Saturday, November 22, 2014

(Half) Live Photo Blog: 2014 Run Around Manhattan

Checkpoint 1: Queensborough Bridge (12:30pm)

Scenes so far:
The first glorious sight on Manhattan's perimeter comes at a bend just before 23rd St. It's a little hard to see in the distance because my picture isn't great, but if you look closely you can see the Queensborough Bridge.
At 25th Street, there is a bridge over the FDR. Just north of that on the side of the river is Waterside Plaza, which is a gorgeous outdoor plaza that overlooks the East River.
Unfortunately,  you can't run the entire length of the East Side of Manhattan right along the river. One of the stretches where you have to come a little inland begins here, at this pedestrian tunnel at the end of 38th Street.
Access to a path along the East River resumes here, if you run up a ramp on 60th Street. The scene is complete with this structure that resembles a roller coaster, which (sort of) covers a dog park.
Checkpoint 2: Macombs Avenue Bridge (1:40pm)

A little above the Queensborough Bridge, the Bobby Wagner Walk begins, and we see this lovely scene.
At 84th Street, Carl Schurz Park begins. Across the river from that, you can see Lighthouse Park, on the northern tip of Roosevelt Island. See the lighthouse?
Sometime in the 90's, you come by this place. It would seem to me that it used to be a pier of some sort. Now it's just a roosting place for seagulls.
Between about 120 and 155 is another stretch that can't be done along the river. It's a zig zag slog through an industrial area of Manhattan that is replete with bus depots and car dealerships. At some point, though, you make it to the Macombs Avenue Bridge, from which you can see Yankee Stadium.
As typically happens with this, battery and energy ran short on the second half, but here are a few more pictures I took before I couldn't anymore. Let's call this Checkpoint #3: Inwood.

10-20 blocks above the bridge, there is a small, barely noticeable entrance to a pedestrian and bike path that'll take you across a highway and back along the river. It provides breathtaking views of a number of bridges on the East side as well as the towering structure you can see here that is located in the Cloisters.

Bridge views from north of the same bridges. I love this area.
Ever so slightly north of the last picture, you'll see the Peter J. Sharpe Boathouse. A boathouse on the northeast side of Manhattan? You bet!
At the back end of Manhattan, there is this pretty little inlet. It's hard to see here, but it was actually frozen. The curved pathways you see in the picture were little rivers that had unfrozen. There are geese and ducks there, getting ready to take off in flocks.
Pretty sure this is exactly the furthest part north on the island. I took this particular bridge on a nice pathway that happened to be under a bridge.
I think this is one of the best views on the run. It's a small outlook point in the park. Look how far north you can see up the Hudson River!

Alas, I started running out of time, battery and energy after this checkpoint. I actually bypassed a sizable chunk, since I underestimated how long it would take and was meeting Jessica Sassy at 14th Street. So I cut a good 7-8 miles out, but also added a bit at the end between the Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges that I haven't done the last couple of years. I think altogether it ended up being 27-28 miles. I learned some things for next year's run. As usual, it was a great experience. Hope you enjoyed the half live blog!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Race Report: The 2014 TCS New York City Marathon - Part 2

So there I was, borderline tearing up and crossing the start line of the marathon. I'd decided to set out with the 4:30 pace group because I was a little intimidated at the prospect of running with 4:15. I didn't feel that my training had been up to snuff and the idea of an overly ambitious start scared me a bit.

From the minute we started running the bridge, I could tell it would be a trying day for many people. The wind was much stronger than I remembered it in previous years. Abandoned clothing was whipping around on the ground and I saw multiple people trip and fall. Our pace leader apologized in advance and profusely, just in case she the wind blew the sign she was carrying into someone's face. As our small group made its way across the bridge, the pace group leader began chatting a bit. In my opinion, chat is a major benefit of running with pace groups. It makes the whole race seem like more of a team effort. Anyway, our pace group leader told us that NYC was her 124th marathon! And I thought I was getting up there in numbers.

I stuck with the group for about the length of the bridge before finding my own pace, which turned out to be a good bit faster. Somewhere between miles 2 and 3 in Bay Ridge, I started to get a little too warm and so abandoned my sweatshirt on a barricade. Hopefully, someone will make good use of it. Soon after that, we were on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where I had my first on-course friend sighting at the 5k mile marker. It was Darian! He was helping on the course and I was able to wave to him as I ran by.

The next person I saw was my friend Emily, who had let me know a couple places where she'd be on the course. I got some high fives and was again on my way through downtown Brooklyn. My next friend target was Ali, with whom I used to play recreational basketball. I looked for her around the Brooklyn Academy of Music, but no dice. Onward!

Between miles 9 and 10 we entered Williamsburg, which is part of one of my favorite running routes. At some point, we turned onto Bedford Avenue and headed up toward Greenpoint, where I knew another friend, Tiffany, would be cheering at mile 12. As I approached, though, I realized I hadn't asked her which side she would be standing on. I took a gamble on the left side and found out five or ten minutes later that she had been on the other side. Alas!

The halfway point of the race came somewhere in the middle of the Pulaski Bridge. I checked my watch and saw that I was on pace for just about four hours, and so figured if I could at least mostly keep my pace up, I would finish just above that. I never have been a negative splitter.

The next person on my route was Tom and his fiancee, Carmen, who told me they would be cheering just before the Queensboro Bridge. Unfortunately, though, I missed them, too. No matter! I was feeling good as we made our way onto the Queensborough Bridge.

I think maybe 1 out of 10 people on the Queensborough were actually enjoying themselves at that point. I was one of those and I made every attempt to rally my fellow runners. At a few points, I tried the hoot and holler. For the most part, though, no one was having my crap. I think I might have gotten one enthusiastic response but otherwise my cheers were met with radio silence. Well, panting and heaving, if not silence. When we had almost reached the end of the bridge, I yelled "WOOOO! Manhattan!"

My words sat in the air for a bit and I tried running a little faster, figuring everyone around me had probably had enough. But finally, one girl turned to me and said, "this is my favorite part." I turned to her, incredulous, and said, "mine, too!" And it was glorious. Taking that turn is like running into New York City's open arms. The road exits the south end of the bridge and wraps around under a tunnel, leading runners north on First Avenue. For that entire portion and through the next five or ten blocks, spectators are four and five people deep and their energy and excitement is palpable. For however brief a moment, it's easy to forget that you're 16 miles into a marathon.

Ali had said she would be in that area as well, so I scanned the crowd as I ran by but didn't see her. The next people on my official list were Julia (92nd and 1st) and Monica and Helen (94th and 1st). As I passed 78th Street, I looked out for my friend Jorge, who had not explicitly said he'd be there but also lives in the area. No luck, though, so I continued on. In that stretch, we passed mile 18. I briefly considered taking a PowerGel that was being distributed, but decided against it, as I didn't actually feel like I needed it. Course volunteers were also handing out wet sponges, but it was way too cold for me to want any of that.

Finally, I reached the 90's. I missed Julia (my overall ratio of seen:missed friends was low) but saw Helen and Monica and came in for some high fives. The guy standing next to them even gave me a high five!

After that, the next two miles toward the Bronx was a bit of a slog. My hamstring was beginning to really bother me. It had started hurting earlier in the race, but I'd managed to put it away by telling myself that it was simply too early in the race (mile 6) to indulge it. 12-13 miles later, though, the tightness was back and it was much more difficult to ignore. I found myself having to stop and stretch it out at least once a mile starting at 19 or 20.

After an uneventful time in the Bronx, we entered Manhattan again on 5th Avenue and almost immediately saw the 21 mile marker. I knew my next stop would be my Hudson Duster friends just after mile 23. I could not have been happier to see all of them and ran down the line, giving high fives the whole time. I even got my own race beverage, which I very nearly coughed into someone's face. Ahhh…the marathon.

Soon after that stop, I saw Helen and Monica one more time. This time, I meant serious business and came in for a full-on hug. Helen was really thoughtful and brought me a banana. Unfortunately, eating a banana was not in the cards for me at that moment, so I had to refuse and I continued on my way. Next on my list was the Cornell water stop at mile 25. Honestly, I didn't even know anyone giving out water, but I still always look forward to that one.

Soon after that, I knew I only had a little over a mile left and decided to dig in and finish. To my surprise, Emily (whom I last saw around mile 7) was there right after the Mile 25 water stop for a last minute boost! I made the turn onto 59th Street and began the final stretch. I knew I had 3 more avenues and about two tenths of a mile to go after that, so I took it one at a time. 6th Avenue, then 7th (near where Monica, Jeremy and I used to live) and finally 8th. Somewhere between 7th and 8th I was pleasantly surprised by an 11th hour friend sighting when I saw Ali! I heard her cheer as I passed and saw her out of the corner of my eye and if I hadn't been so darn close to the finish, I would have swung around.

At that point, though, nothing was stopping me. I barreled on through Columbus Circle and into Central Park, knowing the finish was only a couple tenths of a mile away. At that point, I couldn't help but pick up the pace as I ran past burgeoning crowds and across the finish line.

5 down, hopefully at least a dozen more to go.
I know this post has already overstayed its welcome, but I want to emphasize how much I love this race and this day. This year and every year. It somehow manages to be both heavy with meaning and buoyant with hope and excitement. And people show themselves to be so, so good. All of the good adjectives you can use to describe people are applicable on this day. They are good, kind, true, generous, warm, gracious, brave and strong. And even if, in the grand scheme of things, it's just a foot race, it assures me that we can rise to even greater, more urgent occasions.

EDIT: After thinking about this a bit, I discovered the sentence in bold is probably a minor internalization of a Maya Angelou quote I love. It's not the same and doesn't explain the exact same sentiment, but it echoes her words and so I am including it here, primarily in the interest of transparency:

"One isn't necessarily born with courage, but one is born with potential. Without courage, we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can't be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest."

-Maya Angelou

Monday, November 10, 2014

Race Report: The 2014 TCS New York City Marathon - Part 1

I'm back! It's mostly been within the week so this counts. Last weekend, I ran my fifth NYC Marathon. It was as wonderful as it's been each of the last four times, with the added bonus of being my best NYC performance by a good margin.

This training season was unpredictable. It started out strong in terms of mileage, but I can't say it was predictably good in quality. I ran a few awful half marathons and an awful 18 miler and started losing confidence. At some point in the month prior to the race, I decided to make peace with it and not worry quite so much about what I anticipated would be a lousy marathon.

But, let's start at the beginning. I spent the week before the marathon refraining from doing too much running. My last run prior was a brisk 3 miler on Friday. On Saturday, I went to the expo and then attended a lovely pasta dinner hosted by Elana Sassypantsmagoo. It was a great pre-race meal and it was nice spending that time with so many friends who were also running the marathon.

As a quick aside, this marathon outstripped any other in friends I knew who were also running it. It was  a far cry from the first NYC Marathon I ran in 2009, in which I knew no one This time, I think I knew 10-12 other people also running! Many of the people I knew who were running were doing so for the very first time. I loved experiencing it with them and I can only hope they all enjoyed themselves as much as I did (and always do).

I got home at a reasonable hour and did manage to get to sleep around 12:30, which is not an awful pre-race bedtime for me. Plus, we all benefitted from the end of Daylight Savings Time. The marathon is one of two or three times in the year when living where I live is extremely convenient for purposes of running. I was able to wake up a little after 6:00am to catch the 6:41 bus and get to South Ferry at about 6:53. I was supposed to meet Jeremy, Nick and Amortya there to catch the 7am and we made sure to pick a specific meeting point, as Jeremy and Amortya had planned not to have their phones.

As 7 approached, Amortya had not yet arrived and we finally had to go inside to catch the ferry without him (he caught the next one) because Jeremy was in Wave 1, which was scheduled to start at 9:40am. Everything on the way to the race went very smoothly, although it did take quite some time to get from the bus to the start villages, presumably because of the increased security.

Once we arrived, we headed straight back into the Green village, since both Jeremy and Nick were assigned there. I was Orange, but much preferred their company to being lonely in the correct village. Jeremy didn't have much time there at all, as his corral closed at 8:55 and we arrived around 8:30. We had some coffee, Jeremy had a bathroom break, and then he was off. Nick's wave was up next, and his corral was set to close at 9:20. After some hanging out and another trip to the port-a-potty, Nick also departed. My corral was next, so I took my own trip to the bathroom (these things need to be appropriately timed) and started applying my anti-chafe spray and shedding the rest of the things I'd brought to the start. Well, except for my sweatshirt, which I wouldn't ditch until a little before mile 3.

Verrazano Selfie!

Once it was time for me to line up, I made my way to the corral and had the good fortune of finding two of the pace groups, which were exactly the ones I thought I might join. There was the 4:30 group and the 4:15 group. Anticipating running with the 4:15 group made me a little uncomfortable, so I decided to start with the 4:30 group. As the cannon went off and everyone in my wave began to cross the start line, Frank Sinatra's New York, New York played. It was enough to make anyone get a little emotional.

Well, this post is getting a little long so I think it calls for a two-parter. To be continued!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The NYC Marathon! 2014 Edition!

Hello! It's been so long! Life has really been at it since August. I don't have enough time for a full race report right now, but I wanted to check in because it's been far too long.

On Sunday, I ran my fifth New York City Marathon and for the first time was graced with the presence of many, many friends both racing AND watching! It was a far cry from 2009, when I knew no one else running. I'm happy to know so many people so enamored with the sport and with this city.

I will continue these thoughts in a proper race report. And I plan to write the race report sometime this week. We'll see, though. I'm never very good when I set myself blog deadlines. Congratulations to all NYC finishers and I'll catch you later this week.