Racing weight

This is going to be the least scientifically accurate blog post ever, but I have been working my way back into shape for over a year now. There were miles to run and pounds to lose and it took a looooooooong time to accomplish the latter. While I’ve been “in shape” enough to run some good times, I’ve been inconsistent as far as how I feel on a daily basis. Lately, I’m starting to notice that some very small changes have led to some noticeable differences. Here’s what I’ve been doing:

1) Dietary changes and tracking calories. With the MyFitnessPal app and some advice from Kelly P., I decided to cut down on sugar and carbs and lean more towards a protein/paleo-ish diet. It shocked me after a few weeks of tracking my meals to see exactly how much of my diet was “bad” for me. The biggest change I made was to cut out the “bad carbs” such as white bread, rolls, bagels, etc. AND to cut back on all the pasta. I lived under the illusion that runners just needed to eat pasta to run fast. Not! When I’ve been at my best (post-HS at least) I’ve been under 150 and I have gotten under that number recently. I’m not looking to lose weight, really, but to be the right weight. I’m close…I read somewhere that a “good” male runner carries 2 pounds per inch of height give or take a few in either direction…at about 5’8″ that means I SHOULD weigh in the neighborhood of 140 at most, but not to the point of making myself sick (or weak) so don’t worry!

2) Strength & Speed. Coach has strides in the plan and I try to do them when scheduled. On a sluggish day, it forces me to spin my wheels. On a good run, it helps to sharpen up a bit when tired from a run. In either case, it feels good to “go fast” and strides offer the chance to both do that AND work on my form. The strength part has always been on the back burner but with some guidance from Coach Marc and some tinkering on my own I came up with a routine that’s kind of a circuit that is working like a charm. It only takes about 15 minutes to do, and not much more than some floor space and handweights. After 6 weeks, I can really see the changes (and feel them too) on my runs and in the mirror. I haven’t had abs in a long time…but they’re coming back! I’m not actually sure I ever had them at all so this is nice!

3) Cross-training & stuff. I don’t do enough of either BUT I have been doing a bit more on the stationary bike (to get the blood flowing or shake things out more than for a “workout”) and I do loosen up more before runs and do good things like plyos and drills before a workout and rolling out, etc. after – especially since I kind of only have one “window” to run in during the day, so I need to maximize that time. If you are like me and can’t run twice a day or your schedule limits what you can do – and how often – then stuff like this might be just the ticket for you! Believe me – it doesn’t replace running BUT it’s a nice supplement!

It doesn’t take much to see improvements. It takes small changes and a desire to change things – and to stick to that goal for long enough for them to take effect. You’ll be glad you did!

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TrainWithMarc.com

In June 2013, I decided I was totally out of shape (a 20:39 5K supported that theory) and I embarked on my first even “running streak” – vowing to run at least 2 miles a day for as long as I could (while of course being intelligent about my training and keeping an eye on myself to stay injury-free) as part of a bet with some of the athletes I used to coach with my former club. The idea was to motivate and inspire others to avoid making excuses and to be more willing to “get after it” especially on the days when they didn’t really want to. They made “bets” on when #theStreak would end, between June 17th and December 31st, with the “winner” to be awarded a prize of some sort, to be determined. Many participated and ultimately everyone “lost” the bet, as #theStreak continued until 7/24/14, a span of 402 consecutive days of running.

#theStreak ended by choice, as I had decided to work with a new coach, Marc Pelerin, to accomplish more than just general fitness and to do more than just run every day for no reason other than just to “do it” and keep #theStreak going. Coach Pelerin sent me a plan, and some materials, and I sent him my goals and races, and I started training with him on Monday 7/28/14. The biggest reason why I started working with Marc was completely selfish: in an as-yet-unpublished blog, I go into great detail about what happened in January but to make a long story short I was tired of sacrificing so many of my own goals for so long only to be “fired” from a club we gave years of our life to (no…we didn’t “leave” the club – more on that in a future blog…) I was tired of “helping others” (the ones who didn’t appreciate it and who weren’t friends or paying “clients”) and wanted to help myself. I wanted someone to help me get back after it, and after a little research, that person was Marc Pelerin.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, the funny thing about life is that it goes on. Life went on, we moved on, people made their choices and I was left to continue helping the people whose friendship and loyalty merited the reciprocation. But since I was so emotionally invested in coaching others for so long, I wanted to take the energy I had left and devote it to my training. And there is nothing in this world that is easier than following directions. Marc has been leading; I am happy to follow. In fact, I have inadvertently started a new “streak” since I started training with Marc; one which is at 40 days now and will continue for an entirely different reason. I won’t take a day off until my good friend Danielle gets to run again. This is non-negotiable because Danielle (along with a few others, but none so adamantly and amazingly) had our back. Danielle, a young, talented runner, saw something wrong that had been done and realized that it had been done to people who didn’t deserve it. She stuck by us, supported us and suffered with us. But, rather than be rewarded for her steadfastness, Danielle was hit hard by fate. Danielle hasn’t run in months, thanks to an undiagnosed but debilitating condition. She said something when we visited her that hasn’t left my thoughts since…she said not to take running for granted, and to run because she can’t.

So, with Marc’s guidance, my wife’s support and Danielle’s situation all factoring into the equation, I’m running to be the best I can be. To run lifetime PRs, not just age-group bests. To win races, not just medals. To run as if to meet the moon. Because fleeing and running are not the same thing – I’m not running away from things; I’m running to accomplish things. I shall run and not be weary; I will run like a war horse. I will run for myself; I will run to make others proud; I will run to break the tape, to beat the clock, to obtain the prize. I will run hard because the greatest glory is in striving for great things.

Above all else, I will RUN. Will you join me?

Help support Danielle – http://www.gofundme.com/cin0g4
Check out Coach Pelerin – http://trainwithmarc.com

Getting back on the track…

For a lot of runners, the general progression after HS/college involves either taking a break due to various factors, deciding to run a marathon, or giving up running to start doing crossfit. Those are pretty much the three common choices I’ve heard of in my many years as a runner and coach. However, I am writing this blog post to inform all of you of the little known and even littler explored path of running track after college. Yes, it is possible. No, you don’t have to be an elite runner or an Olympian. Yes, it is fun. No, you don’t have to travel very far, or even be in peak condition to do it. Yes, it is a good idea for all runners to consider this option. No, you don’t have to listen to me. But here’s our story for the past 7 months or so.

As most of you have seen, this winter/spring/summer saw us return to running track meets. When Meghan and I joined Garmin Runners (there’s still an unpublished blog post about THAT hiding in my drafts folder) we decided it was time to have some fun with our running again. We made some good friends with the old club, but the pressure to race (and perform) sometimes made it hard to enjoy the events we were participating in. The new crew, especially our fearless leader Gary, made it clear that there would be no pressure to race, that we could run what and when we wanted to, and that our schedules and racing decisions would be respected.

One big difference we noticed was that people in the club, such as Gary, Mark, Marty, Tiff, Claire, Meghan and others (including me) were definitely interested in doing more than just the “required” road races. There was an interest in track, and a camaraderie that came with grinding out some races on a weeknight, or a Sunday morning alongside your friends and teammates. Kind of a “special club” of sufferers, not unlike the fraternity of marathon finishers or mud runners, that knows the pain of “track hack” after racing at the Armory, or the absurdity of trying to run a hard turn at the Bubble in 1/8″ spikes, or packing up the car and driving hours to find a race that lasts less than 5 minutes. So, this winter, we got back on the track.

We kept it pretty low-key, considering the numerous “Polar Vortex” related training interruptions (NOT days off) and hopped in a race here and there. A mile, a 3k, a dreaded 5k, even a few 800s, just to mix it up a bit and get some “speedwork” in, other than some pickups in the park or on the treadmill. And it was fun! So much fun that we even hit up our first NATIONALS experience, heading to Boston in March to compete in the USATF Masters Indoor Championships at the famed Reggie Lewis Center. I was more than thrilled to discover that meets like this existed for people like us – the “inbetweeners” who were usually stuck in the open division against 18-39 year olds (including FAST high school and college kids and post-collegiates still chasing the dream) and relegated to hoping to help score some points in some road race that usually didn’t fit the training plan or schedule. We got to get out there and compete, and nothing is more exhilarating than the thrill of competition – a special kind of thrill that you don’t always get in a road race when you are running against the clock and not necessarily against your direct competition.

Running track provided me with a much needed distraction from the seemingly endless series of road races that we have been running for the past decade or so. Not that we stopped doing them, but being able to change gears and run some fast races was a nice change of pace (pun intended) from the same old thing. For me, my training had become a repeating cycle – one that follows a standard formula, but had left me wanting more. Essentially, week in, week out, I had fallen into the dreaded “routine” of every distance runner. Then, track came along! Speedwork! Racing! Glorious things I hadn’t heard of in years! Things that had been replaced by “intervals” and “racing” – necessary evils, but not what my competitive spirit craved!

When we learned that the USATF offered national-level races for people like us, we were ecstatic. Boston was a learning experience….it is a whole new world of competition. From the record breakers and the genetic freaks who can run faster than we ever have at 45, 50, even 60 years old to the active participants who are just happy to be out there, but are still pole vaulting, hurdling, sprinting and racing at 75, 85, 95 years old! It is an amazing group of athletes who have opened their arms, their hearts and their meets to the thirty-somethings of the world who are looking for something else. Something other than the numerous local 5ks that are at our disposal, or the mud runs and crossfit competitions that have captured the attention of the nation. Track is back, folks and it needs your help!

These meets are for everyone. If you are over 30, here’s my sales pitch: get back on the track. What I’ve decided is that my training year will be split into two “halves” going forward. January-July will be track season. Strength. Speed. Racing. All the things that the heart craves. August-December will be reserved for mileage and road races. Fitness. Suffering. Miles. All the things that the body needs. Of course, there will be some overlap but I can account for that by replacing tempo runs and training runs with road races. But we don’t want to be out there alone! We want you out there with us – to share hotel rooms and road trips, to carpool to races, to throw together a random relay with, to train with, race against, commiserate with and support.

I want all of you to head over to the USATF website, find the results from this weekend’s events and check to see how people in your age group did – in any event you want. You’ll see that there’s a place for you. And we want to see you out there. Next winter, March 20-22 to be specific, are the indoor nationals in Winston-Salem NC at one of the best facilities in the country, the JDL Fast Track. Next summer, join us in Jacksonville in July for the outdoor meet. And did I mention there are WORLDS too? Like the meet in FRANCE next summer? Track has reignited what was a long-dormant fire in me…apparently there was a cinder smoldering in there somewhere that I had forgotten about but it is one I am going to keep burning now and hopefully set ablaze a few times a year for the foreseeable future…hopefully, you will too!

Why I got a coach…or, how I learned to stop streaking and set new goals…

(Author’s note: this is an honest account of my past year or so of running mixed with a little sarcastic/dry humor…enjoy!)

That’ll do it, folks. I have been streaking for over 400 days now and it is time to stop the insanity. Streaking has turned me into a terrible person, and a marginally better runner. Streaking has made people hate me, and streaking has inspired people to follow my lead. Streaking made me a tougher runner and a dumber runner. Streaking made me happy; streaking made me angry. Streaking opened me up to public scrutiny and streaking made me accountable to the public. Streaking made me love running and streaking made me hate running. Streaking made me realize why people streak and streaking made me fail to understand why people would ever want to. It was the alpha and the omega of running for me for 402 days and now it is time to make better use of all the letters in between. It is time to take a day or two off. I’m gonna rest today and maybe even tomorrow, do an easy/long run with Meghan on Sunday, and then officially start my new training plan Monday. My new coach has a actual off day written into my plan anyway, so why push through?

A terrible person? Yes. Absolutely because I now realize that there are very few valid reasons for anyone to just take a day off, especially not on a day when they have a scheduled run. Yes, days off happen. But I didn’t exactly have a great year personally/professionally yet here I am, thousands of miles later and nothing stopped me from running at least 2 miles a day. So it made me a terrible person because I started to loathe excuses and people who made them and that’s not what running is supposed to be about. But now at least I know I can pretty much always run when I have to and I’ll only take days off if I need to. Think “mini-streaks” from now on – like the guy at the party who gets naked and streaks at a party or a ball game…awesome for a little while; can even take things to a whole new level and make things memorable. But if it keeps going on…and on…and on, it just gets weird/gross/unnecessary – think infamy vs. fame! Luckily, someone always tackles that guy when he gets on the field…I’m gonna stop myself before it gets out of hand! What is being infamous going to accomplish for me? Nothing!

A marginally good runner? Yes. No insult intended to those of you out there who don’t run sub-18:00 5Ks but it’s no great shakes in the grand scheme of things! I regularly lose to younger women and older dudes. I’m like a 70-75% “age-graded” performer. As a teacher, last time I checked, 70-75% is pretty average. Have I improved? Yeah, over where I was a year ago. But I still have a looooooong way to go. I wanna be a solid B/B+ player. Like WWE superstar Daniel Bryan. I’m no Ultimate Warrior, but I could wear the belt for a while – I’d be like a fan favorite, but I’ll never be a big merchandise seller.

How could running every day make people hate me? Ask the people who thought I only did it for attention…not to inspire or to improve, but to get others to “look at me” – and some people ACTUALLY believed them!!! Or those other people on FB who made rude comments from time to time, yet still kept reading/following me. When I’d make a bet or a challenge to the women I coached, only to be scolded via email or text for doing so. But then again, so many friends, runners, strangers saw what I said online and what I did and thanked me for it so part of me wants to keep it going for them, but part of me wants the little birdies to fly on their own! Like a proud parent, I want to have shown the way but also to have known when to let go! I promise to find a new way to inspire and annoy all of you!

#theStreak did make me tougher. I ran through my physical limits and over some mental (and actual) barriers. I ran from June to July in New Jersey…summertime humidity, autumn nor’easters, polar vortexes, springtime inconsistency – you name it, I ran it it. But it wasn’t always smart! Plenty of those days were just “to get a run in” and didn’t contribute to my fitness or training, so my time could’ve been better spent on recovery, strength, etc. I am fully aware of that.

It also made me beardier. Not shaving during #theStreak got me an awesome beard. And beards are awesome.  Way better than mustaches. Time to start fresh and let the world see my face again, before I cover it up with my fall facial hair endeavors. There are two times in a man’s life when he wants to grow a beard: when he can’t and when he has just shaved. I already want to grow it back…

In any event, I have other things to do…other things to write about…runners to coach and naps to take. I’m not retiring but streaking only got me so far in my running/training. I’ll take the rest of the summer and fall of training properly and racing better over another 10, 25, 50 or 100 days of “just running” to keep the streak alive. With that in mind, I got myself a coach. A coach whose style and profile seemed to fit. The kind of coach I try to be for my runners – not just a coach who sends an email or posts a vague week of workouts on a blog but actually communicates with his athletes regularly and works with them to meet their goals. A coach who is flexible but demanding; who holds you accountable – both to him and to yourself.

That coach, for me, was coach Marc Pelerin. As a NJ guy, I knew the name. Former running standout for Cherokee. Villanova grad. Accomplished road runner and HS coach. Someone whose running resume seemed right to me and whose coaching services seemed to fit. And I’ve tried enough ways to coach myself to know that I want to let someone else help me for a while. A coach who I can collaborate with and support. A coach I feel comfortable referring runners to (even though I do this sort of thing myself) and a coach whose ideas I am ready to listen to, and hopefully apply to my own training, and maybe even work with to create a new type of training for our runners. And I couldn’t be more excited!

So, the next adventure involves training for the Delaware Canal 1/2 Marathon in November, USATF Masters Indoor Nationals in March (800-3000) and USATF Masters Outdoor Nationals in July (400-1500 & 400H). Plus as many races as I can fit in to support Garmin Runners, because we owe them everything for giving us a place to land in January – not just on our feet, but a place where we hit the ground running, with good friends and great people! Looking for a good group of human beings to run with? Let us know!

June race report…

So June was an interesting month…the kind of month that when you look back over your log, you can’t quite figure out what you were thinking or how/why you pulled it off. It wasn’t a HUGE mileage month (208 miles) and it wasn’t a purposely planned training/racing month but all in all, I ended up racing 11 times this month, ranging from 400H to 15K…and here’s what I remember about those races!

June 1st – Stomp the Monster 5K. Went into this race feeling confident, and with Alex and Greta both there to help me take a crack at 17:30, which – for all intents and purposes – is a reasonable goal on paper. After a mile on target and a decent 2nd mile, I just lost focus. When I hit 1/2 mile to go and the math just didn’t add up to a possible fast time, I checked out mentally and finished with an 18:09…which was right on par with the May races I had run (18:14 at the LMTI 5K on May 4th and 18:12 at Ridgewood on Memorial Day) so though it wasn’t abysmal, it wasn’t anything special. A slight improvement…

June 8th – St. Jude 15k* (this race gets the biggest asterisk EVER because I only signed up to try to run a 15K PR, and I would have PRd by a bunch IF this had been an actual 15K)…so here’s what happened. We have run this course before – a while back, when it was Gilda’s Run. I knew the course – which they advertised as a “certified course” so I did my homework and mental prep for a fast course on our turf – the Saddle River Pathway. As soon as we started, I knew it was gonna be short, because we were facing the wrong direction and skipped at least 3/4 mile by not starting with a loop around the Duck Pond. Once I established a lead (with only a female member of my former club trailing me) I waited until I knew it was absolutely a short course and started to push early enough to secure the win in 51:01, which sounds amazing until you know the course was only 8.25 miles long…but at least I won!

June 14th – USATFNJ Open/Masters 3000m Steeplechase. #YOLO. Have always wanted to try the steeple, tried it, it was hard, it hurt, and I had fun for about 5-7 mins of the nearly 12 mins I was out there. The little bit of improvised practicing I had done helped, but nothing prepares you for that water barrier landing. Like a shockwave of pain through your entire body every time you land. Like a stun gun, freezing you for a second as you assess what the hell just happened, then try to get your body moving again and shake off the pain for another lap. But I’m an idiot…so I signed up for another one (more on that later!)…

June 16th – President’s Cup 5K. This was it. #theStreak STARTED with this race last year, an awful reality check of a race, where I shuffled my way home in an embarrassingly slow time of 20:39. And a goal of improving by 3:00 over the next year, which included a running streak which hasn’t ended yet. After a good 1st mile and a solid 2nd mile, the ascent back up the hill doomed me. I must include more hilly runs on my training plan for summer/fall because if I could have even just maintained my pace/effort from miles 1 & 2 this’d have been a hell of a race. Instead, it was yet another in a series of very similar times, an 18:11 clocking. Not a bad race, really – over 2:00 faster than last year but this isn’t what I wanted and there is still much work to be done…

June 20th – NJ Striders Summer Series #1 (3000m). And the focus “immediately” switched to track work, with regionals and nationals looming. Started the night by trying to pace Shanna, and I am not a rabbit (clearly) as every time I try to help someone in a road race or a track race, I screw it up. Took it out in 81-82 not 88. I suck. But the funny thing is that 81 must have been in my muscle memory because I ran the 3k later that night as a TT and clicked off 81s like it was my job. Ran a PR of 9:58.1 totally solo which was awesome and frustrating. Check VDOT, use McMillan and see what a 10:00 3000m converts to…NOT AN 18+ minute 5K! Was thoroughly impressed watching Rob A. rock a sub 4:20 mile by himself. Beast mode.

June 22nd – Fitzgerald’s Lager Run 5k. This was part of the “Fast Five” Summer Series and I needed another race since they take 4 of the 5 and I was missing one race due to a self-imposed boycott of a particular road race I had no desire to run, support or attend. Great event, decent course, good people – any race directors out there should look at this, Stomp the Monster, Teterboro, PCup, Westfield, Overlook and a few others to see how to host an event. Like actual vendors, exhibitors, activities for kids, real food, real “beer gardens” and a FUN atmosphere. Oh, and I broke 18, thanks to my teammate Brian, who got on my shoulder at the 3 mile mark and woke me up. Without kicking it would have been close but by pushing each other I ran 17:52 (my chip time didn’t register at the start, but I was back of the line so it was actually faster, but whatevs) and I’m happy with my first sub-18 on an actual USATF certified course (not the Big Chill course, which might only by 3 miles long)…

June 26th – Sunset Classic 5 Miler, aka the race I’ll never run again unless it gets on the circuit as a men’s championship race. Another night race, terrible parking, incredibly tough course, and no prizes. I mean, free hot dogs and ice cream are a good thing but when the prize is a coupon for a running store – not a gift certificate, a COUPON – it’s not really worth the entry fee. Oh and I ran a 30:44, which is just slow or indicative of the course/conditions. This one is off the schedule for the future, unless absolutely necessary. The only positive was hanging out with good people and teammates. There are even a few (just a few, sadly) ex-teammates who are still normal human beings towards us…

June 27th – NJ Striders Summer Series #2 (Mile). I wish someone had this one on tape because I am an idiot and hate my reliance on my watch! So it was a TRACK MILE which means my GPS watch is useless as a gauge. Yet there I was, crossing the finish line with my watch reading 4:48 (since a mile on my watch split well before the finish line) and celebrating, not realizing that the running time hadn’t woken back up yet, and the split showing 4:48 was actually a 4:55 mile time. Yes, I now call my myself a sub-5 miler – I think that’s my fallback/failsafe time now – but I need a little speedwork and a big breakthrough in NC in July. Rob A got down to 4:16 tonight. Moving!

June 28th – USATF East Region Masters Championships (5000m). All I’m gonna say is I learned three things at this race. 1) I am not good at the long car ride, then run a long track race scenario. See Boston 3000m in March. 2) I am not good at running long track races, period. Indoor 5K 18:11; Outdoor 5K 18:20. I lack the focus and get too overconfident. 3) These masters races are for everyone and I’m gonna write more about that after Nationals. Where are you?!?

June 29th – USATF East Region Masters Championships (3000m steeplechase & 400H). This was a funny day because I won the steeple, tried to pace it better and still just crapped out the last 1200-1400m or so. I think the experiment is over unless I actually train for this event properly. The 400H, however…this might be my jam! It’s funny how much easier this event seemed than every kid who has ever run it for me has said it was. They say the 400H & the 800m are two of the toughest races in T&F but I dunno; with 20 years of basework, some natural speed and despite horrible hurdling (my consistency/steps? Nonexistent!) I still ran a 67. I could run a 62 with good steps and confidence. I will run sub-60 next year and I am guaranteeing All-American status and a competitive time when I move up to 40+ AG in a few years.

Just a few races in July – some track stuff, including the 800/1500 double at Nationals. Then, other than a 15K TT in August, lots of mileage as I prep for my fall 1/2, the Delaware Canal Half Marathon in November. Stay tuned!

“To streak or not to streak – that is the question:

Whether ’tis worth it to the body to suffer
The aches and pains of unnecessary running 
Or to take off amidst the endless miles, 
And by resting end them. To run – to streak – 
No more? And by a streak to say we run 
The minimum, and the thousand sixteen and nine
meters required daily. ‘Tis an obsession
Devoutly to be follw’d. To rest – to stop. 
To sleep – perchance to dream: ay, of a day off! 
For on that restful day what recovery may happen 
When we have broken off this endless toil,
Must heal our bones…”

(My apologies to Willy the Shake…)

So, #theStreak will continue…for now. However, now that I made it a full year under “my rules” #thStreak will only continue under the rules of the USRSA, which indicate that a streak is valid if the streaker runs a minimum of one mile daily under his/her own power. #theStreak will also continue if and only if it doesn’t hinder my progress towards faster times and better performances. If you want #theStreak to continue, there’s an easy way to make sure it happens: invite me to run with you! I will never say no (within reason) to running with friends! Plus, I don’t want to shave, and the masses voted that I should keep #theBeard so since they go hand in hand, or face and legs, as long as one continues, so too shall the other…

One day, #theStreak will end. Until then, run on, my friends! 

 

 

UPDATE(S)

Three things of note in my racing/training; coaching; and “personal” life – I’ll try to keep this post short and sweet!

#theStreak hit day 356 yesterday…it is almost a year since things STARTED on June 17th 2013 @ President’s Cup. It WILL end sometime after that race/when it hits the 1-year mark. It’s time to start planning my summer/fall and with the kind of training I want to do, and the goals I have for the fall, I’m gonna need recovery days here and there. Running tired and sore is for the birds! My goal is a 3:00 improvement on what I ran in 2013 – which would be a 17:39 5K. Then a recovery run the next day. Then MAYBE a day off? One is coming for sure.

Yesterday, I ran the St. Jude Children’s Hospital 15K on our “home turf” – the Saddle River Pathway (aka the bike path). Now, this was advertised as a USATF certified course. Note #1 – they didn’t have the course certified, they just used a pre-existing “certified course” which we have run before. Note #2 – they didn’t check the map, or care. Note #3 – this is the 2nd race I’ve run in the past 6 months or so where I felt like the distance was not as advertised, and arbitrarily so. Some races are off by a little, because of tangents and whatnot…I get that. But I ran the “Endorphin 5K” in the fall which was BARELY 2.7 miles and then the race yesterday, which was 8.27 miles (not 15k/9.3 miles) on MY Garmin. I knew IMMEDIATELY that it wasn’t going to be a full 15K based on how/where we started and where the finish line was. As the race started, a few people came along for the ride and I had “company” for about the 1st mile, which ultimately benefited them the most, because I was the only one who knew the course! The turns weren’t marked very well; the “course marshals” weren’t at their spots until after we passed them (sorry for being “too fast” lol) and there were no mile markers or signs – just chalk on the ground! So, once we hit the end of the “out” part of the course, I actually thought I could win a race! This doesn’t happen often for me! I think I’ve won exactly 4 road races IN MY LIFE…a tiny little race hosted by IHA in 2011; The Garfield YMCA Boilermaker 5K in 2009; the “Run For George” in 2007 and now this one in 2014. (Side note – I didn’t know how to “break the tape” – that’s how much of a noob I am at winning stuff!) So, I gauged the competition and aside from one stubborn woman, I could see that no one was tailing me on the way home and so I relaxed a bit, especially knowing that It wasn’t gonna be a full 15K and my time wouldn’t “matter” in the grand scheme of things. Then I realized that I had let my only competition back in it, so I had to make a decision: let it come down to a kick, or take advantage of the fact that I knew how much was(n’t) left in the race and start to move. So I woke up, slowly increased the speed and brought home the “W” and a free pair of shoes! Not too shabby! The only negative to winning a race is that based soley off average pace, if the race had been the true 15K distance, I’d have PR’d by over a minute.

Anyhoo, I have a few races left on my schedule, including something I’m doing just for fun (a rarity) and some stuff still up in the air…

June 14th – USATFNJ Open/Masters Track Championships 3000m Steeplechase…YOLO!

June 16th – President’s Cup 5K

June 22nd – Fitzgerald’s Lager Run 5K

June 26th – Sunset Classic 5 Miler

Also probably hopping in some of the NJ Striders Track Meets at Mahwah HS and of course, USATF Masters Nationals in NC in July. Over 30? SIGN UP!

Coaching-wise, this is my favorite time of year – the new plans just went out. Coaching a bunch of ladies for some big fall races, from 10 miles to the marathon, and I am excited to see them get after it. Coaching/advising/helping runners is like my favorite thing to do; I am so glad I get to do it for a club that appreciates it and for people who are “loyal” and appreciative of my efforts. I try to work with everyone who wants my help, but it is always more fun to help friends & teammates and those who freely choose to do so of their own accord. I am so happy that good people respect and trust me enough to let me help them! So, I’ll be at their beck and call from now until the fall, giving them advice and support!

The goal races start 9/1 and run through 11/2 so anyone running anywhere in that 2 month span: Want advice or a plan? Join Garmin Runners (or the “Geezers” for those older gentlemen who are so inclined to join that crew, one of our affiliated clubs) and get my “services” for free! Or, be an actual human being I am actually friends with, care about and like in real life? I’ll probably coach you for free, too! Anyone else? A nominal fee. Just enough to make the work worth the effort…email me (coachdecarlo@hotmail.com) for details!

Personally, I also have something special in the works for 2015 & beyond, coaching-wise so if you want in on the ground floor, let me know now! If all goes well this fall running-wise for me, I’ll be happy for a while and have more time to devote to everyone else. Just gotta get through my big race on 11/15 and MAYBE Club XC Nationals (only if I won’t be last) and then I can transition into this new thing…maybe…if it looks like it’ll work!

 

 

 

#theStruggle

Folks, I am writing today for one reason and one reason only – to tell you that the struggle to PR is a real thing! Anyone and everyone out there who trains regularly and runs competitively – for the purpose of improving performances and running faster times, not just for fun/fitness/recreation – can understand the very real frustration of trying to nail a fast time. Lately, for me, the struggle has been VERY real.

My most recent races have generally all been disappointments, starting with the Clinton 15k. This race was mostly disappointing because even though I technically PRd it was a “slow” time, based on my recent efforts and projections and I had a chance at a pretty good “scalp” had I beaten the guy in front of me. Granted there is NO WAY he was having a good day if I could see him, but it would have been nice to finish ahead of someone of that caliber.

I ran the Newport 10k not only slower than I wanted but slower than I had run pretty recently at the Cherry Blossom 10k. I can try to chalk it up to tired legs, a bad attitude, getting passed by someone I should have easily beaten and letting it get to me (when I was able to battle back and close the gap at the end so it was totally mental) or just general malaise. It wasn’t my best performance – it was my 3rd best 10k ever (and other than the Paramus 10K in October and Cherry Blossom in April, it would have been an all-time best) – but that doesn’t mean I have to be “happy” with it.

The NEXT morning I hopped in a race for a local charity/group, the Lindsey Meyer Teen Institute because I am a lazy bum. That’s right, I said it. I RAN a 5k because I am lazy…too lazy to actually work/volunteer so I raced instead. And got to have some fun doing it, because Pat and I used our experience to gap most of the field except for that lurker who passed us with about 1/2 mile to go and I held off the “youngins” – though Pat gapped me with about 600 to go, I had fun racing with him and giving the Boilermakers a reason to trust my coaching.

THAT SAME DAY I zipped up to Ridgewood for the NJ Masters Open Meet and thought it would be a good idea to jump in the mile. While I was at it, why not go right after a PR? Right? Out in 70 for the first 409m; hit 809m at 2:25 and walked off the track. I don’t EVER DNF. But I did! It just wasn’t in my legs. I was shot, mentally and physically and should have known better. But come on, who among us REALLY knows better?

Then, just this Monday, I made the mistake of running the Ridgewood Run again, because other than it being a great “event” I have never had a good day/race experience there. Ever. It is usually hot, people crowd the course, one year we missed the start, etc. I think the next time I’ll run will be when I’m 40 and can run the masters mile. Until then…this year’s 18:13 will stick with me as another shoddy performance. Not awful; better than most of my 2013 races were. But not where I should be, and nowhere near where I want to be…again, I think it is about my 5th or 6th fastest 5k ever, but when the numbers say what you COULD be able to do and you know what you SHOULD be able to do it hard to accept what actually happens sometimes!

So, what’s left/what’s next? What does someone who is struggling daily – sometimes, struggling just to run and sometimes struggling to perform well – when they struggle gets “too hard”? Well, for me, for some reason, I signed up for a bunch of stuff THINKING the slump will eventually just “pass.” And I am certainly hoping it will. But if not, these races will help as training tools, too – I’ll probably replace some tempo stuff with these efforts, etc. – but here’s where you can MOST LIKELY find me between now and July!

6/1 – Stomp the Monster 5k (17:30 or bust!)
6/8 – St. Jude 15k (this was gonna be a PR assault…should still be able to muster a PB)
6/14 – USATFNJ Track Championships (my 1st – and maybe last – outdoor track 5K?)
6/16 – Presidents Cup 5k (#theStreak gets tested at 1 year – I ran 20:39 last year lol)
6/22 – Lager Run (maybe? for the points?)
6/26 – Sunset Classic 5 Miler (maybe? I’ll be there anyway!)

Anyone wanna run some races? Hop in! Run with me, run against me, run for fun, run for your club….just run!

When “the Streak” hits “the Wall”

I’ve been thinking about #theStreak quite a bit lately, and starting to make some decisions about the necessity of it. When I started streaking on June 17th 2013 it was out of necessity. I had become lazy, both through lack of motivation and frustration over lingering injuries and needed a drastic change – I was going to quit being “bad at running”and I was going to quit “cold turkey.” In reading After The Last PR by Dave Griffin I have found answers, reassurance and even some doubts but some of his quotes stick with me. He talks about having a “comfort zone, a safe room we usually avoid leaving, afraid of what might happen if we do.” He says that “With preparation, we can expand it’s walls, but even then our greatest potential never resides” in the comfort zone. So, I decided to get out of the zone and push my body and spirit beyond my own perceived limitations. I started #theStreak, and for a while it was pretty uncomfortable.

The biggest thing that has come from my running streak is confidence. I now believe that I can run longer, train better and race faster. I have accepted the challenge of working to improve, and have found successes along the way. I have increased my mileage and become a more consistent runner, and have surprised myself with PRs along the way. I attribute these successes to overall fitness rather than proper training, but I don’t dismiss the value of success and achievement over time. I have worked hard and am thankful for what I have accomplished. As per Griffin, “challenges are abundant. Life is better when we accept that, stop wishing them away and start believing in ourselves. After all, something on the horizon is coming either way.” I want to be able to run towards the horizon successfully and confidently, not limp towards it and hope I make it. I want to conquer those challenges.

To me, each run and race I begin is a chance for me to prove something – to myself, and to my athletes and to my detractors. However, there comes a time in every runner’s life when difficulties arise; a time when you’ve tried something that worked – for a while – but then things started to go south. For me, the past month or so I’ve just felt “meh” on every run. Easy runs, short runs, tempos, long runs….doesn’t matter what type of run – I get out the door lately and can’t wait for whatever run I’m doing to be over. It’s getting pretty silly actually, because I can still run…after I recovered from my little hammy issue I did back-to-back-to-back double digit days last week and still got in a not-awful 10k at Newport (3rd fastest ever) and a decent 5k the next day (totally could have PRd on a more even course) – but it feels physical and is definitely mental/emotional. I just don’t “have it” anymore.

Physically, the symptoms are not worrisome but they’re there. Sluggish and lethargic on runs, hard to breathe, achy/tired legs, etc. I can muster a little turnover, as evidenced in my road races and my “good splits” but it’s just getting a little frustrating knowing that I was on such a high in March and now I’m treading water. I have big goals for the summer and fall and want to work towards them and I’m starting to feel like simply running every day is no longer getting me closer to those goals; now, I’m just hanging on to what I’ve already done.

So, here’s my thinking on things I am thinking about lately. I don’t “have to” race again until June (President’s Cup 5k) and will probably limit my additional races to a few I want to run, and wait until day-of to register. This is actually part of the reason why I don’t want to run a marathon, and why I didn’t sign up for one. In March, I strung together some big weeks of training, including 17.3, 18.4 & 20 mile runs spaced out every 10-14 days, just like I was training for a marathon. Everyone said “pull the trigger” and find a race to cash in at. What happened next was another two good weeks of training through mid-April and then, right around when I would have started tapering (likely for the NJ Marathon, had I chosen one) the engine started seizing and the machine wasn’t running as smoothly. And it hasn’t improved at all since then.

As I said, I am starting to focus on what is coming. I have some workouts “scheduled” but won’t panic over when I do them, or how. I’ll see how I feel day-to-day and adjust accordingly. Also, not worrying about mileage too much. Without a big race or an end goal in mind, I can just run for a bit. I’m keeping the streak going for now, too. Really want to make it to a year, but afraid my stubbornness might be taking the spring out of my step. Then again, I don’t feel like one day off is gonna fix my legs, either…so I’m stuck. I won’t take a week off, which is probably what I need and I can’t foresee a quick turnaround from just 24-48 hours of rest. Thinking about what I want to do, and where I want to be in July, November, and in 2017-2018 when I turn 40 and get to work on the master’s circuit I don’t have to decide today but am starting to pencil some things down.

The problem is, and Mr. Griffin’s words explain it best, “Two runners live inside me…the first one runs without effort, smooth and fast…he is a fierce competitor, daring and tenacious…the second runner can go for miles without thinking once about speed…he thrives on the motion…when they come together, there is a conflict [but] I need them both…” And so this is where I am right now; with clowns to the left of me and jokers to the right, here I am.

Where will you be? Where will I be? Hopefully together for a few runs, and supporting each other – electronically and personally – and sharing the miles, the lonely ones, the happy ones, the easy ones, the hard ones, the fast ones, the slow ones and every mile in between!

The Ultimate Post (and some random stuff)

This week, one of my childhood “heroes” and my #1 all-time favorite professional wrestler the Ultimate Warrior died of what has been reported as “cardiovascular disease” with (thankfully) no signs of drugs, alcohol or “foul play” involved. Now, many of you know of my fondness for wrestling – definitely a guilty pleasure of mine, which (by some awesome coincidence) the universe saw fit to match me up with Meghan, who shares the same affinity for the ridiculousness of it all. However, few of you know that back in my early days as head track coach at DBP, I had actually had some email correspondence with the Ultimate Warrior himself, trying to bring him in as a guest speaker to motivate the boys! Watching him honored as a 2014 WWE Hall of Fame inductee, then seeing him speak on Monday Night Raw, I couldn’t help but notice how the universe seems to have a way of making things happen the way they should. All criticism of his lifestyle, his dealings with the media, his controversial statements, etc. aside he said a few things that stuck with me…

1) He told his daughters that the greatest thing he would ever do was be their father…which strangely enough made an impact on me personally, even though we don’t have kids yet – much like Barney talking to his daughter during the HIMYM finale hit me…more on that later!

2) He thanked his fans for what THEY did for HIM, when they were chanting “Thank you, Warrior!”

3) He gave a hauntingly prophetic speech on MNR, which included these inspiring words:

Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat, his lungs breathe their final breath. And if what that man did in his life makes the blood pulse through the body of others, and makes them bleed deeper, then something larger than life, then his essence, his spirit, will be immortalized by the storytellers, by the loyalty, by the memory of those who honor him and make the running the man did live forever…” AND THEN HE DIED THE NEXT DAY! If there is justice in this world, it was proven by the way his life came full circle in his final days.

Why does this matter to me? Because I always respect people who are unapologetically passionate about who they are, what they believe in and what their goals are. I followed this philosophy as a young coach, as a runner, as a teacher, as a husband, and I will someday as a parent. Know what you want, make it “real” by telling others about it, and do everything in your power to achieve your dreams. This, to me, was the Ultimate Warrior. As a kid, his intensity was something I had never seen before. Honestly, as a “wrestler” he was probably the single most iconic performer of all time. Watching some of his old clips and hearing his promos – with such gems as “By now all the little Warriors know that the power of the Ultimate Warrior is something that you want to feel, that you want to taste. It’s something that when you turn on that TV screen or when you buy a ticket to the Arenas you know that’s it’s going to be exciting and it might even be a little bit frightening” and “You’ve got the power to make the skies rumble and the earth shake. In the sheets of the wind, then I will survive” remind me of when I painted my face like him for Halloween one year; and how I have his action figures, t-shirts, banners and pictures in “DeCarlo Stadium” downstairs. I live by the Ultimate Warrior’s code: Always Believe. 

Always believe in what? Yourself. Believe that the human spirit is indomitable. Believe that if you truly care about something, and surround yourself with others who support you AND believe in the same things, anything is possible. Believe that waking up every day is a gift, because Warrior said “…there is a potential from life that is to be fulfilled.” Believe that going for a run is a privilege; that running a race is an honor. Believe that life is not meant to be lived “second-handedly” and that discipline is a virtue, not a weakness. (He recognized, as do I, that “this is off-putting to many people” and he didn’t care!)

 

I have also learned through blogging that, as he once posted, “Working with words and writing empowers you…you want to kick some ass? Then learn the power of words and the use of language.” I believe in this, too. I once gave the keynote speech at the Don Bosco Prep National English Honor Society Induction on this very topic. Physical actions and visible deeds are only of value to those who experience them first-hand. But, again, as the Warrior said: “There is no muscle that compares with the power of your mind and no weapon like words. There’s nothing so intimidating (or embarrassing) as having someone kick your ass with their mind.” Some say that actions speak louder than words, and this is true to some extent but words are the lasting evidence of the intent behind those actions.

(You’ll note that I mentioned “random stuff” in the title of this post. Yeah, we watched the HIMYM finale FINALLY last night. It was good. It wasn’t great because it wasn’t TOTALLY “believable” that the whole point of the show was finding out how he met their mother and then he met her and they killed her essentially in the same episode. It should have been titled “How Robin and Ted FINALLY Wound Up Together” because that’s what the last scene really was. I did get a little emotional over it, especially when Barney held his daughter and said “You are the love of my life, everything I have and everything I am is yours…” AND THEN later, at the bar, told the young girls to go home and think about their lives! I got emotional when the mother, the amazing Cristin Milioti who blew me away in “Once” on Broadway, was in her hospital bed and Ted was reading with her. We also, as huge fans, had a lot of thoughts about “The Walking Dead” and the phenomenal season finale. This could be (and should be) a staple of Sunday night television for at least another 5 years. So much story to tell; so many places they can take the characters. Having read Compendiums 1 and 2 of the comics there is so much they’ve covered BUT so much left that I hope it goes on for a long time!)