“Anything Could Happen”—New York City Marathon 2015 race report

Lara Kail recently joined the DWRT this year and is another strong runner who Boston Qualified in a HUGE way during the marathon on Sunday. If you’ve witnessed her training with the team, she’s very focused and gets results! This is the recap of her NYC Marathon Experience.

——– Lara’s Recap ——–

Well besides being being a hit song by Ellie Goulding, “anything could happen” has just been something synonymous with the marathon distance for me.  You made it through the bulk of training?  Anything could happen during the taper.  Got to the start, feeling good?  Anything could happen on race day.  What I didn’t expect for this year’s race was that the “anything” that did happen was just EVERYTHING.  But I’m getting ahead of myself here…

Photo by Thomas Yong Hwan
Photo by Thomas Yong Hwan

I’ve had a bit of unfinished business with the marathon distance, and specifically with NYCM.  The last year I felt I had a marathon that I’ve truly been 100% happy with was NYC 2008.  Ever since then, something had always gone wrong for me.  Be it hot race-day weather, injury, not being able to keep my head in it during training, or in the case of the last time I ran in NYC in 2011, having a great training cycle only to have almost everything go wrong on race day and finish 20 minutes off my goal.  Early in training, the initial goal was to beat my 5-year old PR of 3:43, get that sub-3:40 monkey off my back and BQ for 2017 comfortably (which for my age group would be 3:45-and however many minutes under!)

But as it turned out, marathon training with the Whippets—who I joined back in May—really agreed with me. Tempo Tuesdays and long run Saturdays were highlights of my week.  Though it took me a little longer to build my mileage (I pretty much spent July “catching up”), once I got there, I was surprising myself each week with how well I was handling it—months of incorporating cross-training (and keeping in one day a week, even during the highest mileage weeks) left me so much stronger going into marathon training than I have ever been.  7:45-8:00 pace was feeling comfortable when we did marathon-pace workouts—even on those warmer days (since Tuesdays always seemed to be the hottest day of the week!)  So ok, maybe up the ante to 3:25-3:30?  However, I did hit a rough patch in September, with a couple of long runs that didn’t go as well as I would have liked. My confidence especially took a hit after the Metric Marathon.  While I really liked the run itself, I was very frustrated with myself with not being able to hit the pace I wanted.  Thankfully, Chris Forti was such a huge help and saving grace when I hit this rough spot in my training, especially with getting me through those last few crucial weeks.  

Then came my big tune-up race at Grete’s Great Gallop half-my goal was to get a PR of sub-1:37, dreaming of a sub-1:34-basically, run a time that would comfortably predict a sub-3:30.  Having kept racing to a minimum during this cycle since my focus was getting in the weekly mileage, long runs and key pace workouts, I was anxious to race a long race and see what I had in me.  I shocked myself that day with a 1:30:24.  I knew racing in 50-something degree weather after the summer we had would make a difference… but really, that much?  Which planted the seed in my head-sub 3:20… may be scary, but could that be doable?  I tried on 7:30 pace for all remaining marathon pace workouts in this cycle and it felt good… good enough so that if the weather gods cooperated on November 1st, I was going to go for it.  But time-wise, this was going to be the first marathon where I didn’t have a concrete number in mind.  No sub-4, sub-3:45, sub-3:35, etc.  I deemed the goal was going to be between 3:15 and 3:20… and honestly didn’t know whether I’d be on the high or low end of that range-or if I was going to fall completely short.  It was truly gonna be where the day took me.

****

Race day.  Though this would be my 4th New York City Marathon, it felt like a brand new day for me.  Something was in the air.  Something good was gonna happen, I could feel it.

I was actually awake before my 4AM alarm-all 3 of them, in fact 🙂  Thank you Daylight Savings and one extra hour of sleep?  It was fine, meant more time to to do final prep, listen to my “marathon morning” playlist, stretch, eat, do whatever else and not feel rushed.  MTA be damned, I actually made it to the ferry with time to spare (thank you, N/R trains for helping us west side marathoners!  You are now my favorites), and even got on the 6 AM ferry instead of my planned 6:15 one.  I mean… why not?  Always better to get to Fort Wadsworth a little earlier and zone out, rather than sit in the ferry terminal on the Manhattan side and stress.  The ferry trip and bus ride were surprisingly smooth and stress-free, time went by quickly as I was chatting it up with a couple of women who were running their first NYCMs!  By the time we parted ways at our respective start villages and wished each other luck, it felt like I was saying goodbye to old friends.

Before checking my bag with my phone, I texted Chris for a quick “sanity check”-you see, it was a little warmer than ideal and I was questioning yet again if I was crazy for really wanting to go for it, given the warmer weather.  Advice?  It wasn’t warm enough to adjust my goals, and wait til at least 10K before making any decisions as to what kind of day it’s going to be.  Remember the latter-it’s gonna come into play later in my recap… 😉

So next order of business-find the Local Competitive (LC) area.  Thankfully I did remember from 2011 roughly where it was, there wasn’t a lot of signage helping us find it!  Anyway, once there, I saw a couple of other Whippets already claiming a corner for our crew, so I joined them, and one by one, others arrived and took up residence in our cozy little corner too.  To be honest, hanging with everyone was the best thing about being in the LC start.  The food/drink offered was the same as it would have been elsewhere, the lines for the bathrooms eventually did get long, but having my teammates around was actually a calming influence.  We all chatted, ate, drank, did any last-minute preps, compared outfits and race-day nails, etc. 🙂

Before we knew it, it was past 9 AM and we got to head out onto the bridge.  Once the LC’ers were in position, the rest of the green start followed suit, and we spotted Tom, Jeremy and a couple others who were in the first corral of green and waved them over to join us.  We also saw some of our ladies who were on top of the bridge in the sub-elite start yelling and waving to us!!  Not even a half hour to go and the excitement amongst our group was sky-high.  Although the DJ seemed to have a limited selection of songs to play, I will say I’ll never be able to hear “I Lived” again without it bringing me back to the anticipation of the start…not a bad thing 🙂  Finally it was happening.  The national anthem.  The introduction of the pro athletes.  So given this was the first marathon under the Ciaccia administration instead of the Wittenberg administration, “New York City awaits you!  The world awaits you!” was replaced with what we were all dying to hear: “Do we have clearance on the roadway?  Lead vehicle are you ready?”  Then the cannon.  It was go time.

Staten Island:
Mile 1-7:45, Mile 2-7:13

New York, New York.  That start never fails to get me.  Every. single. time.  Even though we were on the lower level of the bridge, it didn’t matter-I still felt like I was part of something amazing.

Remembering everything I’d been told, and from my own previous experiences, I just took the first uphill mile carefully.  Stayed in complete control, ran within myself, let whoever else go.  “Run your race, keep your pace.” Was satisfied with that first mile, as well as what I made up on the downhill.  One borough down, and pretty much right on the money with where I expected to be.

Brooklyn-Bay Ridge to 4th Avenue:

Mile 3-7:37, Mile 4-7:44, Mile 5-7:30, Mile 6-7:23, Mile 7-7:24, Mile 8-7:36

The part between the bridge and 4th Avenue seemed a little quiet and subdued…maybe it was still early, or maybe that part of the green course didn’t get as much love? 🙂  Anyway, we made the turn onto 4th Avenue and was time to lock in.  Except… I don’t know.  Although as always, I loved the support on 4th, I was getting into negative thought territory.  Even though my mile splits were coming in well (and as I’d see later, my 5K splits had never been tighter in a marathon), I felt like everyone was passing me, and instead of being happy that I was racing smart, it was getting to me.  “This isn’t your day.  This is 2011 all over again. 3:20-are you kidding yourself?”   But after 10K… I kind of got a second wind.  Maybe I just needed to “warm up” a bit?  Or maybe taking my first salted caramel Gu at mile 7 gave me a little bit of a boost (I took them at miles 7/12/17/22.)  Several friends were cheering in miles 7 and 8 and was so great to see/hear them-was such a sight for sore eyes.  And before I knew it we were at the mile 8 merge.  Some great music was playing as we made the turn onto Flatbush and Lafayette, I almost wanted to dance instead of run. 🙂  And I thought-”Make the turn.  Turn it around.  Change your fate.”

Brooklyn-Fort Greene to Pulaski Bridge:

Mile 9-7:36, Mile 10-7:23, Mile 11-7:43, Mile 12-7:25, Mile 13-7:28

Well as expected, mile 9 was a little crowded due to the 3 colors merging, but again, I figured that would help me keep things under control.  Lafayette Avenue was a party as always!  I was looking for a friend of mine who I knew would be cheering-I missed him (though I did see a few Whippets-THANKS, guys!) though he did see me-apparently I was “so focused and in the zone!”  Made the turn onto Bedford and cruised through Williamsburg.  Miles 10 and 11 were very familiar thanks to Metric and the Blue Line Run, and Mile 12 was a little bit of a homecoming, as back in the day I did many a track workout at the McCarren Park track, so I reminisced about those good times for a second. 🙂  Manhattan Avenue (love it…Manhattan in Brooklyn) was so festive!  And before we knew it, we were making the turn onto McGuinness and the Pulaski Bridge, and the halfway point was in sight…wow already?  It was almost like I floated through that second 10k in some kind of dream state-it was all going by so fast!!

Hit the half-marathon point on the bridge in 1:38:38…time to check in with the goals.  If I run even I’ll wind up with 3:17-smack dab in the middle of my range.  If I lose my usual 2 minutes and change in the 2nd half (which I have been told is an even split for the NYCM course) I may just barely make it in under 3:20.  But I actually felt I had a bit more left in me…let’s see how this plays out!

Queens:

Mile 14-7:23, Mile 15-7:35, Mile 16-7:30

Cresting the Pulaski, I looked to the left at the city skyline and got chills-that view just always takes my breath away.  I’ll be seeing you soon, Manhattan!  So given that in my first NYCM, someone knocked me down in Queens while going around one of the many turns, I just always want to make it through this borough staying vertical, and I did succeed in that 🙂  Made it through all the turns, saw one of my old Flyer teammates cheering like crazy, and oh hey hey Queensboro?  Are we meeting already?

I actually always look forward to taking the Queensboro on.  It’s only a long hill repeat, right?  I felt very strong while climbing, was even passing people on the uphill, and the downhill just felt like a breeze.  Unlike previous NYCMs of mine-I did not slow dramatically in those miles.  (Mile 16, though mostly downhill, does include the steepest part of the bridge)  Thank you, all those tempos in hilly Central Park?  Or did holding back in the beginning pay off?  Either way-that just put me in such great spirits, combined with the cheers I was already hearing…

Manhattan-1st Avenue:

Mile 17-7:18, Mile 18-7:08, Mile 19-7:21

1st Avenue.  Rockstar territory.  Yeah, I guess you can tell from the mile splits, I just let go and let myself fly here.  So much for wanting the crowds to applaud my restraint!  But was still feeling really good, was still in my comfort zone and I felt the worst was behind me so I went with it.  My old teammates were working the PowerGel station, and even though I didn’t take any gels from them since I had my own, the cheers gave me such a boost of energy that I threw down my fastest mile of the day!  But I did make an honest effort to dial back the crazy a little for mile 19. 😉  And even when we got into the 100s and north, I was still getting cheers from other friends and other local teams, it didn’t really thin out as much as it had in the past!  Plus I knew of a certain treat I was gonna get around mile 20.5, and I knew I didn’t have much further to go until that! 🙂

Bronx:

Mile 20-7:25, Mile 21-7:31

Over the Willis Avenue Bridge and into da Bronx!!  And checking in at the mile 20 point, seems I had sped up a bit…hmmm, could a negative split really be possible?  Only one way to find out…I’m going for it!

As it has been in the past, the Bronx is a lively borough, and sort of a shame that we only spend one mile there.  So I’ve mentioned that I had a score to settle with mile 21!!  That’s because in 2011, that was there I felt so sick (think it was nutrition-related) that I actually had to make a porta-potty stop in that mile, which kind of ended my race, as I could not get the momentum back after that-I still finished, but it wasn’t pretty.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to be RUNNING past the block where I had to stop 4 years ago.  And the best was yet to come in this borough…

….oh yes, the blue and yellow of the Whippets cheer station.  Whatever I got during mile 18, you did it even better! 🙂  I was blowing kisses, waving, smiling…just in the moment and living it, revitalized by my dose of Whippets love.  Now back to Manhattan, to finish what I started!!

Manhattan-5th Avenue:

Mile 22-7:43, Mile 23-7:38, Mile 24-7:50

Mile 22 down upper 5th Avenue and around Marcus Garvey Park was where I really hit my first rough patch in the second half of the race.  I felt a little bit of a fade, were those fast miles on 1st Ave catching up with me now?  This was where it had to be mind over body…just kept repeating to myself-even out loud: ”I want this.  I got this.”  Took my last gel just past the mile 22 marker, hoping that would perk me up til the end.  And Martina was working at that station-was so perfect as I definitely needed a friendly face then! 🙂  Was able to regroup a little bit just in time for…

…yep, Sh!@#y Hill.  Just kept moving forward, repeating the “I want this, I got this” to myself.  Accepted that I may have to take a hit of 20-30 seconds on this hill, but I did have enough time in the bank, and once I hit Central Park, to just leave everything on the course.  I made that deal with myself…it helped. 🙂

Manhattan-Central Park to the finish line:

Mile 25-7:16, Mile 26-7:21, Last .2 mile-1:37 (7:22 pace)

Now I was truly home.  How many loops, how many workouts had I done here in the last 4 months?  It was time.  All or nothing.  Give it everything, I’ve come too far not to.  Cat Hill downhill was so welcome at that point, and was thrilled with my mile 25 split.  3:43 was ancient history.  3:20, that time I thought was so scary was gonna be smashed as well, now it was just a matter of where I was gonna wind up-and if was still gonna be a negative split.

So knowing my work wasn’t done just yet, I didn’t let up as we turned onto the road passing by the rink and out of the park.  Matt and Chris as well as a couple of others were cheering on that stretch, which was a really nice surprise as I thought I had seen all the Whippets I was gonna see back at 20.5!  Chris told me that Brian was up ahead and to “go catch him!”  Now for the record, I was only in this to run my time, where I finished in relation to other teammates…I honestly didn’t care.  But in that last crucial mile, I guess it never hurts to have a rabbit to keep the momentum going, right?  I did catch Brian right around when we made the turn onto Central Park South, and encouraged him to stick with me…

That last stretch on CPS…it was surreal.  It was like it wasn’t even me running.  I was watching some fast chick who looked like me, dressed like me, ran like me…my god, it was me.

I heard my name being called by another one of my old teammates.  I saw the 800 meters to go sign and knew I had it.  This was it.  After being on the struggle bus with running for about 3 years, and with marathoning for even longer, I was on the other side, and it was just a beautiful thing.

That last turn into the park.  That hill up to Tavern-I must have been so high that I mentally flattened it.  Hit that finish line and put my arms up in celebration-oh hells yeah!!!  Marathon redemption-done and DONE!

Final time: 3:16:23-7:30 pace-shaving off an entire minute/mile from my Chicago 2010 time!  Turned out I did get that negative split, as the second half was 1:37:45!  Settled my unfinished business with the marathon distance and took back NYCM!!  And oh yeah-that little race in April 2017?  Well 5 years ago, I spent the better part of a year wondering if my BQ would be “DQed” (since after the 2011 registration fiasco, the standards were up in the air), and even then had to sweat it out in the “less than 5 minutes” group for a week.  Now?  I would get to register on the 1st day!

So past the finish and walking it off.  I high-fived another Whippet who finished just seconds ahead of me, and in the walk through the medals, finisher pics, heat sheets and whatever else, saw Brian and gave him a big congrats, as well as other Whippets and friends.  Though I had to walk a little bit longer since I checked a bag, it actually wasn’t so bad-I knew I had to walk it off , shake it off and keep moving.  Got my bag, got myself home, got myself cleaned up and got myself some Shake Shack eats before heading crosstown to rehydrate at the Whippets post party!  Everyone was just celebratory, happy and buzzed…or maybe that was just me after making up for lost time 🙂  But all joking aside-was a great time, definitely enjoyed hearing everyone’s battle stories, regardless of if they ran or spectated!
So I think nothing more needs to be said about my race, I think I pretty much made it clear how I felt about it.  But it definitely gives me a newfound appreciation of what hard work and dedication can accomplish.  And I will repeat something I said the weekend before the marathon…Whatever happens next Sunday, you all helped in one way or another to really get me to enjoy the process again-and just that is priceless.”  Running and I fell completely out of love in 2014.  Whippets, you helped me love the sport again. In fear of leaving anybody out, I’m just going to say this.  You all know who you are, and whether you shared a mile or a memory-or in some cases both!-with me in the last several months-can’t thank you all enough.  Looking forward to many more miles and memories ahead-the best is definitely yet to come!

Jerlyn Thomas

More about Jerlyn Thomas

Jerlyn Thomas, also known as Jade, is a marketing professional and brand specialist. She's part of the website committee and is credited for conceptualizing, designing and developing the website for this running team. She's also an adrenaline seeker, inspirer, Caribbean Islander?, Sr. Art Director/Dev?, Published Illustrator, Triathlete, Ultramarathoner and Marathoner (who has completed over 15 distances ?), 2x Ragnar finisher and 2x Tough Mudders finisher she blogs about her lifestyle on Design Lady NYC and you can follow her on Instagram @jerlynthomas. She runs in Brooklyn, trains in Manhattan and loves escaping to head on trails on the weekends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *