JFK 50 Miler

Nov 9th, 2010 - Training - Tewksbury, MA - 4

Day 313 - Every once in awhile on this blog I like to post someone else's race story, with or without their permission. In this case, I got Lauren's permission to re-post her adventures before, during, and after her first NYC Marathon.

A little background.

Lauren joined the Masssoles this past year at RTB and proved her Masssoles worthiness by kicking total ass. She also recently qualified for Boston 2011 with a fantastic run at Bay State, paced by none other than SpeedyKittyKat herself.

I guess Lauren felt like she had to pay it forward at NYC.

Without further ado, I give to you Lauren's write-up of her experience at NYC 2010.

November 5th

It was a typical Friday. I had picked up Max and Hannah from school and we were playing at the park up the street. I kept looking at my watch waiting for 5:00. I was leaving work early to head back to Acton and catch a 5:30 limo out to Logan. The time finally came and I was on my way. As I tried rushing back to Acton I got caught up in some typical route two traffic. I pulled in at 5:35, gave my parents a hug, jumped in the limo and headed to Logan.

I got through all the airport nonsense and headed toward my gate. There I found Bill. Bill is a friend of my friend who I had never met prior to this trip. It was Bill who had given my name to a friend and got me into the race. We chatted at the airport and throughout the plane ride. He told me that he thought I was a little nutty and I just knew we were going to get along great and have an awesome weekend. We landed in La Guardia where a limo driver greeted us. The driver was actually holding one of those signs you see in the movies. The sign was all fancy and read “Liuzzo,” in big bold letters. I was so excited. I asked if I could keep the sign and both Bill and the driver thought I was weird. But I did get to keep it! Bill and I climbed in the limo and headed out to the Ritz Carlton on Central Park South. The place was a palace. Both Bill and I were giggling as we checked in and headed to our rooms. We just couldn’t believe where we were. My room was on the 15th floor and as soon as I walked in my jaw dropped to the floor. It was unbelievable.

After exploring the room for a few minutes, Bill called and asked if I wanted to take a walk in Central Park. At about 10:00 we headed out for a walk. The entire time we were going back and forth about the rooms. “Did you see the chocolates on the pillow?” “Did you see the size of the shower and tub?” “Did you see the phone next to the toilet?” Yes. There was a phone next to the toilet. In fact, my room had four phones. Why someone would need four phones in one hotel room is beyond me. Ridiculous. After a nice walk we headed back in and headed to bed. We knew we had a long day in front of us.

November 6th

The next morning I woke up at about 8:00. Shortly after, Bill called. He told me that I needed to go to room 307 to get some information about the trip. Bill met me on the 3rd floor and we headed over together. There we found Julie, the woman who planned this entire trip. Here she handed us marathon gear and a schedule for the weekend. She handed me a duffel bag with a marathon jacket, winter headband, gloves and a water bottle. It was amazing. Who doesn’t love free running gear? The best was yet to come. As we were walking out, Julie called us back and offered us tickets to the matinee showing of Wicked. Both Bill and I had family plans, but we couldn’t pass up a free Broadway show so we took the tickets. We were ecstatic. We decided to grab breakfast together and then head to the expo to get our race packets. We walked through the city and got to the expo. The place was a zoo. People were everywhere and you had to go through so many stupid stations just to get your damn number. We made it out pretty quickly and headed back to the hotel.

As I walked into the Ritz lobby I found the Nagels (my Godfather, Jan, his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Katherine). I hadn’t seen them in four years and it was a must to see them during this visit. They live in the city and it was awesome to have them come by for coffee and tea at the Ritz. We sat together and caught up on the past four years. Jan has been getting into running and expressed his interest in running with me. He is running the Houston Half Marathon in January and invited me out for that. He also expressed interest in finding races in Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota together. Knowing that I have the goal of completing a race in every state, he knew that I would instantly be interested. Before I knew it, our tea was finished and it was time to head over to Wicked.

Bill was enjoying a lunch with his family so I found him at the Ritz restaurant and we headed out together for the show. Back out into the city we went and we headed to the theater district. The whole way we were just so giddy about seeing the show. Bill had never seen a show on Broadway so he was glowing with excitement. We got to the theater just in time and found our seats IN THE 6TH ROW!

We were so close to the stage that we could see the spit coming out of actors mouths as they sang. It was incredible. I had been to shows before but never had the chance to experience one so close before. It was unbelievable. Both Bill and I were a mess as we found ourselves crying like babies during the show. We left the theater and headed back to the hotel. I was bouncing with every step back because the day had already been so amazing and it was only 4:00. We got back to the hotel and I found my mom, dad and little brother, Jake. They had just visited with the Nagels and stopped by the hotel for a quick visit. In about 15 minutes I told them about everything I had done so far and gave them a quick tour of my room. Jake was fascinated with the extravagance of the room that I don’t think he had heard one word I had said. He also helped himself to the $16 bag of gummy bears that was out on a tray by the mini bar in the room. They couldn’t stay long as they had to leave and head to the Bronx to see my Aunt and Uncle for dinner.

I was ok with that as my boyfriend, Keith, showed up right as my parents were leaving. Keith rode into the city in style. He took the Fung Wah Bus. I barely had a chance to say hi to Keith before we realized we had to head to dinner. The group I was with had rented out the hotel restaurant for a pre-race dinner. Keith and I made our way to the dinner where we found amazing food. I ended up eating a huge plate of salad and macaroni and cheese. Everyone says to stay away from dairy before a marathon, but I didn’t care. It was the best macaroni and cheese I had ever had. We enjoyed our dinner and Keith took advantage of the open bar. We noticed it was getting late so we decided to call it a night and head up to the room. As we were walking out we couldn’t help but run outside as we heard fireworks. Right over Central Park was a fireworks show and it was beautiful. We went for a short walk through the park and the headed to bed.

November 7th (Race Day!)

Filled with anxiety for what was to come in the morning I didn’t sleep too well. I tossed and turned all night and before I knew it I was getting a 5:00 wake up call and a weather update. It was a nice 34 degrees the voice on the other end exclaimed. Even though my start wasn’t until 10:10 I was already anxious. I put on my race outfit and got my stuff together to head out. You can check clothes and belongings at the start, but to avoid all the chaos I decided to bring stuff that I wouldn’t need to keep. I was pretty stylish in my navy blue Joe Boxer sweat suit that my mom found in the boys department of Kmart. I didn’t care. It kept me warm and I would drop it at the start where it could be donated to someone who needed it.

I found Bill in the hotel lobby and we climbed into a limo that was taking us to the charity bus. The charity bus was across the street. We could have walked to the bus faster than the limo took us there. Oh well. We climbed aboard the bus where we found all the other runners running for The Boston Children’s Hospital. Bill and I didn’t know anyone as we were staying with a different group of people. We sat together and soon we were on our way to Staten Island. The ride took forever and the traffic was crazy. I couldn’t complain. The bus was warm and I had over four hours before I had to think about the start of the race.

We got dropped off at the start village and the place was nuts. Walking in with Bill I couldn’t help but notice orange hats everywhere. Further into the village and there was an abundance of orange and pink hats. They were Dunkin Donuts hats that were being given out. I really wanted one but couldn’t find one anywhere. I was sad for a moment and then I realized that there would probably be about 8353049 Dunkin Donuts hats being tossed on the bridge and along the course. I quickly forgot about the stupid hats.

So, Bill and I found our charity tent where we ate bagels and sipped on water and Gatorade. It was freezing out and the tent was packed with people. Someone asked me if she could write my name across my singlet for me. It ended up being a fantastic idea as I received tons of shout-outs along the course because of it.

Time was going by quickly so Bill and I made a quick bathroom stop and headed to our corrals. Bill was in the orange group and his starting area was right by our tent. I was in the blue group and it was about a mile walk to the damn corral and there were so many people wandering around. I made my way through the crowds and found a nice cozy spot in corral #24. It was only 9:30 and I still had 40 minutes until the actual start. So again more waiting.

I have always been a Chatty Cathy so I immediately started chatting it up with the guy next to me. He was about 7 feet tall and I felt pretty tiny next to him. We started talking about the usual- where we are from, running experience, how we got into the race, etc. Within 30 minutes of knowing the guy I said, “I really have no game plan for this race, so if you would like a running buddy at the start we can run together!” He looked at me funny and said, “Yeah sure?” At that point I thought he was going to run away from me, but there were so many people in such a tight space he really had no escape. We continued chatting away and soon everyone started slowly walking forward.

We were walking to the actual start (that was another mile away). This was his chance to get away, but oddly enough he was still at my side. We got to the real start and we could see the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. We were there! And in 10 minutes we would be off! We waited and waited and then came the sound of the gun. We all moved as a single unit towards the starting line with Frank Sinatra sending us out with “New York, New York.” Instantly I had chills. Seconds from the starting line I found out this guy's name was Matt and together we crossed the starting line on to the bridge. The journey had begun!

Now I could give you a step by step description of the race as every step was exciting and memorable, but I will try to limit myself to the most inspiring, breath-taking, and unique moments.

Mile 1

We started out on the bridge and this incredible feeling came over me. There were people EVERYWHERE! People to my right, my left, and people below me. I was one tiny head in a sea of thousands of heads. So many different people coming together with one common goal. I had the chills and goosebumps the whole way over the bridge and I had a feeling it would be a common occurrence throughout the entire race.

Mile 2

To “avoid congestion” the course has three different starting routes. After the bridge each group goes off into different direction. At mile 2 all three groups come back together. Three humongous groups of people coming from 3 different streets all pooling into one main road! What a crazy sight to see! Yes, I got the chills. Think of the movie Volcano where the volcano explodes and lava engulfs the city. Except here there is no lava, just a never-ending flow of running bodies. (While it was really awesome to seem, I do think that trying to avoid congestion in this race is a lost cause considering it’s congested THE ENTIRE COURSE! I never stopped weaving through people.)

Mile 6

Weaving in and out of people Matt and I came to a group that truly inspired us. We saw a circle of neon yellow shirts, and in the middle was a blind runner. With a guide on either side of him helping him along this blind man was running the streets of New York. Not to mention he had a smile from ear to ear. Matt and I were in awe of this man. Every day I go for a run and take what I have for granted. Here was a man without vision cruising along in a sea of other people. I had chills for about a mile after seeing him. And I still get chills just thinking about him now!

Mile 9

Throughout Brooklyn you could feel the energy change as you moved through the city. There were so many different ethnic neighborhoods and each neighborhood had its own personality and energy. The most unique neighborhood was in Williamsburg that is primarily populated with Hasidic Jews. As we came through the neighborhood the streets were full of spectators. The only difference- they were pretty much silent. They stared and smiled but barely cheered.

Mile 13.1

We were exactly half way and Matt was still at my side. We were moving at a pretty good pace. Fast enough to feel it but slow enough to take in every bit of the experience. It was comfortable. Since we had made it through the half together I turned to him and said, “I now have a goal for this race. I am going to cross the finish line with you.” Matt smiled and decided that that was a great goal and we continued on running and smiling.

Mile 15

We were about to leave Queens and head into Manhattan for the first time. There was one obstacle in our way- a heinous bridge. We stepped onto the Queensboro Bridge and instantly I hated it. There were no spectators. It was silent. It was a terrible incline. Tons of people started walking. There were cars driving above us and all you could hear was the roar of cars moving above. It was dark and ugly. I turned to Matt and said, “This is so ugly, long and terrible,” and he agreed. A man ahead of me heard my sniveling, turned around and said, “Honey, look to your left.” I turned my head and again the chills returned. There was a gorgeous view of the city. The sun was shining and the sky was blue and it was a breath-taking image. Any ounce of negativity in my brain disappeared and I was beaming! Both Matt and I smiled and felt our pace pick up. We made it over the bridge and there we were on 1st Avenue greeted by thousands of spectators! (Chills of course)

Mile 16

The Nagels and my parents were going to be at mile 16 so I kept my eyes open. There were so many people that I was getting dizzy from scanning the faces for my parents. I finally heard a group of voices shouting my name and I found them. I ran over and gave them a group hug. These chills were now accompanied with teary eyes. I was on cloud nine, loving the race and still had another 10 miles to savor.

Mile 18

I started to feel a little tired and my energy was waning. I hadn’t had any sort of fuel and I could feel it. We ran through the fuel station and I grabbed a fulsome Gu and choked it down. That stuff is disgusting. Both Matt and I wanted to vom but we kept plugging away.

Mile 19

With a little more than a 10k left to go a familiar face popped up in the race. I found Nathan. Nathan left his timing duties and jumped into the race and ran with Matt and I. He found me probably at my worst point and of course all I did was complain to him. I think half my complaints weren’t even true or were just really exaggerated. I say this because it only lasted about a mile before I was recharged and full of energy again.

Mile 20

My Grandma lives in the Bronx and that’s where my Dad grew up. I was so excited to be running through my Dad’s old digs, but I was sadly disappointed. The race only dips into the Bronx for about a mile and there was NO ONE there. I mean really Bronx? You need to get your weight up!

Mile 22

With about 4 miles left my energy level was only increasing. I was getting excited and my pace kept increasing. I cannot say the same for Matt. As I kept moving forward he kept fading back. I told him I would finish with him and that was my sole goal for the race. So for the next 4 miles I ran back and forth to make sure he was there. Nathan thought I was nuts as one moment I would be moving forward and the next I was running against the current to find the purple shirted stranger giant that I had only met less than four hours earlier.

Mile 23

We were in Central Park!! We had made it to the park and I was ecstatic. The finish was so close, the spectators were so loud and my energy level just kept increasing. The further I went the more excited and energetic I became. Every time Matt saw me running back towards him you could tell he was in pain but he squeezed out a smile! I also so my family again and again more hugs, more chills, and more tears!

Mile 25

We turned down Central Park South and we were running down passed the Ritz. Throughout the race people would yell my name as it was written across my singlet, but Central Park South was where it really got exciting. I made my way to the left side of the road where all the spectators were. One person yelled my name and I jumped and cheered and gave a few fist pumps! Seeing my energy gave them energy and like a ripple effect I was creating a roar of cheers down the whole street! The excitement was like nothing I had ever felt before. Tears were streaming down my cheeks and a foolish grin never left my face.

Mile 26

At this point Nathan was spotted without a number and taken out by a sniper up in the Trump Tower. I turned back one more time and found Matt. The finish was so close and we were crossing it together. We were both grinning like idiots and for the last .2 we ran side by side- just like we started! We crossed the finish line together and ended with a big stranger hug!

The race was over! We got our medals together and took our finisher photo together! Matt stopped to dry heave for a bit and then we moved along. He thanked me for helping him through and told me that he wouldn’t have made it to the finish without me. Knowing that I helped him through gave me a better feeling than any time could. We finished in 3:44 and I didn’t care at all (I am pretty sure I tacked on an extra half mile)! I had a once in a lifetime experience and I would never trade it for a PR!

So Matt and I finished but not really. A wise man (BS) warned me about the ridiculous finish. After you cross through the finish you have to walk about a mile further into Central Park. And in my case it was away from the Ritz. So we walked and walked and walked and walked and finally made it out. Matt and I hugged and then went separate ways! (I had known the guy for probably 4.5 hours and in that time we hugged, cried, shared backwashed water, blew snot rockets on each other and shared an unbelievable experience.)

I made my way down Central Park West and found Keith! I was so happy to see him first as I didn’t seem him at all during the race, even though he says he saw me! I gave him a big sweaty hug and started to tell him all about the race. We continued walking and found my family and the Nagels.

We headed back to the Ritz together. We stopped on a corner and I just kept blabbing about the race. I was going a mile a minute trying to tell them everything about what I had just seen and done. A woman came up to me and asked if she could interview me about the race. She said she was writing for the Caribbean Post in the Bronx. Totally random. She asked me the weirdest questions but I was full of excitement so I didn’t care, and honestly I can’t even remember what I talked to her about. I guess I will have to wait for the post to come out.

After she left we continued our trek back to the hotel. The streets were mobbed and all the roads were closed off so it must have been a three-mile walk before we got back to the hotel. It was a pretty miserable walk but I didn’t mind I was still beaming with excitement. With the walk to the corral and the start and the walk from the finish through the park and to the hotel I am pretty sure I tacked on an extra 5 miles. No Joke.

On the way back we said goodbye to Katherine as she had to head to the library to study. I got back to the hotel and took a quick shower. Our checkout time was 4:00 and we didn't get back to the hotel until 3:30. So I showered and packed and headed back to the lobby to checkout. My parents and Jake had to leave because my grandma was waiting for them in the Bronx.

So there were some more hugs and then they left. Jan, Nancy and Keith stuck around for the post-race party. The group that I was with was throwing a party up in suite 307, which by the way was about 8 rooms long! There I indulged in some more delicious macaroni and cheese and some gourmet chicken fingers. I can never eat a lot after a race so I ate what I could. We mingled with others at the party and I had a chance to share my story with some runners and non-runners.

Julie tried to get Keith a seat on the plane home but it was too full. He had a ticket for a bus ride back and he had to head to Chinatown in order to make it. At the same time the Nagels decided that they needed to head out as well. As we were about to leave Bill pranced in as happy as a clam! He had just finished his race and exclaimed that he had had a blast. As he reached into his jacket pocket he pulled out a pink Dunkin Donuts hat! He had picked one up for me on the bridge and carried it the whole way! As he left to shower I walked the Nagels and Keith out.

I said my goodbyes and gave out some hugs. It was so wonderful to have my family there for support and it meant a lot to be able to share the experience! I headed back upstairs and found Bill. We shared stories of our race and were just filled with joy and excitement. Before we knew it we had to leave for the airport. Arriving at the airport Bill and I found out we would be flying into Hanscom in a seven passenger private jet!

The flight lasted 30 minutes and we landed in Concord. We said goodbye, there were more hugs and we jumped in our limos and headed home. The weekend was just amazing from beginning to end. I am so grateful for everyone that could share it with me and everyone who made it possible!

Editor's Note: Lauren, you're running with me at my next marathon, and it's going to be in Hawaii. Book that private jet now! Nice job, girl!

1 comment:

  1. FULSOME!! Hahah

    Laur, great write up!! Hopefully we can have an amazing run like this together one day!!