New York City 10K 2014

NYC 10K Logo

This was the second year of the New York City 10K (6.2 miles) that is put on by the Cerulean Sports Group. I hastily signed up for this race because I suffered terribly last year from bling envy after I saw the massive medals they doled out. As everyone else was signing up in 2013 for the inaugural race I recall thinking that I would NOT be traipsing on over to Roosevelt Island for a race. I had visions being trapped on the island in the midst of a prison break. Yes, I realized later that I was confusing it with Riker’s Island but I didn’t care because I just knew it was the place that you got to by traveling by air in little cars that were held up with string attachments.

ri tram

No, the tram business was not going to work for me. But after seeing the gorgeous gaudiness of last year’s medal, transportation became a trivial afterthought. I was on my way to Roosevelt Island.

Still, I hadn’t completely lost my mind and so I drove into Manhattan and took the subway one stop over to Roosevelt Island. The race organizers kindly sent out an email informing the runners that there would not be any Coney Island Bound F train service from certain stations. What did I care? I was taking the Queens bound train in my carefully orchestrated plan to complete the race and make it to church on time … I have to get my worship on.

Roosevelt Island
Roosevelt Island

So I get to Roosevelt Island without incident. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got there and thought the island might just be one big park. Anyway, it turns out that there are multistory buildings and regular life form on the island. The park where the race began was right next to the subway station, so it was very convenient.

We lined up in our corrals. It was a little chilly so I was anxious to get going. Whitney Houston belted out her Super Bowl national anthem and that warmed me up a little … the best rendition of the anthem ever. Then we were off. The race course was basically two loops around the island. Much of the course path was narrow which caused a significant amount of congestion in the beginning of the race. I would recommend making sure that you begin in the appropriate corral. I probably should have moved up a corral because I spent much of the first two miles trying to get by other runners. After the crowd thinned out, it was great.

Start Line
Start Line

The only real concern that I had about this race was that the medal could possibly be significantly smaller than last year. However, when I got to mile 4.5 I saw this:

ri medal rack

Yes, yes, yes. Flava Flav!!! The ginormous medals were back. I think I got some pep in my step at that moment just thinking about the saucer that was soon to hang on my neck. I was feeling good.

Me feeling good
Me feeling good

Before I knew it, I was staring down the finish line. It was a great race and I crossed the line with a PR that has been a year and a half in the making. I have to say kudos to Cerulean Sports Group for a good event with great swag. The race shirt is sweet, the medal pretty and they provided free race photos to boot.

Close up of the race shirt. It says "Finisher" on the bottom.
Close up of the race shirt. It says “Finisher” on the bottom.

With the race over, it was time to execute my exit strategy to make it to church on time. Things were looking good. I had two hours to get there. I went into the subway and headed to the platform to find that the Manhattan bound side was closed. Ugh!!! Turns out that I really didn’t think the whole “Coney Island Bound F train service” notice through carefully. So much for my one train stop plan. So after my a subway tour of Queens and an 11 block walk, I made it back to Manhattan … and to church on time by the skin of my teeth. So if you’re not afraid of heights or amusement park rides, I would recommend taking the tram to Roosevelt Island to run this race.

Next race … TCS NYC Marathon!!!

Staten Island Half Marathon 2014 Recap

SI_Half_14_NYRR-Marquee_Header

This would be my last half marathon before the big dance … the NYC Marathon. With all the training that I have been doing, I figured, “Why not let loose and see what I’ve got?” But then with it being Staten Island, I was a little nervous. I’ll admit that I haven’t shown Staten Island much love in the past. So on my way to the race I had a word with SI. It went something like this:

  • “I didn’t mean it when I said you were the forgotten borough.”
  • “I was just kidding when I said that New Jersey could have you.”
  • “When I said you weren’t worth the $15.00 toll, it was just in jest.”
  • “Let’s be friends, if only for one day.”

By the time I arrived, ultra early, I was feeling pretty good about our relationship. I had to drive a portion of the race course to get to the parking garage and noticed that there was a significant incline. But I was not shaken. I had heard that the course was relatively flat with a couple of hills. No problem. Last month I ran 18 miles in my arch nemesis Central Park. This was flat with a couple of hills. This was gonna be cake and besides …

I-Love-Staten-Island
I made my way to race central, which was the Richmond County Ballpark, home of the Staten Island YANKEES. Yes, I kid you not. You read that right. Check out their logo.

StatenIslandYankees

Needless to say, their uniforms looked a little familiar too. But I refused to allow the creeping frown to cross my face because I was feeling good about SI and SI was feeling good about me. Also the stadium start meant that we had the honor of using real bathrooms. No porta potties today!!! And things just kept getting better. A bathroom angel tipped a few of us off that there were empty restrooms on the upper level of the stadium. So I managed to avoid standing on the obscene line that had formed. When I returned downstairs an announcement was made that the corrals were closing and for the first time that I can recall, I saw a super long line to the men’s room. I paid it forward and told some gentlemen about the upstairs restroom. Only one guy went to check it out. Oh well, more bathroom for him.

The corrals were located in the back of the stadium, right on the water with an incredible view of the Manhattan skyline. With almost 9000 runners, it took a while after the gun went off for my corral to make it to the start line. But we were off soon enough with Michael Jackson’s Thriller blaring.

SI_Course03

I felt good. The weather was perfect. There was a small hill at the corner of the stadium. No sweat. I was feeling the love. I heart SI. Then there was another hill. Hmmm, I’m feeling like Staten Island has reached its hill quota. Next thing I know, I’m around mile 3 and I see a homeless man running across the course yelling. So I’m wondering what is all this commotion? Wait a minute, Grizzly Adams is wearing a race bib. As I get closer to him I hear him screaming, “Not another hill, who said that this was a flat course?” I look up and see a steep hill. I figure this is not the time to freak out, so I pass insane Grizzly and will him to zip his mouth. Then I put my head down and kept it moving up the hill.

grizzly adams
Young Grizzly Adams

So we’re moving right along, I’m keeping a decent pace and it is actually feeling quite warm out. I was fine with that because I wore a t-shirt … my favorite BGR shirt. But now we are entering a tunnel and I gotta tell ya, that thing reeked to high heavens. I was getting animal poop from it but by the time we were exiting it started to have a human touch. I started looking around at the runners for evidence but could find none. Now somewhere around here, I don’t recall whether it was before or after the tunnel, there was a noteworthy hill. The payoff on this hill was pretty sweet thought because what went up, certainly came down. I had the pleasure of enjoying the nicest downhill run ever. I looked at my watch and it told me I was going WAY too fast but my legs were moving themselves, so I went with the flow. Shortly after, the 2:10 pacer passed me. I was a little confused as to how I got in front of the 2:10 group but decided to keep them in my sight. I was doing well with that until I stopped for Gatorade and water just before mile 7. By the time I got going again the pace group was nowhere in sight. I hit the out and back turnaround point at mile 7 and felt a little relieved because I had no idea whether I had been going too fast in the first half of the race. Since I was feeling good, I felt comfortable speeding up a little with less than halfway to go.

The international symbol for fast runner.
The international symbol for fast runner and I was feeling speedy.

Now I am shaking and baking, moving and grooving. I take the next couple of miles like a champ. But of course it was too good to be true because at mile 9 there stood in front of me a massive hill. I had just run right past a hydration station and was wondering if I should go back for fuel to get me over this here mountain. I realized how crazy that would be so I plugged on … and on … and on … and on up this hill. At some point I realized that this was the other side of the fabulous downhill that I had enjoyed earlier. That’s when SI got the side eye. The disdain was creeping back. I told myself to remain positive. If I love SI, SI will love me. I made it over the hill and to mile 10. All I had left was a 5K. I could do that!!!

Okay, so this is not the hill but it might as well have been.
Okay, so this is not the hill but it might as well have been.

I was back to moving and grooving. At mile 12 I started to feel a little tired but there were some lively spectators close to the marker. Thank you mile 12 cheerers. I waved at them and took some of their energy. Before I knew it I was turning the corner to the stadium and suddenly turned bionic. I could hear the bionic man music. I ran like the wind into the stadium and down the home stretch. I didn’t even care that I was running on grass. I usually hate grass, even the fake variety. A male spectator yelled, “Go BGR!!!” I smiled and rushed the finish for a new PR.

Didn't you just love it when Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers would team up?
Didn’t you just love it when Steve Austin and Jaime Sommers would team up?

Woohoo!!! I felt good. Mostly because I could tell that the marathon training is paying off. Also, I felt physically stronger than I usually do at the end of a Half. I wasn’t hobbling or cranky and that was great. I was feeling pretty good about hilly Staten Island. Then I got in my car, made a left out of the parking lot and lost all that loving feeling. It took me about 45 minutes to drive 3 blocks. We almost made it SI, we almost made it.

Took this picture of my medal while hanging out in uber traffic
Took this picture of my medal while hanging out in bizarre traffic

Less than three weeks to the marathon. Stay tuned.

The 20 Mile Training Run

4 Jacks Logo

Every marathon hopeful is confronted with the 20 mile training run. You have to determine: if you are going to do it; when you are going to do it; and how many times you are going to do it. Well, when I saw the above notice for an organized 20-miler in NYC, I decided that I would do my one 20 mile run with JackRabbit, a prominent running and triathlon store in NYC. The run was advertised to commence at JackRabbit in Union Square and we would stop at the other store locations on the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, Brooklyn and then back to Union Square. Some of the members of my marathon group decided to do it too. So we embarked on this adventure together.

We're up for a challenge
We’re up for a challenge

Of course if you are running 20 miles you can only hope that everything outside of your control lines up perfectly because running that kind of distance is a hard enough challenge by itself. So naturally after waking before daylight, Accuweather tells me that it is going to start raining in 23 minutes. Sweet!!!

I took the train into Manhattan with two members of the team, Janet and Jazz. And of course we are approached by someone who looks like she could be Ann Margaret, who tells us we are raising the sound barrier and that a person named Susan Davis is laying down with white supremacists. We back away from the woman but she near chases us down in Penn Station. Janet promptly takes responsibility for being a magnet for the unstable but we let her continue to hang with us anyway. We meet up with our other two teammates and proceed to Union Square. We got there early and when the store opened we got ourselves together and received a pep talk from this gentleman.

JackRabbit Union Square Pep Talk
JackRabbit Union Square Pep Talk

He went over the course (I was not paying much attention to that part) and then he imparted some wisdom. He told us that something interesting was going to happen between miles 17 and 20. I perked up for this part of the speech. What was going to happen? Was it the infamous wall? Would we have a meltdown? He must have seen the look of alarm on our faces because then he said, “It’s good, it’s good.” Great, at least I have something to look forward to on this long trek. We then huddled with our pace groups. I was with the 11 minute mile plus group. So what if we were the slowest group.

The 11 minute pace group standing proud
The 11 minute pace group standing proud

So before we leave our fearless pace group leader announces that he is not wearing a watch so will not know exactly what pace we are running.

RuhRohScooby

But then he said we will be taking our time because our goal is to finish regardless of time. Okay, I was good with that. Then of course the man takes off like a rocket for the first mile. Yikes!!! I was a little concerned because I had no idea of the route because this Einstein had not been listening. Anyway, someone sent our pacer a memo and he slowed down during mile 2. Now up until that point it was raining but it was more drizzly than anything. However, at some point while we were on the West Side Highway the skies completely opened up into monsoon mode. It was a little uncomfortable but we were on a bike/running path with very little pedestrian traffic.

After 4 miles we arrived at the Upper West Side store. They were playing “The Final Countdown.” I was stoked. It was nice to get out of the rain for a minute and they had water, gu and a concoction they were calling “gu brew.” I tasted the brew, it wasn’t bad but I didn’t have too much just in case it upset my stomach. I chowed down on a couple of Sport Beans. I love those things.

Jelly Belly Sport Beans
Jelly Belly Sport Beans

Pace leader then announced that we were leaving and gave us a choice of two different routes that both involved Central Park. I told him he should just go with the one with the least hills. So of course, some teacher’s pet group member said, “Hills will make us stronger.” Now pace leader looks at me and announces that because of my statement we will go the hilliest route. Insert big eye roll. So off we go to the roller coaster they call Central Park. And yes it was crazy hilly in the pouring rain. After exiting the park we soon arrived at JackRabbit Upper East Side. Now this is when I realize that we were going to have to run 9 straight miles through Manhattan into Brooklyn for our third stop.

What you Talkin Bout

And this is where things start to get dodgy. Now we are running down Lexington Avenue from 85th Street all the way downtown … and again I say, in the pouring rain. Picture this. The sidewalks are narrow and packed with people and wait for it … it is pouring rain. So now we are trying to get by pedestrians and we are puddle jumping off and onto the curb at every intersection … and not clearing all of those puddles I might add. By the time we got to the Manhattan Bridge we had lost four members of our pace group for various reasons. Running across the Manhattan Bridge was no joke and the loud and boisterous train that crosses it didn’t make it any more pleasant. Anyway, kudos to Pace Leader, because he was upbeat the entire time and made sure no one got left behind. Finally we were in Brooklyn and we were on a mission to get to the Brooklyn store.

Flatbush_Avenue_IMG_0665

We ran down Flatbush Avenue and saw members of a faster pace group. They were on their way back to Manhattan. They cheered us on and were high fiving us. This was good and bad. Good because they looked excited and fresh so the store had to be close. It was bad because I wished that I too was on my way back to Manhattan. But even though we had to be close to the store it just wouldn’t show itself. We were supposed to get there at mile 15 but that marker came and went. By the time we finally got there my watch was reading 15.4 miles. Now I’ll be honest. I was feeling pretty wrecked by the time we got to the store. But we had come this far. We lost four more at the store. When we went back out to hit the streets, Jazz gave us a good pep talk and another group member suggested that we slow it down and run the last five miles together. So we left seven strong.

As we passed Juniors restaurant, I recalled the season of Making the Band when P. Diddy made the band walk to Juniors from Manhattan to fetch him cheesecake. I felt bad for them at the time. Now I was thinking, puhlease, at least he didn’t make them run in a monsoon.

Get me a slice of Junior’s cheesecake

My little escape from reality didn’t last very long because soon we were crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in all of its steep inclined glory. That climb was really tough. But we made it.

Top of the Brooklyn Bridge
Top of the Brooklyn Bridge

At this point I had to dig deep to get to the end. But we had passed mile 17 and so I was waiting for the mile 17 to 20 magic to occur as promised by our cheerleader. Once we got into Chinatown, it was apparent to me that this run was going to be longer than 20 miles. Scroll back up to Arnold’s image. This couldn’t be possible because I didn’t think I could go one extra step but my watch was registering 19 miles and I knew we weren’t that close to the Union Square store. So now I was getting annoyed because I didn’t want to run any more and there was no magic. But we plugged along and when I turned onto 14th Street, magic occurred. I got energy out of nowhere and started moving because I knew the store was close. When I saw a familiar cafe, I yelled to Janet, “We’re almost there!” And before you know it we were. My watch had us at 20.85 miles. The people in the store cheered us in. We did it!!!

We changed our clothes. I am so glad that I thought to bring a change of clothing but realized that I should have brought a change of shoes and socks too. I purchased a pair of socks from the store and they were thick enough to assist a little with my soaking wet running shoes. JackRabbit provided a nice bagel and coffee spread. I was starving and scarfed down my bagel and then we hopped on the subway. And of course as we exited the subway car at Penn Station another mentally unstable person approached Janet and gave her an earful. But we let her continue to hang with us anyway.

I have to say thank you and kudos to JackRabbit for providing this complimentary training run. And a special shout out goes to Chris, our pace leader. He did a great job.

Countdown to My First Marathon

So I never did get around to posting my New Year, New Goal for 2014. But my 2014 goal has been consuming me for the past few months and now its is only 30 days away. On November 2, I will be running the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon. Woo hoo, yes I’m counting down to those 26.2 miles in the five boroughs. There was actually a purpose for all of those races in Central Park last year. They were a part of the 9+1 program to secure guaranteed entry into the this year’s NYC Marathon.

Marathon NYC

I have been training with a great coach and awesome team. Dianne Scope of The Fitness Detective has been whipping us into shape for the big day. Her marathon training philosophy of “less is more” is great for our busy lifestyles. Now as race day is quickly approaching, we have to trust that our training will get us to the finish line. That said, I will be doing my longest run tomorrow of 20 miles. Hopefully, it will go well and serve as a confidence booster as I have found that much of running is psychological for me.

Marathon Team
The Team

Even as I type that I’m about to run 20 miles, it doesn’t even seem real. I am reflecting on my first team training run back in February 2012 when I began to train for my first Half Marathon. The run was 2.5 miles. I’ve come a long way baby.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL VIRGINIA BEACH HALF MARATHON 2014

Rock-n-Roll-Virginia-Beach-06

It’s been four weeks since I ran RnR Virginia Beach but I have regained my running mojo and have such fond memories of the race that I decided to post this delayed recap. Besides, the fact that I left the State to get there makes it noteworthy. Everyone has an opinion about the Rock ‘n’ Roll race series and I won’t get into all of that but I will say that I have enjoyed the three races that I have run with them.

Now, the disclaimer that should have been posted about the race was that if you were driving in from out of town you should be aware that there was a possibility that you would have to cross this bad boy.

cbbt-300x200

That’s the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel aka The Beast Bridge. It is 20 miles long and turns into an underwater tunnel at two points. At a certain point you can’t see any land while on the bridge. Actually, it is possible that land was visible behind me but I’m no fool. I was not about to take my eyes off the piece of thread in front of me that was posing as a bridge. No siree bob. Turns out the Beast Bridge route shaved 90 minutes off my drive from New York to Virginia Beach and I desperately needed that time because I barely made the 5:00 p.m. packet pick-up at the expo … and a fine expo it was. After picking up my bib and a pair of compression sleeves, I rushed on over to The Yard House to have dinner with members of the National Black Marathon Association. I had a great time meeting fellow runners and indulging in some unnecessary tasty carb loading.

Dinner with NBNA
Dinner with NBNA –  I’m in the back but I promise I was there

Since the hotel prices were inflated due to Labor Day weekend and probably the race, I chose to stay in Chesapeake. Besides, the only two hotels (um, cough cough … motels) on the Boardwalk that weren’t sold out resembled overpriced dingy tenements. The good news is that plenty of complementary shuttle buses were provided at the Farm Bureau Live Amphitheater to transport the runners to and from the race start and finish. That worked out beautifully.

Onward to the race. After arriving at the at the start location, I saw that there had been food provided. I had already fueled but thought that was a nice option. It was warm for a 7:00 a.m. start but I deliberately had not checked the weather because I heard the race was typically hot and I didn’t want to psych myself out. There was a large contingency from Black Girls Run! and Half Fanatics and so I took pictures with them and started the race with Tammy and Loretta, two awesome BGR! members from Greensboro, NC.

I Love BGR

By the end of mile one I was sweating like a pig. I’m not even sure if pigs sweat. Anyway, I was drenched and at that point realized that it was super humid.

Do pigs even sweat?
Do pigs even sweat?

Despite the heat and humidity, I was feeling pretty good and was enjoying the bands playing along the way. The race was still very congested at mile 3 and I lost my buddies at the water station. After mile 4 a band was rocking out to Michael Jackson’s Bad and not too long after that the spectators started cheering so hard that I ran a little taller. Just as I was beginning to think I was a rockstar, I realized that the crowd, as well as other runners, were actually cheering for the front runners who were on their way back to the finish line … nice. No really, good for them. So I plugged on and it got hotter and hotter. Hats off to Competitor for being prepared though. All of the water stations were where they were supposed to be and there was a wet sponge station and some sort of misting device to run through. Of course I ran around it because I didn’t realize what it was until it was too late. There were also local people along the race course who were spraying the runners with water. Bless their hearts. I was trucking along until around mile 11 when I realized that if I sped up a little, I could actually blast my PR by a few minutes.

Tick, Tick, Tick
Tick, Tick, Tick

So now I’m running faster than I should be considering the weather conditions and I realize that it is blazing hot. At some point I zoned out and by the time I completed mile 12 and looked at my watch, it became apparent that I really hadn’t been running that fast at all. The PR was slipping away so I stepped it up and kept a watchful eye on my watch. It was looking attainable again but then a steep hill in the form of a ramp appeared. The nerve!!! I suddenly recalled that we climbed a hill in the first mile and since this was an out and back course, I should have been expecting it. I zipped by bunch of runners who opted to walk the hill. Walking it was probably the smart thing to do but I was on a mission. With the hill conquered, my new problem was that my watch was ahead of the course. It was telling me that I had already run 13 miles but the 13 mile course marker was nowhere to be seen. I hate that but really it happens all the time. Soon, I find myself on the Boardwalk. Awesomeness, the race is coming to a close. But wait, I can’t see the finish line. Just how long is this Boardwalk and do we have to run the entire thing????

Finish L[ne
Finish Line
I finally see the finish line in the distance. I barrel towards the arch but it just doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. My watch tells me I’m moving at a nice clip but if I don’t get there soon the PR is gone. And that wouldn’t be the worst thing but to get so close and miss is the worst thing, so I keep at it. The elusive finish line starts to get bigger. I am so close. Now I throw whatever decent running form I had left out the window. I am taking giant steps and I’m pumping my arms to get to the finish. I cross the line and PR by exactly one minute.

Every now and then I turn into a White Russian man
Every now and then I turn into a White Russian man

Now, all I want to do is lay down on the Boardwalk but my legs feel like lead and I know I have to keep moving. So I keep walking. There are lots of giveaways and I’m picking up my chocolate milk, Gatorade, apple, chip and the like but I am feeling uncomfortable and super cranky. It suddenly becomes too much for me to walk and carry all of my goodies. So I start looking for a bag to put them in. Apparently, a vendor was giving away orange tote bags but it must have been located a mile down the Boardwalk because I never reached it. After carrying on about needing a plastic bag, a nice volunteer found me a massive plastic bag. I was satisfied until the unfortunate thing happened. I saw a Dairy Queen right as I was leaving the Boardwalk. I haven’t been within 100 feet of a Dairy Queen in over 15 years and miraculously there was an empty table right next to it. But I was so cranky and afraid to stop and sit that I felt compelled to keep moving. I felt like the man in the picture below. I was angry at Dairy Queen for being there.

Man attacking Dairy Queen
Man attacking the Dairy Queen

I finally made it to the air conditioned shuttle and took my well earned seat. Surprisingly, after an ice bath and a few minutes in my compression sleeves, I was feeling good enough to jump in the car to travel to my next destination, which was Georgia.

Race Shirt and Medal
Race Shirt and Medal

All in all it was a great experience even though the course wasn’t the most inspiring. The medal pictured above is really nice and doubles as a bottle opener. Although I wasn’t able to participate, runners were able to compete in a One Mile Run on the Beach the day before the Half Marathon. The One Miler came with its own medal and those who did both races received a third medal. So it was a potential bling bonanza. Competitor gets a thumbs up on this one.

New York City Half Marathon 2014 Recap

NYCHalf

My Path to the NYC Half:   I earned guaranteed entry into the NYC Half through volunteering at the race last year. Volunteering was great, albeit cold. It was a privilege seeing the elite runners live, up close and in motion. They were so focused and ran really close to each other. While I was jumping around in my winter coat trying to get warm, I was baffled by how they managed to run in singlets and tiny shorts. Now fast forward to 2014.

Dread and Trepidation:  I registered for the race with the intent to train and give it my best effort. It is after all the New York City Half. Well things just didn’t quite pan out like I expected. The Northeast got hammered this winter and between the snowstorms, icy trails and freezing temperatures, my training never got off the ground. In fact, my most significant workouts were my frequent trips to the refrigerator. As the race approached, I lapsed into denial that it was even taking place. The only thing dragging my ample waistline and other inflated parts to the race was the thought of forfeiting my registration fee.

Race Day:  I got up in what felt like the dead of night and had breakfast. A boiled egg and slice of toast with Gatorade. I drove to the financial district, parked my car and took the subway up to Central Park. This got a little dicey because I had trouble finding the subway. The area was laced with police officers who didn’t know anything about getting around Manhattan. When I finally got on the train, it was local and stopped at a hundred stations. Yikes. I was comforted only by the other runners who were boarding at the many stops.

I got to the park, and rushed to check my bag, and headed to my corral only to encounter a security check point complete with metal detectors. This was a first. I suppose this is the post-Boston reality and I was reminded of the possible danger of running in such a high profile race. I got to my corral and saw the staff turning away runners who belonged in different corrals. They were not playing. They were splitting up friends. I had an 8:10 a.m. start time and we began on time.

The Run: I started off at a nice slow pace because I knew the Central Park portion of the race would consist of Big Hill, Monster Hill and Bunch of Hills. And Big Hill was right at the start of the race. My iPod kicked in with Fred Hammond’s This is the Day and I conquered Big Hill without even feeling it. Awesomeness. This slow pace strategy might actually be the move. I was ready for Monster Hill. So I’m cruising along but after mile 3 … slow down sister, pump the brakes. The Monster Hill emerged and was soooo menacing it almost broke my spirit. It’s been a while so I must have forgotten the wickedness of Harlem Hill. I was so glad when I finally got to the top. But my joy was short-lived because Bunch of Hills came right after it. I tried to focus on other things, like the awesomeness of the volunteers and spectators. Someone had a sign that read, “Don’t Stop, People are Looking.” I envisioned myself stopping to walk just as the ABC camera zoomed in on me, causing the at home viewers to boo me and turn to NBC in disgust. But after a while it became hard to focus on anything but the run. Is there any good in Central Park? Well goodness and mercy caught up to me at mile 6 as the course exited the park. Oh yeah. Party over here. I pumped my fist and began my internal celebration as I started down Seventh Avenue. I didn’t get very far before I realized that it felt as though the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees outside of the park. Holy coldness! The other down side was that the Seventh Avenue roadway was a little rough and rugged. My new found misery didn’t last very long though as I approached mile 7 and ran into Times Square. The energy and the crowd could not be denied. It was great. I was running down the middle of Seventh Avenue right into Times Square. It was sweet.

Me running in Times Square
Me running in Times Square

We made a right turn onto 42nd Street and headed west. I was feeling good and the adrenaline rush had me running strong so I tried to slow myself down so as not to run out of steam. As I approached the West Side Highway, the wind started to kick up and that cold breeze was brutal. Brutal I tell you. So I have about five more miles to go and I’m cold, cold, cold. At about mile ten the party started to wane a little. Some of the runners were walking or stretching on the side. I walked through the water stations but I was getting it done. Then came mile 12. I mean really, there was only a mile to go. But at mile 12 we entered a tunnel that spat us out onto the FDR. Now for some reason, this tunnel slowed me down considerably. Maybe it was because it was dark in there or that U2’s “Beautiful Day” was playing on my iPod for a second time, meaning I had been out there so long that my playlist had restarted, or that I was just tired. Anyway, I couldn’t even get any comfort from the light at the end of the tunnel because it graced me with an uphill ramp. Ugh! At this point I didn’t care how long it was taking, I just wanted it to be o-v-e-r. But at that moment I saw a left turn up ahead. That signified the beginning of the end of the race. I pressed on. My spirits lifted after I made that turn. The narrow roadway was flanked with flags of various nations and there was a nice crowd of spectators cheering. I was reminded that this was a huge race that had been run by athletes from all over the world. When I finally made it to the turn onto Water Street, I saw that finish line and could hardly contain my excitement. I didn’t speed up … I couldn’t. But I raised my hands and thanked God and Jesus.

Approaching the finish line
Approaching the finish line

It was an amazing finish. I heard them announce my name and my BGR sister placed my medal around my neck. It was a great race. Next up … Power of a Woman Triathlon on April 12.

YEAR IN REVIEW

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It’s already the first day of 2014 and so I feel compelled to speed through my review of 2013. I’m just so ready to move forward and into 2014. So hang onto your seat here it goes.

I signed up for a mini triathlon but oops … couldn’t swim. I flailed, barfed and cried but managed to learn in time for the April triathlon. I more than doubled the allotted swim time limit but I completed the race … losing but winning. In addition to the tri, I ran a million races, most of them in June. There were three half marathons, four 10Ks, one five miler, one four miler and seven 5Ks. It was fun. I fainted, lost a toe nail and got beat by a 5 year old. But the best part was the cha ching bling. Check it out.

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It’s time to get a display rack and rescue those babies from the sock drawer.

Stay tuned for my 2014 New Year, New Goal.

TRENTON DOUBLE CROSS HALF MARATHON RECAP

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It’s been a long time since I have posted. I have run a few good races since my last post. Last month I did the Rock n Roll Brooklyn 10K but I will admit that my running has fallen by the wayside a little. Now, today marked the second year of the Trenton Double Cross Half Marathon. I had been looking forward to this race for a long time as it was recommended by Black Girls Run (BGR) AND because BGR was providing a special finisher medal to its members. So this race was a bona fide twofer bling fest. However, my training was hampered by my busy schedule and my last couple of runs did not look too promising. But I was determine to see this one through.

In addition to my running woes, there were a few things that gave me pause about how the race was going to go. First I realized late in the game that there was an actual host hotel that I was not staying in. I did seek out that information on the race website prior to booking a room at the Comfort Inn in Morrisville, PA. Apparently, the race coordinators added this information later. So my travel buddy and I wound up having to drive over to the host hotel to catch the shuttle bus to the race. Then after arriving a the hotel, I realized that I had left my watch at the Comfort Inn. Yikes. I NEVER run any race without my Garmin, much less a half marathon. I was completely freaked out and annoyed because if I was staying at the host hotel I would be able to retrieve my watch by just jumping on an elevator. The third problem was the shuttle buses, they seemed to have just one shuttle bus to take runners to the race location. This cause a little tension because there were hundreds of runners trying to get on one yellow school bus. And finally, I brought my “stomach medicine” to race and then forgot to take it. There will be no further exploration of that topic.

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Anyway, we got to the race and lined up. It was freezing … well, almost. It was 33 degrees. As I was positioning myself at the start, I saw the five year old boy that was going to be running the half marathon. He had been getting a lot of press as he would be the youngest person to complete a Half. I was genuinely excited for the lad but not thrilled at the thought of being bested by a five year old. I moved further down in the starting chute and was happy to not have to look at boy wonder anymore. The anthem was sung by a Tony Bennett-esque man. He did a good job and then we were off.

trenton start

I was obsessing about starting too fast because I had no idea what my pace was. Early in the race I ran into Lisa from my BGR group and we ran together for about six or seven miles. She lives by the watch too and helped me with my pace. Also, I didn’t see a bunch of mile markers and had no idea how far we had run. When I finally asked Lisa what mile we were at in race, she said, “Five.” FIVE???? FIVE measly miles!!!! I was hoping she was going to say Eight. At that point we had passed many water stations and I figured were further along. Kudos to Trenton, I have never been so hydrated in my entire life.

Drank so much I turned into a cute White man
Drank so much I turned into a cute White man

Alright, that’s not really me. Now, if you are wondering why the race is called “double cross” it’s because the race starts in Trenton at the Arm and Hammer Stadium and then crosses (by bridge) into Morrisville, Pennsylvania and then it goes back to Trenton (by another bridge). The bridges were a little tough because the surfaces are uneven metal grates. By the time we got to the second bridge, most of the runners (including me) opted to run on the paved pedestrian walkway. Things were moving right along until mile 8, when I saw him. That five year old whizzed right past me at the water station. I had a near melt down. Lisa had to near slap me back into reality. I continued to run but was starting to feel really sluggish. It didn’t help that we entered a park with a brutal hill. At this point I knew I couldn’t keep up with Lisa and just slowed it down a little. At mile 9 I gained my second wind. Oh yeah, I felt like I was really moving but I didn’t know for sure without my watch. I was right behind the little tyke. He looked so cute and strong. He was holding a woman’s hand (maybe his mother) and was doing his thing. I noticed that they didn’t seem to stop at the water stations. The woman had a hydration belt and they were most likely self fueling. I felt a little bad for trying to compete against a small child … BUT NOT THAT BAD!!! See yah kiddo. I passed him at around mile 9.5. My second wind left me at around mile 12. Which was the last mile marker on the course. This drove me near crazy because I had no idea how close I was to the finish. At one point, right at the stadium parking lot, the spectators were lined up and cheering. Believing I was right around the corner from the finish line, I sped up and began high fiving all the spectators. BRING ON MY MEDALS!!! I turned the corner and think I really heard a needle scratch a record. THERE WAS NO FINISH IN SIGHT. Disappointment does not begin to describe my feeling at that moment. Eventually I entered the actual stadium. There were tons of spectators there and high energy but I still couldn’t see the finish line. When I finally saw it, I was so excited but couldn’t muster up a sprint to the finish. Other runners were flying by me but I didn’t even care. I trotted on through that finish line. The announcer proclaimed my finish. This was a really nice touch as this was a large race but they still managed to announce everyone as they crossed the finish line.

The Baseball Stadium Where the Race Ended
The Baseball Stadium Where the Race Ended

As I was looking at the stadium steps that I was going to have to walk up after running 13 miles, the crowd erupted. Five year old Anthony Russo had just crossed the finish line as the youngest person to complete a Half Marathon. AMAZING. And here’s the kicker, he beat me. When I checked the race results, his time was around a minute faster than my 2:23:11. Apparently, I crossed the start line way ahead of him. GOOD FOR ANTHONY!!!

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This was a good race and I wouldn’t mind doing it again. I feel it will just get better since it’s only in its second year. I have to give a special shout out to the Comfort Inn in Morrisville because they were really cool about extending our checkout time so we could get ourselves together before hitting the road. Also, Andrea, my partner in crime on this running mission, gets a shout out for rubbing and stretching legs after they both cramped up as I unsuccessfully tried to get out of the car after driving back to New York. She endured my screams of pain really well. With that said … WHEN’S THE NEXT RACE!?!

Fourfer Race Recap

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June 2013 will have to go down as a record race month for me. I ran seven races, including the David Lerner Police Appreciation Run, which was not featured in the blog. There were many teachable and enjoyable moments. Below are recaps of my last four races. Excuse the long length of this entry.

HEALTHY HEMPSTEAD 5K

Finally, a nice, fun, feel good race. It probably helped that I got decent amount of sleep, ate a peanut butter sandwich and swigged a little Gatorade an hour before hand. This race was brought to my attention by BGR member Super D (she’s faster than a speeding train), who made a heart felt plea for BGR Long Island to support her hometown in this race. Although I had penciled this race onto my calendar, I was feeling some trepidation after my little episode at Mini 10K the prior week. So I decided to play it by ear, but by Wednesday I knew that I would be back at it. Besides, a 5K would be a safe distance.

BGR Healthy Hempstead

It felt good to run through the streets of Hempstead. There was no park running. Yippee. At mile one, I passed my former employer Tom Suozzi, who is currently running for Nassau County Executive. Got to respect a politician who kisses babies on the run. I ran with him for a couple of minutes and moved on. I was in search of a water station. It was hot. I got my water and crossed the finish line with a time of 28:53. I enjoyed a nice cool coconut water and felt good about supporting the students of Hempstead, which is where the proceeds of the race went. Next up, the MetLife Stadium.

NY GIANTS RUN OF CHAMPIONS 5K

This run seemed pretty cool. New York Road Runners promised that we would run into the end zone at the MetLife stadium to finish the race. And they delivered. I’ll admit that everything before the end wasn’t extremely remarkable. Although, as I crossed the start line there were some burly fellows giving the runners high fives. I suspected that they were former Giants and got a five or two. Pity that I know nothing about football or the Giants franchise. The race route traveled around the parking lot of the sports complex. And I found out why the Giants are such a good team. Turns out that the sun shines directly on them bringing its blessings. Only on this day, the sun was shining right on the runners and on my head. It was 3 miles of unshaded sunshine. And at mile 2.5 there was a hill. Yes, a hill in the parking lot race. Turns out we had to run over a ramp to the overpass of the highway. At the base of the hill, the guy next to me loudly announced to his female running companion, “There’s a hill coming up.” I wanted to smack him on her behalf. Yes guy, we ALL see the hill. Soon after, but not soon enough, we ran into the tunnel to enter the stadium. The few short cool moments in the tunnel were heavenly. The only thing better was running the last 100 meters on the football field into the end zone with spectators cheering and your image on the jumbotron. It was an awesome finish that lived up to the hype. I crossed the line in 29:40.

giants 5k

I really liked this race, even though it was a little wasted on me. It was a family friendly event that provided lots of fun for Giants fans. There was a locker room tour, games for the children and an opportunity to meet players. Plus I had the best orange I have ever eaten. I’m going to have to watch some games next season. Next up, Glow 2 Run 5K.

RUN 2 GLOW 5K

I was really excited about this race. This would be my first fun race. It was an untimed run-walk race that was making its New York debut. I promptly signed myself and my daughter up. She’s 7 years old and I figured it would be the perfect race for us to run together. Turns out my daughter is an international world traveler and was vacationing on the run date. So, I had to go it alone. Or not …

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BGR was out in full force. We had glow in the dark paint, glasses, headdresses and all kinds of accoutrements. We were ready to Glow Hard or Glow Home (that was the race tag line). Bring on Run 2 Glow.

Haaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. That’s my sighing sound. Not the Waiting to Exhale kind of sigh when something good happens. It’s the sigh that you give when your kid brings home a “note” from the teacher or you burn the pot roast. Haaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. To be fair, the signs were there before the race. Sign #1: A couple of days before the race they sent out emails instructing us to bring a change of clothing and not to run in anything that we didn’t want ruined. What? I just thought we’d be glowing in the dark. What is this? A mud run? Sign #2: The most unorganized packet pick up I have ever seen. Everyone had to pick up their packet in person on race day between 5 P.M. and 8:00 P.M. at a tent. Considering the race started at 9:00 P.M. it was foreseeable that there would be a 7:00 P.M. to 9:00 P.M. rush. So what do the race organizer’s do? They had you pick up your bib at an alphabetized station and THEN you had to go to another station to pick up your t-shirt. Then you had to make a third stop to pick up your glow gear that they were placing in bags as you stood waiting in a crowd of people flocking a table in the too small tent (the website says the tent is huge). Why were the bags not premade with your t-shirt and distributed with your bib. It was mass mayhem. Even after you picked up your stuff it was difficult to get out because the crowd behind you was pushing forward. I did more sweating in the tent than on the run. We’ll get to the run.

Since we had been waiting around for at least an hour, everyone was anxious for the race to start. By 9:00 P.M. it was dark and there were throngs of people glowing in the tunnel at the start line. Only the race didn’t start. They kept making announcements that the walkers should move south (whatever that meant) and then they changed it, saying that the runners should move to the right. I had a timed race in the morning and so I was in the walking category. We didn’t mind too much because they had music pumping and there was a fun atmosphere but the start was just confusing.The race began maybe 20 minutes late. I’m not even sure.

The race route appeared to be around the perimeter of the Belmont Racetrack facility. After we got going, I saw a couple of kids standing on the side with garden hoses. They were spraying the participants with what I later found out was glow paint. I dodged the kids. I thought it looked a little low budget but the race had just started. After I walked a little further I realized it was really dark and I couldn’t see the surface of the trail that kept switching from paved to dirt and was complete with potholes. And it was eerily quiet. Now I was mad at myself for leaving my iPod in the car. Thankfully, I met up with Wanda, a BGR member and we kept each other company. At around mile 1.5, there was a water station. Wanda went to get some water. The cups were empty. Moving right along. We saw a UV light station. It was easily identified because it was the spot to the left where people had stopped to gather around a solitary light like flies looking at their body paint glow. Wow. This is not what I had envisioned.

Wanda and I picked up the pace. We decided the sooner this was over the better. Besides I think the pungent smell of horse poop that was hanging in the air was getting to us. We bumped into two more BGR ladies. They confirmed that the race was in fact bootleg. And speaking of bootleg, at a couple of spots on the trail there was music being played and a couple of girls dancing. At first I thought they were runners but in retrospect, I believe they were supposed to be some form of entertainment. We continued on and saw some kind of road kill in the middle of the trail. I refused to look directly at it because everything is scarier in the dark, but was told it was a pigeon. Then we saw the highlight of the race. It was a foam station. We stopped and took a picture. There was a man hanging out in the foam, who I figured was a runner assisting with picture taking. But as we were moving along, he said to me, “Oh I have to get back to the bubble machine.” This whole thing was like the Wizard of Oz being exposed from behind the curtain.

Now we were trudging along on a dirt path, making mud with the foam that was stuck to our shoes. We saw an ambulance and someone on a gurney. We figured it was someone who didn’t get the memo that they should not be running this craziness. It was too dark with too many bumps and obstructions on the road. Then we got to a huge parking lot filled with new cars from a dealership. It was too dark to tell what kind of cars they were. But we were so bored that we came up with a concept for a running game show where you were presented with a car key medal and had to run back to find your prize car amid all of the new cars by a certain time. We were snapped out of our fantasy by the sound of music. As we got closer to the music, we realized it was coming out of someone’s car. Seriously? One of the race organizer’s must have recruited their uncle Bob to park his car and open all the doors while blasting his car stereo. I CANNOT. We finally saw the finish line and after getting good and close to it, we ran to the finish. And we were then presented with the prettiest piece of bling.

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True, it wasn’t a car key but things were definitely looking up. It didn’t hurt that we were able to use the “facilities” and I do mean the Belmont Racetrack facilities. Public bathrooms are like five star accommodations at races. Then we saw a child sitting on a bench, and he was saying something to us that sounded like, “War, war, war.” What is it boy? “Water and Beer.” He was pointing us to the post race party. Poor kid looked like he was parched and out past his bedtime. I flirted with the idea of calling child services. We headed to the party where they had some decent pasta, salad and I even saw mash potatoes. I had some pasta and needed to wash it down, but when I went looking for the water all I saw were a few people gathered around a man who was unsuccessfully trying to scoop water out of an upright cooler. It was officially time to blow this unfun fun race. Next stop (after a real post race party at my girl Jazz’s house) the Achilles Hope and Possibility 5 Miler. Jazz had water. Thanks Jazz.

ACHILLES HOPE & POSSIBILITY 5 MILER 2013

I’ll cop to being nervous about this one. It was my first race over 3.1 miles and in Central Park since The Incident. But, I made sure I had my peanut butter on wheat with Gatorade and plenty of water. So I was good to go. Now, I know it was hot out there because I was sweating hard before the race even began. It had to be at least 80 degrees when the race started. I’m not sure why NYRR starts the summer races so late, in this case 9:00 a.m.

Anyway, this race was truly special. It was founded to provide individuals with physical and mental disabilities with an opportunity to participate in a race. And it wasn’t long after the start of the race that I saw just how inspirational the participants could be in their determination. There were quite a few amputees running and I actually got a tear in my eye while I was running uphill and looked over and saw a man in a wheelchair struggling to push himself up the hill. He was literally inching his way. My first instinct was to assist him but I noticed that there were a couple of people with him who were encouraging him but would not physically assist. His determination made me feel really small about constantly complaining about running hills. The runners cheered for him and others who were running with disabilities.

I decided to take my time on this race. and for the first time I saw the statue of Fred Lebow, the founder of the NYC Marathon, looking at his watch. I still didn’t see the panther, or whatever it is on Cat Hill. At mile 3, we (my running partner Janet and I) decided that we would walk the remaining hills. This resulted in my most enjoyable Central Park race. It felt so good to not run the park as if I was being chased by a pack of wolves, which is my usual practice. With .75 miles to go, we decided to run the rest of the race. So of course there was a hill right before the finish line. No problem. We were feeling strong and conquered. I crossed he finish with a time of 56:50.

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Check out the unexpected medal. It was a good day at Central Park. I think this will be my last Central Park race for 2013 and it was good to go out on a high note.