Monday, July 25, 2016

Race Report: Cellcom Green Bay Marathon

Flying into Green Bay
Hours after finishing the Airbnb Brooklyn Half, I was in a subway back to my apartment for a quick shower, and to grab my bag to head to the airport, as I had a 5pm flight from JFK out to Green Bay (via O'Hare) to run the following morning's Green Bay Marathon!  Getting to the airport, though, was anything but easy; My ~30-40 minute trip to the airport got delayed more and more due to train issues heading out toward Jamaica.  Not only did my train go local, signal issues caused it to stop at stations for long periods of time.  I got frustrated enough to get out of the subway and flag down a cab to take me to the airport, never mind it being a $25-30 fare - I just needed to get there!

Welcomed into Wisconsin!
After dodging a bit of Saturday afternoon traffic, I made it to Terminal 8, the American Airlines terminal at JFK Airport.  The flight to O'Hare was uneventful, and I made it to Chicago with a slight delay on the flight to Green Bay because they needed to change out the airplane due to mechanical issues.  I got to Green Bay around 10pm, and was picked up at the tiny Green Bay airport by son of my Airbnb host, who happened to be a 2006 graduate of the University of Michigan (just like me!) but of the Pharmacy school.  He took me to his mother's house, where I would be staying for the night, and I settled in to get some sleep and give my legs the rest they needed since they were about to embark on 26.2 miles in the morning!

Paying homage to the flag during the National Anthem

The startline
I broke out one of my favorite race singlets - the colorful Shipyard Old Port one, with a boat on the front, and wore my floral San Diego trucker hat, with, of course, my signature rainbow sunglasses.  The start line for the race was on the street on the north side of Lambeau Field, and luckily, I had booked an Airbnb that was less than a ten minute walk to that area.  My friends Mike and Lori from Florida, had picked up my bib the day before, and we met up near the Vince Lombardi statue for some pictures with Marathon Maniacs and the 50 States Marathon Club (which I would qualify for, finally, after completing this race, my 10th state.)  After the rousing electric guitar rendition of the Star Spangled Banner (on an absolutely beautiful and warm morning), we set out to our appropriate corrals, and then we were off!

Thankfully, I did poop today.
I felt good as we headed eastward on Lombardi Avenue, turning right onto Bart Starr Road, and then left onto Mike McCarthy Way, all streets named after iconic players and coaches from the Packers franchise. We turned right onto Crary Road, and began to run in the village of Ashwaubenon, a suburb of Green Bay, just to its south, where the Green Bay airport is located, and actually part of Lambeau Field.  I took my first walk break at the 1.5 mile mark, and then continued on, rounding Fort Howard Park, and onto Collette Avenue.  We then turned right onto Broadway, and followed it as it turned into Howard Avenue (into the city of De Pere) for the next three miles, passing the National Railroad Museum, one of the oldest institutions in the United States dedicated to preserving and interpreting the nation's railroad history, several industrial warehouses, and some parks, as we ran alongside the western bank of the Fox River.  Around mile 4, near a gas station, I spotted a lady holding up an "I Pooped Today!" shirt - this would be the first occurrence of seeing her on the route, of FIVE times! Just after the mile 5 mark, we got onto Main Avenue, as we traversed the Claude Allouez Bridge over to the eastern part of De Pere, making our way over the Fox River, and onto North Broadway Street, as we headed northward into more residential territory before turning onto Ridgeway Avenue.  We were greeted by many spectators, including some mobile spectators at mile 6.5, driving by with a sign reading "Hurry Up So We Can Drink" poking out of the vehicle's sunroof.

Heading over the river
Selfie from the bridge looking over the Fox River

Mobile cheering!
Running thru residential De Pere
Over the next couple of miles, we would weave our way through largely residential sections of the city, along N. Winnebago Street and S. Ontario Street, embarking on a nice mile-long downhill section as we turned right onto Merrill Street, past Dickinson Elementary School, De Pere High School, and the De Pere Water Tower at mile 8.  We continued down Lone Oak Road, Ledgeview Road, and Jordan Road, hitting mile 9, before a half mile down O'Keefe Road, eventually emerging out of the residential area into more open surroundings, peppered with a few commercial buildings.  We turned left onto Enterprise Road, and then right onto Heritage Road, finally making our way onto the Fox River Trail, a scenic meandering asphalt-paved trail that we would run on for more than six miles.

The De Pere water tower
The Fox River Trail
All the while, as we ran through the residential section of De Pere, the sun began to really BLAZE, and I stupidly forgot to apply sunscreen.  At practically every aid station I could find past mile 4 (and there were four!), I would ask if they had any sunscreen, but unfortunately none of them were stocked.  It wasn't until I was on the trail at around mile 10.5 that I finally found a medical tent that actually had sunscreen - and that was only because one of the people manning the tent had brought it with him in his own personal kit!  That would be one thing I'd suggest for the organizers to ensure was handy - it was getting to be quite a sunny day in Wisconsin!

Beautiful views along the Fox River Trail
We continued up the trail, where we ran behind some private homes, but also near some parks that were well supported by people cheering the runners on, and also many beautiful different kinds of trees.  At times we were closer to the water than others, but it was a great way to break up the monotony of running through residential neighborhoods.  We finally emerged off of the trail onto Crooks Street, in downtown Green Bay.  For the next 1.5 miles, we would run eastward on Crooks Street, into one of Green Bay's oldest neighborhoods, Navarino, then run northward along the East River Trail around Joanne's Park and Green Bay East High School.  We then made our way to the City Stadium, a football stadium in on the north side of the school's property. Notably, it was the home of the Green Bay Packers from 1925 through 1956. It was renovated with ornamental fencing and monuments to the history of the field, and downsized in 2008, City Stadium remains the home of East High.  Part of the route involved us doing a loop around the track, before emerging back out in front of the stadium entrance, and back onto the city streets as we made our way westward and back into downtown Green Bay.

Outside of City Stadium, mile 19

The last little bit of the Fox River Trail
After taking Cherry Street westward for one mile, we made our way back onto the Fox River Trail for 1/2 mile, passing underneath Walnut Street and onto the "CityDeck," a promenade flanked on one side by condominiums and shops, and on the other side by fishing piers and observation docks.  We made our way up to Main Street crossing the river over to the west side of town, as it turned into Dousman Street.  We turned left onto Broadway with 5.2 miles left in our race, weaving our way through Green Bay's residential streets to the finish.

The City Deck

The Poop Lady strikes again! LOL
We zigzagged southward to Howard Street, then ran two blocks to Maple Avenue and Charlotte Avenue, before heading westward on 5th Street.  We briefly headed northward to 3rd Street, then curved around the block and took 12th Avenue even further south, all the way to Liberty Street.  We took Liberty for a few short blocks before turning once more onto Gross Avenue, which became Holmgren Way.  We finally had the stadium in our sights, but still had to loop our way along some residential streets- first Borven Avenue, then Morris Avenue (where I actually ended up passing my Airbnb!) before cresting a slight hill and then turning onto Ridge Street, on the road leading up to Lambeau Field with one mile to go.

Running INSIDE Lambeau Field!
While we could see the finish line, the route took us down an offramp to the back end of the stadium, seemingly to a loading dock on the south end. The route actually took us INSIDE the stadium, where we were able to run around the concrete track that lined the field itself!  We emerged, after a few tight sections, back outside, where we had only a couple tenths of a mile to go before we could cross the finish.  I managed my first sub 5-hour full of the year, crossing the finish line in 4:56:04, my third fastest time of 10 marathons! It had gotten considerably hotter - 73º with 41% humidity, 16 degrees warmer than the start.   There was some great post-finish food, and I partook in a delicious Wisconsin beer bratwurst, fitting since yesterday's race finished with an iconic Coney Island Nathan's Hot Dog!  After a little socializing, including a stop to get some fried cheese curds and a beer at the bar inside Lambeau Field, I headed back to my Airbnb to shower and pack up.  My host drove me to the cute little Green Bay Airport for my afternoon flight back to NYC.

Wisconsin beer brat!

Finish photo inside Lambeau Field!

A refreshing porter to celebrate my 10th state for full marathons!
I was very happy with my time, considering that it was my second race of the weekend, following a half marathon, and adding up to a total of 39.3 miles.  Also, with this race being in my 10th state for full marathons, I would be able to officially join the 50 States Marathon Club! Ten states down, forty to go!

My fun new cheese hat.  With mouse!

Victory Headstand!

Green Bay is awesome!

Cheese curds!  Yum!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Race Report: Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn Half Pre-Party
The Airbnb Brooklyn Half is one popular race.  The biggest half marathon in the country, with some 27,000 finishers each year, filled up in an incredible 52 minutes this year - a personal best. Last year, it took seven hours. Interest is always high because sign-up is first-come, first-served... and hopefully the NYRR servers can take it!  I last did the Brooklyn Half in 2014, as my third ever half marathon, finishing in 2:14:00 flat.  I missed it last year because I was in Portland, doing the Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half (the day after doing the Sage Rat Run in eastern Washington, and feeling SUPER sick the entire day)  I wasn't about to miss it this year, and also got a chance to add to my "9+1" roster of NYRR races, as a race to be able to run the 2017 NYC Marathon.

Too much fun at the pre-party
The course starts near the Brooklyn Museum, winds around Grand Army Plaza and Prospect Park, before a long stretch down Ocean Parkway. The race ends up on the historic Coney Island boardwalk. The bib pick-up (aka the Pre-Party presented by New Balance), for the third year in a row, was on Pier 2 at Brooklyn Bridge Park, a beautiful venue right on the water including five acres of recreational space and sports facilities, all with amazing views of Manhattan!  However, it's a TREK to get to even with public transportation.  I went on the Thursday night before the race, meeting up with my friend and former coworker Lana, as well as Pride Run co-director Jason and fellow Broadway Barkada friend Sacha, all of us running the race this weekend.  We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the ambience of the park, the food trucks and beer, life-size scrabble tiles, as well as the great DJ playing tons of fun pop hits to dance to through the night.

My back bib!

39.3 miles for the weekend!
This was going to be my first race of a two race weekend.  Like a month and a half earlier, I was going to do the elusive half/full weekend combo, running the Airbnb Brooklyn Half on Saturday, and then get on a plane to the midwest to run the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on Sunday.  I even made a custom back bib, complete with my made up hashtag, #BK2GREENBAY, which I wore to both races!

With some Front Runners, pre-race
On Saturday morning, I met up with two other Jackson Heights based Front Runners, and we shared an Uber to Brooklyn to get to the start area for the race on Eastern Parkway in front of the Brooklyn Museum.  Traffic was drama free and we got there with ample time for the other two, who were in the first wave, to get through security and get through all their pre-race essentials.  What's great about the large NYRR races is that there are TONS of portapotties, and they put them inside the corrals, and also have a very efficient security screening.  While I had quite a bit of time before my wave was to start (45 minutes separated Wave 1 start at 7am and Wave 2 start at 7:45am) everything went quite smoothly.  Wave 1's security entrance was at Franklin Avenue, and Wave 2's entrance was about a half mile away at Underhill Avenue.  Think about it -- a half mile of road closed off JUST for corrals alone... that is massive.

Purse first, purse first. Running to the beach, #pursefirst!
Sacha and I posing our faces
off before the race
At 7am, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and the wave 1 runners went off, heading southward on Washington Avenue.  It took about all of 40 minutes to get all of those runners out and onto the course before Wave 2 had our own patriotic song singer, and then went off, and with me back in corral E, we got out at 7:50.  Sacha had joined me in my corral, and we vowed to run together as much as we could for the race to help each other pace. I was outfitted with my Ultimate Ears portable speaker, and I was about to make this a PR we'd never forget...a PARTY RUN!  We hit the pavement running down Washington Avenue with some great beats, and fellow runners seemingly appreciating the "ambience."  We began with a fair 9:27 mile, heading toward Empire Boulevard, and made our way around to Flatbush, where we began an out and back that would take us around Grand Army Plaza, and then back down Flatbush toward Ocean Avenue and Parkside Avenue.  Up near Grand Army, I was able to find my good friend Molly, with her son Kingston, enjoying the race. The next two miles, as we made our way to the south end of the park, went by like a blur, still knocking out sub-10 minute miles, and then we headed into Prospect Park from the southwest.

With Run Selfie Repeat
blogger, Kelly Roberts!
The loop of Prospect Park is just a little over 5K, but also has a pretty tough hill, as we run counterclockwise heading to the northeast corner of the park.  It lasts for a good half mile (maybe even more?) and you definitely feel it after a few miles of flat elevation running. Right as we began the hill, as if with perfect timing, "My Shot" from the musical Hamilton came up on my playlist, which has a befitting cadence for running.  And of course, it's themes related to perseverance and New York City were apt for this race.  Lots of fellow runners were familiar with the song, and ran right along to the perfect running beat, including Instagram celebrity and "Run, Selfie, Repeat" blogger Kelly Roberts, who I ended up meeting as we conquered Prospect Park's nasty northeast hill.

Finding Kendra in Prospect Park!
What a relief it was to take the steady downhill as we ran down the park's west and southwest sides.  Just after the hill as we went downhill, I found my friend Kendra, who was in charge of a group of volunteers at the mile 6 water station! As we made our way down the road, and exited the park back at the place we had initially entered, crazily enough, lots of people were STILL just entering the park - meaning these people had started as much as 30 minutes after Sacha and I had!  As we exited the park (by this point, mile 7 of the race), we took the downhill ramp onto Ocean Parkway, and began our steady slog all the way down to Coney Island for the next 6.1 miles.  Sacha and I decided to go on a steady 9 minute run, 1 minute walk interval to the end, and careful to not overexert over this super flat section of the course.  I wish there was more to say about these six miles, but there wasn't, as the run all the way down to Coney Island is fairly boring, save for the Hatzalah (the volunteer ambulance run by the Hasidic Jewish community, largely present in the southern Brooklyn neighborhoods of Kensington, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay) needing to make its way across Ocean Parkway at one point.

Sacha giving face down Ocean Ave!
We hit the last mile, and Sacha picked up the pace a little bit as we went underneath the Belt Parkway. I had to remind her that this wasn't my only race of the weekend -- only a mere five hours later, I needed to haul ass to JFK to get to a flight to O'Hare to connect to Green Bay, and run the Green Bay Marathon the next day!    We curved down around Surf Avenue, and made our way down the last little stretch of asphalt, before taking the slight uphill ramp (and the crowding... ugh) before making our way onto the boardwalk.  Sacha stayed right by my side, and we crossed the finish line hand in hand, in 2:12:18, a new PR for me out of my six half marathons run in New York, by 1 minute and 42 seconds!

Bling well-deserved!
Victory Headstand!
Bling photo in front of Nathan's!!

Yum, hot dog!
We took lots of post race pictures, including my customary headstand photo (right on the boardwalk!), and then spent a good half hour trying to find the Front Runners post-race party at a bar that had changed its name, just around the corner from the finish party at MCU Park.  I also ran into my friend Josie, who was supposed to run the Brooklyn Half, but got injured earlier in the week, but still came down to Coney Island to meet up with friends running the race.  I got together with some of my fellow club members, ate a Nathan's hot dog (also customary!), and then headed right back to Queens to shower and pack up for my trip to Green Bay!

Official photo by GameFace Media. Victory!!!  With exhaustion all around us, lol!!

Official photo by GameFace Media. High-five, friend!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Race Report: Colfax Half Marathon

Mile High Stadium, for packet pickup!
My flight to Denver was going to be on Saturday morning on Southwest from LaGuardia, but I completely forgot that there was a Friday evening JetBlue flight direct from JFK.  So Friday morning as I'm waiting for my subway train to work, I texted my cousin Kathy, a JetBlue flight attendant, and asked if she could get me on the standby list for the flight.  That morning there were 10 seats open, 6 listed and checked in, so I came in at number 7.  I decided so last minute that I still needed to head home after work to pack a bag, and then make my way back out to Jamaica to catch the AirTrain to JFK.   Standby makes me super anxious, and as time got closer, the open seats began to dwindle and I began to be pushed back on the list due to priority.  But the anxiety was all for naught, as I was easily able to get on the flight, since there were delays due to weather and being that its JFK – people do tend to miss their flights.  I even lucked out with one of the “Even More Room” seats, so I got to lounge out on the plane for the nearly 4 hour flight.

Pre-race dinner at Wynkoop!
Upon arrival, I was picked up by my friend Melissa, who I stayed with at her townhouse in Aurora for the weekend.  We scoped out yelp for open breweries (who knew places closed so early on Fridays... it was just after 10pm when I arrived!) and headed to Vine Street Pub & Brewery for my first beer of the weekend.  One strong beer later, and I was ready for bed.  The next morning, we slept in a little bit and then went for lunch at Native American restaurant Tocabe (Indian Tacos and Frybread, prepared Chipotle-style with step-by-step fixins) and then headed out to the expo at Mile High Stadium to grab our t-shirts and bibs.  Both Melissa and I ended up getting some Bluetooth-enabled headphones by RedFox, while at the expo.  After running a few errands, we made our way out to the Lower Downtown area of Denver (better known as "LoDo"), where we met up with Melissa's friend Johnny; my godbrother Andy, who had driven in from Edwards to run the race with me; as well as a cameo from fellow runner and online friend Lloyd, to have dinner and drinks at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Wynkoop is the brewpub founded by Colorado's current governor, John Hickenlooper, and was pivotal in beginning the renaissance of the neighborhood from its days as Denver's skid row to its current place as a hip, destination neighborhood with its crowning jewel, the Denver Union Station.

Outside Union Station in Denver's LoDo
The marathoners starting
The following morning, Melissa and I got up early to head into Denver City Park for the race. We parked on a side street near the park, and walked along a pathway by a lake where hundreds of geese were honking up a storm in a few trees on the other side of the lake, just as the sun was beginning to rise. We got there relatively early since Melissa was running the full, which had a 6am start line, and also to set up the tent that her firm had reserved in the corporate section of the race; several of her coworkers were running as marathon relay teams.  The half didn't start til 6:45, so I had a bit of time before dropping my bag off to baggage check, and to also meet up with Andy.

My backbibs commemorating
double sun!
One thing to note... so I'm a member of Half Fanatics, an online group of runners who are fanatical about half marathons.  By finishing a certain number of half marathons within a certain period of time, half fanatic members are able to attain certain "levels," named after each of the planets in the Solar System.  The highest level is the Sun, which is attainable by completing either 52 half marathons anywhere in 365 days or 30 half marathons in 30 separate US states/countries/Canadian provinces or territories.  The Colfax Half would mark my "double sun," having reached the sun for a second time, in two consecutive years! I had first completed it at Rock 'n' Roll Portland on in May 2015, and the clock restarted the following weekend at my next half, Boston's Run to Remember.  Another 30 states/countries/provinces later, and I was able to hit the sun again! For reaching this feat, I decided to custom make a couple back bibs commemorating my achievement, in addition to a rather colorful outfit, mostly borrowed from Melissa - her Half Fanatics "Diva" singlet, and a rainbow tutu! Andy decided to join in on the fun and wore a tutu himself!
Tutu shenanigans!

Let me see your peacock!
The race started at a rather balmy 39º, quite chilly, but then again, we are in Colorado!  We made our way through a maze of pathways within the park, briefly running down East 17th Avenue and East 23rd Avenue, having to make our first pit stop about two miles in when both Andy and I needed to pee.  There were a bunch of portapotties along 23rd, just before we headed into the Denver Zoo, and the famed "Mile in the Zoo," where we seemed to be the only people really stopping for photos with the various animals - the cheetah pit, the mountain goats and bighorn sheep, the monkeys, the flamingos, and a peacock that just happened to display its feathers as we passed by.  We exited the park along East 22nd Avenue, and then down to Montview Boulevard where we would run for 3 miles straight.  Only a block or so onto Montview, I spotted my first corgi of the race!

A cheetah! Better not go into that pit...
First corgi spotting on Montview Blvd.
Running thru the firehouse...
For the next three miles, we ran down the very residential neighborhood of Park Hill and past Johnson & Wales University, as well as the south end of the neighborhood of Stapleton, the site and surroundings of the former Denver airport, now a thriving residential area.  The street names were also arranged in alphabetical order from the park, and as we got to the end of the alphabet, we finally turned right onto Yosemite Street for a short two blocks.  We passed the mile 7 mark as we briefly crossed into the city of Aurora along East 17th Avenue. We got to our easternmost point of the race, turning right on Galena Street, then again onto East 16th Avenue.  We then got to experience another iconic moment of the race, running through the Aurora Fire Station No. 1, and then emerging onto Del Mar Parkway.

Official race photo coming out of the firehouse...
The race namesake avenue...
After making our way around Aurora City Park, we took Dayton Street down to the namesake street of the race, Colfax Avenue.  The full gets to race a considerable length of Colfax Avenue, but the half gets only about 1.75 miles of it.  And frankly, it's not the prettiest 1.75 miles - from the western reaches of the city of Aurora into the Denver neighborhood of East Colfax/East Montclair, we ran down a wide avenue with a mix of different business catering to the largely immigrant community living around the area.

HELLO, firemen...
We turned onto Oneida Street, running up a couple blocks, before turning again onto East 17th Avenue in the tony neighborhood of South Park Hill.  This parkway, with a manicured grass median, took us another 1.75 miles westward as we headed back toward City Park.  This is also where we got to cheered on by the shirtless and buff firemen from the Colorado Firefighter Calendar!  I, of course, HAD to stop.  They were, in fact, part of the reason I wanted to run this race, anyhow!  As we continued westward on East 17th Avenue, on the last mile of the race, we got a nice downhill stretch, before we got to turn into the park, and make our way around Ferril Lake up to the finish line!  Being a mile up in elevation made it a little harder to breathe, and I was definitely struggling toward the end, but got to cross with my godbrother Andy, both of us in our tutus... in 2:23:09 -- a bit slower than I'm capable of running, but considering our elevation, I was happy with the finish, and to hit the sun for the second time!



Second corgi of the weekend!

Creamies... mmmm...
We partook in the delicious post race spread, which included ice cream bars from regional favorite Creamies and some barbecue from Jim 'N Nick's, while we awaited finishers of the full marathon... With my flight back to New York leaving later that night, several of us went out for some celebratory drinks at local breweries, and I headed home satiated from a fantastic weekend out in the Centennial State.

Post race celebrations!

Pretty bling!

Victory Headstand!