July 16, 2017
Like most marathoners, I talk to other people about my race experiences, but it’s safe to say they just aren’t that interesting to anyone but me. However, sometimes life gifts you with a story that is worth telling. I think this is one of them.
On November 3, 2016 I ran the NY Marathon – my 18th marathon at the time. Within a minute or two of crossing the finish line I thumbed across my ring finger, as I often did, to feel my wedding band. It was gone. My brain wasn’t quite fully working yet, but I realized I wasn’t that surprised – as usual, I had lost weight during training for the marathon, and the ring had been become more and more easy to slide off my finger. The ring itself didn’t have much monetary value, but I had been married over 18 years, had the ring the whole time, and it certainly meant a lot to me. I don’t know why, but in the moment I realized it was gone, and in the time after, I never felt like the ring was really lost.
Flash forward a couple weeks, and I had emailed with the NY Road Runners Club to see if the ring might have somehow been turned in. No ring. I remained patient and emailed again a few weeks later. No ring. More than a month passed and then an email from NYRRC – someone found a wedding band, and could I identify mine. This was easy – while the ring is very plain, there is a line from a poem inscribed in it (more on this later). Turns out it was my ring. I figured a couple emails to arrange shipping, and the ring would be back on my finger. Not so simple.
More than a month passed before I could get another email response from NYRRC, and I didn’t know any information about the person who actually had the ring. Finally, after several more follow-up emails and a phone call, NYRRC passed along the email address of the finder. This would be straight forward now, right...? Apparently not. After one pleasant email communication with the “ring finder,” silence for almost three months! By this time my wife was so convinced it was never coming back she bought me a $20 wedding band.
But…, almost five months to the day after the marathon, I got this email:
I'm so sorry for the obscene delay in my response. I just returned home from a two month trip through rural East Africa, where I was without service.
Do you live in the NYC area? I'd be happy to return your ring over a quick cup of coffee. If not, I can certainly mail it to you if you give me the address.
I can't begin to tell you how happy I am that this wedding band will make it back to its rightful owner. The universe has our back on this one.
Hope to hear from you soon. Cheers!
I don’t live in the NYC area, but I was planning on being in the city on April 29 to help support a ChiRunning® clinic by founder Danny Dreyer. I figured I could wait a few more weeks.
Of course, it turns out Rose is a runner and had plans to run a race in the Bronx Zoo the day I was going to be in NYC. We were both determined to meet – Rose’s day included traveling from Brooklyn to the Bronx to Manhattan (walking from the West Side to the East Side), and I ducked out of the clinic to “sprint” from Central Park down to 84th and Madison. We hugged sincerely, took selfies, and talked only briefly since I had to get back to the clinic. She put the ring back on my finger, and she handed me an envelope, the contents of which I read later. Below is the letter that was inside. When I read it to my wife, she cried, believing, like me, that the universe has always conspired for us to be together, and here was the universe at work again, through a very special woman named Rose.
Some stories are worth telling. Below is Rose’s story of my ring.
As you high-fived my group of friends at the NY Marathon in November your wedding ring flew off and landed at my feet. As a chronic loser of all material things I knew that wearing it was my only chance at returning it to you - which I knew I'd be able to do. Since then, your ring has made dozens of wedding cakes on the waterfront in Brooklyn, it's been on my many first dates across New York and London, it's celebrated many refugees gaining their asylum in this country, it's installed large green roofs on Manhattan skyscrapers, it's reconnected with family and friends, it's hosted holidays, it's attended weddings in Maui and upstate New York, it's helped me crowd fund $5000 for my company, Whisk Me Away Cakes, and it's accompanied me on a huge solo journey through East Africa. It lived with the Maasai tribe, slaughtered animals for meat, searched for water, and cooked over an open fire in the bush. It lived with my refugee friend’s family in Rwanda, sorted and dried an annual harvest, connected with countless strangers, and drank many cups of tea in mud huts. It crossed the border on foot to summit a volcano in Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It wandered old alleyways on the island of Zanzibar and connected many stories of food history with those of Arab, African, and Indian dissent. It accompanied me on Safari through Tanzania watching sunrises and sunsets on the plains of the Serengeti. It prepared a feast with a huge family in Casablanca, Morocco on a 20 hour layover. It lifted pastries to my mouth under the Eiffel tower at night.
And it restored my faith in the fact that we live in a small, ultimately good world. As it's in scribed: “And found at last.”
I'm so thoroughly happy to return it to you. Congratulations on a successful marathon!
Yep – my wedding band, which is now securely back on my finger (currently held in place by the smaller $20 band my wife got me) has done all those things and been to all those places. I personally may not be all that adventurous, but my ring is!
Rose – The inscription in the ring certainly was apropos to the journey it went through. But, I want to make sure you know why those words where in there in the first place. I sometimes tell this story to folks, and they politely feign listening, but I have a feeling it’s an important story to tell you….
My wife and I met in graduate school. According to her I leaned on her during a small group discussion in a class we had together. I don’t remember that, but I do remember noticing her in a way I had never noticed anyone before. I think all I need to say is that about six months after that “lean” we were married. On our last day of class together, our professor read a poem to the class which he did at the end of every semester. The poem is by May Sarton and called “In Time Like Air” (see below). You will notice the inscription in my ring. My wife’s ring is inscribed with “Is all dissolved.” I will leave the literary analysis to you.
Rose – I could list out all the random events directly or indirectly connected to the ring. But, when looked at as a whole, they aren’t random; this story reminds us that there is underlying purpose and connection to life. Thanks for wearing my ring, bringing it on your journey, and returning it.
"In Time Like Air" by May Sarton
Consider the mysterious salt:
In water it must disappear.
It has no self. It knows no fault.
Not even sight may apprehend it.
No one may gather it or spend it.
It is dissolved and everywhere.
But, out of water into air,
It must resolve into a presence,
Precise and tangible and here.
Faultlessly pure, faultlessly white,
It crystallizes in our sight
And has defined itself to essence.
What element dissolves the soul
So it may be both found and lost,
In what suspended as a whole?
What is the element so blest
That there identity can rest
As salt in the clear water cast?
Love, in its early transformation,
And only love, may so design it
That the self flows in pure sensation,
Is all dissolved, and found at last
Without a future or a past,
And a whole life suspended in it.
The faultless crystal of detachment
Comes after, cannot be created
Without the first intense attachment.
Even the saints achieve this slowly;
For us, more human, less holy,
In time like air is essence stated.
November 5, 2016
Tomorrow I am running the biggest marathon in the world – the 2016 #nycmarathon. I last ran this race about 17 years ago. Now, at age 44, I am going to attempt to run more it 40 minutes faster! Over the next weeks I will break down all the various elements that comprised the preparation for this race. Each post will focus on one element – from family support to ChiRunning to Altra sneakers to technology to mindfulness to… (well, you get the point :)). I am writing this for you and for me. I am looking forward to the insights I expect to gain as I go through the process of codifying what I have learned over the past years (especially the past seven years). And, I am hopeful that some of you will find some of the posts useful in some way as well.
To automatically get notified when I post something new on my blog just “like” me here on Facebook. Or, if you prefer, just come to this page each week.
More to come on this in an upcoming post, but a quick shout out to my family… my little sis for chaperoning my trip to NYC as well as for helping me get all my social media set up, my dad for being a great role model for making fitness a focus in my life, my two sons for giving everything I do more meaning, and to my wife for way too many things to list here.
Sorry – one more thing… for those of you that I have coached and/or run with through 113Running, please consider using “#113Running” when you post pictures of your runner-self on any social media!
November 13, 2016
This past Sunday I ran in the NYC Marathon and PR’d with a time of 2:52:45 finishing in the top 1% of the largest field to ever finish a marathon – over 50,000 people! Lots of training and preparation went into this ahead of time, and subsequent posts will address these areas. But, today’s post will start at the finish by focusing on what to do immediately following a marathon.
There is no doubt that running a marathon – regardless of pace and/or prior training – has a significant impact on the body. You can do a web search quickly enough and find an infinite number of articles on what to do after a marathon. I am not trying to say I have read all the research or have it all figured out, but after running 13 marathons since the spring of 2011, I have developed some insight into the post-marathon process.
Here’s my approach to the post-marathon process:
The best word to describe how I feel after a marathon is “depleted,” so my goal is to feel replenished by replacing what my body has lost. I don’t pay a ton of attention to what I eat except to ensure at least some of the food has some significant protein. I go after what looks attractive. However, since I follow a vegan diet, I have done some searching for some decent tasting protein bars. I have found that Vega bars work well for me (this bar in particular works well from a taste and protein point of view). My eyes are definitely bigger than my stomach after a marathon, so I eat many little snacks/meals over a several hour period as opposed to a big meal at any one point.
Hydration is also critical after a marathon as well as replenishing electrolytes. I try to address these issues simultaneously to some extent. I take a few SportsLegs tablets immediately following the race, and I also make sure to have at least one full tablet of Nuun in a large bottle of water as soon as possible. I will continue to drink pretty much whatever looks good over the course of the day.
I move… To some extent you don’t have a choice but to walk for a bit after most marathons. And, it’s easy to begin cursing out the race organizers 15 minutes into a cold, wet walk after the finish line. But, there is some rationale behind this walking. I always try to move around for a while (usually slow walking) after the finish. And, although I wasn’t able to do it after this specific marathon, I go for a nice, easy walk later in the day.
I rest… I don’t crash out for the rest of the day, but I have learned that a 30-60 minute nap is necessary for me. Without that sleep, I am pretty useless (you can ask my wife to confirm this) and pretty uncomfortable. Although I couldn’t do it immediately after this marathon, I also take a warm bath for about 20 minutes soon after the race. I always dissolve copious amounts of Epsom salt in the water. And, I hold off on any significant running for almost two weeks after the race.
I pamper (myself)… I get a full body, deep-tissue massage within a day or two after the marathon. And, within a few days of the race, I often get a chiropractic adjustment as well.
That’s my post-race routine.
Feel free to post questions/thoughts on this topic.
Looking forward to positing again soon,
November 20, 2016
ChiRunning will be the focus of several posts, but today I will focus on the ChiRunning concept of "gradual progress." (You can read what Danny Dreyer (founder of ChiRunning) says on the topic here.)
Gradual progress is a universal principle that means exactly what you think it might - "…everything in life that grows positively must do so gradually."
Running is a great context to appreciate this idea. Over the past six years, I have focused on gradual progress in three areas: technique, distance, and pace.
Technique: I went from a conventional runner with a heel strike, upright body, and a focus on using my lower leg muscles to a ChiRunner with a midfoot strike, a forward lean, and a focus on using the recoil effect in my body to minimize the use of leg muscles. This took time. It took practice. And, it took attention. And, I still feel like I have a long way to go.
Distance: These days I average 50 miles a week and about 2,500 miles a year. Longest weeks peak at about 70 miles. I didn't start out that way. Weekly and annual mileage grew year to year. I have a reached a place where I feel comfortable and stable in my mileage, so for now at least, I am not adding mileage. Increased distance definitely connects to growth in technique. Running efficiently and injury free is key to building distance.
Pace: There is significant research out there about the physiological effects of aging on pace. No surprise - over time your ability to get faster diminishes and ultimately you get slower. That being said, improved technique and increased distance with thoughtful speed work (intervals, tempo runs, etc.) can increase pace significantly over time. For example - 2011 Colfax Marathon (result: 3:16 - 7:30 pace at age 38) to the 2016 NYC Marathon (result: 2:52 - 6:35 pace at age 44).
Summary: I have found synergy by focusing on gradual progress in the three areas of technique, mileage, and pace. Books, videos, and coaches played a significant role in determining what, when, and how to focus on a specific area. In future posts I will write more about building plans to focus growth in these areas.