Thursday, December 27, 2007

Florida!

My dearest ones,

Please forgive the lack the blogging, and running. I have been working 15 hour days here at the Caldwell Theatre Company (yes, it's the "-re" spelling!) or, to put it more precisely, the brand spanking new Caldwell Theatre Company's Count de Hoernle Theater. Yes, my home away from home, the Caldwell, has built their own theater after 30 years, and this is the first show that will be in here from start to finish (the current show, "Doubt," rehearsed at the old space next door, but is performing here in the new space.) For those of you who are not regular theater-goers, for a theater to have its own space, as opposed to converting a space into a theater, is a rare and exciting thing. The Caldwell's three previous incarnations have been in the College of Boca Raton, the Boca Mall and Levitz Plaza, where it converted part of the Levitz warehouse (yes, everything in Florida IS in a strip mall) into a theater.

What this means is, I have not only been preparing for rehearsals for the world premiere of "Suite Surrender," but also putting together the Stage Manager's office, which is in boxes here in the rehearsal hall, and also at the old theater, and Lordy only knows where else. So some very long days, with not a lot of time or energy left for running, or much of anything else.

I did get some runs in, however, and I must say, I MISS THE COLD WEATHER!!!! I don't know how Southerners do it! I hate the heat! The first time I got out there, 80 degrees and muggy. Yuck! And of all the places I run, only two of those routes have a public water fountain. A fountain. One. So it's Fuel Belt, a loop run that allows me to hit the fountain, or suffer. I've tried dropping water bottles off, but they're stolen by the time I get there, and I leave them on the out part of an out-and-back. Sigh.

Give me a few more days to get things settled here, and a belated Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah and Happy Holidays to you, and I will get back in the running, and blogging, swing of things. After all, we do have a half marathon to prepare for!!

much love,
MG

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Madness, and Even A Bit of Running!

Sorry for the lack of bloggage; between holiday fiestas and finishing up school before the vacation / heading to FL, there's just been no time. And I mean, no time.

Check out what could have been my schedule this past weekend, had I attended every event:

Saturday:
AM breakfast with out-of-town friend
2pm one-act festival OR movie with friend
5pm cocktail reception for one-act festival OR movie (same one from before -- either see the play festival and skip the cocktail party for the movie, or see the movie first and hit the festival's cocktail party)
7:30pm another movie with another friend
11:00pm another cocktail party

Sunday:
AM brunch with family
4:00pm to NJ for friend's performance in Festival of Song followed by party OR co-op holiday party

I can't keep up with all that merriment!!!!

Everyone is leery of planning anything for the actual weekend of Xmas, thinking that folks will be busy, so everyone plans every holiday event for the weekend prior. We all know that everyone would be more than happy to attend a cocktail party on, say, December 24, because they either have nothing to do (like me) or want an excuse to get away from family obligations for a few hours. Couldn't we maybe spread the merriment out over, say, two months, like we do for the shopping season?

Anyways, it's been not the most productive week of running, but a few observations I'll share. First off, I'm really happy with my new speed -- my pace has dropped to somewhere in the 8ish minutes per mile range, which just continually amazes me. I'm also just breaking through in the steno speed, too -- I'm pretty sure I passed my 180 jury charge and I think I may have passed a 180 lit today, too. Again I marvel at the connection between steno speed and running speed. Is it a mind-body thing, a body-mind thing, or what? I don't know, and as long as it keeps working, I'll take it however it comes.

I find that most of my runs these days are feeling like tempo runs, which are runs that are done at a moderately difficult pace. I'm not pushing, everything feels great, but I'm breathing harder, so I'm moving faster than I think/feel I am. In the latest podcast episode of Fdip, guest host John Ellis talks about base training and how we should build a lot of slow miles in order to progress. I totally agree, but I wonder if this whole year has been my base training? I was not a turtle, but I spent the majority of the year at a 9:30-10:00 minute mile pace, gaining my speed only weeks before the marathon. This would mean that my current pace, or maybe a little slower, would be my new base pace. Again I swear I'm not consciously pushing myself when I run, except when I'm nearing the top of a hill. Here's the thing: I know I am exerting myself because my breathing is harder, but my perceived level of exertion in all other respects is much lower. Anyone else have that happen to them?

Tomorrow night is the first annual Jingle Bell Fun Run around the Central Park reservoir, in memory of NYRR swim coach Doug Stern. Doug passed from kidney cancer this year. I never took classes from him, but he was a good friend of coach Jeff's, and a lot of Teammates took his classes, so we're coming out to participate. A $10 donation -- 100% of the $$ will go to MSKCC's kidney cancer research unit -- buys you a jingle bell, which we'll all wear and jingle as we run around the Res. Untimed, unsupported, just a lot of people running. As it should be. I'll take pix.

I need to start thinking about the Miami Half Marathon, my next big event. I already got the email registration slip that has to be brought to the expo. I'm a little concerned that my longest run since the marathon has been 9 miles, I should probably get a couple of tenners, or even an 11 in over the next few weeks. I wanted to wait until I was down in Florida, to be in the correct weather for the race. I also feel that at this point in my running I don't need to train so hard for a half-marathon, although I do need to train. Once I get down there, I need to add maybe one more day of running, and do at least 2 more long runs. My best half time was 1:58 in 2005, for the Brooklyn Half (my first ever!) I'm thinking I may be able to top that. Place your bets!!!

Out of all of the things I did manage to squeeze into my crazy weekend, one of the highlights was heading out to NJ to hear my friend Greg sing at his church's Festival of Song. This wasn't a church service, just holiday songs. Greg had three solos and sang with the choir, plus there were other solos and also a few instrumental numbers. Very beautiful, and Greg's got an amazing, amazing voice! Who knew? Well, nearly everybody else knew. I had never been able to see him perform before except for one time at one of his parties. We begged and begged him to sing, and he agreed to one song on the condition that everyone turn around and not look at him. Seeing him sing Sunday afternoon, you'd never think he was shy about singing. He sang one of my favorite Xmas songs (yes, even us Jews have our favorite Xmas songs!) "I'll Be Home For Christmas." Afterwards, back to his and Tim's apartment for munchies and pomegranite cosmopolitans. Oh, did I mention that Laura decided to bake cupcakes to bring over to Greg and Tim's house? These dastardly delights are from the Barefoot Contessa cookbook; the batter alone contains three sticks of butter. I ate two. And licked the bowls for both the cupcakes AND the frosting (one pound of confectioners' sugar.) The recipe should include instructions to call your doctor after consuming.

All right, must finish laundry and watch the last "Ugly Betty" DVD. Love that show! Next post will be from sunny FLORIDA!!

MG

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Lots of Little Updates

Hello, dear readers.

Sorry for taking so long to update, I've been both extremely busy and yet not doing much of anything, you know? Between the holidays and school and getting ready to head down to Florida for a few months, it's been a whole lot of running around and being double-booked. I'm even trying to do double-duty here by typing this on my steno machine. I have a program that allows me to type on the steno machine and it translates directly into English. Usually. As long as your dictionary has the word, it will translate, but if it doesn't, or if you misstroke a word, it looks something like this: /WUPBG can be /KPAUFG sometimes. You figure it out. (answer at the bottom of the post.)

I confess, I'm watching "America's Next Top Model," my not-so-secret guilty pleasure. It's an orgy of cattiness and Cover Girl product placement. Rumor has it that the actual winner is picked when the "final 13" are first chosen, but who cares, it's just so much fun! Best line ever, from Xiomara a few years ago: "Aside from being born, this is the best thing that's ever happened to me." Yeah, can't top that.

So this week I went to the cookie bake-a-thon held by Band of Parents, the group of parents with children being treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Their mission was to sell, bake and ship 96,000 cookies and give the proceeds to MSKCC. Well, there was no problem getting orders for the cookies, but they needed a lot of help with the baking, packing and shipping. So I went down to Brooklyn last week to volunteer some time with them. They were in a space called Kitchen For Hire, which is exactly what it is -- a kitchen for people doing stuff like this. It was really tiny, and both very cold and very hot at the same time (I ended up standing next to the space heater) I helped with the packing, so don't worry if you ordered from them, your cookies are safe. And as a bonus, I finally got to meet Gretchen! It was crowded with five people on the packing/shipping line, but as I was getting ready to go, ten firemen showed up (Gretchen's little boy, Liam, is something of a mascot around her local firehouse, and they all came down to volunteer.) Oh, boy. It was hard to leave, and let me tell you, there's nothing like seeing a burly fireman tie a little ribbon around a box of cookies. but my school decided to have evening tests at my speed, and I wanted to get the extra chance to test. PS, those cookies were good! We got to eat the broken ones.

A word about testing, if I haven't bored you with talk of steno in earlier posts. Steno school is not like regular school in that you progress at your own pace. The ultimate goal is to get to 225 words per minute, at which point you graduate. Classes are broken up into 30-40 wpm increments (70-90, 100-120, etc.) At least once a week, maybe more, the teachers will test. A test is a five minute take at the speed. You write the take on your writer -- yes, the machine with the paper strip coming out of the top -- and then you have an hour to transcribe it back into written English. Sounds easy, I assure you it ain't. Between misstrokes, strokes that you did correctly and yet still can't figure out what you wrote, dropping words and sentences, trying to make sense of bad grammar that may or may not be what the teacher actually said, it can be a mess. And you would be surprised at how fast you forget what was said during those five minutes. The ideal for a court reporter is that the minute you're done doing a job, you forget everything that was said. That means you're writing automatically -- in the ears and out the fingers.

Okay, they're doing the big finale fashion show part of ANTM, it's ridiculous. Imagine stilt walkers and giant umbrellas and the worst part -- an audience of what must have been prisoners -- or at least they must have felt like prisoners -- wearing coolie outfits (I apologize for using the term but that's what they were) and sitting evenly-spaced and in the exact same position on the ground. Yeah, real world fashion show. Not staged for the cameras at all.

I think last time I mentioned steno I was at 120 or 130 words per minute, and now I'm testing for 180. The amazing thing I've noticed over the last few months, especially in the thick of marathon training, is that my speed on the track and my speed on the machine kept pace. I don't know why, but since I was getting faster at both, I wasn't complaining. So now I feel I'm getting so much faster at running, and my steno speed is now just starting to catch up, right when I'm getting ready to leave. It's a little frustrating and I'm pushing myself to pass at least one 180 before I go, but I'm not there yet. I know that speed will come, it has before and it will again, but I want it now!! I know that I'll get a lot of good practice time in Florida, and hopefully when I get back to New York, I'll be able to fly through the 180s and get to the last class, the 190-225 class.

Speaking of Florida, I'll be working in Boca Raton -- in my other life, my life away from running and cookie-baking and stenography, I'm a professional stage manager. One of the theaters I've worked at a number of times, and one of my favorite places to work, is the Caldwell Theater Company. You know you're in good hands when you first arrive at the theater, and the first thing you see is the bar, and the first thing you're told is that staff drinks are half-price. Quite honestly, if I had to deal with the audience instead of the actors, I'd drink a lot, too. Oh, wait, I do. Yes, my liver is back in form, more on that in a second. Anyway, the Caldwell just opened up their own brand new state of the art theater, the first time they have ever owned their own space, and when they called me to come work there, I couldn't say no. I normally can't say no to them anyway, but the added treat of the new space is impossible to resist! So if you're in or near the Boca area and want to come see a show (which I heartily recommend!!) or just meet up for a run along A1A, drop me a line.

Yes, I did run a bit, too. I've been a bit unmotivated lately, but I'm pulling myself out of it. I indulged my lazy side for a few days, but between all the holiday eating and my own desire to keep up my new speed, I couldn't let it go for too long. Besides, I have my new toy, the Nike+, to play with. The weather has been cooperating here in NYC, although tonight we're supposed to get snow, so while I can, I've been heading out for a few more turns of Central Park. Strange how nicer running around the Park is now that the marathon is over, there was a point when I went to Staten Island rather than make one more loop, that's how sick I was of the Park. My average pace per mile has decreased to about an 8:15, and I couldn't be happier about that. I can't wait to put it into use in January, because that's when I will be doing the ING Miami Half-Marathon. Yeah, that's the next race! Thought about the Disney Half, but it's during tech week, and thought about doing the full marathon, but I don't think I have the motivation to train for a full one by myself, and also, I don't think I could get back to Boca in time to get to work afterwards if I do a full one. That's okay, a half in Florida in January is enough for me. For now.

Oh, did those of you who are runners know that Saucony has introduced the Pro Grid Triumph 5? Replaces my beloved 4. Lighter, and I think a little less cushioned, but also uglier. The ones I got come in white and gold and they look like boy's shoes. Not that I really consider what I look like when I run, as anyone who's seen pictures of me can attest. But I love my green Triumphs! I've spent the past few years experimenting with sneakers and finally found a brand and style that I like, and now...sigh.

One more thing before I go: yesterday I went to see "Mary Poppins" on Broadway. The Actors Fund was doing a benefit performance and they gave me some tickets. I went to my doctor earlier in the day to pick up a prescription for physical therapy for when I go to Florida, and I mentioned to her that I was seeing the show. She's one of the "theater doctors;" she sees a lot of people from the Broadway community and is one of the doctors most people call for performer related emergencies. So my doctor says, "At intermission, you've got to get a cocktail at the bar, they serve them in sippy cups and you can bring it back to your seat." Let me just say about the show, I'm not sure who it was created for. It was way too long (Act I alone was 90 minutes) and too depressing for children, and too much of a children's show for adults. So at intermission I went to the bar and got one of the very expensive -- and may I add, very potent -- signature cocktails, served in a sippy cup.

Doctor's orders!

MG

PS: the steno phrase -- "Running can be exhausting sometimes." Did you get it?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Short but Sweet, and a message to a reader

Today was a run that made me remember how much fun running can be.

Now that I've figured out how to use the Nike+, I'm a little obsessed with it. I know some people HATE Nike, but I gotta admit, this Nike+ thing is pretty freakin' cool. I wanted to take it for a real test drive outside.

Thirty degrees and windless here in NYC, with a light dusting of snow. A one-mile calibration run from my apartment to the Central Park Boathouse, followed by a loop around the Res, down the West Side, across 72nd Street to the East Side and down the 63rd St. exit to 5th Ave (to the Apple store, to see if they have a sports armband that fits the new Nano with the Nike+ doodad attached. They don't.) I wore enough clothing to keep me warm but not overheated, the light covering of snow made everything look clean, it was quiet and uncrowded, and my ass barely hurt! I could just be in the moment and run. As I was rounding the north end of the Res, I saw Bow Bridge and it was so beautiful and I felt so good I thought, "This is why I run." It was perfect, and renewed my love of running. Altogether, 5.3 miles in just over 42 minutes, and my new pace is the icing on the cake, because I never felt that I was pushing myself.

I confess, I love hearing that calm female voice on the Nike+. She sounded so proud of me when I finished! But I'm thinking, instead of hearing nice stuff like, "Halfway point! You have 2.5 kilometers to go!" and "400 meters to go!" maybe there should be an option where you hear, "Move it, slowpoke!!" or "Run! Run! Pick up the pace!!" Now THAT's motivation! (hee hee!)

I received a comment from an earlier post, and I wanted to respond, but because I wasn't able to get the person's information to respond privately (other than their screen name) I'll respond here, with apologies for sounding coy -- it was a comment critical of something I had talked about, I'd prefer not to mention it by name.

FinanceGuy, I'm sorry you had a bad experience and feel the way you do. I never had any problems. Then again, I've never had problems with Verizon, which I know puts me in the minority, but because I haven't had problems I will sing their praises. I will take what you said into account, though, and be on the lookout. Thanks for letting me know. (also, apologies for not responding sooner -- normally when someone comments, I get an email letting me know. For some reason, I wasn't notified of your comment, I stumbled on it in my "unmoderated comment" box.)

That's it, y'all!

xoxo

Sunday, December 2, 2007

An Altogether Great Day

Dadgum, but that Hot Chocolate 15K was a cold race!

Yes, I said DADGUM!

Yesterday was a crazy day in a good way. It started with the aforementioned Hot Chocolate 15K in Central Park. First really cold day of the season -- 31 degrees and windy. Got there around 9:00 for a 9:30 start. It was super-crowded. For those who don't know, if you're a NYRR member as of January 1st and run 9 qualifying races during that year, if you are still a member January 1 of the following year you get an automatic entry into the marathon. So a lot of people have a lot of catching up to do, and the last races of the year are packed. There were about 5,000 people signed up for this race (normally it's closer to 4,000.) The problem was, they had a teeny-tiny little bag check, and of course, everybody brought a bag. And for security reasons (their term) they cordoned off a huge section of grass right behind the bag check. Because it was so crowded, all the NYRR coordinators were yelling at everyone not to hang out in the baggage check and not to linger in the road to get INTO the baggage check, and then also yelling at those of us who crossed through the cordoned off area simply to toss our bags into the check area without either lingering on the road or in the baggage check. Aggravating.

By 9:15 I was freezing and miserable. I don't even know why I was there, I already had my nine races. Not true, I do know why I was there. I was very curious to see how I would do on a longer race at my new and improved pace. And a bunch of Teamers were going to be there, and I promised my friend Tom I would run with him. I run slower than him, but he says he tends to go out too fast and crash, and he wanted to run a smart race. It's been so long since I ran in the cold that I couldn't figure out what to wear. I had a hooded coolMax shirt under a long sleeved cotton race shirt, pants, socks, etc. but the question was, what, if anything, to wear over the shirts? I had a sweatshirt and a running jacket. At the last minute I decided to keep the jacket on, I figured I could take it off and wrap it around my waist if I got hot. Also, today was the debut of my Hanukah present, the Nike+. It was a choice between that and a Garmin. Hmm, $29 vs. $299. I wonder what I'm going to get? Oh, and PS: 2 pairs of gloves, a running pair under a throwaway pair.

The course: 2 loops of the Park starting at the 102nd Street transverse, the first loop without the Great Hill, and the second loop without the Great Hill and cutting across at the 72nd Street transverse.

So we start, and the first mile is PACKED. The transverse is kind of narrow to begin with, and they had cordoned off the finish line area there, making it even narrower, so a lot of jockeying for position. First mile took us 10 minutes.

Then Tom took off. I kept up with him, but he was weaving in and out of the crowd. Our second mile was 8:20. I told him I had to slow down, he says, "Sorry, I'll walk the water station." I said, "I can't run 8 minute miles and walk the water stations for 30 seconds." He apologizes and slows. A little. Mile 3 was 8:33 and at this point I was getting mad. My goal was to run the first 2 miles at 9:15 and then start knocking 10 seconds off each mile. I told him I could not keep this pace for 6 more miles and he should go, but he kept apologizing and tried to slow, and because he was trying I ignored the voices in my head telling me to ignore him, and kept up. There would be no negative split for this run, which is what I really wanted to do, and my anger at this actually fueled me for the rest of the race. I tried to turn it around, saying, well, you ran 8:08 average for the Race to Deliver, maybe this is your new "slow time," but I could tell. I wasn't enjoying the run the way I wanted to. It wasn't that I was struggling with the speed, I wasn't. It was just that the whole race was a little push, instead of starting easy and then progressively pushing.

Let me show you:

Actual times per mile: 1 - 9:56, 2 - 8:26, 3 - 8:33, 4 -8:41, 5 - 8:25, 6 - 8:51, 7 - 8:35, 8 - 8:41, 9 - 8:11, and the dividend (what is it, .32 miles or something) -- 2:29.

Had I run it my way, it would have ideally been more like this:

1 - 9:45 (nothing you can do about a crowded start), 2 - 9:15, 3 - 9:10, 4 -9:00, 5 - 8:50, 6 - 8:40, 7 - 8:30, 8 - 8:20, 9 - 8:10, and the dividend -- 2:15. End result -- maybe a minute slower, but for me, it would have been a lot easier.

To top it off, I started getting hot almost immediately, and because I had put the iPod in the jacket pocket, I didn't want to deal with taking off the jacket and the iPod and everything. So I unzipped it, took off the second pair of gloves, took off the hood, and dealt.

Even when I was slower I was still good on hills. Not so much speedy as consistent. Don't know why. Miles 4 & 8 -- you can see a little slowdown, those are the Cat Hill miles. On the second ascent up Cat Hill Tom started falling behind, and I had to slow down to wait for him. He told me after he was getting a side stitch there (and not to belabor -- even though I will! -- but the first and only time I got a side stitch was the Staten Island Half, where I ran 7 miles beforehand at a pace much too fast for me, and bonked hard at mile 6 of the actual race, reinforcing my respect of negative splits!!!)

Hey, ever wonder why Cat Hill is called "Cat Hill?" It's because this statue is hanging over it:
Still and all, there was enough left for a big finish, as you can see by the last mile and change. But here one more thing happened, and now I understand what some people mean when they say they hate it when spectators say things like, "C'mon, you're almost there!" -- as we were sprinting towards the finish line I started breathing audibly, and Tom started saying, "C'mon, you can do it, almost there," and I don't know if he was talking to me or to himself, and he is the SWEETEST person in the world with all good intentions and not a mean bone even near his body, and I wanted to PUNCH him! (sorry, Tom, but I did!)
So we cross the finish line, and I stop the Nike+ and it tells me -- "Distance -- Point oh seven miles."
HUH?
Long story short -- did a LOT of searching through the Nike and Apple databases, and realized that I was wearing the sensor upside down. I don't wear Nike shoes, I put the sensor in a chip pocket that attaches to the shoe. Apparently the logo needs to be face up. The sucky thing is I downloaded the run to the nikeplus website, and I can't figure out how to edit it. Grrr.

Anyways, time for the race: 1:20:53, or 8:40/mile average, which I am thrilled about, and even though I didn't run the race the way I wanted to, maybe it was good to do a tempo run. I will think of it as a good training run for the ING Miami Half (which I am doing January 27th, by the way!)
Lessons I learned:

1-negative splits rule
2-run your own race
3-repeat numbers 1 and 2, maybe even stitch them on a pillow

I need to embrace not being a good running partner. I'm just not into running "with" other people. I can run alongside them, of course, but unless they're pacing me for speed I would much rather be on my own. Yes, there are times when I do enjoy it, like when I got to run alongside my friend Greg in the Rock and Run this summer, in honor and memory of his brother, and running with Lynn, Harrie and Rich when we did the final 10 miles of the marathon course as our last Fred's Team run. And I do love our group long runs. I guess I like knowing that I have friends on the road with me. Even if I run by myself the entire time, I don't feel lonely, like I do if I do a long run solo. But in general, I don't like to talk much, and I don't like feeling that I have to keep up with someone. I just want to be in my own head, maybe working through a problem that'd been bugging me, maybe listening to music or my running podcasts (Phedippidations, The Extra Mile, and The Final Sprint are my faves) or just enjoying being outside and running. So no offense, but the next time I am asked if I'd like to run with someone, the answer is going to be "no." I'll race you, though. And who knows, maybe I'll let you win!

As soon as the race was over, I had to hightail it home to get ready for a bridal shower. My roommate's friend Margaret is getting married in February (she's my friend too, but I know her through Laura) and Laura and Shirley, as the bridesmaids, threw the shower. it was at a great little restaurant, Bistro 1018, and I had a really nice time. Very girly. We ate little sandwiches and salads, and made Margaret open her presents for all to see. Who knew that garbage cans could be so entertaining? But they were.
As soon as the shower was over, I had to get home and prepare for the evening's activity, a Fred's Team potluck dinner at Rich's apartment. It's where we had that great brunch after one of the longer races, the Tune-Up, I think. Anyways, it was so nice. About a dozen people were there, and who knew that there were some great cooks in the group? Not wanting to kill people, I brought salad. It was also Lucy's birthday, so we had 2 cakes (Karen made a homemade strawberry shortcake, and I had to ignore my lactose intolerance to have some of that!) as well as some killer chocolate-chip cookies and the real surprise of the evening, Martin's -- well, I'm not sure what to call them. They were little squares, the top half was solid dark chocolate, the bottom half was a combination of Rice Krispys and melted Milky Ways. Oh. My. Gawd. They were the most decadently and devastatingly amazing concoction. It was difficult to limit myself to just one (but I did, sigh.) Martin is Scottish, and apparently this dessert is a Scottish invention. I remember when Lynn (also Scottish) brought those Scottish candies to our workout, and if it's possible to add sugar TO sugar, that's what these candies were. What is it with the Scots? I asked if Scottish children were prone to hyperactivity and the two simultaneously said yes. Wonder why?

Anyways, great people, great conversations (some not even about running!) and just a great day. I hope y'all had an equally good one.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Getting Ready for the Hot Chocolate 15K

Tomorrow's the Hot Chocolate 15K, the first "long" race I'll be running since the marathon. I'm a little nervous, for a couple of reasons. First, the longest I've run since the marathon has been just over 6 miles. Second, it's a strange distance, not quite a long race, not quite a short one, and I'm not exactly sure how to pace myself. Third, it's going to be COLD, and while I loves me the cold, it's going to be really cold (that reminds me of something, I'll get to it in a second.) And lastly, my danged pain-in-the-ass tendonitis has been acting up again. I ran the loop a few days ago, it was achy for the first mile, went away, then came back with a vengeance at mile 5. Grrr. I was really hoping that running less miles and less days would help heal this up. Guess not. I should call CPW and get another evaluation, but I'm afraid. The doctor suggested last time I was there that it might be partially sciatica, just like what I had a few years ago that ultimately led to back surgery.

Ten seconds of history: Two years ago I started getting shooting pains down my left leg. I thought it was a pulled hamstring, and tried to ignore it, but it got to a point where it felt that there was a knife constantly sticking into my leg. Turned out to be a herniated disk pressing on the nerve (or "disc," depending on your spelling druthers) and there ya have it. I never felt it in my lower back at all, it was only in my leg, which is why it took so long for me to figure out what it really was.

Tangent: I've turned "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" on. Wow. I thought "Rock of Love" was bad. This is just...jeez. She's pole-dancing at a fire house.

Anyways, you can see how I might be leery of seeing a doctor and being told it's another bad disk. Similar to the dentist: you get a tooth problem, you know you need to go to a dentist, but you know it's going to suck so you put it off, and the problem gets worse, etc. etc. I know I shouldn't self-diagnose, and I don't discount what the doctor said, but I'm pretty sure it's the plain old tendonitis he diagnosed, for the major reason that it hurts at the source. With the disk, my leg hurt like hell, but I couldn't feel any "pain spot" on the leg itself. With this, I can push on certain parts of my butt and it hurts. I went to my amazing chiropractor today and got a good adjustment and it did help a little. Tonight I'll do a big stretch and use some Icy Hot, which helped in the weeks leading up to the marathon.

Rest assured, though, I will take care of it. I'll be heading to Florida in a few weeks, to do two shows for the Caldwell Theater Company, and I will once again enlist the services of the WORLD'S BEST PHYSICAL THERAPIST, bar none, and that is Miri Ingwer. After my surgery, I went to a great PT place here in NYC, PhysioArts, that specializes in rehabbing people in the performing arts. They recommended Miri when I went down to Florida a few months after the surgery. Within six weeks, I was pain-free. She just opened a new space on Federal Highway in Boca Raton, and her phone # is 561-241-4411. Let me tell you, she is worth a special trip to Florida.

Oh, now Tila is giving someone's grandmother a lap dance. I must go wash my brain.

Back. What was I talking about? Oh, yes, the Hot Chocolate 15K. The other thing that's going to be weird is that since the marathon my "base pace," or what I naturally fall into when I run, has dropped to around a 9:00 mile. No complaints. But until I've gotten a few more races under my belt with this new pace it'll be strange figuring out how to, and when to, push the pace.

After the race I've got a bridal shower, then after THAT we're having a Fred's Team potluck dinner. It's going to be a busy, but great day.

Oops, almost forgot, the thing I was going to tell you about related to the cold, which is that thanks to cold weather, I joined Fred's Team! Let me explain. After surgery and rehab, my first races back were two 4 milers up at Van Cortlandt Park, which were part of a National Cross-Country Championship meet. Day 1, it was about 17 degrees out. Nearly everybody who was there hid in the baggage tent trying desperately to stay warm. After the race, I was on line waiting to get my bag (it took a while because people were changing in the tent) and in front of me is a guy in shorts. SHORTS. Turned out to be David Slutsky. I had to say something, and we got to talking, eventually travelling back downtown together. I mentioned that I was going to run my first NYC marathon that year, and he said "Oh, you should run with our Team." The rest, as they say, is history. Thank you, David, for wearing shorts in 17 degree weather.

Final tangent: My roommate Laura and I were at Bed, Bath and Beyond picking up gifts for the abovementioned shower. While waiting on the Customer Service line for the gift wrap, we watched a compilation DVD of a bunch of relaxation DVDs they were selling. So we see a few seconds of "Tropical Fish," "Sandy Beach," "Starry Night," and then they show "Bridge of Dreams," a bridge full of cars.

Huh?

Laura looks at this and says , "How is a bridge full of traffic relaxing? It reminds me of going to the airport. This is making me tense!" So we started riffing on subjects for what will be our new line of NON-relaxing DVDs, with titles like "Traffic Jam," "Flight Delay," "Long Lines at the Store," and "Construction." So if anyone would like to contribute to our new venture, submit your non-relaxing ideas here!!

Next time: results from the Hot Chocolate 15K, and my adventures with the Nike+!

Friday, November 23, 2007

NYC Marathon Wrap-Up, Buy Cookies for Charity, the Race to Deliver, and more!

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, or Happy Black Friday (sounds ominous!)



First and always foremost, we STILL HAVE ADDITIONS to the Fred's Team Honor Roll!

Please welcome



EMMA KERINS



who has made the grand total I have raised for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center a whopping



$6,061!



Of course, Fred's Team and MSKCC accepts donations throughout the year. Click here to learn about MSKCC, Fred's Team, or join the Team (we are at races across America, and moving internationally!)



IT'S HOLIDAY COOKIE TIME!!



I received a flyer from Band of Parents, they are an organization of parents with children being treated at MSKCC, they are having a massive bake-a-thon to raise money for pediatric cancer research. I cannot figure out how to transfer the flyer into this blog, and I tried everything, so I'll just print the flyer information for you:


www.cookiesforkidscancer.org



The Band of Parents (www.bandofparents.org), a non-profit
foundation formed by parents of children suffering from a deadly
childhood cancer called Neuroblastoma, invites you to be a part
of our holiday fundraiser and to give new hope to children
fighting cancer.



This holiday, give freshly-baked cookies made using recipes
from the recently published cookbook, Cookies, by acclaimed
cookbook author Sally Sampson.



Our delicious handmade cookies will not only make the perfect
holiday gift but nearly 100% of the proceeds will directly support
children’s cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer
Center. You will feel good knowing your generous gift was
lovingly baked by hand using all natural ingredients, while your
purchase helps to provide hope for children battling cancer.



Cookies will be baked, packed with care, and promptly shipped
to your entire gift list. A card explaining the significance of your
generous gift will also be included.



Please share this unique opportunity to give with your friends,
co-workers, and family.



A gift that tastes as good as it feels to give…


Place Order: November 16th – December 15th


Go To: www.cookiesforkidscancer.org


Cookies: Citrus Shortbread • Chocolate Chip Oatmeal • Snickerdoodle
Cost: $30/dozen* (plus shipping charges)
*A portion of your purchase may be tax deductible. Please consult your tax advisor.





I'll be volunteering there next week (to help pack, not to bake, so don't worry, your cookie order is safe!!)



Here are the last ounces of juice I can squeeze out of the marathon, and then onto more recent races and such.



On the Wednesday following the marathon MSKCC hosted a reception for the Fred's Team runners. It was really nice --a lot of people came. We had a couple of talks from MSKCC people, then some words from the head of the Rudin Foundation, major benefactors of the NYC Marathon. Mary Wittenberg said a few words, and then some random Team member (no one knew who he was, but he was wearing his finisher's medal) who apparently had not stopped celebrating his marathon finish, ran to the mic and started rambling about something. Odd. Mary very tactfully pulled him away. We had a slide show of shots they took at Mile 17 (I'm not going to post the picture they got of me because, um, let's put it this way: gravity works. Not pretty!) but there were some great shots of Matt, our 2:52 superstar. When you're that fast, you have the road pretty much to yourself, and the cameraman had a field day. Afterwards, a bunch of us went out to dinner.



It's amazing how close you get to people when you're part of something like Fred's Team, and I'm really going to miss seeing everyone on a regular basis. Knowing that Tuesday and Thursday nights would be good for most people, we made plans for a drinks night and a trip to see Matt in MAMMA MIA (Matt is a swing and knew he'd be performing on certain days, so we bought a block of tickets to see his show on one of those days. Alas, the stagehands' strike scotched those plans.) Being with everybody, and also talking with Jeff about my concerns with feeling too good after the marathon, helped vanquish the last lingering doubts and questions I had about my performance.



Yes, I am officially "over it," and am planning my next big races -- the ING Miami Half Marathon on January 27th, possibly also the A1A Half on Feb. 19th. I'll be working in Florida from the end of December through mid-February (the 19th, to be exact!) and want to keep my training up, so when we start up for NY 2008 I'll be in much better shape, and ready to BREAK 4 HOURS, my new goal! I did think about trying to do a spring marathon, but honestly, without the Team support, I don't think I'd have the discipline to train as completely as I should, and it certainly wouldn't be as much fun. I love running, I do, and now that I know what it feels like to run a smart marathon the distance is no longer daunting. But I don't have the need to run other marathons -- yet. NYC is enough for me.



Last Sunday was my first race since the marathon, the Race To Deliver, a benefit for Gods Love We Deliver, an organization that delivers nutritious meals to people with life-altering illnesses, regardless of need, who are having trouble shopping for and preparing food for themselves. I've volunteered for them on and off since 9/11 as a van assistant -- we ride along with the drivers and make the deliveries to the clients -- and my roomie Laura volunteered in the kitchen for 10 years and now works for them. The RTD was the first NYRR race I ever ran, and because it's a cause near and dear to me I'm always happy to run it, and as an added bonus this year I also ran it as a member of the Love Team and raised a little $$ for GLWD, too. They have a West Coast counterpart called Project Angel Food, does the same thing. What a great organization. If you're ever feeling bad about your life, volunteer at a place like GLWD or Angel Food and deliver meals to people, even for a day. It'll put things into perspective.



It was cold on race day -- hoorah! -- and drizzly -- not so hoorah. Laura was out of town, but I went to the pledge tent and introduced myself, then I hid in the tent and stayed warm until things started getting busy in there. I took off my sweatshirt and headed for the starting line. My plan was to start with the 9:00 group and see what happened. Four miles. Pocket change!! I had no idea how I'd do, but my runs during the week were averaging just under a 9:00/mile pace so I figured I'd finish in about 34 minutes. This is a popular race, so it was really crowded, we could barely hear Joan Rivers do the opening greetings (GLWD is one of her causes, she's a major benefactor and yes, volunteers in the kitchen.) The gun went off, and we started shuffling to the start line. Realized I forgot my watch. Well, I'd get my finish time, if not the mile splits. Besides, it's all for fun, I shouldn't be ruled by the clock.



The route is a start and finish on the 72nd St. transverse, you go counter-clockwise up Cat Hill and down the East Side until 102nd St., across the transverse and down the west side, then back across the 72nd St. transverse to the finish. An easy course that gets Cat Hill out of the way early. This is a race that attracts a lot of first-time and one-time runners (they run once a year to be a fundraiser for GLWD) and the hill can be daunting for them, a lot of them tend to walk it and the race stays crowded for a while. I had my special "4-mile mix" on my iPod and pushed ahead. I got a little hot, I was wearing two shirts -- a thermal and the Love Team shirt. I wanted to take the Love Team shirt off but didn't -- gotta show my pride!! I had no idea how fast I was going or what my time was, because I looked down when I crossed the starting line. I was breathing a little hard, but I wasn't struggling. My legs felt pretty good, but my hip had started reasserting itself, nothing huge, just that familiar inside-the-butt ache (side note: probably time to get an MRI and see what's going on there. I doubt it's a tear, because I think I'd really be feeling that a lot more often, and a lot more intensely, but there's definitely something not correct there.)



Coming down the home stretch, and it was definitely not as crowded, I pushed it as hard as I could and crossed the finish line. The time clock was just under 37:00. I still had no idea how I really did, but I knew I had beaten my 34 minute estimate. The GLWD staff was just beyond the finish line, cheering all the runners, and I got a special cheer as a Love Team runner. I felt great -- last time I ran this race I got the dry heaves from pushing too hard at the end (why do I remember these details?) but was instantly cold. I wandered back to the bandshell to get my bag and saw teammate John there, quickly followed by Lynn, Rich, Harrie, and Jason. I didn't know they'd be there. It was fun to see them, and they all had a great race as well. Four miles was such a breeze! We got our stuff and found a diner on the East Side for breakfast. We were freezing, it felt so good to get inside and get some coffee!



Once I got home I checked my time -- 32:35, or an 8:08 minute mile. That's a personal best, and a record speed for me. I can't believe I ran that fast without being chased!



Fast forward to yesterday, Thanksgiving. I spent the morning at GLWD, helping with the deliveries. Clients get Thanksgiving meals for the whole family (incidentally, if a client has children, GLWD also provides meals for the children) plus a gift basket of munchies and other treats. Normally this all goes out by van, and there were van deliveries to the outer boroughs, but in Manhattan on Thanksgiving the meals and baskets are delivered directly from GLWD by groups of volunteers in private cars. Each volunteer gets cards with the delivery addresses and information; my job was to go over the cards and the delivery routine with the volunteers. I worked in tandem with Laura and our friend Fran. It was a lot of fun -- I haven't delivered since school started, but a lot of the drivers and coordinators recognized me and hoped I'd come back soon. And yes, Joan Rivers came in to deliver meals, too. Can you imagine, you're expecting someone to come by with your meal and it's Joan Rivers? That definitely made some Thanksgivings a more interesting experience!



After deliveries, I did my usual double Thanksgiving -- I headed out to Brooklyn to my brother' and sister-in-law's house, where my parents, my sister-in-law's parents, me, and the three little girls had a raucous late-afternoon turkey, with my sister-in-law's famous onion-and-pomegranite relish (sounds gross, tastes amazing!) Tante Marci got to rile the girls up for a while, and when they wore out I headed out to Jersey City for an evening feast with good friends Greg and Tim. Greg is a "reformed runner;" he's the one I ran with at the MSKCC Rock and Run to honor his brother's memory, and the one who helped me get my priorities straight about why I run for MSKCC. I love going to their parties, there's always great people and great conversation to go along with the great food and drink.



So today, thoroughly satiated and needing to work off some turkey and stuffing, four repeats of Cat Hill!



Next race: the Hot Chocolate 15K next Sunday!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

NYC Marathon 2007 Part Three -- my visit to MSKCC

This is why I run the NYC marathon.







(thanks to MSKCC for giving me permission to share this photo with you)







At the post-race dinner, the head of the pediatrics unit told us how Fred's Team money is being spent, and the progress they've made in research and treatment. That's part of what makes running with Fred's Team so rewarding -- how many charities give you a rundown of specifically what research programs your money funds, what progress is being made, and the number of children who are benefitting? And then brings you over there to show you in person? This doctor described a technique they have been developing to attach the chemo medicine to modified cells (forgive me, I am the least scientific person around and can't remember the specifics) that targets the cancer and fights only the cancer, instead of depleting the whole body. They have also developed a treatment protocol for a specific form of blastoma that five years ago would have been a death sentence, but now has an 85 percent cure rate. The ongoing problem is that because pediatric oncology is a relatively new field, these amazing treatments have no track record as far as the government's timetable is concerned, and that means limited federal support. Fred's Team money -- the money you have donated -- is funding this research. Not only that, but because many of these treatments are still considered clinical trials (some more than 20 years after their development -- I am guessing this is what it takes to establish that track record) MSKCC cannot charge for them. I learned this at Gretchen Holt's wonderful blog about her son, Liam, who is being treated at MSKCC. That is also where Fred's Team money goes, to fund the treatments that allow more and more children the opportunity to live a full life.


How can you NOT run the marathon for Fred's Team after hearing stories like that? You don't need to run NY -- Fred's Team participates in marathons and triathlons across the country, even Mt. Kilimangaro! Are you interested? Click here for more information.


The day after the Marathon, a bunch of us were invited to come over to MSKCC's pediatric cancer unit to take a tour and visit the kids. A lot of the doctors and nurses run for the Team -- when a couple of them came down to the lobby to say hello in their white coats, we barely recognized them (it's so odd seeing Team runners in their "real" clothes.) One of the unit heads took us upstairs.


The first thing you notice when you come in is how bright and cheerful the place is. There's a big LCD screen by the front desk that flashes messages and activities -- the lady explained that the kids didn't want the place to be "boring." And the whole unit was festooned with Fred's Team signs, they were everywhere! The kids get worked up weeks beforehand about the marathon, they're the ones who made all the signs. Next to the front desk is the day room, where the outpatient children stay when they have to come in for treatment. That's where the picture was taken. It's bright and sunny with lots of nooks and crannies, plus loads of books and games, a kitchenette with snacks, a separate playhouse -- in short, a children's paradise. And I know it will sound hokey when I say it, but unless you could see the obvious signs of illness, you wouldn't know these kids were sick. A lot of that is because of the nurses and the volunteers (like Teammate Michelle) who treat the kids with loving care, but don't make a big deal of it, so that the kids, as much as possible, are never made to feel that they are sick, or a patient. They let the kids be kids.


And boy, were they kids, in all their glory! Running around, playing, complaining about school. I had brought my children's sized Fred's Team bracelets to give out, and some of the kids were really into them. One little boy blocked my way and demanded four. He wanted an orange and purple one for each wrist. We hung out with the kids in the playroom for a while. Two of them wanted to show off their band-aids (Dora the Explorer and Strawberry Shortcake, very cool!) and some of them wanted to play with our medals (we had been asked to bring them.) Again, going back to the amazing staff, all of the children had someone there with them, either a parent or a nurse, and not just sitting back and supervising, they were all actively engaged with the kids in play.

We were then split up into two groups to go visit some of the inpatients. These are the kids who we got to see on Marathon day outside the hospital and they're also the kids who are more obviously ill. Each room we visited, they were excited to see us. Some of them were able to sit outside for the marathon, some had to stay inside and watch. One of the little girls we met was the main sign-maker, and she had a lot of her signs up all over the room. We met one little peanut of a boy, maybe about two, three years old, he was the one (there's one in every batch of kids, you know) who's got the whole place wrapped about his little finger. First off, he was wearing a big fluffy pumpkin costume, which just about floored me. When he took a bracelet and the nurse said, "What do you say?" he walked back over to me and said, "More!" And when it was time for us to go and the nurse told him to say bye-bye, he said, "Bye-bye!" and tottered out of the room. Halfway down the hall one of the nurses scooped him up and took him to the kitchen for a snack.

Where you stay in the hospital is determined by what form of cancer you have. If you have a form of pediatric cancer you are on the pediatric cancer ward, regardless of how old you are (this is standard practice at all hospitals, I understand -- my roommate had a friend in his 20s who had a pediatric cancer, his room was decorated with duckies and bunnies.) So one of the patients we met was 18. When we went into her room, she had the heat shield from the race, a bib number, a medal and the Team shirt. One of the doctors picks someone every year to get all of his race stuff, and she was the one. We all decided that since she already had the shirt and the number, she was a member of the Team and we expected her at Team practices next year. She enjoyed that a lot.

After visiting the inpatients, we returned to the day room for pictures, and then we went out for lunch.

One of the things a number of survivors who were treated at MSKCC have said is that they were treated like people there, not a number or a disease. You were always greeted by name, there was someone around every corner to help you, and no matter how many people your doctor had seen and treated and dealt with before getting back to you, they would walk in and pick up exactly where you had left off. One of the people I talked with is a five-year survivor; she goes back every six months for a check-up, and the doctor still greets her by name and remembers everything she had been up to six months prior. At breakfast today, in fact, someone was saying that MSKCC is one of the few hospitals where the support staff actually wants to help. Even back 20 or so years, in the days when if a family member went into the hospital you paid for a private nurse or else they'd never receive any care, you'd be told, "Oh, you don't need to do that here." And you didn't.

This is the level of care that everyone receives at MSKCC.


Let me tell you, I was kind of nervous going in. I was afraid that I was going to start crying, or something, and I know that's the last thing they want us to do there. But from the moment we stepped onto the unit, the amount of love and warmth and caring there is so overwhelming that you can't help but be HAPPY when you're there. I need to mention a small thing that happened, because it had a major impact on me: as we were getting ready to take the group pictures, one of the little girls came back from her treatment. She was called over to be in the picture, but the person she was with said, "She just came back from treatment, she's still a little wobbly." One of the nurses said, "That's okay, come here, sweetie, I'll hold you up!" and the little girl came over to be in the picture. That was when I wanted to cry -- not from sadness but for joy, that these amazing, dedicated people have created such a supportive and loving atmosphere for the children and their parents, and that I was able to play a small role in helping them.

Next time: race reports, and the final installment of the NYC Marathon race report.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

NYC Marathon 2007 Part Two (kind of long!)

11/4/07, 4:00am, didn't even need the alarm.

Checked and re-checked the bag, then headed to the Crowne Plaza (the Team meets for breakfast beforehand, takes the team photo in Times Square, then heads to Staten Island. After the race there's a Team dinner in the same spot.)

There was a breakfast buffet laid out in the ballroom, and the tables had markers and white-out for shirt decoration, plus nifty Fred's Team temporary tattoos. Choked down half a bowl of oatmeal and half a bagel with honey and banana (my usual pre-race meal) but I couldn't eat. Sipped Gatorade instead, and enjoyed my half cup of coffee. No more than that, I didn't want a repeat of last year having to use the bathroom during the race. I've been experimenting during our last early AM long runs with having only a little coffee, and it did help. I figured the adrenaline would make up for what the caffeine couldn't. Besides, my gels had caffeine in case I started jonesing.

I also had to show off my invention. The weather reports were so screwy, even the night before they were predicting anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees F. A bunch of us were completely baffled about what to wear. I knew that my base outfit would be the short-sleeve Team shirt and shorts, but I didn't want to wear another shirt on top. So on Saturday night I came up with a brilliant idea. I got a pair of diabetic socks from the Duane Reade and cut the toe box off. Instant arm warmers! Because they're diabetic socks the elastic isn't so tight, and they were Coolmax to boot! My elbow fit right in the heel pocket, and as long as I kept my arms bent they looked great. No, actually they looked like socks on my arms, but I didn't care. Besides, they're no worse than the gray and pink velour jumpsuit I bought for $20 to wear at Fort Wadsworth. I figure since the clothes are donated to the Salvation Army, might as well leave something that someone might actually want to wear. At least in Staten Island. Oh, snap!

Devastated to find out that coach Annie decided to bow out of the race that morning. She hadn't been feeling well -- cold and cough -- and knew that running the marathon wouldn't be a smart idea. I said it in the earlier post, Annie is one of the only people I know who listens to her own good advice, even if it's not what her heart may want to do. I would have chosen to run anyway and paid the price for it, as I'm sure many others would. That's one of the reasons Annie's such a good coach.

Breakfast, picture, on the bus. The elites take the first bus, but the "core" Team members, the ones who go to the workouts, also take the first bus. This year's police escort was a car, not motorcycles, so not as spectacular, but still -- a police escort to Fort Wadsworth is cool!

At the Fort, the Team spread out in the parking lot by the UPS trucks. Some napped, some stretched, some of us found the Brightroom folks and took our pre-race photos. There didn't appear to be anything majorly different about the set-up there, and yet everything seemed to be much easier to access than last year, from the food to the porta-potties.

Speaking of which -- twice at the hotel, twice on the bus. Total before 8:00am -- 4. Twice more once we arrived at the Fort makes 6. And it was confirmed at the post-race reception, there were indeed more porta-potties at the Fort. THANK YOU, NYRR!!!!!!! Average wait time at the Fort was 5 minutes, as opposed to 45 last year. Hey, it's the little things!

Time to line up. On my way to the green start, one more pit stop (7 -- tied last year's record!)

And I'm walking



and walking




and walking




and walking





Where the heck am I lining up, New Jersey?

I started to worry. I knew I was going to be super far back, but this was ridiculous.

In case you didn't read my earlier posts, there are three start corrals -- orange, blue and green. The green corral uses the lower roadway, the others use the upper. Each corral runs a slightly separate course for the first 8 miles, then all the corrals converge. There was construction on the lower roadway, so instead of ditching the green corral, NYRR decided to start the green corral in waves to compensate for there only being half a roadway. A good idea in theory, but as you will read, it didn't quite work.

We were so far back we had no loudspeakers to let us hear the opening ceremony, and we could barely hear the cannon. We DID have a nice view of the bridge, and we all started cheering as the runners started across.

And we didn't budge.



For 30 minutes.



And the upper roadway emptied out.



And we STILL didn't budge.



And another ten minutes went by. Workers came by and started cleaning up the discarded clothes.



And we STILL didn't budge.



Finally, at 10:45, we started moving towards the start line. 11:00am, and I'm off!!

They had already packed up the sound system and had started dismantling the starting line. Not the most inspiring way to begin the NYC Marathon! We had already gone past excitement into boredom and plain old resignation by the time we started moving, and this was just completely dispiriting. The guy starting the green corral did his best to make us feel special, and your time depends on when you cross the start mat, not when the cannon fires, but you know, I wanted to hear "New York, New York!"

In retrospect, they should have halved the size of the green corral -- split the last two waves between the orange and blue corrals. Hindsight's always 20/20, of course, and I know that NYRR had no way of knowing that it would take as long as it did to move the green corral out. I spoke to Mary Wittenberg -- president of NYRR -- a little at the Fred's Team post-marathon reception and when I mentioned that I didn't even cross the start mat until 11am she got visibly upset. I wasn't mean about it or anything, I just said that I didn't cross until 11 and it was kind of sad, but it was what it was.

(small tangent: I did get nervous about saying anything negative to Mary at the reception, because the paranoid part of me thinks that I got hosed number-wise because I had complained earlier in the year about disruptive behavior at a couple of the races. I don't want to get myself, or the Team, in trouble with NYRR. I mentioned this to Jeff, told him that when she asked me how my experience was and I told her about the problems I had and was that the wrong thing to do, he said no, she asked because she wanted to hear. I do believe that NYRR is very willing to listen and make improvements to the marathon. Even with my limited experience I could see how much better organized things were in general this year, which I did mention as well. )

Back to the race!

Let's break it down by borough:

STATEN ISLAND and BROOKLYN, miles 1-13
No worries about getting "rained on" on the Verrazano, as there was nobody above us. Over the bridge, and then instead of getting right into the street, the green corral continues on the roadway (the BQE?) for about another half a mile before heading up the exit ramp and onto the street. I was amazed that there were still people there, we took so long to arrive!

Now, there was a good side to the wave start -- the first 8 miles were relatively clear sailing. I was able to hang back for the first 5 or 6, then I started moving up with not too much traffic to contend with. The first half of the race is Brooklyn, and it's flat.

The unforeseen problem with the wave start occured at mile 8, when the 3 corrals converge. I had moved up and found a group of people who were running at about the pace I wanted to be at for a while, and then the faster part of the green corral ran into the slower part of the orange and blue corrals. Suddenly the 4:30 greens were battling the 5:30 and 6:00 oranges. I don't think anyone figured this was going to happen -- again, I don't think NYRR realized how long it would take to get the greens across the bridge -- but when it did, MAN, did it suck. The next 4 miles (actually the next 18 miles) were spent trying to push past the 5:30 pace groups who were walking 10 abreast, packs of slower runners who would stop dead right in front of me, and people who were MAKING AND RECEIVING CELL PHONE CALLS. More on that in a second. I didn't want to waste a lot of effort trying to get around everyone, but I didn't have a choice. I compensated by holding back a little and not trying to push.

Mile 13.1 -- 2:06. About 5 minutes faster than I thought. I remember thinking wow, does that mean I'm going to run the second half in 2 hours? Hmmm....(well, we all know I didn't, so no surprise there)

About those cell phones...there was an article a couple of weeks prior to the marathon, saying the USATF was working to ban headphones and MP3 players from major road races, and the article mentioned that for the NYC Marathon, NYRR knew that it would be fruitless to police 39,000 runners, so they weren't going to try, but they always strongly suggest that you don't wear any -- and really, why would you want to cover up the sound of a half a million people cheering for you? But you know, the real problem is not headphones, it's cell phones. In general I hate them, and in specific I hate seeing people on the phone either at the gym, on the run, or most of all in the car. I mean, how important is that call? From the ones I have had to listen to, not important at all. There were so many people on the phone DURING THE MARATHON that I almost starting yelling at them, but I didn't want to waste the energy. Now, I don't mean those who call ahead to the people waiting for them to alert them, "I'm three blocks away!" That's cool. I'm talking about -- I kid you not -- "Hello? Oh, hi! How are you? What's up? Good. Oh, really? Wow. No, I'm running the marathon now. Marathon. The marathon. 26 miles. Yeah, I'm running it right now. So, what's new?" Weaving all over the place, paying no attention to people like me trying to get around them. Idiot. And it's 26 POINT TWO, you moron.

There was a moment in Brooklyn that does stand out. Somewhere around Mile 10 I remember thinking -- for the first time in years I am running with no foot pain and no back pain. My tendonitis isn't flaring up. I'm breathing fine, I'm in the best shape of my life. I am the luckiest person alive. And a feeling of happiness washed over me so strongly that I almost started to cry.

Leaving Fourth Avenue for the couple of turns that take us to the Pulaski, I passed my first "core" Teammate, Natalie. She's running her first marathon in 15 years. How cool is she?

Over the Pulaski and into Queens

QUEENS, miles 14-16
The best part of Queens is that my family was waiting for me in LIC. Not just my parents, but my brother and sister-in-law and their three little girls! A lot of the Fred's Team runners saw them as they passed, they were psyched to have a cheering section in Queens! My brother told me later that some TV cameras shot footage of the girls when they first got there. It was great to see them, and I was amazed that the kids were still there, me being about 45 minutes later than I estimated I'd be (I thought I'd start at 10:30) and the girls being 4, 2 and 6 months. But both my brother and my parents said the girls had a good time and were very well-behaved. One quibble -- mom, open the water bottle beforehand, will ya, and take it from me when I'm done? That's okay, I know you're not sports-oriented, hee hee! Like I said, she was just trying to stall me to get me to finish in 4:12:12 so she could win the contest. Sorry, family members are not eligible to participate (!)

Started passing Teammates I knew, which made me feel a little better about starting so late, but I couldn't help wondering where I would've been had I started closer to the cannon. I knew it wouldn't affect my time, but it was a psychological thing. Before the marathon I was hoping to cross under the clock at 4:30 (the time on the clock, not the actual time of day,) now I was thinking I'd cross over 5:00. And I really wanted to make it to MSKCC and see the kids before they had to get back upstairs!

I am told that the Queensboro Bridge is the hardest hill in the marathon, but we were trained so well I barely felt it. Same as last year -- thanks to all the hellacious hill training, they were a real non-issue.

On the bridge itself, it's quiet. There are sections where it's pitch black (it's fun, everybody goes "oooooooh!" and makes ghosty noises, but of course you can't see your feet, so a little scary.) A nice place to gather yourself for the final 10. Towards the end of the ramp Asics had put up some signs, like a Burma Shave thing, one sign every 20 feet or so, I wish I could remember exactly what they said, but I do remember they really psyched me up. They were something like, "If you've never been psyched / About running 10 miles / Now's your chance / Final ten miles / start / NOW"

MANHATTAN part 1, miles 16-20
Oh, and PS: I stink at numbers. I've been saying all year that LIC is at mile 15 -- it's 14 -- and that MSKCC is at mile 18 -- it's mile 17. So the miles, I'm pretty sure I'm within, oh, a mile of accuracy!

First Avenue, what can I say? I'm a rock star!

Fred's Team runners start moving to the right, that's where the cheering section is.

And just before I got to MSKCC, I spotted my roomate, Laura, who snapped this picture of me:




What, can't you spot me? Look to the far right:





There I am!

(those are my gray gloves pinned to my shorts. I thought my hands might be cold later on, and I didn't want to throw them away.)

Jill, the other Team runner in the picture, is the head of the pediatrics unit at MSKCC, and it was so great to be with her when we got there. The cheering section went up like a house on fire, and I pretended some of it was for me, too. Okay, I didn't pretend, I know some was for me, too! For years Jill was the one who coordinated getting the kids downstairs to cheer. At last year's reception, she gave an amazing speech about knowing how much the Team meant to them, and wanting to be a part of it. Last year was Jill's first marathon.

I was so happy to be there and see the Fred's Team crowd!!

Slapped hands with everyone on the line, and I was off, with renewed energy!

Jeff always warns us not to sprint up First Avenue with the extra adrenaline from seeing the kids, so I paced myself. Wasn't difficult -- it was super-crowded again, and folks were starting to flag. Not me, although I was really looking forward to the Power Gel station at mile 18. I had gels with me, so it wasn't the issue of needing a gel, just the timing.

Fuel-wise I was doing really well. I stopped at all the water stations except one for water and/or Gatorade. I was relying more on the Gatorade than on the gels, as I had done during training. I took a Succeed salt tablet at miles 6 and 15, and my AirAides at the start and at mile 7 (they take about 90 minutes to work) AirAide is an herbal supplement I heard about this year that is supposed to increase lung capacity and aid stamina. Does it work for real? I don't know, but I will tell you this -- once I started using them, I had no trouble running in high-pollen areas. I also took a gel at 7 and 13. At this point I felt terrific, no cramps, no strain, running well, just getting a little tired.

I realized this year that I wasn't slapping hands as much this year, but what I was doing was saying "Thank you!" and waving at anyone who acknowledged me. I think it was because I was spending way too much time trying to get around people, I needed to keep my eyes on the road.

Over the Willis Ave Bridge. This is the narrowest bridge. There were so many people walking up the bridge that those of us trying to run up it got stuck, with no way to maneuver around them. One guy bellowed, "WALKERS, MOVE TO YOUR RIGHT!" and only one person moved. "WALKERS TO THE RIGHT, PLEASE!!" Nothing. And then it dawned on both of us -- nobody spoke English! The perils of an international field. So I'm sitting there trying to remember, gauche or droit -- which is "right?" Before I could really ponder it, the bellowing guy started shoving people out of the way, and I followed in his wake.

DA BRONX, mile 21
Can I just say the Bronx was HAPPENING! The biggest problem with this stretch is that it's mostly an industrial zone, and I remember last year it was dead. This year it was the best borough! There were 2 DJ booths, and people lining the entire mile! That was so cool that everyone made the effort. It was really appreciated. There was a small Fred's Team section right by the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Starting to get tired again, but no cramps, no leg pains.

MANHATTAN, part 2, miles 22-26
Almost home! And yet, I have to say that I really hate it when spectators say "Almost home!" I would prefer "Looking good!" and "Good job!" but you know, I'll take anything!! I tried to pick up the pace, but it was just too crowded. I would speed up to pass people, but as soon as I could start opening up, another logjam, and I'd have to slow down, try to get around them, etc. etc. It was getting frustrating. I ran a really smart race and had my big finish in the tank, and now I couldn't let it out.

From 110th to 90th, the entrance to Central Park, is uphill. I remember having a lot of trouble here last year, and I did slow down a bit when we ran the final 10 miles a few weeks earlier. So I put my head down and charged -- as best I could. I kept knocking into people as I tried to push past them -- not nastily, accidentally, but it was getting ridiculous. There were so many more walkers than runners there was no clear path.

90th Street, the entrance to the Park. Shoved my way inside and tried again to pour on the sauce, but again, too crowded. Someone took pictures of various team runners at the entrance, including our Team. Here's the proof photo of what I looked like -- a hot mess!


Some people did get cold during the race, I was broiling. As you can see! At this point I looked at the clock and realized that I could make it to the finish line under 5:00 (again, not the actual time, but the time from the opening cannon)

Down the stretch of the East Drive, and blessedly down Cat Hill. How could people be WALKING DOWN CAT HILL? It's practically MADE for running down! I flew down the hill as best as I was able. Up and over the nasty little hill just beyond the transverse, and BAM, there's a press truck taking up half the roadway. Maneuvered around it (maybe I was caught on camera?) and down the winding exit towards 59th and 5th.

My feet felt like lead, although my legs still felt great. I stopped at the mile 25 water station to get one last hit of fuel, then out of the Park and up Central Park South. Again, an uphill, I put my head down and charged again, weaving as best I could through the throngs. As I neared Columbus Circle I heard someone say "You're an inspiration!" That made me happy.

At the entrance to Columbus Circle I crashed into the guy who stands at the entrance saying "Good job runners, watch your step" because you have to step up onto the sidewalk. Hee hee!

Continue running uphill...still passing people...

I don't feel my legs...

400 yards to go...300...200...


My sweatband is so wet it's dripping into my eyes, I take it off but there's nowhere to throw it so I just hang onto it...I stop my watch so my finish line photo will be heads up...


And DONE!!!

I crossed the finish line in 4:52:40, which -- believe it or not -- is the time I crossed under the clock LAST YEAR!

I literally yelped with joy, and let out a big sob. I high-fived the race volunteer at the finish line moving the runners through and screamed "YEAH! THAT WAS GREAT!!" I got to the medal guys and as he handed me one I said "Hell no, put it on me!" And he did! Got my heat shield, my baggie with Water and Gatorade, and headed towards Cherry Hill.

At the transverse a Fred's Team volunteer saw the "honored guest" sticker on my bib, pulled me out of the crowd and walked me up to Cherry Hill. We stopped to clip my chip, and he went to get my bag for me. I thought about keeping the chip, but I've got enough souvenirs from this race -- tendonitis, shin splints...

Jeff, Annie, Karen and Erica were waiting there. They were stunned when they heard my time -- I was arriving so late they assumed I was in the 4:40s. There were so much good news! A lot of people made, or beat their goal times. More than a few BQed! Unfortunately, we did have at least 1 casualty. David, the one who impersonated Bono in my earlier post, hadn't recovered as fully as he had hoped from a knee injury he suffered during Grete's Gallop, and it went out on him at the halfway point. Injured, he still managed to pull a 3:19, although he had been hoping for an under-3:00 (last year he did 3:13.)

All of the finishers are amazing regardless of their times, but here are two extra-special ones: Matt Farver, two years after treatment for cancer at MSKCC, finished his second NYC Marathon in an astounding 2:52. And Harrie Bakst, who finished treatment at MSKCC in June, finished his first NYC Marathon four months later in an incredible 4:52, with older brother Rich by his side.

We are all so lucky to live at a time when such stories are possible, and luckier still to be able to give back to the place that makes these stories possible.

Next up -- my trip to MSKCC!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

NYC Marathon 2007 Part One

Wow. What a difference a week makes. I didn't realize -- or maybe didn't remember -- how emotionally draining a marathon can be. For those who have read my earlier posts, you know what I wreck I was. But I am feeling on a much more even keel, and ready to share the most incredible weekend of running and living with you.

But first -- MORE FRED'S TEAM HONOR ROLL MEMBERS!!

TIM BILLITER
PATRICIA BURDETT

bringing the grand total going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center to an astounding

$5,961

Just because the NYC Marathon is over doesn't mean it's too late to donate to Fred's Team and the Aubrey Fund. You can always click here to access my Fred's Team page to learn about the Team, the Aubrey Fund, and MSKCC, or to make a donation.

And before I forget, the winner of the last contest -- guess my finish time -- was

SARAH AUSTIN

who must be psychic because her guess was 4:11:59.

(my mom guessed 4:12:12, by the way. No wonder she tried to stall me at mile 14!!)

After a two week taper, where I did a few runs, including a couple of runs from 90th Street to the finish line, it was just about the big day. But first, Saturday brought the US Men's Olympic Marathon Trials to NYC. The course began at Rockefeller Center, crosses up to 7th Avenue, and into Central Park, for a punishing 4 1/2 loops before crossing the finish line. I live right off 7th Avenue, so at 7:30am I took my coffee and went outside to watch the action. It wasn't crowded, but there were a lot more people there than I had thought. When the police cars started heading up 7th, followed by the camera trucks, we all started to cheer. And quick as a flash, they were gone! At their "jogging" speed of 5:20 minute miles! Most of the crowd stampeded to the Park to watch from there, but I went home and watched the whole thing unfold online. I wanted to see more than just a three-second flash of people passing.

A road race is really fascinating, there's so much strategy and action, and what made this particular race more interesting is that while it's an individual competition, most of the competitors are friends and train together. I was really curious to see how that dynamic would play out.

Watching these guys run was such a thing of beauty. Ryan Hall in particular -- he looked like a gazelle. His form is so fluid and powerful. I couldn't take my eyes off him. Though I am not normally a sports fan, I watched the whole thing from start to finish.

We all know what happened during the race -- Ryan Hall, Dathan Ritzenheim and Brian Sell ran astounding races and secured the Olympic slots, and 28-year-old Ryan Shay inexplicably collapsed at the 5-mile mark and died shortly thereafter. An incredibly tragic event in the midst of one of the most spectacular finishes in marathon history. I thought NYRR handled it extremely well, by the way.

Here is a moment that struck me, and sums up why runners are amazing. It was still fairly early on, the lead pack had already established itself, and they had just passed the fluid station (for this event, the runners had their specific bottles set up for them at individual tables, and they grabbed them as they went by.) One of the runners in the lead pack either missed his bottle or didn't have one there, and another of the lead runners saw this and shared his bottle.

Now, how cool is that? Competing, yet still helping their fellow competitors to do their best. Makes me proud to be a runner.

It's a shame that top runners are not being touted as role models for children as much as top football and baseball players are. If you read up a little bit on some of these top runners, they are straight-arrow, clean-living, family-oriented, and work so hard to be the best at this sport, with none of the scandals that plague many major-league sports stars. That's why the Marion Jones steroid scandal was so devastating. For the majority of us who will never win a race, it's about trying to do the best you can. When you hear about a runner who takes a shortcut, it's such a slap in the face. It makes all the miles you've put in seem worthless.

After a few hours of resting up (and a couple of trips to Paragon Sports, where I once again met Grete Waitz!) it was time for the Barilla Pasta Party at Tavern on the Green. That's the official pre-marathon pasta party. For those who have never been to NYC and seen Tavern, it's kind of hard to describe. It's one of the few restaurants actually in the Park, and it's an enormous Habitrail of rooms, permanent tents and pavilions, decorated in varying styles from classic to floral to just plain over-the-top. It used to be a NY institution for upper-crust dining, but over the years has become more of a tourist destination and event locale (I've been to a number of Opening Night parties there.) For the pre-marathon dinner they are set up to serve 15,000 (!) people. Fred's Team members get our own room for a specific amount of time, and special tickets that allow us to cut the line and go directly inside. Because we had so many people on the Team this year, we needed a bigger room, so our time slot for dinner was 3:30 - 5:00. Prime dinner time. Not.

A bunch of us met at 4:00 and went in. We had the Crystal Pavillion, one of the sunnier rooms in the place. The pasta was again plentiful and, while not entirely gourmet quality (cooking for 15,000 will do that) it was a little tastier than last year's. However, I found that I had very little appetite. I guess the nerves were taking hold. It's funny, because the day before it was like there wasn't enough food left in the world, and now -- nothing. So I choked down a plateful, nibbled on breadsticks, and chased it down with Gatorade. And, of course, took pictures, which will be at the bottom of this post.

Anyway, we all hung out until about 5:30, when the room opened up to general marathon participants. There's a fireworks display over the finish line at 7:30, but a lot of people didn't want to hang out. A couple of us live close enough to come back for it, and we did. It was very exciting and a lot of fun, but possibly one of the most random music choices ever made for an event. I wish I could remember what they were, but all I can recall is that most of the songs had nothing to do with running or New York. It was a great display. The night was cool but not cold, and a surprising amount of runners (in running gear) making a point of running through the post-fireworks crowd. Why? Are they marathoners who think a really-last-minute workout is going to help them, or non-marathoners who feel they must show the marathoners that they are the REAL runners? Either way, baffling.

Choked down a bagel and some Gatorade, and off to bed, for a surprisingly good sleep. Set two alarms, though, just in case!!


This post is starting to get long, and there are still pictures to be had, so let's leave it here, show you some fun photos, and then get to Race Day in the next day or so.

Brothers Harrie and Rich, and Julia. Harrie and Rich ran together to celebrate Harrie's survival from cancer of the salivary gland. Harrie finished treatment in June, and he ran the marathon. Julia is also a cancer survivor, and decided to celebrate by doing "50 by 50" -- 50 marathons in 50 states before age 50. I get to run with amazing people.


Our fabulous coach Annie. Annie is one of the only people I know who not only has managed to hang onto the good sense God gave her, but to listen to it as well. She had been battling a cold and cough during the taper weeks and decided at the last minute that it would be better for her not to run. How many of us would have said, "I don't care HOW I feel, I'm still doing it!" and paid a huge price? Me, probably.
According to last month's NYRR magazine, Matt is a "distinguished runner." Very distinguished, as you can see! Matt is also a cancer survivor; last year, just one year after treatment, he ran his first marathon in 3:03. We are all rock stars on our Team, but Matt's the real deal. What did he run this year? Wait until the next post!
Abby and Jill! Jill heads the pediatric unit at MSKCC. A lot of people from MSKCC run on Fred's Team.

A whole bunch of us -- left to right, Lynn, Heather and Kelly on the bottom row; me, Jeff, Emily and Lucy on the top. Lucy's a nurse at MSKCC.


What's Bono doing here? Nope, it's David, sporting the ING NYC Marathon orange glasses. First rule of picture taking -- reflective apparel works. David's another one of our rock star runners, last year he did HIS first marathon in 3:13. What did he run this year? I told you, wait for the next post!


From left to right -- Erica, Jeff, David S, Karen, and Nicole. They are some of the strongest runners on our team. Jeff's our coach, and I couldn't have gotten to this point without him or Annie.


Next up -- MARATHON DAY!!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Thanks and Gratitude

A quickie, because I'm late for school,

Thanks to everyone who emailed me with messages of encouragement and support. They really did help a lot, and I am feeling a lot better about everything. This only being marathon #2, and me being in much condition, I was so baffled that I didn't feel as wrecked as last year and, as someone pointed out, am confusing "pushing" with "struggling," and began questioning everything.

I am thrilled with my time, and I'm so fortunate that I not only ran a strong race, but that I am physically able to run another one. I never struggled, never hit the "wall," and most importantly I raised $6000 for the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research.

You have all been so supportive of my efforts, both financially and emotionally, I just want to always do my best and make y'all proud.

As for goals, I've got them. Next up for me running will be the 4m Race to Deliver in Central Park next Sunday (although I did consider the Knickerbocker 60K!) Next up for me blogging will be a full race report.

There's a moment from the Men's Trials that stands out for me -- at some point early on, the front pack passed the water stations, and one guy didn't grab his bottle (Cox, I think.) One of the other runners shared their water with him.

Competitors, yet helping each other do the best they can.

That's the running community. I'm blessed to be a part of it.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Readers, I Need Your Advice

A full race report is coming soon, I promise, along with the absolute best part of the whole experience, a trip to the MSKCC pediatric cancer unit. I know that sounds odd -- the best part was the trip to the hospital! -- but when I tell you about it, you'll understand.

Before I even get to that, something I need to get off my chest. Fellow runners (and non-runners,) I can sure use your help.

I have come down from the high of finishing, and am now in the low of second-guessing myself. I am beating myself up because I don't feel I gave it my 110 percent effort. Yes, even with a finish time a full half hour faster than last year.

Here's what happened:

I was in the second-to-last wave of people starting in the green corral (NYC has three start corrals -- orange, blue, and green. The green corral runs the lower roadway of the Verazanno, the others run the upper) and because there was construction on the lower roadway our corral went out in little waves) and I didn't cross the start line until 50 minutes after the starting gun. Since the first 8 miles we're "on our own" (all three corrals run separate routes for the first 8 miles) it wasn't too bad, but when we hit mile 8, our group merged with the ends of the orange and blue corrals -- the people running in 5 hours or more. I spent the rest of the time battling walkers and slower runners and was unable to really open up, because it was just so crowded. After running a smart marathon and having left plenty in the tank for a big finish, I was unable to have a big finish because there were too many people in the way. I spent so much time trying to get around people that I could never really open up.

For those of you who have run marathons, you know how hallucinatory those last few moments of the race are. I looked at my times for the last few miles and they really don't suck at all, and yet because I'm not super-spent like I was last year (I took the elevator up to my apartment for three days, and I live on the second floor) and because I didn't cross the finish line exhausted, I feel like I didn't put in enough effort.

I was in the best shape of my life, and trained beautifully, and I know that has a lot to do with why I don't feel so physically bad now. I'm thrilled I didn't have to "gut it out" and run a miserable race. But why do I feel bad about it?

Can y'all help me put this in perspective?

You can post a comment, or email me at marcigee@earthlink.net

thanks,
MG

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Marathon Expo Pix, and More!

By popular demand, Marathon Expo pix!

But first, our newest member of the Fred's Team Honor Roll:

RICK SMITH



making the grand total to date going to the Aubrey Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research

$5,861

There is never a bad time to donate to the Aubrey Fund. Click here to access my Fred's Team page, where you can make a secure, online payment, and also read about Fred's Team, the Aubrey Fund and MSKCC.

Don't forget, just 1 more day to enter the final contest to guess my finish time. Last year's time was 4:42:53, and I know I'll do better this year! Send your guesses to mgcontest@earthlink.net Cut-off time for entry is, of course, the moment I step over the finish line.

So yesterday, after an exhilarating, if slightly too long, final run along the marathon course, which was filled with local and international runners (including what seemed like the entire continent of Italy!) I went to the Marathon Expo at the Javitz Center. I took my camera along, and here's the result:


When you first get to the Expo, you trade your bib card for your actual bib, get your chip verified, and then...


Shopper's Paradise! The Asics marathon section is the largest section of the Expo. There were less booths this year, but the big guns (Asics, Nike, etc.) got bigger.




Random shopper. Just showing the vastness of the hall. And I did buy one of these pink tops (the short-sleeved version.)

Ran into Teammates Lynn and David, and David's friend Tom.





A nice guy took this picture of the four of us (I've got the UPS bag with my entry stuff)



A minute later we ran into Rich, Harrie, their dad, and Liz Robbins (the woman who's writing the book on marathon runners I told you about in an earlier post) and her assistant Lori.




Here's the Fred's Team booth. That's Aubrey Barr herself in the orange, helping Team members with uniform exchange, etc. This will be Aubrey's 25th marathon, her 12th or 13th NYC.


I wanted to show you this part of the booth, it's got the famous picture of Grete Waitz crossing the finish line with Fred Lebow.




Karen (in the gray) was helping out in the booth, and that's Lucy in the black and white.




There's our coach, Jeff! I believe the gentlemen in the Fred's Team coat is Aubrey's father.





Teammates David and Nicole. Nicole and I walked around the Expo together. With everyone handing us samples and invitations to run other marathons, Nicole said, "It's like Halloween." I love that! Word of advice to expo-goers: if you are not running right there and then, avoid sampling the electrolyte replacement strips. My mouth tasted like grape-flavored salt for hours.




Karen, Aubrey and Jeff





Tired shoppers waiting for the shuttle back into midtown! Lynn, Rich, Harrie, David and Nicole.


Saturday, I was up at 7:00am and went outside to watch the Men's Olympics Trials. I tried to upload a video I took of the men as they made their way up 7th Avenue towards Central Park, at a "leisurely jog" of 5 minute miles, but I keep getting error messages, so some other time.We all know how it ended at this point. Tragic. I watched the event online, and there was an ambulance going through the Park, tailing the lead runners, and nobody knew why. Now we know, I guess.



Lastly, I was just at Paragon Sports (exchanging a headband I bought for gloves, and of course to get my freebie Lance Armstrong technical t-shirt, I'm a sucker for swag!!) and guess who was there -- my old buddy Grete Waitz! She was signing posters, hats and water bottles. I went over to see her, shake her hand and give her a Fred's Team bracelet. She asked if I wanted her to sign something. Coincidentally I was wearing my Norwegian Festival shirt (I was only wearing clothing from good races this week, for luck, you know!!) and she did, along with a poster and an Adidas ball cap. And because I am that geeky, I made sure that my race number hung out with her signature.




And just .2 to go from here!!!!!



Wish me luck!!