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2013 ING NYC Marathon Recap.

The NYC Marathon was all that I expected and more.  I had heard about the crowds and the noise level and the massive amounts of runners but you really can’t prepare for that unless you have experienced it.  2 Millions plus spectators who are loud and cheering for you like you are Derek Jeter.  Every recreational athlete should get to experience that at some point in their lives.

Race Day:

My alarm went off at 3:45 a.m. but I shot awake at 3:30.  I was quite anxious for the day to begin.  Every meticulous detail was pre-planned from what I was going to eat to how I was going to put on my layered clothes to prepare for the waiting outside at Fort Wadsworth.  Shower; Check.  Water; Check. Body Glide; Check. I got my cup of coffee and had my oatmeal and hit the road to meet my ride to Met Life Stadium. Getting to Met Life was a breeze at 4:45 in the morning.  There were hundreds of buses lined up ready to roll.  As we got on the bus I expected a fairly short drive but instead it took us an hour and a half.  The traffic getting near the Verrazano bridge was stand still.  It was tough sitting down for that long but we were going to have to wait around anyway so I reasoned that it was better on a warm bus than out in the cold.  When we got there the security presence was heavy.  Metal Detectors and wands were used. Bib numbers had to be shown to anyone who asked and several people asked.  Sleeping bags and even garbage bags which people planned on using to keep warm or to sit on were confiscated.  When we actually got to Fort Wadsworth.  The atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.  They provided coffee, water, gatorade, and bagels.  I decided to have a bagel around 8:30 because it had now been 3 hours since I ate my oatmeal.  There were people everywhere.  I didn’t know at the time but they later announced a record number of runners.  Over 50,000 would line up to attempt this year’s NYC Marathon.  Most just sitting down, trying to rest as much as possible.  Many waiting in the lines for the bathroom no doubt a combination of drinking water, sitting out in the cold, and just nervous energy.  There were people from so many other countries wearing their county’s colors proudly.  I noticed France, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain, Canada, and Germany just to name a few.

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I tried seeking out people who had run NYC before to get some tips on how to manage the day.  The Ford Wadsworth part of the day was like Christmas Eve as a kid.  You just know something amazing is about to happen and you can feel it in the air.  Finally at 9:00 they called wave 2 to the corals.

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Once inside the corrals the nerves started to come.  Last minute bathroom breaks because we were less than an hour from starting the world’s greatest race.  Now was also the time to shed the layers of clothes I had on over my race outfit.  It was a cold day and the wind was harsh at times but to be honest I am not sure if I noticed at the time.  I kept my hat and gloves on for the first part of the race only to shed them around mile 5.  As we made our way towards the base of the Verazano for the first time I really got a sense of how massive this was.  TV Cameras were everywhere and there was a stage set up where Mayor Bloomberg had just wished all of the runners good luck.  Someone sang God Bless America and did a great job but I have no idea who. Then before I knew it The cannon fired and Frank Sinatra Sang New York New York.

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The first mile was up hill to the crest of the Verazano Bridge.  You really couldn’t open up too much because the see of people around you.  On the sides of the bridge two NYPD choppers hovered what seemed like 15 feet away.  Everywhere you looked left, right, front, or back there were runners.  It somehow worked.  They start you based on your predicted finishing time so most of the people round you should run at around the same pace as you.  When you look at the overhead shots of the bridge you think you would feel claustrophobic but that really wasn’t the case.

Brooklyn was my favorite part of the race.  Everyone talked about First Ave but Brooklyn was unique in so many ways.  The energy was super high and the people were enthusiastic throughout. Each section had it’s own flavor and made the long trek through Brooklyn lots of fun.  There were DJ’s and bands and MC’s keeping the crowd going.  One of the best tips I received was to write my name somewhere on my body because other runners and people along the route would shout out, “Keep going Joe” , or “nice job Joe.”  Some of my favorite signs that people had were the girl with a Friday Night Lights Jersey holding the sign that said Clear Eyes Full Hearts, the popular catch phrase from the TV show.  Another guy had a sign that said Chuck Norris never ran a marathon.  Run now, Beer Later was another one that I liked seeing.  Brooklyn for me was the highlight of the race.   It was still early enough where I felt good and I was cruising on adrenaline.  The only downside was the strong winds mostly in my face which at the time I didn’t pay attention to but the combination of my adrenaline and the winds would maybe come back to haunt me later on.

The second half of the race started as you crossed the Queensboro Bridge onto First Ave in Manhattan.   The Queensboro was quiet and the first half was uphill until you crested and then started down onto the street.  When I made the left onto First Ave you could see all of the people lining the streets.  It was not quite as loud as I was told it would be but certainly First Ave had the most spectators.  They were holding signs and ringing cow bells and just cheering for their family and friends and even people they don’t know.  The marathon is a day where all the good it seems comes out in people.  Yes their are the elite runners with their tiny bodies running superhuman times.  To me the marathon is about the 99% of the runners who go into the day knowing they have no chance of winning.

Around Mile 18 is when things started to go down hill for me.  I started to feel a slight twinge in my hamstrings.  I knew if I continued to stride like I wanted to I might cramp up.  I have never felt that in my hamstrings while running.  Usually it was my calves or my hip but this was real.  I made a conscious effort to slow myself down and decrease my stride in order to not blow out my hamstring.  The shorter strides make for more ground time and more force being pounded into your legs.  By mile 20 it was over for me.   I was shot.  I had hit the wall.  This was not my first marathon but I had never felt anything like this.  I struggled slowly from 20-23.  I hardly even remember going through the Bronx and up into Harlem.  By the time we crossed back into Manhattan and into Central Park I felt as if I was going to die.  Every part of my legs were failing me.  My calves, my hips, my quads had seemed to take over for my previously ailing hamstrings.  Miles 23-26.2 were a slow crawl at best.  I even walked.  I walked and ran back and forth through Central park.  Each time I stopped I wanted to cry because I could see 3:45 slipping away but more than I just wanted it to be done.  The marathon had beat me.  My previous marathons I didn’t walk at all.  Now I was walking through water stops and even in between.  People were passing me left and write.  Having Joe written on my shirt helped me in the beginning but now I didn’t want people to know my name.  Other runners were trying to encourage me.  “Almost there Joe”.  Spectators were trying to help me but it was of no use.  I just could not make myself run.

The goal was 3:45.  8 minutes and 35 seconds a mile.  I can do that.  Maybe go 8:15 because I would slow down later on but still doable.  But something inside of me just says go as fast as you can. Looking back I am not sure if it was the wind in my face or my too fast pace but I crashed and I crashed hard. My first 10 miles were about a 7:40 pace.  I just didn’t trust myself and my training to slow down.  For some reasons I always have in the back of my mind that no matter how slow I go in the beginning I will still hit that wall later on so why not go fast now.  I should know better than that.  For someone reason I just can’t seem to make myself do it.

MILE TIME CHANGE AVG PACE
1
8:51 8’51″/mi
2
16:40 – 1:02 (11%) 7’49″/mi
3
24:36 + 0:07 (-2%) 7’56″/mi
4
32:11 – 0:21 (4%) 7’35″/mi
5
39:42 – 0:04 (0%) 7’31″/mi
6
*Fastest
47:05 – 0:08 (1%) 7’23″/mi
7
54:41 + 0:13 (-3%) 7’36″/mi
8
1:02:26 + 0:09 (-2%) 7’45″/mi
9
1:10:17 + 0:06 (-2%) 7’51″/mi
10
1:18:12 + 0:04 (-1%) 7’55″/mi
11
1:26:23 + 0:16 (-4%) 8’11″/mi
12
1:34:24 – 0:10 (2%) 8’01″/mi
13
1:42:35 + 0:10 (-3%) 8’11″/mi
14
1:51:03 + 0:17 (-4%) 8’28″/mi
15
1:59:27 – 0:04 (0%) 8’24″/mi
16
2:09:35 + 1:44 (-21%) 10’08″/mi
17
2:17:16 – 2:27 (24%) 7’41″/mi
18
2:25:53 + 0:56 (-13%) 8’37″/mi
19
2:34:44 + 0:14 (-3%) 8’51″/mi
20
2:43:59 + 0:24 (-5%) 9’15″/mi
21
2:53:07 – 0:07 (1%) 9’08″/mi
22
3:02:46 + 0:31 (-6%) 9’39″/mi
23
3:13:01 + 0:36 (-7%) 10’15″/mi
24
3:24:58 + 1:42 (-17%) 11’57″/mi
25
3:36:04 – 0:51 (7%) 11’06″/mi
26
3:47:25 + 0:15 (-3%) 11’21″/mi

Those last three miles were the most painful thing I have ever done in my life.  Not just physically but emotionally I was beaten.  I wish I could say I picked it up and crossed the finish line feeling great but I limped across that finish line.  Yes, in the video I put my hands up but to be honest I was just happy it was over.  I was shocked to see that I actually had PR’d.  I had beaten my previous best marathon by more than 2 minutes.  I said that I was done with marathons after this one and at the finishing line I was sticking to that for sure.  It was pure torture.  It wasn’t until today when I read a NY Times article that I was able to get some perspective on the whole thing.  They interviewed a guy by the name of Greg Cass. He is a very good but sub elite runner.

“That is both the gift and the curse of the marathon,” Cass said. “When you finally get it right, it’s the product of 30 variables that you have maybe 50 percent control of. When you get it wrong, you try to analyze all 30 of those variables. It’s nearly impossible to figure out exactly what went wrong and how to make it better next time. But that’s the goal. To take a look at what happened and go back to the drawing board. And, if it’s in the cards, to give it another go.”

If you told me 5 years ago that I would have run 3 marathons I would have never believed you.  That is the magic of the NYC Marathon.  99% of the people running have no chance of winning. It is only you against yourself and everyone wins.  Just by starting the race and doing the training and having the courage to finish was I able to see myself do something so amazing.  Am I really done with marathons?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just chasing something that will never happen which is the perfect race.  I am definitely not running one next year. I want to tackle some shorter races and try to get faster.  Maybe I will do some obstacle races because those seem like a lot of fun.  I want to throw myself into CrossFit a little more and see where that leads me.  I plan to get on that as soon as I can walk again.  One thing is for sure that for the rest of my life I can tell people that I ran the NYC Marathon.

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Marathon training week 3

This was a strange week. First of all a heat wave hit NJ.

As you can see this heat wave was no joke. 95 degrees every day with high humidity. My strategy was pretty simple. Drink abnormal amounts of water all day long. Run at night usually around 7:00 p.m. When running I make sure I bring water with me. I love my handheld amphibian water bottle. It cradles my hand and I don’t feel like I am going to drop it. My other secret weapon is my cool towel. You may have seen this towel advertised on TV. You wet it, rinse it, then snap it and it cools around your neck. I just tucked it into my neck under my shirt and it was nice and cool on my neck.
For two of my runs on the hottest days I went to Loantaka Park which is a paved trail with a lot of tree cover. That kept me out of the sun. My times were pretty good considering the heat. I made a point to run flat routes this week. It also helped me that this was a scale back week. For my long run I scaled back after two weeks of progress. Last weekend I did 7 miles and this weekend only 5. What does everyone else do during a heat wave? Tell me in the comments.

Monday: Crossfit
Tuesday: 3 miles easy pace and 9 mile bike ride.
Wednesday: 4 miles
Thursday: 3 miles and Crossfit
Friday: 15 mile bike ride
Saturday: Off
Sunday: 5 miles

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Under Armour Charged Cotton Storm Full Zip Hoody

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For those of you who read my previous blog entry.  Holiday Gift Ideas for the Fitness enthusiast. (Tested and Approved) You know that I recommended this sweatshirt as one of my 12 best gifts for the Holiday season.  This sweatshirt by Under Armour is the most comfortable sweatshirt I have ever worn.  The charged cotton material makes you feel like you are wrapped in a blanket and the Storm technology keeps you dry.  I can wear with a pair of jeans and sneakers on a cold day or while I am on a run. At first I thought I wouldn’t like having a zip up hoody because it feels more like a jacket than a sweat shirt but the elongated look made me look slimmer than the cut off look of a pullover. The bottom of the sweatshirt has a cuffed ribbing that you can wear flat instead of having to fold under like a normal pullover sweatshirt. This even allows you to wear a jacket over the hoody which many hoodies are too bulky to try.  The hood liner is super comfortable and sports a waffled look that is comfortable to wear. It has front hand pockets that are lined. This sweatshirt is even great for wearing while going on a run in the winter months. It kept me dry while the snow was falling and I had no problems staying warm.The material is designed to deflect moisture.   This is a do all sweatshirt with style.  Under Armour has a whole line of hoodies just in time for the winter months.   Bottom line, the Under Armour Charged Cotton Storm Full Zip Hoody is a must have this winter.

Hurricane Sandy and the NYC Marathon. A runner’s viewpoint.

It seems like it has been a long time since the NYC Marathon.  A lot has happened and a lot did happen over the two weeks before and after November 4th.  I am going to try to give you an idea of my emotions, thoughts, and opinions leading up to and after the race.

Monday October 29th.  “The night of the storm”

Monday night’s Hurricane Sandy was one of the craziest nights of my life.  I can’t even comprehend being anywhere near a class 2 or a class 3 hurricane.  Hurricane Sandy started as a class 1 hurricane and was actually downgraded before it hit land.  I have never in my life seen or heard wind like that.  The sound was frightening to say the least.  The wind started to pick up around 4 or 5 p.m. and continued throughout the evening.  At around 7 o’clock I got up to let my dog out before it got really bad outside.  I opened the French doors into the backyard and Wrigley stood there and gave me a look like what are you crazy.

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I then brought her to the front of the house where we have an overhang and she could go behind the bushes and underneath the overhang.  She quickly went and came back in.  As I was closing the door and giving her a treat for going to the bathroom outside there was a loud BANG and the lights went out.  After scrambling for a flashlight I made my way upstairs to do a quick scouting report and here is what I saw in our bedroom.

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That night we spent in the candle light worried about more damage and double checking that everything and everyone stayed safe throughout the storm.  I wish I could say that I got a good night’s sleep in but between the wind, the hole in my roof and being worried about the safety of staying in our house I didn’t sleep much at all.  We called the Fire Department and they came over in the middle of the Hurricane to make sure we were safe.  I was amazed at how brave they were just walking down the streets and shining flashlights on a dark street to find our house.  They surveyed the scene and informed us that there was no wire damage or any other damage other than the structural damage from the tree in the backyard which is now on the house and poking into our bedroom.  They gave us an option of staying in a shelter nearby.  We declined and the firemen left I am sure to help out plenty of other people affected by Hurricane Sandy.  That night the little sleep I did get was on the floor downstairs away from the potential of falling trees.  When we finally woke up at daylight we immediately went outside to surveyor our property and the neighborhood and just check out everything.   It was amazing the number of trees and wires that were down.  Driving around the roads were so damaged that you could hardly get anywhere.  Here is what my backyard looked like the next day.

ImageThe next day was spent checking on my family and moving sections of tree logs out to the street while the tree guys climbed and sectioned the huge tree off of the house.  The following week I didn’t work once. I was busy searching for emergency supplies, trying not to freeze without heat even when the nights dropped down into the 20’s.   The entire week was nothing but a blur.  To say that I was thinking about running a marathon would be a lie.  I had no contact with the outside world.  I had no Television.  We don’t get a newspaper delivered.  My only contact with the outside world was through twitter and facebook.  Around Wednesday I started thinking about the Marathon and social media only made my marathon week a nightmare.

When you are training for a sporting event the week of the event usually is crucial.  Maybe not physically but mentally.  The whole week is about getting yourself in the right place mentally to run 26.2 miles.  The plan was to get a lot of sleep and to be very strict with my diet.  The Hurricane ended those two plans very quickly.  I planned on doing a 3 mile run on Thursday followed by a 1 mile run on Saturday.  I was able to to my 3 mile run on Thursday but my body just felt terrible.  I was cold and I just could not warm up.  I felt like I had lost all my athletic ability.  My diet was out of my routine and I was starting to worry about putting on some weight before the race.  At this point I really had no idea what was going on in NYC or anywhere to be honest with you.  When I eventually started looking at twitter and following the search NYC Marathon I quickly learned that things were not ok in parts of New York City.  One of the first things that I saw was Mayor Bloomberg announcing that the marathon would go on.  Then the president of the NYRR talked about how the course was not effected at all and the race would go on as planned.  They said that there would be some changes to the schedule leading up the marathon with a few events being canceled.  Mayor Bloomberg even said that he expected almost all of NYC to have power by Sunday.  That was the only thing that I knew about NYC and the Hurricane.  To be honest I was a bit surprised that the Marathon was expected to go on as normal but listening to the press conferences it seemed as if there was not much  to effect the race.  I didn’t exactly feel like I was primed for the race but as far as I knew at that point the race was on so I needed to get ready quickly.

From that point on Twitter exploded with negativity and misinformation that  that I have never seen for any event before.  First of all let me start by saying I thought the marathon should have been canceled.  After it wasn’t and the reasons were given I thought ok it’s on and I am going to run.  Mayor Bloomberg and the NYRR’s said that they expected everything to be as close to normal as you can get.  Let me say that I think Twitter is a great thing.  It can give voice to a group of people against a corporation who otherwise does not care what one individual thinks negatively about their business.  If an insurance company rips off a customer in the past that customer could complain and no one would care.  Now, if enough people Tweet to that company directly it will effect their public relations and the company does have to respond because it can effect their bottom line.  In this case I have no doubt in my mind that Twitter shut down the NYC Marathon with 47,000 runners and 4 million spectators.  Whether or not that was the correct thing to do is up to your opinion.  I think it was the correct thing to do. I think the race should have been canceled earlier than it was.  What bothered me was the reaction and the negativity and the mis-information about the race.  People from Minnesota were talking about how runners were going to be running past dead bodies during the race.  People from Chicago were saying that public transportation was being used when in fact the NYRR had said that they hired private transportation to shuttle runners to the starting line.  Others were talking about throwing things at the runners because the runners were being so selfish for running a race that brings 350 million dollars into the city and keeps business profitable that just spent a week with no business whatsoever.  There were literally thousand of tweets per second regarding the NYC Marathon with 9 out of every 10 being negative.  Some people were saying that the runners should run right to Staten Island and help the people in need (which they did) after the marathon was canceled.  Meanwhile 98% of the people I am sure did little on their own to raise money or to physically help out the victims of Hurricane Sandy.   This type of Fake Outrage is what makes Social Media a potential negative because misinformation becomes fact very quickly and it just snowballs until someone responds to the mob’s demands.  Fake outrage is so easy when all you have to do is write a 140 character tweet.  If you had to actually leaver your computer and do something then there would be less outrage.  The thing that bothered me the most was the fact that people were complaining about food, water, and resources being used for the marathon instead of going to people in need.  This seems like a valid complaint which I agree with .  What bothered me was that the Knicks played to a sold out Madison Square Garden that same weekend.  They played on Friday night.  Forget about waiting until Sunday for everything to clear up.  Not one tweet about resources being wasted at Madison Square Garden that night.  On Sunday the New York Football Giants played at home.  The stadium was full and there were ambulances, police officers, food, EMT’s, and plenty of other “resources”  being wasted on the same day that the marathon was supposed to be run.  They even held a pre-game ceremony with “first responders” to honor them and their service.  Why were they there for a glorified parade which many people called the marathon.  Shouldn’t the same people who were so active on Twitter have been outraged about the Giants game.  Again, this is all fake outrage.  It is so easy to click Like on your Facebook or to retweet something without even checking the source.  Social Media shut down the NYC Marathon.

After nearly a week of reading this reaction on twitter I was so stressed out with what to do about the race. I had spent months training for this marathon and did I really want to waste all that training.  On the other side did I want to run if the race and the media was totally negative about the race.  A marathon is supposed to a positive experience.  A symbol of mental toughness and the ability to overcome any obstacle.  I wanted the full NYC Marathon experience where you come off of the bridge on First Ave to a roaring crowd and a wave of positive energy.  Did I really want to run a marathon under these conditions.  Everyone of my friends who I asked for their advice had said that I should do it and don’t listen to all the chatter but many of my Facebook friends also liked a status that said cancel the NYC marathon. It was probably one of the most stressful weeks in my life.  This was supposed to be my second marathon for the second year in a row.  I had said that this would be it for a while.  If I deferred that means I would have to do marathon training for three consecutive years because this year I did everything but the race.  Who knows what next year might bring?  I could get injured or I could just lose the motivation and the desire to compete with my previous best.  At this point I was honestly torn.  On Friday might after a horrible week in which a tree fell on my house and I had no power and all I had read online was that  marathon runners were selfish and spoiled.  Friday night I was 90% sure that I was going to defer to next year.

A lof of friends offered their condolences when the race was canceled and I think they expected me to be more upset about it.  My response to them was the same.  I was glad that the decision was taken out of my hands. My mood immediately changed and it was as if a huge weight was removed from my shoulders.  I have always been a guy who enjoyed the process of building up to an event.  I don’t necessarily feel comfortable with credit or praise.  When I was coaching baseball I enjoyed the practices much more than I did the games although my teams always had good records.  When I was a player and I pitched a good game I would usually not want to emphasize the good performance but instead think about the next day’s practice.  I have now completed training for two marathons and that experience in invaluable.  Don’t get me wrong I loved the feeling of finishing a race and I did have a time goal in mind for New York.  I was not just looking to finish.  If the NYRR allow me to compete again next year I am going to be there the first Sunday in November and hopefully feeling the wave of positivity entering onto First Ave about to finish my third marathon.

What an Amateur Runner Thinks During a 20 Mile Training Run. Warning: Explicit Language.

Mile 1: “My heart is racing. Do I need to slow down? No, this is my pace. Just relax and I’ll settle in.”

Mile 2: “I’m going a little fast. I should slow down. I don’t want to run out of gas in the end. Well, maybe I should keep up this pace while I am fresh. Either way my last few miles are going to be slower. Maybe I’ll just split the difference and run a little faster than my race pace.”

Miles 3-4: “This is easy I can do this all day. No problem. These new sneakers feel great.” (Rosalita, jump a little higher Senorita, come sit by my fire I just want to be your lover, ain’t no liar Rosalita, you’re my stone desire)

Mile 5: “My hip feels a little tight. I hope it doesn’t get worse. What am I going to wear to the marathon? If it’s cold I guess long sleeve T-Shirt and shorts. What if it’s really cold? I guess I have to wait until the week of. When I get back from my college reunion I can start thinking about the logistics of the race.”

Mile 6: Another runner approaches. Look at this guy. I am so much better than him.” Give a wave.

Mile 7: “I can’t wait for next weekend. My reunion is going to be so much fun. I haven’t seen Blair in a while. I wonder who else will be there? I have to try my best to not get too drunk or eat too much while I am there. I don’t want to ruin the marathon with one bad weekend. I am supposed to run 12 miles that weekend. How the hell am I going to do that? What places do I need to show Ann? She’s never been there. I guess just show her around campus and around town. Not much there. “When should I take my first energy Gu? I feel fine now. Maybe 10 and 17. Ann is making Chili for dinner. I can’t wait for that. I love Sunday dinners. I hope she makes Brownies. The ones with the spicy cayenne are so fucking good with vanilla ice cream. I am going to have 3 beers with dinner and finish the week off with an Irish Coffee. I deserve it. I am probably going to burn 3000 calories today.

Mile 8-9: Zone out. Silence for 2 miles and then. “Shit I slowed down quite a bit. Quick body scan. My hip feels a little tight. am I babying it? I don’t think so. I should be fine. My Right hamstring is really tight. Probably because of my hip. Fuck. Why did I slow down? I wasn’t paying attention. Maybe I need my first Gu now. Wow Mint Chocolate is not bad.” ( But now you’re sad, your mama’s mad And your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money Your papa says he knows that I don’t have any money Oh, your daddy says he knows that I don’t have any money Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance
‘Cause a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance)

Mile 10: Approaching my mom’s house. “Halfway. I need to refill my water.” Say Hi to everyone and quickly head out. “The longer I stop the harder this will be. I just need to get this over with”

Mile 11: “Ok Halfway. That wasn’t too bad. Just do it again.”

Miles 12-13: Approaching Madison High School. “Madison is really good at football this year. I wonder how they would do against a bigger school? I think PJ vs Madison would be a close game. I don’t think Madison could beat Delbarton. I wonder how many kids on Delbarton’s team are from Madison? They have to have at least a few. What if all the skill player’s from Madison were at Delbarton? Then they would be really good. That kid Goodwin is going to Rutgers. Why is he at Madison playing shitty competition? I am sure a few of the privates tried to get him to transfer. Delbarton is going to beat Pj I think.”

Mile 14: Zone out until Jeep Wrangler passes. That is nice. I can’t wait until my lease is up. I think I like the Jeep. Damn my Hamstring is really tight.” Stop at red light and wait for cars to pass ” Holy shit my knee kind of hurts. All on my right side. Probably has to do with my hip. I hate having to stop in the middle of a run.”

Mile 15: Girl on a bike passes me. “Fuck her. She has wheels that’s why she passed me. Try running. Biking is so easy.” UpHill. “Ugh I have to run uphill now after 15 miles. I guess the marathon won’t be flat. Just suck it up you pussy. Stop whining. This is why a marathon is a mental challenge instead of physical. Anyone physically can run a marathon. You just have to run a little more every time until you get to 26.2. Eventually you can do it. It’s a simple overload Top of Hill principle I ran two marathon because I am tougher than other people not because I am better.

Mile 16: Overweight Man running in sandals approaches “Look at this moron. He must have just read Born to Run. He’s going to have an injury within weeks. Time to take my next Gu. Wow Peanut butter is really good. I miss Peanut butter since I banned it from my diet. I was like an addict. I couldn’t stop eating it.” This Gu is really good. I think I’ll bring Peanut Butter to the marathon.”

Mile 17: “Come on I am so close. 3 miles is nothing. I think I have the beginnings of a blister on my foot. Damn that’s not good. I hope it’s not too bad. Maybe the new shoes or maybe I need new socks. Damn. What if that happens during the race? I guess just suck it up and finish. I should buy new socks.”

Mile 18: Runner passes me “Fuck her. She’s not that fast. She is probably running 2 or 3 miles. Does she know I am running 20? Maybe I should tell her. I probably look terrible right now. She probably thinks she is so much faster than me. I bet she has never run more than a 5k.”

Mile 19: “Oh boy. I am slowing down. Hold it together for 2 more miles. How am I going to do 7 more miles? I guess I did it before I can do it again. Maybe if I let this car hit me I can stop. No, that would be bad.”

Mile 20: “My legs feel numb. That can’t be good. Stop thinking negative you asshole! ” Just run. Car makes a sharp turn. “Oh what the fuck! That fucking dick. He couldn’t let me cross the street. Does he know that I am running 20 miles today? Figures that he drives a fucking BMW. What a prick. Ok quick body scan My right hip is sore. My right hamstring is really tight. I think I have a blister on my right big toe. My legs feel numb. My left kneecap sort of felt weird when I stopped. I wonder what that is about.”

Approaching Finish. you got this. you got this. Around the corner and I’m done. Wow. That was pretty good. Body scan again. everything feels ok. That wasn’t so bad. I can walk that is good. I bet I’ll be sore tomorrow. Who cares. That’s the last long training run. Now I can taper. 12 miles next weekend and then 8 and then the race. Shit I better not gain weight while I am tapering. Who cares? Time to shower up and get a Guiness. I love Sundays.”

Product Review: Nike plus sport watch

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Nike plus watch sponsored by TomTom. I have been using the Nike plus platform for almost 4 years with relatively little problem.  As a runner I enjoy being able to track my progress.  The Nike watch is a good looking watch that you can wear with any athletic gear and not look out of place.  It allows you to check your running history and running record with the touch of a button.  This is a great motivating tool because it forces you to always think about how you can improve your running habits.  Each run has a date, per mile pace, calories burned, and lap times which can be configured in your settings.  I choose to break down my runs into mile intervals.  This allows me to see if I went out too fast on a 10 mile run or if I need to adjust my splits on a 5k.

When running the watch has a GPS feature which creates maps, and tracks elevation on your run.The GPS can be a little time consuming to “link”. They do have a quickstart button if you don’t like to wait around or if you are running with a group of people you can choose not to use the GPS feature.  I have done this when the GPS doesn’t link but if I have the watch I want to use all of it’s features. Without GPS you can still see pace and distance just not your route.  You can see pace charts directly over elevation charts and see correlation in your runs.  As soon as you are finished simply unhook the watch band and plug the USB into any computer.  This will automatically bring up the Nike plus site where you can sign and see your personal running website.  Here you can set goals, see trends, and even form social media connections with other Nike plus users.  The site also automatically posts to Facebook or Twitter so you can annoy all of your friends and show them when you go on a run while they sit on their couches and watch TV.

The one negative would have to be the Nike site which occasionally has issues with being too slow and clumsy.  Although since they updated it this past summer it has been much improved.  I guess when you are dealing with a global company like Nike the overall traffic volume just jams up the site.

The Nike watch sells for $169.00 in stores.  If running and technology is your thing then I would definitely recommend it.

Random thoughts from a weight loss journey.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about the problem of belly fat versus fat that is collected in other areas of the body.  Belly fat is a more serious indicator of a potential health problem down the road.   Heart disease and stroke being the number one risk from fat around the abdomen.  The U.S. Army has even included waist circumference as a measure to predict healthy potential soldiers.  The used to use BMI and body fat percentage solely.

Now, how do you specifically target belly fat.  The standard answer that a lot of personal trainers will give you is that you can’t spot reduce fat.  For example, if you have fat around your bicep than doing curls will not get rid of bicep fat.  But, there is some good news for people who worry about this excess fat around the abdomen.  If you read my blog you know that I am a runner.  I am running the ING NYC Marathon this fall.  I have also said that distance running is not a way to reduce body fat.  Instead to reduce body fat high intensity sprints and power exercise such as full body olympic movements will help torch body fat.  Well here is where it gets complicated.  A recent Duke University study focused on cardio endurance training vs high intensity resistance training and their responses to visceral belly fat in particular.  Visceral fat is the fat that sits deeper in your belly.  It surrounds your organs and is much tougher to get rid of than subcutanous fat which is more superficial and lies just under your skin.  The Duke study found that endurance training actually helped get rid of the visceral fat more so than high intensity training.  This is why you can sometimes see a runner who has a very “skinny frame” with a higher body fat percentage.  If you look at them in a sweater you might say they are really skinny.  However, if you asked them to take their shirt off you might see some belly fat.  However, because their belly fat is that subcutaneous fat they are not at risk for heart disease etc.  Now. think of the olympic weightlifter with a huge belly.  This guy is powerful but he has the classic “beer belly” look.  He is at risk for a heart attack much more than the runner.

So, what does this mean for you.  If long term health is your goal.  I would try to amp up your cardio.  When I began running I could barely run a mile.  It’s just classic overload principal.  Start slowly and add on a little at a time.  Maybe add 10% a week at the most.  When you first start don’t worry about distance just run for a time.  Say 10 minutes at first.  Then the next week 11 minutes.  A good way to keep you motivated would be to sign up for a 5K or a 10K a few months down the road.  These races are everywhere and they are a lot of fun with other people running alongside you.  If you currently work out 4 days a week then maybe do 2 cardio days and 2 weight training days.  When I was 290 pounds I went to the gym 6 days a week and lifted weights.  I could bench press 340 pounds.    But to work on that overall health and reduce fat you need to focus on diet and add cardio.  Keep in mind however that I didn’t start running until after I lost 60 pounds or so.  Diet is the key to all of this.

Lastly, but probably the most important is diet.  When you are lifting weights you need protein to repair muscle tissue.  However, if you trying to lose weight then you have to worry about total calories.  I always say get to your ideal weight first then worry about shaping your body the way you want it.  I use a smart phone app.  There are a bunch out there.  Loseit, MYFitnessPal, or FatSecret are all good.  MyFitnessPal is my favorite.  If you don’t have a smart phone they also have a website.  Most people will tell you that eating at home is the best way to control weight because you can control the food that you prepare.  However, with these calories trackers you can look up the calories in a menu item at say subway or Dunkin Donuts and make better choices.

This may sound obvious  but many yo-yo dieters just don’t do this.  EAT FOODS YOU LIKE!  If you are chewing carrot sticks and you just hate them then how long do you think you are going to do that?  Find lower calorie options that you actually like to eat.  I can’t answer this for you but there has to be something out there that you enjoy that is not 1000 calories.  If you don’t do this then your diet will be temporary.  You want this to be a permanent change in the way you eat and not a diet.

Cheat Days are a must.  There are things that everyone loves that they just can’t have when restricting calories.  My cheat day is usually Saturday night and sometimes Sunday if I am training for a race.  I will usually have a few beers and dessert on Saturday nights along with dinner.

Don’t diet at special events.  Christmas is not a time to worry about your weight.  If you start to live this way you will always be aware of calories and what the calorie count is.  It will always be in the back of your head.  If you feel that you have control over your diet then go ahead because you can always get back to your routine.

It takes 14 days to create a habit.  I would recommend that when you start this new lifestyle that you are extremely strict for 2 weeks.  No cheat days for at least 2 weeks.  Your body will adjust and you won’t feel as hungry after two weeks.

Eat to not be hungry.  Don’t eat until you are full.  Think about this.  I am a foodie.  I love food but biologically we eat because we need energy.  Our bodies signal hunger.  Once that signal ends than we no longer need to eat.

Eat when your hungry.  If you are hungry Eat!  Usually just a small amount of food will actually end your hunger.

Successful dieters are boring.  They tend to eat the same things over and over again.  Because they know that it is something they like and they know the calories.  It makes it easy and convenient.

Finally, crate your own Eat This not That.  Men’s health popular program that lets you make small changes to your diet that will save you calories each time.  This was probably my number one weapon for weight loss.  For example,  I stop at Dunkin Donuts everyday after work.  I used to get an Iced Coffee and a muffin.  I go from work as a school teacher right to my personal trainer job and needed something to hold me over until dinner.  After learning that a muffin at Dunkin Donuts has 600 calories and a chocolate glazed donut has only 350. I switched to a donut.  How many weight loss guys will tell you to eat donuts!?  But I just saved myself 250 calories a day 5 days a week.  In three weeks if I did nothing else I would lose a pound right there.  After a few months of ordering glazed donuts I also like egg sandwiches.  The Ham, Egg, and Cheese, on an english muffin is 290 calories.  Bam!  I just saved 60 more calories a day.  3 months later they have an egg white flatbread turkey sausage sandwich.  That is 210 calories.  It is basically the same size and it fills me up just as much.  I just saved 80 more calories a day.  From my original muffin I am down 390 calories a day every day of the week.  My original daily snack when I started going to Dunkin Donuts was an iced coffee with cream and sugar and a muffin.  700 calories.  Now I get am Iced Coffee with Skim Milk and splenda and a bacon, egg, and cheese wrap.  for 215 calories.  I did not make all of these changes at once.  That is the key.  I changed one thing and when I got used to it I then changed another thing.  Think about your daily habits and how you can make small changes one at a time.

Coffee with no cream

No cheese on a sandwich.  (would you really miss it)  that’s 150 calories.

Mustard instead of Mayo

Diet soda instead of regular soda

Brown rice instead of white rice.

Weight watcher’s bread vs your regular bread.

Lite beer instead of regular beer.  etc

Find which swaps work best for you and remember choose one thing at a time.  All of these swaps for me took place over the course of several years.  If you tried it all at once then you would miss it too much because you are too close to your old habits.  Start with one swap and then let it become a habit.

Diet, Diet, Diet

I was at a wedding last night and in the middle of the dessert my father in law asked how much I was going to run the next day to burn all this off.  If I have said it once I have said it a thousand times.  To lose weight or to stay thin you can’t rely on exercise.  The answer is diet alone.  Exercise is great for your heart and great for your muscle tone and great for strengthening ligaments and bones.  But weight loss is about what you eat.  If you have watched shows like “The Biggest Loser” on NBC you would think that these people just burn those calories off by working out.   They do reach a higher “burn” than most people could because they are on the show full time and not leading a normal life with work and family obligations.  However, what the show doesn’t show is what the contestants are eating.  I am sure that is a major focus of the show but it’s not exactly made for television entertainment to watch people eat their 1700 calories a day.

Italian Wedding Desserts

I did run today.  I ran 6.25 miles.  The run which lasted 53 minutes and 21 seconds caused me to burn 893 calories.  Any self respecting Italian wedding will take you over 900 calories easily.  So what does this tell us?  Either most people need to start running 15 plus miles on a daily basis or that the food is key to weight loss.  I always tell my clients to focus on the food and after they get to their desired weight they can begin to focus on shaping their bodies with exercise.  Lucky for me I am at a good weight and I can afford a cheat day.  But, if you’re trying to lose weight then remember you can’t just burn it off in the morning.  Everything you put in your body counts including drinks.  But that’s a story for another day.

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.

Trail Running

photo by Ann Lopez

photo by Ann Lopez

I love trail running with my dog Wrigley.  It is a great alternative to a road run which I do the rest of the year. It is also a great alternative to the gym.  A trail run works different muscles than a typical road run.  It provides a cross training benefit which can help keep you healthy instead of injury prone during a long running season.  When you hit the trails you are probably going to run at a slower pace than you would for a flat road run.  I typically run about 8 minutes a mile comfortably on the road.  On the trails that number can be anywhere from 10 minutes a mile or slower.  But because of the terrain you certainly don’t feel like you are taking it easy.  The major difference is your focus.  On a road run I can often wear headphones and just kind of zone out.   On the trails, you have to keep your eyes on the next step because of the tree roots, rocks, mud, or whatever other terrain can cause you to shift gears.  Mentally, you really have to concentrate on a trail run.  Sometimes on a downhill part its almost as if you are running put putting on the brakes at the same time.  You will have to lead with your heals in short choppy steps in order to prevent sliding down the hill on your backside.  If you can you should invest in a pair of trail running sneakers.  I use the Brooks Cascadia Cascadia 6.  Trail running shoes have a gritty sole that grips when you hit the trails on uncertain surfaces.  The bottoms of the shoes are not flat like road running shoes.  They also a bit heavier and sturdier than my road running shoes.  Just by switching sneakers once a week on a run that provides a great benefit to you feet and lower legs.  It will prevent stress fractures and overtraining injuries.

photo by Ann Lopez

Wrigley is an American Bulldog.  They are sensitive to heat because of their pushed in noses.  For her, I can’t bring her on a run unless it’s under about 58 degrees.  My trail running season usually starts about November 1st.  Once snow hits the trails and it is cold enough to stay then I am usually done for the winter because the snow leaves the trails too dangerous and too hard to stay on track.  In a typical year I trail run from November 1st until about Christmas.  Maybe I will get 8 weeks.  This winter has been so mild that I might get an entire season out of it.  In North Jersey we haven’t had any snow at all.  It’s been amazing for my trail runs.  Wrigley is a great running partner because she keeps me motivated.  She knows when the weekend is here because we sleep in a little longer.  When Saturday and Sunday morning comes and I walk downstairs in my running gear she gets pretty excited.  When the hat and the gloves go on then she gets really excited.  If I run out of the house without her she gets hysterical.  Wrigley had two knee surgeries in 10 months.  It is somewhat common for the breed type.  So last year she was not cleared to run.  After a slow rehab of just walking and then walking on hills she was finally cleared to return to running after about 9 months.  It was a half mile at first but this year I have done as much as 7 miles with her.  Generally we stay between 3 and 5 miles.  When we first started running I used to run her off leash.  We never had any problems and she would never run away or anything but I didn’t want to take a chance with her maybe running into another dog or a wild animal.  I recently found a leash that the human wears like a belt and it attaches to the dog’s collar with a bungee cord that provides a little stretch.  It also has a “fanny pack” that I wear under my shirt.  (Don’t worry). The brand name is OllyDog and you can get it at REI.  It  comes in super handy because I can carry treats for Wrigley which she is thankful and I can carry my phone for which my wife is thankful.

photo by Ann Lopez

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this area we have quite a few trails options.  I love Lewis Morris Park in
Morristown.  http://www.morrisparks.net/aspparks/lmmain.asp.  It has several trails ranging from short to as much as 7 miles that loop around in circles.  If you live in Morris County go to MorrisParks.net.  If you are not local to NJ and you happen to have an IPhone.  Try this app by Nortface.  Trailhead.  It can help you find a local trail anywhere by you.  So next time you want to go for a run find a trail.  It will be a whole new experience and if you have a four legged friend bring her along too.  It’s a great bonding experience and it will keep you both physically healthy and mentally sharp.

photo by Ann Lopez