Monday, August 06, 2007

Weekend running warrior

Okay, usually my funny stories come about due to alcohol consumption and juvenile (but loving it) attitudes. However, this story is completely sober (and I’m not talking sober as in celebrity fake rehab, but clean as a nun sober). Anyway, I had a quiet Friday and Saturday night in preparation for the half marathon on Sunday. When I say Sunday, I mean before dawn! Seriously this was one of my earliest races ever, 7am! The only other race that started this early was the 2006 Chicago Triathlon and I was in wave 1! Actually being wave 1 was pretty cool since someone in our group would break the tape….nope was not me, I was number 5. Anyway, the organizers were being organizational Nazis and had ridiculous deadlines like bags must be checked by 6am and you must be in your appropriate running corral by 6:15am. Okay for a race that starts at 7am, getting there over an hour early seems a bit much but we had no other choice. Aimee, Patty, and I decided to meet on the west side of the park at 5:30am. This would give us plenty of time to walk across the park (the race started on the east side) and check our gear.

Being anal retentive, I had my whole morning planned out. Seriously, I had my subway route planned even with arrival schedules and everything. I entered the subway station at 5am, and heard the distinct sound of a train arriving. This was a shock to me since the schedule said the train would not arrive until 5:12 (the previous one should have arrived at 4:42…yeah I am a dork for knowing that). Fearing waiting another 20-30 minutes for the next train, I sprinted down the station stairs and up to the train doors. I was about to take my first step into the car when I realized this was the ‘downtown’ train. Out of habit, I went down the wrong set of stairs. Thankfully I realized my mistake before hopping on a train going the opposite direction! I switched to the ‘uptown’ platform and waited for the correct train.

When my uptown train arrived (two minutes late might I add), I planned on taking it up to 96th street. Due to construction, they said there was no uptown local service (my stop is on the local line) so the train would run express to 125th street (aka Martin Luther King Drive in Harlem). Ugh, I cannot win! At 125th street, we could switch to the downtown train for local service. I figured I would still be alright since the express would take very little time getting up to 125th street since it would be making no stops. Wrong! Because of construction, the trains were running uber sloooow. I did not arrive at 125th until 4:40am. I had two choices, hit the street and grab a cab or wait for the downtown service. Those of you living in a city with a Martin Luther King Drive know (as Chris Rock said it best) it is always in the worst neighborhood of the city! There was no way in hell I would find a cab at 5:40am in Harlem! I therefore had to stick it out and wait for the downtown train. Already I am worried about the other two girls not making the race on time because of me. I could not even call them because, hey, the subway is underground = no cell service. I finally made it to the meeting point at 5:50am!

We had no time for explanations, and took off in a dead sprint across the park. Yeah, running like mad with a water bottle and backpack prior to a half marathon is not a smart idea. We made it just in time (well a few minutes late, but they were not the time a-holes that I thought they would be) and I explained my lateness saga while we waited in the corral. I guess it was a bizarre-o morning since Patty (usually the habitual late one) was the first to arrive, and me being the typical early one (thanks to Mrs. Tucker) showed up 20 minutes late. Okay quick tangent story….Mrs. Tucker. She was our androgynous, butch hair, tuxedo wearing band teacher in high school. Note I never was in band (I even suck at the recorder), but I was in the dance team. Basically the dance team would march in front of the band in our short skirts and try to perform choreographed pom-pom shakes to Louie Louie. Yeah we had no point other than to balance out the male-female ratio. Anyway, because we marched with the band and performed during the half-time shows, we had to be there for all the band practices. Mrs. Tucker was militant and had a policy that you had to run a cymbal lap for every minute you were late. Five minutes late = five cymbal laps. Okay a cymbal lap consisted of you running around the soccer field with a pair of cymbals. While running, you would shout “I’ll never be late again sir” (and crash the cymbals on sir)! Now add the fact that you are publicly humiliated in front of the boy’s soccer team since they were practicing while you circled their field. Girl if you were late once, you were NEVER late again. Lesson learned.

The race kicked off on time, but since we were towards the back (they sorted by anticipated pace) we did not arrive at the starting line until 7 minutes later. People actually started jogging towards the starting line. I’m thinking this is the stupidest idea ever. Okay people, you want to add another half mile to your already 13.1 mile run? Idiots! Like any race, the first few miles are super slow due to the crowd. Many people (not us) lie about their pace and therefore clog up the faster runners behind them. Basically if you are not going to run a sub 7-minute mile, why worry about what other people think (you are slow like the rest of us…accept it).

At mile 2, there was a water station. Aimee asked if I wanted to stop, and I pointed at it and said something like “lets get around this crowd and stop at the next one”. I turn my back and keep running (and in the process get jostled by hordes of people swarming towards the water). When I next look to my side, I realize Aimee is gone! Yikes! I start to panic since we planned on running the whole thing together. Now I’ve lost her at mile 2! Damn! I scan the crowd and do not see her. Granted she was wearing a white shirt like most of the runners (including me), but hers had her name across the top and a lightning bolt down the back. I hung back for a minute or two and still didn’t see her. I then sprinted up to mile 3 thinking she must have kept running while I was searching. I even went as far as shouting her name into the masses. Finally at the mile 4 water stop (also our first gel intake point), I turned around and started walking backwards (so I would see the oncoming runners). Thankfully, I eventually heard a “Lindsay…thank God!” and we rejoined each other. Evidently, when I pointed at the water, she thought I wanted to stop. She pulled over to the side and waited for me (as I took off). After a few minutes she realized I did not stop and started sprinting/searching the next two miles. Yeah, great way to start off a long ass run.

Okay no Lindsay story is complete without some unusual occurrences. Aimee and I were haunted by the “Jingle Man”. It was this really old (like world’s longest beard old) Japanese guy who carried a radio (playing Japanese folk music) and was covered in little bells. Yeah running next to him was like some strange sleigh ride experience. Anyway we would occasionally loose him at water stops, but I still saw him around at mile 11. Talk about homicide on the race…Aimee was about to slice him. Another funny experience (well funny for me, not for Aimee) was when Aimee accidentally stepped on a gel packet. Basically these gel packets are like ketchup packets. Well you can imagine what happened when she stepped on it. It exploded all over her leg. She was definitely grossed out at the sticky, clear, gooey gel slowly running down her leg and said “okay we have got to stop so I can clean this cum off my leg”. Ah ha ha ha!

We spent the first 7 miles circling the park. We emerged at mile 8 in Times Square. Okay I know I complain about how annoying Times Square is, but it was kind of cool running in the midst of it. Plus the crowds were lining the sides and cheering us on. I had to keep a handle on Aimee because every time someone would shout out her name (remember on her shirt), she would burst off. I had to keep reeling her in warning her about collapsing towards the end.

In the end, we had enough energy to sprint out the last 400 meters (riddle me this, the race is measured in miles, but they had all sorts of metric signs like 5k, 10k, 800m, etc). Our finishing time was 2 hours, 10 minutes, or a 9:55 minute per mile pace. Not bad for a pair of girls who didn’t start training (or if you could call our half hearted long runs of gossip and jamba juice training) till three weeks ago. In your face team in training! Okay don’t know where that came from.

We met up with some of her friends and headed over to a sweet Tribecca apartment for a post race party. This place was like out of urban myth. The front door was down a cobblestone alley (yeah the one alley in all of Manhattan) and opened directly to an elevator. The hosts served the runners (two girls and three guys) salmon bagels, scrambled eggs and mimosas! Yummy. Actually I asked what she added to the scrambled eggs because they were so good. Turns out they were just plain scrambled eggs cooked properly as opposed to the crispy burnt ones I typically produce. Ah ha ha ha, mental note, marry a guy who can cook or is rich enough to order take out.


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