Monday, May 31, 2010

From the Archive: My Thoughts on Memorial Day

I wrote this post last year on Memorial Day. I made some minor changes for this year, but the message remains the same. If you remember reading this last year, I apologize for the repetition, if you're reading it for the first time, I hope you enjoy it.
Memorial Day in the U.S. is known as the "Unofficial Start of Summer." Families and friends get together for barbecues, go the beach, take advantage of sales at the malls, and enjoy a day off from work. Very few of us take the time to realize what Memorial Day is all about. It's a time to remember those who have given their lives protecting our country and to thank living veterans for their service. We see coverage on TV of the President (this year the Vice-President) laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but how many of us go to a Memorial Day observance in our town? I admit, I'm just as guilty of this. I was out of town this year celebrating the marriage of our neighbor's son.

When I was studying abroad in Israel, I remember observing Memorial Day (Yom HaZikaron) in Israel. It is so much different. I forget the exact time it occurs, but at some point during the day a siren is sounded throughout the country. People literally stop what they are doing and pause for 2 minutes to remember the soldiers who have given their lives to keep Israel safe from their enemies. I was on a bus to Jerusalem when the siren sounded. Everyone on the highway stopped their cars, got out and observed a 2 minute moment of silence right there on the highway. It's a sight that I won't forget.

I think the main difference between how Americans and Israelis observe Memorial Day is this: In Israel, there is mandatory military service. At the age of 18 every boy and girl is required to serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Every Israeli knows a soldier that has given their life or is currently serving in the IDF. Here in the U.S. it is a lot less personal. Speaking for myself, I don't have anyone close to me who served in the military. Whatever you are doing this Memorial Day weekend, please take a moment to remember those who served and are currently protecting this great country of ours and if you see a veteran of any war, please thank them for serving.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Product Review: Stuffitts Shoe Savers

The folks at Stuffitts Shoe Savers were nice enough to send me their product to try out. In the interest of full disclosure, I am not being compensated by Stuffitts. In return for the product I promised a honest review of the product.

Before I get to the review...what exactly are these foot shaped forms?
  • Stuffitts is a shoe saving product designed to get rid of moisture and odor.
  • Stuffitts uses 100% natural red cedar which wicks moisture upon contact.
  • The outer shell is made from a dual-wick fabric that moves moisture from the shoe and into the cedar-filled inner core. 
The Review
Since I got the Stuffitts, there hasn't been rain where I live. So for now, I cannot comment on how well Stuffitts dry out my shoes after running in the rain. What I will comment on is how well Stuffitts remove sweat and odor from not only my running shoes but from work and dress shoes as well.

Stuffitts are not just for running shoes. I've been putting them in my work shoes each night when I get home from work. Cotton dress socks do not breathe as well as technical running socks. Combine that with 30 minutes on the New York City Subway, and waiting on a stuffy platform waiting for a NJ Transit Bus at the Port Authority Bus Terminal; and suffice it to say that my shoes do not smell like a bouquet of roses when I get home. I leave the Stuffitts in my shoes overnight and the next morning they smell like eastern red cedar, which is a heck of a lot better than stinky feet smell. I've used them in my running shoes as well. Regardless of what kind of sock you're wearing, your feet are still going to sweat and your shoes will smell. Stuffitts do a great job keeping my running shoes fresh as well.

Bottom Line: Stuffitts do a great job keeping any type of shoe dry and smelling great. I will definitely post a follow up review once I take my running shoes out for a rainy run or I get rained on on my way home work. Definitely check them out,   

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Case For and Against Running a Fall Marathon

The Case For:
  1. After running a 3:39:47 in the Poconos I want to see what I can do on a flatter and faster course. 
  2. A year is a long time to wait to run another marathon. If I don't run one in the fall, my next marathon would not be until Spring 2011.
  3. I have a cause that is near and dear to my heart that I would like to raise money for. When I ran The New York City Marathon in 2007 and The Marine Corps Marathon in 2008, I fund-raised for a different organization and raised about $8,500.
  4. I like the training. 
  5. After slogging through the hot and humid summer months, the cooler fall weather would provide a burst of energy just at the peak of my training. 
The Case Against
  1. Training for the Poconos took a lot out of me. Since I'd be training with the same intensity, I'm not sure I want to put my body through it again.
  2. Training for a marathon does put a strain on family life. Mrs. and Lil Ansky are incredibly supportive of me and they want me to continue running marathons. However, as I said, training wears me out. With the summer months ahead, I don't want to say no to weekend plans because I have to run long ,will be too tired, or beat up from a long run.  Shorter distance races, including the half marathon, don't take as much out of me.
  3. While I wouldn't be missing any weekend long runs, I would miss several mid-weeks runs for the Jewish holiday "season" that falls out in September.
  4. As I said in my previous post, I miss the social side of running. Sometimes I want to run just for the sake of running without having to execute a specific workout.
  5. A fall marathon would involve additional travel costs which I can't really afford right now.
  6. Heat and humidity are not good for my asthma. Last year I struggled mightily to complete speed workouts and tempo runs felt harder. 
Even though there are more cases against than for a fall marathon, I still have very mixed feelings. I know I have to decide soon before prices go up or  the race fills up. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Final Thoughts & What's Next

Final Thoughts
  • This is the first marathon I raced instead of ran. 
  • Several of you asked me if I am continuing to train with Coach Jeff. The answer is a resounding YES! Jeff has taken my running to places I didn't think I could go.Why wouldn't I continue training with him? Besides, I have a long term goal (keep reading) which I'm going to need his help achieving.
  • I definitely need to incorporate more core and strength training into my routine.
  • I miss the social side of running. While I was training for my marathon, every workout had a purpose and it was difficult to meet up with friends for a leisurely run.   
What's Next?
I have 3 races on the docket in June. First up is the George Washington Bridge Challenge on June 13. I will be running the 10k. A few days later is the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge (3.5 miles) on June 17. I'm not crazy about this race (read my 2009 race report) but there is some expectation at work for me to run it. Finally, there is the American Heart Association Start! Wall St. Run and Heart Walk (3 miles) on June 24. This is another tough race to race because the streets are so narrow but it's held so close to where I work.

Beyond June, I am considering the Bronx Half Marathon on August 15. I know it'll be hot but it will give me something to look forward to after June. A friend of mine asked me recently if I can help train him to break 2:00 in the half marathon. He'd like to do it at the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on September 26. I'm looking forward to helping a fellow runner achieve a goal.

I am not 100% sure if I will be running a fall marathon yet. I have reasons for and against a fall marathon. I will explain more in another post.

Long Term Goal
After my 3:39:47 last Sunday, I started thinking about those 2 letters every marathoner dreams about, BQ. I still think a 3:15 is too fast but the qualifying time for 40 - 44 year old males is 3:20. I turn 40 in December 2012. I'm going to try and BQ when I turn 40. There, I said it.

    Friday, May 21, 2010

    Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon: Likes and Dislikes

    I've been asked several time over the past week what I thought about the race. Here are some likes and dislikes about the race in case anyone reading is considering running it in the future.

    • The course - out of the 4 marathons I've run this one was the most scenic. Running through the mountains offered some beautiful vistas that I tried to take in while chasing a new marathon PR. Many of the homes I saw were beautifully landscaping surrounded by woods.
    • The size - at 666 finishers this was by far the smallest marathon I've run. The small size allowed me to settle into my pace right away and hold it most of the race. Positioning at the aid stations was never a problem. If I wanted to walk through a water stop, I could without having a hoard of runners bump into me. I had no problems seeing my cheering squad 3 times on the course.
    • The volunteers - There were plenty of volunteers on the course. Everyone was so nice and thanked us for running their race. 
    • Lack of split clocks on the course - Other than the finish the only clock I saw was at the half way point. Most races have clocks at least every 5k. I kind of liked not having so many clocks on the course. I was able run by how I felt rather than having to math in my head to determine if I was on pace.
    • The size - this one goes both ways. The small size also translates into small crowds. The crowds did get bigger in Stroudsburg but there were many stretches in the rural parts of the race where there were no spectators.   
    • The aid stations - While there was Gatorade and water at every aid station, the cups only filled about a quarter of the way. At the beginning, I didn't notice but as the race progressed I started to notice I wasn't taking in enough fluid. I had to take 2 or 3 cups to make sure I got enough fluid.
    All in all, I really enjoyed this race. The course was tough, but if you race it smart, you can put up a good time. Approximately 26% of the runners qualified for Boston. If you're looking for a race with small town charm and beautiful scenery, definitely check out this race. 

    Tuesday, May 18, 2010

    Race Report: Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon

    This past Sunday was the 5th running of the Pocono Mountains Run for the Red Marathon (Pocono Marathon). I knew this was going to be a much different marathon experience than my previous 3. I am not the type of runner that can remember every detail about how I was feeling. what I saw, etc... during each mile. Instead, I'm going to split up the race report into 3 parts.

    Part I: Start & miles 1 - 8:
    The start at Clear Run Elementary School

    The start was at Clear Run Elementary School in Tobyhanna, PA. The first sign I knew this was a small race came when I picked up my bag that I would pick up at the finish. There were no fancy bags with my bib number and a UPS truck number, no pre-printed tags, rather I was a given a trash bag (the plastic kitchen type) with my bib number written on it with a Sharpie. Truth is, I really didn't care what they gave me as long as my stuff was waiting for me at the end. After 2 trips to the port-a-potties and the National Anthem, I was off and running.

    The first 8 miles of the course featured rolling hills along Memorial Blvd. and Route 611. Coach Jeff told me this was the part of the race where I should settle into my pace. Because the Pocono Marathon is a small race, I didn't have to waste too much time at the start bobbing and weaving  and wasting unnecessary energy. I found my rhythm and watched the miles pass by. Just passed the mile 8 marker I saw Mrs. and Lil Ansky, and TK (who graciously hosted us in her home for the weekend). I had no problems seeing them as they were a part of the small group that came out to cheer on the runners. I knew TK would be Tweeting my progress so I yelled out "1:06." I was pretty much on pace.
    Coming through at Mile 8. That's me on the far left

    Splits for miles 1 - 8 (based on my Garmin): 8:04, 7:58,  7:42, 8:19, 8:23, 8:21, 8:28, 8:15

    Part II: Miles 9 - 19:
    This is the down hill portion of the course. Coach Jeff told me to relax and to hold my pace. He said too many runners make the mistake of taking advantage of the downhills by running too fast and they pay for it at the end. I tried to hold back but it hurt more to run at a slower pace. I did the best I could to hold the same effort I did for the first 8 miles. I came through the half at 1:48:10, a little ahead of pace but nothing to worry about. At mile 16 I saw my cheering squad. Lil Ansky stuck her hand out for a high-5, I slapped so hard I thought I took it off (I apologized to her after the race). I forgot to yell out my time but I think it was between 2:13 - 2:16. At mile 18.5 there was a quarter mile hill that got my attention after running down hill for so long. I was feeling good as I approached mile 20 but I knew the hardest part of the course lay ahead.

    Coming through at mile 16

    Splits for miles 9 - 19: 7:45, 8:23, 8:43 (I need a pit stop at mile 11), 7:55, 8:21, 8:11, 8:28, 8:07, 8:18, 8:14, 8:40 (this includes the quarter mile hill).

    Part III: Miles 20 - Finish
    This is where the race would get tough. Thanks to Twitter friends, Bill and Michael, I knew there were several hills between miles 20 and 24 that get your attention if you're not ready for them. This is where incorporating hills late into my long runs paid off. While many runners were walking up these hills, I was able to run the hills and pick people off along the way. I saw my cheering squad again just before mile 24. Even though I was hurting, I was able to crack a joke "am I done yet?" as I ran by.

    Coming through at mile 24

    The last of hills came at the mile 24 marker. It wasn't long, it wasn't nearly as steep at the (in)famous "hook" from my most recent half marathon, but man did it hurt. From there it was slightly downhill to flat into Stroudsburg. Mile 25 was through a residential part of town. Many residents were outside cheering us on and offering whatever words of encouragement came to mind. Mile 26 was mainly through the business district of Stroudsburg. The home stretch came when I made the turn into the Stroudsburg High School complex. The final .2 mile was on a "old school" cinder track. After a quick look at my watch I knew a 3:40 marathon was well in hand. The only question was could I get a sub-3:40. I mustered every ounce of energy I had left and took off for the finish line. As I got close I heard an announcer call out "and here comes #256, [insert real name], from Teaneck, NJ!" How cool is that! You certainly don't get that at a big marathon. Once I crossed the line, a volunteer wrapped a mylar blanket across my shoulders and another volunteer said to me "let's make this official" and put my finisher's medal around my neck.

    I made my way to the infield and finally looked at my watch. 3:39:46. I had to look again, 3:39:46. That's a PR by 13 minutes. TK was the first to find me and asked me how I felt "gassed" I replied. TK brought Mrs. and Lil Ansky over and it was time celebrate.

    Splits for miles 20 - 26.2
    8:46, 8:20, 8:41, 8:52, 8:28, 8:39, 8:31, 2:42

    After rehydrating with several cups of Gatorade and eating a few pretzels,  I gathered my stuff and we drove back to TK's house. I cleaned up, enjoyed a heaping plate of baked ziti, and 2 Sierra Nevada Pale Ales. I also hopped on Twitter and Facebook and was overwhelmed by the number of congratulatory tweets and messages I received. Words cannot express how thankful I am for your support and encouragement. When we got home, we went out for a celebratory dinner. I was still wearing my medal around my neck. The proprietor of the restaurant came out to chat and asked me about it. After telling him that I'm fresh off marathon #4, he told me I had an energized fatigued look. Definitely a fitting description.

    I would be remiss if I didn't end with a few "thank yous."

    First to my wife, Mrs. Ansky for putting up with me during my training. Not only is Mrs. Ansky my wife, she is also my dietitian. Every step of the way she made I was eating correctly to keep up with my training.

    Thank you to my daughter, Lil Ansky. In her own almost 9 year old way she put up with a lot as well.

    Thank you to Coach Jeff. A while back he tweeted and posted on his Facebook page the following "we don't work miracles, just unleash potential." Enough said.

    To TK for being such a gracious hostess, for shuttling Mrs. and Lil Ansky through the back roads of the Poconos (her spectator report is much more eloquent than my race report), and for being a great cheerleader.

    Lastly, thank you again to everyone that offered their support, advice, and encouragement during this training cycle. I definitely left it all out on the course yesterday. I am beyond thrilled that it was able to come together. Thank you for coming along for the ride.

    I'll post some final thoughts in a separate post. As for what's next....once I enjoy some much needed rest and recovery, I do have some plans for the rest of year and a longer term goal. Stay tuned.

    Thursday, May 13, 2010

    Trust the Training

    That's been my mantra all week. Earlier in the week, I was jittery, nervous, and full of self-doubt. Its funny how the taper can get into your head. My state of mind changed after my lunch run yesterday. I decided to run the Brooklyn Bridge during lunch. The weather wasn't great, chilly with temps in the mid 40s and light drizzle. The good news was that the bridge wasn't crowded which is a NYC runner's dream. On a nice day, the Brooklyn Bridge is packed with walkers, school groups, and tourists taking their sweet old time time lining up the perfect picture.

    Yesterday's run was a 10 minute warm up followed by two 5 minute surges in upper zone 3. Even though it was a short run, something about it got me out of my funk. Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was that I was only runner on the bridge, maybe it was running the up hill part of the bridge from Brooklyn to the middle of the span at a 7:43 pace. Who knows? Something about it, woke me up.

    Is it time to race yet?

    Thursday, May 6, 2010

    Chomping at the Bit

    The Taper - the part of the training cycle that every endurance athlete loves to hate.

    The taper does different things to different athletes. This is how my taper is going:

    • Running-wise everything is going fine. Tuesday and Thursday I went back to the track for 5 x 1 mile at 5k pace. Wednesday was a recovery run. Tomorrow, coach gave me the choice of going out for an easy 45 bike ride or take an extra rest. Since I don't have a bike, and I'm not the biggest fan of the stationary bike. I will take the extra rest day and attempt to sleep in a bit. More on this in a bit.
    • I am always hungry. I eat everything in sight. It's almost comical.
    • Sleep isn't coming easy to me. Now is the time I should be getting extra sleep. The exact opposite is happening. Usually the pre-race jitters make their presence known the night before the race. This time around, they've announced themselves 9 days before race day. 
    • With most of my friends mostly recovered from their spring "A" races, I ask myself every day "is it my turn yet?" 
    •  I am nervous. I'm not sure why. I've put in the work, training has gone better than I ever expected. Coach Jeff put together an intense but manageable training plan that allowed me to become a smarter, stronger, and faster runner. Now it's up to me to put it all together.
    It's incredibly humbling to see so many people take an honest interest in my training. The support and encouragement I've received from everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and beyond is deeply appreciated. Thank you for coming along for the ride. May 16 is almost here, I am ready to go!

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Taper Week 1

    This marathon training cycle, Coach Jeff introduced me to the intense taper. It's something I haven't done while tapering for my previous 3 marathons. Instead of me trying to explain the theory behind the intense taper, check out this video in which Coach talks about the benefits of the intense taper. Here is how my first taper week looked:

    Monday: fitness workout. Lunges, squats, and various core exercises.

    Tuesday: 5 x 1 mile at 5k pace: I head up to my local HS track. Had a pretty good workout. My splits were: 6:47, 6:43, 6:49, 6:55, 6:52. I remember my legs feeling heavy from Sunday's long run.

    Wednesday: relaxed recovery run: 5.40 miles in 45:13 (8:22/mi).

    Thursday: back to the track for 5 x 1 mile at 5k pace. Felt better today. Splits were:  6:51, 6:39, 6:45, 6:50, 6:48.

    Friday: relaxed recovery run: 5.48 miles in 45:46 (8:21/mi)

    Sunday: half marathon tempo run. 1 mile warm up then 10 miles at half marathon pace (around 8:00/mi). Yesterday was a brutally hot day. As you know, I always run early in the morning. Yesterday was no exception. I got out around 6:45 and right off the bat, the humidity caused my asthma to flare up. It took me a few miles to get my breathing under control. My splits were all over the place.7:07, 7:58, 7:35, 7:50, 7:51, 7:48,7:36, 7:47. The last 2 miles were the hardest. Mile 9 (8:28) was mostly up hill and by the time mile 10 (8:02) came around the sun was blazing. I couldn't seem to recover that sub-8:00 pace I had for the first 8 miles. Including warm-up and cool-down I ran 11.47 miles in 1:30:21 (7:52/mi).

    I wanted to congratulate everyone that raced this weekend in New Jersey, Providence, Cincinnati, Illinois, Pittsburgh, and elsewhere. I know many of you faced heavy rain, summer-like heat, and other unusual weather conditions. Congratulations! 

    This week is somewhat similar. Rest days today and Friday, mile repeats on Tuesday and Thursday, and 6 miles at 10k pace on Sunday. With race day less than 2 weeks away. now is the time where I need to force myself to get plenty of sleep, stay hydrated, start increasing the amount of carbs in my diet (as if I haven't already been doing that), and most importantly, stay healthy.