Tuesday, July 31, 2007

RACE DAY: Marcus & Kleigman Workplace Challenge 5K

What: Marcus & Kleigman Workplace Challenge 5K
Where: Jones Beach State Park, Wantagh, L.I., NY
When: Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Who: Me and about 100 other employees in my company.
Why: Because I Am NUTS.

The race actually began after I picked up Ileana at LA Fitness in New Hyde Park. I had left my job at 4:30pm. There was no traffic getting to the gym to get Ileana. But the way back was a different story. The Northern State Parkway was jammed, and much to my chagrin, it was due to the backup from the Meadowbrook Pkwy, which is the road that I needed to take. To make matters even better...it was backed up all the way to the Southern State Parkway, some 10 miles south. I didn't think I was going to even make it to the start of the race, but I finally did with only about 15 minutes to spare. All the way there, I kept mentioning how either God or the Devil loved to toy with my getting to a race on time. I also said how none of this would bother me. I said it about 3 dozen times, so yeah, it really freaking bothered me. I'm sure Ileana had a nice internal laugh at my neurotic expense.

Getting there, I wound up parking the car somewhere in Australia. It took years just to walk from my car to our company tent. Why was I racing again? Also, I had no time to warm up, STRIKE 1, did not fine my GU carbo gel pack, STRIKE 2, and did not have time to use the Port-O-San (for those of you out there who don't know what a Port-O-San is, I want you to close your eyes. Now envision loads of different people's shit all mixed up in one flushless plastic bowl. Nice right? Even nicer is the fact that you never closed your eyes. How else could you have continued to read otherwise?

The starting line was chaos. 6,800 runners, up from 5,000 last year. No wave starts, and no time markers either. Poor planning. Badly organized. People just lined up everywhere, with no regard. There was a woman that looked like the side of an old brownstone building (and weighed like one too), she was several rows in front of me. Yeah, okay, she can run the mile in 7 minutes....OK...

As for me, I tried to walk up to my "perceived" time area but it was of no use. Too crammed up. It took me about a minute to cross the starting line, and started my watch then. I felt like I was at a New York Road Runner's Race. Just like old times.

The first mile was bad. So many in front of me, that I felt like I did 1.5 miles just zig zagging around for a better position. As a result, I expended too much energy. By the time I got past the first mile mark, I was feeling dead. Why? I ran it in close to 7 minutes flat. The heat was rapidly getting to me. And I was missing my hat, which I could have at least soaked it in water.

Steve Stransky, a co-worker of mine, caught up to me after the first mile. He looked much fresher than me, and I didn't wan't to hold him back, so I backed up and gave him the right of way. It was the right thing to do, because I was going too fast anyway, and I definitely didn't want to hold him back in anyway.

The second mile was payback for the first, and it was brutal. The heat, the humidity, and the nauseas was settling in. At least the sunlight was not a factor. It was 7pm , but it was still strong. However, I purchased a pair of Ryders at Runner's Edge earlier (see "The Mean Look" below). Yet, the only consolation that I had really hoped for was some kind of breeze, since we were in Jones Beach and the Atlantic Ocean was about 200 yards or less away throught the entire race. No such luck. That wind took a vacation somewhere else it seemed.

...Perhaps the wind went to Florida, where it's even more hot and more humid, blecch! (private joke for those Floridians that frequently visit here....YOU know who you IS) ......Anyway, I have read that in hot weather a light headwind is actually good because it cools you down, whereas tailwind is hot air blowing on your back and it heats you up. I didn't care. Any wind could have been a blessing tonight. The humidity was still at over 50%, so the sweat shop was open for business again. To further promote it's progress, I wound up taking two cups at each water station, one to drink, another to douse.

I was going to wear my ridiculous looking Spongebob Squarepants hat that they gave to me at the NYC Marathon on Mile 18 (1st Avenue, Manhattan) last year. Reason? I purchased a thin large sponge (yellow too, if you can believe) and was going to place ice between the top of the hat and the sponge liner. This way when I run the ice would melt, and I would have a cool sponge keeping me cool upstairs. Fugghedaboudit! Even with the thinnest ice, that hat was too bulky and unusable. I wound up doing what Paige, one of the members on my runningahead.com website had suggested, and ran with it. Ha Ha! "ran with it". I am such a cornball.

Mile 3, I was just holding on. I even slowed to a walk for a few moments, and then would take off running hard to make up for the walk. I really wanted this race to end in a bad way. I hate short runs, especially if I am not training myself for them. The speed workout on Wednesday are just not doing the trick yet, I guess.

As we left the main trail, and headed back into that massive parking lot where Jones Beach Theatre was, I realized that there were about .3 miles left to go. At that point I basically did my "kick" and basically let out a primitive grunt and a 'yeah' that was probably heard all the way out to Long Beach, never mind Jones Beach.

I was so dizzy at the finish, that I thought I would get into a fetal position while looking for ant colonies on the ground. Instead, I drudged onward looking for the tent. I found Jon Garber, who was a crisp as a brand new dollar bill. He was looking for the tent too, and was also lost (He did great btw, came in first with a time of 23:30-I think). Jon and I scrambled some more. When we found our company's tent, I noticed Ileana sitting down, and eating some cold food that was catered in by some fat slobs. I call them 'fat slobs' because I would later on find out that they were actually eating our food, and drinking our beer while we were racing in the 85 degree heat!!

And now. It's time for...The "Mean" Look.

Another ridiculous photo to add to the pile.

That was the "freshest" I looked all day. To respect my old man's wishes, I decided to take the picture of me before and not after the race. Trust me, I did mankind a huge favor.

Anyway, I wanted to post my splits here, but it's Midnight now here in NY, I can't seem to find my Polar S625X anywhere, and I am brain dead. A brain is optional when writing blogs.

12:15 AM. Shit!


Sunday, July 29, 2007

NYC Marathon Training: Week 2 Summary / Week 3 Schedule

Week Two Completed

25 miles
Actual: 27.4 miles

High: 162.4
Low: 156.8

Scheduled: 56 hours
Actual: 54 hours

Unlike last week, this week was eventful. Many new runs, especially the World Trade Center run, caused stress and distraction from the overall goal. Weight-wise, I was all over the map this week. I weighed in at 157.6 this morning, the lowest of any day this week, but I've also been really slashing the calories. I joined the "Jiggly Joggers" group on RunningAhead.Com and
I also signed up for 6 months on http://www.my-calorie-counter.com/ to keep a close eye on my future meals. I did hill work, I did a long run, and I ran in the rain. All good stuff.

Perhaps the most encouraging sign of all was that despite all the struggles, not one of them dealt with my previous injuries. I wanted to run an extra 10 miles here and there, but I refrained, and am glad that I did.

Here's a look ahead for the coming week:

Week 3 Schedule:

Inaugural Training Run: Forest Hills Gardens 5K

Course: Forest Hills Gardens 5K
Towns: Forest Hills, NY
Distance: 3.11 Miles
Date: Sunday, July 29, 2007
Time: 1:30 PM
Weather: 82%, 100% Humidity,
Rain & Thunderstorms
Course Path: (see map, left)
Elevations: (see graph, left)

Well, I finally got my wish. It rained like heck today. And I ran like heck too.

I didn't bring my Blackberry, so any pictures I have below aren't mine (except for me), but today's scenery was great. Even with the rain, it was an incredible contrast to yesterday.

Forest Hills Gardens, is one of the most exclusive communities in Queens. If you can get
past all of the posted "Private Streets"signposts warning of a $125 penalty and of getting a boot on your car if you not a resident, then you are in for a eye-candy laden treat.

Million-dollar homes, wonderful landscaping, and streets filled with beautiful large trees dominating the streets (nothing like the truck depots of yesterday) all added up to a good karmic experience.

As for my run, I can't seem to put my finger on it. I've slept 55 hours this week, just 1 under the desired 8 hrs. per night. Yet, I felt exhausted even before I began. It has to be this diet, that I just started. It's tough to lose weight, while increasing your mileage. Plus, I'm also trying very hard to listen to my body, to not re-injure myself, and all the while, prep for 2 races coming up this week. I'm definitely hungry to compete, but I think I just need to rest better, I don't know.

The run took me through all of Forest Hills Gardens with a wraparound the West Side Tennis Club. Prior to 1980, this was the perennial home to the US Open. When I was growing up in Forest Hills (1976-1979), I remembered how crowded it would get in August because of the event. I even saw Dick Van Patten (from the then popular TV show, "Eight Is Enough"), crossing Continental Avenue, near the entrance to the Subway!!!

Below are a bunch of photos, that I found on the internet to show you what Forest Hills Gardens is. Even with the pouring rain, it was still beautiful. I will be doing this route again, and this is why I gave it my "Speedy" star rating on the map above.

Coming back, I was feeling a bit weak. Having eaten only about 400 calories in the day, I felt it was time to breakdown a little. So I had ONE slice of pizza, and a diet coke at Dani's.

Here I am all drenched (and tired):
Photos of Forest Hills Gardens (as promised):

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Inaugural Training Run: Metropolitan Avenue to the World Trade Center

Course: Metropolitan Ave. to WTC.
Queens: Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Middle Village,
Brooklyn: Bushwich Junction, Linden Hill, Williamsburgh
Manhattan: Lower East Side-Delancey, Bowery, Little Italy, Chinatown, Financial District
Distance: 11.2 Miles
Date: Saturday, July 28, 2007
Time: 08:30 AM
Weather: 79F, 92% Humidity
Course Path: (see map)
Elevations: (see graph)

I could leave the description at that, and you'd get everything you'd need to know about this run.

I'm actually glad I did it though. It was important to get the blood flowing. Especially knowing, that I was going to a special place for me, the New Yorker that I am (and will always be). It's also wonderful knowing the distances and the places that your own two legs can take you to too.

Right outside my building,
is where I warm up and stretch.
If you can see above, that's my hairy
leg. As you may guess, I'm in the
middle of a stretch and I'm using the
side, outdoor brick step to do it.

Let the journey begin:
I run down Lefferts Boulevard, and make a right on Metropolitan Avenue. It's an annoying
climb for about 1/2 mile. I pass Forest Park on my left, as I enter the southern section
of Forest Hills. Here, there are a lot of restaurants and quaint shops..and they are all expensive.
Up ahead, is the Forest Hills Cinemart movie theatre...Beyond that is Eddie's....

Eddie's Sweet Shop has been around since the 60's but it generally took over a store that was there since the 20's. I was never impressed by this place. It has won awards for great ice cream, etal. I must be missing something. The place is a mess. The people who work behind the counter are kids that don't even know what they are doing. I read a review on Urban Spoon
and I agree...."It's used to be the shit, and now it's just shit."

...And speaking of shit, the weather was complete shit. I was actually hoping that the sky would explode, and that rain would fall on me, but no luck. It played the role of "Jurassic Swamp" perfectly.

Queens is also well-known for its cemeteries. I'm not sure if I should be proud of that or not. At one point, there were two different cemeteries on either side of Metropolitan Boulevard. Talk about "Bring out yer dead!"....BOHHH-R-R-R-RING!!!

And this was one of the best parts of this run!

The photo above is of St. John's Cemetery. I also passed Lutheran Cemetery another mile later on. ......I was not really too sure why Queens had so many cemeteries....Until I got to around Mile 5.5...I tell you later....

As Metropolitan Avenue began to narrow, the commerical businesses were giving way to the smaller "mom & pop" places. Bodegas, coffee shops, and greasy grill joints, were in abundance. Some Mexican-American exited one of these places ahead of me and started jogging. Actually, he was going pretty fast. I expected him to slow down. But he didn't. Best of all, was that he was wearing long black sweats! Not bad, if his intent was to cook his own balls.

I had gone 4+ miles, and I had done pretty well, but I was beginning to sweat myself. Wisely, I stopped, and got myself a Vitamin Water.

Interesting note: There is no sign or landmark on Metropolitan Avenue stating when you have left Queens, a/o have entered Brooklyn. Perhaps it's beyond Eliot Avenue, where I noticed an abandoned railroad track. Or perhaps it was Flushing Avenue (no where near Flushing), for which, traffic-wise, was so dangerous, that I took my headphones off before crossing.

Passing Fresh Pond Road, and Eliot Avenues, I started noticing an immediate downgrade in the surrounding area. Trees were being replaced by garbage, and little family owned shops were being replaced by dirty scrap metal chop shops and automotive graveyards! Now normally, I get on my Dad's case for painting all of New York in this light, as if this area spoke for ALL of the Big Apple. But DAMN!!! This place was really ugly......and......

Mile 5.5....I enter Hell.

By the time I arrived here to this 'pic' that you see on your right, the "Bo Bo Poultry Market", the smell was unbearable. In fact, you had to be a BOBO, for even walking around here!! The stench was far worse than the sulphur that one smells as they are crossing Flushing Bay near Shea Stadium, home of the New York Mets. How better to describe it? Okay. Imagine taking the shit of 10 Doberman Pinchers that had recently eaten endless bowls of chopped up White Castle Hamburgers and Nathan's Hot Dogs (two local favorite food chains in the Northeast, for which the meat may taste well, but with horrendous conclusions). Now imagine someone putting it all into a big bucket, and placing it snuggly over your head, like a fedora. Now imagine running for nearly a mile with that on your head.... I could not escape the smell!!!

It was then, and in desperation, that I dug into my shorts pocket, and whipped out my Google map to see where the heck I was.....I took a look at my map, and gritted my teeth, as I now KNEW where hell is on Earth..........

The English Kills.

The most infamously polluted area in all of New York City.

Lovely photos, aren't they? And these aren't even mine. I took them from another
website, because I didn't have the stomach (let alone the nostrils) to stop and take them myself.

'Nice work, Alex!' I thought. 'How could I have missed this when plotting out my runs?'

This place had it's own 'kills' too all right. Now I know why there were so many cemetaries before.....

....It was to bury the people that ran in the opposite direction (from the WTC to my place).
Apparently, they didn't make it much further, and croaked just over the Queens border.

The stink was stifling. It was like the giant Port-O-San from Hell turned upsidedown after used by several, and it caused me to slow down considerably. Whereas, I was running an 8:16 mile, smiling all the way past the Metro Mall in Middle Village, earlier on, I was considerably downtrodden now. The heat was nasty, but with the smell? Unimaginable. I wanted to sprint, but I was actually stricken to the point that I had to nearly slow to a walk.

This area was absolutely depressing and completely reprehensible. I had definitely run through the armpit of New York City.

No. Wait a second. I take that back. It wasn't the armpit. It was a dirty colon.

Oddly enough, I did not see one dead animal around. Perhaps that's because they had more sense than I to not be here!

Fortunately, I finally left the area (or rather fled), and found my way entering the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is a tough one. I saw lots of people that I probably would have rather not seen. So again, I am grateful that I did this run in broad daylight.

YAHOO! I can now see the bridge, and I am eternally grateful. I am eternally thirsty too. I see this park at the edge of the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway). It has a water fountain inside. A woman is filling a Bozo (or is it BOBO now) punching bag with water directly from the fountain. I'm thinking I'll be waiting forever to get a sip, but she sees me, and how miserably pathetic I look, and had no choice but to interrupt her task to allow me to drink.

Blecccchh! The water! It's warm! THE NIGHTMARE CONTINUES!!!
However, I found this little 'geyser' (see below) and I drenched my head in it. This water was cold, and it felt great!! okay, okay, so not everything was that bad...

Leaving the park, I began to get a little bit confused regarding where the entrance to the footpath on the Williamburg Bridge was. I was even beginning to doubt if the bridge even had one at all. Oh NO!!! Perhaps I had the wrong bridge! Perhaps it was the Manhattan Bridge instead with the pedestrian path!!

I tried to walk into a check cashing shop nearby. There were plenty of people inside, but, to no surprise of mine, it was locked. I had to get buzzed in. As they say in Brooklyn....Fuhgedaboudit!!
Then, I saw someone in front of a bodega, and asked him. A feeling of relief overwhelmed me as he confirmed that this bridge does have a pedestrian crossover and showed me where to go.

The bridge is pretty nice, I must admit. There are walk & bike paths in either side of the span, going in both directions too. There is also the Subway ("J" train, I think) that goes down the middle of the bridge. The vehicles then, are on the lower level. Very efficient!

Everything was going well for me again, until I got about two-thirds of the way over, when at about the 8-mile mark, a foot cramp developed briefly and went away. It was in my right foot and it was a sign of more bad things to come. The Potassium levels in my body must have been close to depletion by now. Again, no thanks to this wonderful weather us New Yorkers are forced to endure this time of year. It's kind of what Floridians have to endure, just not as bad, and definitely not nearly as long as they do. So, stop my bitchin' right?

Once I crossed the East River, both sides of the pedestrian walks merged. It was there where I saw this scribbled in spray paint on the ground below:

It actually read: "I'm tired of being stepped over on!"

I crossed into Manhattan and ahead to where the bridge ramp finally became Delancy Street. What a sea of gridlocked cars! Once I got there, the heat was getting ridiculous. I stepped inside a Burger King and got a cup of water.

I pushed onward, and passed Allen St (dubbed "The Street of the Immigrant" right on the street signs). I had just completed my ninth mile, and was in seriously bad shape. I was changing between running, jogging, walking, even stopping. I could not do anything consistent. My legs didn't hurt. I was just exhausted. The heat and the smell didn't help, but this was all probably due to the lack of long runs I had done in a long while (thanks to my injury in June).

So, what was I to do? Take more pictures, of course!

On Kenmare, looking down Center St..........A greasy 'spoon' near the corner of Lafayette.

Lafayette & Broome Streets...............................Laf. & Canal Streets. Good 'knockoff' place.

Canal Street again................................................Near the NYPD Headquarters.....

They say you can't fight City Hall. Well, perhaps that is true....but I did at least get to
run to it!!

As I made my way past Duane & Reede streets (Ahhh, good. Now everyone can revel in how it was that the drug store chain, DuaneReed, was actually named), I had my second foot spasm. It was massive. Both feet this time.

I actually stopped and held the lampost at City Hall Park, near the corner of Park Row and Broadway, until my feet "unlocked".

More photos....
222 year old, St. Peter's Church..................... Rico law? No 'Reeking Smell' more like it!!!

Right after reaching the Federal Office Building (above, right), I also started getting a little bit
woozy. After all, this week was also my first week dieting and up until now, all I had was my Vitamin Water (125 calories) and nothing else.

At last! (Please sing like Etta James now..,.) I have reached my destination, the area that was once home to the World Trade Center, Tower 1 and Tower 2.
As you can see, New York is hard at work with the new construction of the 'Freedom Tower'.
After stopping for a moment to take in the gravity of what had happened nearly 6 years ago, I selected "Born In The USA" by Springsteen on my iPod, and completed my lap around the tragic and heroic memoriam.

Once complete, I got a large diet coke at Burger King, and then I took my smelly self down to the bowels of the earth known as .....the New York City Subway system.

Heck, things have gotten much better in the Subways in the last 20 years.
Crime has gone down by 75% and the AC works much better now.
In my case, too well.
My sweat nearly froze on my skin, but I wasn't going to

All I had to do.....was to think of the stink...in that God-Forsaken place called
English Kills.

The 11.2 mile run took me 1 hour and 52 minutes. Not good, but not bad considering all the stops I made along the way. The train ride back home, incidentally, took 42 minutes.

This may not be the last time I do this run, but I will be far better prepared if I ever do this again.

....Perhaps, I'll use a 'haz-mat' suit next time.