I haven't written here in forever. I doubt anyone is reading it, but I wanted to write about the last few months. It might be better that no one is reading--I just need to get it out, to get it down. Shannon, the terrier this blog is named for, is gone. I had to let her go in January--January 13th, to be exact. I miss her terribly and deep down, I don't think I'm coping all that well. The end of last year I began to notice that she was losing weight. Not in a general, getting thin kind of way, but her hindquarters were starting to waste. She had been slowing down a lot, but she still had a many good days where she was alert and interested. The walks had shortened and she often didn't make it outside even to do her business. I was getting used to cleaning up after her. She was on three or four different medicines and was becoming more disinterested in eating. I decided that I needed to take her to the vet for a checkup. That decision was made the week before Christmas. Well, on December 26, NYC got socked in by a big snowstorm. The city didn't react well and for days after streets were still not plowed. We had a number snowstorms this past winter, which made it really difficult to get Shannon out. She didn't like snow and was averse to getting her paws wet, but that Boxing Day storm was a big one and I was stuck in the house with her for days. I think that was when it really hit me how old she had gotten. Between the snowstorms and the holidays, I wasn't able to get her to the vet until the beginning of January. The vet was shocked at her condition. We had seen the doctor in August for her regular checkup and she had lost a great deal of weight since then. He took blood and decided that we should stop all her heart medications. Her kidneys were starting to fail and he thought that we needed to try and stop the deterioration. So, I took her home and tried to get used to not giving her any meds. She became even more disinterested in eating. I was spoonfeeding her anything she was willing to take. She would eat the goodies, so I think it was more that she was feeling queasy and could only be coaxed to eat the really good stuff. I had put a second bowl of water in the living room, near her bed, so that she wouldn't have to go far to drink. It was important that she get liquids down. I came home one day to find water all over the floor around an empty waterbowl. I thought, maybe she fell into it, because the bowl was still upright. A couple of nights later I was awoken by her making a loud noise next to my bed. For a few years, Shannon had been unable to get up into my bed, but she insisted on sleeping in my bed at night and refused to use any assistance to get out of it when she needed to. So, she would fling herself off of the bed to the floor. Upon being awoken, I thought maybe she had been unable to land on her feet and had fallen. I got up to pick her up and realized that she was unconscious. I held her for a bit to see if she would start seizing. She has had epilepsy since she was young, and while the meds had kept her from having a seizure in years, I thought it was possible that they weren't working any more. She came back after a short while and I put her back in bed and went back to sleep. The next day she collapsed two more times. Meanwhile, we had had another big snowstorm, so I was home from work. I dug out the car and I called the vet's office to take her in. My regular vet was not in, but another doctor was available. I told him what was happening and he took blood again and basically told me that her kidneys were failing and I needed to get fluids into her. He advised getting some chicken boullion and gave me a syringe to get the liquid into her. I took her home and made her comfortable. After staying home so many days with the storms, I decided to go to work the next day. About an hour after I got there, the vet called. Tests showed that in the week since we had first went in, her kidneys were even worse and she had lost even more weight. I asked him if it was possible to support her and keep her comfortable. He said that she probably wasn't in pain, but might be feeling nauseous. The kidneys would just continue to decline. I had decided previously that the collapses were due to the congestive heart failure and the lack of oxygen to her brain. I told the vet that I would call him back when I decided what I wanted to do. I called my mom and got hysterical on the phone. I told her I was going home and ran out of the office. Shortly after getting home I called the vet's office and told them that I had decided on euthanization. They told me that I could come in in about an hour. I let Shannon ride on the front seat for the first time in years. She just sat there and watched me. Once we got to the office, I held her while we waited. Looking back, I realize that she ready to go as she just stayed in my arms. Usually she would spend the entire time in the waiting room pacing from the me to the door and asking to get picked up and insisting on being put down. But she was very calm in my arms. I was with her when she went. She fussed a bit on the exam table before the vet sedated her. But then she just went. After dealing with her collapses for about a week, I wasn't sure she was gone. After a while, I told her she was a good girl and left her. I still can't get the image of her on that table out of my head. I'm having a hard time getting past that day and remembering her the way she was. I'm not sure if I'm ever going to feel like I can accept another dog in my life. I'm positive that it was the right time. I think it was hastened by stopping the heart meds, but it probably only made a difference of a few weeks. The first thing I did when I got home was to pack up everything in the apartment of hers and move it out. I packed up all her things, her pictures. I considered ripping the carpet up in my apartment, but I haven't done that yet. I'm tired of feeling this way. I'm tired of fielding the question 'when are you getting another dog?' I know that most people mean well, but I don't think anyone truly understands. Shannon was my best friend, my roommate, my life. The last four months is the first time I've ever lived totally alone. I don't get any enjoyment from anything. I've put on about 15 pounds in the two years that she was sick because I just didn't care. Everything that I used to enjoy seems like a chore. Before I lost her, I thought that I would throw myself into running because I would have more time. I even considered doing the NYC marathon in her memory, but I just don't have the energy. I have been forcing myself to do things that I should do and I suppose I do feel somewhat better. I can actually get my act together for about a week but then it slowly starts to fall apart again. I then pick up the pieces and try again. I suppose that's normal. I guess if something was really wrong, I wouldn't bother trying again.
Today was my first race for this year - the 3 x 2 mile trail relays in Bethpage. This is always more of a fun time than a competitive one as you really can't compare your time on the roads with those on trails. I'm still the Runner's Rep for our running club, so it was my job to try and get people to come out for this thing and then handle the organization of getting teams together and everyone registered for the race. They decided to have the race on Saturday this year instead of Sunday as it's been for the last few years. Not sure if that was why the turnout was a bit lighter than usual. It might also have to do with the lack of advertising that GLIRC did for it this year. As of earlier this week, I wasn't even positive that the race was happening. That combined with the change in days (I wonder how many people are going to show up expecting the race tomorrow?) probably confused everyone. The club managed to field 4 teams this year. I headed out to the site fairly early so that I could get the paperwork out of the way and collect all the numbers. Traffic was light so I got there half an hour before registration officially opened. Turned out they were set up already so I got all the teams squared away. I ran with the same ladies that I've run with for the past 3 years. Because one of the ladies is only 29 years old, we always end up in the women's open category which keeps us from having any chance at a win, but it doesn't matter. I ran the first leg. I set out at a good pace, but was still pretty far back in the pack. All I could think about was not breaking an ankle in the first race of the year. That would truly stink. For the first time since I started doing this race, the course wasn't either icy or frozen solid. In fact, it was kind of soft and felt like a good part of it was a few inches deep in wood chips, which actually made for pretty slow going. I did manage to pass a few people, but found myself in a gap for most of my run. I finished my leg in about 17:20. I handed off to Christina, who managed a respectable 33:30 or so, which means her leg was about 16:10. Christina then passed it to Sue, who had already run the course once as an escort for a special needs runner and is also nursing a knee injury. The winner finished the race before Sue even started. There were a few wickedly fast teams there. We found out after, that the winning team did the first leg in under 10 minutes - less than 5:00 pace. The first team for our club was our Men's Masters team, who finished the course in 43:20, with the second team, our Mixed Masters team, right behind them in 43:35 and a win in their category. Sue brought our team home in 48:53, which means she managed sub-8:00 miles. Our fourth team, Men's Senior Masters, finished in 58:45. I'm considering doing a 5k next weekend, but I haven't registered for it yet. It's in upper Manhattan, which will be difficult to get to, and I've heard the course is seriously hilly. The main attraction is that I haven't done that particular race, yet. I'll probably make up my mind later this week.
I'm so behind with this blogging thing, but I'll try and catch everyone up with what I've been doing. Last weekend started out with an evening at the theater. When we heard that Equus was coming to Broadway with Daniel Radcliffe, Chelly and I jumped on the tickets. A big splurge for me, buying theater tickets at full price. We met for dinner at a pleasant restaurant near Times Square. The highlight of dinner was the fireworks that we could see from our table a few blocks over on the Hudson River. I believe it was in honor of the re-opening of the Intrepid museum. Our seats for the show were a little far back. The sightlines were fine and I would have had no trouble seeing the stage, except for the two giants that sat down in front of me. The entire show was framed by their heads. The big media attention to this production was the fact that 'Harry Potter gets naked'. A lot of speculation was made as to whether this was a good thing or bad thing for Daniel Radcliffe and the Harry Potter world. I don't think it will have a negative effect on either. This is not a play for the young fans of the Harry Potter books. And I think those old enough to see the play are old enough to separate Daniel from his character. Daniel Radcliffe and Richard Griffiths, who played Dysart the psychiatrist, were fantastic. It's really Griffiths' show, with Daniel's character providing the psychiatrist the means to examine his own life. The nudity is not minor, in fact Daniel runs all around the stage without his cloths on, but it wasn't really a shock as it fit into what was going on in the play. I really enjoyed the show. Sunday morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed after my late-ish night, I headed out to run a local 4 mile race. The course was the one where I had won my first trophy in another race a few years ago and the hills are intimidating. The comments back then were related to how they managed to find a course that was completely uphill. We had a big turn out from the club, however, so I was going to have fun even if I didn't manage to break any records. I spent most of the run amid kids from the a local running club that caters to those with special needs. They had a huge turnout and you saw them everywhere. It's always a bit confusing as their club colors are the same as ours. I tried to keep up a good pace, but I ended up walking a bit more than I wanted to and finished in an uninspiring 35:05. Not awful, but I should be able to go a little faster at this point. The after party was a lot of fun. There was mucho food and the club managed to pick up a number of trophies. A few of us were hooting and hollering from the crowd every time they announced one of our team and the announcer started to anticipate the noise when he would call out one of our club members for an award. I have another 4 mile race planned for tomorrow - the Race to Deliver in Central Park. I'm not expecting too much as I haven't been running as much as I should and eating more than I should.
This is a long weekend for me (happy Thanksgiving to any Canadian readers) so I decided that I would do a race both Saturday and Sunday, allowing Monday as a day to fall apart. Saturday's race was a small 1 mile race. Rob, one of my Alley Pond teammates, coaches the track team at his elementary school alma mater, Pope St. Clement. So there was a boatload of club members showing their support. The short course brings out some of the walkers and we had a bunch of runners. I've never raced a mile before. So I was a little nervous. I did a 1.7 mile race last weekend at about an 8:00/minute pace, so I felt pretty sure that I could manage a sub-8:00 mile, but beyond that, I wasn't sure. I started out fairly quickly and then tried to rein in my pace so that I could finish the darn thing. The legs started to feel leaden about half of the way through and I was sure that I had slowed down too much. I got a second wind about two-thirds of the way through and felt pretty good. I tried to kick it in the last 100 yards, but I didn't have too much left. I was stunned to see 7:20 as I passed through the finish line. This ended up being good enough for 1st in my age group and I took home the small trophy in the front. I really enjoyed racing the mile and pushing it to what felt like my limit. Sunday's race was the Get to the Point 5k in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I highly recommend this race. It's a local race organized by the St. Stanislaus Athletic League and attracted a little over 300 runners. It passes through the streets of the neighborhood with obstacles only seen in NYC (there was a bus stopped in the middle of the course in the first mile which we all had to run around). There was at least one noticeable uphill. But the main reason to do this race is the post race party. The race organizers really get some serious sponsorship and are able to put on one heck of a shindig that is open to all runners and included in the $15 race fee. Tons of food and drink (including beer for those over 21) and raffles and free stuff just tossed into the crowd. After filling my plate, I sat with a few of my fellow AP people, including Gerry and Jessica, one of our newest members, and Josh, her boyfriend who we'd like to be a member (hint,hint). Josh ran the course in under 20 minutes, so it was no surprise when he collected a trophy for 3rd in his age group. But I was shocked when my 25:51 ended up being good enough for 3rd in my age group. Really nice trophy. Gerry had dropped a word to the announcer that it was Jessica's birthday, so, of course, they dragged her up on stage with two other people who shared her birthday and the whole crowd sang for them. Then they gave her a six-pack of beer. What more could you want?
I've been back from vacation for over a week now and I've yet to write it up. About time, don't you think? This is a long one, so I give everyone permission to skim through and just look at the pretty pictures. You know you're gonna. I started the drive North on Thursday the 21st. Since I was driving the whole way, by myself, I had decided to break up the trip by spending the night in Plattsburgh, NY. Why Plattsburgh? Mostly because it was at a good point in the drive and I figured that it would be fairly cheap to get a room in the town. Plattsburgh was pretty dull. It's a college town and it probably is a lot more hopping when the students are there. But during the summer there weren't many folks around the town center. I got a room at the local Super 8 and took a drive around looking for a place to eat. The only choices appeared to be fast food, but I found an interesting little hot dog stand where they still had servers that would come out to your car. Clare and Carl's served what is called a 'Michigan'. Not having any idea what that was, I got a hamburger, which was good, but I should have tried the hot dog buried in chili sauce, onions and mustard. Friday I checked out early and headed toward Canada. The border crossing was uneventful, but suddenly all the road signs were in French. I had been getting French language radio stations since leaving Plattsburgh. It felt so odd to be such a short distance from home and to feel completely foreign. It took about 4 hours to get from the Plattsburgh to Quebec. When I got to the city I wasn't able to cross the Grand Allee, one of the main east-west roads, by car to get to my hotel. All traffic was being diverted. Since it was still pretty early, I decided to park the car and walk around a bit to get a feel for the area. I was hoping that I might be able to walk to the hotel and figure out an alternative way to drive there. I also needed to get some cash so that I could buy something to eat. After using my bank card in a local ATM yielded a handful of Canadian cash I headed down the Rue St-Jean looking for someplace interesting to eat. Rue St-Jean is a fun street with little boutiques and arty stores. It had a very college town feel with young people hanging around street benches. I didn't find food, though. My hunger was making me grouchy and anxious along with the 90 minute limit there had been on my parking spot. But I did manage to figure out how I could possibly detour around whatever was going on on the Grand Allee and get to my hotel. Once I got the the Chateau Laurier where I was staying I checked in and arranged to park my car in their parking lot. I then hit the Grand Allee which is lined with restaurants and also happened to be right outside my window. My first meal in Quebec was at an Italian place called Casa Calzone where I had a giant Calzone and a glass of beer. I sat at a table outside on the sidewalk, surrounded by people speaking French, and watched the world go by. Later that evening I was restless and noticed that the park right in front of the hotel was set up for a concert of some sort. As part of the celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Quebec's founding, there were military bands in town and free concerts every night. So I decided to watch for a while. I nearly cracked up when I realized that, over 500 miles away from NYC, and I was watching the NYPD Jazz Band perform. Saturday morning I got up early to partake of the breakfast being provided to the marathon participants by the hotel. Afterwards, I wandered into the lobby and bumped into the crew from the College Point Track Club. They were headed out for a run. I didn't mention that my cell phone had stopped working when I got close to the border and I had not been able to contact anyone who was supposed to be coming up for the race. So I was pleased to see Carmen and Hector, who I knew, and Robert and Tony, who I hadn't previously met. They said they were having some problems with their phones, as well, and hadn't heard from the rest of the bunch. I wished them a good run and told them I'd see them later. A little later I headed over to the Race Expo to get my race packet and to see if I would bump into anyone from the club. I got there when it opened at 9 and hung around until after 11. I did bump into the College Pt. group again, but didn't see any of my teammates. I decided to heck with them and headed down into the Old Town to look around.
Quebec is a wonderful little city. Most of the tourist stuff is within easy walking distance of everything else. So I just wandered around, getting an idea of how the city was laid out. I grabbed a quick soup and sandwich for lunch and just tried to enjoy myself. When I was walking up the Rue St-Louis I noticed that quite a few people were out on the sides of the road. Many of them had folding chairs or were simply seated on the curb. I wondered what was going on as I meandered through the shops. Then I saw a band coming down the avenue and realized that there was going to be a parade! Fantastic! So I whipped out my camera and got a spot on the side of the road. There must have been about 50 military units that came down that street, all within touching distance, and quite a few in fancy dress. Saturday evening was the marathon pasta party, which it just so happens, was being held in my hotel. This is where I finally found the whole AP Striders crew - Rob, Helen, Gerry, Gillian and Marge. We enjoyed a pretty good pasta dinner and great desserts while we caught each other up with what we'd done in town, so far. Sunday morning I was awake and at breakfast by 5:30am. After trying to figure out what I could eat without taking the chance of upsetting my tummy, we headed out to the shuttle buses that were taking us to a ferry to get to the other side of the St. Lawrence River. More buses would meet us there to take us to the starting lines of the full and half marathons. Both races started in Levis and ran along the bank of the St. Lawrence, crossed a bridge and then ran back the other side to return into Quebec City. The day promised to be a long hot one. At 7:30 we were sent off by cannon blasts. I had heard that the course was fairly flat, except for one hill within the first two miles and the incline of the bridge. Well, there were actually two pretty memorable hills before we hit the bridge at approximately the 3.5 mile mark. Up and over the bridge, I felt OK and was staying on pace for a 2:10 finish. The heat and, probably, the travels before the race, caught up with me around the 6 mile mark. I just felt the sudden need to walk. So I did for a short bit and then tried to pick up a run. This worked for a while, but it got harder and harder to resume running each time. I stopped at each and every water stop to drink a cup and douse myself with the other. I sipped at the Gatorade that I had with me. I had been eating a little, but when I took a Clif Shot Block at around the 7 mile mark it started a distinctly queasy feeling in my stomach. I had no desire to nurture this feeling, so I stopped taking in anything except for a little water. Instead, I started putting a great deal of water on the outside of me. I was literally dripping as I moved. I really wanted to stop, but didn't have a good enough reason to, so I soldiered on. I bumped into a New York Flyer at about the 10 mile mark. I chatted with her for a little bit, which distracted me from desire to stop. Her name was Marj and she had come to Quebec for vacation and thrown the race into the mix. I managed to keep mostly moving for the next couple of miles. I saw some of the non-runners with our group on the sideline with about 3k to go. Waved at them and headed toward the finish line. There was a nice big chute for us to finish through and a red carpet to welcome us in. I was never so happy to stop running. Tony from College Point finished a minute or two behind me and saw me as I waited on a line to get my picture taken. I heard that Hector from their club had collapsed at the finish line. No one seemed to know how serious it was and they were looking for his wife, Carmen. Fortunately, it just ended up being bad leg cramps and Hector was much better later. After getting my photo taken I headed toward the food tables and the exit. This is where it got truly ridiculous. With runners coming in from 3 separate races, many of them suffering from the heat and dehydration, the race organizers decided to make sure that no one took more than one bottle of water or a fair share of the other foodstuffs offered. They funneled all the finishers through a tent to a single gate with a few people stuffing items into a plastic bag they gave you before you entered. This left the majority of the finishers standing outside the tent in the sun and the heat without water or shade. I just knew that I was going to be sick if I had to stay there too long. I just dropped to the ground and sat for a while with my head between my knees while hundreds of runners milled around me. When I felt well enough to get up, I shoved my way out and past the crap they were giving out. I then just lay down on the lawn under a tree for a few minutes. Eventually, Marge from AP found me and helped me put myself together and leave the park. It was a very long walk back to the hotel, nevermind that in my addled brainlessness I got us lost and added an extra uphill climb to our trek. Marge had spoken to the rest of AP, who were staying at a different hotel than we were, and arranged for us to meet later for dinner. So I went up to my room and showered and laid down for a bit. Later that evening, we met the rest of the gang for dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Gambrinus in the Old Town. If anyone is going to Quebec, I would highly recommend this place. The food was good, the staff was attentive and the atmosphere was comfortable. We had a fine time comparing race experiences and discussing everyone's plans for the next day's sightseeing. Everyone had had a hard time in the race, but had enjoyed it nevertheless. Monday dawned chilly and damp - oh why couldn't we have had that weather for the race? At breakfast, we again bumped into the College Point gang. Much ado was made of the fact that a photo of Hector's dramatic collapse on the finish line had made one of the local newspapers. After breakfast, Marge and I hit the town. I showed her all around the touristy areas. We wandered around boutiques and checked out the excavations of the original fort. We then rode the Funicular down to the Petit Champlain area at the base of the cliff that the main city sits on. The Funicular is sort of a glass elevator that rides down tracks on the side of the cliff. Marge said they have similar things in Italy to get up and down the mountains. The Petit Champlain area is darling. Very cute without being too sweet. All these cobblestone streets that are lined with small stores. We ate a late lunch at a place called Le Cochon Dingue (the Crazy Pig) and made friends with a moose. We wandered through a lace shop and chatted with a craftswoman in a museum about her needlework, although she spoke no English and we spoke very little French. After we returned to hotel later and freshened up, Marge and I met up again for dinner. The College Point group had invited us to dinner with them, but they were going to try Gambrinus and we didn't feel like walking that far and wanted to try a new place. We wandered the Grand Allee looking for a likely candidate, but nothing was striking our fancy. So we finally ended up right across the street from the hotel in the Restaurant Aux Vieux Canons. This was the worst dining experience of the entire trip. I ordered something off the Pris Fixe menu and it was alright, but Marge ordered a chicken dish that she said was awful. Tuesday we decided that today we were going to finally have crepes. This was the one thing that I wanted to eat while I was in Quebec. Poutine was on the list, as well, but it honestly doesn't sound too appetizing. So we set off for the Rue St-Jean for that was where two of the recommended creperies were located. After a morning of browsing and shopping we still hadn't hit the restaurant that I was looking for. I was certain it was on the Rue St-Jean, but Marge was doubting my memory so she tried asking some of the people in shops. Asking for a crepe shop was getting blank stares, but I managed to string most of the French name of the place together when we spoke to a guard in an office building. Au Petit Coin Breton was all the way down in the Old Town, but it was worth the trek. The restaurant is small. You can watch them make your crepes while you wait. The waitresses wear traditional garb from Brittany, the home of the crepe. These are not the tiny little crepes that you get in some places for breakfast. These crepes are large and substantial and they can be filled with either a savory filling or a sweet filling. I opted for a ham, spinach and cheese concoction. It was fantastic. Tuesday night was our last night in town. We ate at a little restaurant with a diner-like feel, L'Omelette. The food wasn't fancy, but it doesn't present itself as a fancy restaurant, so I wasn't disappointed. We ended up chatting with the people who sat next to us who were in from England. He supplied golf clothing for an historic golf game that was going to happen on the Plains of Abraham in honor of its 100th anniversary. We compared food choices and suggested places to see in NY to his wife who was going to be coming for a weekend the following week. After dinner, Marge and I wandered a bit around the Old Town looking for a likely place that we could sit outside and have a drink. We ended up back at Gambrinus where we toasted a fantastic vacation. We parted in the hotel lobby where I promised to give Marge a call when I hit my hotel in Vermont. Wednesday morning I arose early and started to lug my baggage down to my car. Bumped into Marge when I went to look at what the breakfast was like. We both decided to pass when it appeared that we would have been the only ones there. Marge said that she would probably grab something at the airport and I decided to grab something on the road. Goodbyes were said again and I went to get my car. My drive to Vermont was nice. I had Mapquested the directions to Burlington and they took me through more rural sections of Quebec and Vermont until I was almost there. I got to Burlington in the early afternoon. The entire center of town is busy and all the streets are metered, so I ended up parking my car far outside the main part of town and walking in. Hit Church St. which is a closed mall and found a likely restaurant to grab some lunch. While sitting waiting for my food, my phone suddenly lit up - signal was achieved! I had voicemails waiting from everyone who had tried to contact me while I was in Canada. I called my Mom to let her know that I was OK. After lunch, I wandered around for a few hours. Had to grab an ice cream at the Ben & Jerry's which I think is the original shop. Then headed back to my car and out to my hotel. The drive back to New York the following day was pretty uneventful, except for a lunch stop in New Paltz where I attended college. Ate in the pizza shop I always used to go to and noted all the places that were gone and some of the new shops that were nice replacements. The Striders are already talking about going back next year, possibly. If not, perhaps making another trip together. I think everyone was agreed that it was one of the best vacations that we had ever had.
So the half is done and I'm on to the next one at the end of August in Quebec. I hope I can do nearly as well as I did Sunday. The weekend started Saturday afternoon when I headed into the city, bag in tow, to Chelly's apartment. Since I had to go into Manhattan on Saturday to gather my bib and stuff and then go back again early Sunday morning for the race, I was going to spend the night at Chel's. We headed uptown to Niketown to get my bib. They do a bit of an expo for the race, but it's kind of lame and is really only an excuse to have every runner in the race in the Nike store at some time that weekend. After a bit of confusion in trying to find my name, the volunteer handed me my bib. Brown...with a number of 12757...what the heck is up with that? That put me farther back in the corrals for the start then everyone else I knew. I did last year's race in 2:15 and have been averaging sub-9:00 paces in the races I did so far this year, but they decide to put me back with the people who were probably going to be finishing between 30 minutes to 1 hour after I did. Wonderful! So, after a quick walk back through the Nike store (and no purchases made) we headed back downtown for our pre-race pasta meal at Olive Garden. I opted for a salad and capellini pomodoro but splurged with some chocolate gelato for dessert. Yumm! We then walked around the neighborhood a little to settle our stomachs and enjoy the night air and headed back to Chelly's with the intention of an early night. We were in bed by 9 with the alarm set for 4am. 4am arrived and the snooze button was hit a few times, but we were up and moving around by about 4:20. I had noticed some bright flashes outside, but hadn't really thought about what might be causing them. After we were up for a little while we also heard some rumbling noises from outside. Traffic at that hour? Nope, it was thunder and as we left the apartment at about 5:30, it started to rain. Big, plump drops and I was starting to dread this day. Amazingly enough, in three years of running and racing, I haven't really run a long run in a pouring rain. I usually blow off the run or take it inside if it must be done and the thought of running in excess of two hours soaked to the skin was not terribly appealing. We managed to grab a cab and get uptown to the baggage area. The rain seemed to be lighter as we got further north and was just a drizzle at the corral area. We arrived at the park entrance just before 6am and they weren't letting us into the park. So everyone was standing around grousing about getting wet. As soon as they let us in about 20 minutes later, we headed toward the corral area and into a porta-john line. After taking care of business, Chelly left me to head for her corral (I did say that everyone was in front of me at the start). The rain was easing up and I got into my corral to wait until the race started. I wasn't feeling too confident at that point. But my main goal was to do better than last year and since I had to walk almost the last three miles, I thought I should be able to manage that. I had a pace band for a 2:10 finish and was intending to follow that for at least the first 9 miles or so and then pick up the pace if I felt like I had a lot left. As we started to inch up toward the start line, we could hear the music at the starting line over the PA system and the race announcer talking up the race. It would take me 12 minutes after the gun went off to get to the start line. I settled into an easy pace and got the first mile in 9:46. Not bad, it felt good and that was a bit faster than the 9:54 I would need to get a 2:10 finish. This might end up being a pretty good day, after all. At about one and a half mile I caught up with Chelly. I gave her a bit of push from behind, smiled and wished her good luck as I passed her. The second mile went by in 9:44. I popped a Cliff Shot Block at about the 2 mile mark and took water at the water stop that was at about that point. I was feeling great. I don't remember a lot of the course as I spent a great deal of this race inside my own head. 3 miles went by in 9:38...nice! And the 5k split caught me at 30:41. I felt fantastic through most of the park, barely noticing the hills. I stopped at most of the water stops in the park and I had Gatorade with me so I was doing well. 10k split...1:00.45. Perfect. Almost even splits. I do remember at this point starting to wonder when we were going to get out of the park. It seemed like it was taking forever. What can you say about the turn out of the park. For the second year, I got pumped when I hit the street and started yelling. I know some of the runners were looking at me, but I didn't care. The spectators seemed a bit sparser than last year, perhaps due to the weather and I needed to hear them. So I started yelling at them and waving and basically making a silly fool of myself. Last year they got a photo of me at that point. This year, nothing. As I was going through Time Square, they started a sing-along of Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves. What a great choice and I was singing with them. Crossing the city at 42nd Street all I could think about is how much better than last year I felt. My Garmin was telling me that I was about 5 minutes ahead of my planned pace, so 2:10 was probably in the bag unless I stopped. Heck, I could have walked the entire last three miles. 15k was at some point around here...1:29.34. Almost perfectly even splits. Onto the West Side Highway. All I gotta say is, I hate the West Side Highway. It's almost entirely concrete instead of asphalt and I find that the pounding on the harder surface really does a number on my knees and legs. I had to stop for the first time in the race shortly after turning onto it. I walked for about 30 seconds and picked it up again. I think I walked another 3 or 4 times down this stretch. Not for very long, but the legs were yelling at me. Apparently, I was still running at a pretty good clip, when I was running, because the 20k split was 1:59.35. Almost exactly the same as every other split. I didn't have enough left to really pick up the pace for the last kilometer, but I kept it going and finished in 2:05.48. A new PR! After getting my medal, a wet towel and having my picture taken, I headed into Battery Park. As soon as the adrenaline started to drain away, my calf muscles started to cramp up. I walked around looking for the post race food, but couldn't find any. So I headed to baggage claim and got my bag. I was almost positive I had stuck some kind of bar in there. I found a large piece of cardboard to plop my butt and try to stretch. Changed my shoes and found a Powerbar...yay! Gobbled that up while trying to get my calves to calm down. During the bodily manipulations, my phone rang. It was Ira from the Striders and he was somewhere in the park. I got the details and told him I'd find him in a few minutes. While walking around trying to locate him, I found the food bags. Picked up one and headed into the park. After spending some time comparing race experiences, I noticed the time and figured that Chelly should be finishing about then. So we headed over to the finish line area just in time to find her heading towards us. We then hobbled off the highway back into the park to try and get a food bag for her. At this point, it started to rain again. As we're wandering around looking for food and getting progressively wetter, we decided to bag the whole thing and head back to Chelly's to shower and then find food in her neighborhood. Ira headed off to find the subway and we jumped in a cab to go back home.