Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Final Preparations for the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon

In less than a week, I will wake up at 4AM, eat a hearty breakfast, shower, dress and make my way to the start of my 13th official marathon, the 2014 TCS NYC Marathon (my seventh time on this course).

Prepping for a marathon is always nerve wracking. While this isn't my first time at the rodeo, I think a little bit of nervousness about a race is healthy. If I get too cocky, I could easily go out too fast, hydrate incorrectly, or one of a hundred other things happen that are well within my control.

Running a marathon or any other long race is all about focus and for some a change of life. One of the inspirational posters at the ING NYC Marathon in 2012 year stated "The Finish Line Is Only The Beginning." Not just an inspirational quote, but a truth that a lot of endurance sports enthusiasts know is a basic truth.

While getting getting ready for the Big Dance, I started thinking about all of the things I need to prep other than miles and miles under foot in order to toe the starting line at 9:40AM on November 2.

The weather in NYC in early November is not consistent. Since 1999 it has ranged from 37 to 68 degrees. I've come to learn that when running a long distance race, I need to take into account the projected high for the day and add 20 degrees (about the temp your body will generate while running). This year, weather predictions are for a high of 48 but a low of 38. So what does this mean? Well, it means I'll need to have some throw-away clothes at the start (good thing I have a closet full of old sweat pants and shirts that I save just for this occasion). I'll be wearing these over shorts and a short sleeve shirt.
Pre-Race Eating
This is something I always struggle with. Pre-race there are a million theories for how to prepare, a large, carb-heavy meal the night before; heavy carbs for lunch the day prior and then dinner of lean protein and a balance of carbs the night before; introduce 20% more carbs for the two weeks leading up to the race at each meal and don't increase your caloric intake. These are the theories I've been reading about. I'm planning to do what I always do: Eat a lot and then run as far and as fast as I can.

I made my mix last week and have been fine tuning it ever since. I've been listening while commuting, while working and driving my wife nuts listening to it at home. I won't listen to it the entire time as I'll be filming part of the race, but I've made it long enough to get me from the start to the finish just in case.

As I mentioned in another post, I've almost doubled my water intake. I'm at the point where I'm thinking about just setting up shop in the bathroom since that's pretty much where I spend most of my time anyway. The payoff will be on race day when I can hit every other water station and not worry too much about dehydration.

I've also been drinking less caffeine since it's a diuretic. And since I'm increasing my electrolyte intake, it's the perfect excuse to drop a few Nuun Watermelon flavored tablets into my water a few times a day. I'm not a huge fan of sports drinks (I think they have way to much sugar) but I can't seem to get enough of Watermelon Nuun!

Now all I need to do is figure out how to sleep the night before the race.

See you on the course! Look for me, I'll be the guy with the GoPro!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Tapering for NYC and How to Spread the Cheers!

We’re getting down to the line folks! The TCS NYC Marathon is in 10 days. 10 DAYS! I wait all year for the excitement in my hometown to crescendo around this race and it’s evident everywhere I look. Street banners, bus and subway ads and the bleachers set up already in Central Park!! It’s only a matter of time before the statue of Fred Lebow (founder of the race) gets moved to the finish line so he can continue to watch all of the runners as we cross the finish line.
Fred overlooking the construction of the finish line last year
At this point, like most people I have one long-ish run left to do. I’ll set out with my running buddies this weekend and do an out and back across the 59th Street Bridge (three miles) and then follow the last 10 miles of the race course. 

This is technically part of my taper and there are a few things I like to keep in mind while doing so:
  • Even though I’m not running as much as I have been, I need to keep my caloric intake at roughly the same level. It’s okay to drop it a little, but now is the time to pack some carbs into your diet. Rather than going out for that one HUGE pasta dinner the night before the race, add 20% more carbs to your daily intake.
  • Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! I’m pretty good at hydrating, but the week before the race, I’ll practically double it. I get to the point where I think about just setting up shop in the bathroom since that's pretty much where I’ll spend most of my time anyway. The payoff will be on race day when I can hit every other water station and not worry too much about dehydration.
  • I sleep every chance I get for as long as I can! Now’s not the time to be out partying at the clubs. I like to bed down early and train my body to wake up at the same time I will on race day (which for me is EARLY since I’m Wave 1 and Staten Island isn’t the most convenient place to get to).
  • Lastly, I’m preparing for the Expo to GET PSYCHED! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to being in a giant room with fellow crazies who are just as excited as I am for this event.
Speaking of the Expo, I’ve partnered with Poland Spring, the official bottled water of the 2014 TCS New York City Marathon, to help kick off its “Poland Spring Cheers” campaign. The idea is to thank the millions of New Yorkers who helped make local spring water from Maine the #1 beverage brand in the big City.

So, how does it work? Poland Spring is inviting all of us to stop by its video booth at the Expo and record a personal “Poland Spring Cheers” video - essentially thanking our family and friends who supported our Marathon journey.

And you know, at the very least they deserve a thank you. I mean how many hours have they spent listening to your marathon strategy? How many pasta dinners have you forced them to eat with you? How many nights out were cut short because you had a long run the next morning? And how many weekend afternoons were shot because you were just too tired after that long run?

So stop by the TCS New York City Marathon Health and Fitness Expo on 10/30, 10/31 or 11/1 to create your own video. If you can’t drop by, you can still create your own video and share it on your social channels using #polandspringcheers

I leave you with a question, who are you going to thank?

Disclaimer: This post was created in partnership with Poland Spring. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

UPDATED: Tips and Tricks for the TCS NYC Marathon (from a six time finisher)

I wrote the first version of this post last year and after running the TCS NYC Marathon for the sixth time, I decided to write an update. As a six time race veteran and New York City local for 19 years, I have a bit of an insider's knowledge and am able to offer some tips and tricks I’ve learned on what to do and how to get around. It’s a long post, but I promise it’s full of useful information!

Here’s what you need to know:

The Expo
If you can get there on Thursday or early Friday do it! It gets busy and I mean BUSY on Saturday and the last thing you want to do the day before a 26.2 race is to stand in line for hours!

The Expo is at the Javits Center and is about as far west as you can get (34th Street & 11th Ave.) and there is virtually nothing around it. The closest subways are the A/C/E/1/2 into Penn Station – you can either walk (~20 minutes) or take the cross-town bus across 34th – which I think is totally worth it.

If you don’t want to kick down for a Metrocard ($2.50/ride), get yourself to Paragon Sports (18th and Broadway) in the Union Square area. Every year I’ve done the race they’ve offered a free shuttle from the store to the expo and back. Not only do you get a free ride, but they’ll also give you a 20% discount card (or at least they have in past years).

Outside the Expo (or on most major street corners for that matter) you’ll find vendors selling hats and gloves. Treat yourself to a street hat and a pair of street gloves. This is the best way for you to get super cheap throw-away gear that will keep you warm for the start of the race.

Take your time at the Expo, walk around, kick down for that TCS NYC Marathon jacket, this is the largest marathon in the world and you’re going to want to show off the fact that you ran it for years to come!
My friend Carolyn and I with Bart Yasso at the 2013 NYC Marathon Expo

 If you time your Expo trip right, you’ll get to meet some of the professionals who are running the race. Meb, Kara, Rita, they all do meet and greets. And then at the booths, folks like Matt Long and Bart Yasso are around pressing the flesh, if you’re a running geek like me (and chances are, you are if you’re reading this), it can be a pretty awe-inspiring place to be.

Put your name on your shirt!
Want to hear your name cheered for most of the 26.2 miles? Put your name on your shirt in BIG BLOCK letters! It may sound cheesy, but there’s nothing that gets me up 5th Avenue (mile 23) faster or past that last stretch on Central Park South than some random person looking me in the eye and saying something like, “You’ve got this Eric, you’re almost there.” It can be a huge boost.

Don’t have good handwriting or don’t want to risk messing up that new tech shirt you bought? Go to any hobby store and buy transfer paper. You can print out your name, an image, a quote or anything you want and iron it right on your shirt.

Strategically Place Your Friends and Family on the Course
Have people coming to watch you during the race? Make sure you know where they are. It’ll be relatively easy for you to find them and virtually impossible for them to find you.

I always ask my friends and family to hang out on First Avenue above 100th Street but before The Bronx – the crowds thin out a little there. And if your friends hang out on First Avenue, they can easily walk over to see you on your way down 5th Avenue – it’s just a 15-20 minute walk for them.

What to wear
I’ve run the race for six years and have always worn shorts and short sleeve tech shirt. I’ve been lucky that it has never rained (hopefully I didn’t jinx this year). I usually go to a discount store before the race and for $30 get sweat pants and a zipped/hooded sweatshirt. The hood offers extra warm or rain protection and the fact that it’s zippered makes it easier to remove while I’m running. I take the sweatpants off just before the start and I’ll chuck the jacket when I get warm enough – usually after the Verrazano Bridge. I also wear the cap and pair of throwaway gloves that I bought outside the Javits, but hang on to them a bit longer.

While you’re at the discount store, buy yourself a pack of long athletic/tube socks, you know, the white ones with stripes that you used to wear as a kid up to your knee (if you’re the same age as me that is). Take one pair, cut off the toes and voilĂ ! You have a pair of arm warmers that you won’t worry about throwing away during the race. Make sure when you put them on that you pull the elasticized opening on first, with the elastic at the top of your arm they won’t slide down.

There is no waterfall of urine on the lower level
If you’re running the race and have gotten assigned a Green corral (running on the bottom level of the Verrazano Bridge), you’re probably worried about the waterfall of pee you’ve heard about. I had the same fear at my very first New York City Marathon.

I’m here to tell you from personal experience that the rumors are 100% false. First off, that would have to be one powerful stream of pee to reach from the top level of the bridge – I’m talking about at least 20 to 30 people in a synchronized urination. And it’s virtually impossible for it to happen – there’s the wind blowing in all directions, not to mention people on the top level can’t just hang off the side of the bridge to pee. There are guardrails that keep you a good five feet off the edge. I’ve since run the top of the bridge and have never seen anyone stopping for a “natural break” let alone 30 people doing it together. I can’t say for sure, but there are so many DOT workers on the bridge, I don’t think it would be possible to stop without being told to move on (and you’d probably earn yourself a DQ to boot).

Getting to Staten Island/Fort Wadsworth
By now you’ve already chosen your transportation option. You’re either on the bus or taking the Staten Island Ferry. I can’t comment on the bus since I’ve never taken it. I can tell you that the Ferry is easy, it’s fun and you get a great shot of Lady Liberty as you make your way across New York Harbor. You’ll load onto busses with loads of other runners and get chauffeured to Fort Wadsworth where you follow the color of your bib (blue, orange or green) to your start village.

I save the heat sheets from previous races and use them as blankets at the start village near my assigned corral. I wear my throwaway clothes for warmth and seek out a Dunkin Donuts tea and bagel for some extra calories while I’m waiting to my corral to open. Bring a magazine or some other form of entertainment that you can easily toss. You may be there for a while; I tend to go early since I’m a bit of a freak about getting places on time.

At your assigned wave time, the cannon will fire and you’ll start to make your way up and past the starting line to Frank Sinatra serenading you to New York, New York!

The course
You’re in Staten Island for all of two miles. As you're trotting towards the start line, make sure you don't trip on any of the clothing discarded by runners in front of you (and if you're discarding clothing, please try and throw it into one of the receptacles the organizers put out there). 

Once you make it past the start you're in the the Verrazano Bridge - and it's a hill, make no mistake but it’s also the start of the race so the chance of you noticing that fact is pretty slim. Hold your pace. Take it all in, look at the NYC skyline ahead of you. Watch the NYFD Fire Boat with water cannons going full blast saluting the start of your epic journey and gawk at the helicopters buzzing the bridge (some are media, others are security). Enjoy this, you will be feeling great and super excited for what you’re about to accomplish.

Once you get over (or through) the first of five bridges, you’re in Brooklyn and one of the best parts of the course. Keep your head together here. You want to make sure you’re not going out too fast. Trust me, it’s easy to do. Between the crowds, the bands and the fact that the course is practically flat the entire length of the borough means you need to keep a close eye on your pace.

You’re on Fourth Avenue for miles four through eight. Stay to the left side of the divider in the sunlight, it can get cold and breezy and if you stay on the left side, you’ll be a lot warmer. That said, pop over to the right for a huge burst of energy – this is where the bigger crowds are. If you run with your name on your shirt (which I highly suggest you do) you’ll get personal cheers. And, high fiving all the little kids on the course is fun!

Further into Brooklyn you’ll pass through South Williamsburg. Don’t get freaked out! Not only is it home to New York Hipsters but one of the largest concentrations of Orthodox Jews in the City. Chances are the cheering will be a lot less here and you’ll get some awkward looks (it’s considered immodest to wear form-fitting clothing). Sunday is also a workday for this community and you’ll likely see people darting back and forth across the course while you’re running.

Brooklyn takes you to the halfway point where you cross over the Pulaski Bridge (the second of five bridges) and enter the borough of Queens. This is really the first rise (I won’t call it a hill) of consequence since you crossed over the Verrazano. Just pace yourself and remember to keep a good cadence. Throughout Queens, the course undulates between sea level and ~50 feet above.

You then hit the 59th Street Bridge (three of five bridges). It’s easy to get psyched out. Maybe you’re starting to get tired and your legs are starting to complain a little. This really is a hill. To make it worse, no spectators are allowed on the bridge so it can get eerily silent. For the first time on the course, it’s just you and every other runner plugging away at the miles. But it’s not as bad as you might think. Trust your training, stay out of your head, eat a gel and maybe chat it up with another runner. Or pick someone in front of you and try to stay on his or her tail. It’ll be over before you know and then you hit what has been described as a wall of sound.

You’ve made it to First Avenue. The first thing you’ll notice is that where the 59th Street Bridge was silent – First Avenue is like the second coming of The Beatles. Coming off the bridge you hit an indescribable rush of cheers that doesn’t stop for the next three miles.

First Avenue is the hill that you’ll never feel (because of all the spectators and cheering). Remember to pace yourself here. Four years ago I found myself doing 7:30s for the three miles up to the Bronx – for a guy who was running 8:30s for the rest of the race, I put the back half of my race in jeopardy.

The crowds will carry you from 59th Street all the way up to the Willis Avenue Bridge (four of five bridges) which connects you to:

The Bronx
One of the most enthusiastic areas of the race, it’s almost like the residents know that we’re about to hit the wall. Again, keep your head (stay out of it), eat a gel, take in the Japanese drummers, look for yourself on the giant video screen and remember to move your feet. You’re almost in the home stretch.

The course takes us back over the Third Avenue Bridge (five of five bridges!) and you find yourself on 5th Ave.

Manhattan and the Home Stretch
5th Avenue from 138th Street down to 110th Street is pretty benign. At this point in the race, I’m always just concentrating on getting into Central Park at 90th Street. It can be challenging. From 110th down to 90th is a gradual one-mile hill. You’re climbing about 100 feet of elevation over one mile which give you an average grade of 1.8% – easy peasy, right? If that doesn’t help you get to the top, the crowds will be so loud, you won’t be able to hear any of the negative thoughts in your head.
She was so sweet and enthusiastic, I forgave her awful grammar error
At 90th you enter Central Park and hit a bit more undulation. Are you using a mantra? Now’s the time to employ it. You can almost smell the finish line.

Shoot out of the Park and onto Central Park South where once again, the level of noise will be about Justin Bieber or maybe One Direction level. Either way, the crowds to Columbus Circle will again carry you up the gradual incline.

At Columbus Circle, you re-enter Central Park. Make sure your bib is visible at this point. If it’s not, you run the risk if getting stopped by Bandit Spotters. You don’t want someone to break your stride when you’re so close to the finish line.

Enter the park, up a slight grade and relax, you’re done. You’ve run one of the most iconic races in the world and you’re part of the 1% – the 1% that are marathoners that is! You’ve earned the tech shirt you picked up at the Expo and can wear it with pride.

Post Race
Get your medal and take a heat sheet (in fact, take two, one for your shoulders and tie the other around your waist), grab a recovery bag. They usually have Gatorade recovery formula in there. I highly suggest you drink as much of that as you can (I find it too syrupy but try to down as much of it as I can). Regardless of what your hydration plan was on the course, I’m willing to bet you’re going to be dehydrated and this will help.

I can’t comment too much on where to meet up with family and friends after the race, I live about a mile from the finish and usually just walk home to meet my wife and parents (who come into the City to watch every year).

I can tell you that if you chose the No Baggage option, you’re in for a treat. Here’s an excerpt from my race review last year which I think captures the essence of the treat we were subjected to as “no baggage” runners:

So, we're all trudging along, limping out of the park and make it up to Central Park West where they are handing out the ponchos. I reach the area and go to grab one from one of the many volunteers handing them out but she ever so gently pushes my hand away. 

In a very soothing voice she says, "please, let me put this on your shoulders." After she draped it on me and secured the velcro, she asked if I wanted the hood up. It was all I could do to nod my head. I was mesmerized by this angel who was taking care of me like I was her child. I half expected her to kiss my forehead as she sent me on my way. There were literally thousands that opted for the ponchos and I only hope they were as well taken care of as I was. Whoever you were, thank you from the bottom of my still-sore toes.

On Monday make sure to pick up a copy of the New York Times. Every year they print a special section with the names and times of all finishers under 4:30:00! And if you don’t have to go to work, head to Tavern on the Green, last year the NYRR offered free medal engraving.

If that wasn’t enough to get you excited about the race, how about this video I made last year? I can’t wait to see what the 2014 edition of this epic race holds in store!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Video/My Experience at the NYRR Staten Island Half

Sunday was the last of the NYRR Five-Borough Series for 2014, the Staten Island Half. I've run this race almost every year since I started running eight years ago.

I go out to Staten Island twice a year, once for this event and then again a few weeks later for the start of the TCS NYC Marathon. In the past, I would hop on the ferry two hours prior to the race start, check a bag and head out on a pre-race seven mile run - this in order to get my last 20-miler in before the marathon. But this year I switched it up.

I've changed my training this year to do a long run on Saturday and then a shorter (long) run on Sunday. So for the past few weeks, I've been running 17 miles Saturday and 13.1 miles on Sunday. It's been tremendous in getting me used to the pain, an important training factor when preparing for a marathon.

All this to say, I went out to Staten Island this year and just enjoyed a 13.1 mile race. I wound up running with a relatively new friend, Dan (whom, interestingly I met when I was pitched his company's products for this blog), one of my regular running crew John and bumping into Natalie about three miles in.

Long story short, John took off because he was feeling good and wanted to see what he could pull off while Dan and Natalie helped drag my tired and sore body around a suburban race course. If it wasn't for them, and really Dan specifically, I may very well may have been a DNF on Sunday.

The plan was to head out and stick to something close to an 8:45/minute pace. Less than a half mile in Dan asked me how good I was at pacing, pretty accurate was any answer. Turns out, I'm not that good. Every time I looked at my watch we were going too fast. I grudgingly admitted this towards the end of the race.

The course has changed over the last few years as Staten Island is still suffering the effects of Hurricane Sandy but the course remains roughly the same terrain. The first five-ish miles are rolling hills followed by a downhill (~2 to3%) with a four mile, pancake flat out and back. The last five are over the same course of the first five, which means heading back up that one big-ish hill can be challenging if you ran 17 miles the day prior.

If you can keep yourself out of your head for the last five, the payoff this year was getting to run into the Staten Island Yankees stadium and across home plate where the NYRR set up the finish line.

It was a beautiful day for a run and a great last long run before the TCS NYC Marathon!

As usual, I had the GoPro with me and created the following to give you a taste of the race. Check it out:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Runner Spotlight: Jim from my Hood to Coast team

At best I'm a middle of the pack runner. My marathon PR isn't that impressive but the fact that someone older than me aims for 2:45 gives me hope. Meet Jim Clemens, a quiet southern gentleman that I met when I ran Hood to Coast with Team Nuun.

Jim's the kind of guy that everyone wants to be friends with. A self-described introvert, he seems to draw people in and bring out the better person in them. I can only imagine what he thought of the loud, crass New Yorker. I only got to know Jim over the few days we spent together while out west in August, but he left a lasting impression. 

You can see him on our shakeout run at :10 - :14 and :39 - :41

So without further babbling from me, I present you with the quiet southern storm:

Name: Jim Clemens

Age: 47

City/state: Madison, AL

Occupation:  Software Engineer

Twitter - @JPC_Marathoner
Instagram - @marathonrun
Garmin Connect - jpc262

When and why did you start running?
I started running in 5th grade.  My next oldest sibling ran XC and track in 9th grade then, so I wanted to start running with her during training runs.

As a runner, what are you most proud of having accomplished?
Two things: 1) Breaking 2:40 in the marathon twice and 2) Running Boston (so far, 4 times)

What was the biggest hurdle to running and how did you get over it? 
I am not sure I ever had a big hurdle to overcome. My family, both when I was younger and my wife and children, have always been supportive.  I guess the only “hurdle” would have been adjusting to having babies in the house and finding time to get runs in.

How do you fit running in with your daily schedule?
My main adjustments have come once I had children of my own.  It becomes a lot harder to get runs scheduled when you have little ones at home! When they were babies, I would typically either run during lunch at work or run after work, pushing them in the baby jogger.  As they got older and we have more evening activities, I shifted to running first thing in the morning, trying to finish before anyone was up.  I have stayed on that schedule and typically am up and running by 5-5:30 in the morning.

Do your friends and family support your running or think you are crazy?
Both! Ha!  Yes, my family support is awesome.  There have been many vacations that were planned around a marathon!  We also all run the Peachtree 10K now in Atlanta on the 4th of July.  My extended family comes to cheer and takes care of me as well any time I am running close to where they live.  My dedication and amount of miles I run is the butt of many jokes in my house, but it is all in good fun.  My kids and wife all run in several 5Ks during the year as well, so they can’t think I am too crazy.

Have you ever been injured due to running?
Yes.  Mostly soft tissue injuries, like strains, pulls, etc.  I have just recently come back from a calf tear that kept me out of running for 10 weeks or so; the longest I have ever been off from running for a long, long time.  As I have aged, I have had to adjust my training to make sure that I don’t stress myself too much and cross that line into injury.  I am likely hard to live with when I cannot run!!

Any favorite motivational quotes?
"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." -- Eric Liddell (from "Chariot's of Fire")

What’s your favorite piece of running gear?
Why, running shoes, of course.  Currently rocking the Mizuno Wave Sayonara, Hitogami, and Wave Rider 18’s

What are your long-term goals (if any)?
My long-term goals have changed as I have aged.  I would *love* to break 2:40 in the marathon again, but I think that may be past.  To keep breaking 2:45 for a long as possible is current “achievable” goal.

Do you use any music or run tracking devices when you run, or are you a “naked” runner?
No music. Garmin watch (currently 610) for GPS and then download to Garmin Connect and Strava.

How do you get yourself through the difficult parts of your runs?
Usually by breaking up the rest of the run into manageable chunks with the lure of “rewards” for getting to a certain mile mark - like a reward of a Gu or drink, etc.  During a race, usually just focus on why I am there and all of the training I have put in to getting to this place and just settling the mind’s doubts.

Was this your first marathon?
First marathon was inaugural Disney World back in 1997. Latest was Glass City in April, 2014 (was my 32nd I believe)

Did you follow a training program? If so, how closely did you follow it?
I have followed a training program for every marathon.  I use a program put together by Pete Pfitzinger, typical 18 week program, but sometime use a 12 week one.

What were your goals (if any) for the race?
My goal for my last two marathons (NYCM 2013 and Glass City 2014) was to break 2:45.  I didn’t quite make that at NYCM but did get it at Glass City.

Any interesting or unexpected things happen on the course?
Nah, my races are usually boring when it comes to unexpected/interesting items.  I was at Boston in 2013 during the bombings but had finished prior to the explosions going off.

Did you run with a friend/running partner?
No, usually run by myself.  At Boston, I hung with a friend from my town while we waited for the start and then ran with him for the first couple miles.

Did the race live up to the hype?
For my bigger marathons, yes.  Especially Boston and NYCM.

Do you think you’ll do another one?
Why yes, I am currently planning my next marathon in Spring ’15.  Thinking Napa Valley Marathon right now but haven’t pulled the trigger yet.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo Essay: NYRR Bronx 10 Miler

Sunday was supposed to be my long run to prepare for the TCS NYC Marathon. I was going to participate in the NYRR Bronx 10 Miler, run back to Manhattan, around Central Park and home for a total of 18 miles.

I made it to the end of the race and called it quits.

I'm okay with where I am in my training for the big dance. As long as I can get in another 18 miler and a 20 miler, I'll make it to the finish line. It ain't gonna be pretty, but I'll make it.

But I digress.

Sunday was the third year in a row The Bronx race (part of the NYRR 5 Borough Series) was a 10 miler (side note, the race used to be 13.1 miles and took place in February). The course is mostly the same, the org just removed a ~5K of an out and back.

I love the course since it takes us to some places that I would never associate with The Bronx. When I think of the borough, in my mind I see the urban wasteland of the South Bronx circa 70's and 80's. I don't associate it with vibrant street scenes. Yet, that's what The Bronx is today!

See for yourself:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

My Experience at the 2014 Hood to Coast relay

I've been enamored with Hood to Coast since I first started running back in 2007. And when the documentary came out a few years ago it only fueled the fire. 

I was intrigued by the whole relay race concept, I've been in love with the Pacific Northwest for years and Oregon was the only state left that I hadn't stepped foot in.

After looking into running the race, it became way to much of a challenge to A. get in B. put together a team C. organize all the logistics from across the country and D. take the time off from work to deal with B and C.

Enter Nuun. I became a brand ambassador last December and was given the opportunity to apply for a spot on its Hood to Coast team. And for some reason, I was accepted!

Fast forward to late August and after a day of fun in Seattle, I load into a van with (from front to back) Casey, Arielle, Sean, Elisabeth, Melissa and Jenny and off we go to the top of Mt. Hood to start what the race calls, The Mother Of All Relays.

After being accepted to the Nuun team, I was given the opportunity to choose the legs I would run. After looking at the ratings (Easy, Kinda Easy, Not So easy, Hard, Pretty Hard and Are You Fucking Kidding?) I chose a series of three legs (the same as all my teammates) that I figured were right in the middle. 

My first leg was fully downhill. I was third in my van to run and ran a 4.2 mile leg that was a total loss of 800 feet. 

My second was a 7.3 mile run along a rolling highway that started at 11PM. 

And my last leg was a 10K roughly 12 hours later.

Here's what I learned about relays, it's a little secret that you'd never know about unless you've participated in one: 

It's not about the run.

I was put in a van with five other runners and a dedicated driver (thank you again Casey) whom I had met the day prior. When we emerged from the van 36.5 hours later, exhausted, dirty, sweaty, starving and elated, we were family.

We now had inside jokes about:

  • Miles and miles of traffic (especially from 3-5AM);
  • Never-ending porta potty lines
  • The porta potty crew that seemed to be following us the entire race!; 
  • The porta potty crew that cleaned said pottys without gloves on their hands
  • The fact that Jenny yelled at us to stop looking at her as she tried to figure out how to step out of the van with burning quads from a five-mile downhill run
  • The foul smells that were emanating from the van
  • The lack of sleep
  • The lack of real food and the abundance of gummy bears (that never seemed to be depleted)
Did I mention the traffic:

I loved participating in the relay (I have a hard time calling it a race since we were in it for fun) and wouldn't trade the experience for the world.

Case and point: At one point during my last leg, I literally stopped running just to listen. At this point on the course there were no cars, no other runners, no birds, no animals, no wind, in fact no sounds at all. It was just me on the cracked pavement looking at these ancient evergreen trees. It. Was. Awesome!

As someone who lives in NYC, I'm used to a baseline of white noise in the background and when it's silent, it's a little disconcerting. But this was different, it was really serene. And for a half second, I thought maybe living in NYC wasn't such a great idea. Then I came to my senses, started running again and just for good measure, made a few sarcastic remarks to myself.

All that said, I think my very short relay career is over. Between the travel, the recovery from lack of sleep, the lack of caloric intake and the lack of showering for that long, I think I'll stick to marathons.

All that said, it's still a magical experience crossing the finish line with two vans full of runners who you've journeyed with for 200 miles.

A huge shout of gratitude to the folks at Nuun who made this possible, Kevin, Vishel, Zoe, (my van-mates) Casey and rock-star runner Arielle and last but not least Megan Fey, the ambassador liaison who treats us all like family.

Here's a little inspiration from the finish line:

And the race video again