Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Year Running and Otherwise

This is the time of year when we look back and remember. We think of our year past and the one standing before us. Family, friends, health, running, money, environment and every imaginable part of our lives.

Here a a few of the many highlights from my year running and otherwise. I hope you will share yours too.

I......... married to the most beautiful woman in the world (Tani). She is kind, caring, unselfish and we love her. Oh yeah, and I think she actually likes me:)

...forgot to tell you about the bachelor party in NOLA:) Probably set back training for my first ultra a bit (although you may notice the Rucky Chuckys on the bar) and certainly put my political career in jeopardy.

...saw my father’s closest friend Ben, my Godfather courageously live the final year of his life with pancreatic cancer. He presided over our wedding back in March. Truly special.

...ran approximately 1,600 miles including my first, second and third ultras:

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50k Bear Mt.

The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler DC

The Knickerbocker 60k Central Park, NYC

and my fourth marathon at The Stone Cat Marathon Trail Race, Ipswich, MA.

Guess who was there supporting me?

...saw my children continue to learn, mature and grow. They are so special and make me proud every day, even the tough ones.

...had the most challenging year of my career. Phew, glad that's over.

...raised over $11,000 for cancer research (Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation MMRF)

...became a Godfather to our dearest friend's son Miles.

...had a few good meals, but this is my favorite (breakfast from Five Guys the morning after the 50 miler). Bacon egg and cheese burger and a beer.

...had foot surgery, UGH.

...made a new friend in Tony, and reconnected with old ones (Todd and Patty, nice to have you back in our lives, we love you).

...ran my final seven miles this morning at Rockies with Tony. A great morning to cap off a great year of running

AND I (we) am getting ready for a new baby!!!

I am looking forward to another year of friendships, relationships, fundraising, child raising, volunteering and of course running.

I hope everyone had a successful year (whatever that means to you) and I wish you all happiness as the future continues to become the past.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Stormy Nights Bring Beautiful Mornings

The last two days brought intense rains to the NYC area with last nights storm raging for hours. I heard the wind and rain outside most of the evening as it woke me several times. When I left the house a little before sunrise the rain had just slowed to a slight drizzle.
When I arrived at Rockies the sun was just starting to rise, with temperatures in the mid 40s and the rain all but gone it was perfect for my first run since foot surgery 24 days ago. I love being out right after any storm, rain or snow. Something about being out there first to enjoy the calm that always follows, everything always seems so fresh and new to me at that time.
After about 75 minutes I managed to squeak out 4.5 miles running and walking. The running was uncomfortable but the morning was beautiful. The streams were overflowing and the wildlife was active.

No its not the Colorado! Its the Pocantico River.

Hope you got out there to enjoy your morning too. Peace!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

19th Day Post Op "ALMOST READY"

Here it is 19 days after foot surgery and looking good. Stitches removed, PT ongoing and I am really itching to get out there and run. I am definitely frustrated living vicariously through the other blogs I follow, and runners I am friends with although it helps a little. I do need to thank my wife Tani for her unwavering support and patience. She always keeps me positive. I also want to thank Heather and Tony Portera for their encouragement the past couple weeks.

So, every morning I wake up and hope this is the day I will run and then after a couple of steps I realize it's not. Today on the way to the gym I thought I may try a few minutes on the treadmill. Then I had to run about 15 feet crossing the street to get out of the way of a wild NYC cab driver. Even at 5am they are nuts. Needless to say those few steps changed my mind so no running today either. While the swelling has gone down dramatically (actually in a regular shoe for the first time yesterday) there is still substantial stiffness with both up and down movement and of course the post op soreness which turns painful with enough weight and pressure.

That being said, I continue to improve and I may actually be ahead of the schedule given to me by my doctor prior to surgery. 4-6 week before I could run he said. I am hopeful I will be on the short side of 4 as my recovery has gone like this:

1. 3 days crutches & boot
2. 3 days 1 crutch & boot
3. 11 days boot only
4. 2 days shoes:)
5. 2 pt sessions (3rd tomorrow)
6. Daily pt at home
7. 1st good workout today at the gym
8. Crossing fingers for a short run this weekend

Sunday, December 13, 2009

First post op walk at Rockies!

I started running at Rockies nearly 3 years ago and have spent many many hours running several thousand miles there. Today was my shortest and dare I say one of my favorite run/walks ever. After just 10 days since my foot surgery I got out there and walked about 2 miles and spent about 10 minutes on a bench at Swan Lake doing crunches and leg raises (Heather suggested I get some hip work in).

I feel as though my recovery has been going well but limping around the house has still not released any of the tension I have felt from not running. Although this was not a run it was exhilarating and uplifting for me emotionally. To be at my local escape on my feet walking for about 35 or 40 minutes with others running by on this beautiful, chilly fall day was energizing.

I took my time, took lots of pictures and just enjoyed the moment. All of the pictures in this post were taken around Swan Lake including the shot below of my gear today. On my left foot is The North Face Rucky Chucky which has been my trail running shoe of choice for a couple of years now. I always loved the crazy red because I thought it looked fast, now I enjoy the solid sole, breathable mesh and versatile terrain you can run with it. On my right foot is the Lenox Hill Post Op. boot. I do not recommend this shoe for any technical terrain. Its open toe design leaves you vulnerable to rocks and roots, its Velcro straps leave much to be desired for support and the only color option (hospital blue) is boring don't you think?

I hope you enjoy the photos. See you on the trails soon. Peace

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 5 Post Surgery - Updated & Uncensored

So I took off the bandage this past Sunday as directed. I love posting all photos but thought I would spare the queasy the visual (per AnthonyP's comment/request the photo is now below so continue at your own risk although I don't think it really looks that bad:) You may also notice the nice shaving job they did which may have taken longer than the surgery LOL). The incision is 2.5 to 3 inches long and at this point resembles a zipper or according to Tani, a caterpillar. The kids agree with Tani.
I had a brief visit with the Dr. yesterday and all is as it should be. I began putting weight on my foot yesterday and after encouragement from him to do what I feel I can I really began to push my comfort zone today and have actually been getting around the house with one crutch tonight. So physically I could not be feeling more positive. No problems to date and moving forward I plan to take extra steps each day to improve beyond what I mentally feel may be possible (suck it up as they say). Mentally I am very encouraged the last 2 days. The first big move was to stop taking the pain meds. Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan and am very thankful I had them the first 3 days. However I feel better now that I am done with them. My head is clear and I can see how they easily become a crutch and could have lengthened my recovery as they drained me any motivation.
I miss running more and more each day but I am trying not to think to far in advance and look at each day of my recovery as part of my training, every day adding something new to my routine to improve. I would not say this is easy by any stretch but so far, good support, mental focus on the short term and doing my best to stay positive about every step has worked for me. Peace.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Surgery Done - Recovery Begins

Its always fun to share the great experiences of running. Great races, new places and faces. Unfortunately a couple of my recent posts and the next few will be about injury, surgery and recovery. While not as much fun many of us will go and have gone through it so I think its important for us to share these experiences too. In my previous post I described the diagnosis and treatment, "Hallux Rigidus", an arthritic condition which combined with excessive use grew to a stage which required surgery to relieve the pain and regain flexibility in my big right toe.

The entire procedure was a little over an hour. My surgeon was Craig Radnay from the Insall Scott Kelly Institute for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine in NYC. Not sure yet how large the incision is as my foot is still wrapped until late Sunday. After the incision was made the bone spur on the top of my toe was shaved down and the area between the joint where there is no cartilage was also shave to make more room and reduce friction.

The Dr. says the procedure went well and I should now have 90 degree flex without pain when my recovery is complete (4-6 weeks). Mean while the first few days have been uncomfortable. I am taking pain meds and trying to rest. I will keep you up to date as I progress (mentally and physically). Peace

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hallux Rigidus? What does that mean?

I always have my entire training schedule planned out for months leading up to my next race. Planning well in advance has always worked best for me as it helps me mentally commit to the training and work it into the rest of my life, work and most importantly family. As I have decided to run my first 100 miler in March these next few months were no exception. Every workout 6 days a week through March 27, 2010 (Moab 100) has been scheduled.

While training for any race there is always something that comes up and alters my plan its rarely been more than a couple of days of a lighter schedule and these unforeseen events have never resulted in abstention from running.

I have been puting off seeing a doctor for a nagging foot problem for several years now. The big knuckle on my right big toe has become increasingly painful and lost much of its flexibility. The problem is often aggravated when I am running more technical terrain and kick a rock or root, which for some reason has become a habit for me. As I mentioned in a previous post I did exactly that during the Stone Cat Trail Marathon a few weeks ago. The big difference this time was it caused me to completely change my stride in order to continue and the severeness of the pain has persisted for weeks now. I decided to see a doctor and what I have is called Hallux Rigidus. This is the late stage of an arthritic condition which causes pain and stiffness in the joint. As it turns out if I had seen a doctor sooner during the Hallux Limitus stage I may have had other options for treatment (Tani always told me I should go, next time maybe I will listen:). Because my toe is already rigid with almost no flexibility the only option to relieve the pain and stiffness is surgery to shave down the bone spur and create space in the joint. These diagrams show the varying degrees of this condition.

I have decided to have the procedure this Thursday and I am told I will not be able to run for 4 to 6 weeks. I have continued my training and will do so until the day prior to surgery but I can't control after that and I am becoming anxious. I keep telling myself "it is what it is" but I am concerned about losing conditioning and not being able to get back for Moab. I also know how cranky I get when I don't run. For now not much to do I guess. I look forward to seeing my friends out on the trails ASAP.

On a lighter note I had a great run yesterday at Rockies. You can read about this windy adventure and see some photos and video on I Run I followed that up with my first paintball adventure with my son at one of his friend's birthday party. Below are photos of my head where he shot me and his leg where I shot him back. That s..t hurts but it sure was fun. Peace

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Think I Am Still Dizzy!

Yesterday was the Knickerbocker 60k in Central Park, NYC. This was my 4th and final race of the year with my upcoming foot surgery on 12/3 (I look forward to coming back and running pain free for the first time in a couple of years). This has been an amazing year of running for me as I have gone further in a day and year than I imagined possible. I look forward to many new experiences next year.

Despite 9 dizzying 4 mile loops after a short out and back, the day was a perfect end to a great year. The weather was sunny high 40s low 50s. Tani was there as always with her encouraging smile and I was running with several new friends I met this year through running. This was the first time I have ever run a race with others from start to finish. I spent the entire 6 plus hours with Tony and Lynne. While I run alone most of the time in training and racing I must admit there is a lot to be said for running with others. We had a great time, telling stories, laughing, joking and in the end pushing each other to keep going. I am sure I will run many miles alone in the future but I am excited to share many miles with my friends too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Missing the Run

It has only been 10 days since Stone Cat and I have only logged a total of 12.5 miles due to injury. I keep telling myself to hit the gym hard and all will be good. I will maintain my level of fitness and be fine. The problem is it just does'nt feel the same. I know 10 days is not long and many of us have experienced more substantial injuries and been out of running for long periods of time. In my opinion that does not reduce the feeling a runner has when running is not an option. An infinite number of hours in the gym will not satisfy me. I have been trying to come up with the perfect way to explain this and I think I found it in the words of another. My old friend Navin R. Johnson once said:

"I know we have only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed like just a day, and then you came back and later on on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it started seeming like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemd like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half."

You follow me? Peace

Monday, November 9, 2009

Stone Cat Trail Races

This weekend I had the pleasure of participating in my first Stone Cat Trail Race at Willowdale State Forest in Ipswich, MA. I say first because I have every intention of returning next year. There were so many things about this event I enjoyed from the trails, the other runners, the amazing volunteers and the local cuisine.

Tani and I arrived late afternoon at the local Comfort Inn. For $59 a night and just 11 miles from the start it was a perfect recommendation. We checked in and drove to the start to make sure we knew how to get there in the morning. Then the fun began. After a short rest we were off to Woodman's for dinner. As always Tani did great research on where to go for dinner and Woodman's was said to have the best seafood. They did not disappoint. While this may not be ideal for a typical pre-race meal I could not resist (you could always go there post race too).

Fried clams, fries, onion rings, NE clam chowda, lobsters and Sam Adams. (Twin lobster special to the right was only $19) The food was great and the people were friendly.

Race day the alarm went off at 4:30am. I was meeting my friend Pete and his girlfriend Laura in the lobby at 5am to head to the start. Pete getting his number for his first 50miler (left) and the 2 of us a few minutes before the chilly 6:15am start (right). I believe the temperature at the start was in the low 20's.

The 50 miler Pete ran and completed in 9:42 ("way to go Pete") consists of four 12.5 mile loops. The marathon I ran was 2 loops after a short 1.2 mile lap around the school the race began at. Both races start together and then separate as the 50 milers hit the loop and the marathoners take a lap. This works well as it helps to reduce crowding early on in the race.

Pete and I wished each other luck and off we went. After the school lap the course takes you on a really nice ride combining mostly double and single track with lots of rolling hills and twisting trails. There are rocks and roots along the way but nothing too technical. Although as I found out its easy to get distracted and find the roots and rocks the hard way (more on that to come).

During the first loop I tried to take it is easy and get to know the course. I only passed on the double track, always settling in at whatever pace was being dictated by those in front of me on the single track. I also took time to stop and take a few pictures during the first loop (below).

As always Tani was there with a big smile and encouragement for me as I came to the end of the first loop completing the 13.7 miles in 2:07. I always feel energized after seeing her at my races. While the time was slower than I hoped I was feeling really good with plenty of energy. I felt a sub 4 hour was easily within reach and I was going to push hard and maybe even get close to 3:50. I did forget to mention 2 missed turns on the first loop which cost me time. The first one I was fortunate to catch on my own after a minute or two (for some reason the guy behind me decided to just let me go, I thanked him later). The 2nd one I had just started chatting with 2 runners Lauren and Cindy. Fortunately for the 3 of us there was a runner (Kurt, at right in red. "Thanks Kurt")behind who saw us as we were about to head down the back side of a hill and yelled out.

I saw Pete at the beginning of the 2nd loop, he had arrived a few minutes before me. He was still getting ready as I was exiting and had found someone to run with so off I went, feeling great. About a mile in I caught up to Lauren and Cindy again and ran some of the single track with them and when it opened up I went by. Everything was going perfectly, the temperature had risen into the low 40s, the sun was out and I was moving well. And then around mile 16 it happened.....I remember how easily I felt I was moving one moment and eating dirt the next. In the blink of an eye my entire run changed as it felt like someone had driven a spike through my big toe as one of those roots snuck up on me. I spent the next couple of minutes trying to get myself together and walk it off. Lauren and Cindy ran past stopping briefly to see if I was OK, I thanked them and told them to get going.

As I shuffled along the next mile or so I slowly felt better although uncomfortable. I was able to get back into a decent pace with a bit of a hitch. As I came up on the Al Cat's Lounge aid station it definitely helped. Music blasting, BBQ going, and everything from grilled cheese to bacon was available. Not to mention the dude who greeted me (photo right). Not sure of his name but he had a big smile and tons of encouragement (yellow shirt is Lauren and grey jacket is Cindy by the way).

I said my thank yous and kept moving, never stopping to eat or drink as I had what I needed. My foot was hurting but I was feeling better and the doubts were starting to go away. Unfortunately more roots and rocks kept jumping out of no where as I went down 3 more times over the next several miles. By mile 21 I was really struggling. At this point I actually stopped running and thought the best I could do was limp in the next 5 miles. After a few minutes of walking I realized it would take me close to 2 hours to finish at this pace and all of it would hurt like hell. Not to mention I knew Tani would be standing there freezing and worried. So I did what I could to pick it up, hobbling, shuffling or whatever to finish as quickly as possible (which also hurt like hell:). In the end I finished around 4:24. I have to say despite not finishing with the time I wanted this was amazing. Once again this experience showed me as did my first 50 miler back in September that when you think you can't take another step, YOU CAN! And look at everything I had waiting for me at the finish:

Tani above right.

Home made corned beef hash (at right mmmmmmmm!)

And a big fat toe (behind all the hair bottom right). Turns out I have a bone spur and arthritis (that should make the next few decades of running interesting).

FYI the race winners were:
50 miler
Aliza LaPierre 7:19:15
Brian Rusiecki 6:27:55

Courtney Bell 3:58:48
Ben Nephew 2:54:45


Monday, November 2, 2009

Running from the Javelina Jundred to the ING NYC Marathon

What a great weekend of running!
Although I was on the sidelines this weekend, and admittedly a bit on edge because of it, this was really a great experience watching and cheering for the many people I knew who were running both here in NYC and in Arizona.

The Javelina Jundred a 101.4 mile endurance run, began around 6am Saturday morning in Fountain Hills, Arizona. I was following the race mainly to watch a buddy of mine Tony Portera who was running his 4th 100 miler of the year. How does one follow a friend running in the desert a couple thousand miles away you might ask......the answer is they have a great webcast that allows you to track all the runners after each of the 15+ mile loops (course map right). I was able to keep track at home or on my Blackberry. I love this system although its not searchable so it may be tough to use for larger races.

In a race of this length its interesting to follow as you are going about your daily routine. We were eating breakfast about the time the race started. Eating lunch at the local pizza joint when Tony hit mile 30. Trick or treating right around mile 60 (see Tani and the boys) and going to sleep after a Yankee win around mile 80. What really impresses me is when we woke up following a good night's sleep to see all these runners still going strong after 20 plus hours. Tony finished in 23:42:11 well ahead of the 30 hr cut off and good for 34th overall (250 started). Great job Tony! One hell of a year.

And congrats to the 1st place men's finisher Dave James (14:20:54) who broke Karl Meltzer's previous course record by more than an hour and to Beverley Abbs (18:48:05) who was the first women's finisher.

As described in my October 20th post Marathon Sunday in NYC is one of my favorite days, although I must comment on its size. The race has now grown to over 43,000 and I find it can be somewhat overwhelming.

As a runner the time and logistics it takes to get to the start can be stressful and drain your energy (not to mention its usually freezing while you wait on Staten Island for 2+hours to start). I will say the introduction of the wave start and bottle neck start line last year were positive additions to a race of this size. And once you are out on the course the energy is incredible.

As a spectator trying to find your friends and family running the race is dizzying despite the athlete alert system which I find adequate at best.

Now that I got that out of my system lets move on....

The last time I watched the race was 2006 (ran 07 and 08) and I am happy I was able to do it again at this years 40th with my family, old friends and some new ones including the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation. We helped them set up a Cheer Zone for the 100 runners who gained entry this year through their Marathon/Half Marathon Program. Nice work Jane and Alicia for putting this great program together and to all the runners below, "Great accomplishment. Congrats to you".

A special thank you goes to Mark for lending us his bar (Aces & Eights on 87th Street & First Avenue/mile 17.5) to hang MMRF signs and as a meeting spot. I think we should also give a special shout out to Tani and Eliot who came to the rescue when the Aces staff was late for the early openings that are tradition on this day in NYC (see photo). When is the last time you saw a pregnant bartender :) She looks great doesn't she?

The race produced the first American winner in 27 years Meb Keflizighi (2:09:15) and Derartu Tulu (2:28:52) of Ethiopia won the women's race. Switzerland's Edith Hunkeler won her fifth women’s wheelchair title in 1:58:15 and Kurt Fearnley of Australia won for the 4th straight year in 1:35:58.

It always amazes me to see these professional athletes fly by at ridiculous speeds but for most this day is really about who follows them for the next several hours. The 10s of thousand of runners looking to complete this race, 26.2 miles through the streets of NYC all have their own reasons, personal accomplishment, a bet, charity and so on. Regardless of the reason, the positive energy generated by their stories and the crowds who come to cheer them on is unlike any other sporting event I have ever been to. Despite its flaws I look forward to many more ING NYC Marathons both as a runner and spectator. It is impossible to walk away from this day with out feeling positive.

Congrats to my friends Greg 3:40:52 (1st timer) and Scott 4:17:45 (old timer:)

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