Sunday, November 30, 2008

Giving Thanks

Things I'm Thankful For...
Mmmmmmm, turkey!

Kids old enough so I can use the good china!!


Sister, almost brother-in-law and their good friend

That I'm one of the 7 - 2nd degrees!!!!!
6 days till the spectacular and counting down.
I'll be doing 3 performances.
1) NTC Team routine: me, mel, brock, and niki do a 2nd degree creative kumite
2) All Star/Top Gun performance: the 4 2nd degrees from NTC, along with 2 from LHP and Morgan will perform a modified XMA Form 3 routine
3) American Bo Form (performed to the music of Guns -n Roses Welcome to the Jungle; it's going to ROCK!!!)
And finally, that I'm finally caught up with my blogging :/

Power Week

The flight home after the New York Marathon was uneventful. But, on the bus to the long-term parking there was another Gator who had also run in NY. We started chatting and it turns out I had read about him (Josh) in the Gator Alumni magazine. He had founded Miami Feet, a running club, and also Medal Memories, which are boxes to store and display your running medals. Pretty cool!

I got home around 3:30. My legs were feeling okay. There was a tiny bit of soreness if I stayed still. So, I kept moving around because I had to go to karate that night. Yes, one day after running a marathon, I was back at karate. No down time for me! And why was I punishing myself like this? Well, this was "Power Week".

Power Week is the actual exam for my 2nd degree black belt. Friday night would test our drills, katas and weapons. Saturday was self-defense and sparring. That meant I had 4 days to get in my classes, my SWATs, my runs (yes, I had to get in runs for karate!), plus get ready for the testing!

The week went by in a blur! And all of a sudden, it's Friday night. It's Showtime!! The testing was very similar to our pre-checks #1 and #2. We started with a good warmup (more running!). We did some boxing and MMA drills. And then we went into katas. I was a bit nervous. I had a slight brain fart with Short 2 (purple belt kata) but I quickly got back into focus. I felt really good with bookset and XMA form 2.

Next it was on to weapons. We did XMA Chuck form 1. My performance was ok, but I think I could have been more "fierce"! But then, we had to do it again and I rocked it the 2nd time. After chucks, it was time for kamas. Lastly, the black belts performed American Bo Form. The group's timing and energy was awesome. And, I think it was my best bo performance ever!!!

The night finished off with board breaking. First was the high-reds (going for their 1st degree black belt). The juniors went first and then the adults. The high reds broke 1 board. Next, it was time for the black belts. We had to break 2 boards. The 1st board was a hand (palm) break. I felt good because when I went for my 1st degree, I broke it the 1st time. But I was thinking ahead to the kick board and didn't focus enough. My punch didn't break the board. Ouch. But, I wasn't the only one to "miss". And surprisingly, I didn't lose my cool for "failing". I re-focused and threw my right palm and the board split!.

For the 2nd board, we could choose the kick, side or front. I decided to throw the front. I was kind of nervous because on other exams, I had seen many people miss on their 1st kick. And, after missing my 1st board, I was determined to do the kick on the first try. So, deep breath in, focus my energy, tuck the right leg, extend the kick and my foot went through the board like butter! Wow!!!!

And then, exam #1 was over. I was halfway to becoming a 2nd degree. But the second half would be the hardest for me, sparring.

Saturday morning came quickly. We started exam #2 with our usual warmup. We did some drills and then went into self-defense. We started off in circles of about 8 people each. One person was in the center and then the others took turns and did an attack. Then, we lined up and performed. I was really happy. My "attacker" chose good attacks that I was able to do good finished on (eg. take downs, guillitines, etc.).

Then it was time to put on the sparring gear. I sparred with Denay from LHP, Patty from CC, and Alex and Jen from NTC. The sparring went quickly; I though we would have more rounds. But I'm not complaining!!! It was one of my better sparring days.

After sparring, it was time to put on the running clothes. For my 1st degree, we did a team 4-mile run. I was hoping for that! But today, we all went to the field by Florinada Elementary. We ran a few laps. And then it was time for some drills. Suicide runs; run and pass the medicine ball, sprints, bear crawls, and more. Then it was time for our push up pyramid (5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 25, 20, 15, 10, 5) with horse stance blocks in between each "set" of push-ups.

Power Week was over. We had passed our exam and were now black belts, and 2nd degrees, and one 3rd degree. We were cheering, taking group pictures, hugging each other. Now we start preparing for the "Black Belt Spectacular" on December 6th. The fun begins!!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

My NYC marathon race report (finally!!!)

Well, I'm about 4 weeks late in posting my marathon race report. Sorry :(

We last left off November 2nd, very early on a Sunday morning........

Temperature is 41 degrees. It didn't feel too bad (but I was surrounded by buildings). I headed to the NY library to catch the bus. I had been assigned to the 4:30am bus, which was way too early for me considering I was in Wave #3. I had tried to change my assignment at the Expo but they couldn’t change it (since it was already printed on the bib). But, I was told that basically if I showed up later, they’d get me on a bus. The bus area was very organized and I was quickly whisked onto a bus at 5:45.

The ride to Staten Island was around 30-40 minutes. It took some time to get the bus unloaded; there were lots of buses!!! I walked to the staging area which is in a wide open field. Ow, it was freezing cold!!!! It wouldn’t have been so cold if it wasn’t as windy (well duh!!). Most people came with either blankets, Mylar blankets from previous marathons or the windbreakers that they sold at the expo that made the wearers look like astronauts.

I met up with a runner friend. We made a dash to the Dunkin Donut truck and grabbed a cup of coffee. Then it was back to the waiting area by the stage where at least the music was good.

I had to take a porta potty break and got stuck waiting in line for around 10 minutes. It was here that I remembered an item on the “marathon list” my sister gave me that I forgot to bring; a roll of toilet paper (and now I know why it is on the list!).

Then it was time to check in my bag and I had to make the final decisions on what I would carry and what I wouldn’t carry. I decided not to wear my hydration belt as the fluids on the course would be enough and there didn’t seem to be the worry that they would run out. I decided to bring my ipod, my camera, 3 goos, and 2 packets of salt. I found my UPS truck and took off my sweatpants and fleece jacket. I covered up in a rain poncho that was in the goody bag I got at the Expo. It was a bit chilly but if I kept moving and stayed in the sunlight, it wasn’t too bad. I made a final porta potty stop. This one had TP (yeah!) so I took an extra handful for later, just in case!

I walked over to the Blue E Corral. There was clothing everywhere! Remember, I was the 3rd wave. I chatted with a few people in the Corral; everyone was in a fun mood! We started the walk toward the starting line and as we approached, they were playing Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York which really put you into the mood!

And then we were off! We crossed the starting line at the Verrazano-Narrows bridge toll booth (luckily we didn’t have to pay the $10 toll!). And it was an uphill run in cold, windy conditions. But you almost didn’t realize that for 2 reasons. One, there were thousands of other runners blocking the wind; and, Two, the adrenaline helped to numb the cold.

On the VN bridge there were sections in the asphalt that were, for lack of a better term, pot hole laden. I was looking forward (as runners should) and didn’t see the hole and did a half-trip. As I caught myself, I thought that would really suck to be taken out of the race before you run even 1 mile!

The VN bridge is not extremely steep, it’s just very long. And over the entire bridge, there was a steady stream of discarded clothing. I looked to the left and with the clear skies got a nice view of the city. And next thing you know, I’m in Brooklyn.

The crowds were out there, cheering, holding signs, screaming “Welcome to Brooklyn”. They were all ages, young and old out there. For pretty much all of Brooklyn, I seemed to always be running by Italian runners. All I kept hearing was, “Go Italia”! And many people, especially those running for charitable causes, had their names on their shirts. So I would hear, Go Victor, Go Amanda, etc. I was wearing my Gator shirt, no name. Despite that, there are a few Gator fans in Brooklyn.

The first few miles passed by relatively quickly. And then all of a sudden at mile 7, my knee started hurting. Wow. I had really jinxed myself. Only a couple of hours earlier I was bragging how my training for the NY marathon I was knee pain-free. This couldn’t be happening. This really was so unexpected. During my 1st marathon, my knees hurt so badly that I had to walk miles 17-23 and my time sucked because of that. I wasn't going to have that happen again. So I kept running, and after a while, they still hurt, but it was at a level that I just got used to.

And the next thing you know, I’ve done 13.1 miles, YEAH!!!! The ½ way point is right at the beginning of the bridge that takes you into the borough of Queens. Again, there’s tons of crowd support. There’s less than 3 miles to run in Queens and as quickly as we enter the borough, it’s time to leave to the next borough, Manhatten. But in order to get there, I have to cross the “dreaded” Queensborough Bridge.

I had ridden through the bridge when I visited New York this past July. So I kind of knew what to expect, or so I thought. I have to remember that I rode through the bridge, I didn’t run it. You really don’t feel the incline in a car. Anyways, I started up the bridge running.

The bridge doesn’t have any spectators; which makes for a lonely stretch after hearing so many people up to that point. This is where you start to hear that voice inside your head. Up to this point, you might have had that inner voice saying “what the hell are you doing this for” and all the other doubting phrases that every runner hears at some point in a marathon, but the crowd noises are so loud in NY that you never heard it.

And very quickly my knees reminded me they were hurting, my quads gave me a quick shoutout, and I realized I needed a goo. And since I’m not that coordinated to run and eat goo at the same time, I decided the bridge would be a great place for a quick walk break.

As I was nearing the end of the bridge, I could start to hear the crowd noise start to pick up. The end of the bridge is rather steep and had a tight turn. You exit onto this road and see a lot of people and think WOW!. But then that road turns onto 1st Avenue and you are just blown away by the sheer volume of people. There are more people on the side of the road watching us runners than there are in a lot of cities in America.

I cannot describe the enormity, the intensity, or the roar of the crowd. You would almost think that this is an Olympic race for all these spectators to be so loud. And the signs! There were so many signs! You looked up 1st Avenue and saw miles and miles of runners and spectators. It was never ending.

I got to the 18 mile mark and though about the fact that my longest training run was 18 miles. My time for that run was 3:15; my time today was 3:14:47, so I was on track for my goal time. And only 8.1 more miles to go!

1st Avenue kept on going, up through Harlem. The crowds thin a bit, but they were still as vocal as any other spectators. By now my knees still hurt by my brain had “numbed” it out. My legs were starting to feel heavy. But, I was still running. I was determined to run the entire marathon. So I kept plodding along.

Time for bridge #4. They had put a carpet over the metal grates. We were greated with shouts of “Welcome to the Bronx”. And Japanese drummers. The run through the Bronx was the shortest. Almost as quickly as we were running in, it was time to run out and over the 5th Bridge, back into Manhatten for the last leg of the marathon.

Only approx 5 miles to go. 5 miles, no sweat. That was a short training run for me! But my pace was definitely slowing. I realized I wouldn't make my #3 goal. But, I WAS going to make goal #2, come hell or high water!

The last 4 miles were the longest 4 miles I have ever run!! I don’t think I “hit the wall”, but I was skirting it pretty good. When we were inside Central Park and running uphill I had to use every mantra I knew to keep my legs moving. “Pain is temporary, Pride Lasts a Lifetime”, You can do it, You can do Anything! I was just trying to keep my brain busy talking to itself so I wouldn’t remember how tired or sore I was.

When I made the turn onto Central Park South, I was so happy, I knew the end was near, really, it was! But for some reason, CPS was a lot longer than I remembered it was (did they lengthen the road?) Again, mind games! And then finally, it was time to make the turn back into Central Park for the final few yards. They have signs, 400 yards to go, then 300 yards to, and so on. I don’t know if that is good or bad. And then in a flash, I was crossing the finish line with my hands high above my head in victory.

After crossing the finish line we were “herded” into the medal line. The medal this year has 9-time NYC marathon winner Greta Wietz. Next we got our Mylar blankets which in San Diego seemed unnecessary, but it was definitely needed in NY. Next we were given a food bag with a nice selection of bottled water, bagel, apple and some other items. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed an apple as much as I did that day. And then it was a long, crowded crawl to the UPS trucks to get our bags. Luckily since I’m a “slower” runner and my race bib # was high (41425) my truck was relatively closer.

Walking by the UPS trucks, I saw lots of runners who had gotten their bags and were trying to put on their sweat pants and had trouble lifting their leg. One guy was having a really hard time and I walked over and asked if he needed help, he kind of grunted so I held his pants so he could pull his leg up. I didn’t think anything of it, I was just helping another runner. He said something to me (it was a foreign language I didn’t recognize) and had a strange expression. So I don’t know if he was thanking me or telling me to take a hike. I guess it was kind of weird. Oh well.

I got to my UPS truck and got my bag quickly. UPS is really great; they did an awesome job in San Diego and here in NY. I walked a bit to find a spot to set my bag down so that I too could put on my pants! It was here that I realized that I was shivering uncontrollably.

After I dressed and “warmed up”, I called my kids. They had received the Athlete Alert emails I signed them up for, so they knew my time when I called. I think they were pretty excited for me. I don’t remember much of the call, but I know I cut it short because I was so cold. I waited a bit more to “warm up” and then I called my dad and step mom. They were at the family meet-up area. So I exited at 77th Street and found them within minutes. Anne brought the beer I asked her to bring. What an angel!!!!!

We walked to my cousin’s apartment (which thank God was very close). She and her husband had also run the marathon. We had a nice dinner and I got to see family.

After dinner, it was back to the hotel. A warm shower, a glass of wine and I slept very well that night!

The next morning I got up early and headed to Central Park for the Marathon store. I got in line to get my medal engraved with my name and finishing time. I saw Marci and we chatted about our races. Then I picked up a t-shirt for me, the girlie and a jacket for RJ. Lastly, I got a copy of the New York Times. They print the names of all the runners who finish in 5 hours or less. Then it was back to the hotel, pack the bags, and head to the airport.

And like that, my adventure came to an end. But oh what an adventure it was!

Awesome, Awesome, Awesome!!!

  • Goal #1 to finish the race

  • Goal #2 to finish in less than 5 hours

  • Goal #3 to finish in less than 4:30

I finished the marathon 4:57:13 (goal #1 and #2). And although I didn’t achieve goal my #3 goal, my time was a 44 minute PR over my prior marathon. Which, isn’t too shabby if I do say so myself!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Race Day

So last night the Gators soundly defeated Georgia, 49 to 3. Go Gators!!!

And dinner with Dad and Anne was lovely. I had the pumpkin ravioli; yes at 1st that didn't sound that appetizing but they were soooooo goooooood! And after dinner and a glass of wine, it was time to try to go to sleep.

I put in a wake up call for 4am and 4:10am. I set the alarm clock. I set an alarm on my cell phone. Yep, cover all the bases. I put on the Texas vs. Texas Tech game; what a game!!! I woke up at 2am (which was actually 1am with the time change). I went back to sleep. I woke up at 2am (the "real" 2 am). And, I half-slept, half-woke until 4am.

The alarms rang, the phone rang and I got up. And now I'm dressed and ready to go to the library to catch the bus. And now the adrenaline is starting to release, my stomach is getting a few flutters and I starting to thin that I must be crazy to want to go run 26.2 miles in 40 degree weather with 39,000 other people I don't know. Yep, that's me. Crazy!!!!!

Wish me luck!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Expo Day

The NYC marathon expo was held at the Javitz Center which is a beautiful structure with tons of glass. The registration process was very organized; id check, bib and chip, then the T-shirt and goody bag. Then it was off to the booths.

At 11am I met up with other Phedip listeners; Chris, Mitch, Frank and Marci. We chatted for a while and took a few pictures (which they all promised to post since I didn't have my camera). It was nice to finally put faces behind the names!

I picked up a few items at the expo. I got my running tights, a long sleeve NYC marathon technical shirt, some goos and replacement bottles for my hydration belt. I was surprised at the size of the expo; I thought it would be bigger. The expos for the Miami ING 1/2 marathon and the San Diego RNR marathon were both bigger and had lots more exhibitors. Maybe the economic troubles have hit the running industry?!?!?!?

After the expo, Ann and I went to an electronics store. We got there at 2:05pm but the store closes at 2pm on Friday because of the Jewish sabbath. We then saw so many orthodox Jews walking down the streets; quite a sight!

Anne went home and I decided a power nap would be awesome; and it was!!! It got me energized to go out to dinner with Dad and Anne. We went to an Argentinian steakhouse by their place. It was yummy! On the subway ride home, half the riders were in costume and there were some really creative get ups! There was also a group of 5 or 6 "punks" starting trouble with someone dressed up as Alladin. You could feel the energy in the subway become very uncomfortable. But quickly enough, the subway ride ended. And once back "home" I hit the sack.

Saturday morning I went downstairs to Starbucks for a cup of coffee and saw "teams" of runners; Team Holland and Team Italia. Then I remembered that there was a "Friendship Run" for the international marathon entrants. The "race" was from the United Nations to Central Park. It went down 42nd Street so I got a great view.

Anne and I planned to meet at Union Square at 11:30. I got there a bit early and checked out the farmer's market. I had a glass of warm Pear Cider, which I've never even heard of before. It was great; nice and warm on a chilly morning. I saw 3 different colors of cauliflower and brussel sprouts attached to a stalk (I never knew that's how brussel sprouts grew!).

Anne arrived and we went to a few stores. Got the girlie a little something from her favorite store. We grabbed a bite to eat and dined outdoors. The weather was just perfect. And then it was time to head home to watch the Gator Game.

And that's where it's at right now; 1st quarter, score still 0-0.