Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections on the Marathon

This is my first post since the marathon.  My doctor advised me to avoid strenuous exercise immediately following the race, so I took his advice and avoided blogging at all costs.  It has been a busy but exciting time for me.  In addition to my children, which are a handful, I also changed jobs.  I know it sounds a bit goofy but I really think that the confidence I have gained by finishing marathons aided me in having the confidence to move to a new company after having been at my old one for 14 years.

So NYC 2014 will be the year everyone will remember as the Windy Marathon.  All the stories are true.  I almost had a skull cap pulled off my head by the wind.  People were being pushed around particularly on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge which had no mile markers because they would have gotten blown away.  I had pinned a piece of paper to my shirt with my name on it which was ripped off by mile 5.  For the rest of the race, I was called “Dad.”  Last year, I was able to make it the whole way through with 2 of 4 safety pins attached.  There were a lot of bad split times (I’m talking to you, Tiki Barber!!) due to people expending a ton of energy running into the wind during the first half.  We looked like 50,000 mimes sans makeup.

As usual, I was in the last wave of runners.  I had planned to do a run/walk method with 6 minutes of running followed by 1 minute of walking.  My watch is set up to notify me automatically which makes it easy.  I had decided that I would ignore the first walk break as I wouldn’t be across the bridge after 6 minutes.  I felt surprisingly good at the beginning of the race.  I say surprisingly because my training for this marathon stunk.  Like really bad.  I figured I had some energy now, so let’s see if I can push it a little farther.  So I skipped the first break.

Then I skipped the second break. 

Then the third break. 

I was torn because I knew that I really needed to pace myself but was excited because I hadn’t run 20 minutes straight in a while.  In recent races where I didn’t sprint out the starting line, I ran more consistently (and slower) but was able to finish races running as opposed to walking with terrible cramps.  But of course, once the gun goes off in the NYC Marathon, adrenaline takes over. 

At this point, I was in Brooklyn and had passed the “Sweep Bus” which sat on a side street like a vulture ready to pick off stragglers.  I finally got my emotions under control and decided to stop running at the next break.  I was ahead of my pace time, so I wasn’t worried.  I knew I would bank time for a while (i.e. come in under the 16 minute per mile pace I hoped to average) and then slowly start to “spend” those seconds as the race progressed.  At the 5K, I was 5:43 ahead of pace.  At the 10K, 8:09.  I was doing AWESOME!!!

So, at this point, imagine me as Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius), right after he ran off a cliff trying to catch the Road Runner.  He continues on for a while, slowly becoming aware that he is hovering high over the desert floor below.  Then he plummets like a stone.

(Quick side note re: Wile E. Coyote.  A coyote’s top speed is 43 miles per hour.  Roadrunners top out at 20 miles per hour.  Rather than buying out the store at Acme Corporation, Wile E. would have been much more successful had he just run down the Road Runner.  Point of the story: Sometimes you should just do what it is that you do well.  Have faith in yourself.  Don’t over complicate things and the rest will take care of itself.)

So by the 15K, I was 7:30 ahead of pace.  I had failed to notice the ground under me had disappeared and that I was running in mid-air.  I began to plummet.  I’d tell you my time at 20K but I can’t because the time markers were being pulled from the course.  Between 15 and 20, the cramps started getting pretty bad.  I started losing time on my average mile.  Even worse, I started not to care.  The sweep bus passed me.  The people inside looked warm.  Even worse, they looked happy.  My thought is always that if I start a race, I finish a race.  However, my sister and I have joked a few times about getting just bumped by a passing car in order to have an excuse to not finish.  When I ran the Harry Chapin Race in 2013, I thought that it wouldn’t be the worst thing if the dog that snapped at me caught a part of my leg.  “Of course, I couldn’t finish the race.  I was bit by a dog!!”  Sounds much better than “I was running like crap so I quit.”

With the timing sensors cleared off the course, I wouldn’t be timed again until I got back into Central Park.  Because I am usually in the back of the race, my family understands that this is a possibility and didn’t freak.  A couple of friends who were following me on the tracker were nervous that I was in a hospital or had gotten caught by a freak gust of wind and ended up in one of the rivers.

The halfway part of the marathon occurs on the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens.  I always like to draw strength from my Polish Heritage while running across this bridge but 2014 wasn’t the year for that.  In 2013, prior to the full marathon, the farthest I’d run was a half marathon about 3 weeks before.  The halfway point was a celebration; after that, I was setting a new personal best with every step.  Every time my foot hit the ground, I was farther than I’d ever been before.  It really felt amazing and filled me with hope.  A lot of runners have different feelings on this which I believe contribute to the “wall phenomenon.”  The runners can’t get out of their heads the idea that “I don’t know if I can do this as I’ve never done it before.”  For me it was the opposite, “I’ve never done this!  Let’s see what else I can do!!”

In 2014, just after passing the halfway point, I experienced an intense cramp that started in my left calf and went all the way up in a straight line to my butt cheek.  I had to grab onto the side of the bridge to prevent myself from falling and held on for about a minute or so until my leg relaxed.  This was the first point in any of my marathons where I didn’t know if I could finish.  If the sweep bus was rolling up it may have added another passenger but it was nowhere in sight.

In addition, I kept thinking about you.  That’s right.  You.  I’ve encouraged you to get out and get your blood moving, hopefully inspired you in some small way and I didn’t want to let you down.

My next thought: “OK.  You are going to make it to the finish line.  How?”  I started jogging again and made it about a minute before my leg cramped up and I had to cling to the side of the bridge before I could move forward.  While my walking is slow, it was faster than running for a minute and then cramping for two minutes.  I would walk as fast as I could.  That was the new plan. 
Runners have visions of themselves running.  A popular one is the “Chariots of Fire” where you are running in slow motion but far out pacing your competitors with the music playing in the background.  The accurate part that day was the slow motion.  I was passing no one and there was not a bit of classical music to be heard.  Even at its best, I describe my running style as Grim Determination, so I gritted my teeth and got to work.

I walk very slowly regularly and doing some quick math of me walking at a typical pace had me finishing just in time to get my medal engraved Mondayafternoon.  I needed to quicken my pace to as fast as I could go without triggering cramping.  I noticed that if I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, I would go from Grim Determination to leisurely stroll.  I needed to focus. 

Ordinarily during my races/marathons, I say “When I do this next time…”  During this race, I started saying “If you do this again…”

As soon as I started NYC in 2013, I remember thinking that I would run this race for the rest of my life.  This year, I felt a little differently.  Most of my “If you do this again…” fell into the category of “If you do this again, you need to prepare better.”

The worst thing that can happen to anyone is that they experience some degree of success (see Rocky 3).  The marathon is a mental exercise more so than a physical one.  The hardest part about your first marathon is that you don’t know if you can do it.  So you train extra hard, you put down the donut, you quit huffing turpentine.  After you’ve done one, you know that it is within your realm of capability.  You double down on the donuts, you don’t mind skipping a workout here and there and you fill your humidifier with poisonous chemicals.  I fell into this category.  I hadn’t trained as hard as I had for San Francisco ’14 as I had for NYC ’13 and yet I had a faster time.  I trained less for NYC ’14 than SF ’14 and I thought I would set a new personal best.  But I didn’t and the race left me extremely humbled.  That’s actually the good part.

I think that in everyone’s life, they need to get their ass kicked now and again.  Nothing devastating, just enough to keep them humble.  They need to stay hungry (Eye of the Tiger).  I haven’t been hungry in a while (This guy is a wrecking machine, and he’s hungry!  Hell, you ain’t been hungry since you won that belt).

Unlike Rocky attempting the title defense against Clubber and getting poor Mickey killed, I am officially retiring Super Heavy Weight Champion of Distance Running (hereafter SHWCDR). 

Hold on, you are saying.  You didn’t even get bit by a dog!  You can’t quit just because you are running crappy. 

I can and I can’t.  First off, you’re not the boss of me.  But secondly, I didn’t say I was retiring.  I said the SHWCDR was retiring.

I decided during the marathon that the whole SHWCDR thing just isn’t cute anymore.  Something that always bugs me on weight loss shows and marathon human interest stories are the stories where the people said, “I wanted to run a marathon so I lost a bunch of weight and then I did it.”  I feel like that excludes people who haven’t lost weight or who want to use training for the marathon as a way to lose weight.  Their quote says to overweight people (yet again), until you become skinny, you can’t achieve.  You can’t get what you want.  I wanted to show that that’s not true.

So the SHWCDR can retire now because he’s done what he needed to do.  He showed that finishing the marathon was possible.  It’s not an unobtainable goal.

Unlike the marathon, there is no blue stripe painted on the road to show the course.  Where do I go now?

My plan involves re-examining the marathon and the training leading into the marathon to look for ways to improve.  Step 1 is MORE training.  It’s that sort of highly specific advice that will catapult me to the top.  I’ve also noted that my pacing to start the marathon did not go as planned.  Secondly, I need to retire the SHWCDR for the last time.  His mind retired after NYC 2013 because he proved what he needed to.  I am, however, still dragging his body around race courses all over the tri-state area. 

After this long absence, I hope you’ll stay with me.  By the end of the year, my blog might be the only way you can keep up!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

An Open Letter to Scott


I first met you in 1994 when we were playing football at Siena but I feel like I’ve gotten to know you more in the past few months than I did in the past 20 years.  I’m guessing you will probably say the same thing about yourself.  The movie Dodgeball makes the joke that “Dodgeball doesn’t develop character; it reveals it” meaning, I guess, that the game won’t make you a bully but if you were already a bully, everyone else would know it by watching you play.  Distance running is the opposite.  While the road is merciless in pointing out your weaknesses, it will also take care of you.  When you return home, it will pat you on the back and promise tomorrow will be better.  The thing is, the road doesn’t change; it’s concrete.  That means it must have been you that is better.
Right after Siena cut its football program in 2004, you and I started speaking more via e-mail.  When the effort started to tank, I sent an inflammatory e-mail to the person who was in charge of the effort and included the entire group on the e-mail.  I’ll never forget your response: “You’re an ass but I love it!”  At that point, I realized we were more similar than I knew.
When you told me you were going to run the marathon earlier this year, I started laughing.  You said something like “are you laughing because you tricked me into joining the pain?”  But I was laughing because I knew you were going to run before you signed up, maybe I knew even before you did.  I had had a conversation with my sister about a week before and I said “Scott’s going to run New York this year.”  She asked if you had signed up and I said, “No.  But he’ll find a way.  He’s going to run.”  There was something in our e-mail conversations that told me there was a question in your mind and in your heart that you wondered if you could do it.  I recognized it because it’s the same question that got me to run my first marathon, too.
I’ve always told people who are thinking about running a marathon that it’s really two marathons, the actual day of 26.2 miles but also the marathon of training that leads up to that day.  I watched you set out on that first part of the marathon at first with concern and a little skepticism.  It’s a long path to Fort Wadsworth and life continues to throw roadblocks.  While I believed that you wanted to do it, I wasn’t sure whether or not you’d get there.  Then I watched as you started to stretch your distances, entering into races and then finishing half-marathons.  Even better, I watched as the app on the phone continued to post distances on Facebook that were farther and farther as we got closer and closer to the Marathon.  For a while now, I’ve known you can finish the Marathon.  You’ve put in the distance and spent the time and tomorrow you get to show everyone else and yourself.  Trust your training.  It’s got you here; your training and your heart will get you through this.
You posted a beautiful piece yesterday about your little girl carefully watching you as you prepared to head to Manhattan.  She’s been watching you this whole time.  She’s learning more from you than you know.  Someday, your daughter is going to see a big, seemingly insurmountable task of some type in front of her and from somewhere inside she’ll find reserves that will get her through it.  She may not realize where these reserves came from but she’s learned that from you.  As we go along in life, we find that contests aren’t always won by the fastest or biggest or strongest.   Sometimes they are won by that one person who refuses to quit.  Sometimes the day is won by the person who feels the pain, embraces it and goes on anyway. 
Last year my wife was very pregnant with our twins, so pregnant that she wasn’t able to attend the race in person but instead tracked me through the internet.  I had taped a few messages to play on my iPod when I was going through rough stretches.  One of them said, “Don’t let your kids be born having a Dad who tried really hard and almost finished the marathon.  Let them be born being able to say ‘Yes.  My Dad did it.’”  Give your little girl that same gift.
Marathon Sunday is an amazing day.  While you’ve probably been accused of having multiple personalities, on Sunday you will actually be 3 separate people.  The first person is the one who will be standing nervously, waiting with the amassed army waiting to cross the Verrazano Bridge and invade Brooklyn.  He’ll be unsure of what’s about to happen and may be thinking about your past.  This person is full of self-doubt.  The good news is that the second you step across the start line, this person ceases to exist.
Stepping across the start line is the 2nd person you will be on Sunday.  This person is filled with audacity. He’s actually crazy enough to think he can run 26.2 miles all in one day.  He knows that what he carries inside him is exactly enough to get him across that finish line.  He’ll be constantly tested.  Previously, these challenges may have been enough to discourage or dissuade him but they’ll be sorely disappointed if they think they can do that to him today.  Today, he is unstoppable. 
Sadly, that person won’t make it through the day.  That person ceases to exist after 26.2 miles as you step over the finish line.  Then you become the 3rd person you’ll be on Sunday.  This is a man of accomplishment.  This is a man of confidence because he has proven he can overcome obstacles.  This man has stared a dragon in the face and slayed it. 

This person can accomplish anything.

I’d like to start the race and run it with you but it wouldn’t matter.  Me being out there would mean nothing because once you are out there, it’s all about you.  You are all that matters.  I’d love to be there when you finish but I’m not sure that I’d recognize the man you are about to become.   The marathon is mythic and magic; it’s a transformative experience. For better, you will never be the same person after Sunday.   I know this is true because it happened to me. 
I’m impressed with how far you’ve come.  It’s so easy for us to sit back and talk about the “Glory Days.”  A lot of people don’t seek out challenges like this.  They are content to say I remember a version of me that may have been able to do this rather than see if that version of me is still alive inside of them.  I can’t wait to see you after the Marathon is done.  You’ll be waiting some time as you took the whole “Under 5 Club” thing literally and that is a goal I’ve yet to reach.  

Course, there’s always next year…

With much love,


Friday, October 31, 2014

Scott's Post-One Last Thank You, And I’m Off

I’ve been obsessed with this whole marathon thing.  I admit.  Some who know me well know the real motivations behind it all and will likely understand, if not sympathize with this obsession.  Other friends won’t know what’s behind it all but will still be genuinely interested, while still others may flip through my multiple updates and pay no mind.  A small group will likely see my incessant facebook postings about how many miles I ran each Saturday and my requests for donations every other week and roll their eyes or feel annoyed or think that I’m trying to impress people.  I don’t mind that really, that’s their own business.

The internet is a strange tool that people use for lots of different reasons.  I find facebook, in particular, to be a fascinating study.  Some people seem to use it for sheer networking purposes.  Others use it to get extended free play in Candy Crush to the point I can no longer stand it and need to cut the cord (maybe I’ll friend you again one day, Steve Cody).  Others post pictures of their family here and there to share with people they know and love.  Some seemingly use it to show off, while others seem to use it in a veiled desperation to prove to everyone they ever met that their life is fun, when perhaps it really isn’t.

At times, I am likely guilty of a little bit of all of these things (Note: except the Candy Crush, Steve Cody).  But here’s what I know and admit.  I genuinely appreciate every person who has taken their time to read my posts.  I smile at every comment and I guiltily admit to taking note of every “like.”  But above all, I am humbled and touched at all the people who have taken their time to click through to the donation page and leave a few bucks, because that takes effort and no matter the amount of the donation, that is a sacrifice.  Every time I get an e-mail from DetermiNation saying that I have received a new donation, I get butterflies.  And again, in the most sincere way possible, I thank all of you for your help and sacrifice.  In the end, I’ve helped raise nearly $6,000 for cancer research and I’m part of a group who has collectively raised over a million dollars.  For that, I am very proud.  http://main.acsevents.org/goto/scottriecke

I packed up my things last evening in preparation for this journey.  I am both excited and nervous as I don’t really know what to expect, though I certainly expect to finish.  The weather forecast has worsened, going from pleasantly warm to cold and windy, but I’m trying not to let that bother me.  Many of my co-workers have been falling ill the past few days, and while I should be ingesting my calories mostly in the form of carbs this week, a good portion of them have come in the form of chewable Airborne and Halls Vitamin C tablets.  Getting sick is not an option… at least not until Monday.

When I finished, I had everything I needed for the run packed in two bags  – my clothes, my registration form, all the little things like gels, salt pills, band-aids, anti-chaffing cream, race day breakfast stuff, snacks, liquids, you name it.  I packed it all up in bags and took a good hard look at it.  There it was… 11 months of training in two small bags.  The culmination of a journey that started on a treadmill in a hotel in Long Island last December.  I remembered some of the stepping stones – pacing my living room and getting psyched the day of my first 5k, hitting my first five mile run on a treadmill in upstate New York, finishing a 10k in Holyoke on St. Patty’s Day weekend and conquering the half-marathon.  I remembered the Facebook chat I had with Anthony Marino that made this opportunity possible, and all of the Saturdaylong-runs when I hit previously unchartered territory – 14 miles, 15 miles, 17 miles, 19 miles, and 20 miles.

Now the only one left is 26.2.

And while this is surely a challenge and one I expect to conquer, I wondered how long the elation of it all would last.  What am I going to feel like on Monday when I pack up my bags again only this time to head home, although with a shiny new medal?  Better yet, what am I going to feel like next Saturday, the day I’m used to getting up early, putting my sneakers on and heading out for my weekly long-run?  The race will be over, but how long is this journey exactly?

I think I found that answer late last night, when my five year old daughter came into the room after lights-out.  “How come I can’t go with you to your race, Daddy?”  I picked her up and put her next to me on the bed.  We sat together and had a very adult-like chat about how I’ve been running so much lately to prepare for this race.  We looked at internet pictures on my phone of previous races – the mob of runners crossing the Verrazano Bridge.  I showed her the lane where I intended to run and showed her the shirt I would be wearing, though I cautioned her that in all likelihood, she was not going to be able to pick me out of the crowd.  She seemed to understand. 

I then gave her a medal from one of my previous half-marathons and asked her to keep it safe until I came back.  She was happy to do that.  And then I told her that even though she wasn’t going to be at the race watching it in person, that she really would be there in a way because I always keep her close to my heart.  That made her very happy, and she took the medal and headed back to bed.

She hesitated a moment and turned around.  “Daddy will you win the race?” she asked.

Looking at my daughter standing in the doorway, I was so amazed at her interest in my running and realized how much of a bond it had created between us.  She ran a mile with me once before, though the last quarter-mile found her on my shoulders.  She has seen me come home from long-runs – sweaty, smelly, exhausted and barely able to walk.  She has been fascinated and always asks questions.  I knew at that moment that come next Saturday, I’ll be putting those sneakers on again and heading out in the morning to run.  Though I’m certain her question was quite literal in the sense that she really wants, if not expects me to win the New York City Marathon, I understood the question of whether or not I would win to be a more introspective one.  “Daddy, will you win the race?” she had asked.

“I already have,” I answered.

And maybe, above all, that is what will keep me running after mile 20.  I have all the support I could ask for from so many friends and family, and so many generous people have donated to such a great charity.  I will remember all of that in the early going.  But when it gets tough and I really need to dig deep, I think what will keep me moving the most is one thing…  I have to bring this little girl home a medal. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

With 3 Days to Go aka Long Time, No Talk.

            I want to say that the reason why there have been no posts since late June is that I was training at altitude in Kenya and am preparing to run the New York City Marathon in 4:59:59 which is the stated goal of this blog.
            The truth is I was abducted by aliens.  Yeah, that’s it.  I was running hills one night and saw a bright light above me.  I was lifted into the air and the rest was a blur.  I definitely remember that Scott Baio gave me pink eye.
            Unfortunately, part of me not writing was just that life got busy.  The twins have enough energy to run 5 marathons except for the fact that they can’t really run yet.  This means that in addition to not writing, I haven’t been running the way that I should.  That’s also part of why I haven’t been writing.  If I could post some super-arrogant “I ran 432 miles this week” I would have been writing all the time.  But that hasn’t been the case.
            First things first: I completed my second marathon in San Francisco on July 27th.  I set a new Personal Best for that distance even though there were a lot of issues in terms of the logistics of the race.  Without going deep into it, I had no idea where the race course was for about 3 miles which slowed me down.  I’ve had a block trying to write about the marathon and have started 4 posts about it and was unable to complete any of them.  I know I owe you a post about San Francisco and you’ll get it but not right now.  It’s amazing that writing about the race is harder than running it.
            October 9th was the 20th Anniversary of Fred Lebow’s death.  I never knew who Fred was until 2011 and as far as I know, Fred never met me.  For a full background on Fred, I heartily recommend the movie Run For Your Life.  It is the Fred Lebow story but is also deals with the confluence of this man, the NYC Marathon, New York City in the 70’s and the running movement in general.  He was the right man at the right time and without him the marathon might still just be loops around Central Park.  Actually, it might still be the Cherry Tree Marathon in the Bronx.  And the entrance fee would be only a $1.
            The first modern New York City Marathon was held in 1976, the year I was born.  Part of the appeal was that it would be a big event in honor of the country’s bicentennial.  A lot of people thought that 1977 would see the race disappear back into Central Park.
Fred convinced sponsors and the City, which was undergoing tremendous financial difficulty, to support him.  He spoke to the Hasidic Community in Yiddish to allow and to encourage a bunch of half-naked adults to run through their neighborhood.  He gave local gangs shirts and hats and made them course marshalls.  Finally, he convinced everyone to come and run. 
While the marathon was his baby, he was so busy planning and organizing the race that he didn’t take the time to run it.  In 1990, he was diagnosed with cancer which was treated and went into remission which allowed Fred to run the marathon in 1992.  He was surrounded by friends and supporters, most notably Grete Waitz, a 9 Time Winner of the Marathon who had come out of nowhere and shocked the running world when she won her first New York Marathon in 1978 after being entered into the race to provide a pacer for the runners who were expected to win.
Watching him cross the finish line always makes me tear up.  He was finally able to experience what it was that he was giving to everyone else.  In honor of the anniversary of his passing, I’d like to thank him for one of the greatest experiences of my life. 
Since its initial run, the Marathon has become more than just a race.  It is a celebration.  It’s a celebration of the city.  It’s a celebration of humanity.  It’s estimated that over 2 million people turn out to watch the race.  Sparks of passion thrown from runners ignite wildfires in the crowd, people vowing, some silently, some right out loud, that they too will run this race.  For some, it’s the alcohol talking.  For others, the sparks might not fully ignite and they will stand on the sidewalk again next year hoping to be consumed by whatever it is that’s making the runners run.
There are too many stories for the spectators to ever figure out what it is that chases the runners or what it is the runners chase.  T-shirts with pictures of loved ones or names with words like Cancer, Autism or Wounded Warriors give clues as frequently happens, it’s only part of a story.  There’s always something more, something that possibly we as runners don’t even know or realize.
More than these stories, the Marathon is triumph.  2013 was run through neighborhoods devastated by Superstorm Sandy the year before.  It was run in defiance of terrorists like those who struck in Boston earlier in the year.  In 2001, the Marathon was run less than two months after the attacks at the World Trade Center in a time when wounds were still very raw and the world was still reshaping itself.  I was reminded of the attacks and the terrorists while on the Staten Island Ferry riding to the start.  The Ferry was flanked by Coast Guard Gunships and the new World Trade Center was visible, rising proudly on the southern tip of Manhattan.
And it’s not just those nationwide triumphs either.  It is each individual’s triumph.  For as many running groups out there, it is simply you when you are out there.  There is nothing else.  There are two marathons per marathon.  There is the training that leads to the actual day and then the day itself.  To make it do race day is a victory, your first step across the Starting Line is another but it is also a promise.  It says, “I will complete this undertaking.”  And while we follow the same course route, no two runners run exactly the same race the same way our paths to get here have not been the same.

Then there is the triumph of finishing which seems to be more beautiful the more broken it is.  The obstacles that we face during our lives, our training and that day break us down but they also make us stronger.  We learn to overcome, we can adapt.  We can make ourselves better, even if it’s only for one afternoon in November.

Monday, June 30, 2014

27 Days Until San Francisco

The Hills of San Francisco are teeth waiting to chew me up and spit me out. 

It’s the last day of June and there are only 27 days until the San Francisco Marathon.  I’m not in an ideal spot to run that race.  I think that with my body type and previous wear and tear on my body, I can’t train in a way where I will ever feel comfortable walking into a marathon.  That’s ok, though.  I’ve run one, I can run another. 

Last year in September, I wasn’t feeling great about where my training for NYC was.  I had just run the 5th Avenue Mile race and was thinking I wouldn’t be ready for November.  The race isn’t really conducive to marathon training.  It’s only a mile, making it the shortest race on most people’s calendars, and isn’t really a run, it’s a sprint.  It’s the one race where everyone puts the pedal to the floor to see how fast they can really go.  I ran as hard as I could and didn’t stop running for the whole race.  The police did not make me wait while cars and pedestrians crossed 5th to get to Central Park.  Then we went to brunch.

I knew what my time was, 10:29, and thought it was pretty good although I didn’t hit the mark that I wanted, which was a sub 10 minute mile.  It wasn’t until later on when my perspective on the marathon changed.  I searched for my time for the 5th Avenue Mile the previous year.  12:53.  Lots of walking.  Every tourist and cab driver crossed my face while I waited at the cross-walk pretending to be outraged.  Then we went to brunch.

I did the math quickly and realized that I had shaved over two minutes and twenty seconds of my time.  I may not have been exactly where I wanted to be but I couldn’t overlook how far I had come.  Even though it wasn’t perfect, my training was working. 

I looked back at my last month of training and am somewhat disappointed with my results.  Looking at my calendar, I’ve averaged three workouts per week.  At first thought, that sucks.  On the other hand, there have been months where I haven’t worked out 3 times that month.  The good parts: in terms of racing, I’ve logged almost 30 miles this month.  I’ve logged a few hours on the elliptical and a few more on the bike.   The jogging path alongside the Bronx River Parkway is becoming my friend again.  The best part is that the knee pain that I’ve been experiencing has gone away and I’m only experiencing what I’ve come to understand as normal knee pain for a dude of my size. 

Here’s a brief recap of my last three races:
Stratton Faxon Fairfield Half: Only my second “Official” Half Marathon.  I got off on the wrong foot because I tied my shoes too tight before the race started.  Yup.  I cut off some of the circulation to my feet and started to feel a lot of tightness in my shins for the first 3 miles.  This has happened to me a couple of times before.  I don’t know why I decided I needed to tighten my shoes before the start but if you ever see me retying my shoes, kick me in the head, fart on me, whatever you need to do to stop me. 

Aside from the shoes, I ran a solid first 10 miles.  I was consistent in my per mile times and felt strong.  I didn’t cramp up the same way that I did during my other half, I think because I have been drinking a LOT of water.  Like 20 glasses a day.  The last 3.1 miles was a different race for me.  There was a woman I’d been passing and being passed by all morning who passed me and kept going.  When it was my turn to pass her, I just didn’t have enough giddy up to do it.  I ended up 9 minutes past my goal.

I had a couple of interesting experiences with other runners.  One of them will get mentioned in another column when I talk about training for the marathon from a mental aspect.  I will say, however, that that runner showed that just because you want to quit after the first 10 minutes, it doesn’t mean that you can’t complete a half marathon.

The second was a helpful older woman who asked if I was run this race before.  I said, No, if I had, do you think I’d sign up again?  It was at this point she said to me, You know, if you come back next year like 20 pounds lighter this will be much easier for you.  Just cut out one or two things and the weight will fall right off.  Otherwise, you’ll mess up your knees.  Then she said a version of the same thing everyone says after the say something offensive, I hope you don’t me saying this. 

Not at all.  I don’t mind you telling me I’m too fat to run here and that I’m risking the health of my knees.  I responded that my knees are already pretty beat up and that I have in fact run half-marathons before.  As a matter of fact, I ran two, back to back while finishing the New York City Marathon last November.  She wasn’t quite sure what to say about that.  I ran off with my bad knees and left her in the dust.

Front Runners LGBT Pride Run:
Another gorgeous day for a run in Central Park.  This is one of my favorite races and has one of the best two energies of any of the races I’ve participated in (Scotland is the other).  The course focuses on the North Half of the Park including the Harlem Hill.  I ran the entire first mile including said Hill and was feeling pretty good.  My second mile veered off in terms of time.  My third and fourth miles were great again, felt strong, not tired and was hitting my times.  The fifth mile slipped away from me and I ended up not quite making the time I was hoping for as the race went on.  I did finish about half a minute faster per mile than my last NYRR race. 

Achilles Hope and Possibility:
If you ever want to feel bad about how out of shape you are or how poorly your training is going, don’t go to this race.  You will be competing against a bunch of differently abled athletes.  A good number of them will be in better shape than you and will be running past you.  This race is always difficult to get a good time in because of the other athletes and because there are large groups of walkers around the course.  I got caught in the wash during the beginning of the race and was almost run over by a participant in a motorized wheelchair twice.  The same participant in the same wheelchair.  Seriously. 

I wasn’t mentally locked in and so the early parts of the race where I had a hard time finding my pace threw me off and I didn’t recover.  I had some good miles and finished better than I started.  As I was running down the road on the west side of the park near 90th Street, a man was running up the hill towards me wearing a bib.  He was yelling, Smile, guys!  I want to see smiles. 

Ordinarily, this kind of behavior annoys me but this man had lost his left arm and an eye.  His face was scarred.  My best guess is that he was in the military and had been too close to something that exploded.  He was high fiving us as we were running past him.  It was impossible to not run faster after this.

In the final straightaway, I saw another runner who had finished and was encouraging the rest of us who were still finishing up.  He was tall, muscular, athletic.  He looked at me and yelled, “You ran yesterday.  Great job!”  Thank you for noticing.

With 27 days left, I’m going super strict with the diet because I need to be as light as I can for this race.  I need to do two serious long runs and a few more “short” long runs as well.  I also need to do treadmill work to improve my speed and some elliptical work to make sure I still have some cartilage left in my knees when I start the marathon. 

Most importantly, I need to get my head together in the next few weeks.  I’m excited about the race and looking forward to running it but I need to improve my mental toughness for when things don’t go my way.  Luckily, the brain can be trained like a muscle so that’s what I’m going to do.  Then we’ll go to brunch.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

37 Days Until SF

I complain a lot about running in the Back of the Pack but there is one definite advantage: As I was running the chute to the finish line of the Portugal Run, I saw a little girl sticking her hand over the barrier.  For some reason, if you are a little kid, getting a high five from someone who is participating in a sporting event is a big deal even if the guy is finishing 5,014 out of 5,065.  So I run closer to the side, slap hands with her and say, “Thank you.”  The person emceeing the event notices this and calls over the microphone, “I want one of those, too” while extending her hand onto the course.  I slap hands with her and she says over the microphone “Jeremy Farrington.  Happy Father’s Day!”  People cheer, I run through the finish line and make the person there put the medal around my neck.

I’d first like to say how beautiful running in Central Park was on Sunday.  The weather was perfect, sunny but not too hot.  My kids were on their first visit to NYC and waiting near the Finish Line for me and I got a shout out.  Although sometimes running sucks, it can be fun too.

I had set a goal for an average of 14 to 15 minutes per mile.  My per mile average was 15:09 so I didn’t hit my goal although I was 57 seconds faster than my last race.  I don’t want to go too easy on myself not reaching my goal but I’m clearly improving.  The problem is that the races that I am running this year are not going to wait for me to improve.  I need to speed my process.

I think I’m walking too much and need to push myself harder.  Further along that line, I also need to improve my mental toughness.  I’ve noticed that when I track my running on a per mile basis, I start out with a fast mile, slow down and then go into a tailspin before righting the ship and finishing well.  So what I’ve found is that I like to start running and like to finish running.  The farther I am from my car and/or start line, the worse I run.  I’m looking for ways to improve that.  This is actually been something that’s plagued me in life in non-running areas. 

I’ve done some research about focus during running and I’ve found that most people say that you need to pay very close attention to your form.  Think about what your feet are doing or where your elbows are.  This is 100% the opposite of everything that I know about athletics.  In football, I would practice every move over and over and over until my body would act without having to think about it.  In football, when it comes to mechanics, thinking is death. 

For instance, in the huddle, the play is called: 4.  We run to the line and I look to see if there is a man lined up across from me.  Let’s say No.  I Iook to my right and see the Tight End.  Great.  I know I’m working with him to zone block the man across from him and the outside linebacker.  At this point, my brain goes off.  I’m listening for the quarterback’s call to move.  I take a drop step to make sure that I can block my opponent from the front.  I sink my hips slightly to get more power to drive block.  My elbows go back and my hands “go to the holsters.”  I keep my head up but back and keep my chin tucked into my collar.  I remember to bend at the knees, not at the waist.  Keep my back arched, shoulders back.  I take a step with my right foot towards the tight end and bring my hands forward, deliver a punch and try to lock out my elbows and with the tight end establish inside control on the defensive end.  I need to move my feet in a manner to push the d-end off the line of scrimmage.  I want to work off the insides of my feet because it puts more of my foot in contact with the ground than working off my toes.  I need to look under the d-end’s armpit to see if the linebacker is coming over the top.  If he is, I need to come off the d-end and start with the drop step all over again but to the other side.  All of this happens in about 3 seconds.  If I thought about how to do any of that stuff, I’d still be coming out of my stance as the guy I’m supposed to be blocking is making the tackle.

In football, thinking causes people to freeze.  You practice until your muscle memory takes over and your body moves by itself.  So I need to change my way of thinking to focus on what I’m actually doing but it feels incredibly unnatural.  I am working on being focused and working on being in the moment and being aware of my body at that time is a part of it.  With practice, perhaps it will become second nature.  I do need to figure out a way to not let my mind and body go on lunch break during my runs though.  I think in running that’s called a process goal.  I’ll get there.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

43 Days to San Fran/141 to NYC

It was a pretty exciting end to the week for me regarding this blog, particularly my post “On Being Excepted by the Running Community.”  Runner’s World has been posting about Back of the Pack Runners lately, at first making fun of them (tell us your funniest story about finishing last or almost last) then trying to reach out to Back of the Pack Runners by posting about someone’s dispiriting experience running a recent race.  Of course the runner who was quoted was a front half of the pack runner who ended up in the back due to illness and running a 5k and 10k the day before running a half marathon (I predicted this article in my On Being Excepted… article.  A blog called My No Guilt Life saw my post, quoted and linked to it http://noguiltlife.com/2014/06/open-letter-to-race-directors-from-the-back-of-the-pack.html.  It’s always nice to know that there are people out there reading and there are others having the same experience that I am.  Not nice that they are having the same experience, just that I’m not alone.  Anyhow, Back of the Pack Runners: Stay strong!!  You have just as much of a right to be there as anybody.  Don’t let other people’s negativity take away from your positivity.  Don’t fight.  Win!

This weekend the racing season starts in earnest.  There are 4 races in the next 16 days for a total of 28.1 miles.  Sunday kicks off with Portugal Day, a 5 mile race in Central Park that I circle on my calendar every year.  As I detailed in a previous post, Year 1 it kicked my ass, Year 2 I kicked its.  When I first saw this race coming up, I had set a 12 minute per mile goal but I haven’t trained in a way that would get me there.  I have my goal for Sunday to be between 14 and 15 minutes per mile (I ran 4 miles on Saturday averaging 14:40).  That would be a large improvement over what I’ve run but I have faith in myself.  I’ll let you know what happens.

So in the past few weeks I’ve been suffering from Runner’s Knee or something like it that I think was caused by trying to jump my running hills from 0 times per week to 3 times per week.  That might have been too much but I did learn a few valuable lessons about training.

When I run hills I keep time.  I was finding that my first hill would start around 2 minutes and then my time would slow until I got to about 2 minutes and 40 seconds.  While it is natural to get tired as your workout progressed I didn’t think that my time should become that slow in so few reps.  When I was at the bottom of the hill, I decided to change my plan of action. 

Attack the hill. 

My time for that hill was 2:07.

I had been saving energy so that I could complete the exercises.  So what if I didn’t finish?  I was wasting my time doing half-assed reps with the intention of being able to finish.  I found out that even while attacking, I could do all the reps.  And I was getting a better workout.  My time is valuable.  I don’t say that in an arrogant way, all of our time is valuable.  I’d rather be playing with my kids, cooking and eating, reading a book or sleeping.  That’s just the top of the list.  If you are going to be out there, get the max workout in.  Attack that damn hill!!

With my knee bothering me, the first thing I tried to do was keep up the training.  I remember saying that I’d keep training and manage the pain.  It wasn’t working.  The pain was crazy intense while working out and didn’t go away after working out.  It was also almost impossible for me to walk up or down stairs.  My second thought to deal with the injury was to give it rest.  The rest worked somewhat.  The pain became less intense but unfortunately, I don’t have the time to sit around and wait for my knees to feel better.  I got back in the gym and started doing more elliptical and more weights.  I needed to improve flexibility and strength which the weights and elliptical did.  Sometimes you need to switch it up.  Sitting around and doing nothing doesn’t always help.

This is a tip for the Back of the Pack folks who are Run-Walkers like me.  I went to the track to run a bit and started with walking two laps around the track to warm up and also gather some info.  I started my stopwatch at my first lap and walked around the track the way I would in everyday life or when I stop running.  At the end of the lap, I looked at my watch and noted the time.  For the second lap, I made one simple change: I constantly reminded myself to Walk Fast.  I focused on what I was doing and kept reminding myself to keep moving.  At the end of the second lap, I’d shaved 30 seconds off my lap time.  So at your next race you may be able to knock a bit off your time but staying focused and reminding yourself to walk fast.  More important though is just staying in the moment and focusing on what you are doing.  Be in the moment.

My last tip for the evening has to do with dieting.  If you are Facebook friends with me, you may have caught my post about how my Weight Tracking App told me that I was a fatass and would stay that way (actual quote: At this rate, you will never reach your Target Weight).  The scale was agreeing with it.  I was getting frustrated because I know that I was denying myself of foods that I liked and the quantity.  I started keeping track of what I was eating which I recommend everyone do.  So here’s what I found, my meals were perfect.  What I was doing was I was finding a bunch of good snacks—and eating too many of them.  My company puts out snacks for us to eat and there is some good stuff in there like 100 calorie bags of Popcorners, Fiber One Bars and Skinny Cow Bars.  So a 100 calorie bag of chips is good as a snack but when you string together 5 separate 100 calorie snacks, you end up with 500 calories.  Most of the time when I’m dieting and not losing weight, I find out that I’ve been eating a lot more than I thought.  I call it Gray Area Dieting.  You’re eating the right foods, just too much.  After I recognized the Gray Area Dieting issue, I lost 7 pounds in 4 days.   Suck it Weight Tracking App!!! 

I’m heading to bed now because 5 Miles is coming bright and early tomorrow morning.  I’m particularly excited because my children will be attending their first race for Father’s Day.  Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there.  Attack that Hill!

Friday, May 30, 2014

On Being Excepted by the Running Community

Recently, Runner’s World posted a little contest on Facebook where the entrants would post about the funniest time they finished last or almost last in a race.  This was my entry:

It was hilarious. First I was handed a t-shirt that was two sizes too small. I was told that they don't usually get runners of my size. The race started and I quickly fell behind. After a few minutes, I had to start dodging cars because after the main pack of runners, the "closed course" was open to motorists. At some point, the on-course volunteers were released. I guess they figured I was so slow, I didn't need to rehydrate like the "real" runners. Oh, also because the course markers were taken down, I got lost!!! Nothing funnier than trying to find your way on the course. By the time I finished they'd already taken down the Finish Line, so I didn't get an official time. Also, they'd run out of medals!!!! What a hoot. They told me they'd mail me one but never did. I guess they thought that might encourage me to sign up the next year.

Almost all of this has happened to me, although not all in one race.  I’ve never been in a race where they’ve taken down the finish although I have been the last person through.

Apparently, sarcasm was not what they were looking for.

After reading through a couple of entries, I narrowed in on what it seemed they were looking for.  They were all essentially “The night before the 10k, I ate at a new Indian-Mexican fusion restaurant in my town and I tried the chicken curry burrito.  The next day I redefined the meaning of the word ‘fartlek’” or “I had last run my local 5k two years ago and in the year I sat out, they changed the course.  I ran the old course thinking I was leading the way the entire time until I turned left at Main and re-joined the new course.  I ran a 5 Miler and still beat 3 people who only ran a 5k!”  They didn’t want “Back of the Pack” runners; they wanted fast runners who, for whatever reason (usually scatological), were in the back.  In other words, they didn’t live there, they were just visiting.  And pooping in my backyard.

I’m a Back of the Pack Runner; I’ve been the last finisher in races.  Finishing last isn’t fun and the people who finish last are not something to make fun of.

In an attempt to reach out to the disenfranchised, Runner’s World posted a blog a few days later where a runner wrote about going for a training run at the same park where runners were running a 24 Hour UltraMarathon (the runners ran for 24 hours straight and the runner covering the most miles tallied 155) and wondering if she “deserved” to be there.  Blah blah blah, Sister Sledge music, Sugar Hill Gang, the runner accepts water from the volunteer and accepts herself in the process.  Awwww.

I’ve been running with New York Road Runners since 2011 and from day 1, I knew I didn’t fit in.  First, I didn’t wear the right clothes.  I found a recent article titled “Don’t Be That Guy at the Race” or something like that.  Apparently, I violate two cardinal rules: 1) I wear baggy shorts (the shame), 2) I tuck my t-shirt in (the horror).  Everywhere around me, people were striking yoga poses.  I stretch by tying my shoes.  BTW, I wear the wrong shoes as well.  I opt for the running sneakers with the extra cushioning instead of the sneakers that weigh 4 ounces less.  I’ve never worn sneakers where each toe gets its own home and the idea of it skeeves me out.  In that first race, I didn’t have a PB (peanut butter?) or PR (public relations?) or know what either meant (I perked up when I thought someone mentioned PBR though). 

BTW, while I was writing this blog, the Don’t Be This Guy article was reposted on Facebook by Runner’s World.  I get it Runner’s World, there’s not enough room in your world for this runner!!

Then of course, there was the other issue.  My weight.  I was the only O in a land full of I’s.  In my last race, I followed a group of four girls who were slightly ahead of me for most of the course.  I was trying to figure out why they were able to stay ahead of me when I realized that to equal my weight, one of the four girls would have to travel around the course with two of her friends on her back.  I did end up finishing ahead of them for the record.

Whether I finished ahead of them or not doesn’t really matter to me.  I race against myself every time.  In my last race, I finished about 30 seconds per mile faster than my last time.  I had an ambitious goal of 2 and a half minutes less but wasn’t able to get the training in to achieve that goal.  I’ve been training hard since then and am planning on kicking ass at my next race. 

Here’s a secret about Back of the Pack runners: We are trying hard.  Some of us are trying harder than people who finish with times that are much faster than ours.  I didn’t pick up running because it was easy.  In high school and college, running was something I did before I hit someone.  I would never use the word runner to describe myself.  In the summer before my sophomore year of high school I was in probably the best cardio shape of my life (I ran a 6:07 mile), I made myself a mix tape to listen to called the Jogging/Walking/Crawling Mix.  I didn’t even call my mixtape a Running Tape.  It did have Cat Stevens on it which may have disqualified it.

There may be a couple of thousand people who register for the races I participate in but I’m only competing with myself.  Did I improve my time?  Was I able to push myself to run an extra lamppost or did I stop short of the mark I set for myself?  Did I finish strong?  In one of my first entries on the blog, I talked about how I got frustrated for being passed at the end of the Coogan’s Run.  It wasn’t the other runner at all.  It was me not having anything left in the tank to hold off her charge, it was me not having the pride in myself to not give in, it was me not working hard enough in the weeks coming into the race.  On those days, I don’t feel much like a runner at all.

This year, I haven’t had any races that I finished thinking “I’m a Runner.”  I am coming up on the Portugal Run on June 15th which is a race that I always mark off on my calendar every year.  The first time I ran it, Farrington Racing showed up crazy late and were being yelled at to start the race in the next 30 seconds or our times wouldn’t count.  I was wearing a heavy Under Armour long sleeve shirt and the weather was really hot.  In my haste to start, I tied my shoes too tight and started losing feeling in my feet.  Finally, due to drinking a dairy-based Atkins shake before the race (MILK WAS A BAD CHOICE!), I was puking in the first quarter mile.  My race was actually so bad, I didn’t run Portugal the following year.  I was hiding.

Last year, I had been training seriously and wanted to run the race for two reasons.  First, I dedicated the race to my Dad as it was Father’s Day and my Dad has always been my best coach.  Second, I had a score to settle with the race.  I prepared well and ran a great race.  I pushed myself every chance that I could and set PB’s for per mile pace and 5 mile time.  My per mile time was 13:23. 

Your time is only important because it is a way to measure how hard you’ve been preparing.  If it’s a faster time than your last race, you trained well.  If it’s slower, you need to work a little harder.  13:23 was a good time for me although I finished 5154 out of 5279.  There wasn’t anything funny about it but I was smiling after the race.  I was a runner.

So, some people are wondering why I’m writing proudly about a time that many runners would be embarrassed by.  Is it that I’m an idiot?  Have I gotten soft?  To answer those questions, I went back to the beginning.  Why did I start running again?  To prove to myself that I could.  To myself. 

So look for me when they are about to break down the finish line.  I’ll be wearing baggy shorts and a tucked in t-shirt that’s covered in sweat.  I’ll be breathing hard; my muscles will be burning because I will be giving it all that I have left.  If it doesn’t impress you, I don’t care.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

72 to San Francisco and Finding My Motivation

If you’ve been reading my posts or talking to me in real life (if that’s a thing), you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been having a tough time with my workouts.  I am fighting them every step of the way.  Here’s how it works:

J: I am going to the gym (knees, lower back immediately flare up).

J: Great, I’m at the gym but that dude is using the squat rack for curls (Just skip squats, you don’t want to wait for this clown).

J: I’m doing squats but they are heavy (you should probably cut this set short because you don’t want to hurt yourself and not be able to work out tomorrow).

J: Now I’m on the treadmill and am short of breath and my legs hurt (you’ve done weights already and some cardio, you can cut back.  You should probably stop now and not overexert yourself).

Sometimes it just goes like this:
J: I am going to the gym (knees, lower back immediately flare up). 
J: Eh, I could take another day to rest, there is a race Saturday.  I mean, I’m unprepared for it already, what difference is one workout going to make?

So for those of you who read this blog for inspiration, that beginning part might not be what you were looking for.  If anything, the take away is that even people who have finished a marathon struggle to get their daily workouts in.

For me, this issue with working out has become increasingly frustrating.  Why is it that I find it hard to motivate myself and even stranger, hard to keep motivating myself while working out.  I used to have issues getting to the gym sometimes but once I walked in I was fine.  I would think that being as I’m here anyway, might as well get my sweat on.

I found an article online where the author talks about how at the end of marathons, she would let up on herself and made the 3:30 marathon mark elusive.  I identified with her, the idea of “You have done a lot already.  You can take it easy here” really sounded familiar.  There was a bunch of sports-psychology wrapped up in the article that I didn’t understand.  I took the article to my wife who is a psychologist for clarification regarding what process goals are and what performance goals are.

We started speaking about the article and then quickly diverted.  I could tell that Maryclare was torn between being a wife and being a psychologist.  She recommended that maybe we could set up a behavior chart for me.  She also recommended that I start some sort of signal to myself when I start having negative thoughts and that might help me head them off before they result in me going home.  I recognize the negative thoughts as they are happening.  I just can’t stop them.

We continued talking and then my wife asked me an important question: Why are you running the marathon?  I asked if she expected an answer or if it was rhetorical.  She said, “You don’t have to answer me necessarily but it’s not rhetorical.  You have to know what your motivation is.”

Cue Wonder Boys:
Vernon: If you didn’t know what it was about, why were you writing it?
Grady: I couldn’t stop.

I thought about why I was registered for San Francisco and came up with four reasons:
1)      I really wanted to go to San Francisco
2)      I had run a marathon before
3)      I enjoy the look on people’s faces when I tell them I am running
4)      I signed up when it first opened because there was an “Early Bird” Special.

When I finally came up with this list, I knew that if someone told me that was their motivation to run, I’d tell them to run.  In the opposite direction.  Far and fast.

My biggest motivation for running the New York City Marathon was to prove to myself that I could set a long term goal and reach it.  I wanted to know if I could push myself.  I wanted to know that I could rise to the challenge.  Was there anything left in the tank or did I use all my gas in High School and College?  Those are good reasons for running a marathon.

So once I accepted the fact that I didn’t want to run the San Francisco Marathon, I wondered what I should do.  I still wanted to go out there and I still wanted to go out that night wearing the medal, so I still planned on running it.  This doesn’t really make a lot of sense I know.

I thought about the New York City Marathon and I know that finishing a marathon requires toughness.  Do I still have any toughness left?  I wasn’t even getting through half hour work outs or even working out consistently during the week.  I decided that I was tough in the way that I could endure the pain and punishment of running the marathon and that I would show that by enduring San Francisco.

Then I decided that I didn’t want to endure it.  I wanted to enjoy it.

I had planned on hurting after the marathon.  I still will.  I had planned on it so much that I had booked an extra day stay in town in case my Monday was shot.  But I don’t want to waste a day lying in a hotel bed wishing I had trained harder.  So rather than get all the pain on Marathon Sunday, I figured I’d spread it out over time taking a little each day rather than facing its full strength all at once.

This is not a technique you will read in any books or magazines about running.  No one ever says, “Go as a tourist; work out beforehand so the marathon does not interfere with your sightseeing. ”

So while I still may not be in the perfect headspace right now, I’m definitely in a better place.  I earned a night off tonight but got “Wins” on Tuesday and Wednesday after a blowout loss on Monday. 

Last night I was running hills in White Plains.  After finishing enough trips up the hill to constitute a “Win” for the workout, I was standing at the top of the hill looking down the street.  I told myself that I could go home with my win or I could run another hill.  I turned off my head and let my body decide.  Next thing I knew, I was walking back down to do another rep.

My thought is that right now any reason to run is a good one.  The desire to run the Marathon will come to me but I have to earn it first.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

75 Days to SF/173 to NYC

I ran a 10k at Central Park on Saturday.  I had set a goal for myself of running the 10k in under 1:30 or a per mile time of about 14:30.  This would have been a 2 minute per mile improvement over the Scotland Run which was very ambitious.  I think that goals should be realistic but ambitious.  If I had set a goal to run 5 seconds a mile faster, I doubt the elation over reaching my goal would be worth the effort.  I did not reach my goal of 14:30, finishing up around 16 minutes for an improvement of about 30 seconds.

I'm looking at my race to think about where I could improve:
1) Train more.  Last week, I only trained 3 times including the race.  I think I should be training 5 days a week.
2) Don't fight.  Win.  Prior to starting the race while we were still stuck in the corrals, the "Emcee" of the race was telling us to "run don't jog" through the corrals or we'd get "run over by the elite pace car."  As this was a race for Healthy Kidneys, there were a lot of people participating because the race means something to them and for a lot of those folks walk the races.  The Emcee yelled, "Even if you are planning on walking the race, run through the corrals."  Rows of workers lined the corral yelling at us to run or run faster.  Idiots.  Anyway, this really annoyed me and for the first mile and a half or so, I was thinking about what I might say in an angry letter instead of focusing on running or the course in front of me.  I need to pay more attention to what I'm doing and stop getting distracted by stupidity.  It's hard though because stupidity is everywhere.
3) It was much more humid out Saturday Morning than I thought it would be.  I can't really change the weather but I do need to run outside more.  The good news is that it won't be humid for San Francisco (never really humid there) or New York (happens in November, last year the temperature was around 50).  Regardless, I do need to run outside more.

Long story short, pretty disappointed with my race and I know I need to get myself together in the next 33 days.  In 33 days, I really start the race season, running the Portugal 5M and starting a 14 day stretch where I'm running 4 races including a half.

I need to be confident that I have enough time to train but I definitely don't have time to dawdle.  This post may seem disjointed because I started writing it on Sunday and finished it Tuesday afternoon but also because I have started a new post which should go up tonight, so I am cutting this one a bit short. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

81 Days to SF/179 to NYC

The marathons continue to draw closer.  Friends of mine are having successes in their training and I envy them.  I feel that I am falling further and further behind.  If I speak about this, people are quick to point out that raising two babies is difficult, work is stressful and so is trying to sell a co-op (which at this price is a steal!).  These are valid points BUT the marathons are lining up to kick my ass.  They don’t care what else is going on in my life. 

My sister, who is my “go-to” in terms of running Marathons always says that “Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.”  Basically, you’ll hurt but how much is up to you and how much you train.  I, apparently, am opting for the suffering.   

Last week has reminded me to get back to one of my philosophies in life.  I saw it happen to someone else today but I won’t tell their story because it’s their story.  I’ll tell mine because it’s my story and I’m egotistical.  So the theory is this:

Don’t fight.  Win.

This seems to fly in the face of common knowledge.  You need to fight to get what you want, right?

Fighting is a strange concept.  In some circumstances, it’s advised: Fight the Power, Fight Gingivitis, Fight…for your right…to paaaaaaarty.  Sometimes it’s mandated: If it’s your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.  Other times, it’s not allowable: Don’t fight with your brother.  It’s a warning: You can’t fight City Hall.  Sometimes, it’s an impossibility: I can’t fight this feeling anymore, I’ve forgotten what I’ve started fighting for.
My story is this.  When I was studying for the Bar, I needed to pay a fee as part of my application and when I went to my bank, the teller tried to charge me $12 dollars for a bank check.  I knew she was wrong but the teller was unwavering.  I tried to explain to her that she was wrong, tried to get her to call a manager but the only thing she did was tell me that if I didn’t like it, I should go to the post office where bank checks only cost $4.  If anyone has studied for the Bar Exam or studied for any other test that consumes your soul, you know that anything can set you off.  Normal things are annoying, annoying things are infuriating and people trying to steal 12 bucks from you push you to a level where a murder charge would be mitigated by a “Heat of Passion” defense.  Rather than scream at this teller who wasn’t going to help me, I walked out of the bank.  The Win was passing the Bar, which I ended up doing.  Fighting with this teller was getting me nowhere. 

At the same time in my life, I was trying to watch my weight.  My energy was low and I felt like crap.  I knew that a solid exercise plan was impossible so I needed to try to eat healthier.  While studying for the bar, you will eat anything, particularly if it’s easy to prepare.  Most junk food is easy.  You’ll use excuses—it’s because of stress, it’s only until the test is over, this bag of candy provides me with energy, the Twinkie is the reason they invented the Rule against Perpetuities!!!  I planned to get sushi after obtaining my bank check but once the bank check attempt went wrong, I thought “screw it, too much stress, at least eat something you like.”  First, I thought chicken parm wedge, then General Tso’s Chicken, then General Tso’s on a wedge.  Plus pork fried rice.  Wonton Soup (it’s healthy, it’s mostly chicken soup).  Egg rolls have vegetables.  And eggs are good for you. 

Then it dawned on me.  I had lost my focus.  I was allowing a stupid incident make me lose my focus.  I ended up getting the sushi and taking a few steps to get that bank check for free.  I didn’t fight.  I won.   I didn’t let that little setback distract me from what I really wanted to do. 

There are always things that will happen in our lives that cause emotions that generally distract us.  I know in my situation mentioned above, I was feeling bad, would have felt momentarily better eating and then much worse because I had let the situation get the best of me.  In the end, it’s not worth it.

So tonight I ran hills in White Plains in preparation for San Francisco.  They suck.  I completely avoided hills while training last year for NYC because NYC is a relatively flat race.  There are some hills but they are mostly on the bridges.  The Harry Chapin Race that I wrote about previously was hilly and it beat me up to the point of almost withdrawing from the Marathon.  San Francisco will be hillier and 4 times as long.  I’m getting ready for the pain.  Hoping to minimize the suffering.