Race Recap: Brooklyn Half

I was running Brooklyn when we wore cotton T-shirts and nylon running shorts.  So yes, I was running Brooklyn before it was cool!

On FB popped up my picture from the 2016 Brooklyn Half. My knee wrapped in ice and adorned with my medal, it was during the same year that I started my epic training for the New York Marathon.  I had been relatively out of the running game for a bit; only doing a loop here and there in Prospect Park (3.35 miles) but not seriously training for anything nor participating in any road races.  It had been like that for almost a decade.  But that year, 2016, I was accepted by lottery into the New York Marathon and thought I would use the Brooklyn Half to shock my ass into training gear. I have not stopped the more ramped up training since.

Pre-Race Party and Socks

My Brooklyn Half experience started with volunteering at the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon Party (a.k.a. race packet distribution).    I did this because it offers a guaranteed entry to next year’s race. The “party” was held on Pier 2 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  Not a quick walk from the subway but a nice walk towards and then along the waterfront.  There has been much flood mitigation and “nature” restoration with small gardens, including salt marshes and native woodlands, a mini beach at Pier 4 and places for watercraft launches.  It was an area that was first industrial and then largely unused for a while and is now fully restored and public.

My shift was the 11-3pm shift, it started an hour before the packet pick-up actually began.  We expected large crowds because the NYRR sent out an email warning of heavy rains the next day urging race participants to pick up the packet on Thursday rather than Friday.  I signed up for the t-shirt distribution and was charged with showing runners t-shirt sizes and offering the opportunity to try one on for fit before committing to a size.  For some reason I ended up with the extra-small.  The size that very few people are yet many claim they aspire to be.  If you are petite, fine. But if you are an average sized grown woman, there are plenty of other things to aspire to! Most people went directly towards the small and medium, and since the shirts were cut small, the majority had to up a size.  I took a large because I like a looser fit and I don’t plan on wearing this shirt to the night club. After several hours of managing shirt try-on, the next shift relieved us and it was time for me to join the throngs to get my number (as well as my friend Noel’s since he didn’t want to get wet before the race on Saturday :).  Got my number, saw some familiar faces and then headed to Trader Joe’s for some carbs to cook and eat at home.

IMG_5253IMG_5255NYPD Picking up their race packets

IMG_5262Preview of the course

Rain was in the forecast for Saturday’s race.  We kept watching our apps to see if the forecast would change.  On the PPTC Facebook page and listserv numerous discussions flew back and forth about what to wear for this race; how to prepare for running in the rain. I realized that I only had cotton mix socks and remembered hotspots from last year.  I headed to Jack Rabbits to by some wool and/or synthetic socks and was also happy to get a pair of Saucouny Ride 10s on sale.  I don’t need to be trendy with running sneakers, I’d rather get a pair that I know that works for me and on sale (even on sale, running sneaks in Calgary are…whoa!).

Race Morning Garbage Bag Walk 

When I went to bed, the sidewalk that I could see from my bedroom window was dry.  It was still dry when I woke up at 5am but the leaves were wet and shook as each drop lightly hit. Eff.  It IS raining.  I decided to wear my PPTC shirt, capris, and cotton throw-away top; new Smartwool socks (feet taped and plastered with Vaseline), and CIBBOWS hat. I thought about gloves as my hands tend to get cold but opted out because I thought damp gloves would make my hands colder.  I asked my building super for a large garbage back the night before that I fashioned into a make-shift raincoat.  As my friend and neighbor Noel and I approached the start area, it was a merging sea of plastic bags and raincoats.  The rain started off misty and slowly graduated to a steady fall (this race started near the Brooklyn Museum, a quick walk from my Brooklyn apartment building).  My sneakers were already wet when I made the decision to wrap plastic bags around them.  Not a great decision or not great wrapping as they fell off in about a block.  I decided to check a bag (which I only do for either extreme cold or rain in these large races).

After passing through the security checkpoint, many of the runners were huddled under the trees.  It was still spring so the leaf cover was not that dense so the poor trees were not offering much shelter from the increasing rain.  If there were thought clouds above everyone’s head, I am very sure they would be filled with cuss words and questioning life decisions, like running 13.1 miles in the rain.

The porta potty lines were long (as usual) but there were not turning over as quickly.  When it was finally my turn, I guessed why–it was warm and dry inside. I stayed in for a little bit longer than normal while being sure to hug my plastic bag close and keep looking up to avoid the view of the pre-race toilet deposits (thankfully whatever chemicals they use kept the smell at bay).

The Race

Finally it was time to start the race.  After a rainy rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, the runners were off.  Well, kind of.  Because of the volume of runners, it took a good 10 minutes before I reached the start and actually started to run.  I started the race with the garbage bag but flung it off after about the first quarter mile, hoping that I would not regret that decision later.

The race started with a downhill which when really fast, I was below pace and no matter how much I felt that I was holding back, I was still under pace.  Even on the uphill I was under pace.  I became concerned because I knew “The Hill” was still in front of me.  The Battle Pass Hill is notorious amongst Prospect Park runners.  It is a long hill with the gift of  a slight incline when you pass the traffic light (which seems like should be the end of the hill).  No matter how many times I run this hill it always seems like a challenge–something to overcome.  Every. Single. Run.  So knowing that this hill was ahead of me, I had to put the brakes on.  I did. And the hill did not seem that bad (please don’t tell the hill).  After the hill, there are a couple of gentle gyrations and then it is a nice downhill glide to the exit of the park and a relative downhill run to the finish. Ocean Parkway was uneventful but this is also where I ran out of steam from the faster start. I need to learn how to better pace myself for these long races.

Even with the rain the rest of the race was not too bad and I even PR’d by a minute.  Yay.  It is always a nice feeling to first see the Cyclone and then run the last few meters of the race on the famous Coney Island Boardwalk.

IMG_5453Stellar (but wet) finish on the famed Coney Island boardwalk

Post Race

I was happy to finish and even happier with the thought of changing into dry clothes and especially my old dry socks.  The image of dry socks on my feet made me smile. However the smile became a grimace when I saw the angry mob around the UPS truck that had my checked bag.  Apparently the truck was late and the volunteers were scrambling to get the bags out of the truck, organized and handed out to runners. But after running 13.1 miles in the chilly rain the runners, who were quickly cooling down towards hypothermia, were not happy.  It took me about 45 minutes to get my bag, by then my fingers were nonfunctioning.  Not giving a rat’s ass about modesty, I stripped off my wet clothes and wrangled the dry clothes on my damp body.  My fingers could not handle unlacing my sneakers so I did not get to relish in the dry socks.  I shiver-walked to the subway and now dreamed of a very warm shower.  I hung my socks on the shower rail to dry.  They took two days to completely dry out.

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The “Wonder Wheel” medal (wiki link Wonder Wheel)

I did not take any pictures during this race because my phone was checked.  So, here are some pics from prior races:

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16, 17, 18 Finisher Medals

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IMG_12322017 Start with my teammate Zadine.  I love this picture. 

IMG_44622016 Sore Knees Finish 

 

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Race recap: Big Fiesta Run Burnaby Lake, BC

Green.  I visited Vancouver (actually a suburb Coquitlam) for a conference and the first thing I noticed was how green everything was.  And it was amazing how uplifting being bathed in all of this green was.  Coming from Calgary, were it was still relatively drab, the grass had just started peering through the earth when I left, the green was overwhelming in a good way.  It not only felt like spring, it also looked like spring.  The green was giving me life.

Whenever I visit a city I look to see if there is a convenient race on the calendar.  I found the Big Fiesta Run, that coincided with Cinco de Mayo.  I decided to sign up and saw that there was an email for “race ambassadors.” So I emailed the organizer and got a complementary entry.  When I went to the website, I saw that there were three different levels at three different prices, but it wasn’t clear what each level meant, so I opted for the free level (with the comp), level 1. I also saw that you could buy a medal for $10.  I opted out of the medal.

The morning of the race, and after an evening of dealing with work-related emotional stuff, I decided to do some urban forest bathing by walking along the green streets to the race.  Google maps indicated that the start was about an hour and 20 minutes away.  The race started at 2pm and my hotel check out was 11 so I had plenty of time.  I left my luggage at the hotel and proceeded to walk.  I was hungry and hoped to pass a grocery store or something on the way to buy a piece of fruit and yogurt.

I started the walk along the Skytrain and then turned into the residential areas.  More green.  I decided to take the path that would allow me to walk along the path of the race–through Burnaby Lake Regional Park.  Along the way I passed some of the most massive dandelions I’ve seen in my life and recalled gathering dandelions in a bouquet for my mom when I was a kid.

IMG_5156Massive dandelions

I entered the park and running/walking path and immediately noticed that it was dominated by ferns and other marshy plants; a wetlands area.

IMG_5163Geese family

I passed a family of geese and approached a white sign that was the turn-around point of the 10k, the race that I would run in a couple of hours. The path had markings of the race–directional arrows and kilometer markings–and I was still about an hour away (walking) from the start.  I continued along the path noticing the plants, birds, trees and clear blue skies above really enjoying being out in the fullness of nature.  As I got closer to the start area, I heard the music and passed a cricket field towards the check-in. I got my number and a lei with a maraca as promised on the website. As a new take on “medal for participation” trend, the people who paid for the medal picked them up PRIOR to the run.  I don’t know about others, but I like to “earn” my medals.  I want to get it at the finish line and hang it around my sweaty neck as a testament to my valiant effort.  The medals were cute and functional– bottle openers. As I didn’t find a place to get grub, I headed over the the sports center and grabbed a granola bar and a bag of cheddar popcorn for my pre-race meal.  Not exactly nutritional, but better than running a mid-afternoon race on an empty stomach.

I have to get used to the scale of the races in new places. I am used to the throngs of NYRR and even smaller but still relatively packed local races in Brooklyn.  In this race, there were less people than one coral.  But the atmosphere was true to the fiesta theme with music, piñatas, and the obligatory conga line.  There was even a costume contest.  There was a team of tacos, including a dog…cute!. And there were the “people are not costumes” costumes.  I was impressed that the tacos ran like that for 10k.  The woman who mc’d the fiesta was a bundle of energy; she was awesome and kept the fiesta going through the pre-race and was at the finish line to enthusiastically welcome back the finishers.

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The race started at around 2pm, shortly after two raptors flew overhead. One was a bald eagle and the other I could not make out, but the wing markings were spectacular. I started at a decent pace but between a combo of having not eaten properly and getting hotspots on my feet, I faded quite quickly. Re; hotspots, this was my first warmer weather race in a while and, yes, feet spread in the heat! IMG_5211

32207774_744895435898915_6842841023832391680_oMy coach back-in-the-day used to tell me about biting my lips!

With the ending of the race was the end of the fiesta; not much of an after party. I got my bag and headed back to the hotel the sink bathe and prepare for my flight back to YYC.  I was happy that I did the race and got to spend time in the beautiful Burnaby Lake park.

IMG_5178The backdrop of the mountains was divine! 

Calgary Wilderness Climb

Another last minute decision to enter an athletic event.  My dean Lesley posted the Climb for Wilderness on her FB page to solicit donations.  I commented that I was thinking about doing it.  And thinking I was.  Every now and then I check Run Guides for upcoming Calgary races.  Facebook also does a great job of posting “you might be interested in” running and other sports-related events to my wall.  So, I see events and think about them until the last minute because nowadays it depends on weather  as I have had more than my fill of cold-weather running. Even for the Bow Tower climb, it would have meant walking to the building in the cold which I would have to make that last-minute decision to do or not to do.

During the week preceding the climb, I ran into Lesley in the office and she mentioned the climb, asking if I were going to do it.  She was psyched about the climb, saying she was going to attempt three ascensions. I said, “I was still thinking about it.” She said to IM her if I decided to do it.

I went home that evening and signed up.  I don’t know if it was because she is the dean, or it was the notion of climbing with company or because it would be another chilly day and I did not feel like running outside.  Anyway, I signed up and pledged to complete one ascension.

On the morning of the climb, I got my water bottle together (there would only be water stations at the top so the website told participants to bring water) and put on a singlet and running capris under my muppet-like Uniqlo fuzzy hoodie and walked about a mile point five over to the Bow Building.  It is now the tallest building in Calgary and the building’s website (different link) touts that all postcards had to be updated upon it completion because it is now an iconic part of Calgary’s skyline.  It is a 58 story building; the Wilderness Climb had participants completing 55 of the 58 floors.

The climb began with a little fan fare as all participants gathered in the lobby. We were all given a cool navy blue shirt with graphics of some of Alberta’s iconic and unique flora, fauna and charismatic megafauna.  One of my colleagues had a yellow tech shirt because he a) raised a bit of dough and b) based on raising that dough he would attempt 9 climbs.

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The horn sound and we were off.  We had to walk outside to the side of the building to access the staircase.  In my singlet I felt quite naked and exposed to the elements in the cold.  To think that in my younger days I would have raced a 5K in booty shorts and a singlet in the same weather.

It was a narrow staircase with views of the Calgary’s northeast.  As we ascended the stairs, there were sign posts that compared the hight to global icons.  I passed a new NY related ones–the Statue of Liberty and Brooklyn Bridge.  I assume the Brooklyn Bridge on was in reference to the top of the stanchions. We climbed together at a steady pace and before you knew it, we reached the 55th floor!  wilderness climbBrooklyn in da house

31081646_10215493592113616_8061932031551995904_nHoofing it

The exit from the staircase brought us to a beautiful penthouse atrium with trees and views of the west, including the Canadian Rockies.  There we grabbed water and rested a bit.  We also saw Richard Guy, who at 101 climbed 5 floors of the Bow Building with a picture of his late wife around his neck.  This video shows Richard finishing the climb along with some of my 15 minutes of fame.

31073440_10215493590553577_353621858823700480_nLesley and I with Richard Guy

“Wow, it was not that bad, I could do it again.” says I.

“Well, I have another chip, I was going to do three but if you wanted it…” says Lesley.

“Damn, I gotta do that again,” says I in my mind, but my mouth said, “Are you sure? I would do it with you if you really did not want to do it three times.”

I am curious if her mind (and legs) was happy that I took the chip as my mind (and legs) was all “what is happening???”

So down and up we went again.  The second time around was not that bad either, maybe next year I will plan on doing multiple times. For Alberta’s Wildlife.

As we walked along the river on the way home, Lesley pointed out some trees that were gnawed down by beavers.  I ran by them in the mornings and thought some human chopped them down with a dull tool.  She pointed out the concave bite marks and I was impressed that there were beavers in the river.  I never saw one in the wild until two weeks later when I saw one swimming close to the riverbank.  Urban wildlife is also Alberta’s wildlife!