An Educational Weekend in Brooklyn


Hills. Hills are just……dumb. Aren’t they? I know that, as a runner, I should love them. I have read the famous quotes about running on hills – “hills are speed work in disguise”, “hills make the run more interesting”, and the oh-so-charming “…running on hills make your butt look better”. Well I have to tell you…the disguise that the hills were wearing during my 13.1 mile jaunt through Brooklyn last Saturday (May 18th) was exceptional, and the miles became more and more interesting as the morning wore on.

The 2013 Brooklyn Half Marathon began near Prospect Park in Brooklyn. I was in the second wave, and my goal was to simply survive the park and get my sluggish rear-end on to Ocean Boulevard. Ocean Boulevard would take me directly to Coney Island and the finish line. I knew what the course had in store for me, so I developed a game plan while riding the #2 train from the Upper West Side early that morning: start slow. Conserve the gas in your tank as you climb the long incline in Prospect Park. Be patient and get the thought of competing with whoever happens to be waddling next to you out of your thick head. Get to Ocean Boulevard without being winded. And then coast until mile 10. Then run the last 5k of the race as if you were on fresh legs.

That was the game plan. Doesn’t it sound pretty logical? Doesn’t it sound doable? Reasonable? It appears to be a wise course of action.

Now…knowing what you know about me…do you think I actually stuck to my wise game plan, or do you think I chucked it at the very moment I started my GPS watch? Take a moment to think that one over sports fans….

The moment I crossed the starting line and started my watch, I was surprised that my legs felt as fresh as they did, coming off my recent increase in the training work load I’ve subjected myself to. So what did I do? I stepped on the gas and decided to climb the first hill to the mile 1 marker as if I was running a 5k. And this momentum kept me going through mile 2, as I came back over the same hill in the opposite direction and made my way to the entrance of Prospect Park. As I came down the second hill I had a huge smile on my face, shocked at how good I felt. At that moment, I thought of that marathoning quote I’ve heard many times over the years:

“You feel good? Really? Well don’t worry… that won’t last.”

My positive momentum remained as I entered the park between miles 3 and 4. I knew all along that I was keeping a pace that well exceeded my game plan. I knew I should have corrected myself while I still had the energy to do so. But did I? Of course not. Why? Because I am a Craftsman (a real high-quality, state-of-the-art, grade-A tool). As I began the long incline in the park that exists between miles 3.5 – 5, I hung on to my last thread of positivity. I knew it was a matter of time before the wheels began to come off – all I wanted to do was hang on for as long as I could before they did.

As it happened, the wheels came off after I conquered the incline. I was running on vapors 2 miles after exiting the park. My pace fell apart over the last 4 miles and I sputtered to the finish line with a time of 2 hours and 20 minutes. This was 8 minutes faster than my time last year on this course. But 20 minutes slower than the goal time I had set for myself. I wanted this race to be the first time I cracked the 2 hour mark. It was not meant to be.

As I sat on the Q train on the way home, I performed my annoying post-race ritual of watching my inner video tape of the race I had run, and began to dissect the errors made. My failure to achieve my goal time became clear very quickly:

· Never start a half marathon at a pace per mile that you normally run 5k’s in. That’s what I did. That was dumb.

· Once you develop a game plan for a race, STICK TO IT. Don’t go off the reservation. And make sure the game plan corresponds to the training you’ve completed, at a pace you know you could hold for the entire distance. I didn’t do any of this. And what’s more, I knew I was making a strategic mistake as I was running…yet I failed to correct myself. I am a colossal doorknob.

· LET THE KENYANS GO. Let all those people around you that take off at the start of a half marathon go. Don’t feel the need to chase after them and stay on their heels. RUN YOUR RACE – NOT SOMEONE ELSE’S. Only you know what your pace should be. RUN YOUR RACE. I think I must have told Zues only knows how many team mates at practice these very words all last year. But do I heed my own advice? Of course not. And why do ignore my own advice? Because…you guessed it…I’m a humungous dipshit.

· Hold back on the reigns at the start, and then try to negative split a race. If you trained hard, you know you can handle whatever distance you are racing. So really stay under control at the start and then let your pace slowly pick up as the mile marker go by. Did I hold back? Of course not. I took off at the start, I let the excitement get the best of me, and I kept my foot on the gas until I ran the tank dry. That, my friends, is toolish behavior at its best.

The Brooklyn Half Marathon was a wonderful race. Well organized, fun, and festive. I highly recommend it. Just don’t make the moronic mistakes I did.

The next morning, I headed to Central Park to participate in the 2013 AIDS Walk. This is a 10k walk / jog / waddle that raises money to fight this dreaded disease, and over 45,000 people come out for it. It’s a wonderful morning in the city, as you get to see the symphony of diversity that makes New York City truly unique. People of every race, shape, color, and religion were out there in the rain, raising donations for a great cause. And they all did it with broad smiles on their faces. That was the elixir I needed to make me forget my prior day’s poor performance.

Next week I plan to jump head first into triathlon training, by mixing swimming, biking, and weight training to my existent running regimen. This will result in much more time each week devoted to training, which will mean that I’ll begin pulling two-a-days for at least 4 days during each week. I’m expecting to be sore, as I begin to use new muscle groups. I’m expecting to be tired and cranky, simply because I’m always tired and cranky and quite frankly I’m good at it. And lastly, I’m expecting it to be hard – but that’s OK, because triathlon training is supposed to be hard. It’s the hard that makes it great.

This journey just keeps getting more and more interesting.

P.S.: I’ve added a new section below which summarizes the statistics for each of my 2013 goals. I just figured that listing some stats would be fun. So….enjoy.
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A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of May 23rd 2013:

Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 395.2
Miles to go: 1,617.8
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.2 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 222 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: 8:14 (accomplished on May 4th).
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my speed for the 1 miler by 1:15.

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
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to complete the 2013 New York City Triathlon, scheduled for July 18th. 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run.
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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!

…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

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Marathon #11: The 2012 Philadelphia Marathon


After my failure to complete 26.2 in Central Park on November 11th, I needed to quickly regroup and get focused on the next challenge: the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon. When I origianlly planned out my race year, Philly was pegged as the location where I would finish up my 12 marathons in one year challenge. However, since the ING New York City Marathon was cancelled and the prior Sunday’s efforts were without any form of merit, Philly would only represent number eleven for the year. Even if I cross the finish line, I am still 26.2 miles short of achieving my goal. And that – to use a technical term – sucks.

I spent the week logging some slow, unfocused miles with absolutely no daily goals to attain while training. I have to admit: my workouts are MUCH better when I plan out what I want to achieve the night before. If I leave my apartment with a small goal in my head, my morning run is MUCH more effective. I come home happy as a clam. (Where the HELL did that old saying come from? Why in the name of Zues’ rear-end are clams “happy”? Can anyone tell me? Think about it: the best thing that can happen to a clam is that it produces the rare pearl. Wonderful. Good for the clam. Can it cash in on its good fortune by selling the stupid thing to Tiffany’s or an Ebay? I think NOT. Clams don’t have access to the internet. Clams cannot watch reruns of The Big Bang Theory. Clams never played a game of Madden Football on a PS3. So I say again: why in the blue hell are they happy?)

Wow. I just read that last paragraph. What the hell was I thinking? I’m as sharp as a bowling ball.

ANYWAY…like I was saying….

Whenever I have a plan of attack for a morning workout, I feel much more focused while I’m running or cross-training. When I come home after hitting my goal for the morning, it sets the tone for a more productive day. When I don’t have a plan developed for the morning run, I simply head out my front door and quickly lose focus. I feel like I can cut my workout short if I’m simply not motivated to continue. I know myself : I’m like a dense, cranky mule. In order to keep me moving, I need someone to hang a carrot in front of my face (preferably sauted, with a side of fries). I need constant motivation. The goal needs to always be in front of me. So in order to combat the clouds of failure hanging over my head, I really focused on a daily game plan for each morning’s run. As Wednesday and Thursday came and went, I realized that I had hit my targets for each morning thus far: 4 miles in 40 minutes on Monday. A steady 5 miler at a 10:20 pace on Tuesday. Cat Hill repeats on Wednesday (those sucked). 4 miles with 1 minute pick-ups every 4 minutes on Thursday (that one made me heave). The clouds began to dissipate. Maybe I can get Philly done after all. I headed down to Philadelphia on Saturday morning, in the words of Paul Simon, “feelin’ groovy”.

The Philadelphia Marathon expo was well organized, pretty large and diverse, and the race gear was some of the best I’ve seen all year long. Picking up the race bib was incredibly fast and efficient. And this race has one of the best technical shirts out there. This marathon also opened its doors to several thousand New York city Marathon runners at the last moment, which I really thought was a classy thing to do. I left the expo and headed back to the hotel nice and early, feeling nothing but positive vibes from the City of Brotherly Love.

Marathon Morning arrived, and the starting line was a long, relaxed walk from my hotel. I woke up early, took my time getting ready, and headed out the door still feeling pretty groovy – but knowing that I had already made two rookie mistakes:

1) I didn’t eat well enough at dinner the night before the race. I had a small portion of pasta, and I know I didn’t get enough calories. Dumb move. But wait – I like to double down on my stupidity….

2) I didn’t eat breakfast. Not even a Pop Tart. DUMB DUMB DUMB.

Going into the race, I knew that I didn’t fuel well enough. That brings me to a note that I want to share for anyone about to run their first full marathon: when you begin to plan out how you’ll attack a marathon course, do NOT forget to plan out your meals, fluid intake and scheduled rest for the 24 hours beforehand. I tend to blow these important factors off and just focus on how I will run the race itself. Well – you aren’t going to run well if there’s no fuel in the tank!

The race began promptly at 7am, and half marathon and marathon runners were mixed into the same corrals. While I thought this might cause some real congestion at the start the race began, in fact, extremely well spaced-out. The first 13 miles were extremely stimulating, weaving our way through various neighborhoods and really getting a nice touch of the local flavor. As we approached the area where the half marathoners peeled off of the course and headed to the finish line, the full marathoners crossed over the Schuylkill River, ran past Boat House Row, and began a 13 mile out-and-back course that ran us along the shoreline. The packs of fans along the second half of the marathon course were small yet VERY lively, and they helped me along when the going got tough. I also noticed a large number of Team For Kids runners on the course, most of which were reeling in their first marathon medal looking VERY strong. As a TFK Mentor, it felt FANTASTIC to see these runners staying steady in the latter portion of the race.

Now I will admit something here: I actually enjoy out-and-back courses. Some people don’t like them because it means that you see the same things twice instead of getting to see more of the town / city you are running in. My view is that I really like these types of courses because seeing the faster runners fly down the course motivates me. In addition, an out-and-back course includes a turn where you know that you are offically heading toward the finish line. Lastly, it allows you to see how far you’ve come during the race.

The last miles were really scenic. Past Boat House Row, up an incline and head toward the Art Museum. The last 600 meters was a nice decline with tons of fans along both sides of the course. although my momentum began to sputter due to a lack of fuel at around miles 18-19, I hung in there fairly well and finished with a smile on my face.

I headed back to the hotel sore yet satisfied. I had done well enough, based on the poor preparation. I made mental notes on what to correct for my next race, as well as what I did well. On the train ride home, I realized that I only needed one more marathon before the end of the year…but there were no marathons being run close to me between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.

This is a problem.

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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

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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.

 

Monday Morning Motivation


Surround yourself with people that are as positive as you are.  They will make you stronger.  Better.  They will help you toward your own personal finish lines.

 

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

 

Monday Morning Motivation


You have to step out of your comfort zone in order to accomplish new goals.  So do it.  Step outside your normal routine – it will make all the difference in the world.

 

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

 

Monday Morning Motivation


Nothing amazing can happen if you give up. So don’t. Don’t ever give up on your goals and good things CAN and WILL happen. Fight the good fight…with all your might.

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You don’t get today back – so make it count.

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Monday Morning Motivation


Release your inner Rocky.  When your workouts – or life in general – knocks you down, you get back up.  You’re a winner and that’s what winners do.

Take the punches that road dishes out.  Take the road’s best shot and keep moving forward.  And never lose sight of the fact that you have what it takes to win the fight.

 

You don’t get today back – so make it count.

 

Monday Morning Motivation


Today’s motivational moment is regarding dedication.  Achieving your goals takes desire, dedication, determination and discipline.  You have all four of those qualities within you.  Simply call upon them and expect the most of yourself.

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