July Thoughts and Things: summer nights, heat waves, running, at-home fitness, black lives, birthdays, beach time, and spiritual & educational growth.

My mind’s running a marathon these days and Chicago’s not. Yep, they finally cancelled the marathon, along with NYC’s..darn Covid.. yet it’s all I can do to catch a breath myself and turn it off when it’s bedtime. No matter where you are, I  imagine it’s the same for most of us. How on earth..in these crazy times..does one keep it all together? In previous posts, I’ve talked about running everywhere, at-home fitness, varied workouts, and caring for our beloved minds. In this post, I’ll share how all of that is coming together – kinda – in the reality of my life, Covid-19, and summer- time in New York City.

Let me be clear, this summer is no walk in the park or walk on the beach, or even anything like an easy run. In fact, I’d have to liken it, if I can make use of a physical anology, to an intermediate hike of marathon distance with increased elevation. So despite the things that I have going on, and of course I’ve managed to find things to keep me from dying from isolation, it is by no means easy and requires deliberate daily steps, one foot in front of the other, to see the results desired. What are those results? Well, some are: keeping a sound mind, staying fit, cultivating a healthy lifestyle, and growth and development. Man, that sure sounds different from those intentions I had at the cusp of the New Year. Sad joke, but I guess the new year went with intention (mine).

July came with all the sunshine, heat, and yes, thunderstorms – with a jump into the hurricane season, that’s meant we’ve been sitting in  90°F+ for the past week or is it weeks, hard to keep track with everything else going on. America celebrated July 4th – independence day – the likes of which this generation had never seen before. I mean we had fireworks in our neighborhoods unlike anything, in terms of its aggressiveness and duration, it went on for weeks at all hours of the day and night, which initiated unprecedented complaints and reports and made national news that got the powers-that-be attention and eventually tempered the insanity. Could it be, like many were insisting, that it was an outlet for a people tired of Quarentine? Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter protests continued, though it has simmered down now, and in a final twist to highlight the issues of African Americans and the social unrest bubbling, John Lewis, a main figure in Congress and representative of the struggle for equality and justice for African Americans, died a few days ago. This is amidst the continued restrictions in American society aka social distancing, wearing masks in public, outside dining, many small businesses going belly up, and others, like gyms and health clubs, remaining closed.

The reality sometimes presents a bleak-ish picture but eternal optimism is something I subscribe to and so I’ve continued my workouts to varying degrees to accommodate the heat that’s been, let’s just say, WOW. I’ve always preferred summer over winter, now I’m realizing it has been more about the freedom, travel & adventure, and vacation aspect, which is really more suited for summertime than this crazy humidity. Worse yet is that even night runs are becoming overwhelmed by the heat. No siree, that is not good. When I work out at home, I’m usually operating on heat overload and try to take it outside when I can, even at night – late night. Night runs, always are one of my favorite things about summer, is turning into a bit of a fiasco these days. I’m finding myself out and about at 9/10pm just barely keeping from combusting. This year, I have the opportunity to cycle at night too, and I’ve started going out to the beach in the evening time. Who am I kidding? It’s not just because I would totally wilt away in the daytime, even thought I would, but it’s also been therapeutic and helps me get a much-needed break from the monotony of routine, the news cycle, and the four walls of my apartment. Praise the Good Lord for beaches that are within my proximity!

In the midst of the surreal-ness of what is now my life, and probably that of many others,  I celebrated a birthday. How surreal (insert roll my eyes)! July, the month of birthdays: America, mine, my brothers, my roommate. Seems I couldn’t get away from it even if I tried, and try I did, I took myself off to the beach and even did a run while there. An escape it was. Beautiful, exhilarating, a welcome change of scenery, from the waves to the sunset and moonlight, that’s right, I stayed until nighttime. It was absolutely wonderful. Props to my friends and family, who, though we were apart this year, managed to be a tremendous blessing through the gifts they sent my way. I was gratified with all the love and dare I say it saved the event from being  an abject disaster. God is truly looking out for me. I’m now able to include some new “tricks” (equipment) into my workouts – variety my friends – and I started my personal training certification! Totally cool, totally online, and totally overwhelming. I’m still trying to navigate my way and figure it all out so my excitement is tempered with caution.

I’m convinced though that this season, while full of uncertainty and numerous stresses, is one of growth and personal development. I’m learning and growing in my relationship with God, the most important area of my life, and thank God too, He’s had to hear me pray about that for years. And true to form, nothing good comes easy, but it’s a daily walk that I’m needing right now to help me balance everything that’s happening. I remain very grateful. And there’s now the opportunity to delve into an area I have a genuine interest in and heart for. I’m happy to learn more about the world of fitness and now have some idea that I can make this more than my lifestyle by working in the field I love with the most rewarding benefit of helping others realize their health goals. Cool huh? Don’t I know it. Except, I have to get through this (focusing in this unlikely season) to get to the other side to that goal. Truth is, God is always in the details, always has been, always will be.

End of Summer Runs are nigh

Happy Labor Day USA! And just like that we are saying goodbye to hot Summer runs, for the most part anyway. In my world that is a good thing. But hang on, this has got to be the fastest Summer I’ve ever experienced! It’s as if it started off in a sprint and never quite slowed down to marathon pace. In fact, Summer appears to still be running full speed ahead, even as I write this.

Yesterday was Labor day, for crying out loud, the unofficial last weekend of hot, raucous, random, and irresponsible runs. The worst part: I didn’t even run! Sadly – not really – I succumbed to “the lazies” and did everything but running. It didn’t help that our part of the world is currently caught up in the deathly grip of hurricane mania, namely Hurricane Dorian, that’s been furiously pounding the islands of the Bahamas for the past 2 days. It’s now ever so slowly moving its way up the south-eastern Atlantic coast and is expected to cause major damage with unprecedented storm surge and flooding. And so it rained the entire day! What a summer send off! I’m still seething with disappointment about not getting to the beach ( severe frown). It’s my guess that the overcast, rainy day we had yesterday may have been related to that extreme weather pattern.

This morning came all too soon. I was up and running at 5:15am as I felt some redemption was in order after that patch of no-running on the long weekend. As it turns out, I’m pretty glad I decided on that random guilt-filled run. I’m using it as motivation to run everyday for the rest of this week.

Despite it being the crack of dawn and post labor day, we still had a 90% humidity that almost lit me on fire – and I’m not talking pace here, though I did try to stick to tempo to wrap it up as fast as possible. I had work after all. Five miles and thirty-nine minutes later I was back, the world was awake, I had just enough time to get ready – breakfast not included, and I was off.

In every attempt to keep up the tempo, I went to the gym after work and managed an hour of insanity. I’m hoping to jump right back in tomorrow morning as I have group run scheduled in the evening. I expect it’ll be a bit cooler than last week and that can only be a good thing. In fact, I’m rubbing my hands together gleefully – though not too much as I fear what’s to follow in a couple of months. And yes, it’s reasonable to look ahead, especially with time being what it is and doing what it does, as I anticipate the cooler weather and what that means for running: cooler runs of course! They are on the way and with a lot else besides, but I’ll just focus on that one amazing fact for now. There’s only so much excitement a girl can take. LOL.

Rounding off the Summer in running style: A 50K, Speed Runs, and Views to Run for.

Selfie stop @ Vineyard Haven Harbour

It’s been a helluva busy last couple of weeks let me tell you. In fact, I’ve been stretched so thin ( no one’s doing but mine) that I haven’t found the time to get on here and post anything! Excuses, excuses, I know, but the truth is hellishly the same I’m afraid. I’ve run around trying to keep the end of summer at bay by trying to fit in one too many activities to tide me over once it’s well and truly gone. As it is, Labor Day has come and gone and as of this past weekend we’re heading into Fall territory. Ouch! What have I been up to then!

Smart Ass Trail Mix-Up – 50K – 5th Place

Well two weekends ago, I did some impromptu running and ended up with a 50 K trophy for 5th place after running a 31 miler. Yes, my very first ultra! And it happened so by the way that it’s not even funny. Turned out a few runners I know happened to have mentioned that there were two races: 30K and 50K happening in my neck of the woods and I felt challenged to give it a shot – just to see if I was capable of going beyond 26 miles. As it happened, my running was great for the 30K (ie. 18 miles) and got progressively worse as the miles advanced. It didn’t help that I started out with the idea to treat it as a long run – it’s marathon season after all – and I had never run more than 22 miles for a long run. In addition to which I did little to no race preparedness and got all of four hours sleep the night before. I figured this was just to see if it was possible, no big thing really..I wasn’t planning on racing or anything..and just wanted to gauge my ultra running potential. Big mistake of course but two lessons well learnt. I am never one to do laid back running in a competitive setting (or laid back anything for that matter) and trail running requires a different set of running prep – a different strategy for sure – and will not be as easy as road running just because I enjoy it more. It might have been the smarter thing to cut it off at 18 miles but who says I am (LOL), I actually made a decision then that I was going to finish no matter what. I ended up having to run/walk for a few miles, when common sense prevailed. But I did finish, though with a pretty slow time and way below what I would have ever expected to get a trophy for. I guess with just 100 entrants for the entire thing and with just about half of that choosing to go on to do the ultra that didn’t place me in any stellar field of athletes, but hell, in light of the circumstances, I was fine with that.

Part of our lulu run group

A day later I was back in the gym and the following week I joined up with my running group for some speed work in Central Park. I have a standing Wednesday group run with some fine folks at one of the athletic stores in the city and ideally we meet up once a week, twice bi-weekly during summer, to do some speed runs and drills. Ideally, because really I haven’t been fastidious about meeting up, though I have managed to make it count when I do. These speed runs help me work on my pace, running efficiency, and breathing technique as we vary workouts to include speed drills, hill repeats, 1-mile intervals, and Yasso 800s’ among others. Still, I would like to do more and up my training some. Between work, the gym, and getting about this summer, I may have run my lowest record of miles for the month of August.

Bike Trail to State Beach, Martha’s Vineyard

I’m jumping headlong into September though and already have a few runs down. It all started with a Labor Day weekend trip to the Cape where I spent a lovely 2 & 1/2 days on Martha’s Vineyard. A serene- picturesque-tiny-town-old-harbour-countryside feel. It was amazing and way too short. But, I managed to get a run in through the town of Vineyard Haven and along the water with amazing views of the sunrise, the marina, and the endless ocean. Found myself some hills too heading into some winding countryside of sorts and even shared them with a few other runners. We for went running on one of the days and opted to bike to the beach and explore a bit. Needless to say it was great and exhausting fun. It had been a while since I’d been on a bike for that long. When it was all over I felt even more in need of a holiday than I did before the trip had begun. But hey… memories and experiences cannot be bought only lived and enjoyed one day, or one run at a time. I like to say, I will rest when I die! 😁

Summer Runs – New York City

Summer Runs – Martha’s Vineyard

Summer Runs – Queens, NY

Summer’s Running, So Should You!

Wow..Summer huh! Who can explain this crazy weather! There have been few really hot days so far but a lot of others; everything from a drizzle and overcast skies to torrential downpours and thunderstorms, all under a thin veil of humidity. Overall though, it’s been a runner’s paradise so yours truly is not complaining. Wait a minute! I’m actually raving about the weather! Now that hasn’t happened in recent times, so it must be making me crazy as well! Whatever though, if I get to run to the tune of its randomness and have fun while doing it then that’s quite a feat these days.

For instance, last Saturday amidst the annual summer streets event held here in the Big A, we had the fortune, or misfortune, depends on which side you’re on, of running some 15 miles in an epic thunderstorm. I was so hopping glad it wasn’t in 90° sunshine that even with the prevailing humidity, when the rains eventually let up some, I couldn’t complain. Additionally, the Saturday prior we also got caught in a torrential downpour out in Brooklyn. Before and since then, I’ve had many rain-run encounters leaving me sodden (as the Brits would say) but quite the happy runner. In case you haven’t already guessed, I love running in the rain – thunderstorms are a favorite of mine.

So whilst there has been that enjoyable element added to the summer of 2018, the standard marathon training is in full swing. For many of us racing in the Fall or those with early September runs, now is the time to hop back on the training wagon. And if ever there was a time for an impromptu run, now is the time. Quick, before summer, and free time, and nice weather, and get-out-of-your-box adventure runs are gone. Living in New York is pretty amazing on its own but it’s doubly so because of the amazing opportunities for getting out of one’s comfort zone. A gazillion chances exists to push oneself to try new things. I’d wager that wherever you are there are similar opportunities for those with the urge to make something meaningful of what’s left of these summer days.

Here are some slightly off-beat suggestions to help you to that point:

  • Tag a friend for an extreme racing event – for example; a mud run, an obstacle race, or a slightly tougher warrior race and get your fun-o-meter up there.
  • Run a 5K – it requires minimal training.
  • Do a charity run or walk and make an impact – there are various good cause events hosted throughout the summer, like the Susan Komen Walk to Fight Breast Cancer.
  • Sign up for a sporting or exercise event that incorporates a form of exercise and something fun or relaxing, like a yoga retreat or a surfing workshop. Make sure running is part of the deal..kidding. Or not.
  • Run a half-marathon, a marathon, or an ultra. You knew it was coming! Just be sure training is part of the plan. The goal is to have fun while pushing those perceived limits, not getting injured.
  • Make any of the above a destination race/ experience by traveling somewhere new to add a slightly different -maybe cultural- twist.

I’m just saying. Why should summer just roll on out of here without you putting your stamp on it. All to often, we are so caught up in the day-to-day drudge, barely getting by, and not fully living and engaging with life and those around us. Wouldn’t it be something if this summer was the summer we decided to live out loud.

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