Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Being the neurotic sort, and bored to tears with the treadmill, I completely ignored my own advice and did a speed work-out today. 200m x 7 with 200m recoveries. I hit the doldrums at 1.75 miles, so I just said "fuck it", and punched up the incline and speed. The only good thing about a speed work-out on a treadmill is that the time goes by marginally faster. Plus, I get to watch TV. Which, I suppose, is a mixed blessing considering the programming scheduled for the noon hour on cable. I have managed to get all caught up on pretty much the entire broadcast history of Air Emergency on National Geographic, which has the added bonus of providing me with hours of white-knuckled anxiety as I fly around the country for work. I’m also partial to the Food Network. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as watching people prepare and eat huge portions of fatty foods while you’re grinding out five miles on a conveyor belt.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Getting Back to Basics

The rain seems to have finally left the Northeast, which is a mixed blessing for runners. I enjoyed the cooler temperatures this past month and have especially relished running in the rain. Saturday I got out on the road early because Erin had a class that started at 8am and I had to drop her off and figure out how to keep the boys occupied for the day. I was still fighting the lingering effects of fatigue so the six mile jaunt around the neighborhood wasn’t as much fun as usual. In fact, I felt like I was slogging through wet cement in a rain forest-the humidity was definitely upwards of 60%.

Yesterday was much better. I was on the road by eight and cooked through the six mile loop at better than eight minute per mile pace. I felt like my old self for the first time in a week. I’ve decided to drop my long run from the schedule for the next two weeks to give my legs and body a chance to rest up for Steamtown training, which I’ll start mid-July. By long run I mean anything more than 7 miles.

My work schedule requires that I be flexible about where in the week I can squeeze in a long run. The fact that this day is going to end up a moving target throws off the rest of the training week. I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to fit in a day of speed work and a day of hills and still program enough rest into the schedule to satisfy the demands of my creaky 41 year old body. When I ran the Marine Corps in 1997 my training was pretty minimal-one long run on Sunday, one longish run on Wednesday, and 4 miles a day every other day except on my rest day, which was Monday. Maybe I need to get back to simplicity and not over-think the routine.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hamster on a Wheel

I think I’ve been overtraining. The combination of long flights in a cramped seated position, too many time changes and an increase in mileage have worn me down. I had to take a break today with a 45 minute trip on the elliptical. I have a love-hate relationship with that particular piece of equipment. About a year ago I fell down a flight of stairs and injured my right foot. I was unable to run for almost two months, but had just enough mobility that I could maintain my fitness by daily workouts on the infernal space walk to nowhere. Surprisingly, I found that if you set the resistance up high enough, you get a great full-body work-out. Like many neurotic runners, the entire time I was on it I was thinking about how to equate that work-out with the one I was doing on the treadmill next to it.

Experts have long debated the benefits of the elliptical versus those of the treadmill. Most maintain that ellipticals allow for the least bodily damaging workout because the machine is extremely low-impact. My question is whether the fact that they’re low impact detracts from their efficacy as a (albeit temporary) running replacement. Some advocates of the equipment assert that the fact that the elliptical is low-impact allows the user to burn more calories with less exertion than a treadmill, especially when the lower-body workout is combined with the machine's moveable arms function. My personal experience tells me that I sweat a lot more when I’m cranking away on an elliptical, and it gets my heart rate into the zone a lot faster than running at a normal pace either on the treadmill or outside. Nevertheless, both running and working out on the elliptical give me that nice endorphin hit that I expect after some intense aerobic activity.

The main problem with the elliptical is the same problem I have with the treadmill. They both turn the act of exercise into an intensely boring experience. Neither machine delivers the emotional benefits of running outside. Unfortunately, four days a week I have to exercise at the gym in my office so I’m usually yoked to the treadmill. I think I might throw one elliptical work-out per week into the mix for variety sake and to ease the strain on my knees and lower back , at least until my body gets accustomed to marathon mileage again.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Own Private Idaho

I was pleasantly surprised at how friendly Boise is to runners and how many people in Boise engage in some sort of regular physical activity. The 72 year old mediator assigned to the case I was out here to mediate, told me his daily routine involves a six mile run in the foothills outside the City. He also takes his dog on 2 hour long runs on the week-end. Another attorney I was working with is a marathon runner, and so on. I was hoping to get an opportunity to do some trail running myself, but yesterday’s work-day went too long and I was exhausted from two weeks of running around the country so I hit the greenbelt trail for a five mile consolation run. The day before I did 10 miles on the Greenbelt soon after arriving in the City. The Boise Greenbelt trail follows the Idaho river and passes through a variety of parks, college campuses and other neighborhoods. The picture above is representative of the views from the trail.

It has become clear to me during my travels that people in the west have a very different approach to endurance exercise than those of us who call the East Coast home. Back home I can take off on a 6 mile run and never see another runner, even when I’m on a greenbelt or in a park. Out here in the West people incorporate their running and bike riding into their lives and look forward to getting outside to exercise. There are runners EVERYWHERE. It is nice to see.

More Travels

For some reason my Father's Day Post never posted. Here it is:

It’s Father’s Day and I’m flying on a very small plane over a very big country on my way to Boise Idaho to attend a mediation . There are a number of places I’d rather be on this day, but the demands of my job dictate that I exhibit a certain flexibility when it comes to travel arrangements.

I find staying hydrated to be one of the main challenges presented by frequent air travel. As a runner, I don’t like the idea of arriving at my destination with a fluid deficit, but the crowded flights that have become the norm in the twilight years of the airline industry, usually mean that I can’t get enough water, or get to the bathroom to pee it all out once I do get it. Flying is tough on the athlete. Maybe I need a flomax or something. Anyway, long lines for the bathroom are only a temporary inconvenience. Somewhat longer lasting effects of frequent air travel are the aches, pains and fatigue which result from sitting for untold hours in a chair clearly designed for a hobbit. The combination of limited mobility and breathing pressurized, stale, germ-laden air usually cause me to feel like I’ve picked up a minor case of the flu once I arrive at my destination. I have never really enjoyed a run within a couple of hours after being released (with no time off for good behavior) from coach class. Nevertheless, run I do. The new scenery can serve as a bit of a distraction, but overall I would have to say I slog more than run.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins

I ran a little bit in High School, so the first run I did in the summer of 1991 wasn’t my FIRST run, but it was my first run after six years of smoking a variety of cigarette brands and drinking all the beer in New York City on a regular basis.

For a few weeks prior to that initial run I would exercise by hitting a tennis ball against a wall in a park across the street from my house for 45 minutes, every day. I needed to get my body re-accustomed to the concept of “movement” before I embarked on something as physically demanding as a run. At 230 pounds I was also unsure whether my heart, lungs, or legs would be able to muster up anything more than minimal participation in anything aerobic. The tennis ball thing got old pretty fast, (plus I was competing with some pretty aggressive Bronx residents for the handball court), so one humid evening I put on a pair of old New Balance sneakers and set forth into the great unknown. At the time I had no inkling that the first step from my grimy stoop onto East 189th Street would be the beginning of a life-long love affair with running.

The residents of the Italian Arthur Avenue section of the Bronx, where I lived in the 1980s and early 1990s, were not known for their tolerance. Their general response to seeing an unfamiliar thing in “their” neighborhood was to chase it down with baseball bats and bludgeon it to death. This was most likely a function of the neighborhood being a lonely island of relative calm among a sea of warring crack gangs, so they tended to guard their borders with vigor. Mindful of this attitude, it was with some trepidation that I set off down the street. I headed in the general direction of Webster Avenue, but I didn’t want to go too far, lest I have to beat a retreat more hasty than my body was capable of. I made it around two City blocks once, before panting to a halt. In those two blocks I was subjected to an impressive variety of insults, mostly centering around the size of my fat ass. Not only the Italians, but the blacks and Hispanics all weighed in from their respective stoops. It was probably the first time in a long while that the disparate ethnic groups in the area found common ground about something. I didn’t care though. I had set a goal, and achieved it. The next day I would add a block, and then another the day after that. Inside of two months I was dropping weight effortlessly and was increasing my mileage. For the first time in five years, I felt like a human being again.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I just got back from a three day business trip to the high desert City of Albuquerque New Mexico. I travel for work about twice a month and always try to fit in a couple of runs in my destination City. As a business traveler with limited free time, I find a run around a new City to be an excellent way to orient myself and get a speedy tour of the local sights. I also find that a run of 5 or more miles soon after arriving is a good way to shake off the effects of a long flight and get the blood pumping back into legs that feel half crippled after three hours in a coach seat.

While I am usually pretty proactive about researching the running conditions and routes beforehand, I sort of dropped the ball on Albuquerque. I knew it was a desert climate and that there was a long trail that tracks the Rio Grande river, but that was about the extent of my advance preparations. Per my usual routine, soon after I checked into my hotel I got my gear and drove my rented Prius to an access point on the Busque trail. The Bosque is described by Runner’s World as a bucolic “19-mile-long, flapjack-flat, cottonwood-lined bike path.” Sounds good to me, I thought, as I started down the trail. Somewhere in the middle of my seven mile run, I started to feel seriously fatigued. And Hot. What I failed to realize was that daytime temperatures along the northern section of the trail are well into the 90s, even though other parts of the City closer to the mountains clock in at almost 10 degrees cooler. I was also pretty winded, which at the time I attributed to a lingering cold. Imagine my surprise when I got back to the car and saw that the outside temperature was registering as 98 degrees Fahrenheit! No wonder I was dragging my ass. It wasn’t until an hour or so later that I realized the other source of my fatigue. Albuquerque is over a mile above sea level. In fact, it’s even higher than Denver, the so-called “mile high” City. The combination of the heat and altitude left me feeling a bit woozy for the rest of the day. The next morning, still on East Coast time, I got up at 5 and was out running on another trail closer to the mountains which was much cooler, in the mid-60s. (See Picture above).

On Sunday morning I depart for another trip to Boise Idaho. I’m going to do a little more research before I head to the airport.

Monday, June 15, 2009

More History

I’ve been fighting a cold the last few days. I’m just getting the early symptoms-excessive tiredness, aches and pains, mild cough-but it feels like it could go either way at this point. I should know by tomorrow whether I’ll be able to work around the sickness or take a few days off to heal. Runners never like to take days off, even when they know that to do so is to give the body an opportunity to rest and rebuild. For example, I’ve been listening to Dean Karnazes read his latest book 50/50 (Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance!) on my I-Pod during runs. I figure if this guy can run 1,300 miles in less than two months on no sleep and with bleeding blisters and bad sinus infections, the least I can do is motor through a bad cold without bitching and moaning too much.

I wasn’t always this committed. In fact, I wasn’t always a runner. I started running seriously a year and a half before the Buffalo Marathon as a way to recover from some pretty bad lifestyle choices I made while attending College in the Bronx in the mid-late 1980s. Living in the Bronx in the late 1980s and early 1990s was the rough equivalent of being an extra in a post-apocalyptic movie like Road Warrior or Escape from New York, except that everyone was hopped up on crack and the guns were firing real bullets. The Bronx had the dubious distinction of being ground zero for the crack epidemic and the birth of hip hop, which both occurred within the same five year period. I arrived at Fordham University in the fall of 1985 as a fairly sheltered suburban kid whose idea of a big night out consisted of doing doughnuts in my friend’s Chevy Nova on someone’s front lawn, while buzzed on a six pack of Piels that I’d managed to steal from my father’s liquor cabinet.

Naturally, I took one look at the anarchy of Bronx street life and immediately lost my mind. It was complete sensory overload and I loved it. The smells, the danger, the colors of Fordham Road, the street hustlers, hookers and junkies; it was the complete antithesis of every bit of boring suburban inanity had seen up to that point in my life. The next few years passed in a bit of a blur that I vaguely remember unfolding in the following manner: I did every drug I could lay my hands on and washed it all down with gallons of cheap beer. I failed out of college, dodged bullets, ran from the cops and developed an unhealthy affinity for cocaine. Inevitably, I crashed and burned. Hard.

Running was the way back to reality. It cost nothing, which was great because I had no money, and it got me outside away from my friends who were struggling with their own issues. Next up: The First Run

Week in Progress:
Sunday: 6 Fast
Monday: 5 Easy

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ultra Running

Some Running History

In October of 1992 I moved to Buffalo New York and decided to start training for the Buffalo Marathon. I had started running the year before in an effort to drop some of the 75 pounds of beer weight I had accumulated while living in the Bronx and drinking my way out of college. I was successful in losing the weight, but putting the rest of my life back together was presenting a more difficult challenge. At the time I moved to Buffalo I was 21 years old, had managed to fail out of a fairly decent college, and had no appreciable work related skills. This would have been depressing but for the fact that I was feeling great; I was healthy, having shed most of those 75 pounds in the preceding year and a half, and still new to running, so every outing was an adventure. When I signed up for the marathon I did it with the idea that that the personal satisfaction of setting what a year earlier would have seemed an impossible goal, and attaining it, would give me the fuel to set other goals, and attain them as well.

If you don’t drink Canadian beer or follow football there is very little to do in Buffalo in the dead of winter. The marathon was scheduled for May of the following year. I won’t say “spring of the following year”, because the word “spring” conjures up images of flowers, the smell of freshly cut lawns and the laughter of children. May in Buffalo you are more likely to experience a pile of lake effect snow, biting arctic winds, and the cursing of people who have to dig out their car for the 75th time since October. If you are ever considering moving to Buffalo, let me respectfully suggest that you visit the place in February before making any decisions that you’ll end up regretting later.

Training was....interesting. If you've never run 15 miles in a driving blizzard with snow up to your mid calves in the dead of night, I highly recommend it. You learn a thing or two about the concept of commitment to a goal somewhere around the 10th mile. Dodging snowplows and skidding cards is all the speedwork you need.

The Week in Training:
S: 6 tempo
M: 5 easy
T: 5 tempo
W: 5 tempo
Th: 11 LSD
F: rest
Sat: 6-speed (tomorrow)
Total: 38

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This is a blog about running. I am a 41 year old father of two boys, ages 2 and 4. I've been running regularly for 20 years. During that time I've logged between 20-40 miles per week, every week, with one day per week off for good behavior. I've run in all sorts of conditions in many different places. I've learned a thing or two about running, and more than a thing or two about myself.

I’ve decided to run a marathon in the fall. The last one I ran was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC in 1997-several lifetimes ago, it seems. My time for the rainy, chilly race was something like 4:14.24, and it would have been better if it wasn’t for an unplanned porto-san break around mile 5. This was way off my time for the 1993 Buffalo marathon which clocked in at a snappy 3:34. All I can say is that I gained a bit of weight and trained a lot less for the 97 race. Hopefully I can redeem myself at the Steamtown marathon this fall.

After fairly strong performances in my last 2 ½ marathons, I figure I can handle the distance well enough. I’d like a sub 4 hour finish, but I’ll be happy to finish at all. I figure this is a good attitude to have when you’re trying to beat the time you posted as a 29 year old.

Although the marathon is a great goal in and of itself, I’m really kind of interested in trying my hand at ultras somewhere down the line. For reasons I can’t even begin to comprehend, the idea of running for 100 miles straight actually appeals to me. I’m a long way from towing the line at the Western States 100, but I’m keeping the idea burning in the back of my head.

I’ve looked over a bunch of marathon training plans and haven’t found anything that really fits my schedule. I will have to do my long runs on Thursdays rather than Sundays and make all kinds of adjustments for business travel and the demands of family life, but I think I can put something together that will get me to the finish line. If anything I’ll run too much rather than too little. I’m a little nuts that way.