How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

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6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

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NYC Marathon 2015: The Why

NYC Marathon 2015: The Why

My Why – PKD

The human brain is an advanced computer that controls many different systems.  The body is like a room full of servers each independently managing a different system with one major system, the brain, as the master controller for all of them.

When the master controller has a difficult task to undergo, the systems will cluster together in order to complete the task as efficiently as possible.  If one of the systems begin to fail, it doesn’t mean the task will not be accomplished it just means another system will take over the lack of work.  The work may not be handled as efficiently, but nonetheless, it will be completed.

Only when the master controller issues a command to stop will the other systems desist what they are programmed to do.  The question would be “Why did the Master Controller issue the command?”

This long analogy comes right down to a quote I use all the time.  Internally, and with my client athletes.  “The mind will quit 100 times before the body does.”  Every excuse will come to mind while an athlete may be suffering, but it is the reason “why” they are challenging themselves that will override the mind’s command to stop.

My 15th Marathon was the 2015 New York City Marathon, and my “Why” was tested.

In 2014, at the completion of the New York City Marathon, I said to myself, “Self, I am really happy I did it.  It was a tough race, in tough conditions (sub-40 degree temperature with 33 mph winds), but we did it.  It may not have been the time we wanted, but scratch the largest marathon in the world off the list.  I will probably not do this one again.”

My reasoning was the logistics of the race.

First, it is located in New York City.  That just says a lot of $$$ is going to be spent.

2) Getting around the big apple in a timely manner is difficult for someone not living there.

3) I have a lot of friends that live in the city and I want to see them, which means, more travel, meals and more $$$ spent.

4) The race doesn’t start until 9:50 which at 4 hours means 1:50 which is after the usual 12 pm checkout time.  Again, more $$$.

5) In order to pack the corrals with 50,000 runners, it is required to be in the runner villages close to 3 hours early, and in sub-40 degree weather for someone from Florida is somewhat uncomfortable.

6) After leaving the finish line when the legs are burning and everything is getting stiff, it is another mile to get to checked bags and then another half mile to get out of the park where there are no cabs.  Then another 5 block walk to the subway.

Other than that the race is amazing.

This year, the reasons above meant nothing to me, because I ran this race not for me, but as a member of Team Tampa PKD for Erika Bragan, Jennifer Thomas and all of the other people affected by Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).

Team Tampa PKD Scott with PKD Patient Erika

Scott & Erika Bragan

In 2009, Scott offered me a chance to run the Chicago Marathon for the Polycystic Kidney Disease.  At the time we were both in a boot camp class at a Lifestyle Family Fitness.  He mentioned it to a few others as well, so I brought up the idea of a team concept, where we could organize events to raise awareness and funds for PKD and then split up the money so everyone could reach their goal.  it actually worked for the 10 of us that competed that year, as we raised around $26,000 for the PKD Foundation.

Team Tampa PKD 2009

Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2009

In 2011, we resurrected the team and signed on twenty-two members and raised over $56,000 for the foundation. Again in 2013 we had just Five members and raised over 25,000 that year as well.

Team Tampa PKD 2011

Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2011

Team Tampa PKD 2013

Team Tampa PKD – Chicago Marathon 2013
(-1 not pictured)

This year, we again signed five members.  Scott, Rich, Myself, Kevin, and Karen.  we raised over $25,000 again, but this year we also accomplished something else.  Over the last few years, Erika’s kidney functions were reduced to less than 5% apiece.  A normal human being can survive on 5% of one, but with PKD it is inevitable that the kidneys will fail.

Team Tampa PKD NYC 2015

Team Tampa PKD – NYC Marathon 2015
(-1 not pictured)

Erika had already been put on the donor list for over a year, but it had yet to pan out, so we added not only raising as much financial assistance for the foundation but finding a donor for Erika as well.

For over a year, Erika has been in pain, not sleeping and basically been in a state of misery.  Scott has recounted this for me numerous times, so when he said that it was time to start thinking about a transplant, I immediately asked him for the details to get tested.  I wanted to help any way I could and if it meant giving up a kidney so be it.

The Bragan’s waited to see if being on the donor list would pan out, but as Erika’s kidney functions continued to deteriorate, family and friends stepped up to be tested as donors.

I was tested as a kidney donor, with the preliminary tests proving positive, meaning I was a match.

However, the secondary tests diagnosed protein in my urine which is common in endurance athletes.  Unfortunately, for the medical staff, it is a risk for kidney stones which have a small probability to clog my ureter and if that was the case now, I would have another kidney to fall back on.  If I donated one, it could be fatal.

I was heartbroken when I found out, but I understood the reasons.

On July 10, my friend and Team Tampa PKD teammate, Rich O’Dea was on a blind date at the Imagine Dragons concert.  While getting to know each other Rich made mention of Team Tampa PKD, the marathon and Erika.  At first, it seemed a nonchalant question when she asked how to get tested, so Rich took as her just being nice, but even after she ended up returning to a long relationship, she still communicated with Rich she wanted to get tested.

Team Tampa PKD, Rich with Jennifer Thomas, PKD Donor

Rich O’Dea & Jen Thomas

Her preliminary tests proved she was a match, and the secondary tests proved she was healthy enough to donate, so on Friday, Oct 23, the Tampa General Hospital Transplant committee approved the living donor kidney transplant from Jennifer Thomas to Erika Bragan, and scheduled the surgery for the 18th of November.

When I found out that Jennifer passed the second round of testing, I was absolutely ecstatic that she would be able to do what I and three other people could not.  I am still absolutely overjoyed that Erika will lead a longer more normal life and Scott, Madison and Spencer will continue to have their wonderful wife and mother.

While in an interview with ABC, Jennifer was asked why should give up her kidney for a total stranger.  Without skipping a beat, or even taking a breath she said, “Why wouldn’t I? The more important question should be, why is it so shocking that I would.”

I happened to be in the room when she was getting interviewed and I just about fell over.  Without trying to sound conceded, or take away any thunder from her, but I felt like Jennifer was someone who actually thought just like me.

Jennifer’s medical bills will be taken care of 100% by the Bragan’s insurance, but the recovery time may cause a little bit of financial hardship.

Of course, Team Tampa PKD is stepping up and hosting an event called Tailgate for a Transplant prior to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New York Giants NFL Football game on November 8th at 1 pm.  (If you would like to help, but cannot make it to the tailgate please click here)

This is my “Why”.

What is your ‘why’?

Carpe Vitam!

Goof Review: Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Goof Review: Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Can you feel the magic of Christmas in the air?  With all the urgency of completing our shopping before that December 25th deadline sometimes we don’t slow down enough to enjoy just the simplicity of the holidays.  I spent a majority of my life in the Midwest, so living here, in this snowless climate, I usually find myself missing the aura of the holiday season.  Not this year, Baby.   I was lucky enough to be an audience member for the opening of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes at the David A. Straz Center here in Tampa.IMAG0030

Out of all the time I spent in New York City, I never had the privilege of seeing the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall.  I’ve been missing out.  Even this former performer was amazed with the synchronicity and precision of not only the dancing of the Rockettes themselves, but the remarkable coexistence with several different types of media.

The festivities started an hour before the audience was even allowed into their seats, with the Rockettes marching from the stage door to the red carpet outside Carol Morsani Hall.  With pure elegance and grace each Rockette took an arm of an uniformed Tampa Police Officer and were escorted into the theater.  It was a pure showing of honor to our civil servants that was so simple yet so powerful.  I cannot begin to explain why.  I imagine that is the limitations of my writing ability.  The honor didn’t stop there.  The Tampa Police Chief took an opportunity to read “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, on stage, to a group of children at the opening of the show.  Again, it seemed like such an honor to the chief and our civil servants.

The night consisted of 12 different numbers lasting about 96 minutes including a 20 minute intermission, but it flew by so fast.  The night was narrated by Santa Claus, who also sang with a booming baritone voice that projected proudly throughout the arena.

Shine compressed

All of the numbers were not strictly performed by the Rockettes and Santa Clause.  A few numbers included short plays that not only included singing and dancing, but also small life lessons as well.Parade of the Wooden Soldiers -- Fall

One number had Santa and two young boys with a lesson on faith and believing, another was a brilliant combination of the Rockettes and the Radio City Singers about Christmas in New York City.New York at Christmas

My personal favorite had to be a scaled down performance of the Nutcracker with a little girl playing Clara, that was an absolute phenomenal dancer, not to mention other incredible dancers in oversized animal costumes.  I have no idea how the dance so gracefully with those huge heads.

This show was brilliant, funny, emotionally moving and just plain fun for the whole family.  The Rockettes give a performance worth seeing in this wonderful holiday show.

I give it Five out of Five Goofs.

12 Days compressed

Carpe Viam!

The Radio CIty Christmas Specatacular plays at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, December 12th through the 29th Tues thru Sunday.  See the Straz Center Website for details.  http://www.strazcenter.org/Rockettes.aspx

 

Tribute Thursday – Matt “IronBeast” Dolitsky

Tribute Thursday – Matt “IronBeast” Dolitsky

There are a number of you that call me “crazy” for continuing to do Ironman Triathlons and keeping the training schedule I do during the season.  At least it is the inspiring kind of “crazy” right?  I enjoy training and obtaining results as a part of it, not to mention just maintaining my fitness level.  There is one person out there that I call “crazy” in the inspiring kind of way.  He puts all of my 100 mile bike rides, two-a-day workouts and mega brick training workouts to shame.  He makes me look like a couch potato and he is more inspiring and motivating that any person I know.  Let me introduce a guy who continues to motivate, inspire and just plain amazes me; Matthew “IronBeast” Dolitsky.

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Imagine if you will, a 9 mile obstacle course, that includes swimming in cold water, then a rope climb over a wall to exit the lake.  Imagine again doing this is in 30-40 degree temperatures.  Of course that is only one obstacle there are 29 others as well.  Now imagine doing that course as many times in 24 hours as possible.  Does that sound crazy to you?  This is “The World’s Toughest Mudder“(WTM), and Matt will be competing in that this coming weekend.  What makes it even more amazing, is that he is competing in it for the second time!

Matt claims he is average, and when I was talking to him about doing this blog he said, and I quote, “I’m just an average dude too just an above average pain tolerance and insane determination!”  All I can say is “Yeah, right!”

1424405_10201620700913850_138323445_nWhat does it take to compete in adventure obstacle challenges like this?  Let me give you an example.  I caught Matt training one day on Swann Drive flipping a huge tire for a mile.  Does that sound crazy?  How about a 75 mile bike ride on a mountain bike that didn’t start until 10pm?  How about a 3 mile swim around Harbor Island here in Tampa?   Matt incorporates these workouts as training on a regular basis and I think these are his easy workouts.  During the Gasparilla Half Marathon I did, pass Matt, but there was a huge difference.  I wasn’t carrying a tire on my half marathon, but Matt was.

Matt also inspires others constantly, and to a point where he is bringing a few people to the World’s Toughest Mudder with him.

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Matt and I met at Fit2Run while I was coaching there.  We were on a run together and I helped him (I think) relax a little on his run.  This was at the very beginning of his journey into ultra obstacle racing.  From there he was like a rocket ship.  Last year, I received a message from him on FaceBook asking me if there was an Ironman he could get into.  I laughed a little and told him after WTM and the Spartan Death Race, Ironman wouldn’t even challenge him, but I told him about Louisville.  He set his sites on it and wouldn’t you know it, he completed it as expected.  Needless to say Matt inspires me and a bunch of others every day.

Enough of my soap box about Matt.  Let’s let him talk for a bit.

Name: Matthew Dolitsky892243_553937851317850_1895750352_o
Age / Sign: 43 Years old, Gemini
Location:
Tampa, FL
Place growing up:
Long Island, NY
High School: 
Half Hollow Hills HS West
High School sports:
Lacrosse & Hockey
College: 
University of South Florida
Other Sports: Adventure Obstacle Racing, Triathlon
List your favorite races:
Ironman Louisville
Spartan Ultra Beast Marathon
World’s Toughest Mudder
Death Race
391515_363883563679774_1770674260_nI refer to you as not just a beast but an UltraIronBeast, because of the challenges you compete in.  What made you start doing these Ultra-Mud-Obstacle challenges?  
I stumbled upon my first obstacle race about 2 years ago.  It was a basic 3 mile mud race but after finishing the race, I felt invigorated with a sense of accomplishment.  Shortly thereafter, I “Finished” Tough Mudder and my passion for obstacle races and extreme challenges was born.
Now that you have competed in both mega Obstacles Races like the World’s Toughest Mudder and Ironman, how do you compare the two?
Comparing World’s Toughest Mudder or even the Death Race to IRONMAN is very difficult.  The bottom line with any of the three is that simply making the commitment to get to the start line is scary enough and takes great fortitude!  Once you make it to the start line, reality sets in and you now have to endure everything thrown at you or face a DNF.  A 140.6 mile IRONMAN triathlon is never comfortable but there is comfort in knowing exactly what you are getting into.  It’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run.  Barring variations in terrain and weather conditions, it’s pretty straight forward.  Long and hard but straight forward.  World’s Toughest Mudder and the Death Race are totally different beasts.  They do not tell you what you will be doing PERIOD!  Sure, you have an idea from previous races and intelligence gathering but you better get yourself comfortable with being uncomfortable really quickly and embrace every miserable moment of it.  World’s Toughest Mudder in New Jersey is 24-26 hours of running a Tough Mudder course on steroids braving miserable cold temperatures while running in layers of neoprene.  The Death Race was 70 hours of hiking gnarly terrain in the mountains of Pittsfield, Vermont while building stone stair cases up the mountain, doing countless burpees, chopping wood, endless manual labor, running, carrying 50+ lb. packs of supplies, etc. while not sleeping for 3 days!  With all that being said, the one thing that all three races require is mental grit because everyone of them will expose your weaknesses and tell you to quit at some point.  If you have the mental element coupled with proper training, your body will do whatever the mind tells it to do!  
If you could give me one adjective to describe the feeling  you 1010696_585362928153605_187298322_nget when you are working what would it be?  
One word to describe how I feel when working out or training is HAPPY.  Training makes me feel healthy and alive and that equals HAPPINESS.  I love being outdoors.  When I’m outdoors training, I’m in my element and the result is overall HAPPINESS.  It makes any negative thought that creeps into my mind disappear.
What is going through you mind while you are competing during a course like the Spartan Death Race or WTM?  
While I’m competing in races like World’s Toughest Mudder and the Death Race, I focus on micro movements while thinking of the race as a whole.  If I take my mind off my next foothold or hand placement, I could get hurt.  I must be focused on every series of movements the entire way through!  I have to become like a machine and keep performing consistently, safely, efficiently, and patiently.  I repeat this for the duration of the race until I am finished!
You have children that I know you love and adore.  For all of the parents out there, how do you balance the amount of training you do with work and family?  
Balancing kids, work, and training can be challenging.  Essentially, I 1150844_10201030414997071_604802185_nbalance my training around work and kids.  Sometimes I’m up early in the morning to train and other times I’m up late at night training.  It’s not uncommon for me to finish training at 2am.  It’s about committing to my goals!  Reaching goals and finishing races happens long before race day.  It’s about putting in the hard work and hours of training.  My races are unorthodox and so is my training.  I always try to train in conditions worse than I’ll experience on race day.  This way, conditions for me will always seem ideal!  I often take advantage of blocks of time I have available to train.  I’m very spontaneous and flexible.
What would you say is your greatest personal obstacle you ever overcame?  
Everyday, I overcoming the greatest obstacle there is.  Life.  I’m trying to keep life as simple as I can make it.  Living each day as it comes.  Trying to be happy, make a positive impact, motivate and inspire others, and be a loving father to my two boys.  I’m surrounding myself with positive people in the racing community, gaining some awesome sponsorships, and accomplishing things I never thought possible.  I’m also learning from some mistakes along the way.
1174834_10201136756895552_238071442_nWhat is your greatest victory?  
While crossing the finish line at IRONMAN Louisville was pretty amazing, living a life of happiness will be my biggest victory.  Something I’m trying to achieve everyday.  
What are your future goal races?
Double Anvil IRONMAN, Fuego y Agua Survival Run in Nicaragua, Bill Floyds 8 mile swim from Clearwater to Tampa
What are you favorite quotes?  
 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover.” -Mark Twain  
Shout outs from Matt “UltraIronBeast” Dolitstky : His sponsors VPX Team Xtreme OCR, Reload Fitness, Mud and Adventure, and AL1VE Magnetics.
Matt is pretty inspiring right?  Check him out on FaceBook at Facebook.com/matthew.dolitsky

Carpe Viam!

The New York City Triathlon – Before the race

The New York City Triathlon – Before the race

Traveling for races is always exciting, but the opportunity to race in my favorite city in the world, caused an overwhelming explosion of emotions that may have actually hindered me.  I will explain that last part a bit later, but let me start from the beginning.

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In order to race in the NYC Triathlon from out-of-state, a lottery is performed and in February of this year I  was notified that I had been chosen to race.  At the time I was not quite sure about it, as my race schedule was already pretty full, but I had heard great things about the race, so I decided to go ahead and put it on the calendar.  How many times was I going to be chosen via a lottery…right?  I have entered the lottery for the NYC Marathon for the last 3 years and was never chosen, therefore I felt like this may be a one-time opportunity.  I made my arrangements immediately, and found some inexpensive accommodations at Hotel Belleclaire which ended up to be a very nice boutique hotel on the upper west side of Manhattan, beautifully positioned directly between transition and the finish line.

The challenge I had was, how do I transport my bike to NYC.  I had a few choices.
1) Tri-bike Transport which was $300 each way.
2) Take my bike completely apart and take it with me, then take it to a bike shop to be put back together for $75 and again when I returned, not to mention possible oversize luggage fees at anywhere from 75-150 bucks.
3) Use shipbikes.com and buy a reusable AirCaddy for $100 and then ship my bike via FedEx, directly to my hotel and back home for $100 each way with very minimal dis-assembly of my bike.

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I chose option 3, which turned out to be very convenient.  The Air Caddy came in a very flat box and was assembled in 10 minutes and my bike was then placed in the box within 5 minutes and ready to ship.  It comes with a fork plate that stabilizes the bike in the box and then a series of other corrugated cardboard is placed around the bike which secures and stabilizes it even more.  The only small adjustments that need to be made are to remove the saddle and seat post together, and fold down the aero bars.  Each is just the loosening of two allen screws.  I only had to bring my small bike tool with me in order to tighten them back up upon re-assembly.  I taped up the box, added the label which is purchased through shipbikes.com and then called for a FedEx delivery representative to come by and pick it up.  Easy breezy.  It all happened like clockwork.  Of course since this is the first time I was shipping my bike I was a little anxious, and I was going to be, until I re-assembled in NYC.

I left Friday Morning two days before the race and was so excited I could barely contain myself.  Not just for the fact I had the opportunity to race in my favorite city I have ever been to, but I was also going to spend some time with friends I hadn’t hung out with in what seemed like forever.

HbellAll of the pics online of Hotel Belleclaire were of course beautiful, but in New York City it is sometimes a crap shoot.  The marketing pics look great, but when you get there, sometimes you get a room that a little worse for wear.  Hotel Belleclaire was absolutely beautiful and the service was first-rate.   I was in my room for about 30 minutes when the front desk called just to ask if everything in the room was alright.  I was a little shocked because I never experienced that before.  It is such a simple concept to give a 30 second call to the guests and it made me feel kind of special.  Before I knew it, there was a knock at my door and there was a bellman with my bike.  Talk about service.  After I put my bike together I phoned the front desk and requested that they store the box since the room was small.  I didn’t really care about the size of the room since it was just me, but the box and my bike took up a little more room.  It turned out that they could not find anywhere to store the box, so instead of just saying “Sorry, we cannot do anything about it”, they upgraded me and put me in a larger room to accommodate the box.   That, was to me, an amazing touch.  On Sunday after the race, I boxed up the bike and the concierge told me to just leave it in my room.  Monday morning I received a text from FedEx notifying me my bike was picked up and that the estimated date she would be back home was Thursday.   If you are going to be in NYC on the upper west side, I highly recommend the Hotel Belleclaire.  I think you will enjoy it.

Now back to our regularly scheduled program(after my little endorsement).

After I checked in I planned on going to the expo at Hilton Midtown, so I started walking.  The hotel was onIMAG0189 77th St. and Broadway and the Hilton was on 55th and 6th so it was 22 blocks south and two blocks east.  No big deal, and it was nice outside so I decided to walk.  Here is where I started with a little hinderance.  I saw my favorite hot dog place in Manhattan.  Grays Papaya.  OMG!  Now remember that I am about 90% paleo and I haven’t digested a slice of bread in over a year, so you can imagine how my system was going to react to a couple of white flour, processed, buns with grilled hot dogs and all the trimmings.  They sure tasted good going down, however they left me in a lurch later that evening.  Grays Papaya is famous in the city for their hot dogs and papaya drink.  I had both and they were sooo good.  It was like a sin to eat something that tasted that good as processed as it was.  I always talk about balance right?  Well, I figured I hadn’t had one in so long,  it wouldn’t hurt.  WRONG!!!!  I will spare you the details of what happened a couple of hours later.

Inside the Host Hotel.  I just had to take a pic.

Inside the Host Hotel. I just had to take a pic.

I called a good friend of mine, Michael who moved to the city almost four years ago.  Michael and I used to to perform in plays and musicals together semi-professionally.  Michael was keeping the dream alive in New York while I turned to health and fitness.  To my surprise he was willing to go to the expo with me so I could check-in.  The New York Triathlon required the attendance of all the athletes at a mandatory meeting in order to verify everyone had the information in the Athlete Handbook.  In order to get your packet you had to attend a meeting and get your hand stamped.  Because I had been to so many races prior and never usually went to the meetings, that I would be a little annoyed but the person whom MC’ed the meeting was hilarious and had us all in stitches.  He also was great about getting the info out specifically and succinctly, so all of us whom attended could have our hand stamped and out of there in about 25 minutes.  The rest of check-in was a breeze.

expoentThe expo was, well…interesting.  Mainly because I was in a different part of the US, it had different vendors.   What I did notice was that Zicco Coconut Water was a huge sponsor.  They were giving out coconut water like it was, uh…water.  Even in our SWAG there was one of those huge liter bottles that usually sell for around $9.  I love Zicco so I was beyond freaking thrilled.   The only unfortunate thing was that they only were giving the original version and I know that the chocolate flavor is amazing, but I enjoy the natural flavor too.  The rest of the expo was what you would expect of a triathlon which is minimal compared to marathon’s and big road races, but it still had that great race aura and energy.

Michael and I hung out for a bit and caught up and then headed to Restaurant 44th&10th which is located, can you guess?  You are correct.  44th st and 10 Ave just about 20 more blocks from the hotel.  The place is a corner of a set of stores and is decked out in white with colors used as accents on the walls and cushions of the chairs.  The food was amazing.  I had the grilled tilapia with steamed spinach and a sweet potato, butternut squash mash.  Deliciouso!   For desert was a dark chocolate flour-less cake which tasted more like mouse, and an organic banana sundae.  WOW!  It was an outburst of flavors that stimulated my taste buds with the cool essence of banana, chocolate and toasted marshmallow.  O-M-G was it good!

Now all fat and happy, Michael and I headed off to my hotel, so I could drop off all the swag from the expo and that, ladies and gentlemen, is when Grays Papaya decided to fight for control of my digestive system away from my incredible food from 44th&10th.  That is all I have to say about that.  Needless to say after a couple of syndicated comedies, conversations about theatre in the city and dealing with my stomach I wasn’t going anywhere else that night.

I woke up Saturday feeling a lot better.  I took a shower, put together everything I needed for transition, johns-pizzeriawhich didn’t open until 2 pm, and headed out into the city.  Around 1 pm I stopped at my favorite pizza place.  The restaurant will remain, forever, a planned event whenever I am in NYC.  The place with the best pizza on the planet.  John’s Pizza on 44th St between 7th an 8th avenues.  This place has the absolute best pizza with all natural ingredients I have ever tasted.  The thinnest flakiest crust with a spicy tomato sauce, mozzarella that strings to ceiling if you let it and the best ingredients ever resting on top.  Personally, I am a minimalist so I prefer a nice pepperoni and fresh garlic, but my friend Jorge Acosta whom joined me for this amazing meal, was all about the pineapple and Canadian Bacon.  I never tried it, but I have to say it was pretty good too.

This part of 44th st is a kind of home to me.  It is where all the best theatres are located.  Across from John’s , Phantom was playing.  Directly next door, Let it Be.  A little further down and across the street was Lucky Guy with Tom Hanks and two doors down was the famous Sardis of which Jorge and I headed to afterward to continue catching up.  Jorge is one of those guys who has had such an amazing life that we can just talk forever.  If I wasn’t participating in the triathlon the next day, we would probably still be talking.  He is an amazing and talented guy and I am so excited he is making it in NYC as an actor.  Knock on wood, he hasn’t needed another job to get him by.  That is how talented this guy really is.

I left Jorge and headed back to the hotel to grab my bike and head to transition in Riverside Park.  There areIMAG0201
two transition setups for the NYC Tri.  Yellow and Red.  My wave was in the Yellow which was schedulted to start at 5:50 am on Sunday and included the pros and elites along with half the Age Group athletes, while red didn’t start until 7:20.  The transition setup was just like any other triathlon, no
frills with metal rods to hang the bike from the seat.   The only somewhat different protocol was the  transparent bags that were handed out and highlighted during the mandatory meeting.  This was new after the incident

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at the Boston Marathon.  Instead of bringing in a transition backpack like I usually do, now a plastic transparent bag is the only thing allowed to bring gear into the transition area.   I didn’t want to leave anything besides my bike, so I personally didn’t bring anything at this point but my bike.  I left my bike with a plastic bag covering the handlebars and seat and headed out to meet another friend of mine from high school, Kyle.

 

Kyle, a professional Opera singer, is just as interesting.  He had just opened a show, so we were able to meet  just outside of Lincoln Center for a bit before he needed to be at the theatre.  Kyle has an amazing wife, Laura and an eleven year-old prodigy daughter.  A prodigy in what?  It would probably be easier to tell you what she is NOT a prodigy in .  She is incredibly smart as well as an Olympic swimmer in the making.  Maybe I can get lessons from her?  Kyle and I talked for an hour about his shows, my races, Alana’s talent and Laura’s singing as well.  When it was time to head out Kyle said something to me that made me so proud.  He started with, “I know you will probably taught this but Laura and started doing this ‘Insanity’ workout and I feel better, taller and stronger than I have ever been.”  I praised him, because I use the Insanity workouts and I am a Beach Body coach.  I was so excited to hear about his and Laura’s results.  He went on to tell me about how everything was better.  He was singing even better, he felt taller, slept better and was craving the workouts.  It made me smile when I heard about it.  Right here was proof, that with a child that needed to be brought to school, activities, swim practice, his daytime rehearsals, night-time performances, and Laura’s full-time job,  they both still found time to workout six days a week.  Remember that living in New York City means taking even more time for transportation as well.  There are very few people that are as busy as Kyle and Laura and they still find time, six days a week.  No excuses.  I love it.

That finished my day.  I went back to the room, took a shower and fell into bed exhausted.  I know it would feel like no time at all, before the 3 am alarm would go off and my phone would remind me again at 3:10.  I would try, but I wouldn’t get as much sleep as I wanted.

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My room prior to the move.

 

Goof Review: Elf The Musical

The Tampa Bay Bloggers had an opportunity to see Elf the Musical on opening night and as a new member I was thrilled at the chance to take part.  Now as I am a new member I am not sure of the background of my fellow bloggers, but I do have a modest amount of training and experience in theater (www.bradminus.com), so I may be just a tad more specific especially on the acting, but nevertheless I hope my review will be informative enough to help you decide whether to see it or not.  Just a little foreshadowing….go see it.

Elf the Musical is based on the 2003 holiday movie Elf starring Will Farrell about a human baby who found his way into Santa’s bag during his Christmas visit to a local orphanage.  Since the boy was already an orphan, Santa and his elves decided to raise the child at the north pole just as they would any elf child.  The problem was Buddy, the human boy, grew to be over six feet tall.  After a small slip of the tongue by one of the other elves, Buddy learns that he is indeed human and asks Santa about his parents.  It is then that Buddy decides to go and find his father in the big city of New York.

NETwork Presentations LLC’s production of this family Christmas musical was alive with high energy musical numbers, colorful set pieces and smooth transitions from scene to scene.  In the past decade or two, Broadway and national tours have started to move toward high tech sets and stage work which include hgh intensive set changes, creative light and sound effects, and even some pyrotechnics.  Very recently I have noticed a small shift back to a more classical route where the set pieces are simple but painted well, the lighting is simple and the music and sound are achieved by a live orchestra instead of musical tracks.  This musical is a perfect example.  This simpler style has shifted the responsibility of the quality of productions back to the performers and less to the designers of sets, sound and lighting.  In my opinion it makes for a better show, but I may be a little biased.

The play opens up with Santa (Gordon Gray) sitting in his living room fighting with his television set.  He opens the fourth wall and greets the audience as if we were sitting on the floor right in his living room.  After subtly turning off his cell phone, he opens a book and prepares to tell us the story of Buddy the Elf.  At the point the living room is whisked away to Santa’s workshop where the elves are preparing for Christmas.   Gordon’s depiction of Santa throughout the play is wonderful.  His energy and boastfulness helped me to get lost in the show and actually believe I was at the north pole.

Matt Kopec’s characterization of Buddy is spot on as his high energy, child like characterization makes the audience believe this six-foot boy really does believe he is an elf and is horrified when he finds out he is actually human.  Matt’s singing voice is pure musical theater and was a joy to hear every time he opened his mouth.  I found myself waiting impatiently for his next number.

The real treat came from the character of Jovie (Kae Hennies), who captures Buddy’s heart the moment he sees her in the office of his biological father, Walter Hobbs (Drew Culver).  Jovie has to be coaxed in to singing during the number “A Christmas Song”, but when she finally decides to sing out, her voice beautifully resonates throughout the theatre and when paired with Buddy’s the duo create pure musical brilliance for any ear.

Other notable performances were by Michael, Buddy’s half brother played by Connor Barth who even as a young actor, had a mature voice for his age.  He tended to get a little pitchy in the upper registers, but because of his characterization was easily missed and forgivable.  Julia Louise Hosack played Emily Hobbs, Buddy’s step mother, also had a fantastic musical voice and she was able to lead Michael into musical duets that gave me the “warm fuzzies”.  The connection and chemistry between these two well trained actors allowed me to believe they were really mother and son.

The only drawback of this production that tugged me out of my holiday nirvana, was the voice of Drew Pulver whom played Walter Hobbs, Buddy’s father.  His performance was not inferior, it just did not mix well the rest of the ensemble in my humble opinion.  It was obvious to the audience that most of the ensemble were trained in contemporary music or musical theater   When Walter sang it was clearly operatic, to a point where the words were garbled and I couldn’t make out the lyrics.  Unfortunately, every time he sang it was distracting and his voice did not meld with the rest of the ensemble.

This show is classical musical theatre with simply painted sets, wonderful acting, and is sure to bring a smile to you and your family should you decide to see it.  It is a true Holiday treat.

Elf the Musical is playing at
Straz Center for the Performing Arts
1010 North W.C. MacInnes Place
Tampa, Florida 33602
November 20-25
Wed. 7:30 p.m.
Fri. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sat. 2 and 8 p.m.
Sun. 1 and 6:30 p.m.