Sunday, November 3, 2013

NYCM Birthday Weekend (Oh, and a Workout)

Sunday AM: 3 mile w/u + strides
Target: 4-5x3k @11:00 or faster (5:52 pace) w/2 min. jog/rest
Actual: 11:18 (into wind), 10:55, 10:57, 10:53
1 mile c/d
Total: 12 miles
Sunday AM #2: ~4 miles to/from/around marathon course
Daily total: 16 miles

Wow, what a weekend! It's hard to summarize it all into one cohesive blog post, but since I'm far too lazy to write a handful of separate entries I'm going to attempt just that.

So, let's go back to the beginning. Except I don't really know where the beginning is. Technically, this trip started on Wednesday morning as Jordan and I loaded up and headed out for the rest of the week on the road. NYC was our ultimate destination for Friday meetings at the Runner's World international editors summit and marathon weekend shenanigans, but we had several stops along the way. Wednesday night found us in Princeton, NJ and an impromptu hosting from newly relocated Esther Erb. Fresh off her recent top three finish at the US Marathon Champs, she led us on a great Thursday morning run in an amazing soft surface park next to her new digs before we continued southbound to Philly. On Thursday night, Karhu sponsored a Halloween-themed Urban Scramble with Philadelphia Runner, which basically meant that I sprinted through the downtown Philly streets with a heavily perspiring Karhu bear (and yes, I did count those two miles). We had great company yet again for my birthday morning run, as former D2 standout and soon-to-be Philadelphia Marathoner Tina Muir showed us around her favorite local training grounds in Wissahickon Park. And then, finally, we set off on the final leg of our journey into Manhattan. Marathon weekend was upon us!

The Karhu Bear and his new Philly Runner buddies

Friday afternoon until Sunday morning was all a blur of reunions with friends, industry colleagues, and elite marathoners and coaches past and present. My workout was originally slated for Saturday morning, but after a little bit too much fun Friday night at the Runner's World party it seemed a bit unrealistic. Instead, Jordan and I decided to see how long we could stretch out a 10-mile run (answer: about five hours) by meandering our way around various marathon-related activities. First we jogged up to Columbus Circle and met Sarah and Jay to cheer on Molly, Esther and other elites in the NYRR Dash to the Finish 5k. In desperate need of coffee and lured by the buttery aroma of freshly baked croissants, we swung by Fika before making our way over to the Hilton on Avenue of the Americas for a quick work meeting. If you've never experienced this hotel during marathon weekend, it's really something else. Besides being the official host hotel for the event and its athletes, it is also the unofficial hub for the elite race and everything it entails. Within its massive lobby and bar area, you're likely to be surrounded at any given time by dozens of elite marathoners, coaches, agents, team--ahem--doctors, media and pretty much anyone else that is associated with the race in any capacity. It's hard to make it through the lobby to the elevators without bumping into a handful of people that you know, which of course is what happened and somehow resulted in us abandoning my workout plans in favor of a pre-race shakeout with Kim, Amy, Katie DiCamillo and Diane Nukuri-Johnson, whom I'd never met before in person but upon first glance quickly confirmed that, as suspected, her legs were twice as long and half as fat as mine.

Posing for the paparazzi on Friday night with Huub, the Karhu CEO. He would go on to run 3:50 on Sunday.

The run was easy, relaxed and fun, but at the same time infused with a distinct undercurrent of nervous energy. As we entered Central Park, I'm sure each of the girls visualized what it would be like the next day when their race-weary feet would pound the same section of pavement on the finishing stretch. The park is always bursting with energy the day before the marathon, as eager runners criss-cross the paths and snatches of conversation in every imaginable language can be heard in passing. The girls stopped for drills and I continued on with Jordan, jogging under the finish line banner to soak in the atmosphere even though we knew it would be an absolute cluster. We continued south on the West Side Highway, our run now approaching a total of eight miles and approximately three hours, before deciding to stop at the Javits Center and poke around the expo for a bit. Finally, just past 1pm, we returned to our hotel to relax before another run and a birthday dinner with friends. Since Heidi was in town and she turned 31 just a few days before me, it was only natural to make this a joint celebration. Naturally, with a group comprising all runners, we were full and happy and buzzed and soundly tucked away in bed before 11pm.

Pre-dinner Sardinia reunion at the Hilton with the incomparable Marcello Magnani. His two elite athletes, Valeria Straneo and Daniele Meucci, would crack the top 10 in the elite race the following mroning.

Race morning! But first, my stupid workout. Delaying it by a day sure sounded like a better idea 24 hours prior, but at this point I was out of options. Time to get it done. The first few steps out the door confirmed that the weather had indeed turned overnight--the first two days of November had found me incredulously running in only a sports bra--and now it was cold, overcast and quite breezy. Actually, "gale force winds" might have been a more appropriate way to describe the gusts that blasted us in the face as we hit the West Side Highway, but I tried not to dwell on it. As unpleasant as it would be for the first part of my workout, the marathoners would face it for the majority of their run. If they could handle it, so could I.

That optimism lasted approximately five minutes into my first 3k interval, which we were unfortunately forced to run northbound into the wind so that the rest of the workout didn't send me south all the way to the Statue of Liberty. Jordan and I consciously decided to relax and not force the pace for this one; there was simply no point. But my struggle would be rewarded with the wind at my back for the remainder, which enabled me to run strong and relaxed and totally comfortable at the target pace. Hell, with as much action packed into this weekend, I consider simply completing a workout to be an accomplishment in itself! There was no time to revel in my self-satisfaction, however, as we started jogging back to the hotel immediately after the final interval so we could rinse off, layer up and then head uptown to meet the crew for some race spectating. We hoofed it over to First Ave to see the elite women at 17, and I was pumped to see Kim holding strong in seventh place. From there we dashed to the park and planted ourselves squarely at the 24-mile marker, eager to see the final stages of the race unfold in front of us. We screamed like crazy for Kim (who finished sixth!) and Amy and Diane (who still managed to look like a model over two hours into a marathon) and then the elite men who followed shortly thereafter. I've never spectated from this particular location before but I'd definitely recommend it--not too crowded and with a fantastic vantage point.

Eagerly waiting at mile 24...

...for Kimberley to come flying by!

By the time I made it back to the hotel, checked out, said goodbye to Jordan as he departed for a friend's house, and met Sarah back at NYAC for some post-race fun, it was time to hit the train station and head home. I boarded the car and settled in alongside Huub and our other coworker ST--both of whom had just crushed the four-hour barrier in the marathon and then hustled down to Penn Station--and was almost immediately struck by the letdown, the carefully measured mix of exhaustion and sadness and almost instantaneous nostalgia that always sets in at the end of this sort of weekend. People ask me all the time if I plan to run NYC, and I always honestly respond that I'm not sure. It's a deceptively tough course with mercurial weather, and I would be lying if I didn't say that I witnessed some carnage out there today. But without question, I know I'll return next year and years to come just to be part of this amazing experience.