Shana with a sweet sign!
Shana with a sweet sign!
Sunday, November 6, 2011, was the big day: Marathon Day!  I started my training back in July and logged over 250 miles while training for the race.  Everything was going great until I sprained my left ankle in mid-September.  The doctor said I had to stay off it for eight weeks, thus sidelining me from the marathon.  I was crushed.  But with perseverance, determination and a boatload of stubbornness, I decided to push myself and continue on with the training, hedging the injury with twice-weekly physical therapy sessions.

The hard work paid off and yesterday I found myself on a 6am ferry to Staten Island on my way to the ING New York City Marathon!  The morning was cold and there was frost on the ground in SI, but luckily I was dressed in layers, so I was nice and toasty.  I munched on a bagel, downed some Gatorade and water, and ate bites of random "bar food" (those healthy protein energy bars) I had packed in my bag.  I made sure my new Injinji socks were snug and my new Vibram Five Finger Bikila's were flexible and velcroed on tight (who needs laces when you have velcro?)  I sat in a parking lot for about two hours with thousands of other runners in my time wave before they told us to get ready and start heading to our official corrals.  I made use of the bathroom one last time (hey, you shouldn't run on a full stomach) and then headed to the race start.

There wasn't much room to stretch due to the overcrowding, but I found a small clearing and then began my pre-race dynamic stretches.  We waited in the corral for about forty minutes for who-knows-what, so I passed the time chatting with a fellow runner who happened to be standing next to me.  This was his first marathon, but he had done trail races further than 26.2 miles before.  I told him he'd have no problem then with a measly 26.2 miles.

After the national anthem was sung and Mayor Michael Bloomberg gave us a short pep talk, the horn was sounded and we ran en-masse up the slow incline of the Verrazano Bridge out of Staten Island and into Brooklyn.  I focused on my running form (Pose-->Fall-->Pull) and on pacing myself.  One of the biggest problems first-time marathoners have is going out too fast, not leaving themselves anything for the second half of the race.  I felt great as we ran over the bridge, and I kept thinking two things: 1) I'm actually running a marathon!!! and 2) Crap, I still have 25 more miles to go.

The second we exited the bridge and entered Brooklyn I saw thousands of fans clapping, cheering, singing, and urging us on.  It put a HUGE smile on my face and gave me a burst of energy.  There was so much positive energy and so many people happy to see us suckers running.  Without the crowds the run would've been boring, but they made it a memorable experience.

I made sure to grab either Gatorade or water at every other drink station to stay hydrated and avoid getting a migraine later in the evening, which had been a giant problem after some of my long training runs.  Unfortunately, I didn't drink enough, as you'll find out later...

So my goal for the race pre-ankle injury was to finish in 3:30:00, an 8-minute per mile pace, but since the injury I wanted to finish in 3:45:00, and 8:30 minute per mile pace.  And honestly, as long as I finished under four hours I'd be happy.  The first eight miles flew by, and I was in cruise control.  A bit too much cruise control actually.  My average pace to that point was 7:36 minute miles, which was way too fast and not sticking with the game plan on pacing myself.  But I felt great, the crowd was there, the weather was beautiful, my breathing was slow and steady and my feet felt just peachy.  Plus, I just sucked down a Gu Energy gel power pack at mile seven, so life was good.

The energy in Brooklyn stayed high the whole time, and there were small bands performing every quarter mile or so.  That was really cool.  We hit the bridge to head into Queens at the halfway point, and my time was still well under 8:00 miles (1:42:18), and actually just two and a half minutes slower than my half marathon PR (personal record) time of 1:39:55.  I guess pacing myself isn't my strong suit.  I sucked down another gel energy pack and then I was in another borough.

The Queens's crowd was a bit thinner than Brooklyn, but I was able to find my friend Wendy in the mix just before mile 15 which really boosted my morale.  Getting a personal shoutout is the coolest!  Thanks Wendage!

Before I knew it we were on the 59th St. Bridge, and this was the first time in the race I didn't feel 100% anymore.  The only things that kept me going up the never-ending incline was knowing all of Manhattan would be on the other side of the bridge on First Avenue, cheering like mad.

My feet were starting to hurt a bit, and I was worried about getting blisters on the bottoms.  I think I may have cursed out loud at the steep decline ramp exiting the bridge at mile 16.  Good riddance stupid Bridge.

And then BAM!  First Avenue.  I felt like I was the star of some parade or something.  Just people lined up 10 deep to see a bunch of sweaty people run.  There were no words to describe it.  I got that same sensation as when we first entered Brooklyn back at mile two and my mouth opened up into a gigantic smile.  I held my arms out in the air and soaked up the moment.  It was a truly indescribable feeling.

Reality hit soon after as I kept stepping in every crack and pothole First Ave had to offer.  Don't they pave ever?  My feet were hurting at this point pretty good, but without a specific blister spot, I thought I'd be ok.  My feet just felt like they'd been tenderized.  I bought a brand new pair of Vibram Five Finger Bikila's and Injinji socks a couple weeks before the race for the extra cushion in the ball of the foot area.  While my feet were hurting, I couldn't imagine how they'd feel in my old, paper-thin pair.  Yikes!

I kept my eyes peeled for friends along the way, but was disappointed I didn't see anyone I knew.  My sister was waiting with a big old "Go Barefoot Benny" sign, but I passed her unnoticed since I didn't know where she'd be.  Next I looked for my friends Josh and Rachael on 89th St, and then I saw them waving their arms and calling my name.  AWESOME!!!

And then I peeked at my watch to make sure I wasn't early to see my wife and daughter up at 95th St. (mile 19).  I told her to get there no later than 11:55am in case I was early, but that I'd probably be passing them around 12:15pm or later.  The time was 12:05pm, just after noon, so I knew they'd be there.  I stayed left and then I saw them!  Fiona was asleep in her stroller and my mother in-law was at a store making me a big sign (thank you!) but my lovely wife was there waving and screaming for me.  I ran over, pulled her close and gave her a sweaty kiss.  Now THAT was a much needed morale boost!  She's been so patient with my whole marathon training and pulling all the weight when it comes to taking care of our daughter while I'm out dancing on pavement.

Unfortunately, the adrenaline of First Avenue wore off soon after, and it was slow going up into the Boogie Down Bronx to mile 20.  My longest training run and longest distance ever run was 18 miles, so this was unchartered territory for my legs.  The Bronx had some crowds and some music and some spirit, but nothing like the First Ave crowd.  Still, it was a huge help having them there.  And then all of a sudden we were back in Manhattan on 5th Avenue after crossing the Madison Avenue Bridge.

Fifth Avenue.  The home stretch.  This was it.  I was going to finish a marathon!  By possibly crawling.  Uh oh.  At this point, around mile 22, I hit the wall.  Lots of people say you hit the wall at mile 20, so I thought I was in the clear since I was past there already.  My pace felt slow and I knew my form wasn't good, and my hips felt tight from 22 miles of repetitive motion.  I wish I had stretched more.  And paced myself a lot better.  But I mentally girded myself by picture the fast four mile run I had done as my last training run earlier in the week, and how good I felt during it.  And four miles was nothing compared to the longer runs I had done.  But damn, where was Central Park already?!?!

Central Park was my training ground, and I knew every hill and twist intimately.  I was finally home at mile 24.  And then my left leg started to feel tight.  And then CRAMP!  My left hamstring seized up, and I had to force myself to keep it straight.  The crowd in the Park was phenomenal, and some lady cheering said "You can do it, keep going".  I felt like I could run the final two miles no problem, but without the ability to move my legs, I was stuck.  She offered me some chocolate milk for some reason, but I said thanks but no thanks and limped to the fluid station luckily a hundred feet away.  I chugged two Gatorades, bent my legs, and started to run again.  If I had to walk the final two miles I'd come in right around the four hour mark, but I really wanted to get under 3:45.  The goal of 3:30, which seemed so reachable only an hour ago, was now unattainable.  It was crazy to see so many other runners walking or stopping abruptly due to cramping, and I felt lucky I could at least do a 9+ minute per mile pace.

And then just after mile 25, at one of the busiest places on the course, full of thousands of spectators, my right leg cramped up.  I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I couldn't give the crowd a solid run, and I was pissed at myself for being gimpy.  I walked it off yet again and kept running at a turtle's pace.  The finish was just around the corner and up a slight hill, and there was no way I'd let myself walk across the finish line.

I started to feel the cramping again, but I said aloud to msyelf, "Not again.  NO!"  People thought I was probably crazy, but I wanted to finish the race already.  I shortened my stride and finally, finally, finally crossed the finish line in 3:39:14!  Yes!!!

I wish I could say it felt great, but man did it hurt!  We had to walk and keep moving, because sitting allows the blood to pool in the legs, causing clots.  Plus, thousands of people kept arriving every few minutes, so stopping after the finish would cause a traffic jam.  The post-marathon walk was, in my opinion, harder than the actual marathon.  All I wanted to do was sit and stretch and drink fluids, but no - all we could do was walk.  Brutal, but necessary I guess.

The New York City Marathon is an amazing race, and it was an incredible experience made special by the millions of spectators, cheerers and musicians spread along the 26.2 mile course.  And a big thank you to all those who donated to my fundraiser for the University of Massachusetts Hillel House!  I'm still accepting donations to get to that $1,000 goal.  I've gone to each of NYC's five boroughs in a single day during the Five Borough Bike Tour, but never have I imagined that I could run all five in one day.  Just an amazing experience all around!
Barefoot Benny running near 79th and First Ave.
Barefoot Benny running near 79th and First Ave.
Not good Pose form: my back foot should already be pulling off the ground and coming underneath my hip.  Tsk tsk.
Not good Pose form: my back foot should already be pulling off the ground and coming underneath my hip. Tsk tsk.
 
 
Yes yes yes!!!!!!!!!
(Thanks to Mr. Steger for the heads up!)
 

Shoutout!

03/08/2011

1 Comment

 
Spring is right around the corner...
Spring is right around the corner...
My kickbutt client Courtney passed along the gospel of Barefoot Benny Boot Camps to a friend of hers who runs a blog called "Only For Today."  The blog gives a shoutout to Barefoot Benny in a post devoted to getting out and embracing the upcoming spring weather.

The blog is pretty sweet and has some cool ideas, so go ahead and check it out!
 
 
Last night as I sat on my computer scouring the internet for barefoot running related information (because that's how I roll on Thursday nights), I came across a recent Dave Letterman interview with actor Jake Gyllenhaal.  John Durant's website, called Hunter-Gatherer, posted the video in which Gyllenhaal talks about running in minimalist shoes (I'm assuming Vibram Five Fingers) on the streets of New York.  He also mentions how his brother in-law run completely barefoot, and how it's better for your body.  While he didn't get into any biomechanical details nor mention Pose running, it seems as if he's onto something.  Check out the short clip, and have an awesome weekend!
 
 
Cheeseburger rolls
Cheeseburger rolls
I really love helping people lose weight, tone their muscles, and feel great about themselves.  As long a my clients show up and give it 100% (110% is a load of BS) then they'll be happy and I'll be happy.  It's a win-win.

Even my clients who bail on me once in a while and are sometimes not "all there" during class, well, I still love those people too.

But it's the people who complain of stomachaches after eating stuff like this that I am obligated to kick out of my boot camp.  Sorry people, I just have no patience for cupcake hamburgers or Baby Ruth stuffed jalapenos.  Get out of my class!!!


*Full disclosure: you've never lived until you've scarfed down a deep fried Snickers
 
 
Last week the "Today Show" filmed a piece for a story that aired Thursday morning talking about the booming shoe industry.  Part of their story had to do with the barefoot and minimalist running movement, so they filmed the Barefoot Runners NYC club in action.  The creator of the club, John Durant, had invited me to participate in the run last week, but I unfortunately had to teach a kicktush Barefoot Benny Boot Camp at the same time.  Knowing the segment was being filmed on the other side of Central Park kinda tore me up inside, but my clients needed me!  Duty called!

Check out the segment and try to imagine me somewhere in the background between the shoeless guy and the other shoeless guy!
 
 
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Last Tuesday evening I had the incredible opportunity to attend a barefoot running clinic hosted by the legendary Barefoot Ken Bob. Ken Bob is the authority on barefoot running, as he's been doing it for over 10 years now! He's run over 75 marathons...barefoot, and seems to have no aches or pains at his age now of 55. He is very laid back, quite funny, and has a passion for the benefits of barefoot running. He truly enjoys going out and dancing on pavement and being one with the outside world.

He began the clinic by telling us his lengthy discovery of barefoot running, and then began to explain the basics, such as keeping your knees bent, landing on the ball of your foot, and taking smaller steps. Ken Bob has a much different teaching style than Michael Sandler, in that he's more about letting you figure out the feeling, rather than telling you what precisely your legs should be doing.

I think it's amazing that Ken Bob is going across the country giving out barefoot running lessons totally free, and I thank him very much for his visit to Central Park. I can't say that I learned much about the mechanics of barefoot running more than I already knew, but I took away his passion for running naturally and the idea that running doesn't have to be a competition or a race, and that it's all about the love of movement.

For a great introduction into barefoot running and lots more information, check out Ken Bob's website.  If you're interested in getting some hands-on barefoot running and minimalist running training, sign up for one of my barefoot running clinics!

Bonus: Try to find me in the picture! (Hint, my eyes are closed.)
 
 
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For all you runners who don't have an expensive $500 GPS watch that uploads data automatically to a site like dailymile.com, check out this do-it-yourself map website from RunningMap.com. All you have to do is find your route on the map, and drag and drop lines along your route that will calculate your distance. Now get out there and get running (barefoot, of course!)
 
 
Wednesday night I attended a barefoot running clinic led by "Barefoot Running" author Michael Sandler. The event, hosted by the Barefoot Runners NYC Meetup.com group, attracted over 70 barefoot runners, which is pretty awesome! I arrived in Central Park and laughed to myself as a huge group of people, mostly shod in Vibram Five Fingers or just their bare skin, mulled around talking to each other. I've seen other VFF runners in Central Park and during NYRR races, but never have I seen such a large gathering of us.

Once things got underway, Michael Sandler told us about his personal discovery of barefoot running. He used to be a professional athlete who could bike, run, rollerblade, and basically do everything else that could be considered active. After a horrifying blading accident that left his leg mangled, he underwent many surgeries to repair what was left. The doctors place a titanium rod in his leg, among other things, which was a lot better than amputation, but he found it difficult to run again. After becoming frustrated with his sneakers, he took off his shoes and started going barefoot, which enabled him to feel the ground, which in turn enabled his body find a correct form which didn't cause pain. Pretty impressive stuff!

The clinic was a bit different than Erwan LeCorre's or a Pose Running session in that he focused more on how your upper body should be positioned, as opposed to what should be done with your legs. Sandler stressed these few essentials:
  • Your hips must be in a neutral position, instead of tilted down with your bum sticking out
  • Suck your belly in
  • Chest is up and out
  • Bring your arms into a "W" and then roll your shoulders down your back, leaving your arms in a 90 degree angle, with your hands near your ribs and elbows back
  • Straighten yourself up, like somebody is pulling a string from your head
  • Fall forward and take tiny steps and begin running
We practiced this starting position many times, as well as a foot strengthening exercise in which we grabbed the grass with our toes as we walked.

While there was the obvious motive to sell books, Sandler also felt very passionate about spreading the word on barefoot running. He was very genuine and engaging, and was able to cite studies and statistics about how running barefoot can improve your form, make you more efficient, and greatly reduce the risk of injury. While I've never read the book, I heard there are a plenty of drills in it to further educate yourself on how to run. I personally will not be buying the book, but for the beginner it is probably a great read.

If you're interested in learning more about barefoot and minimalist running, sign up for one of my barefoot running lessons in Central Park and find out what all the excitement is about!
 
 
An Austin, Texas, entertainment website wrote up a quick article on the Pose Method of running and included a short video on the basic Pose to change of support move.  If you've taken one of my barefoot running clinics, you know all about transferring from the Pose position into the falling motion by pulling your foot off the ground.  The woman in the video, Valerie Hunt, does an excellent job of demonstrating this pulling motion.

The article interviews a 48-year old man who says running is Pose "almost feels like I'm cheating a little bit."  Once you get the muscle movement down and understand the concept of Pose, you're able to take advantage of gravity to do most of the work for you.  I refer to it as lazy running since all you're doing is trying to get your legs out of the way of your body so you can fall forward faster.

If none of that makes any sense to you, please contact me to come out to a barefoot running clinic in Central Park to learn all about it.  Also, check out posetech.com for more on Pose running, and visit the Links page for some great barefoot running links.

Have an awesome Memorial Day, and enjoy the hot weather we're in for!