This race recap is not going to be like previous ones, so I hope you enjoy it because this is going to be long and you’ll probably see a bunch of pictures of me 🙂
Since I moved to the U.S.A almost 5 years ago I wanted to run the NYC Marathon. I tried to sign up back in 2010 but it was too late, so I did Chicago and loved it! I loved it so much that as today I’ve finished 5 marathons in 4 states: Chicago, Savannah, Boston, Savannah and yes, NY!!!
So when I finally got my guaranteed entry into the TCS NYC Marathon 2014 I knew I wanted to put all I’ve got into my training, and so I did. I was scheduled to do a Half Ironman three weeks before but, in July, I decided to just focus in NY, so I retired from the Ironman.
The training began. I did most of my weekly runs with some of my girlfriends and then on the weekends I’d run with the Savannah Striders. It was really hard to get out of bed at 5, 6 and even 7 a.m. to go run with people and to beat the heat. Yes, 7 may not sound very late to you, but when you don’t have kids and work doesn’t start until noon it’s tough.
Every time I wanted to slack I thought about how good I’d feel afterwards and how much easier it’d be to get my runs in with other people. I’ve learned so much from running with others… I’ve made some of the best friendships on the pavement and I’ve pushed to my limits by trying to keep up with my favorite people.
So a regular training week looked like this:
MONDAY: 7 miles easy + strength training or yoga
TUESDAY: 7 miles speed work or tempo
WEDNESDAY: 40 min. of cardio + strength training or yoga
THURSDAY: 6-7 miles moderate
FRIDAY: 40 min. of cardio or yoga
SATURDAY: long run (anywhere from 12 to 21 miles)
This plan got me my Boston Qualifier back in 2011 so I trusted it, and it worked!
The days building up to the race I was so excited… I couldn’t believe that it was really happening so the negativity started. I can’t even explain you all the terrible things that crossed my mind and all the things I thought that, of course, will never happen but that I thought could happen that wouldn’t let me run the marathon… Does this even make sense? Has this ever happened to you? You are waiting for something to happen so bad that you start thinking about every single scenario of why that day will never come? Yes, very pessimistic but it’s the truth.
Bobby and I flew to NYC on Friday evening and we ordered room service and stayed in the hotel. I woke up at 6 a.m. because, of course, there was a construction in the rooftop of the building right next to us! So I put on my running shoes and went to the treadmill to do my 2-mile shake out run… I usually do it outside but I didn’t bring warm enough clothes for the weather and I wanted it to be very easy.
Post shake out run Construction from our room
I went back up and they gave us an upgrade from the upgrade we’ve already received because of the construction so things were pretty good up to this moment. I showered and we walked 2 miles to the expo to pick up my race packet. It was HUGEEEEEEE and super organized. Of course it was packed so we didn’t stay for too long but I got my stuff and some arm sleeves because of the weather we were expecting.
Ok, let’s talk about the weather. So I knew it was going to be cold, around the 40’s or low 50’s. I compulsively checked the weather every single day and on Saturday that turned into every single hour… It said there was going to be 20-25 MPH winds the ENTIRE time and 50, yes, 50 MPH gusts of wind! Are you kidding me? I’m glad I listened to Bobby and I packed a pair of running tights besides my running shorts because I ended up wearing them with my brand new arm sleeves that I’ve never used before. Yes, marathon running rule #1 is to not use or eat anything you haven’t before on race day but it was the arm sleeves or a brand new long sleeve shirt because all I brought was a tank top.
So my marathon outfit that I carefully planed completely mutated and It ended up looking like this:
Anyhow, after the expo we walked and had lunch at Potbelly, which I love and brought me memories from when I was living in Chicago, then we went to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (I always like to go to church before a big race to say a prayer), and then we stopped by Duane Reade to get my bread, banana and peanut butter for my pre-race sandwich.
Bobby making fun of me and my little car
That night we went to an amazing pasta restaurant that my brother recommended me called Marea. I made a reservation a month in advanced and the only time available was 5:30pm, which worked out perfect! We had a great meal and the server sent me this delicious dessert with a congratulations sign because we mentioned I was running the marathon, how cute is that? Bobby and I got a kick out of it because everyone was congratulating me the whole trip before I even ran the race… here comes the pressure!
So, of course I slept like 3 hours that night, I got ready, packed my sandwich, water bottle and toilette paper (fellow marathoners understand), ordered coffee and headed out to the library where I was scheduled to get on a bus at 6 a.m. Bobby was very sweet and walked with me at 5:20 a.m. to drop me off. As soon as I got on the bus there was this guy seating close to me that seemed to be alone too so of course (if you know me you know I love talking) I started a conversation with him. He was the most humble and nicest guy from NY I’ve ever met! He introduced me to his friends: a lady from Italy and another man from Mexico and they became my waiting friends until it was time to go to our corrals!
Waiting with my new friends
We drank coffee, had great conversations, snapped a picture and now we are even e-mailing each other back and forth! One of the many things I love about the running community: new friendships! We can all be so different but running is something that brings people together.
So these people made my wait much more bearable. The weather was insane. It was very cold but the wind…. Oh man!!! I can’t even explain you! I had gloves, fleece pants over my tights, 2 fleece sweaters over my shirt and I was still freezing. A random guy had an extra poncho and offered it to me and that saved my life! It had a hoodie and that helped my ears stay a bit warmer. We also got free Dunkin Donut hats, which helped a lot!
Now let’s talk about the race! I was sooooo excited!!! I ran without music, of course!!! Please if you are ever running a big marathon like Chicago, NY or Boston I highly recommend you: DO NOT WEAR HEADPHONES! The energy you get from the crowd and the runners is soooo amazing that you’ll never get to experience it to the same level if you are listening to music.
Anyhow, I took out my pants and one of the sweaters. I started running and the Verrazano Bridge was incredible! I was so excited that it felt like it was flat! I kept saying to myself that I didn’t want to start too fast but I had so much energy… The moment I’ve been dreaming for years was finally here!!! Ok so it was so cold that I forgot to tell you that my feet froze. When I was on the top of that 1st bridge I could swear there were rocks on my shoes but I kept thinking that there was no way… It was so uncomfortable that I had to stop and take my shoes out to find out that, of course, there were no rocks; it was just my frozen feet feeling funny. This feeling stayed for the first few miles and then it went away.
On the bridge I felt a couple of times the wind taking me sideways, a feeling I have never experienced before, and it was very intense because I almost ran into other people, yes, that’s how strong the it was! So let me just tell you that the wholeeeee way the wind was in front of me or there were cross winds but it was never on my back. And yes it was cold but when you are running 26.2 miles 40 degrees feels great!
Anyhow I don’t want to bore you with the wind situation but just keep it in mind while you read. I stayed around the 8:00 minute mile pace for the first 15 miles. There were a lot of rolling hills but the energy of the crowd was so amazing that I felt good. So good to the point that I thought that I may finish on the 3:30’s. I knew I was not going to PR because for that I’d had to go under 3:29:29 and NYC is hilly and it was going to be freaking windy, but I definitely wanted to finish in less than 4 hours.
So everything was great, my favorite part was Lafayette Avenue which I believe is in Brooklyn. There was music, live bands, hundreds of fun signs, people screaming my name and telling me how awesome I looked, kids high fiving me (not sure if this is a real verb), fruits, a lot of people with Kleenex for our running noses, etc. But by the time I hit mile 15 and I started going up that crazy bridge that connects Queens with Manhattan (I believes it’s called the 59th St. bridge) everything took a drastic change.
All of the sudden I realized that I had to have a major blister on my big toe and my right knee started hurting like hell. What was happening? That bridge seemed to be going uphill forever, it was like I was never going to reach the top. Of course there was no crowd support (it’s funny because there’s sooooo much crowd the whole time that when you hit the 5 bridges it seems like there’s something wrong) and I started seeing people walking… oh no!
I kept pushing… Of course my Garmin stopped working and was telling me that I was going at 44 min. mile pace! I guess since we were running on the lower level of the bridge it lost the satellite reception so it got messed up and I never knew again what was my real pace for the rest of the race. I decided then that I was just going to run as I felt… I was going to push myself and I tried to forget about my knee and blister. I thought about how awesome it was to be running NY, about my running friends and all the fun conversations we’ve had while training, about my family and about the finish line, of course.
This thoughts wouldn’t last too long until I’d feel my knee hurting again so I decided to walk the water stations. Those volunteers were soooo positive and energetic that when I felt like I was walking for too long their encouragement kept me going. I stopped for a second to stretch when the knee pain was kicking in again and I felt that my quad was going to cramp right away so I punched it a few times and decided to not get creative and just kept going.
Sucking up the pain
So I got to around mile 20 and I was back from the Bronx to Manhattan and again 5th Avenue have never seem so hilly! It was literally a never-ending hill… By this point when people were calling my name I would just smile at them and by mile 24 it felt that I was so in the zone that when I’d hear people calling me I couldn’t eve lift up my head… I was soooo exhausted! The hills, the wind, my blister, my knee… Did I need to walk the last 2 miles? There’s NO WAY!
So I kept running, I guess that by this point I was running a bit over 9 min. mile and it felt so hard. So hard that I hate to admit this but the crowds were so loud that every time I heard my name I wanted them to shut up… Yes, that sounds awful but when you hear that you only have 2 miles to go and you feel you’ll collapse any time you can become a hater. Honestly this is my 5th marathon and that have never happened to me before, but I guess there’s always a first time! In order to get rid of this negativity and awful thought I started thinking how a lot of these people have woken up super early to be there cheering on runners like me that they didn’t even know! How awesome is that? Again, another thing I love about running, so my attitude was bad for like a mile and then I started smiling again… No more energy for high fives but there’s always energy for a big smile!
I’ve got this!
Finally I got back into Central Park and tried to sprint towards the finish line. When I saw the bleachers I got scared for a second and thought about the Boston Marathon 2013 in which I ran and finished 17 minutes before the bombings… I was walking back to my hotel and heard the explosions and saw the smoke, so this setting reminded me so much of that and it was hard not to think about it… but guess what? I FINISHED!!!!!
I crossed that beautiful finish line in 3:46:22 and I wanted to cry… Well, I think I haven’t mentioned this before (there’s so much in my head!) but I wanted to cry the whole time since the moment I woke up… I wanted to cry during the whole race, especially when I started walking the water stations after mile 15… And so I did when I saw Bobby!
But before that I had to walk a bunch! I walked and had to stop twice because I was feeling reaaaally bad! I’ve never felt so bad after a marathon before! What was going on? My chest, legs and back hurt a lot! A couple of people asked me if I needed to go to the medical tent and of course I said no! I have a lot of pride and there was no way I was going to go there… In my head that was for weak people, ha! Little I knew… Third person came to ask me and they almost had to drag me there! But guess what? Best decision ever! It was a huge heated tent, I laid on a bed, they put my legs up, gave me the most incredible massage, hot chocolate, chicken noodle soup, etc… I was there for like 20 minutes until I started seeing people getting oxygen and fluids and I realized that I was just exhausted and that I was completely fine walking back to my hotel.
So I kept walking and got the most amazing poncho in the history of ponchos! It kept me soooo warm… best feeling of the day so far! And then I finally spotted Bobby! He was waiting for me with beautiful roses, a card and my much needed chocolate milk! He was so proud of me and that’s when I cried… just a bit, but still!
I felt that I’ve accomplished one of my biggest dreams!!!! I had a goal and I crushed it!!! Yayyyyy!!!! Then, of course, the night was followed by burgers, fries and champagne… Classy!
Now I got what I call “post-marathon depression” It’s so tough to be waiting for something for years, then spend months training and all of the sudden is over… Like it never happened! So that means is time to start setting up goals again… I’m thinking about maybe doing the Charleston Marathon in January… any takers?
Conclusion: best race of my life, it didn’t disappoint, it was harder than I thought, I should have trained more hills, best crowd support ever (2 million spectators), most beautiful medal I’ve ever seen, greatest city in the world!
Thanks to my family, running friends and to Bobby for all your unconditional love and support!!! It wouldn’t have been the same without all of you!!!