Race 3: The Mayor’s Two-Mile

Having survived 5k and one-mile races, I registered for the Mayor’s Two-Mile Race. Our mayor, when she got elected, made physical fitness a priority for Amarillo and so once a year she sponsors a race in Medical Center Park (and beyond). There is a two-mile race, a five-mile race and a half marathon. (That’s 13.1 miles, in case you’re not a runner.) I really was interested in the five-mile, but wasn’t sure I could run that far yet in race conditions…so yeah, the two-mile for me.

Early to bed, early to rise…gets a runner to the starting line on time. The conditions were perfect: 60 degrees and foggy. I drove to the park whilst choking down half a Power Bar and 8 oz. of sports drink. (The perfect pre-run combination of protein, carbs and electrolytes, according to Runner’s World Magazine. And let me add that Power Bars taste like crap.) Arriving in plenty of time, I picked up my race number and complimentary t-shirt, then spent a little time walking briskly and jogging slowly to get warmed up before the start.

I spent about ten minutes silently observing my fellow runners. I recognized a few from the other two races I’ve run, but I don’t know anyone’s name and no one ever talks to me. I’m curious about a few women I saw, who appeared in full makeup with hair fixed. They had half marathon numbers pinned on and I couldn’t help but want to see them after they’d run for 13.1 miles. I’m pretty sure lipstick doesn’t hold up that long. Maybe it’s that semi-permanent stuff Queen Latifah touts on TV. Who knows?

When it was time, we all lined up to hear a short speech from the mayor, who does not run or walk the races. She said what she had to say, fired the starting gun and off we went.

I neglected to drive the course for this race, so while I had a vague notion of what it would be like, I did not realize the first mile or so was UP A HILL. Let me repeat that: UP A HILL. And not a gradual grade either. My neighborhood, where I train, is flat as a pancake, so hills are not part of my regular running. I think they will be from now on. I really really really thought I was going to die. I really really really wanted to walk, starting at about half a mile. But that was when I passed the five-year-old.

Yes folks, there was a five-year-old boy running in this race with two adult companions. One of the guys with him kept up a steady Zig Ziegler-style commentary to keep the kid on track. So I passed the three of them, but then they stayed about 20 feet behind me. I have to say I was encouraged, right up until the guy yelled, “Yeah! You’re running like an 8-year-old!” (I hoped I was running more like a 10- or 12-year-old.)

Made it to the first mile marker, where we passed some random guy watching the race from the sidewalk smoking a cigarette. As I ran by him, I found myself enveloped in a puff of smoke and it was DIS-GUST-ING. I actually got nauseated and I thought I might have to throw up. When you are running a race and you need every bit of oxygen you can get, running through smoke is the equivalent of someone putting their hands around your neck and attempting to choke you. YUCK.

Okay, made it up the first hill, made it past the gross smoking guy, now we were at a slight downgrade, but I could see another hill ahead. I was discouraged, but my mile split time was 9:30 and that’s pretty darn good for someone who never runs hills so I felt a little encouraged. I actually made it up that small hill and that’s when the five-year-old started crying. I wanted to cry along with him, for real! I just kept listening to his cheerleader yelling, “This is the last turn, buddy! Just keep breathing! You can do it!” (I think God puts me next to people who yell for a reason.) At that point I really had to talk myself out of walking, just for a minute, that’s all I wanted, just a minute of walking. I kept going.

We did turn that final corner, only to find another uphill grade. Not too bad, but still. The fog hadn’t lifted yet, making it impossible to see the finish line. I’m not sure if it’s better to be able to see how far away you are or not. My watch said 17:00 and my fastest time to run two miles was 22:00 before today, so I was thinking at a minimum I had five more minutes to run and frankly, I didn’t think I could keep it up five more minutes. I kept going.

As we ran past the hospital parking garage, I heard clapping. There was a lone man clapping for us and that made me feel better. (It’s the little things.) I kept going.

Finally, FINALLY, I heard real applause and the “You’re almost there” yells that accompany the finish line. I saw a woman up ahead of me move to the right. I followed suit because I figured she could see the finish chute. Sure enough, there it was and I could see the official time in the 19:00 range. I kicked and got there as soon as I could, finishing at 19:56. That’s 2:04 faster than my fastest two-mile run.

I was so relieved to be finished, I didn’t really register the number right away. I limped over to where the tables were set up, ate an orange, drank some Gatorade and watched the volunteers laying out awards. That’s when it occurred to me that maybe I had a fast enough time to place. (Usually they hand out awards for the top two or three in your age bracket. My age brackets is females 30-39.) After all, most of the local “elite” runners were probably running the half, not the shorter races. It was pretty chilly, so I went to the car to get my hoodie and returned just as they called out my bracket. In first place, “NORMA C*****.” I’m sure I had a weird look on my face, because some people laughed as I walked up there. I never in a million years expected to get first place—not with that time! But hey, I’ll take it!!!

I left with my fancy plaque and I stayed stoked all day, even though I got a post-race headache that lingered for several hours. Having a 19:56 was enough to make me look forward to the next race, but actually winning something really did it.

Next up:  Race for the Cure 5k

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 3

Thursday was Norma’s big day on the town! Well, more like couple of hours on the town… nevertheless, Mike and I left Tom’s about 10:00. I was headed to Manhattan; he was headed to Queens and parts beyond. I was going to “Broadway in Bryant Park”; he was going to a job interview.

Anywho, we found ourselves riding the D train ride with NERVOUS GUY. This guy was pretty young, dark-skinned, bald with a goatee. He was also wearing very dirty clothes—very dirty clothes! But he was obviously quite interested in his appearance. Sometimes you get a subway car that has shiny walls at each end. We were in one of those and the guy couldn’t stop looking at the wall, rubbing his head, straightening his collar, pulling up his pants, etc. He also made some strange hand gestures and talked to himself a bit. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I got the distinct impression that he was going to a job interview and was afraid he wouldn’t get the job. I kind of think he probably didn’t get it, but who knows? After a few stops he went to the other end of the car and did the same thing down there. Good luck to him.

I had decided that the shoes I brought on the trip were too small and trust me, you cannot walk around New York in shoes that are too small. (Unless you have a high tolerance for pain and don’t care whether you lose your toenails.) After Mike switched trains, I was contemplating said shoes and I decided I needed new ones. There are lots of Payless stores, but I couldn’t think where one was, so I decided to hit up the K-Mart in Astor Place. It was a bust. If you typically shop at a K-Mart, let me encourage you to take a trip to your nearest Target or Wal-Mart before you buy their crappy shoes. You’ll get a better selection and much better quality!!!

I went ahead and had breakfast at one of the 5,000 Starbucks franchises in Astor Place, then I got a wild hair and decided to walk over to Washington Square Park to watch some chess. There were guys with their boards set up, but no one was playing, so pfft.

I got back on the train to head to Bryant Park and found myself in a car with about 30 kids from the Flatbush YMCA. I’m guessing they ranged in age from 5-10 and they were attended by two very harried 20-somethings. The guy was trying to keep the boys seated; the woman was trying to keep a little girl from eating her lunch. God bless them. I did feel sorry for them, but I was also amused. I have no idea where they were going, but one little girl was talking about Times Square. You couldn’t pay me enough to take five kids to Times Square, much less 30.

So I finally got off at 42nd Street and made my way to Bryant Park. (Me and 10,000 other people.)

Bryant Park is a small park at the back of the New York Public Library—the branch with the big lions out front. It’s really pretty and it has a lot of rules about when you can go there and what you can do. It does have a big lawn, so they have events all the time—like movie nights and performances. It’s where Good Morning America does their summer concert series. (In fact, there were little girls lined up around the perimeter when I got there, waiting for the Jonas Brothers Concert the next morning. I had to look up the Jonas Brothers to see who they were. Ha ha)

It was kind of hot and I got there a little bit early, so I walked around a bit and then found a place over on the side in the shade. There were performers from five shows that day: Spring Awakening, Gypsy, Xanadu, Mary Poppins and Wicked. I’m wasn’t familiar with Spring Awakening, and I’m still not, but I was really excited because I’m familiar with the songs from the rest. All of the performers were awesome, except I was really disappointed in the selections from Gypsy. They only did two songs, while everyone else did three. They did “If Momma Was Married” and a song with the farmboys (yawn) and that was it. Where’s MAMA ROSE? If Patti Lupone didn’t want to show up, they could have at least sent her understudy. You can’t have selections from Gypsy and not have “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” or “Rose’s Turn!” At least give us the freakin’ strippers!!!

Okay, I’m done ranting now.

After that was over, I darted into the library to go to the bathroom and headed off to kill a little time and look for a Payless. The library is kind of a pain, because they check your bags when you go in and when you come out and it’s not like any library you’re thinking of, I promise you. If you want a book, you’ll not find one easily at this branch. Still, when you gotta go, you gotta go…and it’s a cool building. I walked a big circle and found a Payless on right by Grand Central Station. (I also found Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse. I didn’t even know he had one.) I traded in my too small shoes for just right ones and I was good to go. As I left the store, there came half a dozen or so NYPD cars, running lights and sirens. Wonder where they were going?

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 2

While perusing apartments on Craig’s List, I came across a listing from Rapid Realty. It looked intriguing to me because it appeared the agents help renters find housing. I went to their website and poked around and decided we should at least go by their office and talk to someone. The agents there deal solely with rentals in Brooklyn, so they know all about the area and they have relationships with all kinds of landlords. They had some suggested documentation that potential clients should have on hand, so I printed out a bunch of stuff before we left Amarillo. We arrived at the office, told the woman at the front desk who we were and what we wanted. She introduced us to Cal.

Cal is now our agent. He showed us three apartments that day, one of which we liked. We filled out a bunch of paperwork and handed over all the financial documents I brought for us and there you go. We left after being told we might have a meeting with the landlord the next day.

We felt like we had accomplished something, so we took a walk around our possible new neighborhood…up the hill to Green-Wood Cemetery, then over to Prospect Park.

The park was awesome because there were dozens of runners! I wanted to run, too. They have concrete paths and dirt trails running alongside–so cool! But alas, the neighborhood is hilly and we were tired and ready to relax. Where better to relax than Coney Island?!! (Someone will laugh when they read that, I’m positive.)

We took the train back to Coney Island, walked around, walked down to the water. They have the hugest, most ginormous seagulls ever at Coney Island! I swear, they are probably two feet tall and FAT. You can walk right up to them; I’m sure they’re sure you’re going to feed them. Blech. Gross birds. I can’t decide what’s grosser, though: seagulls or pigeons. When we got really really tired, we took the train back to Bensonhurst, grabbed some McD’s and went back to Tom’s.

We ate and watched him clean out the cabinet under his kitchen sink. As we prepare to move to NY, he’s preparing to move away. [sniff] Tom is an old old old friend of mine from college. He is very generous and very funny.

After that, bed. Just…bed.

NYC Trip–August 2008, Part 1

The trip began smoothly enough, albeit at 5:00 in the morning. When you tell Mike you want an early flight, I promise you will get an early flight!

Landing at JFK around noon, we hired a cab to take us to Bensonhurst, to Tom’s house–the friend we were staying with. The cab driver claimed not to know how to get to the address. This was the second cab I’ve ever taken in NYC and the other time the exact same thing happened. Seems to me you would know your way around if you were being paid to drive people to and fro. Sometimes optimism and logic get the better of me.

Mike got frustrated and finally had the cabbie let us off near Coney Island. That led to the taking of a wrong train and a delay in getting to Tom’s, but eventually we made it there–tired, hungry, cranky. I was more cranky when I found out that Mike’s description of Tom’s house (“just a couple of blocks from the train”) was actually about eight blocks from the train. Eight blocks is far enough, but when you’ve been up a long time with no food, it seems more like 20.

Anywho…we got our stuff dropped off and found food and felt better. Tom had suggested Lenny’s, which is right next to the 20th Ave. train station and was featured in a scene from Saturday Night Fever, but I was not in the mood for pizza so we went to an Asian restaurant across the street. Ah! We felt so much better after eating! In a much better frame of mind, we headed over to Rapid Realty.