Friday, December 28, 2012

2012: THE YEAR THAT WAS MINE



 

How inconspicuous can a thought be at first.  And how unimaginable is the imagination of dream building.  When I entered the 2012 season, my only ambition was to do better than 2011.  And considering the year I had in 2011, I was asking for much.  In fact, just staying healthy, both physically and mentally, would be an achievement.

So when I barely made the starting line to the Joe Kleinerman race, I wasn’t surprised.  And when I didn’t break an 8 minute pace after crossing the finish line on that pleasant January 7th day, it was quite alright.  The fact that I was in “mecca” running again a full race felt great.  I had a lot to look forward to that year, and even my hopes would be less than what I would truly achieve.

In life, sometimes you just have to believe in yourself in order to get yourself going.  I cannot stress how important in life it is to build a plan.  The hope of happiness, is nearly as wonderful as the success of it.  What, after all, is reality, unless we can dream about how we want to succeed?

Interestingly, it would be a few weeks before I had even realized that I did enjoy a statistical success at the Joe Kleinerman.  For though I did not break an 8minute pace, I did set a course record for this race.  I was still innocent about my capabilities, and perhaps too humble, given the humbling events of 2011 (coming within a ¼ inch of paralysis, loss of my mother, loss of my inheritance, physical & emotional breakdown and eventual emergency room overnight…..and then….the birth of my beautiful twin babies, that for a long time prior I thought I would never want children again…and finally living thru the horrible ordeal of my father-in-law’s untimely end which occurred on December 31st).  2011 was a tremendously difficult year.  It would take several weeks into 2012, before I could rise up emotionally and see daylight once again.

With the Manhattan Half Marathon converted into a fun run due to the ice and snow storm, I felt it best to stay home.  The babies were still not sleeping through the night, and I figured I needed more training before I can make the leap again to run well in a Half Marathon event.

In the meantime, I had only just begun to get used to my new environmental surroundings.  Moving to Port Washington just a little over a month before, I was out and about exploring all of the wonderful areas of Port, that I had never before had explored. 

Running was becoming exciting to me again.  There is no substitute for exploration.  And while I have a good imagination, and can turn even the most boring treadmill run into something fun, there is nothing quite like seeing your own breath while running through new scenery.  It’s exhilarating and breathtaking, and it really helped me to re-indentify with myself once again.

Sands Point, Manorhaven, Port Washington North, the Salem area, and yes, even the dreaded “Flower Hill”, where I had once made one of the biggest ill-fated moves of my life years ago.  All of these areas, and more, where suddenly uncharted areas.  Places for my feet to fly through, my imagination to roam, and my heart to soar.

I missed Central Park, but here is where I started to feel like the king of my domain, and it felt good.  In fact, it felt so good, that I started running every day.  And just when I thought I would be too tired to run the next day, the next day came….and I would go running again. 

I hadn’t felt like this since 2008.  And while I made some amazing leaps in speed by 2010, it was in the summer of 2008 when I had run for 18 straight days.

But whereas, 2008 was all about pushing myself harder and coming up against injury to keep the streak going, this streak was nearly effortless.  I was beginning to feel invinceable, and it was through this feeling that I felt the need to sign up for the Chicago Marathon again.  I even overhauled my blogsite to show the world that 2012 would be My Year.  Of course, not everyone can be Joe Namath, professional quarterback of the 1969 New York Jets who said he would lead his team to the championship, and did.   There was always that risk in the back of my head, that if I was going to be outwardly confident, that there was a chance, just a slight chance, that I would not live up to what I said I would do. 

The cover of my blog looped both the Chicago & New York City Marathons.  What a glorious moment it was back in 2010, and what a glorious moment it could be again.

From January 18th until February 8th, I ran flawlessly.  And even when at work on January 31st, I had left my sneakers at home, I still ran at the gym at work, barefoot. The barefoot contender?

In the midst of my record-breaking 22 consecutive day run streak, I even managed to post up a 21 mile run on January 21st on the treadmill at my gym, missing  my indoor record by just two-tenths of a mile.  I still even had time to run in my 3rd event, the Gridiron.  This would be the my third event where I would draw elite corral bib numbers, something for which would continue all year long. 

I still didn’t feel elite.  And as to whether or not I ever will, is doubtful.  Oh yeah, I have a shitload of confidence in myself, but I won’t know what elite is until I start to win races.  At the age of 47, sigh, that might not be probable, though it’s not impossible.  Is it?

 
Soon after posting 149.2 miles in January, a best ever for me that month, I went into February and kicked butt in the Gridiron Classic.  This to start a day of butt kicking which began with me, and which ended with the Giants winning the Superbowl before me, my best friend Doug, and my 67” TV.  I placed in the top 16% overall, posting a 7:27 pace.  Not my best for a 4 miler, but definitely up there.  The sign of more to come….

The following week was awards night at our team’s (Forest Park Runners) annual celebration.  I didn’t figure to be three-peating, not after the 2011.  So when I was named the 2012 FPR Member of the Year, specifically for all the hard work I did on our website, it was an honor for me. 

Long runs were becoming more frequent for me.  After another long run of 15 miles on the treadmill on February 12th, I did another 15 miler, this time in Central Park.  And just two days later, I ran through one dozen villages in the Port Washington neck, for another 16 miles. 

Where fear of doing long runs before race was a reality not too long before, it no longer held any significance for me.  For, just two days later, after “12 villages”, I would run another 10 miles, and two days after that I had my Al Gordon race.

At this point, I was fully immersing myself for the love of running such that it was expressing itself through my creative artwork on my blogs.  I was creating Wordle art and other forms of expression, to show my love for the sport.



On Feb 25th and in the 4 mile Al Gordon race in Prospect Park, in Brooklyn I posted a scorcher pace of 7:23 per mile.  I finished in the top 14% overall.

ha! I just couldn’t help it!!! HAHAHAHAHA!!!!
Anyway, things were looking up for me.  Another month had gone by, and another record setting mileage, this time for the month of February, and for 150 miles.


And this was just the beginning.

There was a race that I had missed in 2011, called the Race for Aspire.  It’s a 10k and it’s held every year the first weekend in April in Plainview, which is very close to my job.  Every other day, it seemed, I was out there for lunch, running the course, and learning a little bit more about it each time. 







But before that race would come, I would have another challenge before me. 


After having the worst performance ever at the Coogan’s Shamrock Run in 2011, I figured I would do my best to erase that from memory.  Not only did I erase it, but I nearly set a course record, which is saying something, since I had already done this race seven times. 

With a final time of 22:58, I thought that I had set the course record, not realizing that in my record books I had accidentally duplicated the result from 2009 into 2010.  In the end, I was off by 23 seconds..  However, it taught me something about keeping accurate records.  And with that said, I spent several nights recompiling my statistical running career so that I would never lose sight of what my statistical goals would be.





 

Karen, was doing a lot of races herself, and not all of them were ones that I did either. For example, she did the St. Patty’s Run in Huntington.  The interesting dynamic here was that we had the twins with us now, so while one raced the other babysat.  When that person would finish we would switch roles (running vs. babysitting).   This happened, whenever we didn't have or could afford to have a babysitter.  And usually, when we had 3 or more races in a given month.   After Karen finished her race, I went to run the course that she had run.  Very pretty and hilly too.  This is typical of most North Shore runs out on Long Island. 

The first HUGE race for me for 2012, came early.  It was the NYC Half Marathon.  A new course indeed as the finish line would wrap around the bottom of Manhattan, finishing at the South Street Seaport.  This had to be one of the most inspired runs I’ve ever done. For the first 7 miles, I was nowhere near a sub 8.  In fact, mile 7 itself took me 8:44.  And then I hit the streets. ..

 
The streets was where I started running as a boy.  These streets would be my friend today.  From mile 8 to the finish I would never go over 8per mile again.  In fact, I just kept getting faster and faster.  Mile 10 was 7:58, 11 was 7:38, Mile 12 was 7:39.  And during Mile 13, a defining moment occurred to me, as if this would be my signature for the rest of the year. As if I had opened a door, that would never be closed again. 


The crowds near the last mile yelled out to me, and I, yelled back a war cry of “Come on!! LETS GO!!!!”.  Mile 13?  7 minutes 11 seconds.  I finished that race in exactly 1:44:31 for a pace of 7:59.  You couldn’t make this up even in a movie.  The negative split I had at this race, was the greatest ever negative split I’ve ever had.  I was 4 minutes and 21 seconds faster than in my first half.  Remarkable.

 
On March 20th, I ran from my home to the Long Island Express and back. 14.3 miles.

I also had discovered a great hill – Beacon Hill – at the north end of W. Shore Road.  And so, like a nut, I practiced again and again over it. 
The hill is a massive swooping climb that is over 200 feet in ascent, all within a third of a mile.

I remember a homeowner mowing his grass near the apex of the climb.  The expression I saw on his face as he saw me repeat this monstrosity over and over again, was absolutely priceless.


But there was a reason to this latest madness.
I did this because I was registered to do the Kings Park 15k run.

The two (well there were three actually) most memorable moments during that King’s Park race, was 1) the abandoned insane asylum around mile 5 and 2) the absolute torturous hill of Kohr road.  The hill seemed as if it would never end, hiding its true ascent, as it would wind around from one corner to the next.  I now see why IronMan triathletes had been quoted saying that they just wanted to quit even before the hill had ended.  The third memorable moment?  It had to be the fact that while I gave up too much time in the very last mile, that I still posted my 2nd fastest 15k ever.   Great progress comes in time, I understood.

Actually there was a fourth memorable moment that day.  But it happened after the race had ended and Karen and I had left.  And that was when we drove to Smithtown, where Karen finally scored an Elmo chair for David off of Craigslist.

So, March came and went, and again, it was another record setting month for mileage.  The 136.7 miles, which albeit, was a record during the second weakest mileage month for me, but still a record nonetheless.

There were some disappointments.  I didn’t break my course record at Coogan’s (when I thought initially that I had), and I let a Personal Record in the 15k slip by me in the very last mile.

 
It was now April 1st, better known as April Fool’s day.  And being the running fool that I am, I felt right at home in Plainview, Long Island, just minutes from my job.  I had dress-rehearsed this run to death and in my sleep.


In my first two miles, I wasn’t out to stay within reach of a Personal Record for the 10km.  I was out to destroy it.  With a pace of 7:05 and 7:09 in my first two miles, I had wondered if I had enough junk left in my trunk of whoopass to carry through and set a personal best.  My best had been at the Healthy Kidney run back in 2010 with a time of 47:11 (7:36 pace). I just had to hang on.
I did just that and more. While I wasn’t ever able to get back to those incredibly fast splits early on, I was able to maintain a 7:34 pace for mile 3 thru 5, and burned the last 1.2 miles in around 7:27 pace.   With a final time of 46:09, I had just destroyed my PR by over a minute.








With no rest for the wicked, I did another race, the Scotland Run, just 6 days later.  And with a time of 46:38, I had my 2nd fastest 10k in the matter of days, and a course record for the Scotland Run too.

Time for a breather?  Not even close. 

Just two days later, I not only did the longest run ever in Port Washington (to date), but it was one of the longest non-race runs ever.  I called it the ‘Port Washington Monstrosity’ because it just seemed to have no end.  24.3 miles in all.  So long in fact, that every electronic device on me failed.  On me, my head, and my ticker endured.


I still remember seeing texts from KJ telling me how crazy I was….that was before the cellphone died.  My nano and wireless phones died too. Everything did but me (thank God!)

However, I came close to seriously injuring myself.  Did my run of greatness for 2012 end a bit prematurely?

The next day, Karen and I went to Christopher Morley Park, a place that for me had held other types of memories, mainly scurrilous ones, in the past.  I did not want to run, but Karen insisted that I run with her.  I wound up really hurting myself.  Lesson learned?  Don’t trust anyone else with your body, but yourself.

With the Alley Pond Race in two short weeks, it was time to give myself a rest.  So, for the next 12 days, I would not run at all.  However, even while I was on sick leave something amazing had happened.  As the post on the 17th would suggest, I exhibited the utmost “persistence, retribution and victory” as I reclaimed my third NYC Marathon medal which had been stolen from me.  This one was the sweetest of them all too.  It was the 1984 medal, for my first ever marathon.


The weather for Alley Pond, was would be just plain nasty.  For some reason Mother Nature always seems to want to rain down on this perfectly fine race’s parade. But then again, I would be nasty too.  Nasty and stingy. 

174 participants showed up.  I came in 15th  OVERALL!  But that’s not all.  The 35:50 would turn out to be a Personal Record which had stood for 4 years (and at the same course too).  I beat my previous best by over a minute.  If there was only one blemish at all, it was that I was the highest placing non-medalist.  I came in 4th in my age group.   

Karen fared even better, getting 3rd and hardware too (right).



I still wasn’t quite 100%, when I entered into my RunForOne race on the 29th.  Yet,   I really had thought I was going to break my 4 mile mark of 7:13 per mile.  A record I had set during my Race To Deliver back in 2009. 

I wound up with a pace of 7:17 per mile.  When I crossed the finish line, I swear I felt as if I was going to pass out.  Had I  broken my record, it would have been my 3rd consecutive race in doing so. 

Nonethless, I only missed it by just 16 seconds. 
Ugh! 
 
A week later, I would change gears, literally.  On a nice sunny day Karen and I headed out to Manhattan to join up the TD 5 Boro Bike race.  The race was nothing short of a disaster, beginning with getting there late, Karen inadvertently overinflating and blowing out my tire, and getting lost at the first stop somewhere in Harlem. 

A forgettable day.
This impacted our mood to say the least, and at times throughout the course, we felt like George and Paul during the Let It Be sessions.  Despite the pretty day outside, we had one lousy time.  About the only respite I felt I had the entire day?  Stopping somewhere in Brooklyn ( near DUMBO, I think) to get a slice of pizza, while my bike was left unattended outside.  At this point I didn't even care if they had taken it.  Even when the race was over, and we were back in Staten Island the line to wait to hop on the ferry, measured in the thousands.  I thought I was going to cook in the sun, while we waited.  It took 4 hours Plus, it took hours to hop aboard the ferry to get back

At least I'd recovered from my injuries.





I was back at it doing the Healthy Kidney on May 12th.  Once again I did great, doing my 3rd fastest 10k ever, and setting a course record for the Kidney race.


I had now tied another record, one that I hadn’t even noticed until after the RunForOne race.  This would be my 10th consecutive race under 8 minutes per mile pace.  Looking ahead, I figured that I would have to truly earn breaking this record, as my next race was the Brooklyn Half.  It’s one thing to do a sub-8 over 4 miles. It’s quite another to do that over 13.1. 

I was so pumped up for Brooklyn, that I had messages of encouragement written over my arms in Sharpie black.  Included amongst my scribes, was the ever popular “1:44:30”, the equivalence to what it would take to break an 8 minute pace.
Despite having banked nearly 2 minutes, it was a race of the finish line versus, complete breakdown.  Fortunately, the finish line came first.  My time of 1:43:16, not only was my personal record for the Brooklyn Half course, but it was my 11th consecutive race under 8 minutes per mile.

After eating a couple of dogs at Nathan’s and dropping off the members of the team, I kept wondering if I had entered the next stage now.  It had taken some years to consistently run under 9 minutes, but it took doubly-long to get under 8 minutes.  It seemed that now, I was doing it every time.  And it felt good, too.

The only drawback, of course to this type of accomplishment, is the kind of corner one figuratively backs themselves into.  After a while, running can become stressful, if you are up against the clock everytime for a sub-8.  Oh, I threatened plenty of times to just take it easy, and to soak up the fans, and the weather, and fellow runners.  Waiting for Karen to finish, I’ve seen people in her group and time cross the finish line.  They are all happy too, but unlike me, they are not exhausted.  Rather, they are smiling while talking to fellow runners.  I keep thinking I should try this someday.

Maybe I will wait a while before I do this though.  I do not want to waste this gift yet.

The following weekend was Memorial Day Weekend.  I, along with our babies, drove north to Boston to accompany her to her 20th Anniversary reunion weekend at Harvard.

At the Haaaaaah-vahhhhd Dance reunion...
We had a great time.  The school is beautiful, the area surrounding it was as well.  I kept telling my daughter Stephanie, how I wished she was with us, so that she could see what a great place Harvard is. 

Oh and yes, if it wasn’t eventful enough, I had signed up for a race that weekend up there too.  It was another Half Marathon, Boston’s Run To Remember.

Remember, how I said I wished I could have a race where time was not important? 


Well, maybe on a sub-conscious level, that what I did in Boston.  First off, I had pulled my hamstring…while sleeping no less, just two days before.  Then , I knew that the race conditions would be pretty hot.  Lastly, however was the reason why Karen and I were up there in the first place.  The reunion.  And with that, the reunion dinner. 
I knew that at best, I would have about 4-5 hours of sleep at most before lining up to race the next day.   And as for lining up, there was complete chaos, as I wound up lining up so far back, that it nearly took me 20 minutes to get the first two miles completed.  All in all, it was a beautiful day, and a memorable experience, but it was an epic fail. 
Was so happy to see an end to this!
My pace of 8:23 per mile over the famed streets of Boston, home of the Red Sox, Paul Revere, the run along the Charles River, which took me all the way to Harvard and back, and the back bay itself, was an epic fail.  In fact, it was my 20th fastest half-marathon out of 38 halfs.  Not good. 

Mid-way through the race, I even had walked a little.  Unthinkable, yet true.  The lack of sleep, lousy diet, stress of the driving, failure yet again of my MotoActv, and the oppressive heat had worn me down. Why, just look at me on the right.  There's your evidence, your honor! 
Still, I came away with another finisher’s medal.  Considering how poorly I felt I ran, it felt like I had robbed the race organizers. 



Another week goes by, and another race came my way.  It had been 7 years since the last time I had run the New Hyde Park 8k Championship.  I knew I needed to rebound from the race in Boston.  

With a grassy turf finish line, I knew I had to be fast on the asphalt, as grass slows me down.   I finish the race with a great pace of 7:23, but astonishingly, the rest of the field seemed to have done much better than I did.  After being accustomed to finishing in the top 20-25% overall, I didn’t even crack the top 1/3, and not even top 50% in my age category either. 

Despite my hard efforts, not the finish I had hoped.  Not a happy camper!
I now wanted my pound of flesh, as the famous saying goes.  I was getting riled up again.  So much hard work, and so little payback.  Of course, I was just mentally gearing up for next week’s showdown in Roslyn, the Sid Jacobson 5K.  I had been having a banner year, but I wasn’t about to rest on my laurels.  Between, the poor physical performance in Boston, and weak placement in New Hyde Park, I needed to make a statement at Sid.

And boy, did I ever.

Not only did I post up a 7:18 pace, but I came in 13th place overall, and came in 2nd place in my field.  And this, after making a wrong turn into the parking lot with about 100 feet to go.  Not sure who was more dumb; the person telling me to go left into the lot, or me, for not picking up my head to see the finish.  Truthfully, I was so fatigued from running like a madman, I’m surprised I didn’t pass out.  Fortunately, I did not lose a spot in my age category, but I think I could have come in 11th place had I stayed on course.

This was also a great day for Karen too.  Not only did she come in 3rd in her age group, but she also won a raffle for a spa treatment as well, lol.


Besides running all over Nassau County, Karen was also discovering races in the area as well.  Just the following day, I had my first “Long Island Summer Series” run at Heckscher State Park.  I left straight from work that Monday evening, meeting up with Karen there.

Despite, running hard, the wind at Heckscher had some kind of an impact on me.  I thought I would be faster than the 7:45 pace in this 5 mile event would suggest, as this course was totally flat.  I will be back to do this next year.  Just watch.
Three days later, and on June 14th, I would race again, this time in Eisenhower State Park for the Annual Long Island Police Appreciation run.  At any age, racing twice in a week is usually considered a no-no.  But at my age, doing three races in 5 days was insane.  And yet, I banged out a 22:38, just 1 second off from my race at the JCC (Sid) just days before.  I came in 10th in my group, which was poor, but I beat all but one runner bandishing a cop running outfit.

Just 4 days after that would be my 4th race in 8 days.  This time it was in Sunken Meadow Park.  Although I did not blog about it, perhaps I should have.  What a wicked race this was.  Starting off on grass, the field lined up from left to right the length of what amounted to be that of a football field, it seemed.  Then within a quarter-mile we were suddenly running in a parking lot loaded with debris, uneven and broken pavement.

The best was yet to come, and that came once we headed into a hill that was about 200 feet high with at least a 20 degree pitch.  What made it even sicker, was the fact that the steepest part of the climb, which came at the end of the hill, was over PURE SAND.   Intense!   It was so difficult, that I laughed the entire way up the mount. 

From there we would up on a boardwalk, and then back on grass to the finish.  And as I was sprinting passed this woman, she regained the lead at the end.  Later, and after the finish, she came back, told me congrats, and thanked me.  I take it she wanted to acknowledge that I put her ass into gear as well as my own.
Sunken was my 20th event and we were still mid-way in June.  The prospect of breaking my season record for most races, 27 in 2010, seemed very possible now.

Another five days later, and back at it I was, back at Central Park.  With a stifling humidity of over 90% in the baking heat, I managed to get a 6:52 on my first mile in the 5 Mile Gay Pride run. 


It did me in, and was barely able to keep under an 8 minute pace in the end.

Never having done more than 4 races in a month, I scorched the record by doing my 7th race in the month of June at Eisenhower State Park.  I finished that run with a pace of 7:23 and came in the top 21%.  Another great finish, despite not getting any hardware, and finishing beneath the top 20% for the first time since the first race I did in June (NHP).  Karen however, once again KILLED it at a similar race, in the same park, earlier in the week.  Even with a bum knee that she was due to have surgery on in less than a month, she posted a 3rd place finish and did get hardware out of this as well.  Hey...whose year it this anyways?  Mine or hers?  LOL!

 
As usual. July is not a month to run if you live in New York.  The humidity is always oppressive.  Nothing quite makes it worse than that….Unless you run in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.  It was my first 8+ pace since the Boston Massacre on Memorial Day, and even then, I still finished in the top 17% overall.

Looks can be deceptive as Brad Pitt said in "Burn After Reading".  I was exhausted after the Queens 10k!
 

My 16 week training program for the NYC Marathon began in Dayton, Ohio, of all places.  I had even contemplated doing a race out there, but to be honest, the downtown city of Dayton was kinda scary.

Along with the start of my training program for which Karen had gotten me online as part of my birthday gift (thank you, sweetie), I had started cutting back on races.  However, the next dozen races would be all monumental in every way you can imagine.

The training was ferocious.  And as one could expect, so were the results.



My next event was actually the first of two long training runs that NYRR hosts every year.  At $6 bucks it is quite the bargain.  While the race is not an officially scored race, I did keep time.  And my 3 hours 3 minutes and 22 seconds, was my 3rd best 20-miler ever.


With such a long run like the training run most people might take a break, but not if you’re name is Alex Gonzalez.  Or was my name Alex Gonzalez?  It was around this time, when my friend from California, and once co-worker, Ben Walker, called me a “machine”.  Until now, I had used “Blogrunner” for many years, but to be honest, I liked “machine”.  I had been running like one, a well-oiled one for that matter, and with the exception of the mild injury I had back at the end of March, I was unstoppable.


The LI Workplace Challenge was only 3 days after the LTR.  Not having done one of these since 2009,  when I had finished 1st in my company for three straight years, I had vowed to come back….and with vengeance I did. 
I posted a 25:09 that evening in Jones Beach.  Once again, I finished first amongst the 70 or so Arrow employees and 3rd behind the Arrow invitees (Steve Stransky’s son led that charge)  That finish was my fastest ever recorded time for a distance of 3.5 miles.  And if it wasn’t that I saw Steve Stransky digging hard at the end, I might not have turned on my “nitrous”.  As it was, I did my last half mile in 3 minutes and 20 seconds!!!




That race would be one of the three best performances when matched up against overall, gender and age.  Based on my own calculations, I earned a gold standard. Something for which I had not done since finishing 66th in a field of 1,232 runners at the JFK Runway back in 2010.



With all this confidence behind me, there was one thing that I didn’t account for.

My behind.

For, despite my rocket-like performance at the Corp Challenge, I had gained even more weight.  I was now back to my year-high weight of 165 pounds.  Typically, I add up to 10 seconds of time to each minute ran, for each pound of weight that I am over 155.

with Ramon "Bikerboypito" at Team Championships
The worst part about this situation, was that I had not properly planned.  I didn’t even realize I was still as heavy until race morning.  And on a day where it was 80 degrees outside with a humidity of 87%, the NYRR Men’s Team Championships, it cost me dearly.  
What had blindsided me was that I figured that with my 8 mile run through Flower Hill on the 1st, and 12 mile-run from the Chrysler Building down thru the bowery – south street seaport and back, that I would have burned off quite a few calories.  What I didn’t factor was all of the food that I was pounding away as well.


Along the East River promenade well south of the 59th St. bridge
 
If one could chart the amount of calories I add and burn, the graph would look like something right out of a stock ticker on Bloomberg’s website.  I finished 617th out of 1009 runners that day.  60% of all who ran beat me.  It was truly a forgettable experience, and you can’t win’em all.

Just two days later, after the shellacking I took in Central Park, I was back out at Jones Beach to do a 5-Miler.  I felt a lot better, though I was only 1 pound lighter.  The head winds out there made a mess of things however, and I made the mistake to draft behind a good-looking (sorry Karen!) woman, who did not run as fast as I thought, and who started slowing down.  It was nearly too late before I realized this on my way back to Zach’s Bay, and nearly had to repeat and all-out finish on the same part of the course, that I had done during the corp challenge.  This was just to keep my time under 8 per mile.

After this race, I had begun to question if I had hit the plateau, that so many runners my age start to dread.  Competitors ummm wait no.  Gladiators (yes, better) like me look to improve with every performance.  There is no end for us!   And…There is no tomorrow!  -as was told to Rocky Balboa.  
Even though I was feeling a bit dejected, I didn’t realize something interesting.  Despite still being 164 pounds, I had finished in the top 14.5% overall.  I had made a mini-breakthrough, and didn’t even realize it..  Interesting.

The Sands Point Preserve was the 3rd race in 1 week, and 4th in 11 days.  Whereas, I traded in races for training miles in July, I did not do so in August.  I was stingy.  I did over 200 miles and did 5 races in August.  A remarkable feat, and I really don’t even care how immodest that just sounded either.   I really began to believe  in “the machine”, so much so, that I changed my name on Facebook to reflect it.  All of my friends started to call me by that name.

The nice thing about Sands is that it was only a couple of miles from the home.  And yet, lol, I drove there!  
300 people ran in the Sand Point Preserver race.  The last mile was treacherous as we ran thru a wooded trail that literally had tree branches covering our way in some spots. I came in 41st and finished in the top 13.7% overall.  A 100 year old man ran the race too.  He did not come in last place either.  I think he should have won top honors….just for showing up.

Between that race and the 2nd of 2  20miler LTRs, I started going through a painful physical challenge to lose weight at any cost.  Quite honestly, and as I reflect back.  This may have been the one single factor for what might be the greatest run zone I may ever be able to say I’ve been a part of.
Tipping the scales at a lean 158 pounds, I along with Karen (whose first race after sidelined for a month from knee surgery), take on the 2nd Long Training Run in Central Park.  I was out for blood this time and I felt good too. 
Hey Karen, stop invading my post..Get yer own blog!!!

And for the first 12 miles or so, I was at sub 8 minute pace. 
But the heat took over, and by mile 16 I started cramping up.  Still, I was still within contention for a PR, so I gritted out one of the toughest last 5 miles I can remember.

And true to form, I finished with a time of 3:03:22.  My best 20 mile run ever (for now) ;-)

Time to show a little skin trade ;-)

On August 21, a very special moment happened to me.  Whilst, I may never get an exact reading of miles I may have missed from logging when I was younger.  I can say that since I took up running again in 2004, that I ran a lot.  What’s a lot?  Well on this day, I broke ten thousand miles.  Ten Thousand!


To commermorate this moment, I ran as human ran, back in the age of the wheel and of fire.  Barefoot ‘round and ‘round Schreiber High I ran until my feet got nice a red from the clay for which I ran upon.



The energy that was running through my legs was second only to the positivity that was coursing through my veins. 


I wasn’t a poster child for running anymore, but a billboard...for all that was positive with the sport for which I love so dearly.

A few days later, I get an email from the New York Road Runners Club.  In their email they stated that Baggage Check for the NYC Marathon was cancelled.  How was I going to stay warm without throwing away my clothing?  And now, I had to run with keys, ID and a phone for 26.2 miles.  What in the Wide Wide Wide World of Sports was going on around here?


Well, I wasn’t alone, as thousands protested over this ridiculous and illegal regulation.  It was enough that NYRR bended, and allowed the option for either off.  You can keep your orange poncho!

Lamentably, this would not be the only controversial issue in the running world.  Not for the New York Road Runners, and even worse, not for the New York City Marathon either…

All year long I manager to keep creating new routes, and new route cards to go along with the routes too.

It would be another 2 weeks and 1 day before my next event the Manhattan 14.2 Fabulous Run.  In between, my mileage began to escalate to exciting levels. Since the 20 Mile Long Training Run, I did 6 runs of 10 miles or more and only took two days off in total.  From July 16th thru September 10th, I would run for not less than 41 miles in any given week, and averaged closer to 50.


This “Training Run” would be the first time in any event since I was in High School where I actually threatened to win the entire event!!!! 


At this point you see here above I was somewhere between Mile 1 and 2 and I was in 50th place.  By Mile 9, I was in 5th place.  And as I kept running south along the West Side Highway, and finally as I was passing Chelsea Piers on my right, I was in 1st place.  Had I hung in there for the final few miles, it would have easily been the greatest race I ever ran, but I just couldn’t finish off the pack.  I let them hang in there, and finally, I was out and outed.  As I crossed the finish line in 6th place out of 400.  I suddenly realized that I not only had my 2nd consecutive PR, this time for the distance of 14.2 miles, but that I was for real.   

But despite all my triumph, my wife’s photo at the finish line captured the moment for both of us.  I loved this photo so much, and all of the symbolism of freedom and accomplishment, that I made it my banner photo on FB for quite awhile.



 A week later and on October 9, Karen and I made our way to the Bronx for the annual   Bronx Borough Challenge.  This year it would be no longer a half-marathon but rather a 10 miler.  While, I was mildly disappointed in that, I was wildly happy when I saw that the entire race would be an out-and-back on the Grand Concourse.  I did not realize how beautiful NY had made the Grand Concourse, especially near the courthouse, where our starting line was close to.         
My previous best at the 10 mile race was done at the Haslett Mabletonian, a race for which I initially had reservations about because it was exactly 2 weeks after our Chicago Marathon and 2 weeks before our New York City Marathon, if you can believe it.  My mark of 1:17:31 or pace of 7:45  was written over my arms in red & black Sharpie again.

I can say that there were no last minute heroics at the Bronx 10 miler.  I wavered only within 20 seconds or so from mile to mile, posting up anywhere from as slow as a 7:38 in Mile 7 to as fast  as a 7:19 in Mile 9.  The final result was a scorching 1:15:09.  Another race, and now another Personal Record for the fastest 10 Miler ever since I started running again in ’04.

As I finished up, I came back to collect my things and then collect Karen.  She has been as amazing as she was running long runs despite her knee surgery.

 
It was just another six days later, and on September 15th when yet the stage for another colossal race would approach us.  The Great Cow Harbor Run. 

The last time and only time that I had done ‘Cow’ was back 6 years earlier.  I did particularly well, as I hit an 8:09 pace, but I was destroyed.  The hill on 3 killed me, and no amounts of Michelob beer at the finish line would fix that.  So bad was I hurting, that between that and an ill-fated long run I did a few weeks later, all but did me in for the 2006 NYC Marathon.  I wound up running with a partially torn right calf muscle and posted the 2nd worst time I’ve ever had in a marathon.

I knew then that I had to be extremely careful.  The Chicago Marathon was coming up in just three weeks.  I had no margin for error here.  And yet, the killer instinct came upon me.  It was evident at first as Karen and I rode a yellow school bus from the parking lot of some elementary school, where all the runners were asked to park.  But, by the time we got to the starting line area, and I started seeing those big boat ropes separating the corral, the excitement began to course through me.  I did not anticipate a PR here, simply because one does not PR at Cow.  Despite how difficult I found Kings Park to be, many to this date recognize Cow as one of the most challenging courses in the entire US Northeast.  So much so, that when I ran the race for the first time in 2006, that a young lad, from Tenessee at the time, ran with us for a few seconds before he went on and destroyed the record.  His name is Ryan Hall, so yes, it’s only people like him where the exception to PR is made.  Though, I bet that while he set the course record that day, that it wasn’t his personal best at the 10k mark.

 
I did everything I could for this race. Drank a large container of Diet Red Bull, took half a B6 vitamin and Powerade Zero to wash it down.  

When the race began, I kept repeating to myself not to jeopardize my abilities at Chicago by overdoing it here.  Also, and despite issues with my soon-to-be-defunct MotoActv, I did my first mile in 7:32 and my second mile in 7:39.  Incredibly my strength began to take over as I climbed the dreaded James Street hill which has claimed so many. My posted time there was 7:19.  I was nearly half-way home, and my pace was just three seconds shy of the record-setting pace that I had set at the Aspire Run back on April 1.  How can this be? Knowing that the worst was behind me was psychologically amazing.   

The fourth mile is always a critical mile in a 10k, and I was feeling incredibly fresh. And then the jets really turned on.  After finishing Mile 4 in 7:21 and brining myself within 1 second of PR pace, I continued my assault on East Northport, Long Island, by posting a 7:18 in Mile 5.  I was now in the driver seat, assuming I could hold on.  Well.  Did I?

How does a 7:06 for Mile 6 followed by a 6:20 pace for the remaining two-tenths of a mile sound to you.  Another negative split, and most importantly, another Personal Record. This was my 4th consecutive race where I had PR’d in.  Machine indeed.

And....
......let’s not forget the beer!

As insanely enough that I already am, I couldn’t just take a break for a few days after this amazing string of accomplishments.  Among all of the wonderful courses that I had been practicing over the last 9 months around the Roslyn, Plandome, Munsey Park, Sands Point and Flower Hill areas, there was one insane course that I had put together, that I wasn’t even sure I could ever do.  In essence, this course was a complete dissection of Long Island, starting all the way in the North Shore where I live, and going south, all the way until I got to the Atlantic Ocean in Long Beach.  In all, 22.5 miles….but less than 24 hours after getting a PR….at Cow Harbor?

Survey says….YES.



To make the symbolic gestures.  I made sure to dip my feet in Manhasset Bay and then again in the Atlantic Ocean.

As I ran, I kept posting all about in on Facebook, to the delight of some and probably to the “whatever” of others. Mostly though I did this, to let Karen know where I was as she was going to drive to Long Beach to pick me up.  She rocks.

As you can see (below), I was having a blast, even as I was nearing Island Park.



It was so nice to see Karen at the end, that I refused to let her push the babies, so after 22.5 miles, I pushed the babies up onto the boardwalk.  Later on we’d spend a few hours on the beach.  What a great finish to a sensational day!

 

This summer was the hottest in recorded history for the City of New York.  Over the course of 90 days, 35 of them had recorded temperatures of over 90 degrees.  And still, I somehow managed to accumulate over 550 miles in the months of July, August and September, setting single-month records for the last two of those three months.

But there were still 3 beasts left to conquer.. and the best (and worst) was yet to come…


Some two years ago, I ran the Chicago Marathon for the first time.  I did not know it would be so hot, and I did not know that I would nearly collapse from it, around mile 17.  Worst of all, I did not know that as I was waking up that morning to do this race, that my mother, Salud Seims had just been pronounced dead from cancer which had metastasized throughout her body. 

Despite the estranged relationship that she kept from me for several decades, the pain of her loss was too much to bear later on.  If I had known that she was on her death bed that weekend, I never would have done the Chicago Marathon in 2010.  That said, I had to come back to try once again to make a Boston qualifying time, but better still, to reflect on my life, and the relationship, or lack thereof I had with my mother.  

I know that despite what was written on her will, that it was done against her will.  She knew I was her son, as she did the best she could to raise me since she gave birth to me in that hospital in Astoria on that July day in 1965. Thus, that will was done with malice by her thieving ex-boyfriend.  And if I ever saw that fuck, I would rip his fucking shitty and useless little brain off with my left pinky and feed it to the only living things that would feast on such shit.  Maggots.

Thanks to my good friend, John Ginty, from old times at St. Francis Prep.  I was able to prep up at the Congress Hotel with the Glen Ellyn Runners.  What a bonus this was.

And despite having lost my sunglasses, but then buying another pair at the gift shop downstairs, I can honestly say, it was the best I have ever prepped for a race.  All the planets, as they say were aligned.  Even the weather, which was pure hell 2 years earlier, was perfect.





To get the full story of what happened here, you owe it to youself to read my blog post, but I will give you the short and sweet.  I finished the first twenty miles of this race in just under 2 hours and 30 minutes.  That was not a typo.  Essentially it was as if you would have taken my Bronx 10 miler and doubled the output.  And yet, the last 6.2 miles I physically broke down to the point, where I had the toughest time ever to finish.



I don’t think I have ever seen the face of pain on me like this before.  And yet as horrible as that was, as mind-blowing the excruciating pain of cramps that I had had, which, if I had eaten enough potatoes and bananas the night before it could have all been averted, the incredible triumph that I felt as I crossed that finish line, was the most indescribable feeling of happiness and relief, this side of paradise.

Despite taking an hour and 8 minutes to finish.  I still finished with a time of 3 hours 39 minutes and 28 seconds.  I not only PR’d, I destroyed my previous Marathon PR in NYC by over 10 minutes.  And Chicago?  Please.  I killed that one by over 14 minutes.

5 Consecutive Races, 5 Personal Records.  7 Personal Records for the year.  What else was left to do this year?  I basically destroyed every previous mark of who I was on nearly every level. 
 

With a few weeks in between Marathons, I decided to do a "Blue Line" run with my friend, fellow FPR and blogger, Carrie.  We started on the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge (now known as the Ed Koch bridge) and finished the last 12+ miles or so.  The weather was beautiful, and I had a blast with Carrie.  We traded a lot of running "war" stories.  It was great...and this got me even more stoked for the NYC Marathon, as if I needed any more of that!


 




And now….the 2012  ING New York City Marathon.

To be honest, while I had a lot of homework to do to figure out what went wrong with me during the last 10k of the Chicago Marathon, I didn’t think that I would PR again in NY. But because of how well I had done in the first 20 miles of that race, there was a chance that it could be done again.  The ten day forecast called for perfect weather on Marathon Sunday.  Unfortunately, I  was, we all were, looking at the wrong day.

Up until now, the name Sandy would evoke laughter. My best, Doug, could tell you, as he too used to laugh at an episode of the Twilight Zone, where a man was in love with a female robot.  “You go.  You go now, Sandy, huff hfff hffffff!!!”  Except, that this time it would be no laughing matter.  Sandy, or Hurricane Superstorm Sandy, as her first and middle names suggested was being billed as the “perfect storm”.  Nobody gave it much more importance to it, then say Hurricane Irene from the year before.  Not even me.  I even dared it on Facebook by posting the picture that you saw above.  I think I spoke on behalf of most, sas we had little respect and preparation for what was to smash And when the forecasters initially said that the worst of the storm would come around Monday morning, causing in effect, the massive shutdown of business everywhere in the Northeast, only to see nothing more than heavy rains, and a few winds, I figured that the worst was over. 

I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  As the afternoon came, I started seeing odd things on TV.  First my old neighborhood of Lindenhurst.  People were canoeing up and down Wellwood Avenue, as if they were merchants of Venice.  The part that made my hair stand on end, was however that the storm hadn’t even reached here yet and wouldn’t make landfall until Monday night.  Later on that day, at precisely 6:20pm our house lost power.  Not that I wasn’t expecting that, since most of Long Island’s power are up on poles near trees.  What I didn’t expect however was that we’d be without power until Friday.  And best of all, we were the lucky ones.  Very lucky.

When the storm made it’s direct hit on the Jersey shorelines. Devastation in ways that we will not soon forget came about.  It would take me over a week before I can see it on a television first hand, but an entire roller coaster was in the Atlantic Ocean.  The Atlantic City boardwalk was gone, and scores of homes washed into the ocean.

And that was only the beginning for when the storm hit New York, the visions of what I would see and then hear about on my radio throughout the blackout were completely unimaginable.  The entire community of Breezy Point went up in flames.


Over 100 homes burned down to their foundation.


This was the boardwalk that I ran to from my house in September.  Now it's all gone.

Long Beach, the place where only back on September 19th, I ran to from my home, was no more.  The boardwalk that you saw in the photo I posted in September above, now gone - just look at this photo above.... 


Raw sewage, fires, homes destroyed, dead bodies being found floating around areas such as the Rockaways, where my friend Scott had to get FEMA to assess the damage to his home and his car, and in Coney Island, where the aquarium was in grave danger.  Even lower manhattan was without power.  Everything south of 23rd street, was out.  The water swelled up several feet above the containment walls near and around Battery Park. 

Battery Park underpass was FILLED TO THE TOP with sea water.

The photos of that, and of the taxi parking lots where hundreds of taxis were drowned up to their windshields in water, seemed unbelievable.  It looked like it came straight from an end-of-days movie.  Everything.  Ruined. 
Staten Island -  A shell of its former self.
Then came Staten Island.  And along with that, the NYC Marathon.  To be honest, I figured the race would be postponed by as early as Tuesday morning, when I was relieved to just wake up in bed with my wife’s arms around me   Much to my surprise, when Mayor Bloomberg said it would still be on to show the resiliency that us New Yorkers had, I just didn’t have the heart for it at the time.  Maybe that’s because I didn’t have heat or hot water to go with the lack of electricity as well.  But, as the end of the week approached, as Karen and I walked into the Javitz center with the tens of thousands of other runners who made their way there too, the electricity in the “Machine” began to take hold once again.  The excitement of my favorite race of all time, the New York City Marathon, was beginning to take hold yet again.

The night before I had read on the NY Post app on my iPhone that the Staten Island Borough President had called Mayor Bloomberg a complete idiot for allowing the race to continue.  I don’t think I had ever heard someone as high ranking as a borough president in NY Politics talk that way about another high ranking official, like the mayor, ever.  It was unsettling.  And it was a sign of things to come.

As Karen and I went for a run, and then the expo, and then massages that fateful Friday before the Marathon, we realized that we had to rush back to the LIRR, to make our train in time.  It was the first full day of service on the Port Washington line, and the crowd of people to get on the train was such, that I almost could not squeeze in past the car doors, once we got there.

While I was on that train, a couple of remarkable things happened to us. First, we got seats a few stops later (hah).  But seriously, I see an email from Wayne Cofffey from the Daily News who wanted to interview me, and he mentioned me by “The Machine”.  Incredible!!!!!

And as my moment of fame started to glow brightly amongst the dark suited bankers in that railroad car, a message, a simple text message that would turn my running world upside down came through….

"grandpa just called me and said the nyc marathon was cancelled"

At first, I really thought that my daughter Stephanie was playing a gag on me.  But then I thought, how cruel of her, considering both how much I was looking to this race, and also the bad conditions that we were under (and still, not bad at all compared to the other s for which I had no idea about yet). 

A few more messages later, and I knew that this was for real.  The NYC Marathon had not been postponed, but cancelled.  At the last minute. At a time when thousands had spent thousands to fly to NYC.  The disaster that Sandy had brought upon to us tri-staters had now spread to legions of runners as well.   And Staten Island?  Perhaps the hardest hit of all. No wonder they were so upset at the mayor.  When I saw the video during the 12.12.12 concert of the harder hit areas in Staten Island, all I could think of was Hurricane Katrina.

You never think that a ‘Katrina’ can happen here, but it does, and it did.
A contrast of extreme proportions.

Between what my wife and our babies had to deal with for that week, and then learning about the cancellation at the last minute, and then hearing and seeing the devastation in and around New York, I just sank into a depression that was very unlike me. My office was already up and running, and they had us working very hard again, as if nothing ever had happened the week before.  To some extent, it kept my mind off of things.

But, I still was feeling depressed.  In my own personal situation, I had trained all year long for this race.  Karen was also extremely upset as well.  In fact, she had even a better reason than me to be upset as this was to be her only marathon this year, and most importantly her last marathon ever.

Days went by.  I even drove into the city when I had heard that they were giving medals away.  I didn’t know what to do, but since I had paid an entry fee, I figured to pick it up.  It’s hanging in my medal rack, but it’s by itself, and not with the other “earned” medals.


Curiosity over the stranded runners had me go to Central Park on the day of the race.  Out there were thousands of runners from here, and everywhere imaginable.


I ran a loop and tried to put on a smile, like everyone else did.  Deep down we were all saddened by everything.  The loss of life, of property, and to a much lesser extent, of dreams.
To set everything right, I needed to do something drastic. I needed a run that would wipe out this feeling of blech.  Karen went out and did the Knickerbocker Run, a 37 mile insanity tour of Central Park….9 loops!  She did 26.2 miles and just konked.  She got her fill but I needed to do something as well.

And then it clicked.  A long, long time ago, when I used to come to Port Washington for other and more illicit reasons, I always wondered what it would be like if I could actually run from here……all the way to there.  There, equaled Manhattan.  But, I needed to do even better than that because, it’s only 22 miles from the train station in Port Washington, to the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge.  I needed to do more than 22 miles.  I needed to make a statement.  My click wasn’t to run into Manhattan. No.  My revelation to myself was to break my single longest run record of 30 miles which I did last year along the Redondo Beach & Rancho Palos Verdes.  Running up to Central Park and doing a full loop of that, puts me at about 29 miles or so.  But running back south, around Park Avenue and then west to the Long Island Railroad, would give me the record I needed.

What was sweetest about that day, was that I knew that I would need to actually cry a little to know that the spell of malaise had been broken.  I knew that in order to get past my funk, that I needed a run that would elevate my sense of self-worth, and get me to reflect on some of the wonderful memories I had.  Which is where the Northern Boulevard Superthon came about.  Between my dad’s parents, my job (and then-love) at McDonald’s, the Mets, the Marina, and so many other memories.  I knew that it would all take me too good places.  And if that weren’t enough, then perhaps breaking my record at the Empire State Building would seal the deal.  And if that didn’t do it, then the final secret weapon….to circle the GPO on 33rd street….the place where a young foolish boy waited in line on a hot summer’s day for nearly 12 hours to mail off an SASE to Fred Lebow in the hopes of scoring his first ever entry into the NYC Marathon of 1984. 

I will tell you that it took everything I threw my way to finally get me to break, but when I finally ran around the GPO, I finally and totally lost it.  So much had happened to me and my life since then. And now….31.2  miles….a new personal best for distance in one run.  A lot of thanks went to the over 70 posts that I had cheering me on Facebook. Thanks everybody!

Again, I say….What else was there left to do in 2012, that hasn’t yet been done already?

About 3 weeks later, I would be at it again…This time I would not be the victim of traffic, but the one causing it…for I was lined up five blocks from my home awaiting the gun to go off at the annual Port Washington 5 Miler Turkey Trot. It was a cold morning on Thanksgiving, but I was warmed up and ready to race.  Unfortunately, things did not go as well as I had hoped at the race.  Though I was, once again, at a record setting pace through the first two miles, and had negotiated the worst of the hills that Port had to offer on this route, I wound up injuring myself as I turned west onto Sandy Hollow Road.  I believe the issue was that I had over-strided.  I was so hell bent to break the record, that I did something that apparently I was unable to do at any of my previous 30+ events (another record, btw)…..and that was to go beyond my limits to point of hurting myself.  It was a pulled right hamstring that did me in during Mile 3.  One for which I had to hobble-run the rest of the way. 


And despite the injury and all, I still somehow managed to finish in 139th out of 2,627 runners.  It was the highest ranked scored race ever and that even included the Stroh’s 5k liberty run back in 1985, where as a different person I had come in 28th out of 400 runners.  And (smile) if you multiply 28x6, you will see that my performance on Thanksgiving, injured and all, was still perhaps my finest racing moment ever.

What an incredible journey, and what a wonderful way to finish out, what was undoubtedly, my greatest running year ever.  True to my assertion a year ago, when I hopped aboard this wild ride, 2012 was truly MY YEAR.  If I may never see such a consolidation of wonderful memories in one year like I had just from running alone (to say nothing of my even more important assets like my wife and kids), then I smile and say, Thank you God, for giving me a gift that allowed me to run over 250 days this year alone.



At the time of this printing, I even have another record broken…Most miles in a season…Right now, I am threatening to break 1,600 miles too.  If that happens, I will edit the table below…

Records Set In 2012….(*ahem* should there be a record for the most records set? – if so then that makes it 27!)