“New York, you chewed me up and spit me out but I love you so much anyway. Most incredible race experience of my life and so grateful even if it didn’t go as planned. Thank you for the love everyone! Never gave up… Ever.”
Above is my Facebook status after my race at New York yesterday. After typing and deleting several sentences again and again to start this blog post, unable to clearly express the emotions, using that status made sense. It says it simply enough. This past weekend was an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life. I was able to share that experience with my spouse who was incredibly supportive and proud the entire time, something that wasn’t an option when I ran in the Boston Elite field because of Navy life. For those reasons, I refuse to let the finishing time on the clock define my experience and memories of my weekend at the New York City Marathon.
Huge thank you to David Monti for organizing incredible fields on both the mens and womens side at New York this year. The U.S. Marathon Olympians were not able to run so they were brought in as Course Marshalls. It was a running nerds (me) dream to see all the professionals at different events, meetings, and during the race. NYRR treats the elites so well. We had all expenses paid, wonderful meals provided, per diem for dinners, a fantastic welcome bag of gifts, massages, and more. Organization of bottle drop offs, uniform inspections, drug informational meetings, and the final technical meeting were flawless, making each athletes preparation time run smoothly and stress free. Every employee and volunteer went above and beyond to make sure we felt comfortable. They went out of their way to set us up for success and I am truly grateful.
My weekend began on Friday when Steve and I arrived at our hotel. We were greeted kindly, signed all the necessary paperwork, were given credentials for Steve to join me at most events, and I was able to book a massage for early the following morning. I didn’t sleep particularly well. The city is gorgeous but loud! Even on the 25th floor I could hear taxis honking and car alarms blaring. I was up early the next morning and I dragged Steve out of bed to watch the Abbotts Dash to the Finish 5K that ran right by our hotel lobby. It was amazing to watch in my sweats and nice to duck back inside quickly for breakfast. The easiest race spectating ever.
After breakfast I had a massage session with a physical therapist that without me saying a word, new exactly the issues I have to see my physical therapist here in Virginia Beach about. My left hip acts up and he was able to gently work that out. That was followed by a uniform inspection. Unfortunately I was unable to wear my usual Running, Etc. singlet. NYCM is a IAAF Gold Label race. The lettering on my Running Etc. singlets was too large. Instead I wore a plain sports bra and shorts. Our bibs ended up being gigantic (no complaints because I LOVE them) but they were unable to be altered by folding or cutting so they covered up half our bodies anyway. Next we had fluid drop offs. Having elite bottles was a nice perk. I was able to tape my gels to the bottle so didn’t have to worry about carrying those. The last event of the day was the professional athlete technical meeting and dinner. Steve was able to come to both of these with me. At this point my nerves were showing up so I wanted all the calming influence I could get. Every possible question we had was answered there and then some. Dinner afterwards was wonderful. I have a stomach that can sometimes act up so I stuck with rice, rice, and bread. It worked because I had zero nutritional issues on race day.
The next morning it was go time bright and early. I awoke at 4:45 am for breakfast at the hotel. We had to board our bus at 6:15 am and can I just say that the ride to Staten Island was gorgeous. The sun was rising through the tall building and off the water. I put in my music and pinched myself at this beautiful and quiet tour through the city to the race I had been waiting for months to enjoy. We were bussed to an indoor track that was spectacular. We had plenty of room to stretch, warm up, and use the facilities. I did my warm up here while in awe of how fast some of the top elites warm up. They must have run a few miles at a very quick pace. Before we knew it, it was time to get bussed back to the start. The starting area gave me chills. Music was playing, announcements were made, and the sheer magnitude of it all struck me. I had been dreaming of standing on that bridge at that moment for months and soaked in every detail.
Two miles on the Verrazano bridge went by in what seemed liked 30 seconds. I quickly found a nice small pack of women to run with and we averaged 6:30 pace arriving off the bride into Brooklyn. This was EXACTLY what I wanted at that point. While my goal time was 2:46-2:47 my overall plan was to run a very conservative first half. This course is a tough one. I was told this a hundred times and I never took that caution for granted. I was very confident that if I ran a “safe” first half that I could dial it down on the miles from 15-20 where we get a nice reprieve from the hills. Spoiler Alert- It didn’t go as planned. Brooklyn won my heart quickly. I didn’t expect so many spectators out so early (We started 30 minutes before everyone else). My bib said “Lawrence” instead of Kris or Kristen and I am so thankful now that it did. I didn’t feel like I was running just for me, every time I heard someone yell “Go Lawrence” I felt like I was running for my family team. They sacrifice more than they should for my running life and I wanted to pull off a great day for them. A few spectators in Brooklyn yelled “Go Larry!” to me and made me smile. And honestly every borough, while visually different, had the same incredible enthusiasm that shook me to my core in the best way.
The first half went by in a blink. I had turned my watch so that I could not see the pace or time, only time of day. I ran entirely on feel and sometimes worried that I was running too slow. I told myself to stay patient though because the wind was real. The Queensboro bridge does not allow spectators. It was so surreal to be on this huge, quiet New York bridge with just one other runner (our pack had dwindled by mile 15 to two of us) The Course Marshalls truck drove by us and Amy Cragg cheered for us. I looked over at Marilyn Arsenault and said “How incredible is this?!?!” I’ll never forget that calm before the storm hit a few miles later. Coming off that bridge, the plan was go time. Soak in the deafening crowds of First Avenue and continue to gut it out to the finish. Well my legs had other things in mind, I did gut it out but the pace was frustrating and I felt deliriously hopeless to fix it. The lead men passed us and while exciting was distracting. I found myself trying to get out of the way and losing my sense of pace.
By mile 19 I started to panic, the hardest part of the course was approaching and my legs were starting to scream. The steep downhills had wrecked my right shin and every step I was wincing. Marilyn was super encouraging when she had no reason to be. She could have left me in the dust (and did but only after I waved her ahead). I yo-yoed her back to me a few times through pure effort but really didn’t get my legs under me again until I forced another gel and more fluids. I passed a few ladies the last 10K and that momentum was enough to get my brain back into fighting mode. Don’t get me wrong, I was in agony but I was still pushing 😉 I could only see one more lady in front of me and I worked really hard to catch her but failed too.
One of the best moments of the day happened immediately when I crossed the finish line. I finished and felt so defeated. I’m sure the look on my face was obvious. I looked up ahead of me and steps away Meb Keflezighi was standing a few feet away talking to someone. Looked like an interview. He saw my pain and stopped talking, waved his hand to the person to give him a second, looked back at me, gave me a fist bump and told me in the most genuine voice that I did a great job. For non runners, Meb is like THE BEST. This moment was golden to me. Still makes me smile.
While that clock read 2:55:03 (8-9 minutes slower than I had envisioned it…yikes!) I am still 100% proud of myself for a few reasons. That was the toughest course I have ever run. I had underestimated how difficult it is to compete with a 30 minute head start on the rest of the field with a headwind for 18 miles. We tried helping with the wind but with only one or two other skinny bodies, no such luck. I competed as well as I could with those I could. When the going got tough I focused on RACING and passed as many as I could see. Out of 34 elites I finished 24th. Yes I finished 38th out of the entire womens field but its hard to race people you can’t see. I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything but do believe all of us in the womens field could have run better in the open field. No excuses though, I was prepared to run faster and I didn’t but still my take away is that I LOVED this event. Even though this course kicked my tail, I thought it was honest, gritty, exciting, and one of the best I’ve ever run. New York, I fell in love with you in 26.2 miles.
Thank you ALL so much for the incredible support. I turned my phone on in the van back to the hotel post race and immediately had to turn it back off because the messages brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t want to open those flood gates! I felt a bit defeated but someone told me you don’t come to New York for a fast time, you come to New York to RACE. I did what I could, with what I could, on the day. You win some and you crash at some. It’s all part of the journey and this one was an event I will hold dear to my heart forever. Thank you all! Specifically a huge thanks to my coach Jerry Frostick. He is the perfect balance of relentless, positive, ambition and has no problem politely telling me to shut up when I start feeling sorry for myself, ha. Now I recover and more fun begins while I get to track and cheer for friends the rest of the season….while eating loads of pizza, candy, and wine plus sleeping in 😉 Have a great week everyone!