Saturday, April 14, 2007

SHATTERED! ...but what exactly does that mean?

A little over two years ago, I ran in the Pfizer Oncology 4 Mile race in Central Park. My shins were aching terribly, yet I was able to complete the race in 31:02, for a pace of 7:46. The following week, I ran the Brooklyn Half-Marathon for the first time, and I finished the race with terrible, terrible pain. Two weeks and another race later, I learned from my doctor, that I had fractured my left tibia. The X-Ray was very clear. There was a solid white line, going horizontally across my lower leg bone (something like this, which I dug out from Google).
It was apparent that this was not normal. Further, there was already calcification, that had been there for several weeks, as the doctor had said.

Therefore I ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon with a broken, if not shattered, left leg.

Moving forward to now:
A few weeks ago, I had taken a few days off because of some discomfort that I had felt, in my calves (the source of my heartbreak during last year's NYC Marathon). I took off 3 days, and started running again, with no let up in sight.

Last night, I started seeing something odd about my upper left leg, around the inside, and about 4 inches down. It was kinda swollen, but it was also sore to the touch.

This morning, after having my coffee. And yes, after lowering my weight further to 153 (please do not ask how this was accomplished....I'm trying to keep this a "PG" rated site), I headed out with gym bag in girlfriend at hand to the car and to the race.
The Belt Parkway had 6:45AM.
But I arrived at Coney Island safe and sound.

For those of you unfamiliar with Brooklyn or NYC history, "Wikipedia", an awesome Internet encyclopedia has this to say, about Coney Island:
"Coney Island is a peninsula, formerly an island, in southernmost Brooklyn, New York City, USA, with a famous beach lying on the Atlantic Ocean. The eponymous neighborhood is a community of 60,000 people in the western part of the peninsula, with Seagate to its west; Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach to its east; and Gravesend to the north.
The area was a major resort and home of Astroland amusement park that reached its peak in the early 20th century. It declined in popularity after World War II and endured years of neglect. In recent years, the area has been revitalized by the opening of KeySpan Park, home to the successful Brooklyn Cyclones minor league baseball team. The Cyclones are a huge success and bring in a lot of sports fans during open season."

I found parking at a meter directly in front of the Cyclone on Surf Avenue...

And although the sign said No Parking 8-8:30a except Sunday, the police in the their double-parked van told me not to worry about it, and also suggested that I take Ileana for dinner tonight for waiting for me in the car throughout my whole race.

So I went and got my number, and came back to leave the cell phone, because it was just bouncing around too much in the back of my shirt. It was cold again this year! The temperature was said to be 40, but when you are at Coney Island, which is within a stone's throw from the Atlantic Ocean, it's at least 5-10 degrees colder, and windier too.

8AM, and we're all on the boardwalk. "On your mark" was followed by the airhorn. The warmth of being huddled with thousands of runner all around was going to end soon. The iPod got turned on. The legs were ready...Or were they?

To give you an idea of how many there were, I walked for nearly a minute before crossing the starting line, and I was lined up just in front of the 8 minute pace sign.
So how did I do?

Mile 1 - Waking Up With Wood.

Running on the boardwalk in Coney Island is a challenge for sure. If climbing over the fence to get to the starting line wasn't funny enough, making sure that you don't trip over any of the metal studs that were not properly hammered into the wooden even less funnier.
Last year, someone took a nasty fall, in the very beginning, and about 5 people all around him went along for the dip as well.
"The Distance" by Cake just came on. Awesome!
I'm going pretty fast for all this congestion, I'm thinking. Maybe too fast. This ain't no 5K and I've got to pace myself, or it's curtains (pronounced as "coy-tans" because I am in Brooklyn right now). My lungs are doing great however, and I'm also thinking that my left leg is holding up, for now too.
Mile 1 Time: 7:56.5


Mile 2 - Hairy Is As Hairy Does.

The gifted runners have already done their turnaround, and are passing me going in the opposite direction. They are skinny, fast and beautiful. Well, not beautiful. But they are fast.
As I'm running on the planks in between the studs (almost dancing to avoid them), I see an African-American who ran into a metal barrel. He was negotiating the terms of his Garmin watch (which I have to get someday, by the way). Not sure what happened to him, but then I also saw what I believe was the missing link in the genealogy table for how men evolved from apes. There was an old man, I'd say in his 60's (God bless him). He had no shirt on. Brrr. But he had fur. A lot of hairy, man-made fur. I'm thinking, is this guy a hazard, just by filling up his tank of gas? The static electricity from his back carpet could ignite the fumes!
The turnaround was negotiated well. Not too tight. Not too wide. The sun is hitting me in the
face. I'm thinking about taking off my "buff", that's my headpiece to keep my head warm, but realized I was only in mile 2.
The 2 mile marker whizzed by my head. My watch showed me numbers, but in my head I said to myself, "Alex! YOU ARE GOING TO BURN OUT! SLOW DOWN!!!"
Mile 2 - Time: 7:55

Mile 3: Brighton Beach Memoirs

Finishing up the boardwalk section of the race, we all spilled out onto Surf avenue, and surprise...It was right by where my car was parked!! I looked in the car for Ileana, but could not get close enough. Little did I know that she was outside the car, and taking pictures!

Coming off the ramp, I definitely slowed down. Hopefully, this would not be a sign of more ill to come...or would it?
Mile 3 time - 8:25.4


Mile 4: Welcome To The Parkway

As we passed the New York Aquarium, and curved left onto Ocean Parkway, the blast of air that I had expected from my left, never came. Yesterday I trained in my office gym. I placed this fan, whose blades were like 18 inches long, right up against the left side of the treadmill. I did this because the forecast called for high winds out of the west, and since we were going to run north for nearly 6 miles on Ocean Parkway, I wanted to acclimate myself to this nonsense right away. Fact was, the sun was brighter than expected, but the wind was not to be.
As mile 4 came to a close, I looked at my watch and was shocked. I completely reversed the slowing effects. With 9 miles to go, I'd better slow down now.
Mile 4 time: 7:53.5

Mile 5: Runner #4318
As we entered Bensonhurst, usually a place where many would come and cheer, I noticed it was very quiet outside. Where is Everybody? I felt like Earl Holliman in that Twilight Zone episode of the same name too. Bensonhurst is considered by many to be Brooklyn's Little Italy. About 50,000 or roughly 1/3 of the population there are made up of Italian-Americans. Since no one was out there cheering, I was able to focus a bit better on my mechanics. I was keeping pace and doing every thing correctly. When the wind blew in front of me, I'd run behind someone tall to block it. To the left of me? I'd run to the right of the pack. After missing the first two water stops, I hit this one, knocked back carbo-gel pack, and had some Gatorade too. I found myself in pace directly behind this girl with red hair and shorts on (brave). She kept a decent pace, not too slow and not too fast. Just right. As I approached the 5 Mile marker, I noticed that my watch said, "39:53". Not wanting to be over the 8min per mile pace, I sprinted through the marker. Stupid.
Mile 5 time: 7:51.7


Mile 6: Kings Highway & The Streaker

The girl who I paced behind, fell behind by the end of the last mile, thanks to an all too-fast 7:51.

If it wasn't bad enough seeing 1 old man running nearly naked, I had to see another. This guy really had us laughing too (I think his intent), because he was running in nothing more than a colorful, tropical flowered Speedo. Ohhh Boy... This was the first mile, where I started feeling like "the machine" was getting rusty. The girl ended up in front of me by the end of this mile too. In a sea of over 5,000 runners, you have to pick your opponents carefully. Darn.

Mile 6 time: 8:06.8

Mile 7: NYRR, ya screwed up!

Where was your marker? Here I am running my heart out for me, and you and Mr. Magoo, and as I look at my watch I see 9 minutes more have gone by since the last marker. We are now at the Midwood section of Brooklyn, and for those city folks out there, we've run past 9 subway stations. Somehow or another, my legs are still going strong, despite the worry over my lumpy and sore discovery just last night. The girl who was behind, then behind again. This is getting interesting.

Mile 7 time: an estimated 7:55


Mile 8: Borough Park

Borough Park is home to one of the largest Orthodox Jewish communities outside of Israel, so I had no doubt that no one would be on the sidelines cheering for us here. It must be something to do with their beliefs and/or culture. Every time, I've ran in the NYC Marathon, and I pass through this area, you could hear a pin drop. The contrast between that and the roaring, cheering crowds everywhere else is such, that you wonder if you actually had blacked out and were in a deaf dream!

During this mile, I basically exchanged places with the redhead several times. Seems like we just can't kill the other. But who shall fail and who shall succeed, will I beat her and be victorious, or shall I lose, find a small corner to crawl into and bawl like a "wittle" baby. Only time will tell, and only the strong survive! (and really who gives a shit anyway....Well, I guess there goes my PG rating).

Mile 8 time: an estimated 7:56.6 (lap for miles 7 & 8 equaled 15:51.6)

Mile 9: Or, The End of The Good Life

With the expanse of Ocean Parkway now mostly behind me, and with an incredible sub-8 minute pace for the first 8 miles. As I past Church Ave., I made a sign of the cross and kissed my snotty slimy thumb. I was like bull, you see. To clean left nostril, close right nostril and breathe out thru nose hard, and vice-versa. Hey, I tried to be considerate at least, and not share my nasal discharge with anyone nearby.Halfway through this mile, Ocean Parkway ends by us runners running down the hill and under the Fort Hamilton Parkway overpass. At this point, the redhead took command and decided (or rather attempted) to put a blitz on me, to finish me for once, and for all. But I do not quit. Not yet, and if my "still" healthy legs have anything to do with it!

The mile 9 marker is just at the southern entrance of Prospect Park. Prospect Park was designed right after Central Park was completed and by the same chaps too. Attractions include the Long Meadow, a ninety acre meadow thought to be the largest meadow in any U.S. park.

I knew that I was at the end of the flat, straightaway. And although, I had done remarkably well, good enough for a new PR, I also knew a few other things too;

  1. I was tired.

  2. The uphills in this Park were going to be NASTY.

  3. My leg. My leg (I looked at each one just now as I write this)
Mile 9 time: 8:04.4


Mile 10: I Won't Back Down

I love Tom Petty's music. And yes, I REFUSED to back down. I passed the redhead and never looked back. Ran my heart out. Hell, I ran my lungs and spleen too. Nothing, I repeat nothing is going to slow me down! It's not about whether I can or I can't. It's about whether I will or I won't. I've done so much good in this race thus far. My God, I am even flirting for a sub-8 minute Half Marathon. I am 41 years old right?
Mile 10: 8:14.3


Mile 11: I Back Down
Oh, but how the dreamers so easily deceive themselves! Not a moment less than really feeling like I had this one all locked up; I see my first BIG hill. No problem, just take a little step here (breath), and a shorter stride there (heavier breath) , and another turn here (pant), and jump over the errant twig there (massive groan)..(and now "Red-Head passes me). And let's see; Wow. I am running out of breath and I have about two huge jugs of lactic acid now, otherwise known as my upper thighs....
The "Red-head" passed me, and this time she never looked back. For good too. Guess I was messing with the wrong opponent! At this point my thoughts of competing have regressed backwards to the point of insecurity within my abilities. 'Can I still do a sub-8? Yes, No, Yes, No, Nah...No Freaking Way!" Which then further crumbled into, 'Can I still have a PR?"

Mile 11 time: 8:21.5 (booooh!) Funny....just last year, it was still great!

Mile 12: NYRR REALLY screwes it up

The race course that NYRR has posted was wrong. (although now if you click it is right-sonofagun! Going south on Mile 12, we don't make the first left, but rather we have to go further south along the west side of the park till the next intersection, make a left there, go all across the park back to the east side, make a left and go north parallel to where those having finished their 10th mile are at, and then make another left to finish up in the center of the park! That meant another set of hills, and more torture. The redhead was not too far ahead, but she were going downhill again and she was speeding up.
Mile 12 time: 7:43.9 (Holy F*&*#^g A!!! - I didn't realize how fast I actually went downhill!!)


Mile 13: How To Die.....For A Second Time.

If I had realized just how fast I had gone in the past mile, and not be so dizzy by now, I might have had the additional umpfh needed for this next hill, which seemed even more insurmountable than the previous one. Still, and all in all, I was on my way to a new PR....Unless?
Mile 13 time: 8:28


Shattered Record or Shattered Leg?
(Well, isn't this what everyone wants to know?)

Like I said, two years ago, an unbeknownst to me, I ran with a broken leg. I'm not terribly proud of having a high threshold to pain, because I was out for two months due to it. I had pain at times this week, and while I slept 10 hours Thursday night (as the good book say to sleep long 2 nights before), I still had the swelling in the upper part of my leg. At what point then, does my leg shatter?

It doesn't!!!

Miracle of miracles!!!!!

I motor across the last tenth of my half-marathon in 48.1 seconds, and do not shatter my leg. But, by posting a final time of 1:45:39, I did destroy my previous Half-Marathon record of 1:48:08, by two-and-one-half minutes. And while my previous PR in Queens last year, was mostly flat the last 3 miles (I did an unbelievable 7:32 the last 3 miles in that one), Brooklyn is extremely difficult because of the hills in the park at the end.


POST RACE: Shelby Siegel is Runner #4318.

After my "Champion Chip" was removed off my sneakers, I saw her ahead. I made my way over, told her what a great runner she was, and thanked her for beating me. She laughed, and I did tell thank her again afterwards for helping me stay "in" it all the way (well almost!)

She did break the 8 minute per mile mark. 7:59 to be exact, and at age 32, she came in 67th overall for her age group.

As for this 41-year old goat, I came in 1302nd place overall out of 4956 runners, and you can find my results here ->OLD GOAT MAKES GOOD.

I will update this post next month with better pictures of me, once they are available from Brightroom.

ADDENDUM: More good news. I get home and my scale is now reading: 151.6. This is my lowest. Another PR!!

.............................................I think I will enjoy tonight's steak!

PS. And lastly to my new friend Ada, for whom I met on the "F" train back to Coney...Don't worry about not hitting your 7:40 pace. You might still get in with the lottery this year. And if you don't, you'll still only need 2 more races (for a total of 9), and you are in for next year.

And.....Congrats too for a great performance today!!!!


Mike said...

GREAT race summary! And congratulations on your PR!(Both of them)

Wow, I can't imagine a sub-2hr half right now... (SIGH) One day. :)

Derek said...

Congratulations on your new PR!

David González said...

Very entertaining! Was she good looking? Did u get her phone number? DON'T YOU DARE!

Hey, you did great!