip flexor returned. I was pissed, I thought it had healed by now, but I tried to ignore it. My pace slowed to 8:17. Over the next few miles I kept repeating to myself “pain is temporary, pain is temporary.” Around the same time I saw a sign that said “pain is just a French word for bread.” I laughed, and put my focus back on trying to stick to my race plan. As I ran on the Queensboro Bridge at mile 14 it started to become difficult to get my legs to turn over, my stride got shorter, and my other hip flexor started to ache, and then my lower back ached as well. I said to myself, “yeah, pain is temporary…but it is painful.” By this point my pace slowed to 8:30, 30 seconds slower than I needed to be running at this point.

Manhattan Part 1 (miles 16-18)

I got off the bridge and stopped at the side and took the second HotShot I kept in my pocket. Spectators yelled encouraging things at me noticing I had stopped. Other runners said “keep going, you’re doing great” as they passed. I slapped my thighs, glutes, quads, and calves and said to myself: “okay, just 10 more miles, just pretend those last 16 didn’t happen, you can run 10 miles, 10 miles is easy.”

I was supposed to pick up the pace at this point, but I just couldn’t, my pace was about 8:23, still too slow. Around mile 18 I stopped at the Biofreeze station and rubbed it into my legs, hoping for some relief, but it didn’t make much of a difference. I jogged along, disappointed I couldn’t make my legs turn over faster, but still so overwhelmed by the crowd around me. I was upset I couldn’t go faster, but I was thrilled just to be in the race. So many emotions all happening at the same time.

The Bronx (miles 19-20)

The crowd was a little thinner through the Bronx. I really started to struggle. I just could not get my stride to open up. I went over the splits in my head, realizing this might not even be a PR. I kept telling myself “it doesn’t matter what the outcome is, this has been an amazing day, you’ve seen and experience so much over the last couple hours.” I was in the NYC Marathon, and that in itself is a honor.

The woman on the Madison Avenue Bridge with the megaphone yelling “last damn bridge” made me laugh and got my mind off the pain. The bridges really didn’t bother me, but I appreciated her support.

Manhattan Part 2 (miles 21 - 26.2)

By mile 21 I slowed significantly to about 8:53 pace. I wanted to be at 7:30 pace at this point. The crowds got much louder as we approach Central Park around mile 23, I started doing the math, and thought a PR was for sure out of my reach.

I could see Columbus Circle in the distance, which was right outside our hotel, I knew my sister would be close. We had walked the final mile of the race the night before. I started to feel some relief just knowing where I was and the finish was near.

My sister pushed her through the crowd telling the other spectators “my sister is about to pass!” The amazing spectators helped her get to the front saying “let her through, her sister is going to pass!” They asked my name and helped her cheer as I ran by and turned the corner into the park.

Once I got to the 25 mile marker, I re-did the math and realized a PR was still possible, but I was going to have to make this mile fast…really fast. Somehow I dug deep and was able to picked it up to about 6:39 pace while weaving through the other runners on the course. The crowd was deafening, I thought Brooklyn was loud, but it was nothing like this.

The final kick hurt, bad, but I pushed until I saw the finish, and then pushed a little more.

I crossed the finish line and instantly started crying. They announced my name and I looked down and realized I didn’t stop my watch. “Shit, what was my time?” I quickly pulled out my phone and looked up the race tracker. 3:42:54, just barely a PR, but a PR. I was so relieved to have crossed the finish line. That’s really what the marathon is, a quest to reach a destination.

It wasn’t a Boston Qualifying time, and I’d be lying if I said I was satisfied with my race performance. I’m still waiting for my great race. It’ll come.

Marathons are a lot like life, you do your best to plan, but you have to just deal with it as it comes.

On to the next one…

  • The fuel plan Lisa put together for me definitely had a positive impact. I never felt tired or sluggish during the race despite the pain in my hip flexors. If you aren’t fueling during marathons, you really need to try it. If you’d like more information on race nutrition you can reach out to Lisa on Instagram here.

  • The plan Wahoo put together for me was so much better than the plans I used for my first two marathons. I’m really excited to see what they put together for me for the OKC Marathon next April. If you’d like more information on Wahoo’s race plans you can check out their website here.