Happy November, Thanksgiving, & Turkey Trots Thoughts

“The First Step to being Great is being Grateful.”

-attributed to Ralph Smart

This year it’s a November for the books! We kicked it off with the New York City marathon two weeks ago with record temps and record finishers in those conditions, some 47,839, as I stood at the 14th mile fluid station with sweat rolling down my back handing out drink after drink to thousands of runners. Let’s just say, that we should never underestimate the role of those who perform this painstaking task time and again. All props to those volunteers who hand out both fluid and encouragement for hours each year. They’re the real Gs! On the other hand, our runners this year are simply rockstars. Unless you’re a runner, you can’t appreciate the grit and determination it takes to finish a marathon in mid 70° temps with 79% humidity. For sure there were some casualties with 48,000 runners starting out. But if you were or know anyone who was still able to run a PR, wow, double kudos to you and to them.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t feel any desire to join the running crowd back on November 9. I felt I had chosen the wiser path. LoL. And since then I’ve been walking, for the most part, in wisdom and resting and taking care of a knee issue that arose out of my Chicago run. The past two weeks have seen me run a few times, most notably, this past Saturday when I went on a 5-mile morning run to the park and back. It was an easy run meant to act as a sort of feel-out run and I did just that. Happily, I felt no pain and was able to enjoy a sunny but chilly fall run and come away with the impression that I needed some new running shoes and to take advantage of the sunshine, even though it’s cold, before the real winter weather gets here.

This week we’re celebrating Thanksgiving in these United States and amidst all the turkey talk, I’m being super intentional about demonstrating gratitude for this year and all that I’ve been able to have, receive, accomplish, and share. Most Americans are thankful for the season and for their family and provisions, as we should all be, but I encourage us all to expand our thankfulness to everything we are and are blessed with. After all that we, as a global community, have been through in the past two years, we are blessed to be here and blessed to be a blessing. A heart overflowing with gratitude will ensure that we pass it on and hopefully create a contagious pattern of behavior – an attitude of gratitude – that is not restricted to a day but extends throughout the remainder of the year and all into next year too.

And if that isn’t enough November action for you, well, we runners love our turkey trots around these parts. So, in New York City, the Thanksgiving tradion also includes a festive 5K run/trot held on Thanksgiving morning. It’s a family-friendly race where you can run, walk, trot, and gather socially to get some exercise; because we like to associate running with everything we do, but also so we can feel less guilt about the turkey and its embellishments we intend to gobble up later that day. LoL. Happy trotting and happy thanksgiving! 🦃

My Chicago Marathon (2022)😇😍🥹😛😁🥳🤩🥰

#mychicagomarathon 😇

Drum roll my friends! We ran Chi marathon, under some duress, but crossed the finish line with all parts intact! Praise God. So we’re rolling because I’m pleased, and since I’m usually hard on myself when running, that’s big. It wasn’t a PR but it was pretty good all things considered. I went in with great expectations and came out satisfied if not exhuberant. What a weekend! What a run! What a blur! A big shout out to the Chicago marathon events management team. They always put on a stellar event and this year was no exception. With forty-five years of practice, they’d better right! Since I took part in all three events: the expo, the 5k, and the marathon, I can safely claim the full marathon experience, and it was great; not necessarily my running on marathon day, but certainly everything else.

@ McCormick Place – Marathon Expo 😍

Volunteering at the expo on the Friday before the race was a great experience. And although I wasn’t in New York, I was at home with the running community because runners are pretty awesome beings no matter where you go. I’d often wondered what being on the other side of the marathon expo was like, and I was happy to find out it was fun and rewarding to be on the serving end of all the love and well wishes I’d received over the years. I was super grateful for the opportunity to welcome and direct runners to collect their packets containing their bib numbers and to pick up their t-shirts. Meeting new people on the volunteer teams was also a treat and getting to appreciate that some of them weren’t even runners but were just excited for the city of Chicago and wanted to be a part of this event that celebrated and showcased the best of their city. There were a few nationals from outside of Chicago as well as international volunteers, who, like me, wanted the full experience and we dived right in together. By the end of my shift, I was pretty sure I had welcomed the world, amidst a few running friends from New York, and more were still coming. With the expo in full swing and all the vendors with their gear and attractions on display, it didn’t take me long to realize I had to get out of there fast or my run the next day would be in serious jeapordy.

Abbot 5K 🥹
The New York Posse 😛

Saturday dawned way too soon and I had to be up by 5 a.m. and at the start by 6:30/6:45 a.m. as the 5K run started at 7:30 a.m. It’s Chicago, so of course it was chilly. I was prepared and wrapped up in heat sheets I had purchased for just the occasion – experience is a great teacher! After cooling our heels a bit and witnessing many shivers, we did away with the formalities and a surprising male rendition of the national anthem and were off. It was a fast and short one. It’d been a while since I’d raced a 5K so I was surprised, I don’t know why, that it was over so soon. I remember thinking, wow, folks are out here on this chilly morning to cheer on a 5K! I felt proud and grateful to be feeling great! The cheers and running through the center of the city, sans traffic, was a treat and then I recall hearing an announcement of some sort that we were coming up to Jackson Ave. and the finish line around the bend, and I thought, wait, I didn’t even see the mile 2 marker! Clearly, I missed it and crossed the finish line in 21:53 according to Strava. I really hadn’t intended to run that fast, it really kinda just happened and oh well it felt amazing! LoL. I celebrated with a photo, grabbed my medal and hat and got outta there. The rest of the day was a swirl of brunch with the New York posse in town for the race and then to a boat tour on the Chicago River. By the time I got home, I stayed with my neice just outside the city center, it was time to get the pasta going for a dinner of pasta, meatballs, and veggies. And there was cake too! Sadly, I passed out around 11 p.m. after my third helping, without the cake.

Chipping at the start..ready, set…😁

As is the pattern these days, I was barely asleep before it was time to get up. I’m really not a fan of eating at 5 a.m. but we do what we must and so oatmeal, bananas, and granola and nuts it was with a bagel with eggs on the side. I nursed the bagel all the way to the city but was careful to just nibble away at it until I’d had enough. Getting to Grant Park, where the race start was and seeing all the runners defiantly geared up in the chilly morning air in all sorts of coverings to stay warm but with expectant and intent faces gave me a sense of dejavu. It had only been two years, going on ten, since I was at my last marathon start line. The sense of jubilation and excitement could not be suppressed; it permeated the atmosphere and I was oh-so-at-home at its center. No mad rush this time, all was oderly with consistent and efficient movement of the crowds through the various gates, security checkpoints, and to their respective corrals. I had ensured that I was there with just enough time to get to the corral, join the bathroom line, and get in position to start. The efficiency of it all was mesmerizing given the 40,000 crowd size. I’ve always marveled that Chicago is the one marathon where I’ve always been able to manage the various steps so efficiently so as to get to start line with time to spare and feel ready to start. I even got to meet up a friend running in my corral, who ended up keeping pace with me for most of the race. My intention had been to run with the Nike pace group that was running with a 3:35 finish goal but I soon chucked that idea after seeing they would be keeping an 8 minute mile. I had decided from the night before that I was going to run a 7:45 pace. Ideally, you don’t decide that the night before a race but because I’ve been dealing with sciatic nerve issues the entire year, and my capacity/pace have fluctuated as a result, I had to be really intentional about my pace and staying attuned to how I was feeling on any given day. Hence the night before decision, which was really based off of how well I ran the 5K the day before and how strong I felt post run. I was ready to start conservative but strong and hang on for the ride.

Snaps from clips on the course 🤩

I’ll be honest, it’s rare that I ever do what I expect or even set out to do. For some reason or another, I’d say nine out of ten times, things change. And I’m ok with that as long as the change is good, but it isn’t always. I mean come on, life is just not that awesome; some awesome, just not all that awesome. LoL. So guess what, yours truly ran at the pace I sorta expected but because life just does it’s thing, I ended up with a progressive limp to my step after the half marathon point. In all honesty, that wasn’t so surprising as I was running at a much faster pace than my long training runs. I expected that my lower back would come into play at some point and was prepared to deal with the discomfort, well sort of anyway. One can never be fully prepared to accommodate pain and so I had already planned on pushing through. My hope was that I would get through most of the run before having to deal with it. So when I started feeling some back soreness around mile 13, I ignored it. I tried to lose myself in the cheers and was very disappointed to note that there were very little in the way of signs to read. In the past, I’ve always occupied myself with reading and admiring the funny, bold,  encouraging, and creative way spectators expressed themselves over the course of 26.2 miles. It has always been a high point entertainment-wise. Another Covid casualty? I don’t know but I missed it and as a result I couldn’t quite shift focus, except momentarily when I saw my niece, who, bless her, showed up three times along the course. I cherish the support. I kept the look out for my cousins who were out there somewhere in the crowds, I was sure, but never managed to connect with them until the finish. However, actively searching them out distracted me for some time until it didn’t anymore and by then overcompensating for my lower back issues was expressing itself in my right knee, which felt like it was on fire then. And that’s where, in my view, experience kicked in. In all my time running, in all the races, and in particular, the marathons I’ve done, they have created in me a tremendous capacity to see things through and finish well. All I’ve learned about pushing limits, digging deep, and finishing the course may have been for moments like what I experienced on October 9 and I am thankful for it all. By God’s grace and with a tenacity I can only attribute to experience, I sucked up the pain and managed, on the final incline and homestretch, to increase my pace and smile as I crossed the finish line in 3:27:24, only 13 seconds slower than my best time on this course some 7 years before.

Post Race – we did it 🥳

Whoo hoo! Even though I can’t remember much of the areas we ran through and what it looked like. Had I not run the course three times before, it would be really hard to describe anything. Sometimes pain can blur things and I can honestly say that the last couple of miles was all a blur. The faces, the course, the runners, it all blended into one. Weirdly enough, the only thing I could see crystal clear was the finish line in the final 800m. A friend later told me that she looked over to her left around mile 20 or so and was greatly surprised to see me. She called out and while I made eye contact with her and mumbled that I was in pain, I never broke stride or looked back as I ran past her. I remember it as part of the blur. After crossing the finish line, I knew well enough to keep on moving – albeit slowly – stopping is never a good idea as it can facilitate cramps among other things. So it is with good reason race officials shepherd runners through. They really don’t mean to be mean even though they’re also bent on keeping the area accessible to other runners coming through. Sometime soon after, I was able to locate said friend and another who shadowed me of sorts and as we hugged and congratulated each other and grimaced together for a photo, it occured to me that though the pain is real, what is even more real is that I/we can do hard things and we’re really only limited by what we tell ourselves we cannot do. One day I may not be able to run a marathon far less with an injury. But that, my friends, was not the day.

Family Reunion 🥰

September S-miles

Fall sighting in Brooklyn

It’s been another wild month of running in these parts. Every September seems to usher in a marathon season that takes off with such ferocity that I’m always like woah..wait a minute! But then no one’s listening; all too busy running I expect. While I’ve been tacking on the miles with respect to Chicago, the running world’s been preparing for four of the marathon majors happening this Fall. Last weekend we had the Berlin marathon and a marathon world record from everyone’s favorite marathoner, we have a thing for champions, Eliud Kipchoge with a blistering time of 2:01:09. Phew! This coming weekend on October 2 the London marathon will be happening, and next weekend yours truly will be participating in the Chicago marathon. The season will culminate with the New York City marathon on November 9 where I’ll be volunteering and cheering rather loudly at the mile 14 water stop in the borough of Queens. If you happen to be in the environs, please stop and say hi. How’s that for some Fall marathon action! 🍂🏃🏽‍♀️

But let me not get ahead of myself, first this last 10 mile run I have this weekend after which I’m suppose to be super confident about next weekend. We’ll see about that. For now, I’m basking in the best of Fall weather before it gets crazy. October is the month of everything and anything after all, but prayers lifted that we at least get away with a great run day on October 9. 🌥️

I gotta say that aside from my sciatic nerve issues; turns out I have a small herniated disc, which I’m not dwelling on right now, one thing at a time please, I have really enjoyed following a training plan. I’m not sure if I said it before but it’s the first time in some 10+ years of running that I’ve followed a marathon training to the letter and now almost all the way through to race day. It remains to be seen what/if the final results will prove whether it was worth it, but I feel really good about my competency at least. LoL. That alone, I think, is a big deal going into a marathon because there’s always the nagging questions you battle with as to how and if your body will hold up under race day pressures. I think one of the benefits of a plan is that it majorly decreases any misgivings or hesitancy on that account and is a great confidence builder. For sure you can’t anticipate every eventuality, but knowing what you’re capable of removes the burden of doubt. And yay for that because in leading up to D-Day you don’t need to be stressing that sort of stuff. Ideally, no stress at all but we all know life “be life-ing” sometimes 😉.

That said, I’m all about getting the most out of life, minus the stress, whenever I can. For this reason, and also because I figure this will be my last Chicago marathon, I’ve decided to go out with a bit of a bang and have myself the full marathon experience. To this end, I’m volunteering at the runner’s expo on Friday and running the Abbot 5k on Saturday. My hope is to leave the windy city – a city that I’ve really enjoyed running in over the years – with the best memories. So here’s to good weather, a grand time, and the best pacing ever! 🍻

August Long Run Shenanigans; Be encouraged.

Battery Park – along the Hudson River

This month has come and almost gone and it’s been crazy! Crazy weather. Crazy busy. Crazy training runs. It’s crazy that it all happened so fast! Rewind to a few weeks ago when I started marathon training and it was seventeen weeks to race day. Now, we’re down to six. Wait. What? How in the world did it all happen so fast? Meanwhile, I’m here trying to stop time for like one week so I could at least rerun one of my last two long runs. I’ll stop short of saying they were disasters, only they were not at all where I want to be at this point. And I’m sure to be disappointed because apparently time waits on no one. So with September on the horizon here’s a quick sum of August runs.

Summer Streets on Park Ave.

Shout out to my New York City and Summer Streets. Every summer we are treated to 3 consecutive Saturdays of 5 miles of running/exercise bliss aka a shutdown of  Park Avenue in Manhattan from the upper east side all the way down to the Brooklyn bridge. On a typical day iconic Park Avenue is a traffic thoroughfare, so to have it closed to vehicular traffic is a sight for sore eyes. There were strollers, joggers, cyclists, roller blades, skate boards, scooters, anything with momentum, and runners of course. The heat, the people, the activities, the music, and the energy on those streets – it was crazy fun! You might have heard of the term “sweating bullets” yup, that was us out there. I ran with the Nike run club on one of their runs on a summer street Saturday and it was a treat to run alongside other runners, most in training for a fall marathon, with many getting ready for the nyc marathon. It was a large group with many pacers and paces so it was easy to fit in. It was a great 12 miles! The only downside is the late, by which I mean 8:15 a.m start. Summer sun don’t play and neither do I when it comes to getting my long runs done early (by 8:30am) so I don’t have to suffer under its brilliant rays.

End of the Broadwalk @ Coney Island Beach

Another long run I did was out to Coney Island and the beach, which was really an epic fail and my bad. I was exhausted from shenanigans the night before and got up so much later than I had hoped. And so started 15.5 miles of unpreparedness. It sucked but I was determined to run to the beach and back and I did. Just barely. I encountered, what is termed “the wall” in running speak. It’s the feeling you get of not being able to run any further, like a wall is blocking your way forward – hence the term. It happened on the way back, around mile 11, with the sun high in the sky and me without any shade or water. Gosh, I wanted to quit. Call an Uber, I had my phone, no one else would know. But there’s no motivation like self motivation. Somehow, through my inate grit and a merciful God I’m sure, I dug deep and deeper still a few times after stopping for some breaths, and was able to climb over that wall to make it back home just about 2 hours later. You can be sure it was my first and last wall encounter.

Along the Pier on the west side highway
Brooklyn Bridge

The long-run saga continues with a run through a big chunk of The Big Apple. Two weeks before the last run I mentioned above, I did a 2-hour run around the lower perimeter of Manhattan one weekend after a nice 1-hour long active stretch. Crazy me, I decided to go for a sunset run along the East River and the Hudson River starting on the lower east side with some late sunshine and really phenomenal views. I always say NYC has the best skyline in the world. Forgive my bias, as well as my ignorance, I don’t have much basis for comparison. But I imagine it is pretty special as visitors from all over the world come to get in on the action. The downside to that run was the crowds..there were so many people out and about as I ran along the Seaport, Battery Park, and along the piers and the Hudson River on the west side highway. A bit of a zoo. Eeek. But it was also Saturday evening in New York City, go figure. In addition to which, I was also very distracted with the view and felt the urge to take a dozen photos. Just poor planning on my part, or a lack thereof really, and I was left chasing this 2-hour clock all the way up to West 96th Street and back down to midtown to wrap up at Bryant Park sometime after 9pm. Can I just say I hardly noticed that I was running through Times Square at night because it looked like midday – the noise, yes noise, the crowds, and the bright lights everywhere was disconcerting to say the least. I was thorough annoyed with myself to have run into that. Shouldn’t I have known better? Surely never again! Then I had a sense of dejavu. Might I have done that before? Now, that’s just crazy! I don’t dwell on it.

Jersey City skyline from Battery City
Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan’s Financial District

This month, I’ve had early morning runs and evening runs – those are the times that work best with my schecule. I much prefer early mornings even though it takes me a couple of miles before I’m really awake. Once I get going and the sun is a non-issue then it’s going to be a good one. I ran local the last weekend of August and kept within a few miles of home but in a different area from which I’m accustomed. I don’t know how I feel about running around Brooklyn yet. I’ve had some encounters with unmentionable creatures that I’m hoping won’t become a thing so I’ll wait for a bit before that influences my views. LoL. But what I do know is it’s much busier and noisier than where I lived before. I don’t like running around nor into people. I prefer serenity and stupendous views. Sadly, the two don’t come together in this city so one has to be willing to gain some and lose some. I’m ok with that because the upside is that with each run I get stronger mentally, build endurance, discover new depths to myself, and push those limits.

Sunset over the Hudson River

Are you ready to push those limits? This may look different for you. Whether it’s your first 5K, marathon #10, your first ironman or ultra, or you’re thinking grander or smaller – even starting an exercise program, or getting a coach or trainer; you are on to something. Be encouraged and like the good book says, do not despise these small beginnings. One step is always better than none and step two is easier and sets you up to keep stepping and keep moving. Know that every step outside of comfortable and routine is a step forward. September, Fall, Chicago marathon, and new beginnings are all just around the corner and like me, you too can stumble along until you get those feet steady and sure. Running, as is the case with all journeys, is about progression and not perfection.

Nike Group Run

Hydration or Hype? How, Why, When, What’s the fuss anyway?

Photo credz @ Pinterest

Hot is more than how the stepper in front of you looks my friend, it’s a current state of being these summer days. I’m not quite sure about in other parts of the world, save for the Caribbean and here in these United States, but I’d wager that the temps are a bit on the upside just about everywhere this side of heaven. No climate debating tho, it’s just too damn hot for all that. Lol. Personally, I feel I’m the only one concerned about self-combustion, everyone else is just skulking around in less and less clothes. On the run tho is an entirely different affair. We’re out here sweating something crazy! Which reminds me of how we can overestimate our capacity sometimes and get tripped up by the smallest of things – in this case, staying hydrated.

See, we only watch these superhero movies and some of us pretend but spoiler alert, it’s not real! We’re still humans, and outside of our  capacity for love and compassion – still sort of superheroish I think – we still have to do the needful and drink not so dumb stuff like water. And in greater amounts too! So superhero size that if you want, but don’t leave it out no matter what you do. According to Harvard School of Public Health, drinking enough water daily is important for many reasons including: regulating body temperature, delivering nutrients to the cells, keeping organs functioning properly, preventing infections, improving sleep quality, cognition, and mood. The truth is they had me at the “keeping organs functioning properly” – that part. I would not want to know me without properly functioning organs – all 79 of them – because I probably wouldn’t be able to walk much less run. Sounds painful. Also, we’re out here conversating, drumming up ideas, and firing up our imaginations. We need to be alert, have clarity, and the right energy etc., Who doesn’t need a good night’s sleep! In fact, many nights. I promise you wouldn’t want to know me sleep deprived either. And thank God you don’t have to! We are blessed to be living in a part of the world with access to drinking water.

Modern day conveniences have brought about not only access to drinking water, but a host of other much-touted H2O alternatives in the form of juices, energy drinks, sports drinks, flavored water, vitamin water, sparkling water, and even bottled coconut water. Choices. Choices. What to do with all these choices? The literature out there still gives preference to water as the #1 hydrating beverage for the average Joe who engages in any exercise activity up to thirty minutes. For endurance athletes and others engaging in exercise activity for longer durations some type of sports drinks may be necessary to maintain energy levels needed for exercise but there are also protein and carb options like dried fruit and nuts and healthier protien bars that can fuel energy. Most health experts agree that it’s best to stay away from sugar-sweetened beverages when trying to stay hydrated. They’re just not worth the use, says Professor Walter Willet of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Luckily, I am an advocate for flavored water where I can add my choice of veggie or fruit like lemons, cucumbers, and a host of others. You’re entitled to go a little crazy with these options and find what excites your taste buds. And if you’re feeling like a dose of comfort with added energy, it’s safe to have milk, tea, and coffee to bring up those hydration levels too! Oh and have lots and lots of watermelon. It’s something crazy like 91% water and naturally sweetened. You can’t go wrong with that!

Experts recommend 11 cups of water for the average Jane and 16 cups for Joe – milk, coffee, and tea included. So now that we’ve established what to drink, the rest is pretty easy right? In the words of Nike, just do it. Typical daily hydration involves me usually greeting the day with a big hearty slug of water, because gosh, it feels like I’ve been running in my sleep, I’m always so thirsty. Then, I fill up my water bottle (1 litre): water and fruit and I usually drink it out in 4-5 hours and have a refill, which usually lasts through the night. Running hydration is separate and different. Most running days before a run, I would do rink 8 ozs of an electrolyte supplement and replenish with water and a shake when I get back. Usually, for a short workout run, I don’t run with fluid but hydrate when I get back from be running with water and sometimes a protien shake. If it’s a longer run, I would usually get water from targeted water fountains in the areas I’m running. I’m considering getting a hydration vest, which will allow me to run with my own fluid. I have friends who have it and they swear it’s a game changer. This summer heat has me convinced I won’t regret the investment. LoL that’s right, it’s expensive but worth it.

So there you have it – my humble attempt at staying hydrated this summer. Don’t hesitate to share any ideas you have on your hydration method. We can swap sap tips LoL. I’ll be glad you did and we’ll be better hydrated together.😃

@ Pinterest

Summer Smiles and Vacation Miles

Gulfport Beach, FL

Summer Vacations can be a lot. A lot of fun, sun, family time, adventure, excitement and very low on exercise and healthy eating. But we try. It’s the heat and humidity that defines exercise on vacation for me. As it is right now, it’s melt-me hot in some parts. Now, you would think this Caribbean gal is accustomed to and even enjoys the sun and you would be right. As long as it doesn’t involve direct exposure like sunbathing and running, I can do sunshine. In fact, I love sunshine since I’m no fan of cold weather. But I’m also no fan of tanning or bearing my flesh to the toll of direct sunshine, so imagine that my family decided on a week’s vacay in Southern Florida to celebrate my birthday. I can recall going to Disney something like 10 years ago so forgive my poor memory in agreeing to that crazy plan. I don’t know if it gets any hotter anywhere else on God’s earth, maybe the desert, and if so rest assured I won’t be going. Ever.

The heat and humidity was wild y’all!  I mean we were on the Gulf so I knew the water would be warmer than what I was used to but no one told me it was going to be soup out there! Y’all, I’ve never felt anything like it and I practically grew up on the beach. But then that was the Caribbean Sea and not the Gulf of Mexico. Like wow! I’m still regrouping but I will say that I was able to brave the heat and get a couple of runs in – early a.m runs of course, which more than likely kept me alive. I’ll be honest, first I had to talk myself into getting up and then talk myself into lacing up my running shoes and stepping out the door. It didn’t matter what time it was, there was a blanket of heat awaiting me out that door. I seriously considered running in my bathing suit but figured I would only be able to stay on the beach so opted for clothes. Running on sand is no easy feat for any long distance.

The weather itself was quite startling with major mood swings. We would go from bright and sunny skies to thunderous clouds in a heartbeat with the prevailing threat of thunderstorms a daily thing and rain quite common. What remained quite consistent was the very warm ocean water. Whether we went swimming at night, out on a boat ride, or stayed in the ocean for sunset and through the threat of thunderstorms and drizzles, the water didn’t get any cooler. Even when we went jet skiing far out in deeper waters with dolphins about it stayed warm. Despite this we had a great deal of fun and I remain super pleased with myself for braving the heat, the late nights into early mornings with insufficient sleep, and the prevailing vacation mood to find the determination to run anyway. This is the same determination I embrace for every marathon – the surety that, as long as God wills it, I will finish what I start and no obstacle will stop me.

This perspective has served me well over the years both in everyday life and in running. I determine a course of action and follow though to the very end. No flaking for me. And that’s just the kind of attitude I need to take back to the city and back to my training plan. Because it’s still on friends. I’ve determined to run my best Chicago marathon this year and it’s going down by God’s grace. Ready, set, let’s run this summer!

Training for Chi Marathon

Night run are still my fave summer runs

Mid-year already! That’s right we’re running through June at the speed of a twister. And no surprise, with the weather we’ve been having, that we’ve already had a few tornado warnings this month. We’ve only not had hurricanes; but hail, heatwave, humidity, rain, we’ve had it all and we’re  still here! Speaking of here, and just like that it’s marathon training time. I think I mentioned before that I’m running the Chicago marathon this Fall so here goes training. I’m getting a leg up this year by starting training early to give myself time to ease in with no rush or fanfare; I’m usually a last-minute sorta person and don’t mind the fuss. LoL.  I’m hoping this  strategy of mine will pay off with big gains in the areas of pace and endurance.

So this year, I decided to try something new: engage in a full 17-week marathon training program. In the past, I’ve mostly done my own thing with a of couple weeks here and there with the B.A.A training program when I ran the Boston marathon, but I’ve never committed to an entire training program that’s seventeen weeks long! This is new ground for me. One thing that I’ve discovered with training though is that at the beginning you always feel like you have forever to prepare but the reality is that weeks are just days that seems like a lot until it’s not. All too soon it’ll be down to tapering time and I’ll be wondering wherever did the time go; but by then race day will be days away and I’ll either be ready or not. I’m putting it out there that I will be ready because of the training I’m about to embark upon to master my speedwork, tempo runs, long runs, and recovery runs. The result will be worth the sacrifice to bring me, quite literally, up to speed and prepared to run my best race.

But really, what does that look like? Well, this is the second week of training so it’s early yet to give any stats but what I can say is that I’m using the Nike run club app. Nike is  the main sponsor for the marathon and those running folks have a plan all prepped and ready to run. I mean I think those guys know what they’re talking about, they’re the pros after all, and it’s time I learnt something new anyway. This is the ideal stage of the game to get uncomfortable with routines and try something new to mayhap get a “new” result. I’m here for it. And, can I tell you? I’m off to a great start with the audio-guided runs! Who knew that was a thing? Likely, a lot of runners while I was all about my “own thing.” How it works is a virtual coach explains, encourages, and leads you through the specific run for that day with a focus on helping you to maintain pace. This is great for me, for though I have years off running experience, I oftentimes struggle w pacing on longer runs. So, here I am, reimagining running this training period and so far so great. A lesson I’ve already learnt is that all runs should start off slow and easy. In all honesty, I didn’t not know this, buried somewhere under the need for speed I’ve always known that building up one’s pace is far better for progression and far more sustainable over the long or longer run but like many people, I haven’t been good at the application process.  No excuses, but for all practical purposes I’m not particularly patient and well I’m just not very good at slow and easy. LoL. Let me correct that, in the past I haven’t been good at practicing patience but I’m doing much better now at exercising that particular spiritual fruit. Thank God; It’s never too late to learn.

The plan is pretty straight forward,  for now at least, 5 days of running with 2 days off: 2 consecutive recovery run days, a speed run day, followed by a recovery run day, and capped with a long run day. Strength training is recommended for day 6 followed by a rest day. I have to say that the most challenging aspect of this training is staying consistent and getting those runs in during the coolest part of the day. My ability (we’re talking tenaciousness here) to do those two things will determine the success of this plan. Yes, I can. And so too, can you!

The Brooklyn Half Marathon in pictures

Last Saturday, I had the opportunity to stand and bike along on the sidelines of the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon. And surprisingly, I had a great time not running! Lol. I’ll admit, very often when I’m on the sidelines of a race, I impatiently wish I had opted to run instead. Not this time! No Siree. I was quite happy with my lot and was very loud and, if I may so myself, hard on the runners out there trying to get them down to the beach before the sun came out. Starting out to a foggy morning did a little to keep the heat down for a short while before the humidity came to stay along with waves of runners.

Lucky for me, I now live in Brooklyn  and pretty close to Prospect Park so I was able to ride out to a predetermined point on the course, on Ocean Parkway, and cheer on one of my friends before the tidal wave of runners hit. From that point on, everyone was everyone as I couldn’t identify anyone and they just kept on coming. It’s been a minute with the races aside from the fifth avenue mile last year, which I ran and the nyc marathon, where I volunteered at the finish line, I hadn’t been out on a course cheering much. It’s another part of the running world that I love and now cherish. But I’ll be honest, that Brooklyn run is a beast all of the time. In all  my years running in New York, I’ve not heard or seen different. First off, the weather is almost always a miss. It’s either freezing rain, windy, humid, or hot. It never disappoints and it didn’t.

Costumed Runner on the course

I have run the Brooklyn Half four times and each time it was quite the beastly experience. LoL. So much so, I’m convinced I won’t ever do it again. And that has nothing to do with the organization and execution of this race as it’s among the best by local organizers, New York Road Runners (nyrr). My experience is mine and largely based on my dislike for the latter 6 miles of the race, which is a pet peeve of mine as it relates to a lack of variation on any course. The last six miles of this race is run on Ocean Parkway, a usually busy and main traffic thourafare that’s a straight, dead run to the popular Coney Island beach with its attractions. Dead because there’s nothing to see and no shade, just an endless roadway without any seeming variation or end. My past experience has been everything from humid to montonous and anything in between. I was out there biking and cheering and I didn’t feel any less angst. And so my yells to “come on, stay with it, yes you can, you’re halfway to the beach” were from a real place. I was once in those shoes feeling like, what the heck did I get myself into, and I really didn’t think anyone on the sideline could relate though I appreciated their encouragement.

Closer to the Island aka Coney Island

The truth is there was a lot more happening out on the course this time around with spectators and volunteer participation. As a result, there were a lot more presence to be seen and even interactions to be had should one choose to. This adds a bit of variation and decreases monotony in the instance of live music and dancing or even music boxes and funny cheer cards to read at various points as well as sprinkler stations and spectators giving out random things like candy or wet towels. It all adds up to the “race experience” and is always greatly appreciated by runners. That said, biking was much easier and I am grateful for that perspective and the opportunity I had to bike down to the finish and back up while cheering runners along. The beach looked pretty inviting and I’m sure it was a welcome sight and feel for many runners that day as they entered Coney Island. It was always the best part for me!

May Flowers and all that jazz about running

The Heather Garden @ Ft. Tryon

I’m not even gonna bother with the fact that we’re in May except to say it’s been interesting around here with April showers showing no sign of stopping. With a weather that’s been all over the map this year, one kinda just has to go with the flow and so running just sorta happens these days. In addition, my back issue continues to mess with me, which makes it harder to get into a steady running flow. But yours truly is always up for a challenge and I’m confident, by God’s grace, that I’ll get there. In the past, patience hasn’t been a strength of mine but I promise I’m getting better and so there remains hope for other areas as well. I have a marathon to train for y’all! And these sneaky months are almost too much. The summer’ll be over before it even gets here and then it’ll be marathon time! I can’t process that right now, so I won’t. One day at a time sweet Jesus, as my mom would say when I was little. If there is a lesson to be learnt, and there is, it’s to be present HERE (wherever that is for you) and to live each day fully. Nothing less required, nothing more expected.

Pink and Red Azeleas

Living each day fully simply means focusing on the present and what one can do right here. It means smelling the flowers, cherishing its beauty, appreciating its purpose, and allowing oneself to be wowed by it all. So how about those flowers then? The literal ones: those cherry blossoms, lavenders, irises, tulips, daffodils, azeleas, pansies, peonies, dogwood and magnolias. And then there are the figurative ones: health, opportunity, family, relationships, gifts, talents, faith, etc. I’ll be honest, literal flowers are by far prettier and so much less complicated and messy. That’s not to say I’ll choose them over what I’ve got, well not always anyway. LOL. Don’t worry, this is as deep as I’ll get. Spring blossoms and so does the garden in my mind. I’m suddenly all about rooting out the weeds and making room for new seeds and giving the flowers an atmosphere to blossom fiercely. After two years that felt like a drought of sorts, I imagine we can all benefit from some mental spring cleaning and taking the time to tend the garden of our minds. Till the soil, uproot some things, plant some seeds and water/love the plants and watch them bloom. Sounds like work. Sounds like it’ll take some time. Sounds like an investment. But oh, the returns!

Purple Pansies (above) and Candy Tuft

Can I tell you that running in the Springtime is a renewing, refreshing, and affirming exercise. It is simply exhilarating to literally inhale the fresh sweet smell of the flowering trees, to take in the bees greedily guzzling up the nectar from their favorite flowers and the butterflies pollinating from flower to flower, while the birds try out their new spring songs and squirrels dash about crazily in the hopes of a treat. You might even be treated to some jazzy notes from a random performer (not-so-random I think) or even get to strike up a note w a quartet at various points. This is the scene in our city parks this Spring my friends. If you’re able to, you want to take advantage and get out there to witness this pleasing assault on your senses while upping your heart rate and trading off any anxiety and stress. You’ll find that the benefits far outweigh the sacrifices of the couch, getting up earlier, pushing through exhaustion, and/or lacing up those shoes and going for a run. Also, while you’re out, it is worth your while to quite literally stop and smell whatever version of roses or flowers you meet. That’s one way to tend to “the garden” and sow some seeds.

White Azeleas

You can probably tell I’m a bit of a messy soul. Yes, plants and nature and gardening are my jam. Along with running, and biking, and hiking and a hundred other things. I’m literally a LOL kinda gal so forgive me for wanting to drop that all over my writing, and let’s just say I get around with my interests and activities. I recently went out trotting in our city with the sole intent of checking out spring happenings in “the garden” around me and it was such a treat – a party for my senses really. The result was a barrage of photos of which I chose a select few for your pleasure. Flowers are pretty amazing in their tenacity (I’m taking creative licence here) to push their way out, amidst great odds at times, to assert their presence and demand our admiration. In a world with so much else vying for our attention, I think we could do a lot worse than give in a few times this Spring. Blink twice and it’ll all be gone to make way for another. Don’t mind then if I just be present here for a minute, or a day, or two. Take the time and let the flowers wow you my friends. You won’t regret it!

Virginia bluebells, Azeleas, and the GW bridge
Walking/Running Path

Running down Memory Lane: deja vu in Central Park

Jackie Onassis Reservoir, Central Park
Along the Bridal Path & Jackie O.

I can’t believe it’s been eight weeks! In fact, I’m sure it hasn’t. But I’ve done all I can with not running so there goes nothing in my report on the benefit of rest to my sciatic nerve. Nothing yet that is. I have hope to getting to the bottom of this but it will take some time and apparently I’m overdue a bout of patience so I’m practicing. As you can see the struggle is real as I couldn’t wait to get back in the running game – restrictions welcomed.

Along the East Drive
Center Drive

Blame it on Spring and the warmer (for the most part) weather. I mean I wasn’t really expected to go cold turkey like that for more than a few weeks right? Yes, that’s what I thought too. Lol. Whenever you’ve arrived at the point where you’re having conversations with yourself about running it’s time to go. And so I did.

Cherry Blossoms opp. the Met museum
Cleopatra’s Needle

Newbie brooklynite goes running in her comfort zone – that was me last Friday evening doing a loop of this slice of heaven right here in New York City. Listen, I rave about Central Park all the time. But the park in Spring, in full bloom, is something special. And while it wasn’t quite “full bloom” time, maybe a week or so to go, it was special enough that I had to stop every 800 feet to snap a pic. It was busy, beautiful, and best weather special. That means runners, strollers, cyclists, picnics, ball games, you name it..it was all happening under the blooming and flowering trees. That’s the New York I love my friends; city grit and grime and  crowded subways and smell of pot notwithstanding. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, so sang Alicia Keys. Local legend that she is, she may be on to something.

Picnic on the Great Lawn
West Drive

An oasis in the desert (tho more of a concrete jungle, again, Alicia called it) is Central Park in New York City. Six miles all the way around on the outer loop, I started at the south side of the park and touched on all the major points that had been common to me only two years ago only to realize it hadn’t gotten any flatter with time. It still rolled and will give you a good workout any day of the week. Those hills tho, they hit different this time around and it was with a sense of deja vu that I found myself going through my paces on both Cat hill and Harlem hill. Phew, no shame in my game, I’m getting older. No matter, I didn’t quit and stopped only to grab some photos. Running can be therapeutic in a lot of ways and I’m guessing many others were benefitting out there that evening.

City Skyline from the reservoir
Reservoir Loop

Additionally, it was nice to see past the crowd and connect with fellow runners just out for a run in a gorgeous part of the city on a beautiful spring evening. These days running can’t get much better than that so I’ll take the wins where I can get them and remain thankful for health, Central Park, and these legs o’mine. After all, we still have a lot of ground left to cover.

Central Park South/W 59th St. Entrance
Columbus Circle, Park side

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