Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Alaska....I mean Indiana

Sorry, I got confused on where I ran my latest marathon. For a couple of reasons, the first being the chilly temperatures and snow I got to enjoy and the second being the very politically conservative signs and billboards I saw in that area. I now know that "Hell is Real" thanks to a very welcoming billboard along I-65.

The Indianapolis Monumental Marathon started bright (and by bright I mean it was still dark) and early at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning. It was a chilly 27 degrees when the start gun went off. You know what that means, right? Lots of men in tights. Yikes! I tried to bundle up as much as I could, but the chill remained through most of the race, although it did get up to the 40s and was sunny once the sun decided to come up. Despite that, the course was great and surprisingly scenic, starting near the Indianapolis capital building, running past the stadium where the Colts play, through some historic district that had some very quaint houses, and through Butler University's campus. It was family weekend at Butler where my colleague's daughter attends, so right around mile 17, she, her sister and her daughter were waiting to cheer me on. It's always nice to see an unexpected friendly face when you're tired and cold! Thanks Linda! And another friendly face was waiting for me at the finish. My friend Chris was there with his buddy Titus (a rambunctious German Shepard puppy who I saw video proof of running on a treadmill) to cheer me on those last few blocks. Thanks to Chris and Titus!

Of course, after finishing, I was sweaty and accordingly twice as cold. It took me a good 20 minutes sitting in the car with the heat on full blast to recover feeling in my hands. Not my favorite part of this race. No personal bests for me this race, although I had hoped for that since it was a flat and fast course. It was my second fastest though, and I'm not going to beat myself up too much since I just ran in Maine 3 weeks prior. Plus, I was apparently well hydrated since I stopped 3 times to use the port-o-potties in the first half. Darn you bladder! I will say that the race was very well organized, with LOTS of water stations and bathroom areas. And the people of Indianapolis were very supportive and cheering the runners on for most of the course. This race also has a 1/2 marathon option and a 5K if you don't want to take on a full marathon. I would give this race two frozen thumbs up!

Next up, Arizona on January 16th. It better not snow.....

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

4 Hours and 7 Minutes for SoleMates

On Sunday, Mark and I each ran the ING New York City Marathon. I don't want to speak for him, so I'll leave it to him to share his experience with the event... but I would like to take some time to share my own.

The NYC Marathon course runs through all five boroughs of New York City: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. Race day started with the journey to Staten Island. I walked to the subway before sunrise and arrived at Manhattan's Staten Island Ferry Terminal as the sun was rising, around 6:30 am. On Marathon morning, the Ferry takes the vast majority of the 43,000+ runners to Staten Island (others travel by bus, car, or happen to live in Staten Island). Runners then wait until their assigned start time (there are three "Waves" that start 30 minutes apart) in color coded Start Villages determined by your color assignment. I was assigned to Orange Wave 2. While traveling from the Upper East Side of Manhattan to my Start Village, I met a lot of runners from other cities and countries. I am looking forward to catching up with some of my new friends soon!

While the comaraderie in Staten Island was wonderful, the outside temperature was not - it was COLD! When I finally lined up at the start line with my fellow Orange Wave 2 runners, my toes were numb. I hoped that they would warm up during the first two miles, and thankfully, they did. I should note that the NYC Marathon has several notorious hills on the course, the first one being the Verazzano Bridge that spans the first mile and 1/2 of the course. What a way to start!

After you cross the bridge into Brooklyn, you remain in the borough for about the next ten miles. But, wow, Brooklynites make sure you have all the support you could want. People line nearly the entire Brooklyn stretch of the course cheering, holding up signs, and handing out water, fruit and snacks between aid stations.

In Queens (miles 13 - 16), I got to see my parents and aunt cheering me on. That energized me into the mile-long Queensboro Bridge. The Queensboro Bridge is another notorious hill, as well as the longest stretch of course that is nearly devoid of any spectators, which gives it a quiet, eerie feeling that finally gives way to a cavernous roar when you exit the bridge onto Manhattan's First Avenue where crowds tend to be so thick the police set up barriers to hold them back. In fact, the crowds were so large I unfortunately did not see many friends and family cheering for me (thanks for being out there anyway!).

My friend Betty met me near mile 18 and ran with me through the Bronx and upper Manhattan until we reached the entrance to Central Park between Mile 23 and 24. Thanks for keeping me company through the those late, tough miles, Betty!

Betty took this photo of me somewhere around Mile 22... somehow, I'm still smiling!

When I finally hit the final mile at the south end of Central Park, I knew I would finish with a personal best time by far. I crossed the finish line in 4:07:24, more than 21 minutes faster than when I ran the marathon last year. I was so excited! And I have raised nearly $2,000 (just $81 shy) for Girls on the Run SoleMates during my training for Sunday's big run. Thanks to all who donated!

If you're in New York, I'm having a post-marathon celebration at Katwalk Bar on West 35th Street. I'll be guest bartending from 7 - 10 pm and Katwalk will donate money to GOTR for every drink I make. So if you've ever had a desire to order me around, come buy a drink or two or more and socialize with fellow runners and supporters!