Sunday, November 27, 2016

New York City Marathon 2016 Race Recap

I can't believe I am really sitting here writing my fourth marathon recap. But here we are! Four done and no signs of stopping. New York City Marathon was an incredible marathon experience. For any runner out there, this has to be on your to-do marathon list because it is iconic and a total MUST do for the experience.

Going into the race, I didn't plan for it to be a personal best. I knew that I hadn't put in the work for that and that it was a tough course and wanted to enjoy the race and run a comfortable enough pace to take everything in. However, my day didn't go exactly as expected and to be honest, I didn't feel good throughout the whole thing. "Comfortable" and "fun" aren't words I would use to describe the marathon for me. I struggled and I had to dig for the willpower to keep running from way early on. An easy pace felt hard. My legs hurt the whole race and the whole thing has reminded me that I still have a long way to go with all these sporting things I do. I wish I could say I loved every minute of the course, but it was definitely a "Why the heck do I do even do these things??" type of race. Yet, a day later, per usual, I'm already scheming for what is next and plans for my next one :)

The day started really early. My alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. the morning of the marathon, which is a little insane considering I didn't start running until 10:15 a.m.  However, I was scheduled to be on a (race provided) bus at 5:30 a.m. from the NY Public Library to Staten Island. It was about a 15 minute walk from my friend's apartment where I was staying and I wanted to get there a bit early. My plan was to leave the house at 5:00 a.m. so I set my alarm early to ensure I would get up and because I have a prerace ritual, I wanted to shower beforehand. I like to shower before big races to wake myself and make myself feel ready.

I arrived at the library at around 5:20 a.m. and there was already a massive line formed of runners.

The race had given us a clear plastic bag that we were allowed to bring with us to Fort Wadsworth, the runners village area at Staten Island, which I had packed with what I would need for before the race. When we signed up for the race we had to to make two decisions - first, if we wanted to take a bus or the ferry to get to Staten Island. Second, if we wanted to be able to check a bag at the start to get at the finish, or if wanted a poncho at the end. I chose bus and poncho.

So, I arrived at the location for the bus with just a single bag of things - all of which I knew I would have to leave in Staten Island. My bag was PACKED. Breakfast was a big concern for me, as I wasn't sure when or how I should eat given the long time before start. My pr-race breakfast is always Special K Chocolatey Delight with some berries and a little skim milk. I had planned ahead and brought a tupperware with the cereal and berries in it, and because I couldn't find anything smaller I brought a quart of milk. I also brought with me a bottle of Powerade (couldn't find Gatorade), a bottle of water, a Quest bar, a banana, some chapstick, Body Glide, duct tape, a sharpie, a pen, two hand/foot warmers, two pairs of gloves, a pair of sweatpants, a tinfoil blanket thing from Chicago marathon, a heavy coat, a puffy coat, and a paper jacket thing from one of my races. My bag was stuffed.

I also felt really weird looking around at everyone's basically empty bags and I had a quart of milk sticking out of mine. All I could think was "Milk was a bad choice!"

Anyways, after standing in a line for a bit, they started filing us onto the buses and the lines moved pretty quick. I was a little put off by the lady outside my bus literally yelling at us "HURRY UP! GET ON THE BUS!" as if we were evacuating a fire or something. We all got on and I squished into a seat, expecting them to pack the bus full since the line was winding down the blocks behind me, but to my surprise with the bus only 1/2 full we pulled out from Midtown Manhattan and started towards Staten Island. I started to unload a little to get settled and poured myself a bowl of cereal and milk to eat on the bus, surprised when I looked at my watch and it was only 5:36.  I ate my cereal on the bus and about a half hour later we arrived at Staten Island.

There was a pretty big security process where they checked bags and had us go through metal detectors. Once I was inside, I immediately saw a little grassy area and plopped down. I started chatting with a few people around me and Fort Wadsworth was still pretty empty and the sun was just barely coming up.

I still felt very self conscious about my milk in my bag and really wanted to throw it away. However, I was very happy I had opted to bring all the clothing with me because I put every piece of it on and was still a bit chilly. I didn't care that I looked like a nut, there were people doing nuttier things around me and even more intense setups than my own! A lot of people had brought blankets and a number of people had brought inflatable beach tubes and rafts that they filled up and then lay on. Some people looked like they were essentially going back to bed. I wandered around the area a bit, but settled back in my same spot for the majority of the time since it was right in the sun, getting to know the different runners around and making some friends. I shared my duct tape and sharpie with a few people who also wrote their names on their shirts.

My corral opened at 9:00 a.m. and closed at 9:40 a.m. Right at around 8 I ate my Quest bar. Then at around 9 I had a couple bites of a bagel and half my banana. The whole time I also was sipping my Gatorade and water, not sure how much I should drink and also getting a little worried. I used the porta potties THREE times that morning before I even entered the corral. I went into the corral at about 9:20 after donating the majority of my extra clothing into the large Goodwill bins that they had around. I gave my duct tape and sharpie to some other runners to hand out and threw away the hand warmers and Body Glide, which I had known I would have to. There was more sitting around after the corral closed and at about 10:05 we all started to move forward. I used the porta potty one MORE time in the corral (for a total of 4) and then got moving.

Throughout the morning I tried to stay off my feet as much as possible. I knew it was just a ton of time to be up if I were and wanted to save myself. Looking back, I wonder if I could have warmed up a little bit more and stretched or gotten my legs warm. I didn't do my usual prerace dance party whatsoever. I stood up when I heard the national anthem playing for the 9:50 race corral and then stretched and moved around a bit.

I was in the Green section, Wave 2, Corral C. It was very well organized and I easily knew where we were to go and realized I would be running on the lower deck of the Verranzano. I am VERY happy to share that after hearing rumors and warnings from past runners about being on the lower deck... there was literally no risk of getting peed on from what I saw! It was not a concern whatsoever.

A few minutes before our wave started, someone sang America the Beautiful, the cannons fired, and we were off! Running under the bridge was fine but I sort of wished I had been on top to have a better view. I was running towards the inside and didn't feel like weaving all the way over to see better - but there was a great view of Manhattan and boats in the river. Someone I saw on Instagram took a great picture so I thought I would share.

I tried to run relaxed and steady knowing it would be a slow first mile and I didn't want to let my heart rate jump. Right away it seemed like everyone around me from the corral was passing me and that happening in the first mile turned out to be a theme for the entire day. It was super windy in the bridge and my race bib was whipping around since I just had it attached via my nutrition belt and the bottom portion wasn't safety pinned on.

When we were in Staten Island still, I had realized that it was going to be a warmer day than I anticipated. I actually really didn't need to be wearing long pants whatsoever. And I hadn't even brought with me a normal headband to wear, only bringing an ear warmer. I knew I wasn't going to need that pretty quick and sort of panicked about what to do with my hair since it usually flies all over without a headband.

As we hit the mile marker on the bridge, I looked at my watch and saw that (a) the distance marker was all messed up because of the bridge I think but (b) my first mile was at 10:30. That was 30 seconds behind what my coach had given as my target for the first mile. I said don't worry about it, just keep running off of effort as we go downhill and don't get carried away. When I looked at my watch at mile 2, it said 9:30. My pace was about 30 seconds slower still then where I wanted it to be for these miles but also didn't want to try and push it harder because I know it is so important to save energy in this race and it was SO early.

A little after mile 2, I ditched my gloves. The beginning of Brooklyn was a little boring but I tried to run towards the outside near the road where crowds were beginning to line the streets. Having my name so big on my shirt was new for me and the first group of people that called my name, I thought "Alright! This is awesome!"

I loved having my name on my shirt. I especially loved one guy who yelled to me, "Go Katelyn! You spell your name logically and I appreciate that!"

Around mile 3, the crowds started to pick up.  When we hit the 5K mark and I saw my 5K time was over 30 minutes - I felt a little demoralized and knew it just wasn't my day. It felt too hard of an effort to have that pace and it was a disappointment. I just sort of accepted that it wasn't going to be my day and I shouldn't worry about pace. I didn't want to be pushing hard this first half so I vowed to not look at my watch again until the half marathon mark and just run comfortably.  When I hit the half marathon, I could decide what to do and where I was.

Instead I turned my attention to the crowds and the experience, getting as many high fives from kids as I possibly could. There were tons of people out, lots of signs, lots of families and kids and I just enjoyed the Brooklyn miles. I knew that my first attempt to see friends would be around Mile 8.

The race is a little weird since there are 3 different areas where runners start and they are all a little bit different distance wise. It wasn't until a few miles in that the three different start areas merged, and then we were running on a large street with a median in the middle. I was on the right side of the street, and happily stayed there because it was shadier and the crowds were bigger on that side. I was actually starting to feel warm in the sun and at this point in time, I had thrown my gloves and also had taken off my ear warmer headband and clipped it around my race belt. For the rest of the marathon, I was pushing my hair out of my face, which was pretty annoying, but better than getting overheated. I also didn't feel like dealing with taking off my long sleeve and running in the tank top, so I kept trying to run in the shade to stay cooler.

Around mile 7.5 ish, at a break in the median I switched over to the left side of the road since I knew that ICT and Siavash would be on my left. when I expected to see Siavash and ICT.  ICT used to live in Chicago and cheered for me LAST year but has since moved to NYC, so was able to come out again, this time with her boyfriend! It was a little more awkward for me to give high fives to all the strangers with my left hand since I am right handed. A couple times I tried and missed. Woops. However, I was continually scanning the crowds looking for my friends and worried that I would miss them.

The roads merged together at around 8, got a bit more narrow and the crowds got really big on both sides! There were bands and music at different places and it really was all very exciting.

Throughout the race, there were aid stations every mile starting at mile 3. Around 45 minutes into the run I started with Gu Chomps and had those every 45 minutes, and salt every hour. I switched off water and Gatorade at the transitions. I loved that at Chicago Marathon there were signs that said "Aid Station Ahead" so that you could get prepped. I wasn't really paying attention to the miles and wasn't looking at my watch, so sometimes I would round a corner and an aid station would pop out. I would have to slow down to try and figure out what I needed to eat or drink and things would get caught up and crowded with the people.

Especially when the road merged together around mile 8, it was still SO crowded. I had heard that it would be packed the first 3 miles, but it really never let up. The entire race, I was having a hard time pacing and getting stuck behind people or next to people, getting elbowed, etc. The crowds truly never seemed to let up. Since I didn't have a goal time in mind at this point, it didn't bother me, but if I was aiming for something, I feel like I would have been really frustrated with the density of the crowds trying to run. During some of the sections of Brooklyn, the crowds would come into the road and it felt like the Tour de France, which was cool - but also just made things even narrower and denser. TONS of people were shouting "Welcome to Brooklyn!" which was so funny and fun, it really made it seem like they were proud of their neighborhood and all the people coming through to visit.

I finally saw my friends at Mile 8 and was so excited and ran over and gave them hugs! I haven't seen either of them in a while, so I really wanted to stay and chat and catch up, but alas, I had a marathon to continue running. I moved on and knew my next spot to see friends would be at mile 13.6.  Seeing people along a marathon route, truly is so wonderful and meaningful. It makes me feel so great to have people out cheering for me to just see me for a split second and makes me want to turn to all the runners and be like "See that!? Those were my friends!" You can see how crowded the road was with runners in the picture below.

Eventually we got to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, which was interesting because it is a community of many Hasidic Jews. All of a sudden the streets changed from huge crowds, to smaller pockets of individuals. Hasidic Jewish men in their traditional dress walking down the street, not really paying attention to the marathon, and women and children who looked like they were from a century past. I knew from reading the book a Race Like No Other, that the Jewish community here was the one neighborhood that never embraced the marathon coming through and that they had always fought hard against it. It was interesting to run through that knowing some of the background.

There were different groups with large cheering sections like the November Project group, and the fans all started to pick up again shortly after.

The next major point in the race was the Pulaski Bridge, which took you from Brooklyn into Queens. When you cross the Pulaski Bridge, you hit the halfway point of the marathon on the bridge.  As we were heading up the bridge, the guy next to me running all of a sudden had his phone ringing really loud. His ring tone was like a traditional dial up phone and SO LOUDLY was going "Ring, ring! Ring, ring!" and he eventually picked it up and goes, "Hello?" then "Speaking!" and then "What was that?" and "Well, you have actually gotten me right in the middle of the New York City Marathon so..." and in my head I tuned out. I was like, "Are you kidding me here!? Are you seriously taking a phone call in the middle of the marathon??"

There were a few other people around me throughout the race that were on their phone. Lots of people taking pictures. A few speaking to people on the phone (someone else was on the phone as we were at mile 25.5) and others texting. That is SO bizarre to me. I run with my phone on me so that I will have my phone in case of emergency and to have it at the end. I do NOT run with my phone to take phone calls or text message or take pictures! I may have made exceptions for these things every now and then during a run, but NEVER during a race. What in the world!

When we hit the half marathon point, I looked at my watch and saw that it was about 2:07/2:08. It wasn't exactly what I wanted but also not terrible. I could still aim for my C goal of around 4:15 if I was able to maintain this pace. So that was the goal I set for myself, however, at the half way point I also started to really hurt. I was breaking the end of the race up into sections. I knew I would see the Atlanta cheer crowd quickly after the halfway point - which I did, and they were awesome. I stopped to give hugs all around and had Tes told me that I looked great. Then my next goal was to get myself to the Queensboro Bridge.

The miles through Queens were pretty uneventful. I don't remember anything specifically jumping out in my mind here except that I kept wondering when I would see the bridge! It sort of came out of nowhere with a quick left and we were on the ramp. I didn't realize we'd be running under the bridge again, so it wasn't as steep and incline as I thought, although enough for me to wonder, "When is this going to be done?"

While we were under the bridge, for the second time that day, I started to hear sirens going behind me and a car coming through. I looked back trying to figure out what was going on, and realized that a couple motorcycles and an official race vehicle (like a bigger golf cart) were coming through the runners. We all had to move to the side to let them pass. This happened earlier in the race too, a couple miles back. It was so bizarre and I don't know what it was. There were no runners on the vehicles just race officials. One of the guys next to me said that he thought that was so odd and this was his 3rd NYC marathon and he had never experienced that before.

The view on the Queensboro Bridge was gorgeous of the city. I was actually really tempted to stop and take a picture but I thought back to the guy answering the phone call and reminded myself, you are not that kind of runner. I can find a picture on the internet of the view (Boom. Here it is.) and you can keep running.

As we started down the Queensboro Bridge, I started to hear the echo and the hum of the crowd. This was it. The moment that I had been waiting for. I started to get choked up and cry a little bit just in anticipation. We were about the enter the part of the city that I am most familiar with. My friend Kate, who I stay with lives right by the Queensboro Bridge and I spend a good amount of time on First Avenue. I know the lay of the land for this section, I had heard it is the most EXCITING moment in all of running, and I also had friends splattered all throughout the next couple of miles. I also was really starting to feel the miles run at this point. Going up the bridge was hard, and going back down the bridge I tried hard to pace myself. But I was hurting.

We came off the bridge, and made a sharp U-turn almost onto 59th street then turned quickly onto First Avenue and it was awesome! (Boom, Here's another internet picture.)

It felt slightly uphill and I was expecting it to be downhill so I was a little bummed about that. I was starting to really struggle through each step, but I focused on the fact that my friends were there. Not on the running. I quickly just moved myself all the way over to the right where the crowds were because right at 62nd Street was when I was expecting to see my friend Kate. The streets were packed but I kept my eyes peeled for her and when I saw her and her friends and the sign they had I was so happy and ran over and gave them a big hug. I started to cry more and Kate told me that I was doing so good and looked awesome and I kept going.

I stayed on the left side of the road, looking for my friend Krista next. But also getting a little confused. I know a TON of people that live along this part of the street and knew there were probably more people along the streets I knew than what I knew to look for. Therefore every time I heard my name yelled, I started to wonder if it was someone that I knew that was actually just in a different place!

Around 77th was when I was supposed to see Krista, but at that point there was an aid station and I really didn't know where to look for her. I kept my eyes peeled but didn't see anything until quickly afterwards I was at 82nd and was looking for Kristen! I did see Kristen, who also had an awesome sign and gave her a hug too and started crying more. I told her I was dying and she told me no, that I was doing awesome and through tears kept moving. I was falling apart a little at this point. I wouldn't look at her to take a picture bc I knew it wasn't pretty.

I switched over to the right side of the road after 82nd knowing that Mariel and Jordan would be at 90th street, so I moved over to that side and spotted them, giving them hugs and was so tempted to just stay and chat. The starting and stopping I don't think was the best for me. I am not very good at getting my legs moving when I stop, but at this point, I had already been walking through a number of the aid stations. The people standing next to Mariel yelled at me to keep moving, so eventually I did and continued down First Avenue.

The end of Manhattan started to be a real struggle. I was walking longer through the aid stations, and fighting to get myself to the Bronx. I counted the blocks going upwards, until we were past the 120s and then took the next bridge over to the Bronx. I wasn't sure how the route worked, but knew that when we turned around and head back to Manhattan, I would see another friend at 124th street.

These miles were a bit of a blur of exactly what happened where. I was hurting. I stopped to go to the bathroom. I felt myself taking longer at the aid stations and having a harder time starting up running again after I passed them. The crowds were a little smaller but still there.  However, towards the end of First Avenue I was interacting with them less and less. After I saw my friends at 90th, I ran in the middle of the road to avoid people yelling my name. Some people have eagle eyes and were still spotting my name and yelling Katelyn but I just didn't want to hear it.

The whole first half whenever someone yelled my name I would get a HUGE smile and I seriously felt like I ran the first half of the marathon with a huge grin on my face. At this point though, I would barely make eye contact and nod or half smile to acknowledge and thank them. Looking back, people truly were incredible with cheering for you by name. I would look at some of the people and they'd look back making eye contact and really it made me feel like we were friends and they were there just to root for me. Sometimes people would chant or all groups of people would start yelling your name at once and it was incredible. Also challenging when you are hurting and want to be going harder but your body is fighting back with every step.

How I felt at the beginning of the race when someone called my name:

vs. how I felt at the end of the race when someone called my name.

We went over another bridge, which I hoped meant we were returning back to Manhattan and would be on 5th avenue soon but there were still a few turns to make and we weren't quite there yet. I stopped at one point, I don't even recall what mile it was, to use a porta potty. At around mile 16, my stomach started to turn on me and in addition to fighting the fatigue, my stomach was in twists and turns and cramping on me. I made the decision to try and go to the bathroom but it didn't alleviate anything and my stomach issues stayed with me throughout the rest of the race.

Around mile 20 I thought about putting in my music. My initial plan was to put in music around 18-20 after I got through First Avenue. Last year at Chicago, I think I made it to mile 15 or 16 before I put in music. However, for NYC, when I decided that the race wasn't going to be a race that set any time records for myself and I wanted to just experience it, I figured - why not set a different record for myself as the longest run without music? And that way I could say I TRULY experienced the race. So my new goal was to hold out without music.

There were a lot of bands and great music all throughout the race and there were a lot of great high energy music spots that just made you want to stay and hang out.  With the exception of one woman at around mile 18 who was singing a slow Adele song that made me want to just go to sleep. Really? Adele during a marathon?

Once back on 5th Avenue, I tried to find some other runners to make friends with. However, all throughout the race I just never felt that I found someone running the same pace as me. I guessed it was because I was in a faster wave since I had used my Chicago Marathon time where I ran in 3:58 and I knew I was not running that pace. I just felt like I was getting passed the entire race. Eventually on 5th Avenue I started saying hello and chatting with people. I never got very far in conversation. Everyone seemed to be hurting at this point and we didn't really get many words out.

I was taking a few walking breaks at this point outside of the aid stations. I would look at my watch and walk for 60 seconds and then go again. The streets along 5th avenue on both sides were PACKED with people. I had never seen my friend who I was supposed to see at 124th street which bummed me out but I was also a little scared to have him see me because I was afraid I looked as bad as I felt. It motivated me to tell myself, "The more you run, the faster you'll be finished with this thing!"

On these 5th avenue miles, I really wanted to rip my duct tape off my shirt with my name on it. The cheers for me personally had started off as awesome, then had been harder to show my appreciation for as I was struggling, and now that I was taking walk breaks and fighting to the finish, the yells of "Pick it up, Katelyn!" and "You're so close, Katelyn" and "COME ON KATELYN" just felt like they were mocking me! I wanted to shout back "You don't even know me! Leave me alone!" but knew I had to just keep going. I was a little embarrassed that I was hurting this bad to be honest. I was hoping that I saw nobody I knew and that none of my friends had come over to Central Park to see me. Turns out my friend Sergio did spot me and I did not see him. Luckily I was running at the time :) I felt a mix of disappointment and confusion about why this was so hard.

I know it is a marathon and it is supposed to be hard, but the one thing that had given me so much confidence throughout this training is that all of my long runs had been GREAT. They weren't as good a pace as I had been running last year, but they were all super comfortable. When I ran 18 miles, I could have kept going. When I ran 20 miles, I finished strong and could have kept going. I stretched a bit after the 20-mile run, showered, and then went out for the rest of the day and partied and forgot I even ran in the morning. But the day of NYC, I was running way slower than usual and it was hurting so bad - and it had been hurting since before I was at 18 or 20 miles.

I was getting mad at my body. Why today? Why were my training runs feeling so good and today hurt so much? You should be able to do this, I kept telling myself! You've done two Half Ironmans and had such strong training runs this year! I couldn't rationalize it and it was demoralizing that it hurt so bad. It didn't feel like a "mind over matter" thing and that my legs could do it if my mind stayed in it. It felt like my legs were saying no. They were stiff and tired. My cardiovascular felt fine.

I haven't been running with a heart rate monitor since I lost it (which I think I can now officially say that I lost it) so I don't know my HR but it didn't feel high. I didn't feel like I was out of breathe, it just felt painful to keep running.

Looking back now, maybe this was my mind making excuses for me, BUT, I actually was worried that I was going to hurt myself or pull something. Which was partially why I allowed myself those 60 second walk breaks. I told myself I didn't want to get injured on this race and running hurt so much, maybe it would be better to have the walk breaks.

Walking has always been a point of pride with me for racing and running. I know a lot of people that use it as a strategy and will walk-run their way to great success. Tons of people walk through rest stops at every race. I remember back to my very first half marathon when my only goal was to finish the whole thing without walking. My friends I was with told me that they thought that was a silly goal and that there was no shame in walking in races. But for me, I have always wanted to go it without walking.

This year I have walked a few times in different races or training runs. As I sit back now and think about it, I don't like that it is a habit that I have gotten into. I don't want it to be something that becomes a regular in my running. When I was running on Sunday I tried to tell myself, don't walk, just slow down, but it was hard to find the balance. I don't know if looking back now I made the right choices in slowing down so much those last miles. But then again, if I hadn't, it would have been the difference of maybe 5 or so minutes in my time?  Is a 4:24 vs. a 4:29 worth it? No, probably not.

At the time I didn't see it really as my mind "losing" but maybe I did allow myself to give up on running too soon. Not finishing was never an option. Part of me was tempted to walk the end, but I didn't, I kept running as much as possible. But I did give in at times to the voices and my aching body, telling myself, "You're doing this for the experience! If you walk, you get more time on the course and more of a chance to experience it! Walk! Get your money's worth!" Should I have listened to them?  I'm not sure.

When I got closer to mile 25, I knew I had one more to go and I started running and was not going to stop until I hit the finish. I just repeated over and over in my mind "Be strong. Mentally and physically. Be strong. Mentally and physically." then I remembered an article that I read that said in those last miles to be POSITIVE and AFFIRMING in your mantras.  So I quickly changed it to, "You ARE strong. Mentally and physically. You ARE strong. Mentally and physically." and just pushed through that last mile even though my body and mind were screaming for me to stop. It was a weird feeling running the race just to finish. It's sometimes more comfortable for me lately to run for a PR than run just to run. I saw the 800 meter point and told myself, just twice around a track. When we were running on Central Park South I was wondering WHEN do we hit this turn and get back into the park?? Where is this finish??

Finally we turned back into the park, and the street was lined with all of the flags of the countries that runners represented. The streets were still lined with fans and everyone was cheering. The sun was no longer high in the sky, or maybe the trees were just blocking it but it felt dark and chilly on Central Park South and as I entered the park. The flags made me cry and then I tried to pull myself together for the finish. We hit the grandstands and I searched them for Kristen then said screw it and looked towards the finish. Up on the high rise they the different times depending on where you started and I saw Wave 2 was right around 4:30. Yeesh. I hadn't really known what my time was since I wasn't looking at my overall time when I looked at my watch but my first reaction was a little disappointment but then it was also just relief that I had finished.

I crossed the finish line and immediately started walking. I hurt, but I wasn't out of breath really. I could tell this throughout the whole race, my heart rate didn't ever seem high, I just had been hurting. When I crossed the finish line at Chicago Marathon last year, I could barely catch my breathe and thought I was going to pass out. This was not the same. I just wanted to be sitting down. My legs were stiff and cramped.

It was an amazing finish area, then continued on to get my tinfoil wrap, medal, and bag of snacks. I didn't stop for any finish line photos, and just wanted to get to my friends. With NYC Marathon, you have to walk what felt like FOREVER to get out of the park. We were all shuffling about, wrapped in tinfoil and hobbling down the road. I ate my pretzels and messaged my dad and friends saying I was on my way to meet them. There were no bathrooms throughout the long walk which was frustrating since my stomach was still bothering me.

I went the route to pick up my post race poncho, which was so amazing and warm and I just wanted to be wrapped up in it forever. At first they just wrapped it around my shoulders but I asked another volunteer to put my hood up then hobbled down the street to find my friends. It was at least 10 blocks I had to walk and I was texting them at every one to let them know I was getting closer to them. I was moving so slowly and my feet were screaming at me. When I finally got to the family meeting area for K, I immediately sat on the curb.

I was able to eat some of the snacks in my bag, see my friends, and just rest a bit before venturing the rest of the way home. The post race poncho was amazing and warm. I loved recapping the day to my friends, including telling them about my favorite signs including the many political ones and "Run for Harambe" that I saw throughout the course.  We chatted and laughed and it was so wonderful to have best friends waiting for me at the finish. The people that support during these races make it so fun.

After resting a bit, I hobbled my way out of the park and towards a clearer space of people so I could call a cab. I was achey and in pain and couldn't wait to take my shoes off and just rest for a bit. It was a tough day on the streets of New York City but an amazing, incredible, surreal experience to run the New York City marathon - one of the most iconic races in the world - as my 4th marathon.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election week 2016.

I can't not address what happened this past week on the blog. I tend to keep this running, fitness, training, and health related for the most part but I can't not share what I am passionate about and what is consuming my mind space at a given time and this past week it was the election.

Georgia has early voting, something I never experienced before and was a little confused about at first, but it is essentially just voting before election day. So on Tuesday, November 8th, I'd already cast my ballot and awaited with the rest of the country (and world) to see what the results would be.

As tired as I was, I thought it was going to be a historic election and a moment to think back on when I was older "Where were you the night of..." type of thing. I remember exactly where I was and who I was with and what happened the night that Obama was elected President in 2008. It was my first year of working at GE and I was taking a training class at our Crotonville learning center - I had voted via absentee ballot. We watched the election poll numbers come in at the bar appropriately called the "White House" on the Crotonville campus. Unfortunately, that week, the lodging on site had booked up and we were actually staying at a hotel a few minutes down the road. So before the official results had come in, my friends and I had to leave to get on the bus to take us back to where we were staying. We were excited and full of energy at the thought of the first black U.S. President and moments before the bus pulled out, one of the managers of the program popped his head into the bus and told us, "Hey guys - it's official, Barack won!" and we all cheered and celebrated and it was an amazing moment.

I met some friends at a bar on Tuesday evening to watch the results and we sat anxiously seeing the polls come in, and became more and more anxious as moments went on. It was sad, but still hopeful at about 10:30 when I went home and switched to watching the TV at home. I had been texted with some friends in disbelief at the early numbers and the last message I remember reading, even at that hour was, "It's still early. I'd still put money on that Hillary wins in."

At some point I fell asleep and woke up around 1:00 a.m. with the TV news coverage still on and in a daze. The TV was telling me that Donald Trump. A reality TV star, disgusting human being, racist, entitled, hateful person, who makes my skin crawl to even just look at or hear speak, had been elected President of the United States of America. Clearly, this was a nightmare. My blood pressure was rising in that "fight or flight" response when you perceive a threat and I moved to my bedroom, unable to fall back asleep immediately, but also still in a bit of a sleepy haze.

Around 4:00 a.m. I started tossing and turning. I couldn't believe it. My whole body was physically responding to the thought that these election results were true. I scanned Facebook but tried to sleep more. Eventually around 6:00 a.m. I stopped trying to sleep. I lay in bed on Facebook horrified at what I was reading. Scrolling through message after message of disbelief, anger, fear, and sadness that my friends were posting. I used the "Sad Face" reaction more times than I have ever combined before. Some of the more vocal Hillary supporters on my feed had just gone silent last night when election results were going poorly.

It took me a while to get out of bed. I didn't want to begin a day having to accept that what happened the night before had actually happened. I have so many feelings around this election and I didn't really have a set goal of what I wanted to say when I started this blog. I just knew I had to address it and move on.

Part of me isn't surprised. Since I moved to Atlanta, I have witnessed and become more aware of the hate and racism that is in our country. No, Atlanta itself isn't that racist. I just have talked more with friends, been exposed to different media sources, had to face uncomfortable things in myself, and seen how my friends and others have reacted to the changes in me and the conversations that I now start and the articles I now share.

This election wasn't just about race though. He is a threat to women. To immigrants. To the disabled. To anyone who wants clean air to breathe and considers our environment to be a priority. To the LGBT community. To our entire country. He has already put in place advisors and policies that will reverse the progress our country has made over the years. It disgusts me and repulses me and I have a hard time even putting it into words. He and his campaign are only one threat in this thing, because half of our country voted for him. People I considered family and friends, saw these vile things that he represented and still chose him to be fit to lead out country. The only Presidential nominee to be endorsed publicly by the freaking Klu Klux Klan, was voted for by half of our country.

They knew the threat he was to LGBT community, black community, etc. but when they weighed the candidates, they chose him anyways. I've been seeing claims from people left and right, "Just because I voted for Trump does not mean that I am racist!" So you're saying, you're not racist - you just don't care about these groups of people and what it would do to them. It disgusts me.

I don't really know where to go from here or how to wrap things up. I am trying to be positive. I am trying to focus on the good stories I hear instead of browsing through the feeds of things like "Day 1 in Donald Trump's America" that shows the stories of hate people have experienced by people in the name of Trump.

Some moments it feels soul crushing. Some moments I feel empowered to unite and move forward. There are slight silver linings I see at times and I focus on those. I focus on my Muslim friends expressing the support they've felt. I focus on the states and politicians who vow to keep fighting and protecting rights. The community groups that are coming together. The compassion and greater awareness I've noticed in individuals who didn't feel it before.

Times are changing and we're all either along for the ride or helping to navigate. I am working to turn my anger into drive. My anxiety into a plan. My moments of happiness into something I can spread. I am reading everything I can from both sides and both points of view. Trying to learn and understand more and see what other people see.

I won't ever forget this election and this week. Not for the reasons I had wanted. But nonetheless, it has been quite a week.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

NYC Marathon Expo and Race Prep

I am ready to run the marathon in the morning!

This race has had so much hype and I am told is the best marathon in the world so I am excited for the moment to finally be here to experience it for myself.

I arrived in New York City on Friday morning and after getting to where I am staying and dropping my bags, I immediately head over to the race expo. The race expo was by far the BIGGEST and most complex race expo I have ever been to. The Javits center is huge and it was just buzzing with runners from around the world coming in to get ready for the race.

The process of getting my bib and t-shirt was really fast and seamless and the volunteers were everywhere. They even had volunteers standing around with shirts that you could try on to ensure that you got the size that you wanted. I loved that! I wish more races had that option because I have so many shirts from races that I actually really love, but will never wear because the shirt size was just way off from what I had predicted.

I checked out the merchandise but didn't purchase anything for like the first time in a long time of any race expo that I can remember and then immediately walked into the beginning of Meb Keflezighi giving a talk at the expo at the Powerbar booth! It was super cool and I stopped to listen to the whole thing, hearing him talk about his victory in 2014 in Boston and the Olympics this summer. When his talk was over, they said that they would start autographs and pictures, beginning immediately with where I was standing! It was a pretty weird coincidence but I ended up being about 3rd in line to be able to have Meb sign my race bib and pose for a selfie.

When I rounded another corner, I ran immediately into one of my other running idols, Katharine Switzer! She was the first woman to run the Boston Marathon and a huge contributor to changing regulations in order to allow women to even be allowed to run marathons. She is also a Syracuse University alum, so of course I think she is incredible! I hadn't realized she had written a book so I waited a few minutes to be able to buy her book, say hello, and get my second picture and bib autograph from a running legend!

The rest of the race expo was pretty uneventful. It was actually so large it was a little overwhelming to me. I walked around a bit but really just wanted to get out of there. It was extremely crowded and I was anxious to get something to eat and enjoy the outdoors. My friend Sergio who used to live in Atlanta had joined me for the expo and following it we stopped and grabbed some pizza. New York City is famous for much, and great pizza is one of them!

After relaxing for a bit, I then had the opportunity to meet up with my dad and have a very cool experience of going behind the scenes to see the marathon finish line! For the second year now, my dad has been working as a contractor for the marathon events group and in order to even have any time to see him this weekend (since he is working) I was able to join him and other members of New York Road Runners and the events team for a dinner at Tavern on the Green. It is right by the finish line set up, so I joined the staff for a walk through and geeked out for the third time that day taking tons of pictures by the finish.

This is the first time I have had one of my parents at one of my marathons (which is not their fault - I am the one that picks far away races!) so it was really nice to see him on Friday evening!

Saturday morning I slept in then started the day with a short shake out run. I ran for 15 minutes with some easy running and then a few surges/sprints/pace mix ups to get my legs awake. My watch did not find a GPS signal for the whole time I was running today, which does not give me high hopes that I will be able to find a signal tomorrow for the race. I have been mentally prepping myself that I will be running "blind" and hoping maybe for a miracle in the morning.

I stretched and foam rolled after and ate a big breakfast of an egg and cheese bagel. The day was pretty easy going, I relaxed for most of it and gave myself one final boost of inspiration by painting my nails with the NYC Marathon colors and "NYC" on one thumb and "26.2" on the other. It's tacky and cheesy, but I love it because it also reminds me of my first marathon when I decorated my nails and ended up in hysterical laughter after teasing back and forth with my friends. My cheesy designs today are in honor of my running buddies from Paris Marathon, who helped get me into this whole crazy marathon world thing.

I met up with my friend Kristen, walked around a bit, watched part of the football game where Syracuse got slaughtered by Clemson, drank a beer, and ate some pasta and bread for dinner. I think I am pretty sufficient on the carbs for today!

My outfit is lay out for tomorrow, I have my bag ready and my race plan prepped. I am hoping to remember all the places where I should see my friends along the course and excited to just get this show on the road! The morning logistics have me a bit nervous as it is a little more complex than any other race I have done. I need to walk to the NY Public Library, then take a bus (at 5:30 a.m.) to Staten Island. I arrive there at 7:00 a.m. (approximately) then have 3 hours and 15 minutes to wait around until the marathon starts. I am hoping I don't drain my phone battery in that time, that I am able to stay warm, find bathrooms, and figure out a plan to eat with such a long time between when I wake up and when I race.

Thanks for reading along and for everyone who has already sent me messages wishing me good luck. I will be thinking of you all tomorrow!! XOXO

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Why am I running this marathon?

Hello everyone! Checking in again as we are 4 days out from my 4th marathon. The pre-race anxiety and nerves have kicked in and they are coming at me in new and different ways that races previously. It seems that no matter how many of these things you do, there are different challenges to overcome and mental walls to break down. I'm scared and nervous and excited and unsure of what to expect out of myself on race day.

I never thought of this marathon as a race to RACE. I didn't train that way. I didn't eat that way. And my prep this week hasn't been that way either. I feel like people in my life barely even know I am doing a marathon. Whereas usually, I am excited and telling everyone about it!

It's a weird feeling. It's not that I am not excited - I am. Over the past week I watched the documentary "Run For Your Life" and I have been reading blog entries and race recaps and even a full on book about the New York City Marathon called "Race Like No Other." Every single thing I read and hear that that really is the case - this race is a race like no other.

Apparently at about mile 15 you hit the Queensboro Bridge and everything gets quiet besides the stomp of people's shoes on the pavement. There are no cheerers on the bridge. And then you turn the corner at 59th Street onto First Avenue it is like running into a wall of sound with people 15 deep on each side cheering their faces off.

I've heard it is the single most exhilarating moment a runner can have.

I cannot wait to experience that for myself and I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

But the nerves have still been different. Some of the nerves are of self doubt - not of my capabilities for THIS race, because I feel like I know what I am doing a bit. This isn't my first marathon, you know? But then again, do I really know what I am doing? I am also not setting a really strict goal for myself of a time. I have a time I would like to reach, but that's not what this race is really about for me. But should it be? Should I have a time goal?  Why am I even running this race? My mind has been ALL over lately. Maybe this is what they call the taper crazies? YES. I am pretty sure this is the taper crazies. [Duh. I just had the same face palm feeling as I do once a month when I get moody and eat everything in sight and don't know why, until I do know why.]

But anyways, why am I running this marathon? If not to PR and push myself to be faster than I have before?

Well, I want to run New York City Marathon for the love of running. To be a part of this community of people who have run this same path. To run the steps and the path that thousands and thousands of others have and be a part of something bigger than me. I want to run this marathon because New York City is one of the most amazing cities in the world. The city that never sleeps. Full of every type of person and communities you could imagine and one of the most diverse places out there - that all comes together for one day a year for this race. I want to run the New York City Marathon because it is a city I love. That I feel at home in. That excites me and energizes me.

I want to run New York City Marathon as a victory lap on the year that I have had. A year where I conquered new sports and took on new challenges. I trained longer than I have any other year. I incorporated speed work into a regular program. I traveled and competed in the WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS of a sport I just started in a country all the way around the world! I have partnered with amazing brands. I have made new friends in the sport. I have done some very big and very cool things that most people would never dream of in their live. Heck I did things I never dreamed of in my life until recently and some things that still feel like a dream!

I want to run New York City Marathon for me. And that's just what I am going to do.