Last Sunday, I toed the line for my third marathon and my first World Marathon Major. I was excited to be in New York City for the second time, but this time I was running the entire course. I arrived on Wednesday, and the first few days were spent hanging out in the hotel and fulfilling media duties. They were fairly laid back, as I knew I would need all my reserves of energy come Sunday.
From the gun, it seemed like the race was going to be fast. The first mile is up the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that spans the Narrows and connects the boroughs of Staten Island and Brooklyn, so the initial 5:20 split is deceiving. Dathan Ritzenhein and Matt Llano went to the front and kept the pace honest. They actually had a bit of a gap at one point in the first couple of miles, but by the time we left the Bridge the pack had reformed. It stayed that way for another three miles, until the leaders through in a quick mile and I found myself in the back of the pack with Jon Grey. We looked at each other and he said he did not want to follow them. Knowing that was the correct choice, we decided to run together.
Over the next ten miles, we clicked off a consistent 5 minute pace, and began to reel in people dropping from the lead pack. Eventually we crested the Queensboro Bridge and headed onto First Avenue. Which was an awesome experience. The amount of fans on First Ave was incredible. People were lining the course over 5 deep and it went on for miles. This was the point of the race that Pete had stressed keeping in control. I can see how it would be easy to get carried away with the energy and run too fast. I was able to ride the wave of support in to the Bronx, where things began to fall apart. Nearly every mile after entering the Bronx was slower than the previous.
Looking back, I understand why New York is a seen as a tough course. Excluding the first two, the first 15 miles are not terribly hard. Some slight ups and downs, and not many turns. Once you hit the Queensboro Bridge, everything changes. You are confronted with a big hill and no fan support. Then on First Ave, the fans will carry for a few miles, even though it is slightly uphill. But in the Bronx, there are lots of turns and ups and downs to throw off your rhythm. After the Bronx you cross the Harlem River back into Manhattan. But there is no relenting; the hills keep coming. If you go out too hard at New York, you will pay for it in the last few miles.
In the last four miles, every time I would try to pick it up, my hamstrings would begin to cramp and I would have to shorten my stride. Knowing that there had to be people falling off the main pack, I remained persistent in the hopes that I could catch someone. Unfortunately I was only able to catch one person in the last half of the race.
Every marathon, every race for that matter, is a learning experience. The biggest take away from this one is to keep the first half even more contained than I would think. It would have been easy to throw caution to the wind and at mile 5, surge with the leaders. There would have been good justifications in doing so. I would have had a solid pack to run with and block the headwind and I could have turned my brain off and just ran. But with Pete having preached patience for the last month, I knew that waiting was the best option. Fortunately I had someone who was thinking the same thing, so I would not have to run alone, which made the decision much easier.
Even though I made the better rational decision to slow down, as seen by how many people I passed, it was not nearly enough. Looking back at the race, I should have stuck with Tim Ritchie and gone through the half at 66:12. In doing so, I think I would have run faster and been more satisfied with my race. A good example of a solid, measured effort is Ben Payne. Coming through half way in 67:36, he closed well over the hills of Central Park to finish 9th in 2:15:36.
With all that said, it was a good experience going out around that 65 minute mark for half. The next step in my career is to run under 2:10, and the way to do that is be around 65 minutes half way. After I dropped back with Jon, we were able to find a good rhythm around 5 minute pace. Besides the 12th mile, where we started to catch guys falling off the lead pack, we ran a consistent effort. The slower miles would be more uphill and the faster ones downhill. Being comfortable early in the race is the key to running fast in the marathon. I just have to look at my first at Twin Cities. I went out in a slow 67:45 and came back in 65:45, which the last 10km was in 30:45 (2:09:45 pace!). It is no surprise that my PR is still from there.
From here I am taking a break, but will be putting on the spikes in a few weeks for Club Cross Country in a few weeks. While I have had a love hate relationship with cross country through my career, there is nothing like lining up along side your teammates in one of the few team competitions we get to run as post-collegiates. Then I will take a solid winter training block before gearing up for a spring track season. Since I missed last track season because of stress fracture, I feel like I still have more room to improve on the track. I know that I have not topped out my potential in both the 5000m and 10,000m. But before I step on the track, I think a few months of base training will help me get to that next level.
As I have done with all my big races, my final section is dedicated to show my gratitude to people and companies who have supported me. First I would like to thank the New York Road Runners. They clearly know how to put on an event, and it shows. The staff is willing to make the race the best experience possible for every runner, whether they finish first or last. And a big thanks to all the volunteers that took the time out of their weekend to make sure the event ran smoothly.
I mentioned the fans along First Ave earlier, but there was hardly a spot on the course that was with out any at all. Peter Ciaccia, the president of NYRR, says that the New York City Marathon is, “New York’s Biggest Block Party.” He is right about that. It seems like the city shuts down for the race, and everyone lines the course.
As it has been the last four years, Pete, Zika, and everyone at ZAP Fitness have given their uncompromising support. They have allowed me to focus mostly on getting the most out of my running, and in turn I want to perform the best that I can at every time I put on the ZAP singlet.
There are also my sponsors I have to thank. Reebok, Soleus Watches, Generation UCAN, and Flynn Sports all make this journey of mine much easier. Whether it is giving me awesome training gear to timing me to fueling me to getting me into races, they have made it much easier for me to just enjoy my time running.
I would be remiss if I did not mention my fantastic girlfriend, Nicole. She has encouraged me through out this build up. She understood if I needed to go to bed earlier, or even if I just needed some time alone to recharge. Now I get to be the support for her as she gets ready for her marathon in Houston.
Lastly I want to thank my parents. They have supported me since day one, even though I beat my dad. They both see my pursuit of running as a worthwhile endeavor. Plus they get to travel all over to see me race, so there is something they get to enjoy.