Tag Archives: joggling

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report

screenshot-from-2016-12-01-215445

On November 20th I completed the Brooklyn Marathon, my second time joggling this race and fifth marathon overall. I had a decent race experience overall, even if I finished slower than the first time. My training and just about everything leading up to the big day were pretty much flawless, except that I may have over-trained. This time I ran as part of Team Humane, to help raise money for the Humane League. I admit it feels a little different joggling as part of a team. I felt like I wasn’t just doing it for me anymore, and that my first 4 marathons were warm-ups for this race.

Part of me is surprised I’ve completed 5 marathons; it wasn’t so long ago that I thought I would never be able to complete 1 marathon as a runner. Yes, while just running, not joggling! The pre-marathon me seems like a different person. I’m not sure who he was, but he disappeared when I crossed the finish line of my first marathon. Now let’s explore marathon #5.

Race day was cold, cloudy and brutally windy. The weather forecast said there was a chance of rain, but I increasingly find weather forecasters about as reliable as astrologers or worse yet, political pollsters. So I wasn’t surprised that it didn’t rain at all. It was about 40 when I first arrived at Prospect Park at 8 AM, but the fierce, howling wind made it feel like the low 30s. I was conspicuously under-dressed(only shorts, and 2 shirts on), so before the race I was shivering and trying to warm myself up by juggling, which only helped a little.

I simply wanted to complete in less than 4 hours and I wasn’t optimistic about not dropping the balls due to the cold and wind. Last year at the Yonkers marathon I started out a little too fast and that may be why I injured myself. So when the race started I took it very slow for the first 2 miles; I didn’t mind looking like a juggling slug. After mile 2, channeling my inner vegan cheetah, I started picking up the pace, doing sub-8 minute miles until I got to mile 9. By then it was also a little warmer; I had no trouble with the cold air during this race except when the wind picked up.

The Brooklyn marathon isn’t especially hilly. The marathon is a series of loops around Prospect Park, and some parts are hilly, particularly the approach to the northern section. At first the hills didn’t slow me down that much, but after several miles of this my legs started to feel fatigued. I drank Gatorade for the first time at mile 7, and did this about every 2.5 miles. My pace after mile 10 gradually slowed down. After mile 20 I was doing 10, then 12 minute miles.

The crowd support was tremendous. Thank you so much people of Brooklyn, especially my fellow vegan Brooklynites! A lot of laughs, lots of cheering, and some people were very supportive of me because of the cause I represent. I finished in 4:16, which means my average pace was 9:47. This was my slowest marathon ever. My fastest marathon was in 3:40. At least I didn’t injure myself like I did last year(in spite of injuring myself I was faster then). This was my 3rd dropless marathon in a row. This means the majority of the marathons I’ve joggled have been dropless. Even I am astonished. Here’s the proof! Here I am at what I think may be mile 16. Thank you Denise! Ok, that’s less than 1% of the race, but it’s still something!

So why was I so slow? I think the cold weather and wind were partly responsible. And I also suspect I may have been overdoing it with the unicycling during training. Riding on a unicycle, especially backwards, isn’t a good way to improve marathon performance. Not that I was expecting it would help, but I shouldn’t have done so much backwards unicycling in the weeks leading up to this event. Though it wasn’t helpful, it sure is fun!

A big thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Humane League and also those who’ve provided encouragement and training tips. Wishing everyone luck with their training, fund-raiding or whatever you’re doing.

So what’s next? Stay tuned!

Advertisements

I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon to raise money for the Humane League

13513488_1

As I’m sure many of you already know, on November 20th I’ll be joggling the Brooklyn Marathon. It’s been a few years since I’ve last joggled the Brooklyn Marathon, and a little over a year since my last marathon, which was the one in Yonkers. This time I will be joggling as part of Team Humane to help raise money for the Humane League, one of the most effective animal rights organizations in the U.S. To contribute: Help me raise money for Team Humane League

I considered many options when it came to which animal rights group to raise money for, and went with the Humane League because they really know how to get things done.

I’m beyond excited to be part of this. There are so many incredible athletes and activists who are part of this group, I can’t help but think I am part of something big and wonderful. The Humane League’s current focus is on confronting Aramark and their abuse of chickens. To get involved, you can join their Fast Action Network, and/or you can join Team Humane.

It feels great joggling to help alleviate animal suffering. Yes, we can’t end all animal cruelty overnight, but if those of us who care all play our part we can slowly help bring an end to it. As for race specifics, I’m just aiming for under 4 hours, not aiming for a PR this time. Thank you everyone for your support and encouragement. I’m definitely looking forward to race day!

Paine to Pain half marathon 2016 race report

screenshot-from-2016-09-28-09-10-33

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.

screenshot-from-2016-09-25-14-45-38

Related post:

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon 2016

 

 

My Segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika

In case you missed my segment on Plant-Based by Nafsika: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1NHYHNfloQ

Unicycling as the ultimate cross-training

Screenshot from 2016-01-18 18:09:42

Unicycling starts to get really interesting when you ride the trails.

Like a lot of athletes, I’m always on the lookout for a cross-training activity that complements my usual regimen. As a joggler, it’s difficult finding something that fits the bill that challenges me in a way that is similar to joggling, but isn’t as strenuous. I’ve sometimes tried simply running, but it often makes me feel like I am regressing from joggling and is otherwise too similar. I also wanted an activity that is easier on the knees. I’ve considered juggling while swimming or “swuggling”, but I don’t have access to a pool.

Screenshot from 2015-10-21 21:04:57

The 24 inch Club unicycle I purchased. This is a good beginner model.

After exploring countless options, I recently “discovered” unicycling, and won the Nobel prize for my amazing discovery. Granted, I’ve always known about unicycling, but for some silly reason or other I didn’t seriously consider taking it up. I used to think it would take too long to learn how to ride one, or that I wouldn’t have enough time, but in late October of last year I finally purchased a 24 inch wheel unicycle. It took about 3 weeks for me to learn to ride forward 500 feet(while recovering from the Yonkers marathon injury), and I am now capable of riding up to 13 miles on it. I can even go up and down hills, so long as they are not too steep.

It should go without saying that it took a lot of practice and patience to get to where I’m at with unicycling, just like how I progressed with joggling. In fact, I can now juggle while unicycling, though very sloppily. I think my joggling ability helped make the transition to juggling while unicycling a lot easier. I can also “idle”, which means pedaling back and forth to stay in the same position without dismounting(which comes in handy when waiting for a traffic light to change), and do a little hopping. Backwards riding I can barely do. Though I’ve taken a bunch of nasty falls, so far I haven’t suffered any serious injuries.

Unicycling just makes perfect sense to me. Similar to juggling/joggling, it’s an aerobic and acrobatic activity that was long ago appropriated by circus performers to the point that few people see it as a sport. Whereas joggling requires a great deal of coordination, unicycling requires a great deal of balance. There’s something about being in “perfect” balance or coordination that brings about a state of euphoria. Unicycling engages the brain in a manner few exercises can approach. Unlike running or joggling, it’s a low impact activity so it gives your knees a break while still providing your legs a great workout.

Unicycling generally requires more effort than bicycling. You always have to pedal if you want to move since you can’t coast on a typical unicycle. This means you burn more calories on a unicycle than on a bicycle when covering the same distance. It’s not as many calories as a person would burn while running, but it is significantly closer.

A lot of people balk at the idea of unicycling as a sport. The association with the circus is still too strong and some people are too self-conscious about all the attention they would get. Besides this, some people see it as inherently dangerous. However, over the past two decades unicycling has become much more popular as an athletic activity for fitness enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers. These days, there are even some gutsy people riding mountain unicycles, which are usually called “municycles”. Some prefer riding long distances on roads or bike paths with large 36 inch wheel unicycles which kind of look like smaller versions of the Victorian era Penny Farthing, except that they lack the tiny rear wheel.

As far as safety goes, as long as you know what you’re doing and wear a helmet and safety gear, it probably isn’t much more dangerous than bicycling. If you are still concerned about safety, keep in mind that unicycles tend to be much slower than bicycles, and if something goes wrong they are easier to bail from since they lack handlebars.

Though I enjoy it for its own sake, I unicycle mainly for cross-training since I still see myself primarily as a joggler. There’s nothing wrong, of course, with making unicycling your main athletic activity. I don’t intend to do a lot of juggling while unicycling, but it’s a good skill set to have since it helps to make your upper and lower body movements more independent of each other.

I am considering doing some cycling events in the future, but haven’t found anything suitable yet. Since I am still a novice, I can’t travel very far on my unicycle yet, but I am getting there. I plan to upgrade to a bigger model soon so I can go much farther. In the mean time, I will enjoy the cross-training benefits of unicycling. Unicycling around the neighborhood after a long joggling run is a great low-impact recovery aid, and is a lot of fun both for me and the local kids(as well as adults) who love all the free entertainment. The mean kids love it when I fall off, of course. On the other hand, the geeky kids enjoy it when I explain the physics of unicycling. Actually, they usually do a better job of explaining it to me. I highly recommend unicycling as a cross-training activity for jogglers and runners alike.

Screenshot from 2016-03-01 10:19:47

My first wheels

 

 

2015: The Year in Joggling

original-4c0dbc486637

At the Yonkers Marathon in October. In spite of some difficulties, I managed to complete it.

2015 was a particularly eventful year in the world of joggling. It had its highs and lows, the biggest low by far was when Michal Kapral was not allowed to joggle the NYC Marathon by the fascists who organize the event. He ran the event without juggling and made big news anyway. For a synopsis on all that happened in the joggling world in 2015, read Michal Kapral’s post, The Year in Joggling 2015.

In my neck of the woods in the world of joggling, I’ve also had my highs and lows, with my low point being the disaster that was the Yonkers marathon. Due to knee issues on an especially hilly section of the race, it was my slowest marathon ever, finishing in over 4 hours. By some miracle I didn’t drop the balls, and besides this, during the marathon I joggled my fastest 30k(2:29:36), half-marathon(1:39:15), 10 mile(1:13:23), and 15k(1:08:07) ever. The crowd support was priceless and often pretty funny. The lesson learned from this is to take it easy on the hills. Luckily this knee issue/injury was minor, and I am currently joggling long distances again.

Besides this, earlier last year I completed another Looper Bowl, though as a runner, not a joggler. Even I’m not crazy enough to joggle on a snowy, hilly trail for several miles. This hilly trail run was held in early February during an arctic blast after several snow storms, so there was a lot of snow on the ground. My feet are still angry at me for what I put them through at the beginning of this run when it was only a few degrees above zero, though I had fun overall and didn’t get lost this time. Had even more fun joggling in the city during the summer.

In November, much to my surprise, I was mentioned and quoted in the NY Times in their article about Michal Kapral, “Running While Juggling Is Banned by Marathon Organizers”, even though I had nothing to do with this event. Also quoted were joggling super-stars Zach Warren, circus performer and development worker in Afghanistan who has broken world records in unicycling and joggling, and Richard Alec Ross, a development worker in Central African Republic, who, among his other duties teaches joggling to refugee children.

The more time goes by and I forget about the bad, the more 2015 looks like an extraordinary year of joggling. It may not have been my best year, or the year in which public perception of joggling has changed for the better so that it’s seen as a sport and not as a circus act, but we can dream. More importantly, I also dream of the world going vegan; it’s fantastic being able to combine two things that I love. In the mean time, I will continue to joggle, and intend to make 2016 my comeback year; besides this, I’ve also recently taken up a cross-training activity that I will get to in another post.

 

Kids and acrobatics

AcroYoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

Acroyoga pose called Hangle Dangle. Source: Earl McGehee

I don’t have any kids of my own, but if I did, I would take their physical education as seriously as their intellectual development. After all, active kids are not only healthy kids, they generally tend to do better in school. This is why athletics are so important for kids and adults alike.

In order to get more kids interested in fitness, we should broaden what we consider to be athletics. The focus in schools is often on boring old calisthenics, team sports or track, and I think this is very limiting. I believe widening the scope of athletics to include acrobatics can help kids find the fitness activity that is right for them. It can also accommodate children who are not inclined to play team sports for whatever reason. If kids aren’t having fun with what they’re doing, they won’t stick to it. Many people don’t see acrobatics as athletic, but I do. How are the abilities of trapeze artists, tight-rope walkers, or jugglers not athletic?

What is probably the biggest stumbling block to wider acceptance of acrobatics as athletics is acrobatics close association with the circus. This association is unfortunate since the world of acrobatics offers so many fun ways to stay fit that can either be the mainstay of you or your child’s athletic routine, or a supplement to it. And before anyone mentions it, I am not recommending you or your kids take up acrobatic daredevilry.

Juggling is arguably the best gateway to this world, and it’s a safe(unless you juggle chainsaws), fun athletic activity in and of itself. It’s definitely a step forward that more schools are including juggling and acrobatics in their physical education programs. Acroyoga is another excellent way to practice acrobatics. Not surprisingly, juggling and/or acrobatics is linked with improved academic scores. The more options kids have when it comes to athletics, the better.

A Spring Breakthrough

The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail several weeks ago

The Old Croton Aqueduct Trail several weeks ago

It’s an understatement to say that the winter we just experienced here in the northern U.S was especially brutal. As soon as one wicked snow storm passed through, another quickly followed, often dumping several more inches of snow on the several inches already on the ground. To make matters worse, the extreme cold greatly slowed the melting process, seemingly making large snow mountains permanent features of the landscape. For all the problems the snow caused, it was often beautiful to look at.

As snowy and brutal as it was, I managed to defy Old Man Winter’s ruthlessness. Isn’t the whole point of fitness being able to meet a challenge anyway? So I managed to joggle for hundreds of miles, mostly by running in loops around the few precious areas where the snow was cleared. At times the brutally cold wind sounded like Old Man Winter was laughing, but I persevered.

The snow, ice and very cold air greatly slowed me down, but Screenshot from 2015-04-17 11:36:25I figured that my persistence would eventually pay off once spring arrived, and I was right. At first I merely wanted to match my pace from autumn of last year, but I did better than expected and joggled a half-marathon in 1:39:17, my first sub 1:40 half-marathon or 13.1. I dropped twice. This wasn’t even a race, it was a training run. Sure, I’m not nearly as fast as Michael Kapral(1:20:40 half-marathon), who was recently featured in Runner’s World for his incredible joggling achievements, but it’s an improvement for me.

To improve my speed, I didn’t drastically alter my diet(vegan as always) or training, or take any supplements, except that I am doing less upper body strength work these days. I think once a week is better than twice. All the hill training I do is really just a form of strength-training for the legs.

Let this be a lesson to everyone that persistence pays, when it comes to running or anything else in life.

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.

*******

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.

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.