5 Boroughs of New York

My alarm was set for 5am on November 1st, an extra hour in bed because of the clocks going back. It was the best sleep I got all week only waking twice and falling back to sleep almost immediately. Maybe it was the couple of busy days beforehand where I went to the expo twice,met up with Liam, Kristen, Kevin and Denis, did some shopping and did plenty of carb loading but it was finally the morning of the 2015 New York City Marathon.

Central Park

Central Park on Friday

NYC Pav

Ready to go shopping mad

 

On the Friday I met Liam and Kristen and we headed to the marathon pavilion in Central Park. It was good to get a glimpse of the finish line and enjoy the atmosphere as people were beginning to descend on New York for this epic race. Once Kev flew in we headed to the expo to pick up our numbers. No time to top at the stands as it was straight off to dinner. We were up early Saturday to watch the Liverpool game in Carraghers Pub before heading back to the expo to stroll around this time. The place was crazy. I picked up one t shirt and got my calf and hamstring strapped up before heading back to the hotel to chill out. Some shopping close by the hotel and a bit of food is as exciting as it got for the rest of the day. I eventually settled into bed at about 11pm, all my gear ready for the next morning. I finally get to do this. No cancellation like 2012, the weather was too good this time around.

Liverpool Match

Watching Liverpool Game

Expo

At the Expo

 

Gear Prep

Gear ready

On went the gear and bags packed we grabbed the N train from 34st – Hearld Sq Station to 57st -7Av station and made the short walk to the Park Central hotel to meet the rest of the FDNY team. We left our bag there and after grabbing a small bite to eat we jumped on the bus distend for Staten Island. There must have been at least 20 buses full of FDNY and NYPD. A large convoy lining the streets as we all headed to the start. No turning back now. The journey was cool, watching everyone outside taking videos of the convoy as we passed. It would have been good to see it from the outside but then it would have been a long trek to get there. The first real sense of the marathon came when going over the Verrazano Bridge. You could see the 1 mile mark and view of Manhattan in the background, the crowds queuing up to get in, the buses queued up and the runners lying out enjoying the strange warm weather. We passed all those queues and off to our own VIP area we went.

Buses Ready

Time to catch a bus

 

This is where we got to talk to many other FDNY members and they gave us a feel for what it will be like. Kev and myself were to start in the 4th wave but they let us know that we should be able to jump up to the 1st wave due to being with the FDNY. We weren’t waiting around too long before it was time to head to our new Corral. A quick chat with the security at the corral entrance and they let us in. That saved us a lot of time waiting around until 11:00. We now get to start at 9:50 rather than right at the back.

FDNY Tent

Outside FDNY Tent


The build up was something I will remember. The national anthem was blasted out followed by the canon blast to start the race. And the Frank Sinatra “New York” was echoing around as we started to slowly but surely make our away across the start line. This was what all the 6 weeks of training was about (read about that training here), cross that line and see what I was capable of.

FDNY Trio

Almost ready to go

Getting to the start line

Getting to the start line

Verrazano Bridge

Enjoying 1st slow 1km

 Trying to remember everything about this race would be impossible but I remember the start very clearly. It was slow because of the crowds and I was able to take it all in. Helicopters everywhere, a boat in the water making a fountain, the view of Manhattan and the excited crowds stopping on the bridge for photos. I didn’t remember the 1st climb as you reach the highest point of the course, everything else had distracted me. 1st mile took 9:28 but I expected that. As you come down off the bridge you see runners go in all different directions as the three colours in each wave take a different route for the 1st few miles. After a few turns coming off the bridge you hit a nice straight from Brooklyn to Queens . It really helped with pacing and was a good way to finally set into my rhythm. At this stage I realised half my gels were somewhere behind me. They had fallen out of my belt and now I would have to ration what I had. I hadn’t planned for that. Kevin kept with me up to the 12th km before he let me push on (or more like stay the exact same). The atmosphere and support made things so much easier. I remember on the 12km my calf tweaking a bit but I put it down to race day symptoms and kept going. (it was about the only thing by the end that was in one piece). The shouts of “FDNY” kept coming, where ever I was on the course someone always gave encouragement. I felt like a fraud but I was a guest of the FDNY so I made sure to acknowledge each of them. Turning onto Lafayette will stick with me for sometime. The road seemed to close in on us and tree lined either lined with lots of supporters cheering on. There was a little slope to start with but I didn’t notice it as I enjoyed watching the spectacle and listening to all the music as I ran past.

The Blue Line

Followed this the best I could

Just at about half way you leave Brooklyn and make your way into Queens. I was making good time and feeling good but I knew the hard bit was yet to come. I knew I need to concentrate and keep doing what I was doing. The Queensboro Bridge was not far away. Up to this point my pacing was perfect. But went you hit that bridge everything changes. You are on the lower end of the bridge. There are no supporter, its darks, its quiet, it is the looniest part of the race. You have a slight drag for 2km as you work your way over the bridge. I thought I was going ok but I started to lose a lot of time without realising. I hadn’t thought that would be the case. Have I already burnt out, only 25km in? Once I got over the bridge and went down the other side I picked the pace back up. I felt better again. The crowds were back, the shouts of “Come on FDNY” were back. It is something everyone should experience. You come off that bridge and you feel like a superstar. Now the long straight of Manhattan is in front of me. The support was 3 or 4 deep on either side. It was a wall of supporters. They would be on their feet longer than we would. I saw plenty of Irish flags along this stretch. I expected it to be a lot flatter or maybe a bit more downhill than it was. This is where I could have done with a gel but instead I had to rely on gatorade and water. The good thing was that there was a water stop every mile. So if you decide to go through one the next one isn’t too far away.

NYC On Course

Things were still going to plan up to the 32km mark which brought us into the Bronx. It is supposed to be the loneliest part of the race but I think its only lonely because this is where that big huge brick wall that most people are about to hit comes. And I slapped into it hard. I had now slowed to 6 min per km but still if I could grind it out I still might be ok. Just after the 33km mark Liam and Kristen were out supporting, soon I’d be leaving the Bronx over The Madison Avenue bridge but not before completely seizing up just as I hit the bridge. A bit of a stretch and a small walk and I was good to go again. Still averaging low 6 min per km and finally back in Manhattan you could see the skyline in the distance. About 2 and half km until I get to Central Park. For all the pay before hand it was the 36km that broke me completely. From there my laps were getting slower and slower. After 3hrs 19mins I was at 35km, only 7.2km to go. I couldn’t imagine it was going to take as long as it did. During those kms my body was beginning to shut down. I’d walk through each water stop, jog a bit, seize up, walk, stretch, jog, seize up, walk and that was the way it was for those long 7.2kms.

Most people just presume Central Park is flat. But it is climb after climb before a couple of nice downhills. Not enough to get me motoring again. I was dejected heading into the park. Everyone trying to motivate me to get going again. I’d do my best but even when I jogged it felt like I was going backwards. The crowds were amazing, NYPD giving high fives, random strangers giving words of encouragement and fellow runners trying their best to get the walking wounded home. Most of the park was a blur. You leave the park for just under a km out onto 59th Street. It was another place where the crowds were a few deep and everyone shooting. A fellow FDNY runner got me going again as I was back to a walk. He drove me on for maybe 400m before I had to tell him go on, I didn’t want to slow him down anymore.

Almost to the end NYC

I remember the number of runners on the ground, passed out or could go no more, medics around them. I was lucky to not be one of them. Soon you are at Columbus Circus and almost home. One more hill (seemed like Everest at this stage) to tackle and the finish line was in sight. Finally done, I got there, I didn’t even know my time. I just put my hands up in the year and looked for the closest camera, hey I can finally smile. As soon as the camera went I check my time and head in hands, I knew I didn’t make my target, I missed it by 12 mins and 2 seconds.

NYC Finish Line

I picked up my medal got another few photos and as luck would have it we got to turn off to the left straight away and go to the FDNY tent. Where they gave us a poncho and a bag of goodies. I sat down for a while before eventually giving my seat to someone else in need. I went back outside and just lay on the ground. I had given it all and not more I could do.

Finish Line

Finish Line

We got transported back to the hotel for a shower, massage and a buffet. Now the stories could begin. Kevin came back and fair play to him. 2 marathons with only 2 weeks break between. That is some going. I wouldn’t be able to do another 5km for while. FDNY really looked after us and I will always remember that. It was truly a memorable day for us all. Well to Derek, Finbarr and Charlie from Eagle and Fergal from Cobh who also completed the race.

NYC MAP

Breakdown of the race

FDNY

With Denis and Lord Mayors Cup

The Next Day

It was Marathon Monday, time to head back to where it all finished yesterday. I was really disappointed after the race but today I felt different. I felt happy, delighted with the fact I was able to complete the marathon in a PB with only 6 weeks training. Who knows what I might have done if I trained more – maybe I would have done worse 🙂 Walking around Central Park as well as other places around Manhattan was when I decided it was a huge achievement. People coming from everywhere to congratulate any runner that was hobbling a long. Subway stairs were my enemy and I knew the plane journey home would be tough. I will look back on the race and see where I could have done better. What places I could have attacked or where I could have slowed down. But that is no different than any other race I do. A bit of a post-mortem.

Times Square

Showing off in Time Square

I may not get another chance to do NYC marathon but I’m really grateful to Kevin who set up this chance to do the race, and to Denis and FDNY for inviting us to compete. After missing out on racing in 2012 this was an excellent way to experience the largest race in the world. I must thank Martha for the support she gave me to go do the race. She is an extremely understanding wife as I fly around the world doing different races. Next time I do a marathon I want her to be there. I missed having her at the finish line so I better time my runs better next. Without the advice from Damian I may not have got passed mile 13, he helped out on the long runs as well as Tim making me keep going on that hilly route in Carrigtwohill.

Time Square

Marathon Night in Time Sqaure

20151102_091715

Engagement Spot in Central Park

I will learn from it and I now know I’m closer to breaking the magic 4 hours. And some day I will, just not this year.

Thanks to everyone who supported me throughout the journey and now I can get back to normal life before ironman training begins in January.

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