Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thoughts on the latest email from NYRR

NYRR recently sent an email to the registrants of the cancelled 2012 New York Marathon asking for some time before responding to the questions that many of us are left with.  My thoughts on their latest communication (and the situation in general):

"Please know that our priority is to address your concerns," the e-mail read. "We ask that you give us a little time to work out the details and make thoughtful decisions. We are very grateful for your continued patience."

  1. Your priority is not, has not, and will never be "to answer our concerns".  NYRR's priority in recent years has been how to capitalize on the imbalance between supply and demand for race spots to most directly benefit NYRR's stated agenda (to become a social service / activism organization dedicated to getting more people active and into running).
  2. "We ask that you give us a little time to work out the details and make thoughtful decisions" - So, we are now making thoughtful decisions?  That would be quite the paradigm shift - considering that your track record of decisions hasn't been all that thoughtful year-to-date, including: a) Cancelling bag check AFTER registration for the marathon had been completed b) Deciding to hold the 2012 marathon, having everyone come to NYC, then cancelling it THE DAY BEFORE the race.  If NYRR decides to start making thoughtful decisions now, that would be a welcome change.
I am just overwhelmed and flabbergasted by how poorly the entire situation was handled.  The marathon should have been cancelled on Tuesday, preventing people from spending time and money to travel for a race that should have never been in consideration.

I'm going to put it in perspective here:  I have my health, my home and my family.  I escaped the wrath of the weather unscathed.  There are many people with far more to worry about than a marathon.  That said, I have given NYRR my last dollar - this is just the last straw for me.  I don't wish NYRR any ill will.  There are plenty of people that want to run the New York City Marathon, and it's obvious that they won't miss my patronage.  That said, I'm going to look for a different avenue to support (like NYCRuns), and happily relinquish my place in line to someone that wants it more than I do.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Reminders for the road back

Realizing that I haven't posted in a while, I'll bring you up to speed on what's been happening these last few months.  While training for my first Half Ironman, I developed an arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) which prevented me from training for the race (or anything else) the way I wanted to.  I got through the race, had a blast (even if I didn't race the way I wanted to) and had heart surgery to take care of the arrhythmia.  After the procedure, I was placed on heart drugs - one of the effects of these drugs is that my heart rate never goes above 130, making anything more taxing than brisk walking, or climbing a flight or two of stairs a bit challenging.

I just came back from my post-surgery follow up visit, and got encouraging news from my doctor.  She was encouraged by the condition of my heart, and cleared me to move on to the next phase of recovery.  That means I'll be discontinuing the heart meds that I'm on over the next few days/weeks, and can start getting back to the things I love to do (swimming, biking and running).

Needless to say, this extended period of inactivity has been rough on me (I can count on one hand the number of times I have exercised since my triathlon on September 26th).  I gained weight, lost fitness, and have just generally become less happy with myself...just ask my wife about how pleasant of a person I have become to live with.

Now that I can start training again, I wanted to put a few thoughts in front of myself so that I can keep them top of mind as I start the road back to where I was:

  1. Recovery is going to be gradual.  I lost a lot of fitness in the time I spent recovering.  I can't measure my performance today or set goals today using the yardstick of my performance before I developed my arrhythmia.  I just have to focus on the present, and be happy with the improvements that I know will come in time.
  2. I'm not out of the woods yet.  There's still a good possibility that these issues will resurface once I'm off the meds.  While the prognosis is good, it's not uncommon to need this procedure multiple times (hell, when I had similar issues in 2010, I needed three procedures to fix what was wrong with my heart).  I can't bank on the fact that the doctors got it right the first time, or I'm setting myself up for a hell of a disappointment.
  3. I shouldn't rush myself into goal races.  I have a tendency to aim high, and make aggressive plans.  I really need to keep my expectations in check, and focus on base building for a while.  As of now, I only have two committed races for next year (NYC Tri on July 14th and Marine Corps Marathon on October 27).  I have my eyes on Rev3 Quassy (the Half Iron distance is calling me) and possibly the Gran Fondo NY (I've been bitten by the cycling bug this year), but I'm really apprehensive about having a setback, and having to defer on a lot of things (like I did this year).  If I find myself overcommitting, I'm hoping that my runner/tri friends will help me keep my enthusiasm in check.
Running/Tri friends:  I'm counting on you here.  Please help me stay in tune with these guiding principles, so that I can make this recovery as smooth and painless as possible.  I'm really grateful for the support I got from my runner friends while I was down, and look forward to rejoining you on the roads.  I can't wait to be back!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Because I never learn

I knew this wasn't going to last for long.  I had said to myself (and my blog) honestly that I was done racing for the year, and wasn't going to do a fall marathon.  Then, a few weeks later, NYRR reversed their original decision to end baggage service, and I found myself nostalgic for the marathon.

Yes, I ran NYC in 6 hours 2 years ago - shortly after heart surgery.  It was a sufferfest, but I got a medal, and would like to think that I'm a better person for having stood up to the challenge and getting it done.  I have another heart procedure scheduled for September 24th, and part of me is stubbornly refusing to let that define my reality.  Inspired by my friend Allen - who also took a run/walk marathon with a camera - I decided not to let my entry go to waste.

Partly motivated by the fact that I haven't worked out once in the last 2 weeks (since my Half Ironman), and by the fact that I'm already qualified for NYCM 2013 (if I choose to run it), I decided not to let my entry go to waste.

I'm not going to be fast, I may not even finish (I'm not going to die trying) - but maybe, just maybe, I'll put on my number on November 4th, make my way to the foot of the Verazanno Bridge, and enjoy a tour of the 5 boroughs with 45,000 other runners.

What do you think?

Monday, September 3, 2012

What now?

Coming off of the high of having completed my first half iron distance triathlon, I'm confronted with a huge feeling of post-race blues.  The finish was a bitersweet end to my training season.  Frought with challenges as it was, I'm really pleased with what I was able to accomplish out there.  Since then, I haven't worked out once in the 8 days since the event, and am feeling completely unmotivated.

I had originally planned to roll from the 70.3 straight into fall marathon training, but I had to abandon those plans for a number of reasons.  Between my heart, the impending move, the fall holidays and other factors, I just couldn't see myself committing to the fall races the way I needed to.

I know it's all for the best - but I'm having post-race blues harder than I think I ever have before.  It's really sad not to be training for a fall goal race for the first time since 2008.  I just need to find a way to get myself back to doing SOMETHING - so that I don't lose everything that I have gained.  It's also really tough to read about everyone hitting their long runs, tempo runs and speedwork, and easing into the intense period of training leading up to the marathon.

Really struggling with what my next goal(s) should be, thinking about a half in the spring of 2013, and an early season 70.3 in June or something.  I just need to refocus my sights on the next goal, which will make it easier for me to stay engaged in the interim.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rev3 Maine - 70.3

Reader Note: I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I felt that there was a lot I wanted to put out there.  If you want the top line, read the first two paragraphs - if you want more, feel free to indulge me and read the rest.

Background: After a stellar first half of 2012, I was well on my way to training for my first half ironman.  My training took an unexpected set of turns, due to a combination of old heart problems resurfacing and tendonitis in my left foot.  I arrived at the starting line for the race grossly unprepared, but ready to do battle.  I was going to bring my best game, hope for the best, and accept whatever I got out of the day.  Here's how it went.

The short version: I finished the race in 6:45:33.  It certainly wasn't the result I was hoping for, or the best that I think I'm capable of, but it was the best race I had in me that day.  Considering the circumstances, I'm thrilled that I had the opportunity to toe the start and cross the finish.  The race was a great experience, and I'm truly energized about the idea of doing it again.

What went well?  I'm happy with my bike time, reasonably satisfied with my swim, and just  delighted that I finished, considering that my training schedule had been heavily impacted by:

  1. Life (Our new home, selling our existing home, my work schedule, my wife's work schedule) - not really good excuses, but contributing factors nonetheless.
  2. My heart issues (starting in June) causing me to cut short a number of long workouts, and preventing me from doing others entirely
  3. Plantar Fasciitis / Posterior tibialis tendonitis in my left ankle/foot.  Looking back on my log, apart from my 16 mile training run on 8/19, I hadn't run more than 6 miles in one shot since my half marathon in May...
What didn't go well?
  1. My swim - due to heart issues (read more below)
  2. My run - due to inadequate run training, poor nutrition on the course and almost no long runs/bricks (bike/run combo workouts)
The long version:  About a week before race day, I made a decision to discontinue the use of the heart medications that I had been given, to allow me to participate in the triathlon.  In truth, the arrhythmia that I have isn't life threatening, and there are plenty of people that live with it for their entire lives (just not active people).  The arrhythmia causes my heart rate to go as high as 220 BPM, which makes sustained exercise nearly impossible.  On the flip side, the drugs I was given to prevent the arrhythmia keep my heart rate below 130 at all times, also making sustained exercise nearly impossible.  If I stayed on the meds, there'd be no way that I could race, but if I went off the meds, and my heart didn't cooperate that day - my race would be over.  I took the risk, and headed to Maine, willing to accept whatever happened on race day.

Traveling with two small children isn't easy.  Between the unfamiliarity of a new location, the change to their schedule, and just the general excitement of being on vacation, no one slept much on Friday or Saturday night.  Plus, my heart had been going nuts all day on Saturday.  Things weren't looking good for me.  Despite that, I woke up at 4am went to transition with Matt (also doing the 70.3), laid out all of my gear and began the long walk from T1 to the swim start.  Walking along the beach, staring at the ocean at sunrise, I had a moment of hesitation.  I have a wife, I have two small children - why in the hell am I taking chances like this?  There will be other races, other days.  That sudden realization provoked a wave of emotions within me.  I said to myself, I'll play it cautiously, and will bail out at the first sign of trouble. I pushed my fears aside, and lined up with my wave.

Swim: 45:11

The water was really calm, and the waves were minimal, once you got out past the breakers.  Despite this, the swim was really rough for me.  I think my heart was going beserk at the time, because  I found myself completely winded and gasping for air by the time I hit the first turn buoy (.35 mile).  I just slowed down, took my breath, and said to myself, "Be patient, take your time, you'll get through this" and just pushed on and on.  The swim seemed to go on forever.  Crossing the final turn buoy, heading back to shore - I felt like I was swimming and swimming and never getting any closer to shore.  Swimmers from the next two waves behind me behind me started to pass me, but I pushed on.  Finally, I got to shore.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  I was winded, and gasping for air.  My chest was heaving.   I was dizzy, and felt like I was going to throw up. I ripped off my wetsuit top and began the 1/3 mile trot up to transition.

T1: 6:25

Running into transition, I was fighting back dizziness and nausea.  I wasn't sure that I was going to continue.  My heart was still racing, and I couldn't catch my breath.  I saw my friend Matt (who went into the water 2 waves before me) on the sidelines, and was utterly confused.  Did he miss the swim cutoff?  Did something happen?  All I could manage was a confused, "What the hell, Matt??"  He replied, "Don't worry about me, just go ahead!".  I crossed the turn into transition and went about changing out of my wetsuit and getting my bike gear together.  Fighting back the dizziness, I had to sit down to take off my wetsuit bottom and put on my bike shoes.  I finally managed to get down some water, begin to calm myself down and started out on my bike.

Bike: 3:15:55

Once I got out on the bike, and started to pick up speed, my heart finally seemed to calm down.  I was finally able to catch my breath, and appreciated the cool air on my face and body.  I settled in for the ride and got into a groove.  I had planned to eat Cliff Bar pieces while on the bike, but my stomach was still doing backflips, so I wasn't able to get much down.  I stuck with water and gatorade, and knew that I was painting myself into a corner with nutrition  The bike is a long and solitary experience - there isn't much cameraderie on the course, short of an occasional, "On your left" as you are getting passed, or passing someone else.  The scenery was beautiful, and I just let the miles tick by.  I started to lose steam between miles 40 and 50.  At the 50 mile mark, I just continued to grind it out, saying to myself, "I can't wait to get off the bike, and start the run" - boy, I had no idea what I was in for.

T2: 3:14

Running my bike back into transition, I caught a first glimpse of the wife and kids.  I gave each of them a kiss as I went by. I was just glad that they saw me, and knew that I was OK.  I started out of transition and on to the run course, and my legs just wouldn't cooperate.

Run: 2:34:47

The run was a complete trainwreck - but I kind of expected that.  I kept saying to myself, "Just get to mile 1, make it happen", but I was doing far more walking than running.  It really took almost 3 miles to get my legs to cooperate.  Slowly but surely, I was able to do at least as much running as walking, then eventually longer periods of running and shorter walk breaks.  There wasn't any specific body part that prevented me from running, I was just completely out of gas.

I was starting to run out of steam, both physically and emotionally.  The though of just sitting down really appealed to me - so I knew I had to start fighting my way back to a positive frame of mind.  I thought about a lot of things, to help draw inspiration to help get me through the day.  I though a lot about my Dad, who fought the fight of his life, and didn't win.  I though about an old co-worker TJ, with a wife and small children, fighting stage 4 skin cancer.  I just dug into myself and pushed myself to keep going.  Then I started talking to a guy running about my pace.  He told me that he has been living with MS for about 18 years (I think).  Thanks to modern medicine, he's able to lead a normal life, even compete in the triathlon.  I started to think about my heart issues - and put them into perspective.  My battle is nothing compared to theirs.  We hung in there together, and slogged through the remaining miles to the finish.

The aid stations were pretty frequent on the run, and I started helping myself to liberal helpings of ice, banannas, coke and salt tabs.  The volunteers were amazing about getting your orders together quickly and serving them to you with a smile.  Finally, once I got some calories in me, I was able to get myself moving again.  By the time I ran into Matt and Steph on the back half of the run, I was moving along comfortably, and grateful for their support.  I have to give Matt a heavy helping of gratitude here:  Even though his day didn't turn out as expected, his (and Steph's) support on the course helped me through the race more than they'll ever know.

Running the final leg to the finish chute, I met up again with my family - grabbed my son Benjamin, took my daughter Chavi by the hand and we ran as a family down the finish chute to the finish line.

What now?

One day after the race, I feel amazing.  Contrary to what you'd think, the 70.3 is a lot easier on your body than 26.2 miles of running.  I feel like I did what I went there to do.  I faced my physical limitations head on, and with a good helping of luck, and my customary stubborn determination, I beat them.

I don't think that I'm going to continue training for the fall marathons as I had planned (although I've been known to renege on promises like that before).  I'm scheduled to have my next heart procedure in just under 1 month, and as I understand it, the recovery period is longer, and I'll have to stay on the heart meds for longer.  I fought that fight in 2010 - and with this achievement under my belt, I don't feel the need to hang in there and gut out another 6 hour sufferfest marathon.

I'm going to need to find some other ways to keep in shape and stay strong so that 2013 can be the year of rebuilding, take 2.  I did it once - I know I'll do it again.

Friday, August 10, 2012


To say that I'm disappointed with the re-occurrence of my cardiac arrhythmia would be putting it mildly.  Since the beginning of 2012, I have committed myself to the goal of completing a Half Ironman distance triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run).  Along the way, I have had a truly stellar year - including:

2011 was the year or rebuilding (after a disappointing 2010 - the first occurrence of my arrhythmia).  This was really supposed to be my year.  I rode the wave of PR after PR, and the momentum of my successive successes just pushed me harder and harder.  Starting in June, the symptoms of my arrhythmia returned, and have been getting progressively more frequent.  Stress tests, EKG's, home monitoring were the next diagnostic steps, which finally confirmed the diagnosis.  

Doing some research, I realized that this isn't an uncommon problem, even among endurance athletes.  I might be a big on the young side to be dealing with this, but at least this isn't some sort of exotic condition that leaves people scratching their heads about what to do with me.

As of now, I'm on medications (it remains to be see the extent to which they will impact my performance), and I have another procedure to schedule some time in September / October.

Obviously, I'm disappointed.  I'm actively reconfiguring my marathon plans for the fall, and am completely uncertain as to how my 70.3 will go (as of now, I'm going to compete, and my only goal is to finish).  It's just another curveball that life has thrown at me.

I just have to keep reminding myself:  It can always be worse, this too shall pass - and to just focus on health, family and the good things in life.

I can be proud of my accomplishments this year, and look forward to continuing them when this latest episode is squarely in the rearview mirror.  Until then, I'm going to do the best with what I've got - and I'm not going to let this thing get the best of me.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dehydration - how it looks on me

They say that doctors make the worst patients, apparently the same is true for EMT's.  I suffered mild dehydration two weeks in a row - and I thought I'd blog a bit about it, in hopes that someone out there will learn something from it (because it sure as hell seems that I didn't).

The first episode happened last Sunday - I spent some time open water swimming at Coney Island while Samantha hung out with the family, then hopped back in the car, and continued on with my day.  It was really hot, and apparently I didn't have enough to drink.  Later that day, I went out for a run.  I had my Fuel Belt, my gels and everything I thought I needed, and I set off.  Knowing that this was supposed to be a long slow day, I kept my pace much slower than my goal marathon pace, and off I went.  A few miles into the run, I remember thinking to myself that it seemed to be SO hard to keep my pace, and I attributed it to the heat, and being tired, as I hadn't slept well the night before.  Next thing I noticed was that my heart was POUNDING rapidly.  I took a quick look at my heart rate monitor and was shocked when I saw a number > 200 BPM.  I stopped and took my pulse, which confirmed what my watch had told me.  I was a bit scared, so I wound up calling one of my paramedic colleagues who came down to get me.  He told me that I looked pale as a ghost, I was cold and clammy with sweat, and my capillary refill was really poor (that's a measurement of how quickly color returns to your fingernails when you press on them. Should happen within 1-2 seconds).  Even after I stopped running, my heart rate remained elevated.  After consuming 32 oz of water and sitting in an air conditioned car for a while, my heart rate finally started to drop.  After a quick EKG (I have a history of heart problems) confirmed that everything looked good, I thanked my friend and went on my way.

Sure enough, this Sunday, more of the same.  This time it was a long ride up Rt 9W.  Again, it seemed SO difficult to keep a pace that should have been easy, I was clammy and pale, and my heart rate was racing.  Here's my heart rate data from today's ride:

Compare that to the almost identical ride up Rt 9W from Friday, where apparently I was adequately hydrated (and weather was cooler / less humid).

What did I learn from this? Several things:

  • I know all about dehydration - I treat patients with it all the time.  It's very obvious when it is  happening to a patient when I assess them as a rescuer. When it is happening to me - not so obvious.
  • I always associated dehydration with cramps, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, loss of consciousness.  I didn't have any of that.  Apparently, when I dehydrate, I get tachycardic (rapid heart rate).
  • Pale, clammy skin is normal in the initial phases of heat exhaustion, but is very difficult to detect when you are running or riding, and are expecting to sweat buckets in the heat and humidity.
So, what am I going to do differently?
  1. Ensure that I am adequately hydrated EVERY DAY - not just when preparing to run or ride
  2. Be very conscious of my hydration and nutrition DURING the ride/run, and not wait until I FEEL something is wrong
  3. Be cognizant of my heart rate during training.  If I feel like I'm dragging, it's worth stopping to assess what my be going wrong.  I'm not going to just chalk it up to being tired, nervous, distracted, whatever.
Hope this was helpful - remember to stay cool, and stay hydrated out there.  The long hot days of summer are only beginning!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Remembering where I started...

Looking at my race pictures from today's 4 miler, I found myself being hypercritical about myself (critiquing my running form, the existence of a double chin, you name it).  I figured it would be interesting to take a step back, and compare where I am today to where I was when I started running.

This first picture is from Japan Day 2008, my 3rd NYRR race ever.  This was a huge milestone for me, because it was the first race where I broke 40 minutes in the 4 miler.  Obviously, I was carrying around a few extra lbs back then, and was still finding my way as a runner.

Fast forward to 2012:  I've lost around 50 lbs, and for the most part, have kept it off.  I still have more to do, but I'm happy with the progress I've made.  I've run numerous half marathons, 5 marathons, a Tough Mudder and am in training for my first two triathlons.  This is me, fighting my way to a 30:36 finish, which represents a 40 second improvement over my last 4 miler (last month), a 1 minute and 20 second improvement over my first 4 miler of the season, and a 9 minute improvement over that milestone race from 2008.

I have to remind myself that the continual pursuit of the best that you have to offer is what keeps me doing this, and that my life is drastically different now than I had ever imagined it being before I became a runner.  I have made so many amazing connections with incredible people, whether they are teammates at PRSFit, NY Flyers, JRunners, the Rogue Runner Posse, or just people I have come to know from Twitter and Facebook.  A big part of my success is due to the support, encouragement and camaraderie I get from these people.  For that, I can't thank you enough.

This season just continues to amaze me, and I can wait for what's still to come!

Friday, May 11, 2012

One spring goal down, one to go

Reflecting back on my goals for 2012, my spring goal race was a half marathon.  My objective at the time was to break 1:50:00 (which would represent a 5+ minute PR for me). The Long Island Half marathon was to be my goal race.

Unexpectedly, I was given a last minute opportunity to run the NYC Half, which is a race I had run several years ago, but haven't run since.  It's a huge race, but the second half of the course is net downhill.  Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.  Sparing you from having to read through an exhaustive race report, I had a great race, and achieved my spring half goal with a 1:48:59 finish (thanks in part to the huge boost I received from Abbe in mile 12).  Needless to say, I was thrilled with my time, and went into Long Island with the stretch goal of breaking 1:45:00.

Due to some GI Issues early on in the race, and an unexpectedly humid morning, by Mile 3 I knew that 1:45:00 wasn't happening.  I settled in for the long haul, and hope to at least beat my time from NYC.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get my hydration right, and was fighting back the urge to vomit.  By mile 8, I stepped off the course, actually hoping to be able to puke and get back to it.  A runner passed by, and encouraged me to get back and start running.  I did, and eventually felt better.

The race was long and the scenery was nothing spectacular.  Without music (another conscious decision), I had little to take my mind out of the race.  I slogged it through the miles, and worked to the very end.  In mile 12, we re-enter a park (where we started) and go on a long, meandering path to the finish.  I recalled looking ahead, tracing the curves with my eyes, in utter disbelief that people SO FAR AHEAD of me were still running.  The finish line was nowhere to be seen.  I pushed and I pushed, until FINALLY mile 13 arrived.  I put the hammer down, and sprinted the .1 miles to the finish.

Looking at my watch, I realized that I had broken 1:50:00, but still came in 35 seconds slower than NYC, on what was supposed to be an easier course.  I realized that due to the humidity and my initial discomfort, I really pushed a lot harder in Long Island than I did in NYC several weeks before.  I'm a lot happier with the effort I put in at Long Island, even if the results weren't there....

Next up: My first triathlon, the Olympic Distance Red Bank Triathlon with Matt and Scott.  Goal is to finish, have fun, and learn as much as I can as I prep for my first 70.3, the Rev3 Maine Triathlon.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Thoughts on NYRR and the Brooklyn Half

For those in the NYC running scene, the topic of NYRR often provokes endless debate.  There are many fans, and just as many detractors.  The most recent topic of conversation around here has been the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  For those of you that need context, NYRR has an annual series of half marathons - one in each borough of NYC.  These races have been well produced, reasonably priced (around $25 for adult NYRR members), few frills half marathons.  No medals, no tech shirts, water and gatorade affairs.  I have participated in the series for several years, and definitely enjoyed them.  Brooklyn has always been a popular race - and always sells out quickly.  This year, NYRR changed the course (to allow more time on the streets and less time in Prospect Park), dramatically increased capacity for participants (to 15,000 from 5,000 in years past), and also nearly doubled the price (to $45 from $25).  This, in combination with the NYRR MEMBER price for NYCM (currently $217) has prompted this blog post.

I'll start with a few positives:

  • NYRR has definitely been at the forefront of making running accessible to the people of NYC.  I started in their beginner running classes, as have many people that I know.
  • One of NYRR's core missions is to engage students in NYC schools to get them started in running, which is a cause that I support.
  • NYRR has been evolving as distance running (particularly marathoning) has increased in popularity.  NYRR puts on a large number of races, that are for the most part well organized, and reasonably priced.
  • The New York Marathon (and other races) have been increasing in popularity, and NYRR has been increasing the size of the marathon as much as is feasible.  I don't profess to know the first thing about race directing, but it's clear that a tremendous amount of effort goes into the planning and execution of the New York Marathon, and the field of participants has grown every year.
Now to the negatives:

  • There is definitely a feeling that New York Road Runners is turning their back on the local running community in NYC.  NYRR has taken on a more "global" mission, and there is definitely a perception that the local races are being used to fund prize pools that attract elite runners to races (such as the NYC Half, the Healthy Kidney 10k, the Mini 10k and the NYCM) which is causing race fees to rise.
  • The New York Marathon has eliminated the guaranteed entry for life that was previously awarded to people that have run 14 NYC Marathons.  To me this indicates that "local business" is less important to NYRR than attracting runners from around the country or the world.
  • Prices for races continue to rise.  Again, I can't speak to the cost of putting on races - but many have commented that the price increases are regular and seemingly excessive.  I have strong doubts whether I will use my guaranteed entry for the New York City Marathon, when I know that there are great alternatives out there (like Marine Corps,, or Philly to name a few) that cost less than half the price.
In my opinion - it seems that NYRR is turning into more of a "Global" running community and less of a "local" NYC focused organization.  I'll also say that's OK.  The fact is, for those that complain about NYRR incessantly, there are other alternatives.  NYCRuns is an up and coming organization, that has produced numerous successful, smaller events around NYC (The Brooklyn Marathon, The Yonkers Marathon/Half Marathon, this years first ever Verrazanno Half Marathon, to name a few).  They are in no way competing with NYRR, but they are offering an alternative for runners seeking a more "local" community in NYC.

The Holiday Marathons continue to put on events (maybe not in Van Cortlandt Park anymore, but we'll see what happens there) - they are a great no-frills, free alternative for folks that don't require a medal or a tech shirt.

To sum it up, I honestly believe that NYRR doesn't "need" local NYC runners business, especially not for their marquis events (NYC Half, NYC Marathon, etc).  There are plenty of runners that are vying for a limited number of spots.  I'm believe that the NYC Marathon would sell out even if no New York City runners participated.  Their mission seems has shifted focus from the local runners that have gotten the organization off the ground.  That said, there are alternatives available for anyone that chooses not to participate in NYRR events.

I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts on the topic...

Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I should never look at my Brightroom photos

How I feel when I'm racing:

What I look like in my Brightroom photos:

Friday, March 2, 2012

Spring Goals

Now that March has arrived, it's time to start thinking ahead and mapping out some of the rest of the year.  I took a quick look at my 2011 recap post, and started to think about the goals that I had in mind for this year.  Here's what I've got so far:

  1. Progress against goals:  So far, I picked off one of the goals already, a sub 32 minute 4 miler.  I hit that at the NYRR Gridiron Classic. Hoping to continue the PR trend with the Coogan's 5k on Sunday.  My course PR for Coogan's is 25 minutes - would be delighted to see that one fall.
  2. Progress against plans:  I have signed up for the Red Bank Olympic Tri and the LI Half Marathon as my spring goal races. Given that this is my first Tri, my only goal is to have fun, and learn as much as I can.  I haven't set a time goal for the LI Half yet, but based on what I've seen so far in training, I think that a big PR is within the realm of possibility.
  3. New Equipment:  Given that I have committed to one tri (and possibly another, more on that later), I finally took the plunge and bought a road bike.  I had to get past the sticker shock associated with cycling (especially as compared to running, where your big investment is a pair of shoes).  Now that the weather is getting warmer, I look forward to getting out for a ride, and starting to come up to speed on that.
  4. Upcoming Races: I signed up for a sprinking of NYRR races (mostly ones that have kid's races) - still planning to get my 9+1 this year, in case I want to run the marathon in 2013.  I have another big goal in July, but I'm still holding back on pulling the trigger on that one.  Should be able to commit to that in the next week or so, but I'm 90% of the way there.  I'm planning to sign up for the Marine Corps Marathon as my fall goal race, and have already signed up for the Brooklyn Marathon as my "fun race".  Still uncertain as to whether or not I'm going to use my guaranteed entry for the New York City Marathon - that probably depends on whether or not I make it into MCM.
As far as my training, the multisport approach continues to work for me.  I am thinking about investing in some swim lessons, because I don't feel happy with where I am at the moment.  Will see where that goes.  Since the majority of my cycling training has been on the spin bike, I'm sure I'll have a better sense of where my training is when I get out on the road.

As far as nutrition, I'm not where I need to be - but plans are in the works to change that.  It's amazing how quickly good eating habits unravel when you lose focus, and how hard it is to put the structure back in place.

All in all, things are running according to plan - and I'm feeling optimistic about where the spring will take me!

Monday, February 6, 2012

NYRR Gridiron Classic (and a recap of January training)

PR's seem to come when you least expect them.  How many times have you lined up at the start saying, "I've got this" only to find yourself hobbled by thirst, heat, cramps or some other unexplained ailment along the way.  I have always found the quick, intense pace of the short races challenging and wouldn't consider that to be my forte.

Yesterday, I went out for the NYRR Gridiron Classic, a 4 mile race in Central Park.  I hadn't raced a short race in a long time, and honestly didn't have high hopes for the race.  I haven't been doing as much running as I used to (more on that later), so I naturally expected that my race pace wouldn't be close to previous PR's.

I have been making a VERY gradual transition to more "natural" shoes, latest being the Zero Drop by Altra.  For the uninitiated, "natural" running involves a midfoot strike, under a bent knee, under the body's general center of mass.  Gone are the days of "overstriding", "heel striking", "corrective footwear" etc.  All of the manufacturers are in on the game - you'll see "natural" footwear from Nike (the Free line), Brooks (the Pure line), New Balance (the Minimus line).  Altra happens to be an extremely comfortable shoe, with a wide toebox and a narrow heel, which suits me perfectly.  "Natural Running" still isn't quite natural to me, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.  Ultimately, I'm told it gets easier as your muscles adapt to the new way of running.

I did race-day pickup (which involves picking up your bib at NYRR headquarters, then going into the park to pick up your tee shirt, don't ask why), so I had plenty of time to kill before the race.  I decided to do a 4 mile warmup, throwing in some strides, focusing on form the entire way.  The upside here was that I was able to acclimate my legs and lungs to the temps (about 32 degrees), the downside being that I put a hell of a strain on my calves (the muscles most affected by the difference between heelstriking and natural running).  I finished my 4 mile loop in just under 40 minutes, meeting a friend and sliding into the coralls.  I didn't have high hopes for the race, and decided to just get out there and do my best.  The horn went off and we were on our way.  The first mile was pretty packed, and I only managed an 8 min pace overall.  Eventually, things spread out a bit, and I managed to pick it up to about 7:42.  I marveled at the fact that I could maintain the pace, but still keep a handle on my breathing.  Rounding the 102nd street transverse, I started heading south, into mile 3 (always my toughest mile).  This mile has 3 distinct hills, and is usually where I lose it during races.  To my utter shock, I found myself ascending the hills with ease, my legs and lungs feeling comfortable (7:53 pace).  Mile 4 was all downhill, and I managed to put the hammer down (7:38), finish strong, and achieve a 20 second PR over my previous personal record for the 4 mile distance.

So, secrets to my success, you ask?

  1. The 4 mile warmup (with strides) seems to have done me really well.  I think that this one is definitely going into my bag of tricks for future short distance races.
  2. A preventative shot of my inhaler.  The cold air seems to wreak havoc on my lungs.  I still felt somewhat wheezy at the finish, but had no issues during the race, even at high intensity.
  3. A newfound feeling of STRENGTH, which I believe is coming from my multisport training (more on that later).
I had a bit of a meltdown with running late last year - after my two back to back marathons (NYCM and Brooklyn) I had lost a bit of my mojo, and took the last week of the year completely off from running.  I asked Coach Jeff about multisport training, and started doing that in January.  In general, my program has two swims, two runs, one bike (spin class) and one strength workout.  I find that the variety of exercises keeps me engaged, and allows me to do higher intensity workouts back to back (i.e. tempo run Wed night, followed by Thurs AM spin class).  I was never able to do that as a runner.  Also, I'm feeling that I'm exercising more of my body (even the difference in leg strength that comes from introducing spinning into my regimen).  All in all, I definitely felt that my body responded differently yesterday than it has when I have raced in the past.

This PR was definitely what I needed to kick off my 2012 training/racing year and I am excited about what the year has in store for me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Thoughts on "resolvers"

I have seen a lot of blog posts, Facebook posts, blog entries and tweets talking about the "resolvers" - folks that make New Years resolutions to get in shape.  These folks pack the gym for the month of January, and as one Facebook commenter said, "most are gone by President's day".  I had a response to that post, which I thought I would expand into a blog post of my own.

EVERYONE, and I don't care who you are, how fast you run, whether you are a Boston Qualifier, Marathon Maniac, 50 Stater or Ironman - all of you started SOMEWHERE.  You had a "first run".  Maybe your story isn't like mine, but mine started with a New Years Resolution, around 50 lbs of excess weight and a desire to improve my life.  My running journey [still a work in progress] has brought me weight loss, countless half marathons, 5 marathons and the satisfaction of chasing down and earning PR's as I go along.  I accomplished these things with a lot of sweat, hard work and commitment - but also relied heavily on the encouragement, cameraderie and support I received from countless "running friends".  We are training partners, we travel to races together, we entertain each other on long runs, and serve as "accountabilibuddies" for those early morning runs when it's dark and cold outside.

Next time you [and I'm guilty of this too] go to the gym and get pissed at the "resolvers" because they grabbed all of the treadmills and you have intervals/tempo/long runs to do, think about doing what you can to encourage the resolvers.  You never know, the fat guy on the treadmill this morning may wind up BQ'ing with you some day.

To tri or not to try?

As a lead in to the "off season", I have experimented with a few cross-training workouts, in an effort to take some time away from running.  I have done some cycling (which I haven't done in a LONG time) and some swimming (which I haven't done much of since pre-marathon training this summer). 

I realized that I like these workouts, and am thinking about making the jump to multisport - but it's a very difficult decision to make.  Here's what I have come up with so far:

  • Triathletes tend to injure themselves less than runners do, as you are doing a wider variety of workouts and not stressing the same muscles and joints over and over again.
  • Keeping it interesting.  Part of me believes that if I have a number of different workouts to do, I'm less likely to get focused on just one of them, and lose interest, as happened with running after my two marathons.
  • Winter training: I hate treadmill running (even in the winter), but can stomach the spin bike or the pool a little bit better.  I have learned to accept treadmill running as a necessary evil (due to my longer commute, and the availability of a gym at work) but don't love it.


  • Cost.  I own a mountain bike, which I hardly ever use - but would need a road bike if I got serious about cycling.  
  • Time:  I am currently balancing a demanding job, a long commute and the demands of a family with a spouse that works and 2 small children.  Is this really something I have the bandwidth to take on now?
  • Focused improvement.  I've heard it said that with triathlon you tend to get proficient at a number of sports, but your level of proficiency doesn't dramatically increase with any one of them.  I feel like my running still has a lot of room to improve, and I have a number of goals that are still on the table from last year (like my sub 4 hour marathon).  I don't know that I'm ready to give up on my running just yet
Would love to hear some thoughts and perspectives from runners and multisport athletes out there!