Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vibrams on the way

I just ordered my pair of Vibram FiveFinger KSO model "shoe".

I am excited about this new adventure. When they come I will let you know how I make the transition..

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The next frontier: Barefoot Running

I have been having a lot of pain recently on long runs. As I am running, I can feel it building up in my arch (left foot) and ankles. Eventually, after 18km or so, it becomes almost unbearable and I have to stop running for breaks or to walk a bit.

As I keep running, which I can do with taking breaks, I begin to feel pain in my hamstring and knees. Probably this is from compensating to minimize the original pain.

Because of this, I dropped out of the marathon training for this year. I just could not handle the long runs and saw no purpose in running in pain for 42km for no real gain.

I did run the Israel Half Marathon in Bet She'an last week, and ran it slower than last year. Between the 18km and 21km markers I had to stop twice because of the pain. I finished in a time equivalent to last years full marathon, but slower than last years half marathon. I was not disappointed because I had not really focused on training, especially after I had decided I was dropping out of the marathon training.

But because of my recent experiences, and because of the amazing book "Born to Run" by Christopher McDougall that I am reading, I have decided to research barefoot running. From everything I have been reading, it looks like it really might be the way to go to run without pain, to run farther without problems, and to run faster.

I am going to continue reading about it, but I am already pretty sure that that is the direction I plan on moving in. If I do, this blog will see a new rebirth, as I will likely document my experiences with barefoot running.

The first decision to make is what type of shoe to go with. It seems funny to talk about buying shoes to run barefoot, but running barefoot worries me about destroying my feet - running pebbles, glass, screws and nails, etc. Vibram makes a shoe called the FiveFinger, and Nike makes one called the Nike Free. They both look good, and are pretty close to be considered barefoot, mostly just protecting the feet from being torn up.

I like the reviews of the Vibram better than those of the Nike, so will probably go with those, assuming I decide to actually do this.

I will keep you posted...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Marathon Training Season is here!

Here is the inspiring email from our running coach Chaim to kick off and inspire the runners for the new marathon season...

My fellow runners:

Start your engines and brace yourselves for a thrilling ride on the cutting edge of middle aged sanity. Marathon Season is, at long last, upon us. Over the next 123 days, we will transform ourselves into razor sharp, precision tuned, running machines. We will eat, sleep and train like professional athletes. We will ignore our spouses and children, shirk our responsibilities at work (just kidding) and focus on our goal with a ferocity and intensity that we never dreamed possible. When it is all over, you will be leaner, fitter and faster than you were in high school. You will have formed extraordinary bonds with your clubmates, the kind of bonds worthy of fraternity brothers. Your love for this glorious land, your vitality, your zest for experience will all jump immeasurably. In short, my friends, you will be real marathon runners. If any of you are asking yourselves why you should make such a supreme sacrifice merely to be able to cover the objectively absurd distance of 42,195 meters a few minutes faster, let me assure you that you are missing the point. Marathon day is merely the icing on the cake, the culmination of an 18 week process which, done properly, can transform you dramatically and forever alter you perception about the scope of what you might achieve in any arena of your life.

Yes, there will be difficult moments along the way. There will be setbacks and frustrations and aches and pains. There will be times when you will ask yourself whether it is really worth all the effort. In response, I can only offer the soaring experience of those who have come before you and have never looked back. Stay the course and you have my solemn promise that you will never regret it.

If you are inclinced to run, or want to give it a try, the BS Running Club is amazing.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Run #1 of the new marathon training season

I know I lapsed a bit and did not write about my last few runs, including a midnight run a few weeks ago from Bet Shemesh to the Kotel. That was a 40km run, at midnight, with no sleep, and without training for the distance of just under a marathon.. As well, this Friday we ran the last run of our trail series.

But Marathon Training season has officially begun. Tonight was the first run of the season. It seems weird to start the season on a Saturday night, considering Saturday night runs are always recovery runs. What are we recovering from tonight?

Regardless, I ran tonights run as part of a new Saturday night group of runners from the neighborhood. Running with a group always makes it easier and more fun.

It was kind of open-ended tonight. The schedule called for 10-12km, butthis group only planned on doing 6-8km. They added at the end to get it up to 10 for those who wanted. I dropped out after 8.5. By then we were passing my house. To go all the way around, would have required me to do another 4-5km, not just another 2km, and I had just run about 11km on Friday, along with a serious need for some lavatorial relief, so I took the first run easy and cut it short at 8.5 km.

the run was from Dolev-Dolev in RBS, down to the 10 and out to the 375. And back. and then around the RBS perimeter.

It was nice to see some new guys running. That is always inspiring.

And yes, I am still the slowest guy in the group (at least of semi-regular runners...). I don't expect that to change in the near future...

I am remaining open-minded about whether or not I will train for and run the marathon in January. That challenge is already behind me, so I am not sure I will be able to stay motivated for it. It takes a lot physically and even more so mentally. For now I am training and we shall see how it goes. I know that to do this you really have to commit yourself.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rafi the Maccabi

I am now a Jewish athlete. A Maccabean.

I must say, I did not grow up always dreaming of participating in the Maccabiah. As a matter of fact, I don't even remember hearing about it until I was in high school and met someone who had been in a Maccabiah (he was a weightlifter). But once I did hear of it, I was always impressed by people I met who took their hobbies and interests seriously enough to compete at a semi-professional level like the Maccabiah.

I finally had my chance this year. being Jewish, that puts me extremely in the group of non-athletes of the world. Even Jews who plays sports regularly (myself is a good example) generally are not good enough to compete at any real level. Of course there are the exceptions, as a few Jews do make it in the big time of the Major Leagues and even are seeing an improvement in basketball. But they are the exceptions. the rule, I think, still stands that Jews are not real athletes. So being that I excel at nothing, but play lots of sports, I never actually had the dream, or even the idea, of participating in a Maccabiah.

Since I took up running, it became possible. You don't have to be a top runner to run a half-marathon. You just have to be able to endure, as only a few top runners are competing for the actual win. the rest of us are just competing with our own physical limitations and mental blocks. It is not like playing baseball or volleyball or whatever other sport where you have to be extremely skilled and talented to compete. With running, all you gotta do is compete against yourself.

So I ran the Maccabiah Half-Marathon this week and became a Maccabi.

Actually, there is irony in having a sporting event styled after the Greek Olympics, and calling it the Maccabiah - named after the Maccabees who fought the Greeks and Hellenists who imitated the Greek lifestyle.

The venue was Tuesday evening in Netanya. The half-marathon would take us around southern Netanya, starting from Independence Square. The temperature was hot, though not terrible, at about 80 degrees. The humidity was really the problem, weighing in at 91%!!! It was going to be a very difficult run. While waiting for the run to start, I said to a friend that it feels like I already ran 12km. I was dripping with sweat and all sticky, and all I was doing was standing still!

The run began, and I actually enjoyed the first 7 or so 8 kilometers. It was hot, but was a nice experience, we were running along the coastline for much of that section, and was a nice experience.

After that I started to suffer. I had started out slow, but I guess not slow enough. After about kilometer #9, it was getting difficult to breathe. The stretches of running were becoming more monotonous, as we would run 3 or so kilometers out on a long empty road, and then run the same stretch back, then go up another road and back, etc.

I was pouring sweat. At each water station I would drink nearly the whole bottle of water, but just a few minutes later would have sweat the whole bottle out into my shirt and shorts. It was like running with an extra 10 pounds, considering how wet my shirt and shorts were. There was no relief.

At about 15km or so, it got extremely difficult. There were sections in which I could hardly draw in air to breathe. The humidity was so bad, along with (I think) being surrounded by buildings in those areas (unlike the more open roads the earlier kilometers had spanned) made it very difficult to find air. I had to stop and walk a few times from the 15km marker and on.

The humidity was wreaking carnage on the streets of Netanya. people were gasping for air, runners were walking, etc. Nobody was having a good run. Everybody was running slower, and more painfully, than what they had expected.

I completed the run at 2:08:51, which was about 15 minutes slower than I expected. I came in just after a few of our better runners, which was surprising to find out., Had I known I was so close to them I would have pushed myself a bit more to beat them, just so I could chide them about it afterwards.

One thing was interesting - I had just read earlier in the day on Seth Godin's blog about working the uphills. he used cycling as an example to teach a lesson about business. His idea was that there is very little room for improvement on the downhills. On the downhills everything is fine and you are flying. How much can you improve? The real improvement is possible on the uphills. When everything is a challenge. There you can work to improve and cycle better, more efficiently, harder, etc. His comparison is to business about working harder when business is bad. the same is true with running. You can't improve much on the downhills, but if you work on performing better on the uphills you have lots of room for improvement.


Anyways, back to the half, the humidity was so bad that the news the next day said 7 people had been hospitalized from running the half-marathon. All I know is that I completed the run and was not one of those 7. So now I am a Maccabean. hear me roar!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Legs and Lungs

I registered and will be running in the Maccabiah Half-Marathon this Tuesday evening.

Considering I have only run more than 16km once (and that was 18km) since the full marathon in January, I realized I am pretty out of shape. But I did not really force myself to train for the Maccabiah Half.

Aside from the challenge of the distance and being prepared, an even greater challenge, possibly, is the heat and humidity. It is hot and it is humid. With a 6:35pm starting time, it is about the worst time of day for the humidity, though not for the heat. And Netanya, the venue for the Half, being right off the Mediterranean, is very humid.

Add to all this, the Maccabiah has a 2 hour limit for the running of the Half. I was not much better than that under normal conditions, fully trained, so this was really setting myself up for a challenge.

The one plus of this is that Netanya is basically flat, and with all my running being in the Bet Shemesh area, running with lots of hills, running flat in a competition does give me a few extra minutes from my normal times, as my run will be flatter than what I am used to.

So I finally realized that I have to start training for the Maccabiah or I wil have no chance at all. With all those challenges, I can see myself collapsing from the heat and exertion and not finishing within 2 hours. I had to come up with a plan.

I called my plan (which I really just named) "Legs and Lungs". Legs and Lungs means I have to get my legs and lungs ready for the race. I basically decided I would cram for the big exam. If I could get my legs and lungs ready for the race, and have my only challenge be the heat, I would probably be ok.

So, "Legs and Lungs" means I had to run a bunch of times enough of a distance that my legs could go the distance and that my lungs could go the distance.

So, in the last 4 days I have run 17+km already 3 times. The first was Wednesday evening. I chose to do that one at the same time as the Half would be - about 6pm. It was so hot and humid, I had a lot of trouble with the run. I ran 19km, but had to stop a couple of times on the way. I overran the first half, and paid for it by having trouble during the second half when it was cooler. I should have gone the other way, taking it easy the first half and then extending myself in the second half of the run.

Friday we ran a 17km trail.

And Saturday night I ran from my house, out to the 38, over to Elah Junction, down (more up) the 375 to Road 10. Across and up to RBS, and down back to my house. Totalling about 18km. It was much cooler, though humid, a lot of ups, and pitch black (I wore a reflective vest and carried a headlight for safety).

I felt much stronger already. And I still plan to run early Monday morning another 18 or so km.

As long as my legs and lungs are ready, and my only real challenge is the heat, I will probably be ok.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nighttime Relay Race

The guys who went up north last month for the 200km relay race had such a good experience that they wanted to replicate it, on a smaller level, for the rest of us who could not go.

They designed a local relay race, using trails in the Bet Shemesh area, for a 50km race to be run during the night, concluding with a BBQ dinner.

We split into four teams of 4-5 runners per team. We began the run at 8pm, and it was estimated to take us until about 1am, at which time we would have the BBQ.

The various legs of the race were split into an average of about 8km per leg. The legs differed mostly in terrain and difficulty.

The first leg was about 9+km from Nofei Aviv up to Beit Natif and down to the entrance of RBS. The second half of each team waited at the ending point to begin the next leg. While each leg was being run, the other runners would drive to the next meeting point. The Beit Natif run was the longest of all the legs. From there, the second leg began, running back to nofei Aviv and up to the beginning of the Yishi trail.

The first runners then took over for the third leg, running the whole 8km length of the Yishi trail. The drivers met them at the other end of the trail, driving all the way around to get to Tal Shachar. The runners switched and ran back the whole 8km to the beginning of the Yishi trail.

Leg 5 was from the Yishi trail up to Tzora, to the Retorno complex on the top of the hill, and back down to Derech Ha'Psalim. The sixth, and final, leg of the run was from Derech Ha'Psalim until Presidents Forest. This was the only leg that was run completely on the road.

the run was great, an exciting and interesting adventure. Running in the dark, with almost complete silence, is a completely different experience. The moon was not yet full, so while it provided some light, as did the distant lights of various cities (like Bet Shemesh and other small villages), it was still mostly dark. At times you could hear animals rustling in the bushes nearby, as we disturbed their habitat. Jackals could be heard nearby on parts of the run. We heard owls hooting. Perhaps the most exciting part was when Daniel, my running partner, and I enjoyed a military escort for part of our run back on the Yishi trail (leg #4).

Part of the Yishi trail is up against the edge of a large army base. At certain points along the trail, the fence of the base is practically right up against the trail. We must have looked a bit suspicious running in the dark alongside an army base with headlights on our head. They must have thought we were either spies or infiltrators looking for a good point to cut through the fence.

So as we were running, we noticed an army jeep following us for a bit (on their side of the fence). At a certain point, the trail was right up by the fence - just a few meters away. The jeep stopped and a soldier called out to us to ask what we were doing there. He told us we need to get moving and get out of there. We told him we were in the middle of a race and were trying to get out of there as fast as we could! He followed us for a few more minutes, and then disappeared.

The last leg of the run was probably the most difficult. First of all, we were all stretched to our limits already. It was already after midnight when we began the last leg. We were tired, hungry, sore, etc. Second, it was all highway running, and all uphill, including the last 2km being an extremely difficult uphill to Presidents Forest next to Highway 44.

We finished it just before 1am, exactly as expected. I felt bad for our A&B runners that they had us on their team. they are good runners and did not deserve to end in last place just because of us (the C&D runners), but those are the breaks.

When we made it to Presidents Forest, we collapsed into the BBQ that was just getting under way. We had salads and meats coming non-stop for the next hour and a half, along with shooting the breeze and chilling.

It was really a great experience, and if we do it again, I am signing up!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Runners Guide to Israel #3: Martyr's Forest

Last Friday we ran the trail called "Martyr's Forest".

Martyr's Forest is just off the Highway 38. It is a beautiful trail leading out towards Nachal Keisalon, adjacent to Moshav Keisalon.

The plan was to run 8 or so km out, and then back, totalling about 16km.

While at first it seemed like an easy and flat trail, after just a short while the run seemed very difficult. The run out was really uphill - just a slight incline, but over time and distance you really start to feel it. I could not understand why after increasing my running so much in the past few weeks suddenly such an easy run has me running slower and feeling more tiredness in my legs.

Only after a while did I realize I felt that way because of the slight but steady incline in the run. I plugged away and made it the full 8km, even though it took me slightly longer than planned. After turning, I ran much faster and finished in more or less the time I had expected originally to finish in, completing the full 16km.

The run itself is a beautiful trail, enclosed by the woods. There were plenty of biker groups enjoying the beautiful woods as well. At points you could hear a babbling brook, but on closer inspection it seems like I could only find storm drains and no babbling brook.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Runners Guide to Israel #2: The Triple Hill

After missing last weeks beautiful trail run because I was sick (no, not the swine flu), I ran this Fridays trail.

This run was called "The Triple Hill" and is a serious challenge for even the best runners. The triple hill is probably the most challenging trail run our group runs, and is legendary.

There are three opinions among group members as to how to relate to the triple hill:
  1. Those top runners who consider it 3 hills.
  2. Those runners who say it is really deceiving because it is really 4 hills.
  3. Those of us who say 3? 4? This run had 5 hills!
I am in group #3.

We began the run in Bet Shemesh, at the bottom of Aviv, and ran out the back way. We encountered a decently steep, but not long, hill pretty much right away (this is one of the hills the other two dont count!). The trail up took us to the back of the Beit Jimal Monastery. The hill up was what they considered the first of the three and was difficult, but not too bad. Maybe because it was still early in the run.

After a moment at the top, enjoying the beautiful vistas, we continued the run. We ran down past RBS, up towards Tel yarmouth. tel Yarmouth is an ancient Biblical village from the time of King David and has been a rich source of archaeological digs. The hill up to Tel Yarmouth was murder, with steep angles at times probably approaching 70 degrees. It was tough getting up that hill, but I made it!.

The top had even more beautiful views than the first hill, looking over the Elah valley.

From there we ran across to the Elah Junction. As we approached Elah Junction, I looked at my GPS watch and saw we had only run 8km, yet it felt like we had been running 20km already!.

At Elah Junc. We turned around and ran back toward RBS/BS. This included the killer Zechariya hill, though we ran through a peach orchard. I had previously only run the road version of this hill. The trail version is immensely more difficult.

From there we ran back to Bet Shemesh, closing the run at a bit more than 15km. My energy was completely depeleted, but I was not sore.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Runners Guide to Israel series #1

I am only doing low-level running, once or twice a week, as we are not in training for anything specific right now. A bunch of guys from our club just did a 200km relay race that I wish I was in better shape for to have been able to participate in - it sounded really cool. I am too slow for that though.

Anyway, being that marathon training only starts in September (yes, I think I will be training for another one though that is not final), it seems strange that I am suddenly posting here now. Here is what happened - I was out running on Friday morning with the group, and I thought to myself that it was such a beautiful run that I could post where we ran and describe it. It could be something like a runners guide to Israel, or at least to the Bet Shemesh area. That way other runners doing searches can get ideas of trails based on where our club went running.

During the "off-season", our running club does a series of trail runs. Some of them are pretty difficult, and some of them are just pretty. Actually they are all stunning, with amazing views and scenery and the topography can be anything up to extremely challenging.

So this Friday we went on the trail to Hurvat Hanot. The trail was marked at 11.8 km, but on the way back we added about another 1.5km, plus I ran from my home to the meeting point and back again adding another about 2.5km, making my whole run about 15.5km or so.

I had run to Hurvat Hanot previously, but via the highway. This was completely different. We started out running via the road from the Yarkon-Yarden juncture at the edge of RBS to the entrance to the trail off of Road 10. We ran in and joined up on the trail.

The trail went along the mountainside. It was never-ending in its climb to the heavens, as it kept going up, up and further up. It was a difficult run up, but the incline was not too steep most of the time, so it was fairly doable even for someone like me.

The area was beautiful. We were running on a trail on the side of the mountain - the ravine below was full of woods, and the sun was coming up in front of us over the tree lined mountain tops.

When we finally got to the top, or what we thought was the top, we got to Hurvat Hanot. there was a long and large mound there and someone said this is supposedly where Goliath is buried. I have no idea if the is true or not, but that is what he said.

So we kept running, technically back now. The trail still kept going up. we ran right by a flock of goats. Now we had RBS directly across from us in our sights - on the mountain across the way. We ran right by a flock of sheep framed by the RBS view right behind them. It looked so pastoral, the image could have been taken right from a photograph book of the country.

The run down was a bit difficult as the trail was rocky and steep in some parts. We got to the bottom, hooked up with the highway and ran back to RBS via Road 10.

The mapped out trail can be seen here..

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My first 10km race - Tel Aviv

Well, it looks like the Israel Marathon was not the end of my running career. I still don't know where or how it will end up, but it looks like I will be running for a while still, though I don't know at what level.

This Friday was the Tel Aviv Marathon celebrating the 100th birthday of Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv used to run an annual marathon but stopped about 15 years ago I think. They brought it back in honor of the birthday, and I think I read somewhere that they are considering making it an annual event again.

My running group did not train for this marathon. A couple of guys, guys who had not run the Tiberias Marathon, trained with this marathon as a possibility. They decided a few weeks ago that they really wanted to do it and the bug caught up with the other runners. The group did a shortened training and planned to run the marathon with no goal of setting personal records - just to run and enjoy.

Unfortunately I was too out of shape to do a brief training for the 42km, so I had to forgo. Instead, I ran the 10km race in tel Aviv on Friday. It is funny, but in a way I feel like this was a cop-out. I ran 42km 3 months ago, so 10km is not a big deal. Which also raises an interesting consideration - 10km is more that I would have ever been able to run just a mere 8 months ago, and now I am "ashamed" (to a certain extent) that that is the race I had to participate in.

Maybe that will be my push to train again for the next marathon...

Anyways, I ran the Tel Aviv 10km in 52:46. When I registered for the race, I registered with an expected time of 55 minutes. At the time I really thought I would run at 58 or 59, and possibly not even break an hour. I had almost not trained, and in the little running I did do, I was already hovering around the hour mark. Maybe in a race I could sprint a little and rise to the challenge and break the hour, but registering at 55 was exagerrating a bit.

The weather was pretty much perfect for race day. Just cool enough, cloudy, and exciting with a festive atmosphere. We start the race, and I realize I am running too fast. That is natural, as it is exciting to participate in these races, especially when it is such a large race that 10,000 other people (between all the various events) are participating as well. I did consider that it should not really be a problem because it is only 10km and I should not burn out on such a short distance. I decided to slow down anyway, not that I could sustain that speed for much longer..

I was watching the sites. It was interesting running in the streets of Tel Aviv. I really like Tel Aviv. For a while I ran in the street, and then I switched and ran in the pedestrian median. It was also beautiful. I noticed that pretty much everyone was passing me during the run and I was passing almost nobody. Needless to say, this made me question whether I was going to break an hour or not. I decided I would not worry about my time and just enoy the run.

At about 5km we made the turn and ran up some other major roads (such as Allenby). We passed right around the corner from the US Embassy as well. I was not really paying attention to my time during the run - just the occassional glance at my pace to see how fast or slow I was running.

At about 7km I look at my watch and notice that it was only at something like 37 minutes. I thought for sure there was a mistake. Then I said to myself that how is it possible that I was running so much faster than I had thought I was running - and maybe I could finish the run at 50 and if I push, maybe even break 50. Then I thought why should I bother. Just enjoy. So I ran keeping the same pace.

I crossed the finish line at 52:46 and hung out to watch some of the other runners cross the line. Some interesting ones (though I do not know what races they were part of - it could have been the 5km or the 10km) - a woman runnign with her little dog, a guy running with his son (I assume) who had Downs Syndrome (they were connected at the wrist with some sort of leash), army units, some very old people, etc.

I know I'll be running more, so stay tuned...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Keeping up, or not

For a multitude of reasons, since I ran the marathon, my running has been very sporadic. I have run no more than once per week, and have gone a number of weeks in a row without running at all. Even when I did run, most of the runs were in the range of 12km.

It makes sense to me. I never considered myself a real "runner". I ran because I had a goal. I achieved my goal, and then my motivation to continue running tanked. So I let all sorts of schedule conflicts get in the way and stop me from running on my scheduled running days.

The truth is that even though I am not a real runner, and have not really developed a "love" of the sport, it has a lot of benefits that make me want to continue, for now, at least on some level. Playing baseball and basketball for the past 10 years never helped me lose as much weight as I lost running for four months.

So I am trying to make the time to run, when I can.

I went running this past Friday. I ran with a friend, and we ran 12.6km at a reasonable pace - much slower than what my average was during marathon training.

I must say that I was completely wiped by the end of the run (though I still played in my regular Friday basketball game a couple hours later). Not only that, but two days later and I am still sore from the run.

That is pathetic. 2 months ago, 12km runs were my bread and butter. They were the basic staple of my week. They were the short runs. I could run then 18km - 21km without blinking an eye - no soreness, no feeling wiped out, etc. Only if I ran above 24km or so did I start to feel like I was really working (unless the run included a lot of uphill running).

Clearly, the drop off is much quicker than I anticipated.

Thinking about that made me also think about the drop off in other aspects of life - if you don't keep up with something, you lose it.

That is true in every aspect of your life. In your studies - if you do not review what you have learned, you will forget it. If you do not keep up with your relationships, they will move on and your friendship and love will wither and disappear. If you do not keep up with your skills, they will disappear.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jerusalem Half?

Friday we went out to the beautiful trails of Presidents Forest for a 14km run. The trail was toug, as it was probably 80% uphill, and some of the uphills were serious.

As always, I ran the slowest in the group, but my pace was reasonable. because it is easy to get lost there, as all the turns look the same, the group was kind enough to wait for me whenever they were making a turn onto a different path. I did not keep them waiting long, as I was never too far back, but it was nice of them to wait.

I don't know how much I will be posting here. I think it is probably boring to review every run. I do not know what my running future is and if I will train for more marathons or not.

At this point, I am continuing running with the group. We are beginning training this week for the Jerusalem half-marathon. I will train with the group and decide later if I want to run the race. Running in Jerusalem is enticing, but I'll decide later.

If there is anything interesting to post at a later date, I will post, but I will not post reviews of every run like I did when in marathon training. So, I think if you want to keep bareast of any posts here, you should probably add this blog to your RSS reader, and then when I post anything it will come up automaticlly...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

quote

Awesome Line: "The difference between try and triumph is a little umph."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

post-marathon run

Friday morning I went on my first run since the marathon.

The run was good. It was an easy 12km run through the Yishi Forest trail. Now that I am not concentrating on training for a marathon, I was actually able to enjoy, a bit, the beauty of the trail itself. Because of the light rain we have had, the trails are bursting with green.

The run was good, and I felt good. I just could not figure out how I was able to run a marathon!

I ran 12km at an average pace of 5:35/km. Then later I went back to playing at my regular Friday morning basketball game, which I dropped out of the past 6 weeks to avoid any chance of injury coming up to the marathon.

I am thinking right now that I am going to stay at low level running for a while. I will not train for another marathon, as far as I can see. I have nothing to gain by it, and I am not looking to improve my time by a few minutes. I wanted to run a marathon, and I did it. I am not looking for more.

Now I can continue running low level, as a health factor - keep the weight down, cardio, etc.

We'll see if that changes, but right now it looks like that is the direction I am going..

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Bringing me back (video)

And here is another.... There is an image of me at the 2:14 marker..

Are we humans? (video)

Wow. This brings back memories. I saw many of the people in this video, and ran large parts of the marathon near some of them. It really captures the emotions...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

have not run yet

I am experiencing a certain amount of "post-marathon" blues right now. after being focused for so long on one goal, and now having completed that and not yet focusing on a new goal, it is normal to feel like this....

I have still not run since the marathon. I might do a short 5km run this evening. My body still needs to rest and is not ready for a real run. When I run down the block I still feel the weakness and soreness in my joints, even though generally I feel good.

Will I continue running? I still don't know. I will for now, at a much lower level. We will see how that continues. Probably once or twice a week. I will use it as a way of keeping the weight down, staying healthy, etc.

Who knows - maybe I will concentrate on 10km races instead of marathons for a while. Or maybe I will feel like 10k is not enough and I will want to do another half or even full marathon.

Or maybe I will find something else to do.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Marathon season is over

The marathon.

Wednesday night we have a pasta dinner. Gotta load up on those carbs before the run. It was an interesting experience. The room was extremely colorful with over a thousand people from all over Israel, and from various other countries including Kenya and Ethiopia.
People are just walking over to other people, saying hi, asking how many times you have run this before, what your goal time is, etc. The atmosphere is surreal.

With nothing really to do except sit around and shoot the breeze, I went to sleep early. I was tired, and had to get up early anyway, and I needed to be fully rested for the marathon.

We wake up early, make a minyan, have breakfast. Everybody is neurotic, myself included. We keep asking Coach Chaim how we should be running, what times and paces, with or without pacers, how often to take gels, etc.

We go upstairs to relax and get changed and geared up for the big run. Suddenly we hear on the news that a number of Katyushas have been shot from Lebanon into northern Israel. The katyushas were not near us, but it would not matter if northern front war broke out. People are talking what will be - if Israel responds, if Hizballah shoots more katyushas - will the marathon be canceled at the last minute? will falling rockets just spur us to run a bit faster?

We go down, take the group picture, and head out to the starting line.

My adrenaline was pumping, but I calmed myself. I was planning on running, at least for a while, with the 4 hour pacer.

5,4,3,2,1 the starting shot is sounded, and we are off.

I ran a few kilometers with the 4 hour pacer, but then decided I wanted to be alone. People in the group were talking too much about themselves and I did not care what they were talking about - I found it disturbing. Even worse, instead of the pacer motivating the runners and encouraging, he was either silent, talking to a friend running with him, or making fun of other runners who had stopped to urinate on the side of the road. That bothered me and I decided I did not want to spend my marathon listening to that.

So I sped up by a few steps, and ran the next 28km a few feet in front of the pacer, instead of with him. I was not afraid of running alone, as almost all the long runs during training over the past 18 weeks I have run completely alone, because of my slower speed compared to the other runners in our group. I could easily run 4+ hours without chatting with someone else. It would have been nice to have the encouragement a pacer is meant to offer, but I could make do without.

So, there I am running, enjoying the marathon at a relatively even pace. I am watching the sites, enjoying the colors and personalities of the other runners around me.

One guy was running with an Israeli flag draped like a cape over his shoulders. Another guy was wearing a very appropriate shirt from the days of the disengagement that said "The eternal people are not afraid a long road". Men, women, old, young, overweight, skinny, tall, short, colorful, bland - the full cornucopia of humanity was out in full force running like we had somewhere to go.

The route was from Tiberias south, around the bottom of the Kinneret, up to the town of Ein Gev (21.1km) and back.

Along the route are people cheering on the runners generally or specific runners they came out to see. There were schoolkids whopping it up.

As I hit about kilometer 15 or so, I finally see the first runners coming back from the other direction - I counted the first 25 or so runners were Kenyans/Ethiopians, before I saw the first white guy. After that there were still a few more before the next white guys... They must train really well, as they are extremely powerful and fast.

While running, there are suddenly a number of Air Force helicopters flying around the north, including near us. We had no idea if anything had happened regarding the earlier katyusha attack. Were we at war in the north? Did we respond? Did they shoot more rockets at us?

I get to Ein Gev, and make the turn.

Running back, suddenly there is a large boom. Was that another rocket, landing closer than the ones in the morning? Just a sonic boom? Us bombing them? No idea, but we were a bit on edge.

Around 26 kilometers, I started to feel a bit of soreness in my right knee, and that slowed my pace down a bit. It was not really any pain, but a low level soreness. 28km, 30km. Will this run ever end???? Now my inner thighs are getting sore and my hips as well, and I am slowing down a little more.

From kilometer number 32 it became very tough. I don't know why, but it just got hard. I have run further than that a few times already, so it was not the distance. Maybe the emotions, maybe just the reality of being in the marathon rather than a training session, maybe the route.

I then realize that my initial estimates of a 4 hour marathon (I was expecting between 4 and 4:10) were off. I would not make it at that pace. I did some calculations in my head and realized that I had based my estimate on my half marathon pace. I ran the half at 1:51, so doubling that and adding 10-20 minutes gave me an expected time of 4 - 4:10. But based on my current pace I would probably hit 4:15-4:20.

By now the 4 hour pacer and his dwindling group had long passed me and were nowhere to be seen.

I happily retook my official position as the last runner in our group, as I had been throughout the training season.

So, back to 32km. The run is getting tougher and tougher. As I slow down a bit more over the next few kilometers, I am dropping into an area of other runners that were having a similar level of difficulty as I was having.

My training must have been really top notch, because I was still doing much better than many of them, even though we were running at similar paces. Over the next few kilometers, I started to see many people stop running, take breaks to walk, etc.

I kept going. It was starting to hurt, but I kept going. I kept saying to myself that it is only 1km to the next sign. Only 10km to the end which is a short run. Only 8km to the end. Only... I kept myself going by looking at shorter distances and smaller numbers.

35-36 kilometers was make it or break it for many, I think. Suddenly I am seeing more people walking, more stopping, I saw one guy fall over (hope he is ok), etc. I keep going. I am at that point running at a similar pace to a woman nearby me. As we are running fairly even for a bit, I start to hear her moaning slightly. Then it increases and she moans more and more. After a while it became moaning interlaced with cries of pain. She sounded like she was either going to give birth or die. I told her that I have an extra energy gel she can have if she wants it. She thanked me and said no. She just needed water. She said ,"It hurts so much. I have cramps. It hurts so much. I need water. It hurts so much." Me not really knowing anything that I could use to give her advice, I told her to breathe deeply through her mouth, and we have a water station coming up soon.

I then sped up a tiny bit just to get away from her. I could not imagine running the next 6km having to listen to that the whole time. I have no idea what happened to her.

Finally 38-40km. More people are walking, sitting down and taking breaks. I knew if I stopped to rest, that would be the end of me. I know that when I stop my muscles tighten up and it hurts even more to run afterwards, so I was better off suffering through the pain as it was then, rather than resting and having even more pain.

Later, someone told me they saw a woman holding up a sign saying "You are running a marathon, but you are still a piece of sh*t!" I did not see that sign - the target of the sign must have been running faster than me..

Suddenly there are people on the sides of the road, as we get closer to the end, who are encouraging us. People are reminding us that we are near the end. One woman was screaming out "You are almost done. Only 2km to go! You have run hundreds of kilometers over the past few months training. only 2 left! Keep Running! Even slowly, but don't walk! Run! This is what you have trained for! Only 2 left!"

I am sure some people found the strength to continue because of her screaming. And there were others with encouraging words as well. Just 2km to go. Almost done.

41km. I feel like I am going to collapse and die right there. But I keep going. I say only 1km left. I can do that.

Finally I see the 200meter sign coming up. I decide I did not want to go out limping and crashing, so I found some reserve energy that was hiding somewhere, and sprinted the last 200meters. I passed a number of people and crossed the finish line strongly with my arms raised in victory! I felt glorious having completed the most unnatural of achievements!

I sweatily collapsed into my wifes hug, and a friend handed me a drink. I have no idea what it was - it could have been gasoline for all I know. My body was just craving calories and I would have downed anything without noticing the taste.

The most confounding thing that happened was a short while later, as I am sitting on the side, soaking in some sun to keep warm, trying to stretch out my sore legs, a woman comes over to me and asks me if I am the Running Rabbi with the blog. I was a bit stunned, as there are over 12 runners milling about, plus probably an equal number of spectators in the area. And she picked me out. I said yes, and she introduced herself and congratulated me. It was her first run as well, and I congratulated her back.

It took a while to settle down. I could not sit, or stand, still. I had to move around, and I could not get comfortable.

After a while I went and showered and changed. We went down for a group lunch, before splitting up and going home. I took food, but I hardly had an appetite. I left a lot of the food on my plate. I was mostly thirsty. I kept drinking and drinking. Even later that night, I went to a wedding, and kept drinking, but could hardly touch my food.

Afterwards I looked at the details of my run and I saw that my initial estimates of time were incorrect. I had overestimated. I ended up running a pace exactly equal to that off all my previous really long runs. the medium runs were a bit faster as was my half marathon, but the really long runs were all between 5:55 and 6:05, and I ran the marathon at 5:56/km overall. So I did not run slower than usual - just my initial estimate was off.

It was a tremendous feeling of accomplishment, and my soreness has finally mostly worn away.

Marathon season is finally over.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The achievement of a lifetime

As I sit here and write this, still suffering from the pain and soreness of having run the marathon yesterday, I reflect back on the amazing experience of 5 months I just went through.

Running a marathon is something I have wanted to do ever since I was a kid. As a kid, I went to a school that was right on the path of the Boston Marathon. We would go outside and cheer on the runners. I had no idea what a marathon was at the time, or how difficult it is to run one, but since then I always wanted to do it.

Getting older, other things took priority, my laziness got in the way, and the sheer absurdity of considering running 42.2 kilometers, or 26 miles, prevented me from working towards running a marathon.

7 years ago I had surgery on my foot. Nothing serious, but surgery nonetheless. 3 years ago I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee. In the days leading up to the surgery, I said when I recover from this I am going to start training to run a marathon. Like the old joke, I asked the doctor, while on the operating table, if after the procedure I would be able to run a marathon. He said yes. I said, "Great, because I have never been able to until now, so this will be worth it!"

Of course, after the surgery I said "I have not run the marathon until now, why should I bother now!"

3 years later I decided it was time to get off my lazy butt and run it. Pretty much it became now or never. Then I saw Chaim's email to the local email list saying that marathon training season is beginning and, if you follow the program and join the BS Running Club, in just 18 weeks you can train to run a marathon.

It sounded incredulous. I wrote back to Chaim and asked if it is really possible, especially considering I was starting at a point below zero. I was overweight, out of shape, and couldn't run around the block without stopping, have horrible flat feet and a serious foot problem I later learned to be called an extreme pronation, bad knees and ankles, and just general laziness and lack of discipline. Chaim said if I follow the program I could do it (I did not tell him about all my problems I just listed! I just asked if it is really possible to train from nothing to marathon in 18 weeks).

That was it. I decided it was now or never. This was my chance. I started training, following the program.

I started out not being able to run even 2 minutes without a break. Slowly I worked my way up to running 6 km. I remember my first long run of 11km that I needed a break at 5.5 (the first half was uphill) and I could barely make it to the end. But I kept going. The others were encouraging and helpful. It was a great group of runners to be associated with and there was a sense of camaraderie, as we were all training to do something that is extremely unnatural.

Little by little, with a lot of time and effort, a lot of post-run pain and soreness, a lot of waking up early for morning runs, I increased my mileage and my endurance.

Suddenly I was running distances I would not even drive unless I had something important pressing me to go. I was running speed workouts and hill workouts. I was running up hills that I previously could not walk up without taking a break. I was out running distances of between 18 - 25 km regularly. I ran to Rehovot 5 times from Bet Shemesh at varying distances!

I was, amazingly, as ready as I was ever going to be. It did not matter to me that I was the slowest guy in the group of runners. I was finishing every run last and well behind the rest of the group. My speed did not matter - just my ability to finish.

Then the big day was upon us. The adrenaline was flowing. This is it! I met lots of people who have dreamed of this day - older people in their 50s and 60s who were running their first, younger people running their first, people who have run before and just want to prove to themselves they still have it in them, people who want to improve on previous runs, etc.

There are people along the route cheering. Schoolkids are out whooping it up for the runners, reminding me of the days we went out as schoolkids and cheered on the runners in the Boston Marathon.

I don't know why, but at a certain point, the run got very difficult. I don't think I "hit the wall". It just got difficult. Maybe it was the heat, maybe the emotions, whatever. It is kilometer number 32 and I am slowing down and dropping back to running with all the shleppers. Suddenly I am running through people who can't run. They are stopping to rest, to walk, some are groaning and moaning in pain.

I did not want to go out like that. I pressed on, telling myself only 10km left. I can do that - that is a short run for me. Just 8 left. Just 6 left.

At about kilometer 40 I am feeling more dead than I ever felt before, but I am still "running", and there is a woman on the side of the road screaming at everybody "You have run hundreds of kilometers the past few months training for this. You only have 2 kilometers left. Keep going. Keep running. Even slowly. But don't walk. This is the day you have trained for!"

I am still chugging along. Many people by then could probably walk faster than the speed at which I was running.

41km. Arghhhhh... it hurts so much! But I am almost there! I can do this. Just a few more minutes! I started to choke up from emotion that I actually was about to accomplish what I think must be one of the most unnatural achievements. Just because some Greek guy ran, because they did not yet have cars, 42km from Sparta to Athens to deliver a message about the war they were fighting, so I have to be so crazy to run this???

Suddenly I see the 200meter sign. I was not going to go out crossing the finish line limping and crashing. I was going to go out strong. I found some reserve energy, kicked up my legs and sprinted, passing 5 or 6 people during that last 200 meters, and crossed the finish line with my arms raised celebrating my achievement.

I know I could not have done it without the encouragement and direction of Chaim, coach of the BS Running Club, without the encouragement and camaraderie of the whole group of runners in the club, all of whom who have become good friends after spending many many hours running together and achieving together, without my wife encouraging me to go on and being very supportive (it seems not all wives are as supportive and encouraging as my wife was) - Shifra drove me to runs early in the morning, she kicked me out of bed to go run on occasion when I was not feeling up to it, she put up with my being home less during the past 5 months, along with my coming back sweaty and gross and complaining of pain, and for God giving me the strength and determination to keep going. It says in the gemara "Ba'derech she'adam rotzeh leileich, molichin oso" - the way a person wants to go, Hashem helps him go, but in the Hebrew the words used are specifically words used for going by foot, and Hashems help is also in the form of helping him go by foot, rather than just saying "helps him" (me'sayai'in) - and I can say it is very true - I wanted to run, and God gave me the strength and helped me run.

So thank you all for helping me achieve my goal. I could not have done it without any of you.

And the greatest lesson I learned during the past 5 months is that a person can pretty much accomplish whatever his goal is. He just needs the determination, the discipline, the will power, and the motivation. It is a fight, but you can do it!

That lesson might only be topped by the lesson of whoever tells you take an icebath after a long run to help your joints and muscles recover should be shot. That icebath I took was more painful than any run I have ever done, including the marathon!

I will write more about the marathon itself later, for those who want details of what the run itself was like.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Training is over

Last night we had a short run to close down the training season. Now it is time for the real thing - no more practice.

We ran 2.5 loops around Narkiss, 5km. I ran an average pace of 5:15/km.

The adrenaline is flowing and I am getting excited about the big day tomorrow.

I will soon be going offline, as I am soon going to be heading out to Tiberias.

Wish me well! I will not be posting back here until I have my final results to tell you!

Monday, January 5, 2009

2 days to go!

2 days left.

Tonight was a short workout - only 8km. That includes 2km of a warm-up, and 2 km of a cooldown, so the actual workout was only 4km in the middle.

The 4km was meant to be run as a tempo at marathon speed.

My overall pace for the whole 8km was 5:31/km. For the 4km tempo, my average pace was about 5:12, a bit faster than I expect to run at the marathon. Actually I ran the half marathon at an overall pace of 5:15, so I would expect my overall pace at the full marathon to be something like 5:25 or 5:30 (if not slower)...

Tomorrow is the concluding run of the training season.

Diminishing...

Our runs are diminishing, but so are our numbers.

I just found out a couple guys in our group who were planning to run the marathon but now will not be able to to. A couple guys have been called up for reserve duty in the Israeli army. It is much more important than running a marathon, and they will definitely benefit from the fitness they achieved through training for the marathon.

But on the other hand, they spent four months training for the marathon and then get called up just a few days before the big day. It is a shame they could not complete what they set out to do.

Our kilometers are also diminishing. Today's recovery run was supposed to be 10 km. I only had time for 7.5km so that is what I ran. At an average pace of 6.12/km.

Tomorrow is a workout at 10km, then the closing run of the training season at 5km. Then the marathon.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

pre-marathon inspiration and encouragement

And today's words of wisdom and inspiration from Coach C...

At long last, my good friends, it's showtime. The big day that was once a distant speck on the calendric horizon is now at hand. After all your intensive work, this is your moment to shine, that rare opportunity to accomplish something so extraordinary that you will savor it for a lifetime. By this Thursday at approximately 1:00 PM, you will be positively glowing with well-deserved pride. Note that most of you will finish well before then but it will probably take that long until you start glowing because you'll likely be a bit pale until then. When you cross that finish line outside the Golden Tulip Hotel, regardless of your finishing time, you will be a hero. You will have had the courage and tenacity to undertake a journey that less than 1/2 of 1% of people ever take in a lifetime. More than you know, you will be a source of inspiration to your friends and neighbors because you will have gone beyond what man was comfortably designed to do. If you can conquer this, you can redefine the scope of the possible in any other arena of your life.



The primary focus for the next four days is to stay healthy, loose and positive. The small amount of running that we will be doing is secondary to the psychological work we will be doing, preparing ourselves to succeed spectacularly in an event that we are eminently well-prepared for.



Most importantly, make sure you rest as much as possible. Stretch often and stay off your feet as much as you can. Make every effort to get a good night of sleep, especially on Tuesday night. Sleep on Tuesday night is even more important than on Wednesday night because it takes approximately 24 hours for your body to register the effects of a good night's sleep. Continue to visualize yourself gliding smoothly across the marathon course and think of the celebration afterwards.



It is often said that in those final grueling miles when both your mind and body are screaming in rebellion against the task at hand, that you discover who you really are. I emphatically diagree with this. "Who we are" is not something handed down to us arbitrarily, leaving us helpless to do anything about our shortcomings. On the contrary, those final grueling miles are an exquisite opportunity to define ourselves, even to reinvent ourselves. It's not that you will passively discover who you are. Rather, you will actively decide who you are by your conduct in those fateful moments. Looking forward to celebrating with every one of you at the finish line.


This Week's Schedule:

Sat: 10k easy

Sun: Rest

Monday: 8k (4 at marathon pace)

Tuesday: 5k (2k at marathon pace)

Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: The Big Day

Friday: 24 km recovery (just kidding)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Final stretch begins

Week 18 of 18!

This is it. The last few days leading up to the big day.

Friday we ran our last long run of the training season. The run was what they call the traditional closing run to Deir Rafat. It was scheduled to be a fairly easy paced 16km. with some tempo in the middle.

I started a little earlier than the group, so I did not know the plan. I ran the whole Deir Rafat rub, but the group changed the route a little bit. I ran 17.2km at an overall pace of 5:45/km with 2km in the middle at a tempo speed of about 4:50/km (we were supposed to run it at only 5-10 seconds faster than goal marathon pace, but I ran it faster than that).

This week is going to be very low key running until the marathon on Thursday.