Cherry Tree 10 Miler

Today was the annual Cherry Tree 10 Miler and Relay in Prospect Park.  This is a great race organized by the Prospect Park Track Club.  I highly recommend it, if you’re anywhere near Brooklyn in February.

This was my second time to run Cherry Tree.  I kind of collect race distances and I signed up for it in 2010 because I had never run a 10-mile race.  I had run the Queens Half several months prior, but I ran Cherry Tree after taking two months off from running–related to both weather and laziness.  I finished  in 1:52:50, which I was pleased with because of my lack of training and because I twisted my ankle during the race and had to limp along for awhile.

This year, I signed up again because it was fun, but also hoping for a better time.  I trained for and finished the NYC Marathon in November and while weather did force me to cut back, I have been able to maintain a regular running schedule ever since.  I arrived at Prospect Park this morning with no Garmin.  I was kind of hurrying out the door to catch the bus and totally forgot it.  This is kind of a panic moment, because my Garmin is my training partner and security blanket.  But I decided to accept the circumstance for what it was today and just run in a way that felt “right.”

The wind coming at us along the east side of the park was freezing and brutal.  I got a blister on my right arch at mile six.  I plowed on thinking I was maybe doing better than last year and hoping to come in around 1:45.  A seven-minute PR is significant and I knew I’d be happy with that.

Well!  Imagine my surprise when I turned the corner toward the finish and saw the clock at 1:40!  I came in at 1:40:49–a full TWELVE MINUTES faster than last year!!!  I’ve rarely been so happy at the end of a race!

Moreover, I discovered today something about running a marathon.  After completing 26.2, ten miles isn’t very daunting.  It’s amazing how perspective changes when boundaries are widened.

Thank you, Prospect Park Track Club and all the awesome volunteers who were freezing and congratulations to all the other runners!  See you next year!

Also, I took a picture of some swans while I waited for the race to start:

First Cross Country Race

I like things to have official beginnings, even if they are spontaneous.  So when I was perusing the local fall race calendar and saw a listing for the Peter Rabbit Cross Country race in Prospect Park, I immediately recognized it as an official beginning–to my ultramarathon career.

Sure, there are ultramarathon road races, but the vast majority are run on trails.  I’ve never run on trails and a beginning was required, so I signed up.  It turned out to be a good thing.  The three-mile-ish race at Prospect Park was organized by the Brooklyn Road Runners Club.  It was a cozy affair, with just 50 runners lined up on a chilly December morning.  Someone yelled “GO!” and we were off, running a path marked by small red and pink flags.

The path took us over some killer hills and mostly over grass, with a couple of diversions onto dirt path.  Cheerful club volunteers were posted at the far end of the loop to clap and make sure we didn’t veer off.  The finish line was a bit haphazard, but I finished with a good time and came in 11th among the women finishers.  That was good enough for a medal!

Race Medal

It was a good beginning to my long running career.  It was challenging and fun at the same time.  I met some great people, which was a bonus.

A Run on Coney Island

Today, in an effort to jump start my running again, we went down to Coney Island. Finally, there is evidence of the rumored changes that will forever affect the way the famed boardwalk looks. Arriving at the stairs near “Shoot the Freak,” we discovered that “Shoot the Freak” was shut down–along with the strip of shops and restaurants around it. In fact, about 20 feet of the boards are missing from that area, too, surrounded by chain-link fence. I assume they’re fixing the boardwalk itself there, and there are “shops for rent” signs all along that hundred feet or so.

Even two years ago when we made our first trip to Coney Island, we were continually told that it was “closing” and that all the attractions were going to be torn down and replaced with condos. According to the site I linked to above, that’s not entirely true. In 2009, there will be lots of things open and operating, including the Cyclone, the Wonder Wheel and the freak show. That’s good news.

Coney Island isn’t like Disneyland. Everything is owned separately, so I can understand how there is confusion over what is still there and will remain and what will go away. Sadly, Astroland is gone. It’s a shame that such a piece of Americana will eventually be overcome by rich people living in brick boxes and other progress.

Here are some pictures in the meantime:

Anyway, Mike was there to walk and I was there to run, thinking the boards might be somewhat forgiving to a runner who hasn’t run in awhile. I took off and ran all the way to the Manhattan Beach end and back, which is about two miles. On the way I passed Brighton Beach, which is a Russian neighorhood. Pretty nearly everyone you pass there is speaking Russian. It’s pretty cool and we’d like to visit some of the delis, after seeing them on Bizarre Foods. ha ha

It was a cold day, reasonably good for running, but not so good for much else. We spent about an hour and then got on the train to go home. Planning a lot more trips to the beach this spring and summer!

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?