Chasing a PR in the Big Apple: The 2018 TCS NYC Marathon
I woke up at 4.40am, 5 minutes before my alarm was set. I turned it off and lay in bed. I scanned my glucose monitor across my arm with a glucose reading of 83 mg/dL (4.6 mmol/L) showing on the screen.
Deep down, I knew today was going to be good.
I wasn’t feeling tired, or even nervous. That was my main goal. Don’t let the adrenaline hit you until as close to the start line as possible.
I had a long morning ahead and had a rough plan of what I wanted to do.
I slowly got dressed as I multi-tasked putting on sunscreen, attaching my race bib to my short shorts (way too early), getting my breakfast ready for the bus and bolusing 4 units through my insulin pump.
I had some extra food in my clear plastic, marathon approved bag that I would take to the athlete’s village in anticipation of eating some of it prior to the race start. 2 bananas, 2 clif bars and a bottle of water.
My husband sent me off on the Abbott VIP bus, I was grateful for the warm hospitality provided by Abbott as part of my race sponsorship, very different to the Staten Island Ferry and bus queue I used for my 2015 NYC marathon.
I watched my sugar levels like a hawk on the bus, they rose a little to the 90s (roughly 5.5 mmol/L) and then drop back to the 80s (approx. 4.5 mmol/L) before I ate my breakfast of granola and soy milk.
The bus took longer than expected and my sugar levels started to rise. I couldn’t have high bgls at the start line – that was a must. I also couldn’t have any insulin in my system – that was a must. A tricky balance I had to juggle while also getting my mindset right to run my best race yet.
As soon as we got off the bus and walked to the VIP tent, another Abbott perk, my sugar levels came back into range, happily sitting in the 140 mg/dL (approx. 7.7 mmol/L) for the following few hours of waiting.
I didn’t interact with anyone in the starting village as I wandered in circles, went to the toilet numerous times and tried to sip on black tea and water.
By 9.35am I headed to the start line. Wave 2, Corral A. I took with me, a bottle of water, a Clif bar and a banana and left the rest in the VIP village including my pre-race sweat pants.
Packed in my short pockets and sports bra (which has an incredible front pocked), 7 Strawberry Clif energy gels – my fuel for the race.
With 10 mins to go until the cannon would “Boom” I consumed the Clif bar – 45g of carbs and 250 calories. A BGL reading of 103 mg/dL (5.7 mmol/L) – I was in heaven.
The excitement started to creep up. I felt good.
The weather was absolutely perfect – the mid 40s from what I recall.
5 mins to go, I ate the banana, took off my sweater and t-shirt and made sure all my supplies were in their right spot.
I had my Freestyle Libre sensor in my right-hand side short pocket and my Medtronic Insulin pump on my left. The gels spread around the rest.
Today was my day.
Last words to myself: “Listen to Joanie’s (first female marathon Olympic gold medalist Joan Benoit) advice, stick to your pace from the start, have a gel every 30-45 mins and drink water at every single station.
Climbing the Verazano bridge from Staten Island into Brooklyn was a mix of excitement and trying to remain calm.
I focused on when and where I would see friends and my husband Alex.
Friends at mile 8, maybe more friends at mile 16, Alex not until mile 19 – that seemed forever away and then I’d see him again once I finished.
I scanned my sensor at mile 4 and my bgls were approaching 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L). 0.2 units of insulin in my pump and I hoped they wouldn’t rise any higher.
Just past mile 7 I heard my name and saw the face I needed to see for a mental boost – Alex. We high fived and I blew him a kiss. I got a slight energy surge.
Looking out for friends around mile 8, I knew I missed them as I approached mile 9.
Throughout the miles in Brooklyn I thought I heard my name being called a few times but when I turned my head and looked to the crowd I didn’t see anyone I knew.
Mile 10 I again heard my name and saw a friend and old work colleague from my days living in NYC, I smiled and let out a woohoo and pushed my pace for a few seconds. I felt strong.
Each time I passed a mile marker I would glance at my watch and the pace band directly next to it. I was ahead of pace by about 1 min coming into mile 13.
My legs felt incredible. I had consumed 2 gels and my BGLs were stable, cruising in the 130s – 140s (7-8 mmol/L).
We approached the Queensboro bridge where they were broadcasting the commentary from the men’s lead pack. The men were on course for a 2:05 marathon win. I was in awe.
The long 2-mile bridge climb I was feeling good. I focused on some more advice passed to me the day before by Joanie, “on the climbs shorten your stride and use your arms to push you up”. I was doing exactly that and passing people, many of whom were already walking approaching mile 16.
My mental game was strong, but as I turned from the bridge to go up 1stAve, this is where I started to feel a little uneasy.
My stomach was playing games and wanted a bathroom break and I was feeling a little light-headed.
My glucose levels were in range still and I was consuming calories so I knew it wasn’t diabetes-related or a lack of nutrition.
I focused on water and drinking a full cup as I ran through each of the stations.
3 more miles until I see Alex again I told myself.
I missed seeing friends at mile 17 so just focused on looking out for Al.
As I approached 116th St I saw Alex on my left but he didn’t see me… I yelled out “babe” before realizing he wouldn’t have a clue that someone was yelling that specifically for him.
He heard my next scream of “Alex” and gave me quick hand contact before I continued on.
Self-talk: “Get to mile 22, have another gel and you only have 4 miles left”.
I thought Alex might shoot across to Fifth Ave to try and catch me before I would enter Central Park and the last stretch.
I couldn’t rid the feeling of needing to use the bathroom – any seasoned runner will know this feeling that consumes your mind and a focus on finding a toilet or holding it in.
I saw some cubicles on my left between mile 21-22 so ducked in. I kept looking at my watch to see how much time I lost as I ran back out and tied my shorts up at the same time.
I heard my name being screamed near mile 22 and before I knew it I turned my head back and could see Alex in the crowds behind me. I ran back for a split 2ndand grabbed another gel from him although I still had two left in my pockets and knew I wouldn’t need another.
We didn’t exchange words but I wished I had told him I used the bathroom.
Those last few miles to the finish line in Central Park felt hard and good at the same time.
I was low on energy but my legs felt strong.
My glucose levels were an incredible 110 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L) as I took the right hand turn at the Apple Store.
As I entered Central Park for the home stretch I knew what lay ahead and pushed into gear. I took the right-hand side close to the barricade where there where people cheering, flags from every country lined up and the photographers conveniently placed.
I wasn’t as emotional as my first marathon here in NYC but I knew I was going to PR.
I crossed the finish line in 3:23:01. Approximately 50seconds better than my 2017 Sydney marathon time.
I was exhausted, I was elated and I was quietly proud of my efforts.
I had had the perfect race.
The thoughts as I got my finishers medal and my finisher photo – maybe I could have pushed harder, maybe in had more in me.
I don’t think these thoughts will ever go away after a race.
This race was executed exactly how I had planned it in my head. I couldn’t have asked for a better day with my glucose levels, my diabetes management and my nutrition.
Maybe I could have pushed harder. There will be a next time.
Thank you, NYC, for being one of my favorite cities but hands down my favorite marathon.
A big thank you to Abbott for providing me with the support and sponsorship to run the NYC marathon for a second time and for the Freestyle Libre Flash Glucose Monitor that helped me immensely in my training and on race day.
A final thank you to Alex for running all over NYC to cheer me on, take my photo and be the support I needed to reach my goal.
To all my friends who ran the NYC marathon, for many their first marathon, congratulations. I hope you continue to run and love the 26.2-mile distance as much as I do.
I hope to see a lot of friends and runners in Boston next year.
Until then, happy training.
Disclaimer: I was sponsored by Abbott to run the NY marathon which included a race bib, accommodation, flights and food during my stay.