Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Staten Island Half Race Recap

Sunday's Staten Island Half was my fourth in the New York Road Runners' 2013 5-Borough Series, and that means I just qualified for guaranteed entry to the hugely popular NYC Half next spring. I will have guaranteed entry to the 2014 ING New York City Marathon as soon as I volunteer in mid-November, so that means my 2014 includes both NYC majors and I can start building my race calendar around those.

My finish time at Staten Island was 2:37:57. The previous Sunday, it was 2:37:45 for the Grete's Great Gallop Half, which was twice around Central Park. I ran both Halfs at marathon pace, so I think I can pretty well lock in a similar time for the first half of the NYC Marathon on Nov. 3. I'd like to finish between 5-5:30, probably closer to the latter, and I can't wait for the greatest race on Earth.

The Staten Island Half deserves its own race recap here. It was special mostly because it was part of Staten Island Day, and our registration fees ($35 for me) went to ongoing Sandy Relief. A minimum of $100,000 is being donated to the Siller Foundation and the Emergency Children's Health Organization (ECHO). The last time I was on Staten Island was last November, when we all donned our orange and unused tech shirts from the canceled 2012 NYC Marathon and ran on Staten Island with loaded backpacks to help as many impacted residents as we could. I had no power for a week and that was nothing compared to the loss some suffered. On this day, I found myself back on the Staten Island Ferry and headed to that borough, which also happens to be the start of our marathon.

It was an awesome event, which I want to say first. Here were two things that are not really knocks, just things I wasn't personally expecting and know to watch out for next time:

- There were 3 Ferry rides in the morning: 6:30, 7 and 7:30. The Half started at 8:30 and it's a 25-minute ride, so taking the last one got me to the start area in plenty of time. Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that you'd better be on one of the first 2 Ferry rides if you want to use the porta-potty. The porta-potty lines were monsters and I was among many who scrambled just in time to cross the start line (hate that).

- If you think the Staten Island Half is flat, then think again. It is an out-and-back, and the only flat part is along the shore at roughly miles 5-9, where mile 7 is the switchback point so 2 flat miles both ways. Other than that, it's a roller-coastery kind of place. I had no idea. The last mile is the toughest finish I have encountered in a long time, so in the future make sure you plan to save some juice for the kick. I don't really think the Staten Island Half is much "easier" than any Central Park half.

Thanks to all the volunteers who took the super-early Ferry over and made it an amazing race. I really enjoyed myself. Here were the highlights, in no particular order:

- The scenery. On the Ferry ride, you get an up-close look at the Statue of Liberty. She is so beautiful. It was a great photo opp, but more importantly it was a chance to just appreciate what she means. Especially right this very moment as we are awaiting progress in our nation's capital. At the start area, it is just mesmerizing to look at Lower Manhattan, with the Freedom Tower glistening in the morning sun. Also, the plentiful beach views of the Atlantic Ocean along the out portion of the race.

- The DJ inside the echo-chamber underpass beneath the Verazzano-Narrows Bridge expressway. I am not a clubber, but if I was, this is the guy I would want DJing for me. It made an otherwise dank and quiet stretch of the race very powerful and fun. It was powerful. Note to NYRR: I really wish we could get this guy to DJ on the lower level of the Queensboro Bridge at Mile 16 (hint hint).

- The medal. Nice bling! Add that baby to the collection!

- The inspiration. Jen Correa lost her home in Oakwood Beach during Sandy, but she was there and inspired the field of more than 6,800 runners: "We’re all here, we’re all strong, and we’re all ready to run," she said. Oh, did I mention she is going to be running with us at the NYC Marathon? NYC Power.

- The weather. It was perfect. The previous Sunday was about 95% humidity at Central Park. We could not have asked for better temps, and while it was a little breezy at times, it never was too windy.

- Mary Wittenberg, NYRR CEO, was running in the opposite direction as us at maybe mile 3, so I high-fived her and as always was amazed at how much she cares about runners. A few weeks ago, she was running from the start to the finish line and back during the Fifth Avenue Mile. This happens year-round. She should be officially declared Commissioner of Running in America or something like that. I'm actually serious about this. Running is as big as all the other sports, and it should have an uber organization, I think, and all the races flow into that. Nothing is as big as NYRR, so it seems like a logical progression to me. Commissioner Mary just sounds right.

- Staten Island Day. This really made the event for me. There was something for everyone after the finish line, including field access at the Staten Island Yankees' ballpark. You would think that would have been my scene since I work in Baseball, but no, my day was absolutely made by something totally unexpected. After grabbing a pizza slice and drink, I noticed a big rock wall. It was there thanks to the U.S. Army, which set up a recruiting booth. You just had to fill out a form and then three or four Army soldiers were waiting there to help you add a little #beastmode to your day.

I have never climbed a rock wall in my life. As a boy in school, I was awful at climbing a wall with pegs, and I've never been much of a pull-ups guy. And not only that, I had just run a Half Marathon! But for some reason, I wanted to have a go and see if I could get to the top. Guess what? I did it. ARMY STRONG! Thanks to the kind Army staffers in fatigues who encouraged and helped me and added to the fun of Staten Island Day.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bronx 10-Mile

My 77th New York Road Runners race (and 89th overall) since I traded smoking for running in 2006 was the Bronx 10-Mile on Sunday. It was my third of four required NYRR 5-Borough Series races in 2013 for exemption to the 2014 NYC Half, and I will complete that requirement with the Oct. 15 Staten Island Half. I finished the Bronx 10-Mile in 1:56.38.

I parked at Yankee Stadium, and it was a moving scene for me because as I got back to my car following the race, I looked up and there was the intense visage of Mariano Rivera, shown gripping a cutter, with his large name and the now-retired 42. This would be the last day of his baseball career, so I had a pretty cool moment as the wait began for me to vote for him to the Hall of Fame when that ballot arrives in the mail in December of 2018.

The Bronx 10-Mile is an out-and-back, most of it on Grand Concourse. Pretty easy course compared to Central Park, not completely flat but not too bad. What I noticed most was the absence of WIND -- my bane as a runner -- that was common whenever I would run this event previous as the Bronx Half in late winter. Here are pics: