Marathon Week! Everything Else is a Warmup…
Let me preface this account of my marathon week by saying that this is strictly my perspective as someone (a runner) who has been focused on one single day for 18 weeks (really much more). Having said that, please understand I am not going to present both sides, only mine. If you are new to my blog then you may think I am neglecting the obvious strife that people in surrounding areas suffered (are suffering) due to Hurricane Sandy but that is why when you see this symbol “♥”, it will hopefully remind you that I am not a heartless asshole who is just thinking about a race and I am conscious of those in affected areas. Here is to a swift recovery to the areas affected by Hurricane Sandy!
Monday : Rest Day - I focused on eating healthy by doing my best to avoid my beloved cupcakes and beer. I spent some time visualizing the race and picking out songs for the final 6 miles. I was still somewhat bummed that I passed on the Rock’n'Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon the day before because the weather was awesome and it looked like a blast! Plus, we all know how much I really want to run downtown Los Angeles…oh and this amazingness…
Tuesday : Run 3 miles – It is hard to get psyched to wake up and run 3 miles so I decided to sleep in and give my body the extra rest. I spent part of the day reading about Hurricane Sandy and trying to figure out if it would have an impact on the marathon. For the most part I was led to believe that it was not that big of a deal for New York City other than the proactive steps to shut down the subway. I got home from work and went out on my run, I felt fatigued, no more than usual and according to research it was to be expected. Had a go at a quick stretch, hit the showers and proceeded to watch the Lakers tank their season opener! 3 miles at a 8:39/mi pace.
Wednesday : Run 2 miles – Forced myself to get out before work so I could come home and potentially enjoy Halloween. The run went well, I forgot how quick 2 miles is, barely enough time to get the blood pumping. By the time I arrived to work the Sandy stories were beginning to surface and this is when everything started going downhill. I received a text from the person whose apartment I was planning to rent, she asked if I still planned on going to NY. Did I still plan on going? Of course! Well, the next text came and I saw the picture of her neighborhood from the night before, massive flooding and the electricity had been knocked out in the East Village. I figured it would be turned on soon but as the day went on and the stories began to hit the news I realized that this may be a much larger disaster then I had realized. I had to continue to plan like the race was on so I was prepared to arrive at an apartment without electricity and rough it until it would be restored, which I was being told would be Saturday. The stress levels were high all day, not only was it the end of the month at work, I was also faced with a new unforeseen obstacle to my months of training ♥. Completed 2.3 miles with a pace of 8:44/mi.
Thursday : Rest Day – My body rested but my mind was stressed. It was quickly becoming apparent that the situation in New York was much worse than expected. If you would have asked me in the morning if I was going to run, my answer would have been no. Reports were stating that the electricity may not be on in the East Village for another 8 days. That meant, no subway, no heat, no light and safety issues ♥. I would have to be back into the apartment before it got dark, meaning 6:00pm every day, then I would be basically sitting in the dark until sunrise♥. There would be no restaurant or food options within a 2 mile radius so nutrition for the race became another issue ♥. No electricity means no cell phones♥. No street lights means I would also be open to danger walking down the street after dark♥. All these things meant that I wouldn’t want my girlfriend to come support because I wouldn’t want her to endure the situation♥. I was also equally taking into account the effect on the city and the surrounding areas. No one wants to go somewhere that people are suffering and take away their resources but please note that I had watched absolutely zero news coverage up to this point so I did not know the level of devastation. With all this being taken into account coupled with the ability to cancel my accommodations, transportation and flights without penalty I was almost fully out of the trip. I had spoken to my girlfriend about it, expressed my frustration over everything, weighed the good and the bad, and cancelled my accommodations ♥. Mayor Bloomberg was adamant that the NYC Marathon would go on, I mean, I received an email at 2:00 am on November 1st from the NYRR stating that it was a go. The marathon generates over 350 million dollars for the city in one week because of the 47,000 runners and their families, a total the influx of roughly 2 million people. I began to rationalize. Well, half of the people won’t show, so that is 175 million gone, if more people cancel then the city will be crippled economically as well. I thought, ok, if I can find a place uptown with electricity then I should go, support the great city and run the race I had been focused on for 18 weeks. The only issue was that I had not received a response in roughly 4 hours from either of the two people I contacted. Then at around 3:30pm I received a message that one of the places would be available, I reluctantly accepted and left work immediately…to pack…I hadn’t even packed. I fully realized the negatives of going and was still completely torn until the moment we parked at the airport. Real quick, before I move on…I know where the contestants on the Voice stay in Burbank so if you are a stalker like my gf, message me. Anyway, probably the most difficult part was trying to be excited about the trip, I could not find joy in the thought of running but I hoped that once I did my shakeout run on Saturday morning it would return. Everything was on schedule with my flight so I figured that was a sign that all was well and things were getting back to normal. We boarded the plane, popped some sleeping pills and did our best to get some rest.
Friday : Rest Day – We arrived at JFK at around 5:30am which meant it was barely 2:30 to my body. I felt ok as I waited for the shuttle to pick my girlfriend and I up. The shuttle arrived and we were on our way, it was at this point I realized what I had gotten myself into. First, our driver was the owner of Super Shuttle (assuming “branch”) who came to work with his nice new shuttle because…get this…he was one of the few who had access to gas…wait…what? Yeah, I had not heard about the gas shortage until that morning and I immediately learned how bad the area was from the extremely knowledgable shuttle driver who had previously worked for an oil company and was privileged to the in’s and out’s of how New York received their fuel. This lecture took me to a new level of concerned. On our way into the city we listened to the radio and the chatter about how the tunnels were still closed and that the bridges were the only way in. The driver still tried to get to the midtown tunnel and he couldn’t stop talking about how eerie it was to see the roads empty. We were literally the only people going towards the tunnel on a 4 lane highway, it was extremely strange, Vanilla Sky strange. The driver asked if anyone in the shuttle was running the marathon, and of course, there were 4 of us (out of 8) in the van with hopes of participating. Two of the runners did all the talking, I kept my mouth shut because it was becoming very clear to me that I felt awful for going to New York and even worse for being associated with the two other runners in the car whose main concerns seemed petty to me. You know, like my concern about “should I run with two phones” kind of petty. The shuttle driver brought up the fact that a lot of people were angry with the mayor for declaring the marathon would go on as scheduled but backed up the statement with why he felt it should…if it wasn’t obvious enough since he was there to transport travelers that were more than likely there for the race. Regardless, some people were extremely upset and we know the angry ones tend to be the loudest…courtesy of the NY POST….
The city was still enforcing a two person minimum for anyone crossing the bridges into the city, which made for a slow entrance into Manhattan. Once we arrived uptown traffic was fairly normal but no one was really going past midtown because the electricity was still out. Sign number two that I shouldn’t have gone was evident when our host for the place we were staying was 45 minutes late because she was walking from midtown. Sign three came when she finally arrived and we were asked to leave our luggage in the living room of an apartment that people were still occupying while she waited for them to leave. Sign four was when we were told we couldn’t come back until 4:00pm because she had to clean once they left. I had been specific that we were coming in off a red-eye but I guess that statement fell on deaf ears in our brief conversation the day before. So we were left our luggage (because we didn’t know what else to do with it) with people we didn’t know and then off to MoMA we went. This was the highlight of the day, we spent about 4 hours walking around admiring the art. MoMA is my favorite museum, I have been to New York three times in the last year and a half and I have been to four times so you might say I am obsessed.
Eventually we were too tired to walk and decided to go find a place to eat carbs…right…I mean, how could I forget the marathon with all that was going on? It was supposed to be a rest day and I was doing anything but resting so I figured carbo-loading was the absolute least I could do to stay on track. We had an awesome pizza and baked ravioli lunch but still had about an hour to kill so we headed to a bar for a much-needed drink.
So there is my Friday…PSYCHE!!!!!!! We are only half done…if this were a theater in the 1930′s we would go to intermission.
After beers, we headed to the apartment which was finally ready. My girlfriend and I were exhausted so we had no problem settling in and passing out for about an hour. We were lazying around for a bit when my girlfriend received a text from our NY friend stating that she just saw that the marathon was cancelled on the news. I thought, yeah right, the mayor said just yesterday it was still on. I started scouring the internet to see if there was anything to validate the text. After about 10 minutes of looking the reports started popping up, the police chief was the one who stated the race would not go on as scheduled, but that wasn’t official, right? Then about 10 minutes after that every major news source was going with the report and then it was confirmed by the New York Road Runners that it would in fact not be held on Sunday. I couldn’t do anything but just sit there, it was one of the few times in my life that I truly felt like I had been blindsided, I was in shock more than anything else. My girlfriend asked if I was ok, and I think I said yes, and probably something to the effect of …well, it’s what is best for the city. It started to sink in when I started receiving texts from friends sending their apologies. I did my best to not think about it because I knew that it was a selfish journey to prove something to myself and that people were suffering just miles away. I wish I could have just accepted that and moved on but I was crushed at that moment and the selfish side of me thought the following…
I had trained hard for 4 months. Woke up at 5:45 Tuesday through Thursday religiously to drag my ass out of bed and run. I gave up hours every Saturday and Sunday to run and cross train, passed on numerous invitations from friends for a plethora of events. Yes, I did a good job of still finding a balance and I definitely had times where I enjoyed myself but I paid for it the next morning because I was determined to not miss a day, in 4 months I only missed one run. I ran in ridiculous heat, on vacation, late at night after a long day at work and sometimes injured. I had also been fundraising for the last month pretty hard and anyone who really knows me will understand that I HATE asking people for things regardless of the reason. I had planned a financially irresponsible trip to New York because I was committed to my training and felt the need to see it through no matter what. So to say I was disappointed was an understatement. To say I was unaffected would be a lie. There was anger at first but I was more hurt than anything else, I felt like a dream was crushed. I would not be participating in the event that I had been visualizing for a year. I didn’t get a chance to understand what it’s like to be corralled with 50,000 of my closest friends…I still can’t comprehend what that looks or feels like. No majestic views of the Verrazzano Bridge, no cheering crowds in the streets of beautiful Brooklyn, Queens, Williamsburg, Manhattan or the Bronx. I wouldn’t get the rush of crossing back into Manhattan with only a few miles left, or the exhilaration of being so close to ending a journey. Don’t even get me started on reaching the 26 mile marker and heading up the last incline that I have read so much about before making my way across the finish line. That was the hard part to swallow…this was the fun part of all the crap I had endured. Yes, I mean crap, we all know my love/HATE relationship with running and this was supposed to be the weekend that I achieved my goal of running my first AND last marathon.
Being whiny doesn’t look good on me and the pity party didn’t last too long. I wanted to nip it in the bud as quickly as possible so I went to Facebook (where a majority of my supporters get their information) to express my opinion. Here is what I wrote:
I whole heartedly meant that, there were people suffering and whatever I had sacrificed over the past 4 months fails to compare to the loss of those affected by Hurricane Sandy. I was so busy all week with work, training, packing and planning that I hadn’t really had a chance to look at how bad the devastation was in New York and New Jersey. Had I paid more attention I would have probably stayed home but I had tunnel vision and too many distractions to let in rational thought. My girlfriend and I started looking for volunteer opportunities to see where we could lend a hand in the city before getting ready to go out for dinner. My parents didn’t raise me to bitter, especially when the circumstances are out of my control. There is no reason to dwell on things that you can’t change, you just have to move on. I had learned a few lessons while training for my first half marathon and much like the rest of life, the journey is much more important than the end result.
Now back to the real fun! The apartment we were renting had paper-thin walls and we were privileged to hear two men arguing. The arguing turned to yelling, wall punching, threatening and all out craziness…no surprise for me, I bring the proverbial rain cloud with me wherever I go. I literally thought that someone might get stabbed or shot and pondered dialing 911. So our experience escalated from bad to worse, we were now concerned with the safety of our questionable accommodations. If you ever plan to use AirBnB.com to book accommodations I strongly suggest getting to know the renter before booking if possible, in this scenario, I didn’t really have a chance. I had spent some time talking with the original person that I planned to rent from and she was awesome. I was excited to stay at her place but of course the last-minute change cancelled out my vetting process and we were stuck in this new spot, bad call. It is worth noting that the electricity came back on Friday night in the East Village, so we could have easily stayed at the first place we booked but that would have been too easy! After enjoying the fight we headed out for a late dinner at Carnegie Deli, one of my favorite places to eat so if you are ever around Times Square then it is definitely a must stop. I won’t say it is mandatory every time you are in town but it is a landmark and should be visited at least once. After dinner we walked down to Times Square, snapped a couple of photos and then headed back to the apartment, it was after midnight after all and I wanted nothing more than to put the day behind me.
Saturday : 2 Mile Shakeout - Even though the marathon was off I had still planned to run Central Park on Saturday but unfortunately I quickly found out how easily my mind and body slip out of a routine when there is no longer a goal. I slept in until about 10:oo am which is unheard of for me and lazied around for about an hour. We have a good friend that lives in the East Village that we decided to meet up with for lunch. The subways were supposedly running according to my NYC Metro App so we headed up to catch a train by the park to get down to the East Village. After waiting for about 30 minutes and being assured that the train was in fact running we gave up because all signs pointed to NO. We headed over to another subway that we were told was running and thankfully that information was accurate…the only problem is that it stopped at 34th street (midtown) because they had no had a chance to test the system since the power had just been turned on. One route was running so we walked about a half mile to catch that one down to the East Village. All in all, it took us about an hour and a half to go about 4 miles, hey LA, you didn’t need to remind me traffic could always be worse! Once we arrived in the East Village we noticed that even though the power was barely flowing the city was already operating at near full strength, resilient bunch those New Yorker’s. Our friend is always down to get the party started so once we arrived she flipped the switch, she felt terrible that the marathon was cancelled and wanted to make sure that we had a great day…the drinks started to flow and next thing you know we destroyed some appetizers, a couple pizzas and two drinks a piece.
A quick shopping excursion was followed by more drinks at her place and then conversations about the marathon. Our friend was determined to go to the expo to get my complimentary shirt and enact our plans on how to salvage the marathon experience. I thought the expo ended at 6 but since I didn’t plan on going I didn’t realize it actually ended at 5. A car came to pick us up at 4:40pm and I said, forget it, she said no way and asked the driver to get us across town as quickly as possible…movie style…the driver literally hauled ass cross town and we made it to the expo by 4:55. We made our way in, grabbed my race packet and snapped these before heading out…
After the expo we went to Chelsea Market to explore all the culinary craziness it had to offer. After Chelsea we went to Momofuku’s Milk Bar, please note, I love saying MOMOFUKU, maybe because I say it…MO-MO-FUK-U. ”Milk” is a ridiculous little shop that serves cookies, pies and shakes with the shared base being MILK, not just any milk, cereal milk…yes, like the milk from a bowl of Coco Crispies…ridiculous. With menu items named Crack Pie and the Compost Cookie, I was in heaven. After gorging ourselves on sweets, we headed back to our friends place to hang out some more before dinner, this meant more drinks and dog walking. She has two of the most adorable bulldogs ever and lord knows I really want a flippin dog but my responsible side wont let this happen. So needless to say I took full advantage of the opportunity to walk her dogs. We grabbed dinner at a Thai kitchen and because of New York I have a new love in ramen bowls. It had been a long day of walking, drinking and eating so we finally headed back to our apartment uptown to get some sleep. Thankfully there were no more fights or strange happenings on Saturday night. No RUNNING completed, no thought of RUNNING entertained.
Sunday : Run 26.2 miles - I slept like a champ for the second straight night and didn’t awake until 10:00am. 10 hours of sleep in back to back nights…unheard of, especially during training. My mind was definitely saying, ok, I am over this training routine…vacation time. I had pondered running a lap around Central Park on Sunday morning but since I woke up so late I opted for coffee and a croissant instead. We grabbed coffee and decided to take a WALK around Central Park. We had heard from the staff at the expo that there may be some people running a half marathon around the park but I figured it would only be a couple hundred people, wrong…thousands. I had been busy crisscrossing the first two days that I forgot that Central Park would have all the marathon pieces set up, a little easy to be distracted so forgive me. The loop was packed with marathoners, some in street clothes, some in athletic gear and others in costume. They gathered to get a small taste of the experience that they, like me, had been dreaming of for months. As I walked on the course and under the 26 mile banner I was excited and happy. Then as I realized I was actually walking the last “.2″, my happiness turned to sadness as I gazed upon the brilliance of the grandstands and finish line. It would have been so amazing to have run through this section. I most assuredly would have been spent and searching for strength, there is no doubt in my mind that once I made my way into the home stretch people would have helped me forget the accumulated pain of the previous 26 miles. I would have crossed the finish line victoriously with the clock reading something around 3:45 (easy to say considering I didn’t run right?!?). I stood and stared at the finish line for who knows how long and helped a few people capture photos. Again, I had to put things in perspective and snap out of it. We left the finish area and set out to explore Central Park for the first time together. I have been to New York numerous times over the past 5 years but never with B since most of the trips were work related. We walked down to the ice skating rink, up the “mall”/ literary walk and down to the Bethesda Fountain. It was a perfectly beautiful day in the city.
After walking around for a bit we headed back towards Hell’s Kitchen where we were staying to grab some Thai noodles (AGAIN). You thought I was kidding about having a love affair with ramen bowls, I now have roughly 10 bookmarked in the LA area. The thing about New York is there are soooo many food options, thank God for Yelp! Our accommodations were less than ideal as I may have mentioned above, hell, our “master suite” didn’t even have a bathroom, isn’t a bathroom what makes it a “suite”. Anyway, we were invited to stay at our friends place in the East Village so we gladly accepted. I was psyched to be leaving the place uptown and moving down to the East Village since it was my first choice. Our friend had to leave town on Sunday night but she left her two dogs to stay with us, I was ecstatic! Especially because Pippa loved me, she would lay on my lap and sleep next to me, it was awesome. Yet, another reason I don’t want a dog…I would pamper the shit out of it like it is human, it would be terrible. Anyway, I really don’t remember what else we did on Sunday other than have a few drinks before our friend left. We watched some football and basketball at night and that was about it. We were more than happy to just relax that night. We headed to bed after the Laker game…which sounds early to me but west coast games don’t finish until about 1:00am east coast time…mind boggling. No wonder people have an east coast bias, they probably never watch the west coast games because they end so damn late. So off to bed we went, me, my gf and Pippa…one of them decided they wanted to spoon all night. I am not complaining.
Monday - We spent a considerable amount of time on Sunday night looking for a place to volunteer in the city but unfortunately most of the opportunities we found involved places we have never heard of or had any idea of how to get to. We really wanted to volunteer but were out of our element on just how to do it. I contacted the charity I was running for and a friend who worked for a local non-profit, both were planning efforts but not on Monday. I found one opportunity to get down to Staten Island on Tuesday but we wouldn’t have been able to make it back by 2:00pm to catch our shuttle. We decided that the best thing to do would be to head to the store and find some items to purchase and drop them off at a collection center. We headed out to grab coffee and walk around Washington Square Park/NYU.
After that we headed to SoHo to grab lunch at a cuban restaurant and do some retail perusing. The browsing didn’t last long, I am not a browser and neither is the lady, either we are there to buy or it is a big tease. We decided to head up to the Flatiron Building since I have always wanted to see it. I convinced my gf to walk, which was kind of mean since we had already walked about 4 miles that morning and that would be another 2. The building is really quite amazing, especially because I always try to transport myself back in time and try to imagine what people thought of such a marvel when it was built, I can never fully wrap my head around it but I definitely try. A great surprise was that the building across the street from the Flatiron is home to Eataly, a market that my gf was somehow very familiar with thanks to her love of cooking, you can read her take on the experience HERE. I had no idea what to expect, the place was intense. It had everything under the Tuscan sun, see what I did there? So much cheese, bread, meat, wine, oil and pasta…we did our best to take it all in. I found their beer selection to be amazing and even found a beer I have been looking for, Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA (not sold in California), score!
After Eataly we cabbed it back to the East Village to a local Kmart in hopes of being able to buy some items to donate. After looking at the prices we realized that this idea was a little out of our budget, the batteries were sold out, no flashlights left, the blankets were $20 a pop and we felt so terrible but I decided that the best thing to do would be to donate money to people who had the process streamlined. We headed back to the apartment to relax for a bit and watch Monday Night Football over a few drinks. We eventually headed out to meet some friends across town in the meat-packing district. We thought there would be some food options in proximity to the bar but we were wrong and next thing I know my four beers turned to six and I was done drinking for the night. We didn’t know where to eat so we just went home, ate junk food and headed to bed.
Tuesday - I thought I would wake up early and run down to the Brooklyn Bridge, but I had drunk enough the night before that it would have taken me a decent amount of time to properly hydrate and I was absolutely starving…so out the door that idea went. I grabbed coffee and hung with the pups before heading to brunch with the lady. We had a delicious albeit odd brunch in which we were the only people in the small dirty restaurant where the gentleman who sat us was also our waiter and the manager. Intimate to say the least. The food was really frickin good though so I chalk it up as being a Monday in a non tourist spot. Our flight was at 6:30 that night but our shuttle service was scheduled to pick us up at 2:30 because of traffic, they arrived at 1:30…so we scrambled to get everything ready, walk the dogs and hurried down to the shuttle so they wouldnt’ leave us. The rest of the day was uneventful which is exactly what I like when I am traveling…no issues! Added bonus of flying JetBlue…in flight TV so we didn’t miss one second of election coverage.
Recap – The most difficult part about my marathon experience was the fact that the media was portraying runners in such a negative light and belittling the sport. I read descriptions of marathoners as “people running around in their underwear” and too many times I heard the marathon called a “stupid race”. It is like when you call your siblings a bad name, it’s ok but you’ll be damned if someone else says something bad about them, F that noise. There was so much anger from the media and way too much judgement going around instead of realizing that the situation was bad all the way around, for runners and people affected by Sandy, there was no need to find a hero and a villain. People can be extremely ugly and this experience highlighted that to me yet again. I visited the NYRR Facebook page and was shocked to see so many people attacking runners who were disappointed the race was cancelled as if they didn’t have the right to feel let down. I found it comical that there was so much anger towards the marathon and yet no one cared that the Knicks played a game Friday night or that the Giants played the Steelers in Hoboken, NJ on Sunday. Runners are just easier to pick on since most people do not understand what motivates us. We are not a community composed of mean-spirited people, on the contrary, I believe runners tend to be some of the most kind people on this Earth. We know what it means to make sacrifices, we are hard-working and tenacious. I am not going to attack those who attacked the community, but I do find it amazing that social media allows people play internet tough guy/girl. That is what angered me the most, not the cancellation, the villainization. The weekend was supposed to be such an uplifting and enjoyable experience or at least that is how I had imagined it. Instead, the thousands of us that spent our hard-earned money and trained for hours were cast in such a petty light that it left me with a tarnished view of New York City. Don’t get me wrong, I had an enjoyable trip but had I known how it would play out I most definitely would have stayed home and gone to work.
So did I run another marathon? Nope.
Do I plan on running a marathon in the near future? Nope
Do I still plan on running a marathon? Yup
Will it be NYC? The jury is still out…part of me still wants to run NYC because I have put it on such a pedestal but after this trip I may just find one somewhere else…maybe London, Chicago or stay home and do Pasadena or Los Angeles. I look forward to training again as strange as it may sound. I really enjoyed the challenge and am thankful for the opportunity to test my body but for now I am going to stick with Half Marathons. ”Everything else is just a warm-up” to NYC…one heck of a warm-up, maybe I will see you in 2013.
Total : 2 Runs – 5.34 miles – Average pace 8:41/mi