Posted by: mmartininycmarathon | October 1, 2009

The Wet 18 mile race


I hope all my Marathon supporters were staying dry while I was out in the wetness for over 2 hours! Continue on for the recap of this wonderful race that had some unexpected twists.

tuneupThe day started out early (woke up at 5AM, was out by 5.30AM) and was met with a bunch of runners that would be running the 18 miles in the rain with me down at the PATH station. Everyone looked tired and gloomy. I actually was looking forward to this day all week as I knew it would be a huge test run to see where I am at with the training and the progress I had made, or not.

Once we got to 102nd, I met Mark, a TFKer and was introduced to his story and his training thus far. He didn’t have a specific time in mind but wanted to make sure he was keeping a consistent pace throughout the long run versus making a certain time. After a few more minutes of talking and waiting a couple more TFK members came then we all headed towards the corrals.

We got started right away and I was expecting to see my friend Loni who I talked about meeting me in the corral. Coach Gail from TFK came up and we were talking a bit… then all of a sudden I hear, “MARK!” and what do you know, it’s LONI! We agreed we would start out together and then split off as needed. That didn’t last long as she jetted off a few yards ahead and I wouldn’t see her again for another 2 hrs.

FIRST LOOP /  Miles 1-6

It started to rain hard when we hit Harlem Hill and I was mindful that, like on Marathon day to hold back on the first mile and even the second because you are heading up the hill (or some small bridge called the Verrazannos Narrows Bridge) and then descending downward.

We had three loops to do of this park and every mile marker was marked with the current mile, plus the previous and/or future marker. It was a little inspiring knowing that once you did a second loop you would be on Mile 7 or Mile 11 or even better Mile 14. I have done the park so many times, mentally I knew what would be ahead, it was a matter of getting the mind and body to work in sync on this day.

As we worked our way around the first loop, I felt really good. I knew it would be a much longer run than I had ever done consecutively in my life, but I felt very confident. I felt that I was at a point where I had put in the work at the gym, on the hills and the Central Park loops that it would carry me through this day.

When we arrived at the bottom portion of the park (about the halfway mark) we had some loud and rowdy volunteers cheering us on as we made our way around. This def helped and was the one thing we all could look forward to and would keep our heads in this race.

SECOND LOOP / / Miles 7-12

As we past the start line at 102nd street there was more spectators out watching and cheering us on. The usual “over the loud speaker” guy was cheering us on and even gave a shout out to Team for Kids as I ran past.

“YAY TEAM FOR KIDS!!!”

That got a little more of a boost in my step as we prepared to tackle the might Harlem Hill for a second time. Now at this point I was not feeling tired or fatigue, but just in a rhythm and popped my first GU around the 55 min marker. Ah, it was delis and I was feeling the energy hitting my body as I continued onward and upward around Harlem Hill and back down on the other side.

My shoes were soaked at this point and the socks were beginning to take in all the water, thus the feet became heavy at times, but what’s a little more weight added. We again hit the bottom of the park with the two crazy girl volunteers and in an attempt of getting us moving, let us know the next time we see them we will be on our FINAL LAP.

Ah! Doesn’t that sound great right about now, but we still needed to do Harlem AGAIN and make our way all the way around. There was a lady and guy running that I would catch up to, run with for a little while, then drop back or move ahead. Again, its these people that keep you on pace, keeps you motivated without saying a single word. The way back north this time wasn’t AS difficult as I expected, I think the rain in some way really helped keep me calm and relaxed. I had turned my shuffle off miles ago to listen to the other runners and hear the rain hitting the ground. In a way it really was therapeutic and I really was in a trance.

As we continued north, I kept visualizing myself getting back to the start where I knew there would be people and that crazy announcer cheering an entertaining the runners. In the usual training runs, I would hate to have to take this route because it is so dead and isolated that no-one would even know if you were still alive. Not on this day, not even in the rain. There was much to look forward to and once I saw the ropes, I knew I had once again made it for another loop and onward to 13 miles.

THIRD LOOP / / / Miles 13-18

What was so difficult now becomes so effortless, and on this day, not even Harlem Hill could drag me down. I am not going to lie, it was friggin tough to get up and my quads were definitely burning, but it didn’t stop me. I knew up and around the bend I would be seeing mile 13, knowing that I was going to complete a half-marathon, all while being drenched in the rain. It gave me the confidence to keep pushing, keep moving forward. It was all the training on Harlem Hills, running the loops, knowing the park like the back of my hand that helped me get through. And, knowing it would be done, one final time gave me some assurance that in fact I was doing well and was going to finish. If any of you even want to walk this hill I speak so deathly about, do it.

It is one of the most intimidating hills I have encountered in my running experience and I know if anyone can tackle that, they are bound to do ANYTHING!

So, post half-marathon glee, (only just for a moment), I knew we still had some work left to do. I was timing my GU intake and knew my body has been trained to take one around every 45 mins. I believe on this day I was doing it about 45-50 minutes. Based on my time, I would have to take one at around the 2:20 mark but that would be around the time I potentially could finish. I thought about my 14 mile run the week before and how I finished in 2:01 (doing two loops of the Central Park). At this point working up to Mile 14 my time was substantially faster, I was in around 1:45. I had already calculated that my pace last week was great, 8:40 so I knew I was going at a much faster pace today and still feeling great and confident. I set a goal of getting in under 2:20, not the previous 2:30-2:40 but now 10-15 minutes faster.

I was probably around 14.5 miles when I see this girl ahead, dressed in black moving right along. At this point there wasn’t a ton of people so I sped up thinking it was a Loni sighting! I thought,

“Oh man, NO WAY! Wait, she was wearing black, yes, wind breaker, yes YES! Oh wait, the shoes, wait are those Nikes? I can’t really tell, oh yea, they are Nikes.”

I look over and without being too obvious, kind of took a double take, and still wasn’t sure it was her. But then a few seconds later I hear,

MARK!!!!

I turned back and yelled,

LONI! (then I knew it was her!)

We high fived and asked how each other was doing and told her we are going to run together to the finish.I knew I had been going faster than expected and all the while I was telling her we can do this, we can finish this up. She had told me she wanted to finish in 2:30 and I looked at my watch, 1:51. I knew we could do it under 2:30 and kept assuring her we would finish in less time than that.

As we both made it down past the 72nd street transverse,  Loni was battling a bad blister and I kept talking to her, telling her how we only had 3 miles left to go, and how AWESOME she is going to feel when she is done. I explained to her how I use different landmarks to get myself to break the race or rest of the race up, into smaller pieces. Down at the bottom of the park, I knew exactly what would  expect and how long it should take. I knew starting at the bottom of the park, on a good day you can get to 102nd street in 28 minutes.

We could hear the screams and sounds of excitement and it got me pumped. I knew exactly what it was and where it was. It was our crazy girl volunteers again! Only this time it would be our FINAL time passing them! I ran to the side where they were and high fived them and thanked them for being out. Most every volunteer I saw back up to 102nd street I high fived and gave thanks to them. Without looking forward to them and their energy it would have been ALOT harder.

THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS!

Mile 16  past and in my head I knew this was it, this was the furthest I have EVER gone. It only lasted for a second as Cat’s Hill was upon us and we maintained focus to trudge up this monster at this point in the race. prior to hitting this, I explained to Loni, we have to pace, we can’t go too hard at this part knowing that we could burn out energy. I kept telling her, she is looking great and to focus on breathing and her form. Back straight, stand tall and proud and breathe.

Mile 17 was there as a reward for our hard work and we got the cheers from our second set of crazy girl volunteers. They knew we were in it for the long haul and were on pace for a great time. I had no idea what our pace was or even the time, until we hit Mile 17.I told Loni, this is it girl, one more,

JUST ONE MORE!

She suggested I go on without her and I just said, “We are finishing together, no matter what… we started together and we are finishing together”. We were a team now, determined to finish what we both started and we had one mile to go. North on East park Drive which runs next to Fifth Avenue and past the Guggenheim, past East 97th street and we could see the ropes again that meant the finish. There were two sections with a water station to the left and volunteers cheering us on and directing us to the left. I looked at Loni and told her, ca mone, this is it, we are going to do it!

We both KICKED LIKE HELL the final yards to the finish line.

When we crossed the finish line we both just looked at each other, high fiving and hugged knowing we both helped each other get through and finish. We couldn’t believe our unofficial finish time while taking the moment in. Ironically, like at the start of the race, guess who walks past us only minutes after we finished. It was coach Gail from Team for Kids who I had been talking to when Loni came at the start. She had run a great race as well and get this, wanted to even it out for the day so decided to do another 2 miles for 20 miles on the day! Insanity!

It was my best race to date, because I ran a great race feeling so good, caught up to Loni at the most opportune time, and finishing with her. It is what brings runners together, the bond that cements our relationships together and even though they can be so far ahead or behind or say not a single word, we all know and understand. Some things just happen and other things are meant to happen.

I hope you have enjoyed this small tibid of running adventure and I hope I have inspired you to go run a mile or two with a friend or a girlfriend or your wife or son. You’ll be surprised what you might learn about them and the bond that can quickly form. Happy running!

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