Saturday, March 25, 2017

Boston Beatdown

I know once again it has been quite a while since y'all have heard from me. My last post was back in late February while we had that nice bout of springlike weather. Well mother nature that cruel old bitch dished out an epic March punctuated by a massive snowstorm and frequents bouts of negative wind chills.

While we were having that epic March, my preparations for Boston moved into overdrive mode. March was always going to be the most critical month of my training. With limited racing, I was able to focus on pounding out those miles. I had weeks of 72.5, 72.3, and 85. My personal highlight was a seven day stretch where I ran 100 miles.

They were cold and miserable miles, punctuated by negative zero wind chills and a lot of times by a biting wind, that north wind carried straight from a polar bear's fart right into my face. Actually on some of those mornings, a polar bear fart would have at least warmed my face up...

When my Boston packet arrived in the mail, I finally was able to appreciate the significance of this entire journey. I will admit that many times, I get caught up in my obsession with trying to be the best. I get caught up in the chase to lower my times, to beat the competition, and to maximize performance. Yet with Boston, I must remind myself that just getting to the starting line let alone the first wave is an accomplishment worth appreciating.

As I write this, I am down to just three weeks left before I take my small step in history. Regardless of what happens in Boston, I will line up next to the elite marathoners of the world in the most prestigious marathon in the world. I grew up on a steady diet of despising New England sports, but it is on a New England stage where I hope to make my biggest mark yet. If you had told me three years ago, that on April 17, Ben Heller would be on the starting line of the Boston marathon, I would have spit out my beer from laughing so hard. Yet as the photo below shows, I MADE IT!

Now is the time to taper and repair any damage my training regimen has caused. I am focussed, determined, and salivating to conquer whatever Boston throws my way.


One of the great ironies in my journey, is that I am an admitted "liberal snowflake". My politics are pretty left wing, though i will entertain a right-wing perspective if it is grounded in logic and not a desire to continue for gentrification/ hatemongering.  If you ask the other side what being a snowflake means, it means "I am a weak-willed pussy who gives up and whines about everything. It means that I am a spineless jellyfish who suckles the bosom of society like a parasite and cries like a little baby whenever something goes wrong. A boo-hoo!!!

 There is an even more derogatory term floating around the internet "cuck" which carries a perverse sexual meaning. I wanted to address this section to those kind of people. Number one... fuck you, just because I care about things like the environment, basic human rights, and treating people with respect does not make me a weak-willed pussy. Next time you want to call someone a snowflake, a cuck, or a spineless piece of shit, I want you to think of me. I hold that snowflake worldview, but I will go out into the abyss and my willpower will destroy your perceptions. If you spent your time lifting others up instead of beating them down, maybe you would realize the kind of potential every human being has. I wasn't designed at birth to run marathons, to train in brutal weather, to embrace pain and discomfort, but I did it anyway without your help. I did it without government handouts, I did it without being a pest on society.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Half marathon recap


This is me finishing the half marathon in Florida. I sure look like I am having a dandy of a time!

      Good afternoon my friends. I know it has been a bit of a break again. I have been settling back down after my little vacation to sunny Florida. As I alluded to in my previous post, there was a half marathon involved. I mean what is the point of taking a vacation if I can't spend it obsessing about a race? That is totally normal and sane right? Fine, let's call it alternative sanity.

      Florida in the middle of an Upstate New York winter sounds fantastic. You get warm sunshine, the beautiful ocean and of course PALM TREES. There is nothing more invigorating than waking up to palm trees and sunshine. While I was down in Florida the weather was incredible save for one day. There was one day where a warm front moved through and ushered in the full furry of tropical humidity. Care to guess which day that was? If you guessed the morning of my race you are correct. In honor of our new King, I will send out a tweet telling everyone who guessed wrong that they are bunch of losers and its SAD! Being a loser is so unpatriotic....

      Now to the good stuff.  Not only did the race start at six in the morning but it was a combo half/full marathon with about 7,000 total runners. That means if you wanted any shot of having a decent warm-up you had to get to the starting area by 4:30 unless your idea of a good warmup is being stuck in a traffic jam. With that said I did manage to get up at 3:30 in the morning and drag my father and I down to the starting area. As a perk I purchased a $30 VIP parking pass. All of you know  I am very important. Even a very important person makes mistakes... I left the parking pass at the apartment. Luckily my dad asked me about it and I turned back before I made it very far to retrieve said parking pass.

     After claiming my deluxe $30 parking spot which came with absolutely nothing, I took a very pleasant early morning bus ride to the start during which the driver got lost.  I was able to get a warm-up in on this incredibly sultry morning. However, there was a bathroom scare right before the race. Ask any serious runner, and the pre-race bathroom routine is a holy sacrament that is absolutely necessary before any race. The race had plenty of port o Johns, but way too many people who needed to lighten their loads before the race. Nothing is more aggravating than standing in line waiting to dump excess weight as the start time creeps closer and closer. I personally think that is a very shitty situation. However, I did manage to make it to the start line with five minutes to go and the gun went off at 6 AM.

   I was able to hit a pretty solid clip for the first mile, but by the third mile reality hit and it hit hard. My pace started falling and it felt like i was trying to move a mountain just to maintain my marathon pace, which is what my final pace averaged out to. Sometimes you are dealt a losing hand and there is nothing you can do about it. I found myself getting passed by a few "homies",  who are people who live in South Florida and are used adapted to the heat and humidity. I was a shipper form the northeast. In the past few times I have raced in Florida I was blessed with cool pleasant mornings which tipped the scales in my favor. That was not meant to be last Sunday.

   One of the first things I did after I finished and stopped panting was pull out up the weather conditions on my phone which said temperature 71 degrees with humidity at 100%. That gave me a sense of peace which is hard to accomplishment because I am so hard headed. To put that in perspective the dew point might crack 70 three or four times during an entire summer in upstate New York.

    I would be seriously remiss if I didn't address Ms. Cheater. As you are well aware by now the second place female in this race decided that a shortcut would be a convenient way to give the middle finger to the rest of us who ran. Boy did she underestimate the running community. We don't take too kindly to those who don't play by the rules. I will give her this much; she may be a Laaaddyyy, but she had quite a set of cojones to go up to the race director after the race and argue for her second place finish. I mean the set of balls to yell at a race director after you cheated WOW.. I could never fathom cheating in a race just to get a sponsorship. Yet she apparently had no problem flushing her morals right down the drain for a free pair of something...

    There are those of us who enjoy the struggle, and who understand that one of the greatest perks of running is the struggle. As JFK said "We choose to pursue this not because it is easy, but because it is hard". If we wanted to pursue something easy, we would join two thirds of this country and eat cheetos on the couch while slamming down sugary beverages. We are runners, we are the ones who embrace a challenge. We are the ones who get right back up when we are knocked down. We have an impenetrable spirit that will never be broken!

   Have a good week my friends. The Boston clock is ticking quite quickly. I only have four more weeks of serious training left and then I get to meet my maker in the world's most famous race.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Just checking in on YA!

I know it has been a little quiet on my front the past 10 days. You might be wondering if  my real name is Benjamin Sanchez, and that I am hiding from immigration. The good news is that isn't the case. The not so good news is that I have been a little nicked up the past week. 

It started a few Tuesdays ago where we were having a “just a smidge above freezing rain” storm. I was supposed to do these very hard two minute runs; and let me be the first to tell you they were hard. Just ask my teammate who was with me as she kept asking me why I so out of breath. Well the answer was that I was out of breath because I was running all out in a rainstorm carrying five pounds of soaked clothing. On the 5th rep I felt a pull on my hamstring, and that’s when the workout pretty much ended for me. I got the diagnosis that it was swollen, and icing it a few days would be the remedy.

Thankfully as I write this, I feel pretty much recovered. But as a runner, one of the absolute worst things that can happen is getting injured. Sustaining an injury can be anything from a minor speed-bump, to driving right off a cliff. Hopefully, this was just minor speed bump on the road to Boston. 

I should have another post coming next week recapping the super steamy half marathon I am doing this Sunday morning. Even though the race starts at 6 AM, the current forecast calls for a temperature of 70 degrees, with a dew point temperature of about 68 degrees. To put that in context for my fellow Yankees, the dew point might reach that high in the capital region 14 days during an entire year, sometimes a lot less than that. And yes, I will bring a towel with me to the race in case you were wondering. Good bye from sunny Florida!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Its the Time of the Season

So a thought occurred to me on one my recent runs; is it harder to train in the winter or the summer? There are very valid arguments for both sides to this argument. I am not going to even entertain the seasons of spring and fall because if you don’t like running in either season then no offense, but you are absolutely crazy.  I won’t tell you my personal preference right now because if I did then you would stop reading this article.

Since we are currently in winter we will start there. What are the advantages to training in winter? Well number one in my mind is that it is more difficult to overheat to the point of exhaustion. That being said you can overheat from overdressing which is a very common problem in the winter, but generally you will never come close to the feeling of running on a 90 degree day with 100 percent humidity.. You are pretty much guaranteed that the air will be dry and starved of moisture on a winter run.  If you get the chance to get out on a snowy day, you will be treated to a visual experience that is just sensational. There is nothing more peaceful than a fresh snow coating and the gentle crunching of your feet as you run through the snow.

Of course winter brings with it some very obvious negatives. The first one for me is the darkness. The days are short, and if you are like me with a daily job, that means you have a slim window to run in daylight. Otherwise you are left playing a real life game of Frogger as you try to avoid angry impatient motorists on icy snow covered roads in the dark. Do you like grip? I hope you do because in winter you will have a hard time getting a grip on those icy snow covered roads. On a bad day your only option is to run through those awful slush piles where the water and mud soak right through your shoes and numb your feet almost immediately.  Winter would not be winter without that cold icy wind blowing right through your bones like a Kleenex.

Now we can talk about summer. I am sure most of you are begging for those long summer days with that glorious sun. I am talking about the kind of weather where you would run naked if it wouldn’t get you arrested. There are several positive aspects to summer from the cool summer mornings, glorious sunshine, even running in a warm summer shower. The days are longer meaning that you have plenty of opportunity to run in daylight. The air is fresh with all the life that is thriving.

That being said summer also presents that soul sucking humidity. I personally could write an entire book about humidity and how much I despise it. That humidity will cause you to flood whatever clothing you have on.  If you like breathing then consider that a luxury on a 90 degree day with 70 percent humidity. You get the heat that comes straight from the depths of hell. If you are really lucky you will encounter a vicious lightning storm that will scare the living daylights out of you

So now it’s time to crown a winner before you get bored with this post. The slight edge goes to winter. Summer has better positives but the combination of the heat/humidity is like a lead plate on a one of those little balance scales you used in science class. What is your preference? Let me know in the comments section!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sing the Song of Victory!

I am sure that I am not the only one who derives inspiration form music. So you might be wondering, what makes me tick? What gives me the motivation to pound out the miles necessary to tackle  a marathon? The answer is  intense music. I need the kind of music that taps into my inner rage and lays the passion pipeline straight to my brain. When I think of marathon running, I think of a great war. It is a war 26.2 miles in length. It is a war against nature and the forces that constrain us. The war generally lasts between two to six hours. You wouldn’t go into the field of battle, a battle that requires every ounce of strength and every drop of courage without the soundtrack that fires you up.

It is quite amazing what the right kind of music can do to the soul. The right music can tap into a subconscious  energy that we all have. A song can change a workout. I know this because two months ago I was doing a casual 12 mile run and my favorite song came on. The song  is  called “1741” by Alestorm. If I have one song I want to be my battle cry it would be that song.  “1741” has  intensity carried up from the deep depths of hell which is just how I like it. It is battle hymn of heavy metal with just a twist of classical influence.

Upon hearing the beginning chords, I went from running an eight minute per mile pace during that run to running a six mile per minute pace. I swear every time I hear that song, it just makes me want to run a marathon that very minute. It makes me want to chase glory with a renewed vigor and concentration. I remember thinking to myself as that song came on my play list, uh oh I have to go hard. I can’t listen to this song and run apathetically once my battle hymn comes on.

As I continue the journey to Boston, I will keep searching for the music that gives me the spark to do just a little bit extra. As of this week, I have increased my mileage to about 65 per week and should be closing in around 250 for the month of January. I am trying to lay down a solid base before I run two races in back-to-back weeks in February. From there it will be all hands on deck to power through March, where the mileage will increase even further.

 I came to the conclusion that when it comes to training for a marathon, you have to prepare mentally, spiritually, and physically for a great battle. The marathon will test your will and spirit in a unique way that is impossible to describe to someone who has never done one.  There are several points during a marathon, where you have to reach down further than you have ever reached before just to keep going let alone hit your goal time. If someone runs a marathon and tells you it’s easy, they are one of three things:
 1. An alien
 2. Cheating
 3. They left something out on the course.

 I’ll be dammed, if I am going to look at myself in the mirror after running a legitimate marathon and have to think that I didn’t leave my heart and soul out on the course. 

This post might finally convince you of how insane I really am. That is fine because I embrace it. I am who I am and I have no problems with that. But, I have a sneaky suspicion that most of us in the competitive racing community have a similar philosophy. I know that the search for inspiration is constant. Marathon training  can become very mundane and take on the quality of an unpaid job if you don’t keep the inner fire burning constantly. I always remind myself that I am chasing greatness; that I am embracing this difficult journey because that is who I am.

If there is anything you should get out of this post; it should be the confidence to tackle the difficult challenges in your life. You should never reach the point that you look back on your life and wonder if you gave your passion the energy it deserves. Take the chance and jump. If you feel passionately about it, don’t let anything hold you back because in reality it is just you who is holding yourself back. This is still America and YES YOU CAN, and don’t you ever forget that. If you read my blog do the following; have the courage to pursue the difficult, have the pride to attack the seemingly impossible, because if you are a part of my circle I command that you do it!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Now You Find Out How Crazy I Really Am....

There has been a lot on my mind during the past four months especially concerning our recent election. I will spare you my personal reflections of the election because this is a running blog, not a political blog. But there are some interesting forces in our changing world. All of a sudden the bullies are back and they are ready to wreck our world in ways we have yet to imagine. I don't care what your political beliefs are, but when you observe the president elect; he exhibits the classic traits of a school-yard bully. There is the name calling, setting the tone, and my personal favorite, playing the victim. There is also the ruthless pursuit of making something completely false the truth as well as viciously attacking anyone who disagrees. I can't wait untill that guy has command of our nuclear arsenal and the greatest army in the world, including the Obama anonymous death drones.  Yes, Obama did have robotic drones that could "neutralize" terrorists anywhere in the world.

Anyway all of this made me reflect back on my youth.

Look at that little guy. Cute as a button, happy like a buddha and fatter than a little piglet. It's amazing how 15 years of bullying can shape your perception of yourself. I will be brutally honest about myself. I still struggle with a negative self image to this very day. I know I am not the only one out there who is trying to repair the emotional damage of their youth. But then again maybe bullying isn't completely a bad thing. I don't think I would have ever run a marathon, let alone a 3 hour marathon, if I hadn't been bullied. When you get constantly beaten down by the world you develop what I call a revenge factor.  I want to personally approach every person who ever bullied me and politely shove my running medals up every possible orifice that exists on the human body. If they were particularly nasty to me I would create some new holes as well. I was always told I was creative and that way I get to be called an artist.

 I was always the reject in school, constantly picked on because of my weight. Even better I had breasts before the girls in my school did. I grew up in the last generation before bully awareness became a thing. There was no support system for those of us who got bullied, nor advocacy groups. What there were were enablers, such as my high school gym teacher who told me after I got a concussion from getting beaned in the head with a medicine ball, that I wouldn't get picked on if I wasn't such a pussy. What a nice guy; my would I love to be beat him over the head with one of my running trophies. By this point your're probably getting a little uncomfortable. You're probably hovering over the exit button. Good, but unlike our president I will compromise because this is a running blog after all, so let's get to the good stuff.

I don't know if I'm isolated in this feeling, but do you ever feel that no matter how well you do or how hard you try it isn't good enough? I've had that feeling after every race and every practice I have ever done. Sometimes the endeavor feels like a total failure. In my mind when I do succeed, there is little time for accomplishment and instead the page must immediately be turned. I can tell you for a fact that this drives my friends and family absolutely crazy. They want me to revel in the accomplishment of the moment, while my immediate focus is to turn that page. I wonder if there are others like me in the running community. I know I get it from my childhood and associated depression and mental disorders, but I can't be the only one.  I know many you go right to the facebook brag and that is ok, you just did something worth screaming out to the world. In my last post, I alluded to the faxt that there is a whole lot of beating each other up in the running community as opposed to lifting each other up.

If you have gone through something similar to what I have or even if you haven't spoken up for yourself, let your voice be heard. It was through 20 years of just blindly believing the bullies and the doubters that I developed such a negative self image that still owns me to this day. If you look back on that picture I am legitimately smiling. I haven't smiled like that in years even though I acknowledge I have plenty to smile about. But as they say, it is what it is. I will keep working on eliminating those demons. I will also keep pounding out the miles as Boston closes in. I will keep competing hard, as I know most of you will too. We are runners, we don't believe in quitting or in compromise when our world tries to take our running away from us.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Where thou thy sanity Romeo?

What if I told you that at least in upstate New York, there is a constant theme of drama in the running community? Perhaps you might be surprised, or perhaps the drama in Albany’s running community is just a reflection of our society in 2017. I can currently think of at least 3 major feuds going on between various groups in the running community, and I am sort of involved in one. Well let me rephrase that, I was sort of involved in one, but I made an attempt last year to really remove myself from it. This topic has been on my mind for quite a while. For this week’s post, I thought I would do a little exploring on this topic, since it bothers me and several others in the running community.

There are plenty of us in the running community who are supportive and keep to ourselves. But when you log onto the digital sphere it becomes a UFC cage match. I am a believer in the anonymous jerk theory which states that when you typing behind a phone/computer screen you are not held back from saying truly awful, hurtful, and confrontational things. We say things over the internet that we would never even think to say in a face-to-face situation. For example, if a NFL player makes a major mistake in a football game they are normally flooded with hate mail, including threats of violence and death over a game.  Maybe you need an extra sentence to realize how crazy that is. That player didn’t steal your money, sleep with your wife, hurt your child, yet you just threatened to kill him for dropping a ball in a game that has no relevance to your personal life.

  Most of the drama I see in the running community takes place in the digital arena. But since we are a digitalized society, we spend most of time in the e-sphere when we are not pounding it out on the roads.  When you meet most of these people in person, they seem pleasant enough. It’s not like they scream obscenities and insults while they are running, driving, or whatever they are doing when not on their phone/computer. But once you get them behind a screen, out comes the monster in them.

So why is it that those of us who share a common passion fight as if we were in high school? It’s like each major group is a clique. There is a clique of the popular kids. There is a clique of the slightly less popular kids. Then there are the rest of us. Now not everyone has complete disdain for each other, but for groups of adults it’s an astonishing pattern of behavior.

Runners like the rest of us come in a wide variety of flavors similar to ice cream. There are people like me; we will call them mint chocolate chip, who have a big and bold personality that leaves a sharp taste. Of course you have the run of the mill vanilla personality who are pleasant, slightly sweet, and don’t cause trouble.  Strawberry being the closest to blood color is the instigator; they are always looking/ready for a feud and have long lists of enemies.  As in a Stewart’s shop there are other flavors there as well that I am leaving out. When you mix them into the sundae of life you can get some amazing creations where the flavors come together in something incredible. Sometimes, however, the flavors come together in a storm where they try to outmatch each other and you get the kind of ice cream creation that goes right into the trash after one spoonful.

There probably isn’t an all-encompassing solution to this issue. We are all human beings at the end of the day driven by different desires. We live in a wild and crazy time where the social norms we grew up with have been replaced by a new reality. We have a president who sends out insulting tweets like a 12-year old boy. We have terrorists who live to kill instead of living to let live. We have those who seek to dominate other’s thoughts with a one-size-fits all approach where if you have one minor disagreement all of a sudden you are a terrible person. There is little doubt in my mind that the drama I see in the running community is just a microcosm of the world around us. We as runners have to accept this reality because we do not have the power to change the thought patterns of our society around us.  But we do have the power to change how we treat each other as runners. We all have a common goal in running and that is to be successful however that definition fits the individual runner.

 From my perspective as a society we are devolving and not evolving. Maybe one day in the distant future, we will achieve a higher level of  understanding, compassion, and intellectual awareness that reveals just how truly silly our society was in the mid to late 2010's. Based on what I observe today we as humans will either be long removed from the earth, or we will keep spiraling backward until we grow hair on our bodies and go back to being apes.