Thoughts on the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon


I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: the first Sunday in November is the single greatest day of the year in New York City.  Period.

Marathon Week begins the prior Sunday, with the annual Poland Spring 5 miler held in Central Park.  This is followed up with a week’s worth of events for kids, spectators and runners alike.  Then the Expo opens up at the Javits Center the Thursday before the race…and there is no larger marathon expo in the world than the huge running party through on the west side of Manhattan over a four-day span.  50,000 runners swing by to pick up their bibs and swag.

The Friday before race day, the Parade of Nations is held along the west side drive near Tavern on the Green.  Over 100 nations are represented in the awesome 5 borough black party, and the festivities are capped off with a pretty impressive fireworks display at the finish line.  Once this parade is over, the New York Road Runners host their annual Night of Champions…and the guest list reads like a who’s who of runner.  From last year’s new York City Marathon winners, to Bill Rodgers, Shalane Flanagan, the one and only Meb, and a whole host of other running elites – they all show up to help raise money for the New York Road Runners kids running programs.  I was lucky enough to score a ticket to this shindig, and it did not disappoint.

NYCM 8

Saturday morning, the annual Dash to the Finish is held, where runners can start a 5k in front of the United Nations, held down 42nd Street to 6th Avenue, hang a right and head north to Central Park, where the race finishes across the marathon finish line.

Sunday morning begins rather early, as some of the runners’ transportation from Manhattan to the runners village in Staten Island begins at 5am.  So runners are up and out early, knowing that the first wave of the race goes off 4+ hours later.  (A quick note to anyone thinking about running this race: the city of New York is basically shutting down for this 26.2 mile block party.  So yes – you are asked to get up really early to start your trek to Staten Island. And yes – once you get to Staten Island there will be a rather vigorous security check before you are let in.  And yes-  once you are in, you’ll have to hunker down and wait a while before you get to run.  And yes – it’s windy and usually cold in the village as you wait.  So please – accept these things as part of the overall experience, because the juice is worth the squeeze.)

Race morning was a bit chilly and damp.  I was worried about the rain, as I never really had to run this race while having to deal with more than the two usual elements: wind and cold.  Those two are not a surprise – each year I show up to the starting line a bit more prepared for those challenges.  Rain, on the other hand, would make this race a bit more challenging for me.  I was running with Team for Kids, so the charity tent came in handy!

NYCM 1

I started with Wave 4, at around 10:55am.  The first mile is a 200 climb up the Varrazanno Bridge, and runners usually get to view the Manhattan skyline very clearly here.  This morning, however, the fog kept that view from us.  The first mile should be run easily and under complete control, as runners need to deal with the exposure to a pretty strong, cold cross-wind as they head to Brooklyn.  However, I watched as runners around me took off like jackrabbits.  As the saying goes: “Let the Kenyans go….we’ll meet again at mile 18….”.

Mile 2 rewards you for the climb with a nice downhill into Brooklyn.  (A quick note hear: run in the middle lanes of the bridge, if you start on its lower deck.  If you don’t know why, I’ve leave you a hint….it has something to do with full bladders and a lack of port-o-crappers on the span of the bridge, along with 35,000 runners directly above you…..I’ll wait for that to sink in a bit…….ok – you got it?  Good.  Moving on…)  By mile 3, runners are thrown on to 4th Avenue in Brooklyn.  Here is where the party starts.  Even with the mist / drizzle coming down, people came out to scream their lungs out.  Miles 3 through 13 are amazing.  These miles are some of my favorites on he course, because it is a perfect display of what makes this city so damn awesome:  every race, color and creed together, screaming as one for 50,000 strangers of all ability levels from over 100 countries.  At one point, I just had to stop for a moment to soak in the general splendor before waddling on.

NYCM 4

Greenpoint is the last neighborhood in Brooklyn before crossing the half way point and entering into Queens.  Queens has a few loud spots – but it’s mostly subdued from miles 13.1 to 14.5.  Then the noise picks up, as if the fans were trying to help you step on the gas to get over the 59th Street Bridge (otherwise known in my home as Mt. Sonofabitch).

The 59th Street Bridge rears its annoying head near mile 15.  This is a tough climb, and it takes a lot out of the runners.  I’ve seen the upward climb here turn into something resembling a zombie movie over the years.  if you are running this race, train with this hill in mind – don’t let it beat you.  If you aren’t prepared for it, it will kick you square in the teeth and set you up for a rough last 10 miles.

As you come down the span of the Bridge, you make the signature turn of the race: a 270 degree left hand turn that throws you onto First Avenue.  The party rolls on here – loudly – for the next couple of miles.  The noise bounces off the buildings and turns the course into a corridor of sound.  It’s one of those spans of the course where you are given a jolt of energy.  However, if you are running this race, do NOT let the fans motivate you to kick up your pace and release your inner Alberto Salazar. You still have work to do.  Stay under control and just enjoy the experience as you work your way north to The Bronx (the only borough of the city so darn awesome that it’s very name contains a “The” in front of it).

NYCM 10

Runners cross over into The Bronx via the Willis Avenue Bridge.  The Bronx has a few small twists and turns, but they bring the noise when you enter my hometown.  With the noise comes the attitude that makes this borough so special.  For instance: The DJ playing music right near the mile 20 marker will call you out if he sees you struggling a bit.  “…I see you, number 45867….in that red shirt… YOU GOT THIS!  NOW LETS CRANK THIS UUUUUUPPPP!!!!!!” He would say versions of this over..and over…again.  And trust me: I watched as that runner in that red shirt went from walking to jogging.  Grab some water at the water stop just past Mile 20, and you’ll be greeted with messages like “man, you’ve got this.  Kick this race’s ass.” Wall?  What Wall.  There may be a Wall on this course, but fans in The Bronx want you to knock that thing down.  I left The Bronx feeling better than when I arrived.

When runners leave The Bronx, they cross the mile 22 marker and enter into Harlem.  This section of the course is my absolute favorite.  They take the attitude that just embraced you in The Bronx, and they turn that up another 3 notches.  Runners have just four miles.  Harlem’s fans do not let you forget why you are here.  Time to go to work and get this job done.  The crowds, at points, push onto the course and basically will you around Marcus Garvey Park.  One highlight: the gospel choir.  THAT is an emotional part of the course, and it helps crank you up a bit.  Once the runners hit mile 22.5, a long steady climb begins up 5th Avenue to Engineer’s Gate: the entrance into Central Park.  Rain or shine, cold or windy, the enthusiastic fans come out in droves from here to the finish line.

Rolling hills bring you from the entrance into Central Park to the right hand turn that carries the runners onto Central park South.  Another brief incline at Mile 25.3 gets you to Columbus Circle.  Here, runners re-enter Central Park and head up the west side drive to the finish.  One last hill at mile 26.1 to conquer before you earn your medal.

The rain made this race a bit more difficult, because my gear (including my shoes and socks) were soaked about half way  through the effort.  I could feel the blisters starting by the time I entered The Bronx, which resulted in a slight change in my stride.  That may not sound like a big deal, but a change in the way you run due to discomfort midway through a marathon makes the rest of the race much more challenging, and the added distraction messes with your head a bit.

I elected to receive a runner’s poncho instead of checking a bag this year – and this allowed me to exit the park and head home much quicker.  I think I’ll elect not to check a bag every year from now on.

NYCM 5

This was my 12th New York City Marathon in a row.  I haven’t missed one since 2005 (knock on wood).  Each year, the course is the same.  The hills are in the exact same places.  The wind is still there to smack you in the face at the start.  The pain still shows up.  At mile 15 I always zone out as I climb Mt. Sonofabitch.  When it’s all over, I’m sore everywhere.  All of these things occur annually, and they aren’t so warm & fuzzy.  But you know what else hasn’t changed?  The fans.  New Yorkers spill out onto the streets, rain or shine, every year to the tune of 1-2 million just to yell for shlubs like me.  Brooklyn is still….Brooklyn (and that’s a compliment).  First Avenue is still loud.  The Bronx gets better every single year.  Harlem is still marathon holy ground to me.  Spilling into the park is still glorious.  The final 3/10 of a mile is still the greatest 3/10’s of a mile in the sport of running.  And there is always that moment of two after the medal is hung around your neck where you stop and look around at the people that you ran alongside – complete strangers hours ago, now all carrying that glow that comes from not giving up, embracing the suck, seeing a goal through…and standing in the park, quiet and victorious.

 

 

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The 2017 NYC 60k in Central Park


Every year, two weeks after the TCS New York City Marathon, the New York Road Runners hold their sole ultramarathon of the year: The New York City 60k.  This is a 37.2 mile endeavor that takes runners around….and around….and around….and around….Central Park.  For the uninitiated: Central Park consists of three specific “loops”.  The Lower Loop consists of a 1.7 mile road that goes in an oval from the southernmost part of the park to the 72nd street transverse.  The Middle Loop consists of a 4 mile oval from the 72nd street transverse to the 104th Street transverse.  The Upper Loop goes from the 104th Street Transverse around Harlem Hills.  One entire loop of park translates to about 6-6.1 miles.

On Saturday morning, at 8am, I’m going to try to complete this 60k.  I’ve tried three times, and I’ve failed three times.  Twice I’ve failed because I lacked the stamina – I was still too burnt out on running after the marathon.  Once – I lacked the heart.  I just quit on myself.  That’s been gnawing at me all year – the fact that this is the only race that I have ever DNF’d is irritating enough.  The fact that I DNF’d last year simply because I lacked the damn heart to push myself through discomfort is causing me to chomp at the bit for this race. In 2015, I pushed myself well past what I thought was my limit with regard to endurance or pain threshold.  I was hit by a car, and kept going.  I came face to face with a mountain lion, and I kept going.  I injured myself more than once, and I kept going.  Needless to say – this year I have some unfinished business.

I’m going to be representing two teams during this race.  The first is Do Away With SMA – my charity that I started in 2014 to honor my brothers and fight Spinal Muscular Atrophy, the number one genetic killer of kids under the age of two in the world.  The second is the New York Road Runners team for Kids – the charity that provides running programs for kids in an effort to fight childhood obesity.  Both are solid causes, and both can use any assistance you’d care to donate.  I’m asking you to consider a donation to either cause, for both of them are doing their best to help those that need it.  Any donation will help their missions.  Here’s the information, if you are interested in contributing:

Do Away With SMA:    Do Away With SMA

Team for Kids:    New York Road Runners Team for Kids

I’ll be posting live on Facebook on Saturday, just to give you all the jist of what this type of race is like during my 9 laps around Central Park.  Wish me luck…I’m going to need it!!!

 

Day Two of the Experiment


October 6th 2016

The Day’s Game Plan:

Up at 4am.

Thursday is Long Swim Day.  it starts with a 45 minute light run, after which I hustle home, grab my workout bag and head to the gym.  The goal here was to log 2000 yards in the pool, and then hit the weights.

I’m guessing that I’m already going to be achy by the evening, but the goal one again is to amp up my metabolism by doing a workout at home that primarily focuses on core strength.  Again, I’m hoping that by amping up my metabolism right before bed, my body will burn more calories that it normally does while I sleep.  I’m scheduled to weigh myself on Sunday after my long workout, so we’ll see this this slight adjustment makes any dent in my number.

Nutrition-wise, I’ll once again bring lunch to the office.  I’m going protein heavy in the morning with some hard boiled eggs and a shake, but this time I am lowering the calorie total a little.  Let’s see how long I can hold out during the day before a crave a damn Three Musketeers bar.

The Outcome

Well the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  Playoff baseball got the best of me – a great pitching duel and a 3 run homer in the 9th send the Giants into the division series and send the Mets to the golf course.  As a result, I didn’t get enough sleep and woke up too late to swim.  So I went to plan B: get home on time this evening and work out heavy to make up for the miss.

Started off the day solid nutrition-wise, having a protein shake and 3 hard boiled eggs for breakfast.  It got me through most of the morning…until I cheated and had a small chocolate muffin for absolutely no good reason whatsoever.  This is the kind od nonsense that has to stop, and I’ll need to experiment with methods of re-training myself to crave better snacks in the future.

I hit the gym by 6pm, and absolutely CRUSHED 2,000 yards in 45 minutes.  I’m going to be sore tonight – swimming at a race pace (I need to be able to cover about 1,100 yards in 26-27 minutes or less by Ironman time) really works muscles that I didn’t know I even had.

I then made the judgement call of hitting the weights for about 30 minutes.  Nothing heavy – just a basic full body workout with weight is was manageable (not trying to bench press a Buick).  Since  few people have asked about strength training, I added a page on this blog that outlines my usual strength training plan.  It’s nothing fancy – just basic stuff.

I felt good, so I decided to punish myself a bit my forcing myself to hit the dreadmill for 30 minutes.  I figured that I could use the time on the dreadmill to force myself to maintain a pace that sped up every minute I was on there.  So I set the thing to start at an 11:30 pace, and then made myself run just a hair faster every 60 seconds.  I was sprinting by the end, unable to control my breathing.  My lungs got away from me, which almost resulted in me heaving all over my shoes.  Five minutes later…I felt awesome.

Lessons Learned

  • Sleep is key.  Either stick to my sleep plan by hitting the sack by 9:30, or budget in an evening workout.  Don’t wait until morning, when I find myself sleeping through my alarm.
  • I didn’t take in enough calories yesterday.  As a result, I didn’t sleep well and I woke up hungry.  Although the protein filled me up before I left home, the calorie debt made that chocolate muffin extremely tempting.

Today’s Nugget(s)

On this day in 1783, Benjamin Hanks patents the self-winding clock.

On this day in 1882, the first World Series game was played.  (Cincinnati beat Chicago, 4-0).

Training Log: May 12th & 13th 2016


Wednesday was big for me.  Yesterday was a big step backward,  The knee barked again – and I listened by taking a rest day.  I need to get back into a groove after a bit of a slump, and that’s exactly what will happen.  By the time I found myself in front of the boob tube watching The Avengers for the 28th time, I was big-time sore and it took a bit of effort to get my lazy copious backside off the couch.  The fact that I fit in am AM and PM session was HUGE for me – because that’s the habit I need to form in order for me to have the best chance at becoming an Ironman this year.  Most of the Ironmen I have spoken to have been willing to share their training plans and ideas with me readily – they seem to simply love speaking about the sport.  So I’ve developed what I think is a fair estimate of the average number of hours they log in a normal training week.  The number scared me a little:  30.  So – I need to form solid habits, I need to do it quick, and they need to include two-a-days during the week.

 

Since yesterday felt like a success, I need to build on that and begin to develop the two-a-day habit.

  1. 4am Run: shooting for at least 6 miles this morning.  Easy pace.  Slower than yesterday.  I beat myself up yesterday, and I cannot do that to myself every single day – I’ll break down.  And that would suck.
  2. 5am Swim:  I need to work on my form, so I need to go find some wisdom.  My gym and my triathlon team offer weekly sessions at my gym’s pool, so I need to start showing up to them.  However – before I do – I need to build a simple base.  Once I can crank out 250 yards in the pool (5 complete laps) without stopping for a breather, I’ll be ready to join the other tadpoles in the class setting without worrying about looking like an utter fartknocker.  So this morning’s session will require me to log 1000 yards (20 laps) in a 10 x 100 format.  This should take somewhere around 30 minutes.  The Ironman swim is 2.4 miles (4,224 yards) in less than 2 hours and twenty minutes.  for my little 25 yard pool, a complete Ironman swim would be 169 laps.  169.  Crap.  Based on the math, I have approximately 54 seconds to complete each lap (50 yards) in order to give myself a small cushion of time as a buffer to get my butt out of the water and into T1 (the transition area where triathlete go from the swim to the bike).  To say I have work to do is a SEVERE understatement.  This should be fun!
  3. 6:30am Cross Training: This is a class that apparently combines endurance and strength.  I’ve gotten over the hump in my first classroom setting within the gym – now it’s time to see whether I can keep up with the Jones’ in a class that doesn’t involve me peddling a bike like a rapid lunatic for 45 minutes.  My legs will be a bit tired from the run and I should be feeling it all over from the swim (now that I know I need to become the Ironman equivalent of Aquaman, I’m going to be so focused on lap speed that I bet I’ll go harder than I ever have before in the pool), so this class should SUCK.  And as Tolstoy once said, “one must embraceth the suckatude.”
  4. 6:30pm Spin Class: On the way home from work, I’m going to shoot for 17 miles over the course of 45 minutes on the bike.  My speed has increased – so I am psyched about that.

In addition, I get to visit my doctor today.  Oy joy.

Training Results:

 

Training Log: May 8th 2016


Sundays are normally considered a recovery day.  However, I am training for my first Ironman and right now I am really worried about creating a base.  I need repetition to breed some confidence, and the only way that’s going to happen is if I put myself through the steps of a triathlon as often as I can.  I am betting that I’ll still be achy from Saturday’s workout – so this one should really test my current level of preparedness.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – I’ll start the day with a 90 minute run.  Looking to rack up at least 8 miles.  Any more is money in the bank.  I need to get to the gym by 7am.
  2. SWIM – Stage 2 of the morning is a one hour swim session from 7 to 8am. I’m looking to piece together 100yd repeats, and I’d like to see how many yards I can rack up in 60 minutes.  In an Ironman, you have 2 hours and 20 minutes to swim 4,400 yards.  So I really need to nail at least 2,000 yards at this point in order to feel a little confident.
  3. STRENGTH – After the swim, my shoulders, back and arms will be tired.  So at 8am, I’ll transition to some strength training.  The goal here is NOT to release my inner Ronnie Coleman – shooting for low weight and high reps instead of trying to primarily build muscle mass.  The goal here is to further fatigue my arms and back – really burn them out – before hopping on the bike.
  4. BIKE – 45 minutes  of spin class.  Rack up at least 16.5 miles.  Case closed. The goal here is to just stay focused on getting through the distance feeling as crappy as I am sure I’ll feel by this point.
  5. YOGA – That’s right – yoga.  Again.  Another Yoga For People That Cannot Touch Their Toes With a Ruler class for me.  By the end of this process, you guys will just refer to me as the Bronx Dali Frackin’ Lama.  Namaste, dammit.

Today I am trying to mix things up a bit.  It will work my endurance by the simple fact that I’ll need to work for a prolonged period of time.  However, this test gets harder by forcing myself to try new exercises that should work muscle groups that ordinarily don’t get stressed during my regular routines.

Results:

  1. RUN – I felt strong this morning.  the pace was slow but steady, and a little soggy.  The highlight: high-fiving a cameraman for one of those morning shows shot in Times Square.
  2. SWIM – 20 laps.  1,000 yards.  slow as all hell.  If I don’t pick this up, I’ll never make it to the bike portion of the Ironman.  And swimming is normally a strong suit for me – so I hopped out of the pool royally pissed off.
  3. STRENGTH – I transitioned to the weight room and did 4 sets of my normal
  4. full body routine.  By the time I finished I was completely burnt out.
  5. BIKE – the bike portion of my morning was cut short with a stabbing pain that developed on the inside part of my right knee.  that freaked me out a bit – because my bad knee is my left knee.  Wonderful…..
  6. YOGA -I scratched yoga class today.  why? because there’s some pain in my knee and I’m starting to worry about it.  The doc will check it out Thursday – so that will suck….

I did some research – and I found that Caesar used to require his legionnaires to enjoy wine before battle.  Better late than never – now where the hell is my corkscrew?

Training Log: May 7th 2016


Saturdays are tough workout days.  It’s usually long run day, so I have tried to pack on the workload that will build overall endurance and also round out demands on each core muscle group.  By the end of this long day, I should need a damn nap.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – I start the day with a long, relaxed run.  Out the door at 6am, and arrive at the gym just before 8am.
  2. BIKE – Stage 2 of the morning is a 45 minute spin class. This class on Saturday mornings is usually a lot of fun.  Great music.
  3. STRENGTH – After biking, I’ll take some time and work on core strength.  Gotta release the inner Thor.

Today is basically me getting into a core form of training routine.  Most days, running, biking and strength training will be a part of morning – so I need to build a base.

Results:

  1. RUN – that was fun.  very relaxed  8 miler got me down Broadway to union square and back.  the blah weather sucks, but jamming with a homeless dude to Stevie Wonder made up for it.
  2. BIKE – spin class.  45 minutes – 17.4 miles crushed.  Felt good afterward.
  3. STRENGTH – The Woo Dude was not around, so this workout was uneventful.  I just realized who the Woo Dude from the other day looked like…..he was the spitting image of Andrew Dice Clay’s character from that movie Casual Sex.  The Vin Man.

Totals:

Swim –  0 yds

Bike – 55 miles 

Run – 17 miles

Strength Training – 1 hour

Cross Training (Classes) – 1 hour

Yoga (yes- yoga.  That’s not a damn typo) – 0

Training Log: May 6th 2016


Fridays are normally a more low-key of the week, as the weekend training schedule is usually pretty demanding.

Schedule:

  1. RUN – Heading outside tomorrow morning EARLY.  Looking to be out the door at 4am.  Going to shoot for a 10 miler this morning, and I should be at my gym at 6am to change out of my sweaty clothes and into stuff to ride in.  4am in Manhattan is pretty interesting….
  2. BIKE – 6:15am Spin Class.  The goal here is to clip off at least 17 miles in the 45 minute class.  This can be done by holding a pace somewhere between 21-22mph.
  3. CROSS TRAINING – At 5:30pm, I’m heading to a cardio Sculpt class.  THIS should be funny, because I don’t play well with others.  And….well…..yesterday may carry over a bit and I’ll WOOOOOOOOO for no reason whatsoever.

This morning’s workout is all about endurance.  I need to develop this routine so that knocking out double-digit mileage does not tax my system to the point where I am fried for the rest of the day.  This week I am treating myself like a lab rat, trying to find out how I react to levels of  physical stress.

Results:

  1. RUN –OK, so I called an audible while under the awning of my apartment building this morning.  At 5am I decided to hit the gym and mix up some stretching, ab work and sprint intervals instead of slogging through an extremely rainy early morning.  I completed 30 minutes of interval training on the DREADMILL, with 2 minutes sprinting and one minute of recovery.  Began at a 10min pace and actually pushed VERY hard at the end, getting the pace to be sub 7 minutes for the last minute.  I felt awesome at the end.
  2. BIKE – After the interval training, I changed into some fresh workout gear and hopped on the bike.  The class worked on sprints here as well, getting rpms up over 95+ at times, with decent resistance.  So by the end, I logged over 17 miles in 45 minutes…the morning overall made me feel exhausted but accomplished.
  3. CROSS TRAINING – So I took an hour’s worth of cross training classes this evening.  First was a Cardio Sculpt class – which was 45 minutes that left me wading in a pool of sweat, following by an Ab Lab class  – only 15 minutes long…but I felt cranky by the end of it.  Ab exercises are not my forte….

Totals to Date:

Swim –  ___ yds

Bike – 38 miles

Run – 9 miles

Strength Training – 1 hour

Cross Training (Classes) – 2 hours

Yoga (yes- yoga.  That’s not a damn typo) – ___ hours