1) When running a time trial to measure your current pace per mile, do NOT start off running as if the bulls of Pamplona are about to gore you in your arse. (Oh yeah – that’s right – I just busted out a fancy English word for behind / butt / posterior). It’s a better strategy to start off a little slower than your goal pace, and then negative split the remainder of the run. Did I do that? NOPE. I took off like a bat out of hell, and then held on as long as I could. And then….the wheels came off. Wound up almost heaving at the end. God I am a moron.
2) Dick Traum is an awesome guy. Met him at Engineers Gate, where he was working out with Team Achilles. That’s the team he founded shortly after becoming the first man to finish the New York City Marathon with a prosthetic leg….in 1976, I believe. Now if THAT is not badass, I have no idea what is. He’s a real inspiration. Rock on, Dick.
3) On hot days, bring an extra shirt with you to practice. After 6-8 miles in 85 degree heat and high humidity, I look like I just jumped in a pool. Changing into a dry shirt makes me feel like a human being just long enough to get home and shower. Did I remember one today? NO. And how was my attitude during the walk home? Cranky.
4) When swimming at 5am, never ever for any reason wear speedos. No no no. This is a pool in New York City / not the French Riviera. Creepy Speedo Dude hopped in to the lane next to me and proceeded to perform the most….distracting….laps I have ever seen. Note to swimmers out there: no one wants to see your your impression of the Trevi Fountain each time you turn your head to take a breath. This hombre was shooting water out of his mouth with each stroke that literally shot across 2 lanes. I almost called My religious consigliere Father Carmine so that we could perform an aquatic exorcism.
Tomorrow should be interesting. Along early morning bike ride, some weights during lunch and an evening run. I think I’ll change my middle name from Robert to Advil.
I referred to The Tool in my last post earlier this morning. So – I figured I’d share with you the post that server as the genesis for the main antagonist for my ongoing story…..
Posted by abronxturtle on August 13, 2010
Saturday, July 31st ……..So today’s TFK workout was 11 ½ miles beginning in midtown on the east side, over the 59th Street bridge, into Long Island City (in Queens), and then on to Roosevelt Island for two laps of its perimeter before retracing our steps and heading back to our meeting place on 59th and Fist Avenue. All week long I have thought about this run, mainly because traversing the 59th Street Bridge brings back several rough memories of marathons past.
I started running the New York City Marathon in 2005 – so this year will mark race #6 for me. As you’ll learn soon enough within this blog, each of the prior five races I’ve run on the first Sunday in November was made much more grueling than they needed to be – mainly due to my lack of proper preparation. One of my many mistakes in training in the past was the lack of hill work. There is an old saying that “hills are speed work in disguise”…..well in addition to making you faster, the act of getting to the top of a hill provides the runner with a small sense of confidence. Since I simply don’t like hills (I never have and I never will, by the way), I chose to avoid them during training from 2005-2009. They were simply no fun at all. They weren’t easy – they were hard. And most everyone that knows me understands that I cannot stand having to actually work hard.
For the past five years, I have gotten to mile 15 of the New York City Marathon in decent shape. My pace would be slow and steady. My mind would be focused and filled with positive thoughts. Then, after making a sharp left turn, I would come face to face with the base of the 59th Street Bridge. It’s dark and silent, as the race plods along the lower level of the bridge and no fans are permitted along the span. The first instinct is to look up at the ground that needs to be covered and the incline that it’s sitting on…..and that is a HUGE mistake. At that very moment, at the base of this bridge, like clockwork, my inner voice begins yelling in my ear. The things that are yelled into my brain by my inner voice are expelled at such a volume that all of the existing positive thoughts are drowned out by the noise. Every year, that voice sounds in my head. Every year, arriving at the same spot, that voice gets louder. Every year, the commentary narrated by this inner voice becomes more and more negative. This voice of negativity has even morphed into a character in my head. If a police sketch artist asked me for a physical description of this inner voice, my response to the policeman would be the following:
“Well Officer, I see him as approximately 4” in height. Jet black hair, styled in a swept back, spikey, Growing Up Gotti look. Beady eyes set in such a permanent squint that it makes everyone think that, as a baby, he was nursed on lemons. Nose hair that peaks out from below the nostrils – if he sneezes, he’ll look like a party favor. He wears a battleship gray Armani suit, with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, because he still has aspirations of being an extra on Miami Vice. A white T-shirt under the suit jacket finishes off the Miami Vice wanna-be appearance, with his chest hair wandering up and out of the collar. His shoes are patent leather roach-killers with no socks – his vain attempt at looking professional….yet casual. His left ear is pierced, with a gold earring sporting his initial protruding from his earlobe. He wears a thick gold necklace over his t-shirt, with a large Japanese letter dangling from it (he thinks the Japanese letter means “warrior” when, in fact, he bought it from a tiny shop on Canal Street…..and it actually says “I love marshmallows”). Although he never so much as sat on a motorcycle in his “life”, he has a large tattoo on his right forearm that reads “Live to Ride, Ride to Live”…just because he thought that it would make him look tough. Finally, as a finishing touch, he wears a large gold pinky ring with a huge fopal (that means Fake Opal”, for all of you playing the home game) in the center.”
(Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself “Joe, you really need to lay of the Diet Coke, take a few deep breaths, and step out of this Never Never Land that you frequently visit….and join us all back here in a little realm we all call REALITY”. Well I’ve visited that realm on several occasions and have decided to run for the hills each time, simply because I couldn’t find anything decent to watch on T.V.)
In 2008, I even decided to name this inner voice. I needed a name that would convey the hideous traits of this character. The name would have to sound gruff. Harsh. It would need to sound like something a person would mutter under his/her breath when a person cuts in front of them while on line at a grocery store. After an hour of deep thought (and yes, I actually did spend 60 minutes of my life pondering an appropriate name for my inner voice), I came up with what is, in my opinion, the verbal embodiment of my inner negativity. I dubbed him……….The Tool.
So each year, from 2005 – 2009, The Tool would appear on my left shoulder as I arrived at the base of this bridge. He would walk up my shoulder and arrive at my ear and, within moments, begin spewing negativity with his cackling voice at such volume that it drowned out any music playing on my Ipod. The inner conversation would begin with simple prods…but, by the time I made it half way up the incline, my body would begin to feel like shutting down. A sample of the heckling I would receive would sound like this:
The Tool: “Hey, hey!! Good to be back!! What’s it been – a year? We need to hang out more often. Why do we always meet at the same spot?”
My Brain: “Oh – it’s YOU. I’m busy. Come back later.”
The Tool: “Wow. Always the same place. Yup. This is it. The 59th Street Bridge. The Gateway to Manhattan, as far as this race is concerned. You must be psyched! Too bad you didn’t train on hills though. This one is HUGE.”
My Brain: “Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now shut up. I’m working here. I’ve just started the ascent and I actually feel pretty darn good.”
The Tool: “I know you started the ascent – I’m on your shoulder and I can see. But wow – that’s a long way up. And you’ve already run 15 miles. What was your longest training run? 12 miles? On a flat surface? You know you aren’t ready for this one.”
My Brain: “It was 14 miles. And I’m fine. Now shut up.”
The Tool: “Well the least they could do is provide water on this bridge. But they don’t. And you look thirsty.”
My Brain: “I am. Now stifle it.”
The Tool: “Wow. No hill training. You are now running farther than your longest training run. And no water. How the heck are you doing this?”
My Brain: “I’m fine. Please shut up.”
The Tool: “So if I’m doing the math right, once you get to the top, you still more than 10 miles to go. And those hills coming up on First Avenue – they are always rough. This race is only going to get harder. Don’t you think you should just shut it down for a bit and walk?”
My Brain: “Once I do that, I’m screwed. You know it. I know it. I’m half way to the top. Now shhhh.”
The Tool: “Half way to the top means you still have all of this incline to go. We need to conserve some energy. Speaking of energy – don’t you think we should have eaten a better dinner last night?”
My Brain: “PLEASE SHUT UP.”
The Tool: “No water. All this hill to go. 10 miles more. More hills coming. 15 miles already in. No hill training. 12 mile long run was your max. Dude…..you’re screwed.”
My Brain: “God this hurts.”
……………….and with that, I downshifted to a steady walk. And once you downshift to walking during a marathon, it is virtually impossible to re-ignite your inner fire and get running at your planned pace again. So, this bridge has historically been the location of the race where my wheels have come off, turning the remaining 10 miles into a death march for me.
I made myself a promise this year, that I would train harder than ever for this year’s race, meaning that I would get my lazy rear-end to organized practices religiously and do the required work – no short cuts. So as the small group I was a part of made the turn 10 miles into this long training run to come face to face with the bridge, The Tool showed up again. He looked around, and noticed that I wasn’t alone. I had teammates with me, all of which knew how this bridge beat me each time I’ve run it. Earlier in the run, they promised to help spur me on up this hill, and they were being true to their word. The Tool paused for a moment on my shoulder, not exactly knowing how to deal with the change in circumstances. He saw that I wasn’t alone – that I had a supporting cast with me, and they appeared focused and determined. Then he looked at my expression – and saw a look that he wasn’t used to seeing: confidence. At that moment, he felt like a grammar school student that studied for a history test all night long, only to arrive at school the next morning to find out that he had a science test that day. He decided that he didn’t like performing in front of a live audience…and with a “poof”, he vaporized into thin air, leaving me to conquer the bridge for the first time in my life.
I began getting slower as the crest of the bridge came into view. Noticing that I was slowing down, my teammate, Nina, yelled out “don’t you dare stop!!! Get going!!!!” As a reflex action, I went to my arms and fought the rest of the way. I had arrived. As I coasted down the bridge and on to 60th street, the sense of pride I felt was electrifying. I have turned the corner. I officially have found some level of positive momentum in my training to build on. After stretching, I went home and realized that my heel was really barking at me. I iced it well and looked forward to the coming week’s workouts. 11 ½ miles. The Bridge. A consistent pace of 10:15 – 10:30 per mile throughout. A gorgeous Saturday – no humidity, temperature in the 70’s, and a light breeze just when I needed it. What a way to end a month.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine
Well, it’s been almost a month since I’m embarked on my Ironman journey, and what an educational few weeks it’s been. So let me take a few minutes to catch you up on what’s been going on. IN short, however, the past month can be summed up with three little letters: WTF. That’s right…
W – Water
I joined the Reebok Sports Club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, mainly because they offer all the tools for me to train throughout the year (an indoor pool, an outdoor track as well as tons of dreadmills, and virtual cycling machines that are fairly fancy). Each weekday morning I find myself in the pool somewhere around 5:15am, getting my laps in. The first few mornings were rather humbling, to be quite honest. Being born and raised on City Island (a little island in the Bronx of approximately 5,000 – 6,000 residents), I’ve spent a ton of time on and in the water. So I just figured that the swim portion of the Ironman would be the part of the race that would concern me the least. Now, after four weeks of swimming alongside a couple of Ironmen and Half-Ironmen, I realize that I may be able to swim well…but I am truly not efficient in the water. And as far as endurance is concerned, I have some serious work to do. I went into this endeavor thinking that I’d just need to work on cycling in order to be successful. I was about as wrong as a person can be.
In order to move on to the cycling portion of the Ironman, I must complete the 2.4 mile swim in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes. 140 minutes. That’s all the time I have. I’ve watched YouTube videos of people being informed by race officials that their Ironman day was done as they hopped out of water with an official time of 2 hours and twenty minutes…and 7 seconds. That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of, when you train for this event. Of course, The Tool has begun to show up poolside, busting out one of those really creepy speedo bathing suits and inflatable floaties, along with a neon pink swim cap. I picture the little 4cm tall schmuck sitting on the edge of the pool, laughing at me as everyone makes me eat their wake as I clip off my laps. Each time I touch the wall where he’s perched, he holds up a rude sign: “2 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds…hahahaha”, “you’re as buoyant as a rock”, etc.
I have some real work to do. And I need to get to a point where the 140 minute limit does not scare me. I am NOT there yet. Not by a long shot.
(I’ll re-blog my entry where I introduce The Tool as my main antagonist shortly…)
T – Tricycle.
I signed up for the 2014 Ironman Texas and I didn’t even own a bike. I believe the last bike I owned was actually a Mongoose. I used to love riding my dirt bike….when I was 12. So how much different could this be?
Well….I’ve found out that it really is different than riding my old Mongoose with the thick dirt tires and the plastic racing number on the handle bars (oh yeah – my old Mongoose was pimped out. Big time).
For the first two weeks of training, I hopped out of the pool in the mornings and transitioned immediately to a virtual cycling station where I logged anywhere between 5-11 miles. The amount of sweat that riding these virtual bikes drew from me was ridiculous. Since this is all new, however, this cross-training has been an amazingly positive influence on my running. I’ve noticed an improvement in endurance and speed. So – note to everyone reading this – cross-training is a GOOD idea. It DOES help.
About two weeks ago, I conducted my search for my first real adult grown-up mature bicycle. I went to the local bike store, checked out the whole gamut of selections available (aluminum and carbon) and decided on a Scott Speedster. They fitted the bike for my specifications in the store…and, of course, I almost fell on them as I sat in the saddle for the first time. Unreal. I wasn’t even out of the store yet with my new bike, and I already almost caused a casualty. I couldn’t help but overhear some jackass proclaim “that guy should have training wheels…or better yet, fit him for a tricycle”. Now – anyone who knows me also knows who one of my heroes is: Dr. House. Honor dictates that I had to respond, channeling the good doc…
“Hey dipshit – are you sure you are allowed to be outside unattended? Now go home and tell your Mommy and Daddy that you’ve been a very bad boy. Then go to your room and don’t come out until you’re sorry for what you said.”
The laughter from the other people in the store was enough to change the mood in the store. Ten minutes later, I walked out with a new bike and a free helmet (as a gift for the good belly laugh).
I’ve been steadily raising the daily mileage to a morning ride of 12-15 miles completed in approximately 45-48 minutes. In order to continue on to the marathon portion of the Ironman, participants must complete the 112 mile cycling course by 5pm local time. So if an athlete exits the swim portion of the event in 2 hours and 19 minutes, and the race begins promptly at 7am, the athlete has approximately 7 hours and 50 minutes to complete the distance. This means that I’ll need to average an approximate speed of 15.5 miles an hour throughout the cycling portion of the Ironman in order to ensure that I have enough of a time cushion to transition to the marathon.
So far it seems to me that one of the keys to a successful Ironman attempt resembles the key to comedy: TIMING.
F – Frackin’ Running
While I’ve been continuing to participate in races each weekend, my weekly mileage is now beginning to creep up the way I had hoped, as I’ve now begun the marathon training season with the New York Road Runners Team for Kids (running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays) and Team in Training (on Tuesdays). I have learned one fairly interesting concept: transitioning from a long bike ride to running in Central Park is REALLLLLLY hard. Your legs get into a rhythm while riding a bike at a fast, even pace. The lactic acid builds up in the thighs, and it’s got nowhere to go as you ride. Then, when you hop off the bike and transition quickly to running, it feels like hopping off a sailboat after being at sea for a month. You have to get your landlubber legs back in a hurry.
The first time I tried to transition quickly from the bike to running….I tripped and fell. Over my own two feet. In front of a bunch of people. Oh yeah – I’ve checked my pride at the front desk and I’m really being humbled by the effort that this undertaking requires.
I’m expecting the months of September through December to be loaded with running miles. Will I make the goal of 2,013 miles for the year? I will try my best. It has become increasingly tough because the physical toll that this effort exacts requires rest days each week – making my required running miles for my active days each week to consistently increase. My weight has begun its downward trend – so I’m close to beginning to post my weight lost and pounds to go. Close….but not quite there yet. Still embarrassed about the amount of pounds I need to lose and my lack of consistent effort to correct my crappy diet. I’m a work in progress, I guess.
I cannot lose focus now. I have to consistently remember the motto of the Ironman, which is simply “I can”……
A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of June 25th 2013:
Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 516.32
Miles to go: 1,497.68
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.6 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 189 days left.
Goal #2: Drop to 185 Pounds
Starting weight: way too embarrassed to admit right now
Weight lost thus far: not enough to even warrant mentioning at this point
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to lose more than 25 pounds by December 31st, 2013.
Goal #3: Run the Fifth Avenue Mile in Less than 7 Minutes
Quickest mile run: 7:05 (2011 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile)
Quickest mile run in 2013 thus far: 8:03 (accomplished on May 22nd).
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my speed for the 1 miler by 1:04.
Goal #4: Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon
Fastest marathon run thus far: 5:07:36 (2011 ING New York City Marathon)
Fastest marathon pace maintained: 11:43 per mile
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my average marathon pace per mile by 2:30 (shooting for a pace of 9:13 per mile) in order to drop 1:07:37 from my best marathon time.
Goal #5: Complete My First Ultra
Furthest I have ever run: 29.5 miles (not run during an official race)
Distance of my scheduled 2013 ultra: 37.28 miles
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to finish the NYRR 60k on November 16th 2013.
Goal #6: Complete My First Triathlon
Furthest swim distance: 1,500 meters (June 3rd )
Furthest cycling distance: 15 miles (June 22nd)
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to complete the 2013 New York City Triathlon, scheduled for July 18th. 1 mile (1600 meters) swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run.
BY setting some pretty challenging goals for myself, I am trying to generate interest in / donations to The Dream Team Project. This charity’s mission is to raise 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 New York City 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.
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: http://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. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!