A Moment of Sanity Amid This Concoction of Lunacy


Dear Reader,

(CAUTION: THIS CAN GET A BIT SAPPY IN PLACES.  FEEL FREE TO CALL ME A TOOL AND FOCUS ON THE HUMOR…LOL)

(I’m writing this entry because the website is asking me to describe what this blog is all about.  So I’ll add this to the “About” section of the blog afterward….but I wanted to share it with all of you first…)

My blog – “Built for Comfort, Not Speed” – tries (sometimes in vain) to document my training for the 2010 – 2011 marathon season, with a specific focus on prepration for the 2010 ING New York City Marathon scheduled for Sunday, November 7th. I’m attempting to blend some simple training ideas, humor and a bit of motivation to my readers through an honest, self-depreciating style of writing. My goal is to motivate others to select and achieve their own goals, regardless of whether it be running a marathon or simply getting into shape. It doesn’t matter what the goal is: the message I’m trying to send is that it is important to HAVE goals and to apply yourself the best you can to attain them. Challenge yourself. Once in a while it’s OK to bite off what appears to be more than you can chew.

I’m not a very fast runner by any means – I truly am built for comfort, not speed.  As you might have read so far (and as you’ll continuously notice as this blog matures), I make tons of dumb mistakes of various shapes and sizes.  I make the same mistakes over and over again.  I make mistakes that even make first time marathoners shake their heads, roll their eyes, and say aloud “you cannot be serious – you actually did……THAT?”  But even though I make tons of idiotic miscues, I have finished every marathon that I’ve started (including the 2007 Chicago Marathon, which turned into a “Fun Run” after 300 people collapsed in the heat and 1 died on the course) – and finishing the race means I acheived my goal. 

The one thing that I want you, the reader, to take away from this blog is the simple fact that there is no such thing as impossible when it comes to human achievement – there are just varying degrees of diffculty.  One of my heros, Walt Disney, once said that “it’s pretty fun, doing the impossible”.  With this blog I want to do my best to motivate you to give the impossible a shot.  I once thought that a 5k race would be impossible for me to finish.  I was wrong.  Then I figured a 10k was out of my reach.  Wrong again.  Then I ran my first half marathon in Boston in October of 2004 to honor my brothers – and I bet myself a package of Yodels (God those things are good) that I wouldn’t cross the finish line after 13.1 miles.  Well I enjoyed those Yodels on the bus home, with a my first ever finisher’s medal around my neck.  This race took a lot out of me – it was the first time that I met The Tool (and those of you who have read this blog up to now know EXACTLY who that little 4″ schmuck is), and he convinced me that 13.1 miles was all this flabby body could handle.  At this point in my life, the word “impossible” was defined as “any race that required me to waddle more than 13.1 miles” – and that definition appeared to be written in stone.  It would take something huge to make me reach into my own personal dictionary and rip that definition out altogether.

Late 2004 – early 2005 was a lousy time for me.  I had hit rock bottom and had begun to dig.  I was unfocused.  My overall attitude was extremely negative.  I felt like I was a ship on an ocean in the midst of a storm, rudderless, with no shoreline in sight.  My hull had begun to take on water and the S.O.S. was clearly being sent to anyone else at sea.  Depression had set in. 

It was at this point when a lighthouse appeared on the horizon.  Its light awakened me from my despair, made me grab the helm, and slowly right my course.  That lighthouse was my six year-old daughter.  When I needed something to guide me – when I needed something to set my course to – there she stood, unflinching in front of me regardless of weather thown at us by Posiden.  And at the same time I needed something to draw me out of my own internal storm, my daughter desperately needed a hero.  And something inside me made me believe that the hero she needed………was me.

My daughter needed to be shown that a person can do anything he/she puts his/her mind to.  Some goals may be extremely difficult to attain – but the difficulty only makes the victory that much sweeter.  In order to show her that “impossible” was just a word, I needed a new challenge – something I felt that I truly could not do.  That is how I wound up running the 2005 ING New York City Marathon.  When I crossed that finish line, the word impossible truly was ripped from my own personal dictionary, never to be included in any future printings.  When I placed my medal around my daughter’s neck as she stared at me with eyes as large as dinner plates (probably because I looked as if I went 12 rounds with Rocky Marciano – my knees and feet were bloody, my hands were swollen, and I had a limp more pronounced than Doctor House), I felt like I was her hero.  When I kneeled in front of her and hugged her, I whispered in her ear “never let anyone tell you that you cannot do something.  You can do anything, buddy.  You just have to want it bad enough.”  5:20pm on Sunday, November 6th 2005: that moment in my life is one I will NEVER forget.  And let me tell you – there aren’t many things in this world that can top the feeling of being a hero to a child – let alone your own.    

I’m hoping that each of you will rip the term “impossible” out of your own personal dictionaries.  Let’s face it – evey time we use that word it carries with it a negative connotation.  Maybe a few of you are feeling like your own ships are dealing with some rough seas and stormy weather.  Well look through your lives and find the lighthouse you need – who knows….maybe something within yourself will cast the strong light from your own shoreline that you can use to guide your ship.  Set a goal for yourself that appears to sit just outside your reach, and then say to yourself “any other day I’d say this is impossible – BUT NOT TODAY.”  Make the goal something that you enter in to your calendar.  Make it several weeks or months away, so that you have to build up to attain it.  Make the goal require hard and consistent work.  And then, in the immortal words of Bum Phillips, “give everything you’ve got….and then a little bit more.”  And then….when you cross your own finish line, whatever that may be, you will become your own hero. 

Since that first marathon, I’ve set more difficult goals for myself in an attempt to show my daughter that if you can do anything as long as you never quit.  I’ll continue to run marathons until my doctor tells me I shouldn’t any longer….and then I’ll run another just to show him that he was wrong.  Some people think I’m a bit….well…..nuts to run as many marathons as I’ve targeted for myself.  And let’s face it: they are probably right. But as I’ve just illustrated, I do have a number of very serious reasons for pushing myself the way I’ve been trying to.  Now I’d like to share another one of them with you.

2010 will mark my 6th running of the ING New York City Marathon, and my 4th running for the New York Road Runners Team for Kids (“TFK”). This is a charity that I believe strongly in, because I have seen first hand how much they are helping grammer school kids throughout the city fight childhood obesity. TFK volunteers empower youth development via running and character-building programs in low-income schools and community centers in New York City, throughout the country, and in South Africa. Please take a look at the charity’s home page (www.tfkworldwide.com) for more information and details on the number of running programs provided. This charity is making a real difference with kids, and I’d like to ask you to consider helping them with their cause by making a donation – no donation is too small, and all donations are used wisely by the organization to maximize the benefit to the children they serve.

Making a donation to TFK is easy. The charity assigns each runner a specific home page on their secure fundraising site. I’ve attached my home page to this post (http://www.runwithtfk.org/Member/PublicPage/1289), in the hope that you’ll consider making a donation. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Your giving helps New York Road Runners Youth Programs to:

  • Serve over 100,000 children in more than 400 schools and community centers with FREE programs.
  • Reach children of all fitness levels and athleticism, with a heightened focus on reaching out-of-shape and overweight kids with little or no athletic experience.
  • Prevent overweight or obese children from eventually suffering heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses that lead to health-care costs in excess of $100 billion annually.

Whether you are a runner, have worked with children, or have kids yourself, I hope you will join me to further this great cause!

Thanks for taking a moment to read this. Regardless of whether you choose to donate to the charity or not please know that I appreciate your support with this blog and, as a direct result, my efforts to train for the challenges I’ve set for myself. I look at this blog as my way of staying focused on my goals, because ordinarily I have the attention span of a gnat.   And now back to our regularly-scheduled lunacy.

– Joseph

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“The greatest pleasure in life, is doing the things people say we cannot do.” – Walter Bagehot

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August Arrives With…..A Thud


Sunday, August 1st ……….The morning after running those 11.5 miles, I woke up with the athletic equivalent of a hangover.  (If you’ve read my blog up to this point, I’m sure that you’ve come to the same obvious conclusion as I have: my porch light is out.)  I was sore – my legs were stiff, my left heel was extremely tender, and my chest felt like a small elephant sat on it.    As I climbed out of bed, I felt like a shorter (yet much more suave) version of Frankenstein.  My legs refused to bend at the knees.  My left leg didn’t want to participate in the exercise of getting me from the edge of the bed to the bathroom.  My muscles were inciting rebellion and my brain, technically the dictator of this operation, had lost control over the masses.

As I began to hobble around the apartment, the legs began to loosen up and the pain in my heel steadied to a dull ache – par for the course as far as I’m concerned.  I changed into some running clothes and put in a very light 5 miles in the park. 

As I waddled through my workout, realized that I should have taken everyone’s advice: once I got home, I should have submerged my legs in a tub of cold water.  Should have thrown some ice in there, just for good measure.  According to articles I’ve read and coaches I’ve listened to, the first three minutes in a REALLY cold bath are brutal – but the next 10-15 pass fairly easily.  Then, once you get out of the shower and begin to thaw out, the lactic acid that has built up in the legs gets easily expelled, thereby making recovery much quicker.  At the very least, I should have iced my left heel.  What did I do?  I sat on the couch and snacked on chips and salsa like a real gavone.  At this point, let me enroll each of you into Joe’s College of Knowledge for a moment – you can use the Italian term “gavone” in several really fun ways:

  • to describe a rude / crude person
    • Vito: “Oh Jimmy!  Check out that chick over there!!!  YO BABY!!!!”
    • Jimmy: “Vito you are a real gavone, do you know that?”
  • to describe someone that takes much more food than he can eat
    • Vito: “Oh Jimmy! I just grabbed us 5 slices with extra cheese and a pepperoni calzone.  There’s one slice in the box for you because I’m a nice guy.  The rest is mine – forgetaboutit.”
    • Jimmy: “Vito you are a real gavone, do you know that?”
  • To describe someone that’s an embarrassment to himself or his friends
    • Vito: “Oh Jimmy!!!  Look at this jacket – when was the last time you saw a real Members Only jacket, huh?  Feel that – that’s real polyester blend!  Between this jacket, my Jorache jeans and a clean white T shirt, I’m ready to check out the opera.  Wait until Lincoln Center gets a load of ME!”
    • Jimmy: “Vito you are a real gavone, do you know that?”

So feel free to work this word in whenever you can.  Its fun to use and it’s VERY versatile.  Thus endeth the lesion – now back to my normal nonsense….

By the time I finished my 5 mile run, I felt a bit more relaxed.  My head was clear (because that’s one of the main things running does for me – it helps me clear my head), and the legs didn’t hurt as much as when I woke up – but they still ached.  I guess I’d consider running 5 miles on the day after a long run as the having “the hair of the dog that bit me”…..

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“Ask yourself: “Can I give more?”. The answer is usually: “Yes.””   – Paul Tergat

The 59the Street Bridge: It Should Be Condemned


Saturday, July 31st ……..So today’s TFK workout was 11 ½ miles beginning in midtown on the east side, over the 59th Street bridge, into Long Island City (in Queens), and then on to Roosevelt Island for two laps of its perimeter before retracing our steps and heading back to our meeting place on 59th and Fist Avenue. All week long I have thought about this run, mainly because traversing the 59th Street Bridge brings back several rough memories of marathons past.

I started running the New York City Marathon in 2005 – so this year will mark race #6 for me. As you’ll learn soon enough within this blog, each of the prior five races I’ve run on the first Sunday in November was made much more grueling than they needed to be – mainly due to my lack of proper preparation. One of my many mistakes in training in the past was the lack of hill work. There is an old saying that “hills are speed work in disguise”…..well in addition to making you faster, the act of getting to the top of a hill provides the runner with a small sense of confidence. Since I simply don’t like hills (I never have and I never will, by the way), I chose to avoid them during training from 2005-2009. They were simply no fun at all. They weren’t easy – they were hard. And most everyone that knows me understands that I cannot stand having to actually work hard.

For the past five years, I have gotten to mile 15 of the New York City Marathon in decent shape. My pace would be slow and steady. My mind would be focused and filled with positive thoughts. Then, after making a sharp left turn, I would come face to face with the base of the 59th Street Bridge. It’s dark and silent, as the race plods along the lower level of the bridge and no fans are permitted along the span. The first instinct is to look up at the ground that needs to be covered and the incline that it’s sitting on…..and that is a HUGE mistake. At that very moment, at the base of this bridge, like clockwork, my inner voice begins yelling in my ear. The things that are yelled into my brain by my inner voice are expelled at such a volume that all of the existing positive thoughts are drowned out by the noise. Every year, that voice sounds in my head. Every year, arriving at the same spot, that voice gets louder. Every year, the commentary narrated by this inner voice becomes more and more negative. This voice of negativity has even morphed into a character in my head. If a police sketch artist asked me for a physical description of this inner voice, my response to the policeman would be the following:

“Well Officer, I see him as approximately 4” in height. Jet black hair, styled in a swept back, spikey, Growing Up Gotti look. Beady eyes set in such a permanent squint that it makes everyone think that, as a baby, he was nursed on lemons. Nose hair that peaks out from below the nostrils – if he sneezes, he’ll look like a party favor. He wears a battleship gray Armani suit, with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, because he still has aspirations of being an extra on Miami Vice. A white T-shirt under the suit jacket finishes off the Miami Vice wanna-be appearance, with his chest hair wandering up and out of the collar. His shoes are patent leather roach-killers with no socks – his vain attempt at looking professional….yet casual. His left ear is pierced, with a gold earring sporting his initial protruding from his earlobe. He wears a thick gold necklace over his t-shirt, with a large Japanese letter dangling from it (he thinks the Japanese letter means “warrior” when, in fact, he bought it from a tiny shop on Canal Street…..and it actually says “I love marshmallows”). Although he never so much as sat on a motorcycle in his “life”, he has a large tattoo on his right forearm that reads “Live to Ride, Ride to Live”…just because he thought that it would make him look tough. Finally, as a finishing touch, he wears a large gold pinky ring with a huge fopal (that means Fake Opal”, for all of you playing the home game) in the center.”

(Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself “Joe, you really need to lay of the Diet Coke, take a few deep breaths, and step out of this Never Never Land that you frequently visit….and join us all back here in a little realm we all call REALITY”. Well I’ve visited that realm on several occasions and have decided to run for the hills each time, simply because I couldn’t find anything decent to watch on T.V.)

In 2008, I even decided to name this inner voice. I needed a name that would convey the hideous traits of this character. The name would have to sound gruff. Harsh. It would need to sound like something a person would mutter under his/her breath when a person cuts in front of them while on line at a grocery store. After an hour of deep thought (and yes, I actually did spend 60 minutes of my life pondering an appropriate name for my inner voice), I came up with what is, in my opinion, the verbal embodiment of my inner negativity. I dubbed him……….The Tool.

So each year, from 2005 – 2009, The Tool would appear on my left shoulder as I arrived at the base of this bridge. He would walk up my shoulder and arrive at my ear and, within moments, begin spewing negativity with his cackling voice at such volume that it drowned out any music playing on my Ipod. The inner conversation would begin with simple prods…but, by the time I made it half way up the incline, my body would begin to feel like shutting down. A sample of the heckling I would receive would sound like this:

The Tool: “Hey, hey!! Good to be back!! What’s it been – a year? We need to hang out more often. Why do we always meet at the same spot?”

My Brain: “Oh – it’s YOU. I’m busy. Come back later.”

The Tool: “Wow. Always the same place. Yup. This is it. The 59th Street Bridge. The Gateway to Manhattan, as far as this race is concerned. You must be psyched! Too bad you didn’t train on hills though. This one is HUGE.”

My Brain: “Thank you, Captain Obvious. Now shut up. I’m working here. I’ve just started the ascent and I actually feel pretty darn good.”

The Tool: “I know you started the ascent – I’m on your shoulder and I can see. But wow – that’s a long way up. And you’ve already run 15 miles. What was your longest training run? 12 miles? On a flat surface? You know you aren’t ready for this one.”

My Brain: “It was 14 miles. And I’m fine. Now shut up.”

The Tool: “Well the least they could do is provide water on this bridge. But they don’t. And you look thirsty.”

My Brain: “I am. Now stifle it.”

The Tool: “Wow. No hill training. You are now running farther than your longest training run. And no water. How the heck are you doing this?”

My Brain: “I’m fine. Please shut up.”

The Tool: “So if I’m doing the math right, once you get to the top, you still more than 10 miles to go. And those hills coming up on First Avenue – they are always rough. This race is only going to get harder. Don’t you think you should just shut it down for a bit and walk?”

My Brain: “Once I do that, I’m screwed. You know it. I know it. I’m half way to the top. Now shhhh.”

The Tool: “Half way to the top means you still have all of this incline to go. We need to conserve some energy. Speaking of energy – don’t you think we should have eaten a better dinner last night?”

My Brain: “PLEASE SHUT UP.”

The Tool: “No water. All this hill to go. 10 miles more. More hills coming. 15 miles already in. No hill training. 12 mile long run was your max. Dude…..you’re screwed.”

My Brain: “God this hurts.”

 ……………….and with that, I downshifted to a steady walk. And once you downshift to walking during a marathon, it is virtually impossible to re-ignite your inner fire and get running at your planned pace again. So, this bridge has historically been the location of the race where my wheels have come off, turning the remaining 10 miles into a death march for me.

I made myself a promise this year, that I would train harder than ever for this year’s race, meaning that I would get my lazy rear-end to organized practices religiously and do the required work – no short cuts. So as the small group I was a part of made the turn 10 miles into this long training run to come face to face with the bridge, The Tool showed up again. He looked around, and noticed that I wasn’t alone. I had teammates with me, all of which knew how this bridge beat me each time I’ve run it. Earlier in the run, they promised to help spur me on up this hill, and they were being true to their word. The Tool paused for a moment on my shoulder, not exactly knowing how to deal with the change in circumstances. He saw that I wasn’t alone – that I had a supporting cast with me, and they appeared focused and determined. Then he looked at my expression – and saw a look that he wasn’t used to seeing: confidence. At that moment, he felt like a grammar school student that studied for a history test all night long, only to arrive at school the next morning to find out that he had a science test that day. He decided that he didn’t like performing in front of a live audience…and with a “poof”, he vaporized into thin air, leaving me to conquer the bridge for the first time in my life.

I began getting slower as the crest of the bridge came into view. Noticing that I was slowing down, my teammate, Nina, yelled out “don’t you dare stop!!! Get going!!!!” As a reflex action, I went to my arms and fought the rest of the way. I had arrived. As I coasted down the bridge and on to 60th street, the sense of pride I felt was electrifying. I have turned the corner. I officially have found some level of positive momentum in my training to build on. After stretching, I went home and realized that my heel was really barking at me. I iced it well and looked forward to the coming week’s workouts. 11 ½ miles. The Bridge. A consistent pace of 10:15 – 10:30 per mile throughout. A gorgeous Saturday – no humidity, temperature in the 70’s, and a light breeze just when I needed it. What a way to end a month.

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

Let’s Get This Week Over With


Wednesday, July 28th – Friday, July 30th…….So I skipped my Wednesday TFK workout for the chance to take my Mom out for dinner for her birthday. I needed to take a second training day off to further assist my left heel in the healing process. But not wanting to dismiss a scheduled workout, I set out solo on Friday evening to execute the team’s weekly speed work training after hitting the gym for a bit and lifting weights. It’s strange – I understand why there are mirrors in the gym – so that people can see their posture and technique whilst performing the various exercises with dumbbells and other equipment. It’s a fantastic concept…for a human being whose brain works according to the design. There is one issue though: my brain does NOT work normally. The cheese fell off my cracker a long time ago. The elevator doesn’t go to the top floor. I’m a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic. (OK, lab rats – here’s your chance: what other sayings can you come up with to describe a guy who really needs a check-up from the neck….up?)

As I stand in front of this huge floor to ceiling mirror and select the 70 pound dumbbells to perform shoulder shrugs with (and for all of you playing the home game, a shoulder shrug exercise is designed to work the neck and shoulder muscles. You hold the 2 dumbbells in your hands and let your arms fall to your sides. Then you quite literally shrug your shoulders 10 times in a row, as if you are saying “how the hell should I know?” to someone…..ten times in rapid succession), I am basically forced to stare at myself. Now I don’t know about you, but I hate it when anyone ELSE stares at me – so staring at MYSELF quickly starts a mental argument between the two hemispheres of my brain: the Left side of the brain being the analytical side, and the Right side being the creative side. I’ll try to provide the Cliff Notes version of this argument…..

Left: (speaking to himself, but rather loudly) “Wow – this shirt makes us look heavy. I do not like the rather asymmetrical geometric shape that this shirt provides the illusion of.”

Right: (overhears Left mumbling to himself and decides to chime in) “Loosen up! Stop being so inflexible! Besides, the most important thing is how comfortable it feels on us.”

Left: (getting his synapses out of joint due to the unsolicited feedback) “Look Mr. Creativity – Mr. the Cup is Half Full – Mr. Who Gives a Crap about the Details – the angles are all wrong. Look at us in this mirror. Our goal is to develop a more triangular shape to our frame, yet this shirt makes us look like……well….like an oval. Do you understand that the oval isn’t a very attractive shape?”

Right: “Stop complaining – we are trying to finish our third set of 10 repetitions, and I cannot hear us mentally count.”

Left: (Cracking an insulted tone of mental voice) “Are you saying that I can’t multi-task? I know exactly how many reps we’ve done.”

Right: (Sarcastically) “Oh you do? Well look at our face. It’s bright red. And see the furrowed brow? We’re wondering just how many reps that last one represented. Nice going, Mr. I Know How to Count – Mr. Precision – Mr. Attention to Detail….”

Medulla: (In a condescending tone of electric impulse) “Both of you please shut up. You’re going to give us all a migraine.”

Left: “Technically, Med – may I call you Med? Because your full name sounds like a Greek demi-god that turned her victims to stone with a glance – you are correct. The constant bickering between myself and my not-so-better half does cause us to develop the mental equivalent of charliehorse.”

Right: “Well if my other half would stop over-analyzing every little……”

Shoulder Blades: (in unison) “Idiots. That was 19. You just overworked me. You really are the Three Stooges of this poor excuse of an athlete.”

……and with that, I put the 70lb dumbbells away, and moves on to complete my routine, completely unaware of what was to follow.

After going to the gym, it was time to leave the office for the weekend – and what better way to begin the weekend than by taking a light run through the park. So I changed into my running clothes, grabbed my ipod and left my apartment with a spring to my step that the simple concept of Friday afternoons place in my feet. At about the three mile mark I came to one of the more draining hills on the course – so I began to swing my arms the way the coaches taught me….and that’s when I felt the ache. I over-worked my shoulders and neck at the gym. I did too much. I pushed through the five miles without any form of real injury, but the lesson was learned: try not to over-train. It can lead to a serious injury that would force you to miss training sessions that are key to the overall marathon preparation process.

I went to bed sore all over….which wasn’t exactly the smartest move ever made. Why? Because at 7am Saturday morning I come face-to-face with the 59th Street Bridge for the first time in the training program. This bridge was been the bane of my existence each of the past 5 years running this marathon. It comes at the 15 mile mark of the race, waiting for you to make the sudden left turn onto its ramp. We’ve looked each other in the eye 5 times now…and each time I’ve been the one to blink first. Well not tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m going to layeth the smacketh down on that bridge’s roody-poo candy ass. (Wow – I cannot believe I’ve resorted to using catch phrases of retired famous professional wrestlers. I had indeed hit rock bottom and have begun to dig).

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“What matters is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Tuesdays Don’t Suck as Much as Mondays…..


Tuesday, July 27th…….So after a very tough but rewarding Monday evening TFK tempo run, I am sent off on my own to do a level of cross training on Tuesday. The form of cross training that I would most prefer to indulge in is swimming. I was born & raised on the water, so when I am in the water I feel like I am in my element. Unfortunately, there are no Olympic size swimming pools here in Manhattan which I have access to. So I find solace in the fact that my company has a gym available to me whenever I get the urge to work out.

At around 3pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I grab my gym clothes and head upstairs. As I listen to a blend of Clapton, AC/DC, Rush, Fuel, Muse, Dave Matthews, John Denver (kidding – just thought I’d try to slip one by you), Luadcris and Shinedown, I go through my motions. My routine includes a mixture of dumbbells, machines and floor work (just a really cool way of saying that I lay on the floor to do my abs workout). My routine consists of exercises to condition the neck, shoulders, back, chest, and arms. To top off my routine, I perform abdominal exercises for approximately 15 minutes. By the end of workout I’ve broken a pretty decent sweat.

From the various books I’ve read about training for any distance event, proper cross training appears to be pretty important. Think about it: a turtle like me – a guy that’s definitely built for comfort, not speed and that has a goal of finishing the marathon in November in 4:45 – will be running consistently for 285 minutes. That’s 285 minutes of swinging my arms forward and back to maintain momentum. That’s 285 minutes of focusing on my running form to maximize the amount of oxygen that I take into my lungs. That’s 285 minutes of stress on my upper body in addition to my legs. Running on my own and with TFK all week ensures that my legs are ready to go and that I have the necessary level of endurance to handle the challenge. Cross training days like these ensure that my upper body can handle what I’m going to throw at it.

It’s less than 100 days until Marathon Sunday, November 7th 2010. My Superbowl. That also means that I am just 3 weeks away from my first true test of the year: running at altitude in Edmonton, followed 5 weeks later with the Hartford Marathon. These two runs will be a great barometer for me leading up to the Big Day.

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“Tough times don’t last but tough people do.” – A.C. Green

In the Immortal Words of Billy Shakespeare: Mondays Suuuucketh


Monday, July 26th…..This week begins with a tough 5 ½ mile “tempo run” on the soft dirt of the Central Park bridal path.  TFK meets at 6:15pm, and begin with a ½ mile warm up jog.  Now that may sound strange, because we go for a run…before we go for our run.  But from what I have learned from our coaches, in order to optimize our performance during practice, it’s best to raise the runner’s heart rate before taking off on this cozy little jaunt.

 After a bit of stretching and that ½ mile warm up, I ran with a group of TFKers that hoped to pace themselves between 9:30 – 11 minutes per mile.  I figured that a 10:30 pace would suit me perfectly, as it would not be overly stressful on my left heel.  I am developing a fairly nasty case of plantar fasciitis, which is a bruising of the ligaments that run directly under the heel pad of your foot.  This injury is rather tricky, as the pain goes away as you run, and then shows up BIG TIME when you try to get out of bed the very next morning.  The way I treat this injury is by slightly slowing my pace on any run that doesn’t involve TFK, and icing my left heel under my desk during the day and nightly as I watch TV.  These simple treatments have helped just enough to keep me up and training without any longer-term layoffs.

 This 9:30 – 11 min per mile pace group started off rather quickly, clipping off the first 2 miles at a 10:10 pace.  I stayed in the center of the pack, feeling quite comfortable and actually “running with my head” – which means that I was able to actually think about my technique, my form, and my heart rate.  My arms were pumping forward and back, making sure that I didn’t cross them in front of my chest.  My posture was straight, but not rigid.  My strides were crisp and I was able to keep my heart rate under control my breathing deeply into my nose and out of my mouth.  Yes sir – the first 2 miles felt fantastic.  But what’s that saying about all good things? 

 As we began reeling in our third mile of the evening, the group’s pace quickened.  Now we were running at a 9:30 pace.  I focused on my heart rate and tried my best to stay within the center of the group.  My goal this year is to get faster – and the only real way to do that is to push yourself by running with people that are faster than you.  This was exactly what I was doing this evening by running with this pace group, as the fourth mile began with a pace of 9:10.  Now I began to struggle.  The wheels were falling off.

 I began to drift back from the pack, as their pace quickened even more during the last mile, clocking in at approximately 8:40.  I staggered in to the finish near the TFK meeting spot about 3 minutes after the rest of the group.  I felt a mixture of frustration (because I couldn’t keep with the group for the entire workout) and joy (because I did stay with the group for as long as I did).  We finished practice with light stretching and some core work that left my stomach achy.

As I walked home from practice, my left heel had a brief conversation with my brain.  It went a little something like this:

 Heel: “Just a little FYI – I’m about to send you an instant message.  Be on the lookout for it, OK?”

 Brain: “Hey!  Good hearing from you!  What’s the topic?”

 Heel: “Well I’ll let you read all the details yourself – but here’s the Cliff Notes version.  You pushed me too hard today.  I’m rather upset about it.  Cranky would even be a better way to put it.  As a union employee of this body, I’m choosing to go on strike.”

 Brain: “Now wait a second – that’s not fair.  At least let me hear your demands before you “walk out”.  Get it?  “Walk out”?  How funny am I….?”

 Heel: “Here are my demands.  Call a cab.  RIGHT NOW.  I don’t want to take another step.”

 Brain: “That’s it?  That’s your only demand?”

 Heel: “Yup.  Quick and simple.  So what’s it going to be?”

 Brain: “Well…..I’d rather walk home.  It’s better save the money….”

 Heel: “OK – that’s it.  I’m on strike as of……right……NOW.”

 …….and at that moment, it felt as though I stepped on a knife.

 Have you ever experienced your leg “falling asleep”?  Well that’s how my left heel felt.  I couldn’t place any body weight on it.  I went from limping to literally hopping across 81st Street heading west.  I sat down on the stoop of a very fine-looking hotel across the street from the American Museum of Natural History, just to make sure I didn’t topple over.  Within moments, the doorman came out to ask me to get up and keep moving.  Since my cranky button was pushed, the doorman and I had a lovely little exchange.  Would you care to read about it?  No?  Well I’m going to share it with you anyway:

 Doorman: (very politely) “Excuse me sir – are you a guest here?”

 Me: (Not as polite and professional) “ummmm…..NO.  Why?”

 Doorman: (thin grin cracking across his face) “If that’s the case, I need to ask you to remove yourself from these steps.”

 Me: (not grin AT ALL on my face) “Well I would if I could walk.  I just injured my foot.”

 Doorman: (the thin grin replaced with a blank expression) “Well you cannot rest here.  Plus – you’re sweating all over the concrete.”

 Me: (the bells went off in my head – time to layeth the verbal smacketh down) “First off – does it LOOK like I’m resting?  I’m really hurting and it was either sit for a moment right here, or risk falling in front of your pretty little hotel.  Now you see those two cracks in the pavement?  Well my story would be that I tripped on one of them.  And of course, I’d be worried about other people’s safety – so I’d obviously do the necessary thing and call my doctor…and then my lawyer.  Secondly: buy yourself a nose hair trimmer, because when you sneeze I bet you look like a party favor.”

 Doorman: “Wow.  Now that was just wrong.  Why did you have to bring my nose hair into this conversation?”

 Me: “Well why did you have to make me crankier than I already was?”

 Doorman: “We have a stalemate.  I’m Chuck.”

 Me: “Hi Chuck – I’m Miserable.”

 Doorman: “Nice to meet you – want some water?”

 ……..ah, New Yorkers.  We all have an inner wiseass pre-programmed into are biological hard drives.  Yet we also have the innate ability to appreciate creative sarcasm.

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“Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.”    – Doug Larson

Music Soothes the Savage Tool


Sunday, July 25th….After a rough 9 miles in the heat & humidity on Saturday, Sunday is a welcome change. The humidity broke overnight, and the temperature dropped just enough to ensure that this morning’s recovery run doesn’t turn into a stress test. I got out of the apartment early, threw on my Ipod and took off around the outer loop of Central Park.

Sundays are special for me, as this is really the one time all week that I do not concern myself with mileage, pace, or duration. It’s also one of the only times during the week that I run while listening to music. In the past, the only way I could enjoy running was by plugging my ears with two tiny speakers and shuffling my feet to the soft, delicate sounds of AC/DC, Pearl Jam, and Rush. My pace would change based on the beat in my ears, and my focus would be solely on the music – not the exercise. The resulting workouts were always helter-skelter, with no game plan in place. As a result, I feel like I never really saw a marked improvement in my performance from 2005 – 2008. This year, by working with TFK 3 times a week, I am learning to push my body faster by running with a group, while listening to my body as I exercise. The end result has been noticeable: I’ve been getting faster and my running form has greatly improved.

With all of that said, once a week I take time for myself to blast my music in my ears as I log some miles in the warm morning sun. I start off at the 85th Street entrance to Central Park off of Central Park West, and work my way counter-clockwise around the outer loop, which is roughly 6 miles in overall distance. I allow myself to breathe deeply and shift my pace according to my mood, which is determined by the music and how my body is feeling. My pace starts off quickly, as my playlist begins with theme music from the movie “The Transformers”. (Now I know that sounds really strange – but the first two songs are entitled “Autobots” and “Arrival on Earth”. These titles sounds like they belong on a 10 year-old’s playlist, I’m sure….and maybe a part of me really still is 10 years old. But there is something about the nobility inherent within of the sound of French horns combined with the sense of urgency provided by the underlying strings within these two instrumentals that gets my blood going. Go ahead and call me weird – because I call myself a lot worse). My pace quickens yet again as music from Motorhead, Rush, Fuel, and Pearl Jam fill my ears. Then the pace settles into a nice steady rhythm as the “music” portion of my playlist ends and I begin running to the various military cadences. The consistent droning in my ears of drill sergeants gets me up the east side of the outer loop, to the base of Harlem Hill (which in the northwest corner of the park). As I see the base of the Hill in the distance, I switch back to proper music to motivate me up the hill. The theme songs from Superman and The Natural seem to do it for me. As I head south down the west side drive of the outer loop, I look for my finishing music: the soundtrack from the original Pirates of the Caribbean film. I clipped off six miles in just under an hour. My legs felt loose and I left the park with a clear head – which is another great benefit of these solo, introverted runs.

These types of recovery runs are important because they allow me to stretch my legs out the day after a rough workout. They also are a prime opportunity to try out new running gear, break in new running shoes, or try something different. Today I tried a new pair of Nike running shorts. While they felt comfortable whilst standing still , they also had what I’d like to refer to as a “sense of adventure” while I was in motion. What do I mean by a “sense of adventure”? Well these shorts decided to boldly go where not even my primary care physician is permitted to explore. Bottom line: running six miles is hard enough – running it while strategically fending off an atomic wedgie is just not fair. So there are some Sundays where I am my own “lab rat”.

That last statement made me think. Since I become my own “lab rat” on Sundays, and you all are coming along for the ride, I guess that makes all of you honorary lab rats as well. So, lab rats, here’s my first question to each of you:

You’re at the bottom of a horrid-looking hill. You need one song to help motivate you up to the crest. Which song on your ipod do you select?

I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts!

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“It hurts up to a point and then it doesn’t get any worse.” – Ann Trason