Sunday, January 26, 2014

It Was a Good Week

"Just waking up in the morning, gotta thank God
I don't know but today seems kinda odd
No barking from the dog, no smog
And momma cooked a breakfast with no hog
I got my grub on, but didn't pig out...
...Today I didn't even have to use my AK
I got to say it was a good day"

Ice Cube had it right. I did have a good day. In fact, a good week. After a busy, snow filled road trip last week, I was expected to be sleep-deprived and cranky all week long. Instead, I came back to work refreshed and excited about getting people back to health. 

Tuesday evening came and with it a wonderful little bundle of joy arrived into our lives. My brother somehow managed, with at least a little help from his wife, I suspect, to produce, in my humble opinion, the cutest little darling daughter that you could ever want. Or more likely, this baby was mistakenly dropped at the wrong hospital by an wayward stork. Haha I've got to heckle the eldest brother even in his time of glory:) Luckily, I was able to go down and visit my new niece the very next day in the hospital and I can tell you it was tough to hand her back to her parents. All of my plans now seem to revolve around when I can next go down to visit her:)
Find me a cuter baby! I dare ya!

14 hour old Olivia! 

That same night I met up with my cousins Joey, Ben and William to celebrate Will's return from Afghanistan. It was great to see him healthy and we have made some plans to get some skiing in this winter if the weather will cooperate a bit.

I am sure I bored my patients the rest of the week talking about my new niece but it made the week fly by. Soon Saturday arrived. This Saturday was one Amber had been training for for months. No, it was not a race. It was Concord's Dancing with the Stars. She had diligently been rehearsing every Monday night with her partner and friend, Jay Hauser. Tonight was the night to finally see how all that preparation would pay off. I had also been doing my own preparation, since I knew that all of the best Concord area restaurants would be there with food.

I can tell you this. No one in the audience was let down. The food was AMAZING! I had greek turnover, bison sliders, pulled pork, awesome cannolis, sushi... oh wait. You probably care about how Amber did. That was pretty good too and the audience certainly was not let down on that front either. Amber's parents and sister were also in the crowd and we all thoroughly enjoyed and were impressed with how well they put it together. They did a good enough job to win most entertaining as well as best choreographed dance routine and I think they were robbed for best overall. I put together a little video of their whole process. You can watch it below:

It really was a fun experience for Amber and I hope she and Jay know how well they did.

As Ice Cube mentioned above, sometimes not having something bad happen is enough to warrant a good day. That was what today(Sunday) was like. My sister and I were planning on running the Boston Prep 16 miler in Derry this morning. She had been having some hip flexor issues the last week or so but she was hoping that she could push through it for the race. After four miles though, it was clear that she wasn't having  a good time. As her kindergarten teacher wrote of her, she is scrappy and opinionated and probably would have toughed out another 12 miles if I had not, nearly forcibly, made her stop. She was annoyed with herself but she, begrudgingly, did make the right decision. By cutting out early from this run, she likely didn't do any lasting damage to herself physically, but more importantly, I hope it left her hoping to run again, instead of hating running.

On our way back to the car, we skipped, retro-ran, and side-shuffled because even walking made the pain worse while catching on things which we hadn't had time to talk about before. Breathlessness which may be good for your health, isn't always good for conversations so taking our time afforded us an opportunity we may not otherwise have had. We did get over the novelty of this after a while, but luckily just as we were getting cold and tired(at least her of my jokes), a nice spectator offered us a ride which we gladly accepted.

We then met up with our parents for a delicious lunch at a local Italian restaurant before we parted ways. So while it would have been great to have reported that she had run the full distance at faster than expected time, I am happy that we had time to spend together and that she came out of the day, no worse off.

Up Next: I thought I could qualify for Snowshoe Nationals at Sidehiller on Saturday, but somewhere along the lines it got switched to today so I couldn't make it. That means I'll probably drive down to Northfield for Dave Dunham's race next Saturday. Or I might just go visit Olivia. She is far cuter than Dave anyway. As for Amber's dancing career-I think she's putting it on hold for a while... at least until the next wedding we attend.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oh the Places You'll Go! (for some awesome sponsors)

As I am sure most have you have heard, or surmised, Amber has joined a new team, Maverick Multisport, stationed out of Louisville, Kentucky. She will still be running in Zoots which she argues makes the BEST triathlon running shoes out there, but will also now be working with some pretty awesome companies.

To meet her new team and sponsors, she was originally supposed to fly to Louisville two weeks ago but she happened to time her flight with a big storm where all the flights out of the Northeast were canceled. So instead, she suckered me into joining her this weekend for the meet and greet. We determined that flying there and driving a rental car back would be the best option to transport all of her gear, including a brand new Argon 18 E118 fit to her by another team sponsor:VO2 Multisport.

Well here's to "best options"!

Finding economical flights typically means flying at odd hours which was the case this Saturday where we had to arrive at the airport a 4am for check-in. We were flying out of Boston so we were lucky enough to have Amber's parents drop us off. This early flight would allow us to get to Louisville a little after noon so we'd have the afternoon to get the bike fit, meet the team founder, Chris Hutchens as well as do a little photo shoot, and then hopefully be able to spend some time checking out the town. Unfortunately, American Airlines had a different plan for us-canceling our flight to Chicago and re-routing us through Miami. Now stop for a minute and pull up a map. I'll wait.

Okay now that it's in front of you: look at Boston and Miami and then find Louisville. My trigonometry is rusty but is the shortest way between two points to travel the other two legs of the triangle first? As can be expected we arrived quite a bit later than we had anticipated, making the photographers and the bike fitters all wait for us.
Amber and VO2 Multisport owner, Jeff

Amber and Chris, founder of Maverick Multisport

Pete, the bike fit guru, and Amber

They were great and efficient and Amber was excited to try on her new uniform by Champion Systems and see her bike fully assembled with her awesome ENVE wheelset and Rotor Q ring and powermeter. She was stoked about how it turned out and it is sure to help for a FAST 2014 season. Add to that a nice new TYR wetsuit, 110% compression socks, and Swiftwick cycling socks and she was happier than a pig that has escaped a BBQ(as well as one in other things). So, bottom line: She was happy that she made it out to Louisville and it made our ordeal worth it. Oh yes back to the ordeal...
Amber with her newly assembled and fit bike!

Amber with a Louisville Slugger, another Maverick Sponsor(click here to see all her sponsors)

Hopefully you didn't get rid of that map quite yet. If you map out how long it should take to get from Louisville to New Hampshire regardless of the highway you chose should take you anywhere between 15-16 1/2 hours. What that does not account for is snow and Kentucky/Ohio drivers in it. What they lacked in accumulation, the drivers made up for in accidents. We probably saw close to thirty cars off the road as we made our way up 76. If I didn't have other drivers to worry about, we probably wouldn't have gone much slower but we ended up doing 30-45mph for the majority of the time. After six hours of this slow driving and rather than driving through any more of it, we opted to stop and get a room for the night. No spending a night with Amber is not an ordeal. But it did get us home quite a bit later as we spent the entire next day in the car.

The ride was not all bad though as the roads were clear, Amber was awake(for the most part) and we stopped for a great lunch at a Sushi restaurant in Wilkes-Barre, PA and an AMAZING seafood dinner in Sturbridge MA. That dinner alone made the trip worthwhile.

So if you're thinking about sponsoring Amber, just look at the distance she will be driven to meet you and just wait for the 2014 season to see how well she will represent. We're in the final stages of developing the season right now so check back on her blog to see the game plan.

Up Next: Amber is DANCING WITH THE STARS this Saturday night! Derry Prep 16 miler  on Sunday for Danny and his sister Marilyn!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Simple Living(or Smile, don't Stockpile)

After my grandfather passed away earlier this year, my father and family had to help clear out his apartment. We had already spent a long time a few years ago, consolidating, donating, salvaging and tossing most of his items when he moved from his house to the apartment he moved into. And yet in the years since he moved, he again managed to accumulate quite a few possessions. He came from a generation that had lived through the generation and didn't let anything go to waste. He would save a screw because he knew he'd (eventually) need one. And on several occasions that I can remember as a young kid, he'd be working on something and tell me to fetch the 3/8 inch screw on the second shelf down on the left in the right side of the rear garage. Or something like that-his memory was far better than mine currently. And sure enough that screw that he had saved from years before was exactly where he needed it.

I loved him for that and I have found that I have started to do the same- holding on to gear that I no longer use just on the off-chance circumstance when my friend who spontaneously comes over forgot his 10 1/2 running shoes(or jacket, climbing harness, x-c skis, boots, shampoo, razor etc). And while there certainly has been a few times that this has come in handy[when my brother, Matt, decided to spontaneously run a marathon and needed to borrow: running shoes, shorts, shirt, socks, and Gu, comes to mind. Seriously.], there really is not much use for this hoarding.

There are three problems with this. The first is that I probably would be better off donating the stuff now so someone could use it now not just if they serendipitously need something while at my house. The second problem is that it clutters our apartment making cleaning more challenging. The third, and most egregious, is that I don't need all this stuff! Why do I have so much stuff? Economists will tell you that we need to spend money and buy things in order to keep the economy running, but I would imagine that environmentalists would say that all of this stuff from its production, shipment across the world all the way to when it eventually makes it to the landfills isn't all that good for keeping the earth running.

No offense to the economists but I'm going to side with the environmentalists. Therefore, I'm going to issue a challenge for myself which I would like to extend to you all as well. Here's your mission if you choose to accept it:

  • Don't buy anything new if you have a similar object or can borrow one. Where I am going to have the most challenge with this is running shoes. I'm always so nervous that one of my favorite models will go out of production that I end up stockpiling shoes so I have enough. Well, I have enough. I could probably go several years without buying another pair of shoes. And Amber could go a few decades thanks to Zoot
  • Give away at least one object per month to someone who can actually use it. I just gave away(very begrudgingly) all of my trad climbing protection. Let me clarify something: I have never trad climbed. I bought it when I was doing a lot of sport climbing and that was the natural progression. It was sitting in my attic for a few years now unused. Amber's cousin will probably use it more a week than I will have ever used it. The point is: evaluate what you actually need. You will be amazed how little it is. 
    Between Brooks and Nike I have MORE than enough shoes to last quite a while.(I won't show you Amber's shoe rack(s) ). 
  • Save mementos but only real mementos. If you weren't sure whether I am neurotic then this will set you straight. Until about a month ago, I had saved every birthday card I had ever received. Sorting through them, I realized many of them didn't have anything in them of import and some were from people I no longer know. I kept a few memorable ones(my 21st birthday card from my adopted grandmother who wrote to me not to party "too hard"), but then tossed the rest. And that's the rule: if it's not memorable or meaningful, get rid of it. 
  • Buy experiences, not gifts. For any of your family, friends' birthdays, try to gift them an experience(my parents are doing this for us-most recently getting us surfing lessons) instead of something that they may already have five of. 
  • Decline the race shirts. I have already started doing this but if you're like me and have more than you know what to do with just decline the race shirt. Or get it in a size that you can give to someone that may need it. Same goes for all that free stuff given out at the expos. You don't need it. I promise.
  • Don't skimp on the workout gear. Nobody will want to run with you if you're the stinky kid that always runs in the same smelly shorts. Have enough so you can cycle through them between washes. This means less if you have a laundry at home and probably a few more if you go to the laundromat. The point is: run solo or run clean:) 
  • Have fun. Remember: you are only as rich as your experiences and those with whom you share them. Possessions wouldn't make you happier. Be in the moment and enjoy your life. This is the only time we get to enjoy it. 

Up Next: Maverick Multisport meet and greet, bike-fit in Louisville, then road trip back to NH. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Read Your Way to Faster Running

Last week my mother sent me a link to an article discussing a recent experiment where scientists had people read an exciting novel and see how their brains responded to the novel using functional MRIs. After becoming interested in the article's title "Your brain has a biological response to a good book" and its conclusions that you can trick your brain into thinking your being active,  I decided to find the actual research article which was published in Volume 3 of Brain Connectivity. Entitled "Short and Long-term Effects of a Novel on Connectivity in the Brain" the researchers concluded that there were long-term changes in the connectivity of the brain after reading and these changes were located in both sides of the somatosensory cortex of the brain.

The somatosensory cortex is an unusual place to be activated during reading because it the sensory system for the skin, skeletal muscles, bones and joints, your heart and lungs and internal organs. Pretty much it is sensory motor skills. Instead you would think that the language parts of the brain, in conjunction with the visual cortex, would and should be the parts activated. And they were. But they were activated only short-term and had no long lasting effect on the brain. Meanwhile, the somatosensory cortex was activated and stayed more active for the five days after reading when they did the retest.

Researchers suggest a possible reason for the increase in the somatosensory cortex connectivity may be what they call embodied semantics. Embodied semantics is the theory that the act of reading a novel may place the "reader in the body of the protagonist"- that is, in effect, the reader is activating the parts of the brain that would produce the actions of the main character. Almost like he is running away from the flaming hot lava fields of Pompeii(that was the book they all had to read-supposedly quite thrilling). The brain was being activated in a way similar to when it actually is running away.

This is pretty cool when you think about it. Reading a book on running might engage that part of the brain used to run. Researchers have already shown that visualization can improve motor function and performance, wouldn't be great to get faster just by reading a book? That sounds right up my alley:)

I think the next area of study is to compare an exciting book with a boring book. I wonder whether the boring book will create long lasting changes to the area of the brain involved in sleep.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Burnt out from Marathon Running

After a 2012 season that saw a sub-optimal Ironman Mont Tremblant, a(nother) DNF at Vermont 100 and infrequent and poor marathon performances which actually had carried over from the end of 2011, I had given up on running. I was tired, sore and frankly just sick of starting my runs from the same place every time. I had been averaging over 4 marathons a year since I started running in 2007 and I was just tired of doing the same old thing.

I took off the whole beginning of the 2013 season focusing instead on attempting to winter hike all 48 4,000+ foot peaks in NH. While I was unsuccessful in my attempt, it allowed me to experience some epic days, stay fit(I didn't just sit on my butt) and afforded me time to get motivated to run again. The Boston Marathon bombings added to that motivation as I knew I needed to be at the start line for the 2014 race. So I started back into marathon racing, hobbling to a BQ at Vermont City Marathon.

Over the next few months, I paced my buddy Rich at the Bear Brook Trail Marathon and then again on the last lap of the Pinnacle 50K. By that time the weather had cooled and I was ready to run again. I signed up for the Rock N Roll Savannah Marathon where I bettered by BQ(and therefore seed) time and followed that up with a 3rd place finish at Kiawah Island Marathon the next month running my 4th fastest marathon. It took over a full year but I am definitely back in the marathon mindset and am looking forward to the 2014 marathon season which starts off in Galveston in February.

A full year to get motivated? Isn't it amazing then how consistent Amber is? She has to spend hours swimming circles in a pool(hell), and even more hours riding a bike on a trainer staring at a concrete wall(hell upon hell). And yet she thrives. She has only gotten stronger in the years since she's turned pro. And as you can see by my marathon times below, I have pretty much stayed the same since 2010 while she has just gotten faster and faster. A big part of that is her coach who she works very well with and accounts for training variability in the seasons. However, even a bigger part of that is internal. That internal fire that she has that keeps her training even when it's -10 outside, even if it means getting up before the roosters. She has got something special. Watch it continue to unfold all throughout the 2014 season and beyond. It's gonna be great!

Danny's Marathon Times Over the Years
  1. 12/14/13      Kiawah Island Marathon:                 2:52:15                               BQ
  2. 11/9/13       Rock N Roll Savannah Marathon      2:54:21                               BQ
  3. 7/27/13       Bear Brook Trail Marathon               5:03:41
  4. 5/26/13       Vermont City Marathon                    2:58:49                                BQ
  5. 5/20/12       Cleveland Marathon                          2:58:12                               BQ
  6. 10/30/11     Cape Cod Marathon                          3:04:58                                BQ
  7. 9/25/11      Adirondack Marathon                        3:10:00                                BQ
  8. 4/16/11      Gansett Marathon                               2:52:56                               BQ
  9. 2/27/11      Hyannis Marathon                              2:49:02                              BQ
  10. 10/31/10    Marine Corps Marathon                      2:52:57                              BQ
  11. 5/2/10        Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon          3:02:21                             BQ
  12. 4/17/10      Gansett Marathon(Exeter)                  2:47:45  *                           BQ
  13. 2/28/10      New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon  2:51:44                               BQ
  14. 11/1/09      Manchester City Marathon                3:33:18
  15. 10/18/09      Bay State Marathon                         3:21:23
  16. 3/29/09      Ocean Drive Marathon                      3:01:41                               BQ
  17. 12/13/08     Roxbury Marathon                           4:33:23
  18. 11/2/08       Manchester City Marathon              3:08:41                                BQ
  19. 10/18/08     Breakers Marathon                          3:25:30
  20. 10/5/08      Maine Marathon                               3:19:24
  21. 5/25/08      Vermont City Marathon                   3:26:05
  22. 4/21/08      Boston Marathon                              3:34:44
  23. 1/13/08      Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon       3:21:34
  24. 10/28/07    Cape Cod Marathon                         3:20:48
  25. 9/22/07      Odyssey Trail Marathon                   6:08:11
  26. 2/25/07      Hyannis Marathon                           4:44:46 +
*Marathon PR
 + Third Race Ever
With my 2 Ironman races, Leadville 100 and Pineland Farms 50 miler, I've run a total of 30 marathon+ races.
And in less than two months my sister Marilyn will be doing her 1st! And I suspect she will be running it significantly faster than I did my first:)