The Year without a New York Marathon

As I do after all of my marathons,  I recap the race in a post-marathon blog entry.  However, this recap isn’t going to encompass the race – as I did not run a race.  But I will tell you a tale of endurance, human spirit and over-coming.  But it has nothing to do with running.  Follow my journey that started out as my getting ready for the New York Marathon and ended with a greater sense of purpose.  This journey was a roller coaster of emotions that left me a better person because of it.  Due to the many emotions and facets to this recap, I’ve decided to break up my posts and do a few entries as not to make one blog post so long it turns into a fricken novel.  Instead think of them more as a series of short stories with a few intermissions already built-in for you.

And as the curtain draws back I take you to the week of October 28, 2012…

Marathon week is normally filled with a touch of anxiousness, race day contingency clothing packing (say that 3-times fast) and last-minute logistical coordination.  I realized quickly this would not be a typical marathon week because this is the first time that my last-minute plans included the uncertainty of a Hurricane/Superstorm baring down on my marathon site and having to deal with its aftermath.

Before Superstorm Sandy actually hit, I have to admit, I was not too concerned.  I truly felt that the storm wouldn’t be as bad as it was being forecast and that it would be downgraded and would not have the damaging effects that some were predicting.  A lot of storms get over blown (pun intended) and don’t turn into what is typically projected, but unfortunately I soon realized this was not the case.  Superstorm Sandy bore down on the East Coast and caused all the chaos, and then some, that was anticipated.

Every major news outlet carried the story of Superstorm Sandy and while I was listening to the post Sandy media coverage, I didn’t really understand what it would mean for me and for my marathon and trip.  I don’t remember the exact time when I realized that my hopes of running the NY marathon were in jeopardy but I just remember it starting as a small doubt than ballooning to a constant sense of anxiousness and doubt which quickly morphed into an impending sense of dread.  There was endless social media chatter from those opposing the marathon and demanding it be canceled.  At the same time, there was as much talk about how the marathon needed to go on as planned to allow New York to get back to normal and give everyone something to rally around.

At this time, as I was getting sick to my stomach about the thought of not running the NY marathon, I was equally as sick about the thought of not running ANY fall marathon.  I did not train all summer, the hottest summer on record, to not run a marathon.  So I went into overdrive to find another fall marathon to run to make sure my training wasn’t in vain.  I searched coast-to-coast and found a handful of possibilities.  Let’s call these substitute marathons my Plans B-E.  But it wasn’t as simple as finding another marathon to run, there were many more logistics to work out like vacation time, travel expenses, Brian’s schedule (or do I forget Brian – every man for himself at this point, besides he did his National Triathlon this summer so he already had his “big” race of the year) etc. Would I have to find a way to work more overtime at my job so I could acquire some extra comp time to fly in and fly out quickly to any of these locations to run?  Some of the marathons were sold out, some didn’t have any hotel rooms left and some were logistically impossible to navigate.  But I kept trying to find a way to make at least one of them work.

When trying to work out the logistics of Plans B through Plans E I also had contemplated canceling the entire NY trip.  I thought saving the money and vacation days would allow me to run a different marathon.  I knew I would be out a lot of money on non-refundable expenses on my NY trip, but at least I could save the $2,100 on hotel and all the money on taxis, dinners and drinks.  I was weighing all of my options and thinking through all scenarios.  But it wasn’t simply a matter of canceling my NY trip and booking another.  That’s because Brian was also scheduled to run NY with me and my sister was planning on coming to NY to cheer us on and to enjoy a week in NY too.  So how do I change plans that involve 2 others, and not just myself?  Needless to say I didn’t sleep well.  I tossed and turned and tossed some more.  I had every scenario in my head swirling around keeping me up at night.  And all this time, I still didn’t know if the NY marathon would even be canceled or if it would go-on.

I waited anxiously in Wisconsin to hear how the East Coast was recovering and waited to hear the decision about whether the marathon would be run.  On Wednesday, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the marathon would indeed go on.  I was relieved.  For a moment.

As quickly as the relief about the marathon being run swept over me, it disappeared just as fast.  I had a new problem to contend with and that was physically getting to New York to run the marathon.  Much of New York and New Jersey were still dealing with flooding and this included the airports.  Superstorm Sandy had caused the cancellation of thousands of flights and while some flights started to trickle back, La Guardia airport, the one I was going to be flying into, was still under water.  “How in the world do I get to New York when my airport is under water?”,  now consumed my thoughts.  Even if the airport can get some runways clear, what are the odds that I will be on a flight that doesn’t get delayed or cancelled?  I have piss-poor luck when it comes to flying and when in doubt, I’ll be the one stranded somewhere.  I do not like having my fate in the hands of the flying gods.

I knew I would have to come up with an alternative plan for when flying into La Guardia wasn’t going to pan out.  And in all actuality, I didn’t come up with just one alternative plan, I came up with several – Plans E through Plans H.  As of late Wednesday afternoon Jolene, Brian and myself decided to drive to New York.  We realized that driving was going to give us ultimate control over our destiny and us getting to NY.  Plan H was to drive, but that soon morphed into a few more variations of that plan because our departure time kept changing.  Along with changing the travel plans I was also busy changing my Thursday night plans which were to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in Milwaukee.

So here it was, Wednesday evening after having made the final call to drive to NY and I was on the phone with the airlines ready to cancel my flight to La Guardia.  But in the process of that call I realized I could cancel my flight but it would be costly.  So instead of canceling my flight I ended up modifying it and that meant flying into Newark instead.  While this should have been a good thing, I was in a panic over the fact that at the very time I was changing my flight, my sister was on the phone canceling her flight.  So I was trying to pantomime to Brian and was telling him to get in touch with Jolene to stop her from canceling her flight.  Time was of the essence.  And while I wanted to get off the phone quickly to get in touch with Jolene (because Brian couldn’t decipher my stellar hand gestures – WTH?) I couldn’t help but feel I needed to check once, twice and three more times with the unsuspecting customer service rep on the other end of the line.  My line of questioning went something like this.

Me:  So, I can really change my flight, land in Newark and it won’t be a problem?

Rep:  Yes, ma’am.

Me:  And Newark Airport is up and running?

Rep: Yes, ma’am.

Me:  And flights are going in and out of Newark without a problem?

Rep:  Yes, ma’am.

Me:  Newark Airport is back to 100%?

Rep:  Yes, ma’am.

Me.  So, let me get this straight. You’ll  guarantee me, that barring any unforeseen circumstances like another major natural disaster, that I will get to Newark on time without any problems?

Rep:  Yes, ma’am.

Me:  Hhhmm?!

Rep:  Silence

Me:  Silence

Rep: Silence

Me:  Well okay then.  Let’s do it.

And for those of you keeping track, we have now moved to Plan N!

As you’ve read my recap that has so far taken you to the Wednesday and Thursday leading up to the marathon you may be thinking to yourself, “well that doesn’t sound too bad.  I’m not really sure what the anxiety was all about?”  You may also be thinking that the only real big decision I was dealing with at this time was whether to fly or drive to the East Coast and before that I toyed with whether or not I was going to run a different marathon.  I wish that were the case and was that simple and I’m guessing so does my husband.  I had analyzed and over-analyzed all possible scenarios in my head – whether they were big or small. I really should work for the government and do some sort of contingency planning because I would excel at a job like that – but I digress.  I had contingency plans on top of contingency plans.  So while I analyzed all scenarios and tried to plan their outcomes, I found the biggest problem was that I couldn’t come to a consensus in my mind about what I wanted the outcomes to be.  I flip-flopped on every minor decision more than all the political candidates running for election had flip-flopped on major campaign issues combined.  I flipped, I flopped and I flipped some more.  Each flop came with hives, an upset stomach and enough perspiration to make my own Secret commercial.   Since Sandy hit I flip-flopped about:

  • Do I run a different marathon if they cancel NY?
  • Do I try to find a marathon Brian can also run or do I screw him and “save myself” so to speak? (Love you honey!)
  • Do I accept the fact that I may not run a fall marathon gracefully and just say “it is, what it is”?
  • Do I come to terms with the fact that for the first time ever, I trained for a marathon on my own and during the hottest summer on the record books and that it was all for naught?
  • Am I strong enough of a person to realize that this is just a race and it’s not the end of the world and that stuff like this happens and it was bound to happen to me at some point?
  • Or do I do everything in my power to run this race because this race is what’s gotten me through a very difficult 10 months and I used the NY Marathon as the carrot at the end of the stick to give myself something to look forward to, so I didn’t concentrate on some of the other bullshit (aka: work) surrounding me?
  • And BTW, how petty and self-absorbed am I that I’m thinking of these things when people lost everything and I’m worried about a fricken race?  A race I’m not even going to win!  Can you say “petty bitch”?!?!
  • But what If the marathon is canceled do I cancel my vacation too and try to cut my losses?
  • If I cancel my trip, how do I do that to Brian and Jolene?
  • If they don’t cancel the marathon, do I still go and run it even though it some how feels wrong?
  • If they don’t cancel the marathon, should I cancel my entry and defer until 2013?
  • If I defer to 2013, how will that affect my 2013 plans such as going to Europe and running an ultra?
  • If I defer to 2013, how will that affect the other people who planned on going to Europe next year too?
  • If I go to NY to run, how will others perceive my decision and will I be judged unfairly?
  • If I go to NY to run, will the experience I’ve dreamed of fall short considering the public is split on whether it should be canceled?

Once I found out the marathon was a-go I still thought through every scenario and flip-flopped once again on my answers:

  • How do I get to New York if flying isn’t a possibility?
  • How do I handle the people, some in my own family, who think running the marathon is wrong?
  • Why shouldn’t I run the marathon considering some very important people decided the show must go on?
  • If I can’t sleep, shouldn’t that tell me something?  I’m obviously not comfortable with what’s going on but what do I do about it?
  • This isn’t how I thought I’d spend marathon week, but how do I salvage it?

So, while I wasn’t sure of any of my decisions and they changed every 30 minutes, I did make one final decision and decided to stick to it.  That decision was to kick-start my vacation by heading to the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert Thursday evening, even though we had an early flight out the next morning.  So off to Milwaukee it was and I saw a great concert and am happy we went.  But that got us back home late and got me to bed around 1:30am.  I set my alarm for 4:00am and shut my eyes for a 2.5 hour nap.

ZZZzzzzz….. the alarm rang at 4am and I was up and that meant it was Friday and I was heading to New York to run the NY Marathon.  I wasn’t exactly sure how I felt about it, but I was doing it and I was going to make the best of it.

NYC here I come!!!

This concludes the end of Act One.  Please feel free to get something to drink and use the restrooms.  Act Two will begin after this brief intermission.


One response to “The Year without a New York Marathon

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