Thursday, June 28, 2012

Great New York 100 Miler RR

I honestly don't even know where to begin with this race report. I'm still kind of in awe of this weekend and how it went. Although I was the one doing the running, the whole time, it felt so surreal that I still have to pinch myself that it happened. Warning: this race report is essentially a novel. Don't say you weren't warned.

Long story short: I attempted and ran 100.3 miles this past weekend. Even typing that out felt weird, but it actually happened and I am so happy to share my story about the journey to finishing it. 

John and I bused up to NYC Friday midday and met up with my mom/sherpa, who was already in the city. On the bus ride up, I realized that I left my Nathan hydration pack at home, which was NOT going to be good. After grabbing a quick lunch and calling a bunch of running and sporting stores, we headed to Eastern Mountain Sports and found a hydration pack that would be sufficient for race day. So lucky my race was in NYC and not some small town so I could find a hydration pack. I would have been in a serious jam had I not gotten one.
David, myself, John and Bobby at Spumoni Gardens
We then headed to Spumoni Gardens near Coney Island for dinner with two of my pacers, Bobby and David. The pizza and pasta were unbelievable and it was really fun to catch up with those guys before the race. We discussed the plan for the race and mostly did a lot of laughing. Before you know it, we were heading back, I packed everything I needed for the race in the right bags, and went to bed around 10:30 pm.

At 3:50 am, my alarm went off. I stumbled out of bed, groggy and insanely nervous. John, my mom, and I grabbed our stuff and headed to Times Square. It was fairly empty at that time of day, filled only with drunks heading home and the other runners. I checked in, finished my breakfast, mingled a bit with some runners, and nervously awaited the start.
Photo Credt; Trishul Lorne W. Cherns
At around 5:15 am, after a few pictures of all of the racers, we were off! For the first few miles, I ended up with two women, Carol and Becky, and a guy, Marco. We ran through Central Park (really pretty when empty in the AM) and we slowly made our way north up the island. I ended up running a good portion of these miles with Marco, who was great to get to know.

We hit an aid station at mile 9.4 and soon enough, we entered the Brox and made our way to Van Cortlandt Park. I don't run trails much anymore living in Philly, but one of my favorite parts of the course was our trail section in this park. We did a good amount of walking up the hills, but the forests and trails were so beautiful and felt so invigorating to run through. Reminder: run on trails more!!
At mile 25
Eventually, we made it to the next aid station, at mile 20, where John and my mom were. I ate a strawberry glazed donut, gave them both hugs and kisses, and moved to the next section, which was an out and back. The temperature was starting to rise and I was doing my best to stay in the shade when possible and walk up bigger hills when we got to them. We made it back to the same aid station, this time at mile 25. I snagged some Pringles from my lovely crew and again, gave them kisses and hugs before heading off with Marco along the course.

The sun became a lot hotter, but Marco and I kept plugging along. We ran into another runner, Marc, and stuck with him as we made it to the aid station at mile 31 and then crossed the RFK bridge into Queens. We were walking more than I planned on it, but there were more hills than I had anticipated (not bad hills, just not ones that would have been smart to have run up).

I was starting to feel really warm and just was eager to see my mom and John. The next aid station, was along some water, which felt really nice. The aid station, though, ended up being 1+ mile past where the map said it was. I was starting to freak out and just wanted to see my mom and John. When I finally did, it felt great. I ate a bit more food, then kept going. At this point, I wasn't running with anyone else, which got a bit lonely.
Early on in the race. Photo Credit: Donna Saljuga-Tabios
Around mile 45, I really was feeling weak and tired. I caught up with Marco (we kept playing leap frog, passing each other back and forth) and he stressed how important it was for me to eat. I stopped, snacked on some roasted nuts that I had in my bag, and slowly trudged along. I started to realize that I may not be able to make my 24 hour goal for the race, but I just cared about making it to the finish in one piece (and under the time limit!).

I came in at mile 50 at around 11 hours and 56 minutes (making the originally set cut off of 50 miles in 12 hours...mental win for me!). Phil, the RD, warned us that some of the aid stations may not have volunteers as some weren't able to make it, which is what happened at mile 51. I kept running and running, just hoping to see some volunteer so I wouldn't feel so lonely. After I got to mile 54, I realized I must have missed the unmanned aid station. I just kept telling myself to push and push to mile 58, where my mom, John, and my pacer, Steph, would be.

I had to get to the 58 mile aid station by 14 hours and I got there with about 10 minutes so spare. I was BEYOND happy to see my crew, sit down, and eat some food. I hadn't been eating enough throughout the day and I have never tasted a more delicious sandwich than the turkey sandwich my mother made for me. I cleaned up my legs, got dirt and rocks out of my shoes, and headed out on the course with Steph.
Made the 58 mile cut-off in time! So ready for food!
Steph, a friend I've met through City Running Tours, was my pacer from miles 58-71. We ran through some not so pretty places in Queens to begin with, but she kept me going and helped distract me. She even played a memory game with me when I requested so I'd stop thinking about how much more running had to happen. We made a pit-stop in Starbucks for a smoothie (life saver!) and made our way to Far Rockway to meet my next pacer.

At mile 71, we met up with my mom, John, and David, who was my next pacer. I sat, snacked a bit, called another runner friend, who gave me great words of encouragement, then we headed out. Around this point, my stomach started to feel really sick. I was really excited because my Nana grew up in Far Rockaway and my mom spent a lot of her childhood here, but my stomach kept slowing me down and bumming me out. David was so great in being patient with me and he kept me going. We made it through the mile 75 mile aid station and slowly (we were going slowly and it felt EVEN SLOWER) made our way to Coney Island.
Blurry picture, but happy at mile 71 talking with runner friend
At mile 81, we met up with our friend Bobby, who was also waiting with John and my mom. My stomach felt awful and any attempt to use the bathroom to alleviate it didn't help. I was getting a bit more upset, but didn't let it affect my mood. Bobby, David, and I ran along the Coney Island boardwalk and when it ended, David headed back to Manhattan. At this point, my 24 hour time goal wasn't feasible, but after hearing how many people dropped form the race already, I was just determined to be an official finisher!

I really enjoyed my time with Bobby. He and I had fun talking about running, training, religion, our families, and New York. I was eagerly awaiting the sunrise and when it finally came, I was so happy. We made our way to the 90.7 mile aid station and I was so excited we were at the home stretch. If only I knew how tough the next 10 miles would be.

As we left the aid station, I started to do the math and wondered if I would make the time cut-off of 28 hours. I all of a sudden thought of getting to the end after 28 hours and not officially finishing and I started to cry. What if I spent so much time and had other people work so hard to help me for nothing?! Bobby did his best to cheer me up, but I was so upset. I was also so darn sore and in pain, I just felt so down. Where we were running in Brooklyn at this point wasn't really nice looking either.
At the mile 81 aid station
Bobby, holder of the map, wouldn't let me know what mile we were on. He knew we had to run 76 blocks on this not so pretty street, so instead of letting me know that, he kept saying that the 95 mile aid station (where John and my mom were) was "a bit ahead." I was so down and so upset, I just wanted to be done, but more importantly, I wanted to see John and my mom more than anything. I kept asking Bobby to talk to distract me, which he did a great job of doing.

What felt like forever later, I slowly recognized John and my mom in the distance. I immediately broke down in tears. I had wanted to hug and kiss them both so badly that when I saw them, I was so overwhelmed with emotion. I had a McDonald's hash brown (tasted so good!), and Bobby and I headed to Brooklyn Bridge for the last 5 miles.
I think I had the biggest smile on my face for the last 5 miles because I knew how close I truly was! We ran over the Brooklyn Bridge and I got to see so many beautiful views of NYC. We headed through Chinatown and soon enough, we were 1.5 miles away! Bobby told me we had to end up at 44th and Broadway. Once we turned on to Broadway, I started picking up my legs and counting down the blocks until I was done! Bobby told me by the end, I was running 8 minute/mile pace, which was the fastest I ran during the whole thing!

As I was sprinting in to the finish, I just was so overwhelmed. I saw my mom, John, Phil (the RD), and a competitor who had finished about 5 minutes before me. I immediately broke down in tears, just in awe of what I had accomplished. I waited for the last two official finishers to get to the finish and after thanking Bobby, Steph (who came back to see me finish), and Phil (the RD), we headed home to shower, eat, and eventually train back to Philly.
Finish with my amazing crew. Photo credit: Phil McCarthy 
In the end, I finished 12 out of the 14 finishers (31 people started). Even now, it's hard to think that I am actually a 100 mile finisher. It took a lot of hard work on my part, but I couldn't have done it without my mom, John, my amazing pacers, and the great friends I met along the course. I kept telling myself, "If it was easy, everyone would do it and it wouldn't be as rewarding." That phrase pushed me to the finish and really rang true once I was done. I will hold this weekend in my memory forever and cannot wait to see what ultras I run next.

Edit: Totally forgot to put my finish time, like a dope! I finished in 26 hours, 59 minutes, and 43 seconds!


  1. Congratulations, Rebecca! That's one heck of a run you put together in very tough conditions. I was supposed to pace a runner from the Unisphere in to the finish, but he dropped around mile 50 -- and he certainly wasn't, as you know, the only one. As I mentioned to Phil, it was a "bloodbath" out there -- just too much exposure to the sun taking folks down. I met John out there. What a great guy! I was just amazed how he was using public transportation to make from one aid station to the next. He probably saw a lot of New York a lot of us locals never well. Rest well and get ready for the next one.

  2. Great job. I just did my first 100 miler in May.

  3. Hats off to you Rebecca; that was an impressive run!

  4. Congrats! Your best blog post and longest race ever. A double acheivement.

  5. I am SO SO SO happy for you! Your race report gave me the chills! Major congrats! I bet that smile will last on your face for the rest of 2012.

  6. Rebecca:
    Nice running with you and Marco for a while. BTW there was a 2 day rock festival going on at Randall's Island as we were crossing it. You weren't having auditory hallucinations! Thank you Mom again for the food she supplied at the stops.

  7. I got here from your post on the ultralist. Wow. I had no idea there was a 100 miler in NYC! Was this the first year? I grew up on LI and this would be such a cool race to do sometime in the future. CONGRATS to you, that's an awesome accomplishment!! Thanks for sharing :)

  8. You are a ROCK STAR!!!! I am seriously in awe and just unbelievably impressed. You are definitely made of tough stuff. Way to go!

  9. Now that I had the chance to read a bit about your race, I'm even more astounded. It sounds like it's pretty much the polar opposite of Mind the Ducks, in terms of navigation and course support. How did you not get lost??? (I have such a piss poor sense of direction that it's a wonder I didn't get lost on the MTD course!) And I know it's NYC and there are all sorts of food options out there, but how'd you manage without Shelley's oatmeal cream cookies???

    I am seriously and truly in awe of your accomplishment.

  10. I'm volunteering as a pacer for the Lone Rangers at the 20-in-24 on Sunday morning (6am!!!). Are you running/volunteering/hangin' at the event this year?

    1. I will be there volunteering from 3:30 pm - 6 pm on Saturday and should be pacing a friend at night. I'm considering doing the PJ race just for run, but we'll see what happens with the pacing.

      Awesome that you're volunteering, though! they really need the help!

    2. Don't mean to hijack the thread on your amazing 100 miler, but....

      I had a great time at the 20in24 today, and had the honor of pacing Serge Arbona on his 17th and 19th (final and winning) laps. That guy's a beast!

    3. That's so awesome! He's such a beast and you must have been so in awe while pacing him.