Friday, November 7, 2014

2014 nyc marathon race report

my 2014 nyc marathon experience was very different from my race last year.  in fact, the 4:10 finish, 15 minutes slower than my 3:55 in 2013, was my slowest nyc marathon.  while i was on pace to finish it in under 4 hours right thru mile 20, the last 10k became an increasingly difficult struggle to overcome calf cramps. in hindsight, the poor second half (actually last third) was probably a direct  result of my undertraining for this year's edition.  but i get ahead of myself --

contrasted to last year when i had a solid mileage base going into the race - and consciously working to put the effect of the chronic compartment syndrome behind me - i struggled to log 45 mile weeks.  i lost 2 weeks of running in mid-september when i scalded my hand.  and i spent a good chunk of the marathon week in barcelona - flying back to nyc on wednesday and heading over to the expo to pick up my stuff the next morning.

but even with those disruptions to my training, i felt good about the prospects of finishing it in under 4 hours.  i planned to run a conservative pace, enjoy the course, and finish as strongly as i could.  except for a sub-4, i really had no time expectation.  while i've had various cramping issues in many races, it never occurred to me that they could manifest themselves in such a debilitating manner for this one.  aside from cramping, i had no other biomechanical issues during the race.

as for weather, except for the high winds, it was almost a mirror image of last year's conditions - overcast and 40's at the start.  but the wind did make a big difference - the nyrr pulled the mile markers off the bridge because the gusts were so powerful.  i didn't see a mile marker until the third mile - on 4th avenue!  as for the athlete's village, i got to spend some time in the volunteer corral before heading over to my assigned corral. 

since i had the no baggage option, it wasn't too bright an idea to "pack light" for the village.  in a pair of random acts of kindness - one guy offered me an extra pair of sweat pants and a second one offered me his jacket - which he was about to discard as we lined up for the walk to the bridge. i decline both, sticking with my unkempt space blanket.  but it's nice to know that some runners will take pity on a fellow runner who's convinced that uncontrollable shivering is a legitimate source of warmth!

it's been a while a while since i've had an orange start - via the top of the bridge.  most of my more recent nyc marathons starts have been via the lower level.  as mentioned, the wind was a significant factor running across the span (as well as the other bridges on the course).  i can't remember when the gusts were that strong - literally moving discarded articles of clothing across the roadway!  but once off the bridge it wasn't really a continuing factor.

my splits for the first half were actually better than my 2013 first half times!  my 10k split of 50:45 was almost 3 minutes faster than 2013's 53:39.  the 15k 1:17:11 was 3+ minutes better than 2013's 1:20:23.  and when i reached 20k in 1:44:21 i was a solid 4 minutes ahead of the 1:48:50 - which increased to five minutes at the halfway point: 1:50 versus 1:55.

the pace slowly reversed itself over the next 10k, or so, until my 30k splits were equal (2:45:54 versus 2:45:52).  at that point i wasn't in any pain.  my pace dropped from 8 minute miles to 9 minute miles - i was just going slower.  but at the end of first avenue, as i approached the willis avenue bridge the left calf started acting up.  that itself was interesting because it was always my right calf/foot that gave me problems - the compartment syndrome was in my right foot! 

at 20 miles i had just crossed the 3 hour mark (3:00:10) and had a solid hour to finish the remaining 10k.  under most circumstances, that time objective wouldn't have been a problem.  the funny thing was that i actually felt fine.  my pace now slowed to 10 minute miles - and without the cramping i could have continued to run that pace.  instead, my pace quickly dropped down to 11 minute miles as i struggled to keep moving forward despite the cramping.

i was somewhat amazed that it took an hour and 10 minutes to cover the last 10k to the finish.  i was amazed that despite the hassle of my calf seizing up every few blocks i still managed to run the entire way.  even at the lowest point, i didn't consider walking any longer than it took for the cramp to ease up.  when i started to run again, i would literally count the blocks until the next cramp!  i distinctly remember turning back onto 5th at 120th street and saying to myself, "well, only 60 more blocks to get to central park south" - and i counted down practically every block!

i was so happy to cross the finish line!  that euphoria carried me for most of the walk out of the park.  but i made the mistake of sitting down for a minute and my calf seized up.  it was so painful to look at that one of the volunteer insisted on getting me into a wheelchair.  i was just as insistent that it would pass - and i didn't want a wheelchair ride to the medical tent.  luckily i was able to stand up and walk out of the park.

the rest of my post-race, outside the park, walk also difficult.  i was shivering and walked with a zombie-like determination to get a poncho to warm up!  then for the 2nd time, literally a couple of yards away from the poncho distribution, my calf seized up again - this time while i was standing and walking.  if it wasn't for the quick reaction of a volunteer i would have hit the pavement.  she also insisted on getting me into a wheelchair - which i again declined.  another volunteer brought a poncho over while the first one insisted i eat some pretzels for the salt - which i gladly did.  a french runner gave me a container of holistic pills to cramps - another random act of kindness.  i thanked him, but declined to ingest them.

from there the remaining 3-4 block walk to the westchester road runner buses parked on the south side of lincoln center was unremarkable.  the heat from the poncho worked wonders - and i was also occupied with eating the pretzels!  needless to say, within the hour - as i sat on a warm bus and wore dry clothes - those post-race issues quickly became distant memories!  still, all that cramping left me with a sore and tender calf for the next few days.  while the rest of me was fine - as relative as that term is after 26.2 miles - i couldn't get over how damaged my calf was from the experience!  that said, the passage of time - abeit here, days - makes that, too, seem like a distant memory!

now 12 are done - looking forward to finishing #13 next year!.

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