Tag Archives: vegan running

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

 

 

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!

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 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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Recovering from 40 miles of joggling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Distance running in the cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

20 mile run to Rye, New York in frigid cold

Although it is not officially winter, it sure feels like it outside. With temperatures across the U.S below the freezing mark, many runners and other outdoor exercisers may lose their enthusiasm for exercising in the outdoors. The shorter days don’t help either. For a lot of people who ordinarily exercise outdoors, this means heading to the gym to stay fit for the winter.

As for me, nothing can replace outdoor exercise. I’m a distance runner, and treadmills just don’t feel “right” to me. Sure I may be a little slower when running trails since my lungs don’t function optimally in the cold, dry air, there’s snow on the ground sometimes and ice patches galore, but these should be seen as opportunities rather than obstacles. The snow can be a little difficult to run on, but it can help build stamina; icy areas can help you improve your balance. The fierce, cold winds may do all they can to force you back inside, but if you are dressed in enough layers and psychologically ready, you will have the last laugh.

And that is really the key to running outdoors. Dress properly, wear enough layers – but not too many. This may require experimenting, but you don’t want to wear so many that you weigh yourself down or feel uncomfortable, and you also don’t want to wear so little that you freeze your butt off after running for 5 minutes. Don’t forget to drink water or fluids before or after a run, since you will be sweating a lot under your clothing even if you don’t notice it. Don’t forget to wear a hat, especially if it goes below the freezing point!

For me, just 3 layers is enough if it is in the 20s, though maybe you will need more. A regular cotton undershirt, long-sleeved running shirt, heavy sweat shirt, sweat pants and a hat helped me stay warm during yesterday’s 20 mile(32 km) run. Oh and some heavy gloves. Yesterday’s high temperature was about 27 F or -2.7(it was actually much colder when I started the run). I dressed similarly when I ran as it was snowing a few days ago, though I only ran for 13.49 miles.

If you are new to running in snow, or in icy conditions, take it easy the first few times. Be very careful. If it is really icy, you may want to seriously consider buying something for your sneakers to help improve traction. I don’t have anything like this, but I may get something eventually.

Don’t worry if you are running slower than usual because of the cold air. This happens to virtually everyone, and by spring you should find yourself running as fast as last spring or faster.

The cold is not a good excuse to stop outdoor exercise!

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.

Marathon training: A review

IMG_1731A review of the many things I have covered on this blog and I am doing to help me prepare for the upcoming Yonkers marathon:

A look at my workout routine – My Marathon Training

If anyone has any advice, go ahead and share, and good luck to my fellow runners out there!

What keeps me motivated

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Joggling across Croton Reservoir on the Putnam(North County) trailway in Westchester county, NY

Staying motivated to exercise every day can be a challenge for some people. But with the right amount of motivation, it becomes much easier. This is why I believe it is a good idea to write a list of reasons to exercise, that way you don’t lose sight of why you do it. While some of the reasons I exercise are pretty standard, there are some motivations that are unique to me as a vegan joggler. Here is what keeps me motivated:

  • The health benefits of exercise, and this includes both cardiovascular and mental benefits
  • Joggling is fun
  • When I joggle, I often wear a vegan or vegetarian T-shirt. In this way I can help dispel the myths that many people still believe about veganism. This is probably one of the best ways to open up people’s minds to the vegan lifestyle. I can’t “convert” anyone, but by setting an example as a vegan joggler, I can suggest the idea to them
  • For the kids: A lot of kids love seeing me joggle around the neighborhood, so the fact that I am a source of entertainment and inspiration for a lot of children also helps me stay focused on my fitness routine. Who knows, maybe one of them will take up joggling some day and set some new world records!
  • To ensure I am as fit as possible for running competitions or for hiking adventures

I think we should all try to make our fitness routine as fun as possible, and set a good example to inspire others. Doing competitions or fitness events, joining a running club, or running for charity are other good ways to keep you motivated. You don’t have to be a joggler to do these things, but it will certainly bring you more attention. If you can find a way to entertain children while running or exercising, that’s yet another reason to exercise, and you will even forget you are exercising.

What keeps you motivated to exercise?

New speed record set today

I hate to brag, but today I set a new speed record while running 9 miles(14.8 km) in 1 hour 11 minutes. I managed to break into the 7 minute mile zone, the first time I’ve ever been able to do this for more than a few miles and I felt kind of tired toward the end. It wasn’t so long ago that I could barely do 8 minute miles for more than 2 miles, but then I finally managed to run 9 miles at this pace not too long ago. Today I ran a 7 minute 53 second pace while juggling for 9 miles. I dropped the balls twice.

As I’m sure many of you know, I drank a lot of that new cherry kefir juice(the very low alcohol one mentioned in the previous post) just before I went out for this run. Did the cherry kefir help? I really don’t know, it kind of felt like it did. Cherries are good for runners, but fermenting cherry juice improves it by giving it a vitamin boost(the B family and K family) and a probiotic boost. Interestingly enough, I had just run 21.5 miles(34.6 km) on saturday(this record breaking speed occurred today on monday), and it seems I have already recovered from it(it probably helped that I didn’t run yesterday). Usually it takes longer for me to recover from very long runs like this, and my speed usually suffers for several days after. Is the cherry juice helping that much? And is it the kefir or cherries that are helping more? Even more intriguing is the possibility of unknown biologically active compounds that may be involved in improving my running,

Unfortunately I can’t do a real study, using an alternate reality version of myself not drinking the cherry kefir drink as a control, so it’s difficult to say with confidence the cherry kefir drink is helping. It certainly doesn’t hurt though. I’m wondering how much I can improve, especially when the weather cools down. It was about 74 F(23.3 C) when I ran today, and little on the humid side and cloudy.

One thing’s for sure – the local runners will hate me even more. At least I didn’t have either of my wonderful vegan T-shirts on today while running, that really ruffles the feathers of other runners. I’m even getting cursed at these days. I don’t mean to cause butt-hurt, but it is kind of funny, especially when you consider that some of these people think vegans can’t run or be athletic. I’m hardly the fastest runner around, but I am the only joggler in the immediate area.