Jimbo and I set out before 3AM to reach Eisenhower Park in Garden City, NY on Long Island about 8:00 AM. We wanted to get there in time for the first of the Diva Half-Marathon festivities. The Friendship Run was scheduled to go off at 9:00. It was a chance to meet some of the other women who were registered for the race on Sunday and take a 3 mile run through the park. I was all for it because Jim is my friend, I wanted him to to be able to run with me and I wanted to get a feel for the park well in advance of the race.
We learned a few things. Driving East on the Long Island Expressway just after sunrise is a real pain. There are no hills to hide the blazing sun when you are heading due East. We learned that the light on Hempstead Blvd at the base of Eisenhower Park leads to a pedestrian only walkway, the one to Park Blvd is farther to the East. I also realized that I get bored waiting around for things.
We decided to loosen up and explore a little before the Friendship Run. We jogged away from the car at a really slow pace and immediately came across some white and red arrows painted on the walkway. They were so friendly, we had to follow them. We followed them for less than a mile when we came to a sign describing that the white arrows lead on a mile loop and red ones lead on a 3 mile loop. We checked our watches and felt we could do a 3 mile loop on our own and get back in time to say, “Hi” before the Friendship Run folks started out.
This run with Jim was the real highlight of the weekend. The morning was beautiful and the route took us by some neat areas of the park. The 3 miles were just enough to work the kinks out and we got back to the parking area in time to see people standing around and waiting to start the group run.
Sadly, the facilitators were reticent to start drawing people in or introducing themselves. It wasn’t unfriendly but the Friendship Run wasn’t very friendly either. We were just as shy as the rest of the folks standing around and I didn’t feel like facilitating something that was really the role of someone else. No bother, we had a nice run, changed out of our sweaty running gear and went to pick up my racing packet at a health and fitness boutique just a mile away.
This left us with a lot of idle time. It was mainly a good thing as were drove a lot of the race route for the next day. We determined that it was next to impossible for Jim to see me at the 10th mile marker the way the map had made it seem. There was an exclusive golf course that owned the very thin strip that looked like the part of Eisenhower Park that fell between the race route’s 2 mile point and 10th mile point.
We also had time to check out where I thought we could have supper, it was too far and hard to get to. We realized using the external speaker on the iPod used battery power much more quickly than I expected. I had no way to recharge it before the race because I left the USB cord at home. I didn’t trust the laptop to sync properly with it. We found an Apple store at a mall and bought a wall outlet converter with USB cord.
We had lunch at the mall. We had spring rolls and soup from the Soup Man at the food court. As we relaxed a bit, we could look down and watch a woman making chocolate dipped strawberries in the Godiva shop a level below.
We then got some gas for the car, drove more of the race route (it’s 13 miles you know!) and parked in the park again. We walked over to where the finish line was being set up so I could see the final approach. The final stretch is where I always need an extra boost and asked Jim to stand along it the next day. We chose a section of the course where he would hand off my favorite purple feather boa and potentially take the boa and tiara I had been given about 3/4 a mile before.
As we walked that stretch and made our plans, we saw the marker for mile 13 spray painted on the ground. We walked the final tenth of a mile with the flags and finish line getting closer. As I approached it I started to choke up with the awesomeness of knowing I would cross it the next morning. I pictured myself in my signature race day day hat; my hat that recognized Ruffian, the filly, a champion race horse on the mid 70’s. She was an amazing horse who refused to stop running even after she had broken her leg in a match race that was billed as the battle of the sexes. They tried to set Ruffian’s broken leg but she didn’t come out of the sedation well. She thought she was running in a race and broke her other legs as she came out of the sedation. It is her spirit, this great huge woman of a horse, I carry with me in every race. She is buried less than 20 miles from Eisenhower Park in the infield at Belmont Park. What I would have to endure to get to my finish line was a big unknown at that point. I doubted my leg would break but injuries happen. I knew I had prepared for the race as best as I could and planned to keep Ruffian with me the whole way.
On the walk back to the car I realized I may have over extended myself a little more than I should have before race day. Some sweaty bits from the run earlier never really dried and I was feeling a chafe potential. It was time to check into the hotel.
The hotel was not far but road closures the next morning for the race would make the return route winding and take maybe 15 minutes. We checked in along with many other women carrying Diva Half-Marathon swag bags from the race packet pick up. Our room was nice and the real bonus was the local dining guide. There was a Thai restaurant much closer than the one I had thought we would go to.
We had a really nice meal and took some away with us. More spring rolls, drunken noodles with tofu and a veggie pad thai. Perfect for loading some carbs. We returned to take a sunset swim in the indoor heated pool, went back to our room and played with the crazy shower head that was too high for me to reach. It gave a great calf massage but the third jet was aimed at a not so enjoyable area. YOW! We laughed and laughed about that.
It wasn’t that the shower was so funny but we were really tired and were sleeping by 7:30. I had set out all of my racing gear like a little triathlon transition zone so getting it all together at 4:30 AM would be a no brainer. We ended up getting a solid 8 hours of sleep!
I showered so my hair had time to dry and set about systematically fueling up, last hydration and getting my gear on. My shorts were custom made for me by Nancy Radetsky, mom of one of Arron’s co-workers who makes tights. I had a complimentary colored shirt and wore a glamorous fabric necklace generously shared by my best friend, Missy. My clothes were as diva as I could get with my matching painted nails.
The feet got extra attention. Not dirt or stone or fabric pills in the socks nor shoes could be tolerated for over 2 hours of pounding asphalt. I applied generous layers of a substance called Body Glide over my toes. My outer toes can blister sometimes. My supination has me running on the outside of my feet and I tend to run mostly on my toes.
True to form, we were the first to arrive in the park. This allowed us to get premium parking by the finish line and port-a-potties. I walked to the start corral and posed under the pace group I hoped to be in. There was a chance I really belonged in the 11:01 – 12:00 minute milers. The 13 or 14+ corrals I was pretty sure I would be running around more people than running with that pace group. Getting to the start line is always a pain in large groups but it’s much less of a concern when you have a chip that tracks your time from line to line.
The morning was breezy and had quite a chill. I was tired and excited. We got a text from Arron and Amy that they were catching the Long Island RR that would have runners on it. They could just follow the women to the park.
As I walked back, I realized that I had put WAY too much Body Glide on my feet. It turns more solid and if over applied turned into little solid balls. We went back to the car and I was glad for the extra pair of socks. I re-applied the Body Glide in a more suitable amount and I was set to warm up.
Final fuel of fruit mash ups an hour and 1/2 hour out were good but multiple potty trips were needed. With less than 1/2 hour to the race, I resigned myself that it was mostly nerves at that point and the typical 30 person deep line wasn’t worth it. It was a good call, I never needed to stop for the potty from the on.
Cutting through the lines to the potties and the small corals made for quite a traffic jam. The pre-race 5k race went off as I finally got close to my group. We stood as sardines for quite a while but my plan was to go slowly at first.
I would say all went as planned. Jim, Arron and Amy were able to take my jacket at the second mile marker. I checked my watch and was about 1:30 off the posted clock time. I blurted that out and 3 “I love you”s for the 3 of them as I trotted by.
The sections of the race that doubled back on itself was the most fun. You could watch the faster runners go by on the opposite side the firs time and then the slower runners as you headed back the other way. with all of the various costumes, this made for a lot to look at.
I finally took water and a Gu packet that had been stashed in my bra at the 4 mile water break. I got most of the water down and didn’t feel the need to walk. My pace at that point was about an 11 minute mile.
We crossed a long bridge over a highway and I said out loud, “The sights I have seen.” We made our way by the Nassau Coliseum and clicked off 3 more miles before doubling back across the bridge on the other side. This was where the strong breeze was what I call a head wind. The bridge was an incline and the wind was a force. It was nice to make the turn up along the East side of the park and I looked down onto the little pond Jim and I ran along the edge of the day before. “Just lovely,” I said to no one in particular.
The stretch between mile 7 and 9 were annoying for some reason. The section of neighborhood was grungy and t affected my mood a little. It was cold and the families waiting to cheer on mommy were looking frozen. I thought, wrongly, that mile 8 would have water and downed a second Gu only to have to run a mile and a half to wash it down with water. That’s 16 minutes of cloying sweet paste in my mouth. I was sad when I decided to littler my Gu wrapper and a gum wrapper because I was tire of carrying them.
The 9th mile marker was a bright point, good music, joking with fellow runners and Spider Woman passed me with an energy like she had just started the race. The water helped the Gu kick in just after the 10th mile marker. I wished at had been just before because it had a significant incline and… well… it was mile 10. “Why is this part always so hard?” again to no one in particular.
The 11the mile marker had me singing abut kissing cats and a little sprint to beat the clock time of 2 hours. I saw it ahead and shouted, “YEAH!” and treated it like a little finish line. I crossed it at clock time 1:59:35. My watch had me closer to 1:58:00.
Next was the section of the course that looped around a high school. We could see a short section of runners who had just ran around the school coming out and running off totally changed. I could see mundane runners ahead of me heading toward the school and emerging on the other side as glamorous starlets. It was a hilarious sight. A transformation like Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches as they traveled though the “fix-it-up chappie’s” machine but instead of coming out with stars on their bellies they were all wearing hot pink feather boas and tiaras!
Those pink feather were everywhere. They flew into my mouth as I ran through the tunnel of extended arms offering boas and tiaras. I seriously did not lose any time grabbing up a little fun on the way along this part of the route. It was the next part, along the edge of the hoity toity golf course where all of the hot pink feather were being blown to. Photographers were going crazy on this section and I tried to look like I was having a grand time as my boas was making me a little warm.
I finally took off my gloves and prepared to leave them and my new diva gifts with Jim, Arron and Amy. They were right where I expected them and swapped it all for my PURPLE boa, a gift from Amy & Arron weeks prior. They took a movie of me and as I run off with it you can hear me yell, “Now I’m a Divaaaaa!”
My crazy loving family all raced ahead of me to the finish line to see me cross, diva style, clutching my boa over my head in victory. Just before I crossed the line I heard someone off the side of the course loudly say, “How’d she get PURPLE!?” That made me smile the whole way across the line.
I was tired but 11 minutes faster than I had hoped will get me that. I spooked around the festive grounds for a bit but knew a long trip home was ahead. Amy and Arron came back to Manhattan with us after a near miss with one of the poorly design Cube cars. They graciously allowed me to shower. THAT was a gift. We had a great meal at Candle Cafe before the loooong trip home.
Jim and I had a lot of fun talking about our individual experiences. I didn’t sleep the whole way, even though we got stopped in traffic for a half hour on the Poconos. Long trip to Long Island and back and it was long on fun!