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.
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!)
Merrell Barefoot Trail Glove
Merrell, the outdoor/sporty shoe company, recently came out with a line of minimalist "barefoot" shoes
that actually look pretty cool. Priced at $110, they're a bit pricey, but they have style and aren't as crazy looking as Vibram Five Fingers.Along with the launch of the new sneakers, they created a website with introductory barefoot running lessons. While none of the four videos mention Pose specifically, they certainly do use most of the of the Pose running principles, especially the "Good Form" clip, which mentions good posture,
minimum 180 steps per minute cadence, and leaning from the ankles.The site is definitely worth a look, and if you're interested in proper running form, either barefoot or in minimalist sneakers like
Merrell's new "Glove" line, sign up for a Pose running lesson with me!
Nike recently came out with photos of a prototype stick-on foot protector, probably for no other reason than to lift the spirits of the barefoot/minimalist running crowd. Are they for runners, gymnasts, or for fashion? Who knows.
These sole pads come in contact with the ground where the majority of your foot touches, saving them from dirt and street grime. The midfoot and arch will still get dirty (this is a fact based on my barefoot running experience) so these aren't totally that smart. Maybe if Nike came out with a full-foot concept design it would gain more traction (no pun intended.)
I am skeptical of the practicality of this new release, but am also encouraged that Nike is taking an interest in minimalism beyond their "barefoot" (read not minimalist by any means) Nike Frees. If Nike or any other shoe company needs a tester for their minimalist products, don't hesitate to contact me. I have a marathon to train for in 2011 and will racking up the miles, mostly in my Vibram Five Fingers.
Oh yea, thanks to Melanie for the heads up on the foot pads. She rocks!
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!
My star client Melanie recently sent me over a general interest article written up by the New York Times about the popularity of barefoot running.
The article came out just in time for this past Sunday ING New York City Marathon. Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the race this year, but I can imagine there was a solid number of either barefoot or minimalist runners in the throng. I only have to complete one more New York Road Runner's
race to get guaranteed entry into next year's marathon - woo hoo!!!The short article is worth the quick read, and even provides a link to the Barefoot Runners Society, of which I am now a member.
Smiling birthday boy!
My big 30th birthday was this past Saturday, and I decided to do something selfish and go for a day hike with Dynamic Outdoors, and NYC-based adventure tour company
. I've done two day hikes with them in the past, and it's always fun and always the nature always beautiful. My buddy Zev came along for the trip, along with about 25 other brave souls.
I was excited to try out the hike in my newish Vibram Five Finger Trek Sports, which have a beefier and more rugged sole than other VFF styles. I did a hike last summer with my friend MCheezy in my old KSO's, and while I felt surefooted the whole hike, my feet were killing me afterward and I broke my right pinkie toe. I hobbled around for at least two weeks after that, so this time around I was hoping my Trek Sports would save me from the pain.
The DO van made a couple of pickup stops at 9am, and then we were on way to Wawayanda State Park in New Jersey. The foliage this time of year is in the middle of changing, so we were lucky and saw some beautiful colors once we got a bit north of the city. So the trip was part hike and part rock scramble, which I interpreted as climbing up steep yet not difficult terrain on hands and feet. The key to scrambling is to always have three points of contact on the ground (ie. two hands and one foot) so you're always supporting your bodyweight. I've had some experience with this in the past, but I never found it difficult nor too scary. Until today.
After a short walk on the start of the trail, we encountered a ridiculous uphill, consisting of fallen boulders down the side of a huge hill/mini mountain. It looked as though giants threw down ginormous boulders from the top of the hill, and they just piled up haphazardly to form an unsafe and intricate staircase. At first it looked like fun, but as I began the ascent I found that many of the boulders were unsteady, and there were deep holes in many of the spaces between two rocks. Basically you better not step in a crack, and you better make sure the rock your stepping on won't suddenly become dislodged and tumble down the mountain. As we got higher, the rocks got smaller and smaller, and even more unsteady. You had to use your hands and feet to climb, mostly for safety reasons, but also to help with balance. Every now and again a rock you were stepping on or holding onto would separate from the hill and go tumbling down onto the slower climbers. Luckily nobody was hurt all day from falling rocks, but it was mandatory to give a loud shout of "ROCKS!!!" whenever you sent one flying downward.
A bit further up the hill, once most of the scary rock climbing was beneath me, I encountered a short stretch of uphill at an extreme angle without much to hold on to. I tried reaching for the roots of a young tree, but the roots started to come up. I stuck that right hand back into the dirt, redigging in my other three points of contact , suddenly frozen. I was basically hugging the mountain for my life, knowing that if my foot slipped in the dirt I'd go tumbling down backwards, without much of anything to break my fall. It wasn't as if I was going to fall of a cliff, but more like slide down the hill with nothing by thin trees and hard rocks to break my momentum (and my legs, arms, face, etc.) Luckily there was a tour guide right above me, but when he offered help I realized there wasn't a thing he could do. It was just too steep. I dug back in and made a lunge for a tiny rock, hoping my weight wouldn't pry it loose from the dirt, and was able to keep climbing. When finally I reached a safe-ish area to rest I realized my fingernails were full of dirt, and one of them on my right hand was oozing blood and dirt. Sweet. The pain wasn't so bad, as the adrenaline was still rushing through my body.
The rest of the hike was fairly scary too, but nothing elicited as much panic as that little incident toward the beginning. Not to get into detail about the rest of the scramble, but going down a steep descent is just as hard, if not harder, than going up. If you start gaining just a bit too much momentum, you're toast, and broken bones would be the least of your worries.
The upside to all the climbing was that we got some spectacular autumnal views of the valley below, with yellows, browns and oranges dominating the landscape. Check out some of these pictures!
My VFF Trek Sports did amazingly well during all the scrambling, and my feet were always well protected. My foot did not flex nearly as much as when I wore my VFF KSOs on last year's hike, but I was still more agile than with rigid hiking boots. After hours of scrambling and brief breaks watching the real brave people in our group try to rock climb sheer faces, we finally got a chance to do some good old fashioned hiking. At first we started off at a good clip, and then slowed down a bit to admire the yellow forest. After a while, however, a few of us broke away from the rest of the pack, and began running through the rocky trail. This was by no means safe, but it sure was fun. I stubbed my toes a number of times, but luckily the firm rubber toe covering of my VFFs saved me from any broken toes. Last year I broke my right pinky toe at least once on that hike (is it possible to rebrake an already broken digit?) but this year the same hit into the side of a rock was no more than a 10-second nuisance before the pain went away. I still took many small steps when I ran, and used my Laskially-enhanced eyeballs to avoid any major disasters, but my feet still would have been toast without the Trek Sports.
I definitely did not feel as "one" with nature on this hike as with last year's due to my different VFF's, but it was worth not being in constant pain. There's no way I would have ever run on a leaf-covered trail last year, but I felt very secure with my beefy toe-shoes. They do give you more freedom and flexibility than hiking boots, but nowhere near the same closeness to the ground as with KSO's. The lugged tread definitely saved me from slipping and sliding down the mountain, which leads to this recommendation:
The Vibram Five Finger Trek Sports are amazing for hiking, and all the extra protection on top of the toes is an excellent feature. The tread on the bottom is perfect for digging into the ground, and the ability to use your toes for extra traction is something hiking boots just can't do. I'd highly recommend these shoes for any hike, but would stick to other thin-soled versions, like the KSO, Bikila, or Sprint for everyday walking and running.
My final recommendation is to check out a guided trip with Dynamic Outdoors
! Igor Bass always picks fun yet challenging hikes, and provides trapped New Yorkers with an escape from the city.
I was born a scramblin' man...
I love the fall
Staten Island Ferry
The Staten Island Half Marathon
is the fifth and final half marathon in the New York Road Runner's Half Marathon Series. My goal for 2010 was to run all five halfs in all five boroughs, and today I achieved my goal, and man does it feel good! (Though I'm wicked sore at the moment!)I wasn't expecting to do well on this race for a few different reasons. First was that I hadn't had much time to train recently. My trip to Spain got me off my schedule, though I was able to get in three runs since I returned. The next reason is that my best mate Josh (I'm Australian for the rest of this entry) had his 30th birthday party last night, on 10-10-10 (FYI: 10+10+10=30!)
I had to have at least a few drinks to celebrate. Finally, I started developing a stuffy nose and a foggy head Saturday morning, which unfortunately got worse throughout the day. All in all, I only got 4.5 hours of sleep last night, though I constantly woke up due to my stuffy nose.
I woke up at 6am and felt like a piece of crap. I met up with my friend Mary at the SI Ferry and kept repeating how much I wanted to go home and crawl back into bed. But I had a goal to run all five half marathons, and I'd just have to suck it up and build some character. The air was very cool in Staten Island when we arrived at 8am, reaching only in the low 50's. I used the wonderful port-a-potties and then got into my corral with two minutes to go before the race. Phew!The first few miles went by fairly fast, and thankfully my nasal passages opened up and I was able to breathe, though I frequently had to make use of the pocketful of tissues I carried. The course was mostly flat, though there were of plenty of hills that kept things interesting and challenging. The first few miles abutted the water, making for pretty views.I don't think I ever really woke up during the race, but I do remember feeling pretty good until about mile six when I hit a mini wall. I noticed a lot of people passing me, but all I wanted to do was finish under two hours, so I didn't care. Run your own race Benny, run your own race.Things got a bit easier after mile eight, and I remember watching the slower runners go past me on the other side of the road after the turnaround. That kept my mind occupied and my body on cruise control. Around mile 10 I realized I could set a new PR if I hustled, so I stepped it up a tiny bit and planned for a burst for the last mile. I probably ran a seven minute mile on number 12, and before I knew it the race was over. My final time was 1:40:20 for a 7:40 minute mile pace, which was only 35 seconds slower than my PR at the Bronx Half Marathon in August. Not bad for feeling like crap and not getting much sleep!My feet felt pretty sensitive due to the rough Staten Island pavement, and I guessed I had at least one blister on my right foot (yup, it was a fairly big blood blister...ewe.)
The race really wasn't all that bad, but I felt very tired afterward, and was grateful I didn't have to wait to catch the ferry back to Manhattan. I didn't see any other VFF-clad runners on the course, though I did see at least three while on the ferry. It feels great to have done five half marathons this year, and I'm really happy I made it a priority to complete them all. I'm also impressed that I sustained zero injuries this whole year (knock on wood), even though I've run more miles this year than any other my whole life. I truly enjoy running, and I couldn't have done it without Pose running and my Vibram Five Fingers.
Cruising near the finish!
So this Sunday at 8:30am I'll be running my fifth and final half marathon of the year, thus accomplishing my 2010 goal of running all five NYRR 5-Borough Half Marathons. A few years ago I couldn't even run two miles without knee pain, but today I run pain free and HAPPY due to Pose running
and my Vibram Five Fingers
.Today's Quick Workout Of the Day is just a run outside. You'll be doing a fartlek (tee hee), which is a combination of anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Basically you'll be running at your normal pace, then picking up the pace to a sprint for a short time, then back down to normal pace. It will give you a better workout than just running at one average pace, and it will actually make you a faster runner overall. Bring a stopwatch and give it a go - let me know how it worked out for you!QWOD for Saturday or Sunday, October 9th or 10th
- Run 2 minutes at an easy pace
- Sprint for 30 seconds
- Run 2 minutes at an easy pace
- Sprint 30 seconds
- Run 2 minutes at an easy pace
- Sprint for 30 seconds
- Run 2 minutes at an easy pace
- Sprint 30 seconds
VFF's on the NYC subway
My kickbutt bootcamper Melanie sent me this link to an article in the Gothamist
, a local NYC blog. I guess someone spotted a VFFer on the subway and was taken aback by the awesomeness that is the KSO's. Very funny stuff!