Today was the official first day of training for the New York City Triathlon! I am participating through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT) and the first team workout was held this morning at Central Park. I had already committed to a half marathon in Flushing Meadows, Queens so as bummed as I was to miss the first team workout, I figured a half marathon is a pretty good workout by itself, so I should be fine!
I had been sick for over a week and still wasn’t feeling great when I woke up this morning, and there were many times throughout the morning when the thought of not running crossed my mind: when I overslept, when I couldn’t stop coughing, as I was taking a shot of DayQuil, when I realized that there was no 7 train service in Manhattan so I’d have to take 3 different subways to get to the starting line, when I realized I had left my earbuds at home, as I stood freezing at the starting line.
I mean, most of why I do races in the first place is for the swag and the pre-run carbing, and I already had the t-shirt and had eaten a ton of pasta alla vodka and bread last night so, really, I could just turn around and go home, right?
Wrong. I am super competitive and this race was going to get run, damnit. (I just needed that DayQuil to kick in.)
Ok, so the Star-Spangled Banner was sung, runners took their marks, and off we went. Slow and steady. And without music. Yikes. I tend to start races too fast, so I made sure I was aware of my pace. It was actually easier without my race music, which is usually an embarrassing playlist or a show tunes station on Pandora (seriously). Usually during half marathons I am ok until around mile 8 when I hit a wall for about a mile or so and then get re-energized by mile 10. Today, I felt it by mile 3. This was going to be a long race. But I was strangely aware of my thoughts during the race, which are usually cancelled out by my playlists.
There was some repetition in the race and just before the 3rd mile mark was the sign for the 8th mile mark. Those evil race SOBs, I thought. God, I wish I was on mile 8 already. My mom always told me not to wish my life away, but would it really be that bad to wish for it to be about 45 mins, even 30 mins, into the future so this race could be over faster? There were people already walking, and I noticed a guy in a green Air Force 1/2 marathon tee shirt on the side of the course. Poor guy – I wonder how he did in that half. I don’t typically walk during races – like I said, I am competitive and in my warped mind walking is just the same as giving up. I started to think about the teenager in the paper the other day who died after a half marathon. I can’t die today. My desk at work is a mess and I don’t want my coworkers cussing me out as they go through everything. Maybe I could allow some walking today. (Not until at least halfway through though, I told myself.)
Not long after mile 3 there was a band playing. Hey boys. I couldn’t let them know I was already struggling, so I straightened myself up and smiled as I ran past them. Don’t ask me what they were playing or if they were any good. I wasn’t really paying any attention.
More running…. over a bridge…. through some mud…. in front of lots of cheering spectators with signs. I didn’t know anyone in the crowd, but I sure wasn’t going to let them know I was struggling either. So I ran by them and soaked in their cheers, like they were all there for me. That’ll really get you motivated.
Hey! There’s Air Force 1/2 Marathon guy again! We were near mile 6 and he was jogging with a cute blonde in a pink shirt. Pale pink, not obnoxious pink. “So Megan, where are you from?” Air Force asked Pink Shirt. What?! They’re going to run with each other and help each other out? That’s adorable – they’re adorable. I hope they get married. I made a mental note to check in on their budding romance later, but for now I was going to pass them – I had found a groove and I needed to keep it going for as long as possible.
It didn’t last too long. Soon I found myself looking for shortcuts and wondering if I would be able to cut out a few miles. Would anyone know? Would anyone stop me? Would I be able to look my friends in the eyes when they asked me how I did? I decided today wasn’t the day for cheating, and I kept chugging along.
Mile 7: the drumline. It was music to my ears. Literally. All of a sudden a high school marching band drumline started playing that was reminiscent of New Britain High School’s drumline back in my day – and if you know anything about NBHS and the Golden Hurricane Marching Band, you know what I mean. Yessss! The drums thumped in my chest. They don’t have any glockenspiel players. What drumline doesn’t have bells? I contemplated volunteering and showing them what a little bell action could do for their cadences, but no – I had a race to finish. The band’s color guard and dancers were there, too. Are they twerking? Are they old enough to be twerking? I sound old. Look at them go! I wonder what school they are from. Water station up ahead – thank God.
I reached out to grab water, and saw that I had been handed Gatorade. Gross – it’s lemon. I hate lemon Gatorade. Oh well, I guess beggars can’t be choos – oh god this is delicious. Who knew yellow could taste so good. Delicious electrolytes.
Back around to Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. I wonder if anyone famous is playing now. I wish it was time for the US Open. Only 5 months to go. Maybe I’ll get to meet John McEnroe this year. Maybe he’s here NOW!! Papa, can you hear me?! Some guy on the sidelines gave me a high five.
Mile 8! This is where I wished I was before! I have to confess that I walked a bit here. I didn’t want to, but I had to. But the band was around the next bend, so I quickly picked it up to show them that I still had it. Because I’m sure they were wondering. Right?
Back around to the bridge, where a girl on a megaphone was being extra cheery and motivational and annoying right at its base. “You can do it! It’s only uphill for a short time! Y’all got this!” So cheerful. I bet she couldn’t run a half marathon. If it was so easy, why isn’t she doing it? Someone needs to take that megaphone away fro- “Hey girl – I love your running pants!! Best pants of the race!!”, she bellowed through the megaphone, looking directly at me. Awww, she is so nice. I love her. Thank you, Douglas, for getting me such awesome pants for Christmas!!!
Made it over the bridge and got to another water station. I hope they have yellow Gatorade!
Ok, I got this. It’s almost over. Are those cows?! Did I miss that the first time around? How does anyone miss a field of cows?! Queens is weird. I started walking again here to open a protein bar and take a couple of bites. I wished that I had Gatorade energy chews, which I usually have during long runs, but I forgot to go to the store yesterday.
Mile 11: There’s Air Force and Pink Shirt!! They were walking together and talking. I wonder if they’ll have a race themed wedding. It’s a beautiful day and love is in the air! And then I got super dizzy. Lightheaded. Blackness creeping in from my peripheral vision. Uh oh – maybe I should walk. I had some more of my protein bar and wondered what Air Force and Pink Shirt were talking about.
“GO, MEREDITH!!!”, I heard from the sidelines. What?! Someone came to cheer me on? I looked around and saw faces of strangers waving to another girl, presumably also named Meredith. How dare another Meredith run this race!
Cute guy up ahead!!! I picked up the pace so he wouldn’t think I was a slacker. He wasn’t in the race, just a guy walking on the side of the road. As I got closer he smiled and reached out for a high five. His hands are super soft. Wait, he is saying something to me. What? How many miles are left? I was tired – I couldn’t even remember what mile I was on. “I don’t even know”, I told him and I ran on. Ugh, so stupid.
Now we’re in the home stretch, and I just want it to be over. The next mile and a half went something like this: So close. I can do this. That girl has great hair! I wonder what kind of conditioner she uses? Do I hear Bon Jovi? Awesome. Does that guy have ‘sticky sweet’ written across the back of his shorts? I wonder if he is a Def Leopard fan. Pour Some Sugar on Me is probably one of the most popular stripper songs. I wonder which is more popular – that one or She’s My Cherry Pie. I haven’t heard of Brett Michaels in a while – I hope he’s doing alright.
I started to slow down to a walk just before mile 13. I was coughing. My hips were burning. My ankle hurt. I wanted to be done. “Come on girl, you can do it. We’re almost there.” said a guy running near me. You know what, Orange Shirt – I CAN do it. And I did – sprinting at the end to beat a girl at the last second like some Olympic sprinter. (Apparently being tired doesn’t make me any less competitive.)
I got my medal, grabbed a bottled water, poppy seed muffin and a banana, and headed toward the train. 7 to the N to the 6 (because the 7 wasn’t running in Manhattan, remember?). I found out that the uptown 6 also wasn’t running. While on the train, I ate my food, texted some people to let them know I was alive, and wondered what happened to Air Force and Pink Shirt.
So what did we learn today? That the MTA sucks on the weekends. (But we already knew that.)
Tomorrow will be an easy day. Just a ballet class in the afternoon and resting for a week of more running, swimming, and some boxing. I’ll be triathlon ready in no time!!