Monday, November 30, 2009

What Life is All About

This past weekend, my wife and I celebrated the bar mitzvah of the son of good friends. For those of you that don't know, when a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13 he enters in adulthood and is obligated to observe the laws and commandments passed down from generation to generation.

I try not to get too emotional or philosophical on this blog, but something struck me about this weekend's celebration that I need to write about. The Rabbi's wife mentioned to my wife that what makes a successful celebration is not how much money someone spends on the affair, but the people are what make the celebration memorable. We have been to many Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and weddings where the guests were "not that into it." Rather than dancing many  guests will sit at their table and schmooze. At this past weekend's celebration, everyone was into it. People sat and schmoozed when dinner was served, but for the most part everyone was singing, dancing, and doing everything they could to help make the celebration memorable for the Bar Mitzvah boy and his family.

Here is where I get philosophical, as I get ready to celebrate my 37th year on this planet, I am realizing more and more the importance of celebrating happy occasions with friends and family. We have friends and relatives who have recently lost a loved one, been out of work and have a family to support, and some are dealing with health problems. Regardless of the challenges you are facing in life, take the time celebrate the happy occasions that come your way. You don't have to celebrate with elaborate parties, a beer with friends, a phone call, an update to your Facebook status, or a Tweet on Twitter is good enough.

At Jewish celebrations, and sometimes during the 7 day mourning period know as Shiva, it is customary to say "may we continue celebrating happy occasions together in the future." When we I got home from the Bar Mitzvah, I included this saying in my Facebook status. A colleague from work commented that this is what life is all about, being able celebrate good times with family and friends.

Indeed it is.

Friday, November 27, 2009


On Wednesday, I was having a conversation with some co-workers about the types of foods they eat on Thanksgiving. I found it interesting that everyone does eat turkey but also incorporates cultural foods into their meal as well. A Latino co-worker has rice and beans, an African-American with Southern roots has macaroni and cheese and collard greens, the Italians I work with have different pasta dishes. So leave it to my mother to include Matza Balls, the quintessential Jewish food, into our Thanksgiving meal. However, instead of serving them in the traditional chicken soup, Mom made this unbelievable curried carrot and parsnip soup. Instead of the dumplings, we had Matza Balls.

Bubby, my 98-year old grandmother, who still lives on her own in the Lower East Side of Manhattan brought some Lower East barrel pickles and sour cherry tomatoes

and a cabbage roll

After the soup and sour stuff, it was time for turkey, dressing (stuffing prepared outside of the bird), cranberry sauce, rice, and brussels sprouts.

The bird before carving

The bird after my brother took a knife to it

The Dressing

I didn't take pictures of the cranberry, rice, or sprouts. We also enjoyed some good kosher wines

During dinner we spoke about what we were thankful for. We all mentioned family, friends, our health, and being able to practice our religion the way we choose to without fear of persecution. My dad said it best, he was thankful for the 4 generations of our family being able to have Thanksgiving together, Bubby (my dad's mother), my parents, my brother and myself (and our wives), and my daughter, and niece (Bubby's great-grandchildren).

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Race Report: Dick Meighan Memorial Thanksgiving Day 5k

I had no expectations for today's turkey trot. I haven't been running well the past few weeks. My last 5k was a struggle and I was having a hard getting myself motivated to run every day. Truthfully, my only goal for today's race was to have fun.

Everyone was in a festive mood. The local high school track and cross-country teams were sporting their colors and preparing for some friendly competition. Moms and dads were out with their children. A few were proudly wearing their 2009 Philadelphia Marathon shirts.

And then there was me, I was never on a high school track or cross-country team, I wasn't there with my daughter (she was still in bed when I left) and I wasn't sporting a recent marathon shirt. I was there simply because I'm a runner and runners should be trotting on Thanksgiving.

The horn went off a little after 9 and off I went with the masses. I definitely struggled with the hills and I couldn't find my finishing kick when I made the final turn towards the finish line. I crossed the line in 23:39 which is about a minute slower than my PR. But that's not important. What is important is that my splits were 7:40, 7:28, 7:28 which are the fastest miles, I've cranked out since my injury. Not that they felt effortless, but running at that speed didn't feel like a struggle. It's just good to know that my speed is finally on the way back.

Congrats to everyone who trotted today. I will write about my Thanksgiving meal in a separate post. I want to end by saying thank you for reading and for your continued support and encouragement. The running community on Facebook and Twitter is one of the many things that I am thankful for this year.

Update: The official results were recently posted, here you go:
Chip Time: 23:39
Pace: 7:43
Overall Place: 326/1779
Gender Place: 260/988
AG Place: 12/88

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Race Report: Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium

The last time I was in Yankee Stadium was on November 4 when the Yankees won their 27th World Series Title. 11 days later I returned with 2,499 other runners for the Damon Runyon 5k at Yankee Stadium. All donations raised went directly to the most brilliant young scientists in the nation funded by the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Up until a few days ago I had no idea how a 5k could possibly be staged entirely inside Yankee Stadium. Yes, the race organizers gave us some hints. They told us that runners would get to run on the field, run around concourses, and up steps between levels. Then a few days before the race we get an e-mail with the final event details. In that e-mail the described what was in store for us:
START LINE on the 100 level concourse, near Section 120
• Run/walk two laps around the 100 level concourse
• After second lap, near Section 126, turn left behind concessions, then take ramp to sub-zero level
• Run/walk through the sub-zero level
• Exit the sub-zero level between the Bullpen and Monument Park, turn right onto warning track
• Run/walk two laps around the warning track that circles the field
• Exit warning track to the right, return to sub-zero level
• Run/walk back through sub-zero level, turn left toward right field stairs
• Climb 103 steps to 200 level concourse -
• Run/walk the length of the 200 level concourse toward left field stairs (near Section 234)
• Climb 64 steps to 300 level concourse
• Run/walk the length of the 300 level concourse
• At Section 310, turn right down ramp near Gate 6, then take ramp down to the Great Hall
• Run/walk short distance through Great Hall (please stay to your right)
• Turn right up the Great Hall stairs to 200 level concourse
• Climb 55 steps to 200 level concourse
• Run/walk the length of the 200 level concourse toward left field stairs (near Section 234)
• Climb 64 steps to 300 level concourse
• Run/walk the length of the 300 level concourse
• At Section 310, turn right down ramp near Gate 6, then take ramp down to the Great Hall
• Run/walk short distance through to FINISH LINE in Great Hall (please stay to your left)

As you can see it's not your typical 5k road race course. I have to be honest, I was quite nervous about having to climb all of those steps, especially 103 at one time.

To avoid crowding during the event, staggered starts were used. Every 30 minutes another 250 runners/walkers were allowed to participate. I was in the 3rd wave which went off around 10:00. The first 2 laps around the 100 section went pretty smoothly. I felt pretty good considering how badly I struggled at last week's 5k and that just a few days ago I left work early with a fever and sinusitis. Anyway, I made the left and down the ramp to the sub-zero section. After running for a bit in what I called the catacombs of Yankee Stadium I see this light at the end of the tunnel and the next thing I know I'm on the warning track of Yankee Stadium. I attempted to take a video of my 2 laps but something went wrong and it didn't work. It was pretty surreal running not too far from where the Yankees were celebrating just 11 days ago. The final line score from Game 6 was still on the outfield scoreboard and the World Series logos were still faintly visible on the first and third base sides of the field. The one thing I regret is not stopping to take pictures while on the field. I guess that's the competitive runner in me. I knew I wanted to have fun today but I just couldn't bring myself to stop running in the middle of a race and take pictures.

After the 2 laps of the warning track came the dreaded 103 steps up to the 200 level and the rest of course as described earlier. I'll admit I had a hard time with the steps, as did many of the runners. At this point the course got a little confusing but the volunteers made sure everyone went in the right direction. I did keep track of my time, finishing the course in an unofficial time of 27:14. After the race, I hung out with my friend MB's family who was hanging out in the Delta 360 Main Level Suite that was made available to all participants and spectators. Congrats to my friend MB who started in a later wave and finished in under 34:00.

As an added bonus, I got to meet Twitter buddy, Eva, who  having a great time and took the time to take pictures and enjoy the event.

Thank you to the staff of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation, the volunteers, and the New York Yankees for opening the Stadium. I can't wait to do it again next year.

I'll mention one last time that it is not too late to make a contribution in support of my run. On-line donations will be accepted through December 18. If you have the means to do so, a contribution of any amount in support of my run is greatly appreciated. On-line donations can be made by clicking here.

Update: Official results were posted a few days ago. Not that I care but here are my official results:
Chip time: 27:11
Pace: 8:46
Overall Place 221 out of 2,026
Gender Place: 168 out of 995

Also, I wanted to share picture of how the race looked on my Garmin 305. I did lose the signal a few times so it's only a partial but it's good enough.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Book Review "A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Streets of New York" By Liz Robbins

I recently finished reading "A Race Like No Other: 26.2 Miles Through the Street of New York." by Liz Robbins. Ms. Robbins has been a sportswriter for seventeen years—the last nine at the New York Times—she has covered marathons, the Olympics, tennis, and the NBA.

In "A Race Like No Other," Ms. Robbins tells the story of the 2007 New York City Marathon, which happened to be my first marathon. I finished that race in 4:21:57. The book intertwines the stories of the elite runners and "ordinary" runners with something to prove. We learn about Pam Rickard, a recovering alcoholic from Virginia, Harrie Baskt, a cancer survivor from Riverdale, New York, and many others. We are introduced to ordinary New Yorkers like Carmine Santoli who has been overseeing the same aid station in Brooklyn for 27 marathons and NYPD Officer John Codiglia who has been shouting words of encouragement to runners on the far corner of 7th Avenue and Central Park South. Lastly, we meet the likes of Percy Sutton, Ted Corbitt, and Fred Lebow who laid the foundation for what the New York City Marathon is today.

Ms. Robbins does a great job describing everything that makes the New York City Marathon the best race in the world. I could not put this book down. I found myself wanting to learn more about Paula Radcliffe, Martin Lel, and who knew that Hendrick Ramaala was the "class clown" of marathoning. He takes such a loosey goosey approach to competitive marathoning.

The New York City Marathon is a race every marathoner needs to run at least once. If you need convincing read this book.

P.S. I also recommend listening to Brandon's Marathon Podcast Episode 60 where Brandon interviews Ms. Robbins and to the Runner's Roundtable Podcast Episode 56 where Joe talks with Marci (who is also mentioned in Ms. Robbins' book) about this year's New York City Marathon.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Damon Runyon 5k Run/Walk at Yankee Stadium for Cancer Research

Registration is closed but it is not too late to late to make a pledge in support of my participation in this unique event. The entire event will take place in the Stadium. Participants will run/walk the concourses and ramps, climb the stairs between levels and enjoy incredible views of the Stadium from all angles. The race ends with special access to a victory lap on the warning track circling the field where you will see the Stadium from a player’s point of view.

If you have the means to do so, please consider making a contribution. 100% of all contributions will go towards cancer research. On-line donations can be made by clicking here. Your support is appreciated.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Race Report: Westfield Garden State Plaza 5k

Today was the 5th annual Wesfield Garden State Plaza to benefit the scholarship fund of my daughter's school. I haven't been running much over the past month so I knew I wasn't in top race shape. The course was the same as last year, 1 1/2 loops of the Westfield Garden State Plaza Parking lot. Today was an unusually warm day. I'm not sure what the exact temperature was when the race started but I was overdressed in a long sleeved tech shirt..

My race went almost exactly like it did last year. I went out too fast, running the first mile in 6:48. Had I been in race shape, I might have been able to hold that but I knew I couldn't. I slowed down and ran mile 2 in 7:35. A little better, but I was still struggling. Mile 3 was 7:55. My final time was 23:43 for a 7:39 pace. When I finished my wife said to me that I had an expression on my face that she hasn't seen for a while during a 5k one of pain and discomfort. I just need to start running consistently again and my speed an endurance will come back.

This year, my 8 year old daughter decided she wanted to run the 1 mile fun run without me. She ran it with her friends and had a great time.

I don't about you, but I'm pretty convinced that the 5k is my least favorite race distance. You have to get yourself going quickly and be able to hold a fast pace. I prefer a longer distance where I can take some time to settle into my race pace.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Yankees are World Series Champions

After 9 years, the World Series Trophy returned to the Bronx. The Yankees defeated the Phillies 7-3 in Game 6 of the World Series last Wednesday night. I was fortunate enough to be at the game with my buddies. It was the first time I've seen the Yankees win the World Series in person. Needless to say, it was a special experience.

I want to share with you something that happened off the field. In the row in front of us, there were three generations of Yankees fans, a grandfather, a son, and a grandson. When the Yankee announced that Hideki Matsui tied Booby Richardson for the most RBIs (6) in a single World Series game, the grandfather turned around and said that he was 9 years old and was at that game. We all thought that was pretty cool. When the final out was recorded and the Yankees were celebrating on the field, the grandfather was glowing. It was great see him sharing that moment with the his son and grandson.

The other non-game part of the evening that impressed me was Keli O'Hara singing "God Bless America." It was freaking amazing.

I took a video of the final out with my digital camera, Nikon Coolpix 3700. The video is a little better than the ones I shared with you when the Yankees won the Pennant.


To wrap up, I really enjoyed my experience in the new Stadium. I was very lucky to go to as many games as I did. I was at the first night game in the Stadium, the first post season game, the first pennant, the first World Series game, and the first World Series winning game. I can't wait for next season.

Monday, November 2, 2009

How I Spent the First Sunday in November

The first Sunday in November is a special day in New York City. Many New Yorkers call it an unofficial City holiday. For those of you that don't know, the first Sunday in November is marathon Sunday in New York City. The 2007 New York City Marathon was my first marathon. I finished in 4:21:57. My times have improved since then but the New York City Marathon will always hold a special place in my heart. I don't live in the City but I do work there and run there as much as a I can.

Even though game 3 of World Series between the Yankees and Phillies ended after 1:00 a.m. due to a rain delay, I was determined to run Sunday morning. I benefited from an extra hour of sleep. I woke up at 6:00 a.m. with a spring in my step itching to get out. It was a beautiful fall day, leaves of all colors lined the streets and in honor of the race, I wore my 2007 NYC Marathon shirt. I really didn't know what to expect since I haven't been running much recently. As much as I'm enjoying them, the Yankee playoff games have been ending way too late for me to able to wake up at 5:00 for my morning run. Back to today, the run itself went pretty well. I ran 5.33 miles in 44:26 for an 8:20 pace.

But today wasn't about me, it was about the 42,000+ runners that would toe the line in Staten Island for the New York City Marathon. I'm not going to recap the men's and women's professional races. All I'll say is Deratu Tulu of Ethiopia won the women's race. Defending champion Paula Radcliffe struggled in the later miles and settled for 4th. The men's race turned out to be a great day for American distance running. American Meb Keflezighi won the race. Ryan Hall took 4th, and 4 other Americans finished in the top 10.

About halfway through the men's race my daughter, who was watching the race with me on TV, turned to me and said "Daddy, no offense, but the professional men are much faster than you." I laughed for bit and then replied "none taken."

I knew a bunch of people that ran today. I want to give shout outs to:
  • My buddy Joe, who ran his 1st marathon today. Joe didn't run this marathon for himself. He spent the day with an athlete with disability who was running his 95th marathon. Joe guided his athlete to a 5:57:37 finish today. Joe will be running his first "official" marathon on November 22 in Philadelphia.
  • Sarah Stanley who finished today 4:14:17. What makes Sarah's race so impressive is that New York was her 3 1/2 marathon in 4 weeks.
  • Co-Worker Allen finished in 3:29:55. 
  • Scott finished 4:44:05
  • Julia finished in 3:59:27
  • Tara made the trip from California and finished in 4:19:42
  • TK's little brother, battled dehydration and still managed a 4:44:16
  • Matt finished in 3:47:18
  • Laminator finished in 3:04:20
My apologies if I forgot anyone. Please leave your finishing time in the comments. Whether this was your 1st marathon or your 100th, you are all amazing and an inspiration.