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Tunnel To Towers 5K 2013

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment

This morning I participated in the annual Tunnel to Towers 5K in New York City. Unlike last year, participants coming from Manhattan had to arrive between the hours of 6AM and 730AM for the free ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn. Last year those who missed the ferry at 730AM (ie, me), were provided with a bus ride to the Red Hook. Unfortunately, the organization would not provide the bus service. With that said, getting up earlier than usual on a Sunday would be the way to go.

My brother and father dropped me off at Pier 11 a little before 7AM. I walked to the pier on this cool September morning along with other participants. I waited a year to once again participate in the Tunnel to Towers 5K. Last year I officially completed the race in 26 minutes and 5 seconds. Would I be able to match or best that time? Only time would tell.

As I boarded the ferry I thought about the possibility of besting my personal time. I reflected on what I have accomplished up to this point. Setting a new personal best was a goal. But I also thought about the previous two races I have participated thus far this year.

Thoughts of grandeur was on the plate as the sun began to rise over the East River. The perfect start to what would be a perfect day was on the horizon.

Sunday Morning Sunrise

Sunday Morning Sunrise

The 10 minute ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn was the perfect calm and peace. I stared around the deck and noticed the smile of other participants. Some were mentally preparing themselves for the 3.1 mile race. Others were laughing and enjoying the ride. We all were ONE. We all participated to support the foundation. This race was to honor Stephen Siller and his 342 brothers in arms who sacrificed their lives to save those inside the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. This event is my way to give back and say thank you. This year I was able to raise a total of $675 for the charity. I know the money would go to good use. I could not have done it without my supporters.

Participants mingling on the ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Participants mingling on the ferry ride to Red Hook, Brooklyn.

This year the organization expected a total of 30,000 participants (runners/walkers) for this yearly event. While the number is a major success for the organization, I am (along with other runners) not thrilled with everyone starting at the same time. The lack of starting heats are a recipe for disaster. Accidents can occur if a runner collides with a walker.

The starting line was packed with thousands of runners. For a 5K, you would have thought it was the NYC Marathon. But, in my opinion, the Tunnel to Towers event may actually rival the biggest running event in the world. I am honored to once again be apart of the race.

The Starting Line

The Starting Line

The race itself was not my finest. Yes, I said it. All of the excitement, anticipation and build up backfired on me. I truly blame myself. The race began the second Mayor Rudy Giuliani blew his horn to start the race. I started out at a good pace, then my dumb self decided to pick up the speed. Yup, I outpaced myself. My downfall had quickly begun. As I entered the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel (Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel) I was losing speed. The tunnel is a bit steep, but that did not stop me last year. I was winded. But I fought on.

After 1.7 miles in the tunnel I exited the tunnel and entered Manhattan. Whatever I was feeling at that point went away at the site of the FDNY who held banners of the 343 men, who gave their lives on September 11. Living in this area my whole life, 9-11 crushed the area. But as a whole we were resilient. 12 years later the area is on the verge of being complete with the addition of the new 1 World Trade Center.

With the emotion of that day in my mind, I gathered my strength and high fived the FDNY and thanked them. How can I not honor those brave souls?

After passing the first and only water station I was once again beginning to slow down. But I REFUSED to prematurely end the race. In the distance I saw my supporters. My father and brother were cheering me on. They know how to get me going.

An awkward picture of me my father took earlier today.

An awkward picture of me my father took earlier today.

Despite being winded I was still having fun (see photo above).

The race was winding down to its final moments. I struggled but random strangers cheered me on. In the distance I saw the finish line. The race was moments from ending. I somehow drowned out the crowd and drowned out the discomfort. I gathered whatever strength I had and crossed the finish line. Unofficially I finished the race a little over 26+ minutes.

After crossing the finish line I went straight to the “wellness area”. I had a physical therapist stretch my lower body. Geez did that feel good. The therapist complimented me on my flexibility. Stretching is key. And I refuse to never go a day without stretching.

Hours later since the race, I am sore. And yet I am in great spirits. While the race will not be my best race I am proud of everything I have accomplished.

And now my focus is on to the Rock N Roll : New York 10K in Brooklyn on October 12.

I will be ready. Bank on it.

See you October 12.

:::ADDENDUM:::

More than 24 hours has passed since I participated in the Tunnel To Towers 5K. And despite my malaise, I finished with a good time. Quite frankly, I am shocked.

I never expected this!

I never expected this!

To finish the Tunnel to Towers 5K in 25 minutes and 55 seconds is a major accomplishment. I shaved 10 seconds off my course best. Despite being winded I finished the race. I am proud of everything I have accomplished. Out of 1,062 runners who purchased the running chip, I finished 70th. Among men, I completed the race in 43. I am humbled.

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Tunnel To Towers 5K Run

September 30, 2012 2 comments

It’s 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I am hours removed from completing my second 5K run. The outcome of this run was dramatically better than my first run. I can actually say human error was not a factor. The course was straightforward. And all that stood in my way was the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which spans 1.7 miles.

Start Line

I was one of 30,000 runners/walkers participating in the Tunnel To Towers

Unlike my first 5K all 30,000 runners started at the same time. Once Mayor Rudy Giuliani counted down from ten, we were on our way. As I mentioned all runners started at the same time. In most races runners are placed in heat positions. While I suspect the Tunnel and lower Manhattan cannot be closed for too long, I worried about accidentally bumping into someone. The fear of injury lingers. But I then thought an injury can happen at any moment. I continued.

As I approached the tunnel, I was not thinking much. I had my iPod blaring punk rock songs. In a way I was enjoying the view. After I crossed the toll booth, I entered the tunnel. Thankfully I am not claustrophobic. Running inside the tunnel felt weird. These are tunnels one is accustomed to going through via a bus or a vehicle. Plus I expected pollution to permeate the tunnel. My ignorance. I thank the city for ventilating the tunnel.

While inside the tunnel the air smelled like potpourri. Speakers were placed along the course. Music blared inside. While I had my iPod on, I cannot tell you what songs played. Sorry.

As I ran on the right side of the tunnel, I was then kindly directed to move to the left. I wondered why. But then I discovered some of the wounded first responders and veterans participating in the event. We truly take a lot for granted. And I honored them by thanking them.

In the distance I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I was in Manhattan. The tunnel felt a bit steep. I was slowing down. I felt winded. After exiting the tunnel to left were army cadets holding American flags, and to the right were 343 of New York’s Bravest, FDNY. They were holding banners in honor of the 343 FDNY members who perished on September 11, 2001. Their sacrifice is a MAJOR reason why I wanted to participate and raise money for first responders. I continued to run and in the distance was the under construction One World Trade Center (aka Freedom Tower).

I was overcome with goosebumps. The loud chants from the FDNY gave me my second wind. I ran with a purpose and proceeded to the right. I extended my hand they extended theirs. I thanked them for keeping us safe. They have a tireless job. But their job is not thankless. I proceeded to Lower Manhattan via the West Side Highway. When I ventured through the highway who do I happen to see? My father and brother.

Jorge Running

I found my brother and father along the West Side Highway. Very Memorable.

As I honored the FDNY (pictured behind me), I was touched and excited to see my father and brother along the route. I will never forget that moment. While I wanted to stop and take pictures, I am very competitive. I had to run. So I did the next best thing, I gave them a cheesy pose. I love it.

I moved on along the waterfront Esplanade heading a few blocks north. We runners were greeted to music by a high school marching band and local residents clapping and cheering.

Running along the Esplanade for a few more minutes, we headed east toward the West Side Highway. In the distance were local residents and tourists cheering. FDNY and NYPD were there to provide support. I spotted the Finish line. At this point I ran on all cylinders. Picture Rocky running up the steps as he trained for his fight with Apollo Creed. Yup, that was me. I drowned the music and heard the spectators cheering me on. Awe inspiring.

I crossed the finish line. After 25:43 (unofficially) I was elated and proud of what just happened.

The party was getting started. The event sponsors provided runners with samples of great products and fruits. The organizers provided food and a concert from the “Lt. Dan Band”. The band is fronted by actor, Gary Sinise. Obviously the band name was inspired by Sinise’s character from Forrest Gump. Sinise travels with his band in hopes of raising money for his foundation and the Tunnel To Towers Foundation. Their hopes is to raise money for wounded veterans. Very noble.

Lastly, this sandcastle was the go to area for everyone. Enjoy.

Sand Castle

This was the go to spot for every runner, and supporter.

For the record my Garmin watch did not provide me with accurate GPS information. Apparently, I lost a signal while running inside the tunnel. The watch, however, provide my accurate time. Major points.

To those who donated to the cause, I sincerely thank you. Let’s do it again next year.

My Next 5K

September 29, 2012 2 comments

You : Where have you been?

Me : What do you mean?

You : You have been M.I.A. since your first 5K. You have a lot of explaining to do.

Me : *sighs* You are right. I do have a lot of explaining to do. Where do I start.

***Flashback Sequence***

Two days after the Damon Runyon 5K at Yankee Stadium, I discovered that I did not finish the race. I refuse to point fingers, but in actuality I am to blame. The course was not your typical 5K (or 3.1 Mile) race. To complete the 5K a participant had to run the through certain levels around Yankee Stadium more than once. While I started the race a bit too eager, I ultimately made up my time. But as I neared the end of the race, I had to run from the Grandstand Level to the main level through their ramp. As I approached the main level I noticed a fork in the road. At the center of the course stood a sign. The left side said, “Finish” while the right said something that I still cannot make sense of.

Now I am not saying the organizers or volunteers are to blame. I blame myself because I was focused on the finish line. And instead of asking I crossed the finish line. I bet you are asking yourself, “Yeah so what?” Well it turned out the sign I could not make out was to tell me that I had to run through that portion again. Once I completed that portion a second time, then, I can cross the finish line.
Unfortunately, I prematurely crossed the finish line. I received a medal that I did not deserve. While the medal was nice to receive, I have yet to leave it out for others to view. My goal this year was to run the event as a competitor and participate in the same event for fun next year. Well after receiving a “DNF” (Did Not Finish), I am too embarrassed and proud to allow that to happen. I have come too far to allow that to happen.

With that I am putting the Damon Runyon 5K on notice for 2013. Watch out Yankee Stadium, Jorge will redeem himself.

With that embarrassment out of the way, I can now discuss my next race. Tomorrow morning, I am participating in the 11th Annual Tunnel to Towers 5K race. I am excited and elated about participating in this wonderful event. Last year, while unable to run due to femoroacetabular impingement, the area’s local CBS affiliate (WCBS) aired the event from beginning to end. As media partners WCBS interviewed participants, first responders and everyone in between. I vowed to myself on that rainy, overcast September morning to run the event in 2012. I never imagined to myself that I would actually run the event one year later. Despite discomfort in my left hip, I am very passionate about selecting running events.

The Tunnel to Towers event is one of those events I am passionate about. Now in its 11th year, the organizers dedicated the event to Stephen Siller. Stephen Siller was a member of New York’s Bravest. He was a member of the FDNY brotherhood. On September 11, 2001, Stephen had just ended the late shift. While  heading to meet up with his brothers for a game of golf, he heard on his police scanner that a plane hit the World Trade Center.

Upon hearing the news, he returned back to the firehouse and picked up his gear. Heading to Lower Manhattan proved to be a big obstacle. The city closed the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel among the other local bridges and tunnels. He picked up his gear, which totaled close to 60 pounds, and ran to Lower Manhattan via the tunnel. Sadly, that was the last time he was seen or heard of. He became one of the many first responders who gave up their lives to save the lives of others.

His memory continues to live today. And because of that he has been immortalized with this 5K run from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to Lower Manhattan. I am running to honor the memory of the many first responders who give their lives each and every day to help keep us free and safe.

I am ready for the race. I am ready for the challenge. But as I run I will honor those who keep us safe.

If any first responders are reading this blog entry, this is for you.

I thank you.

Tunnel To Towers Bib

Bib # 14864 (ie Me) is ready

Until next time, hopefully tomorrow. See ya. Wish me luck.