Friday, November 16, 2012

The Philadelphia Marathon: My first Love in the Marathon

Many runners in NJ/PA/NY, have sought the big city excitement of a road marathon when they decide to run their first.  The idea of running with thousands of other runners and having thousands of spectators cheering for you is an enticing thought to the newbie.  I'm not going to bullshit you, that was part of the draw for me too.
I may have yapped about this story in part before but, I have to give credit to a guy I've known a long time and did a fair bit of running with, Mike Daigeaun, he suggested Philly, as it was his first as well, and he was also running it that yr coincidentally, two weeks after a bad run in the NYC marathon(Daigeaun does stuff like that). He gave a great pitch, I was sold.  So, I twisted the Mike Dixon's arm, and convinced him that this is how we would qualify for Boston.
I was so focused on the idea of getting to Boston that I didn't think much about Philly being a chance at a great experience, and truth be told, I've had a BLAST in Philly a bunch of times, with or without a marathon! Boston's nice too, but in 2006, what the heck did I know? I'd never really spent much time in either place. So I've run seven marathons now, and I think back on the two that I ran in Philly, and I appreciate the city and the event more today than I did on the day of either race.
Fun in Philly!
 I wanted to run a fast course, and blaze through some streets where you'd otherwise normally be run over by a bus.  I wanted to see how I could place among a lot of runners, of course-qualify for Boston, I wanted to see what "hitting the wall" felt like. Philly provided ample opportunity for all of this. I face planted into the wall...yes, I did.

Today, I was working at the marathon expo, selling discounted running apparel, accessories, and shoes.  I was also at the NYC expo a couple weeks ago(too bad about that whole thing eh?)  And, I suddenly realized, how much I enjoy being around runners who are excited about their "big race".  It is very meaningful in the lives of each of them.  I like hearing people telling me, "It's my first, I'm excited...and nervous."
Now, I like to pick on Eagles' fans a bit when they lose, and I like seeing the Devils beat the Flyers, I don't give a damn about basketball...but I like Philadelphia for the sort of place that it is.  I enjoy the murals and mosaics you find alongside random buildings in the city. Most of the buildings aren't obnoxiously huge, has good bars with great beers! There are a whole bunch of historic things there, and I don't feel lost in the frenzy of consumerism there so badly. You really won't notice a whole lot of that stuff unless you studied up on where everything is, and that's why I am more excited about being there to see it again(now knowing the city better). Philadelphia, is a cool city with a lot of character.

 It will always be the city I ran my first marathon, and I so I'm excited to go see my teammates Ken Walsh and James Lothian run it this Sunday.  These guys are going for a sub 3hr run, and I'm looking forward to seeing them do it! I was born in NYC, but I Love Philadelphia, and I probably always will.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Beard Power

I have a beard.  How much does that matter in running? Training? Racing? Answer to all 3 questions, a lot.

Reasons to have a beard(or facial hair):
1-Beards are a source of true power
2-Shaving takes up valuable time that could be better used(sleeping, drinking beers, and general chillin')
3-They look badass
4-Many successful runner's have had a variety of facial hair arrangements...and so you should too!

Like these guys:

Greg Meyer: Last American to win the Boston Marathon, 1983.  Plain and simple, this is a proper beard!

Anton Krupicka: A champion Ultra Trail Runner, a nice free flowing mega beard, I know, shitty little picture, like we almost couldn't be sure he's running. Whatever man, I swear he's a real runner.
Nate Jenkins: Not only found on tracks, truely a great LD road racer, has been to the Oly trials and placed well in several major marathons. I bumped into him briefly at the Boilermaker 15k Road Race a few yrs ago, nice guy.

And now some impressive moustaches:
Will Leer: a DIII star who kept on rolling, still competing internationally, best mile is 3:55xx. Nicely styled Fu Manchu.

Brian Sell: 3rd at US Olympic trials marathon in 2007, competed in Beijing games marathon, I saw this guy slowly work his way through the field with amazing patience through a fanatic crowd in Central Park, one of my personal heroes! This is called a Winnfield, similar to the Fu manchu but add in the sideburns, excellent!
Frank Shorter: Last American to win gold in the Olympic Marathon, 1972. Pictured here in his Florida track club singlet, with his big old bushy moustache.
Lasse Viren, chasing down Steve Prefontaine in Munich Olympics 5000m 1972.  Viren wins Gold, pre doesn't medal. Much respect to Pre, but we all know a beard(albeit an overgrown chinstrap) trumps a moustache any day of the week.

Steve Prefontaine:
"The only good race pace is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die." Pre did a lot of fast running, and if you're reading this blog, and don't know that...go do your homework.
This is a beastly set of mutton chops and a mammouth moustache! Bravo! Sadly, it wasn't enough to beat a 6'4" Finn, comprised of the three ingredients of a champion- lungs, legs, and beard.

Tim Morgan attempting to outrun me in a 5k xc race.  But the beard had other plans. 
Q:How did I beat Tim Morgan in this race? 
A: I have a beard.
Note: in this race(photo above), I beat Tim by about 2seconds for 5k.  Today(one month later) I beat him by 18seconds for 5miles(today's race), and a new PR by 22seconds for 8k. 
Q:How did I manage to spread this gap?  
A:The beard...grew larger!
 Also note: Neither Paul Ryan nor Kip Litton were entered in the race, they must be saving it for the Diamond League 2013 races.

 See above-Ken Goglas crushed everyone today, 25:05 for 5miles, give that man a beard...24:59 for sure.
 It's all about BEARD POWER!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fun in the Sun: Running, Drinking, and Winning!

August is the final lap of summer, it hurts, it burns, but when it's done, you know you did something very real.  August is one of my favorite months to run in, most people hate the heat and humidity...not me.  I prefer a musky, drippy 85, over a bitter, numbing, 35; every time.  And it's my birthday month!   Fast runs happen in August! Adventures happen in August! Victory, memories, legend!

Highlights of the Summer:
1-August's running total: 289miles, short of last yr's total by 4miles, but I've had some good quality runs and workouts recently.  There should be some good races coming down the line...lets just not talk about the Jimmy D 5k, yeah that happened, mooooving along!

2-Destination runs: Deer Path Park and the roads of Readington, a great 16miler with GSTC teammates. Two very nice runs(8 and 15 miles each) in Cape May with RVRR friends, views of the Ocean, marshes, and grasslands lying beside it were very peaceful, running along the beach was a delight. We spent a few days at Anne McCarthy's family beach house, thanks Anne!

Cape May Point

Whiiillle we were in Cape May, the Agents of the Clandestine Service of Beer Mile took part in: Operation Thunder Storm.  We like our beer miles, my friends and I, and when we're all together, and we've been talking about it all day, week...month, um year? Don't get me wrong, there are other beer miles, but the Cape May Beer Mile is a very special event, simply because we're all there just once a year together.  There was  no backing down.  Rain, Thunder Lightning, pff, whatever, we're gettin' on the track, we're puttin on our racing shoes, and we're crackin' cans!
We found a mostly dark and secluded track, converged with our beers of choice. One foolish soul, Tim "That's not Puke" Morgan, believed that Heineken was a good choice...I tried it once, it was a no go for me, and if anything is worth believing in, it's whatever your stomach tells you(except for puking during lap four of the beer mile)!  My stomach says, Ice beer is alright, it doesn't seem to taste as bad as other things when chugging, go figure.
Small side bets were made, but mostly pride and bragging rights were on the line, and not to be forgotten the coveted Championship Belt and Jacket!

How it all went down: Rules were reviewed, beer were arranged on the infield, and the competitors lined up with Beer #1 in hand.  The time was started and Steve "Name Tag" Dovidas, as usual, was hot out of the gate, a demon chugger!  But I wasn't too far behind him, and passed him within 100m, I was quickly chased by Mike "The Great White Kenyan" Dixon, Dave "Boogerz" Allara, and Lindsay "Beer makes me faster" Hammoudi.  I accelerated to increase my lead at the 200m mark and then coasted the last 50m to catch my breath a bit. Powering through beer #2 I got out just ahead of Lindsay to begin lap 2.
Beer #3: I started to struggle, and Lindsay got away from me when i still had a couple of onces in the can as I tried to maintain my breathing as to not hurl.  I threw back the last couple ounces and chased him down with surprising ease.  I surged to open the largest gap I could without going full throttle, still fearful of losing control and vomiting.  I knew that the outcome was in the hands of the gods of track and beer, and yet I still had to chug with all my might.  Fear and panic struck as the flying Scot loped away with empty can dropping to the ground, as I stood there, hoping to summon the strength to push down the last couple ounces once again.  He'd gotten 40meters on me in that time.  I steeled my nerves, and ran after him, belching through the first 150m, I reeled him in and sat on his shoulder. With 150m to, I unleashed the fury, there was no more time to wait, and the sky opened up once again, the rain fell hard on us as we sprinted, and I quickly pulled away.
I ran so hard that last 150m, I lost my beers 5m after the finish line, perfect timing, a new PR by 11 seconds(6:38)!  A title that has been held by now I believe, six, different people within our guild of beer mile, and it's mine once again.  It never felt so good to violently vomit, and I've never felt so good about myself after violently vomiting. Note to self: Fish tacos 2hrs before beer mile=no fish tacos in your digestive track for more than 2hrs.
PS. We ran the Lance 5k(3beers from a red cup pre-poured, xc), in July...I won that too. see the photos below!
Beer #1 goes down the hatch.

Tom and John enjoy Tim's suffering, hehe!

Spectators and "official timers" look on as I run down the home straight with my hand raised to signal the victory!

The Champ and the beer that made it all happen, Natural Ice, a True American Beer for a True American Hero!

GSTC at Mansquan Reservoir July 29th. Apparently Ken and I had the same idea.
 Long Runs: There were 2 trips to River Rd in Bedminster, as always, a fleet crew cruised through a 15miler
there in the 6:20's.  River Rd never disappoints. Great conversations with Jeff Perrella, Anthony Harris, Ken Goglas, Chris Heibell, Rich Angelillo, Steve Mennitt and other members of Garden State Track Club

Also ran: Fairmount Park in Philadelphia with Adin Mickle, who gave me a pretty solid tour of the park. The next day we did a very solid 16x400 workout together, good training south of I-195!   And in the days since my birthday, I've pretty much been running locally.  Every now and then, I have to remind myself, it's nice to live on a slope that leads into Donaldson Park alongside the Raritan River!

The days are getting shorter again, and my heart shrinks back a bit, but at least I know, it can't be denied, we RACE fast in the fall, so lets go!
view of Center City at the top of Farimount Park
The 1st Annual Lance 5k participants
Short Shorts+bloated abdomen+fast chuggin'=a 5k beer xc Champ-time of 18:26!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Six Mile Run and The Misfits

This summer has mostly been good running.  With good training partners, nice destinations, and with generally few problems of any sort. For the first time in yrs, I have really taken it back a step and stuck to the traditional idea of building a base.  Granted I've had a few days here and there were my back hurt, and I just didn't run.  But largely, I've been consistently getting out the door for solid 60-75min runs on weekdays.  For long runs on weekends, I've been conservative.  I want to maintain a steady energy level through the rest of the week.  It's nice to run 8-10miles on Monday knowing  you need to recover from a run that went 18-24miles.  I'll probably cap the LR's to 2hrs for the rest of this yr, just for this reason.
This Tuesday I'm going to have to jump into the cold ocean of pace specific intervals, I've got the USATF-NJ 5k XC championship coming up on Sept 8th.  For this one, I'd like to have a 5k XC pr.  I haven't run one in about 3yrs.  I'm better than the 16:22 I ran at the 4th race in the RVRR Summer Series of 09'.  Granted, Deer Path Park is a slow course, I ran16:27 there, but I'm a stronger runner now.  I'm pretty excited to see what I can do this go around.
The London Olympics were inspiring. Meanwhile, my 2nd metatarsal in my left foot is a failure to my aspirations, but my heart and lungs don't know that.  Just now, I got back in from a run at Six Mile Run Park/preserve(whatever they call it).  The 75mins went by quickly as we chatted about...politics, various political theories, their merits and potential flaws, and why we both loathe to vote in elections.  Rich told me more about what speech pathology is used for and some stories about his former profession as a pastry chef, and on the ride home, we talked about music a bit.  And wouldn't you know it, Glenn Danzig and The Misfits came up, so enjoy this tune and shake a leg to the horror!

Other noteable recent runs: Dropping under 5:20 pace late into a couple of 10 mile runs on midweek runs on the towpath with Rich Angelillo, Chris Heibell, Jeff Perrella, and Steve Mennitt.  Sunday's run at River Rd Park which took us to the an avg of 6:08per mile for the last 5 of 15 with Jeff, Ken Goglas, Tony Harris, Tom Poland, and John(I suck for not knowing John's last name right now).

Mileage total past 5 weeks: 51, 72, 52, 61, 58.
Time for a push, doubles, core, and a bit of weights.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Boys are back in town!

Summer time is the best running you'll get in NJ!  Mike Loenser agrees!  We were talking about it last night while we ran along the D&R canal, along with another former collegiate runner, Jacob(didn't get his last name).  But I always think about it, and every summer, the now graduated HS studs are free from their coaches(for better or worse), the college guys and girls are back in town, and the teachers who run/coach are way more available.  It's the densest concentration of speed you'll get all year!  Runs feel like training, because sometimes, solo runs just feel like a sleep walk.   The old guys want to remind the young guys they've still got speed, and the young guys don't want to get schooled too badly.  Having some fast bodies around you makes it feel a lot more real, and if you're a live wire(young or old), you'll toss a surge in there now and then to turn the screws on em'!

Enjoy the Thin Lizzy!
So, it's been nice to just catch up with people on some general purpose runs.  This past week I ran with GSTC teammates, two legendary EHS xc/t&f alums Rich Angelillo(96') and Steve Flynn(12'), RVRR folks, the group up in Jersey City and Metuchen at Runner's High, and the boys team at EHS.  It's good to have a big network of runners.  I've run along the Hudson River, at Holmdel Park, on the Middlesex Greenway, and the D&R canal, Beuchluch Park, streets in Edison, Metuchen, and right here at home in Highland Park.  I'm back in a nice groove.
One thing is for sure, I don't want to race a road marathon this fall. A few months ago, I thought that I wanted to run one.  Now, I'm sure I'd rather mix it up with XC and trail stuff.  Distances ranging from 5k-HM. Plans for trail ultra's are not out the window, just on the back burner, or at least I don't see something before me that I'm targeting yet.  Also, from what I see/gather, that preparing for the Ultra stuff really puts you into a different place mentally and emotionally.  For some, it's all zen and mild escapism from the week's bullshit.  While others put the running before everyone and everything. I'm looking to stay on my own wave length in between.  I'm a devoted person in many aspects of my existence, but running is my way of life, its a culture and a faith(in a calling, in yourself, in traveling the earth one stride at a time as often as you can) and people need to understand that.

Oh, and the past 2 weeks, I'm in the 50-60mpw range.  Moving right along, in a good place.  This is going to be a big base, my races this fall are going to be so legit'.  Looking forward, looking up. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fight until we make the top 7...or die!

For those of us who ran XC in HS, and found ourselves "on the bubble" as the 7th or 8th man, we know odd coupling of stress and motivation that was thrust into our training and racing.  Some rise to the challenge of the pressure to perform, others crack, crumble and shy away from it.  Some people just win, plain and simple their bodies developed into a natural state of readiness to run fast and win.  But this doesn't describe me.  I am not a born winner, I'm just a born fighter.  Maybe I've done so many things, simply because someone told me I shouldn't or couldn't or wouldn't believe I was good enough to beat them.  There is more valor is fighting than winning.  As winning is merely one half of the outcome, while the fight may be as masterful as it is tragically flawed.
My development as a runner has had plenty of valleys that followed some great peaks.  Maintaining the mindset of competing when you know, realistically, you aren't going to win against the best, can be daunting.  But that is a key aspect to sportsmanship, knowing that you should give it "the old college try" for yourself, your teammates, coaches, and your opponents.  Besides, pain doesn't hurt.  Sucking when you don't want to suck is what really hurts.
 So it's all kind of gone like this:
 Winter/Spring 1995'-weather kept all of my "training" indoors as a HS freshmen, and as the spring pushed on I realize I don't like getting my ass kicked by girls at dual meets in the mile.(Yes, they combined boys and girls together), so I learned to try hard at running, and I hit a 5:57 by season's end.
Winter 96'-I ran a 5:24mile, I got a Varsity letter for the first time, but I still get my ass whipped at most meets.
August 1997, After concluding that soccer wasn't working out, I was fighting for a Varsity Singlet on the Edison High School Cross Country team.(trust me, it was well worth the fight, the JV uni's were cheesy)  At the time this seemed tough, but I was in the mix, and after the first couple weeks of Captain's practices and then official team practices, I'd done it.  I'd pulled away from a couple of guys who have been with the team 3-4yrs.  I work my ass off, I travel with the team to all the invitationals and championships, and my spot was never safe.
August 1999-After a summer of rehab for a bad case of IT band syndrome(thanks crowned suburban roads!), I found myself fighting to regain enough fitness to be the #7 man on the Ramapo College XC team, the older guys on the team go easy for the first few miles of a run, but the back half always turned into a race(or so it seemed when you just can't hang with the pace).  I manage to slide into the 7 slot, and by late season I'm 6th and twice 5th.  But the whole season is a battle with the IT band and tenacious teammates ready to take my spot.  I make the trip to the Regional Championship and run my best race of the season, we place 25th(I seem to recall), better than Ramapo had done in a long time I'm told.
Fall 2000-04'-Each season is a battle for a Varsity spot, 00' was pretty good, 01' and 02' were a bit of a let down, I sat out 03' with stress fractures, I finish anywhere from 8th to 3rd in these yrs I'm on the team at Ramapo.  I allowed myself to be distracted by douchey fraternity "brothers", crazy girlfriends, and assorted shenanigans.  Got sick all too often from living in the dorms, and generally drank far too much.  I was mediocre at best, and at my worst, a bloated 170lbs of drunkenness.  As one of my coaches put it, in a season-end review, "Dedicated, but with limited Athletic ability".
Spring 05'/06'-I'm back home and the heavy drinking isn't so interesting anymore, running with some old teammates and competitor's, but nothing's too organized.  I also start running with Rartian Valley Road Runners, the only dedicated runners I know besides HS kids and my college teammates who are now too far away to run with regularly.  I join RVRR, and find some steady training partners there, as well as some decent competition on the NJ race circuit.  The battle has shifted more to an internal struggle of staying motivated and focused on good/consistent training.  I run my first marathon(lackluster, but still sub 3hrs), and I'm fighting the clock and a lack of self acceptance.
2007/08'-I run the Boston Marathon, I run the NYC Marathon, and the Philly Marathon along with some HM's and many other races, I kept getting PR's. I grew accutom to this.  Faster, Faster...aaand injured.
2009'-5months of not running from Dec 08' into the spring of 09'. I battle back, and ran some fast races late in the yr, much to my own surprise.
2010-Jan/Feb brang me some long overdue PR's in the 800m, 1mile, and 3k indoors.  I was truely surprised at my fitness in the short game, and I was thinking big things for the rest of the year.  The Boston marathon turns out to be an effort that I'm not sure I'll ever reproduce, getting a nice little PR and finishing inside the top 150, truly a great thrill.  In August-I hurt my lower back in a competitive trail HM, I finish the race 5th, but the damage is done, and now 2yrs later I'm still struggling with the aftermath of it.  But I still went to the Club National XC championship...and ran like crap, at least we had a good time in Charlotte, NC afterward!  The end of this yr brings about a sobering realization, no one is pushing me to be a better runner, and so, I switch to racing with GSTC.
2011-12-I run some good races in 11', no lifetime bests, but I'm in the hunt and racing with some very talented and dedicated teammates. In Sept I qualified for Boston and entered, but the 12' race wasn't blessed by the gods, to say the least. To end 11', I went to Club Nationals in Seattle, looking like the slowest of 6 men, but surprised some and ended up being the 5th!  So far this yr has been interesting, I've run a 20k pr that is faster than my HM best by a little bit, and so I've got a fighting chance for a spot on the Club National A Team, or so I like to think.

The law of diminishing returns has really been kicking me in the ass the past 4yrs, but I am in no way ready to lay down my arms.  New goals have gotten tougher to achieve, and thinking back, making the top 7 on the college and HS teams seemed hard, but it didn't take long at all.  I'm going full on Guerilla warfare on running!  And it just occurred to me, that I've always kept at it because I want to see if I can stay up there with the big dogs. So all these yrs later I've got the same goal as I did in 97' and 99', the pace and combatants are just way faster. The base building is under way, we'll see how I shape up this time around.  So, like Manowar, We'll to fight until we win or fight until we die! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Altitude with Friends: Western States 100, Yosemite, and Sequoia

Filling You in since the last post: I didn't run the Road Mile, my back was not having it.  And the steeple at the USATF-NJ Track Championship didn't go well either(lower back probs), but I did run the towpath training run(34.2miles), and I didn't fall to pieces.  I'm fighting the good fight still.  And So, we went to Cali.

No, I did not run the WS100, my buddy Mike Dixon did.  I went along to watch/support, it was exciting and motivating to see people testing their endurance over such extreme terrain.  High altitude trail running is most challenging, Lindsay and I took an "easy run" with his helmet cam up the first couple miles of the race course later that morning to get a feel for what the racers all experienced, we went up 40mins and back down in 20, and I don't think we went very far(maybe 3miles up, and that might be generous). I want to run that race in 2014!
 The adventure of running trails is ever enticing, a whispering in my heart tells me, "go west young man", in an old-timey kinda way.  A strange guy with a ridiculous top hat and a big curly mustache is probably living inside my left ventricle.  Yeah, he's in there, and he's been slowly manipulating my thought processes for quite some time.
Just 3 drops of this magical elixir and you will recover from high altitude runs in mere minutes!
So, we rented a couple RV's.  Saw Dixon start the race along with several hundred other Mountain Goats, and then we slept a while until moving on to see him in Forest Hill at mile 62!  Everyone in town was very interested in the race, seeing all the action at the aid station was cool.  I enjoyed the opportunity to encourage every runner that came along as we waited for Dixon at Bath Rd.
  2011 start, check out the later part of the video as they climb. Note the goofball who false starts!

Quick Background: Dixon and I drove from NJ to Yosemite back in the summer of 2005, not to run, we mostly hiked, runs took place from motels in various states.  So anyway, this was a nice return to a place both of us, and our friends have been or wanting to come back to (for at least half of them it was actually their first visit there).
So, we went on to see Dixon again at mile 99, where we ran with him back to the finish at Placerville HS' track.  Surprisingly, he had a bit left in his legs and ran what seemed like a fast speed in the last 200m!  We also saw some other finishers coming in ahead of him on the run to meet him at 99, men and women both, of varying ages.  Endurance running really levels the field at a certain point.  Such incredible accomplishments for them all!

I caught 3hrs of sleep before rolled out to hit a trail head on the edge of the Yosemite Valley, we parked RV1 at the trailhead, where the other bunch could get it later that day. We backpacked in on the Big Oak Flat Trail to the top of El Capitan.

5:58am roughly, sunrisi on top of El Capitan!
Dinner time near El Captian with Lindsay Hamoudi, Mary Nguyen, not pictured are Kyle Spencer and Lauren Santonastaso

The next day, the five of us continued to the top of Yosemite Falls and took the Yo' Falls trail down into the Valley where the inhabitants of RV2 were waiting to pick us up.  Carrying 50lbs of gear down a steep trail is rough, the only medicine for this of course was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale!  
We drank plenty of this stuff!

We took a day off to recover and relax and hang with the whole gang(14-15people), and so the following day 6 of us hiked up to the top of Half Dome, a challenging and visually rewarding hike, 2 huge waterfalls(Vernal and Nevada) along the Mist and John Muir Trails, and climbing up the cables for an incredible 360 view!  Little Yosemite Village was along the way too, where we were able to jump into a calm/deep section of the Merced River on the way back down, that water was COLD!
Some other hikers ahead of us going up, looks scarier from below

Lindsay dives into the crystal clear/freezing cold Merced River
Lindsay and I did another run with his helmet cam in Sequoia on a series of trails that brought us by some of the Giant Sequioa's, ran through some controlled burn areas(a naughty decision).  Despite the smoke we did just fine, and took in a couple of  incredible views of some pks ranging from 12-13,000ft(Whitney was hidden from view).

My last run out there was a solo affair, started at Wuksachi Lodge and ended at the Lodgepole, here is a profile that was an out and back from Lodgepole, very similar, but the way I ran it was roughly the same distance with a small add on from the parking area to the trailhead itself.
The map of the trails themselves didn't appear well, so check out these stats.  The map indicated that it was 7.2 out from Wuksachi, and a bit longer to the Lodgepole. The last 2.6miles of the way up were tough.

This run was loaded with downed trees stacked over each other across the trail, so this was mega-technical.  It was a great challenge, makes me feel ready for more.  Now if only I can come to an agreement with the Snake Oil salesman in my heart...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Just when they said I shouldn't be running...

...I went running anyway.  At least that is to say, after I dragged my ass into the chiropractor, Dr. Bruce Grossman in Highland Park.  I first went to him about 1yr ago, then, like now, struggling with a chronic L5 disc injury from none other than, yes, A TRAIL RACE!  Anyway, I have generally managed the scenario, with a couple flair ups here and there.  But just recently, it was the worst its ever been.  I can attribute this to, carelessly attempting to lift a lawn mower into the back of my car...after running a 50k trail race.  Yes, a bad move.
The next day I could barely stand up straight, and then I actually couldn't straighten up at all, tottering about like a hunch back.
This was me a few days ago, including the creepy grin.
So, the good doctor set me back on the path to well being.  Of course he tells me not to run until I've made it 48hrs without pain.  In this regard, I'd say he's a smarter man than I, and one who knows a fair bit about running for a guy who isn't a runner.  He's worked with the Rutgers football team and after the first visit last yr, I did gain confidence that he is legit and can understand where I'm coming from.  I'd recommend him if you need a chiropractor around HP/South Edison.
Events of recent days:
Friday morning at 10am-Spinal adjustments and electro-stim at Chiropractor's office.
Saturday morning: 6am- I'm standing on the D&R canal towpath with some a group of about 8 runners.  We're going running...for a while.  Near 5hrs later, we're in New Brunswick. I ran 34.4miles.  A couple hundred other runners joined us along the way, several others ran 68.4miles(New Bruns. to Trenton, and ran back with us!) Along the way, we saw 2 monster turtles, and just really enjoyed being out there! We had an excellent bbq afterwards too! RVRR is just swell!
  Remember, I admitted the Dr. is a smarter man than I.
Now you must think, "Mike, you must be a glutton for pain!"
But, I'll one up any man when it comes to taking things a step too far(for better or worse). And in 16yrs of competitive running you learn what you can handle, but you don't learn anything without taking some risks.
Sunday(Today) 8am- I compete in the USATF-NJ Club Track and Field Championship at Monmouth University, in both the 5k race walk, and then 2hrs later, the 3k steeplechase!
They do this on the track, look at those hips swivel!

   I did the race walk was in hopes of grabbing some points for GSTC, as we were gunning for a first ever win at this meet! Although willing, I am essentially a novice in race walk. I did it twice while I was in college, and that was all in good fun to amuse my teammates.  But today was more awkward than you'd imagine, going at it with a tight/pain ridden back.  But no one else in our club's active roster had ever done it.
Lesson learned: Be careful of what stories you tell... or else you might be  race walking the day after a 34mile run too!
Thankfully, our strategy worked, I was the only Open finisher, and thus, scored 5pts for the team, and was unceremoniously crowned USATF-NJ Mens Open 5k Race walk Champ of 2012!  I actually finished DFL, but none of them were under the age of 40.  They all lapped me at least once!  A somewhat surreal experience, but it was cool, afterward, I congratulated some of these race walkers.  They were all very enthusiastic and cordial.  Doing their best to encourage me about trying it again in the future(sorry guys, this was a limited engagement, I'm sticking to the steeple!)
Notice the wince of pain on my face, the landing was less fun.

So, the 3k steeple...yup, I did it.  It wasn't pretty, I ran a shitty time, and I knew every landing in the water jump was going to hurt like hell.  And it did.  My hopes of an easy stroll and limited pain just weren't meant to be.  I battled, gained ground on one runner and finished 4th for the last scoring position(1pt for the team).  We won the meet, and I joined some friends at Sandy Hook, did a Beer sampling and had a nice early dinner with friends!
I wasn't as pumped about it as the guy in this video, but it was a pretty cool end to a full day.
   On the drive home...I saw a double rainbow in my rear view mirror as I drove north on the GSP.
Times like these have taught me, that pain is my play thing.  I'll persist through a lot of it, more than most people.  Challenge yourself and see what you can achieve.  Flesh withers to dust, Pain is temporary, and Championships never die!
It's been a good weekend, time for some R&R.

Monday, May 21, 2012

My first Trail Ultra race

It was inevitable.  Despite all the road, and track racing that keeps me off the trails, one way or another I was going to try stepping into this weirdly low-key world of Ultra-distance trail racing sooner or later.  (For the kids who don't know what "Ultra-distance" is, this is a distance longer than 26.2miles).  The Dirty German endurance festival was in the calendar at the right time, so I said, "Sure, why not?"

Pre-race prep with Dixon and Kate Ayzenberg, photo by Shannon Weldy
Many of my runner friends(lets be fair, I have friends who don't run...yet!), have left the roads to answer the call of wild.  I've always loved running trails since the first time I ran on the D&R canal path when I was a JR in HS.  My friend and long time teammate/training partner, Mike Dixon, has been rather dominant on the trail circuit.  His upcoming attempt at the Western States 100mile race, has pulled me into the fray.  Somewhere along the way, I'll be pacing him for a solid portion of the race. So in preparation of that, I knew I needed to prove my ability on the trails.  Mind you, several times I've run the Half-Wit Half Marathon, a very hilly course in Central PA.  And I placed rather well each time, 5th on two occasions!  But that's 13.1 miles, you can fake it for 13.1miles.  To prove you've got trail legs, you've got to go super long.  He suggested the Dirty German 50k, part of the Dirty German Endurance Fest.

This was a fully "runnable" course, although I was a bit disappointed to find that roughly 4miles of this course was run on paved park path, but it had numerous creek crossings, and log obstacles, so it was still a good challenge.  The scene at a trail race is as aforementioned, low-key.  People don't do extensive warmups with intricate dynamic warmups exercises.  Mostly, they're prepping their water bottles/packs, energy gels, etc.  There was something resembling a starting line, but no start mats.  It is also somewhat difficult to tell who the fastest/toughest runners are, some old guys are really good at this endurance stuff!
  Moments before the start, I was adjusting my shoe laces one last time, and performing a stretch for my lower back, when Dixon walks over to me, and asks "You ready?"  I look up and say, "yeah", and as I'm speaking, one knee on the ground, everyone starts running!  I didn't hear a sound, not a word signaling a start.  Later, I'll have to figure out how I missed that.
Start/finish area of the Dirty German Endurance Fest
 I went into this with full intention of a conservative start, warming up within the first 20mins, and as I'm letting that happen, I see about 20-30runners getting ahead of me, granted they all had about a 5seconds jump on me while I wasn't quite ready at the "start". My racing instincts tell me, I'm going to get pushed back by those who are less agile.  So, I work my way up into some open space, and through the first 30mins of the race I start to pass runners, all except one are in for the 25k(of course knowing Dixon was out there way ahead).
This crossing was knee deep, which was a relief for my swollen big toe
 Trail events like this are fun, because you can always get an honest answer from people about the distance they're going, and often you'll get some friendly conversation out of the deal too.  I met Ryan Jones, 34, from somewhere near Philly as I recall, we ran together, chatting about our running history and recent racing, until we hit one of the aid station.  I stopped briefly to refill my 10oz handheld bottle, and left him behind, catching up to a few of the faster 25k runners.  I exchanged places with Ryan several times, having had to jump into the bush for a #2.  At about mile 14, I caught my left foot on a root or rock, bashing the big toe, fell, hitting my elbow and left knee.  A 25k runner who was right behind me, asked if I was alright(as I had about 15mins earlier when he fell), as I assured him I was fine, but encouraged him to pass me as I was running with a limp and my foot was hurting more and more, pain radiating into all areas of the foot besides where I hit it.
After a cautious 2min stop at the 4th aid station/halfway point, the next hour of running was very trying, as my foot throbbed more and more, my normal gait was thrown off badly.  I did contemplate dropping out, or crossing the 25k finish line, I thought, 'No, I came to run an Ultra, #$@& that! Pain is temporary, this will fade.'
Pulling out of the start/finish/aid area, I saw Ryan behind me, and he caught me about a mile later.  As he passed, I said, "There you are!  I stubbed my foot a little ways back, this sucks, I'm hurtin'."  He offered some empathy, and then proceeded to easily run away from me.  I encouraged him with some words, as he was running well. So, I battled the rest of the race, despite needing to stop once more at a porto-john, once to tie a shoe(loosened from multiple stream crossings), and taking a moment to think if I should drink an extra cup of something at the last aid station before the finish.
Pennypack Creek
  In ironic fashion, and with sorrowful disbelief, I had my second fall at nearly the same place along the course during the 2nd loop. With tired legs, you start to struggle to lift your knee high enough, and that's all it takes to catch your foot on a rock or root.  The 2nd hit was a shock of pain like I've never felt before, the toe, already swollen, felt like someone had just been crushed it in a vice.  I completely lost my balance and fell forward hitting both knees this time.  My left hamstring started to ball up in a cramp.  This added to the struggle, keeping my leg straight, wanting to grab my foot, and wanting to get back up and run.  Don't forget, I still had it in my mind to catch Ryan!  From the place where I struggled to get back up, I could hear the German accordion player's music.  I knew I was about 1.5miles from the finish, and strangely, despite the refreshed pain, it faded faster this time.  I guess my toe was already as swollen as it could get, so it wasn't as hard to keep going this time.  The next minute between heavy breaths, I was on the verge of tears, no lie, I was half crying or something of that pathetic sort. I wasn't feeling so bad for myself, just scared that I'd injured the toe(we'll see how that turns out I guess).
I never did see Ryan during the entire 2nd loop after he ran out of sight, but I talked to him after the finish.  He was only 1:10 ahead of me!  Oddly, he mentioned he saw me chasing him in places where there were switchbacks, but again, I never saw him.  He said he was thinking to himself, "Man, this guy isn't going to let me go, I can't just cruise it in!"  So, I can pat myself on the back for that, I fought hard the whole way through some serious pain and discomfort.  If you can have someone running for their life in a 50k, while you've got a busted foot, I think you get bonus tough guy points for that!  And believe me, running with a swollen big toe, really sucks!
My Big Toe in an early stage of bruising, it hurts worse than it looks
 So, as I came into the clearing where the finish was, I mustered what was left in the tank, and "sprinted" the last 150m, I knew Ryan had already finished, but if you've got some fight left in you,why not stretch it out and run hard to the end?
Today, I'm limping, both knees hurt, my lower back hurts, my toe hurts like hell. But I ran 31.075 miles of trails, and hung tough.  I finished 3rd behind Dixon(3:29:xx) who broke the CR, Ryan Jones(3:51:00), and I was 3:52:09.  The Volunteers were great(informing me of my position and estimated gap behind the next runner during the race), the cheer I received at the finish was respectful. And I got a cool little German-style Cuckoo-esque Clock(3rd overall prize), pint glass, mesh cap, and tech tee for my efforts, some nice keepsakes for my first Ultra race.

PS congrats to Shannon Weldy on finishing her first 50k trail race, sub6hrs! And to Dixon, for winning and breaking the CR!

How was your first Ultra? Comment, share!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Running in the Ramapo's with the Ironmen

Thursday: I battled traffic to get out of Jersey City and head north to race a 3k steeplechase at the Ironman Invite.  98% of the athletes attending were High Schoolers from Bergen County.  Exceptions being a handful of runners from Felician College who I saw in the 5k, and perhaps they ran the 1500m too.
The meet was well organized and well attended for a Thursday meet.  In my opinion this is a much better venue to take young Athletes to for a mid-season meet.  I believe most dual meets rarely offer a decent field in many events.  So, this was a good chance for kids to compete at a higher level prior to the championships.  Meet Director, Rob DeCarlo, of Don Bosco Prep, who advised me with my training for Boston this year extended the Open invite to me.
I've missed a good handful of opportunities to race the steeple up till this now for 2012, so this was perfect.  A low key event on a Thursday afternoon, in a familiar place(Ramapo College, my alum).  I had the chance to compete against some very talented kids(yes HS kids), and saw a mean 600m duel in the Men's 5k between Rob Albano(Felician College) and Ryan Tucker(Don Bosco Prep).  Tucker gradually cut into Albano's lead throughout the race and unleashed a steam rolling kick with 170m to go, it was a photo finish! Tucker clipped Albano by .08seconds, an incredible finish!
My race went rather well.  Instincts dictated my pace, as usual, too fast early on.  So I paid for that later, as Nick Lapinski(Don Bosco Prep) passed me with about 700m to go and ultimately beat me by about 5 seconds. 

Watch this!
 Both before and after the race, hand shakes and congratulations were offered to/from all.  The sportsmanship is something one must be thankful for when you think of all the training you put in for any competition.  
After the race, I joined him and two of his teammates for a 30min cooldown run into the Ramapo Reservation.  One of the Don Bosco Ironmen, Chris, informed me of his plan to run the Philadelphia marathon this fall, to qualify for the Boston Marathon!  It's cool to hear a 18yr old kid tell you he's going to run Boston!  The Reservation or "the Res" as we would refer to it casually during my days at Ramapo College, is a meaningful place to me. My teammates and I would run the trails there 3-4 days a week, where I got my ass handed to me during more workouts than I can count!  It is one of the best places to run in North NJ! Go there, see for yourself!  Waterfalls, streams, creeks, glacial deposit rocks, bears, lakes, ponds, and forest for miles. 

 Oh yes, Black Bears...aren't they adorable?  I suggest you pet one...j/k, stay the F#*& away from them! Mama don't take kindly to strangers!
McMillan Reservoir in the Ramapo Reservation. Not legal to swim there, but that hasn't stopped me.

Up next: The Our House 5miler in Summit...tomorrow afternoon!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Racing a Road Mile?! And training for everything under the sun

We're post-Boston.  What's next you wonder?  First of all, I'm constantly trying to figure ways to run with friends and teammates more often.  My work schedule is isolating most of the time.  One small remedy to that, is a return to canvassing for Environment NJ.  Holy Tree Hugging Batman!, you say to yourself.  Anis does something besides run, work in a running store, and plan every minute of his life according to when he can escape a sedentary he can go run?  Believe it kids, I do other things to.  Canvassing door-to-door in residential neighborhoods 2 days per week is a good alternative exercise.  You wear a backpack, you talk a lot, you run up and down lawns and steep driveways, sometimes up long steep roads that lead to the absurd monstrosities that people call a "house".  It's something I've done over the years, mostly during the summers.
But I've been running too. I haven't posted an update on training, because it's been very informal, my legs did feel like the 19yr old car that you're embarrassed to be seen driving in.

So, after some recovery time I will now run/race in the next month:
A 3k steeplechase, a 5miler, a road 10k, a trail 50k, The College Ave Road Mile! (you should too, it will be awesome!), a 34.2mile trail run(non-race), and a track race (3k sc, 10k, or 5k, maybe a relay leg?)... the next day.
The So-cal Road mile, cool!
Look at the Italian-American man beat everyone else. 
Jeff Perrella and I know the following: Italian+beard+running=AWESOME! 

The smart folks(coaches) in the audience say, this is a lot of racing in one month.  Well, yes, it is.  Many of these efforts will be great strength builders for some fast racing later this summer/fall.  How do you train for all this?  Run fast, run slow, run up, run down, jump over things you encounter during runs(or find some hurdles at a local track), vary everything, and don't do too much in 3-4days early in a week, what feels like 3-4 days of amazing training can turn into a week of feeling like crap and running only slow miles when you want to be doing some fast stuff.  It's that simple.
Some say, running one thing well is better than running many races with sub-maximal performance.  I say, that is boring, and I enjoy being the guy who can rip a 4:30 mile, do a 3k sc in 10mins, and generally go distances that most people don't like to do using a car.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Dear Boston, Thanks for the Pain and the Memories

Pictures can't describe the slow hot march of pain I dragged myself through this past Monday.  The road between Hopkinton and Boston is hilly.  Maybe you've heard about it?  Well I've run it before, once in cold temps, once in moderate temps.  So perhaps it is fitting that I had "the opportunity" to take part in a truly historic run, one that grinded me down to the slowest pace I'd ever run at any point during a marathon.

The people in Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, and Newton got us through the race. The cups and bottles of water(colder than what the aid stations offered), ice cubes, soaked sponges and paper towels, and orange slices, are what sustained us all through the race.  Let's not forget the fire fighters in Natick and Newton who set up a cooling tunnel with sprayers and some sort of canopy.  Thanks to those people, including the little kids; they stood there waiting to relieve us, waiting with outstretched fingers for a chance at touching speed and determination, aspiring to the bravery they were witnessing.  That those people care so much that we run through their town, made all the training and all the torture through the oppressive heat worth every moment.  After all, what good is joy and pleasure without pain to make it feel right?  Last night, the first night back in my own bed since Saturday, I slept well, and woke up, thankful to be alive.

Can I say I am disappointed with my time?  Yes, I can say that.  What I am really disappointed about is just how hard it can be to figure how much to adjust one's pace when facing high temperatures.  I wasn't staring into, the sun was staring into me.

So this was my slowest marathon, definitely very sobering in regards to one's mortality.  But knowing that people care, believe in you, love you, and are waiting for you at the finish gets you through.

To my Mom, Ilene-has always been proud of my accomplishments as a runner.
To my girlfriend, Trudy-Dropped me off at for a shuttle to the start, ventured solo in a city she'd never been to before, and waited for me for 3hrs in the heat, and endured my state of medical-misery for several hours after the race until we finally were able to get lunch.
To all of my teammates and Coaches in Garden State Track Club- We are all kindred in the spirit of competition.  Shawn D'Andrea, Alex Fowlie, Pat LeStrange, a group of tough distance runners who have all trained and raced with me, and we all learned a valuable lesson on Monday, that running 26.2miles  in extreme heat and finishing is a tough deal. I'm proud of you guys! Rob Decarlo for being a 2nd brain for my training plan leading up to this race, we got a damn good 20k out of it!  Chuck Schneekloth and Ken Goglas for checking up with me often while I struggled with a bad Achilles tendon, their encouragements and concern helped bring balance and sanity to a scary situation.
To Mike Dixon(aka the MD in MDMA)-We've been teammates for more than 10yrs, because no matter who we represent or who sponsors us, there is always "our team".  In the sea of runners, we made our way to the starting line together, I've run more miles and had more post race beers with him than any other person I know.  Without each other, I don't think either of us would ever had done as much, or been as great as we are at running.
To the Raritan Valley Road Runners who ran the 116th Boston Marathon and the club at large-Lesley Wassef, Laura Swift, Nova Roman, Lianne Price, Nick Birosik, Joanna Stevens, you all are incredible.  Resting out of the sun before heading to the start with you all was a nice way to spend some time and commiserate with the challenge we all were about to face.  For the rest of you, thanks being my friend in running.
To Saucony and its Representatives, Dan Suher, Jess Cohen, and Tom Hylan-the sponsorship as part of the Hurricanes program has set me up nicely with some great shoes and gear to train and race in.  Also, to all the Hurricanes I met before and during the race, who encouraged me to keep pushing as I was slowing down.
 The people along the course, the residents, volunteers, police and medical personnel-You kept us alive.

3:00:26.-not great.
514th male finisher-have done much better.
Red badge of courage-couldn't have earned one on any other day.
Memories for a lifetime-yes.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The calm before the storm

The last week of the taper feels like watching a ticking clock, and sometimes the hands move in the wrong direction.  You get ansty, and become concerned that your feeling sluggish, haven't done a hard workout, haven't burned energy the way that makes you feel razor sharp, ready to kick ass and all that jazz.

I've been feeling a bit like this guy for the past 2 weeks

More than running, I feel like fighting.  Like a punching bag wouldn't be good enough, I want to fight something.  I have so much stored energy,  it's tough to harness that and keep in bottled up until race day.  I suppose this is why running suits me, as I can easily become restless.
and a little bit like this guy...Boston put up yer' dukes!
So, today being my last reasonably intelligent opportunity for a sample of race pace work, I hit the track. 2miles at MP (11:20, 5:40per mile), and 3x200 in 32secs.  Woke up the lungs and legs a bit.  The Achilles felt alright, and four advil later, I'm doing fine.  So, I'll just do my best to keep runs short and easy, and get my body feeling rested and ready.  Boston, I'm itching for a fight.