Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Noah, Irene and the Wall

With less than a month to go, last Saturday was supposed to be our longest run to date. We got up around 4am, wondering if it we would be greeted with the expected thunderstorms that were announced by all the weather people on the television the night before. Little did we know a Wall would be our demise for the day, at least for me it was going to be a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day,” a title of the book that Emily just read to her classmates. Okay, maybe it wasn’t as bad as what had happened to the Alexander the book, but it was a tough run. 

Barring from any train service interruptions, we would have plenty of time to catch up with Team for Kids running mates, which included the my motley group of Lanie Kantor, who I think is the fastest among us and my brother-in-law, Ray Chan, who is running great and will break 4 hours. 

After taking a cab ride with Speed Racer, who weaved back and forth looking for an empty lane on 5th Avenue, we reached the corner of West 72nd Street Entrance into Central Park. There was some confusion as to whether we needed to register for the Greta’s Great Gallop in order to check our bags. Trying to figure out what we needed to do. We opted to register for the race, grab our bibs and shirts, checked our bags and walked over to meet our team mates. We missed our start with our pace group. 

Other than the walking, Irene and I didn’t get the chance to warm up as we joined a much faster pace group. Irene wasn’t having a good start and said that we did not warm up enough, so I just slowed down my pace and watched the faster pace group increased their lead then disappeared around the bend of the Bridal Path. Our training runs are usually on pavement around our home; so running on the soft surface of the Bridal Path seemed very foreign for our legs. 

I kind of had a general sense of where we were going, but the path all looked the same to me. Irene kept asking, “Do you know where we are?” I said, “Not really, just enjoy the run.” Finally, we saw some TFK runners heading toward us, and that made us feel better knowing that we were heading in the right direction. 

We turned around making our Pre-Race run a little short, and headed towards the Starting Line. As we crossed the start, I pressed the lap button on my Timex, and noticed that we would be about 15 minutes behind the last wave of the race. 

Greta’s Great Gallop is for Greta Waitz, 9 time NYC Marathon Winner, and the promotion of Norwegian tourism. The race consisted of about 2 and a half laps (a half marathon) of Central Park with bagels and lox at the finish! 

Other than seeing the mile markers, it felt like we were not making any progress. Seeing different landmarks makes a big difference, but today all the trees looked that same, and the scenery really played games with my head. It seemed like I was running on a treadmill, basically going nowhere. The distance between the miles seemed a lot longer than they really were, and the humidity weighed me down. 

After one full lap around the Park with a lap and half left, we were greeted by Andrew from Harlem by the way of Jamaica, one of the fantastic Team for Kids coaches. I was kind of embarrassed at our slow pace, and at the same time I was very happy that he joined us. 

About a mile or 2 after Andrew started to run with us, my left glute started to cramp up, so we paused and stretched. It was all down hill from there, and without Andrew around, it probably would have been worse. About another mile or 2, I started to get light headed, and Andrew said that I “Bonked” or “Hit the Wall.” 

This Wall gives you a horrible feeling of being lightheaded, seeing spots and just short of puking. As we walked, we discussed the importance of nutrition before and during the race. Also make sure we get into the routine of drinking every 5 minutes and taking a little PowerGel/GU every 30-45 minutes. That day I think I ate too early and split the GU too far apart. I’ve gotten hungry before during previous long runs, but none made be crash like I did on Saturday. 

It turns out that Irene also Bonked. I remember her telling me that she felt she was leaning towards one side. I thought it just might be the road, but Andrew said it was the Bonk, and one of the symptoms is leaning. 

It’s very important to stay relaxed during the run, and any additional worries puts more stress on the body, which makes you tire faster. So his advice was to look 6 feet ahead of you, because if you look to far ahead, your brain starts to play games and you begin to worry, then your done! He also showed us how to reset our stride with baby steps and back to normal running, but there was not reset button for me on this day. 

Andrew suggested that we grab a Coke, so we stopped by a refreshment cart. The first one was unmanned and the second one wanted small bills. So I owe Andrew a bottle of Coke the next time I see him. The sugar and caffeine coursed through Irene’s body and gave her the kick-start she was looking for. As for me, the Coke should be been feed to me intravenously. No luck for me! 

My running really grinded to a halt. There was an older trooper shuffling her feet, and I had a tough time keeping up with her. (By the way, I am not talking about Irene) With about 2 miles left, I seemed to have regained some assemblance of a stride. As I passed her, I applauded the lady and said, “Great job, you looking great!” 

My focus turned to my wife, who distanced herself from me. She was about 100 yards ahead, and maintained that lead all the way to the finish line. I was really proud that she beat me. Even when we started training early this year, I knew she was going to be faster than me. Hands down she’s a lot tougher than I will every be. 

Again I want to Thank Andrew for being at the right place at the right time, and encouraged us when it seemed very dismal. If anyone is every interested in running the NYC Marathon. I highly recommend that you join Team for Kids on your marathon venture! 

With 26 days left, it’s time to taper off the running and give our bodies a breather before the Marathon. Again thanks for all the support and keep the emails and donations coming! 

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Remember to eat! 

Monday, April 27, 2009

Run 4 Marcy - April 26, 2009

Today, Irene and I did a run in Memory of our neighbor Marcy D'Aguanno, who lived down the block away from us. The parking lot filled quickly with Large SUV's and Minivans, and least 100 friends and family members gathered at West Meadow Beach around 9am on a very sunny and cloud free day. At least, half were kids from the neighborhood. West Meadow is a typical North Shore beach riddled with rocks instead of sand that you'd find on the South Shore of Long Island. Those same rocks left me with scars on my knee, many years back when I was foolish enough to "walk" down a cliff near Port Jefferson with my friend Vinny and Phil, but that is another story.

With a whistle to get everyone's attention, her husband Greg jumped up on the bed of a pick up truck or was it a bumper of a car. He announced his plans of the Marcella D'Aguanno Memorial Fund for Stroke and NYU. In addition, an annual organized Triathlon to be held, and Marcy being very completive would only support an actual race.

I was always inspired by her commitment to running, biking and swimming. Along with preparing for the Marathon this year, I will be fitting swimming into the schedule, so I to can do a Tri. Emily is always asking me to take swim lessons with her at Saf-T-Swim.

Before the Marathon, I would ritually prepared playlists on my Ipod. Now I enjoy focusing on my footsteps or getting to the next lightpole or mailbox, clear of any music blaring in my earlobes. As I ran today, I recalled her kind words of encouragement while I was training for the Marathon last year, and the times I would see her in Spin class. She recently started working at State Farm to provide all kinds of commercial and personal insurance, and our recent conversation revolved around her State Farm training. I always enjoyed talking about business and she was excited to start her new career.

As I weaved between the group and having many people run pass me, I'd looked over to my left and right at Irene and checked off that mental checklist of just being prepared if something should happen. My mind also drifted with dealing with the everyday stuff, like telling the kids to stop playing the DS or WII and wash up for dinner. I reminded myself to cherish those moments when Elijah tilts his head and smiles or when Zachary would recall something I taught him last year or when Emily just gives me a hug or when Irene just holds my hand with our fingers interlaced. Life is short and we must keep in mind what really is important and our commitment to what is really important. So when something irks me and things seem to be falling apart, I need to settle down and refocus on to what I am committed to, and things always fall back into place. When you loose someone close, it's really tough to focus.

Taking time out with the Family last week was refreshing. Mickey and Minnie always brings a smile to our faces and a great interuption to create lasting memories. The kids are young enough to still take them out of school and I continue to do so. The parks are less crowded so you really can enjoy the rides instead of the lines. While I would have liked to cap the week with a happier event, none the less I appreciate the theme of this years vacation with the family, eating and sleeping seem to have taken most of our vacation time.

Several years back, the Town knocked down all the beach houses just south of West Meadow and protected the area. Just a path of blacktop reminds you of civilization reaching to the end of the peninsula, with sand and views of the water between the trees are on both sides of the path. My body was unfamiliar with running is this hot weather and it was tough. Looks like I am really due for some new running schools. My ankle is starting to feel floppy and its affecting my stride and balance.

The race day ended with a large group picture. Several times the picture taker requested that we squeeze closer to fit in the frame and then we all shouted "Marcy" as the countdown reversed from 3, 2, 1. No one seemed to mind that we were all sweaty!

Remember to enjoy the run,