11.12.2009

The Race of Races, Part III of V

Staten Island/Brooklyn/Queens

Mile 1: 9:35
Mile 2: 8:19
Mile 3: 8:46
Miles 4&5: 17:41 (8:49 pace)
Mile 6: 8:35
Mile 7: 8:29
Mile 8: 8:37
Mile 9&10: 17:32 (8:44 pace)
Mile 11: 8:38
Mile 12: 8:33
Mile 13: 8:36
Mile 14: 8:28

The view from the Verrazano, as promised, was unforgettable. Two-hundred feet above New York harbor, Brooklyn ahead, the Manhattan skyline washed out in gray due to the overcast, all set to the tune of roughly 30,000 feet slamming the roadbed. I tried to pick out the Time Warner Center (the most visible landmark near the finish line of the Marathon) and quickly decided that I shouldn’t be doing that one mile into the race.

The stitches came on quick, within the first mile. But this, as I said all through training, was good. If the stitches had to come at all, I would prefer they come as early as possible so that I could deal with them properly. They never became full-fledged, race stopping stitches, but they were enough to keep me in check for the first couple miles.

The crowds came on quick too. The second you hit Brooklyn there are people to greet you—and except for the Queensboro Bridge, there is essentially no break in the crowds for the next 22.2 miles.

As I promised myself I trusted my training and did not start pushing hard from the get go. I avoided bobbing and weaving around runners. I basically found the blue line and stuck to it. But there was a problem with this strategy that became apparent once we merged with the green starters at Mile 3. The amount of runners on the road prevented anyone from running a fast race.

I checked my watch during those early splits and thought that there was no way for me to hit my goal pace unless I starting swerving around people. I told myself to calm down, have faith that the pack would thin out in the next couple of miles, and to not do anything crazy.
Meanwhile, the spectator crowds were fantastic. Flags were waving everywhere, boom boxes played out from apartment windows, there were more bands than I could remember. It was a gigantic spectacle—and a gigantic distraction that I had to keep on ignoring in order to stay in good shape.

Staying on the blue line meant that I kept toward the center of Fourth Avenue those first several miles. Only once or twice did I wander to the edge to slap a few hands or feel the roar of the crowd.

I was doing a great job of staying focused and breathing correctly and keeping my form in check. But even with all that I gave up my hopes for a 3:40 finish at Mile 8.

This Mile marker was the first sharp turn after getting off the Verrazano and where all three starts converged. I got stuck on the inside of this turn and slowed down to a jog—and that’s only because I refused to walk. Yes, Mile 8 of a Marathon and the runners were so dense that it could slow you down to a walk. After that the street got very narrow, adding to the difficulty.

I looked at Fenny and knew I had to pick up the pace. But then I looked forward and knew there was no way to do that. I stuck to sides where runners were able to circumvent the mass in the middle, but every split proved that I had met the speed limit for this race. Now I just concentrated on getting to the finish line in one piece, without flaring up the stitches that were still coming and going (yet never getting to full strength).

The rest of Brooklyn went by in a blur. I didn’t recognize any bit of Williamsburg although I had run Bedford Ave about two dozen times over the past years. As I approached the Pulaski Bridge I was happy, not just because it was the halfway point, but because it meant the departure from Brooklyn and the start of my home borough of Queens—and knowing the streets in this neighborhood, they would be much wider and much easier to maneuver. The Pulaski Bridge also meant that I’d be seeing Wifey, Mom, and MBF in a little more than a mile.

Sure enough, a couple blocks into Long Island City and streets were wide open. Forty-Fourth Drive looked like the Champs-Élysées compared to what the course went along in Brooklyn. When I rounded the corner onto Crescent Street I looked immediately for the Comfort Inn—the landmark that my cheer squad would be waiting across the street from. Uncontrollably I felt my pace quicken as I was excited to see them and get in one last rush before the Queensboro.

I hurried through the water station, opting for my water bottle instead. And a few seconds later saw the yellow posters saying: “Left, right, repeat!” and “See sRod Run” (Mom took this opportunity to advertise my blog. If I’ve gained any new readers because of this, please let me know. Mom would be happy that her work wasn’t in vain.)

I started waving my arms in the air and hooting and hollering—I’ve been accused of missing people too many times to screw this up. Once I saw their faces and realized they saw me I got louder and even started skipping/hopping in the air. (Maybe not the best idea before facing the hardest climb of the race, but hey, I was excited.) They returned the shouts…and so did the fifty people around them, which totally caught me by surprise, as if I momentarily forgot there was a crowd three people deep surrounding them.

Coming off that little burst of energy I turned the corner and faced the Queensboro Bridge—what I had prepared for as the hardest climb of the race.

1 comment:

Adam said...

HA! Too funny that your mom put in a plug for the blog.