Since I’ve now learned my lesson from last week that it’s not “the night before the race that counts,” but rather, “the night before the night before the race,” I’ll start with a brief preview of that. I was in Chicago for work last week (celebrating our acquisition by a Big 4 firm and getting all kinds of training), and didn’t arrive home until about 8pm. On the flight, there were a bunch of people wearing marathon gear, which was fun – just reminds you exactly how many tourists come into town for the race.
My friend Becca was staying with me for the weekend, and my mom had also come into town for the occasion, so I had a full house; however, when I first got home, they were out at a lecture by Born to Run author Christopher McDougall. I managed to get in a quick workout (trying to burn off all the catered food I had eaten in training – a losing battle), and then got to cook a healthy steamed cabbage and veggies dinner for my mom and I after (Becca had already eaten). I made it to bed by 10pm, with no alarm set for the next day – exactly the strategy I need to start taking two nights before a marathon.
However, my body has now been programmed to wake up early, so I was up by 7am – still a solid 9 hours of sleep. While Becca had already been to the expo the day before, I still needed to pick up my packet, so my mom and I headed down there to arrive shortly after the 9am opening, hoping that strategy would help us avoid the crowds. It worked! There were only a few hundred people there when we arrived (small by NYCM standards), and the expo was extremely well-organized, so it was easy for me to get through in short order. Well, at least it was easy for me to get through the actual packet pickup – the vendor booths were a different story.
I had worn my 50 State Marathon Finisher shirt, and it attracted a lot of attention. People were extremely impressed by my accomplishments, and a few of the representatives from other marathons talked to me about having them come do their races (Reggae Marathon in Jamaica, I am seriously considering the offer!). I also got to see my friend Bart Yasso at the Runners’ World booth, and I enjoyed taking lots of fake “I’m running with the pros” pictures, like the following.
What made that one even more fun was that my new friend Topher was working at the Nissan booth, and he was the one to take the picture! I have to say, I love that now when I got o marathon expos, I get to see tons of friends there… and even a few fans as well. One of the women representing the Cabot cheese booth recognized me from the NJ Marathon, and she told me she had already read my blog and heard about the Times article! Pretty neat.
From the expo, we walked back to my apartment (only about a mile – so nice to be doing a race in my hometown!) and then headed out for pizza with Becca. She wanted to do all the touristy things while there, and I think Paatsy’s Pizza is delicious, as well as a quintessential New York experience. Can’t think of a better way to carb load than some delicious thin crust pizza! (Well, that or Belgian beer, as I mentioned in my recent feature on Nowness about what the “sports stars” eat to fuel up for a marathon).
From there, it was back home to nap (for Becca) and excitedly peruse travel options for Jamaica (for me). My friend Peter arrived in the early evening (my tiny New York apartment was fast becoming a hotel for marathoners!), but I didn’t get to hang out with him too much, as I as off to Justin’s hotel for dinner and strategy.
Since I’m sure you’ll want to know every detail, our pre-race dinner was takeout from Carmine’s, which Justin’s amazing girlfriend Cary had picked up and laid out for us (Justin explained that this was his favorite pre-match food when he was playing tennis in New York). The dinner was small – just two members of the marathon team and their significant others, Justin’s brother and his girlfriend, me, and Justin and Cary. We watched sports on TV in the background as we ate, and I realized that if I’m going to start training any other athletes, I really need to start paying more attention to sports so I can keep up in these sorts of situations! Since Justin had been sick with the flu all week, he showed me some pace sheets that predicted a 4:30 finish – and I breathed a sigh of relief. From a conversation the week before, I knew that Justin really wanted to push the pace and come in with an unbelievable time (not that 4:30 isn’t great), but I was worried that if we aimed for a sub-4 hour finish, we might go out so hard that we’d burn out and not be able to win the bet to finish under 4:45. Unacceptable!
Stuffed on pasta and tiramisu, I headed home, with a lot to do still before I could go to sleep. First, I needed to get the pacing plan all set. Rather than carrying out several pace bands with different times, I decided to set us up for a 4:23 finish – that would be the aggressive time goal that just wanted, but I thought it would still be very doable. Plus, once we got past the first three miles, we could lose an extra one minute/mile and still make the bet! A rational approach, I thought.
I converted the pace plan to arrival times at various viewing points around the course, then emailed it to my mom and to Cary, who would pass the info along to the rest of Justin’s supporters. Next, it was time to prep clothing – both for the race and for my week in DC, since I knew I wouldn’t have time to do it after the race. Finally, it was midnight and I was ready to get to bed. Big race in the morning!