nyc marathon ’08 report

Pre race

Alarm at 4:00. Up at 4:15. It’s not nearly as cold as I thought it would be.

I normally just do the pbj and water before a long run, but it’s six hours till I go, so I guess I should eat something. Make a cup of tea, grab a banana, glass of water and a bottle of gatorade and head to the basement.

While I check my mail, I see that while Nick was wishing me well yesterday, I was blowing off his birthday. Sorry about that, Nick. Check one of my favorite blogs, and see that there’s a shout-out from Dan. Awww… LOVE this tune. LOVE David Gilmour. Grab a nail clipper and check the critical toe nail length while listening to “Run Like Hell.”

Checking the weather online. It’s a not-bad 42 degrees at the Fort right now, but the temp is supposed to keep dropping until 7:00 and then head back up. It looks like the start temp should be around 45 degrees. Bought a sweater for $4.99, a red, long sleeve cotton shirt for $2.99 and a $1.99 knit hat. Those along with some other rarely worn stuff laying around the house should keep me warm at the fort.

Watching my water intake because I’m going to avoid even thinking about needing to go to the bathroom during the run. It’s about 5:15. I go to the living room to start checking my bag that I’m taking. Started packing last night, so most of it is done. The clear, plastic goodie bag that I picked up at the expo is also the bag that UPS uses to transport your stuff to the finish in Central Park. Anything that goes in here stays at the Fort. I don’t want to have to deal with UPS at the park. I pack one sandwich bag with pretzels and another with almonds and blueberries. I’m bringing three bottles of water, two are refills and the other came in my goodie bag. Make my pbj, grab a bottle of Gatorade and throw it in. Also an almost empty can of Body Glide and some Chapstick.

It’s about 6:00. Lara is up now. She’s going to drive me to the ferry. If there’s no traffic, I’ll be there in 10 minutes. Going to leave @ 6:45. I’m scheduled to get the 8:00 ferry, but I want to try to catch an earlier one just so I can get there and get situated. Now it’s @6:15 and Matt and Genine are up to see me off.

 

 

Write the name tags. Did you know that a roll of white duct tape is $11 dollars?! Neither did I. :-( Put on all layers. 5 on top, shorts and sweat pants for my legs. My knit hat is very cheap, but stylin’. I kinda wish I didn’t have to lose it. The idea here is that these layers are to stay warm at the fort because it’s all exposed area out there. Just before loading into the corrals, I’ll leave them. The clothes that are left are donated to needy organizations.

6:50 and we’re in the car. The BQE is not busy at all. Hit the Battery Tunnel in what seems like 5 minutes.

 

 

Lar drops me off just down the street from the Staten Island Ferry and I follow the crowds. On the way in, a volunteer says that you can take any ferry you like. No need to wait for your assigned boat. That’s exactly what I wanted to hear. In the terminal, there are lots of people camped out, sitting on the floors, against the walls. I’m thinking maybe some folks want to spend as little time in the cold at Wadsworth as possible. It’s not even ten after 7. I think about hanging here for a while, but I really want to get out there and make camp.

 

 

 

On the boat and moving toward the back, which will be the front when we start moving. It’s pretty packed. Seats toward the middle, but I really want to look out the window, so I stand near the windows on the right side. That would be the ‘starboard’ side. I’ve been on a boat before, so I know the terminalogy. Sometimes I’m not good on boats (motion sicknes), even really big ones. 7:19 and we’re moving. (I know the time because I’m texting Lara.) Passing Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty. A couple more ferries pass by.

 

 

At 7:46 I’m off the ferry and on a shuttle bus. I was one of the first ones on, so I get a seat. It’s good to sit. A guy sitting across the isle from me is dressed in shorts and a t-shirt and is shaking like a chihuahua. Dude, it’s 42 freakin’ degrees out! You really couldn’t spare bringing a pair of sweats? How about an old towel? Homeless guys often use newspapers for blankets, so I offer my NY Post to the guy wishing he’d wrap himself in the Living section. No dice. The ride lasts about 25 minutes and then we’re dropped off down the road from the athlete village.

Off the shuttle, a long line of port-o-potties (which from now on will be referred to as POPs) before me. I make POP visit #1, just to be on the safe side. I had heard stories of people waiting in line for an hour to use POPs. No lines no waiting here.

 

 

Just around the corner, there is a huge log jam of people. This is the check point that gets you into the village. Have to show your race number and display your bag. Only the clear plastic bags are let in. Any others must be left outside.

There are three start areas that correspond to the color (green, blue and orange) on your race number. I head to the orange area. I don’t see a whole lot written in different languages, but everything is really well color coded. To get to the orange village, you follow the orange balloons.

 

I’m in the orange village. It’s pretty big and pretty crowded. I walk further toward the bridge and it’s even more crowded. Chilly wind blowing. I head over to a UPS truck and sit on the ground near the side of it. I’m on the pavement, but at least I’m kind of out of the wind. Announcements are being played in many languages. At 8:20, the wave 1 corrals are open. I’ve got a while to go, so I drink a little water and have some pretzels and watch other folks to see what the hell I should be doing. There are several guys slathering their legs with something. Couldn’t possibly be Body Glide. It’s some kind of lotion. Now that I think of it, I guess it could be sunscreen. Back home, I put some sunscreen on my ears and nose so I think I’m ok. I’ve brought a Yankee hat that I’ve worn for every race I’ve ever done. I don’t have a lot of speed or form, but what I do have is an unhealthy belief in superstition. :-) I wanted to try one of those fancy runners hats that are light weight and kinda mesh-like on the top, but I don’t dare.  

 

 

A couple of guys who were dressing near me ask if I would take their picture. I snap a couple and they wish me good luck. I wish them the same.

9:20. One hour to go. It’s time to start getting ready. I don’t have that much to do, but I do have to pin my number on. This gets tricky for me because when I get cold, my hands shake badly. Lara had to help me pin my number on in Albany last year. Get it on and decide to try POP stop #2. Grab my bag and head over. In line for not more than 10 minutes. So far the POP situation has been a breeze.

Walk past where I was camped before and down the hill toward the bridge. A little more crowded here. There are stands with tea, bagels, muffins, water. A few medical tents. I walk around a little and sit on a curb. This is the parking lot of a school, I think. Maybe?

It’s 9:40 and a small cheer goes up from down the hill. I look up and can just see the tops of runner’s heads making their way across the bridge. Wave 2 corral is loading. 40 minutes to go.

For the first time I’m feeling my bruised toe. The adjacent toe is rubbing into it wrong and there’s pressure on it. Take off my right sock and re-apply body glide between all toes.

I hear the announcement that the wave 2 corral is closed and wave 3 will start shortly. Look in my bag and start doing a check for the stuff I need to take. Not much really: 5 Gu packets, 2 Tylenol, phone and armband, hat, water. Everything else stays.

10:00 and wave 2 is off. Another cheer goes up. An announcement over the loudspeaker that the wave 3 corrals are now open. Decide that I need to make POP stop #3. In fact I don’t decide, I’m commanded to (if you know what I mean). It must be nerves because I went before I left the house. That’s why I get up so damn early. At least this ensures no ‘Walgreens Incident.’

Start heading down to the corrals. I’m in the A corral, which means that theoretically I’m out front. On my way down I stop for, you guessed it, POP #4. Stop on the grass just outside the entrance to the corral. Pass a huge stage that must have had a band playing earlier. They’re piping “Run To You” by Bryan Adams through the loudspeakers. All outer layers come off now except for my long sleeve grey shirt and gloves. The plan is to wear it at least until I get off the bridge and hand them to Lara on 4th ave.

A little trouble finding my corral. By the time I get here, it’s 10:10 Snap one last pic before we start. I show my number again to get in. It’s very crowded and we’re moving very slowly. A bunch of folks start moooing and there is laughter. Stand around for a bit more. Volunteers start moving us up the ramps.

 

 

 

Just stepped on the bridge now, and I see the start maybe a few hundred yards in front of me. I have 5 Gu packets, 4 in my pocket and 1 in my hand. I decide I don’t want one before so I throw it to the side of the road. There’s a blazing loud sound system on my left. Runners start to clap and yell. There is an announcement welcoming us and now someone is singing “God Bless America.” The speaker is so loud that it’s cutting out, so every 15 seconds we get some relief from the ear-splitting singing. I’m looking down now because this is it. The road looks the same as the roads I trained on, but it’s completely different. If it all works out, it’ll never be the same. The guy on my left makes the sign of the cross and looks heavenward. A prayer for safe passage maybe? I look up too. Nothing but incredibly blue sky. I think of Dom and all the bullshit he went through.

The cannon fires.

 

 

race

I’ve been working real hard, trying to get my hands clean.
Tonight we’ll drive that dusty road from Monroe to Angeline,
To buy you a gold ring and pretty dress of blue,
Baby just one kiss will get these things for you,
A kiss to seal our fate tonight,
A kiss to prove it all night.

“Prove It All Night” – Bruce Springsteen

From the start it’s nearly a mile up hill. In fact this is the largest elevation change on the course. Everything I’ve read says to start out slow, at least 20 maybe even 40 seconds off your pace. Every once in a while, I pass folks on the side who have stopped to take pictures. It’s not nearly as tight as I thought it would be. I’ve got plenty of space cushion around me.

Jeeze. I’m halfway through writing this novel, and I haven’t even mentioned the ankle. You will remember that for the last month or so, my left ankle has been kind of painful. I did a final 1.5 mile run Friday and it was absolutely *perfect.* Not a hint of pain. Didn’t want to mention it in case it would jinx me. Well, I didn’t mention it to anyone, but wouldn’t you know it? I woke up Sunday and it hurt just getting up out of bed. What the hell?? Thankfully the center of the bridge is level and if I can stay on level ground, it’s not so bad.

Top of the bridge. The entire borough of Brooklyn is laid out in front of me, Manhattan on the left. Way off to the right is the Parachute Drop at Coney Island. It’s damn windy. I press my hat down a little bit tighter on my head. Would suck for it to blow off and have to run 25 miles with no shade. Start the descent. Some folks really let it rip on the downhills. I guess maybe to make up for slowing down on the uphill.

Off the bridge now, turn a corner and we’re in Brooklyn. Because of the three different starts, each color does a slightly different route for the first 8 miles. After a bit of snaking around blocks, I hit 4th Ave at 92nd street. The entire length of 4th ave is visible. It looks like someone has cracked open a giant Tylenol cold and sinus pill and thrown the contents down the street. The crowds are lively and loud. It’s a bit windy but not nearly as bad as the bridge, so I start getting ready to take off the long sleeve. I decided that I’d carry a water bottle for as far as I could so that I didn’t have to deal with the early water stations. Lar is going to be on the left side of 4th Ave at 72nd. I’ve gotta get this shirt off without dropping my hat or my water bottle. Did I mention I’m wearing my phone in an armband? I need to get that off without dropping it either. [ugh]

At 77th street I see Mark, Sam and Jake on the right side of the ave.

Move closer to the left so that I can (hopefully) dump the shirt and gloves off to Lar on 72nd. People yell encouragement but when you get closer to the side of the roads, they really go crazy yelling for you. I see Genine and Lara. I don’t see Matt. I find out later that he was a little ways ahead of them snapping pics. The toss goes well and I’m off.

The crowds are awesome on 4th Ave. When you need a little pick me up, just head towards the sides and they immediately shout your name. I high five a couple of little kids. Then I realize that my wedding ring is very loose and if I do any more high fiving, it may slip off. Right hand only from now on. At 20th street, I cross to the right side to try to catch the Thompsons. My godson, Jon, has made an awesome sign for me. The whole family is out, even Greg who has probably just gotten home from working.

Through Carroll Gardens and into Boerum Hill. Hit mile 9 and have an Orange Gu. I’ve only been drinking my water. I’m going to start hitting the Gatorade soon. I don’t have a plan for this. I just figure I’ll alternate between water and Gatorade from now on. Feeling pretty good right now.

I pass the infamous Bishop Loughlin High School marching band.

A little further up, a sound system is blaring “Y.M.C.A.” and all runners do the moves as we run past. I always do the damn ‘C’ backwards! Everyone else does it the other way! Am I an idiot?

We’re passing through one of the Jewish neighborhoods of Brooklyn. On the right, there are about 40 Hassid kids standing near the fence of a school. I guess they’re here to cheer the runners, but every one of them looks absolutely miserable. It may as well be a funeral procession passing.

Something else happens not long after. Ahead of me, I see an older man jog to the left side of the road and collapse into the arms of a spectator. The guy holding him up clearly doesn’t know him, and some other folks are walking over to help.

Nearing the halfway point now. These past 4 months, I’ve been reluctant to say what my goal time was going to be. At first I wanted to just finish. That turned into wanting to finish under 5 hours. When I saw training was going ok, that turned into 4:30 (4 hours, 30 minutes). The last few weeks, I set my sights on being under a 10 minute mile pace. That puts the finish time at 4:20. Before I left the house, I printed out two paper bracelets that I’m wearing on my left wrist. Each one has a list of timing splits for each mile of the race, so when I pass a mile marker I can check the time on my printout with the race clock on the side of the road. One is a printout for a 4 hour, 20 minute finish. The other is for a 4 hour finish (9 minutes per mile). I get to the 13.1 mile mark and check my time. I’m at 1:59:29. Under 2 hours but just barely. Fuck it. I grab the 4:20 bracelet, rip it off and throw it away. 4 hours it is. The strength of a thousand Stallone movies rushes over me. Hey! I just showed that paper bracelet who’s boss!

Remember that stuff I wrote about Stallone? Yeah, well that rush comes and goes real quick. Remember what I said about being superstitious? I immediately realize that with that pseudo-macho display, I’ve completely blown my chances of a 4 hour finish. For a split second, I think about going back to get the bracelet. I shit you not.

Mile 14 and my ankle is hurting now. So much so that I dig out my Tylenol (being careful not to drop my Gu packets) and take them. Use up the rest of my water and toss the bottle. Two free hands at last.

Approaching the Queensboro (59th Street) Bridge. Another big hill coming. Start on and the wind picks up again. An older guy comes up on my left. He has a rather long grey beard.

“My beard used to be that color,” he says and points to mine. I laugh and say, “Hey, I’m gettin’ there,” pointing to the grey in my own beard.

“This is what 4 kids and working all the time will do to ya,” he says. We both laugh and then that fuckin’ old guy proceeds to SMOKE me going up the Queensboro Bridge. Ran ahead of me and I never saw him again.

Fantastic. I got my ass handed to me by Gabby Hayes.

Lots of people run with friends or make small talk with passing runners during the race. The bridge is very quiet. All of that chit chat is gone. I get the sense that the miles are sinking in for everyone.

Start the decent and pass mile 16. I haven’t thought about how much longer I have to go. The past 2.5 hours have gone by really fast. I think it’s for two main reasons. First, there’s so much to see. Second, there’s a lot of energy in the air from the spectators, from the runners, from this city, from this race. So many moments have happened right here. You soak it up.

At some point the rush of the wind and the grind of the subway breaks is overtaken by the sound of the crowd on 1st ave. Back in the day, we used to take the subway in to have brunch at some of these Irish pubs. The crowds are lively, but not as crazy as Brooklyn was. A band on the sidewalk is playing “Baba O’Riley” by The Who and the singer is really good! I flash the horns and he waves back at me.

Nearing the end of 1st ave and getting ready to take the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx and mile 20. Isn’t any of this damn race downhill!?! Goddamn!!!

And by the way, that Tylenol should start to kick in any time now.

A DJ is spinning some hip-hop on the right side. He’s reading people’s names over the beats. Very cool. Hardly any spectators here. Can you blame ‘em? It’s the Bronx. There’s a reason why the route only spends 1 mile in this borough. ‘The Wall’ is bad enough without having to endure it in the Bronx.

On the Madison Avenue bridge that leads back into Manhattan. This bridge isn’t nearly as elevated as the other bridges, so it’s not as bad. Off the bridge and passing mile 21. Uncharted territory here. I had a Gu @ mile 17, so I should be good for a while. Up ahead I hear the crowd on 5 ave. Left turn and wow. Back in the land of the living. Lots of “Go, Kevin”, “Looking good, Kevin”, “Show me that sweet, sweet ass, Kevin.”

Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.

It’s a nearly straight shot down 5th ave to 86th street. Around mile 22, things start to get interesting. My vision starts to dart a little. I’m having trouble focusing on the road. Not actually seeing it, but maintaining any kind of concentration. There’s a water station coming up, so I grab a Gu. I’ve been careful to conserve because this is my last one. But since things are looking a little…not right… right now, I’m gonna go ahead and use it. Now I’m concerned about where the park starts. I pass 125th street. Damn, I thought the north end of the park was 125th street. It’s 110th street, just so you know. Get to 110th and the further south I go, the crowds get bigger and louder… and closer. It’s getting pretty narrow in spots.

The sun is overhead and in front of me and it’s screwing with my vision. Near the water stations, the glare of the sun off the water is just as bad. I turn my hat around so that the brim shields my eyes, but when I do, I get really warm. Near the water stations, the glare of the sun off the water on the road is just as bad. I spend the length of 5th ave turning my hat forward and backward trying to find some comfort. It’s not working, but I’m out of Gu. It’s gonna sound weird, but I feel confused. ‘Squirrelly’ is the word that comes to mind. It’s a little freaky because this isn’t physical pain. But I’ll be damned if I’m stopping to walk here. Not when I’m so close. I decide to concentrate on the road and try to look straight ahead. Just got to hold it together for a little while longer. Less than a half hour and it’s done.

Less than a mile to go now. Right turn onto Central Park South and the crowds are 6 and 7 people deep at times and very loud. Screaming on my left. It’s Lara and Genine! Didn’t expect them here. Matt snaps this pic after I see them. That’s why I’m smiling. A few seconds before, all you would have seen was a confused scowl.

Passing runners who are stopping to stretch. Wha?? Seriously? Dude, you’re 500 yards from the finish!

As I near, there are huge orange banners with white writing. 400 yards… 300… 200… 100…

I cross the finish, but everyone is told to keep moving. Past the Brightroom picture walls. I shoulda had them snap my pic, but I was too busy trying to settle down. Walk a little further and a volunteer wraps a heat blanket around me. Another comes over and tapes it shut. I’m not so much walking though, it’s more like shuffling. When I first stopped running and walked into the crowd I felt like I was going to fall over. Not too bad now. Move a little to the left and I’m handed a medal. A little further up, a volunteer hands me a plastic bag with food and drink in it. I crack the bottle of Gatorade and take a bite of the crappiest bagel I’ve ever had in years. It’s NYC and this is the best they could do? Boooo!

That said, the McIntosh apple was excellent, as was the bag of Emerald Trail Mix. Yum yum. There is a massive crowd of runners, and the first exit is at 77th street, so I’m gonna be here a while. Further up the path are the UPS trucks that have the checked bags. I didn’t check my bag, so it would be nice if there was a bypass out of the park for people that don’t need to get stuff from UPS. This is by far the worst part of the marathon experience. It’s too crowded to move away from the trucks and there’s no room to find an area to stretch.

Finally exit the park at 77th street. Text message Lara and they’re making their way north up Columbus Ave. It’s really hard to move. I wish I could have stretched a half hour ago. Walk west on 77th and Lara, Matt and Genine find me. Throw on my jeans, a sweatshirt, a new pair of socks and we’re off to find dinner somewhere. What we want is Harry’s Burritos (remember the margaritas, KW?). The wait is too long, so we decide on Acme down in the village.

 

 

Finish time: 04:09:53. And that’s my first marathon. Special thanks to Lara, Matt and Genine for following me all over NYC.

Here is the Flickr link to all of Matt’s pics from the day.

 
Post race

What does Kevhodge do after a grueling race? Refuel and replenish, of course. Every athlete is different, but here’s what I do:

Oh and just one more thing…

Ooops… One more one more thing…

 
Watch this space for a final Prep Ho comment tomorrow (or Thursday).

4 comments to nyc marathon ’08 report

  • gobo33

    awesome, hodge. just awesome. “a final comment…?” – say it ain’t so. you know, that subtitle could always become ‘training for my next marathon.’ hope you stick around in one way or another.

  • SoundDawg

    AWESOME HODGE!!! As gay as it sounds, reading this blog of your experience has somehow brought a tear to my eye! You should be a very proud man! And your time… WOW!! Wish I could have been there! Good thing you have “other friends”!

  • catmarlson

    Great report/recap. There is some good stuff in there for future reference.
    Oh, and thanks for not writing…
    “didn’t see Matt again WTF?!?! is he off buying a pretzel or something?”
    Ha, ha!

  • SoundDawg

    Tomorrow or thursday my ass!! Can’t believe you are making me post this. Been watching that space for the final prep ho comments and you left me hanging!

You must be logged in to post a comment.