Me and Dougie Fresh


Before you get any errant ideas that the Dougie Fresh I am referring to is the former 80’s rapper, let me be clear: it’s NOT. The Dougie Fresh I am referring to is the one and only Douglas Adams. Each year the week before my birthday, I read señor Adam’s wonderful work of science and lunacy called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Reading it is my annual reminder to continue to look at things from a slightly odd perspective as I continue to get older. It motivates me to continue to make others laugh. To be different. As I turn the pages and sometimes laugh aloud, a series of mental post-its get plastered to my medulla. If you’ve read the book, you’ll recall some of these. If you haven’t….well just take away from what follows whatever useless information you can extract; the rest leave on the floor – I’ll clean up later….

1) whenever you perform inter-galactic travel, always remember a towel.

2) a Babelfish is incredibly useful, but it feels strange when it’s jammed into your ear.

3) some forms of alien poetry, when read aloud, actually physically hurt.

4) the answer to life, the universe, and everything is…..42.

…and the single greatest point ever made:

5) DON’T PANIC.

Reading this book usually takes me 3-4 days, tops. I usually wrap it up the evening before my birthday – and this year is no different, as I just placed the book on the shelf to rest for the next 51 weeks.

My main take-away from Dougie’s preachings is not to panic. I have 11 marathons completed this year. I don’t have another official race on the calendar. I’ll have to run my last marathon solo in Manhattan. It’s not easy – but I can do it. I just can’t panic.

I’m a bit tired and pretty sore right now. My legs really don’t have much juice in them right now. But I’ll have enough for one more marathon next Saturday morning….as long as I stay under control and don’t panic.

There won’t be any crowds. No medal. No support on the course. Just me and the distance. I can deal with the solitude as long as I don’t panic.

The first time someone attempts to read this book based on my recommendation, I always insert a footnote into the conversation, reminding the soon-to-be-reader not to take the book seriously. This is not Jane Austin. This is my home boy Dougie. He wrote this twisted and hysterical literary Mona Lisa simply to make people smile. And this book has done just that each year for me as turn another year older.

Another year, right down the ol’ gabinetto. I can handle that…as long as I don’t panic.

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The 2012 ING New York City Marathon


 

 

Before the arrival of Marathon Week, the city begins to change slightly.  The air gets a little bit colder.  Billboards advertising the marathon go up in almost every train station.  City buses have marathon advertisements along their sides.  Banners are hung from street lights in close proximity to the course.  Then the official orange Marathon Route banners are hung along actual marathon course.  As a runner, these things are noticed as they appear…and each time a marathon reference is noticed, a smile crosses my face.  I’m going to be running that Sunday.  Goosebumps.

 

Marathon Week began with two big events: The Poland Spring 5 miler Marathon Kick Off in Central Park…and continued, growing concerns regarding the pending hurricane Sandy.  The hurricane was due to hit the tri-state area sometime late Sunday / early Monday morning, and all of the cards were aligned against us: high tides, a full moon, strong, cold winds coming down from the north at the same time as the Sandy ravaged her way up our coastline. 

 

The 5 miler was run under very cloudy skies and a firm wind.  Sandy was already, at this point in the day, RSVPing her arrival.  It was unmistakable.  Less than one full loop of Central Park, I felt inclined to push myself in order to find out what pace I could handle for this distance.  I hammered out the first 3 miles at a 9 minute pace, and was stunned when I passed the 3 miler marker and noticed the elapsed time.  For once, my Marathon Math actually HELPED my situation.  Realizing that I only had 2 miles to go, I kept repeating the same mantra over and over again as I maintained my steady, hard pace: “the mind wants to quit before the body”.  I crossed the finish line with a Personal Record for the 5 mile distance, and renewed enthusiasm based on the fact that I was able to push myself hard and not give in to my desire to ease up.  I felt like the week began with the best possible omen. 

 

Monday and Tuesday of Marathon Week were – quite literally – a disaster.  Record flooding and high winds gave our city a down-home, grade A, no-holds barred schoolyard ass kicking.  Millions were without power.  Thousands of people lost their homes and all of their worldly possessions.  The drama unfolded on the local news stations like a 24 hour car-wreck that you cannot help but rubberneck.  Our government officials worked their butts off to keep us as safe as possible – but let’s face it: a natural disaster is something that no politician can fully defend against.  When the dust settled and the damage was made clear, I think the amount of devastation shocked most of us.  Hard to believe this type of destruction could occur way up here from a hurricane.  Mother Nature punched us right in the jaw.  Hard.

 

Now let me clear something up right now: New Yorkers (and also people from New Jersey – cannot leave them out of this conversation by any means) have an attitude. We like to think of ourselves as pretty darn tough.  We live in a fairly fast-talking, fast-paced location, where something is constantly going on and everyone just seems to be perpetually busy.  No one ever hits the breaks.  Ever.  And because of the highly-competitive environment, we all seem to do our own things and look out for our individual families.  We may come across to people not from our neck of the woods to be rather gruff at times.  However – when something like 9/11 or another horrible incident like this hurricane occurs, that’s when you see who we New Yorkers really are.  That’s when we hit the breaks, take a step back and rally around each other.  It’s also when our attitude really becomes a positive quality.  Mother Nature wants to punch US in the jaw?  Well come on – take your best shot because you won’t knock us out.

 

Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bloomberg made the decision that the ING New York City Marathon would still be held on Sunday, November 4th.  At first, this announcement brought me renewed hope.  The marathon is the single best day of the year in the city.  It brings us all together.  It sends a message of unity and hope.  And after this storm and the tragedy that it caused, New York City could really use a good day.  As Wednesday rolled into Thursday, and Thursday slid into Friday, the public outpouring of frustration, anger and grief caused by the sheer amount of loss incurred by the tri-state area resulted in the Mayor’s reversal of his decision: the marathon would be cancelled.

 

My initial response was relief.  The hostility that was building for this race being held on Sunday was disheartening.  But I believe that the decision to cancel the race was a good one.  It made sense.  I also want to believe that there were good reasons for delaying the reversal’s announcement until late Friday afternoon – but that seems to be a rather political debate, and I for one have a rather sensitive stomach for politics.  I think that the race should have been cancelled early in the week, and from all I’ve read and heard that seems to be the general consensus.  This race is a day of hope in the city – and I hope that next year’s marathon will be one that is supported by the city on an unprecedented level.  Time will tell. 

 

While I am not a politician and I respect everyone else’s opinion, I want to share one point: I feel that the New York Road Runners CEO, Mary Wittenberg, tried her best to simply do the right thing.  I have met her a number of times – I have seen the care and concern she has for every race put on by NYRR.  The level of planning and organization as well as the sheer amount of workers’ and volunteers’ efforts are incredible.  A year’s worth of countless hours goes in to Marathon Week.  To see it canceled after all of that effort has been poured into it has to be TOUGH.  But the right decision was made.  And sometimes doing the right thing hurts.  I don’t know how I would have handled all of the pressure that Mary had to deal with – I probably would have snapped.  She’s a strong leader, and deserves a ton of credit.  Now some of you may disagree with me, and I respect any opinion out there – but I just know that if I were placed in the same position as she was, I would not have handled things nearly as well.    

 

Saturday morning arrived, and I went for a lite run over the 59th Street Bridge – the edifice that I refer to as Mount Sonofabitch – and I realized how lucky I was.  I had power.  My home was undamaged.  My family was safe and sound.  I am not a real bible-pounding, religious dude – but I can say that I felt blessed to be in the position I was in.  As the sun cascaded over the east river and the cold breeze slapped me in the face, I felt like I needed to do something positive.  This was a rough week – I needed to end it on a positive note.  So I decided to attempt to run 26.2 miles the following morning anyway.  Four full loops of Central Park, plus a little bit more.  That would do it.  But first I headed home, grabbed a ton of stuff to donate to those New Yorkers that now needed the basics, and bagged them up to ship them out.  Marathon Sunday would be a personal endeavor this year for me.  I didn’t know how much of my heart would be into the next morning’s efforts – but I figured I’d give it a shot anyway.

 

(I know I am usually a tad more funny when I post blog entries – but this was a very rough week for us here in NY / NJ / CT.  I wasn’t in a chipper mood.  I wanted to reflect the gravity of the situation – and this disaster is not for me to make lite of in any way.  I’ll be back to my normal wise-ass self soon, I’m sure.  And to my friends that dealt with much rougher circumstances than I did this week – I’m just glad you are all safe.)  

 

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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

Gearing Up For The Five Boroughs


Once I crossed the finish line in Chicago, my thoughts immediately went to November 4th.  The 2012 ING New York City Marathon.  My Superbowl.  The best day of the year to be in the Big Apple. 

 

The Saturday morning after the Chicago Marathon, I mentored the Team For Kids 20 mile run.  This is the longest run that the soon-to-be marathoners will complete prior to commencing the tapering process (the steady decrease in weekly mileage during the three weeks leading up to race day).  First timers are usually nervous before the run starts, as this is the run that could very well introduce them to The Wall. 

 

For those of you playing the home game, let me give you an extremely high-level description of The Wall.  The night before a marathon, runners usually each a generous portion of carbo-loaded goodness (i.e., pasta pasta pasta!!!).  This builds up their glycogen stores and prepares them for the huge calorie burning endeavor coming up the following morning.  Marathon morning arrives, and the runner will have some additional carbohydrates (Pop Tarts are my favorite choice), to basically top off the gas tank before the gun goes off.  The gas tank of a marathoner can hold approximately 2,000 calories of energy. Now the runner takes off on his 26.2 mile quest.  With each mile that he/she runs, approximately 100 calories are burned.  So somewhere around mile 20, the gas tank becomes bone dry.  It is at this point in the race where the mind insists that the body continue on its present course, and the body responds by searching for an alternative source of fuel.  Fortunately, we do have one – our body fat.  But here’s the problem with switching to fat as the body’s primary fuel source: it sucks.  From all I’ve read in books and magazines, it sounds like fat is much less efficient.  So when this internal switch is “flipped” and the body transitions from burning a good fuel source to a lousy one, the runner’s energy level crashes.  Stuff like energy gels and gummy-chewy energy blocks help the runner if taken in time…but personally I find them to be the equivalent of trying to hold back a train with duct tape.     

 

Before I go on, I have to share my favorite quote regarding the feeling of hitting The Wall: 

 

“It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way in.”—Dick Beardsley, speaking of hitting “The Wall” at the second marathon of his career, the 1977 City of Lakes Marathon.

 

Personally, The Wall is one of the main reasons I run.  (I just re-read that brief sentence and I agree – that does indeed sound stupid…but it’s true).  I like going past 20 miles because I know that is supposed to be my physical limitation.  When you push past something that is supposed to be your limitation, you extend your own possibilities.

 

(I read a pretty solid article about The Wall, and I’d like to share it with you: http://www.marathonandbeyond.com/choices/latta.htm)

 

We met in Central Park before 7am, broke up into pace groups, and took off around Manhattan.  Down the east side, around Battery Park, up the west side to almost 125th street, and then back down into Central Park to wrap it up.  I enjoy running with the beginner group because it’s made up of just that – almost all of the runners in the group had never run 20 miles before that day.  And one of the things I love the most about this sport is being able to help others achieve something that they never thought they could.  It’s incredible to watch someone wrap up their first 20 mile long training run, and realize that they are now really ready to tackle the marathon.  They leave practice exhausted…yet pumped up.

 

One week later, Team For Kids ran its annual Last Ten Miler, where we run the last ten miles of the marathon course.  I mentored again, simply because I get fired up being around such positive people.  It makes me a better runner…and a better person, I think.  Once more we broke up into pace groups and set out along the southern drive of the park.  We exited from the southeast corner of the park, and hung a left on 60th street, heading east to First Avenue.  Once we arrived at First Avenue, we were on the course and the fun began. 

 

Up First Avenue.  Over the Willis Avenue Bridge.  Down 138th street in the Bronx.  Back into Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge.  Southbound to Marcus Garvey Park.  Hung a right onto Fifth Avenue and up the long incline to Engineer’;s Gate.  Into Central Park on 90th Street and Fifth Avenue.  Exit the park and make a right on Central Park South.  Up the incline to Columbus Circle.  Back into the park.  Hello finish line.  While I know this description doesn’t paint a vivid picture of the course AT ALL, I don’t really think that any amount of colorful verbiage coming from my dense cranium would be adequate to illustrate the magic of that extended patch of asphalt. 

 

Running the last 10 miles of the course allows me to visualize myself on race day.  Positive visualization is extremely important in marathon running, because those last miles are all about mentally being able to stay focus as the wheels are coming off.  This is not an easy task.  So let me quickly share with you what I visualize during that last 10 miler…. 

 

  • Running up First Avenue while fans 5 deep line the road on either side, screaming for a bunch of complete strangers in shorts is a site that stays with a marathoner long after the first Sunday in November.  I’ll have gas still in the tank at this point and I’ll want to drop the hammer when I turn onto First Avenue off of the 59th Street Bridge.  I need to resist the urge.  Hold back.  Stay steady. 

 

  • Then there is this quiet patch that sits between 96th Street and the Willis Avenue Bridge – miles 19 and 20.  I need to actually back off the throttle here.  Conserve my energy a bit.  Get over the bridge and into the Bronx in one piece.

 

  • Once in the Bronx, enjoy the attitude.  Listen for the Japanese drummers – if I can hear them, I’m close to the Madison Avenue Bridge.  Get past that mile 22 marker and get myself into Harlem. 

 

  • Make a left off of the Madison Avenue Bridge, and I’ll be greeted by a funny DJ and fans that give me what I need when I need it – attitude.  I LOVE HARLEM.  Embrace the attitude – take it in and let it fuel the moment.  Fans will yell things like “don’t you walk here!  We didn’t come out to see you stop now!  Get moving!” Take it in.  Take it all in.  Look for the Team For Kids support area and high-five as many youngsters as you can. 

 

  • It gets quiet as I crawl around Marcus Garvey Park.  Mentally gather myself here.  Prepare for that right-hand turn onto Fifth Avenue.  Take deep breaths.  This is the point in the race where the wheels could really come off if I allow it to.   

 

  • Fifth Avenue.  First get myself to the Northeast corner of Central Park, where those amazing gospel singers will lift my spirits.  Use that as motivation to get up the incline to the entrance to Central Park.  GET TO THE PARK.  That is all I can think about here.  This incline can break a runner.  It’s not a hard incline to run – it just comes at a rough point in the race, and it doesn’t seem to end!  The fans stand in the street; close enough to pat the runners on the back.    

 

  • Make that left onto Central Park’s east side drive, and I am basically home free.  This is my home turf – my back yard.  I’ve run hundreds of miles in this park, and there are no surprises here.  The fans are loud – USE THEM.  First get to Cat Hill, and I’m rewarded with an awesome downhill stretch to 72nd street.  Then tough it out and get to Central Park South.  Use my nose here – if I can smell the horse crap from all of those horse-drawn carriages, I am almost there.

 

  • The right onto Central Park South.  Showtime.  Another incline – just get myself to 7th Avenue and I’m home free.  LOUD fans here.  Cops yelling on bullhorns.  Here is where the run becomes emotional.  I’ll see runners wanting to quit here – urge them on and I’ll be urging myself on too.

 

  • The turn into Central Park.  Drop the hammer.  Time to really pick up the pace and finish strong.  Just deal with that small hill with approximately 200 yards to go.  Whatever gas is left in the tank – expend it here.  Cross the finish line with absolutely nothing left to give. 

 

Running the last 10 miles of the course with TFK was a wonderful experience.  And so the excitement builds for Marathon Week……

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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

Marathon #10: The 2012 Chicago Marathon


One week after running the Tower of Terror 10 miler in Florida, I found myself in the lively city of Chicago, preparing for the Chicago Marathon.

 

Chicago is a city that I have come to truly appreciate and enjoy. I arrived at O’Scare Airport on Friday morning and immediately checked in to the Peninsula Hotel. This place is AMAZING. My room was something out of a James Bond movie – the entire room was controlled by a single control panel on my night table. Once I dumped my bag in the room, I set out to the Expo. As I left the hotel, one of the housekeeping staff wished me a good day…and my response was “Kolinsky. Joe Kolinsky”. Oh yeah – I was, in the words of that famous philosopher Austin D. Powers, feeling “completely shagadelic”.

The Expo was incredibly well organized. Buses took runners and their families from different location around the city to the Convention Center, where volunteers used Ipads to check the runners in and issue them their bibs. I had my bib number and all other essentials within moments, leaving me free to wander the vendor booths and check out all of the upcoming marathons being advertised, the various new forms of energy bars and electrolyte drinks, and other various running “stuff”. As an impulse buy, I picked up a pair of Newtons (for those of you wondering – “Fig Newtons? A lost group of refugees from the town of Newton? Sir Isaac Newton’s long lost great great great grandson?”….Google is your friend…) because I know that I am a heavy heel-striker. The more I run, the more I think that I must look like a cross between Alfred E Newman and Lerch from the old Addams Family TV show when I waddle through 26.2. So a pair of Newtons may just assist me with adjusting my stride to that of a normal human being. I made my way through the Expo in about an hour, and then headed to a local Chicago Deep Dish Pizza joint for a lesson in how to carbo-load, Midwest style. I arrived back at the Peninsula a rather stuffed yet happy camper.

 

Marathon morning arrived with a slight chill in the air, cloudy skies and a decent wind. I walked from the hotel along Michigan Avenue to the runner’s village maintained in Millennium Park. The level of organization for this race continued to impress me, as the village was separated into two distinct areas: one section for the runners participating in the first wave, and another section for those of us running in the second wave. In between waves, there was a thirty minute window of time to allow the race to progress smoothly from the start. Before I knew it, the first wave took off and we were being beckoned to our corrals.

 

The course is extremely flat and fast – and that was a welcome change from the various races I’ve run earlier in the year. I have a rather deep, seething hatred for any incline included within any race I run. Chicago’s course, therefore, gave me the warm and fuzzies.

 

I felt fantastic at the start, as I normally do. I controlled my pace and did not allow the runners around me to dictate my splits. Usually I succumb to peer pressure and feel this uncontrollable need to keep up with complete strangers that are running a much quicker pace that I normally do. Even though I’ve been passed by exactly 1,227,567,123 runners thus far in my running career, the general concept of actually being passed by anyone gets my knickers in a twist. So it is extremely difficult to stay under control…especially at the beginning of the race, when I feel like a world-beater. Somehow, I was able to block out what was going on around me and focus on my own race. As a Team For Kids mentor, I try to remind runners that are training for their first marathon to “run your own pace – not someone else’s”. Up to this point – that rule was a solid example of do as I say…not as I do. I was shocked that, on this morning, I heeded my own advice.

 

Nine miles into the race, I felt very positive and under complete control. I continued to clip off miles at a slow and steady pace, hitting the half marathon point in approximately two hours and eighteen minutes. This is the exact point in the race where my head normally begins to lose its focus for a bit – between the half-way point and the mile 17 marker. Unfortunately for me, this morning was no different. I lose track of my breathing. I become distracted with Marathon Math (when a marathoner begins constantly checking his/her watch as they begin to tire, trying to calculate on the fly the “acceptable” splits that they think they’ll be able to maintain through the finish). I also lose the ability to block out some of the negativity begin sprouted by The Tool (and if you haven’t been properly introduced to that tiny 4cm bastard, check out one of my older blog posts for a brief description: ___). Once I lose focus, I find it incredibly difficult to regain that world-beater feeling. I slow down….and then I begin to take a walk break or two. This is exactly what happened during the second half of this race.

 

The support on the course was wonderful. The volunteers were everywhere. There was an air of positivity within the entire city that the runners seem to feed off. The temperature was basically perfect once the race got underway and I began to exercise. There was no pounding sun to contend with. No external reasons for my poor performance. It simply boiled down to the fact that I lost my focus and could not regain it. This is going to be a major hurdle to clear before I can drastically improve my performance.

 

It felt fantastic finishing the 2012 Chicago Marathon. The finish line of any marathon is a special place for a runner – but Chicago is one of the Marathon Majors (Boston, New York, Berlin and London are the other four that make up this sport’s – for lack of a better term – Grand Slam), and over the years there have been some incredible finishes. So being able to cross the same finish line as some of the greatest runners in the world is a privilege that I’ve never lost sight of. However, one thing I keep thinking of is a quote from Steve Prefontaine: “Do give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift”. Each time I’ve crossed the finish line I’ve felt like I tried hard…but I have yet to put it all together and run my perfect race. For me, the perfect race is one where I start off completely under control, maintain the exact same pace per mile for 25 miles, and then drop the hammer for the last 1.2 miles, picking up my pace and crossing the finish line almost unable to catch my breath. The perfect race is out there, and at some point I’ll capture it. But until then, all I can do is just keep trying.

 

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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