Friday, December 26, 2008

My 2008 Runner's Highs

They always talk about a "runner's high" -- that feeling when endorphins are coursing through your body during or right after a long run. That is how I always feel about running. It is one high after another, the ability to set outrageous goals and then blow yourself away by doing things you never thought you could do, the discoveries along the way that teach you ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. I decided that to wrap up my year, I am going to list my Runner's Highs of 2008. Here goes:

1. Training run on the Great Wall of China.

video

August 17 at the BaDaLing stretch of the Great Wall. I was unable to maintain a high heart rate because of the size, slope and occasional absence of the 2-foot-tall ancient steps. It was a mix of running stairs at a high school gym with running and heaven-gazing. But there I was in my running gear in a place I never imagined I would be, during the Olympics. Good thing I got there when it opened after sunrise, because by noon all of Beijing was there and you couldn't move.

2. Finishing my first ultramarathon.

The Knickerbocker 60K (37 miles) is an annual event held two weeks after the New York City Marathon, for people who want to "keep it going" after that huge event. It was nine loops around Central Park, and this one was in the rain. I ran from 8:01 a.m. until 5:52 p.m., so my time was 9:51. I finished 80th. My girlfriend Lisa ran the last lap with me in the dark and helped motivate me on the last loop. The entire second loop was in a hard driving rain, so I spent the rest of the day grinding on waterlogged, tender feet. That was the hardest part, the soles of my feet. It was grueling but it was a test of the will and a new boundary reached in my life.

3. Statues on Parade Marathon.

I invented my own marathon on the Fourth of July. We created 42 replicas of the Statue of Liberty just for the All-Star Week in NYC, each one in a different MLB/team design. They were placed all over NYC, and I made it my mission to run to see them all. I did it, and make it 43 because I saw the real Statue of Liberty as well. I ran from morning to after 10 at night, approximately 26.2 miles by my math, and the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation management team stepped in to assist me in getting to Liberty and Ellis Islands as quickly as possible.

4. St. Louis Marathon.

This one was important because my boys were waiting for me at the finish line. That's all that mattered. I also knocked about 45 minutes off my first marathon finish time, and I ran the first 16 miles without stopping (thanks to 5:00 pace leader Molly), finally beaten up by the hilly final 10 miles and Delmar Blvd. It was a 5:21 finish and I was thrilled with it...mainly because my dudes were there at the end. They hand you a Budweiser during the final mile of this race, which goes past the Anheuser Busch home. Loved that.

5. Being healthy and finding the perfect shoe.

After enduring the usual first-year overuse injuries (ie shin splints, plantar fasciitis, back-wrenching dumbness), year two was appreciated for its good health. There were so many times when I finished a run and gave personal thanks for how good everything feels. I believe that has much to do with finding the right shoe. Back in St. Louis last February, a woman at the Fleet Feet store told me I have a high arch, which no one else apparently had discovered before. She put me into a pair of green Brooks Glycerins, and I never had an issue after that. When it was time to retire them, I went over to Super Runner Shop on 89th and Lex and saw my running friend/mentor Carmen, and she came out with the same shoe in yellow and said, "This is what you want." Now all I have to do is change colors!

6. New York City Marathon.

This event had been my first marathon, and in 2007 I had liked everything except the part where you limp the final 14 miles trying to land on a different part of your foot to spread out the pain, on the way to a 6:08 debut. This time, I enjoyed it for the most part, improving my time all the way to 5:13. The crowds were so unbelievable, and I am 2-for-2 in getting to pet an English Bulldog during a NYC Marathon.

7. Training run through Beijing and Opening Ceremony.

There were so many harrowing tales of the black air in Beijing. Should I try to run? Would I kill my lungs? It was fine. I went on seven training runs there in August, and the first one was so memorable. I stopped over halfway at a park where 5-on-5 pickup basketball games were happening, and I thought, "Here's the guy from Indiana, where basketball is religion, to teach you all the fundamentals of the game." I was amazed by their general excellence, as if I were back home. Then a man came over toward me and motioned as if they would like me to join them. So I did. I was now communicating with China as a free person, with no governments, and they likewise with me and the West. It felt beautiful. We played and played, and then I went around and shook every man's hand. Then I resumed my run. My Beijing Birthday also was pretty special; I ran on an official Olympic venue and then worked the gold medal game.

8. Winning my second consecutive Scotland Run 10K postrace raffle.

I have no idea why. But for two years in a row, they have called my winning number among countless fans after the Scotland Run 10K at Central Park in early April. In 2007, it had been a prize of a very valuable Scottish garment for a woman, so I had given that to a running friend. In 2008, I won four admission gift cards to Playland in Rye, N.Y. Hey, maybe the next time will be a car.

9. Emerald Nuts Midnight Run on New Year's Eve.

I rang in 2008 by running this four-mile race at Central Park, with fireworks exploding overhead in a spectacular scene. At the two-mile mark on 102nd Street, there is a blue "CHAMPAGNE" sign after the "WATER" sign. I got both. The downside was that I ran it alone, but 2008 would bring someone special into my life.

10. Racing four of the five NYRR Half Marathon Grand Prix events in NYC.

As a build-up to the November New York City Marathon, the New York Road Runners club (which runs everything in NYC running) conducts five Halfs throughout the year, each in a different borough that the marathon will touch. I ran Manhattan (January), Bronx (February), Brooklyn (April) and Queens (September). I was unable to run Staten Island in October due to MLB postseason travel.

11. Running Florida beaches.

The day after the MLB Draft at Disney World in June, I continued a tradition by staying behind and running a Florida beach. The previous year it was Cocoa; this time I drove over near Sarasota and ran seven miles on the beautiful Siesta Key, followed by pool time and pina coladas at a Disney Marriott. During the World Series, I preceded two Phillies-Rays games by running on St. Pete Beach behind our resort hotel, then enjoying a hammock.

12. Central Park Bench Plaque run.

I packed my Canon A540 into my Nathan's fuel belt one day in May and set out to take as many photos as I could of those wonderful dedication plaques on the thousands of park benches at Central Park. I posted them all on my blogs and many people drew inspiration from them as I had hoped. My favorite one was a dedication for "Andy and Lisa" on 8/9/1999, and it read: "Races are run with legs, marathons are run with the heart." That one was right next to the finish line of the NYC Marathon by Tavern on the Green.

13. Eight Belles and Me.

On Sunday, May 4, I ran a PR of 2:15 at the Brooklyn Half, and then hurried home because that day would be the Kentucky Derby and I couldn't wait to see my girl Eight Belles! I had been telling people about this filly before most people ever heard of her. It wasn't only because I was looking forward to raking in winnings. I was Eight Belles all the way. Imagine the heartache, for me and for millions of viewers, when she pulled up lame after finishing second and had to be euthenized. That was so tragic. But I loved her.

14. Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

During the National League Division Series in Chicago between the Cubs and Dodgers, I got in a NYC Marathon training run along Lake Michigan. It was a blast. It was out-and-back to Navy Pier, and I especially remember running all the way to the end of the pier and then doing crunches and pushups at the very end, then gazing out into the endless water.

15. United Nations Run.

There were various times that I ran completely around the island of Manhattan, getting familiar with the running path that is dedicated for us almost continuously the whole way (it disappears on the East Side north of about 40th Street). During a summer run, this took me past the U.N. building for the first time in my life. I was able to admire the beautiful structure and run past the fabled flagpoles, and just feel the presence of (what should be) diplomacy. Little things like that add meaning to your training runs; I am always seeing something new with running.

There are so many other things that deserve to be mentioned, all the things that make up the awesome life of being a marathon runner. Like meeting running friends in person, such as my fellow Big Cats while I was in LA for the Dodger-Cubs series (great runs on the beach there, too!). Like the day I ran my own Half Marathon around one of the Olympic baseball fields, under the watchful eye of two Chinese security who brought me water and became friends. Like those typical summer days when you sweated profusely and felt great coming home from Central Park. Like that day I got up to about 250 crunches on my little familiar core-working spot on the grass next to the Met museum. Like discovering Sport-Wash for my clothes, even though it stinks. Like hundreds of GUs and Powergels. Like Poland Spring after Poland Spring. Like blogging and commenting on other blogs, getting to know new running friends.

Why I Love Running -- in case you missed it.

I love being a runner, and I am glad you are here to read what I'm posting about it. Here's to another great year in 2009 with even bigger goals!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy Holidays

Here's a pic taken on Cat Hill during last Sunday's Joe Kleinerman 10K at Central Park:



Next up: Hot Chocolate 4M Saturday morning at Central Park. Hopefully will set my 2009 race calendar soon -- still trying to figure out the holidays and STL.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Featured in Statue of Liberty Newsletter

I always tell people that the best thing about running is, you never know where it will take you. This just came in the mail this week. Thanks to my new friend Brendagael, who edits this newsletter sent to Statue of Liberty lovers all over the globe. The Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation folks were so kind to go out of their way to help facilitate me when I ran a marathon last Fourth of July to see all 42 of our MLB All-Star Statues on Parade -- including the two that were on Liberty and Ellis Islands. The blog's here and below is the newsletter! Just click the images and it will show the full width.



My Running History

Sunday is the Joe Kleinerman 10K -- one full loop around Central Park. It is the first NY Road Runners event I ever entered after I changed my life on 12/1/06. My 10K PR is 57:11 in the 2007 Healthy Kidney 10K and I am going to destroy that now. Here's my NYRR history!



Race Name, Date

Dist.
(miles)

Gun
Time

Net
Time

Pace
per Mile
Overall Place/
Total
Finishers
Gender Place/
Total
Males
Age Place/
Total
in Age Grp.

Age-Grd.
Time

Perf.
%
Knickerbocker 60K
November 15, 2008
37.2 9:51:00 9:51:00 15:53 78 / 80 62 / 63 17 / 17

ING New York City Marathon
November 2, 2008
26.2 5:51:45 5:13:27 11:57 32063 / 38100 22241 / 25217 3426 / 3810 4:43:17 44.0%
NYRR Grand Prix: Queens Half
September 14, 2008
13.1 2:25:32 2:22:55 10:54 2406 / 3059 1591 / 1888 176 / 207 2:07:28 46.4%
Run for Central Park
July 19, 2008
4.0 0:43:27 38:13 9:33 2790 / 4613 1772 / 2325 192 / 253 33:58 49.6%
Hope & Possibility 5M
June 22, 2008
5.0 0:52:05 49:49 9:57 1015 / 2043 627 / 974 75 / 109 44:16 48.1%
WABC Fight/Prostate Cancer
June 15, 2008
5.0 0:54:13 49:45 9:57 3828 / 5515 2739 / 3462 327 / 402 44:13 48.2%
Healthy Kidney 10K
May 17, 2008
6.2 1:10:35 1:02:07 10:01 5019 / 6282 3075 / 3441 289 / 329 55:12 48.6%
NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon
May 3, 2008
13.1 2:20:24 2:15:46 10:21 4957 / 5839 2991 / 3294 282 / 320 2:02:07 48.4%
Scotland Run 10K
March 30, 2008
6.2 1:06:45 59:56 9:40 4811 / 6977 2967 / 3669 281 / 362 53:16 50.4%
Colon Cancer Challenge 15K
March 9, 2008
9.3 1:43:11 1:37:54 10:31 2888 / 3286 1628 / 1757 194 / 204 1:27:33 47.0%
NYRR Bronx Half-Marathon
February 10, 2008
13.1 2:21:00 2:20:32 10:43 2891 / 3265 1952 / 2113 235 / 254 2:06:24 46.8%
NYRR Gridiron Classic
February 3, 2008
4.0 0:47:37 41:26 10:21 3967 / 4940 2360 / 2669 284 / 325 36:49 45.7%
NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon
January 27, 2008
13.1 2:26:00 2:18:58 10:36 4255 / 4997 2782 / 3116 345 / 391 2:05:00 47.3%
NYRR Fred Lebow Classic
January 12, 2008
5.0 0:56:54 53:21 10:40 3789 / 4425 2152 / 2351 272 / 295 47:25 44.9%
Volunteer Credit
January 2, 2008

VQ VQ VQ VQ





NYRR Hot Chocolate 15K
December 1, 2007
9.3 1:38:42 1:35:16 10:14 3880 / 4773 2059 / 2323 213 / 237 1:25:11 48.3%
Race To Deliver
November 18, 2007
4.0 0:42:37 37:35 9:23 3097 / 5213 1807 / 2486 177 / 233 33:24 50.4%
ING New York City Marathon
November 4, 2007
26.2 6:23:41 6:08:25 14:03 36986 / 38607 25255 / 26072 3814 / 3909 5:35:55 37.1%
NYC Half-Marathon
August 5, 2007
13.1 2:31:48 2:26:01 11:08 8671 / 9927 4789 / 5164 459 / 501 2:12:27 44.7%
Naples-New York Park to Park
July 14, 2007
6.2 1:03:45 58:55 9:30 2728 / 4566 1786 / 2392 173 / 234 52:46 50.8%
WABC Fight/Prostate Cancer
June 17, 2007
5.0 0:53:07 47:55 9:35 3297 / 5010 2508 / 3280 306 / 394 42:55 49.7%
Japan Day
June 3, 2007
4.0 0:39:58 37:01 9:15 2507 / 4599 1776 / 2558 176 / 257 33:09 50.8%
AHA Start! Wall Street Run
May 22, 2007
3.0 0:35:28 27:51 9:17 3631 / 6672 2506 / 3635 485 / 706

Healthy Kidney 10K
May 19, 2007
6.2 1:02:21 57:11 9:13 3576 / 5419 2450 / 3087 236 / 308 51:13 52.4%
NYJL Mother's Day 4M
May 13, 2007
4.0 0:38:09 36:54 9:13 1659 / 3194 1111 / 1581 98 / 144 33:03 50.9%
NYRR Brooklyn Half-Marathon
April 14, 2007
13.1 2:22:35 2:19:03 10:36 4125 / 4853 2588 / 2831 258 / 284 2:06:07 46.9%
Scotland Run 10K
April 1, 2007
6.2 1:05:57 1:01:17 9:53 4316 / 5721 2721 / 3178 271 / 320 54:53 48.9%
NYRR 8K Run
March 17, 2007
4.9 MQ
0:00




Colon Cancer Challenge 15K
March 11, 2007
9.3 1:38:31 1:36:15 10:20 2025 / 2403 1235 / 1341 135 / 143 1:26:46 47.4%
Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks 5K
March 4, 2007
3.1 0:31:51 30:17 9:46 1902 / 2874 1244 / 1618 128 / 159 27:07 47.5%
NYRR Gridiron Classic
February 4, 2007
4.0 0:49:17 43:05 10:46 3837 / 4482 2267 / 2501 244 / 256 38:35 43.6%
NYRR Manhattan Half-Marathon
January 21, 2007
13.1 2:34:22 2:30:03 11:27 4108 / 4404 2649 / 2777 328 / 340 2:16:06 43.5%
NYRR Fred Lebow Classic
January 7, 2007
5.0 57:03 54:01 10:48 3636 / 4181 2177 / 2364 255 / 274 48:23 44.0%
NYRR Hot Chocolate 10M
December 16, 2006
10.0 2:10:55 2:07:07 12:42 3945 / 4034 1971 / 1996 207 / 210 1:54:44 38.6%
Joe Kleinerman 10K
December 10, 2006
6.2 1:21:13 1:18:40 12:41 4731 / 4910 2552 / 2610 300 / 305 1:10:28 38.1%

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Knickerbocker 60K Photo



Thank you to Laura and my friends at the New York Road Runners for sending this photo from the Knickerbocker 60K. It's the only one I have of myself running an ultramarathon!

- This was at the end of our first out-and-back from Runner's Gate to 102nd Street and back. That accounted for the first 1.25 miles, and then right after this photo was the first of nine consecutive four-mile loops, all totaling 37.2 miles.

- Hence the smile on my face and the high cadence.

- Legs are lookin' strong! Rippin' around the quads, I can see how my tendons are offloading the joints and helping me avoid injury...like it's supposed to work.

- The woman in the background played cat and mouse with me on the other side of the reservoir, and eventually she destroyed me. But who knows, she might not have finished.

- In about one hour from this photo, the skies opened and it was the hardest and steadiest rain in which I have run. That would mean soaked shoes and tender feet to grind on all day.

- Look how beautiful the falling leaves are. This is right on the East edge of the Jackie Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, at approximately 93rd Street.

- It was the beginning of a long day. But we got r done.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Happy Anniversary To Me!

Dear Me:

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! It was two years ago today -- Dec. 1, 2006 -- that you broke a box of KOOLS in half and bought a box of ASICS (below) instead, joined the NY Road Runners, and set out to become an ultramarathon runner. You are free.

Addiction to cigarettes is a self-imposed prison sentence, lots of tiny escapes from life that all add up. You smoked for over 5 years, for silly reasons. You always wanted to run, but you would wake up and smoke and then ask yourself: "What's the use?" You would freeze standing outside your office with other smokers. You were dying rather than living, literally.

You decided to run a marathon within one year of quitting, and you started with 5Ks and 10Ks and Halfs (pictured above is you trundling through your first race in December 2006), and you drank water constantly and you finished the NYC Marathon on Nov. 4, 2007. You dedicated yourself to living a long life for your boys, and you dedicated yourself to being a FINISHER in life for the first real time. You knew that if you could finish marathons, you could finish anything.

You ate oatmeal. Lots of oatmeal, almost every day, with lots of fruit and nuts and vegetables. You were better at everything. Your lungs were clearing up by all accounts and you were breathing stronger and stronger. You were happier, more creative. You endured the first year of overuse running injuries -- shinsplints, plantar fasciitis, lower back pain, etc. You learned the importance of perfect footwear -- the No. 1 need. You had more and more friends than before.

In Year 2, you poured it on. You never thought about smoking anymore, it was so in the past. You ran your second marathon in April 2008, and you lowered your time to 5:21 at the St. Louis Marathon. You lowered it further to 5:13 in the NYC Marathon on Nov. 2, 2008, and two weeks later you finished the Knickerbocker 60K ultramarathon -- completing 37.2 miles in 9 hours 51 minutes.

In Year 3, it is your goal to be stronger and stronger than ever in every way, to be better than ever in your eighth year with Major League Baseball, to help others and make an impact on the world more than you ever have, to be a better father, to be better at your relationship, to be a bestselling author through doing rather than hoping, to be better with your finances, to run at least three more marathons and one more ultra, to discover more about yourself, to be a leader by example, to be awesome with a heart of a champion.

"Constant and Never-ending Improvement," or "CANI", is what Tony Robbins taught you and what you always will keep in mind. You will always surround yourself with positive vibrations and the pursuit of excellence and happiness.

Anything is possible. Keep going for it. Work your ass off because it feels so good to dance across those finish lines!!! Happy Anniversary!

Love,

Me

Sunday, November 30, 2008

GO JOSH GO!


Tuesday is my 14-year-old son Joshua's high school freshman basketball season opener, and I am so proud of him and so electrified by his excitement. I am proud of all three of my boys, and it feels so good to see Josh going after a dream with passion.

He's the point guard with #1 on his shoes. Dad lives a thousand miles away, but we are a forever bond and I am there in spirit...and will get to the first game I can. Big Chief, go out and have fun and kick some butt...you are a winner either way.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to make a perfect Cherry Pie

I went on an 8-mile training run around Manhattan and then came home and made a cherry pie. I am going to teach you how to make one, too.

First you start with a pair of 9-inch pie crusts from Pillsbury. Do not make it from scratch because people will say you have no life.



Same thing with the filling. Do not pick your own cherries and pit and boil them and all of that stuff. People will talk about you. You will seem like 82 years old. Just do what I did. You will thank me. And it tastes better anyway because your filling sucks.



Preheat oven to 375...



Gently lay first crust onto buttered 9-inch pan, then fill with the good stuff, spread evenly...



Remove second pie crust from wrapper and discard (the wrapper not the pie crust)...



Gently roll second pie crust over the top. I would have made nice latticework with strips but I was a hungry jack. Goodbye cherries, I will see you soon and you will be in my stomach!...



Pinch the sides so the two crusts are in unison as one making the world a better place for a safer tomorrow and protecting the cherry filling that soon I will gobble up....




Make a bunch of fork holes in the top just like my Mom used to do. I have no idea why, but I think it is so the pie can get used to the fact that it is about to be eaten by a fork...



Oh, look who's an awesome baking whiz!!! Monster Cat Stewart now on TV late mornings! This is called breaking an egg and taking the white only and beating it like it's the Detroit Lions and then rubbing it all over the crust. This is serious secret-ingredient stuff and I feel that since I accepted you as a MySpace friend you are entitled to get a glimpse of the good life sometimes...



HA! Check me out, I have even more secrets up my sleeves!!! This time I am going to take strips of aluminum foil and protect the edges of the crust like it's a quarterback in the pocket. You ain't gonna get burned! No way!...



Into the sauna for you, Mr. Cherry Pie! It is going to feel so nice and warm! When you come out I am gonna eat you up!!! We will bake you for 50 minutes...



"...the waiiiiiiiiting is the...hardest...part." -- Tom Petty



Think about how you just ran a marathon...



Remove the aluminum foil with about 15 minutes left so it can get nice and golden...



OMG this is the best pie ever...let's put it on a plate first...check out how my super-secret eggwhite topping makes it a perfect golden...



Time to put it in the fridge for an hour so it will coagulate...



While it's coagulating in the fridge, think about how you just ran an ultra...



Guess who gets the first piece? Me! Guess who gets the next four pieces, too? Me!...It's like the great poet Robert Frost once wrote: "Nothing gold can stay."



And here is what it looks like before I inhale it in one bite. It is the perfect piece of pie. I just made it...



Eat it, enjoy it, savor every bite. Then go run 8 more miles. Enjoy life. Eat up. Do not eat like a marathon-running skinny bird. That is not a fun life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Knickerbocker 60K - 9:51





"The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates

"I like to move it, move it" -- Madagascar 2

The Knickerbocker 60K is the traditional race at Central Park two weeks after the New York City Marathon finishes there, and I decided to enter to see how my body would respond to 37.2 miles. No matter what, I was going to finish, because those quotes above are so true. My time was 9 hours 51 minutes. It was a harrowing trek through nothing but hills, rain and wind, and a test of willpower and drive. Something like this can teach you how to finish major projects and tests in your life, it can teach you new things about yourself, it can turn you into a warrior. I probably should have found a pancake course for my first ultra, but why do anything easy?

FIRST LOOP

Two weeks after finishing the New York City Marathon, I arrived at NY Road Runners offices at 7:15 a.m. and registered. The NYRR office is right across the street from Runners Gate, which is the 90th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park. I received a Very cool long-sleeve souvenir shirt with the K60K logo. There were a few tents at the start/finish area, and many participants brought bags and coolers filled with their own snacks and drinks. You really didn't need anything, because the start/finish line's aid station was loaded with salty pretzel sticks, Doritos, chips, Powergels, water, Gatorade, fizzy Coke, etc. The other fluid station was exactly opposite the Reservoir, two miles away on the Upper East Side. At both places, volunteers cheered supportively.

The race started at 8:01 a.m. and there were about a hundred of us. We were told that the race would count toward eligibility for the 2009 NYC Marathon, and many runners cheered since this was previously unannounced. Here is the race starter speaking to us so you can see how few of us braved the conditions, and I can barely see my blue Nike cap in the middle of the pack:



We began with a simple out-and-back run, from Runner's Gate to 102nd Street and straight back, good for 1.38 miles. Then once we got back to Runner's Gate, we kept on going in a clockwise direction, and I didn't stop until 5:52 p.m. The nine loops followed the interior four-mile loop of Central Park, exactly 3.98 miles around.

SECOND LOOP

I was wearing my iPod for this run, no question about it. But I noticed something early on. When I took my earbuds out so they dangled, runner after runner passing by me in the counter-clockwise direction would say a quick "Doing great, man" or "Keep going, looking good." I've never seen anything like this. The Central Park running community just knows. They see your race bib and they know what's up. The support was spectacular. For that reason, I wound up picking my spots on when to listen to tunes. If someone sees your earbuds in, their natural instinct is to not acknowledge you. Why not welcome it? You are supposed to be open to receive blessings.

My average pace through two loops was about 11:30-11:45. I started calculating projected finish times, maybe 7 hours 30 minutes, asking myself whether I would finish before they closed the course, etc. And every time I allowed myself to think that way, I immediately cut myself off and put up a STOP THINKING sign in my head. It was that easy. Stop Thinking. You can't control it. Just put one foot in front of the other. Focus. Just keep your head in front of your toes, lean forward slightly, dangle your arms in a relaxes motion by your sides. "Chunk it," Tony Robbins always said on the CDs I listened to in my car over and over in those rebuilding days after I lost everything in life and started anew. An ultra is too big, way too big, to contemplate at the outset. I never wanted to think of 37.2 miles -- only that current four-mile loop with which I was so familiar. The whole time, that is the only thing I allowed myself to think about. That present loop. My friend Sean had told me: "A body in motion stays in motion." It's all true. I like to move it, move it.



THIRD LOOP

It started to rain. And then it rained more. It rained harder than any rain I have run through. For the full loop, I sloshed through large puddles, soaked to the bone. You feel like you are carrying an extra 10-15 pounds. Two or three times, I took off my shirt while running, and wrung it out, put it back on, and then watched it rain on me again. The park smelled so incredibly great...make it positive.

There was a big problem caused by all this rain, and that would be my biggest obstacle and pain threshhold the entire day. You know when you sit in a bathtub a long time and your skin is wrinkly-soft? You are waterlogged. OK, imagine that is my feet, and then I am grinding them on hills for miles and miles, just grinding. It was brutal. The soles of my feet hurt until the moment I went to sleep at night. I did a good job in this loop of not thinking about time at all, and so I won't write anything about it here.

FOURTH LOOP

I went over to the tent and put my iPod away. I was worried that I was going to ruin it in the rain, and also the earbuds were just trapping water in my ears. I would run the next two loops without it. The rain persisted a bit into the fourth loop. I was well past 12 minute miles now. I battled myself internally, again forcing myself to STOP THINKING. The problem, of course, is that you look up and the race leaders are lapping you not once, but twice. You begin to wonder how rough it might be late on this night, if you're the only one out there, whether anyone will record your time, etc. And at that very moment, each time I again put up the STOP THINKING sign. The reality is, I was going to finish but this was the most brutal way to run a first ultra. Pick the hilliest course you can find, throw in a day of rain and wind.

FIFTH LOOP

Changed my socks. I still had on the same shoes, so it was only of marginal help. A woman on the back half of the loop said, "You're almost there! Only 2 more laps to go, right?" I just said, "Thanks!" -- when actually I wished she hadn't said anything other than "Keep it up." Thanks for reminding me that I actually have four laps left; she was noticing all the faster runners who were down to laps left. I think it was this lap that I saw a familiar face coming toward me and passing me just before I finished it -- Carmen, my friend who works at Super Runners Shop. She sold me the pair of Brooks I was wearing, and she is always so nice and helpful with running advice. She's sort of a coach. Just nice to hear another way-to-go. And again, I can't say enough what a difference it makes to hear nudges of support by runners all over the park. "It's amazing what you all are doing," one woman told me as I ran past her, and I said "Thanks" and kept focusing.





SIXTH LOOP

As you can see from the closeup of my watch in the picture above, it was 2:16 p.m. when I went back to the tent and plopped down to get some pretzels out of my bag. I had been running for 6 hours 15 minutes. Some runners were long since done. At this point, I had a real uplifting experience. A man named Alex came up to me at the tent and said, "You're the blogger, right?" I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "You have that Marathonomy blog." First of all, I can't believe someone remembered the title, which is a word I completely made up. None of my relatives can remember it. I tell them it's a cross between Marathon and Astronomy, the study of the powerful force of distance running. He said, "I was Googling the Knickerbocker 60K and your blog showed up." Alex said that is why he was here. He was thinking about entering and it pushed him over the top. I guess I can either take credit or blame -- lol. It was a true pleasure to meet him, and his better half who ran with him that next lap. Alex repaid the favor -- if you can call it that -- by assuring me that I could change my shoes. I had brought extra Brooks, but because I had the Championchip fastened on my shoestrings, I figured it would be stuck there. He pulled out a Swiss Army knife with built-in scissors, and proceeded to cut the little fastener cords on my Championchip. He did the same thing to his, and he showed me how you can loop your shoestrings through the ChampionChip. So, finally, I now had dry feet. Here's a pic of me and Alex taken by a volunteer:



I was starting to get confused over which lap I was on. That may seem hard to believe, but after running that long, your mind can warp. I don't have a Garmin, I have the Timex Ironman, and I was not keeping splits. I was just going by the time of day, knowing we started at 8:01. My only interest was finishing an ultramarathon. I would crawl if I had to at the end. But I needed to know what lap I was on. I fortunately would remember something that reminded me each time what the correct lap was.

SEVENTH LOOP

Something amazing happened on this loop as I neared the Boathouse going down Cat Hill. I caught a leaf that flew from a tree high overhead. It was just right there in front of my face as I ran, and I reached out and caught it. That was my amazing feat for the day. Other than finishing an ultramarathon. This lap featured a lot of walking mixed in. At this point, I was basically running down hills and walking up hills. My feet were screaming, again thanks mainly to the Third Loop rain. I couldn't make it better.

At 3:35 p.m., Lisa was there at the start/finishing line as I concluded this lap. It was nice to finally see someone I knew. She had snacks and Gatorade with her, and it was a simple Nutrigrain fruit bar that really did the trick. At that point you just want something...different. She had parked a block away. I told her that I was going to be another 2 or 2 1/2 hours. It was getting blustery but she was a trooper and said she would stay around. That's when she called her daughter Rach and said, "I'm going to go for a walk for a little while because it's good exercise."

EIGHTH LOOP

Finally, I saw an English Bulldog. It is superstition for me to pet an English Bulldog at every marathon (minimum) race I run. This time it happened about two minutes after I embarked on my eighth loop. I ran across the Central Park East Drive to see her. Her name was Bella. As I got down to pet her, she jumped up on me. "She's dirty," one of the owners said. I didn't care much, considering that I'd run 29.2 miles through rain and mud. You have no idea how much that makes me happy, carrying me another mile. Amazingly, I then saw another English Bulldog one minute later, but at that point I needed to keep running. Whenever I call my boys after a marathon, I always say, "Guess what I saw today." They answer: "An English Bulldog." Makes my day.

It was starting to get dark, and they were dismantling the course and timer. I got to the start/finish line at 4:45 p.m., with one lap to go. My main concern at this point was assuring that my run was not all for naught; that someone would be officially recording my time. One of the NYRR organizers was kind enough to say he would stay there, knowing it would take me another 1 hour and five or 10 minutes. Another gave me her NYRR business card, and told me to simply email her with my own watch time of my finish. It would be fine, and he would be there to witness it, anyway. I wasn't sure what to do with my baggage since the tent was dismantled, and I figured Lisa would watch it. Instead, she had changed into her running clothes in her car, and she was offering to run with me. When he said he would take care of the bag, I told her to come along, and we set off.

NINTH LOOP

It was pitch-dark except for the lights along the Central Park trail, and that makes it bright and safe enough. There were two other runners behind me on the course. Lots more failed to finish, perhaps chased off by the early storm. I was very proud that I was going to finish, and I would have crawled if needed. But I didn't need to. Lisa pushed me that whole lap. I told her that I refused to finish at 10 hours or more, that I was going to get under 10 hours no matter what. It would be close. This lap was pretty funny, actually. On the back side, I would start running uphill when I hadn't before, doing whatever I could to at least keep my Eighth Loop pace. The whole way, I was making strange noises out of my mouth and I told Lisa to just ignore whatever sounds I make. She carried a big bottle of water the entire lap, and that was huge, because the West Side aid station had closed for this lap. Then with a mile left, we made the final turn south heading to the finish line, and the wind was in our face, strong. I was DRAFTING off Lisa. She would keep moving to the side and I was too tired to stay in line. I was still unsure if we could beat 10:00, but then it became clear, and in the last 400 meters, I pushed the pace with a finishing kick. I just asked her how fast it was, and she said, "The truth is, it wasn't THAT fast, but it was the fastest you ran on that pace." My reaction was: "Yeah, right, I was LIGHTNING FAST!" I looked at my watch as I crossed the finish line and it said 5:52 p.m. That meant my finish time was 9 hours 51 minutes.



The NYRR gentleman was there, and he walked us across the street to the NYRR offices, which had stayed open for me. My bag was waiting there, and then he said, "Wait, I have something for you." He came out with a Finisher trophy, and we took pictures, including these:





Then it was time for cheeseburgers, fries, chili, beer and ALEVE. As usual, I took a long icebath, and that helped reduce the inflammation, and the next day I was absolutely feeling great. I can't believe it. I am an ultramarathoner.

I want more out of life and I will have it. The unexamined life is not worth living.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Knickerbocker 60K - Heart of a Champion

It's like a game time decision made on how I can twurk it
If hard work pays off then easy work is worthless
My work habit ain't no habit man, I do it on purpose
I push myself to the limit so my talent'll surface

The Knick is on.

It's the Knickerbocker 60K, another dragon I must slay in my life. My first ultra.

It starts at 8 a.m. ET Saturday at Central Park. After a quick out-and-back for about 1 1/2 miles, this 37.2-miler consists of nine loops around the park's inner 4-mile track. That includes the notorious Cat Hill, but it is clockwise so that means it is downhill all nine times. The west side of the park has a few challenging slow-roller hills that will start to get rough.

There will be maybe a few hundred entrants, a couple hundred finishers. Probably not that many, considering the weather. It is supposed to rain basically all day with abnormally warm weather. It will feel like 59 with 9-mph wind at 8 a.m. racetime. It will get up to 62 at some points, and it will always be humidity at 90ish. Winds will be in double digits most of the day. It will take me a good 8 hours.

They will stop tending to the course after 7 hrs 30 minutes. That means medical care is gone when I finish, so pray hard. The start/finish is at Runner's Gate on 90th and Fifth at the main park entrance. I'll have a bag there (covered from rain) with extra shirt and second pair of socks/shoes, snacks, etc. I just pleaded to my Facebook friends/colleagues to come out and cheer/toss bananas/orange slices/whatever. I really have no idea what I'm in for. I have only run once (4 miles) since the NYC Marathon, and another ultra runner told me that's good.

It was either this or the 4-miler on Sunday, and all of my friends who knows me know that...

C'mon, uhh, uhh, uhh
Guess who's back 'urr derrty, S-T-L derby
I'm like Magic to Kareem, mayne you tell me I ain't Worthy
I ain't speakin 'bout a jersey, I'm speakin 'bout income
DID YOU HEAR THAT ELIZABETH? HERE COME THE BIG ONE!
I put mo' money in the community than you got in yo' budget
I wipe my ass with yo' advance to the toilet then flush it
My last stance be a stance of a General Custard
I hot dog cause I can, I got the cheese and mustard
I got the stats of a hall of famer - in just two records
That's why I'm back up at the Superbowl - with Julius Peppers
I got that cain't stop, won't stop, in my veins
That's why they cain't stop, won't stop, screamin the name
NELLY! NELLY! Go tell a friend to tell a friend
I'ma keep the same grin whether I, lose or win
Up, or down ten, I'ma fight to the end
[breathing hard] Let's go

Ain't no way they can stop me now Nelly
Cause I'm on my way, I can feel my reign comin
It's the blood of a champion, pumpin
Deep inside my veins, too much pride to be runnin
I'ma give what I can and more, even if
My blood, my sweat, and my tears don't mean nothin
It's the heart of a champion (it's the heart of me)
(It's the heart of a..) in me

I'm the first pick, the first round, signin bonus profound
Playin for his hometown, reppin for the home ground
And gettin bucked like Michael Redd, tell 'em again
I gets bucked like Michael Redd, heard what I said?
The MV-P of the game, intensity still the same
I'm shootin out from my reign, with Peyton Manning type aim
Can't stop me from scorin so they results to just hackin
So there's, three of us now - me, A.I. and Shaq'n
From the look to the eyes I say
Cover man with more heart than Hallmark on Valentine's Day
I'm the one that you've been Raven about, like Ray Lewis
I think it hard to go and change your route
Cause you don't know if I'm blitzin or if I'm sittin and readin
Waitin for you to go and trip, drop back and throw up a pick, man
AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - no AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - no
AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - no, AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - no

It's like a game time decision made on how I can twurk it
If hard work pays off then easy work is worthless
My work habit ain't no habit man, I do it on purpose
I push myself to the limit so my talent'll surface
So now it's, curtains and drapes, on anybody who hates
Dislikin what I'm recitin, bitin what I've been writin
I've been dogfightin, scratchin and clawin on every hike
Tryin to make you remember me like you "Remember the Titans"
Cause I'm a WARR-IOR, my daddy was a soldier
A Vietnam vet, in the derrty I thought I told ya
I'm supposed ta, whip up your town in Testarossas
Heatin like Folgers mayne, I'm young black and rich
As good as it gets, and givin your point guard fits
He think he done seen pressure mayne, but he ain't seen shhhh...
AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - No, AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - No
AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - No, AIN'T NO WAY THEY CAN - No


Friday, November 7, 2008

NYC Marathon Photos



Danced across the finish line again...5:13.27 net. Today was brightroom picture day, a chance to see how disgusting you look throughout 26.2 miles on the streets. Hey, not bad.