I was experiencing pure laziness on writing this race recap. Clearly. It's the day after Thanksgiving and I'm just finishing it. So...here we go.
The Savannah Rock n' Roll full and half marathon took place Saturday, Nov. 7th. Those of us who ran it since its inception in 2011 were given special race bibs to highlight that we were legacy runners celebrating its 5th anniversary. We were making history! Oh the irony, because this race was about to leave a lasting legacy of angry Facebook rants and posts to come. I hope it doesn't turn away runners from wanting to run in our beautiful city. It was just definitely an off year.
Because I had just completed the TCS New York City Marathon the weekend before, I ran the half marathon with the intention of just having fun - no pressure, no sweat - except I crossed that finish line completely drenched in sweat! Pouring loads and loads of sweat! I'm not weather man, but it was safe to say that it was 100% swamp ass weather and it was by far the hottest RNR Savannah yet! I'm sure if I had specific goals on setting a PR, I would've been devastated and angry. However, my plan was just to take it super easy on this run. On top of that, it was my birthday weekend and the Competitor Group gave me a big ole birthday pin to wear for race day and I wore it proudly! My goal was to have an enjoyable 13.1-mile jaunt along my home turf, joined by the company of 20,000+ runners...oh, and to also find beer and mimosas on the course. I already had it mapped out with friends in Gordonston, as well as the 13th mile. Oh yes! I was prepared to get my chug on!
On race eve, I set aside a long-sleeve tee just in case I needed it in the morning. In the last 4 years, we've bundled up in layers at the start line and would gradually shed our clothing before the race started - shivering at the start. That morning, I woke up and checked my Weather Channel app and saw that it was in the low 60s, but with the humidity, it felt like it was 71 degrees. Wow - this was at 4:30 in the morning! No need for my long-sleeve tee. It was going to be a hot day! The Savannah RNR Facebook page had even posted up a notification about a Heat Plan. I'd never experienced anything like this before. This weather was definitely not typical for race day. We usually have cool, crisp weather perfect for running - especially with this one serving as a Boston qualifier.
I noticed that I didn't have any of the usual pre-race jitters the morning of the race and realized it was because I took away all that pressure of trying to PR. Man, it felt good to be able to relax and take in all my surroundings. The only nervousness I had was preparing to sing the National Anthem to kick off the race - in front of 20,000+ people! Gah!! Terrified that I would goof up the lyrics, I had my cheat sheet ready! It went very smoothly I must say! It's been a dream of mine to be able to sing the National Anthem to kick off the race and it finally happened! Here's to hoping they invite me to do it again next year! After I sang, I joined Corral 3 and waited for our wave to start.
Many people think that the race runs through all the pretty historic downtown areas that you typically see in travel brochures or filtered Instagram posts, but the reality is that we run throughout ALL of Savannah - the pretty parts and the not-so-pretty parts. However, the folks that live in the not-so-pretty parts of town are out there showing just as much support and love for the runners. It's a nice sight to see.
Ugh, how can I already be soaked in sweat and we haven't even reached the first mile marker yet?! The humidity was unbelievable. In efforts to stay hydrated, I made pit stops at every single water and Gatorade stop (as well as anyone offering beer along the course). Later, I would find out that many of these stops would run out of water and/or cups for the runners in later corrals. Yikes! Not good. Competitor later issued an apology.
As I ran past rowdy spectators, one even dressed as Forrest Gump, I held up my birthday pin, screaming obnoxiously, "IT'S MY BIRTHDAY WEEEEEKEEEEEND!!" and was rewarded with a chug of some nice cold Coors Light. Classy! I was having a fun time, despite the heat and was enjoying the sights running through parts of town that weren't part of my usual training routes. I even struck up a few conversations with fellow runners throughout the course.
As we headed into Gordonston, I saw a runner down. I remember saying out loud, "Oh no. Oh no. No, no, no." There was a concerned crowd standing around him as someone on the ground was giving him chest compressions. We alerted residents that a medic was needed. As we notified the residents, I saw another group of runners help out another runner who was about to faint. He was completely spaced out. This was getting scary and it was only getting warmer and warmer. Competitor would later call the race and divert runners to the finish due to the heat, as well as local medics and EMT staff being inundated with emergencies along the route. Not many completed the full marathon. Many were angry and took to social media with furious rants on having their race cut short. I agreed with Competitor in shutting the race down. Not too many people know when to listen to their bodies and will push ahead at any cost to finish. I know because I'm one of those people. However, since I ran the half, I wasn't affected by it. I finished before they shut the race down. I saw many of my friends struggling that day and my heart went out to them. It sucks to train all season long for race day conditions to be so poorly The humidity killed that race. Mother nature, you!!
Despite the warm temperature and the awful humidity, I still managed to finish the half marathon in under 2 hours. As I said earlier, I didn't put any pressure on myself and the intent was to just go out and have fun - and that's exactly what I did. I stopped to take pictures, guzzle beer, chat with friends, and walked some with runners who weren't having such a great race day. As I crossed the finish line, the commentators recognized me from singing the National Anthem that morning and stopped to interview me. I felt like a rockstar with my big ole birthday pin still hanging on for dear life on my tank.
Overall - the race was a great experience for me. I'm sorry that the weather didn't cooperate this year and that it left many with a bad taste in their mouth on the Savannah Rock n' Roll. However, this will always be the race that initiated my running and I'll keep with the tradition of running this race that I strongly believe started the movement of runners in our city!
They say running marathons is like birthing children. I've experienced both. You put your body through all this indescribable sweat, pain, and sometimes tears and yet... you do it all over again.
You sign up for another marathon, erasing your mind of all those crippling leg spasms, cramps, and god awful chafing the instant that shiny medal is adorned around your neck. I figured I should immediately write up this race report before the pain subsides and everything I describe becomes all unicorns and rainbows because right now, my legs - especially my thighs and calves - are screaming out that it wasn't all rainbows and unicorns, but more like imagining an angry dwarf wreaking havoc with a war hammer on my poor legs!
Let's start with the expo. As soon as my plane landed and we checked into our hotel (Wyndham New Yorker), my family and I walked a few blocks over to the Javitz Center to pick up my race packet. I didn't stay too long because the expo was super crowded and I felt completely overwhelmed - lost in a sea of people. I mean we are talking about the largest marathon in the world here. So I picked up my race packet, bought some Glide (I realized I ran out of it while packing my luggage), and left. I did my shopping for the Asics marathon gear online which I'm glad because the merchandise line at the expo was atrocious! Once I got my race packet and checked that off my "to do" list, I was able to relax and enjoy our family time sightseeing in New York before marathon morning. One of the highlights was seeing Matilda the Musical at the Schubert Theatre. It was fantastic!! I highly recommend seeing it!
They say to try and keep off your feet the day before the race, but how can you stay off your feet when you're in New York City?! We did a whole lot of walking exploring the city, which left me completely worn out so I was actually pretty happy with the time change and gaining that extra hour of sleep. On race eve, it took me longer than usual to set out my race gear. I was a big ball of nerves just trying to make sure I wasn't forgetting anything. It probably didn't help that I didn't have my usual lemonade flavored Huma packed with caffeine. Since I literally packed the night before we left for New York - I didn't realize that I was completely out so I just grabbed what was left, which happened to be the non-caffeinated mango-flavored Huma gels. Note to self: Don't ever do that again. Work consumed me the week of the race and I waited til the very last minute to do my packing. I should've made sure I was equipped with my essentials prior to packing for the race. Lesson learned! I plugged my Garmin for a good full charge and finally set aside everything and fell sleep.
One of my CREW training buds, John, met me race morning at my hotel and we walked over to the subway station to take us to the Staten Island Ferry. I was so happy I had a companion because I didn't know a thing about riding subways. They confuse me - train 1, 2, 3 or A, C, E....which ones take us where?! Layered in our throwaway neon bright cheap sweatsuits that we wouldn't be caught dead in on a normal day, we found the right subway that took us to the ferry. The Staten Island ferry was the best transportation pick! We made sure we made our way onto the side of the ferry that would have the best view of the Statue of Liberty. With a cool breeze running through my hair, surrounded by so many runners, we all took out our camera phones and began snapping away. It was such a beautiful sight! Once we landed over on Staten Island, we boarded the buses that would take us to the start village. We were both in the Green Village and in the same wave, but parted ways to get into our specified corrals. We even ran into some fellow Savannahians - Lee Ann and Michael. It's so fun to see familiar faces in these big races in big cities - amongst the 50,000 runners!
We had gotten lucky with the weather. It had fluctuated so much within the week. At one point, it was going to be cold with a 60% chance of rain. We ended up with a high of 69 with partly cloudy skies. Perfect! It was almost too warm, but I'm not complaining! I laid out a rain poncho to use for sitting at the start village since I would be there for a while before race start and watched the runners all around me - admiring everyone speaking all these different languages - and sharing in that electricity, that buzz of excitement of running the NYC Marathon. Eventually we made our way into the corrals so I shed the poncho, along with my cheap sweatsuit, as we made our way to the start line. After the singing of the National Anthem, announcements, and the shooting of the cannons to signal the start of the corral, Frank Sinatra's famous "New York" blared on the speakers as we made our way across the Start line onto the Verrazano Bridge. Sing it Sinatra! "Start spreadin' the news, I'm leavin' today. I want to be a part of it - New York, New York! These vagabond shoes, are longing to stray, right through the very heart of it, New York, New York!" The energy was incredible and contagious! We all, as a community of runners, were different in so many ways, coming together from many different parts of the world to share in one common goal - to complete the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon!
I had read so many blogs offering sage advice on running the marathon. Every single one of them cautioned us to not go all out in the beginning miles. Many said it was really easy to gun it in the beginning and to be wary of it. Do not even kick in speed until after mile 15. I threw all of that out the window and decided to run by effort and to go with the flow. I guess the flow was pretty fast because it would later kick my butt - which, to be fair, all the blogs had given me fair warning. I just felt so good that I thought I'd be able to hang until the end.
The crowd support was unreal. There are millions of people lining the streets in the different boroughs cheering on their friends, loved ones, and perfect strangers - like me. If you were lucky enough to put your name on your shirt, you could hear folks chanting your name to cheer you on. My sister ironed a "Cecilia on the Run" decal on my race shirt and I can't tell you how many times I needed that extra support of hearing my name from the crowd. "Cecilia - you're looking strong!" "Cecilia - you're breaking my heart!" "Go Cecilia!" At one point, someone in the crowd screamed my name as I was rounding a sharp corner and the runner next to me got my attention and it happened to be one of my running Instagram buddies (nycsweat)! I couldn't believe we ran into each other in this huge race! I love New York! On top of that, hearing Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" at full blast on speakers throughout various parts of the course just got you inspired to push even harder.
I was still feeling pretty good! However, once I passed mile 15, I made a mental note that this was the point where all the bloggers mentioned picking up the pace. Earlier in the race, it was so crowded that it masked all the hills. By this time, the crowd had thinned out and that's when I was able to notice all the hills and its ups and downs...many ups and downs. I read that one of the race commentators described the course as that of a cross-country one. I could feel my pace slowing. At around mile 18, my right calf started cramping. I was talking out loud to myself, "oh no....no, no, no, no, no." I kept running, hoping it would go away and not turn into a full fledged charlie horse. It went away...kind of. I couldn't tell if it was messing with my gait as I tried to run away and ignore the discomfort and pain. At mile 20, not only was my calf on fire, but it had moved into both of my thighs. They began to seize. It hurt to run and it hurt to walk. At this point, it wasn't even a battle of mental will. It was a battle of physically making it to the finish. Damn it Seal - why did you start off so fast? Why didn't you listen to all these seasoned runners who ran this marathon many times? I looked to the right and saw a runner in tears as the medical group and its volunteers helped her into a wheelchair. It frightened me a little. I felt so bad for her. We were so close to the finish!!
I'd never experienced these leg spasms before and I was nervous that it was going to physically stop me from finishing. I did not want a DNF!! At certain points, I was in so much pain that I had to stop and walk for a brief period. But even walking hurt so I made myself run as much as I could to the finish. IT WAS BRUTAL. Those last 3 miles felt like an eternity. The .2 felt even longer. Where the hell was the damn finish line?! Ah, there it is!! It was so bad I couldn't even enjoy the beauty of Central Park. I just craved the instant sense of relief of finally crossing the finish. As I ran through with the crowds cheering with all their might, I looked over to the left and noticed John was right in front of me. He had crossed the finish at right around the same time I did.
I completed the NYC Marathon in 4:09:04. No PR for me, but this was by far the toughest marathon I've tackled yet. However, it was also one of the best experiences. I would love to take another shot at it knowing the things I know now of the course, of shooting out too early, of being better prepared (more hill work in training!!), and making sure I have everything to pack for race day! I want redemption! But we shall see what the future has in store.
As we made our way out and picked up our awesome ponchos (since we didn't do gear check), John and I hobbled out of the race exit to meet up with our families. I met up with Michael and the kids and we made the 1-mile trek back to the hotel. I opted to walk instead of trying to hail a cab. I thought the walk would be better for me. I even made a pit stop to get my medal engraved by the Lincoln Center. There wasn't a line so why not?! As I slowly trudged back to our hotel, along with many of the other finishers, we received cheers from other pedestrians. A mom and her two small kids clapped for me as I walked past. It was a beautiful thing to be acknowledged, especially in a city that is always on the go. I noticed that many New Yorkers walking through Manhattan seem to be in such a hurry, hastily making their way to their specified location with purpose and no small talk, so to hear any acknowledgment or a congratulations was huge! And there was a lot of it!
As I sit here and type with my legs still sore as can be, I hope to see you again New York and have another chance of running through your beautiful city. You made me feel like part of the elite - someone special - running in this marathon major. We all started the race listening to Sinatra croon, "I want to be a part of it. New York, New York." And now that it's finished, I can happily say that I WAS a part of it! New York, New York!
Til next time!
If you look up the idiom "on-the-run", it means to constantly travel or moving from place to place. Welcome to my life! I get asked the question - "Do you ever sleep?" at least once a week. The truth is - I am always on the run. My weeks are filled with work, training runs, dropping kids off to school and extra curricular activities, traveling out-of-town for races and soccer games, theatre rehearsals, civic duties - you name it. In addition to being an avid runner, I'm a happily married wife, mother of two, an actress, singer, a Fleet Feet CREW coach, and work full time as the Marketing Manager for Thomas & Hutton Engineering Co. I love being on the run!