Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two Runs. One Week

What a fantastic week for running. Here in the northeast we have had unusually warm weather and the rain has not been to bad; it has fallen in spurts. If you time your run right you may stay dry and score a couple of races like I did: Philadelphia Half Marathon on November 22 followed by the Prospect Park Turkey Trot on November 26.

Running Philly was a blast although I travelled alone, ate alone, and toured alone. Eileen and Pam were the only friends who I caught up with; Pam at the expo, she was running the full marathon and Eileen at the starting line, she too was running the full marathon. I know Eileen finished well, just over 4 hours, which was her goal. Congratulations to Pam and Eileen for finishing another marathon strong.

My trip down began with a long solo drive to The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. The traffic was heavy that day my friends like an old man sitting upon his throne. It took about an half hour to go around the block to find parking. Once the car was parked I checked into the hotel and hurried to the expo, picked up my packet and purchased a Philadelphia Marathon cap. The expo itself did not have much. Unlike San Diego, which had vendors galore and give away items, Philly was all about selling paraphenallia. Who needs those magnets that help you maintain balance while running? Sorry Lisa, just had to throw that in. Spy belts at every stand, but those are necessary. Buy one if you haven't gotten one yet. No GU or chew samples could be found. So, I caught up with Pam and her family on my way out of the expo and headed back to the hotel.

After making a valiant attempt to have dinner with some friends, I ventured out on the downtown Philly streets, hailed a cab, and told the cabbie, "650 S. 9th St." He promptly drove away from the hotel, and we trekked to south Philly (aka Little Italy). The destination was Ral['s. It is the oldest family owned Italiamn Restaurant in America. The food is out of the world. The setting fits its history. It looks like something from a mob movie, small store front, maitre d up front, and the dining rooms, three floors worth, packed with people. Baboo Bhat would have been proud to serve "all the people."

I was brought to the bar on the second floor to wait my hour to be seated as an individual guest. I leaned back against the wall and just watched the people around me. The bar tender was a cool guy; definetly part of the family. He chatted with the folks sitting on their stools doling out wine and mixed drinks to whomever. Large families surrounded most of the tables. Many having dinner before the big race. Young and old, kids and toddlers. This is an awesome place. I just love it here.

My name was called, "Bill! Follow me."

The maitre d and the wait staff called the head guest by name. It was a nice formality that made you feel as though you were an important guest. Being alone, it was special. i was a loser for being alone, but special because I was alone and being seated as a VIP. Well, in my mind anyway. I was taken to a section where there were three "couples" tables. Against the wall was a couple who seemed out of place for each other. The guy just sat and listened while "his date" seemed to have a problem living. I don't believe she had a positive thing to say all night; not that I was listening.

The couple on my left were cool. The big guy sat next to me. We faced the front of the restaurant. I didn't get his name. Yet I think I saw him in a movie once... His girlfriend had a heavy Jersey accent and was a blast. I spoke wth them during dinner. I ordered spaghetti with marinara sauce and a beer, Miller Lite. A cup of coffee and a canoli chased the spaghetti. It was a night to remmeber. I jumped a cab back to the hotel and called it a night. The cab coming out was ten bucks while the cab going back was 5. Hmm, who ripped me off, I wonder? Who cares, its Philly, Little Italy its to be expected. What a night.

Well, not much to do after returning to the room, so I hit the hay for an early morning and a second shot for an official time in a half marathon that didn't require jumping over stumps, sloshing through streams, nor running up hills. Just smooth city streets,

The Philadelphia Marathon and Half Marathon start together, in front of the art museum and winds its way through the city and quaint neighborhoods. I ran the first two miles with Eileen and my tunes of choice to begin the run was U2. I switched it up to Guns n Roses and then Jimi Hendrix. As I ran up through Drexel University, I moved on to AC/DC. Drexel University started a small hill climb uet I maintained a quick pace, it wasn't until mile 11 that I coukd no longer ignore the quad and knee pain. I slowed from an 8 minute pace tp an 11 or 12 minute pace unti; about 12.75 minute pace. I finished strong and completed the race 7 minutes faster than i ran the Cortland Leaf Peeper Half at 1:50:51.

After I crossed the finish line I promptly returned to my hotel, showered, and checked out so I could visit the Philadelphia Art Museum to climb the steps that Rocky Balboa climbed, to see the beautiful art work inside the museum, and then to see the statue from Rocky III.
I had never visited an art museum. So, I joined a guided tour of the Gorky exhibit. Interstingly you could see how his painting evolved over time; yet he stayed true to his abstract, cubist roots, Early on he used a lot of paint. Color rarely blended, and figures would fade into the flat, wall-lke background. By the end of the your his paint thinned, and he allowed the paint to flow into the painting. The study work where he prepped for big murals were the most spectacular. The vibrant colors and ideas were more stunning than the actual finished pieces, tome that is. Time ran short. I had to go. The Philly trip was great. I will never forget it because I successfully did all I planned without relying on anyone else.

I returned home to prepare for my next adventure which would bring me to Prospect Park in Brooklyn on Thanksgiving morning.

Wednesday afternoon I started my trip to Long Island with two of my four children, Paul and Anna. We made plans to visit my uncle and cousin on Thanksgiving day and then to visit West Islip, my home town, for a bagel and a short trip to the beach followed by a quick stop to grab 20 White Castles with cheese.

We made it to LI on Wednesday night, and I hit the sack promptly for an early wake up call to leave for Brooklyn. I just love running in events in other cities. It fantastic to experience other people and cultures, to see new streets, landmarks, and sounds. In Brooklyn, during this trip, my GPS took me in a different way than usual. I say countless of Orthodox Jewish folks walking the streets. They dressed in all black from head to toe except for a white shirt. All boys had long curls. in a way they reminded me of the Amish of Northern New York and Lancaster, PA. I witnessed hundreds of people, runners, of all ages, shapes, and sizes arriving by foot, car, bike, and train to Run the Prospect Park Turkey Trot. Its a nice 5 mile run around the lake in two loops, an inner and outer loop. There were about 1700 runners.

I decided not to worry about time like I do before every race until it starts. Then i get antsy and have to take off, but this time I had a plan. I took the first mile at 9 min/mile pace. I increased my pace at each mile and ended averaging an 8:02 min/mile pace and beat my time from the previous year coming in at 40:09. I was satisfied considering I forgot to take my usual 800 motrin although I did load up on Bio-Freeze. The weather was warm with some clouds and no rain. However, I will blame one girl who was slow near mile three who kept cutting me off from passing. if she would have stayed out of my way I could have made it below 40 minutes. It not me, but everyone else, right? I would never get in any one's way, would I? Well, ok, it was my fault and I accept full responsibility for nor not finishing under 40 minutes.

Once the race ended, all of us runners continued through the shute after having the chips removed from our shoes and headed for the Prospect Park Pavillion. Awaiting us were Brooklyn bagels, coffee, and hot chocolate. A bagel and hot chocolate never tasted so good. Oh, the prospect park Track Club gave us all a running cap to commemorate the run, running gloves, and a gold medal. Even after being delayed by that girl, I still pulled of a victory, i finished and felt good, and earned a GOLD MEDAL with a picture of a turkey. Oh yeah. You gotta love it. I can't wait until next year.

What else awaited me on this fine Thanksgiving day? My uncle, hearing that I was hoping to start biking gave me his old road bike; a Centurion Expert Iron Man bike. Old, but in good condition. I can't wait to start riding. I also met a young cousin of mine who runs for the Islip varsity X-Country team at the age of 13 and he is ranked in the top 5 for running in the town of Islip which consists of all the Town of Islip school districts. As a matter of fact, he runs a 19 minute 5K.

Then I visited my cousin Lisa and ended the night drinking wine, Tequila Rose, and beer with her husband and neighbors; I even gained another Facebook friend, Jee. So, long story short, these are two terrific runs. I hope to run them again, and i encourage all of you to leave your localities and run for a new adventure. take in the new restaurants and museums while watching the people. You can only win and feel good by the end of the day.

See you on the road.
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