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.