Posts Tagged ‘Team in Training’

Herewith, the entire text of an email Ramon sent out to all of us, his Team in Training alumni runners, on Tuesday February 10th.

Hola everybody!!

It’s me, Ramon, the coach with the accent, remember me? You better say a big YES or huge SI! I am at it again!! Read and find out.

As many of you know last year was a very amazing year for me, I had the opportunity of fundraising a good amount of money for a cause and a program I totally believe in and so proud to be a part of, a program that has given me so much, and a program you once were part of.

Some of you thought that doing that 100 mile race was crazy, and let’s face it, you are right, no news there, the coach with the accent is a bit loco!

Anyway, going right to the chase, I am here to tell you that I am doing it all over again, both the Vermont 100 mile race, and the fundraising!

Why? Because, hmmmmm, because ahh hmmmm, wait, I know, because I am crazy, yes! CRAZY about the many people I have met through my years of coaching that have been affected directly or indirectly by this illness, people that have changed my life and I want to do my part to help them and others to be able to be themselves !!

This year I am going to run for a few people:

  1. Lauren Chiarello, a super amazing young woman, who I met during last season while training for her first half marathon, Disney 2009, she is Hodgkin Lymphoma survivor who only a couple of weeks after a great experience in Disney found out that her cancer is back and is now about to start treatment again. That’s just NOT FAIR!!  Read about Lauren.
  2. Suzanne Donaldson, a person that has enriched my life in ways that she would never know, a friend for life, a survivor that is going through tests right now and hoping that next Wednesday February 11th the news she’ll receive will be the good kind (let’s all keep her in our thoughts). Read about Suzanne.
  3. And of course I am also running in honor of the little girls that got me to the finish line last year, Kate, Emma and Olivia, what can I say? I just love them!!

These amazing people remind me that the fight against cancer still continues, we are not done yet, the race continues, and I want to be part of it!!

So here where all of you come in, Please donate and help me reach my goal of $50,000, just go to my website. Anything and everything counts, you all know it!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you,

Ramon Bermo
TNT NYC Head Marathon Coach

PS–If you decide not to donate you have to come back to us and run another event (or run your first event), you choose!
PPS–Read about last year’s adventure.

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Med school bound TNT Coach Steve H. is training for his first triathlon (a half-Ironman! Steve, are you gonna shave your legs?) as a way to raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Click here to help him reach his $10,000 goal…. Alan and Shayne Culpepper have opened their running shop in Louisville, CO (of  Boulder County), Solepepper Sports. I’m going to visit Brother & Co. in Lafayette later this month and will stop by…. I love how Olympic marathoner Magdalena “Chewy” Lewy-Boulet won the USA Half-Marathon Championships in Houston; and I like how Andrew Carlson came in fourth (setting a PR; this FloTrak video from after the race also tells about how he’s now coached by Greg McMillan and sponsored by Brooks), less than a minute behind winner Meb Keflezighi (ever since I saw Carlson race in Central Park I’ve been a fan). Crazy though to think that the first place finishers won $12,000 each – that’s about $916 per mile…  The USATF announced that the 2009 Men’s Marathon Championships will be run at the ING New York City Marathon. Excellent, as it will (hopefully) bring some of the best American distance runners to my city in November; and frustrating, as I’ll be running the course with Brother this year and once again missing out on quality spectating….I’m looking forward to this weekend’s Bronx Half-Marathon with excitement and nervousness. It will be my first race since the New York City Marathon, and I don’t expect to PR but I would like to finish with a respectable showing. Still trying to figure out what “respectable” adds up to…. My running buddy from my first season with Team in Training, BS, is training for her first triathlon (are you sensing a trend here, people?) and raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. If you’re balking at making a donation in these tough economic times, BS argues that “People don’t stop getting cancer when the economy is in a slump.” A sad yet valid point. Click here to help her reach her $3,000 goal…. And, better late than never, I’m linking to Running USA’s 10 Best Moments for U.S Distance Running in 2008. My favorites are #10, #6, and # 2.

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Manhattan, Again (Miles 21 to 26.2) 

I remembered this part down Fifth Avenue clearly from my training run–lots of scenery, and freaking interminable. This was the tract where I was grateful for all the familiar faces–crafty PS with her smile; TNT coach LW pointing right at me (she helped me with race day strategy–thanks Coach!); and TNT coach CL, out there with her baby bump (and completely surprised to see me), she told me “one mile at a time,” which proved invaluable advice for the last three. As we rounded Marcus Garvey Park, I shouted back to EN, who was right on my heels, with Josh, You stayin’ with me? “I’m gonna try!” came back at me. 

That’s all I needed to hear. Jets: On! 114th Street was the final location I was expecting my folks, and they came strolling up at the exact moment I was running by. Once again, my father shouting my name was the only thing I heard, surely everyone on the course now knew who I was. I was so elated at this point, completely juiced with endorphins, that I took two steps BACK and jumped right into my dad’s arms. He lifted me off the ground and held me tight for a brief moment, then just as quickly I said OK, and I zoomed off to return to my great race. Love ya, Dad

After that, I never looked back (and I lost EN* somewhere behind me). I ran as hard as I thought I could sustain for however many miles were left–3, 2, 1. That gradual, mile-long hill up Fifth Avenue is a subtle, potentially demoralizing challenge–runners were dropping off to my left and right, I could feel the inertia building around me, and it took all I had to tuck my chin, pump my arms, and turn on the tunnel vision. Once I finally hit the top (nota bene: I passed a slew of other competitors on that hill), my determination sharpened even more, if such a thing was possible. I felt a gritty toughness, an isolation, a sense that the race had only just begun for me. I took my final Clif Shot, this time with caffeine. Giving in even a little to the way my legs were starting to tire wasn’t an option. 

The crowds at the entrances to, and throughout, Central Park were a single solid, wall of noise. I registered them in a blur, knowing I was running the most historic miles of the race, the miles where champions had surged to triumph or fell back in the shadow of another’s glory. I passed The Plaza Hotel, Columbus Circle, and my first-season TNT mentor KW screaming out my name so loud she actually shook me out of my zone. It was cold; these last few miles I wore my gloves, and it was the first time since Staten Island I wished I had something more on besides my thin singlet. I was breathing so hard, pumping my arms, remembering DRC Matt’s evergreen advice for a strong finish: stay relaxed and maintain form to conserve energy. Along Central Park South I saw a sign that said “Pain Is Temporary.” A perfectly-timed reminder: none of it mattered, the cold, my tiring legs, my maxed-out lungs and pounding heart. It would all be over in less than 18 minutes, and then I’d know, you’d know, if I could bring all my months of training, dieting, and planning to come to balance on the head of a pin. 

At the “One Mile to Go” sign, I glanced at little G and actually gritted my teeth. I wished someone would cheer me on, but instead I turned on my mantra, and let it repeat: Strong. Beautiful. From all of the Media Challenge events I’d run this summer, and last week’s Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff, I was very familiar with the terrain leading up to the Tavern on the Green. I saw the “400 Meters to Go” sign and thought, just one more lap around the track. Strong. Beautiful.  Arms helping as much as they could, breathing as hard as I ever have during a race, and now here’s the Hill of Spite we must climb before we can cross the finish line. I can see the finish line… back straight, collar bone up, shoulders down. I’m running, Strong I’m moving right towards exactly where I want to be, Beautiful little G tells me I’ve got it, my sub-3:55 but there’s no way I’m not still charging towards that finish line Strong with every single shred of energy, spirit, Beautiful and heave of emotion I have left. And then, in a final flash of speed and heat I was across, I could stop, I could walk, I could look around. Breathe.

Finisher Area

A race official in an orange jacket took me by the arm, asked me if I was fine, and walked with me a few yards until I answered him (I was a little lightheaded). Finally, I turned to him, looked him right in the eye and said, Yes, I’m fine. Meaning, I am fucking amazing. He gently released me, sending me into the river of finishers, to get my medal, my food, my mylar, and my baggage. It was then that I gave in to my traditional post-marathon weepies, impressed and in awe of myself, grateful, overcome. Soon I pulled myself together, and marched right up to a smiling woman to have her drape my finisher’s medal around my neck. My medal, I love my medal. The circular gold medallion is embossed with the image of the great Grete Waitz, breaking the tape. It means a lot to me to have a woman on the medal for this race, my first New York City Marathon, with my new PR time affixed to it forever. Also, Grete is a favorite because when she raced, her hair was always tied back in two pigtails, and you can see them clearly on the medal. I like having this in common with her. 

You already know it. And I’ve got it memorized. But I’d be happy to tell you all again. I ran the 39th ING New York City Marathon in 3 hours, 54 minutes and 41 seconds, meeting my A Goal with 19 seconds to spare and running a negative split, with my last 13.1 miles 2 minutes and 35 seconds faster than my first. I improved my time for the distance by 42 minutes and 12 seconds.

Reuniting with my family on Central Park West was just as I’d hoped. Big, long hug and kisses from Husband, a whispered “I’m very proud of you, sweetie.” My mom, beaming. My dad, rowdy but also still touched by my leap into his arms at Mile 22+. And surprise, here were SS and DS, older relatives of mine who on the spur of the moment hopped on the train from Long Island and stood at Columbus Circle to cheer. (When told how the whole timing chip & mat system tracks the runners, an astounded SS said, “And they can’t find Bin Laden?”) 

We filed into the subway (marathoners ride free!), and I relished this, too. Ever since I moved into my first NYC home (Avenue C and 14th Street) in September of 1996, each Marathon Sunday I’d consider the mylar-clad runners on the subway with admiration and jealousy. I wish I could do that. It’s one of those quixotically New York things–the racers, patiently standing on the subway to get home just like every other citizen in the city. So, part of the enjoyment of my marathon day was taking the subway home (the 7 line, at which I’d waved just hours before), nodding at my comrades in solidarity and respect. My mom said to me later, “Everyone was looking and smiling at you.” I think she loved escorting a mylar-clad one as much as I loved being one. 

Once we were back in Sunnyside, Dad treated us all to a pub lunch at P.J. Horgan’s Tavern around the corner from my apartment on Queens Boulevard. I had a cheeseburger, fries, and a Yuengling draft (I’d begun fantasizing about this meal at Mile 16). Husband sat next to me in the booth, and I kept gratefully slumping against him, tired and happy. I didn’t tumble into bed until nearly 11 PM–I just didn’t want the day to end. It was magical and perfect, like Christmas and my wedding day, all wrapped into one.

*This race report wouldn’t be complete without a Thank You and a Congratulations to EN, for hedging my excitement so I could blast the final miles, and for setting your own PR during this race. Well done, on both counts, friend.

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Queens (Miles 13 to 16) 

Running over the Pulaski Bridge, into my borough, I was totally jazzed. So much so, that I picked up the pace on the uphill. It was at this point that EN did me the biggest favor of the day–he scolded me. “TK, now is NOT the time to Go.” Damn, the man’s right. I checked my pace (but just a little), and allowed myself to absorb the Queens miles. We turned off the bridge to the left, and I announced to all those around me, Queens rocks! You’re in my hood now! 

I loved it, every step felt like home, and even though the spectators were largely strangers, I believed I recognized them all. Running up Jackson Avenue, with its restaurants and pubs, made me think happily of long, wine-soaked dinners with friends. And then we were Vernon Boulevard, and DD, my TNT friend with whom I once ran a 20-miler (grateful the whole time he was a chatterbox), bellowed out my name from where he was stationed as a volunteer. Coming up to the Mile 14 marker, which has been my cheering spot year in and year out, I moved to the right and looked for my family–this was the first location I’d given Mom, Dad and Husband on the spectating plan I’d given them. But they weren’t there, I was crushed! I was way more deflated than I thought I’d have been. EN assured me they would be further up. In the meantime, I enjoyed the full-frontal view of the 59th Street Bridge, which posed ahead of us like a coy invitation. The course in Queens has some sharp curves, and I decided to airplane my way through them, arms akimbo, flying. 

And then there they were. I saw my mom first, scanning the crowd with her big blue eyes. I couldn’t shout to them, I got choked up at the sight, so instead I waved frantically. My dad starting shouting my name, drawing out the vowels, and his voice rung in my ears. And there was Husband, holding up the cutest sign ever. It said, “NYC’s #1 Running Blog PIGTAILS FLYING.” I could have stopped and kissed him, I was so touched and delighted by that sign. (The man came up with this all on his own, folks, I swear, no prompting from me!) As EN and I sped by, Dad’s voice still pushing me forward, I turned back to the course and covered my face with my gloved hands–I was crying. (This should come as no surprise if you’ve read other race reports of mine.) I quickly snapped out of it, though, because another big moment was upon me–we were approaching the Queensborough Bridge, my bridge. 

I later learned that my sister-in-law and her fiance, as well as my neighbor and occassional running buddy DM, and assorted neighbors from S.U.D.S. were cheering from the sidelines and screamed my name, but I didn’t hear or see them, most unfortunately. 

We were running up Crescent Street, and the 7 elevated line crossed directly in front of us. This is the train that takes me home, it’s my train, and wouldn’t you know, one pulled up (surely just for me?), and so I waved. Then I noticed people ahead of me turning left onto the bridge, and I had another emotion-filled moment. I thought about how many hundreds of times I’ve run over this bridge, in the dark of morning and night, in the heat of the summer and the bitter, windy cold of the winter. Through the rain, and snow. On my way home from work, or as my present to myself on Christmas, or to give thanks on Thanksgiving. I cried out: I own this bridge! And then, I felt gratitude to my bridge, for giving me what I needed: hills, an escape, and a way home. 

Quiet ensued for nearly a mile, and oh how I relished it. Of course, as I waxed on about my bridge this and my bridge that, EN felt compelled, with his typical irreverence, to point out all the men peeing over the edges of my bridge. Ah, yes. Poetic moment–whatev! 

Manhattan (Miles 16 to 20) 

And then, EN and I crested the 59th Street Bridge’s hill, and we could hear it: the distant roar of the crazy spectators along First Avenue. We all sped up as we descended the steep, short backside of the hill, turned left (the hay bales stacked along the right side of the curve cracked me up–runaway truck ramp!! Gotta give a shoutout to GMR teammate and speedster JD) and were blasted up First Avenue. Where was it, where was the propulsion I was looking for, that everyone promised me would come? I had imagined I would be lifted up off the ground by the wind from the cheering crowd’s lungs, and carried for miles. But nothing of the sort happened. 

Rather, I was distracted, and was concerned I was slowing down. Thankfully, First Avenue is about twice as wide as the course in Brooklyn, so it was only at the water stops I felt crowded. All of a sudden, EN comes jetting up beside me with his super-cute little brother Josh (19 years old–do they even make ’em that young anymore!?). He plugged right in to our pace, and totally saved me when he handed me an orange wedge somewhere around Mile 18. (I’d skipped a couple of Gatorade stops because I couldn’t deal with the clusterfucks at the fluid stations. To DRC Matt: I thought of your Boston Marathon orange wedge, which you told us about in epiode #99.) 

It was around this point where The Plan had me scheduled to Go. I looked at little G’s Virtual Partner feature, which I’d set to an 8:57 per mile pace. Yikes, I was more than 2 minutes behind. I mumbled to EN, Shit, we’re behind, and that was that. From that moment on, I was officially in “Go” mode. Breaking 4 hours (my B Goal) was a foregone conclusion in my mind, non-negotiable. I was running for my A Goal–a sub-3:55–and nothing nor no one was going to be able to deter me. 

The course at this point was familiar to me, so I could focus on pace and effort level. One thing that broke through was the ebulliently groovin’ gospel choir that was pumping out of a massive Baptist church somewhere in the upper reaches of First Avenue. Many parishioners, all decked out in their Sunday best, were on the steps, cheering us on, clapping and singing. It was so cool! I want to come back and party with these folks. 

At 124th Street, my family was awaiting me, one block before we all pushed over the Willis Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. There was a lot going on, so I didn’t immediately see them. Then, there’s Dad, his arms flung up high, a 6’3″ silver-haired man in a Crayloa blue fleece, booming out my name over and over. Hi Dad! And Mom and Husband are straightening up–they had been hunched over his backpack, rooting around for donuts! I was cracking up–People, I’m running a freakin’ MARATHON here, and you gotta stop for DONUTS? Hilarious! 

But quickly I left them behind with their green market snack, as I turned back to safely tramp over the Willis Avenue Bridge, EN once again faithfully reminding me to chill out on the incline, and just maintain my effort level. And look! The grates are covered in orange carpet, just as my faithful readers had promised in their comments

The Bronx (Miles 20 to 21) 

I have family and friends who live in Westchester, Dutchess County, and Connecticut; and I’d told all of them the Bronx was the place to come and cheer, but no one ended up being able to make it work. No worries, as I enjoyed blitzing through, alone with my thoughts, EN still on my right. The Robin Hood Foundation cheering grandstand was blasting “Eye of the Tiger,” which was very amusing. There’s nothing like a good cliché to make me speed up-if only to get out of range. 

Before I knew it, we were up and over the adorable Madison Avenue Bridge, turning left onto Fifth Avenue into Harlem.

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Last weekend, AG ran her first-ever marathon, the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco, CA, as part of the NYC chapter of Team in Training. Not only is she EN’s girlfriend (which is a sterling recomendation), but she is also funny, thoughtful, a talented baker, and an admirer of the elites (yes, she knows their names and can match them with faces). She is also supportive, having come to Staten Island just to cheer EN and the rest of us on a few weekends ago. Because of all of this, I invited her to write up a race report, which follows.

But before I launch you into her report, I ask you this: can you imagine running the race of your life–a race in which you finish under 3 hours, and beat the elites invited to the course–but yet do not receive proper credit? You don’t get to break the tape as the first finisher, you don’t get to be acknowledged on the podium, nor do you get any of the prize purse? I can’t imagine ever being that fast, but I can imagine the crushing humiliation, and the subsequent anger, of being completely overlooked and underestimated. As it turns out, the winner of this marathon was a talented runner (outrunning the declared winner by 11 minutes), but Arien O’Connell was not an elite, and therefore her winning time was not credited as winning. Click here to read about the gross mishandling of the situation by race officials, who finally declared Arien a winner just today.

Without further ado, onto AG’s account of the race, which is much more uplifting.

Dearest TK, 
I pasted a few emails together in hopes that some part of the following ramble might be useful for Pigtails Flying.  Seeing John Bingham was super-duper awesome and I am glad my notions of celebrity are understood by others. [“Others” being me–PF]
Happy Thursday,

The 2008 Nike Women’s Marathon, and my own first marathon, began on a very chilly and cloudy Sunday morning, only to end on a very chilly and cloudy Sunday afternoon.

I was part of the early start and hit the road at 5:30 AM, after my mandatory double-shot of espresso and Clif Bar.  The group was bubbling with excitement and thinned out early as we navigated the darkened streets of Fisherman’s Wharf.  I picked up my pace at mile 3 and trotted up to the front group by mile 5.  The first 10 miles ticked off pretty easily, but goodness was it cold!  Passing toward mile 11, I caught site of a few firemen [Firemen! Yummy!-PF] in tuxedos making their way to the finish line to get those medals ready for the finishers.  That was the second-best site of the day (of course the best was the Finish Line!). 

Funny moment: Mr. Pace Car hit the brakes and stopped quickly just before mile 8.  As the road was super narrow, yours truly was right on the bumper and ran into the back of the car.  Cross my heart, there is a bump on my knee to prove it! 

The back half of the course was very lonely and one of the most physically challenging tasks I have encountered (can you say “hills?”).  As the elite runners starting breezing by, a few took a moment to wish me a good race and offer a word of encouragement.  Thank you, elites!  At mile 15, I did a quick check of my watch and some pseudo mental-math to learn I could break 5:30, my achievable goal.  Around the rear of Lake Merced, my watch read 4:22 and I thought of some friends who would already be finished running if they were here in San Fran.  So, EN/TK/CN/DH, here’s to you.  I figured ya’ll would be eating up all of the post-race food and I should hurry it up to get my fair share.  That pushed my pace a bit and I came off the lake with a fury to conquer the last 4.2 miles.  Back on the highway I saw that the ocean and the sky were still melted together in a curtain of misty grey fog, which seemed to be unconcerned with the fact that I like a bit of sunshine in my runs. 

The course teased a small amount of flat ground on the last mile.  Lost in the dream of warm clothes and a cup of coffee, I looked up to see our head coach, Ramon Bermo, clanging his cowbell at the 0.2 mile mark.  I caught his eye and saw him check his watch and raise an eyebrow in surprise.  Either he didn’t recognize me or he was shocked to see me actually still running at that point in the course. 

When all was done, I came through the finish in 5:14:30….not bad for my first attempt.  To the joy of my sweetheart, I barely noticed the firemen with Tiffany boxes and made a beeline to ice, water, and bananas.  A quick stop to the medical tent for some ice was highlighted by my first celebrity encounter.  As I sat with a bag of frozen water on my already frozen leg, I looked up to see the face of John Bingham.  He dropped in to stow a bag and chat with the doc, and graced me with a few words of wisdom after hearing I ran the course in over 5 hours: “Good, then you got your money’s worth.”  After picking up my jaw off the ground, I decided to close this chapter on my first marathon and joined the pit of stretchers behind the medical tent and congratulated myself, as I’d just entered the small circle of runners who have successfuly completed a marathon. 

Of all the competitors, about 25% were associated with TNT.  The national total for this event’s fundraising was $18 million!  Thank you all for helping us get to that finish line.

[Congratulations AG on a race well run, and on contributing your portion of the money raised to find a cure for leukemia!–PF]

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Believe me, dear readers, when I say what a soft consolation it is for me to spend some time writing on Pigtails Flying right now…

A week or so ago, I received an email notification that we can all pre-order the DVD (signed by the director, no less) of The Spirit of the Marathon. It’s on sale October 7th. If you haven’t seen this movie and you are reading this blog, there’s little to no excuse for you (GO SEE IT). Yes, harsh, but if you have seen the movie I am sure you’ll be inclined to agree…. I can’t remember if I ever posted the link to the Road Running Information Center’s 2007 Marathon Report. It’s not new anymore, but if you haven’t read it, it could still be news to you…. In January 2007 I ran my first marathon, P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, and more than 20 of the miles were run side by side with KM. She’s raising money again with Team in Training, with a goal of $20,000 as she trains for the Nike Women’s Marathon. Do a good deed and donate your Starbuck’s money, willya?….

I neglected to include my usual bloggers’ race report round-up when I posted mine on the Queens Half last weekend, so here you go… Jbowers gives the visuals… Over at My Road to the 2009 NYC Marathon, this participant in the Worldwide Festival of Races spent her time “LOL”ing through the Queens Half… I’ve recently heard the term “worst PR ever,” and I think My Rambles would understand what that means, too… We all know what My First Marathon blogger Prakash is training for; and he met his personal goal last week… NYflygirl also PRed, (except not in Queens) she is fast, no joke, people….. 4:30 or Bust really struggled through the heat and humidity… Anyone else have a race report? Please post the permalink in my comments section, I want to hear from you.

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Careful reader of Pigtails may have noticed I took off Thursday and Friday. I don’t usually go for two days off in a row, but I was still so tired yesterday I decided I needed sleep more than I needed five miles.  After I slept like royalty last night (from 11pm until 10am), I got up, spent some quality time with my roller stick, strapped on my fuel belt, and headed through the 86-degree weather into the city to run a few laps with my coach as he celebrated his 41st birthday by completing 41 upper loops of Central Park.

By the time I made it to the 102nd Street Transverse, Ramon had just left on his 32nd lap. I chatted with some old TNT buddies (hey PS and SR!) and then caught Coach as he came around for his 33rd lap.  I recognized a bunch of old teammates in the little pack that surrounded him, and latched on. After shouting my greeting, I was flattered to realize EN had adopted my look, and was running with his flowing locks tied up twice. (He’s growing it for Locks of Love.)

Now, I know my coach is a wicked fast runner, who has run qualifying times for both Boston and New York more times than I could guess. But, I figured I had a chance of keeping up with him since he’d already ran 45 miles, and me, just 5.6. Uh, yeah. His pace was still faster than a chat pace for me. And do you people realize that he ran that hill at the top of the park 41 times that day? I am in awe.

My plan had been to run back from the park as well, thus getting in something over 12 miles for the day. But I was all out of fluids by the time I finished my two laps with Ramon, and frankly, was not looking forward to the heat that surely awaited me on the 59th Street Bridge, so I bummed a ride home with SR.

Click here to bring Ramon closer to his $75,000 goal on behalf of Team in Training, to fund the discovery of a cure for all kinds of blood cancers.

Have been geraing up for the Olympic T&F Trials in Eugene, OR — I mean, as a spectator! — and was thrilled to hear Kara Goucher made her Olympic “A Standard” Time. Click here for the Trials site.

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If any of you have ever trained with the New York City chapter of Team in Training, then you all know what an amazing and cool coach Ramon Bermo is. Ramon has trained and inspired thousands of runners to safely complete (or to qualify for Boston, yes, us charity runners are not all back-of-the-packers) in marathons and half-marathons for over six years.  And now, he’s decided to focus on the other side of the charity racing coin: he’s running the Vermont 100 on July 19th, 2008, with a goal of raising $50,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. As it trns out, he’s already raised more than his goal, but, surely as runners you can understand: why stop there? There’s always the next breakthrough on the horizon.

So, this post is just my little shout-out for him. I know many of you have run in races for charity yourselves, I know all of you have had at least one coach or mentor who has helped you turn the corner from “jogger” to “runner.” And, I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that all of you have had your lives touched by the devestating effects of cancer.

If you’re feeling generous (or even if you’re not — Ramon accepts donations of $5), click here and help get Ramon to $100,000. (I just set a new goal for him. Hope you don’t mind, Coach.)

In Ramon’s words:

I am aware that many of you have a direct connection to The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s cause, and I plan to run in honor of all of you that have been affected by leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma. I will run in honor of all of you that I have met through all those miles of running.

 A couple of weeks ago I had the honor of meeting Kate Davis, an amazing little lady!! Since I first saw Kate’s picture she has always been my own reminder of why we do what we do. Everytime I looked at her beautiful face and happy little eyes, I always wondered “Why?” such a beautiful little person had to go through that.

 That’s why Kate, as well as her two sisters Emma and Olivia, will be my inspiration as I take on a new challenge. They will be the faces of all of you, the Honorees, and the family’s affected by all of these diseases.

Important Links:

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I woke up at 4:15 AM, threw on my running togs, slurped down a mini Diet Pepsi (no time to brew coffee to get my caffeine), ate a Luna Bar and a nectarine, grabbed my bag with my work clothes, and was out the door by 4:45, umbrella and sense of humor firmly in hand.  I had laid out everything the night before, my bib pre-pinned and my chip pre-laced, and I was up so early this morning that it felt like I was heading off to a marathon. In fact, I even had pre-race happy dreams, in which I dashed through the crowds, finished with a PR, and met Mary Wittenberg who gave me a Most Improved Runner award. No joke! What an awesome dream.

I’ve been so excited about this race ever since I registered. I was captivated by the idea of racing in Central Park, before work, with thousands of other crazy runners.  Surely only the die-hards would get up to run a 5:30 AM race. My growing affection for the club that stages the NYC Marathon and dozens of other races, classes, and events each year, and has played a big role in my own development as a runner, makes me want to celebrate its anniversary the same way I’d toast landmark moments in my friends’ lives.

What I wasn’t anticipating was a full-on rainstorm. It rained as I hailed a cab, it was raining when I got to the park, as we all waited for the start (in the dark, huddled together, under trees, umbrellas and trash bags), and as we raced the 5-mile course. When I got out of the cab, and made eye contact with two other women who had just arrived. I said, “What the fuck are we doing?!” and we all cracked up with delight at our insanity. I was loving every minute; I knew as soon as we started running the rain wouldn’t bother us anymore. I bumped into my coach and a few teammates from TNT, not at all surprised to find them there.

Finally, finally Mary and her men described the course, pepped us up (“Who’s here from the outer boroughs?” [a smattering of cheers] “Who’s here from the tri-state area?” [two random shrieks]), and we were off. This was the best race I’ve ever run without company. Better than my marathons, even, because this run truly felt like a party.  The sense of camraderie — and of general hilarity — was palpable through the pack. Splashing through puddles like were were little kids, in the wee dawn hours, being cheered on by NYRR staffers and volunteers, was a whole heap of good, clean fun. It’s too bad that while 5,000 runenrs registered, only 2,000 showed up to run through the raindrops. Those sleeping 3,000 missed out, big time.

Note, though, that I wasn’t there just to party in my technical clothes. No, I had a PR to set. My previous PR for 5-miles was at last year’s Poland Spring Marathon Kick Off (48:18).  I wanted to run 45 minutes or under, that was my goal.  I knew I could run sub-9’s for 3.5 miles, but I wasn’t sure if I could sustain that pace for 5 miles over the park’s rolling hills.

What a great race. Truly. There’s something almost magical about the park at that hour, and circling it with 2,000 other like-minded nutjobs felt somewhat once-in-a-lifetime to me. (Before you accuse me of melodrama please remember: I am a self-admitted romantic about this sport.) My mind’s eye could see around every curve, my feet tread lightly, my legs stretched over the crests of the hills.  

I crossed the finish line in 42:53, an 8:34 pace.  Wow, I kind of blew my goal of 45 minutes away. I was grinning so widely that the chip guy and the bag watch guy both asked my time (so what if they weren’t impressed?). This rainy morning was so perfect, I even got a kick out of being sopping wet (my visor dripped water everytime I leaned foward), dirty and stinky on the subway as I headed to the gym to clean up before I went into the office.

Happy Anniversary, New York Road Runners! Here’s to 50 more years of taking over the world through running.

Race Reports from other blogs:

Official Photos

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Is there a penalty for waxing nostalgic about a run that was only four days ago? But yet, I remember fondly the gentle company, stoic hills, and 7pm daylight of my April 3rd workout.

EN met me at work on Thursday, and we ran up to Central Park together for a 4-mile loop.  Since it’s about a mile from my office to the 72nd Street Transverse, we ended up with a gorgeous six-mile run through our old Team in Training stomping grounds. Once a week through the park is just enough for me to appreciate what it has to offer, without resenting the triple-threat of hills on the West side, or the stink of manure along the southern loop. As we were heading east across the 72nd Street Transverse, we could glimpse a gorgeous apartment building through the new leaves that dappled the twilit sky.  The structure seemed to emanate its own amber glow, and was surely a fine specimin of whatever era of Old New York in which it was built. It was so scenic, it was easier to believe we were the (sweaty, poorly dressed) extras in a movie, jogging lightly through the scene where John Cusack or Topher Grace leads Kate Winslet or Jennifer Garner over to a bench for “the talk” than to believe we were in real life, running through a park we’re as likely to complain about as we are to take it for granted.

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