Life Happens; Incidentally there’s Training, Marathon Fever, Boston Registration and 9/11 Memorial Tributes

blisstree-911

blisstree.com

Last weekend after two weeks of endless pain from having oral surgery done, I ran away to Georgia. I’ve always been able to retreat to the peachy state to re-establish a measure of peace and some semblance of balance in my life. Why run? Well.. figuratively speaking of course, since it was all I could do to get my thoughts together and I was on the verge of freaking the hell out considering my Chicago run coming up early next month. I tell you, not being able to eat and run nor sleep is no fun, but especially sucks when you’re smack dab in the middle of training. So here I am freaking out, wasting away ( losing weight), and I take off to Georgia to primarily attend a wedding and get a run in during my short stay. Sunshine, peace and quiet, friends, big roads and less traffic, wide open spaces, the Savannah River and the blanket of nature provided the necessary salve to my aches and pain. Returning to New York I find myself in Marathon city in the thick of training, Boston registration looming and Sept 11 memorial tributes.

Not surprisingly I came back on the mend after discovering the miracle of wine – I’m of the view it preserved my sanity. Back home, back in running form, and really I just dive in, back to the gym and back to getting Chicago ready. I’m working on bumping up my diet even though my mouth is still tender and eating is such a pain; but a runner has to do what she has got to do. Quite a bit on my agenda in the next couple months, there’s the Chi marathon, registering for Boston 2017 and volunteering at NYC marathon and of course training doesn’t stop as.. hopefully Boston’s up. All this as the weather cools down and we enter the training period I like the least. I will try not to anticipate that at this time.

We’re sweltering a bit these days but I’m not complaining, I’m gonna squeeze as much sunshine as I can out of these last fall days with the hope that it’s not gonna be too bad moving forward. So steamy days aside, where I just hunker down at the gym, it’s good getting back in the game and enjoying the vibes of the city. This is Marathon season and no city does it like New York as New Yorkers prepare for the largest running event of the year. It’s an exciting time to be in the city and to be a part of the New York City Marathon. But before that, I run Chicago and past experience does not lie. It was a phenomenal run and I plan on making that happen again.

While Marathon fever is in the air, New Yorkers are very somber this weekend with remembering the attacks on the World Trade Center and the City of New York 15 years ago. It’s a sad but also strong time for the city that will go down in history as a time when the state of New York rallied together to foster hope, community and support to all those affected that tragic day. We remember and pay tribute to all those who lost their lives then and subsequently in relation to those events. While all this is going down this weekend, I have my long run planned for later, which I always do in remembrance of the victims of 9/11. I’m reminded that I have the opportunity to run, which is more than they will ever have. I am thankful.

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NYC Marathon; The marathon we love to hate

Caught on camera @ the TCS NYC Marathon finish line

Caught on camera @ the TCS NYC Marathon finish line


It will be some time before I can talk about the TCS NYC marathon 2015 without some disappointment and frustration. It can’t help that I have immediate proof of its passing in a pronounced hobble that passes for walking and the accompanying pain it produces. This is by no means a pity party as I was fully aware of what I was facing on Sunday gone, but I am one wont to hope and in this instance it didn’t seem to pay off so well.

Armed with pain meds, a good breakfast, a night of semi-sleep, my eternal optimism and beautiful weather, I felt I was in  a more-than-less good place at 9:50 on Sunday morning. My plan had always been to start with the 3:30 pace group and so I did. We took off amid much fanfare to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s New York, over the Verazzano bridge in Staten Island, a beautiful view for those who took the time to enjoy the magic up there. Thousands of us in wave one ran into Brooklyn, the elite and wheelchair participants some distance ahead. It would be fool-hardy to imagine a seamless take-off, even though that was only a fraction of the race at that time. Inevitably what happened was a persistent dodging and weaving among those of us who were trying to keep pace for about 4 miles while pushing harder to make up for lost time. Around mile 6, I figured to slow down the blistering and unsustainable 7:42 p/mile pace and take the chance of losing the pace team, which I did, and realized I should have done it a whole lot sooner to save myself the angst and energy of weaving through hundreds of runners. For about 10-12 miles of the race we were in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York and home to the most amazingly diverse mix of people you will ever find anywhere. Brooklynites were on point with their support for every nationality under the marathon sun, they cheered, sang, danced and urged runners on and up 4th Avenue to Atlantic Avenue to Bedford Avenue all the way into Queens. Here we were met by a much smaller crowd but they were by no means any less supportive and did Queens runners proud with their unwavering support and encouragement for all runners. We headed over the Pulaski bridge at around mile 13, the second of the five bridges that make this a tough but essentially scenic, interesting and culturally unique marathon experience that highlights the unique aspects of each of the five boroughs.

Mile 16 presented one of the most challenging aspects of this marathon, the ascent of the Queensboro bridge with no end in sight and also no crowds. It turned out to be the longest, lonliest, most silent segment of the entire 26.2 miles. My knees took such a pounding, I honestly did not recall such an experience the first time around, that they almost seized right up when I greeted some friends a couple miles later on first avenue. On the bright side, it is the most thrilling experience to come out of isolation and be greeted with the roars of applause and chorus of cheers that overtook us as we came off the bridge and entered Manhattan’s first avenue. I greedily sucked it in as I’m sure did the other runners, happy to see the crowds but happier still that we were about 8 miles away from the finish. The support and encouragement in Manhattan is an experience you run for; the endless cheers and giving you are showered with along the way from both the crowds handing out everything from candy to paper towels and volunteers with fuel, sponges, fruit and gels. Losing yourself in the crowd is easy here and for a few I forget my quads that feel like they’re in a vice grip and my ankle that has begun to throb like nobody’s business.

At any other time I would be happy to cross this “little” bridge but on Sunday the Willis Avenue bridge that took us into the Bronx felt more like the hill from hell and I could feel a steady decline in my pace from there on. Up to that point, except for the Queensboro bridge, I had been keeping a steady 8:10/min mile pace and was only slightly removed from my goal but suddenly it was all about not stopping. The goal shifted from finish time 3:30 to just keep moving as the words “Welcome to the Bronx” was sung to us from a jazz player on the bridge. If the Bronx is known for anything, it is for being the birthplace of Hip Hop, so ideally I would have loved to be jiving along to the music and sounds that we were treated to as we ran along, except that I was totally tuned in to my pain by then and all I could manage was a few grimaces and thanks. And, as if I hadn’t been punished enough, there was a final hill – the Madison Avenue bridge – I sincerely hated all bridges at this point and crawled on; my deternination stronger than ever that I would not stop, not even at the water stations. The cheers continued and carried us back to Manhattan and onto the famed Fifth Avenue, which is a key indicator that there was just about four miles to go.  Ordinarily, I would be exuberant at being so close but I was too busy trying to connect with the crowd, anything to not think about my ankle, that I almost missed the turn into Central Park for about a mile. My family perked me up a bit coming out of the park and then it was the final stretch of 59th Street, into the park again, and a sudden burst of energy as I touched Trinidad and Tobago’s national flag on my way to the finish line. I made it in just behind James Blake from the Cancer Research Foundation and was totally humbled to share his struggle if only for a moment.

Looking up and seeing the clock somewhere in the vicinity of 1:50 left me feeling mildly surprised as I was convinced I had toiled up 5th Avenue for the better part of one hour; a dead watch and phone did not help. There were numerous thoughts running around in my mind then but more than anything, I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment for having run those 26.2 miles, not for myself, but for the children – the cause I ran for. It was that, coupled with the crowds’ encouragement that kept me going when the going was tough. As it is, I do not as yet feel like I have conquered this course; it is for this reason I pledge to do it again. Plus, they say three time’s a charm. I’m counting on it!

The Buzz is The TCS New York City Marathon

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Every November, here in New York City, we celebrate Marathon Sunday, a legacy of deceased runner and race director of New York Road Runners (NYRR), Fred Lebow. The  New York City (NYC) Marathon is a stalwart tradition to NYC runners and New Yorkers alike. Indeed, it has become an event of international standing and is chief among its other counterparts: Chicago, Boston, London, Tokyo and Berlin, which together make up the World Marathon Major Series.

The Marathon is now in its 46th year and running stronger than ever with 50,530 finishing last year and 50,000 plus the year before that. This year a strong élite field and many sub-elite and competitive athletes will vie for a place among the top finishers while many others, like myself, will settle for raising money for a great cause, a personal record (PR) and a medal. Still others will be in it for the bragging rights, the glory of running on the world’s premier running stage, to make a statement, or, simply for fun. Whatever the reason, crossing the finish line at Central Park will be enough to place you clearly in the shadows of greatness and among the thousands that have achieved the title of NYC marathoner.
For months now we’ve trained for this, each race taking us a step closer to what, for many, is the ultimate marathon experience. Two more days and runners, 40,000 plus of them, will stand together on the Verrazano bridge, God’s willing, and seek to conquer the streets of New York; all five boroughs of this great city to the tune of one million plus spectators. I get the buzz; one would have to be severely incapacitated not to, but I’m a bit more tempered in my approach this time around. The first time I ran New York I was facing my first marathon; in two days it’ll be my seventh so don’t mind if I save the excitement for the course, it will serve to fuel my energy on those rolling streets. Also, I’m coming down from a Chicago-high, which leaves New York with a lot to live up to. Even so, I expect a great race and hope to run my best time here on my home soil – so to speak – actually my second home anyway. It will not be easy as this race is nothing like Chicago – no fast, flat course here – but consists of five bridges, lots of ups and downs and turns; New York City Marathon rolls. The offset is the nice weather we have been promised, the tremendous energy from the crowds and the amazing volunteers. Inspiration abounds on Marathon Sunday and you don’t even have to be a runner to inspire someone. Everyone plays a part in making this race a phenomenal experience for all. You, I know, will be there in spirit if not in person.

Good Vibes in Marathon City

bhmatson.com

bhmatson.com

I’ve been out of commission for a few days post-Chicago, giving myself time to heal and so ran just two days last week and one this week so far. I confess to have running plans this weekend on a small-scale. The thing is it’s pretty hard to rest in this city at anytime, far less around this time with marathon madness in the air.

Here in New York City, runners take this tapering business pretty seriously and what you will find is not so much less runners out on the streets, just that they’re not running as hard and lengthy; but look around, they’re everywhere. Ideally, this is the best thing for visiting runners and those who find themselves on the fringe of the running community; one can’t help but be caught up in the excitement that is the New York City Marathon.

I had such a great time in Chicago followed by a successful fundraising effort for Team UNICEF U.S.A that I’m in a really good place now in my head and had it not been for this ankle injury, which is still a concern, I would be in seventh heaven. Right now, I have to be ok with just the  first level; it’s still an awesome place to be. It’s not everyday one chooses to run a marathon for an awesome cause like I am, it is my first and I’m awfully proud of me and thankful for all the support that made this possible. My supporters seriously rock! Which leaves me feeling incredibly hopeful, that, and all the good vibes in this super city. As a runner, I know how important it is to prepare oneself for a race both physically and mentally as both are instrumental in getting to the finish line. As it is the work has been done, leaving only my ankle to coöperate.
My ankle-tester of a run yesterday took me through the city streets into and around Central Park’s lower loop a couple times. Often, I like to sightsee while I run and it was such a beautiful fall evening that didn’t dissapoint from the perfect weather and colorful trees and falling leaves and motivation by the handfuls to other runners with possibly hopes like mine or some of their own. Days like that make you thankful to be alive, running in NYC. I was able to mimic the last quarter mile of the marathon and cross the imaginary finish line area, which is being prepared. Now if that didn’t put me in a marathon frame of mind then forget it, but seeing how I was already there, it provided the proverbial icing on the cake. With marathon week coming up, I expect things will only get better and, eternal optimist that I am,  that includes my ankle.

Marathon Training, Fundraising & Just Because

 

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Approximately sixteen weeks to Chicago and eighteen weeks to The New York City Marathon. I mean WOW! Where did the time go? Am I alone in thinking that we’re not the only ones running here, that so is time! That being said, technically, I should to be in marathon training mode, which means I’m suppose to be running practically everyday working on mileage, speed, strength and endurance. In reality, I figure to take the next couple weeks to myself and run for sheer enjoyment – just because it’s Summer, it’s hot, it’s pretty and because there’s the inescapable fact looming that I’m about to embark on some crazy running; two challenging marathons in two successive months.

Rest assured, I’m not crazy, people do this all the time – not really. Not ordinary people anyhow, but then you’ve probably already figured out that normal does not describe me. Not to worry, it’s not my first time, only the second..wink..and I’ve already figured my strategy is more mental than physical. See, I’m training for a marathon so I’ll just keep running..joke..but really, it’s just a shift in focus after the first run as the next is within two weeks. This is ideal as it works to keep the momentum going. With enough sleep, training and cross-training, the right diet and proper hydration, I should be fine. In fact, I predict they’ll be runs of a lifetime, providing I stay injury-free. My past record notwithstanding, I aim to stay positive; run a few races between now and then and try to maintain top form. With God on my side, I can’t lose now, can I.

team-UNICEF-banner

On another related note, I haven’t been all-ensconed in fundraising efforts for my project – Team UNICEF re the NYC Marathon – as I should be. I’ll have to be a bit more brazen in my approach if I am to reach the $3500 goal that is allotted me. While I’d love to raise more, it being for such a great cause and all, I’ll settle for being within target range for now. If you’re reading this, please feel obligated to help a runner and sister out; plus you’ll earn bragging rights for a good cause and get your name on my running-T on marathon day. I also have a few cool T-Shirts for very generous donors and a couple pom poms for you if you go the extra mile and show up to cheer me on race day. It rarely gets better than this but I’m sure you deserve it!

 

Running for causes aside, I really treasure each opportunity I get to make a difference while running. Being a force for change is something we can all benefit from; hence why I think I take running and training so seriously leaving very little time to enjoy the sport. So excuse me while I fix that before doubling down for some record running in the coming months.

Be a trooper and support my cause here:   https://www.crowdrise.com/unicefnyc2015/fundraiser/loricaldon

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Running a Fall Marathon (Part 1)

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Bank Of America Chicago Marathon

Sometimes there’s no help for it, you just have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and have faith in your handling. Deciding to run your first marathon or going for a fall goal after some absence away from running or maybe you’re like me, just looking for a good race in cool weather; whatever your reason, let’s pave the way to make it happen with as little pain and pomp as possible. Choosing your run should be among the first set of things you do so here’s a list of some great, local ones. Choose your fancy.

  • The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon, Minneapolis, St. Paul/Minn.
  • The Bank of America Chicago Marathon
  • Under Armour Baltimore Marathon
  • Detroit Free Press/ Talmer Bank Marathon
  • Nike’s Women Marathon, San Diego, Cal.
  • New York City Marathon
  • Marine Corps Marathon, Washington DC
  • Anthem Richmond Marathon, Virginia
  • Philadelphia Marathon

For some of these races there are pre-conditions to racing or some pre-qualifying standard to be met, so that should be taken into consideration when choosing. For my part, I’ve decided on one not on the list there but part of the Rock n’  Roll series which are always loads of fun,  this one in Denver, Co.

So you’ve signed up..Congratulations! Now what? It’s time to start training. Various training plans exist ranging from 12 to 18 weeks but before taking up one it’s wise to get your body used to running four or five times a week and build some base mileage. This can offset injuries and help you prepare for the longer training runs due in a few months.  There are five parts to a successful marathon training plan says Jason Devaney, writer for Competitor Magazine, 1. Establishing a base. 2.Building core strength 3. Increasing mileage and developing fitness 4. Running a tune-up race and 5. Executing on race day. Next week we’ll cover similar aspects to these according to my experience in tandem with what the experts say. For now, let’s focus on building our base mileage by continuing to put in a few steady runs per week, slowly increasing as we go along.

Happy and focused running!

Smiling through the Pain

NYC-Marathon-PhotoI did it! We did it! I preserved through 26.2 miles of pain and completed my first marathon in a time of 4:26:30.  On one hand it’s disappointing, my time that is, but on the other hand, I’m thrilled that I didn’t give in to the pain and stuck it through to the finish line.  It feels awesome enough that I have no regrets, strained ankle notwithstanding, and look forward to my next attempt with much anticipation.  I get it! I get what all the hype and fuss is about when people talk about The New York City Marathon and why it’s considered one of the best if not the best in the world and a must run for competitive and non-competitive runners alike.  I mean, it’s not everyday one gets to run through the most amazing city in the world among a star cast of athletes and be a star yourself as over 2 million spectators cheer you on.  It was an amazing feeling and I credit the crowds with providing the momentum and inspiration for all finishers.  We couldn’t have done it without them.  With that said, I have to pay special tribute to the Brooklyn spectators..they rocked! That was the only part of the race where I was able to leave my pain somewhat behind and connect with the crowds, which wasn’t bad, because it meant that for just over half of the race I was there; body, mind and spirit.

 CONGRATS all around, especially to all FINISHERS!

NYC-Marathon

Now that’s it’s all over, what’s next, you may ask.  Well, since I didn’t make my qualifying time for Boston 2015, I’m giving it a go once again at the Miami Marathon on 2 February, 2014.  Hopefully injury-free and in top form with nothing but beautiful scenery and a pretty flat course accompanying me.  Of slight concern is the weather, as it’ll most likely be MIAMI-HOT but I’ve run in temperatures like that before, I’m a Caribbean gal after all, and so I just have to prime myself for this.  I feel so excited and know that having run New York is just the beginning.  The sky’s the limit or more likely the World Marathon Series! Stay tuned for more on that.

Ready, Set, Breathe, Go!

I’m ready! I’m in the best frame of mind; calm,  have the right attitude; winning,  and a super-excited Spirit.  I’m eating well today, hydrating, resting up, lightly working out my ankle and plan on relaxing with some movies later on and then turning in early.I’ve done my checklist, got my stuff together and I’m ready!

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I think I have a great plan: slow start for the first few miles, up the ante a bit from mile 8 thru 20 (medium-pace), power up the last 6.2. Gatorade stations are my best friends, I’m sipping at every station except at 4 mile intervals when I’ll have water & my power gels.  Also, I’m totally making use of the fruit stations at mile 20-23.   I’m all about breathing and taking it all in..the race of a lifetime with the most amazing views and awesome cheer crowd in the world.  I’m ready. New York City, here I come!!!

A Runner’s Nightmare

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It’s been nine days since the Staten Island Half  and my ankle injury.  I am trying to have patience, be faith-filled, faithful and calm and not freak out but I  don’t know how good of a job I’m doing.  Twelve days before the biggest race of my life and I can’t run! How do I deal with that? The crap that’s doing laps in my mind when I can’t – do laps that is.  What will I do? What should I do? These are just some of the questions I’m living with these days.

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Fear, uncertainty, disappointment, anxiety, pain and a host of other little monsters are vying for first place in my mind.

Yet, I’m unshakeable in my conviction that I’ll be better and running in the company of some 40,000 plus runners come Nov 3.  That being said, I’m reminded of how we sometimes and unintentionally take things for granted: ourselves and our abilities, other people, things and situations – not really considering how fragile, transient and fickle it can all be.  I mean who really thinks about all of that when things are going well? As is often said, why borrow trouble? But the truth is, everyday, each moment, every gift and ability we have and each person in our lives should be  treasured, as it’s all part and parcel of who we are and what we’re about.  Imagine having to do without a piece of yourself, eventually you adapt sure but you’re never the same.  So for now, I hold on to my faith and pray that when it’s all I have left that’ll be enough; staying preoccupied in a whirlwind of doctor’s offices  and medication – doing my part as I not-so-patiently wait on God to do His.

Preparing for the Marathon

IMG_2441So I’m in! What does that mean? What does it look like?

Honestly, it means a lot.  I dreamt about it sure, I’ve talked and thought about it but I never really thought I would be given the opportunity of running it.  Back in the day, I know I sound ancient, but back home in the islands, we’re bombarded by western media, fashion, culture even and so we think of the United States and it’s like.. that place, we love to hate.  Truth be told, you really want to visit but not to be seen as wanting to.  Anyway, to think that after all these years of having this dream of running the New York City Marathon on my peripheral mind, that I’m actually here, loving it and running it!!! Way cool!

On the other hand, running is no strut on the catwalk.  Competitive running , even some-what competitive (me) demands so much commitment and determination.  I call it, “the sport of the mind” because a lot of preparation begins there.  I’ve written my goal, I tell it to myself daily and even have alert reminders on my phone and running buddies to keep me focused.  It’s like having another job minus the monthly paycheck.  My reward will be 26.2 miles under my shoes come Nov 3 and my medal stating so!

Some idea of what my crazy starting schedule looks like : 5/7 days of running, avg of 50 miles p/wk, strength training 2/7 days, high-intensity cardio, yoga and toning classes 3/7 days p/wk.  I’m also considering joining a  running group that’s doing training runs for the marathon as I feel this is important in acquiring a support base to help with mental and physical preparedness.  Now all I need is more hours in the day; if you can help in this regard, please let me know.

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