Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Feeling like a Hero at the 2015 New York City Marathon at least to my Son

After talking to my coach early on in 2014, I decided to skip my New York City Marathon run with Irene and to save my legs for Ironman Arizona.  While it was disappointing not running with Irene, I got to stand on the roads to cheer on about 50,000 runners.  It was the smart thing to do, but is training for a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.1 mile run, a smart thing?

My 2014 race season came to a close, with about 200 yards left to go at the Ironman Arizona 2014 finish line and I took a picture with my daughter and youngest son, the moment was very emotional.  I remember thinking, “Wow, my Ironman journey is about to end.”   And with that, I ran towards to finish line, anticipating Mike Reilly’s famous statement. "Noah Lam, New York. You're an Ironman, Noah.  Congratulations!"  

Over the next month I took my time to recover and I planned my 2015 season.  Being smart, I quickly added the appropriate bunch of races for training that would lead up to my 3rd NYC Marathon.  Being a very optimistic person, I did not think I would get the Post-Ironman Blues, and after having a very disappointing Manhattan Half Marathon in January 2015.  I decided to clear my schedule and emailed the race directors that I would not be racing their course.

A lot of it had to do with, what else is next.  There was a big void.  My Ironman training was a part time job, taking up at least 5-10 hours of preparation, 15-20 hours of swimming, biking and running, and don’t forget hours of talking and think about it.  When my “training schedule” from my Coach disappeared, I had to find something else to fill my time.  I also felt like I did not spend enough time with the family.

As I mulled thought my thoughts and feelings for a few months, I eventually began to re-engage my focus on to the New York City Marathon, and this time I really wanted the kids to be part of it more.  So I added some races that I could do with the kids, and I entered the Smith Point Triathlon as an individual, and the kids in the High School Relay Division, which they are the current champions!

While training for a marathon is easier on the schedule compared to Ironman Training.  By no means is it easier.  I found myself pushing harder than ever to hit my goals.

Some of my goals at the beginning of my training this 2015 for my 12th Marathon and 3rd New York City Marathon were:
  1. Training injury free.
  2. No bathroom breaks during the race.
  3. Run the entire 26.2 miles without walking.
  4. Run a sub 3:45 marathon

When I started running in 2008, I remember getting stitches then shin splints, and eventually feeling my hip being pained all the time to eventually spraining my ankle a month before the 2008 NYC Marathon. And ever since then, I have always been running hurt.  The injuries lessened as I lost the weight, improved with my running form, added more core and strength training from P90X, fueled better with cleaner foods.  So I rested and recovered more this year, easing off the throttle when needed, and had Dr. Jimmy Gucciardi work on my knots to keep the angry muscles at bay.  I have to say I have felt the strongest and fastest ever.  So Training Injury Free, for the most part is a Yes.  

In my first marathon, I think I stopped along the course and took a break at the Brooklyn side of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, Somewhere in Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx.  That added at least 5-10 minutes to my time.  Being more experienced and my body getting use to holding it in and sweating instead of peeing…  I can say, I did not stop for any Bathroom Breaks for the 2015 New York City Marathon Edition!

Now here comes some clarity for Noah Lam.

Prior to doing the Suffolk County Half Marathon, I realized that I could not sustain the 8:34/mile pace to hit a 3 hour and 45 minute time, but based on my speed work fartleks, mile repeats and tempo runs, I was ready to do a sub 2:00 Half Marathon.  But during that race it was hotter than I liked and I fell short of that goal, and even though it was a Personal Record for the Half Marathon Distance, I felt so disappointed and discouraged.  

Speaking to Coach Danielle, she said, “You can’t dictate the pace.”  As much as I pushed, you never know what the day will bring and so I recast my goals to a 4:00 to 4:15 marathon which seemed like a more realistic.  I continued to push myself and I was excited to see improvements as the weeks counted down towards the marathon.

Then I headed into the NYRR NYC Marathon 18 mile Tune Up in August, excited to see what I can do.  And during the middle the race, I got nervous as my quads cramped up for the first time ever during a  run.  And I finally came to grips that I will do my best regardless what the 5 boroughs brings me on November 1st.

Day of the Race...

The first Sunday of November arrived and my friend Wolfgang waited outside of my house at 3:30am and handed over his washed Team for Kids Running Hat that he lent me for the race.  He is the one of the most kindest and generous person I know.  He made my NYC Marathon experience so much better and it was his first marathon ever.

Wolfgang and I got on the TFK bus and I fell asleep for a much needed power nap. I awoke as the bus stopped near the entrance of Fort Wadsworth.  Everyone started to exit off the bus, but I had to relieve my bladder, and walk to the back of the bus.  As I started to go, the bus began to move.  Yikes!  The bus driver started to yell at me as I got off the bus with me just smiling on my way to security into the Starting Village.

The next few hours were a blur as so many people said hello to me as I prepared my mind for the hours ahead.  I even got to see Jada, a Cactus Buddy from Ironman Arizona, and Jordan who works for a vendor that we buy from and a bunch of Facebook friends.  Even saw Asteria and Sid, my running mentors/coaches.  It’s always interesting to match 2D images with a real life person!  We chatted and did our warm ups

Before I knew it, I was standing on the foot of the northbound lane of one of the longest bridges in the world, listening to the National Anthem, and right around 10:15am the cannon shot made everyone move forward towards the timing chip gate and off I went.

So far I have been on all the sections of the Bridge, my first year I was on  the southbound upper deck.  The next year, I was on the southbound lower deck, This year, on the northbound upper deck, All with everyone finally merging around mile 4 in Brooklyn on 4th Avenue.

I felt good going over the bridge, I stay in the fast lane of the road, even though I was not going that fast.  I did have to weave around a couple of runners, but overall it was a good pace to mile 1.

I did my best to manage my pace and keeping my excitement under wraps so that I would not burn my legs out faster than I should.  The overcast sky keep the temps at a temperature that was acceptable for me to hit a goal of 4:15 to 4:30.

When I first did the marathon, I felt left behind as the faster people separated from me.  Even with running with Irene the next year, it was wide open and the crowds thinned.  With this year, I have to say, it’s an incredible feat to maintain the excitement and cheering crowds for all 26.2 miles even for the slower runners.  

This is my 12th marathon, and you typically never get this many people screaming your name.  I even purposely ran down the middle so that I people would not be able to read my name on my shirt.  But some how, I would hear someone yell my name.  And it was definitely appreciated it!  There is nothing like a stranger screaming for you like he’s your best friend!

Up  through Brooklyn on 4th Avenue, you can see runners and spectators for miles.  I noticed the northbound lane started to get really congested as the lower deck green bibs merged with my upper deck orange bibs, so I decide to hop over to the southbound lane, and Coach Vinny ran with me for about a ½ mile.  What can I say about Coach Skinny Vinny, such an inspiration!  

Then we headed towards my favorite spot on the course by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where the road narrows and the crowds get really close.  It’s very uplifting and it does make you want to run faster.  But a mental note kept me in check as I glanced at my watch looking for the pace that was expected.

We get into the industrial section of Queens and when I did it, I remember being baron, but not in 2015!  There were spectators all throughout the course.  Up and over the Pulaski Bridge and past the Citibank glass building with the 57th Street Bridge and 1st Avenue awaiting with the roaring wall of cheering.

As you come off the 57th Street Bridge, the crowd must have been 6-7 people deep cheering like thunder, it puts a spring in your step. and you come around to 1st Avenue with both sides filled with spectators.  And I looked for Irene and the boys with Ray and Annie around mile 18, unfortunately, I was running faster than expected, and they decided to get something to eat, and when they came out, the tracking app showed that I passed them.  I did see a few friends along the route, but it would be cool to have seen my family.

But around that part of the race, I felt the sun shine on my shoulders and I knew that my weakness in warm weather was about to hit.  I eventually started to slow and my Achilles and Groin started to flare up, and I started to walk.  I knew that my goal of 4:15 was in jeopardy.  So I, jogged as much as I could and limit my I entered the Bronx.

The Bronx is just a plain cool borough.  My favorite part were these drummers that pound away on these huge sets of drums.  As they were there smashing away, I could feel the reverberation in my chest. Boom… Boom… Boom…  However, I walked a little more as I headed back to Manhattan.  

I was hoping to see Irene, and in Harlem, I picked up the pace and when I did, I saw them on the left.  My feet guided me over to them and I slapped everyone’s hand for High 5’s    Then I saw Zachary towards the end of the group.  Seeing him woot wooting for his Dad was something he has done before but this time was different.  I felt like a Hero to him.  He did not care that I was not going to hit my time goal.  The little curve of his smile meant so much to me.  I wanted to stay there and just talk to him, but everyone kept cheering to GO!

By this time, I was numb to anyone yelling my name and I apologize if I did not acknowledge your support, but it was surprising that people could still read my name from the middle of the street.  But after 26.2 miles of hearing my Noah hundreds of times, I was not sure where it was coming from anymore.  What a difference from 2008!

Along Central Park South, I smiled when I saw the family again before heading towards the finish line chute.  As I looked up at the timing clock which showed the elapsed time for each of the waves.  I knew that I was nowhere near my original goal of 3:45, but I felt complete.  I did my best for with what I have.

I received my medallion and heat shield.  Then grabbed my nutrition bag and drank the recovery drink.  I was in a fog as I walked towards Cherry Hill to the Team for Kids Finish Line Area.  It was nice to talk to my friends, Jackie and other TFK members.  It was finally time to get back to my family.
I walked over to Broadway and gave Irene a Kiss and was so happy to see Zachary’s smile as he waved a big red AirBnB hand.  All I know is that he will be the first Lam Child to run a marathon with me and most likely do an Ironman as well.

So what is in store for 2016?  The plan is to lose 20 lbs to get down to 165 which will help me get faster, do more races with the kids and build my businesses so that I can spend more quality time with my family.  

More importantly I made sure I did not sign up for big races so that I can be the super Sherpa for Irene, as she trains for Ironman Maryland 2016, and train with her!  My ‘A’ Race will be the Blueberry Cove 13.1, which I will be doing with Zachary, his first half marathon.

It’s a struggle between reaching the top and never feeling that it was enough.  And setting a goal and not hitting feels far worse.  Whenever I hit a goal, I downplay it saying I could have done better.  I should have done this or that.  Then what was to be an incredible accomplishment becomes a disappointment.  While it can provide fire to the next endevour, I realized that true happiness is here and in the present to be enjoyed and shared because you can never get it back.  Happiness is now and not in the future.

There is an open invite for anyone who want to swim, bike, run, stretch, P90X3, 21 Day Fix, Hammer and Chisel, the new 22 Minute Hard Corps or anything else with us.  Let us know!


  1. You should be proud, Noah! You are an inspiration to countless people and of course to your family! Thanks for having me along for your journeys!

  2. A fine report, Noah. We don't know each other, but I'm a coach, and you've been well-coached to keep your ambitions and your achievements under control.
    About your race and your report: Well done!