30 October 2011

NYC Marathon - I'm In, Sort Of

I wanna be in the Marathon / So freaking bad
Run the whole twenty-six point two miles
The New York City Marathon is coming up fast, less than a week to go.  Not too long ago, ads for the Marathon started to plaster buses and subways, walls, and many other places.  The phrase repeatedly in the ads is, "I'm In".  Compared to the Boston Marathon, for which one must meet some minimum finish time, the NYC Mary is relatively easier to get in.  The elite runners still get automatic acceptance but the average person needs to rely on a lottery process.  There is also the 9+1 program whereby you run 9 races organized by the New York Road Runners (NYRR) and volunteer at one NYRR event.  There are a few other ways too.

To be in the 2011 race, one would have to make the necessary arrangements in 2010.  The only viable options for me were 9+1 and lottery, but it was only in July 2010 that I ran the Queens Half Mary and had the crazy idea that I should give the full mary a shot.  It was somewhat late for 9+1 so I went with the lottery.  $11 got me a chance but it didn't work out.  I ended up registering for the inaugural Brooklyn Marathon, a few weeks after the NYRM.  I will not be In the NYC Marathon for 2011.  Or so I thought.

Some days ago, I found out that the NYRR still needs volunteers for the Start Village in Staten Island.  I thought of watching the runners in Bay Ridge anyway since it was not far from me.  I would run along the Belt Parkway and get to Fourth Avenue to cheer them on.  But being with the runners in Staten Island is an even better deal.  Sure it will be challenging to be there at 5 AM but I think it will be worthwhile.  With the lousy subway service and the many people needing to get onto the S.I. ferry, I will probably need to leave the house at 2 AM!!!  If all goes well, I'll travel to Battery Park by subway, take the ferry across the sea to Staten Island, then run the 6 miles or so to the Start Village.  Or maybe I'll take the bus to the Start Village, if time is tight.

So, yes, I won't run in the NYCM in 2011 but I will be a volunteer at the Start Village, to be among all the excitement.  With 9+1 done in 2011, I will definitely be in the 2012 NYCM.  Just for kicks, I even signed up for the Yonkers Marathon, scheduled for September 2012, for a mere $40.

19 October 2011


So much for my speedy blogging.  When I was writing the last entry, http://www.qaptainqwerty.com/2011/10/save-holiday-marathon-series.html, I thought the article was too long and most readers would not finish it.  So I broke it up into two parts, with the first part briefly about my exploration of Staten Island then segue into my wish to further explore the Bronx, via participation in the Holiday Marathons series.  The free, fee-less Holiday Marathons series is a great alternatives for the many paid events out there.  Sure there is no T-shirts to have but do you really need another shirt?  All you need is other runners to compete against, perhaps some cheering sections, and water and refreshment along the way.  But there was some issues between the NYC Parks and Recreation Department and as I wrote the last entry, the permit was not yet granted to the organizers of the upcoming Halloween Marathon.

I waited too long and today through the org's Facebook Page that permit was already granted.  I was going to ask everyone to go http://www.thehalloweenmarathon.com/ and fill out a message of support for the event.  Well, I am glad that, at least for the Halloween Marathon, all is well and good.  I think I will even make the trip, this time running a Half Mary in preparation for the Brooklyn Marathon in late November.

If you still want to know what was all the fuss, the Riverdale Press has it tidily summed up in this article, Parks and Retribution.  For info on the opposition to the planned renovation of the Old Putnam Trail, see http://www.savetheputnamtrail.com/

16 October 2011


Last Sunday, I ran in the NYRR Staten Island Half Marathon.  Getting to the island by ferry took more energy than actually running the distance of 13.1 miles, but overall it was a worthwhile trip.  One reason I like the S.I. Half is the chance to explore the island.  Staten Island is large and the race route only covered a small area in the north of the island.  Still, that is one area I may not otherwise visit.

The Bronx is another borough of New York City that I do not visit that often.  My first home in the U.S. was actually in the Bronx, in the Kingsbridge area, to be exact.  From time to time I would visit the area if I happen to be up there, but I rarely purposely go visit the Bronx.  Sure there is the Bronx Zoo, the New York Botanical Garden, and of course the NYRR Bronx Half Marathon.  Except for this year the Half was cancelled because of Hurricane Irene.

For a short time, I thought I would have a great reason to regularly visit the Bronx - the Holiday Marathon series in Van Cordlandt Park, on most major holidays, even on some "fun" holidays like Halloween.  The idea is that people normally party and eat more than they should during holidays, so why not burn some calories through running?  As a plus, the event is free to participate in, although if you can afford it, a minimum $10 donation is suggested.  There are no T-shirts to have, no unique bibs, no electronic timing, and no monetary prizes.  But there is camaraderie, water and fruits, trinkets to remember the events by, and a nice trail to run on.  The route is about six miles long, so run twice to make a Half Mary, four times to earn a Full, or whatever distance you can get enough people to run with you.  I ran in the series once and was looking forward to the Halloween event but trouble is brewing in the cauldron...

09 October 2011

NYRR Staten Island Half Marathon

Some time today I shortly wished that the New York Road Runners is a powerful, maybe even evil, corporation that at a moment's notice makes the City of New York jump through hoops for treats.  That the City would ensure the runners of NYRR events get the best treatment they wish.

The day started early, up at 5 AM to try to catch whatever Staten Island ferry before the 7:30 AM one.  Or so I thought.  It did not help that the D train, a short distance from my house, did not run to Manhattan.  I had to jog over to the N line to catch the D!   Confusing enough?  On other weekends, the N would run on the D line into Brooklyn, for some distance, then resume running with D stations!!!

I got to the ferry terminal in Manhattan around 6:40 AM.  I just missed the 6:30 AM boat by about 10 minutes.  Who knows, maybe it actually left at 6:35 AM so I really missed it by just 5 minutes.  The next boat was scheduled for 7:30 AM!  Argh, so I would take the 7:30 boat after all.  Now that I work in New Jersey I no longer have the luxury of picking up my bib and T-shirt at NYRR office during lunch, so I was hoping to be in S.I. early to take care of registration etc.  I still managed to get everything done in time once in S.I. but the wait in the ferry terminal was unbearable.  Breaking my routine of totally fast prior to a race, I had a banana while waiting for the subway and then croissant and coffee while waiting for the ferry.  I lucked out and happened to sit near the gate for the ferry.  I heard some people could not get on the small boat that the City provided.  It would be so nice if the City brought a bigger boat, not for a bigger shark but just to quickly move people to S.I.  And more frequent schedules for such a big day!  Suspending subway re-route would be nice too, but I suppose that's impossible since NYRR races happen almost, if not, all weekends.

The nice thing about being a non-competitive runner is that I don't have to worry about being at a particular place in the corral.  I only have to race against my own records and always run from the end of the corral.  There are slower people than me and I would go around them when convenient.  I never really worry about when the race really starts.  As long as NYRR does not dismantle the starting line, I have some time to reach the mat - only then will my time kicks off.

Mile #1 appeared pretty quick and so were the subsequent miles.  The route was no Central Park, with its nice shade, and the hills are formidable.  Most of the route was along the waterfront but some parts went through industrial areas and there was no shade whatsoever.  I had a GU energy gel a short time before and do not follow the recommended 45-minute interval for subsequent gus.  Instead, I took another gu around Mile 4.  Between Miles 5 and 6 I noticed the fishing pier on the waterfront.  Or was it the Roosevelt Boardwalk?  I love to explore Staten Island some more so some day I will have to be back with the bike.  I hate driving so going over the Verrazano won't do.  Anyway, I was going to use the last gu at Mile 8, but the climb up the hill after Mile 7 was so strenuous I stopped for Gatorade.  The walk and the water kept me going until Mile 10, at which point I wolfed down the last gu.

I sweat so much the leather watchband stinks.  For today's race, and going forward, I plan not to wear a watch at all.  I already hold the cell phone in my hand anyway, its clock will do.  Actually, for the S.I. Half, I totally forgot to bring the cell phone.  I prepared for the race the night before, laid out all the clothes, packed the fanny bag, charged the phone... Except I didn't remove the phone and charger from the wall socket.  No loss, as the time is shown at each mile marker anyway.  I knew I started about 6 minutes after the race clock started ticking so I knew what my time was.  Mile #13 seemed to take forever to reach but I finally made it into the finishers chute.  It was really nice to hear a fellow DailyMiler called out my name.  I saw her and called her back.  She already finished some 20 minutes earlier and was just hanging out cheering the runners.

In the end, I finished the run at 2:25:14, my third best time for a Half Marathon.  It was a hot day but I think it really helped that I wore a tech shirt, to wick away most of the great volume of sweat I normally generate, plus the gus, otherwise it could easily be another 2:40+ finish time.  Overall, it was a great day to be outdoor.

02 October 2011

A Tale of Two Half Marys, Part Deux

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  I already went into the details of the disappointing Newport-Liberty Half Marathon from a week ago.  I think my reasons are satisfactory: extra sweat-soaked tank-top; hot and humid weather; cut-back training distance; and no rest the day before.  For the NYRR Grete's Great Gallop, also 13.1 miles in length, less than a week later, I made sure I wouldn't repeat the mistakes.

Lucky for me, the week after the Newport Half my son was finally assigned a bus route closer to home.  I still don't have the luxury of running in the early morning but at least I once again had time to do an 8k run.  The Newport Half was on Sunday so Monday I rested.  The rest of the week I went back to training and even had a day running up Dyker Height's hills.  Learning from my mistake, I took Friday off in preparation for the Great Gallop on Saturday.  On the day of the race, I made use of NYRR's bag check so I wouldn't have to carry anything extra.  It was cold when I left the house so I had a long compression pants, a T-shirt, and a sweater.  At the race, I removed the T-shirt and sweater to put on the race T-shirt and left them with bag check.  It was my first time using NYRR bag check and I was glad the fellow runners I asked for help were helpful.  The race bib came with a small piece of paper that was to be attached, via safety pin, to the bag.  When we take the bag back, some NYRR personnel checked the small piece of paper against our bib.  It is more secure than the airport!

The weather was in my favor, too.  A few days sure made all the difference and the day before the race it rained heavily, so on race day it was just right.  What's more, I am familiar with the race route, which was pretty much twice the inner loop of Central Park.  It was my first race in Central Park running clockwise, I think, I am not sure if that mattered.

What else could I have done to ensure a better finish time with the Great Gallop?  All these years, I always run with an empty stomach.  I get stomach cramp and other stomach troubles if I have breakfast before a run.  I stop for water or Gatorade, or whatever else given out along the race route, but nothing before, other than a sip of water.  After the Newport Half, I read more into pre-race food and energy gels.  After checking runner friends on DailyMile.com and elsewhere, I decided to give energy gels a go.  The last time I had one of them was from some NYRR race, given out along with the T-shirt and bib.  It was pretty yucky and I didn't want to ever eat them again.  The salesperson at Runner's High store near my office in Newport said it was not true and sure enough the 3 packs I got there did not taste bad at all. I cannot remember what I got now but I do recall one was mint chocolate.  I had one about fifteen before the race, then another one hour in, and finally I used the third one after another hour.  (Next time I may follow the package's schedule of 45-minute intervals during race.)  It really helped!  I felt energetic during most of the race and had a finish time of 2:28, compared to Newport's 2:42.  I am sure other factors affected the outcome of the race, too, but it is good to know that I can have food before and during the race to better take care of the body.  I already drink Gatorade, when available, during races, so having energy packages is just a convenient way to feed myself.  I need to tell myself that because deep down I have this nagging feeling that I am traveling toward chemical dependency.  Today energy gels, perhaps tomorrow it'll be human-growth hormone or steroids?  Nah, it's just food in convenient packages!

01 October 2011

A Tale of Two Half Marys, Part One

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.  OK, enough with the attempt to parody Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.  Two weekends in a row I had a half-marathon each weekend.  In one I did bad and in the other I did better than I thought I could.  Conditions are not the same, but there are factors that affected the outcomes.

This past Sunday (September 25) I ran in the Newport-Liberty Half Marathon (N-LHM).  I work in the area for maybe 6 years, not consecutively, but that's still a big chunk of time.  Only in recent months that I decided to explore the area near the office, during lunch breaks.  There is only so much time to explore, on foot, as I don't drive to work.  Exploring is best done on foot.  I always want to find out how to get to Liberty State Park from where I work, near the exit of the Holland Tunnel.  I also want to run along the Newport waterfront.  I often walk there during lunch breaks but never have the opportunity to run.

Unlike the typical NYRR races for which people can pick up bibs and T-shirts two days ahead of the event, for the N-LHM you need to do that on the day of the race.  I pre-registered so I got my bib and T-shirt fairly quickly.  I had no plan to check a bag so I wore a tank-top to the race then just added the race T-shirt on top.  It was Mistake #1.  It turned out to be a hot and humid day.  I sweat easily and the two layers of shirt simply kept all the sweat on me and weighed me down.  Only by Mile #5 or so that I had the brain to remove the inside and wrapped the tank-top around a hand, much like tapes on a boxer's fist.  If I checked bag I would have wasted a great deal of time.  The line was so long!  The same goes for the bathroom line.  Instead of having multiple lines going to the multiple portable johns, there were just two lines that snaked around the small street.

It was a good thing that I already explored the Hoboken area adjacent to Newport, via the somewhat recently opened waterfront connecting the two cities.  The route according to the official web site for the N-LHM showed a short excursion into Hoboken but in reality we didn't even go past the rail yard.  We went as far as just past Target and back we went on Washington Boulevard.  The part of the short excursion that we would go has not much to show anyway.  If the route was to include the waterfront then that's something else, but I suppose there were too many runners to squeeze through the construction area for some new condo and park, as well as the Hoboken transit hub.

It seemed like forever to see any mile marker.  I think the tall buildings along Washington helped block out the sun somewhat but once we turned into Grand Street there was no shade.  At some point we turned left and eventually ended up in Liberty State Park (LSP).  It was indeed nice there but again we were pretty much out in the sun, roasting away.  From looking at maps, I know that there is a bridge from the mainland to Ellis Island and at the end of Freedom Way I thought we somehow got onto Ellis Island.  Silly me, it was a long way to go before we would pass by the bridge.  I like it how the bridge/pier allows people easy access to sea-breeze while keeping some wild areas undisturbed.  I can imagine myself running in LSP frequently if I live in the area.  There were few photographers for the event but one or two were stationed near the bridge to Ellis Island, to capture the runners with the Statue of Liberty in the background.  It really is the back of Lady Liberty but it still makes a nice background.  Runners pass the photographers on the way to a U-turn so on the way back they knew ahead that they were there.  I put on a determined face for the camera then slouched right afterward.

The hot and humid weather, plus the soaked tank-top, all worked against me.  The day before, having to choose between (a) dying of ennui while some females relatives shopped, or (b) running at Marine Park, I chose the latter.  Looking back, I think it was an unwise decision.  I should have just walked instead.  Since the beginning of September, when my son went back to school, he had to take a yellow bus to school.  His new school schedule interfered with my running schedule, which is early morning.  I used to run then rushed home to drag him out of bed then we walked to school, mere minutes away.  Now I have a smaller window and can only run after he see him off on the bus.  Instead of the usual 8 km each morning I was doing only 4 km or less.  Running more on the day before the Newport Half did not help.  Shortly after the start, my left shoulder ached and I couldn't maintain my normal running form.  I had to walk more often or let the left arm droop.  While the legs do most of the work during a foot race, the other parts of the body matters too.

Two hours and forty-two minutes was my finish time for the Newport-Liberty Half Marathon.  The last time I spend 2:40ish for a Half Mary was for the Queens Half, when it was much hotter, in the middle of July.  Before that it was the ill-fated St. Louis Marathon 2011 that for me turned into a Half Marathon.  In the midst of confusion, I traveled a part of the route twice, once because I was diverted then the second time to confirm that the Full Mary was already cancelled.  I would like to think that the more I run the better I would get, but the N-LHM indicated otherwise.  The shorter, daily runs probably played a big role, then the extra piece of clothes, the unfriendly weather, and the lack of rest on the day before the race together really ruined it.

I am happy to report that for the NYRR Grete's Great Gallop (13.1 miles, October 1, 2011), my finish time was 2:28.  Conditions are definitely different than last Sunday, but I will into those details later.