Sunday, March 30, 2008

Marathon Week!

This is it, the week of my second 26.2. My first one was last November, the New York City Marathon. I battled injury and ultimately finished in 6:08. My goal this time is 5 hours. It’s time for the St. Louis Marathon, on Sunday, April 6.

This Marathon Week, I am going to keep a running blog, so to speak. Will try to update it each day along the way to the Arch.


Today I ran The Scotland Run 10K as my final "long run" for the St. Louis Marathon. I ran a mile warmup, then went to the front of the 9s and we started on West Drive at 62nd Street -- practically at Columbus Circle for those of you who know New York City and Central Park. It is hallowed ground to me. The starting point for this race was exactly where I was looking up at the sky and praying to my Dad and to God with tears in my eye as I sucked up the final "point-two" of the New York City Marathon. This was a gorgeous but cold sunny day, the field of runners was as far back as the eye could see, and we were off.

I set out with a quick pace and wanted to test myself. I was extremely pleased at how I was cookin running up the killer North Woods Hill at the NW corner of Central Park, a controlled pace going down, and then running without walking on the next hill that pulls you around the NE corner of Central Park. I got gassed a little bit on East Drive around 95th Street. I knew that a week later I could not try to break out with that kind of pace. I wanted to treat this like the final 6.2 of the 26.2. Hope I feel a little faster next week, but it was OK.

My time was 59:56 (9:40 pace). That was an improvement on my last Scotland Run 10K time of 1:01.17. My 10K PR is 57:11 set last May 19 at the Healthy Kidney 10K at Central Park. I will be looking for an 11 pace on Sunday. That actually would get me under five hours. A 5:00 and I’d be thrilled.

I am showing you that, because this week my son Matt and his girlfriend Amanda were with me here on spring break, and Matt told me to download this for a good power song. It also made sense because my life right now (seventh year with Major League Baseball!) is Opening Day. It has been so crazy. Anyway, we are crossing the starting line today, my Nano Red is on shuffle, and what do I hear? TOOK A WHOLE LOTTA TRYIN...JUST TO GET UP THAT HILL.

I will be back next weekend, S-T-L Derrrrty. Nelly is a St. Louis boy and he really should be there at the finish line because I have been his biggest marketer right here with "Heart of a Champion." Now we rollin.

I ran exactly 26.2 miles this week. I will do a couple of medium runs this week, that’s all. Will have a bottle of water surgically attached to my hand. I did not get a chocolate cake-slice treat after today’s 10K. Serious week. I will be doing nothing but positive intake, so don’t be hatin on me. Time to watch lots of inspirational video, time to study the course and see it in my mind how I want to run it. Time to see myself coming back to the Arch with a smile on my face. I will let you know what finish-line dance I pick out. Suggestions?


This is unfair. There is no way I can think about my marathon today. I work for Major League Baseball and it is Opening Day. It is possibly the most wonderful day on the calendar. It is when traditions are followed, when another parent takes his or her son or daughter to the ballpark and show them how to score and how to put mustard on a Dodger Dog, when life begins again, just like it does with those buds popping out on the cherry trees heading down Cat Hill at Central Park. I have been immersed in work from early in the morning until the wee hours of the night, enjoying our own annual ceremony at work, watching as many games with MLB.TV as I can, communicating with fans around the world, coping with postlaunch issues following our new MLBlogs rollout over the weekend, and just amazed at how good it feels to have real baseball on again.

It makes me think of growing up always playing baseball, and whiffleball in the streets. We would play anywhere, even if it was just one-on-one and using "ghostrunners" after a hit. My friend Jimmy was the Big Red Machine lineup of the 1970s, and I was the Minnesota Twins, with my boyhood idol Rod Carew. I always had my glove with me, always playing pitch-and-catch. I was always throwing rocks at something, a tree, a fence. Always throwing, always connecting. I loved being a pitcher when I was a teenager in Evansville, Indiana, the feeling of being in control of the game, of shaking off the catcher’s signals and getting the 1 or the 2 when I wanted it, and then gripping the ball just right and feeling it explode out of my hand and blow by a batter high and inside to push him back off the plate, and then coming back with a breaking ball off the outside corner that he was afraid to step into, and the feeling of a strikeout for an important out. I loved the feeling of knowing you are going to be taken deep or knocked around, and how you had to learn how to get out of trouble, and that some days you just didn’t have your best stuff and you were going to be switched to play short or center while another pitcher came in to relieve you. I loved the thrill of smashing one into the cornfields at Rheinlander School, just watching it disappear into the green summer stalks like you see on "Field of Dreams," and circling the bases, and thinking: "I just did that." There was nothing like that feeling of getting perfect "wood" on the ball, meeting it right in the middle of the barrel of the bat...that feeling. You can't really describe it in words when you're 48. You have to be holding a Louisville Slugger tight and doing the hardest thing there is to do in sports, and just knowing you just connected with power. It was the thrill of that challenge on the mound of a baseball game and batting at the plate, that thrill of playing against guys like Don Mattingly when we were in high school, that thrill of watching my uncle play and then manage in the Majors, that thrill of throwing your first curve, that thrill of camaraderie with teammates and the occasional sleepovers and streaking in the middle of the night, and then the thrill of passing the game on to my own three sons and teaching Matt to throw by firing these big acorns on the ground at the trunks of Redwoods in San Francisco, watching their eyes light up when they put on their uniforms, and today the thrill of knowing we just shattered the Spring Training attendance record and will unquestionably blow away another overall MLB attendance record on our way to more than 80 million fans in 2008.

Today was not about running. It was about Kosuke Fukodome introducing himself to Cub fans in a legendary way. It was about Ernie Banks’ statue being unveiled outside Wrigley. It was about Johan Santana dominating in his Mets debut. It was about the Nats going 2-0. It was about Jake Peavy dealing. It was about hearing your favorite broadcasters and their comforting voices. It was about all the pageantry of Opening Day...and watching managers and players going about their work, knowing in their own minds that it is just 1 of 162 on the schedule, not really caught up in what fans get caught up in. It is knowing how to be even keel in life, not too high over a victory over too low over a loss, exactly the kind of even keel attitude that gets you through a World Series. It is having faith in people around you and having confidence in yourself.

This was about Opening Day and trying to look at everything in a new way, reminding yourself of what's possible -- ANYTHING. The world. The Red Sox want to repeat. The Cubs want to finally win it all. The Yankees want to close out their Stadium in style. I want my book to be published in every language and be a bestselling author around the world, with everyone picking up their copy of "Trees and Numbers" and wondering what my next book is going to be about. (It will happen.) I want to run a 5-hour marathon this Sunday and then come back with a strong New York City Marathon this fall. I want to fall in love again. I want to see my boys grow into amazing men who make a difference and appreciate life. I want to do more things for people who are less fortunate than me, like my father and my grandmother taught me. I want to play pitch-and-catch again. I want to feel the world move under my feet.

Today I had to deal with the annoyance of my brand-new Blackberry Curve going on the DL. Not a good thing at all. Bought it off Amazon, so AT&T won’t swap it out at the store. You don’t want to deal with Amazon CS. Especially on Opening Day. Especially during Marathon Week. A wonderful person gave me some great advice at the end of this Opening Day: "Focus on the marathon at this point in time -- don’t worry about the Blackberry!"

I am going to follow that advice.


I had the world's longest to-do list on this day, and I focused on knocking off everything at the top and tough-luck for anything I could not get to. Sometimes that's just how it is. You can only do so much some days. This was one of those days. Unfortunately, I did not get in a final gym workout to do leg presses especially for my quads on this day, but duty called. We have just relaunched an incredible, free blogging community and are making constant upgrades in conjunction with blogger input, and I am updating folks in the community blog there. What an Opening Day Week this has been. Great challenges and great excitement.

It was another late 1-2-3 subway ride home, and I made midnight scrambled eggs and toast and ate a big naval orange from the corner market. Not real healthy, but this was a survival day. The last 24 hours, my left Achilles tendon has hurt more than ever. That is due to the 10K that I ran all-out on Sunday and the fact that I did not RICE (rest/ice/compression/elevation) it in the next two days. I iced it right before I went to bed on Tuesday night, though.


I caught up on some sleep. The last thing I want to be is sleep-deprived for the St. Louis Marathon on Sunday. That's the one thing you can't fix with training. Then despite 25-mph winds and another freezing wind chill, I ran to Central Park for my final "regular" run. I wore the same gray Adidas shorts with red stripes that I am going to wear for the marathon, because I am used to them. The cardinal rule is this for a marathon: Do not wear anything new, do not introduce any foods in the week before, do not deviate from routine other than the obvious decrease in mileage in the previous week. I also wore a light long sleeve tech shirt and my Mizuno windbreaker. It was just right. I had a nice, easy 5-mile run. I walked on occasion.

My Achilles was very stiff during the jog from my place to Central Park. As usual, it loosened up after I stretched and got it warmed up for a mile or so. It was OK the rest of the way. This is what I am expecting in the marathon. The big X-factor is how my Achilles will respond when I start getting up to serious mileage. I have no gone 20 other than the NYC Marathon, and I will just have to battle if it causes a problem. The good news is that I have never had any more plantar fasciitis since the NYC Marathon. Dear Achilles: Be Strong on Sunday!

Thanks for my friend Laurie for asking if I have my marathon clothes "laid out" yet. I honestly had not thought much about it. I know I will wear the gray shorts. I know I will wear the new socks and green Brooks Glycerines that I got from Fleet Feet in St. Louis in February. But what about above the waist? Today I decided that I am going to STAY with the Team for Kids lime-green race singlet. They gave me another one that is brand-new last fall, and since I have not worn that yet, I am going to wear it for the STL Marathon. I am not raising $ for them this time, but I still believe in the cause itself and am proud to wear the TFK colors and stand for their mission of helping kids through running. One thousand of us NYC/TFK runners last fall raised $3.5 million to the cause. The money goes toward programs that help fight childhood obesity and give them a way to stay fit when their environment makes that hard. So many inner-city, cash-strapped schools cut phys ed programs and other important facts of life that some of us take for granted. I feel sorry for kids who don't naturally have that outlet to exercise during a typical day, and it's great to see the Mighty Milers and other running programs that include those kids, and I will be back in the green to keep spreading the word.

I will wear a white short-sleeve underneath it, and a regular race hat. Once again, I will have someone write my name in magic marker all over my body. There won't be as many fans as with NYC Marathon, and I want them to know who they are yelling for. Any pick-me-ups are huge!

I can't wait (!) to see my sons at the finish line. That is what will make me run 26.2 miles. That is by far the most important reason I will be pushing myself when my body says no. No way is Dad going to stop short of the finish line. And hopefully I will be there in 5 hours. Anything in the 5s will be good, but 5 hours on the nose is my goal. Back to baseball work...


Just checked the weather and it will hit the 60s on Sunday. Cool start, perfect conditions. There have been lots of well-wishers, and I appreciate the support.

I am caged tiger right now. I am ready to pounce. I am ready to attack. It is not safe to stand in my way.


Yesterday was Getaway Day for many Major League players following their first series of the season, and today is Getaway Day for me. Finally time to pack this morning, did 100 crunches/situps, pushups/sideups, and the best part was going through my taekwondo warmups and just kind of meditating while I stretched on the floor at my place. After eating swordfish steak, brown rice and about 20 brussel sprouts late last night, along with a couple of Amstel Lights (carbs, carbs, carbs), this morning I had oatmeal with my usual blueberries. I went to the office, settled in and then went downstairs and ordered pasta with mushrooms, along with a grilled chicken breast and two whole wheat bread twists from Amy's Bakery. I got four bottled waters out of the MLB cafeteria machine, and right now I am on my third. Today I will drink 120 or so ounces of water, and 140-150 on Saturday. I am a human bio-break right now, hydrating city. I have also had a nutrition bar and some grapes. I am putting on pounds over the next two days to build my own internal powerhouse, with all of the reserves I will need over the course of five hours running as a calorie/fat-burning factory. I will lose at least a dozen pounds on Saturday.

I packed the following: two pairs of running shorts and two running shirts, as I haven't decided yet what to wear and will have more time once I'm settled into St. Louis. My Brooks shoes and socks, my white Asics wristbands (they helped in the NYC Marathon), anti-fog sunglasses, three running hats as I will decide which one on Saturday night, a warmup suit to put into my raceday baggage check, my Crocs so my feet get a break afterwards, a few changes of clothing, several of those little packets of salt to carry with me on raceday. I will pick up some things at the Marathon Expo as well. I need a couple of GU gels because I don't think I can put them in my carry-on bag. They are going to hand out Powergels at Miles 14 and 23, but from what I have experienced so far, the "good stuff" often is gone by the time the runners in the back half of the feed get to those mile markers. Just look at what happened last fall in Chicago, where so many runners had to stop because they ran out of water. I will pack some broken-up pretzels in a small saran-wrap bag that I will safety-pin to my shorts, because I will need lots of salt.

So far so good. In a major scrambling mode so just wanted to post a quick update. Will be in St. Louis in a handful of hours. So long for now...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Trees and Numbers

I just spent five years writing a magnum opus called "Trees and Numbers." This past week, I was tacking all of my running bibs onto my wall next to my six-foot-tall print of Central Park, and it just hit me again. Trees and Numbers. Welcome to my world. 9 days till St. Louis Marathon.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Colon Cancer Challenge 15K photogs managed to get one pic of me at last weekend's NYY Colon Cancer Challenge 15K at Central Park. It was crossing the finish line. I thought I would post it as part of my ongoing evolution of the body.

Take a good look at this picture, and you also will get a pretty good understanding of why I am about to knock over the publishing world with the book "Trees and Numbers" -- a magnum opus five years in the making!

It's nothing but Trees and Numbers. Just like everything else around you. Baseball. Chocolate. Anything digital. The postal/delivery services. Business. Life. Everything starts with Trees and Numbers...coming soon.

That time shown here was the gun time; my net was 1:37. I would have been easily under 1 1/2 hours for those 9.3 miles, but my intention was to add-on so that it would be a long training run of about 18-20 miles. What you don't see here are 40mph wind gusts and 22 degrees wind chill. I was wearing three shirts and I toughed it out with shorts. All I could think of at this point was: Starbucks.

Mr. Clean

OK, I have exactly three weeks until my second 26.2 at the St. Louis Marathon, so it’s about to get real serious around here as I am going to be immersed in visualization and corework and carb-loading and heart and soul -- while mainly focused on my Major League Baseball profession and getting ready for Opening Day, not to mention hosting my son and his girlfriend next week, and dating, all the while shopping my new, future-bestselling, 255-page magnum opus book manuscript "Trees and Numbers." So in the meantime, I just thought I would blog about something that really is my life: Washing my running gear.

I know that this blog is going to be one that other runners will relate to. I do not trust my running gear to any washing machine or any cleaner. I have paid a lot for it, but more importantly I have run a lot in it. These are the articles of clothing that truly tell time for me, that were there with me as I transformed my life in every way imaginable -- from an overweight smoker to a marathoner in the last 15 months. They are there for me when the windchill has been down around zero, and they are there for me when the heat index is around 100.

So this morning was laundry time, meaning fill up a few washing machines downstairs in my Upper West Side apartment and then in the meantime wash my running gear in the kitchen sink. First of all, here are two products that I swear by. Not that Accelerade has anything to do with laundry, but I use it before/after every run and it sits right there by the sink. So on top of it I put a bottle of Sport-Wash, which is the only thing I use for my running gear. As with everything else, I had to find out certain little things along the way, and that includes the fact that you never wash your tech/wicking gear in regular laundry detergent and never use fabric softener. I used Woolite for a while before I found out about Sport-Wash. It kinda stinks, but it takes the stink out of your gear and it leaves the all-important chemical elements that aid moisture control.

I usually wash about five or six items and then empty the cold sinkwater and then add more cold water and another capful and then wash another five or six items, etc. After a while the water starts getting pretty dingy. I am sure that is partly some coloration, but I think of all that sweat and I’m just kind of fussy on not using the same dirty water after a while. Each time I empty the water, I then rinse out and wring those items. Each one I then put on a hanger and leave them to dry on my shower rod in the bathroom.

For the most part, this all works very well. But this morning I had a slight glitch. Below is my long-sleeve Team for Kids tech shirt that I paid for while training and fundraising (thanks again, all who helped!) for my last New York City Marathon.

In the month following that marathon, I took a blue marker and wrote "5.5" on the lower-back of that shirt, to wear during that memorable day when runners everywhere were asked to run 5.5 miles as a tribute to Ryan Shea, who collapsed and died near the Boathouse at Central Park while 5.5 miles into the U.S. Olympic Men’s Marathon Trials there the day before my NYC Marathon in November. I even put an "R" inside the first 5 and and "S" inside the second 5 as my own little tribute to Ryan, and I remember that day finishing up my 5.5-mile run at the Boathouse and sitting on a rock and saying a prayer for him. I just thought about all the miles he had logged, all the passion he put into it, all the good he did and the loved ones he left behind. Well, today the blue ink decided it would run, too. I’ll still wear it, but now mainly as an inside-layer shirt when it’s cold. What can I say, I’m a dude.

The more running gear I acquire, the harder it is to find places to let it all hang dry. Wherever I can find a doorhandle, that’s where I hang my knit caps, like the one in the second picture below. I actually took that pic sideways so it really is hanging down and sopping wet. It will smell really good when I run in it.

How do I feel whenever I put on my running gear and go out to train for a marathon or a half-marathon? I am really happy! Does anyone else get this excited about washing their running gear? I love running!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Way I See It

One month till the St. Louis Marathon. I am psyched. I can do this.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

St. Louis Marathon Long Training Run

Today I ran around everything you see here (post-Towers), this time covering a lot more ground. Thursday will be the one-month mark until the St. Louis Marathon, my second 26.2 and one I am determined to win.

(Not really, but you know me.)

This run totaled about 15-16 miles, I don't really know. It felt like 25 degrees when I started, with 16mph winds, and it would get up to feel like about 30. I ran for four hours. I wore tights, running shorts over those, and three layers of longsleeve technical shirts, knit cap, sunglasses to block the wind as well as the sun, and of course my clear Breathe-Right Strip.

Once again, I started out by running West from my Upper West Side brownstone (see Central Park at the top, I'm just to left), over to West End avenue and turning South. Then I turned right on 42nd Street, and once I got to the Hudson River highway I hung a left and proceeded South along the running/bike path that takes you all the way down to Battery Park, as far as you can go in Manhattan.

It is really cool to run past Chelsea Piers. I found a deli close by where I could run in and grab a Gatorade. I took two Powergels with me today, and two packets of salt. Today as I got near Ground Zero, I was not attacked by a deranged homeless drifter. That is what happened to me last Saturday. That day, this guy waited for me to pull up even with him and then stuck out his arm and tried to clothesline me, with an evil Charles Manson glare; I believe he was having a Vietnam flashback. It was really freaky, something that stayed with me all week. If he had a weapon I would have needed my taekwondo senses immediately, which I used anyway, blocking his arm outside-in and then continuing to run. I honestly was very close to wanting to kill him, because it was a dangerous thing to do, whether you are a deranged homeless drifter or a normal person. I shouted to him "Dude, don't ever do that, you could totally die." I know I should have just thrown him money or ignored him but when someone tries to clothesline you as you are FIVE MILES INTO A TRAINING RUN your first instinct is to want to make sure the person knows you considered killing him.

But today, fortunately, he was not there. I ran on to Battery Park without adventure. Then I proceeded along the south coast of the island, past the Staten Island Ferry, past the American Indian Museum (not the politically correct "Native American" by the way...I am a native American, and so I never liked that PC term), and to the South Street Seaport. This was my first time there.

In that general vicinity, I snagged a bottle of Poland Springs from a street vendor. I downed several swigs, and then saw a homeless guy sitting there just shivering. I really wanted to do more for this guy. I think it was not so much the cold as his body was convulsing. I went over and gave him the still mostly full bottle of water. I mean, there aren't water fountains anywhere.

I bailed off to go into Pier C to get a bottled water. Benazir Bhutto once told the NY Times that she always liked to go to the SS Seaport, and that is why I have always wanted to go there. It was INCREDIBLE. I can't wait to go back when it warms up; they have a raw bar, just a beautifully scenic part of Manhattan I'd not seen. There was an Internet cafe, and I handed over a few bucks to get an Internet connection so I could email someone where I was.

I stretched and resumed running, proceeding on up North along the FDR, bordering the East River (which stinks), and here's where my long training run was really good. There is a park not far from the Williamsburg Bridge that contains a quarter-mile tartan-surface running track, with a pristine, perfect grass soccer field inside it. So I ran a mile and a half there, 400 uptempo x 400 conversational, and after I was done running, I plopped onto the verdant, dry, perfect grass and proceeded to stretch and do crunches. Then I did planks. Then I did side-pushups. It was nice to get a FULL workout on this day.

I returned to the path running up alongside the FDR and there was a running path almost the entire way. ALMOST. That is when I ran into some danger. This was more dangerous than the Deranged Homeless Psycho Drifter. There was a fence up ahead, and I should have bailed at the 34th Street Tunnel -- or around the NYU Hospital. That area. Instead, I kept going past a little opening in the fence, determined that there must be a running path somewhere. Because to this point, ALL OF MANHATTAN had ample running room along the rivers or harbor.

Then I found myself in No Man's Land, with fast-speeding traffic right next to me, crazy New York City cabbies, and I am running along a 1 1/2-foot wide elevated curb. I am just hoping that no cars clip me from behind. On my right, at one point I looked down and there was car paint -- where bumpers had veered into the curb that keeps cars from falling into the East River. That river was immediately to my right, so I had about a foot and a half of LIFE PROTECTION between insane drivers to my left and the East River to my right. I was playing the odds and don't plan to ever do this again.

I ran like that for about a quarter-mile, concentrating like I have never concentrated before. Finally, after the United Nations building, there was a 6-foot iron fence on my right, and I scaled it, and then dropped down into this little park setting. I walked to my right to find the stairs that went up and over the FDR Expressway, onto 51st Street and over to First Avenue. I was alive.

Then I ran to Central Park. At Columbus Circle, I hailed a taxi because my left Achilles tendon was starting to hurt again. I had pushed through with it for a while but it's just training and I had to use common sense a little bit. I got home, and immediately got into a hot bath, cranking Classic Rock on the TV. I know, it should be an ice bath. I will save that for the marathon. Then I iced my Achilles and took some Advil.

It was a GREAT run today. I especially liked the track park. Do you know what was REALLY great? While I was walking away from that track, there were about eight squirrels running around, and all of a sudden, they were all stopped, just staring at me. They came a little bit closer. For that one fleeting moment, I felt like Bambi or something. These squirrels thought I was some kind of God of the Squirrels. "Look, it's a new person!"

I would rather squirrels come after me than Deranged Homeless Psycho Charles Manson Vietnam-Flashback Drifters.

This is my city. This is my blog. This is my St. Louis Marathon Long Training Run.