I spend my entire year typically training for and racing triathlons, however, when all said and done, only one race really matters in my mind and it’s the NYC Pizza Run. To most people, the idea of running while eating pizza sounds about as appetizing as chugging a bottle of Pepto out of pure thirst. To me, it is the single most defining moment of the season. It is my moment to demonstrate to NYC that I was truly born to do two things: 1. run and 2. eat pizza.
This year marked my third time competing in the NYC Pizza run and I had to defend my title wins from 2011 and 2012. Being that I am the Queen of Pizza, the pressure was mounting as I soon learned friends wanted to toe the line and give me a run for my money. Little did they know that I had a winning strategy taught to me by a training buddy, Jonathan Blyer.
The weather was looking a little dicey as I neared Thompkins Square Park. Mostly cloudy and a few random passing sprinkles. I could not let the weather affect my mental game so I kept my sunglasses on and pumped up the volume on my Rocky Soundtrack.
My uniform this year was perfection. As you can see, my infamous “I <3 Za” tank, white sweatband to keep sweat out of my eyes, orange wrist warmer to wipe away the pizza sauce from my face (I had to look good for the newspapers!), my tall orange and white tube socks for added hilarity and finally, my bright orange running shoes. If one thing was certain, my outfit still didn’t compare to the girls dressed as huge slices of pizza but, I looked adorably fierce!
The whistle blew and we were off! For a the first few feet, I was out in front of my teammate Kamen, but before long, his balls kicked in and he surged to the front. As I rounded the first corner I nearly took out a 90-year old woman, thankfully my superhuman powers kicked in and I was able to swerve just in time. Coming into the final stretch and in for my first slice, I had no idea where the other girls were, but this was no time to check them out, I had a title to defend. The pizza was provided by Pizza by Certé and Chef Ed did a fantastic job with his cheese to sauce ratio so that I could down my first slice in just under 30 seconds. [sigh] What a waste of a slice I wanted to take my time with.
On to my second loop and I was feeling on fire. Before I knew it, I was back for more pizza! This time I took note in how beautiful the browned crust was all around, and slightly more on the bottom. Overall browning is a wonderful characteristic on pizza crust and a defining sign of a gas-deck oven pizza. The sauce tasted quite sweet and the cheese was nice and salty. Again, in less than 30-seconds, I pounded that slice, had sauce all over my face and was off for my third loop. No time to have a bonus slice on that lap.
The third loop was a little lonely. At this point I turned back to see no other girls behind me and realized I could slow down. Naturally the type-A in me wanted to go for a PR (Personal Record), so I kept sprinting away at a 7:00/mi pace. About 200ft before the next slice, slice number two was threatening to come up, thankfully, it stayed down. No time to waste good pizza!
Slice three. Ahhhhhh… the long awaited final slice and my heart was already beginning to feel the sting of the race being close to an end. I pounded that final slice like it was nobody’s business. Small bite, small bite, water swish, small bite, small bite, a quick hello to my friend Bridie and her wife and I was off to complete my fourth and final lap. I knew at this point I had it in the bag and began to get all teary eyed. All of my hard work this season was finally paying off. As I came into the finish line, the crowd went nuts! You would have thought Mila Kunis was by my side (damn that would have been nice, no?!). I crossed the finish line in just under 16-minutes. The title was officially mine, for the third year in a row.
Winning the NYC Pizza Run is no easy feat. While I am not the fastest of female runners, I am likely one of the most skilled at consuming pizza at a high rate of speed. I’m very much looking forward to coming back to defend my title in 2014 as this title pales in comparison to any other I’ve ever won. Special thanks to Jason Feirman for putting on, yet again, another great race packed with fun, adventure, pizza, running and the best prizes ever.
If you didn’t make it out to the race, Zagat did a great piece on the race featuring some of my mad skills. Check it out:
So how did the Pizza by Certé rate on my pizza scale? [bleeping] fantastic! In comparison with the past three years, Chef Ed finally nailed down how to perfect a pizza ideal for consumption while running.
The crust was fluffy and light, but not too crunch. With a beautiful brown top crust and charred bottom, it was a hard crust to not sit back and enjoy. While a bit dry and not easy to down while panting heavily, a little water in the mouth helped to down it quickly. A half Neapolitan half NYC style crust, I still want more!
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this was a greasy slice of pizza. The only thing that was greasy was me and it was from sweating so damn much. Topped with fresh mozzarella using Hudson Valley milk, you could not ask for a more ideal cheese to consume while running hard. Because fresh mozzarella is a water-based cheese, grease and oil were not an issue. Added bonus? It was damn tasty!
Chef Ed used a heavier sauce-to-cheese ratio this year which created a pie with a higher moisture content… very important for eating pizza while running. Using a fresh plum tomato sauce coming from tomatoes farmed in either Maine or New Jersey. It’s bright orange-red hue, it paired nicely with my face the entire time.
OTHER FUN FACTS ABOUT THE PIZZERIA
Pizza by Certé prides itself in being a green restaurant using only fresh ingredients from local farmers and making their own fresh cheeses. They are also using only GreenBox pizza boxes that are environmentally friendly. The top turns into plates and you can fold the box down for storage. Their motto is to reduce waste by being sustainable with their methods of baking and selling pizza. Oh yeah, and how can I not forget to mention they have a “green wall” where they grow their basil right on the spot!
Still impressed with how beautiful this pie is and it’s coming from a gas-deck oven, I have to say, I have no complaints here and I’m looking forward to heading up to Certé to enjoy a slice or three while seated and sipping on some root beer.
Photos by Grace Chu for TimeOutNY