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.

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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.

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.

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!?!

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 …

glow

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.

Oakley Mini 10K 2013 Recap

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Aahh, the Mini 10K. I had been looking forward to this race. It was a PR just waiting to happen. First of all, I have to make clear that there is nothing mini about the race. It’s a full out 10K, yes 6.2 miles. So why is it called a “mini” 10? Beats me. The only thing that I’ve been able to attribute the name to is the fact that it was the first all women’s race. And maybe they thought calling a women’s race a “mini” was fitting back in 1972. So back to me. Since the race started outside of the wretched Central Park and ran along the flatter Central Park West for a mile and a half, this was my chance to make up some time by avoiding a couple of those nasty hills.

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The race starting on Central Park West

As I expected the first couple of miles were great. My only gripe was the congestion. There was a lot of running around others and clipping of heels. But due to the flat terrain, I was still able to make good time. By the time I hit the 3.1 mile mark, I had completed some hills and was feeling good. I heard a spectator yell, “You’re doing great, you’ve got great form!” Despite the fact that there were probably 30 other runners around me, I assumed he was talking to me because hey, I was looking good. My Garmin was telling me that I was not only on track to PR but to run a sub one (complete the race in under an hour). Yeah baby, it was Chariots of Fire. I could hear the music playing in my head … because you didn’t really think it was on my iPod? Today was my day.

Well I’m not exactly sure when the wheels fell off but FALL OFF THEY DID. I remember trudging up a hill at around mile 4.5 and a runner from Black Girls Run was passing me. I didn’t know her but she encouragingly rested her hand on my back for a moment. I had a Annapolis flashback and knew things were not looking good and neither was I.

I imagine this is how I looked.

tired-runner

Not only was I tired and mad at the hills in the wretched park but I started to feel hunger pangs. I was reminded that all I had eaten were two Milano cookies that I had retrieved from my purse on my way to the race. I know, I know. I had done my homework so I knew that the next and last water station was coming up at mile 5. I figured I’d stop, get a decent drink of water and blast out the last mile.

Mile 5 seemed to take forever to come but sure enough the trusty water station was not far off. I walked through and took a pretty good drink of water. I managed to get going again but it was tough. The hills just seemed to keep coming and the temperature was heating up. I wasn’t even finding any comfort in my playlist. In fact, I wasn’t even paying any attention to the music I was just focused on getting through the run. The last time I recall looking at my watch was at mile 5.8. Because I remember thinking, “Seriously, I’m not at mile 6 yet?”

Now this is where things started to get fuzzy for me. I don’t recall much of the last quarter mile of the race. I can tell by my Garmin readout that I stopped running. I really thought I ran the entire race. One thing that I have learned is that running is a massive mind game. Once you start thinking you are done, it’s over. My Garmin has been measuring the Central Park 10Ks at 6.39 miles and so I knew I was going to have to run further than the 6.2 reflected on my watch. This usually isn’t a problem but I just wasn’t up for it on this day. According to Garmin, at 1:01:25 (1 hour, 1 minute and 25 seconds) I was doing a 18:04 minute mile pace and at 1:02:30 I was at 21:30 … What you takin’ ’bout Willis? I didn’t even know it was possible to walk that slow. I must have been meandering around Central Park picking dandelions. If anyone has video of me, let me know because I want to know what I was doing. By 1:03:31 (my official race time) my pace had increased to 14:33. I do remember that part. The finish line suddenly appeared, like a mirage, and I sprinted to the finish. Well at least I thought I was sprinting at the time. I now see that it was more like a super slow trot. I saw what seemed to be two timing strips on the ground and couldn’t figure out which one constituted the finish. I believe I went with the second one to be safe and then stopped abruptly after I crossed it. That’s when I started swaying and felt myself going down.

The next thing I recall, my feet were not on the ground. I was being carried and put in a wheelchair. I heard BGR angel Lisa’s voice calling my name. She later told me that she asked me what happened and I said, “Woo-woo-woosy.” For some reason that’s really funny to me now. I don’t really remember that but I do recall hearing her yell, “Mama Rose!!!” The next thing I know I’m in the medical tent and I heard another one of my BGR sister’s voices. She was telling the medical personnel that she was my family. It was the BGR Long Island member affectionately known as Mama Rose. She and her daughter Shari were putting ice packs all over me. Turns out I was burning up. The medic told me that my blood pressure was good (I didn’t even know that he had taken it) and that I had fainted. Then he made me drink Gatorade. It was purple and tasty. I have to add that one to my repertoire. It was Riptide something or the other. Mama Rose never left my side. She and Shari removed my hat and shoes and made sure the industrial sized fan was pointed right at me. I was feeling much better and figured it was time to leave and so Mama Rose and the medic helped me up. That was short lived. I just couldn’t get my balance. So back into the wheelchair for me. At one point the medic said, “I think you dropped your medal” and handed it to me. I have no idea when that medal first came into my possession but I was really glad to have it. I’m a finisher!!!

Beautiful Bling
Beautiful Bling

My second attempt at walking went a lot better. I was still a little shaky but was determined to get out of the tent. I left Mama Rose and Shari assisting other family members and went to meet the rest of the BGR Long Island crew. Shout out to BGR, they were right outside the tent and I was thankful to stand around with them for a little while I got my bearings.

And a special shout out to the race medics for making sure I didn’t hit the ground. They must have seen the the slow motion disaster coming down the stretch. As unfortunate and embarrassing as this incident was, I was glad to learn a few lessons. Never race without being properly fueled, hydrated and rested. I used to do my training runs on empty but have been working on incorporating breakfast for my longer morning weekend runs. Also, since duty called the night before the race, I was up much later than I should have been, especially since I had run a 5K the night before that. In retrospect, I should have scrapped my personal record plans and just enjoyed the race at an easier pace.

I would love to link my Garmin Connect analysis of the this race but cannot because I didn’t turn the watch off until I got home and had been there for a couple of hours. And the readout leaves a breadcrumb trail right to my front door (can’t encourage the stalkers). Yeah, you know things are bad when you don’t stop your watch at the finish line.

Anyway here are my splits through mile 7.

Mile 1 9:40
Mile 2 9:29
Mile 3 9:08
Mile 4 10:11
Mile 5 9:58
Mile 6 10:34
Mile 7 46:29

Zooma Annapolis Half Marathon 2013 Recap

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Zooma Annapolis promised to be a great race. Zooma puts on a series of women’s races across the country and its slogan is Run, Laugh, Celebrate.  You could run a 10K or a Half Marathon. It sounded like the perfect race for Black Girls Run to participate in, after all we are a women’s running group and Zooma was pulling out all the stops with a pre-race day mocktail party, access to all-weekend yoga and post race massages. They even had a PR program set up so that runners who achieved their personal best or ran their first half marathon would receive a special medal. And, I got to meet the BGR visionaries Ashley Hicks and Toni Carey. What’s not to love, right?

Wrong. I have renamed this race “Zooma Annapol-hades: The Hilly Hot Mess.” Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad if you exclude the actual race from the equation … yeah you know, the real purpose of the event. There was a nice little expo going during packet pick-up, where I got my Achilles taped with Kinesio tape. We enjoyed a well thought out pre-race day dinner that appeared as a special on the host hotel’s menu before taking a stroll through beautiful downtown Annapolis.

Me at the Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis
Me at the Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis
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Kunta Kinte, who was portrayed by Levar Burton and John Amos in the movie Roots, along with 97 other Africans ended their involuntary journey to America in Annapolis.

We were enjoying Annapolis and all was good in the world until the actual race. Since the race started at 7:00 a.m., we left the hotel close to 6:00 a.m. but not before I had to re-tape my achilles. The expo taping didn’t make it through the night. The walk  to the start line at the Naval Stadium was around 3/4 of a mile and was a pretty good warm up. At the stadium, there weren’t any corrals and there didn’t seem to be all that many women at the start line. I heard that most of the runners seemed to be lined up at the porta-potties but I couldn’t see the potties from where I was standing. Then the strangest thing happened. It was 7:00 a.m. and nothing seemed to be happening and so I figured the race was starting late. Anyway, a few moments later I heard the announcer excitedly say, “You’re almost at the start line.” What? The race had started? No anthem? No gun? No “On your marks, get set, go?” Nothing! No national anthem. For a race starting in the Naval town and on U.S. Navy property? That might have been an omen.

I was completely caught off guard, I tried to set my Garmin but it wouldn’t pick up a satellite. I crossed the start and began to run. It was hard to get into a rhythm because half of the runners were walking and so I had to try to run round a slew of people. It was hot but I started to feel good after the first mile. There was a water station before mile two but I didn’t it see until it was too late. So I figured I’d catch the next one. It was no big deal since I had just been drinking water at the start line. By mile three we had run a few hills and the heat started to feel oppressive. By the time we got to mile 3.5 I was parched and started to yell, “Where’s the water?” At mile 4 I saw this monster ahead of me.

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Now this picture doesn’t even do the incline on that bridge justice. So now I’m panicking because I don’t see myself running this bridge without water. But a few moments later I spotted a water station up ahead. Relief wasn’t even the word. I get to the table and I pick up a cup … it’s empty. I grab another … empty. Yikes. I realize that the volunteer is pouring the water and there are only three or four cups of water in front of him and the demand was high. I ran behind the table so I was right next to the volunteer and grabbed some water. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I continued to run and passed the 10K turnaround on the bridge.

After clearing the bridge there was a monstrosity of a hill that made the bridge beast look like a walk in the park. After making it to the top of that hill, in not such fine form, I came upon an other water station. This time, there were no cups on the table. I actually don’t even really remember seeing a table. But I do recall that the volunteer was pouring cups of water and handing them out one by one while we waited on a line. What? This time I waited patiently for my water. I believe that was after mile 5.

A mile and half later, I hit a real hydration station that was equipped with Cytomax (Yuck, I guess Gatorade can’t sponsor all the races) and water. At this point, I was at the top of another nasty hill, it was blazing hot and I was mad that I didn’t turn around at the 10K mark. I informed the volunteer that I would be double fisting my Cytomax to which he graciously responded by telling me to take whatever I needed. I then grabbed a cup of water and took off at slow trot. I usually get a feeling of empowerment when I pitch my cup to the ground but now we were in a residential area and I reluctantly tossed my empty cup to the side and it wound up on someone’s lawn (that was a downer). Soon after, I hit the half marathon turn around mark. This should have been a joyous moment but all I could think was that I had to do this whole thing over … and it was HOT. After about maybe a half mile, there was another hydration station. Craziness. I had water though because I wasn’t sure when I’d see another one of these sporadic water stations.

By mile 8 I was in a bad way and I felt a hand on my back. It was one of my BGR sisters, Lisa. She literally pushed me up a hill. Bless her heart. I tried to enjoy the downhill but found I was struggling through that too. My knee was starting to hurt and I decided to take a walk break. WHAT??? I don’t walk my races, the main reason being because I just don’t do the run-walk thing well. Once I stop running, it’s hard for me to start up again. But at this point my time had already gone to pot and I didn’t want to get injured or pass out from heat exhaustion. So I began my run-walk journey, which was more like walk with sparse jogging intervals. I didn’t feel so bad though because most of the people around me were walking too. Lisa tried to get me going a couple of times but I wasn’t really hearing it.

Zooma
Me running to keep up with Lisa’s walk

At around mile 10, a police officer told us that we should turn left.The road looked blocked because there were cars on it but another runner confirmed that we should make the left. Now this whole part of the course was really weird. There were cars, two hydration stations within mile 11 and a make shift turnaround involving one solitary cone on the right side of the road (not even the entire road). The course doubled back to where the police officer was standing and then went back to the stadium. I was really punchy in mile 12. I was thoroughly enjoying my iPod and began to serenade a police officer, “You are in my system, Oh oh oh, you arrrre in my sys-tehehem.” Yeah! Lisa had to come and get me. When we hit mile 13, there was a steep little hill leading us into the stadium parking lot. How obnoxious! As I approached the finish line a couple of runners sprinted past me. Well I was having none of it. I ran as fast as I could manage and rebel yelled through the finish line. Real class. People took notice though. Jennean was crossing the finish line, albeit with a time of 2:42:15.

Post-race. That’s right I’m still not finished. I was handed a bottle of water and my finisher’s necklace. My phone refused to take a decent picture of the necklace.

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Even though I knew we were getting a necklace instead of a medal, I was a little disappointed. The back says, “Zooma 2013.” This brings me to medalgate. Zooma had a PR program where first time half marathoners and those who ran their personal best half marathon received a real medal (it was a very nice one). There was a long line of people waiting for medals and scuttle was that they began to tell runners that they would not receive a PR medal because the course was .25 mile short and so they didn’t have real PRs. What!?! First of all, it is a wonder that anyone even came close to a PR under those race conditions. They would have had a real problem on their hands if I had run myself into the ground to get a PR, only to be told that I couldn’t get one because they had me run a short course. The distance came up short on my Garmin but I attributed that to the fact that I started it late.

We also picked up our swag after the race. That was awkward. We received yoga mats and a metal water bottle (I think because I still haven’t opened the box). While this is some good swag, we had just run 13 miles and had to lug this unbagged stuff around post race. “AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT.” It was extremely difficult to handle the swag, the necklace and post race fueling.  To the fuel. They had snack boxes but I had to pass on the mayonnaised meat that was in there and the neon white pita bread thingies. I just ate the apple and downed a Muscle Milk. At least the apple was tasty. I didn’t see any massages or yoga. I just saw long lines and confusion. So we decided to head back to the host hotel. YIKES!!! Now we had to lug this stuff almost a mile on achy legs. We did approach an ambulance driver for a ride but he said we didn’t want to go where he would be taking us. It was a long walk back to the hotel and I did my best impression of an ice bath with very little ice before leaving Zooma behind. I will not be looking in the rearview for this race.

To be fair to Zooma, they issued an apology and explanation for the short course. Like to see it? Here it goes. http://zoomarun.com/2013/06/zooma-annapolis-post-race-recap/

I received an email from them this evening offering a $20 discount for any Zooma Half Marathon in 2013 or 2014, $12 off any off their 10ks or $10 off a 5K.

I think I’ll cut my losses. On to the next one, The Oakley Mini 10K on Saturday.