Music Soothes the Savage Tool

Sunday, July 25th….After a rough 9 miles in the heat & humidity on Saturday, Sunday is a welcome change. The humidity broke overnight, and the temperature dropped just enough to ensure that this morning’s recovery run doesn’t turn into a stress test. I got out of the apartment early, threw on my Ipod and took off around the outer loop of Central Park.

Sundays are special for me, as this is really the one time all week that I do not concern myself with mileage, pace, or duration. It’s also one of the only times during the week that I run while listening to music. In the past, the only way I could enjoy running was by plugging my ears with two tiny speakers and shuffling my feet to the soft, delicate sounds of AC/DC, Pearl Jam, and Rush. My pace would change based on the beat in my ears, and my focus would be solely on the music – not the exercise. The resulting workouts were always helter-skelter, with no game plan in place. As a result, I feel like I never really saw a marked improvement in my performance from 2005 – 2008. This year, by working with TFK 3 times a week, I am learning to push my body faster by running with a group, while listening to my body as I exercise. The end result has been noticeable: I’ve been getting faster and my running form has greatly improved.

With all of that said, once a week I take time for myself to blast my music in my ears as I log some miles in the warm morning sun. I start off at the 85th Street entrance to Central Park off of Central Park West, and work my way counter-clockwise around the outer loop, which is roughly 6 miles in overall distance. I allow myself to breathe deeply and shift my pace according to my mood, which is determined by the music and how my body is feeling. My pace starts off quickly, as my playlist begins with theme music from the movie “The Transformers”. (Now I know that sounds really strange – but the first two songs are entitled “Autobots” and “Arrival on Earth”. These titles sounds like they belong on a 10 year-old’s playlist, I’m sure….and maybe a part of me really still is 10 years old. But there is something about the nobility inherent within of the sound of French horns combined with the sense of urgency provided by the underlying strings within these two instrumentals that gets my blood going. Go ahead and call me weird – because I call myself a lot worse). My pace quickens yet again as music from Motorhead, Rush, Fuel, and Pearl Jam fill my ears. Then the pace settles into a nice steady rhythm as the “music” portion of my playlist ends and I begin running to the various military cadences. The consistent droning in my ears of drill sergeants gets me up the east side of the outer loop, to the base of Harlem Hill (which in the northwest corner of the park). As I see the base of the Hill in the distance, I switch back to proper music to motivate me up the hill. The theme songs from Superman and The Natural seem to do it for me. As I head south down the west side drive of the outer loop, I look for my finishing music: the soundtrack from the original Pirates of the Caribbean film. I clipped off six miles in just under an hour. My legs felt loose and I left the park with a clear head – which is another great benefit of these solo, introverted runs.

These types of recovery runs are important because they allow me to stretch my legs out the day after a rough workout. They also are a prime opportunity to try out new running gear, break in new running shoes, or try something different. Today I tried a new pair of Nike running shorts. While they felt comfortable whilst standing still , they also had what I’d like to refer to as a “sense of adventure” while I was in motion. What do I mean by a “sense of adventure”? Well these shorts decided to boldly go where not even my primary care physician is permitted to explore. Bottom line: running six miles is hard enough – running it while strategically fending off an atomic wedgie is just not fair. So there are some Sundays where I am my own “lab rat”.

That last statement made me think. Since I become my own “lab rat” on Sundays, and you all are coming along for the ride, I guess that makes all of you honorary lab rats as well. So, lab rats, here’s my first question to each of you:

You’re at the bottom of a horrid-looking hill. You need one song to help motivate you up to the crest. Which song on your ipod do you select?

I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts!


“It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.” – Ann Trason

The Long Run – The Most Important Run of the Week

Saturday, July 24th 2010…..Up at 6am.  TFK is meeting at 7am, and I need to leave within 20 minutes in order to make it on time.  I quickly hop into the shower and, still being half asleep, I promptly screw up the concept of left vs. right.  You see, on the left is the hot water nozzle of the shower.  On the right: the cold.  I reached out, turned a nozzle, and was immediately awakened by a large VERY COLD dose of Chateau Bloomberg, vintage 2010.  I considered this mistake to be Freudian in nature – some part of my mind must have determined that a dose of cold water at 6am was a required element.  But something else felt weird, standing in my bathtub at that hour of the morning…..and then I looked down and realized that I left my boxers on.  Ah yes – a true sign of things to come, I’m sure.  As I was drying off, my brain actually began to function normally – and I realized that today was Saturday…..which means it’s time for my weekly long run.  As this thought entered my rather dense cranium, the first thing I reached for was Body Glide.  Body Glide, quite simply, is a distance runner’s savior.  It is applied to any spots on the body that might experience friction and the resulting chaffing over longer periods of exercise.  After applying some of this waxy stuff to some key areas (oh please – don’t expect details on this one, folks – I’ll let your minds get creative…lol), I quickly got changed into running attire that fits me most comfortably (which is another VERY important ingredient to a successful long run – never wear anything that causes any form of irritation to your skin during runs like these), laced up my sneakers, grabbed my bottles of water and headed out to practice.

I stopped into a local deli for my Saturday morning ritual – a bacon & egg on a roll and a bottle of orange Gatorade to enjoy as I walked to the southwest corner of Central Park, TFK’s meeting spot for the day.  By the time I arrived, the group was already beginning to form up nicely.  40-50 runners, most first-time marathoners, surrender weekend sleep every Saturday morning and travel various distances in order to run with the TFK at the wee hours of the morning.  Fortunately for me, my commute is rather easy: a 20 minute walk southeast from my apartment building on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. 

At 7am this morning, the temperature was 90 degrees.  The humidity was easily 85-90% – I could tell because I was already having a very bad hair day.  I left the house looking like Gordon Gekko, and I arrived at practice looking like Ace Ventura, Pet Detective.  Due to the heat, the coaches decided to trim back the overall workout – so as we stood around waiting for the practice to begin, I downed another bottle of orange Gatorade.  I’m providing you with that last little detail because it will come in to play in just a moment….

The workout was scheduled to be a 9-11 mile run along the park’s bridal path, and I started out feeling chipper.  As usual, I began running my mouth trying to make my teammates laugh as we clocked one mile after another.  We headed North on the path from approximately 62nd street all the way up to 102nd, and then the path itself hangs a right and heads east.  As it draws closer to the East side of the park at 102nd, the path hangs another left and we headed south toward the east side drive.  By the time we got to 90th street, I was saturated – it was as if I were 6 years old again, and I danced in a sprinkler on my front lawn on a hot summer day.  I was getting thirsty again, and fortunately for us the TFK staff set up a water stop – complete with Gatorade – at the Engineer’s Gate (which is the entrance to the Park that the Marathon course takes at 90th Street and 5th Avenue).  So I downed two cups, gathered with the group, and set off again, Southbound.

When the group turned around to head back in the opposite direction at the southernmost point of the bridal path’s Reservoir loop, I began to feel odd.  My legs were fine, my wind was coming and going pretty well….but something was off.  I thought to myself, “maybe I am still dehydrated – better get some water on the way back as well”.  So I slowed my pace until I got to the TFK water stop again, and chugged 2 more cups of the orange elixir.  After chucking the plastic cups in the garbage, I picked up my pace in order to catch up to my group.  As I approached the northeast corner of the bridal path, my stomach had a rather urgent conversation with my brain.  It went a little something like this…:

Stomach: “Hey brain – you’re an idiot.  You just overloaded me with some orange crap that just royally upset everything else in here. 

Brain: “Hey buddy – good to hear from you.  Just thought I’d try to help you out.  How’s that Gatorade working out for ya?”

Stomach: “Dude – we were just fine down here.  Everybody was getting along.  The eggs were hanging out with bacon.  The roll was minding its own business, hanging out in the corner being a bit antisocial if you ask me.  Then you send some of that orange crap down here, and everyone figured hey – open bar! 

Brain: “There you go, buddy – I’m always looking out for ya.  You’re my paisan – you know that.  Did you like the linguini a la…..”

Stomach:  “Stai zitto (which, for all of you playing the home game, means “shut up!” in Italian.  My stomach is more Italian than the rest of me)!!  Things were just perfect down here.  But then you continued to dump more of that orange crap down your extra large gullet.  Now you pissed off everybody down here and we’d all like to have a word with you….”

Brain: “Buddy, I don’t understand – what do you mean, have a word with….”

Throat: “Sorry to interrupt this love fest – but something’s come up.  Brain – tell the legs to stop what they’re doing.  Stomach – I see its last call and you’re kicking everyone out.”

…..and with that, I got sick.

 After the nausea subsided and I emerged from the trees like a befuddled Sasquatch, I attempted to right my ship and get myself back on course.  I’ve felt like this before: last year I ran the Marine Corps. Marathon and repeatedly got sick to my stomach from mile 16 on.  I somehow finished the race  – but it was the worst running day of my life.  My stomach at this moment felt exactly like it did during that marathon.  I struggled through the rest of mileage, at one point teaming up with a TFK coach to get me through the roughest spots, and finished up by stretching with the Team before heading home.

Lesson learned: before race day, figure out what your body needs to stay properly hydrated.  And too much fluid – especially something like Gatorade – isn’t always a good thing.  Work with your coaches (and, if you have one, your nutritionist) to figure out just the right combination of foods and fluids that you need for optimal performance.  I haven’t been focusing on this well enough….and Saturday was just the message I needed to receive.


“I always loved running…it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.”     – Jesse Owens