Short version: Warm, humid day in New York; finished marathon #8 in 6:33 on very sore feet
Long version: I learn something at every race.
On the morning of the NY City Marathon I woke up in my cramped little cheap (uh, $140 per night is cheap for New York) hotel room at 4:45 AM, ate and dressed and headed downstairs at 5:30. Bonnie and I walked over to the bus and boarded promptly, after passing a couple dozen racing wheelchairs lined up to be shipped over to the start. It put some early perspective on the day.
We arrived in the staging area quickly and were greeted by cheers from the volunteers in the early dawn. I thought they would certainly be hoarse in a few hours but their enthusiasm was fun.
We headed over to the Orange area and looked for Daniel Wellner (who had organized a wonderful Italian dinner for us the previous night) in the tent behind the medical area where we thought he was going to be, but were unable to find him. We availed ourselves of the great hot coffee they had in abundance and settled down for a long, long wait. Four hours worth. The ~40,000 other assembled runners soon overwhelmed the portapotties allocated for them and were abandoning the huge lines and peeing everywhere. Everywhere. I felt a little sorry for the people who worked on Monday in the buildings surrounded by a moat of runner's pee.
Somewhere the cannon went off, and somewhere "New York, New York" played, but we didn't hear it. We could see the bridge dimly through the morning fog and approached it slowly in the crowd. 17:07 after the race actually started, I crossed the initial timing mats to begin the marathon.
I loved the first two miles over the Verranzano Narrows bridge. The fog prevented us from seeing the city, but we had a beautiful view of the fireboats below spouting colored water. It was peaceful and quiet on the bridge and the main sounds were the footfalls of the other runners. The sun was getting warm and I quickly shed my long-sleeved shirt and was fairly comfortable in a sleeveless top. There was a nice breeze on the bridge, but it didn't take long for me to get sweaty. That foretold a long, hot day.
At the end of the bridge we were greeted with friendly cries of, "Welcome to Brooklyn!" in authentic local accents. The crowd of thousands of runners jogged down the road, soaking up the good will of the crowds. I kept my pace well into my "slow, comfortable jog" zone and just trotted along at a speed I thought I could maintain all day, adding on a one-minute walk break at the end of each mile just to give myself a break and hopefully give my muscles a rest for later in the race.
But it was warm, and my body just wasn't responding as I had hoped. I had done the Baltimore Marathon 3 weeks before and a 12-miler on the Marine Corps Marathon course a week earlier, and apparently I just hadn't recovered from those efforts. My mile splits started out in the 12 to 13-minute per mile range, but they were all slower than I had run in Baltimore, I was sweating hard, and by mile 8-9 I was starting to see some 14-minute miles. That confirmed my fear that it was going to be a long, difficult day.
Before I made it to the halfway point (when Bonnie passed me looking strong and was quickly out of sight in the distance ahead of me), I started to experience some pronounced pain in my feet. I had just trimmed back two toenails to nubs that I had lost after the Baltimore Marathon. I suppose I still had some leftover wear and tear inside my joints or tendons or ligaments which I had been unaware of. Every so often I had a few steps of acute pain in my ankles or less frequently my knees left me hobbling. Those made me fear I would have to drop out of the race, but after stopping to walk it usually subsided to a painful ache in my feet which never left me.
Nutritionally, I think I did everything right - I felt well-fueled and never really bonked or felt exhausted during the day. I kept up my hydration well and took electrolytes on schedule and never got mentally fuzzy. My clothes were fine, I had no chafing nor blisters. My feet just hurt. A lot. Enough so that by mile 15 I was walking a significant portion of the time. By mile 20 I was walking all the time.
I enjoyed the spectacle of the course as much as I could - the thousands of different accents from the runners and specatators, the diversity of the neighborhoods, the colors of the autumn trees, the dramatic views of the New York skyline. I like running on bridges, so even that part was enjoyable.
I didn't like being stopped short by lines of walkers when I summoned enough will to begin jogging again for a while, but I told myself that's the price you pay for the huge races. I felt badly for the few people that I saw down by the side of the road getting medical help. I got annoyed at a couple of vehicles that were apparently allowed to drive down the course with us, which I kept having to breathe exhaust from, or dodge around.
I wondered why the only kids on the streets watching the race in the Hassidic neighborhoods were girls, and nobody there cheered for us. I wondered why they had numerous signs posted around the neighborhood warning people to wear loose clothing covering their skin to prevent skin cancer - I'd never heard of a connection between clothing tightness and cancer.
I thanked the volunteers. I gave thumbs up to the hundreds of spectators that called my name, encouraging me on. I enjoyed the crowds and the bands that could stay on tune and the energy.
Danny has some wonderful detail in his descriptions of the course and the neighborhoods. If I knew New York City better, I might have known where I was more often than I did, and I might describe them all to you too.
I was surprised to spot Karen Bingham by herself at a couple spots in the race where there were few spectators. Way to go, Karen! You gave me some great encouragement when it was needed.
I walked from mile marker to mile marker, and it often seemed like I'd never reach the finish line. I did the math at each and it always seemed like an impossible distance to finish.
Finally we entered Central Park and were surrounded by trees and rocks and people cheering us on. I enjoyed seeing the panther atop Cat Hill again and Balto the Wonder Dog with kids seated on his back. I trudged up each hill, attempted to jog on the downhills but usually abandoned that after a few painful steps, and just kept going.
Finally across the finish line! I was done with number eight. Whew! Final time was 6:33, a 15:00 minute per mile overall pace. I got my medal and a Mylar blanket and a bottle of water, but saw no food anywhere before the turnoff for the subway stop. It was pitch dark by now. I wasn't going to keep walking around Central Park in the blackness searching for food.
I found my way into the subway and started to feel nauseous. I was on one train and was talking to a nice marathon finisher from Charlotte, but at the same time I was fighting back the urge to throw up and was looking around for somewhere convenient to do it among the crowd of people, but there wasn't any space that wasn't occupied by a person. You know it's bad when you seriously consider taking off your Mylar blanket in order to use it to catch puke. I was able to hop off the train for a transfer before I reached that point of no return, fortunately, and the feeling subsided when I got outside into fresher air.
On the return I ran into Bonnie and her friends, so fortunately I didn't have to walk those last few blocks through the streets of New York by myself in the dark. I limped back to my room and holed up for the night with some leftover mixed nuts and a muffin for dinner.
Lessons learned: Always book a hotel room the night after the marathon, but make darned sure they have room service. And oh yeah, perhaps reconsider that "2.5 marathons within 3 weeks" training plan.