In running and in charity, the challenge starts long before you toe the start,
and the work doesn't end when you cross the finish.

29 April 2010

An Aside For The Other Athletes Out There

I'm going to take a break from writing about running to acknowledge that there are athletes out there who do things other than run road races.

 This past weekend I was in Florida, watching a few of my homeys participate in their first ever triathlon. I'd never actually spectated at a triathlon before, though I've watched a ton of Ironmen (is that right?) on TV, so it was pretty cool watching people go at it. Dealing with all that gear, and the transitions and everything seemed like way too much trouble for someone who's used to just lacing up and taking off.

 I actually felt sorry for them because the weather was a bitch. The Bay was tossing swimmers all over the place, which is something us runners never have to contend with, and there was a constant headwind on the bike course, which we can definitely appreciate.

One of the peeps I was cheering for was Kendra, who has graciously allowed me to re-post the following note. I loved it, because I think it will remind all of us what it was like when we stepped to the line for our first 5k, or half marathon, or marathon, or maybe triathlon:

It is a comforting moment when we suddenly realize that our commitment to race, to participate in something so important to us-our dream-will be actualized. We have made it to the starting line. In this moment, the probability that we will do the event reaches 100 percent…

The journey to this day has taught me so much about myself it’s unbelievable. I can’t thank my friends and family enough who have whole-heartedly supported me throughout this process both mentally and monetarily. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for all of you and I feel blessed to wake up every day in good health, with the support of a loving family, amazing friends and teammates whom I’ve come to admire…especially those who have battled Cancer, are survivors and continue to fight every day.

I am only one person, but one day at a time, I am working for change and I know that makes a difference to someone. In a few hours my battle and race will end; but for some it will just be beginning because every 4 minutes; one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer…

Time to close this chapter of a journey that is just beginning…heading to the start to race for a cure!!!
So congratulations to everyone who participated this weekend, and congratulations to Team In Training for raising something like $1.8mm with this race. 

You're all an inspiration!

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email! - Jake

06 April 2010

The Real Reason Why I Love Running

Over the years I must have read a million blog posts and magazine articles on why we runners do what we do, and why we love to do it.  Runner's World is big on these types of motivational tidbits, and lately it has surfaced on two blogs I read regularly - RunWestchester and Never Quit, Never Stop.

Everyone has their own reasons, and a lot of the reasons are the same no matter who you ask - "I eat whatever I want", "It helps me relieve stress", and "It's my social time" are three recurring themes.  I agree with all of these.  I also agree that there are more reasons than can be readily listed, and that the reasons change every day, so it's often not a meaningful question to ask.

But yesterday, as I was sitting in an ice bath and reading the latest copy of RW, the truth dawned on me.  I love running because I love underdog stories. 

You see, this was the issue of RW with the big picture of Meb on the front. Meb, who took silver in the 2004 Olympic marathon, and became the first American to medal since 1972.  Meb, who collapsed in pain at the finish line of the Olympic Trials in 2007, having run the last 6 miles with a broken hip, only to find out his good friend Ryan Shay had died. Meb, who spent the following 18 months in physical therapy, facing racism ("He's not American enough"), facing his own doubts, and facing his potential retirement. And Meb, who finished the 2009 NYC Marathon with his arms held high, flashing a USA singlet and a huge grin, as he became the first American to win it since 1982.  Meb, who was not the favorite, but overcame his own setbacks and overcame Robert Cheruiyot to break the tape in his home country.

This is just one example.  The sport is literally loaded with stories like this.

In international competitions, American runners are the underdogs.  So even superheroes like Meb, Ryan Hall, and Deena Kastor have to step up to the line of each race knowing they're the long shots.  Add to that the fact that every race is full of cancer survivors, heart attack victims, blind runners, and runners missing one or both legs.  They line up with everyone else knowing that their participation, if not their survival, was a long shot.

And every runner, no matter their skill level or how hard they trained, has to toe the line knowing that there's a non-zero probability they won't make it to the finish; that the chances of a human running 26.2 miles without incident are a long shot.  They have to fight back the elements, fight back excruciating pain, and fight back all those little voices that pop up in the final miles of the race; the ones telling them to stop, and telling them it won't matter if they ease up juuust a little bit.  And they have to fight the fact that no matter how hard they push, there's still the chance a hamstring or a calf gives out and there's no choice but to give up.

It's that struggle against the odds that appeals to me.  From Average Joe quitting smoking and signing up for his first 5k, all the way up to the greatest runners in the world risking life and limb for the world record, everyone has to beat the odds to come out on top. 

In running, everybody is an underdog.  And who doesn't love an underdog story?

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

08 March 2010

Making Treadmills Tolerable

A new company called Visual Active is making videos you can play while you're on the treadmill, so it looks like you are running through Yosemite, or Niagara Falls, or the Grand Tetons.  Anyone who has seen the movie The Proposal will recognize this from Sandra Bullock's treadmill scene (oh come on, I'm not the only one).  VentureBeat has a good write-up about it here.

I know a lot of New Yorkers could've used something like this over the past couple of months.  In fact, this would be nice year-round if you get tired of running through the concrete jungle.

Now they just need to add fake sunlight and a fresh, cool breeze to the latest treadmills, and who will need the outdoors?

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

04 March 2010

Running as Addiction and as Cure

I think I've made it clear that I hate the treadmill (and I'm hardly alone here).  And one of my favorite distraction mechanisms is watching the most offensively brainless television possible.  The guy to my right will be watching Sportscenter, the woman to my left will be watching CNN, and I'm watching Jersey Shore.

Unfortunately that wonderful series of train wrecks ended some time ago, so I've been aimlessly searching for equally aimless shows to occupy my workouts.  Fortunately, VH1 was nice enough to fill the void with Celebrity Rehab

For those who aren't familiar, this is a weekly roundup of once-famous, whiny celebrity crackheads, who are thrown together in a rehab center in California under the watchful eye of Dr. Drew.  Imagine Real World for ugly people, with less alcohol and more heroin, and with a babysitter. 

Exhibit A, Dennis Rodman

The irony of the situation didn't fully sink in until the following "motivational quote" from Runner's World popped up in my inbox:
I do recommend running as a cure-all. It's the magic ingredient and an important physical release. It has helped me look and feel better.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, Addiction Specialist and TV Host 

So here are a bunch of narcissistic addicts on TV, who have no regard for the people around them, as long as they can get their fix.  And here I am spending hours on a treadmill, with no regard for the people around me, as long as I can get in my run (I laugh at your 30 minute limit!).  And here's the doctor on TV, helping those addicts get through their addictions, by recommending my addiction as a cure!  Bizarro world...

Maybe after Dr. Drew converts all these people to running-addicted zombies, he'll start a new rehab show, and I'll finally get my shot at stardom!

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

21 February 2010

I'm Still Here

A little over a year ago, I was writing on this blog pretty religiously, primarily because I couldn't run and had a bit of free time. Now I'm faced with the opposite problem.  I'm not writing nearly as often as I'd like because I'm running too much (if there is such a thing). Since the start of the year, my blogging has been mostly limited to lazy man's format, so I figure it's time to step it up and let my loyal readers know I'm still alive.

The fact of the matter is that running is going remarkably well for me right now. After years of stop-start running (see Dec '08 and Aug '09, for example), the marathon seems to have made something click for me. I've since found myself to be a much stronger runner now, capable of handling harder runs and more miles sans injury (knocking heavily on wood here), which is great because that's exactly what I prescribed myself after marathon.

 I never did a real marathon post-mortem here on my blog, but I spent a lot of time after the race evaluating my performance. While my time (3:46) was nothing to be ashamed of, the fact that I gave up a few minutes walking in the last 10k left me feeling that I could've done much more. So I set myself some pretty ambitious goals and also laid out a pretty ambitious training regimen, the centerpiece of which is just more and more miles.

So far, so good.  While I peaked at 45 miles per week during marathon training, I'm regularly running 45-50 miles per week right now in preparation for the NYC Half Marathon in March.  I've also been putting in some serious tempo work, like doing a 10 mile run with 7 at 7:00 pace or doing 6x1600 at 6:30 pace.  And I'm hoping that it'll all pay off with something close to a 1:30 time for the half marathon.

Once that's out of the way, I'll be turning my attention toward the Berlin Marathon, where I will be fighting for a BQ. It's an aggressive goal for my second-ever marathon, which is why I'll be upping my mileage even further, to more like 65-70 miles per week, likely racing more, and doing ever-longer tempos and ever-longer long runs (borrowing a page from the elites).  While my longest run for NYC was an accidental 21 miles and my longest tempo was 10, I will try to squeeze in at least one 23+ en route to Berlin, along with some race pace runs in the 15-18 range, to make sure that I don't face The Wall with the same unsuspecting bewilderment as I did last time.

I've certainly got my work cut out for me. It'll be a tough 2010, but I think I've got it in me now, and I'm excited to get out on the roads and break some new ground!

And hopefully I'll do a better job of getting the good parts in writing as the year wears on...

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

12 January 2010

I'm a Twit, or a Twitter-er, or Whatever

I've decided to join the masses and fulfill my narcissistic tendencies by jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.  While the blog will remain running-only, I'll start blasting out other random crap and anything not worthy of a full blog post via @iamjakestream.

I'm hoping to amass an army, so join the cause and follow me!

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

10 January 2010

Thank You, Jersey Shore

It is now unfortunately that time of year where a runner trying to meet his weekly mileage goals is faced with two choices:  hit the streets and risk frostbite, or hit the treadmill and risk death by shitty television.  And no matter how well prepared you are for the former, you'll inevitably spend plenty of time doing the latter. 

Running publications, including the latest issue of Runner's World, are chock full of tips on how to fight treadmill boredom during the winter months.  They usually recommend basic things like switching up the tempo and incline, or playing mental games with yourself during commercials ("every time I see an Enzyte commercial, I'll kick it up to 800m pace!").

I'm here to say forget all those things because I've found the best treadmill distraction ever - MTV's new show, Jersey Shore.  For those of you who haven't seen it yet, it's about a group of self-described "guidos" with fake tans and "guidettes" with fake breasts who are sharing a shit hole of a summer house on the New Jersey shore.  The guys spend more time on their hair than the girls, and the girls have to dress like strippers to distinguish themselves from the guys.  Then all they do is drink, go to clubs, try to get laid, and get in fights.  It's like Real World without the plot.

Now, I'm not going to argue this is Emmy-worthy television, but for the treadmill it's a godsend.  I can put my headphones in, turn this show on, and my brain immediately shuts off.  You know that feeling when you're talking and suddenly you have no idea what you were about to say?  You try and try to find it, but your brain suddenly feels devoid of sensation?  Well that's what happens when I turn on Jersey Shore.  Then magically an hour passes, the show ends, I wake up from my coma, and my workout is over.  And the best part is MTV replays it constantly, so no matter what time I work out I'm almost guaranteed to find this show playing.

So while I'm certainly not becoming a better person by watching this show, I have to say thank you MTV, thank you Mike "the Situation", and thank you Snooki, because your neanderthal antics might just make me a better runner!

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake

14 December 2009

Welcome to PR-ville, Population: Me

This post is brought to you by one of my favorite Once a Runner quotes:
He was not a health nut... He did not live on nuts and berries; If the furnace was hot enough, anything would burn.

As mentioned in my previous post, last Sunday was the Joe Kleinerman 10k, my last race of the year and only my second shot ever at that distance. At the time of writing, I wanted to break the 7-minute barrier and increase my standing within NYRR, but wasn't too confident in my ability to do so right off the back of the marathon.

Then to officially crush my expectations, Saturday's social obligations turned into a full day of debauchery, starting with a 3-hour liquid lunch, followed by a few hours at a pub, and finally a 2- or maybe it was 3-hour dinner (time was a bit fluid by that point). I went to bed after midnight with a dozen beers, a cheeseburger, and some veal meatballs floating around my stomach. Not exactly what most coaches recommend pre-race.

When the alarm went off at 6 Sunday morning, I was not feeling race sharp.  I was dehydrated, exhausted, and my stomach was still full of animal fat. Plus it was about 70 degrees colder outside than in my bed. I've never skipped a race before, but I was seriously contemplating it then. I probably stared out the window for a good ten minutes before my wife/cheerleader/manager convinced me with, "You'll feel better once you get out on the course." And of course she was right.

I don't know if it was the invigorating effects of the cold weather or just the race day excitement of Central Park, but I stepped into the corral ready to execute on my plan.  And once the race started, no amount of nausea or pain was going to hold me back.  I just ran like my life depended on it, and when miles four and five started to catch up on me, I fought the urge to slow down and decided to steal every second possible from the clock.  

Apparently running a marathon is a good way to get in race shape, because my strategy paid off.  I crossed the finish line with an official time of 42:24, a full minute faster than my goal, and nearly three and a half minutes faster than my last 10k. That works out to a mile split of 6:50, putting me squarely in sub-7:00 territory and giving me the confidence to start training for a spring half marathon with 1:30 in my sights...

If you like what you're reading, get it in your email!

- Jake