Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Book: Finishing My Ultimate Marathon

This weekend I completed TREES AND NUMBERS at last! I started it on February 1, 2003. I now humbly present a book manuscript that is 263 pages long, divided into 10 chapters and an Epilogue. Sprinkled throughout the MS are 75 contributions from acquaintances in life on every continent over those 5+ years. This is my own personal finish line for something that has been my passion during a comeback from the tech bubble that quaked my world, and to some extent it doesn't matter whether it is a worldwide bestseller translated into many languages or it sells one book. But anyone who knows me knows that I am determined to dance across the finish line and not just cross it. Now I am working on the book proposal and next step is to find the best agent on my contact list who believes completely in me and my own marketability as a longtime writer for major magazines and major daily newspapers, a distinguished tech company founder, and now in my seventh year as a regular voice for millions of users each day at I am ready to take the next step just as a runner does, and I don't care how many hills I face. A famous author once told me to "make sure your best book is your first" -- and I never have forgotten that and hope a major publishing house will see it that way. I appreciate every one of my friends and family who have believed in me along the way, and now it is time to honor those original streets in my boyhood town curiously named for 12 indigenous tree species on one direction and the numbers 1-10 in the crossing direction. Everything in life from Baseball to Running to Chocolate to Digital to Parenting to Book Readership (what is a book?) and Business Leadership starts with Trees and Numbers, and the story can be told. Hopefully it will be as interesting to other people of today -- and to readers of the future -- as it has been for me to research and to write it. This is my own magnum opus and for better or worse it is what I have to say.

Where this book took me:

+ To the Giant Sequoias to research their secrets of immortality;
+ To the Hillerich & Bradsby/Louisville Slugger Museum in KY;
+ To the Joshua Tree forest just like U2
+ To the finish line of the New York City Marathon;
+ To the Hershey Chocolate World factory tour;
+ To Route 66 and the history of the greatest teamwork lesson ever
+ To Fenway Park and New England's fabulous fall color show
+ To native lore and love at little Tucumcari, New Mexico
+ To Miami's Fifth Street Gym and an amazing phone call from Muhammad Ali
+ To Central Park and its 26,000 glorious trees in every season
+ To the shores of Lake Erie skipping stones
+ To the original streets of Evansville, Indiana, and its libraries/museum
+ To countless leadership books and on a philosophical journey
+ And, thanks to my special contributors, places all around the globe

During the course of this work, I had to change a sentence about the cost of a postage stamp not once, but twice. It was 37 cents when I first entered the sentence in 2004, then 39, and now 41. Less than one hour into my 2/1/03 drive West that began everything, I heard on the radio as the Space Shuttle Columbia broke apart during re-entry; by the end of the work, I was honored to be friends with a NASA astronaut who spent a long time on the International Space Station. During the course of this work, I went from overweight smoker to whom things happened to a marathoner making things happen.

Stay tuned! Nothing is handed to you. If you believe in yourself and follow your passion, I believe good things will happen. Maybe this will be a seminal work in literary history! Maybe it will be my great white elephant and I have just wasted half a decade! That is the thrill in it all. Just have a goal, enter the race, make things happen, and live it. Start and Finish. I have some more work to do now!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

St. Louis Marathon: Thick Wit It!

6:08 finish at the 2007 ING New York City Marathon last November, my injury-plagued 26.2 mile debut.

5:21 finish today at the 2008 St. Louis Marathon on the hilliest/toughest course I know.

4:?? at the 2008 ING New York City Marathon on Nov. 2.

I am going to hire a research firm to see if they can detect a trend...

Loving every moment right now, have incredible pics of my weekend with my awesome crew including my 20-year-old son Matt and his girlfriend Amanda, my 16-year-old son Ben and his girlfriend Erica, and my 14-year-old son Josh. They were waiting at the finish line for me with cowbells and signs including "HEART OF A CHAMPION". They were my awesome 21.2 Pit Crew!

This was my second marathon, so this is my second marathon post. Here are the pictures and the words.


With my 14-year-old Josh:

After picking up my registration stuff at the Marathon Expo. The Arch says it all...

Ben (16) with Winthorpe (now 11):

Ben and Erica below. He swiped the Sleep Number gift from my Expo bag -- a sleep mask!

The crew:

I am so proud of my boys, and nothing new when Matt opened a letter waiting for him at the house. It was welcoming him to a national scholastic excellence organization after he made the Dean’s List this semester at the University of Missouri’s School of Finance. I was so proud when he opened it. He came over just for this race and had two tests on Monday and one on Tuesday, so I know it was a big sacrifice for him, and that’s how much we all love each other. I also got to see him study for Accounting and Marketing tests and am blown away by how organized he is, with his meticulous notes printed out and put into a binder that he studies, etc. So far beyond what I was doing in college. Love my guys.

Here is my temporary tattoo with splits for a 5 Hour Pace. This was AMAZING. I got it at the expo. Better than a pace bracelet. I repeatedly looked down at my forearm after Mile 20, when I was on my own, to gauge how well I was keeping up with my pace.

My motel room the night before. I decided to go with the orange look:

We had our own Pasta Party at the boys’ house. I made fettuccini with alfredo sauce and bowtie pasta with red sauce, and everyone mixed and matched. Josh gave me the lowdown on Hakeem tha Dream and why I had to download THICK WIT IT from iTunes, so it was a powersong now, too. Here it is:

The pasta party was better than the official Pasta Party downtown. I went back to my motel room and got to sleep at 12:40 a.m.


Miles 1-16

I slept 4 hours, waking up at 4:40. I got down to the Union Station area at 6, and the race started at 7. I checked my bag with everyone else inside City Hall, an amazing scene of runners. Then I hit the portapotty and looked for Molly. She had been at the table at the Expo the day before, and I had signed up to be part of the 5 Hour Pace Group that she would be leading.

There were maybe 20 of us in that group. We started out great. It was an indescribably beautiful St. Louis spring day, as Mizzouri Governor Matt Blount -- who was running on a marathon relay team -- pronounced to runners. We ran toward the Arch and the sunrise, just gorgeous. Then we hung a right and proceeded South all the way to the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. If you’ve ever been to St. Louis, you know what an institution this is. The huge BUDWEISER sign at the top tells you where the King of Beers is based. This is it. The greatest beer by sales and Super Bowl commercials. I will get way ahead of myself here and let you know that 200 meters before the finish, I was handed a beer by volunteers, who said, "Don’t worry, you will be fine. Drink it."

We then circled back north toward Market Street, and then came a long trek West. The course went through many iconic St. Louis areas, including the Purina HQ, Barnes Jewish Hospital, Washington University, and more. There were cowbells everywhere, and I had bought two for my crew. They were selling them at the Expo, at a booth called "26.2 Pit Crew." People: You HAVE to get some 26.2 Pit Crew stuff at your next Expo. Everytime I heard a cowbell, I remembered the Saturday Night Live skit and yelled, "More cowbell!" I cheered for other runners. I shouted repeatedly: "I LOVE HILLS!!!!" I was total energy man. That was for the first 15-16 miles, and that even included going through Forest Park, a 3 1/2-mile stretch that I had absolutely feared leading up to this event.

Here is a picture during the first half. That's Molly on the right. You can also get a good view of my pace tattoo! I look like hell, and I had halfway to go! But damn I felt great.

Miles 16-26

Molly said at one point, "I’m not letting you go." Our pace group had winnowed down to a handful halfway through. She was a couple of minutes ahead, and I had visions of a 4:58 or so. I was so psyched. She was doing a great job, and I appreciate pace runners because her PR is like 3:20. I am sorry to say that I lost sight of Molly and the rest of them once we got into Clayton. That is where the bubble burst on my 5 Hour time. That is where I realized that the second half of this marathon was the hilliest one I have heard about anywhere.

Once we were at the extreme edge of Clayton, I was the farthest away from the finish line at any point on the course, and I stared at this LONG and STEADY incline ahead of me on Delmar Boulevard, and my courage was tested right then and there. I tried to run. I got lightheaded. I stopped briefly at a med tent, and they let me sit there for a few minutes, gave me Gatorade, I stood up, lubed with vaseline on chest and thighs, tried to run, then got wicked right calf cramping. That was a hard mile or two of pure survival. I tried to run but it was heavy walk-run-walk. I lost 10 minutes in that area of the course.

It never got a whole lot easier. We ran through University City. I was in a battle of wills at that point. Spectators were few and far between. An occasional band. It was the opposite of the NYC Marathon with its 2 million spectators. After I lost the pace group, it was me against myself. Strike that: It was me supporting myself. I stayed positive.


Others have disagreed with me, but I have now said after both of my first two marathons that I think the term THE WALL is bullshit. The wall has nothing to do with it. I think it is a cop-out, even. It is about training, about building up quads, etc. My arms were getting tired, something I thought of often. I needed to do more arm work. If you are a positive person, there is no such thing as a wall.

The fact that I was battling had nothing to do with a wall. The hills were testing my leg power. I never had any doubt that I would get there, and my goal was seeing my kids at the finish line. I was thinking about that. I was thinking about what dance I should do across the finish line. I listened to my iPod for the back half but not the front half. I passed and was passed by and passed and was passed by various strangers who I gradually got to know and chat with. It was a battle of hills and a battle of wills. Guess what, I made it.

My Achilles tendon was perfect. The last 3 miles were straight uphill, staring at the Arch in the distance the whole way. Forever. I got to Mile 26, and all I could think of was seeing Matt, Ben and Josh. Then I did. First I saw Matt, then Josh, holding up the big white "HEART OF A CHAMPION" sign. Then I saw Amanda, then Ben with Erica. They were making cowbell music. Then I took a slight left turn that led us into a 20-yard run through the Finishing corral.

For that whole stretch, I danced to Nelly’s Heart of a Champion. I overdid it big time just because. The announcer said, "And here comes Mark Newman, from New York City!" THAT IMPRESSED ME! What other marathon does that for just some participant, spotting your bib number and looking you up and giving you that personal touch? As they said my name, I am jumping, pumping my fists in the air, dancing, hopping, doing Nelly right since he’s a St. Louis guy. I was "S-T-L Derrty." I was a soldja, I thought I toldja. I just ran 26.2 miles. I literally fly across the chip mat, hoping my chip was not too high from the mat to record my time. They put a medal around me, I reunited with my crew, life was great.

There is a funny story about one of the photographers toward the end. He stood in front of me and waited until the last split second to jump out of the way. I thought I was going to run him over, I swear. It was like I was Lance Armstrong and he was the motorcycle-cam right in front of him. Dude, I am not that fast!!! I'll bet you that will be an awesome running photo, though. If you like seeing death warmed over.


Here is what I consumed during the course of my second marathon:

I had a banana and a few bites of bread two hours before the race. I had a bottled water and a bottled clear sport drink. Sipped from each up until the race. Portapotty 15 minutes before start.

At midnight before the race, I bought a bag of pretzels and saran wrap at a Walgreen's. I was going to crunch them up and wrap them and then safety-pin that to the side of my shorts like a woman taught me at the Nike Half last August, but it was too bulky. So I just crushed a bunch and stuffed them into my left pocket. I munched on those throughout the race for SALT.

I also brought five little salt packets with me, the typical kind at a deli. They were in my right pocket. Before the race I broke one open onto my tongue and washed it down with water. I used them all up during the race. So between those and pretzels I was covered.

I was hydrated perfectly, and I had water and Gatorade at each available stop -- in moderation.

I took GU at miles 7, 14, 19 and 23. I might have even snuck one in somewhere else on the back half, as they were distributed at miles 14 and 23.


We took two cars back home, and Matt drove my rental SUV as I stretched out in the back and felt awesome.

I took an ice bath at the motel after dropping off the boys. I would appreciate it if someone can tell me how to really get through an ice bath. This time I lasted a little bit longer but it was quick. The first time I got in, I lasted one complete minute, counting every second to 60. Then I jumped out and the pain seared my legs. After a couple of minutes, I got back in. I lasted 20 seconds that time. So total 80 seconds. How do you last 5-10 minutes like they recommend? All I know is, it worked. It makes the soreness/inflammation less severe in recovery, so the following week is not as miserable. I noticed it right away.

Back at the boys’ house, I played basketball with my guys. "How are you running, Dad?" Josh asked me. I didn’t even know. I ran after loose balls. I tried to dunk on a goal dropped to 9 feet. I was loving life. We spent another great night together, and then I said goodbye to my dudes as Matt/Amanda headed back to college late that night and I went back to my motel for a Monday flight.

Next up for me, besides being the best I can be and even better at my awesome job in Major League Baseball, is putting together the proposal that is going to make my currently 255-page book manuscript an international best seller in every language and then screenplays and then me sailing around the world and living the largest life a man ever lived and being remembered. You can do anything. Just proved it again! You are whatever you think you are, you will be whatever you think you can be.

There were many times during these 26.2 miles when I looked down at my legs moving, and I thought to myself: How am I doing this? I never knew I could. There was a long and tortuous climb up Delmar Boulevard coming back from Clayton, and not only was the hill killing me, there was that calf cramp. Then the insides of both thighs just started doing something weird, twitching uncontrollably. I thought: What’s next? On that long stretch, I kept trying to put one leg in front of the other, walking, running, trying to run more, and eventually you are just continuing to run and you get back into a zone for a while and you aren’t really sure how your body keeps answering the call...but it does.

I love running. I am a multiple-marathoner now.