Friday, November 15, 2013

First Run

Yesterday was my first run post marathon. It was a 2 miler at a nice an easy 11:30 pace. My ankle/heel feels fine today. Tomorrow I'll see if I can do a five miler.

The ankle quit giving me problems when my doctor told me to start taking 800 mg of Ibuprofen three times a day for the next couple weeks.  Not sure if I'll do it that long, but it does seem to work.

Tonight I'm going to a party. Yes, I'm wearing my medal. Does that make me a tool?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

New York Marathon 2013, Unbelievable

Ft. Wadsworth, the Marathon Start Village.

My day started with a walk from our hotel to catch the 1 train from Penn Station. Penn Station is under the historic Madison Square Gardens Arena. All the runners had to get on the first 5 cars. For some reason, those are the only ones that will let you out at the south ferry. It was packed, wall to wall runners. At each stop, we'd see a frantic run to get in those first five cars. The dock is right at the top of the stairs, I was afraid that I'd have to walk some there too. But, that was not the case. I entered the building to see runners sitting everywhere.I just got in line. I didn't care whether I was on the 7:30 ferry, like I was scheduled. I just followed the rest. On the ferry I tried to find a seat quickly. I didn't want to have to stand for all three modes of travel. I found a seat inside, so I missed seeing the Statue of Liberty up close. I did find out we could stand on the back deck outside and I got some great views of Manhattan and the statue from afar. Next, I bought some food at the other dock and got in line for the buses to take us to Fort Wadsworth, the marathon start. First the bus made a big loop, after 5 minutes passed the place we loaded up and the went to the fort. Leaving the bus, we got into another line. The police check point. Every runner was 'wanded'. I got through and started walking to the Marathon start village at Fort Wadsworth.

The fort is a national park and was closed because of the government shut down. The New York Road Runners were making alternate plans until the government reopened just a week prior to the marathon. The village was set up into three groups. Green, the runners that would run on the lower level of the bridge. Orange and blue would be on the top.  I was in green, which meant I was running on the lower level of the Verrazano Narrows bridge. I found my way to the waiting area and looked for a tree I could lean against. There were four waves or start times for the runners. I was in the last. I was prepared for a 2+ hour wait. I brought extra clothing. I had a beanie cap, an Arizona baseball cap, 2 pairs of sweat pants on top of my running shorts and a sweat top on top of my running shirt. I had a pair of gloves and 2 hand warmers I bought at Dick's Sporting Goods. I, also, had a blow up cushion that I bought at the 99 cent store. It came in handy, I should have brought two.At the Au Bon Pain inside the Staten Island ferry building I bought some apple strudel and a steak and cheese sandwich. The sandwich wasn't very good. The strudel was great. I had about 3 hours until my wave/corral was to start at 10:55. I decided to see if I could start early. I snuck into line with the wave 3 people and started about 30 minutes early.

At the start I talked with a guy that lives in Westchester, north of the Bronx and a girl from San Francisco. Also, a few others. He asked for some marathon advice. I suggested to 'start slow and taper'. Several runners around us agreed.  I didn't take my own advice.

There was a guy leading cheers from the upper deck. The blue and orange folks up above would cheer, then we would. I said I wasn't going to cheer with the people who were going to pee on us.. The announcements kept warning people not to pee off the side of the bridge. They give these messages in multiple languages.  It's rumored that the pee gets blown back onto the runners on the lower deck.

They played 'God Bless America' and then shot the cannon to start the race. 'New York, New York' was song by Frank Sinatra. It was nice of him to attend.

The Race.

The first mile is uphill on the bridge. I planned on taking it slow, but everyone was running a 9 minute mile or faster. It's easy to get caught up in the excitement, run with the crowd and not know it or feel it at all. I did. I kept looking at my garmin and would slow down, but it wouldn't last long. I did stop and take pics of Manhattan from the bridge. It was a great view of the city.

The second mile was downhill off the VN. I took it easy, but it was still faster than I planned. My plan was to do all the miles between 11:45 and 12. I started out with an 11 minute mile and a 9:31 mile. It wasn't until mile 7 that I did a mile to plan.

Now in Brooklyn, the green runners had a separate route than the rest. Dictated by the off ramp of the bridge. We were running in the left lanes. This was the first time I realized it was cold. Strong winds on the bridge. I wasn't cold at all at the fort, but I was much more bundled up. I had left one pair of sweats behind at Fort Wadsworth. I would leave my outer top, gloves and beanie behind in Brooklyn around mile 4.

The crowds were large in Brooklyn. 2-3 people deep for long stretches at a time.  I spent time running near the edge so that I could give fist bumps to kids and lots of adults. (Note to kids: give fist bumps, not high fives. You don't want to touch the open hands of these runners) To honor my late father, Joe I had his name on my shirt. All day long people would yell out his name. "Go, Joe" , "You can do it, Joe", "Looking strong, Joe". I loved it.

I was looking forward to seeing what each borough looked like, but I realized I was more interested in the people.. I was still trying to get into my pace. The plan was to run for 4/10 of a mile then walk for 1/10, then repeat. I was to drink and eat my fruit chews each walk break. This was hard to do, I was running for longer stretches and forgetting to eat. I was doing good to stay hydrated. Most of the time I was drinking the Gatorade provided by the race.

People had tissues, candy, bananas , pretzels to offer us. Some people were having parties and BBQs on their front steps. I passed one and it smelled great. I asked if I could hang with them and they said yes. I kept running. Several bands were playing every mile. From choirs and school bands to bar bands to guys with boom boxes.

Williamsburg has a large Jewish community. Things were much more quiet there. Very little cheering. The girls had their school skirts on. Not sure why, since it was Sunday. The kids would watch us, but not cheer. The women would sit on their steps, but not act like they were paying attention. The men were always walking somewhere or would be at a street corner. No one showed any signs that we were running. The men had beards, long twisted hair and hats. I'd never seen anything like that. They didn't look like they wanted their pictures taken, I respected that.

The police were all over. Mostly keeping the crowds on the sidewalk behind the police tape. They were trying to keep people from crossing the street, but this was almost impossible. People would cross like it was a game of frogger. It was most interesting when it was a Jewish man crossing in his black suit and hat. It just seemed out of context.

My first signs of any discomfort came around mile 11. Too early, but my feet were starting to hurt. All week long I had issues with my left ankle/ heel hurting. This wasn't the same pain. My feet were just taking a pounding and I had not toughened them up enough. My knee bothered me a few weeks ago. That would rear its ugly head in Harlem.

The second bridge was the Pulaski bridge at the half way point. Not nearly as big as the VN. I walked the rising side, ran down the backside. It's the entry point to Queens.

This part of Queens is mostly industrial.  There were nice crowds here and they were appreciated because they had to travel a bit further to get to the race. I assume there not much housing in the area we were running in.

As soon as you enter Queens, you notice the 3rd bridge way overhead. The Queensboro bridge taking you into Manhattan. It's the second largest bridge we cross. It's the quiet before the storm. I walked up most of it trying to conserve my energy for 1st avenue. This is the portion of  the course that has traditionally had the largest and loudest crowds. It did not disappoint. 4-5 people deep. All yelling. You come off the bridge and then loop around and go under the span. There's people from the moment you hit the streets.

 Amy and Tyler were about a mile up waiting for me. They had some fruit chews and a candy bar for me. The lady next to them kept saying, 'Joe, you got to go'. She said it at least three times. I did stay their for at least 7-10 minutes. Finally, I got back to running.

1st avenue is downhill too. They say the pro runners can't win the marathon on 1st, but they can lose it. I was able to run that portion well. It was my the third favorite part of the course. The VN bridge was second. First favorite was yet to come.

Up 1st avenue you get into Harlem. I was starting to get sore at this point. More walking. Less talking. Less interaction with the crowds. I felt bad about this, since they were just as great as anyone. I don't remember much about this part of the course.  Around the 18 mile mark my garmin started to die. Low battery. I knew it wouldn't be long. I started to calculate the difference between what garmin said and what the official clocks said I thought it was an hours difference. But, with long races, my math skills suffer. I would go from thinking I had no chance of a PR, to thinking I had a great chance.

Next up was the Willis bridge into The Bronx. The Bronx must sit up higher than Manhattan. We went up and then we we got to the top, it leveled off and the went up again.

On this bridge I got to talk with a very positive lady with one leg. She had one of those cheetah legs on her left. I would learn later that it was Sarah Reinertsen (Ironman) from "The Amazing Race". That's her 2 pictures below. I entered the Bronx and got to listen to rappers and some hip hop. There was a large video board showing us running. Then we got to the final bridge.

 Back to Manhattan.  My garmin battery had died. I couldn't check my pace. Losing track of which mile I was on. My legs were tired. Very tired. I kept checking my right knee. It felt bad. I thought it must be the size of a softball. I could run short distances and then have to walk. I tried running for 50 steps and then walk for 25. That didn't work. I tried running for two stop lights and walking for one. That didn't work.

It was at this point I decided to take my long sweats off and run in my shorts. It was cool. Amy said "very cold". She and Tyler bought $1 beanies from a street vendor and they told me later how cold they were waiting for me.

 Running in just shorts must have helped. I still walked a lot on 5th avenue, but that would change. I did enjoy walking as the leaves were falling. It was beautiful. I wished i was running. I was still being given lots of encouragement from the crowds. 'You can do it, Joe'. With each shout out I got a boost of confidence and a reminder of my dad.

Finally, I made it to Central Park. I tested my legs again and I felt much better. Maybe they just froze numb. I, also, calculated my time and thought I could finish in record time. I needed to get in under the 5:42 mark that I set at the Twin Cities Marathon in 2009. Could I do it? Of course not. My math was askew. But, at the time I didn't know it.

I was motivated. My legs felt better and I was going to PR. . Amy and Tyler were waiting for me around mile 24. I looked for them. I wanted my jacket, that Tyler carried around all day. It was getting cold. I couldn't find them and ran by.  I was passing runners a dozen at a time. I felt great. I knew I'd still have some walk breaks, but I felt they would be few at this time. I would hear fans yell, 'way to go Joe'.

 I turned onto Central Park South and thought it was Columbus Circle. I was confused by all the tall buildings to my left. But, it was almost a magical place to run. It was my favorite part of the marathon from that circle until the finish. I ran most of it. Took 2 or 3 walk breaks (5-10 secs) to snap a few pics and get a breather. I then was running.I figured I was doing about an 11 minute pace, just as fast as I was at the start of the race. This, after I was down for the count back in Harlem.

The last 386 yards is uphill. Didn't matter to me. I was passing people and trying to get a PR that was lost 8 minutes prior. I finished with a huge smile, grasping for air. I was 'hands on my knees' when a medical volunteer asked me if I was okay. 'Yes, I just finished the best marathon on the planet', I told him.


Getting to and leaving a 50,000 runner marathon is a logistical nightmare. I left my hotel 5 hours before I was scheduled to run. Had to take a train, boat and bus to get to the start line. Leaving the finish was difficult too. It involved a mile long walk. It felt much further. First, we got our medals and a big congratulations. Then we got our mylar blankets to keep us warm. They were needed, since it was cold. Then we walked further to get our snack packs. I was too tired to reach in it. There was no place to sit, I marched on. All I wanted was a bench. A Siamese standpipe would have worked. Finally, I spotted a curb that was higher than normal. I sat by myself and watched as runner after runner slowly and silently paraded past me. We were all hurting. Some were be assisted and turning into the med tent. I wanted to stop in for some aspirin or ibuprofen. But, the line was too long. I called Amy. Instead of meeting near the finish, we decided to meet back near our hotel at the Port Authority. Then we could find a restaurant. I still had to get standing and finish getting to the subway. This was uphill. I finally made it to Central Park west and being in the 'no baggage, early exit' group I was going to get a free fleece lined orange cape. It was heaven. Free subway rides for marathoners and I was back to the PA.

I got a dozen congrats from total strangers, not counting the dozens of congrats from the medical and finish line volunteers.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

bike, no run

Six days after the marathon and my heel is still bothering me.

I was able to get in short runs after 2-3 days after my previous marathons. Today, I inflated the tires and took the bike for a spin. 7 easy miles around the neighborhood, over to the mall and then to the park.

I think I'll start doing a bike ride once a week.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Race Fuel

A run down on what I ate on race day.

The Best Western that we stayed at ($1400 for 5 days in Manhattan) said the complimentary breakfast would start at 5 am for marathoners. I went down a bit after 6 and there wasn't much to choose from. I had a mini bagel and some scrambled eggs that said they weren't done, but looked done. I didn't eat much for breakfast.

I thought I'd stop at Dunkin' Donuts on the walk to Penn Station. They don't open that early.

But, Dairy Queen was open at the Staten Island Terminal. I passed and got on the ferry. On SI, Au bon pain was open. I think that's french for 'my feet hurt', but I might be mistaken. Anyway, I got two apple pastries and a steak and cheese sandwich. I knew I would be waiting at the start village and if I wanted lunch, I'd better eat it before the cannons went off at 10:55.

At the start village I found a nice spot to sit with my back on a tree. Ate my apple pastries and a cup of coffee from the Dunkin' Donuts tent. They did not have donuts. After a while, I had my sandwich. It wasn't very tasty. I only ate half.

I decided to see if I could sneak into the earlier wave and get a 30 minute head start. I was successful, they don't check bibs really close. While I was in the corral I drank a pre workout drink they handed out. I think it was from Gatorade. It tasted good.

During the run I had fruit chews from Mott's. They are similar to sports beans, chomps or the sports chews you buy at your local running store. Yet, they cost half as much. The calories are similar, carb amounts similar. Another running blog suggested it and I like them much better than downing gu's, gels or overpriced sports chews. I tried to eat 2-4 of them each mile.

I had my fuel belt with two plastic canteens. One was for my chews and the other was used to refill with the gatorade that the race provided. I drank gatorade most of the race.

I did get two mini candy bars, a half of banana and some pretzels from spectators as I ran.

I thought about stopping at the White Castles on 1st avenue. Yeah, I can eat anything when I'm running. But, they were closed.

In the last few miles of the race, when I felt very tired and sore I remembered I had a small chia seeds packet that the race gave all runners at the expo. I packed it away in my fuel belt because I heard chia seeds were the magic pill for runners. I ate most of the packet, downed with gatorade. My last 1.5 of running was as fast as I ran the whole day. Was it the chia seeds that gave me that extra boost?

After the race, I had a New York McIntosh apple, some recover gatorade and a bit of a powerbar. I didn't like the powerbar.

That's what fuel me until dinner time. I never felt hungry the entire day.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

New York City Marathon Injury Update

Going into the marathon I had three small issues. One was a foot issue that kept me from running for about 4 days. It was a few months before the marathon. The second one was a right knee issue. I've never had an issue with either knee, but it kept me from running for about four days just 3 weeks before the marathon. The last issue was my left heel barking the week of the marathon. I get this type of pain fairly often and I figured I would just endure it on race day.

The morning of the race I felt pretty good. My heel pain was there, but not an issue. The weather was cool, near 40 degrees when I was in the start village. But, I was bundled up pretty good, so I felt fine and didn't notice any cold until I got on the Verrazano Bridge.

I first noticed pains in my legs around the 11 mile mark. That's way too early, but what are you going to do? I kept moving forward. At some point my feet started hurting and in particular the pad on my right foot. After the race I had a blister and it felt like I was walking on a ketchup packet.

When I was in the Bronx and for a few miles after (19-24 mile mark) I felt my right knee swelling. At least it felt that way. I would touch it, but it didn't feel different. It would keep me from any serious running for most of those miles.

The last 1-2 miles I didn't notice any of these issues. I was able to run like I had just started the race. Three things may have lead to this. One, I took my sweats off around mile 22. The cool weather (still in the 40's) against my bare legs may have given me a second wind, as it where. Two, I thought I had a chance at a Personal Record (PR). Faulty math in my head, I really didn't have a chance at all. Finally, I ate some Chia seeds from a packet I got from the New York Road Runners. They say chia seeds give you some extra umpff.

After the race, I was limping because of the blister. I had a long walk to the subway station. I took one rest break on the curb.

Chafing? I had none. I used vaseline extensively on my upper legs at 6 am and I got some more around mile 23. No chafing what so ever. I hate chafing.

It's now three days later. My only issue is a sore left ankle. It started bothering me on Tuesday. My knee feels fine, the blister on my right foot is almost healed and I don't feel it anymore.

There's a good chance I'll go for a 3 mile run tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Five Miles to Remember in New York City

Five Miles to Remember
I've completed the 2013 New York City Marathon and I have lots to tell you. Instead of writing the world's longest race report, I've decided I'll break it up into smaller subjects of interest. 

This first report is about the five most interesting miles I ran.

The worst mile on the course was mile 22 or there abouts. Some call it the wall. Each mile was getting progressively worse and I could have written about any of the miles from 19 to 24. I was in pain. I had a huge blister on the bottom of my right foot. My right knee felt horrible, I kept feeling it because I was sure it was the size of a basketball. I tried different tactics to run more than I was walking. First I tried to run for 50 paces. counting each time my left foot hit pavement as one. Then I would walk for 25. In the past the act of counting my steps would work. Not today. Then I noticed there were stop lights at every corner, so I thought I would run for two stops lights, walk for one. This didn't work I was in too much pain. I dreaded the fact that I was going to walk the majority of the final 4-6 miles.

Mile 16 was a great mile. It was the slowest mile I ran, but that was because Amy and Tyler were there to greet me. It's the first mile in Manhattan and the crowds were 3-5 deep on both sides of the road. The road was downhill and I felt like a rockstar. After the quiet of the Queensboro Bridge, this was loud. Super Bowl, 16th green at the Phoenix Open, game 6  of the world series in Fenway loud. 

It followed another down mile. Mile 15. This was the quiet mile over the QB. When you sign up for the NYC marathon, the bridges sound cool. And the Verrazano Narrows is, but the rest are just hills in the way of you running a good race.

Speaking of the Verrazano, that bridge rocked. It was the first two miles of the marathon. You start with Frank Sinatra singing "New York, New York" and you get incredible views of Manhattan. You don't even realize that you're going uphill, until you are going downhill and you fly. No crowds, but the runners are having a blast. Many of us snapping pictures as we go.

And finally, the best mile on the course is the last mile. From 25 to 26.2 on Central Park South thru Columbus Square and into the park. It's uphill, but there's crowds and it rocks. It was my fastest mile (except for the downhill portion of the VN). I ran it in 10:55 after not being able to run at all just a few miles back. I ran it after 25 miles.

My first NYC Marathon ended at 5 hours and 49 minutes. Four of those hours couldn't be beat. I loved it. It was just those Harlem miles that were tough. Not because of the area, the fans up there were great.

Monday, November 04, 2013

I am a NYC Marathoner

I had a blast running the NYC Marathon. I will file a race report, pre and post race reports and what I thought about NYC in the days to come.

Here's a few things:

1. The last mile of the race is amazing. It was my favorite.
2. The Verrazano Narrows Bridge was amazing. Glad it was early in the race. The other bridges were a pain the butt.
3. Loved the city.
4. 26.2 miles covered in 5:49. Second fastest of my four marathons.