Thoughts From the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon


On Sunday, October 22nd, I ran the 2017 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, DC.  I’ve been having sleeping issues over the past few weeks, so I felt a bit under-trained coming into this race…and then life decided to split 8’s and double down on the challenge when I began getting nauseous and extremely congested the evening before the race.  My charity team – Do Away With SMA (“DAWS”, for short) had four runners competing in the marathon, myself being one of them.  As President of the charity, I really felt a duty to suck it up and fight through whatever evil microscopic annoyance turning my stomach into the biological equivalent of Disney’s California Screamin’.

The marathon expo was held at the Gaylord National in Arlington, VA.  Obtaining the bib and race shirt was an extremely quick and seamless process.  The long sleeve shirts issued to every runner have always had a reputation for being of the highest quality – and this year was no exception.  The race gear contained a decent selection of designs – but Large and Extra Large sizes were unavailable by Saturday morning.  So – note to 2018 runners – go to the expo on Friday if you are looking for large or extra large jackets and quarter-zip shirts.

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Getting to the starting line on Sunday morning was a simple process, as I stayed at the Hampton Inn across the street from the Gaylord National, and the marathon ran buses from the race’s home resort to the runners village beginning at 4:30am.  Another note to 2018 runners: pack a throw-away sweatshirt, as early morning temperatures can get into the mid 40’s in mid October (I didn’t pack anything to keep me warm, and I couldn’t get the chill out of my chest until the race began.  Two hours of standing in the cold, unprepared).  Once we headed to the starting line, the sun decided to show up, taking some of the chill out of the air.

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A parachute team flew the American flag in to the starting line as the anthem played.  This was followed by an amazing flyover…and then the howitzer went off, starting the long march to the finish line.

 

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Within the first two miles, there are several hills – so be ready for that and stay under control early on – don’t go out too fast, or else this course will punish you in a way that other races can only dream of.  As it was, I felt solid early on pace-wise, even struggling through the congestion.  The one thing on my mind during those first few miles was my like of fuel in my stomach, as that evil microscopic annoyance basically yelled “EVERYBODY OUT!” about an hour after dinner Saturday night.  The good internal vibes existed up until mile 9….and then I began to feel like I was already running on empty.  Not a good point in the race to feel like this.  Yet another note to 2018 runners: make sure you take in calories 2 hours  before race time – top off your tank – because you’ll need the energy later.

By Mile 10, I knew this wasn’t going to be my day.  I was coughing a lot, and felt like I didn’t take in enough water – remember that water stations are every 2 miles, not every single mile like lots of other marathons.  This was something else I didn’t plan for – and not knowing the distance between water stops was a pure rookie mistake on my part.  Mile 10, however, provided the runners with a view of the Lincoln Memorial and the sounds of the Marine Band.  This lifted me up a bit – and I was already beginning to need the motivation.  As it turns out, one of the most amazing moments of the race was just ahead of me.

If you really want to know where the heart and soul of this race resides, it beats within the Blue Mile, which begins at Mile Marker 12. To the left and right of the runners’ lane were plaques with fallen soldiers’ pictures, names and ranks. It went on for what felt like 3/4 of a mile. Any chatting between runners ceased the moment you crossed into this part of the course. You could literally hear a pin drop. Some runners stopped in front specific plaques, lowered their heads in silent prayer, and then Marined Up and soldiered on. At the end of this 3/4 mile tribute, family and friends of the fallen held American flags on either side of the course and yelled inspiration to us all…….for what felt like another 3/4 of a mile. If this part of the course didn’t lite your fire, then quite simply your pilot light is out. I get chills just thinking about it 48 hours later.

At Mile 17, the course brings you onto The Mall, where you enjoy the views of hte Capital Building, The Smithsonian, and other awesome museums.  It was at this point where I met Al.  Al is pretty amazing, as he has completed all 42 of the Marine Corps Marathons, from 1976 to present.  I said my hello and congratulations on this incredible streak.  His response was simple “…it keeps me young!” It was a quick exchange – but one that was pretty awesome.

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By Mile 19, I felt like I wanted to quit.  I had been fighting this feeling most of the morning, but by this point it almost overwhelmed me.  Thank Zues that a marine happened to be there at that moment and began to yell encouragement.  “Time to suck it up!!!  REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE HERE!” I must have heard those words from a number of Marines throughout the race – and those are the words I’m embracing as my mantra from now on.  They got me through the final 7 miles, and up the final hill at mile 26.1.

After I received my medal, I waddled over to the water / gatorade station. During my walk, I met a man who was in his late 60’s / early 70’s. He was standing alone under a tree and looked somber. I asked if he was OK, and he said that he was fine – but the toughest part of his day comes next. I asked him to elaborate. His response “I’m going to visit my brother in Arlington right now – he’s earning one more medal.” I congratulated him on finishing and left him to his duties. Another moment I will never – ever – forget.

The race is not easy. Lots of concrete. A congested start / first mile. Not much shade. Temperatures that began at 45 degrees and went to 80 in 4 hours. Hills early in the course sap you more than you realize. It’s a hard race – but it’s the hard that makes it great.

A HUGE OORAH to my teammates, and everyone that supported us.

My Inferno.


I’ve probably said this before – but I’m not very creative, so I’ll repeat myself: I have a strange way of dealing with stuff that I suck at.  I wasn’t very comfortable with speaking in front of a group – so I took stand-up comedy lessons in a club here in Manhattan.  I got heckled by drunken strangers that I knew I would never again see in my life, and confronting this fear allowed me to get over it.  So now I have another fear: I’m afraid of failing to finish Ironman this year.

 

It’s a realistic fear.  It’s a fear that comes as a result of trying to walk the walk after talking the talk to my daughter.  For a while now, I’ve tried to instill in my kid the basic concept that if your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough.

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I keep telling her this….but I think it’s also important to show her that I can back up my words with deeds.  That supports the other concept that I’ve tried to drill into her head over the years – to quote Ovid:”Facta Non Verba”.  Put simply – Deeds, Not Words.  (Or, to put it as Batman once did – It’s what we do that defines us.)

 

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I used to dream HUGE as a kid.  I’m betting that all of us did, didn’t we?  Well becoming an Ironman has been a dream of mine since I first learned about it in high school.  I used to watch ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and I remember some buddies of mine at Fordham Prep telling me that a person had to be a little nuts to try something like that.  Terms like “those dudes need checkups from the neck – up”, to “their elevators definitely don’t go to the top floor”, to the ever-so-colorful “the cheese fell off their crackers a long time ago, dude” were normally how I heard triathletes described when I was a teen.  When I transitioned to college and joined the school’s crew team, I remember one guy on our varisty men’s squad was a triathlete – and this was when the sport of triathlon was not nearly as mainstream as it is today.  This dude wasn’t muscular.  He wasn’t really tall.  He was not the best varsity oarsman as it came to rowing technique.  But there was one thing his dude had in spades, and that was endurance.  He simply never got tired.  When everyone else appeared to be on the verge of burning out, he would get stronger.  I looked at him as if he were a human power plant.  That was how I wanted to be.  We discussed the sport of triathlon, and it further fueled my fire to give it a shot.

 

But…as the song goes….life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.

 

As the years went by, the dream of becoming an Ironman stayed with me, but I never actually did anything to pursue it.  Then my kiddo came along, and my entire way of thinking was flipped on its butt overnight.  While its always been my goal to allow my daughter to be her own person and let her figure out for herself what she likes and dislikes, it is a proven fact that kids observe and absorb their parents’ actions and preferences.  That simple fact made me begin focusing on how I spend my time.  I needed to show her that it’s important to have a goal, and then work like hell to achieve it.  And that, quite simply, is how I found the  sport of endurance running.

 

After taking up marathoning in 2005, I stayed with it and began to up the ante a little bit over time in an ongoing attempt to demonstrate to Mini Me that, if you continue to work hard at something and do not quit, you can accomplish things that you never thought were possible.   2012 saw me try a marathon a month to raise money for the Dream Team Project.  In 2014, I tried a multi-day event (the inaugural Dopey Challenge).  In 2015…well I got a little nuts and did a long distance run from San Francisco to Anaheim to benefit Do Away With SMA (www.doawaywithsma.org).  That last one did a real number on me, as I returned home to New York City after Labor Day Weekend rather burnt out.  The past few months have gone by in a haze of unfocused training and lackluster effort.  Well that changes right now.

 

I’ve decided that 2016 will be the year that I chase after that goal that I’ve had hidden inside me for 30 years: The Ironman.  My original goal was to run the Vineman in Sonoma on July 30th – but I don’t believe I will be ready in time.  So, I am announcing that it’s my intention to compete in Ironman Maryland on October 1st.   I’m going to compete in this event as part of a larger 2016 effort, in order to raise awareness and donations for Do Away With SMA – a charity that helps fight Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

 

Since this event takes a TON of training, I’m going to use this blog to be my daily training log.  And, since this training should make me stronger (and maybe even a little faster), I might as well take advantage of the juice that my hard work should zap into my body, right?  Glad you agree.  So I’ve put together a series of races that I’m going to attempt on the heels of the Ironman that I have lovingly named after Dante’s masterpiece….

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My 2016 Inferno:

October 1st: IRONMAN Maryland

October 9th:  Chicago Marathon

October 16th:  The Nationwide Childrens Hospital Columbus Marathon

October 30th: The Marine Corps Marathon

November 6th: The TCS New York City Marathon

November 19th: The New York City 60k

…and, since there are nine rings of Hell within Dante’s work, my 7th ring will be attempting to run at least 2,016 miles in 2016 (which means that I’ll need to average 8.36 miles a day from today through December 31st to hit that number), the eighth will be to log enough miles on the bike to cover the distance from Central Park to Disneyland (which is 2,793 miles –  meaning that I’ll need to average 11.60 miles per day starting today and going through December 31st), and my final goal will be to earn my Coaching Certifications from bother the Road Runners Club of America (“RRCA”) and Ironman U.

 

I have a game plan.  I just need to execute it.  And whether I am successful or if I choke miserably, I hope you’ll follow me on my quest.

 

 

 

The First Sunday in November…..


The first Sunday of November is the single best day of the year to be in New York City.  Why?  Because it is Marathon Sunday, and this race is quite simply a showcase to all that makes the five boroughs special.  This year marked my tenth waddle through the streets alongside more than 50,000 fellow runners – my first marathon was NYC in 2005, and I’ve run it annually ever since.  I’ll be the first one to admit: bigger is NOT always better.  Quality over quantity is always a great concept to follow.  But this race truly illustrates just how unique and wondrous New York City with a combination of quality AND quantity.  Don’t believe me?  Let me describe the day through the eyes of a guy that was born and raised in the Bronx, and currently resides on the Upper West Side…..

Marathon Sunday usually begins for me at around 4:45am.  I pour myself a big bowl of Rice Chex and down some water after first getting changed into my running gear laid out the prior evening.  I’m usually heading out the door to catch my transportation to the start at around 5:10am.  I make a pit stop at the bodega around the corner, where I order the same thing each year: 1 plain bagel toasted with butter and a large coffee – milk & two sugars.  The guys behind the counter wish me luck, and I trek toward the subway station.  This year, my pre-schedueld transport to Staten Island was the 6am ferry.  In prior years, I’ve taken buses from midtown Manhattan.

It takes around 30-35 minutes to make it to South Ferry by train down the west side.  Then a little wait for the ferry with hundreds of other runners from all over the world.  Finally we board the ferry, and the weight of the runners flocking to the starboard side of the craft actually make the ferry lean a bit, as everyone wants to take pictures of lower Manhattan, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a fantastic way to begin the long day.

Within 30 minutes, we are docked at Staten Island, and ready to take the next step in the journey: a bus to Fort Wadsworth.  This is the wild card in the trip, as it is possible to get from the ferry to the runners village within 20-30 minutes…but the incredible number of buses coming in from Manhattan along with other buses shuttling runners to and from the ferry make this trip about an hour in duration.  This is all part of the experience.  I know that spending 2 hours commuting to any race does not sound like fun, especially when the pilgrimage begins at 5am – so if you are planning to run this race, understand that the long commute is simply a requirement as the act of assembling over 50,000 runners and thousands of volunteers from all over the place in order to run through a city of more than eight million people is…to put it lightly….tricky.

I normally pass the commuting time by talking to people that just seem to be a little overwhelmed by endeavor.  They have that “deer caught in the headlights” look on their faces as they await the ferry or bus.  I remember the feeling of being dropped off ten years ago at South Ferry, beginning my first excursion from Staten Island to Central Park – I had trained for the race alone, I had no prior experience, and I was nervous.  It would have been cool to have someone talk to me a bit and provide a fun distraction.  This year, while on the bus heading from the ferry to the runners village, I got to chatting with an older gentleman from Japan named Hiro.

Hiro is a father of two, and a grandfather of three.  He took up running after he retired, worried about the relaxed lifestyle of a retiree turning him “soft in the middle”.  One quick glace at Hiro would tell most people that he had nothing to worry about in that department – he was a wiry man in his mid sixties who was fit…not just “skinny”. His English was fantastic (thank Zues, since my Japanese is more than a bit rusty – I probably would have caused an international incident if I tried even the most most basic phrases), so the conversation was fluid.  After I introduced myself, I asked him if this was his first NYC marathon, to which he quickly confirmed my suspicion.  Not only was it his first NYC marathon, but it was his first time in new York City AND his first marathon.  He flew his entire family to New York from Tokyo in order to experience this weekend as a family.  I elected against giving the “New York City Marathon 101” speech.  Instead, seeing how truly nervous he appeared (he kept his fingers interlocked together, as if he was praying, and his knuckles were as white as a newly bleached sheet), I tried to distract him by talking about the wonders of Tokyo.  I told him about my time is his incredible city, including experiencing sushi for the first time at a restaurant right on the docks.  It turned out that he knew the exact place I described, and he loved it as well.  We talked about the various districts, the subway system, and how taxis in Tokyo are so much different than in NYC.  This went on for a solid 15 minutes while our bus stood motionless less than a mile away from our drop off point.  At this point, he decided to change the topic…

“I am a bit uneasy about this run.  I am worried.  Truly worried.”

I nodded in agreement.  “I can understand that.  I am too – and I’ve run a number of marathons.  This is my tenth year in a row doing this, and every year I am scared.  But that’s OK – you should be scared.  I think that if you are a little nervous, then you aren’t being arrogant.  Instead, you are showing respect for the distance.  And that’s important.”

“Well I know I have trained hard.  My family put up with my early morning running, my evening running, my running all the time!  I believe I did what I needed to do.”

Again, I just simply nodded.  “Well then think about it this way: did you work hard to prepare?”

“Yes.”

“Did you eat well the last couple of days?  Did you drink enough water?”

“Yes I did.”

I just kept nodding slightly…”well then you did everything in your power to get here the right way.  You trained.  You ate right.  You drank enough water.  And you are nervous just enough to show respect for the distance.  You’ve done everything that you could to succeed.  Now – one final question.”

He looked at me quizzically.  “…yes?”

I broke a crooked smile.  “…are you mentally ready?  Today will hurt.  It is supposed to.  Just understand that this course will do its best to make you quit today.  But you did not travel 6,500 miles to let this course beat you.  Just remember to stay positive.  And when the course tries to make you quit, think about why you are doing what you are doing.  Think about your family, and how proud they will be to see you in action.  They’ll get you through the rough spots.”

“…but what if I feel weak when I see them?”

“That’s impossible.  You are running the New York city Marathon.  There are no weaklings here.”

Then he asked about the course.  That was my cue to give the New York City Marathon 101 lecture.  After we got off the bus, we were almost immediately stopped by security for the required search.  I was in the blue corrals, and Hiro was in the orange corrals.  As we parted ways, I provided him with one last tip.

“Hiro-san, remember one thing: keep today between you and the course.  Forget what the other runners are doing.  Run YOUR race – not someone else’s.  Don’t pace yourself alongside someone you’ve never met before, because they may be going too fast too early.  Trust your training and only trust YOUR pace.  Let the faster people go – you’ll see them later.  Trust me.”

This is the only race I have ever run where experiences like that are possible.

I was nervous, just like Hiro.  I was not kidding about that.  I always get nervous before any race, regardless of the distance.  If I am running a 5k, I get nervous that I’ll just take it easy and cruise without pushing myself and seeing how fast I can go.  Same rules apply for any 10k I run.  Half marathons are a challenge as well; depending on the day and the conditions, they can really do a number on me.  And full marathons? It doesn’t matter how many I have completed in the past – each race is its own dragon to slay.  Today was different, however: I began the day physically sick.

That bagel and coffee I had before beginning my morning commute was quickly refunded into a garbage can within 15 minutes of chowing down.  I was now hungry, and it was not even eight in the morning.  NOT GOOD.  I tried eating a bagel that was provided in the runners village…and it met the same demise.  Hot chocolate was next.  Same result.  NOT GOOD.  I felt like I was about to embark on a long trip in my car, with the gas light already on when I turned the key.

I was in wave 3, corral A.  What I failed to realize was that this the blue corrals were where the elites tow the line for this race.  So as my corral headed up to the starting line at around 10:15am, I had no idea what the road ahead would look like.  In my ten years of running this race, I never had this view at the start.  It gave me goosebumps.

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The howitzer was right in front of me.  Incredible.  And then…just like that….BOOM.  Off we went.

Since I was in the front of the pack, I was all charged up.  Of course, I broke the cardinal rule: I went out too fast.  The first mile up the bridge was a gradual incline.  Mile two dropped us into Brooklyn.  By mile three, I was on 4th Avenue where the crowds were loud (as always), energetic and positive (as always), and full of attitude (which is the best part).  I tried getting myself to calm down, but my legs were not listening.  They had minds of their own and were clipping off distance at a pace that basically guaranteed a high level of screwed later on.  Brooklyn is a fast part of the course, long, flat stretches, tons of music and fans – it begs the marathoner to crank up the pace and run fast.  A little tip here, folks: NEVER EVER set a personal best in the 5k during the first three miles of THIS race.  If you know you went out too fast over the bridge, reign yourself in by time you hear your first “forgetaboutit!”.

I got myself under control by mile four, but damage was already done.  Going out too fast, when added to an empty stomach, forced me to do a level of internal triage way too early in this effort.  As mile five was left in my rear view mirror, I made the decision to role the dice and take in some Gatorade instead of just sticking to water along the course (as was the original game plan).  I knew that this yellowish liquid usually gets me nauseous when I run – but I was already feeling the desperation to do something about my hunger before things got out of hand.  So, I took a cup the next chance I got, and I downed it.  That lasted about five minutes.  And then…heave ho.  My abdominal muscles (I had no idea I actually HAD those) were hurting from the active rejection of whatever I took in.

By the time I hit Greenpoint and crossed over into Queens, I knew I was half way to the promised land…but I had already considered dropping out at least five times.  I knew I had family and friends waiting for me on First Avenue – but I seriously did not think I would make it that far.  I became extremely light headed.  Dizziness set in just before I hit the 59th Street Bridge.  By the time I hit First Avenue, I had stumbled a few times because I simply stopped thinking about what I was doing.  I needed to get my head back into this thing.  Like I told Hiro – the course will make try to make you quit.  You have to be better than the course.

Some quick notes here: if you decide to run this marathon, understand that there will be spots in Queens that get a little quiet.  These spots only last for a minute or two…then the fans get loud once more.  Once you cross into Queens, mentally prep yourself for Mt. Sonofabitch (the 59th Street Bridge).  Take the bridge nice and steady.  Ignore what’s going on around you – this is a spot on the course to simply work through.  The crowds on First Avenue are as loud as the stories proclaim.  A big key here: stay under control.  This is NOT a flat part of the course.  There is a half mile incline along this avenue that will take more out of you than you realize.  First Avenue gets quiet just past 96th Street – so if you have a gang of amigos planning to watch the race and cheer you on, have them head up past 96th.  Also: just past mile 18, watch your footing, as all runners are given little green sponges with cold water.  So for a tenth of  a mile, you’ll be running on tiny patches of wet foam.

I met up with my crew of amigos and scored an espresso brownie, which I gobbled down in short order.  I assumed that it would come right back up…but it didn’t.  Of all things to stay down, how the name of all that’s holy did a brownie gain favor over the gastrointestinal gods?  By the time I hit the Willis Avenue Bridge, I was able to find a little rhythm and keeping waddling forward.

By the time I entered back into Manhattan into Harlem, I was really feeling better.  Although my stomach still hurt, I no longer felt dizzy and I was able to actually think about what I was doing: left…right…repeat.  Harlem is another special place in this race.  The bands, the enthusiasm, the attitude – it is wonderful.  These enthusiastic fans carried me through to another tough stretch that I simply call The Climb.

More notes about this area of the course: When you enter the Bronx, you are greeted WELL.  It used to be a quiet area of the course.  Nowadays, the Wall at mile 20 is greeted with a strong contingent of representatives from Robin Hood and a ton of music.  You wind around a supermarket and a warehouse, but are then greeted by Japanese drummers that even the lost causes find a pace with their consistent beat.  When you enter into Harlem, you get a real dose of New York attitude.  Welcome it, because it’s given out in heavy measure due to the fact that they know that you that you need it in order to keep moving forward.  Harlem fans want to see you push through these tough miles, and they really do all they can to keep you rolling right along.  The gospel choir between miles 22 and 23 always gets me a bit emotional.

As you leave Harlem, you are greeted with what I call “the climb”.  It’s not a horrible hill.  It’s really more of a a long incline, actually.  However, its placement on the course between miles 22.7 and 23.4 really come so late that it can crush a runner’s resolve.  The fact that it is more than a half mile in length always makes me say internally (and sometimes even externally) “OH COME ON!  HAVEN’T I DONE ENOUGH TO EARN THIS YET?” Since this incline is around mile 23…the answer is always an emphatic “NO.”  There is a reward, however: at the top of the hill is Engineer’s Gate and entry into Central Park.

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The Park is not flat – so don’t think that you catch a break after the long incline that got you to this point.  Rolling hills for the next two miles are the order of the day.  Right after you hit the mile 25 marker, you know that it’s only 1.2 to go.  A slight decline as you exit the park brings you to Central Park South, where you are greeted by thousands of LOUD fans.  A slight incline with a half a mile to go, and then you turn back into the Park at Columbus Circle.  From there, it’s only three tenths of a mile to the finish, and a moment that you will never forget.

I did not perform well this year, based on my time.  I’ve run this course much faster.  However, each year this race is different.  There are so many variables that go into a race for a marathoner – you never know the day will bring.  As a marathoner, you need to be able to accept what the course gives you and play the cards you are dealt.  It could rain.  It could snow.  Winds could gust to 40 miles per hour.  It could be 70 degrees and sunny, or 25 degrees and frigid.  You can feel awesome….until you start running, and then FUBAR.  You could feel lousy…until you start running, and then you PR.  Or: you can feel awesome and then RUN AWESOME.  Oh, that is the feeling that brings us all back for more.  Sure it will hurt.  Sure, you’ll probably want to quit along the way.  The pain that accompanies this race is part of the reason I toe the line each year.  I want to see how much I can take then keep moving forward.  I win as long as I don’t quit.

364 more days.  Next year, I will RUN AWESOME.

2015 TCS New York City Marathon Weekend New York City, New York    November 1, 2015 Photo: Andrew McClanahan@PhotoRun vicath1111@aol.com 631-291-3409 www.photorun.NET

It’s Been A While…


I’ve been on a bit of a literary hiatus for more than four months, as you may (or quite frankly may not) have noticed.  I wish I could say that I’ve been away from my keyboard because I spent the past several months celebrating my personal victories over the rather aggressive 2013 goals that I set for myself.  Well – that was not indeed the case.  While I achieved several of the goals that I set for myself – finishing my first triathlon, running a few marathons – I came up short on most of them.

 

  • I did manage to drop my weight to just about 200 pounds – but a lack of consistent discipline on a prolonged basis was my downfall.  I never closed in on the number I truly wanted, which was 180 pounds.
  • A lack of consistent discipline, coupled with poor focus on my daily dietary intake resulted in falling way short of my goal of a four hour marathon.
  • Lack of consistent dedication to my daily mileage resulted in me falling way short of my goal of running 2,013 miles in 2013.

 

Notice anything about those three bullet points?  A lack of consistency resulted in my failure to achieve my goals.  There were no significant injuries to blame for my poor performance.  There were no other sizeable life issues which caused me to lose my focus on my 2013 targets.  No excuses.

 

In short: I did not heed my own advice.  This is a simple example of “do as I say, not as I do”.  I always recommend to anyone looking to begin training for an event that the number one thing you can do to give yourself the best chance of success is develop a plan and then stick to it.  Well, my plan was fragmented and poorly thought out…and even then I did not stick to whatever daily goals I set for myself.  The fact that I knew what to do and I didn’t get it done resulted in a feeling of substantial disappointment in myself.  As Christmas turned into New Year’s Day and 2014 began, I made a New Year’s resolution of giving myself a bit of time to think about what my next goals would be, develop a detailed plan of attack to ensure success, and then re-dedicate myself to my training.  I rolled into 2014 with a personal motto of “you can out swim me, out bike me and out run me – but from now on you won’t out WORK me”.

 

After the January 2014 Dopey Challenge, the next huge event on my athletic calendar was the 2014 Ironman Texas in mid-May.  The Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim which is required to be completed within 2 hours and 20 minutes, followed by a 112 mile bike which needs to be completed by no later than 5:30pm on race day (which usually results in athletics having approximately 8 hours to pedal the distance), and then a full marathon which needs to be completed by no later than 11:59pm on race day.  17 hours to complete 140.6 miles.  It’s a significant athletic test – one that requires a real lifestyle change in order to conquer.  After my 48.6 mile, 4 day jaunt through the most magical place on Earth, I began to dedicate myself to triathlon training.  Swim.  Bike.  Run.  Lift weights.  Train with a personal trainer.  Enhancements to my diet.  I was off and running – so to speak.

 

As March gave way to April, however, I realized that the level of training I was doing – although an improvement over my late 2013 escapades – still lacked the overall 110% dedication to the Ironman lifestyle change that the sport requires.  I would not be ready for 140.6 miles in mid-May, after all.  So this week I had to make the disappointing decision to withdraw from the Texas Ironman and change over to Ironman Maryland, scheduled for September 20th 2014.  This strategic change will allow me to train on my bike, outside, all through the summer.   It will also give me time to drop more weight, get into better overall physical condition and give myself the best chance to finish.

 

Between Ironman Maryland, the 2014 Dopey Challenge, The TCS New York City Marathon, the San Francisco Marathon, possibly the Chicago Marathon and the Philadelphia Marathon, I’m setting myself up for a very full dance card this year.

 

While 2013 included some disappointments, as I described above, there was a huge bright spot hatched in the summer and took on a life of its own as the temperature dropped and the snow began to fall….but I’ll get to that in my next installment…..

 

Until then: remember that if your goals don’t scare you, they are not big enough.  So set the bar as high as you can because, as I recall hearing in a motivational video: the words “I fail” are ten times better than the words “what if”.  Why?  Because “what if?” never went to the arena and competed.  “What if” never took a shot.  “What if” never had a chance.

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