About HeyRachey

Regular gal discovers gonzo streak midlife. Likes to push self and go fast. Wants to practice (and turn others on to) strength, endurance, speed and audacious authorship of our lives. Life doesn't stay still. Best we move with it.

Big Run Done! 26.2 Miles Through the 5 Boroughs

Well kids, the NYC marathon was every bit as mind-blowing as it was billed. One week later, I’m looking back in awe of it knowing I’ll probably make it to the end of my days with that still sitting high on my list of transcendent experiences. I’ve been floating all week– spiritually anyway, my physical gait hasn’t been quite as graceful–reflecting on the sights and sounds of the day. Here is an assortment of vignettes to serve as my race report.

Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 7:15am

Lower Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry 7:15am

1. It left my hotel in mid-town at 6:20am to catch the subway to the terminal at the far south end of Manhattan aiming to be on a 7am ferry to Staten Island. Subway packed with runners. Ferry also packed. Then shuttle buses to start village packed. Arrived start village a little after 9am for a start time of 10:05am. Total time from hotel to start village – just under 3 hours. Fortunately very little of this was out in the 42 degrees, high wind. But the hour in the start village and corral was spent huddled with other runners against the conditions.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge - we are ready to run over you, 40mph wind gusts not withstanding

Verrazano Narrows Bridge – we are ready to run over you, 40mph wind gusts not withstanding

2. It was a startling start. The first two miles of the race is up and over the Verrazano Narrows bridge into Brooklyn. 40mph crosswinds literally blew us into each other. The sound that will stay with me from those first minutes is the machine-gun-like percussion of wind hitting the garbage bags so many runners had on for warmth. It took some yogic detachment to just run as steady as possible and get too freaked out. And it turned out that was by far the worst of the wind. Though there were still gusts to contend with, the sun came out and the temps were great.

3. Almost immediately into Brooklyn I came to understand what everyone who has run this race says so emphatically – the people of NYC show UP! The streets were lined with cheering people, clanging cowbells, bands and recorded music. Kid after kid after kid stood at the edge of the sidewalk with hands out-stretched. You could almost have just gone hand to hand the entire way. I flew through the first six miles and found my long time (from junior high school) pal Donna, her husband Dave and their 8 year old Sam. Quick hugs and high fives and onward feeling even more energized.

4. I was holding an 8:45-9:00 pace, which I knew was too fast, so I would slow down slightly, but I just kept going there.

5. Continued to cruise through Brooklyn, including along Bedford Avenue where well-dressed orthodox Jewish women and men stroking their ringlets ignored us.

6. At one point, I was so blissed out by the continuing cheers that I whipped out my phone and recorded :60 of the crowd as I ran past. Writing “Go Rachey Go!” on my shirt in large letters was the smartest costuming choice I made. I tried inserting the audio file here, but it didn’t work, so you’ll just have to imagine it.

7. Into Queens, then onto Manhattan along the Queensboro Bridge. Great views of the skyline. I didn’t stop, but snapped photos on the run. The crowds along First Avenue were five people deep and roaring. I had suggested David watch for me along those first few blocks, but once I got there, I knew it would be crazy lucky if we saw each other. It was a mob scene. I was still feeling awesome though. Being in Manhattan gave me a burst of excitement. I was still holding a strong pace and had less than 10 miles to go.

Heading over the Queensboro Bridge about to hit Manhattan to a roar of spectators

Heading over the Queensboro Bridge about to hit Manhattan to a roar of spectators

8. The volunteers, the water stations, the race support were superb. For such a massive event, incredibly well executed.

9. I saw a woman wearing a Team in Training lymphoma shirt with a sign pinned to her back that said “I run for my dad.” I caught up to her and we talked about our dads, having watched this race with them years before, and losing them to cancer. I wished her a good race and she shouted out “He would be proud of you!”

10. I was still feeling strong over the Willis Ave bridge into the Bronx. Seeing a port-a-potty, I abruptly decided to pee. I had needed to go pretty badly for a couple of hours and felt like I could be more focused and go faster if I did, but I knew it meant losing about a minute. Went for it and was out and running again in less than a minute.

11. Renewed from having peed, I headed back into Manhattan and down Fifth Avenue. I was elated reaching mile 20 that I had just 10K to go and was just over 3 hours of run time. But the Wall was just ahead. I slowed a bit in miles 21 and 22, but then started to be seriously dazed with the effort by Mile 23. 5K felt like such a short distance still to go, but I was starting to really hurt. It took shear will and some short aggressively managed walk breaks in those last 2 miles. I had hoped to enjoy the trip down Fifth Avenue, but I was just focusing on turning it over and getting in.

12. Mile 25 I reached the Plaza Hotel at the southeast end of Central Park. This is the spot where my dad and I would come to watch the marathon 30 years ago when he visited me at college. In spite of the pain, I could honor that place, marveling that that 19 year old never imagined that she could ever be a runner in that race.

Plaza Hotel, where my Dad and I watched the NY marathon 30+ years ago. Never in that 19 year old's wildest dreams did I imagine I'd someday be a runner in that race. (PS - I took this pic the day after the race.)

Plaza Hotel, where my Dad and I watched the NY marathon 30+ years ago. Never in that 19 year old’s wildest dreams did I imagine I’d someday be a runner in that race. (PS – I took this pic the day after the race.)

13. Just half a mile from the finish, I chanced to look up out of my blinders and see David cheering me! It was perfect timing–just what I needed to give that final push into the park and the homestretch. It looked familiar from having watched the finish of the elite runners year after year. So cool to see it from a first-person perspective! The banners, the huge finish structure, the deafening cheers and announcer that actually couldn’t even hear.

14. As I crossed the line, I looked up to see the time clock for my wave: 4:01:31. In my heart, I had been hoping for a sub-4-hour finish time. I trained for that pace, but was a little doubtful I could hold it. So seeing that time, I swallowed hard and said, “well, it was a great run.” I started zombie walking out of the finish area, and then I remembered that I’d tracked myself using the NY marathon app. I whipped out my phone, opened the app, tapped my name and saw my finish time: 3:59:51. Boom!

Done! 3:59:51.

Done! 3:59:51.

15. The post-finish line experience is comical and a tad apocalyptic. Blue hooded zombies walking through the Upper West Side looking for their loved ones.

IMG_074616. A really nice soak, legs up the wall (a yoga pose) and then an evening out with the man at the heart of it all.

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My Pal, champagne, and oysters…heaven.

If you’ve read this far, wow! maybe you should run your own dang marathon! Thanks for your interest and support–I mean it! I’m lucky to have friends, clients and colleagues who push and inspire me.

 

 

 

Eve of the Run

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Running gear is laid out. I’ve packed my Gu and Metro card, made my meet-up plan with David, thought through my transit plan for getting to the Staten Island ferry by 7am. Traded texts with other runners and well-wishing friends. I’m ready. I can feel myself on the verge of letting go of all this planning, training and crazy logistics and finally be able to let go and run. Tomorrow I’ll wrap the final stage of The Broken Ironman.

This city is chock full a’ runners. There are 50,000 in the race. (And by some stroke of cool I got bib # 31000.) Everywhere you look you see mizunos asics nikes saucony brooks adidas. I heard several marathoners today speaking languages I could not identify. Very young runners. Very old ones. Runners in spoked and handled conveyances.

I have the typical race-eve nerves, but I’m holding on to the faith I’ve gotten from everyone I know who has done this race, or cheered it on: the crowds will carry you. The sights will blow your mind. The bands will rally you. The signs will out-do all other race signs. In my imagination, the experience of running the five boroughs, down 5th Avenue and along Central Park South must be a bit like what the Tour de France cyclists feel when they finally ride into Paris and hit the Champs Élysées.

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My Revealing Shopping List

ImageI was at the check out stand at Pharmaca about to swipe my card for a bottle of Tranquil Sleep melatonin supplement when I realized that the one other item on my shopping list for the day was coffee. With this clever nudge from the cosmos I was persuaded to take a closer look at my habits.

Sometimes it’s right in front of you and you look through it. Of course I was aware I was both drinking coffee and occasionally taking a sleep aid, but somehow it hadn’t penetrated to a meaningful layer of my psyche that those two things might be related. Or maybe I didn’t want them to be because that would suggest I do something different. But laughing with the Pharmaca cashier, something clicked. I had a realization, a new intention and the seed of a new behavior. These days I’m sporting a matcha green tea or a rooibos latte, with rice milk tastes great, but with oat milk gets divinely frothy.

I think this is common in behavior change situations. You identify something you want to change, but there’s a lot of ambiguity about actually doing stuff differently. Because you also love things the way they are. And you’re just so dang used to doing what you do.

What contradiction is staring you in the face and waiting for you to notice?

Part Two of the Broken Ironman: Ride Done!

ImageIt was after dark and a little chilly, coming in past Bellingham’s Victorian storefronts and through the salt air to Boundary Bay Brewery. So happy to be done!

130 miles all told. A long ass way. And I do mean ass.

They set the Chuckanut Century ride up in two big loops, each 62 miles. One goes to the South with spectacular coastal and island views of Chuckanut drive, through gorgeous Skagit Valley blueberry, dahlia, corn farms, to the wedge shaped Samish Island in Padilla Bay and then returns to downtown Bellingham. The second loop goes North into vintage 1890s neighborhoods, onto the Lummi Reservation, Ferndale, the outskirts of Blaine with views of Canada, Birch Bay resort and back to downtown Bellingham. All along the way you get blasts of snowy Mt Baker and Mt Shuksan.

I’m so glad I chose this ride. There was such a huge variety of sights. But one outcome was the realization that I want to bike tour other places. Going at that pace–slower than a drive, but still covering ground–and feeling the air, smelling grasses, fruits and manure–makes it such a way to tour. So maybe more of that in the future.

What do you do think about when you’re riding a bike all day long, mostly alone? I thought about my dear pal David, our families and pals, my clients and people in my classes–how lucky I am to have all of you playing with and influencing me. I also found myself spontaneously singing. Songs popped into my head–I don’t know why. My brain just seemed wired to a cosmic radio frequency and suddenly I’d be singing a song out of nowhere. Not a thematic radio station like Pandora, way more random. A simple children’s song by Raffi called Thanks A Lot. The Band’s Rocking Chair. Grey Seal. Glenn Miller. Leonard Cohen. Joni. Michael Jackson.

I took breaks about every 20 miles. I took pictures. I stopped for lunch in between loops and David got me fed and rubbed my shoulders. The hardest part was the 15 miles after lunch, when another 62 miles seemed incomprehensible. But I think an endorphin thing happens to me around 75 miles, because some of my best times were at 85, 90, 100 miles.

I talked to myself. I did a lot of mental fragmentation to keep my sanity in the face of the big distance. You can apply this break-it-up strategy to anything. I would say to myself, “Okay, in 10 miles I’ll be 3/4 of the way done!” Or “In less than an hour I’ll hit 100 miles.” Or I would use a familiar length designation to encourage myself – “10 miles to the rest stop– that’s just down to Seward Park, around and back home.”

When the odometer clicked over 112 miles, which is the actual distance of an Ironman ride, I imagined getting off the bike and preparing to run 26.2 miles. And I felt, at that moment at least, very little attraction to actually doing an Ironman. I know a few friends and a former coach will be sad to hear me say that, but I don’t think it’s my thing.

130 miles is a shit long time to ride a bike. I’m proud of having done it. It feels great to know what my body can do. And as the middle part of my Broken Ironman, this ride was excellent and required. Big endurance tests aside, I believe I aspire to a more modest experience where I can take in a smaller set of vistas, and remember more detail rather than the blur of road.

Here are some images from the day.

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Hey Canada, I got your 130 miles right here!

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Cattail shadow selfie

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Dahlia farm

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Just outside Ferndale you come over a stout hill and there’s Mt Baker

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Lunch with my favorite domestique. How could I possibly do another 62 miles?

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I like this kind of thing. Skagit Valley between Bow Hill and Edison.

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Chuckanut Drive is like a giant panoramic Sunset Magazine cover shot

Big Ride Eve

Evangeline at Agate PassTomorrow morning around 7am, I launch on Part Two of the Broken Ironman, the double metric century bike ride. 200K equals 124 miles, a good 40 miles longer than the longest training ride I’ve done. It’s the Chuckanut Century out of Bellingham, Washington. It’s gorgeous up here and the weather is perfect. I’m feeling a wee bit nervous, but I’m just going to turn the pedals over, groove on the vistas up to Canada and down toward the San Juan Islands, stay hydrated and ride rest stop-to-rest stop. David joins me for the first segment and from then on I’ll be making new friends.

Thanks pals, for the encouragement, the cycling wisdom and how-to, and the training rides! Stand by for photos and stories…

 

Part One of the Broken Ironman: Swim Done!

10590539_4443130374133_1947234673108336254_nI swam like an eagle (i.e.; technique wasn’t pretty), but the elements and experience were epically gorgeous. Seattle did its meteorological thing on Wednesday morning and brought a sudden cool, cloudy and very windy couple of hours that coincided perfectly with our swim event–the Puget Sound Blood Center’s Swim For Life. My crossing (somewhere between 2.2 and 2.5 miles) took 90 minutes and it was the roughest open water swim I’ve ever done by a long shot. Fortunately our team had two paddlers–David DeBusk in a kayak and Richard Wardell kneeling on a paddleboard. I was completely dependent on Richard since the waves were too high to sight effectively without stopping entirely and sticking my head up. My swim partners–Michael Lamb, Paul Coldren and Patty Gustaveson all swam beautifully. Whenever I caught up to them taking a short break they were tittering like they were at a cocktail party. Well done all!

Image 6 At the start side Medina Beach (above)…and the finish side Madison Park Beach (below)…!

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Tomorrow We Swim!

The first event of my Broken Ironman happens tomorrow (Wednesday) morning! It’s the Puget Sound Blood Center’s Swim for Life–fundraiser for bone marrow testing and matching. I’ll be swimming from Medina Park to Madison Park 2.25 miles (Okay not quite the Ironman distance of 2.4, but we’re going call it good.) David DeBusk and Tony Zanol will be escorting by kayak and I’ll be swimming with Patty Gustaveson, Michael Lamb, Paul Coldren, Molly Martinez, Margaret Kineke, Christine Stepherson, and a bunch of others. Wish us well and watch for my report soon. As my dad used to say as we nosed the canoe into the V of the rapids, “Once more, into the void!”