Sunday, November 9, 2008

Marci Actually Runs the Marathon (part one)

Did you hear? I ran a marathon last week!

The medal is a picture of Grete Waitz, nine-time NYC Marathon winner and one of my running inspirations.

And some of my OTHER running inspirations are the latest members of the FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL:


bringing the total to date going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research in honor of Liam Witt to an incredible


Even though the NYC Marathon is over, the phone lines are open until the end of December. It's not too late to join the Honor Roll! Just click here to donate, or on the links to the side and bottom of the page.

Of course, no time is too late to donate to the Aubrey Fund or MSKCC. Pharmaceutical companies don't spend time or $$ on developing pediatric cancer treatments because there's no profit in it for them. The goverment doesn't fund it because there's no established track record of success. So who's left? Hospitals like MSKCC, who are constantly in the forefront of developing new treatment protocols. And people like you, who donate to the Aubrey Fund and other pediatric cancer organizations, and enable them to do the work that enables the cure rate percentages for childrens' cancers to climb every year.

Of course, my BIGGEST running inspiration is THIS little guy:

Liam spent the days before Halloween extremely ill at MSKCC, and yet went from the hospital -- in costume -- to a Halloween party, and is home again. I think there was never a more appropriate costume, don't you?

Oh, yes, the marathon.
Let's get the suspense out of the way. 4:15:25.

A little over three minutes slower than last year, but unlike last year, when I set a 30-minute PR, I was not upset. There were a few factors going into the race that didn't help, chief among do I put this delicately? I guess I don't. Guys, you may want to skip ahead a few paragraphs. I have never been more pre-menstrual in my LIFE. I started feeling PMS symptoms the weekend before, which meant "any day now." I even went to my acupuncturist the Tuesday before the race and said, "It's coming, I can feel it, and I want it to be here NOW. Can you do that?" He tried, but to no avail. So between the bloating from the PMS, where I naturally retain fluids, to my extra salt consumption in preparation for the big day, my boobs were the size of melons and I thought they were going to explode (gents, I TOLD you to skip a few paragraphs.)

Weather concerns, clothing concerns, all paled in comparison to the biggest concern of all -- WHAT IF? Because -- and gents, skip to the next paragraph, this time I mean it -- I'm peri-menopausal, and what that means for me is that my periods are not only irregular in their schedule, they are irregular in all respects. Sometimes my heavy day is day one, sometimes day three. Sometimes the whole thing is heavy and over with in two days. Be that as it may, my concern was that I'd be on a heavy day, where I can go through a super-plus in an hour or less. For up to eight hours. See, SOME parts of me are speedy!

Men, you can come back now!

Anyway, despite my best efforts, it didn't happen. My body kindly waited until Monday. However, I have found that with the onset of peri-menopause, I find myself a little weaker during the build-up to the actual event, plus it affects my sleeping, which was a big minus. I was counteracting it with iron supplements, but it was still a factor.

Another factor against me was that I had to take a national court reporting certification exam on Saturday morning. The day before the marathon. The good part about it was, that stressing about the test kept my mind off the marathon, and vice-versa. It goes without saying that I bombed the test. That's okay. It's one of those tests where you can take it a dozen times. Still, it was an added pressure, and didn't help with the sleeping.

Finally, there was the mental factor. Last year I went from a 10-minute miler to a 8:30 miler, and I never felt readier for a race than I did last year. This year, I didn't make that drastic of an improvement (can you imagine if I did? Holy cow!) and even though I know I shouldn't be comparing it, I was, and I just didn't feel as ready. Not that I thought I wasn't going to finish -- no chance of not finishing, even if I had to crawl -- but I wanted to finish as strong. And I really wanted to finish in under four hours, but I knew it wasn't realistic.

So this is what I was going into the race with.

Before I get any further about the race itself, here's why I'm not too upset about it. First, I DVRed the elite race (okay, I admit it. I'm a running geek) and in watching it, I can see how they all were struggling with the wind and the temperature -- briefly, high 40s and very windy at the start, getting a little warmer but still very windy later on. I got sweaty through the race, but I never really got warm, and it was so windy I got windburn on my legs, even though I wore capris. If the elites were posting slower times, then it's no wonder I was also slower. I am amazed that some of my Teammates set PRs, but then again, my Teammates are amazing. There were times during the race that I thought I was cruising, only to look at my watch and recoil in horror at my slowitude. I must have looked like an orange-and-blue mime act, running into the wind!

Secondly, the next day I was feeling pretty good. Only some residual soreness, and I was able to get down the stairs without hanging onto a bannister for dear life. I realized I was indeed physically ready, and it was the factors of the weather and my cycle that contributed to my slower time, not anything I did "wrong." In fact, in some ways I think I was stronger this year thanks to my new and improved running form. Everyone who saw me along the route, including Coach Ann, who I passed at Mile 24, said I was motoring, and looked very strong. And as we all know, looks are everything...

Or are they?
Hee hee!

Can you believe they let me out in public dressed like this? Well, I guess it beats some other outfits, which are pictured a little farther down the post.

Sunday morning, up bright and early at 4:15. Set three alarms, just in case. Didn't need any of them. Bag was packed and unpacked and packed again.

Oh, tangent -- the fireworks Saturday night -- they were great, but what is the deal with the soundtrack? It was worse than last year. With all the songs about New York, running, winning, and inspiration out there, it was like they forgot the CD they were going to use and said, "Quick, who's got an iPod?" because the soundtrack was a bunch of morose reggae-esque R & B songs about heartbreak. HUH???

Another tangent -- My uniform shirt. I wanted to put a picture of Liam on the back of my shirt. Bill, my roommate, had some iron-ons left from when he did the Avon Walk, and said I could use them. So Saturday afternoon I print the iron-on, put it on my shirt -- and the whole thing came out orange. What? So I did it again, cut out the picture of Liam and ironed just that onto the first picture -- and again, it was orange. I inspected the package, and apparently there are different iron-ons for dark and light shirts. Good to know. Now. I went to Staples, got another packet, and third time was the charm. Of course by that point I had melted part of the MSKCC logo and ironed the picture on a little crooked, so I had to draw a big frame around the picture. Who knew that a simple iron-on would be so much work!!!! Anyway, here's the ultimate result:

The base outfit was the t-shirt, uniform shorts over capris, the arm socks from last year (yes, I saved them!) and the keep-warm layer was a scarf, hat, gloves, and the world's largest and ugliest sweatsuit courtesy of Modells. Why was my UPS bag so freakishly heavy and packed? Aside from my post-marathon clothes, water, gel, extra hat, socks, gloves, blister stuff, band-aids, Tylenol, tampons, toilet paper, Purell, tissues, candy...I mean, why was it heavy?

Went to breakfast at 5:15 and choked down a bowl of oatmeal with banana and honey, and made myself a bagel with banana and honey for later. I had a couple of sips of coffee at home, but that's it -- you know how paranoid I am about using the bathroom, and I didn't need any help with coffee's diuretic properties. However, I'm always out to break at least one record, and that's the amount of times I can go to the bathroom before the marathon, not counting the first one upon arising. Total before boarding the bus: one.

At 6:15 we take the Team picture on the island out in Times Square and board the bus. I'm on the first bus with the core Team and the elite runners, and get to watch the police escort us down the FDR and through the Battery Tunnel to Staten Island. This year it was a police car. Not as fun as a motorcycle, but who's complaining?

We get to Fort Wadsworth and right away we notice that things have changed. There are "special" UPS trucks that take our gear and the Team For Kids' gear directly to the finisher's area in Cherry Hill, and we normally camp out by these trucks, which are normally parked in the parking lot right inside the Fort. The trucks are no longer there. Where to go? Jeff goes on a field trip to find somebody who can tell us where our trucks are, and we decide to set up camp pretty much where we always do, only without the trucks nearby. I start my never-ending journey to the porta-potties, and almost right away I'm having some gastric issues. I don't know why. Normally that's how I internalize stress, but I'm not stressed. Am I? Anyway, between a failed attempt with Teammate Sara to find the Brightroom photo booth and my eventual trip to our UPS trucks to get rid of my stuff, I managed to tie last year's record of seven pre-race porta-potty trips -- and I still had 30 minutes to go! PS: Team for Kids has a HEATED TENT. What the...? Unfair. I want in!! It was COLD in SI, the coldest of the three I've been in. I can't believe that some people were walking around in shorts. We huddled in the parking lot under blankets and coats. Some people had heat shields from other races. That's a good idea, I need to remember that next time I have to wait around like this.

This year the race went off in three waves, with the better runners as part of the first wave at 9:40am, which included the elite men (the elite women go earlier, so they get their own finish.) So our Team started splitting off, and those of us in the 10:00 and 10:20 waves took our final trips to the bathroom -- yes, I shattered my old record! -- and went to our corrals to watch the first wave go out. One of the advantages to being in the green start is that you can clearly see the bridge and the starting line from the corral. Sara, Leanne and I stood together and listened as the National Anthem was sung and the cannons boomed, and we watched the first wave of runners head out. After a few minutes we started heading towards the start line. So much better than last year!!! I took off the sweat suit and gloves (I had a second pair with me for the run) and after a brief announcement -- BOOM! We got the cannon and "New York, New York" and we're off!!

Leanne is slower than Sara and I and dropped away almost immediately. Sara and I were together on most of the bridge, but she said her shin splints started acting up almost immediately and she dropped away about halfway across.

The bummer about the green start (besides the threat of "rain") is that you're on the side of the bridge away from the boats, so the view's not as nice. Also, once off the bridge, you're on a service road for about another half-mile, so you're not getting any crowd support for a while. And the second we got off the bridge, a ton of people peeled off to the side of the road to go to the bathroom.

And you know what? I needed to go again.

Here's the thing -- I always threaten to poo and pee in public during the race, or worse yet, go in my pants. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it. One, it's gross. And two, it would get cold in there! And it was already pretty cold out. The other thing was, at this stage of the game, I was still somewhat optimistic about a 4-hour finish, but it would be a squeaker, with no room for a toilet break. So I soldiered on. In retrospect, stupid, because I spent a lot of time on the road thinking about the bathroom. But then again, it kept me distracted, and ultimately motivated for a fast finish!!

BROOKLYN is over half the race, and clearly the party people are here! The most bands, the loudest people, and best of all, the churches sometimes have their choirs out singing. I passed one church right at the real inspirational point of a song, right before it goes into the key change -- YEAH!! It was great!! I was meeting two people in Brooklyn, my teacher Victoria, and my friend Tim. Semi-funny story: Tim and I worked closely together in the late '90s, but Tim left the theater a number of years ago and we drifted apart. Last year I remember running through the Fort Greene section and seeing someone who looked just like him and thinking, God, that looks just like Tim. Tim and I have since reconnected, and a few weeks ago he e-mailed me to say he'd be watching for me in Brooklyn, in Fort Greene, right after the band that plays the "Rocky" theme nonstop for hours. So it WAS him! Brooklyn is also very flat, so it's a good warm-up for what lies ahead.

Ran into Teammate Kat, and we were together for a little bit. She was already getting sick of hearing people call her name, and I advised her to stay near the middle of the pack, away from the crowds, to get a little bit of a break. But "Kat" is easy to yell, and there was no escaping for her. She's faster than I am, and soon blew past me.

Teammate Michelle came up to me next and asked "Did you see the naked guy?" No. One of the bonuses of being a little further back is that you get the more amusingly costumed runners. But a naked guy? I think I would've noticed. Michelle took off (she set a PR, by the way) and soon I saw THIS:

He was in front of me for a few miles. It was funny for about a second. Then it was just gross. The people around me were all saying, "Would you like to run in front of me? Please?" I made my move at a water stop. Best reason for speed I ever had -- stay in front of HIM! (lordy that must have chafed!)

This view ain't much better:

Other costumes I saw were two guys dressed as barbarians, complete with swords and shields, Nippleman (don't ask) and the usual array of superheroes. Didn't see Larry the Lighthouse, but I know he was there; don't know if his pal Wendy the Windmill was there with him. Also missed Mr. Testicles this year. Yes, you read right. Don't believe me? Click here.

Saw Tim, Teammate Yan (not running this year) taking pictures, and Victoria. Brooklyn was great! Now, over the Pulaski bridge and into Queens, to see my family!

This one's getting long, and since you know how it ends, I'm going to stop here. More in the next day or so.

PS: I'm doing the Race to Deliver next Sunday, and I've started testing my New Balance 1062s today for my first post-marathon run. I'll wear them for the race and give you my review. So far, so good. I can tell you right now that, shoe aside, the customer service for New Balance Harrisburg is terrific. Click on the link either right here to the right of the post (under my training log) and check them out!

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