Posts Tagged ‘queensboro bridge’

I didn’t think I’d PR, though it remained a wispy hope in the corner of my heart.

(Truth: all my race reports from this year could have started with the above sentence.)

I did think I could improve over my last 5k, which was the BAA 5k the Sunday before the Boston Marathon (24:47, a 7:58 pace). For reference, ran my 5k PR  a year ago at the Get to the ‘Point! 5k Run in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (23:15, a 7:30 pace).

All this talk of time reminds me: I didn’t have a lot to spare on Saturday. I was booked the entire day with this race, brunch for a friend’s birthday, various phone calls to support my friends, errands (the bank, dry cleaners, grocery store), tasks (making ice cream for a friend and coop board meeting, unpacking and shelving my books), and making dinner for yet another friend. My Blackberry chimed at me at least ten times through the day with prompts that it was time to move onto the next activity or chore. Every evening before I go to bed, I ask myself if I packed everything I could into the stream of life. Last Saturday, I was paddling Class IV rapids.

This is all to say: NYCRUNS started the Roosevelt Island 5k 20 minutes late due to problems getting everyone registered and bibbed. That delay truncated my morning. Remember that as it’s relevant later in the race report. (For a one-man operation, NYCRUNS adds much to the local racing scene, but it’s still a young organization that will get better at staging these events as it does more of them. What it lacks in promptness or slickness, it makes up for in heart and libertarian spirit.)

I promise you, I will return to race this course again. Why? 1. IT HAS THE BEST FUCKING STARTING LINE IN THE HISTORY OF ALL RACES: right under the footings of the Queensboro Bridge!! I was inspired by this start. We toed up beneath the belly of my bridge, so whichever way I looked the view was filled with my best training partner ever. Oh, joy! Why else? 2. THE UBIQUITOUS VA-VA-VIEWS. Most of the course provided up-close sights of the 59th Street Bridge and the Manhattan skyline. And let’s not forget, 3. F IS FOR FLAT. ‘Nuff said. Lastly… 4. EASY-PEASY ARRIVAL. Roosevelt Island is actually quick to get to from Queens, and for that I was grateful. Q32/Q60 bus to Queensboro Plaza, jog 1/3 of a mile to the Queensbridge F stop, go one station and exit at Roosevelt Island.

As far as the race itself goes, I thought the field might be small enough that I could place in my age group. Also, I wanted to set another standard for myself, and see how far my fitness had progressed since April. My time would be a little handicapped by the fact that I’d just taken 8 days off training to recover from a pernicious head and chest cold–so pernicious, in fact, that I was still congested on race day and could feel that my lungs couldn’t pull maximum oxygen (surely that slowed me down).

I ran as hard as I could. I know I did, because my legs felt weary and a little trashed for the rest of the week. I tried to pass as many people as I could. Usually I am able to reel most of the women (and some of the men) I can see ahead of me in the final mile, but this time most of the chicks who’d passed me earlier (maybe half a dozen?) stayed ahead. This is why I finished with the idea that I’d be lucky to be in the top ten of my age group. (Many of the women who passed me had these perky, little fit asses. My butt hasn’t looked that good since I ran the New York City Marathon in 2008. If asses were a predictor of finishing times, I’d have been lucky to be in the top 50.)

The runners were assisted by a thoughtful tailwind as we ran the entire, subtly downhill, west side of Roosevelt Island. This made up a little over half the race, so I pushed as hard as I could while I had those two advantages to maximize my speed.

My splits show that I am still mastering the 5k, as I went out about 15 seconds too fast. Mile 1 = 7:24, Mile 2 – 7:52, Mile 3 = 7:51. The last 0.1 was run at a 7:08 pace, because I instigated a nice little competition with some dude as we headed towards the chute (I beat him). My official time is 23:53, for a 7:41 pace. I wish I’d finished closer to my PR performance, which is a slight bummer. But at least I’ve shown improvement over the past six months. This year, I’ve learned that the single most important thing I can do in my training is remain consistent. It’s impossible to progress if I’m constantly hedging a workout schedule due to exhaustion, demoralization, or injury.

Here is where that 20-minute delay in the race start becomes a relevant part of the story. Because my schedule was pushed back, I had to jet immediately so I could get home, shower and change in order to spin back around and get to dell’anima in time for brunch. This means I missed Steve’s gracious preamble to my First Place in Age Group Award! Whaa?? At 38 years of age, I came in first in the 30-39 age group, by a whopping 1:24 margin?? To me, this begs the question: what on earth are all those younger thirty-somethings doing wrong in their training that I can beat them? But hey, I’ll take it! PS I was also the eighth woman overall. PPS I am aware that my finishing time wouldn’t place for shit in a NYRR race.

If you want to hear Steve and I chat about the race on the New York Running Show, download the podcast.

Oh and–the rest of my day was full, but highly productive. Here is a visual of just one of the fruits of my labors.

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I had no idea how I was going to get there, but I signed up for the Forest Park 4 Mile Classic as soon as Mr. Nycruns pointed it out to me. Details, schmetails–if there’s a footrace in Queens and I can get my calendar to oblige, I’m competing.

BJ (my fellow Media Challenge racer, co-panelist on the New York Running Show podcast, and writer at Turfcasts), tipped me off  about Forest Park. It is untamed, he said, lush, with over 500 acres of deep forest with miles of trails. (OK, I looked up the part about the acres.) And indeed, as soon as I exited the Jackie Robinson Parkway (turns out the best way to get there from Astoria is to drive), the old-growth trees and formal brick houses that rimmed the park made the neighborhood seemed more like a Long Island suburb, or the ritzy Roland Park area of Baltimore, MD. I instantly tucked Forest Park into my Long Run Routes file, since it’s 5 miles there from my part of Queens. I hadn’t even yet experienced the trails and I’d already incorporated the park into my training schedule.

Another sign that Forest Park is my kind of place: when I parked in the lot, every other car was decorated with a NY Mets sticker. And, funnily enough, I found a spot right next to another blue Buick Le Sabre, identical to the one I was borrowing from my Nana! Clearly, Forest Park is where good barges go when they need some R&R. Giddiness ensued: I was excited to race this new location, excited to be free of the hamster wheel of the NYRR’s Central Park races, and excited for the opportunity to try and PR (I had to beat an 8:44 pace, which I felt pretty confident I could do).

The weather report had been promising thunderstorms during the race, but as the running gods would have it (for today, at least) all we had was humidity. Though this humidity must have been intensely needy, since it clung tightly to us all the entire race. BJ found me the second I queued up to get my race number, and we chatted about our summer and fall race plans as we warmed up with a few laps around the track. This track, by the by, is gorgeous–it might be tied with the track on the Lower East Side for best-looking. Its lanes are alternating blue and gray, bleachers line up along the whole near side of the track, and the other three sides are bordered by tall and interested trees (I swear they are fans of the sport). The race boasts a three-surface running experience–track, trail and road–which is as close as I ever want to get to competing in a triathlon. I admit it, being naturally clutzy I was nervous about the trail part of the race–if there was a rock or root for my shoe to snag, it surely would trip me up.

At two minutes to 10 (oh yes, this race had a mid-morning start time, amen sisters and brothers) all the racers mucked up around the start line on the far side of the track, the race organizer gave us the Ready and we were off! By “we,” I mean the approximately 300 runners who were competing–it was not a big race at all, which I absolutely loved. I started off way to fast, confused by the small crowd and unable to keep my speed in check. After half a lap around the track, we were directed out onto the sidewalk and then the road. this part was a short uphill–maybe a quarter of  a mile–and then we hit the trails. These trails were beautiful, green tunnels with wide brown tracks that were so kind to my legs, and they were well-groomed so I saw right away I wouldn’t have problems with jutting roots or rocks. And best of all, the rest of Mile 1 was pretty much down hill.

Little G told me Mile 1 took me 7:57. Mile 2 and 3 were rolling hills through the trails and along some more roads. I was sweating from the humidity and could tell that I was at the beginning of a training cycle–my legs started to tucker out in the middle of Mile 2, a symptom of lack of strength. I just tried to hang on to the pace (unassisted by a lengthy downhill, Miles 2 and 3 hit at 8:30 and 8:26) so that I could crank it up again in the final mile. In the meantime, I was grateful to experience this new park, I felt like I’d just discovered a whole new runner’s playground for myself (oh alright I’ll share). By Mile 2, I’d settled in with a small pack of older men who were around my pace, as well as this one younger dude from the Hell Gate Harriers, a Queens club that trains in Astoria Park. He and I kept trading the lead on the other.

At the Mile 3 marker, I dug in to get my speed up. I had the idle thought that it would be cool to get back down to a sub-8 pace if I could bear the pain, but then when I realized that the race course was an out-and-back, I knew there was no chance of that. I had to run back up that nice long downhill I’d so enjoyed in Mile 1! So I frowned and used my arms. I kept my stride short, got onto the front of my feet, leaned forward and trucked up. By the time I made it up that hill I was in enough pain that I gave a little moan of relief as I crested it and gasping, I let my body slump into the downhill. I had to be careful to keep my feet under my body and not overstride, because that’s a surefire way to aggravated Betty. Then the volunteers were letting us know all we had left to go was less than a lap around the track. And wouldn’t you know it, the Hell Gate Harrier dude was behind me, and I thought, I’d like to keep it that way…. and so I did. Little G tells me I ran the 4 miles in 32:43–a definite PR–though I can’t tell you my official time as results haven’t been posted yet. My last mile took me 8:12, according to the Garmin.

The race was wonderfully organized. Apart from them running out of size S tee-shirts, I have nothing but positive things to say. Registration, check-in, volunteers directing us at every turn, people with stop watches calling out our splits at every mile marker, and the very diligent and thorough officials at the finish line–everything was great. I also loved how the Forest Park Running Club members were so welcoming and kept asking me (after I finished the race) what I thought, if I had fun, etc.  And I did, I had a blast! I worked so hard, and the hills were challenging but kept things interesting. I loved running through the green tunnel, and the fact that the trails were muddy made me feel kind of badass (that, and the Bondi band I was wearing). There’s something, in this NYRR-enabled city, that feels slightly subversive about running a community-staged race in an outer boro, and I like that feeling too. Needless to say, I am already planning on making this race an annual one on my calendar.

After the race, I had a celebratory brunch at Penthouse808, on top of the Ravel Hotel in Long Island City. The food wasn’t so amazing, but the view made me deleriously happy. (There’s a life metaphor in there somewhere.) Run strong and beautiful, people!

UPDATE 5/19: My final results from the race were posted incorrectly by the Forest Park Running Club (the guy who finished right after me sprinted past me in the chute and the officials recorded him as crossing before me), but I sent an email the the club actually went to the video they had taken of the finish line and posted correct results last night! I love that! Official finishing time: 32:43, for a pace of 8:11, and I finished 8th in my age group of 30-39. In order to finish in the top three I’d have had to have beat a 30:24.

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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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Some days, commonalities seem like special connections and I can nearly convince myself that my ordinary problems and ordinary joys are actually quite extraordinary. Earlier this week I confessed to one of my oldest friends that, even though we had fallen out of touch for 15 years, we had led lives that were oddly parallel in many ways; she agrees. The similarities comfort me; I feel less alone, and less strange.

But today, the creature (if you will) with which I connected was my bridge! We’ll get back to that.

I spent a good several hours at the office today trying to catch up on all the work that had poured in while I was on vacation (yeah, good luck with that. My emails went down from 161 to 147. Everything is so time-intensive), but by 6 PM I couldn’t do it anymore and knew it was time to run home. I had  kept the promise of that run right at the edges of my mind all day long.  It winked at me like a gilded Godiva chocolate perched at the top of a dessert tray. Oh, it would be mine, that run. I knew I would have it, and didn’t mind delaying the pleasure.

I turned off the lights in my office and pressed my forehead to the window, trying to gauge just how hard it was raining. I couldn’t see drops on the glass nor on the rooftop of the Le Pain Quotidien across 53rd Street, so I figured I would head out. Out on the curb, the heavy mist cleared my email-numbed brain right away, and I took off at a steady pace. As I run these days, I can feel the weight I gained the past few weeks. It’s awkward to lug around but I know it will leave me after a month of consistent training. During this run home from work–on a rainy Sunday evening–both pedestrian and auto traffic was light, so I felt like I owned the roads. I did have to wait for a bit at a light right before I hopped onto the 59th Street Bridge, and I realized I was breathing hard. It felt right, to push.

The bridge’s pedestrian entrance at 59th Street and First Avenue is under serious renovation, leaving just a narrow lane for us to pass. Rather than being dismayed or aggravated at the construction, I was excited: What would it look like when this improvement project was complete? I thought about this as I ran over the bridge, and felt connected with her because I too am going through a bit of an improvement project. It’s a little unsightly right now, but just wait until it’s done! Both my bridge and I will be better than ever, able to offer our best to everyone who needs us. 3.5 miles run in 31:12. Average pace 8:55

Songs I ran to: “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer, “De Perros Amores” by Control Machete, “Diamonds on the Inside” by Ben Harper, “Hotel Yorba” by the White Stripes, “I Touch Myself” by the Divinyls, “”(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes” by Elvis Costello, “Mucky Fingers” by Oasis, “Vacation” by Chris Denny, “Free Fallin'” by Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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Last weekend I was at the Pennsylvania house, where it was 10 to 15 degrees cooler than what my running friends in the city had to suffer through. Consequently, I wasn’t as oppressed by the heat during my two 10.3-mile runs, even though the humidity still left me wondering if I hadn’t spontaneously contracted a chest cold. I was still unprepared for the deleterious effect the heat would have on my 4-mile pace run on Tuesday morning. I should have known it was going to be bad when the second I stepped out of the air-conditioned bedroom I broke out in a sweat, the rest of the apartment was stuffy and hot from the heat that had clamped down on New York since the previous week. My splits were horrifying, no where near my goal pace of 8:05’s. After a 3/4 mile warm up, I bullied my way through the humidity up 37th Street in Astoria to Ditmars and back and all I had to show for it were 4 mediocre miles at 8:40-8:35-8:32-8:22. Not only that, I was so wrung out from the outsized effort I had to put in for such crappy splits that I walked the last half a mile home rather than jogging it as a cool down. Fuck that.

Later that night, as I walked east to the subway home after drinks at Trestle on Tenth, the city had cooled noticeably. There was a slight breeze, and the hospitable temperature created one of those quintessential New York evenings when I could walk forever and never overheat. I reluctantly headed down into the closed, fetid air of the subway.

Wednesday morning I awoke refreshed and excited–it was Run to Work Day! These mid-week long runs are something I’ve come to look forward to even though it requires a little bit of pre-planning (bringing my work clothes and toiletries to work on Tuesday). Typically I head into the city over my bridge, up First Avenue to 72nd Street, and across to Central Park. Once it the park, I adapt my route based on how many miles remain to be completed for the run at hand. I love the gradual transition from Queensboro Plaza, noisy and gritty with the busses, trains and autos that all cross and converge at the base of the 59th Street Bridge, to Central Park, active with runners and cyclists yet mostly quiet and peaceful with its acres of landscaped nature. And I love feeling accomplished, healthy and when I walk into my office building thinking, That’s right, I ran to work. Beat that, suckers!

Even anticipating all this goodness, I was not prepared for the lift I would get when I walked out my front door. The air was cool and crisp, it felt clean and light as a feather, as if a crew of purifiers had rolled through in the night and sucked all the humidity and weighty heat right out of the neighborhood. I lifted my knee and pulled my fists in and exclaimed, Yeah! Then I looked around to see if anyone had caught me in my display of exuberance but at 5:30 AM the coast was mostly clear (except for the itinerant can lady, collecting redeemables and piling them high in her grocery cart like some sort of urban bedouin merchant, and really who gives a shit what she thinks). So anyway I was off, so excited to be running through the cool weather, I felt as light and sprightly as the air. A grin had taken hostage of my lips and I spread my arms wide to airplane my way onto the pedestrian lane of the Queensboro Bridge. I was gonna fly over that bridge, I could see the river sparkling at me and the sky spread clear and shiny above Manhattan. Energy infused the morning.

I’d originally planned to run 7 miles but by the time I’d completed one lower loop of Central Park, I still wanted more so I circled again for a second go-around.  I felt strong, sure I was breathing hard but it wasn’t that wheezy labored panting from my pace run. These breaths were deep and even and I recognized my body performing as it was designed to do. Two times around the lower loop of the park is exactly the course of the Media Challenge races, and I wondered if I’d be able to PR again in the two races that remain for me, as I weighed my performance at the Wall Street Run with the workout I was in the middle of. The last three miles of my run (I love when my long runs naturally become progression workouts) were the splits I should have run yesterday — 8:15, 7:49, and 8:06. Fuck yeah.

I stopped running about 10 blocks north of my office at exactly 8 miles, and enjoyed the walk down Fifth Avenue. I took the time to fantasize about the frocks and footwear displayed in the Fendi and Ferragamo shops, and took note of the cool breeze drying the sweat off my body. My spirits were lifted by the reminder that it’s not always me, sometimes it’s just the weather bringing my speed down. 8 miles ran in 1:09:57. Average pace 8:44; Fastest Mile 7:49; Slowest Mile 9:29.

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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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This morning’s 10-miler would be my first run of the week without company, and I was ready for some alone time. Reassuringly, I wasn’t feeling nervous about the extra mile–usually my long runs intimidate me a little, in that good way that helps to train the brain along with the body.

The weather report was for crappy weather–cold, confused precipitation, neither snow nor rain–that would get worse as the day went on, which meant only one thing: up and at ’em. Once out there, I was in no hurry, however, to rush through the miles.

I took a familiar route–through Long Island City, up over the 59th Street Bridge, up the East River Rec Path, then turn around after 5 miles and come back. I was concerned I’d get bored with the route, so I brought along my Blackberry to stop and take photos. I thought this would make me pay attention for little visual treats, and change the tenor of the workout for me.

At both the Manhattan and Queens termini of the Queensboro Bridge, there are strip clubs. In Queens, we have Scandals. In Manhattan, Sapphire awaits (Howard Stern’s favorite Scores used to be here).

When I say I know every inch of my bridge’s pedestrian path–every incline, every nook where litter collects, every divot where ice will form first, every bit of graffiti–I do not exaggerate.  I could talk you through it with my eyes closed, visualizing the route from either shore. I have always wanted to capture this bit of graffiti. “Big Kid —>” lives on the western slope, and I’m more apt to notice it when I’m running into the city rather than home from work. Who is Kid? Is there also a Little Kid? Is the arrow meant to indicate where Big Kid is located, or the direction in which s/he should proceed?

I kept the pace easy, or “highly breathable,” as I like to think of it. No need to pant on the long run. My slowest splits were Miles 2 and 8, when I was ascending the bridge. It was a breezy along the East River, but nothing like AG and I had battled on Thursday morning. There’s nothing like standing just below the 59th Street Bridge and looking up at her lattices and scalloped edges; it always lifts my spirits.

At the turn around point at East 100th Street, there’s a terrific view of the Hellgate and Triboro Bridges. They are a little distant–the river gets very wide here–but still graceful the way they insist against the sky.

Adding a mile always plants a little seed of concern for my hamstrings, and in fact my right one was still slightly achy when I set out. But by the time I was back in quiet Queens, away from the whoosh and rumble of the traffic along the FDR and the bridge, I was no longer achy. I knew I’d have to stretch, but I was relaxed. My shoulders were low, my back straight. I was grateful to my body for being strong and instinctual; indeed, I loved my legs and my heart and my stomach for carrying me through.

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Before I could leave for Pennsylvania with Matilda, I had a few things to take care of including picking up a package from the post office, getting a pedicure, and moving the car (Friday is an alternate side of the street day in our neighborhood). And, since I had taken the day as a vacation day, I also wanted to get my run in during business hours, just as a nice way to underscore the fact that while the rest of the world was busy getting things done for The Man, I was out running like a newly-released prisioner though the streets of New York City.

I was being practical–I’d run to the post office, finishing my run about 20 minutes before the end of alternate side parking, so that I could complete my workout, retrieve my parcel, and then move the car all in one fell swoop.Rarely am I ever this efficient; I am a little bit proud. Of course, the post office is just three blocks from my apartment, and I wanted to get in a solid 5-miler yesterday. So, of course I took the long way to the post office, running away from it, crossing my bridge, and then heading back into Queens. Instead of cutting left once I an through Queens Plaza, I kept ever to the right, which put me on Queens Boulevard rather than Skillman to 43rd Avenue.

This workout was a bit of a stunner. I was fighting a south-blowing wind as I crossed the bridge both ways (the pedestrian path is on the north side of the brdge). Then as I came up Queens Boulevard the headwind was so strong at one point that even though my feet were running forward I was not moving. It reminded me of the Bronx Half from the beginning of this year. I was vaguely aware I was working hard, but some stretches of the course felt effortless. It’s always a relief to come down off the 59th Street Bridge after two serious uphills, dumping down into Queens Plaza. The music was really popping on my iPod this day, and I had to bust out with some air drums for White Rabbit. Heading through the Plaza, I couldn’t resist the speed so I spread my arms and airplaned it around the curve. Voosh!

Little G was doing his reliable thing on my wrist, ticking off the miles as I let my mind wander. So much to look forward to, so much to do, so much to remember, and so, so incredibly much to just push out of my mind. Ever spend a run tossing aside unwanted thoughts like used Kleenex? Ever spend a run retreading the same happy thought over and over, afraid to leave it and move on, lest it never enter your mind again?

I arrived at the post office, breathing hard and with a stitch in my side from a final mile of pushing uphill and against a headwind (unwilling to slow down, of course). Once inside, I pulled up the workout summary on Little G and audibly exclaimed, Holy crap! The entire ragtag line of USPS customers looked up at me in unison.  Um, hi!

5.17 miles in 44:50. Average pace? 8:40 minutes per mile. Fastest split? 7:55.  Voosh!

Songs I ran to:  “Pale Blue Eyes” by R.E.M., “Palm of Your Hand” by Cake, “Passive Manipulation” by The White Stripes, “Passtime Paradise” by Stevie Wonder, “The Patient Ferris Wheel” by The Gaslight Anthem, “Pay It Back” by Elvis Costello, “Pay Me My Money Down” by Bruce Springsteen, “Peaches” by The PResidents of the United States, “Peg” by Steely Dan, “Penso Positivo” by Jovanotti, “Per Fortuna Purtroppo” by Irene Grandi, “Percussion Gun” by White Rabbits, “Perro Amor Explota” by Bersuit Vergarabat, “Pesada (Com Maigaz) by Control Machete and “Peter Gunn (Max Sedgley Remix)” by Sarah Vaughan

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At the Pennsylvania house this weekend with Husband, Matilda, and a cold which just won’t quit. I hope I have similar endurance at the Baltimore Half-Marathon next weekend… Drinking coffee and browsing through my friends’ blogs reminds me I wanted to share this Maryland runner’s hilarious attempt to get onto the 59th Street Bridge during a recent visit to the city. (Mind you, I had emailed him instructions days earlier but unfortunately he just “skimmed” that email.)… Tomorrow my best friend is going to be on TV! Carlene Bauer will be interviewed as an expert on the CBS Sunday Morning Show for a segment on what Americans believe. This is because her memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, is in part a spiritual quest… My work friend LC and I frequently find ourselves around the water cooler amusing each other with stories over our husband’s annoying habits and freakish quirks. Then she sent me this blog. I laughed so hard at my desk people came by to ask what was happening… I always thought that if I were European, I’d be an Italian, and una buona Marchegianna at that (yes, I had it dialed down to the region). But, this list makes me think that perhaps I could be French…

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Run Bunnies

Sleepy 5 over the Queensboro Bridge this morning (49:05). Out the door by 5:30, once again I ran the whole out and back in the dark. Night has put her foot down after a season of magnamity; Night will only now pick up her skirts and leave when she’s good and ready (which is sometime between 6:15 and 6:30 AM). 

On my westbound crossing of the bridge, I spotted two other female runners coming towards me, cresting the hill.  They were like golden apparitions amidst the grime. Somehow, beneath the security lamps they managed to look sun-kissed. They had identical hair–long, honey locks, tied up in a swinging ponytail, with stray bits flicking rhythmically back from the face in the breeze their motion created. It was like a Breck commercial, the way that hair swooped and swayed. One of them had a lock of it stuck to her glistening lip–was she wearing LIP GLOSS?! Then there were the matchy-matchy outfits—shiny gray capri tights, with those fitted tank tops (you know, the ones with the built-in support) with piping that coordinated to the tights. One was pink and the other white. These women were tall with long legs; they ran without chatter; they looked confused. I’d bet $11 they had never run over the 59th Street Bridge before, I’d bet they weren’t used to running without a [male] audience. If we were on a ski slope they’d be snow bunnies; if we were by the ocean they’d be beach bunnies. But we were on the Queensboro Bridge, before dawn, with no witnesses—they were just funny bunnies. 

Perhaps I’m being harsh (Who, me? Dismissive?). And certainly, I shouldn’t condemn any woman for getting dolled up. But yet—really? They woke up at 5 AM and gussied up to run through darkness and truck exhaust? 

I am just being grouchy, and envious. I wish my legs were impossibly long, like scissors. I wish my hair swished like a horse’s tail instead of puffing up like a serving of cotton candy. I wish my chest could fit in one of those cute tanks with the sewn-in bras. I wish I was hopeful enough to apply lip gloss at a quarter after five in the morning. (It is hope that compelled her to swipe it on, right? Not vanity?)

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