Monthly Archives: November 2019

Going Mental: When You Become Your Own Mean Girl

Into every training cycle, a little fear must fall.  At least for me. And when it happens, sometimes it happens big. This training cycle was no different than many, especially the really big races like Ironman Florida, Boston Marathon, and going for a big PR at the Houston Marathon. Sometimes something can be so big and so new, it’s hard to wrap my head around it, which is how the fear creeps in. Fear and I are not strangers but we are not friends. I certainly don’t welcome fear into my house for a cup of coffee. I also don’t loathe fear, as it’s a natural consequence for going above yourself to do something new. That’s the way I see it. Fear is natural, but the most important thing about fear is how you handle it.

There’s a difference between fear and “can’t”. I remember hearing the phrase “Can’t never did anything”, and I say this to my kids whenever I hear a misplaced “can’t”. It literally never did anything for anyone. Fear isn’t “can’t”.

There are many types of fear. Like the real kind when you’re running down a dark street and you hear this noise and you think you’re being followed and then all of a sudden you realize it’s a leaf skittering alongside you with the wind. The fear when you’re running to your ringing phone and slip a little on the carpet while you’re going downstairs and you get a shot of adrenaline in your fingertips. There’s more REAL fear but I don’t need to go there. Then there’s the fear you get when you start a new job, or meet a possible business partner, which would probably be better described as “nerves”, but it’s still fear. Then there’s that pesky fear. The fear of failure. The fear of failure and “can’t” are first cousins and they often have family reunions when the fear of failure arrives at your doorstep.

I applied for a full-time job last week. I was scared to do it, mostly because I didn’t want to get rejected. I didn’t want to be the one looking kind of dumb with my finger and my thumb in the shape of an “L” on my forehead. Back in the day, I was way overqualified to do this job, and now, I’m not quite qualified, technically. And I didn’t want to be rejected, because it would just validate my fear of being the L. But I wanted the chance to find out if I would at least get a shot at that job, and if I didn’t apply, I would never know. When I got that dreaded email “Thank you for applying, BUT….”, I felt pretty low. But at least I took a shot at it. And now I know they will never get a chance to work with me and know how awesome I am, how hard-working I am, that I’m funny, smart, and thoughtful. Their loss. Time to move on. But I’m actually proud of myself for putting myself out there and punching fear in the face. Nothing bad happened when I got the email. It actually gave me a little clarity.

I digress.

Last weekend, I ran a 30k trail race at Lake Norman State Park. It was a trip that I didn’t want to take because we had just gotten back from New York, and two weeks before that was the half iron triathlon and a ton of long runs and training and I was just t i r e d. But it was already past the time to cancel my hotel reservation and my kids and I were supposed to go to a wedding, a wedding that I wanted to attend, but I didn’t want to drive that far.  I resigned myself that I HAD to go, although I just wanted to stay home. I worried about traffic and I worried about driving in the dark and I worried about finishing the race in time to drive to the afternoon wedding about an hour away from our hotel.

I got up and got ready for the race, worried some more, then drove myself through some gorgeous fall hills to the park. It was 28 degrees, and it had been a long time since I had felt temps that low. I missed the beginning of the “trail talk” since I, among many others, was sitting in my car keeping myself warm. I arrived for the giveaways and asked another participant if I had missed anything really important. “Go left at the junctions and be sure you punch your bib at the checkpoints” was all I missed. There were probably about 110 of us total for the 30k and 50k, so it took maybe half a mile or so for the crowd to thin out. I stayed back and let a lot of others go in front of me. It was a gorgeous morning and a beautiful trail. We were off.

Things were going fine. Until they weren’t. My legs have handled the tremendous amount of volume I’m put them through and recovery was typically quick. (I didn’t see that then but I do now.) And this was my last long workout before my big race. About four or five miles in, my somewhat fragile mental state collapsed. Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of something, or near the end, your perception becomes skewed. For instance, the week between the half iron triathlon and the NYC marathon was a ten mile run. And I was like, “Oh! ONLY ten miles this weekend.” I forget that running ten miles is actually quite a lot. And during my meltdown on that trail, when I felt my legs starting to get a little tired (I know this because I start tripping on things), I unleashed the wrath of my fear onto myself.

It’s also important to note that within failure, you find the opportunity for growth. I’ve failed at reaching my marathon goals, but within that, I’ve learned my biggest lessons. But that is not the same as fear that stops you from trying. And tells you you’re not good enough. Which is what I was feeling.

Here’s just a sample of things I said to myself.

You’re NEVER going to be able to finish the JFK in 13 hours if you can’t even run this easy trail in 15 minute miles.

How could you let yourself gain so much weight over the last year.

You can’t do this.

You’re going to be late for the wedding. You can’t use “I was running” as a valid reason.

You have absolutely no reason to be this tired right now.

Then I reminded myself that I had run a marathon the week before. And walked 60-70 miles in four days.

STOP MAKING EXCUSES.

Why did you even sign up for this 50 mile race when you KNOW you are a BAD trail runner?

There is no excuse for being tired.

You are going to embarrass yourself when you get a DNF.

Then I told myself that yeah, I ran a freaking marathon the week before and to not lose sight that THAT event is typically the goal for most people. But it didn’t matter.

You’re going to be last.

Running a marathon is no excuse for being tired right now.

Stop being a huge pansy. Pan. Zee.

You’re pretty dumb for thinking you can do this.

There were a few cycles of this negativity. I was really mean to me. I’m not proud of it, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to share this. But I know I’m not the only one who does this. But I didn’t let it win. First, I knew from Ironman training that when you get low, you probably need to eat. So I ate one of my gels. I felt better and my mood lifted a little almost immediately. Then I went through my last month of training in my head.

20 miles

22 miles

Half Iron Triathlon, which is 70.2 miles and took me 6.5 hours

10 miles (yeah, the EASY week)

Marathon day, which was 32 miles of running and walking, plus 27 miles of walking in 4 days.

Look LADY, you have put your body through a LOT, so STOP being a bully, stop being so hard on yourself and just keep moving forward. And I did.

I went through the mean lady/nice lady cycle a few times during that race.

I think the 30k course was short a mile or two, but I finished in just under four hours. Four hours of running is a lot of time to be running. And I wasn’t last. I wasn’t in the top half of the finishers, but that’s ok.

I made it back to the hotel in plenty of time to get prepped for the wedding and find food. And as I said, it was one of my favorite weddings of all time. I totally borrowed worry. And we went home on Sunday. I was tired. Really. Really. Tired.

Then Monday came. And the mean lady came back. I got scared again. And I questioned my ability to finish the JFK 50 Mile race over and over. I was familiar with this feeling, but it came on really extra hard for this event. All it is, is fear of failure. So you want to give yourself enough reasons to just not even go? Just don’t even try because if you don’t try, you can’t fail, right? RIGHT? But just like that job, you can’t fail if you don’t even try. I didn’t come this far to only go this far. And I wanted to try, and I was going to put everything I had into making a successful race plan, then more importantly, execute it. I told my coach my mental state wasn’t really good, and I told her that this was normal for me and zero negativity would be allowed in my thought processes come race week. And she gave me the race plan assignment, and I really can’t express my gratitude at the timing of it, because it ignited the thought processes that will carry me over that finish line.

It only took three days, and all that bad juju is gone. Poof. And I look back and am disappointed that I was so mean to myself. I sealed the negative off and I will not allow it back in. I have worked too damn hard to be afraid. And part of a good race plan is to prepare for the unknown, as something unusually typically pops up in an event that long. And that’s ok. It’s crazy that I was feeling so bad at the beginning of the week, and today, I’m feeling nervous and a little anxious and really, really, dang excited.

On November 23rd, I’m running the JFK 50. I’m not going to TRY it, I’m not going to attempt to, I’m going to do it. I’m not naive enough to believe that things can’t happen to cause a DNF, but I’m not even going to let that into my space. At this point, a DNF is just not possible.

My mantra is to “Keep fucking going”.

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I’m carrying this bracelet my sister gave me.

Follow my race plan.

Adapt to changes.

Stay positive.

Bullet proof.

Remember that I didn’t come this far to only go this far.

All the way. 50.2 miles. I’m going to do it.

running quote 2

Categories: anything is possible, follow your dreams, learning from failure, marathon, marathon training, running, temper tantrum, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Pan, A Spoon, And A Whistle: NYC Marathon Recap

Warning: Picture heavy on this one.

Potty-gate was over, and we could finally run the race we’d been planning on for months and months. It was hard to believe we were running this huge, beautiful bridge from Staten Island over to Brooklyn. The bridge was pretty quiet, just hearing the sound of running shoes hitting the pavement. So many were stopped to take selfies on the bridge. We weren’t ready to do that yet, as we had a LONG way to go. Mile 1 ticked by and as always, I said, “Hey, only 25 more to go!”. I’m so funny.

The bridge wasn’t that difficult, although it’s nearly a mile on incline and a mile on decline. I’d done incline work on the treadmill thankfully, and I really wish I would have added it to Andy’s training plan. Oops. When we were near the end of the two-mile bridge, we heard the cannon from wave 4 go off, and I knew some of my friends were running the bridge with us.

When we entered Brooklyn, the crowds started. That’s the one thing I was told over and over, there were millions of spectators spread throughout the entire course. It’s crazy to imagine these people were stand for hours cheering on people they didn’t know, but that’s what happens.

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The best way I can describe the race is this. There’s miles and miles of runners. Thousands of runners spread out, with miles and miles and miles of spectators, holding signs, ringing bells, banging on pans, blowing obnoxious horns, and cheering. For miles. And miles. The sign I was waiting for was at mile 3.5. “You’re almost there!”. Haha. This is a classic. I really wish I would’ve taken pictures of these signs, but I had my phone in a flip belt sort of thing and since I’d had it out for most of the bridge, I didn’t want to keep getting it out. I should have though.

I’ve run a lot of marathons, including Boston, and I’ve never seen anyone bang on a pan with a spoon while blowing a whistle. It was just funny. I found myself smiling a lot, knowing this was most likely a once in a lifetime experience. I wanted to soak it in. The pan banging made me giggle, not knowing I’d see at least three of them. One was using a whisk on her pan. Whatever works, right?

I looked at the homes, the businesses, the tree lined streets. It was crazy to think it was a regular street in a regular city in the middle of New York City. What was it like to live there? What would it be like to grow up in such a large city? If I didn’t say it before, New York City is one of the most diverse places I’ve ever been. I think we heard more non-English than English, which was cool. Where were these people from, did they live there, what did they do for a living, were they visiting? It’s just interesting. Unique. I loved it.

Because Andy and I were relatively dehydrated going into the race, we stopped at all but one aid station, which were approximately every mile, except for the first few miles on the bridge. We walked through them, and the further we got into the race, the more cup pileage I noticed. Like I’ve said before, I’ve run in big races, but this one was about 20,000 runners BIGGER than the biggest one I’ve done before. The water/Gatorade cups pile up. And pile up and pile up. The streets get sticky, and after the bananas are handed out, they get slick. It made me think of some cartoon with an elephant slipping all over the banana peels. So we were extra careful with the banana peels.

You run through Brooklyn for many, many miles. Bands are spread out, lots of garage band type groups playing good music, and a few notable percussion groups were throughout the marathon. I saw a banana playing some sort of recorder/flute thing (I don’t think I’ll ever see that again), a lady running the marathon barefoot and with a grass skirt, trying to raise awareness for the environment. I saw tons of people running for charity, and I was specifically looking for my coach, who was guiding another sight-impaired friend. They were wearing neon yellow shirts, so I figured I would find them eventually. I saw many “Touch Here For Power” signs, and I touched many of them for power. I saw a few more banana people, I saw people running find their people in the crowds, running to them with huge smiles, I saw gorgeous brownstone townhouses on tree lined streets. Is that where the Cosby Show was set? We couldn’t remember.

The volunteers. The police presence. UNBELIEVABLE. AMAZING. Pretty indescribable to me. City dump trucks and salt trucks to protect main intersections. Police EVERYWHERE. Aid stations with plenty of people handing us our water or Gatorade, getting totally soaked in the process. They handed out Gu, bananas, Vaseline, and spectators handed out oranges and potato chips, among other things. If I remember right, some had beer (hey, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere) or mimosas (it’s basically a smoothie).

There were so many runners, we were separated onto different courses from the beginning until mile 8, where we all merged onto one course. I figured the course would eventually thin out some. Wrong. Andy and I didn’t always run side by side, but I never lost him. I had no idea how many Clemson fans are in New York City. Until Andy took his top shirt off to expose his orange shirt with white Clemson paw. I swear, I heard no less than ten million “Go Tigers!”, “Clemson!” and a few “Hey Clemson, Roll Tide” and one “Clemson, Go Dawgs”. I always knew he was near because I constantly heard someone yelling at him.

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Andy and his famous Clemson shirt

Little kids were lined up to high-five us. Several signs said “GO RANDOM STRANGER!”.  The people you see along the way and the people running alongside you. Everyone is so different, yet we were all united on that day to celebrate the human spirit. If you’ve never spectated a marathon, you really should. Even better, run one.

Brooklyn seemed to go on forever. And ever. Around mile 13-14, we crossed a bridge into Queens. For some reason, I thought Long Island was a borough, so I was so confused as to where that long island was. It was QUEENS. And I thought about “The King of Queens”, knowing we wouldn’t see Kevin James on the course but secretly hoping we would. It was basically the same as Brooklyn, and just as cool.

Somewhere along there a guy was by himself on the sidelines blowing this horrendous whistle horn thing. It was one of the most annoying sounds I’ve ever heard, which explains why he was by himself on the sidelines. That was one of the very few times the race course didn’t have many spectators.

Then came the bridge that no one talks about. The Queensboro Bridge. This sucker is a beautiful, old, STEEP bridge spanning about 1.4 miles, starting at around mile 15. It’s a double decker bridge, and the runners were on the bottom deck. We had a gorgeous view of Manhattan. Lots of people were walking, but I felt like I needed to run, for training. I was slow, but I kept going. The course was still really crowded, so you could see people going up and up and up and up and up. The bridges in the NYC Marathon ain’t no joke. I pulled over to the right so I could get a picture of Manhattan.

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Just gorgeous. Pictures don’t do it justice.

Then we started going down. I was REALLY glad we didn’t go up this part of the bridge because it was a steep decline. I found Andy, we got to the bottom and ran about 3.5 miles north through Manhattan, parallel to Central Park. I didn’t realize we ran that long in Manhattan at this point, so I looked for the next bridge far too long. At this point, I did not want the race to end but I couldn’t wait for it to be over, if that makes any sense. My legs were starting to feel the burn from the miles of walking the prior two days, and my knees were sore.

I’m not sure when we saw the dead rat along the course, but several other people saw it too. All I could think about for a while was how the thing was dead in the road. Did one of the Kenyans run over it with their fast feet? Did a car run over it over night? Why wasn’t it flatter like the bananas? It made no sense to me, but it entertained me for a while. Thanks, Rat.

Andy saw an inflatable unicorn holding a sign that said “Motherf***ing Marathoners!”. I REALLY wish I would’ve seen that. Next up, the bridge to The Bronx. Lo and behold, there was Coach Maleia and Diane. I knew I would find them among the thousands of people! We chatted a bit and then went on our way.

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Coach, Diane, and Andy

Bronx wasn’t anything spectacular, but we wound around the streets to get our miles in. The last bridge was around mile 21. Several people were holding signs and yelling at us, “THE LAST DAMN BRIDGE”. Perfect. It made me laugh and it was nice to know THIS was it for the incline. Sort of. The best part was the bridge was small and mostly a slight decline.

We were finally at our last destination…Manhattan! We ran down 5th Avenue about 3 miles. It was NUTS. It was gorgeous. It was full of runners. It was full of spectators. It seemed the streets got more and more crowded, louder and louder, and it was great to have that energy to use since the “low fuel” light came on for our gas tanks, haha.

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Crazy crowds

About half way down Central Park, we entered the park. Did you know that Central Park is hilly? Did you know The Met, as in The Metropolitan Museum, spanning several blocks, is on 5th Avenue and backs up into the park? Found out both of them that day. I knew from watching Shalane win this exact race a few years ago that the park has hills, but, fun fact, you can’t really detect hills adequately on a tv screen. It was hilly. And crazy full. Many times, we had to stop due to the congested streets. But the energy. You cannot beat the energy of this part of the race! Then I heard my name. WHAT???? My rock star friend Pam saw me from the sidelines!

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In the middle of my wave to Pam. I can’t believe someone found me on that crazy full course!

Now THAT was crazy, but not as crazy as the last mile. I know at some point, Andy and I were walking, and I said, “Come on, let’s go”, which made him mad because his feet were about to fall off, but all I could think about is finishing the damn thing. As great as the experience was, I wanted to stop. I was ready for it to be over. After a few more ups and downs, we crossed the finish line. We did it.

FINISH TIME: 4:53

I have to admit, I was a little disappointed in the finish time. As much as I truly don’t care, for as torn up as I felt, I felt like we went faster, not that it really matters. It’s a weird combination of not caring and being competitive. Speaking of being competitive, Andy’s time was one second faster, so he beat me at a marathon, something he said he’d never do. Well done, Andy, well done.

Not many feet into the finisher chute, we were in a traffic jam. One of the volunteers chastised us for being slow and taking selfies that held up the line (that wasn’t the problem and no one around us was taking selfies), which we didn’t appreciate and I decided to keep my trap shut so I wouldn’t end up saying something equally rude back to him. Nothing like being ridiculed as soon as you finish a race, huh?

We stood there a while and came upon our photo op, post-race garb, and heat sheets. We opted for ponchos, which would be handed out about a hundred half mile (or more) later. We were thankful for the heat sheets, as the sun was going down and it was cold. One girl behind us said “Where’s the f%$King exit???” True that. We felt like we had to walk all way up to the other side of the park to get back to the finish, which was towards our hotel. Goodness.

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Aren’t we so cute?

Many, many steps later, we found the exit and walked slowly back to our hotel. Total steps for that day totaled 32 miles. THIRTY-TWO MILES. And we still had to find dinner.

We did it. Endurance Trifecta Event #2: Mission Completion

We met up with the kids in our room, cleaned up, compared stories, and found dinner. Wow. What an amazing event. The ONLY complaint I have is the lack of bathrooms at the start. That’s it.

I heard some people say this marathon is better than any marathon, including Boston. I’m not so sure. To me, it’s like picking between your children. They’re different and you love them equally. There’s something very special about the Boston Marathon, and there’s definitely something special about NYC Marathon. Running a major with my husband was pretty special as well. Anyway, I’m not picking because I don’t have to, haha.

I must have gotten a sunburn, because in our room, my face was on fire. My son was thoughtful enough and got me the “freezer” tray from our mini fridge to help cool my face. Such a thoughtful boy.

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Ahhhhhhh….

The next day, we walked up and through Central Park. Wow. Seeing it again was a good thing, as I hadn’t realized it’s beauty the prior day. We walked the park, saw the finish line, the green lawn (or whatever it’s called), Strawberry Hill, a couple sucking face, a strange workout (I have a video of it and it makes me laugh so hard my abs hurt), and then walked back on 5th Avenue and by The Met. The people we saw and the stores we walked by. Hmmm, let’s say they have some disposable income. And The Met. Wow. One thing I’d like to do when I go back is to take advantage of the museums in the city.

By the time we found New York Pizza and walked back to our room, we’d added ten miles to our total. Our feet were tired, our hearts were full, and we were ready to go home.

Thanks New York City, we love you.

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NYC Marathon

Up next in my Endurance Trifecta: JFK 50

Categories: Boston Marathon, follow your dreams, go for your dreams, marathon, marathon training, running, running with friends, training for marathon, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New York City Marathon: Recap Part 1

I’ve been thinking about how to start my race report for the New York City Marathon, and it’s not an easy thing to start. I mean, how do you write about something so mind-blowing and crazy and awesome? Do I start it like, “Once upon a time…”, or “One day, I…” or “Running rocks! Lemme tell you a story”? I guess I should start from the beginning.

The New York City Marathon was never on a list of marathons I wanted to do, simply because you have about a 15% chance of getting in by the lottery. In January of 2018, I ran the Houston marathon and was subsequently stuck in a hotel for two days due to a freak ice storm, with literally nothing better to do than watch “My 600 lb Life”, go to the liquor store and Subway next door, and surf the net. Ads for the NYC Marathon kept popping up and popping up and popping up. The ad finally got what it wanted because I clicked the dang thing, just because it was starting to irritate me, and I literally had nothing else to do.

There’s a few ways you can get in the marathon – run the NYRR races locally, enter the lottery and take your chances, run a race fast enough to qualify, or run for charity. It was that moment when I realized that I had a time that would qualify me to run the biggest marathon in the world. OMG. OMGOMGOMG, I can run the NYC Marathon! Andy and I concocted the plan that I would enter via time qualification and he would enter the lottery, and if he didn’t get in that way, he would consider the entry via charity, where you have to raise around $3000, depending on the charity. Fast forward to February/March 2019 and I was entered and he was accepted in the lottery. We were going to New York City!!!! (get a rope)

Andy and I planned to take the kids for a weekend in NYC and run the race together. What better way to see all five boroughs in the city!? We got a hotel close enough to walk to the pick up busses and walk home from the finish line in Central Park. This marathon was race #2 in my “Endurance Trifecta”, sandwiched between the IMNC 70.3 triathlon and the finale, the JFK 50 Miler. It was the perfect way to get a lot of time on my feet for a good ultra training weekend. 

It’s crazy to think we planned for this so many months ago, and on Friday, November 1st, we headed to New York. When we landed, we dropped our things at the hotel and headed to the expo. After abusing our credit card there, we walked around, saw some interesting buildings – really, the architecture is AMAZING – and walked to Times Square, which was close to our hotel. Day 1: 8 miles of walking!

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Found our names at the expo

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Still not sure what this is but it was cool. 

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Seeing all the sights

The next day, we walked 9 miles throughout the city, the highlights being Grand Central Station and the observation deck (it’s not a deck but not sure what else to call it) of the Freedom Tower. Pausing at the 9/11 Memorial was a must as well.

Because our wave of the race wasn’t going to start until 10:30, we waited until a little later to eat dinner. The good thing about New York City is there’s tons of places to eat, right at your doorstep. We got up early, but not the normal pre-marathon early, thankfully. We headed to the bus pick up at the library, expecting chaos and people running all over the place. Basically, we found a line, a long line to go through “security”, and were led to get on the bus. There were bathrooms on the other side of the park, but I didn’t want to get out of line and then have to go through that again. Mistake. The bus ride was quiet and the scenery was pleasant. What a gorgeous morning to run with 54,000 of your best friends, right? When we finally were allowed off the bus (it was chaotic and a mess and from what the driver said, wasn’t like that in years past), I made a bee line to the bathroom. I really had to go.

I realized at this moment that the reason why New Yorkers are angry and always in a hurry is because there’s no bathrooms. Anywhere. When we made it through security to the race staging area, there were thousands of people wandering around and probably fifty bathrooms for us all. I am not exaggerating. There were barely any bathrooms for runners, the line was probably a football field long, and people were peeing along the fence. I started to cry because I thought I was going to die pee myself. I made it very clear that I was unhappy, and I got myself in line because I didn’t want to pee in the grass. How convenient it would have been to be a man at that point.  Forty-five minutes later, I was able to go, so my mood lightened up.

The professionals started and the place was buzzing with an energy that is indescribable. With every wave start, they shoot off a huge cannon and play Frank Sinatra’s “New York”. It was finally time to get into our corral. The announcer kept saying to not wait in line to use the restroom until you get in to your corral, because “there are plenty of toilets to use in your corral”. Lie. When we got into our corral, there were three. For hundreds of people. And the corral behind us had zero. ZERO bathrooms for people getting ready to run a marathon. This was a big deal, or at least to me, since you go into a long race dehydrated simply because you have nowhere to pee. It’s a huge complaint, but that was literally the only thing the race did not do well, as once we got over that issue, it was simply the coolest race I’ve ever done. I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s better than Boston, and I don’t necessarily agree with that. For me, it would be like choosing a favorite child. They’re just different and you love them both. Boston is…well, it’s Boston. It’s special. You can’t just get in. I worked my butt off to get in to that race. But New York? It’s just unique and just as good.

We were at the very end of our wave since I had to wait so long to use the bathroom and Andy wasn’t able to go or risk having to wait until the next wave to start. Ridiculous.

But we started and realized we would be starting the race on the top of the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge. Some waves would be on the lower level, but we were lucky enough to be on the top. Off we went. It was almost like a dream. We were running the streets of New York City, all five boroughs, and my husband and I were running a marathon together.

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