Gearing Up For The Five Boroughs


Once I crossed the finish line in Chicago, my thoughts immediately went to November 4th.  The 2012 ING New York City Marathon.  My Superbowl.  The best day of the year to be in the Big Apple. 

 

The Saturday morning after the Chicago Marathon, I mentored the Team For Kids 20 mile run.  This is the longest run that the soon-to-be marathoners will complete prior to commencing the tapering process (the steady decrease in weekly mileage during the three weeks leading up to race day).  First timers are usually nervous before the run starts, as this is the run that could very well introduce them to The Wall. 

 

For those of you playing the home game, let me give you an extremely high-level description of The Wall.  The night before a marathon, runners usually each a generous portion of carbo-loaded goodness (i.e., pasta pasta pasta!!!).  This builds up their glycogen stores and prepares them for the huge calorie burning endeavor coming up the following morning.  Marathon morning arrives, and the runner will have some additional carbohydrates (Pop Tarts are my favorite choice), to basically top off the gas tank before the gun goes off.  The gas tank of a marathoner can hold approximately 2,000 calories of energy. Now the runner takes off on his 26.2 mile quest.  With each mile that he/she runs, approximately 100 calories are burned.  So somewhere around mile 20, the gas tank becomes bone dry.  It is at this point in the race where the mind insists that the body continue on its present course, and the body responds by searching for an alternative source of fuel.  Fortunately, we do have one – our body fat.  But here’s the problem with switching to fat as the body’s primary fuel source: it sucks.  From all I’ve read in books and magazines, it sounds like fat is much less efficient.  So when this internal switch is “flipped” and the body transitions from burning a good fuel source to a lousy one, the runner’s energy level crashes.  Stuff like energy gels and gummy-chewy energy blocks help the runner if taken in time…but personally I find them to be the equivalent of trying to hold back a train with duct tape.     

 

Before I go on, I have to share my favorite quote regarding the feeling of hitting The Wall: 

 

“It felt like an elephant had jumped out of a tree onto my shoulders and was making me carry it the rest of the way in.”—Dick Beardsley, speaking of hitting “The Wall” at the second marathon of his career, the 1977 City of Lakes Marathon.

 

Personally, The Wall is one of the main reasons I run.  (I just re-read that brief sentence and I agree – that does indeed sound stupid…but it’s true).  I like going past 20 miles because I know that is supposed to be my physical limitation.  When you push past something that is supposed to be your limitation, you extend your own possibilities.

 

(I read a pretty solid article about The Wall, and I’d like to share it with you: http://www.marathonandbeyond.com/choices/latta.htm)

 

We met in Central Park before 7am, broke up into pace groups, and took off around Manhattan.  Down the east side, around Battery Park, up the west side to almost 125th street, and then back down into Central Park to wrap it up.  I enjoy running with the beginner group because it’s made up of just that – almost all of the runners in the group had never run 20 miles before that day.  And one of the things I love the most about this sport is being able to help others achieve something that they never thought they could.  It’s incredible to watch someone wrap up their first 20 mile long training run, and realize that they are now really ready to tackle the marathon.  They leave practice exhausted…yet pumped up.

 

One week later, Team For Kids ran its annual Last Ten Miler, where we run the last ten miles of the marathon course.  I mentored again, simply because I get fired up being around such positive people.  It makes me a better runner…and a better person, I think.  Once more we broke up into pace groups and set out along the southern drive of the park.  We exited from the southeast corner of the park, and hung a left on 60th street, heading east to First Avenue.  Once we arrived at First Avenue, we were on the course and the fun began. 

 

Up First Avenue.  Over the Willis Avenue Bridge.  Down 138th street in the Bronx.  Back into Manhattan via the Madison Avenue Bridge.  Southbound to Marcus Garvey Park.  Hung a right onto Fifth Avenue and up the long incline to Engineer’;s Gate.  Into Central Park on 90th Street and Fifth Avenue.  Exit the park and make a right on Central Park South.  Up the incline to Columbus Circle.  Back into the park.  Hello finish line.  While I know this description doesn’t paint a vivid picture of the course AT ALL, I don’t really think that any amount of colorful verbiage coming from my dense cranium would be adequate to illustrate the magic of that extended patch of asphalt. 

 

Running the last 10 miles of the course allows me to visualize myself on race day.  Positive visualization is extremely important in marathon running, because those last miles are all about mentally being able to stay focus as the wheels are coming off.  This is not an easy task.  So let me quickly share with you what I visualize during that last 10 miler…. 

 

  • Running up First Avenue while fans 5 deep line the road on either side, screaming for a bunch of complete strangers in shorts is a site that stays with a marathoner long after the first Sunday in November.  I’ll have gas still in the tank at this point and I’ll want to drop the hammer when I turn onto First Avenue off of the 59th Street Bridge.  I need to resist the urge.  Hold back.  Stay steady. 

 

  • Then there is this quiet patch that sits between 96th Street and the Willis Avenue Bridge – miles 19 and 20.  I need to actually back off the throttle here.  Conserve my energy a bit.  Get over the bridge and into the Bronx in one piece.

 

  • Once in the Bronx, enjoy the attitude.  Listen for the Japanese drummers – if I can hear them, I’m close to the Madison Avenue Bridge.  Get past that mile 22 marker and get myself into Harlem. 

 

  • Make a left off of the Madison Avenue Bridge, and I’ll be greeted by a funny DJ and fans that give me what I need when I need it – attitude.  I LOVE HARLEM.  Embrace the attitude – take it in and let it fuel the moment.  Fans will yell things like “don’t you walk here!  We didn’t come out to see you stop now!  Get moving!” Take it in.  Take it all in.  Look for the Team For Kids support area and high-five as many youngsters as you can. 

 

  • It gets quiet as I crawl around Marcus Garvey Park.  Mentally gather myself here.  Prepare for that right-hand turn onto Fifth Avenue.  Take deep breaths.  This is the point in the race where the wheels could really come off if I allow it to.   

 

  • Fifth Avenue.  First get myself to the Northeast corner of Central Park, where those amazing gospel singers will lift my spirits.  Use that as motivation to get up the incline to the entrance to Central Park.  GET TO THE PARK.  That is all I can think about here.  This incline can break a runner.  It’s not a hard incline to run – it just comes at a rough point in the race, and it doesn’t seem to end!  The fans stand in the street; close enough to pat the runners on the back.    

 

  • Make that left onto Central Park’s east side drive, and I am basically home free.  This is my home turf – my back yard.  I’ve run hundreds of miles in this park, and there are no surprises here.  The fans are loud – USE THEM.  First get to Cat Hill, and I’m rewarded with an awesome downhill stretch to 72nd street.  Then tough it out and get to Central Park South.  Use my nose here – if I can smell the horse crap from all of those horse-drawn carriages, I am almost there.

 

  • The right onto Central Park South.  Showtime.  Another incline – just get myself to 7th Avenue and I’m home free.  LOUD fans here.  Cops yelling on bullhorns.  Here is where the run becomes emotional.  I’ll see runners wanting to quit here – urge them on and I’ll be urging myself on too.

 

  • The turn into Central Park.  Drop the hammer.  Time to really pick up the pace and finish strong.  Just deal with that small hill with approximately 200 yards to go.  Whatever gas is left in the tank – expend it here.  Cross the finish line with absolutely nothing left to give. 

 

Running the last 10 miles of the course with TFK was a wonderful experience.  And so the excitement builds for Marathon Week……

______________________________________

 

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

My Self-Inflicted Marathon


Before you start reading this blog entry find yourself a comfy chair, preferably someplace massaged by air conditioning.  A tasty alcoholic beverage is always a plus.  So – all set?  Good…because you’ll be reading for a few minutes….

OK, for those of you just joining us – welcome.  I’ll give you a brief synopsis of the story line thus far:

  • I made a decision late last year to run one marathon during each calendar month of 2012 in order to generate interest and donations to The Dream Team Project  (www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project).  It’s a charity that I really believe in, for it combines my affinity for the Disney community, my love of running and my desire to help children that are battling life-threatening illnesses as well as their families.
  • The experiences have been wonderful and rough at the same time.  So far I’ve run one race in 27 degree temperatures, I’ve lost a tooth eight miles into another race while in the process of simply taking fuel, I’ve finished a race which provided sixteen miles of hills (which is odd, because the state of Pennsylvania looks so much flatter on a map), and I’ve finished two marathons in a week.  (I just re-read what I wrote, and I just called a shrink.  I need professional help.)  (And yes – I’ve known this for a while – but that last paragraph served as a self-intervention).
  • June’s marathon was scheduled for the weekend of the 9th and 10th in Lake Placid, New York.  Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the race due to personal issues.  (Let me translate that one for you: I was sick as hell and was having a hard time breathing.  Now I’m not the brightest bulb on Broadway – as a matter of fact I’m as sharp as a bowling ball – but even I knew that it wasn’t a good idea to attempt a marathon when I was in the middle of coughing up a lung).
  • I didn’t want to break my promise…so I needed to come up with another marathon to run before the end of June.  I searched the internet – no luck.  There was only one thing for me to do: just run my own race.  So I made the decision to run 26.2 on my own around Manhattan on Sunday, June 24th. (and let me put it this way: in the history of mankind, this was NOT the best decision ever made.)

OK – so now you’re all caught up.  I’ve attached links to the blog entries that described each race, if you’re interested in reading more about my prior races.

I woke up here in Manhattan Sunday morning at around 5am and, quite honestly, I wished that I could simply roll over and catch another four hours of rest.  I took a hot shower, got changed, and had a bowl of raisin bran (just recently determined that this cereal is the key for me on race day  and I’m pissed about that.  Why couldn’t it be Lucky Charms instead?  Marshmallows…sugar…a little leprechaun on the box…it’s breakfast perfection as far as I’m concerned).  This lovely meal was followed by some light stretching, where I simply waved at my toes from a distance.  I threw my hydration pack over my shoulder, and off I went.

I slowly walked west from my apartment to Riverside Park.  I really got lucky: the weather was perfect. Not a cloud in the sky, low humidity and temperatures only going up to about 80 degrees at the height of the day.  I felt strangely relaxed.  I brought money with me, just in case I needed fluids while on the road, my iPhone was fully charged and ready to play music and snap some pictures, and I felt like I was as ready as I was ever going to be.  I made my way down toward the runners’ / bikers’ path that runs along the Hudson River, and stood for a few moments to take in the view.  This might be a nutso thing to attempt – but at least it was a gorgeous day to do it.  I started my watch, and headed south along the path.

Since this was a solo marathon – a so-called “self-inflicted marathon” as some referred to it – I quickly realized that it was simple to keep my pace under control.  Why?  Because there wasn’t a crowd of runners surrounding me that automatically drew out my inner Steve Prefontaine.  I find that, regardless of how many marathons I run, I always go out to fast because of the people around me.  I want to be able to say to myself as I run “hey – look at me – I can stay with these guys, no problem”.  Well the issue of going out too fast was not a factor this morning.  I took off down the path nice…and…easy.

About a mile and a half into my run, I passed the U.S.S. Intrepid – a wonderful retired aircraft carrier which now serves as a museum.  It is accompanied by a World War II submarine, The Concorde, and…as of July 2012…the Space Shuttle.  I took a moment to snap a couple of pictures, and then I waddled on.  My momentum was just beginning to develop.  My pace felt great.  I was truly in rare spirits.  But of course, me being…well…me, my mind went back to that first marathon I ran in 2005.  Mile 15.  The 59th Street Bridge.  Some seasoned marathoner saw me smiling and asked me how I felt.  When I responded in a rather obnoxious, over-emphatic positive manner, his reply was simple: “So you’re feeling good?  Reeeeally good?  Well don’t worry – that won’t last.”

As I made my way downtown along the river, I just found my rhythm and took in the sights: I passed several greenways which were literally extended over the water, I ran past Chelsea Piers (in the area of the city that my daughter is named for), and enjoyed the view of southern part of the island – the financial district.

As I got closer to lower Manhattan, I got the urge to wind through the streets and play the part of a tourist.  So I deviated from my planned course and crossed over the West Side Highway to get up-close and personal with The Freedom Tower.  This is going to be one gorgeous building when it’s completed.  I passed by Ground Zero – and area that still sends shivers up my spine.  I was in midtown that fateful day, and the sights and sounds of that horror are still vivid in my mind, just like I am sure they are in the minds of every other New Yorker – and everyone else for that matter.  I wanted to pass by the memorial reflection pools – but I was too early in the day, and you need a pass to get in.

Once I made my way around the Ground Zero area, I headed back toward the World Financial Center so that I could lift my spirits a bit by staring at luxury yachts in the harbor.  In the World Financial Center Harbor, the types of yachts moored probably have their own zip codes.  They’re huge.  I mean – HUGE.  One was so big that the stern actually acts as a garage for – you guessed it – a smaller boat.  When I grow up, I got to get me one of those!

Just south of the World Financial Center I passed into Battery Park.  I took some shots of the Statue of Liberty before heading past the Staten Island Ferry and beginning my trek up the east side.  I snapped a couple of shots of the Brooklyn Bridge as I approached South Street Seaport; however, it was here that I decided once more to deviate from my planned marathon route and check out a few more touristy locations before moving on.

I headed up Wall Street to the New York Stock Exchange.  Across the street from the Exchange is the location where George Washington took the oath as our first president.  I stopped my watch just for a moment to take a picture…and I hit the wrong button!  8.16 miles into my run.  Oy.  Now I’d have to start my watch up again, and make sure to run another 18.2 miles.  Just my luck.  I reset my watch, and continued on.  Snapped a shot of The Bull on Broadway before turning east and heading back on my original course.

I worked my way northeast from Wall Street, toward the Fulton Street Fish Market. I only got a few blocks north of this area when I realized – I should pass by City Hall.  So – I did.  (Deviating from my planned route once more!)  I then past the Brooklyn Bridge…and decided to run up Broadway instead of the FDR Drive along the East River.  So up Broadway I went.

As I worked my way uptown, I passed Union Square, the Flatiron Building on 23rd Street, and Macy’s on 34th Street.  It was then that I made another decision: I cannot be in this area without passing Madison Square Garden.  As I past MSG, the video playing on the jumbotron was showing great moments in MSG history.  I look up – and there it is.  1994.  Messier (one of my idols).  A good sign.

While in this neck of the woods, I also spun by The Empire State Building before heading back onto Broadway and up to Times Square.  I hung aright on 42nd Street, went past Bryant Park and Grand Central Station, all the way to First Avenue before finally turning north once more.

I ran past the United Nations and up toward the dreaded 59th Street Bridge.  Once under the bridge, I began to run the final ten miles of the official ING New York City Marathon course. It was at this point in the race that I decided not to look at my watch until I entered Central Park.  And…somewhere between 60th and 70th street I also realized that my legs were beginning to get sore.  Plus – I had run out of water.

The water issue was easy enough to address: just run into a store, buy a 20 oz. bottle and move on.  The legs, however – that was another story.  And I knew what was causing the discomfort.

In order to run around Manhattan and not get pancaked by trucks, buses, or crazy cabbies, you need to run on the sidewalks.  Well, New York City sidewalks are all made of concrete…and concrete has virtually no “give” to it.  Any other substance is easier to run on than concrete.  It was along the concrete of the West Side Highway that I first developed plantar facitis during the New York City Half Marathon in 2007.  I should have thought of this factor before beginning Manhattan waddle.  But…this is me we’re talking about.  Just about the only thing I use my head for is a hat rack.

So, after about 14 miles of running on concrete, my legs sent a telegram to my brain.  I believe it was worded as follows:

“To: Brain.  STOP

From: Legs.  STOP

This hurts.  STOP

Concrete sucks for running.  STOP

If you keep this up, you’ll be sorry.  STOP

So – STOP.  STOP”

I was more than half way to my goal, however.  So – I mentally tossed the telegram into the garbage can located in my cerebrum (that’s where I also store other useless data such as my memories of my favorite F Troop episodes, batting averages of the 1977 New York Yankees, and other odd factoids gleamed from countless visits to the American Museum of Natural History), and soldiered on.

By the time I hit the Willis Avenue Bridge, I had already stopped into one small store for a bottle of water.  It was on the corner of 116th and First Avenue.  The gentleman behind the counter saw me, looked at the bottle of water, and asked the simple question:\

“so it looks like you’re running far today”.

“yeah – I’m trying to finish a marathon.  Running for a charity.”

He paused before taking my money. A rather confused / stunned look crossed his face.

“Wait”, he said, “seriously?  A real marathon?  By yourself?”

“Yeah – I have about 9 miles to go.”

He asked me about the charity.  I quickly described what The Dream Team Project does.  His response lit me up.

“Your money is no good here.  Take the water.  You want anything else?”

Now it was my turn to be stunned.  “No – you are way too kind.  Thanks!”  And I continued my waddle northward.  As I made my way to the Bronx, I silently promised myself that I would pay that simple act of kindness forward.

I crossed over into the Bronx with about 7 ½ miles to go.  I had deviated numerous times from my simple route.  I was starting to tire a bit.  And the ache in my legs began to transition to pain.  I started to worry about the plantar facitis coming back.  I chose to ignore it.  I’ll worry about this nonsense when I’m done.

I crossed back into Manhattan, and followed Fifth Avenue to Marcus Garvey Park.  Around the park I went (FYI: I LOVE HARLEM.  There’s something about that neighborhood with all of those turn of the 20th century brownstones that makes me smile), and turned right back onto Fifth.  Up the long incline that I knew so well from past marathons.  Into Central Park at the Engineer’s Gate.  It was at this moment that I checked my watch…and saw that it had died!  I thought I charged the thing!!!  Now I was mad.

I waddled down Cat Hill and across the 72nd street transverse.  The statue on the west side of 72nd street in the park was going to be my finish line – but first I needed to complete one more center loop of the park.  So – up to 104th street.  Then across the transverse.  Back down the east side drive and past the Engineer’s Gate once more.  Past the Boathouse to the 72nd Street transverse once more.  As I turned right to finish, the doubts were rattling in my head – what if all of the deviations from my plotted route caused me to come up just short of 26.2 when I measure it out on MapMyRun this evening?  I cannot come up short, I told myself.  So….I VERY SLOWLY added on one more inner loop.

I finally crossed my pre-planned finish line.  Done.  As I waddled home, I felt content with the effort.  I needed to ice my legs and hope that my old nemesis (plantar facitis) didn’t decide return.

And speaking of returns – I had wondered all day long why The Tool decided to sit this race out.  So I asked him as I sat in the ice bath.  His response was simple:

“Dude, you were running alone.  There was no audience to witness my handiwork.  And think about it, doorknob: you decided to run one solo.  Not the brightest move ever made.  I just figured that you were doing my job for me.”

The little schmuck was right.  Not the brightest move ever.  Hydration was an issue.  Running on concrete was an issue.  The sun was even an issue (I, once more, forgot to use sun block.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I am the Wile E Coyote – Super Genius of running…only without any real speed whatsoever).

I logged on to my computer to find out how far I ran.  When I was done mapping my route with all of the twists and turns, the total came out to be just a fraction more than 29 miles.  So I pushed past marathon distance simply because I didn’t know I was doing it at the time.  I gave myself a tour of the city that I love.  I was sore, but I kept my promise…and that – to me – is what really mattered.

_______________________________________________________

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:  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, you can do it by visiting the secure donation page here Make-A Wish-Foundation   Thanks!

…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out the Facebook page

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Wild About Wednesdays!


Wednesdays.  Oh how I love Wednesdays. 

 

(OK that sounds like a…well…dumb way to open a blog entry.  I know this.  You know this.  But work with me – it gets better.)

 

Why do I love Wednesdays?  Well I’m glad you asked. Let me explain.

 

I’m the kind of person that is – for like of a more eloquent term – not-very-bright.  When God was passing out brains I thought He said “trains”, and asked for a really long one.  My rather meek level of intelligence is very clearly illustrated in the way I run.  Whether the training schedule calls for a five mile tempo run, hill work, or the weekly long run…I run every day at the same exact pace. 

 

Seriously.  The same exact pace.  And that is SLOW.

 

I began getting impatient with myself and my lack of progress.  The way I was looking at it, I felt like my inner Kenyan would be released at any moment.  However, he never has shown his really, really fast face.  This has been the case – I’m not kidding – for YEARS.

 

Nope.  That’s not a typo.  I said YEARS.

 

So just recently I actually stopped expecting this transition to a fast runner to simply happen, and I began researching HOW to MAKE it happen.  So I cracked open a book – an actual book with pages, words, and wisdom contained within – and began to research how a runner actually gets quicker over time.  What I learned made me knock my head against the wall repeatedly until Baci (that’s my awesome puppy) (and the name is Italian for Kisses) (they tell me she’s a poodle / shitz-tsu mix…but I say that’s bullshit because her attitude and feistiness screams paisan at me) (I am digressing – see: not the brightest bulb on Broadway) began to growl her very clear disapproval at my rather juvenile behavior.

 

According to what I’ve read, advanced / elite runner run 70-80% of the time at a pace that is 60-90 seconds per mile slower than their race pace.  That other 20-30% of the time, they do speed work that really makes them push themselves to the limit.

 

WOW.  I am doing this all wrong.

 

Whenever I go to practice with Team For Kids, I always feel the pressure of trying to show my coaches and team mates that I can clip off 5-6-7-8 miles at a 9 minute pace.  When I’m done, I feel great…for about an hour and a half.  The next day, I feel like my legs have no juice in them.  So I begin running slower, I watch others fly by me, I get self-conscious and off I go like a bat out of hell.  And so the cycle continued, with me always running as hard as  could.

 

According to what I read – that was a mistake.  I need to shut out the nonsense and the pseudo peer pressure and just stick to a smart game plan.  Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays: I’m running 60-90 seconds slower than what I want my race pace to be.  That should result in my legs being able to recover quicker.  Saturdays are my usual weekly long runs – so I’ll run close to my race pace (10 minutes per mile – I want a 4 hour 20 minute finish in NYC in November) and get myself used to the right rhythm.  And Wednesdays – oh baby Wednesdays – THAT is my speed work day.  That is when I can run like a lunatic and push myself hard. 

 

And that’s why I LOVE WEDNESDAYS.

 

Steve Prefontaine – a famous runner from the 1970’s which all runners simply refer to as “Pre” – once said that “My only pace is suicide pace, and today is a good day to die.”  I think I took Pre’s words a bit too seriously.  I need to run SMARTER – not harder.

 

Oh yeah – P.S.: I tried out my new Salomon hydration pack this morning along the bridal path for about 5 miles.  I’ve got to share my thoughts on this one.  So check back in a bit for a quick review!

 

Until next time!  Great long-term habits begin with a simple decision at the outset: the decision to get out there and get in motion.  I don’t care if it’s down the block for a walk or a 10k run in the woods.  Motion creates emotion.  You don’t get today back – so back it count.

_______________________________________________________

 

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

 

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

 

Oh Yeah – I Feel Like Elvis


So I come home from work Tuesday evening…and there it was.  Sitting at my front down.  A small cardboard box.  Oh yeah – my new toy had arrived, right on time.  I had been looking forward to this all…day…long.  CHRISTMAS.

I ordered the Salomon Advanced Skin 5 S-Lab Pack for my Sunday run around Manhattan.  It looked so darn cool in the pictures, I was betting that I’d feel like a rock star in this thing.  I pulled the box apart.  Quickly.  Grabbed the contents and began to examine it.

It….looked….cool.  Small – but cool.  This pack comes in 2 sizes: extra small / small and medium / large.  OK, so I’m usually an XL.  I was worried about this thing arriving and looking like it would only fit one of the Lollipop Kids.  I threw on a technical shirt and put the pack on over it.  It felt snug.  Not tight – just snug.  There were no buckles or latches in areas where serious chaffing could result during a long distance run.  There were several zipper pockets in easy to reach areas, which were big enough to store GU packets.  There were two sleeves on the shoulder straps which could hold 16 ounce water bottles (or an Iphone and/or other small crap I want to lug with me), and the reservoir held 50 ounces of water (or Captain Morgan – depends on my mood).  The design maximizes the available space.  The material is incredibly soft yet it appears durable.  The water reservoir is housed in a very light material which is designed to keep the water cold for a longer period of time.  And there were two small elastic straps that go across the chest to minimize the bouncing motion of the pack while I run.

All that….and it looked cool.  Just really…really cool.

This morning I couldn’t wait to find out how the pack felt while I ran in the park.  So I threw it on and went out for a light five miler.  It didn’t feel like the fabric would irritate my neck as I ran.  The pack was designed to fit snug on the runner’s body so that the water and contents did not bounce around.  After five miles in this thing – I can confirm that Salomon hit a home run with this thing.  It was EXTREMELY comfortable.  The shoulder straps did not screw with the way I swing my arms as I run.  By the time I finished my workout, I felt like buying this product was money well spent.

This damn thing made me feel like Elvis.  I was rockin’ and rollin’ along the bridal path.  One note, however: I only ran 5 miles in it.  I need to put in 26.2 on Sunday, and I cannot be distracted by chaffing under my arms or along my neck from this thing.  So I am worried about trusting this product without first truly training in it.  I am 90% sure I’ll use it Sunday.  90%…not 100%.

I’m sharing this for one simple reason: I highly recommend only going on long distance runs in clothing and equipment that you’ve trained in.  One of my mottos that I really believe in: train it and THEN trust it.

Until next time!  Great long-term habits begin with a simple decision at the outset: the decision to get out there and get in motion.  I don’t care if it’s down the block for a walk or a 10k run in the woods.  Motion creates emotion.  You don’t get today back – so make it count.

_______________________________________________________

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

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

It’s Like Christmas…Only Different


So here I am, clicking away on my laptop late on a Monday night, looking forward to tomorrow.  Why, you ask?  Well, not only am I planning to shoot out of bed and get my miles in…but my order from an on-line running store is due to be delivered.  A new Salomon hydration pack.  80 ounces of water.  Pockets for everything.  A snug fit, yet a coooool look.  OH YEAH.  I am the running equivalent of Tim the Tool Man Taylor.

 

I’m hoping that you remember Tim Allen’s TV show from the 1990’s, Home Improvement.  He played Tim The Tool Man Taylor – a Bob Villa wannabe that could do no right on his set when it came to things that were sharp, gas-powered or otherwise remotely hazardous.  He would let out several funny-sounding grunts which sounded like a Santa Claus hopped up on biscotti and Kahlua as he spoke of such manly things as a turbo charger, muscle cars and really loud motorcycles that go 180 miles per hour.  He loved the concept of “More POWER!”  For instance: he once figured that if a tractor mower that was powered by a small 2 cylinder gas engine was cool, just imagine how awesome a V-8, turbo-charged model would be!  So…..he builds one…..then tries it out…..only to lose control and go motoring through the garages, living rooms…and ultimately a neighbor’s swimming pool.

 

Well folks…I am the running equivalent of Tim The Tool Man Taylor.  Right after I decided to run a marathon this Sunday morning solo, I went on-line in search for gadgets that would make me feel like an alpha runner as I waddled around Manhattan.  I found…

 

…a headlamp with a halogen light on it that was so strong I could signal passing ships on the Hudson River at 5am.  HO HO HO!!!

 

…I identified running shorts with a secret zipper pocket just big enough to store a VISA card.  Too bad that by the time I get finished with all this shopping, I won’t need the secret pocket because the VISA won’t have enough credit left on it to pay for a cab home from Battery Park.  (ho ho ho, though, out of respect for the James Bond-looking shorts).

 

…I found tablets that turn a bottle of water into a healthy, electrolyte drink that tastes like Pepsi.  HO…HO…HO!!!

 

…there were cool looking technical shirts that were specifically designed to protect against raw nipples, HO HO HO HO HO!!!!!  (Yes, ladies, we get raw nipples from long distance runs too – this is a G-rated blog so work with me here), water bottles that are so eco-friendly that they actually help heal the ozone layer, and energy gels that taste like tiramisu from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx….say it with me….HO HO HO HO HO!!!!!

 

My computer provided me with the distance runner’s version of soft core porn.  And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better…..there was the Salomon hydration pack.  It was the Ferrari of hydration packs.  It would make me faster just by adding to my alpha-maleness.  It was black, with cool lettering.  Pockets everywhere.  A water bladder that not only keeps water cold, but it magically flavors it to taste like Captain Morgan.  It even enhances the reception on my cell phone, it comes with one month of free cable TV, and it can read me bedtime stories (if I ever had trouble sleeping).  THIS….WAS….A….NECESSITY.  Within minutes, one was purchased via the magic of wireless internet and available credit (those fools at the bank will never learn…hehehe).

 

If Elvis were a marathon runner (and he is, folks – I have run with The King several times), and he was planning a run like mine next Sunday, he would buy this hydration pack…and I bet it would make Teddy Bear sound even better.

 

So this magical product will arrive at my doorstep tomorrow.  I keep clicking on the link provided on my confirmation email, which bounces me to FedEx’s website.  It shows me exactly where my beloved hydration pack currently resides.  Somewhere in Tennessee as of 10:02pm.  For some reason, I think that if I keep clicking on this link every 15 minutes, the hydration pack will be drawn to my laptop like some sort of runner’s magnet.  For some reason, this concept….well….sucks.  It doesn’t work.

 

So now my evening turned into Christmas Eve.  I have to go to sleep and wait for the Jolly Ol’ Fed Ex to show up and ask for my electronic signature tomorrow morning.  Don’t kid yourself: I’m leaving cookies out, along with a glass of Soy milk (because, if you believe some of the websites out there, Saint Nick is lactose intolerant).

 

Oh crap…I am working all day tomorrow.  What if they indeed require a signature?  Something tells me I’m screwed…..

 

Until tomorrow, friends!  Here’s hoping that your Tuesday is fun and productive.  Get out there and get into motion.  Get in some exercise.  I don’t care what form of exertion you choose – just break a sweat at some point today.

 

You don’t get today back – so make it count.

 

___________________________________________________________________

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

 

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

 

Brooklyn? Forgetaboutit. The Basics of Running? I Forgot About Those Too…


 

 

After completing two marathons in a week, I needed some rest.  But I had another race to look forward to: The Brooklyn Half Marathon on May 19th.  I took two days off from training before getting back to work, logging miles in the park.

 

After two full marathons in such a short span, I felt like a half marathon would be the proverbial “walk in the park”.  Hindsight being 20-20: boy was I wrong.

 

My running schedule really took more out of me than I estimated.  On top of this, my work schedule was becoming more demanding.  I was burning the candle at both ends, and I knew it.  However, I was not accepting any excuses.  I began logging the miles early in the morning and more hours at work during the long days and evenings.  As May 19th approached, I felt a bit knackered – but still functional.

 

The morning of the Brooklyn Half Marathon arrived with little fanfare.  The race began near The Brooklyn Museum, and by mile one we already had conquered the first hill of the course.  By mile two: two hills in the record books.  Early on in this race, it felt like I was reliving Gettysburg.

 

By mile 4, we had entered Prospect Park and began to scale yet another long, steady incline.  As I made my way up to the crest of the latest and greatest hill, I realized just how important the proper rest was to the training process.  I began making mental notes in my head of all of the mistakes I’ve made over the past 3 weeks.  The list got longer by the time I exited the park and began waddling down Ocean Boulevard.

 

As the latter miles of the race passed by and I made my pace toward Coney Island’s boardwalk and the finish line, the list of mistakes I made became too long to keep straight in my head.  I knew that I needed to head home and basically perform an internal debrief.  So I doubled my efforts, pushed through to the finish, and headed home with a medal around my neck and some serious doubts in my head.  This was a half marathon.  Half of the distance of my prior two races.  My experiences in late April and early May should have made this race feel like a piece of cake.  However, I was ill prepared for the physical and mental lapses that I encountered during my waddle through Brooklyn.  Some of my mistakes were new.  Some were repeat offenders.  So what I figured I’d do is list some of the things that I need to work on so that anyone reading can learn from them.

 

  • During both marathons as      well as the Brooklyn Half, I went out too fast.  ROOKIE MISTAKE that I simply keep making      over and over.  When you go out too      fast, you pay for it later in the race.       I know this.  However, for      some stupid reason, I keep doing this simply because I want to stay with      the pack.  I worry too much about      running the pack’s pace, and not my own.       LESSON LEARNED: The pack doesn’t get you to the finish line – you      get yourself there.  SO – run your      own race.

 

  • Schedule rest days….and      then ACTUALLY REST!  You need to let      your legs heal.  Recover.  Reset for the next workout.  Rest is critical.  I haven’t given myself enough of a      chance to heal, and I’ve been paying for it.  ANOTHER ROOKIE MISTAKE.  I keep thinking that more work will make      me better.  I don’t need to work      harder – I need to work SMARTER.

 

  • I’m carrying more weight      than I need to.  I haven’t been good      enough with my diet, and that needs to change.  My need to work on losing more weight is      probably what causes me to ignore rest days.  I swear – I simply don’t do the basics      well.  AT ALL.

 

  • Water.  I need to drink more water instead of      all of the other crap that I consume.       Another basic concept that’s lost on me.  Why?       Because I’m….well….dense.

 

  • Have a plan.  Have a schedule.  And then STICK TO IT.  I’m baaaaaaad at this.  Some days I ignore the 5 miler that I      need to get done.  Others: I log 12      when the schedule called for 6.       What the heck am I thinking?

 

  • Eat properly before long      runs.  I know – this is basic.  And yet…I get an “F” for this one.  Smores Pop Tarts are NOT the breakfast      of champions.  Oy.

 

The work I had to get done in order to address these issues will take time. Of course it did not help when I got really sick within days of running the Brooklyn Half Marathon.

 

The chest cold I suffered from lasted for well over three full weeks.  I had a very hard time breathing and it resulted in me not being able to run well…or even at all.  By the time the weekend of June 9th and 10th came around, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate in my sixth scheduled marathon of the year: Lake Placid. I bit the bullet and resigned myself to focusing on the healing process.  I’m not good at that…at all.

 

So here I am, sitting on my couch after running in the park this morning, trying to figure out how to address the latest and greatest issue on my plate: finding a marathon in the month of June.  I checked www.marathonguide.com, and I slowly began to conclude that there were no local marathons to sign up for, and all of the open marathons for the month would require last-minute purchases of round trip flights and weekend hotel rates.  Oy.

 

Based on these facts, I made the decision to run two marathons in October (Chicago and Hartford) and two in November (NYC and Philly) to make sure that I run 12 official marathons within the year.  This plan covered the concept of running 12 in ’12.  Great.  Wonderful.  But my goal was to run one each calendar month.  I need to keep this promise.  My running schedule states that the New York Road Runners’ Team for Kids has a long run planned for next Saturday, June 23rd.  I really get a thrill out of helping the first time marathoners hit new distances each week – so I don’t want to miss that.  So in order to keep my promise and run one each calendar month, I’ll head out early in the morning on Sunday, June 24th and run 26.2 miles around Manhattan.  As of this moment, I haven’t figured out my running course – but I’ll post it as soon as I finalize it.

 

I’ll admit – this does get me nervous.  I look at myself and I don’t see someone with the discipline and focus to pull this off without some peer pressure surrounding me.  Usually, just when I feel like throwing in the towel, I notice other runners around me – or fans along the sidewalks – or another mile marker just within striking distance – that keeps me going.  Running 26.2 solo, however: I won’t have any of these things.  So before pressing the “publish” button on this blog entry, I really weighed my decision: don’t attempt this on the 24th, be happy with 2 marathons in October and the two in November – but miss out on the factor of running one each calendar month, OR…get over my nervousness, press the “publish” button on this blog entry, and commit to getting 26.2 done.

 

Deciding factor: I made a promise to myself, and to a charity that I really believe in – The Dream Team Project.  To me – promises are huge.  I teach my daughter that keeping your word is something that is key to success in life.  Well I talk the talk…now it’s time to waddle the waddle.

 

 

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