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...

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