Tag Archives: TCS NYC Marathon

Guiding for Achilles at the 2017 New York City Marathon

On Sunday, Nov. 5, Team Asim spent the day running through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan during the iconic TCS NYC Marathon.

About to make some marathon magic

Although I’m about one week removed from the race, the experience still seems surreal. Did our Achilles group really log 26.2 miles in the Big Apple—with more than 50,000 fellow runners?

Sunday’s journey through the five boroughs marked several second times for me: guiding the marathon distance for Achilles; covering the distance ever; and tackling 26.2 miles this year. In March, I guided the same athlete for the Queens Marathon, but even with this outing, I still felt anxious. Leading a disabled athlete through a race is a huge responsibility, and my biggest fear was that something would happen to me—or to one of our three additional guides—that would impact our athlete’s race. The marathon is an equalizer in the sense that it challenges everyone who toes the start line. Although I trusted my Corona Park experience, I did not discount the inevitable tough patches our team would face. But that’s the marathon: when you’ve been out there for a while, and your legs feel like logs and every step takes all your energy, how do you respond? I had faith in our team to remain positive, hang tough, and cross the finish line.

Marathon weekend unofficially began on Thursday when I ventured to the Javits Center to pick up my guide bib and race materials, and on Friday evening, there was an Achilles International dinner at the Hotel Pennsylvania. That’s when reality of the race started to sink in: athletes from around the world (Denmark, Mexico, and even South Africa just to name a few) were running, and I felt honored for the opportunity to be part of my athlete’s race. On Saturday night, Team Asim—our namesake, four guides, plus family members and friends—went out to dinner, and then we got down to business of reviewing the game plan. Asim tabbed me as the lead guide and pacesetter, meaning I was responsible for locking in to our goal speed, communicating our formation, observations, and needs, and ensuring we functioned as a team. We decided to break up the race into six-mile segments, and though all four of us would be tackling the complete distance, we would take turns using the race belt to guide Asim. (The first guide would do miles one through six, the second six through 12, etc.) Asim asked me to guide him for the final stretch—miles 18 through the end—I was honored. Those later miles are the toughest of the day, so the fact that I got the guide “anchor leg” was a huge responsibility. Mentally, that’s when I told myself the race would start. My goal was to be a sparkplug, to create sustainable, contagious energy that would carry us to the finish line.

My alarm sounded at 4:30am on Sunday morning, and Asim and I inhaled some oatmeal before catching a cab to the Athletes With Disabilities (AWD) buses on 38th Street and Fifth Avenue. It was really neat to see a sea of runners descending on Midtown so early in the morning! The ride to Staten Island took about an hour, and upon our arrival, we hung out in the AWD Village until our 9:50 a.m. wave. During this time, we talked to fellow runners and reviewed the pace plan.  Our goal was to break five hours, but we were prepared to make adjustments as necessary. We would check in with each other every mile, of course, but I wanted us averaging 10:45-11:00 min./mi. My main checkpoints were miles 13 and 18; we needed to hit those miles feeling decent and in control of the effort. From there, the grind would begin—staying strong mentally and continuing to move forward.

Running down our marathon dreams in Brooklyn

Although it was a little chilly at the start line on the Verrazano Bridge, the temperature hovered around 45-50 degrees throughout the day, and there was a continuous light misting of rain. These were perfect conditions for me, but the weather posed an added challenge for a visually impaired athlete: the precipitation led to slick pavement, and the road itself was littered with cups, nutrition wrappers, and other debris that we had to navigate.

Another factor that tested Team Asim was the 50,000-plus other runners. We started the race at the back of the first wave, so the opening miles weren’t crowded, but as we logged miles 8-13 in Brooklyn, the on-course traffic was unrelenting. Most athletes were courteous and moved to the side when we announced there was a blind running approaching. Some racers infiltrated our formation and cut directly in from of Asim, and there were two instances specifically where I “gently guided” these folks out of the way. During our Brooklyn stint, I did a lot of diagonal running with my arms totally extended (think a basketball defensive stance) to create a human shield around Asim with the goal of ensuring no one would obstruct his space.

When you see one of your friends at mile 24 …

Brooklyn was by far the toughest area to guide, but it was also the most fun. I literally ran into one of my friends who was racing, and I saw two more buds spectating. The narrow streets made it easy to read signs—throughout the day, we read aloud signs to Asim—and it also creating a wall of sound: cheering, clapping, horns, cowbells. The weather was not conducive to watching a marathon so it meant a lot to see so many people braving the elements and urging us on. Our team was super grateful for the energy and the cheers, and lots of fellow runners gave us a thumbs up or a “Go Achilles” on the course. Those moments were magic.

The going got tough for Team Asim around mile 18 when cramps arrived, forcing us to take our first walk break. (That was also when race officials announced Shalane Flanagan won the women’s race!) Prior to the race and even during the event itself, the magnitude of running 26.2 miles didn’t phase me—mostly because I didn’t give it the headspace. But it was impossible to dismiss those feelings in the Bronx. My arms felt like bricks from playing zone defense in Brooklyn. My left hip was also noticeable, but thankfully not debilitating. Finally, I acknowledged everything: I was running a marathon; it’s not supposed to be easy, but I am fine; and I have one job, and that’s to get Team Asim to the finish line in Central Park. But it’s in these moments of discomfort where change, growth, and magic happen—a fact I relayed to Asim. We were all going through our own tough spells, and I told him we were all in this together.

Marathon finishers!

They say if the hurt comes, then so will the happiness. We powered through the final miles in the Bronx and in Central Park, running when we could and walking when necessary. The fans were absolutely phenomenal, giving us all a much needed boost. (And I saw another one of my friends!) As we exited the park, headed along Central Park West, and reentered for the final time, we began to cheer and throw up our hands to get the crowd to cheer for Asim. We picked it up during that half-mile uphill and finished in 5:28.

We look gooooood

Volunteering for Achilles has redefined my outlook on sport, and I encourage all runners, endurance athletes, and fitness enthusiasts to give guiding a try.

Triathlon Training Log – Off-Season, Week 9 (Oct. 31)

So there was a 26.2-mile race today. About 50,000 people ran.

2016-nyc-marathon-post-race

… that post-marathon shuffle …

This was the first time in three years I didn’t work an expo or organize a cheer zone. I wasn’t consumed by the TCS NYC Marathon madness the run-specialty industry revolves around. For the first time in three years, I was able to run on Marathon Sunday. I still had #WingedFootLyfe responsibilities, but they weren’t all-consuming.  It was a good day.

General training notes: all in all, this was another great week of swimming and running. I’ve had a few moments in the water where I experienced a “swimmer’s high,” which felt exactly like the euphoric and allusive runner’s high—it feels easy, blissful, and almost like you’re flying. I’ve never felt like that in the water before, and even though it was for literally five seconds, it’s motivating to know I can get to that state.

Monday – off

Tuesday – a.m. run

Reported for dawn patrol and logged six easy miles before work

Wednesday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters; p.m. run

Solid 3900m swim before work and an easy 2.25-mile shake-out after through Central Park so I could soak in the marathon excitement

Thursday – a.m. run

It’s weird being removed from the marathon madness, but I loved seeing so many runners in the park. Luckily, I got there early enough before it became really crowded for my 6.5 miles.

Friday – a.m. swim with Bearcat masters

All I have to say about practice:

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-5-45-40-am

Woof.

Saturday – a.m. run; p.m. swim with Bearcat masters

A most successful Sportz Saturday that saw an 8.2-mile run and 4000m swim

Sunday – a.m. run

Warmed up the park for the marathoners with an easy 3.6 miles

Would you ever run a/another marathon?

Training Log – Weeks of Oct. 19 – Nov. 2 (Weeks 42-44)

I’m back! These past three weeks have been crazy, chaotic, and intense thanks to a 50,000-plus person race called the NYC Marathon. In total, we produced 34 events in 32 days, including 10 events during marathon week. This data, of course, does not include the “optional” parties our vendors threw at night after said events. Somehow on little sleep and three cups of coffee daily (I usually stick to two), I survived—and I somehow managed to log my workouts too. Since I have three weeks of training to talk about, I’ll employ a list-style recap.

2015-central-park-fall-pre-nyc-marathon

Central Park fall bliss

Week of Oct. 19

Workouts logged: five

Total miles: 31.15

2015-jackrabbit-last-ten-run

… that time we hosted a course preview, and more than 700 people came.

Key takeaways: Even though I’m riding only once each week, the bike is starting to feel more natural. Granted, I’m not making as many watts as a should be, but my cadence is on point. Thanks to a Thursday evening work event, I opted to sleep in and skip what has become my normal November Project workout. And I also chose more rest because I had back-to-back long runs on the docket: Saturday, we hosted our annual Last Ten Run, which takes runners through the final 10 miles of the NYC Marathon. So I ran that on Saturday and then did my official long run of 12 miles Sunday.

Week of Oct. 26

Workouts logged: five

Total miles: 13.86

2015-nyc-marathon-week-dean-karnazes

Ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes showed up to a group run. Just another day.

Key takeaways: Thanks to events every night, I really cut myself some slack on the workout front. Everything got logged during the week, but the not-enough-sleep/extra booze combo did not lead to workouts that felt great. My total mileage was down because I did not complete a long run; usually, I run long on Sundays, but that simply was not happening with the marathon.

Week of Nov. 2

Workouts logged: six

Total miles: 26.42

2015-central-park-resevoir

Nothing but bliss

Whew, back to a normal workweek and normal workouts. It took me a few days to rest and catch up on sleep, but by Thursday, my runs felt a-OK again. Coach Pat has me tapering a bit for the Philly Half in a few weeks, so my long run was only eight miles. (Wow, does this mean I’m a runner now? Ha!) Everything clicked, and I hope things feel similar on race day.

How are things going with you—training, life, etc.?

Training Log – Weeks of Oct. 5 and 12 (Weeks 40 and 41)

Greetings! Despite not existing on social media for the past two weeks, I am in fact alive. There’s a race taking place here in a couple weeks—have you heard of the TCS NYC Marathon?—so we’re firing on all cylinders.

2015-asics-nyc-marathon-edition-womens-nimbus

Marathon season has sprung!

No complaints, though. I’d rather be busy than bored.

General training notes: As I enter my busy season at work, training has become less of a priority, but everything is still getting done. Interestingly enough, running now feels more natural to me than biking. Wowza.

Monday – off

Tuesday – a.m. run and strength training

Steady five miler on the West Side Highway, plus some corework and upper-body strength training. That evening, we had a fun work event/full-fledged tech session with Nike, so I ran a little there too.

2015-nike-zoom-university

A fair amount of “hydrating” occurred

Wednesdaya.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance off

Full disclosure: after the previous night’s “workout,” a 5:30 a.m. CompuTrainer ride was not happening. Cheers to the off-season!

Thursday – a.m. run

I repeated last Thursday’s tempo run (10-minute warm-up with 10 minutes “on” and 10 minutes easy times five) and felt great.

Friday – a.m. November Project workout

Traveled to Queens for a jumping jack, pushup, and burpee-filled workout. As per usual, tt was tough, but this strength training stuff is exactly what I need to be doing during the off-season.

Saturday – a.m. run

Long, easy nine miler along the West Side Highway and through Central Park

Sunday – a.m. run

Easy four miler along the West Side Highway

Total miles: 25.12

Monday – off

Tuesday – a.m. run

Steady five miles along the West Side Highway

Wednesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

I am so out of cycling shape it isn’t funny. I did an Ironman taper workout with two Maryland-bound athletes and struggled to hit my endurance numbers. And my FTP efforts felt like VO2 max intervals. Honestly, it was frustrating, but the bike is not a priority now, and I’m confident I’m on the right path as far as allocating training time to the run.

Thursday – a.m. run

Guess what’s back: speedwork! I was kind of excited to take on Coach Pat’s 4x1000m workout—and it was brutal. For the most part, I’ve been running easy with one steady run, so I’ve “forgotten” what it’s like to push and go fast.

Friday – a.m. November Project workout

I road my road bike to the workout (sidebar: I forgot how much I love my roadie.), and we did a playing card workout. Red cards equated to crunches, and black ones meant pushups—and aces meant burpees. My group of five went through the 52 cards in 40 minutes or so.

Saturday – a.m. run and strength training

I wore my grassroots (November Project) gear during this four miler, and the highlight was easily when the fellow NP human yelled, “F%&$ YEAH!” as we passed each other.

Sunday – a.m. run

Amazingly blissful 10 miler on the West Side Highway and Central Park. This running stuff, guys—it’s pretty great.

Total miles: 25.68

I’m off the grid until Nov. 3, but tell me: how are things? How’s training going?

Training Log – Week of Oct. 27 (Week 42)

I’ll be honest. I had every intention of publishing this log last night, but after throwing a pre-marathon party at work on Saturday and manning our cheer zone on Sunday, I was spent. Not only did I take an hour-long nap yesterday, but I also slept nine hours last night.

tcs-nyc-marathon-2014-central-park-sign

Marathon-related activities take a lot out of you. And I didn’t even run the thing like 50,000-plus other people.

General training notes: Between marathon madness and general life happenings, this week was both extremely long and emotionally taxing. For whatever reason, when things pick up “in real life,” I find it’s easier to throw myself into training and log some solid workouts. Coach Pat reintroduced speedwork this week, and I had a phenomenal long run, plus two quality bike sessions.

Monday – a.m. run and strength train

One mile at BoMF, plus four miles easy. Closed out the morning with some pushups and corework.

Tuesday – a.m. run and corework

Dun-dun-duuuun! To say I was a little anxious about returning to the track would be an understatement. Up until now, I’ve been building my base and running easy miles, and true speedwork hasn’t happened since July. Basically, I wasn’t sure how it would pan out—but it was surprisingly OK. Coach Pat’s workout called for 800s and 400s, and it was relatively manageable. Sure, my legs were trashed by the third and fourth 400, but that’s how you get faster. And I was also able to hit and hold paces slightly faster than what I could do at the tail-end of the triathlon season, which is promising.

Wednesday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

Hands down, this is the best I’ve felt on the bike in a while. And I executed this workout really well. After warm-up and a few build efforts, we faced a two-block ride: five minutes of threshold and sprint efforts, followed by a five-minute threshold block. I felt smooth and strong throughout, and for once, I didn’t have 50-plus wattage swings during efforts.

Thursday – a.m. run

Believe it or not, this run topped last week’s 10 miler. Everything clicked, felt good, and I could not get over how quickly the first five miles went by. Great energy in Central Park too with the upcoming marathon. At mile nine, my legs seemed to unwind on there own, and my stride opened up and my cadence increased—but it felt effortless. My average pace was on the faster ride of the range, and my closing mile was 7:15 (which is fast for me). And I felt like I could and wanted to keep going. Is this another running breakthrough?

Friday – a.m. CompuTrainer class at Tailwind Endurance

To get into the marathon spirit, we rode the pre-loaded New York City Marathon course. Nothing too interesting to report: averaged 19 mph and 185 watts during the 26.59 miles. Should’ve been faster and should’ve pushed more watts, but I’ll take it coming off a long run.

Saturday – off

Sunday – a.m. run

Woof. Serious props to the marathoners. The wind blew me around on the West Side Highway, and I lasted 25 minutes outside before I retreated to the treadmill for 20 more.  The fact that 50,000-plus people ran 26.2 miles in those winds is a testament to their toughness. Although I have to say, watching the marathon this year kinda sorta made me want to do it. Not for a long time, of course, but running 26.2 miles doesn’t seem as unfathomable as it did a year ago.

Would you (or have you) run a marathon?