NYC Marathon 2018 Race Report: Part 3 — Race morning is here!

Earlier: Part 1 — Race week
Part 2 — Pre-race planning

I woke up a little earlier than I wanted, closer to my usual 3:30 a.m. wakeup, so I lay in bed for a bit and walked through the course again in my head, visualizing myself running the race strong. After that, it was time to get up and moving, starting with another car buffer session.

A couple of slices of leftover pizza from the night before, plus pouring boiling water into my oatmeal cups got my pre-race fueling started. After a shower, I got dressed, then at the oatmeal. Normally that’s the first thing I do, but I was already going to be eating it earlier than I normally would to get to the race on time. That’s part of the reason I had two, not my typical one.

Mom was up at this point, and had me go over with her what she was doing for the day. Subway stops, which way to walk, which exits to use, everything. I even had her send a friend request to Train Runner (who she’d met before) so they could connect for the cheer squad if needed. By the time it was time for me to head out, we both felt about as ready as we could get.

It wasn’t a long walk to the subway, and only a 13-minute ride to South Ferry from there. The last ferry I was eligible to take was 8:45, and I’d signed up for the 8:15. I knew they didn’t check, though, so my plan was to get there by 7:15-ish and make sure I was up at the front of the line for a ferry before getting on so I could be sure of getting a seat.

I left the Airbnb about 10 minutes of seven, and stopped for a flat white at the Starbucks on the way, my usual pre-race caffeine choice. The train came just as I was going through the turnstile, so I hopped on. The downside of being less than 15 minutes from the ferry, of course, was that the subway cars were already pretty full, which meant standing. Oh, well. Lots of Wave 3 runners in my car, so I was definitely running ahead of schedule.

When we got to South Ferry, everybody jammed up the staircase. I sat down on the benches on the platform and waited. I wasn’t in a rush, and I might as well get off my feet while I finished my coffee.

As I sat there, a woman said to her friends “See her? If she’s got food in that bag, she’s the smartest woman here,” then commented on my bathrobe. I gave credit to the Subber I stole the idea from, as always, and she offered one in return: Shower caps, the heavy-duty ones with real elastic, for rainy races. Definitely saving that tip!

Once the crowd was halfway up the stairs, I walked over and was able to keep moving all the way into the ferry terminal.

People were running to catch the 7:30 ferry, which was leaving in a few minutes, but again, I was in no rush. I headed upstairs and found a corner where I could sit. Once the 7:30 ferry started loading on the far side of the terminal, I grabbed a seat close to the door on my side, figuring that they would be alternating sides with ferries running every 15 minutes.

I chatted for a few minutes with the woman sitting next to me, who was waiting for a friend. I can’t imagine trying to find somebody in that madhouse, so I wished her luck. After about 10 minutes, people started lining up at the gate near me, so I got up and got near the front of the line. My goal: A seat.

In that, I was successful. I got one up near the front on the Statue of Liberty side, since the sun was already up. The woman sitting next to me commented on the bathrobe — it not only keeps you warm, it’s also a conversation-starter — and we chatted for pretty much the entire trip.

She lives near South Ferry, so her commute so far had been pretty minimal. It was her 10th NYC, and her 33rd or 34th marathon. Her previous one? Marine Corps, the weekend before. She said she’s done the double before, but typically there’s a weekend in between and she was really missing that extra week this year.

And here I though Big Dog was crazy enough for doing Chicago and NYC within a month of each other.

When the ferry arrived, I did the same thing I’d done at South Ferry: let everybody else get off and bring up the rear. After that, it was just following the crowd outside to stand in line for the buses.

And stand.

And stand.

And stand.

It was 8:20 when I walked through the St. George ferry terminal on Staten Island. It was well after 9 a.m. when I finally got on a bus. I did have to laugh though, when I got on. It was one of the VIP runner buses that had clearly been pressed into service once they were dropped off. So I did get the VIP bus after all.

It was later than I thought, but there were still a ton of people in line behind me — at least four ferries’ worth.

This was the first time I’d really had a chance to check my phone, and I saw a Facebook post from Jersey Girl that she was sick in bed on day three of the flu, so not going in to cheer. That’s fine. Train Runner and Team Sizzle had planned to go in. Even if Train Runner didn’t meet up with them until Columbus Circle, Mom knew where to go.

After that, it was a lot of sitting on the bus and watching time tick by. InknBurn Queen posted that her bus driver had taken a wrong turn coming from Midtown and ended up in Brooklyn, and they were just now getting back to Staten Island. She asked if anybody else was on the buses that did that, so it was apparently more than just her bus.

It was getting closer and closer to 10 a.m. — corrals opened at 10:30 and closed at 10:45 — but I just reminded myself that there were a lot of people behind me. In some ways, this could be a good thing. See, the NYRR course time limits are based on the per-mile pace calculated from when the final runner crosses the starting line. So if there were people who ended up behind me because they were late getting to the start village, that would just mean more minutes after I started before the official cutoff clock started. Maybe I’d make it further than I thought before losing course support.

We finally got dropped off at the security checkpoint at 10 a.m. on the nose, and I headed for the VIP tent. The good thing about the VIP tent — since the great weather meant the actual tent part wasn’t as much of a benefit as I’d thought it could be — was it was right next to my corral.

I found the tent, went inside and dropped my stuff — including the bathrobe, which had served its purpose — on a chair, and headed for the porta-potties. Like with the DetermiNation tent at Broad Street, we had our own set. There was no line, probably because there were not many Wave 4 runners in the VIP tent. After that, I grabbed a bagel and two small water bottles, one for now and one to drink on the bridge.

About this time, Mom texted to say she was still a one-person cheer squad. Well, hell. I didn’t know exactly what to say to that, and I didn’t really have time to think about it, so I just texted back “JUST made it to the start village” and focused on getting my stuff sorted.

It turns out 16 rolls of chews is pushing the limits of the pocket capacity of my race pants, but I managed to squish them all in, plus a couple of Honey Stinger waffles for after the race while I was walking to meet Mom. I popped my iPod Nano in the little phone pocket on the front of my throwaway layer. I planned to wear it on the bridge and ditch it after that, and figured this way I could just start the music now and restart the playlist once I got off the bridge (and tuck the iPod into my overflowing pants pockets) and have plenty of music for the race, even if I had a bad race and ran slower than expected.

My phone went in my hydration belt and that pretty much put me out of contact for the duration. I could see texts on my Garmin, but not reply to them.

At this point, the corral was set to open in two minutes. There were definitely going to be a lot of people behind me crossing the start line.

I started my music, got in line and as soon as I was in the corral, ducked into a porta-potty, before a line could build. Two stops so close together seemed to do the trick, and I was comfortable I’d be able to hold out until the Mile 9 stop (near the top of a long, slight incline) so I could run up the hill, let my heart rate go down during the pit stop and cruise down it at a decent clip. I’d done the same at Staten Island and it worked really well. Then I found a curb where I could do a modified version of my usual calf raises. I’d missed doing my leg swings completely before getting in the corral because of the rush, and there was no room now. Oh, well. Everything felt pretty good, thanks to the car buffer.

About this time, Big Dog found me. We took a selfie with his phone, and chatted as we worked our way up toward the front of the corral. I made sure to stay on the left, so that I’d have the view of the New York Harbor going over the Verrazzano. Unlike other NYRR races I’ve done, it was a pretty short wait before we started moving toward the starting line.

Coming around the corner of the gate and seeing the starting lines on both levels of the bridge was one of the random “Oh, wow, I’m really doing this” moments during the week.

It was wicked crowded, so we were all pretty much walking or slow jogging. Coach B and I estimated I’d cross the start line about 11:30, since I was in the last corral of my wave, which started at 11 a.m.

I turned on the GPS on my watch at 11:06 and crossed the starting line a minute or two later. I figured that had bought me at least 20 extra minutes of course support, enough to get to Mile 18 before they reopened the roads.

Next: Part 4 — The Marathon