Sunday, November 6, 2011

NYC Marathon Weekend

Friday, 11/4: Rockefeller Preserve w/Madeleine
78 mins. + strides
10 miles

Saturday, 11/5: Central Park w/Jordan
4.5 mile w/u
Target: 8x1k @3:30 w/2 min. jog
Actual: 8x1k @slow w/2 min. jog
4 mile c/d
Total: 14 miles

Sunday, 11/6: West Side bike path, Prospect Park, Brooklyn w/Jay, Heidi and Jordan
1 hour 48 mins. + 7 mins. ; 16 miles

Wow, what an amazing weekend of all things running-related. If you aren't a fan of the sport you could probably think of better ways to spend a few days in the Big Apple, but as far as Jordan and I are concerned it was an absolute blast.

Things started out as is becoming routine these days with a lengthy car ride. Less than 48 hours removed from pulling our overladen Uhaul trailer up to Fort Sewall Lane, Jordan and I were back behind the wheel headed south. Our destination on Thursday night was Madeleine's place in Pleasantville, just north of NYC, and we reached it around 11pm. The sun wasn't even contemplating rising when the three of us awoke the next morning and set off for the amazing Rockefeller State Park trails. We could barely see for the first 40 minutes and spent a few dicey moments dodging fallen tree limbs from the previous weekend's snow, but it was blast tromping around in the woods for a bit before heading into the city. From there it was a whirlwind of activity as we moved from place to place meeting with various editors in conjunction with the Runner's World media summit. I've never been part of those types of meetings before, and it was valuable experience for me as I transition into my new role at Karhu.

Once the trip's primary business was finished, it was time to fully soak up the NYC Marathon weekend experience. For once, I was attending a major race without the intention of either running or working the expo, which is a rare experience not to be taken for granted. Over the course of the next two days we spent time with literally dozens of friends all involved in the marathon in some capacity or another, whether that meant racing or working the expo or supporting a loved one's race efforts. We saw friends from Charlotte, friends from Brown, friends from Brooks and Mizuno, friends from local running accounts and many more as we enjoyed great meals, visited the enormous expo and took down a pint or two. On Friday night we rubbed shoulders with the running industry elite at the Runner's World VIP party in Midtown, then bumped fists with the running nerd elite at the soiree in Union Square. It was one part work, one part play and all parts exhausting, and by midnight I was already several hours overdue for bedtime.

Come Saturday morning, after a few much-needed hours of sleep and even more needed sips of coffee, it was time for a workout. Jordan and I waited until almost 11am before venturing out onto the bustling streets of Chelsea, a short but hectic two-mile jog from Central Park. He'd written 8x1k on my schedule at a pace I was confident I could nail despite the fact that we planned to use the soft surface of the reservoir and carriage trails. We entered the park and were immediately swept up in the excitement of the next day's race. The finish line and clocks were set up and the air fairly crackled with energy and buzzed with the voices of countless different nationalities all converging for one singular purpose. The spirit was infectious, and I trotted toward the reservoir with 100% certainty that I was about to knock the workout out of the park.

But remember earlier this week, when I learned that the way you feel during the warmup doesn't necessarily indicate how the workout will go? Turns out that can work against you just as easily as it can work in your favor. After two intervals I was in disbelief at how hard I was working to run so slowly. After the third interval it was so bad that Jordan took my watch away so I couldn't see the evidence. I would've dropped out in an instant had I been solo, but he encouraged--read: mandated--that I press on. After a particularly dismal seventh interval even Jordan was ready to pull the plug, but at that point I'd come so far that I wasn't about to quit. It was humbling and not a little embarrassing to know how royally I'd failed at this workout, particularly since it shouldn't have been that challenging to begin with, but what can you do? At the end of the day it's still time on the feet (barely) under marathon pace, and sometimes that's all you can ask for--particularly when you're wrapping up one of the most exhausting weeks of your entire life. To be sure, I spent a few minutes pouting on the cooldown, but with such an exciting weekend on tap and the crisp fall sunlight on my face it was hard to stay despondent for long.

If Saturday's run was decidedly lackluster, Sunday more than made up for it. Jordan and I met Jay--who, by sheer coincidence, literally lives one city block away from the friend we were crashing with--and then ran down to the West Side bike path to rendezvous with our friend Heidi. Jay had mapped out a route that would take us across the Manhattan Bridge and into Brooklyn, where we'd head all the way up to Prospect Park before finishing near the 8-mile mark of the race. Even more brilliantly, he'd timed the run so that we'd arrive just a few minutes before the elites were scheduled to pass. The run flew by in what seemed like only a few minutes, and before I knew it we were lined up with the other spectators eager to catch a glimpse of the day's contenders. Though I didn't know many of the top male competitors, our friend and roommate for the weekend Mike DeCoste would be shooting for 2:30 pace and of course we had Spada and Theoden and many others in pursuit. On the women's side, our good friend Kim Smith was gunning for the win and would be joined in the elite start by our friend Camille, my former D2 rival Sarah Porter and several other familiar faces. We stood literally inches from the course as Mary Keitany flew by well clear of the field, then cheered like crazy as Kim passed after the next chase pack. The men followed shortly thereafter, still bunched together in a small pack with Meb tightly wedged in the middle. At that point it was too soon to tell how the race would play out, and we were all eager to watch the remaining drama unfold. From there our group hopped onto the subway, each bound for different destinations to finish our race spectating. Turns out that Keitany's early recklessness would catch up with her, while Kim's patience meant she was able to secure a top five finish and a London Olympic birth. Records were shattered on the men's side with a simply extraordinary performance by Geoffrey Mutai, while Meb hung on to best his own personal record by several seconds. No matter who you were rooting for, the finish was inspiring to witness.

Several hours later, after reuniting with more friends (including a random run-in with our buddy Dave Nightingale in a ghetto grocery store on the Upper East Side), it was time to reluctantly say our goodbyes and head home. We still had a train ride and multiple hours in the car before returning to our barely lived in house in Marblehead. We were exhausted and already in need of a weekend to recover from our weekend, but I wouldn't trade the past few days for anything. If this experience doesn't get you pumped up to train and race, I don't know what will!