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.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Thoughts - June 21 - "Anti-Tempo" Runs

I've always wanted to try running around the perimeter of Staten Island for years now.

I figure Staten Island is small enough to make the run possible, but long enough for it to be a real challenge.

The route that I took is about 35.5 miles, according to Gmaps Pedometer.

The big question was the logistics. Everything would need to be self-supported. But the beauty of Staten Island lies in its many bagel shops lining the main roads. I didn't need to carry a Camelbak full of food and water with me. All I needed was a bottle that fits into my hand and a small pouch.

Inside the pouch was a cell phone (for emergencies), a Metrocard (in case I needed to bail and take the bus back, and $20 (for buying the essentials at the shops).

I started at the God-awful time of 3:30AM, which, perhaps was the toughest part of the run. No, I'm not kidding. Waking up was probably harder than actually running the 35 miles. I guess once I got moving I was OK for the rest of the run.

The course that I took is here... http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=4591041 .

I need to get a good diet of these long runs in. Although there is a good dose of physical benefits that I get when running 6+ hours, it is mainly the mental benefits that I'm focused on.

I come from a triathlon background. And any triathlon up to and including the Ironman distance is speed based.

That means I get a bit antsy when running at such a sloth-like slow speed. In fact, I feel there is a tug of war going on in my head, with one side trying to get me to run faster. It's always been a huge fight to reign in my long runs and keep it at when feels to be a "ridiculously easy" pace.

Yesterday was no exception.

For the first 15 miles I had to be very conscious about keeping my pace slow. After hitting the 30 mile mark, all that effort to keep it easy started to pay off.

My legs did start to stiffen up at that point, but I still had the strength to maintain the pace that I was going. Indefinitely. In other words, I didn't burn out my legs in the beginning by going fast.

That is what got me through Vermont, and this is what is going to get me through Leadville.

It's basically a different approach than Massanutten in May. And although my toe killed my race, I still am not sure if the more aggressive strategy would have worked there.

This is what fascinates me about these 100 mile races. All my training, all my methods, my strategies that I have learned from other races, mean nothing at this distance. And in some cases, I need to do the OPPOSITE of what I've learned in training and coaching in order to do well in the race.

I think that is why I call these training runs of longer than 30 miles "anti-tempo runs."

Normal tempo runs are run at a pace faster than the comfortable pace so that one can condition himself for that pace in competition, whether it be a 5k race or a marathon.

"Anti-tempo" runs are run SLOWER than the comfortable race, but for the same reason. So that I can condition myself to run at that pace over the 100 mile distance. Whereas most people try to condition themselves over their maximum comfortable pace to prepare for shorter races, I have to condition myself to comfortably run UNDER my MINIMUM comfortable pace to prepare for the 100 mile distance.

It's certainly fascinating how polar-opposite these 100 milers are to shorter conventional races, and to conventional wisdom.

But it drives the point home. I do not want to go out too hard in Leadville. I have to be really conscious of my pace and keep it really easy for the first 30-40 or so miles. After that, the fatigue will take over the pace and I should be OK (it'll be safe knowing I cannot go faster at that point). The long training runs will help me be mentally comfortable with the "ridiculously easy" pace.

I got about 2-3 of these "anti-tempo" runs left (as well as a slew of 20 milers and some mountain hiking) before Leadville. After which I *should* be ready to feel at ease with this "ridiculously easy" pace.

And just like the story "The Tortoise and the Hare", this Tortoise is going to fare well in Leadville if he sticks to his plan!

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Let me keep this short and sweet...

Friday Night is the short Group Trail Run at High Rock. 7pm. Come join us!

Saturday morning is the group bike ride into the Palisades. Meet at the ferry at 6:30AM. Hopefully we'll start at Battery park at 7AM.

Sunday is an 8-10 mile trail run along the White Trail at 8AM. Please park at Willowbrook Park (Richmond Ave. entrance). I'll see if I can fill up a 5 gallon jug with water for after the run. I'll also have some food available.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thoughts - June 15 - Certifications?

I know I'm going to catch a little flak on this, but then again, I like to rock the boat of "established principles" a little, so that people can actually wake up from their everyday distractions and think critically on a topic they never did before.

The topic here is coaching "certification".

Let me ask you a question. Which coach would you decide on going to? The one with 5 different certifications to his name? Or the one that your friends recommended after fulfilling their Ironman goals?

One of the things I learned from my father is that "word of mouth" is the most powerful marketing tool one can ever have in promoting his/her business. My father has owned a carpet installation business for 40 years and because of his excellent work never had to spend a cent in advertising at all. On top of that, repeat customers from decades ago still come to him to replace their old carpet with a new one.

I tend to join him in mirroring his business model. I don't advertise much and I let my athletes do the talking. 

At one time, I thought that certification was the way to a successful business. I thought if I had a USAT Triathlon Coach certification, a USA Swimming certification, a USATF Running Certification, and an ISSA fitness trainer certification, that I would look impressive on a business card. Impressive enough for customers to flock to my door.

Business doesn't work that way. People respond to RESULTS, not titles.

The certification process is so simple that anyone with a basic knowledge of training can get them. As long as you have the money to shell out, that piece of paper is as good as yours.

And in order to keep that piece of paper, you continue to shell out the bucks every couple of years on Contiuing Education Credits, which are simply videos that you can purchase online and answer a couple of softball questions to show your knowledge in what the video shows you.

"But don't you get insurance from certification authorities?", you might ask.

Well yes, but with so many holes in them that they look like swiss cheese. For example,  the USA Triathlon Certification provides coaching insurance for their certified coaches...but it only works with athletes who are also USA Triathlon members. 

Now I coach a lot of beginners toward their first triathlon. I'm to force them into a USA Triathlon membership before they even get a chance to participate in the sport?

Let's call most of these certifications what they really are. They are a money-maker all right...for the certification authorities!

All they really have to do is sit back, let some cheap software print out the certificates, then mail it to you.

Once I saw the writing on the wall (and my diminished wallet), I decided to let these expirations expire one at a time. And saved a bundle of money in the process.

Which paid for my own private insurance. And one that covers just about everybody I train.

My dear old Dad was right after all. Base the business by results, not titles. And do such a good job that people will come back to you time and time again, with their friends in tow.

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Last reminder for the New York City Ironman and Ironman Mont Tremblant. Registration opens at noon today. The field will fill very fast, so make sure you're online at exactly 12 noon today or you'll miss out.

Regarding the swims clinics at Great Kills Park. All swim clinics will start at 10AM, when the lifeguard is on duty. The transitions clinics will be an hour afterward, after the swim clinics are over. The cost is only $15 to attend and are great for those who either have a fear for the open water, want to improve on your sight-seeing, or want to become more effective in not-so-perfect conditions.

Friday Night Group Trail Runs are at the High Rock Parking Lot starting the week. They are free to join, and all abilities are welcome. The run starts at 7pm.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Thoughts - June 14 - Ironman New York

I have a slew of information that I want to share, but I try to keep my blogs from being lengthy.

So I'll do the next best thing. I'll run a rapid series of shorter blogs for this week, keeping the topics short and to the point.

The first such topic is the newly proposed Ironman in New York City for 2012

Now unlike a significant number of athletes who criticize the race, I do like Ironman. Their fees might be high, but they do happen to take care of the athletes from start to finish, and I've had no complaints at all when I did their races.

Plus, in the world of economics, if the demand is there, the price is justified. For those who regularly criticize the prices, sorry. You can always choose to do other iron distance triathlons that cost half as much. The Great Floridian Triathlon is one of them. The Full Vineman in California is another such race.

With that little rant out of the way,  I wasn't surprised when I saw the proposed fee for the Ironman in New York City. As a matter of fact, my first reaction was laughter.

The race will cost about $1000 to enter.

Heck, figure in the high cost of living in New York and New Jersey, the tons of permits that they had to obtain from those two states. Oh, and you got to figure in the bribes and kickbacks they had to shell out also. Heck, these are two big government states after all, right?

Also figure in all those people who can shell out the bucks also. Yep, those in the financial sector who benefitted from the huge TARP bailouts that were given to them by the taxpayer. 

Add in all of the above and you got the perfect storm for a huge entry fee.

Although I had a fleeting interest in doing a race like this in my backyard, the $1000 fee is just a tad too expensive for my tastes.

Also, all of the Ironman triathlons I did (6 in all) were *waaaaaay* outside of the tri-state area (British Columbia, New Zealand, Kentucky). In fact I had to fly out to all of them. This was a good thing because I treated these races as a vacation to get away from the tri-state area. Traveling every so often is a good thing; these races were an excuse to get away from the daily grind.

Although I am excited that an Ironman is in my backyard, I still had reservations against entering the race, even if the fee was only $500. It would not be classified as a "get away" race in my personal book. If I had a choice of Ironman, I would definitely choose to go to Ironman Mont Tremblant instead for the travel (the Ironman race up in Mont Tremblant, Quebec was also created at the same time as New York City). I've never been up to Mont Tremblant before, and heard it's a beautiful area.

That is, if I wanted to do Ironman again. Right now, the desire is just not there yet. Give it some time though, and I might enter one within the next few years.

Besides, I'm doing the double ironman race in October anyway. I figure an Ironman just isn't enough anymore. :-)

Still, I will definitely be out there that day cheering people on. And for those who brave the fee and enter this race, I wish you well with your training and with your race!

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For those who want to enter Ironman New York City, the entry process starts at noon on June 15. Ironman Mont Tremblant also opens up at the same time, in case you want to do the "travel to a beautiful area" thing.

Every Friday night during the summer, we will be having a group trail run through the Greenbelt. Although we started on Manor Rd., we will move the run over to the High Rock Parking Lot this Friday (June 17). The runs are about 4-6 miles. Although we held at 4 miles the last 2 weeks, the new location will help us extend those runs to 6 miles for those who want the extra couple of miles on the trails. It was hard to extend the runs when we started on Manor Rd. due to the combination of the confusing trails in that area and the waning daylight. 

The calendar to the right here has been filled for the summer with events that I'll be doing. Go ahead and take a look! There are group bike rides, group weekend trail runs, and some swim clinics for those who want to improve their triathlon swim times. If interested, come on down; I'll be glad to have you!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Thoughts - June 3 - The Summer Begins, Tri-ing the 70.3

It's been about 3 weeks since my last posting as I lick my wounds from the Massanutten DNF and recover from the broken toe. I've finally started to put a full week of running this week to get myself ready for Leadville (2009 video).

This time, injury or not, I'm getting to that finish line.

I understand that DNFs are part of the process, but they never really sit well with me.

So Leadville is the current target. The fact that two other people will be flying out there with me to aid me is also more reason to finish this race. Granted, it's going to be a great week out west with both of these guys, but I know finishing the race will make it all the more worthwhile.

Leadville isn't the only race on the calendar either.

I do have several triathlons, runs, and swims that are included also. I rebuilt my bike for that reason alone, to keep my triathlon base active as I pursue the ultramarathons.

There might also be a half-ironman in September also.

There is an ulterior motive for that half Ironman...the Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon (SOS). The only time I raced it I loved it. I also came in 6th overall that year, and I performed well in that race. It is a highly unusual race in that the bike comes first, then we run and swim through the various trails and lakes until we get to Skytop Tower at the top of the Gunks. The swim, which is historically my strongest discipline, actually appears in the latter half of the race (instead of first). With that I was able to power through that race very well.

In order to get into the race in 2012, I need to have completed a half-ironman in the last 2 years. That is why I need to do a half-ironman this year.

Although a sub 5 hour Ironman is probably a tall order, I know I can easily crack 5:30 and qualify for the SOS.

The Half-Ironman I'm looking at is on the Shoreman Half-Ironman in NJ on September 10.

It sounds like a very flat course, the venue being close to Atlantic City, but that would hopefully make for a very fast bike and run split.

It would be my first half-ironman in about a decade.

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I will be starting group trail runs on Friday nights during the summer. For the first 2 weeks we will begin on Manor Road in front of the JCC and utilize the trail there. After 2 weeks, thanks to the Greenbelt Conservancy, she has invited us over to the High Rock Parking lot for the rest of the summer.

Which is great since the course is basically the same, but from the other end.

After August, when the daylight is curtailed, I might have to change the venue to maybe the Fitness Path along Forest Hill Road. Sure, it's not true trail running, but it's the next best thing.

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Speaking of the Gunks, there is also a Fat Ass 25k/50k in the Gunks on June 11. This race is organized by one of the NY Flyers club, and is free, although a nominal donation is recommended. Let me know if you're interested and I'll give you the gory details of that race.

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The folks who put on the Holiday Marathons in Van Cortlandt Park are putting on a Woodstock of sorts of running in upstate NY in late July. It's called the Catskill Running Festival and it sounds to be a great week of running the trails up in the Catskills. I will be going down there for 3 days and participate in 2 of the longer trail runs there. Check out the website and let me know if you're going.