Sunday, November 5, 2006

"Just Say Yes" - Tales from the 2006 New York City Marathon.

The 2006 ING New York City Marathon
This was my entry into my log book.

With a major injury to my right calf muscle. While at my highest weight - 165 While wearing my old, reliable, and HEAVIEST training shoes - 18 oz each.I ran. I asked God to help me through. I asked him to let me finish this race, and do so without irreperably injuring myself. I also took with me 5 energy gel packs, 4 potassium supplements (to curb the spasms in my foot), and 3 Naproxyn's (for pain).
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Every year I forget something (last year my watch), this year was my cellphone. It was really cold at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island. And when the race began, I had to jump over endless piles of clothing left behind on the road by fellow runners that are in front of me.
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The Race:I had to shut out the crown in Brooklyn. They were incredible, and I did not want to let their cheering drain me of my adrenaline. 10th street and 4th avenue was unbelievable to the point that I took off my headphones, and nearly broke out in tears from being cheered on so much!!!

The Hasidm section, typically where the locals walk down the street and dont even acknowledge what is going on, was better this year. Lance Armstrong's NIKE cheer squad was perfectly planted in that area. So the negativity there was suppressed (God Bless Lance). Incredibly, I ran without stopping (except for water breaks), for the first 15 miles. At the Queensboro, I slowed down to a walk. Saved my energy this year to run along 1st avenue. Wild crowd. I love this race! A bunch of runners from Italy, made an extra wide turn at the junction of 59th and 1st, and gave hi 5's to all those watching from the distance. That was nice of them.


Manhattan was where I started to believe in myself that I can actually finish it, injury and all. I had asked God and stayed focus enough, that if I made it out of Queens I would have a chance. Then, somewhere around 90th street, more problems occurred. My quadriceps in both legs locked up. That slowed me down more. Then at the 20 mile mark in the Bronx, my right hamstring, started to tighten and convulse. Further slowing me down.

Back to Manhattan, in Harlem, and around Marcus Garvey Park, my left hamstring went. The only leg muscle left without feeling like it was on fire was my left calf, and that was already on its way. At least my bones (knees and shins) we're going strong.

As I continued in a daze down along 5th Avenue, the pain was almost as great, as the inspiration of knowing that I was going to finish this damn thing, even with my legs 3/4's gone.

The massive roar of the crowd as I turned up Columbus Circle. Followed by the 800 meters to go, 700 meters to go....so on and so on.....

Outrageous finish, as I strolled down the center isle, to my 2nd straight medal....I would have cried, if I hadn't been so damn wiped out....The Stats:Overall:Place: 26608/37954 - 70%Gender: 19474/25618 - 76%Age: 3958/4924 - 80%Official Time: 4:03:3905k Time : 0:30:0010k Time : 0:59:1115k Time : 1:28:4920k Time : 2:00:291/2 Mar.Time: 2:07:5025k Time : 2:37:1130k Time : 3:15:1035k Time : 3:52:2840k Time : 4:30:58Pace/Mile : 10m59sMile 01 : 08m53.5sMile 02 : 10m28.7sMile 03 : 09m37.4sMile 04 : 10m16.2sMile 05 : 08m54.4sMile 06 : 08m54.5sMile 07 : 09m11.2sMile 08 : 09m31.3sMile 09 : 09m57.0sMile 10 : 09m41.0sMile 11 : 10m16.9sMile 12 : 10m14.4sMile 13 : 10m38.5sMile 14 : 11m32.7sMile 15 : 11m22.5sMile 16 : 13m16.6sMile 17 : 11m38.0sMile 18 : 12m29.8sMile 19 : 12m29.6sMile 20 : 12m26.6sMile 21 : 12m06.1sMile 22 : 11m32.4sMile 23 : 11m48.9sMile 24 : 13m03.4sMile 25 : 12m32.6sMile 26 : 12m07.6sMile .2 : 2m42.3s (13m31s pace)


But the best way to sum it all up might perhaps be this:


































Saturday, November 4, 2006

High Drama.


Uh-Oh...

In what should have been an improvement in my training over last year, the unthinkable started to take hold. The injury I had sustained from my panic of not having a long run in me had brought on the urge to run and run long. Unfortunately for me, it was a case of the runner who had no stop sign ahead. And who fell over the cliff of health and into a pit of disastrous doom. Take a look below at all of the logs entered in between October 15th and Saturday, November 4 (exactly 1 day before the race)....


So, for the next three days, I decided not to run. Unfortunately, I could still feel major discomfort in my calves. Especially the right one. I was panicking because I had not trained much now in a few weeks.

Early Thursday morning, I had to fly to California for a site survey on Friday. I got to my Holiday Express fairly early in the day and had some free time, so I decided to give it a real college try in doing a slow distance run around my area.

As you can see, the results were not good at all...
With little time left, I was forced to heal. This meant zero running. I could have trained on the elliptical, but why chance it any more, right?

So, and for 9 days, I did not run. In fact, I barely even moved out of my seat at work. I was extremely nervous about all of this, and now was desperate to get better in time for my 2nd NYC Marathon in my "2nd life".


But it was to no avail you see. 9 days off, and 12 of the last 13, and still there was no improvement.



How was I going to be able to run? My calf was throbbing. Nearly a year of training, and racing, all for nothing. And all of it to go down the drain for something that had happened less than two weeks earlier. As people get older, it takes longer to recover from injury. Or so, it's been said.

After the attempted run that you see above, I was so miserable that I wanted to cry. The best was to drown out my sad state of affairs was to drive, and drive far. I took Ileana to the wine country. In New York, the best place for this is on the North Fork section of Long Island. It's no Napa Valley for sure, but there were plenty of wine tasting places along the way. Enough to dullen my senses, not enough to be unable to drive, but just so that the edge from the excruciating pain of knowing I was not going to be able to run in this year's race would be temporarily forgotten.



The next day, I tried to make an appointment today to see the doctor, but they were all booked up....Until November 15th!

The next morning, Tuesday, the pain was still there.... I can't believe this!

At this point, I called back and DEMANDED to see someone citing my unfortunate set of circumstances. Fortunately for me, they mentioned that someone had cancelled, and could see me immediately. So, I raced (in my car obviously) over to see him. Dr. Parisi checked me out and as you can see below. He stated the all-too-painful-truth; to not run for fear of further worsening my injury.

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Wednesday, November 1. The Deadline.

I had until close of business today to make the online decision to postpone my race until next year. Although I had gotten a CAT Scan done yesterday, there was no guarantee of getting my results before the window of opportunity to cancel online had come......

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

.....and gone!

Now if I had wanted to cancel, I would have to go in person to the Javitz center to do so.

Thursday, turned out to be a brighter day however as my results came back negative...


Still, my doc told me that I still should not run in the race, if it still hurt. I begged him for a shot of cortisone to be slammed right into my calf. Instead, he gave me a prescription for Naproxyn. To tell you the truth, my leg was killing me. Something told me that perhaps that reading was inconclusive at best, if not outright wrong. I definitely tore something. Perhaps it was minute, but baby did it hurt! Just walking on it for 5 minutes was enough to break me out into a James-Brown-like cold sweat. Before I left, the doc told me that there are those 'heroes' out there, those people, who somehow do incredible things, when put to the test.

And with those final words had asked me to let him know if I decided to go through with it or not.


Saturday, November 3. 1 day to go. Last Chance To Cancel.

"It's Now or Never" Elvis once belted out.

And that's exactly where I was at this point of my 2006 NYC Marathon.

Bail.......or............Sail?


Being at the Javitz and seeing everyone there was just too much. I even saw Steve & Coleman, both from my office out there too.

Too much invested. Too much to let this overcome me. How could I possibly wake up to see the running of a race on television that I had instead prepared for almost a year to be participating in.

If I had to carry the whole bottle of Naproxyn with me on my run, so be it!!!!!

Injured, But Not Out.

This is my first post-post. That's a post that took place before I found this great website. This particularly entry was of the email that I sent to my family and friends, the night before what was to be my 5th attempt at the New York City Marathon (2006). Which, by the way, I am happy to report that I did finish, torn calf muscle and all!


Hi Family,

Tomorrow will be a big day for me. It will mark the 5th time I run a marathon.

Until now, every marathon has had a different and special theme for me.
In 1984, it was about running my first marathon ever and whether or not I could do one at the age of 19 (of course, we all know now that some of the best athletes in the world actually peak around that age).

In 1985, it was about really attacking the coarse without remorse. And I did, it was my best performance ever at 4 hours and 9 minutes and 31 seconds.

In 1986, it was just about whether or not I could finish a race while completely out of shape. I had completely lost interest in the race, as I moronically did in most things after marrying Lorraine, and my last day of training was June 28th. God was smiling upon me that November 4th day however, when he allowed my youth to overcome my stupidity.

In 2005, and after a 19 year hiatus, I decided to put my best middle aged foot forward and achieve a throwback to yesteryear. My first half of the race, I was on a 3:48 pace. Unfortunately the second half I injured myself, but still proudly achieved what few have, finish a marathon, in my forties, and do it after being sedentary for so long.

This year will be completely different than all the others. I give each big race my own title. This year's Marathon was supposed to be called, "Lessons Learned", and from those lessons learned from last year's run, I was to go out to seek nirvana.....a sub 4 hour race. How naive... Just as in life, where we all learn that 'class' is never really over, I too learned, perhaps in a cruel way, that I have not learned it all, not by a long shot. If I had, I probably would not be running tomorrow with a pulled (and possibly, partially torn) calf muscle. But yet, after 40+ weeks of training, that's what happened as my training entered into the last lap.

For those reasons, I have entitled my run for tomorrow, "Whatever It Takes". While most, sensible people would have gracefully postponed, I have decided to go for it anyway and do "Whatever It Takes" to finish. Now, I know I don't have to prove to anyone that I am not a quitter.....It's just that to me anything less than running a race that' I've been training for a year....IS quitting. I make no mistake when I say that I expect to be under incredible pain for most of the 5+ hours that I am afoot, so I probably won't do very well at all (probably even worse than my 5 hour 27 minute finish in 1986), but I must do "whatever it takes" to pass this latest, ultimate test in my life.

Other than my injury, I have been blessed to have had good health. But more than anything else, I am very happy to call all of you (including those whose emails I do not have) my family. I love you all, and I will be dedicating my race to everyone, including my grandparents, for whom I pray will help me from above.

I will be awoken at 4am, and head out to the dark streets to make my way to the subway train by about 5am. At Grand Central at 5:45 to catch one of the 800 chartered buses to take me to Staten Island, where I will wait, with 37,000 of my unknown comrades with their own stories (probably much more heroic than mine for sure) in the 37 degree weather.

My fate begins at the edge of Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island on Sunday, November 5th at 10:10am. Please wish me well.....I love you all.....

Alex

Saturday, September 16, 2006

RACE REPORT: The Great Cow Harbor Run....And That Goddammed Widow Hill!

Course layout


                      
The race begins in front of Laurel Avenue School, runners proceed south then make a right turn onto Scudder Avenue. After a small incline, the runners head downhill for the remainder of the first mile until they reach Woodbine Avenue where they turn right.  Runners continue straight onto Bayview Avenue, passing on the right the eventual finish line.  Runners then continue until they make a right hand turn onto James Street a very steep hill, claimed to be "Widow Hill" by runners. At the top of James Street, the course turns right onto Northwest Drive, left onto Lewis Road, then left onto Ocean Avenue, offering runners a beautiful view of the Long Island Sound. Just past the halfway point, runners turn right onto Eaton's Neck Road, then right onto Waterside Avenue. The 1.5 mile stretch on Waterside, a slight incline, is where the race is often won or lost. At the five-mile mark, the course turns right onto Main Street, where after one last climb ("Pumpernickel Hill"), runners coast downhill into picturesque downtown Northport. The race finishes just west of School Street, in front of the Northport Hardware Company.

Taking off 2 days for this run, and getting new sneaks last night surely helped. Having 2 Red Bulls b4 the start of the race did not hurt either. This was my first run at this legendary course. And I can see why the race lives up to its name. Nothing but uphills and downhills the whole way through, with Widow Hill nearly "X"ing me off and reading me my last rites.  From 42 feet to 138 feet above sea level, almost 100 feet in less than 2/10ths of a mile.  I thought to figure this out online (and of course, I did).


Are you shitting me?  Put a 9 degree incline on your treadmill and run 2/10ths of a quarter of a mile! Great tool?  Here's the link -> http://www.csgnetwork.com/inclinedeclinegradecalc.html

Even still Cow Harbor is a FANTASTIC race.  Coupled with excellent support, and great weather, made for a fabulous finish. Great story to tell here: Waiting at the porto-sans, I saw a woman that works at Avon in Rye. I did not say hi, because I was not in the mood to associate with anyone from a job that I was unfairly laid off from. Towards the end of my race, with about a 1/2 mile to go, she passes me! I basically said to myself, "I'll be damned if someone from Avon beats me!" and I charged into a sprint for the remaining distance.
Ryan Hall ran this race.  I was within 20 feet of this soon-to-be American running icon.  He had come here from Tennessee, as I believe right, and would move to Mammoth Caves, CA, shortly afterwards to begin his quest to being a world great.  Well, he was a world-great in this race too, shattering the record by MINUTES to a 28:22 finish that would not be broken for another 5 years.
Overall, I came in 782 out of 4400 runners (top 17%), and 111th out of 440 runners (top 25%).

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Inaugural Long Run: From Home 2 Gnome (To Hell and Back)


Date: 7/4/2006 11:00 AM
Type: Long
Course: Home To Gnome (To Hell And Back)
Distance: 20 miles
Duration: 3:26:00
Pace: 10:18 / mile
Shoe: Brooks Beast 2006 (4)
Weight: 154 lb
Weather: 90° F, Sunny

As I look back now, I can see how much anger I had inside of me. I can't say that it was not unfounded, simply because of the numerous times where life had handed me the short end of the stick, but it was the kind of anger that was still residual inside of me. The residue which had been left over from the betrayal over my supposed friends, Gerry, Treacy, Doug, etal. to all the way back to the beginning, where I was misled as a youth.

When I was young, and innocent, and full of hopes yet to be dashed, promises made to me that were yet to be broken, and my heart which was already crushed, smashed and obliterated into atomic fragments, I used to run up and down Queens Boulevard all the time. I never knew about smog or the harmful effects that I would breathe in from the tailpipes of cars. For me Queens Boulevard was actually FUN and AMUSING! There were stores everywhere! A billion landmarks, which was useful to me in a time where advanced sci-fi gadgets like Polar & Garmin watches didn't exist. Loving NY as much as I did, it was crossing the Queensborough Bridge that really sealed the deal for me. I loved approaching the bridge, and crossing the East River (I still do, actually). The winds always whip across the 59th Street Bridge (the other name for it), and would cool me down considerably, no matter how fast I was motoring. And I motored fast! Then there was the exhiliration of passing the apex of the bridge, and knowing it was a nice downhill to 2nd avenue. I loved entering the 'Big Apple'. I absolutely loved the feeling of accomplishment, and all that came with it. Training for my first & second marathons, I did most of my training along this route. Sometimes, I would shorten the run, and not go to Manhattan, opting for an out n back to my posh studio apartment in Kew Gardens instead. Sometimes, it was just a quick 2.5 mile sprint from Iberia to home too. But my favorite was the 9 miler into Manhattan. And if it weren't for the all the God darn traffic, and for all the pedestrians being killed due to negligent motor vehiclist, I would probably run this route far more often today than I used to in my REAL youth.

Below is the entry that I had actually posted on the runningahead website. After an initial reading, I was going to remove it, if not modify it. However, and with FEW exceptions, I true cherish truthful, honest emotions. And while angerness can be a very ugly, dark side to the human psyche, it is what I had felt that day. I can think of far worse things than to admit how ugly I felt that day, and one of them would be to shield my anger. In my opinion, hiding one's true feelings is the first step in the "dehumaninzing" process that has been slowly but surely making a zombie out of us all. But enough rhetoric.... On with my comments...



Written on July 4th, 2006:

"To Hell....and BACK!!


Before I began this insane adventure I asked myself,


"If I dance with the devil, will I be able to spit on his grave later?"


Never has the translation been so exact as it was today. You see, I felt
I had a delivery to make, and I wanted to do it in person.

So I began my voyage....down the Boulevard of Death. In 90 degree
weather, I was armed with bottles of water, made pit stops at 7-11, McDonalds,
Patsy's in NYC, and Burger King, and again at McDonalds. It made no
difference, my body was superheating faster than my intake of fluids, hence the
weight loss down to 154.4 (even with non-diet soda, Arizona Energy, and a 100
grand bar!!). The heat was scorching. This time, no sunscreen.
Working on only 5 hours of sleep (not a good thing either), I stopped at
7-11 in Sunnyside for a drink....and a squirt (right next to the garbage cans on
QueensBlvd!!!). Nobody saw, and if they did, so what?

Approaching the bridge, a man in a light blue classic car (like a 55 buick
or something) with his wife and kids, honked their horn at me. I was
wearing very patriotic colors (stars and stripes shorts-red white blue adidas
top, and flag bandana). He wanted to know if he could take a picture with
me and his wife. This was by Queensboro Plaza. I did and asked
him to email me a photo. We'll see what happens.

Then I crossed the bridge, the first time since NYC Marathon
2005, and the first time I went to NYC from Kew Gardens via Queens Blvd,
since I was 20 (some 21 years ago). This time though I would not turn right
back onto the bridge and head back. No, No, no, no, no.....I had a
package to deliver. And I did.

I ran along 60th street until I got to Park Avenue, and made a left turn heading south on Park. I kept running until I finally saw it.. The JP Morgan Chase Building at 270 Park. Without further adieu, I ran real close to it, right up against the front glass, and with all my might, I spit onto the glass with every breath of force I had.

After leaving my "present" there, I crossed the street, and did the same
to the other building directly across.I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted
the world to know that on this, INDEPENDENCE DAY, that I, Alex David
Gonzalez, ran 10 miles in 90 degree weather, to spit on an institution as
vile as that. To me, love and not money is my currency and it was about
time, I retaliated. But that's it. I'm done. All over. Relieved about
having done something that I had been contemplating for a couple of years
now. I feel......accomplished. I dont need to do anything else....my
SPIT, my garbage, my excretion on their expensive, and pretty glass windows,
is my symbol of what I think of that organization, and ESPECIALLY of those
who work there. Mission Accomplished."






I had put myself through a lot of self-therapy leading up to that day. A broken heart and crushed expectations can bring down the strongest of men. It took all the energy I had to survive the previous 2 years. But, I still needed some kind of closure. And for me, this was it. No matter, how immature, this was it. And even now, as I write this over a year later, I look back to that day when I spat upon the financial institution juggernaut, and I can't keep from smilling from ear to ear. Sometimes it is nice to be immature.

Sunday, May 7, 2006

RACE REPORT: LI Half Marathon. Reckson Damn Near Killed 'Em.

I had to write that little Reckson tagline, since they are the sponsor, and since it reminded me of my dear beloved boss Ed Greer, who has passed over to the angels some time ago.

This was my first Half Marathon run in Long Island, And I will say that it was quite fun. i had a net time of 1:47:50, which was good enough for 572 overall in a field of 3600. some balding dope around mile 5 literally shoved me out of his way. given how nice people who run are, i could not believe it! i followed behind him, directly behind him for nearly 4 miles, and then i made sure he was aware of who i was when i dusted him. that was around mile 9. the last 3 miles were painful as a result of poor pacing in the middle of the race, and probably because i did a half marathon a week ago too, but the worst feeling in the world was when this dope actually passed me by with less than a mile to go, as we were already in Eisenhower Park. I went beserk at that point. Not only did I pass him (yay) but I think I passed about 20 people in the last quarter mile. Thank God my stupidity was not severe enough so as to hurt myself.

Bottom line: I improved my net time 21 seconds over last week's half marathon in Queens. My next half is on my birthday in the Bronx (sheeesh). I must learn now to take it to the next level. I have to be able to clock in 7 minute miles in these long races. Not sure how. Will need to investigate.