Posts Tagged ‘queens’


I woke up at 5:30 this morning, tense and anxious about everything that needs to get done over the next five days. You see, this Wednesday evening the lawyers finally delivered a closing date for my coop purchase (May 31st) and I booked the movers (June 1st). Just like that, my holding pattern was over and I was given permission to land! Tray tables and seat backs to their upright position, people–TK’s set for arrival!

It’s all good. I do need to vigilantly surrender through this process, though: if I let my control freak* take over, I’m just asking for the stress to be magnified, for something to go wrong, and for disappointment. I don’t want this wonderful experience–buying and moving into my first wholly-owned home–dampened. So, at 5:30 AM I held my eyes shut against the to-do list, prayed that my troubled thoughts be turned off, and I went back to sleep until 6:30, at which point I got up and got ready for my run.

I set out without a firm route in mind (all I knew was I wanted to hit Ditmars Boulevard), and it ended up being an out-and-back. I ran up 49th St (from 31st Ave) to Ditmars Blvd; right onto Ditmars, which I followed until it curves south and turns into 82nd Street. I ran to 37th Avenue, then headed home. This way was completely new to me, and I enjoyed the tree-lined side streets and even the hills. I also liked how, when you’re running west along Ditmars, the cross streets go from 81st Street down sequentially to 71st, but then jump all the way down to 49th two blocks later! That really gave me a mental perk at the end of this workout. To see it on a map, I traced an upside down U that took me through Astoria Heights and Jackson Heights.

Along the way, a few airplanes skidded loud and low across the sky above me; no surprise there since the entrance to Laguardia’s Marine Air Terminal is on 82nd St. Auto traffic was light, but the Q32–the bus I took in Sunnyside that takes me over my bridge into Manhattan–passed me several times as I trotted along 82nd Street. On my way home, a moving van from the company I hired in January and again for Wednesday’s move drove right by me. All of this relocation, this movement of people and things through the skies and roads felt like the lead-in to my personal “Price is Right” moment. Look, here comes Bob Barker! “TK, pack your bags, because you’re moving to… Woodside, Queens!” Cameras swing to me, jumping up and down, clapping and laughing with unbridled delight.

6 miles run in 53:36, average pace 8:56. Fastest mile 8:33, slowest mile 9:20.

*I was going to say “inner control freak,” but there’s really nothing inner about her–she’s pretty much in your face. Freak!

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Although my running of the NYC Marathon in 2008 is  my best marathon experience to date, I still would choose spectating the race over running it. I staked out my cheering corner years ago, at 45th Road and Vernon Blvd, right before the 14-mile mark, and right after the water station and port-a-potties. (Of course this is in Queens.) I now recognize the other folks who cheer there year after year, including the couple with the golden retrievers who bring cartons of tissues to offer to snotty runners (once the fast people come through, they hardly ever get a rejection). This year I was joined by my dear friend and running buddy EN and my TeamFox teammate @nyrunningmom.

I got there at 10 AM, and EN and I passed the time before the female elites arrived cheering on the wheelchair athletes.  When we shout “Go athlete!” the wheeled competitors usually give us back a composed wave, as if they were visiting dignitaries. I always get choked up when the first few racers come by, overcome with the scope of the event and also with all the effort, planning and dreaming that most of these runners put in to prepare. These folks train for 4 months or longer–heck, I know people who don’t even date the same person for that long.

Before we knew it, the street-clearing police were whoop-whoop-ing their way past.  Mary Wittenberg followed, in the lead vehicle (she waved when I shouted “Hi Mary!”), with the motorcycle cops and the press truck in tow. Here they were, the female elites! I will never get over how quickly they pass, as if they were an apparition. Sometimes I even wonder if they hear us when we cheer for them as there is absolutely no acknowledgment. I was shouting my lungs out for Shalane, I was still yelling “Go Shalane!” when they were four blocks away. She looked relaxed and strong, and I was excited that she didn’t really have to share the spotlight with any other top-notch American marathoners. Even though it was the USA Marathon Championships, there wasn’t much noise made about Katie McGregor (who came in second among all Americans), etc. But I can tell you this: no one was looking for Edna Kiplagat– we were cheering for Christelle, Mara, Shalane, Kim and Derartu. This is what I love about the marathon–there’s no calling the winners at this distance. Who predicted Edna for the win? No one! No one was even talking about her until Mile 22!

It was so much fun to root on the American women running in the championship race, since they all had their names on their fancy bibs. This is when I realized that EN is as much of a cheer junkie as I am–to conclude an exciting round of shouting and clapping he would give his goofy laugh of enjoyment, a staccato Huh-huh, huh-huh that after an hour started to bring a smile to my face knowing my friend was getting as much out of this as I was. It felt right, cheering with the guy who had run stride for stride with me through 23 miles of this same marathon.

Soon enough then elite men were approaching. I was jittery with the excitement of seeing Haile run by me live and in person. I was also cheering for Meb, Dathan and Jorge. And I am always pleased to see Goumri on the course; he is one of my favorite underdogs along with Merga. I wish I could write you a few flowery sentences describing what it was like to watch Haile in action (when I ran the NYC Half-Marathon this spring, I followed far behind him on the course, and never clapped eyes on him), but it was all over in the blink of an eye (#twss). Little did I know that the big pack of runners would break up nearly the second they began the ascent up my bridge. My bridge, which will forever will be known as the Bridge that Broke Haile. (At least, that is how I will now refer to her.)

For the first time ever, I’d made a sign for the runners. I wanted to be as inclusive as possible, but I also wanted all my running buddies from Twitter to spot me easily. After the elites, the first runner I saw come by was my GMR teammate AN, who spotted me before I recognized him. Then @Lord_Baker sped by with a smile, then Coach Ramon, and then the river of runners started to flow. I saw dozens of familiar runners, including TNT friends, GMR teammates, and Twitter buddies both local and from out-of-town. An excellent moment was when Matt @luau stopped to give me a big sweaty hug and take an actual picture!  I was so excited when I saw my girl @MauraDeedy trot past–she looked strong and happy her first time through the distance. And another marathon debutante, @SharonPaige, ran by me in a bright green shirt, big white headphones, and a look of calm intent upon her face. I thought for sure I’d missed JG of RunWestchester.com fame, but after a while I saw him walking towards me with a half-smile on his face and his hair pleasantly disheveled. His quads had laid down the law a few miles earlier so he was run-walking until he got over my bridge into Manhattan, at which point he would DNF and head home. His plan had always been to stop running around Mile 16, but since he was run-walking it meant that I got to actually converse with him instead of clap and cheer as he ran by. An odd sort of treat–I’d have rather seen JG run by in a blaze of glory, but I was also happy to chat with him.

And so it went, EN and I clapping, cheering and clanging for nearly four hours, until we were dizzy with the ceaseless undulation of runners approaching and departing. The only thing that would snap us out of our zone was when the wind would pick up cold and strong, whipping my sign and numbing my hands. I felt for the runners, who were headed straight into it. Even though the sun was rising, it felt like the temperature was dropping. I had planned to stick it out until 2PM, but at 1:30 most of the racers coming through were walking, with only a few determined souls running. While rationally I understand that every person is on the course with their own set of goals and expectations for the race, it is difficult for me to cheer for folks walking when they are only just halfway through. My heart breaks to see them, because all I can think of is the difficulty that awaits them at Mile 22, Mile 24, or 26 if they are already walking at 14. I know this is simplistic, and I knew that several of my friends were in that walking horde. I hoped they were dressed warmly. I hoped they had brough their cameras and were treating the race as a pleasure cruise to pass the time. I would never want to be out on the course for 7 hours, which is precisely why I admire those who stick it out for that long. I admit it: my thoughts turned towards my warm apartment, and towards the four hours of TV watching I had in front of me (I had DVRed the broadcast of the pro race on NBC). And so, with a final cheer and wave, EN and I hunched into the wind and trudged down 45th Road to the 7 train to find out who had won the professional part of the race, since clearly all the folks we had cheered on this morning were their own kind of winner.

My spectating didn’t end, though, since I spent my hours watching the taped race catching up with all my friends’ race results on Twitter, and tweeting them congratulations. There were more PRs and successful debuts than their were disheartening finishes. By the end of the day, I was amazed at some of the times my friends had thrown down; I was thrilled by the racer’s ebullience and pride; I was affirmed by the achievements and effort. But most of all, I was proud to be counted among them. We were all marathoners, whether it takes us 3  hours or 7 to complete the race. We are all marathoners, whether we run the distance once, or dozens of times.

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{A post hung on the tweets I sent  regarding and during the workout.}

Cold-weather training tip #65: put your gels in a pocket against your body otherwise they will solidify & become v difficult to squeeze out. (10:30 AM) This happened to me last week on my long run with LL. Ironically, this week I had no gels to run with as I’d run out and my shipment from Hammer had not yet arrived, so I was running with a Hammer nutrition bar instead. I really need to sort out the hydration situation as well. I have been carrying disposable water bottles full of half water, half Gatorade but it is really annoying to carry in my hand. I am so over the fuel belt, I hate the way they twist around and bounce. What are my other options for carrying fluids?

Turnsheet for today’s long run. Heading out soon for 17 miles. Slept about 11 hours, yeah! (9:45 AM)

So, today’s schedule called for 17 miles. I got up and plotted an all-Queens course on Gmap-pedometer. I also procrastinated for about an hour, which meant I didn’t begin running until 10:20. I kicked the run off by running over the Queensboro Bridge and back. I enjoyed that except it was pretty windy and I hadn’t entirely warmed up yet so I suffered from the cold a little.  The worst though was that I stopped my watch at the corner of 29th Street and Queens Blvd but forgot to turn it back on–so I lost nearly a mile’s worth of hard Garmin data before I realized to start it again (by then I was halfway up the Queensboro Bridge). So, thanks to that hiccup the first two miles’ stats are all wonky, as is my cum data for the run. Boo TK. Those 4 miles were me just trying to warm up and get a rhythm. It was made more difficult by the water bottle I was carrying, which caused me to alter my arm swing so my form never felt natural.

Once I came off the bridge, I cut north and east along Northern Blvd through Long Island City to get to Vernon Blvd. This is where I started to feel a little emotionally raw.  Clearly I shouldn’t write out turnsheets if I haven’t yet had coffee, because on a couple of the turns I wrote “right” instead of “left” and “street” instead of “ave.”  Getting lost always unsettles me, so I was a bit agitated until I got back on track. Once I was on Vernon Boulevard, though, all the stress and pressure from a long week of work in a politically charged office bubbled over and I had a good ten-minute cry as I pushed my way along the windy street. Is this a girl thing? Or is it just a TK thing? Because I’ve done this before, let the tears fall during a workout. It’s quite a different thing from the tears that come on race day, as those are tied completely to the race, the effort, the training. Am I the only one who gets these outbursts of emotion in the middle of a training run?

Manhattan from Vernon Blvd + 31st st, Queens approx mile 6 of 17. (11:30 AM)

Three weeks ago I was so bored by my route, it was the same old, same old. I am so glad I took the time to plot a course through some new streets this morning. I love Queens, I love its working-class, immigrant roots. I love the dowdy little row houses with their postage stamp yards and wrought iron gates, I love the dangerous thoroughfares, the lack of parking, the microneighborhoods flavored Greek, Romanian, Korean, Latino.  I love its befuddling grid of streets and avenues, randomly interlaced with places and roads — we’ve got 48th Avenue, 48th Street, 48th Place and 48th Road and they cross at diagonals, stop and then mysteriously pick up again three blocks over. I love the purely residential areas pushed to the far north-east and west of Ditmars Blvd. Queens has zero pretension, and when people try and put it on, the rest of us just roll our eyes.

Mile 9. Rikers Island. Queens, nyc. 8 miles left. (12:10 PM)

The sidewalks and roads were mostly clear, though I had to tread gingerly across unshoveled patches of sidewalk at least once nearly every mile. When I safely could, I ran in the bike lane rather than contend with the sidewalks. One thing I don’t love about Queens is how people will park their cars half in the driveway, half over the sidewalk, thus forcing pedestrians and runners to go around. This isn’t such a problem during the first half of the run, but by Mile 10 I was starting to tire and swerving or turning of any sort seemed unduly difficult. It is at this point in the run I began using the term “jackass” for just about every driver on the road.

Astoria Track, mile 12. Unless there’s a big thaw, I’m not doing speedwork here Tues AM. (12:45 PM)

Whenever I run around Astoria Park, I like to pull in and add a loop around the track. That wasn’t going to happen today. There were a couple of guys throwing a football around in the snow; I could see how that would be fun. It’s a gorgeous spot for it, what with the Triboro Bridge stretching overhead. Later, once Husband and I were in the car driving to Pennsylvania, I said to him as we were going across the Triboro, I ran under here twice today. Under the Triboro and the Hell Gate.  That was a cool moment of symmetry. First I was under; now I’m over.

The rest of the run was just the regular home from Astoria Park route, plus a little extra up Skillman Avenue to be sure I hit 17. That was actually a good thing, because by this point I was quite cold, had dumped the water bottle half-full, and just wanted to jet home as quickly as I could. Autopilot! I reflected back on the miles. I really enjoyed the trek up from Northern Blvd to Vernon Blvd, the neighborhood was a great example of that quintessential post-war design of which Queens is chock-full.  Long Island City has a little bit of hipness to it, but really it’s just the ugly stepchild to Williamsburg (which would make it the perfect neighborhood for me). I love every inch of Ditmars Blvd, and I can say that without hesitancy since I ran its entire length today. Running through different neighborhoods always makes me imagine what it would be like to live there, or there, or there. Today my imagination was most captured by the Shore Towers Condominiums. I could totally live here.

Annoyance: energy gels arrive in mail WHILE I am out on my long run, w/no gel. Alas. (3:30 PM)

Finally, after 2 hours and 47 minutes of running I was done. I jogged the final yards up to my apartment building, my legs heavy and tired, panting, sweating yet cold (how does that work??). I ate the remnants of the nutrition bar I’d tucked into my back pocket, and pondered retrieving my keys to get into the building. It seemed a monumental effort. Luckily someone exited at that monent, and I plodded up the stairs to my 2nd floor apartment. Matilda was so happy I was home so she jumped all over me. I pushed her off, I was so tuckered. I went straight to the library and laid on the carpet, panting and stretching my glutes. Matilda is always concerned when we sit on the floor, as in her mind that means we aren’t well. (Humans sit on the furniture, dogs on the floor.) So she came over to me while I was stretching and licked my entire face, giving sweet little whines of worry. She bathed my entire face with her tongue–my eyes, my nose, my ears, my cheeks, even my neck. Eventually I couldn’t stop laughing at her insistence and ticklish tongue. At that point she walked away, surely thinking, “My job here is done.” Ah, doggies! This is why we love them, yes?

17.25 miles in 2:47. Average pace 9:40; fastest mile 9:13; slowest mile 10:37. (This is all approximate because Little G was incompetently handled by yours truly.)

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Runner’s High

Major freaking out Tuesday night due to predicted snow, which seriously conflicted with my personal plans for Wednesday morning of running 8 miles at race pace (aka as fast as I can for 8 miles without puking). I was mostly resigned to running 4 on the treadie in the gym before work, and had prepared for such an emergency. But lo, hark the herald angels sang! The snow arrived later than expected and when I arose at 5 AM, there wasn’t even yet an inch of accumulation on the ground. Scree! Change of plans–I ws going to try and salvage this pace run STAT! Disregarding the fact hat Husband was tucked snug in the bed at 5 AM, I rummaged through my drawers to pull out my tights, long-sleeved tech tees, billed cap, gloves, key pocket–you get the picture. I raised a holy racket and the boy didn’t even stir. The dog glared at me once but the two of them were steadfastly refusing to accept my insanity. They would not stage an intervention; they knew better than to try and stop me.

Ten minutes later I was standing outside my apartment, with ponytail (billed caps really fuck with my preferred hairdo) and Little G all dialed up. It was brr cold brr so I wasn’t going to mess around with a warm-up mile for this pace run. Heck no, I just took off like a bat out of hell. Or maybe like a snow leopard through the mountains of Afghanistan. Or whatever. The first mile was cold, it was the snowiest and as I ran across the 39th Street Bridge into Astoria the wind seemed to have some sort of vendetta against my neck. But I pushed through, reminding myself the faster I ran the quicker I’d warm up!

And before I knew it I was tucked warmly into a side street of Astoria, pounding my way towards the Hell Gate Bridge. It was dark, and I knew I’d be home before the sun arose–that ‘s the clip at which I was moving. But the magical thing about the snow at night is the way is grabs the tiniest bit of light and throws it back at you times ten. Queens  was a gentle glimmer, all around me. I was grateful that the snow hadn’t fallen upon ice, and that it was relatively dry (as far as snow goes). I could run swiftly because I had confident footing the whole way, without MicroSpikes or Yaktrax.

At one point, I looked down at myself and laughed as I brushed off the dusting of snow that had gathered upon my chest. Even moving as fast as I was, my curves allowed for a snowdrift. It was astounding, there was hardly anyone else out at all. Just a few desperate Latino day workers trudging to the local pickup spot, and me. I most definitely didn’t see any other runners out. I had my iPod in so I can’t wax poetical for you about the silence of the city, or the scrunch of my sneakers through the snow. But I can tell you that it was a marvel to look up and see all for blocks up 37th Street. It was a canyon of white, with the two-story row houses, wrought iron gates, sidewalks, cars, trees, hedges of yews, all coated in snow. The flakes lessened but never abated. There were sections of sidewalk where my footprints were the first to mar the eloquent layer of snow. When I’d pass through those stretches, I thought Now who says city running is a crowded affair? I am trailblazing right now, at this moment.

At the turnaround, at the foot of the Hell Gate Bridge, I was reluctant to pause because I was after all training for pace. But I looked up as best I could. I saw the turbulent river, steel gray with little scratches of white ice and froth.  I saw the bridge, thick in her presence but delicate in her stretch and curve towards Manhattan. She was flattered by a blurring mist of snow, an old woman recaptured as she was in her prime thanks to a fogged lens.

Oh and let’s talk about pace for a minute. Even Steven (at least, for me). My slowest mile was 8:40 and the fastest 7:58, but most of the miles were within 5 seconds of each other (8:15, 8:16, 8:17, 8:18, 8:20). My HR averaged between 163 and 170 bpm, which is typical for this sort of workout. But mostly, I kept thinking of something that’s been told to me time and again, “You are faster than you think you are.” So I kept pushing, I kept pumping and I kept pounding because I didn’t feel like I was going to puke or cramp up. And because I felt like I was flying. I was a snowflake, whirling through Queens, yet to settle somewhere along the sidewalk to sparkle and shine. I was caught in the breeze and I was making the breeze, making a draft even as I pushed through the wind.

When I clicked off Little G in front of my apartment, around 6:40 AM, I was buoyed by relief and pride. I was relieved that the weather hadn’t messed up my training schedule, and proud that I had absolutely put a stake in the heart of that vampire pace run. I owned it! 7.98 miles in 1:06:31 for an average 8:20 pace.

I am not kidding when I say that the runner’s high that resulted from that workout carried me through the entire day, and still lingers with me even now. Nothing could ruffle me or pierce my bubble of joy. I hope you all have a run like that. One that not only contributes to your training but that sustains you through the day and sets you to sleep with a smile upon your lips.

Running. There is nothing else like it. On days like today, I wish it was a man that looked like Clive Owen so I could grab him by the ears and kiss his face off, that’s how happy running has made me today.

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I feel badly for that tree.

At the last tweet-up run I attended, I met up with a couple other runners from Queens and we agreed that one of these days we should just have a Queens-exclusive tweet-up to share our respective corners of the borough with each other. When the time came, though, it ended up being just me and LL setting out for my 16-mile long run together through Eastern Queens. I met him at the 7 train’s CitiFeld/Arthur Ashe Stadium subway station. (That brought memories of when I was there for the U.S. Open last year. I had never attended the Open before–I know nothing about tennis–but I loved it.) It was freezing Saturday morning. We didn’t get any of the snow that other parts of the country are contending with, but temperatures were frigid and the wind was a bitch. I couldn’t wait to get moving to defrost.

So LL led us away from CitiField and through Flushing Meadow Corona State Park. Did you know Queens has its own zoo and art museum?! Yes, we do! Also, there are about 6 miles of trails that could be run in that park! Okay I am definitely returning there for a morning run, especially since it only takes 15 minutes to get there on the 7 train that early in the morning. Another thing I could do (okay, stream of consciousness blogging will commence…) is run all the way there up Roosevelt Avenue, that’s just a little over 4 miles. I’d have to do it early in the morning to avoid all the auto traffic since it’s a main road, but it could be done! Wow, I live less than 5 miles from the home of the Mets! I love living in Queens! (Stream of consciousness blogging over.)

LL led us along the Green Trail, which was originally designed for bikers but he shrugged and said that he never sees any bikers on it. (As my friends from my year in Sacramento, CA used to say when they found something marvellous that had been forsaken, “MINE NOW!”) This trail skips from park to park, and took us evermore east. We ran through the Queens Botanical Gardens (I know! Boh-tanical Gahr-denz! So fancy! Who knew?), Kissena Corridor Park, Kissena Golf Course, and Cunningham Park. For the most part, running through park trails meant we were protected from the wind, but there were a few parts where we had to battle it. Not only did it tucker me out, it also froze my hands. (LL wisely wore double gloves.)

I have known about and sporadically read LL’s blog for a couple of years, and I’ve met him twice (at the second blogger meet-up, and at the last tweet-up I could make it to), but never had the opportunity to really talk with him and get his whole story. Born and raised in Flushing, he is a poet and a scientist; he both reflects and analyzes. Additionally, he’s an extrovert, and clearly sets out to do the best he can in everything that interests him. He is a couple years younger than I am (lately it seems like everyone I meet is younger than I am;  when the facialist told me today I didn’t need to start using anti-aging creams I could have kissed her. Hell, maybe I did. I’ll never tell). We both went to college in Baltimore; we shared stories about dealing with ultracompetitive peers in our programs of study; I tried to explain to him what my day as a marketing director comprised of but the best I could come up with was I get dressed up, and wear make-up. I either go to meetings or work at my desk on projects or email. Weak! Maybe I had runner’s brain, and admittedly, it is hard to put my job in a nutshell for someone who has never worked at a corporation, but still–I should be able to describe my job better than that. I’ll try again later.

Apart from the congenial company and surprising scenery, this run was a bit of a challenge. Maybe it was the wind, the cold, my general exhaustion (I overslept and rushed to get out of the house). Or maybe the endurance build is the unexpected challenge of this particular training cycle. I wouldn’t have thought it; I have been so concerned about getting reinjured through my faster running that I haven’t given much thought to the effect the long runs may have on my body. I’d say I felt pretty good through Mile 12 or 13, then I started to tire. The hills all winded me, which I didn’t dwell on at the time but now that concerns me. My next long run on February 13th will be 17 miles; I’ll do that one alone and really have the opportunity to listen closely to my body.

But back to my estimable host. LL is a fast and talented runner, and he has a big, generous heart. If you don’t read his blog and you are a runner or a dreamer, you have to check it out. He is a beautiful, thoughtful writer–it’s clear that he loves words as much as he loves running. And even though he’s hella fast, he had no qualms about making our 17+ miler a LSD run for himself that day, just like Matty did for me the week prior. Love that! If you’re on Twitter, he’s fun to follow as well, since his optimism and positivity rivals that of EG (Bridges Runner).

When all was said and done, we went 17.23 miles, at an average 9:23 pace (fastest mile (the 13th) 8:50; slowest mile (the 1st) 10:09). We ended up at the last stop on the 7 train, in the heart of Flushing. There were dim sum restaurants and pedestrians toting red grocery bags as far as the eye could see. LL suggested that for our next Queens run, we invite the whole crew out and have dim sum afterwards. I’m IN! I can tell my body is adapting to these long runs; I am glad I have a lot of them on the schedule before London; I have five more runs over 16 miles between now and race day.

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