Saturday, August 18, 2007

Training Week 5: Long Run - Queens, NY

Originally it was called the Queens Long Run #1. I got slightly lost, so it became #1B...LOL..

Course: Queens Long Run #1B
Towns: Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Flushing Meadows, Corona, Flushing, Kissena Park, Oakland Gardens, Cunningham Park, Briarwood
Distance: 15.5 Miles
Date: Saturday, August 18, 2007
Time: 08:05 AM
Weather: 60F, 40% Humidity
Course Path: (see map)
Elevations: (see graph)

I couldn't wait to get today's run started. The weather in New York had been hot and muggy almost all summer long. The only exceptions? The deluges of flooding and thunderstorms like I've never seen before around here (Mr. Gore, you may be right after all).

With only 6 ounces of water and a medium sized banana in my belly, I headed out at about 8am to start my long run. I was afraid that I was starting too late, that perhaps the weather would be too hot. Boy, was I wrong!

So cool! And windy too! Not a cloud in the sky either. The weatherman said 59 degrees about 15 minutes earlier. It felt even cooler with the breeze. Here's my experience in photos: (note that I did not bring my Blackberry to shoot photos this time 'round. Instead, I took photos later on in the day, in addition, to good quality photos of the areas I ran past, that I found on the internet. A big thank you goes out to the website, , they are the spirit of New York, when it comes to real good photographs.

Section 1: Kew Gardens & Queens Boulevard

I've grown up and had some incredible memories in both Kew Gardens & Forest Hills. The product of a divorced family, I had lived in many places in my life, some of these places were in complete affluence, like Hewlett, Long Island, and others were real scary areas like Laurelton, NY in South Jamaica, Queens. Some places were as busy as living near Hillside Avenue, others as rural as Medford, Suffolk, Long Island at Exit 64, off the Long Island Expressway. Some places, like Astoria, I don't remember because I was too young. But others, like Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and Rego Park, and totally unforgettable. My mother and stepfather, on the verge of a financial bankruptcy, had moved us from Medford after being there for only 1 year, and took us all the way back to Queens, to Forest Hills, NY. It was, and still is, a great place to live.
Years later, I would move into Kew Gardens, before making perhaps the worst mistake of my life, which was to get married (1st time) to someone that I had nothing in common. I now live in the area again, and all of the great memories associated with my youth, only helps to keep me young when I hit the asphalt to run.

The first hill up Lefferts is always tough. Most times, I'm still half asleep on its steep incline. At the top of the hill is the Maple Grove Cemetery. How appropriate. Then, it's a left turn down Kew Gardens Road, all the way until it empties out into Queens Boulevard near Union Turnpike.

I stayed on the south side of Queens Blvd. But across "Death" was the Civic Virtue Monument pictured above. The streets were nearly void of cars, a good thing for the Boulevard known as the "Boulevard of Death" for all the people that have been hit by cars in the last 30 years.
The last photo used to be the Ridgewood Savings bank. It's on Queens Blvd., right on the corner of 108th street (directly across from 71st St.-Continental Avenue). It was there I forked to the right and headed down 108th, until I got to 69th, where I turned right. As always, I always run AGAINST traffic so that I can see the approaching motorists, and always stay on the left hand side, even on one-ways. Mile 1: 10:18

Section 2: Meadow Lake, Flushing Meadow Park,
Shea Stadium, Corona, and Roosevelt Ave.
For all the hustle 'n' bustle that Queens Boulevard is,
this section is in sharp contrast to it.

After the long downhill on 69th Rd., it's a quick cut across the exit
ramp of the Grand Central Parkway and a small, 2 foot
climb over the guardrail into Meadow Lake.

Far cleaner and more accessible than its souther sibling, Willow Lake, Meadow Lake has a tendency to overflow into the path after hard rains. This morning was a bit of a challenge, because although the rains the night before were not that hard, there were some massive puddles nonetheless I had to circum-navigate by. At the north end of the lake is the overpass to the L.I.E. (Long Island Expressway) and it is essentially to Flushing Meadow Park, home to two World Fairs (1939 and 1964). The overpass is short, but steep. I concentrated at looking down
on the ground to minimize the psychological impact of the incline. But to best avoid the cyclists, I did so on the sidewalk, and on the center road.

The Unisphere.
I actually took this shot when I came back with the kids. I must admit, it came out pretty good.
Flushing Meadow is loaded with places that even non-New Yorkers know about. Here are
some attention grabbers that I actually passed along the way. See which ones you recognize...

From the Observatory Towers to the Queens Museum of Art and the New York Panorama. And from the site of the US Open, and the home of the New York Mets, there are plenty of great, fun things to do in Queens at Flushing Meadow. The last photo happens to be that of CitiField, the Mets new ballpark for the 2009 season and beyond. Not pictured, Flushing Meadow is also the home of the NY Science Hall Museum, and is the site where many multinationals come to compete in Football (American Soccer). If you would like to know a lot more about the park and of its long and illustrious history then just click on the link below after finishing up the blog -->

As you can see by my mile splits below, I've been quite careful to take my sweet ass time going thru these long runs. At some point, I will start to speed up, but for now, I want to continue focusing on duration just as much as mileage in these runs.

Mile 2: 9:50 // Mile 3: 10:10 // Mile 4: 10:11 //Mile 5: 10:14

Section 3: Flushing (a.k.a. - How to Travel to Asia without needing a Passport)

Roosevelt Avenue is unique road. When you come from the park, you'll immediate notice the overhead elevated tracks. In the old days, in the REAL old days of New York, there were very few subways, or trains that were below ground. Most of them were "El"s, short for Elevated. In fact almost all trains in NYC were Els for quite awhile. The "7" train which comes from Times Square in New York City and which ends up at Main Street & Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, basically runs through a good portion of Roosevelt. If you make a left turn then when coming from out of the park, and head west on Roosevelt, you will immediately start to hear the sounds of Latino music blasting through car stereos, and hear very little English being spoken on the street. Shops, restaurants, banks, travel agencies, etal, are all contoured to the Spanish speaking populus that has dominated the areas of Jackson Heights and Corona for as long as I can remember (and that's saying something because I was born in 1965!!!).

But if you turn right, and head East as I did, you will suddenly find yourself clear across the globe, halfway across it actually. For you have just stepped into China. Or Korea. Or Thailand, and have absolutely no clue about the difference between the people of any of those or of the other Asian cultures that are now slamming your senses.

As I crossed over the Van Wyck, I also was crossing over the foulness of the southern inlet of Willets Point. Nothing as harsh as the English Kills from my Long Run of 3 weeks ago (see my blog), but still, there's nothing like that fresh aroma that says "sulfur" and "toxic waste" when all your body has been doing for the last 5 miles is purging itself of its own toxins. However, the outstanding human union workers that carry out their bosses' missions to make waste, and make it smell real bad, were not in town today (yeehaw for Saturday's). So, it was a treat just to
smell stale air and nothing worse.

But then the air changed as I entered Flushing. Can someone say "sushi", "suppa di pesci", "rotten, rancid FISH?". It amazes me how the Asian culture can walk up and down streets that smell of the nastiest "fish-left-out-in-100-degree-weather" odors, and not flinch, let alone gag over it.

Running along the cemented pathway, there was a huge puddle easily 10 feet long and at least 4 inches deep. Not wanting to sacrifice my sneaks. Me and Mr. Brooks (Beast, I call him for short) jumped over the retaining wall and ran for my life for about 50 yards, making sure no car would kill me, before jumping back over the retaining wall. Hey.....Can I officially qualify this run now as a big, fat, huge fartlek run now?

I wanted to sprint my way past the entire town of Flushing, as I usually want always to do, but, like always, it was futile. The seas not only smelled of dead fish, but the seas were also busting at the seams with people.

People. People. And More People. It was 10am, and the streets were thick of walkers. I could not even jog. I almost felt like a certain football star (who shall remain nameless) who made a commercial, in which he was running through an airport to make it in time to a Hertz Rental Counter.

Alas, I was also feeling thirsty. And wouldn't you know it....My old "work" alma-matter came into view:

This was where I worked when I was attending High School (more on that to come in this blog).
I started on October 15, 1982. I'll never forget it. Not only was it a great job, but there were great kids working with me, and I have countless stories about them. One individual in particular, one blonde haired girl to be more precise, stole my heart. To this day, she has yet to return it. Thief!

But I digress. I made my way inside, and asked for a "courtesy". John Stanislaw, the owner at
that time, had had his managers teach us about how to ask for free food while we worked there.
I don't believe he was that friendly, but his managers were, including one bright fellow, named Richard (Ricky) Taggart, the night shift manager. A courtesy for him, might have meant a full meal for free. I can remember all those Quarter Pounder with Cheeses that I ate, and never gained an ounce to my then skeletal, 128 pound frame. Ahhh, to be young like that again!

I got my small cup of water, and went back outside. I actually stopped for a few minutes (not recorded on my watch) and read the free AM newspaper as I drank in the middle of Main Street, Flushing. It was at this point where I started to feel a little bit lightheaded. It was not a bad feeling though but a good one. The one that you get when a sudden rush of endorphins are secreted from your brain. I had just entered a runner's high. In fact, I felt stoned.

As I made my way south and uphill on Main, different cultures began to threaten. Hindus & Arabic peoples, clothing stores and food markets, came into view. Smells of "bacala" were quickly being replaced with that of curry. Then the curry was being replaced with other smells (not sure what they were, but it was when I passed a whole bunch of arabic stores).

I passed by Blossom Avenue, once home to a once lifelong friend, Doug Botero (aka. Douglas Botero, aka "Monst"). By now, I was headed downhill on Main. I then passed the edge of the Queens Botanical Gardens on my left, and then it was back to a long uphill for which the summit would be NY Hospital (once known as Booth Memorial Hospital).

Mile 6 - 10:31 // Mile 7 - 09:46

Section 4: Kissena Park and running with others..

So, I'm running and there's this guy, whose wearing a Harley shirt whose running as well, but he sprints and walks, sprints past me and then slows down. I get a close look, and it's an FDNY shirt done up in a Harley Davidson logo.

As we're coming up on 164th, another runner, Hindu-American I believe, catches up and starts running ahead of me as well. I love to race, but I still have about 6 or so miles to go, so I let her get ahead.

Besides, I was about to make my right to Underhill Road anyway, and I knew they weren't coming for the ride either as my agenda was a "big run" agenda, probably a bit longer than theirs.

This part of the run is uneventful if it weren't for the fact that it is also a welcomed relief from the zoo-like conditions on Main Street earlier. See? I did this course to provide me the perfect Ying-Yang effect. Whatever..... Mile 8 - 9:50

Section 5: The Twilight Zone.

For some reason, every time I run this course, I get lost. And here is where it happens:

Do you see how I made a left on Fresh Meadow Ln.? Well, that was a goof-up. It was supposed to be a right, followed by a left onto Peck, and then all the way up to Franny Lew.

Instead, I took a left, and started seeing "new" things. First, the name of the road suddenly changed itself to Auburndale Lane.

Cemetery. No clue. Not on Map.

Feeling absolutely lost, yet again, and yet in the same general vicinity as the last few times, I asked around for which way to Francis Lewis. I got all kinds of answers.

Yep. I was asking him for directions too...

I finally did get someone parked in a Corolla, who told me that I was running parallel to Francis Lewis all the time (by now I was on Hollis Court Blvd.). I ran up a few blocks and sure enough there was Francis Lewis. Mile 9 - 9:32 // Mile 10 - 9:45

Section 6: Francis Lewis Blvd., St. Francis Prep., Franciscan Brothers, Streets of San Francisco and Connie Francis....

Francis Lewis Boulevard - Big road in Queens. Great place to drag race.

St. Francis Prep - Where I went to High School. Lotsa memories, lotsa stories. Some wonderful, some tragic, all stressful.

Franciscan Brothers - The priests that run St. Francis Prep.

Streets of San Francisco - Police show of the late 60's/early 70s starring Karl Malden and a very young Michael Douglas. In real life, no car axel could really handle the pounding that those cars went through on 'dem'dar hills!

Connie Francis-Whose Sorry Now?

An honorable mention goes to James Franciscus and the nation of France.

And just as punch drunk as I just sounded here, this ought to give you a picture of what it feels like to be a person that is getting dehydrated from lack of H2O....
Francis Lewis Boulevard
St. Francis Prep. My old High School. My origins of racing!
Union Turnpike. Time to make a right turn already!!!

Mile 11 - 9:38 // Mile 12 - 9:39

Section 7: Union Turnpike, Quantum Feet & St. Johns University

Okay. So I passed the famous Cunningham Park, a great hangout of mine during my teens.

This was the place that saw me exchange much saliva with Leona (jewish last name) & Becky Soto, two girls of noteworthy mention back then. And as I started to think of all the frolicking that took place there, mostly in the evening, and mostly after my curfew, I started realizing that I was lacking some of it now. No not women. Saliva. That thing called 'thirst' has come back to me again. Gee whiz...10 ounces in 12 miles....I wonder why I'd be so thirsty?

Seriously though, it began to become a problem. And then I remembered that at Quantum Feet, they had a water cooler in the back room. I saw it there with my own eyes the day the shop had closed at 7pm. We were all outside last year over there, because they sponsor group runs every Tuesday last year (still do). So, I stopped by. But no water cooler. Instead, I took a cup and drank from the tap. Bleccch!!! But who's complaining? 2 cups and 12 ounces later, I was back on Union Turnpike, trying to make it up the long and steady uphill (take a look at the course elevation...overall, it is almost uphill the entire course after Mile 5!

I continued onward, passing another mile (from Quantum at 188th), and I arrived at the corner of 168th and Union. St. John's University. Love it or hate it, I always wondered how big MY house in Port Washington could have been, if I had gotten a degree from here, and if I had entered into a business that worked with money too....Now if I can only get my Honda Civic to produce a nuclear reaction to generate the 1.21 gigawatts of electricity I need..... Well, you know the rest...

Mile 13 - 9:30

Section 8: Seal The Deal! (and no....I am not talking about Affordable Housing by the Government)

Back to Main St. again! Crossing the GCP Briarwood. Qns Blvd. right ahead!

The last remaining uphill!

My legs were feeling very strong. The batteries in my footpod were low, but still worked. No cramping. A feeling of exhaultation. Wow. I am even beginning to think that I might be a long-distance runner after all! Not only that, but today's run was 15.5 miles, and I actually did a negative split (for non-runners this means that the last half of my run was faster than my first half). Aggregately, I also have 46.3 miles for my week total and that's a record!

Interestingly, it took me 2 hours and 32 minutes to do the run, but yet it took me more to do this blog. Perhaps, I should stick to running!

It's Bedtime for Gonzo for me. If I can squeeze it in, I might try another 4 miles if my legs are up to it tomorrow, and I know just the right place to achieve that milestone too......

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am exhausted!
Who the hell is Becky Soto?
Laurelton was an integrated area then, not too bad. As a matter of fact most "african-americans" were Jamaicans! And real nice people. Remember you got mugged gunpoint at a gas station by two white people!
And Jamaica was Jamaica Estates. Quite a difference from Sutphin Blvd's Jamaica! Where there was a Motor Vehicle Dept. or a Zoo? I can't remember exactly.