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A Friendly Guide to the NYC Half Marathon

Even though I won’t be running the NYC Half Marathon this year, I’m a three-time finisher, so It’s my obligation to share my race secrets with the special few that NYRR has allowed into this year’s race.  They include a) A collection of the worlds best professional runners, b) Thousands of international runners, and c) Ten New Yorkers who were selected through a Hunger Games style lottery.

Good luck to you.  Here are some last minute pointers:

Carb loading rules.

Sure, trained professionals like my run coach friends, Meghan and Jessica at Hot Bird Running, may scold you when you eat 20,000 calories of spaghetti and meatballs mere hours before a race.  But who are you going to listen to?  A couple of certified run coaches who dedicated their lives to making you healthier and happier or the guy who draws funny stick figure pictures?

Exactly.  Go nuts, kids!

A stick figure eating spaghetti to carbo load for a half marathon cartoon by rob pollakThe Starting Line.

It’s chaos.  Seriously.  If you are planning to meet people at your starting corral, you may want to rethink that plan.  Every year, the set up has been different.  With last year being the worst because each stable area had its own set of bathrooms.  In theory this sounds amazing, but in practice, it meant that people waited in line for an hour while people already in the corral could cut the line.

This is also where I do my pre-race nerve-vomiting.

Cartoon by Rob Pollak about the bathroom line at the NYC half marathon

The course.  If you run Central Park often, you know what you’re in for.  If you’re an out of towner running the race for the first time, here’s a quick breakdown of the course.

Course Map:

A course map cartoon for the NYC Half Marathon - Cartoon by Rob Pollak

Miles 1-6 are in Central Park.  They changed the course slightly from when I ran it.  From the looks of the new map, the start will be slightly down hill until about the Mile 1 marker.  Then you will embark on “cat hill,” the first of many grueling tortures you will endure.  This hill is particularly awful because it’s a huge hill, then you get to the top, the road briefly flattens and then starts climbing again.  You will vomit.  It’s also about where your nipples will start to bleed.  Welcome to NYC!

Mile 2 will be awesome.  Look to your left for a sort of view of the Central Park reservoir.  If you ever get the chance to run around the reservoir, take it.  It’s a fantastic opportunity to berate parents pushing strollers and people on bikes, neither of which are allowed on the path.  Actually, I’m not sure if strollers are allowed or not.  If they are, apologies to that nice family that I called the C word for pushing a double wide stroller when I was sweating past them.  Yeah, that’s right.  I called them communists.

Mile 3 will be the worst part of the race, at least since Mile 2 and until you get to mile 4-13.  Mile 3 will be a combination of a big sweeping downhill around the northeast corner of the park.  That will flatten out and you will climb straight up a mountain in the back northwest corner.  You may notice that many people start to walk at this point.  Don’t be one of those people.  Listen to the volunteer standing there telling you to “stay inside the cones” and encouraging you that you’re almost to the top of the hill.

Pro Tip:  All of the lampposts in the park are labeled with the street number.  If you look at the bottom of the post, there will be a number that starts with two digits, like 90-01.  That means you’re at 90th street.  I have no idea what the 01 means.  Let’s just agree it means you’re number 1 to me.  Every twenty blocks is approximately 1 mile.  If you really start to struggle, count left foot strikes between posts.  Usually there are 10-20 strikes between posts.  I struggle a lot.

The light posts have information about streets on them in central park running cartoon by rob pollak

Mile 4 is the rolling hills of the west side of the park.  It’s terrible.  Every time you get a little break with a down hill, you head right back up a little uphill.  Look for my sister around mile 4.  She is nice.

During mile 5 and 6, you’ll be thinking, “get me the hell out of the park.”  Try not to start running faster.  You may get out of the park faster, but then you’re going to hate yourself by mile 9.

Mile 6-7:  The best part of the race!  You finally will hit the mean streets of Manhattan.  The road opens up and you can spread out and get away from that sweaty beast (me) who has been breathing down your neck for the last hour.  Lots of people will line the streets.  You’ll see huge buildings.  Your GPS watch will freak out and lose its signal and suddenly you’ll think that you’re running a 4:11 pace.  Enjoy the ride here because things are about to get pretty bad.

Mile 7-9.  At mile 7, you’ll turn right onto 42nd street.  The Big Apple, baby!  Riding high from seventh avenue, you are literally on top of the world at this moment.  You may think to yourself, “I can do anything!  This is so easy!  I’m a machine.”  Enjoy that feeling because as you turn right onto 42nd, you’re about to get blasted with a gale force wind coming off the Hudson River.

And as you amble over towards the West Side Highway, notice that they haven’t cut off traffic coming in the opposite direction.  So you’ll be inches away from angry New Yorkers smogging their cars in your face.  They will stare at you and berate you for making their drive take twice as long.  I know because before I ever ran the race, I once missed a tee time in NJ because I got redirected by those stupid runners.

Once you’re all the way west, they make you head back uptown for one block, which feels like you have to backtrack.  Also, the people disappear for this stretch of the race and it starts to become hard.  The Highway is exactly as it sounds:  Flat, boring, and trafficy.  Prepare for long stretches that are exactly the same.  Bring your ipod so you can suffer through this stretch with the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.  That’s how I managed.

Literally nothing changes for miles 8-12.  Except if I wake up in time, I’ll be on Murray street around Mile 11.5/12.  That’s where I live.  If you see me, say hi.

After Mile 12, the race goes underground into the Battery Park Underpass.  It’s dark and it echoes.  Someone will yell something stupid when you’re under there.  Don’t be that guy.

When you come out of the tunnel, you’re basically done.  Except you’re at the furthest point from everything else in New York.  So figure out a way to get home.  Last year, I ended up having to walk about 2.5 miles back to my apartment because I was a bad planner.  Don’t be a bad planner.

I guess, congratulations.  You’re a half marathoner.

Celebrate by eating enough calories of ice cream and bagels to negate any positive benefits of months of training.

The Final Word on Mayonnaise.

I fucking loathe you, mayonnaise. Just look at you. You repulse me. The way you can’t decide if you want to be yellow-y white or white-y yellow. That schloop noise you make when you’re suctioned out of your ugly container and the Thwlap of your fatness against a plastic bowl.

The way you congeal white, doughy wonder bread to muted pink bologna. Nothing that does that should exist in the world. Oh, and your egg salad. How dare you? Where do you get the nerve to call yourself a “salad?” Salad is clean, refreshing, crisp, beautiful, and healthy. But you mayonnaise, you’re just slippery, fat, unclean, and appalling. Just look at yourself. Seriously, take one second off from fattening the world and look in the mirror. Now imagine your most beautiful form. What did you come up with? Something like this?

is grossI mean, ew. I couldn’t come up with a less appetizing looking food if the only ingredients I had were ketchup and diarrhea. And that picture is the internet trying to make you and your egg salad look the best. Congratulations, that’s the best you’ll ever look. I may not be beautiful, but at least I can go to the gym and work on it. Yet, I can’t stop staring at your enormous gobs of yoke and white mushed together with clumps of mayonnaise.

I don’t even have to smell the egg-y cold fatness emanating from the plastic “jar” of Hellman’s to feel the vomit gurgle up through the lower regions of my esophagus. There it hangs, waiting for my brain to remind it that I’m just looking at a picture so that the vomit retreats. But it remains wary, waiting to eject should the egg salad attack my digestive system.

But it’s not the egg salad that bothers me the most. I know that egg salad is mayonnaise. I’ve learned that “aioli” is just a trick word you use to make yourself seem more exotic. I’ve discovered that spinach artichoke dip should really be called “choke on a tub of mayonnaise dip.”

It’s the way you infiltrate other seemingly normal foods that infuriates me the most. Take honey mustard for instance. What a nice name for a food. What a beautiful combination of sweet and spicy, of brown and yellowish brown, of condiment and dessert. Honey-mustard is almost un-fuck-up-able. Well, did you know that many delis add mayonnaise to this sweet concoction? I bet you didn’t because you’re a disgusting mayonnaise whore. But I did. Because I am a mayonnaise sleuth who can feel that slimy oil/eggyoke concoction sliding down my throat and settling into a lump on the pit of my stomach, where it sits, constantly reminding me that the world is out to get me.

Sure, I know what you’ll say, mayonnaise. You and your defenders will tell me that I should just chill out and deal with you. That I should wipe you off with a napkin, and my meal will be good as new. But we both know that doesn’t work. Because you’re more powerful than napkins or paper towels. Yes, I’ve used a Bounty quicker picker upper to remove poisonous poisons from the floor of my important. The kind that come with warnings that “one must wear gloves to avoid this poison burning through your skin and eviscerating your intestines.” But I wiped them right up with a little flick of the wrist. But you mayonnaise, you somehow turn paper towel into a translucent film of ick and wind up on my fingers where your remnants remain for days.

So fuck you mayonnaise. I hate your face.

Fuck you mayo - A cartoon by Rob Pollak

 

 

Things that are making me irrationally mad right now

True story, all of this stuff is driving me insane:

– Right this second I’m sitting in Barnes and Noble.  My head just exploded from rage.  But please don’t pity me.  Nothing severe happened.  It’s just that the internet, which is the only reason I am sitting here eating a quiche filled with shit cheese and shit corn and shit broccoli, stopped working.  Well, not stopped.  But just stalls every time I try to watch this video on youtube:

I haven’t watched it yet, but I bet you’ll enjoy it.  Everyone else who has access to Reddit has certainly enjoyed it today.  But not me.  I’m just sitting here, tapping away on my keyboard, wondering if this post will ever make it to the internet, and scorching the roof of my mouth with scalding ricotta.  Yes, Barnes and Noble, this cold, wet, gnarly day seems like a fabulous time to replace your toaster.  I’m sure everyone wants cake for lunch.

– Since you’ll never read this (because of the shoddy internet), I’ll mention some other things that make me irrationally mad.  Like my blog reader Lisa Zollner, who reads my blog for a week and then kindly “suggests” that I use “since” when I really mean “because.”  Listen, jerk.  I would never make rookie mistakes like that.  That’s one of those things that’s always made me irrationally mad as well. But since you’re here, why don’t you go eff yourself?

– Wow.  I don’t know what’s in this quiche, but at this moment, I’m guessing a combination of bourbon and lactose.  Two of the things that appear friendly at first, but sneak up on me and send me into a surprise of rage.

– People who watch standard definition channels when the same show also airs in high definition and claim not to notice the difference.  Like when I wake up in the middle of the night and imagine that I can see the clock without my glasses.  We all know it’s better in high definition, figure out the channel, even if it’s 3:IG in the morning.  Most cable providers have a formula for figuring it out.  On my TV, the HD channels are all exactly 500 higher than the standard definition counterparts.  Example NBC SD is channel 4.  NBC HD is channel 504.  (504-4=500).  HBO SD is 300, HBO HD is 800 (800-300=500).  Uncanny!

HD-SD

– Blowdryers.  By far the loudest of all household appliances, and conveniently the one most likely to be used when a spouse remains asleep.  Maybe I’m extra sensitive because Anne and I live in a smallish apartment, and I am lucky enough to be married to a woman who never leaves the house without perfectly coiffed hair, a beautiful smile, 2-5 inch heels, perfect make up, a calm glowing demeanor, a joke or two to lighten the mood, a hundred interesting topics to discuss, and a reminder that I’m amazing.  But god damnit when she’s blow drying her hair and I’m trying to sleep, I want nothing more than to rip the cord right out of the wall, slam the hair dryer down onto the ground, jump on it until it shatters, sweep the shattered pieces up into a pile, burn the pile, put the ashes into a bag, and shove the bag right up… In other words, I wish there were a blow dryer that didn’t make so much noise.

Blow dryer

– Those people who drive either 1-5 miles slower than I’d like to be travelling when they’re in front of me?  Or the ones who drive 1-5 miles faster than I’d like to be travelling when they pull up behind me.  This is my left lane, you dick.  I learned this in defensive driver training.

driving

– That drawing.  Just look at it.  It’s so bad and stupid and dumb and lame.  Who drives like that?  What’s an asshdi?  Why is the exit sign falling over into the road?  Would those tires even work?  Why is my arm the length of an entire car?  Why don’t the other people have eyes or ears or arms or faces or steering wheels or airbags?  How do they even get into the car since they don’t have doors?  Don’t you mean “because,” you idiot?

 

– The day I decided it would be okay to use my gmail account to sign up for things.  Because it’s not like the reason that I switched to gmail was all the spam I was receiving.  And I promised that I would never let it get that way with gmail.  Now I wake up and have 45 emails every morning.  Like I need a daily report about golf tee times in the middle of the winter?  I clicked unsubscribe on one of them and it made it worse.  Remind me not to do that when I get my google glasses.

– Google glasses.  I’m not ready for this.  Also, they seem douchey.

Okay glass, post this to the internet.

– Well this is awkward.  Apparently Barnes and Noble had lost power because of the massive rainstorm outside.  That’s why the toaster wasn’t working and I had to eat quiche. It’s also why the Internet was slow.  It’s also why they fixed it right at this second, which happens to be one minute before I have to leave to go to my appointment.

– I didn’t proofread this.  I hope that’s on your list of things that make you irrationally mad.