The short of it is this… I did it! I finished the bloody New York City Marathon in four hours and fifty one minutes. The journey along the 26.2 is something I will never forget.  The details  fresh in my mind and the pain fresh in my quads. My hope is that perhaps one of you will read this and be interested in doing a marathon next year. As much as I love triathlons (and you know I do) this particular race tops it all. Nothing even compares to the NYC marathon. Here is a glimpse into my journey.

The New York Experience “marathon eve”                                                                     Mood: anxious, nervous, but excited

Simply arriving at a hotel in New York City on a Saturday night is exhilarating.  I feel rich, I feel hip, I feel included. We stayed at the Sheraton in mid town which was just crawling with marathon runners, many of whom were international athletes and elite runners. Everyone so fit, so happy, so anxious.  The bright lights of Times Square on our left  and Central Park in all of its beauty on our right. Several camera crews are on the steps waiting for the famous to arrive. I ask who… they won’t tell. After Kim  and I carefully lay out our mounds of clothes and our ridiculous pile of nutrition and hydration we jump in a cab to go to Little Italy to eat some pasta!  Why haven’t I ever been here before? Street after street of Italian restaurants, each one apparently as good as the next.  Slight delay in seating which almost caused a carbohydrate meltdown but overall a great time with Chuck, Kat, Kim and friends.  Ciao,and Gracias Little Italy, I will be back this summer and promise to drink your wine and sing your songs.  A quick cab ride back to the hotel and hugs and kisses for my brother Chuck and Kat. Unfortunately we won’t see them until after the marathon because they are in a much earlier heat (being slow has it’s benefits) and they have to get up at 4 am . It is now 9 pm . Kim and I have a plan is to be asleep by 10:00 pm which comes and goes..and goes and goes. Tossing, turning, worried we were going to miss the ferry, concerned we would not able to get a taxi in the morning, turn the clocks back,  what is that noise,  am I going to be warm enough..I am 20 minutes (countdown starts now) to popping a xanax?   Can I take xanax and run a marathon?  We get to sleep at 3:30 am, alarm goes off at 5:45 am. Two hours and fifteen minutes..not bad. It doesn’t matter, Staten Island here we come.

 

 

 

 

The Marathon Village                                                                                                               Mood: Inspired

First, the Ferry ride is a MUST. It was so beautiful to sail by the Statue of Liberty and see the skyline of NYC and the ominous Verrazano Bridge. A twenty minute ferry ride that led us to a 20 minute bus ride. I am a nervous talker…no doubt, if there is silence I must start a conversation. I wasn’t alone. Everyone on the bus was talking. The two guys next to me were from Australia . I felt the need to mention that I only slept two hours, but they haven’t slept in three days and their body thinks it is 1 am. I immediately feel better . The Italians and their white paper jump suits crack us up.  They smile at us and want to borrow our magic marker and want us to write on their arms. I tried but ran out of room and wrote on his elbow.. sorry Vincentenzo…I told you I should have stopped at Vincent. An older woman standing next to me is from Seattle. She mentioned that she just started running three years ago and this is her 22nd marathon. A cocky wall street guy asks me if I trained on hills, “well then be prepared for the bridges to kick your ass”… well screw you, I ran Union Ave… and then lastly a young girl from New Jersey who gave me the best advice of the day. She told me not to use my IPOD- that I need to experience all of the boroughs, the atmosphere and the crowd. She made me promise. Thank you Cindy from Fort Lee…best advice of the day. We are herded into our corrals at 10:10 and must wait there until 10:50 for the race to begin. Tortured by excitement and a little body odor (not ours)…we are ready to rock this joint.

The Start at Veranzano Bridge / Mile 1-19                                                                 Mood: Giddy like a 8 year old on Christmas morning, heart racing, smiling from ear to ear, doing the NY/NY kicks with Kim. Waving to people in buses. I feel like a celebrity.

I was down right giddy at the start on the Verrazano Bridge.  Nervous laughter about everything. They are blasting (BLASTING) Frank Sinatra’s New York New York. They brought in the big New York Sight Seeing Buses filled with spectators. A look to the left over the bridge and the NY fire department has all of their boats on the water. As I run up the bridge I get a perfect view of Manhattan. I wave to TV cameras, I smile for photographers, I stop and take video, I actually did a jig for one guy then reminded myself I am actually in a  race (and  at mile one-conserve the energy Col).   The Veranzano bridge quickly turns to Brooklyn- which was knee deep and 8 miles long with spectators. We ran through the Polish section, The Italian Section, The Irish Section, The Spanish Section. Oh my god.. there is a guy I work with.. he screams “ COLLEEN FOSSETT” for at least a 1/2 mile. I have never seen such a celebration in my life. Miles and miles of people, and bands and merchants. The music, the churches, the children all singing, playing, cheering! Brooklyn turns to Queens and the miles are flying by. Is it possible I am at mile 12, then 13.1? I am half way there! Each mile is very well marked and as the miles got longer, I would frantically look for a water station sign… a sign from God himself that I was just another mile into the race.  As I make the turn for the very much anticipated but very very very long Queensborough Bridge, I get a little emotional because I could see below. It was an absolute SEA OF RUNNERS on 1st Avenue.  I don’t know why but I get all choked up and  then a spring in my step because I know my family and friends will be at mile 18 . After some phone calls and texts (yes, as I am running a marathon). I get an exact location. “86th and first”, “86th and first” I just need to get there. I start crying because I am so excited my kids are here and they are going to see it. I keep saying to myself “Stu Chloe, Sophie, Mom, Carol, Lauren, Paige, Nicole, Tom, Christine. I say it over and over again until I hear “ There she is, she is wearing pink… COLLEEN, COLLEEN, COLLEEN”. Overwhelmed I stop, I kiss, I hug , I thank, I can barely speak, I give the thumbs up and I move on. 8 more miles to go. Not everyone needs someone at a marathon to cheer then on. I do…. it meant the world to me.

Mile 18 Colleen Fossett (click here for video)

IMG_0091 ( Click here for video of Kim at Mile 18)

Mile 19-22.                                                                                                                                      Mood: This sucks and I will never do another marathon again. I hate the Bronx and I hate the stupid guy in front of me who is wearing an inflatable sumo wrestler costume at mile 21.

I can’t really comment here. Don’t want to dwell on the negative but there were bridges and hills and I just saw my family and knew that I wouldn’t see them again until mile 24. I had to take off of a sock and I had to go to the bathroom. Depression might set it.  I can’t find my sign from god ( or the New York Road Runners)… where is my water station sign?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mile-23-26                                                                                                                                          Mood: I love this race, I love central park, I love everyone who is cheering for me, everyone who is saying my name that I have written on my arm. I love the grass, the sun, the leaves…a virtual love fest.

I think okay.. I GOT THIS. A 5K! I see my friends Chris and Tom…Yippie! I take in the beauty of central park in the fall, I am grateful for everything and everyone I have. I am so excited I start singing and am waiting for Frank Sinatra to resurrect from the grave and sing New York, New York and a pregnant Beyonce to jump from behind a tree and run the rest of the race with me singing “ NEW YORK…concrete jungle dreams are made of,  there’s nothing you can’t do”.   Disappointed, that this didn’t happen, I was happy to pass the guy in the Sumo Suit gave him a wink and a smile and actually forgot that I had to go to the bathroom for the last 12 miles. Nothing matters except the finish line… which at this point is just minutes away.

Mile 26-26.2                                                                                                                                    Mood: Tears welling in eyes, heart rate @ 130 bpm

I can’t explain how sweet the finish line is. As you hit 26 miles there is a count down: 400 yards, 300 yards, 200 yards, 100 yards. The band (The Nerds) are singing 80s music..the song specifically was “ I Want to Be Sedated”. PERFECT! The woman who was next to me throws up her arms “we did it” and all I could say is “yes,we did”. The word we is key here because NYC, the entire city, the entire race sets you up for success. They prepare you from the moment you get in. From the day you sign up they want you to have an amazing experience. Everyone is rooting for you, the crowds, the volunteers, the fireman, the police. I can’t count how many little hands I slapped as I was running. Everyone is kind, everyone is rooting for you. Even if you don’t know anyone there you feel as though you know everyone. Thank you New York City and the NYRR. A fine, fine race- and now I completely understand why you have to turn down 250,000 people per year who want to run every year. I consider myself very lucky to be one of the 48,000 people who ran your streets.

The next 24 hours                                                                                                                 Mood: Not tired Can it get better…. maybe?

Lets just say we had a great time. I should have taken an ice bath, I should have gone to bed, I should have drank water every hour on the hour but I didn’t. I took a hot shower (a no-no), I barely sat on my bed and we celebrated in NYC till 2 am. In lieu of water, I decided to drink beer- rationalizing that it is mostly water. How can you not? How could I actually go to bed. Marathon night in New York. I was certain there was a good time to be had by all. As Christine, Kim and I were walking out the door. Kim said “we have to wear our medals”. Damn straight.. a great idea and an amazing conversation piece! The evening was spent meeting so many medal wearing marathoners from different countries, many who were in NYC for the first time. Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Cambodia, New Zealand, England…they were all out that night. We would clink our medals together, talk about the course, about the boroughs and how many marathons we have done. Some couldn’t speak english, who cares? A smile, a beer and a medal doesn’t need a translator. We lucked out and ended up connecting with a group of “elite athletes”, all of whom finished top 25 in the New York City Marathon. One finished 12th over all, another 2nd for the women, another the first American, the first non-kenyan. All of their times were under two hours and 30 minutes. They were professional marathoners. Paid and sponsored by Nike, New Balance, Gu. Most of them were using this as a test for the Olympic Trials next year. Can you imagine being in a room full of people like this? I spoke to this one girl for quite a while, her name was Lauren. She was very sweet,modest and the NYC was her first marathon. She casually mentioned that she had never run a marathon before but her hope was that marathon running would improve her 5K time for the London Olympics . She introduced me to her professional/elite triathlete husband ( how cute right… an elite marathoner married to an elite triathlete)…so literally an hour of conversation about marathons and triathlons and our tri club and their nutrition business and it just went on and on. Our night ended at 2 am (just after a quick stop at a Karoke bar :) . I drank 4 glasses of water and I woke up at 9 am still on an emotional high from the race and from the night. Here is the kicker.. the absolute kicker. As I am packing my bag in the morning. I pick up my Runners World Magazine to put in my bag. On the cover front, front and center is… guess who? I cant believe it…the girl from last night. Lauren Fleshman. She is on the cover of Runners World, then I open the NY Times (see below).  Here she is… my new friend:)   http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/sports/lauren-fleshman-ran-marathon-to-prepare-for-olympic-5000-meters.html?pagewanted=all

The very end

As I sit here and type this my quads are just about recovered. Walking up and down steps are tolerable at this point. I didn’t lose any toenails, no chafing, no issues. I am still on a runners high which really is an incredible feeling. It is more of a thought process than a feeling. It will go away soon, I know it ( which is why I wrote this blog). The runners high is when you can’t stop thinking about the boroughs, the miles, the people.

So, can you do it, should you do it, will you do it? I know for certain if you put your mind to it you can. Consider it.. please for me!  Start with Broad Street, then a half marathon in September and finish with 26.2 in November. A marathon is something you will never ever regret and you will always carry with you.  That is my promise.

Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today!

Most people agree that the top five marathons in the world are: Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston and New York City!  New York is certainly the biggest   Hundreds of thousands apply every year and only 45,000 are accepted.  There are an estimated 35 million spectators aligning the street and watching it on television.  If you want to do a marathon… this is the one to do.

I started my application process four years ago.  Every year on April 15th I would submit my registration only to find out by mid June that I was not selected.  After four years they automatically grandfather you in- last year WAS my year.  I stuck to my schedule but at 12 weeks into my training I tore my calf muscle- depressed but not defeated I was able to defer to 2011.

As excited as I am to stand on that start line, the NYC marathon is a process.  It is not a race for someone who doesn’t like to jump through hoops.  After the application process, there is  the hotel booking, which needs to be done asap. I booked a hotel back in March,  (cha-ching) for $500 per night with a two night minimum.  Then there is the transportation issue.  You start in Staten Island and end in Central park so you need to get to Staten Island waaaaaay ahead of time.  My heat goes off at 10:40 am but I need to get up by 6:00, to get on the subway by 6:30  to get on a ferry by 7:00 to get to the athlete village by 8:00 to get to the start by 8:30 to wait on the Verranzano bridge for over 2 hours.    A process indeed, but that is fine, because I AM IN.

Friday night, someone new to the area invited me to a pampered chef party on Sunday, November 6th.  I mentioned that I couldn’t because I was running in the New York City Marathon .  The conversation turned from running marathons to participating in  triathlons and (of course) to the MHWTC.  As I was walking away,  I thought to myself…I sounded a little manic and she probably thinks I am crazy.  I  do realize to an outsider looking in, my life may seem a little nuts: the kids, my job, my marriage, soccer, tri club, triathlons, an active social life and now the New York City Marathon.  The pace at which I lead my life is difficult for some to understand.  Very few do, and those who can relate with a smile on their face are even crazier than me (you know who you are ).

The craziness should have stopped after SheRox in August.  I needed a break, but when you get into the New York Marathon you train for the New York Marathon. No questions asked, you are in and you are doing it.  I am certainly a “glass half full” type of gal, but I won’t sugar coat it.  The training is difficult, the long runs on the weekend suck the life out of you   By mile 18 my ankles throb,  by  mile 19 I start questioning if I need psych help.  At mile 20,  I am a complete train wreck but I know if I can do 20 miles, I can do 26 miles. Difficult…yes, impossible…no, selfish…maybe.  My personal goals aren’t  easy on those who love me.   Everyone suffers.   My husband  has been diagnosed with WMBD.  Wife with Marathon Blabbing Disorder.  He seems to think that I can work the NYC marathon into every conversation and I can… I am a pro at it.  My daughters could probably get around New York by themselves because they have heard me talk about it so much.  My friends dare not ask me to go out when I have a long run the next day.  Colleen + drinking water all night doesn’t equal a fun night out. Who would want to look at me anyway?   Marathon training has taken its toll on my appearance.  Pony tails,  compression bra, t-shirt and shorts, no make up, toe nails falling off, chaffed breasts,  unplucked eyebrows, gray roots- not a pretty sight. It is the price you pay to train for a marathon.  All vanity is tossed out the window going about 90 mph.

Despite it all … I CAN NOT WAIT FOR SUNDAY!!!!!!   The excitement for the NYC Marathon is building up. It will all start with the expo- which is is the mother of all expos.   Next stop,  checking into the “flagship” hotel will all the other athlete including the Kenyans.   Going out in Little Italy for a high carb dinner and it bed by 9, 10, 11, midnight 1, 2 (who knows?) with an attempt to wake up in the city that doesn’t sleep.   I have gone up to NYC the past 3 out of 4 years to watch. I have always know someone who is running and it is just a thrill to be there.  You run through all five boroughs of New York.  You start in Staten Island at the bottom of the Verranzano Bridge, then onto to Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx and then into Manhattan.   There are diverse, multicultural crowds every step of the way,  but the spectators at the bottom of the Queensboro bridge ( entering Manhattan) will blow you away!   The scene is overwhelming, the crowds 10 people thick and huge jumbo screens everywhere.  Every runner is smiling, every country in the world is represented. I can’t describe the feeling I get as a spectator just watching this race.  Then it strikes me, the runners have cameras and are taking pictures of us because it is such an incredible scene.  The crowd support at the NYC is amazing.  Kids in trees, on shoulders, more signs than you can ever imagine, 350 ( yes 350) bands will line the streets.  Every runner has a story of how and why they are there.

One particular year stands out.  I was on a corner  near 66th street.  As I look to my right there is a women who has worried that she missed her daughter.  She spoke very little English and asked me to calculate where her daughter  should be at mile 19 if  she runs an 8 minute mile and started at 10:30 am  …ummmm.  Then this woman grabs me and hugs me  and jumps up and down.  I don’t even know her but I am jumping with her and I am screaming the name Katie with her.   A 25 year old Katie runs over to us with the biggest smile you can ever imagine with tears running down her face. Her mom starts crying, I get all choked up.    Katie is on a runners high at mile 19,  but her mom looks worried and says something I don’t understand.   As she runs away I notice Katie only has one leg, the other a prosthetic.  This was her first marathon.  Just one of 45,000 stories whose 90,000 feet are hitting the streets of Manhattan.  Ten of those feet will be my family and my friends!  My brother Chuck Garrity, my sister in law Kat Garrity and two other very good friends will also be participating on Sunday.  It will be a spectacular day.

My goal is simple:  to enjoy the day and to see my family on the course- my mom, my husband, my kids and my very best friends will all be there ( at mile 18 and mile 23).   Their presence and support will carry me those last six miles through Central Park.  I plan to celebrate with friends Sunday night into the wee-hours of the morning   Dancing on tired legs and wobbly ankles we are going to do it up NYC style.  No rest for the  weary!  After that I plan to chill out.  Relax-no more triathons, no more marathons…..this year.  I promise. Maybe.