Wednesday, July 30, 2008

5 Days Till Beijing Trip

MLB/Olympics Trip: The Trading Deadline is Thursday so we have been a beehive of activity with deals and rumors galore. Then my attention turns to the Summer Olympics, where I will be working throughout for MLB as baseball/softball make their last stand as an Olympic sport. Major thanks to The New York Times, which came out with an Olympics edition of Taxi Cards, available at Today I eagerly accepted my own set, all 1 x 2 1/2-inch flash cards on a keyring. All you have to do is show the appropriate one to a local in China -- especially good for taxi drivers, obviously -- and you're set. Flip to Forbidden City, Beijing Zoo (pandas), Great Wall (at Simatai or Badaling), Olympic venues (including Wukesong Stadium, which will be my "office" for most of August with USA Baseball Team), etc. I am also gradually learning key Mandarin useful phrases. "Thank you" is "shay shay." "Cold beer" is "bing pee-jo." "I don't understand" is "wo-ting boo-dong." This was a very good day on that front. Thursday I see a doctor for my shots. I am pretty much good to go for non-stop flight from Newark on 8/5. Opening Ceremonies are 8/8/08 (8 is lucky in Chinese custom, which is why it starts on that date), and Closing Ceremonies/Men's Marathon are 8/24. I depart Beijing 8/25. For the second time in three days, a friend or colleague who runs marathons advised me to avoid running outside there at all costs or risk Black Lung. It is apparently that bad. This time it was someone based in Colorado who runs lots of Ultras and wins lots of events. I hate the thought of dreadmilling it for three weeks. It is not going to be pretty for Olympic runners, especially the marathoners. The big difference is that this is their be-all, end-all. They "go for the gold" no matter what, then whatever consequences are their own. Me, I am following an 18-week training program and am on a track to gradually lower the times of my first three marathons from 6:08 (plantar fasciitis/NYC) to 5:21 (St. Louis this April) to 4:45 (goal).

Marathon Training: Today I proved again to myself that you can have a bottle of Merlot at night and then put up your strongest workout the next morning. I looped Central Park, including two interior loops of the Reservoir, bailed off in the grass across from The Met and blew through 70 crunches, planks and my PT stretching like it was nothing. I left 2002 Merlot sweat all over the park, felt wonderful, and mega productive afterwards. This Saturday I am in the New York City Marathon Long Training Run #1 at Central Park, treated just like a race event except that it is unscored, and the mile signs are posted for just the first 5 miles. There are four loops for those who run the full 20 proscribed miles, and it's 16 if you run 3. I will run 16 miles, and then will make a judgment call on whether to go up to 20. I did 16 in this last year and it was my last run of feeling good before a series of injuries set in and impacted my marathon debut.

Trees and Numbers: Rejected today by a literary agent who had been so interested in my book proposal that she was thinking about it during a recent road trip and asked me for the full manuscript via email. Within 24 hours she reported back that it didn't match the intrigue of the proposal and wished me the best. That's how it goes. All you can do is keep networking and present yourself. No means not yet. Walt Disney was rejected by more than 100 bankers before someone finally saw the value in his theme-park idea. Another top lit agent is interested but wants me to write a baseball book first as the logical "rollout of a future author" given my platform on for millions of readers every day. I have a feeling that's where this is going, but I have been reluctant to start one from scratch because I spent five years on "Trees and Numbers" and want to give it everything I have with the agent search first. Ongoing ups and downs, today a down. That's when I remind myself that life is just Trees and the original street names in my hometown in Indiana. I thought about that again today as I passed a monolithic Sycamore near the NE corner of the Reservoir, along the East Drive run lane. I was about five miles into my run at that point. Everything in my consciousness right then is Trees and Numbers. One day there will be a book that tells all about it. Agent wanted.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

NYC Half Marathon presented by United Nations

Today was an historic occasion because I invented yet another major distance race in New York City. Yes, that's right. Following on the heels of the acclaimed Statues on Parade Marathon, today I invented the NYC Half Marathon presented by United Nations. "What is this?" you ask. "It sounds really international and big!" Truth be known, I was aced out of the field for tomorrow's NYC Half Marathon presented by Nike, the one I ran a year ago that goes from Central Park to Times Square down to Battery Park along the West Side, because I was busy working our Major League Baseball Draft in Orlando at the start of June and everyone was slamming the site to enter the Nike so I was too late to register and three begging attempts failed.

SO TAKE THAT! I made my own NYC Half today. Here's how it happened.

I left my Upper West Side apartment at 8:30 and ran Central Park. I was going to make it two loops (each 6.1 miles), making this long training run "my" Half for the weekend. At the end of one mile, as I ran counter-clockwise alongside The Boathouse, a familiar face with a humongous smile came running toward me on the outside, and it was Hoda from NBC's Today show. Almost exactly where I saw my friend nyflyergirl pass me a week earlier. (It's always someone!) Then while I was on the East side of the park at 90th Street, I decided to jog over to the NYRR offices in case they were open so I could beg a FOURTH time to get into the Nike field. It was closed. I decided that they might be dealing with registrations over at the Runner Experience at Niketown in the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, so I proceeded to run 30 blocks from 89th Street to 59th Street, and then went to Niketown. They were closed, not open for another half hour. I decided to run all the way to the East River, another mile-plus, and then maybe I would circle back to Niketown when they opened.

I got to the riverfront -- Sutton Place -- and at that point I was

So I decided to just run South along the East River and make this my "east" equivalent of the next day's Nike Half. I stopped for an occasional water along the way, twice for Gatorade. I had only one GU with me. I bobbed and weaved through traffic to get back to First Avenue, and that's what I took South. Then suddenly I remembered that I never have seen the United Nations building since I moved to NYC in 2005 from St. Louis, and I began looking for it. First I saw the Trump World Tower, and looking up from the base it seemed like it went right into heaven, its glass structure blending in with the blue sky on a gleaming sunny Saturday. Then I looked ahead of me and there was the skinny, domino-shaped structure where the entire world -- at least that which plays along with the rules -- is diplomatically centered. I loved seeing the U.N. building. All of the brass flagpoles that line the front were without flags on this day, but it still was breathtaking. The sign at the driveway gate said "Delegates Only." I began to think of how people see a negative connotation to having things "delegated" to them at work, but really what an honor it would be to have that responsibility delegated to you, representing your nation. Think about that the next time someone delegates something to you.

Back to my run...I continued on and grabbed a fast Poland Spring water bottle at a streetside deli, and then ratcheted up my time. I was doing 10-minute miles at that point. I cut over at 34th Street to the river again, and on my way South I came upon the track and field before the Manhattan Bridge. The perfect grass called me like a siren, and I stopped running and went to it and lay on it and I did 50 crunches, a couple of planks, was sweating buckets and loving it. It was great to be around so many runners and soccer players there. I went back out to the running path and made a beeline for South Street Seaport.

And that is where my NYC Half Marathon presented by United Nations reached its finish line.

I would like to thank everyone who made it possible. Kenya. England. France. Germany. South Africa. Japan. Turkey. United States. Canada. Mexico. Australia. Israel. Norway. Iceland. Italy. All of them. In 10 days I will be flying from NYC to Beijing non-stop to spend nearly three weeks on the other side of the world for the first time, and that international flavor is just what I needed right now. I am about to be totally immersed in the Summer Olympics. I will be with our U.S. Baseball Team most of the time, at all of their games at Wukesong Stadium, and I am especially looking forward to seeing the Men's Marathon on the morning of Closing Ceremonies. I am trying to learn some Mandarin. Whatever other events I see will depend on what the baseball players do -- I'll be going wherever they go, basically. It will be work for me every day, and I also will take advantage of it and I will run 30 miles a week there despite the smog.

After this NYC Half Marathon presented by United Nations was complete, I got two slices of Uno Pizza and two Budweisers at the South Street Seaport. Then I ventured through all of the knockoff-purse sellers, and then I went into Abercrombie & Fitch and bought a kickass muscle shirt that I will wear in Beijing. I also sprayed a little Fitch on myself because I knew I would smell bad on the 2 train from there back to the Upper West Side. Overall, I was really happy with my awesome day. I left home at 8:30 and I returned home at 1:30. Most of that time was running, a little corework, a little sightseeing, a little traffic-dodging, a very satisfying run.

I love inventing new races!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Next Stop Beijing

There is a fear of the unknown if you have never been to the other side of the world. Even though I will be around the U.S. Olympic Team (baseball) almost the entire time -- leaving Aug. 5 and returning Aug. 26 -- I am wondering what is in store for me in China. Mostly I am wondering how I will handle the basics of communication, if I will have taken with me everything I need, how I will handle something unexpected. And, yes, I am wondering about my training for the NYC Marathon. I need to be over 30 hours a week while I am there. All I hear about is the "black air." Do you say hell with it and just find running routes as a "laowai" (foreigner). If your hotel is good enough when you see it for the first time, do you consider mainly crosstraining on equipment instead? Could you risk messing up your lungs for ensuing weeks/months? Honestly I hope that when I am there, running will be a universal language...maybe I will meet friends simply through running. What if I go running and get lost and am 4-5 miles from the hotel? I know zero words and will not retain anything I learn now so no point sending me website pointers as some friends have. Maybe I make something similar to a pace bracelet with phonetic spellings? Have you heard about the propaganda posters? I am so getting one of those to bring back home. I am just waiting for the first Chinese person to ask me one of the eight Don't Ask questions. This morning I woke up thinking about everything, kind of panicky, an excitement teeming with apprehension. I am going to Chinatown and just ask people: What are the absolute musts I should know going there in less than two weeks? The Opening Ceremonies, the Closing Ceremonies, the Olympiad, it will be a beautiful thing. But I'm there to work, I have to be efficient, I have to avoid winding up in their prisons or lost or whatever other nightmares I've had.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Run for Central Park 4M

I mainly focus on marathons here, but I just wanted to say how good it felt to get back in the groove with a Central Park weekend race as part of my NYC Marathon training. The All-Star Game was awesome and at the same time 24/7 work for several weeks, as my role at MLB meant responsibility for a lot of the voting and content leading up to and through the events. I had no chance whatsoever on the training week for several days...I just wanted to sleep.

Saturday morning at 7:30 I woke up and realized there was a race in an hour a block away at Central Park. The heat index was already in the 80s at that point. I threw on the Breathe-Right strip, iPod on left arm, sleeveless Underarmor, shorts, Balegas and Brooks and was out the door for same-day registration. It was a breeze, I got into the 9-minute pace group, and I had one of my best races since joining NY Road Runners. My time was 38:13 and my pace 9:33. It was a little off my 4M PR, but we were going counterclockwise, meaning running up Cat Hill, and also factoring in the heat index I was very happy with this time.

I'm back on I just have to figure out how to train hard throughout my trip to Beijing Aug. 5-26 to work the Olympics for us.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Statues on Parade Marathon

Click here
for my MLBlog about my Statues on Parade Marathon that I ran through New York City on the Fourth of July -- combining my love of running with seeing all 42 of our MLB Statues of Liberty on Parade. They are 10-foot replicas of the real Statue of Liberty. I ran from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and made lots of friends along the way. It could not really duplicate a true marathon because of the starting and stopping, but the net effect was pretty close, and the chafing was the worst (no fluid stations). Can you believe the Cubs statue is right next to the entrance of our New York Stock Exchange? That had better be a good omen for the economy! It was a little freaky if you know what I mean. Thank you to my friends at the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation for assisting me in escorting me right past the line and onto the boat! Hope everyone had a wonderful Fourth. These were the fifth and 42 statues I saw...go see all of them and experience New York City like never before!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Statues on Parade/Fourth of July 20M Run

This just in: Yours truly will combine an ING New York City Marathon training run with work on the Fourth of July and blog on about running to see all 42 of the awesome Statue of Liberty All-Star scale models that are positioned throughout NYC for our Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities. I will even be wearing red, white and blue running gear to see the Statues on Parade.

I have decided to call this one-person race the:

Statues on Parade 20M Run

This is going to be...HARD!

Here is the map, so you can see where they are positioned. I am planning to start at Yankee Stadium because there is one up there in The Bronx. My challenge is to run from there back down to Manhattan. At that point, I will be zigzagging like crazy, stopping to photograph every one with my Canon A540 that I will pack in my fuel belt along with a notepad. I also will talk to people who are admiring each of the statues, to show how awesome these are. I also will need to pack extra batteries. I will have four filled fluid containers on the belt.

Then the final trick in my gameplan was being able to get onto a boat to finish my tour on Liberty and Ellis Islands, because an All-Star Game version is on each of those islands. That's where it will end, with 41 and 42. Then I will get back over to Manhattan and take a train up to Upper West Side, where I can shower and then start uploading and blogging.

UPDATED 11:30 A.M. THURSDAY: Great news! The wonderful people of The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation have arranged so that these wobbling legs will be able to walk right onto a boat to see 41 and 42 -- including the ultimate Statue of Liberty herself in all her majesty. Please visit to learn all about Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. And please consider purchasing one of the great 9" replicas of these Statues on Parade masterpieces. It's a miniature of a miniature! A portion of the proceeds of the sale of these replicas in the Shop will benefit the Foundation, which preserves this important United States history. So you can help out by getting involved. In fact, my run is going to be a challenge for others to go get a 9" replica and thus help the Statue of Liberty herself!

Not only that, but now you also can OWN any of those 42 8 1/2 foot statues that I will be seeing on my run. They are up for bidding through July 18 at the Auction. The bidding starts at $5,000 each, and net proceeds go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America -- MLB's official charity.

Make sure to check out Then will link to my MLBlog, and we will show everyone why they have to see these in NYC and enter the Statues on Parade sweepstakes to show yourself with a statue. Above and to the right is an example of what these look like. We got the Detroit Tigers statue at our offices, so a passerby was kind enough to take a crappy cell phone pic of me next to it this week just to give you an idea of the scale size. The Fourth of July pics will be a lot better!

Here is the original story I wrote as the announcement of Statues on Parade. I have only seen the Tigers version "in person" so far so I am looking forward to this. (Update: today I also saw the Orioles version out front of Modell's Sporting Goods at Sixth Avenue and 18th Street. They are un-be-lievable. If you are in NYC, be sure to check them out, too! Happy Fourth of July!

- Mark