Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Best Day of my Life!

Finally!!! I am able to log onto my computer! One of the keys has been stuck for weeks! Now - Its time to tell you about the greatest day of my life!

Marathon Sunday was by far the best day of my life! It surpasses setting a high school record, it surpasses graduating college, blows out of the water the day I moved out on my own! From the 3rd time I woke up in anticipation of the start of the marathon, I had this overwhelming energy. Even with the lack of sleep the night before from all the excitement, I just felt so happy! I couldnt believe that after all the contemplating of training and eventually running my first marathon, I was actually going to make it to the start that morning of November 1st!

Our Call-Tree went off with no hiccups! 4:30am I get my call from Ally and Im up to call Jesse. Thats it! now I am up and getting ready to go up to the buses. The night before I made sure my clothes were laid out:
- running tights
- Socks and such
- Singlet with my name on it and bib already safety-pinned on
- Sneakers with D-Tag securely fastened
- Arm warmers
- Head warmer
- Throw-away sweats and teeshirt

and bag was packed with everything I needed for race day:
- Powergels
- Advil
- Tums
- Hat/Gloves
- Extra socks
- Change of clothes (post marathon)
- Garbage bags (to sit on at Fort Wadsworth)
- Body Glide
- TP
- Salt packets
- Chapstick
- Extra hair elastics and safety pins

I make my white bread toast with a smidge of Peanut Butter and eat a banana. I toast my bagel and pack another banana with a bottle of water and gatorade for my pre-race snack.

Dressed and ready to go, Jackie and I get blessings and good luck wishes from her mommy ;) Thanks Eva for your love!!! We venture up to 51st and 7th to meet our bus - TFK Bus #1 - AKA- The Party Bus! And it was!! Everyone with huge smiles on their faces chit chatting away about this and that, but NO TALK OF PACE, TIMES, NERVES, NOTHING RUN RELATED! Oh, and yes, there were 'rules of the bus' sent out by my girl Vanessa! good call Vane!

We arrive driving over the spectacular Verrazzano Bridge at Fort Wadsworth Park to massive amounts of people walking around, laying on garbage bags, stretching, trying to keep warm and speaking so many different languages, I never have experienced such a scene. It was like organized chaos. From our walk from the bus to the Team for Kids tent, my nerves were getting the best of me - but in a good way! With excitement building, we all found a nice semi-drier non-muddy spot to lay out our garbage bags and relax for a bit before it was time to head to the start.

Finally... the anticipation of getting to the start is finally a reality!! at 9:20 am, we walk over to stretch and then to drop off our bags to be brought to the finish at the UPS trucks. at 9:40, the corrals open for the 10am start. Anxiously, I walk over with Jesse and a group lead by Coach Glen. We walk into the back of the Blue Corral and slowly make our way to the start while slowly stripping off my layers of sweats, tee shirts, and hat. Crossing the starting line while hearing Frank Sinatra's New York, New York puts such a huge smile on everyones face! Onto the Verrazano Bridge we go! Jesse and I only had strategy for the first 2-3 miles believe it or not! We both agreed that if we hold back on those first initial miles, we were in the clear for the remainder of our journey. So, crossing the start, we take in the views and the headwind of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and make our way into the streets of Brooklyn. Adrenaline pumping, we scope for the photographers and make sure we are in eyesight of getting our photos shot!

Running through the streets of Brooklyn and Queeens, I noticed so many details I would have never seen if I weren't on foot. The differences in neighborhoods - from the storefronts, buildings, size of streets, the people, the sounds and the culture. Its incredible! I never spent much time in Brooklyn or Queens so the excitement I was filled with was only heightened by the people cheering my name and pushing me along was incredible!

This brings me to the hardest part of the race - the Queensboro Bridge. Knowing I have ran this bridge not once, but twice helped me through my rough patch. Approaching the bridge, the crowds seemed to dissipate a bit and then we hit the bridge. It was the quietest part of the whole race. All Jesse and I had to do was make it up and over the bridge, and then we would have the roar of the 1st Avenue crowds to carry the next few miles. Queensboro bridge was dark, cold, and windy. By the time we were on the decline of the bridge, we began to anticipate the noise... down the ramp and rounding around to 1st Ave was AWESOME!! there were crowds 10 people deep; shoulder to shoulder screaming and cheering! OMG! Yes, I did get choked up a bit - no tears - but close! Down First Ave, Jesse and I had our eyes peeled for her roommate, my friends and our families. I cant believe all the spectators! I was in awe at how many people were out on the streets partying it up while 42,000 runners pounded the pavement! Surprisingly, I saw so many more familiar faces than I thought I would! Jess, Jared and Brian were the first crew of people I saw coming down First. Not even knowing they were there, I hear this familiar voice start screaming my name. It was Jess as I quickly ran past. I turned around to see if that was her, and quicky pulled U-turn to go over and say hi! Seeing them made my day! They came from Jersey and CT to see me for all of 30 seconds, now those are friends! Thanks guys for making the hike and fighting off the crowds!!

Continuing down First, Jesse saw her roommate and her friends, I saw more friends and slowly became concerned that I wasnt going to find my family and Whitney. I told them to be on the left West side of the Ave and to be in the 80's... as the 80's were ending, and I got to 90th Street, I can see these absurdly bright green signs with my name on it, and I knew I found them! Arms up in the air, yelling and screaming I went diving into them!!! I couldnt believe how many of them came! Dad, Brandon, Unkie, Bernadette, Cousin Gene and Lydia, and of course - my bestest - Whitney!!! Bearing powergels, water and mini milky ways, they quickly tried rushing me down the road... after hugs and kisses and thank you's, I took off down First.

The crowds started dissipating after that, and then I saw to my surprise, Maggie! She was volunteering at the 96th Street fluid station! My other running chica! Due to her stress fracture, she couldnt run... I cant believe she is so dedicated to New York Road Runners! She still volunteered her time! Thanks for the agua Mags!

At the Willis Avenue bridge, it seemed as if tons of runners "hit the wall". People were stopping dead in their tracks bottle-necking the traffic behind them. I had to bob and weave through the crowds from the Willis Avenue bridge through the Bronx and over the Madison Avenue bridge. This was my strongest part of the race, so it was hard to keep momentum up when people were stopping left and right. Running into Harlem, I find Coach Asteria. She runs with me for about a block, hands me a tablet of electrolytes and tells me to take it with water. Apprehensively, I hold onto it until I find Coach Sid! Gotta love Sid! Seriously, he is the biggest motivator on the course! Smile from ear to ear, he gives me a high five, asks me how I feel and tells me Im doing great! He tells me, to keep up the pace, I look strong and not to run with anyone else the rest of the race, I have it from here. He leaves me to go find others, and I take off! Down Fifth Avenue, I run into Dimitri... he's walking... the workhorse is walking. I of course get concerned, try some words of encouragement and then see the pain in his face. He turns to me and says, "I cant, it hurts so much!" Of course I dont want to leave him in so much pain, but he pushes me along, telling me not to stop because he is. Even though, I hate to see a teammate in pain and alone, I continue on my journey.

at 110th street, I know where I am - that constant 1-mile incline to 90th street. I think to myself, I have done this before, I have been told how to run it, JUST DO IT!. I put my head down, shorten my stride and pound it out! 96th, 95th, 94th thinking - when is this going to end??? I see the turn into the park! I am almost there! Done! Finally!!! The last toughest part of the race is done!!! Into the park through Columbus Circle and up to Tavern on the Green - Thats it, thats all I had left! The crowds are about 8 people deep now, cheering us on! Signs reading beers are less than 2 miles away, signs saying why quit now?

Going through the park and into Columbus Circle, I was a mess. My emotions were on such a roller coaster! My mind was mush and it was teetering from bizarre thoughts of Am I really doing this right now is this a dream, to Am I going to make it, to do I feel my toes or am I just imagining that they are numb? It was weird. So weird. I was laughing and crying all at once. And then I see the fountain in Columbus circle and see the sign that the finish is about 500 meters away and it seemed as if all that crazy thought seemed to disappear! I see the finish and the smile on my face couldnt be any bigger! I put my arms in the air and cross!!! Instantly, I break down into tears! (oh, and PS. I am crying right now writing this - re-living that moment, INCREDIBLE!!) I couldnt believe I had accomplished something so big, something so real, something that I never would have ever imagined doing! The sense of accomplishment and self revelation was so overwhelming, I just cried and cried (with a huge smile on my face of course!) I am handed a medal, then a blanket, then a bag of food. I find my way to Cherry Hill where my coaches and teammates re-group post-race. Everyone with smiles on their faces and blankets wrapped around them we congratualte eachother and share our times, stories and of course snap a few photos!

Post-race tent is a bit of a blur. I cant really tell you much about that. So, I exited the park to find my family and came across a woman who looked so tired and confused. She couldnt find her husband. With her voice shaking and cracking, she asks if she could borrow my cell phone, and of course I let her. She was so worked up, she couldnt even dial the numbers, so I dial for her and hand her the phone. She instantly starts crying when she finds out where he is and says, "Ok wait for me dont move, Ill be right there". She hangs up and starts thanking me a 100 times over. I of course start crying again because I dont know what I would have done if that was me - no cell phone and couldnt find my family. As I reunite with the fam, they hug me and congratulate me and cant tell me enough how proud they are of me! And of course, my big italian family - all they want to do is feed me!

A few photo snpas after, the clan takes the adventure with me all the way back to my apartment. They sit and relax for a bit while I take a bath full of Ice. That ice bath was probably the best thing ever! my legs felt like Jello and I knew they would be killing me on Monday, so I toughed it out for as long as I could. The numbness was painful pleasure!

So, after I finally got myself together, I sat and chatted the afternoon away. Shared my roller coaster ride of emotions, thanked everyone, viewed the pictures they took and of course they had to make sure I ate and drank to replenish myself! shortly after, they left and Brandon and I started drinking beers watching football. Yes, an ideal sunday afterall.. little 26.2 mile run, food, beers and football!!! Thanks Bran for sticking around!!!

Trying to be the CHAMP that I am, Jackie Brandon and I ventured to our post-marathon gathering at Slate. Dazzled with our bling-bling medals, fellow TFK'ers and I took shots of what other than, Patron (Bitches!) and toasted to our accomplishments. A couple of celebratory cocktails later, everyone's high came crashing down... The tiredness sank in and I called it a night...

November 1st, 2009 will go down in Blondie history as her single most remembered day of her life! Thank you all of my supporters! Thank you everyone who donated, thank you for all the good lucks and thank you thank you thank you for following me though this journey!

In the beginning of all of this, I mentioned I would be tracking my efforts on my first marathon journey - well its not going to end here! I am doing this again! My next goal - QUALIFY FOR BOSTON! I dont know if it will be a 2010 show, but it will definitely be a 2011 event!

Official finish time: 3:53:10

Official NYTimes finisher: 12,041

peace out!