March Running Madness: 32 Impromptu Miles

Mile 26- Along Battery City Park Esplanade, New York, N.Y.

Hey friends! I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks as there’s been so much happening just in the first three months of the year already. Seems I may have overextended myself with other activities including running thus leading to a lack of time for writing. I should know better since with me there’s always the temptation to do more. In any event, March came and the cold weather hung around dragging out to the very end. In fact, we’ve had the oddest weather; from perfect days, to bitter cold, windy, and rainy downpours. Like what in the world! We’ve only not seen snow this month – minus a few early threats. It’s still early in my view though, with April showers on the way, and snow in April is not unheard of.

Be that as it may, I made a determined effort this month to get back to regular gym workouts and to continue running, cycling has been on hold pending improved weather conditions. While my running hasn’t been excessive, I have managed to run at least five days per week this month, albeit shorter distances. What happened was, a few of us from my  pre-covid run group decided on a March intention – to run the United Airlines NYC Half Marathon, which of course went virtual this year. We agreed to run solo, in the interest of those running for time, and then follow up with a fun run a week later. Mission accomplished! A couple weekends ago, I ran an out and back in Queens, as my NYC Half, with a couple breath-catching stops along the way and opted to pass on running for time owing to the stops I had made. Nonetheless, I did manage to feel pretty good about my efforts and felt pretty confident I could do a longer run. So much so, that that I went ahead and signed up straight away for the global virtual marathon organized by World Marathon Majors ( WMM) on
May 1. That fun run though, well that turned into something else.

Lo and behold, this past weekend, we took off for that “fun” run with a couple of runners deciding on a perimeter run around Manhattan – 32 miles – they having trained for this distance. The rest.of the group chose to hop on for certain segments, while myself and another runner opted to start off with the ultra runners and see how far we could get to. No surprise, I ended up running the full distance though no training made the latter part a tough run. Don’t do that please. The truth is I probably would not have been able to complete that distance had the organizers not planned it down to the tiniest detail to include a slow-to-medium steady pace to ensure completion in under 5 hours.

Mile 22 – Along the East River Esplanade

In fact the planning was so great, I would forgive you for thinking they had something to do with the weather, which was perfect for running. And since Manhattan is an island surrounded by water, the views were nothing short of stunning. We enjoyed a seamless transition from one stage of the run to the next and had a good support and tracking system that enabled us to pick up runners along the way and meet at preselected rendezvous/ fuel points. I was so impressed with the organization and support that it felt natural to finish with the group and I’m sure I was the only one putting pressure on myself to finish. I felt strong up until mile 25, but from then on my feet were definitely dragging. It was only out of sheer stubbornness, and the amazing support, from other runners, that I finished up the final seven miles. Dead is an apt description for how my feet felt when we got done but mann what a great feeling of accomplishment! I had only ever done one other ultra marathon before and that one was over five hours, so imagine my satisfaction to come in under five.

All’s well that ends well. I can’t promise that I’ll do that again without training, but as we know crazy things happen all to often and I’m way too open to impromptu runs of any nature. Thank God it turned out all right in the end.

Winter Brr Miles

Randall’s Island

It’s been 2021 for a minute already if you can believe it and I’m still trying to figure out my winter running plans. That’s right, it’s also Winter in these parts. And though we haven’t gotten much snow yet, it’s pretty chilly. Yours truly is not so motivated to go freeze on my own, because yes, we’re still living in a Covid world where social distancing is the new normal. Arrgh. Man was not made to live alone no matter what they tell you, we need active, life-giving relationships and steady interaction, which is necessary for thriving I’m told. So I wanna thrive! Survival happens to be overrated anyway. Enter 2021 and a new year of possibilities and hopefully more opportunities than the last.

Just us 3

Thriving in mind, I’ve decided to mix up my running with some small group runs at least once a month for the next few months while it’s cold. That, or I might just go into hibernation and we can’t have that. So Sunday gone, I headed out for a run to Randall’s Island in Manhattan. Darn it was cold! And I can promise you I would’t have left home if I didn’t have me some running company – the best kind. We decided we would try for 10 miles and add on more depending on how it felt. It didn’t. Feel good. 10 miles was enough to witness the gorgeous but chilling sunshine and the gusty views of the city once we got over the 102nd Street bridge via the East River running path. No surprise that there were other humans braving the temps. NYC is like that – people tend to the outdoors since apartment coop-up is not really a thing around here. Thankfully, we weren’t in the park so there were less of us. Still, it’s good to know you’re not the last crazy runner left. We started out at 65th and 3rd Ave and ran across the bridge on 61st to get to the East River running path and ran all the way up to 102nd Street and across the bridge to Randall’s Island. We then did an almost full loop with one bathroom stop before heading back over the bridge. Pretty simple and on the average day a very easy run.

102nd Street Bridge in the distance

It felt amazing to be out in the elements being a bit of a badass runner except it required mass effort to breathe in chilly air, talk, and face cover all at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy for a face covering as it kept my face warm but I did have some gasping-for-air moments that was as a result of the cold air. We followed the same path back to our starting point and of course that went by much faster. Can’t say I wasn’t happy when it was over, though for an insane moment I contemplated running over the Queensboro bridge with another runners. Good sense prevailed however, and I ditched that idea as I felt it would be too windy going over the water at that height. We split separate ways and let’s just say I didn’t revert to normal body temperature until some 4 hours later.

In the train station

Since last Sunday, I’ve had a few runs in freezing temps but I’ve been careful to keep them brief, at the peak of the day, and to remain in motion for the duration of the run. The key to not hating running in the cold so much is to dress warmly. While you can’t really wear a lot of clothes and run comfortably, you can dress smartly with proper wicking and insulated gear to stave off the cold from penetrating your body. I usually wear triple layers on my top half, double layers for my bottom half and double up on socks, shoot for insulated gloves – weirdly enough I run with my hands in my jacket pockets, don’t ask –  and a balaclava or neck gaiter with a hat works in addition to a hoodie to keep my face protected. Even with all that most times you may still be cold, especially if it’s windy. At that point you may want to throw on a windbreaker on top of all that. The trick is to keep moving, keep it to the point, and run with the wind at your back if possible. For winter running, you really just want to get out there and back in as soon as possible. For me, the accomplishment is all in layering up and getting out the door, even if it’s just for a couple miles; distance is of minor consequence and speed even less so. My badassery, LOL, (my word) comes in knowing that I didn’t succumb to the temptations of warm duvet covers and quilts..Lord knows I wanted to..but I dug deep and found that fit chick that is often very willing to do all that’s crazy in the name of exercise.

Strength for the Day 🏋🏽‍♀️

Wow what a crazy bunch of weeks the past month has been! I’ve had a death in my family – no relation to Covid- had to sit an exam in the same week, facilitate online activities and projects for the kids I tutor and my volunteer group, and still find time for running, cycling, and strength exercise. I need a vacation! Yup. Somewhere idyllic that involves a lot of nature, beaches, hiking, waterfalls, incredible sunsets, and sunrises to run for and that is non-covid threatening. If anyone knows of a place on earth like this that I could safely travel to, please help out a fellow runner. I’ll pay all that I have, which may not be a lot but c’mon it’s all I have – cause then I’ll probably never come back. In the interim, I really need to get into a sustainable routine that’s not so crazy and I should be fine. I think.

Since time waits on no man, and there’s no woman exception, we’re going full steam ahead into October and the full effect of Fall season. We’re talking Halloween🎃, which I don’t really care for and then Thanksgiving🦃, which is going to be very interesting this year, and the holiday Sales💰, which I might care more about if I had money to spend but really it’s not even on my radar right now. What is on there is that we are slowly and differently running again! I mean no big fall marathons, such as we’ve gotten accustomed to – ♥️NYC marathon and Chicago Marathons♥️ – but there are smaller races happening and the novel option to run said bigger races as virtual experiences this year. This is good news for runners like myself. It’s been all sorts of terrible for the racing world, and everyone really, since March and it’s good to know that we’re taking some running steps if not strides yet. I am thankful and strong!

Good news is also spreading in our fitness community. While things are different and not ideal, gyms are open and those that have been climbing the walls of their apartments in this city have the opportunity to hop in and out for a bit of a different scene that involves a lot of new guidelines but allows them to workout in the company of others once more – of sorts anyway. School too, has resumed, of sorts, and some people are back to work, again of sorts, but these days I’ll take all the “of sorts” as oppose to not-at-all. Among the important and relevant news is that I’m finished with my PT certification! It’s been some 10 weeks that I’ve been inundated with nothing but the biomechanics of the human movement system and I swear if it had not been for the the Good Lord and running, my mind would be toast. I made it and none too soon as cooler running temps are here. I have a lot of energy, good and bad, to burn as I get my feet moving and the blood pumping once more. Marathon season, whether there is a live one or not, is here and I’m about to run one just because I can. Well I hope I can anyway; while it’s been a minute with that sort of distance, I’m not worried about it. My lungs and feet are strong!

It’s the little things my friends. Gratefulness is my new mantra. That I can run, exercise, commit to a program, have the resources I need, pass am exam, celebrate my dad’s long years and that I have life, enjoy physical health and a sound mind – they are in fact not at all little but they’re definitely the things I’ve taken for granted in the past. Covid-19 has forever changed that, and me, and a lot of us I’d wager, but it’s for the better and that can only be a good thing. Each day I awake, more aware, more focused, more blessed to be here, no matter the inconveniences and despite the tragedies and loss. My story isn’t over and neither is yours; we have been given strength for today, and for tomorrow, and for the next day, and the next if God wills it. Now let me dig deep for the strength I need for 26.2 in this very unconventional Marathon season. And, BTW, yes you can! We are strong and getting only stronger in this season together.

Comment below if you’re up for it! #letsrun🏃🏼‍♀️🏃🏽‍♀️🏃🏾

A Mid-day Ride to Central Park

On the Queensboro bridge

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

Queens Boulevard

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

Long Island City

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

The MET Museum

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

@Central Park

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

East Drive

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

The East River from the Bridge
Queensboro Bridge

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