February: Superbowl, Valentine’s and Brr Weekend Runs

Stretching time post long run @home

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

@Battle of the Fittest – Cross Fit Competition

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

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

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

Post run in Queens

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

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Winter Running is on!

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

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

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

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

Winter, Weekends, and Why Running!

@ The Unisphere, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday’s 12-Mile Training Run

Training runs are a necessary evil, evil because of the inflexibility associated with them. Well, you may say, isn’t it on the runner to decide if, when and where to run? And you’re right of course, it is, but is there really a choice at the point when it was already a forgone conclusion at the onset of training. See, the plan is in place so that a particular goal can be achieved, which necessitates the “evil” training run. This training run must then happen regardless of the weather, one’s feelings, and generally despite every circumstance save death and illness and even then if it’s not your own.

The New Jersey Skyline

In this vein, my training runs are in full swing and I have designated Saturdays as “evil Saturdays.” Of course I’m kidding, mostly anyway. I happen to enjoy running in nice weather and I love Saturdays so there’s not much evil there. However, when faced with unfriendly conditions things can become a bit dicey pretty quickly as was the case this past weekend.

View over the Hudson River

I got up this past Saturday morning to overcast skies and, what I felt was, perfect running conditions. Sadly, I couldn’t head right off to run as I had a volunteer gig early that morning. It took all of 10 minutes into volunteering to realize it wasn’t only overcast but windy and chilly as well. That didn’t stop droves of people from taking over the streets as usual and it didn’t stop me from running. Up till then I was undecided about where I would run, but as it happened I was on the lower west side and decided then and there that along the west side highway would make for a perfect run sans sunshine. I started off at W 30th street and soon realized that many runners had the same idea; thus, I wasn’t wanting for company only for the wind to chill. I ended up running up to Harlem and stopped beneath the George Washington Bridge around W 178th Street. A cool 10 miles or thereabout and took it about 2 miles back. One of the bad or good things about the “evil” training run is that despite the wind, and the fact that it tried its darndest to bring my pace to a crawl, which resulted in an 8:15/min/mile, I was heavily invested with sacrificing my time, effort, and sleep, therefore I was bound to prevail.

Side view of the George Washington Bridge

Nevertheless, I did better than prevail, I was able to run a negative split (a faster second half) and felt pretty good upon reaching the bridge and even stopped for a few pictures as the view over the water against the backdrop of New Jersey, the Palisades and the ominous skies was gorgeous.

I did it!

As it was, I finished in better spirits than when I started and so remain totally committed to my training runs. There is a bit of a cliché lesson here: things are definitely not always what they seem and if we but have the gumption to stick it out, we can come out better for it. And I’m not even talking my PR goal yet, we’ll get there.

Taper Week Madness

@ Palisades Park Police PostHard to believe a year has gone by already and I’m heading to Boston again. After living (and running) through what was a much-anticipated race-turn-nightmare last year, I just didn’t think that I’d be going back so soon; I mean, how could I have known that my chance at redemption would be this quick? I couldn’t. Exactly six days to d-day and the 2017 Boston Marathon, and I can’t believe I’m here – doing this to myself once again – getting butterflies and all excited and sh**! During my two-week taper countdown, I’ve been trying my darnedest to slow down my mind along with training and while I’ve been successful with the latter, I’m finding it a bit more challenging to put my mind to rest. Nevertheless, forging ahead while assessing what I’ve accomplished and what’s left, I remain the eternal optimist and feel that I’m in a good place now after my last long run a week ago.

Along the course

Last Saturday I took off to New Jersey Palisades Park for my last long run. While I got off to a late start, it proved early enough to make it all the way from the George Washington bridge (178th Street Manhattan) to Palisades Police Post, 10 miles in. The entire run was 20 miles, my longest for the training season since last October, and a good one; away from everyone and everything I was able to lose myself in nature and just be.

Spring-time

Since escape is rare and I don’t often get the opportunity, I enjoyed it for the treat it was. I’ve run this course for three consecutive years, around this time of year and continue to find it a challenge as it rolls along the Hudson River.

View over the Hudson

I took it easy on the hills, kept a more or less steady 8 min/mile pace and even slowed down for a couple of pics. What can I say, sometimes a picture is really worth a thousand words.

Over the Hudson

I’ve run enough marathons to know that I shouldn’t be worried yet there’s this nagging bit of anxiety that I didn’t do enough. Needless to say, the time for debating – what if – is long gone, the race is on, pun intended. Being an optimist has its advantages, which leaves me pretty confident I’ll be fine, last year’s mishap notwithstanding. This is the time, I’m told, to exude confidence, optimism and hope, so here I am cultivating an environment of positivity, looking forward to a final taper week of minimal running, some core and cross training and focusing on storing up my carbs, hydration and getting some major snooze time in. I’m Boston bound, ready or not. Strike that..I’m ready and Boston bound in four days!

Training Day: long-run Saturdays


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For the past four weeks or so, I’ve been in training mode preparing for the Boston Marathon in April. Seems I’m always in-training these days, though I did have a few weeks off last November. No matter, the important thing is to get it in so as to be up and ready when the big day comes. To this end, I’ve been paying mind to the necessary components of a good training plan, particularly the long run aspect. I should stress that all parts of a plan are important; however the long-run, for me, is of great significance because of two things: the opportunity to develop strength and endurance and, in the latter phase of training, the opportunity it presents to simulate your race day strategy.

Developing strength and endurance happens over time, it involves steadily increasing mileage and alternating workouts to encompass building speed, stamina aka endurance and running efficiency. Any good training plan, for the average runner concerned with running a marathon goal time, will include speedwork: interval training, some hill work, tempo runs and long runs and rest days. The long run builds slowly over weeks (between 16-22 weeks) of training up to two weeks before race day. During this period, the focus is on building endurance through getting the body accustomed to running for longer periods each week, gradually increasing mileage to the point where one can confidently and comfortably complete 20-22 miles. For example, in my training, my long runs may start at around week 8 with 12-13 miles (which is really a bit of a medium-long run) to which I will add-on a couple of miles each week.

From early on, it’s important to plan these days and decide on which works best for you. Turns out Saturdays are ideal for my long runs as I’m mostly off from work and I can choose to either rest longer in the am ( during winter anyhow) and run later in the day or get it in early and have the rest of the day off. Usually, I try to get to bed at a decent hour the night before so I’ll wake up rested and ready to go. Also, I try to eat my carbs and hydrate well leading up to Saturday; this is all to make sure I’m in the best place to accomplish my mileage without killing myself. Most times it works out great, I clear my schedule and leave my day open for running and I’m able to do just that.

As it gets closer to crunch time – by then I will have racked up the necessary mileage and developed the level of endurance I need – I’m able to use my remaining long runs to simulate race day. On these runs, the focus is on running efficiency: pace, hydration and strategy. The idea is to perfect a plan based on the above in as near to similar conditions as race day to help project performance on that day; this will help to build confidence and race preparedness. I’m under no illusion that mastering the long-run will ensure stellar performance on race day. On the contrary, there are no guarantees in running as so much is particular to that run and that day. What your training long-runs do is give you the ability to control what you can and give you the confidence – ammunition if you will –  to go out there on race day and do the best you can.

Marathon Training: The Long Run

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If you’re running the TCS New York City Marathon in November or have another marathon coming up in October, like me, the experts would suggest that right about now is a good time for your first long training run. Long runs, as part of your overall marathon training, are important for a variety of reasons, but particularly to allow you to ascertain what your body can do to date. This is not your first run, tempo run, sprint or a race; it is the opportunity to engage the distance you’re running with a substitute of similar factors to bring about a simulation of what your marathon day run will be like. It can range from 18 to 22 or even 24 miles, this all depends on what your goal and your training plan is.

Here are some reasons why you need that long run:

1. Training Gauge

It’s an opportunity to test and assimilate how far you’ve come and how far you have to go in your training.

2. Builds a Race Strategy

It provides an opportunity to try out a race strategy you may want to implement on race day. For example; pacing yourself while wisely utilizing energy gels and hydration fuels on course.

3. Nuetralizes the Fear of the Unknown 
Long runs can be a form of initiation for many first-time marathoners; it eliminates the fear of the unknown, and provides a race-day simulation that incorporates distance, companionship, encouragement and motivation to the newbie marathoner when done in an official setting.

4. Prepares You Physically and Emotionally for Race Day
It builds your endurance, stamina and confidence so that you will face marathon day fully prepared and confident in your ability to run 26.2 miles.

5. Cardiovascular Enrichment
As with all forms of exercise, running more strengthens our hearts and its ability to provide oxygen-rich blood to our muscles (CompetitiveRunner.com).

6. Teaches Your Muscles to Store Glycogen                          
Long runs teaches your muscles to store more glycogen, the primary source of fuel during exercise, this is very important to avoid “hitting the wall” on marathon day.

7. Ups Your Performance    
Depending on the regularity and duration of your long run and this would depend on whose training plan you’re using, it could be an instrumental part of your training to assist with speed, endurance and strength training leading up to PR and even a possible coveted placement at the finish.

8. Helps Burns Fat as Fuel  
When your glycogen storage decreases as is the case on a long run, your body fat becomes a secondary source to provide energy for your muscles.

9. Recruits fast-twitch muscle fibers to help out in slow-twitch tasks

10. Increases Mileage and adds to Experience

Practice indeed makes perfect. The more and longer you run perfects your knowledge of your body, its capabilities and of the sport of running.

In essence, the long training run is essential to you not only running but completing your marathon. Additionally, it is good practice for general race training from 5ks to marathons and beyond as it helps to hone pace, endurance and strength skills while also building up the runner psychologically. In my humble opnion, it is the key to running your best marathon.

Spring into Action on the Trails

Running TrailOh yeah..beautiful, luscious, picturesque Spring is here! Goodby to the treadmill, to freezing nose and toes and layers of clothes!

It’s such an exciting time for us runners and outdoorsy people. However, if you live in New York, it may be a few more days before you feel that magical, spring-fever-energy that craves adventure, as we rally to push a winter that will not leave gracefully, out of here.  But if you’re anything like me, you’re already hearing the call of the wild; though it’s more likely that after the winter we’ve had, you’ll settle for warm sunshine and cool temperatures to start with.  Just the thought of Spring though, I’ve seen those colorful buds pushing their way through the still-cold ground, brings to mind outdoors: fresh air and dirt, and green and birds, and its got me thinking… Trail Running.

Spring presents the perfect opportunity to get so much done beginning with those exercise and running goals we had from the beginning of the year. So what if it means getting those rain boots & ponchos out, you gotta give and take a little. From long walks to long runs to hikes, rock climbing, cross-country runs, obstacle and fun races, and my favorite, trail runs; there are just so many ways to get your run on, and what’s even better is that you can get the entire family involved, from your five-year old to grandpa and yes..even the dog; everyone loves Spring.

So grab your gear, your running bud and your camera, because you just can’t let such gorgeousness go by without trying to steal and savor some, and let’s figure out where our running adventures can take us this Spring.

Your First Long Run

So you’ve decided to give it a try.  Step out of your 3-5 mile comfort zone and enter the world of longer runs.

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Maybe you’re thinking 10 miles, a half marathon or even a full marathon.  I say let’s start with the half.  It’s a safer bet and you’ll get to them all eventually anyway.  It’s all good.  I’d wager you’re well on your way already given your decision to challenge yourself.  I’ve always agreed that whatever the path of life you choose, you should always give it your best shot; it’s the only way you grow and have the opportunity to realize your full potential.  With that in mind and with you half-way there, after-all making the decision to stretch yourself being the toughest part, here are a few tips to help you along the way.

  • Build up slowly; you’ve done 5 miles so make your next goal 6 miles in say two weeks, three times a week then to 7 miles, then eight and so on.
  • Have an overarching goal/race in mind, that way you’ll be working towards something and will be motivated to see it through.
  • It sometimes helps to have a physical reminder, especially on those days you’re not feeling it; write down your goal and place it where you’re sure to see it and be reminded daily.
  • Find a running buddy; someone who shares your goal and will help you in the areas of encouragement and accountability, one with whom you can discuss healthy eating, rest habits and get motivated.                                          
  • Lastly, as you work your way up the mile rack, it may help if you do trial/test runs. Do a 10k, then as you progress try a 9 miler etc., and always, always, prepare yourself mentally as well as emotionally. Running is no easy feat and the best runners will tell you it’s as much mental as it’s physical.

Good Luck! You’ll do awesome!!!

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