Tag Archives: vegan jogglers

Becoming a better unicyclist

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“Do something crazy with your energy, and you’ll always get back more than you put in” – C.P

The world of unicycling is the gift that keeps on giving. When I purchased my first unicycle last year, I realized it would take a lot of skill to be able to ride it compared to a bicycle. I knew it would take a lot of practice and getting better would likely be frustrating at times, especially after upgrading to a larger unicycle and having to relearn certain skills. Since my last unicycling report on April 18, I’ve been training on a regular basis with my 29″ unicycle and have improved in a number of ways:

  • Instead of 6.5 miles per hour on long rides, I can now ride at 8 miles per hour
  • I can go up big hills. A few days ago I climbed an 80 foot hill with an average grade of 10% without stumbling or dismounting
  • I can now idle a little on the 29″ unicycle, for 20 cycles at most
  • I can juggle while unicycling for up to 2 miles without dropping, 3.5 miles with a few drops; I can even juggle while going up and down hills, so long as they aren’t too steep. My joggling ability definitely helped me with this skill.

In my experience, all it takes to ride faster is feeling more comfortable on the unicycle, and so this it the easiest thing to improve in the short-term.

Idling on the 29″unicycle  was particularly difficult at first. Though I could often idle for several minutes nonstop on my 24″ unicycle, at first I found idling impossible on the 29″. I just couldn’t maneuver the larger wheel the same way I could the 24″, and kept dismounting after dozens of failed attempts. I grew increasingly frustrated with my inability to idle on the 29″, then one day it clicked and I was elated. It was a magical moment. I finally figured it out and 1 idle became 3, then 10, then 20. It’s still much more challenging and tiring than on the 24″, but it’s starting to feel almost natural.

Hills are still a challenge as well. There are steep hills around here that I can easily climb with the 24″ that I still can’t do with the 29″. Juggling while unicycling doesn’t feel like joggling yet, but that will take a little more practice. I still need to work on hopping and going backwards. If you’re new to unicycling and are struggling, just keep on practicing. There are tons of videos on Youtube that give a lot of useful tips. What seems impossible now may soon come easy to you with enough practice.

All in all, I’m enjoying unicycling and the fitness benefits, even if learning certain skills can be frustrating at times. Discovering strange new abilities certainly makes it a worthwhile fitness challenge.

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Documentary about the Vegan Joggler

Thanks to a very talented group of students from Bronxville high school for producing this short film. Although I kind of liked being this mysterious figure and this makes me a lot less of one, I’m still glad I got to share my story since a lot of people find it inspiring. I was very impressed with the finished product, especially the music. I rarely mention the horrible backstory that lead me to take up joggling because it was eons ago and now my joggling is so intertwined with my veganism that I almost forget how it all started.

If you like stories about passion and perseverance, then this is for you. All credit for the documentary goes to Ohto, John George, and Scott; I didn’t film or edit this, that was all their work. There are no special effects. I hope all you fit-freaks and even non-fit-freaks around the world find it informative and inspiring.

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!

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.

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.

 

To joggle or not to joggle at the Looper Bowl

If you’ve been following this blog long enough, you may be under the impression that I juggle whenever I run. This isn’t actually the case, though it’s usually over 90% of the time, so it’s almost true.

In fact, just this weekend I did a 10k(6 mile) non-joggling run up in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation, NY called the “Looper Bowl” with a bunch of other enthusiastic runners. They call it this because the run is on the Leatherman’s Loop trail, which loops back to where it starts, and it was on the morning of Super Bowl sunday. It’s a very hilly, treacherous trail with a lot of water crossings(mostly frozen), so it was a lot of fun! I hear it’s even more fun during spring and summer events on this trail, with some crazy runners going through the water waist deep. I may try this next time.

Days before the run, I kept arguing with myself if I should juggle during this run, and decided not to, due to the ice and snow on this very challenging course. And it wasn’t just my own safety I was concerned about, but the safety of other runners. Besides this, my right knee still gets a little sore when I run.

After less than a mile into the run, it became obvious that I made the right decision. It sure was rocky, steep, and slippery in some places(I borrowed my brother’s traction attachments for my sneakers, since mine broke). Still, I am used to this kind of thing and that just makes it more fun for me. Running on flat surfaces is dullsville to me.

I really believe that all the joggling I do pays off. Even when I am just running, it helps make me a better, more confident runner, making challenging terrain easier to handle. Without the balls, I can run just a little faster, and I feel I have more stamina. I also think that thanks to the joggling I do, my coordination is better and my eyes are sharper. For example, toward the end of the run, we had to go through a swampy area with thorny brambles galore. For some reason, I was one of the few runners who didn’t get pierced by thorns or stuck in the thorny bushes. Some unlucky runners legs got really bloody. I really hope they are okay by now.

So if you want to be a better runner, especially a better trail runner, consider taking up joggling. You don’t have to juggle every time you run, but it may help you when you’re dealing with very treacherous terrain, even if you’re just running it.

Brooklyn Marathon here I come!

All those rumors swirling around the blogosphere are true. I will be running the Brooklyn Marathon on the 17th, which is this sunday. I will be juggling the whole time, while wearing a tutu. Actually, I’m just kidding about the tutu.

It looks like the weather will be perfect for running a marathon. If you are in the area and want to see what joggling is all about, this is your chance to see it live. It’s so awesome that it will be held in Prospect Park, which is right next to the Park Slope neighborhood. Park Slope is one of the most vegan-friendly communities in the entire north-eastern U.S.

This will be my second marathon, so I’m hoping to achieve a faster time compared to how I did at the Yonkers Marathon. Wish me luck everyone, and I wish all my fellow runners and other athletes success with their races.

Back in business!

If you remember my post from october 19th, “13.1 mile run to Valhalla again“, I was much slower than usual. This was mostly due to donating blood 3 days before the run. It took me 2 hours and 18 minutes to run the 13.1 miles to Valhalla, while I can normally run this distance in a little less than 2 hours. I was slow pretty much all of last week, even on my 22 mile run(or better yet, “slug crawl”) to “Little Iran”.

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Shiraz restaurant in “Little Iran”, Elmsford, New York

Now, it appears my blood has mostly recovered. Today, 14 days after the blood donation, and 30 days after the marathon I managed to run 13.6 miles to Hastings and back in 1 hour 58 minutes. During the run, a cyclist acquaintance of mine tried to pretend he was juggling while cycling after he passed me. It was really funny, and I gotta say, he shows a lot of potential to be a good juggler-cyclist! Besides this, I felt like I was in top form during most of the run(even when running up hills), and didn’t feel totally exhausted afterwards. Right now I still feel very energetic, compared to how I often felt last week.

While the main reason I donated blood was to do a good deed, I was also interested in experimenting to see how much slower I would get and how long it would take to recover. Just as I suspected, it isn’t a big deal and I encourage all healthy people, athletes and non-athletes to donate whenever possible.

Now I am almost back to the way I was before, thanks to eating a lot of iron rich foods and supplements, and can work on improving my speed again.

Tomorrow is the Big Day!

Course of the Yonkers marathon. It's a double loop course.

Course of the Yonkers marathon. It’s a double loop course.

Tomorrow is the Yonkers Marathon. 26.2 miles through the city of Yonkers, through near rural areas, through very urban areas, and also some suburban areas. The contrasts should keep things interesting, not to mention all the hills.

I am not sure if there are any other vegans running the Yonkers marathon this year. Almost certainly, I will be the only one joggling it. There may be around 1,000 participants in this race, but most will be there for the half-marathon. If it is similar to last year, only about 100 to maybe 150 runners will be doing the full marathon.

I’ll let everyone know how running the second oldest marathon in the country goes, and I wish everyone much success with their races and their fitness regimen. Thanks for your inspiration and support!

10 Days Till Yonkers Marathon

IMG_199610 days to go until the Yonkers Marathon and I am very excited about it. And I got my first black toe. This is very common in distance runners, and it is rarely serious. It is no big deal and I hardly feel any pain around it. Other runners I’ve talked to tell me the best thing to do about it is to do nothing, unless it is very painful or blood starts coming out. It doesn’t interfere with my running at all.

This is what you can expect if you start running 30+ miles per week.