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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Runner Spotlight: Justin Fricke (AKA, The Weekend Warrior)

If you read this space, you know that when I meet or hear about a runner with what I think is an interesting story, I do a "question and answer" post I call Runner Spotlight.

I met Justin when we were put on the Nuun Hood to Coast team together. Here was a guy who was full of personality and a lot of fun to be around, but that's not what I found to be the most interesting thing about him.

In order to get chosen to be on the Hood to Coast team we had to apply. Applications were limited to Nuun Ambassadors which meant on some level, we needed to be athletic and socially savvy (or at least social media savvy). As a runner and blogger, it was a no-brainer for me to apply.

But for Justin, it was a different story. This dude had never even run a 5K. And he not only applied to be part of a team that would run a 200 mile relay (in which he would have to run at a minimum, 15 miles over 36 hours), but he got accepted!

Talk about an adventure!

I can't claim to know him really well, but I can tell you that Justin is a lot of fun to be around and pretty silly. In fact, he knew the Nuun team for less than an hour before this happened:

Need I say more?

So without further preamble, I present you with the first spotlight of my Nuun Hood to Coast teammates.

Name: Justin Fricke

Age: 24

City/state: Winter Springs, FL

Occupation: Banking

Twitter & Instagram: @JustinLFricke

When and why did you start running?
In April of 2014 is when I really got into running. I’m an ambassador for Nuun Hydration Co. and they asked all us ambassador folk to fill out an application to be on one of their Hood to Coast (the mother of all relays) team. They’d be putting together 2 teams with 10 ambassadors on each team; they’d be taking 20 ambassadors altogether.

At the time I was in a real low point in my life and was craving an adventure that’d really put me outside my comfort zone. I figured I’d fill out the application and see what happens. A week later I got an email from Nuun saying I’d been selected to be on one of their teams. The next day I went to the local running store, got fitted, bought my first real pair of running shoes, and got to training.

From there I guess you could say “the rest is history.”

As a runner, what are you most proud of having accomplished?
Running and finishing all my legs during Hood to Coast probably takes the cake. I mean I was running in places unfamiliar to me. I’d just started running five months prior and I wasn’t relying on music to power me through my runs for the first time, ever. It was just really gratifying to be there in those moments, alone, and just letting go of what had transpired months before.

What was the biggest hurdle to running and how did you get over it?
Training during the dog days of summer in Florida has been my biggest running hurdle so far. I just get my mind in the game, knowing it’s going to feel like I’m going to drown from the humidity with each breath I take, and knowing I’m going to be uncomfortable most of the time.

It kind of works to my advantage though because I’m always trying to test myself physically and mentally to see how far I can push myself.

How do you fit running in with your daily schedule?
I’ve found it best for me to set aside certain days throughout the week for running. I’ll adjust to a morning or evening run to make it fit in with my schedule. I’ll run more when I’m training for a half-marathon or a marathon and taper off a bit and do some other sort of activity (cycling, climbing, mountain biking, etc.) to eat up my time.

Do your friends and family support your running or think you are crazy?
For the most part they do. They think it’s cool how active I am and how I’ve just picked up running and just ran with it (pun intended). The only kickback I get is the typical “you know running’s bad for your knees” and my climber friends say that “running’s bad for your climbing.”

I kind of tune it out because let’s face it, people are constantly going to find a way to bring down something they’re not into. To my climber friends I just mention the slew of top notch climbers climbing the hardest routes in the world that are also die hard runners. Running sure doesn’t seem to have a negative impact on their climbing.

Have you ever been injured due to running?
Nothing major, aside for the typical dehydration, sore legs, and feet. Hoping it stays that way!

Any favorite motivational quotes?
4th quarter, let’s go!

That’s what my lacrosse coach in high school would yell at us as we were doing our conditioning at the end of practice. We always made fun of him because we thought it was a stupid saying. Now I find myself repeating that phrase at the end of my runs, guess it stuck with me through all the years.

What’s your favorite piece of running gear?
My New Balance Fresh Foam 980’s. They’re my first legit pair of running shoes, are pretty comfortable, and they’ve got almost 200 miles on them. Without them, my running game would be nothing.

What are your long-term goals?
Right now I’m training for my first half-marathon race (I've run more than that training) and I’m hoping to finish with a sub two hour time. In February I’m running my first marathon and it’d be rad to finish with a sub three hour time.

Really long term, I’d love to run a 100 mile ultra in under 36 hours. That’s a long ways off because training for that takes up a lot of time and there are other things I want to do right now, like cycle, climb, and surf.

Do you use any music or run tracking devices when you run, or are you a “naked” runner?
I prefer to stay clothed while I run (pause for laughter). Right now I’ve got my phone set to the New Found Glory radio station on Pandora. It’s been taking me back to the good old days of middle school and high school.

I also use the Strava run app. on my phone. It keeps me from dropping a crap load of money on one of those fancy GPS watches.

How do you get yourself through the difficult parts of your runs?
While “4th quarter, let’s go” is running through my head (pun intended) I’m also focusing on keeping proper running form and cadence in my step. I find myself deviating from my running form and start running at a slower cadence the more and more tired I get, so making sure my form and cadence is in check helps me take my mind off the pain and monotony.

Justin at the start of Hood to Coast

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Hood to Coast - The Day Before

I was thrilled to be chosen to run Hood to Coast on one of the two Nuun Ambassador teams.

I'd heard about the race from a friend who lives in Oregon and when the documentary came out a few years ago, my running friends and I were first in line!

I'd never done a relay race before and thought that the "Mother Of All Relays" would be a great introduction. The kink in the armor was that I needed to be in Utah for work for the week prior so it was going to be a long trip and I wouldn't be able to get a lot of rest prior to traveling to Seattle.

But these are luxury problems.

Leaving Utah should be a pretty painless process, but thanks to Delta, it was more complicated than it needed to be.

Long story short, I arrived at 12:30AM and after a $50 cab ride got the hotel.

I didn't know anyone else who was running the race, we had been in a Facebook group together for a while, but I had never met any of them in person.

So when I arrived at the hotel and finally checked in, the guy who I was sharing the room with (whom, I will remind you, I'd never met in person) was already asleep. I did what I needed to do to get ready for bed with minimal light, collapsed into the bed and was out like a light.

Now, the next morning was interesting. It took me a few minutes to realize where I was and what the noises I was hearing were. My roommate (again, whom I'd never met) was awake and moving around.

To say it was an awkward introduction is putting it mildly. Work with me here folks, but it was like meeting a one-night-stand the next morning (although to be fair, I wasn't drunk and we hadn't had any intimate moments).

Turns out Joe was a great guy and we wound up getting along really well.
My roommate Joe, all "Nuuned" up and ready to roll!
First on the agenda was a shakeout run.

We met up with the rest of the team and our hosts in the hotel lobby. Now would be the appropriate time to thank all the folks at Nuun, and a HUGE shout to Megan Fay for putting this all together and being a phenomenal ambassador liaison!

The run was an easy four miles through Seattle, it was a great way for us to all meet each other.

And as you can see, some of us were more shy than others:

From there, Nuun organized a tour of the new Brooks HQ. It was pretty freaking cool; we learned about its manufacturing process, marketing practices and got a sneak peek at some of the 2015 line. As a marketer, I was fascinated and could have spent the day chatting with the team there.

Clearly I'm unhappy about being at Brooks HQ
But we had more to do!

From Brooks HQ we were treated to lunch and then let loose on Seattle for some free time. Of course, as the elder statesman, when I hear "free time" I think "nap time" and that's exactly what I did!
Nothing but nutritious meals to prepare for the race. Photo credit: George Okinaka
We met up again in the evening at Nuun HQ for a tasty dinner, some last minute planning and most importantly, van decorating!

More to come, but know that the wake up call for the next day was set for 4AM as we needed to leave for Mt. Hood at 4:30.

That nap was the last decent sleep I was going to get for the next 72 hours.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Photo Essay: NYRR 5th Avenue Mile

I'm not a miler and have never participated in the NYRR's annual 5th Avenue Mile, I've just never felt compelled to do it.

But after yesterday, I'm thinking about doing it next year.

I went out and watched a few of the heats and took some photos with the GoPro. Between the fun I saw on the faces of some and the determination on the faces of others, it looked like a phenomenal day.

Next year NYRR, next year.

Here are some of the photos I shot (click to see full size):

Monday, September 8, 2014

My Short Run with Kara Goucher!

In my very short running career I've done some pretty cool stuff. I've run 12 marathons around the country, started this blog, have a ton of fun making videos documenting some pretty epic races, been invited by Nuun to be part of their Hood to Coast team (review coming, I promise!) and become a social reporter for the New York Road Runners.

It's that last thing that I'm riffing off of for my post today. 

I got an email from my contact at the NYRR a few weeks ago saying that "A professional female runner is coming to NYC to announce her entry into the TCS NYC Marathon, as a NYRR social reporter, would you be interested in running the last 10 miles of the course with her?"

Um, you think?

I quickly did some digging and determined that neither Kara Goucher nor Shalane Flanagan had announced NYC yet, so my fingers were crossed it would be one of them.

On Friday I got confirmation it was Kara and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut for the weekend and not blurt it out to my running friends, I held fast.

So at 7:45 this morning, I met Kara, Mary Wittenberg (president/CEO NYRR), Robert Molke (PR NYRR), Sally Bergesen (CEO and founder, Oiselle) and Shanna Burnette (PR director Oiselle) at Engineer's Gate in Central Park. 
Hanging on and clutching my GoPro (credit Rob Molke)

The pace wasn't as monstrous as I anticipated but it also wasn't as slow as I'd hoped. My PR for a 13.1 is 7:22/mile so you would think that 2.5 miles at 7:34/mile wouldn't be so bad, but then you'd be wrong.
Kara Goucher running across Central Park South (the last mile of the course) 
Being a fly on the wall and listening to Kara speak with Mary about some of her past races, her experience racing with Paula Radcliffe and Shalane, her mindset as she was finishing the NYC Marathon a few years ago (interestingly it's pretty much what all of us are thinking - when is this going to be OVER?!?!) was almost a surreal experience for me. 

Over a 20 year career PR career I've hired and been around more celebrities than I can remember and I'm not usually star struck, but this was different. 

Here was a woman who's career I've been following for years. Who I've seen on magazine covers and who I've watched race her heart out.
Kara running across what will become the finish line for the TCS NYC Marathon
I'm thrilled that I was able to run with her and grateful to the New York Road Runners for giving me the opportunity.

Now I need to get super serious about my TCS NYC Marathon training!

Kara, me and Mary Wittenberg
From left: Rob Molke, Sally Bergesen, Kara Goucher and Shanna Burnette pose near what will become the finish line
The artsy shot