Some of you are probably screw facing the shit out of me and asking what the fuck is a 60K. Sure let me entertain you:
A marathon's distance is 26.2 miles or equivalent to 42.2 kilometers. If you get your rocks off on torture, go for an ultra marathon and essentially that is what this was. 60K is equivalent to 37.28 miles.
If you're like most of my Facebook page, the next question was probably followed up with: Why the FUCK would you want to do that? So glad that you asked.
Two years ago, I was on a high from doing my first two marathons: Rock and Roll DC and the NYC Marathon. For some reason, my imagination was stroked heavily by the thought of taking on something quite insane. In turn, I found myself finessing the hairs of an ultra marathon.
In 2015, I must have felt like I wanted to kill everything that moved on the course around Mile 29. I went from smiling to full blown meltdown after one port-a-potty visit. Many of my friends and family members heard me vow from the hood mountain tops (or maybe that was just the top of a garbage can) that I would NEVER touch another ultra marathon...but I found myself intentionally training for this beautiful monstrosity once again.
Ultra Marathon Morning
Pull out your side eyes and mimosas, honey.
People who have half a brain typically attempt to get some shut eye the night before a race. Unfortunately, I threw every ounce of logic out of the window. Instead, I found myself fornicating with my kitchen until close to 2AM. I promise it wasn't because I love food so damn much but more like I'm a freelance chef who happens to live in one of the most expensive areas of New York City. I love the pavements but my bill collectors love me a bit more.
So here I am, sitting in my kitchen at 4AM, pissed off because I need to make sure that I have all of my catering plans in place. My anxiety started the night before because I was running on one hour of sleep from this same gig. Instead of allowing it to consume me, I took a quick shower, ate a waffle with sliced oranges and scurried frantically out of the door.
So far, I'm in decent time but not my ideal time. I wanted to be at race day central by 7:15. I made it off the train at 7:30AM. Since Yellow cabs started picking up black folks in New York City, I decided to jump in one to take me to my destination on time. Clearly, my driver thought that East End was the same as East Drive and took me 25 minutes away from my destination. With my lack of sleep, I didn't realize that I was nowhere near Central Park until I already paid for the commute.
Stuck in a cluster of WTFs, I jumped in another cab to take me to 5th Avenue as I cried on the phone with Mirna, who is infamously know as Fatgirlrunning. She managed to talk me down off the invisible ledge and I found myself in a full meltdown in the back seat. Poor guy felt so bad, I saw him turn off the meter when I hit Second Avenue. I was too distressed to tell him thank you for his generosity.
Once reaching Engineer's Gate in Central Park, another anxiety attack chased the first one. A volunteer looked at my ghastly face, shuffled me over to the bag check area and what felt like magic that I was running in the race actually was a crew of volunteers who nursed my every need. A tall chocolate complexion woman took my bib over to the tent, retrieved my D tag and recruited another volunteer to place it on my right sneaker. She asked me where I would like my bib to be pinned and since I knew it would rain, I wanted the option to not put it on my shirt. Security checked in my bags and two other volunteers grabbed tissue and ushered me onto the course with encouraging words. Before I knew it, I was on the pavement, 25 minutes behind schedule.
Forrest Gump Moment Begins
Although Forrest Gump is one of my favorite movies of all time, I'm sure there were no scenes of him dropping F bombs the way that I did on my first loop. Still blubbering and crying, I never took a moment to take an initial selfie nor post up one of my cheesy, head bobbing Instagram stories or Facebook live videos. Instead, my husband was my dial a friend option on How to Be a Millionaire to talk me out of failing before my first loop. For a man that scowls at me 25 percent of the time for my profanity laced mouth, he was exceptionally nice and empathetic to my mental warfare. He even made my catering order drop off for me that morning so my clients wouldn't sue me (Ha, ha, ha?)
In my first loop, I was averaging a 13 - 14 minute pace. Here's the thing: If you typically move around a 10 minute pace for a half marathon, think about moving it up a minute for a marathon and even longer for an ultra. My first time round with the 60K back in 2015 taught me to be exceptionally comfortable with my body because it's gonna be a LONG trip. Realistically, I knew that I would be hitting a 15 minute pace for the ultra marathon because my family managed to pass on their sickness to me. Oh, forgot to mention that I am nursing a bronchitis infection. Yay?
At mile 3, one of my best friends Sydney wished me well that morning but I mentioned to her that I forgot all of my fueling at home. Listen guys...don't be foolish and not try to sleep the night before an ultra marathon. Obviously, you can pack and prepare in advanced like me and still forget shit. Sydney met me on my second loop bearing a peanut butter sandwich and cashews. Her presence forced me to lighten the fuck up. While an ultra marathon is a major deal to me, I know that it's not the end of the world. The uncontrolled chaos was over and the foot death march was what I needed to focus on going forward.
New York Road Runner's 60K is 9 glorious loops in Central Park. The first loop is 5.2 miles and 4 miles thereafter. The first loop might be a bit of a reality check for many. You question why the hell did you sign up for something so long or maybe you're still excited. I wasn't the latter because my anxiety completely fogged up my headspace. In addition, this is not a typical ultra marathon. Most ultra marathons are on trails which means that you prepare for running through the woods, up steep trails and even a bit of rock scrambling with an angry Yogi bear pissed off that you're in his or her path. The beauty of this ultra marathon is that you're on the pavement. The horrors of this ultra marathon is that you're on the same repetitive pavement.
How Did You Get Through 37.2 Miles?
Honestly, I can say that I lied to myself for 37.2 miles doing this 60K. In my mind, I told myself that I was doing a half marathon. Thinking about the distance for too long will break your mind down and make your legs tired. I heavily trust my training and extra cheap budget to push me through these events. There's no one way to get through an ultra marathon but I can share my techniques:
Albeit, I can admit that I was much stronger on this 60K than two years ago. Sure, this wasn't a PR at all. Bronchitis, starting late, anxiety and all, I still felt stronger. My mind was much sharper than my first attempt back in 2015. Somehow I was able to preserve my marbles so much better and able to keep focus. Perhaps it was my option to not listen to music much or I am sorta a veteran runner with 8 marathons under my belt. I found the experience both liberating and scary as hell. I always question what took me out there days before the race until I am in the thick of it all.
When I think back to the NYRR 60K, I am thankful for the multitude of friends who loaded me with such positive message via social media, my two best friends who visited me while I was at two different levels of fatigue during the race, my husband who waited for me to complete my last loop and a dear stranger who ran over six miles with me to keep my mind occupied as I ran all of the downhills in the dark.
I'm still astonished of the spectator/runner's spirit. Believe it or not, knowing that someone's watching keeps me honest. In fact, my medal was handed off to me at the beginning of my ninth loop because I was dancing on the edge of the cut off and Peter Ciaccia, the race director for New York Road Runners, advised me that I was dancing exceptionally close to the cut off. I rarely encountered race marshals or a director on courses in my running history. Seems like this year burst my cherry in numerous ways.
When you have the finisher's medal, it's like you're handed temptation. A part of me considered calling it quits by mile 33.2 since I already had the tangible item at hand. My heart didn't feel comfortable accepting such a thing without being honest to my feet and journey. Having my unsolicited accountability buddy by my side, she whispered, "I can do the last four miles with you if you want." At times, my pride is my biggest downfall but after so many miles, I knew I needed someone by my side to keep me honest. In turn, I opted to have company.
Due to fatigue, her name escapes me but I can remember her slender frame, brunette hair and infectious smile. She handed off Twizzlers and Gummy Bears that she toted for me along the last four miles. We ran every downhill and sped walked every hill. She was patient and soothing to my fragile mind. One part of me was a bit disappointed that my day started off late and the clock would be gone when I made it back to Engineers' Gate and the other part didn't care. After all, I don't do all of this for the cheer squad. Running is my Achilles' heel, literally and metaphorically. This year has been both exhilarating and devastating. Why not let the pavement carry my heavy heart for ten hours? And so, I did. When we reached the last quarter mile, she urged me to find the strength to run. We met her dad, who volunteered as a cyclist for the course and I linked up with my husband. In two minutes or less, my journey was done.
I was both ecstatic and saddened that it was over. This is my last marathon/ultra marathon distance for the year. I know how I get into a slump after the training is over. Thankfully I have a few races here and there before we ring in the new year but it's not the same. I'm not sure what races I'll sign up for next year. I am certain that NYC Marathon 2018 is one and if I'm lucky, Chicago Marathon but not sure of what else.
After the ultra marathon, my husband and I hobbled over to Lex Restaurant, dined on some authentic Italian food with Mirna and Gayle. Mirna drove me us home, as my husband and I talked her head off about life and the things that our children would say or do. I will miss the training but at this moment, I'm vicariously living in the great graces of resting these nubs on my sofa. My stubborn mind already hit the gym at least three times thus far but I am listening to my body. The recovery period is just as important, sometimes more, than the training.
Cheers to attaining something from my pretentious bucket list. Here's to two completed marathons and another ultra marathon under my belt. Whenever I'm in doubt of my abilities, I will be reminded of the day that I completed the 2017 NYRR 60K with minimal sleep and a host of odds against me.
Latoya Shauntay Snell
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