21 April 2011

The Holiday Marathons

In the Vietnamese language, there is a phrase, "Thời Thế Tạo Anh Hùng" which translates to "the situation creates the hero."  In other words, for all scheming and planning, sometimes events just happen and you have to react accordingly.

The weekends before the St. Louis Marathon, there were half-marathons that I wanted to sign up for.  First, there was a half-marathon in Flushing Meadow Park on April 2, then there was the Unite 13.1 run at Rutgers University the week after.  I think the runners community in the tri-state area is big enough to support more than the NYRR and thought of supporting these other organizations.  Still, I figured I better get some good rest before and after the marathon.  The big day came and it was too hot in St. Louis and the race was shortened to a half-marathon.  Only those fast enough to reach the midpoint of the marathon at a certain time were allowed to continue.  It was a big disappointment for me.  No problem, I will just sign up for other races closer to home.  Alas, the Unite 13.1 run was already mostly filled up, with some spots left on race day.  While I somewhat looked forward to the long trip via subway and light-rail to Newark, I would only go there if I have a guaranteed spot in the race.  Scratch that one.  Then there is the Long Island Marathon weekend of May 1.  Again, because of some shuffling of personnel at work, my on-call dooty got moved up a week.  That is right, from May 8 to May 1.  While it is good that I will be able to do something undisturbed (hopefully) on Mother's Day, now my hope for Long Island Marathon is dashed.

But wait, there is a ray of hope!  Coming up this weekend is the Easter Marathons, one in a series of The Holidays Marathons.  Instead of stuffing our faces with food, or, shudder, go shopping, how about running in a race for the holidays?  The Holiday Marathons has races of varying distances - 10K, Half-Marathon, Full-Marathon, etc.  All free and commitment-free!  No registration, just show up on time and run.  Maybe not totally free if you fork over some donation amount, but the suggestion donation amount is still not as much as the typical race that I usually register for.

I plan to run a half-marathon in the Easter Marathon.  It is a trail run and I am not familiar with the area of Van Cordlandt Park so a half will do.  Eventually, I will definitely do a full-marathon.  There will be no medal but I just want to know if I can do it.  Check them out at http://www.theholidaymarathons.com/

11 April 2011

Thank You Saint Louis!

It is my last day of the trip to St. Louis to run the Marathon.  Even though I did not get to even try to complete the Marathon because it was shut down due to the hot weather, I do appreciate all the people that organized the event, the volunteers, and the spectators.  While not as many as those for the NYC Marathon, it was a good crowd.

Special thanks go to
  • the residents of Soulard with the big banner and the line-up to give us runners high-fives.  I recall high-fiving someone dressed up in Superman costume, that was fun.
  • the lady who gave out slices of oranges somewhere around Mile 11.  It was getting hot then and she was properly situated between the water stations.
  • the lady, sitting by the curb between Miles 12 and 13, who called out my name as she gave some encouraging words.  It was a nice personal touch that the bib have the first name printed.
  • and of course, last but most important, my big sister TOTA (Top-of-the-Arch) and brother-in-law for hosting my stay and making it an all-expense-paid vacation with plenty of time for relaxing and recuperating!

10 April 2011

Marred My Thong in the Marathon

I was all excited and ready for the St. Louis Marathon.  Got up 10 minutes before the alarm clock made its noise, was at the runners' corral before the 7 AM starting time, waited patiently for my turn to leave the corral.  There were many times more half-marathoners than full ones and we just had to slowly walk toward the starting line.  It was not cloudy as the weather report said, a bit warm but not as bad as some hot days I felt in Brooklyn, NY.  Perfect running weather, at least in my book.  There was plenty of water and Gatorade along the way.  I kept a steady pace to conserve my energy for the home stretch.  I was sure the last six miles would be challenging.  There were some hills along the way, but thinking of the support I got from my Facebook friends, like Deb (both of them), Annie, Rachel, Heather, and others, helped me move forward.

Alas, it was not meant to be.  Before I reached Mile 10, where originally the half-marathoners and full-marathoners would part ways, race officials decided the weather was not suitable to continue the full-marathon.  Some people mentioned last year's Chicago Marathon.  Maybe it was too hot and some people succumbed to heatstroke, or worse.  I did see at least two runners lying by the side of the road with emergency technicians helping them.

I was so disappointed I walked a bit after Mile 12.  All that planning, of taking easy the first few miles, turned out to be for nothing.  This half-marathon will probably not have my best time, since I slowed down for water a few times, because I thought I need the energy for later.  I still get a medal that says 26.2 miles, but I know I did not run the 26.2 miles.  Now I have to seriously consider the Long Island Marathon in early May.

09 April 2011

Countdown to St. Louis Marathon

About 12 more hours to go until the St. Louis Marathon.  Lots of rest and no running the past few days.  I don't watch what I eat that carefully, but do plan to have pasta for dinner.  There will be only about 3,000 participants for the full marathon, compared to about 15,000 for the half-marathon.  If I live in St. Louis, I probably would go for the half, but since I flew here, after all that troubles with security checkpoint, might as well go for the full.

This will be my third marathon ever.  The last time I ran the marathon was in 1995, with the year before that being my first marathon.  Both times it was the New York City Marathon, back then sponsored by Chemical Bank, I think.  It was somewhat easier to enter back then.  For 1994, I got selected in the first lottery.  The second time around, I didn't get selected and was on the waiting list.  I pretty much gave up but then I got selected from the waiting list, so I ran.  There was no fee to enter the lottery and the registration was something like $30 or so, a bargain compared to today's fee.  If you have the time, you can even go wait on line, in person, and get a paper application that gives you guaranteed entry.  The others that enter the lottery would request the form via USPS mail and send it back.

Sixteen years later, of course sixteen years older, I actually think I am more prepared than the younger me.  While it is true that I was single, even unemployed, so naturally I had more time to train, I didn't train that much.  I was living in Long Island City and would only run to Astoria Park, put in at most 3 miles around track under the Triboro Bridge, have lunch on a bench somewhere then walked back home.  At most I ran 5 miles a day and did not enter any official races to gauge my speed.  These days I do long runs on weekends and participated in NYRR-sponsored events.  I am shooting for a 5-hour finish time, or 5.5 hours top.  We will find out in about 12 hours!

08 April 2011

Meet Me in St. Louis

Boarding pass printed, my one piece of luggage packed, training done, or as done as it possibly be done... I am off to LaGuardia Airport for the flight to St. Louis for the marathon on Sunday!

It's some McDonnel Douglas plane model, so at least I won't have to worry any cracks in the fuselage.

The sore throat is still there, hopefully it will be gone by Sunday.  My nose was sniffling two days ago, but as usual a good night's sleep took care of it.  I hadn't have that in a long time, just missed a few days of running and it came right back.

Can a pain in the arch be the same as a pain in the arse?  I didn't run the past few days so it does not hurt any more going downstairs but I know it will come back on Sunday night.

Being a pessimistic person, I can think of many phrase to describe the possible undesirable outcome of the run.  "Misery in Missouri".  "Still Lose It in St. Louis".  "Marred My Thong in the Marathon".

Only one way to find out, RUN!!!!!

05 April 2011

Twenty Miles

I finally did it, or came close enough.  I read somewhere that a few weeks prior to a marathon the runner should run a 20-mile course.  (For those who do not know, the marathon is 26.2 miles.)  Once before I ran 10 miles, from my home in Brooklyn, not far from the amusement parks of Coney Island, to Manhattan's Chinatown.  Other times, I ran half-marathons or 15K races organized by the NYRR.  I thought a 20-mi run would be just the 10-mi run with an extra 10 added.  The math is simple enough.

I expected to spend at least 4 hours doing the 20 miles.  If I run before the sun rises, I would have to bring a flashlight, just to have a source of light on me.  I feel better knowing there is a smaller chance some motorist not running me over.  For the 20-mile run, I wanted to travel light, really light, so I waited until the sun came out, around 6:15, before I started out.

I mostly followed the D subway line from 25th Avenue to Fort Hamilton Parkway, where the subway goes subterranean, i.e. underground or at least below street level.  Next the route went along 39th Street, which like because one side is all dead-ends so I had a long run totally uninterrupted by traffic.  At Fifth Avenue I turned toward Manhattan and used Greenpoint Cemetery to again avoid traffic.  Normally I avoid commercial areas like Brooklyn's Fifth Avenue, but it was early in the morning, 7ish to 8ish so there was not that many people out on the street yet.  The stores were mostly still closed.  Soon enough Flatbush Avenue was reached, next it was MetroTech Center.  Through the tree grove I tried to get to the street by going between 2 of the Polytechnic buildings, to reach George Westinghouse H.S., but alas that exit was closed.  I had to loop back toward 1 CMC and go past Starbucks to head toward the pedestrian lane of the Manhattan Bridge.  The ascend on the bridge seemed to take forever but eventually I got to the other side, Manhattan's Chinatown.  Maybe having ran this route before made it seem shorter.  The first 10 miles were relatively easy to cover.

Chinatown at 8 in the morning was already a busy.  Stores and restaurants were opened for business, dim-sum eaters abound, and there were some buses unloading, ahem, losers from Atlantic City, just a wild guess.  I did walk a little bit, even though it was relatively easy to run the 10 miles, I was still tired.  I continued running once inside Sarah D. Roosevelt Park, near the bike path of the Manhattan Bridge, to Delancey and then toward the waterfront.  Over a footbridge to cross the FDR, I was in the East River to continue the run south.  I ran this way before, but not all the way to the Winter Garden in Battery Park City.  The waterfront is not continuous but it was still possible to run mostly uninterrupted by vehicular traffic.  By the time I reached Pier 17 (South Street Seaport), I was so thirsty and hoped that the new playground, Imagination, would have a working fountain.  Rats, the place was closed, padlocked for the weekend perhaps.  I kept going past the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, along the street perimeter of Battery Park, and past the long line of tourists waiting to get ferry tickets to visit the Statue of Liberty.  Shortly later, I was inside Battery Park City.  The last time I was in the BPC, I think its southern end was still under construction.  Now there are gardens, walkways, arches, benches, everything nice and inviting, but I had a goal to reach.  Two blocks before reaching the Winter Garden, still not recognizing it from the outside, I gave up and bought a Gatorade from a street vendor.  I walked to the Garden and even sat down for about 10 minutes, under the indoor palm trees.  It was warm and comfortable, but I had to get back and soon found myself tracing my path back.  By then both feet were aching, even the toes ached, on the left.  It helped a bit that I knew what was coming up next, but still I couldn't run all the way back to Chinatown.  After cross the FDR via the footbridge, I walked the rest of the way.  It probably came out to 18 miles and not 20, but that will have to do.  I sure hope the crowd in St. Louis will be supportive enough for me to cover the whole 26.2 miles.  My strategy will be 10 miles, a short walk while drinking, then another 10 and some more water, then it's all the way to the finish line.  I ran the Manhattan Half-Marathon continuous, without stopping at all, no water whatsoever.  But for a full marathon, I cannot do that, as my attempt at a 20-mile run already shown.