I pretty much got less than 4 hours sleep, so I was at an energy deficit when I got up this morning. We planned a BBQ the day before. (Chris didn't realize that I had this race the next day when he planned this a month ago.) Our guests left a little after midnight, and thanks to a mosquito that sneaked into our room, I got up at 3:30am, half an hour before my alarm clock.
Toasted an English muffin with a little peanut butter and downed it with a glass of water, then headed out the door at 5:00am. I packed light today, forgoing the bag that came with the racing packet. I didn't want to deal with pick up afterwards so I just took my fuel belt, a bottled water (couldn't find my regular one), and my Nike Sportsband.
It's always amusing to see other runners on a train with non-runners. The non-runners were totally intrigued that the trains were completely packed at 6am on a Sunday. It was like rush hour. The runners just check one another out to see who is wearing what, what their numbers are, and pretty much accompany one another in silence until 86th Street, where most got off. I, along with another group, got off at 96th. The corral system put the slower runners a bit more uptown.
When we got out of the train station it was raining lightly, but it cleared up a bit by the time I got to the corrals. About 6:50am, all the runners slowly moved up and kept moving up until 7am when the gun went off. With over 10,000 runners, it took about 10 minutes before I got to the start line.
The first 3 miles were routine with the exception of it being really humid thanks to the rain. There was a slight cool breeze that helped. The route went clockwise in Central Park, so Mile 4 with Harlem Hill wasn't that bad. I notice a lot of people who zealously sped ahead earlier were now walking, and I silently thanked my training experience because I was able to hit the hill at a steady pace. But early on I felt the presence of an impending cramp that is nagging at my right calf. I didn't try to push too much because the last thing I want is a cramp that stops me from finishing.
Mile 5 I hit my usual stride and felt fully warmed up save the threatening calf twinge. The early morning became overcast so it was bearable. Mile 6 closed the loop and put us back at the start line, and Mile 7 worked its way out of the park into the Carnegie Hall area where I felt the electricity of Times Square open up in front of me and that's always a sight. Somewhere around Mile 8 some volunteers were passing out soaked sponges and I grabbed a couple to cool down my arms and head.
Mile 9 snaked its way from Times Square and headed west to the West Side Highway where the last stretch of the race was. I kept fueled pretty well with Gatorade throughout so I didn't feel too fatigued, but at this point my legs were beginning to feel a bit heavy and that nagging twinge would not go away. My new sneakers and socks didn't feel too good and there were some pressure around my big toes. A tiny blister was beginning to form on my left pinky toe. Mile 9 was one of my least favorite miles. The traffic on the running side is blocked off, but traffic is open heading in the opposite direction and there's always large vans and buses idling because of the traffic jam, causing large plumes of exhaust. I inch as far away as possible without falling off the center of the route. At this point I'm a bit too tired to veer carelessly but I didn't want to smell car pollution.
Turning into the West Side Highway, there was a Samba band dancing and a lady was passing out salt packets so I took one and dumped its contents onto the top of my left hand where my sweat held it in place until I licked it off. Knowing that the hardest part of my race is in front of me, I consciously focused on slow and steady and tried to pick off runners one by one. Those that passed me, I tried to draft off of them. There was a strong head wind along the highway.
Heading into Mile 10 I was fine... that is, until I read this sign that read, "You Inspire." Maybe it was the lack of sleep, or the culmination of a very long summer. Reading that affected me big time and I struggled to keep from crying. From there the next two miles was about trying to keep my composure. I felt myself unraveling. It was not unlike last year at Mile 23 when suddenly I felt spent and began crying. It's not something I can make sense out of, but the emotionality of it all certainly drained the rest of my physical energy.
At Mile 11 I put my ipod back on hoping to catch some inspiration song I can focus on to block out what I was feeling, and it helped. Coming into Mile 12 I knew I was really close, so I took off the earphones and focused on passing the runner that's directly in front of me. There were a lot of single runners that I passed at that point, as well as a few that passed me.
The World Trade Center site is next to me, and just like that the 800m to go sign appears. With 400m I burned whatever I had left in the tank to finish strong and cross the finish line 30 seconds over my 3 hour goal. As soon as I crossed the cramp came on and I scooted over to the side to stretch it out. Then went to get my medal, get my chip taken off, and headed into Battery Place in search of an apple and soft ground. Just as I finished off my snack the skies opened up and poured, but of course, I was in no hurry to get up.
Eventually I made my way home, took a shower and took a much deserved nap! Overall I think I did well. I didn't lose too much from being so busy, and at least my time is still consistent. I'm rethinking these sneakers though, because now I have three bruised toes. Also, the Sportsband is waay off. It only registered me running 9.5 miles. Anyway, Grace didn't sneak in a run with me this year, but we talked about Disney in January, so we'll see what happens!