It’s Been a While…


After my 500 mile adventure last August / September, I really went into a funk.  I had spent 18 months training for the challenge of running from San Francisco to Anaheim, and the journey was incredibly special.  Friends and family kept motivating me forward as I prepared for covering more than a marathon a day for 18 day – and that encouragement helped me stay focused when I would have normally slacked off.  When the journey began on August 18th 2015, I felt ready athletically – but I almost lacked the the mental ability to exit the car and start running from the Walt Disney Family Museum that morning.  All of that training…and I almost was unable to get myself out there and begin the actual long distance run.  As the days rolled on and we got into a rhythm, getting out there and logging the miles became easier.  Then, as the end of event drew closer, excitement built within me – I may actually be able to pull this off.  When I finished in the concourse of Disneyland, the first feeling that washed over me was “Wow.  It’s over.  I made it.  I survived”.  The Disneyland Half Marathon felt fantastic that year – like a real victory lap shared with friends.  What I didn’t realize was just how much that effort took out of me.  I found that out in the months that followed.

Normally, as I prepare for one marathon, I make sure to have another one lined up after it in order to maintain my motivation for training.  last year was no exception – I was scheduled to run the TCS New York City Marathon on the first Sunday of November.  What I didn’t realize was that I was so emotionally drained that I completely overlooked it.  I really mailed that race in – it was the first time since I began running the five boroughs in 2005 that I simply longed for it to be over.  It is my favorite day of the year within the city, and all I wanted to do was move on.  A sorry state of affairs.

In January, I went down to Walt Disney World to run the marathon with a bunch of friends. That was a fun time, but once more my heart wasn’t in to the race itself.  The running funk had now lasted four months and I couldn’t shake it.  I began looking for answers.

I realized that I pushed myself to another level last year, and I may have burned out a bit on running.  So I set a new goal for myself…one that would be challenging and hopefully kick the tires & light the fires: Ironman.

I targeted the Ironman Vineman on July 30th as my entry into the event series, I purchased an on-line training program, and I set off to conquer 140.6 miles.  Swim, bike, run became a daily credo.  I’d hit the sack by 9:30pm, got up by 4am, and logged my run.  Then I’d hit the gym, and swim a while – until it was time to transition to a spin class.  I’d finish up the morning routine at 7:15am, rush home and get ready for work.  Saturdays were my long run days.  Sundays were BRICK days (days where I’d log a long bike ride and then hop off and run a bit).  (FYI – some say that BRICK really means Bike Run…ICK!).  The routine felt good after a while, and it’s one that I currently maintain to the best of my ability.  However, without someone to hold me accountable – a decent triathlon coach – I failed to see strong improvement in my times for any of the three disciplines.  July crept closer – and I was not ready.  So I backed out of the race…and the tires deflated again.  I needed to attack this issue from another angle…and the new assault on improvement had to happen quick, as my fall race schedule was bearing down on me.

I began to analyze my daily routine and then…it just hit me.  I need to channel my inner Mad Scientist.  I need to treat my training as my ongoing experiment.  So the first thing I needed to do was come up with short-term and long term-goals that I wanted to achieve (because you cannot perform experiments without first knowing what you want to create), then analyze my my training schedule to enhance the process in order to get where I want to go.

First – the goals.  Well that’s easy: I want to be faster, and I want to be able to run longer without tiring.  I also want to drop weight (a dream of mine for YEARS), and get stronger overall.  Those are the long-term goals.  Rome wasn’t built in a day (I learned that from numerous rides within Spaceship Earth at Epcot).  So what about short-term goals?  That was pretty easy too: Finish the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon in five hours, then enjoy a gallop through the streets of New York City for 26.2 miles the following Sunday.  Two weeks after that, finish / survive the NYC 60k in Central Park, and then continue to train for the Goofy Challenge in January 2017.  From there, I’ll develop a race schedule that requires more longer-distance efforts, throwing in my first half marathon with my daughter in April.  A tough 2017 race schedule should then prepare me for Ironman Vineman in late July.  After Vineman….2018 has something special in store that I’ve dubbed the Florida Running Project (more on that much later).

Once I laid out my short-term and long-term plans, I realized that one thing was missing: specificity.  A good scientist needs to have sound attention to detail, as proper measurements are key to improving something.  So I needed to attach actual time goals for each race, in order to focus my training effectively.  So I created an Excel spreadsheet, and within it I began to lay out my daily training routine.  From there, I added one thing: time targets for each run, swim or bike session.  There it was in black & white: specificity.

Now that I had the level of detail I believe that I needed, I needed to develop something to ensure that I focused on my targets daily.  Why?  Because my training begins at 4am and I’m usually a zombie at the beginning.  So any time-specific goals could be written off at that hour in lieu of simply “checking the box”.  I need to think of each day as an experiment, and the experiment would fail without proper focus.  I came up with a two-step process to address this risk: I developed a routine where, right before I go to bed, I write down the following morning’s run goals on an index card. I review it, and then I crash for the night.  That way, I wake up with those goals still fresh inside my noggin.  Then I take the card with me during my workouts.

Another thing that a mad scientist needs in order to conduct experimentation is data.  I decided to centralize all of my data collection from each training session within an on-line application called Training Peaks.  I’ll go over the day’s data and try to analyze what was solid and what needs improvement.  I think there are several factors that need to be tinkered with in order for the day’s experimentation to be successful:

  • Did I stick to my training plan?  If yes, awesome.  If not, why not? Figure out the cause and fix it.  Things I’ll need to consider:
    • Did I get enough rest?  If not, that can screw up the experiment.
    • Did I not hydrate properly during the workout?  If not, the experiment could easily fail.
    • Any pain?  If so, it needs to be addressed ASAP.
    • Did I fuel properly?  I have a tendency to NOT use gels, bars or any other type of fuel during long workouts (2 hours +).  That’s not smart, and part of the experimentation will be the types of fuel I’m using at the crack of dawn.
  • Did I stick to my diet plan?  If yes, awesome.  If not, why not?  Address the issue and move on to tomorrow.  let’s face it: without proper fuel, training will stink.  Throw the wrong fuel in the tank, and training will suffer for it.
  • Did I stretch?  I hate stretching, but I am now learning that it’s a necessary evil.  I cannot stand doing it, but it just needs to get done.
  • Was I mentally in the zone?  If my head isn’t in the game, the entire day’s experiment will crash.  Some days I am fired up, and some days I dread getting up.

In addition to this sort-of high-level analysis, I’ll also evaluate my performance numerically, from heart-rate monitor data to threshold analysis in order to measure improvement.  If I plateau at any point, I’ll be able to identify it…and then further experimentation will happen.  I feel like Dr. Frankenstein.

Now all I need is one of those cool white lab coats…..

 

 

 

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Sometimes It Feels Good To Grind…


So 2016 began with a few fun long weekends in Florida and Anaheim, where my friends and I completed something referred to as the “Coast to Coast Challenge”.  This consists of runners completing a half marathon in Walt Disney World and then another half marathon in Disneyland.  So the first weekend in January, we flew to Orlando and ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.  It’s a well-organized and very unique event, and the atmosphere is completely non-judgmental, making it a perfect first half or full marathon destination for rookies.  The half marathon takes runners through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and provides solid entertainment throughout the course.  The following weekend found us in Anaheim, California, running the Star Wars Half Marathon in Disneyland.  The first 5-6 miles of the course sent the athletes through Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure…and the remaining 7-8 miles of the course wound its way through the streets of the city.  The level of entertainment was not as strong throughout the course at is was in Walt Disney World; however, Disneyland is much smaller and requires the use of public roads to host part of the event – so some leeway needs to be given, in my humble opinion.  That being said – the highlight of the course was the 501st Legion’s station close to mile 9 – storm troopers, Boba Fetts, Han Solos in abundance.  Even the cars were designed as X-Wing fighters, including R2-D2’s.  THAT was cool.

 

Once the bling was earned and awarded, we parted ways and I headed home.  It was an excellent kickoff to my athletic year…but the result of the back-to-back events along with the travel involved resulted in something that I call the The Runner’s Blah.

 

The Runner’s Blah is that feeling you get after the event(s) that you trained for are in the books.  Other people have other terms for this sensation – this one is mine.  I felt the blah as soon as I sat down in the plane to LaGuardia…and it stayed with me for days.  I was supposed to run a half marathon in Central Park yesterday (The Fred Lebow Manhattan Half Marathon), but 24 inches of snow caused the New York Road Runners to cancel the event for safety’s sake.  As a result, I spent the long weekend planning how to wake myself up, shake off the blah and get back to work.  Here’s how I did it:

 

  1. I got on the computer and began to plan out my training for the coming weeks, using http://www.trainingpeaks.com.  This site allows users to link their activities saved on their GPS watches to planned exercises, estimate calorie burns, and budget your time to get the work in.  20131113-110750.jpg
  2. Then I went on to http://www.myfitnesspal.com and began logging my food intake.  This part sucks, because the only way it works is if you are honest with yourself and log every single thing you take in.  The good thing is that Training Peaks and My Fitness Pal talk to each other – so calorie intake is summarized on your workouts, breaking out carbohydrates, fats, and protein as percentages of your overall fuel intake for the day.  This allows you, the athlete, to weigh ans measure your performance versus the types of food you eat.  By using Training Peaks as your daily workout log, you can write down notes on your performance – which will help the analysis and assist you with improvement.
  3. After I got the tech side of things squared away, I knew that I needed several carrots to hang in front of me, so that I would not lose focus.  So I signed up for a bunch of smaller races here in New York City, added them to my Training Peaks account, and set time goals for each race.  Now I have specific speed targets to aim for as the year progresses.  The biggest carrots for me for 201 are Ironman on July 30th, the Chicago Marathon on October 9th, the Marine Corps Marathon on October 30th, the TCS New York City Marathon on November 6th and the NYRR 60k on November 19th.  The strategy here is to maximize the importance of daily training early in the year so that I can perform well in the fall without much of a dip in energy level between races.
  4. After covering these three steps, it was on to step #4: longer-term goals.  I needed to prioritize what I wanted to achieve in the coming years.  So I created my Pie-In-The-Sky list.  On this list I added KONA (that’s my unicorn), qualifying for the Boston Marathon, Marathon des Sables, and competing in the Western States.  Hard short-term goals make me prioritize training in the here and now (helping me get rid of the BLAH), and harder longer-term goals make me keep my foot on the gas.  The combination should make me feel that daily sense of urgency to get to the gym when it opens up in the morning.
  5. Knowing how weak I am from the neck up, my next step was locating a group to share my dread with.  People who were as focused on beating themselves up in order to prepare for challenge athletic events.  I chose to join a triathlon team – The Terrier Tris.  They are well – organized and seem like a dedicated bunch of like-minded alphas.  I cannot achieve goals that I have had in the back of my mind for years while purely running a solo mission.  Instead, I need help staying the course.  By joining a team, I’ll train with people that are stronger than I am – and that will push me to get better.
  6. So steps one through five addressed the physical requirements for the goals I have set for myself.  But like I just mentioned, I am not the brightest bulb on Broadway.  So, I needed to set up a plan to keep my head dialed in daily.  I went on to Youtube and created a playlist / watchlist / whateverthehellelseit’scalled, and I added a bunch of motivational videos.  Speeches by famous coaches.  Speeches by Les Brown.  Eric Thomas. Lou Holtz.  Lombardi.  Valvano (Jimmy V rules – just needed to say that).  I’ll need them ready to go when the fire gets a little dim.  And it will.  Guaranteed.
  7. Last but not least, I needed to address logistics.  Every evening, before I hit the sack, I’ll review my plan for the morning.  Go through it a bit.  Try to picture how I want the workout to go.  Positive visualization should help me get up each morning looking forward to the grind.  I’ll also leave my workout clothes on the floor right next to my bed.

 

Motivation is quite important to me.  Wrapping this up, I’ll share with you one of my favorite pieces, written by Tecumseh.  Tecumseh was the leader of the Shawnee, who fought against the occupation of native american lands during the War of 1812.  HE was killed in battle in 1813 – but he is remembered for basically being a hard-nosed combatant and incredible role model.  According to numerous accounts, he was an incredible speaker, and could motivate his warriors to perform above what they thought were their limits.  He put pen to paper a number of times – and this is my favorite passage…

 

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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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I’m All-In


I’m a movie nerd. Any film that includes car chases, gunfights, loud explosions and/or outer space automatically should warrant an Oscar nomination. So, of course, I am looking forward to seeing the new Will Smith film, After Earth. Things explode. Outer space is involved. There’s a ton of action and the dialogue probably isn’t straight out of a PBS special. Perfecto. Sign me up. So why am I bringing up this movie? Because the movie’s tag phrase really hit me as influential for my own personal activities:

Danger is real. Fear is a choice.

Fear is a choice. The rest of the movie’s dialogue can stink – and that’s OK. I’ve got a quote that use on myself for a long time. In fact, it made me think about my childhood fears, as well as one of the things I’ve wanted to do / become since I was in high school:

· When I was a kid, I was afraid of getting a needle whenever I visited the doctor. Was the pain unbearable? No. My mind just blew the experience up into a far more traumatic thing than it actually was / is. This fear stuck with me through college and even as I began my adult life.

· As much as I absolutely loved being in the water as a kid, I had recurring nightmares of being stuck under water, unable to surface as I felt my lungs beg for a breath of fresh air. All of the time I spent on the water, I hid that inner fear of not being able to surface.

· As I began my professional career, I realized that the ability to speak in public is vital. A professional needs to be able to handle the pressure of a crowd, and come across with confidence. I realized in short order that I did not possess a natural ability to stand in front of a group of suit-wearing co-workers and speak at length about a process or issue.

I know these fear seem rather basic. Maybe even childish / embarrassing to admit. But it’s true. A few of my childhood fears stuck with me as I became an “adult” (please – let’s face it – I need to put that word in quotes when referring to myself). They stuck with me until November, 2005. The first Sunday in November that year, I put aside my lifelong fears of failure and underperformance and was able to push through a physical and mental barrier by running the ING New York City Marathon for my daughter. I like to tell everybody that, after that Sunday in November, my kiddo’s grades began to steadily improve. Well, they did…but that’s not all that happened. I found something in myself that I didn’t even know I ever had: the ability to overcome my fears. After I healed up from that 26.2 waddle through the 5 boroughs of New York, I realized that I could overcome other fears one by one…as long as I actually did something proactively. They wouldn’t go away by themselves.

Some people decide to proactively address their fears by talking to others about them. Rationalizing them. Sorting the out so that he/she can cope with the internal concerns and move forward. I know that I’m not really comfortable talking about my own fears to other people – I think it’s because I’m more than a little insecure. I did, however, need to come up with my own way of re-writing some of my own faulty programming. So I decided to attack my fear of needles by donating blood every 4 months. I crushed my fear of drowning by learning how to scuba dive. And I defeated by fear of public speaking by taking stand-up comedy classes and then doing an 8 minute routine in front of 200+ drunken strangers. Before that Sunday in November, 2005, I wouldn’t have had the (and I’m borrowing a quote from a professional wrestler from the 1980’s here) “testicular fortitude” to face these fears head-on. And if I didn’t have the wontons to address my childhood fears, how on Earth would I be able to tackle something that I’ve dreamed of doing since I first saw it on TV over 20 years ago?

As I placed my significant childhood fears firmly behind me, my confidence began to grow. With every marathon I completed, I have continued to build on this confidence, like a dude playing Texas hold-em in a Vegas casino who’s enjoying a heater. Each time I crossed a finish line, my stack of “confidence chips” got a little taller. Like a decent poker player, however, I needed to know the right time to bet everything and go all-in.

Well, yesterday I felt like the time was right to go all-in, and begin my quest toward something I’ve always dreamed about. It’s official: as of yesterday morning, I am registered to compete in the 2014 Ironman in The Woodlands, Texas.

I used to watch the Ford Ironman World Championship on TV each year. It takes place in Kona, Hawaii, and the television footage used to blow my mind. A 2.4 mile open-water swim, followed immediately by a 112 mile bike, and then a full marathon (26.2 miles). Each year, they would show athletes collapsed on the side of the road, absolutely exhausted, looking as if he/she couldn’t take another step. And then, somehow, this athlete finds it within himself to get up and keep going. It was obvious to me that the Ironman requires the athlete to give every last ounce of heart and courage within him/her to earn that moment when the announcer yells their name and says “(insert a name here) – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!” as the participant crosses the finish line. I’ve watched as participants literally crawled across the finish because they simply didn’t have enough left in the tank to even walk another step. I’ve seen Team Hoyt cross the finish, a father helping his grown son through the 140.6 mile trek (and trust me – if you ever want to read something motivational, google Team Hoyt). I’ve read all about the mental battle that goes on inside each athlete’s head as the long day takes its toll on the body.

For over 20 years, I’ve admired anyone that had the (and I have to use the phrase here again because it just fits) testicular fortitude to train for and complete the Ironman…but I always thought I would never have what it takes. It was one of those goals that I put on such a high pedestal that I lived with the assumption that I’d never attain it. Quite frankly: the thought of even trying to go 140.6 was like Ex-Lax…it literally scares the crap out of me.

I know now that if your dreams don’t scare you, then they are not big enough. Right? Well then, this dream is perfect for me. This one has been my dream for over 20 years. And the quest begins today. May 17th 2014. The Woodlands, Texas.

….crap….I guess I should buy a bike.

__________________________

A Quick Statistical Snapshot of Where I Stand as of May 31st 2013:

Goal #1: Run at Least 2,013 Miles in 2013
Miles logged: 423.86
Miles to go: 1,589.14
In order to accomplish my goal, I need to average7.1 miles per day through December 31st, 2013. There are 214 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: 500 meters (May 24th)
Furthest cycling distance: 5 miles (May 24th)
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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So Far, Not So Good…..


OK – I know I haven’t updated my blog in quite some time. So let me first give you a heads-up on what’s coming up this week. I’m going to share a review of the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, where I ran a 5k on Friday, a half marathonon Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday (this act of lunacy is lovingly referred to as doing “The Dopey”). Since it is already March 2nd, I’ll provide you with a summary of my lack-luster efforts to this point. But first, let me share with you a new goal that I decided on at the end of January….

So my New Year’s resolutions were made official:

· Drop my weight to 185 pounds, in order to be able to take my running to the next level,
· Log more than 2,013 miles in 2013 in an attempt to prepare for quicker distance event times,
· Run the 2013 New York Road Runners Fifth Avenue Mile in under 7 minutes, and
· Run a marathon in four hours or less (hopefully the 2013 ING New York City Marathon).

An added goal for the year is to complete my first Ultra event. An Ultra event is any race that requires the runner to cover more than 26.2 miles. The first one I am gunning for is a race called Worth the Hurt. It begins the night before the 2013 San Francisco Marathon, where a number of runners begin at the course’s Finish line and run the course to the Marathon’s official starting line. The runners try to reach the Starting Line before the gun goes off on Marathon Sunday so that they can turn around and run the course again from Start to Finish. 52.4 miles. Is it really worth the hurt? If I can raise some money for the Dream Team Project by doing this, then my answer is yes. If for some reason I cannot score a spot in Worth the Hurt, I’ll run the New York Road Runners annual Knickerbocker 60k in the late fall – that’s a marathon plus an additional 10 miles plus. This one is easier than Worth the Hurt (because it’s shorter)– but it’s also very uneventful, as it consists of laps around Central Park….over and over and over again.

So let’s throw that up on the board, officially. Goal number 5 for 2013:
· Complete my first ultra.

As I continue to re-read the goals that I’ve set for myself, I realize that my ability to achieve all of them revolves around one main concept: dropping weight. Losing weight has never been my strongest suit. I like food way too much. Tasty food. Chocolate. Wine. Pasta. So my personal goals for 2013, in my humble opinion, will be MUCH more difficult to attain. But if I begin to drop weight, putting in an average of 5.5-6 miles a day will feel like less of an overall effort on a day-in, day-out basis. My speed will increase. I’ll have a shot at a sub 7 minute mile. I will be able to hold a sub 9 minute pace for longer periods of time in an effort to drop my marathon time to sub 4 hours. It all comes down to dropping my weight. And I have a LOT of weight to remove. But before I can develop my plan of attack, I have to dig in and find some damn self-control. Just say no to cookies. I need to say nay-nay to foods that I know are no good for me – which will result in saying adios to loaded burritos, zai jian to General Tso and his delicious chicken, and auf wiedersehen to WMD’s (Waffles of Massive Deliciousness).

At this point, in order to attain my goal of logging more than 2,013 miles this year I will need to book at least 43-44 miles a week. This is going to be rough.

It’s 31 days into the New Year…and I’ve gone a crappy job with regard to adjusting my diet to this point. I need to kick this into gear, ASAP.
___________________________________________________________________________-

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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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