December 20, 2010

Race Report: New York City Marathon (Part 3)

***This is part 3 of a delayed race report from November 7, when I ran the New York City Marathon as a pacer/coach for tennis pro Justin Gimelstob. For part one, click here; for part two, click here.***

Really left you hanging with that last part of the race report, huh? Don’t worry, I turned part 3 around quickly – stay tuned for the exciting conclusion!

After a grueling final few miles and just a few steps over the finish line, Justin collapsed on top of me. Now, if you’re loyal readers who checked out the New York Times article and other press about Justin and I doing the race, you know that Justin is a pretty big guy. A lot of the articles focused on his height and weight, and the fact that this wasn’t some pro athlete who was going to have it easy out there – Justin is a pretty big guy. Under normal circumstances, I’d have trouble supporting his weight; after pushing myself extremely hard in the last few miles of the full marathon, it was nearly impossible.

Lucky for me, medical staff was there in a flash. Trained to watch for people who are having problems at the finish, they quickly took control of the situation. As it turned out, Justin wasn’t unconscious (close, but not quite), so he was able to talk to the medics. While they were calling for a stretcher, he told them that he didn’t need a stretcher, he just needed an IV with fluids and that he was extremely dehydrated. While they argued back and forth, I was still staggering under Justin’s weight and trying to make myself heard in the din of the finish line. “Um, can someone start by taking him off me?”

A few medics finally responded, taking Justin and easing him into a waiting wheelchair as he continued to protest. However, he didn’t protest for long – once into the chair, he did pass out. As I looked on in horror and tried to figure out what I could do to help, the medical staff called for a stretcher and a golf cart to get him over to the medical tents for help. As they eased him down, I grabbed as many of his possessions as I could (the picture of Wernick, his iPod, etc), then hopped on the front of the cart with the driver. We sped away from the finish, over the bumpy ground of the Sheep’s Meadow to pull up to the medical tent, where Justin was quickly taken inside and I was left to wait.

First, I called Cary to let her know where we were and have her get the rest of the family there. I warned her that it would probably be really difficult to get there – we were on the inside the park, just adjacent to the finish line, so I didn’t know if they’d be able to cross the race and get to the seemingly restricted area. Once that was complete, I tried calling my mom to let her know, but couldn’t get through. Probably better that she didn’t worry, anyway.

Now that Cary and family were on the way, I tried to get into the medical tent for an update on how Justin was doing – no can do. The NYRR doesn’t allow anyone into the medical tents, including immediate family numbers. Instead, I was instructed to stay outside and just call a hotline for updates. I found this a bit ridiculous – I was about 10 feet away from Justin, separated only by a bit of tarp, and yet I was supposed to call an 800 number to get updates on how he was doing? I understand that the tent could get crowded if every person’s family was trying to come in, but it seemed to me that they could have had a better system than an 800 number that might or might not be updated promptly.

But ignoring that for the time being, I was freezing cold and thirsty. I hadn’t gotten far enough into the finish chute to get a heat sheet or water (or a medal, for that matter). When I first asked the volunteers at the door to the medical tent for those two necessities, they at first turned me away; however, when I pointed out that they might soon have to admit me to the tent for dehydration and hypothermia, they handed over a few mini Dasani bottles and a heat sheet. Thanks!

The water helped a lot with my thirst issue, but the heat sheet wasn’t that effective – instead, I tried to just stand in the sun to get some extra warmth. It wasn’t long before Cary and Justin’s family arrived on the scene, and I gratefully let Justin’s brother do the talking in trying to gain access to the medical tent. The rest of the family thanked me for all I had done in getting Justin to the finish line (which of course made me feel awful that he was now ill), and chatted with me about the race.

While waiting, I realized that neither Justin nor I had received medals – we had exited the finish area right over the line, way before we reached the volunteers handing out medals. Knowing this would be important to Justin, I headed back to the finish line to try to procure a medal for each of us. I was a bit worried about how to do this, since I knew that just going up to a volunteer and asking for two medals wasn’t likely to fly, since they wouldn’t have the authority to flout the rules and give me two, even though my excuse about Justin being in medical was true. Instead, I opted for the stealth approach – I took one medal, kept it in my hand and then buried my hand in the folds of my heat sheet, then went to another volunteer to get a second medal around my neck. Done! And had the added bonus of giving me a rush from my trickery, even though I really wasn’t doing anything wrong by getting a medal for Justin. I hadn’t counted on the difficult part of my covert operation being getting back to medical, but swimming upstream in the sea of runners turned out to be tough, particularly with volunteers all telling me I had to turn around and couldn’t go back to the finish. Again, though, I found an easy solution – just keep going, ignoring the volunteers trying to correct me, and go where I needed to go.

When I got back to the medical tent, Justin’s brother had just returned from the tent. We learned that Justin was fine – just dehydrated, as Justin had tried to tell us. It would still be a little while before he was released, but at least we knew he would be okay.

In the meantime, I engaged in a bit of star spotting: Ryan Sutter (from the Bachelor) was emerging from the medical tent with his wife, Trista. Ryan had run the marathon (and, I learned later, finished with a super speedy time of 3:20) and apparently had been admitted to the medical tent after his own finish – guess that’s just the thing for celebrities to do πŸ™‚ He looked okay when I saw him though, and he and Trista seemed pretty happy with his finish. I debated approaching them, fan-like, but decided not to embarrass myself in front of Justin’s family by being all star struck!

My mom was soon calling to let me know that she was nearing the Upper West Side and would be at our post-race restaurant soon. Cary and Justin’s family had been encouraging me for a while to leave so I could get warm (they had been generously offering me the shirts off their back up till then!), and I finally took them up on it and headed out. I made Cary promise to call me with an update as soon as they actually got to see Justin.

Getting out of the marathon was, as usual, the worst part of the whole experience. The NYCM organizers always make you walk another mile at the end to get your drop bag (even if you don’t have a drop bag) and food (even if you don’t want their Gatorade and half-frozen plain bagel, which is all they offer). Luckily, since I was coming out of the medical area, I got a police officer to escort me through the special secret exit that was around 72nd St – saving me about an hour of being penned in with the cattle herd. I quickly made my way to Calle Ocho, where I was having my post-race celebration.

And what a post-race celebration it was! For those of you who don’t live in NYC, Calle Ocho is a Cuban restaurant that’s known for their all-you-can-drink sangria bar. Brunch entrees are $15-20, and include access to the sangria bar, which has about eight different flavors of sangria for you to mix and match. I held court at my big corner booth with my friends and family, getting lots of attention and congratulations from others in the restaurant, who couldn’t believe that I had run the marathon and was now drinking glass after glass of sangria. Come on, people, that’s how I roll! Though I suppose I did look a sight – still in my race outfit, bib attached, medal on – and a massive goblet of sangria in hand πŸ™‚

As it started to get dark out, it became time to head back to my apartment and get cleaned up. I had thought that Justin’s after party would be canceled, given that he had gotten sick after the race, but when Cary called with an update on his status, she assured me it was still on. Yikes – that meant I only had a short time to shower, change, and get over there!

I didn’t know whether it was casual or dressy, so I wore some cute dark jeans, a going-out top, and my NYC Marathon t-shirt over the top – figuring I could always take the t-shirt off and be in a slightly nicer outfit. When I got to the hotel for the after party, I was glad I had made that decision – people were dressed up as though going to a cocktail party! At the coat check, I quickly stripped out of my t-shirt before people could see my outfit faux pas. There – all set πŸ™‚

The party was a blast! A lot of people wanted to meet me and talk to me about the race, which was really neat, and so many were in awe of my accomplishments.

I was approached by the head of the charity for which we were raising money, who thanked me for all my hard work in fundraising and in getting Justin to the finish line; I also received accolades from Justin’s family and Stephen, Justin’s trainer. I got to meet David Waldstein, the reporter who had written the amazing article in the New York Times about me.

And perhaps most exciting of all, I got to meet Justin’s agent – who gave me his card and told me he’d love to represent me! Wow. I don’t know exactly what he would “represent me” for, but that’s definitely something to follow up on.

Halfway through the event, Justin came out and gave a speech thanking everyone for their support – and calling me out for helping him get to the finish. The entire room of people applauded for me, and I felt so special – how neat to get recognized like that. The highlight of Justin’s speech, for me, was having Justin read out the text message he had gotten from Roddick: “Well done, Sir. Send me wiring instructions.” Take that, Roddick!

I stayed for another cocktail or two, but honestly, I was exhausted – it had been a long day! It seemed Justin was pretty tired too, as the party didn’t last as long as I feared. Instead, we said our goodbyes around 10pm, and I got one more quick pic with Justin before I left.

All in all, a very successful race and pacing experience! Now… who has some celebrity connections and wants to hook me up for round 2? Perhaps, as was suggested to me by many people over the course of the evening, I can make pacing/training my new job πŸ™‚

Race stats:
Distance: 26.2 miles
Time: 4:09:57
Pace: 9:32
Overall place: 18185/44704
Gender place: 4199/16,043
Age group place: 804/2621


11 thoughts on “Race Report: New York City Marathon (Part 3)”

  1. This is awesome! Maybe you can call on Justin’s agent to “represent you” for more people to pace. Surely he has other clients who need to run marathons with you!

    Congrats! Really enjoyed reading this report. πŸ™‚


  2. I am finally getting around to reading this race report. I love all the detail–just like I was there with you.

    Great job on another marathon. I can’t imagine pacing someone you don’t know all that well. I paced my friend, but I run with her every day and know exactly when I can push her and when to pull her back. It sounds like you did a great job figuring out just what he needed.

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