Sunday, November 30, 2008


Tuesday is my 14-year-old son Joshua's high school freshman basketball season opener, and I am so proud of him and so electrified by his excitement. I am proud of all three of my boys, and it feels so good to see Josh going after a dream with passion.

He's the point guard with #1 on his shoes. Dad lives a thousand miles away, but we are a forever bond and I am there in spirit...and will get to the first game I can. Big Chief, go out and have fun and kick some are a winner either way.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to make a perfect Cherry Pie

I went on an 8-mile training run around Manhattan and then came home and made a cherry pie. I am going to teach you how to make one, too.

First you start with a pair of 9-inch pie crusts from Pillsbury. Do not make it from scratch because people will say you have no life.

Same thing with the filling. Do not pick your own cherries and pit and boil them and all of that stuff. People will talk about you. You will seem like 82 years old. Just do what I did. You will thank me. And it tastes better anyway because your filling sucks.

Preheat oven to 375...

Gently lay first crust onto buttered 9-inch pan, then fill with the good stuff, spread evenly...

Remove second pie crust from wrapper and discard (the wrapper not the pie crust)...

Gently roll second pie crust over the top. I would have made nice latticework with strips but I was a hungry jack. Goodbye cherries, I will see you soon and you will be in my stomach!...

Pinch the sides so the two crusts are in unison as one making the world a better place for a safer tomorrow and protecting the cherry filling that soon I will gobble up....

Make a bunch of fork holes in the top just like my Mom used to do. I have no idea why, but I think it is so the pie can get used to the fact that it is about to be eaten by a fork...

Oh, look who's an awesome baking whiz!!! Monster Cat Stewart now on TV late mornings! This is called breaking an egg and taking the white only and beating it like it's the Detroit Lions and then rubbing it all over the crust. This is serious secret-ingredient stuff and I feel that since I accepted you as a MySpace friend you are entitled to get a glimpse of the good life sometimes...

HA! Check me out, I have even more secrets up my sleeves!!! This time I am going to take strips of aluminum foil and protect the edges of the crust like it's a quarterback in the pocket. You ain't gonna get burned! No way!...

Into the sauna for you, Mr. Cherry Pie! It is going to feel so nice and warm! When you come out I am gonna eat you up!!! We will bake you for 50 minutes...

"...the waiiiiiiiiting is the...hardest...part." -- Tom Petty

Think about how you just ran a marathon...

Remove the aluminum foil with about 15 minutes left so it can get nice and golden...

OMG this is the best pie ever...let's put it on a plate first...check out how my super-secret eggwhite topping makes it a perfect golden...

Time to put it in the fridge for an hour so it will coagulate...

While it's coagulating in the fridge, think about how you just ran an ultra...

Guess who gets the first piece? Me! Guess who gets the next four pieces, too? Me!...It's like the great poet Robert Frost once wrote: "Nothing gold can stay."

And here is what it looks like before I inhale it in one bite. It is the perfect piece of pie. I just made it...

Eat it, enjoy it, savor every bite. Then go run 8 more miles. Enjoy life. Eat up. Do not eat like a marathon-running skinny bird. That is not a fun life.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Knickerbocker 60K - 9:51

"The unexamined life is not worth living." -- Socrates

"I like to move it, move it" -- Madagascar 2

The Knickerbocker 60K is the traditional race at Central Park two weeks after the New York City Marathon finishes there, and I decided to enter to see how my body would respond to 37.2 miles. No matter what, I was going to finish, because those quotes above are so true. My time was 9 hours 51 minutes. It was a harrowing trek through nothing but hills, rain and wind, and a test of willpower and drive. Something like this can teach you how to finish major projects and tests in your life, it can teach you new things about yourself, it can turn you into a warrior. I probably should have found a pancake course for my first ultra, but why do anything easy?


Two weeks after finishing the New York City Marathon, I arrived at NY Road Runners offices at 7:15 a.m. and registered. The NYRR office is right across the street from Runners Gate, which is the 90th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance to Central Park. I received a Very cool long-sleeve souvenir shirt with the K60K logo. There were a few tents at the start/finish area, and many participants brought bags and coolers filled with their own snacks and drinks. You really didn't need anything, because the start/finish line's aid station was loaded with salty pretzel sticks, Doritos, chips, Powergels, water, Gatorade, fizzy Coke, etc. The other fluid station was exactly opposite the Reservoir, two miles away on the Upper East Side. At both places, volunteers cheered supportively.

The race started at 8:01 a.m. and there were about a hundred of us. We were told that the race would count toward eligibility for the 2009 NYC Marathon, and many runners cheered since this was previously unannounced. Here is the race starter speaking to us so you can see how few of us braved the conditions, and I can barely see my blue Nike cap in the middle of the pack:

We began with a simple out-and-back run, from Runner's Gate to 102nd Street and straight back, good for 1.38 miles. Then once we got back to Runner's Gate, we kept on going in a clockwise direction, and I didn't stop until 5:52 p.m. The nine loops followed the interior four-mile loop of Central Park, exactly 3.98 miles around.


I was wearing my iPod for this run, no question about it. But I noticed something early on. When I took my earbuds out so they dangled, runner after runner passing by me in the counter-clockwise direction would say a quick "Doing great, man" or "Keep going, looking good." I've never seen anything like this. The Central Park running community just knows. They see your race bib and they know what's up. The support was spectacular. For that reason, I wound up picking my spots on when to listen to tunes. If someone sees your earbuds in, their natural instinct is to not acknowledge you. Why not welcome it? You are supposed to be open to receive blessings.

My average pace through two loops was about 11:30-11:45. I started calculating projected finish times, maybe 7 hours 30 minutes, asking myself whether I would finish before they closed the course, etc. And every time I allowed myself to think that way, I immediately cut myself off and put up a STOP THINKING sign in my head. It was that easy. Stop Thinking. You can't control it. Just put one foot in front of the other. Focus. Just keep your head in front of your toes, lean forward slightly, dangle your arms in a relaxes motion by your sides. "Chunk it," Tony Robbins always said on the CDs I listened to in my car over and over in those rebuilding days after I lost everything in life and started anew. An ultra is too big, way too big, to contemplate at the outset. I never wanted to think of 37.2 miles -- only that current four-mile loop with which I was so familiar. The whole time, that is the only thing I allowed myself to think about. That present loop. My friend Sean had told me: "A body in motion stays in motion." It's all true. I like to move it, move it.


It started to rain. And then it rained more. It rained harder than any rain I have run through. For the full loop, I sloshed through large puddles, soaked to the bone. You feel like you are carrying an extra 10-15 pounds. Two or three times, I took off my shirt while running, and wrung it out, put it back on, and then watched it rain on me again. The park smelled so incredibly great...make it positive.

There was a big problem caused by all this rain, and that would be my biggest obstacle and pain threshhold the entire day. You know when you sit in a bathtub a long time and your skin is wrinkly-soft? You are waterlogged. OK, imagine that is my feet, and then I am grinding them on hills for miles and miles, just grinding. It was brutal. The soles of my feet hurt until the moment I went to sleep at night. I did a good job in this loop of not thinking about time at all, and so I won't write anything about it here.


I went over to the tent and put my iPod away. I was worried that I was going to ruin it in the rain, and also the earbuds were just trapping water in my ears. I would run the next two loops without it. The rain persisted a bit into the fourth loop. I was well past 12 minute miles now. I battled myself internally, again forcing myself to STOP THINKING. The problem, of course, is that you look up and the race leaders are lapping you not once, but twice. You begin to wonder how rough it might be late on this night, if you're the only one out there, whether anyone will record your time, etc. And at that very moment, each time I again put up the STOP THINKING sign. The reality is, I was going to finish but this was the most brutal way to run a first ultra. Pick the hilliest course you can find, throw in a day of rain and wind.


Changed my socks. I still had on the same shoes, so it was only of marginal help. A woman on the back half of the loop said, "You're almost there! Only 2 more laps to go, right?" I just said, "Thanks!" -- when actually I wished she hadn't said anything other than "Keep it up." Thanks for reminding me that I actually have four laps left; she was noticing all the faster runners who were down to laps left. I think it was this lap that I saw a familiar face coming toward me and passing me just before I finished it -- Carmen, my friend who works at Super Runners Shop. She sold me the pair of Brooks I was wearing, and she is always so nice and helpful with running advice. She's sort of a coach. Just nice to hear another way-to-go. And again, I can't say enough what a difference it makes to hear nudges of support by runners all over the park. "It's amazing what you all are doing," one woman told me as I ran past her, and I said "Thanks" and kept focusing.


As you can see from the closeup of my watch in the picture above, it was 2:16 p.m. when I went back to the tent and plopped down to get some pretzels out of my bag. I had been running for 6 hours 15 minutes. Some runners were long since done. At this point, I had a real uplifting experience. A man named Alex came up to me at the tent and said, "You're the blogger, right?" I said, "Excuse me?" He said, "You have that Marathonomy blog." First of all, I can't believe someone remembered the title, which is a word I completely made up. None of my relatives can remember it. I tell them it's a cross between Marathon and Astronomy, the study of the powerful force of distance running. He said, "I was Googling the Knickerbocker 60K and your blog showed up." Alex said that is why he was here. He was thinking about entering and it pushed him over the top. I guess I can either take credit or blame -- lol. It was a true pleasure to meet him, and his better half who ran with him that next lap. Alex repaid the favor -- if you can call it that -- by assuring me that I could change my shoes. I had brought extra Brooks, but because I had the Championchip fastened on my shoestrings, I figured it would be stuck there. He pulled out a Swiss Army knife with built-in scissors, and proceeded to cut the little fastener cords on my Championchip. He did the same thing to his, and he showed me how you can loop your shoestrings through the ChampionChip. So, finally, I now had dry feet. Here's a pic of me and Alex taken by a volunteer:

I was starting to get confused over which lap I was on. That may seem hard to believe, but after running that long, your mind can warp. I don't have a Garmin, I have the Timex Ironman, and I was not keeping splits. I was just going by the time of day, knowing we started at 8:01. My only interest was finishing an ultramarathon. I would crawl if I had to at the end. But I needed to know what lap I was on. I fortunately would remember something that reminded me each time what the correct lap was.


Something amazing happened on this loop as I neared the Boathouse going down Cat Hill. I caught a leaf that flew from a tree high overhead. It was just right there in front of my face as I ran, and I reached out and caught it. That was my amazing feat for the day. Other than finishing an ultramarathon. This lap featured a lot of walking mixed in. At this point, I was basically running down hills and walking up hills. My feet were screaming, again thanks mainly to the Third Loop rain. I couldn't make it better.

At 3:35 p.m., Lisa was there at the start/finishing line as I concluded this lap. It was nice to finally see someone I knew. She had snacks and Gatorade with her, and it was a simple Nutrigrain fruit bar that really did the trick. At that point you just want something...different. She had parked a block away. I told her that I was going to be another 2 or 2 1/2 hours. It was getting blustery but she was a trooper and said she would stay around. That's when she called her daughter Rach and said, "I'm going to go for a walk for a little while because it's good exercise."


Finally, I saw an English Bulldog. It is superstition for me to pet an English Bulldog at every marathon (minimum) race I run. This time it happened about two minutes after I embarked on my eighth loop. I ran across the Central Park East Drive to see her. Her name was Bella. As I got down to pet her, she jumped up on me. "She's dirty," one of the owners said. I didn't care much, considering that I'd run 29.2 miles through rain and mud. You have no idea how much that makes me happy, carrying me another mile. Amazingly, I then saw another English Bulldog one minute later, but at that point I needed to keep running. Whenever I call my boys after a marathon, I always say, "Guess what I saw today." They answer: "An English Bulldog." Makes my day.

It was starting to get dark, and they were dismantling the course and timer. I got to the start/finish line at 4:45 p.m., with one lap to go. My main concern at this point was assuring that my run was not all for naught; that someone would be officially recording my time. One of the NYRR organizers was kind enough to say he would stay there, knowing it would take me another 1 hour and five or 10 minutes. Another gave me her NYRR business card, and told me to simply email her with my own watch time of my finish. It would be fine, and he would be there to witness it, anyway. I wasn't sure what to do with my baggage since the tent was dismantled, and I figured Lisa would watch it. Instead, she had changed into her running clothes in her car, and she was offering to run with me. When he said he would take care of the bag, I told her to come along, and we set off.


It was pitch-dark except for the lights along the Central Park trail, and that makes it bright and safe enough. There were two other runners behind me on the course. Lots more failed to finish, perhaps chased off by the early storm. I was very proud that I was going to finish, and I would have crawled if needed. But I didn't need to. Lisa pushed me that whole lap. I told her that I refused to finish at 10 hours or more, that I was going to get under 10 hours no matter what. It would be close. This lap was pretty funny, actually. On the back side, I would start running uphill when I hadn't before, doing whatever I could to at least keep my Eighth Loop pace. The whole way, I was making strange noises out of my mouth and I told Lisa to just ignore whatever sounds I make. She carried a big bottle of water the entire lap, and that was huge, because the West Side aid station had closed for this lap. Then with a mile left, we made the final turn south heading to the finish line, and the wind was in our face, strong. I was DRAFTING off Lisa. She would keep moving to the side and I was too tired to stay in line. I was still unsure if we could beat 10:00, but then it became clear, and in the last 400 meters, I pushed the pace with a finishing kick. I just asked her how fast it was, and she said, "The truth is, it wasn't THAT fast, but it was the fastest you ran on that pace." My reaction was: "Yeah, right, I was LIGHTNING FAST!" I looked at my watch as I crossed the finish line and it said 5:52 p.m. That meant my finish time was 9 hours 51 minutes.

The NYRR gentleman was there, and he walked us across the street to the NYRR offices, which had stayed open for me. My bag was waiting there, and then he said, "Wait, I have something for you." He came out with a Finisher trophy, and we took pictures, including these:

Then it was time for cheeseburgers, fries, chili, beer and ALEVE. As usual, I took a long icebath, and that helped reduce the inflammation, and the next day I was absolutely feeling great. I can't believe it. I am an ultramarathoner.

I want more out of life and I will have it. The unexamined life is not worth living.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Knickerbocker 60K - Heart of a Champion

It's like a game time decision made on how I can twurk it
If hard work pays off then easy work is worthless
My work habit ain't no habit man, I do it on purpose
I push myself to the limit so my talent'll surface

The Knick is on.

It's the Knickerbocker 60K, another dragon I must slay in my life. My first ultra.

It starts at 8 a.m. ET Saturday at Central Park. After a quick out-and-back for about 1 1/2 miles, this 37.2-miler consists of nine loops around the park's inner 4-mile track. That includes the notorious Cat Hill, but it is clockwise so that means it is downhill all nine times. The west side of the park has a few challenging slow-roller hills that will start to get rough.

There will be maybe a few hundred entrants, a couple hundred finishers. Probably not that many, considering the weather. It is supposed to rain basically all day with abnormally warm weather. It will feel like 59 with 9-mph wind at 8 a.m. racetime. It will get up to 62 at some points, and it will always be humidity at 90ish. Winds will be in double digits most of the day. It will take me a good 8 hours.

They will stop tending to the course after 7 hrs 30 minutes. That means medical care is gone when I finish, so pray hard. The start/finish is at Runner's Gate on 90th and Fifth at the main park entrance. I'll have a bag there (covered from rain) with extra shirt and second pair of socks/shoes, snacks, etc. I just pleaded to my Facebook friends/colleagues to come out and cheer/toss bananas/orange slices/whatever. I really have no idea what I'm in for. I have only run once (4 miles) since the NYC Marathon, and another ultra runner told me that's good.

It was either this or the 4-miler on Sunday, and all of my friends who knows me know that...

C'mon, uhh, uhh, uhh
Guess who's back 'urr derrty, S-T-L derby
I'm like Magic to Kareem, mayne you tell me I ain't Worthy
I ain't speakin 'bout a jersey, I'm speakin 'bout income
I put mo' money in the community than you got in yo' budget
I wipe my ass with yo' advance to the toilet then flush it
My last stance be a stance of a General Custard
I hot dog cause I can, I got the cheese and mustard
I got the stats of a hall of famer - in just two records
That's why I'm back up at the Superbowl - with Julius Peppers
I got that cain't stop, won't stop, in my veins
That's why they cain't stop, won't stop, screamin the name
NELLY! NELLY! Go tell a friend to tell a friend
I'ma keep the same grin whether I, lose or win
Up, or down ten, I'ma fight to the end
[breathing hard] Let's go

Ain't no way they can stop me now Nelly
Cause I'm on my way, I can feel my reign comin
It's the blood of a champion, pumpin
Deep inside my veins, too much pride to be runnin
I'ma give what I can and more, even if
My blood, my sweat, and my tears don't mean nothin
It's the heart of a champion (it's the heart of me)
(It's the heart of a..) in me

I'm the first pick, the first round, signin bonus profound
Playin for his hometown, reppin for the home ground
And gettin bucked like Michael Redd, tell 'em again
I gets bucked like Michael Redd, heard what I said?
The MV-P of the game, intensity still the same
I'm shootin out from my reign, with Peyton Manning type aim
Can't stop me from scorin so they results to just hackin
So there's, three of us now - me, A.I. and Shaq'n
From the look to the eyes I say
Cover man with more heart than Hallmark on Valentine's Day
I'm the one that you've been Raven about, like Ray Lewis
I think it hard to go and change your route
Cause you don't know if I'm blitzin or if I'm sittin and readin
Waitin for you to go and trip, drop back and throw up a pick, man

It's like a game time decision made on how I can twurk it
If hard work pays off then easy work is worthless
My work habit ain't no habit man, I do it on purpose
I push myself to the limit so my talent'll surface
So now it's, curtains and drapes, on anybody who hates
Dislikin what I'm recitin, bitin what I've been writin
I've been dogfightin, scratchin and clawin on every hike
Tryin to make you remember me like you "Remember the Titans"
Cause I'm a WARR-IOR, my daddy was a soldier
A Vietnam vet, in the derrty I thought I told ya
I'm supposed ta, whip up your town in Testarossas
Heatin like Folgers mayne, I'm young black and rich
As good as it gets, and givin your point guard fits
He think he done seen pressure mayne, but he ain't seen shhhh...

Friday, November 7, 2008

NYC Marathon Photos

Danced across the finish line again...5:13.27 net. Today was brightroom picture day, a chance to see how disgusting you look throughout 26.2 miles on the streets. Hey, not bad.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New York City Marathon - 5:13.27 (PR)


I was coming off a three-month stretch out of a movie set, including a month at the Olympics where I trained in the streets of Beijing, even on the Great Wall, and a full month of October where I trained in such MLB postseason locations as Chicago's Lake Michigan shoreline, the beaches of L.A., St. Pete beach and on a Philly Airport Hilton treadmill. I did the best to make sure that no matter what, my marathon training would not suffer. I was not able to maintain my 16-week program by the book, just no way. But I did my best. The Phillies bailed me out by winning in five, and for a while it was honestly touch-and-go whether our 46-hour rain delay and a possible Saturday Game 7 back in Tampa Bay would wash me out.

I rode in the lead vehicle of the historic Phillies World Champions Parade on Friday (with the Phillie Phanatic and Clydesdales close behind), took an Amtrak train back to Penn Station late Friday night, and got to sleep around 1 a.m. on Saturday. I slept in as much as I could, then spent the day going to the Expo and getting everything in order. That night, Lisa and I went to the Barilla Marathon Eve Pasta Dinner at Tavern on the Green, and watched the fireworks there at Central Park. I maintained a tradition of walking over to the 26-mile sign and looked up at it under the bright-moon sky, and made a vow to myself of what I planned to do the next day.

Lisa helped me get everything straight that night, which was a big help. I had lost my Nike Sportband for my iPod somewhere in Philly, and a lot of little things were driving me crazy. At exactly 11:18 p.m., I set the alarm for 4:18 a.m. Then Lisa reminded me that I had to set the clock back. That was the best clock-changing I have ever experienced in my life. What a difference. I awoke at 3:45 a.m. and jumped out of bed and went right to it. Wash face, put on the Breathe Right Strip. Rub on the Body Glide. Put on the gear, and then sweatshirt and sweatpants. I boarded the bus at the Main Library at about 5:15. I was amazed at the long convoy of buses along Fifth Avenue in the pitch-dark, and the sight of marathoners everywhere with their clear goodie bags walking to the library.

The scene at Fort Wadsworth in Staten Island is dramatic. A small area of land suddenly becomes a small city once each year. I brought a blanket with me, unlike most people, and was glad I did. It felt like 34 at 7 a.m. There was a stiff breeze much of the time. I slept a little, but mostly just relaxed. Then I found my awesome friend Dani, who was up from Florida to run the race, and we got coffee and then hung out for a while and talked karate, college football, running and parenting and stuff. I replaced my sweats with the two-piece ripaway windbreakers I had bought at the Expo. Soon it was time to check bags and get this party started, so at 9:20 I was checking my bag on the UPS truck and then made my way for the Green Corral, Third Wave. They did wave starts this year, and I was the third of three waves in the green group, which would start at 10:20 a.m. The waves eased the legendary congestion on the Verazzano Narrows Bridge.

PACE GROUP: I looked for the green balloons and "5:00" sign, and found it and got in close to them. The woman said they were going to walk at the fuel stations (each mile), no other stopping. I ripped off my white windbreaker gear and threw it on the piles of clothing that are left behind for charity. I picked up a pair of gloves someone else had abandoned and ran with them the first 2-3 miles. I listened to one song, the only song of the day that I specifically requested, on my iPod: WE READY by Archie Eversole. Youtube it. My son Josh gave me that download tip! With the pace group, we were soon running on the bridge, the bottom level this time, and as I looked out and saw the ship spraying the three plumes of water into the New York Harbor, with the green Statue of Liberty and the Big Apple off to my left, I knew I was off and running in a race like no other.


We had a lively pace group right from the start. I tried not to get too caught up in it, knowing that I wanted to conserve my energy. But it was clear that this would make it fun and that we would have a lot of togetherness.

Mile 3, I saw an English Bulldog. If you remember last year, I lost 5 minutes stopping at Mile 10 to pet an English Bulldog. This one cost me 2 or 3 minutes. I will always stop to get down on the ground and play with an English Bulldog. You know me. He was awesome.

Somewhere in Brooklyn, I again was blown away by the full-congregation gospel choir outside of the Apostolic Faith Church. That is my favorite of the 100 live musical performers along the course. There is everything from bluegrass/banjo to rap to gospel to R&B to acid rock and you name it.

The synagogues, the mosques, the churches, the Assidic Jews with their black clothes and tall hats and long beards and children who dressed alike, the blacks, the whites, the Latinos, the young tech crowd, the Asians...this is Brooklyn. You see all of that when you run through it, like traveling around the world. It is the melting pot.

I was in control. I did not spend my time on the sides, high-fiving all the spectators this year. I stayed mostly down the middle, conserving myself. For the first 8 miles, I also noticed that I was often well ahead of the 5:00 Pace Leaders. I would have to stop or slow to nearly a walk. I think it was a good thing, but not sure. Then at Mile 8, when I bolted into a corner market to get some salt, and came back out needing to make up some ground, I realized that was the last time I would have that luxury of always being out ahead of the 5:00 group. I stayed with them or behind them the rest of the way.


We went over the bridge from Brooklyn to Queens, and I saw a lot of people walking, and one year earlier that was me. Not this time. I would run except for water breaks until Mile 19.

Thank you to whoever was handing out bananas -- I ate a chunk of one and tossed the rest.

I was able to really enjoy Queens for the first time. I had doubled over in pain here a year earlier. This time I looked at all of the buildings and the people. I appreciated the live bands. We chanted yells and sang a little in my pace group. We were going strong. We had to, because coming up was...

The Queensboro Bridge.

It can be a lonely place. It climbs uphill, it is long, hard footing, covered and an echo chamber. That's where the male pace leader was really vocal, pumping us up. He told this really long, motivational story, shouting it at the top of his lungs for hundreds to hear, and I can't even remember it now but it helped. He also told us that we were all going to finish in UNDER five hours. I believed him. We were. Then I just suddenly started singing a song they were playing at the pasta dinner the night before:


I think one other person was singing with me. Ha!!! At least I motivated myself.


Before you know it, we had passed the 16-mile sign, we were going downhill on the other half of the bridge, and the most amazing scene was about to unfold. The pace-leader guy told all of us that when we come around the turn and see the massive crowds along First Avenue for the first time, we would all yell on the count of three: NEW YORK CITY WE LOVE YOU!!!

We did. It rocked. The crowds were awesome, 20-deep, almost like the parade I just rode in.

Mile 17: It went on like that a long time. Then at 73rd Street and First Avenue, I went to the left and saw Lisa right where I told her to be, so that I could find her! I gave her a sweaty hug and then was on my way, and someone gave me an orange slice and that made a huge difference. I was pounding GU and water and Gatorade by then. So far so good.

At this point, I was going over a chip mat every mile. It was unbelievable. Everyone who tracked me got their money's worth. Besides all the 5K splits, the Athlete Alerts showed every mile after Mile 16. Unbelievable. Leave it to the NYC Marathon! They are planning to make it a "complete scorecard" of all 26.2 miles in the future -- how awesome is that. Chip mat city.

Mile 18 came and went, I was still with the green balloons. Then, nearly a mile later...

They disappeared. I lost my name in the NY Times at that very moment.

After TWO CONSECUTIVE NEGATIVE SPLITS (which you can see on the chart below), I lost the pace group because of two things at Mile 19:

1. Nausea. I moved to the right side and tried to throw up but I couldn't. It was horrible. Maybe too much GU. Maybe too much Gatorade. I don't know. I waited 2-3 minutes for it to go away, and it didn't, so I just ran through it.

2. Left leg stopped working. I looked down at the inside of my left knee, and the anterior cruciate ligament muscle area was just twitching with a life of its own, and I'm watching it go in and out without my brain controlling it whatsoever. It was almost funny. I'm like: The hell? Again I moved off to the right side. I tried to massage it out, rubbing in circles. Stretching. Rubbing. Then I started running again.


Mile 20 came and went, and I was again going strong. Well, pretty strong. I was running through anything at this point, determined to catch a glimpse of the green balloons. They had to be visible somewhere because they stopped at water stops. I never saw them again, but the search for them kept me going.

I needed something for my stomach.

Let me repeat something I said here the last two marathon blog posts: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A WALL!!!!! I know my friend Runner disagrees with me on this but we all discover our own things about this running life and that is my own discovery. Whatever you have read or heard about "The Wall" is all wrong and a falsehood. There was no mental barrier, no time whatsoever that I played a mental game with myself about whether I could get through all of this like I hear about so much in other blogs. I was going through a physical difficulty relating to a lack of training or improper nutrition/intake. It had nothing to do with a wall or mental warfare. Sorry, but I am out there with too many wheelchair participants or amputees or cancer survivors to have any notion of not finishing.

The Bronx goes by so is the smallest borough involvement, other than Staten Island only being the start. It was time to go over the Madison Avenue Bridge, taking you into Harlem and back into Manhattan.


For a few miles, I was on a quest to find someone, anyone, who had some kind of sustenance other than a GU. I don't even know what I was looking for. Someone to tell me: Here's something that will help your stomach. One med tent guy had no clue. He should not have been volunteering. Finally, a woman in Harlem offered me pretzels. That's all I needed. Hello. Didn't bring the pretzels this time, and I paid for it. I ate a few, and crushed the rest into my pocket for the road. Case solved. Onward and upward. Never nauseous after that.

The scene around Marcus Garvey Park is so cool. The crowds again are incredible. They make you love running amongst them. I hot dog cuz I can I got the cheese and mustard. (Nelly/Heart of a Champion.) Speaking of music, I have gone almost the whole race without listening to my iPod. It's in my pocket with earbuds wrapped around it. There is too much music. There were pace leaders to communicate with. I was enjoying it more this time.

Fifth AVenue, 108th Street. The good news is that we have just passed the start of Central Park. My home turf is here, and at that point you know the end is in sight. The bad news: To my left, on the sidewalk, four paramedics are kneeling around a man laying on his back on the sidewalk with a distended/exposed stomach, evidently heart attack. The next day's paper would confirm that: Three heart problems, one runner died, one in serious condition, one (this one) in stable condition. They gave him defib and restored pulse at hospital. Earlier on the course, I had seen another man probably in his late 60s or 70s trip and fall face-first. I helped him up. He was shaken and didn't speak English, but he kept running. Heaven help us. We just want to run and finish something big.

We entered Central Park at the 90th Street "Runner's Gate" and the crowds were phenomenal. They are so thick and supportive, holding signs. When we got down by the Boathouse, I saw a large floral wreath on the left side. It was in tribute of Ryan Shea, who had died there after 5.5 miles of the U.S. Olympic Trials the day before the 2007 NYC Marathon. He had an enlarged heart. The paper said that many runners ran this marathon as a tribute to him.

I was struggling after I got to the bottom of Cat Hill, my familiar course that I'm on most days. My legs were buckling a little. Then we exited the park, made the sharp turn right to follow Central Park South, and the crowds again are beautiful, shouting encouragement. At that point, I am constantly rubbing my face, as I was occasionally light-headed and was trying to stay alert and focused. I got a lift when I heard the live band coming up at Columbus Circle, and that's when I re-entered Central Park for the last time and headed for the homestretch.

The 26-mile sign was suddenly over my head as I looked up at the sky at my Dad.

Then I looked into the face of every spectator the rest of the way. Every face. I saw all kinds of New York faces, international faces. Boys, girls, men, women. Young, old, all ethnicities. I didn't miss a single face. These were the people who came out to cheer on someone who is close to them, someone who is a marathoner. In that moment I loved them like they were my own. I was thanking everyone:

Thank you to everyone who came out. Thank you to everyone who gave me comments along the way, on my blogs, in person. Thank you to the two security guards at the Olympic Wukesong Baseball Complex in Beijing, who smiled and brought water as I trained by myself on the warning track for a half-marathon and a 10-miler before games. Thank you to the couple at the end of the Navy Pier in Chicago who smiled as I stopped halfway on my run and did crunches on a bench by them. Thank you to Bob, Jenn, Troy, Michele, Shayna and Lexi for meeting for for a Big Cats Running Team reunion/meeting while I was in LA for Dodgers-Cubs. Thank you to my colleagues who gave me encouragement at a time when we work our butts off and sometimes work all-nighters in October. Thank you to my sons who inspire me to be a great Dad and a marathon runner. Thank you to my girlfriend Lisa who is always there for me and walked her own marathon around Central Park trying to get from Mile 17 back to the finish. Thank you to my parents who instilled in me that I can do anything -- and never questioned it. Thank you to my brother Tim who's always behind me (and vice-versa) -- we are making it back and stronger. Thanks to all my family and friends, and to complete strangers who helped along the way.

As I was thinking those thoughts, the finish line came up.

I danced. I danced to "Celebrate Good Times" by Kool and the Gang. I have danced across the finish line at all three of my marathons. It is my own tradition, something no one else does. I will always dance across finish lines. It will be the title of my memoir.

2007 NYC Marathon: 6:08
2008 St. Louis Marathon: 5:21
2008 NYC Marathon: 5:13.27

This is real. I am 49 and I am getting faster. I am getting better. I am stronger.


My treat was Dallas BBQ. Spare ribs, chili, cornbread, beer, cake. I rented videos. Taking a couple of days off. Until we run again...thanks.