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.

Marathon Season 2020

It happens every year around this time, New Yorkers fall into marathon mode. This year, notwithstanding Covid-19 and all the challenges it presents, we’re moving ahead full steam to take back what has been stolen, or at the very least what we’ve been cheated out of. And damn it it feels good! With all the virtual racing going on in lieu of typical road races, I’ve been feeling pretty isolated and so I decided to get everyone together for a kick-Covid-ass 26.2 run.

Truth is with everything and everyone on shutdown since March, folks are not ready for a full marathon distance. I don’t know that I am, but I’m all for giving it a try and among the old running crew there might be a few others crazy enough to have a go at it. I’m betting on it anyway. It’s hard to believe that we’re heading for November and what would have been the NYC marathon in just over a week! Except of course there’s no actual race this year..though the virtual race is set spanning a week or so and anyone anywhere in the world can sign up and participate via Strava. You can run the 26.2 distance wherever you are: get folks to support and run with you, have your own cheer squad, post pics, and tag race organizers doing it all your way and at your pace and convenience. Cool huh! I suppose that’s one way of keeping the spirit of the race alive.

We’ve planned our own version right here in NYC on November 14. A few, or dozen, of us plan on doing at least half of the 26.2 miles making use of the latter part of the nyc marathon course starting in Manhattan on the east side and running through Harlem, down Fifth Ave to finish up the final 3 miles in Central Park and end at the official nyc marathon finish line on Tavern on the Green. I, on the other hand, with at least one other – so far, plan on starting out earlier that morning to complete the first half (13.1 miles) before meeting up with the others to run the remaining distance. We’ll start out with the lower loop of Central Park and head out on Central Park West to run over to the West Side Highway where we’ll run a few miles heading downtown and do a loop to run back to meet with the other runners. Sounds easy enough but really I have no idea how I’ll feel that day. I haven’t run a marathon distance since last November and my longest run thus far has been 15 miles. I’m hoping to up that a bit this weekend but even so it’s still limited training in so far as long runs are concerned. Still, I like to think it’s like riding a bike, the body absolutely knows how to do it, it’s just getting it to remember and cooperate.

When this year started out, I had few running intentions really, just to do a spring triathlon and run the Chicago marathon. Because of Covid, neither panned out but it’s been years that I’ve been running a marathon almost every Fall and at the very least once for the year, even with the way things have gone in 2020, and because things have gone the way they have, I feel it’s even more necessary to show some fighting spirit and not allow the year to end on a note of defeat with many despairing and bemoaning the times. I refuse to sit down and take what life throws at me. I can run at least; thank God for good health and the ability to do so. And so that will be my response to this mess of a year. Speaking intentionally, the intention is to finish within 4 hours. While 3 & 1/2 hours would be great, I have low expectations given the training aspect as well as the biggest unknown factor, our infamous November weather, which can be anywhere on the weather map. Daunting prospects anyone?

Actually, I feel fine about the entire adventure. Yes, that’s what it is. We’re heading out on a dare-to-run-adventure that says more about us than anything else. I have to prove, to no one but myself, that I am fully capable of finishing what I start. And finish I intend to. I have a couple long runs left in me before the day and we’re about to find out just how a New Yorker does running pandemic or no pandemic. Stay tuned to find out how it goes!

May – Be Running, but definitely Raining

May weather has been may-be a bit disturbing. Used to be April showers, May flowers, only there’s been a lot of May showers and flowers! We’ve had two and a half weeks of vacillating weather jumping from one end of the spectrum to the next and everywhere in between. That is to say, I’ve run in the cold, wet, chilly, windy, hot, humid, mild, and even had the odd perfect day, all in just that space of time. Odd weather much? Mind you, I’m not complaining, not really, for while I dislike cold weather, I’m game to work with anything else, and it hasn’t been that bad really just inconvenient. I’ve slowed down on the running for the past four weeks, which is kinda, sorta, maybe, a bad thing given I spontaneously decided a week ago to run away to Vermont for the memorial day weekend and marathon.

Since my last run, I’ve been careful to keep up with my once-a-week group speed workouts while I do a longish run at least once a week with other arbitrary shorter runs here and there, but my long runs have all but disappeared. Weekend before last, in lieu of a long run, I opted for a 26 mile, 10,000 feet hike that turned into an all-day-into-night affair and left me pretty depleted and struggling all week after. Heavy legs, tight muscles, and laboured breathing were the highlight of my runs for the past 10 days. I’m thinking it’s good I decided on a slightly relaxed, – slightly because I know myself and running just for fun is hard when I’m running a marathon – enjoy the view, and take pictures kinda run this time around. So ideally, I’m under no pressure regarding projected pace or finish time. I hope. This will be a first.

Last weekend it rained so hard, I copped out on running. My body was also just plain ‘ole exhausted and I was in no mood for the rain to add insult to injury if I pushed myself to go out there only to catch a cold. At least, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it (cheeky grin). Turns out I had it coming, the rainy run, not catching a cold thank God, as I got caught in a downpour while running a medium- paced 7 miler on Tuesday. It turned into an all out splash and race to the finish, which actually ended up rather well. Since I happen to love running in thunderstorms, it wasn’t too hard to pretend as the day was overcast and a tad humid. Getting rained on turned out to be a God idea.

With all this “May” weather, it’s CrossFit that’s been getting all the attention. I’ve been at it in the gym consistently working on strength, skill, and conditioning; It’s no wonder I remain fatigued. I sorta owe myself some rest this week: to take it easy and try to get in a yoga session or a massage, whichever is cheaper (lol), in preparation for this weekend. I have a lot of faith in God and in me but only in so far as I listen to my body and take care of its needs. Its been giving cues for a while now: “Rest is very necessary for recovery and remaining injury free.” I am listening.

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!

Racing in the rain vs Sunshine: A review of the Popular Brooklyn Half

An ideal spring race day would boast an average of 65° temps and be cool and overcast. Lovely right? Lovely and rare. Most runners know we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature on any given day; we can plan and strategize as much as we want, but when it comes down to it – when we stand at the start line of a race- our run is dictated primarily by the weather conditions with ability and efficiency coming in second. I’ve had three races so far this year that have left me in little doubt of that fact.

Last Saturday around 25,000 of us ran the Brooklyn Half Marathon to the tune of pouring rain. Now, I’ll be honest, this was my fourth time running this race and while the course was consistent in its wretchedness in the latter half, it was the first time I felt better able to deal with that part of it. All credit to the rains that never let up. Past races on this course have either been hot or humid, not true of this past one and I was only too glad. Seems, for running, I’m partial to cool weather conditions even if it’s wet as oppose to running with sunshine or in the heat, and please, never when it’s freezing rain.

Conditions at the start of the race were wet and hazy that Saturday morning and one couldn’t really be sure how things would progress. Granted, there was a lot of shivering going on, but it was manageable. We knew it would feel much better once we started to run and thankfully it did. What proved treacherous was navigating the puddles and oftentimes slippery roads. I soon gave up that fruitless struggle and committed to running with soaked and squishy shoes. The advantage of running in the rain is that because one need not be concerned with the perils of heat exhaustion, energy can be better utilized focusing on maximizing running efficiency, thus improving pace. And so, once I chuffed my preoccupation with soggy-less shoes, I was able to run and let the chips fall where they may. This strategy allowed me to really enjoy running in Prospect Park and have a really good first half, hills and all. Unfortunately, it didn’t last; though I did feel great up to mile 10. As usually happens with me on Ocean Parkway, the final stretch to Coney Island, I started to lose steam, and myself a bit, as it seemed that stretch would go on forever. With no end or variety in sight, it took all I had and then some to try to stay under an eight minute mile. I managed to do so to finish in 1:39 but I remain hugely disappointed that I couldn’t improve my time by two minutes.

I feel certain that this was the race to get the personal best I’ve been chasing since last year, except there’s something that I’m doing that’s not working. I’m committed to figuring out what the heck it is and so it stands to reason that I’m looking to my diet, sleep, and/or training to get the answers. I mean we had near-perfect running conditions yet I couldn’t deliver on the time. Meanwhile, after crossing the finish line, while I was a bit breathless, I was perfectly fine in under five minutes. I was neither in pain nor exhausted. I felt great. That begs the question, why then wasn’t I able to push more feeling as good as I was at the end? I’m not sure but it’s a question I mean to have answered.

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