Graham Ran the 2014 NYC Marathon

(This is a work in progress and not finished yet)

Today marks two weeks since I ran the NYC Marathon.  It was pretty awesome.

I didn’t particularly write about my training and preparation for this race mainly because I didn’t want to stress myself out.  I started training in mid-August a month after I wanted to because of work related travel and vacation time.  So, it was a bit accelerated.  It was mostly always hot, always humid, and I trained almost exclusively on my own, which wound up being both relaxing and great mental prep for the actual race.  I was generally nervous about how fast I had upped my mileage, but after my 20 miler two weeks out, I was confident.

We rented an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, perfect location from everything race related — 10ish block from the finish, not far from the expo — and drove down in the rain on Saturday.  Much like Boston 2012 extreme weather was forecasted, so I had pleanty of time to mentally be ok with it – -this time though, forecast for 40MPH winds as opposed to 90+ degree temperatures.  The whole ride down I dj’d some sick tunes and just tried to keep my mind at ease .  After checking into our Air BNB’d apartment we hit up the expo at the Javits Center.  Massive race expo, efficiently run, but felt very frenetic – -this may have been because it was the final few hours on the last day, but the buzz felt more anxious than excited.

After leaving the expo, we went and hung out at the apartment for bit before having dinner at a restaurant called Bacco di Beppo — great place to carbo load and completely reasonable prices, especially for NYC.  After that, we did a bit of research and headed for cozy beer bar called the Pony Bar and had a few beers before heading back and settling in.

On the topic of settling in, it’s impossible in NYC.  Or at least it was the night before the race.  As my brother in0law put it, he couldn’t tell if NYC is the city that doesn’t sleep, won’t let you sleep, or won’t shut the f up.  Regardless, I had a very restless sleep interrupted often my cheers, screams, pointlessly loud conversations until around 4am, which was perfect because I got up at 4:45.

After having two cups of coffee and a doughnut from Ball Sq. Doughnuts I got geared up, sent for an Uber and was on my way to the Staten Island Ferry.  I only waited a short time from when I got there until when we boarded and the very ride was a great 15 or so minutes until when you arrived on Staten Island.  We quickly boarded buses and drove about another 15-20 minutes to Fort Wadsworth and the staging area.  Everything was effective and efficiently run up until the point.  On arriving in the athletes village there really wasn’t enough room for everybody, at least in the Blue Wave area.  They had taken down some shelter due to the whipping winds, which I understood.  But pretty much any place you tired to sit down someone would come and say you couldn’t sit there.  Once they called our corrals it seems they had given up on this policing.  Once the corrals opened, I headed for mine, which was the last corral for the first wave, and we were supplied without any portajohns, after about ten minutes of deliberation they volunteers moved the corral rope at any angle and allotted us two. We were housed in the corals for well over an our before the start and once we started moving forward there was a shower of clothing from people shedding their layers.

I took off my final layers about 5 minutes before crossing the start line and got my first real taste of the wind — cruel and biting, like when sand whips on the beach and sting.  I started trotting towards the start saw a camera, waved, and then crossed the start line and hit the Verrazano Bridge.  The wind was ridiculous, it was so strong it physically moved me so I kept clipping my heels.  People clothes and hats were flying off of them and alot of runners worked together to pin down clothing before it was whisked away over the bridge.  i had been really looking forward to running over the bridge and seeing the NYC skyline, but to lift my head and get a good look would have been right in the wind and risked blowing my cap off.  So I kept my head down and just kept moving, which became the theme of the rest of the race.

It’s amazing how few memories I have of the race itself.  I remember when the waves all came to together and it reminded me of when the armies clash in Braveheart.  I saw Katie, my sister, and Peter at mile 5 in Brooklyn.  I remember all of the water stops being absurdly hard to navigate.  The hasidic section of Brooklyn was strange. I understand this race is an interruption, but I didn’t get why so many felt the need to go grocery shopping at the very hour of the race and then casually stroll across using baby filled baby carriages to clear the path.  The Queensboro bridge was an endless incline.  First Ave coming off the bridge was pretty awesome, like I had been told.  But, I will say, I think Kenmore during the Boston Marathon would give the decibel level of First Ave a run for it’s money.  I had read that the Bronx would be relatively boring, but to be honest it was my favorite.  The people that were out were awesome – -from the old man who said ‘go on, get outta here – go back to Manhattan where ya belong’ and shooing us with his hand to the girl that seemed on a mission to say everyone’s name.  The dj’s plaing old school hip hop were epic, and when I turned a corner and heard Hip Hop Hooray and all the runners swaying their arms, yeah that was great.

Once back in the city after mile twenty, I just kept going — just kept looking forward. I saw my family at mile 23 and then headed into the park, which I won’t lie, was hard on the legs with all the rolling hills  I didn manage to throw a 7:13 mile in at mile 24 just for good measure.  Heading up to Columbus Circle felt like forever and the deceptively up hill finish was cruel.  But then, then it was over. And yeah, i was in some serious pain, but I had done it!

The exit area, even though I had the no bag options, was very long.  There legitimately minutes, like 5-10 each, between finishing, getting a space blanket, getting your medal, getting a bag with water – - I feel that could have been handled better.  Either way, once i left the park and got my extreme snuggie, cape blanket thing, I made my way over to Lincoln Center, met up with Lara, Katie, and Peter who had a street cart pretzel waiting for me and a coconut water, which were the two things I had been dreaming about since about mile 18.

Back at the apartment…the heat and hot water was out — so I had to use the showers at a nearby NY Sports Club.  On the way there I ran into Meg Reilly on the street, which was pretty awesome on it’s own.  After finally showering and getting home we grabbed a cab over to Alewife, the sister retaurant of Lord Hobo here in Cambridge, which was in Long Island City.  Unfortunately, due to some accident there kitchen had limited food, which was a bummer as I had been dreaming of that burger for quite a while.  We had a few fantastic beers, though, some more pretzels, and got a recommendation for a restaurant up the street called Woodbines, which had incredible burger and an awesome staff.  After that we headed home, and regardless of if there was a carnival or other mayhem going on on the street, fell right asleep.

The next day, we had a breakfast down the street and went to the Empire State building.  It was my first time being there despite having grown up 45 minutes away from the city and is now the tallest structure I’ve been up.  After taking in the views and getting reminded about how windy it was, we had some epic ramen at Ivan Ramen and made our way home.

All in all, NYC was a great marathon experience over a year in the making.  I ran really well considering a shortened training season.  I did not walk once during the whole race and now have a new benchmark of 3:26:09 to use to gauge my improvement for the next marathon…which happens to be Boston 2015!  That’s right, this guy is running for Team Brookline and the Brookline Community Mental Health Center for next year’s marathon.  Check out this link for details:

I really want to thank Katie for dealing with living with a runner, it’s not easy.  To Lara for taking care of some many details that made running NY streamlined.  And for Peter for being the even keel of this crazy family he decided to marry in to.  Looking forward to a better planned training season, albeit a cold one, this winter!

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A Confession, an Apology, and an Amendment to the Rules

Part 1: The Confession

Remember back in June when I denounced those that ran shirtless? I have a confession to make, the past three weekends I’ve been a hypocrite and in the middle of long runs have eschewed my shirt. Once in Vermont when the humidity was like running through a jungle. Once in Hopatcong when it was hot and humid. And then yesterday when it was 90+ degrees and also Amazonian.

Part 2: The Apology

A) sorry for being a hypocrite. But I couldn’t help it ( wait for part 3)
B) sorry for the many who may have seen me from the firehouse on Comm Ave. in Newton all the way to my place on Beacon St. Sorry to the dog walkers, the hungover BC college kids(I hope it wasn’t my monstrous running visage that made you puke into that hedge) the pissy Allston hipsters (not really though), and anyone leaving their temple in Brookline. I looked like a swamp beast and felt like one, too.

Part 3: The Rule Amendment

God blessed me with the genetics of a northman, able to survive cold winters in Europe swinging axes and drinking mead. He may not have envisioned my ilk living in an urban environment and running long distances for fun. Therefore, my amendment is for those who need to run shirtless in order to properly regulate their body temperature on hot and humid days, those of us who ate and drank things that literally put hair on our chests. The rule still stands for all to scrawny dudes (who, side note, yesterday seemed very entitled to be in everyone’s way around the Chestnut Hill Reservoir – choosing to stand in the middle of paths and sidewalks and not move when people came their way) as well as jacked dudes who run like they are show horses auditioning for Baywatch.

All in favor: say ‘aye’

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I ran a beer mile so you don’t have to. But you totally should.

This is what I was going to say last, but I want to say it first – If you want to, you should run one – it’s fun, with friends, and beer! What’s no to like?

This is coming at you a little late. But, the memory is still fresh, like a just popped can of beer.

July Fourth in New Jersey this year wasn’t looking too bangin’. On July third a hailstorm whipped through dropping golf ball, and I mean you could have teed these up and driven them, sized hail and leaving much of the trees in my town looking like they had been napalmed(sidenote: we filled a cooler full of them and used it to chill beer for the rest of the weekend – pretty awesome). Right on the tails of that, violent thunderstorms settled in overnight and brought the forecast of a mostly rainy Fourth.
Fortunately my sister, our friends Rob and Alex, and their intrepid German pointer Emma are the up for anything types, and they were all for a beer mile in the rain. If you don’t know what a beer mile is, check out http://www.beermile.com. But here’s a quick rundown -find a track, buy some beer, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, chug a beer, run a lap, finish. There are some nuances, but that’s basically it.

The morning of the Fourth we packed up the cars, braced ourselves against the weather, bought some beer and headed to my high school track. Katie and Peter were kind enough to stand around in the rain giving us beers, cheer, and watch us do our thing.
I popped the tab on my first beer and chugged away and then headed off on my first quarter mile. – 1:35. I downed beer two pretty well, just a touch slower, and then clocked another solid split – -around 1:45. Beer three took a bit, maybe two minutes to drink – my stomach felt like a percolating broth of frothy beer – which is exactly what it was. However, lap three still wasn’t bad – around 1:45 again. Coming onto the straight away I started feeling the three beers I had had in under 10 minutes hit me and the finish line seemed so very far away, and kind of off kilter. Beer four was a lesson in patience. I’d say it took me 5 or so minutes to get it down, but when I did my throat felt like it was seizing up. I started running and still clocked a decent split, again around 1:45 – I finished overall in about 14 minutes, far short of my great expectations I had had at the start. I crossed the finish line – -traditionally after a long race and hard effort I dry heave – and I could feel this one happening this go around, but…not dry. I’ll let your imagination fill in the rest. The others did not do an ‘official’ beer mile – but they ran and drank beers in the rain, so they’re champions
in my book.

So, here’s the thing – -a beer mile is overall a miserable experience. You feel physically shot and all you did was run a mile and you’ve got a solid buzz on if not being actually drunk. And I immediately swore off doing one again. But, like the allure and challenge of the marathon, now that the pain has subsided, I can imagine doing another – but I’d remember these lessons:

1: Respect the beer, the running is easy – the beer is not.
Sub lesson: Don’t buy a beer known throughout the universe as the “Champagne of Bottled Beers”. That means it’s going to have bubbles, lot and lots of bubbles.
2: I wouldn’t do it at 11am. Then your drunk by noon and it takes a long time to regroup.

Those are actually the only two lessons I have. But, should you be considering this yourself – drink a familiar beer that you know you can drink en masse, don’t experiment. Have a designated driver, or drivers. Run at a track at a time where you’re not going to be bothering the general public or where children will be present. Have water handy. Have mint or gum readily available, you know just in case you spew.

If you’re on Instagram, I highly suggest searching for beer mile pictures, a litany of people vomiting. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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Rules for Road Race Attire

Now that the summer 5K season has settled in here in Boston, I’ve developed a few rules for attire to be worn at local road races.

On the topic of shirts: Much like shirt wearing at concerts, there are several things that must be taken into consideration or done when wearing shirts at local road races. First off, you do not – I repeat, DO NOT – wear the shirt that was given to you at the expo, sign in, or bib pick up. Some may argue it’s because you haven’t earned the right to wear that until you cross the finish line. Me? I just think it’s gauche.

Always wear a race shirt that’s for a race that’s longer in distance than the one you are currently running. This says a few things: 1) that this ain’t your first rodeo and that 2) Even if it’s your worst race, you (and everyone else) know you’re capable of more. For reference– At a 5K, wear a 10K. At a 10K, wear a half marathon. Half Marathon, marathon shirt or 24/200 relay race shirt such as Reach The Beach, Hood to Coast, and sure, Ragnar. At a marathon, done an ultra?-wear your belt buckle.

Shorts: The shorter the better. For men, this means booty shorts. It’s a psyche out move, the less inseam you have, the faster they’ll think you’re going to run.

Singlets: Best left for those repping teams.

Those that run shirtless: I’m convinced this is for two types of people, insecure scrawny cross country runners and jacked dudes who prance in the sunhine so they can watch their chest jiggle. Just shake your head and judge them.

Do not wear a tri-suit. I know this is in the same vein as one-upping with t-shirts. But. Just don’t.

Any other suggestions? Feel free to send them my way!

These shorts say, “you don’t even know.”

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Carnage on the Course: A Post in Three Parts – The 2013 B.A.A. Half

Part One(Where I tell you my tale of Woe):

So, Sunday’s BAA Half Marathon was a bit of a mess. Everything was normal to start. You know, get to the race, get your free stuff. Stand in an inordinately long line for the bathrooms until someone comes along and says line up in front of all of them. Cattle call to the corrals. Star Spangled Banner. Gun. Start running.

Then things got good. I felt great for the first 8.5 miles. The first mile was an unnecessarily fast 6:14 aided by the downhill course. But, after that I settled into a groove of solid mid 6:40s splits setting a new 5 mile and 10K PR in the process. Then, the wheels came off. I started feeling really out of it and I could feel my kidneys morph into throbbing baseballs. So, I did something I’ve never done in a race: I walked. And then I ran and then I walked. And then I ran 2 more miles and then I walked. At one point I even walked with less than a mile to go. If I looked at a reflection of myself during the race, I would have denied it was me. I crossed the finish line on the track and went straight to the medical tent, another first for me. I was the second person to go in, right after Gebre Gebremariam, which puts me literally in elite company. After taking my vital signs and asking me a whole bunch of questions which they later categorized my answers as ‘entertaining’, I was diagnosed with moderate dehydration. They had me stick around for a bit longer drinking lots of water before releasing me. I walked out to wait for Angela at the finish line sporting my snazzy space blanket that people kept asking where I got and I kept answering that it was what they awarded you when you were lucky enough to go to the med tent. But, Angela was not to be found. At almost the exact time that I was leaving the tent, Ang was arriving with an elevated heart rate that she was soon sent to the
hospital for. (She’s fine and back home, nothing serious).

I wound up finishing, even with all the walking with a 1:35:04. After being disappointed I’ve decided to be happy with it. Goals are great. I already nailed my 5K goals for the year along with running so many great races. Once I cross the finish line in Central Park, I’m going to take some solid time off and refocus on what I want to accomplish next year and then do it.

Super Low Quality Image of before I died

Super Low Quality Image of before I died

*Part Two (for those doing Google searches in 2014 and beyond on what the course is like)

Course: The first four miles are almost all downhill. Right before mile one you’re on the bridge on the Arbor Way which has a slight incline and lots of potholes. But, mostly its dead flat going around Jamaica Pond and then downhill to the first turnaround at mile 4.75. It is a sharp turn around. Then it’s a slight incline climb with variable flats until a little after mile 7, at which point the rolling hills roll more up than down. The paths through Franklin Park could use some serious repaving so watch your footing. At the next turn around (sharp turn again), the rolling hills really start to feel tedious. Entering the Zoo is also still at an incline, and then you take a narrow winding path to the top of a hill before you start a slight descent. With about a mile to go, you hit your last long, straight climb before coming within sight of White Stadium, the track, and the finish.

Part Three (Exciting Stuff)!
Lineage Restaurant in Brookline has inadvertantly become the place where my sister and I tell each other things. It wasn’t always this way. We used to just go for dollar oysters. 2 weeks ago I just wanted oysters, so I went there with my sister. But that was the day I decided I was running the NYC Marathon. So I dropped that bomb. This past week my sister lured me there under the guise of ‘just oysters’. I had my suspicions, but hey, dollar oysters. Then she dropped her own bigger bomb: She’s running the 2014 Boston Marathon! Yep, that’s right — my sister. Running. The Boston Marathon. Awesome, right? She’s doing it for out adopted hometown Team Brookline. I couldn’t be more happy for her. It’s going to be a good winter.

And, speaking of marathons and charity, if you’d like to help the Muscular Dystrophy Association when I run NY in, oh, 17 days, just click here!

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Because

What on Earth would possess a person to run 26.2 miles in less than a month? I can’t speak for everyone, but I can speak for myself. Because.

Because is a great motivator. The word ‘be’ on its own is one of the shortest sentences in the English language. Be. It’s almost godlike in its command. And cause. A cause is something to strive for, something to believe in. Put these two together and it’s a beautiful concept.

Gregory Mallory, when asked why he would choose to climb something outrageous like Mount Everest in the 1920′s said “Because it’s there.”

But, back to why a marathon in a month.

Because I want to. Because it’s a challenge. Because, why not? Because I’m crazy. Because you think I’m crazy. Because who cares. Because a marathon is an everyman’s Everest. Because I can. Because I believe I can. Because I know I can.

On November third I’m going to be attacking the five boroughs of New York City. And I can’t wait.

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Just Like Riding a Bike. But Not.

I survived the full 50 miles of the Rodman Ride for Kids. While this wasn’t a race, allegedly a very long charity ride, for me it was an endurance event that ranks up there with some of the most miserable things I’ve done.

But, with two days behind me. You know what? It could have been worse. I had a borrowed bike, a borrowed helmet, a full RaceMenu team kit that made me look like I knew what I was doing out there, I had only one training ride on my legs – so, all things considered I think I fared pretty well.

I woke up super early on Saturday and drove down to Foxborough and fortunately wound up only a few parking spots down from one of the other members of the team. I checked in, had the bike quickly tuned up and then milled around chatting until the start at 9:00. Once we got moving, I felt pretty good, and by about mile 3 was ahead of everyone on my team. The ride was great, the volunteers were awesome cheerleaders for having been up for so long. The course was mostly flat. The first 30 miles went by quickly. But at mile 31, I fell apart. I just felt zapped of energy. I ate some of my Cliff Bar, which made me feel moderately better, but still just couldn’t get my legs to turn over. Exacerbating this condition was that the bulk of those last 20 miles were on a moderate incline. These were not hills by any stretch of the imagination, but enough of a grade that my untrained legs just couldn’t hack it. Towards the end of the ride there were 4 different signs that all said 2 Miles to Go at different points, which was very confusing (I was definitely hoping somehow the course had been measured wrong). At 48 Mile, the two 60 year old men from the office I was riding with passed me. I did my best to muster the strength to keep up with them, but I just couldn’t. I wound up crossing the finish area in 3:23:12, good enough for 82nd place overall in a field of 317 active riders.

After the ride, I crashed pretty hard. I had water and Gatorade. Had a free Sam Adams and ate some food. But, I couldn’t shake a gnarly headache, my stomach got upset with whatever was fermenting down there, and I had my post exertion desire to just take an epic nap. The man who had recruited me into this death ride was definitely on a rider’s high – already trying to get me amped for next year. I politely told him that this was not a strike while the iron is hot situation. More of a wait until the iron is cold and completely forgotten about before even bringing it up. While I won’t say I’ll never do it again, I’m certainly not rushing out to buy a bike today or have any inclination to get on one for quite a while.

Here’s short list of things I’d do differently:
Drink more water – unlike running, it was hard to tell when I needed to hydrate because I didn’t have as much sweat pouring off of me as usual.
Better fueling – maybe gels. Do cyclists suck down gels the way runners do?
Train more than one day.
Not go out as fast. My body felt good, but my mind should have known better.

I managed to rally a little bit. Katie and I had my sister and Peter over for dinner at our new apartment, but it was still an early night. The next day we stole a friends dog and had a day out with him. Despite my legs feeling like they were on fire by the end of the ride, I felt surprisingly good – -a little tight, but not particularly sore.

So – the BAA Half is next. Looking forward to running with a home field advantage.

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