Tuesday, July 28, 2009

From the Archives: Preparing for a Day of Fasting

From sundown Wednesday until sundown on Thursday I will be observing the Jewish day of fasting called Tisha B'Av. Translated, Tisha B'Av means the 9th day of the month of Av. While not as holy as Yom Kippur, Tisha B'Av is a sad and solemn day on the Jewish Calendar. We mourn the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem, the first by the Babylonians in 586 BCE and the second by the Romans in 70 CE.

I will not be working on Thursday instead, I will spend some time in synagogue praying and reciting mournful poems (called dirges). While I am home I am allowed to use the air conditioner in my house. Not eating and drinking for 25 hours is hard, especially when it's hot out. But there is a way to prepare so the fast is not unbearable. I wrote this article last September right before Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish Calendar. I'll re-post it here with some modifications for Tisha B'Av.

To learn more about Tisha B'Av, click here.

Preparing for a Day of Fasting

A question I hear over and over again from co-workers and others who have never fasted for 25 hours is "how do you prepare for a fast?" Over the years, I've figured out what and how to eat the day before the fast.  As a runner, I couldn't help but  notice some similarities between the way I prepare for a fast and the way I fuel for a long run or marathon.

It may come as no surprise that the main component of a pre fast meal is complex carbohydrates. A group of Israeli doctors studied 5 men and 8 women between the ages of 19 and 64, all healthy. All spent their fasts indoors and staying mostly in air-conditioned rooms. The researchers wanted to know whether the discomfort of a food-and-water fast could be influenced by the composition of the pre-fast meal, and if so, what basic nutritional components would promote the easiest fasting. Their findings, summarized below, were published in the September issue of the Israel Medical Association Journal.

They found that the protein-rich meal created most discomfort and side effects during the fast. Weight and blood pressure decreased at the end of the fasts that followed each of the three types of meals, and heart rates increased after the high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals but not after the protein meal. There was a 40 percent increase in blood urea nitrogen and more excretion of sodium and creatinine after the high-fat meal and least after the high-carbohydrate meal.

Water is better conserved when one eats a meal high in complex carbohydrates, such as rice, pasta, beans, and other pulses. When protein breaks down, however, more water is excreted as urine to eliminate nitrogenous metabolic products from the body. (source article: Jerusalem Post, September 25, 2001)

Now that I've mentioned some scientific findings, here is how I will be preparing for the fast:

During the day:

  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
  • I ate a substantial breakfast of cereal , fruit, and whole wheat toast
  • I will eat a light lunch in order to save my appetite for the pre fast meal
Pre Fast Meal:

  • Potato soup. This is one of my favorite soups. It is a hearty, "stick to you bones" kind of soup. Soup is also hydrating and filling.
  • Israeli Couscous
  • Poached Salmon. On Yom Kippur I ate chicken. We eat fish before Tisha B'Av because it is forbidden to eat meat or poultry between the first day of Av and Tisha B'Av. The reason is that during this time the sacrifices and wine libations in the Holy Temple ceased. 
  • Assorted steamed veggies
Since I am not a coffee drinker, I do not have to worry about caffeine withdrawal. If you do drink coffee, should start cutting back a few days before the fast. Also, do not drink alcohol with your pre-fast meal since alcohol causes your body to get rid of water.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly mention the post fast meal. The key here is not to eat too quickly. I usually start with a glass of orange juice. The tradition in my family is to eat cold noodles with cottage cheese. My dad and wife like to include cinnamon.

"One who mourns Jerusalem will merit to see her happiness, as the verse (Isaiah 66:10) promises: 'Rejoice with her greatly, all who mourn for her'"—Talmud Taanit 30b.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Soupy Sunday

Today was the first real oppresively humid day in Teaneck. I opened the dorr around 6:30 and the humidity just hit me in the face.The goal for today was 7 -8 miles at a nice easy pace. I ran a local route through some neighboring towns at what felt like a comfortable pace. I slowed on the one big hill but recovered nicely when the terrain flatened out again. I foud myself drinking more today than I usually do during an 8 miler. When I finished, my my singlet, visor, and shorts were all drenched in sweat.I stretched and hydrated some more and headed home to get on with the rest of my day. All in all, it was a good run, 7.80 miles in 1:06:03 for a 8:28 pace.

After I showered and ate breakfast, we headed out to the New York Hall of Science in Queens, we came home had an ealry dinner at our favorite kosher sushi joint in town, then headed over to Barnes and Noble so my daughter could pick out a free book. She earned it by reading 8 books. All she had to was bring in a sheet listing the books she read and she able to pick out a free book from a pre-selected list. The day ended at home with the 3 of us enjoying some ice cream sandwiches .

2 final things:
1) Congrats to Brandon and Scott for completing the New York City Triathlon. It was not easy day to be out there.
2) Happy birthday to my daughter who turned 8 today. She will be celebrating her birthday with her friends next Sunday at the local bowling alley. She is my biggest fan. In fact, tomorrow is sports fan day at her day camp. Most kids will be wearing Derek Jeter, David Wright, Eli Manning, etc..jerseys. What is my daughter doing? She's wearing a t-shirt from 1 mile run I ran with her with one of my old bibs pinned to it. How awesome is that?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday Night Speed Workout: 7/22/09

Last night was one of the "off Wednesdays" where instead of going to the E. 6th St. track we did a tempo run on the West Side Highway rec path. The humidity was high and I could tell during the warm-up from Paragon that I was feeling slow and my asthma was acting up a little. Until now, I did all of my workouts with the 7:00/mi (for a 5k) group. Last night I decided to run with the 7:30/mi group. Lauren, who by the way won her age group in last Saturday's NYRR race, paced my group. I made the right decision running with this group. The first 2 miles of the run felt very comfortable. Lauren picked up the pace for the last 2 and this is where the humidity started to get to me. I just told myself that it's OK not to be at the front of the group. I ran at a pace that was comfortable to finish the workout. My Garmin did not record the workout since the memory was full and I needed to delete some older run to free up some memory. I think I finished the tempo run in approximately 31:30 which comes out to 7:53/mile. Not bad considering the humidity.

Based on last night, I will probably drop down to the 7:30 group for the remainder of the summer. The humidity is high and the last thing I need is to end up in the ER with an asthma attack. I'd rather have a quality workout than a crappy one or something worse.

Lastly, it was great to see some familiar faces back at Nike Speed. I haven't seen EN, JD, or JN since our spring marathons. Also, it was nice to meet Jenna who was trying out Nike Speed for the first time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I've mentioned in passing over the past few days that I've developed some bursitis in my shoulder. For those unfamiliar with what bursitis is here is a definition courtesy of WebMD.com:
"Bursitis is the inflammation or irritation of the bursa. The bursa is a sac filled with lubricating fluid, located between tissues such as bone, muscle, tendons, and skin, that decreases rubbing, friction, and irritation."
One way to treat bursitis is with physical therapy which I started this morning. As today  was the first visit to the PT, we didn't do anything intensive. Rather, the PT stretched out my shoulder in different positions to ascertain where the pain was. He also put a heating pad on it for about 15 minutes. I'll be seeing the PT twice a week for at least 4 weeks. I'm hopeful that the PT will relieve my discomfot.
The good news is the PT said I can continue running but that I should stay away from strength training and core excersizes like push-ups and planks. That kind of changes my cross trainining routine for the next few weeks. I'm not exactly sure what I'll but I'll figure it out.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What I Learned During My Week Off

My week off from running ended today. I learned a thing or two during this past week.
  • It's OK to take time off to rest - clearly my body was telling that it needed some time off. A lot of people were asking me if I was injured. Except for some bursitis in the shoulder, I have no major injuries.  My body was just tired and needed a break from waking up at 5:00 a.m. every day to run or cross train.
  • I also realized that I needed a shorter-term goal race than the Asbury Park Marathon Relay. I've said this before, I can probably bang out a half marathon today if I needed to. It wouldn't be my fastest nor would it be pretty but I would finish.  Training for a half marathon is not as intense as training for full. I signed up for the South Nyack Ten Miler on September 13. I plan on using this race as a tune-up for the APMR. I'll practice my pacing, hydration, and nutrition strategies.

So today I woke up at 5:00 a.m. and went through my pre-run routine. I wanted to ease back into things so I chose a local route that I've run a bunch of times. The one thing I can't avoid in my neighborhood is hills. No matter where I run I have to run up at least one very steep hill. I also ditched my trademark Nike Dry-Fit Hat for a visor.  I've read a few articles recently about how hats trap heat on your head and that a visor is the best option for keeping the sun out of your eyes. I have to say I liked it a lot.

As for the run itself, I ran at what felt like an easy pace. Even though it wasn't oppresively humid, the sun was out and it felt hot while running. I finished the 6.60 mile run in 54:55 for a 8:19 pace. The plan for the rest of the week is as follows:
Monday: cross training. I'll probably ride the stationary bike in the gym for 30 minutes and then do ab work. I have to stary away from planks, push-ups, and strength training until my bursitis is gone.
Tuesday: I might follow Jason's lead and do a tempo run on the treadmill. I also start PT for my bursitis. 
Wednesday: Speedwork with the Nike Pacers. It looks like Michelle and Jenna will be coming to check it out.
Thursday: more cross training.
Friday: recovery run
Saturday: my day of rest from running and work.

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and has a great week.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fantasy Baseball 1st Half Update

Now that the All-Star break is upon us. I thought I'd take a few minutes to summarize the first half of my fantasy baseball season. The first half had some high points and more than a few low points.

As you can see, I'm currently sitting in 7th place with 51 points. I did spend a good deal of May in either 1st or 2nd place. June is when things started to go downhill for me. Beltran got hurt which was a huge blow to my offense. Before he went down his fantasy stats were: .346avg., 40runs, 8HRs, 40RBI, and 11SB. Adrian Gonzalez has 24 homers but is only hitting .250. Pitching is where I'm really struggling. Brandon Webb has been out since the beginning of the season, and there is no timeline for his return. Edinson Volsquez has been out for a while as well. I drafted him high in the draft because I needed that high strikeout pitcher. Because of his injury my team is 7th in strikeouts.

If you look at the actual totals, you'll see that I have quite a lot of ground to cover. I'm behind in strikeouts, saves, ERA, and WHIP. I don't think my starting rotation of Lowe, Jurrjens, Cain, Edwin Jackson, and Volstad is good enough. I might have to make a trade if I want to have any chance of finishing in the money.

I can only hope that the players on my team have a monster second half and that the players on the teams above me do not. There is a lot of baseball to yet to be played. Stay tuned...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Time to Refocus

So today took an extraordinary  amount of willpower not to strap on my running shoes and go for run. I woke up around 7 and enjoyed a leisurely morning at home with my daughter. We went mini-golfing later in the morning and she went swimming with a friend in the afternoon. I'm feeling a lot better. My throat isn't sore and I'm not feeling as fatigued. I'm going to take the rest of the week to rest some more and re-energize.

Which is where you come in....up until now, the focus of my training was distance. This is the first summer where I'm not running a fall marathon. Instead, my goal race is the Asbury Park Marathon Relay on October 18. Allen and I will each be running 13.1.

Training for a half marathon is much different that full marathon training. I'm usually not one to toot my own horn but I could probably run a half marathon right now if I had to. It wouldn't be my fastest, but I would finish. Needless to say, my goal for Oct. 18 is to set a half marathon PR. I think a 1:45 (8:01 pace) half marathon is well with my reach. I'm not so sure about a 1:40 (7:38 pace). What I need help with is a plan. I'd like to stick with my existing schedule: Long run on Sundays, tempo runs on Tuesdays, speed work on Wednesdays, and a recovery run on Fridays. I also know that I should aim to run my long and tempo runs at a certain pace. What pace and for how long? Does someone out there want to put together a half marathon training plan for me?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Summertime Blues

That's right, I think I've got a case of the summertime blues with a minor cold (hopefully that's all it is) thrown in for good measure. I feel like like I've been going through the motions recently. Don't get me wrong, I love running but there's been no purpose to it. I'll write more about this soon. 
I've also been feeling tired, fatigued, and my throat's been sore every so slightly for a few days. I'm pretty sure that the reason why I didn't have it last night on the track was because my body was telling me to stop. I didn't listen last night  nor did I listen this afternoon. My 10 1/2 minutes on the rower went fine. After that I started a new core workout. That's when my body started to scream STOP IT DUMMY! So I stopped.
I'm now going to listen to my body and take a week off to rest and regroup. As I mentioned before, I have some thoughts I want to share with you about my summertime blues. I need to re-focus my training and I will be asking you for help. I value your thoughts, advice, and encouragement so please don't hold back.

Wednesday Night Speed Workout: 3 x 1600m @ 5k pace

Last night was the first week of Nike's marathon training program so there were twice as many runners at Paragon than in previous weeks. During the warmup one of the "regulars" reminded me of the cold winter days in January when there 4 or 5 of us showing up on Wednesday nights.

Anyway...since training for fall marathons is underway, Coach Kate mentioned that we would be focusing on longer workouts. Last night's workout was 3 x 1600m at 5k pace. I joined up with my usual 7:00/mi group. Surprisingly there were only 6 of us in the group. Most of the new faces joined up with the 8:00/mi + groups. 

It was not my best night on the track. I felt like I was struggling to keep up with the group. My legs were heavy and my breathing was labored. I just didn't have it last night. With that said, I did finish the workout. A facebook friend summed it up best          "Sometimes the body just doesn't want to play...that's when it all becomes mental. You did it!! So...you win. Not giving up is always the goal....you got more from that workout than usual. You completed through a struggle and that is what separates the athlete from the novice."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

July 4th Weekend

Actually, there were no July 4th fireworks shows on my agenda. See, this year July 4th fell out on Saturday, my day of rest. I spent the day as I would most Saturdays. I went to synagogue in the morning, had friends over for lunch, my wife took our daughter to the park later in the day to play with some friends, and I enjoyed some quiet time in the backyard with my book. I even missed our local July 4th parade and family festival in the park (a different one than my daughter was at).

Today more than made up for it. I ran 10.25 miles this morning in 1:26:19 (8:25 pace). The morning was absolutely glorious. 62 degrees and no humdity. After the run I relaxed by watching some of the Tour de France. After lunch, we went over to our friend's house for a swim. Lastly, we had friends over for a BBQ. We kept it pretty simple, burgers, hot dogs, salad, beer, grilled pineapple and peaches for dessert, and of course good company.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Dave Righetti Throws No-Hitter vs. Boston 26 Years Ago Today

I was in summer camp when "Rags" threw his no-no vs. Boston. Camp was up in Port Jervis, NY and TV and radio reception was less than stellar. One of my counselors who had a day off came back later that day to tell us the news.

"Rags'" no hitter was the first Yankee no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series and the first by a Yankee left hander since 1917.

Rags is currently the pitching coach for the San Francisco Giants.

Lou Gehrig Says Goodbye to the New York Yankees 70 Years Ago Today

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Which is the Better Race?

Last night after the recording of The Runner's Roundtable podcast ended, I stayed on the line to talk to Chris Russell. I asked him "when are you coming down to New York to run the best marathon in the world?" Chris laughed and replied "the best marathon in the world isn't in New York." For those of you that don't know Chris, he's a New Englander, so I can only surmise that he thinks Boston is the better race.

That's right fellow readers, I'm taking the Boston/New York rivalry to the next level. We've got, Yankees/Red Sox, Rangers/Bruins, and Giants/Jets/Patriots. It's time to add the marathon to the mix:

 Which is the better race?