10 Life Lessons From Spartan Racing

Over the last three years I’ve had the chance to run some Spartan Races and earn trifecta twice. If you don’t know what the Spartan Race is, and are wondering what trifecta is, here’s a quick rundown for you. The Spartan Race is an obstacle course race that has different levels of difficulty. The shortest distance is the Sprint, ranging from 3-5 miles. Next is the Super, which falls between 8-9 miles, and there’s the Beast, that can run from 12-15 miles. If you complete each distance in a calendar year, you have earned your trifecta.

I'll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.
I’ll never forget the experiences that I had earning these two Spartan Race trifectas.

The Spartan Race is pretty popular now, and I’m sure you’ve heard people describe the obstacles and terrain. If you want to get a better picture you can visit the Spartan Race site and see photos or you can watch the NBC Sports Channel because it’s actually televised. If you’re a Verizon FiOS customer like I am, it’s channel 590 in HD. I just end up recording it on my DVR to watch later so I can fast forward through the commercials. We pretty much DVR every show we watch for that same reason.

Here are 10 things that I’ve been able to take away from my experience running the Spartan Race (they are in no particular order):

1.  Don’t be overconfident.

I learned my lesson about overconfidence after my first Spartan Race, which was a Sprint at Citi Field. I thought I was in decent shape, but I was wrong. Completely unready for the race, the Sprint proved to be extremely challenging for me, resulting in a very harsh reality check. When people are overconfident about things, they usually don’t prepare as diligently, which can end up in failure.

Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.
Thanks to my brother and sister-in-law Mike and Anne for getting me to sign up for my first race and causing my addiction.

2. Anything worth doing isn’t easy.

I have this phrase on my Twitter background for two reasons. I’ve found that the things that matter often require more effort and commitment. The more time and effort we put into things, the more meaningful they are. And also, we are defined not by what we say, but by what we do. If you want to separate yourself, or distinguish yourself from others, you have to do things that others aren’t. And I’ll be that most people are already doing the easy things.

The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.
The Citi Field race got me started, and humbled me at the same time.

3.  You don’t know what you can do until you try.

If you told me 3 years ago that I would have run 8 Spartan Races and come away with 2 trifectas, I would have said you were crazy. But I credit my brother-in-law for getting me to run my first Spartan Race and challenging me to push myself to another level. The Spartan Race definitely isn’t easy, but going through those races has allowed me to see how much I can push myself to do. It’s also shown me that I can still push myself even more.

Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.
Citi Field was the first piece of my first trifecta run.

4.  Enjoy the journey.

After the reality check of my first Spartan Race, I went into overdrive with my training. What I learned was that in order for me to succeed, I had to make the training fun. While you’re on the road to achieving the goals you’ve set, make sure you enjoy the journey getting there.

Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.
Two-thirds of the way through my first trifecta.

5.  Who you surround yourself with matters.

Jim Rohn says that you are “the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.  Therefore whoever you surround yourself with has a big influence on what you do. Training and conversing with the friends that I had that were running these Spartan Races with me helped keep me focused and made the journey that much more fun.

The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.
The Vermont Beast at Killington was the hardest thing I have ever had to physically do. This crew made it bearable and enjoyable. Start together, finish together.

6.  Always challenge yourself.

I guess this piggybacks off Number 3, so after you’ve gotten yourself to try new things, keep pushing. You can always improve and always get better. And when you do conquer the next challenge, you’ll feel great. I remember being intimidated by 9 and 10 foot walls that we had to climb, but after learning how to scale them and successfully doing so at the race, it was such a big confidence boost. The more you challenge yourself and push through, the more confidence you’ll gain moving forward.

The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.
The 2014 Vermont Beast medal, the last piece of my first trifecta, looks pretty good.

7.  Plan ahead.

The goal was to run the Spartan Races to the best of my ability. Realistically I’m not one of the elite racers and I know that. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t plan. The workouts had to be planned to maximize time and gains. Of course there are things that you absolutely cannot plan for, but if you an eliminate as many question marks as possible with good planning, getting over those unforeseen obstacles is much easier.

2014 Spartan Super
2014 Spartan Super

8.  Don’t be lazy.

It’s one thing to take a break, it’s another to just spend a lot of time doing things that don’t help you accomplish your goals. I believe that laziness actually sets you back, reversing some of the progress you’ve made. I’ve definitely had my moments of laziness and the results of those moments were magnified on the race because my laziness made some of the obstacles tougher than they should have been.

The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.
The 2015 Spartan Beast was tough for me. I injured myself at mile 3 of the 13 mile race. My teammates stuck with me and got me to push through and finish anyway.

9.  Quit complaining.

Everyone needs to vent now and then, and I’ve definitely done my share of it. But complaining about things doesn’t change the situation, it just makes it worse for yourself mentally. Being on the mountain at Killington in Vermont was brutal. There was one section where we had to climb up the K1 slope. Complaining about it wouldn’t have made the task any easier, we just had to put our heads down and move forward.

2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.
2015 Spartan Sprint, two-thirds of the way through my second trifecta.

10.  Eyes on the prize.

Always have your end goal in mind and keep focused on it. I won’t lie, during many moments at different races I’ve asked myself why I decide to put myself through these things. What gets me through is the finish line, and the feeling you get when you know you’ve just done something that most people won’t even want to try. Whatever your goal is, stay focused on it. Don’t let the speed bumps and detours discourage you, because when you accomplish what you set out to do, the feeling is great.

The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.
The 2015 Spartan Super capped my second trifecta. Not easy, but completed.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

Why We Go Back To Cape May Every Year

I’m a creature of habit and I’m all about the routine. Some routines I like and some I don’t, but over the last few summers we’ve had one routine that I’ve really enjoyed, and that’s going to Cape May for a week for vacation. And since this year the warm weather has continued through September, it makes me really want to go back there.

A great little beach town to visit in the summer.
A great little beach town to visit in the summer.

My idea of an ideal vacation is to get away from the crowds and have absolutely nothing planned. That’s not to say that I don’t like doing things while I’m on vacation, I just don’t want to have a schedule.

So for me, Cape May definitely solves the crowd criteria. It’s a nice small town located at the bottom of New Jersey, exit 0 off the Garden State Parkway. While it is a popular summer destination for some, it’s not nearly as crowded as it is in New York City during a regular workweek.

I wouldn't mind living here for the summer.
I wouldn’t mind living here for the summer.

Why I Like It There

One advantage of being in a smaller beach town is that you can go bike riding in the street and not have to worry about a ton of cars. From what I’ve seen, it’s how most of the people get around town there anyway if they’re not walking. So it’s a great place for the kids to go biking. We stayed in a location that was within a short walk into the center of town and beach, so it was great to not have to drive everywhere.

It's nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it's not too crowded.
It’s nice that the kids can ride their bikes in the street because it’s not too crowded.

And then there’s the beach. You do have to pay to get on the beach, and I particularly don’t mind that. In my opinion, it helps to keep the beach from getting too crowded. Our family can spend the whole day at the beach, the boys love playing in the sand and building things. A huge plus is having a beach box to store all of our things in so that we don’t have to keep lugging stuff back and forth each day.

The kids can play on the beach all day.
The kids can play on the beach all day.

Besides The Beach

So if you’re wondering what else there is to do besides hit the beach, the answer to that is yes. If you’re willing to take a walk more inland, or a quick bike ride, you can see the Fisherman’s Memorial, which is a statue and monument dedicated to the local fishermen that have lost their lives at sea.

The view from the Fisherman's Memorial.
The view from the Fisherman’s Memorial.

Washington Street Mall is where you’ll find some restaurants and shops, and great places to get snacks. Nearby is a great breakfast place that we love called The Mad Batter. We love the fresh juice, pancakes, and corned beef hash.

The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.
The kids color their placemats while waiting for breakfast to be served at The Mad Batter.

This year we didn’t do as much exploring as we did in previous years. So we didn’t go to the Cape May Lighthouse and we didn’t hit Sunset Beach. Maybe we’ll try to do that next year. I’m hoping my boys will want to go to the top of the Lighthouse with me.

There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.
There are other cool things to see around town, like the fire house.

We did venture out to Wildwood one day, which is another town not far from Cape May, to take the kids to the amusement parks and boardwalk. The kids enjoy the rides there and it’s a nice way to change up the scenery and take a break from the beach.

Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.
Just a short drive away, Wildwood has a boardwalk with come cool rides for the kids.

Evening Entertainment     

Since the kids are still pretty young, our evenings are rather low key. We made the effort to go and see the sunset on the beach a couple of times, and the experience didn’t disappoint.

You don't want to miss sunsets like this.
You don’t want to miss sunsets like this.

The kids had a chance to participate in the Kiwanis Sunset Flag Ceremony on one of the nights. It was a great experience for them. From Memorial Day through September 11, the Kiwanis Club invites kids to help lower the flag. “Each child receives a certificate signed by the Mayor of Cape May and the President of the Kiwanis Club, indicating their participation”.

Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.
Participating in the flag ceremony was a nice thing for the kids.

After the kids went to bed it was nice to be able to close out the day watching a movie. Even though it’s great to unplug for a while, we really like watching our TV shows and movies. Verizon FiOS allows me to sync up the UltraViolet digital movies that I have and I can play them through the FiOS app or website. It’s awesome because I can watch whatever I want to wherever I am.

I'm probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it's nice that I can virtually take my collection wherever I go.
I’m probably one of the few people left that buys Blu-Ray discs. So it’s nice that I can virtually take my collection with me wherever I go.

Until Next Year

Sadly vacations don’t last forever, and after a week it was back to reality. I would rather leave a place itching to go back, than leave a place that I can’t wait to get away from. If you’re looking to get away from the busyness of the city or just looking to take a break, Cape May is a great relaxing place to go. I highly recommend it.

Can't wait to get back to Cape May.
Can’t wait to get back to Cape May.

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

How Do You Honor The Lost?

It’s the 14th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, and just like the previous 13 years, we made our way down to the 9/11 Memorial to listen to the names of the lives that were lost and remember and honor our loved ones. And for some reason I started to ask myself, what exactly is the best way to honor someone?

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The 9/11 Memorial serves as a great reminder for everyone about the lives that were lost on that tragic day, and for some the location is a cemetery simply because their loved ones remains were not found or identified. Each year, on this day, many are somber and sad while they remember those people that that they loved and are no longer with us. But it occurred to me though, that visiting this site once a year, or maybe twice or three times for some, isn’t the best way that you can honor someone.

Now before you start commenting about how you completely disagree, hear me out. Going back to the 9/11 Memorial, or any memorial, gravesite, or cemetery is a great way to remember whom you lost and reflect on how they positively affected your life, and to express how much you still miss them. But after your visit is done, the best way to honor your lost loved one is to show it in how you live your life.

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It’s simple, actions speak louder than words. It’s not what you’re going to do, it’s what you’ve done that matters. If someone truly meant something to you, if there was someone you really respected, then it would show in how you live your life because you would want to exhibit the same characteristics and principles that they did. In other words, you’d model some part of your life after them.

Year after year, the crowds at the 9/11 Memorial seem to get smaller and smaller. It seems as if a lot of people have moved on, and I don’t blame them because life goes on. But as life does move on and I hope you do too, don’t just always say, “never forget”, instead live your life like you haven’t forgotten.

Summer Getaway: Sunset Island in Ocean City, MD

Summertime is a great time and popular time for families to take a vacation and just get away from life, as they normally know it. For us, it’s no different. This was the first time that my family has gone down to Ocean City, Maryland for vacation, and it did not disappoint.

Getting There

Coming from New York, there are really only two ways (that I know of) to get there. You can take the New Jersey Turnpike all the way down to Delaware, and then drive through, or you can take the Garden State Parkway all the way down to Cape May, New Jersey, and take the ferry to Delaware. On the way down, we opted to take the ferry.

The ferry ride to Delaware starts at Cape May, NJ.
The ferry ride to Delaware starts at Cape May, NJ.

There are definitely benefits to taking the ferry. It breaks up what would be a close to five-hour drive (without traffic), and it gives everyone a chance to get out of the car and stretch. The ferry also has food that you can buy and some arcade games on board. If the weather is nice you can just sit outside, watch the ocean and from what I hear sometimes you can see dolphins.

The trip is about ninety minutes and it’s not free, so you do have to pay for a ticket. Also if you’re planning on choosing this route you should plan ahead because the tickets sell out fast. After docking in Delaware, we were about 30 miles from Ocean City.

On the ferry looking for Dolphins.
On the ferry looking for Dolphins.

Sunset Island

We had the great opportunity, thanks Stephanie’s parents, to stay at Sunset Island for the week. If you haven’t heard of Sunset Island, it’s “a private, 37 acre Island located in the Assawoman Bay off 67th Street in Ocean City, Maryland just two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean”. It’s great for kids because everything you can pretty much do everything without leaving the community.

Sunset Island is a nice coastal vacation spot.
Sunset Island is a nice coastal vacation spot.

The Fun Stuff

The kids spent most of their time at the pool and the water fountain. There are two outdoor pools, one is a small pool for kids 2 years old and under, and the other is for everyone ages 2 and up. There was also an indoor pool that all ages could go into.

The outdoor pool at Sunset Island was a lot of fun to play in.
The outdoor pool at Sunset Island was a lot of fun to play in.

My boys had a really fun time at the fountain, and you could argue that they enjoyed that more than being in the pool. It was pretty cool, the water shot out of the ground in patterns and different heights. They probably enjoyed it more because they don’t know how to swim yet.

The boys really enjoyed the water fountains.
The boys really enjoyed the water fountains.

Sunset Island also had a couple of unguarded beaches, and those were nice too. The water was calm and in the evening you could see some really great sunsets. You can also do some crabbing off the pier if you’re so inclined.

Sunsets at the pier.
Sunsets at the pier.

If you’re one that likes to stay in shape while on vacation, there is a one-mile path that goes around the whole property, and there is a fitness room too. It’s nice run in the morning to start the day, or if you prefer you can run it in the evening and catch the sunset.

Public Beach and Boardwalk

We did venture off the property to the public beach and boardwalk too. Although we didn’t spend too much time at the public beach it was a nice change of scenery, and the great thing was that it was just a few blocks from community.

Ready to catch the waves at the public beach.
Ready to catch the waves at the public beach.

The boardwalk was a bit further down but it was worth the visit. There were lots of games to play and rides to try, but we ended up just walking up and down and eating fries and funnel cake. We got to see this really cool sand castle sculpture that must have taken hours to create.

These sand sculptures must have taken a long time to build.
These sand sculptures must have taken a long time to build.

I’m sure that when the kids get older we’ll be spending more time on the boardwalk.

Ice cream, funnel cake, and fries are things you must have when walking down the boardwalk.
Ice cream, funnel cake, and fries are things you must have when walking down the boardwalk.

Northside Park

Another place we went to see was Northside Park. There was a really nice playground for the kids there and they didn’t want to leave. It had a good number of things for the boys to climb up on and play with, and it was also really clean and well maintained.

Cool rock climbing wall for the kids.
Cool rock climbing wall for the kids.

Northside Park was another popular place for crabbing because it had a really long pier that went pretty deep into the bay. We saw a lot of people fishing and crabbing, checking their lines from time to time to see if they caught anything. In order to get a good spot, you have to get there early!

Lots of crabbing and fishing going on here.
Lots of crabbing and fishing going on here.

Assateague

Before we left for this trip, someone told me that there were these wild horses that ran wild on this island near Ocean City.  And that’s no lie!  We didn’t go all the way into the island (because we didn’t want to pay) but we got to see some wild horses anyway.  I think the next time we go back, we’ll pay to go into the park because I’m told the horses can come right up to your window!

Wish we could have gotten a little closer!
Wish we could have gotten a little closer!

 

Staying Connected

Had to check the FiOS app to make sure our shows were scheduled to record.
Had to check the FiOS app to make sure our shows were scheduled to record.

I was really happy that the house we stayed at had Wi-Fi. Unfortunately during this particular vacation I couldn’t completely unplug. With our current schedules, Stephanie and I mostly record the TV shows that we like to watch on our Verizon FiOS DVR and watch them at a later time. While we might not be completely up to date with the latest episode, at least we can fast forward through the commercials. One cool thing about having Verizon FiOS is that I was able to check my DVR from my phone and make sure that the shows I wanted to record where actually scheduled.

Going Home

All good things must come to an end at some point and so did this vacation. Instead of taking the ferry route back home, we decided to save some money and drive back the whole way. The ride wasn’t too bad. We did hit some traffic but it wasn’t much. Our decision to take the ferry down was validated when we saw all of the traffic going the opposite way when we were leaving.

The barometer of a successful family vacation has to be whether the kids enjoyed it or not. And since they definitely did, the vacation was a success. The truth is, is that we all had fun and we’ll probably go back again in the future. What’s one vacation spot that your family enjoys going to and that you would recommend?

Disclaimer: This post is part of a campaign I’m doing with Verizon FiOS in NYC. #FiOSNY

Dare To Explore The Road Less Traveled

Recently I blogged about how I’ve had to set aside the time to go out with the intention of taking photos, and how I feel it’s improved my photography. And it’s not just setting aside time to take photos in good weather, but also when it’s not so nice out. Bad weather can make for some pretty good photos. But sometimes it also means that I’m walking around in some areas that don’t look so nice.

I love looking at photos of abandoned buildings, train or subway stations, and alleyways. There’s something about those settings that when photographed nicely, shows a lot of character even though it’s a mess. Seeing those kinds of pictures makes me want to see those locations for myself as well, and snap a shot or two.

It might not be a pretty entrance, but following this path leads to some great views for pictures.
It might not be a pretty entrance, but following this path leads to some great views for pictures.

I’m sure that getting to those locations isn’t nice either, and depending on the time of day it could be downright scary. But the end result, captured and put on display, is really nice. And I am certain that the folks that choose to make the ugly trip to take the shot are happy they did.

The path to success in life isn’t always going to come with nice bright welcome signs or a yellow brick road to show you the way. I’m willing to bet that for the vast majority of us it’ll never be that way. Instead, you will need to work hard, make sacrifices, sand possibly suffer while staying dedicated to get to where you want to be. And on top of that the journey might be pretty long too. But remember, that the goal is to get to the finish line, to take “picture” that will make you proud.

So dare to explore the road less traveled. Are you up for it? Have you successfully done so? I’d love to hear your story!

When Push Comes To Shove, And Sometimes We All Need A Shove

I think Legos are pretty cool. With some hard work and dedication, you can create anything your imagination thinks of. I think life is a lot like that too. You can choose to work hard to stand out from the rest and be extraordinary, or you can just sit there like a pile of bricks.

Ok let me first say that I hope I’m not encouraging you to start shoving all of your friends (or enemies) for no apparent reason because that would not be nice. Having the right friends around you to give you that shove will help get you to complete your goals.

Are you just like a pile of Lego bricks?
Are you just like a pile of Lego bricks?

A Little Shove From A Friend

The motivation for writing this came after reading a blog post that was written by my friend Diana Adams, “How to Create and Keep a Consistent Blogging Schedule”. The title alone had me hooked. I really want to try and keep blogging consistently, but I do find it hard to do.

“One of the secrets to successful blogging is consistency. Blogging is like exercise – the hardest part is starting. Once you’ve gotten some momentum, it’s not hard to keep it up. If you stop blogging, it’s hard to get going again, just like with exercise. For this reason, I recommend making consistency a priority.”

That’s just one piece of advice from the blog post Diana wrote, and one that I’m going to take to heart. The rest of her post was full of great tips too, and I highly suggest you read it. On another note, I also needed a shove to get back to the gym, and after reading her post I went back to the gym that night.

Thanks Diana for giving me that “shove”!

Supportive Friends Keep You Motivated

I think that with a lot of things, it’s hard to always stay motivated to do something all on your own. Finding that right circle of supportive friends can help you along when you’re not feeling motivated to do what you need to do.

How have your friends helped to motivate you? Do you still need a “shove”?

What the Fred Lebow Marathon Half Taught Me About Setting Goals

“Go big or go home”, right? Around 2 – 3 months ago my friends encouraged me to join the New York Road Runners Club to complete the 9+1 Program to gain entry to the NYC Marathon Full and Half. The funny thing is that I’m really not a runner.

So the half marathon was going to be my first New York Road Runner event, and actually my first entry into any running event ever. I use the word event instead of race because I was really only competing against myself. My main goal was just to complete the course.

My NYRR Fred Lebow Marathon Half bib number.
My NYRR Fred Lebow Marathon Half bib number.

Set Challenging But Realistic Goals

Being a competitive person, I had set (what I thought) was a fairly high goal for myself for this event. I wanted to run the course at a 10 minute per mile pace. As someone who just started running long distances 2 months ago, I thought this was a pretty challenging goal. During my training runs I had been able to maintain this time and so I also knew that it was attainable.

But even though I had been able to reach my pace time goal while training, I knew there would be other factors that would not make it easy to reach during this event. For one, it was my first event ever, and I was nervous. Second, the route, two times around Central Park, was hilly and I usually ran on flat surfaces. And third, the weather from the previous day had made the course wet and potentially slippery.

This NYRR photographer wanted to take a picture of me taking a picture with my cell phone.
This NYRR photographer wanted to take a picture of me taking a picture with my cell phone.

It’s important to set your goals high enough so that you have to work hard to attain them, but at the same time they shouldn’t be impossible to reach. If you set impossible goals, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. If you set goals that are too easy to reach, you’ll never grow.

It turns out that I didn’t run the race as fast as I wanted to, so I didn’t hit my goal. My running time was at 10:47 per mile, so I wasn’t far off from what I wanted to hit. But I know that for next time I might have a shot at it.

Take Time To Enjoy The Journey And Adjust

During the run, I realized that not training on hills really hindered me. I immediately started to rethink my original goal of wanting to run at a 10 minute pre mile pace. So instead of focusing on the pace time, I decided to make my new goal to not stop running. In other words I didn’t want to walk any part of the course, only run it. And this goal turned out to be rather challenging as well. I’m very happy to say that I was able to complete this goal successfully!

Changing goals during the run really reminded me that while we have our eyes on the main goal, we shouldn’t forget to enjoy the journey as we try to get there. There are little successes along the way that we can celebrate and use as motivation. It makes reaching that end goal a little bit easier and more fun. Also sometimes we need to be flexible enough to be able to adjust our goals too.

Bundled up runners at the finished line.
Bundled up runners at the finished line.

Evaluate And Improve

So all in all I think I did ok for my first official run. Looking back, I think the goals that I set were pretty good, and I don’t think that I’m going to change them for my next run. But in order for me to hit my goal of running at a 10 minute per mile pace, I need to continue training. It also means that I need to change up the training as well so that I can improve my speed.

I think it’s always good to look at your goals see how you can improve. If you happen to be hitting them with regularity and fairly easily, maybe it’s time to up the ante. If you seem to always fall short of your goals, be honest with yourself and figure out why and change up what you have to so that you can hit your goals.

The next New York Road Runner event for me is the Brooklyn Marathon Half. Looks like I’ve got to get to work and prepare!