2010-05-30 10.17.45.jpg, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

Sent from my Android phone with K-9 Mail. Please excuse my brevity.

On our way

On our way, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

Sent from my Android phone with K-9 Mail. Please excuse my brevity.

lara’s first half marathon

lara’s first half marathon, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

Less than 9 hours until the Buffalo Half Marathon, Lara’s first.

nyc marathon ’09 – race report

update: Remember when Kev used to run marathons and write witty race reports about them? Well, this is one of those ‘race reports’ sans the wittiness. Or humor. This isn’t funny either. I would say @ sixty percent of this was written just after the race. I’m in the lottery for the ’10 NYC Marathon. Along the way we’ll head west to meet up with Kevin for the Buffalo Half Marathon which will be Lara’s *first half*! Her training is going extremely well, and she’s even onto her second pair of shoes!

Oct. 31, Saturday evening – I do my usual pasta with red sauce and a half a loaf of italian bread the night before. Daylight Saving Time ends tonight, so I actually will get an extra hour of sleep. It also also means there’s a chance I could miss the marathon start completely. I ask Lar to set her alarm also so that I have a backup. In bed at 10:00.

Nov. 1, Sunday morn – Alarm at 5:00. That is, the clock reads 5, but it’s really 4. I try to go back to sleep for a few more minutes, but it’s not gonna happen. I get up @4:15.

Downstairs to the dining room. We’ve had contractors here the entire week working on the basement, so we’ve moved the basement office to the dining room. Fire up the computer and start getting breakfast ready. I usually don’t eat much before I go, but it’s going to be a while, so I have two pieces of bread with peanut butter, a cup of tea, a (Granny Smith) apple and a couple glasses of water. I also take another look at the elevation map of the course just to remind myself where the hills are. The plan is the same as last year. Leave here @ 6:30. Lar will take me through the Battery Tunnel, into Manhattan and drop me off in front of the Staten Island Ferry.

I made the checklist last night. In fact, I looked at Matt’s photo of my checklist from last year and pretty much copied it! Just a couple of adds and omissions:

add: sunglasses, Garmin, RoadID, whole-grain chips
omit: pretzels, Listerine (fresh breath is my life)

Head upstairs and commence with the toenail clipping and Body Gliding. I’m behind schedule. Lar goes to get the car and bring it around while I put in my contacts.


6:45 – We leave the house. It’s raining very lightly, but it’s supposed to clear by race time. It’s warmer than last year, 49 degrees. Highs in the mid 50s. Not much traffic, but more than I remember from last year. On the way in we see a couple of marathon shuttles heading the opposite way down the BQE. I’ve heard stories about the shuttles. (They get stuck in traffic, there are no bathrooms etc… .)


We near the ferry terminal and Lar snaps a few pics. (I look rarin’ to go in that first one.)
Inside the ferry terminal now. Lots of people camped out to stay warm/dry. I like to get there so that I know I’m there and can get situated. (Jeeze all of this sounds familiar. Stop me if you’ve heard this before. In fact feel free to whisk away to some other corner of the net.) It’s 7:00 on the nose and it looks like I’ve missed the 7:00 ferry. The doors to the gangway are closed. My timing was perfect last year. I didn’t have to wait at all.

After a 15 minute wait, the doors open and we are let onto the ferry. I head toward the back, which will become the front when the boat starts moving and grab a seat near the starboard side. I’ve been on a boat before, so I know the terminology. A pair of older French guys sit down next to me and eat egg and cheese sandwiches. Must be nice to be able to eat cheese right before a 4 hour race. I stopped eating dairy products on Thursday morning.

A guy walks by and is talking too loud on a cell phone. He is definitely a runner. At least he appears to be, but I’m not sure what he’s running for or from. He’s ended his call and now he’s walking the length of the boat asking if anyone has “free cell phone minutes.” He’s looking for a phone he can borrow for “2 or 3 minutes,” but he’s not doing it in a way that would make anyone comfortable lending him a phone.

“Sure, Freakshow, go ahead and take my $200 phone.” I don’t think so.

Statue from Stat Island Ferry
We’re off and heading into the harbor. As the Statue of Liberty gets closer, people wander over from the other side of the boat to have their pictures taken. Some folks go outside near the bow. It seems as if there aren’t as many ferries as last year. I’ve only seen a couple go past.

about to docking in Stat Island
When we get nearer Staten Island and start the wide turn for the docks, I grab my bag and get in line for the exit. All in all, it’s a pretty relaxing trip, except for the whole ‘in-a-split-second-this-vessel-could-be-a-watery-tomb’ thing. Always lookin’ on the bright side.

In the Staten Island ferry terminal and we’re directed toward the shuttle buses. I linger a little and time it so that I arrive just as the doors to a new shuttle open. Grab a seat and settle in. Come to think of it, before the day is through I’ll have traveled by nearly all major forms of transportation (except air). I overhear that the guy next to me is from Montana and has been staying with some friends on the upper west side. I’m tempted to ask him what exactly people *do* in Montana. There can’t be that many cowboys left, and it doesn’t look like this guy has the makings of a cowboy. The shuttle ride goes without incident (except for one hard braking that nearly sent people flying) and we’re dropped off outside Fort Wadsworth.

We step off the shuttle bus to a sea of runners. This is far more crowded than last year. Port-o-potties (POPs) as far as the eye can see to my right, line of shuttle buses on the left. We have to get all the way up the street, and then make a right turn. At the corner, I show my bib number and I’m let into the staging area. I’m in the green group this year, so I follow the signs toward the green athlete village. The green village is different in two main ways. First, the green village is on the other side (I have to walk under the bridge to get to it). Second, everyone with a green bib is running on the Verazzano lower roadway. That kinda sucks, but I was lucky enough to run on top last year.


Banana peel sculpture. Looks like a pair of socks in there, too.

I’m just about to enter the green athlete village, when a few police stop the people walking in front of me and line the length of the crossing with yellow police tape. At first I think that maybe I’m being booted to another village, but then people start cheering and clapping. The elite women are being led through. Paula Radcliffe (3 time NYC Marathon winner) passes in front of me, smiling and waving. I watch them move up the ramp toward the bridge. That’s pretty cool.

The village is very crowded and there’s not a whole lot of open space. I get out one of my garbage bags, lay it on the concrete and make camp. I break out the food and people-watch for a bit. Lemme just tell you that Europeans love to lube themselves up with assorted lotions, balms and oils. Pretty much anything gooey and/or from a tube, it seems. The French love goo, so do the Germans. I can’t explain it. I just report.

As I sit here eating this really shitty bagel I snagged on the way in, I’ve been coveting these two good-sized pieces of cardboard that the guy next to me has been sitting on. Oooo… that looks comfy. Have you ever seen those ‘bum fight’ videos on youtube? Suuuure you haven’t. You at least know the premise, right? Guy with camera films homeless guys fighting. I’d be willing to bet that those homeless guys are fighting over cardboard mattresses. The reason I’m telling you this is that while I’m body-gliding my feet, fancy-box guy gets up and leaves his cardboard behind! I pounce on the newly vacant seats (still warm too!) and I’m sittin’ pretty!

Wave 1 has just gone and the corrals for wave 2 have opened. I gather up my stuff and start making my way toward them. Hit the POP on the way. It’s a little tough to see the D corral because some of the signs are down, but I find it. And it’s a good thing I did. As I show the guard at the entrance, he yells out last call for wave 2. They close the entry into the corral a minute or so later.

A woman on the other side of the fence is collecting clothes, so I give her my sweats and my knit hat. I’m keeping my grey long-sleeve and a pair of free Gu gloves that I got at the expo. They have the Gu logo on them, but I’m wearing the logos on the palms so that they aren’t as easily visible. If Gu wants me to shill for their product, they’re gonna have to pay!

But they did give me a free pair of gloves. Hmm… .

A final POP stop and I get in line. After a couple minutes, they start marching us toward the roadway. People are clapping and cheering. I’m toward the back of the corral though, so I’m not on the roadway yet.

Announcements are made, and now the national anthem starts. I clap my hands and look at these damn cheesy gloves. Kinda wish I had brought my black ones. Gray sky above the bridge. Uncertainty. The last few lines of the anthem play now, and I think of Dom. All the time that’s passed by since he left. All the new jobs and new houses and marriages and kids. All the living we’ve done since he’s been gone.

The cannon fires.


“And from the churches to the jails, tonight all is silent in the world
As we take our stand… ”
“Jungleland” – Bruce Springsteen

It’s warmer/higher humidity than last year, but the ascent up the Verrazanno is much cooler than I thought it would be. In the middle it’s windy, but my Donny Osmond hat is snug and sexy on my head so there’s no danger of losing it. Despite all the scary stories, there aren’t any torrential waves of flying urine raining down. Even though I’m only a mile in, I’m very aware of my pace (9:55). My goal is to break 4 hours, and to do that, I need to be at 9:09 per mile. This obsession with pacing is something that will haunt me the entire race. The Garmin is a blessing and a curse. I find myself glancing at it constantly during the beginning few miles.

Coming off the bridge now and there’s no wind. In fact, now I’m a little warm, so I toss the Gu gloves to the side of the road. It’s a few twists and turns before I hit 4th ave. With each turn, it gets windier and colder and I wish I hadn’t thrown the goddamn Gu gloves off so early. The water bottle I’m carrying isn’t making my hands any warmer.

A right onto 4th ave and then I only have 3 blocks to get to the side to find Lara. The toss goes well. She and Bonnie are going to meet me at the finish.

I’m where I should be speed-wise and I feel good. The 4th ave crowds are very friendly and very loud. North through Park Slope and into Fort Greene. At around 8 miles I start to get tired. Not tired in the legs or respiration, but my posture feels funky. I feel like my form is off and I’m having a hard time straightening up, like the muscles in my back are tired. I have 5 Gu’s on me, but I’m determined to not use them until at least mile 12 or 13. (Loyal readers will remember that last year I started to feel ‘squirrely’ at @ mile 22. This year, I wanted to make sure that I had plenty of Gu to throw down if that started happening again, so I am determined to conserve so that I have packets for miles 24, 22 and 20 at least.)

Into Williamsburg. I’ve been alternating water and Gatorade, but since I was struggling, I’ve leaned more toward the Gatorade. I also popped my first Gu, and I’m feeling better. On Bedford Avenue, I look for Shay, but who am I kidding. It’s before 3:00 pm and there’s no way he’s awake yet. (Just kidding, Shay!)

For those that don’t know, every marathon will normally have pacers. These are folks that have volunteered to run at a certain pace to bring runners in at their goal times. For example, the 4:10 (four hours and 10 minutes) pacers are running at a 9 minute, 32 second pace. They will be finishing in 4:10 so if that’s your goal, just follow them (and they’re clearly marked with their finishing time on their backs).

Nearing the Pulaski Bridge and the halfway point, I run up on the 3:50 pacers. My eyes get Japanese-anime-character-wide at the thought of a 3:50 finish, and I decide to follow her. Starting the ascent onto the Queensboro Bridge and I’m starting to feel weak again. Tempted to have another Gu.

Situations like this are what makes long distance running interesting. In my mind, it has a lot of parallels with recording; It’s truly a game of inches. Tell the singer to step an inch closer to the mic, change the sound completely – for the better in some cases, for worse in others. Use your second Gu too early, you risk running out at the end and crawling to the finish. Use it too late, and you may not have enough energy to get you over the wall.

But now I have my mind set on that 3:50 finish.

Crest the bridge and start the descent. I think I wrote this last year as well, but it’s amazing how eerily quiet it is coming down the bridge. You see the crowd, but you don’t hear it until the very last moment. When you make the wide left turn onto 1st Ave, you’re hit with a roar. I hit 1st Ave and use my second Gu.

It’s getting really hard to keep up with the 3:50 pacers. I keep falling back and then having to make up distance. I feel like I’m using a whole lot of physical and mental strength. And even in at 26 mile race, it’s a game of inches.

I decide to let the 3:50 dream die and let her drift off into the sunset. Well… into the Bronx, I guess. I don’t think there are sunsets in the Bronx. I don’t think anything pleasant happens in the Bronx.

Over the Willis Ave bridge and into said ‘Bronx.’ This year, the organizers have changed the route slightly so that runners spend more time in the Bronx. Awesome! Looking at my numbers, I’m well over 9 minutes per mile now. I have the paper 4:00 finish, pacing bracelet on my left wrist, and I’m trying to do the math to see if I can still break 4 hours if I can’t go any faster than this slower pace.

After further review, I have no idea. I think I’m close, but I can’t think straight. All I know is that this is tough and it isn’t getting easier. The good thing is that I’m at 20 miles, which means I can start on my final three Gu packs. Usually it gets me feeling better and I’m hoping I can coast to the finish.

I feel no better. This isn’t the same as last year. This is a malaise, a kind of lethargic feeling. I’ve got the legs, but now I feel like it’s getting hard to get good, full breaths. I try to pick up the pace and sprint for 5 or 10 seconds at a time just to change things up. Nothing’s working.

Back into Manhattan and down 5th Avenue. I pull out my phone and see a bunch of texts from Lar. She says she and Bonnie are at 82nd street and wants to know where I am. I text ’99′ back to her, not realizing that I’m still at 111th street. They wait a lot longer than they thought they would have to, and they almost miss me as I pass by.

Into Central Park now and onto East Drive. 2 miles to go and I’m dragging. I hear a guy coming up behind me on my left. “Sub 4. Sub 4 right here. Come on, let’s go,” he says. Then more clearly, to clarify for the oxygen-deprived people around him, he says “Less than two miles to go. Follow me if you want to finish sub 4. We can do this. Come on.” Turns out this guy is my life saver (or ‘race-saver’, I guess). I’ve seen this happen a few times now. There’s something about the end of a half or full that brings out the best in people. Runners urging fellow runners to the finish. It makes all of the solitary training runs worth while.

I do the best I can to try to keep up with him. Although I lose sight of him, the combo of that guy’s pep talk and the urging of the crowds on Central Park South/West are a huge help. Although I didn’t get my 3:50 finish, I did break 4 hours. Official time: 3:55:48.

Picture 1
I’ll be damned if Brightroom actually snapped a picture of me that I actually like!
I may pony up the $$ to get a copy of this one.

Cross the finish and we have the usual zombie-march to the exit. Get my recovery bag and open it. No apple. I’m not leaving without my goddamn apple, goddammit. I ask one of the volunteers if I can get an apple and she gives me a new bag with apple. Damn, that’s a good apple. Someone has *got* to tell the race director that these bagels are an insult after 26 miles. That just ain’t right.


Meet up with Lar and Bonnie and eat an overpriced lunch somewhere.
Special thanks to them for following me through all this madness.

post race

This race was harder than last year. Can’t say for certain why. I did have that stretch of no running when I was recovering from the flu, but I thought that my recovery runs were pretty good. I’m pretty satisfied with my time, but I have to be honest, after seeing 3:50 within reach, I’m a little disappointed it didn’t happen.

That’s about it. Laying low in the snow. Will resurface with the groundhog. Hope to see you all soon. Be well.

in corral- see u in central park

in corral- see u in central park, originally uploaded by poorsparky.


Kevin Hodge
Poor Sparky Prod

athlete village

athlete village, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

At the athlete village. It seems a lot more crowded than last year. Not sure why. I’m starting earlier but only by 20 minutes.

shuttle bus

shuttle bus, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

On shuttle bus. Verazzano in the distance.

The bus just braked very abruptly. People standing hanging on for dear life. A blonde lady ends up in my lap.

ferry – about to dock in SI

ferry – about to dock in SI, originally uploaded by poorsparky.

About to dock in stat island.