Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Runner's World The Runner's Brain Book review

As I have said a few times, being a blogger sometimes has perks that go along with it.  Some times its reviewing products before they come, some times it's getting invited to events, and some times, like in this case, I get to review an advance copy of a new book.

Recently I got to read the new Runner's World book, The Runner's Brain.  I was interested in reading this book in part because of the title.  There are many things that I have worked on over the years to improve my fitness, racing and so on, but never have I really thought about how the brain impacts all of these. I've always thought about positive reinforcement and those types of things, but never have I delved into the inner workings of the brain and running.

So without going chapter by chapter and what the book explains, I'll give a high level of it, plus I want everyone to pick it up and take it for a spin.  For the record, I don't get anything if you do.  I don't get a dollar, a free Runner's World magazine, or anything.  I am just a fellow runner who wants to help out other athletes.

The main thing that I really enjoyed about the book is that for everything that was explained, they backed it up with scientific studies explaining their data.  Being a nerd that I am, I enjoyed knowing that there was scientific proof to what was being explained.  This helps things to be believable.

Parts of the book explain how running affects the brain and how running improves memory, "age proof" the brain, and makes us happy after we run.  I'm sure we all knew this but having it explained really brings things out to the open.

Some of the most interesting and readable parts of the book are the explanations about superstitions (we all have them, right?), how to manage both pre-race jitters as well as post race blues, and a real in depth explanation about the "runner's high" and how to achieve it.  I'm glad I read that part since I have never experienced the runner's high so now I know how to achieve it, though I don't think I will even knowing what to look for.  

Other intriguing and helpful parts of The Runner's Brain is what to think about during your runs, both internal thoughts, as well as external ones.  These can help you get through your runs and how to deviate your mind in the times of pain.  This can also be helpful in long races where you "hit the wall" and need to find a way to break through it.  The book does a great job explaining the psychosis of hitting the wall, which is something we have all experienced.  

Without going in to more detail about the book, I found it a very quick and easy read to get through.  This book is about running so it's not like it's an intense read and since we all want to get better, what you learn in this book can definitely help.  There is also a reference to one of my favorite shows ever, "How I Met Your Mother" so that is definitely a plus in my book.  The first chapter was about the Boston Marathon 2013, which I have a connection to for running it in, but I think in some ways, I'm not a fan of everything being tied to that horrific event.  I understand it's a book about running, and no one can ever forget what happened that day, but I feel to try and tie this book into that day might have been a wrong call and turned me off a little.

The Runner's Brain is a very good book with a lot of scientific proof of why things work the way they do.  I think this book is perfect for the novice runner or intermediate runner. A veteran runner usually knows most of the things in the book because they have experienced it themselves, so I am not sure they would get a lot out of it, even though I took a few nuggets from the read.  The holidays are coming so it would be a great stocking stuffer for the runner in your life.  

Below is the link to check out the book:
Link to "The Runner's Brain"

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The good through Sports

We often hear about all the bad things about professional sports.  The billionaires vs. millionaires, the domestic violence, the performance enhancing drugs, how sports is a business, how teams don't care about the fans, and on and on and on.  But we as fans tune in every day, week, month, year for some reason.  There has to be a reason. Sometimes there is a connection to growing up, sometimes it's  family thing, or maybe it's just the sheer enjoyment of entertainment.  Either way we, as fans, love sports.  There is plenty of good that comes through professional sports but very rarely do we hear about it.

Most of my posts are about racing, raising Riley, training or something along those lines.  This one will be very different since I want to share how one of the most amazing experiences I have had was because of how generous a professional sports team was.

I have a friend (let's call him Mickey to keep his name private) who has had some issues this year.  It is not my place to publicly explain what they were, but Mickey has been through a very rough year and has basically gone through hell and back.  Mickey is a Buffalo Bills fan and I am a NY Jets fan for our respective NFL teams.  Every year we go to the Jets/Bills game and root on our teams.  We have a nice competitive streak and give each other hell but it is all in good fun.  We enjoy watching the game together and it is our annual event. As a result of Mickey's problems this year, we weren't sure that we would be able to take part in our tradition.  Let it be known that Mickey is probably the nicest person you will ever meet.  As in the type of guy who just gets under your skin because no one should be this nice and yet somehow he is.  He is the guy who puts everyone first and is more concerned with you than him.  Pretty much he is my total opposite.  So when Mickey went through his issues this year, I wanted to do something special for him.

I knew it was a long shot, but I reached out to the NY Jets organization explaining what the situation was and how I wanted to do something for Mickey.  I explained our tradition and wanted to see if they would help me with something.  Well, I got a response, and what the NY Jets did was something that I couldn't expect and by far and away extremely nice.

Sammy Watkins in action
After trading a few emails back and forth with someone in the NY Jets organization, I was emailed Game Day field passes and tickets for the Jets/Bills game.  More on the seats later, but Mickey and I were allowed to go on the field during pregame warm-ups for the Thursday night nationally televised Jets/Bills game.  We got to meet with the owner of the Jets- Woody Johnson, the GM of the Bills, in addition to the Jets 1992 draft class of Chad Pennington, Laverneus Coles, Shaun Ellis, and a few more.  Plus the country music star Jessie James.  We saw up close and personal the players which was extremely cool.  Take a look at these pictures we got.  No zoom needed.  In fact, Mickey got to see his favorite player Sammy Watkins and almost got him to sign his jersey.

These guys are biiiiiig

I have a whole new respect for how large these guys are.  Seeing Mario Williams up close and how big NFL players are is incredible.

Gotta love a personal escort to the field by Snoopy
After warmups, we were escorted to our seats.  Instead of just giving any seat possible, the Jets gave us the Coaches Club seats which were incredible.  We walk into this suite that is essentially a club with the most incredible food at a stadium.  Seriously, who eats Lobster rolls, shrimp tacos, 5 different kinds of wings, a sushi bar, ice sculpture with a raw bar, and on and on.  That is not stadium food.  That's a nice night out with the wife.  Yet, here were Mickey and I eating away while the Jets walked right in front of us from their locker room onto the field.

The players walking out on to the field right in front of us

These seats were great.  We were so close to the field.  Honestly the Jets went above and beyond.

Even though the Bills won the game (I am convinced the Jets lost because they wanted to do something really special for Mickey), this was an event that I am so thankful for.  All I wanted to do was give my friend something that would help him get through this difficult time, but the NY Jets organization wanted no part in that.  They understood what my friend was going through and decided it was important for them to help out also and make this night extra special.  This occasion wasn't about me. It was about my friend Mickey forgetting about all the crap he has gone through, and having one night that he can enjoy.

So for all we hear about all the negatives in sports, I want everyone to realize there is still good in sports, and the good significantly outweighs the bad.  I honestly can't thank the NY Jets organization enough.  They are a class organization who clearly cares not only about their fans, but also everyone in the community.  They didn't have to do this. And they especially didn't have to be as generous as they were.  I am not sure who appreciated it more, Mickey for the entire night, or myself seeing him get to experience this knowing what he has been through.

This was one of the most special nights I could imagine and I am thankful my friend "Mickey" was able to experience it.

Being on the field was the ultimate highlight and glad
"Mickey" was able to experience it

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

NYC Marathon race recap

This past Sunday was the NYC Marathon.  After last year’s race, I had no desire to run this race again.  Since the wife and I lived on the course for the past few years, we decided last year would be my last marathon for a while, and it was a great way to go out.  But when you’re drinking one night in February and an email comes in saying it’s the last week to register for the lottery, all decisions and inhibitions go out the window.  And realistically, I haven’t gotten into the lottery ever, so I didn’t think there was a good chance for me to get accepted.  So of course I registered.  And what happens is of course I get an email saying congratulations, you’ve been accepted in the 2015 NYC Marathon.  Great, just freaking great.

So let’s fast forward a few months since the spring and summer is my triathlon season and cut to end of summer and fall where I was training for NYC.  After moving out of NYC earlier this year, I still haven’t been able to find my “long” training runs so I have not been able to put in a good solid block of training in a while.  Setting up for excuses already?  Nope.  Just trying to lay a foundation here.  Other than that obstacle, my training was pretty good.  My weekly runs were crisp, fast, smooth and nothing to complain about.  My long run days weren’t the best runs, but at least they were on the pace I wanted to achieve.  However, as training went on, I was only able to get in 1 training run of each 18 miles, 19 miles, and 22 miles.  I usually do at least 3 runs of 20 plus miles heading into a marathon.  This year, it just didn’t work out like that.

As November 1st approached, it was race day.  Though the night before was Halloween and I had fatherly duties to attend to like teaching Riley how to trick or treat properly in the burbs.  My little fighter pilot did well and his candy take was impressive for a short amount of time 
My little fighter pilot walking his Plane, Thunder

I’ll save the normal pre-race stuff since it’s the same for everyone across the board.  Take the bus to Staten Island, wait 3-4 hours, strip down, pee on the side of the road, gun go off, Sinatra’s “New York, New York” plays, blah blah blah.  Every race report about NYC will have the same stuff.  Nothing special there.

Going into the race, I really wanted to break 3 hours for the day.  That equaled a pace of 6:51/mile.  All of my training was faster than this so I figured I was in decent shape.  Having doing the race last year, I knew what to expect and knew how to navigate the difficult parts of the course.

For the most part, the race was really really uneventful.  I didn’t realize it last week, but running through Brooklyn was soooooooo boring.  It is basically one long 8 mile stretch on the same road.  Nothing to keep you engaged with change of scenery, scrowds, hills, etc.  Just flat and straight.  It was right around mile 8 where I said to myself, things are looking really good but how bored am I?
At the half way mark, I was under goal pace and felt great which was very promising.  As we entered Queen, the temperature for the day kicked up to 60 degrees and became pretty hot.  Not ideal race conditions.  Having cramped up last year and a few times this season, I took in liquids every stop (every mile) and had my Base Performance Salt to keep me in check.  At the start of the Queensborough Bridge, it felt like I had too much in my stomach. Last year I attacked the QB and felt great doing it.  This year, the bridge just felt like it never ended.  I can’t believe how long this thing was.  Did the bridge grow?

Coming off on 1st Ave is usually a great time.  Last year was quiet, this year was loud.  I went over to the crowds since I felt I needed a boost of energy but I just couldn’t capitalize on it.  My energy levels were shot.  At mile 18 I just didn’t want to do it any more.  The wife’s brother and his girlfriend were the only spectators who were going to be on course for me that day.  The wife had to work and no one else was around.  They were right at the mile 19 mark and I fought my hardest to make it to them.  I did and about 2 blocks after seeing them, my body just said, thanks for the year, and “let’s go enjoy the offseason”

I just didn’t have anything left in the tank or in my legs.  I slowed my pace a little to catch my breath and mentally get back in the game, but it didn’t matter.  At mile 20 I was still under goal pace, but not having enough long training runs in me, I just couldn’t push any more.  I didn’t hit the wall for the race, I hit the wall for the year.

So for the final 5 miles I started playing the math game.  Since I knew I wasn’t going to hit the 3 hour mark, I said, ok let’s just get a BQ.  This allowed me to walk a little and have about a 5 minute allowance of walking for the final 5 miles.  That’s doable.  Yet, as the distance crept up, so did my walking.  I have never walked this much in all of my races combined.  I was running for 3 minutes, walking for 1 pretty much every mile for the final 4-5 miles. 

I wish I could write something on how I enjoyed the race, overcame adversity, or anything like that.  But I didn’t.  I was in such a fog that I just wanted it to be over.  It was the offseason or bust for me.
So I crossed the finish line in a time of 3:19, which was worse than my time last year, but I’m ok with that.  I didn’t hit my goal, I didn’t do anything I wanted to, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.  I didn’t put the miles in and that’s my fault.  Normally, I would be upset, but I’m ok today.  I’ve learned a lot this year about my body, my mental approach to training, and what I enjoy in a race.  It just so happened that my enjoyment ended at mile 19 of a race that had 7 more miles to go.

Either way, the NYC Marathon is in the books and I say this gracefully and with respect, I won’t be back.  At least not for a few years.  My marathon days are over for the time being

The part of the race I felt good.  Looked good in my Fusion gear and Skora Tempo's

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The annual NYC Marathon playlist

Usually the most read and fun post that I do for everyone is my race-specific music playlist.  This isn't just some random mix of music put together to get me through my race.  This is a well thought out, time taken, thought provoking, course specific mash of music that is designed with every minute of the race taken into account.

I've done play lists for other people and they really appreciate the ebbs and flows that go along with putting a mix together.  There are things to consider such as, how long are you planning on running, hills on the course, how long flat sections are, where you think you're going to need to get a boost of energy or where you need to bring yourself back down and a whole lot other factors.

Looking at the NYC elevation profile on the link, you see that I have thought long and hard about my playlist and how I'm going to shoot for a sub-3 hour race this coming Sunday.

NYC Marathon Elevation

While the majority of the music I like is Top 40, there are other songs that have a weird meaning to me and just something different to lighten the mood.  It might not be for everyone, but below is the playlist that will take me along the streets of New York City.

1. This Town- OAR
2. She Ain't You- Chris Brown
3. Sick of Being Lonely-Field Mob
4. Up in Da Club- Marquees Houston
5. Stitches- Shawn Mendes
6. Danza Kuduro- Don Omar
7. Miss Independent- NeYo
8. Bailando- Enrique Iglesias
9. Price Tag- Jesse J
10. Where Them Girls At- David Guetta
11. Dip It Low- Christina Milian
12. International Love- PitBull
13. Don't Stop Believing- Journey
14. Bad Blood- Taylor Swift
15. Airplanes- B.O.B
16. On MY Mind- Ellie Goulding
17. Dangerous- David Guetta
18. Whistle- Flo Rida
19. Barden Bellas Final performance- Pitch Perfect 1
20. Let Me Love You- NeYo
21. Wild Wild Love- PitBull
22. See You Again- Charlie Puth
23. My Time- Fabolous
24. Pump It Up- Joe Budden
25. The Man- Aloe Blacc
26. Starships- Nikki Minaj
27. Rest of My Life- Ludacris
28. Raise Your Glass- Pink
29. Magic- B.O.B
30. Like a Warrior- Matasyahu
31. Good Feeling- Flo Rida
32. The Monster- Eminem
33. Ghost- Ellie Goulding
34. Break Your Heart- Taio Cruz
35. Stand By You- Rachel Platton
36. I Cry- Flo Rida
37. Right Now- David Guetta
38. Timber- Pitbull
39. Empire State of Mind- Jay-z
40. Talk Dirty- Jason Derulo
41. Let It Roll- Flo Rida
42. Fight Song- Rachel Platton
43. Dynamite- Taio Cruz
44. Time of Our Lives- Pitbull
45. Payphone- Maroon 5
46. Can't Hold Us- Macklemore
47. Give Me Everything- Pitbull-  Plan on Finishing on this song
48. Club Can't Hold Me- Flo Rida

Thursday, October 22, 2015

When the student becomes the teacher

Those who have followed my blog for a while know that my friend Leo and I often race together.  We have been doing it for close to 10 years.  But not many people know the true story of how it all started.  We became friends as a result of being neighbors.  However, Leo used to smoke, and I would refuse to hang out with him when he smoked.  This led to some weird nights where Leo would go outside to smoke and leave me at the bar.  Finally, I said to him that if we were going to hang out, then he would have to stop smoking.  He reluctantly agreed.  But over time he started to get healthier and began to run.  At first it was just a mile or so, but it ultimately we did our first Half Marathon together in Baltimore, and have built on it for the past 10 years.  Over time, it has been half marathons, marathon, triathlons, etc

That is a very general synopsis of our race history.  Why is that important, really it's not.  But to say how impressed I am with him is an understatement.  Leo basically turned his life around and is (almost) just as active as me.

Now Leo has become the teacher.  He has taken my lead and next week he is running the NYC Marathon for the 2nd time (maybe 3rd, I can't remember). But this year will be completely different.  He now is running with a friend from college for his first marathon.  Leo has taken everything that I have taught him and is using it to help coach his buddy.  In fact, Leo is taking it a step further and running the entire race at his friends pace.  Something that I have never done with Leo.  It takes a lot to slow down and run at someone else's pace, but Leo understands the importance of making sure his friend gets the training he needs, and that he enjoys his first NYC Marathon experience.

As a result of this great thing Leo is doing, Mizuno got hold of his story and is sponsoring both Leo and his friend for the marathon experience.  Leo has always asked me about my partnerships, but now he has this great opportunity as well.  Leo and his friend, Doug get to see what it's like to be pampered throughout race week.  Much like I did for Timex last year, they are filming spots of them running in NY, getting free shoes/gear, having a nice pre-race dinner, and some more great things.

Since, I feel like a proud papa, I wanted to help share Leo's story and experience this week.  I'll continue to post his link over the week leading up to the race and show his progress, pictures, videos, etc.  Though I am a proud Skora users and will be wearing them for my NYC Marathon (and for every run that I will ever do), this is Leo's first experience of getting some type of sponsorship, so I want share his excitement as well

Great job Leo.

Full video of Leo's journey

Nice shot of Leo's leg's and new Mizuno shoes

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's been 5 years

This post is a little premature by a few days, but this Friday is my 5 year wedding anniversary with the wife.  Usually my posts are about training, racing, products, or random things, but the truth of the matter is that none of it would be possibly without the support (cough, cough, most of the time), from the wife.

A little background on us is we actually met when she was 12 and I was 13.  I was her first slow dance ever, and I was actually her junior prom date back in high school.  She will admit that she had a huge crush on me throughout high school, so I like to remind her every once in a while that not many girls get to marry the man of their dreams, or at least their high school crushes.  We never dated back then, but we reconnected after about 15 years of not seeing each other and dated for about 2 years before tying the knot.  What's cool is that we have pictures from her junior prom (which there is no way I will post) and also have pictures from our wedding.  It happens to be a very nice full circle.

There are very few people in this world that can put up with me.  I tend to have a lot of moods, keep to myself, have little desire to socialize except for during racing/training, so the fact that we have been together for this long is pretty amazing.  The wife definitely puts up with a lot of crap and while I am not an emotional or affectionate person, she definitely deserves some type of award.  She is the one who allows me to travel for both work and racing, put the long hours in on the asphalt, and recognizes when I need to get out and just run to calm me down.

There have been some rough patches over the 5 years, but there has never been any between us.  Every couple fights, but we have limited ours to the most stupid things that are insignificant in reality.  I can't think of any drag it out, no holds barred, punches being thrown fits that we have had which is quite amazing if you know both of us.  We are both strong opinionated people, so the fact that we can somehow make it work is special.

The wife has taken care of Thunder when I travel for work, and has given me Riley, so life seems pretty good. And without her support, I could never have become the TriRunningDad so this anniversary is for her.  What seems to be very coincidental is that the 5 year anniversary present is considered the "wood" anniversary.  I'm going to use the fact that I bought her a house this year, and cash in that the house has wood as her present.  I think it definitely counts.

To the wife, thank you for the past 5 years, and looking forward to many more.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

HoneyMaxx New Flavor

It's new and it's taaaaasty
It is very rare that I can get excited about a gel flavor, drink mix, electrolyte supplement, or anything that I ingest for the sole purpose of my training.  However, that is exactly what happened within the past 2 months.  My take is that since we eat and take in all of these things for fuel and calories, they really aren't all that exciting to begin with.  Most gels taste roughly the same so it's really just a matter of what consistency you like or what agrees with your system during training and race day. And with the exception of a few drink/electrolyte supplements, every product is identical.  But HoneyMaxx has released their new flavor and I am super stoked that I got my hands on it.

Like I do with a lot of my reviews, I give the disclosure that I am not paid by any company and I typically pay for the products that I review.  I am a product Ambassador for HoneyMaxx and have been using their products exclusively for the past 2-3 years.  I'm proud to work with such a great company and race in their gear.  With that being said, it is my responsibility to be honest with my reviews and if I don't like something about their product, I will not hide my opinions.  The team at HoneyMaxx has not asked me to be positive just to be positive, which is something I respect about them.  They want their customers to be just as happy with their products as I am with mine.

So what is this new flavor?  It is HoneyMaxx Pomegranate Acai Blueberry.  Yes, that's a mouthful to say, but it is even a better mouthful to taste.  I have always grown up drinking and preferring some kind of Lemon-Lime flavor for my drinks, probably because it is the most common.  It is what I have been racing with for years, so I was hesitant to try something new, especially something so drastic as Pomegranate Acai Blueberry.  But part of the perks of being an ambassador is I get to try new flavors out.  In this case, because I was racing and didn't want to interrupt my training weeks before a race, I only got to stare at the bag of mix without trying it for weeks.  It was sitting in my training section of my house and I kept walking by it and wishing I could taste it.  Once my triathlon season was over, I ripped open the bag and mixed me a nice electrolyte cocktail.

So how does it taste? Different, good, clearer, tasty all are words that come to mind.  Let me explain a little.  If you have ever tried HoneyMaxx Lemon/Lime or Orange you know it has a great taste.  The taste builds as time goes on, but there is definitely a Honey tinge that you goes through your mouth. Obviously it's because of the main ingredient being honey.  The flavor isn't in your face obnoxious like most drink mixes and anyone who I have met who has tried HoneyMaxx is instantly converted because it is so much better than anything on the market.

Pomegrante Acai Blueberry is a very different and unique flavor to the sport drink market.  I can't think of anything that can compare so if you want something different, this is worth a try.  With so many boring flavors out there, it's nice to spice it up a little.

When mixing the flavor with water and taking my first few sips, I couldn't believe how clean this tasted.  Maybe I was expecting more of a kick in the face from the 3 flavors, but it wasn't like this at all.  Each one of the ingredients complimented each other but not over the top.  They were all very subtle individually, but collectively they all blend perfectly.  I wish I could come up with a better word to describe but as I sit here and write this, I'm drinking a glass of HoneyMaxx Pomegrante Acai Blueberry for fun, and clean still is the best word.  You just know what I mean when you drink this.  The taste is smooth, crisp, while being more drinkable than you can imagine.

The makers at HoneyMaxx have also fixed the "problem" of having the mix not dissolve easily.  I've often had to let my HoneyMaxx 1.0 sit overnight to dissolve, but with the Pomegranate Acai Blueberry flavor, they have incorporated the 2.0 mixture so once you mix it with water, it dissolves and you instantly have your flavor. They also added 100 mg more sodium than in previous versions, which is a welcome addition to someone like me who has experienced cramping problems in hot conditions.

As a whole, I think the Pomegranate Acai Blueberry is a great addition into a market that doesn't have a lot of variety.  By infusing the market with a different flavor, our taste buds are able to break out of the norm during those long tedious workouts and enjoy a splash of something to invigorate us so we can push through those barriers.

Check out this great flavor, and the originals, plus a BRAND NEW WAFFLE that even I haven't been able to get my hands on yet.  Don't worry, I'll be just as excited for that.


Keep on pushing past those limits!

These long summer workouts have been fueled by some great products,
HoneyMaxx has kept me going.