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.

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