But I was concerned about my always creeping up heart rate. And I was over pace. My Garmin race buddy had me over 2 minutes ahead of him (My Garmin has a virtual race partner, who runs at a constant pace. You can then see if you are ahead or behind him. More on this later.)
And running in Queens produced one memory that will stick with me a long time – I saw an Achilles runner with no legs. Achilles runners are the special needs or handicapped runners. Some are blind, some are physically handicapped, but all the epitome of effort. At about mile 12, I saw a relatively young kid with no legs, running with crutches and a large prosthetic spring- like leg attached under his waist. No legs. I thought to myself “Wow – did I really just see someone on crutches, no legs, racing through the marathon? “ That is some good fire.
Anyway, after I passed the half way point, I knew it was going to be a long ride home. My dreams of Boston Qualifying were long gone; my miles were averaging around 7:45, and my half time was 1:43. But now I was focused on the 3:30 goal. I was on time for that, and just don’t get over excited –it is still a long 13 miles to glory. And I was getting freaked out about my heart rate, by now consistently in the high 160’s – averaging 90% of max.
But now we are coming to my favorite part – the 59th St Bridge and First Avenue. The trip up the bridge seemed to be longer than I remembered and more uphill also. But what goes up must come down, so I am ok with it. And my wife and daughter are at mile 17.5. But I am not feeling so good.
Turning off the bridge onto First Avenue was everything I had remembered. People cheering everywhere and wow -- what a sight looking down First Avenue. Brings chills thinking about it. Here is a YouTube video of First Ave filmed by someone in an apartment overlooking the street.
Another of my favorite parts is running by Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital on 68th St and seeing the children from the cancer ward cheering you on. Fred’s Team is a charity that runs to raise money for cancer care, and this is their cheering station. It is so inspiring to see the nurses and patients out there clapping and enjoying the day.
My right hamstring started to tighten up. And I was a little dehydrated. The marathon has water stops at every mile. My hydration plan was plan was to alternate the miles water, Gatorade and skip. So I would drink two out of every three miles. It wasn’t an overly warm day and I wasn’t sweating that much really.
At First and 80th, hooking up with the family was great. My 9 year old was jumping up and down saying “Daddy don’t stop! Keep going! Don’t stop!” I wanted to stop right there and take a nap. My hammy hurt, I was peaking in HR in the mid 170’s –over 95%, which is darn near impossible to maintain. I took a piece of bread for fuel and went on. The bread was a really bad idea – it sucked all moisture out of my mouth. Had to get an extra cup of water for that.
Up First Avenue to the Willis Avenue bridge, at 124th. Made it about halfway up the bridge and took my first walk break just at the mile 20 mark. I wasn’t going to make sub 3:30 and had lots of cushion to make 3:30 something -- I figured I could run 9 minute miles over the next 6.2 and easily hit my goal.
After a walk break, I ran some, walked some. Right hamstring was really, really tight and it hurt badly. I felt like I wasn’t moving my leg at all, just swinging it with my hip. For about 20 seconds I thought of quitting, but I wasn’t going to do that. Miles went by slower and slower, and I wanted to save some energy for the Fifth Avenue stretch and Central Park (which starts at Mile 23 or so). And the miles just kept getting longer. Thankfully my heart rate was under control and would slow when I took a walk break (if your HR doesn’t decrease with a decrease in effort, it is a major concern.)
I met the family again in Central Park at Mile 24. I actually felt OK at this point and it is all downhill from there. Crowds were just awesome, and the fellow runners were just chewing up the pavement. I was looking forward to the end, but this was a blast.
Resolving to stay strong and run out the finish, I made the turn out of the park at mile 25 and onto Central Park South. Great crowds again, and a nice 8:30 minute mile would put me in at around 3:38 or so. My Garmin racing buddy was going crazy. I would be behind by 8 minutes, and then 15 the next. So I couldn’t really figure out my “cushion” for a 3:3x time, but the clocks on the course were all over.
Then, about 1/3rd of the mile from home, I had an enormous cramp in my left hammy. AHHHHHH! I had to pull up and hop off the course. It wasn’t so bad that I collapsed (as happened to a guy about 10 yards ahead of me), but it rendered me immobile. I stopped, stretched, rubbed it, hobbled some, and about that time a Dutch runner named Martin (it was written on his jersey), stopped and said “Come on we are almost there. You can make it.” And then he was gone. Hardly Knute Rockne-esque, but he was right, and I started again, slowly at first and then back in stride. After about 100 yards from the finish, I saw Martin and gave him a thumbs up and said thanks. But I knew that the cramp had just cost me the 3:3x.
Jogged across the line, feeling glad it was over, sorry that the last 6 miles were such a trudge, but also pleased with the world and everyone in it. I had just finished the New York marathon and set a PR.
After the Finish Line
After the finish line, they hand you a mylar blanket wrap and your medal. And then you have to walk down this road trying to find your truck with your bag from the start. Medical people are everywhere, like every 20 yards. I honestly felt nauseous. And my gut was in a huge knot, feeling terrible. I felt neither of those things in the course, but at the end I felt dizzy and faint and just sick. But I kept walking. If I sat down, I knew it wasn’t going to get any better and I would be in real trouble. I ate the energy bar in my finisher bag. And drank Gatorade. Slowly started feeling better. I remember thinking, “I am never doing that again.” A half marathon is so much easier and manageable.
After I got my bag and headed out to meet the family, I was already thinking about next year. How I was going to train, what I was going to do differently. And vowing to myself, “I’ll be back.”
Distance Split time Avg. HR Time
1.00 9:17 150 (81%) 0:09:17
2.00 6:35 153 (82%) 0:15:53
3.00 7:34 165 (89%) 0:23:27
4.00 7:48 165 (89%) 0:31:16
5.00 7:42 164 (88%) 0:38:59
6.00 7:32 165 (88%) 0:46:31
7.00 7:36 167 (90%) 0:54:08
8.00 7:48 167 (90%) 1:01:56
9.00 7:44 168 (90%) 1:09:41
10.00 7:35 166 (89%) 1:17:16
11.00 7:45 169 (91%) 1:25:01
12.00 7:45 169 (91%) 1:32:47
13.00 7:46 171 (92%) 1:40:33
14.00 7:50 172 (93%) 1:48:23
15.00 7:54 174 (93%) 1:56:17
16.00 8:10 177 (95%) 2:04:28
17.00 7:28 174 (94%) 2:11:56
18.00 8:15 169 (91%) 2:20:12
19.00 7:53 172 (93%) 2:28:05
20.00 8:54 173 (93%) 2:37:00
21.00 8:57 168 (90%) 2:45:57
22.00 10:03 163 (87%) 2:56:01
23.00 9:07 165 (89%) 3:05:08
24.00 10:50 159 (85%) 3:15:59
25.00 9:27 164 (88%) 3:25:27
26.00 9:06 166 (89%) 3:34:33
26.81 6:38 172 (92%) 3:41:12