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!!