Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Running With Bagels

My mean look.
I decided to go for a shorter run today as my legs were aching a bit from yesterday. It was 39 degrees with a real feel of 31, so I put on long pants, underwear, a t-shirt and my orange insulated Pearl Izumi sweattop.

Decked out with my Ray-Ban's, Blue-stretch ascot, and runner's hat, I was all ready to take on Mother Nature!

I started running down my street, and as usual, the Garmin didn't pick up until 2nd Avenue. Happy to mention that the black toenail, which had fallen off my left foot a few days ago, has been fine thus far.

I made my way into the park (Central) when I noticed that there was a race going on, The Race to Deliver. Pfizer seemed to have the name on the mile markers, but the tee shirts were IDENTICAL to the ones they had last year. By the time I got to the park, most of the people were walking it. It was 45 minutes into the race, and I was approaching their Mile 2 marker just after the transverse. I did the 4 mile loop, plus the 1.6 to and from the house to the park. I wound up with 5.8 miles, probably from all of the zig-zagging I was doing. After finishing up, I got two bagels. Normally, I would never do this unless I had registered for the run, but I had crossed near the finish at over an hour. That translates to a 15 minute per mile pace, and most of the runners had already finished. I took a couple of bagels, put them through my gloved fingers and ran home with my bagels totally exposed. Uhh, that sounded a little pornographic.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Inaugural Run: Three Bridges Run

Now that the insanity of the Marathons are over, it's time to get back to the streets. Every so often, I'll get into the mood of trying a new route, a new place, or anything that mixes up my training. Sometimes, it's planned out, other times, I'll just wing it. A Garmin watch, and two healthy legs.

It was about 48 degrees, not cold enough for long pants for sure. I decided to run along the East River Esplanade since I hadn't done it in awhile. After going down the steps on 78th street I cam e across an unpleasant surprise. A covered fence, about 10 feet high went across the walkway, completely blocking my path. As I came up to it, another runner was sitting on the ground doing stretches. He saw me grimace in disgust, and seeing that I had my MP3 player on, made a series of hand gestures suggesting that I go around the "blockade".

To do this I had to climb on the cement divider that separated the walk from the FDR. So being careful, I scaled the divider and made my way around the fence.

But there were more fences, 4 more to be exact.
Suddenly my training seemed like less of a run and more that of a army obstacle course.

Eventually, I made my way off the Esplenade and onto 1st Avenue to take on the Queensboro Bridge. The Bridge that took on and defeated the world's fastest Marathoner just weeks earlier.

I was going to run back over the bridge and go home the way I came but instead, I decided to venture a little:

As soon as I came off the bridge, and was in Queens, I decided to run under the bridge, and headed for Vernon Blvd. Not a good area at all. There were a lot of industrial buildings. Many of them were abandoned. Then I got to civilization in the form of housing project after housing project after housing project. I will admit, it was a tough neighborhood, and not the place I would want to be running through at night.

Eventually, I made my way north until Vernon Blvd. turned into Astoria Blvd. Along the way, I came across an unexpected number of parks that I had never heard of before simply because I'd never been in this area.

Rainey Park has great views of Manhattan and was incredibly absent of people.

It was kinda cool being able to see Ward's Island Bridge from here, but I still had a ways to go.

Then came an odd place called Socrates Sculpture Park.

Less of a place to play in, it seemed more of a place for bohemians to congregate, read, listen to music, etal.

After running through some more barren areas, I made it to a park that's really more of a co-op garden of sorts.

Finally, I came across something familiar that dumbstruck me. It was the apartment that I had seen last year in Astoria. It was a brightly-lit, large, 3-bedroom apartment and it was the runner-up to the place where we live now in the city.

What I wasn't aware of was how close this place was to Astoria Park and thus the Grand Central Parkway as well.

I ran under the RFK bridge to get to the pedestrian walk, and before I knew it, I was huffing and puffing along the long and lonely Triboro Bridge:

The Triboro Bridge is even less fun than the Queensboro Bridge. Completely void of life.
I got off at the pedestrian downramp for Randall's Island.

If I thought the bridge was a desolate place to be, then Randall's Island was a barren wasteland. Outside of a girls soccer game, the island was void of life, completely different than what it was like a few months before.

I actually went the wrong way off the bridge. Well it wasnt the wrong way, but they had the area locked down. And this time, unlike the Esplenade, there was no climbing or going around. I guess the security here has to be tougher, since it's the home to one of the largest psychiatric facilities in New York.

I finally made my way over the Ward's Island Bridge, and soon thereafter, home.
A 10+ mile run. Not shabby and a good pre-cursor for what I intend to do come December (taking off a few days from running between now and after Turkey Day).

After getting home, I made a homemade lasagna later on that night, that the kids gobbled up! Okay, well, me too. lol.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Race Report: NYC MARATHON 2010

RACE: The ING NYC Marathon 2010
DATE: Sunday, November 7, 2010
TIME: 10:10am start (BLUE CORRAL)
LOCATION: The 5 Boroughs of New York City
WEATHER: 45F. Hum: 55%. Winds: 5mph Bright Sunshine


For the first time ever, I approached the marathon as if it were just any other short run. I had absolutely no pressure, no worries. I had learned some hard lessons in Chicago, and there was no way I wanted to ever let that kind of stress enter my life again. Especially over something that was supposed to be “fun”.

Karen and I got up at 5am, Marathon Sunday. We already had everything packed the night before. And for the first time prior to a Marathon, I wasn’t nervous, I was happy!

The doorman wished us luck as we left our apartment. It was still pitch black outside, as the clock went back an hour that night. We took a cab from 2nd avenue to the FDR and down to the Battery Park. From there we entered the terminal for the Staten Island Ferry.

We were one of the first to get onboard Staten Island Ferry, but it started to fill up soon thereafter.....

We hopped on the ferry, and met a 29 year old someone who lived in NY for awhile, but later grew up in LA. We talked for awhile and it was clear to see he was a great runner. He mentioned about his best being 3 hours and 20 minutes. Maybe I’ll achieve that one day…In my dreams. What became funny about this, was that I would see him again, on Marathon Monday, as I waited in line to get my medal engraved at the once, now-defunct, Tavern On The Green. Out of 45,350 participants. What a coincidence right?

Here's a snapshot of us taking by the nice man from LA. Notice I'm still looking tired. LOL.

As you can plainly see....I finally "woke" up, and was my usual self again....

As we sailed across the New York Harbor, I was able to get some unique photographs in, and before long we were in Staten Island.

Karen and I (surprise) both had to go to the bathroom. And the line for the men was even longer than the woman’s (another surprise). I could hear the volunteers outside announcing that there were plenty of bathrooms on the second floor, but I was already in queue, and didn’t feel like taking the chance. I could also hear the volunteers outside mentioning not to take too long in the stalls, else alligators would come out of the toilet to bite our asses. Only in New York!

When I came out, Karen had the time to get her coffee (as expected, lol).

We left the terminal and started looking for the Marathon-provided shuttle buses to take us down Bay Street to Fort Wadsworth. We found them and got on the second bus to assure ourselves of a nice cozy seat.

Once on board, were several Italian runners, talking guess what? Yep, Italian, to a New Yorker Italian, that was scoffing down a toasted buttered bagel. Damn, I wish I had one of those! He was really enjoying it too.

I'm smirking because I am totally envying the guy eating that sloppy-buttered toasted bagel across from me and wish it were me. Just my luck.

A few minutes later, we were already getting off the bus and we saw a bunch of port-o-sans right in front, available. For those that haven’t experienced long distance running events, hear this… When there’s an available potty, you take it. Even if you don’t have to go. You take it!

We made our way (out of the potty) and into Fort Wadsworth, passing a few residential homes on the way. On the last street, there were three or four homes. I kept wondering how annoying it must be for these folks to have tens of thousands of runners walking by their house this early on a Sunday morning. One house in particular, had their front door open, and had Halloween decorations still up. Door open. Hmmmm.. Imagine if they had a runner living there? What a prime location!!!!

That's the house on the left. And yes. It was the 'Last House on the Left.'

A sea of pink and orange Dunkin Donut hats on heads surrounded us. We made our way over but they were already out of them. Aww shucks. Perhaps next year.

We found a nice comfy spot near a fence . Well it wasn’t so comfy, actually. It was on a slope with the fence at the bottom, but it was close to the port-a-potties. Again, I cannot underscore the importance of portable toilets before the start of a Marathon. Karen practically lives in one during these times!

Enjoying a power bar..Note the boats behind me and my trashbags covering the slope....

I laid out my special Hefty lawn leaf bags, that were duct taped together the day before, and laid it open across the ground to avoid the dew from wetting our clothing. The I pulled out two blue blankets I had gotten from a barbecue at my job a few years back to keep us warm.

The view we had was to a fence, and behind it were boats and small yachts that had been dry docked for the winter. I never knew Fort Wadsworth has a dry dock storage for boats. I wish I had known this earlier, I could have donated my 1984 Buick LeSabre from many years ago to this place. ;-)

While I do love the international flavor of this race, there are a few that just need to learn manners. As I was waiting on line for the bathroom, this person wearing Italian clothing apparently cut the line. Not only did he cut several people that were waiting behind me, but he was inching himself in front of me. I've experienced internation lack of class before, like when I was almost knocked down by a gigantic 6 foot 4 inch Scandinavian fella as we rounded Columbus Circle back in 2005, and I wasn't about to let myself wait any longer than I needed to. I pushed my way in front of him, maintaining the same silent arrogance that he did, until he finally backed off.

Karen, who had come with me to the blue campsite, left early to go to her orange campsite.

Baggage check was made a little stricter this year. You had to have it checked no later than a full hour before race time. What? Well, we knew this going in, which is why we both bought a cheap 10 dollar white jump suit that you can tear off with your own hands. A disposable suit, if you will, which blocked out the cold and wind quite well actually. Before I did my tear off at the corral, I had the opportunity to get a picture taken of me with it on.

Notice the silly red hat on my head? That eventually came off too.

Now, as you may see, there are pictures here that were not taken by me, nor do they originate on this site. I give credit (at the bottom) for those who contributed, and offer my photos for improving the blog without permission as well. I say this because, as I was looking for a photo to highlight this year's corral setup, which was impressive, I found something infinitely more relevant, and just plain dumb amazing;

It's not my picture, and it's the only photo NOT taken from this year's marathon (it was taken in 2007). Take a look at the second sign from the left!

The wave start times also changed this year. Whereas last year there was only a 20-minute difference, this year it was 30 minutes between each wave launch. However, I was very pleased to see bathrooms at each of the corrals. And the barricades were no longer the Porto sans, but very high solid fences, making it IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to try and scale (I still recall last year when that crazy immigrant was dropping ‘F-bomb’).

Waiting for my corral to start moving, I was standing in front of a group of Spaniards, from Barcelona. They were all in a circle, following their coach during a warmup session. There was still a full half-hour before the start of the 10:10am wave. I was excited. I was eager. But most of all, I was feeling so happy. And no Red Bull either. Just a bottle of ProSeries01-Gatorade which they handed out for free to me at the canteen area back in the camp.

We finally started walking and moved into position to the start. I'm sure Mary Wittenberg and Mayor Bloomberg had a few things to say, but I was too far back to hear them. About 6,000 runners were ahead of me and the was just in the Blue corral alone. There must have been easily 10,000 runners ahead of me in Wave 2. Thanks a lot, New York Road Runners! I was in Orange last year, but at least I was in Wave 1 and close to the starting line. Where's the love, I ask?

In the meantime, the Marathon had a wheelchair winner before my race even began, lol. Their start time was at 8:30am, and David Weir of Great Britain had crossed the finish at 10:07am which was a full three minutes before the start of my 10:10am wave.

Just then, I heard the thunderous "BOOM" from the cannon, followed by the loudest (decibel-wise) version of Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York" one will ever hear. It is tradition here in New York as to how the race begins. It is also the greatest start to any race, I've ever (or will ever have) been a part of.

Where I was in relation to the corral on the other hand was not so favorable. I was pretty spoiled last year, as I got to start almost at the front of wave 1. This year not only did it take me 3:53 to cross the start, but the runners on the bridge were as slow as heck.

The arteries of humanity...

A bridge of eternal hope.
Runners on both levels. Warning to bottom level runners...DO NOT RUN CLOSE TO THE EDGE for fear of unwanted yellow liquids flying in your face!
Even Fred LeBow would've been astounded. Just look.

Take off was extremely congested. There were at least 6 thousand runners in front of me, and that was just in my colored (blue) section. I could say that it was the fair-weathered novices that were frequently stopping to take photos on the bridge of the runners, but it was really the swarm of people around me that made me go as slow as I did. I almost didn’t even break 10 minutes for the first mile. However, I was running relaxed, and I wasn’t about to try to zigzag around people. At least not in the early going anyway.

Nacho Libre?

Eat yer own heart out, Gene! This guy was on TV at the finish posting a sub 3:20 marathon. Jeez!

Closing in on Mile 2. And you would still be on the bridge....

This was the first time I was ever in the blue corral, so too was the route I took. We turned left onto 92nd street and like last year when I was in the orange corral, we made a right onto 4th Avenue before the 3-mile mark. Right before then, I threw off my $1 dollar hat that I bought from a street vendor across from my gym on Lex & 86th.

In this year’s race, I had made a promise to myself not to take this race so seriously, even if it meant losing the chance at a personal record. Last year, it was all about the serious business to break 4 hours, whereas this year, I wanted to enjoy the crowds, and the sights this great city had to offer. I was handsomely rewarded as well. This year the loudest crowd cheer came from 4th Avenue and between 8th and 10th streets at around the 6.6 Mile mark. I could hear fellow runners in disbelief over the volume levels of the cheers. I felt like I was at a rock concert, and my name was John Lennon.
In the meantime, things were happening in the elite field that I would not learn about until hours after the race when I would be home to confirm on TV, what I had heard among the runners after the finish line..

Haile Gebreselassie not only dropped out of the race, but did so on that damned Queensboro Bridge..And then he announced his retirement from running? Let's hope not. He is an amazing runner, and a great, great person. I had the opportunity to videotape him at the NYC Half Marathon a few years back, for which he had shattered the record. Not only is he an eloquent speaker, but has a heart of gold. A class act. I will give him a month or two, but I bet you he'll be back. He's just too good an athlete to hang it all up just yet.

My legs felt okay, not terribly great in the beginning, but my heart and lungs were feeling fine. Most importantly my head was running at ease. I was never stressed at all throughout the entire way up Brooklyn. My strides were just right and my cadence was as predictable as metronome. I did make sure to hit both Gatorade and water however, I skipped the first water station, and then skipped every other station thanks in part to the cool temperatures. Even though the sun was strong, it was perhaps 48 degrees (if that).

I had just reached the Williamsburg Savings Bank, Mile 8. My legs were beginning to wake up, if you can believe. I actually felt like I hadn’t even run yet. This was a great feeling knowing the race was no longer a Marathon, but an 18 miler. As we made our way around the bank and up Lafayette, the Brooklyn Academy of Music was playing the usual “Rocky” fanfare. I never get tired of listening to it, and it’s amazing how into the band members were too, considering they play this for what must be several hours on end.

Notice the blue sky. It was like this the entire race.



Lafayette became a congested nightmare that was even worse than the VZ Bridge. It was so crowded around me that I actually had to look down the entire time to make sure I wasn’t stepping on anybody else. It didn’t even feel like I was running as much as I felt like I was part of a larger identity, a machine of people just moving along the narrow tree-lined artery in Brooklyn.




Around the 9-mile mark, I smelled a barbecue. This is not unusual. The folks in this area do it every year. What a tease! I felt like stopping to eat! And then, just as quickly as I began to fantasy about pulled pork ribs, someone ran past me wearing none other than perfume! It was so heavy that it nearly made knock me back to the reality! Was this runner attacking my olfactories as a strategic maneuver to get ahead? Who knows. However, the oddities along the 9th mile did not end yet because no sooner than that, an African-American pedestrian, cross the street right in front of the running mass. She looked despondant a/o on some strong doses of drugs. The runner in front of me had to abruptly stop, as she nearly crashed into her, and I wound up stepping on the back of the runner's sneaker in front of me. Ouch. I guess there always seems to be one of these "zombies in every NYC Marathon.

Mile 10 was the Hasidic part of Brooklyn, and as always they just look at us as if there’s nothing going on. A couple of years ago, when Lance Armstrong ran, his organization, Livestrong, was smart enough to place a cheering section here. There was none this time around, and it was eerily quiet, as in past years. It’s actually not a bad change of pace, to get a little quiet time that is.

At approximately 11:39am, the Marathon had it's Women's champion. It was Edna Kiplagat of Kenya. Not one of the fastest woman's race, but Shalane Flannagan came in 2nd place for the first time in a long while, and took home the USA Woman's Championship as well.

Not long thereafter, came the Men's Champion. Poor Meb. He did not win this year. That's because he did not eat at the NYAC Marathon dinner like he did last year (that's when I attributed his '09 win and my first sub-4 hour marathon to the food). Haile who was in first place dropped out just prior to Mile 16, but his fellow Ethiopian made good on Haile's final bridge request to him that he must take the lead. It was Gebre Grebrmarian.

Having just passed Mile 12 and running northwest along Manhattan Avenue, we all finally see a glimpse of the Borough of Manhattan and the Empire State Building from the streets of Brooklyn. What a wonderful sight it was on this sunny and only slightly chilly day. Actually, it was getting a little bit warmer, but I felt a wonderful cool breeze as we ran through here. It felt great. I still recall having gotten cramps as early as here several years ago. I still remember those days when I thought I would never lose my cramps, and I would never break 4 hours. Those days, happily, appear to be long gone now. As we ran through the busy commercial streets, there were crowds of people blowing vuvuzelas and yelling, “Hey! Hey! Hey!” and the runners would finish the stanza by throwing our hands into the air and screaming “Ho!”. It was a ton of fun doing this, as I was totally getting into the crowds.

2010 NYC Marathon-Mile 13.1
My hands still had two pairs of cheap gloves on. It was time to shed again, as I tossed my top pair (white) gloves into the air. Before long, we were approaching the Pulaski Bridge, or the halfway point. I was running close along the left hand side. People were cheering me on by name, thanks to benefits of having your name on your shirt! I looked at my watch and realized I was going to be about 8 minutes behind my halfway mark pace of last year. For the first time, I did feel a little stressful. I didn’t want to push hard and blow myself out like I did 4 weeks earlier in Chicago, but I did want to break 4 hours at least. Right now I was on pace for just over 4 hours. My half split time was 1:55:08. Experts say to double this time and add 10 minutes…But what do the ‘experts’ know, right?.

The Half Way Mark Right Ahead.....

2010 NYC Marathon-Mile 13.1

We are taking this race seriously, right?


I charged up the bridge, but I was in a very jovial mood. This was totally atypical for how I had been approaching this race for the first half (the speed, not the mood). I was revelling at the cameras, and feeling very much in control. The Marathon felt like a toy to me at this moment. Dangerous, if you have too much fun and lose sight of your body and goals. Still, I was okay to do this, for after I crossed the bridge, I began to notice how I might start trailing off and going a slower pace if I don't stay vigilant in a long race like this. Though I was still very sharp (mentally), I realized that I actually needed to refocus and start concentrating more on my gait, my internals, and especially my speed. From hereon out, this was a “Half-Marathon” run for me.

Running through Long Island City in Queens was a pleasant surprise that I had not expected. Though I could not find anyone familiar (Jose & Jean, old school buddies, for instance, were cheering on runners), I noticed a definite increase in fan participation. Even in the industrialized areas. It was nice to see how well we were all supported throughout this run. I was feeling the love!!!

2010 NYC Marathon - Mile 15
Queensboro Bridge was quickly approaching, and before I could say “Here Comes The Beast”, I was already ON the “beast”. I fell back to my training over the bridge with Shelly Florence Glover and her commandos, and started to laugh. I still hate this bridge though. It’s always been my source of pain and slow times leading the way to cramping and even slower miles in Manhattan afterwards.

I decided to play it safe. I didn’t even bother looking up and just ran at a comfortable pace. Little did I know that I would be passing (virtually speaking, of course) the last known course location for the world’s greatest runner, Haile Gebreselassie as we exited the bridge (he had a knee injury and this bridge claimed him, forcing him to drop out right as he was approaching the down ramp to Manhattan)

There are always some great running shirts you’ll see along the way. Two runners had blue shirts and in white lettering it said. “Be Like Forest Gump and Run as Easy as the Wind”. Another one said, “BITCH IN long distance HEAT. Keep Back 200 feet!”

There were some great costumes to go along with the funny shirts too. Going up the Queensboro Bridge, I saw a woman dressed in a pink panther suit. On the back, it said, “Since when is a panther ever pink? Have you ever seen one? Think!” Then, and as I was coming off the Willis Avenue bridge, I saw a guy dressed up as a hot dog. I had the balls to ask him if he was two dollars (what vendors in NYC charge for a dog these days). But he was in so much agony it seemed, that he didn’t even hear me. My wife Karen, topped even those two, as she saw a man dressed up in a rhinoceros suit.

There were a lot of great costumes, but the fan base signs were hilarious. Perhaps my favorite of all was found along First Avenue, somewhere near the 70’s. It was actually two signs, one next to each other. The first one read, “To Run you have to have BALLS, as where you just play with balls in the other sports.” And the sign next to it? “GO NADS!” I nearly lost it, laughing.




I never can get over how packed first avenue is, especially on the west side. The fans were 10 rows deep on some streets. ‘Can they even see us running from there?’, I wondered.

Orlando Pizzolato, the man who won the New York City Marathon the first 2 years that I ran it in 1984 & 1985, has just crossed the finish line. His time? 2 hours, 53 minutes & 43 seconds. Not bad for someone who is 52 years old.

Whereas in previous years 1st Avenue north of 96th was pretty void of fans, it was jammed all the way to the bridge! What a welcome sight it was!

Before long I was passing my place on 102nd. What a great feeling it was to be on Mile 18 and now be in your hometown. For most this was the beginning of the end. I already had seen a lot of “walkers”, many from wave 1, on the bridge. But here, oh boy, there were many with cramps. I elected not to look at them for fear it was contagious and kept going! My street was closed (as they all were), and I was looking for any of the doormen, lol. None to be found. I kept thinking this could be a good toilet stop for Karen, lol.

At this point, I wasn’t feeling sick or anything, but could tell that my focus was slightly waning. To play it safe, I downed six Endurolyte capsules. No, it’s not an HGH, or Steroid or anything taboo. They’re just potassium and salt in capsules. Since I sweat a lot, I didn’t want to chance losing too many electrolytes that could cause cramping. I learned this last year, and took about twenty of them and several salt packets from Burger King too. This year, I did just 2 salt packets along with the six capsules around Mile 18-19. It was the only time I did this, so my tolerance for not needing added supplements is getting better with age, it seems!

First avenue was very wet with cups all over the ground. I made sure not to get my feet wet, as that’s a sure-fire way to get unwanted blisters.

First avenue north of my home has been a place where the NYRR clinic had us run frequently through. Between that and my hometown, I felt very familiar and was no longer threatened by this stage of the race. In fact, by the time I was approaching the Bronx, I was already feeling melancholy. And no, it wasn’t due to any depletion of glycogen stores, or soreness, or anything like that. It was because I had just finished close to 19 miles, and I was already sensing that the race was going to have to end soon. I kept thinking how wonderful this race was, and how I wished it would never end, or even how I wished there could be a New York City Marathon each and every day. The state of euphoria, mixed in with a premature state of Post-Marathon Depression, made for a vibrant sense of emotion through my system.

As we entered the Bronx, I kept thinking how much I hate the Bronx. However, I was in such a good mood that I couldn’t muster up anything more than indifference at best. Perhaps the biggest part for my satisfaction with this borough, was all of the bad memories it invoked when I lived here with my first wife and child, back in my later 20’s. With child support having just ended this past July, I now felt a freedom here that I hadn’t felt before.

There were many people here cheering us on in the Bronx, and we were also treated to several live bands, and a large LCD projector showing us as we made our way through ‘hell’. I also remember how someone once yelled, “You better run fast, you’re in the Bronx now!” while on a training run with the New York Road Runners back in September, lol.
Still, all this newfound acceptance for this troubled borough had no change in my outlook for as a wash of relief came over me as we started back over the Madison Avenue bridge to head back into Manhattan.

The last portion of this race was fast and finally upon us!
As we made our way south on 5th, still north of Marcus Garvey, I was pretty amazed by the tightening of the space for which to run through. The crowds here were equally loving and supportive as in any other place. Everyone wanted to give us high-fives, and kids were giving out their own version of aids, as I saw them holding out orange slices and moist toweletes to the runners.
I remembered not to cut as much on the corners as I could when circling around Marcus Garvey, but without jumping onto the sidewalk. I guess some of Shelly’s words did make it to my central processing system after all.
Back on 5th, and now we were gearing for the slow and long uphill. Before I knew it, Central Park was on my right hand side. Woohoo!!! At this point, people were dropping (though not literally) like flies all around me. I had the utmost respect for them, because I was one of these people just last year.

I looked at my watch. I was on pace to come close to my record! Apparently, I never slowed up. Those ‘experts’ were wrong so far about adding an extra 10 minutes to the second half of my race. I was extremely proud of my consistency, and felt even better now than I did crossing the Queensboro Bridge. Short of an unexpected cramp, or running into an open manhole or pothole, I was destined to finish this race in a very good way.

As I passed 102nd street and 5th, my level of cockiness began to show through, as I took off my remaining $1 dollar pair of gloves, and threw them into the crowd.

Central Park...Here I Come!

My friend Marco and one of our coaches, Renee, had mentioned to me that they would be rooting for me at Mile 23. I remembered this, and started looking around for them. Duh. I had passed Mile 23, nearly a mile ago. This is how quick the race was going for me. Before I knew it, we were turning into Central Park @ 90th Street at Engineer’s Gate.

A short while later I saw the big overhead banner. “Mile 24”, it read. This was it. I was in the homestretch and loving every minute of running this fabulous park. By far, the greatest park for running (if not for everything), ever made by man.

Mile 24.8

The crowds were insane in the park. Colorful leaves falling on us, as streams of golden sunlight basked us all. I’ve had this feeling before in previous Marathons. There is no doubt about it in my mind. Between the state of euphoria, and the vision, I really felt as if this was all a surreal imagery of heaven. The most powerful feelings from me emoting all over as if I hadn’t even begun to run. Streams of conscious energy flowing through my body, propelling me, carrying me, through the twists and turns, and rolling hills of the park. What a glorious feeling this was. I wish it would never end.

And then came Mile 25...

You think something bad is going to happen here? Well nothing bad happens.

Today was a wonderful day. I pass Mile 25, which is exiting of the park at Central Park South. All this training, all the sacrifice put forth for this one spectacular moment in time, that was now cashing itself in all around me. I raised my speed, but could not pass anyone, because everyone around me was also racing harder too. What a fucking blast it was as we rushed along Central Park south towards Columbus Circle. I’ve run this route eight times before today, and I will never get used to this amazing feeling. It’s about as close to God as I think I can get without kicking the bucket first.

Hordes of people, and noise, and cheers, and sounds. It was all too much for me. My Mp3 player was no match for it anymore. I had to shut it down and embrace the love from the people of my most favorite city on Earth.



As we passed the gigantic LCD screen at Columbus Circle, I realized that my chances to break 3 hours and 50 minutes were going to be close to nil. I was already at 3 hours and 49 minutes. I would have had to run the last three-tenths of a mile in a sub-5 minute pace to do this. However, it didn’t break my spirit and I ran as hard as I could. I could feel my internal heat rising, the obvious cause-effect of burning more calories when speeding up. To compensate, I took off my white runner’s cap and held it in my hand.

The last leg. The final frontier. I can see flags from every nation on either side approaching. I can also see the grandstands on both sides in the near distance. More signs too. 400 meters to go. 200 meters to go. This great event of my life was coming to a close. What a shame. I felt like I was being cast out of heaven. Couldn’t this go on forever? I pleaded with the Gods but it was of no use. My legs wouldn’t stop rushing me to the finish, and I had a personal record to go after too.

My mind reminded me to cross the finish on the left-hand side. In the past, VIPs (movie stars, rich people, etal.) would finish on that side, and their photos came out better. How vain, right? Though this time, I had some body that was too tired to get out of the way, and didn’t move. His tee-shirt was pretty funny though. It said, “I never finish anyth”.

Dig! Dig! Dig! Dig!
I made it! A new personal record!!!!

I looked down at my Garmin. 3 hours, 50 minutes, 53 seconds. A new personal best and my 7th different distanced race in which I got a personal best this year. Clearly, even a better year this year than last.

The draped me with a medal for which I was all but too thankful for (Karen calls me a medal whore-I am. I admit it), and then they further draped me with foil. And unlike Chicago, where they were giving us foil when it was NINETY DEGREES out, this time it actually made sense.

The “dead” walk up Central Park Drive in the Park was a little busier than last year, given the wave and corral I was in, but still not too bad. Of course, when I got to my UPS truck, there was a line there. Figures. The only UPS truck that had a line of people waiting for their bag.

I finally got my bag, and headed to the sidelines to change right away into my sweats, and other dry clothing. Ohhh, it felt good. A small ambulance made it’s way through the crowd, reminding me that marathons are fun but still are dangerous.

The weather was actually a few degrees warmer now, than it was at the previous year’s end. The sun was strong, and their was no wind, which was opposite of last year’s finish too.

For some bizarre reason, NYRR had eliminated the family reunion area. Bizarre, because Central Park west was still closed, and packed with family members. Perhaps they did this to remove liability from themselves? Who knows. But whatever the reason, I walked over to Pizzeria Uno at Columbus and 81st. Inside, people noticed my foil right away, and were all too happy to let me sit down at the bar (the wait for a table was over 30 minutes). As I waited for Karen, I downed a couple of Bass Ales, and munched on a Chicago’s famous pizza. LOL. In New York.

As for Chicago, and despite the disappointment last month, I am very compelled to running it again. For even as ‘dead’ as I was, and as stressful as I was, I was still able to come within 2 minutes of my previous record. Who knows how well I could have done, had the temperature been 30 degrees cooler? I wouldn’t have stressed so much, leading me to take Ambien, Advil, and drinking Red Bull in the morning that caused me to crash half-way during the race. No. The next time I do Chicago, I’m going to do it for ‘fun’. However, the next time, I am getting a fully refundable airfare. Especially if the 10-day forecast calls for temperatures higher than 65.

It was now Karen's turn to finish up her event. She did it in 4 hours and 52 minutes.

I finally met up with Karen, and we took a cab home. To my delight, I didn’t have a cramp (almost 1 as I ran up the Willis Av. bridge – but nothing after that) and now that I looked at my feet, they still looked as ugly as before. Meaning? No new black toes, or blisters!!

Today was certainly a day to be proud. It’s not always that you get to be a year older and perform better. Also, it wasn’t the fact that I beat my personal best that made me so happy. Heck, if it were just for that, I could even feel a bit disappointed that I did not continue my tremendous time-drop improvement (shredded off 27 minutes from ’06 to ’07, 12 minutes from ’07 to ’08, and 17 minutes from ’08 to ’09). No. What really made me happy was the consistency of my performance.

Mark..............................Time....... Accum........ Pace
05km (00.0m - 03.1m)..... 0:28:07.... 0:28:07.......... 9:03 per mile
10km (03.1m - 06.2m)...... 0:27:00.... 0:55:07.......... 8:42 per mile
15km (06.2m - 09.3m)...... 0:27:05.... 1:22:12........... 8:44 per mile
20km (09.3m - 12.4m)...... 0:26:57.... 1:49:09.......... 8:41 per mile
25km (12.4m - 15.5m)....... 0:27:43.... 2:16:52.......... 8:56 per mile
30km (15.5m - 18.6m)....... 0:26:35... 2:43:27........... 8:34 per mile
35km (18.6m - 21.7m)....... 0:27:47.... 3:11:14............ 8:57 per mile
40km (21.7m - 24.8m)...... 0:27:40.... 3:38:54........... 8:55 per mile

Breaking out my race into eight 5k segments, my total time for any one of those segments fell within 90 seconds of any other segment. Throw out the first 5k which included the slow traffic on the Verazano and then the variance would be reduced to just 23 seconds per mile!

This was the most consist race I’ve ever run, and it was a Marathon. Wow. I think I have arrived!

Other stats:
Overall Field Placement: 10,871 out of 45,350 = Top 24%
Age Group Placement (45-49 yr olds): 1,299 out of 4256 = Top 30.5%
Gender Placement (Male): 8841 out of 29097 = Top 30.4%
Forest Park Road Runners: Placed 2nd place out of 9 finishers. = Top 22%
"GONZALEZ", as named: 10th out of 67 Gonzos. = Top 14.9%
"GONZALEZ", in Men 45-49: 1st PLACE! out of 3 people (Ha! That's stretching it a bit!)...
Star Power: I beat all 11 *stars* that I was aware of. Take a look:

Bobby Flay - Famous Chef - 4:01:37
Anthony Edwards - TV Star of "ER" 4:04:45
Justin Gimelstob - Tennis pro - 4:09:58
Amani Toomer - Former NFL WR for the New York Giants- 4:13
Ethon Zohn - Survivor TV show winner & cancer survivor - 4:16:20
Veronica Webb - Model 4:59:12
Jared Fogel - The Subway dude. 5:13
Edison Peña - Chilean Miner Survivor - 5:40:51
Meredit Viera - TV / News Star - 5:59
Robin Quivers - Co-Host of the Howard Stern show - 6:09
Al Roker - TV/ News Star - 7:09

Until Next Year.................................................................................................................So Long!