Thursday, December 1, 2022

TCS NYC Marathon Race Recap


This finish line was YEARS in the making!

If you are new around my corner of the InterWebs or don't catalog every detail of my life in your memory (don't worry, I do NOT expect you to ;)), you might need a quick recap. (PS If you're new - WELCOME! If you're an OG - THANKS FOR YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT! And if you're somewhere in the middle - YOU ALL ROCK MY SOCKS TOO!)


I entered the lottery to run the TCS NYC Marathon multiple years in a row and got rejected every single time (yes, I know it's strange, but this is a lottery that if you WIN you have to pay money AND run 26.2 miles ;) #RunnersBeStrange). I realized that if I wanted to run this race I'd need to take it into my own hands to make it happen. Back in 2019 I trained and ran a qualifying time at the REVEL Big Bear Half Marathon - YIPPEEE! When registration opened for the race I was at an elementary jog-a-ton and by the time it finished all of the qualified spots were gobbled up - BOOOO! When one of my besties, Brian, learned about my heartbreak he offered to fundraise on my behalf so I could get a registration for the race - AWWWW! Thankfully it didn't come to that because I was able to secure a spot thanks to one of my running store contacts with New Balance (the title sponsor of the race) - PHEW! And just when I thought the drama was over COVID hit and shut down the world - CRAP! Once we were coming out of the other side of the pandemic, NYRR (New York Road Runners, who puts on the race) allowed runners who were originally registered for the 2020 race to roll over their registration to 2021, 2022, or 2023. Because the hubby had never been to New York and we were planning on making the trip a mini vacation, we decided we'd wait till 2022 to get a "true" NY experience (we weren't sure what impact the pandemic would have on a trip in 2021 since we were technically still in the thick of it, so decided it was better to be safe than sorry and run the 51th annual race {although I may have been a little bummed I missed the 50th anniversary}). 

Just some of the feelings I went through on this journey...

As you can see, the journey to this one was long and rocky, so I'll be honest and say I wasn't sure this race would actually happen. I was wondering if these 8 billion (or at least that's how many it felt like) signs were telling me to just wipe my hands of this race, but I'm so thankful I stuck with it and was FINALLY able to make it to NYC and this magical race. 


Like I mentioned, the hubby and I were turning this trip for the race into a mini vacation (i.e. racecation). We flew out of San Diego on the Friday afternoon before the Sunday morning race and stayed till Tuesday afternoon. (FYI - I'll do a post of the things we did, our thoughts on what you should totally do/ see/ eat and what you could probably skip, etc.)

Note: The hubby's surfboard hit him in the eye/ nose earlier in the week, hence his black eye... 

Leaving on a jet plane... San Diego from the sky!

#RealTalk - The hubby very much dislikes flying Southwest, but we had travel credit from cancelled trips due to COVID, so we were utilizing the money we already paid and flew his least favorite airline for this trip. Let's just say that being delayed out of San Diego for over an hour and having to run to our connecting flight (where we were originally scheduled to have about 90 minutes of down time that we could use to grab dinner, refill water bottles, etc) did NOT help the situation. Also, the rude passengers who wouldn't let those of us with tight connecting flights get off first were not our friends... 

It was a close call, but thankfully we are runners and made it to the gate in time!

Eventually (around 11pm EST) we got into LaGuardia Airport and were one step closer to crossing this race off my list. (PS We used the subway or our own feet to get around for everything EXCEPT for the drive from the airport to the hotel the night we got in - mostly because it was late and, at that point, we weren't super familiar with the transit system.)

To try and limit the number of folks at the expo, you were required to register for a time slot that you could attend. Seeing as we didn't arrive until late Friday night, Saturday was my only option. I picked the first opening of the day so that we could get it taken care of and have the rest of the day to relax (i.e. not relax at all, but spend way too much time on our feet exploring the city #Oops). I'm sure I've said it a hundred times before, but let me remind you that Expos normally aren't my jam. I am frugal and normally don't 'need' anything from the Expo, so I am in and out in just a few minutes. I did stop for a few quick photo ops, but other than that we just scanned the room as we hightailed it back out to the city. 

Bib acquired! I'M DOING THIS!

I know that name!

Enough is enough, let's run New York!

Now, let me say, there are A LOT of logistics that play a factor with this race! This is a point-to-point race, meaning it starts at one place and you run to another place (26.2 miles away). Normally most races will have a bus that you take from the finish line area to the start (which can be stressful if the bus driver doesn't know where they are going, you are running late, etc, but, for the most part, it's fairly easy and straightforward)... NYC takes this a step (or maybe four) further... The morning of the race I would need to take the subway from my hotel to the Staten Island Ferry, the ferry to a bus and a bus to the starting village. If you know me, you know directions are NOT my strong suit, so along with sightseeing on Saturday, the hubby and I took the exact route I needed to take Sunday morning so I felt familiar with it. This was HUGE for me. If you're someone who worries about logistics like me, I highly recommend doing something similar if you can. 


But, let's not get ahead of ourselves... Now, most people hear NYC in November and immediately think perfect fall running weather... but Mother Nature was having other feelings about the weekend. While the weather was great for touristing around town and spectating a race, the weather was less than ideal for actually running a marathon. In fact, the final few days leading up to the race we were getting reminder notifications that the temps would be unseasonably warm and the humidity would be high so to adjust your plan accordingly (and start hydrating like a boss if you weren't already). 


I went into this race knowing I was not planning on "racing" it. In fact, when I was originally setting up my fall running calendar, the NYC Marathon was always going to be "just" a training run for the California International Marathon (originally CIM was going to be a goal race where I wanted to run fast, but my body had other ideas). I didn't have any time goals in mind - I strictly wanted to soak up everything the race and the city had to offer - take all the selfies, pet all the dogs, high-five all the spectators, cheer for all the runners, feel all the feels. Although the weather wouldn't be amazing, I was used to similar conditions in SoCal so wasn't really stressed out since my gameplan the entire time was to take it easy and enjoy whatever the day brought (especially once I added in a 50K race two weeks before NYC ;)). 

These were the temps and humidity at 4:15am... they only got warmer and more soggy as the day progressed...

After exploring the city for most of the day on Saturday, we grabbed some pizza for dinner and it was finally time to head back to the hotel so that we could put our feet up a bit (and watch the Michigan football game before bed #Priorities). 

Get in my belly! (FYI - I prefer thicker crust, so NY Style pizza is not my jam...
Thankfully we found some "grandma's style" that is more my speed.)

Originally I had planned layers for the race (expecting it to be on the chillier side), but once race week arrived I knew it'd be a tank and skirt. Before I hit the hay I made sure to lay everything out so I could double check that I had what I needed.

I set my alarms (because you can never have just one, #AmIRight?!) and got ready to attempt some sleep. We were lucky in that we were "falling back" with the time change so we got an extra hour of sleep (which helped seeing as the hubby and I were coming from the west coast and technically "lost" three hours on those cross country plane rides). 

As per usual, I was up before my alarms started (but surprisingly I did feel as though I got a decent amount of rest... maybe I was more fatigued than I thought after a day of sightseeing and actually slept) and got ready for a very long day.

When better to wear my Sarah Marie Design Studio tank WITH THE COURSE ON IT?!

Similar to the expo, we had to select a time slot to get us to Staten Island (you had the choice of either taking the ferry or a bus, depending on where you were coming from). If I remember correctly, the time was sort of assigned based on which wave start you were in. My ferry ride was supposed to be at 6:15am, so I left the hotel at 5:15am so I had plenty of time to walk over to the subway (about 10 minutes), ride it to the end of the line (about 25 minutes) and wait my turn for the boat. 

Not sure if you noticed, but one of the rats is in the lower left corner scurrying away...

The walk to the subway went off without a hitch. I was super comfortable with the route and figured if I could make it to the subway then the majority of the folks on it at that hour would probably be runners and from there I could follow the herd.

Right: I thought the P was for Padot ;) || Left: Just follow the crowds...

The walk from the subway stop to the ferry was short, sweet, easy-peasy. Although, I'll be honest, the constant crowds were making me slightly anxious (not that I was scared something was going to happen, but after being used to my personal space bubble from the pandemic, having 50,000 runners in confined quarters was a little jarring to the system).

Even though runners are slotted a time for their ferry trip, once we entered the terminal we were told to get on the next available boat. With that said, I probably could've waited at the hotel longer, but I'm a rule follower so stuck with my time. 

Feeling a bit like sardines everywhere we went...

I had worn an extra layer that I was okay donating at the beginning of the race in case it was chilly while we were waiting around for the race AND because I wanted to ride on the back of the boat. (Did you know one of the hubby's summer jobs was working on a ferry boat?!) The sun was rising and the weather was amazing, so I definitely made the right call!

I mean, COME ON NOW! How gorgeous is that?!

The view as we were pulling away from the ferry terminal

In just a few short HOURS, we would be running across this bridge to start our race!

We even had an escort across to Staten Island (or maybe Lady Liberty had security... I guess it's all about perspective ;)). 

All of the giant guns on the Coast Guard boat were not easing my anxieties... 

Once we got to Staten Island we had to walk a short bit to where we were to board buses that would take us to the starting village. Up to this point everything went perfectly, but THIS is where the hiccup occurred. I don't know if it is like this every year or what the issue was, but it was like there was no organization, no one controlling the crowds, no order and no hope in sight... Buses would pull up, the crowd would surge forward, some people would board the buses and then the sardined crowd waited... I literally think I was at that mall area for a good 45-60 minutes. It was chaos and the longer we waited the more impatient runners got (especially because we still had another 25ish minute bus ride and folks were getting edgy about potentially missing their start time). I'm happy that this was the only big blunder of the day, but it wasn't awesome so hopefully the team(s) will learn from their mistakes and can get a handle on this area for future races. 

And I think I took this picture probably 20 minutes after I had already been standing here... 

After finally getting on a bus, it was time to head to the start. Just like "back in the day", the bus was sticky and gross ;)

I'd have to say, I was probably in the 2-3% of people wearing masks... 

Thankfully we were able to open the bus windows to get some airflow so the ride wasn't as stuffy as it could've been. 


All of the runners are given a start color (I was green), a start wave (I was in the second wave), a start corral (I was in D) and a start time (we were supposed to start at 9:45am). Obviously with 50,000 runners they need to somehow control the masses and break everyone into smaller, more manageable groups. (Note: You can move to a later wave or a further back corral {for example, if you want to run with a friend who was slated to start behind you}, but you cannot move up. The hope is that this will keep folks seeded better, but it seemed like they weren't super diligent about checking bibs.)

My deets

On my walk to the green holding pen, I stopped and used the port-o-potties. (PRO TIP: Even if you don't have to go to the bathroom, if you see a port-o-potty with little to no line, use it anyway.) I had been hydrating like a champ and figured I'd try and empty my bladder a few times before the start. Once I made it to the green area I did a quick lap to get the layout of the land, grabbed another cup of water, scoped out the therapy dogs (THEY'RE SO STINKIN' CUTE) and then popped a squat in the shade using my mylar blanket as a (not-too-comfortable-but-it-was-better-than-nothing) pad to sit on. 

There was a line for the pups or else I would've gone in and snuggled with them all morning!

I had about 30 minutes to wait before our wave was called to the starting area, so I watched the news coverage of the elite start on the jumbotron and tried my best to rest my legs (and mind) a bit. A few minutes before the corrals for wave two were set to open I used the port-o-potties one last time and then made the trek over to the starting area.

I didn't want to wait in line for the picture, so snapped a selfie in between group shots ;) #Cheater
And, yes, in case you were curious, I did save these Ghost 12 shoes for YEARS to wear at this race!

By the time I got to the corrals they were letting runners in, so I entered my appropriate area and waited (sure seemed like the theme of the morning was lots of "hurry up and wait"). We were held in our corrals for another 30 minutes or so before they officially closed the corrals and started walking us over to the actual start line at the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge.

Ready to rock and roll already ;)

So, in case you don't know it, the color the runners are assigned determines if you will start on the top or the bottom of the bridge from Staten Island. Yep, it's a double decker bridge. Green (in my opinion) gets the short end of the stick and ends up having to run on the bottom level. I tried telling myself that I'd be running on the top of the other bridges, so this was a "special" experience, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bummed about it (#FirstWorldRunnerProblems)... 

Left: My view of the "start" - next to the bridge because we were running on the bottom level ||
Right: NYC Marathon's social media share of the start of the race ON THE TOP of the bridge {Source}

After waking up almost SIX HOURS earlier (and technically attempting to start this whole NYC Marathon journey YEARS earlier), it was FINALLY time to get this 26.2 mile party started! (FYI: The training is the 'work', the race is the celebration.)

The white triangle shaped flag in the background is the starting line

Alrighty, #RealTalk time. Shortly after I started I could tell this was going to be a "long day". My quads were already tight within the first mile. Now, don't get me wrong, the first mile is technically uphill (since you're running UP the bridge), but my legs were feeling a bit too tired at the outset of the race. I didn't get bummed, just knew I had to take whatever body and conditions showed up (and had to come to terms with the reality that the body that showed up was not fully recovered from finishing a 50K two weeks prior, standing on my feet all day at work during the week and playing tourist around town the day before). Nothing to stress about, just needed to adjust my expectations and roll with the punches (although I did feel sorry for the runners who were hoping to race this one and were met with less-than-ideal conditions - but such is the life of a distance runner...). Oh yeah, and everyone (myself included) seemed soggy with sweat within the first mile...

The water cannons were cheering us on!

Running "for fun" to me means that I take the time to actually soak up the experience of the race because I'm not worried about hitting a goal time. I tried to do my darndest to say THANKS to as many volunteers and spectators as possible, high-five all the kiddos along the course and, of course, get as many puppy kisses and character stop shots as I could ;)

I will stop for just about any pupperroo on the course!

I'll take character stops anywhere I can find them ;)

With the thick and slightly oppressive air (when I started it was already in the 70s and we were at around 94% humidity), I decided I would grab electrolytes at the aid stations. Normally I try to be as self sufficient as possible (I carry my own water bottle and have my chews in the pocket), but knew I would need to be replenishing what I was losing in sweat early and often. (Note: Gatorade is NOT my jam, especially the lemon lime flavor, but I knew that if I wanted to finish the race with a smile on my face I'd need to gulp it down and frequently.) I was excited when I came across a donut stop though ;)

Runners do things during races that normal people usually don't do... like take donuts from strangers!

The crowd support along this course is AMAZEBALLS! I would say the only race that I have run that rivals it (and ekes it out just slightly) is the Boston Marathon. With that said, it's strange when you run over bridges because there are little to no spectators (depending on the bridge) so it is eerily quiet. I tried to cheer for my fellow runners, but, for the most part, the time spent on the bridges is done so in near silence (except for the sound of heavy breathing and foot falls). 

Seeing as I was walking the uphills of the bridges anyway I figured I might as well selfie from them ;)

Seeing as this was my 29th marathon, I told the hubby he didn't have to worry about trying to fight the crowds to see me on the course. I kept him apprised of my progress, but more so he knew about when I'd be finishing (he was planning to meet me at the finish). Well, when he found out that I'd be running near the climbing gym he was at (he's a member of a gym at home in Oceanside that also has a few locations in New York), he tried to coordinate spotting me. He was using my text updates (sporadic for sure) and the NYC Marathon app to be in the right spot at the right time. Apparently he tried multiple times and kept missing me. This is NOT to throw shade on the hubby (I wasn't expecting him to attempt to see me, so he went above and beyond!), but more to be a word of warning that if you will have spectators on the course, make sure you have a plan! The cell service, the app, the crowds, they all make for a bit of a chaotic viewing experience, so if you want to be sure your people see you and you see them, try to get as specific as possible and plan, plan, plan!

Kendra caught a shot of me running around Mile 17.5 and I stopped for a selfie and a chat before trudging on

Due to my legs not being super fresh, the course was harder than I had expected. The majority of the elevation comes in the form of bridges when you are crossing between boroughs, but some of them felt like they could have been mountains! I'm sure it was a combination of tired legs, the oppressive weather, etc, but take it from me that this is NOT the easiest course ;) After the halfway point I took a lot more walk breaks than normal (and felt ZERO guilt about it).

I was one soggy lady!

For me, when I am starting to struggle, I find it helpful to turn outwards - whether that's chat up a runner nearby, force myself to smile and give out extra high-fives, or yell some encouragement to those around me (and maybe to myself ;)). It may not fix the situation, but at least it tends to take your focus off the suffering... at least for a few moments ;)

I don't know why but I LOVE these dinos!

I would love to say that at one point in the race the sky parted, the angels sang and I went from feeling less than my best to AMAZING, but that's just not the reality. It was a slog. Don't get me wrong, I was enjoying every step, but every step felt more labored than I expected it to feel. At a couple points it even started to rain and I was hopeful it would break the humidity a bit, but it only caused the grossness to start feeling as though it was radiating up from the ground. Meh...


Eventually (it was strange, but somehow the race felt like it flew by and took forever and a day all at the same time...) we were entering Central Park and making our way to the finish line. The park definitely has some rolling hills (and spectators that didn't understand they needed to stay back and were very much encroaching on the course so you had a few very narrow portions), so although I could "taste" the finish line, I may not have finished as strongly as I would've liked. 

I have FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC  friends who 
send me encouraging cards before my races :)

As with the rest of the course, the finish area was bubbling with excitement and cheers. The crowd support was AMAZING and you literally feel like a ROCKSTAR the entire 26.2 miles. (PS I'd totally suggest either writing your name on your bib [I saw folks doing something as simple as adding a piece of duct tape at the top of their bib with their name] or putting it on your person somewhere [some runners had it on their shirts, their hats, written in sharpie on their arms, etc]. This can definitely give you a little extra pep in your step when you hear your name being screamed out of the crowd.)

What a doozy! 

Once all was said and done, my watch had me at a little less than four and a half hours and almost 29 miles (ha, I totally realize that the tall buildings mess with the GPS function of the watch). For as not terrific as I felt, I'm stoked with what I was able to do. My main goals of enjoying the day and soaking up everything the city had to offer were completed tenfold. 

Since my distance was off, the pace is off, but at least the bling is pretty ;)

Here's a little word of warning: the finisher area of this race is like eighteen miles long in and of itself (okay, okay, maybe like two miles, but it's still a trek after finishing a marathon!)! I was given the heads up, so let me mention it to you so you are well aware. You will be walking for a good distance before you can exit the official race area (and meet your people if you're doing so). I was super grateful that they put all of the post-race goodies (think small bag of pretzels, granola bar, water bottle, etc) in a bag so you didn't have to try and juggle holding everything in your tired (and sweaty) arms. 


The hubby and I had set up a predetermined location where we were going to meet after I finished. (With so many runners and spectators in such a concentrated area, I knew setting this up ahead of time rather than trying to figure it out on the spot would be essential.) The course map shows where along the finishing area runners are actually allowed to exit, so we picked one of the roads and I met him on the corner. He had the undertaking of getting us to the subway so we could make our way to the hotel (directions are his forte and his brain wasn't 'fried' after being up and moving for the prior ten plus hours so he was the better one to handle this task). Just consider all of the walking after the race your cooldown ;)

I think EVERYONE deserves a medal - the runners, the spectators, the volunteers!
This was a HUGE group effort and I am thankful for each and every person out of the course!

Now here's where I share something you might not expect... Although I'd totally recommend folks experiencing this race (especially if Boston isn't on your radar or a current reality), it was very eye opening in showing me that I do NOT enjoy big races any longer. I might love them again at some point, but, for now, I'm content running smaller road races, longer trail races, etc. I'm not someone who needs the crowd support to keep me going (not that there's anything wrong with folks who draw their energy from that). I truly believe had I run this prior to the pandemic I would've felt differently after, but once I finished it, I told the hubby I was over big races. I explained that if there was a "reason" to do it (like running with a friend, raising funds or awareness for an organization, etc) I might consider it, but, for the foreseeable future, I think I'm hanging up my running shoes on large events. Again, I wouldn't say there was anything wrong or different with NYC, but I AM DIFFERENT.  There is a reason and a season for it all, and I'm just transitioning to a different season in my running journey - AND THAT'S OKAY! Nonetheless, I'm grateful to everyone who made this race a reality FINALLY!


Post-pandemic, are there things that you used to enjoy that you no longer love as much?

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