Before this one:
Blue text is from Part 1, so you know where we left off…. My friend Helen was in the subelite corral, which was right on top. She took the picture below… What a bunch of weirdos we all are…
I was starting to get a bit nervous. I kept telling myself “I am a runner, I know how to do this with my eyes closed” but being around all these fast people was a little intimidating. I KNEW (I would have bet money right there) Tessa was going to go onto have a fantastic race. I saw it in her face. She was quiet but relaxed, like a ticking bomb ready to explode, about to unleash the beast she had been nurturing for a while. In a few seconds, we’d hear the national anthem, Mary Wittenberg, Bloomberg, the gun, Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York, the excited footsteps on the lower deck and I knew I would helplessly lose her. But I knew she wouldn’t let her (and mine) dream go. I shouted a few Go Tessa, You Got this as she run away from me. She’d go onto a 3:16, a 7 minute PR, insanely-precise run race, and I knew, as soon as the race started, within 10 steps, before she even left me, that I had nothing in me. Nothing. That I had no business being there. That I wasn’t prepared for what was ahead and I was going to be taught a lesson. I tried to relax and do my best to salvage the carnage but I couldn’t relax. Everyone was passing me at 5, 6, and 7 pace and it was crowded and we were going uphill and the bibs were being shaken by the wind and I could feel the footsteps above and thought about the many hours I still had until the finish and I was so scared of tripping and falling and my legs were so dead, and I was cold but I was hot and it was so crowded and fast… I couldn’t relax. I did my best to settle and find my rhythm… but I couldn’t. The race was stronger than me and I wasn’t prepared, I wasn’t trained mentally or physically to control it, or to control myself. I just did my best to not despair...
A lot of friends passed me. Lots and lots of people. And still, I was going way too fast. I couldn’t control my speed, my heart rate, my head was spinning with fear and panic… I felt like someone who is trying not to drown so they patter around frantically wasting all their energy helplessly. I knew I was making things worse. I just couldn’t stop it.
I had brought a 3:40 pace bracelet for kicks (far from my last marathon at 3:27 but still a good point reference for me). I figured that, if I was doing anything slower than that, I would not need a pace bracelet. Average pace for 3:40 is 8:25. So the first mile with the uphill and all was a bit INSANE at 8:35. Seriously. I KNEW I had already ruined the race because I was going bonkers. I had already also started crying a bit early. I missed running. I hadn’t run in two weeks. I hadn’t done this marathon in two years, and 2011 was so different doing the Footlocker Five Boro Challenge. I was nervous and crying hysterically this early, no good.
Still going so fast… but, in EVERY SINGLE OTHER RACE I ever did, I ALWAYS thought I started too fast and got scared. And I always thought there was no way I could sustain that speed and I always did maintain it. I always know how to pace. It’s my thing. I pace well. I start easy and finish super strong. What if this time it would be the same thing as every single other race? I really wanted to believe it but my legs felt dead, my heart rate was insanely high at 184 average for the first mile… I knew I had to slow down, but my brain wasn’t trained to have any control over my untrained legs. I was like a drunk person or a child that had too much candy and there was nothing I could do from the control room.
We could hear and feel the wind. It was on our side so it wasn’t that much trouble in the lower deck, but I wondered how long should I keep my layers on… and what would happen when we left the Verrazano… Mile 2 was 6:46, ridiculously fast, but I was on the same uncontrollable panic mode. And my legs were dead going downhill… that’s never a good sign. My legs usually LOVE downhills!
We left the bridge, I started getting really warm and finished shedding my layers. We run through the back streets of Bay Ridge and I noticed how many people were out there. SO MANY. I have done every NYC Marathon since 2008 and I had never seen soooo many spectators. It was exciting and I could barely enjoy it. Soon enough, we turned onto Fourth Avenue, and, still crowded I clock Mile 3 at 8, so my first 5K was at 8:01 average. I knew it was unsustainable, but there was nothing I could do at this point. It was a mess already.
I knew though, that I’d see Juan in a couple of minutes, and that was my first out. I decided I would keep going, my leg wasn’t hurting and, though slow, I could keep going. Soon, I spotted him in our prearranged corner, exchanged kisses, told him how I felt and kept at it. Trying to reign it in. To no avail of course.
Brooklyn turned into a blur. I realized I was tired and I couldn’t keep myself interested in the crowds, the fun, the city, the course. Pretty much, I was not enjoying it. I mostly put the music up, went to the middle of the road, looked down, and tried to focus on just one more step. One. More. Step.
Mile 4: 7:45, Mile 5: 7:43, Mile 6: 8:00, Mile 7: 7:53, Mile 8: 8:02, Mile 9: 8:06, Mile 10: 8:11. My 15K was average 8:06. Somehow I was keeping a REALLY fast PACE. According to my pace bracelet I was 2 minutes and a half sub 3:40. Emm, am I capable of a 3:37? NO WAY. But my legs were doing whatever they wanted. I’d later realize they didn’t know we were doing a marathon, they though it was a half marathon….
I kept at it, one step at a time. I cried a lot. I was just feeling slow, tired… and things started to get worse. The thought of Michelle waiting in her PJs on Bedford kept me going for a while. I was just SO thankful she was there, just like she does every year! Mile 11: 8:30, Mile 12: 8:09, Mile 13: 8:25, Mile 14: 8:44. Going up the Queensboro I didn’t stop to walk like so many people but I FELT like I was walking… Mile 15: 9:52, Mile 16: 10:23, getting off the Queensboro was not the high I always experienced. I had to make a decision. If I was to end the race, I was seeing Juan at Mile 18, I could just stay with him. I was getting slower and slower… I decided that I was NOT GOING TO WALK. AT ALL. And that as soon as I started walking, I was going to walk straight home. NO WALKING. HANG IN THERE and finish this thing. My 5K splits were dropping like crazy. Pace at 20K was 8:22, at 30K I was at 8:28 and it just kept getting worse and worse. I was past my 3:40 pace bracelet pace now.
Around 80th Street I saw my friends Katy and Mikhail who made me feel so good and around 117th I knew I’d see Juan and my team mates! That kept me going for a while. But I kept going: Mile 17: 9:49, Mile 18: 8:49, Mile 19: 8:56. BAD going towards Fifth Avenue WORSE and Central Park Worst.
I knew Juan was coming ready in tights to run if needed, and I debated whether I wanted company for the 3 miles into the Bronx. I decided to go at it alone. If he was with me, I’d start complaining, he’d tell me how great I was doing and I’d start hating him. I’d rather shut it all down and just haul to the finish as dissociated from what was happening as possible.
I spotted the Dashing Whippets, did the continuous high-five as best as I could (see how low/tired my arm is?) but I was really happy to see them all!
One thing I had started doing was to stop crying when I knew I would see Juan. I didn’t want him to worry or try to come with me. Then, before getting into the Bronx, I spotted Ben, who always makes me smile!!!
The Willis bridge into the Bronx felt like I was climbing the Empire State Building. I am not exaggerating. I have climbed the ESB!
See how miserable I look? If you have seen ONE of my race reports, you know I know how to look good in race photos, marathons or whatever they are. These are just my worst pictures ever. But… the BRONX was bopping!!! It was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it!!!! It was so much fun. There were funny signs and somehow I noticed! Plus I saw two team-mates and shouted around a lot.
And when you don’t think it can get worse, it does: Mile 20: 9:14, Mile 21: 9:47, Mile 22: 8:58... I saw Mary Arnold there, just because she was shouting my name like I was drowning. Everything was a blur. I just focused on getting to Fifth and 109 where I’d see Juan again, and then Patricia at 98… I just kept looking at the street numbers but they took SO long to get to me. I really felt like I was walking and if I had looked at my watch I would have noticed why… Mile 23: 9:07, Mile 24: 9:26.
Somehow I managed to get to the park. And I just didn’t want to keep going. I would have given anything to convince myself to turn left at 90th and go home. The park wasn’t as crowded as other years, so I managed to see a few friends there (Marvin, you almost made me stop with that sign!). Counting my steps to the finish line. Those were the longest three miles of my life. I was completely demoralized, depressed, upset. I felt like an idiot. How could I ruin this day?? I knew I would finish but I didn’t want my marathon to be this type of experience… I was really upset with myself. I knew I should NOT have run it. I had done 10 marathons and ultra and I never felt this bad. I’d run injured before, I had run slower times, but this was just a horrible idea. I started heaving and crying again. So much that runners around me tried to calm me down and tell me I was so close and I was doing great. I wasn’t. I just wanted it to be over.
When I turned on Central Park West, I thought I was almost done. Wow, those blocks felt like 10 miles. I felt like I was walking and I couldn’t finish soon enough. I was still crying all my way up to the finish line. Mile 25: 9: 07, Mile 26: 8:56.
I finished. There was no happiness. There was no glory. I was still/already crying when I crossed the line.
It took about 3:49:34. The time was fine, not my slowest (still within my 4 hour forever limit), far from my fastest. The time wasn’t the issue. My problem was that I was so way over my head about what I could do that I ruined the day. I ruined the most precious day of the year. I don’t blame myself for not training, I didn’t have a choice there. But I should have skipped the race. And I should have started 2 corrals back with someone shooting for 4 hours to help me pace right. I let my untrained brain trick me, and I don’t like acting stooopid.
And now I know what happens when I DON’T TRAIN FOR A MARATHON. I am just a miserable person, who wants to go home, has no fun whatsoever in the best race ever, can’t control the pace, and positive splitted like a maniac. I don’t want to be that person ever again. Please smack me in the head if I ever attempt to do something this stooopid again.
My pace represents exactly what I did and how I felt:
I ended #10908 of 50,304. Overall Gender Place: 2,076 of 19,579.
Once I stopped running I started crying more. I cried the 500 blocks to my UPS truck, all the way from 67th street to 85th, that’s a LONG walk. Then I cried some more. As soon as I put one foot outside the park, Juan caught me and we both cried for like 10 minutes. 10 minutes later I was at Shake Shack, this man is a keeper.
I kept crying. I was upset. I skipped all the parties and reunions because I couldn’t ruin everybody else’s day… I kept telling Juan I needed to get off my sweaty bra because I was sure I was as chafed as raw meat. Went in the shower with no issues. Turns out, my diaphragm was hurting from so much crying, or heaving, or breathing hard. My ribs hurt for two days.
I want to pretend I learned the lesson. But I am way too stubborn. And I love running too much. I just hope I am smarter next time.
From Monday’s New York Times:
And just like that, it was over.
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