A New York State of Mind

Hey guys! I can’t wait to tell you all about our wonderful trip to NYC! Just a fair warning, this post is going to be lengthy and include lots of pictures. I hope that’s okay …

Before we get to that though, I want to just say thank you so much to everyone who voted, shared my posts and encouraged me over the course of the Runner’s World cover search process. Your kindness, love and support has meant so much to me! In case you missed it, I didn’t win. The whole process was so long and there was so much hype about it, that by the end of the contest I had really become a lot more emotionally invested than I even realized.

I didn’t find out until the afternoon before the announcement was made live that I hadn’t won. At first I was pretty disappointed. The more I thought about it, the more that I realized that the whole point was for me to share my story (i.e., the Lord’s story). I did not need to be on the cover of the magazine to accomplish that. All of the finalists stories are going to be in the December issue of the Runner’s World (which comes out November 10th) and all of our interviews are floating out there on the interwebs for the whole world to see, so I feel like I did what I was called to do and I am happy about that!

On to the fun part! I am going to tell you about our pre-race activities, recap the actual race itself and tell you about our post-race festivities.

Pre-Race

We headed over to New Orleans Thursday evening. We stayed in an airport motel that night because our flight left for Newark at 6 a.m. and we didn’t want to wake up before 2 a.m. to travel to New Orleans the morning of the flight. We scored an awesome, direct flight from New Orleans to Newark for less than $200! It was definitely worth the extra drive for a cheap, direct flight. We met our friend Shaw-fin at the airport.

We landed in Newark and took an uber into the city and were checked into our hotel before noon, which was really nice. We stayed at the Chambers Hotel on 56th Street between 5th and 6th Avenue. The hotel was really nice and the location was absolutely perfect! I would definitely recommend it. After we got checked in, Daniel, Shaw-fin and I headed over to the race expo to pick up our bibs. That’s where the fun began!

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We stayed at the expo for a while. It was really crowded and there was so much to see and take in. I love race expos and this one was incredible! I found the Runner’s World booth and got a picture of the TAG Heuer advertisment that featured all of the cover search finalists (bottom right picture). We were also able to get a sneak peak of the December issue and get a picture with Bart Yasso holding up my page (top left picture). That was so cool!

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Another highlight from Friday was that I got to meet my coach. He is based out of Charlotte, NC so I wasn’t sure if we would ever get to meet in person. I was so excited to learn that his daughter was running NYC and that we might be able to meet in person. She is a phenomenal runner and they were really busy all weekend, so I was really appreciative that he took time to meet with me before the race. We talked some about the race day plan and talked about what I wanted to do next. That is still currently the million dollar question, by the way.

We were worn out after a long day of traveling and so we didn’t do too much else Friday evening. We made a quick stop at a little deli to get dinner and some groceries to have in the room for the rest of the weekend and called it an early night.

We headed out early Saturday morning to go over to Central Park to run a few miles. We met up with our friends from home, Ali and Melanie and watched Melanie run the Dash to the Finish Line 5K. She ran great (got a new PR!) and we enjoyed seeing her and spending the morning in the park. The weather was perfect!

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After her race we all met up with our other friends from home, Jim and Kari Ann, for breakfast at Astro Restaurant. It was a pretty small restaurant with a local, diner vibe and we loved it (you will also see this appear in the post-race section of this post). The coffee was good and there was something for everyone. I was a big fan of their Greek yogurt bar. Saturday morning I got the “Very Berry” and it was ah-mazing.

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Saturday afternoon several of us had tickets to see the Lion King on Broadway. Daniel was adamant that we were going to see a show while we were in town and I’m so glad that he had this idea. The costumes, the music, everything was simply breathtaking and refreshingly innocent. We all loved it!

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Watching a musical also made for a great pre-race day activity (as opposed to something more active). I wanted to make sure to get to bed early Saturday night, so after the play I went back to the room to get my stuff laid out and get some good rest. Daniel and the rest of the group went over to the Rockefeller Center and up to the “Top of the Rock” observation deck. They said the views were amazing. I hated to miss out on that, but after all of this training, I was determined to get plenty of rest the day before the race.

Race Recap

Sunday morning, I was up around 4:45 to get ready. I was nervous, but really excited. I was accepted into the sub-elite program, which was very intimidating but made for an absolutely incredible race day experience (to get into this program you need a 2:35 marathon or 1:12 half-marathon for men and 3:05 marathon or 1:27 half-marathon for women). We had special transportation to the start, a special staging area before the race, a clear starting position at the front of the race, and a dedicated recovery area at the finish.

We took the Midtown bus at 6 a.m. to the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex on Staten Island. The athletic complex is a brand new, huge indoor track and field facility. All of the elite and sub-elite athletes were here before the race. They had breakfast there for us (coffee, water, fruit, bagels, etc.) and we were able to stretch, warm up and stay indoors until about 30 minutes before the race start. The elite athletes were doing all kinds of warm up drills and running, but I don’t typically do any sort of warm up before a marathon (maybe I am supposed to), so I basically just sat there, taking it all in. Here is Meb!

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We lined up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge around 9:40 and the cannon fired at 9:50 for the start of the race. The first mile of the race was straight up the bridge. The view from the top of the bridge was incredible because we could see the entire NYC skyline. The second mile was straight down the other side of the bridge. I tried to not go out too fast, but it was really difficult to reign the pace in running downhill. Mile one was 7:01 pace (pretty much exactly what I was shooting for) and mile two was 6:28 (oops). I didn’t feel like I was really running at a hard effort the second mile, it was more of just a naturally faster pace as gravity pulled you down the bridge and you tried not to get trampled by the thousands of runners behind you.

The course takes you through five boroughs of New York. You start on Staten Island and then run through Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and finish in Manhattan. I tried to settle into a groove after we got off of the (first) bridge. I was feeling pretty good and I settled into a fairly consistent pace. Miles three through fourteen were 6:43, 6:37, 6:30, 6:38, 6:41, 6:42, 6:44, 6:44, 6:42, 6:37, 6:48, 6:48.

Going into the race, I knew that the course was going to be challenging because of the hills. I did some hill work this training cycle, but I don’t think any of the hills in lower AL could have fully prepared me for the hills and bridges in NYC. I don’t know if this elevation chart really does it justice, but those darn things were rough.

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I slowed down a little bit during miles fifteen and sixteen (7:05, 7:08), as we crossed over the Queensboro Bridge. At this point I was still feeling decent and I knew that I was going to slow down some over the bridges anyway. That was part of the “plan.” I was able to pick the pace back up a little bit after we came out onto 1st Avenue and I continued to cruise along through mile twenty three. Miles seventeen through twenty three were 6:56, 6:39, 6:47, 7:02, 6:48, 7:09, 7:14.

During mile twenty four, I hit the wall (hard). I ran 8:09 for that mile. Ouch. I honestly think that my fueling was adequate and I think on a flat course I may have been able to hold my pace at least another mile or two, which would have pretty much gotten me through the finish. Perhaps that is just wishful thinking, but I’m gonna just go with it for now.

Speaking of fueling … for any of you that may be interested, I’ll share my race day fueling with you. If not, feel free to skip the next three paragraphs and continue on after that.

Pre-race I took in between 300 and 400 calories, which is what my coach recommended. I had 4 oz. of Noosa (Australian yogurt), half a banana, one packet of UCAN (vanilla protein) with 20 oz. of water, a small (probably 4 oz.) cup of coffee and a small cup of water (probably 4 oz.) with an electrolyte tablet. By my calculations, this was about 375 calories, 7g of fat, 53g of carbs and 19g of protein. This was more than I typically take in before my long runs, but we also didn’t start running until close to 10 a.m. and I usually run at 6 a.m., so I knew that I needed to eat more beforehand than I do on a typical long run day.

During the race I alternated with water and Gatorade Endurance Formula at the aid stations. Basically I tried to take a few sips of something every 20 to 30 minutes. I took water at mile three, Gatorade at mile seven, water at mile 11 and Gatorade at mile 15. Thankfully I was able to see Daniel out on the course (at mile 18) and he was able to hand me a bottle of UCAN (cranberry raspberry) that I mixed with 12 oz. of water that morning. We weren’t really sure how big the crowds were going to be and I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get a bottle from him out there or not, but I’m glad it worked out. The handoff was executed seamlessly and I was off!

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I drank half of the UCAN at mile 18 and the other half at mile 20. I took a few more sips of water around mile 24.  By my calculations, this was about 200 calories and all carbs (approximlatey 50g) during the race itself.

So here we are back to the lovely mile 24 (my slowest of the day) … I didn’t really talk a lot about my goals for the race here beforehand, but basically my A goal was 2:55, B goal was to go under 3:00 and C goal was to PR (under 3:03). Somewhere in the beginning of mile 24 the 3:00 pacer passed me and that was really tough mentally. It was like I could see my goals slipping away and I wanted to catch them so badly, but my legs were just not cooperating.

The last two miles of the race are in Central Park and making the turn into the park definitely gave me a bit of a boost. I knew I was almost there! The crowds were awesome and I was able to pick the pace back up enough to manage to squeak out a little bitty PR (fifty-six seconds). The last two miles were 7:38, 7:19. Given the difficulty of the course, I am still really happy with the end result.

After the race I was spent. I got my picture made with my medal and stumbled my way over to the tent to get my gear check bag. Once I got to my phone, I was able to text Daniel and we were able to meet just about two blocks from the finishers tent. I thought I was doing okay, but quickly realized that I was not going to be able to walk back to the hotel. I asked Daniel how far it was and he said, “I’m not sure; maybe a mile or two.” I am pretty sure at the rate I was going, it might have taken us two or three hours to walk that. I sat down on the curb to rest for a second and asked Daniel if we could just get a cab. After a few unsuccessful attempts to hail a taxi, I looked over and noticed a man with a pedicab (basically a bike that pulls a cart behind it for you to ride in) just hanging out on the corner and I (strongly) suggested that we should take that. Daniel let me have my way (he is a smart man) and we took a very expensive ride back to our hotel. That in itself was quite an adventure, but worth every penny.

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We got back to the hotel and at this point I was freezing! The temperatures were in the sixties, so it wasn’t super cold out, but once I stopped running I was so cold. I took possibly the longest, hottest shower in the history of showers. After a couple of hours of rest and rehydration, I felt much better.

Post-Race

The one thing that I really wanted to do while we were up there was go ice-skating. I didn’t want to go before the race, because that seemed too risky, so we had decided earlier in the trip that we would go after the race. I don’t know how much I actually thought that through, but alas I am stubborn and had made up my mind that we were going to go ice-skating and so ice-skating we went.

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We had a great time and miraculously, neither one of us fell!

We met back up with our group after skating and we went to a post-race, celebratory dinner at Bill’s Bar & Burger. We ordered three appetizers for the table to share (fried pickles, sweet potato fries and hot wings) and all got burgers. The spectating spouses ended up with over 10 miles of walking for the day! We all earned our dinner that night for sure. After that we hobbled around Times Square for a little bit and stopped for coffee and dessert at CaffeBene.

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Monday morning we all got up early to go for one last run in Central Park. This was more of a take in the scenery kind of run and we stopped for lots of pictures and enjoyed the beautiful fall weather and gorgeous views. It felt good to move around some and my legs felt much better than I was expecting, which was a pleasant surprise.

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After that we all headed back to Astro’s for breakfast. We all enjoyed it so much Saturday morning that it just seemed like the right thing to do. We even got our same booth and everything. We pretty much felt like regulars at this point. Someone even stopped us on the street to ask for directions (Daniel told them the wrong way, but that is not the point). Monday morning I got the “Yogurtccino,” which was equally as ah-mazing as the previous order.

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While we were sitting at breakfast, we got an email from the airline letting us know to expect travel delays and increased security at the airport. President Obama flew into Newark Monday and they basically shut down the entire airport while Air Force One was landing and taking off. Everything got really backed up. We left extra early, just to be safe, but we made it to the airport and through security really quickly. Then we waited. And waited. And waited some more.

Our flight was delayed for over four hours, which wasn’t a lot of fun, but I was able to work on this post some so that ended up working out I guess. We got home really late Monday evening and thankfully, I was able to take today off work to regroup, unpack, do laundry, pick up Brooks, grocery shop, etc. We had an amazing trip with some amazing friends, but it is always nice to be back in Sweet Home Alabama. That reminds me, one of the bands in Brooklyn was playing Sweet Home Alabama as I ran by! I loved that.

Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week!

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6 thoughts on “A New York State of Mind

  1. You are such a cute lady! All your pictures are awesome. Thanks for sharing your amazing story and fun adventure in New York. You make me want to sign up for another marathon. Way to PR, too! I’ll be tuning in occasionally to read up on your future races (so keep writing!), and maybe I’ll have to go buy the next Runner’s World magazine:)

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  2. Wow- what an outstanding performance. PRing in NYC is nearly impossible. That’s such a hard course. Reading about your nutrition was helpful to me, because I am trying to revamp mine using UCAN, too. It looks like you really made the most of this experience and had a wonderful time in NYC. Thanks for sharing!

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  3. Got my RW in the mail today! Bummed you didn’t get the cover but you got a pretty nice page in the magazine! Congratulations on making the magazine and the PR!!!

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  4. Way to go Sam!! I was tracking you online and loved the updates…I also watched the TV coverage and was amazed at how hard the course looked. Can’t wait to hear what is up next!

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