2013- My Life Make Over and The ING Miami Marathon

Wow, where do I begin? Hello 2015! You are a sad reminder about my forgotten 2014 resolution- Blogging! Well I have a lot of catching up to do!
2013 was an amazing year! Not only for racing and PRing, but also personally! Looking back it makes me very emotional! I left 2012 off with the Harrisburg Marathon and local NYRR races. Now it was time to start prepping for Miami! I was really looking forward to Miami. Not only bc I hadn’t been on a vacation in forever, but I was getting the opportunity to run alongside my girl Gianna as she ran her first marathon! I was already up to speed with my training because of everything I put into the NYC Marathon/Harrisburg Marathon so it was nice to just go into the race feeling already prepared!
Being my second marathon, the nerves were more at ease and made for a more fun experience. And what better timing, who had time for all that training when, you are moving into your new apartment! Ever since I could remember, West New York always held a special place in my heart. I used to go to BLVD East just to sit and admire the spectacular view of NYC. On the evening I got my drivers license, I drove to WNY, parked and waited for the Empire State Building’s lights to turn off at midnight. Sipping a Caramel Mocciatto of course! From that moment on, I would vow every time I looked at the Skyline, that I would one day live here. January 2013, that wish came true. So here I am, starting off the new year with a truly clean slate. Goodbye toxicity and hello zen! Cheers to officially living the dream!

That View

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I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was walking down 65th street towards that skyline (and the sunrise) everyday to catch the 156/9 bus for work. It was even more fun running along the BLVD for training and watching the moon move across the city.
Anyway, fast forward a little to the last weekend of January. It was Gianna’s Birthday and we are heading to South Beach Miami to stay with her sister Karly and run the ING Miami Marathon. Life is Good! The weekend turned out to be the perfect getaway, cocktails, sunshine, delicious treats and running thru one of the most fun cities in America.

Here are some of the memories pictured below.

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The Miami Marathon definitely did not disappoint. The start was just a giant club outside the American Airlines Arena, the course was beautiful and the fans handed out everything from iced coffee to beer! It was especially fun running thru South Beach. Everyone was still partying from the night before. I really enjoyed it. I still try to pin point what made it so fun. The crowd, the sun, the scenery, my gal pals… it was just pure joy! I cannot wait to get down there and do it again!
True to form, Gianna and I planned out our race calendar for the year that night. It included- the NJ Marathon, more then a few half marathons and we even toyed with the idea of an ultrathon! I just love us!

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Sandy You B!tch

So here we are, and Sandy has hit land.

I never lost power where I was, so I was able to keep all mobile and computer devices charged and also stay tuned to the news. I feel like I can recite everything that happened every second of that day.

Now before you all jump down my throat for how i am about to start this blog – please read THE WHOLE blog…

It really seemed like it wasn’t that bad. I saw that AC was flooding and that the Hudson was rising, but I swear, I almost expected it. I am by no means saying that this flooding wasn’t bad but as portrayed by the news casters EARLIER that day… as fast as the water came in, it went back out. and because of this, I didn’t think that evenings high tide would be much different. As the storm was coming thru north jersey, I actually kind of laughed. (AGAIN KEEP READING) There wasn’t that much rain, I didn’t hear the wind and got a few chuckles out of the the status updates on Facebook. ‘Sandy- You are a waste…’ was one… another read- ‘Great, Guess I have work tomorrow! should have dropped off my dry cleaning….’ Of course, I was pleased by this bc the only thing on my mind was the marathon.

It wasn’t until late afternoon/evening, that the storm started to worry me. I saw numerous posts about losing power, i watched as news reporters were getting pushed away from the shore lines and saw Lower NYC and the East side get slammed with rising water. It only got worse.

Having electricity was like a double edged sword. I was able to be in the know and see what was going on.. but my friends phones and computers were dying bc they hadn’t had power. Did they know what was happening? or What may be happening to their relatives? At this point, Breezy Point was in flames, Hospitals were left to run on power generators, People were trapped in their apt buildings, the jersey shore was under water, status updates from Staten Island were distressful and to top it off, I hadn’t heard from relatives who were located on the island. I went onto the Staten Island Advance website only to see the distress recordings displayed… One was from a family member, Ocean front property, in Cedar Grove Beach calling for a rescue. I reached out to an FDNY friend who told me the beach areas were hit with at least 18ft of water. I grew up in the beach area and all I could think about were my cousins, floating on a rescue boat, in complete blackness.

It’s more terrifying actually- knowing what I know now… Imagine, you’re BEACH FRONT- No Power- you’re trapped on your second floor looking down at waves crashing midway between the 2 floors. and if you look out the window you see nothing. there’s no visible light ANYWHERE- and all you hear is water. No sirens- Nothing…

I also thought about my grandfather. A friend from the same neighborhood posted to Facebook a picture of his street (which was around the block from my grandpa) The cars were underwater… completely.

Now picture this – looking out the window and you cannot see the tops of cars. Now look to the left, towards the end of the block- which faces the ocean side. There are no houses in site beyond the block, just an 8-10ft drop. All you can see are the tops of trees and tall beach weeds. This area stretches about a mile and half to the beach…  However, there are actually homes that grid this low area. Many of them single floor bungalow style. So now, If water covered up the cars by my grandfather, those bungalows were gone. and unlike many of the NJ bungalows- these were occupied all year long. I still to this day do not believe the death toll that was listed.

Back on the SI Advance website, there were also distress calls from the other shore of the island where my Godfather lives. Rising water was washing away homes… It all seemed like a disaster movie.

Hoboken was also falling victim to the flooding. My families business on Adams was completely flooded. And the apartment I was moving into (finally I was going to leave my ‘situation’)- which was located around the block from my uncles deli was completely gone- garden level, never stood a chance. (ugh dagger)

Daybreak

I kept in communication with a few friends and family and for those I couldn’t reach, I got confirmation from others that thankfully everyone was safe. However, although I had survived the storm with electricity and no flooding, that wasn’t the case for the majority of the tri-state. everything was shut down. no work, no school, no gas?! yup- no gas! NJ had instated the even/odd plate number gas cue and there were still,  lines that lasted forever.

Pretty shitty huh?!

Now I am just going to be very real and tell you that even though all this happened- I only cared about the marathon. (yes I was one of those assholes who was against the marathon being canceled- but that didnt’t last long- so please keep reading.)   I think now in retrospect, it was because i was very fortunate to still have a place to stay and also I physically didn’t see any disaster around me so I didn’t get it. I feel like a JERK even writing that but it’s the truth… I saw the news and I read some things on social media but, at the moment, i really did not get it. I even still went to physical therapy for my foot bc I needed to be in tip top shape to run the my first marathon. I even logged some miles that week. (See, I was such an Asshole!) Even knowing everything I had, I was so wrapped up in this marathon. What can I say- It distracted me from my miserable life for months. It had taken my mind off of my relationship. gave me routine. gave me confidence. In those months of training, I was kicking ass at my job, my health was great, not to mention, I was in the best shape of my life. I was calmer. Happier. Stronger. Mentally tough- I had finally found the strength to move out into my own place! (so much for that!) Anyway- I guess you can say, the marathon was my security blanket. Everything good in my life at that moment, I honestly believed stemmed from that damn race.  So as sad as this sounds- I had a MELTDOWN when it was canceled. I mean, a RAMPAGE. Even knowing all I had and  personally been effected by Sandy’s destruction, it felt like my world ended. Pretty self centered huh?! It feels so absurd to even write that but it’s the truth. I am so ashamed to even admit it but i was literally on every media outlet I could be on, ranting and raving about why we should have a marathon. I even made it to the Nissan health and fitness expo to get my bib number before they announced the cancellation. If i could make it to NYC- why couldn’t anyone else? The fact that I felt that way, still makes me sick.

Anyway…

That Saturday after the announcement, I got really depressed. All these comments on how selfish the runners were. I never believed we were. I mean- all the money raised for charity, people missing limbs or battling cancer, running in honor of loved ones, for world peace… every reason seemed everything but selfish!But I  realized that actually going thru with the marathon was everything selfish. The man power needed to operate the race, the water, the food, the warm blankets at the end… I thought about that all day and it was quite humbling. Who the heck are we (am i) to think this race was OK?

So here we are marathon Sunday. My girlfriend Karen calls me. She has a full tank of gas, knows about my family in Staten Island and is like- lets go and help. So she picks me up at my ex’s place and we head on in. I wore my marathon gear and number proudly. And even though I couldn’t run my miles for charity- this was more special. And I can’t tell you how much it means to me that Karen did this!

We turn down New Dorp Lane and are forced to park about a mile away from the ocean front. (Cedar Grove Beach) This is when I finally understood in my heart why the Marathon was canceled. You cannot understand disaster until you see FEMA tents, muddy streets, and people you recognize taking hand-outs of bleach and extra large sweats. Cars on peoples front steps. the insides completely full of mud. waterlines completely visible on all the homes. As we walked closer to the beach front, the waterlines got higher and the damage and debris a lot worse. Some homes were completely leveled. More and more homes were labeled with the red tape- deeming it unsafe. And the homes with yellow tape had look liked they were torn inside out literally… every thing in the basement and first floors were out side.

First stop was a relative’s home- she was lucky enough to have a slew of volunteers helping her and the family out, so Karen and I made our way down the block and were in and out of homes pulling up carpeting, sledge hammering water logged counters and dragging out appliances. We teamed up with neighborhood kids who knew there way around better.

Here are some photos-

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Even though they waited way too long to actually go thru with the cancellation, it was great to see many of the runners let go of the bitterness (if they had any) and come help with the clean up. I was really proud that day… proud to be a runner, proud of the island I grew up on and proud to see the love and generosity from everyone.  If you ask me now if the cancellation was a good choice- my answer- ABSOLUTELY!

But that doesn’t mean I still didn’t have the marathon bug…

After 2 weeks of this crazy emotion roller coaster and realizing I was not getting out of my current situation any faster now- I needed to run.  Steph told me about a marathon in Harrisburg…

DONE- I wasted no time in signing up! And I was finally able to run my first marathon!

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I completed my first marathon in 4:33… and it felt amazing! A lot of non-runner people told me that once I ran my first ‘thon, that I would be over it- but my runner buds had said otherwise- and mannnnn were they right! I finished out the year with a few more races.

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My pal Gianna and I closed out the year on fire- and I was so happy that she finally caught the marathon bug! I mean- she did all the other training with me, let’s make it official- her and I were going to be Miami Famous- Jan 2013 we were to run the ING Miami Marathon!

Stay tuned!