Monday, April 28, 2014

Liebster Award

Ever heard of these? More than an award, it's really more of a way to get to know new blogs you might find interesting. A blogging version of Pay it Forward if you will. I had seen people nominating other blogs but last week, I got the nod!... Twice! That's right. You are reading the blog of a 2-time Liebster Award nominee. Jen from The Final Forty and NIkki from Oh... running kindly thought of this little corner in cyberspace to nominate.


The premise is simple enough: The person that nominates you lets you know and asks you 10 questions which you answer on a post on your own blog. you then nominate 10 people in return and you get to ask them 10 questions of your choosing, and so forth till the end of time. Since I got hit twice I will answer 20 questions (unless they overlap) but I will nominate only 10 people. Here are the questions.

1. What are some of you hobbies? (Other than running)
I'm a big movie fan. I used to go to the movies all the time. Now, with three small kids, not so much but thank goodness for the magic of Blu-Ray and DVD I guess. I also read voraciously and I love to spend time with my family.

2. What do you do for a living?
I work for a labor union. Been doing it for 15 years now. I do all sorts of stuff from organizing new members to servicing the ones we already have to negotiating their contracts. We wear many hats.

3. When did you start blogging?
Shortly after I started running. I just felt it was a good idea to keep me accountable. Never thought so many others would actually read it!

4. What are some of your favorite ways to stay fit (again, other than running)? 
Well, I just started training for a triathlon so I've been doing some swimming and cycling as of late. The swimming has been difficult (gotta have the right technique) but I can definitely see myself cycling regularly in the long term.

5. What would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
In keeping with the theme of the blog (because mentioning your kids is just too easy) I would have to say running the WDW Marathon. It's what started this crazy journey (and blog) in the first place. In many ways I still find it hard to believe I actually did it.

6. If you won the lottery tomorrow... what would spend the money on?
Pay off the house and all debts. Leave something to the girls and then take a Disney cruise followed by a trip to Disney World. Or vice-versa.

7. What's your favorite song on your running playlist?
Tough one... it varies. But I'm definitely of the Rock/Metal persuasion. It's a very eclectic playlist with rap, classical and even movie soundtracks but for the most part, Rock on!

8. What's your biggest pet peeve?
Animals dressed as humans! (Extra points for the ones who know where that is from.)

9. What's been your favorite race experience so far?
Do I have to say it? The Disney Marathon for all the reasons in the world! I had so much fun, met some really cool and great people and the race was awesome. No to mention the fact that I ran the race of my life.

10. What's the best piece of advice you have ever received?
"Whether you think you can or think you can't; you are right." - Henry Ford  
My guitar teacher told me that when I was 17 years old. I don't know if its the best advice I have gotten but it has sure stuck with me.

11. How did you get started running?
I used to hate running with a vengeance. Then I saw contestants on The Biggest Loser running a marathon and I figured I must be doing something wrong. A little bit after that I discovered Run Disney and that was the final straw. It gave something to work towards to and  I haven't looked back since.

12. Are you always nervous for races?
Always. I'm slower than molasses but every race I do, I feel like everything it's at stake. Like I'm running for the World Championship of I don't know what. It's part of what keeps me running.

13. Do you have "race outfits"?
Not really, but readers of this blog will probably recognize "The Shirt". I have a NY Jets shirt that I refuse to not wear. My first 5K, Half and Full Marathon were done on the shirt. It will be a sad day when I cannot wear it anymore.

14. Is there something special you have to wear during races? Like a Talisman of sorts?
My GPS watch. Total data junkie in the house! I don't know what I'd do if I forgot it on race day.

15. Do you always have a cheering section when you race or do you run alone?
I run alone. Because our daughters are small (the older one is 6), its a bit difficult for my wife to handle all three by herself in races with the crowds and all that's going on. When they are a bit older we'll work something out. having said that, my brother traveled with me for the WDW Marathon and having his support was really special.

16. Would you still train or run as hard if you didn't enter races?
Good question and absolutely! Running is about improving yourself whether you race or not. I would still be battling the clock. In fact one of my biggest problems during training is backing down.

17. What's your favorite food?
I love to try new things and different cuisines so it's hard to pick a favorite. Really hard.

18. Do you have any pets?
Yes, our dog Lady, which literally showed up in our doorstep. You can read about that here.

19. What's your dream job?
I love what I do because I feel it has meaning. Like I'm helping others. However, I have always gravitated toward the arts. I would love to write for a magazine (any magazine) or be a screenwriter or film director.

Alright. Only one question was in both lists. Now here are my Liebster nominees:

Mindy from Road Runner Girl
Liz from Liz for a Day
Greg from Why I Run Disney
Matt from The Run Streak
Steph from Goober Monkey
Kat from Katrina Elle
Sarah from Run Ginger Run

There were other blogs (like Fairytales and Fitness) that I wanted to nominate but got nominated with me by Jen from the Final Forty (big shout out!) so next time. Here are your 10 questions, nominees:

1. What is your funniest running story?
2. If you could run with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
3. What is your top bucket list race?
4. What is your favorite TV show?
5. What is your favorite movie?
6. If you had a monthly column in Runner's World, what would it be called?
7. If you ran the Avengers Super-Heroes Half Marathon, who would you dress as?
8. If there was a Star Wars marathon, who would you dress as?
9. What piece of running gear do you totally refuse to buy?
10. What do you think of The Fat Runner Blog? (Trick question, we all know how much you love it here!)

So, there you go! Nominees will be notified on the comments section of their blogs. Can't wait to read your answers!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Go Meb and Shalane!!

Wow, what a Boston Marathon...

We all knew coming in that this edition of the Boston Marathon was gonna be special. The emotions were running high and everyone felt it. Then, as if scripted (it sure wasn't) two athletes made a very special moment even more so by literaly re-writing history.

30 years...


That's how long ago an American had won the Boston Marathon. Meb Keflezighi was 8 years old at the time.

It's not that an American had to win this year. Life rarely works out with such synchronicity. But you know there were many at the starting line who thought they had to give a little extra this year to try and make it happen. It certainly seemed that way at the beggining. Both Meb and Ryan Hall were looking very strong in a field dominated by African countries. (as expected. By now I think everyone can agree they have rightfuly staked their claim in the history of the sport) But it was Meb who kept going. ...and going, and going.

At first, I was worried. I had seen a similar scenario during the New York Marathon and Meb simply could not keep up. With every step, I kept thinking: "He's gonna be 39 in May. There is only so much he can do." But he eventually ended up in the lead all by himself and even a late surge by Wilson Chebet was not enough. Meb won. With a ton of guts.

But if we are gonna talk about guts, then we have to talk about Shalane Flanagan.

I have been struggling to find something to compare Shalane's performance at Boston. There was something eerily familiar about the way she raced that sparked some faint memory in my brain but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then, hours after the race I was grocery shopping when it hit me. The last time I saw a performance like that from an American runner, it was a recording of an event that happened before I was even alive: Steve Prefontaine running at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Like Shalane, Pre didn't win that one either. In fact he didn't even place and yet, many still talk about that race. Realizing a bit after the halfway point that he was not gonna be able to out-kick Lasse Viren from Finland at the end, he decided to outrun him from the outset by running the race of his life. Sadly, he fell just a bit short; running out of gas, and losing a podium finish at the very end. But that was the whole point. He didn't race for an Olympic Medal. He raced to win. That's what I saw in Shalane last Monday. 

From the start, she claimed the race as hers, stubbornly refusing to relinquish the lead. Even if she fell a bit behind when taking something to drink, she would immediately join the lead group and get in front. It was clear from the start, that if this incredibly talented field of women was going to have a chance at taking this away from her, it was going to take a downright historic effort. And in the end that's exactly what happened. Shalane finished with not only a personal best time, but with a performance that would have won her the race in any other year except three and yet she finished seventh. That's why we race. We motivate each other directly and indirectly. Shalane's incredible race begat an even more impressive performance from the eventual winner, Rita Jeptoo that led to a new course record. In fact, the top three finishers came in under the old course record. That's how competitive the Women's Marathon was, and it was all thanks for Shalane Flanagan and her will to win one for Boston.

By the way was it just me, or all I could focus on during the race was Shalane's abs? I mean, wow, does she have a strong core! Quite the six pack. I have a 1 liter bottle myself so maybe that's why I noticed so much. Gotta get planking! 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Fat Triathlete(?)

About a week or two before the Disney Marathon, I was at an uncle's house during one of our (many, many) Christmas season family parties. My cousin Carlos sits by me and the following conversation ensues:

Carlos: So, you're ready for the marathon?

Me: I hope so. Otherwise this will be a very expensive fiasco. I'm very nervous.

Carlos: You got this! You sure trained for it. You'll rise to the challenge.

Me: We'll see.

Carlos: In fact, I got another one for you.

Me: Really?

Carlos: Yup. How's this: For our 40th birthday, we do the Ironman in Hawaii! Three years to train. What do you think?

Me: I think there is no chance in hell. How about we aim for Ironman 70.3 San Juan? It's right in our backyard and it's half the distance of an Ironman.

Carlos: Why not?! You worked your way up to a marathon. Why not an Ironman?

Me: It has nothing to do with thinking you can, genius. Though the jury is still out on the marathon. The Ironman in Kona is like, the World Championship. To race it you have to qualify for it. There is also a lottery but to qualify for that you got to do like a thousand Ironmans in other places first (actually you have to do 12, but it might as well be a million for us) so again, I don't think we got a chance.

And with that he got up and left, checking on his phone that everything I just told him was true. I had too much in my head at that moment to give the idea much though, but Carlos did nurture a little seed that was planted a while back.

Not long after starting my running journey I learned about two former contestants of The Biggest Loser who had actually done the Ironman in Kona. Matt Hoover, who sadly fell short of the 17 hour time limit by a couple of minutes and thus, didn't officially finish; and Tara Costa, one of my favorite contestants, who did manage to complete it. Their story compelled me enough to actually look up information on this crazy sport of triathlon and the Ironman. (hence, my knowledge on the subject during the above conversation.)

I was immediately struck by it. It is a very technical sport that requires a lot of planning and strategy which is what I love so much about running longer distances. Also, I thought this was a great way to become a better runner overall. After all, both cycling and swimming are cardio execises without the high impact of running so what better way to increase my training volume? All that motivation however, went the way of the Dodo bird when I started visiting local bike shops and seeing just how much these incredible pieces of modern technology cost. Very expensive plus you got to buy some extra gear (pedals, shoes, clothing etc...). So, for my own good I left it at that.

Then, I ran the marathon and I felt that the sky was the limit. Coming back from Florida, Carlos' words were starting to ring strong in my ears. Not long after that, as the wife and I were getting ready for bed one night, I was lazily flipping channels when I stopped at a rerun of NBC's coverage of the 2013 Ironman in Kona. I don't know if you all have watched this at some point but it's gripping stuff. They not only show you the pros trying to win but the everyday age groupers trying to finish, competing for different causes and enduring hardship just like all of us. It makes you want to try it yourself. Now, I'm not crazy enough to aim for an Ironman but it was enough for me to go ahead and aim to at least get a taste for the sport by doing a sprint triathlon (750 meter swim, 12 mile bike, 3.1 mile run). One little problem though: I still don't have a bike. I have figured out a solution but I'll leave that explanation for my next post. 

So, I have oficially started triathlon training and I have to say, even though my mileage has dropped quite a bit as I add both swimming and cycling to my regular weekly schedule and get used to it all, it has been a funny ride so far. If you think me wearing a tutu was funny, you'll want to read my upcoming posts about tri training.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

5K for Values 2014 Race Recap

I gotta ask: How can you possibly screw up a free race? It's free! Right? Well, you screw it up by not reading instructions. That's how!

Long story short: I was not able to pick up my race pack and bib. Circumstances out of my control and all so not really my fault. What was my fault was not reading the email reminder all the way through. Especially the part that said there would be no bib pick up the day of the race.

So there I was on race day, ready to run, no bib. I looked for one of the organizers to talk to and told him what happened. He was very understanding but he just could not help me. They didn't bring the bibs. However, I could still run the race. He said this race was for the people and anyone who wanted to run, could run. I just would not be timed and would not get a medal.
The Police Band (not the radio frequency) I understand they are actual police officers but why play armed?

I'll be honest. This didn't feel right. Even though he was clear (and later said it over the loudspeakers) that anyone could run the race I was feeling a bit like a bandit. Besides, if you run a race and have no bling to show for it, did it really happen? (Yes, it does but it still stings a bit) I almost didn't run it but after some soul-searching I decided to go ahead. It felt weird to line up without a bib but hey, when life throws you lemons, run a 5K.
The always popular warm-up

The route of this 5K is extremely popular. The 5K for Diabetes, The Runner's Love 5K and 10K, The Divas Half-Marathon and even the Ironman 70.3 among others, all follow this very route and the freaking steep hill that's in it. I have now run it many times but it's not getting any easier, even on this day where I was not aiming for a PR or anything other than finishing. My mileage has been way down and the miles I have run have been very slow in an attempt at base training (training in very low heart rate zones) so even considering a PR would have been stupid.
Ahead of me.
Behind me

Anyway, the gun went off and I started running. Too fast as usual. I was still fretting about the bib issue so out of guilt I didn't stop in any of the hydration spots and because I started too fast my energy slowly went away. The result? A positive split. I don't know if that's what you call it but since the exact opposite is a negative split then, what I did was a positive split. And pretty beautiful one at that.
Avg Pace

Even with all of that. I managed to run a sub-40 race so it wasn't all bad. At the finish they were lining up for the medals. I think, they would have given me one if I asked but again, it didn't feel right so I got off the line and headed home. I did ask a fellow runner to let me take a picture of his. It's the same as last year's.

Along with that sub-40 I also managed to keep my heart rate lower than what I have been seeing in 5K's so the base training seems to be working. All in all, not a bad day. Just a weird one I guess.

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Philadelphia!!

A little while back I was writing about short and long term goals. Among those goals was running a sub-3 hour Half Marathon this fall, and I also mentioned that I was trying to pick a race to go try get that PR. There were plenty of choices of course and many of those choices were certainly tempting for different reasons. However, life throws curve balls sometimes and when they come at you, you take a swing at them if you can.

Among my short list were races I genuinely wanted to run because they were on my list (Space Coast Half Marathon), races that were close to people I met during the Marathon or online (Pensacola, Avengers Half, some potential Loopfests) and some charity runs (St. Judes). In the end, fate kind of chose for me.

I think it was about a month ago, I talked about a run I did with my friend Al Vincent and how we went to the LRS and got him some running shoes. 

Al, is a very busy guy with many responsabilities and travels A LOT so it's hard for him to maintain the discipline to run regularly. I told him that one of the best ways to keep yourself accountable was to sign up for a big race early so you have something to work towards to. Well, on April 1st, registration for the Philadelphia Marathon/Half was opened and I emailed him with the challenge that if he signed up for it, I would join him. Well, he did. 

A promise is a promise right? So I signed up as well. Come November, we'll be running up those "Rocky Steps" and celebrating with a cheeseteak sandwich in the City of Brotherly Love. I worked in Philly for a year back in 2000 so it's a return to my old stomping grounds. Plus, November 21st is my Birthday!!  Will I manage to go sub-3? That remains to be seen but I will sure work my butt off to get it done.