Thursday, November 05, 2009

At the weird exposure cafe

People who get it will know what I mean.

Marathon thoughts

This is the first bit of time I've had since the race to put-down some thoughts about the New York Marathon:

Getting to the start:

The marathon offers transportation to the start, but what they offered me was the Staten Island ferry at 5:30 AM. From where we stayed on Long Island, it would be easier to drive to the actual start than to the ferry terminal in lower Manhattan. The problem is that the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge closes at 7:00 AM on race-day and so you've got to be there early enough to get dropped-off and still have time for your ride to get back to the other side. In addition, we had never driven there before and were not sure how long it would take. As it was, we missed a turn and ended-up taking a longer way than we had originally mapped-out. The missed turn was due to the car needing gas and the first station we found just happened to be at the intersection we were supposed to turn at--we didn't notice the road sign because we were so intent on the lit-up Shell station instead. We crossed the bridge just after 6:00 AM and there was a drop-off lane right at the end of the bridge. We kissed good-bye and then I wandered into the athlete's village, wondering what I would do with 3 hours and 40 minutes till the race.

It was drizzling lightly and so I made for the first pavilion I could find. There were lots of people already there but I found a patch of grass to lay down on. Just about every body else had thought to bring an old sleeping bag or blanket but I was warmly dressed and so, while I would have loved to have a blanket, I was reasonably comfy. I tried to sleep and maybe did drowse for a bit, but also looked around and noticed the people around me. Next to me was a tiny Asian, or perhaps South American woman, sleeping in a thick warm sleeping bag. Later she woke-up and began munching on a rice-ball wrapped in sea weed--lending odds to the Asian hypothesis. Just on the other side of me were two young ladies spooning under a quilt--seemed as if everybody else did better pre-race planning than I did. In front of me was a group of Dutch guys who were full of pre-race bonhomie. One guy was putting his name label onto a black nylon bag. The race is very specific about requiring only the clear plastic bags they issue being dropped-off, so I wonder if the guy ended up with a big hassle later. Last, I struck-up a conversation with a French man who was very nice. He thought his English was lacking, but it was really very good--he had an accent but could be very easily understood. He was there with a group too and it came out that he is an engineer with four children.

Around 9:00 I decided to make a move: I wanted to find out where to drop off my warm-up clothes, find the starting pens and so forth. Almost as soon as I got to the center of the village, a female voice came on over the PA: "The starting corrals are open for the first wave, please report to your starting corral, now." I have italicised "now" but that does not come close to conveying the emphasis and command the announcer placed on the word. It was cold and once I turned-in my clothes, I would be wearing a tank top and skimpy shorts in that raw early morning weather and yet I felt compelled by that voice, to obey. I'm glad I did. I got to my starting area at around 9:10 and was going to stop outside to adjust my shoe but the guard at the gate said, "you'd better get in here, I'm going to close the gate in 5 minutes." He wasn't lying. The gates soon closed and they walked the whole first wave up to the starting line, a good quarter mile from where we assembled. They were probably assembling the 2nd wave in the pens behind us before the first wave began to race.

The Start:

The national anthem was sung, there were a few words from mayor Bloomberg and then we started to the sound of Frank Sinatra singing New York, New York (of course). The conditions were perfect: Low 50s, overcast and only a light breeze. With 3 waves and three parallel starts, there was hardly any crowding. I think I did around 8:15 for the first mile and a lot of that was going up-hill on the bridge. The view was great too: Helicopters overhead, fire boats down below-spraying into the sky and off to the left, the skyline of lower Manhattan. Once over the bridge, we were in Brooklyn and the first block sign I noticed was in the high 80's like maybe 86th street. We stayed on this same road until the blocks ran out, so over eighty blocks on one road! The street was lined the whole way 1-2 deep in some places and in others more like 6-8 deep. It seemed as if every block had a band or rock group playing. It was all very festive. I tried to maintain a quick pace, but was careful not to push too hard--the last thing I wanted was to burn-out around mile 15 like I did in Boston. (I did a reasonable time there but it was miserable for the final ten miles) In the early part of the race I took liquid at every opportunity and drank all that I was given. Experience has taught me that by late in the race you can only stand a little sip without inducing a gag reflex, so it is a good idea to bank fluids early.

We hit the half-way point just before leaving Brooklyn and I was doing 1:39:31 which put me about 5 and 1/2 minutes ahead of my goal of staying under 3:30 for the whole race. I felt pretty good: I had not yet started to breathe hard, my legs were starting to get sore and yet they felt strong still. When we crossed into Queens, it seemed pretty much like Brooklyn, at least the parts we had been through. Most of mile 16 is on the Queensboro Bridge crossing over to Manhattan. It was a weird experience. There had been cheering crowds the whole way and now we were on the lower level of the bridge and no spectators were allowed in that part. Just the sound of breathing and footfalls on concrete. As you get to the end of the bridge a distant roar can be heard--huge crowds in Manhattan! This was the best part. All three parallel starts had converged in the middle of Brooklyn and the course was crowded--not to the point where it slowed you down, but one needed to constantly pay attention to the runners around you. Now in Manhattan, the road was about twice as wide--three lanes in each direction plus a bus lane on each side. I had a whole traffic lane to myself and so I punched-up the pace a bit and did my last sub-8 miles of the race.

The crowds slowly petered-out as we got further and further North and when we crossed into The Bronx they were the thinnest of the whole course. Upon crossing back into Manhattan, the crowds resumed and became thicker as we moved South. We stayed on 5th Ave right past the North West corner of Central Park and ran along the East side until the Guggenheim came into view, then we turned in to the park itself. The park had some of the only real hills I remember from the race but there were only two miles to go so I didn't let that or the increasing pain in my legs get to me. The crowds in the park and the rest of the way were massive and noisy. We emerged on Central Park South and 5th Ave and went along the southern edge of the park to Columbus Circle, the finish is in the park about 800 meters away at this point. This final distance flew-by and I crossed the last sensor gate.

The Finish

They keep you on your feet after the finish. You pass by where they hand out finisher medals, then mylar sheets are handed out and someone comes by to tape them shut to form a cape. Next, goody bags with water and food in them and finally a long walk to the UPS truck with your bag of clothes, phone & etc. Each truck covered 1000 numbers, so the first one was for 69,000 to 69,999. I was in the 13 thousands and so had to walk to the 56th one in line. This was about a mile. The finish is about even with 67th street and I exited the park at 82nd. I walked back to Columbus Circle to meet my family.

A picture my middle daughter took when I met them at Columbus Circle. Lots of runners brought cameras along on the run with them. They probably got some nice shots but I would really get tired of keeping my camera with me for 3 and 1/2 hours.

Added note: I met a guy at the start and we had around 20 minutes to chat. His name is Dave, from NJ and said he is 42. It turns out that was enough information to find his time from the marathon results page. That is totally cool! It is nice to know he did good!

November Dahlia

We had a cold, wet Summer and this dahlia seemed as if it would never bloom.

It just kept getting taller and taller. That red stick which is supporting the stem is a broom handle. The total height of the plant has got to be around 6 and 1/2 feet.

The Japanese Maple behind the Dahlia shows how late in the season it is: This is November 5th and we live in a suburb of Boston.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NYC Marathon 5k splits

nyc 1st 5k 3.1 23:10:00 7:28:23

Slowed down by the climb up the height of the bridge and the crowds.

nyc 2nd 5k 3.1 22:46:00 7:20:39

Not tired and trying to make up some time. This would end up being the fastest split.

nyc 3rd 5k 3.1 23:45:00 7:39:41

Getting a little tired.

nyc 4th 5k 3.1 24:17:00 7:50:00

Getting more tired.

nyc 5th 5k 3.1 25:38:00 8:16:08

God. Will Queens never end?

nyc 6th 5k 3.1 24:39:00 7:57:06

Manhattan.

Crowds eight-deep, wide roads, yeah I had the energy to speed up a bit.

nyc 7th 5k 3.1 26:29:00 8:32:35

It gets old the further North you get, till the low point in the Bronx.

nyc 8th 5k 3.1 26:39:00 8:35:48

Can smell the finish. Too tired to actually speed-up but am able to not slow down as much as my body would prefer to.

3:28:41 is the final time. I should slack-off every time. I feel much better today than any other day after a marathon.