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 fourth New Yorker to finish four of the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile ultramarathons in the U.S. in only 10 weeks.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

When Winter Strikes...The Beauty of Cross Training

One month into winter and we have seen 4 major snowstorms lately in the NY/NJ Area. The first one dropped about 29 inches of snow on us. The most recent one? About 19 inches. 

It's been particularly rough on my running. It's not just the difficult conditions. It's the endless shoveling. And the time constraints. Instead of a morning workout, I am obligated to get most of the shoveling done before daybreak so that some people have a chance to get to work that morning.

Fear not, for I am still a triathlete at heart and have at my fingertips multiple ways to stay fit. Sure, I am making 2 ultramarathons my "A" races this year, which only involves running, but the season has only begun. And my first "A" race, the Massanutten 100, is in May, which is about 4 months out.

The winter, as cruel and unforgiving as it is this year, is playing right into my game! A good training plan starts off with generalized training anyway, which includes a lot of cross-training. My volume of running is down this month, but the volume of swimming, and cycling are up. Especially cycling, since all it requires is to turn on my indoor trainer and go.

What indoor trainer? Well, if the winter has got you bottled up in your house, you can get several indoor trainers rather cheaply. CycleOps has a full range of indoor trainers that can help you keep your fitness. Their wind trainer sells for only $150, but for more resistance, you can get a good magnetic trainer for about $200. That's not bad.

If indoor trainers are not for you, you can still get to the gym and work out there. Most gyms now have treadmills and ellipticals that work the cardiovascular system. Concerned about money? Planet Fitness has memberships at only $10 per month.

There are many ways of beating this winter. So no more excuses! Get out there and get fit!



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Now THIS sounds excrutiatingly boring! Indoor marathons.

From one of the lists that I'm on...the Wall Street Journal has an article on people doing, of all things, indoor marathons:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704515904576076343670470456.html

OK, now that you read the article, let me ask you...if you had a choice between an outdoor marathon or an indoor marathon, which would you choose?

My guess is that most of you will pick the outdoor marathon. Why? Well, because you're at least going...somewhere. Unless you do the marathon on an outdoor track, in which case you'll be doing the same as an indoor marathon, which is of course as boring as the indoor variety mentioned above.

We do have a lot of races in the ultra realm that cater to this type of thing also. There are a number of 24 hour races that are done on an outdoor track. Here is one of them. It truly is amazing that these athletes can keep their focus on the task at hand when all they do is go around in endless tight circles for the 24 hour period. And there are those who take the mundane even further by running 24 hours on a treadmill. Imagine running 160 miles on a treadmill for 24 hours? How anyone can keep their mind sharp is a wonder in itself.

But I have to tip my hat to those who do the Sri Chinmoy Self Transcendence 3100 mile run in Queens, NY every year. This race is run basically on a half mile block for two months. Two months! Oh, sure they stop running at the end of the day and go home, then come back early the next day, but imagine that for the next 2 months all you're going to do is run, run, run. I guess the "self transcendence" moniker is appropriate for this race. Anyone who can keep this kind of focus without going crazy for two months is definitely "transcendent" and is capable of doing anything they can put their mind to.

As for me, I do prefer going...somewhere...when I run. A lot of times I like to travel to a different race so that I can appreciate the different scenery of each race.

A last note: I am about to sign up for the Virginia Double Ironman in October. Yes, this race is twice the distance of an Ironman (4.8 mile swim, 224 mile bike, and 52.4 mile run). Although the distances sound epic, this does involve countless loops on the bike and run portion in a small park. Mundane? Maybe. Will the tremendous boredom drive me insane? Perhaps. But, there is only one way to find out. DO IT!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Running in the Winter - The Key is to Be Prepared

Every year I face the daunting task of trying to stay active through the cold winters here. Especially this year, where I have the unenviable take of actually building my mileage for my ultra season through this tough season.

This, of course, is my least favorite season. I joke sometimes that my southern Italian and Puerto Rican blood is way too thin and that I freeze as a result. Seriously though, there is an element to this season that I feel is more dangerous than running in the summer heat when the temperatures plummet below freezing. If I overheat during the summer heat, I can slow down and even walk. But in the winter, no matter where I am, if I'm too cold during my run, you have to keep moving. Stopping could make your situation worse or even life threatening.

And the season has a nuisance factor also. With summer all I have to do is throw on a singlet, shorts, and shoes to run. But I have to layer up in winter with all of these clothes. And which clothes to put on? If the day is in the 30s, should I put on a thinner shirt on top, or should I stay with the thicker one because it's raining. How many layers on the bottom? Is the snow going to be a factor. Ugh!

The only sane way to run during the winter is to be prepared. If I'm running tomorrow, I need to check the weather forecasts today, and lay out all my running clothes that I might have a chance to run in so that I are not running around my apartment trying to find a critical item of clothing that I need. I have a large bag from Specialized that I use for my winter "locker" to store all types of winter running clothes so that I can get to them in a pinch if I need them. Wearing the right clothes is definitely key to having a great run in the winter folks, and wasting time fishing around for them is the last thing you want before your run.

As for the "dangerous" element of running...if I feel I might end up a popsicle somewhere along my running route due to dangerously cold temperatures, I tend to alter my route to stay near my apartment or car so that if I start to feel hypothermic, I can rest easy knowing that safety is right around the corner. I have a convenient 1.5 mile loop in case it's really cold out. Sure, the endless loops can get boring, but I know that I'll be safe.

Also, any inclement weather could pose a danger to me if I use streets that are laden with traffic. After a significant snow, those streets will be narrower, which means I will be running closer to traffic. Well, in any season, running against traffic is always important, but it becomes critical here. This way, if a car is coming that might come very close, I can stop, move out of the way and wait until the danger passes. Having that car coming in front of me gives me ample warning and time to react to the danger. Again, being prepared to stop is more important than your pace.

Lastly, since running in the dark is unavoidable for me, I make sure I carry a light or reflective vest so that drivers can see me.

Take my advice people. Make sure you have all your clothes ready the night before your run. Make sure you check the weather forecasts to see what kind of conditions you will be faced on your run tomorrow, and make sure you do the things that make you stay safe, both weatherwise and trafficwise. If you do this, you will tolerate and maybe enjoy this season, and will be ready for the season when the spring comes.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Trail Running is better than Sex because:

(a little comedy from the Ultra List (ultra@listserv.dartmouth.edu)

1. Sex doesn't last for more than twelve hours at a time.
2. You can meet new people and develop meaningful relationships during
trail running. It's easier to explain the injuries.
3. You can stop to eat during trail runs.
4. Trails don't get jealous of other trails.
5. You can freely discuss when, where, and how many friends you were with
when you lost your ultra-virginity. You actually want to remember when,
where, and who ...
6. The only interesting disease to contract during trail running is
insanity.
7. It isn't embarrassing when people find out you train alot on your own.
8. If you need to pee or vomit you can just go off to the side of the
trail.
9. It confuses the hell out of jealous spouses who can't figure out what
they are jealous of and why it is so much fun.
10. Nobody tells bad trail running jokes on prime time television.
11. You don't have to hide your copies of Running Wild and UltraRunning.
12. You can plan for trail runs months in advance.
13. You can expect to get in at least four trail runs in a year.
14. It's good even if your running partner goes too fast for you.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New Year's Post - An Ambitious Year Starts

First off, let me say to everyone Happy New Year.

That being done, I'll reflect a little on my last year. One major race, 100 miles long. A long-term endeavor has been fulfilled by finishing the Vermont 100 miler in a little over 28 hours.

Now comes the ambitious part...with the ultra lotteries done I have now set my major races up for 2011. Three 100 mile ultramarathons, and maybe a double Ironman in October if all goes well. One of those 100 milers is Leadville.

Leadville...what's not to say about it? This was one of those races that I was going to do 2-3 years down the road because of its unique challenge, that most of the race course is over 10,000 ft. of altitude. I was waiting until I was more "seasoned" before even tackling this crazy race. Now, on a whim, I decide to make that leap of faith and do it this year.

It's like registering for my first Ironman way back in 1995.

For all you seasoned Ironman vets out there, remember when you started to sweat bullets as soon as you pushed that "register button" or send out your Ironman registration form? Well, it's kind of like that.

Well, I did my planning, and my overall master plan has been made. You can view it here. All three of my hundred milers are there, along with the double Ironman. Swimming and cycling are a part of the plan, as well as weight training since all of those complement the running really well.  Oh, and yes, there is something coming up immediately this weekend...the Watchung 50k.

Like I stated before, this is the most ambitious year I have developed in my life. So I have to be extremely active in my planning to avoid injuries and keep energetic. I will be posting my daily routines on my other blog to track my progress.

And if I ever get out of this year alive, with good finishes for all of my races, maybe I'll write a book on it. Uh, no. But seriously, these are the constant challenges that I give my training methods, things that I would prove here so that athletes reading this or using my services can get better. There is a lot more to training methods than reading a book or journal; I have to go out there and PROVE it works before I endorse it.

And that is what this challenging season is all about. And I'll let you know how it goes, one day at a time.

Again, I give you best wishes for a great season in 2011.