Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Northern Boulevard Superthon.


 
The Northern Boulevard Superthon.

This was quite the weekend for running.  It didn’t initially shape out that way.  Not with having to spend nearly 3 ½ hoursdriving on Friday just to go and get them (and another 1 ½ hours back).  But it was a memorable weekend for theGonzalez family again.  Just when itseemed that we’ve done everything in 2012, something topps it.

Last week, Karen had made up her mind.  She signed up for the NYC 60k (formerly theKnickerbocker 60k) and decided that she was going to race it.  37.2 miles is beyond insane, but Karen wantedto get the plaque that was being handed out at the finish line.  And for $45, it was a bargain, pricewise.

The next day, as Karen went off to the races, I stayed hometo cook, clean and take care of 4 kids. It wasn’t easy, but it was fun.  Ieven got to run a 10k on my treadmill, while the babies napped.

Karen came home later that day, and while she could notcomplete the full course, she had done 26.2 miles.  This had been her original objective.  And she did it in 5:35, which had she notwalked in the end, she could have done in about 5:20.  Either time, it was incrediblyimpressive.  And not because she feltthat she hadn’t trained enough.  Butbecause since her double-meniscus tear knee surgery on July 30, Karen has runin 8 races, including a 10 miler (Bronx), 3 Half-marathons, and even a 14.2mile run too.  Thus, to do a 26.2 milerace (even if she DNF’d) was nothing to sneeze at.  In fact, and with her 29 events, she is MYhero and gets my vote for Female Runner of the Year for sure.

In the meantime, I’ve been feeling cooped up.  I’ve only raced 1 time in the last two months(Chicago marathon), and had my heart set on the NYC Marathon.   I realize that it was necessary to cancelthe race because of Hurricane Sandy.  In fact, I applauded it, except that it should have been postponed, not cancelled, the day after the storm.
With that, I finally decided I needed to get out of my ownfunk.  Karen as always, knew how I hadbeen feeling, and told me to go and be ME. And that’s just what I did.  Andwhat I did yesterday, was something that even just 24 hours later seemscompletely surreal to me. 

It was slightly after 1pm yesterday (Sun. Nov 18,2012).  I had just helped  Karen get the kids in her car.  From there, I drove to the train station,parked, ate the last of my 4 bananas (potassium loading), and set my Garminon.  I was dressing my black and red warcolors, and was locked and loaded (well at least from  a GU packet, B6, and Salt packet perspective;-) ).  I left for my run at approximate2pm.

I ran to the intersection of Main and Port WashingtonBoulevard, and turned right onto Port Washington  Blvd.. From there, I headed south all the way till I got to NorthernBoulevard.  Nothing unusual there.  Nothing yet, anyway.

I then turned right and headed west on NorthernBoulevard.  Once again, the usual shops,Brickwell, IHOP, Lord & Taylor. Before long, I was passing Community Drive and Macy’s, and before long Iwas already in Great Neck.

And I continued on.

Up the big hill and past Lakeville Road.  I sped by Peter Luger’s as I watched anIndian couple come out of the restaurant with their toddler already strapped tohis car seat.  I was thinking how manybenjamins they had spent on their tasty steak. 

I passed Great Neck road fork just to my right as Inegotiated with traffic crossing to my left side so that I can see what wasahead of me. 

Not long after it was Little Neck parkway on my left, and Ihad already done 7 miles.

And continued I did.

At around the 7.5 mile mark, my favorite intersection,Marathon Parkway.  And not long afterthat, I was passing the cross street where I had briefly dated Maritza Brachmanand continued on.

Karen had texted me just as I was crossing the Cross IslandParkway.  And I replied  “Nearing Queens!” in exhaltation!

I then saw the Ramada Inn on my right and the MarbellaRestaurant on the street level.  It wasthere, where Clara Luna was throwing my brother, Doug Botero, a surprisebirthday party.

I kept on running, and realized that I was nearing Bayside.

Bayside came and went. Next up on the LIRR path of my destruction, was Broadway, and I rememberthat train stop quite well too.  It wasthere where I had to make the choice to hop on a train that wasn’t yet there,or take yet another bus on my endless 9 hour journey home on day back in 2010.  That was the day my car died (you can readabout it here).

I was feeling fresh and handling all the hills that Northernhad to give quite nicely.  As I made myway  past the Clearview Expresswaycrossing, I made a quick pit stop at the CVS and got a Red Bull.  LOL.

Ahead in the distance and just past where Crocheron Avenuedumps into Northern, right after Studley Triangle, I fondly remembered the UAQuartet.  It hasn’t been there indecades, but I still remember as a child going to many a movie there, with Dougand other buddies of mine.

Then , I started to realize that I was in the area where I had filmed for my Generationsepics.  This nearly brought a tear to myeye, because I was filming here to talk about Grandpa Antonio and GrandmaMercedes.  I still remember the BurgerKing (still there) and the Nathans (not there anymore), that my Uncle Juan Carlosand I used to go to.  They lived rightaround the corner from there too.

I passed the large Firtst United Methodist Church, thepolice precinct, and then up ahead was the home of one of the most amazingmovie theatres ever to have shut its doors, the RKO Keith’s.    On Northern and Main, it was a staple foranyone who grew up in this county.  Thered velvet interior, promenade seating, and humongous stage/screen, gave offthe appearance that one was at Radio City Music Hall.  It was a beautiful theatre, and to go withthat beautiful memories.  I still fondlyrecall, one night, after a huge snowstorm, David Gullo, Jurgen Eckert, DaveKatz, Jimmy Lang, Doug, and myself heading down main to go see  the Rolling Stones movie, “Let’s Spend TheNight Together”.  We had just gotten outof McDonald’s, which still to this day was one of the best jobs I’ve everhad.  Of course there’s Patricia Lang(now and for a long time, Patricia D’Agostino) who worked there, and for whom Ihad the ultimate crush over as well. Perhaps that was a factor for why I liked that job so much.

But….back to reality!  So now, I find myself looking at the Northern Blvd crossing over theFlushing River, and wondering to myself…Oh No….Is there not a footpath?  

Fortunately, there was. On the right side.  I ran thewhole way,  half holding my nose from thesulfer belching of the factories along the plagued river beneath me, till I gotback down, just past Willets.  I wasalready seeing the proximity to CitiField, home of my loveable Mets, andrealized, “Crap! I just ran from my home to CitiField!”. 

I did get a little lost, which is okay because that onlyadded to my distance run.  I wound uphaving to back track a little because to get back onto Northern, I actually hadto run along the World’s Fair Marina.

Finally, I found a foot bridge that cleared me over theGrand Central Parkway, and I took that to Northern, except it turned out thatit was Astoria Blvd.  Ugh.  More Mileage. No worries. 

I made a left onto 85th Street and headed southfor about 5 blocks until I got to Northern, but not before getting a G2 todrink along with a dark chocolate/raspberry filled ghiardelli’s bar at the RiteAid.

Once one Northern, I was smiling.  Especially when I saw the Paraguayan bakerythat Jhonny had taken me to during the storm last month.  I ran all the way here.  Cool.

I ran down Northern, feeling great.  I passed the BQE, and remembered of an artstudio that Billy Schacht’s mom had once. She had Billy and me help her move paintings around.  I was 12 years old, and I think she paid $20,and PIZZA!

The BQE, Then Broadway, Then Steinway. I was now in Astoria.  Not far from where Ileana once/still (Ithink) works.  Being on this planet for47 years, I was greatful  of recognizingevery bit of my run.  So, while this wasthe first time attempting such a crazy stunt, all of the sections of my runwere familiar to me.  Today, I would bestringing them all up, like lights on a tree.

I wound up passing my Kia dealer, and liking my car so much,I posted it so on Facebook, as well as many other posts.  People wonder how I can post and run at thesame time.  Hey, that’s why they call methe Machine!

Next up was this white building that Clara Luna workedat.  I remember the poor thing working herbutt off to make ends meet for her son, my bro, Doug.  She was on an assembly line of sorts makingsmall parts, partially by hand.  That’sno job for a lady, but Doug’s mom was as tough on the outside, as she was assoft and loving on the inside.  Shepoured her heart and soul into her children, while her lazygood-for-nothing-Ecuadorian-reject of her husband, Mario, did nothing but getdrunk all day, and pretended he was a working super at a roach-infestedapartment.  God bless Clara, and may sherest in peace with the angels.

Finally, came the moment of truth.  I saw the subway stop up ahead.  Queens Plaza. YES!  The last time I was here, Iwas beginning a Half Marathon run with Carrie from our club.  Now I would be going solo over the Queensboro/  59th Street / Ed Kochbridge.  And more masochistically, Iwould be starting my 21st mile.  How was I feeling?  Great.  No cramping. I guess the 4 bananas I had before starting my run, did help out , afterall.

The sun was beginning to set upon my great city.  I ran over the bridge as fast as I could,without overstriding.  The sharp downramp on the Manhattan side has claimed many. I carefully navigated, making sure not to also get run over by anycyclists, but by now, it was twilight time, and there were no spinners to talkabout.

I was in Manhattan! Amazing.  Now it was time to dothe real damage, I thought.  Miles 20-30is where I make a man out of myself, or a fool. It all depended on training, how I had run leading up to this point, theweather, and luck.

I headed west on 60th street until I got to 5thAvenue.  Then I entered Central Park at59th.  By now it wascompletely dark outside.  My night gear,which consisted of my reflective clothing, and my LI Summer Series, red blinkerlight, were in effect.  I was stillfeeling great, and the idea now was to run in Central Park….And do a FULL loop. 

So, I headed for the classic counter-clockwise loop aroundmy church, my temple, my mecca.

Not surprisingly, there were many out there running.  More memories came to fore, as now I wasthinking of the times when I was a young lad, and would run from my apartmentin Kew Gardens, over the bridge, and right to the park.  The weather was almost as cold now as it wasback then too.  Gladly, the armwarmerswere holding up.

As I drove (legwise, of course) north along the UES, mymemories of meeting Karen came into play. This nearly brought a tear to me and I realized how much I missed thispark too.  I passed Fred Lebow (statue)on E 90th, and gave him an air-kiss to show my respect for the manwho probably changed my life more than he will ever know.  May he rest in peace as well.

As I passed the 102nd street transverse, I wasgetting tired now, but still feeling good. The amount of runners dwindled significantly around here.  Most were opting to turn left at thetransverse, rather than attacking the monster known as Heartbreak Hill orHarlem Hill.  Not only was  I going to face it head on, but do so…as Ientered my 26th Mile.

Using all of my mental tactics, looking down, taking shorterstrides, focusing on something , I braced for impact, and made my way throughhell, but was able to survive.  TheFacebook chatter was getting pretty large and amazing.  I had over 45 posts in response to mine fromthis run by now.

When I finally passed my 26.2 mile mark, I had finally feltvindicated for a race that never took place. The NYC Marathon.  I love it howpeople tell runners to “Get Over it”. Hell, I’m the first person to understand, really, the devastation ofHurricane Sandy.  Trust me, I totally GETIT.  But, I’ve also never always been thequiet type to keep my thoughts to myself (hence, this blog, lol), and I’m avery honest joe.  And honestly, while Ibelieve it was the RIGHT decision to cancel this race,…it should have been donesooner….and as a POSTPONEMENT.  Theyfucked it all up (Mayor Bloomberg, etal). Anyways, the feeling for what I had just accomplished, totally ECLIPSEDthose negative feelings I’ve been fostering for weeks now.  I was elated!

B ut I still had more gas in the tank.   Keep going?

YES.

I made my way past the Tavern On The Green area, whichironically was at the 27.2 mile mark, and continued south until I wrapped backeast and around to the 59th street exit chute.  When I got there, Imade a right and went down the 1/3 of a mile to Central Park South. 

I was at around 28 miles, and now I was thinking.  RECORD.

My longest run ever was a 30 miler that I laid down alongthe hills of Rancho Palos Verdes in California. And I did this in 2011.  It wasone of the FEW running highlights I had had that year, but unmistakeably, oneof the grittiest performances ever. From the Pacific Ocean waters of RedondoBeach, I had soared to over 1,000 feet in elevation .  So even if I broke this record, that California run may still be thegreatest feat ever for me (thus far) in running.

But I am a machine. And machines are meant tooutperform.  I had to break thisrecord.  I had to bring it home toNYC.  It wasn’t just an idea anylonger.  It was a mandate.

Out of the park, I went east on 59th until I gotto Park Avenue.  Then I turned right ontoPark, and headed south, towards the Met Life building.  I was still feeling good.  Must have been.  In addition to dodging people and cars(mostly people), I was also posting on FB as I continued with my progress.

I came up to JP Morgan Chase bank headquarters (on 47th).  The nausea of that building, finally hadme  turn right and away from ParkAvenue.  I’ve seen enough of the bully,greedy corporate banks for one day.

I headed west until I got to 5th Avenue, and thenturned left and headed south again. Along the way, hordes of Holiday Shoppers were out and about.  I was getting cold, and feeling so out ofplace. 

As I looked up I saw the Empire State Building.  It looked beautiful. And as I looked at mywatch, I could see that I was approaching my record of 30 miles.  At this point, I figured I would break therecord after passing the Empire State, and for some nostalgic reason, I did notwant it to happen that way.

So, I ran south of the landmark (to 32nd) andthen turned back around. 

Finally, I made it back to the Empire State Building, andjust like that,  a new record. 30.01miles.

But I wasn’t done yet, because I still needed to go to PennStation to get my train to take me back home!

So, I ran west on 34th street.   I could see Macy’s Herald Square, a greatplace to be at this time of the year. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I’ll ever shop again, since they carryDonald Trump’s line of fashion.  And inmy opinion, he is a racist, from what I’ve heard him say about Obama, and hisnonsense about the birth certificate. Amazing, what runs through my head….even after 30 miles!!!!

I finally, get to 34th and 8th, justone block north of Penn.  At this point,I decide that I need to do 31 miles, so I head south for that one block, butrather than going into the station, I cross the street and run the block aroundthe General Post Office.   And howfitting was that?  Let me explain.

In 1984, a foolish young boy named Alex Gonzalez wasstanding in line for over 12 hours to hand a postal employee a self-addressed,stamped envelope made out to the New York Road Runners Club.

He was looking to enter in his first Marathon ever.  Between Alberto Salazar in 1982, and Rod “KickDoes The Trick” Dixon in 1983, Alex wanted to do this race so badly.  He waited and moved a little bit at a timearound this block.

And now, I’m RUNNING around this block.  Again. 

And when I finished, I started crying out of joy.  31 miles. DONE.

I crossed the street near Madison Square Garden,  and ran into Penn Station.

Mission Accomplished.

Of course, I had the appetite of a raging lunatic.  I so wanted to eat a steak, but it was 7:09,and the next train after 7:18 to Port, was 8:18.  I was shivering cold and felt like one of thecrazies in Penn.  Heck, I think I am!

I settled on an Angus Select combo and super-sized it.  And yep, you guessed it.  McDonald’s.

This record might be broken down the road, but just like RPVin California, it will always be one of my most memorable moments in my runningannals. J

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Marathon That Never Was.


There are two kinds of suffering going on in the city this weekend.  Depending on who you are, and where you are, you will get different responses.

To some, the suffering is real and life threatening.  Homes destroyed.  Lives gone.  No signs of help anywhere.  No clue as to what the future will hold.  The displaced.  The cold.  The despair.

To others, the suffering is only temporary, but just as real.  The mind has a way of playing tricks.  Regardless whether suffering is real or imagined, it's real if the mind believes it to be.  

I decided to show my support today by heading out to Runner's Mecca, Central Park.  It was important to be with the people for whom I've been with since 2004 and before that, since 1984.

New York City took a hit last week, and this weekend it was the Runner's turn.

The NY Knicks played in Manhattan on Friday night
The Brooklyn Nets played in Brooklyn last night.
The Giants will play in New Jersey later on today.
But there was no New York Marathon.  There's the hit.

Then was the case of that small group of people, about 20,000+ that flew in from all over the world, spending thousands to do the race.  Clearly, they wouldn't have spent the money if they hadn't had the money.  But they were expecting something in return and never got it.

From a high-up authority in the NYRR, I heard that the NYRR club could not get the guaranteed security to host the race, and that there was much "hatred" especially from Staten Islanders.   Understandable.  The Marathon, along with the sporting events I mentioned above, should have been postponed.  This person from the NYRR, who shall remain nameless, and was at the finish line also told me today in Central Park, that they wanted to postpone.  But could not, because Staten Island refused to give an okay to any make-up date.  

My take on this, is that they were so insulted by the city's insistent to hold the race, despite the situation at hand, that Staten Island pretty much told NYRR, NYC and everyone involved to, "Stay The F Out". 

Perhaps, the course needs to change?  As it is, Queens and the Bronx have very limited territory.

When I got the park, I could not believe the thousands of runners out there.  They were from so many countries.  And all were in their "battle" gear too, running everywhere.  More heart-warming than that were the people cheering us on from the grandstands, the road, everywhere.  It felt great, and all the while, so depressing.  The weather was perfect today.  Sunny and mid-40s.  In fact, it would have been one of the best weather days for the NYC Marathon, I've ever been involved with.  Perhaps, even the best.

Typically, the arch of achievement.  Today, a ghost.  :(

This was before going for my "Conciliatory 10k" run. 
The video above shows the pandemonium..  This was taken from the grandstand by the finish line. It was the first time, I was ever able to go up onto the grandstand.  Very sad, but also great at the same time.
 
A group of people on Facebook this Friday decided to do the 4 loops around Central Park, and called themselves, Run Anyway, Marathon.  You have to admire their spirit...
 
Runners from Paraguay.
 
Runners from Mexico (above & below).


The French.
For my bro, Doug. (Columbia, in the house!)
The inscription Monster Storm, indicated that this runner got this done fairly recently.

So, I started my run.  It was insane.  There were times where I was sprinting, and other times, just a standstill to wait for congestion to clear up.  I started at the finish line, and went counter-clockwise to where we would have entered the park had the race taken place (E. 90th St/5th Ave). Then I reversed course back to the finish line.  I never exited the park, as one traditionally does during the race.  That's because there were so many runners in the park, I just felt like I was "home".

I'll be posting a movie of this soon...but here I was at the finish...and then someone yelled "I can take that to a new level" and photobombed me with her own horns!  Cool.



Here's the long and raw (and probably boring to most y'all) fottage of my last 2 miles of my run to the faux finish line....




Saturday, November 3, 2012

Marathon Canceled. Let's Go Eat Pizza


 
What a week this has been.  First and foremost, let me start by giving my loving heartfelt sympathies to the family, friends and loved ones of those who lost their lives, untimely, because of this storm.
Next up , was my daughter Stephanie.  For weeks she was extremely excited to represent Nyack High School in the Empire Mock Trial Competiton.  It was being held at the Kings County Supreme Court of all places.  I went to see her on Saturday, and she was magnificent.  They competed the next day, but in order to reach the finals they had to be invited to come back on Monday.  Unfortunely, they were not invited, but that was OK because I was very proud of her (she was the first Freshman in Nyack HS history, I was told, to be selected for this) and also I was okay because of the next MAJOR news segment...
The storm. 
New York got caught off guard.  Despite the warnings, and we've heard them all time and again, this was the first such occurence that I can remember, when the warnings were underestimated rather than the other way around.  And the warning were pretty dire, yet the situation was even worse.
My company smartly decided to stay closed on Monday, and for a little while I was logged in remotely assisting however I could.  I also watched in disbelief, as Lindenhurst, my old neighborhood, had rivers where streets were that I used to run through.  People were canoeing.  This was on ABC local news.  The worst part about all of this, was that this was around 11am, a good 10 hours before the storm even started to really kick ass on the NY-NJ-CT tristate area.
Long story about the storm short...We lost power around 6:20pm this past Monday.  No power.  No heat.  Very little hot water.  No internet.  No land lines.  No mobile service.  No communication to anyone.  I had to charge my cellphone either in the car or off the USB port off the laptops.  But that didn't matter because I had to literally drive out of town just to get a signal.
Over the next day or two I scrambled around frantically, to get dry goods for my family, ice, batteries, charcoal, etc.  Anything to weather the aftermath.
And if the storm was bad, the aftermath was worse.
That same day Monday, I had sent our nanny home because she was feeling sick.  She did the noble and right thing to come to work, but wisely, she had her husband wait outside (unbeknownst to me), and within minutes, I knew that she was sick.  She mentioned about having a fever, and a very sore throat.  I asked her if she was taking antibiotics.  She told me, "Not Yet".
I sent her home.
I then proceeded to Lysol the heck out of anything and everything, but it was already too late.
Later that night I would wake up in the cold and dark house that was our new, temporary reality, only to find myself with a sore throat too.  Oddly, it was an acute pain on the right side.  Using one of the mag LED flashlights, I looked into my throat and was fairly horrified to see something that I had not seen in a long, long time.  A rectangular looking swash of white where pink tissue should have been instead.  Strep throat.  Just great.  5 days before my marathon, and all without electricity or anyway to get a hold of a doctor.
Fortunately for me, I was able to obtain Azithromycin (5 day) the next day, but not before I whopper fever had set in, and not before my throat felt like it had swallowed a grapefruit either.  I don't even remember much of what happened on Wednesday, and while Thursday I started feeling better, I still had no way to even contact my job, and dared not venture outside while I was still sick, so I did the unthinkable and had my spouse call in for me. 
And if you think that's something.  It gets better.
Having already taken Friday off to go to the Javitz center and get my number, I was fortunately feeling well enough to venture out to get my number (that was yesterday, btw).  I was still somewhat under the weather, but I felt confident that I would be at least 90% by Sunday if I continued to rest and take care of myself.  The house was dark every night by 630pm, so getting to sleep early was no longer an issue.
We drive to Great Neck, as we were told that the LIRR had just resumed service from there to Penn.  And we chuckled when we learned we could've taken the train from Port.  This would not be the first time we heard bogus news...And keep that in the back of your heads kiddies, because along that line, what happens at around 5:20pm yesterday (Friday, November 2nd) is what would be the grand-salami of bogus revelations, that I will not soon forget in my lifetime.
After we get our merchandise, we go to Equinox at Columbus Circle to get massages.  We can ill afford this, but getting a rubdown 48 hours or less before an undertaking of such a physically stressful event such as a Marathon, deserves it.
We were going to even do a light jog in Central Park, but the park was closed.  It sucked, but it was another even more encouraging sign that I was feeling much better.
Unfortunately, we had to do a mad scramble right after the massage in order to make the 4:14 train back to Great Neck.  And while we're at it with foods that start with the letter "S" as in Salami, why not add another one to the list.  As in, "Sardines".  Karen and I just barely made it to the train, to find people spilling out of each doorway to each car on the train.  There were so many people looking to leave on this train, that they just couldn't all fit inside.  The city has been in a insane mode left behind by the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and this would be no different.  We finally made it to the last train car, and begged to squeeze in.  We were so tightly pressed, that I could feel a little pain in the area of my lower back that had been injured in that horrific sled accident I had early in 2011. 
Eventually though, we finally got to move in further.  And we were now standing slightly away from the "sardine" area and in the aisle.  Having the room to take my phone out of my pocket, I then notice, that my text notifications sounds were turned off.  How else would that explain the message I got from Dolly that read (in Spanish) that "We got the lights back!".  At this point, I felt like yelling it to everyone on the train! Getting the power back in our house was as if we had hit the lottery!
It was about 5:09pm. Finally, we would come home to good news all-around! Despite all the agony that we had to put up with; the cold 50 degree, dark nights. The searching for batteries. And even the night before when I spent nearly 6 hours looking for my Garmin watch, when all along it was under a tub of cold creme that was placed by Karen without realizing the watch underneath. What a nightmare! Now, visions of a brightly-lit, hot home was coming to mind. 
To add even more joy to my joy, I checked my email, and saw something else.  This time it was in my AOL inbox.  It was ftimestamped the same day at 3:31pm and it was from Wayne Coffey, of the Daily News..... .....What???
"Hi Alex,
I was reading about you on the FPR Website.  You've certainly put in some road work this year, with impressive results.  If you have a minute could youemail me back or text or call me (and then he inserted his reach number). 
Thanks Very Much,
All the Best,
Wayne Coffey
Daily News"
WOW!
Wayne Coffey is a sports report for the New York Daily News.  He was also last involved with New York Mets pitcher, R.A Dickey, and his book "Wherever I Wind Up".  He's interviewed thousands of sports legends in NY, and for him to reach out to me was an incredible honor.
I bought this book the day it came out.  Read it cover-to-cover.  Must Read!

 
I immediately emailed him back.  At this point I was in cloud nine.  Karen was pretty happy too, but that was because she had just gotten a seat as we got near to Bayside. 
Nonetheless, that didn't cure all the ills.
Just the night before, the Borough President of Staten Island issued a statement that was directed to Mayor Bloomberg.  It was harsh.  He basically called out the Mayor for acting completely callous and insensitive towards Staten Island.  The SI Ferry was not operational, and the locals only means for getting help in and out of the island was on the very same bridge, the Verrazano-Narrows, that is used to kick-off the NYC Marathon, and send some nearly fifty thousand runners across it.
It was almost an omen when I saw this on the news app, because I had not been able to get any internet over my 3G iPhone 4 until now.  I had to get up to go to the bathroom, and after coming back in to bed from using its Flashlight app, I decided to check to see if anything else on the phone was working.
A bad omen indeed.
I was already hearing on the AM radio,  about all kinds of rumblings on how the runners would not be welcomed this year due to the fact that the race should not be run so close to the aftermath of the storm.  Especially, no less from the borough where we were to start from (Staten Island), that arguably had sustained the most damage (I say arguably, because nothing can compare to the 110 homes that were lost to fire as a result of this 'Frankenstorm' in Breezy Point, Queens).
Heaaring of this made me feel guilty to run it.  I thought we were supposed to serve as an inspiration to the people of NY.  To show that we weren't going to let a storm knock us down.  And when on the radio the next morning, the Mayor himself said that this race was still a go, I figured that what I had heard the night before was just a handful of people.  I was probably being ignorant, and I accept it.  I wanted to do so well in this Marathon, especially after just falling short of BQ'ing in Chicago, that I was already telling Karen and others, that I had a surprise in store for everyone. And I did.  The problem that affected me on Miles 21-26 in Chicago, was because I didn't have enough residual potassium in my system.  And for the last three days, even sick and all, I've been loading up on Potatoes and Bananas. 
The sway factor for me to no longer feel guilty though was when I was at the expo and saw how NYRR was calling this Marathon as the "Race To Recover".   Looking back on this from yesterday, it was really just a 'spin', if you will.   I say this, because nothing can 'spin' away real tragedy, such as loss of life.  And in the case of this SuperStorm, the body count is up to 60+ so far (and still counting at this point).
But, I was still of the mind, that if my city wanted this race, and if I felt ready to do this race (which I felt that I was), that I would be positive about it and KILL KILL KILL, like "The Machine" always does!
So, even after the amazing text telling me that we got power back in the house,  and the even more amazing email I had gotten from Wayne Coffey, all I still kept thinking about was how excited I was to be running in my 11th NYC Marathon in less than 40 hours. 
However, every epic tale has a precise moment when all good things go to shit.
And for me, that first sign of stink, came at exactly 5:20pm, although I didn't even recognize it.
BUZZ!!! 
My cellphone goes off.  I look down to see that Stephanie had texted me.
"grandpa just called me and said the nyc marathon was cancelled"
Haha!!! What a kidder, I thought!  :)
Having known everything that I went through to get to this race, and especially in the last week, I thought Stephanie had been really funny to kid around like that.
But the "newsflashes" on my dwindling-power iPhone didn't stop there.  Ben Mandel of our group, mentioned something as well, though I only caught the trailer of it.  Something to the effect, "You can always run a marathon next year, but you can---- and the rest cutoff.
Then my St. Francis Prep buddy, John Ginty chimed in.  "MARATHON CANCELED".
OMG!  Is this for real?????
Karen and I had just left a packed Jacob Javitz center with our bib numbers and shirts.  There had to be at least 10,000 people there easily.  This can't be real.  Can it????
We get off at Great Neck and walk back to our car.  No ticket, Thank God, but now, I turn on the radio.  And just like back in 1979, when I didn't believe that Thurman Munson was killed, and figured that if this were true, that I would immediately hear it on the news the moment I'd turn on my then B&W 17 inch Motorola TV, I figured I would have to hear something as soon as I'd tune into WINS1010 or CBS radio or the FAN. 
Oh boy.  What a whopper.
I heard some listener praising Mike Francesa of the WFAN Sports Radio Station for "getting it right" about the cancellation of the NYC Marathon.  I was in beyond disbelief.  I was absolutely stunned and dumbfounded.  At this point, I really didn't care why it was cancelled or who cancelled it.  I will be brutally honest, and just flat out admit, that I was really sad.  But, as we drove home, I started putting all of the pieces together, and I came to the conclusion, that running this race would not have been the right thing to do, after all.  Perhaps the biggest of all reasons why I do Marathons, and especially the New York City Marathon, is because of the support of the spectators.  How could I expect strangers to root for me, when for example, they themselves or their relatives may be without power or shelter?  Understandably, a race is a great thing to rally around, but not in times like these.  Not when we're still not out of the woods, and people are still suffering.   I had been waffling myself between whether this marathon was the right or wrong thing for a couple of days now, but after realizing the heavy burden that everyone was still undergoing, this was not the time for this "parade" to take place.   This galvanized me to believe for once and for all that this was the right decision.  
I felt horrible for Karen though, because this was her only Marathon this year, and by her own accounts, her LAST marathon.  She wanted no part of Marathons anymore, opting to make 1/2 marathons her longest distance to race in.
When we got home, we told our Nanny of the new developments.  There was no need to have her sit anymore since there was no race anymore.  I turned on the TV, for the first time in nearly a week, just to see the CEO of the NYRR Club, Mary Wittenberg with ABC news.  She was 1 inch away from breaking down into tears on National Television.  She was saying all of the right things, but in her heart, I knew how much this must have killed her....
Not to mention how much this must have killed everyone at the Javitz that was still there?
Or how about the tens of thousands of runners that came in from all over the world, just to be told at the last minute, uhhh, sorry bud...No race for you! 
How much money was thrown down the toilet, I wondered, and how unfair it was to tell people at the last minute.
I broke myself away from the TV and the drama, and called Wayne Coffey.  The conversation dropped several times because we STILL didn't have a good signal in my town.  I wound up freezing my ass off in the backyard, just to do the interview....but it was worth it!  :)
He himself had explained how the nature of the interview had to change, in light of the recent and dramatic event of the cancellation of the Marathon, so the questions changed from what he had planned to ask.  I answered, truthfully and passionately, as I always do. As any "Machine" would.
I looked at the ING NYC Marathon and NYRR boards on facebook.  What a bloodbath.  Brother against Brother.  Runner against Non-Runner.  Storm Victim against Race Volunteer worker, and Foreigners who spent tons of money for nothing, against those who felt relieved the race was cancelled.


I couldn't go on reading.  It was all too much to digest.  Especially, and on a lighter note, after I had just digested 3 slices of Pepperoni Pizza.  Falling off the "food-diet" wagon, was the realization that this race would not be held.  Not even postponed.  BUT CANCELED ALTOGETHER!
I finally ended my crazy day with seeing Billy Joel, Steven Tyler and Bruce Springsteen all perform together to bring helpd fundraise relief for the vitcims of Hurricane Sandy.  And in between, the devastation they showed was incredible.  I could not believe that this was in our own "backyard".
And speaking of devastation, please Jimmy Fallon, please.  I beg of you.  No more singing.  You suck!
The next morning, today, I woke up feeling so unsatisfied.  I had this killer running outfit, and all for naught.  It was like dressing up in a NASA space outfit only to, and in the end, go climb into a tree house.
So, indignantly I put my outfit on anyway, and even attached my now useless Marathon running number, and drove into Queens (which now looking back was also unwise, because of the gas shortage) to run with my club.  Forest Park was an utter disaster. Dozens of trees, some as wide as 6 feet in diameter, laying across the road.  We had to hit the trails more than the road to avoid the mess.
The Marathon That Never Was. (BTW-Alternate title to the 'Let's Go Eat Pizza' title!)
I had breakfast with Pauline Seto after the run, and purchased the final copy of the New York Daily News at the Bagel store on Lefferts in Kew Gardens (right next to the movie house).


 
And sure enough on Page 39, three paragraphs down, I read....
"I thought it was a joke," said Alex Gonzalez, 47, of Port Washington, L.I., who has run New York 10 times and found out the news via text message from his daughter. "I was in complete disbelief".
YESSS!!!!!!!
To my surprise the next paragraph was also from me  (my oh my, how vain am I now, lol!)
"It's just insane, the way they handled it.  I think it was the right decisionthat was made at the wrong time.  it's one thing if they had made the decision earlier in the week.  But to get to the Expo (a marathon gala at he Javitz Center), spend money on merchandise and have us all psyched up to run and then have the rug pulled out from us, that's just not the way to do it."
 

After I got back home, fed the babies and put them down for a nap, I had an incredible urge to write something covering everything I felt about this experience.  I was also compelled to help my office and do some work since I was out sick for a few days, but I needed to get this off of my chest.  When one trains for an entire solid year, just to get stood up at less than 40 hours from the start? Uh-uh. No way!", I thought.
So I wrote this huge open letter both to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the New York Road Runner's Club (NYRR) on Facebook. Not only on my personal page, but also on the pages of the ING NYC Marathon and also on that of the NYRR site.

It went like this....

Hey Mayor Mike: 

I’m one of the perhaps few, that until last week, was a supporter of yours (not too many left, since you all but “bought” yourself an illegally-obtained extra term as Mayor).  But this week, you not only proved to be human, but quite insensitive, and kind of moronic.

I understand, and even appreciate how you were trying to show the world how tough and resilient New Yorkers are to the rest of the world, but there is a line between showing we’re tough and showing we’re insensitive.  You, Mr. Mike, were insensitive.

And if you think that my words don’t qualify as a benchmark for common sense, then think this…my wife and I were training for the NY City Marathon for 1 year now.  The race means a lot to us, and even with dealing with taking care of my wife and 15-month old twins through Hurricane Sandy, Strep Throat and No Power, Hot Water, Heat or Mobile Service for nearly a week, I was ready to tough it out tomorrow thru the 5 boroughs.  However, what I was prepared to do versus what the City of New York should have done could not have been further apart. 

Either you acted insensitive beyond belief, or you and your informational sources are so out of touch that you have completely played your cards as an incompetent leader.  There’s a difference between being a good businessman and being a good leader.  And you sir, have shown me that you are not the latter.

When the storm came through here and obliterated people’s lives, homes and memories, you and your staff probably did not realize just how bad it was and just how ill-prepared your emergency support, transportation and utility companies were to handle such an emergency.  Perhaps no one can be prepared to bounce back from a storm of epic proportions such as this, but considering everything that was being presented to you early on…..why didn’t you come out and cancel the Marathon right away?

When you mentioned on Thursday, that the Marathon would go on, and then mentioned later on in your statement on how the race produces $340 million dollars of revenue per year, I would expect that, as a good business man, that you knew that long ago.  So it wasn’t like the Marathon was an afterthought for you to reverse your decision at the last minute.  The Marathon is a BIG TIME money maker for the City of New York and despite the loss of revenue, nothing like that should even be compared to the loss of life, property, and utter devastation that this city was (and is) dealing with.

As a fellow runner, one of the reasons I like to run is because I get a thrill of being supported by other people.  I run to show people that one can do anything if they set their mind to it.  That hope in the face of despair, is light in what otherwise would be a dark place to live. 

But you can’t give people hope, when the perception is that you are stealing from them.

Every year the NYC Marathon, requires a tremendous amount of resources, such as generators, water, police, medical staff, cleanup crews, you name it.  And for even those who say that these resources were already dedicated to this race, and that it doesn’t impact those who are in dire need, then tell that to the people who live on the shorelines of Long Island, Brooklyn and Staten Island.   Did you really think that those generators in Central Park that were housing the volunteers were going to go unnoticed?  It made the front page of the NY POST!  

You live comfortably in the Upper East Side, Mayor Mike.  I know.  I know because I lived just a little bit north from you, on 102nd Street.  You had electricity, heat, and running water.  People just south of 34th street had none of that.  A friend of mine stated that Giuliani, through all of his heavy-handed ways which sometimes irked people, would have been visiting every single place at least twice by now.  Perhaps you’ve done that yourself too Mayor Mike.  But if you did, then how can you have waited so long to cancel this race?  A race that is large enough that should’ve demanded a cancellation long before yesterday?

The good people of the tri-state area, especially those here in NYC, don’t want a marathon.  They don’t care if I ran 1200 miles, and competed in 30+ races this year.  To them, all of that is trivial and irrelevant.  And while as a runner, these things mean a lot to me, they are right to think that way.  You can only start to enjoy the little things in life if the major things are met first, like shelter, clothing, electricity, hot water, heat and food.  Otherwise, it’s not only irrelevant, but it would be downright annoying and insulting.  Even as a runner, if I were in the situation that some of these poor people in Staten Island, Breezy Point,  Long Beach, and coastal communities of New Jersey were in, I would be insulted, and would never want to even look at another runner ever again.  Some runners may disagree with me, and that’s cool.  I can take it.  But to those runners I say that can do what we do, because we are not in harm’s way like these poor souls are right now.  And right now is not the time to host a “parade” like the borough president of Staten Island has said. 

Of course, having said that, I won’t lie to you.  I am upset I’m not running the marathon.  Mostly though it’s because my wife and I have lost over $400 in entry fees, $240 in massages (that my wife and I only get once a year), and another $200 in upgrading points on my Hilton Honors reward card just to be able to afford a room in the city.  All of this, so that I could have SOME way, without power and transportation, to be able to make a 4:30am bus from the New York Public Library on 42nd Street, to Staten Island.

All of this could have been averted, if the city stepped in right away and said, Marathon cancelled (or on a lighter note, “Alex, you may now start eating your pizza”).  But instead of making the right decision at the right time, Mayor Mike, you have made the right decision at the WRONG time.  And by doing this, you have now not only offended the city, particularly to those who are still suffering, but you have offended the runners as well.  Runners like me, who loved running this race because of the incredible annual outpour of support that New Yorkers selflessly and unconditionally give to us.  Support for which, thanks to you and your staff may have sustained irreversible damage.   Though I would have run, I know I would have felt downright guilty coming to work and answering yes to “Did you run the Marathon”. 

Remember how Mayor Lindsay will always be known as the Mayor who let Queens stay buried in snow for two weeks back in ’68?  Regardless, if he had done any good that has been his claim to fame since and forever.  Well now, you have taken the sanctity and joy of this Marathon, and have implicated it, along with yourself, for years and years to come. 

I could stop here, and most would get the amount of dissatisfaction I have over the series of events which have taken place, but it gets even better.   Because while past Mayors, like John Lindsay,  snow shoveled  only arrogance and indifference in the faces of the local people he supposedly served,  you, Mr. Mike, have further upset tens of thousands of runners, and family members and friends from abroad.  They traveled from all parts of the world, to do this beloved race.  They spent thousands of dollars, and have travelled for days.  Some because they came from as far as Australia, and others, well others because LaGuardia Airport looked like a swimming pool up until 48 hours ago.   You kept mentioning that the race was on, and they all spent their money to come and perform.  And once they got here, and took up shelter (in places that could have gone to those displaced by the storm), or who didn’t (because their room was given to someone in need), you issue the public statement at 5:20pm that the Marathon is off.   

Have you ever read the Peter Principle.  It was a book that got published in 1969.  The gist of the book basically explains how people like you were promoted based on achievement, success and merit until you were eventually promoted beyond your level of ability.  Perhaps you should have stayed in business and stick to running money and not people’s lives.

Few may remember your “We Will Prevail” message when you were sworn in,  but mark my words; EVERYONE will remember you as “Bait-and-Switch Marathon Mike”.

And now to the NYRR Club….

Mary Wittenberg is one of the most positive people on Earth, and when she puts on a show, there’s no doubt that she likes to do it in grand style.  Why else on Earth then, would set aside her law degree to exclusively head the running club in charge of the World’s (maybe no longer) Greatest Marathon? 

I truly watched in utter pain, as she spoke on Television Friday night.  I was out of power all week (half of it in bed sick, no less), and when I finally got home and the lights were on, the first thing on TV I see is poor Mary speaking sadly as if she were going to cry.  I know she wanted this race to happen.  It’s the culmination of a full year’s worth of planning, hard work and sacrifice by her and her crew.  But she and her crew also need to understand, that regardless of why the Marathon was cancelled at such late notice, that it’s not acceptable to the runners either.  She and the rest of the New York Road Runners need to realize that the NYRR had collected possibly as much as 10 million dollars in entry fees and all that the runners have little to show for it.  And telling the runners, that a million dollars was going to be given to aid in the relief efforts, while nice, is not a tax deduction for the runners.  And that’s not acceptable either.   And not even offering a make-up date for this race, without giving any reason as to why, is also not acceptable to most runners.   And what about the medals?  Because for as petty as this may sound, maybe, and as my friend put it, they should be mailed to each runner with their bib, as a way to say “Thanks For Donating Your Membership Fee to the Relief Efforts for Superstorm Sandy”.  

No, in the end, and in typical fashion, the NYRR’s club has decided to offer a guaranteed entry to all who missed this year for next year’s race, yet we will all have to pay again.  And if that’s not a smack in the face to those who were supposed to have run tomorrow, imagine what a smack in the face it will be to those who didn’t get in the lottery this year.  They will have ZERO chance next year.  And especially to those who fall under the rule of getting accepted next year automatically, if they got rejected 3 years in a row.  What a mess!

While the investment one makes both physically and emotionally, to compete in a 26.2 mile race is tremendous, at least, in that aspect, we all still come out ahead.  We will still have our health for the reward of having trained all year long.   However, perhaps the biggest mess of all from the perspective of the runners of course, is the amount of money and time that runners have invested into this race, and in the end we come away with another much-less-than-satisfying response from the New York Road Runners.   I might be jumping the gun by saying that this, along with their huge price jumps in their races, the last minute Brooklyn Half Marathon mess, the Baggage Option Elimination scandal, is enough to demand for new leadership over at 9 E. 89th Street.  Then again, if we didn’t press on and complained like us runners did a few months ago, with the Baggage Check mess, and then perhaps we wouldn’t have gotten it reinstated.

Thanks Mayor Mike and your staff of incompetent advisors for your callous and insensitive fumbling to those hurt by the storm, and equal thanks to the Road Runners for your typical asinine post-handling (thus far) of this Marathon Cancellation.   And yes, we know.  The Expo is open today at the Javitz, and we can still pick up our number.

My God, do you people at NYRR even get it?

Give the runners the choice to get their fees refunded and/or their medals and receipt (now as a donation) mailed to them with a thank you letter, and perhaps…Just perhaps, lawyers will only be able to sue over the cost of millions in transportation and lodging.

Aye Yi Yi.

And to think I took antibiotics to get better for THIS.

At some point, I will get OVER this.  But even if this race is REALLY not going to be rescheduled (get over it, Machine, it won't!)  and even if I didn't do the Turkey Trot in Port Washington.  Which I plan on doing BIG TIME now more than ever, I have had the greatest single year in my 'running' career ever.  I can't wait to do my end of year recap.
My wife mentioned today that on the radio she heard that the sponsors pulled out, and that's why the city had no choice but to cancel it.  Wise move on the part of the sponsors not wanting their name associated with bad feelings from the spectators looking on saying WTF perhaps, but it shouldn't have come to this.  Bloomberg and his advisors (NYPD perhaps one of his advisors) should have cancelled this immediately before people spent so much money to run.
Lastly, and if I were the NY Road Runners, I would send all the participants their finishers medal with a receipt for the entry fee, so that we can use it as a charity tax write off. That, plus a letter apologizing, but telling us how we're all in it next year, without having to pay the fees again.   Well, maybe the fees is a bit much, but honestly.  What about 'dem medals?  We paid for them, didn't we? 
Then, maybe then, the only lawsuits they and the city will get will be from some of those who spent thousands of dollars travelling abroad.  Sure, the contract probably states that their not liable due to "acts of God" and the like, but if contracts were that binding in stone, then you probably wouldn't need so many lawyers in this country to help fight them and break them down.
What else (and what more) must I say.  It is what it is.
Peace. Out.