The 2016 NYC Half Marathon: A Review


I haven’t been posting very much lately because of my insane schedule.  What’s that old quote…”Life is what what happens when you are busy making other plans”.  Well my plans included a brief break from the stress of daily life…until reality basically told me cancel my plans and get the hell back to work.  So much for the mental break I so desperately needed.

 

I was lucky enough to have the time to run the 2016 New York City Half Marathon last Sunday, March 20th.  I wanted to provide my readers with a brief review, just in case anyone was considering running in next year and beyond.  So without further gilding the lily, off we go…..

 

The Expo: Held in the flatiron section of Manhattan, it was easy to get to by mass transit, and it was open and well-staffed during the week.  Picking up your bib and your race shirt is a quick and easy process – I was in and out of the expo within minutes.

 

Pre-Race: OK, let’s be honest here – security was tight for this race, as it had been in prior years.  Each runner has to go through a metal detector – and there are not many of them – in order to gain access to Central Park and the runners’corrals.  There were plenty of bottlenecks and the wait time was a bit annoying; however, in light of what occurred in Belgium just yesterday, let’s just appreciate the added level of safety that these precautions provide – waiting in line is a small price to pay.  If you don’t like lines, then show up early with a blanket and a book.  The race was organized into three waves, set of go off with spaces of 15 minutes in between each.  Accessing the corrals was easy, and there were plenty of port-o-crappers available to runners right after they passed through the security check.  Runners were able to check a clear plastic bag with your bib number affixed to it before you walked through the TSA-like checkpoint.  They also had a number of large blue bins inside and outside the corrals for depositing any layers of old clothing you may have worn to keep warm before the start.

 

The Course: This course has changed a few times over the years.  The 2016 version of the race began along the east side drive of Central Park, right near the 72nd Street Transverse.  Within the first quarter mile of the race, the runners climb Cat Hill, and then head north along the outer loop.  Just after you pass the hockey rink at the northeaster-most section of the park, you turn west along the outer loop, and then exit the park briefly on Central Park North.  A quick out and back brings you back into the park at the 3 mile marker.  From there, you climb Harlem Hill and make your way south along the west side drive.  You exit the park just past the 6 mile marker, and spill out on to 7th Avenue.  The first six miles of this race are fairly quiet as far as fans are concerned.  If you are running it, focus on getting past the hills.  When you exit the park, the hardest work is already behind you.

As you spill out onto 7th Avenue and head toward Times Square, there are numerous races held for kids along the left hand side of the course.  So runners can also cheer the young runners on as they begin the trek downtown.

Once you hit 42nd Street, you hang a right and head west, to the West Side Highway.  After waving hello to the USS Intrepid, you are at the 8 mile marker.  At this point, the course becomes flat and fast as you make your way toward the southernmost point of Manhattan.  You pass Ground Zero and the Staten Island Ferry terminal, and then turn back north toward South Street Seaport.  A couple of quick left turns brings you to the finish line.

Crowd support is solid along the course from miles 6 through 8.  The course is very quiet until you close in on the finish.

 

There were 20,149 finishers in this year’s installment, with the winning men’s time of 1:01:35 by Stephen Sambu of Kenya.  Think about that for a second: The winner averaged approximately 4:45 pace for 13.1 miles.  I have one word for that: BEAST.

The story of the day was the women’s race – which was won my Mollie Huddle by…are you ready for this….eight one-hundredeths of a second…over the second place finisher, Joyce Cheplrul of Kenya.  The winning time?  1:07:41.  That’s somewhere between a 5:10 – 5:15 pace for the race.

 

It was cold – approximately 37 degrees at the start, with some decent wind along the course.  The wind definitely chilled things off along the west side highway during the latter half of the race.  So I recommend running in layers – this race falls at a time of year where the conditions are hard to predict.

 

All in all, it was a solid, fun race.  Well run.  I would recommend it to anyone!!!

Rollin’Old School…


This past weekend, I decided to mix the old with the new in a number of ways.  Let’s face it: we all have music from the 70’s that we love, and we all have some current music that finds its way onto our IPrecious.  Right?  So this weekend I made a playlist that mixed old rock with new stuff as the musical score for my workouts.  Why?  Because I was going to mix the new exercises I’ve been doing with some old school routines, resulting in a weekend of calorie-rockin’ workouts.

 

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On Saturday, I did a BRICK workout, which begins with cycling and then a quick transition to a run.  For me, that’s one of the newer workouts on my list, as I am a newbie to triathlons (plus, BRICK workouts are tough – and tough workouts take effort – and sweating results in a bad hair day for this dude).  The combination jacks up your metabolism and challenges you as an athlete.  I went home after finishing my run feeling rather awesome.

 

Sunday, it was time to roll old school with my workout.  I started by hitting the gym at 7am and I immediately hit the pool.  I think everyone has a “natural environment”, and mine is the water.  Ever since I was a little kid, I loved swimming.  I could spend all day in Long Island Sound or the pool at the New York Athletic Club, and return home tired yet happy.  So at 7am, I plopped into the pool at the gym and cranked out some laps.  After my laps were done, I dried off and headed to….the rowing machine.

 

The ergometer – or “erg”, as rowers call it – is a fantastic way of burning calories and having fun.  When I was in college, I was a member of the Iona College Crew Team…and we spent a TON of hours on the ergs, making our legs and lungs burn.  The hard work paid off – our team was awesome.  So I decided to test myself with a 2500 meter race.  OK – so I’m not as fast as I was over 20 years ago, but the exercise brought back wonderful memories….and from now on I’m scheduling an erg test for myself weekly.  A small nugget to look forward to in weeks to come.

 

While Lord knows I’m no coach, I can make this recommendation: if you want to kick-start your workout routine and you’re looking for something new and interesting to throw into the mix….go old school.

 

BEAST of the Week


Those of you who’ve read my blog before know that the highest compliment I can pay to anyone is referring to him or her as a BEAST.  Think about it for a moment: if you want to go further than you’ve ever gone before…if you want to go faster than you’ve ever gone before…if you want to see something through that you’ve never done before…then you need to push yourself harder than you’ve ever pushed before.  You need to work your butt off.  You need to be willing to put in the hours and the sweat.  You need to have a fierce dedication to a cause, and you need to be disciplined enough to stick to a tough routine – even when you’re sore and every fiber is telling you to take it easy.  In short: you gotta be a BEAST.  So when I refer to someone as a BEAST, it’s like giving that quiet nod to a fellow runner coming at you in the opposite direction in the park, wearing a race shirt from an event that you aspire to – it’s a big-time sign of respect.   (For example: a dude ran toward me on Monday evening in Central Park rocking a Western States long sleeve.  To me – that race is one of my unicorns.  I gave him the nod.  He smiled and nodded back.  The silent message: “dude, you are a BEAST.”)

On Sunday morning, I ran the New York Road Runners (“NYRR”) Gridiron 4 Miler in Central Park.  Within half a mile of the start, I bumped into some teammates from the NYRR Team for Kids.  It was fantastic to see them, and we spent the next half hour chatting as we cruised through the course.  Shortly after finishing, we ran into several more of our teammates.  They too had finished the race, and were preparing to tack on 12-16 additional miles as part of their weekly long run in preparation for toeing the line in this year’s Tokyo Marathon.  One of those fine people is a runner that most (if not all) of Team for Kids knows – and his name is Ira.

I’ve known Ira for several years now, and I can say without a moment’s hesitation that he is one of the most positive people I have ever met.  Always greeting you with a warm smile and a soft-spoken demeanor, I look at him as a gentle giant.  However, Ira is also a fierce competitor and marathoner.  Nothing stops Ira from getting the work in.  Oh it’s raining?  So what – get out there.  Oh it’s a bit cold?  Well put an extra layer on and get out there.  Oh it’s too warm?  Well drink more water and keep working.  I’ve watched him evolve from first-time marathoner to running role model.  His efforts have raised thousands of dollars in donations for charity – so every mile has a deeper meaning.

So – my first ever BEAST of the Week goes out to Ira.  Dude, you are awesome, your dedication is incredible, your positive attitude is infectious, and you just continue to rock race after race.  And that’s what a BEAST does.

Ira, along with a contingent of NYRR Team for Kids marathoners, are running the Tokyo Marathon on February 28th.  All I can say is: hard work pays off, dedication makes the difference, and you’re going to fly through the streets of that awesome city.  Keep charging forward, Ira – you’re an inspiration.  You…are…a….BEAST.

 

Roadmaps.


Last night, a friend of mine reached out to me and asked for some guidance on how to prepare for the 2017 Boston Marathon.  This surprised me, because I wouldn’t be the first person I’d choose to impart wisdom as it pertains to training.  If you’ve read my prior blog entries, you know that I am a walking clusterfart when it comes to my daily routine.  However, I’ve been coached by some awesome teams, and their wisdom has stuck in my head – so I’m glad to pass that wisdom on.

I sat down at my laptop last night and basically did a data dump of stuff that I was told by coaches throughout the years.  For today’s blog, I’d like to share the game plan that I just emailed out.

(just remember: I’m not a certified running coach yet – I took the class – I need to take the exam.  If you are looking to go Couch to 5k, or Half Marathon to Marathon, there are certified coaches available all across the country that have forgotten more about training than I’ll ever even know.  Take a look on-line and gather as much wisdom as you can.  Find someone to train with that knows the ropes, and let him / her impart wisdom.  Then take that wisdom, go out and layeth the smacketh down on your goals.)

So without further adieu…

 

OK Shades, here we go –

Remember, I’m not a licensed coach – so make sure that you gain some wisdom from other people to fill in the gaps.  I’ll try my best to give you some basic guidance. I’m sure there are coaches that can also help you along the way.  One guy I also recommend that you reach out to is Brian The Bad Man Johnson.  This dude is awesome.  He knows his shit.  He’s the guy that developed my training program for Cali.  (He called that training plan “Mr. Johnson’s Opus”).  If you don’t know him – he’s my friend on Facebook.  Look him up.  He can impart some serious wisdom.

1.  Develop a Gameplan
It’s more than 14 months until Boston.  Way too early to start training for it as far as weekly running plans are concerned.  So I recommend that you find a few shorter races to run between now and April 2017.  We’ll use those races as targets during the year.  It doesn’t need to be a lot of races – pick 10ks or half marathons spread out over the next year.  The races will help you keep you focused on training.
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2.  Lock Up Some Time
Once you select a few races to run, take a good look at your family calendar.  Figure out what times of day are open for training.  Then pick a time of day and lock it in.  That’s your training time.  It should be a time of day that doesn’t make you feel as if you are rushed to do something else.  Don’t cram training in, or else you’ll find yourself skipping some exercises or blowing workouts off all together.  (I do this all the damn time, and it sucks.  Don’t make my mistake.)  I want your training to be something you are psyched about.  Something that you both look forward to.  Make sure you go over the calendar with your better half, and take into consideration as much of your family activities as possible. (By the way – I suck at that, too.  I always double-book myself in the evenings, and guess what activity gets cancelled: my workout.  Again – don’t make my mistake.)
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3.  Develop the Habit
OK – so now you have your race goals set, and you have your weekly workout schedule set.  Now it’s time to develop the workout habit.  It takes 21 days to develop a new positive habit – so for the next three weeks, get completely dialed in and don’t miss a session unless you absolutely have to choice.  Habits take 21 days to develop and only a single day to screw up.  (Trust me – I know that one too.)  What’s cool is that your better half will be doing this with you – so you guys can kick each other in the ass to get going.  That kind of motivation will make this MUCH easier.
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4.  Nutrition
I know that you mentioned that part of this process is your desire to lose a little weight.  Losing weight is a fairly easy concept: you just need to take less in calories than you burn.  In order to understand what your diet currently looks like, you should log what you eat daily.  I use www.myfitnesspal.com.  It gives you the ability to break down what you eat as carbs, protein, etc.  If you don’t want to use a web-based application to track your food intake, use a notebook.  Just force yourself to log everything you eat.  Why?  Because it will make you think about what you consume before you do it.  That awareness will help you fight off cravings for crap. That being said – make sure that you reward yourself after you work your ass off.  Maybe you and your better half can say “hey – if we kick ass training this week, we’ll go to _____ for dinner this weekend.”  don’t deny yourself absolutely everything you enjoy eating – just take in less of it and know what those portions add up to daily.  And make sure you note which days you felt fantastic and which days felt like shit – diet may have been a part of the reason you felt those ways.
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OK – so that covers game planning and diet.  Now let’s talk workouts.  We’ll break it down into 4 areas: Strength, Running, Cross Training and Core.  Regardless of what’s on the schedule for any given training session, I want you to remember that everything that you do, you do for a reason.
1.  Strength
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Don’t rush a set when you are lifting.  Technique is more important than the amount of weight you can lift.  I’m sure your better half will back me up on that one.  When i am weight training for an endurance sport like a marathon or ironman, I have a single mantra that I repeat to myself (most of the time – but sometimes I say it out loud and people look at me as if I’m a tool): SLOW IS SMOOTH – AND SMOOTH MAKES YOU FAST.  Every set, do NOT rush.  Take your time and do it right.
If you want to build muscle size, you lift high weight with low repetitions.  You want definition and lean muscle mass – so we’re going with low weights with higher reps.  Listen to your better half – I’m sure he’s spent time in the weight room for football, so he’ll spot you, motivate you and he’ll watch your form.
I want you to think about why you are doing each exercise as you do it.  Trust me, there is a reason for everything.  I’ll share with you my full body workout that I do on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 5am.  IN THE BEGINNING, TRY TO PICK TWO DAYS A WEEK TO DO THIS.  Try 3 sets of everything to start.  LOW WEIGHT.  Your first time doing this, I want you picking weight so light that you KNOW it will be too easy.  Since your better half has your back in this, he’ll help you pick out weight that fits each exercise going forward.  Everybody is different – this is not a competition to see who can lift the most.
  • I normally start my strength workout with 3 sets of 10 shoulder shrugs.  Take 2 light dumbbells, hold them in your hands.  Stand straight and hold them at your sides.  Then simply shrug your shoulders.  This exercise works your trapezius (neck) muscles.  4-5 hours of your arms swinging back and forth during a marathon – your neck muscles need to be strong in order to enhance your performance.
  • Then take those dumbbells and begin working your deltoids (shoulders).  Hold the dumbbells at your sides, and then left them outward.  This exercise is normally called dumbbell flies.  I am betting your better half knows how to do these.  Three sets of ten to the side, followed by 3 sets forward.  Your shoulders are so important in marathoning – make them strong enough to handle 26.2 miles.
  • Next we will do 3 sets of bicep curls.  Low weight.  SLOW movement – this makes the bicep work longer and get stronger.  Arm swing is key in running.  Work your arms.
  • After bicep curls, do 3 sets of upright rows with a curl bar.  Again, I am betting your better half knows how to do these.
  • Next – 3 sets of dips.  These work the shoulders, back and triceps.  You can use a bench to do them if you like, or there may be a machine in your gym for them. Shoot for 3 sets of 10.  These will not be easy.  Take your time, and if you need to build up to three fulls sets of 10, then that’s fine.
  • Next – an exercise that’s normally called “lat pull-downs”: there should be a machine with a seat and pulley system, with a long bar hanging from it.  Sit in the seat, choose very low weight, and pull the bar down behind your head, touching the back of your neck.  This works your shoulders and back.  Efficient running requires good posture and controlled arm swings – your back muscles need to be strong.
  • Next – the bench press.  Go very light and have your better half spot you.  Three sets of 10.  This is the most basic gym rat exercise, and you are simply cooler because you do them.  Feel free to make those obnoxious noises that you hear the musclehead dudes make when they attempt to bench a Volkswagen.  LOL
  • We are ignoring your core while at the gym.  Why?  Because you can do your ab work in a few minutes, right before you go to bed, in order to jack up your metabolism and burn more calories as you sleep.
  • OK – time to hit the legs.  Your better half definitely knows this one: squats.  Low weight.  Proper form is everything.  3 sets of ten.  This workout hits the quadriceps and the glutes.  No explanation needed on why these are important….right?  LOL
  • Next, find the leg curl machine.  LOW WEIGHT.  3 sets of ten.
  • Last one: wall sits.  x3.
DONE.  You’ve done a full body workout.
 
2.  Running
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Since you’ll have a race or two to focus on from the start, I’ll use my usual training schedule as an example.
  • Mondays, I’ll do a tempo run.  This is a run that makes you work the entire time.  You push yourself at a consistent pace – one where you don’t walk at all.  It’s a hard workout, and it sucks – but it helps to make you faster.  No music.  Dial in to how you are feeling as you run.

 

  • Tuesdays I either cross-train or do a very relaxed run.  Crank up the Itunes.  Slow pace.

 

  • Wednesdays are speedwork. Hill repeats, sprints, etc.  Shorter workout – but it sucks too.

 

  • Thursdays I either cross-train or do a relaxed run.  No time goals.  Just log some miles.  It helps the legs to recover.

 

  • Friday is a rest day.

 

  • Saturday is your long run.

 

  • Sunday you can rest or do a relaxed run.
Tempo runs are done at a pace that you want to run a 10k.  That’s what makes it hard.
Relaxed runs simply shake out the legs.  Take your tempo run pace and add 90 seconds.
Long Runs are run at marathon goal time pace and then add 60-90 seconds.  Example: so if you want to run a 10 minute mile in Boston, you should run 11:30 in training at the beginning.
Speedwork is just that: fast and short exercises.  It’s done at Throw Up All Over Your Shoes pace.
3. Cross Training
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1-2 times a week, change things up a bit.  Go bike riding.  Swim.  Hike.  I don’t care.  Just get some work in with the better half.  Weight training is a form of cross-training, so you can count your lifting sessions as cross-training.  But I don’t want you ODing on running.  Change things up once in a while.  OK?
4.  Core
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Core work:
Right before you crash for the night, take 10 minutes and jack up your metabolism.
3 sets of 20 crunches to start.
Then three sets of russian twists (I frackin’ hate these)
Then 3 sets of leg lifts.
End it with 3 planks.
DO NOT SHORT-CHANGE YOUR CORE.  The stronger your core, the stronger you’ll run.
Thus endeth the sermon.
– Joe

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Bringin’ The Noise…


After Sunday’s crappy performance on the long run, I decided to redeem myself with a long, tiring workout on Monday morning.  Sunday night, I enhanced my plan for the following morning and created a specific playlist that I dubbed “FUBAR”.  By the time I finished on my Iphone, perfecting the sequence of bands that would take turn yelling in my ears, I was psyched to get out there and redeem my sorry ass.

Of course…I had forgotten that I had consumed so much caffeine throughout the day that I was wide awake still…at 10am…. (hey – coffee keeps me sane during the work day.  I drink vast quantities of this heavenly mixture as a public service…so….you’re welcome) …and I was was unable to crash for the night and rest up for the following morning’s effort.  Not good.

I tried to fall asleep for a few hours, to no avail.  So I scratched the concept of sleep in favor of flipping on the Playstation 4 and continuing my ongoing quest to earn the Rangers their first Stanley Cup since 1994.  While it felt good rolling up the points on the New Jersey Devils, I would have preferred a nice nap.  The next time I looked at my garmin, it was 3:45am.  The hell with it.  I turned off the video game, got changed into workout clothes, and headed out the door for a run.  Here’s what I learned over the next hour, while running through the streets of Manhattan:

  • Times Square between 4am and 5am is an interesting locale.  There are more people simply hanging out on corners than you would otherwise expect.  At one point, a dude jogged beside me, trying to pitch me his rap CD.  Is stopped dead in my tracks, let him pitch me the awesomeness that is his music and, when he finished, he attempted to hand me the CD requesting $10.  It was at this point that I asked him whether he had any musical device on his person or waiting for him at home that accepted CDs any more.  He responded…. “ummmm…..no.”  So I replied “neither do I – but good luck with your career.”  BY the time I got myself going, I overheard him tell his buddies “we got a problem with this whole CD thing…”
  • You can score a slice of pizza at 4:30am.  Fresh out of the oven.  Yet another reason why New York City rocks.
  • It’s funny when you realize that you are passing people that have just left a local club and are looking for an “after-hours place” at 4:45am…on a Monday morning.  Do you know what’s funnier?  Catching the expressions on their faces when they see someone running for exercise as they are still sipping that 8th Stoli and tonic with a twist out of a rather chewed up straw.
  • I couldn’t help but think of that old Mitch Hedberg joke when I passed a local dry cleaner.  All of the lights were off, and the front door had one of those signs hanging at eye level, saying “Sorry – We Are Closed”.  Why are you apologizing?  It’s 4:43am, and you are a dry cleaner.  It’s OK to be closed.  It is very rare that someone will pass by at this hour and voice their displeasure aloud about the fact that he / she cannot get a giant Merlot stain out of a Michael Kors tie at this hour…
  • Another old joke hit me as I passed a 7-11 just before 5am.  The neon sign said “Open 24 Hours”…but the front door was locked.  Open 24 hours…just not in a row.  (all hail Stephen Wright)

I got in a 6 miler, then headed to my gym for Phase 2.  Phase 2 consisted of some weight training – 4 sets of numerous exercises that hit major muscle groups, beginning with the shoulders and working to the quadriceps.  I worked my legs last, trying to burn them out by throwing heavier than usual weights on my squats and leg extensions.  I wanted to go into Phase 3 with my legs screaming “YOU ARE A TOOL!”  Mission accomplished.

Phase 3 was a 6:15am spin class.  OK – I am new to this whole “spinning”thing, I know.  But to me, it’s like Netflix.  Here’s why I say that: I am not a huge TV consumer.  I love movies, and it’s been a while since I was hooked on a TV series.  The Sopranos ruled.  Then Battlestar Galactica kicked royal ass (and always will – SO SAY WE ALL).  But its been years since those series have gone off live air.  Enter Netflix.  With Netflix, I was introduced to a series that apparently everyone but me watched: The West Wing.  Now I am hooked on the series.  Better late than never.  (and every President should be like Jeb Bartlett.). So I clipped in to my bike, and off we went.  45 minutes of pain.  It was awesome!

In all: I got in a 6 mile run, 16 miles on the bike averaging over 20mph after burning my legs out with free weights, and I burned over 1,300 calories.  The best part: I had the rest of the day to feel the high that comes with the post-workout endorphins.

…and sleep?  I’ll sleep later.  I hope.

 

The Runners Low


OK, Sunday’s long run sucked.  I’ll briefly touch on why today was FUBAR in a few minutes.

But first, this musical intrude…..

(feel free to hum Gary Glitter’s Rock n Roll Part II to yourself for about 20 seconds before continuing….)

There was an old saying used by Air Force pilots back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, which I recall hearing from my awesome Uncle Henry.  (My Uncle Henry was a Colonel in the Air Force, one hell of a pilot, a badass race car driver, and an absolute all-around great guy – that dude lived one hell of a life.)  I remember him telling me once when I was eight or nine years old that, when a pilot bails out of a perfectly good airplane because of an instance of poor judgement, he is said to have “screwed the pooch”.  Once, while he was in town visiting the family from Delaware, he attended one of my little league games with my grandfather.  I played shortstop and third base (but not at the same time) – so when I grabbed my glove and got up from the bench to take the field, I recall Uncle Henry saying to me “good luck Joey – watch the ball into your glove and step toward first when you throw.” I responded “Thanks, Uncle Henry.” …and then he waited until I took a few steps toward the grass before adding in that deep alpha voice he carried along with him “…and don’t screw the damn pooch out there!”  I laughed for the next ten minutes…and the pooch was left unscrewed for six full innings as we won, 7 to 2.

Damn I thought he was cool.  So cool.  He was one of those dudes that I would strive to be like.  Like a number of other members of my family, he served his country in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.  He was a role model for me.  You know that old saying: “if you wanna be a bear, then be a grizzly”?  Well that dude was the papa bear.  In my mind, he was one of the single greatest influences on my early desire to serve my country when I came of age.  I wanted to be a grizzly too.

My two greatest regrets in life: I never followed my heart and joined the Navy out of high school the way I wanted to, and I did not get to spend enough time with my Uncle Henry.  Fortunately, though, I have some memories – and when I recall them, they are so thick that I feel like I need to swat them away from my eyes in order to see.

So why did I tell you all that?   Because when I finished my long run on Sunday, I could hear that deep voice say that phrase several times in my ear: “well, you sure screwed the damned pooch on that one”.  So how do you screw up a long run early on a Sunday morning?  Well just in case you want to give it a shot, here are steps you can take:

  • Don’t allow yourself to recover properly after your BRICK workout Saturday morning.  Make sure you stay on your feet and walk around all day.
  • Eat a lousy dinner Saturday night.  That means either skip dinner all together, or eat empty calories (like chips and salsa).
  • Don’t drink enough water Saturday evening / night.
  • Then, instead of hitting the rack early and getting the rest you’ll need, make sure you stay up and watch the extended director’s cut of Lord of the Rings –  The Return of the King (damn you Peter Jackson for creating such a masterpiece).
  • When you get up in the morning, don’t eat anything before heading out to run for 3 hours – because if you’re going to screw up, go all-out.
  • Once you head out the door, make sure that you do your best imitation of Bill Rodgers and take off at a pace that you KNOW you can’t hold for more than 10 minutes.

See those six bullet points?  Hit at least 3 of them, and you have upped the odds of your long run turning into a complete pooch screw.  Hit all six?  FUBAR, big time.

Let’s say I nailed four of those items on the list.  I single-handedly invented The Runner’s Low.  You’re welcome.

So: public service announcement: have a plan for your weekly long run.  And make sure it begins the night before.

 

A Brick…..HOUSE…..


The 1970’s had some great music.  Billy Joel and Elton John began to rise.  AC/DC and Led Zep rocked.  Queen.  RUSH.  Sabbath.  Skynyrd.  (OK – if you don’t understand these references, then GOOGLE is your friend – search each of them, pull down some music and prepare gain some wisdom.)

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Rush 1

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There was Earth, Wind & Fire (September is an awesome song)….

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….and there were The Commodores.  Ah yes, The Commodores.  Lionel Richie’s smooth group, before that yo-yo started singing crap like “oh what a feeling, I’m dancing on the freakin’ceiling…”.  This group gave us a song that, to this day, once you hear it you cannot get it out of your head.

Here – watch this…..

For those of you who know The Commodores, all I have to say is…..

OH She’s a BRICK……HOUSE……

…..wait for it……

There.  I bet you did not just read those words – you sang them.  Wait an hour – guaranteed you’ll be singing that verse to yourself.  To those of you who were just affected by this test – I apologize.  I know how annoying it is NOT to be able to get a song out of your head.  Brick House has been in my head since Saturday morning.

Why?

Because on Saturday morning, I spent 3 hours completing something called a BRICK workout.   Some say this specific workout carries the name of a former triathlete from New Zealand.  Others believe that the workout was so-named from B(ike) R(un) ICK.  triathletes normally complete one BRICK workout a week, for a few solid reasons:

  • It forces the athlete to practice his / her transition.  The clock never stops in a triathlon – so, when you hop off your bike, it pays to be extremely efficient during the transition to the run (otherwise referred to as “T2”).  It forces you to walk through the motions of changing your shoes, taking in fuel and hydrating, and getting out there and beginning your run while your legs are still stiff and burning from cycling.
  • It also helps the athlete get used to the feeling of doing one exercise for a prolonged period of time, and then switching it up to continue exercising some the same muscle groups, but in a different way.  Trust me when I say that this transition off of a bike to running is NOT easy – it sometimes feels like you’ve been at sea for a month and you’ve just been tossed onto solid ground.  Trying to get your legs to “fire” – get going at your normal marathon pace – can, at times, feel virtually impossible.

I began my Saturday BRICK with an 8:15am spin class.  45 minutes at an 18-20 mile pace left my legs burnt to a crisp.  In order for a BRICK workout to provide the most help, it benefits the athlete to really work his / her legs hard toward the end of the cycling portion, so that the transition is difficult to the run.  This way, on race day, the athlete can feel some confidence in his / her ability to keep momentum going even after pushing hard on the bike.  After toasting my legs on the bike, I hopped down the stairs to the locker room and changed into my running shoes.  I took in some water and then headed to Central Park for my run.  Two loops and 12 miles later, I was finished.  Done.  Burnt.  And HUNGRY!

….and I sang, aloud, on the short walk home….OH SHE’S A BRICK….

…and a guy walking toward me simply shouted out “HOUSE!”

…aaaaand now I cannot get that song out of my head.

 

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Visits to Da Box over the weekend (otherwise known as self-inflicted penalties for eating oh-so-delicious-yet-big-time-no-no-sweets):

75 pushups and 300 leg lifts.

(Dammit, Mallomars!!!)

 

 

 

 

Slapshot.


The part of this whole training process for the upcoming race schedule that I absolutely loathe is the nutrition aspect.  I need to eat better.  I need to form better habits.  Since the beginning of the year I have up’d by protein intake and decreased the carbs.  I have increased the number of ounces of water I take in daily.  I now pop a multi-vitamin daily (and yes, some days they are Fred, some days they are Wilma, and others are that really cool car with boulders as wheels – that car was badass).  I have drastically cut down / shut off soda intake (after a complete relapse while in Florida and Anaheim).  I’ve cut down drastically the amount of sweets I consume (that sucks too – Mallomars rock).  I log all of my food in http://www.myfitnesspal.com, so I can track my calories and figure out what meals result in the best performance.  I am shocked at how seriously I am taking this.

HOWEVER……

As seriously as I am taking this, I have my moments of “falling off the wagon”.

Here’s the difference between pre-2016 me and the current version (Joe 2.0): I feel guilty when the wheels come off and I give in to a temptation – like I did this morning, by having a chocolate chip muffin for breakfast instead of a sausage, egg & cheese on an English muffin from Starbucks.  Prior to this year, I did not have the focus that it took to stick to a nutritional discipline.  Version 2.0, however, feels that specific emotion necessary for me to improve over the long haul.  That emotion…..is shame.

I feel shame.

…and that made me think of one of my favorite movies of all time: Slapshot.  Quite simply the greatest hockey film ever made.  And since it’s a movie about hockey – that makes it one of the greatest movies of all time, right up there with Ben Hur and that other one with Scarlette, where her big ol’ mansion is on fire….

slapshot 1

The opening scene of Slapshot is a TV interview with with the goalie for the Charlestown Chiefs.  It is hysterical, and it’s why the movie came immediately to mind.

slapshot 3

The goalie, in a very French-Canadian accent, explains all of the penalties in the great sport of hockey.  Hooking.  Spearing.  High Sticking.  Slashing.  When the announcer asks what happens when a player is caught doing something wrong, he eloquently states that “…when you do dat, you go to da box and you sit dere….two minutes…and…you feel shame…and den you get freed….”

I know that there will be times where I cave and have something tasty – something that, calorie-wise, is an absolute no-no.  So I came up with my version of “going to da box….for two minutes”: each time I cave, there’s a 25 push-up / 100 leg lift penalty.  Da box is my office – and it has glass walls.  So if I cave at work, not only will I have to do the exercises, but co-workers could see me.  And….I will feel shame…..

slapshot 2

 

 

THAT Guy.


As some of you may or may not know, I’m a bit of a Disney geek.  When my daughter was very little, we began watching those fantastic animated movies together.  We’d sing the songs in the car as we traveled.  She dressed up as a princess for Halloween.  She loved the stories and how they were told – and I loved the incredible creativity behind bringing stories to life the way only Disney can.  I’m also a history buff – so I began reading about how the company was formed, Imagineering, and Pixar.  When my daughter turned four years old, we headed to Disneyland for her first visit…and we were hooked on a whole new level.  Scroll forward a few years, and we became DVC (Disney Vacation Club) members and Annual Passholders.  We make at least one or two trips to Walt Disney World in Orlando a year (one to run the marathon, and another just to simply place reality on hold and enjoy a few days of laughing and fun rides).

Why do I bring this up?  I have a point – just give me a minute to get to it…

Walt Disney World sits on 26 square miles of land, and it contains four theme parks – the most well-known of which is The Magic Kingdom.  The Magic Kingdom is broken up into several sections (referred to as “lands”): Main Street USA, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland.  Each of these “lands”have fantastic attractions that hundreds of people choose to wait in line to experience at any given hour that the park is open.  There are also some smaller rides (Disney geeks refer to them as “B, C, or D ticket rides”) that people can experience as park attendance increases during the day.  My personal favorite is The Laugh Floor.  It is an attraction designed with the storyline of the hit movie Monsters, Inc., and it places the audience in a small theater that is supposed to resemble a comedy club.  Monsters from the Monsters Inc. movies then take the stage and try their best to make the audience laugh, as laughter is the fuel that helps power their entire city (called Monstropolis).

MI 1

I know, I know – get to the point.  Bear with me – it’s coming….

Now here’s one of the fun things that is done during each performance: a member of the audience is usually selected to simply be called “THAT GUY”.  His or her picture is flashed on the screen from time to time during the short 12 minute show, and the animated comedians make references to him / her as part of their act.  (In comedy circles, this is called a “call back”)  For instance: the monster on the stage, in an effort to make the kids laugh, will tell a joke and then say something like “…well it could be worse, kids – you could be….THAT GUY!” The audience member’s picture is shown again on the screen as the monster makes this reference, and he / she usually the participant makes a funny face – or more frequently a real sour puss.  The kids then laugh pretty hard.  It’s all in good fun.

MI 3

OK – thanks for bearing with me – here comes the point I wanted to make….

Now, from what I’ve been told, if you want to be selected as “THAT GUY” during one of these performances, you can supposedly increase your odds by walking into the theater with a rather grumpy face on.  A real sour puss.  Remember: they want to single you out to make the kids laugh – so the sour the puss, the better.  My daughter and I have seen this show so many times that, whenever we see someone that acts like a tool or is really rude, we normally say to each other “…things could be worse – you could be THAT GUY”.  Bottom line: inside the Magic Kingdom, it’s cool to be THAT GUY.  Outside of it…not so much.

So there I was, putting in a 4 miler this morning on the dreadmill, when a dude hops onto the machine right next to mine.  He then proceeds to set his speed and incline, and sets off on his own solo mission.  Fast-forward about 5 minutes, and the dude begins to curse.  “this is NOT A 9 MINUTE F*&king PACE!!!  THIS MACHINE F*&KING SUCKS!”  He then begins to punch the buttons on the front of the dreadmill – because, as we all know, throwing a jab at the speed button of the machine smacks some sense into it and it automatically begins performing EXACTLY the way you expect it to – and continues to curse as his pace begins to speed up…….and speed up some more……

I guess the dude did not realize that his Rocky Balboa moment must have made the “up”button on the dreadmill stick, causing the speed to increase from a 6….to a 7….to an 8….9…10…and well into that pace that the Kenyans call home.  Unfortunately for this guy, he was NOT Meb, or Martin Lel, or Paul Tergat.  Instead, he was just like me – a local schmuck.  His anger also clouded his rational thinking, as he failed to realize the precarious situation, choosing instead to try to hang with the speedy new pace.  He lasted about 15 seconds.  Then…..WHHOOOOOOOOOP!  The dreadmill chucked him backward and he landed squarely on his butt.

I hit the stop button on my machine, and then hit it on his as well.  I hopped off and asked if he was OK.  He responded in the affirmative.  At that moment, an older gentleman came over to find out if he could offer any assistance.  The angry dude looked up, still squarely on the carpet, and declined any help.  The gentleman looked at me and said “I saw the whole thing – wow.  Never a good thing to lose your temper at a machine.”

My response: “Yup.  Don’t be THAT GUY.”

 

 

 

Ouch.


I loved high school.  I played football, I made great friends, and I obtained a first-rate education that, to this day, opens new doors for me.  One of my favorite classes in my four years at Fordham Prep was Italian with Mr. Dolgetta.  He was an absolutely awesome teacher who used creative methods to expose us to Italian heritage – like playing soccer in the courtyard, taking trips to Arthur Avenue, and learning to speak and read the beautiful language through poetry.  I recall having to memorize and recite in Italian portions of Dante’s Inferno, which paints a vivid picture of what Alighieri considers to be the Nine Circles of Hell.  Well….if this wonderful poet lived among us now, I truly believe that he would have chosen, as punishment for treachery and banishment to the ninth circle, for the condemned to sit atop one of those spin bikes used in class at my gym.

Ouch.

I started my day with strength training.  I love going to the gym early in the morning and having the whole deck to myself.  I flew through my routine and switched to core work, before completing a 4 mile tempo run.  I went home with satisfied smile on my face, like the Cheshire Cat.  For me, a good morning workout sets the tone for the whole day – I feel positive, and the day just seems to move quicker.  Then I stepped out of work for an hour during the evening to try – for the first time ever – a spin class.  As I mentioned the other day, adding things like spin classes to my weekly routine should help me complete Ironman.  I arrived ten minutes early, found my bike, and strapped in.

A few minutes later, we began.

A few minutes after that, I was shocked at how much spinning hurt.

A few minutes after THAT, the lactic acid buildup in my legs caused my quads to send the following message to my brain: “…you are a real asshat.  You said this would be good for us.  Well it hurts.  A lot.  And you are really beginning to piss me off.”

A FEW MINUTES AFTER THAT, my brain agreed with my legs, and condemned the instructor to Dante’s Eighth Circle of Hell (normally reserved for runners that cheat during marathons by taking mass transit in order to skip miles and get a time that qualifies them for Boston, this circle sees thousands of souls condemned to run endlessly up the 59th street Bridge…over and over again…after eating a 5 course feast of Mexican delights…with a single port-o-potty as their only oasis and their water stop only offers Ex-Lax).

After 45 minutes, I was a pool of sweat.  I averaged 19.6 miles per hour for the class, covering over 13 miles.  The numbers made me feel like a beast.  But the bike seat made me feel like I had just ridden a horse from Nevada to Idaho without a break.  As a walked down the stairs to the locker room, my calves executed a clever sneak attack by cramping up.  My quads burned.  And my heart rate slowly lowered from its peak of over 175 beats per minute.

When I finally got home last night, I enjoyed a single glass of Cabernet, as a small celebration for following through on my promise to myself to step out of my comfort zone and try something new.

If your local gym offers spin classes, give one a shot!  They are extremely tough, but the cardio workout is really solid!!!

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