Saturday, November 09, 2019

Sally Reiley's NYC Marathon Racer Story: The Road to an Age Group Podium and PR at The World's Biggest Marathon!

Article by Sally Reiley
My race experience at the NYC Marathon was fantastic. This was my first New York, and I was not sure what to expect, except I knew it would be outside of my comfort zone because of all of the unknowns. Logistics, getting around, how to pack for travel to an away race, where to go at the start village, etc. I was also running solo, with no charity team or group of friends to run with, to take the bus with, etc.
What a FUN race! I love Boston, consider Boston to be a 26.2 mile block party, but NYC was electric and high intensity. There were no silent stretches – even on the bridges you had so many runners with you. The bridges were not as tough as I had been warned to expect – the elevation gains were gradual, the downhills were likewise gradual and thus fast, and there was no strong crosswind or headwind.
Race Morning and Race Gear
The weather was close to ideal for running a marathon, with temps in the high 40s in the morning (43 degrees F as I walked to the midtown bus for Staten Island, possibly low 50s by the finish) and clear skies and winds 5 – 10 mph. I wore shorts (lululemon run times), and a Singlet (Nike Heartbreaker logo), with arm sleeves (Brooks) and calf sleeves (Sigvaris) for warmth, and carried a brand new Lululemon waist belt to hold my gels. No hat, no sunglasses, no music. Of course I wore my cherished Nike Vaporfly NEXT% shoes with Feetures wool socks.
Training & Build Up
My training had gone smoothly for this marathon. I have run the past six Bostons, all in April, and only once before had I run a fall marathon (Chicago 2017). It is definitely easier to get the miles in when the weather is warm and there is plenty of daylight! I trained mostly solo, doing long runs along the coast here north of Boston. That requires more self-motivation. I never ran more than 48 miles in a week, running basically 35 – 45 miles per week over 14 weeks, and I don’t run every day. I cross-trained with tennis one to two days per week, and did strength training at a gym on my own 2x/week. I have had some typical runner’s injuries in the past, but now have learned what my weaknesses and malalignments are, and can strengthen those weaker areas. I know there is some imbalance in my hip flexor/glute/hamstring/adductor chain, which has previously resulted in overcompensation by the hamstring on my right side and thus a hamstring strain (Tendinosis at the ischial tuberosity), so I have been working to strengthen those areas.
I did long runs every weekend, alternating with a 10-12 miler and with a couple of fast 10K races thrown in every few weeks. I planned to race a Half Marathon but never got to. Long runs began at 11 miles in July; 12,15,18 miles in Aug., 17 and 19 in Sept., 12,21, and 17 in October. 10K races as follows in two month period:
8/3/19. Beach to Beacon 10K (Portland, ME). 46:15. 7:24/mi
8/15/19 Saunders 10K (Rye, NH). 46:00 7:23/mi
9/8/19 Salem Road Race 10K (Salem, MA) 45:54. 7:22/mi 
9/22/19 Lone Gull 10K (Gloucester, MA) 46:10. 7:23/mi 
10/4/19 Reebok 10K For Women. (Boston, MA). 45:08. 7:13/mi
I did not have any physical therapy this cycle (yay!) Several months out, I scheduled a sports massage on the Wednesday before the race with Paige at Wellness in Motion, Boston. She’s absolutely an animal - Boy, that HURT so good!
I was assigned Wave 2, Corral A (bib 25686) for the start of this race. This race has pace groups, so I thought it would be fun to try to follow one, but as luck would have it the fastest pace group in my wave was 3:40, and my target was 3:30. I was told at the expo that ”unfortunately the algorithm did not work in your case” Oh well. AS it turned out, I was passing slower runners ahead of me THE WHOLE RACE.
The worst part of the race experience was the morning. I spent the night at the New York Yacht Club at 37 West 44th Street, a very lovely place just blocks away from the NY Public Library. They were very nice there, and even helped me microwave my “overnight oatmeal” in their kitchen at 5am that morning. 
More details on nutrition to follow. I bundled up in Goodwill clothes over my race kit and walked the few blocks to the busses, and was in line by 5:45am. BUT the bus took FOREVER to get to Staten Island (they said to allow 90 minutes), and we did not arrive at the Start Village until 8:10am. About 2 hours, 20 minutes! Once we arrived, everyone made a beeline for the porta-potty lines. That line took 41 minutes! So now it is almost time to make my way to the Orange Wave 2 Corral A for the 10:10am start!
The start is uphill over the Verazzano Bridge. I knew I could not hit my pace for a  while because of the crowds and the elevation, so I just relaxed and started running. They were blaring Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York , which was cool. The views from the bridge as you climbed were amazing! Mile 2 was then downhill, so I found a groove there. The first half of the marathon is then mostly through the borough of Brooklyn. The orange course does not merge with the Blue and Green until mile 8 where I first saw family members.
Wearing your name on your shirt is key: spectators screamed “Go Sally!” all along the course which I find very motivating. Keeps you smiling! 
I told friends to yell my last name to get my attention, and that worked. “Go Mom” doesn’t work!
The course drawback was the congestion: spectator crowds pushed in narrowing the course so at times there were literally bottlenecks. The security was much more lenient along the course than at Boston as well with pedestrians ducking ropes and crossing the course, sometimes impeding the runners (I had a man push a Vespa right into me.)
My pace was steadily between 7:27 and 7:48 per mile for the first 15 miles with the exception of a slower first uphill mile (8:11) and a quicker second mile downhill ((7:01). I had two hiccups: two exits off the course for a port a potty at miles 10 and 17. My suspicion is that a Shalane Flanagan Super Hero muffin is NOT the thing to casually add to your pre-race diet on a whim! Ugh. I foolishly had counted on the promised bananas and bagels at the Start Village, but the long bus ride spurred me to eat the muffin I had thrown in “just in case.” Rookie mistake. Probably cost me two minutes in time not running in those two stops!
My pace slowed in the second half to mostly 7:50 – 8:10 range. I found it challenging to get through the slower runners and the crowds were narrowing the course to a fault. I decided to relax and just keep moving without expending all my energy on moving through the crowd of runners. Runners were struggling toward the end, particularly at about mile 24, which feels like a real hill. Central Park was fun, people yelling wildly. I kept thinking there was a huge incline ahead, but it never materialized, phew.
The finish line was epic! 
But packed with some VIPs and camera crews, right in my way. Once I crossed the line, there was nowhere to move!
I wore the Nike Vaporfly NEXT%, as did SO SO MANY other runners. I have previously run marathons in the Vaporfly 4% OG (Obsidian) and the 4% Flyknit (Scarlet Orange), and I like the Next% by far the best. They feel great right out of the box, are light, cushioned, hold my foot securely, and provide that propulsive sensation that encourages forward movement. For me, they just feel natural when running, and my legs feel fresh even at the end of 26.2. 
Even if the benefit of these shoes is all in my head, they then give me the competitive edge mentally, if not physically. But I wish I had brought my phone so that I could have taken pictures of other runners’ feet: there were pink and green Vaporfly EVERYWHERE, especially as I moved up the field through to the faster runners. American and International, male and female, young and old, the majority of the runners I saw were wearing them. Perhaps the later waves would tell a different story, but they were ubiquitous in my wave. I am NOT willing to try a marathon without them now! 
Post race I have absolutely no hot spots, blisters, or sore toenails, and my leg muscles had only minimal soreness in the calves.
I feel as though I have worked hard and dialed in the nutrition that works for me by now. I have trained myself to eat clean and healthy without being too restrictive. As I approached the race, I was even more disciplined, but still allowed myself to have a great time on a family vacation in Savannah the week before (yes, beer!). I added more carbs to the end of the week (sweet potatoes and roasted vegetables, pasta with chicken and broccoli, etc) and included overnight oatmeal each morning. I am a big fan of the Shalane Flanagan cookbooks – so many good recipes there.  I love the emphasis on real foods.
I have recently experimented with the Maurten gels, which are strongly endorsed by the Heartbreakers Run Team (Boston)  that I am a peripheral part of. They have more the consistency of jello, so they go down easily. I used to practically gag when squirting one of those sickeningly sweet gu’s in my mouth, and then I would need to wash it down with water. The Maurten gel is much more palatable. I followed the Heartbreakers’ suggestion and alternated in two caffeinated gels in the rotation:
20 minutes before start: Reg Gel.
Mile 6: Reg Gel. Mile 12 Caff Gel. Mile 17: Reg Gel. Mile 22: Caff Gel
I drank water at most water stations (each mile) and did NOT drink Gatorade.
I found the Maurten gels easy to ingest and easy on the stomach. The elite athletes are using Maurten: so in my mind, this gives me a little extra confidence, even if it is just the placebo effect (just like the Vaporfly). I carried them in a new Lululemon Fast N Free waist belt that was uber comfortable to wear. It would even hold my iphone 8plus if I ever chose to run with it!
The walk after the finish was LONG. Granted, there were all these crowds of VIPs and photographers and staff at the finish line as I was crossing, just my luck. I couldn’t find space to walk forward! 
I was right next to Meb Keflezighi and said Hi and he gave me a hug! (I have met him on three occasions in Boston.) 
The runners had to walk a ways in the Park, get a heat sheet,a medal, anda recovery bag filled with drinks and snacks. Keep walking.. 
The exit was quite a ways up and many runners were sitting down in the middle of the walkway. 
I had been advised to select the post-race poncho option, so I got to exit the park at the first gate (others who checked bags had to walk farther). Once past the exit, volunteers drape you with nice warm hooded fleece lined ponchos. 
The shuffle then continues to the family meeting areas. I was fortunately not cold (at this point). I did note with amazement that there were no portapotties for the runners ever along this long route. 
So I found my family members, we hopped on a subway, and went to celebrate in the West Village neighborhood! I got a chance to shower in some young friends’ apartment. The beer tasted great!
I was very pleased with my finish time of 3:28:39, which beats my PR set at Boston in 2017 by over one minute.

But I did not know, until the next day,, that I placed Second overall in my Age Group of W60-64! 
My age-graded time was 2:40:35, so let’s just say I ran on OTQ race. I am happy with that!

Sally is a mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past six Boston Marathons and one Chicago, with a 2017 Boston PR of 3:29, good for 8th in her age group. Along the way she has raised over $200,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital running with Team Eye and Ear. A relative newbie to road racing, she has achieved All-American status in the 10K (44:04) and 5K.
Photo Credits: Marathon Foto purchased photos and Sally's family and friends.
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Jeff Valliere said...

Great job Sally, congrats! If not for the muffin induced stops, you may darn well have won your AG. Thanks for sharing.

hole io said...

great races. Wish you all the victory!

Self Help Motivational Blog said...

Loved this article. Many perspective from various people. Great Work and thanks for Sharing…