Monday, October 28, 2013

New York City Marathon week: A little jealous

This Monday kicks off the start of the New York City Marathon week.  It feels really weird to me.  I know I said earlier this year that I am done running stand alone marathons for a while, but this one hurts. 

Let's obviously rewind to last year where I was supposed to run the race, as well as I had a seeded entry which put me in the start of the race along with the professionals (in a different corral, but in the front row) but Hurricane Sandy cancelled the race.  This is not the debate of whether it should have been or not cancelled since that ship has sailed, but more so what I'm going through right now.  So last year when it was cancelled the Friday night before the race, instead of doing a carbo-loading dinner the night before the race, Leo, the wife, and I did a tequila loading margarita infused dinner to get our minds off of not racing on Sunday.  It was definitely a downer for all of us.  We were excited to run but those plans got altered.

So flash forward to right now, it's definitely depressing for me.  I didn't even sign up for the race, the lottery, or take my deferral from last year so I have no right to feel this way.  But somehow I do.  It's weird.  I get like this when there is a big race that either I've done before or I am excited about.  For example, last year when the NY Ironman was taking place.  I was so bummed that entire day.  I had less than zero desire to do it, wasn't interested in it, but come race day, I was so depressed.  It's so weird.

As for the NY Marathon, I think part of it is I live directly on the marathon course. I mean, On the course.  Not a few blocks away, not close.  On the course.  Right at about the marker for Mile 17, is my apartment.  So I can either see the race from my window, or go outside and walk 17 steps to the curb and I'm on the course.  There are the course banners hanging from the street pole from my apartment.  It's impossible not to see any of these.  I also do most of my training in Central Park where the race takes place so I see the banners there when I run a few times each week also. It's hard not to get caught up in the hype of the race when it surrounds me.  There is always a constant reminder for me.  My weekend runs the past few weeks, I've seen the banners and finish area.  Driving my car near my apartment, I see the signs.  It's everywhere.  Since the race will be going on all day, I'll have a constant reminder of it, and of course, I'll be watching it the entire day.

It's weird.  I had no desire to run this race, but when I see all the attention to it, I want to jump in and go.  I know my body wouldn't allow me to race this year with a lot of the training I have done throughout the year, as well as not having an offseason last year.  But still, the New York City Marathon is an amazing experience and one that I want to do again.  I think that with all the racing I have done this year, I learned how to pace myself for a marathon of this magnitude and would be able to do well.  I don't think I could have said that last year, so I'm happy that I learned something.

The lone bright spot is that I'll actually be covering some of the marathon for Runner's World this year and I'm excited that I get the chance to do that.  It'll be a new type of experience for me, but it still doesn't hold a candle to running the race.

The wife and I are probably moving out of NYC in the next couple of years, so I may only have a few more chances to run the race living here, so I have already decided that I will be running next year's race. I don't know how I'll get in, whether it be from the lottery or charity but I'm be toeing the line at the 2014 NYC Marathon with 2 goals in mind.  To get a BQ, but more importantly to enjoy the race.  When I ran it in the past, I was to na├»ve to know what was going on, but next time, I'll be ready.   I'll be able to run a smart race as well as take in all the experiences.

Getting depressed for something that I wasn't excited for is just so weird for me.  But unfortunately, it's what I am going through.  Watch out for 2014.  This depressed feeling will easily get turned around.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Decision that was made

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how things have changed for me in terms of making decisions.  You can read the post  here

Obviously, the post was a little cryptic in nature due to what was going on in my life but I figured I would expand on it now.  For those of you who know, I work in the medical device field.  I manage my company’s sales force for the East Coast.  I love what I do.  It’s awesome to know that my products are put into people’s bodies and I can get to be in the surgeries helping out.  My products get to help people get better.  I also love building a sales force and having them succeed.

A few weeks ago, I was given an opportunity to change companies.  I was hesitant at first.  How could I leave a job with a HUGE company and go to a smaller one.  And when I say huge, I’m talking huge.  It was one of the top 15 largest medical device companies in the world and revenues in the billions.  Yes, that’s a B and not an M.  Those type of companies have stability, family values, pension plans, etc.  Everything that someone would want.  The problem is, individuals are often stuck in the same position for years with no movement since the company has so many layers that it’s impossible to have professional success there.

The problem was that I would now be going to a smaller company where there isn’t a huge track record of success and performance.  It is a young company and one that is expanding.  That’s the reason these guys wanted me.  I may not be the best seller in the world, but I am good at putting together a sales team.  I am now being tasked with the challenge of starting a brand new region for a company that has had no previous sales.  They are relying on me to use my experiences and start going up against the big guys instead of being one of them.  Think of my affiliation with Skora Running.  Skora has, in my opinion, the best running shoes on the market.  However, they are such a small brand and they are going against the likes of Nike, Reebok, Asics, etc.  All companies that might make inferior product but have the brand name to go along with it.  That’s what I’m doing now.  I’m going to be taking higher quality products and see how much I can grow with them.

I’m excited about my new position, but with it comes a lot of fear.  Not fear of success or failure, but fear of what if something happens now?  I have Riley to think about.  I can’t go out there and risk anything that would affect him.  He’s my livelihood now. So I can’t mess that up.  So in making this decision, the wife and I had to sit down and talk about everything.  We had to discuss if I should take the new position, how would that affect her, my travel, my pay, taking care of Riley.  All of these now factored into the decision.  With this being such a new position, I am probably going to be on the road more.  This is going to affect her.  She is going to have to step up a little bit more now.  Is it fair to ask her to do that?  My guess is yes, but only time will tell.

So anyway, I wanted to share what the decision was and how the wife came to make it.  I have already made the move and can say that I am definitely happier where I’m at now, than at my previous position.  But it was not an easy decision to make.  I guess only time will tell if it was the right one. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Half Full Triathlon Race Report

Last weekend I raced in my final race of the season, the Half Full Triathlon in Columbia, MD. I wanted to close out my season with one last Tri and one more chance to do well this season. If I did well enough I would be able to qualify for the Rev3 Age Group Championships in Knoxville, TN next year. I really wanted to do this. I don't know why but I really love racing in championship races. I don't do as well as I should buy I always like racing against the best of the best. So with that, I drove down to Maryland by myself and was off to race.

Last weekend was unseasonably hot. Temperatures were in the high 80's and very humid so I didn't think I was going to have my best showing but either way I was going to go for it. 

The course was changed from last year to make it an official Olympic distance race instead of a slightly longer one. Last year the bike was about 31 miles and the run was 6.5 miles. Not a huge increase but still longer than a typical Olympic distance. With the changes, the elevation profile was supposed to also get a little flatter making the course easier. I was really excited for this since I wasn't down with pushing through serious hills. I wanted a nice, easy end of season race and I thought this would be it.

So after driving down the day before and checking in and racking my bike, it was time to get some dinner, head to the hotel and get some sleep.

Race morning was pretty standard. Wake up, have oatmeal, get dressed, drive to the venue and start. 

This race also served as the college championships so there were about 250 college triathletes there which was really cool. On a side note, where were the Tri teams when I was in college? I so would have been on a team. 

Getting into transition was normal. But it was so dark. Now that days are shorter, setting up my transition zone was a little harder than normal since I'm used to more daylight. There weren't so many lights in the transition area, but we all made due.  Since Rev3 was a sponsor, much like Maine, I had my own name plate, bike rack and staging area. It was a little small for me but not a big deal. 

Of course me and my loud mouth, I make friends with everyone around me. Some athletes were nicer than others. Some of us had fun and spoke to each others and other just stared everyone down and sized each other up. Really? We're all in this triathlon community. Lets have fun together.  I realized I forgot my earplugs and my transition neighbor offered to give me some. That was cool. 

After all the friend making and setting up, I left transition and headed to the race start. There were a few cool things. First, since this was a race benefiting children's cancer, the race announcer asked everyone who has been affected by cancer to raise their hands. I'd say that easily over half of the athletes raised their hands. The race also had a "survivor" wave which had anyone who had or beat cancer going off on their own wave. That was very moving

The race stared with all the college athletes going first. It got them on the course without anyone in front so they can race for their championship. It was cool to watch all these kids race. Wow, did I just call college students kids? Does that mean I'm getting older?

So now it was my time to get in the water. Instead of having a running start or all age groupers start together, the race had 2 athletes enter the water at a time. This led to less chaos and an easier swim start. Big props for that.  There was no scratching, clawing, fighting, or any of that.  It was just head into the water at your own pace.  

The swim was not a typical rectangular swim. You can see the map here

I thought this would make it faster since its a straight shot. 

I entered the water and started flying. I was passing people all over the place. I caught up to most of the waves in front of me. For the first 7-10 minutes I was hitting the bouys and thought I was doing so well. Then my goggles crapped out. I kept getting water in them. I had to stop every 2 minutes or so to fix them and drain the water. It ruined any momentum I had. Every time I got in a groove I had to stop since I couldn't see any more. I veered so far off course and my time kept suffering

Even with that I thought I was still doing well. But by the time I got out of the water and looked at my watch, I was heartbroken. 31 minutes for an Olympic swim. Horrendous. I thought my race was over. 

Exiting the water and running about 1/3 of a mile I had time to get my head right. I grabbed my bike, hit the road and went. I knew I needed a great bike to do well now

Knowing I needed a good split, I just throttled down on my pedals and started picking people off left and right. Because of the heat and humidity, my glasses kept fogging up. I couldn't see out of them. I had to drop them down on my nose so I could see. Even with this, the fog was so thick I could hardly see that far in front of me. I didn't like this since I always try to catch up to the person ahead of me.  Not being able to see that far, I had no idea where people were and sometimes they just creeped up in front of me or as I was making a turn, someone was in front of me.  

As time passed so did the fog. But I think the fog left the air and entered my legs. First off, the elevation was a lot more than I thought it would be. The hills were definitely more challenging than I was prepared for. It seemed like every time I tried to push myself up a hill or tried to push faster, I ended up going slower. It was the weirdest feeling. The harder I worked the slower I got. 

Bottom line, I knew this wasn't going to be my day. It got to a point where it wasn't even enjoyable for me. This was supposed to be a fun, end of season race, but it was more stressful and frustrating than I wanted.  My legs were just not under me. 

Either way, I battled the bike the rest of the way and was so happy riding back into transition. 

My bike split was impressive with a time of 1:07:25.  I averaged about 22.5 mph's. About the 2nd or 3rd fastest of the day. I didn't know this at the time, but I thought I had a good split, but assumed there were so many more people in front of me.  

I knew coming off my bike that I was at least in pursuit of the top racers in my age group. I didn't feel that way, and mentally checked out in some ways, but I knew there were a few I could pick off on the run.  Right after exiting T2, I saw 2 racers I was destined to get.  One was a tall guy with a porn mustache that got into T2 about 15 seconds before me, and the other was someone I thought I was in my age group, but he was about .25 miles ahead of me.  After about the first .5 mile, I caught porn mustache guy and asked him if there were any racers from our age group, and he told me maybe 1, but not sure.  He had me laughing saying he was a horrible runner and wished he could get better.  This guy was about 6'3" and skinny.  He just had that look about him.  You know the ones I'm talking about.  Those tall runners who make everything look so easy.  I thought to myself "how can he not be a good runner".  I figured he was playing with me and that I should watch out in the last mile, but after passing him and not seeing him anywhere near me, I knew he wasn't going to catch up to me.
Next up was a runner who had a nice pace going and I knew I would be challenged in getting to him, but if I did, this was the age grouper that "porn guy" told me about.  So if I caught him, then I would be in great shape.  After about 2 miles, I ended up catching him and saw his calf.  His age was 27.  DAMN.  I worked so hard to get to him that I'm not sure how much more I had to catch anyone else.  But when I got up to this runner, we realized we weren't competing against each other and that I was beating him anyway ( I started after him in waves), so we ran together for the next few miles.  It was great. We paced each other and pushed each other.

The run was relatively flat with the exception of 2 hills at mile 3.5 and then again at mile 4.7 which was a pretty steep uphill.  But after getting past those hills, the last mile and change was downhill so it was time to let it fly.  During my run, I ended up passing so many college athletes.  I couldn't believe this since I started at least 25 minutes after them.  But I kept wishing them the best and giving words of encouragement to keep them going.  They are so young that you could just see themselves mentally fighting with their inner demons.  Any encouragement would definitely help these guys.  

After making the last turn, I ran up the finisher's shoot to the finish line and finished my season.  Thankfully. 

Run time of 44:19 for the 6.5 mile run.

Post Race:
 The medals they gave out were pretty cool.  The design was great, but the medals also doubled as a beer opener.  Very functional.  Very cool. 
Yes, it's been used already to open some post race refreshments

And instead of a finisher's shirt, they gave away finisher's jackets.  Really nice.  I can wear these on those cool mornings when I want to go for a run.  They even have the thumb holes.  Sometimes it's nice to get something other than a t-shirt.

Nice lightweight comfortable jacket

Once I got my medal and fluids, I went over to check the scoring tent.  It was weird since all athletes started at different times, so I wasn't going to know exactly where I stood for a while, but when I first checked, I placed 2nd in my age group.  Sweet.  This way, I had a chance to place.  After stretching, I rechecked the results, and now it said I placed 3rd in my Age group.  Ok, going in the wrong direction here.  So I went to check out my bike, pack up my bag and put it in my car.  I called the wife and explained that I would leave if I didn't place and I didn't need to stay around for the ceremony, but if I placed, then I was staying. Once the car was packed up, I threw on my Skora shirt and HoneyMaxx socks so I could get them some publicity if I placed.  I went back to the finishers area and rechecked the results.  This time I was in 4th.  DAMN.  Once again, always a bridesmaid, never a bride.  I did place 17th in the whole race though. Just imagine if I would have felt great today and my swim didn't get derailed from bad goggles.  So I walked back to my car, and headed home.  Contempt with my placing and happy my season was over.

Looking back on this race, I can say that I am just ready for my season to be done.  This is the first time in any race that I have done that every time I tried to push myself, I ended up going slower.  I've had races where I haven't performed, I have had problems during the race, I've been tired,  I stopped caring and wanted to enjoy the race, but I have never had a race where I just didn't have my legs underneath me.  I think my body was trying to tell me that I've had a long year with Riley being born and not really having an off season last year, so I need to shut it down now.

I'm not upset with my placing.  It's always nice to get a podium, but I was so past that in this race, that it just didn't matter.  I think I ended up qualifying for Knoxville, so at least one of my goals was completed.

Right now, it's time to shut it down, rest, relax, and enjoy some family time.  I've already looked into planning my 2014 race schedule, but for the rest of 2013, my legs are on a hiatus for racing.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Runner's World Cookbook Review

A few week's ago, Runner's World sent me their new cookbook to review.  I thought it would be pretty cool to get a few recipes that are healthy and could potentially help my training.  A few things to know about cooking in my household.  First, the wife really only cooks one day a week.  Usually Sunday night is when she cooks.  During the week, it's just so hard with work, days I'm traveling, Riley, workout schedules, etc. So, once a week I get a good meal.  Other days I have to fend for myself.  As a result, I knew that reviewing the book would take some time.

When I first got the book, I opened it up and the foreword was by Deena Kastor.  That's just cool.  I know anyone can write a foreword, but to read one from a runner such as Deena, I knew the book has some merit behind it.

For the purpose of this review, I'm going to be honest and say that the pictures are from the cookbook itself and not the actual food that the wife and I cooked. Presentation has never been a strong point of ours, but the taste is more important.  So know that the recipes and actual meals are what I'm reviewing instead of providing pictures of food that got mangled, I'd rather present nice and pretty images from the book.

The book is broken down into 10 different chapters which include:
Snacks and Smoothies
Salads and Dressings
Soups and Stews
Sandwiches, Pizzas, and Burgers
Sauces and Past
Meat and Poultry Mains
Fish and Seafood Mains

So you can see that whatever you want to make you can just go to that specific chapter and search.  The good part about this breakdown is that there are plenty of options in each section and if you have a certain desire for a specific food, I guarantee it's in there.

There is also another section on "How to Eat Like a Runner" and "What it Means to Eat Like a Runner".  These were helpful since a lot of runners don't necessarily know the proper ways to fuel their bodies and also aide in recovery.  I admit, I still don't know the best ways, but for the past few weeks, I've been following these recipes and I feel great and know my body is getting what it needs a lot more than before.

So with that, I'm going to share with you some of the favorites that the wife and I have tried within each section.  For me to review every recipe would take forever, and frankly there are recipes that I wont make, so I just want to give a handful that I think should be tried.

Egg and Bean Burrito with avocado and yogurt-lime sauce
Creamy Cocoa Oatmeal
Both of these tasted great and fueled me for a long run or bike ride so I highly recommend both of these.

Snacks and Smoothies:
Pumpkin Cherry Trail Mix- this was great to bring along during the day to snack on.  Very easy to make and easy to carry
Roasted Almond Butter- Instead of buying a really expensive almond butter, this can go on everything you want it to
Crunchy Coffee Cocoa Shake- I made this a few times and is possibly my favorite recipe in this book.  It's a great shake that gives you the jolt you need and also helps with recovery.

Salads and Dressings:
I have to admit that this section was sparsely used.  Not because nothing was good, but the wife and I just had other things we wanted to try

Soups and Stews:
The only one we tried was the Thai Avocado Soup and it was fantastic.  Just flat out great.  Highly recommended

Sandwiches, Pizzas, and Burgers:
OK, so this is where it gets good.  You can honestly pick every single one of these and you would be happy.  But here are the favorites:
Caramelized Onion and Fig Pizza
Chicken Pesto Sandwich
Salmon Salad Sandwich with Chili Aioli
Meat and Grain Burgers-the wife's favorite

Soba Noodles are a nice change than typical pasta
Sauces and Pasta:
There are 5 straight up sauce recipes.  We didn't try any since we tried the pasta/sauce combinations

Soba Noodles with Chicken and Peanut Sauce-this was fun to make and great tasting
Penne with Turkey-Feta Meatballs- great combination with the turkey and feta- highly recommended

Meat and Poultry Mains:
Since I don't eat red meat, we stuck to mostly chicken here, but the wife wanted to try a few so I'll mention those since they caught her eye

Super Easy Barbecue Pulled Pork
Chicken Mango Fajitas

Fish and Seafood Mains:
We only tried the Spicy Fish Tacos with Pineapple Slaw-  DAMN these were good.
The Fish taco's were just that good

Depending on what you like, you can pick close to 20 recipes here.  These depends on your taste buds so I don't want to influence what veggies you should try.  I say all of them

Just go ahead and make all of them.  We didn't, but I can guarantee within the next few weeks, every one of these will be made and all of them so far have been awesome.  Do yourself a favor, have dessert, and have it from these recipes. With the holidays coming up, use these recipes so you don't have that holiday weight gain.  You'll get great tasting treats, but without all the fat.

So those are some choices from each section.  It's a lot, but I didn't want to just review a book and not give suggestions out of it.

I highly recommend this cookbook for any athlete out there.  We need to take care of our bodies and fuel it properly.  Training and races depend on what we eat, so would say give this book as a gift or buy it for yourself.  Everyone in your life will benefit and your training will see improvements with better eating.

If you are looking for a one stop shop for tasty recipes that are good for you, check this cook book out. You wont be sorry

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Race week for the last race of the season

Sunday is my last race of the 2013 season.  This includes any race, any size, and sport, anything.  I'm kind of looking forward to it right now.  To be honest, I have not been the best in keeping my training regime since Maine, and I'm ok with it.  There is a huge letdown after an "A" race is completed and taking the time to recover and then planning for a new race is both physically and mentally exhausting.

I decided to race in the Ulman Cancer Fund Olympic Triathlon which is sponsored by Rev3.  Part of the reasons for me doing this race are the location since the drive isn't that bad for me.  The other part is the cause.  The race benefits children with cancer and there isn't that much of a better cause than that.  Everything I hear about this race has been incredible.  If you remember, this is the race that Lance Armstrong did last year after he was banned from competition.  While I am not a supporter of Armstrong and have nothing really good to say about him, the race got a lot of publicity last year.  That only benefited the race and the donations coming in.  The 2013 race is Armstrong free (thankfully), so it is back to being sanctioned by USAT.

The other reason to do this race is the partnership with Rev3.  Rev3 is the primary sponsor for the race and I loved racing in Maine for their race.  Additionally, if I do well enough, there is a chance that I can qualify for the Rev3 Age Group championships in Knoxville, TN in 2014.  The race is both a Half Iron and an Olympic.  Based on last year's times, I think I can do well enough to garner enough points to qualify for the championships.  I don't think I need to make a podium finish (which I would love), but probably place in the top 10 or so in my Age Group.  So far that hasn't really been a huge problem this year so I'm excited to try for that.

That has been the ultimate driving force over the past 4 weeks for my training.  Without having a fall marathon scheduled for the first time in 4 years, I need something to hold on to for me to keep pushing myself this late in the season and having the ability to place and qualify for a championship style race is exactly that.  Between taking this race as a nice, fun end of season race as well as a chance to qualify for the championship race, I found my motivation.  It's been too often where I've stopped short of a run outside because I didn't have it in me that day.  Or since the outdoor olympic size pool I train in during the summer is now closed, it was hard to adjust back into a smaller indoor pool.  If I didn't have this race, then I would have had even more excuses to just skip a day or two of training.

That's what I'm looking forward to in a week.  I've been going hard since January for a whole bunch of races.  I actually never had an offseason, so with mine coming up, I can see the finish line and I can push that little extra since I know it will all be over so soon.

It's a different feeling this last race week.  If I don't do well, then it doesn't matter to me.  All I want to do is sit back, relax, and enjoy the race.  Then all I want to do is literally sit back and relax...until next season starts.