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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Take Two - Why You Need 2 Months Rest Out Of Your Training

Runners and other endurance athletes can be an obsessive lot. A lot of athletes cram so many races into their already busy schedules that it seems like they are racing every week.

Those are the ones are are trying to fit in three marathons in one weekend. Yeah, you know who you are!

Just take a step back and see what you're doing to yourself. If you're like many athletes I know, you have races throughout the entire year. That's not a good thing.

One of the most important things in planning for a great racing season is that athletes NEED to build in an off-season of at least two months to their training plans. This is absolutely critical to making sure that they are performing optimally way into their distant future.

Eight weeks might seem like a lot of time, but it is really only a blip on the yearly calendar.

Think about it...planning an easy day after a hard workout is a sound idea. Planning an easy week after 3-4 weeks of intense training makes sense also...

So wouldn't it make sense that after several hard months of training and racing, a wholesale recovery is needed? Wouldn't it make sense that this recovery should take at least two months, maybe even more? Physically, the chance of injury, especially permanent injury is significantly lowered if the body is allowed to heal.

Besides, it restores a lot of balance in one's life. Sometimes one needs a couple of months to focus on other things, like family, kids, and their jobs.

Remember your wife? Yeah, that person you married before you laid eyes on your bike? It's past time you get reacquainted with her.

Honey, you still know who I am?

Plus, the mind seeks balance, whether one likes it or not. If athletes are always training for triathlons and marathons, their minds will rebel after a while, especially if they neglect the other aspects of their lives.

Aside from lowering the chances of a debilitating physical injury, an extended recovery gives that chance for the mind to recover also. After a nice extended recovery, the mind is focused, is sharp, and is ready to kick some butt for the new season.

What is extended recovery anyway?

Well, it's not a chance to become lazy with overall health...

Definitely not!!!

...but to have a chance to do other things that are fun, yet active.

Getting warmer! Mountain biking is a great off-season activity. Just make sure the tires are round before riding though.

Yoga is another thing worth looking at, as well as other physical activities other than swimming, road cycling, and running. 

Those three activities can still be included, of course, but one STRONG suggestion...please leave the watch at home.

Ask yourself this question...do you remember a time where you just went running for the heck of it, and not worry about time, pacing, and speed? One time where you just walked out of your house with just your clothes and ran just for kicks?

(or without your clothes, if you're into that...)

If not, than you lost the real reason why you run...FOR FUN!!!

Screw the watch, don't worry about your heart rate, stop having satellites and the government track you with that GPS device. Just go out there and RUN! Take it easy and soak in your surroundings. Believe me, you'll definitely see a difference! You might actually find it fun.

You need to get in touch with the enjoyment of working out, if you want to keep it going far into the future. If you want to be like this person, who I admire for her feat...

99 Year Old Ida Keeling, Setting 100 meter sprint record this month. God bless her!

...then make sure you keep having fun with your fitness. That is what the off-season is there for. Make it so!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can East Coasters Have Success in Leadville? Yes they Can!

The Leadville 100 course is extremely tough on everyone entered. Historically, more people have dropped out of the race than finished it. It's that hard.

Runners trudging up Hope Pass in the Leadville 100.

The high altitude, the big mountain pass, and ESPECIALLY the aggressive cutoff times (you only have 30 hours to complete it) serve to make this race one of the toughest in the world.

I saw some good friends of mine attempt the race this year. Some have finished it but a good many did not. They deserve an A+ for effort, that is for sure. 

West coast runners have a bit more success at this race because, well, most have these huge mountains there in their back yard.

That gives east coast ultrarunners a bit of a disadvantage. How can east coast runners have success in a race  when they cannot train in those conditions that the race is in?

After barely surviving this race last year and looking at what people I know do the race this year, I think I can probably put a handle on what *might* be needed to have a great race in Leadville.

First, there is the altitude problem. That is a problem for east coasters since we really don't have regions here that are at 10,000 ft. I mean, we east coasters skydive from that altitude, but that's about it.

The way to counteract that is to be in the best shape possible. A body that is at its fittest can definitely handle itself better with less oxygen. If an east coaster is looking to run Leadville, they need to understand that he or she is going to have to put in the hours of training to get into peak shape.

But peak shape alone still won't make east coast runners get to the finish line. There are also the mountains to consider.

Again, east coasters don't have huge mountains in their back yard. What I think is needed to get strong mountain legs is a power and strength regimen for the legs and core.

That means hitting the gym. Hard!

Explosive plyometric sets involving squats, jumps, leg curls, legs and back extensions are probably the best way to go about it. Running a lot of miles will help you gain the endurance, but power is also needed to get up Hope Pass. A powerful core, especially glutes and quads, will help the cause a lot better, making the climbs a lot easier on east coast runners. Crossfit might also help. I am familiar with the basics of Crossfit's high intensity programs. I haven't looked deeply into the program, but I know a couple of people who swear by Crossfit. And they have successfully finished Leadville, so there is definitely a merit there.

Squats are probably the most effective way of strengthening up the core muscles and should definitely included in the Leadville training regimen.

Last year, along with weight training and running, I also complemented my running with a lot of cycling. Cycling definitely helps the quads and glutes and did factor in nicely to my success at Leadville last year, so it's definitely worth looking at.

These are all suggestions for those considering Leadville. If you're an east coast ultrarunner and considering Leadville, don't just run a lot of miles. Chances are, you'll be very disappointed come race day. You'll need a lot of strength training; make sure you make this a critical part of your training.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

My Suggested Strategy for Finishing Leadville!

First of all, good luck to all those tackling Leadville this weekend!!!

It's been a long time since I posted, but I'm back again. This week, I am largely on the sidelines and ready to watch this year's Leadville 100 this weekend.

This race historically has more people that do not finish (DNF) than those who get to the finish line. Why is so hard?

Yes, it's definitely the altitude, but it's more the cutoff times that causes DNFs than anything else.

You see, 30 hours is usually the cutoff time for a not-so-hilly 100 mile race. For most mountain 100 milers, the race usually gives more hours to finish (for example, Wasatch has 36 hours for you to complete and Hardrock has 48 hours to complete).

Leadville gives runners only 30 hours. With the thin air and mountain passes to climb, that 30 hour cutoff becomes VERY aggressive.

So what is the strategy to get to the finish?

My opinion? Runners need to take advantage of the flatter sections of the course, starting at the Fish Hatchery at mile 23.

You need to take it easy on Sugarloaf Mountain from mile 11-23 so that you can take advantage of the flatter section from mile 23 to mile 39.

The problem with a lot of runners is that most do know about the aggressive cutoff times, and then run hard from the start and push hard up Sugarloaf Mountain, the first mountain climb on the course. By the time they get to Fish Hatchery, they are already gassed and mostly ripened for a DNF.

The stretch from the start to May Queen Aid Station at mile 13.5 is mostly small rolling hills. Runners should just run within themselves here, arriving at May Queen strong.

After May Queen, the runners encounter a stretch of mostly uphill single-track that emerges onto a dirt road leading up to the top of Sugar Loaf. The road will have switchbacks and is steep at some sections. Unless they're going for the top of the standings, most regular runners should just walk up the hill and save their energy for later, when the course is flatter.

This is me walking up Sugarloaf last year. Walking does a body good here, as evidenced by my smile for the camera.

Once at the top the runners will then descend down the Power Line hill towards the Fish Hatchery Aid station at mile 23. The last two miles of this stretch is slightly uphill on paved road. If done right, runners should have a lot of energy in their tank to take advantage of the course after this aid station.

Most people come in very gassed though. They take Sugarloaf very hard and wound up very tired. To be blunt, they are royally screwed.

After Fish Hatchery, the course proceeds on very flat paved road for the next 2-3 miles. Here is where ultrarunners should start to take advantage of the course. The course then winds up on a not-so-technical trail that ever goes slightly uphill through the Outward Bound Aid Station at mile 31, through the Mt. Elbert Aid Station, and then downhill towards Twin Lake.


When runners get to Twin Lakes, they should be very comfortable in relation to the cutoff time there (10 hours into the race). It's time to transform from runner to hiker.

 Water crossing after Twin Lakes on my way to Hope Pass.

Runners should take some time at Twin Lakes to get properly fueled, because they're going to need it on the climb up Hope Pass. The climb on the front side is 3000 ft., so they need to be fully hydrated and sated before setting out.

If they've done their training right, runners should be able to take a rhythmic approach up Hope Pass. If they don't have their "mountain legs", they are definitely going to struggle up this pass; there are some noted steep sections on the course. The Hope Pass Aid station near the top of Hope Pass is the first time the runners will be emerging from the tree-line. They would appreciate the llamas that are there; those are the animals that got the supplies up there in the first place! Once past the aid station, the last bit of climb is very steep. Runners should just keep moving forward as best they can and they will eventually hit the top of the Pass.

First time up Hope Pass. I'm still smiling.

Coming down the back side of the Pass can be a bit tricky as here the runners will start encountering some of the faster runners coming back up the Pass. It can get quite busy and runners will have to frequently step aside so that other runners can pass by. It can get a bit frustrating at times.

Descending Hope Pass. Runners are going back and forth here. Lots of traffic.

Winfield, the turnaround of this course, awaits 2 miles after reaching the bottom of Hope Pass. The cutoff time is 14 hours. Runners should try to get there in under 13 hours though because historically, those who arrive after 13 hours usually DON'T make it to the finish.

Runners need to take time at this aid station to eat and drink because they need to get back up and over Hope Pass! The back side of the pass is a bit steeper here, so will power is definitely needed to push those tired legs up and over the Pass for the last time.

Once up, descending can be pretty nice. If runners can get to Twin Lakes before night falls, they're in very good shape. If not, they run the risk of running into those aggressive cutoffs at later aid stations.

At Twin Lakes, the athletes must transform from hikers back to runners again and should find their running legs very quickly. After the climb from Twin Lakes to Mt. Elbert Aid station, runners again should take advantage of the flatter section of the course, running mostly from Mt. Elbert to Fish Hatchery with 23.5 miles to go.

From Fish Hatchery, there is one more major gut check... Powerline hill. Miles 80-84. A point where most runners are at their most vulnerable. Here is where mind has to rule over matter.

Powerline Hill. Looks tough in the daytime, will be tackled at night!

All runners are at various levels of pain at this point. Willpower has to take over to get up this hill. There are about 5 false summits on this hill; the ground levels off at various points only to steepen to another uphill climb, so runners shouldn't be deceived. Runners have to dig deep and tolerate a lot of pain to get up this hill. This is what separates the finishers from those who DNF.

The descent from Sugarloaf Mountain isn't very bad except for the single-track before May Queen at Mile 86.5. If the runners watch their footing though, they should make it to May Queen without incident.

At this point, there are the 13.5 miles separating the runners from the finish. This can be daunting, but runners should start getting a taste of the finish line at this point. Runners should be fueled up before taking on this stretch. Although the small rolling hills are nothing like the mountain climbs, the legs here are so tired. One needs willpower to keep moving. Once beyond the lake, the town of Leadville is finally within reach! Keep moving and eventually they will finish!

I survived. Ugh!

To those runners who make it to the finish, congratulations! You just finished one of the tougher races in the world! To those in the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, you just cleared the most difficult hurdle! Wasatch is a bit tougher but the 36 hour cutoff is heaven! All you have to do is keep moving there and you should be able to finish that race.

So good luck to all those ready to take on Leadville. I'll be rooting for you here and making sure to send you all good vibes! You have the training down. All you have to do is believe in yourself, dig deep and you will definitely make it to the finish line.

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!