Friday, January 20, 2017

Strike Ten: At a Running Crossroads

This is starting to get old, or perhaps I am.

I started my improbable run journey at the age of thirty nine. I never ran in high school, or any level for that matter. In Jr. High, I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis which isn't the "card you want to pull out of the deck" as a runner of any distance. I've largely ignored the arthritis and grown to love the sport of running and triathlons. Perhaps too much. One year I ran four marathons in over sixteen months (I realize there are twelve months in a year.)
Contemplating my run future

I have defied the odds and have done pretty well. 2013 was my "defining year" running in my third (of eventually five) Boston Marathons. I broke twenty minutes in a 5k, and qualified for the New York City Marathon with a 1:29 half marathon that same year. 2014 is perhaps when the "wheels started to come off." I crashed (hard) in the Rocky Mountain State Games triathlon that summer and nearly died in the hospital (HERE.) I recovered, and added to the list of my injuries over the years which include;

Stress Fracture of the tibia
Torn Hip Labrum
Femoral Acetabular Impingement
Broken Ribs
Separated Shoulder
Torn Shoulder Labrum
Skin Cancer
Stress Fracture
Fracture 5th Metatarsal

Each time, I was stubborn and determined so get back to the sports that seemed to define much of who I am. The good news was that each injury had either a recovery period or a physical therapy routine that I attacked as vigorously as I attack my sport. Each time I bounced back. In 2016, I dealt with two foot fractures and once again rebounded to start training for the New York City Marathon. A month prior, I had likely the funnest destination race weekend I've ever had at the Runner's World Half Marathon and Festival in their home town of Bethlehem, PA. I was an ambassador for Runner's World at the race and everything seemed to be going well including a podium in my age group in the half marathon. Somewhere towards the end of the half, my knee felt a little "wonky." Something I've never had on my list of maladies are knee problems. It didn't hurt and I dismissed it no doubt numbed by beer, the fun, and the elation of winning at such a prestigious race.

A couple of weeks after the RW Half, I had my last long run before New York City. I was on the road in Seattle and planned an extra day to get in my run on the waterfront. Once again, my knee felt odd, but went from wonky to uncomfortable towards the end of the run. The following day, my knee swelled up and I feared that perhaps I "tore something." "Oh god, not again," I thought, would injury "bounce me" for the second year in a row from the New York City Marathon. Before New York, I had another personal trip to San Diego to finally meet my run buddy Liam. I limped up to meet him and iced my knee all weekend before booking (yet another) visit to my ortho at Steadman Hawkins in Denver.
Finishing strong at RW Half--1st effects of sore right knee

The good news was there was no tear. The other good news was he said I could run New York. Whew! The bad news was there was a look of concern that seemed greater than normal and he shared that I had deterioration of the cartilage in my right knee (Osteorarthritis.) There was also a bonus of a bone spur. Dr. Jeremy is a runner himself and knows how much I love the sport, but for the first time, he asked me if I'd consider cycling instead of running. (Perhaps he forgot about the Rocky Mountain State Games.) I slightly discounted the conversation except for the fact that he said I could race NYC. At that point, I was in "taper mode" and ran very little the couple of weeks prior to my third world major. Two days before New York City, I felt "ready" as I logged my last short run in D.C. en route to the race. I had a contingency plan (to simply head home vs heading to New York) as the weekend before, I was unsure if my knee could handle 26.2 miles.

Instead of flying home from D.C., I went on to complete my fourteenth marathon (race recap HERE.) It wasn't pretty, but it was beautiful. Not pretty in that my knee was surrounded by KT Tape, yet beautiful in that, I loved the race, I loved the experience, and I was jubilant. Other than the fact that I pulled up like a gimp horse in Central Park around mile 24 with a hamstring. No doubt due to all the tension in my entire right leg. Once again, my knee was sore afterwards, but the medal and being able to finally wear the finishers jacket overshadowed any pain I felt.

From there, I took time off to rest my body thinking that this would somehow go away. I've slowly added some miles in the last few weeks and felt an itch to wear a bib again so I raced a 10K this last weekend. Ironically, this was my first 10K ever...yeah, I know. Hard to believe. I've raced over sixty times and this was my first 10K. I wore my KT Tape and added a Zensah knee brace. Once the gun went off, adrenaline "kicked in" and I raced (not ran) 6.2 miles. I sensed that the really fast guys weren't out there this morning, and with an "out and back" course, I could see who was ahead of me and who was behind me--dude behind me was a "heavy breather" and never caught me. Ha! Take that!

Once again, I had the same combination; jubilation and sore and swollen knee. Shit! (at least on the second part.) Jubilation in that I came in third overall in the race and first in my age group. The swollen knee was once again a concern. I've been googling the topic and it aligned with my Doctor's prognosis. It's not great. You can heal a bone, or use physical therapy to heal many things, but you can't grow back cartilage.
Pulling up "gimp" at NYC Marathon

I've tried to be an inspiration to others in the sport of run racing and triathlons. I had an inspiring conversation with a young boy who was all of ten or eleven years old on Sunday at the race. He was looking at the race directors race results printout taped to the plywood sandwich board next to the coffee trailer. The young lad found his name, but wasn't sure what he was looking at. I helped him discover that he too came in first in his age group. I literally patted him on the back, and congratulated him, "you came in first!," I told him. His smile looked familiar as it looked like mine minus a few wrinkles. I'm hoping this will inspire the young lad to take on the sport and embrace it as I have.

I'm not sure why I share his story other than it is diametrically opposed to my situation. I'm starting to think for the first time that I have to think about what I'm doing to my body and how I want to live out the rest of my life. I'm not ready to give up sports, but I have to start thinking differently about it. Perhaps that means shorter races and a heavier focus on triathlons. Tactically, it definitely means running fewer times a week and alternating with swim and bike which isn't such a bad thing. I'm a big fan of Altra shoes, but also the Hoka One One Cliftons. The later has a much cushier (is that a word?) than other running shoes. Running on natural running paths versus road running will also have to happen.
My last race and 1st 10k

Lastly, I may have to rethink marathons. I may have to be content with accomplishing five Boston Marathons and "tacking on" the accomplishment of running Chicago and New York City. I'm holding out hope that perhaps I can find a way to complete the World Majors, but it will perhaps be running them versus racing them, but even that seems unlikely today with my knee unable to manage six miles. I also need to realize that perhaps I'm being selfish as there are some that would do anything to run Boston just once. I have an online run friend (Gelcys from Runner Unleashed) who has a brain tumor and scoliosis; yet she always has a smile and a positive attitude every day. My knee seems trivial compared to the battles she wakes up to each day. I also want to be able to bend over and pick up a grandchild when that day comes (hopefully, not until my kids graduate.)

Right now my emotions are all over the map (kinda like this post.) I fluctuate between reflection, resolve and depression. It's tough to process. Once again, thank you for reading and hearing me rant. As usual, I will find a way to pick myself up again and lace my run shoes. If anyone has dealt with similar knee issues, I'd love to hear from you. Post comments below or email me: ty@seekingbostonmarathon.com. I (k)nee(d) the support.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Patriots Day Movie: Reflecting on Running Boston That Day

My interview with Josh Cox two days prior on Boylston
I was in New York City over Thanksgiving and decided to take in a movie to rest from all the holiday hustle and bustle. As I nestled into my seat with my buttered popcorn and Hot Tamales, the theatre went dark. I always arrive early to the cinema to catch the previews. One of my favorite actors, Mark Wahlberg, lit the screen and I inched forward in my seat to see what movie was coming out that I'd certainly see. He was wearing a police uniform, but then a more familiar scene presented itself. He was a Boston cop and the movie was Patriots Day; the movie about the Boston Marathon bombing.

My heart skipped a beat and there may have been an audible gasp. My son looked over at me wondering what my reaction might be and uncharacteristically, touched my arm. All the emotions of April 15, 2013
started to flood my senses. I had heard they were making a movie about the bombing tragedy, but the preview caught me completely off guard. The brief clips were quite familiar; particularly the Boylston finish line flags that were the backdrop to the best marathon performance I'd ever had. My body had no injuries, and my professional coach had me in the best race condition in my life for the race that day.

The movie preview (and subsequent previews) I've seen on T.V. bring back a number of memories.

When I returned home from Boston to Denver after the bombing, my wife and I had a delayed reaction realizing how close I'd come to a horrible situation. I was more concerned about my wife as a spectator on the sidewalks that day versus myself. We coped with feelings of mortality and what could have happened. I've had many people ask me to recall my story from that day in fascination; what happened, and where was I when the blasts went off. My still vivid recollection from that day;

The finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon
Within a mile of the finish, I went under a viaduct looking for friends who were supposed to be there cheering us on. I saw Bart Yasso (from Runner's World Magazine) and yelled out his name (we'd met once before...among the hundreds, or thousands of runners he's met) thinking he'd yell out encouragement in my name. He did, and it gave me extra energy (the best energy I've had in a marathon after mile twenty.) I rounded Hereford onto Boylston, and my gait and posture was strong. My race day photos would later show a runner who looked like he was at mile thirteen, not mile 26.

I ran past the Starbucks where I was earlier in the weekend and was the location of backpack number two. I looked for my wife as this was the spot she'd watched me from along the mailbox right across the streeet in my previous Boston Marathons.

Along Boylston, I kicked into "high gear" on my sprint to the finish, I saw the finish line flags which were so prominent in all the video that would come out in the coming days. I passed Marathon Sports where I bought "last minute" gels the day before and passed the plastic M&M character on the sidewalk that would also be a victim in the first blast.

After the race, I was to meet my wife then head over to nearby Loews Hotel to meet other runners I'd trained with. Just as we exchanged a sweaty kiss and hug in the reunion area, we heard a sound I will never forget. As I explained many times to those that have asked (I don't mind talking about it,) it sounded like an alley dumpster had been dropped off a roof...and not from the second floor. It was loud.

It was odd as everyone looked around briefly, wondering, "what was that?" Moments later, we'd hear a second similar noise but slightly muffled. That would make sense as it was further from the finish line in front of that Starbucks. Again, no one really paid any notice to the noise and everyone went about their reunions. Growing up in suburbia USA, I'd never heard a bomb go off before. The closest I'd come to that were the M80 illegal firecrackers we set off in the cul de sac in my childhood neighborhood

Quickly dismissing the sound as perhaps an electrical transformer that blew, we walked another short block to the hotel and reunited with my much faster friends. Everyone was in full celebration with lots of cold beer flowing when others started to straggle into the bar with cryptic reports of what happened. All eyes turned to the T.V. and jubilation turned into horror as coverage began to tell the story of what had happened. I was numb but soon realized I'd better let loved ones who were following the race online know that I was okay. Phone lines were either intentionally "jammed" or congested beyond operation. I could not get a hold of anyone. Back home, my daughter was a senior in high school, and one of her best friends approached her in the hallway at school asking her if her dad was okay. "Why?, she later told me. "There was a bomb at the Boston Marathon." She knew her dad was there...no doubt she advertised in pride to many of her friends that day.
News coverage unfolding in the hotel bar

My daughter would tell me later she was pissed I didn't get ahold of her first but rather her "aunt Kim" who's the un-official family newswire. Our update finally went out over Facebook and would later see a flood of friends and family comment and thank God we weren't injured (or worse.)

My theory was that the culprit(s) had certainly had an escape plan. I envisioned, a walk, a bike ride, a subway, then train perhaps up to Canada then who knows where. It didn't feel like and would later learn it was not domestic terrorism. These were bad guys who hated America and decided that the Boston Marathon was "mom and apple pie" and would crush the infidels. They'd later learn (as Wahlberg quotes in the movie,) they messed with the wrong city.

The race euphoria disappeared and we decided we wanted to get back to the solace of our Beacon Hill home we'd rented. A reporter stopped to interview me still in my Boston Marathon finisher's jacket. I don't know who she was, nor did I see what channel she was from. Once in the Beacon Hill condo, I showered and the effects of the day started to settle in. Throughout the night, we heard helicopters. We were graciously offered to stay an extra day as I canceled my business plans for that week in Boston. The day after, we walked the city and saw that the Boston Commons had turned into a militarized zone in stark contrast to the revelry the day before where runners boarded the buses there to start their "once-in-a-lifetime" event.

We left Boston before the following weekend's events unfolded with the eventual capture of the "bad guys." It was unnerving to think they hadn't fled the city as I theorized. They partied and caused more carnage before one died and the other was captured in a tarped boat in a quiet neighborhood backyard. I honestly felt a bit numb the weeks following the marathon. I returned a month later for that business trip that was postponed and went back to the finish line area to see all the memorials that took over Boylston. It infuriated me when Rolling Stone Magazine featured one of the culprits on the cover. I threatened to boycott my local coffee shop and book store when I saw the cover. F*ck him.

Returning to Boston the next month
All of those emotions slowly faded as life went back to normal and I returned to Boston the following year (2014) with heightened security and throngs of "Boston Strong" statements. I had no fear in returning. I felt it was a statement that their cowardly acts took lives and ruined parents dreams, but it made the city stronger and wouldn't impact my life. Marathon runners are known for endurance and resilience and Boston is a notoriously tough and proud city. What were they thinking? I think Wahlberg has it right. They messed with the wrong city.

That brings me back to the opening of the movie. I have mixed emotions about going, but I know I will go see it. My mom grew up going to the theatre when tickets were a nickle. She would take us to movies growing up and became part of my life as I take my wife and kids to movies and we debate with my boys about Wahlberg's movies. My son Jesse doesn't like his voice...or is that Matt Damon? We watch the Oscars and Golden Globes and bet on who will win. Yes, movies are part of the American fabric and my life. They can't take those liberties away from us.

Did you run Boston in 2013? Do you plan to see the movie regardless of whether you ran it or not?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Holidays From Seeking Boston

A special advent calendar video run greeting from Seeking Boston Marathon. Hoping you all have a fantastic holiday break and thanks for all the support this year. (Click image or click HERE.)


 Previous year holiday greetings (videos and memes) below.



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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

My Post Marathon Hiatus

SBM taking a cooking class with the family
With most of my year in a walking boot, I was anxious to finish the year with a couple of AMAZING races; the New York City Marathon and the Runner's World Half Marathon and Festival. It was my "intensities in ten cities" tour with a whirlwind of travel over two months throwing in a trip to San Diego, Seattle, a college homecoming, and oh yeah...I moved my home (and worldwide headquarters of SeekingBostonMarathon.com.)

Whew! Given all that, my mind (and more so my body) was ready for a bit of a break. The last run hiatus I had was NOT optional and in the aforementioned boot. This time around I figured, HAVE SOME FUN while taking a much-needed break from running as my body needed rest and healing as I head into 2017.

With that, the ten things I did after my last mary.


My Movember Stache
1) Unpacked a bunch of boxes! Being partial empty nesters, we moved to the city! Did I mention I moved the weekend BEFORE a marathon. I would not recommend it. My aching knee did not appreciate it, but have loved setting up the urban offices of SeekingBostonMarathon.
2) Movember to remember. I've subtly embraced Movember each year and (this year) tried to grow a Jared Ward "stache" to drive awareness for kicking cancer's ass. Unfortunately, I turned out looking more like Andy Reid (Kansas City Chiefs rotund chief signal caller) vs. the svelt Ward. I did however get a tweet acknowledgment from one of the NYC Marathon Grand Marshalls--Mr. Ward himself. (If you haven't donated yet, you can still throw some "Mo dough" HERE.

Elf on a Shelf float rounding the corner of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade
3) Like Mr. Reid, I ate A LOT. After taking on a Whole30 Plan earlier this year and a robust training schedule up to the two big aforementioned races, I was at my lowest race weight (and felt great) in years. Mentally and physically, I've enjoyed eating and drinking pretty much everything in sight. I feel "fat" but I'm not.
Backstage with Andra Day after her Bluebird Theatre gig
4) I watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade LIVE! My wife and I took one of our boys to the "big apple" a mere few weeks after racing their earlier in November. It was an AMAZING week taking in a lot of the sights we didn't quite have time for when we were there for the race including the 9/11 Memorial, Statue of Liberty, and having the parade out the back door of our hotel. We wrapped up the week with a "food tour" in Greenwich Village which was a "#gastrointestinalorgasm. (Pretty sure that's not a trending hashtag, but it should be.)
5) Thanks(giving) to the wife, we took a thanksgiving meal cooking class at Sur La Table in nearby Cherry Creek. A very festive way to kick off the holiday season with the wife and kids. I'm "all thumbs" in the kitchen, but really enjoyed it.
6) Andra Day concert at the nearby historic Bluebird Theatre. My cousin Shay drums for Andra. The show was amazing and got to meet Andra afterwards. Super nice woman and the girl's got some serious vocal chops.
My Brookly Bridge Run a few weeks after NYC Marathon
7) Housewarming party! Sorry you weren't all invited, but my realtor helped host our first party complete with Santiago breakfast burritos, Voodoo Donuts (started in Portland and up the block from the new casa) and a Bloody Mary bar. Good friends, good times. If I had a sports nutritionist on staff, I'm pretty sure he would not have approved the Cocoa Puff donut.
8) I turned in my application for the 2017 Runner's Roost (my local run store) team and was happy to have received my acceptance this week! Woohoo!
9) I've taken time off from running and the gym, but have gone for a few short runs in the last five weeks which included some amazing bucket list runs; Embarcadero in San Francisco, and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges in New York City. While I've run the first two, Manhattan was a first.
10) Scoped out a few routes from my new home. A bonus for moving is I can no longer complain about having the "same old" routes out my front door. Running is a gift and I'm not complaining (I guess I just contradicted myself,) but I'm excited about the new routes outside my front door; City Park, Cheeseman Park, Lowry, and Cherry Creek Trail.

After all that, my foot feels much better. My knee that bothered me before New York City is feeling a bit better but not quite 100%. I definitely needed the break!

Are you able to take a complete break from running after a marathon?
New SeekingBostonMarathon.com worldwide headquarters

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Runner's Thanksgiving Toast Cheat Sheet: 2016

We are all within a couple days (or hours depending on when you read this) of sitting at the dining room table and most likely one of the elders (could be me,) will start the conversation with, "what are you thankful for?" For all my running readers, I've done the hard work for you and prepared a "cheat sheet" for this Thanksgiving holiday. UPDATED for 2016.


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(A special thanks to my wife for turning me on to Ms. Lilien's blog for the inspiration and apologies for plagiarism) 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Runner's Run Vegas Guide

This weekend Las Vegas welcomes the Rock n' Roll Marathon to the city of sin and the Vegas strip. It also happens to be National Run Safety Month. It seems like an unlikely marriage in the city more known for debauchery versus healthy living, so the question comes to mind, how do you blend the two experiences?

I've got several Rock n' Roll Marathons and halfs to my credit and Vegas happens to be one of my favorite getaway spots. I got married in Vegas (as did my sister and brother,) and

celebrated (or rebelled) a previous divorce. 

So  given the above credentials that makes me the Celine Dion (or Rodney Dangerfield) of running in Vegas. I've had some amazing adventures in Clark County, Nevada which I've parlayed into the runner's "Run Vegas Guide." 


Vegas happens to be one of the many places I've traveled around the world (Moscow, Singapore, Dublin,) and I run everywhere I go. That can present challenges (like stray dogs in New Delhi, India) for a runner, but where there is challenge there is opportunity. 



The good news is that while there are likely characters that are "dogs," I've never seen a wild dog chase down a runner in Vegas. Point being, if I can log miles in all these great places, anyone can fit in their healthy options AND have fun in a city like Las Vegas. With that, my suggestions to maximize your run (or fitness) weekend in Las Vegas.


Planning

I posted a video blog this year on "Travel (something I also know a bit about with over 1.4 million miles on United) Tips for Runners. One of the things I talked about is planning. If you have an early "tee time," a spa date with your significant other, or a night of gambling, you're going to need to plan ahead, or your scheduled workout will fall off the calendar. This really isn't any different than the planning you would do in a regular week at home. If you have a long run (or you're racing the marathon on Sunday,) you need to plan around it.
Running the strip early morning

For me personally, on destination races, I try and book extra time on the back end of the trip to celebrate my run and take in what the city has to offer. Having just completed the New York City Marathon this last weekend, I heard something I hear at most expos. Limit your activities and "time on your feet" prior to the race so you have fresh legs on race day.

That might mean, booking a "wing man" for your spouse or significant other so they can take in the sights while you dial it down a bit. 

Once your race is done, go crazy! You earned that burger, night of gambling, or yard(s) of beer. You just ran 26.2 frickin' miles!

Where to Run

This is an ironic section heading as many people flock to Vegas to "get away" or figuratively run away. That's not the kind of running I'm talking about. Just like the surreal setting of walking up Broadway this last weekend at 5AM to get to the start of the New York City Marathon, one of my favorites is to get up early (takes planning!) and run the strip. Yes, you will get strange looks from strange people, but head out early enough and you'll beat the heat, beat the crowds, and see a few late night/early morning stragglers strolling the sidewalks with their volcano drinks in hand. Bring your cell phone and snap that selfie in front of the Welcome to Vegas sign!

Just like any other city you may be visiting, use sites like MapMyRun to find run routes that others have used and posted. Google is also an amazing thing...typing in "run routes in Las Vegas" turned up a great article from Competitor.com that lists a number of other routes a short drive outside the neon glow of the strip including Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and one I want to check out next time; the River Mountains Loop trail that boasts 32 miles of trail and includes seven train tunnels--sounds cool to me (pun intended.)

If you are short on time, or don't have the rental car to get you out of town, there are some amazing Vegas hotels  with equally amazing spa/gyms to take advantage of. I know, I know, some people loath the "dreadmill" but given the choice between six beers and a deep-fried pickle for breakfast or a nice six miler looking out over the pool. Plan, and get your six miles in! If you are short on time, get the run in and do your stretching and/or strength work in the hotel room. I have a list of exercises I do several times a week and that can be in the gym, my bedroom at home, or in a hotel room.

Keep it Safe

Regardless of whether you are running in Moscow, Las Vegas, or stepping out your front door, all runners (and other outdoor fitness enthusiasts) need to have safety in mind when you venture outside. Some tips apply at home or abroad, but here are a few I recommend or keep in mind before I lace up the shoes;

1) See and be seen. If you are taking off early in the morning and running at night, you need to wear the right gear which may include reflective clothing or some form of run light. I'm not a fan of the headlamp, but there are many options that light your path and illuminate yourself to increase safety. I like NightRunner 270s (reviewed HERE.) Run on well-lit paths and light yourself up.
2) "Cars are out to get you" and they don't see you or they're Snapchatting or looking at Facebook. Distracted driving is on the rise with the proliferation of smart phones and apps. Assume that car that is approaching does NOT see you.
3) Don't be distracted yourself. Related to the above, you need to constantly be aware of your surroundings. Whether it's looking for cars or looking for snakes on a path; keep your eyes and senses open. If you're running outside, leave the tunes behind so you can hear what's coming.
4) Have a run buddy. Sadly, there are bad people out there and this applies to men and women but women in particular.  I surveyed a few of my female run friends who offered a few more for women;

"always carry a phone"
"always carry pepper spray or some other defense"
"always let someone know where you're running"

5) Wear identification. There are plenty of options available from RoadID, but you can also have your personal information in your run belt or pocket. God forbid something happen out on the run, they need to locate your loved ones.

The Reward

I'm a big fan of rewarding yourself after a good workout. That does not necessarily mean that "deep fried pickle" I mentioned earlier. Look, and you can find healthy options in restaurants and grocery stores virtually anywhere. I found a great list on Thrillist that has the "All the Best Healthy Places to Eat in Vegas."

Your best bet for catching all that Vegas has to offer is Vegas.com. Gamble, watch your favorite sports team from a casino sports book, or catch a show. I'd highly recommend Absinthe (think cirque du soleil meets cheesy carnival that comes to town) at Caesars. Not for the faint of heart, but it's downright hilarious. When we saw the show, I was pulled up on stage to perform an (ahem) private dance for another audience participant. As they say, anything goes in Vegas; including running.


Thanks to Shannon and Melissa  (from Run, Heifer, Run) on twitter (follow me on twitter HERE) for their inputs on run safety for women. Vegas.com commissioned me to write this post. No compensation (other than good luck the next time I go to Vegas) was provided.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Run Dream Realized: New York City Marathon Race Recap

Some dreams are just that, others are put on hold, and some dreams are realized.

I felt a little bit of all of that over the last seven years. I didn't just want to run the New York City Marathon, I wanted to qualify for it. That took some time (and I suppose a lot of hard work.) As I've chronicled here, I finally qualified only to get the ortho "hook" one week before the 2015 NYC Marathon (post HERE.) Just as I always do, I got back up on that horse (or unicorn) and rehab'ed and trained hard to use the one injury deferral they give you.
Holding the cherished NYC Marathon bib

After overcoming two foot fractures in the span of seven months, I got out of the walking boot sometime in July ('16.) I was not in running shape and was already beyond the start date for a training plan (usually sixteen weeks.) Regardless, I had been cross-training and spent a ton of time on strength so I felt I had a legitimate shot at New York.

Everything was "coming together" and I had a "tune-up" half marathon race at the Runner's World Half and Festival in Bethlehem, PA in October. The only thing between me and New York City was my second and last twenty miler. I completed that on only four days rest (not smart) but got 'er done. Only problem was my right knee swelled up for the first time ever after that long training run. Knock on wood, I have had my share of injuries and aches and pain, but never the knee. This was now two weeks out from NYC.

I'll spare all the details, but my run ortho (Steadman Hawkins in Denver) was concerned enough to x-ray and MRI the knee. The good news was it was diagnosed as some arthritic cartilage damage (who doesn't at my age,) and he gave me a green light. I had an insane gauntlet of travel the month leading up to my dream race AND moved my house the weekend before NYC (the "Insanity Tour" HERE). I would not recommend this. The bad news was that my knee still felt sore a week out from the race, and my running went to zero miles to give it a rest. The knee got plenty of work moving the house, but it didn't fall into the "rest" category my doctor prescribed.
"Soaking in" the Flatiron bldg and all that NYC has to offer

Short of being melodramatic, I was ready to drop out again one week away from the "big apple" on Sunday as the swelling had gone down in my knee, but it still did not feel right. I pondered how smart it was to try and run 26.2 miles on a knee that hurt when I walked.

As I normally try to do with destination races, I like to get to the target time zone early. I had work on the East Coast (leaving Tuesday.) My thought was, either I take the train from D.C. to NYC on Thursday, or I fly home to Denver with my tail between my legs. I ran a short four miles on Wednesday night and felt, "I have come too damn far to turn back now. I'm racing!" I took the train.

Now to the fun stuff. The train was awesome. I took the Amtrak Acela Express which was quite comfortable. Inter-city train travel is not common to a midwest guy like me. I rather enjoyed the ride, got some work done, and enjoyed the scenery. The train dropped me off at Penn Station which is right at Madison Square Garden in midtown. From there, it was less than a ten minute walk to the Renaissance in midtown. I stay in a lot of hotels. Some good, some bad. This was INSANE, and would learn later it was a mere ten minute walk to the race buses at the New York City Public Library.
Grafitti tagged Kara Goucher

My wife was not arriving until late Friday night so I had the day to myself at the expo. I was literally "Charlie" walking in the "Wonka" Chocolate factory with my eyes wide open drooling over everything at the expo. Once I got my bib in hand, I actually kissed it. I know...awkward, but I embrace awkward. I was giddy as I was finally able to shop the marathon jackets. I dropped a lot of dough; hats, shirts, jacket, and even picked up a new pair of sunglasses.

The surprise of the expo was stumbling into the United Airlines booth on Friday. I wondered why they were there and learned they were selling a handful (25) of tickets to their VIP tent at the race start on Staten Island. I'd heard the horror stories of the cold and doldrums that can set in sitting around for hours waiting for the race. With only 25 available, they suggested I get there "first thing" on Friday. I was successful in grabbing a "golden ticket" (another Wonka reference,) and it was worth its weight in gold. Oh my God, it was nice. Heated tent, food, private bathrooms, and WiFi.

I was so giddy, I didn't even snap any photos except for the amazing sunrise coming up over the Verrazano Bridge. It was absolutely gorgeous. Getting to the United tent on Sunday morning was a "snap" as I'd mentioned it was a short walk to get there. Easy peasy.
View of the starting bridge in Staten Island just outside United's tent

After leaving the comforts of the United VIP tent, I made my way to the orange corral in wave one. More waiting, but there were at least porto-potties within the corral. The slight problem was that upon leaving the roped off confines of my wave one, corral "E" was another long wait as we snaked our way towards the start waiting for the anthem and howitzer gun start. I used my Gatorade bottle and Hefty garbage bag trick to subtly relieve myself. I apologize to the young woman I spoke to that didn't realize I was peeing at the same time we talked. #awkward.

Given the great half marathon I'd raced three weeks prior, it gave me the confidence to go ahead and reach for a BQ time of 3:30. Given that this was my first marathon in nineteen months (how is that possible?) I decided, I've come this far, "go for it!" As the gun went off, Sinatra belted out New York over the loudspeakers. It was euphoric! I cried a little bit as I realized this was not a dream, I was racing the New York City fricking Marathon!

I hung with the 3:25 pace group leader up through mile 15. I felt great and my confidence was soaring. I faded a bit around the steady incline of the Queensboro bridge. Honestly, the hills did not bother me too much, but perhaps the seven minute mile pace in mile two was affecting me, or more likely the fact that I hadn't run in two weeks. Regardless, as they say, as you spin out of that bridge, you hit the euphoria of first ave in Manhattan where the crowds really pump you up. Then you realize, you're at 58th, and you need to run up to 138th before you can start heading south again for the finish in Central Park.

I was happy to see familiar faces (Dustin and Jess) through these final miles and my wife at the south edge of Central Park. I had "banked" some time and while I was starting to slow down, I felt that with a surge in the last two miles, a BQ was still within reach. The monkey wrench in that plan was a wicked hamstring cramp (my first ever in a race) in Central Park around mile 24. As I looked at my Garmin splits (and the MarathonFotos) I walked for the first time in this race. The pain was unbearable, and instinct told me to keep moving, and massage it. My math was disoriented at this point, and figured the BQ had disappeared, but I wanted a faster finish than my 2015 Boston. I started to run again.

As I headed east on the south side of Central Park, the adrenaline and euphoria of the crowd had me running again. I cried a bit as the emotions of such an amazing race hit me. I was happy to see my wife along the rail cheering me with some new friends she made. We watched the 2015 NYC marathon finish from roughly the same spot a year earlier. I knew I would be finally grabbing my third world major marathon medal just as I'd entered the park. My final time was a 3:37. Respectable, but seven minutes too fast for a BQ, but zero regrets.

I'd have to say, this race met all expectations. One of my childhood (and run/triathlete buds) asked me online, how do you compare Boston to New York City? This week? I'd have to say it's my new favorite, but I will continue to chase the unicorn.
the "bling"

Footnote: Huge thanks to Jeremy at Steadman Hawkins for "patching me up" and helping me realize a dream to run the New York City Marathon and United Airlines for the fantastic VIP experience.



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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine