How to Run things this Season

Source: active.com

Source: active.com

“I succeed on my own personal motivation, determination and commitment. My mindset is: if I’m not out there training, someone else is.” – Lynn Jennings

Thursday gone was not the typical running day; rather it was windy, cold and dank, with the promise of temperatures getting progressively colder within the next few weeks. This is not strange at all but merely the signs of Autumn falling behind and Winter fast approaching; which then begs the question, If this is what it looks and feels like now, what will we do when Winter gets here? Since this is no simple question, it follows that the answer is not simple at all but should be more of a determined, precise and focused response to a challenge faced by many runners who live in seasonal climates, particularly that of Winter. A double challenge exists for those of us who, not only dislike the cold, but have Spring races lined up and must thus spend our Winter months in training.

Between the holiday festivities and the cold weather, I’d wager that training for a marathon or any other endurance-type race in not high up there on anyone’s wish list, mine least of all. But I’ve figured for some time now that being a runner  means one rarely gets vacation or even have off days. We are more likely to get a rest day in-between training, but really if one is in this thing competitively – even competing with oneself – then it’s pretty much open season on running. The truth is, after a while, it becomes a way of life and is no more scheduled than eating is; however, if you’re in that place where it’s still a bit of a chore then of course around this time it becomes the proverbial millstone. And ouch, that’s darn heavy. But, lucky you and me, we are not alone. Running, while often done solo, is at base a community sport and so wherever you may find yourself this holiday season, I urge you to link up with the local running community. This may take the form of a running meet up, running group, running club, a couple running buddies or a friend – those willing to share their run, experience or just company with you – will make all the difference to your cold, wet and even icy runs.

The more structure you add to your training is the more likelihood you have of it being a success. All this means is that you should add a training plan to your schedule, holidays included. This plan should be a guide to keep you focused and engaged taking into account the necessary rest days and dutifully rewarding you for your hard work. It helps if you either do this with a group or person for motivation and accountability and stick to a regular schedule as much as possible. For sure, we can’t always be certain how things will pan out especially with the weather; snowstorms, road blockages, black ice, loss of power, any number of things could and may go wrong. While we can’t control any of these, we are certainly resourceful and determined and so it’s useful to add a plan B to your training schedule as well as to ensure maximum leverage of this training period. The gym: cross training, spin or cycling or a conditioning or aerobic class and/or the treadmill or indoor track are good just-in-case options, at-home: You Tube workout video, jump rope, Pilates, yoga or even just hooking up with a friend for a jog around the block, park or a local school track if it’s crazy out.

You will find that, as it becomes more routine than novelty, those runs will inspire more challenge and greater effort. Aside from the bonus of staying fit and looking fabulous through Christmas and into the New Year, there will be no guilty pleasures, for everything you eat is well deserved and thus tastes twice as good. You may even find that you’re actually looking forward to getting out, nothing like the fresh, cold air and a training run to work up an appetite and leave you invigorated and ready to run the world.

Stay Healthy, Warm & Running as Winter Approaches

runningwinterHonestly,  this is my worst weather for running. Those who know me, know that I’m a summer baby. Born and bred in the Caribbean, I have a very low tolerance for cold weather while the heat doesn’t bother me one bit. I could live a thousand years of Summer just to not have to deal with winter but wishful thinking does not Summer make, so being the realist that I am (not), each year that I’ve lived here, I have had to dig deep down inside and find my New Yorker determination and fortitude; there is such a thing. See, living in New York has been good for me, I’ve become a more of a roll-with-the-punches sorta gal who believes that running will fix most if not everything. Survival can do that to you. Pardon the expression, but this concrete jungle out here leaves very little room for the timid and hesitant; my experience has taught me the value of dealing with things in a practical and straight forward way, especially when there is no way around it. You gotta love this place; it’s a pull-yourself-up-by-booth-straps kinda city and winter presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

My first experience of snow in this country was a beautiful thing, then I came to New York. See, before I arrived in the peachy state of Georgia, it hadn’t snowed there for eight years. Those beautiful southern folks hadn’t a clue how to deal with even a dusting and so their response was to shut down the town, city, state, everything, which suited everyone just fine. Holiday anyone? So, the most beautiful sight I had ever seen was the fairy-dust of snow that was just enough for playing in: snow fights, not-too-much-of-a-snowman, rolling around, picture-posing.. It was a ton of fun. One day of snow and then it was all gone, nary a thought to it affecting running. Christmas 2007 altered all that; a snowstorm hailed my arrival in the big apple that shut down the city airports, grounded flights and left people stranded in the airports along the north-west for a few days. That snow was to stay on the ground for weeks; commuters nightmare realized and the end of my romance with the white monster called winter. Not that I minded snow in the least, it really does paint a pretty picture and then there are the sporting uses it’s good for, but really it’s the effects and affects of the season: the blinding cold, the discomfort of piling on layers, the inconvenience of using the bathroom as a result, the inability to be warm no matter how many layers, and of course the limit it places on my running adventures – who really enjoys running with layers of clothes, frozen cheeks, breath, fingers, toes and not being able to sweat..that’s how you gauge how hard you’ve worked, by the sweat of your brow..that sort of thing, and of course who feels like guzzling down water and other liquids to keep hydrated when you really don’t want to be visiting the bathroom as it takes twice the time it typically does. Plus, I am one who wants nothing that even resembles cold to drink. So there you have my dilemma, which has only slightly diminished in its intensity since my advent into cold weather.

I try to have more of a positive outlook and think in terms of winter wonderland these days. Acclimation to cold weather not being my thing, I’m still always cold but I complain less – hasn’t helped since so what’s the use – to my way of thinking. But mainly what has helped with my attitude change is my ability to run around it. I learnt pretty fast the tricks to staying sane during the winter months and this among others may be the reason I like to say I’m a new yorker. Here are some of my tips to not only survive but to thrive while running in winter wonderland.

The Run is truly for those who endure:
. Winter is the perfect season for the gym. I can vary my days depending on the weather between gym workouts and running outside.
. The treadmill is not my enemy and can actually be put to good use on those bad weather days when I’m training.
. Wearing the proper cold running gear is paramount to staying well and fit. Breathable material allows pores to absorb and let out air and perspiration.
. It is essential to properly cover up ones’ extremities such as hands, feet, face and ears.
. It’s absolutely necessary to hydrate when exercising and running outside as you are less likely to feel thirsty because of the cold air thus leading to dehydration.
. A winter or late fall race is ideal to keep the running momentum going. It keeps you focused, training and gainfully exercised.
. Winter is already cold and can be quite isolating as lots of runners travel, hibernate, whatever… You want to make sure you stick to your running group or find one and/ or a partner to help you through your cold sessions.
. I find it extremely fool-hardy to run on black ice, the one you can barely see but can have you slipping and sliding. Living to run another day is way more important.
. Running around noon is usually the best time to run..You get to maximize your vitamin D intake which sometimes can be extremely low during the cold season and it’s as warm and enjoyable as it will ever be.

During winter months, I find that I run harder to get the results I want; this could be because the air is colder and sharper, which lends itself to a slightly more strenuous breathing pattern for me, as well as it could be that I run harder because I feel I don’t achieve as much due to my sweat level which is almost non-existent. And let me tell you, I sweat..like clothes-soaking, body-dripping sweat so it feels strange in the winter not to do so even while I understand that the cold air dries it up before it even sets on one’s skin. In any event, if you’re half-way determined as I am and you’re getting ready to amble out, be sure to stock up on winter running gear and talk and listen to your body to put yourself in a winter running frame of mind. You may be surprised by what you learn.

The Other Side of Running the TCS NYC Marathon: Volunteering and Cheering

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Runners on the Verazzano Bridge, Staten Island

Last Sunday was Marathon Sunday here in New York City. Over 50,800 runners braved the most windy and chilly day we’ve had in the longest time for the coveted title and medal for having run the largest and, some would argue, best marathon in the world: the New York City Marathon. As far back as last year, I had decided I wasn’t running this year; I felt I wanted to explore and expand my boundaries and focus my running outside of the city. I’ll be honest, on Sunday I was torn. Witnessing runners of all persuasions with varying abilities and over 50,000 reasons for running brought out my competitive spirit and I couldn’t help but wish that I had run. On the flip side, volunteering at the start quickly assuaged those running notions as I witnessed the anxiety and chilly determination of runners as they hunkered down in near-freezing temperatures to await the start from as early as 6am.

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

TCS NYCM 2014 VOLUNTEERS

We did the best we could, chatting them up and seeking to encourage them as we too bore the brunt of the wind. Finally, it was time to usher runners on their way, as the canon boomed in the distance declaring the sending off of the first, second, then third and finally fourth wave of runners at 10:55am over the Verrazano bridge in Staten Island to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York.” Consider those runners as they progressed throughout the five boroughs, oftentimes to the company of a head wind especially upon crossing the five land-mark bridges of the race. Tenacity is the one word that comes to mind, it describes the mindset and spirit that pervaded runners as they struggled against the odds, having to adjust their strategy and even goals. Through their journey they were not alone; accompanied each mile by cheering spectators: an estimated 1 million in total, and hard-working volunteers encouraging and providing sustenance, many persevered despite the prevailing conditions and made their way through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, The Bronx and finally to Central Park and the finish line.

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There was never a doubt that after finishing my shift I was going to be a part of the most amazing cheer crowd the world over. 26.2 miles of spectators lined the streets of New York City, themselves braving the weather to make this race the phenomenal experience it is. It wouldn’t be the same without them and so more than anything, I wanted to be a part of that. I chose to stand close to the finish in Central Park and for four hours, cheered my encouragement and support, along with thousands of others, for runners I had never met but felt such an affinity with. Running, jogging, hopping, walking, crawling they came: an incessant wave from all over the world: young, old and everywhere in between they kept on coming; smiling, crying, in-pain, determined and victorious, to the utter delight of the crowds they came. From as early as 12pm runners were already in Central Park, Wilson Kipsang leading the pack as he cruised to the finish line in a time of 2:10:55 and picked up his first New York Marathon title, $100,000 and an additional $500,000 for going on to win the World Marathon Majors title with his win here in New York. Fellow Kenyan, Mary Kietany won first place in the women’s category with a time of 2:23:10. We clapped, hooted, whistled, rang bells, screamed and cheered for hours for thousands as they made their way home to the finish line, more than 3/4 of which were first time NYC marathon finishers and/ or first time marathoners at that.

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

Wilson Kipsang, 2014 TCS NYC Marathon title holder & World Marathon Majors 2014 title holder

I finally gave in to the chill and my voicelessness around 6:30pm while runners just kept on coming, no end in sight. In spite of the cold, I walked away with an incredibly inspiring feeling and felt much love, kudos and the deepest admiration for all runners this year. It does a girl’s running heart good to see so much love, support and dedication for her sport of choice. Thank you New York Road Runners, TCS New York City Marathon and the city of New York including all spectators, volunteers and runners for putting on a phenomenal event. See you next year. I will be running!

Beyond Disappointment Runs Hope

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – J. Rohn

How many times in life have you had to deal with things either not going the way you planned or not turning out the way you had hoped it would. If you ask me, too often. In the typical everyday scheme of things, life seems to be full of disappointments; from unemployment to sickness to death, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing at times. Add the running dynamic and things get a bit more dicey. Not only do you have to deal with life’s everyday disappointments, but now you have those that come along with the sport as well. How do we do it?

At the beginning of the year, I made a list. Remember those new year resolutions/ goals..yep those, well mine were particular to running and on there were a few pertaining to achieving new times and running new races. Mainly , I wanted to qualify for Boston next year, by which I mean run Boston next year, and frankly though I knew they weren’t interchangeable, I really didn’t consider not getting in if I qualified. You guys know what happened with that – major disappointment. But I survived, had to live to run another day right? In any event, I’m thinking… Ok, I still have Denver, my fun, exploratory run, which I’ve been looking forward to for sometime now, only now it’s also not happening. After much thought and strategizing, it seems more prudent to run a marathon that will allow me to re qualify, which is what I must do to run Boston 2016. Dreams of high-altitude (not really), rolling hills, fresh air, scenic route, adventure, and meeting new runners aside, I must now channel and redirect that energy and enthusiasm to achieve a bigger dream.

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Disappointment, I accept as a part of life. As a part of my running life, I find it a bit harder to manage – but manage I must. There is no where one can hide really. No runner plans on injury before a race after training so hard for so long, or on not finishing or qualifying or making the cut. Or what about falling sick, having a bad race or race cancellation (as was the case with the ING NYC Marathon 2012). These are not plans a runner makes, on the contrary, we do everything within out power to ensure we have the opportunity for a successful race: we train long and hard, sacrifice time, money, energy and give up so many things to make our dream happen, and to be honest, it happens as often as it doesn’t. So really 50/50 is not so bad but the over-achiever in me wants a higher percentage in my favor.

The key to overcoming and managing your disappointments, come as they must, lies in your perspective and in your hands. You see, our ability to choose what we do with what happens to us or even around us will ultimately determine our attitude and shape our actions. Choosing to put a positive spin on things, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to take the good and leave the bad is a choice we have. This choice can either absorb us or absolve us, it can either makes us or break us, destroy us or build us. We get to choose. Each time I am faced with disappointment, I choose hope; I choose to motivate myself to try harder, to run faster, to be more diligent and more determined. It works for me.

The Philadelphia Marathon comes up on November 23, it’s my next hope for Boston 2016, where I hope to qualify with a faster time than before. I hear it’s a fast and pretty flat course, there should be some advantage to that. The weather will also be much colder, hopefully more cool than cold, but this is my reply when disappointment comes, I plan another race, I train a little harder, and mentally prepare myself to achieve what is inevitably a tougher goal the second time around. I never give up. Quitting is never an option.

Running In Sochi

The Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympics is on! And it’s buzzing. From Track Speed Skating to Moguls and Freestyle Skiing and any and everywhere in between, the games provide something for everyone. Spanning some 90 years with its first official game in 1924, its been hosted more or less every four years like its summer counterpart, and have graduated from its early history of Scandinavian domination, its predecessor The Nordic Games, to include countries as far north as Canada and as far south as New Zealand and Australia. It also includes countries from South America and the Caribbean.

imageThis year the games of The XXII Olympiad boast a field of events that tests athletes endurance, skill, precision and speed on the ice.  To my way of thinking, many of these “snow/ice sports” share something in common with running, the big difference being  that they’re performed on ice. Take the Biathlon, Speed Skating, Short Track and Cross-Country, these are all sports with a running component with the adage of skates and skis as it would be impossible to run on ice without them. I recently watched a video of learning to cross-country ski and it was telling to see how one literally has to learn to run (diagonal stride) with skis on, only adding poles as you become more proficient. Since running is all about speed and endurance, I relate on a less icy level.

However, my favorite to watch at the Winter Games has always been Figure Skating. This year Russia’s own 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya, the youngest recipient of a gold medal for Team Russia, is a treat to watch.  Yulia LipnitskayIn the women short program on Monday, she put on one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen in figure skating and could well be the star of the show. I suspect an upset is imminent as former predictions for the popular Women’s Figure Skating event did not include her among USA, Japan, South Korea and Italy favorites. It’s the event to watch Feb 19 & 20.

What is super cool is that these games show us that while winter could be cold, harsh and unsettling to a lot of us, we’d do better to accept it for what it is, and what it brings and too, for all the sporty running things we can get up to.  If over 2000 athletes can do it then so can we. Winter Olympics 2014, we ❤️ you!

Running Miami

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Less than twenty-six days stand between me and 3:25, my projected finish time for the Miami Marathon on February 2. I feel pretty confident I can achieve this time despite my last result here in New York, as nothing is more motivating to me than failure. Some may say The INGNYC Marathon wasn’t a failure and maybe so, given my injury and all, but I see Miami as an opportunity to redeem myself – to no one but me.

Training this time around hasn’t been so easy. Post the NYC run, I was still struggling with recovery from my ankle injury and was forced to take pretty much all of November off while I resumed running on Thanksgiving Day. Then along came Christmas and my Georgia trip, where I managed to squeeze some running in but not a lot.  Back to New York and it’s been crazy cold, snowing, even frigid at times; not-so-great weather for running outside, but here too I’ve been trying. I’m looking at the days dwindling away and I’m like..”wait!” But of course time waits on no one, least of all me, and I’m getting quite antsy here trying to get my miles in. I’m not too worried though, I’m relying on God, determination and self motivation to get me up-to-speed and across the finish line in record time.
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In the final weeks leading up to the big day, I’ll be altering my regime somewhat to accommodate, what I pray is, a healthy and whole ankle. Not that my training plan for New York wasn’t ideal..it was and worked great in spite of the circumstances, but I really couldn’t reap the benefits then. So I’m speeding things up a bit, with the promise of ‘nicer’ weather on the way. A long run this weekend is long overdue followed by a shorter recovery run on Sunday. Thereafter, I’m planning five days of running next week; to include another long run and then on to some short tempo runs the following week. As I taper down leading up to race day, I also plan on stealing a day for some cross training, which will provide the necessary variety to keep me sane. My diet will see some slight changes as well, as I increase carb intake and amp up hydrating methods to include coconut water, tomato juice & smoothies..I love! Finally, stretching, stretching and stretching; very important to avoid injuries and to keep my muscles agile and relaxed.

Beautiful Miami, you inspire me!

New Year’s Running Goals

imageWow! It’s already January 3! And I just couldn’t let another day go by without sharing my goals for this year.

For most of us, New Year resolutions give us an opportunity to begin afresh, dream big, have a meaningful purpose and/or do something we’ve always wanted to do.  There’s something about a new year that gives us guts and passion, fire and determination and everything else that is needed to make us feel that we can conquer the world.  Never mind that midway during the year one would be hard-pressed to find that well of positivity, but hey let’s not get ahead of ourselves and be content to run, no pun intended, with all we feel.  For this reason, among many others, I think setting goals are important while doing our best to fulfill them; reviewing and revising as life circumstances permit.

With that in mind, my running goals and it’s affiliates for this year include:
. Running the Miami Marathon
. Qualifying for the Boston Marathon 2015
. Doing a Mud Run in Summer
. Exploring new running territories in the NY area and Expanding my running base
. Running at least two other out-of-state marathons, hopefully one to include the Chicago Marathon
. Running a PR of 1:30 in a half marathon
. Logging my mileage

I think I’ll stop here.  Oftentimes, I’ve fallen into the trap of having too many goals, which can be either unrealistic or too constraining.  This year I’ve decided to set wisely and save myself a lot of stress by making them achievable and time-bound.

Cheers to 2014 & fulfilling Running Goals!

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Yikes It’s Winter!

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Summer bodies are earned in winter!

You take a Caribbean gal accustomed to tropical and warm temperatures and you place her in average 25 degrees Fahrenheit weather and what you get is me, cold and cranky as heck.  These are the days you just wanna curl up..fetal position preferably, with your favorite book and blanket; christmas music playing softly in the background and a steaming cup of hot chocolate peppered with marshmallows and/or Jim Bean.  Yep, winter is just about here with its oh-so-short days and cold and wintry nights.  So how do I beat this – it’s too cold to run – truth be told, there is no easy way.  These are the days we’re gonna have to dig deep down and find the inspiration that has brought us thus far.

That being said, there are some external things that can inspire that move from fetal position to running form.  For nature lovers, like myself, a lot can be said for experiencing the changing seasons first hand; your winter runs are much more quiet, there is less traffic in the parks and on various running routes as others seek warmer alternatives, and who doesn’t enjoy some extra quiet and the chance to run without sidestepping strollers.  Also, sweat becomes a thing of the past; you can actually run without breaking one, well at least not the wet, drenched-looking kind, just remember to drink a lot.  Layered and mittened up, you’re on a determined path to success and nothing beats the feeling of super-accomplishment post running; you’ve braved the cold with determination and tenacity – nothing says you’re a badass quite like that.  And of course you can always rely on the calorie factor to get you out the door.  You want to deserve the extra treats you give yourself and since we know that nothing in life is free, that extra piece of pumpkin pie means extra calories to burn.  Additionally, running in cold weather, causes you to exert more energy and effort and you’re likely to burn more calories on your average run.

Of course, now is a good time to get some cross training in and sign up at a gym so you have some variety to spice up your workouts.  While it isn’t the average Joe that decides to run in winter wonderland, anyone who has a serious desire to stay healthy will see winter as a challenge and either embrace it or look for ways around and through it.

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