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.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Sweet Smell of Redemption

First and foremost Happy New Year to all of my readers. I know 2016 was a struggle at least for me, but we made it to 2017.

As you know I spent the first post mainly spewing out my grievances with most of the races I ran during the second half of 2016, but there is redemption in the air. I kept this important detail under wraps, but I have spent most of the past week moving out of my tiny apt in Albany at the magic sinkhole spot and over to Troy. Of course no move in the history of mankind has even gone smoothly, but I was able to finish it up mostly by Saturday.

Saturday was new years eve and almost everyone on planet earth was out there partying, sipping champagne, kissing their sweety etc... Not me, I had an important date New Years day at noon, the Hangover Half marathon. This meant no libations, no staying up late... This race not only represented a fresh start, but also the beginning of my journey to Boston. It was critical to me to get a good start to this cycle to erase the bitter taste of Hartford from my being.

I had no idea what was going to happen going into this race. As I said earlier, I spent Wed-Sat moving all of my stuff, which included lots of heavy lifting all of the time. That is the last thing you want to do before a big race is other strenuous activity that taxes your muscles. Up until Saturday I had conceded that I shouldn't even really race the race and instead treat it as a workout due to all of the moving stress. But race-day came, I felt hungry and fired up and for the first time relatively healthy, so lets go for it and see what happens.

Breaking down the Race

The race takes place at the SUNY Albany campus and loops around the New York State Office complex. It takes place at noon to accommodate those of use who have social lives.... I guess that doesn't include muoa.

One important detail, was that although it was warm, there was a nice biting wind during the race or as I call it an extra middle finger from mother nature and she just sticks it in your face. Thanks to the way the course is configured multiple times you run up a gradual incline with that wind beating you down.

So the race goes off and I find myself tucked in behind a group of still drunk but super elite runners. And when I say super elite, I mean these fucking people are so fast they can beat me in a race on a broken leg, that kind of fast. So of course I am working fairly hard to maintain my pace about 6:12 per mile and they are having a sunday conversation. Not that I ever though of myself as elite, but that's the most humbling thing ever. I wasn't close to the lead pack either which included a local runner who I normally come pretty close to and on a good day can beat.

But I had a race to run, so I just tried to settle in, the course isn't exactly a fun course to run and because it loops around, there are always others in the way which adds another challenge. But I just settle din for the first few miles and tried to maintain. At about mile 5 some other very talented masters runners came up to me and passed me. That turned my entire race around, because at that point I added another gear to keep up and found a new rhythm My pace went down into the low 6 minute range and I felt confident.

About the local runner who had opened up a big lead on me, she came back into my vision at about mile 7 and I noticed I was slowly cutting into that lead. I noticed the gap shrinking slowly as the miles progressed until all of a sudden I was at mile 12. Ahh yes the last mile of a half marathon, the less lethal cousin of the marathon brick wall. That last mile also included that wonderful uphill section making for an especially painful finish, but all of sudden the finish line is in sight and that runner is right there. I ran by another runner who screamed at me to catch her, though the gap was still pretty big. My legs were screaming at me by that point. I check my watch for the 13.1 split and it shows 1:20:36 .With about 100 yards to go I went for it and BOOM at he very last step I sprinted by. I look at the clock 1:21:09 a new personal record. Finally a race where things came together. Running can be a very streaky endeavor and when things go wrong they GO WRONG.

So there we have it a 10 second pr to start off 2017, a powerful finish for dessert. It's already been a good year one race in. I just have to stay healthy and hungry, and 2017 the year of the Boston will be everything 2016 wasn't.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Of Men and Mountains

I would like to start by saying thank you to everyone who read the first post and offered their encouragement. I know after that first post you're wondering if I went out purchased some black eye shadow, goth clothing, and a shit load of Fall Out Boy albums. I did not do any of those things, but anyway go grab a glass of wine, a pint of beer, or a cup of coffee and tea.... I'm at it again and here we go!

                               - After my friday 12 miler

Mountain climbing makes me feel so manly!

I started off the week with an adventurous 1500 foot climb 17 miler run accompanied by my teammates Dallas and Michelle for an annual event. 

There is something magical about running up a mountain, or running in conditions that are considered dangerous I.e. last Thursday with negative wind chills. It's invigorating to push back against the perceived constraints of nature and society. When they tell you don't do it it's dangerous I translate that to let's find out if I have as much chutzpah as I think I have! It was actually a very warm damp morning for the run with rain holding off until the very end of the run. It was quite foggy at the top which was a tad disappointing because the view from the top of thatcher looking out towards the city of Albany is spectacular on a clear day. It's not dissimilar from the view of New York from the Tappan Zee Bridge.

So yes I survived the mountain run in tact and have gone through the motions this week. I had a rough go on it on Tuesday, but that's ok. I figured I would pay and I paid my penance in full. I write this hoping I can get close to 100 percent for the Hangover half marathon on January 1 2017. It represents the beginning of my Boston chapter and an opportunity to turn the page. For once I'm really not that concerned with time especially given the volatility of a Northeastern winter. 

All I want is to run a race and feel reasonably healthy. I have run in about half dozen races since the marathon and haven't felt close to 100 percent for any of them. It's so infinitely frustrating to feel yourself held back through either circumstances, sickness, or soreness. I probably won't be an don't 100 percent for this race, but I would like to see a significant improvement from the 4th quarter of 2016.

The remainder of this week has kind of dragged with my legs taking their sweet time recovering from the mountain run. But that is ok, I did not expect to bounce back quickly from Sunday.

With that I wish you all a rewarding and most importantly peaceful end to the new year. Knowing me and my tendency to get bored there will likely be another post before I head off to face the half marathon. By the way please leave comments, questions, suggestions, and requests in the comment section.