Friday, July 25, 2014

Latest Looks: Inside the ASICS NYC Meatpacking District

Thought I'd give you a virtual look at some of the coolest new stuff at the ASICS Meatpacking District Store in NYC. It's located on 14th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues, across from the Apple Store in what is now one of the hottest parts of town. You can find all of this stuff on asics.com.






















Here's my friend Justin, a store staffer who's also an endurance cyclist and marathoner, holding up one of the new Favorite Half-Zips in the color he's planning to buy himself . . .





There are a lot of new touches to this including the light and breathable fabric around the thumb holes, as you can see pictured here from the ASICS product page. I'll be running in this.



Like this Urban Run tee below?



I do. So do others I see. And they have stacks of them, or it's $34 at asics.com. . .



Happiness is a wall of running shoes. Here are four categories I was looking at . . .

CUSHIONING




SPEED




TRAINING




MAXIMUM SUPPORT




There's a whole wall full of those for women as well, obviously. I just did a Follow Friday (#FF) on my ASICS @Marathoner account on Twitter, listing every ASICS retail account around the world, and if you follow those, then you will see some really cool ways they show off their own hot items that are just-in. If I could walk out of the ASICS NYC Meatpacking District Store with one box of shoes right now, I believe it probably would be . . .



. . . and maybe this . . .



There is still room in my sock drawer for a new pair of these . . .



In a matter of hours, I will be looping Central Park in the New York City Marathon Long Training Run #1. We are being blessed with some unbelievably fantastic summer weather lately in the Big Apple, and I figured we earned it after that last winter that tested one's soul. So on these #SummerRunnin days, my thoughts are still of running in tops like these . . .





Make sure the ASICS Meatpacking District Store is a stop on your next trip to New York, or head on down if you're in the area. It's like a playland if you love ASICS, as I do. They have the best shoe testing treadmill area in NYC, so be sure to let the pros there test you and get in the right type of shoe for you so you always get to the start line healthy. Tell 'em ASICS @Marathoner sent you.

Friday, June 27, 2014

10 Rules of Physical Therapy


Thanks to my friends at Professional P.T. in NYC / Chelsea for posting this in the men's locker room!

What do you think of PT? Got any more to add?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Queens 10K Race Recap





I stopped to smell the flowers after the Brooklyn Half marked my milestone 100th race. Literally. We made several trips to the New York Botanical Garden, where we are proud members, and rebuilt our garden out back with a wide array of perennials, annuals and organic vegetables and berries. Assorted work around the house including the annual opening of our pool, always an adventure. There was less focus on running over the past month, just occasional maintenance runs.

Then, on the first full day of summer yesterday, it was time to refocus and start on the next 100 races, beginning with the Queens 10K held entirely within Flushing Meadows Corona Park next to Citi Field, and I did so with a PR. In fact, 1:07 (10:54 pace) marked my fastest 10K in two years!



That's me in the final stretch, going for it. My 5K split was 31:59. Considering where I am in my fitness right now, I am very happy. Have been a gym stranger and my core has been mostly ignored. It's OK. I have learned over the last 7+ years of running that it is important to really stop and smell the flowers. Don't listen to those who say it has to be year-round focus or you will fade. Take your breaks. The biggest obstacle to sustained running is Loss of Purpose. Stay fresh. Have fun. Then run again!



The best thing about that race picture above is my pair of shoes. In honor of ASICS' #SummerRunnin campaign, I broke out the ASICS LA Marathon GEL-Lyte 33 shoes that ASICS gave me as part of being on the first ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge in March. They had sat in a closet since then and I was thinking of just keeping them away as a memento of that experience. But instead I wore them to Queens and it was such a great experience. I still need more cushion for longer runs, but for the Queens 10K, my legs felt so light! I could feel my quads actually lifting easier in stretches. They felt sensational and I will use them more going forward. They helped me to a respectable finish, and now am on the brink of 2015 guaranteed entry for the TCS New York City Marathon and the NYC Half:



I thought it would have been cool to run this race in a full black suit and maybe a giant cockroach on a leash. Maybe next year. This is where I got that thought . . .



Just imagine, when they created the World's Fair on this site, there was a thought that perhaps those could be platforms for air transportation such as the Jetsons' space ride. Maybe one day . . .

What's ahead: My next scheduled race is The Color Run MLB All-Star Game 5K on July 13 in Minneapolis, where I will be working All-Star Week, staying that Wednesday to Wednesday. Then I am registered for both NYC Marathon Long Training Runs, although I am still TBA for my fall marathon. I am registered for the Walt Disney World Marathon in January as well. Will gradually fill out the schedule.

This morning I was diagnosed with a mild case of ITB Syndrome on my right side (two years ago I was treated for left side), so I'll be looking at PT sessions in coming weeks and that will take care of it to strength my right hip. No worries. I'm ready to go! Here's to great #SummerRunning and all these friends...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

My 'Favorite' Shirt From 100 Races

If you are like me, you always have go-to running tops even as you amass piles of race tech gear and new purchases from your favorite running shop. I have several go-tos that have survived the test of time since I started my road to 100 races back in late 2006, and the aptly named ASICS Favorite Short Sleeve is currently at the top of my own list. It is what I wore for the recent Brooklyn Half, my 100th race, and what I wore on National Running Day on Wednesday, and I'll start this Gear Review with this top.



The Favorite returned to ASICS shelves this year, lighter than ever. Highlights:
  • ASICS exclusive lightweight, quick-dry, anti-odor, permanent 50+UPF soft knit
  • Strategically-designed mesh construction for breathability
  • Flatlock stitch construction enhances comfort
  • Reflective elements for increased visibility including reflective dot "A" swirl


That's me in the Favorite at Art Cafe in Nyack, NY, after the National Running Day four-miler with Rachel. Even just sitting there postrace I felt swathed in silky-soft bliss, just like when I run. It's just so comfortable, and it's bone dry after I run my last step. The racing stripe on the back rocks. For Brooklyn, I put a tiger-stripe singlet over it because I wanted to make a little bit of a statement in that milestone race, harkening back to my "Monster Cat" nickname in my original Big Cat Runners group. I'll be breaking this Favorite out as a standard in my go-to drawer for a long time to come -- I love it.

ASICS PR Lyte Short Sleeve

This item is right at the top of the page when you search Men's and Running at asicsamerica.com. I am so appreciative of Melinda at ASICS for sending me this in a big box of gear to help make sure I trained for, finished and celebrated my 100th in style. I still have the tag on this one and am just going to stare at it for a little bit before clipping off the ASICS tags and actually taking it out for a run.


Before running in it, I thought I would show you more detail of the fabric. Consider the nanotech that goes into these garments. It is routinely taken for granted by us as we circle parks and run roads, but look closely and you can see why breathability is so key here for elite and everyday runners alike.


ASICS Core Short Sleeve

This is the LA Marathon version of the Core Short Sleeve, one of a few short-sleeve shirts I was given during my training for that race in March as part of the first ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge Team. I was going to run with it at the marathon but wound up buying another version that I wore from Stadium To The Sea that day. So now I am breaking this baby out and enjoying the heat. Hydrology mesh fabric cools the body and reduces moisture even as flatlock seams and self fabric binding reduce chafing. It is texturized mesh with inherent wicking technology. Self-fabric binding enhances comfort. Overlock seam detailing reduces chafing.


Below are a pair of ASICS Kayano Low-Cut Socks, part of a three-pack I was sent by ASICS during LA Marathon training. I was also sent a three-pack of an orange-and-black thicker version. These are wearing really well, and reliable every run with them. What I look for is lasting power in running socks, usually a hallmark of my vast Balega collection. I am pleasantly surprised by how new these stay, as I continue to only wash in cold and on delicate and then lay out my socks flat to dry. If you throw your running socks in the dryer, the seams can raise, and that caused a 10-mile blister for me during the 2010 Miami Marathon with a Nike pair that seamraised. These are bone-dry when I finish my run, great moisture management, cushiony and just the right feel for me. I highly recommend them whatever shoes you wear.


The FlipBelt - Great Concept With Promising Future
We all need to carry stuff while we run, and since I started running races in 2006, I have seen an interesting evolution of wearable organizers. In 2007 I tried using a Nathan's clip-on gadget that would hold some personal items and clip onto the top of my shorts. It was really uncomfortable, a major fail. then at the 2009 New Jersey Marathon Expo, I bought my first Spi-Belt. That has served me well for years, as I have bought various models including one this spring. There also have been the biceps bands for carrying music, ranging from my iPod in the old days to my iPhone recently. But the wearable-organizer sector is never a done deal. New things come along, and the newest is the FlipBelt. The maker was kind enough to send me a code to review it for myself, so I went to FlipBelt.com and picked out the Nuclear Yellow version in XL.





I was probably more wary of this gear-review item than any I had looked at recently. The main reason is because the FlipBelt website uses people who do not look like the running community. It is 100% hardbodies, like they did a casting call for fitness models. If you go to a typical New York Road Runners race at Central Park, 8,000 or so runners, you will see people in all shapes and sizes. The field does not stop at the front of the pack with the elites. It goes way back to corrals that are populated by a lot of people who look more like me. I crush cities and eat marathons for breakfast, I have run 100 races, I think I inspire others to run, and it is not because I have a six-pack. It is because I am strong mentally, and any real runner will tell you that mental is by far the majority of the game, far over mileage and core work. So I went into this with that preconceived notion, that I'm not their target audience, because I have some midsection issues as I like to be a normal dude. I honestly was mostly worried that I would have roll-over, and I definitely could not wear this outside my shirt, which is how they show all their fitness models wearing it. That is definitely not going to happen. It's an inner for me.


I lifted my shirt up enough for you to see how I am wearing it. Compare this picture with what you see on flipbelt.com with the models. How many of them run for ASICS? The FlipBelt has several slits, no zippers. You can insert your mobile phone, your personal effects such as money and cards (I kept those in my shorts pocket as I don't want to experiment with valuables, especially cash and credit card.) Then you "flip" the belt over, so that it stays stationary against your body. That worked well enough, as I used it for two runs, a 10K and today's four-miler. The best thing I can say about the FlipBelt is that it is super-soft and snug, a satiny wraparound that just feels good to have around your body -- especially if it's against your skin, as I used it, and not OVER your shirt. One major issue I had with the actual product (besides the marketing problem) was the use of an iPhone with a cord for your earbuds. Every time I needed to reach down and pull out my iPhone during my run, I found that the cord was tangled. I was pulling it out of a slot that was on the other end of where I inserted it, so the cord was coming out the other slot, and it became increasingly frustrating for me. I never got the hang of that. On today's run, I brought my phone but ran with Rachel so I did not bring my earphones. I would need to experiment with different slots and really get the hang of that element; Spi-Belt was definitely easier for me in terms of music usage. But its main advantage over the Spi-Belt is that you don't have the buckle. You just slip the FlipBelt over your body. I haven't figured out whether to put it over my head and pull it down or step into it, so I have been doing it both ways. In summary, the FlipBelt is a great idea in a very evolving sector of running gear, but it needs to address some key points before it is a prime-time player at the average race. I appreciate FlipBelt sending me the item to review and will continue to test it out.

PowerICE: Great before you walk out the door

I have had two boxes of PowerICE in my freezer this entire year. Thanks to the crew at PowerICE in Boulder, Colo., for your patience with my review. Here's the deal. I was not even going to think about packing more ice near my body in all those months of the most brutal and endless winter that we can remember in New York. So I was not going to even think about PowerICE until it got hot out. I know it's great for snowboarders in Colorado, but for a runner like me, I'm only interested in it for fighting the sun.

I grew up with freeze-pops and that's what I think of when I look at PowerICE packs. They are roughly the same size with similar colorful flair and the promise of cold and tasty goodness. I was given a box of orange and a box of lemon-lime to review. I had to keep a nephew out of the freezer because it turned out that this was his favorite go-to item in our fridge, as he has some dietary issues and PowerICE made him happy and gave him a good infusion of healthy electrolytes. So let me begin by saying I already know that kids looooooooove PowerICE, and parents should have it whether they run or not. Based on the Health testimonials on the PowerICE site, I can say with certainty that our nephew would fit in perfectly. I have a feeling that the greatest thing about PowerICE is in the medical field moreso than the fitness community.

My wife Lisa took that photo of me chunking down a PowerICE before my 10K last Saturday on a hot day north of NYC. In the time that I pulled the PowerICE out of our fridge and walked out my front door to the side of our house, it already had changed from solid frozen consistency to mostly watery slush. It was still cold, and I eagerly poured it into my mouth (I got most of it!). I loved starting my run that way. I used to always drink a glass of Accelerade before my runs, mixing water with a scoop of that powder, and for some reason I got away with that and lately just drink water beforehand, or coffee. This felt like I was doing something right before hitting the trail. Indeed, I started the first mile or two strong, and while I do not have enough data for any real quantitative analysis here, let me just say that I would be happy recommending that you pop a PowerICE before you head out for your run. Too clunky, warm and tangy during the run, too cold for the cold, but I want to recommend this as a prerace blast to get you on your way now.

CoCoGo: Solid for the long haul

I still have a sample box of CoCoGo that I've used off and on over the past year, and I have good feelings about this every time I use it. For starters, we love coconut water in our house and always have the fridge stocked with it. I tear off the top of a CoCoGo packet and dump the powder into my handheld water bottle, and it gives me a supplement on straightforward water as I train. It tastes good, and from what I can see there are some fueling values along the way for a guy like me.

That's where I'll stop, though, as I tried to get Rachel to run with it this morning and she said it's too sugary for her to even consider. The CoCoGo site says it is "Real fruit, real flavor" and "Nothing but natural" and gluten-free. That isn't winning over her, unfortunately. She's a more health-conscious person than I am, so that's probably a little bit of a warning flag for CoCoGo -- better win over the 19-year-old runner-in-bloom as they sell you over social media and are the future for your product. It is not happening with her. Me, I really enjoy it and I'd keep buying CoCoGo. It's not a clean sweep for us but I'll keep using it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Breathing and Running: What California Chrome and I Already Know

Wearing a strip while in Beijing, 2008 Summer Olympics
California Chrome and I have three things in common. One, we are both originally from California. Two, we both run a lot. Three, we both rely on nasal strips to reach our finish lines.

And that's all the comparisons, because California Chrome is a lot faster.

I am serious about the nasal strips and about the importance of breathing in running. If you look closely at my raceday pics, you can see that I brought a familiar companion along for my milestone 100th race last Saturday at the Brooklyn Half: my usual clear, small-medium Breathe Right Strip. The first thing I do before any run is wash my nose area thoroughly with a rag and soap to make sure there is no facial oil, and then I apply the strip on the bridge of my nose.

California Chrome wearing a nasal strip
The first time I did this was in early 2007 for a run around Central Park, and I realized that I shaved about 30 percent of my time spent on the 10K loop. The big difference I noticed was not when I put the strip ON, but when I took it OFF; I gasped for air when I removed it toward the end of my run. The increased oxygen made all the difference in the world for me. There have to be many others who could benefit as well. I am amused by the conclusion by the New York State Racing Association that said "Equine nasal strips do not enhance equine performance..." California Chrome's handlers know the real story. They definitely help.

On the most humid days, the strip will eventually peel, but by scrubbing the area beforehand you minimize the chance of slippage later. It has been a solid gear item for me through 100 races.

Breathing is of vital importance in running, and you perhaps have seen considerable focus on the science of breathing lately within running journals. Competitor and Men's Health Mag each have articles the past month quoting Budd Coates, longtime running coach, four-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and author of Running on Air, a training manual on breathing and running. And you can read and watch for yourself as Coates gives advice such as this at Runners World in an adaptation of his Rodale book:
Let's start with a 5-count or 3:2 pattern of rhythmic breathing, which will apply to most of your running. Inhale for three steps and exhale for two. Practice first on the floor:
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Place your hand on your belly and make sure that you are belly breathing.
3. Breathe through your nose and your mouth.
4. Inhale to the count of 3 and exhale to the count of 2. You might count it this way: "in-2-3," "out-2," "in-2-3," "out-2," and so forth.
5. Concentrate on a continuous breath as you inhale over the 3 counts and a continuous breath as you exhale.
6. Once you become comfortable with the inhale/exhale pattern, add foot taps to mimic walking steps.
When you feel confident that you have the 3:2 pattern down, take it for a walk. Inhale for three steps, exhale for two, inhale for three steps, exhale for two. Finally, of course, try out your rhythmic breathing on a run—inhaling for three footstrikes and exhaling for two. A few key points: Inhale and exhale smoothly and continuously through both your nose and mouth at the same time. If it seems difficult to inhale over the full three strides, either inhale more gradually or pick up your pace. And lastly, do not listen to music while learning to breathe rhythmically. The beats of the music will confuse the heck out of you.
Wearing nasal strip for 2014 Brooklyn Half
I am trying to master that 3:2 breathing pattern, and I did pretty poorly during the second half of the Brooklyn Half. But I am going to work harder at it. In addition to being surrounded by this attention to breathing lately, I recently had an unreal experience in a New York City taxi that was driven by a yogi from India. He was playing sitar music as I got into his taxi, and I told him that I enjoyed it and to feel free to turn it back up. That led into a long conversation about breathing. He told me that breathing is the secret to my running, and that breathing is the secret to life in general.

We take our breathing for granted 99.9 percent of our lives. The miracle is happening as you read this and your lungs expand with each inhale and then settle with each exhale. Take a very deep cleansing breath in through your nose right now and close your eyes, your back straight wherever you are. Then slowly exhale. Feel how amazing your body is. Now imagine you are focusing the same way when you are running.

I suggest you read those articles above and give thought to how you breathe. I can do a better job at it and I believe it will lower my times further. For me, the Breathe-Right Strip always has been an example of giving myself a better chance of maximizing my flow of oxygen into my lungs and through my bloodstream. I am glad to see that California Chrome will be allowed to wear his nasal strip at Belmont for a Triple Crown bid, and I know that the bottom line is getting as much air in and out as possible. Said Coates:

"You want as much in and out as you can, as easily as possible."

How do YOU breathe while you run?


Monday, May 19, 2014

100th Race: Brooklyn Half Recap

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You know how there is an unwritten rule on how long you can wear your medal after a race? Well, the same thing applies to finishing your 100th race. I am going to savor this one just a little while longer than I normally would, feel it, and thank a lot of people for their help before I move past the 2014 Brooklyn Half.

In no particular order . . .

Thank you to this blog's readers, as we have almost reached 100,000 page views -- about a thousand for each race. I try to read as many other running blogs as I can and it means everything to know others take the time to look at this one.

Thank you to Melinda and my friends at ASICS. They shipped me a box of gear to help me celebrate my 100th race in style at the 2014 Brooklyn Half Marathon. I started in ASICS and I stay in ASICS.







Thank you to the weather. There were 25,587 finishers and I hope every one one of them said a special thanks for our conditions on Saturday. A powerful storm system had canceled the Yankees' game the night before and pounded our roof through the entire night. Then it stopped raining around sunrise and what was left behind was the most glorious day in late spring a runner could imagine. Here are shots of the Brooklyn Museum start at Prospect Park and the finish on the Coney Island Boardwalk.





Thank you to my new Garmin 220 for the help maintaining my pace, a first for me in my seventh Brooklyn Half. My splits were :31:04 for 5K, 1:06:38 for 10K, 1:41:33 for 15K and 2:18:14 for 20K. My finish time of 2:25:57 represented a course PR for the Brooklyn Half. I'm well in the back of the pack as usual, but to quote the Black Eyed Peas: "The race is not for the swift...but who really can take control of it."

Here are my Garmin splits. It recorded a slightly longer distance and thus a minute longer, but it helps to see my splits and match it against elevation and so forth. I can see where I wear down a little in the long homestretch but I was able to finish with two straight negative splits!

Split
Time
Distance
Avg Pace
Summary2:26:05.313.2811:00
19:35.61.009:36
210:23.11.0010:23
39:40.21.009:40
410:45.41.0010:45
511:28.21.0011:28
611:44.61.0011:45
710:08.21.0010:08
811:35.61.0011:35
910:48.51.0010:48
1011:28.11.0011:28
1112:08.71.0012:09
1211:47.71.0011:48
1311:25.31.0011:25
143:06.10.2811:01



Thank you to Coach Andrew Kastor. His mantra of "Everything Forward" was someone I said to myself every time my mind wanted to wander or worry. I would look down at my body and identify every body part that was moving forward -- shoulders, knees, thighs, stomach, penis, ankles, shadow, shoes...each time I did that another minute or so ticked by and I was closer to the end of that mile. Most importantly, it made me think about leaning forward with my form -- like Meb did in winning the Boston Marathon.

Thank you to the Big Cats Running Team. This is the MySpace group I joined at the start of 2007 after I began running. It was national and we each had to pick the name of a big cat species (no duplicates) to enter. Most common ones were taken then, so I chose Monster Cat. I became known as Monster Cat to many other runners. For my 100th race, I went back to that identity with my stripes and roar, and it was great to be reunited in this race with Big Cat runners Roxy (below) and George (in Mile 8).



. . . you remember MySpace . . .



Thanks to Brooklyn, to Coney Island and specifically to Nathan's Famous. We stood in line for close to an hour after the race just for the sake of hot dogs, because hello it is Coney Island and they are worth it. The soles of my feet ached in doing so but I was wearing cushiony ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16s so they were up to it.



When I finally got to the front of one of the many lines, I had Lisa snap a pic to show I had another big finish. I got two chili cheese dogs, fries and a large Blue Moon. (Funny side story: Just as I reached the front of that line, I noticed some guy sidle up alongside our line and tell the woman with a baby behind me that he was going to pay for her whole meal if she would get him a couple of dogs and a drink. She said yes so he had to wait like 60 seconds in line.) We then camped out on the sand and enjoyed.





Thanks to NYRR for the opportunity to race year-round. I have averaged about a dozen races a year. Thanks especially to Mary Wittenberg for her leadership and relating to runners.

And most of all, thanks to my family. To my three sons Matthew, Benjamin and Joshua, because when I started running after my Dad passed away in 2006, I told myself I was going to live as long as possible and set a good example for my sons. Thanks to my beautiful wife Lisa for always being so supportive. Thanks to my stepdaughter Rachel, for encouraging me with my nutrition and fitness and for taking up running as well. Thanks Pennstress the McThinstress and Liam the Mango Tickler for joining the 100 bash, and to the hippie who sold me a Sinatra album on the boardwalk though I have no turntable. Dream the Impossible Dream forever.

On this perfect day, Lisa and I even munched on mango sticks. Ever tried those? Yum.



Here's to the next 100. Amazing things keep happening when you just run.



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How many races have YOU run?