Tuesday, September 08, 2009


I had a fairly uneventful Labor Day weekend. With one exception - I ran a 5k. On a sore ankle. Which is now really sore. It was hard. But not just due to the ankle. I just think running is hard. Sometimes, after the fact, I get all caught up in the triumph of actually finishing that I forget how much I hated the process. But not this time. I think it is the lingering, inexplicable ankle pain that is reminding me that while I enjoy improving my physical fitness and I am happy to have muscle tone return to my legs and very happy with the relatively quick calorie burning of it, I still have a hard time running. Except that sometimes I think I kind of like it. This last weekend just wasn't one of those times.

For starters, the race was scheduled to start at 11 am on Governor's Island - an island in New York harbor that was formerly a military post with a history dating back to the Revolutionary War. It is located a short ferry ride off the southern tip of Manhattan island. My race materials advised runners to board the 9 am ferry since the 10 am ferry would not likely give participants enough time to get to the starting point in time. So on Saturday night I set my alarm for 7 am to give myself time for a stress free morning with plenty of time to subway downtown allowing for a pre-ferry arrival of 15-30 minutes for "check-in". I also went to bed at 11 pm. That is early for me but I wanted a solid 8 hours of sleep pre-race.
Aw, good intentions.

Around 3 am I woke up with one arm extended above my head with the opposite hand frantically scratching at my forearm just as I became aware of a hot itch behind my shoulder. I tossed and turned and tried to ignore the incessant compulsion to scratch and scratch (which I am having to supress even now as I type while my left calf throbs slightly with a volcanic-sized bite). In my half-conscious state I started imagining my bed as full of angry little bed bugs feasting on my exposed flesh. And let me tell you, once that image creeps into your head when it is dark and your skin is crawling, there is no getting away from it. So I flung the covers aside and made my way to the bathroom to inspect the damage.

Just below my right elbow was a bulbous, red mound that cried out at me to S C R A T C H !! and flipping my right arm over revealed a matching red lump not too far below my wrist - each ugly bite swollen up to at least 2 inches in length. My left arm had a couple more matching lumps and using the mirror I spotted a couple on the back of my shoulder. I tried not to claw my skin off as I blinked into a fully wakeful state and dug through my toiletry cabinet to find the "After Itch" stick I packed on all exotic vacations because there is never a question of whether the mosquitos will get me, it is just a matter of when and how much. I flipped on my bedroom light as I smeared the temporary salve all over my arms and made my way to the bed wondering if I really wanted to find the culprit. While my predictably swollen reaction made me quite certain my bed-mate was a mosquito, my semi-dreamed fear of bed bugs was not entirely gone. I shook out my covers and couldn't see anything - except, wait - is that a BUG! Shoot, now I needed my glasses. After I returned from the bathroom be-spectacled, I realized the only thing in my bed was an over-sized piece of lint.

After another dose of After-Bite, I turned out the light and tried to sleep. Except now I was paranoid about not sleeping and the sound of my extra-ordinarily loud dishwasher was distracting me (I use the timer on my dishwasher to go off in the middle of the night for this very reason). The last I looked at the clock it read 4-something.

Which resulted in my sleeping until 7:40. I didn't have a lot to do to get ready to go - no need for a shower, my clothes and shoes and race materials were all set out on the couch and waiting for me. But I needed to eat a good breakfast - a fried egg, a couple of small bran muffins and some Greek yogurt with fresh blueberries. After that I was off but now it was just past 8 and I was concerned with making the 9 am ferry in time if I relied on a Sunday morning subway schedule. So I took a cab.

I arrived at the ferry station with plenty of time to just stand around and wait after giving someone my ferry ticket. The morning was cool and felt perfect for running and I was energized by all the people around me who looked like real runners.

The ferry was on time and I always find it breath taking to see the Statue of Liberty - I always feel compelled to take photos no matter how many I have taken before. I managed to get to the race staging area early enough to camp out on a hammock in the picnic area.

I read my book and enjoyed the view and tried to wait patiently until about 1030 when I decided I should start warming up. I did some slow stretching and a couple of nervous jogs and made my way to the starting point after checking in my bag. I was one of the first to line up so I just continued to pace and stretch and wait.

At about 5 minutes to 11 a garbled announcement was made about the race being delayed. I soon learned that there was some problem with the ferry being too full to carry everyone and they were delaying the race by 30-40 minutes to give all the runners time to get to the starting point. Great. I was starting to get hungry. And tired. And anxious.

After some more nervous wandering, I went back to the starting point again and this time, the race finally started. Only now - it was hot. And I was thirsty and tired. I'm not making excuses for anything, I'm just telling you how I felt. And it got worse.

The race started on the eastern side of the southern tip which means at the first bend in the road - the Statue of Liberty rose out strong and resolutely directly ahead of me. It was beautiful and I felt strong - despite all the racers rushing past me as I slowly plodded along. I soon discovered that when I select 5K on my ipod, my pace is given to me in kilometers, not miles. My kilometer pace was useless to me so I just plodded on. It was wonderful having so many people standing along the side of the road waving and clapping and cheering. I didn't know any of them but they bouyed me up and helped me to keep going. Until I recognized a couple of people! My friend Joo had volunteered to come and she invited a friend of hers (who I also know). And there they were standing on the side of the road - cameras ready cheering for me.
I somehow managed to smile for them - probably because I hadn't yet run a mile so I was still feeling relatively good. (As an aside, please forgive me for those shorts. I previously thought they were cute and comfortable and that I could somehow pull them off. This photo has taught me otherwise. I promise, this will never happen again.)

It is a good thing my friends showed up because even though I didn't see them again until after the race was over, just knowing they were there kept me running. And prevented me from cheating and opting for the 3k turnoff point - a huge temptation.

Another thing I should mention is that for a while now I have been concerned that maybe my handy little nike-plus running gadget has been, well, lying to me. You see, lately it has been telling me what a good pace I have been running and I've been feeling really good about that. Except, except that I didn't quite believe it. I knew that running on a route that was accurately measured would be telling - and it was. There were little mile marker posts along the race route and they never quite synced up with my ipod. That wouldn't be so bad except that my ipod was telling me I was half-way through long before I was actually half-way. And when it got to the point where it was cheerfully telling me "400 meters to go!", I knew he was lying. But luckily, right about the time my ipod was telling me I had completed my 5k, I was rounding that southern tip of the island where Lady Liberty rises up and there were still some race watchers standing along the road clapping and cheering and one guy was repeatedly yelling "Race for the Cure! Live Strong!" which had nothing to do with this particular race which was actually a World Trade Center Memorial race, but was still somehow motivating. I wanted to walk, I wanted to stop! I wanted to lie down on the grass. I wanted to just get the whole thing over with and never run again! But mostly, I wanted to cross the finish line running so I pressed on and before I knew it, I did just that!

In approximately 32 minutes. I saw approximately because I was so happy when I finally did cross the finish line I forgot to pay attention to the giant timer above me and then forgot to turn off my nike plus for a little bit and it registered 33:04. This race had a timed chip thing for my shoe but I cannot figure out where online to find out my race time.
But the bottom line is, I know my ipod is not calibrated correctly because a 5k is 3.2 miles. And, according to my ipod, I ran 3.53 miles. And I know I didn't run anything extra. While this is a little bit discouraging, I don't plan on quitting any time soon. Except maybe until my ankle doesn't hurt anymore because while before the race it was a little sore, now it only hurts when I walk. Which is a problem I am treating with ice and an ace bandage until it goes away.
Post-race I got to hang out with my friends on Governor's Island for a while in the beautiful sunshine! I especially loved hanging out with this little guy:

Oh, and I like his mom too - thanks again for coming Joo!


michele said...

way to go alyssa. also, the guy at the running store told me you can calibrate those nike+ things to your running stride to make them more accurate. but if it were me, i'd just pretend i ran farther than i did.

lizzie said...

good for you.

i hate running.

Tiffany said...

Congratulations! I'm am SO impressed!

Erin said...

Way to go! I don't think I could run 5K anymore. I used to run. Then I discovered XC skiing, and all other exercise seemed horrible in comparison. Well, hiking's awesome. And kayaking. But running does torture a special sense of pride into a person!

You should be proud!

Emily said...

I read this yesterday, but didn't have a chance to comment. I wanted to say, again, what an incredible inspiration you are! (And I thought the shorts looked fine, for what it's worth.) Go you!

KimcheeMandoo said...

You did great!!! And you looked cute... the shorts nicely complemented your dark brown top.

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