Monday, October 12, 2015

Meme Monday: New York State of Mind

You might say I have a certain city and certain race on the brain these days.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Life, Adversity, and the Endurance Runner

"Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?" (prophet John "Bluto" Blutarsky)

Wow. What a deep title. I have been through much over the last eighteen months and I can say that I look at life through a slightly different lens.

I'm one month away from the New York City Marathon, and at this point barring unforeseen circumstances, I will "toe the line" for my third world major, fourteenth marathon, and achieve a goal I set for myself early on in my run career--to qualify and race the TCS New York City Marathon. Yes, Seeking Boston is Seeking New York City.

With New York City on the brain (and not getting into Boston 2016--yes, it's been that kind of year,) I popped briefly into #Runchat Sunday night, and they posed the question,

One of the best text photo's I've ever got.
"Q2: What give you the most satisfaction: a PR or finishing despite tough circumstances? Why?"

Great question. I am a "speed freak" (although not very fast this year,) and PR was my initial reaction. Then, I revised my answer to the following;

"A2 Overcoming adversity. My slowest Mary was Boston on a torn labrum with my son able to witness. #runchat"

I won't rehash Boston this last April (you can read about it HERE,) but it was the slowest of thirteen marathons I've run as I discovered after the race that the hip pain I was denying was in fact a torn hip labrum.

I received one reply to my post that struck me as odd.

"@seeksboston26mi wouldn't you want your son to see you run your best race rather than hobble to the finish line?"

At first I thought it was odd, then I was slightly pissed. I guess you can misinterpret a tweet when it's confined to 140 characters. My oldest son was a month away from graduating from high school. Due to other conflicts, my wife couldn't travel so it was just "father and son" in Boston. I ran for a few miles in a shake-out run two days before the race. I was sore, and winded. A whole month of training up to Boston went to the wayside as my hip barked every time I ran more than a couple miles.

There were several times during the 2015 Boston Marathon, that I wanted to pull out. I lacked the proper training, my hip was a wreck, and I was borderline hypothermic, but one thought kept going through my mind...I didn't want to disappoint my son, and wanted to show him what hard work and overcoming adversity earns.

Dad and son downtown
He is not a runner, and I'm okay with that. He is like me in many ways, but also unique which I wouldn't have it any other way. As a parent, I'm 2/3 away from being an "empty nester" with him now in college. There were times during his senior year in high school where he was a bit lost. He didn't want to go to college. He considered moving to San Diego to try and make a living with his guitar (like his uncle Tim did almost 40 years ago.) I reassured him, that I didn't want to force him into doing something he wasn't passionate about, but I couldn't recklessly throw him out on the streets without an ability to pay rent or take a girl on a date without any money. (Don't be a hater...I'm old and old-fashioned.)

He decided to go to Metro State University in downtown Denver and live in a dorm on his own for the first time. I was more nervous than he was. He admitted he didn't try or necessarily "apply himself" in high school. I wasn't sure how he'd adapt, but I've got some reassuring updates in the last couple of weeks including the text he sent with his professor's comments on his paper (shown in this post.)

He didn't have the best grades in high school and didn't seem quite sure about his decision to enter college. He then had his own personal epiphany; perhaps he heard too many stories from his dad about potentially the best years of your life in college, no parents around telling you to pick up your clothes or empty the trash. This adventure was perhaps highlighted by the added bonus that it would be largely paid for by parents and grandparents.

I'd like to think that all those life lessons I tried to share in car rides to school, and the fact that his dad overcame so much to finish in Boston...perhaps some of that rubbed off on him. He's taken to school like a bird to water, and I couldn't be more proud.

My hip is not not quite 100%, I've dealt with a nasty flu from Cairo, and last weekend my foot swelled up in pain with gout before a 17 mile training run. Count me out of New York? No way. I plan to show my kids again, what hard work can do, and how to overcome adversity.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Red Square and Redheads on Red Bikes

Last week was work, but it was also a trip of a lifetime. I had several of my friends post on my personal Facebook page, "now, what exactly is it that you do for a living?" My itinerary had many wondering as my run world took me on the road to Moscow, Cairo, and Dublin. I sounds like an "Amazing Race" t.v. show episode, but it was not. I began to reply (in sarcasm) to some of my friends, "I'm a double-secret agent," but that was when I was still in Moscow, and hit the backspace button on my Facebook status thinking, "this is not a very good idea."
Ty and Jenny Simpson

There's likely a full post on each city and country I visited, but I'll save you from that and instead share the highlights of new runs added to my world adventures. Before I get to my first destination, there was a layover in Brussels. Half asleep in the airline international lounge, I spotted someone from the running world. I took a double-take, then asked, "Are you Jenny Simpson?" Sure enough it was her. She'd finished (disappointing for her) 4th in the mile there. She was on her way to New York where she'd win the 5th Avenue Mile. We chatted up running as she lives in nearby Boulder where I've trained and knows my running coach, Benita Willis. Super nice woman, and gracious enough to pose for a fan photo. Great run karma to start the trip!


To start with, this trip required a visa which was complicated enough, but once secure, this was the first leg of my amazing race trip. Given my age, I grew up with the "Cold War" and never thought I'd visit this country. I'm not sure what I expected, but I had visions of people standing in line in for a loaf of bread. Not exactly, but I was not expecting the wealth and western influence I'd find in Moscow.

In front of the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre
We stayed at the Royal Aurora which was around one kilometer to Red Square. Once checked in, we head out to see the images I was so infatuated with as a child. At no time during my trip to Moscow, did I feel worried for my safety. In part due to the western feel of the city, but also due to the dense crowds. The Boshoi Ballet and State Historical Museum were both awe-inspiring buildings we took pictures of on our first night. We'd wait until the next day to get more pics of the Kremlin and famous St. Basil's Cathedral.

Running the Kremlin Wall
In terms of the people, I found them to be quite friendly and receptive to us once they'd learn we were visiting from the United States. I wasn't sure what to expect considering the tense relationship our governments currently have. Our first night, we chatted with some college students who we could tell were enamored with our country and referred to us as "Americanos." I'd hear this a couple days later when I went on a run that veered through the Red Square area--I was the only runner I saw running in the city which is what must have given me away as an "Americano." The only runners I'd encounter were in my run destination that day; Gorky Park.

The only other impression I picked up from the locals on the politics was that one man I spoke to was not keen on the direction of the country and didn't agree with the situation in the Ukraine. While the country made much progress since the "cold war," he felt their leader was taking the country in the wrong direction.
In front of the St. Basil Cathedral

In terms of dining, I never was bold enough to try Russian borscht. I'd save that experience for the next trip. The food there was fantastic including the Novikov Bolshoi within walking distance from our hotel.


This is where eyebrows started to get raised. Wait a minute, I thought you were in Moscow, now I see you sitting on a camel. WTH?

There were surreal times on this trip when I saw images in real life that I've seen my whole life in encyclopedias as a youth (yes, I'm a dinosaur as I had a set in the family,) and later on the internet. The same thing has applied at home like the first time you see the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. In this case, once again, I would see images I never thought I'd ever see.
Seeking Boston Seeks the Sphinx

Flying into Cairo was quite an experience. I fly so much that I rarely look out the window of an airplane. In this case, I was stretching my neck to get a glimpse into Cairo. "Color me" geographically stupid, but I thought it was considered the "Middle East," and not Africa. Technically, I guess it's considered both--regardless, this would be my first flight into Africa. The immediate impression from the air and later on land is that everything was essentially sand in color. From the air and on the ground, it's obviously a very poor country overall with small "pockets" of wealth. I had Hollywood film flashbacks as it looked (from the air) like many movies I've seen out the side of a helicopter.

Much of the building structures had rebar sticking out of the tops of many structures. I incorrectly observed this as construction projects incomplete or halted. One of the expat locals more aptly described much of this as generations of families who would occupy a main level, then add a level as their children would marry, and each level would have the rebar on the wall edges sticking out to the sky waiting for the cousin or daughter to build and take the next floor. The city reminded me a lot of Delhi with the preponderance of poverty starkly contrasted by palaces or hotels.

Our hotel was on the island of Zamalek which is an affluent area rich in hotels and embassies. I stayed at the Marriott Hotel and Omar Khayyam Casino which was built originally as a palace in 1869. Sounds fancy and certainly parts of the hotel were nice and rich in history, but the room looked almost like any other Marriott and quite frankly the hotel could use an upgrade. Not sure I'd recommend it other than the location  and that it looked out onto the Nile.
Older Historical part of our Cairo Hotel; Omar Khayyam 

The Nile happens to be one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Trust me, the Nile looks at its best at night, but there would be no way in hell, you'd catch me doing the Cairo triathlon in this body of water. I mentioned Zamalek is an island--it essentially sits in the middle of the Nile bordered by three bridges.

Work consumed much of the entire trip, but we were able to have Friday as a tourist day which is also a non-working day for businesses in Egypt--they work Sunday through Thursday. We had locals we met with or had flown in that were very helpful setting up our "free day" on Friday including having a local driver shuttle us around. On Zamalek, it's very "Western" and we pretty much stuck to that area at night for dining.

Biggest thing I didn't expect in Cairo? Hookah's everywhere; in our hotel at dinner tables, in nice restaurants, husbands, wives, businessman. It's hookah-mania. Not really my thing.
One of the bridges on Zamalek

On our tourist day, we head to the pyramids with our driver. He explained two options; walking in (and getting harassed by the vendors,) or go in by horse. Screw that, I'm saying, I'm going in by camel. The pyramids overlook the city and not really that far of a drive out of town--maybe 30 minutes. As we pulled close to the city area surrounding the pyramids, the rubbish was a bit overwhelming. Trash was piled into a small canal along with dead animals. After eating a banana on my camel, it felt odd, but I tossed it aside like everything else.

Our tour guide was quite entertaining, and while it sounds cliche, when he learned I was from Colorado, USA, he replied "howdy!" Too funny. He lead myself and a co-worker to the pyramids; me on camel and my compadre on horse. At the time, some of the poses seemed ridiculous, but they turned out priceless. Two interesting observations of the pyramids; yes, they were as big as I'd expected, but the red granite facade has been stripped away and put in other museum(s.) The second observation is that the Sphinx is quite a bit smaller than you'd expect. There was little to no security, and sadly a lot of discarded water bottles and trash in the area.

On our last night in town, we walked to the southern tip of the island for dinner and walked by several embassies. While I should have felt safe, I walked by the Iraq embassy and saw armed guards behind a small metal barricade. That felt strange knowing that our nations aren't exactly friends. Like a dumb ass tourist I took a picture of one of the embassy buildings and guards from a half a block away started yelling at me. "I'm sorry!," I muttered as I briskly walked away. Not a good thing to have men with guns not happy with you.

The business contacts I made were certainly cordial, but I didn't exactly feel welcome or perhaps out of place in the city and was ready to head on to my next destination.


In front of the famous Temple Bar in Dublin
As a fan of pubs and Guinness, I was looking forward to this final leg of my trip, but it started with a rather inauspicious start. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the food in Moscow, but something I picked up in Cairo, I spent the first two days in the nicest hotel (Conrad Dublin) of my trip in bed. On the second leg of my flight from Cairo to Frankfurt to Dublin, I was not feeling right. I won't go into details, but full on fever and chills set in and it was one of the nastiest bugs I've had. Having been to Delhi and survived, I stuck to bottled water in Cairo, but fear I may have got lazy by using tap water to brush my teeth.

I was able to salvage the trip, by getting a couple runs in including one along the Grand Canal not far from my hotel. I was also able to get in some tourist site-seeing catching St. Patrick's Cathedral, St. Stephens Green Park, and Christ Church Cathedral.

St. Stephens Green Park
Not wanting to leave the land and birthplace of one of my favorite beers, I ventured off with my colleague on our last night to the famous Temple Bar in the "Temple Bar district" right near the river Liffey.

While my time here was short given my sick days, I found the people to be quite friendly which was a pleasant reprise from the contrasted reception I got in Cairo. Perhaps it had something to do with all the red heads on red bikes that made me feel right at home; then again, on a bar stool sipping a Guinness is pretty comfortable territory for me as well.

Friday, September 11, 2015

New York City Marathon Training Update

My 1st half marathon of the year. 3rd in AG
Start spreading the news, I'm not exactly leaving today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York! Okay, so this is slightly old news that I finally made my declaration that I was running in the New York City Marathon on November 1st. Saying it and doing it are two entirely different things. The last two weeks have been as volatile as the New York Stock Exchange; yet provided some confidence for the big race.

With that, a summary by the numbers of my New York Marathon training including a detour in Rock Springs, Wyoming.


1330: Total training miles year-to-date.
15: Longest long run yet this training period...until last night.
2nd: Overall placement in my Rock Springs, Wyoming triathlon two weekends ago. My highest placement in a race at Race the Rock.

3rd: Place in Masters Division in Half Marathon last weekend.
2400: Physical Therapy minutes (estimated) over last four months on my torn hip labrum.
20: Number of physical therapy, chiropractor, dry needling appointments over the last four months.
16,106: Miles I will fly in the next week around the world for work while trying to maintain my New York City Marathon training.
Three: Dry needle injections yesterday to alleviate some "tension" in my hip from racing on Monday.
16.5:  Simulated marathon pace long run distance last night squeezing it in before I spend 18 hours on a flight.
6, 3 x 3, 1: Warm-up, intervals with two min recovery float, and cooldown miles on long run.
8:00, 7:50, 7:40-7:35: Interval paces for three 3-mile sets.
Zero: Number of BQ's I had in 2015. Yes, there will be no Boston Marathon in 2016 for Seeking Boston Marathon, but I will be seeking Boston in New York.

Off the grid for a couple there internet in Moscow?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

World Class Smelly Run

I often measure the quality of a run by the quantity of sweat. My fifteen miler was just such a run this weekend. Just so happens that fifteen miles is the longest I've run since the Boston Marathon in April. This was rediscovered new territory for me and I knew I'd hit a new milestone in my training for the New York City Marathon. Six indicators of a fantastic training run.

1) I applied BodyGlide, but it clearly was not enough and wasn't applied in all the right places. I have sore bits that I can't write about as this is a family channel.
2) Quantity of sweat. I sweat beyond the ability of my clothes ability to wick or retain the sweat. This is what they call "dripping sweat." A tsunami of sweat. Even my Adidas Ultra Boost shoes were soaked.
3) Quality of the sweat. At the end of my run, my wicking clothes weren't wicking or repelling but I was. I went for a reward acai primo bowl at Jamba Juice (a-m-a-z-i-n-g by the way!) and I was grossing myself out with my own smell as I waited for my bowl.
4) I not only grossed myself out, but mothers were moving their small children away from me. Yes, I stunk that bad. #truestory
5) Flies were literally landing on me. No one else was swatting flies away. Yes, I stunk so bad, I attracted flies.
6) "Please pass the salt." I had the distinctive white salt stain on the brim of my cap and once my sweat dried, there was the telltale remnants of salt on my arms. Serious sweat action!
7) (updated:) You sweat so much, you fry your iPod. I just killed my second Nano touch which is brand new. I need a moisture sleeve for that thing!

How do you measure the quality of a great run?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Something Doesn't Smell Right About Rock & Roll Denver

UPDATE: I will admit when I'm wrong. The Rock 'n' Roll Denver did not move to Commerce City. I was contacted by their PR and was advised that it in fact starts at the Adams County Fairgrounds. Unfortunately, it still runs through Commerce City and local runners that know that stretch of the Platte just don't run there. The biggest issue is Denver seems to becoming harder and harder to get a permit for run races. Considering the run crazed nature of our town, I don't get it. The race does not run through the refinery depicted in the original post. It only gets within .2 mile of the facility.

Original Post:

Arguably the mecca of the running sport (perhaps Eugene may contest this,) Denver can't seem to buy a break when it comes to distance events this summer. Earlier this summer, the Revel Marathon had several hundred participants show up, but the buses did not. I give Revel credit as their only issue was trusting a guy named Tony with the busing of athletes. As it turned out, Tony's PUC complaint list was longer than Meb's fan club mailing list.

Not to be outdone, the Denver Rock 'n' Roll Marathon has been moved outside of Denver to (drum roll please...) Commerce City! Rock 'n' Roll Commerce City doesn't exactly roll off the tongue and doesn't seem to fit with the likes of Rock 'n' Roll San Diego (I've run twice,) Montreal, New Orleans, and the list goes on of every glamorous city you'd want to race in. Every part of Denver has a redeeming quality, but Commerce City isn't what you see in the "Visit Denver" commercials. As a Denver native, I associate Commerce City (as many do that don't live in Commerce City) with the Oil Refinery that burns your eyes and nasal passages when you pass through along I-270. It's also home to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. If that sounds like an oxymoron, that's because it is.
Rocky Mountain Arsenal in 1960 (source: Wikipedia)

The Rocky Mountain Arsenal was a chemical weapons manufacturing center in World War II and also served as a prisoner of war camp. Parts were later sold off to the old Denver Stapleton Airport and eventually closed in 1992. Just as bright as turning Denver Rock 'n' Roll into Commerce City Rock 'n' Roll none other than George W. Bush turned it into a nature preserve with the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge Act. While it's now home to over 300 species of wildlife, I wonder about the effectiveness of the toxic cleanup of things like Sarin Gas. For some reason, arsenal, prison camp, airport, and toxic waste clean-up are not the images you want folks to conjure up when they're thinking of dropping "hard earned" wages on a destination marathon.

"Win the race, win a rabbit!" Rabbits used for Sarin Gas safety testing (Source: Wikipedia)
Misconceptions of Denver's other smelliest part, the Purina dog food plant belonging to Commerce City aren't true. It's on the other side of the railroad tracks and belongs to Denver. Commerce City is however home to Denver's fifth favorite professional sports team, the Colorado Rapids. So, they have that going for them.

The Rock 'n' Roll website describes the course running along Denver's Platte River which is gorgeous in parts of town, but when I've run that far north, I turn around. I had a run group have a scheduled run along Denver's Highline Canal and Platte once before in that area, and it's not pretty. The course map shows a gradual climb over the entire course. Sign me up! #sarcasm (I prefer downhill at my age.)

To minimize the  hate mail I might get from "Commercians," I consulted Yelp to see what others thought of Commerce City;

"Lower Commerce City is terrifying. With pilot flames and maze-like one lane roads, it is one of my least favorite places to drive."

"Thanks to Suncore and extremely cheap housing and real estate, Commerce City has become a sort of Mecca of industry meets meth users meets grey hound gambling megalopolis."

Denver Rock 'n' Roll in 2012 when it was in Denver
According to local 9News, the event this year was plagued with permit issues and complaints from locals. ""We got essentially informed that we would have to come up with a new plan," said David Benjes, one of the organizers. He added the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon planners learned of the changes "sort of late in the game...It's a solid course. It's a rural course. We'll have bands every mile," Benjes said. Umm...not sure if David has run through Commerce City...they're not known for attracting runners.

Given all that, with the race right around the corner on the calendar, it sounds like they made the best of the situation, but having raced and paced the Denver Rock 'n' Roll before, this one is not on my list this year. If you do plan to run the event, you might want to pack your own water. Or as ESPN's Stephen A. Smith would say, "Cmon man!"

Author's Note: Revel made the best of the situation by offering full refunds--see POST. I'm hoping Revel can survive all the refunds and I'm also hoping Rock 'n' Roll can survive this year's P.R. challenge and bring the race back to it's namesake.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Seeking Boston Marathon is Seeking New York City

There's an elephant in the room and its name is the New York City Marathon. I won't rehash all the injuries or talk of "comeback" over the last year, but the fact is, I had set a goal a long time ago that I not only wanted to run the New York City Marathon, I wanted to qualify to get in. Part of what drove me was someone who told me I couldn't get in via qualification.

I did that last year (running a 1:29 half marathon,) but an accident, meltdown at the Boston Marathon, and injury setbacks have got in the way of fulfilling my goal of actually racing in it.

May 18th I started rehab on the torn labrum in my left hip. The same hip that hampered the whole month prior to Boston and lead to my slowest marathon ever. I have had more doubt than optimism over the last three months and only started running again in early July. Those first few runs were not pretty. I was out of shape and literally weighed more than I have in probably fifteen years. Apparently, I was "stress eating." My hip was still sore. My physical therapist told me I could scale back on the strength exercises, but perhaps with Meb (Meb For Mere Mortals) speaking to my running subconscious, I decided that I needed to do more; not less.

Since then, I have been a devout stretch and strength guy. I have averaged six days a week upping my time per day at 25-30 minutes doing a variety of strength and stretching (see POST.) I have combined that with a blend of chiropractic work, ART (Active Release Therapy,) and massage on average of once a week. In all, that's around 2,500 minutes since May. You might say I want to run that race.

I have been talking to my running coach, but had not told her I was going to race New York, but was going to start increasing my miles to see if my body could handle it. I started that around sixteen weeks out from New York which is when I typically start the official training plan for a marathon. I started introducing normal aspects of my training which included speed work on Tuesday or Wednesday, tempo on a Saturday, and long on a Sunday. My hip was getting stronger, but I still had some days of soreness.

Then along the way, something odd happened. I started to get a bit faster, and I started to have some days where the hip didn't bother before, during, or after a run. I iced it a lot (and still do.) Since mid-May I have also done a lot of cross-training (swim and bike,) and resumed doing triathlons. I've raced twice and have another sprint triathlon this coming weekend.

This last week was more than a bit of a breakthrough. I had the best bike ride perhaps ever. I increased my quantity (8x) and speed (progressing to sub-six minute per mile pace) on Yassos on my speed work-out day; then followed that with a nine mile tempo run on Saturday with a 14 mile long run on Sunday. That was my best weekend in six months.

Not even two weeks ago, I felt I was headed to surgery and made a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon on Monday (yesterday.) I took a long time getting to the point, but my doc was thrilled. He was impressed with my strength and stretch regiment. At this point, he's given me a solid green light to run in New York. Fuhhgetaboutit! Getthef*ckouttahere! You gotta be kidding me!? Yes, the hotel is booked, and I'm all in. Bring it on. Start spreading the news.