The 2012 Tower of Terror 10 Miler…A Warm Night in WDW


The weekend after the Fifth Avenue Mile, I participated in the Tower of Terror 10 Miler within Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.  I love to head down to WDW, because being immersed in the amazing enginuity of the Disney brand stimulates my own inner creativity. 

I visited the race expo Friday afternoon, and was pleasantly surprised at the sheer number of vendors promoting their running attire, shoes, gadgets (God how I love running gadgets!), charities and other marathons being run throughout the country.  After I picked up my race swag (as Fred Lebow once said – runners will do anything for a t-shirt), I got to listen to Jeff Galloway speak for a bit on pacing and pre-race preparation.  Then I headed out to the theme parks to meet up with a bunch of awesome teammates from the WDW Radio Running Team. 

After attending a Friday evening event at the American Pavillion of EPCOT which included an homage to the late great Adventurers Club as well as time spent with a group of wonderful people, I watched Illuminations from the Italy pavillion before calling it a night.

Saturday was spent relaxing and touring some theme parks – exactly what a person does NOT want to do the day of a 10pm 10-miler in heat and humidity.  The temperatures circled around the 85-90 degree range during the day, and dropped to a brisk 81 by the time the 10pm race began. 

The race itself was – to be rather blunt – lackluster.  I guess I expected more from Disney than I received.  The course was well lit – but we spent approximately 9-10 miles of the race (and that’s a conservative estimate) was spent on quiet roadways with virtually no spectator support or any other form of visual stimulation.  Now I know what you’re thinking: Joe, it’s a race.  It’s a 10-miler.  You  should treat it as a race and simply run it to finish in the best time that you can.  While I do run all other races in this fashion, Disney races are different.  I run them for the experiences.  For the sights and sounds.  To see what’s coming around the next corner – what does Disney have in store for us?  I never run Disney races for a PR (Personal Record).

I ran with a group of fantastic teammates from the WDW Radio Running Team, we took it slow and steady, and ran through the humidity to the finish line alongside the Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The walk from the finish line to baggage claim was long and congested – and that did not help people’s moods as they wandered through the park a collective bunch of sweaty messes.  By the time I returned to my hotel room, it was after 2:30am on Sunday morning.  I had planned to enjoy the post-race party…but was too fried from the heat and humidity to go on a ride or two after the 10-mile trek.

Would I do this race again? Maybe.  However, there are several items that need to be addressed:

1) Please make the course entertaining…..or drop the entry fee.  You’re Disney – we expect a higher level of quality from you.  Sorry…but that’s the cost of being the best entertainment company in the world.

2) Running on loose gravel at 11pm 6 miles into a 10 mile race didn’t go over very well will many runners.  I didn’t mind it – but I heard the complaints as we shuffled through this unpaved area of the course. 

3) Given the high humidity and heat, at least one additional water stop should have been added. 

4) Don’t make the runners walk across the theme park to pick up their baggage post-race.   

These aren’t big-time issues.  Night races at Disney are not easy to pull off.  I can understand the inherent complexity.  Just fix the glitches and this one could be decent next year.

Next up for me: the 2012 Chicago Maratahon…where cooler temperatures, less humidity and 16.2 additional miles await. 

   

The Hardest Mile I’ve Ever Run


The week after my trek through Central Park, I found that it took longer than usual to recover.  I gave myself two days of complete rest prior to attempting to get up and complete a lite run on Wednesday morning.  Quite honestly, I just went through the motions.  I ran without focus and without a measureable goal.  My head wasn’t into my training.  As the weekend drew closer, I realized that my mind wasn’t really helping my body heal up.  Why?  Because I wasn’t exactly in the most positive frame of mind.

Do you recall how disappointed I was with my poor effort during my August marathon in rye, New York (refer to this one if you want to check out my recap:   https://backofthepacker.wordpress.com/2012/09/21/marathon-8-the-self-transcendence-marathon-part-1/ and  https://backofthepacker.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/marathon-8-the-self-transcendence-marathon-part-2/) ?  While the prior weekend’s solo adventure put me in a fantastic frame of mind because I was surrounding my my teammates during the second half of my run – my Nike + watch kept telling me that I had yet to piece together the kind of mistake-free marathon that I knew that I had in me.  In my blog entry late last week (  https://backofthepacker.wordpress.com/2012/10/12/marathon-9-another-self-inflicted-marathon-through-central-park/ ), I mentioned that I needed to work on my “Shooter’s Mentality” – the ability to forget the bad experiences / races immediately, and continue to “train it and trust it” – continue to work hard so that, on race day, I can trust in my abilities to provide the expected results / improvement.  Well, the Shooter’s Mentality hasn’t kicked in just yet….and I’m training – but not trusting.  Oy.

What I needed was a little taste of success.  I needed to show myself that progress has been made this year.  And the New York Road Runners Fifth Avenue Mile on Saturday was going to be just the opportunity that I required.

The Fifth Avenue Mile is a fantastic race where runners of all ages run down Fifth Avenue from the corner of 80th Street to the corner of 60th Street, finishing just outside of the southeast corner of Central Park.  The one mile course begins with a slight decline, followed by lite uphill run.  The last third of a mile is a sprint down one last downhill to the finish line.  The record for the course is 3:54, I believe.  (And FYI: THAT AIN’T SLOW, FOLKS).  Although the distance is MUCH shorter than the races I’ve particiapted in throughout 2012, this event resulted in…quite honestly…the hardest mile I have ever run in my life.

The runners were broken up by male/female and age group.  By the time my agre group assembled at the starting line, I was resolved to push myself to the absolute limit as far as pace was concerned.  Once I crossed the starting line, I was going to run as fast as I could for as long as I could.  Within minutes, the gun went off and we crossed the starting line.

I “sprinted” (ok, let’s face it – that word is in quotes because it looks good whilst discussing a one mile race; however, I don’t think I can call ANY type of running that I do a true sprint….one cannot sprint whilst carrying a baby grand piano on your back) right off of the line and, within a quarter mile, I felt my breathing become very rapid.  I was not used to running like this.  It began to hurt at I reached to top of the course’s one incline.  I was about to slow my pace down a bit for fear of breaking completely.  It was at that moment, with the finish line slightly less than half a mile away, that I actually got stubborn for once.

Knowing that I only had 10 blocks to cover and the race would be over, I recalled what one of my TFK coaches kept telling me during speed work one Wednesday a couple of months prior.  While running a timed 5k one Wednesday evening, Coach Glen saw that I wasn’t using my arms as effectively as I should be.  So he came up behind me and starting telling me “Use your arms! Throw your elbows back!  It’ll add speed and make your pace easier to hold on to”.  As th arms go – so do the legs.  I heard Coach Glen’s words over and over in my head, and I went to my arms.  AND IT WORKED!  I sped up – I could feel it.  The feeling of actually getting faster instead of breaking down fired me up.  I decided to really push it durin the last quarter mile…and then I noticed the clock over the finish line.  I couldn’t believe it.  

I crossed the finish line and immediately looked for a garbage can.  I really left it all on the course.  I felt sick to my stomach – but I knew that I did the best I could.  Unlike other races run this year, I wouldn’t be able to look back at this race and say “my time would have been a little better if I did this or that differently”.  I could honestly say that I gave all that I had.  And I couldn’t believe the results.  One mile in 7 minutes and 10 seconds.  I have NEVER run that fast in my entire life.  

This was the positive experience I needed to shake myself out of the duldrums that I was dealing with lately.  Now, all I need to do is build on this experience and gain some momentum going into the deepest part of my racing season.

 

 

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If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website:  www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for.  It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.  Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.  Please consider donating to this worthy cause.  Thanks!

 

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

 

Monday Morning Motivation


Make the time to work on yourself.  I know it’s hard – but you deserve a chance to achieve your goals, and the only way that’s going to happen is if you make the time to practice.

 

Remember: you don’t get today back – so make it count.

 

Top 10 Running Mantras


OK – these top 5, top 10, top whatever lists are fun to put together.  So here we go: here are my top 10 running mantras for long training runs…..

10.  “Getting closer…”  I use this one when I’m only 4-5 miles into a marathon.  It’s supposed to keep me positive.  Does it?  Probably not – I have nine more below this one!

9. “Keep Calm and Carry On”  I need a corny mantra – and this is it.  It can be used at any time during the race.  On a scale of 1-10, this mantra’s effectiveness is about a 3.  So why do I use it?  Because it’s English – and I say it with a British accent, which makes it fun.  Completely shaggadelic.

8.  “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”  I normally use this one when I’m working with my hands (painting, cooking, etc.).  It works when I’m painting.  Does it work when I’m running?  Ummmmm……well…….let’s go to #7.

7.  “Stored energy.”  OK – seriously, I really do this one.  I use it early in the marathon, when the crowds are cheering along the course and I want to speed up.  Instead up going faster, I store up the energy that the crowd gives me and I maintain my steady pace.

6.  “Elbows back.”  This is one that I actually use all of the time.  When I first began running, I didn’t swing my arms.  Seriously.  They hung from my sides like two logs of genoa salami hanging from the ceiling of an Italian deli on Arthur Avenue.  Do you know how dumb that looks?  Jog in place in front of a mirror without moving your arms.  Yup – THAT’s how dumb I looked.  My coaches have programmed me to make sure that I work on my arm swing, throwing my elbows back fluidly as my legs turnover.  As your arms go, your legs go.  Keep your arms moving and your legs will follow.

5.  “Nope – not yet.”   I wish I didn’t need this one, but I use it all too often.  My head continuously tells my legs to slow down and walk for a bit.  For me, momentum is everything – and if I walk I’m screwed.  So every time The Tool (that’s the name I’ve given to all of my inner self-doubt and negativity) begins to tell me to slow down and walk, I quietly tell myself “nope – not yet”.  It’s simple…and it works for me.

4.  “Retreat hell.”  That’s the motto of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines.  The story goes that during World War I this battalion was sent to France to fight.  During a fierce battle, a French commander told the battalion lieutenant to retreat.  The lieutenant’s response: “Retreat?  Hell, we just got here”.  That’s the kind of attitude I need to have early on in the race.  21 miles left….17 miles left…..16 miles left…the course can make you feel like quitting.  Retreat?  Hell, I’m just getting started.

3.  “Breath – don’t break.”  I know.  It’s simple.  Not exactly motivational.  But I actually need to remind myself to breath as deeply as I can, especially during the early stages of the marathon.  If I focus on my breathing during a race, I can hold my pace for a much longer period of time.  Once I get distracted – and that ALWAYS happens to me – my breaths get shorter and shorter.  Then I get winded.  Then – at some point – the race breaks me.  I’ll learn to stay focused for the whole 26.2 distance at some point…but I’m not there yet.  Lots of work to do.

2.  “Facta non verba”.  Oh yeah – that’s right – I’m busting out the Latin.  Deeds – not words.  This one works for me…plus it makes this Bronx kid sound slightly more educated when I’m mumbling this amid a pack of quicker runners.

1.  “Focus and finish.”  I use this for the last miles.  It reminds me to dig deep – because that’s the only way to finish a marathon.

You run the first 10 miles with your body.  The next 10 with your brain.  And the last 10k is all heart.

Met Jeff Galloway twice this year thus far – he wrote a whole book on running motivation, which I really recommend.  It’s called “Mental Training for Runners: How to Stay Motivated”.

Marathon #9: Another Self-Inflicted Marathon Through Central Park


After my horrid performance in Rockland County, New York, I felt like I needed to bounce back in a rather quiet, determined way. My September marathon was scheduled for the middle of the month in Dayton, Ohio. I have heard nothing but amazing things about The Air Force Marathon, and I was really looking forward to it; however, life gets in the way at times – and responsibilities elsewhere required me to cancel my reservations. So just like June, when I missed the Lake Placid Marathon, I was faced with a dilemma. I needed to keep my promise of a marathon a month – but I was now left without a race to run.

I enjoyed a relaxing, long Labor Day Weekend visiting family in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I even got to play a really fun round of golf with my cousin Dennis, on the Michigan University course. I hacked away at the ball for a few hours, actually hit 4-5 ok shots (the rest of my swings were downright embarrassing – at one point a woodchuck literally rolled his eyes at me as i attempted (in vain) to escape the rough along the 8th fairway). As poorly as i played, i could have cared less because laughed the whole way through. good company has a way of making you forget some of the things that sat sour in your mind. Spending time with family was just the type of magic elixir I needed to shake off my lousy August performance.

Upon my return, I felt that spark come back. I had been feeling a bit down due to my inability to push through a rather tame injury during the Self Transcendence Marathon. I expected much more from myself than I actually delivered. Now that the spark was back, I decided to capitalize on my new-found positivity and crank out 26.2 in the same manner as my June run. Time to completely exorcise the demon.

The Saturday after Labor Day, I decided to leave my apartment really early and run at least 13 miles before the beginning of my Team for Kids weekly long training run. I would then join up with the team as a mentor, and run with them for my last 13-14 miles. I woke up that Saturday morning…well…in the words of John Geutfriend (former CEO of the old Solomon Brothers) “ready to bite the ass off a bear”. (I think that term is another way of saying “I’m all fired up”…but I’ve been dying to use that quote – so there you go).

I grabbed a water bottle – I chose not to use my hydration pack because there are water fountains all over Central Park – dosed myself with Body Glide, grabbed my studly sunglasses and off and headed to the park.

I paced myself as I made my way along the outer loop of the Park.  As I’ve mentioned a few times before, Central Park is pretty hilly in spots, and I am VERY anti-incline.  So pacing conservatively early on allowed me to save energy for the second loop.  By the time I had completed my two loops, it was almost time to meet up with Team For Kids near the Columbus Circle entrance of the park.  13 miles down in 2 hours, 6 minutes.  I shocked myself – that was a personal best for the half marathon distance.

The team broke up into three groups: those that run sub 9 minute miles (I wish!), those that run approximately 9-10 minute miles (I can do that for a 10k – but it’s tough for 20 full miles, and I had 13 down already), and those running 10:30 minute per mile or greater.  I went with this last group, in order to maintain my momentum.

 As our group made its way along the park’s Bridal Path, the energy generated by running as a team kept the spring in my legs long after the point where I expected to be fried.  Early on I had one teammate that dealt with some nasty stomach issues (and boy do I have my MBA in THAT field!), so I slowed up and tried to coach her through it. I got her around one loop of the path, and then she made the decision to call it a day.  A wise move.  You can prepare as well as humanly possible for a long run…but you never know what your body has in store for you once you’re out there, doing your thing.  Some days are fantastic, and some days aren’t.  As a runner, you just have to be enjoy the good days, and learn from the bad ones.  We parted ways, and I kept slowly chugging along.

As I watched her walk toward our team’s meeting area to pick up her bag, I thought back to my golf game in Ann Arbor.  I hit a BUNCH of lousy shots.  Ones that made the pigeons giggle and the squirrels nervous.  But being with friendly people, on a perfect day, walking on a gorgeous course – my mistakes were forgotten almost instantly.  My head simply stayed in the present.  The 4-5 good shots that I did manage to slug – those are the only ones I can recall.  In my years of studying the game of golf, I read a few books written by Dr. Bob Rotella.  My favorite was “Golf is Not a Game of Perfect”.  Within it, Dr. Rotella talks about how the best players in the world develop a “shooter’s mentality” – the ability to forget the shots that went wayward, and focus on the successful ones.  He also mentions that the best players work really hard at the game – they practice every type of shot, every day.  They practice so much that, when it comes time to play a match, they trust their swing to do exactly what it normally does in practice.  They “train it and trust it”.  As I plodded along the path, attempting to catch the rest of my group, I decided that I needed to develop my own Shooter’s Mentality when it came to running.  In order to do that, I need to train it and trust it – train my legs and trust that they can go the distance I tell them to.

As miles 21-22 were being reeled in, I decided to transfer from the Bridal Path to the outer loop of the park.  I needed the last miles to be focused, and for that I needed to run solo.  In my head, I reviewed prior performances this year.  Some were good and others…not so much.  But I finished each one that I began.  There was my shooter’s mentality: I finish what I start.  I’ve trained enough to trust my legs to get me at least 26.2 miles.  Now all I need to do is improve.  Mile 22 rolled into mile 23…..and suddenly I realized I was 24 miles into my run.  I had begun to walk after talking water at each fountain along the loop, and it was becoming very hard to start running once I downshifted to walking.  My shooter’s mentality came back again – you can do this.  You can do this because you’ve done it many times before.  That was the positive kick in the ass that I required.

The final 3 miles were spent at a VERY slow pace, with a big smile on my face.  I looked at my watch as I neared the Boathouse on the east side of the park: 27.8 miles.  Time to shut this thing down.  I had never felt so good physically after a marathon.  I think it’s because my head was in the right place. 

Funny….one game of golf changed my mental chemistry.

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If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website:  www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for.  It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.  Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.  Please consider donating to this worthy cause.  Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

Bottom 5 Things About the Chicago Marathon


OK – in keeping with my Chicago Marathon theme, here are the 5 things that I wasn’t so thrilled about during this year’s trip to the Windy Ciry for the Big Race….

5. Lime green was one of the major colors of official marathon gear. Seriously. Now I wear lime green when I run for the NYRR Team For Kids. And I love it. I can pull off lime green on a Sunday morning in the Big Apple…but even I have a hard time rockin’ the lime green during brunch at a lavish SoJo Asian fusion restaurant….

4. Quiet points along the course. No race is perfect. Every race has its quiet spots. However, the quiet spot for this race just so happened to be at miles 23-24. I was running on vapors and feeling like a bug on a windshield, and I needed a lift (because I wasn’t getting one from inside myself). Miles 23 and 24 felt like a death march.

3. 2 waves. The second wave contained anyone that planned to run times of 3:40 or greater. Seriously? 3:40 marathoners / 3:50 marathoners didn’t make the first wave cutoff? Now THAT is a shock.

2. O’Hare Airport. Cancel a 2pm flight. Then bounce people around the 3,4, and 5:30 flights back to NYC. Then delay all flights for 2 hours basically because the weather is really nice. Seriously. Wish I was kidding. Should have taken Amfreakin’Trak round trip – it would have been quicker.

1. O’Hare. It pissed me off so darn much they earn the top 2 spots on my list. Doorknobs. Lol.

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Top 5 Moments of the 2012 Chicago Marathon


OK – I had to share this top 5 after jotting down that prior entry…..
So without further adieu, here are my top 5 moments from this year’s Chicago Marathon:

5. Running alongside a father and daughter from Italy. It was a first marathon for the both of them, and they plodded along together – mile after mile – with smiles on their faces the whole way. The father would tell the fans lined along the streets “that’s my daughter! Look at how strong she is!!!”. Nothing like seeing fatherly pride.

4. Meeting a man that lost 140 pounds and was in the process of completing his first marathon.

3. Watching a man fall to a knee with 800 meters to go. It was clear that he had nothing left. I watched as he fell…and then slowly rose up. He stood motionless for a moment – and then began to move forward. He refused to quit. It was an amazing moment. To see him will himself forward toward the finish armed with nothing more than his courage was incredible.

2. Seeing a dad greeted by his five young children shortly after finishing. It was amazing to see the look on their collective faces when he showed them his medal. All five youngsters looked at him in awe. It’s wonderful when a child sees his/her father as a hero.

1. Throughout the day, I watched and listened as complete strangers ran together, motivating each other to keep moving forward. As one runner saw another begin to slow down or struggle, other runners would share simple words of encouragement. This happened all day long. And that’s what the marathon is all about. It’s more than just a race for individual accomplishment. The marathon brings out the best qualities in the runners, the spectators and the volunteers.

One month to the ING New York City Marathon. One month until the single greatest day of the year in the city. I cannot wait.

Remember – you don’t get today back…so wait it count.

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Top 10 Signs Seen At The 2012 Chicago Marathon


OK – I know I’m a bit behind in these entries. I’ll have entries for my September (Self-Inflicted Yet Again) Marathon, the Fifth Avenue Mile, the WDW Tower of Terror 10 miler and the Chicago Marathon posted this week. However: I needed to share this before I completely forget!

The Top 10 Signs Seen During The 2012 Chicago Marathon:

10. “Hey complete stranger – we’re proud of you!”

9. “The Kenyans went that way.”

8. “26.2….because 26.3 would be crazy.”

7. “17 miles to beer.”

6. “pain is temporary – pride is…..oh you know the rest.”

5. “You’re chaffing. I’m cheering. Suckers!”

4. “Release your inner Kenyan.”

3. “Masochist: someone who gets pleasure out of pain.”

2. “Worst. Parade. EVER.”

And my personal favorite:

1. “Do Epic Shit.”

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