Friday, July 30, 2010

My Daughter Mikayla running a kids race

Here is a video of my daughter Mikayla (almost 4 years old) running a kids race in Central Park on 7/18/10. Running next to her is her friend and classmate Annika. Listen closely to the annoucer commenting on their race, all the way to the end as they tied for first place.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Week 6 of 2010 Chicago Marathon Training Summary

I just completed week 6 of my 2010 Chicago Marathon training.  This week was tough, as I worked 100 hours this week (yes 100, it is not a typo).  At least 13 hours a day all 7 days this week, with 3 days of more than 16 hours.  A brutal week.  I barely saw my family at all the entire week, which was the worst. My mom was also in town visiting for her birthday, so I hardly spent any time with her, which was a bummer (although it was great having her here because she got to spend some quality time with my kids while I was working and the kids loved it!)  I had Rush tickets at Jones Beach for Saturday night (7/24/10) with my friend NN, and at the last minute I had to cancel (I felt guilty about leaving the rest of my team behind in the office when we still had a ton of work to do while I would be watching the show) plus, I was unable to go to the Walking with Dinosaurs show at Madison Square Garden with my family and some clients (although I heard everybody had a great time!). 

On the swim/bike/run front, working 100 hours this week made it very tough to get my workouts in, but I did it, always is a severely deprived sleep state.

I got 5 workouts in this week - 4 runs (total 28 miles) and 1 bike ride (30 miles).  My long run was 12 miles this week, in 85 degree heat with near 100% humidity.  Not fun, and as I was running, I thought to myself more than a few times "do I really want to keep running marathons?  6 miles seems like a long way, let alone 12 miles or 26.2 miles!".  Then I thought "do I really want to do an Ironman someday?  If I get a hot day, I'm going to be miserable!"

Here is a summary of the week:

Monday - OFF

Tuesday - 4.49 mile run, 8:10 pace, 158 average heart rate.  Slept only 6 hours the night before.

Wednesday - 6 mile run, 8:41 pace, 154 average heart rate.  Slept only 5 hours the night before (worked until after midnight the night before).

Thursday - 6 mile run, 8:37 pace, 154 heart rate.  Slept only 5 hours the night before (worked until after midnight the night before).

Friday - 30.2 mile bike ride of Central Park (5 loops) with my friend MH - 18.5 miles per hour (last loop approximately 20.1 mph), average heart rate 136, cadence 71, elevation gain 1,024 feet.   Slept less than 5 hours last night, up at 5am and in Central Park by 5:37 A.M.

Saturday - 12 mile long run, 8:58 pace, 158 average heart rate.  85 degrees, near 100% humidity, very muggy.  Stopped many times to drink water, went easy.  Felt good after the run.  Slept 7 hours last night after working until about 11pm.

Sunday - OFF.  Slept 7 hours last night.

I hope to catch up on my sleep this week!

Since I missed the Rush show last night, I looked for a video or two from the Jones Beach show last night.  I found this one, a very high quality HD video of the show.  These guys rock, this is a great video, check it out (La Villa Strangiato).

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Pictures from my First Triathlon - 7/7/10

Here is the Brightroom pictures from my first triathlon - the Pat Griskus sprint tri in Middlebury, CT

At the start of the bike ride...

Check out those cool goggles.....I did finish in front of at least 1 guy (look closely)  :)

Man am I tired, thirsty, and hot!

Out for a nice, hilly ride....

Happy to be almost done, the finish line is 50 yards away...

My first triathlon is complete!!!!!

Feeling the heat (90+ degrees and humidity near 100%) - need water!

In the back trying to avoid the chaos (I'm all the way in the back)

Adjusting my goggles before the race..

Taking it all in, nervously......

Trying to avoid a rock while entering in the water...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Week 5 of Chicago Marathon Training is complete - plus some videos

Worked out 6 days this week - 4 runs, 1 bike, and 1 swim. Ran a 4 mile race on Saturday (7:28 pace, 176 average heart rate, it was 83 degrees and 90% humidity).  I ran 3 miles very easy before the 4 mile race (my marathon schedule had my long run at 7 miles this week).  Starting this weekend, my long runs generally range between 12-20 miles over the next 9 weeks.

Fun stuff - saw Iron Maiden at MSG this week (see the video I took below, who knew that Iron Maiden could still fill 17,000+ seats?), had a gig at our guitar player's house on Long Island for a BBQ, and checked out the 2010 Nautica New York City Triathlon (videos below also).

On Sunday, I went to check out the 2010 Nautica New York City Triathlon (an Olympic distance tri - 0.9 mile swim, 40k bike, 10-k run).  I wanted to do this race this year, but the registration was at 12:01 A.M. on 11/1/09, and I was in bed sleeping before the NYC marathon.  The race sold out in 7 minutes (they will lottery it for 2011).  My sinister side says that they intentionally scheduled the registration on the night of the marathon so marathon runners would be sleeping and therefore not get in!

So, I went down to the Hudson river (very close to our apartment) to check out the race.  I arrived at 5:55 A.M., as my friend AL, an elite woman triathlete, had a wave start time of 5:56 A.M (she later finished 2nd among all elites...congrats AL!!!).  My friend MH also was doing the event, and his wave time started at 7:33 A.M. (men 35-39 years old), so I had time to take some video of the swim.  Here are a few.

A video of the middle of the swim - the current was so strong that if swimmers got in the water without holding onto the rope, they started floating downstream! 

The middle of the Men's 35-39 year old swim.

The start of the Men's 35-39 wave start.  Note the rope that the guys in the water are holding on to in order to keep themselves from floating downstream.  I need that kind of current for my next tri!

Another shot of the swim....

When I asked them what this was for, they said "when people get anxious about the swim".  I said, "what about when one gets anxious during the swim?"  :)

Iron Maiden Concert (taken with my Iphone 4) - these guys rock

Here is a summary of the week:

Monday - 41 minute swim, 1 mile.

Tuesday - 4.55 mile run, 8:20 pace, 154 average heart rate

Wednesday - 5.11 mile run, 8:24 pace, 155 average heart rate

Thursday - 6 mile run, 8:38 pace, 148 heart rate

Friday - OFF

Saturday - 4 mile race (7:28 pace, 176 heart rate), ran 3 miles at 9:36 per mile pace and a 142 heart rate (total 7 miles today)

Sunday - Very easy 30 minute bike ride around the upper west side and central park

Ran approximately 23 miles, knees feel great.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Week 4 of Chicago Marathon Training Summary

Week 4 (7/4-7/11/10) of my Chicago Marathon Training is complete.

I had a good week, getting in 6 workouts in 6 days:  4 runs, 1 bike, and 1 swim.  Included in these workouts were 2 races this week - my first Triathlon (a sprint in Middlebury, CT) and a 10-K run in Central Park (my 8th race this year, only one more to go to reach the 9 races required for automatic entry into the 2011 NYC Marathon, although I still need to volunteer for 1 event).

I started to feel a little fatigue in my knees at the end of the week, so I took my long run on Saturday easy (10.6 miles, including the 10-K race) as well as my long bike ride on Sunday very easy (30 miles, 5 loops of Central Park, average heart rate was only 125 with a max of 159, including the tough great hill).

Here is a summary of the week:

Monday - 20 minute swim, 1/2 mile.  Bum very sore from 62 mile bike ride the day before

Tuesday - 4.55 mile run, 8:38 pace, 152 average heart rate

Wednesday - Pat Griskus Sprint Triathlon - 1 hour, 30 minutes (swim, bike, run) - half mile swim, 10.5 mile bike, 5-K run

Thursday - OFF

Friday - 5.19 mile run, 8:28 pace, 153 heart rate (peak heart rate 169)

Saturday - 10.59 mile run - 4.32 miles first, then a 10-K race in Central Park at a very easy pace of 8:36 per mile (finishing the last mile at under 7 minutes per mile).  I planned on running this race easy, but when I got to Central Park, I realized that I left the chip to record my time on my other pair of shoes (I changed them right before I left).  I didn't realize this until I got 1 mile into my run in Central Park, so I ran home fast, changed shoes, and ran up to 100th street on the east side to start the race.  I arrived at Central Park at the race start at 8:56 A.M., 4 minutes before race time, so my corral was closed and I ended up starting the race near the back of crowd.  When the race started, the "heard" of people I was with started out at about a 9:50 per mile pace for the first mile, which was awesome!  I needed to run slower anyway, so starting out very slow was perfect.  I felt so strong at the end of the race that I was easily able to run a sub 7 minute per mile pace to finish the race, which felt great.

Sunday - 30 mile bike ride in Central Park (5 loops) with my friend MH (who is doing the Nautica Olympic tri in NYC on 7/18, which I am very jealous of).  We took it extremely easy, averaging 17.4 miles per hour.   My average heart rate was 125 (peak heart rate 159, which is really low and I am happy about it).  We had 993 feet of elevation gain and my average cadence was 68.

Also signed up to do a sprint triathlon at Greenwood lake with MH on 9/12 and I am actively looking for some more Tris to do!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Triathlon - The Pat Griskus sprint triathlon in Middlebury, CT

Today, Wednesday July 7, 2010, I did my first triathlon, The Pat Griskus sprint triathlon in Middlebury, Connecticut. This tri was recommended to me by a friend of a friend, and the race was said to be a good, well-run, USA Triathlon (USAT) sanctioned race.  It was approximately 80 miles from our apartment and the race started at 6 P.M.

The race consisted of a 0.5 mile swim, a 10.5 mile bike ride, and a 5-K race (3.1 miles, events done in the order listed here).  The race website says "The Sprint distance starts with a half-mile swim in spring-fed Lake Quassapaug, enjoy the challenging 10.5 mile bike around the lake, and the out-and-back 3.1 mile run."  I'd come to find out later that the bike ride was extremely challenging, as it was extremely hilly and very tough.

I got there early to register, get my race numbers for my bike and run, to get body marked (where the wrote 194 on my arm and leg along with "FT" to brand me as a "first timer", a phrase that I heard yelled at me while I was running a few times), and most importantly to set up my bike in the transition area, along with my shoes, race belt, watch, helmet, swimming goggles, and sun glasses (for the bike portion).  There were approximately 675 participants including relay teams (where teams of 3 split up each of the 3 events evenly) and I saw everything from super expensive road bikes to one dude with an old mountain bike (which I saw as he was passing me on the bike course).   As I had never done a tri before, I asked people around me a lot of questions to get set up. What was really cool was that everybody was really nice and was willing to help me (in fact, people actually seemed like they wanted to help me and the other 150 or so first timers). There was a guy next to me, DL, 54, also from Manhattan that I hung out with (he ended up with an extremely impressive time of 1:17:00, crushing me, 4th in his age group, just missing a 3rd place first timer medal). There was a woman with an Ironman bag, so I talked to her for a while, asking her about the Ironman since I'd like to do one someday, and she was more than open with me (unknown to me at the time, she is an extremely talented triathlete and she ended up winning the woman's race today by 2 seconds).  I love running and I say "hi" to everybody I run by. Most of the time, people just ignore me without even an acknowledgement, which I never understand. Some have suggested to me that it is because many runners are loners. Who knows. What I do know is that every triathlete that I was around today was friendly, which was a breath of fresh air.

I rented a Blue Seventy wetsuit for the race ($80, which I ended up applying to the $300 cost of the wetsuit when I bought it after the race). The temperature was around 90 and the water temp was 75, so they encouraged first timers to wear a wet suit to get the benefit of improved buoyancy in the water. Being a weak swimmer, I'll take all of the help I can get, so at 5:45 I put on the wetsuit and felt instantly like I had a 108 degree fever, as the wetsuit was hot!!! (I'd never worn a wetsuit before or done an open water swim before). Prior to 5:45, I did get in the water to swim without my wetsuit, and the water was very nice, and frankly I would have been fine without a wetsuit, but I really wanted the help.  So, being super hot with my wetsuit on and about 21 minutes until my wave would start swimming (wave 3, at 6:06 P.M., each wave being spaced 3 minutes apart), I jumped in the water to stay cool. The wetsuit was so buoyant that I floated without hardly doing anything!  Awesome, I thought to myself.

Not being a strong swimmer with little experience (until 4 weeks ago I hadn't swam lengths since high school), and also because all of my tri friends said the swim is like a war zone with people pushing, grabbing, scratching, dunking, and pulling on each other, I decided to hang at the back of my wave when our wave started. I also intended on being on the side to stay out of the "war zone". So when the race started, I calmly and very nervously walked into the water as many in my wave (which was the Masters wave that included people from 40-70+ years old) ran into the water to establish a position out in front of everybody. As I was walking in the water, I was so far to the side that there were a bunch of humongous rocks, and for a minute I thought to myself "great, now I'm going to sprain my ankle before I even start racing". Luckily, I was able to get in the water safely and I started swimming.

My tri friends had also prepared me for the worst at the beginning of the swam.  One of my friends CH said that he wanted to stop swimming within a few minutes of starting (he eventually pushed through his panic).  Another one of my friends, PN, said that I should expect to hit the wall at about 100 meters.

tri (TBD), which will probably be to start toward the front of my wave to avoid this problem, but then I'll be the guy getting pummeled).  So, I'd say it took me 3-4 minutes of stopping and starting to get around a group of swimmers to get back into my grove again.  At this point, I was already at the turnaround point (about 400 meters of the 800 meters swim).  My friends had warned me about being too close to the buoy, as it gets extremely crowded there, but luckily it wasn't too crowded when I got there.  Then I made the turn back toward the beach, sighted it, and kept swimming.  At about the 500 meters point, I hit a wall, big time!  All that energy that I used to get around people had finally caught up to me.  I pulled up to tread water to get my bearings.  The panic that my friends predicted had arrived.  I looked over at the guys on the boats watching us swim and thought to myself "man, I really want to stop swimming, I really don't want to swim anymore".  At this point, 300 meters seemed like 100 miles to me.  I thought to myself "if I were running, I could just walk, and that would be it", but when you are swimming, and you are exhausted (my lungs where wheezing loudly as I was breathing very heavy with anxiety), even treading water is tough.  I thought to myself "get a grip, all of your friends told you that this would happen, so swim easy for a minute or two until you get your bearings back".  So, I did the side stroke (I thought about doing the backstroke as many had recommended to me but I hadn't practiced that since I was a kid, so that was out).  The water was a little wavy, which made the side stroke tough, but I started moving again.  I also saw many other swimmers around me struggling just like I was, so that helped me recover.  I tread water a few more times until I got my confidence back, and then started swimming again (albeit not totally straight).  I got back into my groove and finished strong back to the beach.  I walked out of the water and walked to the transition area.

My swim split came in at 22:03, which easily included 90 seconds of walking to the transition area (which was included in my swim time because the transition mat for the swim time was well up a hill), so it took me around 20 minutes to swim 800 meters, which given that I stopped for at least 3 minutes, I was very happy with (I had been swimming a mile in a pool in 41 minutes consistently, so I expected to be much slower in the open water).  The wetsuit definitely helped.

Transition 1 (T1) time:  2:29

I took off the top of my wetsuit as I walked to the transition area, got some water, and got to my bike.  Of course, not having ever worn a wetsuit before, I struggled big time to get it off, so I had to sit down to pull it off.  I put on my shirt, helmet, sunglasses, shoes, heart rate monitor, and I was off!  I felt strange (like I always do after swimming), but overall pretty good.  I got on the bike and started cruising.  I was averaging over 21.6 miles per hour for the first 4 miles of the 10.5 mile course, but then the hills started.  They were brutal and I wasn't ready for them (even though I have been training on River Road and on 9W in New Jersey which are very hilly).  I was pushing and passing a lot of people even though it was hard, but I ran out of water at around mile 6 (I had 2 water bottles with me but I was extremely hot from the swim), and they don't provide water on the bike course.  So, I pushed through the bike ride, each time running into a new hill (I said "UGH!" along with everybody else as each new hill came up).  The rest of the ride was extremely hilly, and I ended up averaging 17 miles per hour for the entire ride (which I was working for, as my average heart rate for the bike ride was 172, peak of 177).  Normally when I ride, my average heart rate is in the mid 140s.  I'm sure that they heat played a huge roll in pushing up my heart rate (as did the hills).

Bike time:  38:06, average heart rate 172, average speed approximately 17 miles per hour, 748 feet of elevation gain (i.e., a hilly course for 10.5 miles!)

Transition 2:  I got off the bike, racked it, put on my running shoes, and took off.  As I started running, I felt numb, barely feeling my legs.  I got some water, which was filled with ice (which I really appreciated), and headed toward the run.

Transition 2 (T2) time:  1:32

As I started my run, I couldn't really feel my legs, similar to the way I feel at mile 20 of a marathon.  I told my legs to keep pushing, and I looked down at my watch for my pace.  It said 8:36 per mile.  "wow, I thought to myself, it feels like I am running a 20:00 minute per mile pace".  I kept pushing, as most of mile 1 was downhill (and frankly, all I could think about was how much I did NOT want to run back up the steep hill I was running down on my way back on the out and back course).  My mile 1 split was 8:17 per mile.  At this point, I was exhausted, but I was having a blast.  I had a big smile on my face and was really enjoying it.  I thought to myself "this is much harder than I thought it would be, I really love this".  Mile 2 had some much needed Gatorade and water, which I walked to consume, then ran to the turnaround point, knowing that I would be able to walk at the water/Gatorade station on the way back.  Mile 2 split 8:45 (which was an accomplishment for me given how exhausted and hot I was).  Mile 3 had that hill I mentioned, and as I started running up it, I noticed that every single person (except for 1 that was running slower than I can walk) was walking up the hill, so I decided to walk it also.  Even though I was walking, my heart rate was still in the 170s.  I was spent. My mile 3 split was 9:47 per mile despite walking up the hill, and I sprinted the last 0.1 mile to finish.

Run split:  26:50, around 8:50 per mile, average heart rate 173.

Overall time 1 hour, 30 minutes, 57 seconds, good for 246th place and 28 out of 42 in my age group.

Overall, I loved it and am looking forward to doing many more triathlons.  My goal was to have a good time and finish, so I was happy that I logged an OK time

Before the race in the transition area....

The transition area..

The swim course - I started on the left, swam to the end of the yellow buoys, and then swam down the middle to the finish

The road to run up after the swim to get to the transition area (or, in my case, to walk up after the swim)

the grass to run up to get to the transition area (or, in my case, to walk up after the swim)...

The medals they gave to "First Timers".  Very cool!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Roll it out

When I train for a marathon, I use a foam roller to "roll out" my IT bands, quads, and hamstrings on a daily basis. One day, both of my daughters tried to imitate me rolling it out. Here is a video of my younger daughter rolling it out at 17 months old (she started doing this on her own!)

I have recently purchased a Trigger Point Foam Roller, which I highly recommend, as it is firm and doesn't break down like my last 2 foam rollers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Week 3 of Chicago Marathon Training is Complete

I just completed week 3 of my 17 week Chicago Marathon training program.  Great week, my knees are getting much better, and there is no question that cross training has actually helped my running and my body feels much less fatigued running only 4 days a week.  Overall, I got in 7 workouts in 6 days, swimming twice (once on Monday morning and again Monday night, trying to get some swim time in as my first triathlon approaches), running 4 times, and cycling once (62 miles).  My first triathlon is this Wednesday, and I'm definitely nervous about the swim.

My average heart rate definitely came down over the week, as my fitness improved.  It was extremely hot in New York City all week (99 today), with all of my workouts being done in the 80-90 degree area (even at 7:30am).  My goal has been to run slower, but my times below don't reflect that (even though my runs were all very easy this week), as I think my cross training has helped to get me in better shape and therefore reduce my average heart rate.

Here is a summary of my workouts for the week:

Monday Morning- Swam 1 mile in 40 minutes

Monday Night - Swam half a mile in 19 minutes

Tuesday - Ran 4 miles on the bridal path at a pace of 8:23 per mile, average heart rate 157

Wednesday - Ran 5.13 miles around the Central Park loop at a pace of 8:36 per mile, average heart rate 148.

Thursday - Ran 4.5 miles on the bridal path at a pace of 8:09 per mile, average heart rate 159

Friday - Off.  I didn't realize it until I look at my workout log, but I had worked out for the last 15 days in a row and 20 of the last 21 days.  My swimming and cycling workouts are MUCH easier than running, so those almost feel like off days from a body fatigue standpoint.

Saturday -cycled 62 miles over the GW bridge, up River Road in New Jersey (which is extremely hilly and tough), up 9W, back down 9W, down River Road, and down the west side of Manhattan.  Total miles 62.32, average heart rate 142, max heart rate 169, average speed 16.3 miles per hour (we were pushing, even on the hills), average cadence (74, getting better), 4,523 feet of elevation gain (i.e. very hilly), 3 hours 50 minutes for the entire bike ride.  Best of all - I learned how to stand up on the bike while hill climbing, something I couldn't do last week.  I've only had my bike a month now, and I've done a long ride each weekend (24 miles, 41 miles, 52 miles, and 62 miles).  I definitely plan on going less miles this weekend! Check out the Garmin Stats from my bike ride here

Sunday - Ran 9.05 miles, average pace 8:43 per mile, average heart rate 149.  It was very hot, so I went out very, very easy.  I was surprised at my pace, as my goal was to be in the 9:00-9:30 range.  I forced myself to go slower and take it easy, and therefore felt great after the run. Garmin Stats for my 9 mile run

Thursday, July 1, 2010

2009 ING New York City Marathon Summary - Long Version

 This morning, I realized that I wrote this race report for the 2009 NYC Marathon and never posted it to my blog (previously, I posted a shorter version).  I wrote most of this right after the race.  As I trained for the marathon this year, 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 added some pictures at the bottom too.

1. I ran the ING New York City Marathon on November 1, 2009, my first marathon, age 39.
2. My time was 3:58:05
3. 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.
3. I decided to run the marathon in July 2009 and got into the Marathon by running for a charity called Team For Kids (TFK), which encourages kids to exercise and stay in shape.
4. I raised over $5,000 for TFK (thank you to everybody that sponsored me!)
5. Running the marathon was an amazing experience, one of the many highlights of my life.
6. I got hurt about 6 weeks into my training with a swollen knee and a torn right quad muscle. This resulted in 6 weeks of physical therapy 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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). Walking served to warm up my muscles. I did not stretch. 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)
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. I did not stop running once the entire race (thank goodness for the volunteers that hand you water/Gatorade on the course)
14. "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. Without them, I would have stopped to walk, even for a few seconds, and that walking may have caused me to miss my goal.
15. When I decided to run the Marathon in July 2009, I had never run a race greater than 3.5 miles.

My Marathon Summary

In June, I ran in the 3.5 mile JP Morgan challenge race in Central Park, the first race that I had run in since running high school hurdles in 1988. I was a sprinter and HATED distance running. It was a totally packed race, but I enjoyed it. While running, I remember thinking "man, this is much harder than doing the Stair Master", which I had been doing at the gym for 30 minutes 4-5 days per week for 15 years. To stay healthy and to avert flare ups of my Crohn's Disease, I have to exercise regularly  When I don't, I get sick.  My time was 28:47, or an 8:05 per mile pace, but that was going all out, with a full out sprint at the end (with my heart rate averaging 177 for the entire run and ending at 189). Earlier that year, I bought a GarminNYRR") to motivate me to run in some races (an therefore have something to train for, a goal to keep motivated). I also signed up for and participated in a speed class for a month. My knees hurt a little after my California runs, so my friend, NYRR coach, and amazing runner Rich Campbell told me to go to the SuperRunners store on 78th and Amsterdam to get new shoes. He explained that the wrong shoes can often cause knee problems. So, I went to superrunners and they watched me run, said that I don't pronate at all, and recommended some "neutral" shoes with cushioning (later during my training I would need physical therapy on my knee and they also confirmed that I don't pronate an therefore need neutral shoes). I highly recommend superrunners. They even let me return a pair of shoes that I did a 6 mile run in that didn't feel good to me for a full refund.

So, after a week of running I saw my fitness level improve, my energy level during the day significantly increase (despite the fact that I was running very early in the morning and only sleeping 6 hours per
night), and I felt much better. I decided to keep running, 6 miles per day during the week and a longer run on the weekend (10 miles) - running 6 days per week. At this point, 3 weeks into running, I started
thinking about running the marathon, something I always wanted to do but never thought was possible due to my Crohn's disease, which frequently causes inflammation and fatigue in my body. At one point in
March, I felt so tired in the afternoon that I could barely keep my eyes open. I saw a doctor, got a bunch of MRI tests, and got the standard response I always hear -  "who knows why". I needed to make a change.  Once I started running, these problems went away. In fact, on the days I didn't run, I felt some tiredness (once a week at this point) but nowhere near as bad as before I started running. To me this meant that running was immediately improving my fitness and my quality of life, as I would have the "runners high" all day after running. I decided at this point to try and run 13 miles, and if that went well, to sign up for the marathon (the only way to get in was to run for charity, and of course, I had called the charity about 5 times before my 13 mile run to make sure that if I did run 13 miles that I could actually get in the marathon).  In my head, I thought to myself "if I can run 13 miles only a few weeks into running, I should be able to run 26.2 miles if I train for 4 months.  If other people can do it, then I can do it too".

Race Summary  - The Course

Getting to Staten Island where the race starts - This year, the marathon was on November 1, 2009, the morning after Halloween.  We took our kids to the annual Halloween block party on the Upper West Side, which was great, and then I left the family to go home to get ready.  I had already put out all of my clothes and bag to take with me (with bagels, bananas, Gatorade, power gel bars, and gus), so all I needed to do was eat a little more (pasta, which at that point I was so sick of because I ate it before every long run).  I got to bed around 9:30 P.M. and got up at 4:45 A.M.  I had a cold the week of the marathon, and that morning was no exception.  My lungs hurt and I had a noticeable wheeze in my lungs, so I took an inhaler that morning.  Frankly, I was lucky to be able to sleep in that morning, as the charity I ran for "Team for Kids" provided a shuttle bus to Staten Island, which was great because I didn't have to take the Staten Island ferry, which would have meant getting up even earlier and waiting in lines to catch the ferry.  The shuttle bus ride was great to Staten Island.  I was nervous, but felt good.  It was around 55 degrees, with about 70% humidity.  It rained the night before and was still raining a little bit when I got the shuttle, but I was happy that it was cool.  Once in Staten Island, I went to a tent in the charity area, which was cool.  They had tons of food and drinks.  I could feel the excitement in the air.  I could feel people thinking "finally, the day is here".  The ground was muddy, and a friend of mine told me to expect this, so I brought some garbage bags to sit on.  Next time, I will bring even more so I can spread out a little more.  Of course, I talked to lots of people.  There is an automatic bond and respect level for other marathon runners, and this was clear to me based on how everybody treated each other.  I ran into my friend BG, a former Goldman Sachs colleague, and we hung out until we had to go in our corrals (we had met at a Team for Kids training run, which was cool, since I hadn't seen him since we worked together.  We did a 17 mile long run together near the end of training.  He ended up beating me by 11 seconds, even though we didn't see each other once during the entire race).

Pre-Race - The New York City Marathon starts in waves (1, 2, and 3) and corrals. The waves are separated by the estimated time it will take you to finish the marathon. When we submit our marathon application, we write in our expected marathon finishing time. The faster runners are in the earlier waves, slower runners in the later waves. On my marathon application that I completed in July 2009 when I first started running, I submitted a time of 3:59:59 (I ended up running at 3:58:05). This put me in wave 2, the orange corral with the letter "B". My bib number was 30033, was the color orange, and had a "B" on it. This would tell me where to go (there are signs directing runners to their corrals) and would also tell the workers where I was allowed to go. Wave 1 started at 9:40am, wave 2 at 10:00am, and wave 3 at 10:20am. With over 43,000 runners that finished the race, the start area/corrals were complete mayhem. Prior to the marathon, I had run a fair number of New York Road Runners races so I expected some mayhem. However, nothing could have prepared me for the complete chaos prior to the race. The corrals were completely packed when I tried to get into my corral. There were hundreds of people trying to get into their corrals, but there was only 1 way to get there (which wasn't moving) and took us through a muddy area (because of the rain the night before and early the morning of the race). I finally made it into my corral, but it was so packed that people are pushing up against you the entire time. No question in my mind, too many people. We were in our corrals about 45 minutes before our scheduled start time. Once wave 1 took off, our corral started to move forward toward the start line. I took off my windbreaker and old running pants, threw them to the side of the road (they get donated to charity), and walked toward the start line. The inhaler I took for the wheeze in my lungs due to my cold seemed to work - I felt pretty good and was excited to start running after standing still without moving for 45 minutes. The atmosphere was awesome - people were talking and laughing and were excited to get going. Surprisingly, things opened up a lot and when I hit the start line there were a lot of people but it wasn't too crowded. I had room to run whatever pace I wanted. People were clapping, yelling, and screaming. It was really cool. I remember thinking "this is awesome".

Mile 1 - The first mile is straight up hill on the Verrazano Bridge. My gameplan was to go out slow for the first few miles, at around 9 - 9:30 minutes per mile. Watching everybody else run was simply awesome. People were having a great time. What amazed me the most was how relaxed everybody was. Many people were carrying cameras with them (particularly runners from outside of the US) and stopped on the side of the bridge to take pictures with NYC in the background. It amazed me that people were so relaxed that they could stop running to take pictures. It relaxed me. If these people could stop and take pictures (and probably still finish way ahead of me), I thought to myself "just take your time".

Mile 1 split: 9:05 per mile. Felt great and relaxed.

Mile 2 - straight downhill on the Verrazano bridge into Brooklyn. Since this is downhill, I had the urge to run faster, but I forced myself to take it easy. Going downhill, I was able to see the tens of thousands of runners ahead of me, an amazing site. It wasn't until that point that I realized how big this event really is.

Mile 2 split: 8:30 per mile.

Miles 3 - 8 - Now in Brooklyn primarily on 4th avenue, it was amazing to run through the different areas in Brooklyn. For the first 8 miles of the marathon, each runner runs on 1 of 3 routes. I was on the orange route. Others run on the blue or green route. The great thing about having 3 distinct routes is that the course isn't that crowded. I could run whatever pace I wanted (either faster or slower). There were bands on the side of the road and lots of people cheering. The crowd definitely pumped me up and kept me going. On 4th Avenue and about 2nd street I saw my friend KK, which was really cool. During these miles I felt great and really started to get into my groove. I felt strong. My gameplan was to run 8:30-8:45 per mile during this stretch, which I was able to do. 8 miles into the race, I was executing my gameplan perfectly.

Mile 3 - Mile 8 splits (in order from mile 3 to mile 8)- 8:49, 8:42, 8:35, 8:27, 8:28, 8:37)

Mile 9 - at this point in the race, all 3 routes merged into 1 route (a very skinny street). This meant that the road went from "not that crowded" to "unbelievably packed - wall to wall people". I was unable to run the pace I had run for the first 8 miles, as (1) the pace of the crowd slowed down to about 9:05 per mile due to the shear number of people and (2) it was simply too crowded to pass people without going to war. Initially, this frustrated me very much as I had to slow down when I didn't want to. I thought about my goal of sub 4 hours. I knew that I had to average 9:09 per mile for the entire race and also knew that I was ahead of this pace so far (thanks to my Garmin 405 watch). I also knew that I would probably tire around 20 miles (I never ran more than 20 miles in any training run), so I wanted to have some cushion to account for slowing down at the end. About 100 feet ahead of me, I saw a large balloon that the 4 hour pacing group was carrying. "Great" I thought. sub 4 hours in probably the most popular goal time, so there were a TON of people running with this group. I thought "OK, there is no way that I am going to run faster for a while, just sit back and conserve your energy and enjoy the ride. It isn't worth going to "war" by fighting to run a little faster (which would mean many elbows and may result in me getting hurt)". Little did I know at this point that it would be this crowded until I got into Manhattan at mile 17.

Mile 9 split: 9:07

Miles 10-13.1 (half marathon point) - running through the different neighborhoods in Brooklyn was awesome. The pace continued to per much slower and I couldn't run faster because it was so crowded. I ran into a friend of mine from the New York Road Runners speed class that I took, which was cool. As I approached the half marathon point (which comes on a bridge going uphill), I began to tire a little bit so I was working just a little bit harder to maintain the same pace, but overall I felt great.  Most of this area was pretty flat until reaching the bridge to go from Brooklyn into Queens, which is uphill.  I found all of the bridges tough uphills.  The half marathon split is uphill on this bridge.

Mile 10 - 13 splits (in order from mile 10 - the half marathon point) - 8:43, 9:01, 9:04, 9:07 (half marathon split 1:56:02, an 8:51 pace).

Miles 14 - 15 - the course continued to be packed and I continued to run slow, but I knew at this point that I was getting close to the 59th street bridge and then Manhattan, so I was excited about that. We entered Queens and quickly left it.

Mile 14-15 splits - 8:45, 9:38

Mile 16 - finally we made it to the 59th street bridge. The road is straight up hill when you make it to the bridge, and the already slow running mob slowed down significantly, to over 11 minutes per mile. It was still too crowded to pass anybody, so I just went with it. The uphill was tough, and as people told me before the race, it was very quiet. I was definitely starting to get tired at this point but was also excited to get to 1st avenue and that kept me going.

Mile 16 split: 11:25

Miles 17 - 19 - Manhattan, 1st avenue! People tell you to take it easy when you get to first avenue, because the crowds will pump you up. It was an awesome feeling to see all those people cheering - there are people everywhere. At this point, I saw a sign that said "pain is temporary, pride is forever". At this point, I was definitely tired, but I continued to push. 1st avenue is net uphill, so that makes things more challenging too. I made the decision to push harder over these 3 miles, but I was so tired that it took me a lot more effort to maintain my splits.

Miles 17 - 19 splits - 8:51, 8:53, 9:02

Mile 20 - the Willis Avenue Bridge. As I hit the Wills Avenue Bridge, I was exhausted. The bridge is uphill, but to me it felt like climbing a mountain. I hadn't stopped running the entire race (not even to get water, as the volunteers hand you cups of water or Gatorade or gu as you continue to run), and for the first time, I felt like walking. During marathon training, everybody talks about "the wall", which usually happens to people around mile 20. I've read that there is some science to why this happens (something about how much sugar your body can store), but I never believed in "the wall". After his first marathon, Lance Armstrong said "the first 20 miles of a marathon are only half of the race". My friend BJM told me that no matter how hard he tried, that he couldn't break 10 minutes per mile for the last 6 miles. I decided to keep my legs moving - I'd heard that while your body wants to stop, your mind can will your legs to keep going, so that's what I tried to do. Right before and right after the bridge, I saw the sign again that said "pain is temporary, pride is forever". With less than 6 miles to go, this kept me pushing on. I knew at this point that I had a shot at a sub 4 hours marathon. My overall time for the first 20 miles was around 8:58 per mile. Doing the calculations in my head, I knew that if I could run around 9:30 pace for the rest of the way I would do it. For the next 6 miles, I said to myself time to "live within the mile", basically saying to myself "don't worry about anything else but the current mile you are in". From this point on, I managed my pace to try achieve a 9:30 per mile.   I also knew that the last 6 miles are very, very hilly, particularly mile 24 on 5th avenue right before entering Central Park (which is also extremely hilly).  A good friend of mine ran a 2:48 marathon years ago, and when he told me about it (long before I even thought about running a marathon), he said that he was extremely surprised by how hilly central park was.

Mile 20 split - 9:21

Miles 21 - 23 - At this point, I was completely exhausted. I had never run this far. I just started running in July. The music I was listening to didn't help (I was so tired I don't even remember hearing it). The crowds helped a little. There was that sign again "pain is temporary, pride is forever". No kidding. I remember thinking to myself "this is the hardest athletic thing I have ever done, nothing even comes close". I wanted to stop running, badly, but I knew that if I stopped that I wouldn't break 4 hours. To come this close to my goal and miss it wasn't an option to me. My mind kept telling my legs to run. I felt numb, almost like I took a drug.  My stride shortened and I could barely feel my legs at all. My friend MM said that she saw me around mile 22 and was screaming at me but I didn't see her. Another friend of mine, DL, ran right up to me on the course (he wasn't running the race), tapped me on the shoulder, and yelled "BALCOM, BALCOM!!!" He ran with me for 10 feet or so as we talked and that definitely kept me going.

Mile 21 - 23 splits - 9:14, 9:20, 9:27. Somehow, I was able to stay under 9:30 per mile. I was so numb that it felt like I was running 15 minute miles.

Mile 24 - this mile runs from 110th street to 90th street on 5th avenue and it is straight up hill. I knew that this mile was coming, but it was pure hell given how tired I was. I knew that I would enter Central Park at Engineer's Gate at 90th and 5th avenue and that this mile would be the toughest. I run in Central Park almost every day, so while it is extremely hilly, I know exactly where it goes up and down hill, which would allow me to keep my pace. I pushed during this mile as hard as I could, wanting so badly to walk. At this point, a lot of people were walking this hill, but I decided to push on. Nobody was talking or laughing anymore. Everybody else was tired too.  People were just as focused as I was.  I was definitely around a bunch of people also trying to break 4 hours, so that helped keep me motivated too.

Mile 24 split - 9:47

Miles 25, 26, and the last 385 yards - Central Park!! My home field. While I was exhausted, I knew at this point that had enough left to break 4 hours. My family would be at Tavern on the Green in the grandstands to see me finish (including my mom visiting from Wisconsin). This motivated me. I had calculated that I would break 4 hours so long as I could run below 10 minutes per mile.   After the 25 mile sign, runners start to see the best signs ever - 1 mile to go, 800 meters to to, 400 meters to go, 200 meters to go, then the runners can see the finish (of course, the last 400 meters are straight uphill).  I saw my family, yelled "HEY!!!" with a huge smile on my face, and sprinted to the finish (my last mile being around 7:46 per mile).

Overall Summary
1. Goal - Get to the start line healthy. Result - done!

When I had to sit out for a week in August because my left knee swelled up and I could barely walk, I thought that I wouldn't be able to run the marathon. Luckily, it my knee swelling was caused by a tight IT band that I was able to get better via physical therapy and the daily use of the foam roller!

2. Goal - run the NYC Marathon in under 4 hours. Result - ran it in 3:58:06, never stopping once for the entire 26.2 miles. Thank goodness for the volunteers that hand out the water and Gatorade while we run! For me, once I stop running, it is hard for me to start back up again. From miles 19-24, I really, really wanted to walk (as I said in my head "just for a few seconds"). However, I knew that if I did, a few seconds would probably turn into a few minutes and then I wouldn't meet my goal of sub 4 hours.

3. Goal - have fun. Result - one of the best experiences of my life, I still can't believe that I ran 26.2 miles for almost 4 hours straight without stopping. The New York City crowds definitely helped me get through it. Starting at about mile 17 and continuing to the end, I saw 3 to 4 signs that said "pain is temporary, pride is forever". It was these signs that kept me going, even when I really wanted to stop.

My Splits from the NYRR:

Event: ING New York City Marathon 2009
Last Name: Balcom
First Name: James

Below are the latest runner's results:
Location: 5 Kilometers
Time: 00:27:37.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:52.50
Location: 10 Kilometers
Time: 00:54:14.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:43.84
Location: 15 Kilometers
Time: 01:21:40.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:45.65
Location: 20 Kilometers
Time: 01:49:48.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:49.93
Location: Half-Marathon
Time: 01:56:02.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:51.38
Location: 25 Kilometers
Time: 02:18:36.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:55.42
Location: 30 Kilometers
Time: 02:46:40.00
Pace/mile: 00:08:56.43
Location: 35 Kilometers
Time: 03:15:52.00
Pace/mile: 00:09:00.28
Location: 40 Kilometers
Time: 03:45:49.00
Pace/mile: 00:09:05.19
Location: Finish
Time: 03:58:06.00
Pace/mile: 00:09:05.23
All times are unofficial. Times may vary in post race official results.

Crossing the finish line - I was in wave 2, so the clock doesn't reflect my time of 3:58:05

Look at all these people!  I'm on the left side about 3/4 of the way up the page

In Central Park at around 24 miles

Checking my watch to make sure I can get in under 4 hours!

In Central Park, feeling the pain

Another shot at the 24 mile point in Central Park

After the race at Tavern on the Green