Friday, November 30, 2007

Paco Lopez (1944-2007)

(picture to follow)

Paco Lopez grew up in the blessed city of Malaga, Spain. Unlike perhaps some of his friends, Paco loved the United States of America, and all of its offerings, and came here a long time ago to fulfill his dream. He called the Cleveland area his home, but never be fooled....In Paco's heart, I doubt that a day would go by where he didn't long for those beautiful Andulusian sunsets, and the laid back and peaceful surroundings of the Costa.

In many ways, Paco reminded me of the late and great Jackie Gleason. He always had a great command of his appreciative audience, and was liked incredibly well by all. Physically he was a big man, with even a bigger heart. I would like to try and avoid cliches, but Paco was a rare breed that truly possessed a heart of gold that could fill an entire room.

Paco Lopez passed to join the angels today. He was 64.

Paco was one of the very few people that continued to be a true friend after my father retired from Iberia Airlines. Where many of his "so-called" friends were by his side during all of the good times, Paco was there during all of his times, good and bad.

To say he was just one of my father's best friends however, would be like giving you just one ingredient in a Paella. I can remember on numerous occasion Paco keeping my grandfather close company, talking wonderful stories about Spain to him. All my Uncles knew him well too, and love him as such. I personally knew Paco Lopez too. All I can say is that I was left wanting to know him even more. I guess that's true of anyone who was as good and down-to-earth guy as he was. Paco was not just a good and close friend of my father's. He was a good and close friend of our family.

His absence from today onward will be sorely missed by all of us who loved him so, and his infectious smile, wonderful sense of humor, and his ability to roar and rule the jungle like no other, will forever be lovingly etched in our precious memories of him.

Paco Lopez, we love you and wish you all the best.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I'm Running To Cuba!

I've got a lot to say tonight. I fell asleep last night at 9pm, and did not run a second time yesterday. This morning, I woke up this morning feeling dead to the world. Being on a diet doesn't help much either.

As the day progressed, I felt my opportunities to run slipping away. It was very busy in the office, but I had to call my grandmother because she was sick.

My grandmother is 91 years young (God Bless her). She lives all alone, and likes it that way, but every so often needs a hand from time to time. For all that she has been in my life, I could and would never deny her a request.

So now, I was leaving my office to go to and get her Ensure and a pack of bananas (lol) since she (like I) has issues with potassium.

Running tonight looked all but over, until and on my way, I realized that I needed to run at least 7 miles tonight to keep pace with journey to 1500. I ran 7 miles last night, and only needed one more to virtually get to my father's house in Florida.

But I felt that it was time to go out and R&R instead. Plus the Cowboys were playing the Packers tonight, so I figured it was time to throw the diet away for a day, and head over to the Kew Club (great bar) for some dog food (ie. wings) and beer. Ileana was feeling under the weather though, and mentioned to me that she just wanted to sleep.

And now comes the moment.

I am a very competitive person, but more than that, I am fair and just and believe in doing things the right way. There is a certain someone, I wont mention names but
I will tell you that he is a fellow member my RunningAhead club that has absolutely no business belonging in a particular club within the community. The club is called the 1000km club. The club goal is to reach an annual total of 1000km in running/walking, etal. And while there are no rules that require him to do so, it is only (I think) proper etiquette, to leave the group once you have reached that goal, to allow others the ability to lead the group themselves, as they get closer to that goal. 1000km translates to 621 miles. This individual had run 1213 miles.
As I was leaving my poor grandmother (at least with a smile on her face), I noticed that this individual (who lives across the pond from me) tacked on another 15 miles. Wow. Not too shabby. But do you think that you STILL need to be in the 1000km group?

Therefore my DISHONORABLE MENTION goes to that individual who likes to play hardball, but refuses to give the little guy the ability to lead in the smaller mileage groups. Oh, and by the way, this is the report that I am referring to:


And now for the HONORABLE MENTION. Not to toot my own horn, but after seeing what I saw on my Blackberry tonight, I was given new life. Suddenly, my legs were feeling golden again, my lungs clear, my heart strong. I cruised over to the LA Fitness gym
as fast as I could to put on what some would call, a "clinic".

Tonight my friends, I did 15 miles on the treadmill.

LifeStyle treadmills are great, but like the others, they suck at one thing. After an hour, they start to go into warm-down mode. You have to stop the treadmill completely (which really sucks on my knees especially) and start all over again. Plus you lose a little bit of time if you are not careful. I had to do this twice, because my 15 mile run lasted 2 hours 11 minutes 26 seconds (for an 8:47 pace).

This run was faster than my half way mark at the New York City Marathon. Whereas I was conserving my energy in that run for the second half, I was letting my hair down some tonight. I will tell you that I am feeling great even know as I write to you, and plan on running running running, especially because I refuse to lose to pathetic people who love to stay in groups that they have no business in being in. If you are still unsure as to who I am talking about, just follow the link above, or perhaps better still, take a look at the picture at the top of my blog.

I really should be thanking him actually. He gives me a lot of added inspiration to the lots that I have already. As for why I haven't been running outside, the answer is simple: Living in New York is tough enough to run in the streets, but add darkness, and it becomes dangerous. If you're running through the traffic, you have the cars to worry about, and if you are running through trails or parks, you got even more things to worry about, and for those of you fellow New Yorkers who love the Big Apple as much as I, you unfortunately know what I am talking about.

My run tonight on the treadmill was the second longest run to the run I did on the treadmill in Mexico on October 1.

Tonight also marked a new record for most miles ran in one month, 177.3 which bested my previous mark of 165.1 back in August (and I still have tomorrow to tack on some more-AND I WILL)

I know it sounds silly but something about this identity has actually made me feel more carefree and more responsible about my running.

Finally, and regarding the "Cuba" title. I ran past my Dad's house today. If I can hit the cherised 1500 mile mark, then that would be like going to Cuba!
Beware of the Blog...Runner!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A new identity

I was getting pretty bored with "AlexGonzalez0709" as my name on www.runningahead.com. Everyone has great names, Thunder, Bonkin, Zoom-Zoom, LifesABeach, etc. So I figured it was time to get a new identity.

Feeling a little bit unsure, I IM'd with my father, friend, and spiritual advisor.
There were a lot of names that did not make the list:

1 feets of fury
2 somebody stop me
3 the asphalt warrior
4 the concrete warrior
5 tar stomper
6 unbreakable
7 feets of fury
8 accumileator
9 BlogRunner
10 The StompMaster
11 The Flying Gonzini
12 TrueFeet
13 The White Comet
14 The Black Ajax
15 The Accumulator
16 Devourmiles
17 BloodRunner
18 Mile Eater

As you can see, some of these names were absolutely silly (like the Black Ajax. lol), but in the end it came down to 2 choices, The Asphalt Warrior or BLOGRUNNER.

The envelope please.....

BLOGRUNNER.

My new identity. And it should work well, after all I post blogs nearly as much as I post miles. Also, I like how it sounds so much like Blade Runner too.

I need to get a logo now to go with the new identity. If anyone has any ideas, or would like to send me a logo, just leave me a comment and I'll be happy to reach out to you.

I ran twice today. At lunch and after dinner tonight. I have not let up. On a tear. Don't know how long this power surge will last, but I am keeping a close watch on all used body parts, and so far, so good.

This is BLOGRUNNER signing off.
Goodnight.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

SIXTY-ONE point THREE!!!!! (and no steroids either!)

Today, I achieved something, that I did not think I was going to do this year...or next.
I broke the sixty mile barrier for the week. Roger Maris hit 61 homers. But I did 61.3. (Spoken like a true Met fan!)

Now, I'm not too sure how else to say this, but in the humblest of terms, I think I am on a tear right now. I have run 10 or more miles for three consecutive days now. In fact, if you discount Thanksgiving, I have run 10 or more miles five days in a row, and six of my last seven runs have been for 10 miles or more.

So why the sudden madness?

I could attribute this to a few reasons. For one, I knew this would be a heavy eating week. And it has shown to be true. Although I was at 160 pounds earlier today (before the pizza and the ice cream), I had tipped the scale as high as 163 just a couple of days ago. So, even with all my long runs, my caloric intake has toppled my long-distanced progress.

Another reason is this goal I have. I had joined a wonderful online group called http://www.runningahead.com/ for runners like myself. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes to run and share their experiences. It has a killer app for logging your runs and other exercises too. In this club, there are user groups that one can join. In the beginning, I had joined a 1000 kilometer group. The goal was simple. Get to 1000km before the "pace bunny" did. The "pace bunny" goes an exact distance each day, based on the 1000km divided by the 365 days in the year. Well, I easily accomplished this feat, and moved onto another group the 1000 mile group.

The 1,000 mile group proved to be a doable feat as well. However, with all the travel I did in September, and my nagging injuries in July, I did not accomplish that goal as fast I wanted to.
So, as such, the 1,500 mile user group was out of the realm of possibilities. Although, I did join that one anyway.

I am currently a little more than halfway between 1200 and 1300 miles. So far the most mileage I have ever done in one month was 171 miles back in August. However, I am at 135 miles this month, and I seem to be really doing well. No pains, no worries. Just full steam ahead. Whereas, I been convincing myself all along that I had absolutely no chance to entertain the possibility of accomplishing this goal, I am not so sure anymore. To get to this goal, I have 36 days left this year to run 251.8 miles. If I could continue doing 10 miles per day, I'd reach this goal by December 20th. Only time and willpower will tell, right?

The third goal, is the goofy comparison regarding the distance that it would take to get to my Dad's house in Florida. One of the things I loved the most about Forrest Gump, was always what a running fool he had been. Running back 'n' forth across the country. I actually admired it. So, in comparison to my false idol, I have ran 1,248.3 miles so far this year. And if you want to know how that rates, well, let me put it to you this way:My father lives in Tamarac, Florida. If I go to Google Maps and do a point to point direction from where I am right now to his home, the total distance to his front door from mine is 1,276 miles. I am barely a marathon away from reaching his house. At this point I would be physically in Delray Beach. Aqua socks, anybody?

The fourth and final goal (you thought I'd stop at three, didnt'cha?) is that I am desperately trying to improve one of my three weaknesses, my endurance. I need to run more often and run longer each time. My per minute miles are suffering right now, so I am also careful to throw in some tempo runs here and there not to slip in pace. My other two weaknesses right now, is my overeating, and my flexibility. It was my hamstrings that finally went on me in last month's NYC Marathon. My right leg especially. I had pulled a hamstring in my right leg, during a practice softball game playing for Avon Products. That was 9 years ago in 1998.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Fifty Sense!

After not having had a 40+ mile week since the beginning of September, I busted the fifty mile mark for just the third time in my life today.

I was going to do some Christmas shopping today with the kids, but figured I'd instead try and give back some of that 17 pound turkey I partook in over the past few days. I have to admit...I am a bit alarmed. I weighed in at 162.2 today and this is after having run another 10+ miles yesterday. Either my body is becoming tremendously efficient at not having to burn calories during a workout, or I am just having too much pie with the cherry pie and ice cream that was left over from the holidays too.

After dropping the kids at the childcare center of LA Fitness, I proceeded with my assault of my mileage this week by pounding in another 12 miles. I hate that treadmills stop after an hour, because I actually have to reset and start again, and the last thing I need is to slow down when I'm halfway. I felt I did a nice performance, even though I wasn't looking to break any kind of speed records. LOL.

I still have one more day left in me for the week. Whether or not I try to go and push the envelope further will all depend on whether or not I get a good night's rest and if I am in the mood to go for it again tomorrow. Time will tell....

Friday, November 23, 2007

Zero C

What had originally stated as a loop around Metropolitan Woodhaven and Queens Boulevard ended up being extended. Despite the 0 celsius reading, I was feeling great (In fact, I still feel I could have gone longer but stopped short to play it safe). I wasn't running for speed. I took my time, ran with my Brooks full body reflective suit, my Turtle Dry hat, my Nike gloves, and my Buff neck warmer. The sunrise on Queens Boulevard was spectacular, as the sun and rays just basked me as I travelled eastward. Running over the falling leaves was a little unnerving (cause who knows what was underneath) but it felt nice and soft. Also the brilliance of colors radiating from the different colored leaves on Austin Street near the Kew Gardens train station was a true thing of beauty.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Gobble Gobble or Hobble Hobble?

The answer? Neither!

I am in the full swing of things this week. Knowing full well that I will be eating a lot, I have already put in nearly 20 miles, and will put in many more before this week is over. Tomorrow, Thanksgiving, will be my day off, but I WILL BE RUNNING A LOT THIS WEEKEND.

I need to get in the best shape of my life, so that when I start my 16 week countdown to the Long Island Marathon, there will be no doubt that I can break 4 hours. This is a lofty goal considering that I am 20 minutes off from breaking it, but I was 47 minutes off last year, so why not?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Not Forgiven. Never Forgotten.

2004 was a horrible year for me.

In fact, it was probably the worst year of my life. It had started with the demise of my marriage, which actually started late in 2003. It ended with a multitude of other events for which I would not be expecting, nearly a full year later.

Fortunately, I can at least say that no loved one had died. However, there are many definitions as to what a "death" is. So, in this case, I am only referring to it in the physical sense.

It was March of 2004. I was deeply involved (or perhaps, disturbed, the better verb) with my lousy lawyer, and my divorce proceedings. Living in my own apartment, was becoming more of a challenge and thankless task. My life had turned into a "War of The Roses", even though I was not an aggressor in this relationship. I could have moved out at any point after the proceedings had started, but I knew where the divorce was going to lead to, and wanted to see as much of my children as much as possible.

For nearly 4 months, I slept each night in the living room on my Jennifer Convertible sofabed. The mattress was nothing like the bed, so I wound up sleeping on a sheet that I placed on the coach, directly beneath me. It was a bad situation all around, but since I am one of the 50% of all Americans that do get divorced, it was obviously done with a heavy heart, but for good reason.

Still, the situation got worse. Mentally unbearable. With the possibility of having it potentially impact my job, I had decided that it was time to move out. But where? And how? The amount of money that I had to lay out each month for just my two children alone was nearly $2400 a month (plus another $500 for my first child). For a person that barely cleared $3,800 net per month, there was no place to go in New York. Unfortunately, the State of New York has a very poor understanding of the man's plight need to be able to survive, regardless of how good of a father (and mother-as I had to do everything around the house) I was.

My best friend said he felt bad for me, and had offered for me to live with him. But just as quick as that offer had been tendered, he retracted his offer, on Christmas Day no less, stating that he just realized that he was not allowed to have people living with him that was not on the lease. Afterwards, he never offered to allow me to put my name on the lease. But by then I had already seen the writing on the wall. As much as I am sure I was his friend, it was more convenient for him to live in his studio apartment by himself. This was not the first time that I had felt a cold shoulder from him, so was I really surprised. No. Did I even ask for his help in the first place? No.

So, I went on, sleeping on that couch every night.

Until one day, I just couldn't take it anymore. And needed to do something. My two other friends, who are married, and who shall also remain nameless, felt genuinely bad for me.

I had actually stayed at their house a few nights already, and realized everything that had been going on regarding my split from my wife. I truly loved them as if they were my own brother and sister. In fact, just writing that brought those feelings back to me. How funny.

My friends did seem to feel awful about my situation, but they believed that they might have had a solution for me. Her mother, who also I will leave nameless, lived nearby in Rego Park. She had a house, with a basement that was currently empty. The house was not in disrepair, but it did need a "man's" touch.

The offer was that I could live there, rent free, until I got my feet firmly grounded to move out on my own. That meant getting a second job. I knew this would be difficult to do. My career at my former job was that of an IT Specialist in the field of Voice Communications. This is not a 9 to 5 job. The profession requires you to be oncall, and to see projects through to its completion regardless of duration. Getting a menial side job with set hours was going to be a challenge.
And that's only AFTER I did what I was "supposed" to be doing to hold up my end of the bargain for a free apartment....

So, I stated that her house needed some "love", some fixer-upping. Each day after coming from work, I would wind up doing something for my friend's mom in the house. But never as much as on the weekend. The house was a big house, with a full finished basement and attic. One of my tasks was to paint the whole house on the inside. There were 10 rooms, maybe more? Another task was the leaders and gutters. Another one was painting the wrought iron bars covering each of the 8 or so windows on the first floor. There was a lot that needed to be done around the house, and I did so gladly. After all, it was a wonderful, great gesture by them to let me live in the house.

Unfortunately, not all was as rosy as it seemed. And this is where the real truth starts to come through, with a climax that will hopefully give you the reason to know why this entry made it into my "running" blog in the first place.

A basement is a dark place to live. The room that I slept in was next to a wall that was full of all kinds of bad mold (as if there was good kinds, lol). I spent a lot of time each week cleaning it off with bleach, but it kept coming back. There was also a slop-sink in the room where I slept. Lovely disposal waste pipes also ran across the ceiling directly over me and where I slept. Now, I am not saying this to complain about my living conditions, because clearly anything was better than my situation with my ex. But I do want to point out the fact, that it was no Taj Majal, and clearly not what one would call an optimal situation either. Again though, with the money I had, what other choice did I have???

I had moved into this basement in April.
I was asked to leave in September. Wow. How did this happen? Continue on...

As the summer months wore on, the amount of "chores" that I had been doing for my friend's mother, had increased. I was clearly beginning to feel as if I was somehow being taken advantage of. However, I never once showed my displeasure at all over this feeling to anyone. This was primarily because I was still grateful for the opportunity that had been given to me...a place to stay. Also, because I did not have any financial options available to me either, so who was I to complain right? I guess that's the problem with getting something for nothing (moneywise). You got to keep your mouth shut, and be willing to eat a lot of doo in the process. In short, I either had to live in this basement, or sleep in my Honda Odyssey ( a family van for which my ex wife forced me to keep, even though it was for my children to get around with, simply because she did not want to make the payments on the vehicle- whew! talk about a little pent up hostility here! lol). Anyway, long and short? I was beginning to feel like an ethnic janitor though. And my friends were becoming less my friends, through their actions towards me, and more like an Uncle Tom.

You know, with all of the things I did around their house, and with them knowing about how much I love my children, you would think they would be willing to help me make sure I see my children in the best possible environment, right??? No. Not at all.

My friend's mother-in-law would not allow me to have my children over at the basement, even for 1 minute. She gave me some excuse involving "insurance".
It almost sounded as poor as the excuse that my then best friend had told me at Christmas regarding the "so-called" lease "clause". Whenever, I went to see my children for the day, I would have to remove the second bench of seats from the car, and fold down the third to be able to accomodate them. On the days that it rained, I had them in my van all day long. Sometimes parked in front of her house on the street. My friend's mom knew the whole story about my divorce, and of how bitter I was towards my ex for every thing she had (and especially had not) done, but she never even thought once to bend on this rule. She did however make it a point to complain about the second bench seat placed on the floor of the basement living room, while I was out entertaining in the back of my van.

Another thing that became an issue was privacy (or lack thereof). Now, I would have to be delusional to think that someone, who was living under another person's roof, for free no less, would be entitled to some. But it did bother me that whenever I went off to work that she would go downstairs to "inspect" my place. I never had anything to hide, and despite her claim to the contrary, I worked hard at keeping the basement very neat and clean. Although, I am sure that it was said by her to pave the way for my departure.

It was becoming evident that I was somehow falling back into a feeling of miserableness. Then, along came this woman whom I met at my ex-stepmother's house during Memorial Day that year. We started going out in June, and while she was not perfect by any means, she did help me to cope with my current situation, by getting me to stay out of that basement on an ever increasing basis. And as I was out more and more, this apaarently angered my friend's mother more and more.

As time went on, the lady who supposedly "saved my life", as her supposed children had thrown in my face many a time, really did not do this out of charity at all.

She really needed someone to up-keep the house, as she was unable to do it. And as I appeared less and less, she became more and more annoyed as the amount of hours that I spent every week began to diminish.

And so here is where the story FINALLY begins....

During my time there, I was already registered with the New York Road Runner's Club. This is the club that sponsors the New York City Marathon. I did this so that I could run in the many races they sponsored to get automatic acceptance into the following year's Marathon race. 2005, would have marked 19 years since my last marathon. Imagine that! My friend's mother-in-law had asked me about the illustrious race, so I told her all about it. Of course, I love everything to do with that race, and even went so far as to show her the medals that I had won for completing the races in 1984, 1985 and in 1986.

In the basement, and just outside the bathroom, there was a little area where I had my computer stand. Next to it, was a black wired rack holding my printer and PC speakers. I had all 3 Marathon Medals hanging off the top rack. I always displayed my medals with pride, especially considering the thousands of hours that I sacrificed my life in order to get those medals. So I liked having them visible to me, to remind me of how I triumphed over my struggles.

August 21st-Day Of Reckoning: I was asked to come upstairs to the living room that like all other rooms, had been painted by me. My friend's mother-in-law was sitting in the couch, and asked me to sit down in the chair across the coffee table and in front of her. She had a very alarming look about her, and suddenly I felt very puzzled which then led to a feeling of dread. Now, I could give you the whole blow-by-blow, but to spare the little details, she had asked me, in effect, to move out as soon as possible.

My mouth was left hanging open.

I knew that I could not continue living for free in her basement, and I was actually ready to start offering her a monthly rent, especially since I was no longer giving her as many hours of "service" as I was in the past. But during her one-way conversation, she did'nt even mention money. She just said she did not like the arrangement anymore, and without even citing any examples as to why she was unhappy, she arbitrarily asked me to move out.

Suddenly, the supposed "life-saver" did not even care where I was going to go. She just wanted me out. On the street or in my van. Just get out. My divorce wasn't even final yet. Get out. My job was a 1 hour commute each way. Get out. I painted your entire house, did your electronics, did the gardening in your front deck, and taking out the weeds in your driveway. Get out. I redid your whole attic.
Get out. Get out. Get out.

Nothing like being kicked by the people who supposedly love you, when you are at one of the lowest points in your life.

My two friends meanwhile, where not even available for comment. And when I did get a hold of them, and advised them what had happened, they mentioned that they were aware of it....and said nothing else. Great friends.

My "friends" also had borrowed from me a box set of Twilight Zone DVDs (retailed at over $100). On the call I had asked if I can have them returned after I move out. They said yes. But there was more to come with that.

I had until September 15th to move out (I knew this by the threatening, hand-written note left on my basement door from my "friends'" mother, warning me not to take anything that did not belong to me-as if I were suddenly a criminal to boot), but I did not want to wait. I would rather begin my life on the street as soon as possible, without wanting to waste a single, moment, more dying in that dungeon.

My 401k (which was now a 101k, thanks to my ex-wife's near bankruptcy, and then taking half more for the divorce), had to be used to avoid my eviction to a sidewalk. I found a wonderful woman named Barbara who had the second floor of a house in Bellerose to rent to me. If anything, she was the one who truly saved my life. And not my "friends" or their mother. In my mind they bartered their favor for favors. In my mind it wasn't a fair barter either. For while Barbara gave me back my dignity, my so-called "friends" had essentially trampled it, and disrespected me all while I died in that dungeon.

Once I moved out, everything began to get better in my life, but not before my job had been eliminated. I was living on a good compensation package that I had received, and fortunately I had landed my feet at MCI. That job also only lasted 6 months, but at least I was feeling liberated. Everything was looking great, except....

My marathon medals were noticeably absent....

Remember when I had previously mentioned that my "friends" had my Twilight Zone DVDs? After I had moved out, I stopped by their high-rise apartment building in Queens. This is the same apartment that has their address listed by the name of "Rocky Sullivan". They did this in order to avoid having to pay $2 dollars per month to have their name officially unlisted in the phone book.

From the lobby, I had called upstairs. The exchange was anything but pleasant. I had told them that I did not have time to come upstairs, and I really did not. But they refused to come downstairs and said that they would not give me my DVDs back until I came upstairs to the apartment. Already having been kicked out by their mother-in-law without even stating any reasons, I was feeling beyond threatened.

They followed up with some unsavory language which basically indicated to me that they had no intention on returning my DVDs, and that my coming 10 minutes earlier, was an "Alex" move. It was said with anger, so their intonation of "Alex" was obviously not meant in a good sense.

However, it took me nearly nearly 3 months to realize that the DVDs were not the only possession that was missing.

When I had moved out, my "friend", without warning, had showed up, and was by the van, as if to inspect my move. I found this unnerving, especially because nothing had been mentioned and because he hardly said anything to me as I kept walking by him to load the van. I think it was then, when I realized, that all of three of them were together in this action.

Were my marathon medals taken from the van at this point??

I will never know the truth, but I can tell you this much:
1) These medals were in my basement until the day that I was to move out.
2) They were never unpacked or seen in my new place.
3) They never returned my DVDs, which are clearly my property and cost me a lot of money. Thereby, adding to the propensity for being able to do such classless things to their so-called friends.
4) My "friend" had run the NY Marathon himself in 1991 and 1992 (in fact, I even ran 10 of those miles to help him along in 1991). What a better way, than to have 3 more medals, and claim it was his? Given the classlessness that I had just witnessed, anything is possible.

I have since tried very hard to have these medals replaced, but to no avail. I've called the NYRR, medal makers, and have been scouring through ebay every night in the hopes that someone would be willing to part with their medal (although I would think that is insane). When my friend's took my friendship and flushed it down the drain, that was a lousy moment in my life, but yet, it was their friendship too, so I saw that as a mutual demise. And when they stole my DVDs, I immediately replaced them a few short months later. But these medals are irreplaceable. What they stole, they had no right to take. Unlike my friendship, these medals preceeded my even knowing of their existence. They or their mother (if that's who wound up with them in the end) took something that was extremely near and dear to me. I was a complete idiot for trusting them at all, but again, I had no idea how quick they would change towards me.

And despite it all of this, I had even sent them an email a year later, on April Fool's no less, apologizing for the fact that things did not go as well as they should have. They never responded back. 17 years of friendship. Gone. RIP 1987-2004.

I know a lot of people reading this might ask, why haven't you confronted them? Why do you feel like you need to suffer needlessly? Well, I'll tell you why. It has been three years since I was evicted from their life. They had my cell, which has changed, but they also have my email address, and that has NOT changed. And they have never reached out to me. I refuse to ask for something for which I know they will deny having. Perhaps even worse, they may tell me off, or do something else to further feel like they are once again stripping me of my dignity. And this I will not allow. However....

I still want my medals. I may not be a super-star athlete, hell I might not even be a good athlete, but I sacrificed very hard for those three years (1984-1986). It has been three years since my discovery of this theft, and I still feel like I was robbed of my accomplishments. I've since run the NYC Marathon three more times (2005-2007), and will continue to do so, but it will never replace the memory of what
I once had and lost.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Inaugural Run: LAF to Flower Hill via the "Southern Route"

For this run, I chose the song "Forbidden Corn". It's a nice instrumental from the movie, "The New World". It sums up my run pretty well.


Course: LA Fitness-Flower Hill-Southern Route
Towns: New Hyde Park, Lake Success,
Manhasset Hills, Herricks, Searingtown,
North Hills, Flower Hill
Distance: 13.1 Miles (1/2 Marathon)
Date: Saturday, November 17, 2007
Time: 2:30pm.
Weather: 43F, Strong Headwing during first half.
Overcast, Turning Dark.
Course Path: (see chart)
Course Elevation: (see chart)
















I'm flying out tomorrow to Cleveland on assignment and will be gone just 1 day. That's enough to miss 2 days of running.

It's time for the test. A long run. A half-marathon. In the New York City Marathon, I paced myself and did all I could to avoid getting overwhelmed by the wonderful fans and overall electricity of the city. And by the time I reached the Pulaski Bridge, the clock had then read 2:01:01.

Today was pretty cold. Not brutal, but cold enough that I'm glad I wore two layers. It consisted of an blue UnderArmour shirt, plus a light blue Hind full body technical shirt. I also wore my Nike FitDry gloves too. I still wore my shorts though, because my legs can withstand sub zero weather.

Having done a full circuit training regimen this morning to go along with my Ab Workout, avoided me having to waste the precious daylight I had left to do my run. Graciously, I changed at LA Fitness but left immediately afterwards.

The beginning of my run was a left out to Union Turnpike. Not much in the way of a sidewalk here. It was either the shoulder lane of the Turnpike or the grass and mud trail. I chose the latter. Union Turnpike turns into Marcus Ave and that was a bit tricky with it's five way intersection. I had to speed up a bit to avoid any disasters, and made my way to MeadowFarm Road, where I made a left.

Mile 1= 9:03

Meadow Farm road is considered to be in Manhasset Hills. There were beautiful homes there and it felt nice to run through a residential neighborhood instead of the normal chaos of cars I run with. This is what makes the difference between this "southern route" to Flower Hill, and the "northern route", which primarily heads East on Northern Boulevard.

Making a right on Old Courthouse Road, I see even more spectacular homes, and nicely manicured gardens. "It's nice to have money", I thought. But it's even nicer to be loved, and I was taking good care of my body today (ie. loving myself) as an example.

Mile 2 = 9:14 (probably due to my "stargazing" at the homes...)


Making a left on Shelter Rock Road, I immediately surmised that the hills were coming. And I was right. But I was also prepared too. "Lift legs high!"... "Angle your body forward!"... "Arms as pistons! Arms as pistons!"...
The wind was biting too as it appeared is was trying to push me back south, and back
away from the homes in the land known as Port Washington, the halfway point, and apex of my run.

Can anyone tell me what does "I.U." in "I.U. Wilets Road" means? This was the first thing that popped into my very cold forehead as I made my right turn to head for Searingtown Road about another mile away. November days in New York means that sunlight is sparse. The sun was starting to make it's move. And I needed to do the same.

Mile 3 = 8:42


I made my left onto Searingtown Road halfway into Mile 3. More hills ahead. Windy roads, picket fences and all uphill.

Mile 4 = 9:10


Searingtown Road becomes Port Washington Boulevard. I immediately began to notice the landscape around me. There was the Long Island Expressway ahead of me. It's tricky around there because the southbound side that I go north on does not have a sidewalk. On the other side is Christopher Morley Park, a place I know very fondly. And in an odd sort of way, as I past all of these historic and emotional landmarks, I felt as if I was home, even though I have never had the money to afford such places. This town belongs to me, and I to it. It is a spiritual bond....and I am glad to have this renewed energy running through my body because the BIG hill prior to Miracle Mile is fast approaching. Between that and the merciless wind that is freezing certain unmentionable part of my body, I will be drawing on that "extra", something that I now am beginning to admit that I do well.. Triumph over Adversity.

Mile 5 = 9:02


Whee! Downhill, but dangerous. As there is no shoulder, and so I have to play chicken and cross the road to the same side of traffic, plus jump a short metal rail dividing the sidewalk from the road. I'm trying not to slap my feet hard into the concrete and I barrel down the hill. Up ahead, the Landmark Diner, Bed Bath & Beyond. And beyond that, a whole lot more...

As I pass St. Francis Hospital on my left, I cross and head up Farm View Road on the right. FarmView is actually an uphill road. Gradual, subtle, but there. It doesn't matter to me though. Because as I make the left onto Hewlett Lane, I am no longer running anymore. I am sprinting.
Watch out. Here comes the Alex express. Making only 1 local stop....

Mile 6 = 7:30 (my fastest mile by over a minute over any other mile. Inspiration is the key to life.)


Country Club Road was the turnaround point. But this time, I slowed down quite a bit to look, covet, lament, and fight off the urge to let too much of my inner chi to drain out. After all, I was only half way through my run. The war drums in my head began to sound, and it was time to pace myself, and get into a long-distance run battle mode. The worst miles were ahead of me. And that was the road back to reality.

Mile 7 = 9:00


Did I mention that I made a choice not to bring any water with me? I had set out this run to be one of being mentally and physical toughness. I need to be tougher. Need to make my body and my soul as hard as a rock, and be shaken by no one and nothing. The run back up the hill past the Miracle Mile, tested my endurance and my will. I hung on. I don't say this with pride, just solemn resolve when I say that I won't let anything beat me.

Mile 8 = 9:08


Goodbye Flower Hill, and goodbye Port Washington. See you around soon, I hope. It's mostly flat around here, but there are downhills now. My legs are sore, so while it seems that I am going very fast, it is just an illusion at this point. At least the headwind is now a tailwind. The sun has been completed replaced by the grayness that is now all around me. This grayness is only temporary. Darkness will be setting in shortly.

Mile 9 = 8:37

The mind begins to play a few tricks on me. My clothes are getting heavy, my legs too. And they are taking me forever to get me to IU Willets. Then that road appeared like an eternity too. I am slowing down. I worry about my getting older and if Mother Nature is going to let me have my way at the Long Island Marathon in May of '08.

Mile 10 = 9:16

"No concessions! Must fight off the will to lose my will!!" Now I am no longer fighting Mother Nature anymore, but now I am fighting myself, and my limits. It has only been 13 days since I ran the New York City Marathon. This is where the typical runner ends, and the human spirit begins. No man can judge another, but I can judge myself. And court is now in session...."Dig in! Keep running! Don't Stop! If you do, you wont want to run again, or will run slower!!" Shelter Rock Road right ahead. Full steam again. Left turn followed by a long subtle downhill. Legs are feeling like rusty torpedoes being shown off at a naval museum.

Mile 11 = 9:21

Finally arriving to Old Courthouse Road, for yet another look at the beautiful houses. Everyone is no doubt indoors watching TV, relaxing, or perhaps working on projects. I am outside. I am giving myself another class known as Mental Toughness 301. I am still wondering when if ever, I will graduate.

It is getting colder. I can see my breath now. I do well in the cold though. There is a serene stillness of it, that is charming in a way. In the meantime, this road is taking forever. One thing I have learned, anything with the world "Old" in it, is $$$. Old Westbury, Old Bethpage, Old Courthouse Road.

My mind has played a nasty trick on me. It is getting dark and the street signs are getting harder to see. Did I already pass Meadowfarm Road accidentally? I nearly come to a stop, and then I caught hold of myself, and started my leg engine again before completely stalling. Meadowfarm Road. Sign up ahead. Thank You, God.

And as soon as I turn on it, I can see Marcus Avenue ahead too. Thank You, again...

Mile 12 = 9:26


Traffic is a mess on Marcus, especially near the five way intersection. I decided to cross to the south side, so that when I approach Union Turnpike, I will running on the sidewalk of the Lake Success Shopping Center and not the trail. I love trails because the ground is softer, but in the dark, this is a risky proposition. One missed rock, or loose tree branch, and a wipeout is a possibility.

At this point I am looking at my Garmin 305. My goal is to break 2 hours for the Half-Marathon. Remember at the NYC Marathon my half-marathon mark was 2:01:01. I was pacing myself of course, but not being in a race here, and running by my lonesome, makes it hard to hold yourself to a goal. Stay focused, Alex. You can do it (I think. LOL).

As I am passing by the bus stop in front of the Lake Success Shopping Center, I start to pick up speed. My reserve tank has been opened for use, as I start to dump whatever adrenaline I have left to try to make my goal a reality.

Okay, I guess I am a risk taker. There was a light ahead, so I decided to cross Union Turnpike ahead and run the last 1/4 mile or more, on the trail. It is dark now. The only lights, are those coming from the flood lamps at the Gateway complex, completely recessed behind my running trail. And from the Strike bowling alley just across the street alongside the Medical complex that is there.....

Mile 13: 8:48 !


Behind the tress that I am breezing by, I can see the LA Fitness facility in the distance. Another goal. Another accomplishment. It is a nice thing when I successfully complete a goal. It gives me joy. But the best was yet to come. I looked at my watch just as the 13 mile lap got tallied, and while the 8:48 was a real nice surpirse. What was even nicer, was the explosiveness of my strides. The train was back on track, and I was going to finish strong again. God Bless.

Mile 13.1: 48.55 seconds (8:05 pace)

In the end, I did the training run in 1 hour 57 minutes and 5 seconds. Not bad for a training run!


For me, the best part about finishing a run is that it makes me feel like this:



This was me in 1984. I was 19 then.

And that is exactly how I felt today....

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

THIS IS NOT A BLOG ABOUT RUNNING!

Okay, I guess I could have done better with the title.

Anyway, I noticed that in the beginning I would every so often write about something that has nothing to do with running. So, I am long overdue here.

At work today, one of my co-workers mentioned about how unruly her children would get, and how difficult it is for her to get her children from not going wild on each other.....
Which kind of reminded me of something buried in my own past.....

So, and without further adieu, tonight's topic will be....."HOW TO GET YOUR SIBLINGS TO BEHAVE".


HOW TO GET YOUR SIBLINGS TO BEHAVE


by Alex Gonzalez


One time when I was about 16 years old, my sisters were like 6 and 4 at the time. I came home from school. My sisters were going nuts and fighting with one another. I kept telling them they were going to get in trouble, but since Carmen was noticeably absent (at work), and the nanny didn't really discipline too well, i was listening to all kinds of screaming, when all I wanted to do, was to listen to Pink Floyd the Wall (which as you know can be very quiet and minimal at times so you need like absolute fuckin silence around you to enjoy it). Oh sure, I could have heard it on my headphones, but that's what I had to do every freakin time my parents were home (good reason why my hearing might not be at 100%-although i never had it checked so not sure if im even making any fucking sense anymore).

Okay, back to the story....So the kids would not stop fighting, kicking, punching, wrestling, pulling hair, etc etc., no matter what the nanny did.

We lived in a tudor house, in one of the worst fucking God-Awful neighborhoods in Queens.

Anyway, so this tudor has huge, thick wooden doors. Seriously. big heavy wood planks and shit. There was a swinging door that led from near the dining room into the kitchen. I went into the kitchen, and just bided my time until there was a silent moment. when it happened, i acted immediately because i knew the silence would not last for long....And this is what I did....

In the back of the kitchen there was a backyard entrance. It led to the deck. After hearing the silence, I immediately opened and slammed the screen door and wood framed door. I slammed it so fucking hard, that to this date, I dont even know how I didn't break the fucker. Especially the wood door because it has like french glass windows.

Right after that maneuver, and noticing that the silence extended itself (because by now I had the attention of everyone-even my nanny), I started yelling....
"Who are you?"
"What do you want?"
"This is not your house! What do you want?!"
"I will call the police!!! Get out right now or I will....What? Don't Do it!!! Ohhhh Please dont!!!! No please! NO! NO! NOOOHH!!!!!! ArrrrrhhhhhhhH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

At this point all of my soliloquoys paid off in golden returns. My sisters started screaming....and that was BEFORE I swung the door open to the dining room....


For you see, while I was screaming to absolutely no one, and into the thin low-class neighborhood air, I was secretly planting the atom bomb. For Hiroshima it was an actual bomb...And for me?

It was ketchup.

I had an old white St. Francis High School track n field sweatshirt on, that i was fucking bored with already, and was going to trash it soon. What a better way than to trash it, by trashing me?

I took the bottle of ketchup, and poured about 3/4 of the entire Heinz 32 ounce (then glass) jar all over me. All over my chest, and my hands. Then i smeared it with my hand, but made sure that I left a nice sized glob on my chest. With that I took also a knife. Very sharp one AND VERY LARGE! I think it was about 12 inches long, no lie.



I slashed a hole through the area where most of the 57 varieties were congregating on my chest. And then stuck the knife through about four inches. Since the sweatshirt was extra large, and i weighed all of about 120 pounds at the time, there was plenty of room to do this. Now I looked at the little mirror in the half bath right next to the patio door. Perfect. What a fucking mess I was!

"NO! NO! NOOOOOHHH!!!! Arrrfggghhhh!!!!!!!!!"
And then I swung the door open. Both my sisters screamed like they never screamed before.
I figured that if they liked screaming so much at each other, that I would give them something that both of them can thoroughly enjoy.

Let me tell you, it was like a fucking ballet of the macabre. An decibel-filled opera of the fucking obscene. Ears everywhere within a 1 mile radius were filling up with the cries of insanity from what was a plainly insane act. The faking of my own death.


As I swung out through that heavy, brown, planked, disgusting, Tudor, shit-door, I held my right hand out at them, as I clutched the knife with my left. Staggering, shaking as if I wanted to pull the knife that was freshly plunged in by my assailant moments before, but just not having the strength, courage, or balls to do so.

At the end of the dining room, is the sunken living room two short steps down with a silly needless wrought iron railing to the side (the fucking house should have been showcased in the Addams Family, I swear).

I trembled to grab the railing and slumped down one step before making a nice maneuver to throw myself after almost touching the last step and onto the ground. At this point my sisters ran upstairs crying hysterically saying that i was dead. at this point my nanny walked up to me and just shook her head and calmly told me in Spanish, that of all the ridiculous things i did, this was by far the most, and worst ever, and that I should have been ashamed of myself for doing this to 2 small kids.

My sisters did not fight with one another for 9 consecutive days.

Mission Accomplished.

What A Ham Part Two! Photos from the Long Island Marathon

Although the race took place back in May of this year, these coveted photos may very well be my best. Not only did the photographs have me at my competitive best, but I actually PR'd (Personal Record) with a time of 1 hour 44 minutes and 58 seconds, or a pace of just a hair over 8 minutes per mile.

To give you an idea of how fast that is consider this....At that pace, I would have run the New York City Marathon in 3 hours 29 minutes and 56 seconds....almost 50 minutes faster than my 2nd best ever time that I did this year!




Monday, November 12, 2007

What A Ham! Photos from the NYC Marathon.



I ran pretty hard tonight for 5 miles. But I also added Leg Curls to strengthen my hammys too. 40 pounds x 10 reps before and 20 pounds x 10 reps after. Also did Abs in the morning too. I am definitely on a mission, even though I am a long way off (May 4, then November 2, 2008).

But now, and without further wait. My sweaty pictures taken of me during my race are finally in. These are the small versions of them....


So take a look below. Can you find where I am?
<- I'm not here. <-Not here either. <-Nope. <-Nyet.

<-Getting Warmer.

<-Getting like Miami Beach in July. <-The defiantly fisted man!!!!

So here I am now holding up 2, #1 fingers. Turns out my finishing time ended in :11 seconds. Funny!










Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bring Out 'Yer Dead!



Yes folks, it's that time again already. Time to shake them legs after last week's adventure through the five boroughs. It was cold this morning, so I decided to wear my Black and flourescent Green-Yellow tights. I look a little bit like Spiderman, no?

Anyway, today's jog was through Forest Hills Gardens for a crisp 3 mile run. Since, I haven't done one in a while, I figured I'd do a tempo run. For the most part, this Garmin 305 watch is the bomb. My 305 kept close tabs on me the entire time of my run, and was very accurate in measuring me up. I was getting beeped to "Slow Down" the entire way because I kept pacing faster than 8:30 per mile that was set for last week. Very funny.

The worst part of my run was freezing my ass waiting to get an uplink on my Garmin 305....

The best part of my run is that it was a great feeling to know that I am fully recovered from the Marathon last week. Plus, I really liked how I got faster as the run went onward.

I need to unlock the secret within my body that will allow me to somehow replicate these averages over a 26.2 mile distance. That to me, would be the ultimate. The "holy grail" of all my runnings.

Interval
1 mile 8:15
1 mile 8:11
1 mile 8:09
.21 miles 1:37 pace 7:32

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Is this an OCD?

Recently, I have been told that I am getting too obsessive about my sport. That for me this is great because it's what I like, but that it's not necessarily what anyone else would like.

I do agree that this is a one-sided blog. But then again, the blog is about running. If anyone out there is looking to find out about microwave ovens, they are not going to type "running shoes" in Google. Conversely, if someone is looking for articles about how to train for a marathon, then they are not going to punch in "What is the combined professional record of the local Miami teams" in Ask Dr. Jeeves either. ( And by the way the answer to that question is 0 WINS and 13 LOSSES, Dolphins= 0-9 and Heat=0-4).

This blog is really something that I write for myself. It is an open diary of thoughts and ideas related to running, and it's basically another tool or training apparatus to improve at one of the things I love most. Fortunately for me, I happen to love a lot of other things besides running. Good wine, good food, good music, and good baseball just to name a few (I could even add to that list good women - but that would not be to nice to my current GF). Unfortunately for all of you that care about those things, I just don't have the time to write about it either. There is a fine line between living, and writing about your living, and if one jumps over too much over that line, they wind up writing about writing, which is kinda what I am doing now, aren't I?

Someone once said, in order to excel above the rest at any one thing, you, you must love that one thing. Everything else is number two. I don't subscribe to that naturally. I'm an equal opportunity lover and enjoy a bit many things.

But a few things are for sure. This is a blog of running. It is written by a runner, and it is meant for those who enjoy the sport or perhaps even the involvement of such activity. Again, if I were obsessed with writing about the worst professional sports teams in history, then I would write a blog about the Miami Dolphins or the Miami Heat. If I were obsessed about overly-inflated basketball heroes, then my blog colors would be black and red, and the initials of MJ would be monogrammed throughout my postings. If I wanted to talk about the curse of the Goat, then my website would be about the Chicago Cubs. But it isn't. I'm here to talk about the positives! And to me, what is positive in my life is my ability to do something good, like to run.

And if I have offended any Chicagoans or Floridians out there, then I do apologize. It was not my intent to hurt, rather it was just to explain to whoever feels that I am a bit obsessed, that I am in fact obsessed. Obsessed with the desire to be the best at something that I love. And that means that I will not budge to peer pressure.....even if Michael Jordan were now credited to solving world hunger too....

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Just Do It - Solid Advice For All Of Us.

My father is a huge fan of everything "Chicago-related". While my heart bleeds
New York (despite all of its flaws), I do have to say that I perhaps give the nod to Chicago for its wonderful writers and editorialists. Mike Royko, for example, was one of my favorite.

Well, here is another article, that I had to take and re-produce. I never heard of
Rick Morrissey before, but now that he wrote this, I will be GOING OUT OF MY WAY to find more from him. His article should serve as an inspiration to all of us who go out and grind out a run. Even if we're running around the corner to buy the paper for our coffee.

Here it is.


In long run, 'Just Do It' solid advice for all of us
Rick Morrissey
In the wake of the news
November 7, 2007

When running guru Jim Fixx died at 52 while jogging, the knowing nods started.

The knowing nods said, "See, human beings weren't meant to run long distances." Never mind that Fixx's family had a long history of heart disease, or that his father had his first heart attack at 35 before dying of another at 43. Never mind that running helped Fixx lose weight and quit a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit. And never mind that it's hardly a leap to say running extended his life.

Fixx passed away in 1984, but the knowing nods concerning marathon running haven't disappeared. They came around last month after a runner died during the Chicago Marathon, a sweltering affair that eventually was truncated because of dangerously high temperatures.

And those knowing nods were bobbing away Saturday when elite runner Ryan Shay dropped dead a little more than five miles into the U.S. men's marathon Olympic trials in New York. The nods said, "See, even the best runners can die taking part in such a risky endeavor."

Humans weren't meant to run 26.2 miles at a crack in the same way humans weren't meant to explore the heavens. We know mankind should get out of the space-exploration business because astronauts have died in the line of duty. Humans weren't supposed to navigate oceans, either, because if they were, we wouldn't still be pulling up wooden ships from the sea. And humans obviously shouldn't be attempting to climb Mt. Everest because people die trying every year.

Maybe we shouldn't strive or dream or set goals at all. But we do. We do because that's how we're wired. Something inside us tells us to go for more. To strain and struggle and bleed for something great. To build ever taller buildings. To push the envelope. To take it to the limit and beyond.

Nike's "Just Do It" slogan didn't come out of thin air. It grew out of something deep inside the human psyche. All great achievements start with questions. What if? Why not me? Says who?

You'll never know if you don't try. And never knowing comes with its own unique torture.

When people die in the pursuit of something bigger than themselves, others nod their knowing nods from the comfort and safety of their lighted, temperature-controlled homes. And by the way, what was Ben Franklin doing with a kite in an electrical storm anyway? Fool could have been killed.

This is not to say that long-distance running is risk-free. It isn't. If it were easy, it wouldn't be a challenge. Injuries are common in the sport. And people occasionally die.

But most of the few people who do die during marathons don't die because of the act of running. An underlying, often undiagnosed health problem almost always is involved, usually having to do with the heart.

An autopsy showed that the man who died in the Chicago Marathon, Michigan police officer Chad Schieber, had a heart condition.

Shay had an enlarged heart, according to his father.

Marathon running might have triggered those health issues, but it was not the cause of death. It would be like saying basketball caused the 1990 death of Loyola Marymount star Hank Gathers instead of cardiomyopathy, the heart-muscle disorder he had.

Distance running obviously can be a grueling sport. It's why there was so much outrage from runners who said there wasn't enough water on the Chicago course this year. Most of the marathon-training guides recommend that runners drink liquids at least every other mile. When a competitor signs a waiver form, it's with the understanding that there will be sufficient water on the course. Running without water is playing with fire.

Too many people believe distance running is inherently dangerous when the opposite is true: running is inherently good for you. Exercise helps extend lives. It's up to runners to find out if they have health issues that might lead to dangerous situations.

We've been taught to bury the old saying of "no pain, no gain," because to ignore pain is to ask for injury. But like any cliché, there is truth in the saying. Most goals worth achieving take effort and sacrifice and, sometimes, pain. Training for marathons can become obsessive. It can be lonely and selfish.

But if mankind stopped doing everything that involved pain or danger or single-mindedness, where would we be? Probably very cold, having not had the guts to attempt to harness fire.

"Make no little plans, they have no magic to stir men's blood," said Daniel Burnham, the architect who planned the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Fourteen firefighters and three civilians died in a blaze during the event, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the New World. It proved that humans weren't meant to have a world's fair. And while we're at it, what was Columbus thinking with all that dangerous seafaring?

rmorrissey@tribune.com

Sunday, November 4, 2007

"I Finished What I Started." ................................................................. The 2007 New York City Marathon Post-Race Report

***PLEASE BE PATIENT...LOTSA PICS BEING DOWNLOADED NOW...THANKS***

Before I give you the full Marathon report here's one last look at the '2007 Countdown Artwork'. It's all hand-made (honest). I must admit they (puke) do look pretty (puke) good, if I don't (puke) say so (puke) myself (puke). Sorry, I was never much any good at promoting myself....
________________________________THE COUNTDOWN___________________________________



=============================THEIR HYPE: ===========================


=============================MINE=============================:

And now....Race day.
The Moment of Truth has finally arrived.
My Road To New York Is Finally Here......GO!


Please note that I took none of the photos along the course. Credit to that goes to those who have posted before me. I did however choose as wisely as possible to best portray what I was seeing. Just imagine the same thing, just more crowded, and with a clear blue sky during the race.....



PRE-RACE REPORT : FORT WADSWORTH, STATEN ISLAND, NY

It is 3:29am, and I just woke up on my own. 1 minute before the alarm actually rang. Damn!
I got up, did my humanly things in the bathroom, got dressed and ate. Ileana woke up for a little bit to see me off. The bag that they give us to store our stuff is a clear bag.


Earlier this morning, before I left, it snapped (probably from having too many things, lol). Ileana gave me a Nine West bag with handles to put the clear bag in. Worked like a charm. I stopped by my car to get black plastic bags as well. Then headed back to give Ileana the car keys, and worked my way finally, to the Union Turnpike subway stop.

The train arrived within minutes, and before long I am in New York City.

The subway is littered with homeless bodies. That is what one sees in New York at 4:15am.
The subway stop on 53rd and Lex had about a dozen people, mostly black males, of all ages, sleeping all around the platform. I got off at Bryant Park and 42nd street. It is pitch black outside, but yet the city is bustling…..With tons of marathon runners boarding the buses!

Someone offered me a free hat. I said “Sure. Why not? And I took one. Great thing too. I wore that hat for almost the entire run. It helped keep the sun out of my face, and possible windburn too.

The bus I got on had a lot of people from Japan on board. One carried the a large silk Japanese flag with him on board. With runners from over 150 countries, the New York City Marathon is truly a world-class event.



Submitted at 7:14am
Here I am at the park (Ft. Wadsworth) in Staten Island. It is cold but I am comfortably warm and well prepared with my fleece blankets and airline travel pillow. I got here at about 530am in the dark. There were already plenty of people here. I got a great spot on a grassy island between the walkway and a large parking lot housing a Dunkin Donuts 18 wheeler truck, a bagel stand, a power bar booth, a med tent and toilets to name just some of the attractions. There are toilets everywhere. Staten isalnd. Empire of the Port-o-Sans. The Hefty lawn-leaf plastic bags came in very handy. The are the barrier between the ground and the fleece beneath me. This blackberry is doing well too. 4 out of 5 bars left. I still have my nagging cough, remnants of my post nasal drip, but overall I am feeling great. No injuries to report of. Thank God.


The bridge has two of the six lanes closed for construction, which is why they are implementing a wave start. So althoiugh the race cannon will explode at 1010, chances are good that I night not even cross the starting line much before 1030am. If I finish in 4 and 1/2 hours, that would be 300pm. Add another 30-45 minutes easy to get out of the park, plus another 30 to find Ileana and we’re now looking at 4pm as the real moment of post-race truth. Lol!The crowds. Endless scores of runners are just pouring in. It such an amazing display of volume over here. They have got a large stage assembled in the center of the park, with a live band playing Elvis Presley right now. Long live the king. Well, its time to stop this for now. My hands are getting a bit chilly! A full report will follow on my blog tomorrow, Monday, while I am recovering.


Submitted at 8:27am
Part two.... More observations. Okay. The sun is out and there’s not one cloud in the sky. But it is getting colder! I took two hits of nasal cort for the post nasal ...ahhhh…much better. The Neri Brothers bakery is giving out bagels. All of there helpers are these teenage kids, and they seem to be having a blast. In fact almost too much fun to include yelling (jokingly of course) at the runner….
"You!!! Yes You. You need a bagel! Ask yourself this question. Am I worthy of a bagel? The answer is yes! So, you need a bagel right now!!!!!".

These were the same kids before pretending they were handing out pork fried rice from a chinese slop house kitchen before. And speaking of chinese food, I'm now in need of taking a dump. So, as I am making my way over to make potty....

I noticed that the world-famous urinal is noticeably missing this year. A very long half-pipe PVC that is mounted from the ground up on a slant, and is used for men who cant wait for the portable toilets. Speaking of which, I just finished taking a dump. And as I am walking back to my self-proclaimed layout grounds, I noticed that some Italian is laying on my blaket!!!! “Oh! I so sorry” he says, but yet he still remains seated at the edge of my makeshift bed
as he is lubing up his legs with Ben Gay!

I don't know his name but his race number is 8783, and he's talking Italian a million mph to his other blanket stealing accomplices ( I KNOW WHO HE IS NOW! HIS NAME IS MICHELE CONSOLMAGNO! )...

I just took a look at my phone. Darn. Just missed Ileana’s call. I will call her back. Just took a salt packet just now to avoid cramps later. It is 830. 2 more hrs before the start. My 20 ouncer of Poland Springs is nearly finished, but there’s plenty more for free at their table a few yards away in the parking lot. I just finished my gatorade, which was poured by a helper into my empty water bottle. Between that, my power bar and my raspberry jam bagel I took with me this morning, I think I’m all done eating. I promised not to eat less than 2 hours before the race. So that's. No more food. Just liquids now. I will start shedding clothes at 9:15am.....if no more updates, then God pity me and bless me too. Bye!!!!


====================THE RACE====================

10:40 am.
My race number this year is 31916. As such, I lined up according to my number. There are 39,000 runners this year, so you can imagine where I was in relation to the starting line. The cannon went off at 10:10am, and everybody cheered. We were all standing, huddled around each other. People ripping off the last pieces of unecessary garments, and flinging it over to the fences separating the park from the undercarriage of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge to our left. Someone was wearing a t-shirt that read “If P.Diddy finished, then so can I”.

The tension was incredible. Everybody wanted to start running, but all we could do was haplessly wait. Then we started seeing the first wave of runners on the lower section of the bridge, waving to us, we cheered and reciprocated in kind. Funny thing about us runners, we’re all family. We are all these crazy, fun-filled people who are caught up by this wonderful lifestyle. I can talk to any runner, and I suddenly feel like he or she is family.

Wave after wave kept running over and to the left of us on the bottom level. I am sure the same could be said for the top level, but it was too high for us to see. A race director for our corral (corral 30000-34999) talked over the megaphone informing us that we would need to either stay to our left or to our right once we got on the bridge because of the middle lane being reconstructed. Someone in the crowd yelled out, “Which way is shorter?”. All of us laughed, and the race director just shook her head and smiled.

Since, I don’t do well with wind, I opted to stay to my right. It was 10:39, and only now were we actually moving forward. As we approached the end of the park, I started getting this last minute need to take a leak. Shamelessly, I didn’t even bother going into the last set of urinals, I just went to the back fence next to the last urinal and drained the lizard (or so to speak). I wasn’t the first one to do this either. Someone had just left that spot, and there was plenty of other “evidences” there before him, I noticed.

As we got on the bridge, I said to myself the same thing I say to myself every year. “I CAN”T BELIEVE I AM ACTUALLY DOING THIS!” The air horn went off. We were on our way.


The Verrazano-Narrows bridge has the highest incline of the entire race. However, since it is also the longest incline, you don’t notice it as much, as say the Queensboro Bridge. I was feeling a little sleepy at the time. This was actually great. Many of my best performances in long runs usually start with me being somewhat numbed for awhile, before I actually come to and feel the body. I guess you can call this more like a feeling of being on “autopilot”

The bridge was uneventful, and of course once you are off it, it’s no longer a 26.2 mile race. At this point, if someone were to ask how the Marathon was going, I’d say that I already finished the marathon at the starting line, because now it’s a 24 miler. First time ever: I saw a girl pull down her trunks, squatted and took a leak. Okay, a lot of urinary talk here, but hey, this sort of thing seems to be one of the dominating factors minutes before and after a big race like this takes place.

My newly-acquired Garmin 305 watch gave me problems in the very beginning, when it decided that .75 miles was 1 mile, as it autolapped me at that point. Rrrrgggh! Even with the wave start, I still had a lot of congestion ahead, so my first mile was not completed until almost 10 minutes.

Brooklyn

....was as always, warm and inviting. People were already cheering us at the overpass at the bottom of the bridge exit. This is where I had decided to not look up and expend energy by acknowledging their cheers. I know it sounds horrible, but I also know that in the past when I do this, I always use up a lot of energy. In fact, the iPod was a great way to drown out the cheering, which in the past, had always caused a premature release of my adrenaline.

By the time I reached the 5 mile mark, I was beginning to feel in “the zone”. Heart rate, breathing, leg motion, all were clicking well. The only problem I was having was all of the weaving and bobbing I was doing to get around the 31,000 people that laid out ahead of me. Lessons Learned: I should have line up a little bit more up-front.


As we approached the end of 4th Avenue, there lie the Williamsburgh Savings bank, the same bank that I could see from the Verrazano-Bridge, all the way back in Staten Island. It is an amazing building with all of its history. Almost as amazing as the runners which converged from two different routes, into one as we head north of the bank. At this point, and at several other points along the race, I kept thanking God for giving us such great weather to run in. We were definitely lucky. I know I was.

The crowds in Brooklyn were enormous this year, especially north of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank, on Lafayette street between Miles 8 & 9. Here, the fans were just about spilling out into the streets. I nearly knocked into a small child, and in avoiding him, almost twisted myself up. It was chaos. The height of the chaos came however, when a pedestrian who stood alongside his bicycle on the corner of Lafayette and Clermont, was crazy enough to try and walk his bicycle across the street right in front of us running. But the fans weren’t the only obstacles either. A lot of the more inexperienced runners were breaking down at this point too. It made it harder and harder to navigate around them and make my “magical” 9 minute per mile pace. In a way, this slowness, wasn’t too bad either, because it helped me to reserve my energy for the dreaded Queensboro Bridge. One of my two major challenges on this course.

It was a left turn onto Bedford Avenue, and over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, Mile 10 on the course legend. Other than the continued congestion of runners/walkers, Bedford Av. was also pretty uneventful for me too. Exceptions to this were crossing the signs marking “Williamsburgh Bridge” which reminded me of that disgusting run down Metropolitan Avenue back in the summer when I kicked off my training. (See my blog posted on July 28, 2007. It's got all the down'n'dirty....especially dirty).

Passing on through Mile 11, I am still doing and feeling great. All I kept thinking now was how long I could keep this up before I would get tired, or worse yet, cramp up. I tried not to think too much about the foot cramps for fear that I would bring them on. One thing though. I was well armed this year with my GU gel packs, and salt packs too. But wait! Oh no! I must have lost all of my salt packets after taking the first one into my mouth as I made the left onto 12th street near the handball and tennis courts. At this point the crowd was thinning out. Yeah! More room to run.

Before long, I was past Berry St, past Nassau Avenue, and onto the very busy Manhattan Avenues. Again waves and waves of people cheering us on. I really wanted to engage the crowd, but I was so damned determine to improve my time and not let my adrenaline rush out, that I did all I could to block it out.

As we made the left onto McGuiness Blvd, I could see the Pulaski Bridge up ahead. Home of the Halway Point (13.1) miles. I was feeling great. And now I could tell that something was different this year than last. My training. It was all coming together for me now. Perhaps getting a year older meant nothing after all. Perhaps a full year of training was really going to pay dividends afterall.

I noticed the time though…Damn, I might not make it in 2 hours. This means that in order to do a sub-4 hour marathon, I would have to do a negative split if I don’t make it to the mark in time.

No chance.

This would be my first concession. Okay, so I crossed it in 2 hours 1 minute and 1 second. Not the end of the world. At this pace, I would still BLOW away my all time record of when I was 20 years old and ran my 2nd ever marathon, which I did in 4:09:47

As I went down the bridge, I kept convincing myself not to go too fast. This is a marathon. The real race doesn’t happen until after mile 20. I need to preserve my precious energy for then.

Queens
The end of the bridge, marks the beginning of Queens. After a quick left hook onto Jackson, and a right turn onto Vernon, I could already see the change in climate. For starters, the signs were funnier. One gal held up a big sign that read “I like your stamina. Call Me!”. But the best was this one tall guy with glasses who was on 25th St. between the Citibank tower and Queens Boulevard. His sign simply said, “ U GO BITCH!”

Mile 15 is the start of the Queensboro Bridge. It is also the start of my personal challenge. Every year that I have ran this race, I have always had problems with the incline. While not as bad as Verrazao it is none the less steep, and it takes forever. I decided to look down at all of the feet in front of me, and not even acknowledge the distance. It was a wise choice. Except for an area in which the entire lower section of the bridge was completely dark. How the hell could this have happened? Very Very Very Dangerous. Again, another example of poor planning by the city of New York (example #1 was the contruction on the Verrazano).

For the first time that I could remember, I came off that bridge feeling good. I looked at the crowds. They were great. I took in a little of the roar, but quickly turned my iPod back up.

First Avenue was as always, a well-organized spectacle. Little by little, I started to really believe in myself. With each passing mile, I had lost a little bit of a step, enough for my second concession. A sub-4 hour run. However, I am still feeling good, and if I don’t cramp up I will definitely have my greatest marathon run ever. Mile 18. Mile 19. All good.

The Bronx (I hate the Bronx)
As I am entering the onramp to the Willis Avenue bridge, I realize quickly this is my second nemesis. The last two years, I had cramped up well before I got here. But one thing for sure, when I got to the Bronx, it all went to hell.
Here’s where my mind quickly plays tricks on me. And although I tried not to let it, it still happened.
As I am crossing the bridge, I decided to employ the same, “Don’t look up” tactics.

In fact, I am so disgusted by the Bronx, that I decided right there and then on the bridge that I would not look up from the ground for the entire 1.2 miles while I was there. I figured it this way….If I don’t look at the Bronx, then perhaps the Bronx won’t look at me back and curse me for entering in their territorial pissing ground (note about the author – he married a woman back in 1986. She was from the Bronx and convinced him to marry her and live in the Bronx with her for most of their 7 miserable years together. She was and still is the nastiest person on the face of the Earth. Nuff said).

In looking down, everything was looking up. I felt my legs wanting to go, wanting to convulse, but I kept doing relaxation techniques in my head as I ran, which helped some.
However, not all upstairs was right. And I finally looked up. To my delight it was a Medical Aid station.
To my chagrin, I actually went to it.

The medical aid station that was located on E.138th street, was on the sidewalk, behind the water/gatorade stands. In every Med station before, there were at least 3 or 4 people on the path waiting for potential “patients”. Now all I wanted were a couple of salt packets to help me control the possibility of muscle cramping, which was threatening not my feet, but rather my legs.

I did yell once for “SALT!” to no avail. Then I did the unthinkable. Seeing no one in sight however, meant that I would need to get up on the curb to get the packets of salt myself.
I crossed off the course and onto the sidewalk. I did not notice how slippery the sidewalk was, and I almost totally wiped out. The clenching of my muscles to avoid me from falling, threw both my legs into an instant and unavoidable cramp and spasms. The pain was almost as intolerable as the notion of knowing that the Bronx had gotten me again. I know there may be people out there who might read this, but I am sorry to say. “I HATE THE BRONX”

Truth is though, I had no one to blame but myself. As I hobbled through the remaining ¼ mile and towards the Madison Avenue bridge. A third concession was about to be made. This time it was that I would not have my personal best ever. But positivity is a must in any grueling long-distance race, so therefore, it was time to focus on beating my last year mark by as many minutes as possible. I had crossed the 35km mark in 3:28:10. Although I only had 7km to go (4.325 miles) in 41 minutes and 37 seconds (or a pace of just 9:28 per mile), I had honestly not run a sub 10 minute mile in a few miles. Despite my feeling good on first avenue, I had slown down a bit. Nearly wiping out in Bronx, dashed any chance of me accomplishing, what was unthinkable, just yesterday.

As we passed around Marcus Garvey Park, tremendous shoots of muscle cramps hit both my legs. Again, the only way to shake it off has been for me to come to a complete stop. If I start up too soon, then the cramps come right back. Why is this, I wonder? In my mind and in my heart, I wanted to run, but now my legs were not complying. Still, I had done such a good job, that there was no way in hell I was going to give in any more concessions.

And I didn’t!

Despite the cramps, I moved. A renaissance of logic washed over my frustration and took hold of my body. I engineered everything that I could to be the best that I could be for those last 4.2 miles. I even turned off the iPod, to finally let the crowd into my head, and my adrenaline into my sorely-needed body. The little “Alex” sign that I had over my number paid off. “Go Alex” “C’mon Alex, you can do it”. This is what is so great about New York (to read about what is so bad about New York, keep reading).

Down Fifth Avenue, Mile 23. I never realized how much of a steady climb Fifth Avenue was. Maybe it was because I actually ran it this year, rather than mostly walking it, out of exhaustion, as I had in the past. Mile 24 is here as we turn into Central Park. The bell lap in my head has rung. And now, I am feeling great again. For I know that I will finish. Finish strong. And finish with something better than last year, better than the year before, and perhaps even better than my first marathon ever that I did in 1984 when I was only 19 years young. Get out!!
Having run the park often, was great now. With all these foreigners around me, I knew I was in my “home field” and nothing, I repeat nothing was going to slow me down (except for the occassional mindless shoots of pain from my cramps, lol). Mile 25 was followed by the 40k mat marker. 4:05:26. I would have to now do my last 1.1 miles in roughly 4 minutes and 21 seconds. Ha Ha Ha!!!


The best and always forgotten sign is the “1 mile to go” sign. God, is that the greatest sign on Earth or what??? We all exhale in relief and triumph after seeing this sign. I would love to see the pictures of us runners as we see this sign. It would like a happy convention.


Exiting the park and west along Central Park South.

The big Time Warner building up ahead in the distance. Columbus Circle just before it.

Massive crowds on the East bound side of the street cheering us all on. What a rush! What a rush!!!

I don’t want to cramp up, so I slow down, but I don’t want to slow down, because the adrenaline rush from the crowds is unrelenting.

My body is at war with itself again, while my brain, the captain of this beseiged ship is somehow managing to sail forward.



The right turn is coming up.

This is the famous right turn that all
New York City Marathon runners can attest to as being the most righteous of all right turns on Planet Earth.

It’s the one where you go right, and see the "800 meters to go" sign.
Thereafter, it’s the "26 miles completed" sign.


The it’s the 400 yards to go……..300 yards to go……200 yards to go…..

At this point, I almost feel like crying, not from the pain, but from the joy of having done so well, despite the obvious adverseties that this kind of race will do to one’s body and ultimately, one’s spirit. And as I crossed the finish line, I threw my hands up into the air, in joyous exhaltation. I beat you NYC Marathon!!!! I beat you!!!!


Here were my splits:

Mark Segment Accum.
05k - 0:28:43 0:28:43
10k - 0:28:25 0:57:08
15k - 0:28:43 1:25:51
20k - 0:29:01 1:54:52
13.1- 2:01:01
25k - 0:30:39 2:25:31
30k - 0:29:51 2:56:22
35k - 0:31:48 3:28:10
40k - 0:37:16 4:05:26
Fin. - 0:14:44 4:20:11

============================================================
Post-Race Chaos.
If there was one mistake made by New York City (and perhaps the NYRR club) it was this. By placing all of the UPS trucks in Central Park, the crowd of people was such, that we barely moved. This is very bad for a post-marathon. People need to walk, need to keep moving. And breathe AIR!!

Worst exmample of New York (as I mentioned above) was this: A man who crossed the barrier to lay down near some rocks. Obviously, he looked weak, and needed medical attention. A police office comes over to him and yells at him, “You can’t be here! You need to get up and get back in line with the others! This is not an exit!” Then he takes out his billy club. You have got to be kidding me. The NYPD is by and large the worst example of human life on this Earth. How can this police officer threaten bodily harm on a man who was close to passing out? He just ran a marathon for God-sakes!!! I’m not sure how it turned out, but for me, it was another shining example, to add to my list of many (ie. the parking ticket I got the day before, Saturday, when I literally ran into get Ileana, and came back out about 35 seconds later, and I am being written up for 35 dollars). Police officers in New York. Do you want us to think highly of you? Then act like decent human beings for God’s sake and not like some kind of crooks that carry a badge and consider yourselves ABOVE human decency.


Ileana was there, the fine trooper that she is (no pun intended on the “trooper” word, haha).

We made our way to sidewalk, where we redid the bag. Then she snapped up this pic of me.
I put my Asics pants on, and we headed to the train. The platform was crowded beyond belief. Again, cops were holding back some people from going down. Yet there were other walkways going down totally unsupervised. A completely disorganized effort.


We finally got to Penn Station, jumped onto the LIRR, got off in Kew Gardens, and went upstairs to take my “bubbly”. I had wanted to throw caution and rationale away, and take Ileana to go dancing for free at the Hammerstein Ballroom, but my right toe was hurting badly. At least, I had no black toes this year ‘round!!!”






And In The End. Here was the final result:


.....and that makes SIX completed Marathons. I may do 2 of them next year.
Stay Tuned.