Memorial Weekend Running @ Vermont City Marathon

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May has turned into June and Spring into Summer bringing with it lots of sunshine and a lessening of the showers we’ve been getting of late. Before we run on though, I ought to pause for a worthy mention of a pretty 26.2 I recently experienced.

IMG_20190526_074203Two weekends ago, aka Memorial Day Weekend, a couple of friends and I drove up to Vermont to run the marathon in Burlington. The course was scenic and somewhat hilly with many unknowns including the weather. It was my first visit and I found the city and its people quite charming. While we didn’t get to poke around too much so as to save my legs for the race, we did venture into the city to absorb the local scene the evening before the race. Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs then, which more or less ruined our outdoor dining experience at a popular local restaurant with supposedly good food. On the other hand, the Expo, which was held at the DoubleTree Hilton, made for a fine experience and really showed up the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vermont. We met some fine folks and got some tips on how to take on the course from a couple of veteran Vermont marathoners. I made sure to voice my concern as to the uncertainty of the weather, and the then current downpour, and was told my fears were unwarranted, Marathon Day was going to be great, a little wet early on but the weather would dry out and turn out a beautiful race day. One thing was certain, we were told, the race would be memorable and it was hoped we would enjoy it enough to come back next year.

As it turned out, the course was indeed pretty but it had a few hills that wrecked havoc on my back on both the ascent and the descent. Now I’ve been having back issues since soon after I started CrossFit and I’ve recently started working to adopt correct form, wearing a belt when I lift, and rolling out, and taping up. But that weekend, I was in recovery from a previous week of heavy lifting and was experiencing some pains in my lower back. I was optimistic that I would get taped up at the expo since I am terrible at taping up myself, and even walked with my tape to show the good folks at the KT Tape booth – who I hoped, more than expected, would be there. Turned out they weren’t and there went my hope of running anywhere close to a 3:30 time. I reluctantly engaged my friend to help with the tape but as expected that didn’t turn out so well, and so I adjusted my expectations and went to bed.

Race day dawned with beautiful skies, a bit of clouds here and there but nothing major, and I was pretty glad that we were scheduled to run as early as 7am. Early start translates to early finish so I was ready to run. God may have had other ideas because we were barely in Battery Park, where the start line was located, amidst the rolling out of the stars of the show – the elite guests – when amidst the blue skies, there came an announcement for all runners to exit the Park area due to inclement extreme weather condition that was expected momentarily but should only last for about 20 minutes. We all thought it was a joke, then we thought it was something else, maybe a bomb threat or some such thing, because, how could there be a storm? Well to make a long story short, it stormed alright, while many of us took shelter in a nearby church. There were others scattered about in nearby hotels and other buildings. The priest and others at the church were so gracious and welcoming it was heartening to sit and receive a blessing as he prayed for us and sang accompanied by a pianist. Out of nowhere the skies burst and lightening and thunder put on a display we were able to witness from the inside. Time passed by and 20 minutes turned into an hour and so we didn’t start until about 8:20am. By then the sky was once again blue and the sun was out. One would never have guessed a thunderstorm just happened except there were puddles everywhere and everything was wet. With little fanfare now, except for the singing of the national anthem, the race started and we were off.

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Some things I enjoyed about the course were that they kept the race in the city for the most part, which made it easy for supporters and so I was able to see my friends three different times. I also liked the bits of trails they threw in, it broke up the running on asphalt bit as well as provided shade as it got hotter and miles seemed longer. I also enjoyed that it was scenic, which allowed me to take pictures, and that we ran along Lake Champlain, it was refreshing. I loved the support from the locals who were handing out refreshments as well as providing encouragement and various forms of music like drums and flutes etc at odd points. Too, I appreciated the volunteers – so encouraging, especially the kids, who were so very cute. I thought interesting the aspect of the relay runners which made the run different and a study for me as there were quite a bit of youth runners, which was new to me as far as running with them.

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A few things I was a bit “meh” about were the hills of course, seeing spectators 2-3 times meant that there were a few loops in there – not a few of my favorite things. Then there was the puddle jumping and muddy areas of the trails brought on by the rain and the omniscient sun. All in all though, I lean in favor of the positives as we ended on a grassy, softer finish with a finish line that was right there and medals soon thereafter. Pizza and snacks wrapped up the Vermont City Marathon experience and a photo op with one of my running inspirations, Bart Yasso, was the cherry on top.

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May – Be Running, but definitely Raining

May weather has been may-be a bit disturbing. Used to be April showers, May flowers, only there’s been a lot of May showers and flowers! We’ve had two and a half weeks of vacillating weather jumping from one end of the spectrum to the next and everywhere in between. That is to say, I’ve run in the cold, wet, chilly, windy, hot, humid, mild, and even had the odd perfect day, all in just that space of time. Odd weather much? Mind you, I’m not complaining, not really, for while I dislike cold weather, I’m game to work with anything else, and it hasn’t been that bad really just inconvenient. I’ve slowed down on the running for the past four weeks, which is kinda, sorta, maybe, a bad thing given I spontaneously decided a week ago to run away to Vermont for the memorial day weekend and marathon.

Since my last run, I’ve been careful to keep up with my once-a-week group speed workouts while I do a longish run at least once a week with other arbitrary shorter runs here and there, but my long runs have all but disappeared. Weekend before last, in lieu of a long run, I opted for a 26 mile, 10,000 feet hike that turned into an all-day-into-night affair and left me pretty depleted and struggling all week after. Heavy legs, tight muscles, and laboured breathing were the highlight of my runs for the past 10 days. I’m thinking it’s good I decided on a slightly relaxed, – slightly because I know myself and running just for fun is hard when I’m running a marathon – enjoy the view, and take pictures kinda run this time around. So ideally, I’m under no pressure regarding projected pace or finish time. I hope. This will be a first.

Last weekend it rained so hard, I copped out on running. My body was also just plain ‘ole exhausted and I was in no mood for the rain to add insult to injury if I pushed myself to go out there only to catch a cold. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (cheeky grin). Turns out I had it coming, the rainy run, not catching a cold thank God, as I got caught in a downpour while running a medium- paced 7 miler on Tuesday. It turned into an all out splash and race to the finish, which actually ended up rather well. Since I happen to love running in thunderstorms, it wasn’t too hard to pretend as the day was overcast and a tad humid. Getting rained on turned out to be a God idea.

With all this “May” weather, it’s CrossFit that’s been getting all the attention. I’ve been at it in the gym consistently working on strength, skill, and conditioning; It’s no wonder I remain fatigued. I sorta owe myself some rest this week: to take it easy and try to get in a yoga session or a massage, whichever is cheaper (lol), in preparation for this weekend. I have a lot of faith in God and in me but only in so far as I listen to my body and take care of its needs. Its been giving cues for a while now: “Rest is very necessary for recovery and remaining injury free.” I am listening.

Recapping the 2019 Boston Marathon: 26.2 miles that just won’t quit

“Wow It’s over!” That was the first thought I had last Monday at just around 2:20pm. Yep, that was about the time I crossed the finish line at Bolyston Street in Boston at the 123rd running of the Boston Marathon – my fourth and best one thus far. Oops! Did I just leave myself open to another one? I just may have at that. I can just hear you thinking now… hmm, it must’ve been a good one for her to come out thinking of going back yet again! Especially after I said this would more than likely be my last Boston providing I had a good race. Well now, let’s see what qualifies as a good race: weather – all over the place, pace – conservative and consistent, course – manageable, BAA event handling – a bit of room for improvement, and volunteer and spectator experience – exceptional. Were I then to rate the 2019 Boston Marathon, it would get a score of 7/10. Quite an improvement from the last three times and a bit of a quandary for me in terms of deciding on whether I should go back next year.

Let me just say that the only reason I would even consider this is because I got within my goal range of 3:30 – 3:35, which has led me to believe that a goal of 3:30 is attainable after all. But what is it about Boston though that has be coming back for more? Am I some sort of maschiost that enjoys the hurt on those Newton hills? Or is it as simple as loving the challenge of a good course, which Boston altogether certainly is. Like every other runner of this race, I resent those hills and maybe I, along with those who’ve done it multiple times, even more so because we know exactly when they’re up and what it takes to get through and over them. They are undoubtedly the most difficult aspect of the race and a common cause of many failures to accomplish goals. Can you ever really be prepared for them? I don’t know. I think you can devise a strategy and with experience and commitment pull it off but whether one can conquer those hills would be a good question for the elite runners. I’d love to watch them run that particular aspect of the course. In any event, I got through them with a slow, steady, and sure strategy. The plan was never to race those hills but to keep a sure and steady pace on the incline and I stuck to it like glue. No stopping, or faltering, or walking, which would kill one’s momentum faster than you could think it. Again, you learn by experience sometimes and while I have stopped a few times while racing, they’ve never been on hills. I plan on keeping it that way.

But let’s go back a bit. In the past I’ve said that the easiest portion of this race is the first sixteen miles and that did not change. It was made a bit more challenging obviously when the sun came out around mile five, but its been hotter before. From there it got pretty hot pretty fast and stayed that way for the duration of my run. To be fair, we were promised a break in the weather, which started off with heavy rains and thunderstorms earlier that morning up to and during the loading of the busses to Hopkington. This window was supposed to have been between 10am and 2pm when the rains would stop. It was spot on, leaving us to start under overcast skies. Everyone seemed pretty happy with that and I was ecstatic. Not so much about the muddy mess that was Athletes Village, and after my harrowing experience to get to a port-a-pottie, I didn’t hang around but got started on the long trek to the start line. I had a late start being in wave 3 and too much time to think but we eventually got going and were toe to toe for the first 3-4 miles after which it spaced out some as we entered Ashland. Not too long after that the sun came out amidst the bluest of skies, the heat soon followed, backed up by the wonderful crowds that were with us from the beginning to the end. It’s easy to see that Bostonians are a patriotic and loyal bunch. It was Patriot’s Day in Boston and they were out in their numbers to celebrate and support the marathon with all of the fervor and leftover zeal from the Red Sox game the evening before. I figure one out of three wasn’t bad given perfect doesn’t exist. Only, the heat just never let up and while I’ve run in hotter conditions, and in Boston too, it does wear on you and will always cost you some time as it generally means more hydration and getting in between other runners and the water/Gatorade stops. A few noteworthy mentions are: the Wall at Wellesley, always fun to see the college girls out cheering us on like their lives depended on it and with the most outrageous signs too. For me, the pleasure is watching the faces of first time runners as they bathe in the experience..priceless! The supporters on the hills at Newton – I do so appreciate that they had to find their way there and were prepared to stay for hours to cheer the runners on. God bless their hearts they were all over those hills screaming and urging us on. They kept at it, wouldn’t let up, and gave tremendous boosts of encouragement at the moments they were direly needed. Then there were the hydration stations – perfectly positioned every 2/3 miles, we didn’t want for fuel at any point, and given the heat, that was super important.

Of course we couldn’t have done it without the thousands of volunteers..they’re a steadfast and amazing lot and at every race I remain dumbfounded by their generosity of spirit in giving their time (sometimes the entire day and/ or weekend) to ensure we have an amazing experience. They’ll always hold a special place in my heart. And after heartbreak hill, I was even more beholden to them and to the crowds of spectators who did more than cheer. Everything under the sun (and many were begging for rain then) that one could think about was out for grabs: Vaseline (came in so handy as my tighs were chaffing badly), candy, water, beer, fruit, wet towels, water hoses., you name it, were all made available by those cherry folks. Little do they know the impact they have on runners at this point. Most of us are either struggling or revelling at miles 21-26 and in either case need this jubilant display of support and generosity to take us to the finish line. For my part, I was in the zone about then and was aware only peripherally of what was happening around me and could only manage a few palm touches for fear of losing my momentum. Mile 25 was surreal in that I kept zoning in and out and can clearly remember some parts of it and nothing of other parts. I recall stopping at the last water station and being grasped by someone and getting pulled along for a few yards particularly, but then I blank until the final 800 meters, which looked like a distant star on the horizon. I mean, I thought that run down Bolyston street would never end, and was probably what prompted the words I started this narrative with, “wow, it’s over,” when I finally crossed the finish line in a time of 3:34:15. Soon after the rains came down in all it’s might and windy fury. And just then was I ever so glad I didn’t get caught in that. It was indeed over for me.

Celebrating One Year of CrossFit and 10+ Years of Running 🎊🎊🎊

If you had told me 10 years ago that I would be an avid Cross fitter and runner, approaching my sixteenth marathon in a week’s time, and living in New York City for seven out of those 10 years, I’d probably have believed you on everything but surviving seven winters here in the Big Apple state. It’s a testament to my spirit of adventure, and, I might add, survival skills, that I have lived here this long despite vowing to the contrary when I was younger. It is that spirit of adventure, with which I credit my athletic proclivities and the propensity to push and redefine so-called limits.

One year ago, after much ado, and yeah I had a few misgivings with my running in full swing, I started CrossFit. I didn’t know then if I would be able to dedicate myself wholeheartedly to, what seemed back then, such an aggressive form of fitness training. I mean by all accounts it was tough and demanding. Did I have the time and ability to commit to that type of thing? I didn’t know. But dammit I hoped so, since the buzz was it could help my running. So yeah, I was a bit trepidatious, actually a helluva lot. After all, those guys lifting looked mad strong in all the pics I’d seen, and I’d seen a lot combing the internet and other media images. A year later, I can safely say that you should never let apprehension get the better of you.

These days, I like to say, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s unlikely I’ll ever be able to go back to a regular gym. I now know all gyms are definitely not created equal. But while CrossFit boxes might hold the edge in the exercise arena, which is possibly because of their badass reputation and commitment to High Intensity Training and Olympic Style Lifting/ Weight Training, I’m also aware that there are many competing fitness ideas popping up all over the place. CrossFit’s ability to maintain their edge will depend on their ability to diversify, develop, and reinvent their core concepts in the coming years. In the meantime, it’s been pretty interesting, challenging, and invigorating.

Those who know me know that I have never been one to back down at anything , even less so when it came to exercise. So that CrossFit was or rather is a challenge means only that you can be sure I’ll give it my best. Thus far I’ve enjoyed the competitive but encouraging spirit among gym members and the variety in the programs offered at my gym. The comraderie among athletes when we do class WODs (work-out of the day) and at in-house competitions have been truly inspiring as have been the coaches’ knowledge, experience, and willingness and ability to impart said knowledge. The CrossFit environment is one where one can thrive with the right attitude no matter their level. We can all agree that you don’t pay a lot of money for someone to kick your ass and have nothing to show for it. The gains are where it’s at people.

So yes, I’m feeling the gains some: I’m already so much stronger than I’ve ever been, my lifts are getting better all the time, though I do struggle in a couple of areas..my damn humanity..and I’m developing a host of existing skills while learning new ones and new ways to do old ones. Next Monday I’m running the Boston Marathon, yet again, and I’m hoping that, weather aside this time, I can possibly see some of those gains extend itself to stronger running, better endurance, a lot more confidence, and the absence of injuries. Yay! Go me!

Let’s go Running

The barren trees vs the green leaves, the chorus of Springtime vs the death knell of Winter. Who amongst us doesn’t appreciate the spark of hope – the added vigor to life that descends on us all. So long to the cold, chilly, freezing, and not-much-snow temps of Winter. Hello to Spring – rain, warmer sunshine, and cooler temps! With great anticipation and a huge sigh of relief, we welcome the season of new birth, as only runners can, with big smiles and longer miles. Bring on the races!

Adventure runs await as the promise of better weather arrives..no longer relegated to what we can get, we now get to choose where and what to run. While there are the staple marathons like Boston and London coming up in just about a month and six weeks respectively, they remain an option only for those who have pre-qualified or chosen the charity route and hopefully submitted to rigorous months of winter training. The lucky ones, I call them, those runners who are under no such obligation or aspiration, are free to jump into the many spring races happening around the country, though the shorter ones for sure for our newbie runners, to jumpstart their running goals, or for others, simply for the heck of good running weather and destination runs. How’s that for fun running!

Check out these 10 popular, fun, and perhaps challenging, runs happening this Spring:

(1) April 7, Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run – Washington, D.C.
(2) April 6, Cooper River Bridge 10k Run – Mount Pleasant, SC
(3) April 7, Carlsbad 5000, the world’s fastest 5k, Carlsbad, CA
(4) April 28, Big Sur International Marathon/21 Miler/Marathon Relay/11 Miler/ 12K/5K- Monterey, CA
(5) April 13, Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon – Roanoke, VA
(6) May 5, Cincinnati Flying Pig Marathon – Cincinnati, OH
(7) June 2, Steamboat Marathon /Half/10K -Steamboat Springs, CO
(8) May 26, Keybank Vermont City Marathon & Relay – Burlington, VT
(9) The Color Run, a free-spirited 5K, great for beginners – April to June, Nationwide
(10) April 20, Barkin’ Dog Duathlon – Run, Bike, Run, one of the largest Duathlons in the western US, Denver CO.

While going through the too many lists to count put forward by the likes of Runners World, Shape Magazine, and Daily Burn, I will admit to some bias and ended up choosing the ones I reviewed and either have done or would like to do. Total disclaimer in that this is based soley on my preference for destination, fun and challenging races. Run at your own risk! Lol. But really, at your own level, which keeps getting better all the time. Hope you totally enjoy my picks. And oh, be a love and let me know if you give any on the list a try. Happy Spring Running!
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February: Superbowl, Valentine’s and Brr Weekend Runs

Stretching time post long run @home

The first week in February flew by in an arctic flash..as fast as it was cold. That Saturday, Superbowl weekend, along with a few runners from my Wednesday run group, I did my first February winter run in 18℉. Running along the water, across two bridges, up and down stairs, and dodging black ice was the order of the run as we ended up in Queens after making our way from Manhattan, though Brooklyn, then to Queens. As it often happens on these Saturday jaunts, aka long runs, only this time it was 12 miles, we ended up in a new dive as excited to eat and drink as we were to run, and were prepared to forget all about the chill with beers, Bloody Marys and surprisingly, sunshine. Too much fun meant we had to rely on Uber on the return, but who’s keeping tabs? Recovery took place on Superbowl Sunday to the tune of four hours of football, including a decent half-time show, amidst lots of food, drinks, and friendly chatter aka noise.

@Battle of the Fittest – Cross Fit Competition

The following weekend, I attended a Cross Fit local competition held at our gym, only not for the purpose of participating. I helped out with organizing and setting up throughout the event, which was a whole-day affair. As such, my Saturday long run was put off for Sunday instead. I opted to stay local and ran solo through my neighborhood; in the parks, and along its trails, which was good until I had to make up some mileage with a few laps around the local park. Suffice to say, doing laps are not a favorite of mine and neither was the weather. Chilled, but thankful for no winds, I wrapped it up at eighteen miles and called it a day.

@the gym for Valentine’s Day Mid-day workout

Last Thursday was Valentine’s Day, much more into Galentine’s this year, I did some speed work with my run group the Wednesday before and a short midday run to my gym workout on Thursday. Saturday, a friend and I, decided on a 20 miler through upper Manhattan. For most of the run we had sunshine, while it was still chilly and windy in some parts, especially by the water, We started off on the upper east side, along the east river, ran up to 119th street, in East Harlem, across the bridge and over and up all the way across to the West Side and up those crazy stairs at Morning Side Park. Exiting there, we ran down and across 116th Street and through Columbia University, then continued through the Morning Side neighborhood veering off to the Hudson River Greenway, where we ran along the water accompanied by sunshine and a strong wind at times. We made it all the way up and under the GW (George Washington) bridge, at 175th Street, and ran on to 185th and up and over a dastardly hill to emerge on Morning Side drive in the Hudson Heights area. From there, we ran across West 183rd street, I think we were in and around the Bronx area at this point, and we ran over to the Washington bridge, across and aound to US Highway 1 and then we were down hill for a bit, dangerously so at some points on an uneven path with loose rocks. We prevailed without injury all way to the Macombs Dam Bridge, in the vicinity of Yankee’s Stadium, ran across and then onto Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Blvd all the way down to West 138th Street. This area in Harlem is reminiscent of the New York City marathon route and indeed at this point we were able to do a reversal of a bit of the official route across West 138th and over the Madsion Ave Bridge to end up back on the east side, still following the marathon route all the way to and over the Willis Avenue Bridge. We finally veered off to cross over at East 116th Street and back unto the East River running path. From there, it was pretty much a straight, and tiring, path to the 59th Street bridge. Once over that mountain, we were on York Ave on the UES (Upper East Side) and had just about three quarters of a mile left as we navigated our way back to the starting point and wrapped up our 20 miles in 2 hours and 43 minutes. Dang it! I was tired, cold, and dying of thirst; but I was sorta tickled that we had pulled it off minus two stops, one, to grab a bottle of water at a deli around mile 16, and before that, for 30 seconds around mile 11 after that dastardly hill, which played havoc with my back that I had forgotten to tape up.

Post run in Queens

All in all, not a bad showing for February so far and the weather has been good for running with no major snow storms – the cold, and areas of black ice, and frost are expected and have served to keep things interesting and to keep us alert and running. Boston is now about seven weeks away and we have one more weekend long run in February. The challenge is to always keep it interesting. Thus far, I am thankful!

Winter Running is on!

This is not the typical January for me. Granted, it’s the first one since my cross fit debut last March and may account for my somewhat adhoc running pattern this month. Then, there’s the cold weather, which truth be told hasn’t been too insane so far with little to no snow really except for that one freak storm in November last year. Knock on wood! They say. While getting in those runs have been a bit of a challenge, oddly enough I have no qualms as once again the Boston Marathon sits on the horizon with just over two and a half months left to go .

My mileage has seen a decline this month primarily because of the cold weather and associated scheduling conflicts, which has resulted in an average of 25 miles per week. Weekend long runs have been the most consistent. Fortunately, I had decided at the beginning of the year that I was not going to hold fast to any particular training plan as I have done in the past. My road to Boston in April is really simplified this year with focus placed on my long runs and on getting a couple speed workouts in during the week. Of course I don’t recommend this to anyone running Boston. For my part, I determined a more relaxed strategy this year based on my three previous years of preparation that resulted in less than favorable outcomes. So yes, there’s a bit of frustration in my deliberate non-planning, but I figure four times in a row affords me that leeway. In fact, I plan on not stressing with running this year at all and just enjoying it as much as I can.

With no hard and fast training plans, I’ve been able to relax my usual hectic schedule somewhat and enjoy cross training a bit more. I even had a workout challenge going on for a couple of weeks, streaks and all.

My long runs though, have seen me running solo, and with other runners, all over the city from Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn, over our bridges; through our parks; alongside our waterways; via some trails; and around our neighborhoods. I’ve increased mileage incrementally and this past Saturday I ran 18.6 miles from Manhattan to Brooklyn in what started out as freezing temps but progressed to really great running weather by the time the sun came out. A few of us braved the cold and hammered out those miles and rewarded ourselves with a post run brunch. All things remaining equal, I’ll be heading out this coming Saturday for 20 miles. I can only hope the weather cooperates as we’re in full on winter running mode in these parts.

Running 2019: A Formula for Success

Source: Pinterest.com

Bang, went the door shutting unapologetically on 2019. For many it was too soon, while for others it was non too soon. Regardless, the new year is here, and for many it has arrived with expectations, pressures, hopes, and fears. More so for those who felt crippled last year by circumstances and fear. For those of us who tarry here, this year is an unerring reminder of perceived limits and weaknesses. This should not be. Each day, in and of itself, is an opportunity to begin, to redo, to try again, to take advantage of the moment – here and now – with the resources, the knowledge, and the abilities we have in hand.

Let’s forget last year for a minute and what didn’t happen and focus on what we can do today. It’s worth pointing out that the ability to live in the present is a worthwhile pursuit, which allows us to channel our energy and resources into what can benefit us today. What if you made one goal – just one – for this year that involved daily tactical steps to make sure its realization. It is possible this may ensure that at the end of 2019 you are in a better place than when you started, and you might just kick ass doing so. The idea is to eliminate division in your ability to apply your yourself, your time, and your resources, thus allowing you to channel all of the above into one major area for growth, change, and/or accomplishment. Now I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing this new year resolutions/goal setting thing for a few years, and try as I might, I have yet to accomplish everything I set forth to do each year. So much so, that I’ve decided that a change is necessary. If I want different results then I must do things differently.

And so, here I am, resolution-less, and finally figuring that maybe, just maybe, I’ve been going about this resolution thing the wrong way all along. Thank God for second, and third, and fourth chances; and that’s what this new year represents to me, another opportunity to get it right, or at the very least, to try differently to accomplish something of immeasurable worth, something that will not only add value to my life, but to someone else’s as well. You see the world is filled with people wanting some inspiration, motivation, a bit of hope, a reason to change, to move, to do, to become something that will in turn impact someone else. The easy part is deciding what to do – making the resolutions – the challenge lies in actually carrying out those plans. I posit that with one goal in sight your chances of running 2019 and getting to the finish line increases exponentially.

Whether you’ve determined to run your first marathon, hike The Andes, participate in your first triathlon or iron man, or even just begin a new health or exercise plan, I encourage you to keep it singular, have someone hold you accountable, do quarterly reviews and necessary realignment, and keep company with those who will support and champion your vision.

The door swings wide open on 2019 and there you stand: one goal, one mind, twelve months, and you determined to succeed.

Winter, Weekends, and Why Running!

@ The Unisphere, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

I took to Central Park last Saturday for a cold, fast, 12-mile run. As it happened, I wasn’t the only one with the mettle or crazy – you decide – to get out there cold weather notwithstanding. In fact, maybe because this is New York City, there’s really no let up of the number of New Yorkers and tourists alike out and about. And, well, it is the holiday season, so there’s enough reason as to why there would be so many people littering the chilly park from as early as 9am. The truth is I had no desire to go out there but, and I’m beginning to believe it now, runners – those serious about the sport – are defined by the days, races, and times that present the most challenge and oftentimes suck big time. We understand that it is those times that will develop strength, tenacity, and the spirit to fight, dig deep, and finish the race when that time comes. And so, despite the inviting pull of those sheets and with thoughts of the chill driving me to just finish already, I bundled up and headed to a slight detour before the run.

My gym hosted an in-house competition at their other location, which was a stone’s throw away from Central Park, my running route, and I needed to be there as it was my first official exposure to this type of competition. I wanted to spectate, support my fellow crossfitters and scout around to figure out how it all worked. No baptism by fire for me, not if I can help it. Turned the competition was awesome and loads of fun. After two and a half hours there, longer than I intended, I couldn’t not go and kick that chill right in the butt. And so a quick two loops of the park starting at Columbus Circle’s entrance and heading up the east side of the park, up Cat Hill, and all the way past the 102nd Street transverse, and looping over Harlem Hill to the West Side of the park and back, past the overlooking Strawberry Fields and 72nd Street Transverse, and making a full circle back at Columbus Circle east entrance. One more time and I was done, and off to run a couple errands and spend the rest of the day holed up watching football. Well, Alabama and Georgia was playing is my excuse since I’m no football fan.

Surprise, surprise, today followed a similar pattern with me heading out in freezing temps to grab a 13 miler in my lovely neighborhood of Queens. I met up with some buddies of mine at the Queensboro bridge in Queens – just 1.3 miles away from the city – and we headed on a running tour-of-sorts of this underrated borough of New York. First few miles was pretty cold but at least the sun was out so we eventually warmed up some, as long as you kept moving. Running through different areas of Queens turned out to be pretty interesting as we zig- zagged across Astoria and headed to Flushing Meadows Park, across from Citi-Field and in the vicinity of the home of the US Open. We grabbed a pic, lost a team member (she bailed), and we headed across the park to Lake … taking in the natural beauty around us and headed out in search of Queens Boulevard and Forest Hills. We ran by the Forest Hills Stadium..oohed and ahhed..and finished off at the LIRR station off Austin Street. After than chilly run, food was on our minds and with plenty pickings we found a local dive and dove right in. Way to wrap up a cold morning if you ask me.

Two weekends before I had done an 11 mile out and back run closer to home, and a windy 10 miler the weekend prior. While we await the official start of winter, many would argue that it’s already here with blistering winds and freezing temperatures. In fact, we’ve already had our first snow fall. Sadly, the Fall season was gone before we could dive into running and all we’re left with is the audacity to get out there no matter the weather.

These days it matters not the time of day as we see record temps erasing all that we think we know or should be experiencing. And so my runs over the past few weeks have been totally out of my comfort zone. They have been cold, hard, long, and crazy enough, rewarding. However, they’re always so much better when I’m able to have others join me. I look ahead with trepidation as winter advances, but also with hope, knowing that come Springtime, I will be stronger and better for it.

26.2 Miles For Lupus: The TCS New York City Marathon in Review

Sunday November 4 has come and gone, two Sundays ago today in fact, and is a true testament to how quickly time is flying on by. It’s also a tip of the hat to the very clichéd saying “this too shall pass,” because as it was then – out there running on November 4 – it felt like an eternity in purgatory. I exaggerate of course as I have no idea what purgatory is like, but surprise, surprise, I fell victim to another impaired performance at the NYC marathon. I shouldn’t be surprised given the year I’ve had with running..it’s been up, down, and sideways..so the chances that I’d get away with a perfect run was almost nonexistent I’d say. What was crazy was that I was perfectly fine up to three days before the marathon and fell sick on Halloween. What timing huh! Hell, I was shivering, blowing hot, then cold, and stuffy-nosed all in the matter of a day. What an appropriate freak show! That feeling, tempered by some meds, prevailed for the next couple of days until marathon Sunday.

Source: lupusresearchalliance.org

On Saturday, the day before the marathon, I tried to have a relaxing day, which worked out for the most part as I only had an early charity dinner to attend with other runners and members of Team Life Without Lupus. Because I was medicated and feeling a slight chill, I excused myself after a decent showing and went home to rest. Despite this, I still didn’t get to bed until about 9pm. I woke up at 5am to grab a ride with a friend – friends are very awesome! – and was able to rest on the drive over to Staten Island, which took about 40 minutes – best decision ever! – as I didn’t have to go through the crazy logistics of waking up extra early to catch the bus or ferry and then indulge in the waiting once on the island to get on a bus to the start if I had taken the ferry. Thus, we got there early enough and got through the security lines pretty fast before heading to our respective wave assignments.

This year, I’m happy to say, there were open tents; hand warmers; and minor seating, provided by United Airlines. I quickly found my shivering and voiceless self a spot, lay on my heat sheet, wrapped myself in 2015’s marathon poncho, and promptly fell asleep for about 40 minutes. All too soon it was time to get up. I was ecstatic to see that the sun was out though that had little effect on the chilly air. I did a last check to make sure I had everything, bagged up my stuff to take to the baggage check, and then got in line to use the bathroom; still shivering some, but feeling much better. Seems the Tylenol I had taken earlier was finally kicking in.

9:45 am found me in Coral F tripping along with hundreds of others as we made our way to the start on the Verazzano bridge. And we had blinding sunshine! The excitement and hype around me was real, although I maintained my cool for the most part. It’s the signing of the national anthem, the voice of Sinatra, and his “New York,” the official fly over by the NYPD helicopters, and the sounding off of the start horn that never gets old. Runners reacted with a rising chorus of delight and anticipation and hollered for the elite athletes as they took off. Fortunately, I’ve always been placed in the first wave atop of the bridge and hadn’t considered before then how unfortunate those below were. It’s a whole different experience up there. Soon after 10am we took off to Sinatra’s “New York” and a lot of excited runners peeled off to enjoy the run across the bridge and the ensuing amazing view.

Source: ceritalari.com

Past experience proved a good teacher and I paced myself across the bridge and into Brooklyn remembering to stay present and enjoy the moment. A moment that lasted pretty much until mile 13, all before which I remained tuned in to the amazing crowds – I even saw a friend and a couple of people I knew there in Brooklyn – one of the most diverse boroughs of New York. Around mile 8 I stopped for a minute to use the port-a-potty, something I try hard to never do, but I really wasn’t chasing a time under the circumstances and didn’t want to give myself any additional pressure to work with. Technically, about 11 miles of the race is in Brooklyn and I felt really good most of that time. It was around mile 13, on entering into Queens, when a sudden feeling of lethargy seized me, along with a pounding headache, and I started sniffling. I could feel a temperature coming on again. At that point, I was sorely tempted to sit down right there in the streets. However, good sense, prayers, and a couple of Tylenol prevailed and after stopping to grab some water – bless the hearts of those volunteers at every station, every 2-3 miles, they did awesome double-duty both serving and encouraging us – to swallow the pills, I continued on slowly praying for the meds to kick in.

Source: nyrr.com

A few miles later, and feeling slightly better we got to the Queensboro bridge – daunting as ever in its length, ascendancy, and silence. Surprisingly, a few spectators got themselves to the halfway point on the bridge – I didn’t think it was allowed – and provided a welcome distraction for my one tracked mind, cheering loudly as we ran by. If only they knew how much that meant to me. Coming off the bridge at mile 16 to the sea of spectators on First Avenue in Manhattan was helluva amazing! It always is. I forgot everything for a brief moment and started to look around for my friends in the crowds and was hugely excited to get to see some of them. It totally floored them that I was voiceless and I had to settle for hugs, no words on my part. They thought me a hero, more like crazy I thought, to be running in my state but really all I cared about was that those cheering and running would identify with my cause and even give us a shout out as I ran by. Raising the level of awareness of Lupus is, after all, what I’m after.

Me looking dead in The Bronx – Source: Lupus Research Alliance

I continued up First Avenue all the way over the Willis Avenue bridge into The Bronx at which point I was told to look out for the charity cheer squad. Try as I might, I didn’t see them, though there was lots of spectators and cheers going on, which probably accounted for us not connecting. The truth is I was beginning to feel crappy once more; It didn’t help that I was getting ready to stare down Fifth Avenue, not a favorite part of this race for me. I recalled the weekend before, running down that stretch, when I had run the final 10 miles of the marathon with a group, I was running a 7:24 minute p/mile pace back then. What a difference a week makes. There I was, on Marathon Sunday, trying my darndest to keep one foot in front of the other and running an entire minute slower. In all fairness, it was a good pace considering how I was feeling, and I was really happy for the cheer support we got in Harlem and as we headed toward Central Park North. As it turned out, I remember feeling worse heading into Central Park my last time around, so this time I leaned into the sounds of the crowds and soaked up the calls, whistles, claps, and all-round cheers. New York City spectators are the best in the world and are a huge part of the marathon experience. It would have been a mistake to not feed off of them and their contagious excitement.

Central Park I know and could anticipate every turn, which was good and bad. It meant I could quite literally see the end within grasping distance but had to abide with my legs to work for a bit longer to physically get me there. The crowds converted Central Park into an arena of sorts, it looked so surreal with people all around. By then, we were on the last couple of miles as we headed out of the park at 59th Street to run the final leg of Central Park South with the backdrop of The Plaza Hotel receding in the distance. Runners headed back into the park at Columbus Circle and as we made the turn onto West Drive I attempted to locate the Trinidad and Tobago flag amidst the mass of other flags and people, as I always do, to give it a tiny tug. I then ran the final 800 meters to cross the finish line and finished amidst much fanfare as is usual for this race. It’s always a bit emotional but this time I was happily so in support of a life without Lupus. I had done it again!

marathonphoto.com

If you took the time to read this super-long review, thank you! I am grateful to you for following my running and taking the time to read my stories. Please, if you can, give a gift to support the work of The Lupus Research Alliance [ https://www.lupusresearch.org/]
in developing treatment, research, and finding a cure. Click on the link to give and find out more.⤵
⏬⏬⏬
This is the campaign for Team Life Without Lupus TCS New York City Marathon 2018 (Loren Caldon):

https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/lupus-research-alliance-nyc-2018/loricaldon?utm_campaign=oc&utm_medium=email&utm_source=crowdrise

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