Friday, January 16, 2015

Countdown to 2015 TCS New York City Marathon


So there I was at the doctor's office yesterday, dealing with a deep cough, and continuously reloading the TCS New York City Marathon signup page as the clock hit high noon. I had my credit card ready, already had a tweet composed, and was determined to be the very first runner to claim guaranteed entry for the November 1, 2015, race. I would be the first signup. That, of course, is when the good doctor walked into my room and began the checkup.

Alas, I had to wait 15 minutes before entering, but it's DONE. I'm in. That's how I excited I get when it comes time to claim that guaranteed entry. It's something I and many others work so hard for during the course of a year, running at least nine scored New York Road Runners races and volunteering for another so we can get that all-important 9+1 exemption. It guarantees entry for the following year's NYC Marathon. I will always do 9+1 as long as I'm able in life.

This will be my fourth New York City Marathon, and it should be my fifth. 2007 was my first marathon of any kind, the same year Paula Radcliffe won for the women. 2008 (pictured here afterwards) was my 5:13 PR, best shape of my life, and that still stands for me in a 26.2. 2012 was going to be my third, but it was canceled at the last minute due to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy (1,000 of us wore our NYCM shirts and helped Sandy victims on Staten Island instead, after which I ran Harrisburg as the alternate). 2013 was my third, and last year I decided to run The Hamptons instead.

I think the NYCM is the most special race in the world, and I feel that if you streak them, you lose a little of that magic. That's just me. Plus, I like giving up my spot from time to time to someone who is in the lottery. So maybe every other year is what I am learning as the right formula for me. I'll always do the 9+1 just in case, and then make the decision before the claim window opens, like I did yesterday.

I wish all the best to everyone who is in the lottery. Your chances are 11.9 percent by my count, and that's better than the 9 percent I remember calculating a couple years earlier. (NYRR friends can feel free to correct my math in the comments here, if needed.) Either way, about one in every 10 lottery entrants will be drawn. I've never won a race lottery (ie London), so I'm going to do anything I can to avoid that fate, but here's to you if you entered! If you want to do it the 9+1 way as well, just join the New York Road Runners with a membership!

There's another way to get into the NYC Marathon: Join Team for Kids! That's how I ran my first one in 2007 (left, entering The Bronx) and it was a beautiful experience. You raise funds to help give kids in need an active lifestyle and a healthy youth. The perks are unbelievable. TFK helps you with your fundraising techniques, making it very easy -- you will raise more than you need. I was actually surprised to find that the people who donated most often were the people I did not expect to donate. People I barely knew within my company or circle of contacts -- it turned out that they really just appreciated having a way to do something good in their lives. THAT is how it works. And the raceday privileges for TFK runners are ridiculous; I remembered that in 2013 as I tried to huddle in the cold before the start, while TFK runners got the cushy treatment in tents and through private buses. So if you really want to run the TCS New York City Marathon, you can do it, no excuses. Speaking as an alumni, that could be the way to go even if you get the 9+1.

The NYC Marathon is five boroughs, and it's worth the magical start alone. The highest elevation is the first 2 miles, crossing the beautiful Verazzano Narrows Bridge (my 2013 pic here) into Brooklyn. In my first race, I got over the bridge and then did a forward somersault in the crowd but survived. After that it was miles of spectators wanting to give you high-fives, and the gospel choir I'll never forget. Music and iconic views everywhere you look. You'll want to run fast and lose your gameplan in the excitement, but you have to conserve in the early going. You'll need it for a subtle climb up First Avenue, always my Achilles Heel. Those First Avenue crowds are a major highlight. When you enter Central Park for the last leg, you're going DOWN Cat Hill and life was never better. Then after the run cheered by spectators on Central Park South, you re-enter the park for a 400-meter dream, and what I remember most is running that last portion in tears and looking up at the sky at my Dad, saying we did it as I crossed the finish line while somehow dancing on plantar fasciitis.

That is the New York City Marathon.

This is going to be possibly my only marathon of 2015. I am undertaking something very significant in my personal life spare time in 2015, and it has nothing to do with running or work. I'll talk about it at the end of summer. So my running focus will be simply on getting my 9+1 and training for the NYCM, making sacrifices where I can, and that's going to be it. In 2016-17, I may be back to my usual Marathon Maniacs mentality, entering another ultra, stringing 26.2s around the world.

Here's to the NYC Marathon -- and here's to 2015!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Top 11 Runs of 2014

Here were my top 11 @Marathoner runs of 2014:

1. 100th Race. Finishing the Brooklyn Half at the ocean was a nice opportunity to look at the big picture, breathe deep and smile really big. Then it was straight to No. 101.



2. 5K PR. The Turkey Trot may be a "fun" run for some on Thanksgiving morning, but for me it was a chance to finish a 5K for the first time with a number that started with a 2. A big deal for me! And it happened in Evansville, Indiana, where I grew up. I had a pacer on this one, which brings me to Rachel, our 19-year-old dynamo who took up running this year, so that's another reason this one meant a lot -- great to have someone to train and race with!



3. Running a mile with Ryan Hall. I was asked by ASICS to be part of the first ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge, and that meant a long list of perks, the best of which was running toward Malibu alongside the ex-Olympian during a 3-mile shakeout group run and he and I trading wedding-engagement stories the whole way. He proposed in a lighthouse btw. This is him in the blue jacket and me next to him in the gray ASICS tee.



4. ASICS LA Marathon. It was a scorcher, but it was cool cruising through Rodeo Drive and meeting a couple English Bulldogs there, and then of course hanging with Deena Kastor after the finish line.



5. Meg's Miles. Last January 18, we came together as a running community to run in the memory of Meg Menzies, who had been fatally struck by a drunk driver while on a training run for the Boston Marathon. Let's remember her -- and the importance of running safety, even though she did everything right -- as the anniversary approaches next month.



6. Hamptons Marathon. I struggled pretty badly with a right hamstring strain that required 19 PT sessions, but I list it here for a couple of reasons. One, it was a beautiful course and a family experience, as Rachel ran her first Half there. Two, I used it as a substitute for the NYC Marathon and that meant not dealing with one of the worst cold-wind days in NYCM history. Rach took this picture in the med tent after I finished:



7. 9+1 and 4-Borough Qualifiers. I qualified for the 2015 NYC Marathon by running at least 9 (I did 10) scored NY Road Runners races with one volunteer assignment -- the "9+1 guarantee." I also ran the minimum four NYRR borough races -- Manhattan Half, Brooklyn Half, Queens 10K & Staten Island Half) to qualify for the United NYC Half next March.



8. World Series 10K. I work for Major League Baseball, and that meant working my 20th Fall Classic. Before Games 1 and 6 of the Giants-Royals series at Kansas City, I ran the loop around the Kauffman Stadium-Arrowhead Stadium complex. I Live For This.



9. Fastest Mile of my Life. I turned in a 7:46 PR in the NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile, easily the fastest I have run a mile in my life. Hope you can do that at my age!



10. Boston Marathon World Run. This is not the Boston Marathon, but it was as close as I could get. Race organizers allowed you to run anywhere to pledge money for One Fund Boston, and you then get a finisher certificate, formalizing your participation in the actual Boston Marathon at least on the outer fringe. I did this by inventing my own marathon entirely within Central Park, and it was really challenging because of the hills (and solitude).



11. ASICS Storm Shelter Gear Review Run. You know those days when you are "between" in gear selection? I minimize those days by buying the right ASICS gear, and that was the case on this day. I went to Paragon Sports in Manhattan before a long run in freezing and drizzly weather, knowing I would heat up but needed to stay dry and warm, and the Storm Shelter was the answer. Runs are special for different reasons, and this one was special because of new gear.



...and for my Least Favorite Run of 2014:

The Color Run at All-Star Week. I think they're dumb. Let's keep running like it's a run.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Celebrating 8-Year Runnerversary

If there's one thing you should never forget to do as a runner, it's celebrate. Apparently I can't put my hands down when I run. I just passed the 8-year mark since I traded a box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS and I celebrate it every day. If it makes you happy . . .

Friday, December 5, 2014

ASICS Electro Jacket For Today's Space Age


I completed the #Orion 4:24 Flight Test Challenge in 17 miles, and in case you missed this original blog post you can see all the whys and whats below. I followed NASA's Orion mission in a few ways. One, there was a splashdown: It rained the entire 4 hours and 24 minutes, and alas I finally started landing in splash puddles around the NYC Financial District's uneven pavement at the 1:30 mark. Two, I did a first transit of Central Park after parking at 105th and Central Park West Drive, and then proceeded across 42nd Street to the West Side and then completed a large elliptical orbit of the Manhattan island. But most of all, I wore the latest in today's Space Age Gear.

Thanks to Boris and my friends at the ASICS Meatpacking District Store for selling me an ASICS Electro Jacket, waterproof and featuring a hood that allowed me to pull it over the bill of my cap and thus have a virtual umbrella for insulation the entire long run. It was solid rain the whole day and I had started out with my base-layer ASICS Fleece Half-Zip, but the old circa-2006 Mizuno rainjacket I brought was too warm and lacked a hood. I had an urgent need here, so after an hour of running I zoomed into that store and dropped $100 for the quick swap then returned to my run. As you can see from the photo here, I was able to pull the hood over my ASICS cap and that gave me that umbrella effect for my run. Actually, I was able to pull it over the entire bill and tuck it under for a snug fit. I felt some sympathy for other runners who sloshed past me on the path around Manhattan, most of them inappropriately attired. It was a challenge, having to dress warm enough, stay dry, and have moisture management for what eventual was a 17-mile long run. That's one of the hardest gear calls you can make.

The Electro Jacket also has a really cool internal red LED spiral light that goes into flash or solid mode, good for a dark and stormy day in the city. The hood tucks into a rollaway pocket with velcro when not needed.





The metallic heathered fabric with Teflon durable water repellent finish causes light moisture to bead up and roll away. Indeed, it kept me perfectly dry for this long haul around NYC.

Seriously, if I was on Mars with this sometime in the 2030s, when the #JourneyToMars is realized thanks to Friday's original #Orion Flight Test, anyone looking at me would think I am pretty solid NASA with the Electro jacket. I am going to suggest this one to my friend Nicole Cloutier, of public affairs at NASA, who unfortunately is sidelined by a broken ankle, so I wish her all the best in returning to running soon and hope she takes my ASICS tip!

Original Post: The #Orion 4:24 Flight Test Challenge

Here was my original post, for anyone still interested in running this on any day...

I invite you to join me anywhere on Earth to run for four hours and 24 minutes on Saturday -- or any day that works better for you. Let's call it the #Orion 4:24 Flight Test Challenge.



I happen to love space and rocketry. When I was a boy, I eagerly bought rocket kits at our hobby store in Evansville, Indiana, and took them home and spray-painted the long tubes and hung them on my mom's laundry clothesline in the basement to dry. Then I assembled them and took them to a clearing field with a large battery, hooked them up and watched them fly.

This morning, I got up early and sat transfixed in my living room watching the live UStream broadcast by NASA of its historic #Orion Test Flight to face trial by fire and start our long journey to Mars. It is an exciting time. Today's flight featured two orbits of the Earth, including a long second elliptical orbit in which two burns of the upper stage rocket booster took Orion 3,300 miles above our planet to apogee. It was great to see the dramatic views again, and my favorite point on the entire PERFECT operation was the rocket camera showing Florida's coast getting smaller and smaller at launch. I also really enjoyed the livestream itself, getting to "know" host Brandi Dean, seeing the mission control personnel, relating to the intricacies because of sensational work by NASA's multimedia team. I was, indeed, "on board."

As I sat there in fascination from start to finish next to my English Bulldog King Bingley (who snoozed), marking the time and comparing the speeds (somehow) to running, I felt determined and destined to do something on my own as a celebration of what the incredible team at NASA and its partners have done to return our excitement. Since Orion was able to do all that in just 4:24, I've decided to run for 4:24 and see how far I go. It will be cold and rainy at Central Park the whole way, but whatever. Orion just made it through the Van Allen Belts and then its plasma heat shield made it through re-entry. Besides, I am running the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 11, my training has been subpar lately, so this will be an important long run for me. Just like a flight test. (Or is it test flight?)

On June 8, 2007, I did a training run on Cocoa Beach while I was in Florida to work the MLB Draft. I stood in the water barefoot watching a sweet sight: the Space Shuttle lifting off beside me. I am glad I was there, because the previous Space Shuttle flight I observed up close was in 1986, when I stood on top of our Miami Herald building in West Palm Beach, trying to make sense of the Challenger explosion. Here was me geeking over the 2007 liftoff.



So feel free to run with me, wherever you are -- for four hours and 24 minutes. While you are running, occupy your thoughts with how far the rocket just went, how easily the capsule landed, how efficiently everything went and how great our future is for humankind. One day we will know from investigating Mars how to better handle our own planet, and we will have other places to dwell in the stars.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Shower Pill Body Wipes Giveway and Gear Review

a Rafflecopter giveaway
We have a gear review from Rachel and a nice holiday giveaway here today. Our friends at Shower Pill were kind enough to send samples of their extra-thick athletic body wipes, so we're going to give away a box of 10 individually wrapped wipes here.



The wipes are awesome for me because I am always so busy and sometimes don't have time to take a shower. Sounds pretty gross but it's true. I tried the athletic wipes after a run when I had to get right to class and I got right into my jeans and felt great. The wipes dry really quickly and make it easy to get out of workout clothes and into regular clothes. It's obviously not a replacement for a shower but it is definitely perfect when I squeeze a workout in during the day and don't have time to shower!! I would absolutely recommend these for anyone who exercises in the middle of the day or for someone who doesn't have time/access to a shower right after exercising. - Rachel

In addition to entering our giveaway above, please note that from now through December 31, 2014, you can save 10 percent on a $9.99 box of 10 at showerpill.com or on Amazon by using the code: runner10

Giveaway Rules:
- The giveaway ends at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, December 11. Winner will be announced on @Marathoner on Friday, December 12.
- Winner has one week to claim prize (I will contact you as best I can via email or social media) before a follow-up winner is selected.
- All entries will be verified
- Winner will be chosen at random via Rafflecopter and are based on the number of entries received. Remember to use the extra chances on the Rafflecopter entry to improve your odds!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Holiday Fitness Tips from Michelle Lovitt

ASICS Fitness Expert
Michelle Lovitt
From Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve, holiday traditions will bring us cherished memories of a lifetime . . . and some real challenges on the training front. ASICS & Pear Sports Fitness Expert (and 2014 NYC Marathon finisher) Michelle Lovitt is kind enough to share these important tips entering into this holiday season so you can make the most of a wonderful time of year and stay within your fit lifestyle.

Ready? Here goes:

1) Drink plenty of water before and after a meal. Water will not only help you feel more satiated it will help increase your metabolism and help your body burn calories more efficiently. Keep in mind that the increase in calories burned is modest, however the water keeps your body hydrated and functioning properly.



2) Don't drink your calories. If you partake in holiday festivities limit your alcohol (and eggnog) consumption to no more than two glasses. Drinking caloric beverages daily not only dehydrates you but also packs on unwanted pounds with extra calories.



3) Use smaller plates. Less chance of over-indulging if you can't fit it on your plate.



4) Don't skip meals to "save" calories. Eat small meals throughout the day and you will be less likely to overindulge later.



Thanks again to Michelle for sharing these helpful tips! As a celebrity trainer in the LA area, she specializes in weight loss and body sculpting. You can follow her @MichelleLovitt, visit her site at michellelovitt.com and get her fitness plans and workouts via the Pear Sports app. And if you want to know how to fuel properly in the days and weeks leading up to a marathon, see the tips she shared here last February before the ASICS LA Marathon.


How do YOU plan to balance training and celebrations during the holiday season? Please feel free to share any tips you have as well.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

ASICS Holiday Wishlist

I dropped in on my friends at the ASICS New York City Meatpacking District Store this afternoon and bought the new PR Thermal 2-N-1 Beanie reversable knit cap. I'll get plenty of use out of it as I start training through another tough NYC winter, this time for the Walt Disney World Marathon scheduled for Jan. 11. It's just $18 and a huge addition:



While I was in the ASICS store, I also took a barrage of photos of ASICS STUFF I WISH I HAD. Let's call it the ASICS @Marathoner Holiday Wishlist. If Santa wanted to drop any of this stuff under my Christmas tree or in a stocking next month, hey you're the jolly mon. Here are a dozen items that especially caught my eye on the "guy side" of the store, with links on asicsamerica.com.