TCS New York City Marathon 2014 Recap

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WARNING: This is an extremely long and self-indulgent post. Okay, carry on at your own risk.

On November 2, 2014, I completed the five borough, five bridge trek to Central Park. It was the largest marathon the world has ever seen with 50,875 participants. I am excited to be a part of history, until next year when I’m sure there will be even more runners.

The week leading up to the marathon was a little overwhelming. There were the logistics: getting to the expo for bib pick up; navigating the huge expo; pre-race hydrating and fueling; race fueling; resting; laying out appropriate race clothing; transportation to the race; and organizing throwaway clothing to wear in the the slum village (I’ll explain later). I had my race clothes prepared two weeks in advance but had to change them the day before due to cold and windy weather that was being forecast a couple of days out from the race. And by Thursday night I was suffering with a head cold. Seriously??!!! A full blown cold, just three days before the race.

I was totally feeling like this guy
I was totally feeling like this guy

But the show had to go on. I tried to get as much rest as I could and drank a ton of hot drinks. By race morning I was feeling a lot better and was too excited to think about my congestion. I left the house while it was still dark out, which was really unfortunate since my wave (the we’re just happy to be here wave) wasn’t starting the race until 10:55 a.m. I headed to Lynbrook Runner’s Stop to take their bus to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island. We had to cross the Verrazano by 7:00 a.m. before it got shut down for the marathon. The idea was to get to Fort Wadsworth and then wait in Marathon Start Villages aka Slum Village for your wave to begin. Because runners had to wait for hours in the Villages, it was necessary to bring warm clothing and/or blankets that you could leave behind. So it looked like a small town of panhandlers.

start village

slum villageI actually saw some people in footie pajamas. Mercifully, our bus arranged for warm accommodations for as long as possible. So by the time I arrived at Fort Wadsworth, it was time to check my bag and line up at my corral. Just in case I forget to say this later, do not check baggage for this race. You will be penalized. More on this later.

STATEN ISLAND (Miles 1-2)

The Staten Island portion of the race was basically the Verrazano Bridge. It would be easy they said. Don’t go out too fast they said. It will be over before you know it they said. Now I had read that you would know if you were in trouble at around Mile 15 (the Queensboro Horror) but I could tell that trouble was afoot in Mile 1. The wind was blowing so hard that NYRR started the wheelchair division on the other side of the bridge in Brooklyn. There were sustained winds at 35 mph and wind gusts up to 45 mph with a wind chill of 32 degrees. Awesomeness!!! The Throwaway clothing was being picked up by the wind and was flying through the air. I couldn’t wait to get off the wretched bridge but it just seemed to go on forever.

BROOKLYN (Miles 2-13)

What a sweet reprieve. As soon as we got off the bridge, the party started. Brooklyn was off the chain. The crowd support was amazing. The first group that I saw were police officers, cheering for us as we ran off the bridge. I put my headphones away and let the crowd carry me. However, it didn’t escape me that there was a band playing “Another One Bites The Dust” in Bay Ridge. We were only at mile 3, it was a little early for all of that. “We Are The Champions” might have been a more appropriate Queen selection. Not nice. I have my eye on you Bay Ridge. As my running buddy Sharon and I got to the right-hand side mile 4 water station on our side of the street, there was a little confusion as the water was not ready. We had to wait for a volunteer to pour it. It was a small but unexpected glitch in the matrix. The party continued down Fourth Avenue. The 4:45 pacer passed us. I was cool with that. I was enjoying the party. The music genres would change every couple of blocks but it was high energy the whole way. I may have seen my favorite sign in Brooklyn, it said, “Timmy Don’t Trust Your Farts.” Wise word, but probably more fitting at mile 18. By the time we got to Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues, Sharon was twirling and running backwards while jamming to the music. She must have had Energizer batteries for breakfast because I was trying to conserve what little wind stomped energy that I had left. The only time things got quiet was while we ran through the Hasidic community in Williamsburg. It’s just as well there was no music because you needed to concentrate on not running over pedestrians. People would casually stroll across the street in front of you just when you were feeling like Meb or Deba.Williamsburg

Then we crossed an intersection and as if on cue, the intro to Jay-Z’s New York State of Mind came blaring through a DJ’s speakers. As the beat dropped the runners erupted into a huge cheer and the party recommenced. Hercules, Hercules!!! At mile 13 it was time to leave Brooklyn by way of little spoken of Pulaski Bridge.

QUEENS (Miles 13-16)

So now I’m on the Pulaski Bridge and I’m not thrilled because it looks like this:

pulaski

Okay so maybe it didn’t really look exactly like that but it felt that way. Our saving grace was that it wasn’t that long. Queens had a lot of good music and great spectators. At one point, a couple of runners behind me were complaining about the awful mysterious smell in the air. I figured if they didn’t know what weed smelled like at this point in their life, I was not going to be the one to break it to them. Party on Queens!!! Energizer had made a pit stop earlier but I didn’t trust myself to stop at that particular point so I continued on alone. Now as I ran onto the Queensboro Bridge I was prepared for the worst. It’s a pretty tough incline at mile 15 and there is no crowd support on the bridge. Most of the runners began walking. I reconnected my iPod and ran as much of the one mile dragon as I could. I was excited as I ran off the bridge, not only because I was entering Manhattan but because I was approaching the BGR! Mile 16 water station.

MANHATTAN (Miles 16-19)

Mile 16 Water Station
Mile 16 Water Station

And there it is, the Mile 16 water station that is (wo)manned by Black Girls Run! It didn’t quite look so virginal by the time I got there but you can imagine how excited I was to see familiar faces. I entered First Avenue on the left and but was looking to my right to see if I could spot BGR! Long Island because the left side seemed to be mostly NYC ladies (I love them too). By the time I got three quarters of the way through I saw Shari and Mama Rose. I love me some Mama Rose, she might be the most happy and positive person I know. It was then that I reached for a cup of water from Lisa, an inspirational member of BGR! NYC. It turns out that Long Island was on the right. Regardless, I was feeling tremendous love from all the BGR ladies. It was awesome. However, by the time I got to Mile 17, I was feeling really tired. Sharon the dancing Energizer Bunny had caught up to me and was going strong. A pacer was passing me. Wait just one minute, that’s the 5:15 pacer!!! For a fleeting moment I flirted with the idea of running with the pacer. That lasted less than half a second. Instead, I took a walk break and had a few bites of a peanut butter sandwich that I had stashed in my Spi Belt. I heard someone yell, “You can do it Jennean!!!” I looked towards the voice and saw a random stranger looking at me encouragingly. I kept forgetting that I had my name sewn onto my hat. I waved at him and started running. It was at this point that they started to move the mile markers further away. What gives NYRR, TCS, whoever? During mile 18 I decided to investigate the shenanigans and realized that the markers were fine and just maybe they seemed further away because I had resorted to running a 15 minute mile pace. Yikes!!! I plodded along to the Willis Avenue bridge and entered what I expected to be the marathon dead zone … the Bronx.

The Bronx (Miles 20-21)

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Boy, was I wrong!!! I turned the corner after the bridge there was a man with a microphone standing in the middle of the street yelling, “Welcome to the Bronx!” Old school hip hop was blaring and the spectators were on level 10. The Bronx was the place to be. I decided to use the mile 20 porta-potty because the line was short and it was a good time to regroup for the journey ahead. Problem was, it seemed I hit “the wall” in the porta-john.

I mean seriously. As much as I hate the porta potties (and believe you me, this one had been used and abused) I was more than happy to hang out in there for the rest of the day. There was no wind blowing on me and no running. I don’t even know how long I stayed before I started wondering what would happen if the wind blew it over with me in it. News Report: Missing marathon runner found in overturned Bronx porta potty. It appears that she has been in said porta potty for 10 hours. She is now recovering at a nearby psychiatric facility.

porta potty (2)

So I reluctantly left the porta potty and began running again. I looked to my right and there was a spectator who looked right at me and held up six fingers. Yeah, I can do this. I only have a 10K left. I picked up the pace a little and journeyed on to the Third Avenue bridge.

MORE MANHATTAN (21-26.2)

At the tail end of the bridge, I distinctly remember thinking that no one had better be playing Jay-Z’s “New York State of Mind” when I re-entered Manhattan. I was officially cranky. Thankfully, the DJ was playing gospel music when I entered Harlem U.S.A., specifically Fred Hammond’s “Lord Your Grace.” I mouthed the lyrics, “Your favor is just what I needed.” I felt a little better but my thighs were feeling heavy and tight as I approached mile 22. That’s when I saw the BGR cheer squad. They were yelling “BGR, BGR” and had lots of signs. One said, “All Toenails Go to Heaven.” I waved frantically. As I ran down Fifth Avenue I heard more spectators yelling, “BGR.” I was hurting at this point and was just focusing on trying to keep running. I gave deep nods and kept going.

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Me at Mile 22                   Photo by Brian Augustine

Mile 23 – This One Gets It’s Own Section

As I approached the mile 23 hydration station, my quadriceps were cramping and so I moved over to the side to a police barricade and tried to stretch them out but the cramping got worse. So I hobbled on over to the hydration station and grabbed some Gatorade but suddenly the cramp in my right leg got so bad I couldn’t even drink it. One of the volunteers told me to go to the medical tent and pointed it out. It was just a few feet away and by the time I got there I could barely speak due to the pain. A volunteer took my Gatorade and I managed to tell them that I was having cramps in my legs in between my cries of pain. There were two volunteers massaging my legs to no avail. One of them asked me if I wanted salt. I really had no idea what I needed I just wanted the pain to stop. So I screamed, “Yes.” I took the salt and … nothing. I was still in pain. Now I’m freaking out because I don’t think I’m going to be able to finish the race because I couldn’t even walk. Then it was “Tylenol?” Of course the response was, “Yes, Yes.” Then, “Gatorade?” Here’s where things got dodgy. I told them, “I have Gatorade, I have Gatorade.” They looked at me like I was crazy. So I clarified, “I gave it to the lady.” Suddenly everything stops and they look at the volunteer who led me into the tent. With wide eyes she says, “Oh, I threw it away.” I must have looked like I was going to kill her and she got the side eye from one of the other volunteers, who was probably afraid for his life. Next thing I know, one of them hands me a 24 oz bottle of Gatorade. I take a couple of sips and after a few minutes the pain starts to subside. I thank the volunteers, who I’m sure were glad to see the back of the screaming mad woman, and start walking. I only have 3.2 miles to go. I am finishing this race.

The Finish 

So now I’m walking and sipping on my massive bottle of Gatorade. The 5:30 pacer passed me but I couldn’t have cared less about my finish time. I’m just happy that I can walk. But after a while I just wanted the thing to be over, so I start running again and I’m cradling my Gatorade bottle like a newborn. At mile 24 we enter Central Park. As much as I despise Central Park this is exciting because the race ends in the park. I ditch my Gatorade bottle and start moving. Then, hold up!!! Suddenly, we are no longer in the park. It is mile 25 and we are back on the street. For some reason I didn’t like this turn of events. My aching body couldn’t take the psychological warfare. We eventually wound up back in the park and I was too happy to see the 26 mile marker but braced myself for the .2. I was actually surprised when I saw the finish line appear so quickly. I couldn’t believe I was about to be a marathoner. It took me 5 hours, 37 minutes and 34 seconds to cross that line but I did it. As the volunteer placed my medal around my neck, he looked me in the eye and said, “Black girls do run.” It was an awesome moment.

BUT WAIT WE’RE NOT REALLY FINISHED

So after running yourself into the ground you now have to walk another 14 blocks to get out of the Park if you checked a bag, which I did. If you did not check a bag you had to walk five blocks to exit the Park to pick up your marathon poncho. I only checked my bag to get access to warm, dry clothes and my mandatory chocolate milk recovery drink as soon as possible. Turns out the ponchos were fleece lined and very nice and chocolate milk was provided in the recovery bag provided at the finish. So I would recommend that future NYC Marathoners check the no baggage designation prior to the NYRR deadline. Thankfully, the Lynbrook Runner’s Stop bus waited for all of its runners to return a few blocks away from the exit.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS

Although my recap sounds like I had a miserable time. It was an awesome experience that will stay with me forever. I have dreamed about running the New York City Marathon for over ten years but never really thought it would actually happen. Sometimes dreams do come true. If I’m honest, I will say that I was a little disappointed with my time as I wanted to finish in under five hours. But as we runners say, it was enough to just finish my first marathon. The other thing all decent runners firmly believe is that unless you are an elite professional, we do not compete against others, only ourselves. Now with that said, I will compare my time with some members of the 1 percent marathon club with whom you might be familiar.

Oprah Winfrey (4:29:15 – 1994 Marine Corp Marathon) – She schooled me.

Sean (P. Diddy Combs)  (4:14:54 – 2004 NYC Marathon) – Beat by Puffy.

Angie Martinez (7:45:57 – 2014 NYC Marathon) – I beat her, handsomely.

Tiki Barber (5:14:37 – 2014 NYC Marathon) – Yup, he beat me.

Pamela Anderson (5:41:03 – 2013 NYC Marathon) – Ha ha, so what if you can run on a beach?

Caroline Wozniacki (3:26:33 – 2014 NYC Marathon) – Whatevs, she beat most people.

Terri Hatcher (5:06:42 – 2014 NYC Marathon) – Not bad for a desperate housewife.

Mya (6:59:39 – 2011 NYC Marathon) – I beat her, I beat her.

Me sporting my finisher's shirt and medal
Me sporting my finisher’s shirt and medal
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Staten Island Half Marathon 2014 Recap

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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 …

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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.

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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.

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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.

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL VIRGINIA BEACH HALF MARATHON 2014

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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.

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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

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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.

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.

sad face

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!?!

Brooklyn Half Marathon 2013 Recap

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The plan was for the Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon on June 1st to be my next big event. But, since I had already completed my 12 mile long run, I decided that I might as well run the Brooklyn Half as a training run in lieu of the 14 mile long run on my schedule. So I registered for it two weeks before the race. It had previously sold out in one day but New York Road Runners reopened registration and began marketing it as a marquee race. As the race approached I started to get nervous about it, especially because I struggled through a 10K the week before and because it would only be my second half marathon.

Before I knew it, race morning was here. The plan was to take my time, try out my strawberry flavored Chomps and new playlist and have fun. The course ran from the Brooklyn Museum on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Washington Avenue, around Prospect Park, down Ocean Parkway and finished on the Coney Island Boardwalk. My main concern was getting through the Prospect Park portion of the race. I am fast learning that the word “Park” is racing code for “Hills” and we know how I feel about those.

After the hubbster dropped me off, I went off to find bag check and my corral. There were people everywhere. This race was massive but the sun was shining and there was a great energy. When I finally made it to my corral, which seemed to be a mile away from anything constructive, I decided to line up for … Oh Yeah … the Porta Potty. Since I had tried to hydrate like a champ the day before and had been sipping water all morning, this visit was not negotiable. For security purposes, the Potties were inside the corrals. Let me tell you, my corral time was not the most pleasant experience as those throne rooms were stinking up the joint. We were lined up with our shirts over our noses. I got in and out as fast as I could and prayed that would be my only visitation for the day. Oh and here’s a tip. Always, carry a few squares of toilet paper with you. A guy who was two people ahead of me announced that our Porta Potty had no toilet paper and proceeded to look panicked. I had my little stash but started to fret because a man needing toilet paper means only one thing … enough about THAT.

There were two starting waves. I was in the second wave and we started 35 minutes after wave one. There were so many people it still seemed to take forever to get to the start after our gun went off. When we finally crossed the start, I realized that my corral mates were near sprinting and I was running right along with them. I slowed down and tried to keep a responsible pace but I was still running faster than I planned. Then we turned onto Flatbush Avenue and headed up to Grand Army plaza. Now I have driven this road countless times and never once noticed that there was a steady incline. Well my legs certainly took notice now. Check it out.

The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue
The Run Up and Down Flatbush Avenue

As we approached Grand Army Plaza Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” gave me an extra push as did the cheerleaders at the Plaza. A couple of the male cheerleaders were emanating a Studio 54 vibe while Sylvester was singing in my ear. This was a great moment and I waved and whoo-hooed at the cheerleaders. Good times. Before I knew it mile three was done.

We entered the park at around mile three and a half and yes there were hills. There was one particularly menacing hill that just kept winding and bending so you couldn’t see an end in sight. Anyway, when I hit mile four a bunch of guys from a local running club started chanting “four down and nine to go” and that army thing “I don’t know but I’ve been told … sound off, one two …” Then they broke off and started running really fast in between the runners encouraging everyone. It was a wonderful distraction. The next memorable moment came at about mile five and a half. I ran into a guy who was singing Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life” obnoxiously loud. Awesome. I sang with him for a little while, “Without love, it aint much, it aint much.” He had the nerve to look at me like I was crazy. More good times. At mile seven and a half, I ran out of the park in a blaze of glory. Ding dong, the park was done.
Parkway

The picture above shows runners on the entrance ramp to Fort Hamilton Parkway (at least I think that’s where we were). It was pretty cool to see a Brooklyn Parkway with no traffic. I couldn’t wait to get on it. By this time, the sun was no longer shining. It was cloudy and nice and cool. In a blink, I was on Ocean Parkway. I remember looking up and seeing the sign for Avenue C. I realized that I was starting to feel a little tired.

At mile eight, they were handing out Gu at the hydration station. I had one of my Chomps instead and washed it down with a good helping of water. There were 11 fluid stations and I hydrated at all but two of them. After the Gu station, the ground was sticky for a while. So in addition to being tired I had to peel my feet off the ground. Ew. When I passed Avenue G, I thought, “Well at least I’m getting somewhere.” Then of course I realized that I was getting nowhere because the next street was not Avenue H. It was some arbitrary randomly named street. I was annoyed. It felt like forever before I got to Avenue H. I decided “H” was for Hallelujah! At mile nine I was really tired and my legs felt heavy. Ugh. Then, BOOM! Like a mirage there appeared four or five Black Girls Run members on the side of the course. I didn’t know them but they cheered for me like there was no tomorrow. BGR rocks. I got my second wind. I was having a good ole time as I passed mile ten and headed towards eleven. But as I approached the mile 11 hydration station I was near limping. My left glute (or some muscle back there) was killing me and a toe on my left foot was hurting. Bad times. But at this point I had only two miles to go and so I kept at it. At mile 12, I stopped at the hydration station, I did the grab and run through the others. I made sure I got a good drink of Gatorade and Water because it was the last fluid station before the finish line.

soon after, I recall seeing the 800 meter mark and decided that I hate the fact that they feel the need to place a marker there. It’s just too far away to get excited about almost finishing. I decided to save my excitement for the 400 meter mark and I was completely psyched when I saw it. I got a little extra pep in my step. It was the equivalent of one lap around the track and I could do that. Soon I was on the boardwalk where there was a nice crowd of spectators and could see the finish line. Check out the boardwalk. Boardwalk

What a cool finish. I crossed the line and sought out my medal because after all, it’s all about the bling.
Finisher's Medal

I wound up running the race harder than I should have, considering it was supposed to be a training run. But a race is a race, right? I was pleased with my time of 2:21:07. This was my second half marathon and I ran a PR. So I was feeling really pleased with myself until I had started to walk down the steps to exit the boardwalk. It was bad folks, I let out quite the yelp. Holy soreness!!!