A Staten Island triathlete and endurance coach ventures into the ultramarathon realm where there are seemingly no limits to human endurance. In 2013, he successfully finished the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning (picture of 2013 Grand Slam finishers above; I'm second from right), becoming only the 282nd person (since its beginnings in 1986) and only the 4th New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Random Thoughts - Weather, Running in Kilts, and Stretching

March 25...

Hmmm, it says Spring on my calendar, we've set the clocks forward to Daylight Savings Time, and some of us have brought the lighter clothes out anticipating the warmer weather.

Mother Nature has other ideas.

We are looking at a snowstorm this evening. We did dodge a bullet here, as this storm is supposed to hit Boston and New England with a lot of force and accumulating snow. We'll get by with hopefully just an inch or two.

That looks, um, bad.

We did get a couple of nice days up until this point, and I did venture outside with my bike a lot of times this season, but this is the time when we can get out from all of these layers, basically put on a shirt and shorts, and go outside without freezing to death.

The weather predictions did say it will be in the 60s this weekend, so maybe this is just winter's last gasp.


I'm not sure if I'm going to be comfortable running in a kilt.

I participated in the Kilt Race down in Manasquan, NJ. The folks here registered 2800 people with kilts and is applying for World Record status with the folks at Guinness. 

I went "commando"...and fortunately had no "accidents" with my kilt. If you don't know what "commando" is, use your mind...you'll get the picture. :-)

If you don't have a mind, or if you're just too lazy to think, here is the definition.

The potential for having an "accident" was there, so I made sure the kilt was down in all directions while I ran.  I finished the run around 14:30, which is about a 7:15 min/mile pace.

It was a great experience with the group from the Raritan Valley Road Runners doing this novelty race. If they have it again (I think they said there is one in the fall?), I might do it again, since I am now the (proud?) owner of a kilt.

But don't expect me to race like this all the time now. I'm better to have the "support" down there while running races. 


Stretching, stretching. I was asked about stretching recently and what my opinion was on it...

 Um, no.

I don't really have a strong opinion either way on stretching, but I tend to believe it to be a bit overrated. I know some people religiously do it before or after a running, cycling, or swimming routine, but there are many people, me included, who do just as well without stretching. There are also some studies that are emerging that static stretching actually causes or exacerbates injuries, like this one here.

Running, cycling, and swimming doesn't rely on extreme range of motion. If I was a hockey goaltender, I would definitely need to stretch big time. But I'm not, so I don't need it.

He needs to stretch regularly, because his job demands it. Fortunately for us runners and triathletes, we don't need to increase our range of motion much to do well in our respective sports.

I'm a big fan of warming up the muscles...that does not include much of stretching. There are running drills that you can do before or after a workout that do better than stretching, in my opinion. It does help you keep your muscles supple, without all the extreme range of motion issues of static stretching. Here is a link to some of the drills. These will warm up the muscles perfectly, and will give you the necessary range of motion without going too far with it. That's all we really ever need for our sport anyway.

 That's about it here. Shovels out one last time, and then we should be in the clear of winter! I'm looking forward to it. :-)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'm signed up for Three Days at the Fair - Yes, the 72 hour race!

I am determining what to make of the 2014 season and came up with some dandies:

  1. Three Days at the Fair - all 72 hours of it.
  2. Burning River 100 - Aiming for Sub 20 hour pace.
  3. Woodstock 70.3 - Aiming for Sub 5 (or the equivalent of that on a hilly course)
  4. Massachusetts Triathlon Olympic Distance - Aiming for the Nationals in the Distance. 

Today, I'll talk about the Three Days at the Fair.

 I had my first taste of a "fixed timed" race last year in September at the Staten Island 6 Hour race. It was two weeks after the Wasatch 100 so I knew I had tired legs going into the event. But I saw so many people I know going into these races and I wanted to know how it goes in these races. So I entered into the 6 hour race, with the goal of "just running a marathon" to keep the pressure off.

I actually wound up doing around 35 miles, good for 10th place overall. I'm not sure what I felt, running all these circles, but it was altogether a much different race than the hilly 100s I did before.

I'm still not sure what to think of the experience!

So this Three Days at the Fair this is calling to me this year, and I feel, "maybe I'll try the 48 hour race". I didn't want to go for the full race as of yet because I am not experienced in running all these circles for 3 days straight. I figured 2 would be more palatable.

As time went on the thought of doing the entire 72 hours was starting to creep in on me.

Basically, the little devil on my shoulder started to convince me, "you'll get your experience during the race, you can bow out at any time, you know that. Besides, don't you want to do a 200 mile race in the near future also? This would be a good warmup for that. Bwahaha!"

So when it came time to plunk my money down for the race, I went for the whole enchilada!

God help me...

So logistics will come into play. I'll need a tent, some chairs, cushions, a whole grocery store load of things, and even some raw ingredients (there is a kitchen on premises that I can use to actually cook a meal). I "might" need a headlamp and some batteries, but the one mile course will probably be lit entirely, so I might not need it for the race. I will probably need it around my tent to find things though.

My "wild" goal for this race? 200 miles. Although I'll be willing to accept 150 miles for a more realistic goal.

So, to all those folks going to the race, I'll see you in May. Hopefully I'll be in a mood for conversation. :-)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Confirmed Schedule for Spring/Summer 2014

I think a little birdie in my ear is telling me something.

I didn't fare well with the UTMB lottery yesterday, so that makes me 0-4 in this year's lotteries.

I think I got the message...that little birdie is telling me to recoup some of that cash this year. You know...all that cash I spent traveling out west three times last year.

Races still abound though, and finally, I can lay out (and pay for) the races that I'll be doing for this year.

Here is the confirmed schedule:

4-JanWatchung Winter Marathon$25
19-JanBatona 50 Miler$0 (donation)
31-MarchIndian Trails 15kPrice TBA
16-May3 Days At The Fair (48 hours)$195
24-MayLower Hudson 100k$0 (donation)
31-MayWoodstock Triathlon Festival 70.3$180
7-JunRVRR "Train" Run 34.1 milerPrice TBA
15-JunLong Branch Triathlon #1Price TBA
14-JulLong Branch Triathlon #2Price TBA
27-JulEscaprment Trail RunPrice TBA
2-AugBurning River 100$222.54
10-AugStaten Island Triathlon (Sprint)$65
17-AugWar at The Shore TriathlonPrice TBA

Races in red are my "A" races. Races for the autumn will be done in the future.

One of the things I was so sure about was the Atlantic City 140.6, but one look at the price ($575) and I have second thoughts about it. There is a 140.6 in the Adirondacks that goes for only $300, but I'm not sure if I'll opt for that or drop that distance altogether from my race schedule.

There are some "maybes" in this schedule, including the Leatherman's Loop 10k (yet another lottery determined tomorrow), and the Caumsett 50k in March. Other weeks will be filled with hiking Harriman Park and the Presidential Range in New Hampshire, to name a few. One weekend, I also hope to be doing the rear sweep of the North Face Bear Mountain 50k race on the first week of May.

So it's going to be a busy spring. Other than that Atlantic City 140.6 (which I might take out), the prices for the entire spring are actually quite reasonable. The prices that haven't been posted are for shorter races, so I don't expect to pay much for those.

The theme here? How fast can I go in flatter races. I seriously wanted to get in a full Ironman this year to see if I can get under 11 hours again, but the price is making me think otherwise.  I will be bumping up from the Olympic Distance to the 70.3 at the Woodstock Festival. I would love to get a shot at the 20 hour mark at the Burning River 100, and I'm hoping the 48 hour race at the Three Days at the Fair would get me set up for that.

Well that's it in a nutshell.  Let's get to work.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Destination Race in 2014? Go for it!

One of the things I'm always grateful for is the relative ease in which we can travel the world these days. And "vacationing" is a part of that experience. It's just getting out of the same old normal daily routine to explore a part of the world that you've never been too.

Couple that with running and triathlon races, and you can get truly epic trips that you won't ever forget.

Ironman in the UK.

Local races are fine...for "B" races, in my opinion. They are good to get out of the house and test yourself up against the local competition and see how you fare. It's also a great weekend stress reliever and to be with a group of friends that share the same experiences.

"A" races, on the other hand, are a bit different. Local competition is fine, but if you are gearing up to be in the best shape of your life, a larger scope is needed.

I've always loved to test myself against the national competition, and even the international competition, in these "A" races. Being the big fish in a small pond is one thing, but measuring yourself up against the nation and the world? Priceless.

And those "A" races come with an added perk...the ability to get away from your local area and travel to a new area to explore. Ever since I was a hardcore triathlete back in the 90's, the two were forever linked.

My first Ironman race in 1996 was in British Columbia, Canada. Penticton was such a different town than New York City, I was almost overcome with culture shock.

And even though I haven't been to Penticton since 2000, I still hold that town close to my heart.

Ever since then, I've been all over the country to do my "A" races. Half Ironman races in Texas, Florida, California, Maryland, etc. I really can't count them off the top of my head.

The Ironman race in New Zealand in 1999 stands out also. That is a vacation that I will never forget. Someday I would like to go back to New Zealand again, but I'll need a race to do down there so that I can give myself an excuse to go!

My finish at Ironman New Zealand in 1999. More lasting memories than in local races.

And most recently, the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning allowed me to re-visit the beautiful Sierra Nevadas (I did the California Death Ride down there about 15 years ago), visit the High Rockies of Colorado (that is such a fantastic state if you're an outdoors type of person), and visit beautiful Utah for the first time in my life.

In other words, the "getting away" factor of these "A" races is the key to fond memories that I can never forget.

There were some times in my athletic career that I tried to make a local race an "A" race. To this date I couldn't really build up the excitement as compared to preparing for a race in a far off land.

Two years ago, they brought the Ironman to NYC for one year. I just couldn't generate any interest at all!

Even Ironman Lake Placid, which is 5 hours away, doesn't generate much interest. But when they created an Ironman at Mont Tremblant in Canada, I was salivating!

And so, as this year's plans are settling into place, I have one significant lottery left to go before I finalize my schedule (drawing on January 15). And that is the fate of my entry into UTMB in Europe, which is definitely what I would love to get in to. Europe...the last time I was there was about 10 years ago and would love to go there again.

And even if I don't get in to UTMB this year, I have a whole list of "A" races that will do for this year...

...and the entire list doesn't even involve a race in the local area.

The list involves races in Utah, Idaho, Alberta, British Columbia, and Italy. All get-away races. No "A" races in New York, New Jersey, or the surrounding area.

The Tor des Geants in Italy. If you want lasting memories, I'll bet this race will give them to you!

And I love it! To all you athletes out there, I know the money might be tight, or your schedule might not allow much vacation time during the year, but you do need to make sure you enjoy your life, and these running and triathlon vacations are definitely the way to go. Staying local year after year can be quite boring to say the least.

Just one race outside the area each year will definitely reinvigorate your passion for the sport. You can still do the local races, but get out there and explore! You only have one life, and it's a pretty big planet. Get out there!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cold Weather Tips for Running - Most of You Have Heard This Before...

DNAinfo Magazine called me for an interview on cold weather running.

This should be interesting.

To skip the suspense, if you're properly clothed, you can easily run outside, polar vortex or not.

This isn't Antartica or the northern climes of Canada folks. This is NYC. When this "polar vortex" hit, the temperatures actually didn't go below 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

 I don't let a little thing like a polar vortex keep me inside.

This temperature is downright balmy compared to folks living near the Arctic Circle. And those people keep their productive day going even when the temps hit -40 degrees (C or F).

The trick is preparation. Well, you knew winter was coming. That was one warning. In the fall, you should have stocked up on some good winter running clothes to keep the heat in when the cold hits.

Then, you had about 4-5 days of fair warning that this "polar vortex" was going to hit, sending temperatures to single digits. At that point, you should have readied those clothes out for running in those temperatures.

I participated in a marathon this past weekend when the temperature was showing to be only 1 degree Fahrenheit. I was joined with about 100 other runners who were prepared for the bitter cold also.

And we had fun out there!

So how did we run in this without problems?

Well, you keep on hearing this, but you need to dress in layers.  For me, that means 3 layers on top (a thin inner base layer that wicks out water, a thicker middle layer, and a tough, weatherproof outer layer), and 2 layers on the bottom (inner layer being a thick stretchable spandex/polyester combination that wicks water, and a looser outer layer to keep the legs from the cold air).

Extremities HAVE to be covered. There are several ways to go about doing this. For the feet, a thin layer of sock liners followed by a thick pair of socks designed for hikers. Or, for the value conscious, you can wear your thin running socks first, then put a layer of Saran Wrap over that layer, then put a thicker pair of tube socks over the wrap. That should keep the heat in. The downside is that the sweat stays locked up in the wrap, so people with Athlete's Foot might have a problem with this. For the arms, mittens are better than gloves. Having the fingers in one chamber keeps them a lot warmer than having fingers in their own separate chambers. The best thing you can do is put on thin glove liners, then put on the thicker mittens on top to protect your hands.

Lastly, the head. Most of the heat escapes from the head, so that HAS to be covered also. I wear a thin balaclava to cover both the head and neck, and then put a thick wool cap over the balaclava. If it is really cold, like it was this past week, I also put on a pair of ski goggles to protect the eye area from the elements. Although the goggles have a tendency of fogging and icing up, it's quite easy to take them off during the run and clear it out.

So voila! Not one inch of skin is exposed! At this point, the only thing that is keeping you from going outside is your head. At that point, it's up to you to push yourself out that door!

 Arrowhead 135 cyclists in sub zero temps

Hey, if the folks at Arrowhead can run, or bike, or XC ski 135 miles in -20F weather, then you can easily get your 5, or 10, 26.2, or even 50 miles in single digit weather here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Basic Training Programs for 2014

2014 is here!

So where are we in terms of training? A little lethargic from the holidays? The polar vortex ready to make you disappear without a trace? Or at least keep you indoors?

Well, it's actually time to start training for the 2014 season.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's 4 degrees out there and it's too cold to bike, walk, live, breathe, etc.

Excuses can only get you so far. And I don't tolerate many excuses, and I tolerate NONE when it comes to the weather.

Listen, if you want to make good on your triathlon or running season, the time is NOW to start on your base.

So how to start? And what do I start with?

The first part of building up your base is to start building up your weekly volumes, especially running and swimming. Most people can still run outside in this frigid cold. Oh yeah, you can too!

Again, there are no excuses. Just tell these good runners who do the Arrowhead 135 in the winter that it's too cold to run. You'll get a good laugh in return.

This is normal for one of the coldest ultra races in the world.

The race is in International Falls in Minnesota in January. And they have to carry their own support also. There are no excuses for staying inside. Period.

Athletes in other parts of the country are training outside this winter. Yes, other places might be a bit warmer to train in.

But our weather shouldn't be a disadvantage to us. It can actually be turned into an advantage.

You see, if you can brave the cold inhospitable conditions, you're one tough hombre! You can take just about any punishment. That means that once the spring emerges, you'll already be a force to be reckoned with!

You'll be really kicking some @$$ in your big race, whether it would be triathlon or running.

Starting this Thursday and each Thursday afterwards, I will be scheduling and hosting two or three basic training sessions designed to gear up for a summer triathlon or other "A" race. This will include outside track, or interval sessions on the road if the track is buried in snow, indoor swim sessions (including some basic tips on swim technique), and even some long distance hikes and runs all around the tri-state area.  All this is free. It's not the specific coaching that I normally do to my paid athletes, but it will provide the basics for you to gear up your program toward the summer races.

And who knows? Maybe you'll get some hardware out of it!

Friday, December 27, 2013

2013 - Quite A Year!

I don't really know how to start describing this year.

For one thing, it's been transformational. I am definitely leaving this year a different person than when I began it.

It began with a limited scope largely between two running clubs. One in NJ, and one in NY. It's ending with a huge family of like minded endurance athletes, ranging from a very talented group of ultrarunners and triathletes in New York City and those in NJ.

It's also seen some down times. The tragedy that has befallen my aunt this past fall is one. But it adds to the transformation; it reinforces the belief that I should approach every day like it's my last and live it to the fullest.

There are also other down moments, but all it did was steel my will and honed my focus in setting my goals and getting them done.

Of course, I cannot describe 2013 without mentioning the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning. There are so many ways to fail in that quest, but I managed to find a way to succeed in capturing the prestigious Eagle Trophy.

Receiving my Eagle Trophy at Wasatch.

The Slam was the single most transformational event in 2013. I left the Slam a completely different person than coming in. Thinking about all I had to go through just to finish the Slam:

1) The 115 degree temperatures at Western States. The race is normally very hot, but it just happened to be the second hottest in Western States history.

2) The huge blister issue at the tail end of Western States. Basically going the last 28 miles in bleeding and bandaged feet.

3) The extreme humidity of Vermont.

4) The thin air at Leadville. The huge pain tolerance I had to undergo just to reach the finish line at Leadville (and the redemption of the DNF I had there two years ago).

5) The unusual extreme humidity and the ups and downs, literally and figuratively, and the final ecstatic moments at the finish at Wasatch, where I finally realized I was actually going to make it.

6) All the voices in my head telling me to stop in every one of the races I did.

7) The numerous tiresome pushes up mountains.

8) And finally, the moment of truth ascending Hope Pass for the second time and realizing that persistence does pay when I finally got to the top.

Just one failure at all the trials listed above, and I would have failed.

Anyway, it's given me the courage to go out and do other things without fearing failure. Starting a new triathlon and endurance club is one thing. More personal issues like dating is another. They are all "leap of faith" decisions with some risk that they might fail. And if they do fail, it's not the end of the world. Failure is just a good way to realize the mistakes you did, and start over again without making those mistakes. This year has given me the self-confidence I need to act on some tough decisions, and see where they lead.

I do leave 2013 on a very high note. The friends that I've gained in the larger area that share my interests is certainly a plus. There are several people I know that have won a slot in next year's Western States and are contemplating doing the Slam. I will definitely lend them any "words of wisdom" and my experience that I had in the Slam this year. There are also a number of us who are in the UTMB lottery for Europe next year along with me. I hope that we all get in so that we can have a blast together in France. All the local triathletes I know are aiming high next year, shooting for some lofty goals (half Ironman, full Ironman, first triathlon, etc.). I will definitely lend them a hand as they work hard to achieve those goals.

2013. Transformation indeed! I will definitely never forget this year; it's been quite the journey.

On to 2014!