The 2017 NYC 60k in Central Park


Every year, two weeks after the TCS New York City Marathon, the New York Road Runners hold their sole ultramarathon of the year: The New York City 60k.  This is a 37.2 mile endeavor that takes runners around….and around….and around….and around….Central Park.  For the uninitiated: Central Park consists of three specific “loops”.  The Lower Loop consists of a 1.7 mile road that goes in an oval from the southernmost part of the park to the 72nd street transverse.  The Middle Loop consists of a 4 mile oval from the 72nd street transverse to the 104th Street transverse.  The Upper Loop goes from the 104th Street Transverse around Harlem Hills.  One entire loop of park translates to about 6-6.1 miles.

On Saturday morning, at 8am, I’m going to try to complete this 60k.  I’ve tried three times, and I’ve failed three times.  Twice I’ve failed because I lacked the stamina – I was still too burnt out on running after the marathon.  Once – I lacked the heart.  I just quit on myself.  That’s been gnawing at me all year – the fact that this is the only race that I have ever DNF’d is irritating enough.  The fact that I DNF’d last year simply because I lacked the damn heart to push myself through discomfort is causing me to chomp at the bit for this race. In 2015, I pushed myself well past what I thought was my limit with regard to endurance or pain threshold.  I was hit by a car, and kept going.  I came face to face with a mountain lion, and I kept going.  I injured myself more than once, and I kept going.  Needless to say – this year I have some unfinished business.

I’m going to be representing two teams during this race.  The first is Do Away With SMA – my charity that I started in 2014 to honor my brothers and fight Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the number one genetic killer of kids under the age of two in the world.  The second is the New York Road Runners team for Kids – the charity that provides running programs for kids in an effort to fight childhood obesity.  Both are solid causes, and both can use any assistance you’d care to donate.  I’m asking you to consider a donation to either cause, for both of them are doing their best to help those that need it.  Any donation will help their missions.  Here’s the information, if you are interested in contributing:

Do Away With SMA:    Do Away With SMA

Team for Kids:    New York Road Runners Team for Kids

I’ll be posting live on Facebook on Saturday, just to give you all the jist of what this type of race is like during my 9 laps around Central Park.  Wish me luck…I’m going to need it!!!

 

The Experiment Continues…PART TWO: Power


The experiment continues.

Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions.  I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious).  I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement.  This is the second post wherein I’d like to briefly talk about the data.  In this post, I’d like to elaborate on a number that stares me in the face every time I hop on my bike (I named him Maximus, after a horse from a Disney movie…and with that, let the lambasting commence within the comments…) or take a cycling class at my gym: Watts.

20130626-055155.jpg   (This is Maximus)

If you ride your bike a lot or go to spin classes, you can track the amount of power your legs are generating through the amount of watts shown on your GPS or the device attached to the stationary bike on which you take your spin classes.  Here’s what the device on the bikes used within my usual spin class look like:

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My spin classes normally go for 45 minutes, but I try to get there early in the hope that they will turn on these devices 10-15 minutes before class starts.  In the example above, you can see that the device was only turned on about 5-6 minutes before the class began, so the only hard data I have to go on for the morning’s effort is captured here.  Normally, I’ll start my morning with a run of 45-60 minutes before transitioning to a spin class, so my legs have already been forced to work for a bit before this 45 minute cycling session begins.  This means I am warmed up and awake – but the tank of energy has already been depleted.  During triathlons I will already be tired by the time I hit the bike – a 2.4 mile swim can do some damage – so hopping on the bike not feeling 100% is a good thing.

When I first looked at this screen, I could understand RPMs (revolutions per minute – how fast those pedals were going around in a one minute time span), MPH (miles per hour, just like a car), heart rate (beats per minute – got that one), calories burned (say hello to an extra Oreo – oh hell yeah), time and miles covered.  The one data point I didn’t really understand was Watts.  So I did some reading and I asked a couple of Ironman athletes in my gym about how to use this data point in my training.  What I learned was freakin’ awesome.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I focused all of my time and attention on average speed and miles covered.  I used these two pieces of training data to measure my performance.  The faster I went, the bigger my smile at the end of the 45 minute training session.  The other athletes poked holes in my analysis almost immediately.  Here’s the breakdown on what they shared:

  • average RPMS – a nice statistic to track, because the higher your average, the quicker your leg turnover.  That’s nice to know – but it’s not a predictor of future race performance because you aren’t pedaling in wind, rain, on uphills, downhills, etc.
  • average MPH – another fun little statistic – but don’t use it as a predictor because a) you are only going 20-23 miles in an hour on the stationary bike, and b) no elements, heat, hills.
  • Calories burned – nice if you want an excuse to eat another Oreo.  (I do.  I like this number.  So there.)
  • Miles covered – nice little piece of information, but it doesn’t mean you will rack up mileage even close to what you see on the screen when you are riding in a crowd of other athletes on race day.

So there I was, left with only one data point left: watts.  When I asked about this number, I got a solid lesson over awful cups of burnt coffee that left me re-thinking how I attack my cycling workouts from then on.  The average watts figure at the top of the picture above measures the average amount of pure power being created during the training session.  This figure is a more pure measurement of cycling strength because it is immune to the other variables.  It simply states how much power your legs are giving off.  The More power generated, the faster you go.  Simple.

OK – so how the name of Zues’ rear-end do I measure my average watts, comparing the power that I currently generate to the amount of power I need to generate over a 112 mile bike course (leaving some juice in the tank for a marathon)?  Well their obvious first answer was “just try to meet or exceed your average every time.” OK, well that’s easy enough to track.  But how does watts translate into speed in a race?  That’s where the conversation got a little gray.  However, they recommended looking at pro triathletes statistics on-line, since they usually share these data points post-race.  I followed their advice, using my Unicorn as the race of measurement (Ironman World Championships in Kona).

Ben Hoffman is an elite Ironman triathlete.  He came in fourth this year at the Ironman World Championships, as was the top American male finisher.  While I couldn’t find his 2016 stats, I was able to google his 2014 cycling statistics for this race, and the numbers blew me away.  Ben covered the 112 mile Kona bike course in 4 hours and 33 minutes.   He maintained an average speed of 24.4 miles per hour, with a cadence (RPMs) of 89.  He averaged 2:27 per mile.  The average watts he generated for this portion of the race was 274.

Whoh.

While I am not nearly looking to keep up with these beasts, at least it gives me an idea of how watts translates into speed.  Hoffman averaged 24.4 miles per hour and the average watts were 274.  While listening to the live coverage of this year’s Ironman World Championship, the announcers estimated that the leader on the bike (and eventual winner – Jan “Frodo” Frodeno – was probably putting out close to 290-300 watts on average.  He covered the bike course in 4:29.

Using the elite athletes’ numbers as a point of reference, I designed a couple of goals for myself going forward:

  • During these 45-50 minute spin classes, my primary goal is to generate an average watts figure that beats my prior workout.  In the picture above, I averaged 254 – so I know cranking out a 250 average watt session is possible.  My next goal will be 255…then 256…etc.
  • I’ll need to attach a power meter on Maximus, and then collect a sample of data to measure my watts for longer rides.  Obviously, the average will be lower than in my spin sessions.  However, I am hoping to begin at around 220 and then get stronger from there.
  • By the time next July rolls around, I am hoping to have an average of 230-240 watts for a 100 mile training ride under my belt.  That should get me back to the transition area in plenty of time to begin my 26.2 mile waddle to the finish line before the clock hits midnight.

The data matters.

 

Day Two of the Experiment


October 6th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Thursday is Long Swim Day.  it starts with a 45 minute light run, after which I hustle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 2000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

I’m guessing that I’m already going to be achy by the evening, but the goal one again is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  Again, I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.  I’m scheduled to weigh myself on Sunday after my long workout, so we’ll see this this slight adjustment makes any dent in my number.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll once again bring lunch to the office.  I’m going protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake, but this time I am lowering the calorie total a little.  Let’s see how long I can hold out during the day before a crave a damn Three Musketeers bar.

The Outcome

Well the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Playoff baseball got the best of me – a great pitching duel and a 3 run homer in the 9th send the Giants into the division series and send the Mets to the golf course.  As a result, I didn’t get enough sleep and woke up too late to swim.  So I went to plan B: get home on time this evening and work out heavy to make up for the miss.

Started off the day solid nutrition-wise, having a protein shake and 3 hard boiled eggs for breakfast.  It got me through most of the morning…until I cheated and had a small chocolate muffin for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.  This is the kind od nonsense that has to stop, and I’ll need to experiment with methods of re-training myself to crave better snacks in the future.

I hit the gym by 6pm, and absolutely CRUSHED 2,000 yards in 45 minutes.  I’m going to be sore tonight – swimming at a race pace (I need to be able to cover about 1,100 yards in 26-27 minutes or less by Ironman time) really works muscles that I didn’t know I even had.

I then made the judgement call of hitting the weights for about 30 minutes.  Nothing heavy – just a basic full body workout with weight is was manageable (not trying to bench press a Buick).  Since  few people have asked about strength training, I added a page on this blog that outlines my usual strength training plan.  It’s nothing fancy – just basic stuff.

I felt good, so I decided to punish myself a bit my forcing myself to hit the dreadmill for 30 minutes.  I figured that I could use the time on the dreadmill to force myself to maintain a pace that sped up every minute I was on there.  So I set the thing to start at an 11:30 pace, and then made myself run just a hair faster every 60 seconds.  I was sprinting by the end, unable to control my breathing.  My lungs got away from me, which almost resulted in me heaving all over my shoes.  Five minutes later…I felt awesome.

Lessons Learned

  • Sleep is key.  Either stick to my sleep plan by hitting the sack by 9:30, or budget in an evening workout.  Don’t wait until morning, when I find myself sleeping through my alarm.
  • I didn’t take in enough calories yesterday.  As a result, I didn’t sleep well and I woke up hungry.  Although the protein filled me up before I left home, the calorie debt made that chocolate muffin extremely tempting.

Today’s Nugget(s)

On this day in 1783, Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock.

On this day in 1882, the first World Series game was played.  (Cincinnati beat Chicago, 4-0).

Day One of the Science Experiment…


October 5th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Wednesday is Speed Day, so warm up with a 1.5 mile run around the lower loop of Central Park, until I hit the base of Cat Hill.  The goal is to complete four hill repeats before heaving all over my bright orange Brooks.

Once I wrapped that up, I waddle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 1000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

In the evening, the goal is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll bring lunch to the office so that I’m not tempted to eat what I really want: a chicken parm hero from Luigi’s.  I’m also going to go protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake.

The Outcome

Well, I got up in time and knocked out a relaxed swim.  1000 yards in 28:01.  Water seems to be my natural element – although I know it’s a training session, swimming is almost therapeutic to me.  I got these cool-looking new googles too – they make me feel like Fonzi.

the-fonz

I changed into my running stuff and ran 1.5 miles as a warm-up to Cat Hill.  The hill is about .35 of a mile, with a steep incline at the outset which tapers off with about 1/10 to go, so hill repeats on this section of the park are not very enjoyable to a shlub like me.  I got 4 repetitions in before I had to call it a morning – there were too many bikes going in the wrong direction within the running lane, and if one of them hit me this morning I was not in the mood to be Mr. Forgiveness.  Instead, I would have channeled my inner Ric Flair and suplexed the schmuck.

woooo

I knew it was time to call it a morning when one of these two-wheeled whackjobs flew by me – without a helmet – while in the designated runners lane – going opposite the flow of traffic – while texting.  Given the fact that it was before 6am and sunrise still hadn’t provided some degree of natural lighting to the park, this guys was a rolling accident about to happen.  Now don’t get me wrong: I love cycling.  As a triathlete and Ironman hopeful, it’s the one discipline that I need to spend the most time on.  However, when I ride I try to respect the rules of the road and those around me.  I got the work in, so I felt fairly accomplished by the time I got home.

I stuck to my protein-heavy breakfast: a couple of hard-boiled eggs and a shake.  I’m trying to get myself to stop craving sugary awesomeness like Oreos (seriously – Oreos should be a darn food group – it should go Oreos, Pizza, Pop Tarts and General Tso’s Chicken).  Kicking the sugar craving will NOT be easy.  I have absolutely no discipline, so saying no to those round tasty little pieces of Nabisco heaven is going to feel like root canal without the Novocaine.  However, the juice is worth the squeeze.  So the first real experiment that this new adventure has triggered deals with diet.  I’ve come to realize that the things I now need to say “no” to historically have constituted a decent size of my overall caloric intake.   So switching to a much healthier selection will not be easy.  It also didn’t help that I was lazy this morning and forgot to put together a sizable salad for lunch.  As a result, lunch consisted of a couple of handfuls of pretzel pieces.  This will cause my overall calorie count for the day to be less than the total I have budgeted for myself: 2,300.  I’ll need to compensate by having a bit more protein tonight.

Had a simple salad with a couple of ravioli for dinner.  Figured that I am in severe calorie debt today – I can tell from the raging migraine I’ve been dealing with and the stats on Myfitnesspal.com.  (Yes, I am using a website to count my darn calories and make myself more accountable – would much prefer using some Deal-A-Meal cards).  I wanted to stay away from heavy carbs at night, but I think I’ll need the efficient energy that comes from carbs in the morning.

The evening workout, right before I crashed tonight, was annoying.  I am not a huge fan of core work, because it’s a weak point for me.  We’ll see over the coming weeks whether the concept of cranking up the metabolism right before bed helps burn more calories.

I look at the first 2 weeks of this experiment as a data-gathering phase.

Today’s Nugget

October 5th 2011: Steve Jobs passed away at the age of 56.

Crazy Ones

 

 

Training Log: May 12th & 13th 2016


Wednesday was big for me.  Yesterday was a big step backward,  The knee barked again – and I listened by taking a rest day.  I need to get back into a groove after a bit of a slump, and that’s exactly what will happen.  By the time I found myself in front of the boob tube watching The Avengers for the 28th time, I was big-time sore and it took a bit of effort to get my lazy copious backside off the couch.  The fact that I fit in am AM and PM session was HUGE for me – because that’s the habit I need to form in order for me to have the best chance at becoming an Ironman this year.  Most of the Ironmen I have spoken to have been willing to share their training plans and ideas with me readily – they seem to simply love speaking about the sport.  So I’ve developed what I think is a fair estimate of the average number of hours they log in a normal training week.  The number scared me a little:  30.  So – I need to form solid habits, I need to do it quick, and they need to include two-a-days during the week.

 

Since yesterday felt like a success, I need to build on that and begin to develop the two-a-day habit.

  1. 4am Run: shooting for at least 6 miles this morning.  Easy pace.  Slower than yesterday.  I beat myself up yesterday, and I cannot do that to myself every single day – I’ll break down.  And that would suck.
  2. 5am Swim:  I need to work on my form, so I need to go find some wisdom.  My gym and my triathlon team offer weekly sessions at my gym’s pool, so I need to start showing up to them.  However – before I do – I need to build a simple base.  Once I can crank out 250 yards in the pool (5 complete laps) without stopping for a breather, I’ll be ready to join the other tadpoles in the class setting without worrying about looking like an utter fartknocker.  So this morning’s session will require me to log 1000 yards (20 laps) in a 10 x 100 format.  This should take somewhere around 30 minutes.  The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles (4,224 yards) in less than 2 hours and twenty minutes.  for my little 25 yard pool, a complete Ironman swim would be 169 laps.  169.  Crap.  Based on the math, I have approximately 54 seconds to complete each lap (50 yards) in order to give myself a small cushion of time as a buffer to get my butt out of the water and into T1 (the transition area where triathlete go from the swim to the bike).  To say I have work to do is a SEVERE understatement.  This should be fun!
  3. 6:30am Cross Training: This is a class that apparently combines endurance and strength.  I’ve gotten over the hump in my first classroom setting within the gym – now it’s time to see whether I can keep up with the Jones’ in a class that doesn’t involve me peddling a bike like a rapid lunatic for 45 minutes.  My legs will be a bit tired from the run and I should be feeling it all over from the swim (now that I know I need to become the Ironman equivalent of Aquaman, I’m going to be so focused on lap speed that I bet I’ll go harder than I ever have before in the pool), so this class should SUCK.  And as Tolstoy once said, “one must embraceth the suckatude.”
  4. 6:30pm Spin Class: On the way home from work, I’m going to shoot for 17 miles over the course of 45 minutes on the bike.  My speed has increased – so I am psyched about that.

In addition, I get to visit my doctor today.  Oy joy.

Training Results:

 

June 29th – What Have We Learned?


So what did I learn today?

1) If you are suffering from Plantar Fasciitis, using an invention called the Strassberg Sock actually does work. However, it really is a fashion risk when worn to a multiplex.

2) sometimes it’s fun embarrassing your daughter by busting out your dance moves while waiting in line for popcorn. The embarrassment is, of course, enhanced by the fact that the only music playing at the time was in my head…..and it was Eminem. But being able to do The Robot is a rare talent indeed…

3) Listen to what your body is telling you. If your injury starts barking at you in the middle of a workout, that’s your cue to take your foot off the accelerator and hit the brakes for the day.

4) there is nothing medium about a medium sized drink at a movie theater.

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20130629-170755.jpg

What Have We Learned Today….


So what have we learned today? Let’s see…..

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.

And finally,

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.

The 59th Street Bridge: It Should Be Condemned


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.
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“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine

A Recap of My 12 in ’12 To Benefit The Dream Team Project


2012 was an interesting year, filled with ups and downs that resembed a ride on California Screamin’.  I figured that I’d look back real quick at the year’s running events and try to share one take-away from each adventure. 

 

January 2012: I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon.  THAT was a VERY fun way to kick off my year-long adventure.  WDW is never a fast race for me – I am too busy taking pictures and soaking in the atmosphere.  Visiting WDW allows me to remove myself from reality and immerse myself in levels of creativity that stimulate my own imagination.  I leave WDW each time with a bunch of new ideas and very decompressed.  LESSON LEARNED: January in Orlando can be cold.  When traveling for a marathon, plan for the unexpected.

 

February 2012: I ran 26.2 With Donna in Jacksonville, Florida.  It was 25 degrees and windy.  This was the only marathon I have ever completed wearing full running pants and three layers…and still felt frozen at the end.  LESSON LEARNED: Plan out your pre-race breakfast in the morning.  Don’t wing it. Not a good idea.  If you don’t eat well, your empty stomach makes any other obstacle (like 25 degree weather) that much more unbearable.  I also learned, during this race, that I am a bit tougher than I thought.

 

March 2012: I ran the Ocean Drive Marathon in New Jersey.  Lost a tooth at mile 8 by biting down on one of those chewy energy blocks.  There must have been somehting hard in the center of it, because I snapped the back of a molar and also had a crown fall out.  I put the crown in my pocket and kept going.  LESSON LEARNED: Running in a cold headwind makes 26.2 miles feel like 30.  I also was once more reminded of the importance of nutrition – this time, during the race itself.  Have a plan for taking in fuel during the race.  AND THEN STICK TO IT.

 

April 2012: I ran the Gettysburgh North-South Marathon.  16 miles of hills and very little shade.  LESSON LEARNED: Several, in actuality:

1) Pennsylvania may look flat on an ordinary map.  But….it’s not.

2) Focus on the hill in front of you – not the ones coming up in the future.  Tackle one obstacle at a time, or else the marathon can become mentally overwhelming.  FOCUS ON THE TASK AT HAND.

3) The sun is a real factor to consider on race day.  The sun can drain your energy pretty quick, so use sunblock as part of your pre-race procedure.

 

May 2012: I ran the New Jersey Marathon.  It was a very enjoyable race, but the amount of fans on the course were more scare than I originally anticipated.  LESSON LEARNED: As Sun Tsu said – “every battle is won before it’s ever fought”.  Prepare yourself mentally for the 26.2 miles.  Use some positive visualization to picture yourself running certain sections of the course that you may find challenging.  During the race – dial in to your effort.  Focus inward.  Don’t look for the fans to push you through the rough patches – do it yourself.

 

June 2012: I had planned to run the Lake Placid Marathon, but was unable to participate.  Life simply got in the way.  So I performed my first solo marathon around Manhattan.  LESSON LEARNED: Once more I say – planning is the key.  If you become really thirsty in the middle of the marathon, then you waiting too long to hydrate.  Drink water the day before the race, and then plan out your water intake during the marathon in the same way you planned to ingest your fuel.  I know – this sounds like planning overkill.  But trust me – IT ISN’T.

 

July 2012: I ran the San Francisco Marathon.  What a wonderful course.  Great weather.  Great organization.  Cannot wait to run this one again.  LESSON LEARNED: Sometimes the challenges you picture in your head based on the reputation of the course do not accurately portray the course you run.  I figured that San Francisco would be the most brutal course I’d run all year.  One of the race mottos even says that it’s “the race that marathoners fear”.  The reputation got into my head and played with it.  I got psyched out while toeing the line.  My nervousness became a distraction and took away from my execution.  So – HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT.

 

August 2012: I ran the Self Trancendence Marathon in Rye, New York.  9 loops of a 3 mile course that circles a lake.  VERY hot and humid.  I did everything wrong.  Everything.  Plus – I was injured during the race.  LESSON LEARNED: when you mail in a race (you don’t prepare, you don’t plan and you don’t think), bad things happen.  I didn’t eat well the night before.  I didn’t track how much water I took in.  I didn’t eat breakfast.  I took in fluids every 3 miles – not every 2.  I became severely dehydrated, lost focused, and sprained my ankle.  The result: 30 minutes in a medical tent spent taping up my dumb ankle so I could get back out there.  There is no need to be a martyre.  If you are going to run a marathon and you spent months in training – take a few hours to plan for race day in detail.

 

(getting the message yet: HAVE….A….PLAN!)

 

September 2012: I was scheduled to run the Air Force Marathon in Ohio.  However, once more, like got in the way and I was unable to fly out for the race.  As a result, I ran my second solo marathon around Manhattan.  LESSON LEARNED: On marathon Sunday, leave the Ipod at home.  Tune out the Eminem and RUSH, and tune into yourself.  I have found that, when I listen to music while trying to really push myself, my mind is split between focusing on the task at hand and focusing on the tunes that are pumpin into my ears.  If I want to be the best runner I can be, I’ll need to be 100% focused on one thing at a time.

 

October 2012: I ran the Chicago Marathon in Chicago, Illinois.  Great course, great fans, and VERY fast.  LESSON LEARNED: Go out slow.  Let the Kenyans take off like bats out of hell.  Start your marathon so slow that your pace actually feels TOO easy.  If it does, then you are perfect.  If you go out too fast, you burn too much fuel too early in the race, and you won’t have enough to propel you 26.2 miles.  Pacing is key.  Again – when it comes to your marathon pace: HAVE A PLAN AND STICK TO IT.

 

November 2012: I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   Fun fans, Really well organized.  Great volunteer support.  Cannot wait to run this one again.  LESSON LEARNED: I run better in a huge crowd than in a small one.  I like the feeling of being part of a big event – it’s easier for me to get fired up, and I perform much better. 

 

December 2012: Since the ING New York City Marathon was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, I ran my third solo marathon of the year around Manhattan.  LESSON LEARNED: As much as I love running in the big “events”, it’s not why I push myself.  While running solo, it’s easy to quit.  No one would look at you and shake their heads, saying “I cannot believe he’s giving up”.  No one on the streets knew what I was attempting to accomplish, so it was just me versus my limitations.  That makes the distance even more personal.  Good marathoners have a mean streak in them somewhere.  One that comes out when the going gets tough, saying “hey – there is NO WAY I am quitting.  So push through this pain and get the damn job done”.  The mind wants to quit before the body – so you have to get pissed off and tell your mind to shove any idea of quitting up…..well, you get the idea.

 

So there you have it – some take aways from each marathon this year.  Don’t make the same mistakes I did.  Make new ones, and enjoy every step of the way.

 

One last comment before I switch gears and begin planning for 2013: whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you are probably right.  Regardless of your pace per mile or the shape you are currently in, you can accomplish great things.  All you need to do is believe in yourself, and fight.  Here’s a quote from Rocky Balboa to wrap this entry up – I think it says what’s on my mind:

 

“Let me tell you something – the world isn’t all sunshine and roses.  It’s a mean, cruel place and it will knock you down and keep you there if you let it.  No one – not me, not you – no one punches as hard as life.  But it’s not about how hard you hit.  It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.  It’s about how much you can take, and keep moving forward.  That’s how winning is done’.  Whatever you plan to do in 2013, dive into it.  Expect setbacks along the way.  Take whatever hits are thrown at you…and keep pressing forward.

 

Here’s another quote I’ll share from a movie I just saw with Mini Me this morning: “I have found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.  Small acts of kindness and love”.  Gandolf the Gray said this to Galadriel, in response to the question of why he chose a hobbit – a very small form of human with absolutely no desire for adventure – to become a key member of a very important journey.  I throw this quote out there for a reason: we’re all ordinary folk.  And it is the everyday deed of choosing a goal and working hard to attain it which keeps the darkness of giving up at bay.  You choose to get out there and run a mile…or 3…or 5 – whatever the day’s training plan calls for – and you don’t stop until you accomplish your goal.  Accomplish your small goals each day, and you’ll definitely attain your larger goal on Marathon Sunday.

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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 #12: Early One December Morning…


After a great Sunday in Philadelphia, marathon number 11 was in the books. All I needed was one more run of 26.2 miles in order to attain my goal for the year. But there were no marathons scheduled which were easily accessible for me through December 31st. As you might be able to tell….that’s a problem.

My confidence was shot based on the failed solo marathon attempt a few weeks prior – but Iknew that the weather could take aturn toward the 30’s very soon. So I made the decision to gun for marathon number 12 on Sunday, December 2nd. This would have to be a solo effort, and I knew that I couldn’t just run laps around Central Park – I have the attention span of a cocker spaniel surrounded by squirrels. So this run would need to be an out and back course. I determined that the best thing for me to do was to begin covering the same course that I ran solo – with success – earlier in the year. Knowing that literally running around Manhattan like a tourist maintained my attention throughout the entire effort made my confidence rise. The added pressure of the cold weather coming in ernest also raised my sense of urgency – and that should help keep me motivated as well. It was either complete the distance on December 2nd – or fail to accomplish my goal for 2012.

The Saturday before the long run, I found myself in Eastern Mountain Sports, looking through the various Camelbacks that they have available. Last time I ran out of water at around mile 15-16. The last ten miles were rough. I needed to ensure that this type of issue would not occur again – so I purchased a camelback bladder which held 100 ounces of water. I figured that should get me further along the course! I filled it up, threw it in my small backpack…and the realized just how much additional weight I would be carrying along this run. No personal best times in the morning, that’s for sure. I didn’t sleep well the night before the run – the make or break for my year would occur in the morning, and I would be lugging along some added weight on my back that I didn’t really budget for. Nerves set in as if I were bracing myself for the ING New York City Marathon. Then it hit me: this run would take the place of the New York City Marathon for me this year, and I did obtain one of the medals that would have been bestowed on any finisher of the race a month prior. So I made the silent decision that, if I am able to finish the run tomorrow, I would crack the 26.2 mile marker right near Tavern on the Green in Central Park. Then I would do somehting special with the medal in January during the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.

Morning came, and the weather was questionable. Damp, foggy and in the low 40’s. Strong chance of rain. Not exactly the greatest juju – but not the worst either. The weather was as questionable as my chances of success.

I began my run along west side drive at 72nd street, heading south. I coasted past the Intrepid, and checked out the Space Shuttle. After playing the tourist for 2.3 seconds, I continued south toward Chelsea Piers all the way to Battary Park. I ran out along each and every pier along the west side, just to get myself out above the Hudson River for a few minutes at a time. Coming from a small island in the Bronx, I grew up on and around the water. My family owned a boat yard for generations. I love to swim, fish, and scuba dive. Water is the element that I feel most comfortable in and around – so just being near it relaxes me. I know- that sounds sort-of, well, dumb – but it’s true. I pressed on around Battery Park, and made the turn up the east side drive.

Once I hit South Street Seaport I decided to hang a left on to Fulton Street to see the really nice, trendy shops. I was stunned to see every single one of these stores destroyed by the hurricane and the subsequent looting that took place. Not exactly the sight I hoped to see almost 9 miles into my run – but it served as a reminder to be thankful for just how lucky I am. I go through my days and complain when I get stuck in traffic or I have to work late. In the grand scheme of things, I am so damn lucky compared to others – I just lose sight of it. Passing through Fulton Street was just the reminder I needed to keep my life in perspective.

I hung a left and made my way to Wall Street, where I checked out the spot where George Washington took his oath as first President of the United States. That big stone block and monument is something I really enjoy checking out each time I get to lower Manhattan. From there, I went down Broadway to The Bull, then turned back around and began heading North to City Hall, running up The Canyon of Heros.

I passed through City Hall Park, and headed toward the Brooklyn Bridge…where I made a last second decision to head into Brooklyn. Over the bridge I went, to Cadman Plaza. One small loop around that little park, and I headed back over the Brooklyn Bridge. Cool – I was in 2 boroughs thus far.

Once I got back into Manhattan, I continued up Broadway, where my time was hampered by traffic and tons of street lights – but who cared? I was more than half way to my 26.2 mile goal. At this point, I had less miles to run than I had already logged. The backpack was getting lighter as I sipped water whenever I felt like I needed it. The backpack itself wasn’t a terrible distraction – but it did slow me up a bit at the start. This factor may have actually been a good thing because I normally go out too fast. The next cool tourist spot I passed was The Flatiron Building on 23rd street, followed by Macy’s on 34th Street and then Times Square. I hung a right on 42nd and ran past Grand Central Station all the way to First Avenue. I made a left on First Avenue and ran past the United Nations, and continued north.

While on First Avenue, I realized that I had just past mile 20. Only ten kilometers to go. For the first time I began to postiviely visualize the completion of my year’s goal. At the same moment, however, I also realized that I had run out of water. I was cold, sore and tired – so I made the decision to just slug it out for one more hour and then I can head home, victorious. I picked up my pace slightly and noticing that I was on the corner of 57th street and First Avenue, made the decison to run over the 59th Street Bridge and back. Lets get a 3rd borough in this morning, I said aloud to…no one in particular.

As I looked up the incline of Mount Sonofabitch (the 59th Street Bridge’s real name – look it up, Google is your friend), I realized that running the hardest hill on the ING New York City Marathon course in both directions 20+ miles into a solo marathon is ridiculously dumb. But I also thought that something like this – running a dozen marathon in a year for a wonderful charity – should not be finished with a nice flat coast to the end. What this deserved – what this effort almost required – was one last hurdle to clear. And this bridge has been my enemy since 2005. So it was almost poetic that I dueled with this obstacle at the end of my journey. Up the incline I went, slow, cold and steady. When I got the the highest point and the roadway began its downward angle, I actually picked up my pace and it felt incredible. 22+ miles in to this run and I was groovy.

When I arrived at the base of the bridge on the Queens side, I turned and began the slow trek back. Remembering that the mind quits before the body does, my mantra for getting back over the bridge was simple: “Nope – not yet” (as in: Nope, not yet – not time to stop yet. Nope. Keep moving. Nope. Don’t quit. You’re fine. Move.). When I finally arrived back in Manhattan, I had less than 5 kilomters to go – so I headed toward the park. I put in a lower loop and had to backtrack along the west side roadway of Central Park a second time so that I could finish my 26.2 miles close to Tavern on the Green. When I stopped my watch, I placed my hands on my hips and bent at the waist. My chest was sore. So were my arms. I was cold and hungry. Definitely thirsty. My calves were cramping pretty badly. But I didn’t move. I just stood there. Right near the official finish line of my annual Superbowl. No fans to scream for me. No medals, heat sheets and photographers. Just me and the moment – and that felt right.

OK – I’ll admit: I teared up a bit. I’m sure runners that passed me by and saw me a bit emotional were probably thinking “what a pansy – that’s not even a hill and it made him cry!!”. I didn’t care. I found a park bench near the South Lawn and took a few minutes for myself. I thought of what I went through during the year. 314.4 miles of marathons in 12 months, three of which I ran solo. There were injuries, tons of assinine mistakes, poor planning, weak preparation, shoddy diet maintenance throughout the year, and an abundance of lackluster training efforts. However, in spite of everything I did poorly, I managed to finish the goal I put in place a year ago. Lord knows I’m not fast. I’m not even close to qualifying for Boston. I have a TON of work to do to become the distance runner that I want to be. But this year I found something in myself that I didn’t know I had much of: courage. The one and only thing I did consistently right this year was have the courage to push through pain and not quit (even when I reeeeeeeally wanted to). So I may be as slow as a turtle – but I have the foundation to improve. Greater things are possible.

So there you have it. 12 marathons in 12 months to raise money for the Dream Team Project. Mission accomplished. Hmmmm…..so what’s next?

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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: 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. 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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