Sunday, October 4, 2009

One is the loneliest number.

Especially when there is a "15" next to it.

As in ... 15 miles, all by yourself. Alone. No one else.

Here's how it went down: we found out earlier in the week that the team was going to Hartsdale, NY. For me, anything that is over a bridge, through a tunnel, or frankly, requires any mode of transportation other than my feet or the subway is waaaaaaaaay too far. (And even the subway is pushing it, since you can easily find yourself in, gasp, another borough.)

A quick calculation found that by the time we took the train there, ran for three hours, stretched and took the train back, I probably wouldn't make it back home before 1:00. I had a day of catching up planned and knew from experience that I would need rest time and that a late arrival would throw me all off. I mean, who wants to move back martini time from 5:00 to 7:00? That's simply not civilized.

Jenn had emailed me to say she was forgoing Hartsdale to run on Sunday instead and I started thinking my other buddies weren't making the trek. So I signaled the troops. Told Elkin, Barb and Javi I was staying in the city. Sure enough, Barb was headed to Staten Island with the family for the weekend and was planning a solo run there. Elkin had had a busy week and messaged me Friday night to say he'd stay in the city with me. We'd meet at CP at 7:30am. I mapped out a run that would take us out of the park.

I didn't have the best of Friday nights. I had planned on hitting Niketown after work to buy new running shoes so I'd have them to break in on Saturday. I was never a Nike fan for running shoes but I've really grown to love the Vomero 4's for my long runs. I've been wearing the men's version:

My girlish pride aside, they are, indeed, structured differently than the women's. But no one - and I mean NO ONE seems to carry my Sasquatchian size 12's (thus the dude's version), so I have to brave the tourist nightmare known as Niketown on 57th Street. Or so I thought I would. Didn't get there in time, so no shoes for me. Then by the time I got home it was nearly 9:00 and too late to cook. So my pasta was delivery. Didn't get my running clothes in the washer early enough ... ugh, all around a suck evening.

But I still got up on Saturday and did my routine in order to meet Elkin at CP at 7:30. And at 7:00 when I checked my phone, knowing full well he was going to cancel ... sure enough, he had. It wasn't too late to get to Grand Central to catch the train to Hartsdale but by that time, my heart wasn't in it. I felt like a stranger to my routine and I couldn't get my stride.

I got out the door, determined to bang out those 15 miles, with or without my comrades. When I hit CP, this is what I found:

Total chaos as there was a half-marathon going on. To boot, it was to celebrate the Norwegian Festival. This race was called "Grete's Great Gallop." Crap. Once again, I have failed my ancestors. (Sorry, Tina!) I scooted around the racers, non-Gallopers banished to a six-inch shoulder on the side of the loop. I headed south and then west, making it to the West Side Highway where I headed north along the river.

It was humid out, yet still comfortable. Eerily quiet, yet completely peaceful. I settled in, not happy about being solo, yet all right with just taking in the scenery of a route I hadn't yet taken. I justified being alone, telling myself that although Barb and I may start our marathon together, chances are good that we will pull away from each other at some point. I tried to relax, knowing that a stressful run is automatically a suck run. The river next to me - granted, that's Jersey over yonder so Lord only knows what's floating in it - offered some serenity.

And hello? I've been in New York for 11 years and have never visited the walkway where they filmed that cute scene in "You've Got Mail." You know, where Meg Ryan meets up with Tom Hanks and his dog? With all the flowers? Here:

Ooh, and loved this sign. Look closely. "GO SLOW" it says. Hey sign! Bite me!

As you can see, I occupied my time by snapping pictures and talking to signs. I was trying to embrace my solo run, talking through things in my mind, enjoying the music I had so meticulously chosen for my Ipod (nice mix of Ludacris and AC/DC, yo), and willing myself to chug through mile after mile. But dammit ... I was freaking bored. I mean, look ahead of me:

Nothing in front of or around me. Zip. Zilch. Nada. No cyclists yelling at me, no creepy park dwellers sitting in the shadows looking like they're ready to pounce, not even an oversized rat wading out of the Hudson and lumbering across the path.

At about mile 6, I stopped to Gu. (And if you have been reading my blog, you know that this is not something that requires a Porto-John.) I gulped down a Tri-Berry, said hello to a cute puppy passing by and looked out at the river.

I was going to need every ounce of strength and will to plug along for another 9 miles. I felt tired and the chattering to myself wasn't working. (In fact, all it was doing was making me question my own sanity since I went from using a mantra to having a full-blown dialogue with myself. Cray-zee!) My motivation waned and my confidence was flagging. I took a few moments to snap pics of where I was - hey, look, it's Fairway!

And then I looked up at the highway above me and snapped a pic of the billboards:

Then I saw what I had just snapped. Look closely (I helped you out and blew it up):

Okay, so it was probably something about being ready for H1N1 to hit Manhattan full force. But OMG. The Billboard Gods were totally speaking to me. And I think they were saying: "CIN-DEEEEEE! YOU MUST KEEP MOVING! IF YOU DON'T YOU WON'T BE ... PREPARED!" (They were also telling me that Fox News Channel is "Fair and Balanced," that Wendy's has a Dollar Menu special right now and that Centerfold's on 11th Avenue is your go-to joint for the "Classiest Topless Girls." But this was the only one I was listening to.)

Now, I'm not sure Billboard Gods really exist, but I also read my horoscope every day (only in the NY Post, though. Sally Brompton speaks to me, man. Forget "Capricorn," the header for my horoscope should just be "Cindy"). My point here? I am so willing to believe in signs everywhere around us.

Okay, look. Whatever works, right? It was enough to propel me for the next nine miles. As I am a big fan of the mantra, I just started reminding myself ... "preparedness." I'll admit, I stopped a couple of times. Easier to do when you're alone, I suppose, but I didn't walk it. In fact, when I got to a San Francisco-worthy hill, I tiki-tiki'd my way to the top. (My fellow Ramon scholars will understand what that means).

Footnote: at the bottom of this hill was the skeeviest junkie encampment I've seen aside from our time under the GW Bridge, so my hill run had something to do with saving my own sheltered suburban buttocks:

It was a hard 15 miles, but I scooted down Riverside Drive, back into CP (half-marathon was STILL going on ... WTF?) and headed east toward my apartment. All in all, a tough run but I felt pretty good that I plugged along on my own.

The next day, I treated Mike to a two-hour trip to Niketown. No, didn't take us two hours to get there. Poor guy was sitting there for two hours as I tried on every pair of Nikes in the joint. Didn't love the Vomero 4 women's version and I felt a little like Goldilocks as I tried other models (too cushioned, too structured). But just when I was about to head to my fave spot - Super Runner's Shop on Lex - and go back to my Sauconys, I gave the Equalon men's version a go-round. They were perfect.

Convinced I would most likely never wear women's running shoes again (yet feeling oddly comfortable in this thought), I broke in my boy shoes on Sunday on a crisp Fall evening around the park. All by myself. My mind wandered and I started thinking about My Billboard. I thought of the saying "expect the best, prepare for the worst" but I once heard a variation on it that I like much better: "expect the best, plan for the worst, prepare to be surprised." The message was clear and in red flashing neon: running solo was preparing me. And these last days before San Francisco are all about preparation. Can't be overrated, preparation. I mean, if it's good enough to be the Boy Scout motto, it's certainly good enough to get me through my marathon.

I wonder if they give merit badges for red wine drinking.


  1. Thanks for commenting on the blog. I have missed running with you guys! I didn't go on Saturday either...I felt the same way you did about the situation. It would have just killed my whole day. Instead, I got a boy (I KNOW!!!) to run 17 miles in the park with me on Sunday. It was exciting and possibly the fastest 17 miles of my life. Crazy.

    It looks like you did a great job running on your own though. You should have texted me and I would have run with you. Taking pictures is a great way to pass the time. And as Ramon says, it's all in our head.

    Love the new shoes. I'm not going to get a pair until after the race. They will be my present to myself.

  2. thanks, jo ... i thought of you friday and should have texted you. (although frankly, you're too damned fast for me, girl!)