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Book Review. The Long Run

ImageThe Long Run is a book written by Charles Butler about a NYC fireman / fitness enthusiast named Matt Long.   Matt was one of the first responders during the World Trade Center attack on 9/11.  For a while his parents thought that he and his brother, also a firefighter, might have been missing.  He was on of the heroes after 9/11 who stayed day after day and helped search for the missing. He owned a few succesful bars in NYC the most well known is Third and Long.   After long nights at the bar, no pun intended, he was an avid runner, cyclist, and swimmer.  He considered running his passion.  The book begins with him running the NYC Marathon in the annual battle between the NYPD and the NYC Firefighters.  He finished 4th among all of the Firefighters and set his new personal record for the marathon.  In doing so he also qualified for the Boston Marathon which is an amazing feat.  Any recreational runner will tell you how hard that is.  Matt Long also ran the Lake Placid IronMan and planned on one day qualifying for The IronMan in Kona, Hawaii.

The book goes into great detail on his upbringing from a large family raised in New York.  The author does such a great job painting the picture of Matt as a family man and a firefighter than when his accident happens you really feel for him as if you know him personally.  He seems like the kind of guy who you want to have a beer with and just share some stories/

During the NYC Transit strike  in 2005 Matt was supposed to meet some buddies for an early morning workout.  Because of the strike he has no way to get across town and knew that he would never hear the end of it.  So despite it being Winter time he hopped on his bike and headed across town to meet his workout buddies.  On his way a city bus made an illegal turn from the wrong lane and without seeing Matt he crashed into his bike.  Matt was pinned underneath bleeding profusely with broken bones in his legs, hips, and shoulders.  He need almost 70 pints of blood just to keep him alive and the doctors told his family that he had a 5% chance to live and if he did live he would never walk again.

The book then follows his amazing recovery with something like 30 surgeries to follow.  The severe bouts of depression that follow and of course the moment almost 3 years later where he finally accepts that he will never be the person he once was.  The book even gets into the fact that he wasn’t married and his coming to grips with the fact that he now has serious doubts that he ever would be because of his disability that left him unable to have children.

If the book ended there it would be pretty depressing but the amazing recovery of Matt Long bring him from being completely immobile for almost 3 years to running the NYC Marathon again.  It was a roller coaster ride of a book and is a great read for any runner and any person who is suffering from a lack of motivation.  If Matt Long can run a marathon after the setbacks that he had than I honestly believe anything is possible.  It is a true case of mind over matter.  Matt’s mindset that made him a great athlete before his accident as the same determination that made him a Marathon finisher after the accident. This book was a great read for me and I highly recommend it for any weekend warriors like myself.

The Long Run can be found on Amazon.

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2012 ING NYC Marathon

I ran the Baltimore Marathon just this past October so I wasn’t planning on entering another marathon so quickly.  I was going to focus on strength training and some shorter races.  My plan was a Warrior Dash in July, the Men’s health Urbanathalon in October, and maybe a few 5k’s sprinkled in.  However, when I watched the NYC Marathon last year it was pretty amazing.  So, I started doing some research online and finding out a lot about it.  Apparently they are making it harder and harder to get in.  Here are your options to be one of the 40,000 + runners.

Here is how you can apply for next year’s race.

Join a ING NYC Marathon pre-approved fundraising team.  I looked up Livestrong which sponsors a team.  I would need to raise 15,000 dollars for their charity to get in the race.  Although it’s a great cause I have 2 jobs so that wasn’t happening.

Get a professional exemption.  I don’t think my 3:57 time at Baltimore is quite up to par for “Pro” status.

Qualify by completing another approved race leading up to the ING NYC Marathon.  Ok, let’s look up the qualifying times.  New York Half Marathon for my age group.  1 hour and 23 minutes.  Yea not gonna happen.

Lastly you could enter your name in the lottery.  According to the website depending on how many applicants you have between a 6% and a 12% chance of getting accepted.  They do have a rule that if you get denied through the lottery for 3 consecutive years than you gain automatic enrollment the following year.    I decided I might as well pay the 7 bucks and enter my name and maybe 3 years from now I can do my next marathon.  (I recently found out that they are getting rid of the 3 year rule but I didn’t know at the time.)

I play the lottery pool at work all the time and have yet to win that lottery but somehow I won this lottery.  With about an 8% chance I am now running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon on November 4th.  Oh boy now I have to get my mind right to train all over again.  Here are my initial thoughts.

I never really stopped running after my last marathon.  I continued with my normal routine of trail running in the fall / winter and road running when the weather gets nice again in the spring.  NJ typically has bad winters with lots of snow for at least 2 months and I hate running on a treadmill so I usually take at least 2 months off during that time.  This year that never happened so I have been running non stop.  So, to avoid burnout and overtraining I am going to keep running until about June 10th and then take 2 straight weeks off.  During this time my wife and I are going on a vacation so that will work out perfectly anyway.

I still have that Warrior Dash in July but I had to postpone the Urbanatahalon because it is just too close to the marathon date.   In the mean time I am focusing more on speed training.  My runs are anywhere from 3-7 miles but I am trying to increase my pace to about 7 minutes a mile.  I am experimenting with lighter sneakers (Brooks PureFlow) but I don’t want to overdue it because I don’t want an injury.  I am not a typical 120 pounds marathoner.  I weigh about 190 pounds depending on the week.  I am also experimenting with a weighted vest for my shorter runs.  The Nike Sparq weighs about 12 pounds and I have been wearing it on shorter runs of 3 miles or less.  The last thing I have been doing is more fartlek type runs which I tend to neglect when my miles get longer and longer.

Once July hits I will start my official marathon training.  Last time I used Runners World Smart coach app on my phone which worked out great.  I did modify it slightly and I probably will again because I am in a running club that runs out of LifeTime gym in Florham Park.  So on those days I will just do whatever run is on the run coordinator’s schedule.  I enjoy having the appointment of meeting with the group at a certain time.  It keeps me motivated during the hot summer months.  The basic routine of the Smart Coach is 2 weeks of increasing mileage with one week of decreasing.  The beginning of the week are the shorter runs with speed work built in.  The weekend runs are the longest.  During training I will run 4 times a week until the mileage gets up past 12 then I will cut it down to 3 times a week.  I also intend to strength train all throughout the marathon training but less reps and no more than 70% of my 1RM.

With about 3 weeks to go before race day I intend to stop lifting legs all together and with 2 weeks to go I will taper my runs to keep the legs fresh for race day.

It’s always bough to set goals for a marathon because so many things can come into play or go wrong but as of right now I would like to finish around 3 hours and 50 minutes and set a new PR for that distance.  My goals os to be consistent all throughout the race and not have any outlier miles mixed in.  If you read my blog on the Baltimore Marathon I had that one mile which was over a 12 minute pace right as I crested the hill on mile 21 that really bothered me.  Image

So, ready or not I am running the 2012 ING NYC Marathon with about 43,000 other people.  As I get closer to race day I will let everyone know what I am wearing so you can play where’s Waldo on TV.

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.

I don’t listen very well. The Good, The Bad, and the Inspirational

So for those of you who spoke with or read my blog last week know I was supposed to make my last long run of 21 miles before tapering. However, I melted in the humidity and died out at 17.5. I went to facebook, twitter, and my running friends for advice on whether I should attempt to get 20 or just begin my taper three weeks out like my original plan called for. Every single person I talked said to just forget about and stick with my original plan and start the taper. For someone reasons I just couldn’t imagine showing up on October 15th and attempting to run 8 more miles than I have ever run in my life. Keep in mind this is my first marathon. I have never ran more than 18 miles at a time before. If this was my 3rd marathon I would have tapered. So despite the advice I ran 3 miles earlier in the week and then went out for 21 today. Fortunately it was much cooler today and it actually felt like fall. I ran a blistering pace (for me) of 3 hours and 7 minutes. If I run this pace on Marathon day I will be ecstatic.
The Good. I wore exactly what I plan on wearing for the marathon. Same shirt, shorts, socks, and sneakers. I wanted to see if there were any unforeseen issues. Maybe the socks shift out of place and cause blisters or maybe my shirt is too loose and causes chafing. Luckily, everything felt great. So let’s analyze what I did so hopefully I can recreate it. First of all I the weather. I can’t control what the weather is on October 15th but certainly that was a big factor. 58 degrees with little humidity and partly cloudy vs 83 degrees with 93% humidity. The second is I actually had pasta the night before. It was my mom’s birthday so we went out for dinner. I had penne all vodka with grilled chicken. I have no idea if this played a factor or not but guess what? I plan on having pasta the night before the big day. I also had two beers and an Irish Coffee. Coincidence? Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game of his entire major league Hall of Fame baseball career. Who am I to argue? Third thing is I ate nothing before I ran. I woke up and had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. Last week I tried t eat and my stomach was not agreeing. I started to cramp up and feel side stitches most o the way. I did take 3 Gu packs with me and had those every 5 miles. They are 100 calories of high carb and sugar which can replenish glycogen stores that are lost on the run. On race day I will probably use 4 of them. I also tried to drink 6 ounces of water every three miles. I have tried gatorade or vitamin water before but again it doesn’t agree with my stomach. Maybe I will switch to gatorade late in the race when I am on the home stretch but I plan on mostly drinking water.
The Bad. I had a pretty bad foot pain. Just under my big toe on my right foot I had an excruciating pain. When I am running on flat ground moving straight ahead I was fine. Any pronation at all because of an uneven surface was really painful. The streets of Morristown are crowded and if I had to side step a person or a garbage can or any lateral movement was really painful. I am hoping it is just a bone bruise from just the wear and tear of 350 miles of road running. If that is the case I am hopeful that the next two weeks of tapering will help heal that up. Worst case scenario I guess is a stress fracture but I am not there yet I don’t think.
The Inspirational: My wife Ann ran her first ever 5k on Saturday. After weeks of training she ran and completed her 5k and even reached her goal time. In fact, when I was debating whether or not I would ever attempt a full marathon she was the one who made me a deal. She said if I ran a marathon she would run a 5k. I created a workout plan for her and she followed it perfectly. Despite having a pretty nasty cough that popped up the week of the race she battled and reached her goal. I am so proud of her and she did an amazing job.
Now its time to taper. All the hard work in mostly done and I feel ready. This coming week I have two runs of 4 miles with speed work and 8 miles with a hill or two. Then I have a massage scheduled on Saturday which I am very much looking forward to. It is a 90 minute “extreme sports massage” at Bliss in Hoboken. Then after that we are in race week. 2 miles flat and 5 miles flat at an easy comfortable pace during the week. I took of work on the Friday before so I can head down to Baltimore and relax. I have to pick up the race packet and my free under armor T shirt at the Health expo. Then I can walk around a little and see what the expo has to offer. Then Friday night I plan on getting some pasta and a good night’s sleep before race day. Hopefully I can finish the race and hopefully the weather cooperates. Stay tuned foe race day updates. Baltimore running festival. October 15th. Here I come.

Marathon sneakers

they look fast!Here they are! The Brooks ghost 4. My training has been done in Brooks ghost 2. I don’t plan on wearing these until next weeks 5 mile speed work on Wednesday. Then I will alternate runs until race day. I am super excited to test them out.

Marathon sneakers

marathon outfit

Respecting every workout.

In my marathon training I am supposed to increase the distance for two consecutive weeks before going backwards in a down week. For example, in weeks 1-4 my long runs were 4, 6, 3, 8. This method allows you to increase your distance while giving your legs time to rest on down weeks. However, this past week I fell into the trap of being overconfident on my down week. Partly to blame was the fact that we were having a BBQ for some friends on Sunday. So I squeezed in my long run on Saturday after lifting legs on Friday. I ran 10 miles two weeks ago and breezed through a 12 mile run last weekend on a humid free beautiful day. All I had to do was a quick 8. This should be a piece of cake. Wow was I wrong. I got through the first 4 fairly easy despite my legs feeling heavy. On the way back I was dying. It was a butal, humid, and disgusting day and my legs had not yet recovered from the previous day’s squats. I didn’t eat the way I normally would before a run. I didn’t hydrate properly. I didn’t pace myself correctly. My distance runs are supposed to be an easy pace which for me is usually around 9:20 to 9:50 a mile. I so overlooked this run that I was just trying to get it over with. My pace ended up being at like 8:50 which is too quick for an easy distance run. I didn’t respect the run. Rule number one is you have to respect the workout. Every run could be your best or your worst. Each run needs to be treated with that respect. I have 8 training weeks left until marathon Saturday. Starting this week I am dropping my weekly runs down from 3 times a week to only 2. I start with 14 this coming weekend and I can promise you this. I will not take it lightly.

Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.

Mike Tyson once said this and believe it or not it makes a lot of sense. A reporter asked him about the fighter who he just knocked out and his reported game-plan to keep Tyson from getting inside so he could use his famous uppercut. As a runner training for a race you try to make a plan but over the course of training you have to expect to get punched in the face a time or two. I am following a workout I downloaded from runnersworld’s smart coach. They ask for a previous race time, how hard do you want to train, and when you want to do your long runs. Then they spit out a program for you. Actually I should say I am sort of following the runnersworld program. At Lifetime fitness in Florham Park they have a running club. I decided to give it a try way back in June. So I have been joining the running club twice a week and then doing the long sunday run that runnersworld gives me. I plan to do this until I have to go back to work. Although the run club meets at 6 a.m. it is still not early enough for when I go back to work as a teacher. I feel that isn’t really a problem because by then my runs will be much longer and it would be tough to run 3 times a week with a run of 12 miles or more on the weekend. The running club has been great for a number of reasons. First of all with the summer heat it is nice to get going at 6 a.m. This is something I would never do on my own. Also, in the past I have never really done anything other than run for distance. The run club has been incorporating a track sprint workout as well as hill repeats into my repertoire. It is definitely motivating and humbling to run with others twice a week.
This past week’s workout looked something like this:
Monday: Chest and triceps
Tuesday: 7 miles including:
2 200’s
2 400’s
2 800’s
2 1200’s
Abs
Wednesday: Back and Biceps
Thursday: 6 miles with 7 Hill repeats of about 1 minute each
Legs and Shoulders
Friday: Spin class
Saturday Rest day
Sunday: 9 miles easy pace
Like I said this is my general plan for the rest of the summer until I can no longer attend the run club during the week. Then I plan on downgrading my runs to twice a week to accommodate the longer runs to prepare for the marathon. I did get a minor blister on my toe that I was worried about on Sunday night. I took care of it and took every precaution I could. I was able to do the run club this morning. I was worried that this was going to be my first punch in the face but I was able to slip this one. So far the legs feel sore but overall I am pretty positive. No knockout blows just yet and I am on track for October 15th!

Running my first Marathon 10/15/2011

I have officially signed up for my first full marathon. I will be running the Baltimore Under Armor Running Festival full marathon on October 15th. After running the half marathon in Baltimore last year I noticed the losers that were in the line for their free half marathon T- shirt and said then that I needed to kick it up a notch. Just kidding…. (sort of). Actually the real reason that I am running the Baltimore marathon and not something more local is because of the free T-shirt. Being sponsored by Under Armor this race gives you by far the best T-Shirt for a race. I am aware that I can buy an Under Armor T-shirt anywhere and not have to run 26.2 miles but I would do most anything for free apparel. Actually the real reason I am running is simply because it is something I have always wanted to do. Not many people can say they have run a marathon in their lives. I believe it is something like 1% of the world’s population. This post was just to announce that I will be running the marathon in October. However, you can expect more posts to follow discussing my training and my progress. It has already started but I just signed up for the marathon earlier this week. I feel like I am in tremendous shape right now and I feel real strong so far. I do have a few thoughts right off the bat. Number one I ran the Baltimore half in 1 hour and 56 minutes. I am hoping for a 4:07 or better but since it is my first marathon my real goal is just to finish. My other goal is to not slouch off on my strength training while training for the race. In the past while training for races I have had a hard time keeping up with my regular lifting routines. Particular lifting legs. If you read my previous post “King of all exercises” you know that I have started to develop a passion for my lower body routine and I would like to keep that up. I am certainly looking forward to the upcoming months leading up to my first marathon. I will keep you up to date with my routines, successes, and failures leading up to the big day.