A Case for Cross Fit

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Source: gethellthy: “Neyxi Barraza by Pedro Matute ”

I should be enjoying some downtime. Ideally, freeing myself up from training for any long-distance event should see me enjoying some kickback time, a snooze fest or two and some down right lazy days, no doubt designed to get me just that- lazy. Only, I haven’t really gotten round to breathing much since getting back from that Ragnar event two weekends ago far less to get lazy. Sure I haven’t been running as much, but that only means I’m doing a hundred other things. In fact, I’ve been so elbow-deep in a project, I haven’t even had time to write on here; it didn’t help that the project was sort of writing-related. Thankfully it’s over and I can get down to some fun, i.e., exercise fun. I mean, my body really knows no other way and I don’t do lazy; what I do is get antsy, anxious and a tad crazy.

So I’m changing things up a bit and because I can, I’ve decided to explore my limits and push my boundaries, well kind of, with CrossFit training. If you’re wondering, why CrossFit?  Well, aside from the fact that I love a challenge, I’ve been slowly building a curiosity about it for some time and it’s not so far out of the left field given my passion for exercise and fitness. In addition, it is on my new year resolution list this year inspired by the stories I’ve been reading and hearing from others who have dived into this sport/lifestyle.

CrossFit, according to Stacie Tovar, CrossFit athlete and co-owner of CrossFit Omaha, is varied, functional high intensity movements meant to help people become more physically prepared for anything. Many people hear CrossFit and think weightlifting and more weight training but according to Stacie and others like her, who enjoy the sport, CrossFit is so much more and its participants exist along a wide spectrum from the curious, young, adventurous and self-motivated to the student, business owner, competitive athlete and everywhere in-between. Many, while touting its biggest challenge, that it’s hard, have talked about the benefits of getting you to a fitter and stronger level, if not your fittest and strongest. It goes without saying that this does not happen overnight, as with any sport it requires commitment, motivation, a desire to succeed and the ability to stick with it.  Beyond that, it encourages a healthy lifestyle as exercise is wont to do and, if anything, even more so than other forms as persons become aware real quick of the time, effort and sacrifice that is being applied to achieve the success they desire. Then it becomes a matter of course to pursue a lifestyle in keeping with that goal.

I am beyond inspired by the determination, commitment and pure mettle of those who pursue this course to achieve their desired results. While I can promise I won’t ever be a pro, let’s just say faint-hearted I’m not.

A Marathon Frame of Mind: Boston Strong

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source: wcvb.com

Just a few more days left to go, two and some to be more precise, and for a while there I was wondering if it would ever get here. Now there’s a part of me silently screaming that it’s all too much too soon, while the other part – the marathoner – is yelling to bring it on.

Only one time before have I felt anything other than excitement at a big run such as this, you may recall my first marathon – the New York City Marathon – which I ran with a sprained ankle. Back then, I had a similar feeling of trepidation, which didn’t result in any great feat accomplished except to probably make me the only person crazy enough to run 26.2 miles with pain and a hobble. Fast forward to Monday coming, seven marathons later and a 100% belief in my ability to finish.

Today’s bit of anxiety really stems from “the elephant in the room” also known as my breathing problem and now becoming popular among athletes, Exercise Induced Asthma. My acceptance of this diagnosis is cynical at best while the reality is much less so and one I must run with; and so my concern is really about my finish time. This may seem silly – here I am with a very real health issue and yet all I can think about is a goal time. Well try not to judge me too harshly. I promise you, run enough marathons and the question becomes not about finishing, which is a given, but only “in what time.” That being said, I’m by no means nonchalant about my condition, only aware of my body and its evolving boundaries, which I think I’m becoming quite good at exploring and extending bit by bit. This is my comfort and that which gives me hope going in to Boston.

I can absolutely do this. The training is done and I’m as ready as I will ever be at this point. I look forward to a phenomenal experience: the new course, amazing spectators, good weather (we can only hope), and an all-round fun time. Determidly so, I might add, because I’m mindful that I’ll be running in the footsteps of all those who have gone before me, in the spirit of all those who hope to come after and for those who can only dream.

As such, in the spirit of Boston, on this the third anniversary of fhe Boston Marathon bombings, along with the survivors and those who lost their lives on that fateful Marathon Monday in 2013, I promise to run Boston Strong.

2016 Running Goals

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This year I’ve determined that less is indeed more. Far too often, I’ve found myself striving to keep up with me – if that makes any sense. Admittedly, I’m sure I’ve said this before – I can be a bit much at times and do tend to want to do it all but just as goals need to be realistic so must I, which means scaling back on some things in order to maximize the opportunity for success in others.

As a result, thanks in large part to my year of growth and experience last year, I’ve found myself setting just a few running goals this year, which I’ll share with you – the privileged few who I keep up-to-date with all things running as it pertains to me. Here they are:

  • Complete the Boston Marathon in a time of 3:35:00.
  • Train hard and consistently, which means running at least 5/7 days of the week and doing a weekly long run (It is not by chance that this goal follows completing Boston)
  • Run two destination marathons
  • Add meaning to my miles: run at least one of my big races for charity
  • Begin training for a triathlon in the Spring, which means practicing swimming and biking (A triathlon was one of the things on my list last year that did not happen)
  • Run at least 2 races for fun in summer
  • Keep a daily log of my miles ( For shame I have attempted this in the past with no success)

To my way of thinking, I should be ok having set the foundation, insofar as my goals are “SMART,” but more importantly, realistic & time-bound, as we discussed last week. There is no inordinate amount of pressure to perform other than what is inherent in the activities outlined in order to present some challenge and momentum to do at my best. In the past, as recent as last year, I would always set way too many goals and end up not making at least two on my list much to my dismay and disappointment. This year I’ve realized that I don’t have to do it all “today” and even if I did fall short that would be ok too. What matters is that I’ve set about my year with realistic direction and purpose with the means and resources, as far as humanly possible, to get the job done and have some fun while doing it. No more self-recrimination for me.

Running Ahead

running aheadThere’s not a lot of racing going on in winter on my end. I tend to plan my Spring and on runs during this time when my running is limited to the treadmill with very few outside runs and one or two races out-of-town wherever warmer temperatures can be found.  As such, I like to think of this as training season for the months ahead, which will consist of a few marathons, half marathons, and some fun runs with goals of a few PR and raising money for charity.

I have my sights set on at least four marathons this year: New Jersey, Chicago, New York and Savannah SC. There’s also a very good chance of a run upstate, while my shorter runs will be at local competitive level here in the city.  I’m also always open to exploring the area around New York with the fun races hosted in and around town over the summer.  Lastly, but just as important, is my goal of training for and completing a triathlon; I’m searching out a place that does not involve these cold waters but isn’t so far away to maximize cost and potential.

The Marathon is a much more comfortable race for me now that I have four under my belt (shoes), at least in my mind, when I don’t have an injury to contend with. I feel pretty sure I can make one this year my best yet if I could just run issue and injury free – that’s my prayer anyway. Half-marathons are my babies. I feel confident, fit and at my peak during most runs of this ilk and feel I can qualify for the NYC marathon 2016 with a PR this year. On the other hand, Fun Runs are what I call any race less than 10 miles and would include obstacle, mud etc., These are my relax and roll with the tide races that I oftentimes take too seriously, such is my competitive spirit. This year, the triathlon will be my biggest challenge. Though I’m a Caribbean girl and love the open waters, experience has taught me to have a healthy respect for water I cannot stand in. So while I swim, I am timid when it comes to exploring my potential out there; this I feel will be my biggest obstacle in such an event. I am to begin brush up classes in Swimming in February, hopefully it helps to build my confidence. Cycling, I don’t consider too much of a big deal, except that I haven’t ridden a bike for any time for a couple of years now. I’m hoping that “like riding a bike” cliché is true in my case. These minor (thinking positive) obstacles aside, I’m looking ahead with much anticipation, excitement and determination. By God’s grace and with the help of my two feet, I can get this done and have a blast while I’m at it.

All my running this year provides an opportunity to support the causes I care about and in so doing give a little back to the community that has given me so much. Whether it’s through fundraising, donations and/ or volunteering, it is with the deepest pleasure and gratitude that I give. My mind’s running ahead now.. better wait on my feet.

This Thankful Running Heart

Photo Credit: Jim McWilliams / The Philadelphia Marathon

To think that it’s Thanksgiving already, that we’re already so close to the year’s end..sometimes I feel as though we’re in this race against time, only we’re getting left despite our best efforts to up the ante and increase our speed. In spite of this, and time’s steady progression, it is important that we take a moment to reflect on what we have been able to achieve thus far and in so doing be better able to continue in our pursuit of excellence and fulfillment.

Thanksgiving provides us the perfect opportunity to look both within and around us to account for our blessings and/or areas in our lives that we are thankful for. For my part, I’m particularly full of running thankfulness, thankful that:

– thus far this year I’ve had very minor running injuries
– I’ve been able to run four marathons within a 12-month period with a faster time each time
– I feel healthy and strong
– I qualified for Boston again
– my knowledge of running grows more and more each day
– I have a running group to train with
– I live and run in beautiful New York
– I’m able to share my running thoughts and dreams with you here on this blog
– I can now appreciate that there are no limits to what I can achieve if I want it badly enough
– through running I have met the most inspirational and dedicated people
– I know and love my body

Of course I’m thankful for a lot more than running; like family, friends, the gym, my job, my faith and yes, completing Philly in 3:34:33! I. Did. It. Last Sunday, I ran the Gore-Tex Philadelphia marathon. Here’s a short recap; downtown Philadelphia is a beautiful and historic city with pretty architecture and happening restaurants. The scenic route of the marathon was pretty cool and saw approximately 30,000 runners take off from center city around 7am. Save for the seemingly endless miles around a reservoir on the course, what can I say – I enjoy variety – this became the most challenging aspect of what was basically a flat and fast course, it would have been a phenomenal sub 3:30 run. Reflecting on my performance, I feel I need to particularly work on my pace in the latter half of a marathon if I’m to really maximize the negative-split concept, which is basically running the second half of the race faster than the first. Around mile 19 the forefront/ underside of my feet began complaining, I am convinced there is an issue there either with my shoes or feet, and I found myself struggling to increase and even keep pace. This led to some challenging moments from which I eventually emerged on top. Still, it was touch and go for a while there and though I’m always up for a challenge, a masochist I am not, so given this is my second time dealing with the same issue, I think this warrants looking into. All in all though, it was a great experience and my fastest marathon thus far, which makes me feel pretty confident moving forward; for this, I am extremely thankful.

Setting goals are great as it provides initiative, momentum and accountability. Realizing your goals are greater still for providing satisfaction, self-confidence, inspiration and a sense of achievement. There’s just over a month left in the year and more than enough time to express our thanks for life’s many blessings while yet keeping our eyes on the goal.

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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.

Let’s Rock n’ Roll DC!

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I tend to approach races with an overly confident demeanor. My philosophy has always been that 90% of any task is attitude, hard work makes up the other 10%. Though that has worked more than less times throughout my life I’m beginning to believe it may not necessarily hold true for running..not marathons anyway. To be fair to one’s body and those who wonder, it takes as much kick-ass attitude as it does hard work; every heart-thumping, feet-pounding and limit-defying moment is bathed in determination and sweat. To me, that counts for nothing less than 50/50 and so I’ve tried to have a more balanced approach to this one.

It’s my first time running in the nation’s Capitol and as with any first time course, I’m excited, my adventurous spirit cannot be tamed, but this time around I’m going for bit more realism. We’ve had some really funky weather this season and the last few weeks have been no exception though the last couple days have been pretty darn good. The advantage here is that DC’s temperatures are quite similar to New York’s so there should be no big surprises. Shouldn’t I say, cause well.. your guess is as good as mine what’s going down weather-wise come Saturday. Tough, mother-of-a-month that it has been to train in, I’ve managed to get some crazy running in amid some aches and pains here and there. I’m definitely over-due a siesta after Saturday -big smile- and I’m so looking forward to it.

During my self pep talks, I mentally run the course and psych myself up so I feel ready for race day. I go through the fuel and gel stations, mileage and my pace and try to incorporate some sight-seeing along the way. There are benefits to this; I’m able to lose myself in my surroundings a bit and enjoy the beauty around me. Also, during this time, less attention is given to the pressures of the race and I’m able to live the moment. Additionally, I’m big on experiences and every race is an experience I love to revel in, at least when I’m not in pain, so while some races are more memorable than others, I like to think I take away something valuable each time.

High expectations is another facet of my type-A person. I run around expecting the best from myself every time. Within recent times I have been not-a-little disappointed with my performance and sometimes lack of proper judgement, and while that would be enough to faze the average Jane, I remain fearless and determined as ever with eyes fixed on Boston 2015 and a goal of 3:35. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength and hopefully wings for feet.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! This Irish-named girl feels lucky! image

Tools for the Skeptic Runner: Beginner Tips

One of your New Year goals may have been to start exercising or running; to lose weight, be fit or just because. Well, it’s been twenty-two days and counting already: Where’d the time go? I’m so not ready for this. I still haven’t found the time! I’ll start next month. These may be some excuses that’s been running around in your head while your feet have been going nowhere fast. Well I’m here to remind you. I’m a big believer in a person keeping their word. The way I see it, when it’s all’s said and done, that’s all you have left and it defines you.

So I found this video on YouTube and it’s really great for those starting out, wanting to start or even if you’re still in the debating-which-form-of-exercise zone. The key is really just starting, putting aside all reservations, making time in your busy schedule-just as you would make time to do any of the other very important things on there – cause really, you have to want it badly enough, and putting one foot in front of the other and stepping up and out. You look at others who are fit and you admire that, you want what they have, then you have to be willing to do the work.

First off, you have to commit to it, do whatever is necessary to get what you want; go to bed early to be well rested so you feel good. Get out there – if you can’t make running to start, then walk. You walk until you can run, never mind others and what they’re doing. This is about you and your don’t-give-up mentality because you want to look better and feel better. Like I always say, running is no easy feat sure but it’s not just for talented runners, who by the way, have the same natural ability you have, they’ve just cultivated it more and so it’s only natural and fair that they reap the benefits..they did the work. No BS excuses. They had a goal and saw it through. Now how about you?

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The Joy of Trail Running

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Running is a sport that’s hard to love. It could be because it requires so much of one’s energy among other emotions that there’s hardly room left for anything else. Most runners run either because they’re good at it, are very competitive, like the physical & psychological results of running or a combination of the above. Very few, I believe, will admit to loving the constant pounding of heart, feet and muscle to the insistent beat of their personal-health-aspiration-drum.

imageQuite frankly, after my teenage years and before I discovered trail running, I saw running as strictly a competitive sport and would hardly consider it something I did for fun. The trails changed all that. There among nature, I discovered my inner ying that responded to the call of the wild with a resounding yes that echoes wherever trails are found. I want to discover, explore and enjoy them all. Within those trails I am able to step outside of myself and see the beauty of God’s creation as He intended it and it’s a wonder to behold. I don’t know why I respond this way, what it is within me that unfurls at the sight, sounds and smell of nature blossoming in my midst..I just know that I do and that to be given the opportunity to experience it is a precious gift I treasure. Upon my return to the track and roads there’s really no comparison. Time stands still among the quiet chatter of birds and insects; the cackle of leaves underfoot is background music to the sighting of a unique flower or plant as the fresh air pleasantly tickles my nostrils, and my senses are thoroughly assaulted by the explosion of color as the seasons change. And If per chance I encounter one of my wild friends, it’s always with a gaze of awe as I humbly submit to their authority in this world of theirs..where I am but a guest..a world seemingly untouched, unspoiled by the passage of time and those who are fortunate to enter in.

I try to get to the trails as often as I can, which is not often enough in my mind. Thank goodness New York offers lots of opportunities to the desirous trail runner, as there are lots of parks surrounding the city that one can get lost in. Venture a little further upstate or head out to the Catskills and it’s trail heaven out there and great for hiking too. What I have not been so fortunate to find are running events that involve the trails, I guess it’s harder to organize those, but be that as it may, there are always opportunities for those so inclined; my eyes and ears are open to new trail experiences this year.

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