Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Merry- Just Kidding

I am finally back in NYC. On Sunday I smugly watched the television at my grandparents' house as the blizzard unleashed its wrath upon New York. I thought I had escaped. I was wrong. 1 plane, 4 trains, and an automobile later, I am back.

And after the holidays, I have a lot of work to do. I haven't eaten so many cookies since, well, last Christmas. I'm planning to get up early and go for a swim. Seems like an odd work out for the end of December, doesn't it? As it happens, there's an indoor triathlon taking place on January 9th. While I plan on participating, I'm also painfully aware of the fact that I haven't been swimming in months. Months! It's a good thing the swimming portion only lasts 10 minutes.

You might also be wondering how an indoor triathlon works. Here's the deal: each athlete is allotted a certain amount of time for each segment (swim, bike, run). The race organizers then use a formula to calculate each racer's score. For more info on the scoring system, check this out. Transitions are not counted. This particular race format is 10 minutes of swimming, 30 minutes of biking, and 20 minutes of running. I've never done one of these, but I think it will be educational, if nothing else. The amount of time spent running is pretty short, so I'm hoping the speedwork I've been doing with Jared will have some impact. On the other hand, it might be hard to tell since I haven't done a brick (bike/run) workout in months either.

I'm off. Need to be up early!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you and yours! I hope your day was bright, blessed, and full of Christmas cheer. For anyone who did a race today or will be doing one in the next day or two, best of luck. I'll be in San Antonio for the next couple of days and then back to NYC for New Year's Eve.

Enjoy the last hour or two of this day. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve - 2010 Edition

Hello from Texas! I decided not to bring my computer. It might have been a bad idea simply because it will make blogging more difficult. No matter. This one will be very short. Wednesday's workout was a little shorter than usual because I woke up late. We were supposed to meet at Crunch at 6am (as usual). I woke up at 6:17am. Fail. Normally, though, I leave at 7:30 and we did manage to squeeze in an extra half hour. We did some crazy Yoga-on-crack circuit which involved lots of pushups and the plank position. Then we moved into a variation on the Dwight Freeney workout. Jared asked me if I knew who Dwight Freeney is. I obviously didn't, so he sent me a link (FYI he's a football player). Google it, if you're interested. I'd share the link here but it's in my work inbox. Jared, if you're reading, comment with the link?

Alright, I have to run. I'll try to be back later, but if not, everyone have a Merry Christmas Eve!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sprinting to Christmas

Hopefully you're not tired of the Christmasy posts. I know some people grow weary of the season, but I'm not one of them. I plan on enjoying it for the next four days, so bear with me if I crank out a few more. New York remains mostly snowless, but beautiful nonetheless. If you live here in the city and haven't seen Columbus Circle, it's something you need to do ASAP. In terms of being breathtaking, I think it's second only to the tree at Rockefeller Center. I fully expect that you've witnessed the lights in all their glory while running through or by Central Park if you're a runner. Columbus Circle is one of the closest subway stops to my home so I'm fortunate enough to be able to see it on the regular.

Image borrowed from the theweblicist

Right. Down to business. First, a recap of yesterday's workout. It was a combo of circuits, strength training which mostly focused on the legs, and sprintwork. The circuit consisted of:

5 pull-up jumps (unassisted, thank you)
10 push-ups
15 squats
20 walking lunges
400 meter sprint

Jared put 20 minutes on the timer and our goal was to do as many circuits as possible in that time. We managed 5. I did my sprint at an 8.5-9.0mph pace. The pull-up jumps went well and I'm hoping to achieve my goal of doing a full unassisted pull-up by March. After the circuit exercise we did leg strength stuff. Finally we went into sprints. This consisted of each of us doing 20 seconds of sprinting, at which point one would slow to a jog and the other would begin their 20 seconds. I did these sprints a little faster (9.5-10mph) because the time was shorter. We did 2 10-minute segments of this with a half mile between each segment and a final hard sprint at the end.It was a really good workout. I always enjoy sprints and am really hoping they pay off for my races coming up in the new year.

Due to a combination of last minute Christmas shopping and a cold, I didn't do anything today. Fortunately, though, we have a 6am scheduled for tomorrow. I guess that means I should go to bed. Night!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Big Fat Variety Post - Part 2

In the second installment of what might have been the longest post ever, I'll discuss some recent race schedule news as well as important information for any New Yorkers seeking to gain guaranteed entry for the ING NYC Marathon 2012.

As you may remember from my holiday race post, one of my favorite races is the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run, which takes place in Central Park at midnight on New Year's Eve. Last week I registered for that. If anyone else is interested in running it, visit I'm sure you can still register, though prices may have gone up a bit. The NYRR website allows you to register for a number of its upcoming races in one shot, so I went ahead and registered for the Manhattan Half Marathon, which is the first in the Half Marathon Grand Prix. Actually, I think they might have changed the name of the series, but the idea is the same. It's a series of half marathons that take place in each of the five boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island).

While I was at it I renewed my NYRR membership. This is the important information part. If you have any interest in obtaining guaranteed entry to the marathon in 2012, you must be an NYRR member by January 31st, 2011. Take heed!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Big Fat Variety Post - Part 1

I decided to do a little midday blogging as I wait for our stove to be fixed. We haven't had a working stove since we moved in. It's a really long story and involves a gas leak and me getting locked in my own apartment. Good times.

I was a little hesitant to start this one because there are a bunch of things I want to cover and I left my notes at work. I will surely forget something without my notes, which is why I decided to break it up. First off, let's get into the upcoming triathlon season.

It seems like the 2010 tri season just ended. Yet lo and behold, 2011 is now upon us! I'm sure there are triathlons that can be done at all times in the year, but I intend to start sometime in late March or early April. Full year schedule to follow. With the advent of a new triathlon season comes thoughts on the things I anticipate needing. At the top of this list for me are:

1. A new bike
2. A wetsuit

I'm going to save the bike discussion for another day. It's a huge purchase and requires lots of research and consideration. In other words, a dedicated post. As for the wetsuit, I plan on purchasing one pronto. After going an entire season without one I concluded that it was doable, but not something I'd recommend for anyone who's going to get involved with the sport. Why didn't I buy one from the get-go? They're expensive. At a few of the triathlons I did, I had people tell me "Wow, you must be a really good swimmer if you're going without a wetsuit!" I wanted to respond with something like "Yup, I can doggie paddle with the best of them," ; "Hell no, I'd have to sublet half my bedroom to buy one," or simply "Nah, I'm just a cheapskate." But I knew that if I wanted to maintain any amount of dignity I'd keep my trap shut, nod and smile, and hope they didn't notice me emerging from the water toward the back of the pack. This brings me to a little segment I like to call:
I received an email with this ad the other day and it looks like a really good deal. I'll probably take advantage before it expires on December 31st. If you're in the market for a wetsuit as well, visit xterra's website. At checkout, enter the promo code R-PIRANHA.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Let it snow!

New York City had its first real snowfall today. Fortunately it didn't come while Jared and I were on our morning workout/run. As usual, he had something diabolical up his sleeve. We started with 10 minutes of warmup on the elliptical and then did 2.5 rounds of the following:

20 box jumps
10 jumping pull-ups (mine were assisted)
50 20lb kettle bell swings
50 walking lunges
20 knee to elbow crunch thingies
20 push presses with 20lb barbell
20 back extensions
20 squat thrusts
50 jumping jacks

Apparently, as the real workout goes, you're supposed to do 50 reps of each exercise and then do 5 sets. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately, depending on your perspective), we didn't have all morning. Halfway through Jared decided we'd go on a run outside for the last 35 minutes or so. So we covered the following route:

Our pace was pretty decent for the first half. On the second half we stepped it up because we were running out of time. Jared had me do 20 seconds of sprinting, at which point I would slow to a jog and he would catch up to me. That continued for the second half of the route within the park. Central Park's hills made it challenging, but it was obviously a valuable exercise.

Until next time!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

'Tis the Season

Let us go back. Way back to last Thursday when I plopped myself down on the couch, laptop in hand. I was bright eyed and eager to register myself for a New York Road Runners Race called the Jingle Bell Jog. This was to be a 5 mile race in Prospect Park (Brooklyn). There were two reasons for my excitement over this. First, all runners were to receive a technical tee. Remember, I'm cheap. I don't spend money on technical t-shirts. One might argue that the money spent registering for races is effectively buying the shirt, but I like to think that at least then you sort of get two for one. Anyway, I like to take every opportunity I can to augment my small (but growing) collection of technical shirts. The second reason was that the race description promised there would be jingle bells for your shoes. JINGLE BELLS. Best swag of the season? Quite possibly.

So there I was eagerly anticipating my technical tee, jingle bells, and a nice Saturday morning race. I visited the NYRR website and clicked on the race page only to be horrified. The price of the race? $50! My face looked a little like this:

So much for that. $50 is just too much to pay for a 5 miler. I pay half that much for each of the Half Marathon Grand Prix races and they're more than twice as long!

But I digress. Part of the allure here was that it was a holiday race. These are really fun, particularly if you're just getting into running and want to cut your teeth on a low-pressure race. They're often family friendly (even pets are sometimes welcome!) and you'll find racers dressed in costumes that fit with whatever the holiday theme happens to be. These races exist for pretty much any holiday during the year, but during this time you'll have Turkey Trots (a little late for these), Christmas runs, New Year's runs, etc. Here in New York City we have the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run, which takes place in Central Park and begins at midnight on New Year's Day. I LOVE this run. I'd love it more if I could ever round up a group of people to do it in costume. Shockingly enough there aren't many who are eager to leave their New Year's Eve revelry to run 4 miles. Who knew?

Do your holiday plans involve a run or race? Is there a particularly notable run that happens near you? If so, happy holiday racing!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holy Roller

I'm postponing the holiday race special for a day. This is simply a workout update. I went to the gym with Jared again today. That guy finds new and creative ways to kick my butt every time. In a good way, of course. I don't remember all the specifics of the workouts. Jared is going to send me the workout log sometime in the next few days so that I can be more specific. There's a lot of strength stuff and a surprising amount of speedwork. Today I ran a few 400s (quarter mile) at an 8.5-9.5mph pace. This is helpful, as I'm hoping to speed up. I want to run next year's Fifth Avenue Mile in under 7 minutes. After we did a few rounds of circuits (sprints included) we did a 5K on the rowing machine. And we didn't do it today, but were supposed to do another 86 flights of stairs. Apparently that comes tomorrow before the real workout starts...

The one other thing Jared showed me was how to use a foam roller! The technical term for this is "self myofascial release." No joke.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

First Marathon? Don't Sweat It! - Part 2

My previous post dealt more with mental concerns on race day. Today, I'm going to focus on some physical issues that many runners encounter during races of all distances, but marathons in particular. Let's begin!

1. Pre-race meal

This is a source of anxiety for many people. Planned or consumed improperly, a pre-race meal can be disastrous. Keep it simple and stick to carbs. While I prefer a plain bagel, there are many options available to you. Bagels, toast, cereal, granola (careful with the fiber, though), various bars, bananas, etc. Your best bet is to try out what you'll be eating on race day before one of your long runs. Another option for people who might have digestive difficulties is a liquid meal. There are different types of Gatorade and electrolyte mixes you can buy that contain a sizeable number of calories but don't require the same level of digestion that solid food would.

Some runners make coffee part of their pre-race routine. If you're comfortable with this and are used to drinking coffee before running, go ahead. Just don't decide that you're going to try it out for the first time on race day.

A few weeks before race time you might also start being more aware of how your body reacts to certain foods. I like to avoid dairy in the days leading up to a marathon. It doesn't always give me problems, but why risk it?

You will probably encounter some pre-race jitters that will have you needing to use the restroom once, maybe twice before the gun goes off. Play your pre-race meal cards right and you can minimize your time spent in a portable toilet. Let's face it, few things are more repulsive than race day porta-potties.

2. Chafing

If I had to pick one thing I hate about running, this would be it. Chafing can strike anywhere something is rubbing against your skin. Anywhere. I've gotten chafing from the neck and zipper of my tri suit while swimming. Unfortunately, this is one of those things you learn about through experience. The more you race, the more places you'll experience chafing. On the bright side, you'll also be better equipped to deal with it in the future.

How DO you deal with it? Lubricant! That's right, runners, lube it up. Many running and athletic stores sell products like this. I've used Body Glide before and it worked fine. Cheap tip: you can also use Vaseline for this purpose. Apply wherever you think chafing is a possibility. After completing dozens of races I finally got smart and started noticing my own chafing hot spots (the back of my running pants where there's a tag AND zipper and bra line).

And then of course there's one of evolution's cruelest jokes: nipple chafing. If you've seen the episode of The Office where Michael Scott organizes a 5k, you know what I'm talking about. This is mostly specific to gentlemen. Be aware that there are also products for this unfortunate situation.

3. Hydration

It's embarrassing to admit, but I'm pretty bad about this. It might sound gross (perhaps not as gross as nipple chafing) but you should drink water until your urine is clear. Make sure this is a priority for you in the days leading up to the race. Maybe resolve to drink water instead of coffee and/or soda in the week before.

4. Tidbits

Fuel Belt: Many marathoners use these during their long runs and races. I myself have not used one, but if you don't like keeping an eye out for water fountains or carrying a water bottle in your hand, this might be a good solution. It's a belt that holds 2-4 small bottles that you can fill with water, Gatorade, etc.

There are also simple race belts on which you can pin gels and attach your race number. It's an alternative to pinning your bib to the front of your shirt.

Decide what you'll carry. Even though you'll probably be running in a race with hundreds or thousands of fellow marathoners and spectators, you should consider carrying ID and some cash or a credit card with you, just in case. I carry my phone during races for music and in case anyone plans to watch for me on the course.

That's all for now! Remember to vote in the marathon poll up top. Next time I'll talk about holiday races and why you should try one this season!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Marathon? Don't Sweat It! - Part 1 sweat. But try not to worry about little things. So you're about to run your first marathon. I'm sure you're nervous about it, but I'm here to tell you that your hard work and training will pay off! Runners' goals for their first marathon can vary hugely. For many, simply finishing is the ultimate goal of the day. Some runners, though, might want to finish in under 5 (that was my first time goal), 4:30, 4:00, maybe even 3:00 or 3:30 depending on how competitive the runner. Ultimately, you need to decide what sort of mentality is going to best propel you to that goal. If you have one, great. If you don't and the thought of it overwhelms you, don't worry about it. It's not the world's last marathon! There will be plenty of marathons in the future where you can add a time goal to your running objectives.

A goal time is only one thing a runner might worry about, and I recognize that. Below, I'll list some common worries and issues that you might encounter at various points on or during your big day.

1. I only trained up to 18 or 20 miles. What if I can't run farther during the race?

This is probably the most common worry I've heard from people who are running their first marathon. I worried about it, too. It's scary to think that on race day you'll be running a full 6.2 miles farther than you ever did in training. Let me tell you, though, once you're at that 20 mile marker, you will not stop. Not that you won't want to. I remember around mile 18 of my first marathon thinking "this was the worst idea I've ever had and I'm never doing it again," and you see how that's turned out for me.

Before the 2009 New York City Marathon I was speaking to a woman who ran Boston that year. She said around mile 20 she encountered intense pain in one of her feet and had to walk the last six miles, but you can bet she finished. As it turns out, she had developed a stress fracture in her foot. In no way am I condoning or encouraging risking serious injury in order to finish a race. My point here is that the human will is a powerful thing. Don't underestimate yours.

2. I've heard a lot about "the wall" and I'm worried about hitting it.

I'm not going to lie to you, you probably will. And it probably has something to do with what we discussed in point 1. Remember, you only trained up to a certain number of miles in preparation. Your body won't be used to running further even though it can. You might hit that wall and think about silly things like quitting, but don't panic and give in! Push through that wall and make it to the finish line.

3. What if I sleep through my race?!

Okay, this one is probably specific to a very small number of people (like me). I never get a good night's sleep before a big race because I'm always worried about this and end up waking up every hour or two until I have to wake up and get ready. My advice here is pretty simple. Set a bunch of alarms. Ask a nice friend (who won't mind waking up at whatever ungodly hour you need them to) to give you a wake-up call or have your significant other set their alarms, too.

Alright, that concludes Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, when I'll discuss more specific concerns like your pre-race meal, staying hydrated and dun dun dun...the dreaded chafing. Are there additional topics I haven't addressed that are keeping you up? Let me know!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's Friday!

Thank goodness it's Friday. This week has been good on the training front. I'm just getting back into the swing of things after the 60K. Jared and I have worked out a training schedule for the Empire State Building Run Up/Febapple 50 Mile. We're trying to do 5 days per week: 1 long run (18-20 miles), 1 medium run (5-7 miles), 1 day of speedwork and 2 days of stairwork with strength on 2 of those days. We both agreed that it's an ambitious plan but decided to give it a try. We'll rework if it proves to be too much.

We started on Wednesday morning with strength and 86 flights of stairs on the stairclimber. In case you haven't guessed, that's how many flights are in the Empire State Building. It took approximately 16 minutes on the stairclimber. Thursday was more strength and sprints. Jared concocts all our workouts because he's the workout guru. We did negative pull-ups and something called "Fight gone bad" which is supposed to simulate how one might feel after an MMA fight. Minus the bruises and injuries, of course. Supposedly the negative pull-ups will help me achieve my lifetime goal: doing one pull-up. That's what Jared claims. Only time will tell if his theory is correct. Friday we did a 5 mile run in the morning.

The stairclimber exercise provided us with an interesting (if inaccurate) baseline for the ESBRU. It really can't be considered accurate because the stairclimber has two rails. I leaned on them quite a bit, and this provided more upper body support than I can hope to have during the actual race. In the actual race we'll be lucky to have access to one rail and I certainly wouldn't be able to brace myself on it when the going would get tough. I've heard the start of the race can get messy as it's not broken up into corrals like most NYRR races. It's just one big clump of people trying to run and claw and scratch their way to the top first.

If tri swims are any indication, I'm a terrible clawer and scratcher and will probably be getting more of that than I'll be giving. I'll take it, though. The idea of racing up the Empire State Building is really exciting!

Well that's all for today. Stay tuned tomorrow (which is really later today) when I'll cover some first-time marathon tips.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Back and Cheaper Than Ever

Heeeey! It's me! Again! I'm so bad at doing this on a regular basis. I'm considering going public with it just because it might motivate me to be more diligent about posting [Please see disclaimer below]. So many things have happened since I last wrote. I joined Team Lipstick and found out that I have a whole hell of a lot of work to do on all aspects of tri, but most of all on the bike. So I took a beginner cycling class taught by Sara Ellison, one of Lipstick's coaches. It was a really great class. I wish I hadn't been so busy in the fall because I ended up missing a good number of classes. While I felt like I gained a good grasp of the basics like clipping in and out, stopping properly, bike maintenance, etc., I didn't feel that I got any faster.

This is where I reveal that the title of this post is sort of a lie. I am still cheap but slightly less so because I actually have invested some money in cycling. And I haven't even purchased a new bike (although it's something I'm pretty serious about doing before next season)!

But back on topic. I completed the NYRR Sprint Triathlon, began training with Team Lipstick, did the DiamondGirl sprint triathlon at Lake Sebago with the team, and did the Mayflower Sprint Triathlon over Labor Day weekend solo. That was a really nice race. Very scenic, although the water was pretty cold.

As far as running goes, I did the Bronx half-marathon, Staten Island half-marathon, Greta's Great Gallop (half-marathon), the Marathon Tune Up, Fifth Avenue Mile (7:17!), the New York City Marathon, and the Knickerbocker 60K. I'm determined to really start my ultramarathon career this spring. Jared and I applied to enter the Empire State Building Run Up but it's difficult to get into. If we don't get in, we'll probably do a 50 mile race called the Febapple 50 Mile in New Jersey. If I'm ever going to do Badwater, and I hope to in the next five years, I need to start getting 100 milers under my belt (you have to run three of them to be considered). I figured I should ease my way into that by starting with 50 milers and then maybe 100k races. This is going to require some really intense training, though. Jared and I have worked out a preliminary plan. I'd explain, but this post has gone on for quite some time and is very scattered. If I ever get good about posting regularly I'll try to address some of these topics individually. The New York City marathon deserves its own post for sure!

If and when this goes public, you need to know something about this blog. You may have read other blogs about other crazy people who are also addicted to doing races like me. Take this guy, for instance. That man is a champ. Browse his blog for a bit and you'll likely discover a listing of his personal bests. Notice that he's run a 5:09 mile and a 2:53 marathon. His blog is filled with tips and good advice on being a competitive runner.

Before you turn to my blog for the same sort of thing, understand this: I am a goofball and might be considered just slightly more skilled than a novice runner for the simple reason that I have put in lots of time and miles. I'll be lucky to win an age group award sometime in my life. And believe you me, it will be at a tiny, tiny race somewhere remote where there is an unusually small population of runners. This blog is 10% speculation, 60% entertainment, 25% information, 5% crazy talk and all the inspiration I can squeeze in. Someone check my math, it's getting late.