Friday, March 26, 2010

My First Ice Bath

When I trained for my first marathon, many of my marathon runner friends asked me "Do you take an ice bath to help you recover?"  I had never done so before and didn't take one when I trained for my first marathon (the ING NYC Marathon on 11/1/2009).   Over the course of my training, I used ice daily on my knees and feet, but never an ice bath.  I believe that ice is a miracle drug.  Over the years when I have been hurt (particularly while playing basketball), ice has helped me recover quickly.   Over the last week, my legs, in particular my knees, have been fatigued, so I decided to try my first ice bath (which actually ended up being an ice bath last night and another one tonight). 

When I trained for my first marathon, I frequently put my foot and ankle in a bucket of ice to reduce swelling and to help recovery.  Anybody that has ever put their foot and ankle in a bucket of ice knows how painful it is. Getting to 10 minutes is a real challenge. However, the results are always worth it - an even application of ice to the foot and ankle always helped my recovery.

So why do people take ice baths?  The scientific theory is that the ice bath helps to repair microtrauma, or tiny tears in muscle fibers that result from intense exercise (like marathon running).  Some believe that the ice bath will (1) constrict blood vessels and flush waste products, like lactic acid (which often builds up in the legs of marathon runners after long runs), (2) decrease metabolic activity, and (3) reduce swelling and tissue breakdown.  Then, with rewarming after the ice bath, the increased blood flow speeds circulation, and in turn, improves the healing process.   As I did a little research on the web about ice baths, it became clear to me that some people believe that ice water baths are helpful (e.g. world record holder Paula Radcliffe and many other elite marathon runners swear by them), but some studies have shown no benefit from them.

I have considered taking an ice bath from the waist down many times to reduce the inflammation in my legs and knees from long runs.  I'm not sure that the human body is meant to run 15-20 miles every Saturday, so let's see if an ice bath helps my recovery.  My legs have been very fatigued lately from back to back 20 mile long runs the last 2 weekends.  In the book Born to Run, the author talks about ice baths and mentions that the temperature of the ice bath should be around 46 degrees.  "46 degrees?" I thought to myself, this is definitely warmer than the bucket of ice I use.  I also read that some people believe that a temperature even warmer, say around 50-59 degrees, can also have benefits. So, last night, for the first time, I filled my bath tub with cold water (of course throwing in some espon salt too).  I was surprised how cold the water was.  Last weekend, I went to a few stores to try and find a thermometer to measure the water's temperature, but was unable to find one.  I put my foot in the water and it was freezing!!  I remember thinking to myself "this would be great to soak my foot and ankle".  I put some warm water in the tub to warm it up (ok, I'm a wimp, but it was just too cold without warming it up a little), held my breath, and got in the water.  BRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!  From the waist down, I went numb.  The first few mintues were tough, but then my body adjusted and after 12 minutes I got out.  I felt great!!!!!  The pain in my legs was gone and when I woke up the next morning, my legs felt much better.

Today, it occured to me that perhaps a Pet store with Fish Tanks would have a thermometer to put in the water.  Sure enough, for $1.79, I found one.  So tonight, after feeling so good after last night's "cold water" bath, I tried it again.  I filled the tub, put the thermomter in, and it read 50 degrees.  Perfect, I thought, we are lucky that the water in our building is so cold.  No ice needed, I decided that somewhere between 50-59 was my target temperature.  Like last night, I put my foot in the water to test its coldness, and it was freezing.  After a blast of hot water tonight, the tub warmed up to 55 degrees.  Perfect.  The temperature felt exactly like last night.  I got in the water.  BRRRRRRR!  55 degrees felt much warmer than 50, that's for sure.  It was painful at first, but I ended up sitting in the tub for 18 minutes.  When I got out, I was totally numb, but my body quickly warmed up and I felt great.  We will see if it makes a difference before and after my 15 mile long run tomorrow.  So far, my verdict is that it has significantly helped me.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chicago Marathon 2010

I just signed up to run the Chicago Marathon on October 10, 2010.  I will use this as a training run for the ING NYC Marathon on November 7, 2010.  Who wants to join me?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Beautiful day and a 20 mile long run

Today, I woke up feeling great.  My knees felt great after my epson salt bath last night and 7.5 hours of sleep.  It was 56 degrees and sunny this morning, a perfect day for running.  I started running at 7:32 AM, which was great because it was bright and sunny out.  I wore shorts and a t-shirt.  My plan was to run 15-20 miles today (my schedule said to do 13 today and 22 next weekend, but I have a lot of things going on next weekend, so my thought was that if I felt good I would do 20 today and 13-15 miles next weekend).   Central Park was packed with runners, definitely the most crowded day of the year (and probably the most crowded I have seen it).  With the NYC half marathon tomorrow, many seemed to be out for an easy run.  Unfortunately, I didn't get in to the NYC half via lottery, so I won't be running tomorrow.  I really wanted to run this race as it starts in Central Park, runs through Times Square, and finishes at Battery Park, running down the West Side Highway.  Maybe next year.

I felt great this morning.  Once again, my early run felt great.  The splits for my first 5 miles, in order, were 8:24, 8:02, 8:10, 8:10, 8:19.  The pace for these miles felt very easy again, and I was forcing myself to slow down for all 5 miles. It is a pretty damn good feeling when I can run these times while trying to run slower and taking it easy.  My average heart rate for the first 5 miles, in order, was 142, 142, 151, 146, 148.  For me, these are outstanding heart rate levels for the speed I was running.  I'm a big believer in my average heart rate being the key to easy (or hard) workouts.   My fitness level is at a level where my heart rate levels are lower, and this, in turn, is why I can run faster and longer at a faster pace.

Today, I ended up running 20 miles.  I ran into my friend BGR and we ran about 5 miles together, which was great (for me from miles 9-13).  Overall, my pace was 8:23 per mile (my previous best was 8:34 for 20 miles) and my average heart rate was 154.  Click here for the splits for each of my 20 miles from my watch (and average heart rate).

I felt great during the run except from miles 5-7, when my right knee was twinging a lot.  It hurt.  It went away after mile 7 (not sure why).  When I finished the 20 miles, I kept moving for about 90 minutes, never sitting down, as my right knee was definitely sore and my legs felt tight.    The knee pain went away after about 90 minutes when my knee loosened up.  I rolled it out when I got home to loosen up an obviously tight IT band and I am icing my knees as I write this. 

We shall see how my knees feel over the next few days (the 2nd day after my long run always results in the most soreness). 

Friday, March 19, 2010

Some Days You Have it, Some Days You Don't - plus a running music playlist

Today I had it.

Over the last 4 days, my body and legs have been feeling very fatigued.  I'm smack in the middle of marathon training for the Wisconsin Marathon on May 1st in Kenosha, currently in week 11 of 17 of training.  On top of my general marathon training fatigue and soreness, my Crohn's Disease has also been very active over the last few weeks, causing added overall body fatigue and inflammation (last night both of my elbows were swollen).  I get swelling frequently in my joints as a result of my Crohn's, which makes it tough for me to discern if my knee pain is due to my Crohn's or my running.  It is frustrating, but I learned long ago to accept and deal with it.  Usually, I run through it.  If it truly is an injury, I can tell when I'm running and will stop so I don't get more hurt. If it is my Crohn's, running actually helps to reduce the inflammation.  Listen to my body today so I can run tomorrow.

This morning, I woke up with 2 sore knees before putting my feet on the ground.  As I always, I wasn't sure if it was my Crohn's or an injury.  When I started walking, I felt fine, no knee pain, so I decided to run, promising myself to stop if either knee started hurting (I've also been having some minor pain at the top of my calf behind my left knee, so I was going to stop if this started hurting too).  As I do every morning, I checked the temperature and forecast on my Weather Channel Iphone app.  It was 52 degrees, the warmest it has been in the morning in 2010.  For the first time, I was wearning shorts and a long sleeve shirt instead of my running pants, 2 shirts, jacket, hat and gloves. 

When I arrived at Central Park, I felt great.  I got about 7.5 hours of sleep last night and 8 the night before, and I could tell (usually I sleep about 6 - 6.5 hours per night).  My knees and leg felt fine.  My plan was to run a very easy loop (6 miles), around 9:00 per mile.  I started slow and by the time I checked my watch around the end of mile 1, it read a pace of 8:11 per mile.  Hmmm, I thought, sure doesn't feel like I just ran an 8:11 first mile....that felt really easy (and it was uphill).  There must be something wrong with my watch, I thought.  At this point, absolutely no twinges in my knees or legs.  I was cranking my XM Satellite Portable Radio on "shuffle songs" for a playlist I created over the last few weeks (I prefer this device to my Iphone because I can listen to the satellite radio or songs I put on an 8 GB memory stick - plus, I like the hour a day that I get away from my phone and emails).  I love listening to music when I run, although I'm well aware that many don't (and many runners despise it for a multitude of reasons - like "it's not pure, running is meant to be done without music" or "it's cheating" or "you can't hear what is going on so you could get hit or run over (to me, this make sense, which is why I run in Central Park when there are not cars there, and if there are, I turn it way down)).  I ran track in high school (hurdles) and couldn't listen to music in track meets, and some runners view each race the same way.  I run to have fun, to stay in shape, and for the runners high.  I'm not out to win.  I'm out to have fun and to get better (hopefully).  I love listening to music but many of my friends find it testable and say "I have enough going on in my head, running without music is the only time during the day that I can escape from it".  I understand both sides and don't judge those that run without music.  I hope people won't judge me for listening to it.   The NYC Marathon rules say "The use of headphones is strongly discouraged", but it doesn't prohibit them.  Last year's Milwaukee Marathon disqualifed one of the top 2 women finishers for listening to an ipod from miles 19-21.  As soon as I heard this, I emailed the race director for the Wisconsin Marathon that I am running, fearing that I wouldn't be able to listen to my music.  The race director said "as long as you don't plan on winning, you can wear headphones".  This past week, a friend and fellow runner sent me this article about a guy who got killed by a plane making an emergency landing on a beach - the article says that the jogger was listening to his ipod while jogging on the beach.  I've been told that the Boston Marathon prohibits headphones.  One of my life goals is to qualify for Boston someday.  If I do, I'll have to find some friends to run with.  Otherwise, I will struggle for 26.2 miles without music.

I'll never forget the first time I ran with the Team for Kids running group before my first marathon (NYC 2009, I raised over $5,000 for Team For Kids).  So here I was, a month away from the 2009 NYC marathon, running for the first time with the Team for Kids group, due to run the last 10 miles of the marathon course (plus 6 before, to Queens over the bridge).  To show you what a small world it is, my friend and former colleague from Goldman Sachs BG was there to run also.  BG, a great singer, and I ran the entire run long together, hung out before the marathon in Staten Island (unplanned, we just ran into each other), and he finished 11 seconds ahead of me for the NYC marathon, despite the fact that we were in different corals for the race and didn't see each other then entire race until running into each other after the finish line.   Before the long training run, I noticed that nobody else was wearing headphones.  Then, one of the Team For Kids coaches walked up to me, looked at my heaphones, pointed at them with a look of disgust on his face, and said "I don't like those things".  I said "what, my heaphones?" and he said "yeah, your headphones".  I was aware of the headphones vs no headphones battle that exists out there.  I wanted to say "I don't give a shi*t what you think, go f*ck yourself.  If I want to wear headphones, I'll wear headphones" thinking that I was the one about to run 16 miles, not you, but I decided to smile and say nothing.   Those of you that know me know how hard it was for me to say nothing. 

Sometimes I listen to audio books, and often I run with friends instead of listening to music, as I find it tough to talk while running and also notice that my fitness level always improves if I can run at a good pace and talk while doing it.  Talking while running also helps me on easy days, as I should be able to talk while running.  If I can't talk easily, then I am running too fast and I slow down.  Click here for a link to the playlist of ths songs that I ran to today.  Next time you are at your desk, hit "play all" and listen to the songs while you work (no need to watch the videos).   Random play came up with some great running tunes today.

During mile 2, I continued to feel great and my run felt very easy.  When I looked down at my watch at the end of mile 2, my mile 2 split was 7:41.  Wow, I thought to myself.  I still feel great and it still feels easy.  Mile 3's split was 7:44, followed by 7:46, and 7:36, with my mile 6 split at 7:57 (I slowed down at the end because my right knee was twinging during mile 6), for an overall pace of 7:50 for the 6.12 mile run.  As I was running, I was thinking "what is causing this to feel so easy?"  Am I getting in better shape, so this pace is getting easier for me (I hope)?  Is it because I'm only wearing shorts and a t-shirt (versus the layers I've been wearing all year)?  Is it yesterday's day off, which helped my recovery?  Is it the warmer weather, causing my body to be warm and therefore faster?  Is it the pump up music I listened to today (I have noticed that I am about 30 seconds a mile faster to pump up music versus listening to audio books or no music)?  Was it the foam roller?  Was it the hot baths I've taken all week?  Was it becasue I've iced my knees all week?

I will never know why, but I'm excited that I ran an easy fast sub 8:00 per mile pace and hope I can do it again soon.  Time will tell.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Listening to my Body

After taking the last 2 days off, I felt very good and strong.  I ran 20 miles on Saturday and have been running 6 days a week for the last month, so I decided to take 2 days off in a row to let my body rest and catch up on sleep (plus getting up at 5am the night of Daylight savings was completely unpallatable to me as it  really would have been 4am).  My plan today was to take it easy, run 8:30-9 pace.  I met the 6am running group and ran with them to Harlem Hill, where they were going to do speedwork up and down the hill.  My right knee has been twinging just a little bit (barely noticeable) and I have been having a little twinging behind my left knee (a little more noticeable), so I decided not to do the speedwork on the hill with the group (my rule is never to do speedwork if my knees are twinging).  I have learned over the last 9 months of running that listening to your body is the key to staying healthy. 

After about 3 miles, I felt great.  The 8 hours of sleep I got on Saturday and Sunday nights, taking the last 2 days off from running, using the foam rolller a lot to roll out my legs, a bath to soak my legs every night (alternating every 5 minutes between having my legs in the hot water and elevating them out of the water to let the blood flow to my knees), and ice on both knees has made me feel great.  I definitely do not feel like I ran 20 miles on Saturday.

During Mile 3 (see my splits below), I felt great and decided to push a little bit.  After mile 4, I still felt great, so I decided to push during Mile 5 to use today's run as a mini tempo run.  After my run, I immediately rolled out my legs with the foam roller as my right knee was twinging from miles 3 - 5 (but didn't hurt at all after) and iced both of my knees for 15 minutes.

Today's run:
0.7 mile warmup to park - 8:37

Mile 1 - 9:13 (ran with 6am running group to Harlem Hill)

Mile 2 - 8:26 (ran with 6am running group to Harlem Hill)

Mile 3 - 7:43 - Harlem Hill, felt great decided to keep pushing

Mile 4 - 7:55

Mile 5 - 7:13

Mile 6 - cool down - easy 9:09

last 0.40 miles - 8:26

Saturday, March 13, 2010

40 MPH Winds, Pouring Rain, and an 8-K race, all in the middle of a 20 mile training run

My Wisconsin Marathon training schedule had me scheduled for 20 miles today.  My training schedule has me run 6-8 miles a day 4 of the 5 weekdays, a long run on Saturday, and a recovery run (usually 6 miles) on Sunday.  My 3.5 year old daughter Mikayla has a gymnastics class every Sunday morning at 10:30 AM at Chelsea Piers, so I don't have enough time to do my long runs before it, so this forces me to do my long runs on Saturday (I love going to all of Mikayla's classes and refuse to miss them for running).  When I trained for my first marathon (NYC 11/2009), I had the luxury of being able to alternate my long runs between Saturday and Sunday to compensate for bad weather or other scheduling conflicts (any marathon runner will tell you how this flexibility makes an already tough marathon training schedule more bearable).

Over the last few days, the weather forecast for today was poor.  1-2 inches of rain, 35 degrees, and 40+ MPH winds were in the forecast.  I run my schedule rain or shine, no matter what.  About a month ago, I signed up for the NYC 8000, an 8-K race (4.98 miles), without knowing what my long run schedule would look like today.  I needed to be home by 10 AM, so this meant that I had to awake at 5:15 A.M. on a Saturday in order to get to Central Park to start running at 6:15 A.M.  It took me a little longer to get ready as I needed to put my race number on my racing jacket prior to leaving the apartment (something I can't do the night before because of the zipper on my jacket.

The race was scheduled to start at 8 AM on the east side at about 100th street.  My goal was to run until about 7:55 AM, get in the corral for the 8-k race, cross the finish line, and then run the remaining miles to get to 20.  As any regular marathon runner in Central Park will tell you, the key is to calculate a path that will get you as close to your mileage goal as possible without having to run extra, ending at the same place as you started (which presumably is as close to your aparatment as possible).  Last night, I put my plan together assuming that I would start running at 6 AM.  I hit snooze an extra time this morning, so I didn't get to the park until 6:15 AM.  A 15 minute late start meant that I had to figure out my path as I ran.  I decided to do a 5 loop first (no great hill), then the middle loop (which would have been 4 miles), but then I would have been about 2.3 miles away from the start line and I wasn't sure that I would make it there by 7:55 AM.  Therefore, I ran the 5 mile loop first, then back up the west side, across the 102nd street transverse, then south on the east drive.  I ran to 70th street, then back to 102nd, and then back and forth between 102 and 98th streets until I hit 11 miles at about 7:55am.  Perfect, 11 down (8:39 pace), 9 to go.  I got into the corral and ran into my friend BGR, who I learned later ran a great race at a 7:16 pace (a PR for him).  Great job BGR!!

My gameplan for the 8-K race was to take it easy (8:30 - 9:00 pace), just get in the miles, get the race credit, don't race it.  I knew that I would still have 4 more miles after the race.   I felt ok at the start of the race, not great.  It was extremely wind (easily over 40 MPH winds and it was absolutely pouring the entire race).  It was so windy that I almost lost my hat once to the wind.  Other racers were actually yelling when the wind gusts happened.  Runners are usually a tough and very quiet creature, so hearing people outwardly react told me how bad the conditions were.  I went out very easy with a 8:47 first mile, felt good.  I really enjoyed watching the race around me.  My second mile was a 7:45 split, still felt good but was working a little harder and had to remind myself that getting the 20 in was more important than running a fast race (a couple of months ago, I ran a PR at 7:11 per mile for a 4 mile race and am looking forward to breaking 6:59 per mile in the future, but today wasn't the day to do it).  Mile 3 was an 8:14 split, felt comfortable.  Mile 4 was an 8:20 split, was definitely slowed by the strong winds but also wasn't pushing.  I was almost done.  I ran by a bunch of the 6 AM Flyers and they cheered me on, which motivated me to push during the last mile, when I ran a 7:22 split (also into a strong headwind).  Overall, ran an 8:06 pace, felt great, definitely had more in me, and was ready to run 4 more.    I stopped for a minute to eat a Powergel and drink some water and I was on my way for my remaining 4 miles.  I felt good.  I ran across the 102nd street transverse, south on the west drive and ran the lower loop to end exactly at my starting point (by the place formerly known as Tavern on the Green).  My last 4 miles were run at a clip of 8:46 per mile.  Mile 20 was tough, but I was extremely proud to have gotten my 20 miles in on such a crappy day, at the same time getting a race credit towards my 9 qualifying races to get me automatic entry into the 2011 NYC Marathon.

Overall, ran 20 miles at 8:34 pace.

Summary of all of my Wisconsin Marathon training Long Runs - very interesting to me

My goal during my long runs is to be comfortable, which to me means not running too fast but also not too slow.  When I run, I set my watch display to show me only what my current mile pace is.  I never know what my overall long run pace is until after I am done.   I try not to look at my watch too much in order to make sure that I run how I feel (and today I had saran wrap around my watch to protect it from the rain so I didn't know what my pace was at all until after my 20 miles).  After today's long run, I looked back at my other long run training times (see below).  Based on these stats, it is clear to me that my comfortable long run pace is about 8:34 per mile. 

Today - 20 miles at 8:34 pace

Last week - 15 miles at 8:15 pace

2/22/10 - 20 miles at 8:35 pace

2/15/10 - 15 miles at 8:34 pace

2/8/10 - 18 miles at 8:34 pace

2/1/10 - 15.4 miles at 8:34 pace

1/25/10 - 15.5 at 8:35 pace

1/18/10 - 15.4 at 8:31 pace

The fastest 20 mile pace that I ran during my 2009 NYC Marathon Training was 8:54 per mile, and most of my long runs were between 9:00 and 9:39 pace (and those training runs felt harder than my current runs today).  Many of my running friends have told me that it takes a few years to get your body in long distance running shape, and I feel like I am improving, which is exciting to me.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

2009 ING New York City Marathon Summary - Short Version

As I trained for the 2009 NYC marathon, a few of my friends forwarded  me summaries that marathon runners wrote about their marathon. I thought that they were pretty cool, so I decided to put one together.  I will be posting a more detailed version in the future, but here is the short version.

I ran the ING New York City Marathon on November 1, 2009, my first marathon, age 39.  The temperature was 55 degrees and the humidity was 70%.
  1. My time was 3:58:05.  My goals were (1) get to the start line healthy (which sounds easy but actually was the hardest part) and (2) to come in under 4 hours.
  2. I started running in July 2009 by running the 3.5 mile JPMorgan Corporate Challenge, my first race since high school when I used to be a sprinter and a hurdler.  I dreaded distance running and never understood why one would ever want to run a marathon (26.2 miles).  I had never run a race of more than 1 mile prior to this race (and that was when I was 12).  I enjoyed the race and decided to start running outside (in my view the toughest exercise there is).  I wanted to get more fit.  A few weeks later, I decided to run the marathon, as I have always admired marathon runners.
  3. I got into the Marathon by running for a charity called Team For Kids (TFK), which encourages kids to exercise and stay in shape.  Little did I know that it is actually really hard to get into the NYC marathon if you don't run for charity.  There were over 43,000 people that finished the 2009 NYC marathon and half of these people are from outside of the United States.  Over 102,000 people applied to run the 2009 NYC marathon.
  4. When I run, I wear a Garmin 405 Forerunner watch, which is a satellite watch that provides real-time stats including speed, distance, pace, heart rate, calories burned, elevation, and pretty much any other stat you want.  This watch enabled me to pace myself to reach my time goal (both during the marathon and my training).  I have attached links to the summary from my watch from the marathon at the bottom of this post.  Check them out, they are pretty cool.
  5. I raised over $5,000 for TFK (thank you to everybody that sponsored me!)
  6. Running the marathon was an amazing experience, one of the many highlights of my life.
  7. I got hurt about 6 weeks into my training with a swollen knee and a torn right quad muscle (I was running over 50 miles per week at this point after having no running base). This resulted in 8 weeks of physical therapy 3 times a week to get better. My quad muscle was so painful that every morning before my run I had to (1) run it under the hot shower for 5 minutes to warm it up and (2) put tiger balm on it to heat it up before each run.  I learned how important it is to listen to my body and take days off when things are twinging. 
  8. My weight went from 220+ to 196 pounds during my training. My waist shrank by 3 belt loop holes, bringing my waist to the same size it was in college. My energy level increased exponentially, my blood pressure went down materially, my body temperature dropped, and the fatigue and inflammation that I regularly experience from my Crohn's disease was greatly reduced.
  9. I trained for 18 weeks, running an average of 40 miles per week for a total of 721 miles during my training. My peak weekly mileage week was 56 and my lowest weekly mileage total was 12. My training pace for long runs was usually at 9:00-9:45 per mile (my best 20 mile long training run pace was 8:54 per mile). My average pace for my 6 mile training runs was between 8:30 - 9:15 per mile.
  10. During the marathon, my pace was 9:05 per mile for 26.2 miles, I burned 4,149 calories, and my average heart rate was 164.
  11. Most of my training runs were done very early in the morning (6am) in Central Park. To warm up, I always walked to Central Park (0.60 miles) and to cool down I always walked home from Central Park. Walking served to warm up my muscles or cool them down. I did not stretch, as I read in many places that stretching early in the morning may not yield a lot of benefits, as your muscles are coldest in the morning.  Most of my running was done before my wife and kids were even awake (i.e. when I returned from my runs, they were all still asleep. Only exception, long runs on the weekend, which I usually started at 7am to get an extra hour of sleep).  I usually did not stretch before or after my runs.
  12. Most mornings, I got up at 5am to run.  Every single morning, without exception, I dreaded getting up.  I mean really, who wants to get up at 5am after going to bed around 11pm or later every night?  Everyday it was hard, but without question, I ALWAYS felt better after my run, making it well worth getting up early.
  13. To stay healthy, I purchased a foam roller and "rolled it out" every day (often multiple times a day). I rolled out my IT bands, my quad muscles, and my hamstrings, even if I didn't need to. I strongly believe that rolling it out everyday is what kept me healthy and I continue to "roll it out" everyday.  I find the foam roller to be a great message for my legs.
  14. During the marathon, I ate a "Powergel" every 5 miles. I also had 1 Powergel 45 minutes before the race and second Powergel 15 minutes before the race. Overall, I ate 7 Powergels during the race. I also drank 1-2 sips of water or Gatorade at nearly every station. I ate 2 bagels before the race.  During my training long runs, I ate a Powergel every 5 miles to get my body used to the Powergels.
  15. I did not stop running once the entire marathon (thank goodness for the volunteers that hand you water/gatordate on the course!!!!).  I learned during my training that it was hard for me to start back up after stopping during my long runs, so my goal was not to stop.
  16. "Pain is temporary, pride is forever" is the phrase I saw on many signs during the last 10 miles of my race. This really helped keep me going.  I'm not sure that I would have made my goal without these signs.
  17. During my training, I ran on my vacations and during business trips.  I ran in Vancouver, Canada (Stanley Park along the water, absolutely beautiful, particularly during a 20 mile run); Newport Beach, California; Washington DC (running around the Mall and the monuments was cool); and Point Pleasant, New Jersey (along the boardwalk).
  18. When I began running, I had no clue what I was doing.  I said to my friends "I don't even consider myself to be a runner".  I didn't know what shoes/socks/shorts/shirts to wear, what pace to run, what to eat, etc.  My friend RC, an amazing runner who has run 11 straight NYC marathons and is a coach for the New York Road Runners (his 2009 marathon time was 3:18!!!), answered all of my questions and really helped me.  Today, I consider myself to be a runner.  Thanks RC!!  RC also taught me that it is ok to run easy most days (most days he runs around a 9:00 pace and does speed work once a week).  Without his advice, I would have run hard everyday and would have burned out (and probably gotten hurt too).  Now I realize that it's ok to run easy most days, and because of that, I love to run. 
  19. When I started to train, I obtained a suggested training schedule from the New York Road Runners website.  I strongly believe that writing down and tracking your workouts is a great motivator. 
  20. My next marathon will be on May 1, 2010 in Kenosha, Wisconsin (my hometown).
  21. Who wants to run the ING NYC 2010 Marathon with me?  My goal is to make the NYC marathon an annual event!

Splits/Map of my Run from my Watch

JVB 2009 NYC Marathon Splits

JVB 2009 NYC Marathon Map of my Run


JVB Pictures from the 2009 NYC Marathon

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Long Run day

I am training for my second marathon (my first was the ING New York City Marathon on 11/1/09 when I ran a 3:58. My second marathon will be on May 1, 2010 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, my hometown. Kenosha is between Chicago and Milwaukee on Lake Michigan, and the race runs through the neighborhood that I grew up in along lake Michigan. My mom still lives there, so it will be great to see her while I run.

Today, my marathon training schedule had me scheduled for 15 miles. I ended up running 15 miles hard - 11 with my friends JW and DW (both are training for Boston in April) - they are very fast and went out at around 8:05 for the first 11 miles. I stayed with them until right before 11 miles, when they began to push and I was pretty tired. I decided to slow down after the first 11 miles, which is the fastest I have ever run 11 miles. I felt great for the first 9 miles and the 8:05 pace felt good, but then I stated to tire. I am definitely becoming more fit, but not yet fit enough to be able to hold 8:05 for 15 miles during a training run. JW and DW ended up running 22 miles today, very impressive. I slowed down for miles 12-15 (see my splits below) and finished strong, ending with a pace of 8:15 for the 15 mile run.

After, I met my friend SFD and we ran about 2 miles at a pace of 9:05. It was great running with SFD and I hope we can do it again soon.

Friday, March 5, 2010

It's the Shoes, Money

This entry discusses the critical importance of wearing the correct shoes while running and gives you advice at how to go about buying the right shoes (something I found to be daunting when I started running because there are so many running shoes to choose from).

When I started running, I asked many of my friends for advice. What to wear, what to eat, how fast to run, when to run, when to rest, etc. etc. etc. Every single one of my experienced running friends stressed the importance of wearing the correct shoes when running. "The right shoes?" I said. "Does it really make that much of a difference?" My friends told me that every person is different and therefore needs different shoes. When I told them that I didn't run much because my right knee always hurt during running, every one of them said "I bet it's your shoes. If you get the right shoes, I bet your knee won't be sore anymore." I was skeptical.

My friends told me to go a store called Super Runners Shop on Amsterdam and 78th street in New York city. The store is owned by Gary Muhrcke, who won the first New York City Marathon in 1970 when the marathon was 4 loops of Central Park. When I went to the store, the guys in the store asked me to walk so they could watch me walk to determine my pronation (i.e. the way my foot strikes the ground on the outside of the heel and rolls from the outer edge to the inner edge). I learned that some people pronate, some don't, and shoe companies make shoes to support the way one pronates (or doesn't). This was great, because a good salesperson can tell what type of shoe you need by watching you walk (or run). It turns out that I don't pronate and have high arches, so I need a neutral shoe with lots of cushioning, since my foot strikes the ground and doesn't roll. This means that I need more cushioning to handle the impact that people that pronate get naturally. Being the skeptic that I am, I asked a few people in the store to watch me walk (and then run when I was trying on shoes) to confirm the first salesperson's pronation conclusion.

My advice - go to Super Runners Shop (or a like running shop) and have them watch you walk and/or run. Some shops, like Asics on 42nd Street between 5th and 6th avenue, have a video camera set up next to treadmill to take video of you running. This will allow the salesperson to recommend the right shoe for you. I recommend going to a store that sells multiple brands, as I tried on at least 10 pairs of shoes and ran in front of Super Runners Shop to the corner (yes, they let you do this) to figure out what shoe felt the best for me. I wear a size 11 shoe for walking, but wear an 11.5 shoe when I run (the extra room around the toes feels great for me). I strongly recommend taking your time and trying on many pairs (and sizes too). Also, ask the store about the return policy. Super Runners Shop lets you return the shoes after you try them out a few times if they don't work for you for a full refund. I actually returned a pair of shoes that hurt after a 6 mile run, and they refunded my money no questions asked. I love the fact that Super Runners Shop allows you to return the shoes. This should ensure that you get the right shoe, even if it takes a few times to get it right. For me, I wear the New Balance 1063 shoes. I love them and only wear these shoes (in fact, New Balance recently discontinued this line in favor of the 1064 line, so I stocked up on the 1063s by buying 10 pairs of shoes at 50% off (around $50 each) from, which also allows you to return shoes after you wear them and they don't charge shipping and provide a return form in every order. I have ordered a ton of stuff from them and love them). New Balance also has a website that allows you 30 days to return shoes for a full refund ( While it wasn't easy for me to find space for 10 boxes of shoes, I know that at least I'll have the shoes I love for a while. I get about 300 miles out of each pair of shoes. After that, the soles are so worn down that my knee twinges, and then I know it is time to throw away my old shoes and buy a new pair.

I recently read a book called Born to Run ( Great book, I recommend it (although it took me a while to get into it). The book talks a fair amount about runnning shoes and barefoot running. It talks about how some running coaches believe that the most expensive shoes are actually the worst for your running because they have too many frills. The book says that less cushioning and support may be better for you (particularly barefoot running) as it allows your foot to get stronger and run naturally.

I'm certainly not recommending barefoot running - my point is that when deciding what shoe to buy, don't think that more expensive is better. Take your time, try on a lot of shoes, run in those shoes (if the store doesn't let you run with them go somewhere that does), and buy the shoes that feel the best for you. Make sure that you can return your shoes for a full refund (not just a store credit), and you will eventually find the right shoe for you.

Since I bought the right shoes for me (, my friends were right. I haven't had any knee problems and my feet feel great. I'm no longer skeptical. In my mind, without question, wearing the right shoes is critical to a runner's long term health and happiness.

For the motivation of the title of this blog entry, see the video below

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tempo Run

Today I ran my first "tempo" run. My friends that are experienced runners all talk about the tempo run. They say that getting your body used to running faster will benefit you in the long run. When I arrived at Central Park at 5:55am, I definitely didn't feel like running fast. I really enjoy running comfortably, but I also realize that I need to do some harder running if I want to get faster. I told myself that I would run hard as long as I felt good. Our first mile split, running clockwise in Central Park was 7:55 (net uphill, average heart rate 149). I felt pretty good. I was running with my friend BGR, and he felt good too, so we decided to continue to run hard. Mile 2 felt good and was faster at a 7:35 split (net downhill, average heart rate 157). Mile 3 is tough and includes the great hill on the west and east side of the park, so I knew that this would be the toughest mile. We ran this at a 7:37 split (net uphill, average heart rate 161). At that point I was tired and wanted to slow down, but we both still felt pretty good, so we continued to push. The mile 4 split was 7:40 (net uphill again, average heart rate 170). I was still feeling good, although getting tired supported by my now much higher heart rate. Knowing that the upcoming mile 5 is net downhill, we continued to push. BGR left the park at 72nd and I continued on. I hit the lap button on my watch so BGR and I could compare the splits on our Garmin watches (yes, we are nerds into the stats), so the distance in this lap of 0.51 miles was 7:11 per mile (net downhill, average heart rate 171). We were now running negative splits, feeling pretty good. I pressed on, knowing that mile 4.5 to 6.0 is net uphill again. From mile 4.5-5.5, I ran a 7:38 split, average heart rate 175. Steady eddie, although definitely looking forward to being done. For the last half mile, I decided to push, running hard. With a quarter mile to go, I ran into my friend JW who had just run the 6 mile loop in 41:19 (sub 7 pace through hilly central park is most impressive JW, well done!, and he looked great, like he hadn't even been running). He said "you know, you have to run hard up the last hill", which is a very steep hill that exits the park at 72nd street. I wasn't feeling it, but I did it anyway, sprinting almost as hard as I could up the hill. My last 0.44 mile split was 6:50 per mile (net way uphill, average heart rate 181). I was pleased with this, as my long term goal is to run a 3 to 5 mile race in under 7:00 per mile. Hopefully, this tempo run will help me get there. Thanks to JW for pushing me to come today. Thanks to BGR for pushing and for a great run. I'm happy I ran hard and am looking forward to an easy 9:00 per mile run tomorrow morning. Overall, I ran the 6 miles at an average pace of 7:35 for 6 miles, average heart rate 164.

A link to my splits from my Garmin 405 watch is below:

For me, my normal "comforable" pace that I can hold for long distances without being miserable and without working hard is 8:20 per mile. My race pace for a 4-6 mile race ranges from 7:11 per mile to 7:39 per mile. My tempo run today was faster than I have ever run a training race in Central Park (I ran a 10-K race in December (6.2 miles) at 7:39 per mile. Central Park is extremely hilly, so I'm pleased with the 7:35 time and the negative splits.

After my run, I decided to look around on the internet for the definition of a tempo run. says - Tempo running is one of the most effective methods for building up your speed during a race. It will train your body as well as your mind for a faster race. From expert trainers to elite athletes, all consider tempo running as an essential step to increase running speed and get more success. A tempo run will effectively help your body get used to moving at a constant higher rate for a period of time.

What Is Tempo Running? When you are running at a speed which is just above your usual running comfort, but is lower than your maximum capacity, you are running at tempo pace. To put simply, it is a run in which you put your 75 % effort. This aerobatic workout will gradually increase your ability to run at a greater speed. Scientifically, during the tempo run you are performing at your lactate threshold capacity. At, not above. When you are running at your lactate threshold capacity, you do not build up lactic acid in your legs. When you build up lactic acid in your legs, your legs get heavy. You will want to run at a pace just below that level. This type of training will help increase your lactate threshold. This means that, over time, you can run faster without getting heavy legs. So, do your tempo runs and this will help you increase your running speed. Tempo runs also help you get ready for race conditions in which you will usually run faster. They will help you mentally accept the fact that you are going to run at a faster speed over a specified distance during a race. Doing tempo run means you are running at a controlled pace. It pushes your comfort levels up a bit and this allows you to gradually adjust yourself to running races.

Your goal is to run at a very steady pace/effort for the length of the tempo run, which is simply a lot tougher when you have to battle hills. When you want to increase your running speed and get ready for running races, there is almost no better workout than tempo runs. They are a very effective way of increasing your lactate threshold so you are able to sustain faster running for a longer period of time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

And so it begins...

My name is Jim Balcom and I have decided to create a blog that talks about my running and all things related to it. I'm 40 years old and live in New York City. When I run, it is almost always in Central Park.

I am no expert. I am an average runner. I think that exercise, in any form, is important to stay healthy. I believe that exercise should be fun. I love how I feel after I exercise, even if I dread getting up early in the morning to do it. Without fail, after I get done exercising, I feel great, making my early dread disappear. Regarding running, I have learned that each one of us is different, and that different things work for different people. I have learned that listening to my body is critically important. If I feel like I am getting hurt, I take a day off (which is much harder for me to do than exercising is). I have learned to drop the "I have to run fast everyday" macho mentality. Running smart today means that I can be healthy enough to run tomorrow. I use the foam roller every day. I have learned that some days I "have it" and some days "I definitely don't" and have learned to accept that some workouts are going to be great and others are not. When it comes to my fitness, I have adopted the cliché "it's a marathon, not a sprint". I have learned that the shoes and socks I wear are critically important to staying healthy, particularly for my knees. I schedule my workouts (with two young girls, 3.5 and 1.5 years old, and a wife that works full time, this is a must!) I write down and track ALL of my workouts. I believe that almost everybody can run regularly without pain if done right (until I got the right shoes my knees always hurt when I ran and therefore I never ran regularly - now I run 40-50 miles per week with no pain). I believe that anybody can run and finish a marathon with the proper training, shoes, motivation, and attitude. I will elaborate on these points in my future blog posts.

In my blogs, I will cover a wide array of topics, including but not limited to: why I run, my approach to running, how I stay healthy despite logging a lot of miles, how and why I keep track of my workouts, my Garmin Forerunner 405 watch and how this watch motivates me to run (often slower instead of faster), my heart rate monitor, the foam roller and my IT bands, my view on listening to music while running and racing, my shoes, my socks, chaffing, my 2010 goals, my training schedule, why I decided to run a marathon, my Crohn's disease and how it impacts my running, vitamins, health stats, and many other topics.

My hope is that my blog will be informative and that it will encourage others to get out there and exercise and/or run. Without question, running has changed my life for the better. When I started running last July (8 months ago), I was over 220 pounds (I'm 6'1") and was frequently tired in the afternoon, feeling fatigued and out of sorts. Today, I am 192 pounds and no longer get tired during the day (despite sleeping less). I feel like I am 20 again. My energy level is high and I walk around all day with a runner's high on the days I run (I run 5-6 days per week in the morning). There is no doubt in my mind that running outside is the best possible exercise (both physically and mentally). My blog will discuss how I ended up becoming an obsessed, running addict. My friends and family are sick of hearing me talk about it, so I thought that I would write it instead.

Monday, March 1, 2010

My Story

My name is Jim Balcom and I have decided to create a blog that talks about my running and all things related to it. I began running regularly in July 2009. For the past 20 years, I have exercised 4-5 times per week, almost always on the Stair Master and often by playing basketball. On the Stair Master, I would go hard for 30 minutes (usually level 12) and then would cool down for 15 minutes (for a total workout time of 45 minutes). I was in pretty good shape from this. Once in a while I would run on the treadmill (never outside because I never knew how fast I was running, and I need to know this), but after about a week or two of running my right knee would hurt and that would be the end of my running for 6 months. In July 2000, knowing that I was in great shape from my tough Stair Master workouts, I ran 10 miles with my friend RL in Chicago after not having run at all, and a week later I couldn't extend my right knee and ended up getting a cortisone shot to the knee. That helped but I figured that I wasn't cut out for distance running. In high school, I was a sprinter and ran the 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles (as well as indoor high and low hurdles). I was pretty good, not great, and won a fair amount of track meets (I still have the medals). My senior year, I won the Kenosha, Wisconsin county 110 meter and 300 meter hurdles titles. I made it to sectionals (right before state), but wasn't good enough to make it to state. I think my best 110 meter hurdle time was around 15.1-15.2. Not bad, but not good enough to make it to state or the next level. At this point, I HATED running distance and never, ever thought that I would become a distance runner. I remember thinking "distance runners are nerds, who would ever want to do that" or "they only run distance because they aren't fast enough to be a sprinter". I never would have imagined that 20 years later that I would, in fact, become an obsessed distance runner. Running has changed my life in so many ways, I am an addict. I am in the best shape of my life, healthy, energized, and my weight as of today is around 192. I am able to wear clothes that I haven't fit into in 15 years and no longer get tired in the afternoon. I haven't been sick in a long time, and all this, I believe, is because of running.

In early 2008, I began having some numbness in my toes as well as fatigue and exhaustion, despite being in what I thought was good shape. I exercised regularly, although my weight, usually around 200 pounds for most of my thirties (I just turned 40 on January 12), had climbed to over 220. I have Crohn's disease and am accustomed to fatigue and inflammation, but this was much worse. I saw 2 neurologists and had multiple brain and spine MRIs as well as 2 EMG tests (those of you that have had an EMG test know that they are not pleasant). I was even hospitalized for 1 day with suspected Guillan Barre Syndrome (because I was having a lot of weakness in my arms and legs). They were looking for MS or ALS (my uncle died of ALS at the age of 57 - in my mind, the worst disease there is - he was diagnosed at 50 and was in the best shape of his life). All of my tests were negative (thankfully). Once again, no explanation for my symptoms whatsoever.

I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis in 1994 when I had a severe flare up and was hospitalized for 10 days, where I almost lost my colon and almost had a blood transfusion. Luckily, I recovered (I tend to get very sick and then heal quickly). Over the last 15 years, the doctors have changed their diagnosis of me to Crohn's Disease, as I have consistent inflammation in my small intestine (usually ileum). I also get severe ulcers in my esophagus and mouth (as I write this I have about 15 of them in my throat and mouth and they are so bad that it is hard for me to swallow). I have consistent chronic inflammation in both my large and small colon. Since 1994, I have been hospitalized at least 10 times for Crohn's colitis flare-ups (most recently on 12/31/09 because the capsule I swallowed to take pictures in my small intestine got stock in my terminal ileum and caused a full small bowel obstruction - luckily, they were able to get the capsule out without major surgery) but I spent New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in the hospital. I have had severe pneumonia (Christmas day 1999) where I had 105 degree fever for 7 straight days and both of my lungs were almost completely filled with fluid, and typhoid fever (when I spent a month in the hospital after working in India). My immune system has always been very weak. As a result, I have always exercised 4-5 days a week. Exercise keeps me healthy by keeping my immune system strong. I haven't had a severe flare up of my Crohn's since 2004.

In 2008 and into early 2009, despite exercising regularly, I started gaining weight and reached 220+ (I am 6'1"). I was so tired in the afternoon that I needed to do something. When I was laying around watching TV one night, my heart felt like it was skipping a beat. I saw a cardiologist and got a stress test, and my heart looked good and fit. Next, I wore a holter monitor for 24 hours and it showed that my heart wasn't skipping a beat, but that it was actually adding beats, sometimes 500 extra beats an hour, even while sleeping. My doctor said that some people have this problem and live with it everyday. She said that I could take medication if it was bothering me. I opted against the medication since it wasn't bothering me much.

So, here I was, June 2009, 220+ pounds, having numbness in my arms and legs, with a heart adding beats for no reason, and feeling absolutely exhausted by mid afternoon. When a co-worker said to me one afternoon "do you need to take a nap?" as I was almost falling asleep during a meeting, I knew that I needed to change things up. I said to myself "what am I doing wrong? I gotta do something to change how I feel".

My answer - start running outside. 8 months later, I feel unbelievable and have more energy than ever.

2010 Goals

Average running 4.5 days per week for 2010 (worked out an average of 4.38 times per week in 2009 – started running in July 2009)

Run 1404 miles for the year (average 27 miles per week for 52 weeks)

Run a 5k race in under 7:00 per mile pace (haven’t run a 5k yet)

Run a 4/5 mile race in under 7:05 per mile pace (ran a 4 mile race on 2/7/2010 at a 7:11 pace, a personal record (PR) for me)

Run a 10k race under 7:25 per mile (ran 7:39 per mile on 12/6/2009, my first and only 10-K run to date)

Run a half marathon at under 8:00 per mile pace

Run a full marathon at under at 8:40 per mile pace

Run a 1 mile race under 6:30 per mile (I haven’t run a mile race since I was 12 years old, which I think I ran in 8:28 per mile)

Get weight down to 189 or less (currently 192)

Encourage my friends to run with me in Central Park early mornings (6am weekdays at 72nd and Central Park West to run the 6 mile loop)

Finish at 60% age graded % or greater for each NYRR race run from March - December 2010