20 November 2011

The Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon

The Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon.  The day finally came and went, although at time time seemed to move too fast as I battle the nasty hills of Prospect Park.

I got up at 5:15 A.M. to get myself ready for the dreaded subway ride to the event.  Before going to bed the night before, I already packed the energy gels, some cash, a subway card, a few pieces of IDs in case I keel over.  For some reason I did not set the timing chip on my sneaker or attach the bib to the shirt with safety pins so those tasks I did in the morning of the event.  Being a recycler, I even set aside six previously-used rubber bands to bring to the event instead of using the new ones that BM organizers would no doubt provide.  Alas, I totally forgot about them when I got out of the house.  I will go into details about the rubber bands later.

I could have taken the Q or F train to the event if I was willing to make some transfer from the D train.  As it is with weekend track work, I decided to take the D straight to 9th Street Station and walk my long avenues to Prospect Park's Center Drive.  As it turned out, I overslept and got off a stop later.  No problem, I had plenty of time and it was a nice, cool day for walking.

There was some delay with the portable toilets.  The one I came across on West Drive was out there all along for the general public to use and there was no toilet paper - no surprise there.  The only usable toilet was a public one at a playground some long distance on the East Drive.  Even with the shining example of the Great Grete Waitz, there are still more men than women in most races, the exceptions being those women-only races, so the men's room actually had a line while the women's did not.  I still made it back to the start area with plenty of time to kill.  The race did not start at 8 sharp but instead at perhaps 8:15, no biggie.  By then I already had six rubber bands on my right wrist.

The course of the BM consists of 2 lower loops, 6 big loops, then one lower loop.  Or at least that's how I interpreted it.  NY1's report also said so, "6 big loop and 3 lower loops."  For my training runs, I almost never run in loops and usually head out x kilometers then back home, just tracing my way back.  The only time I run loops is on tracks and those runs are limited to at most 4 times, to make a mile, or 5 times, to make 2 kilometers.  On the track I would use different lanes as I finish a loop.  The two beginning lower loops are easy enough as it is hard to lose track of 2.  The six loops worried me.  I still do not own a GPS watch for running so I thought I might lose track of the six loops somehow.  Luckily, the rubber bands provide a somewhat reliable solution.  Each time I finish a loop I would shoot a rubber band to the side of the road.  I did it with a lot of fanfare and the cheerleaders on the East Drive was very enthusiastic with their volunteer job.  Mind you all the volunteers were great, just that those on the East Drive was more excited, perhaps because that's where people finish the big loops.

The rubber bands helped but I still had to actually run the loops so I can honestly take them off and shoot them away.  The hill approaching Grand Army Plaza was the worst, but the West Drive's hills were not friendly either.  After loop #3, I saw only 2 more rubber bands on my wrist but afterward saw band #3.  It was very discouraging but I pressed on anyway.  At some point my calves started to ache and then the thighs too.  I thought marathon pains only come in the form of "de agony of de feet"!  Fifteen years ago when I ran the NYC Marathon, with inadequate training, I probably felt aches in every leg muscles, but fifteen years is a long time enough to forget these tiny details.  I know with the races in the past two years I only felt aches above the feet when I sprinted for the finish line.  Luckily, my left foot was fine all along.  Eventually I shot the last rubber band away and entered Center Drive ready to do one more lower loop.  Remember the course?  Two lower loops, six big loops, and one lower loop, right?  It turned out after the six big loops you would just enter Center Drive to run to the finish line, which was just a tad beyond where the start line was.  I almost skipped the finish line by going to the right of it but an official corrected my course.  I didn't get to do my usual sprint for the finish line, to give the false impression that I was finishing strong.  My time was somewhere beyond 5 hours, maybe 5:15.  No Boston Qualifier :) but it was still a good finish for me.  I really need a GPS watch to avoid future scenarios.

The start line.

The start line before the 400 or so runners got behind it.

The inspirational Louis and Heather with me.  We regularly exchange messages and such on social networks - Facebook and DailyMile.  These folks are fast!  They may write about misadventures with stomach problems during races but then they still finish way before me, sigh.

A finisher.  Other than the St. Louis race in April where my great oldest sister took photos for me, I have to rely on pro photographers along the course to provide the photos.  They may be great or not but definitely cost a lot.  I planned to stay at the finish line a while to take photos of finisher but then I realized I had to get home to give my son a practice subway ride in case there will be school bus strike this coming week.

19 November 2011

Countdown To Brooklyn Marathon

In about 24 hours, I will be running the Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon, 9 times around Prospect Park in Brooklyn (duh).  That is 6 times the full inner loop plus 3 times the lower loop.  The course sounds monotonous, especially compared to the NYC Marathon course, which touches all five boroughs.  Perhaps next year, the BM will cover other areas of Brooklyn instead of just Prospect Park.

It will not be the first time I run a marathon.  I actually did that about 15 years ago, in the NYC Marathon.  I even did it twice.  The first year I got in through the lottery.  The second year I was on standby and pretty much gave up but then I actually got selected!  Even though I was unemployed at the time and single, my "training" consisted of just a morning run to Astoria Park plus perhaps 3 miles around the track.  I did not sign up for any races - no LSD like a 15K or Half Mary, no 20-mile run on my own before the big day.  No social networks to learn from the pros or get encouragements from cyberspace friends.  My finish time was 6 hours 15 minutes the first year and worse the next year.  Back then the New York Times printed every finisher's name and I still have those regular newspaper somewhere in the attic.  Today, I understand the NYT only list people who finish with 4 hours and change, and only some special edition has every finisher's name.

With all the training the past two years, it seems like an easy goal for me to beat my younger self.  About two weeks ago I completed a 20-mile run in about 4 hours.  It was a lonely pre-dawn run from home to Chinatown, over the Manhattan Bridge, then back home over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Perhaps on race day, the cheering and excitement will nudge me move faster and complete the race in five hours.  Even if that stretch to 5:30 I still beat my younger self.

To quote Steve Lastoe, organizer of the Brooklyn Marrathon, GOTTA RUN!!!

05 November 2011

Twenty Miles

As the Dolly Parton song goes, "Running five to nine, a great way to put in some mileage".  Early this morning, in the wee hour of a short time after 5 A.M., I set out for yet another shot at putting in a 20-mile or 32-km run before running in a marathon.  I don't follow a strict training program and usually put in 5 miles (8 km) a day then possibly 8 or 9 miles on the weekend.  If possible.  The longest distance I would run come from the half-marathons that I registered for, usually with NYRR.  I vaguely recall the training schedule for intermediate runner that I looked at calls for a 20-mile run a few weeks before the big day.  So off I ran around 5 A.M., partly along the D train's elevated tracks on New Utrecht Avenue, then eventually crossing the Manhattan Bridge to get into Manhattan, southward to the Brooklyn Bridge to get back to Brooklyn, then found my way back to Fifth Avenue and traced my way back to starting point.  It was indeed a little after 9 A.M. that I got home.

The last time I tried to run 20 miles, I was so tired at some point after 10 miles and ended up walking a lot.  Today I knew better about during-run nutrition and wolfed down 6 gu's and two bottles of Gatorade.  The feet still felt the effect of the long run but the rest of the body was able to push along fine.  I only walked briefly when eating the gu's or waiting for Walk signal.

In case you are thinking about tsk-tsking me, or wagging your index finger while lecturing me on tapering before the marathon, recall that I won't be running the New York City Marathon, which was about 24 hours after i set out for my 20-mile run today.  The marathon that I will be in is the Brooklyn Marathon, or the Inaugural Brooklyn Marathon to be exact, about two weeks away on November 20.