The First Sunday in November…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Yes I did.”

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

He looked at me quizzically.  “…yes?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 17th 2015

You ever have one of those days where you felt unbeatable?  Well that’s how my morning felt today.  I set a goal for myself of a four hour Brick workout.  I’ve been on a role this week, by simply sticking with and seeing through my daily workout plan each day.  Today was the big test to see whether I can keep momentum going – because four hours is a decent chuck of change to spend breaking a sweat.  
The Brick workout began at my gym, with an hour on the stationary bike.  My plan today was very specific, which allowed me to really focus on the task at hand and limit the basic distractions (like “boy I would rather be asleep still” or “I’d much rather be playing NHL 16 on my Playstation”).  I stuck to my plan, keeping the bike above 15mph with 70 revolutions per minute.  After an hour, I had clipped off 16.2 miles.  My legs felt a bit wobbly, so it was difficult to transition to running – but I figured that running outside in the brisk air and playing the part of a tourist would help keep me moving as the clock kept chugging along.
Three hours flew by.  Let me show you why:

I began by running in Central Park.  Check it out – the marathon route banners have been hung! 

Then I ran down Broadway.  Letterman’s studio looks different….

I ran down Broadway to 23rd street and the Flatiron Building.  To all of you tourists coming to NYC, check out Eataly on 23rd!  Yum.

Kept heading south – ran into a NYC street fair! If you are in town and you see one….score some zeppoles!!!!

Kept heading south, through NYU and Washington Square Park…

Into SoHo, past one of my old hangouts, The Bitter End….

As I got closer to battery city, the tower looms over the skyline…..


Got to Cuty Hall and headed over the Brooklyn Bridge.  Then I turned around and headed back into Manhattan….


Got to Wall Street.  Trinity Church is amazing – on 9/11, while disaster rained all around it, not a single pane of glass was shattered on this little edifice.


Across the street from the exchange is where Heorge Washington was sworn in as our first President….

South of the exchange is Delmonico’s – one of the oldest steakhouses in the city.  Check it out if you find yourself playing the part of the tourist one day….


Before heading up the West Side Highway, I paid my respects at the 9/11 memorial.  That was an emotional few minutes for me, as I lost a few friends and associates that day.  If you are a tourist, you should stop by the pools – but please be respectful.


I headed back along the west side highway and called it a day.  

Lesson Learned: have a plan.  Make it detailed.  And then keep your promise to yourself by carrying that plan out, to the letter.


So it’s been about 5 weeks since I finished my 500 Miles for SMA effort in California, and I have to admit: I am still not 100%.

I trained for about 18 months in order to be as prepared as I could to crank out the daily mileage I needed in order to get myself from the Presidio in San Francisco to the front gates of Disneyland.  Each morning, I would wake up, as John Gutfriend (former head of Solomon Brothers) “…ready to bite the ass off a bear”.  (I have no idea where the heck he got that saying from – but once I heard that saying, I have always wanted to use that quote in a blog post…and now I have.)  I would swim, bike, run, and lift weights with a singularity of purpose: I built up my body to break it down over the course of 18 days in August.  After working so hard to prepare for a multi-day endurance run, it felt good to have the work I put in result in accomplishing my goal.  However, I was so focused on this singular goal that I really did not think about how I would keep my momentum going once I arrived home in New York City after Labor Day weekend.

One week went by without running a single mile.  Without a visit to the gym, and my bike gathering dust in the basement of my apartment building.  That Sunday afternoon, I realized that I hadn’t broken a decent sweat in a week -and what’s more, I did not feel the urge to do anything about this situation.  Upon realizing that my focus was non-existent, all I kept saying to myself was “Manache!”(which is Italian for either “oh hell!”or “damn!”).

Week two comes along.  OK, I need to start getting back into a routine.  I have marathons coming up in October and November.  As much as I tried to motivate myself, the pilot light was still out.  Manache!

So here comes week three.  OK, NOW I need to start developing my routine again.  Once or twice, I actually got up early, got changed into workout clothes….and then proceeded to throw on Netflix.  Manache!!!

Finally, as week four began, I was able to shake off the cobwebs and run a few miles.  Each time I went out there, I would find myself shutting down in the middle of my workout.  For example: on Wednesday, the plan was to to warm up with a mile, then do 4 hill repeats up Cat Hill in Central Park.  Then recover with a slow waddle around the lower loop and call it a morning.  I got 2 repeats into my workout without any focus whatsoever on what I was going, when I stood at the top of the hill and exclaimed aloud “…MANACHE!!!”….and then I packed it in and headed home to my Netflix.  I was disappointed at my lack of focus and the way I simply quit mid way though a workout – but at least I actually got off the couch and into my Brooks.

I refer to Mondays as “The Great Reset Day”.  Why?  Because whenever my planned weekly routine went south mid week, I always tell myself “OK – starting NEXT WEEK, you’re going to adhere to the plan and cut out all distractions.  Buckle down.” I told myself this numerous times coming into this week.  Last weekend, I prepared a schedule and nutrition plan, created a calendar that included all scheduled workouts for the next four weeks, and swore to myself that this week would be different.  This would be the week that I lit the pilot light and got some momentum going.  So far, I am five for five: I’ve gotten up early five days in the row and I’ve gotten a serious workout in each morning.  The result has been a change in my mindset from the post-event hangover to a much more positive, energetic athlete.

I”m tired of starting over.  It’s time for me to stop giving up on my workouts and get back to grinding each day.  If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there are 86,400 seconds in a day, and how you choose to use them is critical.  You can sit on the couch and watch Netflix – but if that’s your choice, you cannot expect optimal performance on race day.  Your other option is simple: make a plan.  Make it thorough.  Promise yourself that you are going to stick to it, come hell or high water.  Then…keep your promise.

My Unicorn…

This is a big weekend in endurance sports.

We start on Saturday, with the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  2.4 mile swim, 112 on the bike…and then a marathon.  The gun goes off at 7am.  All athletes have until 9:20am to hit the first transition area (otherwise called “T1”) – miss that cutoff by a single second, and your day is over.  Then the athletes hop on their bikes and crank out 112 miles out in the open Hawaiian sun, fighting the fierce Kona winds (which are known to knock grown men off their bikes).  All athletes needs to hit the second transition area (“T2”) by 5:30pm.  Again: miss the cutoff time by a single second, and your day is through.  Once you make it through T2, you throw on your running shoes and begin your 26.2 run.  By now your arms and back are tired from the swim, and your legs are burning from the bike.  You also become aware of the final countdown: you have to cross the finish before midnight.  140.6 miles.  1,800 athletes, all of them absolute BEASTS.

Now here’s something cool that the athletes in Kona do that I wish other races around the world would embrace: there is a tradition that the male and female winners at Kona return to the finish line for the final hour of the event in order to cheer on the final athletes as they fulfill their dreams.  The athletes that finish in the last hour may have their medal draped over their necks by the champion.  Here’s another incredible fact about Kona: as the sun goes down and the night begins, the crowds don’t lessen.  They get bigger.  They get louder.  The final hour is magical.

This is my unicorn.  To cross the finish at Kona and have those magic words yelled over the loudspeaker: “Joseph Kolinsky, you are an Ironman!” by the announcer has been a dream of mine since I began following the sport in the late 1980’s.  I’d watch this incredible race every year on ABC’s Wide World of Sports (and for those of you who have never heard that iconic theme song for this show, go and google it – trust me, it’;s worth the keystrokes), and see the level of pain the athletes were willing to go through in order to complete this event.  I was absolutely blown away.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

On Sunday, the Chicago Marathon takes place.  Over 40,000 will run this one.  The course is flat and fast, and extremely fun.  I ran this one a couple of times, and it was 5 hours of bliss.

These events serve as an ongoing reminder: impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men.  You can do anything you put your mind to.  It doesn’t need to be a triathlon or a marathon – just choose a goal and work at it until to achieve it.  And if someone tells you that what you are shooting for is impossible, just tell them “…maybe for you it is.  Not for me.”


It’s Been A While…

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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