Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Grete's (and Gonzo's) Grateful Great Gallup.

DISTANCE: 13.1 Miles, 21.1 Kilometers

DATE/TIME: Sunday, October 2, 2011 @ 9am
PLACE: Central Park, New York
WEATHER: 60 degrees, 93% humidity, wind 3 mph, overcast.

Let me begin by saying that I did not want a repeat from last week.

Yesterday, I went to Road Runners and got my number from Janet Cupo (Thank you, Janet). I figured that was ONE less headache for race day.

Then, after promising Karen to do the midnight feed, I went to bed at 9:30pm after seeing Boardwalk that I had DVR’d (love that show, btw).

Also, I drank a LOT of water too.

See, how much I remembered from last week? (The answer is...A LOT!)

This morning I got up at 7am. The race started at 9, which gave me plenty of time to get ready, both physically and mentally. I even had time to grab a Red Bull and Gatorade at the corner bodega on 2nd and 102nd, right before jumping into a cab that would take me to the start, 40 minutes before racetime, another plus.

The humidty was at 93% but it didn’t feel so bad because the dew point was at 58, and the temperature was at 60 degrees. Plus there was a light breeze, AND I was wearing a singlet. Also, to lighten my load, I did not take the iPhone/Nike+, choosing instead to go back to basics and re-embrace my Garmin 310XT. Strategy. Strategy. Strategy!

 I did a little stretching near the bandshell right before the baggage on 70th. Then I made my way to the starting line. For being a last minute entry, I got a green corral bib (4th from the front BLUE corral). That’s okay though. No pressure to perform, and I’m figuring I might even pass a lot of people as I would eat my delicious, nutritious helpings of asphalt in Central Park.

With the race being named after the great (and sadly, late) runner, Grete Waitz, Mary Wittenberg gave a touching tribute before the start of the race. During her speech, she had asked anyone who had gotten advice from Grete, to raise their hands, and a handful did. Then she asked how many got a high-five from Grete, and I with a lot of other people raised their hands. By the time she was finished, everyone had their hands raised. Grete was an even more amazing person than that of an already amazing runner, and all I kept thinking was how nice it would be to have a bronze statue, like the one erected for Fred Lebow on 90th and Central park Drive East, to be erected for Grete near the finish line of the New York City Marathon. A fitting tribute to a nine time NYC Marathon winner, to say the least.

When the race got underway, I had my mental faculties on. My fitness level is nowhere near where it was a year ago at this time, but again, given all the duress from my mom’s death, and subsequent legal disgrace that is still going on, my grandmother, for whom I don’t even know if she is dead or alive, and my recent time split between an extra heavy load of work….and extra heavy load of diapers for my twin lovelies….it’s even a wonder that I am running at all.

The start was very crowded. Typically running a 4 mile race in Central Park means running 4.08 miles, so running a 13.1 mile race in Central Park equates to 13.26 miles. Too many angles and hills that you have to be perfect on, and with thousands of runners around me like there are in the green corral and area, there was just no way I was even going to try and overtake.

But still, I tried.

I ran my first mile in 8:48. The course is a clockwise one. Two loops starting from 70th street and Central Park Drive East, finishing up at the finish line of the New York City Marathon, by Tavern On The Green. What a fitting finish, to a race named after the wonderful runner that Grete was, and whose spirit was with us all during this great moment.

My second mile was a little better, 8:35.38, and keep in mind that I calibrated my watch to give me splits every 1.02 miles, and not 1 mile. So in honest, I was going faster than these splits. However keeping in mind that the finish line is the finish line regardless of how much more I run, and hence the reason for why I chose this split interval of 1.02.

Then came the rolling hills, but in reverse for me since I normally run this park counter clock like most do. I knew I had to conserve energy because running up Harlem Hill in reverse is more challenging to me, and typically these rolling hills chew me up before I get digested in Harlem. Yet, I still managed to run my 1.02 miles in 8:24.54 (8:14 pace).

When run clockwise, Harlem Hill ends just beyond Mile 4. It was a surprise to me to see me clock in Lap 4 at 8:23.79 (8:13 pace). Still, I cautioned myself not to get too giddy. This is not a streaker’s run (haha). This is a long distance run. People who run ahead of me now, will be looking at my ass later, because I know all about what it takes to survive and outlast. Case in point? This woman blocks me from getting water slightly after Mile 2. She runs in front of me and gets in my way. I miss the water stop. Not a big deal, because I still remember Coach Shelly telling me how good long distance runners don’t even take a sip until mile 4 or 5. However, a little bit further up, this chic spits to her left, narrowly missing my shoes. I’m thinking it was more coincindence, and shrug it off. I finally make my way past her but as we depart Mile 4 and start entering those winding, sweeping hills neer the Meer, she passes by me, and within a few seconds of it, spits again, and again in my direction!

What the fuck?

I normally don’t let stupid shits like this distract me. I have a running plan for every race. For this race, for instance, my plan was to bank energy for the second loop. However, it was time she got what she deserved. Good thing she wasn’t a dude, or there would have been some shit to deal with for sure. I ran past her past Lasker Pool. That was the last time I would see her shitty-sissy-spitty-self again.

I finished Mile 5 in 8:39.02 (pace 8:28). Again, these are not splits that I normally would have been proud of. Why, only a year ago, I was cracking 7s for every mile. But again, I’ll take them. Much better than my splits just a week earlier, for sure!!

Mile 6, I was sure would be a fast mile. And it was. Starting near Fred Lebow’s status at the entrance of what would be the last leg of the New York City Marathon, most of the mile is downhill. I actually offered a peace sign to the black cat on Cat Hill as I passed it by. Just like I did on the uphills, I made sure to once again shorten my stride on the downhills too. Why? Impact is harsher on downhills, and it’s important to have my feet landing directly under my torso, and not overextend my strides, which happens mostly on downhills. I finished Mile 6 in 8:22.59 (pace 8:12).

Mile 7 is essentially going from the 72nd street entrance on the East Side, and looping around Central Park South until near Tavern on the Green. If it weren’t for the uphill grade the last ¼ mile, I might have come close to 8 flat, but was happy to settle with an 8:23.26 (8:13 pace).

Now we come to the second full loop. Physically, I was ready for it. I didn’t feel the fatigue that I felt at the tune up run last week. Mentally though, I might have been obsessing a bit much on being able to hold up. Confidence these days is not like it was last year. However, I did manage to reach inside and think of my 30 mile odyssey less than 2 weeks ago, and it helped. Mile 8 was completed in 8:44.34 (8:34 pace).

If the rolling hills had an impact on me on Mile 8, then I definitely did something about in Mile 9. Despite the increase in hill work on this mile over the last, I managed to somehow shave off 11 seconds, and at 8:33.05 (8:22 pace), I was pleased. The smile on my face was like Martin Landau at the end of the original Twilight Zone TV series episode, “The Jeopardy Room”. Ear to ear, baby!

I was looking at the time clocks however, and I didn’t know whether or not I would or could break 1:50. Statistically, it didn’t mean a thing, but morally it would be nice.

Mile 10 and another pass through Harlem Hill. No spitting sissies this time ‘round, just plain old good fashioned running. My 8:34.62 was a little slower than at my first pass (8:23), but still not bad!

Mile 11 was my worst mile. And I knew it would be. My game plan was to give it all I could the last two miles. Perhaps I mentally held back too much? Or was it the incline grade along the East Park Drive? Or perhaps, did that second pass along the winding and great uphill curves near Lasker Pool, finally did me in? I was beginning to huff a little. And with a finish lap of 8:55.05 (8:44 pace), I knew any chance of breaking 1:50 was gone. This meant that I would have to do well under a sub 8 for the next 2.1 miles, which of course is really more like 2.15 miles in reality.

Still, I had a lot of fight left in me. If I was going to go down, I would go down swinging. I came to wage war here today, and I wasn’t about to let anything break me.

And maybe that’s why I did Mile 12 in 8:06.33 (pace of 7:56). This was my fastest mile in the entire race and to do this at the tail end, is definitely a sign of encouragement.

Of course, it would not end there. I felt the old Alex, the 2010 Alex wanting to break through. The legs were a little sore now, as were the feet, but my strides were getting longer. No longer the half-gallon strides anymore. We’re talking a full gallon now, baby! I was whipping around past Sheep Meadow on my right, Wollman Rink on my left. I had to do everything I could to break 1:50.

The final nail in the coffin of 1:49:59 came when I passed the entry point of where the NYC marathon comes back into the park from Columbus Circle. Garmin was complaining that I was already at 1:49 and I knew I had too much distance to cover to break the finish line in under 1 minute. Still, I gave it all I could. I never quit, even in the face of personal secretive defeat, I always prevail, always giving the best I can possibly afford to give. I leave nothing at the end. Like Prefontaine, I run everytime as if it were my last run.

When I finished mile 13 at a cool 7:56.30 (7:46 pace), I didn’t notice. Honestly, I was sprinting the last tenth towards the finish, which was already nailed in sight. When I crossed the finish, I let out a primitive grunt of satisfaction followed by a Yeah! Such a fucking alpha male I am when it comes to this shit. The testosterone is already flowing through me again, even as I just sit on my ass to write this to all of you!!!

My finish time was 1:50:53. Pace of 8:28. I came in 1601 out of 4957 runners. Better than the top 3rd.

Not bad, but I will aim to do even better on my next half marathon!

After the race, I was trying to look for the guy dressed up in a ram costume, but wound up even better by seeing Thor and Flash in person.  Incidentally, Thor ran the Grete race in 1:42.  I only did better than that 1 time, LOL.

Not long after the race was over and before the raffle got under way, Jack Waitz, beloved husband of the late great Grete Waitz, appeared onstage at the bandshell with Mary Wittenberg.
Of course, what would Norwegian Day be without the famous homemade waffles?  Hardly surprising was a line of which I counted 97 people in front of me, to get their hands on a tasty mouthful. 
Being a good husband, and appreciating my wife's selfless act to take care of the kids this morning, I decided to wait on line to get the waffle.  Not for me, but for her
Alas, I finally arrive to the waffle finish line!
Of course, now came the hard part.....Getting the waffles home, in one piece....AND UNEATEN....
   (In my hot little hands--protected by a red nap)                                                                                      (can it survive me & a NYC cab ride home?)

Hours later, and with help of my microwave....another satisfied customer....

Karen was nice and shared some with me!  Guess my willpower for food is not as bad as I thought (on the other hand, had this been pizza?  Fugghedaboudit!!!!!)