Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NYC Half-Marathon

NYC is slowly becoming one of my favorite cities.  I have raced there 3 times in the last 8 months and at least once a year for the last 4 years.  The Achilles International group I race with are based there and over the last 2+ years I have made a great number of close friends through Achilles NYC and CAF as well.  Less than 24 hours before I was to leave for the race I watched this video, Empire State of Mind - JAY Z and Alicia Keys a number of times.

My good friend Barbara lives on the UWS and offered me a spare bedroom at her place for the weekend.  Since Sue and Owen were not coming along this time, it would save me the price of a hotel and also the chance to catch up with Barbara.  I first met Barbara three years ago when she was the north-east coordinator for CAF.  I drove down on Friday and like every visit I've made to NYC, I was able to find free street parking along Riverside Dr near W 80th.  I simply park my car there and then use the MTA until I leave on Sunday.

Once arriving I took the train to Barbara's place.  She was still a
t work so I decided to head over to the Expo to pick-up my bib and have a look around.  The Expo is a lot smaller than some of the bigger races I've done, so I was through in about 15 minutes or so.  Barb met me there and so we headed out for some dinner.  With it being March 14th (3.14) or PI day, we had to head out for some pizza.  Barb suggested a restaurant called "Patsy's".  We had a nice white pizza with mushrooms and broccoli.  After dinner I suggested we get a little dessert, and what better place would a Canadian want to go to then "Tim Horton's?"  It's been a while since I've been to one while the "ROLL UP THE RIM" contest is going on.  I didn't win, but just getting a chance to play was GREAT. 

Well, some things in life are just meant to happen. Heading to Tim Horton's we decide to get the train.  It was a busy Friday night and as we are boarding the very crowded train Barb says to me, "Friday night riding the 1 train!". We both laugh and squeeze on. We aren't on the train 2 minutes and this woman says, "Excuse me, are you from Boston and do you know Claire Thompson ?" I think for a split second and say, "Yes, she goes to my church." She then explains how Claire had told her I was running the race on Sunday and she should go out to cheer me on. Of all the trains in all of NYC, we got to meet each other there.  She is watching a young child and can't be there to cheer on Sunday, but really that doesn't matter. She wished me luck as she exited the train. I fully believe this was not mere chance. Thank you Claire!!  I had asked Claire to say a special prayer for me to keep me safe during the race.  I am fully convinced this was God's way of telling me I would be kept safe during the race!

I always hope to have a good night's sleep two nights prior to a race.  Well, I got my wish and slept like a rock.  Barb was awake early to do a LONG RUN in the park and I got ready to meet up with many of my
Me and Kat from Achilles
Achilles teammates for their regular Saturday morning run.  We met up at NYRR and then headed over for a very short-run.  I chose to do a 1.6 mile loop around the reservoir.  It was a gravel road with lots of little pot-holes which were a little hard to maneuver.  Think I will stick to the paved roads next time.  I headed back to the apartment to get cleaned up and meet up with another one of my NYC friends.

I met Bianca two years ago prior to the NYC triathlon.  She had posted something online about being nervous about the race, which would be her first triathlon.  I had given her some suggestions and we had kep in touch prior to the race in 2012.  We got a chance to meet then and since then, remained in touch through social media.  It was nice to meet up with and have some coffee and catch up.  She is actually racing the NYC Triathlon again this summer, and wouldn't you know it, she's raising money for Achilles!!!

Carbo Loading with Dana
I went back to the apartment to rest some more, get some of my clothes ready for the race and change to meet up with another one of the NYC friends, and member of Team Hoyt, Dana Krashin.  We first met prior to the Boston Marathon in 2013.  Two other Team Hoyt members, Meghan and Tammy (both from Massachusetts) would be joining us, along with Dana's boyfriend, Giancarlo.  We met at a very traditional looking Italian restaurant called Carmines's.  The food is served "family style" and I was amazed that the five of us ate a lot of food, with multiple helpings, and there were also leftovers, for a total bill of less than $100.  Now, we didn't have any alcohol, so I am sure that helped.  The food was excellent!!!
Meghan, me, Dana, and Tammy

I headed back to Barb's place for the evening.  Barb was out to dinner with a friend, so I had her place to myself.  I laid out all of the clothing for the morning and prepared my drop clothing bag.  When I had left MA, the weather report had said it would be low 40's and sunny for the race.  Well by Saturday the forecast had changed and it was looking like it would be closed to  30 degrees with a strong northerly wind.  I  had a hoodie and sweatpants to dump at the start, but did prepare to bring gloves (found out later I did have a pair in my bag) or something for my head, except a visor.  I also decided to stick with shorts and not wear running pants.

Barb's place was a perfect location for this race.  I would simply walk  from her place down Broadway to the bottom of the park where the bag drop area was.  I had everything prepared for the night, set my alarm for 5:15AM and turned in for the night around 10PM.  Here is where I was amazed as I had another great night of sleep.  I work once around 3AM to use the bathroom and went right back to sleep.  I managed to wake about 15 minutes prior to the alarm.  I got ready and had a breakfast of a homemade banana muffin (THANKS BARB!!), a banana, some gatorade and I would have a POWER BAR on the way to the start.  I would also have an apple sauce just prior to the start of the race.

Some of the Achilles athletes and guides.
When I got outside, I realized how truly cold it was.  The weather was saying sustained winds around 18-20 mph which meant a wind chill around 20 degrees.  As I walked down to the park, I noticed NYPD members out in full parkas and gloves.  CRAP!!!  It's COLD.  I got down to the park and quickly found the bag drop, but not before finding Joe Bellatoni and his wife Denise.  Joe is a blind triathlete and a member of Achilles.  All of the Achilles athletes were together and we all started to make our way into our corral which would be at the back of the first wave.  Security was pretty tight as we all had to go through metal detectors prior to the start.  I started to dump my clothes, first my sweat pants and then the hoodie right before the start.  When would I be able to run in the SUN!!!!  We made our way to the start and I realized I had to make one more trip to the bathroom so just before the start line, I noticed there were porta-potties.  I waited for about 30 seconds and then said, forget it, so as the 2nd wave was starting to line up, I took off!!!

I ran alone for a while until wave 2 caught up to me.  The first 5+ miles are in the park as you run up the east side.  You then leave the park at 110th and do a short out and back into the park.  The 4th mile of the race back in the park is the toughest part of the race as you climb Harlem Hill.  I have run in the park at least 4 times now with the NYC triathlon and the 26.2 back in November. It took a while for me to get my breath under control and once I did, I pretty much kept consistent miles for most of the race hovering around 13:45 min/mile.  I did see my good friend Haggai in the park which helped give me a boost!!
Thanks Haggai!!!

When you exit the park you run down 7th Ave all the way to Times Square and turn right onto 42nd Street.  When I first exited the park I saw the biggest NYPD officer I've ever seen.  He stood about 6'4" and was HUGE.  Not someone I would want to have mad at me.  When he saw me he exclaimed, "Now that's what I'm talking about!!" and gave me a big HIGH-5 and almost took my arm off.  I cruised down 7th Ave and all was going real well.  Once I turned onto 42nd Street I started to feel the full force of the wind as if I was in a wind tunnel.  My hands were freezing.  I am glad I had my homemade arm warmers on.  I had taken women's knee socks and cut the feet out of them.  The two pairs on each arm were helping a lot.

Heading to Times Square
As I stated earlier, I had wanted to go to the bathroom prior to the race and finally decided I needed to make a pitstop.  Just before we turned onto the West Side Highway, there were some empty porta-potties.  Maybe emptying my bladder would help warm me up.  As I exited, this would be first time I contemplated quitting the race as I was starting to shiver a bit.  And then I thought, I don't think I could feel any colder and I would only had about 4 or 5 miles to go.  I then thought of two other LPs, one I've talked about before named Katie Lynch (I carry a sock of her's with me on my fuel belt) and then a young girl named Vivian.  Vivian has achondroplasia like me and my family.  She has had some major struggles in her young life and will be turning 1 right around the Boston Marathon this year.  I thought of those two and the hard physical challenges they've dealt with.  I imagined holding Vivian and then God holding onto me.  I could keep going!!!  I'm sure I could.

The Freedom Tower
Wouldn't you know it as we turned onto the West Side Highway, where I figure the wind would be the strongest and it seemed to me anyway, that the wind was lighter.  I'm sure running in the sunlight truly helped.  As I looked down the road I could see the Freedom Tower in the distance and I knew we would be running all the way down past the tower and into the Battery Park Tunnel.

The remainder of the race went well and I was so excited to hear a friendly voice behind me call out and it was both Dana and Meghan who had caught up to me.  A couple of good hugs from the two of them and they continued on to the finish.  The Battery Tunnel was a lot darker than I had hoped it would be.  I could see how someone could easily trip up on a pothole or some other debris.  Exiting the tunnel would be the last hill to face as we had to run around the block to the finish.  I was hoping to finish in 2:55 and I ended up with a time of 3:06:25.  Given the cold weather and wind, I was very happy with the time.

Finding my clothing back was pretty quick.  I managed to get on warmed clothes and made my way to brunch my Achilles teammates.  It was about a 20 minute walk from the finish line to a small diner.  I was happy to see my friends one last time as I gobbled down a plate of Eggs Benedict.  I shuffled to the train, got back to Barbara's place, took a shower changed and then made my way back to my car.   Barbara was kind enough to help me with my bags.  Driving 4+ hours home is not the best type of recovery exercise, but I was SO EAGER to see Sue and Owen again.

The Finish Line!!!

Next up;  Boston Marathon 2014 - April 21st - UNFINISHED BUSINESS.

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