Thursday, February 27, 2014

Official ASICS LA Marathon Gear Pack

ASICS is expanding its reach into the influential running blogger community, and it has been such a thrill ride to be part of their grassroots efforts with the new ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge Team. I have previously told you about many of the benefits, and last night after a long day at work I came home to one of the latest examples. It was a care package on my front steps, in advance of being flown across country next week to run in my first ASICS LA Marathon. This card was included in the box:

Well, I was super excited to open the box. In a recent post, I showed you a sneak preview of the new ASICS LA Marathon gear at the new ASICS Meatpacking District store in Manhattan, and I was leaning toward running the race in the Core Short Sleeve Tee. Lo and behold . . .


And this I RUN THIS CITY Tee is what I probably will wear for our scheduled light run that Saturday morning with Coach Andrew Kastor and some of the ASICS elite athletes . . .

And for a little warmth when needed, voila, Men's Favorite 1/2 Zip.

Even my English Bulldog King Bingley liked the box . . .

One of the items was quickly put to the test. I ran for 1:15 to Piermont Pier north of NYC along the partially frozen Hudson River, plus 5x strides (80% of maximum effort) with a base layer and the 1/2 Zip. It is incredibly soft and warm yet great moisture management and breathability. I love ASICS gear.

Now that I've been given the chance to feel what it's like being a sponsored ASICS athlete, I can show you how to enjoy it as well. From now through March, you can enter to win Gear for the Year from ASICS. You can enter one email address per day through March 31 for a chance to win, and the winner receives a $500 promo code each month for

10 days to the ASICS LA Marathon. 30-40 easy miles + 5 strides on today's training plan. Follow me @Marathoner on Twitter.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

5 Questions With Michelle Lovitt

ASICS Fitness Expert
Michelle Lovitt
ASICS Fitness Expert Michelle Lovitt has designed and implemented nutrition and exercise programs for professional and Olympic athletes as well as Hollywood elite including Lauren Graham, Courteney Cox, Mary-Louise Parker, Sean "Puffy" Combs, David Duchovny and Kiefer Sutherland. She is a terrific resource for beginning marathoners and beyond. You can follow @MichelleLovitt on Twitter, and with her kind permission I am sharing her replies to my questions:

Two weeks before a marathon, what should you be focused on with strength and nutrition?

Two weeks before I run a marathon, I taper back on strength training but don't cut it out all together. I just reduce the intensity, go with functional body exercise and cut back to twice a week.

Nutrition is so important, as I learned training for the NYC Marathon two weeks before race day during your taper. Be aware of your caloric intake because with the reduced mileage you don't want to gain weight before the race.

It is important to eat some type of carbohydrate within 30 minutes of finishing your run to ensure glycogen levels stay consistent. A few days before the race you can up your carbohydrate intake to increase and/or maintain glycogen levels for race day.

One week before a marathon, is it still all about carbs and water? What should a runner be thinking?

People tend to overdo a good thing a week before a marathon. Eat small meals throughout the day with a ratio of 60/20/20 carbohydrates to protein and fat. Three days before the marathon, increase your carb intake to roughly 70 percent of your diet. Water is always key in metabolism so make sure throughout the taper and the marathon you stay adequately hydrated.

How can better nutrition increase my chances of a strong finish and a PR?

Good nutrition is essential in any performance. To both do well in the race and feel good after, you need to properly nourish your body -- getting in enough water, salt, potassium, carbohydrates, good fats like avocado and small protein. Remember, and this is critical, that during this race body fat can only be utilized as an energy source when carbohydrates are available. If your body runs out of carbohydrates or glycogen (all stores, muscle and liver) you will bonk after 2 1/2 hours. Start with strong pre-race carb intake and use energy gels, Gatorade with a mixture of water. You want to keep the carbs coming so you can finish the race. Unless, of course, you are Ryan Hall or Deena Kastor; they are usually done way before their glycogen stores can be depleted!

A nutritionist at the last NYC Marathon Expo suggested drinking Gatorade at every station that serves it, instead of water, reasoning that it is also water but offers much more. How do you handle the fluid stations and in-race nutrition?

The best advice I was ever given was to stay ahead of the glycogen loss. I however do not recommend Gatorade at every station because the sugar content of Gatorade can be upsetting to my stomach (as well as many others). I alternate water and Gatorade at every station. Yes, every station. I also walk during the hydration stations to cause a bit of muscle confusion and allow my body to use different muscles. It is super helpful when you are going 26.2 miles -- those breaks give your muscles a chance to recover a little before picking back up running.

What is one secret every marathon runner should know that you have learned over the years?

DO NOT DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT the day of the race. Believe me, that is by far the biggest mistake I ever made, changing my routine the day of the marathon. You've done your long runs, you know what works for your body. Just make sure to stay hydrated, replace lost electrolytes with Gatorade or GU and you should run a great race.

What are your top strength and nutrition tips for marathons? Please feel free to add your own in the comments below.

Friday, February 21, 2014

ASICS LA Marathon Gear Is Here

Happiness is having a brand-new ASICS store a block away from where you work.
Our MLB Advanced Media HQ is at Chelsea Market in the famous Meatpacking District of Manhattan, and last night after work I put on my ASICS Storm Shelter gear on a cold and rainy night for a run down the Financial District. On the way, I stopped in for the first time at the ASICS Meatpacking District store on 14th Street, across from the Apple Store, and was blown away by what I saw front and center as their main display:

Hello, ASICS LA Marathon gear! Now in the taper of Coach Kastor's 12-Week Training Plan in our brutal NYC winter, it was a real treat to actually see the apparel in front of me. The big race is March 9, from Dodger Stadium to the sea at Santa Monica. It was cool to meet Winnie ("like Winnie the Pooh," she said) and Boris among the great staff in that ASICS location. I bought a new Long Haul Handheld Water Bottle for my run (water faucets are off) and a new pair of Everyday Liner Gloves, and then they let me take photos of these LA Marathon items that are available there for purchase -- an Expo sneak peak!

ASICS Gear Review

Here is the water bottle ($18) and the neon glove ($12) I bought for my run.

I love-love-love the elastic hand strap, which requires no adjustment buckle like some others I have used. That is the real highlight of it for me -- fits everyone. I have mostly used my Ultimate Direction Quick Draw handheld the last few years, a big upgrade on the bright yellow Nathan I started with in '07, and the one thing I do like about the UD version is the rubber top that releases only a small amount of fluid when you bite down. It took a while to get used to that one, but I would recommend it for future ASICS models. Overall, the ASICS handheld is very light, just the right size, more compact than any others I have used.

This winter has been especially hard on my glove supply. I am wearing them out, and they are in such constant use that I have misplaced them like never before. Can't find my awesome 2012 Harrisburg Marathon Expo registration gloves, can't find my old Sugois, just lost a Nike, and I only have one of the 2013 NYC Marathon ASICS Expo Five Borough gloves left that I wore in the race. So it was time for a new pair, and I went as bright and reflective as possible. When you run the West Side path down the Financial District to Battery Park, the problem is not cars, but bikes. These gloves gave me a little more protection, and the best part about all those little ASICS logos on the palm is that they are hard rubber and make it even easier to carry the handheld. These are the Liner models and they aren't too heavy, so my hands did not overheat. Between the gloves and the Storm Shelter Jacket, I was feeling just right.

Let's have a big hand for ASICS and their new NYC store!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Taper: The Downward Slope

Every marathon runner's favorite mammal
This is Week 10 of my 12-Week Training Plan provided by elite coach Andrew Kastor for the March 9 ASICS LA Marathon, and it also is the week that started our taper. I recently shared Coach Kastor's mental tips for marathon success, and with his kind permission I am pleased to relay the insightful advice he just shared today with the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger team on how to taper and finish in style. His words:

Now it is time to enjoy the marathon taper. What is "the taper," you ask? Well, it’s basically the last two to three weeks of your training program when you train less and rest more in preparation for your big race. Every great marathon-training plan has a taper phase -- of which the most common and effective length is 3 weeks. During this time you will allow your body to fully recover from the mental and physical demands of marathon prep by training less and resting more. This week's training volume should be about 20 percent less than last week's.

Things to keep in mind during your last 3 weeks of training (aka, the taper phase):

  • Avoid extremely hilly courses. We've already done plenty of hill training during our Saturday morning training runs, so you should feel confident sticking to flats from here on out.
  • Keep your caloric intake the same. Even though you're training less, that doesn't mean you should start eating less, too. You should actually gain weight (1 to 3 pounds) during the marathon taper. But don't freak out! This extra weight will consist of water (as you are not sweating as much), glycogen (sugar/carbs stored in your body), minerals and a little fat -- all of which will be used to get you to the finish line on race day.
  • Stay off your feet as much as possible. Rest your legs at any chance you get.
  • Hydrate well. Minimize your coffee and alcohol consumption, as they both can dehydrate you. By running less, you will have more energy, and if you drink a minimum amount of coffee, you will be able to sleep better at night and keep your body on a healthy cycle.
  • Be positive. Hang around positive people who are encouraging and supportive of your training and upcoming marathon.
Happy Tapering!

Coach Kastor is an elite coach in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and former 15-year competitive runner. His wife Deena Kastor is the Olympic medalist and holder of numerous U.S. women's records including marathon and half-marathon. Follow @CoachKastor and @DeenaKastor on Twitter. You can follow me @Marathoner.

How do you approach your own taper and what works best for you?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I Shall Protect This House

I was up early this morning to hit our BodyQuest gym with Rachel, and it was a terrific speedwork session with leg weights and core training. "Focus on supreme fitness," Coach Andrew Kastor, the coach for our ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge, told me on the phone last Friday. "Think one day at a time." It was exactly the workout I needed on another day when snow was falling yet again in the NYC area.

What I didn't expect was to basically work out much of the day. The same snow that has posed such a challenge in training for a beautiful Southern California marathon course on March 9 has caused serious problems for people in our area, and on this day I was in position to be potentially a victim.

We have a flat metal roof covering half of our deck behind our house, attached to the back of the house and supported around the edges by upright poles and braces. Last night, the Winter Advisory warning on my app suddenly mentioned that "flat roof collapses" are likely. Then the most respected meteorologist who I follow on Facebook reposted a list of symptoms for a possible flat roof collapse, and I saw at least three symptoms that applied to my deck roof. We were in trouble with wet snow on the way.

The roof was bulging in spots, with a couple of leaks. I told Lisa and Rachel to not walk under it, under any circumstances. The roof had nearly two feet of ice and snow covering it, bearing as much weight as possible. Someone walking under it could be crushed, pinned, a disaster waiting to happen. I returned from BodyQuest to defend my house. I didn't want to see a collapse, insurance claim and so forth, but most of all I wanted to make sure we have a safe home. That's my most important job as a homeowner.

Because I NEVER STOP IMPROVING, I went to Lowe's to buy lumber to make a T-frame for support. I got five 2x4x8s, could have used a couple more but time was of the essence, plus I had to get down to the city for work. I knew that temperatures were forecast to rise into the 40s in the second half of this week, but this was an emergency. I took the boards home, measured the distance from deck to roof in the center area. I nailed two of the 2x4s together so they would form the beam that goes longways against the roof, and the other three 2x4s would be the legs. I cut those with a hand saw in our dining room, went out to the deck and wedged the new T-frame in snugly so there would be no way it could collapse in the center.

With some assurance now in place, I then proceeded to start shoveling the exposed deck area, which had at least 2 feet of snow and an ice base. That was a long job and the second part of my workout, heaving shovels of ice and snow over the deck railing. Once I cleared out enough room to place a rug and my stepladder, I got onto the top step and began shoveling snow and ice from the top of the roof. What I saw made it even more surprising that the roof had not collapsed yet. I awkwardly hauled off seemingly a ton of snow and ice, clearing the gutter area, and that was just the left half of the roof. I have more to do tomorrow, but this seemingly has removed the crisis and prevented at least one more collapsed flat roof in our area.

Are you affected by the big snow this winter? Is the drought out West a serious problem for you?
19 days to the LA Marathon. Stay tuned...

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone. I have some thoughts about this special day:

1. It is a big day for me. After proposing to Lisa at the finish line of the 2009 New Jersey Marathon, we were married on Valentine's Day of 2010. We married at our church at the intersection of Valentine & Union. Our street is Valentine. We have 4 hanging hearts on the front of our house representing the beating hearts inside. That includes our English Bulldog King Bingley.

2. Running gave me the confidence to go out and discover true love. Finishing marathons made me strong and fit and made me feel that I could do anything. I was working the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing for MLB, and one day I went to the Ba-Da-Ling section of the Great Wall of China for a training run. I decided to sit on one step of the Wall, looking out over miles and the impossible expanse of the Wall before me into the mountains, and I spent an hour right there contemplating how it was constructed.

Then I went to see the Giant Pandas at the national zoo. And I began thinking: This is amazing,  but I am appreciating cool things like this alone too often. I decided then that when I returned to the States, I was going to find someone. So I got on, and a week or two later (after a few fails) I met Lisa for our first date at the Ocean Grill on Columbus on NYC's Upper West Side. I pretty much knew the minute she started eating from my plate and sharing a dessert that it was game on and now is happily ever after.

3. I believe there is someone for everyone, and I believe that if you are single you should thrive in your independence and completely know about yourself and who you are and who you want to be. Do things to improve yourself every day, and along the way -- if you so desire -- you will find suddenly and unexpectedly find someone who is perfect for you and your best friend.

4. Tonight I will take Lisa out for our anniversary dinner, and of course I had to make reservations at an Italian restaurant because I need PASTA before tomorrow's 19-mile training run at Central Park. It will be my last long run before starting my taper for the March 9 ASICS LA Marathon. The run will be broken up into four loops -- 3 5-milers (excluding the big north hill), then the inner 4-mile loop. I will do my best to simulate the pattern of fluid and GU and carbs taken during the marathon.

5. I am married to Lisa but I am not married to a finish time. At least not at the LA Marathon. This morning I had a great chat with Coach Andrew Kastor, whose expertise I relayed in my previous post here. He has been reaching out to the dozen ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Team members this week as part of the ongoing and invaluable coaching he has provided us as part of this incredible gig. Coach Kastor trains elite runners in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., and he told me the same thing he has told his elites who will run LA -- have an optimum time in the back of your head, but don't be married to it. It could be torrential rain, crazy winds, hot...or it could be sensational weather like last year. But brace for anything, and most importantly "train for supreme fitness" and then run your best based on what the climate will allow. It might be a day for PRs and it might be a day for survival...who knows?

6. I Love ASICS. I love my wife, but before our anniversary dinner I just wanted to say that. I started my running days on December 1, 2006, when I traded a full box of KOOLS for a box of ASICS in NYC, electing to change my life and become a runner instead of a smoker. I have amassed an insane amount of ASICS gear over the years and miles since, and I am usually in ASICS these days. I associate ASICS with running. And to survive this winter in NYC to train for LA, my ASICS gear has been indescribably important. It's not just about being a tough runner, it's about dressing right. Here was my Marathon de Paris gear the night before my 2012 race, as an example of how it usually goes down:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Mental Tips For Marathon Success

Being on the ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Team for next month's race has had many advantages, and one of them is being coached by Andrew Kastor, who trains Olympians and elite runners in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. It is a privilege, to say the least. I wanted to make sure running friends of mine might benefit from some of Coach Kastor's insights, so I am relaying these two mental tips:

1. Strengthen Your Mind

One of Coach Kastor's young runners, Gabe Proctor, is making his marathon debut in the LA race. They spent time looking over the course from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, and Coach Kastor told him to "imagine that the Pacific Ocean is a giant magnet, pulling him toward the finish line with growing strength as he nears the 26.2 mile mark.” Here is what Coach Kastor advises:

The goal is to create a feeling so powerful that the moment he thinks of the ocean, he starts to fall forward due to his subconscious mind having such a grasp on his physical being. The mind is a powerful thing, we all know this. Put it to work for you. Here are some ideas to help you through the last 3 weeks of training and ultimately the marathon.

1. Imagine the Pacific Ocean (or wherever your finish is) is calling you, pulling you towards it. Stand up, close your eyes, and visualize yourself being pulled by an incredibly strong force and allow your body to fall forward.

2. Imagine you weigh only 80%, 70%, 50% of your current body weight when going up a hill. Bound up the hill with ease! This really works. Be lighter, be faster, and be a stronger hill runner by using this technique.

3. Pretend you are a running robot, run with perfect form and calculation and turn off your emotions for the first 20 miles of the marathon, then run with your heart and soul the last 10k!

2. Choose Positivity

From Coach Kastor:

I encourage all of you to try and use a positive affirmation during your next long training session. Here are a few examples: "I choose to finish the marathon," "I'm strong and powerful," "I am a marathoner," "I'm light and fast," or "I am a Kenyan!" For you folks trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, “I choose Boston.” For those who are challenged by hills, “I am a hill runner” or “I love hills.” Repeat them until you believe them!

Allow yourself to spontaneously come up with a positive saying that truly speaks to you, personally, during one of your workouts or races. This positive phrase should penetrate each and every cell of your body, allowing you to believe what you're telling yourself, right down to your DNA.

Remember: The more you believe the affirmation, the truer it will become.

Check out the Mammoth Track Club for some inspiration. Follow @CoachKastor and his wife and Olympic great @DeenaKastor on Twitter.

Q: What is a mental tip you have for other runners training for a marathon?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Most Common Running Injuries & Prevention

Thanks to Super Runners Shop 77th Street Store Manager Jovan Zow for helping runners with what he calls the two most common running injuries. Follow my longrime abs reliable friends at SUPER RUNNERS SHOP on Facebook for more great info and gear, and follow @SuperRunnersNY for this daily injury series this week.


Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), or "runner's knee," is the irritation of the cartilage on the underside of the patella (kneecap). About 40 percent of running injuries are knee injuries. PFPS typically flares up during or after long runs, after extended periods sitting or while descending hills and stairs.

How to prevent it: Reduction of running regiment, more support (such as orthotics), icing, & leg strength training. Have you ever had PFPS?


Achilles tendinitis: The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles to the back of the heel. Under too much stress, the tendon tightens and becomes irritated (tendinitis). It makes up 11 percent of all running injuries.

How do we help it? Five times a day, apply ice. To prevent tendinitis from occurring in the first place, it's important to take the time to stretch before and after running. Strengthen the calves with eccentric heel drops: Stand with the balls of your feet on a step. Rise up on both feet. Once up, take your stronger foot off the step. Lower down on your injured foot, dropping your heel below the step. Rise back up, return your other foot to the step. Do 20 reps. 

You can also pool-run, use an elliptical machine, and swim, but avoid cycling unless it's not painful. Most importantly, get quality orthotics. SUPER RUNNERS SHOP makes them custom in their stores.

Most of us have been through ordeals in training. I had 14 PT sessions for ITB syndrome in early 2012, my last running injury. I learned it was left hip weakness and I have learned that you must focus on the real source of any injury and not just the pain hotspot. I also learned early (plantar fasciitis, shinsplints) that it is almost always about getting the proper shoe and staying with what works. And I learned that strengthening quads and hamstrings offloads the knee joints.

Are you coping with a running injury right now? How are you handling it?

Monday, February 3, 2014

ASICS Gear Review - Thermopolis LT Hoody & Lite-Show Tight

This was a truly "super" weekend for running in the New York City area. Saturday was my 16-mile long run up the Hudson River north of the Big Apple. Sunday was the annual NYRR Gridiron Classic 4-Miler at Central Park, preceding the Super Bowl over at Met Life Stadium. The weekend offered a slight respite from the relentlessly cold and snowy winter, which has resumed today.

Thermopolis LT Hoody

Saturday was a perfect opportunity to put my new ASICS Thermopolis LT Hoody to the test. The battering weather let up just enough that I didn't require the Storm Shelter outer layer, feeling in the 20s. I wore a circa-2007 ASICS long-sleeve base layer and the hoody over that.

The first virtue of this hoody that I want to extol is its reflectivity. Right now that seems more important than ever, at least to me. I started running at 2:12 p.m. ET and finished at sunset. I was running most of the way along River Road, steps away from the Hudson, and that's a one-lane road each way. Sometimes the shoulders are precarious, with hedges that provide little escape room, and sometimes the Coach USA bus comes into play. Combine that with the gradual darkness, and I was very wary about always being seen.

Also, I found myself often thinking of Meg Cross Menzies, for whom many of us ran #megsmiles 2 weeks earlier in tribute to the runner killed by an impaired motorist. The optic-colored trim on the Thermopolis LT Hoody is very neon-bright and visible. Even the thumb holes are trimmed in reflective fabric, so later in my run I was less apt to use the thumb holes to snug under my gloves, instead making sure they were visible outside of my gloves as yet another caution flag for oncoming traffic.

The fabric of this hoody is insanely soft and comfortable, but the cut is very flattering and fashionable. The zipper is that same hard-rubber material used for the Storm Shelter line. Yet while it closes out the cold for me, it also is very breathable and my body temperature was perfection my entire run.

I have another Thermopolis that is hoodless, and I especially wanted to break this out because the weather was sure to be variable over the course of 16 miles along an iced-over major river. Sure enough, the later it got, the chillier it was, and my ASICS knit cap was pretty wet by that point. It was an added comfort toward the end to pull on the hood and use the clinch-down hood adjusters to keep it tight. I love that I was able to do this long run with a hood that never bounced or slowed me, because of those adjusters.

The pockets are roomy and I carried a GU in each. There is a nice zippered media pouch on the left breast and an inside hole for earbuds, but on this day I went with my spi-belt as my iPhone would have been a little heavy and possibly flopping for this garment. I really look forward to running in this again.

Lite-Show Tight

For both the 16-mile long run and the Sunday sprint around hilly Central Park's inner loop (in 43:35), I wore only these ASICS black-and-silver tights as the bottom. There was no need for an outer layer, as winds were calm. No need for shorts over them, either. I am definitely more beefy than your average marathoner and have not been the type in the past to wear tights only, but these combined with the long Thermopolis tops has given me a new style that is really comfortable and convenient for my training and races.

Again, I'm going to start with reflectivity because that is really forefront in my mindset and that was a trepidatious course on Saturday (also factor in a lot of bikers coming right at me). The network of detailed paneling seams are all reflective and covered me in that area.

I was surprised by the thickness of the Lite-Show Tight. That's why I did not need an outer layer. And once you have them on, they feel like 100-percent cotton, something you don't want to take off. I checked the label and it says the main fabric is 86% nylon, 14% spandex, while the insert is 86% polyester and 14% spandex. I love the ankle elasticity, keeping my ankles covered and warm.

They felt so good, I didn't wash them and simply pulled them back on Sunday morning. I drove down to Central Park with Lisa and Rachel for the Gridiron Classic 4-Miler and Longest Football Throw competition. It was fun to throw a bomb, but that area of the park was muddy and you really couldn't grip the ball, so my throw was a little like one of Peyton Manning's that night. It was around 40 for the start of the race, which was balmy by Gridiron Classic standards, and I was pleased that these tights were just right, with my Thermopolis LT Half-Zip hoodless as a top over a thin base layer.

Now it's snowing, and it's on to Week 8 of Coach Kastor's 12-Week Training Plan for the March 9 ASICS LA Marathon. I can't wait to wear practically nothing from Dodger Stadium to the sea, but for now, we are dealing with the toughest winter since I've lived in New York (going back to 2005), and I'm thankful I have just the right ASICS gear to get me through it. Happy running.