Tag Archive for 1/2 Marathon

Part 1: The Beginning of the End

At last, the New York City Marathon has come and gone. The last month has been crazy with training (and not training- more on that) so I will begin at the beginning of the end.

Staten Island.  October 12, 2014.

The plan was to complete my last long run in combination with running the Staten Island Half Marathon.

My Mister drove me to Staten Island where we parked near the start line around 7:00 am. That left me with about and 1 hour and 15 minutes to squeeze in a comfy 7 miles before getting to my corral. I set off along the course route and ran 3 ½ up towards the Verrazano, before turning around and returning. I was encouraged by the dozens and dozens of runners also adding in miles along the same route- we were all marathon bound and this was our final training stretch!

staten island running

Now the thing is, I had run Grete’s Great Gallop ½ Marathon the previous Sunday and experienced an odd twinge of pain in my left knee. I’ve never had any sort of knee pain, running or otherwise, and it shook out quickly during the Gallop even as it ebbed and faded during the Gallop so I didn’t give it much thought. Until now. During these 7 miles it was back. And it wasn’t exactly shaking out. It was a general pain that tightened as I rolled through strides on my left leg.

I returned to the start area around 8:15 right on schedule and regrouped with my mister as we headed towards the corrals.

Staten Island 1/2 Corral

The Mister tells me, “Make sure you step on home plate when you finish.” I told him “I’m feeling good, but I’m not sure about this knee. If I’m not on schedule during the ½ it’s because I’m having major issues. Major issues.”


The race began, and a FDNY fire boat kicked off the celebration in rare form.

fdny fire boat

Also in rare form, my knee which was already in twice as much pain as I had experienced that morning.  This is mile 1. 12 more to go, right?

It got worse, and worse. By mile 3, I was seriously considering stopping, calling the Mister, and getting the heck out of there. I have no clue what is wrong with my knee, hypothetically I have a Marathon in less than 1 month, and this is the now or never time for my last long run, the ever important 20 mile threshold. And the Mister woke up early on his day off and drove me out to Staten Island to see a Half Marathon.  If I wanted to do an everyday, plain Jane, sub-par distance training run I could have just gone to Central Park and at least he could have slept in. At least this is what is going through my mind since I can be tough on myself to the point of plain old foolishness.

So I continued. And hobbled. And walked. And welled up with tears as my marathon future flashed before my eyes and disappeared into a blur of ace bandages and ice compresses.

Near Mile 7, someone  came up behind me as I was walking and choking back tears yet again. He put his hand on my back, “You’re ok. What we’re going to do is run two of those lamp posts. “ He was still running and began to pull me too,  “I have two fake knees!” he added and I thought, “jeez, the universe is really laying it on heavy. If he is smiling with two fake knees and can give this another go.” So we began to run. I learned his name was Tommy, he was from Staten Island, and his current goal was to run a marathon on every continent.

Later that afternoon, I would actually discover via the Staten Island Advance that this was local legend Tommy Hart. And I couldn’t have been more gracious to experience such selfless encouragement from someone who clearly represents the best in our running community.

We passed a flock of the famous Staten Island turkeys. Too cool. We wondered together where in god’s name the turnaround was. Altogether we ran about 2 miles together until we parted.

At this point my knee is howling. Real bad. I have no clue what is wrong with it, or if I should even try to keep running on it. It hurts just to walk and half of the time when I try to start running again it is excruciating and impossible to put weight on it.

And all of these thoughts keep going through my head:

Even if I can’t run any more, shouldn’t I walk to the finish? But I’m still 4 miles out, won’t that take too long? They will close the course. So you want to quit because you’re embarrassed? Do you want to quit because of knee safety or pride?

And I couldn’t answer that last question so I kept going. I was so far off of my normal time bracket and falling deeper and deeper into the field of participants. And at first, it pains me to say, my pride was wounded. I was walking a lot, I was nowhere near a time I was prepared to deal with, and I imagined every single spectator judging me. It takes guts to be slow, I thought. And I thought some more, I’m an ass for even trying to define what I think is slow. A real asshole that completely undermines everything that is beautiful and meditative and, I hate to use the word, uplifting about running. I have always known running isn’t all about a number, but then again I’d always been fairly satisfied with my performance and, similarly, my time. This was uncharted territory for me and I learned what lies beyond is an experience far more evocative than running for a number.

On the topic of numbers though, this it what 13 miles of pain looks like with Grete’s Gallop as control data.

compare #2

And with wounded pride, a busted knee, and an entirely new view on running, I found mile 13.

finishing the Staten Island Half

I was, however, very disappointed to find that I could not, in fact, “step on home plate,” upon crossing the finish.

The 2014 NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon, or, A Series of Unfortunate Events

This week it was me vs. Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn won, in case you are wondering.

The bib pickup for the Brooklyn Half was only available in the three days preceding the race, which meant all runners had to take a pilgrimage to the “pre-party” site to a somewhat remote pier (of course) in (you guessed it) Brooklyn. I was a pretty busy between intern-shipping and work shifts, but I hustled out via the AC train early Wednesday afternoon. After getting off the train, we followed a series of markers down to the water’s edge. And when markers would no longer suffice, volunteers held signs and dance- seemingly animating their arrows like cartoons from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”

pier party

The actual shin-dig on the pier was sweet. It was obvious that a lot of creativity went into its conception. This week I read a lot of complaints about the bib pickup situation, if you will. To which I would respond as follows: if you don’t like a ½ mile walk, maybe don’t sign up to run a half marathon. Runners get a bad rap for being self-centered and arrogant. Let’s try to tone it down a notch, shan’t we? I respect that even if this one particular bib-pickup wasn’t especially convenient for me, it was incredibly festive and creative.

But seeing as how I had to bounce in and out, I didn’t have too much time to roam around the expo portion. But I did pick up one of the most amazing pastries I have ever eaten  in my life. It was a raspberry crumble square and as I walked back nibbling on this sweet that surely fell from the gods above (actually from  Chickpea & Olive), I considered leaving all of my current obligations behind and going back to beg them to take me into their kitchen and teach me their secrets since it had suddenly become so glaringly obvious to me I have much to learn in the ways of baking.

I thought about this until I got back to the street and was sidetracked by the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, where I was duty-bound to buy a cone. It was pretty humid and I was still hungry. One thing was clear, if I ever moved to Brooklyn, it wouldn’t be to spend my time eating kale.

Cool Brooklyn Building

Back at the AC train I spent ten minutes looking for my Metro Card. It was gone, but I didn’t know that yet. It would be the first metro card I would lose this week.

Thursday morning I had lunch shift to work at the ol’ restaurant. But I began woke up at 5:30 and continued to slip in and out of sleep for the next two hours, delirious in the new humidity. In once instance I would wake up and think it was Saturday morning and I had to be in Brooklyn, ten minutes later I would think I was late for woke, ten minutes after that I thought I was late for Brooklyn. And so it went.

Friday night I tried my best to get to sleep early, since I wanted to be out the door as close to 5 am as I could, and I kind of succeeded. Until I woke up just after midnight and was stuck tossing and turning for about two more hours.

Before I knew it, 4:50 am had arrived. Luckily, I had the good sense to lay everything out and ten minutes later I was out the door. It was cool and quiet and windy. As I juggled my water and phone I thought I dropped something (but I was holding everything I needed, wasn’t I?) Of course, this would turn out to be the second metro card I would lose this week.

I headed cross town and took the 2 train toward the Franklin Av. stop. One thing I did not factor into my trip was that it would be running local. Sigh. Just have to make it into the corral by 6:40. I spent the next hour eyeing the clock feverishly. The train was PACKED- post Union Square I think runners had serious difficulty squeezing in and by the time we were coasting under Brooklyn, forgetaboutit.

We emerged from underground to sunlight and police and many more runners who had woken up at god knows what time. Security was quick and painless and I didn’t have a bag to check so I’m not quite sure what that looked like. Then into the corrals.

Brooklyn Half Wave 1

And we waited. And stretched. And tried to decipher the bathroom lines. Some announcements no one could really understand. Someone sang the national anthem and tore it up (good tore it up). And we were off.

As foreshadowed by two lost metro cards (I’m always losing things in Brooklyn,) this would not be my race. What follows will be a description of things slowly and agonizingly falling apart for me, beginning with the Garmin.

As we past the final front corals and came upon a turn, we went over a timing mat which I mistakenly thought was the start. Unfortunately, the start was about 30 seconds later. Beep. Boop. Blep. I tried to quickly fix my watch, but it was too late and I knew that was that. I would have a “rough” idea of my time but arrrrrgggggggghhhhhh.

The first 5 miles had a lot of spectators and the most up-hills ( and very gentle hills, at that). I knew the first half took place predominantly in the park, and that is probably so eager to get out of the park. And that is probably why the park seemed to take forever. But I was generally on track with my time goals.

And considering I accidentally drank all of my handheld water before the race and actually started with an empty bottle and had to fill it up at the early water stations, that ain’t half bad.

But by now it was starting to feel pretty hot and humid.

Lets start some tunes, I thought. Failboat city, up ahead:  ipod was on shuffle, when it shouldn’t have been. Goodbye carefully crafted playlist, see you next time.

And then my stomach kicked into high gear. The bad gear. I had some shotblocks which I typically eat about three every four miles. I took some around mile 5, but that would be it for the day. I felt downright acidic in my throat, then in my stomach, and floating back to my throat. The last four miles I had to spontaneously stop for 20 seconds here, or 20 seconds there because this feeling was making me feel nauseous and I didn’t really feel like running over to the grassy medium to throw up next to some unsuspecting spectator. My goal time 1:55- 1:58 slipped further and further out of reach. After 1:30:00, I had three miles left. Perfectly doable- on any other day. I knew I probably wouldn’t PR due to my foot injury (4-3 weeks out) and my marathon recovery (2-1 weeks out), but I definitely didn’t want to PW (personal worst).

Like I said, this would not be my race.

Finally, finally, we are getting close. We pass the 800m sign! And I am hurting severely. My stomach issue is killing me and because of it I haven’t been hydrating or fueling like I should have been and the heat and humidity is gearing up to take me down. Seriously. The last 400m were one step above survival mode. Instead of kicking in everything I had and finishing triumphantly, I was employing the Finish-Chute-Emergency-Procedure. Step one: focus/ take it very easy, don’t throw up/pass out. Step two: don’t walk.

I executed both steps, just barely, and just like that it was over.


As they funneled us towards medals and photo-ops and underneath women on stilts (I was so shot I literally could not process the people on stilts), my only thought was whether I could beg someone for a bag before I was sick on their nice boardwalk.

It passed. And I began to hear several others around me. Two people talking about how they had bad races. One man saying how he had to chase down a police officer to help another runner.

Don’t get me wrong, the Brooklyn Half Marathon was awesome. It was beautiful, well-organized, energetic, and festive. It was also massive, and apparently the largest ½ marathon in the U.S. to date. And I know plenty of the 25,000 runners or so absolutely killed it.

2014 Brooklyn Half Marathon Medal

But for me, this race was brutal. My body fought me every step of the way.

And that’s ok. PW? PW. There’s a first time for everything, for better or for worse. And it may literally be a worst for now, but it will make future runs better.

Brooklyn 1, Sam 0.

It’s safe to say, in 2015 I plan on evening that score.

The Weekend to Nowhere

Shotblocked! Run Attempt #1

Last Saturday I brought myself back to the gym with the goal of running 12 miles. I have been unusually and incredibly busy the last two weeks, between work/internship/and grand jury duty with a dash of sickness/visiting family/ and theater tickets. But since I had a half marathon the following Sunday, and Bear Mountain waits for no one, it was time to dust off my Garmin (literally) and get my act together.

By the time I got out of work and got to the gym, it was already 5:30, I told the mister “I am going to run and run and run and never stop, though realistically, I will be stopping around 7:30, home around 8.”

Shot BlocksI began my run feeling a little sluggish, but lucky for me, I had also planned to use this distance run as a chance to play around with ½ marathon distance fueling in the form of shot blocks. (I had previously tried, some two weeks before, on a 13 mile run, I took a smaller-than-serving-size bit because I wanted to make sure they would gel with my stomach). So this time at mile 4, I popped the suggested three and slogged on. Thankfully, somewhere around mile 6 1/2  or 7, they really kicked in. My legs began to feel steady and forceful, my breathing steadied inesto something resembling rhythmic, and I had found my second wind on a run where I missed my first.

This was going great! I was going to hit my goal, there was a great movie on t.v., the gym was really mellow. I made a mental note: Saturday nights, nice and roomy. Too roomy. SURPRISE! Gym closes at 7. This I realize at 6:55 as one of the trainers shuts off all of the tvs. Wont. wont wahhhhhhhhh. I left with 8 ½ miles in my pocket and once more reminder that the Blink! Fri/Sat night hours blow.


That Sunday I woke up early, around 5:30 a.m. to watch the mister’s television debut on a morning program. He was spectacular!

A couple hours later, I ran to the metro north and headed up to Woodlawn. I met my aunt and brother for a yoga class at
Nueva Alma on Mclean Avenue in Yonkers. My brother was actually in the middle of going to back to back classes, and my aunt and I joined him for the second one. I knew within the first 4 minutes that this class was probably just out of my range, but I was ready to sweat and determined to shrug off how massively silly I looked. And it was awesome. Erica, who I have had as an instructor at that studio twice now, is awesome. She is the best combination of chatty, tough, and approachable- with just the right emphasis on the tangible aspects as the intangible ones.

After yoga, and a well needed breakfast and shower, my aunt, mister, his brother, and I joined their mother for late lunch (early dinner? what do you call stew at 3 o’clock?) in Bronxville.

Old Rusty

Old Rusty

The trip home was a bit more complicated. I had taken the Metro North up. But the mister had driven and along the way his 614 BC Mazda imploded. Lucky for him, even though it was smoking heavily from the hood, a little old lady yelled over that “something is wrong with your car.” Long story short, we played several games of “musical cars” and eventually relied on ol’ Rusty (also known as ol’ Drafty) to get us home.

Run Attempt #2

Monday, after completing the final round of musical cars, and then researching every single type of car currently for sale, I suited up for a chilly run on the east side esplanade. Of course, since this was the weekend to nowhere, I only made it about 2/3rds of my intended distance. Blocked by some very official looking fences courtesy of the City of New York, will the construction over there ever end? Me thinks not.

All in all, sometimes things don’t go as planned- for example, finishing this post in a timely manner. But eventually, things will come around. SPOILER ALERT: That half marathon? Turns out just fine.


Fred Lebow Manhattan Half- Race Recap

Today was my first race of 2014! And with sub-20 degree temps and 13.1 miles to tackle it was quite a day! The Fred Lebow Manhattan Half is the first of six races in the New York Road Runner’s Borough Series (5 Borough’s + the NYC Half), and dedicated to the founder of the New York City Marathon.

I first became with Fred Lebow’s story (dare I say legacy?) when I stumbled across the documentary, “Run for Your Life” (2008,) on Netflix which centers on his impact on running events with NYRR. However, this December, when I was volunteering at a bib pickup at NYRRs headquarters on 89th Street, the “mandatory” volunteers like myself, had the opportunity to meet many of the older true volunteers who came for reasons other than fulfilling a 9+1 credit. And I will never forget at least two of them -each completely independent of the other- would get a faraway look in their eyes and smile as they recounted a story about Fred’s enthusiasm about something as usual as sorting bib numbers. And for that, as fantastic as “Run for Your Life” was, I feel like I learned more about Lebow in the 2 minutes I watched his friends remember him.

It was also for these reasons that amid the threat of a “feels like -1 degree” weather forecast and potentially icy course conditions, that many runner’s pressed for NYRRs to continue the race as planned instead of canceling it (as they were considering last night).

It was probably some combination of Fred’s spirit prevailing and the cold winds not that culminated in the race continuing. And by 7:55 the mister and I were running from our car to the corrals, where I managed to squeeze in just before the gun.

Let’s break it down.

Miles 1-6: Not bad. Feeling strong. The hardest part was chewing super cold Shot Blocks.

Mile 7: Internal monologue: “Hey! I just ran 7 miles in 1 hour. Looks like I might come in under 2:00 hrs on light training after all. Wait, now I should try to shave 3 mins off of that and PR too….” Cue number crunching and minor stress.

Mile 8: Motivated by a high five from someone in a bunny suit, and the idea of a fuel-ingesting walk break reward after my favorite downhill.

Mile 9-12: Better understanding of why people cry might cry when they hit the wall during marathons. Beginning to think I pushed to hard to get to that walk break because my legs are finally feeling shot. Also, I know I am way behind on my water intake, but my stomach has had it today and any more and I know I am risking full blown cramps.

Mile 13: Longest mile of my life? Probably not. Quickest mile of my life? Definitely not.

And at long last, the finish! I lost my mister for the whole race, but found him again (with a huge scarf and an even bigger smile) exactly as they announced my name and a moment later I was crossing the finish. It. Was. Awesome.

1:55:44 – my new 1/2 marathon PR didn’t hurt either. 

Oh yeah, and then this happened!

"To a Cold Weather Runner"

To: ” A Cold Weather Runner!”

I saw the High-Five Bunny again.

Me (to the mister)- It’s that bunny!
Bunny (comes over for high five)
Me- I already got a high five earlier! It was great!
Bunny- Oh yeah. You want a gift card?
Me (suspicious new york style)- Um, kind of.
Bunny (gives me $20 Jack Rabbit Gift Card)

So I guess that makes him a High-Five Jack Rabbit?