Race Report: 2017 New York City Marathon

This was supposed to be it.

I was going to run this race, hopefully get under 5 hours, and then be done with the marathon. I hired a coach, worked for over 4 months, and had by far my best training cycle in spite of brutal weather. I was injury free. I was tapered. I knew the course. The weather wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough.

My stomach had other ideas.

In my worst dreams, I figured I’d finish in 5:40. I guess that after crossing the finish line 29 times, I had started to take it for granted. Even in the 2016 Tobacco Road Half, when my ankle gave out at about 9.5 miles in, I still hobbled through the last 3+ miles, and the thought of not finishing never crossed my mind.

It sucks. I’m not sure that feeling will ever go away completely.

In spite of my misadventures, I still have to say that New York City is the greatest city in the world (but I’m probably biased).

As much as I’d like to forget about November 5, 2017, I still feel like I need to write a race report. Maybe it will help.

You might want to check out my race report from 2016, but for the most part, this stands alone.

Just like last year, my parents and I flew up to Newark on Friday and took a shuttle to the hotel on Staten Island. I ate pasta at the hotel next door to ours. (The other hotel had a restaurant, but ours had free breakfast. Priorities.)

Saturday, we went to the expo. This year, after studying the subway map, I figured out a way to get from the Staten Island Ferry terminal to a subway station about a block away from the Javitz Center, so we didn’t have to walk nearly as far before (or after) the expo.

The layout was different, but the expo was still huge.

Once again, I got my bib first, in a plastic bag with 4 safety pins.

For once, I should have used landscape mode. I used portrait mode last year, too.

Then I picked up my t-shirt and pre-race goody bag.

Considering how the race ended up, I may have mixed feelings about wearing it, but I have to say, I love this year’s design. It really is one of the best looking race t-shirts I’ve gotten. It’s actually a kind of blue-ish purple, even though it looks more blue in my photo.

This year, the goody bag only had the t-shirt and an official race program. I was disappointed that there was no bottle of water this year.

After the expo, my parents and I took the subway to Little Italy. My parents were looking for a specific restaurant that they remembered, but it had closed. We couldn’t find a restaurant that had reasonable prices and less than a 30 minute wait, so we ended up stopping off at a bakery for some pastries (Mmm…miniature eclairs) to hold us over until we got back to the ferry terminal where we bought some sandwiches and brought them back to the hotel.

We ended up ordering calzones for dinner, and my calzone was delicious. Other than that, I relaxed, stayed off my feet, and hydrated. I did pin my bib on my shirt Saturday night, just so there would be one less thing for me to worry about in the morning.

I actually got a relatively decent night of sleep, at least until I woke up around 4 AM and couldn’t get back to sleep. I finally got up around 5:30. I showered and brushed my teeth. I also had diarrhea. It didn’t really concern me that much. It happened the morning of the 2014 Thunder Road Half, and I recovered from that pretty well. I took some store-brand Imodium AD, which I had been planned on taking anyway, except I was hoping to take it preemptively, not reactively. I finished getting dressed and gathered all of my stuff.

I went down to the lobby at 6:30 for the 6:45 shuttle, but apparently, the shuttle didn’t stop at my hotel this year. The shuttle schedule got messed up by all of the extra security around Fort Wadsworth due to the terror attack just 5 days before the race. I ended up walking to the hotel next door and was able to get on a shuttle at 7:15. The hotel employee in charge of the shuttle was apologetic and offered me a bottle of water. I drank it quickly. This was a mistake, because it took us over an hour to get to Fort Wadsworth. (Last year, it took about 30 minutes.) So after about 45 minutes in a van, my bladder felt like it was about to explode, and we still had about 15 minutes to get to the Start Village. It was extremely uncomfortable, but I survived.

I made it through security and went straight to the nearest port-a-potty. Unlike last year, there were already lines. I probably only waited 5-10 minutes, but it felt like forever because I really had to go. Eventually, I finished my business and I walked over to the Green starting area.

Like last year, I had 4 Chocolate Chip Clif bars. This year, I also had a bagel. I washed it all down with more water. I used the port-a-potty again around 9:30 (only 1 or 2 people were waiting in line in front of me), and one final time just after 10 (No line, I just had to wait for one to open up).

I had been wearing a hoodie in the Start Village. One thing I noticed this year is that a lot of people were asking to see everyone’s bibs, which was kind of annoying because I kept having to pull up my hoodie so you could see it, but I understand. I might have to wear my bib lower next year, though.

I finally took off my hoodie just before I dropped my bag at the bag check truck. It had been in the 50s, but there was some occasional wind.

I got a few pictures in the Start Village, of course.¬†First, just a general overview. It wasn’t raining while I was there, but the ground was still wet from overnight rain.

Next, the elites and Wave 1 on the Verrazano Bridge. I was a little farther away this year, so they look even more like ants.

If you’re wondering why that guy in front of me is facing left, that’s because there was a giant video screen over there.

Around 10:25 I made my way to the corrals.

And finally, we moved towards the starting line.

So the starting line for Green wasn’t actually underneath the bridge, but just before you go under.

A woman sang the National Anthem (and the announcer pointed out that she was about to run the marathon too, which is pretty impressive). This year, I remembered to remove my visor.

They shot off a Howitzer to start. It’s still a cool way to start the second time around. Then I heard the opening notes of “New York, New York”, but it was the duet of Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, which was a bit odd. I mean, I probably like Tony Bennett more, but at least on that song, you need Sinatra’s swagger.

Anyway, it looks like they started us right at 11, and at 11:02, I crossed the starting line.

Like last year, I set my watch so that I had to manually hit the lap button to mark each mile, because I figured the tall buildings would mess with GPS. I didn’t realize how much the upper level of the Verrazano Bridge would mess with it.

Mile 1: 12:26
Mile 2: 10:05

Being on the lower level of a bridge means two things. One, GPS is hosed. My watch said my mileage was 0.69 when I got to the Mile 1 marker. Two, it’s really difficult to tell where the highest point of the bridge is. On the upper level, it was right at the Mile 1 marker. Underneath, I’m really not sure. I just tried to not push too hard, and I figured I could make any needed adjustments in Brooklyn. I’m still pretty sure that Mile 1 was mostly uphill, and Mile 2 was mostly downhill. Seeing my times, that’s probably pretty accurate.

During Mile 2, we came out from underneath the upper level of the bridge, and were greeted by mist. It misted the rest of the time I was out there, but never rained.

Mile 3: 11:09
Mile 4: 11:24

At the beginning of Mile 3 was the first aid station. I got some Gatorade. So far, so good.

During Mile 4, we joined the Orange and Blue waves on 4th Avenue. It almost felt more crowded right where we joined them than it did just after the start. It didn’t slow me down too much, though.

Mile 5: 11:33

And this is where my stomach started bothering me. I did have a Gu at the beginning of the mile, but I don’t think that’s what caused my problems. From this point on, things got progressively worse.

Mile 6: 11:32
Mile 7: 11:37

I was really struggling through here. I had gone with only water at each aid station, no Gatorade, in the hopes that maybe it would help my stomach.

One of the thoughts going through my mind was, “If it’s this hard in Brooklyn, what’s it going to be like when I’m on 5th Avenue?” Also, I remember moving to the middle of the road, away from the crowds. I felt like I didn’t deserve cheers at that point.

Mile 8: 12:29
Mile 9: 12:51
Mile 10: 13:17

I was still running through here, somehow. It was slow, but I hadn’t stopped to walk outside of the aid stations.

During Mile 10, I realized I was going to need to stop and use a port-a-potty. Diarrhea.

Mile 11: 20:50

Yes, really.

I stopped, had to wait in line for a port-a-potty, went in, and did my business. I got out, ran for about a minute…and realized I had more diarrhea. Also, I realized that, if I continued to run, I’d need a new pair of shorts. So I started walking. Between the complete stop at the beginning of the mile, and having to walk the rest of the mile, that’s how you get a 20:50 mile.

I hit the aid station at the beginning of Mile 12. It was before the next set of port-a-potties. I grabbed a cup of water, and just as I did, this wave of nausea hit me. I didn’t even try to drink the water, because I figured it would just come right back up. I started looking around for a place I could vomit if I needed to, but luckily the feeling went away.

I finally made it to the port-a-potties. I waited in line again, went in, and as I was sitting there, I realized that there was no way I could finish this race.

When I was done, I managed to jog a little bit until I saw a medical tent. I went in and told them what was going on. I sat down, and after a couple of minutes, the nausea came back. I let someone know, and they handed me a barf bag, which I immediately had to use.

With that, my race was officially over. According to Garmin, I made it 11.74 miles.

They gave me pretzels at one point, but I couldn’t keep them down. I tried to drink some water. Sometimes it would stay down.

They gave me a heat blanket, but I was really starting to feel cold. It was in the upper 50s, which isn’t bad when you’re running, but when you’re sitting, and sick, it’s not very comfortable. They gave me a 2nd heat blanket for my legs, and eventually gave me a cloth blanket. I managed to at least stop shivering.

I was still in Brooklyn, so I was going to need to get to Manhattan, and also get my bag that I had checked. There were some people who left the medical tent and walked to a nearby subway station. While I’m sure people throw up on the subway every day, I really didn’t want to do that. Then one of the volunteers said a sweep bus was coming, and was less than a mile away, and they could take me into Manhattan.

I got on the bus. It was nice and warm. They actually gave me a goody bag similar to the bag I would have gotten at the finish. Of course, with the exception of the bottle of water, I didn’t want anything else in that bag at that moment.

I threw up once shortly after I got on the bus, and after that, my stomach seemed to finally settle down a little bit.

The bus was riding along the course. There were still runners out there, although most of them were walking at this point. I noticed that we had crossed over into Queens, and I just kind of zoned out for a few minutes.

Then I noticed that we were on the 59th Street Bridge, still following the course. And I realized that once we got off the bridge, we were going to turn on to 1st Avenue. I thought back to last year, coming off of the 59th Street Bridge and experiencing that wall of sound from the people cheering on 1st Avenue.

At this point, it was probably about 3:00 PM. Wave 4 had started 4 hours earlier, so the crowds had thinned, but there were still people out there cheering.

As we turned on to 1st Avenue, I could hear the cheering. It wasn’t the wall of sound, but I could still hear it inside the bus. And that’s when it finally hit me, the fact that I wasn’t going to finish, that I wouldn’t be greeted by the wall of sound, that I wouldn’t get to see the sign that says “Welcome To The Bronx,” and that I wouldn’t be crossing the finish line and getting a medal. It hit me all at once, and I wept.

That had to be the lowest feeling I’ve ever had as a runner.

We rode down 1st Avenue. The driver was trying to get to 72nd Street and Columbus Avenue, just west of Central Park, but we had to go up several blocks before they were finally able to make space so we could turn off the course. With all the extra security, it was tough, and I think we had to go all the way to 92nd Street, but we did eventually get off of the course.

(Fun fact: If you used the race app to track me, apparently even on the bus my bib still triggered the sensors, so according to the app, I made it all the way to the 16 mile mark.)

While I was on the bus, I decided I needed to take a picture with my car key.

It may have been a disaster, but I didn’t lose my car key.

The traffic was insane, but we did finally get over to 72nd and Columbus Avenue. They gave me my checked bag. I immediately took out a pair of pants I had put in there, and put them on along with my hoodie from earlier, got off the bus, thanked the volunteers profusely (Seriously, all of the volunteers that helped me out were great), and found my parents. I had called them to let them know where they’d be dropping me off.

We found a drugstore to buy saltine crackers, then got on the subway back to the Staten Island Ferry. Oh, one other thing the volunteers did, they gave me a free one-way MetroCard, so I didn’t have to pay for the subway. Last year, I got to ride the subway for free with my medal. This year, I still got to ride for free, but I’d rather use a medal than a MetroCard.

At the ferry terminal, we got some ginger ale to go with the saltines. That’s where I found out Shalane Flanagan was the women’s winner, and that was really cool to hear.

We rode the ferry back to Staten Island, got a shuttle back to the hotel, and went up to our room. I can’t imagine going back to an empty hotel room after what I went through that day. I’m really thankful that my parents were there so I didn’t have to.

Last year, I had a cheeseburger and a beer after the race. This year, it was saltines and ginger ale. My stomach was feeling better, but I still didn’t want to take any chances.

My goodie bag was very similar to last year, with a bottle of water, Gatorade (Lemon Lime this year, Strawberry last year), a protein bar, a protein shake, and some pretzels. The one thing that was missing was an apple. I was a little disappointed, but then, I didn’t finish, so they didn’t have to give me anything. I’m just glad I got what I did.

It’s been two weeks now. It still sucks. I don’t think it will ever not suck.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that this wasn’t a stress fracture or some other injury that would keep me from running for weeks or even months. I was pretty much back to normal physically the next day. If I had to, I could have run Monday morning. My legs were still a little bit tired from the miles that I did run, but it was nothing like last year, when I could barely walk, and stairs were extremely painful.

The one thing, though, is that I’m now determined to go back in 2018. I’m not talking about just entering the lottery, and if I don’t get in, saying, “Wait ’til next year.” No, if I don’t get in through the lottery, I’m going with a charity.

The thought of raising a bunch of money for a charity scares me.

The thought of going through 4 months of training again scares me.

The thought of dealing with insane heat and humidity in the summer again scares me.

And of course 26.2 miles still scares me.

The thing is, the New York City Marathon is like no other race in the world. And it’s the only marathon that goes through the city where I was born. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s a special race. Whatever hardships I have to endure to get to the starting line, this race is absolutely worth it.

And next year, I’m crossing the finish line, too.