Healthy in Mind as in Body



At the rate this pandemic is going I figure it’s a good idea to address the issue of our mental well-being. In this season especially, but not singularly, it’s not enough to keep fit physically, more and more we’re coming to understand that our mental well-being is just as important. We know that physical exercise can help our mental state; we’ve talked about its positive impact through the release of those feel-good endorphins and its ability to put us in a better frame of mind etc. But juxtaposed to this is the inability to engage fully in any exercise activity without the capacity of a sound mind. If we’re anxious and/or feeling any anyone of its “cousins” like fear, depression, stress etc., it’s next to impossible to actively engage ourselves in any type of activity to promote our well being.

That said, like exercise is to the body so is peace to the mind. And because these are highly-stressful times, we need to pay as much attention to caring for our minds as our bodies. Mental health professionals among others will agree that, present circumstances notwithstanding, the issue of mental health is one that has been getting increasing attention in recent years. There are many reasons for this but some have pointed to the advance in technology – the rise of social media – and the subsequent decline in real substantial relationships and meaningful, face-to-face communication as a delineating factor in the increase of psychological and mental issues that many face. While there are many contributory factors, I chose this one to make the case that if this is indeed so, then this season could be especially difficult for some of us. The fact is we have the makings of a perfect storm with the economic and social fallout from Covid-19. People, the world over and in these United States, are dealing with a conglomeration of issues from grief of the loss of family members, to sickness themselves, to unemployment, to restrictions to their freedom, to isolation in some instances, and then not enough space in others as a result of being in quarentine. It’s enough to make anyone lose their will along with their mind. And with all the losses already, that’s the one thing we can’t afford to lose.

I can’t promise that I have any profound knowledge when it comes to mental health and I’ll be the first to point anyone with any real and lasting issue/concern to a mental health professional: therapist, counsellor, or doctor for a consult and appropriate treatment. But I think it’s important to be aware that there is a need for us to be proactive in our own mental care to preempt a downward slide into what could turn into a concern that may require treatment. With that in mind, I’ve dug around and gotten some ideas on how we can take care of the invaluable real estate that is our minds in these trying times.

Things to do:

  • Create a Care Plan for Your mind – this is a more general and long-term-type plan but can include some short-term ideas you can then transfer to a daily schedule. These activities will differ from person to person but will generally consists of  aspects of fun, meditation or prayer, music, art, and/or creative ideas, life-long learning activities, and rest and relaxation.
  • Create a daily schedule – that includes some of the above so as remain focused and on task. This will leave less time for idle hands and minds. You might include a task or project you devised to empower or help yourself or someone else.               Examples are: Reorganize and clean out your closets and bag stuff for donations, safely volunteer at a soup kitchen or pantry, and plant a kitchen garden. 
  • Journal or Write – journal your thoughts, your prayers, your intentions, or whatever you’re feeling. Often, writing things out can help with processing difficult issues and allows room fora  honest and sometimes more objective assessment, which can help you to determine next steps. Writing also provides clarity and can help in either keeping you on course or provide a proactive approach to indicate when you’re running off course.
  • Stay connected – human connections via family or friends, or a mentor, pastor, group members and leaders are important to keep you grounded and to help you feel you’re not alone even with all the social distancing and quarentine guidelines. It is also important to know that there’s someone there to reach out to if you need to talk or need help of some kind.
  • Begin a New Course of Study/ Skill – Now is a good time to pick up a new course of study, a language, or a skill if you’re one with a lot of time on your hands. Choose something that can be beneficial to you and can add value to your field or career choice, or if you just for personal development. For example, graphic design might be feasible if you’re creative-minded and have some technical knowledge.

I encourage you to go easy on yourself. These are trying times to say the least so it’s ok to be patient and kind to yourself. Encourage yourself, challenge yourself, be good to yourself, but more importantly love yourself. If at anytime you feel you’re can’t process it all, reach out to someone. Get help. Contrary to popular opinion, reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness but takes enormous strength, wisdom, and humility. Stay strong-minded friends.

source: lifekdesigns.com

A Mid-day Ride to Central Park

On the Queensboro bridge

Last Thursday I got the wild idea to ride to Central Park from my home in Queens. Now many of you know that I run everywhere, so no big surprise if I had planned on running there, sure it might’ve been a bit of an endeavor with the impromptu nature of my decision, but not impossible. However riding to Central Park is on a whole other level given that I have never ridden in the city before and that I have only started cycling about 3 months ago, a shirt while after the pandemic started. Add to that the run-in I had with a car about a month after – scars still visible – and you’ll perhaps understand my delayed incredulity that I actually never second guessed myself when, in a moment of desperation to get out of Quarentine and see the city I missed fiercely, I opted to hop on my bike and go the way a newbie cyclist had never gone before.

Queens Boulevard

That I’m in a position to retell the tale bodes well for newbies everywhere. Though I will say I think second-guessing is a killer. Do not indulge. I’ll even go so far as to say that upon deciding that you’re going to do something, realistically speaking, then just do it. There’s nothing more dangerous to success that doubt or lack of belief in oneself. And the fact is the longer you spend in the valley of indecision, the more unlikely a positive outcome seems. If, per chance, I needed the impetus to get going, then there it was. I was not going to be left wondering if I could have had I been courageous enough to.

Long Island City

In hindsight, it’s wild that I started out in the afternoon. I would never choose that time to run so it must have been the promise of overcast skies that made me so adventurous, that and the knowledge that only hotter days were ahead. I set out on a Google searched and pre-planned course hoping that it didn’t include any freeways and highways. While it didn’t appear so, I couldn’t be sure. I have many anxious moments when I think about riding on roads with big trucks and vans etc that show little care for cyclists that dare to venture onto what they perceive as their domain. Imagine my surprise to find that I had the use of bike lanes and paths the entire way! There has never been a happier cyclist, except for those in the Tour de France I’m sure. You would have to know New York City and Queens in particular to understand my elation. I was all kinds of ecstatic to be cycling down Queens Boulevard after going through Kew Gardens, the back area off of Flushing, through Forest Hills and unto the boulevard. I then made my way through Elmhurst, Woodside, Sunnyside, then into Long Island City, and over the Queensboro bridge (a bit of an upward climb that eventually went down all the way into the city) and finally spilled out unto 1st Avenue in Manhattan. It felt super amazing to be finally back after my almost 3-month hiatus. Here’s the thing, each time I return to Manhattan, after a holiday or break, there’s always this feeling of returning home. It’s the oddest yet familiar feel of the crowded and often-time dirty-bright streets that offers a weird welcoming feeling that’s really difficult to pen. One of those things that just is I guess.

The MET Museum

That said, this time around there were a lot of locals about on 1st Ave. For a New Yorker it’s pretty easy to point out the locals, they’re the ones on a mission and under no threat of getting run over due to idyllic strolling and gazing about. I was surprised at how easy it was to get around on a bike there, and I shouldn’t have been really given that I’ve seen lots of cyclists in the city before – often riding at breakneck speed through traffic. I always imagined that I could never be a part of that and I still do. I think the reason I was able to get away with it this time around was because of the reduction in traffic about. Not saying I’m glad for “Covid-19,” absolutely not. But less foot and vehicular traffic does make room for wonders otherwise impossible. As I moved over to 5th Ave, on the Upper East Side, it was easy to see the effects of a city denied its ability to shine. It also made me quite sad as I had never seen the city so quiet and lack luster before. Now I understand the governor’s comment about the pandemic bringing this city to its knees. How apt. I rode to the Metropolitan Museum and reminisced for a few before heading into the park for a brief sit-down in the fields off the boathouse (restaurant and lake) area and in view of the popular Cat Hill, a running favorite of my run group for hill repeats.

@Central Park

It’s not often I ride into the city, never before actually, so I had to lie on a rock, take some pics, and get on a call to give credence that this was really happening. I was not alone in my jubilation as there were many others about on picnics, exercising, walking or laying about. One might be tempted to think sunshine was missing because of the overcast nature of the skies but that didn’t stop the humidity and brief specks of sunlight that made me glad for the clouds. I eventually got up and made my way to the mall area, famous for being featured in a few movies. The Mall It’s another favorite interval running spot for my run group and an overall favorite of many park goers; that day so green and uncrowded. From there I meandered my way through the East Drive, where the NYC Marathon exits out the park onto its final leg on West 59th Street. There I stood at Grand Army Plaza with 5th Avenue off to my left and the famous Time Plaza Hotel to my right. Straight up ahead on 5th Ave was the opportunity for a shopping experience the likes of which you’ve only seen in the movies, only not that day, they were all closed, well almost all. From my precarious perch, camera in hand, I could see the Apple store open while practicing social distancing with people lined up outside. Apparently, iPhones are “essential”. Still, there was more traffic in these parts and I was getting nervous so my hands went to the handle bars and my eyes to the roads as I made my way back over to 1st Ave and onto the bridge once more for my return to Queens. I didn’t feel so nostalgic then, where there was a will, there will be a way.

East Drive

It’s funny how much faster the return route is. After taking forever to get to a location because of an unknown route, the return is always so much more seamless and quick. It seemed in no time at all I was back in my neighborhood. In actuality, it was about 2 hours and that was because I took a wrong turn somewhere as mass confusion abounds when it comes to me following the street rules. I finished up with a total ride time of 3 hours, 59 minutes. Not too bad for my first long ride in unfamiliar territory I think. Now I know I can do anything! Kidding. Sorta. 😜

The East River from the Bridge
Queensboro Bridge

Why Running & Why now?

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Source: New York Times

I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself, and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs. – Jesse Owen

I’m currently sitting in the sunshine writing this and it strikes me how crazy it is that it took a stay-at-home order for many of us to finally get what has been staring us in the face all along; It really is the little things. Little things like sunshine, and sunsets, and birds chirping, and cherry blossoms, and spring time, and family time, and quiet time, and prayer time, and good health, friendships, date night, girl time, basic amenities, and yes even our jobs, are really blessings that all too often go unnoticed and underappreciated because of our too-busy-getting-ahead lives.

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Yet here we are, not of our own violation obviously, finding ourselves in unfamiliar territory – with time on our hands. And it’s not just time we have; some of us have families, and God help us, kids at home, and wait it gets worse, to navigate online schooling and even homeschool. Others may be be able to work from home, which can go either way and could be good or not-so-much, depending on the home situation. Even if you’re alone, without dependents or family drama, being alone could be the issue. Whichever way you figure it, there’s some type of stress involved – whether it’s emotional, financial, mental, and/or physical, we’re all feeling something that is, more than likely, not super positive these days. We need help! An outlet, an escape, a break – whatever you want to call it as long it’s a positive way to channel the negative energy that’s certain to arise from this new “normal.” Lucky for you, I know just the thing, and whilst it’s nothing new, it’s one of those things that many of us, myself included, have been taking for granted all along. 

Running, my friends, is the most underrated and one of the most underused form of exercise there is. While there are more people exercising today than ever before, folks are more apt to find a gym of which there a wide variety with dozens of specialties. The basic gym with regular equipment is almost a thing of the past with many incorporating various types of classes and programs to cater for a diverse membership in the hopes of staving off the competition. And believe me the competition presents a real threat with its modern ideas, tech savvy equipment, and tailored-to-you approach. With all of this vying for one’s attention, it is not difficult to see why the unmotivated, reluctant, or unaware would-be runner may be more apt to stick with the masses and do what is popular and perceivably “easier.”

To be clear, I think that most people of the aforementioned persuasion are either misinformed or misunderstand the nature of running and its benefits to them and thus unwittingly place themselves at the mercy of these corporate gym giants in the hopes of perhaps finding all the answers to their exercise, and sometimes health, needs in one place. Gyms, in my opinion, are a great resource that can provide additional support and even cross training to the runner and is not, nor should it be, a replacement for what is a natural, cheap, and relatively easy form of exercise. Given the situation we’re dealing with these days, I want to suggest that now may be a good time to think about exploring some ways to harness your exercise possibilities and potential outside of the gym. In my last post, I explored several exercises we can indulge in at home and included running in the list as I described exercises and workouts I utilize on a typical day. Here I want to talk a little about some of the science and benefits behind Running as a means to getting you to appreciate its simplicity and practicality.

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Making the case for running is pretty easy with the list of positives far outweighing its  critics who often point to the stress factor on the knees as a drawback to running. The argument can be made that while knee pain can quickly sideline a runner, It’s often a sign of overtraining or a need to improve one’s form or flexibility. (Business Insider)     On a very basic level, running is appealing to most runners because it’s relatively cheap, can be easily adapted to suit your ability, and can be done almost anywhere and at a time convenient to you. You can do it for fun, for competition, for fitness for companionship, and for weight loss. 

Studies have shown that running can help prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some cancers, and a host of other unpleasant conditions. What’s more, scientists have shown that running also vastly improves the quality of your emotional and mental life. It even helps you live longer. (Harvard Health) In the Journal of American College of Cardiology researchers find that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all.       researchers find that even five to 10 minutes a day of low-intensity running is enough to extend life by several years, compared with not running at all.

Running can significantly improve physical and mental health by improving your mind and fight age-related cognitive decline.
• As a form of aerobic exercise, running can reduce stress, improve heart health, help alleviate symptoms of depression, help you sleep better, improve your mood and ability to focus.
• Running is a great calorie burner and is one of the main forms of reducing and maintaining a healthy weight coupled with a healthy diet.

Here are some recommendations for newbie runners under current conditions: 1. Get checked out by your doctor to get the go ahead before starting. You may be able to do a call in or video call with your doctor to get suggestions and recommendations. If not, see #4 and I encourage you to read some literature on starting out and listen to your body for signs on how to proceed. 2. Visit a running store and get fitted for a good pair of running shoes. There is an option to call and discuss with shoe specialist at some stores like Jack Rabbit/ The Running Company during this time. 3. Consider joining a run club for accountability and support when the current conditions improve. 4. Start slowly, consider jogging the first few times and slowly increase pace and distance. 5. Always run in areas where you have a clear view of others and are within range to be safe. 6. Keep social distancing guidelines by running at non-peak times like mid mornings and afternoons. 7. Warm up before your run to avoid injury. See my last post for warm up exercises and cool down when you’re done. 8. Lastly, don’t forget to hydrate. Run with fluid if you plan on going out for a bit or hydrate before and after a short run.

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Source: Pinterest

Sources: Harvard Health Publishing/ Harvard Medical School, Business Insider, Runner’s World, Better Health Channel

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

The Spirit of the Marathon thrived at Boston 2018

@ marathon finish

It is often said one should be careful what one asks for. It is also said that one should be specific in prayer. Whichever it is, it seems I didn’t cover all my bases as far as preparing for the Boston Marathon last Monday. On any typical spring day 26.2 miles is a good and challenging run. Because we haven’t been enjoying typical weather since last season, I shouldn’t have been overly surprised at what blew our way and maybe a bit more prepared – though I’m at a loss as to how, maybe mentally. On this day, the weather was unforgiving in its intent and threw everything it had at us. In fact, it was considered the worst conditions in the 122 years of the running of the Boston Marathon. I won’t dwell too much on the unceasing pouring rain, which started with the light snow on Sunday and ended with Snow again on Monday night post-marathon, or the 40 m/ph wind gusts, and the resulting permeating coldness and chills that saw many runners suffering hypothermia-like symptoms yet fighting valiantly to the end. There were also those for whom conditions made it too difficult to finish, and yet more still adjusted pace and hunkered down with raincoats, heat sheets, or plastic bags determined to run the race of their lives, if just to finish. I won’t dwell I promise; Instead, I prefer to focus on the amazing spirit of the Marathon that shined through the heavy rains on that Marathon Monday and the fact that over 30,000 runners braved it and got their moment to shine amidst the overwhelming clouds.

Runners entering Athlete’s Village

It was something that you couldn’t really prepare for. We began our trek to the buses at Boston Commons, from our respective hotels last Monday, also known as Patriot’s Day in Boston, aware that things were going to be a bit dicey. I mean from the day before at the Expo, we were hearing lots of “good luck out there tomorrow, you guys are gonna need it” and so the seed was sown..it would not be an easy one. Hell, I doubt there’s anything like an “easy” marathon in Boston. In any event, I felt it was just rain and that couldn’t possibly be worse than the heat of the two years prior. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Runners I spoke with at the hotel and on the bus that morning were, like me, wet but optimistic and excited. Not so exciting were wet shoes, which we tried to cover up for as long as possible. Under the tents at Hopkinton we huddled while the rains continued to make mud pies and pools everywhere. What stood out to me then, and even now, was how determined people were to not let the elements outside of their control dictate their ability to see this race through. I recall standing next to a guy under a raincoat, who sounded quite the Englishman, he mentioned being part of a larger group who were all running that day and that they were scattered about seeking warmth but would meet up in their corrals. “We’re running it,” he said, “I just need to change my socks.” See, the question of not running never even entered the conversation. At the hotel earlier, runners had been busy detaining the inevitable onslaught of wet shoes and feet by taping up their shoes or wrapping their feet in bags –It took all of two steps outside to see how futile that was. So there we were, busy strategizing on how best to get started and on staying as dry as possible for the duration. I don’t think quitting even entered anyone’s mind. What you think about are the months of training, the road to qualifying, how far you’ve come, and/or the cause you’re running for. At the end of the day it was the only motivation that was needed to face the elements. And out there, when the wind and rain kept drumming away at that thought, and the cold was attempting to chip away at fortitude months in the making, thousands of us hunkered down, adjusted expectations, and determined we would remember this day, maybe forever, and certainly because it was the day Boston kicked ass – but we also kicked back with over 90% of runners finishing the race in miserable conditions.

Volunteers give high-fives as well as fuel to runners (source: boston globe.com)

EMT officials helping a runner across the finish line (source: bostonglobe)

Another heartening image ingrained with my memories of this race is that of the amazing volunteers that carried us through. From start to finish they were out there with not just fuel but words of encouragement and support that embodied the heart and spirit of the marathon. You had to give it to them, who leaves their warm and comfortable home on a day such as that to stand out there for hours on end to support people they didn’t even know. It’s the bigness of heart that was present time and again, from the kind words and help offered from one runner to the next, to the volunteers at mile 16 water table that offered an encouraging smile along with a drink under pouring rain, to the police men throughout the course, some of whom added a few stripes to their uniform, in my opinion, when they offered words of encouragement while carrying out their duty. The odd soldier was also in attendance along with fire department officers quietly cheering us on and in support of us having a safe and enjoyable race. I remain thankful for their service.

Spectators cheering runners on (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners on Heartbreak Hill (source: bostonglobe.com)

Additionally, the spectators were an outstanding feature of the race that spoke to the indelible awesomeness of the people of Boston. From Hopkinton to Newton, through Brookline to downtown Boston, despite the rains and in spite of the damper atmosphere threatening to overshadow this race, Bostonians came out and cheered their hearts out for the runners. And yes, the crowds might have been a tad smaller than previous years and the funny, unique, and sassy signs were pretty much absent, but that in no way diminished from either the race or the experience. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t call out the volunteers at the finish, in particular for staying the course really and waiting it out as each runner made it home and crossed that finish line. There they were all lined up, ready to assist and help us transition from, what was for many, a difficult run. They hugged, congratulated, and saw to our needs – with the medics and those in the medical tent especially – providing first class care to those of us that were shaking, crying, shivering, hurting and having difficulty breathing.

Desiree Linden wins the women’s race @ the Boston Marathon in a time of 2:39:54 (source: bostonglobe.com)

Runners crossing the finish line on Bolyston Street (source: bostonglobe.com)

The true spirit of the marathon was present and on full display in Boston that Monday, as it was on that fateful day five years ago in that very same city. Any future obstacle might do well to remember that as American, Des Linden showed us how to rally like the champion she is as she ran her way to finish first place in the women’s division. While it was the slowest winning time ever recorded in Boston, it was an amazing finish in miserable conditions and reason for us all to smile. We did. We are, after all, Boston strong.

Me @ post-race

Photos courtesy Boston Globe

Taking NYC Half Marathon Lessons to Boston

Three weekends ago over 30 thousand runners ran the new course from Prospect Park, Brooklyn through the streets of New York City, into Times Square to finish NYRR’s (New York Road Runners) famous NYC half marathon in Central Park.

It’s a morning that I will remember for some time to come. Starting out cold and windy, runners were left to improvise at the start with triple layers, blankets, heat sheets and various oddities with one aim in mind, that of not freezing to death, or at the very least, keeping the blood flowing so leg muscles wouldn’t cramp or freeze up. The weather wasn’t that much of a surprise, this race has always been a cold one, but what threw a lot of us off was the brutality of the cold, which was February-like in its intensity. With real-feel temperatures in the teens there wasn’t much we could do but run, run and hope like hell that it would warm up a little and the wind would be kind. This leads to lesson 1: Plan B is hugely important. Extreme temperatures requires plan and goal adaptations, which quite likely means a change in running strategy.

The new course proved that most times different is good. It made for interesting running with new sights, or at least sights seen from a different angle, and many unsuspecting spectators in midtown Manhattan. Bless the hearts of all those who came out in their numbers to support and cheer along the course. They helped me navigate the head and cross winds and to dig deeper when the going got rough. I felt that if they weren’t running yet were willing to brave the cold to support those who were, then it was only right that I give it my best shot. One thing I definitely will take with me is lesson 2: No future pit stops to use the toilet. I’ve always been good at running without that necessity but for some strange reason, that morning, coming off the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn, at around mile 3, I had to go. Huge mistake; for though there were toilets lined up on the side, and while I jumped the railings to get to them, since there was no visible entry, and almost face-planted for my efforts, they were all locked save for one – the last one I tried out of a whole slough.. I sincerely lost about 8-10 minutes there and never really recovered. On the other hand, I felt really good about my hydration, there were adequate water stops, a gel station, and amazing volunteers behind those tables along the course. It is absolutely true that the race would not have been what it was without them. Lessons 3: Giving back blesses not only the one who receives but the giver as well. I am super appreciative to volunteers who give of their time and sacrifice their comfort for us runners.

As I head into Boston this weekend, I’m also mindful of being thankful for the opportunity to be there and to be able to participate in this amazing race for the third time. I remain committed to running my best race and to lesson 4: Never take a race for granted, no matter how much times you’ve run it before, or get complacent with a course. Have a healthy respect for it and always approach it with a strategy that it may become necessary to tweak.

It’s so important to see the opportunity for learning and development in every area of life and running is no different. If the goal is to be a better runner then there’s no better place to learn than in the field.

Your (smart) Marathon Guide

Source: audible.com

A few months ago I promised to do a detailed piece on the steps to take when you do decide to run your first marathon. See, I’ve always believed it’s a done deal – fait accompli – now it’s only a matter of when (LOL). My last post about this was brief and gave a general sense on how to pursue this momentous event. Here, I’ll describe the steps to take now that you’ve already made the all-important decision on where or which marathon. Hopefully this leaves you fully informed and ready to run.

Steps to running your First 26.2

1. Ensure you are fit and able to run by visiting a doctor & doing a routine physical exam. Make sure to mention your plans so the physician can decide if there are any specific or other tests that you need to do.

2. When you get the OK, start doing small runs..even jogging is fine if you’re totally new to this..and increasing your mileage and pace incrementally. Starting out 4-5 times per week is a good idea depending on where you’re at – with a goal of 1 mile initially if you’re new or 3 miles or so for the runner with some experience but haven’t been running in a while. These runs should be done at an easy pace to gauge your ability and get the body used to running. Subsequent weeks should see an increase in both mileage and pace as you progress. The goal is to get your mind and body used to the idea and fact and to begin racking up some mileage. After about 3-4 weeks of assimilating you are now ready to figure out a marathon training plan.

3. First things first. Devise a plan that works for you, one that takes into account where you’re at and where you’re headed. Many of the popular marathons will offer some type of training assistance either online or locally. Depending on your proximity, you can choose which to take advantage of and be prepared to tweak it to suit your purpose. Most plans run between 16-18 weeks and should be a consideration before registration as you want to give yourself enough time to train.

4. I can never emphasize enough the importance of getting connected. Having some type of support system is fundamental to your training and race success. It doesn’t mean that you have to do every run in a group or with someone but only that you need to be accountable at some point in your training to someone, you need the support, encouragement, trading of information and critique that having others in your corner provide. Therefore, join a running group if only for the support aspect, though you stand to gain much more.

5. Around the 25% mark into your training you should be making headway with your running and should likely be focusing on speed, strength, and endurance. It is smart, at this point, to add some group runs into your training as part of your speed work, as in interval training and tempo runs and as part of your long runs, which should be seeing a small but steady increase in mileage weekly. In my training, I always reserve Saturdays for long runs and do them with friends when possible. I also try to run different routes to keep it interesting.

6. The fear factor, which may exist for new runners, is one that can be overcome by participating in a couple of races midway through training. Signing up for a 10k and half marathon helps you to get a feel for running under race-like conditions, gives you some experience and helps build your confidence. These runs are an opportunity to simulate your race day or as close to it as possible. Additionally, it is smart to try your marathon goal pace or slightly faster given that you won’t be running 26.2 miles just then.

7. In keeping with the last point, you should strive to do at least one simulation run in the last quarter of your training where you mimic your race day routine as close as possible; ie., run in your race day gear, take gels or whatever form of energy and calories you intend to have on d-day and hydrate as planned. Of course this should be a long run and maybe your longest at that. I usually do 20-22 miles.

8. A lot of us believe in carbs. It’s a runner’s primary source of calories and thus energy. I usually start carb-ing up two weeks before race day. However, as a first-time marathoner, it is important to overhaul your diet and nutrition to make sure you’re eating the right foods that will give the energy you need for training as well as enable you to build muscle and maintain a healthy weight. Running can take a lot from the runner, it is only wise to make sure that you are feeding the beast, so to speak. Some foods that power my runs are: whole grain spaghetti, potatoes ( white & sweet), brown rice, Farrow, stews w/beef and beans, ground beef/turkey, salmon, fruits, particularly banana and veggies and other whole grains like oatmeal.

9. I’ve found that protein shakes and/or other sources of energy and muscle boosters can add value to my running, and I often make my own at home using natural ingredients and fresh fruit and whole grains. Oftentimes, I use them pre or post runs, or, as often as I need the boost and depending on how my body feels.

10. Another important element to training is cross training. This has helped me in two main ways: (a) added variety to my workouts and broke up the monotony of running. (b) helped develop: muscle and strength through weight training, aerobic and anaerobic ability through cardio workouts like cycling and dance, and flexibility and strength through yoga. Cross training has always played a significant role when I’m training for marathons as I do it in tandem with my running workouts right from the onset. Other runners may do the odd cross training session or have a planned day per week. I urge you to try different methods and types of exercises and practice what works for you.

11. Getting enough sleep is a deal breaker when it comes to running, especially when it’s down to crunch time – the last 3 weeks before race day. Although, I will say that getting sufficient sleep throughout your training is paramount to having enough energy daily to deliver on your runs and other workouts. It also helps to improve your attitude and perspective and keeps you focused and excited to run.

12. Finally, with two weeks out and marathon day fast approaching, it is necessary to turn down the tempo some. Hard for those of us that are competitive but very necessary. While it maybe included in your training plan, or not, runners adopt a strategy known as tapering. It is the two-week period prior to race day when running is gradually reduced to allow your muscles to rest, relax, and repair themselves. It is done gradually and consists of varying methods but will all include eliminating long runs and reducing mileage and intensity. The idea is to use this period of rest to store up energy by resting well, including sleeping, eating and hydrating well. You can keep active by indulging in shorter, low-intensity workouts.

An aside to running, but something which maybe just as important to some runners who are in it for the from-first-step-to-finish-line experience, is the idea of keeping a log, journal, diary, or blog about running your first marathon. You can log your miles, post pictures of your training and progression, and write tidbits of advice and wisdom you’ve acquired along the way. Some benefits derived from journaling your marathon journey are: (a) You can use it to measure your progression and successes as well as to see where you may have delivered below your expectations. This can serve to motivate you to do better, try harder, or try again, or, it can help you see where your strengths are and what to focus on. (b) You can share your story and experience and use it to inspire or motivate others. (c) Your first marathon is a memorable event. For some it may be  the start of a great deal more, while for others it may be their only one, you won’t want to forget it nor regret having documented some aspect of it.

When all is said and done, you, the runner must find what works best for you. It could be that some of these ideas I’ve noted on here are of some use to you, or you’ll get other advice, or even develop ideas of your own.  That’s great if it’s what works for you. There is no one size that fits all. The successful runner is one who is focused though open, one who is not afraid of stepping up to try new things in the pursuit of what sets his feet on fire. He or she knows that all knowledge is good, though not all knowledge is pertinent. That being said, it is fundamentally important to have a workable training plan, to pay attention to your diet, to get enough sleep and to get connected with other runners. Everything else amounts to a bonus and will help deliver an exceptional marathon experience.

Ready. Set. Go.

 

Staten Island Half Marathon in Review

Two words describe my feelings about last Sunday’s 13.1 PR attempt – “epic failure.” Had the stars aligned themselves purposely for this reason, things could not have marshalled themselves together any better for the making of what was akin to the perfect storm. By the way, I feel totally entitled to wallow here for a few after which I am bound to refocus and jump right back in. In that vein, humor me if you will while I reminisce.

As luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait for Sunday to see that things wouldn’t go as planned. In fact, it took less than a minute on Friday night to twist my ankle. After railing at fate for a bit, practicality soon set in and I was forced to suck it up and move on. I spent the major part of that night and the next day employing the RICE method (rest, ice, compress, elevate) and felt that it helped, for the most part, during the run. The problem was the inability to count on so many other factors. Continuing with my streak of luck was no sweat as Sunday morning greeted us with dark skies and the ominous threat of rain. My only comfort was that at least my ankle seemed to be cooperating then.

We were into about 4 miles, I think, when the rains came down, and man did it pour. For about 2 miles it fell quite hard and made running a soggy affair that had the effect of providing an initial welcome damper to runners over the heat. However, it didn’t stop there; the continued lighter rain, wetness and water all over the streets contributed to decreasing the overall pace of the race. But more importantly, the rain made my run more difficult since by this time we were on the loop and had to make our way back via at least three major inclines – amidst 95% humidity. By the time I was at mile 8, Teklu Deneke, Ethiopian native and West Side Club runner, had taken first place overall (1st Male), with Serkalem Abrha as 1st female. At that time, I was forced to reduce my pace and fall back on stopping at least three times at different water tables – manned by amazing volunteers in the pouring rain – something I’ve always been dead set against. The last few miles went by in a blur, made even harder when my ankle came to life with a dull throbbing.

I can only say sometimes the medal is worth it. The final mile or so was reminiscent of my last Staten Island run, only tougher hills, and in fact it was with an odd feeling of déjà vu that I crossed the finish line to the cheers and support of some phenomenal spectators who did not allow the dank weather to dampen their spirit and enthusiasm for the race.

As is often the case when I run with an injury, I’m left with a feeling of consternation that I can make it to the finish line, hobble or not, but then barely have the wherewithal to get to the first aid tent. I’m convinced it’s all in the mind even though my body disagrees. As it happened, I spent about an hour there recuperating with the help of NYRR’s awesome volunteer doctors. I remain immensely awed by the giving hearts of these incredible souls that come out race after race and give of their time and talent to the efficacious running of these races. Last Sunday in Staten Island, we couldn’t have done it with out them. #GoNYRRVolunteers

Photos courtesy gamefacephotos.com

[ http://www.gameface.photos/events ]

Run Rio-Inspired


Rio-Olympics-2016-600x375

 

The Olympic games are here! It’s the only other time beside the World Cup, when I log enough television viewing time to be compared to a couch potato. Better still, track and field, my favorite part, is on. I cannot pretend not to be extremely awed by those runners in Rio; their speed, agility and determination is something that we, runners, would love to be able to bottle up and save for ourselves. It’s no wonder they are the best in the world. I, however, can dream. And that’s what the Olympic games bring to us: the dreams of ordinary people finding within themselves the fortitude, determination and commitment to make extraordinary happen.

The most awesome thing about these games are that athletes come from everywhere with their stories of hope;many overcoming adversity to get a few brief moments to show the world a small piece of why they matter. Few will make it through the first rounds, fewer still will medal, but all will have been changed by the process of qualifying to get there. This, if nothing else, makes the sacrifice and hard work worth it in my view and, I wager, most runners agree.

Living in the United States gives one the opportunity, while being from anywhere in the world, to support any athlete or country and feel right at home doing it. Too, it’s totally cool to be seen supporting multiple teams; that’s one of the beautiful things about this country and its rich and diverse population and culture. You can bet that Team USA is a melting pot with athletes hailing from every country under the sun but who now call the United States home and thus for all accounts and purposes are deemed American.

Don’t be surprised to see my tweets featuring Americans, Trinidadians, Jamaicans, Italians, Portuguese, Brazilians and Australians. I throw a lot of support into the ring when it comes to swimming, gymnastics, soccer, track & field, basketball, cycling and tennis and who I’m supporting varies depending on my favorites at the time. I must say, I love it; the excitement, looking forward to watching the games and meeting up with friends to enjoy some Olympics hanging-out-time. It’s all about celebrating sports, athletes, and their journeys to the Olympic world stage; inspiring, encouraging, celebrating and rewarding those who have given their best to the sporting world in true Olympic-spirit-style.

Why a Tune-Up Race Is Important

irish

Four weeks out and I figure now is as good a time as any to gauge how I’m holding up in a half marathon – my practice run – and hopefully I get the pot of gold aka a PR.

While there are many reasons for running a tune-up race when training for a marathon, chief among them is the opportunity to ascertain one’s state of preparedness for the big event. This can be done by running a simulation race of sorts to mirror the actual goal race or as close to it as possible given the difference in distance and course. The idea is to practice pacing, breathing and fueling so as to work out any kinks that may arise. I have already decided I may have to adjust my marathon goal pace with the discovery of my recent condition; however, I’ll wait and see how this run goes before making a decision.

Hence my dress-rehearsal tomorrow at the St. Pat’s Rockaway Half Marathon. Thirteen miles along the broadwalk with the ocean stretching into infinity might turn out to be just what I need heading into Boston – at least I’m hoping. While there are no shortage of races to choose from around this time in these parts, I chose an unknown course and a relatively minor half in order to have a quiet and focused run. I will have a slight strain going in, even so, I’m hoping for a PR to satisfy my training thus far and build my confidence as I head into a final week of full-out running before slowing it down in the two weeks before the marathon. With that in mind, I’m testing out my racing strategy of starting out with a moderate pace and slowly building to a fast finish.

That being said, we all know things rarely work out as planned and there’s still the uncertainty of the weather to contend with; be that as it may, I plan on only concerning myself with the things within my control. Even though God’s got those as well, He especially holds the unknown in His more-than-capable hands. Wish me the luck o’ the irish or even better.. I’ll take your prayers.

            🍀💚😜💚🍀

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