Sunday, December 6, 2009

What's Next?

Now that the dust has settled from my fall marathon season, I can turn my attention to my next set of goals. After a lot of thought and careful introspection, I decided not to plan for a spring marathon. Running a spring marathon would have meant starting another training program in January. I decided that it would be too much of a time committment for my family, and it would probably burn me out out from running in general.

I have decided to approach an interim set of goals that would carry me through mid-year, when I would start preparing for my fall marathon (which I expect to be NYC).

  • I would like to spend some time focusing on speedwork, and improving my performance in the shorter races (anything from 4 mi to the half marathon). I plan to rejoin the NYRR Running Classes in January so that I can get back to speedwork on a regular basis.
  • I plan to collect my 9 + 1 races to secure entry into the NYC Marathon in 2011. I'm not sure that I'm going to want to run NYC in 2011, but I may as well give myself the option.
  • I would like to start developing a base of cross training, particularly cycling and swimming. I just joined a local gym, with the goal of using their facilities for cross training, and possibly weight training.
  • I would like to find a more regimented program to use for my next marathon. I'm starting to think that the FIRST program is a good program for me, since I don't see myself hitting the high mileages that other program require.
These are my goals for now - I hate to think of them as New Year's resolutions...but if I pause to reflect on the last year - I have come to realize that I have gained a tremendous amount from running...whether it's increased fitness, new friendships, some great experiences or just an overall positive self image. It has been a great year, and I look forward to continuing on this path.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

First Marathon - in the books!!

I completed my first (scored) marathon today - the Philadelphia Marathon. I was shooting for a 4:15:00 time (which I knew was aggressive), and wound up with 4:22:15 (still a 10 minute pace), which I'm happy with overall.

The weather was INCREDIBLE, the course was nice (although the second half, with the exception of Manyunk was pretty weak in terms of crowd support). I have really learned a lot about marathons from this race - so I thought I'd post a few reflections:

  1. I went out with the 4:15 pace group - but around mile 12 or so, felt that it was a bit fast for me. I ignored the warning signs, but kept up that pace. I paid for it later, especially in miles 20 - 22.
  2. I had a plan to take gels every hour, but wound up only taking them at miles 9 and 16, because getting them out of my pouch was a bit of a pain - and I was trying to keep up with the pace group. Lesson learned - either let the group go (if you can't hang) or run ahead and make time to get your equipment together.
  3. I broke the rule about "nothing new on race day". I took a Gu (Strawberry Bananna) from a race volunteer at mile 19. It was the most disgusting thing I have ever tasted (and I've had quite a few disgusting things in my life), tasted like bubble gum, stuck to the roof of my mouth and made my stomach hurt. I didn't even get water for another mile or so afterwards - so I had plenty of time to think about my mistake.
  4. I feel that I undertrained for my goal. I ran the bare minimum miles required (due to the Jewish Holiday schedule this year) - and probably would have benefited from more speedwork and cross training.
All in all, good lessons learned - which I will apply to future endeavors (like NYC 2010).

To balance this out - some good points:

  1. The Cliff Pacer in the 4:15 group was really nice, and kept the group moving. I felt bad about breaking off, but knew it was the right move.
  2. The weather was incredible (temps between 50 and 60 most of the day).
  3. The scenery was really nice, and enjoyable.
  4. The crowds were very supportive (in some parts of the course)
  5. The atmosphere among the runners was very friendly, and communal. I felt like I was running with a bunch of friends, even though I didn't know most of the people I encountered that day.
I did have a couple of experiences that were pretty noteworthy (to me, at least). On two of my walk breaks, I walked with a couple of women - who were having a tough time on the course. They were also first timers. I did my best to encourage them, and to make them feel better about their race - since so much of this is mental. I felt like giving them the pep talk actually allowed me to give a pep talk to myself, which I really needed for those tough miles from 20 - 22.

All in all, great first race experience. I feel like I accomplished what I set out to do, and laid a great framework for future races (of all durations) and the future of my running career (if you want to call it that :)

Last but not least, big thanks to my wife Bridget and my daughter Chavi - for accompanying me to Philly, and giving me something to look forward to at mile 25. I wouldn't have been able to complete that SURGE to the finish line without their encouragement.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

One Week to Go

Heading into the final days before the NYC Marathon. Time to take it easy, and trust that the training I have done to this point will carry me to the finish line. I did the last 10 miles of the marathon course today with the NY Flyers. It was a beautiful day to be out there, the guys I ran with were great, and the park was just jumping with energy as groups of marathoners were practicing the finish.

So far, the weather forecast looks great - I feel good, and am excited to get out there and do it. I have been assigned an athlete by Achilles - who is expected to be around a 5 hour finisher - so this will be a last long run before the Philadelphia Marathon for me.

I'm just wrapping up the last minute stuff, like buying some throwaway clothes for the start - figuring out what I'm going to bring with me - and making plans to get to the expo. It's a little nerve-wracking that I won't actually meet my athlete prior to the start of the race - but for now, I'll just hope for the best.

Time to relax, recover and prepare for the race.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tapering Before NYC

I completed my last long run before the NYC Marathon, which was an 18 miler in Central Park. The run went relatively well, although I didn't finish the last couple of miles as strong as I would have liked. However, 2 days later - I feel great, and am ready for a 6 miler this evening. Given the fact that Central Park is MUCH hillier than the actual marathon course, I think I'm in good shape for the NY Marathon.

I plan to run with the New York Flyers this weekend (10/18) - they will be running the last 10 miles of the NY Marathon course - which will be a good distance, as well as a good preview for me. They repeat this run the following weekend (10/25) - I'll either run that or the NYRR Marathon Kickoff 5 mile race.

I still haven't received my athlete assignment for NYC, but was told that this should happen before the expo. If not, I'll just show up at the expo and hopefully get an assignment there. NYC will be my last long run before Phila, which allows for a nice 3 week taper. Hopefully, I'll be able to do something similar to what I've done leading up to NYC so that I can keep momentum through both marathons.

In any case, I'm starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Training Burnout

With the Jewish Holidays behind me, and the NYC Marathon less than 3 weeks away, I am starting to feel the effects of what I call training burnout. Here are a couple of symptoms:

  1. I am starting to view my long runs as something I HAVE to do, as opposed to something I WANT to do. I find myself starting a run thinking, "OK, 18 to go" - that definitely makes the run take a lot longer.
  2. I find myself thinking, "I really used to enjoy running more when I didn't do as much of it".
  3. I am starting to dread marathon day. I feel sufficiently beat up on my long runs that I actually start to wonder if I can make the distance.
  4. I am starting to look forward to the marathon being OVER already - and am thinking about all the free time I'm going to have this winter for other things.
I'm sure that the experience of the marathon will put things back into perspective for me - and who knows, I may or may not run another one after this...I guess it's okay to feel this way every once in a while - perhaps a rest day today will refocus my energy on the goal that is getting closer and closer.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Falling behind, and freaking out

The Jewish Holidays are upon us in full swing. That means that I was out of commission yesterday, immersed in fasting and prayer. That also means that the next TWO weekends are shot from a running perspective - since the Jewish Holidays fall out on Saturday and Sunday.

I was supposed to do the NYC Marathon Tune-up, an organized 18 mile training run. I had to cancel because I felt this cold coming on. I am now in the full throes of this cold - which is definitely going to impact my mileage this week.

I'm starting to get nervous about the NYC Marathon - given that I had really planned to get in at least one or two more long runs before race day. Between pressure at work, the holidays, and now this cold - I'm just not seeing it all happen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Confirmed for TWO marathons this fall

I asked for it, and I got it.

I was just notified that I have been accepted as an Achilles Guide for a disabled athlete for the NYC Marathon - which is only 36 days away. I did some research on the athlete, and he ran just under 5 hours in 2007 - am curious to meet him and find out what his goals are for this year.

Assuming that he's planning for something similar - the pace is even slower than what I run in training - so I'm hoping that I'll be able to finish without too much trauma, and still be able to recover in time to run well in Philadelphia on Nov 22nd.

I can't believe it's all real, and finally coming together. All of this training, and all of these miles are finally bringing me to this!

I guess I'm in some real need of some coaching advice - to figure out how to best prepare for NYC and Philadelphia - and how to have a good chance of running both of them well - and enjoying them.

I have my second REALLY long run, the NYC Marathon Tuneup on Sunday. It is an 18 mile run - which is 3 loops of Central Park. I'm hopinig to find a good group, a good groove, and have fun out there...I'm also hoping that I won't be TOO sore for Yom Kippur, which starts on Sunday night.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

First 20 Mile training run

I achieved an important milestone in my marathon training today. I completed my first 20 mile training run. The training run was organized by the New York Flyers and sponsored by Urban Athletics, and I have to say that I was really impressed with the whole operation.

Prior to this run, the farthest I had run in training had been 14 miles. I still think of that distance as simply 1 mile farther than a half marathon. I didn't really see the marathon as something that I was truly ready for. Today, I ran a distance that was only 10k less than the full marathon, and the longest distance that I'd be running in training. I finally realized that the marathon is well within my grasp - and that with the proper training, I'll really be ready for it.

The run was hard - and long, but I felt that I really got something out of the experience, both mentally and physically. The group dynamic was great - I had people to talk to when I needed it, and was able to run alone when I wanted to. If I started to drag, there were people around to pick me up - and I was able to pick up others when I saw them lagging.

All in all, great day for a run - got to see a lot of interesting neighborhoods, got to run a new course (I was getting tired of the same old routes) and got to enjoy the company of some nice people. All in all, a great day.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Eagerly Awaiting Cooler Weather

This summer has simply been BRUTAL. June was cool, July was rainy, then July and August came out of nowhere with EXTREME heat and humidity.

I ran the NYRR NYC Half-Marathon last weekend, which was fun - but was a grueling experience with the heat and humidity. I just did another 13.55 mile training run yesterday - and I feel like my legs are perpetually heavy.

I'm just looking forward to the cooler weather that September brings, so that I can start increasing my distances in preparation for the marathon(s). I should find out whether or not I've been accepted as an Achilles guide for the NYC Marathon in the next few weeks - so I'll know what the fall training plans will be.

Until then, I'll just keep getting out there, slogging through the miles, and putting in the time.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Long runs in the rain

I have frequently heard other bloggers extolling the virtues of running in the rain, but I never felt much inclined to try it myself. Due to some family commitments on Sunday, I wasn't able to do my long run early in the morning, as I normally do. We got home around noon, and I ventured into Central Park to start my run. Sure enough, it started raining within moments of me getting started. I was already here, so I figured it was too late to turn back. The next thing I knew, the sky opened up, and buckets of rain were pouring down on me.

I have to say - overall, it was a pretty pleasant experience. It was a lot more temperate than running in 85 degree temperatures, with 90 + percent humidity - and after a while, most of the park emptied out. It was pretty surreal to have the place to myself, and just run along in the dark (this was in the middle of the day, BTW) with the rain pouring over me.

I did 10 Miles (I was hoping to do 12) - and aside from some blisters on my feet, felt great. Thanks to Ansky for the tip about stuffing my sneakers with newspaper...they are already mostly dry this morning. Don't know how well my leather orthotics will fare though :)

It was a good last long run before the NYC Half Marathon, and a good start to the Philadelphia Marathon training.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sometimes the best part of a run is when it's OVER

I woke up this morning to a foggy, overcast day with light drizzle. I was planning to run the NYRR Father's Day 5 Mi, until I learned that I had forgotten to register. Either way - I was planning to run this morning. I finally dragged myself out of the house, and endured a miserable run, just under 5 miles - pretty much my usual route in Riverdale. The humidity was so awful, it felt like I was running through wet rags. I couldn't catch my breath, and was dripping in sweat.

I wouldn't say that it was the best run of my life - but I persevered. I had all sorts of negative thoughts running through my mind, including, "Why the hell am I doing this?" "I really suck" "Why am I thinking that I can actually run a marathon" - but put all of it aside, and kept on going.

Finally, I got back home - and as I was riding up the elevator to my apartment - I finally was able to smile to myself and think, "It was a truly miserable day - but I got out there and ran" and finally was able to feel good about myself and what I had set out to do.

Sometimes, the best part of the run is when it's over.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Fall Marathon Dilhemma


I recently found out that I didn't win a spot in the 2009 NYC Marathon via the lottery (I've heard that virtually no one from the NYC area actually does get in that way) - which means that I'm guaranteed a spot in 2010.

I'm still interested in running a marathon in 2009 - despite the training challenges, with all of the Jewish holidays falling on Sundays in the month of September. I'm debating between running the Philadelphia Marathon, or attempting to get a spot in the NYC Marathon by committing to raise money for a charity (which charity is yet TBD). Part of me wants to run NYC, and thinks that raising money is a good thing - but the other part of me just LOATHES the idea of hitting my friends and family up for money...even if it is for a good cause.

I'm going to sleep on this one for a few more days - and will post the results of my decision. If anyone happens to read my blog, and has an opinion either way - feel free to post a comment...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

No NYC Marathon for me in 2009

The NYRR just posted the results of the lottery drawing for 2009, and unfortunately I was not one of the select few. I think it's a mixed blessing. Fortunately, I'm confirmed for 2010 (I ran the 9 qualifying races, and volunteered), and as my friend Ari points out - 2009 does have a lot of Jewish holidays that fall on Sundays this year, effectively killing the month of September for long runs.

I'm contemplating signing up for Phila instead (since it happens almost a month later), so that I can keep the momentum up, but we'll see what happens.

In other news, I'm excited about the new season of running classes at NYRR (they actually started last week, but I missed the first one due to the Jewish Holidays). I switched back to Thursday nights, which I prefer. I'm feeling a little under the weather, and the forecast doesn't look great for today - so we'll see what actually happens...but I'd really like to get back to speedwork some time soon. Speedwork is just one of those things that I won't ever push myself to do on my own, so I really value the structure of the group to push me through it.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not every race will earn you a PR

Lately, I've been feeling a bit burned out on racing. With the arrival of my daughter, the recent Jewish Holidays, and a bout of the flu - I haven't been running as regularly as I'd like to. To add to that, I had a pretty packed race schedule, trying to complete the 9 NYRR races in order to guarantee entry into the NY Marathon in 2010.

I had signed up for the NYRR Japan Day 4 Mi, but wasn't crazy about the idea of running it - and decided to anyway. I told myself that I was going to take it easy, and just have fun out there. Sure enough - I started off strong, and pushed it hard. After about 2 miles, I pretty much crashed - with some liberal walk breaks thrown in, I still finished in a reasonable time - nowhere near my personal record - but also not the slowest race I've ever run.

Bottom line? I'm going to look forward to a summer of long slow runs, in preparation for the NYC Half Marathon, and hopefully a fall marathon (yet TBD). I'm glad that I'm done with racing for a while...but I'll still continue my speedwork on Thursdays.

In the end, I'm going to put this all into perspective for myself. I ran this race last year in 39:16 - and was elated because I broke a 10 mi / mi for the first time (it was my 3rd race ever). I ran this one in 33:49 (an 8:20 min / mi) - and felt disappointed because I didn't break 32:00. I could focus on what I didn't accomplish - alternatively, I could focus on how far I've come in a year. I know which option is better for me right now :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I hate morning runs

I happened to have been up around 5am this morning, so I decided to go for a run. Midway through the run, I started to remember why I hate running in the morning. It takes my body quite a while to get adjusted to being awake, I never manage to hydrate enough, and I can't stomach eating right when I wake up.

I don't know how people do it, I really don't. My preference is to run after work...but I guess I'll take what I can get. Between the long weekend, and a busy week - and the Jewish Holiday on Friday, it's going to be tough to get my miles in this week. Come to think of it, if I manage to wake up early enough tomorrow, I may try to get another run in tomorrow morning as well...

In other news, Garmin Connect has recently opened up to all Garmin sport watches (not just the Forerunner 405), and has officially replaced Motionbased as the official online site for Forerunner data. It's a pretty cool interface, and I like the way it displays data about the runs. I'm looking forward to using it more regularly.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Going to start long runs again

I just set two PR's for short distance races - and finally broke the 8:00 min / mi pace for the 5k race distance. I've been grappling with that for a while now - and it was really nice to finally push that one over the line.

Since I completed the 9 NYRR races needed to qualify for the NYC Marathon in 2010, I've decided to shift my focus back to long runs on the weekends. I have the NYC 1/2 Marathon coming up in August, and hopefully the NYC Marathon coming up in November - so long run season is basically here.

I'm going to start with a 9 - 10 mile run tomorrow - and just see how things go. I'm actually looking forward to getting back to a nice, slow training pace - after having spend most of the last few weekends racing shorter distances.

I'm just happy for the summer to be upon us, hopefully get a nice long stretch of good weather, and to start building up the distance again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This is a picture that I posted to my facebook page a while back. Showing a picture of me prior to running (it's the best picture I could find), and one after completing my first quarter-marathon last fall.

It's amazing to see the progress that I've made...it's actually nice to have a reminder from time to time about exactly how far you've come.

Am back again...this time for real!

I decided to restart my blog - after several failed attempts, both at blogging and at running a marathon. Running a marathon has always been a personal goal of mine - one that seemed to continuously elude my grasp. I got inspired several times, and took up running - only to have it end in injury after several months. I think that in all of my prior attempts, I did too much, too soon.

In January of last year, I decided to start running again - and bought a treadmill for my house. My goal was to get myself up to running for 30 minutes (at any pace) without stopping. Once I accomplished that, I enrolled in the NYRR Running Classes, lead by coaches Bob and Shelly-Lynn Glover.

The difference this time was that my only goal was to run for 1 year without injury. I ran my first NYRR race in April of 2008, and finished 4 miles in 43:01. Since then, I've run numerous 4 mile, 5 mile, 5k and 10k races - and have even run 2 half-marathons. I'm down to a sub-8:00 min/mi for the 5k / 4 mi race, and am hoping to win a spot in the New York Marathon in 2009 (but have already qualified for a guaranteed spot in 2010).

In the process, I have dropped from 269 lbs (my lifetime high) to my current weight of 225 - made a bunch of new friends, and have become addicted to distance running and racing. I can't describe how much better I feel about myself - both physically and emotionally.

Just a bit of background, taking me from my last failed attempt up to the present. I am hoping to hear the results of the lottery some time in June, and hoping to find out that I have earned a coveted spot at the starting line.