Thursday, March 15, 2012

Information About St. Patrick's Day and the NYC St. Patrick's Day Parade


What time does the St. Patrick's Day Parade start?

The parade begins at 10:45 a.m., and it continues until the last marcher finishes, some time around 3:00 - 4:00 pm.

What is the route for the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC?

It begins near 44th St., on Fifth Avenue, and continues straight up to 79th St. See the official website for the line of march.

Where is the best place to watch the St. Patrick's Day Parade in NYC?

It all depends on your personal preference.

If you really want to WATCH the parade, then your best bet is to watch near the end of the route, in the 70s. To get there via Subway, take the 6 train to 68th St or 77th St, walk a few avenues to Fifth Avenue, and then walk to one of the blocks in between the subway stations, as those closer to the subway will be more crowded. Try to cross over Fifth Avenue during a break in the parade, and watch it from the Central Park side.

On the other hand, if it's all about the party and enjoying the scene, then you want to be between 44th and 59th. The most crowded section is usually around St. Patrick's Church at 50th St., and again at 59th St.; and that was true even before there was an Apple Store right there, on the second day of sales of the new iPad.

The viewing stand for dignitaries (with tickets) is between 62nd and 64th; it can be very crowded there, but it is also where the bands and other entertainers put on their best show.

If you're looking for a happy medium, try to watch near the beginning of the parade, between 44th and 47th Streets.


Who is St. Patrick and why is there a St. Patrick's Day Parade?

Patrick was born in Great Britain in the late fourth century. When he was 16, he was captured by Irish raiders and taken to Ireland, where he worked as a shepherd and drew close to God. “I used to pasture the flock each day and I used to pray many times a day,” he wrote. “More and more did the love of God, and my fear of him and faith increase.”

After six years in Ireland, he escaped on a ship back to Britain after hearing a voice in his sleep telling him to return home. He was reunited with his family, but a dream urged him to return to Ireland. Patrick spent the ensuing years training to be a priest. He is believed to have returned to Ireland around 432 A.D. to begin preaching Christianity to the predominantly pagan population. Though he was threatened and occasionally arrested by local kings, he wrote that he “baptized so many thousands of people.” He played a significant role in converting the majority of Ireland’s population.

Patrick is known for using a three-leaf clover, the shamrock, to teach new believers about the Holy Trinity, as well as the Celtic Cross, which combines the pagan influence of the son with the Christian Cross. The date of Patrick's death was recorded in the Annals of Ulster—in a section written in the seventh century—as March 17, 493, “in the 120th year of his age, in the 60th year after he had come to Ireland to baptize the Irish.” Most modern historians, however, believe he died in 460 or 461.

Did Patrick Really Drive the Snakes Out of Ireland?

Patrick is famous for driving the snakes out of Ireland, an apocryphal tale. “It’s unlikely there ever were any snakes in Ireland,” explains the BBC. “The snake may be a reference to serpent, a symbol of evil, and the driving out a reference to Patrick's mission to rid Ireland of pagan influence.”

Where are the best places to eat and drink in NYC for St. Patrick's Day?

Avoid, at all costs, any place that is along the parade route - they will all be dangerously mobbed and uncomfortable. Go watch the parade, then take a short subway trip to a place that, while crowded enough, will enable you to actually enjoy the experience of a St. Patrick's Day meal and drinkfest in a NYC Irish bar.

We're friendly with several of the finest Irish proprietors in NYC and highly recommend each of these places:

Mustang Harry's, at 30th and 7th, is also very convenient for those coming or leaving through Penn Station. It is a very large facility that will be showing all your favorite sports teams, has an excellent line-up of drinks and a solid menu of comfort food. It is very family-friendly. Call them at (212) 268-8930. A block away, and similar in all respects, is sister restaurant Mustang Sallys; call them at 212-695-3806.

Seven Bar and Grill is a sophisticated, upscale bar and restaurant that serves some of the best food and drink in NYC. Call 212-967-1919 for reservations.

Brickyard Gastropub is at 52nd and Ninth - about a ten minute walk to the West from St. Patrick's Cathedral. It has great food, terrific craft beers, and a great ambiance, and will have live music during the day. Call them at 212-767-0077 to reserve, or email them at Info@BrickyardNYC.com.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

8 Ways to Support Your Loved Ones in the NYC Marathon

This guide is for those who are watching the race to spot and support their friends and loved ones. It is not a guide to watching the elite athletes.

#1 - Let your runner find you

It is extremely difficult to spot your favorite runner on the course, unless he or she is in the top 300. After that, the crowds get quite thick, everyone looks the same, and it's very difficult to project when your runner will come by, as you don't know when they started.

What works MUCH better is if your friend finds you. Tell them EXACTLY where you will be (i.e. on the runner's right on Fifth Ave just past 117th St.), and they will likely find you.

Consider carrying a distinctive mylar balloon on a long string so they can spot you from a few blocks away; this works brilliantly.

#2. Plot out NOW exactly where you will be, so your runner knows where and when to find you


My support group was ambitious and knows the city well, so in my 3 NYC marathons, they met me in 3 places, at Miles 14, 18 and 23:

A. Long Island City (approx 13.5 miles) on Vernon Blvd. and 47th Rd. (on the left-hand side of the runners, in front of Woodbines), a few blocks away from the Vernon/Jackson stop on the 7 train.

B. After they saw me there, they took the 7 train towards Times Square and switched at Grand Central to the Lexington Line UPTOWN 6 local to 110th St and met me on the northwest corner (runner’s left side) of 110th and First Avenue (Mile 18).  They go to 110th because First Avenue is very, very crowded lower down, particularly at the streets that correspond to subway stops. Consider going even further uptown.

C. Then they walked across 110th St and met me on the northeast corner (runner’s left side) of 110th & Fifth Avenue (Mile 23).

The good part of this arrangement is (1) Long Island City is less crowded and easy to get to - the meeting spot is very close to the subway station, and (2) It allows for three spots; your runner REALLY appreciates seeing you at Mile 23, and it's a great place to see the stress that most runners endure to complete a marathon. Also, if you see your runner at 110th St., you can then walk over to the  B/C train at 110th St. and Central Park West and take it down town to meet your runner on Central Park West, likely around 81st St.

The bad part is you have to move fairly quickly to get from stop 1 to 2; if the runners moves at a 9 minute pace (4 hour marathon), it's only about 38 minutes, and you have to take the 7 train, switch to the 6 train, then walk 3 avenues east; but it is entirely doable, my family has done it 3x, with kids in tow, and never missed me, and I did it last year in support of a friend and got to the First Ave spot way before she did.

A less ambitious plan would be to see your runner in LI City and then take the 7 to the R train in Times Square; then take the R uptown to 59th and Lexington, walk up to 6th Avenue and watch your runner in Mile 25 along Central Park South; then it will be about a one-mile walk to where your runner exits the park.

#3 Come bearing gifts

Your marathoner may need nothing other than a big smile and a few words of encouragement. There is a small chance they will have a desperate look on their face, praying that you have whatever they need. It may be (in order of likelihood) vaseline, pretzels, a band-aid,  an extra gel pack, something to sip that does not taste like lemon-lime gatorade, a hat or gloves, a fresh pair of socks, $20 or a metro card, etc. Be prepared, and you'll be a hero if they need you, but know they probably won't, and don't be insulted if they just blow by you.

#4 Please don't tell runners they are "almost finished" unless you are at Mile Marker 26.

A few years ago, I was watching the race at Mile 23, and a couple next to me asked out of the blue, "how many marathons have you run?" I asked "how did you know I've run marathons?" The wife responded, "because you're not saying 'you're almost finished.'"

The three of us then launched into a diatribe about how dispiriting it is to hear that so many times in the last six miles. When you seriously doubt you can make it 50 more yards, being 3 miles away from the finish line is NOT "almost finished." In the first half, everyone's doing great, and anything goes; but once runners pass halfway, they begin to suffer, and appreciate encouragement such as "you look great," "hang in there," "finish strong," "keep rolling." They do not appreciate "you're almost finished," or "gosh, there's ONLY 7 miles to go."

Now that you know, if you get a death stare in response to such a comment, you deserve it.

#5 If you are crossing the race route at any point, PLEASE do not walk directly across the route, and do not cross in a pack. Cross diagonally, alone.
  • Crossing straight across the street is extremely dangerous for you and the runner, as they do not see you until they are right on you; I have seen quite a few wipeouts as a result of this behavior, including one that cost an older woman a Starbucks latte grande and a lot of dignity.
  • When you do this in a pack, you are all but guaranteed to seriously impact a runner. 
  • Instead, begin walking - ONE by ONE - in the direction of the runners, and gradually move over. 
  • There are plenty of runners walking on the side of the course, so a spectator doing so is not a disruption. Walkers and runners also drift sideways in the latter parts of the race, so again, you walking and gradually getting over is not a serious disruption; done right, it is almost seamless.
#6 Know that, for most runners, the race is physically and EMOTIONALLY exhausting and unnerving. Treat them gingerly at the end.

When my friend - a 6'4" 210 lb basketball player - ran his first marathon, his fiancee greeted him at Mile 25 with a very enthusiastic pat on the back. It sent him sprawling to the ground. In ordinary circumstances, she could leap into his arms and he would swing her around. At Mile 25, a pat on the back was enough to knock him down.

It's the same emotionally; the runners are elated, but they may also be emotionally trained after weeks of anxiety, with an avalanche of competing emotions washing across their drained psyche. I've seen many runners burst into tears after crossing the finish line. One of my running partners - a lifelong friend - went from yapping the whole way to suddenly going very silent, unable to engage in any conversation at all; she was literally stunned by the whole experience, and that wasn't even in NYC. Others may be despondent over missing their time goal. Be positive, tread lightly - If they're upset at missing a time goal, don't tell them they are silly for feeling that way; they won't be ready to hear that for weeks. Say, "I'm sorry you're disappointed, but I am so proud of you." Follow your runner's lead. He or she may be just fine, but be judicious in your comments and questions until you know that's the case.

#7 Plan to celebrate when it's all done.

After I finished my first race, I went home, thinking I'd be exhausted to do anything else. After recovering, I spent the rest of the night eating and drinking and talking to friends about the race on the phone for hours, wishing I had instead just met them all at a bar.

We did that the second year, but had no plans, and ended up schlepping in a big group around a very crowded midtown area trying to find a table for 14. This was painful.

Reserve a great place NOW to have a terrific celebration, and make your runners WEAR THEIR MEDALS proudly.

I highly recommend these places, all clients who promise to roll out the welcome mat for marathon runners:

The Brickyard Gastropub is at 52nd and Ninth – about a kilometer from the finish line.  It has great food, terrific craft beers, and a great ambience. They had a blowout bash last year, full of runners and their families all day and night. Call them at 212-767-0077 to reserve, or email them at Info@BrickyardNYC.com

Closer to Penn Station (take the 1 train downtown to 28th St) is Mustang Harry's, a large facility that will be showing all your favorite sports teams, has an excellent line-up of drinks and a solid menu of comfort food. Call them at (212) 268-8930 or reserve on Open Table. A block away is sister restaurant Mustang Sallys; call them at 212-695-3806.

#8 Let your runner talk about the experience for several weeks

Running the NYC Marathon is one of the great experiences in a lifetime. The race doesn't end when your runner crosses the finish line. After my first race, I woke up at 3 am every night for two weeks, wondering if I had really just done that. Be patient, know that this is their time, and let them enjoy it and relive it, and plan to do something equally fabulous yourself.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What to Eat the Week Before a Marathon

Ten days before a marathon, your training is essentially done, with just one run of 8-10 miles at a moderate pace, plus a handful of shorter runs, left. The inactivity makes you anxious. You wish there was something that you could do to improve your chances of running your best on race day.


There is one thing.

You can plan your diet for the next ten days. 

When you’re about to drive your car on a long trip, you probably visit Jiffy Lube to make sure all the critical fluids are “topped off.” In that same vein, you have to figure out what you can eat in the next ten days to make sure that your body goes to the starting line with full stores of all essential vitamins and minerals, and with muscles that are ready to fire when asked.

How can you do this?

  • For the first three days, you can more or less eat your normal diet, presuming that your normal diet is generally healthy, with a good mix of carbs, proteins, fruits and vegetables. If you don’t have these on hand in your home, go food shopping today. If you eat most of your meals out, only visit places where you eat smartly. Tell your favorite fast food joint goodbye until after the race.
  • For the second three days, it’s time to take down the carbs – that’s right, take down the carbs – a few notches for three days, to 60% of calories on Monday, 50% on Tuesday, and 40% on Wednesday. This prepares your body to “carbo load.”
  • Finally, for the three days before a race, it’s time to carbo-load with low glycemic carbs, and, particularly on Friday and Saturday, max out on fruits and veggies, with a decent amount of protein as well. NOT ALL CARBS ARE EQUAL. Low-glycemic carbs (whole wheat pasta, vermicelli, vegetables, fruits, Sweet Potatoes) are much better than high-glycemic carbs (white potatoes, white pasta, white bread) because they help you release a slow, steady stream of energy, rather than a short, rapid burst.
For the final two days before the race, make sure to avoid spicy meals that may upset your stomach the next day. Also avoid red meat or anything else that you think may impact your gastrointestinal system during the race.

Also during the last two days, focus heavily on potassium – Sweet potatoes (with the skin on), coconut juice, orange juice, bananas and all other fruits and vegetables are handy sources that likely won’t sit too heavily in your stomach. Getting adequate potassium is essential if you want to avoid leg cramps on race day, particularly if you have large leg muscles.

The night before the race, keep eating lightly right up until bed time, especially if you're race is at 7 am and you won't be able to eat much in the morning. You can't have a last meal at 6 pm and think it will continue to power you pas the 20-mile mark around 10 am the next day.

When you wake up on race day, eat the same foods you’ve eaten before all of your long runs – this is not a time to try something new. Ideally you'll eat 3-4 hours before the race but also eat something light, such as pretzels, past that point. You need a lot of energy today. Continue to hydrate – without overdoing it, as this can be more dangerous than under-hydrating – right until race time.

If you ate light foods during your long runs, do so during the race; pretzels or other snacks in small bites can stave off hunger and provide much-needed energy.

Sources:


Monday, August 22, 2011

Advice for Running the 2013 NYC Marathon

I have run the NYC Marathon 3 times, and three more marathons elsewhere. I’ve dealt with adversity: under-training, under-tapering, near-fainting, horrific cramps, and hunger so bad I nearly chewed my fingers. My last effort was nearly perfect, because I  finally learned how to prepare properly in the last few days before the race. Here's how you can do the same.

THE TAPER

Yes, it’s maddening. But no, you’re not ruining all your training by taking it easy these last few days. Relax, continue to recover, the race will come soon enough, and your legs will be ready. As one runner Tweeted, "undercooked is better than overcooked." Tapering too much is WAY better than tapering too little. Take it easy!

If you're in the NYC area and struggling with an injury and worried about it impacting your race. contact Jill Cherland via email at Cherland10@Gmail.com. She's skilled at acupuncture, muscle activation and other techniques for healing you and getting you to the starting line. She has fixed me up several times in the weeks before a race.

NUTRITION

The most important thing you can do in the last weeks before the race is to eat smartly, right through race day. I took this for granted and thus screwed it up badly in my fifth marathon, and had my most disappointing effort. I got it precisely right in my last, and ran my fastest final 10K ever, even though I hadn't trained very much. 

For the 7 days leading up to the race, food is fuel that will drive your engine on Sunday. Hydrate adequately (but don't overdo it!!), and eat LOTS of fruit, veggies, the right kind of carbs, and protein.


WEATHER

The weather can change drastically right up to race time, so be prepared for anything! Regardless of the forecast, there are two things you need to know: first, the early morning wait before the start will be very cold; even if you are checking a bag, you have to turn it in about an hour before the start, so plan to have a throwaway blanket and lots of throwaway clothes. Second, the weather may warm up by mid-race, causing you to toss your hat, gloves and extra shirt – and then temps may drop again in the later miles, leaving you freezing. Thus, if there is any chance the weather will turn cold, carry with you an extra hat and gloves. For more on this, read What To Wear in the NYC Marathon.

THE START AREA

This area is crowded and uncomfortable, and you spend most of it waiting on a bathroom line and talking to other runners. If you are checking a bag, don’t wait too long to bring your baggage to the truck, it can be a chaotic process that leaves you sprinting to the starting line!

DO NOT WEAR HEADPHONES

I watched last year's marathon as a spectator and was utterly sickened to see that almost half the runners were wearing headphones. You are running in the greatest city in the world - with 2 million spectators of every nationality cheering you on, shouting your name, imploring you to keep going - and you're listening to Lady GaGa? Leave your iPod at home and embrace the experience.

THE RACE

There will be times in the first ten miles when you are very crowded; at times it will open up nicely, then get crowded again as waves come together. Don’t sweat it, and don’t waste a lot of energy zig-zagging. Go with the flow and know that it will clear out by about Mile 10, letting you run the final, most important 16 miles unimpeded.

There are three separate groups crossing the Verrazano - one on the upper left, upper right, and then lower - and they eventually join back up, one at a time. While you are assigned to a certain wave, it is likely you'll be able to decide, BEFORE THE START, whether you want to run on the left or right hand side of the bridge.  If the weather looks warm and sunny, try to start on the right side of the upper level of the bridge - this means you run several miles in the shade on 4th Avenue, while the left side people run in unprotected sun  - this makes a BIG difference. Conversely, if it is cold, you may prefer the sun, so run on the left side of the upper level.

HOWEVER, ONCE YOU CROSS THE STARTING LINE, YOU CANNOT CROSS FROM ONE SIDE TO THE OTHER - YOU WILL END UP RUNNING EITHER 25.7 OR 26.7 MILES, SINCE EACH SIDE TAKES TURNS VEERING OFF FOURTH AVENUE FOR A HALF MILE.

Running across the Verrazano is an unbelievable experience - the views are stunning – NYC Skyline, Statue of Liberty, fireboats in the harbor spraying water. The first mile is straight uphill, but you don't feel it much since you're fresh and pumped; the second mile is a nice, rolling downhill, to the end of the bridge.

DO NOT WORRY that you will freak out on the bridge. I thought I might the first time, and I know others who felt the same way, but I've never seen anyone actually do it. When you are up there, it is not intimidating - but be forewarned of a phenomenon called "simultaneous lateral excitation" - thousands of pairs of feet hitting the bridge in the exact same direction at once cause it to shake, and it feels like the ground is shifting underneath you, like you're running in Jello. It takes about 3 seconds of nervous laughter till everyone gets used to it.

Coming off the bridge, you run straight up 4th Avenue for about 4 miles, then weave 4 miles through ethnic neighborhoods in Brooklyn. These crowds are the best you'll see - spirited, proud of their heritage and eager to share it with the runners. ENJOY THEM - they are what makes New York City, and the NewYork City Marathon, great!

The halfway point is on the Pulaski Bridge, going into Queens. It is fairly steep, but not very long.

You then run around Long Island City and onto the 59th St Bridge, the hardest part of the race. It is a long climb, somewhat similar to the Verrazano, though not quite as steep or long; it rises 110 feet over a 3/4 mile stretch to the top. There is no crowd support, and you're on the lower level, so it's dark and dank, the mood of all the runners drops, and you run seemingly forever before you even get over the water. I found it very hard the first two times, as I was not in top shape, but a bit easier the 3rd time.

EMBRACE the solitude and gear up for the last ten miles.

Beware of the down hill of the 59th St Bridge - it is a short, steep, spiraling drop, and the 3rd time I wrenched my back a bit by taking it too fast - nothing too bad, but any little thing at 16 miles is a big thing.

Running up First Avenue is fun - a rock star experience - the crowds are gigantic and boisterous and loud - but they are mostly obnoxious drunk young people, not nearly as interesting as the crowds in Brooklyn. Make sure not to get carried away by the crowds; many runners have ruined their race by going too fast down First Avenue. 

When you get near the top of First Avenue, past 100th St or so, the spectator crowds thin for the only time of the race; you cross a bridge at 138th St., then run a mile in the Bronx, then came across another bridge back into Manhattan.

You then enter Spanish Harlem and Harlem, which are interesting places to look around, and then end up on Fifth Avenue for a long run down to the entrance to the Park. The crowds on Fifth are fantastic because they are right on top of you; but they also shout "you're almost finished" when to you, three miles away is NOT almost finished.

You enter the Park around 5th and 89th, and 8 blocks into the park, you get a fantastic, long, sloping downhill, that is rudely followed by a short, steep uphill - be ready for it so you don't come to a dead stop. You then run down to 59th and out onto Central Park South, then go back into the park on the West Drive, to the finish.

A virtual tour of the course created by a 2010 runner using data from his GPS system.

An ING "Runner Cam" that appears to by someone who ran the course near the back of the pack.

A view from a dashboard camera from someone who drove the course (you won't see any cars!)

SEEING FRIENDS AND FAMILY 

Read our post, 8 Ways to Support Your Loved One in the NYC Marathon, for info on how to make sure your friends and family see you during the race.

CELEBRATING AFTER THE RACE

After you recuperate for an hour or two and re-hydrate and begin to feel human, you will not want to sleep - you will want to celebrate and talk about your achievement. Find a great place to have a terrific evening, and WEAR YOUR MEDAL proudly. I highly recommend these places, all clients who promise to roll out the welcome mat for marathon runners:

The Brickyard Gastropub is at 52nd and Ninth – about a kilometer from the finish line.  It has great food, terrific craft beers, and a great ambience. They had a blowout bash last year, full of runners and their families all day and night. Call them at 212-767-0077 to reserve, or email them at Info@BrickyardNYC.com

Closer to Penn Station (take the 1 train downtown from 79th or 72nd to 28th St) is Mustang Harry's, a large facility that will be showing all your favorite sports teams, has an excellent line-up of drinks and a solid menu of comfort food. Call them at (212) 268-8930 or reserve on Open Table. A block away is sister restaurant Mustang Sallys; call them at 212-695-3806.

Have a great run!




Thursday, November 4, 2010

What to Wear While Running the NYC Marathon 2013

This is not fashion advice. But if you want to be comfortable and not have clothing be a hindrance to your best effort, I have a few words of advice to impart.

For more general advice about the NYC Marathon, read this.

Once you've finished this article and decided what to wear, pack into one giant bag every single thing you need on race morning - right now - this includes your gels, your watch - every single thing - and then you add the bib and chip when you get it. You think you're anxious now? You'll be out of your mind at 4:45 am on race day, and in no position to hunt for any must-have items buried in your closet.

[[Have you thought as much about your diet as you have about your clothing? Read What To Eat in the Week Before the NYC Marathon.]]

The most important thing is what you wear closest to your skin; the weather should not impact this choice. Avoiding chafing is the top priority. You should wear on your body whatever you wore during your successful long runs. Not merely the same type of outfit, the VERY SAME OUTFIT. The only way you can be sure the t-shirt/shorts/socks/jock/underwear/bra is suitable for you to run 26 miles in is if you have worn the exact pieces on an 18+ mile run before. (As I note below, I often change the shirt closest to my skin during the race, so you may need several trusty t-shirts).

With your primary outfit chosen, now you need to figure out the outer layers, to deal with the weather.

Whatever the forecast, the early morning wait on Staten Island and on the Verrazano Bridge before the start will be very, very cold - 35 to 50 degrees, windy, you not moving much for several hours, on the waterfront - did I say very, very, very cold?

Even after reading this, you'll say on Monday, "I didn't think it would be THAT cold."

When you arrive at the waiting area near the start on Staten Island, you will have (i) the outfit you plan to run most of the race in, (ii) additional layers that will accompany you for parts of the journey,  (ii) throwaway clothes and blankets.

Think of yourself as the Space Shuttle, fully laden at launch and jettisoning superfluous parts as you go.


BOTTOMS

Generally for this race, I don't wear anything on my legs other than a pair of shorts. If your legs tend to get cold, you may decide to add a pair of tight sweats/capris for your whole journey. My personal choice, when I add anything beside shorts, is an Under Armour thigh-hugging bottom you wear under your shorts that extends half way down your thigh; you'll be taking a chance on wearing something new close to your skin, but I can't imagine them causing you a problem, especially if you wash and dry them once first.

If you're going shorts only, you should consider having a pair of throwaway sweats/long underwear / pajama pants (my personal choice) / Tylek pants (on sale at the Expo) to wear up on to the Bridge, and even for the first 2-3 miles, till you warm up - at the apex of the Verrazano Bridge, you will be 230 feet in the air, with harbor winds blowing, and you'll not be warmed up at all. COLD!!

TOPS

For the upper body, I always wear a large singlet with my race number and nickname written on it as my outer layer.

For most races, I start wearing two t-shirts and the singlet, and, just for the run on the Verrazano, a large shirt over all of it. Of course, if it's very cold, you may need more, like a light sweatshirt.

Once I got over the bridge, I lose the outer t-shirt.

If things heat up, at some point around 6-13, I take off everything, toss the first (sweatiest) layer, put back on the middle t-shirt, and then the singlet.

At the halfway point, I meet my family, and perhaps put on another fresh t-shirt closest to my skin, then the singlet. I can't tell you how good it feels to take off a soaked shirt and replace it with a dry one when you have two hours yet to go. Sure, this is easier for guys to do, but most gal runners I know are quite comfortable stripping down to a sports bra.

Write your name on your outer shirt! Better yet, write a nickname that you are fond of. If your name is Kelly, you'll hear thousands of shouts for Kelly, will never know if they're for you, and they won't be very enthusiastic. On the other hand, if your nickname is Twinkle Toes, then you'll know the shouts are for you, and they'll be enthusiastic. Or just write something funny or inspiring on your shirt -  the crowd will engage you.

HEAD/FINGERS

It probably won't be so cold that you need a ski-cap, but a head band covering your ears will likely be useful. I don't wear gloves - I wear white sweat socks on my hand, so my fingers can touch each other.

BE PREPARED FOR DRASTIC CHANGES

Now comes the most critical part of my advice.

The weather may warm up by mid-race, causing you to toss your hat, gloves and extra shirt – and then clouds or wind may very well cause temps to plunge in the later miles, leaving you unbearably freezing. Consider keeping a shirt wrapped around your waist, and at the very least an extra pair of gloves and a head warmer in your pocket, or have a spectator available to meet you with them in the later miles. A friend gave me this advice based on his run in NYC, when he thought he might drop out because he tossed his gloves and his hands nearly froze. A month later, I ran Philly, and it was 26 at the start, warmed up nicely, and I tossed everything, only to find myself running along the river with fingers that were painfully cold, threatening my ability to continue - then I realized I had heeded his advice and had a spare pair of socks in my back pocket, saving the day.

In a worst case scenario, ask someone in the crowd to give you gloves or a hat – believe it or not, someone will.

POST RACE CELEBRATION

After the race, you will not go back to your room and sleep. You will be buzzing with adrenaline, and will want to celebrate and talk about your great achievement. These three clients are rolling out the welcome mat for marathon runners:

The Brickyard Gastropub is at 52nd and Ninth – about a kilometer from the finish line.  It has great food, terrific craft beers, and a great ambience. They had a blowout bash last year, full of runners and their families all day and night. Call them at 212-767-0077 to reserve, or email them at Info@BrickyardNYC.com

Closer to Penn Station (take the 1 train downtown from 79th or 72nd to 28th St) is Mustang Harry's, a large facility that will be showing all your favorite sports teams, has an excellent line-up of drinks and a solid menu of comfort food. Call them at (212) 268-8930 or reserve on Open Table. A block away is sister restaurant Mustang Sallys; call them at 212-695-3806.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advice for running the NYC Marathon; where to meet after the NYC Marathon

It is Daylight Saving Time in NYC this weekend - you get an extra hour of sleep. But be forewarned that iPhones should not be trusted as alarm clocks this weekend. Don't ask, just don't trust them. 


Because there is no official family reunion area this year, I am getting a lot of traffic to this blog from runners looking for a post-race NYC Marathon meeting spot. 

Thus I have re-ordered the paragraphs to address that issue first; then I discuss info about pre-race nutrition, the start area, the course, where spectators should watch, etc.

After Race– keep walking after the finish! You have little choice, since it’s a walk to exit the park, but you cannot lay down; you need to keep blood flowing. Drink lots of water, and eat the food they offer you, even if it’s the last thing on your mind. Have an indoor meet-up place to meet, because it will be very cold and it will take your family longer than they imagine to reach you.


Runners will likely exit the park at 72nd and Central Park West. Meet-up possibilities include:

New York Sports Clubs (NYSC.com) at 73rd, half block west of Central Park West, or 62nd St. half block west of Broadway; you could pay $10 and use the shower while waiting, and meet them in the lobby.

Trattoria Sambuca on 72nd St, on the south side, a half block west of Central Park West

Cosi Sandwich Shop, 2186 Broadway (77th St.)


Starbucks, a block west on Columbus Avenue, at 67th, 73rd, 76th, or 81st.

Celebration- After you recuperate for an hour and re-hydrate and begin to feel human, you will not want to sleep - you will want to celebrate and talk about your achievement. I highly recommend these three places, all clients who promise to roll out the welcome mat for marathon runners:

The Brickyard Gastropub is at 52nd and Ninth – about a kilometer from the finish line.  It has great food, terrific craft beers, and a great ambience – and NO STAIRS; I know the owners, and they say several runners have reserved tables, so it should be festive. Call them at 212-767-0077 to reserve, or email them at Info@BrickyardNYC.com.

Mustang Harry's is at 29th and 7th; take the 1 train from the Upper West side to the 28th St station. It is a large place with room for everyone, including about 200 on the first floor alone. Call 212-268-8930 to make a reservation.

I have run the NYC Marathon 3 times, the last in 2007. I’ve since run Boston, and Philadelphia twice. The 3 in NY I ran in 5 hours; the next two close to four hours; and the last was my best effort of all, as I ran 4:28 on little training after getting over pneumonia. I’ve dealt with adversity: under-training, under-tapering, near-fainting, horrific cramps, and hunger so bad I nearly chewed my fingers. Andyet I can't wait to run it again this year!

I’m so eager to run another marathon because, as my last race showed, I’ve learned how to prepare properly in the last few days before the race. Here's how you can do the same.

The Taper – Yes, it’s maddening. But no, you’re not ruining all your training by taking it easy these last few days. I tapered too much the 1st time and not enough the 2nd; not enough was far worse. Even as I got ready for my 5th marathon, I was frantic that the inactivity would haunt me in the race. Part of the anxiety comes because heavy training puts you in a steady zen state, and as you cut back, you come down off a high. And you want to start the race NOW, prove to yourself you’re still fit enough, and get back that high. Relax, continue to recover, the race will come soon enough, and your legs will be ready.

The Nutrition – the most important thing you can do right now is eat smartly the rest of the week. I screwed this up in Boston, and had my most disappointing effort; I could have solidly broken 4:00, but ran 4:04. I got this precisely right in Philly last year, and ran my fastest final 10K ever, even though the lack of training had me believing I’d walk from Mile 15 on. For the next 5 days, food is fuel that will drive your engine on Sunday. Avoid alcohol, hydrate adequately, and eat lots of fruit, veggies, carbs and protein. On Friday and Saturday, overload on the fruit and veggies, particularly ones high in potassium, including bananas and sweet potatoes with the skin on.  Eat small snacks until late on Saturday night and even on Sunday morning, whatever you think you can tolerate. Bring small snacks to munch on during the race. You should know by now what you can eat and still run.  You cannot eat a last meal at 6 pm Sat night, a small breakfast at 6 am on Sunday, and then expect to run a strong 26 miles ending around 2-3 pm on Sunday. That was my method in Boston, and that's where I nearly chewed my fingers at Mile 20. You should also consume a gel every 4-6 miles. If you have never tried gels, I confidently recommend Hammer Gels, from Hammer Nutrition; you can buy them at JackRabbit sports on 14th St. I’ve turned half a dozen people on to them on race day and everyone has loved them.

The Weather – right now, it looks very good – cloudy and a high of 50 degrees F.  This can change drastically right up to race time; the first two times I ran, on the morning of the race they projected partly cloudy and a high of 60; each time, it was sunny and in the low 70s by noon.  Using current forecasts, there are two things you need to know: first, the early morning wait before the start will be very cold; you have to turn in your post-race bag about an hour before the start, so plan to have a throwaway blanket and lots of throwaway clothes. Second, the weather may warm up by mid-race, causing you to toss your hat, gloves and extra shirt – and then temps may drop again in the later miles, leaving you freezing. Keep at least an extra pair of gloves and a head warmer in your pocket, or have a spectator available to meet you with them in the later miles. In a worst case scenario, ask someone in the crowd to give you gloves or a hat – believe it or not, someone will.

The Start Area - it is crowded and uncomfortable, and you spend most of it waiting on a bathroom line and talking to other runners. Don’t wait too long to bring your baggage to the truck; in 2007, this was a chaotic process, but I’m sure they’ve improved it.

The Race – If you have an ambitious time goal, do your best to be near the start of your wave. I've  started further back and no one was monitoring bib numbers; while it may be different closer to the front,  you should be able to move up past your assigned number. Unless you start near the beginning of a wave, there will be times in the first ten miles when you are very crowded; at times it will open up nicely, then get crowded again as waves come together. Don’t sweat it, and don’t waste a lot of energy zig-zagging. Go with the flow and know that it will clear out by about Mile 10, letting you run the final, most important 16 miles unimpeded.

There are three separate groups crossing the Verrazano - one on the upper left, upper right, and then lower - and they eventually join back up, one at a time.

If the weather looks warm and sunny, try to start on the right side of the upper level of the bridge (green?) - this means you run several miles in the shade on 4th Avenue, while the left side people run in unprotected sun  - this makes a BIG difference. Conversely, if it is cold, you may prefer the sun, so run on the left side of the upper (orange?).

Running across the Verrazano is an unbelievable experience - the views are stunning – NYC Skyline, Statue of Liberty, fireboats in the harbor spraying water. The first mile is straight uphill, but you don't feel it much since you're fresh and pumped; the second mile is equally downhill, to the end of the bridge. Then you run straight up 4th Avenue for about 4 miles, then weave 4 miles through ethnic neighborhoods in Brooklyn. These crowds are the best you'll see - spirited, proud of their heritage and eager to share it with the runners. ENJOY THEM!

The halfway point is on the Pulaski Bridge, going into Queens. It is fairly hard, but not that long.

You then run around Long Island City and onto the 59th St Bridge, the hardest part of the race. It is a long climb, somewhat similar to the Verrazano, though not quite as steep or long; it may be 3/4 mile to the top. There is no crowd support, and you're on the lower level, so it's dark and dank, the mood of all the runners drops, and you run seemingly forever before you even get over the water. I found it very hard the first two times, as I was not in top shape, but a bit easier the 3rd time.

Beware of the down hill of the 59th St Bridge - it is a short, steep, spiraling drop, and the 3rd time I wrenched my back a bit by taking it too fast - nothing too bad, but any little thing at 16 miles is a big thing.

If you ever find you need a bathroom stop, the Manhattan side of the 59th St Bridge always has a long line of porta-potties for which the wait is usually not bad.

Running up First Avenue is great - a rock star experience - the crowds are gigantic and boisterous and loud - though mostly drunk young people, not as interesting as the crowds in Brooklyn. First Avenue has a slight incline the whole way. Make sure not to get carried away by the crowds; one elite runner famously ran a 4:34 mile on First Avenue because of the excitement, and did quite poorly the rest of the way.

When you get near the top of First Avenue, past 100th St or so, the crowds thin for the only time of the race; you then run a mile in the Bronx, then came across another bridge back into Manhattan. I've worn headphones for this 4 mile stretch only in some races.

You then enter Spanish Harlem and Harlem, which are interesting places, and then end up on Fifth Avenue for a long run down to the entrance to the Park. The crowds on Fifth are fantastic because they are right on top of you; but they also shout "you're almost finished" when to you, 3 miles away is not almost finished. You enter the Park around 5th and 89th, and 8 blocks into the park, you get a fantastic, long, sloping downhill, followed by a short, steep uphill. You run down to 59th and out onto Central Park South, then go back into the park on the West Drive, to the finish.

Friends / FamilyThe runner has to find the spectators - if they simply stand at some random spot and look for you, odds are overwhelming that they will miss you, since many runners look the same and in your running get-up you don't look much like you do when they usually see you. So I always knew where they would be and ran right up to them; it gave me something to think about! They also got a distinctive mylar balloon so I could spot them a few blocks away.

My support group was ambitious and knows the city well, so they met me in 3 places, at Miles 14, 18 and 23. I always met my group at:

Long Island City (approx 13.5 miles) on Vernon Blvd. Between 47th and 48th (on the right hand side of the runners), right outside the Vernon/Jackson stop on the 7 train.

Then, they took the 7 towards Times Square and switched at Grand Central to the Lexington Line UPTOWN 6 local to 103rd St and walked back to 101st St, and met me on the northwest corner (runner’s left side) of 101st  and First Avenue (Mile 18). 

Then they walked across 101st St and met me on the northeast corner (runner’s left side) of 101st and Fifth Avenue (Mile 23).

The good part of this arrangement is (1) Long Island City is less crowded and easy to get to - the meeting spot is right outside the subway station, and (2) It allows for three spots; you REALLY appreciate seeing them at Mile 23, and it's a great place to view the race.

The bad part is (1) they have to move quickly to get from stop 1 to 2; if you run a 9 minute pace, it's only about 38 minutes, and they have to take the 7, switch to the 6, then walk 3 avenues east; but it is doable, my family has done it 3x, with kids in tow, and never missed me; the reason they go to 101st is that First Avenue is very, very crowded, particularly at the streets of the subway stops; and (2) it is a LONG walk - about 2.5 miles - from 101 and Fifth across the park to CPW and down to the meeting area around 72nd St. It will take them about 50 minutes, while you'll finish about 27 minutes later at a 9 minute pace.

A less ambitious plan would be for them to see you in LI City and then take the 7 to the R train in Times Square; then take the R uptown to 59th and Lexington, walk up to 6th Avenue and watch you in Mile 25 along Central Park South; then it will only be about a one mile walk to where you exit the park.

Have a great run!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Search is Dead, Long Live Gourmet Content

A critical ingredient for investing success is patience. In One Up on Wall Street, author and legendary investor Peter Lynch explained that "Most of the money I make is in the third or fourth year that I own something. ... If all's right with the company, and whatever attracted me in the first place hasn't changed, then I'm confident that sooner or later my patience will be rewarded." I've had the same experience in my (less legendary) investing career. I invested in a tiny biotech stock called Celgene in April 1998; six months later, it was 1/2 the price at which I bought it; 18 months after I bought it, I was still in the red. Now 12 years later, it is up 90-fold from my initial purchase price. Apple was another that tested my patience, sitting underwater for the first 13 months I held it; now it's up nearly 30-fold.

It's no different with entrepreneurship, which is simply another form of investing. The time for your idea may not be quite right, so you have to hang on until the marketplace comes around – or you bring it around.


Three years ago I founded Dulcinea Media, a human-powered search alternative, on the premise that most Internet users cannot find the information they need online, and that search engines will never match the ability of a human curator to find the best content. At the time, this was a contrarian view. A  report by Pew Internet in January 2005 had shown that 75% of Internet users were satisfied with search engine results, and most pundits believed Google and Wikipedia would dominate the online information landscape forever.

In the past three years, the market has warmed to my view that uncurated, general search engines are a less-than-perfect tool for finding information online. More recent studies from the USC's Center for the Digital Future showed that user satisfaction with search results declined to 62% in 2006, and again to 51% in 2008. A survey commissioned by Yahoo! curiously issued a damning indictment of search engine results: 85% of initial search queries fail to return the information users were seeking, causing the users to try and try again, resulting in "search engine fatigue." A study from the UK exposed as a myth the notion of a “Google Generation” of young people with native ability to find information online.
Next, Nicholas Carr, who famously asked “Is Google Making Us Stupid?", and a number of other columnists bemoaned the reality that most users today read an Internet that is a mile-wide and an inch-deep. The center of their media world is a technology driven algorithm and “the wisdom of crowds” that simply uncover the same recycled headlines and updates from a slew of news sources. Google dipped a toe in the “human-powered” waters to tweak some of its search rankings, although it still accords technology most of the weight in the equation. And Roger Schank, an artificial intelligence expert from Yale University, reversed his 30-year-old prediction that we would create machines as smart as humans in his lifetime. Schank came to recognize that "[h]umans are constantly learning. ... [e]very new experience changes what we know and how we see the world." Schank attributed this to "an unconscious indexing method that all people learn to do without quite realizing they are learning it."

And now a growing chorus of observers is acknowledging that search engines often fail the user. The impetus is the rise of “content farms,” which assure that search engines are only going to get worse at delivering quality results on the first search results page. Demand Media, Associated Content, Mahalo, Bukisa, eHow, HubPages and a voracious pack of others are paying freelance writers a modest per-article fee to create tens of thousands of articles each day. And these companies excel at getting their content to rank high in search engines, regardless of quality.

The biggest challenge with these sites, paradoxically, is that some of the content is actually good, and most of it reads well. But, as Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb wrote after analyzing Demand Media’s content, it “lacks passion and often also lacks knowledge of the topic at hand.” Worse, the quality varies greatly from article to article – these brands stand for nothing other than “we create lots of content cheaply, SEO it superbly, and monetize it well.” Since no flashing neon lights warn “keyword-ridden trash” for weak submissions, the average Internet user does not know that the article was written in 20 minutes by someone with no expertise on the topic.

Many pundits agree that this spells trouble for search engines, but differ on further implications. Michael Arrington of TechCrunch sees the “end of hand crafted content.” In his view, the “fast food content” created by content farms has produced a “race to the bottom situation, where anyone who spends time and effort on their content is pushed out of business.” Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures is more hopeful. He sees search engines being displaced by social media tools, where, “with the help of machines, our friends and trusted sources” will tell users what content matters.
What I see is that this avalanche of fast food content will lead to the “clarion call” that I predicted, in a July 2008 article  would cause a “flight to safety.” Internet users will turn to the "new portal" - trusted sources that consistently deliver “gourment content” - important, relevant, reliable and comprehensive information, from a wide variety of resources across the Internet. And the only sites that will succeed at this are those that rely on a human touch.  Indeed, many users will rely on their own touch, using personalized aggregation tools such as PageFlakes, but most users will turn to trusted third parties.  For all the dismissive talk about Yahoo, its audience is massive - because it gathers content from around the Web, albeit of inconsistent quality across the verticals.  Companies that aggregate and organize content in an elegant way, and combine that with their own proprietary, high-quality content, will inherit the position at the top of the Web food chain that search engines abdicate.

So where is Dulcinea Media in all this ? Naturally, planning to be one of those trusted sources, or perhaps an engine that powers the new portals to which users flock. We are still executing  on the business plan we created three years ago. findingDulcinea now offers Web Guides to the best information alone about more than 700 broad topics, and we’ve created thousands of Beyond the Headlines and Features articles that provide a full context view of news stories. A Spanish-language sister site, encontrandoDulcinea, replicates much of this content in Spanish.

To make all this content easier to access, we’ve introduced SweetSearch, a custom search engine that harnesses Google’s technology and the 100,000+ hours of Web site evaluation that is the bedrock of findingDulcinea. SweetSearch returns results only from a “whitelist” of 35,000 sites that we’ve evaluated and approved. And we are tweaking SweetSearch to ensure that it remains the best search engine for students, and indeed, the only one they can use effectively. We've also introduced SweetSearch4Me, which is the only search engine that displays prominently high quality sites created for younger learners.

As our audience continues to grow steadily, we’ve also found that our “best customers” – those who visit our site the longest and consume the most pageviews, and thus are most likely to return – are college, high school and middle school students. And thus we focus our content on subjects that would be of interest to teachers, librarians, and students.  We presented at two national conferences in the fall - the AASL conference for school librarians, and the NCSS conference for social studies teachers - and we received an overwhelmingly positive response to our products.  We learned there is a critical need in the marketplace for free products that promotes effective, efficient, safe and responsible use of the Internet, and that ours fit the bill magnificently. And we've also had some very encouraging discussions with forward-thinking media companies about partnering with us to help make them trusted sources for content from around the Web.

We remain steadfast in our principles that (i) we will not use technology to aggregate links for Web Guides or articles; everything will pass through the prism of human judgment; and (ii) we will never compromise on the quality of our product, which will all continue to be created by our full-time editorial staff or subject-matter expert freelancers, and edited by a full-time editor.

To address scaling issues while holding form to these principles, we plan to introduce a program early next year in which we invite librarians and educators to submit content. Practitioners of these professions are trained to find, evaluate and recommend outstanding information resources, and library Web sites have always been the closest comparable to our Web Guides. We envision findingDulcinea and SweetSearch becoming a repository of the knowledge and insight of tens of thousands of librarians and teachers.

And we’ll stick with that vision, for as long as it takes to make it a reality.