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.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The 2014 Ultra Schedule, Raising the Bar on Western States and Wasatch, and Halloween Candy

Possibilities, possibilities!

A lot of "what ifs" on my schedule.

What if I make the UTMB lottery? What if I make the Hardrock or Western States lottery? Grand Slam of Ultrarunning again if I win the Western States lottery? Rocky Mountain Slam if I win the Hardrock lottery? What if I get shut out of all three lotteries? Do I go for the Midwest Slam? The Beast Series? And is there any room for me doing the Fat Dog 120 in British Columbia in Canada?

The Barkley?...shhh.

Let me lay out some things I DO know about for 2014...

I will be starting my structured training next week, establishing a base. This will put me on "standby" in case I do choose to do The Beast series. The first race of that series, Holiday Lake 50k, is the first weekend in February, so I have to be at least minimally prepared for that.

2008 Holiday Lake 50K ++. Photo by Andrew Wilds Photography

To help get ready minimally for the beginning of the year, I will be doing two early season races, the Watchung 50k run by the NJ Trail Series, and the Batona 50 mile Fat Ass on January 19. Both runs will be at a very leisurely pace. If I do choose to do The Beast and tackle Holiday Lake in February, those races should help me out a bit.

Going to tempt the Jersey Devil Again in January. Hope I don't get eaten by it. ;-)


Now here's the problem with The Beast. I would have to take six road trips to western Virginia and I don't want to do this be myself. I would only do The Beast if there was a good group going and can split drive times and travel expenses with. Eight hours of driving by myself is not something I look forward to. So I will be asking any area ultrarunners if they would be interested in doing The Beast.

For those who don't know what The Beast entails, it basically involves three 50k races in the spring, then the Grindstone 100 miler, the Mountain Masochist 50 miler, and Hellgate 100k in the fall. It's actually very convenient timing is it is out of the way of any summer races that I have my name in the lottery for.

Then there is the Midwest Slam. This involves four, maybe five 100 mile races if you do the Super Slam that start in the late spring and ends in late summer. The five races look very organized indeed, so it would be worth it to take a train ride to all of these races and camp out there. Again, it would be nice if there was a group doing this too, so I'll be asking around.

Trophy for a successful Midwest Slam.


Then there is Fat Dog 120. One of our Canadian Slammers, Iris P., first pointed toward this race as a great possibility if I strike out in all my lotteries. The course is plenty difficult. The men's course record is nearly 28 hours. 28 hours?!! Holy crap...what would I be getting into?

Not to mention The Barkley...so I'm not mentioning that. Shhh.

With everyone racing but me, I am absolutely chomping at the bit to race again. My promise not to race after the Grand Slam ends when 2013 ends, but I can at least start doing some training again to get myself in decent shape to run the early races.

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Disjointed Thoughts Section

My Grand Slam of Ultrarunning Shadowbox is complete.


Now I just need to find room to hang it.

The Western States has eliminated all 50 milers for qualification to its 2015 race. For the most part, a lot of people, including me, have agreed with that decision. So many people have been entering the race that they were forced to raise the bar on the lottery qualifications. Now it's only 100k and 100 milers.

The Hardrock 100 has also raised the bar on its lottery. They have already had a very short list of races that qualify for their lottery. Well, the list has grwon a lot shorter. I can definitely understand eliminating Leadville from the list, since Lifetime Fitness has taken the race and placed more than 1000 runners on the course each year. The resulting chaos on the trails and on the roads, especially near the turnaround at Winfield, made for a trying time. Since it went against some of the core philosophies of ultrarunning, they decided to take it off their list.

The other eliminations, however, were puzzling.

Tahoe Rim Trail eliminated? HURT 100 eliminated? Those two were really tough trail races. I'm surprised that they were eliminated?

Massanutten? Now there's a real surprise. I understand that big hills are difficult, but in my opinion, severe rockiness is even worse. As a matter of fact, a lot of the runners who do Massanutten that normally train in the Rockies found this course to be very very tough.

To the Hardrock committee...take a look at part of the Massanutten course here. Now imagine doing 100 miles of this. Because that is exactly what the course entails. Maybe you can now understand why I consider this race one of the toughest 100 milers in the US.


I truly believe that if you can finish Massanutten, you can finish anything.

But hey, it's their race; they can do what they want with it. Other than Leadville, I just hope that they can reconsider these other races for their qualification into their lottery.

Lastly, Halloween. And the idea of giving kids candy.

Sure, I've gone trick-or treating as a kid, and definitely looked forward to getting candy.

But I think today, we are really going overboard on this "giving candy" thing.

So I won't be contributing to that unhealthy tradition. Instead, I'll give them some change instead.

Yeah, you can call me a heel, but today, kids are perhaps in the worst shape I've ever seen them. Maybe it's due to the overall lower quality food kids eat nowadays compared to the past. Maybe it's the elimination of physical education programs in the schools. But the kids today are so obese, that I really do feel sorry for them.

Sadly, I've seen more and more kids look like this. I'm absolutely terrified of their future.


They are due for a bleak future.

Listen, what people give to the kids today for Halloween is their choice. I'm not into telling other people what to do with the trick-or-treaters today. If you want to give them candy, that is perfectly fine with me.

But for me personally, I would prefer to give them small change instead. Sure they can turn around and buy candy with the money. I definitely understand that. With with the amount of candy they would be getting today, I can easily argue that the last thing they do with money is to buy candy with it.

And even if they do buy candy with it, that would be THEIR choice, not mine. All I did was give them the option to buy something else instead of candy. So my conscience is clear.

Anyway, have a HEALTHY Halloween. And take your hand out of that Halloween candy!!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thoughts for Wednesday - SITEC, Pine Barrens Run, and Races

One thing about the recovery that I'm in is that I get to focus on other aspects that are important to me.

Like the new club that we're forming.

I love that there are people out there interested in longer events. There are a lot of short, 5k events out there, but it seems like a significant number of people are looking into exploring their limits in longer races.

That is where this club comes in. The club name? SITEC, or, the Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club. The focus is truly on longer races, starting at the half-marathon distance and up to 100 miles and beyond. Same with triathlons. We do focus on the sprint distances in tris, as well as the Olympic Distance, the half-Ironman Distance, and the full Ironman distance.

And beyond. There are races longer than the Ironman too. Just put in a search for "double Ironman or "triple Ironman, or even "triple deca Ironman" (30 x Ironman), and you'll get races.

 Anyone willing to do a race that is 30 times Ironman?

Oh, and the true focus of the club? Having fun while expanding the limits of human potential.

Training can be intense, but one cannot leave the fun behind. Fun is really the reason why we do these endurance events to begin with, right? That is what keeps us training, so it cannot be left out.

And that will be my contribution to the new club...keeping things fun. :-)

If you're interested in the club, you can sign up at our meetup group here: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Triathlon-and-Endurance/

You can also sign up in our new group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/351283305015928/

Hope to see you soon. :-)
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When I decided on the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning, I made a huge promise to myself that I was to stay away from big races for three or four months after the Grand Slam was over.

That means the rest of this year. For the most part, 2013 is pretty much in the books.

But I'm not through with exploring trails with people though. There are a number of Fat Ass runs that I'm looking forward to this fall.

The first one I just did this past weekend. It was called the Batty Fatty race, put on by director Angie C., who is herself an ultrarunner. The 15 miles was in Wharton State Forest, in the heart of the Pine Barrens in NJ. A lot of the trail runners from the Raritan Valley Road Runners were doing this race also.

How can I not do this race? :-)

Remember that "fun" thing that I said above? Well, exploring new places is part of that fun.

I don't get much time to travel to the Pine Barrens and run on the trails there, so this was a good opportunity.

None of the runners got eaten by this critter; we all made it back alive. :-)


And it turned out to be a great run too. I had a good conversation with Heather S. during the entire run, managed not to get lost...sort of, and enjoyed the beautiful environment of the Pine Barrens on a perfect day weatherwise (50s and sunny).

She along with 4 other people will be going to the Grand Canyon this weekend to attempt the "rim to rim to rim". For people who don't understand, this means going from one edge of the canyon (called the rim) to the other side, then run back to the original side. In all, the attempt is about 44 miles.

Ah yes, the infamous warning sign not to hike down to the river and back on the same day. But the sign doesn't apply to runs to the OTHER RIM and back, right?


Oh, and by the way, this is on my bucket list. The only reason I'm not going is because of that huge promise to rest that I mentioned above.

I'm totally jealous that they're going. But I wish them the best of luck.

As for the Pine Barrens Run, well, the race director of Batty Fatty is planning a 50 mile Fat Ass Run on the entire Batona Trail in January. And I'll be there for it. January is a new year, and that promise I made will be over. :-)

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SITEC has a weekly run scheduled for Saturday at the College of Staten Island. Parking lot#6 near the track is where we meet. It'll be a smallish run, since it is a day before the NYC Marathon. Oh, and about the marathon, if you're looking to see the race live, I'll be heading out on the ferry Sunday morning to get a vantage spot around First Ave. If you're interested, feel free to contact me if you want.

Also, some noted news...Brooklyn Triathlon has cancelled its race in November of this year (swim in November at Coney Island...brrr!). Instead, they will do the race on October 27 of next year (swim in late October at Coney Island...brrr!).

November 1-15 - 2014 NYC Triathlon lottery opens. Lottery fee is $10, $302.50 if selected.

November 1 at midnight (or Halloween night after the trick-or-treating ends), 2014 Survival of the Shawangunks Triathlon registration begins. They will fill the first 100 slots, the rest will go into a lottery to determine the remaining slots. Lottery selection is $25 and will be applied to the race application if selected. Total fee for registration is $400. In the past 2 years, you must have either done a previous SOS race, completed a 70.3 tri in under 7 hours, or 140.6 tri in under 15 hours to qualify.

November 9-16 - Lottery for 2014 Western States 100 opens with the actual drawing on December 7. Must qualify with a listed 50 miler in 11 hours, 100k in 14 hours, or 100 miler in under the official cut-off time. No lottery fees, but registration fee will be due immediately if selected (fee will be listed when you sign up).

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

First Anniversary of Hurricane Sandy - Reflection

One year ago, Sandy roared ashore onto Staten Island and into the history books.

None of us ever expected to see a storm this ferocious coming, but it did. Weather forecasters have stated that there was a chance that severe damage can happen to Staten Island and its surrounding areas if the conditions were right.

And they were right that day:

1)  The storm took an unusual path and took a left turn right into NJ. Staten Island was caught in the worst part of the storm.

2) We had a slow moving storm. The brunt of the storm spanned two high tides, which was bad. The first high tide couldn't drain off due to the winds driving them on shore. When the second high tide hit, it just built upon the water from the first high tide.

3) There was a full moon that night. Astronomical high tides happen during a new and full moon due to its alignment with the sun. The second high tide that built over the first one was when the full moon was high. As a result, the resulting storm surge was the crippling blow to Staten Island, the Rockaways, and the Jersey Shore.

My aunt, who recently passed away, and her husband were caught in their house as the flood waters filled the first floor of their home. They were rescued by the firefighters during the height of the storm.

The area afterwards was surreal. It looked like a bomb hit the area. I seriously thought that I was in a war zone. I had a good chance to look around while helping her clean up and couldn't believe what I saw.

Looking through the back yard of my aunt's house, two days after Sandy. There is a swimming pool under all that debris somewhere.


The block where my aunt resided on looked like a war zone.


As for me, I wasn't directly involved, but indirectly I suffered a huge hit. Most of the people I was coaching lived on the shore. I nearly lost my entire coaching business due to this storm. And it's understandable too. What I do is a luxury, not a necessity. People will not worry about their marathon times if their house is underwater. That is definitely understandable. But the resulting financial loss put me in a bit of a pinch, so much that I had to scramble for ideas on how to retain those people (I gave some of my services for free, just to give them a helping hand in a dire situation) and how to start everything back up from scratch again.

A couple of my ideas for drumming up business did generate a lot of friction between me and some of the people I know. It's really times like these that determine who are your real friends and who are not.

Although I wasn't directly affected by the storm, but I was still a victim to it.

Today, people are still feeling the effects of that storm. Although my coaching has picked up quite a bit from that fateful storm, I still know that people are still rebuilding from that horrible storm and I feel for them.

It also gave me a little foresight to prepare myself a little better financially in case a storm like this hits. And I think people in general are a bit more wary and won't be caught with their guard down the next time a calamity like this hits close to home.

I don't think all of us will be caught with our pants down next time.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Challenging the Dogma of the Government Sponsored Food Pyramid

Another day, another credible study debunking the "benefits" of the government sponsored "food pyramid".

Another research paper is suggesting that saturated fat isn't bad for you at all. Funny how all this was kept from the people after all these years...

The link is here, by the way: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-saturated-fat-20131022,0,2193813.story#axzz2ipyaTllV



Yet, we are STILL teaching the Food Pyramid to our kids in the schools as if that was a fact. As it turns out, it seems like the Food Pyramid "fact" is really dogma.

For al those who don't know what the term "dogma" is, here is a nice definition of it from Wikipedia:

Dogma is a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.[1] It serves as part of the primary basis of an ideology or belief system, and it cannot be changed or discarded without affecting the very system's paradigm, or the ideology itself. They can refer to acceptable opinions of philosophers or philosophical schools, public decrees, religion, or issued decisions of political authorities.[2]
Dogma is basically teaching people that the established theories of a certain topic are really facts that cannot be challenged. But they aren't really facts at all. People were taught in the dark ages that the world was flat. That was a theory disguised as fact.

The problem with teaching these to students is that they will leave school with a closed mind. Any suggestion to the contrary of dogma is met with derision and laughter.

You still think the schools nowadays are teaching the right things to students? Or are they really programming our kids to accept some facts that aren't really facts at all? They still are today. And as a result, people are more resistant to change their minds on alternatives to dogma.

It took me literally decades before I had to "deprogram" myself from my high school teachings from when I was a kid to actually ACCEPT the fact that maybe the Pyramid Diet wasn't good for people. The fact that my athletic performance actually shot UP the past two years by going against the Food Pyramid Dogma just about clinches it for me.

Sometimes you have to wonder what else the schools teach our kids that aren't exactly true?

Let's compile a list of dogma in nutrition, shall we?


1) Salt in the diet is "bad for you."

Really? Turns out that you actually NEED the stuff to live. Oh, and it tends to LOWER heart disease, not raise it like we are commonly taught about in schools. Here is a link to a good article about that. The best salt to have is unrefined sea salt, as it has a balance of potassium and magnesium as well as sodium. All three electrolytes are needed for basic human function. Lowering this will only complicate that process.



2) Cholesterol is "bad for you."

Recent studies have actually shown that cholesterol is not the culprit in heart disease. Oops! Wonder how "cholesterol = bad" became dogma? It could be that the pharmaceuticals might be making a financial killing off this dogma, but some of you might call me a "conspiracy theorist" on that one.

Again, here is a link about cholesterol really not being bad for you here.

If cholesterol doesn't cause heart disease, what does? Sinatra is among a growing number of physicians who point the finger at inflammation, which is caused by a number of things. Eating too much sugar is at the top of the list.

Oh gee. All those people taking those expensive statins for cholesterol might actually be contributing to their demise? How come I'm not surprised?


3) Grains are "good for you."

Yeah sure? Take a look at that Food Pyramid and you'll see grains on that fat bottom part of it. Basically we are told that grains should be the foundation of our diet to live healthy lives.

Basically, tell that to the cows that are forced fed the stuff so that they can fatten up quickly so that the meat that comes from them are "juicy and tender". Interesting how that works, huh? Think about it, if grains can fatten up cows very quickly, what do you think it does to us humans?

She'd rather have greens than grains. Maybe you should too.


Grains basically shock the system by dumping a whole lot of sugar into the blood stream. The body has to go into overdrive with insulin to sweep all those sugars out. It's basically converted to fat in the process. Oh, and frequent "sugar dumps" and the severe insulin response that follows can lead to type 2 diabetes when people get older.

After seeing that, grains can hardly be called healthy, can it?

Hey, but don't take it from me, take it from these people here who know better than me:

Grains - Don't Eat Them - http://paleosimplified.com/grains-eat-them-part-2/

Why Grains are Unhealthy - http://www.marksdailyapple.com/why-grains-are-unhealthy/#axzz2iq7A7aXv

When it comes to diet, it's definitely right to justify the dogma of a high carb, high grain, low fat diet. There is a lot of research that is coming out that is countering that established norm. All people need to do is to keep an open mind to alternatives to that norm by listening and keeping an open mind to the alternatives when it comes to diet and exercise. Because those people might actually be more correct than what you were told in high school.


Friday, October 25, 2013

The New Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club!

I had a busy week, but it turned out to be a success.

First off, a lot of people I know on Staten Island needed a new club to express interest in endurance sports such as triathlon, marathons, and ultrarunning.

So we got together and started the foundations of a new club here on Staten Island.

The name we came up with? The Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club. Or, in short, SITEC!

Nice, eh? I figure so. 

A new club is born. Meet the charter members of the Staten Island Triathlon and Endurance Club!


There were just two other major clubs on Staten Island, and although both have very worthy goals to promote running, they didn't exactly focus on multisport or runs that take over two hours to do. There are a lot of Staten Islanders who share the same sentiment that aren't part of any of those two clubs.

We hope that we can relate to those people.

There is one thing I have to clarify though. I will definitely help facilitate the club and have a huge hand in getting it off the ground, especially when we officially sanction the club with USA Triathlon.

But I ultimately want the club to function on its own, with minimal help from me. Whether it will take a year or several years is anyone's guess, but to have the club functioning on its own would be one hell of an end result.

When that happens, there are just two things I absolutely want out of the club. They are small requests but very substantial ones.

First off, this club has to be a business friendly club. I consider us as a very healthy community, and a healthy community has people in it that use their talents and ply their trade to make that community stronger. It also strengthens our networking capabilities between each other and therefore gives us a stronger club in the process.

I'm not asking that people spam the club with endless amounts of emails. But I do want to promote a "business to business" directory on our future website that promotes each member's businesses and trades. That's not hard to do. And yes, if someone has something to promote, or services that they are discounting, there are several ways to communicating that to the club without inconveniencing those who are at that time not interested in those services.

And the last thing I want the club to do eventually when we get to a point is to enact reasonable term limits on everyone on the eventual Board, and maybe even the Chairs. That includes me too (I'll ultimately reside as a coach with the club, where I truly belong). Term limits on the Board is precisely what we have with the Raritan Valley Road Runners in NJ. That club, with the "new blood" pumping through it year after year, has been one of the strongest running clubs I've seen over the 20+ years I've known it. New members of the Board are always constantly engaged, and bring with them their own strengths and ideas that keep the club vital and strong. As a result, that club continually attracts new runners, a lot of them young runners, that help the club stay vital.

When I do visit that club, I'm one of the "old guys" there now! There are so many new faces on that club that they will continue to be strong.

That is how I want this club on Staten Island to be.

Just grant me those two things, and I'm yours. :-)

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The primary goals of the club is to promote overall fitness through sports, especially through, running, cycling, and swimming, among other things. The primary scope of how that is carried out is through multisport, runs that are preferably 13.1 miles and longer, and adventure runs. Right now, the meetup group is the active group for signing on with the club and can be reached here: http://www.meetup.com/Staten-Island-Triathlon-and-Endurance

The club will hold its ever official run next Saturday (November 2), the day before the NYC Marathon, at the Parking Lot #6 of the College of Staten Island. That is the parking lot next to the track near the Victory Blvd. entrance. The run starts at exactly 8AM. It will be a smallish road run in the beginning to accommodate those who are doing the marathon the next day (maybe 3-4 miles). Those who want to go longer can join me as we go onto the White Trail after the road run and get maybe another 3-4 miles in.

The run for the following weekend will be in the same parking lot, but on a Sunday (November 10). I will probably not be there (going to the Wagathon in the Catskills that day), but I'm hoping that someone can lead in my absence.

As for Marathon Day, if anyone wants to ferry over to NYC to cheer on the runners on First Ave or Central Park, let me know. We can get a good group together. Remember, there are numerous Irish pubs on First Ave, so we can cheer our member runners on while "getting into good spirits". Let me know.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Planning for Next Year!

I LOVE planning for 2014. Especially for other people.

To all of the non-runners out there, they think what we do (Ironman, 100 milers, etc.) is crazy. Maybe, but even the crazy ones need to have an overall plan to get themselves into "crazy" shape so that they can excel in their "crazy" races.

"That's crazy..."

"Utterly insane..."

"See, I told you so...why don't you enter a 5k instead?" ;-)


No matter how tame or crazy the schedule is, it is best to have an overall master plan to get yourself through the season without major injuries. The biggest part of planning is building in your rest, because that is often neglected in the heat of training and can bite you hard in the form of injuries...and at the worst time when your training is in high gear.

If you want to do this...


 ...you need to do enough of this. I can definitely show you how and when.

I do all of this, of course, to all my athletes looking to excel in their athletic performances next year. And to those I don't, I can easily give those a generalized plan so that they can fill it in on their own. The plan is quite cheap...around $25. Just come in with a schedule of your major races and we can hash it out together, usually within an hour.

A master plan is critical to success, and for ultra-endurance athletes, is critical to minimize major injuries during your training build-up. With a master plan, I basically got through the Grand Slam injury free because I knew when to rest and when to train hard. So should you.

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Keeping a promise to myself when I decided to undertake the Slam, I promised myself to not do any more formal races after I was done. I intend to keep that promise.

I know a large group of people going to do the Javelina Jundred at the end of this month. I was sorely tempted to go, but remembered that promise.

Plus, my legs still are reminding me subtle that they need rest. It's not soreness or pain that is reminding me, just the sense of heaviness and sluggishness coming out of them. They definitely need a couple of more months before I'm sure I can train seriously on them again.

These signals are very subtle; I've only gotten around to truly sensing the small signals after taking up ultrarunning. It's amazing how "in tune" most ultrarunners are with their own bodies. As compared to triathletes, they don't need heart rate monitors or GPS machines to determine their exertion or pace. They just "know".

And isn't that one of the reasons we get into shape in the first place, to get to know our bodies well?

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I love running races, but I also love watching other people finish as I cheer them on.

This fall, I'm not racing. I'm on the other side of the fence now, going to races and cheering everyone else on now. A PR here, a PR there and soon I'm celebrating with them as if I did the race. It's great seeing other people do their best .

Coaching. I can't think of another job that has rewards like that. :-)

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Will I do the Grand Slam again? Tough question. I would lean towards, "yes".

But not next year. If I actually do win the Western States lottery next year I would just focus on that race and try for the silver buckle (under 24 hours).

After next year? The Slam would be more of a "maybe". The planets have to align the right way though. :-)

I'll be up for the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning again. Just not next year.