Wait, isn’t it time for the March of Dimes walk already?

(NOTE 4/28/14: Updated with the correct link to my fundraising page. Oops!)

Hey Mark, don’t you usually start fundraising for the March of Dimes in, like, February?

I usually try to get the campaign rolling by early March at the latest.

So what happened? Why haven’t you posted anything?

Well, life got really busy. I got my page updated, sent out a couple of tweets and updated my Facebook page, and I even managed to post in a couple of Facebook groups, but I never got my usual onslaught of posts and emails out. Some of you folks have already donated generously, and I thank you, but I’m making sure that everyone can see this message in case they want to point anyone else to it.

So when IS the walk?

Um, actually, it’s tomorrow, but I’m extending my fundraising period because I started so late, and because of the theme of my campaign this year.

Your campaign has a theme?

Yep. This year, I’m going many steps further than in the past. Instead of just walking 3 miles for the cause, I’m celebrating my 50th birthday by dedicating a series of races to the March of Dimes. Now that I’ve gotten in shape, I’ll be running a number of races in early May: the runDisney Expedition Everest Challenge 5K, the Fleet Feet Sports 10K Classic, the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge (3.5 miles), and possibly the SPAC Rock + Run 10K. For those keeping track, that would be a total of 19 miles of racing in just over two weeks (plus the 3-mile walk)! Want to help me celebrate turning 50 by donating per mile? That would be awesome!

Wow, that’s a lot of miles! Are you really running all of that?

Yep. I’ve lost a lot of weight (over 50 pounds), and was even featured on RunnersWorld.com’s Newbie Week. Even the last time I weighed as much as I do now, about three decades ago, I couldn’t run like this. That’s why I decided to celebrate like this. And if I can help the March of Dimes by doing it, that would be even better.

You know, you’ve been raising money for March of Dimes for what, almost a decade? Has it made any difference?

Yes, this is Year 9 for my fundraising. There have been a number of breakthroughs in that time. Most notably to me, they’ve found a cause for Retinopathy of Prematurity, which compromised my son’s vision. The money that we’ve raised already will help so many of the tiniest kids have a better chance to see. Who knows what breakthrough will be next? We’ve got to keep it going!

OK, you’ve convinced me. How do I donate?

You can go to my fundraising page and donate there. If you want a refresher on why I walk, that’s there too! Online donations are secure and easy (and you can print a receipt for tax purposes as well). If you prefer to donate by check, you can click “pledge” instead of “donate,” and you’ll get a message on where to send the check.

Thanks! I can’t wait to send all of my money to March of Dimes!

Wait, what? Send all of your money? Have you really thought this through?

Haha! Gotcha!

Damn. I was hoping that you would break the bank, boost my total, and help lots of kids. But honestly, I appreciate anything that you can spare, and the preemies yet to be born and their families appreciate it as well.

Thanks! DONATE HERE!

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Runnin’ of the Green (Island) Race Report

A little out-of-band post to recap yesterday’s race, again originally posted on The Starting Line forum at the Runner’s World website:

While I’ve run longer before, 4 miles was a new race distance to me, so I got to go in knowing that I was going to have a PR, though my target in my head was sub-50:00. Temps were in the low 40s and the threatened precipitation did not materialize. I met up with my teammates and we chatted, warmed up, and took a lap around the block to warm up.

As we were getting ready to warm up, Lori [a friend from the forum] arrived and gave me the first of many energy boosts. She was also out there cheering me on at about the 1/10th mile mark, as we passed back through the start a little over a mile later, again at mile 3, and finally at the finish. It was great hearing her cheer me on, and it definitely gave me a lift.

I went out with the pack, and when RunKeeper chimed in with my pace at the half-mile mark, I realized that I was way ahead of pace and slowed it back down a little so I wouldn’t burn out. A couple of my Monster Runners teammates were run/walking, and I passed them after we passed by the start/finish area at about mile 1.25 when they started their walk. Then they passed me when they started running again, then I passed them, and so on. We must’ve passed each other 8 times or so during the race. Each time, we’d encourage each other. I passed them for the last time around the 3 mile mark or so, and I beat them by about a minute.

Since I was concerned about being too far ahead of pace and possibly burning out, I walked through the water stop just before mile 2. That was the only walking that I did all race. That may be one of the things that I’m proudest about. After about mile 2.2, we started heading back upriver. As we were going along that street, a guy pulled out of a parking lot and headed past us. He shouted out to my run/walk teammates (who were walking at the time) “Get it in gear, girls!” I pulled up next to them and said “Said the guy driving a car.” I think that broke their reaction to the heckler and picked up their spirits a bit.

As we made the turn at mile 3.25, we hit the uphill. It wasn’t a horrible hill, but at that stage of the race it was a bit difficult. I actually leaned into it and made good time up the hill. I was able to encourage a few other people going up that hill. In the meantime, despite the effort, I had gas left in the tank. At each mile marker, I was in the 12:00 range, so I knew that I had a great shot at breaking the 50:00 barrier. As we rounded the last corner with about .4 left, I started building speed. By the finish line, I had actually accelerated to a 7:28 pace! I finished in 48:57 chip time, so I got a nice shiny new PR. I will definitely take that number!

Other race thoughts posted later:

As I passed the start/finish line at around the 1.25 mile mark, I remember thinking “Good. Now I won’t be passed by any elites!”

As I got to around .2 miles left or so, the next song shuffled up from my playlist was a slower beat and not as energizing as I wanted. I quickly pulled the phone out and advanced to the next song, which was more what I was looking for. Then I kicked it in gear and motored for home.

People stopping before the last turn to take pictures in front of the Albany Pipe & Nipple building. At the pub afterward, some female teammates who did suggested that they needed one of the guys in the picture so that they would have had nipple AND pipe in the photo.

It was a really great race, and the organizers did a great job putting it on. I’m looking forward to running it again next year.

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Another 15 Minutes

I always thought that my time with MousePlanet was my 15 minutes of fame, especially the #1 search ranking on Google and other search engines for my story on the press event with Michelle Obama that was syndicated through USA Today. As it turns out, as I’ve turned my sights to a new passion, I’m getting another 15 minutes there.

I was asked by Jennifer Van Allen, special projects editor at Runner’s World, to respond to an email interview for use on the magazine’s website. The story went up yesterday, and so I am now featured on the site’s How Running Changed Me column for Newbie Week.

I really don’t feel like my story is all that special; I’m just one of so many thousands of people trying to get fit. But Runner’s World apparently liked my story enough to give me another outlet for my writing in hopes of inspiring more people to get fit. That’s a good enough goal for me. I would love to have my story help other people commit to getting themselves in better shape.

So I’ll post the same challenge here that I did on the Facebook links to the story and on the comments thread in the article itself:

For those who were inspired, let’s not lose that. Let’s make a deal. Set yourself a stretch fitness goal to accomplish by the end of the year. It doesn’t matter what it is, it should just be a stretch goal for you. It could be running an ultramarathon or walking for a mile without stopping. It could be sticking to portion control, or swimming, or biking, or anything else. At the end of the year, come on back and let me know how you did. If you want, feel free to friend me (if you haven’t already). I generally accept all comers except for spammers or abusive folks.

If you’d like to help me celebrate my 50th birthday next month, I’d humbly request that you consider a charitable donation to my March of Dimes New York campaign linked at the end of the article. If it wasn’t for March of Dimes, my son would not be here. I’ve committed to the organization to help raise money to help the next generation of preemies have a better chance to make it. Thanks for your consideration!

If you’re willing to take the challenge, post in the comments here and I’ll check in with you later in the year to see how you’re doing!

A big thank you to everyone who has supported me in this fitness journey, especially my wife and son. I couldn’t have come this far without everyone’s support and encouragement!

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Fitness Update: Going the Distance

Last week was a week that saw me take another leap of faith, as I signed up for my first half-marathon (in November). I’m still having trouble coming to terms with that one, but I’m hoping that I have enough time to build up for it. Help me!

Monday, 3/3:

2.53 miles on the treadmill in 31 minutes (12:15 average pace). It started out really crappy but got better about a mile in. I closed really strong with the last couple of minutes around a 10:00 pace. It was nice to see that regardless of rough starts, I can get it together and have a strong run.

I also took a leap of faith tonight, but I’ll put that in another thread.

From the other thread:

I took a major leap of faith tonight. I registered for Disney’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon. I’m now suffering through what I’m calling Registrant’s Remorse, similar to Buyer’s Remorse, where once you go past the point of no return, you question your sanity in deciding to go for it.

My wife tried to persuade me not to do it, not because she didn’t have faith in my ability, but more because the fall is the time of year when our son gets sick most often. I decided that, if I have to eat the cost of the race, I would, but if he’s healthy I’m going to run it. I can always transfer the money for any Southwest flight that I book, and I can move Disney reservations up until the last week, so that should minimize my exposure.

Now that I’m in, I just have to figure out how I’m going to get from 10K in May to 13.1 miles in November. That’s more than 2.1 times the distance. I could probably train to walk the whole thing easily. I was walking 10K last summer. But I want to at least run/walk this. So I’ll need to switch to run/walk after I finish my May races. I’ll see how far I get in shifting the run/walk percentage come fall.

I considered holding off for the half during the WDW Marathon weekend to appease my wife, but I’d need to get up at 3 a.m. for that one. Wine & Dine is the only Disney half run at night. It’s a 10:00 start, so I’d be pulling in to the finish around 1 a.m., but since I’m a night owl, that’s fine by me.

So now, assuming that my son is healthy, I have to figure out what I’m doing. [Forum experts], once I finish going through the plans that I’ve downloaded and come up with a tentative plan of attack, I’d love to get your feedback on my resulting plan.

In the meantime, folks, please tell me that I’m not crazy!

After an outpouring of support:

Thanks for the support, everyone! I’m not sure why I’m getting credit for being younger than I am, but I appreciate it. Actually, I turn 50 next month. In fact, I’ve got a flurry of races to celebrate being healthier as I turn 50 (see my sig, I won’t repeat it here).

I’ve thought from the beginning that the Wine & Dine was the perfect half for me because of the late start time and because it’s Disney. (I wrote about Disney on a weekly basis for a decade at a site called MousePlanet.com. I may even write a story on the Everest Challenge for the site in May.)

I’m glad that I jumped on it when I did. That made it my decision. The race sold out in about 27 hours. If I waited and missed my opportunity, I would’ve been upset that the decision was taken out of my hands.

Now I have until after my May race flurry to come up with a working plan. I’m gonna wish upon a star on this one and hope that the Blue Fairy turns me into a real boy….er….a real half marathoner!

Thanks again, everyone!

Wednesday, 3/5:

The concert last night was awesome. Despite their ages, Paul Simon and Sting still both sound great. However, by the time we got back up to Albany, dropped off my mother-in-law, got my son through his meds and into bed, and then got everything ready for today, I wasn’t in bed until around 3:30. Up at 7:30 to get ready for work, then straight to workouts. Whose brilliant idea was this?

Group training run was a 3.5 mile run with speed intervals. It was supposed to be 2 minutes hard, 2 minutes easy intervals, but most people didn’t have watches and we were very spread out, so we kind of had to guess at the times. Add in a brutal, bitter wind, and it was a really tough workout. But we survived and we finished! Average pace for me was below 12:00, so that was great. After we got back, I had a little over a half-hour to recover and get ready for strength training. Another tough workout, with heavier weights than the last time. I was exhausted by the end. I will sleep well tonight, and tomorrow is a much-needed rest day.

Friday, 3/7:

Tonight I was totally not feeling it before I went out, but once I got out there it turned out to be a great easy 2.2 mile run at a sub-12:00 pace on a beautiful starry night! Now I just have to recover before our 4.5 mile group run at 8 a.m. tomorrow. Then easy 3 miles on Sunday afternoon.

We’re back down to 4 workouts next week, which will be good because that’ll give me two consecutive SRDs [scheduled rest days] before my 4-mile race on Saturday (which I had almost forgotten about). A number of my teammates will be there as well, so it should be fun.

Whoops! Almost forgot! This morning, I finally broke the 50-pounds-lost mark after 371 days! 50.5 pounds today. I’ll probably continue to bounce up and down, but the mark has been broken. 40 more pounds to go!

Saturday, 3/8:

We did about 4.5 miles for our group run today, running about 3/4 of the course of our goal race. Overall it was a good run, but HOLY CRAP the hill (or valley) in the middle of the course is an absolute killer! It’s about halfway between the start and the turnaround. Going out, it’s a 6.5% grade down and 6.8% grade back up, then reversed on the way back. Granted it’s short (about a quarter-mile total, down 48 feet/up 43 feet, then reverse) but it’s nasty. I guess the hill workout on Wednesday will help with that. Final pace was 13:11 due to having to walk up some of the hill each way, but it was a good workout and I’m satisfied.

Three miles tomorrow afternoon, two and a half Tuesday, 3.5 hills Wednesday, then two days off before the race on Saturday. Strength on Monday and Wednesday. Merrily we roll along!

Sunday, 3/9:

I love that I’m going to have more daylight to run in!

I got out this afternoon for a 3-miler. Did 3.11 in 38:17 for a 12:18 pace. Total mileage for the week: 15.8, my highest total to date. This week was also a record for duration, calories burned, elevation climb, and number of activities. Today also put me over 100 miles for the year and 400 miles since last March. Movin’ on up!

I was not expecting wind gusts up to 30 mph this afternoon, which made me really want to drop to a walk a number of times, but I pushed through. Overall, it was a nice run, though a little calmer winds would’ve been helpful.

Strength tomorrow, 30 minute run Tuesday, group 3.5 mile hill workout Wednesday, then two rest days before the 4-mile race on Saturday.

Since you’ve read this far, a cryptic heads-up about something cool. Keep an eye out for the New Runner Week feature on the Runner’s World website on Friday. Just sayin’….

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Fitness Journey – 1 Year in the Books

Yes, Saturday was the first anniversary of my starting this fitness journey. One year of eating less and exercising more. One year of trying to be healthy. One year of walking, and then running. So what’s the difference?

I don’t know that I’m in the best shape of my life, but it’s certainly the best shape I’ve been in in decades. I’m down 7.5 inches on my waist, 6.5 inches on my hips, and almost 2 inches on my neck since I started measuring 10 months ago. I’ve got the ability to run somewhere without getting winded less than a minute in.

Thinking about it, the weight that I’ve lost so far is about one-half the current weight of my son. Now THAT gets my attention. Anyway, here is the workout diary for the week.

Monday, 2/24:

Today was my day for taking care of my strength training “homework.” It really kicked my butt again, even though I took longer breaks than I could have if this were class. I’m not quite as wiped out overall as last Wednesday, but my quads were a bit shaky afterwards. Walking downstairs from the fitness room to the locker room was….interesting to say the least. Full SRD [Scheduled Rest Day] tomorrow. We’ll see how I hold up on Wednesday.

Tuesday, 2/25:

SRD here today. My quads are still not happy with me today after strength training last night, and a number of other muscles are feeling stiff as well. I hope that things ease up tomorrow, because I’ve got a stacked workout tomorrow night. Looks like the 10K training program is doing 1K repeats in near-zero wind chill, then more strength training at Fleet Feet. Then, if my body holds up from that, I get to spend all day Thursday sitting in a training class where I won’t even really be able to get up and stretch if I feel stiff. Yay.

Wednesday, 2/26:

Stacked workout tonight. ~1 KM repeats with the 10K program followed by strength workout.

The repeats went amazingly well, with the exception of a teammate who took a turn tight, stepped off the pavement, rolled her ankle, and may be out for the season. I was about 20 feet behind her when she went down. It didn’t look good. No report from her after she left for medical attention. Anyway, we did five loops around a group of athletic fields, with the approximate kilometer diminished by a stretch of ice right before our start/finish. My times were pretty impressive for me. My pace for the warmup and cooldown laps were 12:03 and 12:10, and my pace for the three tempo laps were 10:36, 10:53, and 10:47. Even better was the fact that I was not beat at all after I was finished!

Strength training was a bear again tonight, especially since my quads were still aching from Monday night. They didn’t give me too much trouble through the first part of the workout, but when we did mountain climbers near the end, they informed me quite loudly of their unhappiness. I was better prepared and better fueled than last week. Combine that with longer rests due to more people than equipment and routines that mostly didn’t hit already-sore muscles, and it worked. I think I’ll stick with the Wednesday night strength training unless it really starts not to work.

Hoping to do my short run tomorrow night, on the treadmill if necessary.

Thursday, 2/27:

My plan gives me the option of 25 minutes either today or tomorrow. Even though tomorrow night will be about 12 hours before our 4.5 miles on Saturday morning, I opted not to run tonight between the snow and just general exhaustion from the week so far.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about my tentative goal of running a half marathon in the fall. The Half program run by our local Fleet Feet is a run-only program, and I’m just not sure that I’m going to be able to do that. I have a feeling that if I actually DO go for a half in the fall, I would opt to run/walk the Disney Wine & Dine. I’d then circle back and do a program for an all-run half either next spring or next fall. While it’s annoying to drop back, I think that I don’t want to push too far too fast and end up on the disabled list. Also, the lack of a run/walk contingency in the program is concerning. I’d rather have the run/walk option available throughout. I’ll have to decide soon, and registration will sell out quickly.

In response to a question about the half-marathon program:

In the description of the program, they very specifically say “Half-marathon runners should be running at least 4-5 days per week, for a minimum of 20 miles per week, prior to starting the program. A weekly long run of at least 6 miles should be run under 11:30 pace. This is not a run/walk program; if this pace is challenging, please consider our Faster Farther program to work on endurance and speed before attempting a half marathon program.” I’m sure that I’ll be at the minimum running level before the program starts (we’re already at 15-18 next week in the 10K program), but I’m not sure whether my body will be happy with the necessary ramp-up in distance, so I’m thinking that I’d want to tackle a fall half as a run/walk if I were to do it. So no FFDP Half program for me this fall. I just need to find a run/walk program that I’m happy with, if I decide to pull the trigger on registering for the Disney race.

In response to a question raising concerns about pre-packaged training plans:

I hear what you’re saying, George. Thanks. That’s kind of why I want to pick and choose what I think will work from the various plans that I’ve downloaded to put together a plan for myself. Then I’ll run it past the folks here for comments and a reality check to make sure that I didn’t make any tactical mistakes in putting it together. We’ll see. I’m going to have to decide fairly soon whether or not to try the half, but then I’ll have a few months to figure out a plan before I have to start it, since the 10K program won’t be finished until our goal race on May 11.

And:

An interesting point to consider. My biggest concern would probably be how much time I’d need to dedicate to get from running 6.2 miles to run/walking 13.1 miles. We’re taking 12 weeks to go from 3.1 to 6.2, so I’m not 100 percent certain how long it’ll take to more than double that. I’m hoping that–when I get a chance to see what the proven plans are saying–I’ll have a better idea of what I’ll need to do to be ready for November. That said, all advice is welcome and will be seriously considered as I try to find my way here. I’ve progressed so much over the last year that I don’t want to do anything that would compromise my progress or sour my enthusiasm. I have a feeling that it’s going to be an interesting balancing act.

And:

I find myself using two analogies lately to describe myself and my approach. My approach is like boiling a frog. I just keep turning up the heat little by little so I don’t realize how hot it’s getting. And I’m like a freight train. I’m slow and I may take a while to get moving, but once I’m rolling I’m hard to stop.

Friday, 2/28:

I was going to do my “Thursday or Friday” run tonight, but a change of family plans made me decide to skip it. Besides, felt crappy after work. That leaves me with 40.7 miles for February, still a record for me. It’s only going up from there. I’ll be kicking off March (the first anniversary of staring my “get fit” journey) with a group 4.5 mile run. Sunday is slated for a 25-30 minute run, and then I’m supposed to do another run on Tuesday before the next group run Wednesday evening. However, since I’m going to be at a concert in NYC Tuesday night, I’ll be doing that (and then strength training homework) on Monday. The scheduling is getting interesting….

Saturday, 3/1:

Today is the one-year anniversary of the start of my fitness journey. One year ago today, I weighed nearly 290 pounds and could barely run 10 steps. I’m almost 50 pounds lighter, I’ve run as far as 5.45 miles non-stop, and I’m in training for a 10K race with a tentative fall goal of run/walking a half marathon. This has been an amazing year in terms of my health, and I’m looking forward to seeing where the next steps take me.

This morning, we had another 8 a.m. group run. I hate mornings. I always seem to run poorly in the mornings, and my best runs seem to take place around 3 p.m. But the 10K training group was going at 8, so I dragged myself over there. It was tough going, and I had to drop to a walk more times that I would have liked to. But even though I was the last one back, I still finished.

Afterward, looking at the RunKeeper stats, it looks like I went out too fast again. I guess that’s the problem with running with a group. If I had started out at a 12:00-12:30 pace, I might have been able to run the whole way, but instead I probably messed up the whole thing by starting at a 10:00-11:00 pace and burned out too quickly. I’ll have to try to stay either with or behind the back-of-the-packers next time, and maybe I’ll have gas left in the tank at the end. Despite that, I did 4.5 miles at a 12:44 pace. I’ll still take it. 30 minutes tomorrow, 30 minutes Monday night (plus strength training homework), then an off night Tuesday while my family and I head down to NYC to see Paul Simon and Sting at Madison Square Garden. Then a 3.5 mile speed workout Wednesday night. This is going to be an interesting week.

In response to kudos received on my progress to date:

Thanks, all. I’m so grateful to be able to do what I can do now. I don’t know that I’m in the best shape of my life, but it’s certainly the best shape I’ve been in in decades. I’m down 7.5 inches on my waist, 6.5 inches on my hips, and almost 2 inches on my neck since I started measuring 10 months ago. It’s just awesome that if I need to get somewhere faster on foot, I can just pick up the pace and start running without worrying that I’ll be winded in just a few yards. I know that I have a lot of work left to do, but I’m really not worried about it at all. If I was able to do what I did already, there’s no reason why I can’t do more as long as I do it sensibly. It’s also helped with confidence in my ability to deal with tough work in other areas of my life, as well. All in all, I’m really happy with what I’ve accomplished so far and I can’t wait to see what I do next. I wish the same feeling for all of you.

Sunday, 3/2:

I got out this afternoon between errands for 2.76 miles in 35 minutes. Not great, but it felt so much better than yesterday. It would’ve been even better if the wind hadn’t shifted and blown frigidly in my face for about 3/4 of the run. It wasn’t my best run, but it was all run, so I’ll take it.

Tomorrow night, I’m going to try to get in another 30 minutes around replacing our old, broken toilet seat. It would be a lot easier if our one-piece toilet gave you access to the back side of the bolts. I will never buy a Kohler again. I doubt I’ll have time to go out and do my strength training “homework” for this week, but the toilet seat (and Tuesday night’s concert with my family) takes precedence.

Next week’s reports are going to be interesting. Happy March!

 

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