Tag Archives: Staten Island

THIS IS MY HAPPY PLACE: Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

The above picture truly captures me in my happy place: body mid-air, arms swaying strong, relaxed posture, music pumping, hint of grimace and determination on my face as I taste the finish line just ahead.  It was taken at mile 13 of the Staten Island Half Marathon last Sunday. 

Ironically, I was actually quite uncomfortable: my calves started cramping around mile 11 because I was lacking salt, I was sweating so much that my glasses were fogging, my toes were starting to get a little bit numb and my brain was trying to lure me into slowing down to a more comfortable breathing pace.  All that is not what was on my mind in the moment the picture happened.  It’s what was in the back of my mind, trying to takeover.  

What was front of mind is a very simple thought, “You are stronger than you think. The uncomfortable will pass.”  I kept saying these phrases over and over again and willing my legs to go a little bit faster, my knees to lift a little bit higher, my breathing to relax. I thought of my training runs where my coach would push me to run tempo pace for miles (a much faster pace) after an easy 10 miles. Even though I was uncomfortable I knew that eventually I’d settle down and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  

 

Since January 2013 I have run five Half Marathons (13.1 miles) and all within a finish time range of 2:10-2:14.  I finished the Staten Island Half in 2:04. Not a PR (Personal Record) or the sub-2 hours I so very much long to achieve and not my best Staten Island Half time (last year in 2012 I finished in 2:02) but I gave it my absolute hardest effort. Can’t ask for anything more of myself.

I realized after finishing the Staten Island Half that my legs have two marathons on them over the past year. Although I’d like to believe this fact makes me stronger, it can also make me plateau and face more muscle fatigue. (And oh have I: shins, plantar fascia, calf pains, hamstring tightening!) None of this matters. Comes with the training. I need to just stay relaxed, listen to my body, rest when I should rest during taper, believe in my strength and go as hard as I can for that finish line.

Although I’m not smiling in the above picture, a picture that truly captures my happy place, as soon as I rushed across the finish line, I was smiling ear to ear with immense satisfaction and pride.  I just LOVE that finish line!

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One Month Until NYC Marathon 2013!

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This 2013 marathon training season has flown by.  I started phase 1 in late May and have been gradually building mileage and speed-work ever since.  Today I ran another 20 mile training run which tops off a total weekly mileage of 48.  My legs have been very fatigued and achy in odd spots. I know these aches.  They are the aches of marathon training.  Having already run 2 marathons this past year, I’ve learned how to listen to the moans of my body.  I know which sensations are muscle moans and which are yelps of pain that cannot be ignored.  I’ve complimented my training with bi-weekly physical therapy sessions.  Initially to treat plantar fasciatis (a painful tightening near the arch/heel of your foot) and now mainly for tune-ups… my left hamstring, my right ankle, my left shin, my right IT band…all runners have their list.

I also know when my brain is tired from building mental toughness.  Sometimes my runs are all just a long series of arguments with myself. It’s tired from arguing with me! My brain tries to coax me into modifying my training plan.  For example, it will tell me to slow down just a notch when I’m doing speed-work, or to make a  6 mile training run a 4 miler. Or it tells me to stop for 5 minutes to drink and stretch instead of pushing through the discomfort.  It will tell me not to run the hill or to stay in bed.

I’ve learned how to listen and decipher the nagging, negative voice.  I know when I need to shut it up and when it’s time to truly listen.  When I really do need that extra rest day and when I need to push harder and keep moving forward.  My technique is nothing fancy.  I simply tell myself at the start of a run that I WILL do this. I WILL finish.  (That Under Armor commercial was definitely created by an athlete!)  I think of this technique as being similar to when I turn on my internal alarm clock.  I can go to sleep and tell myself I must wake-up at 5:30am. It works every time. I am up just before the alarm sounds.  It’s the subconscious at work.

Yesterday I ran 8 easy miles.  I debated running just 4 but when I got to the park I hit 6 miles and decided to just go for it and squeeze out 8.  As my coach likes to say – money in the bank.  It wasn’t my best run, it certainly wasn’t my worse run but I still got it done. What did I expect? Why bother worrying? I still got it done.  Money in the bank.

Today’s 20 mile training run began at 7:00am in thick fog and high humidity. I train with an awesome group of runners. We pair off into various pace groups. I have a running partner who is a great conversationalist and a strong runner who helps make the time fly by.

We ran along the Staten Island boardwalk, starting at the Fishing Pier, went out to Miller Field, Cedar Beach and then turned around in the opposite direction and ran along the boardwalk towards Fort Wadsworth (which was closed due to the government shutdown) so we ran Lily Pond Avenue down to Bay Street, all along the water down to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, past Staten Island Yankee Stadium and the 9/11 Memorial, and further out to the promenade near Jersey Street, turned around and ran back to the boardwalk’s Fishing Pier.

It was extremely humid and we were soaking wet from head to toe.  My hair was as wet as if I had jumped in a pool.  By mile 16 we did a quick pit stop for water, I took an energy Gu and we decided to crank on our iPods and stepped up our pace for the last 4 miles.  It felt amazing!

I’m especially happy with the strength we had to finish strong.  This was one of those runs where I finished feeling like I could run not just another 6.2 Miles (Marathon) but easily 10 more miles! I could actually imagine myself running an Ultra Marathon!  This is the kind of thinking I had after finishing my very first Half Marathon (Brooklyn) in 2011. I was astounded that I had just run 13.1 miles and looked beyond the finish line thinking, hmmm, maybe I could run a marathon.  Maybe an Ultra is in my future?  Anything is possible.

Here are my splits:

Total Runtime: 3:28  Average Pace 10:24

Mile 1  10:35

Mile 2 10:21

Mile 3 10:30

Mile 4 10:36

Mile 5  10:22

Mile 6  10:42

Mile 7 10:41

Mile 8 9:24

Mile 9 11:00  – Stopped for water (2min break)

Mile 10  10:38

Mile 11  10:52

Mile 12  10:41

Mile 13  11:21 – Stopped for energy supplement (2min break)

Mile 14 10:41

Mile 15  10:25

Mile 16 11:19 – Stopped for water (2min break)

Mile 17  9:26

Mile 18  8:50

Mile 19  9:00

Mile 20 10:00

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How I FINISHED the ING NYC Marathon 2012

Hurricane Sandy blew destruction across my Staten Island neighborhood. Fortunately my family was just inconvenienced without power for 6 days, tree damage and low gas in our cars. Many other’s were less fortunate. Areas that are among my most favorite running grounds were completely demolished and flooded.  This is a blog post from Oct 14 where I completed my last long run in the sections destroyed by Hurricane Sandy: http://bit.ly/TdFKdb

Staten Island – West Brighton – Tree Damage from Hurricane Sandy

I kept asking myself, “How could there be a marathon?” And the answer in my heart was always, “No, there just can’t be.” I had already accepted the marathon would be cancelled even though an official announcement was yet to be made by NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg. She never made it. Mayor Bloomberg insisted it was going forward. NYRR sent newsletters to confirm that it was on.

I just couldn’t believe it. And then an angry mob began hating on runners. I had Facebook Friends post about tripping runners, protesting at the start line, blocking the course. The general sentiment that echoed in my head was: “Running the Marathon is a disgrace. It is an insult to every New Yorker who has suffered in any way.”  This is not the spirit of the NYC Marathon. The marathon was founded on bringing together all 5 boros of NYC.  I was very conflicted.

At Friday afternoon’s press conference (2 days before the marathon) Mayor Bloomberg continued to insist the marathon would happen.  So I took a deep breath and began a 3 hour commute into NYC to the Javitz Center for the expo where I would pick-up my bib. This was supposed to be a thrilling process and instead I was masking feelings of dread and sadness.

Minutes after receiving my bib, while at a cash register with my sister paying for some running items, a friend called to say the Mayor just cancelled it. I was beyond relieved and also sad and angry. Why wait so long to make a decision?

Moments after getting my bib at the expo for the NYC Marathon 2012, Mayor Bloomberg announced it was cancelled

On Sunday, Nov 4, I joined NY Runners Support Staten Island at the ferry (met my sister too) and went into the coastal areas hit hardest to distribute supplies and help my neighbors cleanup. It was heartbreaking and uplifting to use my well-trained body to help another in dire need.  The group was organized in a matter of 2 days all via Facebook.  This is an interesting article from the Huffington Post that describes how the entire event was organized via social media.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jordan-d-metzl-md/nyc-marathon-staten-island_b_2094399.html

We were a group of strangers and yet we organized quickly and smoothly and adapted to any change of plans.  One of the great things about runners is that we are very familiar with organized chaos (on a race course thousands of runners weave past one another; in training a lone runner dodges the surprises of urban streets: cars, dogs, pedestrians, potholes) and being corralled into groups (12:00 pacers go to the back; sub-8:00 pacers to the front).  We are also task-masters (give us a training plan and we will get the job done) and highly goal-oriented (when’s the next race so we can plan our strategy to cross that finish line).  There were at least 500 runners that flowed off the ferry.  The orange river poured outside the terminal where everyone organized into smaller group’s based on which area they were going to help.

My group chose to run into the Oakwood Beach area. As we ran into the residential streets where homes were completely shredded apart my heart dropped.

Staten Island – Hurricane Sandy

Staten Island – Cedar Grove Beach area – tops of homes blown off their foundations

There were no signs of FEMA, Red Cross, government personnel, military officials… I don’t even know who should have been present around such a catastrophe.  All I saw were lots of neighbors helping neighbors in every way possible.  With our backpacks stuffed with supplies, one of our fellow-runners even had a twin-baby stroller stuffed with items, I sort of felt like the cavalry.  These folks clearly needed man-power desperately.

It was amazing to see my community come together.  There were teenage girls walking the streets with trays of coffee to hand-out; packs of men walking with shovels and gloves ready to move debris; older women setup tables in front of their homes where food was on display for anyone to take (“Want some baked ziti? I have hot lasagna here!”); pick-up trucks with out-of-state license plates were cruising the streets looking to help provide man-power or unload supplies.

We started by asking each homeowner what they needed and how we could help.  A very simple question that sliced through an onion of raw, burning pain.  Some folks were too emotional when asked the question.  Other’s were too proud to take anything so I had to be persistent.  Quite a few apologized that I couldn’t run ‘my marathon’ and I told them not to even give it a thought.  I could care less.  I want to help and I have strong legs so tell me where to run and I’ll get what you need.

There were make-shift supply distribution hubs (usually at street corners) that had collected cleaning supplies, clothes, food.  I grabbed a bucket, bleach, gloves and sponges.  I started trotting around through the streets passing out items.  Sometimes I’d stop at a home to help clear debris, other times I would ask someone what they needed and run back to the make-shift supply hub to get the item.

Would-be New York City Marathon runners instead pitched in to help storm victims on Staten Island.

I wore my orange marathoner shirt.  Funny how orange was the color for the 2012 marathon. It’s also the color for Staten Island, thanks to the bright orange ferries.

A year ago I was IN to FINISH the ING NYC MARATHON 2012. Here is my blog post that started the journey: http://bit.ly/SKcjuw.  I have spent the entire year mentally and physically preparing for Nov 4, 2012.  The day was supposed to start on Staten Island and take me on a course through all 5-boros, finishing in NYC.  God had another course for me to follow that started and ended in my own backyard, on Staten Island.  Helping my neighbors was the best way I could have put all my pent-up energy to a positive purpose.  I will run the NYC Marathon in 2013 and come back better, faster and stronger, just like New York City.

FINISH LINE PHOTO:  Me and my sister wearing our orange marathoner shirts, the same color of the Staten Island Ferry, after the most unforgettable day helping our neighbors.

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Waiting to Blast Off

I recently visited the observation deck of the Empire State Building.    Looking out across downtown, straight to Staten Island and then over to Brooklyn and Queens all I could think is that I am actually going to run all of that distance! I’m literally going to run this town.  The cool thing was that as I slowly visualized the entire course and put my body in the moment, I knew I could do it. What once seemed impossible, is possible and will happen.

I feel like there’s a rocket quietly sitting in my heart just waiting to take off! I have this vision of the Space Shuttle on the launch pad, 100% ready for the long journey, patiently waiting for the countdown and GO FOR LIFT OFF from the mission control room.

Training began back in late-May.  My coach put me on a steady running program with the goal being to run slow and steady about 5x a week.  He recommended a Garmin watch and that I track my heart rate.  In those early weeks the alarm would beep wildly as my heart-rate would go too high and outside of the target zone.

As the weekly runs and training programs pushed on through the hot summer I started to see a difference in my heart-rate.  I was able to run faster while my heart-rate remained low. This meant I was more relaxed and comfortable running faster rather than huffing, puffing and gasping for air while running a sub-10 minute pace.

On Wednesday evening’s our coach gave group training sessions.  We were introduced to Hill Repeats and Interval Runs.  Hill Repeats simply meant we would run – dash – up a steep hill, learning to pace our movements so that by midway up the hill we could push faster. Since they were repeats, we would charge up the hill 6x. I can feel myself panting and the strain in my legs just writing about the difficult process!

Thank God for my running mates. Their companionship and support made the entire experience a lot of fun.  The nice part about Hill Repeats is that once finished, I would run a 2 mile cool-down where my lungs felt open and my legs strong.  Now I’m programmed so that whenever I see a hill my mind imagines how it will feel to do hill repeats.  I instinctively want to charge up it and go faster.

When we did interval training runs we learned how to pace ourselves and shift gears.  Intervals are very empowering.  One of the training programs I had to follow was to run 4x 1 mile intervals at a 9:00 minute pace, recover a 1/4 mile at a slow jog.  The first time was always the hardest because my heart-rate was pulsing out of my ears.  By the second time I was questioning if I could hold out and still do it two more times.  By the third interval I was settling in and realizing I could probably go faster than a 9:00 minute pace.  And by the fourth time I was like a bat out of hell and would run 8:20 min pace just to shut-up my nagging-self and prove that I am by far stronger than I think.

I flip through my mind the memories of months of training runs. Here are some random snapshots:

  • The 5:30am morning runs where I would share the residential streets with just a handful of folks: the newspaper delivery guy driving slowly in his car tossing papers out the window, the woman collecting recyclable bottles, the bread-delivery guy for Key Food whose truck gave off a sweet aroma.  And the only sound ringing out on the quiet early morning streets was my Garmin watch beeping my heart-rate was too high or my RunKeeper app on my phone telling me my current pace and distance.
  • The runs in the extreme heat and humidity where I would seek out water fountains just to cool-down my arms and neck.
  • The runs in the pouring rain where the only hard part was mustering the will to walk outside the house into torrential rain.  Once I was soaked, the rain just didn’t matter. I thought of the rain-runs as a sort of holy blessing from God.
  • The runs I squeezed into my schedule while on vacation or a business trip.
  • The countless loops in Clove Lakes Park & Silver Lake Park. Getting to know the ‘regulars’ in the parks including the gaggle of seniors I fondly labeled as the Silver Sneaker Walkers… the grey-haired gals huddled together for a brisk walk and the clusters of men likewise out for their a.m. walk
  • The long-runs I enjoy every Sunday morning with my running mates and coach. Starting at 7am, the summer months they began in a bright sunlight and now that it’s October we begin with starlight twinkling away at the break of dawn. We would begin our morning as any dedicated running group: by panting, groaning, sweating and chit-chatting about everything and anything for a good two hours or more.
  • Our beautiful, adventurous, suburban long-run courses: From Clove Lakes Park, along College Avenue out to the majestic Bayonne Bridge pedestrian walkway with views of skyscraper cargo ships and the Bayonne Windmill blowing in the direction of the NYC Skyline, down along Avenue A and the Brooklyn-looking streets of Bayonne and into sprawling Stephen R. Gregg Hudson County Park and further into Richard A. Rutkowski Park (also known as the Waterfront Park and Environmental Walkway, a 40-acre wetlands preserve) before heading back all the way to Clove Lakes (approx 14 miles depending how you map the course).  Or in the Greenbelt Trails that would be accessed by parking in the Costco Parking Lot. Or along South Beach boardwalk to Miller Field and out to Fort Wadsworth.

I am now less than two weeks away from the NYC Marathon!  Every single time I think about it, or see an advertisement on an MTA bus or subway , or get a newsletter from NYRR, or see a commercial on TV, the butterflies flutter with anticipation.  Now I just have to sit and wait for mission control to give me the green light.

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I’m IN to Finish 2012 ING NYC Marathon!!

My 67yo father has been running for more than thirty years.  He has run 8 NYC marathons and countless other NYRR races.  His first marathon was in 1979 when I was 7 years old.  Living on Staten Island, the start of the marathon was always an extra big deal in my house.  My mom would wake us early, my younger brother, sister and even my grandparents, and drive my Dad to Fort Wadsworth near the Verazzano Bridge and then cross over to Brooklyn to stake our first of several cheering spots throughout the race; Brooklyn and then on to Manhattan, on the East side just off the 59th Street Bridge and again in Central Park for the last 5 miles.

My Dad said that what piqued his interest in running were Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter, two of the most elite and successful American runners of all-time.  The NYC Marathon began in 1970 and originally consisted of four loops around Central Park with just a few hundred runners.  In 1976, thanks to the pioneering vision of Fred Lebow, the race expanded to hit all five NYC boroughs and attracted approx 2000 runners, including Olympians Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers.

In this picture we had just dropped my Dad off at Fort Wadsworth.  The date was Oct 21, 1979.  Notice the limited crowd and the low number on his bib.  The running boom was just getting started!

It was absolutely thrilling to see him come running up to us, cold and sweaty, and hug and squeeze us at every spot!  Back then there was no such thing as gels and power drinks.  My mom would have a huge container of honey that she’d scoop into my Dad’s mouth like medicine for a baby and I would hold fresh-cut oranges in a ziplock baggie.  My fingers would freeze holding out extra oranges and then go numb from clapping so hard for all the runners.  As if that was an act of endurance?!

I also remember seeing all kinds of characters pass by.  There was the waiter who we saw at every marathon.  He wore a black jacket with tails and bow-tie and held a tray in one hand with a champagne bottle and glass.  There were those who ran backwards and the guy who ran while juggling.  To my young eyes, watching the runners sometimes felt like being at the circus.

I remember after my Dad finished his first NYC Marathon he received a spectacular poster of the Verazzano Bridge with all the runners crossing it. The shot was taken from above so you saw the full span of the bridge from Staten Island and thousands of runners charging across it.  I put this poster on the wall just to the side of my bed.  At night I would lie on my side and stare at the poster wondering where my Dad could be amongst the crowd.  My Dad told me how runners would start stripping off layers of clothes while crossing the bridge and just throw them on the pavement or off the side of the bridge.  I found this little fact about littering your clothes on world’s largest bridge to be fascinating and would daydream at the poster imaging shirts flying off the sides of the bridge.

That same year I decided  for Halloween I would dress-up as ‘Daddy’s Super-Jogger’.  My mom ironed the letters onto a sweatshirt (she lost the ‘Y’ so it actually read Dadd’s Super Jogger), gave me my Dad’s sweatband and wristbands, a water bottle (she didn’t have a real water bottle so she gave me my little sister’s baby bottle!), sneakers and off I went proudly jogging in the P.S.69 Halloween Parade.  Running doesn’t require much of any props so my costume kinda looked like I was going to gym class.  That’s me in the middle holding up my sister.

In 1981, when my Dad was 37yo, he finished the NY Marathon in his best time ever – 3:29:30.  He said that as soon as he hit Central Park he suddenly felt like ‘a firecracker was up his ass’ and he ran like the wind to the finish.  He got across the finish line faster than my family could keep up to greet him.  My Dad bought a picture of himself crossing the finish line which has lived in a frame on top of the piano all these years.

Everyday when I would practice piano I would gaze at the picture and think how casually normal my Dad looked, merely hopping, over the finish line.  But I never understood the magnitude of what he accomplished, from achieving a fantastic time to simply finishing the run of 26.2 miles!  Until now.

Back then I never felt a desire to run.  I never even dreamed of running the NYC Marathon. I just enjoyed being an observer, the daughter of someone who was a marathoner and a very driven runner.  My friends and neighbors all knew my Dad as a runner.  So many times someone would tell me, “I saw your Dad running near my house at 5:30am when I went out to grab the paper.  How does he do it?”  I would shrug and just say, “He does. He gets up and goes running.”

It wasn’t until I myself reached my 30’s, when I began very light running on the treadmill and outside (3-4 miles tops)  that I started watching the NY Marathon on TV and unravel a hidden desire to want to run this race myself.  My childhood memories of being surrounded, unconsciously, by the NY Marathon and the determination of a marathoner, came flooding back to me.  Yet I never mapped out a real goal.  Occasionally I would go for a short run with my Dad but I never considered properly training for races or making running a consistent part of my lifestyle.

Maybe it’s because I’m a mother and wife now and recognize the value of organizing time, staying healthy, and generally feeling balanced between work and life that running has become my center around everything else.

So here I am now at the start of 2012, turning 40yo in October, officially accepted into the NYC ING Marathon! I just wish I could find that poster I once had on my bedroom wall.  Only this time I’d put it on the wall in my girl’s bedroom.

Here are some more vintage pictures of my Dad running the NYC Marathon back when it wasn’t even 5 years old. Notice the light crowd of runners and the simple clothing.

 

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