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Sunteti aici :: Povesti » New York Marathon 2009 » 5.Before the race (the week and morning before the race)

5.Before the race (the week and morning before the race)

A marathon training can be „failed" if in the week leading to the race you’re not paying attention to details. The last two weeks represent a period of time in which the priority is to decrease the volume of training (so that you allow your body enough time to recover and rest), maintain the speed trainings and prepare yourself mentally - how does the race looks like, the track, what will you eat, where will you stay, what will you dress yourself with before, during and after the race, where will you eat after the race, what will you do in case an accident happens.
 
(2)KEjxITA_83731.jpgIt’s hard to make a story from everything that I did before the start of the race, though I’ve enlisted below, as I’ve remembered them, the main things:

-   the time difference between New York and Dubai - to get over it I went to New York with a week before the actual race, arriving in US on Sunday, October 24th; I estimated that a week would have been enough to accommodate myself with the temperature and time difference

-  the marathon course - for me it was very important to know the course and to establish in advance some visual elements that would help me during the race in case I would have some difficult times. Such intermediary goals can be reaching building X, the Y park, the Z bridge, and from there I will know exactly how many kilometres I’ve done already and how many I have to go. To do this, I looked at a movie on Youtube, which was following exactly the race course, I ran the last days on the last 6 kilometres of the race and I went on an organized tour on the first 21 kilometres.

-  Another important thing for me was to visualize, to see myself finishing the race, how I will run the last 100 meters, how I will fight to give everything I’ve got. The worst that can happen would have been if I would finished and then asked myself „what if...?". I told some friends, before going to New York, that I want to give all that I’ve got during the race, it’s going to be either me or the race, either I finish in my goal time or I will collapse... and I wasn’t very happy of the thought that I might collapse.

-  Nutrition - the golden rule of the last days prior to a race is not to try anything new in terms of food. It should be what you usually ate during your training, most of the times carbohydrate rich food (pasta, bread, vegetables for example). The most important meal is the lunch before the race day, because your body needs on average 12-15 hours to assimilate all the carbohydrates. In addition I drank mainly Gatorade Endurance Formula Lime - the same drink which the organizers were going to provide during the marathon itself, with a double amount of sodium to compensate the salt that the runners will lose through sweat during the race. The reason behind this was to get used to the taste and figure out as well if my stomach can tolerate the drink. In Dubai for example, during training, although most of my isotonic drink was Isostar, I drank once in a while Gatorade, Lucozade, Powerade, as in different races, depending on the sponsors, you have different brands of drinks. In addition, when it’s cold outside, the risk of dehydration is even higher because you don’t realize when you lose liquids, therefore you don’t drink enough to compensate. Food wise, I quickly identified 2-3 good restaurants where I figured out I can get some good pasta and where I also trusted that there will be no chance for food poisoning... I would have hated having to quit because of a bad stomach after all the training

-  Where I slept - I had the luck to know Birte, a friend from AIESEC Germany that is working for a year as part of the national team of AIESEC US; they offered me a place to stay in the week before the race. This was important for me as I had the chance in the evenings to relax, have a chat, go out (though not that much as I would have wanted since I also wanted to get some rest - I was there to race not to party). Their flat was very close to the subway line which lead directly to the place where I took the ferry to the starting line, on Staten Island.

(3)AO2lTNfb_7536.jpg
-  Clothing / Equipment - because it was cold in the morning, in addition to my racing equipment I bought some clothes from NY which I was going to throw away right before the start; the organizers were going to gather the clothes and donate them to homeless shelters. The racing equipment has a story in itself. First of all the shirt - I got it from the Romanian Federation of Athletics, the same shirt used by the professional athletes in Romania. Most runners write their name on the t-shirt so that they receive some „direct" encouragement during the race. I chose to run with a t-shirt with Romania written with big letters on the front so that in case someone wanted to cheer for me, the way to do it was by saying „Go Romania!".

The racing pants where marathon specific (they oppose no or little resistance during running and have a special pocket where I kept my Power Gels). The socks were Falke for racing (the same model I used at the Berlin Marathon). The running shoes were Asics DS Trainer (the lightest shoes which someone of my weight can wear and not get injured). The watch and GPS from Suunto were my way to keep constant measurement of the distance, pace and average speed at which I was running. At my running shoes I had a small bracelet which I received from a friend a year before and to whom I promised that I will wear it anytime I race. Last but not least, with the help of a triathlete friend, I made a bracelet that was indicating the splits I needed each mile and each 5 kilometres, so that I was able to track my evolution, which proved to be very important during the race.
 
I took with myself also clothes for the „after the finish line" part - compression pants, warm fleece, gloves, hat. During the race the immunitary system decreases and you risk to catch a cold after the race if you expose yourself to cold too much.

-  After the race - usually you establish in advance with the people that will cheer for you, where will you meet them (during the race and after the finish line), where will you go and eat after the race etc. The risk that you face when you establish meeting points is that there are chances not to see that friend / friends due to many reasons - big crowd at the meeting spot, you get there earlier than you expected etc. If you expect and count too much on this, you might get very disappointed and disappointment is the last thing you want to have in your mind when you run 42 kilometres. The best thing to do is to establish a meeting point and have in mind that there is a chance not to meet that friend. In my case, Birte and Tiffany, told me they will wait for me at kilometer 36, Bianca (the friend of a friend) was coming at the finish line, the same place where I agreed to meet Antonio.

-  What happens in case of an accident - a lesson from the marathon I ran in Vienna was to write my details on the back of the race number: name, any particular medical history, contact person in case of an accident, native language etc. At Vienna I thought I’m a „super-hero" and that nothing will ever happen to me, „that stuff" is only for the weak ones and I don’t need to fill any information on the back of my number. In reality, I collapsed and because I had no information on my number and I didn’t know any phone number by hard from my friends in Vienna, I couldn’t call anyone for help. I had to wait 3 hours until I was able to walk again and be taken by ambulance to the finish line where all my friends were waiting for me, worried. At NY, this was one of the first things I did after I got my race pack.
 
-  The „before-the-race" ritual. The „before-the-race" ritual for me starts the evening before. Then, I arrange everything for the next day and I mentally go through the whole process from the moment I wake up, to the moment I reach the starting line. Later on, in the second phase of this process, I think about the marathon course and I imagine how it will be like, what will I feel, to what should I pay attention to.

(1)LuCxyh_69419.jpgI arranged as well all the clothes, equipment, running shoes, watch. The night before I knew exactly what I will eat and drink. I placed my iPod next to the bed so that immediately after showering in the morning I would start my usual ritual, listening to music before heading out for my run. As for what I eat & drink before running, the ritual has been the same for the past 2 years. I wake up 3 hours before the race and I immediately drink two liters of isotonic drink (e.g. Gatorade, Isostar) - I usually eliminate this liquid prior to the race start but I remain with the minerals and sodium that they contain. Food wise I eat a banana and a Power Bar. Then I start getting dressed, use special powder in the areas where I know that my skin has most chances to get irritated during the run (feet, underarm, inside part of my legs), so that I assure myself that my shoe laces are not too tight since during the race my feet might swollen a bit and I will not have the time to stop and untie & tie them back again.

I reach the starting line usually with one hour and a half before the actual start - I eliminate all the stress factors and it’s better to wait there than being stuck in traffic somewhere. Before the start, similar to many times during training, my mind went on to bring up different thoughts - my family, friends back home or in different parts of the world, that will be „next" to me from their own homes, tracking my progress in real time with the help of the technical possibilities provided by the official website. For a second I thought about the option in which I would not finish.. I accepted the fact that there are many things that might happen and I cannot plan, that would lead me to decide to quit the race. I parked them „away" from my active thoughts. I was there to finish the race not to find excuses for failing. Every single time I doubted myself, during the travel to the marathon starting line or during warm-up, I was repeating to myself: „I will run as best as I can and I will give it everything.. either I finish or I collapse, mediocrity is no option".

In that morning I took the ferry from Manhattan to Staten Island. On purpose, in the week before the race I avoided that area because I wanted to have a „special" moment that morning before the start. What exactly? The moment in which the ferry would pass by the Statue of Liberty. The main thought in my mind, as the ferry was passing by the statue, was that I came a long way in my life and that there’s still a long way to go ahead of me. In 2004 I was travelling for the first time outside of Romania, going to a conference in Poland (in Katowice) with a train ride that took 24 hours.. in just 5 years, I was on a ferry, in New York, passing by the Statue of Liberty. Thought again „no limits" and I went back inside where it was warmer - no need to lose energy now, I had to save it for later.
 
With an hour before the start I do my warm-up: easy 2 km run, 500 m at marathon pace, easy stretching. With 30 minutes before the start I head towards my starting block. Because there are 42,000 runners, we are all separated into different „starting waves", based on their estimated finish time. Then in every wave there are 3 different categories, again depending on estimated finish time. In my wave, for example, the first were the elite runners - Group A, then professionals (group B) and then us, the competitive amateur runners (group C). There are 4 starting waves, 12 categories in total. You must provide the estimated finish time upon registration and it is based on your previous races, results etc. The better your finishing time, the smaller the number of runners. I crossed the starting line 1 minute after the first runners, so before me there were, for example, 700-800 runners (the elite runners had a separate start).
 
As I headed towards the starting line with 30 minutes before the start of the race, I realized that I was a bit too optimistic about the time needed to actually reach my category, because I had to start a slalom through thousands of runners to go from the group of athletes that wanted to finish the marathon in 4 hours to the group I was allocated to. Many people don’t want to say out loud in how much time they expect to finish the marathon, out of superstition or something else. I didn’t care, I had to get to a group of runners from my category. When I finally reached Wave 1, group C, I started asking people about their objective: „Excuse me, what is your expected finish time?".. and I was seeing some of the people who were being asked being taken by surprise and not knowing whether to say out loud what their objective was because maybe they will finally have to set an objective or maybe friends would know. I went on asking.. „3 hours 30 min", „3h 15", „3h 22", „3 h".. and so on until I got more and more answers of „2h 55", „2h 57". I kept on asking until a guy answered „2 hours 40 min.. or better", I looked at him, smiled and said: „Aha, I see, all right, good luck.. I’ll stay right here in the back, don’t wanna be in your way!" When I raised my eyes and looked ahead I saw that there were just a couple of hundreds of runners ahead of me until the actual starting line... that was it, I was in my spot.

After hearing the USA national anthem and a short speech of the mayor of New York City (Mike Bloomberg), next was the start. Right before the start, the last thing I had to do, as part of my „ritual" was to take a Power Gel (which was going to give me a boost of carbohydrates for the first 10 km) and drink 500 ml of isotonic drink...

10..9..8..7...6...5..4...


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