Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Galloway Method Tips

As many of you already know, I have used the Galloway Method several times during races, especially during longer races. It was a huge factor during the Disney Marathon and an even bigger one during the Philadelphia Half Marathon, where I scored an incredibly huge PR. It just works. In fact, unless you're particularly fast (like elite or near elite) I would venture to say that using this method can make you a lot faster, all while helping you avoid injury. How many things in running can make that claim?

Well, Jeff Galloway has partnered with several bloggers to share some tips with you all and guess what? I was picked, so you can benefit from these too!

I'm very excited because this method has really helped me during my running journey so now I get to pass it on. Here are some facts about the Galloway Method directly from Jeff Galloway himself:

"The training journey for a marathon or half marathon raises your body's physical performance capability and your sense of what you can do in life.

Running helps to bring body, mind and spirit together in a unique and wonderful way

In researching my book MENTAL TRAINING I discovered that running turns on brain circuits for a better attitude more vitality and empowerment better than other activities studied.

In researching my book RUNNING UNTIL YOU'RE 100 I found numerous studies showing that runners have healthier orthopedic units than non runners even after decades of running.


When a runner takes walk breaks early and often enough for the individual the muscles are strong to the end.  See RUN WALK RUN at www.jeffgalloway.com for recommendations by pace per mile.

The "exhaustion wall" can be avoided by running longer long runs up to or beyond race distance-using the appropriate run-walk-run strategy.

Marathoners tend to improve time by an average of more than 15 minutes when they increase their longest run from 20 miles to 26 miles.

To recover fast, run the long runs at least 2 min/mi slower than you could currently run in a marathon

The right run-walk-run strategy from the beginning of each run, gives any runner control over fatigue, injury-elimination, and recovery.

In numerous surveys, runners improved over 13 minutes when they shifted from running continuously to use of the right run-walk-run strategy."

I should point out that the last point he mentions here is no joke. I witnessed the improvement myself. My first Half Marathon, the Divas Half Marathon, I managed to squeeze out 3:26, and feeling like I was about to collapse at the finish line. For my second Half, I did the Philadelphia Half Marathon and did the Galloway Method in 2:1 intervals. Not only did I finish in 2:50 which is a huge PR, but I finished in much better shape at the end.

Be on the lookout for more great tips from Jeff here on the blog and my social media channels.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Relationship With Fitness Clothing

No, I don't workout naked and I'm sure the entire neighborhood is thankful for that. But I have a problem with most fitness apparel.

Figuring out what works for you while doing stuff that involves constant motion (running, cycling...) takes time and some trial and error. There will be chafing. Oh yes, there will be chafing. And by the way, that goes for everybody. Even the elite athletes have to deal with it. The difference is they look good in that stuff. I don't.

The trick is you gotta find the stuff that works best for you. The problem is that the stuff that works for you is not always the stuff you want to wear.

Sometimes, it works

I was lucky with running shirts. When I started running, I bought a shirt that has kind of become my signature item. I don't need to make any adjustments to it, I don't need to use Body Glide. My Jets shirt never fails me and I wear it with pride. I also have three more shirts that also fit pretty well. Not as good as the Jets shirt but they give me the freedom to choose a shirt without any "I don't have a clean shirt" problems. There are others that require Body Glide in the "nipular" area, but these are my go-to shirts for sure so no big problems here.

We've been through a lot, this shirt and I
But sometimes, it just doesn't

Like most people, I began running with what I had on hand. I'm a "comfort first" kind of guy and you will see me wearing basketball shorts very often. You know the kind. Very loose fit, they go all the way down to the knee, sometimes even a bit longer. Well, they don't work for running at all and that became clear within three runs. I sure wasn't gonna buy those "short shorts" that marathoners wear. Please try very hard to not form a mental picture of me in those. You will thank me later. Not only do I look ridiculous in those, they also don't work for me and my glued-together super thighs. Wearing those, I would probably create enough friction to heat the entire northeastern US through the current barrage of snow.

Thankfully, running shorts come in various lenghts and I found a couple of shorts with 7 inch inseams that seemed to do the trick. They are light, breathable and comfy. They also don't feel like you are showing off to the entire world. But I was still chafing in them. Why?! It was the underwear. I tried people. I really tried to avoid going "commando" but it was a battle I lost. For me, the idea was insane. No underwear? You have got to be kidding me. But sure enough, it seemed to do the trick. For a while. Then, my runs got longer.
The classic look
Once I managed to run 5 miles and beyond, I began having trouble again. Now what? I didn't understand why at first. I gave up the heavy pants. I gave up the underwear. What more do you want me to do??!! Why do the fitness gods hate me so? I struggled for a bit figuring it out because I thought it was the shorts, but not really. It was me. As the runs got longer and I sweat for longer periods, the shorts got wet. As they got wet, they would stick to my thighs and viola! Chafferson City! Now, we were about to delve into something I simply refused to even think about. I had to... consider... gulp... tights.

Then it just got ugly

Now I was just plain angry. You want me to go commando and wear skin-tight shorts?! No way! Nope. Not gonna do it. Who would want me to wear something like that?! Have you seen me?! Mercifully, I found a compromise. Or so I thought.

Wear the tights underneath my running shorts. It was genius! It avoided getting the shorts wet and the chafing disappeared completely. But, now with the slippery tights underneath, the shorts were creeping up my thighs. Crap.

Maybe I can start a trend so this "creeping thigh" look becomes the "thing".

It's not uncomfortable but it is annoying. And the little dance I gotta do while running to get them to come back down... Truly a sight to behold. I'm gonna call it the Fat Runner Shimmy. I can't seem to catch a break.

Death, taxes and tights.

And here we are. This, much to my dismay, is the running out fit that works for me. Comfy and problem free, whether I want to admit it or not.

Those are compression shorts from 2XU with the shirt I wore for the Phily Half and my trusty Beasties. With this combination I can run for miles and miles trouble free.

So you're probably thinking, "OK Frank, so it is what it is. Get over it and move on." Right? Why fret over it? Well, I fret over it because this is just a preview of coming attractions people. At some point during the summer, I'm gonna have to figure out a way to get into one of these...
Isn't that gonna be a pretty picture.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

"My First Steps" Charity Ride

Interesting turn of events. Didn't expect my first "race recap" of 2015 to be about cycling but here we are.

Actually, this is not really a race recap as this was not a race, but it's the cycling equivalent of a race. Sure, there are cycling races but since I don't foresee me participating in any of those at this time, these group rides will serve the same purpose for me. They are a measure of where I am fitness-wise, just like when I run in races.

When it comes to cycling, I'm just barely getting my feet wet. Up until this week my longest ride had been 20 miles. While my behind might not agree with me, the miles I have put in so far have been relatively flat and easy. I try to put some effort into it and ride fast but up until now, I have been doing the running equivalent of a short, easy run.

Which is why I found it extremely weird when an old friend invited me to a group ride for charity, that I said yes.

He literally contacted me right after I had done my first (and longest) 20 mile ride. I thought about saying no. I did not know if I was ready for that. Not only the miles but keeping up with a group. He tried to ease my concerns: "Look, we are gonna try to keep the group together. 15-17 miles per hour tops. If you get tired, you can ride in the sweep van." The flyer said it was from Toa Baja (two towns from mine) to the town square of Vega Alta (my hometown). Could I stick with a group riding that fast? Could I handle the mileage? I was scared but I could tell he wanted the ride to succeed and help out this center for children so I said yes.

Captain's Meeting and registration
 Well, as it turns out, both my concerns were not a problem at all. I managed to stick with the group for most of the ride and I managed to ride the whole 40 miles without need to van of shame. The problem my friends, were the climbs.

The freaking,  Everest-like, who-the-heck-came-up-with-this-route, someone-get-a-defibrillator climbs.

See, I was invited to this thing under false pretenses. That route in the flyer was just half of the total ride and it said nothing about riding a Tour de France-level climb. Well, maybe it was not Tour de France-like but it might as well be to me. The guy who just started cycling a month ago. The whole thing started nice enough. We left Toa Baja and rode through "La Ruta del Ciclista" then headed to the town of Dorado. Riding in the peloton (the ride group) was no problem and I was maintaining 15 and 16 mph without much effort. When you see many cyclists riding close together like that, it's because they are working together to beat the wind. I couldn't really feel any difference while in the group but now I look at the data and see that where I usually averaged 14mph I was pulling out 15 and 16 mph without any effort at all.

Ready to head out!
It was a beautiful day and we were riding along the beach. Once in Dorado we climbed a pretty steep, but short hill. It was tough but it didn't last long so I put in some muscle and kept going. We crossed Dorado from east to west until we got to my hometown of Vega Alta where we turned south to get to the town square. It was in this part where I faced my first challenge. I don't know how long it was but we started to climb, and climb, and it would not end. My breathing got heavy, people where passing me left and right and I slowed down to a crawl. I ran out of gears on my bike. I just wanted this torture to end. After what seemed like forever (actually 9 minutes) I reached the top and we did our first stop.

First regrouping stop.
I looked for my friend and told him how hard that climb was for me. His answer: "Yeah, well it's gonna get a lot worse." What?

Turned out that first stop was just to regroup everyone after that climb so we could arrive as a whole group to the real stop which was the Town Square in Vega Alta. My wife brought my daughters to cheer me up. I was so happy to see them. While there, they had the official ceremony where they handed over the donation to the children's home. They were planning on donating $2,000 and ended up giving $5,000 so it was a total success all around. I was given a pack with 2 cup cakes which I ate and put in some new Gatorade bottles on my bike. I left my bottles at home. Rookie mistake.

Two of my girls cheering me on.
Before leaving the square, one of the organizers got on the mic and warned everyone about the upcoming climb and urging people to not quit. Famous last words. Not 5 minutes after starting back up we started to climb. And we did nothing but climb for the next hour and it was some of the steepest roads I have ever seen in my life. Actually I have seen them before. It's my hometown. I just always traveled them by car. I tried all I could to stay on the bike but on two occasions, I was forced to get off and walk up the hill. Not very proud of that moment but that's what you get for biting off more than you can chew. It sure didn't help to hear one of the guys in the support crew bragging about how the sweep van was full of people.

All this climbing spread out the peloton of course, so a couple of re-grouping stops were required to keep everyone together but eventually we made it out of the mountains and unto the main roads where we made our final stop at another gas station. We were 12 miles away from getting back but the climbs were over.

Final stop before finish. 12 more miles?!
After a quick descent, it was flat all the way back to Toa Baja. Would've been a lot easier if not for a bit of trouble I ran into. On the descent I was blocked by some people on the group who were going slower and I got separated from the peloton. When I reached the flats, I encountered some pretty fierce wind in the opposite direction and it slowed me down something terrible. Without the protection of the peloton I fell behind and fought the wind all the way to the finish. As if I wasn't tired enough from all the climbing. 

But, I made it. And I wasn't last either, even though I didn't arrive with the group. They were serving lunch for all the riders but I was too fried. I looked for my friend, choked him to death, then told his corpse to call me whenever they were doing it again. Thing is, I really don't feel that sore even now. It's not like after running the marathon for example where I could hardly move and instead of wishing to never go through something like that again, I'm actually angry enough at myself to go train so I can be able to do it again except better next time. Masochism is a terrible thing.

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Tale of Three Tubes

It was gonna happen. It was literally written that it was gonna happen and it did. I prepared for it and yet, got me pretty good anyway. I got my first flat tire.

You can't walk into a bike shop to buy a new bike and not have the conversation about buying the "required" gear you need to be able to ride that new bike. The helmet, padded shorts, etc... That conversation will invariably include the repair kit: Tools that, in case of a flat, will allow you to either repair the damaged tube or replace it with a new one so you can solve the issue without any assistance.

Reflective Surfaces: Always a good thing
Many people, for whatever reason, don't think it is important. Sure, the guy or gal at the store is trying to sell you something, but he/she is also talking from experience. Maybe people think back to when they were kids and don't remember many flats when they were riding or maybe they do and don't remember them being a big deal. I'm thinking that's because as kids, you never rode too far away from home. If you had a flat, you just walked back. But cycling as a sport can involve pretty big distances and if you are 10 miles or more away from your car or your house, that's a long way to walk with a bike in tow. Being able to do something about it is kind of important. If you are still on the fence about the repair kit think about this: What if you are in a race/event like a Gran Fondo or a triathlon? Get a flat without the proper gear and your race is done. It might take a bit of time to change it but I'm pretty sure a worse-than-expected finish time is a whole lot better than a DNF (Did Not Finish).

So, my budget when I bought The Machine included a saddle bag with a repair kit. Technically, it's a replacement kit I guess. I figured if I ever got a flat in a race, it would be easier (and faster) to just replace the tube with a new one instead of patching the damaged tube.

Make sure it's a snug fit. You don't want it dangling under there.
The saddle bag hangs snugly under the saddle and it was part of a kit Giant sells that also includes:

1. Three tire levers - to unseat the tire from the wheel.
2. Multi-Tool - Think, Swiss Army Knife but with bike tools.
3. 2 CO2 cartridges - To fill the tire w/o the need of a pump. Once you use one it's done.
4. CO2 Dispenser nozzle.

I threw in some tube patches just in case.
With the kit I bought 2 spare tubes. Yes, it is very possible you can get more than one flat.

So I was definitely ready for a flat if it happened and sure enough, last week I was stopping at a red light when I rode over some glass and pffffff... my front wheel deflated. I was not too far away from home so I pondered whether to spend a CO2 cartridge or just walk it back but then I figured I could use the practice. I had seen several videos on how to do it but you have to get your hands dirty eventually so better do it now.

Tubes - 1        Fat Runner - 0

It took me a while to unseat the tire for some reason but apart from that I think I did OK. After replacing the tube and seating the tire back in place, I connected the nozzle to the CO2 cartridge and it filled right back up. The kit came with some neoprene sleeves you put on the cartridges. I thought they were for grip but nope. Turns out that whatever process takes place that creates the pressure to inflate the tire, freezes the cartridge. Use them without any protection and it can freeze-burn your hand.

Tubes - 1        Fat Runner - 1

So, I packed everything up and rode home very proud of myself. That is until my next ride, when I found the front tire deflated once again. At first, I thought it was the CO2. That it's not meant to last or something like that so I inflate the tire back up. After getting ready, I go back out to get the bike and it had deflated again. Crap.

Tubes - 2        Fat Runner - 1

I take out the wheel and the tube and there is a tiny hole close to the valve. Obviously something happened and it probably involved me doing something wrong. Whatever, I took my remaining tube and replaced it yet again. I have a little electric air pump I have been using up until now and I had been noticing it was kind of hard to get the tires inflated to their required pressure (120psi) but thought it was just me. This particular time it was harder than usual and after several attempts I could not get it to inflate. After getting a little rough with the valve, I ended up breaking the valve on the tube. Pffffffff...

Tubes - 3           Fat Runner - 1

I had kept the original punctured tube so I dug that out of the trash, bought a patch kit and tried to repair it so I could at least ride that day and buy more tubes later. But, alas, after inflating it and getting ready to ride, it deflated again.

Tubes - 4           Fat Runner - 1

Trip to the bike shop. Found a shop that opens Sunday (Many shops don't. They are out riding) and the guy was kind enough to replace the tube for me. I also bought three more to have spares. They are about 5 bucks each so they are not that expensive (weird for something related to cycling). I explained what happened and he gave me some pointers for next time. Like to check that the tire is not pinching the tube before inflating it (I checked but maybe I missed something) and also make sure to not insert the tube twisted. That can also cause a flat. I think that's what happened the first time I replaced it.

Tubes - 5          Fat Runner - 1

So how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.

How do you change a flat bicycle tire? Practice, practice, practice.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

The Veredict Has Been Reached

As if I needed any more confirmation that the running community is the most awesome and supportive bunch of people that you could ever hope for. Thanks to all that sent out advice regarding the Goofy Challenge. It was feedback that was much needed.

Just for the record, this was never a "Do one or the other" kind of deal. My family wants to go on a Disney cruise and I want to go as well. That trip was never in question. Family comes first above all and it's not like you need to twist my arm to go take a Disney cruise. I mean, it's a DISNEY CRUISE.

I just needed some reassurance that I was not crazy to want to still do the Goofy Challenge even if it meant forgoing the collateral "Disney fun" that usually accompanies a trip to The World. I needed that in part because the first people I consulted this issue with, being non-runners didn't understand why you would go to a Disney race and not do the "Disney Thing". It's a valid argument. There's no question about that. But they are not runners and if you look at it from a runner's perspective, especially from a runner that has set a goal to do something as challenging (at least to me) as the Goofy Challenge, you see things a bit differently.

That was clearly evident by the feedback I received here. Disney World is one of the most awesome places ever. That is why people love to run there, but setting a goal like this goes beyond the tourist stuff. That is why I traveled to Philadelphia last November and crushed my Half Marathon PR. Technically, I was in no way obligated to go there. But, a part of me felt I had to it. That part that drives you. That wants you to improve. I didn't have to do it, but I had to do it. I'm sure you understand.

Which is why the Goofy Challenge is a total go for 2016. On the cheap.

Two things I want to clear up though: When I told my wife about the post explaining her and the girl's reaction, she got a little bit defensive. She was like: "I told you that you should do the race from the beginning." Which is true. I'm sure none of you took it that way but for the sake clarity (and marital bliss LOL) let me make sure you all understand that she has always supported me through all my crazy ideas and goals and when I first thought of the "Goofy on the cheap" concept she was totally on board. It was me who had second thoughts. In fact, when I bought The Machine, she was the one that literally pushed me out the door, put the car keys in my hand and said: "Go buy it already!" That is one of the many reasons why I love her so much.

The other thing is, we totally need to come up with a term for non-running folk. Like in Harry Potter, non-magic folk are called muggles. We need a term like that for people who don't run. Non-runner sounds weird. Judgemental. Like it's wrong to not run. We need a happier term. Like muggle.