Sunday, November 17, 2013

NYC (Knickerbocker?) 60K, Central Park, NYC, 11/16/13

I was pretty sure this race was called the Knickerbocker 60k, or at least it was every other year. This year I see it is called the NYC 60k.

Regardless, it was an amazing day.  A long time ago I planned to run this race.  I mentioned it last week to Joe and Andrew after our 10k, telling them I was racing an ultra this weekend.  I assumed that they would interpret that as meaning they had the weekend off. :) But no, all they heard was "we are racing an ultra this weekend" :)   My guys are the best! :)

Prior to me understanding that they were actually interested in this race, I started to look into logistics and discovered that it sounded like it was going to be a huge pain. I looked for alternatives and decided I would rather pay a larger fee and run the more convenient Bucks County Marathon than deal with all the rules and restrictions in place at the 60k.

Thanks to the Boston Marathon Bombing, NYRR has tighten security tremendously. They have lots of rules that make complete sense for marathons and under but they did not seem realistic for ultras.  Specially, you have to empty all your possessing into a clear plastic bag and check it until the end of the race.  This is probably no big deal for those driving in or those who live in NYC, but I wanted to take the train and I wasn't sure I trusted putting my cash, ID, phone, and car keys in a clear plastic bag and then handing it over.  But that was better than the alternative of leaving it course side (but that is how ultras work).  The rules said you could not put a personal bag inside the plastic bag, so I wasn't sure if that meant I would be carrying all my valuables around in clear plastic bags all day LOL.   Last year, at Boston, I packed some things in the plastic bag they gave out at the race to bring to starting line and during my 3 mile jog, at .5 miles into it, the bag broke apart under the weigh of a few gels and an 12 oz gatorade ... I really didn't want to deal with that again.

The rules also say you could not leave anything course side.  At first the way it read, this meant no food, no clothing, no change of shoes, nothing can be set down or it was going to be confiscated and likely NYPD would investigate.  It could be hard to run 37 miles without access to anything, especially when the next rule says no hydration packs, so you cant carry anything either.  And there was no information about what was going to be provided at the Aid Stations so how could I know what I would need for 37.3 miles?  I don't need much, but if they had Heed, I cant drink that.  On Thursday, I noticed a note (which I did not see earlier in the week) that we could get a clear plastic Nutrition Bag to put in a pile on a table at the start finish.  Oh boy, that sounded interesting... hundreds of the exact same clear plastic bag and you have to find yours? LOL!

In reality, the race was well-stocked with gatorade, coke, gels, and snacks at two aid stations.  The nutrition bag volunteers were AWESOME and pulled your bag as you approached from a huge organized pile of bags with no time wasted, you could just put a shirt on the course side to strip a layer and no one stole it or you could possibly stuff it in your nutrition bag if it fit, and all my valuable were kept safe and secure in the tent.  It was a great race!

I was leaning towards not going, until Joe sent me an email saying he was all registered for NYRR and had a ride to the race.  I sent a message to Andrew letting him know that Joe wanted to run the 60k.  I knew Andrew was not thrilled with being in cities and I assumed he would just tell us to go without him.  However, it was obvious that being a part was important to him and this was a good reason for him to tackle his "discomfort" with cities (caused by his Military experience).  When Andrew messaged me that he wanted to come and asked if we could all go in as a group, I cancelled my marathon plans and made plans to spend the day in the city with four Vets all working on beating PTSD.  (While secretly hoping I was not the reason that we all were late or got on the wrong train!).  Joe, Andrew, and I were racing.  Keith and Anna were coming for support.  It was a good group of people who all looked out for each other.

Thank you to Dave L, who acted like my travel agent while I drove to work on Friday morning.  He looked up and sent me links to things like PATH schedules, parking location, nearest subway stop to NYRR where would get our bibs and bags.  He saved me time and made it easy for me to send the guys an email of all the travel details.

My biggest concern was getting on the wrong subway train since I have not taken the subway anywhere in a long time, probably 10 years, since I lived in NYC.

I brought a drop bag (full of things I did not need) that I could fold up and put in the plastic bag.  I brought a change of clothes (which I did not need), my racing flats (which I did not use), some nutrition (gels for me and the guys which none of us used), a small gatorade (which I drank), a small mountain dew (which I drank), gloves (I needed them after), and calf sleeves (didn't use). I brought my Nathan's waist pack (or my fanny pack according to Andrew LOL) for my ID, Credit card, cash, keys and phone.  At first I figured I would just carry the waist pack during the race and not stress about losing all my important things.  But once I saw how organized NYRR was, I put the waist pack in my gear bag (but still kept my metro card and car keys on me so I could at least get home).

The biggest issue with this race was 5 port-a-potties for 500 runners at the start.  We were online a 7:57 still waiting and I decided I just needed to get to the start. I would stop to pee on the way. Richie made a great opening speech, as he always does which gave Andrew and Joe enough time to get to the starting line in time.  I called out Andrew's name but he didn't hear me.

The Gun Goes off 
I take off fast and start counting ladies.  I count 7 ahead of me by the turn around at about 0.7.  I see Joe but miss Andrew on the out an back.  Joe catches me and we spend the next 20 miles together.  I stop at the first potty I can and Joe is nice enough to wait for me.  We first discuss pacing since this is his first ultra and even if he doesn't finish, this will be the longest run of his life.  I can tell he is holding himself back.  We discuss walk breaks and when we may want to use them.  I recommend earlier than later, but he has hoped to run much if not all of it non-stop.  I compromise and tell him I really just need a 20 mile Long Run today, so why don't we run 20 and then start adding walks if needed.  He agrees.

Those 20 miles were quite moving for me.  We spent a lot of time discussing everything.  First we assessed the course and joked that we weren't sure where that 800 meter hill was that sounded so terrible... but we found it in the second half of the race.  If anyone has ever run miles and miles with another person, you know how cathartic this is.  What ever is on your mind spills out your mouth.  I learned so much about Joe and told him so much about me.  But mostly, I was in awe at his running ability.  I truly did not expect him to be able to endure like he did.  This was a spur of the moment decision for him.

]As we got close to 20 miles at about a 8:20-8:30 pace, for our first walk break, Joe did say he was looking forward to a small reprieve.  However after one short break, Joe was back running 8 or under.  I stuck with him for a little bit, but  I told him that I was running as fast as I could tolerate.  I knew if I pushed for faster now, I could do it for some time, but there would be a good change I would DNF. I told him to go do his thing.  Within a few minutes, Joe pulled ahead. I was proud of him.  Joe had reminded me that he only recently left the Army where he did a lot of running and he runs as much as he can.  He never logs his running, but he trains a lot.  So as he pulled ahead I was just hoping he would hold on for the next 4 laps.

By 24 miles in, we passed Andrew.  He was working hard and said he wasn't sure if he was making it the whole way.  I had suspected he could do 20 today.  I was surprised he looked as good as he did when I passed him.  Andrew only started running with me in May.  Unlike Joe, Andrew wasn't a already a runner.  He was fit from lifting but he had a lot of shin pain from the very beginning.  In May, I wasn't sure if he was going to be ready for a 5k by late June... but he did it and stuck with training.  By Sept he ran an entire half marathon.  Last week he raced a 10k at a faster pace than his 5k and now he was at 20 miles in an ultra in NYC and still going!  I wanted Andrew to come to the race more to deal with the city than to complete the ultra.  I wanted him to "experience" an ultra, to learn what it is about, and to run his furthest ever even if that mean stopping before 37 miles.  He told me Joe was just ahead.  I told him I was proud of him and I left to see if I could make some ground on Joe.

But after Joe left me, I hit the wall hard.  I felt myself running out of energy and my pace was falling.  The hills got hard and I just decided that since this was a training run, I could rest with more walk breaks and hopefully finish strong. I had passed two women and was now in 5th place for the ladies in an large ultra with 500 runners.  I was still averaging a 8:40ish pace overall and that was on pair with some of my best 6 hour runs.  This was a good day in consideration of how tired I have felt lately and that this was just training.  I was happy with cruising it in.

I worked very hard for the last few laps.  It helped to see Keith and Anna cheering us on.  They really seemed to enjoy spectating.  Keith took photos.  We were a good team.

As I went out for the final lap, I saw Andrew and he said he stopped at 26 miles!  I cannot believe he ran twice his furthest run.  A random spectator pointed out that he made a 100% improvement.  Who does this!  Amazing!

On the last lap I caught Joe and he said, "I am cramping up!"... I said, "No way?! Really?? You think?" I laughed at him and said, "Congratulation, this is your prize.  Of course you are a cramping mess, you are about to complete a 37 mile run! And just wait until tomorrow when the real prize comes... you wont be able to walk." I told him I was proud of him since we were almost done and he was going to do it!  I then said "I bet that idea about getting off the train at 42 street to show Andrew Times Square doesnt sound so great any more does it?" He laugh at me and "Oh no, it doesn't."

I told Joe we could finish this off together, unless a female runner tries to pass me.  With just less than 2 miles to go, a female runner flies by.  Damn it.  I tell Joe, I have to try to catch her.  He said, "I know I wont, so go ahead."  I took off.  I caught up.  I passed her.  Then I realized I am not going to be able to hold this pace for the rest of the race. I had nothing propelling me through the pain and fatigue.  5th place... 6th place it didn't matter so much to me today.  I already had a great race.  She passed me back with authority and I looked back for Joe.  I didnt see him.  I tried to keep her insight but soon I resigned myself to 6th place.

I happily finished in 5:35 with 38.2 on my watch instead of 37.3. I am not sure what I did to add an extra mile to the course, but it makes me feel good to know that I was 9 or under for this run.

We managed to back track our route.  Andrew got the real subway "sardine can" experience as we were crammed into the 4 train on our way back to 33rd Street. No one had a melt down, not even me :)
The one really nice thing about this group is how everyone looked out for everyone else.  When Anna was pushed off a few people away in a crammed train, Keith would check on whether she was ok.  No one was stressed out about anything it was really nice to be in a group of people who were focused on positive kind interaction in the midst of chaos.

Before the end of the day, Keith had mentioned how emotional the event was, citing how he saw a woman with one arm trying to run but she had a foot cramp and could not rub her own foot.  He then saw a spectator stop to rub her foot for her, helping her to continue.  He shared that he had a great day and was had a lot of fun.

At the end of the day, as I drove home, reflecting on how well we all did with all our goals of running and of dealing with big-city stress as a group.  I can say with confidence that this was one the best ultras of my life.

Time: 5:36:09
OA place: 52
Gender: 6th Female


  1. Wowzers. Amazing job! I assume this was all on the road? I would love to do an ultra on the road. There aren't many, actually ANY I can think of, around here. You never cease to amaze me, Shannon. VERY INSPIRING!

  2. Wow Shannon.....great read.....very inspiring.