Cyber Monday Race Deals

Who doesn’t love a deal?  My two favorite days of the year for scoring a race registration discount?  National Running Day, which takes place annually in June, and CYBER MONDAY!!!

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I am not a shopper, so Black Friday means nothing to me other than the best day of the year to avoid crowds.  But Cyber Monday, now, I can get into that!  Deals, specials, discounts on everything from carpeting to compression socks, Hi Res TV’s to running shoes, and best of all?  Race discounts!!

Many race directors take advantage of this special online buying day to offer up one-day-only deals off race registration.  It’s simply one of the best days of the year to sign up for your next race, your next marathon, your next destination race weekend.

So get ready!  I know of a few races that are planning big discounts.  Discounts too good to pass up!  So, keep your eyes on Facebook and Twitter come Monday, and get to Googling first thing in the morning scouring the internet for those deals!

Happy Cyber Shopping!

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New York City Marathon – Race Recap

The much anticipated, and probably the longest wait for a recap.  Honestly, just so busy, and tired that I just haven’t had the time to do a recap justice.  Hopefully this will sum up not only the race, but also my busy New York trip.

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It all began with a 630 mile road trip to upstate NY on October 28th.  I haven’t driven to NY in over ten years, so it was a really long day.  Destination, my Fathers house in Binghamton.  My roots are still so deeply embedded in update NY, although if my Dad still didn’t live there I probably wouldn’t ever go back.  My family (Dad and Brother) are the reasons why this trip was even happening.  I’ve written about it previously, but I entered the lottery to run NYC because my brother did.  It was my chance to run with him, in another marathon, but this time in our home state.  The fateful day came when they drew lottery spots….  my brother announced on Facebook early in the day that he was IN!  I waited all day for notification.  I checked my email at least a hundred times, nothing, nothing, nothing.  Finally at around 6:30pm it arrived.  “We’re sorry….blah, blah, blah”.  My dreams were dashed in that one instant.  That shitty email.  It took me all of about a day to figure out that I HAD to race.  I had to find a way.  I turned to looking into charity teams, and vowed to raise money.  I think it was within a week that I was accepted onto the charity team for the James Blake Foundation.  I pledged a $3,000 donation to the charity, and paid my way into the race.  Done!  Fundraising began later that day once my fundraising page was set up.  I thought to myself, “how hard will it be to raise $3,000 over the course of seven months?”  I antied up $100 to start my campaign, and I was off and running.  Well, as it turns out, it is not easy raising that kind of money.  **Flash forward to race day**… I didn’t meet my goal, but came awfully close.  Through the help of family, friends and complete strangers, and awesome people like you, I managed to raise $2,590.  I have until the end of the year to hit the goal, but my personal goal was to hit my pledge by race day.  So, before I get back into the real gist of this post, here is a link to my fundraising page, because I can still use your help.

Armed with the knowledge that I was in the race, I spent the next several months planning, and planning.  I knew I wanted my Dad at the race.  He was so excited!!  To get to watch both of his sons running the New York City Marathon?  Who wouldn’t want to see that?  Not long before the race however, came bad news.  My brother was going to have to cancel his entry due to medical issues.  I was heartbroken for him, and it made the entire trip bittersweet.  How in the world was I supposed to be excited for this, knowing that he was equally agonizing over it?

Dad and I - Binghamton in the background

Dad and I – Binghamton in the background

Ok, I am getting off track a bit.  I knew this recap wasn’t going to be easy to write.  So, after 10 hours on the road in mostly raining conditions, I finally was pulling into the driveway at my fathers house.  Exhausted and road crazed, my Dad and I caught up for a few hours before I had to hit the hay.  With a decent nights sleep behind me, we took it easy most of Thursday.  We went out for a late breakfast, drove around town and hit a few “hot spots” I didn’t want to miss while I was there.

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The Cider Mill, in Endicott, NY.  To me this place means Fall in NY.  Fresh pressed apple cider, delicious donuts, and candy apples.  Of course we had to buy all of it.  We also stopped for some true Italian Bread from DiRenzo’s Bakery.  Later that evening, we hit the road for another three hour road trip to my brothers house in New Jersey.

A very relaxing few days ahead with family.  I did manage to get in one final shake out run on Friday.  Four miles on the towpath in Bound Brook, NJ.  I hadn’t run in a week!  Had to get loose and find my running legs.  Thankfully the weather was so nice the entire trip.  The last thing I wanted was a rainy, miserable marathon, but it turned out to be near perfect. Although a tad on the warm side.

Saturday we were up and at ’em early for a trip to the NYC Marathon Expo in the city.  Bob was running, and my brother at least wanted to pick up his race shirt.  A drive, a walk and 45 minute train ride later we exited Penn Station in Manhattan.

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That was my view as I hit the streets of NYC for the first time since 1996.  Long before the World Trade Center disaster.  It had been so long!  We walked a few blocks and within ten minutes were entering the famed expo.  It was crawling with runners!  The biggest marathon in the world on the last day of the expo, it was bound to be busy.

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We quickly picked up our bibs and shirts, stopped for a few photo ops, and shopped the 50% off Asics gear racks before studying the course map.  I bought a few pairs of logo’d shorts and a shirt!  Cheaper than I could get them online, so I was happy.

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After the expo, we headed back to Jersey.  A busy day all around.  The Mets in the World Series, Halloween, and the night before the biggest marathon in the world.  We needed some rest and relaxation with only a few hours left until race day.

A typical night before a race, I got all of my gear ready.  This time however was a bit more detailed.  NY is not a simple race morning process.  You don’t just drive yourself to the start.  It’s a long affair.  Patience is needed, and you need to be prepared for anything.  Packing for race morning is very important, so as not to leave anything to chance.

Donor names on the back of my charity shirt.

Donor names on the back of my charity shirt.

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That picture doesn’t show the last several donation names I got in the days leading up to the race, but you get the idea.  I was ready for bed, anticipating a 3am wake up call.

Race day!  All went off without a hitch.  I was feeling good, the weather was looking promising and I started my mental preparation for the race.  The long process of race morning began as my brother drove us approximately 50 minutes to The Meadowlands parking lot in NJ.  It was there that Bob and I would catch a race bus to Staten Island.  We arrived at about 5:30am, my brother snapping a few pictures as we got ready to board the bus.

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Armed with our gear we boarded a bus, and then made the hour long trip to Staten Island.  While we entered the Green Starting Village I was so impressed by all of the food and drink options available to us. We had about a three hour wait until the gun went off, so it was really nice to have.  As luck would have it, Bob and I grabbed a coffee and a hat from DD, and then I spotted a Bus Stop shelter right at the back entrance to the village, which we promptly called ours!  A bench, and shelter from any wind or rain.  Perfect!   It was the find of the morning!  Here are some photos from the village.  Yep, right next to the Verazzano Bridge that is, the start of the race!

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Home sweet home!  A random bus stop on Staten Island.  Love it!  That’s Bob in his DD hat, and throwaway gear.  We passed the time telling stories, talking about the course, numerous stops at the potties, etc…  It was a long wait.  We were comfortable though!

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Eventually the time came that we needed to abandon our shelter, and head to the starting corrals.  It was well organized, as you would expect.  The corrals were super tight, and I barely made it in.  My nerves starting to play some games, but I did manage to try to take in the entire experience.  We moved forward  after about a half hour, and things really started to get real.  I shed my hat, gloves, top layer shirt, and got ready for the business at hand.  The fanfare was electric as we entered the loop heading onto the bridge.  In place now, I could actually see the start.  My corral was on the bottom bridge.  Helicopters televising the event were flying overhead, clothes were flying to the sides, and before you knew it, Frank Sinatra, the National Anthem, the boom of the howitzer cannons, and the race WAS ON!  NYC here I come!

At the start!

At the start!

Behind me

Behind me

The first few miles were tight!  Heading up the bridge I didn’t even notice the incline, but was more concerned with not tripping over anyone.  I stayed to the left so I could take in the views of Manhattan, the water, the Statue of Liberty.  It truly was magnificent!  What a way to spend the first few miles!  The downside of the bridge meant picking up the pace a bit.  I knew my first mile was slow based on runner traffic, so I tried to find a better more consistent rhythm on the downside heading into Brooklyn.  It worked.  My goals for this race were pretty simple.  Enjoy the City, enjoy the crowds, and keep my eyes out for family along the way.  My cousin Brad was to be at mile 11 at the corner of Bedford and N. Third St.  I checked for texts occasionally to make sure exactly where he would be.  After that, I would be on the lookout for my brother, dad, Melissa, Chloe and Connor just beyond mile 17, and then again in Central Park around mile 24.5.   As far as time goes, I just wanted a solid race.  My A goal was sub 3:50:00, and B goal was sub 3:40:00.  Time would tell.  Traffic was tight!

My 5k split was 23:46.  My feet and legs felt ok.  It was a tad on the warm side,  Proper hydration would be key, especially if I wanted to avoid cramping.  With the bridges on the course, I knew I wanted to keep my electrolytes in balance.  I thoroughly enjoyed the views of Brooklyn, the brownstones on both sides of the street.  The numerous bands, the cheering crowds.  A non-native to the city, this was my first time traveling these streets and it was so cool to be able to do it on foot.  I’ll say it again, runner traffic was tight, and very annoying at times.  I cleared the 10k mark in 47:31, so I was still managing to stay the course with my intended speed.  Brooklyn was long.  Knowing I would see Brad at almost the halfway mark was keeping me positive.  Around mile 9 all corrals merged onto the course and it became very unnerving.  It was just so crowded in my area.  At that moment I wanted to be running in a small marathon, and have some space to myself, but that was not meant to be on this day.  This is the biggest marathon in the world, stay calm and adjust to it.  I told myself to relax so many times.  I wondered though, as I heard so many people cheering names of runners why I hadn’t heard my name called out.  I knew my name was on my shirt, so why no “Go Paul’s” or “Keep going Paul’s”!  It was then I looked down and noticed that my name (which I wrote in blue marker) was completely gone, and now in a pool of sweat and blue ink on the bottom seam of my shirt.  That’s why!

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Brooklyn was long, but awesome crowd support.  Brad texted me to listen for drums and he would be in his designated spot.  In a hot pink shirt, with a sign.  I counted down the streets, and was getting close.  Soon enough I could hear those drums, and moved to the right hand side of the street.  There he was, smiling ear to ear, cheering.  I stopped to give him a quick hug, to which he responded, ok, go, go, go.  I took off.  I found out later he actually took a video of my arrival at that moment, which is so funny to see now.  Thanks Brad for being there to support me!  It was you that got me through Brooklyn.

The halfway point sent us over the bridge into Queens.  My half split was 1:45:00 on the nose!  On track, but feeling my legs getting heavy.  I needed a boost.  Knowing the infamous Queensboro Bridge was looming in the not so distant miles, I Gu’d up, hydrated and kept the faith that I would gain some energy before that long quiet bridge.  I had been warned that it was the loneliest, most difficult part of the race.  Now that I’ve lived through it, I can say that it clearly is!  It was pure hell. I felt so defeated crossing that bridge.  Loathe is a great word to describe it.  Dark, fierce, it will get you if you don’t stay ahead of it.  Like a knarly hairy monster.  Just pure dread is what I tell like on that bridge.  The only thing keeping you going is knowing at the end is Manhattan, and crowds galore.  I did not walk, I did not walk one bit.

Coming off the bridge I still felt very depleted.  I was off my game.  I think I slipped into a dark cavernous place in my head.  After that initial burst of energy from the crowd, I drew nothing from them.  I was in my head, and fighting demons.  The fact that I had just run Chicago three weeks prior might have something to do with it, but I was exhausted.  The only way I could force myself out of that head space was to think of my next cheering station.  I would see my Dad!  I would see David!  Thinking of them got me though.  The miles ticked by.  14, 15, 16…..  I knew they would be at mile 17.  On the left.  I steered to the left of the road well early in anticipation.  I had it so deeply embedded in my brain (Mile 17).  This finally brought me tons of energy.  I was running much better, felt better and was in positive spirits.  I counted the tenths of a mile as I approached mile 17.  Then finally I was there.  Where was my family?  I waited for my name to be yelled.  I scanned the crowds, I cranked my neck back and forth.  Nothing… I actually stopped and thought about running back.  How could I miss them?  That was not going to happen!  They were there to see me, and I needed them.  BADLY!  Finally about two tenths of a mile beyond the mile marker I heard my name.  There they were!  My cheering section.  Smiling ear to ear, I gave them all a big sweaty hug, and then left them behind.  I got emotional right afterward.  Pure joy, tears streamed down my cheeks.  That family energy lasted about two miles.  Then?  Back into my dark space.  I was clearly struggling physically, but I would not let it ruin my day.

Crossing over into the Bronx gave me a much needed boost.  Not the bridge, which sucked, but knowing that mile 20 was nearing.  You don’t spend a lot of time in the Bronx, and I had been told it’s sort of a drab, unsupported part of the course.  I found it amazing.  Maybe I had caught a second wind after coming off the bridge, but I found the crowds really supportive.  The bands were awesome, too.  Plus knowing that the final 10k and trip back into Manhattan was approaching was energizing to me.

Across the bridge into Harlem, and down 5th Avenue.  The end was near.   Hit the 35k mark in 3:03:01.  I knew I had to keep calm and run.  No more demons.  My thoughts turned to seeing Central Park for the first time.  Seeing my family again before huffing it to the finish line.  Trying to stay on pace, I knew I was slowing down.  I didn’t walk.  I didn’t even walk through water stations.  I actually became a little better at drinking while running without drowning myself.  I needed those moments to hit my goal.

Central Park!  It was finally here.  The cheering crowds became louder, the fall foliage on the trees.  Such a beautiful way to end this epic race.  I once again yearned for my family, and the strength they would give me to push through those last two miles.  I saw them again, and again was moved to tears.  I knew how much it meant to my Father to be there.  To witness such an event.  To see his son almost at the finish of the biggest marathon in the world.  As I paced to the finish, dying to actually see the finish line come into view, I thought about my charity, my donors and all the support I’ve received through my running career.  The end of my 22nd marathon was quickly approaching.  I threw up my hands in exultation as I crossed the line.  Immediately overwhelmed, completely debilitated as if the walking dead had entered my body.

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A long walk ahead, I could barely move after crossing the line.  An incredibly long wait for a bottle of water that I needed the moment I crossed the line.  The medal draped over my neck was worth the agonizing slog through the finisher village.  Mylar blanket donned, more water please.  Maybe a pretzel?  A banana?  Yes, they helped when I finally had them in hand.  As I exited Central Park in search of my family I realized that my cell phone was finally dead.  With the help of strangers, I finally connected with them about an hour after I finished.  I finished!  I ran the New York City Marathon!

Wish I could have snapped some more pictures along the way.  The memory of this race though will linger in my head as one of giant crowds, epic challenges and support galore.  Family.  In the end, it was really about family.  Thank you New York.  Not sure I will ever race the city again, but what an epic adventure through your five boroughs,  thanks for having me and treating me so well.

Official results:  3:45:23 finish time.  Goal A achieved!  My best marathon finish in 2015.

Overall:  7472/49365. Top 15%

Top 20% in age group. Top 21% in gender.

No complaints here!  I take it!

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This Crazy Running Journey I’m On

I guess when a past time turns into a habit, turns into an obsession, turns into a passion, it’s a really good thing.  My running journey has afforded me so many great things!  Better health, both physically and mentally, focus, intent, goals, and so much more.

It started so innocently back in 2010 when my main goal was to get out on the pavement to support my oldest son when he joined the cross country team at school.  I gave him advice, I motivated him.  I signed us up for races.  We had fun running both together and separately.  We love the competition, and being out there supporting one another.

I started running more and more and more.  I wanted to tackle more distance.  Once I had run a few Half Marathons, I think it motivated him to at least think about running a Half one day.  I started running marathons.  He started running Halves.  We love racing together.  He is in college now, and doesn’t live at home.  A few weeks ago I got the greatest text ever from him.  It simply said ” Dad, when is our next Half Marathon?”  Awe!  He was basically saying, find us some races, and sign us up.

So that is exactly what I did.  I found us a few to run this Fall, since there aren’t any races with any distance here during the Summer.  It’s just too hot to race 13.1 or 26.2.  So, we will be running the Marine Corps Half Marathon in September, and the Bull City Race Fest Half in October.  I couldn’t be more excited about it, and how his running originally influenced me to run, and how now my marathon running is keeping him interested in distance running.  He’ll run a marathon one day, I’m sure of it.

Running has given me such great satisfaction over the past few years.  I started this blog, really as a diary for myself.  A place to record my memories, my achievements, my day to day running stuff.  It has become so much more than that though.  It has led to some pretty amazing friendships both virtually and in real life.  I really enjoy reading about the running journeys of people from all over the globe, we really are a family.  A running family.

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My “diary” contains a lot of personal achievements, and when coupled with race medals, really tells a story of my journey.  A journey I love to share with you.  What started so small and really just for me, this blog has had far reaching impact on others in the community, and I love that about blogging.  I am nearing 10,000 visitors on my blog, and well over 500 followers, and I want to thank each of you for providing me inspiration to be my best.  To set goals, and to achieve them.  So many of your stories have been huge inspiration on my running journey, and I hope my musings do the same for you!

Run on……

National Running Day Discounts

If you are anything like me, you look forward to this day!  Not just to celebrate all things running, but for the various discounts that can be found on races.

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For me, I celebrate running everyday.  It really has transformed my life.  It has given me so many things…

A way to stay fit.  Time to myself.  Goals.  Health benefits.  Reasons to travel.  Reasons to make new friends.  So many things….

Running has taught me patience, and understanding.  I has taught me how to breathe and relax.  It has taught me how to push myself further than I ever thought possible.  Running has given me a real zest for life.

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Why do you run?  Fill in the blank!  And don’t just say you run for the bling.  Running is way bigger than just a medal.

The Fast & Furious 10K

Early on in my racing career I only ran short distance races.  I became a real sucker for the feeling of going all out, and competing.  As I grew in the sport of running I began a quest for more distance.  Those numerous 5k races were becoming a bit boring, so I searched out the next level.  The elusive 10k.

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I’m not sure about you, but the 10k distance is hard to come by.  A 10k race around here is few and far between.  Funny thing is, that back a few years ago when I was learning to run further, I would seek out 10k races.  If you can believe it, I even would travel to 10k’s.  Twice making a mini weekend at the beach (a two and a half hour drive away) to run a 10k race.  Another time I drove 4.5 hours down into South Carolina to run one.  Crazy!  I wouldn’t do that now.  Those 10k’s are still hard to find though.

My next race is local, and one of the few 10k’s in the area.  I haven’t run a race shorter than a Half Marathon in almost a year.  In fact, the 10k I have coming up is that same race.  With that being said, my training focus over the next few week turns to speed versus distance.  I’m so used to running 26.2 miles, that subtracting twenty miles out of that distance seems kinda cool.  Yes, 6.2 miles will be considerably easier than running a marathon, but I haven’t been running sub 8 minute miles in quite some time.  Focusing on speed is sort of foreign to me right now.

My last 10k in June of 2014 was run at a pace of 7:47 per mile.  A finish time of 48:25.  Pretty good, but far from my best.  See, I was also running a 5k race about 45 minutes after that 10k, so I wasn’t going full throttle.  This time I can.  My PR at the 10k distance goes way back to October of 2011.  I ran a 43:09 at the Hilton Head Island Bridge Run.  A speedy 6:56 pace!  Man, how did I do that?  Would love that result again in a few weeks, but I will settle for anything that beats my time from last year.

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My plan of attack…  Run three, four and five mile training runs focusing on speed.  It has been fun.  I have a few more weeks of training runs, so I should be ready.  My last 3.1 mile training run was a 7:58 pace, so I know come race day that I can pull in a better result.

How do you feel about the 10k distance?  Do you run them frequently?  Are they a hard to find race distance where you live?  Is it easy for you to switch gears, and race different distances?  I’m finding it tougher and tougher to find my old speed because I usually race longer distances now.  Any training tips you think might help me find that fast and furious speed?

Marathon #17

Keep calm, they say.

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With less than two weeks to go, I think I am everything but calm.  You would think that I have this whole marathon gig down pat.  I mean, having run eight marathons last year, I should be raring to go.  In fact, I do have race withdrawal.  An affliction I’ve endured for the last two months or so.  I haven’t raced since November 2nd.  This may, in fact, be the longest break between races I have ever endured.  Normally I start have race withdrawal about two weeks after a race.  This stretch by race day, will be over three months.  No wonder I am anything but calm.

I really did need the break, however.  My body was just tired after a full racing season in 2014.  I had some great races, and some not so great.  I needed the time off.  I needed to recover, and get that desire back.  It really took longer than I thought it would.  Even my long training runs haven’t been that fun leading up to marathon 17.  I really haven’t enjoyed many runs at all.  I think the combination of tired legs, lackluster cold weather running and the general malaise that this time of year brings me have left me feeling quite unprepared for this marathon.  Race day has really snuck up on me.  I mean, it really, really has.  I know my mind knows how to conquer the 26.2 miles that await me on February 7th, I just don’t know at this point how my legs will react on race day.

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No, this twelve day stretch doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas, Paul.  These twelve days have everything to do with a marathon.  The only present involved will be a medal at the finish line.  If I make it to the finish.  Can you believe that I am even afraid of not finishing?  I guess the nerves are starting to kick in.  Stay calm!  I can do this!  I have to keep reminding myself.

My goals for this race are just to finish, and try to let my body relax through the process and take it all in. Of course, no two marathons are quite the same.  I’m not talking about the course either.  Marathon race day can being all sorts of different results, even for elite athletes.  One never knows how the body will react on race day.  To have the most consistent results, one needs proper training.  This training cycle has been anything but consistent for me, so I need to rely more this time on tenure.  I’ve done this sixteen times in the past, so I have to rely on knowledge I’ve gained along the way.

Hopefully this knowledge will get me to the finish!

No matter how many races you’ve done, have you ever felt underprepared come race day?  How have you overcome?

Don’t call me a fucking jogger!

When did you become a runner?  That is a question that most people answer in different ways.  How does one define a runner?  I guess we must define a runner before we can answer the question of when we became one.

Just for fun I took a look at true definitions of the term “runner”, and the most amusing one, and perhaps most fitting was this….

Runner – Someone who runs at a decent pace, on all terrain, in all weather because they want to.

That was followed up by this…. “Not a fucking jogger, ok?”

As runners, we hate the word jogger.  Jogger implies slow, I guess.  Well, to me, it really doesn’t matter at what pace you run, but to be a runner we must actually be moving faster than a walk.  I think the term “jogger” implies a casual mover, one who doesn’t care about pace, and is just out there for exercise.

Let’s now define “Jogger”.  A jogger is someone who trots or runs at a slow or leisurely pace.  The main intention is to increase physical fitness with less stress on the body than from faster running.

Here is a jogger.  Casual, wearing a sweatband, and even sandals.

Here is a jogger. Casual, wearing a sweatband, and even sandals.

I do not trot.  Let’s get this straight.

I was a true runner a few times much earlier in my life, and actually ran a few races back in the 90’s and early 00’s.  I truly didn’t catch the running bug though until 2010.  In 2010, the month was August when I laced up and hit the road in hopes of starting a new revolution in my life.  I ran short distances, anything from a mile to two miles, probably four times a week.  While slowly developing some cardio vascular health, I found it got easier each time I ran.  So what did I do?  I ran more.  I gradually added distance, sometimes up to three miles, sometimes five to six times a week.  I didn’t even start tracking my runs until October 15th, 2010.

A funny thing started happening over the course of those first few months.  Competitiveness started kicking in.  I was getting good at this thing called running.  Nope, don’t call me a jogger, I am a runner!  Each time I would lace up, I started timing myself.  My goals started to change.  I wanted to get faster, and to get faster I needed to know how fast or slow I was running.  I picked a 5k loop in my neighborhood and ran it incessantly.  I recorded my times on paper for every single run.  I got faster.  I got fitter, and I got more competitive.  A jogger doesn’t care about pace, right?

Then I started to get bored with the same old route, the same distance, the same surroundings.  I decided to step it up.  To run further and faster.  I gradually added more miles, different routes and kept the same routines.  Running was my exercise, my joy.  This didn’t fade, and still hasn’t up to today.  It was early in 2011 that I decided I wanted to take on a real race.  A 5k is where I would test out my new found love of running.  That April I ran a 22:03 5k, won my age group and was like 11th overall.  Success!  It was not called a jogging race, it was a running race.  I was a runner!  What I was doing was working.  That race lit my competitive fire, and looking back at my training log, I started running longer distances on my next training run.  Two days after that 5k I ran 5 miles.  That 5 turned into 10k, and then even longer.

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My goals changed, and broadened.  I wanted to get faster, but I also wanted to run longer.  I started obsessing over races.  I wanted to prove myself a runner.  Racing was fun.  I ran several more 5k’s within weeks of that first one, and with my increased miles in training, my first 10k road race was in July.  It was at that race that I started dreaming of one day calling myself a half marathoner.  That goal would put me on the road more often, and for longer durations.

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I was loving it!  It didn’t let up.  Increasing my mileage was leading to better fitness, and by August I really was in great shape.  I signed up for a Half.  That September, I ran my first Half.  The Newport Liberty Half Marathon, in Jersey City, NJ.  It was amazing!  It was a big race, and I finished in 1:41:38.  I was truly hooked.  About a month later I really started contemplating running (not jogging) a marathon.  It was a daunting thought, but it was possible, right?  I had to really convince myself that I could do it.  After running that Half though, I knew down deep inside that I could run a Full marathon.

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I looked at training plans, I looked at races.  By December of that year I had run two more Halves, and was well on my way to running 26.2 for the first time.  Myrtle Beach would become my first marathon in 2012.  I smoked that course, too.  A finish of 3:33:24 was leaps and bounds above my expectations.  No, I am not the fastest runner out there, but this was a huge success for me.  After completing that marathon I truly considered myself a runner.  A real runner.  A marathoner!

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You see, to me, being a marathoner is a world away from the term jogger.  I do not casually run or trot twenty six point two miles.  I suppose I could, but I don’t.  I don’t judge those that do walk or jog a race, even distances up to a marathon, just don’t call me a jogger.

How do you feel about labels?  If you were referred to as a jogger would it bother you?  How would you define a “runner”. A “jogger”?

Dig This! Are you marathon ready?

Get inspired, go further.

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I know a bunch of folks that have first marathons coming up, or first marathons of the new year coming up.  My first of the year is now less than five weeks away.  As I sit here on the couch, with my coffee this morning, my mind wanders off to marathon day.  It makes me think, and probably everyone think a few things….  Can I do this?  Am I ready?  Have I made the right decision?

Now is the time, whether you are a week away or five weeks away from your race, to dig deep.  Mentally and physically.  Now is the time to really focus on visualization of that finish, and wrap your brain around the tough work ahead.  You can do it!  I can do it!  We all can.

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Marathons are not easy.  It will test the body and mind beyond what you think is possible.  The endure the race, and get to the finish in one piece we must be prepared.  The training cycle will get you to the starting line, but we must all dig further down into our inner gut and find that determination to push to the finish.  Marathons are so much more mental than many people think.  We can push the body, but we must also be inspired in our minds.

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I wish everyone well on the final stretch of the marathon journey.  I still have a few weeks to be race ready, but no matter if this is your first marathon, or 20th, it will take all of the will and guts you have to succeed.  Find that inner inspiration, and enjoy running every moment.  Dig deep!

A Mountain of a Surprise

Many of you know that I live in the gently rolling region of central North Carolina.  We are not flat, but we certainly are not hilly either.  This is a generally rolling place on the map, between the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the mountains to the west.  I live about an equal distance inbetween the two.

I guess because I grew up in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in NY, my affinity for the mountains has continued well after leaving that area almost 20 years ago.  Although I don’t get out to western NC a whole lot, I do love it.  It’s peaceful, and laid back.  Much slower of a living out there than it is here.  I love relaxing in a mountain rental, taking in the sights and sounds, going for hikes and of course running.

If you are an avid reader of my blog, you know I have chosen several marathons to run in the challenging environment of the mountains.  I’ve run the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate, the Asheville City Marathon, the Blue Ridge Marathon in Virginia, and most recently Big Cottonwood Marathon in Utah, and the Great Smoky Mountain Half in Tennessee.  Even though mountain races are a lot tougher than flat races, I really prefer them for the beauty and challenge of the varying terrain and elevation.

Where am I going with this?  Well, two big surprises came my way recently and I wanted to share them now.  As my goals and plans for 2015 take shape, deciding between a plethora of races is always a challenge.  I love adding new races into the mix, and, well, running favorites again.  I will be heading back to Asheville in March to run the Biltmore race.  Not the marathon this time around, but the Half.  I have been chosen to be the Pace Leader for the 1:45:00 group in the Half.  I have paced several Half Marathons and love it.  This opportunity is a welcome one, and I will be more than happy to have anyone join my group, as you run for a new PR.

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My second mountainous surprise is that I am now registered and ready to take on a new challenge and new marathon in May.  The name of the race is actually the New River Marathon.  It takes place on May 2, 2015 in the area around the New River in Todd, NC.  It’s a small, homegrown event gaining popularity.  I’ve had it on my radar for two years now, and the timing finally works out.  I will head to the mountains for a two to three day retreat and run a marathon, too.  Do you know how thrilled this makes me?

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How do you feel about running hills?  Mountains?  Do you prefer flat race courses?  Do you shy away from races that may be tougher because of the elevation changes?

I love a mountainous challenge, and cannot wait for these two big events on my 2015 race calendar.

Drink Up! A Runner’s Guide to the Holiday Indulgence

As an athlete I am always mindful of hydration and what I put into my body.  I will be the first to admit that I am NOT the healthiest person to walk this Earth.  I do, however, try to watch what I eat for the most part, and also what I drink.  As the season of cheer is upon us, and more than likely us runner folk will be attending numerous holiday parties and family gatherings, I ask this question.

How will you “hydrate” this season?  Will you uncork a few bottles of bubbly?

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It’s true, champagne does have less calories than your regular old bottle of vino.  Plus, the added benefit of your average champagne glass being smaller than a wine glass means less of a pour (unless you drink several glasses, then this negates the positives).  They say that both wine and champagne have benefits increasing heart health.  Sure, that’s not new news, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it.  Champagne contains antioxidants that can lower bold pressure, too.

Maybe you are the type to reach into the fridge, and pull out and crack open a can of beer.  Hopefully only having a few, and not the whole six pack.

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Many runners believe that beer is a great form of hydration post race.  As long as you don’t drink and drive, beer does have benefits if consumed in safe quantities.  There are reports that brewskis can be heart smart.  Here’s an interesting tidbit.  I read recently that the compounds in hops (used to make beer) may slow the release of calcium in our bones, which for men can be a good thing when related to kidney stones.  I’ve never had a kidney stone, nor am I a beer drinker, so you have to test that theory on your own.  Beer also contains B Vitamins and Fiber.  Yeah for being regular!

Who doesn’t love a nice smooth glass of wine?  Are you a white, red or rose drinker?

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Wine has a ton of benefits, ask any housewife.  Lol….  She’ll tell you it has pleasant calming effects that makes putting up with the children a whole lot easier.  It may also make putting out a whole lot easier, too.  You’ll have to ask the husbands that question.  Maybe it doesn’t.  Seriously though, wine can reduce the risk of many health related issues from Type 2 Diabetes to Stroke and Colon Cancer.  Some say it also makes you smarter, longer.

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Step up to the bar, it’s time for a cocktail.  Is there a difference in clear versus darker alcohol?  Sure is.  As research has shown in wine consumption, alcohol can have positive impacts on heart health.  The key here, is to drink a responsible amount.  It can also have great impact either positive or negative on the brain depending on how much is consumed.  Again, be careful, as weight gain, and potential damage to liver function and the likelihood of higher blood pressure compounds as casual drinker turns into habitual drinker.  Some say that alcohol consumption leads to creativity.  Being uninhibited helps the creative juices flow, but too much can lead to pregnancy, STD’s or an overnight stay in a local jail cell.

Moderation folks, moderation….

Probably the best form of hydration for any runner out there is H2O.  Drink plenty of it!  Even when you don’t feel like you need it, because it’s colder outside, you do.  Develop a hydration plan and stick to it, even during the holidays.

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Coconut water, chocolate milk and electrolytes are your friends.  They won’t land you on the sofa either for saying something wrong to the spouse.  They are generally great for hydration both before and after a run.

Do you have a holiday hydration plan in place?  What will you be drinking to celebrate the season?