W-T-F.


Well, it’s been almost a month since I’m embarked on my Ironman journey, and what an educational few weeks it’s been. So let me take a few minutes to catch you up on what’s been going on. IN short, however, the past month can be summed up with three little letters: WTF. That’s right…

W – Water
I joined the Reebok Sports Club on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, mainly because they offer all the tools for me to train throughout the year (an indoor pool, an outdoor track as well as tons of dreadmills, and virtual cycling machines that are fairly fancy). Each weekday morning I find myself in the pool somewhere around 5:15am, getting my laps in. The first few mornings were rather humbling, to be quite honest. Being born and raised on City Island (a little island in the Bronx of approximately 5,000 – 6,000 residents), I’ve spent a ton of time on and in the water. So I just figured that the swim portion of the Ironman would be the part of the race that would concern me the least. Now, after four weeks of swimming alongside a couple of Ironmen and Half-Ironmen, I realize that I may be able to swim well…but I am truly not efficient in the water. And as far as endurance is concerned, I have some serious work to do. I went into this endeavor thinking that I’d just need to work on cycling in order to be successful. I was about as wrong as a person can be.

In order to move on to the cycling portion of the Ironman, I must complete the 2.4 mile swim in less than 2 hours and 20 minutes. 140 minutes. That’s all the time I have. I’ve watched YouTube videos of people being informed by race officials that their Ironman day was done as they hopped out of water with an official time of 2 hours and twenty minutes…and 7 seconds. That’s the stuff that nightmares are made of, when you train for this event. Of course, The Tool has begun to show up poolside, busting out one of those really creepy speedo bathing suits and inflatable floaties, along with a neon pink swim cap. I picture the little 4cm tall schmuck sitting on the edge of the pool, laughing at me as everyone makes me eat their wake as I clip off my laps. Each time I touch the wall where he’s perched, he holds up a rude sign: “2 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds…hahahaha”, “you’re as buoyant as a rock”, etc.

I have some real work to do. And I need to get to a point where the 140 minute limit does not scare me. I am NOT there yet. Not by a long shot.

(I’ll re-blog my entry where I introduce The Tool as my main antagonist shortly…)

T – Tricycle.
I signed up for the 2014 Ironman Texas and I didn’t even own a bike. I believe the last bike I owned was actually a Mongoose. I used to love riding my dirt bike….when I was 12. So how much different could this be?

Well….I’ve found out that it really is different than riding my old Mongoose with the thick dirt tires and the plastic racing number on the handle bars (oh yeah – my old Mongoose was pimped out. Big time).

For the first two weeks of training, I hopped out of the pool in the mornings and transitioned immediately to a virtual cycling station where I logged anywhere between 5-11 miles. The amount of sweat that riding these virtual bikes drew from me was ridiculous. Since this is all new, however, this cross-training has been an amazingly positive influence on my running. I’ve noticed an improvement in endurance and speed. So – note to everyone reading this – cross-training is a GOOD idea. It DOES help.

About two weeks ago, I conducted my search for my first real adult grown-up mature bicycle. I went to the local bike store, checked out the whole gamut of selections available (aluminum and carbon) and decided on a Scott Speedster. They fitted the bike for my specifications in the store…and, of course, I almost fell on them as I sat in the saddle for the first time. Unreal. I wasn’t even out of the store yet with my new bike, and I already almost caused a casualty. I couldn’t help but overhear some jackass proclaim “that guy should have training wheels…or better yet, fit him for a tricycle”. Now – anyone who knows me also knows who one of my heroes is: Dr. House. Honor dictates that I had to respond, channeling the good doc…

“Hey dipshit – are you sure you are allowed to be outside unattended? Now go home and tell your Mommy and Daddy that you’ve been a very bad boy. Then go to your room and don’t come out until you’re sorry for what you said.”

The laughter from the other people in the store was enough to change the mood in the store. Ten minutes later, I walked out with a new bike and a free helmet (as a gift for the good belly laugh).

I’ve been steadily raising the daily mileage to a morning ride of 12-15 miles completed in approximately 45-48 minutes. In order to continue on to the marathon portion of the Ironman, participants must complete the 112 mile cycling course by 5pm local time. So if an athlete exits the swim portion of the event in 2 hours and 19 minutes, and the race begins promptly at 7am, the athlete has approximately 7 hours and 50 minutes to complete the distance. This means that I’ll need to average an approximate speed of 15.5 miles an hour throughout the cycling portion of the Ironman in order to ensure that I have enough of a time cushion to transition to the marathon.

So far it seems to me that one of the keys to a successful Ironman attempt resembles the key to comedy: TIMING.

F – Frackin’ Running
While I’ve been continuing to participate in races each weekend, my weekly mileage is now beginning to creep up the way I had hoped, as I’ve now begun the marathon training season with the New York Road Runners Team for Kids (running on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays) and Team in Training (on Tuesdays). I have learned one fairly interesting concept: transitioning from a long bike ride to running in Central Park is REALLLLLLY hard. Your legs get into a rhythm while riding a bike at a fast, even pace. The lactic acid builds up in the thighs, and it’s got nowhere to go as you ride. Then, when you hop off the bike and transition quickly to running, it feels like hopping off a sailboat after being at sea for a month. You have to get your landlubber legs back in a hurry.

The first time I tried to transition quickly from the bike to running….I tripped and fell. Over my own two feet. In front of a bunch of people. Oh yeah – I’ve checked my pride at the front desk and I’m really being humbled by the effort that this undertaking requires.

I’m expecting the months of September through December to be loaded with running miles. Will I make the goal of 2,013 miles for the year? I will try my best. It has become increasingly tough because the physical toll that this effort exacts requires rest days each week – making my required running miles for my active days each week to consistently increase. My weight has begun its downward trend – so I’m close to beginning to post my weight lost and pounds to go. Close….but not quite there yet. Still embarrassed about the amount of pounds I need to lose and my lack of consistent effort to correct my crappy diet. I’m a work in progress, I guess.

I cannot lose focus now. I have to consistently remember the motto of the Ironman, which is simply “I can”……
__________________________

A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of June 25th 2013:

Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 516.32
Miles to go: 1,497.68
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.6 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 189 days left.

Goal #2: Drop to 185 Pounds
Starting weight: way too embarrassed to admit right now
Weight lost thus far: not enough to even warrant mentioning at this point
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to lose more than 25 pounds by December 31st, 2013.

Goal #3: Run the Fifth Avenue Mile in Less than 7 Minutes
Quickest mile run: 7:05 (2011 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile)
Quickest mile run in 2013 thus far: 8:03 (accomplished on May 22nd).
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my speed for the 1 miler by 1:04.

Goal #4: Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon
Fastest marathon run thus far: 5:07:36 (2011 ING New York City Marathon)
Fastest marathon pace maintained: 11:43 per mile
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my average marathon pace per mile by 2:30 (shooting for a pace of 9:13 per mile) in order to drop 1:07:37 from my best marathon time.

Goal #5: Complete My First Ultra
Furthest I have ever run: 29.5 miles (not run during an official race)
Distance of my scheduled 2013 ultra: 37.28 miles
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to finish the NYRR 60k on November 16th 2013.

Goal #6: Complete My First Triathlon
Furthest swim distance: 1,500 meters (June 3rd )
Furthest cycling distance: 15 miles (June 22nd)
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to complete the 2013 New York City Triathlon, scheduled for July 18th. 1 mile (1600 meters) swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run.
__________________________

BY setting some pretty challenging goals for myself, I am trying to generate interest in / donations to The Dream Team Project. This charity’s mission is to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the New York City Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.

If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: http://www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

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An Educational Weekend in Brooklyn


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This journey just keeps getting more and more interesting.

P.S.: I’ve added a new section below which summarizes the statistics for each of my 2013 goals. I just figured that listing some stats would be fun. So….enjoy.
__________________________

A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of May 23rd 2013:

Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 395.2
Miles to go: 1,617.8
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.2 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 222 days left.

Goal #2: Drop to 185 Pounds
Starting weight: way too embarrassed to admit right now
Weight lost thus far: not enough to even warrant mentioning at this point
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to lose more than 25 pounds by December 31st, 2013.

Goal #3: Run the Fifth Avenue Mile in Less than 7 Minutes
Quickest mile run: 7:05 (2011 NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile)
Quickest mile run in 2013 thus far: 8:14 (accomplished on May 4th).
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my speed for the 1 miler by 1:15.

Goal #4: Run a Sub 4 Hour Marathon
Fastest marathon run thus far: 5:07:36 (2011 ING New York City Marathon)
Fastest marathon pace maintained: 11:43 per mile
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to drop my average marathon pace per mile by 2:30 (shooting for a pace of 9:13 per mile) in order to drop 1:07:37 from my best marathon time.

Goal #5: Complete My First Ultra
Furthest I have ever run: 29.5 miles (not run during an official race)
Distance of my scheduled 2013 ultra: 37.28 miles
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to finish the NYRR 60k on November 16th 2013.

Goal #6: Complete My First Triathlon
In order to accomplish this goal, I need to complete the 2013 New York City Triathlon, scheduled for July 18th. 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6.2 mile run.
__________________________

BY setting some pretty challenging goals for myself, I am trying to generate interest in / donations to The Dream Team Project. This charity’s mission is to raise money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the New York City Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children.

If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: http://www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

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Getting Schooled By the Wee Ice Mon


My poor performance during the Self Transcendence Marathon really left a bad taste in my mouth.  The injury wasn’t what got my knickers in a twist; instead, it was the way my race was going prior to twisting my ankle that frustrated me.  My head wasn’t in it.  I wasn’t prepared.  I just expected to show up, flip the switch and go.  I didn’t eat right.  I didn’t hydrate correctly.  I didn’t get enough rest.  I’m just lucky I remembered my pair of Brooks that day. 

 

If I really prepared well and then the wheels came off, I could have made my peace with the performance.  But knowing that I wasn’t ready to race – that was inexcusable.  I need to address this issue, because it’s becoming an ongoing theme as the year rolls on.  In order to address any problems that I experience in my life, I normally begin by doing two things…

 

First, I research the issue.  Like I’ve said more than a few times within this blog – Google is your buddy, so I first cracked open my laptop and hopped on the electronic superhighway.  I opened Internet Explorer, pulled up Google.com, and searched on the following terms for guidance:

  • “Tips For Getting Your Head Out Of Your Butt”
  • “How To Stop Being A Schmuck”
  • “Running For Dummies”
  • Keeping Up With The Kardashians (because the first three google searches failed to provide the necessary wisdom to correct my issues)

 

If studying / researching an issue fails to rectify the situation (and let’s face it – google wasn’t much of a pal), I simply go Old School.  WWMGD.  What Would My Grandparents Do.  Thinking this way normally gets me closer to issue resolution.  So I spent some time alone, and I thought about my childhood.

 

You may not believe this, but I can recall a lot of my early years.  Sometimes in great detail.  The summer of 1977 was one I’ll never forget – the Yankees were referred to as The Bronx Zoo by the New York press, Craig Nettles was my idol…and my parents got divorced.  Now hearing the way that last sentence ended, you might think that the ability to recall many specifics about one’s childhood brings with it a mixed bag of blessings and curses.  Well, for me, that’s not really the case.  My Mom (a.k.a, My Hero – which is a heck of a lot bigger than any idol) handled things amazingly well, where I began to realize that it would me and her against the world.  And backing her up were my grandparents – both of which I quote A LOT while I write.  For two people that never spent a day inside of a college classroom, they both had Ph.D’s in LIFE.        

 

I remember one evening during that summer very fondly.  I took the #12 Bus from City Island to Pelham Bay Station after school, and my grandfather met me at the bus stop.  We went into a cigar store on the corner (that’s what’s now known as a “bodega”, for all of you playing the home version), where my grandfather purchased my daily pack of Topps baseball cards.  We’d open the pack of cards as we continued on to our usual second stop on the walk home – OTB (that’s Off Track Betting) – and place a bet on a couple of racing going on at Belmont, Saratoga, or any of those other locations.  My grandfather would lean over, show me the racing sheet, and say “who do ya like?”  We never played the odds – we played the names.  He would read me the list of names running in a race, and whichever one made me laugh was the one we bet on.  $1 to win.

 

On this one afternoon he asked me who I liked, and then began to read off the names.  He stopped when we read aloud “The Wee Iceman”.  I chuckled.  He smiled…and that was one of the only times I ever recall that huge Dutchman cracking a grin.  “Perfect.  Good choice.  I’ll tell you about the Iceman later.  Let’s place the bet”.  We went to the window, and he’d let me hand the $1 bill over to the cashier and hold on to the ticket stub.  Sure enough – The Wee Iceman actually won!  My grandfather and I cleared $8, and cleared a chocolate ice cream cone.

 

We found a park bench in Wilkinson Park, just a few blocks from the apartment, and I went to work on my ice cream.  As we sat on the bench and I began to drip chocolate on my school slacks, my grandfather told me the story of the Wee Ice Mon.

 

“Joey, I’m glad that you picked that horse, The Wee Ice Mon.  Do you know you the Wee Ice Mon was?”

 

“He play on the Yanks?”

 

“Nope.  The Wee Ice Mon was the nickname of one of the greatest professional golfers ever – Ben Hogan.  Hogan was known to be one of the hardest working golfers – he’d be constantly practicing.  He had a real work ethic, and people respected him for that.  The other neat thing about Hogan was that when he played the game, he blocked out everything around him.  He went into a zone where the only things that existed were the ball and the course.  There were times where he didn’t even know his own score or where he stood in the standings; several times he only found out that he won a tournament when he arrived at the 18th green – the last hole of the match.  While in Scotland, the Scots saw this work ethic and pure dedication to the game…and they embraced it.  During the British Open one year, his caddy was quoted as saying “the man plays without fear.  It’s like he has ice in his veins.”  From then on, Hogan was called the Wee Ice Mon.”

 

I’m paraphrasing, of course – I cannot recall the entire conversation, but that was the gist of it.  What I do remember, however, was what he did afterward.  My grandfather stood up, hovered over my seated frame, looked down at me and said “Joey, remember something: if you wanna be good at something – I mean REALLY good at something – then you gotta work hard.  If you wanna be the best though – you gotta outwork everyone else.  Work hard, just like school.  Every day.  And when it’s game time, get focused.  If you make a mistake – if ya have a bad day – shake it off.  Be like the Wee Ice Mon.  Focus on what you’re going and the score will take care of itself.  Got it?”

 

“Yup.  Got it.  We gotta go Grandpa, Grandma is going to wonder where we are.”

 

He grabbed my chocolate-stained hand and we headed home.  But as we got to the front door he looked down at me and said “Now Joey – did we bet on a horse?”  To which I responded “What horse?”  He grinned and said “…asta my boy”.

 

WWMGD?  What Would My Grandparents Do?  They would tell me that I need to work harder.  They would tell me that I have lost my focus and that I’m letting a poor performance affect my training attitude.  I need to act more like the Wee Ice Mon – I need to train harder and immediately forget the workouts or races that didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. 

 

I need to get to work. 

 

______________________________________

 

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 #8: The Self Transcendence Marathon – PART 2


“OK…let’s get this shoe off and see what’s going on in there…”

 

“You sure that’s a good idea?  Can we just wrap my ankle and get me back out there?”

 

“Absolutely.  Now let’s see…”

 

Off came my shoe.  Both of us watched as my ankle began to swell.

 

“…..wow” was all the attendant could manage to say.

 

“..ummm…yeah…wow.  Now could you tape this thing up, quick?”

 

“….oh sure.  Okie dokie, here we go.”

 

…and with that the attendant began to wrap my right ankle pretty tight with pre-wrap and athletic tape.  This was the first time in over 20 marathons that I actually felt crappy enough to stop into a medical tent for help.  As the attendant quickly turned the tape around my foot, I kept muttering the same thing over and over to myself…

 

“This is about par for the course today.  Some days it’s better to sleep in and watch TV.”

 

“Sorry – what did you say?” responded the attendant – a very nice young man that was eager to help, he tried to make me comfortable on this hot and humid day.  His efforts were appreciated and respected…but in vain.

 

“…nothing.  I was just whining like a mule.  Thanks for the neat work.  I’ll stretch this out and get back on the course”.  I needed to finish what I began.  I didn’t come this far to fail.  I’ve begun 20 marathons before today.  I’ve finished what I started all 20 times.  I may gotten sick at times – I even lost a tooth once – but I always managed to cross the finish line.  It’s never pretty…but they don’t hand out style points along the route.  Just grit your teeth and push on – that’s my mindset once the clock starts.  At times I think that is REALLY a dumb thought process – but it’s the only one I’ve come up with thus far.

 

As I sat on the grass under the medical tent slowly stretching my ankle and trying to loosen it up enough to get in motion once more, I thought back on the day’s events up to this point……

 

I drove from Manhattan up to Rye, New York – about 45 minutes away, across the Tappan Zee Bridge – at around 4:30-5am.  I arrived in the Rockland Lake State Park parking lot at about 5:15am, only to find that I was the only car in the lot.  There were no street lights, so the parking area was nearly pitch black.  I sat in the car, wondering if I was in the right place.  Sure enough, within minutes I noticed another up pulling close by.  It was a brand new two-door black Porsche.  An older gentleman exited the sharp vehicle and walked up to my car door.  “Good morning.  Do you know where to go to pick up our bibs?” he asked.

 

“No – I’ve never run this race before.  I wasn’t even sure if the race was today, based on the turnout.  Why don’t we check out the park – maybe there’s a registration area already set up.”

 

I got out of the car, grabbed my backpack, and we began walking toward the park itself.  I introduced myself to the gentleman, and he mentioned that his name was Gene.  He wore a very light white running jacket and carried a small bag which I was sure held the customary necessary marathon day items: dry clothes, a small towel, body glide, etc.  When we got the park, we quickly noticed the marathon signs.  Everything was clearly marked, so we made our way toward the registration tent.

 

We picked up our bib numbers, wished each other good luck, and looked for a quiet place to sit and prepare for the 7am start.

 

The lake itself is a gorgeous area.  The marathon would consist of nine laps of the three mile path that runs around the lake.  A very flat course, it would be home for the next several hours as I waddled around the asphalt. 

 

Just a few minutes before the start of the race, the field of approximately 500 runners from all over the world (the race’s founder, Sri Chimnoy, was a very spiritual man that found  inner peace through running – and he became a leader/guru that many throughout the world looked up to) began to line up for the starting gun.  I noticed Gene in the crowd, wished him good luck once more…and then it hit me.

 

That racing shirt he wore.  It was red, white and blue.  He was a 50-stater (he’s completed a marathon in all 50 states).  Then I saw the back of his shirt where, in gold glitter writing it simply said “X 8”.

 

My jaw dropped.  Literally.  I needed both hands to put it back in place without biting my tongue.

 

Gene completed marathons in all 50 states….8 times.  Incredible.  I spoke to him very briefly before the race began, and promised myself to catch up with him at some point during the day to hopefully be regaled with tales of his exploits.  Before I knew it, the horn sounded and we were off.

 

The first thing I learned about myself as I began my nine laps was that, as a marathoner, I require a constant change of external stimuli: the scenery needs to change as the miles tick along.  If I am required to run the same path, in the same direction, over and over again…I very easily lose focus on my objectives.  This happened to me at mile 14.

 

The second thing I learned about myself piggy-backs off of the first thing: when I lose focus on my objectives during a marathon, I also lose focus on what I am actually doing at the present time.  This became evident as the leaders came by me along my left side between miles 14-15.  Two bicycles ringing their bells informed us back-of-the-packers that the leaders were coming through.  We automatically moved the far right-hand side of the path in order to give them room to pass.  As I moved to the right, I failed to pay attention to what I was doing…and my right foot landed on the outer curve of the pavement, turning my ankle something fierce.  Fortunately, I caught myself before I fell – but the damage was done. 

 

At first, my right ankle felt tingly – like the pins and needles you get in your arm when you sleep on it the wrong way.  That got me worried.  I’ve rolled my ankle before.  It hurts, I ignore it, and then it doesn’t hurt anymore.  This was different, however.  It hurt, I tried to ignore it, and it kept hurting more and more.  It felt as if The Tool had repelled down from my shoulder, belayed on to my right running shoe, whipped out a tiny hammer and starting pounding away at my ankle like a damn coal miner. 

 

As I tried to keep my momentum going through a weird combination of waddling and hobbling along the right hand side of the path, I could only think of my Freshman Year football coach at Fordham Preparatory School, Mr. Austin.  I was new to the game of tackle football, and was quite frankly scared of taking a hard hit.  The first time I dropped back to pass in a team practice wearing full pads, I took too long to go through my receiver progressions and WHAM.  I got blasted from behind by Ruben, one of our linebackers that REALLY knew how to play defense.  It took me a moment to get up, and Mr. Austin walked out onto the field and asked me “Are you hurt or are you injured?”  I asked him what the difference was.  “If you’re hurt, I’m going to tell you to get your ass up off the dirt and into the huddle.  If you’re injured, I’m calling an ambulance.”

 

I decided that I was hurt that day.  I decided I was hurt today as well.   

 

I got myself around the lake to the medical tent, where I decided to have the foot checked out.  I have four more marathons to go in 2012, and a “Dopey” Marathon weekend coming up in January, so I cannot afford a real serious injury that crushes my chances of achieving my overall goal.  So I arrived at the medical tent and, as I mentioned earlier, he nice attendant taped me up. 

 

I got back out there, but to say I was broken for the day was an understatement.  I began a slow jog and mixed in a lot of walking throughout the final 11-12 miles of the marathon.  I wish I could say I gritted my teeth and ran the rest of the way.  I would have loved to do that.  But I wasn’t strong enough.  It hurt too darn much and the heat and humidity sapped my energy levels from the outset of the race.  It was a rough day – but one that I learned a lot from.

 

I learned that I need to train myself to be stronger mentally.  I need to focus myself internally and pay attention to what’s going on with my body as I run.  I now think of this as “running in the moment.”  Forget that last crappy mile you ran.  Forget all of the other stuff going on that has your head tied up in mental knots.  Get out there and run in the moment.  Focus on your game plan for the day.  Focus on your stride.  Your arm swing.  Your breathing.  In short: dial in to the moment.  For me that means no more running whilst listening to AC/DC, Eminem and Rush.  Oh crap.

 

As I grabbed my backpack and headed toward my car, I saw Gene finish.  What a cool guy.  I did a google search and found this VERY cool article on him – I want to share it with you, because this is one very special man.  (http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2012/07/28/sports/doc5014696dd3d99867763186.txt?viewmode=fullstory).

 

When I got home I tended to my ankle and hoped that the swelling would recede.  I prayed for no broken bones.  I have worked too hard and come too far to have an ankle injury place this year-long effort in jeopardy.

 

…as it turns out, I heal pretty quick.  My one saving grace, I guess!

 

Thanks for taking a moment to read my blabbering!  Remember – you don’t get today back…so make it count. 

______________________________________

 

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 #8: The Self Transcendence Marathon – PART 1


July rolled into August, and the days just seemed to melt into each other. Let’s face it: it was probably due to the daily 280 degree temperatures combined with the 1,500% humidity that hung over Manhattan for weeks at a time. Daily runs in the park became sluggish, and my focus on any particular day’s running goal was discarded soon after the first mile. (Note to my fellow runners: if you are training for an event – have a plan for your daily workout before you leave the house and begin running. Trust me: you’ll get more out of each session).

August’s marathon was scheduled for August 24th at Rockland Lake State Park. Nine laps around a 3-mile route that hugged the water. I knew it was going to be a flat race – but the benefits that the outline of the course provided were negated by the heat and humidity. I was worried about the weather for this one, for I know exactly how the heat and humidity affects my running efforts:

  • I usually start a marathon at a pace that is quicker than my normal long training run pace. Why? Because I’m psyched up and, although I know that I must control my pace early on and hold back, I do not. My brain tells my legs to get moving because “today is the day that I set a personal best”. That’s the message pounding through my dense cranium. And do I argue back, saying “no, you dummy – start slow, and then get quicker as the race goes on”? Nope. Why? Because I’m an idiot. (Note to all Nuggets out there: start off SLOW. Seriously. So slow that it becomes difficult to hold yourself back from running faster. Starting slow will allow you to finish strong. The marathon is all about self-control. I have none.)
  • On hot and humid days, the heat saps my energy quicker than normal. I, being an idiot, do not compensate by taking in more fuel or making sure I ate properly the night before. Two smores pop tarts should get me through it all – that’s how I’m wired. Well all I can say is that I’m an electrician’s nightmare. (Nuggets: take your fuel seriously. Give it some thought. Have a plan for the days leading up to Marathon Day. That way you have gas in the tank for miles 20-26.2. I’m lazy, and my poor results recently are evidence of my failure to properly plan.)
  • As things heat up during the race, my programming also tells me to drink more. Well I am betting that I usually overdo it. I see Gatorade and I take a cup. Or two. Am I thinking about budgeting my drinking properly? Heck no. I just see free Gatorade being given away and I just have to help myself to free samples. I know that I need to follow a specific gameplan for fueling and drinking during a race in order to give myself the best chance of finishing strong. But do I follow directions? Nope. I just show up, eat a pop tart and run. Oh yeah: and then I whine about my lousy performance on this blog afterward. (Again, Nuggets: HAVE A PLAN. Plan out your fluid intake well before race day. Use your long training runs to figure out how much water you need and when you need it. Drink too little – dangerous. Drink too much – also not good. HAVE A PLAN. I cannot stress this enough.)
  • I’ll usually get through the first 13-14 miles feeling pretty solid in the heat. Then the wheels come off quickly and violently. When the wheels come off I usually get nauseous, mainly caused by an abundance of Gatorade sloshing around in my otherwise empty stomach. I try to fight through it…but I never succeed. The crash is complete when I stop shuffling my feet through a water station and begin to walk. All positive momentum is lost…and I become broken. I’ve heard that term thrown around at a few marathon expos over the years, and that one word really sums up the moment. (Ok Nuggets, this is a big one: do not let the marathon break you. You begin the race filled with nervous energy, excitement and positive vibes. Then, as you close in on the last 10k of the race, those feeling wane and you’re left with quiet desperation. At this point, it’s easy to listen to The Tool inside of each of us and say “hey, let’s take a break here”. TELL THE TOOL TO SHUT UP. His goal is to break you. DO NOT LET IT HAPPEN. I’ve let it happen A LOT – and I regret it each and every time.)

The weather report for Saturday included a high temperature of 88 degrees with 85% humidity. After dinner the night before the race, I followed my regular routine of laying my race clothing out and packing a backpack for post-race. Over the past couple of months, I’ve begun to feel the effects of a very full running schedule – my legs feel like bricks, my energy level is low, I am healing slower after long training runs, and I am even losing my mental focus. I had no idea what to expect of myself when I began this quest back in January…I’m learning as I go on.

As I went to sleep the night before the marathon, I realized that the stars were not well-aligned for this one…

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If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409

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….Assessing the Damage…


After my 29 mile waddle around a decent portion of Manhattan, I limped home to assess the damage:

 

  • My feet were sore – well that’s no big surprise.  I just ran 29 miles and spent a good portion of the time treading on concrete.  The slight pain I felt was focused around my left heel – the very heel that gave me fits with plantar faciitis about two years ago.  I told this as a sign from the running Gods to retire my beaten pair of Brooks Glycerine running shoes.  I made a mental note to hit my local running store for a brank spankin’ new pair this week. (Note to my fellow waddlers, turtles, and/or nuggets out there: don’t wait until your feet begin to feel some serious pain to get new running shoes.  From what I’ve read, running shoes are usually pretty good for 300-500 miles.  Then…well…you’re playing roulette with your feet – and The Tool is Pit Boss of that casino.  Trust me: you’re better off spending money on new running shoes than taking a chance and winding up with plantar faciitis, because that injury can take anywhere from 6-18 months to completely heal.)

 

  • It felt like The Tool found a nice, comfortable spot right on top of my head, and proceeded to pound my forehead with a Louisville Slugger right between my eyes.  My head was throbbing – and since I’ve been running for a decent bit of time, I knew what that meant.  I was dehydrated.  REALLY dehydrated.  Although I tried my best to maintain fluid intake, I screwed up.  I took too much water early on, and not enough later in my run.  Dumb move.  Yet another reason to do as I say and NOT as I do.  I highly recommend NOT trying to run 26.2 solo for MANY reasons, dehydration being only one of them.  I know the rules of staying hydrated, first of which is this: if you wait until you’re thirsty to drink water, it’s already too late.  From what I’ve read in various marathoning books and running magazines, one of the themes I’ve noticed was that distance runners need to make sure that they drink at least 4 ounces of water every 20 minutes.  While I have absolutely no idea what the right amount of fluids are to take in each mile, I do know that I waited way too long in the later stages of my run to find some Chateau Bloomberg 2012.  Say it with me: Joe, you’re an idiot.

 

  • I got too much sun.  Way too much sun.  I left in the morning looking as white as my Mom’s retriever, Henry (oh trust me – his hair is white even though he’s technically a yellow lab)..and I returned looking like the long lost love child of George Hamilton.  I didn’t remember to put on sun block.  Why?  Well you know the answer to that question.  So say it with me: Joe, you’re an idiot.     

 

  • My upper back was stiff – but not as bad as I expected it to be. And my arms were sore – but it was a satisfied kind of sore.  Know what I mean?  It was the kind of sore that was the result of a really good work out.  I guessed that the work I’ve been putting in to strengthen my upper body was beginning to pay dividends. 

 

  • I experienced very little chaffing.  Thank the Gods for BodyGlide.

 

  • I was not hungry. Sounds odd, right?  I just burnt well over 3,000 – 3,500 calories, and when all was said and done I was not hungry.  It was as if my stomach basically sent a message to my brain saying “hey dude, you’ve been running for the last six hours.  All of us in here have been bouncing constantly to the point where we now feel like Michael Spinks about 90 seconds into his bout with Tyson.  So forget the delicious dinner.  Just say no to post-race goodies.  Get all of us home and GO TO SLEEP.  Fortunately my stomach, my back, my sore feet, and every other part of me that felt like it was just pulverized…I didn’t listen to my body.  Instead, I actually did something right: I grabbed a cold bottle of chocolate milk.  According to many runners much wiser than me, chocolate milk is supposed to really help the recovery process.  So I grabbed a big bottle of Quick and continued my trek home.

 

After I took a shower I drifted off to the soothing sounds of a wonderful air conditioner.  I felt like I accomplished something – accidentally running more than 26.2 was dumb, I know.  But it also taught me that I could go longer than I thought possible. 

 

Lord knows I’m not nearly as gifted or as strong as many of the runners I am lucky enough to be surrounded by – but I saw some progression today.  I realized that I could dip into my reserves for more when called upon.  Historically, I’ve been the kind of guy that takes his foot off the throttle when things get really tough.  Although I don’t quit – I’ve found myself getting to the finish line with a few drops of fuel left in the tank.  And I regret that simple fact.  But today was different.

 

As I lumbered into Central Park and realized that my watch had died, I knew approximately how much distance I needed to cover in order to reach 26.2.  But I was not 100% positive.  And I didn’t want to come up short.  As I passed my tiny finish line I had a choice to make: say “enough is enough”, and then go home and possibly come up short – or drop the hammer and see just how much gas I had left in the tank.  Ordinarily, I would have taken the easy way out.  But as I crossed the statue at the 72nd street transverse and the west side drive which was supposed to be my final destination, my feet chose to simply keep going.  Today was a day that I chose NOT to disappoint myself.  To see how far I could go.  Granted I didn’t go another 10 miles or more – I only went about 3 miles more than I really needed to – but I kept going.  As I waddled up the west side drive toward the 102nd street transverse, I kept thinking of a saying posted on one of the walls of the Mission: Space attraction in Epcot.  It’s by Arthur C. Clarke: “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible”.  Yesterday I felt like my absolute limit was 26.2.  Today I ventured past my limits…and it felt good.

 

If you really stop and think about it, there are no limitations as to what each of us can achieve.  Walt Disney came up with a process called “Blue Skying”, where he and his team of what are now known as Imagineers sit down and develop an idea.  Or two. Or three.  During the discussion, only positive terms can be used.    The team “pluses” the idea and grows it, ignoring all limitations and thereby allowing the concept to grow to its full potential.  I woke up Monday morning achy yet refreshed…and determined to Blue Sky my life.  That’s why I’ve begun to place that last sentence on each of my blog entries: “you don’t get today back, so make it count”.  It’s a reminder to myself not to waste time.  To stay focused and develop my ideas instead of sitting back and letting them gather dust inside my head.

 

Paul Tergat once said “ask yourself, ‘can I give more?’  The answer is probably yes.”  That’s the kind of attitude I now need to harness.  Correction: that’s the kind of attitude I now will harness.     

 

 

 

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

 

Double Duty


Wednesday morning began with a relaxing five mile run that doubled as a test run for my newest running gadget, the Salomon hydration pack. As I mentioned in my prior blog post, I was thrilled at the outcome.

Wednesday evening found me back in Central Park, mentoring marathon hopefuls for the New York Road Runners’ Team For Kids. A relaxed four miler around the bridal path with the beginner’s group was a fantastic way to end my day.

Each time I run with this group of soon-to-be first time marathoners, I get to hear more of their reasons for taking on this challenge. To one runner, it’s a goal that she had set for herself that meant a lot to her. Another runner was so motivated by the scene on Fifth Avenue last year, watching marathoners fight their way through the last ten kilometers of the race, that he resigned himself to stepping off of the sidelines and putting himself through the hazard the following year. Yet another runner wanted to help New York City children live a healthier lifestyle.

Everyone has a story. And that’s what motivates me to keep coming to each practice. It’s feels great to get a moment to ask each nugget (ok – truth be told I’m a Battlestar Galactica nerd – and, for the uninitiated, on the show they use the term “nugget” to represent new fighter pilots. It’s not a derogatory term – it’s just a real nerdy way of saying “rookie”) (doesn’t it sound cool? Say it with me – using a slight Bronx accent – NUGGET. Now remember to curl your top lip juuuust a bit like Elvis whenever he said “The King luvs ya, baby”. Perfect. OK – let’s move on…) “so tell me – what motivated you to take on the New York City Marathon?” I watch their eyes get a bit wider. A smile cracks each newbie’s face as they eagerly share their motivation for this tough endeavor. I get to see how fired up each of them are to attempt this. It’s fantastic to witness.

BUT, even better than witnessing their excitement throughout this training program is the feeling of satisfaction I get as a Team For Kids mentor. Being able to tell them all about my dumb mistakes made during prior marathons in the hopes that they’ll learn from my errors provides me with a true feeling of satisfaction. There’s nothing better than helping someone else achieve a true life goal.

Some days don’t suck at all.

_____________________________________________________________

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!

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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