Tag Archives: vegan marathoners

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report

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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!

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

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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!

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.

2015: The Year in Joggling

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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.

 

2014 Joggling Highlights

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At the 2014 Yonkers Marathon

2014 was an epic joggling year for me. Overall, I ran 2,286 miles in 2014, juggling about 95% of the time. So much happened it would be difficult to write about all of it. I improved so much and broke so many personal records my mind has trouble digesting it all. So rather than mention all that happened, I thought it would be better to focus on the highlights of 2014.

The WNY Vegfest

This is the first vegan event I’ve ever been invited to. This was also the very first WNY Vegfest, and I must say it’s off to a great start. I managed to joggle the Tofurky Trot 5k in slightly more than 20 minutes, and didn’t drop the balls even once. It was priceless being with and meeting so many enthusiastic vegans at this event, celebrating and showcasing the vegan lifestyle. I can still feel all the energy from this event; you really should go this year if you happen to live anywhere close to the planet earth.

The Yonkers Marathon

This was my second time joggling this hilly, historic race, and my third marathon overall. I guess you could say I’ve improved. Not only was I 11 minutes(3:40) faster than in 2013, I didn’t drop the balls even once. Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought such a thing was even possible not too long ago. This just goes to show you what you can accomplish with enough dedication. I still feel the Joggler’s High from this event, even though it took place in late September.

Joggling 40 miles from Mount Vernon to Mahopac

My crowning achievement of 2014, and the culmination of many years of joggling. This is the farthest distance I’ve ever run or joggled. I only dropped once, and that was at mile 39! If it wasn’t so dark, I probably wouldn’t have dropped. There are moments when I think this was a strange dream. It just seems so close to impossible that there is this surreal quality to it. Yet again, it’s ultimately the product of unrelenting dedication. To live a life without ever attempting the impossible is a life not fully lived.

Beyond my tiny little piece of the joggling world, it was a terrific year for the sport of joggling, with new world records set. The always amazing Michal Kapral set yet another world joggling record, this time with the half-marathon(1:20:40). He did this as part of a team who are raising money to help AIDS orphans. He also appeared in TV ads for Fairfield Inn and Suites as part of their “Stay Amazing” campaign.

Besides this, rising super-star Dana Guglielmo broke the 5k world joggling record in April. I find her story so inspirational because she managed to break a world joggling record while suffering from arthritis.

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.

 

Lost in Yonkers? Then run the Marathon

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

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

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

I was kidding about swimming to New Jersey.

 

My post marathon progress

I hope everyone is having a terrific autumn and is ready for the Holiday season. Many of you may be wondering how I am doing after last week’s marathon, which was 6 days ago. So how am I doing exactly?

  • About 95% of the soreness is gone
  • I’ve run about 25 miles this week

To help me recover I’ve been eating a lot of fresh blueberries and other fruits, and drinking a lot of tart cherry juice to deal with the inflammation. I can’t say for sure if they have helped lessen the inflammation, but at least they provide carbs, vitamins, and minerals. I’ve also been doing strength-training. This has almost certainly helped rebuild the muscle that was damaged during the marathon. For some reason, I was more sore after this marathon than after the hillier Yonkers Marathon. I suspect it may have been due to not doing enough leg strengthening exercises before(and maybe not getting enough sleep). I read somewhere that it may not help or may even hurt your marathon performance if you do strength training very close to a marathon, so didn’t do it for a week prior to the Brooklyn Marathon, while I did strength training a few days before my first marathon.

I also didn’t run until 3 days after the Brooklyn Marathon, compared to 2 days after the Yonkers Marathon, and then have been doing short, easy runs, nothing beyond 9.5 miles yet. On the days that I rested my legs, I did some heavy ball juggling for cardio.

I will resume running longer distances next week. Thanks to everyone for your tips and support!

If you ran a marathon recently, please tell us how your post marathon training and recovery is going.

13.1 mile run to Valhalla again

Screenshot from 2013-10-19 09:27:04I love saying “I ran to Valhalla”. I did it again. And again, no, I am not crazy, I mean the town here in New York, not the grand hall in Asgard in Norse mythology where warriors go after dying in battle.

I managed to run 13.1 miles to Valhalla yesterday, 19 days after running the marathon, and 3 days after donating a pint of blood. This is my first almost long run after donating. Mostly due to the blood donation, it took me 2 hours and 18 minutes to complete this run, much slower than usual. I’m far from anemic, but I could feel an obvious difference, especially when running up hills. I felt weaker than I usually do while running this distance, and also had this weird, hard to describe feeling much of the way. My speed suffered as a result, and I dropped the balls more than usual.

I am currently eating a lot of iron rich foods to replenish my lost red blood cells. Within a week, or 2 weeks the most, I should be back to normal(I think it is safe to say I am fully recovered from the marathon, this isn’t an issue for me anymore). Still, it feels great knowing that my blood was used to help some sick people.