Endless Runners, Perfect Weather, New Champions, Missing Cheers, and my Best Attempt @ the TCS New York City Marathon this year!

Ready, set, go…

Four times brings the charm. Who knew! Yep. Here I am once more, my fourth time, recapping the New York City Marathon. Thankfully, it’s my last! Back in 2014 when I had then decided that I would run this course until I was comfortable with the results, I never dreamed it would take four attempts. Well here we are five years later, and I’ve finally decided to call it quits and it’s hardly because I’ve finally run a “good” race. That in and of itself is arguable and only a small part of my decision to make this my last NYC marathon. What is closer to the truth is that I’m over fighting this race: the course, my body, and the change in weather, and the fact that over the years each time I stood in Staten Island toeing the startline, I have been somewhat incapacitated with everything from a sprain ankle to the flu. I’ve finally had enough and so I’m quitting while I’m ahead. It helps me feel better that I met my goal of finishing under 3 hours and 40 minutes though just barely. Many of my friends point out that this year I’ve had to deal with just a cold and cough so things are progressing..the cheek!..and point to this being my best time even so; therefore I couldn’t be serious. I am! For the foreseeable future, I will be leaving well enough alone and spreading my adventurous wings elsewhere. That being said, I have enjoyed the running challenge that this wonderfully diverse city has handed me. Many will agree that there is nothing straight forward or easy about the NYC Marathon. Fun tangential fact: many New Yorkers will also agree that there’s nothing straight forward or easy about living in NY either. LOL. In fact, of the eleven other courses I’ve run around the country, this course remains the most challenging outside of a Ragnar event I did in Cape Cod two years ago. The attraction for this race for many runners, I believe, is its location and famed one million strong spectators.

On to Marathon Village we go

This year was better than most as far as the weather was concerned. It began at 5:30 am with a 40 minute ride to the start in Staten Island via the midtown bus option, my preferred mode of transport now that I’ve had a go at the various options. We got off the busses to the usual flow of runners – hundreds of us – making our way to the security check point and through to marathon village. Windy and Staten Island is all the same with the water around us so you can appreciate that 7 am was no picnic but more like a refugee zone  with everyone staking out a bit of sunshine, covering – a rare sight- or a break from the wind behind a tarp, or under a blanket, or blankets, or covered up in just about any and everything warm you could legally bring into the area, right there in the middle of everything and everyone.

the masses cloak and dagger style

We were all layered up to our eyes and reaching out to the free buffet of coffee, tea, hot water, hot cocoa, and bagels courtesy the super amazing folks of Dunkin Donuts. No donuts though. I know! In any event we had lots to eat and hydrate us until start time, which in my case came soon enough as I was in the first wave and carded to start at 9:45 am.

they say it’s therapeutic

It helped some when I ran into some runners from my running group and we sorta hung out; got to pet the therapy dogs, visited the bathroom, took a couple pics, and then it was time to head to our assigned corrals. Apparently time flies when you’re hopping to keep the blood flowing.

Into the corrals we flowed and there were lines everywhere for the bathrooms, which I decided I definitely had to have a go at once more before the race started. But things were moving along nicely, though albeit too orderly – did I really have to stand in one line and wait my turn? I mean, come on! Cooling my heels in this cold? I had a race to run! Fine, so did everyone. And that’s how chill took on two very different meanings. Pretty soon it was our turn and we were moving and headed towards the Verrazano bridge and the start.

the bridge

It just never gets old on the top looking out: runners are divided into two groups when headed towards the bridge, some go under while others get the top – my preferred view – to ensure a smoother and safer start given the large number.

giving us the send off

On the bridge we can see the helicopters (NYPD and news) and cameras, the elite runners starting out, race officials and other VIP personnel. More importantly, we have an amazing view of the water as we run across the bridge to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York and into Brooklyn.

On the Verrazano Bridge

This year I stopped to snap a

on the Verrazano Bridge

few pics and strangely enough totally missed hearing Sinatra during my run across. I’m sure they started playing it eventually, Wave 1 was a big wave of runners after all.  Guess I’m just spoiled from the previous times.

selfie on the VB

Running through Brooklyn is always a huge hit. It is the most densely populated of all the boroughs in NYC and boy do they represent. Only this time I felt the crowds on Fourth Ave were a bit sparse here and there. Again, I’m just spoiled and feel confident that I’ve experienced a better showing at this race. Lafayette Ave is always a total scream show, it did not disappoint, miles 8-10 were amazing. Brooklyn remains my favorite part of the marathon course mainly because of the noisely cheering crowds and the fact that I’m usually still feeling great and running as strong as possible under whatever the prevailing circumstances are at the time. We entered the borough of Queens around mile 13 and I’m never looking forward to the advent of bridges on this rolling course much less to the mile-long Queensboro Bridge. The promise of a million spectators cheering for you on First Avenue in Manhattan is hard to beat though so that’s the head space I occupied while running those four miles in Queens. The crowds are never as large or as loud in this borough but they’re decent enough and hugely appreciated by all. Up till then, I’d been doing a good job of staying wide of the fuel stations so as not to get bogged down by runners in the rush to grab a drink. My strategy was to hit every other station and stick to the outer end. It worked to keep a steady momentum and to avoid any slip ups. Those volunteers though, were pulling double duty with their smiling, cheering, while serving us. Truly the best and the backbone of an event such as this.

Queensboro bridge is memorable because of its quiet – no spectators here – and the laboring breath of runners as we dig deep on its ascent. One miles feels more like two and I suppose everyone was glad when they finally began its descent to First Ave and the crowds, it has always been a welcome sight and sound to runners as we enter the borough of Manhattan. Only this time it wasn’t party as usual, the crowds appeared pushed back somewhat as you came off the bridge and the sea of spectators that are usually right there waiting weren’t. The question came up with some runners behind me, who appeared to be visitors, as they wondered aloud about the famed cheer crowd at this location. I offered that they should give it a minute and they would be sure to get that promised standing ovation, thinking that maybe the push back of the crowd meant that the cheers were imminent, except that never quite happened. For as I made my way under the bridge and onto first avenue while the crowds were there, for the most part anyway, they were not nearly as deafening as they’re so famous for. In fact, as my run slowly progressed up the avenue the crowds were downright thin in some areas and almost quiet in others. I thought about this for a few seconds then realized that that which I thought would be helpful at this point was not going to happen. I needed a distraction there and then, my feet were numb from my bad choice in shoes and my knees were beginning to hurt like hell. Support wasn’t coming on the waves of the crowd that day and so I did the only thing I could think of – I video-called my sister in Trinidad and allowed her chatter (which I couldn’t hear a lick of LOL) and excitement (no sense in not showing her what I was a part of) to push me up First Ave and all the way over the Willis Avenue Bridge and into the Bronx.

In the past when I had run through this area I had always been aware that Manhattan wasn’t far away; race day was no different. Six miles to go and I realized that it was pretty neat that I was actually going for another finish at this race that had plagued me in my inability to run it well and finish strong. At that point I started focusing on keeping a consistent pace and giving the fuel stations a wider berth. I also refused to look at my clock anymore from then, it was not helpful and I just couldn’t deal with another disappointment just then.

We were in Harlem and closing down on Fifth Avenue – my least favorite part of the race – mainly because it just wouldn’t quit and by then I was so ready to be done already. In hindsight, I have never really enjoyed this part of the race because of my get-to-the-finish-mindset. I’ve never taken the time to appreciate the hundreds of spectators lining the roadway screaming their hearts out with encouragement, maybe if I had been able to tap into that it would have inspired a more positive response at that point in the race. In any event, we eventually came to Engineer’s Gate entrance to Central Park and I’ll tell you right now, it felt amazing to be home. Yes, Central Park is my running home, so I was now on home turf and slowly closing in. With the help of the crowds and the familiarity of the course, I was able to pick up the pace a bit going down Cat Hill, and it lasted untill we turned off to head out to Central Park South. Then it was back to plodding away for the final mile, though I did try somewhat successfully, to focus on the spectators on this final leg and was ecstatic to find myself sooner that I expected back in the park with 800 meters to go. On the final run up, I was able to locate and touch the Trinidad and Tobago flag – as I have always done – and sprinted to the finish line to make it there in 3:39:41. Another one in the books and an apple for my efforts. While I’m not at all certain that was my best effort, it certainly was the best result I’ve had on this course. As to my best effort, I’m hardly itching to find out. 😜

I can still walk!

                          🍎🏅💐

Marathon Weekend: A Celebration of Running

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the New York City Marathon, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Runners cross the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge at the start of the New York City Marathon, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

You know you’re a goner/runner when there’s a super-huge racing event coming up and though you had made the decision the year earlier not to run, you’re here mad wishing that you could be running – my current predicament as it relates to the TCS New York City (NYC) Marathon this Sunday. Of course it doesn’t help that the city is abuzz with Marathon fever and I’m smack in the center of it. I’m running past the finish line and on part of the course during my weekly runs for crying out loud. Is it any wonder then? Add to that the number of runners who are so happy to share their epic moment and I’m just about ready to forget all about the challenges and pain of last year and take up anyone’s offer to run in their place – just to be a part of the drama. Then I’m reminded that I do have a part to play, albeit a less challenging one, but surely no less important. I’m happily volunteering at the start!

Post my first time running NYC Marathon, I decided there and then, that I would endeavor to run every other year, partly due to its challenging course and in large part because of the entry criteria. I felt this would leave me with more opportunity to travel and explore other courses. And it has to a large extent so I’m happy with my decision. Around this time though, it’s easy to get caught up in the madness of it all and if you’re me..well, there’s that competitive thing happening..it can’t be helped. As it is, thankfully I know my place and it’ll be out there on the course cheering on those running folks, pouring all the enthusiasm and encouragement that have inspired my running so many times back into hearts and minds of my fellow soul runners. It’s exciting, it’s different, it’s all about running and in it I’ve found my happy place so it’s all good really.

As a brief aside, we’ve stolen into November without much fanfare and with some pretty cool temps. My inner summer is jumping up and down with glee and I’m busy running making the most of the miracle of a Fall that is a bundle of gorgeousness, from the cool weather to the mirage of colors as far as the eye can see. I love it here. It’s the perfect weather for running why wouldn’t I? The predicted weather for Sunday seems pretty cool – high 40s with a bit of a headwind at the start and heading into Brooklyn, then warming up to a high of 58 with partly sunny skies. A marathoner can do wonders with this I think. These conditions are much preferred over last year, which was much warmer; for that we are thankful.

Meanwhile, we begin Marathon weekend with lots of running-related events: Ascis Extra Mile Challenge, the Marathon Opening Ceremony, The Marathon Expo, The Night of Champions dinner tonight, then the Abbott Dash to the Finish race tomorrow leading up to the Marathon on Sunday, which will kick off with the NYRR (New York Road Runners) Youth Invitational and the kids leading the way of the few final miles of the race. All in all, it’ll be a good weekend for running. Of course I’m getting my runs in amidst all of this. Juggling it all is half the fun.

centralpark.com

centralpark.com

 

 

 

Tips to a PR in the TCS New York City Marathon

Chief Petty Officer Noah Bray from Coast Guard Sector New York crosses the finish line at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, Nov. 2, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons.)

Chief Petty Officer Noah Bray from Coast Guard Sector New York crosses the finish line at the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, Nov. 2, 2014. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Frank Iannazzo-Simmons.)

It’s nine days to Marathon Sunday here in New York City. For a lot of runners that means nine days of excitement, anticipation and tapering. For many others it may mean nine days of trepidation, anxiety and stress. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the emotional spectrum, your feelings couldn’t be more valid as it relates to this marathon. Trumped as perhaps the best and one of the more challenging marathons out there, the hype is real and you will need all of your wits and will to master this course and wring a PR out of it.

The competitive runner understands that each race is different and that despite a well-executed training plan one has to be ready and willing to look at all avenues and consider all possibilities if the aim is finishing within a goal time.  As it is, the TCS New York City Marathon boasts a field size of 50,000 runners, the largest in the world, who are geared up to run the race of a lifetime hoping for the experience of a lifetime. It will be their special time on the running world stage where everyone gets a moment to shine – a shot at glory – if you will.

As a two-time New York City (NYC) and all-round ten-time marathoner I have found this to be a tough and challenging course if you’re running for a goal time. If you’re simply wanting to finish, then you can easily do that, the crowds will get you there. However, if you’re looking for a personal best, a PR or sub 3:30, whether you’re a newbie or a repeat marathoner, you may want to bear these pointers in mind:

  • November’s weather can be very unpredictable. In the days leading up to the race pay careful attention to weather advisories and prepare your body by eating well – carbing up, hydrating well and resting well. This is standard pre-race procedure and will serve you well on race day in being alert, focused and feeling energised.
  • Use a foam roller or the stick the night before race day to get out any kinks or muscle tightness. Roll out leg and thigh muscles especially, it leaves you limber and loose and ready to run.
  • Dress appropriately. Use layers that can be efficiently discarded on the course since it’s very likely that the start will be cold. I like to run at least the first three miles with a heat sheet so my body temperature slowly builds to comfortable race temps, then I discard it.
  • First time marathoners or first time NYC marathoners should be wary of the start. If you’re in the early corrals, the start can be really packed and chances are you’ll be running toe-to-toe with other runners for a few miles, be prepared to adjust or slow your pace to accommodate this.
  • Engaging in dodging and weaving in the early segments of the race utilizes a lot of energy and can cost you later on. It is better to follow the crowd while awaiting the opportunity to increase your pace.
  • It is also very easy to get caught up in the crowds and excitement in the beginning, be wary of going out too fast too soon; pace yourself and stick to it until you’re at least half-way there.
  • Ideally, you want to go for a negative split and up the ante at the halfway point, just be careful to increase gradually.
  • To stay properly hydrated and energized, I would suggest a grab and go strategy at each fuel station indulging in a brief sip before discarding.
  • Alternate between water and Gatorade if available.
  • Add energy gels every four miles after mile 8 (miles 12, 16, 20, 24).
  • Try not to stop at the fuel stations and stick to the outside of the pack in order to get to the middle or end of the tables to grab your fuel so you don’t get caught up in the rush at the onset of the stations.
  • Drink just enough fuel. This a good strategy that will save you time, energy and discomfort as you want to minimize or eliminate any bathroom breaks or any stops at all as this will impede your goal time.
  • Appreciate the crowds and volunteers who are there to make your race experience an amazing one. Buy into the cheers and raves and encourage them with a smile, a wave, a clap and/or a thank you; it adds to your momentum especially in the latter part of the race when you’ll be needing all the encouragement you can get.
  • At this point it will be helpful if you have a number, name, country, or cause on display that the crowds can tie you to. They will use it to call you out and cheer you on and you’ll appreciate that.
  • Look out for the Queensborough bridge ( you cross five bridges in the NYC Marathon), it’ll be around mile 16, at this point you’ll be on the threshold of tiredness and pushing real hard. If you can keep the momentum going up this seeming mountain then you’ll be rewarded on the other side with the rising crescendo of voices, all cheering for you. What a thrill! You’re treated to the screams and cheers of what feels and may very well be a million spectators, from all over the world, as you enter 2nd Ave in Manhattan. This is the reason you run, there’s no greater feeling for a runner than right there and then. Remember that and own it.
  • Running down Fifth Ave from the Upper East Side in Manhattan may feel like the toughest part of the race for some, it appears to go on forever ( for about four miles) lean into it, use the energy of the crowds to push you and provide momentum heading into Central Park at 72nd Street.
  • Now is the time for what I call the fishing strategy: keep your eyes on the runner just ahead of you and slowly aim to pass him or her ( as if to reel them in). This will do two things: give you an immediate goal , which feeds your competitive spirit, and take your attention off yourself and whatever discomfort you may be experiencing.
  • Use the downhill in the park, lean into it and glide. On the other hand, power through the inclines feeding off the crowds and knowing that you’re almost there – less than a mile and a half away at this point.

Finally, getting out of the park and onto 59th Street/ Central Park South, it’ll be your quarter mile final stretch before heading into the park once again at Columbus Circle. You’ll hear the roar of the crowds, see the flags lining the roadway to the finish line area as you get into your final turn, the voice of the announcer and spectators will be urging you on; enjoy it, smile for the camera, finish strong. You did it.

Marathon Training, Fundraising & Just Because

 

TCSNYCMarathon_r31

Approximately sixteen weeks to Chicago and eighteen weeks to The New York City Marathon. I mean WOW! Where did the time go? Am I alone in thinking that we’re not the only ones running here, that so is time! That being said, technically, I should to be in marathon training mode, which means I’m suppose to be running practically everyday working on mileage, speed, strength and endurance. In reality, I figure to take the next couple weeks to myself and run for sheer enjoyment – just because it’s Summer, it’s hot, it’s pretty and because there’s the inescapable fact looming that I’m about to embark on some crazy running; two challenging marathons in two successive months.

Rest assured, I’m not crazy, people do this all the time – not really. Not ordinary people anyhow, but then you’ve probably already figured out that normal does not describe me. Not to worry, it’s not my first time, only the second..wink..and I’ve already figured my strategy is more mental than physical. See, I’m training for a marathon so I’ll just keep running..joke..but really, it’s just a shift in focus after the first run as the next is within two weeks. This is ideal as it works to keep the momentum going. With enough sleep, training and cross-training, the right diet and proper hydration, I should be fine. In fact, I predict they’ll be runs of a lifetime, providing I stay injury-free. My past record notwithstanding, I aim to stay positive; run a few races between now and then and try to maintain top form. With God on my side, I can’t lose now, can I.

team-UNICEF-banner

On another related note, I haven’t been all-ensconed in fundraising efforts for my project – Team UNICEF re the NYC Marathon – as I should be. I’ll have to be a bit more brazen in my approach if I am to reach the $3500 goal that is allotted me. While I’d love to raise more, it being for such a great cause and all, I’ll settle for being within target range for now. If you’re reading this, please feel obligated to help a runner and sister out; plus you’ll earn bragging rights for a good cause and get your name on my running-T on marathon day. I also have a few cool T-Shirts for very generous donors and a couple pom poms for you if you go the extra mile and show up to cheer me on race day. It rarely gets better than this but I’m sure you deserve it!

 

Running for causes aside, I really treasure each opportunity I get to make a difference while running. Being a force for change is something we can all benefit from; hence why I think I take running and training so seriously leaving very little time to enjoy the sport. So excuse me while I fix that before doubling down for some record running in the coming months.

Be a trooper and support my cause here:   https://www.crowdrise.com/unicefnyc2015/fundraiser/loricaldon

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