Sunday, November 02, 2008

Cooper-Norcross Ben Franklin Bridge Challenge 10K

“Aaron. Aaron, c’mere. I have a man on the phone; a REAL man. A man, who sets a goal, formulates a plan, performs to that plan and achieves his goal. Then this MAN, after his success … does it AGAIN. That’s a man, Aaron!”

Doe threw the smack down at The Soup when I called him on Friday to make our final arrangements for Sunday. He might have been trying to psych his co-worker out, but overhearing certainly psyched me up. This was going to be my first race in more than 20 years where the 6.1 mile mark was the finish line and not merely a split.

Surfers, even retired ones like Doe and I, are notorious weather geeks. We were both watching the skies and on Saturday afternoon for the next morning’s forecast. We knew it would be cold, but how cold? Forecasts bounced throughout the day between 40° and 45°, with varying winds. Clouds rolled in just before dinner on Saturday. Normally, I would have thought they’d keep it from getting too cold overnight, but the increased winds offset that.

Sunday was clear, cold and windy. I double double-checked that I had changed my clock properly and it was the time I thought it was.

I showered up and dressed. I threw my sweatshirt and camo shorts over the long-sleeved tech T and “real” running shorts I would be racing in. [Yes, I have been given a makeover … I’m looking more like a real runner every day]. I put on my sharky sox and had a breakfast of coffee and an apple. I put a banana in my backpack for the ride up to Camden and moved my lucky seashell from her special pocket in the pack.

My race bib rustled under my shirt, waking D’Girls as I kissed them goodbye for the morning. D’Kid had a Church Choir performance at the 11:30 Mass, otherwise they’d be coming with me to do the Kids’ Run across Campbell’s Field. We decided against it, since it took them so long to get ready for her Choir performance last month. To take her to the race, get her back and start getting her ready for 11:30 Mass so late [home around 10, crew call at 11:15], would just be a disaster.

I started the car and jacked up the heater. I plugged my Shuffle into the AUX jack and listened to my morning warm-up playlist:

Jump – Mary Lou Lord
Overkill [acoustic] – Colin Hay [Men at work] from “Scrubs”
Are You Experienced? – Los Lobos
Thunderstruck – AC/DC
Strangers Like Me – Everlife
Sk8r Boi – Avril Lavigne
Back to Me – Kathleen Edwards
Southern Girls – Cheap Trick
Boys of Summer – The Ataris
Medicine Show – Big Audio Dynamite
Banditos – The Refreshments [
Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers]
One Week – BNL
Sweet Emotion – Leo Kottke & Mike Gordon
Sympathy for the Devil – David Byrne
Stranglehold – Ted Nugent

The ride up to Camden was with out incident. I wondered however, why they put the sign that said, “BF Bridge Closed 7:30 to 10AM” AFTER the exit to the bridge?

I got through most of Camden okay, but at 3rd & Market, the slow crawl to the parking began. I called Doe. He was 2 blocks behind me. Fifteen minute, or maybe twenty, later we were parked, side by side and made our way to the field, to drop our gear and get ready. The Bag Check wasn’t easily found, but it WAS found. Shivering along, we made our way to the Start at the tollbooths.

Our mantra was “These things never start on time; These things never start on time.”

Guess what? Sometimes they do.

Just as we got to the railing we heard a cheer. They were off!!! Thank goodness for whoever invented timing chips. We had to trudge down to passageway and under the bridge to start on the other side. Some old dude who had stumbled beside us on the walk from the ball field, stepped in a pothole and nearly took himself out before the race even started.

“Let’s get away from this dude, Dude!” we both said.

We made our way through the crowds of walkers, strollers and dogs and over the starting mat. Neither of us started his watch to figure out the difference between gun and chip-time.

Oh, well. We’d just guess; no big deal. It’s the surfy way.

Doe took an early lead, dodging traffic up the bridge. I was worried. He’d been running pretty quickly on the treadmill in training and I felt sure I’d get dropped. We passed a phalanx of Police Academy trainees, shouting their cadence rhymes. If I got in trouble, I could run with them.

We made the one mile mark at about 12:30 on the clock. Assuming a 9:00 mile, that put us 3½ minutes behind the gun time. Oddly, the one mile mark wasn’t at the apex of the bridge but closer to Philly. So it felt like the downhill to the turnaround was shorter than the uphill. It also made the return to Jersey seem a lot longer.

I directed the course photographer’s attention to
us, just before the 3 mile marker. I'm the one that said "Dude! Over here!" and nothing for me?!!!


High above Campbell’s Field we passed the clock for our 3-mile split, at almost exactly 30 minutes. Subtracting the 3:00 delay, I calculated our pace.

“Dude, we’re like right at nine!” This was slower than my training and far slower than his, but dealing with the elevation gains over the bridge we felt comfortable.

Someone, however, had another opinion.

“The mile marker is wrong!”
“The mile marker is in the wrong place,” some douchebag to our right countered, “I’m keeping a blah, blah, pace, blah, blah.”
“Oh, that’s just great, that you can do math in your head,” I dismissed him, then turned to Doe, “Of course, we are moving forward through the pack and he is definitely slipping backwards, that asshole. Just shut the fuck up, jackass.”

This brief rant sparked Doe as we left the bridge and headed to the Rutgers Campus.

“This way?” I asked to flag girl, to her surprise, since a thousand or so had already gone past her.

“Rand, you are totally, ‘That Guy!’” Doe cheered.

I didn’t mention that the morning, although a bit chilly and breezy, brought most of the runners out in shorts, which made leg tattoo viewing a nice distraction. I found myself behind an ankle with an anklet of what looked like Aerosmith wings … upon closer investigation [in other words, when I could focus on the swiftly moving art], the “A” was, in fact, the zodiac symbol for Leo.

I also saw a gecko, some snakes, a Japanese fish, Italian and Irish flags [and shamrocks], hearts, and a couple suns on the legs.

We followed the light rail tracks of the River Line down Cooper Street, past the Rutgers Station [which has stainless steel herons decorating the roof, for some reason] and the Walt Whitman Arts Center before taking the corner around the RCA Building [now known as
The Victor Lofts, but will always be RCA to long time Jersey residents] and the Adventure Aquarium parking lot.

Four miles done, only two to go. We were chugging along nicely. Finishing under an hour would be a snap; 54 minutes was looking like a real possibility.

As we ran through the parking garage [Hi, Tiffanie!!!] I turned back to see how my pal was doing. Doe had worn his tech T from Midnight Madness under a long sleeved cotton shirt. Running into the sun as we passed the Tweeter Center, I thought he may be warming up.

“You okay, back there?” I asked as I was now holding a 4-5 yard gap between us.
“I’m a little toasty,” he answered, but without concern, “You can go ahead if you want.”
‘Nope, I’m not leaving my wingman’ I thought, as I waved him off.

The street narrowed and became trickier as we came around behind the hill of the Susquehanna Bank Center [formerly known as Blockbuster-Sony Music Entertainment Centre (or E-Centre) then the Tweeter Center]. Wear and tear from tour busses and delivery trucks, I would assume. I slowed to watch my step as there have been way too many twisted ankles on Kick lately, and I didn’t want to add my name to the list of the wounded. Doe picked his way back through the little crowd to me as we approached the battleship USS New Jersey.

Damn! That thing is huge!!! A Boy Scout trip was already lining up at the ticket office, ready for a morning tour, breakfast, and possibly a ride in the flight simulator; not necessarily in that order.

We hit the brick pavers and ran right along the “seawall” [or “river wall” as the case me be] I knew there was no danger in going over the railing, just as there had been no danger going off the side of the bridge, but I stayed far to the inside, just the same.

We made a sharp right at the end of the cobbles and cruised around the Marina. Yes, there is a Marina and it was pretty full, but I can’t imagine keeping a boat there and NOT having it tagged by the next morning.

They didn’t advertise or mention music on the course, like the PDR did, but a Dixieland band had set up a portable stage behind the water stop on the gravel path near the five-mile mark. Had I paid better attention to Kick, I would have known that our friend Lora [Miss Olympia] was working the station there, and I could have stopped by for a hug, a chat and a chance for Doe to catch up before the last mile; not that we was slowing down any, mind you. We were both still moving forward in the pack, I was just going through them a bit quicker. We passed by just as the girl went into a clarinet solo. The water team shirts were great [black shirts with a stop sign in the center that said "H2O"]. I wondered if that a Rutgers alumni deal? [red & black = Scarlet Knights?]

Five miles in 47:47 by the clock – subtracting the 3:00 and we were under 9 minutes/mile. I felt a charge come on as we left the gravel path and returned to the cobbles, making a little detour in front the Wiggins Park stage

Passing the aquarium I remarked that a few years ago, we’d been here and they had powerboat races on the river. I also mentioned that it seems that every time I bring D’Fam there, it rains. I turned to see his reaction to this [Doe being retired motocross racer, and a gear-head] when I noticed he was further behind than he’d been before. Looking up at the massive banner for the new shark exhibit, a hammerhead shark, I heard him [or someone] call out, “Rip it, bruddah” and the surge I felt when going off-road took full control.

“Where’s your partner going?” Doe was asked by a gentleman in a bright yellow vest who was using us to pace him.

“Douchebag had another gear he didn’t tell me about,” he replied, but impressed and proud that the old man still had it, “But he’s younger than me, so …” he lied.

I felt bad that I’d left him, but made the best of it, cutting through the crowd. Zigging and zagging along the edge of the parking lots, we could now hear the cheers for the finishers coming form the ballpark.

“Almost done. Just a couple more minutes,” a woman said as I passed.
“That’s what SHE said,” some smartass replied.

Oh, that was me, channeling Kick, again. I don’t know if I’m allowed to use such “catchphrases” yet, since I’m still in my first year, but it worked; she gasped and giggled as I passed her by. I knew that sometime today, she would say, “So this guy comes past us just as I said …”

“Oh, yeah … That Guy!”

We followed a series of rights and lefts around the lots [why isn’t it straight? Those lots had been used many years ago as Campbell’s tomato depot, between two docks] Cones and rope lines had been set up across the parking lots to guide us in a path stretch the route to exactly 6.2 miles. Who ever it was that had the idea to lead us over a slight but definitely noticeable rise before turning toward the field was … well … didn’t take the best interests of the runners to heart.

The field doubled back on it self a moment before the sprint into the ballpark itself. I wanted to see how far ahead of Doe I’d gotten and looked over my shoulder for my grey shirted pal.

“Dave!!!” I shouted as he came into the clear, maybe 400 yards back. I think that may be only the third or fourth time in the 5 years I’ve known him that I’ve used his first name.

I turned into the stadium and looked for the clock. It was in the 56’s. I hit the jets one last time, and crossed the line in 57:41 [chip time of 53-something, I guessed]. I tugged my chip off, and turned to see Doe come in just 90 seconds later. Apparently, he was a really good directions reader and had laced his chip into his shoe. We wandered around a bit, congratulating ourselves and anyone we’d come across, “talking story” already. We got our medals and then, passing another medal girl, took another for our kids, at her suggestion.

“We have ours” I showed her mine, pec-ing out and standing a bit taller, perhaps.
“Want another?” she asked, extending an arm draped in nylon and aluminum, “please, they’re getting heavy.”
“For the kids, right? Look, they have plenty to give away, right?”
“That guy, dude. You’re that guy.”

She winked and nodded as I pulled on off for me and one for the other Dad, I’d run with.

We got waters and snacks, but far too soon, I had to get rolling. It was getting close to 10:00 and I promised I wouldn’t be late for Mass. We grabbed our gear and headed out to our cars, but not before, again, raiding some leftover swag boxes [extra shirts, L; 2 for me, 3 for him]. Arrgh!!!

Fist bumps were exchanged as we got in our cars and drove out of the lot.

Of course, we “raced” each other through Camden, and to I-676 before splitting up at the I-295 junction [South for him, North for me]

“It was a blast,” he emailed me later, “So, when's our next run?”

Your choice, dude.


Stephen said...

I love reading your race reports.

Rudy Martinez said...

Thanks, man ... I like doing them and the races that go with 'em.

More to come, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

Mark is totally "That guy" too so I relate to you and sympathize with D!!!

Theia said...

"So it felt like the downhill to the turnaround was shorter than the uphill."

Doesn't it always feel that way??? :)