Friday, November 27, 2009

Lessons Learned While Running The Philadelphia Marathon

On Sunday, November 22nd I set out to run my sixth marathon – this time through the historic city of Philadelphia.

Race morning was just about perfect: crisp cool weather with plenty of sunshine. I felt pretty good and despite a few blunders (forgotten GU, a dead battery, no safety pins for the bib number) made it to the start intact, semi-focused, mostly healthy, and perhaps best of all, on time.

My training for this race started back in early August and went reasonably well. I could have gotten in a few additional training runs and I probably should have swapped Thursday morning “coffee & donuts” for “Gatorade and tempo runs,” but that said, I was fanatical about my weekly long run, occasionally getting up at four o’clock in the morning to squeeze in a 20 miler prior to work, and I was devoted to my speed work.

So when I queued up at the starting line I felt confident and ready to wallop the notoriously fast course, Rocky Balboa style. It’s worth noting here that when I signed up for the race my primary purpose was to drop a few pounds and get myself back into shape. I did not intend to run a personal best. The aim was simply to run – and finish smiling.

Conventional marathon strategy is to start out slow… 26.2 miles is a very long way and the marathon has never been won in the first few miles. Alas, I set prudence aside and set out at a brisk pace from the get go. Foolhardy perhaps, but hey, you never know!

The first ten miles clicked by in the blink of an eye and at the halfway point I was running a pace just shy of a personal best (if you subtract the two minutes needed for a bio-break at mile eleven).

If fact, I ran well right up until I hit the wall. And by “hit the wall” I mean hurling oneself at terminal speed into a reinforced cinderblock wall.

The mile splits tell the story just…

Mile 1 - 8:05
Mile 2 - 7:38
Mile 3 - 7:33
Mile 4 - 7:54
Mile 5 - 7:52
Mile 6 - 7:56
Mile 7 - 7:38
Mile 8 - 8:10
Mile 9 - 7:53
Mile 10 - 8:15
Mile 11 - 10:17 (bio break)
Mile 12 - 7:57
Mile 13/14 - 16:21 (whoops!)
Mile 15 - 8:05
Mile 16 - 8:24
Mile 17 - 8:13
Mile 18 - 8:01
Mile 19 - 8:31
Mile 20 - 8:54
Mile 21 - 8:51
Mile 22 - 9:53
Mile 23 - 9:30
Mile 24 - 9:40
Mile 25 - 10:13
Mile 26 - 9:41
Mile .2 - 1:54

Miles nineteen through twenty-four were U-G-L-Y! I was exhausted, defeated, and reduced to a grimaced shuffle/walk. I’m not sure what hurt worse… my pride or everything else. The confidence that so thoroughly filled me at the start was now entirely spent.

Only three things kept me moving forward: momentum, a stubborn will, and a little mental game I play called Just a Bit Further. Fortunately for me the last ten kilometers of the course are lined with parking regulation signs that read: No Stopping Any Time.

The signs are spaced out every few hundred meters so I’d fixate on one, telling myself “just a bit further… just to that sign ahead.”

And then repeat. And then repeat again. And again. For miles…

Even though the last few miles were just a slow as those that preceded them, I did bounce back mentally and crossed the finish line with a smile (at least on the inside).

My official finish time is 3:43:26 a pace of 8:31/mile. Certainly not my best marathon time – certainly not my worst either.

In hindsight, I could have stuck to my training program more closely, I could have been more mentally prepared, and I should have done my long training runs at race pace. But I don’t regret going out hard – it’s important to test oneself by pushing the limits of ability because, hey, you just never know...

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest."

Sunday, August 30, 2009


I'm all keyed up for the Philadelphia Marathon. Heck, I'm even training for this marathon... and so far it's going pretty well. Can't expect to run any PRs, but I'm in. I'm committed. I'm doing the work and I'm enjoying it.

"You're gonna eat lightnin' and you're gonna crap thunder!"

Friday, July 31, 2009

Tri Birthday

3:15 AM… Go time!

Well, at least is was this past Sunday, July 26th, for the Nautica New York City Triathlon - which also happens to have been my birthday!

The NYC Tri is an Olympic distance triathlon consisting of a 1.5 kilometer swim in the mighty Hudson River, a 40 kilometer bike ride up the west side of Manhattan, into the Bronx and back, followed by a 10 kilometer run though Central Park.

I’m tired just describing it but even now, nearly a week later, I feel a surge of adrenaline as I reflect on the experience.

Rain was “plentiful” in the days leading up to the race and I as made my way to the transition area the Mother Nature “graced” us with a fresh shower. Thanks for that...

Some 3,400 athletes competed, starting in waves of about 100 or so, according to age group. My heart pounded as I got nearer and nearer to the starting barge but once on deck I was able to relax… I’ve trained, I feel strong, and I know I can do this.

And then it was my turn. With little pomp I plopped into the Hudson awaiting the starting horn. Due to all the rain, the current was stronger than typical which created a lot of churn in the water. Visibility was literally zero but the swim was FAST (at least for me)! As per my norm, I started out way too hard and let my heart rate get out of control. I caught myself, backed off the frantic pace and settled into a sustainable swim stroke.

About three-quarters of the way into the swim the water got a little choppy and I took in a mouthful of brackish river water. Generally, I’m not too afraid of swallowing a little water but this is the Hudson in New York City. Naturally, I gagged as my body expelled that which should not be named or consumed.

Before I knew it the finish barge was just a few meters away. I was out of the water and across the mat in 20:15. Some 10 minutes faster than last year. Did I mention the current was fast?

Transition is a fair distance from the swim exit and requires a barefoot run on concrete so my T1 time was bunk.

I did rip up the bike course, competing the 40 kilometer course in 1 hour and 15 minutes (just shy of 20 miles per hour). And I did it on my new Bianchi. Oh, it’s a pretty machine and I suspect it will be my trusty steed for many years to come.

I bolted out of transition pushing up to 30MPH on fresh legs but had to slow down as the course turned uphill. There’s a few technical twists and a couple of wicked descents where I flirted with 40MPH.

A few miles from the end of the course a guy blew by me on a pretty nice bike. I immediately got up out of the saddle and caught up to him – nobody goes by me *that* fast! Laboring to stay with him I noticed his body marking… 16. This guy was literally half my age. It stung a little less when he pulled away and I couldn’t keep up.

Transition 2 came and went without incident and I took off for the final leg of the race on foot. It’s a bit of a cruel joke that the run begins with a steep climb. Sigh.

Once out of Riverside Park and onto 72nd street the fan support was terrific and I saw Salena and Jackson cheering me on. A quick detour for a kiss from the Mrs. and a high-five from the little man was all I needed by way of inspiration.

Once into Central Park the fan support dwindled and the humidity and the Harlem hills began to weigh in. I finished in a rather unimpressive 52:07 or 8:23 per mile.

As I neared the finish I got another pick-me-up from my mini cheering team, now accompanied by a friend and fellow triathlete, Eamonn.

I crossed the finish line with a surge and a huge birthday smile in 2 hours, 38 minutes, 19 seconds.

1.5 Kilometers + 40 Kilometers + 10 Kilometers = 32 miles. The irony is not lost on me... Happy Birthday, indeed!

"I'm now at the age where I've got to prove that I'm just as good as I never was."
-Rex Harrison

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Coming Together

The quality, consistency, and intensity of my training is finally starting to come together. I've worked out 8 of the past 10 days - some 60 miles on the bike, 4 solid runs (including a 15k), some time in the pool, and a spin class for good measure.

The best part about this is that my ankle seems to be mostly on the mend. I just hope it's not too late to do me any good in the New York City Tri which is now just a couple weeks away. Zoiks!

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
-Douglas Adams

Saturday, June 20, 2009


I suppose it's a little easier to be optimistic when you're driving around in a Mercedes-Benz but still... nice license plate.

"Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends, So Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz?"
-Janis Joplin

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

iTunes Data

Data mining in iTunes:

How many songs total: 14,885

How many hours or days of music: 40.7 days

Most recently played: "Blue Cajun" by the Cajun All Stars

Most played: Sexy Boy by AIR

Most recently added: NewsHour wiht Jim Lehrer podcast

Sort by song title:

First Song: "A-Tisket A-Tasket" by Chick Webb & His Orchestra
Last Song: "!@#*" by Rusted Root

Sort by time:

Shortest Song: "Hidden Track" on Marvin Gaye's The Master 1961-1984 [Disc 3]
Longest Song: "War of the Worlds" by Orson Welles

Sort by album:

First album: ABC Monday Night Football
Last album: 1969 All-Star White House Tribute (Duke Ellington)

First song that comes up on Shuffle: "One For Daddy-O" by Cannonball Adderley

Search the following and state how many songs come up:

Death - 97
Life - 311
Love - 915
Hate - 29
You - 1,462
Sex - 42

"Man, if you gotta ask, you'll never know."
-Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong

Sunday, May 03, 2009


As runners and athletes we dedicate an inordinate amount of time to our passion. We sacrifice time with family, friends, and loved ones for sport and pursuit of fitness. We train for months on end, in the depths of winter, to be able to run 26.2 miles in as little time as our legs, lungs, and heart will allow.

Life, or in this case death, has a way of reminding us of what's important.

I've run thousands of miles and will likely run thousands more in the years ahead. I only have 3 uncles. Now only two.

Sadly, my Uncle Gary passed away and left me with a choice: attend his memorial or run my marathon.

In truth, there was only one option.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."
-John Lennon

Saturday, March 28, 2009

No time for doubt

The past two weeks have been a total bust for my running. I'm having some serious doubts about my ability to complete the marathon in a reasonable time. My commitment to training has been abominable.

But with only 5 weeks to go there's no time for doubt.

"The strength or weakness of our conviction depends more on our courage than on our intelligence."

Saturday, March 07, 2009

...And Which Way To My Room?

It is a cruel joke this hotel plays on road-weary travelers...

"What is conceived well is expressed clearly, and the words to say it with arrive with ease."
-Nicolas Boileau

Saturday, February 28, 2009

22 Miles

This 22 miler was a turning point in my training. I headed out planning to do 16 and wasn't sure I could even do that... but I felt great and just kept going.

Sure it wasn't a fast run but it reestablished the fact that I can and will run this marathon!

"All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence; then success is sure."
-Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Manhattan Half-Marathon

I ran the Manhattan Half-Marathon on Sunday. At 8:00 AM. In 14 degree weather. Before windchill.

Yes, it was astonishingly cold.

The kind of cold that instantly sucks the moisture from your skin. The bone-chilling freeze that turns your normally deft feet into blocks of gawky ice. The wintry blast that never allows you to warm - regardless of pace or distance.

I suppose I'd complain a little less about the cold had I run a little faster. I finished in 1:45:48 or about 8:04 per mile. All in all, not too bad. But when compared to my time for this race last year... Well, there really is no comparison.

Bottom line is that I have lost a substantial amount of endurance and fitness and there's only one way to get it back.

"Ain't nothing to it but to do it."
-Ronnie Coleman

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Another Marathon

I did it... I just went right ahead and did it... I'm now signed up for The Long Island Marathon!

And now I need to start training!

"I like things to happen; and if they don't happen, I like to make them happen."
-Winston Churchill

Friday, January 02, 2009


I have a host of proposed New Year’s resolutions. A few of them might actually stick. However, I’m finding it difficult committing to running – specifically training for a spring marathon.

I’d weighed the Las Vegas Marathon but I wasn’t really in shape and thought… Why take a chance?

I got all fired up about the Miami Marathon but when it got cold in New York so did my training.

Several friends are lining up for the Nashville Marathon but I am finding myself out of step.

What’s a guy to do?

“Resolve, and thou art free.”
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow