Sunday, February 10, 2008

RACE REPORT: CONTINENTAL AIRLINES BRONX HALF-MARATHON

Race: NYRR Half-Marathon Grand Prix Presented by Continental Airlines: Bronx
Date: Sunday, February 8, 2008
Time: 8am

Distance: 13.1 Miles (Half-Marathon)
Course:
The 13-mile course will take you south on Goulden Avenue. Turn right on 195th Street, and then right on Sedgwick Avenue to Mosholu Parkway to a turnaround at Marion & Hull Avenues. Retrace the route to 195th Street. Turn left onto Goulden Avenue, and then right onto Bedford Park Boulevard, left onto Paul Avenue and then right onto Mosholu Parkway. Make a quick right onto the Grand Concourse to a turnaround at 179th Street, and return to Mosholu Parkway. Turn right and continue to the same turnaround at Marion & Hull Avenues. Coming back on Mosholu Parkway, turn onto Goulden Avenue to the Finish Line.
Weather: Partly Cloudy, Windy 24MPH, 37F


At 4:30am my alarm clock woke me up to Jethro Tull's "Bungle In The Jungle". A foretold destiny perhaps? As I lumbered out of bed, Ileana got up with me and told me that she would accompany me to the race. I have to admit, although she can be a pain at times, it's pretty cool for anyone who is willing to wait for someone to wait for a half-marathon to finish especially if that someone could care less about my racing.

My weigh in was 162.4 pounds. This was already ominous. I have ran in 14 Half-Marathons previous to this, and weighed over 160 in 5 of them. They also happen to be the 5 worst races I ran too, never having run better than 1:59:18. Another note: I should have slept more as well. I only got about 6.5 hours.

The clothing apparatus:
Layer 1: Under====Layer 2: Race====Layer 3: Cold Wthr.

Having packed everything the night before, breakfast and driving to the start was fairly uneventful. By getting to Goulden Street near Bronx Science High School before 6am, we were able to park the car in the lot right by the starting line.

Once parked, Ily and I pushed our seats all the way back for what was supposed to have been a restful nap before the race. All was well, but as I started to slip away, my mind, clear now of the stress of the race, focused on something. Something, that would wake me up immediately. The something was my race chip!

Apparently, I did not remember packing it last night, but remembered having held it in my hand before. Quickly, I jolted to, and looked and saw nothing in my bag.

Goodbye nap.

I went to the High School at about 6:30am where the last-minute registration was being held, and was fortunate enough to learn, that what happened to me was pretty
common. Without a fuss, they gave me another chip, and another number.

So, instead of running with this:
















I wound up running with this instead:
















The weather was cold, and wet. I've always been known to run well on cold days, but when it's humid, then that's another story. It's feels kinda like getting out of the shower in the winter. Not very pleasant. Bone chilling actually!

After dropping trow in the portable latrine, I felt I was now ready and feeling
good. I took a few more shots, dropped off the camera, and lined up.



Swept up by the anxiety of this race, and of my past memories of it, and of the
Bronx as a whole, I totally forgot to turn on my "Garmie" in time, and as a result
my watch didn't link up with the satellites until I was already a little over a tenth
of a mile into my race. I reset my watch when I got to the first mile marker.


The first mile was a bitch. Uphill most of the way, and the street was completely wet to boot. Even though I had warmed up, and used a sports creme, my left posterior shin, was exceptionally tight.

The wet street helped nothing, as I was noticing how hard my landing felt. Actually, I now just realized that I had run 637 miles on these sneakers at the start of this race and I should have retired these shoes around 500 miles.

This area was mostly residential, and it seemed eerie that no one was outside. I even looked at the windows. Nothing.
For a moment I felt like everyone living here had evacuated. Then again, with this being the Bronx, could you blame anyone if this were true?

My left leg was really hurting me, and I began wondering what did I do at only Mile 1 to get this way?

I also started to feel very hot. My Asics jacket was become a burden. And before I even finished my first mile, I had already taken my number off the jacket, took my jacket off, and reattached the number to my green technical shirt. This took speed away from me, but considering the pain I was already in, it didn't matter.

Mile 2 was a 1/2 mile out an back extension of Mile 1. Most of this mile was downhill. The gravity actually hurt me more than it helped. At least, the cold air felt great though. At the water station, I actually stopped, hoping that it would alleviate the tightness. It did a little, but it still hurt.


The third mile was a straight run (mostly downhill) on Mosholu Parkway South. As my left leg began to mend a bit, I was trying to do some internal meditation, anything, to get my pain to go away. Funny enough, a song came on over my iPod, called "F**k the Pain Away" by Peaches. A highly-charged sexually explicit song, it made me think, "Perhaps, if I can focus on something entertaining, I could alleviate the focus of the pain that I have". And it worked! There was a woman in front of me, wearing black tights. She had a big butt. It looked like two meatballs. 'Meatballs from Heaven', I thought.

Slipping into 'erotic-world', the pain in my leg was nearly gone! I had just entered into a tunnel (from an overpass) on Mosholu. It was pitch black. I was following the runners, but there was someone in front of me (no longer Miss Meatballs) who was going rather slow. I cut around this person, and suddenly, sharp sharp pain, entered my left leg again.

What on Earth was a pothole, the depth of a football, doing near the double yellow lane anyway??! I nearly wiped out. I had stopped from the uneven impact. The words I yelled in that tunnel must have echoed all the way to Westchester County.

Mile 3 was downhill. Mile 4 was the reverse of it. My leg was in pain again, but this time it didn't last as long. I hadn't even finished a quarter of the race, and I was already feeling beaten like a no-good contender going against a heavyweight champion.

A small glimmer of hope: A man holding a sign that read "Pain Does Not Matter". The sign was small, and the guy looked out of place. It almost seemed like he was there for me only. It was uplifting.

.

Of the 14 Half-Marathons that I have ran in, the previous Bronx Half-Marathons I did came in 11th and 13th place. Last Place was the first Queens Half Marathon, which I did after nursing a broken leg for nearly 3 months and little training.

The one thing about the Bronx that gets me nuts, is not so much the repitition, but the fact that we are repeating hilly terrains. It is a very challenging course. Mile 5 was a serious of hills with the Jerome Park Reservoir on the left.

If there is one thing about the Bronx, that one can fervently count on, is the vermin that exists there literally. I read somewhere once that the Bronx is home to some 20,000,000 million rats. In the last two races in the Bronx, I saw a dead rat on the street. The product of a hit and run. Today would be no different. By the corner of E.195th & Webb, there was a nice, juicy foot long rat, with its entrails hanging outside of it, like some old busted cassette tape.

For the last 4 miles, I had been running with my jacket tied around my waist. It was inconvenient at best, as it wanted to slip beneath my waist. By the time I was completing Mile 6, I began to notice the familiar territory. This was close to the starting line. So, when everyone made the right onto Bedford Park Boulevard, I actually continued straight for about another 100 yards or so, and over the fence that separated the sidewalk from the parking lot, I threw a strike, as my jacket landed right on the windshield of my car. Ileana, inside, gave me a crazy look (which I had expected). I waved, and ran back to join the herd. I lost valuable time, about 1 minute or so, but who knows how much more time I would have lost, if I would have kept that jacket.

Mile 7 was a boring run along Paul Avenue at first, follwed by a steep hill that took us up onto the Grand Concourse. The Grand Concourse is a very wide boulevard. In each direction there are two separate roads, a main and service, each with 3 and 2 lanes respectively. I'd like to compare it to Queens Boulevard. Normally, it is a bustling place, but given the temperature and the date and time, most sane people were home, probably making cuchifrito or some nonsense like that.

The wind kicked up in a hurry. So much so, that I began questioning whether or not, I made the right choice in getting rid of my thermal windbreaker.

Mile 8 should have been the best of all my miles. It wasn't. The headwind was kicking up. As much as 40mph at times. The only solace I took from this was the fact that the moment I turned back, that I would have the wind at my back for the uphill. Hah...But keep reading....

Another tunnel. This time it wasn't as dark, and this time, I wasn't going to try to overpass anyone either. The lactic acid in my legs was bristling, and my mind was already tired as heck. Fortunately, no drama here.

There was one event however that really made me run faster. Or erratic. Some idiot decided it was okay to give their 4 year old kid the leash to a black Siberian Husky that clearly was, heavier than him. And as a result, the dog got loose. And as a result of that, a few people were being almost attacked by this stupid mongrel. Including myself. I love the Bronx!

Aren't we having a delightful run thus far?

.

The wind seemed to have died down a bit on approach to Mile 9, but it was still a force to be reckoned with. I, who had decided to relinquish my gloves, and even roll up my sleeves, was still not freezing though. Just tired. As with the case with the Memorial Day 10-Miler that I typically do in Long Beach each year, headwind to me is by far the worst element to a runner. Even drafting behind other, taller runners, seem to have no effect whatsoever.

It is in this mile that I am noticing that I cannot keep up with people passing me anymore. With all that I've had to endure, I'm running out of gas, and in trouble. I use my brain (haha) to focus on the fact that I only have 3-4 miles to go, something I normally do in my sleep, as a way to visualize that the end is near. It helps. But when I stopped at the Gatorade station, I actually stopped.

The turnaround was on E.179th street, about a mile or so from where Yankee Stadium is. Still, there were few people lined up to watch. I guess the Bronx is disinterested about the event. Like I gave a shit to begin with...lol

So going northbound towards mile 10, I did get that tailwind I wanted....but it only lasted a minute!

My right foot now started to want to get cramps. I did all I could to prevent a final fatal blow to this tough run today....

.

Getting to Mile 11 was nice. The end of it was downhill. That's where we come back off the Grand Concourse, and turn right onto Mosholu Parkway, yet again!

Mile 11 was just like mile 2: All downhill. And so, of course Mile 12 was the reverse. At one point, I stopped and walked. It lasted all of 5 seconds. Somehow today's race had this NYC Marathon appeal to it. I was dead tired as if I had run a marathon. Between my weight, the leg, the ditch and the dog, whaddaya expect? And speaking of that ditch, I was VERY careful not to step in ANY ditch when I rentered the tunnel as I strove for mile 13.

Mile 13. The blessed final mile. This is the mile when I get the chance to think about the finish line, and bagels (not necessarily in that order..lol). There was a tall black man, who had either been a race director, or was a finisher. He was encouraging us all to finish. He even ran along side me, and encouraged me, me on the road, him on the sidewalk. But I couldn't even keep up with him. My normal burst of speed, was gone. I almost spazed out in my right leg, back in Mile 12, and thus I wasn't going to take any chances in ruining my time.

Ahhhhh Yes, the moment you've all been waiting for (as if). The time.

Never having run a Half-Marathon in February before, I wasn't sure what to expect. Oh sure, I did run the Manhattan Half in Jan of 2006, but the mercury nearly hit 50 degrees at the start of the race, and there wasn't that much wind.

By what you have all read by now, all my bitching, griping, moaning, and everything else, you would probably guess that I probably had my worst performance ever. Well let's see. The following is a history of all my races, with a rating that I created that measures my ability versus the overall, gender, and age group too.

Bronx Half Marathon Mile-By-Mile:

Mile 01- 9:09.9
Mile 02 - 8:27.1
Mile 03 - 9:10.17
Mile 04 - 8:42.75
Mile 05 - 9:03.28
Mile 06 - 9:29.63
Mile 07 - 9:24.65
Mile 08 - 8:50.63
Mile 09 - 8:46.38
Mile 10 - 9:04.81
Mile 11 - 8:48.57
Mile 12 - 9:02.85
Mile 13 - 8:54.11
Mile .1 - 0:53.2

FINAL TIME: 1:57:48

PACE PR/MIN: 8:59

While still not the best by far, considering all that is this race. I was happy to post up the best Bronx Half-Marathon race so far. And the best of all, is that now I can look forward to improving on this mark next year!!



Finally, and when I got home. I took off my shoe, and my sock looked like it belonged to Curt Schilling, because of all the blood. On top of everything else, my foot had been bleeding too....and it didn't even hurt! Oh, well.

I am resting now, and hopefully my legs will magically improve tomorrow!





Well, phase 1 of my training for the Long Island Marathon is officially over. I've done three races in this phase including one that I knew would be tough (this one). I've lost and gained up to 7 pounds in either direction, so I should know more or less what I need to do dietwise.

Thanks for hopping on board, and welcome to my insanity. We've got a long ride ahead but it will be worth it in the end!

PHASE 1 - COMPLETE
PHASE 2 - COMMENCE!

2 comments:

DebbieJRT said...

Gosh, Alex, love the race report. Almost like I was there!

Alex Gonzalez said...

Thanks Deb....Wow, we're both in Queens, fellow cancerians, and I used to live in Bellerose myself too. Cool!