It’s Been a While…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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Some New Year’s Thoughts…


Before the clock strikes midnight, I wanted to share a few quick thoughts with you all. So bear with me as I bounce from point to point. I’ll try to be brief, as we all have New Year’s Eve fiestas to grace with our presence…

Point #1: I want to say thank you to all of the people that supported me in my 2012 endeavors. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, following my story and taking an interest. Thank you also for any donations you’ve made to The Dream Team Project. Any donation for any amount is valued and appreciated. A special note of appreciation to Steve and Valerie Drew – your generosity is truly humbling. I also want to extend my thanks to Robyn Engel Couture – your assistance with the design of my blog and her technological creativity throughout the year kept my site looking rather dapper if I do say so myself. I truly appreciate your insights!

Point #2: 2012 was an interesting year. Full of highs and lows – like riding California Screaming. The highs were embraced, and the lows were used as learning experiences. I try to share my lows – my mistakes – with all of you so that other people don’t make the same running errors that I made. I will continue to share the highs and lows in 2013. So grab a fast pass for another ride on this roller coaster.

Point #3: 2013 provides each of us with a fresh opportunity to make some changes in our every day routines. Seise it. Make a decision to take action. Draft a plan to affect positive change in your life, and then make a daily commitment to attain a manageable goal. And be patient. Very patient. Rome was not built in a day. Fight and win a daily skirmish, and you’ll win the war.

Final Point: never forget that there is no limit to what you can accomplish. Set your bar high and then fight like hell to reach it. Let your goals scare the crap out of you – because if they don’t scare you, they are not big enough.

Attack 2013 with unbridled passion, unflappable focus and unyielding courage.
I want to wish all of you the happiest of new years. May 2013 bring you continued success and peace. And for all of you runners out there…may all of your hills be downhills.

Happy New Year!

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

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

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…And Last But Not Least…


So far I have shared three of my goals for 2013 with you. None of them has the panache of running 12 marathons in 2012 – “12 in ’12” – but, when grouped together, the challenges that I’ve established for myself in the upcoming year will be much more challenging than what I just completed. Why? Because completing 12 marathons in 2012 really required just a bit of tenacity and a high threshold for pain. The goals I’ve established in 2013 will require actual daily focus and discipline. And let’s face it: I lack discipline.

To quickly recap: in order to continue to raise money in 2013 for The Dream Team Project, I will chase the following goals for the year…
1) log over 2,013 miles in 2013
2) drop my weight to 185 pounds in order to improve my health and running performance
3) run The 2013 Fifth Avenue Mile in 6:45 or less

…and my fourth goal for this coming year is…..

4) run the 2013 ING New York City Marathon in a time of 4 hours or less.

This one is the one that scares me. My best marathon time – ever – is 4:59:36. If I fully dedicate myself to working on losing weight and maintaining a strict, daily focus on my training like never before, I hope to shave an hour off of my marathon time this year. The last ten miles of a marathon I normally take my foot off the gas and sputter to the finish line. Well that ends now.

The Tool will be back in 2013. There is no way to avoid him. As a matter of fact, he’s in the room with me right now as I type this. And he’ll probably be perched on my shoulder all year long, like a squawking parrot whose high-pitch screeches provide migraines in short order. Some days you’re the bird, and some days you’re the statue.

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

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

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Time To Roll Out Some New Goals for 2013…


Well, my goal of completing 12 marathon during 2012 was a success. It feels weird to say that – I conducted a successful 2012 running campaign. I can almost hear my little Irish grandmother loud and clear: “You conducted a successful running campaign in 2012? Well WOW – I love me, do you? You know Joey – self praise stinks!” I have a hard time saying that I accomplished a goal, because attaining the goal means that there is no need to further the effort. As Ovid once said: the ending crowns the work. Personally, I enjoyed the ups and downs of this year. The lost tooth, running in freezing and hot / sticky times of the year, the blackened toenails, sprained ankles, and overall constant achiness – the juice was worth the squeeze.

I didn’t run 12 marathons in a year for the bling that comes with finishing an event – although the medals were cool. Instead, I ran to raise money for a really wonderful charity: The Dream Team Project. It’s almost the end of the year – so I would like to ask once more for your support. If you haven’t already done so, please consider a donation to this worthy cause. Any amount helps, and it goes toward fulfilling dreams for children that suffer from life-threatening illnesses and their families. As a former Wish Granter volunteer for the New York City chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can honestly tell you that fulfilling a sick child’s dream raises the kid’s spirits in an immeasurable way. Your generosity is so very much appreciated.

What I normally did after each marathon was allow myself 24 hours to enjoy the effort. No workouts, enjoy an extra chocolate chip cookie, and take some extra time to veg out in front of the TV. When those 24 hours were up, I placed whatever bling I earned on race day on a small shelf in my bedroom, and began preparing for the next race. One of the motivating factors that kept me going all year long were the kids that this charity helps. These boys and girls deal with their life-treatening illnesses day after day. For them, there is no 24 hour grace period where they get to forget their ailments. Their families deal with the constant stress without a pause. It’s that everyday grind that wears down the child’s hope – and you have to maintain hope in order to heal, in my opinion.

As I’m sitting here writing this on the day after Christmas, my thoughts go back to that concept – the daily grind. Now that my 2012 goals have been attained, I can’t just sit back and say I’m done. I need to role out some new goals for the coming year – and the first goal takes the concept of The Daily Grind and – quite literally – runs with it.

So – in order to continue to raise money for the Dream Team Project, I’m going to run 2,013 miles in 2013. In order to attain this goal, I’ll need to crank out 38.71 miles each week – roughly 5.51 miles a day, every day. Now I know what you’re thinking, and I pretty much agree: 12 in ’12 had a more interesting ring to it than 2,013 in 2013. However this goal has been given a lot of thought and, for me, this will be a bit tougher than 12 marathons in a year. It will need to be a daily grind. It will require me to develop a routine and maintain it all year long, regardless of what life throws at me. This is hard for me, because I have absolutely no ability to maintain a healthy routine for any duration of time. Diets last 48 hours. Swearing off chocolate? That lasts 4 hours at best. This year-long effort will require me to change some negative qualities I posses.

There will be tons of races thrown in all year long to make it interesting, beginning with WDW Marathon Weekend in January. I’m scheduled to run the “Dopey” for the first time, which is a 5k race on Friday, followed by a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday. Lots of bling will be in store if I pull that one off…and lots to write about, I’m sure. I am also planning on running “Worth the Hurt” during the San Francisco Marathon (Worth the Hurt will be my first official ultra marathon race, where runners begin to run the San Francisco Marathon course in the middle of the night beginning at the finish line and end at the starting line…just in time to turn around and run the actual San Francisco Marathon with the masses), the Chicago Marathon, and the ING New York City Marathons in 2013, as well as a bunch of half marathons during the year. Hopefully these races will keep me honed in on my macro-goals and keep me moving in the right direction.

I need goals. I need those carrots in front of me to keep me moving or else I get lazy. So there are my 2013 goals…and I hope you’ll continue to follow this turtle’s journey. Thanks for continuing to read my entries – I hope to keep you all laughing at my antics!

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

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

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Wanted To Share The Podcasts I’ve Participated In….


Here are links to podcasts I participated in involving the 2011 and 2012 WDW Marathons

A recap of the 2012 WDW Marathon Weekend:

http://www.wdwradio.com/2012/01/disney-world-marathon-recap-review-2012-show-257-january-15-2012/

 

A Preparatory Podcast For the 2012 WDW Marathon Weekend:

http://www.wdwradio.com/2011/12/disney-world-marathon-show-252-december-11-2011/

 

A Recap of the 2011 WDW Marathon Weekend

http://www.wdwradio.com/2011/01/walt-disney-world-marathon-weekend-2011-recap-roundtable-show-205-jan-16-2011/

Momentum: Not Easy to Develop, and Even Harder to Maintain


Once I got back to my room in the Boardwalk Villas, I rested through the afternoon, all night long, and in to the next day.  Monday afternoon, I flew home.  I’m lucky that I heal quickly – there was no noticeable limp as I waddled down the jetway and into the plane destined for JFK airport in New York City.  I wore a dark blue long sleeve shirt that stated “I DID IT!  26.2”  and alongside it “2012 Walt Disney World Marathon”, with Mickey in a running suit emblazed on the front, and a map of the course in bright colors on the back.  As I entered the plane, a flight attendant asked me “did you run the marathon yesterday?”  My response: “nope – I grabbed the shirt right off of some schmuck during a TSA strip search”.  Definitely a sign of things to come.  The flight was a two hour and thirty minute stress test.  One down….eleven more marathons to go.  I kept thinking about that as my slightly deranged cab driver pulled off a fantastic impersonation of  Cale Yarborough as we weaved through traffic from JFK to Manhattan.  An extremely fun weekend….was over.  Now – the work really begins.

And I don’t like hard work.

So I  did what I do best: I procrastinated.

I allowed myself three days to heal, making myself a silent promise to get back on the bridal path and begin the development of momentum to improve my time during my next race, the 26.2 With Donna: The National Breast Cancer Marathon in Jacksonville Beach, Florida on Sunday, February 12th.  Well….I broke my silent promise when Thursday morning arrived and with it, some REALLY cold temperatures.  Way too cold to run at 5am, right?  So I brushed off my planned tempo run and caught another 30 minutes of sleep.  Besides….there’s always Friday.

Friday morning came and went – and not a mile was logged.  5 days.  No miles logged, no focus, and what’s worse – no inner fire to get things going.  NOT GOOD.

That Saturday I finally braved the 28 degree morning and got myself going.  Slowly.  I had no goal in my head, and that was a HUGE mistake.  I logged two loops around Central Park, but I lacked focus and purpose.  My performance was sad evidence of this fact.  I actually walked home from the park disappointed, when usually these types of runs fire me up for the remainder of the weekend.  That first week after the WDW Marathon was filled with bad juju.

The following two weeks were just as unfocused and disappointing from a training standpoint.  Sure I can make excuses: long commutes for work, travel for work, soreness from the marathon, cold temperatures…blah blah blah.  A marathoner needs to be better than the excuses he/she can come up with.  And I haven’t been.

So here I am: it’s 7am on a chilly Friday morning.  Leg number two of my 12-legged marathon monster is about a week away.  I know I’ll finish (simply because I’m stubborn – not because I’m physically primed for this one) – I just hope I perform a bit better at the end of the day.  The focus seemed to be coming back during this morning’s speed work.  Why?  Because I developed a specific plan for this morning’s run in my head, and then I executed it.  Not well, mind you – but I got it done.

It was during my slow walk home from the park this morning when I realized what was going on (and if you’ve read my prior entries on this blog going back a bit, you’ll catch the reference pretty quick): The Tool was back.  I thought I beat him up pretty badly.  I thought I had gotten rid of the little imp once and for all last November.  I was wrong.  I forgot that The Tool never goes away – the athlete only ignores his whinings while training and competing, or locks him away in some dark room with no satellite TV, doomed to watch re-runs of The Lawrence Welk Show until the athlete decides to hang up his/her Reeboks and calls it a competitive career.  It’s when the athlete drops his/her guard and loses focus on the goals ahead that the door is trust open, and The Tool marches on through, ready to spill the venom of laziness into our ears.  I dropped my guard.  The Tool marched right on in, perched himself on my shoulder, and had been whispering his distracting messages in my ear for weeks. Damn.  I should have caught this sooner.

Now that I realize that this tiny imp has reappeared to make my life more difficult, the battle has been joined once more.  And this one will go on all……year…..long.

Tomorrow is Saturday, and that is usually my long run day.  I’m planning to log two loops of Central Park, which should put my mileage at around 13-14 by the time I’m finished.  One of the weapons I’m planning to use to battle The Tool from today forward is this blog.  By posting my training goals, it will help me not to lose focus, and it will assist me with staying on track so that I improve throughout the year.