Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Words are not enough

Putting this experience into words is going to be difficult. I will make a valiant attempt in the hopes that I won't sound like a bumbling idiot in the process. If I do, my disclaimer is that I'm still on an adrenaline high and well, English is NOT my first language!

The start was quite inspiring. I experienced the true meaning of “huddled masses” and boy were there MASSES!! Runners came from far and wide in all shapes sizes & colors and we were all out to face one challenge, the streets of New York City. There’s not a whole lot to do for about 3 hours hanging out in Ft. Wadsworth Staten Island. You basically sit & people watch. I realized that there were so many resourceful people out there. Some had brought along blow-up pool rafts and tarps and noodles (as pillows) to lay down on. There were even a few schmoopies out there huddled up for body heat. It’s fun observing athletes prepare for the start…stretching, getting massages, running in place, sleeping, and lubing! Definition of lubing: rubbing Vaseline or body glide aaaallll over your body reducing any possibility of skin chafing in any part of the body. Use your imagination people ha!

Mobs of people crowd the start & everyone is super amp’d up to start. Then you see it, way out in the distance. I’ve never seen it before but I’m told, yeah that’s it that’s it. It’s the Verrazano Narrows Bridge!! The beep as you walk across the rubber mats indicates you’ve officially started the New York City Marathon & 26.2 miles lie ahead of you.

Entering Brooklyn was extraordinary. You know there’s a lot of Brooklyn to cover & the excitement is just empowering. Joy & I forced ourselves to keep calm & relax & slow down. The strategy was start really slow, I mean really slow. I was really scared my knee would give out at some point & I wanted to put off that moment as long as I possibly could. If it could hold out long enough to walk the rest of the way I would be in good shape to finish. So it was charge on through Brooklyn! All the nabes were great & I loved all the support in Brooklyn.

Then around the 12 mile mark you know QUEENS is right around the corner. HOORAY!! I’ve never been so excited to see the Pulaski Bridge. It was so serene. It’s the only way I can describe it. Crossing into Queens was like the calm before the storm. The start up energy has calmed down a bit as you approach the marathon’s halfway point. Then you store your energy for the colossal Queensboro Bridge & the inevitable 1st avenue ascent. Fifteen miles are now behind you & it’s time to crank it up a notch. There’s a great band greeting your entrance to this bridge but it doesn’t prepare you for this deceptively LONG friggin bridge! Then you say your good-byes to all the…Queens representatives…I love you L.L.!!

Once you realize that the bridge is finally ending you start to hear the cheers in the distance. You start revving your engine because Manhattan is waiting for YOU. OH YEAH!!! There it is in front of you the madness of First Avenue. I was a part of that madness last year, but this year I’m on the inside of the barricades!! I always wondered why Upper Eastsiders looked so good & today I found out. When you climb up and down first avenue every day you too could look FABULOUS. The 18 mile mark was awesome. Not only were we approaching the end of our hike uptown but there were so many familiar faces waiting for us to give us the extra energy to get us into the next borough. Thanks for the Tylenol & salty bagel people!! I got this now. A good old familiar sign came up next…Willis Avenue Bridge!!

It’s the Boogie Down Bronx straight ahead. I loved going into the Bronx. I’m not sure if it was the love my husband has for his hometown or if it was the end of the “wall” but nontheless I was ecstatic to reach the Bronx. The people there were fantastic & I even got to listen to some spanish music. Oh yeah a little merengue can take you a few miles. Never underestimate the power of latin rhythms! I also got to see some family which was exciting because this was the point of no return. I knew in my heart that if I could get through the Bronx I could make it the rest of the way even if I had to crawl to the finish. I couldn’t leave the Bronx without giving homage to my husband’s favorite team since he was 3 years of age…so we waved to Yankee Stadium as we crossed over the Madison Ave Bridge & headed for CENTRAL PARK BABY!!!! From here on it was FINISH LINE or BUST!

At this point I thought about the 20 miler that I did on my own just a couple of weeks back & thinking about that just boosted my confidence. I believed that I could do it. There was nothing stopping me…not even the East River. I’m a spiritual person but sometimes God works in really amazing ways. Just as we were running through Harlem down 5th Avenue I ran into some friends that I didn’t expect to see at all which was such a morale booster. The words…”I’m SO proud of you” resonates in your head & physically moves you to keep going. As if that weren’t enough there was a young woman with 2 kids holding up the sign…BELIEVE & it literally brought tears to my eyes. How much power can one word hold? It was truly powerful. My mind, my heart, & my body began to move forward with only one focus & they all worked together effortlessly into Central Park. Those final mile markers were building me up for what would be the most incredible finish I would ever experience.

The roar of crowds in the park & out to Columbus Circle lifted me up off the ground. I couldn’t feel my feet or the road beneath my feet. It was like I was suspended in mid air floating through the last 800 meters. I thought I could see the sign up ahead, “FINISH” & I begged my eyes not to deceive me. I prayed & prayed & then prayed some more. I propelled forward with everything I had in my heart and the last bit of energy in my body and with the last breath of air that I could take in I ran with all my might & all my power & saw my husband waving me to the finish. I could see it clearly now. There it was right before my eyes, my dreams, my goals, & my 26.2 mile FINISH.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Monday, November 06, 2006

Picture is worth 1,000 words

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

My Best Friend

Before I get into marathon day details I need to get this off my chest....

My best friend is my husband. He is my support, my arm, my shoulder, my feet, the air that I breath. I can never manage to really put into words what I truly feel for him. At this emotional moment in my life I just feel the need to express what he means to me because I don't think that I would be writing about this experience if it weren't for his unconditional love & endless support for me.

He's the man I fell in love with some years ago. I fell in love with his sincerity, his simplicity, and his ability to give love unconditionally. There was a time when I was unsure of what I wanted out of life & love. I soon realized that HE is what I NEEDED. I needed someone honest, sincere, and considerate. He's my best friend because he listens when I need to be heard, he loves me when I need to feel loved and he's compassionately honest when I need to hear the truth. I have never met anyone like him.

He's encouraged me to grow as an individual while we face the challenges together. He believes in me when I'm filled with doubt and he inspires me when I'm afraid to reach for something more. He's showed me that I can dream beyond what I never thought possible. He's an example of complete selflessness. I have been so incredibly blessed with such an incredible man by my side. I honestly don't know why I deserve him. No matter how difficult our life has been together we have come out on top because he believes that we can get through anything. His incredible optimism in the bleakest of moments has shown me that together we can survive just about anything. With all my imperfections he still knows how to love me even when it's not so easy to do.

He might not know this but I've learned so much from him. And I've learned so much more about myself through him. I have become a better person every day because of him. I knew I could do this marathon because he BELIEVED it and he made a believer out of me.

J- you are truly the love of my life...always luvin you

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Success or Failure?

As I start to think about race day & begin to "visualize" myself running through the five borough course, I wonder what will I consider a success or a failure that day.

I look back at what I've done thus far & for ME, getting to the starting line without crutches, stitches, or some type of ace bandage will be a big SUCCESS!! I made it through marathon training. That, my friends, was an enormous challenge. It was a challenge I wasn't sure I would be able to do on my own. I don't know if people realize that this is the biggest piece of actually running the marathon. The last 4-5 hours is just the tail end of this goal. Training involved months of dedication, running, planning, & achieving each & every work out both running & cross training. The first few weeks you're pumped & motivated & everyone is living in the glory of running (it's also the summer so who's not motivated??!!!). But then it's not so fun anymore. After a couple of months you realize that your life has changed & while this change was refreshing once it's now hard! Then you think darn I've only been doing this for 3 months & it's not even October yet!! WTF??? That's when you have to dig deep for that motivation. You have to convince yourself & remind yoursel of all the reasons why you're doing this. And the reason is???....hmmm because....

When you're tired you have to get out there & run. When it's cold out & raining & just plain BLEH you get out there & run. When life gets stressful you STILL have to get out there & run. When you just don't feel like getting up from the couch you HAVE to get out there & run. When it's 5 a.m. & you need to get that midweek run in you get up out of your cozy bed & run. When it's 1,000 degrees outside & you just want to melt you have to get out there & run. Yup!! You run & run until you can't anymore. You run every week at least 3x during the week & 1 loooong run on the weekend. And then you have to add in your cross training, that means biking, swimming, rollerblading, pilates, yoga, & weights. This is done every single week of every month during your training. For me, it's been about 5 months of this non-stop.

Oh & then perhaps, like me, if you get injured then you have to plan some more! There's nursing the injury & supplementing running on land for running in water or cycling. And there's icing & stretching get yourself back into tip top shape so that you can RUN some more. Then of course, no training is complete without the proper nutrition. So you plan out meals before, during and after your work outs. There is a science behind the right amuont of carbs, proteins, fat, and sodium that you have to track so that you don't collapse before, during, or after a workout.

SO I'm realizing that I don't think I've ever dedicated this many months to any sport or hobby or anything for that matter. Maybe with the exception of my marriage (even then I take off weekends :) ha!). I guess in the grand scheme of things race day will be only the end of this enormous accomplishment for me. The last 5 hours of this goal will not compare to the countless days, hours & minutes that I have gotten through. Some good, some bad, but all done by ME! No one else did it for me, I ran every mile, I faced every hill, I soaked in the rain, & roasted in the heat, I did it all!!! And I did it MYYYYY WAAAYYY (alla Frank Sinatra)

"Regrets, Ive had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.
I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.
Yes, there were times, Im sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way."

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Sunday, October 22, 2006

20 down...

Today my FIVE whole months of training has come to the beginning of the end. Today I ran my last long run before the big day (NOVEMBER 5th in case you forgot). I covered 20 long miles. As I started my run today after weeks of recovering from a couple of nagging injuries, I discovered my new self. This self picked up & planned out a 20 mile course set out & completed it. DID I DO THAT??!!!

I was scared because of the injuries, because of the distance, and because the big day is almost here. I ran up the New Jersey side of the Hudson River to the George Washington Bridge and down the New York City side of the Hudson River and back again! As I crossed the river it hit me like a big BANG what had transpired this morning! Did I ever think I was capable of getting up & saying "I'm going out for 20 day, I need to catch up?" OH NO! NOT ME! Not the chick that needed to find the closest parking spot to the entrance of the store! And then get out there & actually do it? As I looked out over the river as I ran across this bridge for the first time in my life I suddenly got emotional. I'm not usually such a sap but there was something spiritual about this. There was a sudden overwhelming realization of this point in your life that you have reached. I cried because this discovery of me was completely breathtaking. The view of water & greenery & life everywhere made me aware of what a wonderful place that nature coexists with humanity and both can share in the miracle transformation. The trees where changing their colors and the current was crashing on the banks & I have turned into a different person too. If I ever write a song I'll write it about this moment.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

I met someone new today...

Today I met a young woman. In the early morning shadows I saw her clearly for the first time. I'd seen her before every now & then & she looked familiar. But only today did I discover her. It was today that I really saw her for who she was.

She looked motivated and unstoppable. She's unlike anyone I thought I knew. She is strong and completely determined to reach her goals. Once you see her you can see that she's come a long way from the person she used to be. At first, when I would see her running at a distance, she ran sort of, unsure of herself. It was as though she was afraid of what she would discover about herself if she kept running. But she's different now. She's looks more confident & athletic. The running has become her element, a space she's comfortable in, a place that is all hers. She has an unwavering dedication. Even through some personal struggles recently and the demands of a career and family, she's totally committed. Through pain both physically and emotionally I've never seen such devotion to the sport. What amazes me most about this woman is that she KNOWS herself enough to accept her flaws and embrace her positives. Running has changed her. Her training has given her the courage enough to go at it alone when she needed to in order to move on to the next step but more importantly she's not afraid to accept help and support when she needs it. It's inspiring to see her now, to see her as a confident athlete, as someone who has moved past her failures and has found her success. This woman I met today...is me.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Haven't Got Time For The Pain..

…that was my motto for the last 2 miles of the NYC Half Marathon two weeks ago. What a race!! My mind & some wonderful loving spectators wished me to the finish line of the half marathon last Sunday. The first 10 miles went well despite the 30 minute down pour during miles 7 and 10. I didn’t even mind it so much until I kept stepping into huge puddles ankle high completely soaking my feet! BLEH! That’s when I knew the feet were going to take a beating & there wasn’t anything the biomechanical shoes or acrylic socks could do to help the situation. So I quickly put the feet situation to the side besides penguins were meant to run in water ha!

Two great pals from my running group kept me going through the beauty of Times Square until we arrived to the Hudson River, what a beautiful evolution of scenery. Only in New York could you experience big city lights & gigantic billboards followed by the magnificence of nature. Running down the West Side Highway underneath the grey skies looking at the murky water was definitely an experience. It wasn’t until I passed the 11 mile marker when a sudden pain in my left knee knocked me back into reality & reminded me OH YEAH I’m running the farthest I ever have in my life! The pain in my left knee was deafening with less than 2 miles to go. I stopped to walk & let the group keep going without me. I was so scared to be out there all alone because most of the spectators had scattered due to the rain & well it had been more than 2 hours since the start of the race…and yes I was STILL out there trying to finish. The fear of the sweeper bus (grim reaper of sorts or the boogey man) was revving up the anxiety even more. The sweeper bus picks up straggler runners at the back of the pack that take over 3 hours to finish the half marathon. I kept thinking, walk fast penguin walk fast. But of course I had on a personalized shirt which read “Run Jenn Run.” What was I thinking!! Now EVERYONE was fully aware that I was the bum that should be running but instead I’m walking. Ok I see the 12 mile mark & I keep walking inside I’m trying to conjure up enough nerve to start running again. Then I decide to…oh the pain the pain the pain. WHY IS THIS NOT OVER YET??? Where is that dam finish line?? Did someone move it?? WTF??? Can you tell I’m slowly approaching the moment of desperation? However quitting is NOT an option. I keep walking until I see the sign 800 meters to go…I visualize this. That’s 2 laps around the track. I can do THAT right? At this point your mind will either convince you that it’s not worth it OR you’re convinced that so long as you keep moving forward you will get to the finish. I looked around & didn’t see a single familiar face. There were no crowds but there were a few idle spectators hanging around, I’m assuming hoping to see a loved one, still cheering us on. This one woman holding up a sign for someone else just yelled at me right in my face…RUN JENN RUN! That moment in my mind this translated to quit slackin chick!! You’ve trained, you’ve worked hard, and now it’s time to finish this!! In my head I heard the Karate Kid music start playing. I told the pain that it will have to wait until AFTER I finish. I waddled & waddled until I could see the finish line & the people still hanging around cheering us on and then the face of my amazing husband looking like he woke up at 5am (which he did). The emotion welled up inside to think that he was there waiting for me too. He patiently waited for me not knowing that for a split second his wife wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 33 minutes!!

I’ve heard some big time poker players say that poker is half skill & half luck. When I think about running I feel it is half physical endurance and half mental endurance. The mental fitness really starts to develop on those long runs when you find yourself all alone with the pavement beneath your feet and no one else even remotely interested in what you’re doing. Your mind & your body are the only tools that will get you to the finish. When you’re training there are no spectators there’s no one stopping traffic for you to finish the course you’ve set & there’s no one yelling your name holding up signs and wishing you to the finish. Your mind becomes the most powerful motivation to get you through it. Sounds a lot like life challenges.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Friday, August 25, 2006

New Frontiers...

This training is taking me where no Latina Penguin has gone before...BROOKLYN! Yes can you believe that I've never walked or run across the Brooklyn Bridge?! Blasphemy!! I think I've ventured into this borough maybe twice definitely no more than four times. And now I can say I ran 11 miles through Kings County. So here's what I discovered...

-Grand Army Plaza this beautiful monument is the entrance of Prospect Park. The Soldiers' & Sailors' Memorial Arch reminded me of the "Arc de Triomphe" in Paris. I truly believe Napoleon would have been proud of our New York version!

-Prospect Park is HUUUGE it has a zoo, a lake, a band shell AND a running path! It definitely gives Central Park a run for its money. When I was there I was lucky enough to witness an official bike race and I watch hundreds of speedsters on their high tech bikes & shnazzy helmets zooom by me.

-I thought New Jersey was the only home for Farmers' Markets but low & behold I discovered one in Brooklyn...Had I not been in the middle of a long run I probably would have gone grocery shopping but alas I still had 6 miles to go & my waist pack was already stuffed.

-Did you know that Brooklyn has over 2.5 MILLION people?! Arrr? Really! I kid you not. So to all my single friends I say forget Manhattan hit Brooklyn the odds are better.

-Thanks to my running buddies I learned that this borough is also known as King's County because it was originally named after King Charles the II of England. I wonder if this means Brooklynites are descendants of royalty or a noble class of sorts.

So the conclusion is that I really need to venture further into my surroundings and go beyond the borders of Penguin Land ha ha! Ok ok so I guess Queens is next...Randall's Island I'm waddling your way!!

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Everyone Has An opinion?

Someone once said, "opinions are like (fill in the blank)...Everyone has one!" This couldn't be more true. I've realized that everyone has an opinion about something or everything.

I guess I should start from the beginning. After finishing my fantastic race, two days later I was zapped by reality. My legs began to ache pretty bad. I felt tight hamstring, tight inner thighs, aching hip flexor, etc. etc. Like an idiot, I continued with my training. WHY? Well, because why not? It's just a little pain. No big deal. Or so I thought. Aches turned into pain which turned into barely able to walk.

Hubby & I had a trip planned to Vegas. I had my training all scheduled out for the 4 days we'd be there, swimming on Friday, 7mile run on Saturday morning with weights, and maybe some more swimming on Sunday. ERR, none of this happened. I could barely walk much less swim or run. But this didn't stop me I did some weight training & some core work on Saturday followed by a lovely body massage. Something about being in the gym that just made me feel better. Oh YES & the IRON MIKE TYSON shares the same sentiments. We got to watch Mike Tyson work out in the gym. Opinion #1-The massage therapist, after hearing about my injury, suggested that a good massage would help with some time in the jacuzzi & some icing afterwards. Good stuff I followed the instructions & felt better. This didn't last long. Opinion #2 I email my running class coach & she declared that this was not caused by running but something else that I MUST have been doing...pilates? yoga? weight training? She assured me it was one of these things & I should steer clear of any of these activities. Hmmph! So I proceeded to hang around & drool as I saw the other runners continue happily with their training. Frustration & depression (UUGG) set in so I sought yet another opinion. Opinion #3 Marathon training coach suggested that perhaps I had pulled a muscle in my inner thighs probably resulting from not stretching correctly after my last race or maybe I ran too hard during the race (that's why I felt great?) and the other muscles over compensated. Lay low he said & rest for a few days. The opinions continued but I won't bore you with the rest!

Needless to say I rested for 11 days! That's a loooong time. I'm an addict people. It took every bit of me to NOT run. I understand now, the need & the desire to do something so bad but you know you shouldn't and you CAN'T! This past Tuesday was my first day back. There was no way I was missing my last running class. I went & talked to my coach & we ran around the block before the official run to see how it felt. The legs were responding, a little tender, but they were working. YIPPY SKIPPY I could run!! I could run!! I could run!! I felt like Rudolph when he discovered he could fly during the reindeer game HA!

So if you've ever fallen off a bike while learning how to ride you can understand this feeling of hesitation & anxiety of getting back on. Same thing with running, I was anxious at first. Scared that my legs would hurt or that they would cramp up or that I wouldn't be able to run. But much like riding a bike once you ease into it you remember how pleasant the experience is and you continue until you're riding away like the wind. I was off! I waddled on for about 30min & finished up 3 miles. The Latina Penguin is BACK! Umm hopefully.

"The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start!" by John Bingham for Runners World