New World Record for Joggling a Half Marathon

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Just as I predicted, Michal Kapral set a new world record for joggling a half marathon in 1 hour 20 minutes and 40 seconds. That’s blazingly fast even for someone who isn’t juggling while running! Congratulations, Michal! It’s great that you’re using your extraordinary talent to help AIDS orphans! Congratulations also to Korir for winning the Toronto Waterfront Marathon!

I hope Kapral’s example inspires a whole new generation of jogglers. Our sport usually doesn’t get that much exposure. I believe a lot of the people who say they could never joggle could do it if they trained enough; I know this because I was once one of them.

The Bloggling Joggler

Michal Kapral Joggling for AIDS Orphans

He’s back! Michal Kapral, the man who amazed the world by juggling while running a marathon in 2:50, the official world record, is aiming to set another record, this time with the half-marathon. And to top it off, he’s doing it to help raise money for AIDS orphans: Michal Kapral Joggling for AIDS Orphans at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Races

You really can’t get more inspiring than this. I wish Michal well with this endeavor, which takes place on the 19th of this month in Toronto. I’m sure this joggling world record will hold for a long time, maybe even forever. Michal Kapral was one of the first jogglers I ever heard about, and he has inspired me to this day.

Great interview with Michal Kapral by writer/runner/adventurer Noel Paine: Joggling Boggles My Mind

To support his charity, go to: 2014 Scotiabank Charity Challenge

Marathon recovery for jogglers

The balls I juggled for 26.2 miles.

The beanbags I juggled for 26.2 miles. Gballz makes very durable juggling balls. The beanbags are made from ultra-leather, which is vegan.

It’s been 10 days since the epic Yonkers Marathon, and about 99% of the soreness is gone. This doesn’t mean I am 99% recovered. It may take a little while longer(maybe another week) to recover 100% so I can run 20+ miles again. What little soreness I still feel is mainly in the hips, and this is probably due to how hilly the Yonkers Marathon was.

Because I’m a marathon joggler, I get a lot of questions both about training for a marathon and recovering from one. Occasionally, I get questions about my sanity. Overall, it really isn’t that different, except that besides doing a lot of juggling and joggling, you need to do just a little bit of upper body strength training to be able to juggle for so many miles. Push-ups, curls, and the bicycle maneuver about twice a week is about all I do, and it normally takes about 5 minutes.

Recovering from joggling a marathon is practically the same as recovering from running one(at least I think it is). It’s the legs that feel stiff and very sore afterwards, while the arms are just a little tired, at least in my case. My arms felt better the next day, while my legs were so sore and weak I couldn’t run for 2 days after the race. So I juggled instead on those rest days. I’ve also been doing a lot of walking, which started the day of the marathon. After a long nap and lunch, I walked 2 miles a few hours after the marathon. I’ve been mostly doing short runs these days, though I managed to run 10 miles(8:50 pace) 3 days ago, exactly 1 week since the marathon. I’m not back to running 5 to 6 days a week like I was before the race.

I didn’t do anything special after the marathon when it comes to diet, nor did I get a massage afterwards, except for some self-massage. I didn’t take an ice bath either, just a cool shower. In case you have forgotten, I never stretch. I just relaxed a little more than usual after walks, or runs, or juggle chi. Lots of powerful music too, can’t forget to listen to powerful music to refuel the soul.

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The main thing I would do differently in training for my next marathon is to do more hill-training, and possibly even longer long runs. I think I may even be ready for my next marathon within a few weeks, though I haven’t signed up for anything yet. Will keep everyone posted.

Did you just run a marathon or half-marathon? If so, please tell us how you did and how your recovery is going.

Yonkers Marathon race report

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On marathon day, I awoke at 5:20 AM, jumped out of bed, and ran out the door to do a quick run. I ran for about 100 yards through the eerie darkness, about half a block and back to my house for the breakfast that would be my last significant carb-loading meal before the race.

Breakfast consisted of raw sunflower seeds mixed with kimchi, dried cherries, and a bagel drizzled with flaxseed oil. This is what I normally eat for breakfast, though the fruit often varies. Sometimes I eat kiwis or mangoes instead of cherries. The day of a marathon and for days before I always stick to what my body is familiar with, to avoid any problems.

Downtown Yonkers is just a few miles away so it was a quick ride to the start line. With the race set to start at 8 AM, I wanted to make sure I was there by 7:30. It was in the mid 60s, much warmer than last year. I did a few short warm up runs along the Hudson river(and 2 push-ups), and went back to the start line by 7:50 and drank the last of the juice I had with me. There were nearly 1,000 runners there, most of whom were doing the half-marathon; only about 167 were there for the full marathon, including me.

After a delay, the race started a little after 8:05. It was a frenzied start like always, and I passed many runners and many runners passed me as we ran through northward through downtown Yonkers. Many people like last year were amazed by the joggling, and I was accused, like last year, of being a “show-off”. The route along Warburton avenue overlooks the Hudson river and often provides spectacular views, but unfortunately my stomach was giving me problems. It was mostly this vague stomach pain that tended to get worse whenever I would run faster. I started out slow, but was slowly picking up the pace. As we ran north, the route not only becomes hillier but also more suburban.

After drinking some Gatorade at around mile 5, my stomach felt even worse. I did my best to ignore it, and was running even faster. I was just a little nauseous, but at the next aid station I grabbed some water and I felt much better. The hills were brutal. They felt even more brutal than last time because I refused to let them slow me down. The race starts at a little above sea level and involves over 1,000 feet total elevation climb. The big hill in Hastings(a small town just north of Yonkers) is especially steep, so much so, while doing the second loop I swore I heard the hills laugh. Some runners just walk up all or part of the way of these hills. After mile 5, the crowd of runners had mostly thinned out.

By the time I looped around to the start line area in downtown Yonkers at the 13 mile mark(50% done), I was feeling super and the space between runners was so big I felt like I was doing a training run. My stomach problem was mostly forgotten, and the crowd support was unbelievable. There were even some people shouting “go vegan!” or “that’s my man!”. Now on my second loop(this is a double loop course), I all of a sudden felt this rush of energy that allowed me to pass a bunch of runners. I’m not sure how fast I was going, since I wasn’t able to record this on my Runkeeper, but I was probably running somewhere in the 7 minute mile range on a gentle incline.

As I approached the steep hills of Hastings yet again, I started slowing down. And so did some of the other runners. The hills seemingly went on forever while running south back to Yonkers and the temperature was well into the 70s. I felt like I had hit the wall by mile 18, though I would pick up the speed on the downhills. At mile 20, I realized I hadn’t dropped my balls even once, though I was expecting to before I reached the finish line.

By mile 23 my legs felt so heavy that even small hills were becoming a challenge. I was sweating profusely on this unseasonably warm, sunny day. I grabbed my last Gatorade, and tried picking up my speed as I headed straight for the finish line along the Hudson. I think at this point the man in the tutu ran past me, complimenting me on my juggling. I complimented his style.

As I’m approaching the finish line along the Hudson river, there was some amazing crowd support, including from some fellow vegans. Since this was my second time running this, I was hoping for a PR. Last year I merely wanted to complete so I held back, but this year I often went all out. There was so much excitement as I crossed the finish line, I think even more than last year. It probably helps that I was significantly faster than last year.

The results: I finished in 3:40, compared to 3:51 last year(the route was virtually identical to last year). This is a new PR for me. Out of the 167 finishers, I was 35. Of the 31 males in the 30 to 39 age group, I was 7th. But most shocking of all is that I didn’t drop the balls once. Sure I fumbled a few times, but I didn’t drop. This is my third marathon, and my first zero drops marathon. I wasn’t expecting this, not with all the brutal hills, pot-holes, other runners, and endless distractions. Not to mention the heat, exhaustion, and borderline delirium during the last few miles.

I hope that while running this race I’ve inspired others to go vegan; that would make me happier than the new PR or the fact that this was a zero drops run. I’d rather drop 10 times and get 5 people interested in going vegan than drop zero times and have no one think of going vegan.

Congratulations to the amazing Oz Pearlman for winning the Yonkers Marathon(2:37) 2 years in a row! 1 day after winning the Hampton’s Marathon! Wow! Thanks to everyone for making this a wonderful race experience, especially the volunteers, and thanks to NYCRUNS for organizing this. All in all, a great race, and congratulations to everyone who finished the full and half marathon!

2013 Yonkers Marathon Race Report

Addendum:

Why did I experience so much stomach pain this time compared to last time? It could be due to my faster pace, but it may also be do to all the carb-loading I did in the days leading up to the marathon. I may have overdone it, I was eating tons of bread, pasta, and fruit, and sometimes I felt a little sick afterwards. I did have some probiotics like kimchi, but no kefir juice in the days before the race. I believe this helps, though sometimes probiotics can be unpredictable. It’s possible I drank too much juice before the race. According to some sources, fructose is more likely to cause stomach upset than other sugars.

Not getting enough sleep sometimes plays a role in digestive upset, however, I believe I got more sleep this year compared to last year. I slept I think 7 1/2 hours versus 6 1/2 last year, and I was less nervous.

Another difference from last year concerns the omega 3’s. Last year I was still taking vegan DHA/EPA supplements. I stopped doing this almost a year ago because I wasn’t sure if they were doing anything, and now I only take flaxseed oil for my omega 3’s. The ALA(alpha-linolenic acid) in flaxseed oil can convert to DHA(docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA(eicosapentaenoic acid) in many if not most people if they maintain the proper ratio of omega 3’s to other fats(the proper ratio is a controversial issue) and are healthy otherwise.

Science has shown that the omega 3’s, DHA in particular, are important for optimal brain function, and also for cardiovascular health. Late last year I decided to stop taking the DHA/EPA supplement, just to see if I noticed any difference. I replaced it with flaxseed oil, which, as I explained before, contains a precursor essential fatty acid called ALA which can be converted to DHA and EPA. I figured that if I were to become deficient in DHA, or any other omega 3, my joggling performance, which requires a high level of neuromuscular functioning, would suffer.

Since then, it seems my joggling performance has improved over last year. I didn’t drop once during several 20+ mile training runs(this didn’t happen last summer), and even the times I did drop, I dropped once or twice. Last year I could only go as far as 15 miles without dropping, while this year during training I went as far as 23 miles without dropping, and now this record was broken at the marathon and I can go 26.2 without dropping. All while not taking DHA/EPA supplements.

This isn’t scientific, it’s not like I’ve had my blood tested, but I think it’s safe to say my DHA/EPA levels and omega 3’s in general are adequate. I think the ALA I get from flaxseed oil is converting to DHA/EPA in significant amounts. A lot more research needs to be done on these essential fatty acids, but I don’t think I need DHA/EPA supplementation anymore. To get adequate omega 3’s on a vegan diet, you simply need to eat flaxseeds or their oil, or chia seeds, or walnuts. It may not be wise to take DHA or EPA supplements, so consult a doctor or health professional if you think you can’t get enough from diet alone.

My marathon training

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Hills like this are a big part of my marathon training

Many people are curious about how I have been training. With a few minor changes this year, this is how I train for marathons: My marathon training

What I don’t do anymore are the ankle weights exercises, since they are no longer necessary. I also no longer do resistance band hip exercises. The exercises I did with the ankle weights were a holdover from many years ago when my doctor recommended them to help heal a knee injury. My knee would feel worse whenever I stopped doing them, but now it feels fine. I very occasionally do half squats.

This year, to help improve my speed and endurance and because I’m crazy, I’ve been doing more hill runs, with steeper hills and lots of repeats. I think this has really helped me improve my speed. Unlike last year, I also have a lot more 20+ mile runs under my belt(it’s a vegan belt), unlike the small handful I ran before the Yonkers Marathon last year. I also run more mileage generally compared to last year, usually a minimum of 40 miles per week. Besides this, the less I run, the more I juggle to stay in top form.

Everything else in that old post is still part of my training, though I don’t drink beet juice as often. It should go without saying that I am carb-loading(this is an understatement!) and still tapering.

Here I come Yonkers!

 

Lost in Yonkers? Then run the Marathon

Yonkers Marathon here I come! It’s been a little while since I’ve run a marathon. This will be my third official marathon, and my second time running the Yonkers Marathon. I’m hoping to beat my previous time of 3:51, and I’m also hoping I drop less often. It’s a hilly race, so if you’re not used to hills, this marathon will be brutal. Here is how the Yonkers marathon went last year – How I did at the Yonkers Marathon. This time, after the marathon I will be swimming across the Hudson river to New Jersey.

If you’re in the area and want to see some joggling, this is your chance. Your support will be very appreciated. I hope there are more runners participating this year, especially more vegan runners. I think I was just one of two vegan runners last year. With all the vegan runners in the NYC metro area, there really should be a lot more vegans participating in this race.

Vegan or non-vegan, if you’re running this I look forward to running with you. You’ll know exactly who I am, trust me!

I was kidding about swimming to New Jersey.

 

Review of Saucony Cohesion 7 running shoes

IMG_2660Finding the right combination of durability and comfort when it comes to running shoes can be difficult. If you have wide feet like me, it’s even more difficult. But it looks like I’ve finally found a near perfect sneaker for endurance running, the Saucony Cohesion 7.

Not only are they extremely comfortable(thanks to the wide fit), unlike the Asics I used to wear, but they stand up pretty well to hundreds of miles of running. How do I know this? Because I just bought my second pair!

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Old and new Cohesion 7. That’s what the rubber soles look like after hundreds of miles of running.

I got my first Saucony Cohesions several months ago after wearing Asics over the winter. In the end, I was disappointed with the Asics, since they just weren’t wide or comfortable enough. In fact, when I first tried out the Saucony Cohesions, I was shocked. I hadn’t felt comfort like that in a long time. Of course, just because they were comfortable at the store doesn’t mean they would still feel comfortable after months of running over the summer, yet they still are. I even think my new PR last week was partially due to the comfort and cushioning of these sneakers, and that was accomplished with my old pair of Cohesion 7s that I won’t be wearing anymore.

These days I mostly run on sidewalks or other hard surfaces, so my experience with them for running trails is limited. What little trail running experience I have with them suggests they are good for that too, since they have good traction, though there are some similar shoes from Saucony that are made for trails.

In terms of price, these sneakers are in the very affordable range for me. In my experience, the more expensive, gimmicky sneakers are seldom worth the cost.

I really hope the wide Saucony Cohesion doesn’t get discontinued any time soon.

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New PR as summer comes to an end

IMG_2601With summer almost over, us runners can finally harvest the fruits of our labor thanks to the cooler weather. All that sweating while conquering steep hills, running far out into Connecticut, and running intervals has finally paid off. For the longest time, I’ve been trying to run(while juggling) 8 miles in 1 hour or less. This seemed impossible last year, during the spring this year while recovering from an injury, and well into the summer with the heat slowing me down.

After a lot of training, I could manage, with maximum or near maximum effort to run 8 miles in 1:02 or 1:03. It seemed erasing those few extra minutes was almost impossible. Then, 2 days ago, it finally happened during a 10 mile run. With temperatures in the upper 60s, I finally managed to run 8 miles in 59 minutes, 34 seconds. I also managed to run 10 miles in 1:14 and 31 seconds, the first time ever running 10 miles in less than 1:15. My average pace for this run was 7:28. I wasn’t flawless though, since I dropped the balls once during this run. At the end of this run I felt amazing.

Besides this, just yesterday, I’ve managed to run my first 2,000 miles since signing up with Runkeeper. That’s like running from New York City to Billings, Montana. All those miles were fueled and continue to be fueled by a 100% vegan diet. How did I manage to do this? Having supportive, wonderful, even crazy friends is a big help(there’s no community like the running community!), but besides this, I doubled my interval training a few weeks ago. I used to do it for 13 minutes once a week, now I do it for 26 minutes(I always do an easy 5 minute run beforehand). I alternate between 30 seconds of fast and 30 seconds of slow running.

The day before I broke this record, I was doing some hill training in Yonkers where there are some very steep hills overlooking the Hudson river. I did this for 47 minutes while it was raining, running up and down a steep 100 foot hill 7 times, covering about 3 miles while doing this. My legs didn’t feel as horrible as I thought they were going to feel afterwards. Some people were shocked by what I was doing. I believe the long runs I do also help. Unlike earlier this year, I hardly do any leg strength training anymore, except for squats very occasionally(I do ab work more often). I do little cross-training, and I don’t stretch. My cross-training consists mostly of walking, hiking, and “juggle chi” which is like Tai Chi but it involves juggling(I usually do it with 4 balls, while I joggle with 3 usually).

The important take away message here is to never give up. If you train hard in less than ideal conditions, you’ll reap the rewards when conditions improve. What records have you broken that once seemed impossible for you?

High Altitude Airships to Combat Poaching

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Elephants at Amboseili National Park from amoghavarsha.com

Hardly a day goes by without some depressing news about species going extinct or on the brink of extinction due to poaching or habitat destruction. These are sad times indeed for those of us who realize what a treasure biodiversity is, and how the loss of it can never be undone. So many unique, wonderful animal and plant species, some of which may have contained cures for many diseases have been irrevocably lost.

Elephants and rhinoceroses in Africa are particularly vulnerable due to their size and because of the high demand for elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn. Various countries and organizations are doing what they can to combat the ivory trade and poaching, yet it continues. It appears to be getting worse. According to experts, in 2013, we lost 96 African elephants a day due to illegal hunting.

This bloodbath continues to go on due lack of protection and corruption. There just aren’t enough park rangers or security personal to prevent all poaching. These days, poachers linked to terrorist organizations are heavily armed and often kill rangers to get to the elephants. Besides this, some locals see elephants as a nuisance.

One approach that I think can help prevent poaching of elephants, rhinos, and other endangered species is a much more effective surveillance system based on unmanned high altitude airships with cameras and sensors located up in the stratosphere. The current system of park rangers or military personal in jeeps or helicopters patrolling wildlife reserves on the lookout for poachers is woefully inadequate. I don’t remember where I first heard of this idea, but it came back to me after reading this article by Joshua A. Krisch: Modern Research Borne on a Relic: Airships That Carry Science Into the Stratosphere

It looks like there is a lot of potential in this area for airships to improve surveillance. Instead of satellites, which are very costly, and not stationary, or airplanes, which are also costly, think of something that is stationed high up in the stratosphere, almost in outer space, monitoring a very large area. Think “stratellites“, instead of “satellites”.

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High altitude airship. Public domain picture.

With state-of-the-art camera and detection equipment on board these high altitude airships, it may be easier to monitor the movements of both animals and poachers. Many elephants will have GPS on them to make them easier to track. Obviously, this will need to be coordinated with rangers on the ground or in helicopters to arrest the criminals. Maybe this will also make it easier to conduct an Elephant Census.

This really isn’t so far-fetched. The U.S Navy’s MZ-3A Airship has already been used to monitor and assist cleaning up the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the largest oil spill in history, and was also used for security at the Olympics. Of course, this is a regular airship, not a stratospheric geo-stationary airship. Fortunately, a company called Hyperblimp seems to be on board with the idea of using its airships for preventing poaching, though they specialize in low to mid altitude airships. I really love their idea of using solar energy to power their airships, which could allow them to stay afloat longer and further reduce costs. Aerostar’s HiSentinel high altitude airship appears to be the most promising high altitude airship, and is probably closest to commercialization.

I really do not know exactly how to implement this, who would own or control the airships, or if an organization like Sea Shepherd would be interested or capable of doing this. In the past few years, the World Wildlife Fund has turned to drones and UAVs(unmanned aerial vehicles) to help combat poaching. This approach isn’t exactly the same as using unmanned stratospheric airships, though it’s similar. The airships would be stationed high in the stratosphere at around 60,000 to 70,000 feet(above all weather) for at least a few months, so fewer of them would be needed for monitoring a large area and they may cost less in the long-term(they may even be retrievable and upgradeable). The current WWF approach requires lots of drones and UAVs over smaller areas.

These approaches aren’t necessarily in conflict, and would probably complement each other depending on the situation. It’s great that technology may provide the answer to preventing the extinction of these magnificent creatures.

Stop the Ivory Trade

HiSentinel & Stratospheric Airship Design Sensitivity

 

 

 

Metacognition in Scrub Jays

Scrub Jay in Flight

Scrub Jay in Flight by Lyle Troxell

A common faulty justification for eating and exploiting animals is that humans are so much “smarter” than all other animal species. “Animals are dumb so it’s okay to eat them!” so many meat-eaters proclaim. This of course is absurd; even if it was true, this still doesn’t justify harming animals. Carry this reasoning far enough, and it justifies making meals of humans who are mentally challenged. Besides this, it seldom makes sense to do interspecies intelligence comparisons(it’s difficult enough comparing humans when it comes to intelligence). Each species evolved as intelligent as it needed to be, based on the unique environment it evolved in. Some species are “smarter” or more “talented” at some things than others.

Increasingly, it appears that certain cognitive traits that were once thought to only occur in humans also occur in other species. Metacognition, or “thinking about thinking”, is something humans do on a regular basis. This ability helps us solve problems, philosophize, and plan for the future, among other things.

Recent research reported in Scientific American suggests that a small species of bird called the Scrub Jay may be capable of metacognition. As Watanabe, one of the researchers put it, “some birds study for a test like humans do.” I suggest reading the entire article to understand the experiment they used to arrive at this conclusion.

If this is true, this is yet more evidence that the human mind isn’t so different from other animals after all.