Monday, July 23, 2012

Ultra Marathon #6 - Great Cranberry Island 50K

2010 Runner's World Magazine "Best Race Ever"

Who knew that a small island possesses one of the better ultra races in the US. Featured in the "Best Race Ever" documentary for Runner's World Magazine, this race is by far one of my most enjoyable races so far.
If only the drive was slightly shorter, I would be coming back every year to this fun but challenging course.

So how do you run 31 miles on a small island with a yearly population of 40? Well, there is one road that is stretched out the entire island and that road is 2+ miles long. So if you do the calculation, you run this road back and forth 15 times. Talk about mentally challenging, not only is the course short, it's quite challenging with rolling hills, something I didn't expect...

On the other hand, the island, views, and people were just simply amazing. The 9+ hours of driving to get to the harbor and then the ferry over to the island is worth the travel to get to this tiny island. Once we arrived, we were greeted by the community and organizers. They drove the runners to the start line, but I decided to walk over to get a view of the island. First thing I noticed...the hills! Boy what an uphill climb it was to the start line. In the island, there really is no hotel, inn, or B+B. Either you contact the owners of the homes to rent out, or set up a tent. A bunch of my friends had booked a house, but Leslie (gf) and I decided to camp out for the first time. As we got to the start line, people were already setting up there tents. There were big ones, to just a hammock. We found our spot, which happened to be next to other maniac members, and rested up before the start. As the time got closer to the start time, people came flushing in and set up their tents.

Race time! There were about 20 or so Maniacs at this race and we all took group photo's (it seems to be a tradition, although Benny, Thunder, and I missed out). One good thing about a short course is you constantly get to see the fast racers and friends. I started off with the fast crew (Benny and Thunder) because that is my tradition. Benny is a fast runner and my goal is to run along his side one day. Every marathon that we run, I try to keep up with Benny eventually tapering off to my slow pace. So this time around, I kept up with Benny until mile 12-13, which is somewhat a PR, lol. I was also getting over a knee injury that caused me to stop running 5 weeks prior to GCI50K.  5 weeks ago, I couldn't even run 1 mile, and to day, thanks to my therapist, I managed to run 13 miles without any serious pain. Of course, the injury came back and I decided once Benny took off, I would slow down and walk since the race practically just started. From mile 13-31, I won't go into any details since it was basically a run/walk then mostly walking finish. One thing I didn't want to do is stress the knee injury and just finish, which I did. Along the way, the views of the Atlantic and mountains were simply amazing. Also, the community were great people and helped out with making their own aid stations. One thing that took me by surprise was the blueberries that were growing on the side of the road. You were allowed to take them and eat it at your own will.

The course...hard...tough...not easy. I originally thought (from the youtube video) that this was a flat course. I was totally wrong. There were some serious hills in the short 2 miles. It was definitely a challenging course and if I go back, I will be well prepared. There were 4 sections within the 2 miles with steep hills and a few little ones. The worst feeling was making the turn and heading back up a steep hill. Note to anyone who will be running this in the's not easy.  So I finished at about 7 hours and a little bit (7:10:07). Not the greatest time for me but a joyful race it was. Leslie volunteered for the event and supported me the entire time. We walked the last 2 miles and finished.

After race... This is where the party begins. Maine, island, alcohol.... do the math and you get lobsters, partying, and a whole lot of booze. The best feature of this race is that it includes a feast of good 'ol fresh Maine lobsters for dinner. Definitely something I was waiting for. These lobsters were a good size, and I think I ate 2 or 3 of these. One thing I missed out on was the karaoke, fireworks, and the rowdy crowd of drunk ultrarunners. I would've joined in but with the long drive, 3 hours of sleep, and then the ultra itself, I was pretty much exhausted and passed out immediately after the lobsters. From what I heard the next morning, it was an epic night of drunkness and skinny dipping in the Atlantic (?).

The morning of the race was quiet. The volunteers were cooking up some delicious breakfast and I enjoyed every bit of it. After getting the tent down and packing up to go, we headed out to the harbor for the ferry and bid our farewells. As I've mentioned earlier, this race is definitely a great one and lots of fun. Hopefully I'll be back next year or the following. The drive back was really nice too. Leslie and I stopped at a couple towns, picked up some cheap lobsters, and bought some local wine. It was my first time in Maine and I have to say, although a short trip, I was able to see some amazing things.

Definitely a recommended race and a beautiful state.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

5K Run (6/10/12) - Ridgefield Park 5K

For those living close to Ridgefield Park or the new Overpeck Park, and want to PR your 5K, this run is definitely easy. The course is practically flat and its mostly a straight away. Unfortunately, I didn't get to run the race, but my girlfriend did, so I'll dedicate this post to her.

The morning started out cool and cloudy but slowly turned humid and hot. Since I'm currently fighting a knee injury, I decided to bring out my dog and cheer on Leslie. It's the least I can do after all the races (marathons) she came out to support. I would have to say that the RD was a bit unorganized at times, but this run is all fun and games. They served breakfast in the morning with different rolls, donuts, coffee, sports drink, etc. and had a morning stretch. Most of the attendees were there for the walk, so I assume they were gobbling down breakfast.

If you're a fast runner, you have a good chance to win an age group award. There were about 75 entrants and a moderate competition. Leslie started out near the front of the pact and stayed there till the end. There was one women who she couldn't beat but then again, she was pumping 6:45 miles while Leslie is still a 7:00 miler. But in the end, she turned out to be 2nd place overall and got an award. The fastest male was seriously fast finishing under 18 minutes...a time that I wouldn't be able to match, but after looking at my age group, I would've came in 4th overall and 1st age group..had I ran, that is.

Overall, a great PR course and a quick fun morning run that is cheap with goodies. They had a raffle for a 32' flat screen TV which I entered but didn't win.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

5K Run (5/20/12) - Demarest 5K

I normally wouldn't post a 5K run on my blog but I since this one has memories, I decided to write about it.

This year it was the 30th Anniversary. 30, Which means the first race held was nearly 2 months before I was born. The last time I ran this event, I was probably 7 or 8. I still remember my mother running this with me. The town of Demarest is where I practically grew up. I moved here from Fort Lee, NJ when I was 3 or 4. my parents and two brothers lived in a small 3 bedroom ranch house on the corner of a cul de sac. This town is perfect for those that want to raise kids in a quiet, harmless area. Demarest boasts six schools, while the population is a mere 4800. You have all the necessary things needed for a home within distance and the city is not too far. My next door neighbor commuted to the city everyday for quite a while. What surprised me was that the estimated household income for this small town was close to $150,000! I don't think my mother, or when my father lived with us (they were divorced when we were kids), made close to that amount.

Duck Pond
Anyway, back to the race.

This course is nothing close to easy. It starts off with an uphill climb and basically becomes rolling hills throughout the rest of the course. The course takes you around the western side of Demarest. I don't remember this race being so hard. But of course, the last time I ran this was when I was under 10 and had plenty of energy. Maybe I should ask my mother. This time around, I went out too hard. I was expecting to keep a 6:30 pace all the way, but started out at 6:15 and slowly disintegrated into a 7:00 pace at the last mile. I should be more cautious about this. The course also had a lot of twist and turns. I wanted to get in more of the scenery but my mind was completely focused on breathing and finishing. Next year, I should get more of the visuals in.

Finish Line

Although the difficulty level was high, I managed to PR my time at 20:54. My previous PR was 21:36. 42 seconds faster. This will boost my confidence level for the Fifth Ave One Mile Run also. My goal for that race is to break 5:30sec. My next 5K is in my current home town Ridgefield Park. This one is supposed to be a fast and flat course so a PR is pretty much expected.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Road Marathon #3 (4/6/12) - Cox Rhode Providence Marathon, RI

My third road marathon and boy what a race it was. Since my day one of taking it to the road, a 4 mile race, June 6, 2010, at a time of 35:31, I finally made it into the Sub 4 marathoners group. My previous marathon PR was a 4:27:26 at the Yonkers Marathon 9/18/11. Ever since that marathon, I've done 50K's, 60K's, trail marathons, and even an attempt at a 24 hour race, but never was able to shorten the marathon time down. That is until yesterday. My previous road marathon was the ING Miami Marathon, and my time was 4:46:46, nothing special. The first half, I ran it in 1:55:00 and slowed down the second leg due to blisters. I was hoping to get close to sub-4ing the race, but it didn't work out well. I knew I had it in me that one day I would be able to get past the 4 hour mark.

Before you read mine, if you're interested, you can read my friends post on the marathon as well! 
His post has a more descriptive aspect of the marathon along with pictures :)

Providence Marathon was not an easy course. I suspected that it would be flat since the organizers mentioned the race was a qualifier for Boston. The first few miles were an easy going 8:30-45 pace getting in the city of Providence. I was pretty much on my own (came here with friends Hideki Kinoshita and Jenny Kim) and enjoyed the surroundings. Once we got out of town and headed into the suburbs (mile 6 or 7), I met a fellow Maniac (who I forgot his name but he was in the 3000's) and chatted away. He was apparently coming back from an injury and testing his legs out. Surprisingly, his pace was fast at around 7:30-45. It wasn't easy for me to keep up, but we were enjoying our conversation and I was feeling really good. The views of the course weren't the greatest, but not the worst. It was a lot of bike paths and residential areas, but at certain points, I saw some lakes and homes that were off the coast which looked really nice. Going back to the start, my friends Jenny and Kino aka Hideki went out fast and I didn't see them, but at Mile 13-14, I caught up with Jenny. Jenny is the type of runner that listens to music and goes at her own pace so I didn't want to disturb her mindset. I just waved my hands and let her know that I was on my way. She looked healthy at that point. This is where I took my first GU ever since Queens Half (NYRR event) on July 24, 2010.

That day, it was my first half marathon attempt after running my first 4 miler in June. I didn't realize how hard running 13.1 miles was at the time. My finish time... an astonishing 2:55:51. I still remember how much I was in pain after Mile 6. But also, my first GU experience was a big FAIL. I was so disgusted by the texture that I had to stop and spit it all out, almost vomiting. I vowed to never take it again.

Well, the GU helped this time, thanks to Jenny supplying it. She mentioned to not consume it all at once, but take a little at a time with water. This helped me get used to the texture while running and I eventually felt refreshed.

Mile 14-19 was a good pace of 7:40-50's. My fellow Maniac kept me going and encouraged me that I will break sub-4 at this rate. I was intrigued that this could be possible, but by mile 19, I slowed down (plus a bathroom break). This will be the first time that I continuously ran to Mile 20 without pain. I slowed to a 9:00 pace for the next mile and then gradually slowing to a 10:00 pace at around Mile 21-24. I was now in the stage of muscle soreness and legs tightening up. Had I kept my pace up, I probably would've been feeling a little better. The bathroom stop must have cramped up my legs. I decided to take another GU, salt tablet, and pure gatorade (I usually run it down with water) to see if it'll help the rest of the way.

Fortunately, in the last 2 miles, I picked up my pace back to 9:15-30 and managed to finish off at 3:52:45. My first Sub-4 marathon! I wanted to sprint the last 1/4 mile, but my hamstring was on the verge of pulling, so I maintained the slow pace. At that instance, Kino shouted my name and I looked over to the right. He had already finished, having run a 3:25:??, but his facial expression was a filled with a big surprise. He was just about to head back to see me run, thinking that I would be finishing a little after 4 hours. Just as he was about to head back, he saw a maniac shirt finishing up and noticed it was me. After crossing the finish line, he was so happy that I sub-4'ed. I had joined the sub-4 club within my running family.

This race has given me motivation that I can run a sub-4 in the future. Although I still have a long way to catch up with some of my faster friends (and even BQ), surpassing the 4 and entering the 3 is a great feeling. I've accomplished another stepping stone towards running and it feels awesome. I will train harder and come October for the Chicago Marathon, I will once again hope to PR and make way to beating 3:30.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Road Marathon #2 (1/29/12) - ING Miami Marathon

Its always great to be in Miami when the month is January and cold in NJ/NY. Miami marathon was a peer pressured marathon by fellow runners Kino and Paul Arroyo. We met up at the NYCM Expo and all three of us signed up for the race (unfortunately, Paul couldn't make the race). The one thing about traveling to the marathon is the logistics and cost. Advice to another marathoner trying to cover other states, if you're not comfortably making a living with plenty of pocket change, I would calculate the costs and save up for the next year. Running marathon's are not CHEAP.

Anyway, back to Miami. I headed out the morning of Saturday from LGA (Laguardia Airport), meeting up with Lisa Cao on the same plane. Fortunately, I had an upgrade to first class and was able to ride comfortably. I tried getting Lisa up, but it didn't work. Once we arrived, we met up with Kino and Steve "Thunder" Lee. Steve and Kino are both aiming for the 50 states and have been traveling together for quite a while. They are finishing their 50th at Hawaii this year. We rented a car and drove straight to South Beach. It's always nice to be by the beach. This is also one of my dream retirements, sitting by the beach every morning until I lay rest in the grave. We did some eating, walking, sleeping, and a short run on the beach and headed back to the hotel where we met up with Gopal. That night, we all grabbed food by the art district of Miami and pretty much went to sleep early. Oh, thanks to Lisa, we got an amazing hook up to the Kimpton Hotel which was close to the start of the race and right by Biscayne Blvd, where it is like the Wall Street of Miami.

The morning of the run was dark. I believe it was 6:00AM or 6:30AM. Anyway, the sun wasn't even up yet. There were still partygoers outside, but you can see many people walking to the start. The course is mainly flat with a little elevation change by the bridge. I was expecting to PR this one but the temperature was in the 70's and a bit humid. I've been wearing my Skechers GoRun and wanted to test them out for the marathon. The race started off with some small fireworks and off went the tens of thousands of people. The beginning was super crowded. I had to zigzag my way through many people, at times almost colliding with other runners, but managed to get into a comfortable pace by mile 3. The first half of the marathon was nice. Watching the sun rise was kinda cool and running through South Beach was awesome. I think I went out too fast but I was doing under 9 minute per mile. There was this girl running aside me the entire time and she kept me at a good pace also. Once we headed North of South Beach, I started feeling a blister forming on my big toe. It started getting uncomfortable but I kept on going. In most cases, I forgot about it and kept running. This race used some interesting water packets at the aid stations. People were throwing these water packets like water balloons and splashing all over the place. What a waste of water, I thought. Miles 7-11 was awesome passing by Rio Alto Island, Di Lido Island, San Marino Island, San Marco Island, and Biscayne Island, all boasting really nice mansions. This part was one of my favorites I think.

After returning to the mainland, I noticed even more blisters on my feet, this time near the ball of my feet and around the pinky toes on both feet. By mile 13, where we returned to the start line and many finished the half, I felt the blisters pretty bad. I continued on, but by mile 15, I completely stopped to take my shoe off. My time at the half was under 2 hours (1:55ish). I noticed 5 blisters on my feet and with the humid, it wasn't helping at all. I continued to run but it was hurting so much, I slowed down completely. I didn't bother to stop at an aid (lesson learned, always stop at an aid if you have that many blisters) and continued on. Miles 16-19, I was pacing at 10 minute miles, sometimes walking. I wanted to take in the course view, but it was mostly the suburb area and there wasn't much to see. I was getting pissed that one by one, people were passing me. Mile 19-20 was by the coast, and it was nice, but still, I was going through a lot of pain. By mile 21, I was on a complete walk with a little jogging. Mile 22, I started to jog a little again. Time wasn't a factor to me anymore. I knew I couldn't really run anymore so I just wanted to finish. I took in the view again as we did an out and back on the Rickenbacker Causeway. It was my first time running through a toll booth.
At the turn around, there was some pineapples being served so I gobbled it up, stretched a little and headed back down. I saw Lisa Cao coming up on the way back. She looked a little tired too.

I continued to jog/walk the rest of the way until about mile 25. The last stretch, there were still a lot of cheerers so it motivated me to run. In the end, I ran the last mile and finished with a time of 4:46:46. It was worse than Yonkers Marathon, when the course is much easier. I enjoyed it a lot, and would love to come back and beat the time again. I'll most likely get a better time.

In the end, we all grabbed some food and met up with Nancy Oh. We relaxed a bit at the hotel and went out to the Bayside Market place at night to grab some more food and meet up with other Maniac members. Aside from the running, its always a blast to be in Miami when the weather is still cold up North in NY. 2013 Miami Marathon, I'm pretty sure I'll be there.