As I alluded to in my posts / tweets during the week, the night before my 60K, I was terrified. No, this wasn’t my first ultra, but my previous one was only 33 miles (covered as part of a 6 hour race) and it was smack dab in the middle of my 50 states, when I’d say I was in peak marathon shape. This time around, I was going to have to add an extra 11 miles to what I normally run – which at a 10:00 pace would be close to another two hours of running!
Furthermore, the 6 hour course was almost pancake flat, while I would be doing this ultra in the hills of Central Park. The planned course had us skipping the Harlem Hills (whew!), but the 102nd Street transverse that we were supposed to take to avoid the upper part of the park had been closed ever since Hurricane Sandy – there were too many downed trees. In fact, two friends on Twitter confirmed for me that morning that the transverse was still closed. Were they going to change the course and have us run the Harlem Hills? I hoped not! (Because obviously I’m brave enough to run a 37 mile race but heaven forbid there be hills!)
I was working from home on Friday, but instead of working standing at my kitchen counter or on my mini stepper, I worked from bed, with my feet propped up on a pillow. Comfy! I also splurged on getting lunch delivered instead of cooking, mostly because I wanted to carb up on delicious delicious naan bread, and while I can make the rice and chana masala myself, I don’t know how to make naan. (Something tells me it involves a lot of butter, so perhaps I am better off not knowing.) And since delivery in NYC is quick and cheap ($9 for bread, rice, entree, and tip!), I didn’t have to feel too guilty about not cooking.
That night, I wanted to do something very low-key, but I also was up for a little more than just staying in. BF and I decided to meet up in midtown for Thai, and then call it an early night and go home to watch a movie after. However, I inadvertently picked a BYOB place for dinner, and the wait for a table gave me plenty of time to head to the wine shop across the street and pick up a bottle. While I had sworn off drinking in preparation for the race, I was getting more and more nervous as the actual event approached… and by 8pm, BF saw my nerves and shakiness and suggested that having a glass of wine might not be such a bad idea, if it would calm me down and help me relax. However, the glass I poured ended up being quite large, and that ended up being all it took to get me quite tipsy. Not quite what I had in mind for my pre-race prep, but on the plus side, it did help me get to sleep easily at 10pm. So… blessing in disguise? We’ll see.
Race morning dawned bright and early, and BF opted to get up with me and share my cab to the UES before hopping on the subway for home. Before leaving, though, we stopped by the newly opened (hooray!) Panera on 86th, where I picked up a cup of hazelnut coffee as well as an Asiago bagel and cream cheese. After a big hug and lots of well wishes, I said goodbye to BF – at least until mile 26, where he’d be joining me for a few laps before I headed to the finish.
The race was quickly approaching, but NYRR headquarters was only a few blocks away, so I sipped coffee as I walked and toted my bagel along, to be eaten once I had gotten my bib and gotten settled. I ended up bumping into another runner headed there too, and we chatted along the way. It was his first ultra as well, but he seemed far better prepared than I was – and I continued to worry about what I had gotten myself into. Nothing left to do but go for it at this point, though!
Packet pickup was nice and easy, though I was disappointed to find that only Large and Extra Large t-shirts were left. I usually don’t care about the race t-shirt at all (so many of them are just piled in boxes on top of the bookcase in my room right now!), but I’d be pretty darn proud to wear a shirt for a 60K. Since packet pickup was only available the morning of the race, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d be so late in the game as to not receive the correctly-sized t-shirt… which just made me ponder how annoying it is that race directors over-order the larger sizes. I understand that when supply runs out, smaller people can wear larger sizes, while the reverse isn’t true. But race directors need to realize that runners, especially for something like a marathon or 60K, tend to skew on the smaller side – so there really isn’t a need for such a high percentage of XXL shirts. Nevertheless, I accepted my own large long-sleeved and joked with the volunteers that they ought to tell runners the size choices were just “small large” or “large large.”
It was nice to be able to hang out in NYRR headquarters for warmth, at least until 10 minutes before the race when we all decided it was time to head over to the start. At HQ and also on the walk over, I chatted with some veterans of the 60K who assured me that it wasn’t all that bad. I also met a girl who had planned on running the NYCM, and when it was canceled, signed up for this and planned to stop at mile 26.2. It surprised me that someone would be starting a race they didn’t plan to finish, but after the race, I learned that a lot of people had done just that. (Or at least I assume that is the reason that only about 60% of those who started the race ended up crossing the finish line.)
Since we were doing a loop course and passing the start/finish every four miles, I opted to check a bag with some extra supplies. In it, I packed Clif bars, a skirt (in case my tights got too warm), an extra sweatshirt, extra socks, a different model of sneakers, Vaseline, bandaids, sterilized needles and peroxide (for lancing blisters), etc. It would take some time to get off the course and retrieve my bag, but I figured that if it was such an emergency that I needed some of those things, a minute or two wouldn’t really be a big deal. I had also packed a separate bag for my mom (arriving in NYC midway through the race), which included things I definitely planned on needing – a water bottle and some fully-charged batteries for my phone. My smartphone has had abysmal battery life lately (hmm, do you think the fact that I love Tweeting during marathons has anything to do with it?) and doesn’t seem to get me to the end of a race without dying, so I figured 37 miles might warrant a battery change!
Having dropped off my stuff, I now joined the crowd of runners at the start. The crowd was smaller and friendlier than other NYRR races I’ve done (though I haven’t done one in several years, so I’m not sure if that’s a product of the long distance or changing times), and I took perverse pleasure in the fact that there was one guy nearby who seemed just as nervous as I was. That meant I wasn’t the only inexperienced ultrarunner in this crowd! That made me feel a lot better. Though I had to wonder how experienced the runners were who wore Camelbaks – with two water stops on a four mile loop course, I didn’t see the need to tote around additional fluids. It was going to be hard enough to tote around my own body weight for 37 miles!
As Mary Wittenberg made the pre-race announcements over the PA system, I turned and was shocked to see that she was right in the midst of the crowd of runners, and in fact, standing right next to me. As president of the NYRR and the face of the NYC Marathon, she took a lot of heat for the decision to cancel that race two weeks earlier – and honestly, I was kind of pissed at her for not just canceling the race right from the beginning. But as she stood there making the announcements and smiling reassuringly directly at my scared face, I couldn’t help but be impressed and in awe of her. Strangely enough, I found myself fighting the urge to go fangirl on her: “ZOMG MARY WITTENBERG I LOVE YOU!” Based on that completely strange reaction, I knew that I was still just as terrified for this race as the night before. BF, can you bring a bottle of wine to calm me down again, pretty please??
But before I really had time to contemplate wine, it was time to race. Here we go!