Category Archives: baseball

Baltimore Marathon

Number 2126.

25,000 runners came to Baltimore to compete in the Under Armor Running Festival.

My wife Ann and I pose for a picture neat the starting line.

Where do I begin?  10 years ago I was finished with my athletic career.  Due to a torn ligament in my elbow my baseball playing career had ended. I lifted weights but I was no longer competitive.  I was really strong but I had poor diet habits. It took nearly 6 years as I continued to gain weight. 4 years ago  I was 100 pounds heavier than I was in this picture.

I always tell people that I did not lose weight because of running.  I started running because I lost weight.  It started with just a mile on the treadmill.  Then a year later I signed up for a half marathon in Jersey City.  Now three years after I started running I ran my first Marathon.

The weekend started with the long drive down to Baltimore.  We hit some miserable traffic and it took close to five hours.  I was not too happy picking up my race bib above.  The expo was at the convention center.  It was pretty cool.  There was a ton of running gear which I browsed through.  The only thing I actually picked up were a few gu energy gels that came in handy during the race.  I had originally planned to carry 4.  However, I decided to bring 6 just in case and I am glad I made that last minute switch.

The night before we went to La Scala for a pasta dinner so I could get my carbs in before the race.  I started eating more carbs 3 days before the race but this would be my last chance.  The meal was very good.  We headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep.  All I kept thinking of was the Seinfeld episode where the marathoner missed the Olympic trails because his alarm clock malfunctioned.  “Was it the Snooze?’  No the am/pm!”

Race morning I woke up at 6 a.m.  Alarm worked great (Thank you IPhone) although I am not sure if I really even needed one.  I stuck with my plan of not eating before the race.  I had a cup of coffee and plenty of water.  I followed through just as I had planned it in my mind.  I bundled up to face the cold weather and headed down towards Camden Yards.  The hotel was just a block away which was perfect.  I tried to stay warm.  I had a long sleeve tight fitting north face, gloves that came in my gift bag, and a nice winter hat to keep my hands and head warm.  I wore my typical Road ID tag and my Nike plus wrist band.  I wore under armor shorts and t shirt which I love running in because of their ability to keep dry.  I wore my Brooks ghost 4 running shoes.

When the confetti dropped and the gun sounded I started gingerly into my run.  as I crossed the starting line I hit the button on my Nike sensor and waved goodbye to my family.  I knew Miles 1-4 would be up hill from the elevation charts but to be honest it was a breeze.  At that point I was fresh and still energized from the crowd and the race atmosphere. Great,  I have to pee really badly.  I saw a porta potty but there was a line.  This is a race!  I am not waiting in line to go to the bathroom.  Plus at this point I was recalling what I said to my friends at work. I will not walk.  If I walk I might as well stop.  They though I should walk through the aid stations or at a few strategic points to conserve energy.  I disagreed.  Just before the race I read Dolphin Dan’s tweet.  “Good luck to JoeLopez55 in the Baltimore Marathon today.  #nowalking.  I kept that promise at mile 3.5 or so I saw guys and girls using some well positioned trees.  I ran off the road and used the trees and ran back onto course.  It might have cost me 30 seconds or so but I didn’t walk and I felt much better.  As we approached the Maryland zoo I was cruising.  There was a downhill section that I felt like I was just flying through.  I guess there were animals and stuff but I wasn’t really paying attention.  I think I saw a penguin in a cage but I am not too sure.  There were plenty of water stations along the route and I had my gu energy gels which I planned to take one every 4 miles.  I stuck with water only.  I didn’t want to do anything different than on my training runs.

The crowds were great.  There were sections of local schools handing out swedish fish and cheering for the runners.  There were very few spots where it was quiet.  Several people held signs and others stuck their hands out to high five.  Even the cops offered their support.  Before I knew it  was at mile 9 back near the inner harbor and looking for my family.  The way the course was set up we decided they could see me at mile 9 and again at mile 13 both near the same location.  I had a feeling that I might have missed them AT mile 9 but I kept looking.  It was hard because there were big crowds at these points.  I ran that first 9 faster than I told them I would. I guess I didn’t anticipate the perfect weather and the quickness that I ran the hills of 1-4.

At Mile 11 we go to the Under Armor Headquarters.  It was a non de-script set of brick buildings with a huge sign telling you that you were there.  They were promoting their newest running shoe.  If we didn’t hit traffic on the way down I was planning on going to the Under Armor Block party where they were giving away free stuff for trying out the sneakers.  I wear almost everything else Under Armor but I have always worn Brooks running shoes.  There was a guy on the bullhorn encouraging runners and talking about how good we all looked in our Under Armor gear.  They also had music blasting throughout the Under Armor Campus.  When we made the turn back towards the inner harbor I knew I would see my family at mile 13 because they should have gotten a text when I crossed mile 9 because of the chip tracker I was wearing in my bib.  I felt great.  The first 13.1 I clocked at 1:56.  I saw my family and it was a good feeling to see them along the route.  I also got there just in time to see the start of the Half Marathon.  This is always a cool site because the Half has a lot more runners than the full.  Somewhere near 12,000 runners were starting just as I passed by.  The merge was a little slow.  Last year I was a half marathoner and I thought it was no problem but I guess seeing it from the other side was a little different.  After doing 13 plus miles you don’t want to bob and weave to pass slower moving people but I guess it makes for the atmosphere of the race.  From this point on it was definitely a lot more crowded.  I did enjoy passing half marathoners at the end of the race and then having them see the words “full” on my back.  I know that would bother me if I was running a half.

I was preparing for my 15-21 from the beginning.  I ran hill repeats all summer with the Lifetime Running Club.  However, I do have to say making miles 15-21 on a marathon all uphill is just cruel.  I actually ran these miles quite well keeping my pace. I was determined not to let that hill beat me.  However, Mile 22 I just was worn out.  I slowed to a 12:38 pace for this Mile.  The hill got to me.  That one Mile was the only outlier in the entire race. I am still bothered by that one mile.  What if I stayed on pace the whole time?   In fact here are my splits.

Mile 1:  9:25

Mile 2:  8:25

Mile 3:  9:01

Mile 4:  7:53

Mile 5:  8:26

Mile 6:  8:26

Mile 7:  7:41

Mile 8:  8:25

Mile 9:  9:01

Mile 10: 10:10

Mile 11: 8:25

Mile 12: 8:26

Mile 13: 9:25

Mile 14: 8:25

Mile 15: 8:26

Mile 16: 9:26

Mile 17: 9:26

Mile 18: 8:26

Mile 19: 10:06

Mile 20: 8:25

Mile 21: 9:26

Mile 22: 12:38?????

Mile 23: 10:57

Mile 24: 8:55

Mile 25: 8:25

Mile 26: 9:23

Finish: 3:57.04

After that it was just  few more miles to go.  I took two miles to recover and then for the the last 3 miles I returned to my normal pace.

When I saw Camden Yards I knew we were close.  In that last stretch you run through the area behind the ballpark between the stands and the warehouse.  The sides are filled with people.  I heard Ann screaming my name.  “You’re doing great!  Almost finished.”  After that I turned the corner and saw M & T Bank stadium and the finish line.  When I crossed I felt so relieved.  I bent over and felt my hamstrings tighten up and then I checked my watch.  The clock had me at under 4 so I knew I broke 4 hours.  To be honest I would have been happy with anything under 4:10.  After getting my medal and eating and drinking.  I just had to sit down and contemplate what I just did.  26.2 miles.  I felt drained a little emotional.  I couldn’t wait to see m family but I couldn’t move.  I just wanted to sit there and enjoy the sun.  When I found Ann and I my family I was still a little shaken but I was so happy.  This was one of the best days of my life.  They say when you finish your first marathon you have either one of two reactions.  Wow, I will never do that again or that was awesome I can’t wait to try it again.  I am not ruling out another one.  I think this just motivates me to do more.  The rest of the weekend we had great meals.  I had plenty of drinks and dessert.  The next mornings breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe was incredible!  I highly recommend the Gingerbread pancakes if you are in Baltimore. The weekend as a whole was a success.  I can’t be more proud and I might even take my dog Wrigley on a trail run this weekend to celebrate!    Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way.  Thanks for all the facebook messages and comments.  Of course thanks to my wife Ann who the last few months have been planned around my weekend runs.  Baltimore Marathon.  Mission accomplished 3:57.04.      I still am mad about that one 12:38 mile though!

Ann wishes me luck as I leave for my spot in the masses.

After the race I wore my medal proud.

2011 Baltimore Under Armor Marathon

This is the free Under Armor long sleeve shirt given to all marathon runners.

Ann, Krissy, and I talking about the day's events.

First day of school

Tomorrow is the first day for teachers to report to school. I was asked by my department head to give a quick presentation on core training for students. There will be elementary teachers as well as the High School physical education teachers present. Here is what I came up with. I plan on handing this out and doing active demonstrations.

Core Training for physical education classes.

Perhaps you have heard of Core training but are not completely sure what it means. Maybe you heard it in a magazine or you heard it in a gym. Maybe some of your students use the term very loosely.

Before we learn what is “the core” let’s learn what it is not. Core is not a newer term for abs. While your students may use core and abs interchangeably they are not the same thing. The core is made up of a group of muscles that all work together to stabilize your body during movement. They allow for a seamless transition between your upper to lower body. The Core muscles are generally located in the middle of your body and mostly acting on your spine to help brace your body in an upright position. (Think good posture).
These muscles consist of:
Stomach:
Rectus Abdominus
Transverse Abdominus
Obliques

Back:
Erector Spinae
Scapula movers ( group of muscles) to a lesser extent.
Hips:
Ilio Psoas
Gluteus Maximus
Gluteus Minimus
Hamstrings to a lesser extent

Traditional ab exercises involve the movement and contraction of the abdominal muscles by flexing and extending the lumbar spine to create tension. Think of a good old-fashioned sit up or crunch. While this might develop your “six pack abs” It leaves out most of those other muscles we just mentioned. Also, the lumbar spine is not meant to have a great deal of flexion and extension. This promotes a kyphotic spine position. Unless you want to look like Quasimodo then this is a bad thing.

A good portion of a core training program involves not mobility but stability. The ability of the core muscles to stabilize when gravity, our own movement, or external forces attempt to create imbalances. Think about a defensive lineman in football being blocked. While he is pushing and grabbing with his hands and arms it is really his hips, glutes, and abs which need to brace to prevent being pushed backwards. There is no abdominal contraction but instead a bracing of the transverse abdominal that initiates the athletic movement. In core training resisting force is equally as important as creating it.

How does core training help the non athlete or average person? Well all of those core muscles create a tight brace for you lower back. Think of an old-time corset. A strong core helps with posture which can prevent lower back pain and injuries. It can also help you with balance and coordination. This can come in handy whether you are swinging a golf club or you are doing chores around the house.

Core work for older kids: 7th – 12th grade

Some examples of exercises that work the core without any equipment:

Plank:
Hands and toes
Forearms and toes
Incline or Decline
1 arm or leg on knees or toes
side planks
rotational planks

Glute bridges:
Marching
Double leg
Single leg w/ isometric hold

Abs:
Rollouts
Pilates Holds
Pikes
Knee tucks
Hip circles

Back:
Birddogs
Supermans
Alternating swimmer

Equipment that could be used for station work:
Stability ball
Rubber tubing
Bosu ball

For younger kids: 2nd to 8th grade

Elementary school:

Some tips to tell if a child has poor core strength:
1. poor posture in class
2. shifts in seat excessively
3. would rather lie down to watch TV then sit up
4. leans on hands a lot. (head or arms)
5. falls often. (balance issues)

Tight Rope:
Have kids walk on a line or tape. Heel to toe.. You can increase the difficulty by having them balance a bean bag on their head. You can also make the line curve rather then be straight. For added difficulty you can add more obstacles with instructions while still balancing a bean bag on their head. (Bend over and touch a cone) at certain points on the rope.

Crab walk races:

Wheelbarrow races

Plank holds:

Chair Leg lifts:
Have students lift both legs and eventually legs and arms and perform a static hold. For added difficulty straighten arms and legs. Concentrate on staying “tall”

Single Leg balance:

Partner planks: 2 person or 4 person

Partner push ups: 2 person or 4 person

Try to engage kids to compete and make games / races wherever possible.

MLB and steroids. (why I know fans don’t care)

I am a baseball fan. I love the Yankees. I play fantasy baseball. I even played in college. I couldn’t get enough of Derek Jeter and his 3000th hit. This is a guy who played in the “steroid era.” He played in a time where it seems like every team had a .340 hitter with 40 HR’s. If you look at baseball now that seems crazy. Numbers are way down from where they were in Jeter’s prime. This only makes me respect what he did even more. While in this day and age you can never be certain, I assume that Derek was never a steroid guy. He went about his business getting his 200 hits every year while playing a demanding shortstop position. He never tried to be something he was not. He played the game with humility because he knew that this time would come. He no longer is a .300 hitter. Not even close really. He plays a good shortstop but not a great one. He hits into more double plays than he used to but it’s not because he doesn’t run every ball out. He runs hard and keeps his head down as if he was a rookie trying to make the club. Years from now I am not sure how fans will perceive Mr. Jeter. Perhaps they will look at other guys who played in his era and just see them as the better ballplayers. Guys like Manny Ramirez who while supremely talented cheated the game for what it was worth and made millions doing it.
The average fan does not care about steroids. The average fan just wants to be entertained. Who cares what these guys do to their bodies.
I know someone who works as a personal trainer. He was convicted for selling steroids. His name was dragged through the mud in the local papers. Yet he remains as busy as ever. Clients line up to receive his services. It’s shocking to me but that just reinforces the idea that people will take any shortcut necessary. The average fan doesn’t care about steroids. While this trainer remains as busy as ever. I can only continue to keep my head down and run out every ball as if trying to make the club. Maybe one day I will get my 3000th hit.
The steroid era may be over but the effects are still there. People want instant and unrealistic results. There is no secret to a better body. It is just a little hard work and a lot of patience. Over time if you know you put in the work then you can be self satisfied at the results. Knowing who you are and not trying to be something you are not is very rewarding. The goal for every person in fitness should be to become the best version of themselves. Maybe the average fan doesn’t appreciate Derek Jeter but I do. Over the next few seasons as the NY fans and media talk about him making big money with little results remember that we will never see a lesser version of Derek. He is always giving is his best self. If everyone lived their lives in a similar fashion then the world would be a better place.

TRX product review

At trainer’s edge in Denville we have had a TRX strap for close to four years. I remember when we got it. The owner brought it in and showed us this new thing invented by a Navy Seal. It looked like just a body weight strap that we hooked to a squat rack. I tried to do some pushups and some rows on it but after that initial training I pretty much forgot about it. I used every once in a while to add something different. Mostly it was pushups and rows. A few months ago I was in the gym and was having a mental block in creating a workout. I looked at the TRX and immediately went to the computer and looked up the TRX at TRXtraining.com. They had a website with videos. WOW! They were doing things I never even thought of. Lots of core strengthening exercise. Explosive lunges right into an ab workout all with one device. I was obsessed. I immediately started just “playing around” to see what else I could do on it. I could stretch and create a warm up. I could do an inverted hand stand into a upside down pushup. The best thing was the rotator cuff exercises that I always had trouble with in other ways. My entire shoulder girdle feels so much stronger and well put together that it ever has. I can work on scapular mobility which is something I have always struggled with.
I even bought one for myself. As a baseball coach I have always struggled to find a line between building athletes and building baseball skills. With one portable weight room in a bag I can hook it onto a fence anywhere we go. I use it for my pitchers to strengthen their arms and I use it for my position players to build explosive rotational power in their hips and their core. In just today’s practice I grouped the kids by position and in between a bunting station and a soft toss station I had the TRX strap hooked up to a pullup bar and had a position specific workout going on throughout the practice. I could work on hitting offspeed pitches and developing speed with footwork drills. Can you tell I am obsessed with the TRX?
Being a runner myself I often workout outdoors especially as the weather starts to get better I know I will be using my TRX all the time outdoors. It will be in the trunk of my car all summer long.