Saturday, February 20, 2010

And the 2009 Male Runner of the Year goes to.......

Tonight was my club's annual holiday and awards dinner.  A little late for the holidays perhaps, but I liked the fact that they had it at a nice Italian restaurant across the street from Russo's On The Bay (and owned by the same people too).  I've heard the food at Russo's is phenomenal, so I was expecting a lot from Carosello.
Suprisingly I was not let down.

Tonight would also be where they would annouce the winners of the best runners in the club.  Last year, if you recall, my friend Tom Brogan had taken the honors.  He's an excellent runner, and a really nice guy.  This year though, I kinda felt that while I might not be as fast as Tom, that I had an outside shot at winning it, simply because I had done more races (anywhere from 1 mile to Marathon, Century Ride, and Triathlon), gotten more PR's (6) then in any other year.  Still, I wasn't sure and didn't even prepare a speech had I won.

My kids were in attendance, however, Matt was at the Arcade when they had announced my name.
Announced?  Oh yeah....

I WON!!!!!!!!!

Again, even though I thought I had an outside chance, I felt completely humbled by the honor.  I stood up there to receive the award in front of all my peers, and melted.  I really didn't know what to say, except for how grateful I felt to be a part of this team.  Despite living away from Forest Park for nearly 2 years now, I am very happy with the club we have.

Karen was very proud of me, and they also mentioned about our wedding engagement earlier in the dinner too.

As always, my life is like a high-paced action movie....


Run For Haiti? Sort of...

When I left Karen with the kids this morning, I had totally forgotten that there was a race that started at 9am in Central Park.  Run For Haiti, as it was called, was a charitable race to raise monies for the poor and suffering leftover from the Earthquake (also a shame that it had to take an Earthquake for people to dig out of their pockets, when they have always been one of the poorest nations on Earth). 

I entered the park and saw the race going on.  I was puzzled.  It was 10am.  Wasn't this race supposed to have been 4 miles only?  Why were people passing the 3mile mark in 1 hour?  Turns out, it was a race for walkers too.  Over 10000 strong in all braved the cold but sunny weather in support of the Haitian people.  Very nice.

What wasn't too nice, was my having to weave and bob around the walkers.  But in the end it was all okay, as I did my 7.5 miles (6mile loop +.6 of a mile each way from my house to 5th and 102nd, plus another .15 of a mile taking the onramp from 5th onto the large loop) in 1 hour 7 minutes and 50 seconds.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Birthday Boy and a day of rest.

My son turned 9 today, and with it came his very favorite....Carvel Ice Cream Cake (umm... well, It's mine too!)  Earlier in the day, I went to pick them up at their mom's and for his birthday we each chipped in and got him his first bike (he was way overdue). 

It's got training wheels on it, but I suspect they will be coming off within weeks of his first ride.  The bike shop however forgot to put one of the pedals on (imagine that), but he was so eager that he was actually making excuses that he could ride with one pedal, which was very funny. 

Of course, birthday celebrations usually call for diet ruination.  I wound up having a bacon cheeseburger, fries, avocado with nachos, and fried chicken wings.  And while, I didn't eat lunch today to anticipate such an egregious display of slothness, I nevertheless had Bacon, Egg & Cheese AND a buttered bagel AND a 16-oz chocolate milk for breakfast.  Oy Veh!

Thursday, February 18, 2010


I still felt good tonight, but had some soreness in my upper right hamstring left over from last night.  I swam 100 meters, biked for 3 miles, and ran for 7.  Met up with Karen there, and she worked out with me too.  Had some speed bursts throughout the run portion but was unable to keep up the energy like I did yesterday.  Hmmm...perhaps I needed pizza again?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Good Recovery

After having a bleak running day on Monday, tonight was a thing of beauty.  After running my first mile in 9 minutes flat I did the last three miles in 21:45.  I spent much of the time running at an 8.1 mph pace with a heart rate of 174 (high), but I was able to even do  10,11 and even 12mph paces for a sustained period of time (.1 of a mile or longer).  Interestingly, I had a slice of pizza at Ray's next door, right before the run.  My biology is weird.  Most people would cramp up, instead I seemed to have soaked up those wonderful carbs and put them to use right away.  I did 50 situps, and did stretching as well.  Tonight was one of my best workouts of the year.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How to REALLY run after dark.

I recently picked up an issue of Running Times (another fav mag of mine) to see what they had to say about running after dark.   However, the article mentioned more about the gadgets one should wear rather than anything else.  I will  mention them below, but I wanted to take a stab at what I think a successful run at night consists of.  Some of these "pointers" are not just for night running, but at any point during the day as well, however, I've brought them out to "light" (or is it "night"?) simply because the challenge grows greater at night....You'll see what I mean shortly.

1. Stay hydrated.
Not every place is New York.  Or Chicago.  Or Miami Beach, for that matter.  In fact, the majority of everyday runners, probably stride through areas that are beautiful, and rural.  With that in mind, it is essential that you stay hydrated at night, because chances are that you're local store is already closed.  If you're like me, and don't like to run with too much other than some skimpy clothing and an oversized-Garmin, I would suggest doing runs where water/gatorade/soda machines are outside of a gas station (for example).  Of course, gas stations are usually open late, but even if they're not, chances are good that a soda machine maybe still be available outside. 

2.Run on the opposite side of the road!
I strongly recommend this at any time, but especially at night where a driver might be less apt to see you.  This way, you know in advance when something's coming your way,  allowing you to make way (or jump into a bush as I once had to do). 
The only exception I can think of to this rule is at a tight left-bend in the road.  Example?  You are on the left-handside (as you'd normally would be if you lived in the US and was running against traffic) of the road.  Up comes a sharp left curve.  Depending on the width of the shoulder of the road, you might want to consider crossing to the other side well before the curve, hence eliminating the dead-man's curve.  Cross back over when the curve is finished.

3.Keep an eye where your feet land.
This goes against conventional wisdom, I know.  Proper running form dictates time and time again, that we should not allow our heads bow down and roll into our chest, but rather stay looking straight ahead.  However, at night, you might want to take more than an occasional glance at where you are landing (especially if you're nearsighted like me) to avoid a calamity with a broken tree branch, pothole, dead furry creature, etc. etc. etc.

4.Bad Neighborhoods get worse at night
It's a proven statistic.  Most crimes happen at night.  So, if you feel sketchy running in the day through an area that's sketchy, then I wouldn't even BOTHER to run through it at night.  Also, stay away from abandoned areas (industrial, cemetaries, etc) at night as well.  They are a harbinger for problems.  If you have no choice but to run through a questionable area, bring a portable pepper spray, or loud alarm-type device.   And always remember,  you are probably in great shape and can outrun the heck out of any potential assailant.....unless he has a gun.

5.Stand out in the crowd.
Items to help you cope in the dark (with links too!)

A super-bright LED headlamp is great for seeing problems ahead of you in the road.  Surefire sells a great product you should check out....

Nathan, makers of many fine running products, has an easy to wear leg/arm band which offers high visibility thanks to a built in battery powered LED.

How about a nice Saucony jacket?  The Vizipro Soniclite Jacket is lightweight, water-resisitant, and reflective and have read that it can be seen from blocks away.  Great to have, unless you're avoiding your parole officer!

Are you a Brooks fan like me (and not a Saucony fan, like my fiancee Karen)? Then try out their Nightlife Vest.  Despite the name, don't expect to get free passes into nightclubs in and around New York City.  However, do expect get plenty of visibility at night and just enough protection from the wind and the cold.

Freak people into noticing you....Nathan again has come up with innovation with their "Sport Sleeves".  These are snug-fitting compression sleeves (good for blood circulation) offering reflective striping that offers warmth and safety and svelte pocket to hold keys, money and ID.  (Bond, James Bond).

Finally, if you're like me and obsess about how much "dark" time you might have to encounter during your training, then you owe it to yourself to go online and find a sunrise/sunset calendar.  Ahh, what the heck!  Here it is --->

And if you're a New Yorker like me then click here --->,%20New%20York;74;40.8;-5;1&month=2&year=2010&time_type=0

Monday, February 15, 2010

Physiologically In La Toilette

There are times, rare times, when I feel mechanically deficient.  Today was one of those moments.  In fact, here I am at Equinox right now.  I barely made 2 miles running after a 40 minute spinning class, that for the most part, I took very easy.  My head's definitely not in the right place, and that's okay.  Guess I can't be a warrior every day, can I?

Tomorrow I'm off from training.  Wednesday should be a better day, I hope.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ten Ways To Avoid Becoming Injured From Running

I typically don't read as much as I should....Unless it's about running.  Runner's World is not a bad magazine at all, to be honest.  And perhaps, the reason why I haven't been approached by them whenever I advertise their articles, is only a testament that I am somehow like an unsuspecting ambassador to their marketing.  Or perhaps, they don't even give a shit. 

Either way, their last issue (March 2010) was a homerun.  They typically do a nice job writing interesting articles on a monthly basis, but they really hit home on key points to anyone's success in running.  And with that, and at the risk of further plagiarizing, paraphrasing, etal, I wanted to help everyone out again with tips on how to avoid injury for the coming year....

10 Ways To Avoid Getting Injured in 2010 (or any other year, for that matter)

I - Know Your Limits
Beware of the "terrible toos" - doing too much, too soon, too fast.
Everybody has a threshold, whether it's 11, 25, 40 miles or more. 
Build your weekly training mileage by no more than 10 percent per week. 
Don't play catch up if you missed a week or more due to injury, by training to throw on too much mileage.
My two cents
My limits in running, is only bested by my limits in eating.  This is another thing that I must keep in check (my weight) if I ever plan to amount to being a competitve runner with lucrative shoe contracts!

II - Listen To Your Body
At the first sign of atypical pain (discomfort that worsens during a run or causes you to alter your gait), take three days off. On the fourth day run half yournormal easy-day amount at a much slower pace than usual.  If you typically run 4 miles at 9 minutes per mile, then run 2 miles at 11 minutes per mile.
My Two Cents
Don't wait until your injured to listen to your body.  Listen to it WHILE you are running.  If something is not right, slow down or stop.  Work out the kink(s).  If that doesn't help, then walk it off, or just call it a day.  Success is not measured by the distance in 1 day, but by your overall effort for an entire training program, year or more.  It's not worth going all out, just to be injured for a month.  What's the sense of that?

III - Consider Shortening Your Stride
Runners who shorten their stride by just 10 percent will can reduce risk of tibial stress fracture (like what happened to me back in 2005).  That's because a shorter stride will lower the impact force which will reduce risk to injury.
My two cents
I've shortened my stride already a few years back, and it works very well.  Realize that marathon winners, win not because of the length of their stride, but mainly because of the number of strides / steps that they do per minute (which is almost 180 per minute. wow)

IV - Use Strength Training To Balance Your Body
It is important to strengthen the hip muscles as it cures about 92% of knee injuries (at least that's what they said about the clinic in the article).
Healthy running should be as symmetrical and fluid as possible.
My Two Cents
I never knew that hip muscle conditioning could help one avoid knee injury or recover from one, but that said, the gym has a wonderful machine called a Torso Rotator.  I highly suggest it.

V - RICE Works
Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation. 
It's most effective when done IMMEDIATELY following an injury.
My two cents:
REST - If you are not getting 8 hours - you are running the risk of getting injured.
7 hours is good but not good enough.
6 hours is bad.
5 hours you suck.
Less than that?  What's wrong with you???
RICE is really what most people do AFTER they are inured.  However, if you did this after every run, you would definitely decrease your chance of injury (well, perhaps you can leave the 'Ice' part out of it.)

VI - Run On A Level Surface
No doubt you always run on the left side of the road facing traffic.  But with the dreaded road camber, your feet are landing at different heights in the road mile after mile after mile.  Try mixing your weekly runs by running on dirt trails, or bike paths
My Two Cents:
Soe cyclists get really pissed off and rude when you run in their space so be mindful and still run the opposite direction. They also didn't mention oval tracks, like at a high school, college, etc.  This is another place to run on a level surface.

VII - Don't Race Or Do Speedwork To Often
Olympic medalists only do about 5% of their workouts at a 5k or faster pace, so why do you think you should do more than this?
Keep in mind that a race is faster than a speedwork.  Be wary of having speedwork AND races in the same week, or you could face injury!
My Two Cents
Don't be scared by this factoid.  If you can do speedwork, and race in the same week and be okay, then GO FOR IT!!!

VIII - Strengthen The Back Of Your Legs
Hamstrings and Calf muscles are the best muscles to stretch. 
Not much evidence that stretching before a run is that helpful.
My Two Cents:
They talked about strengthening, but the article then dives right into stretching.  While true, that stretching is important, it is also important to STRENGTHEN too.  Leg machines in the gym, like Leg Presses, and Hamstring Curling can be a blessing in disguise.  But remember, like in Point I....KNOW YOUR LIMITS at the gym too!

IX - Cross-Training Provides Active Rest and Recovery
Experts agree that most runners benefit from at least one non-running day a week.
Injury-prone runners should avoid consecutive days of running.
I did not know that Elliptical training was not advised while having a stress fracture.  This explains a few things about 2005.

X - Get Shoes That Fit
Don't expect shoes to correct an injury resulting from training error or muscular imbalance.
Replace your sneakers every 300 to 500 miles.
As a general rule, buy less shoe rather than more shoe (unless your 220 pounds or more).
My two cents
Go to Jack Rabbit Running Stores on 85th & Lex, 14th street near Union Square or in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  They're sales people are runners.  They will have you run on their specially-camera equipped treadmills to measure your gait, footstrike, etc, on video, and make recommendations!
Also, many podiatrists say that we were meant to run barefoot.  The more shoe (the more cushioning for example) the less your foot will develop.  By this, I mean strengthen.  You need a light shoe, that will not only provide protection, but more importantly will allow for your feet to strengthen. 
Also remember that as you get older, your arches begin to drop.  I went, for example, from a size 9.5 to a size 10 in the last three years, for just that reason alone.

And that concludes another session with the Blogrunner.  Hope you all found this to be useful advice!!!

Sometimes You Just Have To Say, Ehhh Screw It!

Working from home for the second straight day today, and realizing I had Central Park within about a half-mile's reach,  I figured that maybe I could do a running lunch.  However, it was cold, and windy, and with snow everywhere, and....


Okay.  So I did.

I ran about 7 and a half miles during my lunch time.  The sun was beautifully bright.  The snow was immaculately white.  The park had incredible sights, and my legs felt incredibly tight.  Just kidding.  In fact, I felt wonderfully right.  So much so, that off came the Asics wind-breaker halfway into the run.  Yeah, I didn't need it.  No wind to speak of, plus I was getting pretty hot.  I left my gloves on though.

The ground was pretty good.  Only wet spots on the pavement as I ran my 6-mile loop.  I made sure to avoid them whenever possible.  You never know when you might land on black ice.  Oh No!

What a bittersweet moment though, as I ran and saw parents with their children going sledding, and making big snowmen all over the park.  Meantime, the sleds I bought for my kids are just sitting lonely in their bedroom, thanks to mother nature NOT delivering the goods over the weekend, when they were with me.
Timing sucks sometimes, does it not?

So far my schedule has paid off great dividends.  This is week 1, and I'm feeling fine, and doing my miles right on time.  I almost did eight, but did not want to be late, so I came back just in time for work.

There weren't many cyclists out there, but there were some.  Still, it is nice to know that there are always runners in the park.  It never fails.  That's what so wonderful about Central Park.  One is never alone.

I took 2 ibuprofens before I left, and made sure to drink plenty of water along with it.  Advil is not good for your liver when you are not hydrated enough, I've heard.

Only thing I feel shitty over is that I did not get to stretch after the run.  As soon as I got home, I got word that another one of our offices had to close due to inclement weather.  Snowing in Texas!  So much for global warming this year, ehh?

I had a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios for BK, and some American Cheese on Prosciutto Bread for lunch, prior to running.  Feeling pretty relaxed and sleepy now.  Need to get a second wind.

Tomorrow I have a rest day.   I may opt to go on the cycle at the gym in my building instead.  I definitely felt my quads complaining as I went up Cat Hill on the East Side Drive as well as the hill just past the 102nd street transverse on the West Side.  

My pace overall was 8:53 per mile.  A little faster than my threshold for "Easy" runs which is anywhere between 09:00 and 11:00 minutes per mile. 

I love that I ran today.  It felt great to get my cardio in, and my brain is happy from all the sunlight my eyes received (even with my amber UV rays lens on).

For my music, I did a change of pace, and decided to listen to music by the Talking Heads.  For some reason the song The Great Curve was randomly racing through my head this morning  "We gotta open our eyes! We gotta open our eyes up!!", so I figured it was time.

As you may hear, I'm also playing the exact set list on my blog too.  Here's what I heard as I ran through New York City today...

Talking Heads '77 (1977)
    Psycho Killer

Fear of Music (1979)
    Life During Wartime

Remain In Light (1980)
    The Great Curve
    Crosseyed and Painless

Stop Making Sense (1984)
    Girlfriend Is Better (Live)
    Making Flippy Floppy (Live)
    This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Live)

True Stories (1986) 
    Love For Sale
    Puzzlin' Evidence

Naked (1988) 
    Mr. Jones
    (Nothing But) Flowers 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Beat Your Roadblocks.

Been awhile since I've given out advice, so here goes...

When it comes to running, winter sucks for me.   It's too cold, it's too dark, it's too windy, bla bla bla.

I read the latest issue of Runner's World, and find a very worthy articly entitled "Get Over It".  It's from the March 2010 (or Kara "Hot Tamale" Goucher issue).

Yes, I am going to paraphrase, maybe even plageurize a little too, but I felt it was important to get these key pieces of advice out to my running audience on how to overcome the hurdles, get and stay motivated, when your brain has other ideas.

The article broke it down into 3 roadblocks, morning, midday, late-day, mid-run, and postrun.  Okay it's 5 roadblocks.  Just wanted to see if you were actually reading.

MORNING ROADBLOCK:  You are sleepy.
Body Temperarure and Heart Rate dip to their lowest rate because of lack of light.  And if you skipped a meal or ate sugary crap in your last meal the night before, you're going to have a bitch of a time getting up because your glycogen levels will be depleted.
How To Hurdle This Roadblock:
  1. Eat slow-digesting carbs like Broccoli, Beans and Lentils.
  2. Set your automatic coffeemaker to brew before you wake.  Or just have Alex do it, like he does for Karen every morning, yuk yuk.
  3. Turn off your TV & computer at least 30 minutes before you hit the sack and get blackout shades for your windows because the absence of light boosts production of melatonin - a hormone that makes you sleepy.
  4. Put your running clothes in a brightly lit room. When the light hits your eyes, it signals your pineal gland to stop producing melatonin.  Compact flourescent bulbs (CFLs) work best because the closely mimic natural sunlight.
MIDDAY ROADBLOCK: Work Demands and Hunger Pangs Strike.
Melatonin is at its lowest at about noon, which may keep you plugging away at your computer. As you do this, blood sugar levels dip and you start to feel famished or too weak to run.
How To Hurdle This Roadblock:
  1. Schedule your run like you would any other meeting.
  2. Split your lunch in two .  Eat a half an hour at your desk before you run, and again right after you're done.
LATE-DAY ROADBLOCK: It's Been A Long Day And You're Beat.
Mental fatigue lowers dopamine, a brain chemical that makes you feel energized.  Plus blood sugar dips between 5pm and 7pm (which is the time that I am writing this now, in fact)
How To Hurdles This Roadblock:
  1. Don't confuse mental fatigue with physical fatigue.  Running elevates your nervous system, making you more alert-it's the perfect antidote.
  2. Resist the urge to skip your run by packing your gear, changing at work, and going directly to the gym or Central Park (hehe).  Or run with a running group.
  3. Keep your energy up with a snack bar.
MIDRUN ROADBLOCK: You're tempted to walk or cut your run short.
After 90 minutes you may have fuel issues.  Your body uses fats for energy after carbs are finished, which takes longer and leads to a sluggish feeling.
  1. On runs longer than an hour, consume 100 to 200 calories every 60 minutes to replenish energy stores.
  2. Keep a running log.  It will discourage you from doing less than the distance you set out to do.
POSTRUN ROADBLOCK: You Want To Crash, Not Stretch and Ice
When you stop running, your blood pressure drops and blood pools in your legs, which may make you feel weary and lightheaded.
  1. Slow your pace for the last mile of your run, and then walk for a few minutes before stopping.
  2. Stretch and ice trouble spots right after running because muscles are most pliable and inflammable.
  3. Within an hour of completing your run, have a carbo-protein snack.  Carbs refill glycogen stores, while Protein repairs muscles.
  4. Record your postrun routine (stretching, icing, refueling) in your log so you'll consider it just as important as the run itself.
Tomorrow, I will discuss how to spend more time in the park and less time with your ass in park and in rehab....

Training for Chicago.

A little threshold training goes a long way.  A Spanish study involving high-level runners found that those who did one threshold run per week for five months, improved significantly more than those who did two a week.

If they're right, then I must be on the right track.

Last night, I finished putting together what may turn out to be the most ambitious, comprehensive training schedule ever.  It is monstrous actually.  A 35-week program to get me to shave off 21 minutes and 15 seconds off my next marathon in Chicago.  Never before have I ever created such a schedule so long, nor as intricate as this one.  It incorporates all of my races, and potential races.  It incorporate potential cycling events, and a return to my first triathlon. 

And yet, with all said, the program I built focuses on slow and steady progress.  As I've matured as a runner over the last several years, the one thing I have learned about injury is that it usually goes hand-in-hand with unrealistic physical demands.   The love of running has been the culprit here.   Instead of doing 4 miles, I feel great, go out and do 10.  Sure, that's not a problem in it of itself, but in the long run, it could hurt me.  Literally.  Week over week, there is not one increase in mileage that's more than 10%.

Last year was a great year.  Despite the slow start, I developed an excellent base which translated into 6 PRs to end the year.  This could never had happened, had I not cross-trained, and had I not followed the discipline required to stay focused on my training.   I'm not saying I was perfect though, and that's why this year will be an even better year for me.

Right now, I weight 162.9 pounds.  Not terribly overweight, but more than I want by about 7 pounds.
Another thing is sleep.  I need more of it.  Always has been a problem.  Especially now, with us eating late, and me not being a morning person either.  Something's gotta give.

For the first 6 of my 35 weeks, all my runs will be easy ones.  Categorized, an easy run for me is anything between 9 and 11 minutes per mile.  All I'm doing here is getting into shape, keeping my aerobics going.  And of course, building a mileage base.  Beginning with week 7, I start to introduce tempo runs.  This will be in the late-March time frame.  This will carry on until the next-to-last week of training before Chicago.

Despite the flatness of the course, the month of April, or weeks 9 thru 12, I will be focusing on Hill work.  Even though Chicago is flat, the NYC Marathon is not.  And in addition to those weeks, I will be participating in about 20-25 races, of which most (Central Park, Prospect Park, etc.) will feature hills as well.

My lung capacity has been pretty okay these days, but I am concerned with my heart rate being too high too quickly.  Or at least this is what the readouts tell me when I go on the treadmills.  To adjust for this, I will focus on having foods with less sodium (unless its the night before a race) and lower fat.

And speaking of fat.  My stomach.  It. Has.  Got.  To. Go.   I can't stand it.   I may wind up doing a 3 hour marathon before I get a six-pack of abs, but I will be damned if I don't at least try to get a flat stomach.

We just finished paying the membership for the gym here in the building, but their ab machines are lacking.  They are lacking because there aren't any.  We were going to join the 92Y on Lexington, but the people were so rude to Karen and me a few weeks ago, regarding ID, that we are ditching them and going to check out Asphalt Green.  It's half a mile south of here, and right off the FDR.  Plus the aquatic center is the best in all of New York City.  You really have to see it to believe it.

Of course, no plan, big or small, means a damn, unless I can execute on it.  There will be plenty of times, when I'm going to feel overwhelmed with life in general.  Plenty of activities both good and bad are going to attempt to derail my training.  That's okay.  I've learned that it's impossible to be too rigid, and unhealthy to be too hard on oneself for not getting the miles in.  The schedule is really a guideline to follow.  The closer I adhere to it, the better the potential for doing well.

Last night, I ran on the treadmill, and with the snowfall accumulation expected it is highly likely that I will be on the treadmill all week it looks.   My next race is not until the 28th and that's in Prospect Park.  It's a 4-miler and I plan to commit assault on that race course, weather permitting of course.

Friday, February 5, 2010

RACE REPORT: ING Miami Marathon

Miami Beach. - January 31, 2010.

This was the first time I would race south of NY, and south of my first Marathon outside of NYC.  We first landed in Fort Myers, and stayed at my sister's house for a couple of days at her home in Naples.  We had a really nice time there, and met up with Kerry's (my brother-in-law) parents for dinner at a seafood restaurant nearby. 
There really is no logical reason for me to post this photo of my sister sleeping with her animals than to poke fun at her. About the only thing missing from her lap would have been her two 20-gallon fish tanks.

I've been fretting about how poorly I thought I was going to do in Miami, because despite the flat course,  I've not been training the way I should before a marathon.  Going out into the pitch blackness in 20 degree weather, either in the morning or at night, is not my idea of fun.  And yeah, there is a gym downstairs, but frankly, treadmills suck.  Still, it's all excuses.  If I wanted it bad enough, I would have done it without quips.  Probably due to the fact that at this age group, that I would have needed a 3:20:59 to qualify for Boston, I figured

Also, with all those football game parties at our house going on, staying on a diet is next to impossible for a person that loves food as much as I do.
For last minute prep, we did a couple of training runs, including a nice run around the Clam bay area in Naples:

(Above: Karen sticking her tongue out at me as we run down the Clam Bay "expressway".  Next, a view from one of the bridges we crossed along the way, and below, another photo showing Karen getting ready before we took off)
(Above: Clam Bay, Naples - West Shore.  The beginning of the boardwalk)
(Below: Clam Bay.  6/10ths of a mile later, and at the end of the boardwalk at the beach.)
We paid $8 bucks to park in the lot, and ran to the beach via a boardwalk that carved its way through a mini-forest.  It was only about 6/10ths of a mile, but we did it twice, and ran about another 4 miles, for a total of 5 that Thursday.

On Friday, we drove east across I-75 (Alligator Alley) and to my dad's house.  We later went to Carretas for a Cuban lunch ...
(From Left:  Karensita, Carmensita, Jolly Jim, Moi, Daddy-O, Cristinita)

...and finally to the hotel in Miami Beach to check in.

We stayed at the Marriott Oceanfront Resort on Collins Avenue in South Miami Beach. 

It was originally the famous Cadillac Hotel.  It had since been completely renovated.  Very pretty.

Taken from our private balcony at the Marriott Resort and Spa in sunny warm South Miami Beach, Florida.

Life is a beach, ain't it?  ;-)

Everything was ultra expensive, but when you mix the elements of Miami Beach along with Marathoners coming in from everywhere, you're usually going to pay a premium.  But when you add to that the fact that the Pro Bowl was ALSO happening on the same day as the Marathon in Miami, and voila!  Parking was $27 a day, also expensive, but once we took in the parking scene in and around the beach area, the $27 wasn't so bad anymore.  Parking is grim in Miami Beach.

I got some good sleep Friday night, which I sorely needed.  I think I slept about 10 and a half hours.  Saturday was a nice day to just kick back, go to the expo, and eat dinner with the club later on that evening.

First we got breakfast at the Lincoln Mall at some place called Paul.  Their baguette was very good.  We then headed over to the expo.  Have to admit, expecting nothing compared to the expo for the NYC Marathon, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety. 

As usual, there was no way to resist the temptation of purchasing running gear. 

However, we did get some good deals.  Karen bought herself a pair of Suacony Glide 2's for only $85 and no tax either. 

We met up with Bonnie and Eric and walked back to the Days Inn property that they were staying at.

It probably wasn't as nice as ours, but for less than half the price of what we spent on ours, it's probably also a shame that we didn't stay there too.

We ate at La Locanda restaurant on Washington and 5th.  Not a bad place to eat and it was nice seeing the club away from New York again too. 

As expected, by the time we got home, and packed up, it was 11:30pm.   Just like Ryan Hall said at the Expo yesterday about just getting 4 hours of sleep the night before and being okay, that was exactly the case with us.  We got up at 3:45am.  Ugh.  We left at 4:30am in the Convertible Sebring.  I picked up Bonnie, Jack and Tom at the Days, and headed over the bridge to the starting line.  Playing it safe, I took the first pre-paid parking lot I could find (even if it was 10 blocks from the start).  We walked to the arena, and I waited about 15 minutes just to get into a bathroom stall.

Unlike the NYC marathon, the Miami Marathon was only about 1/3 the size.  The problem however was that there were no staggered starts, no multiple entrances.  Just one loooooong boulevard along the arena holding all 18k or so runners, half and full marathoners alike.

I liked the intensity moments before the start though.  It reminded me of the old NYC Marathons, smaller and friendlier.  Plus, I like the fireworks the exploded in the night sky overhead Miami at the sound of the air horns. 

And then the race began...

After heading north on Biscayne Blvd., we went right to head over the Macarthur Causeway.  It was a very tightly packed crowd, and I could feel how slow I was running, which was not good.  I was running 9 to 10 minutes per mile.  That's okay if we're talking Mile 22 and onward, but not okay for Miles 1 -3.  I was in the middle of the pack, so no pictures were taken of me. However, it must've been Karen's lucky day, because they got a shot of her running across the causeway:
People were definitely not lining up according to truth.  It wasn't even Mile 2 and I was already passing by several people who were walking.  This is dangerous on a sunny, clear day.  You can imagine at night what this is like.  The temperature was definitely hot and muggy.  Only the occasional breeze from the water felt cool.  The tight packing of runners didnt help either. Nor did the empty water bottles that were haphazardly rolling around the ground.
I could see the gigantic cruise ships on the water along side the Miami coastline, as night turned quickly to dawn.  The bridge was absolutely helter swelter.  I feel as if I could not breathe.  It was so densely packed with runners' hot and sweaty bodies, that between them and the 90% humidy, I felt like I was going to pass out in the very beginning.  Also, no water stops (not like there was room for it anyway) for the first THREE miles! 

Finally, I felt us going downhill slightly.  I could see the end of the bridge...

However, something else crept on me....*SURPRISE!*

As we crossed the last bridge, I really had to urinate.  I never had this issue before, as Karen compares me to a camel by her standards. 

Seeing a nice bush just off the bridge, I did the unthinkable, pulled down my shorts and did #1 in public (Don't worry. No pictures of that.) .  There are so many, before me who've done this, and now I would join their ranks too. 

(Photo of Star Island)
As dawn broke through (pay no mind to the photo of the Colony below - it was a stock photo taken at night), I saw our first fans cheering us on.  The first sign I saw read, "Run Like You've Stolen Something."  Funny.  I'd see that sign at least twice more along the way, and all differently handwritten too.

By the time we arrived at South Miami Beach, it was already cloudy, and actually drizzling a little bit (nice!).  We went up Alton Road, and then eventually made our way up Ocean Drive, passing the famous Colony Hotel, once used in a horrifying scene during Al Pacino's 'Scarface' classic. 

We headed left onto 14th and before long we were passing the same Miami Beach Convention Center we had gotten our numbers some 18 hours ago.

Unfortunately, by the time we passed over the first 10K mat, the damage was already done.  I was 5 minutes off pace from my 3:51 PR at NYC last November, with nearly 4 minutes of lag time within the first 5K.  The heat and humidity made a conservative out of me, as I felt too sluggish to make up time this early in a Marathon.  Word to the wise for anyone doing Miami.  Yes, it is a flat course but you'd better figure a way to zig-zag (which goes against my conventional wisdom) around people because the first three miles will ruin you timewise.

Once again, Karen was in the lead.  Photo-wise, at least... :-)
As we left Miami Beach by going over the Venetian Causeway, I couldn't help but to think how well Rockstar programmed that same bridge on Grand Theft Auto's: Vice City, LOL. 
We didn't even get back onto mainland Florida until somewhere around the 10 mile mark.  I was now 7 minutes behind PR pace, and fading fast though I didn't know it at the time.  Instinct told me however that I would be close to breaking 4 hours (which would still send me home happy) but that it would be very close.  Instinct also told me that the last GU gel pack I ate for energy did not sit well with me, as I almost felt like puking.  I never have puked in a race in my life, btw.  But this was the closest I ever came to doing so.

As we went south on N. Miami avenue, the familiarity of large crowds were around me.  It felt nice, but I knew that these crowds would not be here (or at least I thought) for the finish line. 

As we turned left onto Flagler, I saw the chutes for the Half-Marathoners vs. the Full-Marathoners.  'This is where the men and the boys part ways', I thought to myself.

I had expected the ratio between half marathoners and full marathoners to be something like 10:1.  Pleasantly, it wasn't so bad.  There was a nice grouping of people in front of me.  I only hoped that an even bigger group was behind me, hehe.

Despite the photos above confirming her decision to play it smart, and just do the half (she was having serious back and foot issues), I didn't know as I ran, so I was wondering if Karen was going to do the full, or just settle for the half as I approached "decision" time myself at the chutes (above).  I wasn't doing too well myself, and even comtemplated (if only for a brief irrational second) doing just a half as well.  I did the first half in something like 1:55 minutes.  And I was already 8 minutes behind pace.  At this point, I would need to stop the bleeding and equal, mile-for-mile, what I did in NYC to even break 4 hours.

But it happened.

In so many ways, where I just refuse to give in, I figured that anything over 4 hours would be an utter defeat for me.  Big thoughts from me, considering how I never had even done better than a 4:08 in NYC.  

And so, I started to maintain an amazingly consistant mile after mile.  Though I did not have a negative split, which is when one does better in the second half of their race than in their first half, I did manage to do better in the last 13 miles in Miami, than I did in NY.  My patience in this race paid big dividends.   As I headed west towards Cocnut Grove, Karen's birthplace, I maintained a very even keeled approach in my running style.  I made sure never to overstride.  I also started ingesting salt packets and Endurolytes at around the 14th mile, and increased the frequency until I finished.  The turn around point was right around the 30K (18.6 miles) mark.  By then I had shaved off 2 minutes, and was now only 6 minutes off pace. 

I didn't think I had the balls to maintain this pace, but I tried anyway.  The little town of Coconut Grove gave me much needed boosters (and orange slices) along the way.

I was pleased with the water and gatorade frequency in the race, except that there was nothing in the first 3 miles, due to the congestion, and rightfully so.

I saw a sign as I pushed along that said, "Sigue corriendo y abrace la vida."  Translated into English, that meant, 'Embrace Life and Keep Running."  Later on Karen would tell me that it was a 'pro-life' sign.  Whatever the real message actually was, I took it as very inspirational.  In fact, it put on a perma-smile on my face.  I felt like I was alive again.  Imagine that.  After only 15 miles too.
I continued the pace that I had sustained along Tigertail Avenue, and marched to the same beat going east now on S. Bayshore drive.  At about the 21.5 mile mark, I started seeing people coming in the opposite direction. They were at the 15.5 mile mark.  A smile washed over my face, as my dreams of being on the opposite side of the road, when I was that poor soul at the 15.5 mark came true. 

A cramp on my left leg came but left quickly.  It was right underneath my red  calf compression sleeve.  Had I not been wearing those, it would have been all over for me. 

I passed the Vizcaya Gardens, and was approaching the Rickenbacker Causeway.  Memories of my dad first moving to Key Biscayne flooded back. 

Some good, some bad.  I remembered how my monstrous first ex-wife came with me on that first trip (and her last with me, good riddance) to the Key. 

Suddenly, anger was coming over me.  I wanted to remain focused however, and not let my emotions undo my training, my psyche.

As I ran eastward on Rickenbacker, a bunch of orange painted people, including a guy with orange cones on his chest, threw a lei over my head. 

Hence any photo you see of me with a lei on is after Mile 22.

Fortunately we did not have to go up the bridge, as the "course gods" allowed us to circle back under the overpass. 
The sun started coming out, but with nearly 2 miles to go, the sun was never a factor today, and Thank God for that. 

At one point they gave out sponges.  I took one, squeezed it over my head, and stuffed it into my mouth to suck the rest of the water out.  Looking back, that was probably an incredibly unsanitary thing to do, but I was already delirious by now, lol.
(No rugs on the steel grated portions of the bridges, for which we went over at least 3 times.  This one is almost at the end.  And they were wet.  You gotta be kiddin' me, right???)
The last two miles would be on Miami's famous Brickell Avenue.  Sure, we had gone over several bridges were there was nothing more than steel grates (some wet). Sure it was hot and humid. Sure, the congestion of runners messed me up in the early going.  But now, I would no longer be denied.  I motored through cheery crowds, which was a surprise since I did not expect so many to stay behind to cheer (guess I was wrong about my prediction at Mile 13).

Remember when I was almost 9 minutes behind pace?  Here I was at Mile 25, and just 5 minutes behind pace.  And by the time I saw the grandstands and the finish line up ahead, I motored. 

Nothing was going to stop me now.

And I mean nothing.....

When I crossed, and looked at my Garmin.  It was 3:56:06 (the time you see above does not reflect the time that it took for me to cross the start of the race). 
Again, and only 92 days after my first sub-4 hour marathon in New York, I would again repeat the feat.

In the end, after such a horrible start, I completed my second fastest race, and was only 4 minutes and 21 seconds off pace. A mere 10 seconds slower per mile than NYC.

In fact, I did better than I did at NYC when compared to the rest of the field.  I finished in 622nd place out of nearly 3000 marathon finishers.  That's in the top 21.3% to be exact or 5% better than NYC.  Gender wise, I finished in the top 27%.  Again, I bested NYC by over 6%, and I faired in the top 28.6% in my age group, which was over 8% better than NYC.  Based on my weighted performance scale, this WAS my BEST marathon ever!

Here are my stats per my Garmin watch ---> Garmin Connect - Activity Details for Untitled

In other news-worthy developments, Jim had decided to go to the grandstand to take pictures of me.  Unfortunately, he was in a rush to get there, and forgot to take his cellphone from Carmen.  This proved costly.  Jim had gotten there virtually seconds AFTER I crossed the finish line.  Unknowing of this, Jim stood and waited.  And waited. And waited some more.  He waited so long, that I had the chance to meet up with Karen, walk 10 blocks to our car, drive back to Miami Beach, and go take showers (individually) so as not to miss the phonecall from the concierge downstairs. And even after all that he was still standing.  My family finally found him, and they came to the hotel soon afterwards, for a much needed lunch at Carrabas (or was that Carajo?).. I felt bad for Jim, and hope his cold (and Carmen's, and now Cristina's as well) gets better.

More videos on the race:
Not bad for a person that's been training here and there, and eating everywhere!!!!
But Chicago WILL be different.   The insanity begins the day after the SuperBowl.

Taken a few hours after the Marathon at the Marriott Resort in Miami Beach.
Later on that evening at the beautiful outdoor Lincoln Mall in South Miami Beach.
Taken from our balcony at the Marriot Resort.
(from left:  Karen's brother, Gregg, Karen, and her dad Michael)