Archive for the ‘Running’ Category

November 11th, 2010 No Comments

Running the NYC Marathon

Map of the NYC Marathon, which starts in Staten Island, continues north through Brooklyn, then Queens, through Manhattan, the Bronx, and finishes back in Manhattan
“I think I bit off more than I could chew, I thought the marathon would be easier. For the level of condition that I have now, that was without a doubt the hardest physical thing I have ever done.”
-Lance Armstrong, after finishing the New York City Marathon

After training for the last four months, on November 7th 2010, I finished the NYC marathon with a final time of 4:04:46. This was my first time to run a marathon. I had a modest goal of finishing in under four hours, and I consider this time close enough. Running the NYC marathon was one of the most unique and rewarding experiences I have had in my life.

The Pre-Marathon Marathon

From the start, the pre-marathon is a marathon within itself. I leave my Upper East Side Manhattan apartment at 4:45 AM to make my scheduled ferry to Staten Island, although my race does not start until 10:10 AM. I spend the morning with a couple of other local NYC runners. They had both ran the marathon previously, and provide friendly company and race tips. It is much colder than expected, and I should have dressed warmer. Luckily, there is live music and excitement in the air, keeping us warm as we wait for our scheduled race waves to be called.

The enormity of this event cannot be expressed in words, it’s one of those things you need to experience for yourself. There are 45,000 participants split into three starting waves, and two million spectators to cheer us on. While there are hundreds of porta potties in the race waiting area on Staten Island, the wait is still long to use the bathroom. It probably doesn’t help that Dunkin Donuts is offering all 45,000 of us free coffee as we wait!

The Marathon Start

2010 ING NYC MarathonAt 10:10 AM, my wave begins. Although I start the marathon on Staten Island, just minutes after, I cross the bridge to Brooklyn. Heading towards the streets of Brooklyn, I start to hear a low, muffled roaring sound, which gets louder and more distinguishable as I continue on. This is the sound of the energetic crowds cheering us on, at either side of the road, sometimes 10-deep.

After the first water stop, I see the marathon’s first casualty. A runner trying to drink his water and run full-speed at the same time stumbles, and it looks to be a bad fall. Another runner helps him back up, and he continues moving at full pace. Apparently his fall wasn’t as bad as it looked, or he is so high on adrenaline that he does not feel any pain.

Running close to the crowd on the right side of the road, I notice they reach out to high-five the runners. I high-five with about 10 of them, and feel pretty good about myself… I never got this kind of treatment during my long-runs through Central Park during training! But I start to realize that being so close to the crowd is a little overwhelming, and decide to limit myself to a couple high-fives in each burrow. The crowd will cheer you on by your first name if it’s written on your running shirt, but being the marathon novice that I am, mine is not. My shirt does say “NF”, which is the charity organization I am running for, so some crowd members cheer me on as “NF.”

Half Way Point

I continue north through the streets of Brooklyn for the first half (~13 miles) of the race. At the half way point, I am at 1:55, so five minutes ahead of my final goal time. But my senses are too overwhelmed to focus much on my time. There is an eclectic mix of bands playing all along the way. Some play the theme from “Rocky”, others play covers of old rock and roll tunes, others rap, and a few even play bagpipes. I see some of the marathoners running with headphones on and wonder “Why?!”… The variety of live music and crowd cheering along the run is more than enough to keep me pumped up through the first half of the race.

After Brooklyn, I cross the bridge into Queens, racing there for two miles. There are a total of five bridges to cross during the marathon. Crossing bridges is the loneliest part of the race, but also provides the most beautiful views of the city. There are no spectators or bands playing, just hundreds of determined runners. At one point, a marathoner starts cheering, as a way to replace the cheers of the spectators. This causes a sort of echo from other marathoners, but it only lasts a few seconds.

Finishing Queens, I make my way to Manhattan, and head north for the Bronx. At mile 17, there is a water stop handing out wet sponges. I take one and wipe off the salt and sweat that has accumulated on my face. By mile 20, I am in the Bronx, and my stomach is churning. The mixture of Gatorade, Power Gel, and Dunkin Donuts coffee is not sitting too well in there.

The stretch through the Bronx only lasts for a mile, and we are back in Manhattan for the last five miles of the race. My stomach churns and gets worse, and I need to use the bathroom badly, but there is nothing to do at this point. There are no porta potties until the end of the race. I also start to feel very weak, but don’t dare add more Power Gel or Gatorade to the mix in my stomach at this point.

New york city marathon 2010My pace slows down as we enter Central Park at mile 23, and I start to get passed. I have a couple of second-wind moments, but these don’t last long. After what seems like eons later, I cross the finish line. While I lost my five minute lead from the halfway point, and added four minutes to my goal time, at this point I am just happy to have completed the marathon.

The Post-Marathon Marathon

After finishing, I begin to realize I am in for a post-marathon marathon. They give us a medal and goody bag, and herd us along a path for half a mile, which seems like an eternity. I feel like I am going to die. I spot a porta potty along the way, but it is blockaded behind the first aid station, and they don’t allow me to use it. Luckily, towards the Central Park exit, I finally find a porta potty. Afterwards, I make my way from the Upper West Side back down to public transportation which will get me back to my Upper East Side apartment while bypassing the marathon path and crowds in Central Park.

After letting my body heal up for a couple days, I feel like I am ready to run again. Most running books recommend to not run for 1-2 weeks, and instead do cross-training, so I will try to abide. The NYC marathon was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Will I run a marathon again? It’s to early for me to say at this point. But no matter what, I will definitely keep running.

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September 5th, 2010 No Comments

Running Without Headphones

Running Without Headphones
On my last post about marathon training, a reader commented that I should start running without headphones. After all, during the NYC marathon, I wouldn’t be wearing them (most races have banned the use of headphones). There are also the safety concerns- with headphones on, it’s more difficult to hear cars, cyclists, and other runners. And if you look at elite runners, none of them wear headphones, as they need to pay close attention to their body and competition.

Initially, a few hesitations ran through my mind. What if I get bored? Am I relying on my music to keep me going? Especially on my long runs, music provides a good distraction. Or even worse- Am I using headphones as a form of protection and insulation from the outside world, in the same way that people use sunglasses to avoid eye contact? Will I feel like I’m running naked without them? Or maybe I’m just over-analyzing things…

In Central Park, a large number of the solo runners I see have headphones on. But the majority of runners in groups do not. Tonight, I gave this “running without headphones” thing a try for the first time since I started training for the NYC marathon. In reality, for most people, this would be a very small change. For me, it was significant. I’ve been putting in mile after mile every week, all with a track playing in the background. So what was it like?

Increased Awareness

In one word, my run felt more… Natural. I thought I would get bored without headphones. But I didn’t. I just started to notice lots of different things. I became less internally focused and more externally focused. Hearing the sounds of my inhale and exhale. Or the sounds of my footsteps as I propel myself forward. And the rhythm of my footsteps and breathing together.

I also heard the footsteps of other runners. I heard walkers, fragments of conversations in different languages, and a crowd cheering at a baseball game after a baseball hit a metal bat. I heard a baby crying, dogs barking, and rock music playing. I felt a sort of connectedness to the Central Park atmosphere that I never had with headphones on.

With this new external focus, I started to notice the people around me more, and sometimes felt more competitive around the other runners. When I have headphones on, if I am running behind someone at a similar pace, I will usually continue at my same pace. But without headphones, sometimes I feel the urge to pass them. I’m not sure why this is. Maybe listening to music distracts my competitive side.

All in all, the run had a more natural and increased-awareness feel to it. It was a better balance between internal and external focus. I will definitely be running without headphones more often. I can’t completely give up my tunes, but I’m willing to give them up part of the time for this increased awareness. Adding more variety and increasing my awareness while running will make for a better marathon training experience.

Update: 17 Miles Using The Off-On-Off Technique

On my 17 mile run today, I tested out wearing my headphones for only part of the run. For the first 20 minutes, I ran with my headphones turned off. This gave me adequate time for warming up. After this warmup, I ran with my headphones turned on (at a low volume) for one hour. This helped push me through the first half of my run. For the remainder of the time, I took my headphones off. This was a good variety. I was able to run with more awareness when I needed it most (warmup and second half through finish). I did notice that the last mile was a little more tough than usual without music. It was definitely more of a mental game without headphones. I ended up counting my strides to stay focused on finishing- normally I have music to distract me.

Update (3 weeks before marathon): No longer wearing headphones!

I have completely stopped wearing headphones when I run outdoors. I still wear them when I go to the gym. I am happy about this adjustment. It has given me more awareness and willpower… I no longer rely on music to get me through the last few miles. I just use the mantra “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

Do you wear headphones when you run?

What are your experiences running with or without headphones? Which do you prefer?

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August 30th, 2010 2 Comments

Solo Training for My First Marathon

World Class Athlete Program - WCAP - Best Of - United States Army - FMWRC

Hi everyone- Long time no see! I haven’t written a post on Life Evolver in quite a while (11/08), so my writing might be a little rusty. But I’m going to give this a try. I’d like to start posting more regularly here. To start back up, this post will cover my training for the NYC marathon (11/7/10).

What triggered my decision to run a marathon?

Last year, I ran my first half marathon in Santa Cruz, with a final time of just under 2 hours. Immediately after finishing the half marathon, I felt like I could still keep running. I told myself that adding 13.1 miles for the full marathon wouldn’t be that difficult. I didn’t think of it much after that. Fast forward to February of this year, when I moved from San Francisco to New York City. I started running a lot in Central Park, as I live a couple blocks away. Again, I started thinking about running a full marathon. Mostly, my interest in running a marathon seemed to stem from my enjoyment of running and need for a challenge.

I picked up the book Four Months to a Four-hour Marathon, which is a short, basic guide for training, including detailed weekly workout schedules. After reading this, it seemed very doable. I decided to start training for 4 months, with a race time goal in under 4 hours. I would need an average pace of 9:09 minutes per mile to meet this goal.

Choosing a Marathon and a Charity Organization to Run For

The marathon book I read suggested a smaller (less popular), flat-course race for a first-time marathoner. But being new to NYC, and always hearing about the NYC Marathon, I was determined to run in it, even though it is the world’s largest marathon. I looked for a charity to sponsor, which would guarantee my marathon entry, and give me a good cause to run for. I decided on the Children’s Tumor Foundation, whose mission is to find a cure for Neurofibramatosis (NF). NF is a genetic disorder usually diagnosed in childhood that causes tumors to grow on nerves throughout the body.

This is by far the largest charity fundraising activity I have ever been involved with. My goal is to raise $2,500. If I get 100 supporters to each give $25, I will meet this goal. So far I have raised $455 from friends/family/coworkers, so I am 18% toward my goal (thanks to everyone who has donated!). I have to reach this goal by October 20th in preparation for the November 7th marathon. If you would like to help out and support a great cause, simply make a donation. You can also read my last post for more details on the Children’s Tumor Foundation.

Marathon Training Solo

During my half marathon training last year, I had some friends I trained with once per week for long runs. This year, I am training completely solo. I feel like this suits my personality, and I enjoy the time alone when I am running. And although the long runs can get a little lonesome, I feel like they are good for me. Each long run I go on now, I am pushing my boundaries, running several miles longer than I ever did before. Doing this alone provides me with more self-knowledge. I am able to more accurately see my own limits as I push myself.

Running Form

While I was training for the half marathon last year, I injured my left knee. This injury carried on in to the half marathon, and made a portion of the run very painful. I was determined not to do this again during my marathon training.

Four weeks in to my marathon training, I noticed the same knee started feeling very tight, like it did before I injured it the previous year. I knew that my current running form was not working for me. At that point, I decided to get some help and met with a running instructor at The Balanced Runner in NYC. I have had two sessions with them so far, and noticed an incredible improvement in my running form. I finished a 15 mile long run yesterday, injury free, which was a great accomplishment for me.

Running Mantra

On the first week of my marathon training, I read the book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir about running and writing by Haruki Murakami. It’s a very good read- so good that I’m reading it a second time now. In one chapter, Murakami writes about mantras that long distance runners use to keep themselves going. One mantra stood out in particular- Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. When I several hours in to my long runs, and start to feel the pain, I repeat this mantra in my mind, and keep going.

Training Gear

Getting the right training gear has been a process of trial and error for me. I am hoping that this post will be of benefit to other people that have decided to train for a marathon.

Clothing: Since  I started training this summer, I wear running shirts and shorts that are sweat proof. As the weather starts to cool down, I will need to start wearing layers, especially on my long runs.

Shoes: I have been running with the Brooks Adrenaline Gts model shoe for the last few years. They were originally recommended to me by a professional at a running store. When I started training for the marathon, I purchased two pairs of these, and have been trading them off every day. This gives my each pair a rest. They are able to decompress and dry out for a day, and last longer this way. One month before the marathon, I will purchase and break in a third pair. My running instructor at The Balanced Runner recommends that I switch to a shoe with neutral support, so I plan to do that after I finish the NYC marathon.

Music Player: I use an Apple iPod nano with a wrist band. I find that the screen and extra space of the Nano better-serve long-distance running than my shuffle.

Headphones: I had problems with using headphones while running for quite a while. Sometimes they would fall out. Or they would get too sweaty and stop working. After checking Amazon.Com, I found Innovelis BudFits. These are little rubber adapters that you connect to your existing iPod headphones. The rubber adapters fit snugly on your ear. Your headphones hang upside down, being held by the rubber adapters. Since your headphones aren’t wedged deep into your ear, it feels better and allows your sweat to dry around your ear canal naturally. While the headphones take a few seconds longer to put on than normal earbuds, they never fall off and work great on long runs.

Music: When I first started training, I used my regular gym workout playlists. But with the amount of time that goes into marathon training, those soon got old. I also found out that the kind of music I listen to at the gym to pump me up didn’t really do the trick on my long runs. It just got old. So I went through my music library, and created a new playlist with more variety. I have rock, alternative, techno, rap, and reggae music on my current playlist. This way, when I am on a long three hour Saturday run, I have something to give me an extra boost of energy, and I don’ t tired of the tracks. I will probably add a few more playlists as well throughout my 4 month training plan.

Time/distance/pace tracker: Initially, I started tracking my runs with the iPhone RunTracker application. But the iPhone is really too bulky for long runs, and not convenient for long-distance running. So instead, I purchased the  Nike Ipod Sport Kit, to use with my Nano. It has been working out great for me, I really wish I had purchased it earlier. It allows me to track my running over time, and I can easily choose a goal (distance / time / pace), pick a playlist, and get started with my run. Since I switch out between two pairs of running shoes, I bought an easy-to-remove Nike sensor holder Shoe Pouch.

Chafing Prevention: When I did my first long run in my training, I came back home and noticed my skin was very sore / raw around my nipples. I researched this, and it is very common for men during long-distance running. Running for a long distance causes friction between your skin and shirt. Not so much for women, as they wear a sports bra. I purchased Bodyglide Anti Chafing Lubricant and no longer have this problem.

Water Bottle Holder: On my long runs, I started to get dehydrated unless I was lucky enough to be near a water fountain. My running book mentioned that I should be staying hydrated at least every three miles. I ended up buying the Ultimate Direction Access Waist Pack, and the first couple times I used it, I didn’t like it at all. I wore the pack around my waist, over my running shirt. Every few miles, it would start to slide up, and I’d have to readjust it. Finally, I tried wearing it under my shirt (duh!), with the waist band / buckle around the top part of my shorts. This has proven to be much more effective. I still have to readjust it, but not nearly as often.

Food for long runs: When I first started training, I used Power Gel packs to use on my long runs. But those are pretty expensive and don’t taste very good. More recently, I will cut up a banana, put it in a plastic bag, and carry it in the zipper compartment of my water bottle holder. Not only is this more affordable, but it tastes better, and it gives me more energy without upsetting my stomach.

Your Experiences with Running

What have your experiences been with running? Have you ever training for a long-distance or speed race? Do you have any running tips? Please post a comment below!

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