When I Couldn’t Outrun Arthritis, I Learned to Joggle

Rather than write my own blog post about joggling and arthritis, I thought it would be much better to let my friend Dana Guglielmo be a guest blogger(our first ever) for this topic, since she has arthritis and is an amazing joggler who holds a world record certified by the Guinness Book of World Records. Without further delay, here is her inspirational story.

When I Couldn’t Outrun Arthritis, I Learned to Joggle

By Dana Guglielmo

It was the camaraderie and entertainment that first lured me into the sport of joggling (juggling while running), and when I say entertainment, it’s a two-way street. I try to make the people around me laugh with the joggling; in return, the runners and spectators make me laugh with their hilarious comments. Joggling is basically an open invitation for people to talk to you (and make inappropriate ball jokes).

“What, did I seriously just get passed by a girl juggler? You just completely emasculated me!”

My new hobby has inspired countless laughs, but perhaps the most important gift it brought me was a new approach to battling a chronic condition: Inflammatory arthritis.

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You know, Dana, when you run so many miles it makes me wonder what you’re running from,” my friend joked.

I was heading out the door for my second run of the day; that week I had run close to 50 miles. I laughed about it, but there was some truth to her statement – I was definitely running from something.

unnamedI began joggling last year, and as I faced the challenge of running with three hacky sacks spinning in a cascade pattern, I also faced a new challenge in managing my arthritis.

Not only did my medications stop working for me, but I began having serious side effects from them. But lowering my medications risked damaging my joints; increasing them risked damaging vital organs.

I couldn’t win.

After trying to outrun my arthritis for seven years, I realized my arthritis had outrun me.

Gone were the days that I could wake up, pop 8 pills, inject more medication into my stomach and expect to feel amazing on a 15 mile long run. The same medications that enabled me to outrun the disease for seven years had stopped me dead in my tracks.

Change was in order. So I stopped trying to outrun my arthritis, and instead, I began learning how to manage it along with being an athlete.

I met with a new rheumatologist and dietitian that both fully support my dream of running marathons. Under their guidance, I lowered my medications and altered my diet. As it turns out, the best diet for arthritis patients is the same diet that nearly everyone should follow to be healthy.

For the first time in my life, I took it easy. I chilled out. I let go of my need to perfect every little thing. I exercised based on how I felt, and not what my training schedule said.

With my new lifestyle and positive mindset, the juggling ball of arthritis became significantly lighter. I stopped running with fear and denial, and began moving forward with confidence.

danagIn time, I stopped running from my arthritis. Joggling helped me to manage my health in a way that running never could do on its own. Sure, there will be days that I “drop a ball” and have pain, but you’re allowed to drop a ball – even in an official Guinness World Record attempt!

Whether it’s juggling my hacky sacks or juggling arthritis, I hope to be juggling everywhere I go – running included.

Funding Research To Cure Arthritis

Joggling4Arthritis

Dana Guglielmo’s blog – Beating PRs & Beating Arthritis

Follow Dana Guglielmo on Twitter

Recovering from 40 miles of joggling

Although I have never run this far before, I recovered from the 40 mile run to Mahopac a lot faster than I expected. I think this is mostly due to my slow pace and the lunch break walk near the middle. And maybe that mineral rich miso soup when I got home.  Also, the Cliff Bar and lots of cherry juice immediately after were a big help. In fact, I recovered from this run much faster than I did from the Yonkers marathon. I took 2 days off after the Yonkers marathon because of how sore I felt, while I took only 1 day off after the Mahopac bound 40 miler. In fact, I walked about 3 miles the day after the ultra-run.

I was back to running normally within a few days. 2 days after the Mahopac run, I ran 5.2 miles at an 8:52 pace, which is moderate, slightly slow pace for me. I also didn’t drop once. The day after this, I ran 10.2 miles, at an 8:58 pace(again, no drops), which is moderate for that distance. I continued on, running much like before. The longest run I’ve done since was a 16 mile run at a 10:38 pace a few days ago, which is slow even for this distance. For some reason I had little energy that day.  I don’t think it was due to over-training, it was probably due to sleep and diet issues(didn’t carb load properly).

I felt like I was fully recovered from the Mahopac run in 4 days, though I realize how I feel isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator of recovery. Another reason I seemingly recovered fast was I stayed well nourished and hydrated during the long run, and had no major stomach issues.

Strangely, my wrists and hands had more issues this time than my legs or hips. This wasn’t a problem after my last marathon. Toward the end of the 40 mile run, my left wrist was in pain. Since it was only a slight pain I could mostly ignore it and continue juggling. When I got home I realized my left hand and wrist were swollen, and this continued for several days. The pain went away and most of the swelling subsided, however, it tends to get swollen whenever I run more than 10 miles, though luckily there is only a little soreness. This is rather strange, since it was my right hand that got broken in a car accident several years ago, not my left. I sometimes wonder if excessive sodium is partly to blame.

While at first I suspected this was a problem unique to jogglers, I’ve read that distance runners and cyclists can experience the same thing. Basically, if your hands are lower than your heart during very prolonged endurance exercise, blood gets pumped into them, but it is much more difficult for the blood to come out.

Fortunately, this is just a minor annoyance, and doesn’t seem to affect my juggling ability. I didn’t drop during today’s 10 mile run, or yesterday’s 10 mile run to Larchmont, or Friday’s 16 mile run. Though minor, I will be looking into ways to prevent this, and appreciate any advice.

One of the most important lessons I learned while recovering from this ultra-run is that moving around, short easy runs, and light exercise is the key to recovering from very long runs.  It’s okay to nap or sit, just don’t do it for too long unless you are fatigued in the extreme. Sometimes pushing yourself is a good idea, sometimes it isn’t. How to tell when it’s a good idea is one of the mysteries of running.

New record: 40 miles joggling

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This was the culmination of many years of joggling. In training, I have covered thousands of miles, injured myself a bunch of times, experienced many setbacks, and connected with many other jogglers and runners. Through it all, my speed and endurance gradually improved, and I was dropping less. I’ve been planning on doing this for some time now, and the perfect opportunity came last weekend. Not only was I fully recovered from the Yonkers Marathon from 2 months ago, but the weather conditions in mid autumn are perfect for going the distance. Besides fine-tuning my training and diet, I also made sure I had all the proper equipment for this adventure.

Before setting out on this run, I made sure I had everything I needed in my Black Diamond backpack. Just a few of the items I brought with me, from left to right: Princeton Tec Tactical Quad LED Headlamp, a bunch of Trader Joe’s apple blueberry fruit wraps, and Anker Astro Mini smart-phone charger.

2014-11-19 08.14.03Besides this, I also had 3 Peanut Butter Cliff Bars, a Tofurky sandwich(2 slices between white bread), and later along the trip I bought some water. I realized that with how long this trip was going to be I needed both the headlamp and battery charger, and they both came in handy toward the end. Because of the chill in the air(it was about 40F), I had on a jacket, a t-shirt, a winter hat, and sweat pants. It got chillier the farther north I ran.

Preparing for this included the usual long runs, intervals, and hill runs. I tapered for about a week and a half before this. In the weeks leading up to this long run, I was eating a lot more leafy greens than usual, especially arugula and watercress. I also ate vegan kimchi occasionally, since it seems to help prevent digestive issues(too much kimchi or probiotic food could also cause digestive issues if you’re not careful, in my experience). Still, about a week before this run and up till a few days before it, I was feeling increasingly lethargic. I’m not sure why, though it may have been due to over-training. Because of this, I came close to canceling this run, though about 2 days before my energy started to improve.

Almost 2 hours after a breakfast of sunflower seeds, bread, and cherries, and shortly after pre-loading with lots of juice, I started my running adventure at 9:36 AM, slowly making my way through Mount Vernon and Bronxville to the Putnam/South County Trail in Yonkers. This paved bike/running path, which I’ve mentioned many times before, used to be a railroad line. About 45 miles long(with a few small gaps here and there), it starts in the Bronx and goes as far north as Brewster, NY in Putnam county. This trailway has a special significance for me since the first time I ever ran 20 miles was on this path. I’ve done numerous long runs on it since.

So I started with a slow pace, realizing if I ran too fast I wouldn’t be able to go very far. I did about 9 minute miles for the first 13 miles, which is slightly slower than I usually run. There weren’t that many people out on the trails that day except for the occasional cyclist. Although it was past peak, there was still a lot of autumn beauty to behold. At about mile 11 in Elmsford, I stopped for a bit to get some apple juice from the store before continuing north.

The next part of the trail(after running along the sidewalks of Elmsford, which is where the largest gap in the trail is located) is an upward slope that is often steep. The gentle slope of the trailway from Yonkers to Elmsford does little to prepare you for this. The climb seemingly goes on forever, and could prove frustrating for the uninitiated. I admit I got frustrated occasionally even though I am used to running hills. My tenacity combined with my appreciation for the autumn beauty and sweet, gentle autumn wind helped me get through it.

In some areas near Ossining and Briarcliff Manor, the trailway runs alongside some roads, but this mostly doesn’t bother me since there is usually little traffic in these rural areas. After many miles of elevation gain, my legs started to tire a little around mile 20. I kept pushing myself since I knew I was going to take a big break a little after the halfway mark in Millwood. To think that Millwood was once the end point of a very long training run last year, and is now the midpoint!

The trail runs very close to a supermarket in Millwood, where I washed up, got some water, and headed back to the trail to eat lunch. I walked fast as I ate a lunch of 2 slices of Tofurky with white bread(I find white bread easier on the digestion than whole grain bread before and during long runs). This is a much smaller lunch than I usually eat because of the serious digestive issues I’ve often experienced on long runs. Even after I finished lunch, I continued to walk to let it digest. All in all, an almost 40 minute break from joggling.

I felt so refreshed after lunch that I didn’t have to struggle with my legs like I did before. Though I have run north of Millwood before on the Putnam trail, I always drove my car to get to Millwood to do this. So I am still in familiar territory, and knew what to expect for the next several miles: The tunnel, the hills, and eventually the old bridge that goes over the Croton river. It felt amazing crossing the bridge, since this was the first time I have ever run from the Yonkers portion of the Putnam trail this far north.

As afternoon progressed and I joggled northward, it got colder and the sun was getting lower in the sky. I was in very rural, rugged country, heavily forested, and teeming with wildlife, though I didn’t see anything beyond birds and squirrels on this journey. Just a few miles more and I would be going through Yorktown, one of the more historic villages I would pass through on this trek. I didn’t have time to check out the historic churches or other buildings, but the rich history was very much on my mind.

As fascinating as all this was, I started feeling sluggish. I quickly got some water from a store and had my first fruit wrap(50 cals). Within minutes, I felt a stomach ache while I was running, but I didn’t let it slow me down. Energy-wise, I felt a little better. Within about 15 minutes, the stomach ache was totally gone, and I continued to push northward toward the Putnam county border. Yorktown is the last town in Westchester county on this route.

Before I knew it, I was at mile 30, my old distance record. I kept repeating to my tired self that I only had 10 miles left to go. It was also at this point that I started to notice small snow patches in shaded areas. I had run so far north I was almost in a different climate zone. A little ways north of Yorktown I hit mile 31; it felt exhilarating knowing this was the farthest I have ever run. I also knew that Putnam county was just a few miles away, though there are so signs or distinguishing features along the trail that would indicate this, at least not before I knew I was in the village of Mahopac.

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Though this photo was taken a few weeks before the run, this is what it often looked like on the Putnam trail.

I was in very unfamiliar territory, both geographically and psychologically. Sure I’ve driven through here, but I have never been on this part of the trail before. The countryside in this area looked like a postcard. The low sun illuminating the red and yellow leaves of the trees looked heavenly. This natural beauty inspired me as the soreness in my legs increased, especially when I had to climb hills. My arms also felt increasingly sore, which seldom happens while joggling. It made sense though since I had never joggled for so long before. After this point I would walk for 5 to 10 seconds every mile. I really believe this helped me make it to the end.

Because of how quiet it was and also because I hadn’t seen anyone on or off the trail for miles, I felt like I was the only person on the planet. As a person who loves solitude, this didn’t bother me. Part of the reason it was so quiet was because there were no longer any major roads or highways near the trail, unlike the first 2/3 of this journey. Around this time it started getting a little dark so I put away my sunglasses.

Feeling a little more tired by mile 35, I ate another fruit wrap and drank some water. It tasted amazing and gave me a nice jolt of energy to help me push the NYC metro area further behind me. I started to recharge my very low phone battery at this point.

I soon realized I was in Putnam county, my first time ever running there. I looked at my map just before crossing the border, just to make sure. I had run just a little over 35 miles and Mahopac was just 2 miles to the north, but I was excited and feeling strong. Granted, although I was averaging an 11 minute mile pace, which is very slow for me, I felt good. I had to turn on my headlamp a little after mile 36 to see around me. I drank some more water. At mile 37, I was finally in Mahopac! However, since I had planned this to be a 40 mile run, I ran a little eastward toward Croton Falls, and then back to Mahopac. It was at mile 39 that I finally dropped, due to not being able to see that well in the darkness even with the headlamp on. 39 miles without dropping, another new record! I don’t know if this is a world record, but it probably comes close.

I finally ended the run at 5:22 PM, when it was very dark and chilly. It took me 7 hours and 46 minutes to complete this at an 11:38 pace, according to Runkeeper. According to Strava, I had been running for 7:06, at an average pace of 10:38(Strava automatically removes the times I wasn’t running). I also managed to climb about 1,290 feet(393 meters) and burned 4,152 calories(and that only counts the running, not the juggling). I did few juggling tricks on this run, mostly in the first half.

I had arranged for my cousin to pick me up and also have everything I needed to refuel. Near the end I felt a little bit of nausea but it quickly faded. I had a Cliff Bar and 32 ounces of tart cherry juice. It went down with no major issues. I felt both exhausted and euphoric over this accomplishment. A little bit of nausea returned but it quickly went away. Back at home, I made some miso soup with rice, tofu and vegetables, a perfect meal for replenishing minerals and carbohydrates. I also drank a lot of juice. I had trouble sleeping that night because this run was very over-stimulating, but I felt alright in the morning and did no running that day.

It wasn’t so long ago that I would have thought this was impossible. Not just joggling this distance, but running it. Besides having beautiful music playing in my head, I kept repeating to myself that this was just 14 miles more than a marathon. The fresh air and autumn splendor were also a big help, not to mention all the encouragement from friends. I’m hardly the first ultra-joggler. That distinction belongs to Perry Romanowski, whose 50 mile joggling World Record was a big inspiration.

I injured myself the last time I tried breaking a distance record, but that was due to not tapering the week before. I still feel terrific almost a week later. I realize I didn’t run the entire time, but this is often the case with ultra-running.

I’ll write about my quick recovery in a follow up post.

 

Scott Spitz on cover of Runner’s World!

rw-coverI realize this is a little late, but like many of you, I was thrilled when I saw Scott on the cover of Runner’s World. It’s difficult to think of a vegan runner or any runner as inspiring. For those of you who don’t know, Scott is a 2:25 marathoner and writer/designer who has won many races. Then around 2 years ago, tragedy struck when he was diagnosed with cancer. Be sure to read the Runner’s World article for his moving though inspiring story.

I’ve been following his blog, Run Fast. Run Vegan for some time now, where he he goes into great detail about his struggles. He’s been through hell and back and may yet have to return to hell. Through it all, his spirit wasn’t broken. He’s still as much a runner now as ever. He has that unmistakable runner’s attitude and resilience. Indeed, he often draws intriguing parallels between the ups and downs of running and his current health struggle.

I am so happy he won this Runner’s World contest and I hope he ultimately triumphs over his cancer. He’s an inspiration to us all, and all of us in the vegan community want to see him out there smashing records again.

 

Michal Kapral in Fairfield Inn Ad Campaign!

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Not only did Michal Kapral recently break a world record in half-marathon joggling, he’s now being featured in the “#stayamazing” campaign by Fairfield Inn and Suites! Way to go! I haven’t seen the ad on TV, but you can easily view it on Youtube(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sEX4qufyWCM). I can’t embed videos unfortunately. Too bad I missed the official launch of this campaign, which was just a few days ago here in NY.

It’s always great seeing a world class joggler getting the recognition they deserve, especially when they are doing it for a good cause. Joggling may be a fringe sport, but it occasionally does take center stage. I hope Michal Kapral’s achievements and this ad campaign inspires a new generation of jogglers. Congratulations again, Michal!

Visit his blog here: The Bloggling Joggler

3 amazing vegan blogs

Every now and then I discover a vegan blog that really grabs me. The kind of vegan blog that sings and sizzles everything vegan, with delicious recipes, new approaches to vegan activism, and vegan lifestyle tips. The 3 vegan blogs I love the most these days are:

The Friendly Fig – Can’t really beat this blog when it comes to content. Not only do they have some of the best vegan recipes out there, they live up to their names. Lots of friendly Italian recipes, because 1/2 of the Friendly Fig is Italian, and if there is one cuisine I can’t live without it is Italian. Check out their Very Vegan Lasagna recipe. Also has health tips, travel tips, and some fantastic photos. Did I mention that they are friendly?

Greek Veganista – Finally an awesome Greek vegan blog! Sure there are other Greek vegan blogs(I’m not sure if mine counts), but this is arguably the best. Not only does it have a lot of helpful information for animal activists, and interesting travel posts, it also has many mouth-watering, delicious classic Greek recipes, all totally veganized! I often wish my blog could be more like Greek Veganista’s, but I’m not that great of a cook or that great of a designer.

Italian Vegan Way of Life – That I love Italian food is an understatement. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always loved pasta, tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, mushrooms, basil, and even broccoli. While there are plenty of other Italian vegan blogs out there, this one is in a class by itself, due to all it’s incredible, nutritious recipes. It’s in Italian and English, so I learn a little bit of Italian every time I visit. Everything from main meals to deserts and appetizers can be found in this Italian vegan paradise. Also has occasional travel posts.

 

New World Record for Joggling a Half Marathon

Screenshot from 2014-10-20 11:10:32

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.