Listening To Your Body

Happy hump day my friends!

I am a firm believer that in order to reach any of your predetermined goals, you will have to push your body to do things that it never has before. Sometimes that means forcing it to do things that may not be natural or may even hurt a little. You all know the old saying, “No pain, no gain” right?

A good challenge for yourself whatever your level of running is, can always be a good thing. For those starting out it can be just running a mile without walking. For more advanced runners it could be breaking 2 hours for a half marathon and so on.

Since the beginning of 2018, I have pushed myself to gradually increase my mileage as I prepare for the 2018 United NYC Half Marathon. My goal for that half marathon is to run my personal best which would be under 1 hour and 51 minutes. A great day would be to break 1 hour and 50 minutes! In the midst of doing that, as many of you have read, it has been frigid in New York City. In my mind, I know what pace I will have to run at the half marathon in order to meet my goals. I also know that right now given the weather in New York City, it’s difficult for me to run that pace. Icy conditions, wind and more layers of clothes than I prefer, are just making that pace close to impossible.

As is the reaction for most people in cold air, my breathing in the cold weather is not optimal. Further, the turnover in my legs right now is just doesn’t happen as fast. There is truth in the fact that the cold air does drop the temperature in your legs slightly lower to the point where the blood does not circulate as fast and they tend to feel a lot more sluggish than in warmer temps. Maybe its that or maybe its mental or maybe it’s the tights I am wearing but I am definitely feeling slower in this cold during my training runs. I’ve come to accept that this will have a direct impact on my pace in this weather and to be honest, that is perfectly fine! For me, right now, there is no need to push the body and risk injury my pulling a muscle. A couple of weeks ago, I felt soreness in my calf when I tried to go full tilt. No need to risk a calf injury. Instead I can focus on increasing my distance which is what I have been doing.

My pace isn’t as fast in this cold – but its ok!

 

The alternative to listening to your body is listening to that bad alter ego of yours that tells you to sit it out and do nothing. We definitely do not want to listen to that! Take pride in stepping up to the challenges or goals that you would like to achieve but listen to your body. The road to your goals is yours alone and if you have to alter the process a bit because your body is telling you something that is perfectly fine.

My wife recently took up running in the past 6 months. She has never been much of a runner as she is asthmatic. In doing some reading on her behalf I found that asthmatics can run, they obviously have to watch their breathing and try to avoid cold air. Her near term goals are to run a 10k and she is working towards this still. But I told her that there is no rush to get there. At times her breathing has been hampered in the cold. At times her knee has bothered her. All things to take seriously and to obviously listen to the body. Still that doesn’t mean its time to go back to the couch. She’s altered her running workouts to work on cardio at the gym on the elliptical and has focused on working her core and some strength training also. When your body talks back, it isn’t the end of the world. Just listen to it. Cooperate with your body by altering your workouts, maybe take an off day or two and your body will reward you in return!

There will be obstacles in every road no matter who you are or what level you are at. No one is immune to them.  How you handle them will determine your outcome. So if your body talks back to you don’t get discouraged – it happens to all of us!

Stay positive and keep moving towards those goals!

Stay focused no matter what obstacles may come!

This Guy Is Getting Antsy

The older I get, the more I despise winters in New York City. The last few years my angst has been more about the snow than anything else. By all means you can say the same thing about this year as we have already had 5 instances of snow this winter and it has driven me nuts!

This year however, the winter has frustrated me because it seems like forever since I have run a race. I was supposed to run a race this past Saturday but it was cancelled due to the pretty bad snow storm that we got smacked with! Aside from the informal 5k that I ran on New Year’s day, which for me wasn’t an official race since there was no clock to keep track of it, I have not run a race since Thanksgiving. That’s the longest drought since I started racing over a year ago.

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The focus on race day is real!

 

For me, races are what keeps me going! The adrenalin that I get from races makes all of the runs worthwhile and it keeps me hungry. That is not to say that I am losing the desire to run – not at all! However for me, races bring out something more in me. My times are definitely reflective of that. There are times where I will do a training run and look at the pace I have run and compared the same distance to a race and wonder to myself, how did I ever run that much faster during a race? That’s what a race does. The other runners, the adrenalin, the fact that you are focused on nothing else at the moment but that race is what makes all the difference when compared to training runs.

These days also, my training has been impacted by severe cold and snow, I have been forced to do more treadmill runs which I really do not like to do. Side note, a friend recently sent me a link for some treadmill reviews that they did. I thought I would share it here with all of you in case treadmills are your thing! Back to my training runs, since I am doing more treadill runs and less races, I am becoming a very cranky runner lol. I need some racing in my life!

Winter has made me do more treadmill running than I would like to!

 

So I decided to try something different. Something that when I first saw it two weeks ago, I admitted to saying it was “stupid”. Earlier on Tuesday, I signed up for a “Virtual 5k” via the New York Road Runners club website.  A virtual 5k is a 5k race that you run on your own, at your time and leisure. You must measure your time and distance with one of their pre-approved apps. In the case of this particular race, they are using the Strava app to record your time. On the Strava website, they are tracking everyone that is doing the virtual 5k. The person with the fastest time is obviously the winner of the race. So this weekend, most likely on Sunday, I will wake up and go thru my regular prep for a race. I don’t know if I can mentally psyche myself up for a race when I am the only one running it in real time, but I guess you can say I am desperate at this point!! I will let you know how the “virtual race” goes!

Aside from the virtual race I am hoping to run a 4 miler on Super Bowl Sunday. When NYRR cancelled the Joe Kleinerman 10k this past Saturday, they offered me a free race or an automatic entry in this year’s “9+1”. I took the free race since I personally am looking to record times for my races. I opted for the NYRR Gridiron/4 Mile run but I haven’t been confirmed on whether they will accept my entry for that race. So the wait for my next official race continues. Never have I been this antsy for a race – it’s almost comical!

Is anyone out there running any races soon? If so which ones? I may hop on a plane just to go run one! (joking lol). While I wait for my next race, I will remember a favorite quote of mine that the great sprinter Jesse Owens once said. When I remember this, I am reminded that re-focusing on our workouts and training runs is not a bad thing!

A great quote by Jesse Owens!

Display Your Pride For New York City!

Happy Monday to all!

New York City has just gone thru one hell of a cold spell. The temperature has not been near freezing for over a week. Wind chills have had it feeling below zero for quite some time. Still, I have seen so many posts on social media of people running in this cold weather.Seeing this is quite inspirational. It shows a drive and determination that you just don’t see in too many place.

I myself ran a 5k on New Year’s day in zero degree weather. New Yorkers for lack of a better term can be crazy at times with their running. For me, it has to do with a very busy schedule so my time to run is limited. That being said, whenever I plan on getting a run in, I hold myself to that no matter what it is doing outside. For others, as well as myself, there is a great sense of pride to running in New York City. That can also be said for the hundreds of thousands that flock to New York City each year to run races here.

With all of the above in mind, I had an idea to make accessories and shirts with the hashtag #irunnyc on them. For me it is one of my favorite running hashtags. I’m proud to be from New York City and I love running thru out the streets of New York! I have had several runners, both from New York and from out of town express the same pride. I’ve started a page on this blog that has a few items on it that display the hashtag. I am hoping that you will give it a visit and check it out. If you do, check back often as  I will be adding more things from time to time. If anyone has something that they would like to see with the #irunnyc hashtag on it, let me know and I will try my best to make it happen! If nothing else, I will have fun wearing some of these items over time to some of my upcoming races!

For now, be proud of your city and display your pride with #irunnyc accessories and apparel!

Cold Weather Racing Planning

Just when I had started to get accustomed to winter running, New York City gets mired in an epic cold spell that shifts the weather from just regular winter weather to borderline dangerous winter weather. I sincerely don’t remember the last time the mercury was above freezing. We are 10 days into winter and we have already had four instances of snow. If this trend continues, we are in for one heck of winter. I’ve written before about cold weather running but how about when you have to race in extreme cold weather like the type that we are having in New York City?

The temps on my cold weather run on Tuesday – wind chills of 7 degrees!

This Saturday, I will be taking part in the New York Road Runners Joe Kleinerman 10k in Central Park. The forecasted high for the day on Saturday is 16 degrees. I don’t even want to speculate what the wind chills will feel like. With the race expected to start at 8am, I can assure you that we will not be starting the race at the high temps for the day!

In anticipation for this, the last couple of days, I decided that it was imperative to run in these frigid conditions. When I ran my 5k on Monday, the wind chill temps were 0. Tuesday night when I went for a jog, wind chills were 7. During those runs I had the luxury of stretching indoors and then stepping out just before my race/run. That isn’t a convenience that I and other runners will have come Saturday in Central Park. During the last two days I’ve been thinking a lot about before during and after the race, I came up with some other bits of precaution in my mind that I thought might come in handy if you find it essential to run a race in this weather.

Ready to race on Saturday despite the cold!

Pre-race Wait

Think about the duration of time you will be in the cold prior to the race. As I mentioned above, it is highly unlikely you will be able to hang out in a warm area up until race time. There are races where organizers will make you stand in your corral for 30-60 minutes. Call your organizers and find out how long you will have to be in your corral and plan your pre-race accordingly. For my race Saturday, I am hoping to stretch by the bag check area up until 15 minutes before race time with lots of clothing on and then strip off some layers, check them into the bag check, and jog to the start line to keep warm.

Pre-race Gear

Consider bringing clothes along with you for the pre-race that you will likely part with just before the race or during the early stages of the race. Let’s face it, you will want to stay warm as long as possible before you really get into race mode and no one can blame you for wanting to keep extra layers on as long as possible. That old baggy sweatshirt that you never wear anymore may be perfect to wear to the start line and rip off and just discard it at the start line or on the course. Further, some race organizers have charity collection bins where they will take items like this from you and donate.

Your Warm Up

Your warm up before a race is so crucial. I know that all you want to do before a race in these conditions is bundle up and stay warm. In below freezing temps however, your muscles need the warm up even more. With the cold air your muscles will contract easier and that is when injuries occur. If you have a warm up stretch routine, go thru the routine 2-3 times in this weather to ensure your muscles are stretched out to handle the cold.

Race Gear

What you wear once the race has started is crucial. The type of weather that I am referring to here is below freezing and closer to 0 degrees. In my opinion the extremities are very important. Thick non cotton socks, some gloves and a hat are a must. Your core is important but you don’t want it to be too bulky. 2-3 layers should suffice with the layer closest to your skin being a moisture wicking non cotton material. I know that most runners, myself included, are big fans of running in shorts even if it is cold. In my opinion, this is not the weather for shorts even if it is my preference for a race. In fact, studies have actually shown that below freezing, it isn’t wise to have your legs exposed to the cold air especially in longer races. The cold air lowers the temperature in the outer fibers of your legs by a few degrees. This contracts your muscles and it deprives them of oxygen. That in turn increases the use of much needed glycogen. The use of your muscles also slows when their temperature drops. I can tell you on Tuesday when I ran my longer run, I felt my legs getting heavier at the end, and I had tights on! In my opinion, leave the shorts at home in these conditions!

Dress accordingly in this weather!

Nutrition During The Race

Just because it is colder, don’t think that you don’t need the water. You definitely do! Hydrate well before the race! Also increase the amount of carbs that you take before the race. In the cold your body will go thru it’s carbs much faster since it will use them in an effort to stay warmer. I noticed this between my two cold runs on Monday and Tuesday. On Monday I took a GU carb gel before the race and felt strong the entire race and never really cold. Tuesday I didn’t take one of the gels and I actually started feeling cold by mile 4 despite the fact that it was warmer on Tuesday by about 10 degrees. My plan for Saturday will likely be to have two Gu gels. One before the race and one after mile 3. For what its worth, I also just love the taste of the GU Banana/Strawberry gels. (lol)

Post Race Clothing

What you do after the race may be just as important as at any point before or during the race. Because of my runs on Monday and Tuesday, I’ve given my post race gear a lot of thought and I will definitely be packing accordingly. Despite the cold weather you will likely be sweating or if you are not, the warmth of your body will without question cool down. This is when you need to take action. If you have built up a sweat on that bottom layer, try to get it off of you as soon as possible. Pack a couple of dry layers for after the race. Look for a portable bathroom and slip into a dry layer as soon as possible. I’m also thinking of packing an extra hat, extra gloves and extra socks. All of these items are likely to build up sweat during your race and you want to remove these as soon as possible as well. Of course the easiest solution would be to jump into a warm car as soon as possible but if you are like me on Saturday in the middle of Central Park in Manhattan, who won’t have that availability. This means you will need to do most if not all of the above right after you finish your race.

Extreme cold weather doesn’t mean that the race will result in a poor outcome. It does however mean more planning is needed, and well that’s just the reality of it. I know it’s hard enough sometimes to just focus on your race plan but the last thing any of us need is hypothermia or frost bite. Follow the above and you should be ok to race in extreme cold. Who knows, you might even PR in this weather! If you do, I would love to hear about it!

Looks can be deceiving – NYC is in a nasty cold spell!

New Year, New Goals, New Lesson Learned

Happy New Years to everyone out there!

The new year is here! If you were looking to put a resolution in play, well now is the time! I know I have been preaching that for some time and I am hoping that many of you will take me up on a change to get up off the couch and to start running. If not running, then something better than sitting on the couch! I will get into the New Year’s resolution thing however another day!

For me the new year will not bring about too much change in terms of a workout routine. However, that doesn’t mean that the learning stops. On day one of the New Year I already learned a valuable lesson and I was kicking myself when I realized it. On New Year’s day the gym that I belong to, Lifetime Fitness, had a themed “Commitment Day” for its members. For me, that is another way to get people to make a New Year’s Resolution. To commemorate the commitment day, they encouraged their members to run in a 5k run. It wasn’t considered a race because they didn’t time it. Running geeks like myself of course, chose to time it.

The temperatures of course were very frigid as New York City may never see above freezing ever again. I am convinced that my Christmas decorations may stay on my lawn til March because they are frozen in the ground. The mercury was at 11 degrees this morning at race time with a windchill of 0, zero, zilch, nada. My gym, in an effort to promote all of their classes and programs, had a wacky idea to do a pre-race warm up in the gym that consisted of an obstacle course of sorts. There were close to 100 runners this morning and I think everyone of them in unison told the gym instructors that they did not want to do a pre-race obstacle course? in the gym. Who wants to work up a sweat and then step out in 0 degrees? Helloooo???

When we assembled in the gym and gave them our gracious response of “No thank you”, we were whisked outdoors to the starting line. By the time I put on my hat, gloves and fired up my music and GPS, they were starting the race. Off the racers went and I hit start on my Strava app. As I did that, I dropped one of my gloves. After picking it up, I put my phone away and set on my way to try to keep up with the lead pack. The cold didn’t bother me too much on this race. I wore three thin layers, the bottom one being an Under Armor cold weather shell, tights, hat and gloves. I was fine with just that.

After settling into a comfortable pace and listening for my first mile split, I realized that I forgot to start my Under Armor Map My Fitness App. That’t the app that tells me my splits in my headphones after each mile. That’s the one reason that even though I have discovered Strava, I still use the UA Map My Fitness app. To my knowledge I do not believe that Strava does that as well, but if they do, someone please tell me how to activate that! Pissed off now that I couldn’t find out my splits, I decided oh well, its not really a race, its just commitment day. That’s when I realized that there were only 6-7 people ahead of me in the race. Aaaannnddd just like that, this became a race!

In a 5k there really is no time to pace yourself. The more I run 5k’s the more I realize that you are pretty much running hard almost the entire time. In the process of making this a race, I ended up tweaking another calf in the last mile of the race and had to slow up a bit. I managed to finish 5th overall in the race. Mark those words because I will not finish better than 5th l year!

If my calf had not started to bother me, I might have finished third. First and second were well out of reach so my calf made no difference there. Crossing the finish line in 5th, I was eager to see my time, since I was not getting my splits from the Under Armor app. I took my phone out of my running arm band and Strava looked back at me with nothing, zilch, nada. Seems as if when I dropped my glove at the start of the race, I actually didn’t start my Strava app either. Pissed off is not even the word. I was pacing back and forth at the finish line like a mad man. 3.1 miles out the window and quite possibly a PR out the window. Although I don’t know if this time would have counted since it was not officially timed.

When it was all said and done, I looked on the bright side. I woke up on New Year’s without a hangover, I ran a 5k on new year’s day to start off the year on the right foot, and I got a medal for my troubles. Two valuable lessons however were learned. Never start a race without switching on my Map My Fitness app an never start a race without switching on and ASSURING that Strava is on. I don’t care how many seconds I lose at the start, not having your run tracked might be the most frustrating feeling in the world! Oh well at least the lesson was learned on the first of the year! Hopefully never to be repeated again!

As the weather continues to remain cold, I have to say I am getting used to this cold weather running. Anything north of 30 may be a heat wave for me! If you are from the east coast, how are you getting along with the cold weather? No matter where you are from, how was your New Year’s?

75 days til the United NYC Half for anyone running that!

Here Comes 2018!

A very festive “Hello” to all of my readers out there! I decided to take a few days off for the holidays and I have to say while I enjoyed it with family, I cannot help thinking about my running and getting my racing started in 2018. Even though I took off from this blog for the holidays, I have managed to get out for a few runs. It has not been easy I will admit that. As I am writing this post the temperature outside feels like 4 degrees with a pretty stiff wind. However every time I do complete a run, it always feels great and that’s something I hope that all of you who have been doubting a run in this weather can experience!

The weather was very cold by me this week!

While it has been difficult to take that pivotal first step for each of my winter runs, I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by a great group of runners who have pushed each other to continue training for the 2018 United NYC Half Marathon despite the cold weather! Many of these runners are from all across the country. The temperature in some of these states has consistently been colder than NYC and yet they continue their training. There are stories of “come backs” from injuries and different setbacks along with relentless efforts to conquer personal race goals in 2018. As I am seeing these great runners in this group, I have developed a short list of objectives that I am choosing to serve as guidelines for myself to take my running and my overall well being to the next level. I wanted to share those with you as we approach 2018 because I firmly believe that anyone can apply these to their personal journeys. I hope you enjoy them and better yet, use them to guide you in 2018!

Surround Yourself With Winners

I am not saying to go out and find people who win races, but people who are strong minded and aim high to achieve and meet personal objectives. As I mentioned above I’ve been fortunate to be part of a Facebook group of motivated runners. That is the type of group you want to surround yourself with. But that’s not all. Sometimes you also need to limit the time around people who will do the opposite. You know the type – the ‘nay’ sayers. Those that tell me “your crazy”, “why run, just walk” or some other absurd negativity. These are also the type who might get you to do things that might otherwise pull you away from the things you really need to do. You truly become a product of your environment so make that environment the “winners”.

Everyone in this pic belongs to my gym – a couple are trainers. All of them have that positive energy around them! Find those winners!

Consistency is Key

My next objective for 2018 is to remain consistent with my running journey. The same notion can be applied to anyone out there. Whether you want to be a runner or you are aspiring to be a fashion designer or any other thing that you are passionate about, it has to be on your mind ALL THE TIME and you always have to strive to be better at it. Life has its ways of being very busy at times and I know I am guilty often of using that as an excuse to not get out and run or have a work out. So this year one of my main objectives is to keep the consistency as much as possible and work at avoiding busy schedules and conflicts coming up that keep me from my consistency. In my first objective that I described above those ‘winners’ that you should be surrounding yourself with will not allow you to fall into the temptation’s or conflicts that will keep you from your consistency. This is another reason why you should strive to surround yourself with positive influential people who will not tempt you to do things that could be destructive to your goals. A perfect example for me are the several friends who have gotten me out the night before crucial training runs or better yet, a night before a race day. You can always find a reason to “have to” attend a party or a happy hour. But when you are focused in on a goal, you have to maintain yourself as the number one priority. Those positive influences also will understand if you say no to a night out of drinking. Better yet, they may never even pose the invite to you. That will inevitably help you stay more consistent on your objectives.

I enjoy a good cigar from time to time, but I have to learn to save them for post race only!

Challenge Yourself

Last year I started to run several races. I was fortunate that I had several personal bests during a lot of my races. However several of those personal bests were simply because it was the first time running those distances (lol)! I had never run a 5 mile race before. Never ran a 10k before. Never ran a half marathon before. I hadn’t run a mile all out since senior year in high school! Therefore now in 2018, the floor has been set. I can continue to allow ‘father time’ have their way with me and allow myself to age and use that as an excuse for not getting faster, or I can push like I haven’t before and try to best those times I set in 2017. As I mentioned above, the cold weather has been tough to train in. While my longer term training plan at the moment is geared towards the half marathon that I am running in March, mentally I am also looking at a race that I have in a couple of weeks. That race is a 10k in Central Park. I only ran one 10k in 2017 so my objective is to beat this time. I really don’t want to make any excuses about cold weather being a factor. I will be disappointed if I don’t PR at my upcoming 10k. This is the challenge I present to myself. These are the challenges you should present to yourself if you want to continue to improve yourself!

A pic from the only 10k I ran in 2017. Must run faster than 51:16 in my upcoming 10k!

Accept Your Mistakes, But Learn From Them.

This point is something that I did a lot of in 2017. I ran tangents on race day horribly in 2017. There were races where I ran so much more in distance that I swore my GPS was wrong. I cannot do that in 2018. That partying that I did before race day? No mas. Can’t have that repeat itself in 2018. Lack of consistency? It can’t happen either. We all know where we have failed or hit a bump in the road. Allowing yourself to accept those mistakes is fine, but allowing them to happen again is a no-no. The only way to improve yourself is to understand why you made a mistake, fix it, and don’t allow it to happen again. New mistakes will happen in 2018 and you will have to devote time to work on those mistakes. We don’t have time to keep dwelling or re-visiting the mistakes of 2017!

I’ve been saying for weeks that I cannot wait for 2018 and I’m excited even more for it now! I also can’t wait for the weather to get warmer, but I don’t know when that will happen. I do know that 2018 is just days away. If you haven’t decided on a way to make yourself healthier or to simply create a better version of you, obviously now is the time. The gym’s may be crowded and everyone will flock for that healthier food next week at the supermarkets but don’t let that deter you from starting the process! Use my 4 guidelines above to work at the better version of you! And like I always like to say, when all else fails, get up out of your seat and GO FOR A RUN!

I want to thank all of you that have been reading this blog this first year of its existence and wish you all a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year!

Running away from 2017,

Cesar

Happy New Year my friends!

2017 – My Running Year In Review

As Christmas approaches this weekend, it is soon time to bid the year farewell! I came back to running in 2016 for health reasons but 2017 was the year that I came back to racing. It has been a challenging, rewarding and yet fun year for me as far as my running goes. With that said, I thought it would be a good idea to summarize my year and the races I ran. Hey if nothing else, I know I can always come back to this post and read about my year if I ever get bored or want to compare future races! Sure one can just go to this link and see my results, but that doesn’t tell you any of the highs and lows of those races!  You can stop reading here if you don’t want to read recaps of my 2017 races, but if your intrigued, settle in for a bit of a long read. They were almost all New York Road Runners races but that’s ok because it got me qualified for the 2018 NYC Marathon!

March 2017 – United NYC Half

No matter what happens for the remainder of my running life, the United NYC Half will be a special one for me and one that I will likely want to run again and again. After being turned down for the NYC Marathon for 4 years straight, I was accepted into the United NYC Half on my first try! While the race was run in March with snow on the ground, I didn’t care. I was excited to run my first half marathon and this one didn’t disappoint. The first two miles were frigid but as we made our way thru Central Park, by mile three I felt wonderful. As we left the park to start mile 8 on seventh avenue, I will never forget the energy of the crowd and how it propelled me to my fastest mile of the race. I belted out a 7:46 mile in the middle of the race! From there the crowds on the West Side highway kept me smiling as I enjoyed my first half marathon thoroughly. I finished that day in 1:54 (8:44 pace) and completed my first half marathon. This race would set the stage for several more races in the year!

June 2017 – JPM Corporate Challenge, NYRR Retro 5 Miler, Queens 10K, Achilles Hope  Possibility 4 Miler

Ok, June was a busy month! When I ran the NYC Half in March, I ran it just because I got picked in the lottery. When I picked up my bib however in March, I learned about the “9 +1 program” that NYRR had that would eventually qualify me for the NYC Marathon. I didn’t really pay attention to the program until April however. By then, April and May NYRR races were mostly filled which meant I couldn’t start accumulating races til June. Before I could run my next NYRR race, I would run the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge with my company. I’ve run this race many times over the years but usually casually with my co-workers. In 2016 I ran pretty decent but I knew I could go faster because the course was way too congested! In 2017 I decided I would line up much closer to the start than I did in 2016. What a difference that made. The course is still congested but no where near what I dealt with in 2016.  I ran a 26:45 that day (7:38 pace). Never ran that course that fast or even close to it. Had me feeling positive about what was coming later that weekend – the NYRR Retro 5 Miler.

The NYRR Retro 5 miler is more of a laugh than a race! So many people were dressed up in retro outfits from the 70’s and 80’s! It was like a time warp back to those years. I thought it was fantastic lol . The course was the 5 mile course in Central Park that included Harlem Hill. My ankle was a bit sore still from the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge that I had run a few days before so I wasn’t as fast as I wanted to be. Still 40:55 (8:11 pace) was ok with me! My time and the several crazy outfits I saw that day made the race very worthwhile for me!

My Next race in June was the Queens 10k. This race was part of the NYRR 5 borough series, just like the United NYC Half was. I was particularly looking forward to this race because it was situated in Flushing Meadow Park, a park where I used to do a lot of training runs when I ran track in High School. That and the fact that the course ran in front of Citi Field, home of my beloved Mets, had me excited for this race! Someone however should have reminded me the night before about how excited I was for the race. I ended up partying the night away the night before with some friends. Way too many beers! I got to the starting line with a bottle of gatorade, a hangover and a lot of beer burps. In my starting corral I accidently let a small burp out and the lady next to me said to me smiling “someone had a good night last night”. I just shook my head and proceeded to pound the pavement for the next 6.2 miles with my head throbbing for most of it. By mile 4 the hangover was gone, but the lack of sleep kicked in. I managed to run 51:16 (8:15 pace)but I know I could have done better. I want this race back, which will likely be the reason I run it again in 2018!

My final race in June was the Achilles Hope and Possibility 4 miler in Central Park. I enjoyed this race because of all the inspiring athletes that run this race. Blind people, people without limbs, people with several disabilities, all of them running and completing 4 miles. Truly awesome. My wife is asthmatic and while that isn’t a disability, it can create difficulties when trying to run. She ran this race and conquered it. For me inspiration was all around me. I remember pushing hard because of that. It resulted in my fastest race pace of the year up until that point, 30:34 (7:39 pace). The race was a feel good race and I commend NYRR for the job that they do with this race year in and year out.

July – NYRR R-U-N 5K

I had to take a couple of weeks off after a busy June but I found myself back in Central Park on a Thursday night for a 5k. I hadn’t run the 5k distance since the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge a few years back when it was a 5k course. Since I started running frequently, I was eager to see how I would do. I recall the first mile of the race and how I thought the pace was super fast. Well I was right. My GPS told me I ran the first mile in 6:52. I was baffled at how that could be. I went back and looked at the course and it was because the first mile was pretty much all down hill. It all made sense now lol . In Central Park, whatever goes down, has to come back up right? Well it did! I would inevitably slow down and finish my 5k at 22:39 (7:18 pace). Not upset with that one bit! I think my previous 5k time was in the high 24 minute range. By the end of July, I was really starting to like these NYRR runs!

August – Percy Sutton Harlem 5k

Well after not running a 5k in many years, I would do two of them in back to back months! This time I was off to Harlem where I frankly hadn’t been in many years. Since I hadn’t been there in years, I made the mistake of driving there for this race. With the lack of parking in the area, I found myself scrambling for parking. I ended up parking at a meter about 8 blocks away from the start line. Race was at 8:30am. I parked at 8:15am. You could say my race started as soon as I finished putting money in the meter. I got to the start line with 2 minutes to spare before the start. I barely checked my bag in before the start. No bathroom visit. No stretching. And there goes the horn for the start!  I remember running the first mile and I was sucking wind. I didn’t get to jog, or stretch and a lot of the first mile was up hill. As we zig zagged thru the streets of Harlem I took in the sites and was excited at how diverse and vibrant the neighborhood was. Before I knew it we were heading back towards the starting line. You know those uphills towards the beginning? Well now they were become some serious downhills! Great crowds on hand for this race had me pumped the whole last mile. Finished the race at 22:41 (7:18 pace). Just two seconds slower than the 5k I ran in Central Park a month ago! Damn it why didn’t I get a good warmup in!! That would have definitely been a PR! Oh well, save it for another day I guess!

September – 5th Avenue Mile & Bronx 10 Mile

I cannot say that I honestly trained for the 5th Avenue Mile. Sure I did a few workouts leading up to the the race on the track, but they weren’t really speed workouts. They were more of doing 3 or 4 mile runs on the track with maybe doing a few laps at full tilt. Screw it. Lets go run the mile anyways! After seeing heat after heat go off before mine and seeing the energetic crowds get behind the runners, I was anxious to start my race. As opposed to my last race in Harlem, I got a good warm up in here. The bag check is near the end of the race. Which means you have to walk or jog a mile to the start lol. Ok so warmup was done right this time! For this race, it was the closest I have ever been to the actual starting line. I think there were only two people in front of me at the starting line. The horn went off and I tried not to get trampled! The first quarter mile was swift – definitely not what I am used to. I think the clock said 1:15 for the first quarter mile. Umm that’s 5 minute mile pace if you aren’t keeping track!  In the 2nd quarter mile I slowed down particularly because it was uphill. I believe my half mile split was 3:00. As we got to the top of the hill, I could see the finish line. In all of the races I had run so far this year, whenever I saw the finish line, I would start my kick. This time however, it didn’t register in my head that I was still a half mile away from the finish line! Needless to say I hung onto dear life to finish that race as I was gassed. That last quarter mile hurt man! Mile time – 6:12. Hey, I haven’t run a mile all out since High School. I’ll take it! This was a very fun race and one that I would totally do again!

The Bronx 10 mile was a race that I was preparing for. Aside from the Fifth Avenue mile, I had been building up my miles gradually knowing that I had the Staten Island Half Marathon coming up in a few weeks. This race was a perfect training run in my prep for the SI Half. I remember the forecast for this day being very hot. The race however was early enough that I figure we would escape the heat. The course was an “out and back”. Pretty much 5 miles up the Grand Concourse and 5 miles back down. Remember that heat that I thought we would escape? It showed up for the 2nd half of the race! For the first time all year, I fell the effects of the heat. I stopped a lot for water during this race. I want to say 6 or 7 times. Some times it was just to dump the water over my head. I have to say it worked because I found another gear in the last three miles. Each of the last three miles were under 8:00 with the fastest one being the last mile at 7:36. Final time 1:21 (8:08 pace). I gotta say, the crowds were great in the Bronx! Even though I hate the Yankees, I guess it was kind of cool crossing the finish line literally right in front of the stadium. The Bronx 10 mile was my favorite medal of the year. Something about the red and black ribbon – nothing to do with the Yankees!

October – Staten Island Half Marathon

The year started with the United NYC Half in March. Only fitting it ends with another half marathon. This time in Staten Island. The only thing I know about Staten Island is where the Staten Island Yankees play. Lucky for me, this is pretty much where the race started and finished! The only thing I wanted out of this day was to be faster than my half marathon in March. Starting the race I felt decent. We were pretty much going down hill. Mile one was 7:46. Whoa – slow down Nelly, we got twelve more of these miles! At about mile three, some drizzle started and so did some hills. By mile five the hills had flattened out and we were running along South Beach. That’s when the skies decided to open. I have run in rain before, but never like this. It was a torrential down pour. The type that if you happen to be caught in it, you run for cover and hide anywhere until it slows up. I’m in mile five however of a half marathon – where the hell was I going to hide?!? That rain came down so fast that it was running down my face and I was literally gagging on it. My shoes were soaked and I could feel them getting heavier. At around mile nine, the rain decided to stop. But someone decided to put a huge half mile hill at mile nine. I was depleted after that mile I tell you. I hadn’t struggled that much thru a mile ALL YEAR. I wanted to stop. I felt slow and my GPS agreed with me – mile nine split was a 9:02. What? a 9:02? I don’t think I had run that split in any of my races – not even the March half marathon. I have to admit, when I heard the split for mile nine I kissed a PR for the half marathon goodbye. I took one more GU gel in mile 10 and hoped for the best. Mile ten 8:27. Mile eleven 8:02. Ok – here we go. Remember how I said the beginning was down hill? Yup – we are going to finish this miserable day going up hill. After mile eleven I had started to look at the cumulative clock and started calculating if a PR was possible. It still was, but I didn’t factor in a mile long up hill. That last mile was tough. It hurt. Further, because of all the water in my shoes, my insole had started shifting. I knew it was all out of place in my shoe, I could feel it. But the end of the race finally came, and it read a happy time at the end –1:51 (8:31 pace). When I finished I didn’t know how it was possible. Not with all the hills and not with all the rain. I guess the work from March thru October simply paid off. Crossing that finish line also completed my 9th NYRR race. The NYC Marathon was finally going to be mine in 2018!

What a year is all I will say. Running is amazing for just these reasons. In this lengthy post, I had no teammate to run with me. No one to toss a ball to or run for me. This was all me. That’s one of the things I love about running, no one can do this but you! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again  – can’t wait for 2018!!

Baby Its Cold Outside!

It seems that winter decided to come early on the east coast this year! Technically, it is not winter yet and we have already had 2 snowfalls and on Wednesday, we had windchills of single digits! If this keeps up then we are in for a very cold and perhaps, even a long winter.

For some of us, we have some races coming in the spring that we would like to get ready for. Personally, I have the United NYC Half Marathon in March and that is going to require me to workout all winter! I’m praying for nice conditions come race day. Pictured just above is the scene from last year’s NYC Half- cold with snow on the ground!

For some of you reading this, you might be eager to just start a running program. The weather can be a deterrent for starting a running plan unless you choose not to let it! Barring the fact that you hit the lotto tomorrow and relocate to warmer climates, here are some cold weather tips that I follow when I need to run in the cold and nasty weather! Follow these and you should be able to confront cold frigid temps!

  • Check the weather and plan accordingly. This might sound obvious but you have no idea how many times people tell me they didn’t realize it was ‘that cold’. In winter, the wind chill is a factor and while the mercury might read 40 degrees out, the wind chill can make it feel like 30 or 20 degrees. That difference is huge if you are dressing for 40 degrees. You do not want to underdress for winter weather.
  • Once you have checked the weather, dress for weather 10 degrees warmer than it is outside. Once you get going on your run, you are going to heat up. Having too many layers may make you a sweaty and uncomfortable mess.
  • Layer up! I know folks think they can wear that one super thick pullover or sweatshirt but that’s not ideal. Layering up is the way to go. I tend to start with long sleeves at 50 degrees and add a layer for every 10 degrees it goes down. The layers don’t have to be thick because they will trap heat in between. The key thing to be cognizant about is the layer against your skin. This layer should never ever be made of cotton! Cotton doesn’t wick away moisture and being wet and cold is not something you want in cold weather. Go with wool or other materials that wick away moisture. Under Armour makes great shells for cold weather that I love as bottom most layers and their layers wick away moisture also!
  • As winter drags on, you know that most of the time you will likely have to deal with night time running. Here is a post I wrote a few weeks ago with tips specifically for running in the dark. Make sure to implement these during your cold weather runs!
  • Cover those extremities! Gloves, hats, scarves are a must especially a hat. It’s a known fact that 90 percent of your body heat leaves via your head. I can never understand why folks run in cold weather without a hat! Those fingertips need protection too. Don’t worry about the iphone, they sell gloves with special fngertips for the phone too!
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Picked these up at this year’s NYC Marathon expo and they are racking up winter miles!

  • Ok so you are now dressed. No running yet because you must stretch, stretch and stretch some more! I am a big believer of stretching in general. In cold weather, double or even triple the amount that you stretch! Your muscles tend to contract more in the cold and they will take longer to get loose and limber. A lot of muscle strains happen in cold weather because people do not take the time to adequately stretch. Don’t let this happen to you!
  • If you know you will be dealing with wind on your run, and there tends to be a lot of wind in the winter, plan your run accordingly. Find out which way the winds are blowing and break your run up into two segments. Your first segment, should have you running into the wind so that when you come back, the wind is at your back. In the cold weather, you do not want to do the opposite!
  • If the temperature tends to get extreme, in my opinion single digits or anything below zero is extreme, then it may be time to find a treadmill. I personally despise the treadmill but Wednesday night for example, I bit the bullet and ran 5 miles on the treadmill. Wind chills were making it feel like 5 degrees and for me, after a long day, I was not in the mood to deal with the cold, the winds and the dark.

Wednesday night was also the motivation to write this post! It would have been very easy for me to stay home and throw on sweats and call it a day. But remember, its December! There are still parties to come, still tons of food to consume and you need to stay ahead of the game! Don’t let the cold weather keep you on the couch and feeling guilty. Follow these steps above and you will be ready to brave the cold and come back from your run feeling like you have conquered the world!

Have a great Thursday my friends!

Athlinks – Another Cool Running Resource!

Hi everyone! This will be a short but hopefully a some what informative post. There is no mystery that I love running, but here is one thing that I really love about it. Just when you think you have seen it all or that you have enough websites, gadgets etc to keep you entertained with your running, along comes something that you never knew existed. A couple of weeks ago I discovered “The Runner Box” and I broke it down for my readers here. Last week I finally joined Strava. Yesterday I came across our friends at Athlinks. The “Fitness” sub folder on my iphone is growing almost daily with all of these finds!

My first thought when I came across Athlinks was “All that work I spent on keeping my race log page and these guys will do it all for you!”. Essentially that is what Athlinks is, a site that pulls results from every organization that you have registered for a race with. In a way for me, it was kind of creepy how they are able to find the results of races regardless of where you ran them. But hey, these are race results and I have no shame sharing them with the world ! I always enjoyed New York Road Runners results page because it goes back several years and their stats are pretty detailed. However they obviously do not keep track of races that I do not run via NYRR. Athlinks keeps it all! You can also follow your friends on the site, assuming they are registered, and you can see their times and even make them your friendly “rival”. I have no rivals yet but who knows where this feature of the site will take me lol. Looking at all of the results on one nice page along with stats was pretty cool. However that feeling of bliss was quickly erased when I noticed that it has been a while that I haven’t run a race. I’m getting the urge to run again and I don’t know if I can wait til January til my next race. Hmmmmm…

 

Are you on Athlinks? If so follow me and leave me a note in the comments so I can follow you back! If you are new – enjoy setting it up. Its simple and quick to setup!

Monday Motivation – Starting A Run Plan!

Good Morning blog world! It’s a Monday and the sun is out! Sure there is snow on the ground but let’s not allow that to foil our plans. If you have been thinking about getting a running workout started, let’s not let the weather steer you wrong. If you are ever going to take one word from me take this. The hardest part of the whole process is taking that first step out of the door. Once you are out there your body will adjust and that cold weather that you were concerned with won’t be much of a concern.

Now that you have taken my word on that, here are some simple steps that I recommend new runners keep in mind as they get acclimated to the whole process. These are steps that I myself followed a few years back when I started  running again. Like many of you, my schedule is busy. Once you have a job, a family, children, friends and whatever else, it gets hard to get into a routine. I totally get it. But that doesn’t mean all hope has to be lost. If I can get it done, I know you all can get it done!

  • Before you take a step running wise, commit to yourself that this is YOUR journey. You don’t have to run at anyone’s pace or beat any certain times. This journey is yours and you are the master of your goals!
  • Once you have committed to my first point above, do set a goal for yourself. It can be as simple as running a mile without stopping or it could be running a 5k. It’s not easy to recommend a standard goal because everyone has different capabilities and fitness levels. Therefor I will say this, in general, your goal should challenge you but should also be something attainable. Set a reasonable time frame for your goal of somewhere between 1-2 months. Need a race to run?  Check my race calendar on my blog here! (sorry NYC area only!)
  • Here is the most important part in my opinion, particularly for busy folks. Schedule your workouts! People starting to run say “I think I will try and run 3-4 times a week”. Three to four times a week is great but saying just that, leaves things too open ended. Instead of saying 3-4 times per week, schedule those 3-4 times per week and tell your family and/or friends about your scheduling so that you don’t run into scheduling conflicts with your workouts. This may sound funny, but when I schedule my workouts, I set aside time slots and send calendar invites to my wife so that the time is blocked out on her calendar so that she doesn’t try and have me run errands or handle the kids during those times. Too often we “say” we will run but then “something” comes up! I found scheduling workouts to be very effective to meeting your goals!
  • If you have a mobile device download one of the well known running apps that exists. Two of my favorites are Map My Fitness by Under Armour and Strava. These apps run with the use of the GPS on your mobile device and can track your runs as well as the times and splits. I know I previously said not to worry about running a certain time, but tracking your own workouts will help you monitor your progress. These apps are free to use and both have premium options to add on. Basic tracking of your workouts is free. Don’t have a mobile device? Pick up an inexpensive stop watch on Amazon and log your runs in a small running diary of sorts.
  • Another very important tip that many people over look is stretching. I know we are pressed for time, but please please please do not by pass your stretching. If you are short on time, shorten your run but get your stretching in. Five minutes of stretching will go a long way especially if you are new to running. Remember, your muscles are new to this do. The last thing you want to do it build up the motivation to start a running plan and then get injured. Here are some key stretches that I do myself before I start a run.

Running Stretches

  • When running, run at a pace where you can hold a conversation. If you are running and you are out of breath and cannot hold a conversation, then you are starting out too fast. I have mentioned to many beginners that the number one thing to focus on at the beginning is your breathing. Never mind your legs or pace or anything else. If you lose your breathing tempo, everything else will follow suit.
  • As hard as it may be, don’t think of running as a bad thing. So many people never see it thru but the feeling at the end of meeting your goals when running is euphoric. For many it is a feeling that not many other daily things can bring.

I will leave the ‘starting out” tips at that for now as I don’t want to bombard beginners too much. As always if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me!

Experienced runners, have any tips for new runners starting out? Share them in the comments section!

Have a great week everyone!!