Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Turkey Trot

Good morning, and a Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Last night I ventured up to Westchester County to eat a delicious pre thanksgiving meal prepared by my wonderful girlfriend, Amy.  We had rigatoni all a vodka with chicken cutlets, Caesar salad, and Pillsbury grands biscuits.  Delicious!  This happens to be my pre race meal, so I got up this morning and decided to run a turkey trot!

The event was a five mile run through the streets of my home town Franklin Square.  I finished the 5 miles in just over 49 minutes, and placed first overall! Mind you, this was a very small race (only one participant).

Okay, you got me...I did not run any type of official race this morning, but I did get up and get out there to run five miles on my own which in itself I consider a little victory.  Sometimes, it is nice to think of my runs as little races.  It often gives me the motivation to push through those last few miles when the legs start to feel tired, and not to slow down.

It was a beautiful morning for a run, unlike yesterday when it was raining and quite cold.  In all honesty, the cold doesn't bother me very much, I just have to make sure to layer up!  I will leave you with a challenge...Get out this weekend and run! However much you can whether it is one lap around a track, one mile, a 5k, a 10k, or 10 miler, or a 7 miler like I will be running on Saturday, just get out and run!  It will be good to run off some of the turkey and pumpkin pie from Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

23 by Twenty-Four Update

November 10, 2011 --

Thing are going well.  My last check in, I weighed 222.2 lbs.  Today I weighed in at 220 pounds!  Thats another 2 pounds lost, and another 2 pounds closer to my goal of 210 pounds.  I am well underway into marathon training, and the increase in exercise is definitely helping.

I must say though, I could be losing more weight if I could stay away from ice cream, and make some better choices when eating out.  However, I am still moving in a good direction.  I also feel that having these foods is making this experience more bearable.  I think I would be miserable if I completely cut out ice cream and pizza.  However, I do know that if I want to cut down past 210, I will eventually have to start really watching what I am putting into my body.  But for now, I will keep doing my best and slowly shedding the pounds.

I have thirteen weeks from Saturday November 12th until my birthday.  At a reasonable rate of 1 pound a week, I should definitely reach my goal!  Keep your eyes open for another check in.  Hopefully the next time I check in, I will be in the 'two-teens'!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Race Day Tips for the Volunteer


Having run eight races and volunteered at the NYC Marathon this year, I have come up with some DOs and DONTs for race volunteers.  Following these tips will not only better your experience as a volunteer, but also better the experience of the racers!

DO Smile -- This one is simple, put a smile on that face!  The racers know you got up early and probably sleep deprived, but they are too.  Some of the racers woke up before you did, and they're all smiling.  Remember, you signed up to do this.  At some point, you had the idea that you wanted to make the race experience better for the participants, and wearing a big smile on your face is a little way to do just that.

DO Cheer -- I volunteered at the NYC Marathon and at the end, had no voice.  I spent the entire time cheering for the runners who were passing by.  For volunteers who have also competed in races, you know how important this is.  You have been there, and have likely seen the difference between a volunteer who cheers and a volunteer who stood there silently.  An athlete is fueled by applause and cheers, and they use them to do great things!  

DO Make it Personal -- Many racers will wear their names on their shirts...USE THEM! These people are not writing their names on their shirts so that they remember what it is.  They are writing their names specifically so that you and other spectators can give them recognition by name.  Even if someone doesn't have their name on their shirt, pick out something on their shirt and use it.  For example, if someone has a live strong shirt, say "Hey Livestrong, You're doing great!" Most of the people whose names I called out seemed to really appreciate it, and more than half gave either a thumbs up or said thanks.  It is not that hard to do, and once you get into it, you will really get going.  This also makes things more interesting and fun for you because you are looking for names and things to use to identify people.  

Notice how the athlete has his entire hand on the cup.
This is a perfect fluids handoff!
DO Give a Big Target -- What do I mean here?  What I'm talking about applies specifically if you are handing out cups of fluids.  When you are handing out fluids, be sure to hold the cups from either the very top or the very bottom.  This gives the athletes the largest surface area to grab at.  Many athletes will be trying to grab the cups out of your hands as they are running by.  This becomes very difficult to do when you are holding the cup from the center because the athletes can't get a good grip on the cup as they move by.

DO Wear Comfortable Clothes / Shoes -- Like I did at the NYC Marathon, you could end up standing at an aid station for upwards of 5 or 6 hours.  Be sure to wear shoes and clothes you will be comfortable in.  Also to go along with this, be sure to dress for weather about ten degrees colder than what the forecast predicts.  What I mean by this is make sure you layer, so that you can take items off if it is warm, but have things to put on if it becomes cold.  Being warm and comfortable are crucial!

DONT Show Up Late / Leave Early -- Know the commitment you are making, and stick to it.  If you are unwilling to volunteer from 8:30 AM until 5 PM, don't sign up.  The athletes who need 6 hours to run the marathon deserve the same enthusiasm from the volunteers as the athletes who do it in 3.  As one of the "not so fast" runners, I have experienced races where there was only one volunteer left at an aid station or even no volunteers left and just a table of cups.  It is really disheartening to an athlete to have the feeling that no one cares about them anymore.

DONT Wear Nice Clothes -- If you are handing out liquids, you WILL get them on you.  Guaranteed one out of every five cups you attempt to hand out will be spilled.  It may not be your fault or the athlete's fault, but there are definitely times where the cup handoff is fumbled for whatever reason.  Also, many athletes take the fluids to throw on their heads and faces and you are right in the splash zone.  You definitely do not want to be wearing hundred dollar jeans and nice expensive boots.  Instead, grab a pair of sweats or gym pants and an old pair of running shoes.

DONT Forget to Bring a Snack -- This one is simple.  Most races will not provide you food during your volunteer shifts and like I said earlier, these shifts could be several hours long.  Therefore, make sure you bring some type of sack with you.  A protein bar or a power bar are both great choices.  Also, if you want you can pack a lunch.  There will likely be a few minutes you can sneak away and ask another volunteer to cover you while you eat quickly.  This is again very important because you are happier when you are well fed, and being happy rubs off on the athletes.

Overall, volunteering at a race is a very rewarding experience.  If you follow these tips, you will not only have a great experience, but also give a great experience to the athletes.  The last and most important piece of advice I can give is this: DO HAVE FUN!

Monday, November 7, 2011

ING NYC Marathon Volunteer Report

November 6, 2011--

First off a huge congratulations to all of the finishers of this year's New York City Marathon presented by ING!!!

Before yesterday, I always had an appreciation for race volunteers; people who give up their time so that I can do what I enjoy.  Well, after volunteering at yesterday's race, I have a much deeper appreciation for race volunteers.

Our morning started with a 6 a.m. wake-up (which due to daylight savings time didn't seem so bad).  We got dressed and ready (running tights, sweatpants, under armor mock turtle neck, Newport Half long sleeve Tee, and Tri-Rock, NY Tee) and headed to Dunkin Donuts for breakfast.  There, we grabbed an iced coffee and a muffin and headed to catch our 7:06 LIRR train into Penn Station.  We arrived at 7:45 and hopped on the C subway train uptown to Columbus Circle, and walked three quarters of a mile to the mile 25 fluid station in Central Park.

So before we even started any of our volunteer work, we had a pretty full and eventful morning!  At the fluids station, we jumped in and helped carry and mix gatorade for the athletes who were still preparing to start their journeys through 5 boroughs and toward 26.2. There were eight 10 gallon coolers we used to mix six gallons of gatorade with a ratio of five parts water to one part gatorade.  

Once the gatorade was mixed, we started pouring cups and stacking them on the tables.  Amy and I took control of one table on our own.  We filled and stacked two separate stacks of 77 cups, three levels high for a total of 462 cups!  

Here's the final product...

462 Cups of Gatorade!!

First wheelchair athlete to pass our station
A man with two prosthetic legs comes through just
before the elite men and women

Pictured above is the first elite woman to pass the station, followed closely by these next two pictured below!

One of these two wound up catching the leader in the last 1.2 to take the race!

Here is the first elite man to pass us, and yes, he took my cup of gatorade!

This picture below was taken just after the men's overall winner took gatorade from me! Notice the people in the back cheering?  Yeah, they are cheering for me for having given this man a cup of gatorade!  He went on to set a new course record!  Probably one of the highlights of my day!

Huge smile on my face after a clean handoff to the Men's winner!!

After that from about 11:30 am when a steady stream of runners began coming by until 5:00 pm when the station closed, there was a constant stream of runners.  We were constantly handing out cups and refilling our stations.  Over 45,000 runners took to the streets yesterday, and all of them had to pass me at one point or another.  One face I saw was that of Apolo Ohno who ran a 3:25, almost a full 5 minutes under his goal of 3:30 so a hugh congrats to him!  The other celebrity runners managed to slip by in the crowd of thousands, but it was still a great day!

Then it was 5:00 PM and I was exhausted!  My back was sore, my shoulder and neck hurt from having an extended arm all day; I don't think I was that sore after some of my races!  And, remember that muffin I spoke about eating at 7? That was all I had consumed until 7 PM when I got home.  

Would I do it again? Absolutely! I had a great time, and it was an absolutely awesome experience!  I learned so much, that I don't even know how to contain it all into one post.  I will have to have another post of how to cheer for runners and how to properly appreciate race volunteers, so keep your eyes open!  

I will leave you tonight with some more photographs taken yesterday of Amy and myself!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

ING-NYC Marathon

One thing I firmly believe in is to give back to the racing community.  For the 8 races I competed in this year, hundreds, if not thousands of people took time out of my day to make my race experience better.  Many of these people woke up earlier than I did to compete and worked all day.  As I raced, I made sure to thank as many of these people as I could for volunteering their time, but that is not enough.  I think everyone who takes part in an organized race, should give back to the community by volunteering at a race.

That being said, Amy and I will be volunteering tomorrow morning at the ING-NYC Marathon.  You may be wondering what made us choose to do the NYC Marathon, and the answer is simple.  Amy and I both follow a number of athletes and athletic companies on twitter.  One day reading through the timeline of tweets, Amy saw that Olympic speed skater Apolo Ohno was running this year's marathon.  Amy, like many other American women, has an infatuation with Mr. Ohno, and immediately suggested we volunteer at the race in hopes of seeing Apolo.  We have since learned that former Olmpic softball player, Jennie Finch, is also running this year's race; so I have something to look forward to as well!

Softball pitcher, Jennie Finch
Olympic Speed Skater, Apolo Ohno

We looked through the list of volunteer opportunities, and were shocked by the amount of different areas volunteers were needed.  We could have volunteered at the race expo, at the start line, at the finish line, as a translator (we don't quality for this speaking only english), as a bandit catcher, at the aid/water stations, and many more.  Amy and I chose to volunteer at one of the aid/water stations, and were then given even more options to choose from.  Did we want to be at mile three, four, five, etc.  We both agreed that we wanted to be somewhere after mile 13 because we have both run and finished half marathons and we wanted to see what happened after the runners crossed the 13.1 barrier.  We finally decided on Mile 25 which is a station just outside of Central Park where the race finishes.  After seeing us, the athletes will have only 1.2 miles left to the finish!

After signing up to volunteer, I spent a good part of the week looking at different signs spectators have brought to various marathons.  I got a really good laugh at a few of these.  Here are my top 5 (in no particular order)... 

Spectator signs are awesome during a race!  They give runners something to laugh at and seem to make everyone happy.  So, my final thought of this post is...if you are going to a race, make a sign!  Make two signs even! Make one for the person you are specifically going for, and then one for everyone else.  Put some thought into it.  Remember: The wittier the sign, the better and the more laughs it will get!

Good luck to all of the athletes competing in tomorrow's ING-NYC Marathon!  Maybe someday I will be out there with you!