March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
After the monsoon that was ‘last week’ the sky cleared into what one might actually call Spring. Our running group took full advantage of this Tuesday night with a tempo run around the park. Roll Call: Amy, Elyssa, Michele, Josh, Joe and Allen! After we finished we went to Cold Stone and rocked out some ice cream, awesome! I felt prepared for Sunday 100 percent.
Saint Patrick’s Day is maybe my favorite holiday. It’s even my phone extension at work, 317, seriously it is, call me. My office sits on the 3rd floor of 5th avenue and 53rd, aka FRONT ROW SEATS to the parade every year. Some people hate it, but I savor the bagpipes, military processions and the marching bands. I do not savor, however, the drunken maniacs that hinder me from getting my lunch. I liken it to a zombie movie. You need to get to from point A to point B, acquire a sandwich and return, crossing the streets or running away whenever a drunken zombie yells or approaches you.
As if all that excitement wasn’t enough we had Lindsey Vonn in our offices for some PR and I got to meet her. She is very down to earth and really funny. I told her about the Half on Sunday but she cringed, running isn’t her thing. She’s more of a biker actually.
I biked and ran Thursday as it was around 70 degrees and sunny. Strictly amazing. I also went on a ‘drink date’ with someone who out-marathons me (you know who you are)! True story. It was a really great time and no, we didn’t talk about running the entire conversation!
Saturday I woke up and took a 1 hour bike ride around town. It was beautiful. Later that night I got ‘tuxed’ out for the Explorers Club Annual Dinner at the Waldorf. This was my 4th year going and I normally get to eat tarantulas, scorpions, and hissing cockroaches but they made cuts this year and they were left with cured meats and cheeses. Boring. I even asked a bunch of people “hey, were are all the weird things to eat?” The strangest thing he had to serve was Eel. C’mon man, thats like a household item these days…
I got to catch up with my friend Cenk (we raced Harriman together) as well as my friend Leroy who is an astronaut and was co-chair of the dinner. (www.leroychiao.com)
Dan Aykroyd was the MC and he did a ‘Coneheads’ skit which was hilarious. Part of the night we heard from Donald Johanson, who was the scientist who discovered Lucy (the missing link). He was an amazing speaker discussing our evolution and where we were headed. I could listen to him for days, very intelligent and captivating man.
Another speaker who caught my interest was Steven Squyres. He is responsible for the Mars Exploration Rover Project! He had images of Mars from the robots and talked about (as Bowie said it best) Life on Mars! Amazing.
Jim Fowler came out with his usual assortment of strange and amazing creatures… 27 foot long anaconda, african sea eagle, and a baby bobcat to name a few.
The night was concluded with a performance by the Cirque-tacular Arial Dance Company. A woman and 2 men swung, spun, climbed and hung from a sash suspended 75 feet in the air while classical music played. It might have been one of the most breathtaking and beautiful things I have ever seen.
I left around 11:30PM and got to sleep at Midnight anticipating my race in the morning.
My alarm went off at 6AM and as I looked out at the dark skies my body was saying… “sleeeeep, go baaaaaaack to sleeeeep.” My brain however was like “Battle stations! Its a race day.” I therefore pulled myself up and got some coffee on. Miss the NYC Half? Never.
I left at 6:30 catching a cab up to 84th and 5th and was at baggage by 6:50. Perfect.
As I was walking to my corral I bumped into Eissa and Elyssa from Tuesday night speed sessions and we hung and chatted for a bit before it was time to jump in. In my corral I hear “Baker!” I look left and its my trainer friend Jenn! Photo op!
The corral filled I was right in front of the stage and got to see some of the elites get up and speak… shortly after the gun went off!
Even though I was in the front it was still pretty crowded for the first mile or two. There was a lot of competition, drafting, elbows… boxing people in etc. This would go on all race and it was the first time Ive ever experienced this outside of the track. Right off the bat I see Ed from ‘Dad Posse’ cheering me on, shortly followed by Jim!
As we looped down around the bottom of the Central Park loop I was passing people and getting into my groove. Normally, my ‘Running Engine’ doesn’t really kick in until maybe 3 miles deep.
At the 72nd Street crossing Elizabeth (or Ms. Ritz as most runners know her) yelled out and took some pics! Soon after I saw Robert who also cheered me on. What a day!
We hit miles 4 and 5 which were the Harlem Hill and WOW it hurt. I tried to bolt up it as best I could, remembering the Hill Digger drills we had done but also maintaining some sort of pace as I still had 9 more miles of this mayhem.
We passed the start line (Mile 6) and were headed south again, but this time we were to exit on 7th Avenue and make our way into Times Square. Along the way I saw Jim again who said I was killing it and to keep it up! I grabbed the first of 2 waters I was to drink here.
Erika was right where she said she would be at 58th and 7th Avenue cheering us on with her awesome sign! As you can see from it, we had a big group (from our Tuesday Speed Team running).
Continuing on into Times Square I hear “Hey Christopher! Go!” It was a coworker, Stephanie, who was in town from Geneva!
I was really looking forward to the Times Square portion of the race. Why you ask? Well, on any given day I avoid Times Square like the plague. Its smelly, crowded and most of all has rookie ‘walkers’ everywhere holding up foot traffic. TODAY, however, I got to run right down the middle of it (like a steel version of the Grand Canyon) without anyone getting in my way. I was also the center of attention cruising down the width of a whole Avenue, which I tend to enjoy.
At 42nd Street we took a sharp right and headed down towards Hudson. I thought about running straight into it to cool off, then realized it would jeopardize my time. Speaking of which, I was indeed flying and was on target for my sub 1:25 mark! I kept telling myself “Just keep going, eggs and coffee at Todd and Ila’s after… the sooner you finish the sooner you eat.” 42nd Street is actually all downhill to the river which I have personally never noticed.
As we rounded the West Side Highway and began our descent I knew we had a solid 3 miles to go and as I looked at the clock it showed 1:01! What?! Was I really blazing that fast? I would surely make my goal (pending no fluke situation, which of course is always very possible). I grabbed another water for safety and kept moving fingers crossed.
One of our Tuesday Speed racers (Erin) is a musician that goes by the name Lady Southpaw. She was picked to be part of the entertainment and was set up on Mile 11, playing all day. As I neared she was looking my direction singing and added “Chriiiiiis Baaaaaker!” into her lyrics! Too cool. I pushed on.
Shortly after I saw Robert again and he yelled “Yeah Baker, finish strong!” which actually resonated the most and I really thought to myself, “Hell yeah, 1 Mile to go, lets do this.” I picked up my pace and passed maybe 1 or 2 other runners en route to the finish which was now visible. It was the white bridge that goes over Chambers Street which rocks because on any normal morning run that is my turn around point, so I know the path well.
As I got close I saw the clock ticking at just past the 1:20 mark and I nearly freaked out! I totally had a huge SEG (s&*t eating grin) on my face as I blazed into the finish! Thanks again Elizabeth for sending me these pics!
Final time: 1:20:48 with a 6:10 pace.
I walked onward, very happy and relived that it was over, got my medal and some water. It was there that someone I had been corresponding with over email, Russ, approached me and we got to meet in person! He is really fast and clocked a 1:14 or so.
Soon after I was off to Todd and Ila’s where we had a fantastic brunch (or breakfast as it was 9AM). My friends Asher and Ilka joined us as well and I recapped the race and my excitement at all that had transpired. With my time I had qualified for the NYC Marathon next year which was very unexpected!
After brunch I joined my friends Robin and Ahern at their place uptown (after a shower of course). Ahern’s father ran it as well and PR’d too! He is from Philly and is on course for the NYC Marathon 2011 (pending he doesn’t make it into 2010 with the Lottery). Awesome! We celebrated with quesadillas and beers.
What a day! Sunshine, friends, warm weather… all before 9AM!
Seriously though, I was a bit emotional and almost lost it right after the finish on my solitary walk over to Todd and Ila’s (they live a few blocks from the finish). Not really because of ‘qualifying’, or ‘PR-ing’, but more just being surprised! At what? Surprised at what I was capable of at that moment (cutting 4 minutes off my last half in only 4 months) and what I could look forward to accomplishing in the near future. Ironman Kona is on my ‘to do list’ (not just to participate in, but to compete) and with every race I get closer. I really took in the moment and was pretty overwhelmed with happiness.
It really was an awesome day for all runners. Congrats also goes out to my Tuesday crew who ran – I know all of you had fantastic races as well!