Marathon Kickoff

psmk2013Marathon week is usually a fun time in New York City. In addition to the marathon-related activities, there’s also the Halloween Parade in the East Village. This annual freakshow is a spectacle that many marathoners work into their trip and come to town a little early just to bear witness to. There’s also the Poland Spring Marathon Kickoff race, a 5M loop of Central Park that routes competitors along portions of the marathon path including the grandstand finish. For me, in addition to running part of the marathon route, the race offered up the opportunity for a competitive run out after a fairly lengthy break from middle distance competition.

Conditions were perfect as I arrived at the park. The weather was still warm enough for shorts, and short sleeves. The park was in full transition mode, with barriers and grandstands almost ready for the upcoming marathon. There was quite a large crowd already gathered and the mood was lively as runners basked in the early morning sun. Personally, I was looking forward to running at the front of the field in part because of my fast time at the Fifth Ave Mile. The course was clockwise around the park, one of only two races that travel in this direction. I had enjoyed my previous experiences running this direction. After a couple of weeks of good training, I had a feeling that a PR might be possible but tempered my expectations because of my ongoing knee issues.

The race started out very fast, more so than I had expected even. I tried to run my own pace initially and didn’t panic when quite a few runners started passing me over the first mile. Controlling my pace, I put in an 8:10 first mile and an 8:06 second mile. However, the pace started to catch up to me by the time I reached the 102nd St Transverse and at the water station I slowed down to take on some fluids and give the legs a break. This time last year I was capable of doing the same run and pace with no breaks, but given the shoddy year I have had it’s no surprise that my strength and stamina are off.

Over the remaining miles I clocked an 8:30 average pace to finish in a time of 41:43. After the race I felt fine and took only a couple of minutes to fully recover and head home. Looking back on the race, even with two walk breaks and a reduced training workload leading up to the event, I was less than two minutes off my PR for the distance. This is not the first time I have been in that position, and yet again I’m faced with the realization that, were I to have a decent period of uninterrupted training, I could probably beat all of my PRs.

If only…

This Lunchbox Saved Me A Grand!

lunchbox001I’ve told this story t a few times over the years, but never recounted it to a wider audience. A couple of years ago, in the early stages of my transformation, I had changed some of my eating habits to kick start my weight loss and compliment the running. Rather than buying pizza and over-stuffed hero’s for lunch, I switched to salads at the local deli. I was fairly consistent with the ingredients: lettuce, cabbage, mushroom, boiled egg, chicken, croutons and a little dressing. Every so often I made minor changes to avoid getting bored, like switching the mushrooms out for cucumbers. The salads were pretty good and the portion size was just enough for an office lunch, but they cost about $10 a pop (fairly typical for Manhattan). I don’t recall exactly when, but one particular day Jess and I were discussing food and I happened to tell her about my daily lunch ritual. She was particularly surprised by the cost and my willingness to spend so much. From my perspective, I felt it was worth it to gain control over my eating habits and the one area that had the potential to derail my efforts to get healthy.

Certain details of the story really registered with Jess and, looking out for my best interests as usual, she gave me this lunchbox as a gift shortly thereafter. It’s made by a company called Fit & Fresh and will keep “greens cool and crisp with the snap-in, removable ice pack! It also features a unique twist and release dressing dispenser built right in so you can shake and eat when ready!” Jess figured that, by opting to make the salads myself and bring them to work, I had the opportunity to save a bit of money while still maintaining control over my eating habits.

I took to the idea pretty quickly and developed a simple system, that I’m still using almost two years later. Every weekend, whatever ingredients we need for the week are added to the grocery list. At some point over the weekend, usually Sunday while watching some type of sports, I set about boiling, grilling, peeling and chopping the ingredients and then storing them in tupperware containers in the fridge. Every morning, I take ten minutes to shred some lettuce, drop in a handful of ingredients from each tupperware, top with some croutons and dressing, and away I go. At this point I have it down to an art and have halved the time it takes both on the weekend and in the morning.

I don’t really mind taking the same thing for lunch every day. Like I’ve said a few times, it gives me some control over a potential minefield and has definitely helped me lose weight initially and keep it off since. It’s not for everyone of course, especially the lack of variety on a daily basis – but being a creature of habit, I guess it just doesn’t bother me. In fact, I look forward to that 15 minutes when I can put my headphones on and eat my lunch.

Over the initial twelve month period I actually kept a track of how much the ingredients cost each week. Over the course of the year I figured to have saved around $1100 versus buying my lunch every day. These numbers are anecdotal, since I ended up spending the money on other things … but still, that was over a thousand dollars in pocket money that could have been used for anything!

Beats for Jay

My Sennheiser PMX680i Headphones

I don’t often listen to music when I run. Most of the time, I prefer to keep that time for more reflective and meditative activities. Without music I find myself becoming more immersed in my surroundings and observing much more of the world around me. However, there are a few occasions where I find that music really fits. For example, a half marathon race or a speed session on the track or treadmill. In both cases, adding a fast beat and deep bass soundtrack has helped me push myself beyond my comfort zone.

For the longer runs or sessions, I typically opt for a Group Therapy Radio podcast from Above & Beyond. ABGT is a weekly radio show that highlights some of the best trance and progressive music around. Each episode lasts about two hours, and there are very few gaps between tunes so the intensity level rarely drops. That’s great for a fast race and I have set a personal record once or twice while listening to these shows.

For shorter interval sessions, typically speed work on the track or treadmill, I tend to opt for a handful of individual songs that get me motivated. I’ve used to find songs that match a specific beat or pace. Over the years, as I come across songs that inspire and make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I’ve added to them to my list.

  • The Archers Bows Have Broken – Brand New
  • Everlong – Foo Fighters
  • You Could Be Mine – Guns N’ Roses
  • The Middle – Jimmy Eat World
  • State Of Love And Trust – Pearl Jam
  • Voodoo People – The Prodigy
  • Adios – Rammstein
  • That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
  • It’s Time to Party – Andrew W.K.
  • Hey Man, Nice Shot – Filter
  • She Bangs the Drum – The Stone Roses
  • Living on a Pray – Bon Jovi
  • Lose Yourself – Eminem
  • Working for the Weekend – Loverboy
  • Runner – Manfred Mann
  • I Love It – IconaPop
  • The Spark – Afrojack

Of course, music preference is a totally subjective thing. If you were to ask ten different people what their favorites are, you would probably get ten different lists. These are just a few of the songs I like to listen to for short burst exercises and speed work sessions. What are yours?