Staten Island Half Marathon 2014 Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

grizzly adams
Young Grizzly Adams

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Less than three weeks to the marathon. Stay tuned.

TRENTON DOUBLE CROSS HALF MARATHON RECAP

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

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

sad face

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

trenton start

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brooklyn Half Marathon 2013 Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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