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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Countdown to NYC Marathon: The Playlist

ipodSo I have six days to go until my first marathon. There isn’t much that I can do at this point to improve my performance. I have literally run my butt off for the past four and a half months. As much as I dislike strength training, I found a way to get it done. I fell off and got back on the wagon with my nutrition several times. I’m still working on the rest aspect of the training plan and I intend to be in bed an hour from now. But there is one thing left for me to do and that is finalize my playlist.

I ran out of music during my 20 mile training run and that is a no go for the marathon. I need new and fresh musical inspiration to get me through this thing. I’m pretty liberal with my running music genres but a song must have special qualities to make it onto my race playlist. It has to inspire and have the ability to get me up a hill. Unfortunately, this means that I have gospel mixed with secular … judge not. However, I will not include tunes that may cause me to be struck by lightning mid run. I will say that I have some pretty good tunes already. Here are some examples:

This is the Day by Fred Hammond – This song gives me a turbo boost EVERY time. “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.” I can happily run a hill if this song is playing.

fred

Break my Stride by Matthew Wilder – The lyrics … “Aint nuthin gonna break my stride, nobody gonna slow me down, oh no, I’ve got to keep on moving.” What? Automatic running mantra.

Dreamer by Chris Brown – This song was featured during the 2008 Olympics (before he lost his mind) and always makes me feel like I’m Usain Bolt. “High speed like I’m racing, it’s like lightning. Sky is blazing.”

He even look's saner in the picture
He even look’s more sane in the picture

Souled Out – Hezekiah Walker & LFC – Puhlease, I am souled and soled out!!! “My heart is fixed my mind’s made up. No room, no vacancies I’m all filled up. His spirit lives in me and that’s the reason I’m souled out.”

Show Me What You Got by Jay-Z  –  I take this tune as a personal challenge. He keeps asking me to show him what I got. “Show me what you got li’l mama. Show me what you got pretty lady.” I have a hard time resisting dares and challenges.

Beautiful by Noel Gourdin – The man just keeps calling me “beautiful” and it makes me feel like can conquer the world, or at least the hills.

beautiful

Maniac by Michael Sembello – If you don’t know why this on here I suggest you watch Flashdance on Netflix ASAP. I’m running like I’ve never run be before people.

What a Feeling by Irene Cara – Yes more Flashdance!!! I need to just rename the movie Flashrun. “What a feeling, being’s believing I can have it all, now I’m [running] for my life. Take your passion and make it happen. Pictures come alive, now I’m [running] through my life.”

I Will by Men of Standard – More mantras … “I will never give up. I will keep on holding on. I will never let go. I will always stay strong.”

I will

Victory by Tye Tribbett & G.A. – This song reminds me that there is nothing that I can’t do because God has my back. “Because the devil Is defeated and God be praised,
I got the victory. Every situation I face I win, I got the victory. And everything works for my good in the end, I got the victory.”

The World Keeps Spinning by The Brand New Heavies – A reminder that regardless of what happens, life will go on.

Let me know if you have any suggestions. I don’t have much time to top off my list.

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

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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 …

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.