Staten Island Half Marathon 2014 Recap

SI_Half_14_NYRR-Marquee_Header

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

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

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

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

StatenIslandYankees

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.