Post NYC Marathon: What’s Next?

Post NYC Marathon: What’s Next? 

After completing my first marathon in January 2018, I wasn’t sure what my next step would be in my running journey. I had spent months training for the marathon and just like that it was over. I didn’t have any other marathons planned – I wanted to reassess my goals afterwards. However, I quickly realized that not having any upcoming races put me in a tough spot – it’s harder to train when you don’t have a clear path in sight of what you’re training for. I resonated with that one commercial when the person finished their tv series and was now in a show hole. I could relate. I was in a marathon, race hole.

I try not to make the same mistakes twice. With the NYC Marathon now behind me, I have a clear plan on how to move forward for the rest of 2018 and early 2019. Here are my next training steps spanning the next 2-3 months:

1.) Finish the 9 + 1 Program 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, NYRR (New York Road Runners) has a great deal for NYC residents. If you run 9 of their races in 2018 and volunteer at 1 of them, you are guaranteed a slot in the 2019 NYC Marathon. That’s a pretty sweet deal! At this point, I’m 7 + 0. My end of year running focus is now geared towards completing this task. In December, my schedule includes:

  • A 5k
  • A 15k
  • A Volunteer Opportunity

This will allow me to complete the 9 + 1 program and guarantee my entry for next year’s 2019 NYC Marathon. If you’re looking to run the NYC Marathon in 2020, I highly recommend and encourage you to check out the 9 + 1 program in 2019 (if you’re a resident of NYC).

2.) Focus on Strength Training

I’m going to place a large emphasis on lifting and strength training for November/December. It’s so important to build muscle and increase strength. I especially want to build more muscle mass in my legs to improve as a runner. I’m excited to pivot back towards lifting and have a better lift/cardio balance. My workouts recently have been one dimensional (all cardio focused). It’s time for a change.

3.) Looking Ahead to 2019 – Training Plans 

Although I haven’t decided which one, I’ll be running another marathon in May/June. For this next marathon, I want to do it the right way and follow a specific running plan. I’ll jump back into marathon training in January and supplement the training with a nutrition plan. In early spring, I’ll toss in a few races as part of my marathon training process.

I’m excited for the next upcoming months! With marathons, it’s definitely something you can’t wing so it always takes a lot more advanced planning and training.

Are you training for any upcoming marathons or races?

 

What Happened in the NYC Marathon – My Running Mistakes

What Happened in the NYC Marathon – My Running Mistakes

I had dreamed of this moment for over a year. I had ambitious goals. I had a plan on how to achieve them. And I had trained for this moment for a long time. I was going to cross that finish line, get a new marathon PR, and prove to myself that I have improved as a runner.

Unfortunately, this race did not turn out how I dreamed it would. I did not get a new marathon PR and I struggled for the whole marathon. I’ve spent a lot of time processing the results and here were my top mistakes. These are not excuses for a failed PR attempt, these are mistakes that I made that I will learn form, adapt to and evolve as an athlete.

1.) Lack of Emotional & Mental Focus Leading Up to the Marathon

The week leading up to the marathon I was not locked in. I was excited about the marathon, but I was not focused on it. I let other life stressors get in the way of me preparing emotionally and mentally for the race.

2.) Lack of Sleep Leading Up to the Marathon

This had a bigger impact than I initially realized. Due to work projects and life, I had 4 poor nights of sleep in a row before the marathon (Wednesday-Saturday night). I couldn’t sleep well, woke up often and slept few hours. On Thursday, my legs were aching because of the lack of sleep. However, I brushed this off and remained confident that this wouldn’t affect the marathon. I would run on excitement and adrenaline. I was sure I had more energy than I thought. Turns out, you can only run on excitement for so long. When the run got hard, my body just didn’t have the gas it needed to push through.

3.) My Marathon Gear

I debated for days what I wanted to wear on race day. I constantly checked the weather and considered what I typically wear on races in November. The problem was that it was going to be in the 50s which means that it could go either way compression tights/long sleeved shirt or shorts/t-shirts. Since I was going to be waiting for several hours before the marathon (and I didn’t have bag check) and considering that I ran a half 2 weekends before with compression tights/long sleeved shirt, I opted to go this route. This was a huge mistake. In addition to a lack of focus and energy, I quickly started overheating around mile 4-5. By mile 14, I met up with my wife to swap my long-sleeved shirt for a short sleeved shirt. This was the right choice. Although it took me a while to swap my bib onto the new shirt.

Overheating wasn’t the only issue. The compression tights were brand new. Although I tested them on a quick 3-mile run, we all know there’s a huge difference between wearing gear while running 3 miles vs. 26 miles. This is more of a theory than anything, but I don’t think the tights were breathable enough and helped to contribute to overheating. In theory, I loved the idea of these tights since they have multiple pockets for phones, gels, etc. Although that was another issue, I stuffed the pants too full which contributed to my slower pace. This theory may not be accurate, so I’ll continue to test these new compression tights on future runs.

4.) My Playlist

This isn’t a big one. I’ve been training myself to run with and without music. However, my Air Pod Playlist refused to shuffle and completely died on mile 17. No music for the last 9.2 miles.

5.) Waiting around for 4+ hours Before Starting

Although I knew I would be waiting around for quite some time prior to the marathon, I didn’t realize it would be 4 hours. Since I ran through a charity, I did have access to a heated tent. I stayed in the tent for the majority of the time beforehand. The tent was way warmer than outside, but still not perfect. It’s a long time to wait when you’re ready to go and running on fumes. I never had waited so long for a race to start before and it definitely affected me.

6.) Hunger

Before leaving the house, I had some Nuun electrolytes and toast with peanut butter at 4:40 AM. Between 6:00-10:00 AM, I had a kind bar, 2 6 oz cups of hot coffee, 2 8 oz. bottles of water and half a cinnamon raisin bagel. Honestly, I thought that was plenty since I normally run on less. However, I didn’t account for the 4 extra hours of waiting around. Shortly before my corral began, I realized that I was hungry again. Not a good sign heading into 26.2 miles.

7.) An Off Day

At the end of the day, my body just flopped and I had an off day. I’m not giving myself an out, I’m just sharing what happened. There are some runs where your body feels like a million bucks and other times were it’s a grind and challenge. Sunday was one of the tough ones.

So, what would I do differently?

1.) Keep to a Training Program
2.) Keep to a Nutrition Plan
3.) Keep Stress to a Minimum & Plan Ahead a Little Better

More on these items in an upcoming post!

 

 

Running Q&A: Get to Know Me!

Running Q&A: Get to Know Me!

Q: Why do you run?

A: There’s a lot of reasons. The first one is for physical fitness and mental wellbeing. It’s a great way to stay in shape and incentivizes me to be the best version of myself from a health perspective.

Second, running is a phenomenal outlet for me to literally run off into my own world for a few hours – truly therapeutic.

Third, the runners community is amazing – encouraging, supportive, and uncommonly kind.

Fourth, the runners high. After finishing my first marathon, I was in a runners high coma for at least a couple days. It feels amazing.

Fifth: The medals. Let’s be honest, medals are awesome. I won’t run a race unless there’s a medal waiting for me at the finish line.

Overall, I love feeling accomplished, breaking personal records, doing things I never thought possible and getting inspired/inspiring others along the way. All while getting in better shape and getting mentally stronger.

Q: What is your pre-race breakfast? Do you have anything special?

A: I usually do a plain bagel/toast with peanut butter. Then, I have a lot of water mixed with some electrolytes/caffeine (usually Nuun). That’s my go to meal. However, I’ve also ran on oatmeal, honey and blueberries + water/Nuun.

Q: When do you start hydrating for the race?

A: I try to start seriously hydrating for the race 48 hours prior to the race. I also try to start monitoring my meals and not put anything in my body that could throw me off or cause bloating for the race.

Q: Do you use any Gus or Gels on the course?

A: Yes – I prefer the Go Isotonic apple flavored gel. I find it’s easily digestible and is thin/runny. A lot of the gels are too thick/sweet for my liking.

Q: Do you eat the free hydration foods at the course stations?

A: It depends. If I have my own stuff, I’ll always use that first. I know how my body will react to what I’ve had before and I don’t want to risk having something that won’t sit well during the race. However, If I really need something, I will splurge sometimes.

Q: Do you get side aches or cramps during the race?

A: That’s really two questions rolled into one. I think every runner has experienced both of those issues at some point. I find that you can’t judge a long distance run on the first 3 miles. I’ve often had side aches or cramps for the first few miles, but I run through them and it usually improves.

Honestly, it depends on the aches and cramps. You should know your body and what it’s trying to tell you. For me, there’s times where my body is essentially just complaining and I know I can push through and it’ll get better.

There’s also time where I feel bad pain – hamstring issues mainly. At that point, it’s important to be smart. If you need to walk for a bit, no one is going to judge you. You do you.

Q: Music or no music?

A: Definitely music. I usually only listen to NF (rapper) during my runs. However, I’ll also throw in some Rob Bailey (body builder rapper). I find both of them to be inspiring and music that pushes me further.

Q: A random running fact about you – Go!

A: I hate bananas. I know, races and bananas are like peanut butter and jelly. When I was running my first marathon, they had several stations just full of bananas. I want to like bananas, but every time I’ve eaten a banana in the last 10 years I get sick. My stomach hurts for a solid hour. It’s not a fun fact, but definitely random.

Brooklyn Half Marathon

The NYCRUNS Brooklyn Half (October 2018)

I’m 2 weekends from the NYC marathon and I want one more race under my belt before tapering. I chose the Brooklyn Half Marathon because A.) I’m very comfortable with the course as I’ve ran it several times and B.) NYCRUNS is a good running organization and they always have great medals (all about the medals!).

I actually wasn’t feeling that great heading into this race. It was wet, rainy, and cold. I was also wrapping up a stressful work week with limited sleep. But once I got out there, my body locked in and I felt great. I averaged 8:12/per mile for all 13.1 miles. No stops – felt great. Too bad this race wasn’t the marathon.

The 18 Mile Training Series Race

18 Miles in the Summer Sun (September 2018)

First, 18 miles is a long way. Whenever I need a push and an incentive to run long distance, I sign up for a race. This will be my longest training run as I gear up for the marathon. For my first marathon, my longest run was only 16.3 miles – definitely not long enough. Although 18 is an improvement, it’s still not where I need to be.

I attempted a new strategy for this race – run slower to conserve energy for the last few miles. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to work too well. I got tired around mile 15 (seems to be a weak spot of mine). I ended up doing a run/walk combo the last 3 miles. As disappointed as I was to do that, I needed to and my body just wasn’t ready. As much as I love the Central Park loop, the Harlem Hills get to me after I while. After looping the last lap and completing the hill workouts, that’s when I decided to run/walk.

I’ll admit, I didn’t feel that great in this race. But I finished and I’m a better runner for it.

5th Avenue 1 Mile Race

The 5th Avenue Mile (September 2018)

I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to run the 5th Avenue Mile – a 1 mile sprint starting near the MET and ending near 56th street. Since it was only 1 mile, my wife decided to participate and run too – which was awesome!

When I signed up, I didn’t realize how big of a race event this is. They broadcast the event live and elites came into NYC to compete. It’s always a privilege to run races with elite athletes.

I always focus on endurance over speed, so running a 1-mile race was a brand-new experience for me. I was always curious how fast I could be for only 1-mile. Today was my day to prove it. Unfortunately, my marathon training just picked up so I wasn’t in the best shape for a sprint. I had just completed a 10-mile run the day before, so I was a little stiff. Even with that, I completed my mile in 6:01 – my fastest mile that I’ve ever tracked (also my only 1 mile race I’ve tracked).

I definitely want another crack at this event next year as I know I can do better. I’d like to see myself push 5:30 and I think that’s totally realistic given the right circumstances.

The takeaway: If you’re like me and run in NYC all the time, consider yourself lucky and blessed. Our events our top notch, elites come in from all over the world and a lot of the events are broadcast live. It’s a privilege and honor to run with so many great runners in NYC. If you haven’t run in NYC, you totally should. It’s really special to sprint down 5th Avenue, race in Central Park, or even do a training run across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Beer & Bacon 5k Run

The Beer & Bacon 5k Run (Wisconsin, September 2018)

My wife’s family lives in Wisconsin. It’s a tradition of ours to visit them for the long Labor Day weekend. I had a little more free time this trip than usual and I was looking for a race in the area. I literally found the perfect one: A 5k Bacon and Beer Race. After the finish, they served unlimited beer and bacon. It sounded too good to be true and an amazingly fun race!

So naturally I signed up. Even my wife signed up for this one. The 5k wasn’t up to speed (pun intended) on the timing at the start of the race. I get spoiled living in NYC where every race is top notch with elite athletes. When they started the clock, you just started running. If you were one of the last ones to cross the start line, you were 15-20 seconds behind everyone else’s time. There wasn’t a clock time and then your time. Everyone had the same start time which is not accurate, but whatever, it was a smaller race event.

The course was beautiful – I had walked part of the course before (right on Lake Michigan). Due to rain, it was a little wet and sticky, but totally fine. Again, the humidity caught me off guard (all Summer it caught me off guard) and there were a few hills that were pretty steep. I started off too hot – I was trying to keep with the front of the pack. I ended up slowing down at the half way mark. I was thrilled when I crossed that finish line as the humidity, hills and too quick of a start got the best of me. But my finish was good enough for 5th place overall out of 150+ runners/walkers. No complaints there. First time finishing a race in the top 5, so I’ll take it!

Then, there was the after event. I’ll tell you, this was my favorite small race I’ve ran and by far the best after-party. Wisconsin does it right in the most mid-west, Wisconsin way ever. Unlimited cups of bacon, bacon nachos, unlimited beer, a BLT from Jimmy Johns, Swag bag with a mug and other trinkets, a bag of chips, etc. SO. MUCH. FOOD. I loved every minute of it.

In all honesty, I actually didn’t eat that much. I had my half BLT, one piece of bacon, 3 small nacho chips and a sip of beer. The rest was water for me! I won first in my age group (awarded with a pack of bacon), my wife won first in her age group (awarded with a pack of bacon) and I won a random raffle that I didn’t even know existed (which granted me with another pack of bacon).

I left that race smiling, with 3 packs of bacon, a medal, t-shirt, swag bag and a pin for top overall finisher by age-group. I also made a few friends in the process. If I’m around during Labor Day next year, which I usually am, I’m definitely coming back for more.

The takeaway: Don’t ever lose the love of the sport. Not every race has to be intense, a PR or even for training purposes. Sometimes, you just need to kick back, relax and enjoy the sport and gift we’ve all been given – to run. We all need more of these races!

The Manhattan 7 Mile Race

The Manhattan 7 Mile Race (August 2018)

Two days before I leave for Europe and guess what I’m doing? Yup, you guessed it – running and racing. I wanted to squeeze in one final race before heading out of the country for two weeks. I chose the NYRR Manhattan 7 Mile in Central Park because it’s a good training run and a decent hill workout. Plus, as I’m trying to do the 9 +1 for 2019, and I need as many races as possible to fulfill that goal.

For me, the most challenging season to train in is the summer months. This is a shame since so many marathons are in the fall. New York is always hot and humid in August, so I knew in advance that it wouldn’t be a fun training race, but a needed one.

Since I was pretty inconsistent with training over the summer, this race was harder than I anticipated. I normally don’t stop while running any distance under 13-14 miles unless there’s an equipment malfunction or injury. However, being that it was so hot, I actually took a second to walk. This happens and it’s ok to do this if you need a second to reset.

I finished the race which was one loop around Central Park. I was dripping wet and underprepared, but I accomplished it. The main takeaway is to always listen to your body. If you need to stop for a minute and walk to reset, then do it. The most important part is that you cross that finish line injury free.

A Thursday Night 5k Race in Central Park

A Thursday Night Race! (July 2018)

Hot. Humid. And Brutal.

Before this race, I had never run a race at night. Or a race on a Thursday for that matter. Since it was only a 5k and it’s a course that I like in Central Park, I decided to give it a whirl.

Thankfully, it was only 3.1 miles. Out of all the runs and races this summer, this one was by far the most challenging. I didn’t realize that coming directly from work and being tired from the day would have such an impact. It also didn’t help that the subway I took to the upper west side had zero AC. I was drenched in sweat before I even began to run!

Overall, the race went well. I started too fast on a decline hill and had to push the last .5 mile up a gradual incline. I paced well – under 8 minute miles – but felt sick afterwords. Everyone was hot, sticky and gross. The best part were the icy pops we received after the race in lieu of medals.

I think the takeaway here is to always remember that if it’s your first time doing something (first night race, first race after work on a Thursday, etc.) that there could be unexpected results good or bad. Every situated is going to cause your body to react in a different way. The more experiences you have, the more prepared you are for a variety of challenges and circumstances. Although overall I performed well, I decided that night races aren’t my thing. I love training at night and will continue to do so. But for races, it’s important that I put my best foot forward (pun intended) and it’s hard to do that at the end of a work day.

First-Time Marathon Essentials

My First-Time Marathon Essentials Guide 

On January 7th 2018, I completed my first marathon. All the training, sweat and grit paid off. I’ve found that the running community is amazing, supportive and full of encouragement. Maybe that’s why so many people are joining the community (I recently joined myself).

Many people are being inspired to amp up their fitness levels and are signing up for half marathons and marathons. When I initially signed up for the 2018 Disney World Marathon, I wasn’t sure if I had all the gear needed to complete the run. I read several blogs and conducted lots of google searches. I found some decent information. However, I learned what I needed by training, running half marathons in preparation and joining the running community. I wanted to share my marathon race gear essentials:

1.) Body Chafing Stick

This will vary person to person, but I use a chafing stick prior to running as a precaution on my legs and chest area. For me, the friction of running and the fabric against your shirt can cause your nipples to chafe or worse, even bleed. Although I haven’t had extreme issues, for my first marathon I wasn’t going to take any issues. It seemed to work well.

2.) Apparel

The right, supportive running shoes, athletic shirt/shorts, and compression tights are essential to competing and performing well. If you’re unsure about what running shoes and brands to look at, do some research on Brooks, Altras, and Nikes. For shoes, part of it is personal preference. I look for a few things when selecting a shoe:

A.) Lightweight Running Shoe

Running a marathon is challenging enough, I don’t need a bulky, heavy shoe slowing me down.

B.) Highly Supportive

If it doesn’t offer support to your feet and ankles, it’s garbage.

C.) Comfort

I don’t want a shoe that bothers my feet, causes unnecessary blisters, etc.

I’ve heard great things about Brooks and Altras. Eventually I’ll check them out, but I’ve stayed consistent with my Nikes and have had success. (Note: I have now switched over to Brooks).

For the majority of races, I typically wear compression tights under my shorts. You don’t need this, but I find that it’s supportive, keeps my legs warm and flexible (I use Under Armour)

Any lightweight running shorts will work (if there’s zip pockets anywhere for your phone or additional items, that’s always a plus).

A nice compression shirt.

4.) Energy Gels

This is a big one for me. All races pass out water/Gatorade and most of the larger races will pass out additional fuel ups – bananas, gus, gels, etc. Personally, I don’t like using the gus/gels they pass out. I’ve done it multiple times and through trial and error have learned what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. Most gus and gels are thick. I don’t like eating something sticky and think when I’m running. Further, I’m not a sweet person – having Nutella flavored gels is not helpful for me.

I’ve found that the Apple flavored Go Isotonic Gel works the best. It’s between an apple sauce and water consistency, easily digestible and doesn’t make me feel sick. It’s packed with carbs, which is great fuel for long races. For the marathon, I packed 3 of these gels in my belt (see # 6 below).

5.) Phone Holder

Ideally, it’s best if you have a safe spot for your phone. I’ve used an arm band before and have also held my phone during races when I need to. However, additional zip up pockets, belts, etc. are good ideas for the phone.

6.) Belt

I used a snap on belt for my marathon. It had a back pocket (ok, it kind of looked like a fanny pack). But, I kept my gels in the pack. Depending on what you’re running with, it’s helpful to have a belt.

7.) Headphones

If you run with earbuds/headphones, make sure you have tested them on long runs. I’m still figuring out the best over-the-ear earbuds.

8.) Hydration

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. Start hydrating a couple days before the race, hydrate during the race and definitely hydrate after the race.

9.) Nuun

Instead of a standard sports drink to hydrate and push electrolytes after the race, I recommend Nuun products. They have electrolyte tablets (similar to an Airborne – just drop it in water), electrolyte + caffeine tablets, and vitamin tablets. It’s great because it’s substantially healthier than downing a few sports drinks. Each tablet only has 10 calories, 4gs of carbs and 1g of sugar. My recommendation is to take the electrolyte + caffeine tablets before or after hard runs. Besides that, I don’t take them daily since the sodium levels are high (16% dv in 1 tablet). However, the vitamin tablets only have 4% dv of sodium so that’s better for daily consumption.

Those are some of my race-day essentials to make sure you navigate your first marathon successfully. Of course, do what works for you. Test things out prior to the marathon. Don’t try new products right before the race or during the race. I like to keep my running routine as consistent and rhythmic as possible.

Let me know what you’ve found to be essential! I hope this helps and good luck with your first marathon!