Two Weeks, a Package, and The Place Where the Cool Kids Hang Out


The excitement is practically dripping off every word I say these days. I don't even have the patience to go through runs these days knowing that I'll be going head-to-head with the juggernaut in just two weeks.

To add to the excitement, my mom, who is coming up for support on race weekend, sent me a care package. On Thursday, my mom calls me at work and says "did you get my package yet?" So I go downstairs to check the mail room. There is a big box (6 in. x 2 ft. x 1.5 ft.) and my mom has fashioned a strap out of cardboard and tape so that I can easily carry the package on the train--this is why I love my mom. Thanks to FedEx, I can see what's inside the box because of a gigantic tear on the side: it's a foot bath, two bags of Epsom salt, bandages, and foot cream. A runner's dream come true. My beauty feet can now stay as pretty as ever...which is becoming more difficult with the high mileage.

One other thing: those Fountains of Running Positivity and Ambassadors of Hope through Hardship, Tom and Amy over at The Runner's Lounge, have taken their blog to the next level. The Runner's Lounge is now a fully outfitted social website for runners and to my best knowledge, the first of its kind. I'm signed up and you should sign up too. However, I'm convinced that only Marcy and Nancy read my blog, and they were probably the first two to sign up.


The Office

Haven't had much time to do much of anything this week: I haven't logged my training for the past two weeks, I haven't read up on blogs, and because it's Advertising Week here in NY I've had events all week.

But tonight I sleep and tomorrow I run. Baltimore is 15 days away and I must taper properly (more like properlyish).

I did get some inspiration before going to bed: watched the premiere of The Office tonight, which included a "5K fun run/walk race for the cure." Hilarious. Go watch it. Watch it now.


A note about weight

Keeping it brief today (in an effort to conserve energy for tomorrow's 20-miler--God I hate that number).

I started running, serious running, in the summer of 2004. Back then I had one goal: lose weight. Since then, I've quickly developed new goals, but weight loss is always in the back of my head.

For the past three years I've been bouncing between 200 lbs. and 185 lbs.. What I find amazing is how when I trained for my first half-marathon I lost a ton of weight (not sure how much, but probably went from 200 to 185). But for my last race I barely shed a pound, even though I was much faster.

I guess with a new distance my body has a renewed desired to lose weight because I've eaten like crazy for the past three months and have managed to lose about .75 pounds a week. I started training at 193 and this Monday I weighed in at 179--and I've still got more training to go.

I'm happy about the weight loss, but not for the same reasons I would have been in the past. In the past I worried about weight for health and appearance reasons. While those are still important, now weight loss means a faster speed, longer endurance, and being able to purchase clearance items at running stores (why is "small" always the only size on the clearance rank?).

So that's it. I'm going to crawl back into bed and sleep a bit more with the wife, happy that I don't have to run today at the gym (aka, "the fart factory," more on that later).

And just to keep you posted: we are exactly three weeks from MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! All you folks doing Chicago (and it seems like everyone is doing Chicago) I'll be just six days behind you.


Turkeys and Llamas and Emus--oh my

This post is a little late, but still worth it.

Sunday I ran 19 miles. Wooo! That is now officially the longest I've ever run. And not only was it my longest run ever, but it was also a great run. Here are the highlights/interesting thoughts:
  • Weather was key to this run. We got a cold snap over the weekend so it was a beautiful 55ish degrees on Sunday morning with a nice little head wind. There was no cloud coverage, but it was so cool that it didn't matter much (until the last four miles...but more on that later). It was such a relief just to run in this weather that four miles (and one Queensboro Bridge) into the run I felt like I was still warming up.
  • The new route was also key to this run. Instead of taking the subway to a starting point I started right here in Astoria. I only run in the neighborhood on Wednesday mornings and it is always the same route. But I started this Sunday's run with a tour of Astoria before hiking over the Queensboro Bridge. I forget how refreshing it is to do a new route. I also realize that I am running out of new places to run.
  • I'm finally enjoying my music. One of the tell-tale signs that I'm deep into training (this week is peak week) is that I start dancing. Yes, dance. Ok, not dancing dance, but running dance. I listen to music on every run, but I hardly update my music, so the music loses its edge but becomes comfortable (kinda like a baby blanket). However, there is a point during training when even the song I've heard 1,000 times becomes brand new and I start singing along and kind of run-dancing. I know I'm in good condition when that starts happening.
  • I love my new clothes. I admit it: I have a coordinated running outfit. I bought it two weeks ago with MY FIRST MARATHON EVER in mind. This is the second run I do with the outfit and both the shirt and the shorts are awesome. They stay practically bone dry through out the entire run and don't chafe anything (so far). The outfit is from New Balance but I have no idea what the model is; the shirt has a cool waffle texture and the shorts look like mesh but feel like cotton. Since I've gone on two successful run with this outfit I'll be using it on race day (which is only 25 days away!).
  • Why do men have nipples? I experimented with bandages on Sunday. They protected the nipples alright, but I screamed like a Catholic school girl when I had to take them off. Perhaps I should have trimmed before putting on the bandages. Anyone have experience with nipguards? They may be the next step because there are times when I feel this will be me on race day.
  • Was that a turkey, in Harlem? Why, yes it was. As I was rounding the Northeast corner of Morningside Park a turkey joined me for 20 feet of my run. I don't know how a turkey gets into Manhattan, but this one did...and it was running...maybe training to escape the impending ax.
  • Was that a llama, donkey, and emu? Why, yes it was. Maybe it was a mini-petting zoo, but there happened to be a llama, donkey, and emu in a pen near the basketball courts on the Hudson River Park. What is probably more remarkable was that I was able to recognize all three animals from the split second I saw them.
  • I successfully ran the last four miles of the run through Manhattan's version of Death Valley. I like to refer the stretch of Hudson River Park from 57 street to Chambers Street as "Death Valley." This long stretch of urban park land is a runner's nightmare: a very straight four-miles of uncovered asphalt that is baked in the sun all day and runs alongside an eight-lane highway so that any breeze the Hudson River might cough up is choked by car exhaust. Many of my runs have fizzled into fatigue on this Death Valley; and of course I planned the last for miles of my run for this strip of land. But I did it, making only one stop to refill my water bottle.


The Real Big Four-Oh...and One Mo(nth)

Ok, so it seems that THIS post is my real 40th post. Apparently there was a draft of a post that I hadn't deleted, which is why I thought I had 40.

So, for real this time: this is my 40th post!!! ::insert fanfare here::

For those of you who use a Mac, you know the wonders of the dashboard. At work I have a Mac and when I discovered the dashboard I was fully converted to an Apple junkie. If you don't know what the dashboard is, basically it's like a second desktop on your computer where you have mini-programs (e.g., calculator, stock ticker, gmail reader, weather, etc.) that are always running. Hands down the handiest thing on a Mac. (I swear, this will eventually relate to running.)

On my dashboard I have setup a count down clock to the Baltimore Marathon. My dashboard is pretty cluttered, so I pay attention to the clock about once or twice a week. However, this week, the construction on our floor FINALLY ended and we moved out of conference rooms and over to real desks. ("Real desk" is used loosely: at my agency our desks are actually made of scaffolding...I'm not kidding.) This involved a two day moving process and between that and my regular workload I didn't even notice that the countdown slipped under the one-month mark.

My realization yesterday afternoon: holy crap, I have less than one-month until MY FIRST MARATHON EVER! Over dinner last night I commented to the wife: by this time next month I'll have my first marathon under my belt and be dreading going back to work. Wow, it's so close. Less than one month is really, really close.

Naturally, the wife responds with, "do you think you're ready?" She's not the first to ask this question, and I always have a little trouble with this question. I have five half-marathons up on the wall already, and after the last one I felt great and could have honestly done another 13ish miles. So during my training for Baltimore I haven't really been too concerned about completeing the race: I'm pretty confident that I'll be able to cross the finish line, in some matter...in some amount of time.

Where my concern lies is how I'll cross the finish. Yes, I know this is my first marathon. Yes, I know that the full marathon is a new and different beast. And yes, I know I should take it as easy as possible. But when you get down to it, I'm still a 20-something competitive male that is too stubborn to act better when he knows better.

Unlike Nitmos, I set my goals out early in my training under the philosophy of "reach for the moon because if you miss, you'll still land among the stars." Poetic, I know; naive, you bet. So I started training for MY FIRST MARATHON EVER with the idea of maintaining an 8:30 pace. Mind you, my half-marathon PR is in the 8:40 range. It was doable the first few weeks, but once the intense summer sun hit, I adjusted my expectations a bit. Since then, I've been training with a goal pace of a 9:00 min/mile, but usually running at a faster pace.

Over the course of training, though, I have developed three different goal levels:

Goal #1 "Best Case Scenario" - Anything under 3:55:48. If I can do less than a 9:00 min/mile I'll be so happy I'll wet my pants...although they'll be soaked by the end of the race no matter what, so that's pretty much a moot expression. Given my performance on my good runs, this could be an attainable goal. This is a "nice to have" goal.

Goal #2 "I Can Do This" - Four hours. This is the goal I should be able to attain--pending no disasters on race day.

Goal #3 "If Nothing Else, Do This" - Less than 4:12:00. Yeah, this is an awkward number, but there is rationale behind it. Unfortunately, I can't share the rationale here. Sorry guys.

I realize that these are packed pretty close together and there is a chance I won't make any of them. But like I said before, I'm a stubborn 20-something guy that seems to have something to prove to the world.

That's it for now--hopefully I'll have a post-19-mile run write-up tomorrow.


The Big Four Oh

This is post number 40!! ::insert trumpet quartet flourish::

Ok, maybe not as monunental as posts 100 or 1000 (or 69), but it is a cause for celebration. Lots of topics to cover today, so let's get to it in a big four oh kinda way.

Today's run:
Ugh. Weather.com is now on my shit list. It takes the no. 2 spot right behind the hills in Prospect Park. The hour-by-hour forecast for this morning was partially cloudy, turning into mostly cloudy. Great, I thought, it'll be a little warm (80ish) but the cloud coverage will take off the edge. So I map out my route, put my play list together, gather all my gear and head out at 8am on the dot.

Funny, no clouds. Ok, maybe they aren't here in Astoria, maybe the clouds are just in Manhattan.

I get out of the subway at Central Park. Funny, still no clouds. So nice and warm, humid weather for 18 miles. If I had known that I would headed out earlier!

As I approach my starting line I hit play on Liam and hear "Proud Mary" by Tina Turner. Great song, I always start my races with it. Problem is, it's the same playlist I've had in there all week--and it only has 60 minutes of music on it. So now I have warm weather and the wrong playlist. Fantastic.

Then at about the five mile mark (still in Central Park) I see a flood of pink runners pouring into the park. Oh snap. Today is the Susan B. Komen Race for the Cure (for breast cancer). I'm all in support of the race...but if I had known it was happening today I would have not have planned to run three miles AGAINST the runners. Sheesh. If you're keeping track, we've got hot weather (yes, upgraded from warm), the wrong playlist, and 1000s of runners going against me.

At the one-hour mark I start injecting walking breaks. I've given in to walking breaks on hot runs: better to finish slow than not finish at all. These carry me on until mile 13ish comes around, and then it hits me: hunger. I take GU on my runs and have a pack about once an hour. But this wasn't "I'm tired and need energy" hunger this was full on "serve me a steak dinner" hunger--the type of hunger you have when you get home from work. Yeah, that doesn't work well when I have to run another five miles, and there's already heat, tired music, and 1000s of runners going against me.

So lots of things aginst me. But I finished all 17 miles. Woo hoo. I did not let it beat me! I finished in 2:54. Certainly not my goal of 2:42 (9 min pace), but all things considered, I don't think I did too bad.

Marcy's challenge is too good to resist. So here are the feet in all their post shower splendor (and before mystery liquid from the trash bag spilled all over them):

My wife agrees that they're pretty--and in a husband's world, that's as good as Gospel.

Food pictures:
Went to the green market a few weeks back and went camera crazy, here are my faves:


Beauty Feet

Call me lucky or blessed or a genetic anomaly, but I have really nice feet. Yes, I know, runners don't have nice feet, but damn it, my feet are down-right pretty--you know, for being feet. All my toes point in the right direction, there's no gunk under my toe nails, and I haven't had a blister since 2005. If my feet were a dog, they would probably be some hand-fed Maltese that is always carried. Yeah, they are friggin prima donnas, but I do count myself as fortunate, especially considering the foot trauma people like Nancy have gone/continue to go through.

Enter the marathon.

Since this is MY FIRST MARATHON EVER, my beauty feet are doing things they've never done before. This week they'll be pushing 30 miles of running. This is uncharted torture for them.

At first I got the usual drying out of the feet. No biggie there. Everytime I've trained for a race the bottom of my feet dry out and peel. The only difference now is that it's happening on an almost weekly basis.

But in the past two weeks, now that the weekly mileage is getting higher, I've noticed the development of hard patches on the bottom of my feet...wait...those look like...CALLUSES! What the hell? Where did those come from?! I've never had calluses before: should I be worried? Will it impact my running? Do I have to get new shoes? (Yes, I too feel like this is wussy and whiney, but gosh darn these feet are pretty and I want to keep them that way.)

After some brief research I found that I should not be freaked out because 1) calluses are common for marathoners, 2) I only have the beginnings of calluses, and 3) I can easily treat them with moisturizer. Whew. So now my morning routine involves slathering on some heavy-duty moisterizer on my feet right before I put on my socks. I also take as many opportunities as possible to wear sneakers and have basically given up wearing sandals.

So far, the treatment has been a success: the calluses have gone away and my feet are back to pristine condition. Let's see what happens to them after tomorrow's 18 mile run.


Introducing Liam Grau

I don't think I've brought up the iPod situation before:

About a month ago, when I first broke the 13.1 mile mark, I sat on my iPod Nano. Yes, sat on it. I mean Winston (the name of that iPod) has been through a lot: he's been dropped on asphalt, drenched in sweat, and thrown across a room. But apparently, when you squeeze him between a 185-pound man and a hard plastic subway seat, there is no chance he'll come out alive.

So Winston died after almost two years of abuse. He will be missed. Here is the postmortem picture:

Since then I've had to use Winston's older brother: Isaac. Isaac is my three year old iPod mini who had been retired when I won Winston in a raffle. Isaac is heavy and bulky compared to Winston, but he still plays music. Although I found out on one run that he only has about 1:45 worth of battery life in him. So I've been running these past few weeks pausing my music during the easy parts and playing it during the hard parts.

During this month that I've taken Isaac back from the pasture I've been debating on what new iPod to get. There are the new Nanos: ultra-thin, cool colors, 8GB of memory, and they connect to my Nike+. The draw back is the $250 price for something that I'm going to beat up and sweat all over and most likely have to replace in a year or two (runners are a frugal bunch). But then there is the Shuffle: unbelievably small and compact, with a built in super-strong clip; it only has 1GB of memory, but comes with an equally small price of $79.

Decisions, decisions.

But thanks to my credit card, the decision became very easy. I have a bunch of reward points from my credit card and found out that I could use those points a get a free Shuffle. A free Shuffle or a $250 Nano? Um. I didn't have to do much thinking there.

I placed the order last weekend and the Shuffle arrived on Friday. I've named him Liam Grau. The rationale behind the name? I always give my iPods a full name: the first name is a very intellectual sounding name, because iPods are smart products; the last name is always related to their color. Isaac Verde (verde = green in Spanish), Winston Ecru (ecru is actually off-white, but sounded better than other options), Liam Grau (grau = gray in German).

I went for my first run with him yesterday and it was great (never mind that I didn't have to pause the music to conserve battery life). He was light and clipped right onto my shorts, which meant I didn't have to reach across my chest to fiddle with an upside-down iPod on an armband:

Welcome to the family Liam.