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As my feet hit the pavement for the first time in so long, Selena Gomez sang in my ear…

When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

The song is at the beginning of my playlist for my Boot Camp in part because it’s a great song to ease into activity.  The slow, steady beat keeps you from starting too fast, but the throbbing, eastern feel gives you a sense of anticipation of what is coming after your body warms up…

…but today, the song felt different to me.  You see, I normally don’t listen to music for the lyrics.  Unlike Jess, whose love of country music stems from the stories country singers tell in their songs, my pleasure from music comes from the weaving of beats, sounds, harmonies, points and counterpoints.  It can be years later that I realize I still don’t know the lyrics to a favorite song, in part because I don’t care about what the artist is saying…I care about what the artist is saying

…but today, the song felt different to me.  As Selena Gomez’s voice sang to me…

When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

…it was almost as if the road was singing as well…

You ain’t gotta worry, it’s an open invitation
I’ll be sittin’ right here, real patient
All day, all night, I’ll be waitin’ standby…

…and here I was.  I have not run regularly in over a year.  My last marathon was NYCM ’13, but even before then my mileage had dropped precipitously.  Though I still considered (consider) myself a runner, my heart and mind were not cooperating.

…but the road knew…

This love ain’t finished yet
So baby whenever you’re ready
When you’re ready come and get it
Na na na na

As the road sang to me, I got more excited for the slow, 6-miler I had planned.

Some of you may know that way back in the Fall I began talking with a local advocacy group about running 100 miles for them as a way to possibly raise money and awareness of their wonderful work.  Massachusetts Advocates for Children (MAC) is an incredible organization that offers free legal advice to families in need and works tirelessly on capital hill to protect the most vulnerable of society.  By the end of the Fall, we had settled on a Father’s Day run – a crazy dad running not just for his children, but for all children in Massachusetts.  The run will take me from Amherst to Boston Commons (an 89 mile route).

Then we got hit with the worst winter Boston has ever (EVAH) seen.  Between work and the snow, I ran a total of 0 miles in preparation for my run in June…that’s right: 0.

As my thoughts wandered during my run today, I inevitably began thinking of this monstrous task ahead of me.  It is, to say the least overwhelming and scary.  The long distance and short training time is not something I would ever prescribe or recommend for a client.  As I wrestled with my thoughts, Aloe Blacc began to sing to me…

Stand up now and face the sun
Won’t hide my tail or turn and run
It’s time to do what must be done
Be a king when kingdom comesWell you can tell everybody
Yeah you can tell everybody
Go ahead and tell everybody
I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man

…that was quickly followed up by Angélique Kidjo’s rendition of Voodoo Child…

Well I stand up next to a mountain
Chop it down with the edge of my hand
Well I stand up next to a mountain
Chop it down with the edge of my hand
Pick up the pieces and make an island
Might even raise a little sand

…and I knew, barring injury, I was going to do this 100 miles run.

Kidjo continued to sing…

‘Cause I’m a voodoo child
Lord knows I’m a voodoo child

I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
Make it back to you one of these days
I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
Make it back to you one of these days  

…and I was brought back full circle.

Throughout my run, feeling the flow with each beat, I dance and sang and laughed with the music – I can only imagine what it looked like to other runners and pedestrians.

It was a celebration of sorts.

Toward the end of my run (my planned 6 had turned into 10 for no reason other than I was having fun), I passed a Church.  People flooded out of Easter services, all dressed in their Sunday best.  It hit me – I was dressed in my Sunday best and attending a Church I had not been to in a long, long time.

Now, despite being baptized presbyterian, I am not a religious man by any stretch, but how appropriate would it be were I to resurrect my passion for running on a day many believe to be a day of renewed life?

I went to Church today…and it was good.

Happy Easter and Good Pesach everyone.  I hope your Sunday morning was as glorious as mine.

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I could blame it on my focus on getting my personal training and boot camp business up and running.

I could blame it on my studies for a nutrition certification.

I could blame it on the weird pain I’ve been suffering through in my left foot.

I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could find a lot of reasons.

But if I’m going to be honest with myself (and with you), I have to simply admit, I haven’t been motivated.

I have a half-marathon next weekend, a full marathon and a 100-miler in October.

Bay State (the marathon) was supposed to be my attempt to return to Boston.  Ghost Train (the 100-miler) was supposed to be my attempt to go sub-24 hours.

After watching my social media feed back in April, as many of you ran a glorious Boston Marathon, I got excited.  I got psyched.  I was pumped at the prospect of running a competitive (for me) marathon and getting myself back to the starting line in Hopkinton.  With the added 10 minutes allotted to me because of my impending age bracket change, I knew I had it in the bag.

I bought new shoes (Go Mebs).

I announced my plans.

I pulled out my calendar and worked my way back from October to determine my base building runs and then my Bay State specific runs.

I planned it out.

My early morning runs.

My late night runs.

I was going back to Boston…

.

.

.

…and then I wasn’t.

My calendar began to fill.  Early morning runs became a problem.  With 6AM clients, 4 to 5 days a week, I was already getting up at 4:30AM to prepare.  Late night runs became a problem for the same reason.  You can’t give your clients your best on only 4 hours of sleep.  I was studying at night.  My feet were (are) suffering from an undetermined ailment.  The list could go on and on.

Honestly though, those are just excuses.  The fact is, as excited as I initially was to run both Bay State and Ghost Train, that motivation abandoned me at the first hurdle I faced.  Perhaps I really didn’t want to run, I merely wished I could.  We make priorities in life in part because there are only 24 hours in a day.  We make choices.  Maybe it a day was 30 hours, I would have found the time…maybe…probably, the results would have been the same.

At this point, if it isn’t obvious, I will not be running Bay State in an attempt to qualify for Boston.  I may still run it, depending on my feet, but it will be simply to enjoy a long run through the town of Lowell, MA.  Ghost Train is out of the question.  Attempting to run 100 miles on zero training would be foolish.  As for Boston 13.1, which happens next weekend, I am not sure.  Like Bay State, we’ll see how the feet hold up over the next week.

 

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…of course, if you aren’t a runner at heart, I hope that you’ll understand as well.

I have a friend who recently took up running.  She built up slowly, using the Couch to 5K program.  I would see her about once a week where our girls were enrolled in a weekly program.  She’d tell me about her progress, new distances, new paces.  I would give her some strategies to overcome barriers, both perceived and real.  To help her stay with the program, she had signed up for a local 5K.

One week, while asking for some pre-race advice, she prefaced her question with, “I know it’s only a 5K and that must seem really silly to you but…”

I stopped her.  I told her something anybody who ever seeks advice from a long distance runner should know:

You never, ever have to preface a question with, “it’s just a 5K”.  You never have to qualify any of your running questions to us.  We’ve been there.  We know the trepidation.  We know the uncertainty.

And just so you know, we still feel it today when we toe the line for a 100-miler or a 5K (if we are running for time).

My point is this – we all run and it doesn’t matter if you run 3.1 miles, 50 miles, 100 miles or farther.  There was a time, when I first started on this running journey, that 13.1 miles might as well have been 100 miles.  The thought of the distance was staggering.  Anything with the word “marathon” in it (half, full, ultra) all fell in the same category and all seemed equally absurd.

Come race day, it doesn’t matter whether you finished first, DFL or anywhere in between; it’s not whether you finish quickly or slowly – ultimately, it come down to whether you enjoyed yourself and are satisfied with your performance.  Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule – certainly there is the occasional ultra trail runner who seems to think they’re a goddess of some sort, and therefore can look down on the more casual runner, but those people are few and far between.

If your butt is off of the couch, your feet are pounding the trail or street, your quads are burning and your lungs working; if you are running, then you are one of us.

Welcome to the warmest, coolest family outside of your own.

*if you aren’t a runner, then please, come join us!

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This past Saturday was a beautiful day – the sun was out; the temperature was moderate; runners from all over the world were flocking to my city.  Jess and Brooke were off to a play date with one of her friends and Katie was off at a food tasting for a friend’s upcoming event.  Everything was lined up for me to go out for a nice, long run – what would be my 4th run of 2014.  I set my playlist to laid back mellow music – a little SWV, some Michael Jackson, Brand New Heavies, Carl Carlton, Tribe Called Quest and a heavy dose of Jamiroquai – slipped on my favorite running shorts and VFF Bikilas, set the Garmin and I was off.

It felt good to be outside; it felt good to have the rush of air coursing in and out of my lungs; it felt good to hear and feel the rhythmic beat of my feet on the pavement; it felt good to feel the slow burn slowly build in my legs.

That feeling last about 3 miles.  As I made my way over a portion of the Boston Marathon course, I realized that perhaps my ambition to run a long run may have been more than I was physically ready for.

Five things I learned on my 11-mile run, covered in a slow, deliberate pace in 1:43:08:

  1. You haven’t been running nearly enough when your favorite running shoes leave wicked blisters on your feet.
  2. You haven’t been running nearly enough when carrying a water bottle while running proves to be a workout for your forearms.
  3. You haven’t been running nearly enough when after a mid-distance run, you glutes feel like their going to fall off while going up and down the stairs.
  4. You haven’t been running nearly enough when you purposely avoid hills you used to eat with a grin on your face because you’re afraid you’re not going to make it all the way.  But worst of all…
  5. You haven’t been running nearly enough when your favorite, lucky running shorts end up chafing you in places you never, ever, ever want to be chafed.

chafe_1643825

So on this Marathon Monday Morning, when so many people I love and respect are waiting in Hopkinton for the start of their Boston Marathon, I promise myself that for the rest of the year, I will run more than a sad once a month, no matter how busy I am with my budding personal training business, mostly because I never, ever, EVER want to feel the kind of pain I felt Saturday afternoon when I got into the shower.

***

Good luck to the 35,000+ runners running Boston this morning.  I am with you in spirit.

May the wind be at your backs, your feet be swift, your breath be powerful and your hearts be strong.

Boston Strong.

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Leprechaun-5K

I had no expectations of myself coming into this race – none.  Sunday’s run would be my third of the year.  No, not my third race; my third run.  For a few months I’ve been nursing an aggravated hip that comes and goes.  In addition, I have been working hard on growing my fledgling personal training business.  The only real exercise I had done in the past two weeks has been 4 minute tabata burpees between dropping off Katie and Brooke off at school during the school week.

That.  Is.  It.

So, like I said, I had no expectations of how I was going to do or feel after 3.1 miles this past Sunday.

That being the case, I decided that I shouldn’t position myself at the very front of the pack at the start of the race, opting instead to start several yards behind the front-runners.  After a wonderful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the race director’s daughter, the starting horn blared and we were off.

A small pack of about twenty to twenty five runners immediately separated themselves from the masses.  I had to make a snap decision to either follow and run hard or stay back and enjoy the scenery.  I focused on my hip for two or three steps, trying to anticipate whether it could handle a hard effort.

No real pain – check!

I decided to chase the group.

I had left my phone in the car and my GPS watch is on the fritz, so I had no idea just how fast I was going, and with a downhill start I really was not in a position to judge pace.  Over the first half mile, the jack rabbits began to shake out – I was now sitting somewhere around 16th or 17th.

We began a short uphill climb.  This is where I made my first move – I tend to push the hills a bit; I find it’s a great way to reel people in.  I caught up to a group of 3 or 4 runner and passed them on the inside.  As we hit the mile marker I took a quick glance at my watch before setting my sights on a few runners ahead of me.

7:25.

Okay, not a bad pace for someone who has been struggling with their running for the last few months.  My hip was fine, but my glutes and quads were already burning, as were my lungs.  I tried to ignore the pain and pressed on.

As I began to pick off runners one by one, I looked way down the road.   I could barely see the leaders.  I counted back.

1…2…3…

4, 5, 6…

7…8…9th!

I was running 9th with about 1.8 miles to go.

That’s when I heard the footsteps.  They were slowly getting louder and louder.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

Without turning I yelled, “which side are passing me on?”

I couldn’t make out what he said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

His footsteps got louder.  I couldn’t tell how far behind he was, but it felt like he was right on my tail and gaining.  I slid to the left, encouraging him to pass me by.

“It’s all you, man!” I said.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

If he said something, I didn’t hear it.  Surprisingly, he didn’t pass me.

The two of us passed the guy running in 8th.

His footsteps continued to push me as I, I hope, pulled him.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

My legs and lungs were burning.  I glanced down at my watch.

14:30.

14:30?  I had thought we were going faster but the mile 2 marker was nowhere in sight.  Was it possible the I had slowed down that significantly?  Were we that far from 2 miles that it wasn’t in sight?  Nearly a minute later I spotted a sign that looked like a marker.  I looked at my watch.

15:15, 15:16, 15:17…

What in the world???

As we got closer, I noticed that the mile marker said 2.2 miles – 15:35…we had averaged 6:54 for that 1.2 miles.

Okay…now I get it!

I was encouraged by the fact that we only had 0.9 miles to go.  Though I wouldn’t admit it beforehand, I was hoping to break 24:00 that day.  I was sure I had that in hand, but knowing I had less than a mile to go, I decided to push it for all I had.

Thump, thump! Thump, thump!

“Footsteps” was still behind me.  I was sure he was going to pass me at any time now as we approached the finish.  He had been shadowing me for a bulk of the race, biding his time.  I was not looking forward to the finish.  I remembered from the previous year that the Leprechaun 5K ends with the last third to half mile uphill and as much as I enjoy catching people on hills, I hate finishing races on hills.

“Footsteps” began to fade…I yelled back encouragement, trying to egg him on, but his footstep continued to fade.  As I hit the 3 mile marker, I let myself enjoy the fact that I was going to comfortably finish in 8th.  The woman in 7th simply had too big of a lead on me and there was no way I was going to catch her, but “Footsteps” had been vanquished.

“Thumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthumpthump!!!”

These footsteps sounded different.

Faster.

Lighter.

…Younger.

In a flash my joy evaporated as a kid went flying by on my left.

No. Way!  I tried to hit the next gear – I wasn’t going to give up my spot without a fight to this kid.

I dropped the hammer and pushed…

…and kept going at the speed I had been cruising along in.  The kid flew past me like I was standing still.

Sigh.

I crossed the finish line in 22:02, covering the last 0.9 miles in 7:10 pace for an overall pace of about 7:06 – good enough for a 9th place finish.

I stumbled up to the kid.

“Were you the footsteps behind me,” I asked confused.  He looked confused as well.  I turned to see “Footsteps” finishing.  I turned back to the kid.  Obviously he had started further back and finished strong.

“How old are you, kid?  16? 17?” I asked.

“I’m 13,” he said with a grin.  I shook my head.  Crap!  Taken out like I was standing still by a boy the age of my daughter.  I knew that this day would eventually come – I just didn’t expect it to happen at 13.

13!!!

I gave him a pat on the back and went to chat with “Footsteps”.  We thanked each other for pushing/pulling the other along.

In the end, despite being taken down by a 13 year old, I was pretty happy with my performance.  It was nowhere near my best in a 5K, but it was pretty darn satisfying to finish in the top 10 out of 200+ runners.  It did make me realize though that I have a long way to go to get back into marathon shape.

1609950_10152206372806598_592647749_n

Me flabbergasted that I just got passed by a 13 year old…

 

Hope you all had a fantastic weekend!

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

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So this morning I had the privilege and opportunity to be a guinea pig for a couple of scientists over at the Spaulding National Running Center, a part of Harvard.  The folks at the NRC are studying the biomechanics of those of us who a) run barefoot or barefoot style and b) have not had any injuries to the lower extremities recently that would keep us from running.  I jumped at the chance to participate, in part because it sounded like fun and in part because in a couple of weeks I will get a High-Definition, Super Slow Motion recording of my stride along with what my GRF (Ground Reaction Force) is.  All super cool stuff, but nothing to do with today’s post.

While the scientists were marking me up with pen and then attaching tiny reflectors all over my body, they became somewhat frustrated.  It turns out that my skin, for whatever reason, has a higher resistance to ink than that of a typical person.  In addition, my level of adhesiveness is also substantially lower.  This is not due to lotion or moisturizer – they had made it very clear that we were not to use anything of that sort before coming in.  The various reflectors took many times more tape and adhesive spray that their typical subjects required.  One of the scientists joked that I must be made of Teflon.

Which leads me to just one conclusion…

Remember the old school yard saying?  Well, it’s true…

I’m rubber and you’re glue…

How do I know?

…because Harvard said so!

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I went out for a run this morning.  5 miles, 39 minutes on the nose.  I went out with no particular plan, but I eventually found myself at the local high school track.  While there, for no apparent reason, I decided to do a couple of Fartleks at 5 minutes a piece, averaging at about a 6:20 pace.  The run itself really is nothing to write about; it is rather how my run started that has me sad.

For over the past year I have been using the Charity Miles App for almost every run I do outside.

It is ingrained into my routine – step outside, put in earbuds, start my playlist, start the Charity Miles App, swipe to the Autism Speaks page, hit go, run.  For almost every single run over the past year and a half, this has been my routine, whether it be a training run, a fun run or a race.

The same thing, over and over.

Every run was inspired because I knew every extra mile was a little extra money going to Autism Speaks…every extra stride was money being spent on awareness…every step was improving the lives of autistics and their families…

With the family out on various errands and activities, I decided I needed to go for a run.  I went through my routine – step outside, put in earbuds, start my playlist, start the Charity Miles App, swipe to the Autism Speaks page, hit g…

I stopped.

I thought of Suzanne Wright’s call to action.

I stared at my screen.

I thought of Suzanne broadly painting every family with autism as lost.

I sighed.

I thought of Suzanne making it clear that their focus was on children only.

My thumb hovered over the start button…wavering just so.

I thought of the countless autistic adults who are being left behind by Suzanne Wright’s call to action.

I sighed and looked away, hanging my head.

I thought of the fact that Brooke is only a handful of years away from being an adult.

Sadness overcame me as I realized I just couldn’t bring myself to pressing start.

I swiped through the other very worthy charities that Charity Miles has teamed up with.  I finally settled on Achilles International, an inspiring group that helps disabled athletes compete in events like the New York City Marathon.  Although I did not cry outwardly, I was doing so on the inside.

Image

…feeling lost and sad after 5 miles…

I am sad.

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