Welcome 2010

So here we are, at the start of a brand new decade.  We should take this opportunity to look back to all the goals that we had set in 2000 (or wish we had set) and figure out which of those goals we accomplished and which needed a little work.  This can apply in any way, financially, scholastically, athletically, or any other way you can think of.

I have to admit, in 2000 I was 21 and my goals at the time were to survive hygiene school and find a good place to hang out on the weekend.  I wasn’t really looking too deep into the future.  Now that I’ve got a few more years under my belt, and 10 years more experience, my focus goes a little deeper.

Setting goals can be a challenge.  It’s not always easy to decide where you want to go or what you want to do, let alone how you’re going to get there.  I suppose you need to start with a vision.  Where do you see yourself when that flashy ball in NYC drops for 2020?  Keep in mind goals need to be specific and measureable, challenging yet attainable.  Saying I want to be rich or beat Chrissie Wellington in Hawaii may not be realistic.  For one, define rich.  We would all like to be financially sound, but there’s no way to measure rich.  And let’s face it, those with the most money seem to have the most issues.  Secondly, while I would love to wave to Chrissie Wellington as I power by on my bike, it’s probably not going to happen.

So here are some goals I have set for myself this decade:

  • No more car accidents!!
  • Race in at least 5 Ironman races
  • Qualify for Kona
  • Reduce my marathon time down to 3:20
  • Reduce my half ironman time to 5:10
  • Successfully send Shai to college
  • Purchase a larger home with a garage, closets and more than one bathroom
  • Raise at least $50,000 for Jog for Jugs

I’m sure I could continue with many more goals for the next 10 years, but I will concentrate on these for now.  Of course, once you’ve figured out the long term goals, you need to decide which steps you will take to get to that special place.  Here are some of my shorter term goals for the year 2010:

  • Race Boston Marathon with a time somewhere between 3:30 and 3:35
  • Race Ironman Louisville
  • Reduce my half ironman time to 5:30
  • Send Shai to summer camp for math/science projects
  • Raise $2000 for Jog for Jugs

As you can see I’ve set long term goals as well as the steps I hope to take this year in their direction.  Keeping in mind that we do live in upstate NY and just getting through the winter is a feat in itself.  Setting these goals will keep me motivated during these long winter months to get outside and brave the elements.  One key thing about goal setting is to tell people what your goals are.  Once others are aware of your goals they will ask you how it’s going.  This can be a tremendous push to keep you motivated.  No one wants to say “I gave up.”

Well now that you all know where I would like to be heading for the next decade, take some time to figure you where you would like to go.  Remember to keep those goals realistic, measureable, challenging and attainable.  Once you set your mind to it the possibilities are endless

Good luck in 2010!  Work hard, but play harder!!

February 2010

Now that January has come and gone and everyone is settling in to 2010, we should take a minute to think about our health and nutrition.  Are you where you want to be?  Can you take the stairs at work instead of the elevator without gasping for air?  Are those summer clothes that we packed away months ago going to fit us when we dust off the boxes?

There is no law that says we all need to be in stellar shape or have swim suit model bodies, but we should aspire to be healthy.  Let’s start with the basics, if you’re a smoker, you know what to do.  No one can make you quit except you.  If you are ever unsure of the effects that smoking has had on one’s body I invite you to visit a science museum with an exhibit on this.  As an 18 year old I visited the Boston Science Museum and there they had a preserved lung from a healthy individual as well as a preserved smoker’s lung.  The differences were scary…..the smoker’s lung was visibly black.  We all know what this does and if smoking did on the outside what it does on the inside there would be a lot less smokers.

Now that I got that out…..we all know the 2 main things to do to stay healthy:  exercise regularly and eat healthy.  For some this is easier said than done.  It doesn’t take much to get moving.  30-60 minutes a day 4-5 days/week.  This can be walking, biking, swimming, running, weight lifting, gardening (when it’s a little warmer), shoveling (if it snows this year), cross country skiing, snow shoeing, even playing the wii.  Really anything to get your body off the couch and moving.  This doesn’t require joining your local gym.  You could even go to the mall and walk around for a while, maybe a little more briskly than window shopping, but you get the idea.  If you have a treadmill or bike at home, set it up in front of the tv.  Watch your favorite show while you ride/walk/run.  This will help you take your mind off what your doing and you may even go farther or longer than normal.  For purposes of boosting your metabolism, it’s best to do this in the morning, but I realize that we are not all early birds.  If your schedule doesn’t permit a morning workout then walk on your lunch break or meet some friends after work and go for a walk.  Anything is better than nothing.

Now on to the diet side of things.  First I would like to say, if you decide to make changes to what you eat, refrain from calling it a “diet.”  These changes should be things that you can live with and you should not completely deprive yourself from anything.  This only leads to cravings and a vicious cycle of deprivation and binging.  One of our biggest problems in this country is portion control.  The proper serving of meat is about 4oz.  Have you been out to eat lately?  The smallest steak on the menu might be 7oz, but more likely 9oz.  This one part of the meal is already almost or more than double the proper proportion.  Read labels and figure out what the proper serving size is.  Just doing this alone can really help.  You may start to think, maybe I don’t need to eat 5 oreos at a time……I could get by with just 2.  Keep a food journal.  This may seem a little tedious, but it works.  Writing down everything you eat and looking at that list later on is a great way to get a realistic view of what you are taking in.  Eat 3 solid meals a day and make sure you snack in between meals.  This helps to eliminate that hungry feeling and that’s when many breakdown.  You feel hungry and want to eat anything and everything.  Avoid that by snacking.  Bring a piece of fruit with you or maybe a protein/snack bar.

In conclusion, I would like to include a great website that I have used many times myself.  Fitday.com allows you to keep an online food journal as well as track your exercise and compare calories in vs calories out.  This website has a great list of common foods with thier calorie content as well as breakdown of fat, carbs, protein, etc.  You can even track vitamins and minerals if you have a deficiency in these areas.  It is completely free to use this website, you just have to create an account.  If you are unsure and need a little direction, I would highly recommend trying this out, even if it’s just for a couple weeks.  You will get a good idea of whether you are burning more calories than you are consuming and let’s face it…..that’s what it all boils down to.


Let’s all strive for a healthy 2010!! Good luck!

Race Review–Disney Princess Half Marathon

By race standards the Disney Princess Half Marathon is in its infancy.  This was only the second year the race has been held, but already the field doubled in size to almost 11,000 finishers!  But let’s face it, if any organization can handle that, Disney can.  And handle it they did!  This was a great race!

The weekend began with packet pick up at the expo on Friday.  My son and my neice were running the Family 5K at 7am on Saturday morning so we wanted to pick up their packets on Friday.  There was a decent size expo with many vendors.  If you forgot anything at home, they had you covered.  Sneakers, gels, fuel belts, bras, shorts, tops and sleeves, they had everything.

The 5K went off Saturday morning great.  Well, except the cold.  It was about 40 degrees and we were fairly cold standing around waiting for the race to begin.  The kids said the course was great.  Running in EPCOT around the world showcase and finishing just about where they started in the parking lot just outside EPCOT.  They said there were plenty of photo ops with the characters if you were willing to stop.  My only gripe with the 5K would be that it wasn’t timed.  Luckily we had started our watches when the kids crossed the start and we spotted them when they crossed the finish line so we had an accurate time.  There was a clock running, but their were about 3500 runners and it took all of them about 3 minutes to cross the start line.  Times were not recorded, there were no chips or any other method for recording times.  That being said, this would be a great race to do for fun, but if your looking to top your age group or get a recorded PR this is not the race for you.

On to the half marathon.  Due to the fact that this is a Disney race and the parks generally open somewhere between 8-9am, the start is a pretty early one.  Plan to get up way before the sun!  We woke up around 3am to leave for the race by 4am.  The roads were not marked as clear as I would’ve liked them to be as far as where to go to park, but we figured it out.  We arrived at the race right around 4:30am and bee lined for the lovely port-a-potties.  For those of you who have participated in larger races, you know that bathrooms are always at a shortage and toilet paper even more so.  My cousin, April, was planning ahead…..she brought her own stash of toilet paper, just in case.  Luckily we didn’t need it at our first stop before the race started so we passed it on to a lucky soul at the back of the line, who quited possibly ended up needing it.  From there we headed to bag check.  This was my first race with not a single “funner” (those who get stuck standing around pretending to be excited when they see you coming).  We had to strip down to just our race clothes and start walking to the start, which was a good 10-15minute walk from the parking lot.  Again, the temperatures where not exactly warm (a lovely 41 degrees again), and I sure was missing my gloves.  Once we got to the start area we decided another bathroom stop would be a good idea, and there were more than enough port-a-potties at the start of this race.  We had about 30min until the start and had drank a decent amount of water.  This is where we met an angel.  As the 3 of us (myself, my sister and my cousin) stood in line for the bathroom huddled together to try to generate some heat, a man approached us with an extra marathon warming cape (not sure of the correct term for those, if you’ve done a marathon you know what I mean).  He offered it to us.  This was great!!  The 3 of us stayed huddled with our new warmer and what a difference it made.

All 3 of us had been assigned to coral A which meant we got to start in the first of about 7 waves.  We were very happy to get our run going and warm up.  The race started precisely at 6am.  The first mile or so was fairly packed.  My cousin took off ahead of my sister and I as her goal time was faster than ours.  My sister and I ran most of the first mile either on the shoulder of the road or up on the grass so we could get around other runners.  That first mile was a slow one, but this forces me to warm up so I don’t mind as much.  And since I wasn’t “racing” this run, I was okay with that.  From there on out the race was great.  The sun came up about 30min into the race and the weather was perfect for running.  The course started on one of the roads just outside EPCOT and ran through the transportation and ticket center and then on to the Magic Kingdom.  Once inside the Magic Kindom we ran up Main St USA and through Tomorrowland.  We then looped back toward Fantasyland and ran through Cinderella’s Castle.  From there we continued through Frontierland and out some of the side roads.  We then headed back toward EPCOT where we entered the park and ran in front of Spaceship Earth and finished in the parking lot where the 5K finished.  The course was well supported with aid stations every 1-2 miles and some spectators.  There were also many characters along the way and again, if you were willing to stop you could get your pictures taken with them.  We recieved our tiara medals at the end, which you could have engraved right there for $20 if you thought ahead to bring cash with you.

As a big Disney fan, I loved this race.  I will most likely return to do the race again when I am completely healthy and can actually race it.  The only hills in this race are the overpasses in the roads.  It would be a great race to PR at.  In comparison with other half marathons, it’s a little pricey, but it is Disney and the atmosphere is great!  March is a great time to be in Disney as the weather is usually pretty nice.  If you’re looking for a race where the whole family can have fun this should be an option.

Don’t Let Dehydration Slow You Down!

Once again the summer months are upon us.  The time of year that runners and triathletes have a love/hate relationship with.  We love to get out in the warm weather without the necessity of gloves, hats and cold gear, however, when it gets too warm the heat can really take it’s toll.  Dehydration becomes a major factor during summer racing and training.  Once the body becomes dehydrated performance can plummet.

Knowing how much fluid your body needs can take a bit of trial and error.  Everyone is different, therefore, these needs should be determined on an individual basis.  One of the first factors to be determined is whether or not you are a heavy sweater.  The more fluids you lose through sweating, the more fluids you need to consume for replenishment.  The flip side of that is if you consume too much fluids this can affect your stomach and adversely impact your performance.  Finding the correct balance is key and that will need to be done by trial and error.

Another factor to consider is electrolyte replenishment.  While sweat is mainly water, there are also salts and other electrolytes lost through sweat.  For any workouts or races longer than 45min in duration you should consider a sport drink such as Gatorade instead of water.  These drinks are usually rich in electrolytes which the body needs to function efficiently.  For longer, endurance races or training salt tablets may also be necessary, if your stomach can handle them.  If you are planning an extended training session or have a long race for a day that excessive heat is forecasted you can also consider increasing your salt intake the day before.  Be sure to take in plenty of fluids before the start  and if it’s necessary, carry a water bottle with you.  There are many products on the market to help you stay hydrated including Camelbaks and Fuel Belts.

Dehydration can ruin a race or training session very quickly.  Don’t wait until you feel thirsty–often times it’s too late then.  Stay on top of your fluids to ensure your body has enough to allow you to complete your workout plans for the day.  Enjoy the warm weather while it’s here and plan ahead.  Train hard, train smart!

Staying Healthy Throughout the Holidays

The holidays are quickly approaching and this is typically the time of year that activity in the form of exercise plummets, yet eating sky rockets.   There are many things we can do to limit the effects of this bad combination.  After all, who wants to get back to the gym in January only to work hard to get to where you were in October?

On of the most obvious answers is to stay active throughout the holidays.  I know that’s easier said than done, but call in the help of a workout partner if needed.  Set a schedule, one that you can live with.  Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise in at least 4 days per week.  If you can, get up 30 minutes earlier and get it done and over with in the morning.  Join a running club or start taking a group exercise class.  By making exercising a social experience you are more likely to go and held accountable if you don’t.

Holiday parties are difficult for most people when it comes to healthy eating. These parties are typically loaded with snacks and finger food, most of which are not of the healthy variety. On of the most important things to remember is don’t go hungry. If you don’t have time for a meal before you head out, at least grab a quick healthy snack to get something in your stomach. Granola bars, fruit, and nuts are quick and easy snacks that work good in these situations. Secondly, don’t socialize in close proximity to the food. Yes that’s right, I want you to move away from the the snack bar. Those who stand the closest tend to grab more for no other reason than the snacks are right there. Stay active and healthy through out this holiday season and chose your snacks wisely.

The Other Side of Race Preparation

It’s the day before your big race.  Whether you’ve been preparing for an Ironman or a 5K, you are physically ready.  You’ve logged hours of training, no what do you do?

The day before race day is almost just as important as race day itself.  You need to make sure you do the obvious things like eat right and hydrate.  If your race is an endurance event in the heat, you may want to consider increasing your sodium intake as well as keeping a close eye on your hydration.

The night before your event you should take the time to make sure everything is all set for the next day.  This can avoid any unnecessary stress and anxiety right before the race.  Be sure to check the weather forecast to make sure the clothes you intend to wear are appropriate for the expected conditions.  Also, make sure the clothes you intend to wear are clean and ready to go.  Pack your bag with extra accessories you may need (hats, gloves, arm warmers, extra sports bra, socks, jacket, etc).  Have all of your nutrition needs ready.  Prepare any drink mixes, set out gels, bars, etc.  If your event is an endurance event and you usually use a recovery drink, prepare this as well.  Double check to make sure you have whatever it is that you intend to eat for breakfast to avoid additional stops in the morning.

If possible, pick your packet up the day ahead of time.  This will allow you to have your bib number prepared and any numbering ready that is required for that race.  This can also help you avoid long lines at packet pick up race morning.

Most importantly, make sure you know where you are going race morning.  Wake up extra early to allow time for race morning mistakes.  If you are unfamiliar with the area, print out a map and pack it with your race supplies.  If at all possible, drive to the race site the day before.  Familiarize yourself with the area, the parking, the start and finish.  If you are racing in a triathlon, check out the transition area and where it is in relationship to the swim exit, bike in/out and run in/out.  If time allows, walk or bike the course.  Be familiar with the turns so you don’t get lost on the course.

Making sure you are comfortable with finding the race site is one of the most important things you can do the day before an event.  If you don’t make it to the race in time everything else you do is irrelevant as you won’t be racing.  Following this guide can help you prepare ahead of time and make race morning as smooth as possible allowing you to focus on the most important thing, the race.  Happy racing!

Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club Winter Series

You know it’s winter when the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners begin their famous winter series.   If you are anything like me and have a hard time dragging your butt outside for those cold winter runs, this series is for you.

The series began on Sunday in the cold, slippery rain.  With 124 finishing the 15K and 90 finishing the 3 miler, many of these runners are die hard and will show up in the rain, snow, ice and wind.   But there are also the runners who will come “weather permitting.”  Either way this series provides a fun environment with a motivational, informal atmosphere.

These events can be run for fun or raced. With hundreds of people coming, you get a little of both. There are usually at least 2 distances offered, one long and one short to mid-distance run. The runs build in distance and the longer of the options climax in February with the winter marathon. Sporadic water stations and traffic control are provided as well. Some of the more experienced runners will use the series as timed training runs in preparation for the season. Others will just come to run for winter maintenance. And still others will come for a casual run and socializing. Whatever your reason, at a cost of joining the HMRRC for just $12/year, this series is very affordable.
You can find the full schedule of events here.

Shoveling snow….is it the new winter fitness?

Winter is in full swing here in the Capital Region.  That means the shovels are out, unless you are part of the lucky population with a snow blower or plow.  I suggest we change our view of shoveling from the negative “Man I hate this” attitude to “Wow this really is a good workout!”

Shovelling can be a great workout when it’s done properly.  Be sure to bend at the knees when lifting that load of snow, using the large muscles in your legs.  Do not bend at the waist as this can put excess strain on the lower back.  Also, although this may be awkward, switch arms you are using.  This allows you to use both arms and shoulders equally.

When getting dressed to go out and brave the elements, take into consideration that you are in fact working.  You will heat up so don’t overdress.  You want to make sure you’ve got a hat, gloves, boots, warm socks, but don’t have an excessive amount of layers on.  You can actually over heat while shoveling so starting off a little cool usually means you’ve got just the right amount of clothing on.

Lastly, be aware of yourself, how you feel and your surroundings while out there clearing that driveway.  If you have pain (different from a little discomfort or muscle soreness) anywhere stop what you are doing.  Pay attention to vehicles driving in the road, they may not see you out there at the end of the driveway.

Stay warm this winter and stay safe.  And remember, shovelling that driveway can be a great way to burn off some of those unwanted holiday calories!