Home' Scoop : Scoop 50 Summer 2009 Contents 118 SCOOP SUMMER 2009
We shuffled on to buses and there was quiet ex-
cited chatter as we rolled out of Manhattan. Cross-
ing the Verrazano-Narrows bridge, our bus fell
silent as we saw what we would be running across at
the start of the marathon in a few hours time.
Arriving on Staten Island, we were herded into
Fort Wadsworth, an army base set up in three
"camps" for the race. Waiting in the blue camp,
we sat on plastic bags on a kerb and drank hot tea,
ate an early banana, had a free bagel, our prepared
breakfast and chatted with our neighbours.
The four-hour wait was long and cold. My toes
went numb. I was grateful that I had packed my
gloves, rain poncho and extra plastic bags to sit
on, however something cushy to plant my bum on
would have been wise.
We'd bought cheap tracksuits which we
planned to wear right up to the start and then
ditch -- all clothing thrown off by competitors is
donated to the homeless -- so we were able to keep
relatively warm right up to the start.
Extra belongings are placed in your expo goodie
bag (they come labelled with your name and race
number) then placed in numbered trucks, which
meet you at the finish. I felt a sense of panic plac-
ing my bag in the truck knowing I'd have to run
42.2km to get my stuff back.
Around 10am our wave start was called, so we
made our way to the corral. Of course, here we
found ourselves standing next to a couple from
Perth. We nervously chatted as we filtered through
to the start, jogging over to the bridge until finally
there it was -- the start of the New York City
Running out across the Verazzano-Narrows
Bridge was incredible. I felt elated, finally starting
the race that I had trained for, worried about, and
thought I couldn't do.
The Manhattan skyline stretched out to our
left, and all around us runners were cheering and
excited. Apparently the bridge is steep, but I didn't
notice. It was just great, and I was walking on air.
The first spectators were waiting for us in
Brooklyn. Waving signs and shouting "Welcome
to Brooklyn!", the crowds lifted you up and car-
ried you along. I could've hugged them all and I
couldn't stop smiling. The first 10km felt like a
spacewalk, it was brilliant.
Less brilliant was that after two kilometres, my
ITB was hurting. Unbelievable. I decided I wasn't
stopping, and that I would just blow it out if I had to.
As we ran through Brooklyn I felt like crying --
not from pain though, I was overwhelmed by how
generous the crowds were, throwing all this sup-
port and love out to a bunch of nutcase strangers.
By the halfway mark I was really hurting. My
left leg was incredibly tight and the pain in my
knee was extreme. I was compensating with my
right leg, which I knew would end up hurting too.
People around us were flagging, and we'd left
the happy Brooklyn crowds to run with no crowds
across a big silent bridge, heading for the Bronx.
I was worrying about how I was going to get
through the next 21km.
I can hardly remember big parts of the race
now. I do remember thinking over and over again
"this is gruelling" and it's a description I've clung
to since, even though I can't remember the pain
itself. At times I was reduced to a shuffle.
By 32km I think I was high from pain. I can't
remember a lot of the scenery -- I can remember
a gospel choir and a fantastic brass band, I can
remember people playing Black Eyed Peas. I can
remember thanking people as they called out my
name, and trying to sound more cheerful than I felt.
We had visited Central Park the day before the
race to see how the course would finish -- so I knew
that we had a long, uphill finish. The crowds were
going mental at this point, but I was in my bat cave,
and I wasn't coming out until I crossed that line.
With a few metres to go, and with the flags
of all the different countries on each side, my
Working out what to eat before the race and during is critical. If you don't get
enough carbs in, you'll bonk during the event.
Your body will use whatever carbs it has easy access to (breakfast), then
it will go for what carbs you have stored in your muscles (this is why people
"carb load" in the few days before a race). Then your body will basically use
up your muscles (for want of a more technical description) to power your body.
Which is what you don't want -- this means pain, fatigue and sometimes more
serious issues such as muscle "meltdown".
As a rule of thumb, you want to ingest 1g of carb per kilo of bodyweight, per
hour, during a race. So if you weigh 60kg, you need 60g of carbs every hour.
Men usually need a bit more, women less. Most endurance athletes use "gels",
which come in sachets and various flavours that contain a variety of things but
most importantly, carbs (around 25-30g per sachet). They are revolting.
A couple of weeks prior to the race I consulted sports nutritionist, Boris
Kazakov from Dietbiz to help me shed a bit of weight before the race and carb
load effectively. Boris's advice was to trim excess fat from my diet (for me that
translated into less of my beloved extra virgin olive oil, smaller dinners and
fewer calorie-laden snacks). But as a woman, I didn't need to eat big pasta
meals in the weeks leading up.
All I had to do was eat slightly more carbs (rice, pasta, potatoes) than nor-
mal, and only in the last few days before the race.
During a long race you can lose a lot of salt. If you take in too much fluid
and don't replace your salt you can get hyponatraemia, where salt levels in
your plasma are too low, causing swelling of the brain in severe cases. It's very
rare, but people have died from this during marathons, eep.
With this in mind, Boris suggested adding salt to my food in the days
before the race. Race organisers also suggest you take a salt packet along.
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