Let me open with: Every runner, triathlete, and coach potato needs to put this race on their bucket list. No race has rivaled the experience of NYC (including my Ironmans). You’ll hear this same mantra echo from NYC alum. Simply put, this race is awesome. The entire community embraces the event, whether it’s a stranger on the street, the bellman at your hotel, or the waiter at the restaurant. The crowds are awesome, as are the volunteers. Some may lobby that Ironman World Championships could compete for the overall aura of awesome, but remember, this race brings over 45,0000 runners to a 26.2 mile course! There’s no doubt that New York Road Runners has mastered the logistics of running such a large race. The course was surrounded with nearly 100% deafening crowd support. Just when things became tough, the city rose to the occasion, lighting a fire in you that carried you just a little bit further. Here’s my race:
Pre Race Logistics and Mind Set:
Race morning always begins the same. I follow a specific hour by hour plan. The week is littered with high carbohydrate meals, but the real work gets done 24 hours prior to go-time. Saturday morning began with a ritual 15 minute shake out run in Central Park followed by all-I-can-eat pancakes. My descending meal size protocol works (for me). It ensures that I don’t over eat at dinner, while allowing me to wake up with an empty digestive system.
Race morning is a drill on repeat, too. Half a bagel with a little butter 4 hours prior to the race ensures my stomach isn’t empty, but it’s not full either.
The mere logistics of NYC are crazy. With over 50,000 runners participating this year, transporting all the runners to start had to be a headache. I was lucky enough to score an escort to the start via the NYPD with a few hundred other runners. We packed into prison buses and drove to the start, which included our own staging and bathroom area.
The mindset was for NYC was to run an even race. I was assured by the veterans doing so would be difficult. All the talk pointed to the last 5k. “Central Park is no joke. Plan to give some time back,” I was told. My focus was on the bridges, not Central Park. Despite all the talk, I still made it my goal and ended up running a ‘fairly’ even race only giving up 1 minute 53 seconds on the back half of the course.
|First 5 Kilometers
The first 5K is tough. The setting of NYC is surreal. You’re in the city that never sleeps—a city that hosts the largest field size and draws the best talent from around the world. I had confidence I could settle in early and find my pace, although it was became a challenge. I gave some time in the first mile. Beginning in Staten Island, the first mile offers a long, steady climb over the Verrazano Bridge. It’s tough mentally to lose considerable time in the first mile, but I did. I rang through the first mile at 7:02, a whopping 25 seconds slower than my goal pace. Holding easy on the Verrazano, a time when runners are whipping by, was an ego check. I knew within the next mile all the time could be reclaimed with proper execution. Mile two brought a fast and furious 6:02 before leveling off for mile three.
I had roughly 12 seconds in hand through the first 5k and I wasn’t too happy–four seconds a mile too fast is considerable this early on.
|Second 5 Kilometers
Central Park and the bridges are all the talk, but there are some decent rollers throughout the course. Working my way through 10k I continued to have trouble settling in. It was easy to get caught up in the hype. Through the first 10k we had a good group, which included two local runners from Rochester (Matt Kellman and Tim Dwyer), and NYC transplant (from England?) and a few younger females. We fought through an inconsistent headwind and crowd. Just when you thought the wind would play a factor it was gone. The same was true for open running space. Three of us appeared to be pace bunnies and wind breakers for the group. I felt really good through the 10k and the miles were ticking by fast.
|Third 5 Kilometers
More crowd support, more congestion. From the gun I was lucky enough to be within the first group crossing the start map. For those who haven’t run NYC, they have multiple waves and corrals. Each wave navigates a different route prior to merging together at mile eight. The course was relatively crowded prior to the bottleneck, but once we merged with other corrals things became dicey. The water stations were hit and miss. Some runners found solace in walking through, impeding the 10’s of thousands behind them. The larger numbers were accompanied with larger, louder crowds. I finally settled in and found my goal pace of 6:38.
|Fourth 5 Kilometers
Staying consistent with the previous 5k, I worked the rollers and ticked the miles off within seconds of each other. I stayed at goal pace and hoped that the first 10k wasn’t going to ruin my last 10k.
|Fifth 5 Kilometers
Queens may have been the craziest. We only spent 2 miles there, but did they come to party. The crowd was loud, proud, and ready to cheer. They saw us onto the second major climb: The Queensborough Bridge. The bridge was eerily silent. The sound of breathing and foot strikes echoed the entire length. Being an introverted runner (loving my peace and quiet), I was looking forward to the Queensborough Bridge. It brought quiet and reflection. I was able to analyze where I was at and how my legs felt. The answer: Surprisingly good! The bridge was a grind. The majority of the pack took our licks and purposely slowed. I wasn’t nervous about giving him here. I knew that the up was followed by a long, fast downhill.
|Sixth 5 Kilometers
The music of footsteps and breathing quickly competed against the sound of what met us on in Manhattan. A fast downhill off the bridge allowed me to make up for lost time on our way up. Entering into Manhattan will be something I never forget. Walls of people, music, and craziness greeted you. I felt like I my pace was running off an applause-o-meter. The louder they became, the faster I ran. I dropped my fastest 5k for the day working my way through 18 miles—super excited about that!
|Seventh 5 Kilometers
From entering Manhattan to running into the Bronx, the crowds never let up. You ran down the streets of New York with police officers, locals, and world travels screaming and cheering for you. There were only three of us left in the group from earlier, but we were still encompassed with runners. The Bronx is where things started to hurt and my legs cried to stop. Our time was short lived in the Bronx, but again the northern borough met the challenge of dying runners. My pace began to slow and I had to claw to stay on target. Each bridge or slight incline felt like stairs and pushing the downhill’s only met me with a leveling of pace, never recapturing lost time.
|Eighth 5 Kilometers
Ohhh, the humanity. The 5th Avenue stretch ran the east border of Central Park before dipping into the park. The crowd that thinned between mile 21 and 23 began to grow again. Mile 23 onwards is where the hurt began to pour on. A long steady climb at mile 23 drove my heart rate and pace upwards. I began the countdown clock, “20 minutes of hurt left. Let’s go!” If the uphill at mile 23 wasn’t bad enough, a strong hard downhill followed. Pushing the downhill was tough. It was steep enough to be uncomfortable, yet pushing harder yield zero return on speed but exponentially more exhaustion. The spectators were maniacs and it helped.
Ugh! On top of the walls of spectators, music, and overall craziness, you would think that reeling runners in 5 at a time would offer a huge mental boost. The New York course is kind enough to offer you a fairly long grind from mile 25-26 with a uphill kicker within the closing 400 meters. I tried to drive up the hills, but for the increased effort I might as well been running through waist deep water.
I crossed the finish line, hit the stop button, claimed my space blanket, and read 2:55:05. The time recorded me a 2 minute and 45 second PR and a whole lot of stiffness. Watch me cross the finish line!
Overall, the race was a huge success. The volunteers and spectators were amazing. Being a big race in a post-Boston world you have to overlook minor nuisances of over-the-top security and the associated difficulty with reuniting with your family (took me roughly 3 hours as they were trapped inside Central Park). Either way, an amazing experience and a must do for any athlete!
|Half Split: 1:26:36
||Finish Time: 2:55:05
On to Boston 2014!