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2006 NYC Marathon race report
South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
2006 NYC Marathon race report
Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 9:49 am
This is a bit late but I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my experience and observations during the 2006 NYC Marathon on November 5th.
I always look forward to the week leading up to race weekend. There is a flurry of activity both around the city and on the official web site. Most importantly is the Expo. This year the Expo was one day shorter, starting on Thursday instead of Wednesday. I'm not sure what made them decided to do this other than to make it easier on the volunteers and vendors. I always try to get there early on the first day and it's always packed. One year I went back on the second day to get purchase something I had forgotten about the previous day and found the line wrapped around the outside of the building...probably a quarter of a mile long. So, making the Expo shorter just seems to be a bad thing from the athlete's perspective. This year I arrived about an hour after it opened on the first day and of course there was a long line but it seemed to go fairly quickly. Packet pick up was pretty quick and easy; it has always been quick and easy all five of my times doing this. Like every year the Expo was huge, and the floor was packed with people. It can be challenging at times to maneuver around and if you are actually interested in looking at or trying any new products being demonstrated you'll most likely need to wait in a bit of a line. If you like the buzz and energy of a large marathon like NYC then the place to get started is at the Expo.
Race morning was chilly and clear. As most people know by now the weather was probably the best it could have been. I like to get to all my races early, and so my wife drove me to Staten Island and dropped me off about 6:30am just outside of Fort Wadsworth (the site of the Athlete's Village). I was issued a Green bib number and so I had the farthest to walk. At this time of the morning the hundreds of port-o-johns or pretty much all empty. So after a quick stop at the port-o-john I then staked out a plot of ground to put my things down and got comfortable. The Green zone has the closest proximity to the entertainment stage and so i was able to listen to and watch the live music on stage. Unfortunately the constant announcements over the loud speaker made it difficult to enjoy the music. The announcements are in several languages and just keep repeating over and over in an endless loop.
I made a couple more visits to the port-o-johns and found the lines getting longer and longer each time. With the help of a stranger I discovered that on the other side of the Verazzano Narrows Bridge is the area for the disabled athletes, and there are at least two dozen port-o-johns that were barely being used. These toilets were pretty accessible, with no lines, all the way up until shortly before the race start. I'm reluctant to make a big deal about this so that the word doesn't spread too far. I like the idea of being one of the few who know about this, ‘cause I plan to take advantage of it in the future.
When the time came to line up in my assigned coral I couldn't help notice that everyone around me appeared to be from somewhere other than the US. I don't think I heard a single word of English being spoken. It was also interesting to see the various Ergogenic aids being used by the athletes around me. Some were sucking down some sort of Gel-like substance from little toothpaste-like squeeze bottles while others were applying various types of analgesic creams and lotions to their legs. I notice one guy holding a bottle of Creatine serum that I assumed he was just waiting for the right time to consume. I’ve tried that stuff (you can get it at GNC) in training a few years ago and it seemed to help…but it’s expensive. I noticed the guy next to me discretely clutching a couple of small brown glass vials that I could only presume contained some sort of “legal” ergogenic aid. I would have loved to have known what it was but I was afraid to ask. After standing around for about 25 minutes we were allowed to start moving to the start line. Once they let us go it was chaos. As soon as we got to an opening everyone started dashing to the start line.
Since I had a Green bib number the start was on the lower deck of the Verrazano and not nearly the fantastic view that the upper deck athletes get. The Green route ends up going much further along the highway in Brooklyn before you turn off towards the cheering crowds. I think it was around the 4 mile mark that it finally joins with the Blue route on one side of the road, while the Orange route continues on the other side of the road. The two routes don't finally converge until around the 8 mile point.
My plan was to run this easy at about a 9 min/mile pace. I had just done the Marine Corps Marathon the week before and my legs felt pretty good at the start. The first mile up the Verrazano Bridge took me about 9:45. The second mile down the other end of the bridge took me about 7:45. I knew to expect times like these and so I waited for the next couple of splits to gauge my strength. I hit the third mile split at about 8:20 and the fourth mile split about 8:33. I knew I had to slow way down or I'd be regretting it around m ile 20. I managed to slow it down to about 8:50s for the next several miles. By mile 9 my legs were starting to feel a little stiff and I also needed to make a port-o-john stop. I found one at mile 10 and it cost me about 2 minutes, but when I hit the road again my legs felt great. This year they had more port-o-johns on the course; about a half dozen or more at EVERY mile point. I'm not sure if this was in response to requests by the runners or complaints by residents. Either way, it was a welcome change as I had to make use of them three times at various points throughout the race.
I've always hated crossing the Pulaski Bridge from Brooklyn into Queens at the 13 mile point. The course narrows as it goes over the bridge and the hilling leading up to it is one of the steepest of all. But since I was running a bit easier this year and my body was feeling pretty decent it didn't seem so bad this time. The next three miles are my least favorite parts of the race because it's just not a very scenic section. Then you come to the Queensboro Bridge just before the 15 mile point. I really hate this bridge because it's so freakin long and dark (it's partially covered) and all you can hear is a lot of feet pounding the pavement...not much conversation and certainly no spectators. This time there was a section under construction and for about 50 feet or so it was nearly pitch-black. I could not see my feet or those of the people in front of me. I could only see their heads and shoulders with the little bit of light that was trickling through the bridge structure. I shudder to think of what would have happened had someone stumbled and fallen. The people behind would not have been able to see the fallen person and there would have been a catastrophic pile-up. It was actually a little bit scary.
Finally, the 16 mile point is in site and I find myself running down the ramp and onto First Avenue. I think this is everyone's favorite part of the course. You go from a mile or running in silence to a sudden roar of cheering crowds. These crowds are several rows thick. First Avenue is wide and finally the runners get a chance to spread out again and I have room to move. But this is a tricky part of the course. With the enthusiasm of the crowd and the more open running space you can be tricked into picking up your pace, all while not noticing that you are actually running up hill. It's a gentle hill but it's long and it's easy to burn up a lot of energy without realizing it until it's too late. My pace up until now has been pretty steady as I managed to keep myself at about an 8:55 pace. A second port-o-john stop around mile 18 cost me about another two minutes but it also refreshed my legs again.
Heading over the Willis Avenue Bridget around the 20 mile point is another of my least favorite parts of the course. The bridge is ugly and the crowds in the Bronx are nearly nonexistent. Fortunately you only have to run a mile in the Bronx before you return back over the Madison Avenue Bridge and into Manhattan again. It’s around here at the 20-21 mile point that I usually really start to suffer. But my easy pace has me feeling pretty decent. I took a Gu gel with extra caffeine around mile 20 and another one at mile 22. I was amazed at how crowded the course still was at this point. A lot of people passed me during the first half of the course but by mile 20 I started picking off people left and right, in groups. But the roadway is so crowded I had to keep slowing or changing my stride to get around people. It occurred to me that if I were in this situation trying to PR it would have been difficult.
As I approached the 23 mile mark I realized that it was a little easier to run on the edge of the roadway. The crowds are better at staying off the roadway during this stretch to Central Park. Before I knew it I was rounding the corner into Central Park and I suddenly felt a second wind. The roadway seemed to open up a bit more and I had room to move. I think this is my most favorite part of the course. The crowds are great and the roadway has some nice gentle curves and rolling hills that make it an interesting, if not challenging, way to approach the finish. Though I had been hitting around 9 minute splits for most of the race my overall pace was much slower than that due to the few port-o-john stops I had taken. Without giving it much thought my legs just starting turning over faster and I picked up the pace without much effort. I saw the banner for the 25 mile mark and I recalled from last year how my calves cramped up at this point. One of those marathon photos taken of me at that point shows me grimacing in pain. Not this year. I felt so much better than last year. That’s what you get when you run a marathon easy instead of racing it. It might not have been a glorious day but it certainly wasn’t a painful one either.
The roadway was getting a little crowded again and I moved to the edge where I had more room to run and was able to start to push my pace. I managed to hit the 25 mile split in 8:13. I rounded the corner and onto Central Park South (59th St.) and saw a guy up in front of me that I picked as a target to pass. I had to focus so much on weaving around people that I wasn’t able to acknowledge the crowd support like I had previously. I passed the guy in front of me and picked out another person to reach. I just stayed focused on keeping my pace strong and finding a path through the crowd. I couldn’t help thinking “They allowed way too many runners in this race this year. They need to trim back the numbers or this race is just going to become nothing more than a big parade.” My split at the 26 mile mark was 8:03. I barely noticed the last incline leading up to the finish line. I was still busy trying to navigate through the crowd to get a clear shot across the finish line. It was so crowded, that with only about 100 yards from the finish line I got elbowed by a guy squeezing past me and the person next to me. I hit the finish line in 3:57:32. A little slower than my goal time of 3:56:00 but considering how well I still felt after crossing the finish I was very satisfied.
It’s so nice to feel strong at the end of a marathon and be able to run in instead of hobbling in with muscle cramps. I was especially happy that I had not pushed too hard and instead saved my legs so that my recovery could be short and I can get ready for my next race which will be the JFK 50 Mile ultramathon on November 18th.
Joined: 09 May 2006
Re: 2006 NYC Marathon race report
Posted: Tue Nov 14, 2006 6:05 pm
Nice job mfox! That is one tough race!!!
Way to go!
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Re: 2006 NYC Marathon race report
Posted: Fri Nov 17, 2006 10:41 pm
A belated congratulations on NY as well. I am blown away by how you're able to pack in all these marathons in such a short time. You must be in the shape of your life!
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