Category Archives: running

Paine to Pain 2017 Race Report

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Nearly two weeks ago I completed the Paine to Pain trail half-marathon, my second official half-marathon. It wasn’t that much different from last year except that I didn’t juggle this time and it was warmer and it rained a little. Obviously, not juggling is part of the reason I completed the race in 1:50, 11 minutes faster than last year. However, I did juggle while training, and even did a little joggling while warming up before the race. It seems not juggling during this race disappointed some spectators who had expected me to juggle.

I really love this race. It’s so steeped in history and celebrates Thomas Paine, one of the few Founding Fathers strongly opposed to slavery, among other progressive stances. This was the 10th anniversary of the race, it has become something of a New Rochelle tradition.

So why didn’t I juggle this time? I was concerned about having a mishap on the narrow, rocky trail, but I also wanted to see how much faster I would be without juggling. Though I didn’t fall last year, I did drop the balls 4 times and came close to spraining my ankle. This year I did trip a few times but didn’t fall to the ground since I quickly regained my footing.

The race started at 9, but since most of this race takes place on a rocky, narrow trail there are different waves that start at different times. I was in wave 3. Much of mile 1 was on the street, but once you’re on the trail it is wickedly rocky and hilly. I took it easy for the first few miles, but after this started passing a lot of runners whenever the trail allowed for it.

Even when I’m not joggling, I’m joggling: My arms still automatically make a juggling motion while running because they’re so used to juggling while running. This is hardly a problem and fortunately nothing trains you to have perfect running form more than joggling. For this reason, adding joggling to your training regimen may prove beneficial even if you don’t plan on doing it at races. I’m not sure if all the unicycling I do helps with form or balance while running, but it probably helps push my cardiovascular fitness to the max without having to worry about a running overuse injury.

Several miles in, the crowd of runners thins out and I started picking up the pace. This big, rocky hill in Saxon woods slowed me down a little, but I continued to pass more runners. In some parts of the woods the summer greenery is holding out, but in others the dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn are working their magic.

Midway in I felt terrific. I was wet both from my sweat and from the drizzle, and I was still getting faster. Approaching Twin Lakes I was in very familiar territory, I could almost run it blindfolded. Then next thing we know, the finish line is only 2 miles away, and I grab my last cup of water from the aid station. I went all out until the end. My fastest mile was mile 12, a 6:56/mile pace; although my legs felt strong and I felt great otherwise, I felt a little nauseous running so fast. Average pace for the entire race was 8:13/mile.

It felt a little awkward crossing that finish line without juggling but what a glorious feeling it was. My recovery is going well so far. Representing Team Humane, any support is appreciated.

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Paine to Pain half marathon 2016 race report

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The Paine to Paine which took place this past Sunday was my first time ever running or joggling an official half-marathon or trail race. An almost, but not quite, new experience for me. This is also my first official race since I injured myself at the Yonkers Marathon last year(it totally healed). As a marathon joggler, I figured a half-marathon should be easy; for the most part, it was. The real challenge of this race is that much of it is an obstacle course of tree roots, jagged rocks, and hilly twists and turns. Good thing I often train on trails!

So I awoke at 6:15 the day of the race, well-rested and ready to take on the trails. I slept really well, and wasn’t nervous at all the night before, unlike how I slept the night before the Yonkers marathon last year. I had my usual breakfast of Weetabix with raisins and sunflower seeds, put on my running attire, grabbed my balls, and I was out the door. Though the race started at 9:00, I wanted to get there extra early, no later than 8:30.

Some people I ran into before the start were shocked over the idea of joggling a trail race. “Seriously, you’re actually going through with this?”, they would ask. “Joggling a road race is difficult enough, but a trail race, come on!”, is another common remark.

The race is called the “Paine to Pain” because it starts at the Thomas Paine cottage in New Rochelle, New York and well, the other “pain” is pretty obvious to anyone who has run it. It is a loop course that goes through several different towns on the Colonial Greenway, of which the Leatherstocking trail is a large sub-section. Since Thomas Paine is a kindred spirit, I love the idea of this race starting at his cottage and being named for him. Regarded as the philosopher of the American revolution, he was a highly influential proponent of Enlightenment values, and was an early abolitionist. I recommend visiting his cottage in New Rochelle if you’re in the area.

We couldn’t have asked for better running weather on race day. “Perfect” doesn’t begin to describe it. Clear skies and in the 50s just before the race and slowly rising into the 60s a few miles in. After months of brutally hot weather, the slight chill in the air at the beginning was more than welcome. My goal was to to complete in less than 2 hours.

So at 9:00 the gun goes off and the first wave of runners is off! Since I was part of the second wave, I had to wait a minute before I could start. Finally nervous with anticipation, I go to the back of wave 2 to avoid being in anyone’s way, and before I know it it’s wave 2’s turn to start.

The support at the start was pretty amazing with lots of spectators lining the streets, many of whom were surprised by my joggling. The first mile of this race is on the streets, so it didn’t feel like the race had really begun until I got to the first leg of the Leatherstocking trail close to the Larchmont border. I took it easy with the first mile, and also with mile 2.

Since I’ve done this trail a few times before, there weren’t any surprises. Juggling while running over rocks and tree roots may sound ridiculously difficult to you, but with enough training it is doable. I kept myself as much to the side as possible in case anyone wanted to pass me on the narrow trail, and a lot of runners did just that. I occasionally passed some slower runners whenever the trail widened. I generally got a lot of support from my fellow runners.

When things got really difficult during some steep rocky climbs, I would ask myself “why the hell am I doing this?”. I finally dropped the balls a little after mile 6 during a minor stumble. The beauty of the morning sun shining through the trees, the sweet birdsong, the earthy aroma of the forest, all while joggling over difficult terrain is an ineffably wonderful experience.

Whenever the trail widened enough and there weren’t too many rocks in the way I increased my speed, often passing a lot of runners. There wasn’t much support out there except at occasional street crossings where the locals and volunteers were pretty enthusiastic. Thank you people of Mamaroneck! When I arrived in Saxon Woods, I was in very familiar territory, having run these trails countless times. After zigzagging its way through the forest and going around these giant glacial rocks, the trail widened to the point that I was able to pick up my pace and pass many other runners in Saxon Woods. I occasionally traded places with a few runners, which got kind of funny after a while. The trail then starts turning south near the Golf course where I finally got some water at around mile 8.

Feeling renewed, I was able to maintain a speedy pace for a few miles, though rocks and slow runners on narrow sections sometimes hindered me. Also my left ankle bothered me a little bit at this point since I almost sprained it about a month ago. I dropped again around this point. I asked again “why am I doing this?”, and I would answer myself: “This is who I am”.

At mile 11 we entered Twin Lakes Park, a place I visit so often it’s my second home. Still doing a brisk pace, I dropped yet again and felt really frustrated that time. In part this frustration was due to being so familiar with this area because of all the joggling and unicycling I have done there. Surely I should know this area like the back of my hand. Going south, the trail snakes its way under the Hutchinson River Parkway and now we’re in Nature Study Woods on the wild periphery of New Rochelle.

Knowing I don’t have much longer to go before I reach the finish line at New Rochelle high school, I convince myself to push myself even more to make sure I complete in under 2 hours. I’m starting to feel a little sore, but it didn’t significantly slow me. At this point there are a few rocks here and there but they were easy to run around.

Finally, we’re out of the dark woods and into the bright sunlit streets again for the last mile, with lots of spectators and cheerleaders cheering us on.

I see the high school in the distance and start running like a maniac. 300 meters or so from the finish line and I drop one last time. I cross the finish line and I’m ecstatic, and so is everyone watching.

I finished in 2:01:25, with an average pace of 9:16/mile. Just a tiny bit faster and I could have finished in under 2 hours(my half-marathon PR when training on roads is 1:39), but I still felt elated over my accomplishment. Though I dropped the balls 4 times, I didn’t fall once. Though I felt fatigued, I didn’t feel as bad as I normally do at the end of a full marathon.

This really is a great race not just for connecting with history but for connecting with nature without having to travel too far from the big city. Some parts of the trail, particularly in Saxon Woods, take you through wilderness zones that make you feel like you are a thousand miles away from civilization.

All in all this was a great race experience, even with all the drops. It definitely was a worthwhile challenge joggling a trail race. I often found it more intellectually than physically challenging; what long-term effect this may have on the brain remains unknown but I’m excited about the possibilities.

A big thanks to Founding Father Eric Turkewitz for organizing this event and allowing me to joggle it. I’d also like to thank all the good-humored volunteers for making this an amazing race experience. Congratulations to everyone who completed this event, it was a pleasure running with you.

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Related post:

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon 2016

 

 

Joggling the Looper Bowl

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At the Looper Bowl finish line

Many people think joggling is difficult enough as it is. Why would anyone try to make this ridiculous activity any more complicated? Yet there are 5 ball and even 7 ball jogglers; jogglers who do tricks while joggling; backwards jogglers like Joe Salter, who plans to set a 50 mile backwards joggling record in October.

Then there are jogglers like me who love to joggle hilly trails. Even in wintry conditions.

Earlier this month I joggled the Looper Bowl 10k up in Pound Ridge, NY for the first time. The last 2 times I just ran it since I wasn’t up for the challenge of joggling it. The first time I ran it, I didn’t have that much trail joggling experience, and though I considered joggling it the second time it was too cold and the snow on the trails was much deeper.

This time it was just under 20F at the 8 AM start, and it got a little warmer during the run. Besides this, the trail was only partially covered with snow. So the conditions were just right for my first attempt at joggling this treacherous trail. For safety reasons I was one of the very last of the 50 participants to start the race.

For about the first 2 miles through this winter wonderland I felt alright except for my hands. They felt cold in spite of the fact that I had on heavy duty gloves. By mile 3 they felt fine after I warmed up. I think this was the greatest obstacle course I’ve ever joggled through: other runners, endless twists and turns, ups and downs, rock outcroppings, tree roots, ice, mud, and sometimes the snow was a challenge to joggle though. This was a really big challenge since I am not used to joggling on such a course. My eyes were kept extremely busy looking down and ahead to make sure I didn’t trip over anything and also to ensure I could maintain my juggling pattern through the endless unevenness.

I managed to joggle drop-free until I got to about mile 3, thanks to a hill so steep the trail was almost vertical. I dropped 2 times on that monster, and ended up having to climb to the top on all fours because of its steepness and slipperiness. Upon reaching the top I felt frustrated but quickly regained my composure. About a mile later I fell and dropped because of some slippery rocks, but was back on my feet in no time. I really picked up the pace during the last mile and a half when the trail was a lot smoother, passing a few runners in the process. Something had come over me, like some ancient forest spirit possessed me and helped push me forward all the way to the end without any further drops.

In spite of everything, I managed to maintain a 9:35/mile overall pace, completing this 6.2 mile run in 1:01 and 46 seconds. Toward the end, my brain was more tired than anything. I got so much support from my fellow runners that day, they seemed to enjoy the joggling. I had a fantastic time. Believe it or not, I wasn’t the craziest one out there; the runners who went through rather than over the nearly waist deep water were the really crazy ones. Very inspirational. Maybe I’ll try that next year. Thanks to the Leatherman Lunatics, uh I mean Leatherman Harriers for organizing this event. You all did great!

Yonkers Marathon Race Report

At the Yonkers marathon

At the Yonkers marathon

What can one say about the Yonkers marathon that hasn’t already been said? It has been described over the years as a “beast of a marathon”, or even a “monster” because of its seemingly never-ending hills. This old marathon is still considered one of the nation’s most challenging. And this year the beast got the better of me.

I won’t bore you with endless details, so instead here are the stats:

Finishing time: 4:10:03(my slowest marathon ever) compared to 3:40 last year

Rank: 109 out of 220 finishers

I was 33 out of 53 in the 30 to 39 age group

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The good news is that I didn’t drop the balls once(2 years in a row no drops!). In fact I’ve been using the same Gballz beanbags since my first marathon. So why was I so slow this year? I think the rerouting of the marathon route made it even hillier, and I may have started out a little too fast. By the time I got to this hill at mile 23 I could barely move and I felt like I injured my right knee, and so I had to walk for a little while after. Still, I PRed some shorter distances and got tremendous crowd support. It was great going through east Yonkers for a change, unlike the other 2 times I did this race when it was a double loop around west Yonkers.

As far as I can tell my training was adequate, though maybe I should have done some more long runs. Although I’m a little disappointed with my performance, this was a valuable learning experience. I believe I’m already a better runner/joggler because of this experience.

Thank you city of Yonkers and a big thanks to everyone who cheered me on as I passed.

If you ran the Yonkers marathon, I would love hearing from you in the comments.

Yonkers Marathon here I come!

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At the Yonkers marathon last year

As I’m sure many of you already know, on October 18th I will joggle the Yonkers marathon for the 3rd time, my 4th marathon overall. I’m really excited about it this year because it’s on an almost entirely new route. The first several miles are the same as last year, but instead of being a double loop, it’s one big loop that incorporates much of eastern Yonkers with all its glorious hills. Another reason I’m excited is because it’s in the middle of October instead of the end of September like the last few years, so I’m expecting much cooler weather this time around.

My goal is to finish in 3:30, compared to 3:40 last year. I also hope to run the entire race without dropping, just like last year. Even I’m still surprised I managed to joggle the entire marathon without dropping. It was blissful how all that training paid off, much to the enjoyment of friends and the enthusiastic crowds at the marathon. A big thank you to all my friends and supporters, I couldn’t do it without you. Well, maybe I could, but it wouldn’t be as fun. Let’s continue to take vegan athletics to new heights!

See you there!

Summer Joggling Highlights

I’m sorry if my absence has worried anyone. The rumors about me drowning while juggle-swimming out to sea are greatly exaggerated. No, I haven’t forgotten you, my dear readers, it’s just harder to blog consistently when I spend so much of my free time outside during the summer. Though I haven’t joggled any official races so far this year, lots of exciting things have been going on recently, some of which may be difficult to believe. I don’t blame you if you don’t believe what follows.

Here’s what I’ve been up to this summer:

On Sunday, June 14th I joggled all the way from Mount Vernon to Battery Park at the southern tip of Manhattan, a distance of 23.3 miles. It took me 4 hours and 8 minutes to complete this journey from the quiet suburbs to the noisy maelstrom that is the Big Apple, and I didn’t drop the balls once. It was in the mid 70s at the beginning and 85 toward the end. I ran this exact route before back in November 2013, but I dropped several times.

The reason it’s a big deal to me that I didn’t drop during this run is all the endless distractions on this route, especially after leaving Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx. The heat and humidity and the fact that it was almost totally cloudless that day also weren’t very helpful. Since the Hudson river path runs along the West Side highway, there’s a ton of noise from all the traffic, as well as exhaust fumes. On the path there were many cyclists, runners, skaters, and the occasional freak. It got crowded at times and I had to run around many people. I had to take several short breaks to refuel or rehydrate.

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I got a lot of comments and support as usual, but I think some Manhattanites are kind of used to joggling. Even with everything going on, I did surprisingly well and had no major fumbles. I was exhausted the last few miles and upon completing I was ecstatic. I was shocked that I didn’t drop once while running the entire length of Manhattan and then some! Besides weariness, I was dealing with sensory overload from big city craziness. This is why I don’t run in the city very often. After runs like this, I appreciate joggling in the woods a lot more.

Besides this, I managed to not drop at all during all joggling runs from July 7, to July 21, for a total of 102 miles of dropless joggling. My previous record was 70 miles without dropping. Yes, I did drop while doing juggle chi many times during this time frame, but that’s a completely separate activity. I came very close to dropping so many times during that 2 week no drops streak. It will be difficult repeating that. For what it’s worth, I don’t think this indicates I can joggle a 100 mile ultra-marathon without dropping.

Though it feels good to not drop, it comes at the expense of not challenging myself enough. In part, I was able to do this because I avoided doing some complex tricks that I still struggle with. However, I did plenty of simple tricks. It often got unbearably hot during those 2 weeks, but making sure I was properly-hydrated and had enough electrolytes helped prevent any serious heat issues.

On top of this, to celebrate the long awaited grand reopening of the old High Bridge, I joggled across it twice on July 25th. It had been closed for over 40 years and the city only recently finished renovating it. It was a really big celebration with so much going on on both sides of the bridge and even on the bridge. This historic bridge, which is the oldest in New York City, goes over the Harlem river and connects Manhattan to the Bronx(it’s a pedestrian-only bridge). The High Bridge was originally part of the Old Croton Aqueduct which I’ve mentioned many times before since I often run on the trail that follows the path of the now defunct aqueduct in Westchester county.2015-07-25 12.34.32

 

I’ve been meaning to do this forever. I remember driving under or near this ghostly structure countless times during my childhood. But this relic was impassible, and in desperate need of repair. So now it’s finally open, and it’s much easier for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Manhattan to the Bronx. I felt so ecstatic crossing it while juggling, and many people were very amused. It’s possible I’m the first person to joggle across the High Bridge, unless some other jogglers in the area beat me to it. The day I joggled across the bridge(I didn’t drop), I also noticed some unicylists on it who probably had the same idea. The kids loved it! Later on, along with some friends and as a walking juggler, I took part in this Giraffe(giant paper mache giraffe heads)parade across the bridge, and the kids loved that too.

How am I able to do this? It requires a lot of dedication, but the rewards are endless. All this acrobatic fun is the end result of a very healthy lifestyle that includes lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, and knowing how to deal with stress. Indeed, joggling may be one of the best ways to deal with stress since it is such a powerful, full-body exercise. It puts your mind in this unique “zone” that makes it more difficult for stress to get to you. That it makes people around you smile is a nice bonus.

 

Scott Jurek sets new world record running Appalachian Trail

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As I am sure many of you already know, vegan ultra-runner Scott Jurek set a new world record by running the Appalachian trail, a 2,189-mile journey in 46 days, 8 hours, and 7 minutes. He beat the previous record by 3 hours. He holds numerous other world records for ultra-running.

It’s an understatement to say that much of the vegan community(and running comunity) was thrilled when Jurek completed yesterday. I know I was. I’m really happy for Jurek, he’s one of the ultimate vegan role models. It’s moments like these when we can really drive home the message that a vegan lifestyle is not a limiting one. Congratulations Scott Jurek! You’re one of the most inspiring people in the world! Vegans rejoice!

As for joggling the Appalachian trail: Will keep everyone posted when and if that happens.

The New Dietary Guidelines and Running versus Joggling

It seems almost everyone I know is talking about the new dietary guidelines. In large part, this is because they significantly depart from the old recommendations, such as eating a low-fat diet to reduce heart disease risk. This is no longer recommended, since science has found that the type of fat is more important than total fat. They still recommend reducing saturated fat, and reducing meat and animal food consumption to help achieve this. They also recommend reducing animal food consumption for environmental reasons.

Ultimately, what do the new recommendations mean for vegans? Ginny Messina RD has written an excellent post on the new dietary recommendations, The 2015 Dietary Guidelines, What Will They Mean for Vegans?, and I suggest you read it. Her most important point, which I am in full agreement with:

It doesn’t really impact my own advocacy for animals, though. I know very well that findings on nutrition and health are always changing. I know that nutrition research is far more conflicting than concurring. And I don’t see much point to building advocacy around facts that may change tomorrow.

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On the subject of joggling, Alex Hutchinson has written an interesting article titled Brain Plasticity in Endurance vs Skill Sports in Runner’s World. Actually, the article doesn’t mention anything about joggling or juggling, but the study he cites implies some extra benefits for joggling over running. I’ve always wanted to know if skill sports were better for brain plasticity than endurance sports, and it seems this article tentatively suggests they are. Of course, any aerobic exercise is good for the brain, but it appears that dancing, or figure skating(or any exercise that involves more complex “gross motor skills”) may provide some extra benefits over running. The same could probably be said about joggling, though I must admit that I am very biased. I also suspect that trail running may be slightly more beneficial for brain plasticity than road running.

So when it comes to exercise, go beyond just trying to improve your endurance or speed, try challenging your coordination and balance in novel ways. The more you learn, the easier it is to learn new tasks, and the better it is for your brain.

Update: Alex Hutchinson wrote an even more interesting follow-up article to the article posted above a few weeks later titled Fighting Cognitive Decline with Dodgeball and Juggling. In this follow-up, he actually does mention juggling as an example of an exercise that involves “gross motor skills” that may provide additional brain benefits over endurance exercise, but not joggling. He wrote this follow-up after he got an email from Nicholas Berryman(a physiologist at the Quebec National Institute of Sport) in response to the first article, who cited 3 scientific papers.

While the cognitive benefits of cardio, and strength training to a lesser extent are already established, and their mechanisms largely understood(increased blood-flow to the brain and increased nerve growth factors when it comes to cardio) according to Hutchinson:

What Berryman pointed out is preliminary evidence for a third mechanism, triggered by gross motor training – things like balance and coordination training, or even learning skills like juggling.

While this is all very fascinating, it is already known that learning just about any skill causes changes in the brain. Learning certain skills, like learning a new language, or learning to play an instrument, is associated with preventing or slowing cognitive decline in many studies. This leads to the question: Does juggling benefit the brain in ways that cardio alone can’t? Besides this, does learning gross motor skills that involve improvements in coordination and balance(juggling, or rock-climbing), benefit the brain more than learning to play an instrument, or learning to play chess?

As Hutchinson points out, the preliminary evidence for additional benefits of gross motor skills is encouraging. However, in the mean time, we shouldn’t have to wait for definitive answers before taking dance or juggling lessons, or going on a rock climbing adventure, if only for the fun of it.

The Looper Bowl 2015

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As I am sure many of you already know, an adventurous guy like me doesn’t usually take it easy during the winter. I see the harsh winter weather as the perfect opportunity to toughen myself as a runner. By the time spring comes around, I feel all but unstoppable. Of course, running in the snow isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of other ways to improve your running. Be very careful out there if you’re new to winter running.

With the zest for winter adventure in me, I decided to run(not joggle) the Looper Bowl yet again. The Looper Bowl 10k is a free yearly event that takes place at 8 AM on Super Bowl Sunday up at the Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. It follows the “Leatherman’s Loop”, a trail that snakes its way through the forest while going up and down some mighty hills. In fair weather it is challenging enough, but about 30 of us did it in the snow while it was just over zero degrees. Besides being much colder compared to last year, this year there was often several inches of snow on the trail. Also unlike last year I wasn’t recovering from a knee injury.

I must admit that it was so cold and the deep snow so intimidating I almost didn’t do it. My hands and my feet were so cold they felt like they were going to fall off, even though I had on heavy gloves, thick socks and 2 winter hats and multiple layers. I felt like I was going to get frost-bitten, I seldom run when it is this cold. For the first 2 miles I hated being out there, but then I started warming up and felt elated over this.

After warming up, every step of the way was breathtaking winter beauty, especially when I was at the top of a big hill looking around. I usually had to walk up those hills, like most of the other runners. When going downhill, I often found it easier to just slide down them than to walk down or try running down. Although I was wearing my Kahtoola Nanospikes, they were of little help on this run. They are mainly for running on icy sidewalks or a thin layer of snow, not snowy trail running.

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The last couple of miles were serene; by then it was almost 10 F, and it felt spectacular running with like-minded winter running lunatics, inspiring each other forward. It also helps that I didn’t get lost like I did last year. For a short run, I felt pretty sore near the end, due to all the snow and hills. It felt heavenly crossing the “finish line”; running in snow for many miles produces a special kind of runner’s high. It took me 1:18 minutes to complete this 6.2 mile loop, which I think is pretty good considering all the snow and big hills on this trail. Although I found it difficult in the beginning, all in all it was a terrific experience.

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Great article about joggling in the Huff Post

The Invention of Joggling, the Goofiest Sport in History, by Kevin Bell, is one of the best articles about joggling I’ve ever read.

Not only does this Huff Post article cover the interesting history of this “goofy” sport, it also features some familiar faces who are the current super-stars of joggling. In the article, Bell describes joggling as “running while juggling”; I usually prefer to call it “juggling while running”. What do you think sounds better?

It’s always great when the sport of joggling and accomplished jogglers get the recognition they deserve.