Race Review Of The New United NYC Half Marathon

Hi everyone! Hope everyone is having a fantastic start to the spring! Even though the calendar says its spring, it hasn’t felt too warm in New York City. At the time of the writing of this post, New York City is in the midst of yet another Nor’easter!

Thankfully, sub 30 degree temperatures did not stop the almost 22,000 participants that ran the United NYC Half Marathon this past Sunday! For those who have followed my blog, you know that I am a huge fan of this race and I was very skeptical of the new course lay out. I did a trial run of the course about a month ago (read about that here) and thought that the course was a lot more challenging than the previous one. However now that I have actually run the race here’s what I actually thought of the course, along with my personal feelings during that day!

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Runners near the start of the race by Grand Army Plaza (photo credit New York Road Runners Club)

The course aimed to be more inclusive of other parts of New York City, so they decided to start the race in Brooklyn, Grand Army Plaza in Central Park to be exact. Let’s stop right there.

In the past, the start of the race was in Central Park with the finish being near downtown, Wall Street. This year’s course required more planning ahead. For those coming in from out of town, the big question became ‘Do I stay close to the start or close to the finish’? To make life easier for some of the followers of this blog as well as my United NYC Half Marathon Facebook group, we actually hired two coach buses to meet us in midtown Manhattan and take us to the start line. While that was a quick fix for about 110 people, there were several others who had to navigate the subway system enroute to the start line, very early on a Sunday morning. For the most part it seems that folks that left early, got to the start line on time. There seemed to be a crowding problem on the train for those that boarded trains close to the start line in Brooklyn. You would think the MTA would put more trains on the lines given 22,000 extra people heading to Brooklyn at this time!

Crowded Subways Photo Credit Peter Eher

The crowds on the subways enroute to the United NYC Half – Photo Credit Peter Ehler

Once you arrived at the course, the race organizer, New York Road Runners, was on the ball in terms of getting everyone lined up for the race. Prior to the race, they instructed everyone to specifically go to the start of the corrals which was on the opposite side of the park from the actual start line. I think the entry point was perfect. It was convenient from subway stations and close to a major intersection which made it easy for taxi and Uber/Lyft dropoffs to allow passengers to get off quickly and be close to the corral entries. Once there, an abundance of security awaited runners as they would pass a full set of security measures such as metal detectors, clear bags only and the restriction of liquids greater than 1 liter. This year, NYRR put portable bathrooms right in the corrals to make it easy for someone “to go” right before the start of the race. As a matter of fact, with the staggered starts, there were people going to the bathroom even though the race had started because they knew they had time before the stagger reached them! Good move on the part of NYRR to do this!

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Portable bathrooms right in the corrals! – Photo Credit: Ericka Gee

One the race stated, racing down Flatbush Avenue was chilly but exhilarating, mostly due to the fact that the first two miles were down hill. The crowds weren’t what I expected but I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it was 7:30am when we were flying down Flatbush Avenue and it was under 30 degrees. Downtown Brooklyn gets a pass for the thin crowds on this one. For the most part, all you could see were the thousands of runners that were taking off with you! I told myself going into this race to take these first two miles easily. Clearly I didn’t listen as I clocked a 7:23 and a 7:27 respectively for the first two miles – so much for that game plan!

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The approach to the Manhattan Bridge – Photo Credit: Gail Miranda

As expected, once on the Manhattan Bridge there were no spectators in sight due to security reasons. Going over the bridge was actually very peaceful. After getting over the adrenalin of the start and the first two miles being mostly downhill, this is where the race really started for me. With the rising sun hitting runners from the east, it was a chance to take in the views of the east river and settle in for another 10 miles. For me it was a time to make a decision on how I would run the remainder of race. I wanted to PR, which meant go under 1:50. 1:45 would have been a great day. As I crossed the Manhattan Bridge, the pace group for the 1:40 goal time passed me. I saw them and thought to myself, ‘maybe I could keep up with them?’. To do so would require a pace much faster than than what I was shooting for. As we approached the end of the Manhattan Bridge, they settled in 10 yards in front of me. Keeping them in sight, I was distracted for some time by what I saw as I was coming off the Manhattan Bridge. The bridge left us in the heart of Chinatown. The crowds coming off of the bridge were terrific. I have to be honest, before the race, I didn’t think there would be many spectators in Chinatown but boy was I wrong. The crowds there along with the first Huma gel of the day that I popped provided a nice boost for the next mile as we headed towards the FDR Drive!

Manhattan Bridge Rose Ormillo

Views Of The Manhattan Bridge Portion – Photo By Rose Ormilo

One of the stretches of the race that I was looking forward to was the stretch along the FDR Drive. When I ran a trial run of the course a few weeks back, I was obviously not allowed to go on the FDR drive as there was no way onto it with moving traffic. During my trial run, I noticed that there was some significant elevations on the FDR drive and I wondered how that would feel on race day considering we would be 5 miles into the race by the time we reached the elevations of the FDR Drive. In looking back at the race, the FDR drive was just the beginning of several climbs that we would have to endure from that point on until the end of the race. Also looking back on the race, I enjoyed the scenery of running on the FDR Drive and actually being in the middle of it. It felt almost surreal as you knew that no one actually ever walks or runs on the FDR drive itself.

FDR Drive Photo By Lourdes Lawrence

Running on the FDR Drive – Photo Credit: Lourdes Lawrence

Depending on your pace, most runners would exit the FDR Drive at 42nd street exit ramp just as a car would that was exiting the FDR. The FDR drive however was a topic of debate for runners who started at the back of wave 2. According to some runner’s accounts, some of the late starters were not even allowed on the FDR Drive because they had to re-open it to vehicular traffic. Instead they were asked to run along the promenade that runs parallel to the FDR Drive. For the most part this works as a good alternative however there weren’t race officials to tell runners were to get off of the promenade. The promenade comes to a dead end at some point north of 34th street and never makes it all the way to 42nd street. Runners were under the impression that they could go all the way up to 42nd street on the promenade and then continue east along the remainder of the race course. Unfortunately, this was not the case and frustrated runners encountered the dead end and had to reverse back to 34th street to exit the promenade and make their way to 42nd street to pick up the official race course. This was a major miscue on the part of NYRR! Hopefully something they will learn for future races that run this course!

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Running Thru Times Square – Photo Credit: Rose Ormillo

Regardless of how you made it to 42nd street, the race continued west along the wide stretch which included an uphill until you ran past Fifth Avenue. Much to my dismay, there weren’t as many spectators on 42nd street. Most of them seemed to be tourists who were uninterested in the runners passing by them. One thing that I noticed on 42nd. street was the way that NYRR handled the power gel distribution. Just after mile 7, NYRR decided to distribute Power Bar gels to all of the runners. In my opinion the way they were distributed was horrible. They simply placed the gel packets on the table for runners to grab. Runners however seemed to have been grabbing one and knocking one off of the table as well because by the time I got to the table, there were several gel packets already on the floor, most of them which had been stepped on and exploded making the path to the gel table a dicey and treacherous one. If NYRR wants to give out gel packets, bravo! But how about you drop one in the bag along with the race shirt when you distribute them at the expo? The way it was done on Sunday was a mess and I am sure that several runners in the back of the pack may not have been able to get one.  While I did grab one, I tossed it just after I got to Central Park. The packet weighed a ton compared to the Huma ones I had. I regret even grabbing it off of the table on 42nd street.

Speaking of 42nd street, the race turned north once we approached 7th avenue. The crowds were vibrant and loud when we got to this part of the race. As I was running along 42nd street, I could see the 1:40 pace group turning north on 7th avenue. Trying to keep them in sight, I was motivated and sped up when I myself reached 7th avenue despite the fact that the stretch on 7th avenue was another uphill until we reached Central Park. My mile split for this mile was the fastest of the race – 7:00 and that 1:40 pace group was still in sight! As we approached Central Park I spotted Tana, one of our We Run NYC Running Club members who didn’t get to run the race.  She was holding up a cheer sign for us! God Bless her because 7th avenue was a wind tunnel and yet she remained out there supporting us! The motivation worked because I entered Central Park feeling strong and ready to conquer the hills that awaited.

Tana Supporting We Run NYC Running Club! Photo Credit: Maritza Santos

Even though I have trained in Central Park, it still had its way with me. With 4 miles left to go as we entered Central Park, I went in strong and positive but that quickly wore off as we approached Cat Hill. This tells me that I was purely running off of adrenalin on 7th avenue. I’ve run Cat Hill hill before and never had issues with it but on this day, I think I might have expended too much energy in the parts leading up to here as I was chasing the 1:40 pace group. Approaching the end of mile 11 just before the 102nd street traverse, I finally lost the 1:40 pace group and never saw them the rest of the race. I was tired and I knew I still had 2 more miles to go. At this point I was just thinking to myself, ‘You ran 8 miles over your head with the 1:40 pace group at roughly 7:37 per mile, just hold it together and get thru these last two miles!’.

Making the turn onto the 102nd street traverse we came upon a water stop. I took one last shot of Gatorade at this water station in hopes that it would get me to the finish strong. Next came the turn off of the 102nd street traverse and onto Central Park west. We were met with a long uphill right away. I was familiar with this uphill and knew that it was a long one. Mentally I was shot. I felt my legs buckle as I tried to push forward. Other than early on in the 3rd mile where we climbed the Manhattan Bridge, mile 12 would be my slowest mile at 8:13. I thought to myself, you ran too fast this whole race to give it all back now. Knowing the worst was behind me hill wise, except for maybe one more small hill, the 13th mile was all guts and glory. If I could personally thank all of the spectators that lined that last mile I would because they got me thru that last mile. From running an 8:13 mile in mile 12 to finishing with a 7:21 mile in mile 13, it’s been a while since I was so happy to see a finish line! I saw the 800m marker and forgot about the fatigue and just went for it. Final time 1:41:41. That’s a full 10 minutes knocked off of my previous personal record. Finishing in Central Park was tough, but I liked it. Actually in looking back, the whole race from the FDR drive til the end was tough , but it was a good scenic and challenging course and I can’t wait to do it again.

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My official results from NYRR!

Overall, I enjoyed this course more than the previous version. I came across a lot of people that ran personal records on this course and all of them thought it would be a harder course. Is it actually an easier course? I can tell you there are a lot of hills. Did the scenery make tit all go by faster? Was it the cold?

If you ran the race, what do you think? How was your United NYC Half experience – share in the comments below!

United NYC Half Complete – New course gets a thumbs up!

Race Day Planning For The United NYC Half Marathon!

So you are running the United NYC Half Marathon? Congratulations are in order because this race is not easy to get into! Now that you have gotten into the race, running and completing the race is not the only thing that you may have to worry about. Preparing for this race physically, mentally, emotionally and logistically can be a huge task. With this course being new, no matter how many races you have run in New York City, no one has ever run this course before! Those that will run the race this year will be the first ones ever to tackle this version of the course. In fact there are portions of this course that have never had any race run over them!

Over the last couple of months, I’ve hosted a United NYC Half Marathon Facebook group and we’ve discussed so many topics about this race. From training, to travel accommodations, to diets, to race prep, to holding local group runs and even hiring two coach buses to take some of us to the start line of the race! We’ve covered so much in that group and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! (side note, we have similar groups open now for the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon and the New York City Marathon!)

So I thought I would put this article together for everyone to benefit from the discussions that we have had in this group. It targets out of towners running the race as well as native New Yorkers. It’s a long read but I think there is something for everyone in here!

Getting Your Race Day Bib and the Expo

Getting your bib at the Expo is only the beginning of the fun!

Whether you are traveling in from out of town or whether you live here in New York City, you will have to make your way to the Half Marathon Expo. For those that live in the New York City area who are accustomed to picking up their race day bibs at the NYRR Run Center, that will not be an option this time around. Further, you will not be able to pick your bibs up on the morning of the race either! That makes it super important that you plan some time either on the Thursday (11:00am – 9:00pm), Friday (11:00am – 9:00pm)  or Saturday (9:00am – 6:00pm) before the race to make it down to the Expo. The Expo is located at 125 west 18th street, New York, NY 10011 (between 6th and 7th avenues).

When heading to the Expo, give yourself some time to be there. Getting your number and race shirt should be quick, but there is usually a lot of fun little things for your to see or do there. A race pacer booth will be set up so that you can speak with race pacers to talk about strategy to meet your desired goal time. I was able to confirm with NYRR that you will be able to pick up a “race pace” bracelet at the expo to help you keep pace with your desired goal time. These are several different bracelets each with a different goal time. The bracelet then tells you the mile splits you will need to hit in order to run that bracelet’s goal target time. Among other things to do at the expo is look for your name on the wall of runners, take some pictures or do some shopping from the racks of merchandise they are sure to have! The official race dear gear sponsor New Balance will be on hand with some giveaways as well! Whatever it is, just give yourself some time at the Expo! You won’t regret it!

If you can’t fit some time in to get to Expo yourself, there is an option to send someone as your proxy to get your bib. That involves having your proxy bring a copy of your photo ID, with your name matching the name attached to the bib. Your proxy should also have a copy of your race day confirmation form. Your race day confirmation form can be found by logging into your NYRR account. While this is an option, you will miss all of the fun at the expo!

Know Your Transportation To The Start Line!

This is the first year that the course will start in Brooklyn and end in Manhattan. As such you will have to plan out your traveling plans in order to get to the starting line on time! The race is on a Sunday morning which means New York City subways will be operating with less trains than they usually do on Sunday mornings. This means give yourself lots of commuting time if you will be riding the subways to the race that morning. Recently New York Road Runners Club released a detailed diagram of Prospect Park and where runners will need to go to enter the starting corrals. Based on that diagram below, it looks like the Q, 4 & 5 trains are the preferred subways to take the start of the race. One important thing to note, even though it is advertised that the race will start in Grand Army Plaza, runners will have to enter the corrals on the other side of the park over by Flatbush Avenue & Empire Blvd. Make note of that and make sure you travel to the right location! Traveling to the Grand Army Plaza station will only make you walk all the way around to the start of the corrals.

Diagram of the starting line for the United NYC half!

One thing that I STRONGLY urge you to do is check out the service advisory section of the MTA website. They are notorious for scheduling track work or other maintenance that can severely affect train service on the weekend. The last thing you want to do is be on your way to the race, only to find out that morning that the train you planned on taking that morning was not working! Plan ahead! To assist with that, the MTA actually has a “Trip Planner” available. This trip planner takes into consideration any service advisories that may be in play that day. I tested this a couple of weeks back when I did my trial run of the course (click here to read my review of the course!). The day I used the Trip Planner, there were service advisories for the subway lines I used that day. The trip planner told me about them and factored them into my traveling time. I got to the starting line to meet my group for the trial run on time with no issues just as the trip planner had planned it out for me! For reference the name of the subway stops you can travel to are in the graphic above. Enter those subway station names into the trip planner along with the station you are traveling from.  It works – use it!

Aside from subways, NYC taxi cabs, Uber & Lyft are an option. Just keep in mind, traffic to that area will be heavy. Further street closures in Brooklyn leading up to the park may snarl traffic. Give yourself some time if you plan on taking some form of car service to the start! As for driving yourself, I strongly suggest against it. 25,000 people will be heading to the start area. I tried to park at Prospect Park a few weeks ago for a race that only had 5,000 participants and it was chaos on that day! Imagine having 5 times the number of runners and trying to look for parking! Leave your car at home!

Planning Your Day Before The Race

Many folks will be traveling into New York City specifically for the race. If you are like many of these folks, you might be getting to New York on Thursday, Friday or even Saturday. If you are lucky enough to get in Thursday or Friday, do your moving around the city those days. Saturday is March 17th, also known as St. Patrick’s Day! Manhattan is full of parade goers and party goers looking to seek a celebration or two in honor of the famous Irishman! The festivities always seem to end up in an abundance of alcohol being consumed so if you had your heart set on going to a restaurant or bar in Manhattan on this Saturday, just know that it may full of festive party goers enjoying St. Patricks’s Day. Further, getting around town may be tough on the day before the race as the parade route goes right up 5th avenue, smack dab in the middle of Manhattan. As I mentioned, plan your day on Saturday accordingly to work around the St. Patrick’s Day congestion.

There is no question that the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the most popular parade in New York City and one to enjoy if you are ok with having a couple of drinks. But for the person who has trained for weeks in preparation for 13 miles on Sunday, you might want to skip the festivities this year. If you need to unwind with some beverages, seek out hotel bars or lounges who will likely not allow St Patrick’s Day revelers into their establishments. Better yet, by a bottle of wine or a 6 pack and sip comfortably and responsibly in your hotel room if you absolutely must, although personally, I recommend you save it for AFTER the race!

Dressing For The Race & Bag Check

What to wear come race day morning?

Weather in New York City in the month of March is extremely unpredictable. There have been 70 degree days in March and there have been insane snow storms in the month of March. In 2017, the race was run on the heels of a pretty strong snow storm during the week leading up to the race. The temperature at the start of the race was 30 degrees. While the temperature could be cold at the beginning, it could warm up rather quickly as the race progresses as well. So how does one dress??

I suggest to wear some layers to the race that you will be comfortable parting with. There are close to 25,000 runners competing in the United NYC Half Marathon. This means that the bag check won’t be close to the starting line. In fact if you look at the graphic of the starting area above, the bag check is before you even enter the secure zone. Think hard about what you want to check in and what you will be able to bring with you thru security and to the starting corral. Keep in mind that you can only check in a clear bag. NYRR wants to see the contents contained in your bag. Also, I have confirmed with NYRR that your bag will be transported via courier to the finish line at Central Park so don’t worry about having to come back to Brooklyn to get your stuff! Check your bag in with confidence!

In terms of other items allowed past security, water bottles in excess of one liter will not be allowed. Camelpacks are also not allowed either. To be honest, those likely aren’t even needed. The race course will have a water station just about every mile along with some water stands that will include Gatorade. There is even a “Powebar Gel” station in mile 7.

The security check point will include a metal detector and you will pass thru it like you do at an airport. Your cell phone, keys, money, etc., will go in a dish and then they will wand you and you will go thru a metal detector. All of this means that if you’re checking items into the bag check, you will have to do it early to give yourself enough time to get thru security. This could cause your wait in the corral to be anywhere from 30-60 minutes.

Going back to how you should dress, you will want to stay warm in the corrals for this period of time. This is where the extra layers come into play. Remember, it will be anywhere between 7am – 8am when runners start since there are two waves. Once your wave starts, you can peel a layer or two off and part with them by placing them in one of the several donation bins that will be lining the starting line area. That’s right, you won’t be seeing those items again, so plan accordingly!

Going back to checking in your items at the bag check, one thing to consider when packing your check-in bag, is that it may be cold or rainy this day. Consider packing a dry  or warm change of clothes in your check in bag for after the race. The last thing you want to have happen is to be standing around after the race in cold or wet clothes. You can easily duck into a portable john to get out of those wet clothes if you choose after you retrieve your checked in bag. If you despise portable bathrooms like some folks do, you can head over to the New York Road Runners Run Center (320 West 57th street b/w 8th & 9th avenues) which is not too far from the finish line to use some of their changing rooms there.

As of the writing of this article, the temperatures are expected to range from the low 40’s at the start of the race, to the low 50’s thru out the race. That’s not cold. Rain is in the forecast as of now, but lets hope that pushes away! I would still plan to wear a couple of layers to the stating corral only to peel them off when the race begins.

Get To Know The Course

img_0822Finally, the course itself! As mentioned earlier, this year New York Road Runners Club decided to change the course route that had been in effect for several years. For the first time ever the race will start at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn and will finish in Central Park. The reason for the change is because the race is getting bigger each year and they are looking for a wider course and one that has a larger finish line and finish area. Logistically also, finishing in Central Park allows them to keep the finish area open longer so that runners don’t have to worry about having to finish their race under a certain time.  If you have ever run this race before, it will be all new for you just as it will be for someone who is running the race for the first time!

The course map is just above. If you have run this race before you will notice that this course has a lot more hills than the previous version of it. What make it worse is that a lot of the hills are towards the end of the race. If you look at the elevation chart at the bottom of the below graphic, miles 8 thru the end of the race are a series of climbs most of them which will be in Central Park. Just before that there is a stretch of 7th avenue from 42nd street up until the entrance of Central Park which is all up hill. If this stretch may look familiar to those who have run this race before thats because the race used to run the opposite way down 7th avenue after you exited the park. This year, you are running a slow steady climb for 15 blocks before you get into Central Park! If you haven’t thrown in hill work into your training, now may be the time! For a more comprehensive review of the course, you can read the review I wrote up after I did an actual trial run of the course a couple of week ago. You can find that article here!

The Finish Line.

You made it 13.1 miles to the finish in Central Park – CONGRATULATIONS! You’re not done yet! Once you are done with the race, you will still have about a half mile walk. During that walk, family will not be allowed in this half mile are as it is considered a “runners only” area. Family can watch you finish the race during the last mile. See the graphic above and note that they can enter the park on the west side the park via two entrances. They will not be able to meet you however on there other side of the finish line.

Once you have crossed the finish line, you have approximately a half mile walk that will lead you to the southern exit of the park close to Columbus Circle. I highly suggest, that you meet with family away from the park after the race. The area around Columbus Circle will be pure chaos. During your half mile walk you will get your recovery bag, water, and of course, your well deserved medal! There will also be stations set up to take post race pictures with your medals or your friends. Medical tents and bathrooms will be available during this half mile walk as well. It may be a half mile, but trust me, it will pass by really quickly!

Speaking of medals, make sure to get your medals ENGRAVED after the race! I confirmed with NYRR that medal engraving will be available immediately after the race at the NYRR Run Center on Sunday from 10am – 5pm. If you are not in the mood to stand on line to get your medal engraved after the race, medal engraving will also be available at the run center on Monday 3/19 from 12pm – 7pm and on Tuesday 3/20 from 4pm – 7pm. Unfortunately medal engraving is only for NYRR members. However there is nothing stopping you from becoming a NYRR member before the race to not only take advantage of free engraving but to also take part in their future races. Of course as an alternative to all of this, you can also get your medal engraved else where.

In Closing

I am a stickler for logistics. I put this together because so many of you worked hard to prepare for this race and I don’t want to see you throw it away because you thought you could pick up your bib on race day morning or you took the wrong train to the start or your dressed incorrectly. You deserve better than that! Now go out there are crush this NYC Half Marathon!

If you found this information helpful, then I am glad I could help. As I mentioned earlier, if you happen to be running either the Popular Brooklyn Half Marathon or TCS New York City Marathon, I have similar group discussions going on now. Here is the one for the Brooklyn Half and here is the one for TCS NYC Marathon Why not join these groups and get in on all of the information being exchanged there!

For more information about running in general in New York City, make sure to follow me on Instagram @catrunsnyc_2018 or on Twitter @catrunsnyc ! Also while you are at it, check out our running club We Run NYC Running Club! It is a running club that is open to all levels of runners with one common bond – that they simply love running in New York City!

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It awaits you!

Trying Out Virtual Racing

There isn’t a weekend that goes by where I don’t run. Of course some weekends, I even race. However with winter having NYC in its grip, I haven’t run a race since Thanksgiving and that is a long time for me! Last week, I once again looked at the New York Road Runners website hoping there was something sooner than February 4th that filled my needs. They have a half marathon coming up this weekend, The Fred Lebow Half Marathon however I don’t think I am half marathon ready yet.

The lack of races made me look at something that I had overlooked and flat out ignored on their website, their virtual racing series. Virtual racing is basically a fancy name for “do it at home” racing. This particular race was a 5K distance. The way it works is they give you a length of time to complete the distance. In this case, it was two whole weeks and at any time during those two weeks, you can run the 5k and track your run using the Strava Application, which is a free download. Once you have run your race, your time gets uploaded to the Strava site and NYRR then throws your time into a pool of all of the other runners running the virtual race and they rank you by time. No traveling on your part. You can do this in your neighborhood!

I took part in the virtual 5k and allow me to break down the pros and cons of this type of race and maybe it will help you decide whether this is something you want to part take in.

PROS:

  • There is no traveling involved and no schedule to adhere to. You don’t have to worry about commuting to the race or driving to it, or being stuck in traffic or even parking! Just strap on your shoes and go.
  • This particular race was free. Free is always good!
  • You can run this race wherever you want. No need to deal with a hilly course if you don’t want to. Just pick out a flat course and fire away!
  • No dealing with crowds

CONS:

  • For me, there is no adrenalin rush of the crowds, the spectators or even the starters gun. It was me hitting my watch and just saying “go!” lol
  • I don’t know that the timing on a Strava app can be that accurate. I enjoy the fully automatic time of most races.
  • It was a pro above, but for me its also a con – you can run this race wherever you want and get away with a much faster course for the distance than what you may usually run. I chose to run the 5k on a track for example. No hills at all. Is that cheating? There were no rules against that! I think by being allowed to do this, it discredits time, placing etc.

PERSONAL TAKE AWAY:

Look, I ran the race because I was desperate to run a race. I ran it on a 400 meter track. I don’t think I have ever run a 5k on a track (lol). This presented a flat course with no hills. Guess how I ran? Personal record for 5k by 8 seconds (22:31 to be exact). Strava app says I PR’d but do I count it? If you are looking for a good workout and looking to see how that workout compares to others, then this might be a good “race” to run. Another thing I wasn’t a fan of and this may be isolated to New York Road Runners, they actually tried to charge for a variation of this race. As this was their first virtual race of the year, they have an incentive, that if you ran 6 of these virtual races, then you automatically qualify for next year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon. The catch however is that if you want these races to qualify for the half marathon, then each virtual race costs you $20. That’s 6 races at $20 each and ending up costing you $120 to qualify for a race that you will pay another $100 for. I’m sorry but that is just not for me. I have no problem paying a race fee when I get the full experience, the adrenalin, maybe a medal and a fully automatic timed race. But $20 for me to run in my neighborhood to be timed by a free app – I just can’t justify a fee for these.

Will I run these virtual races again? I don’t know. I guess it depends on how my race schedule looks at the time. I enjoy racing for the full experience. The commuting. The buildup before a race. Having to use the bathroom countless times before entering a crowded corral with thousands of other runners. Hearing the national anthem before the race, hearing the starting gun, then having all of these other runners push me along the course. Finally, nothing like coming down the home stretch of a race with spectators cheering you on. Thats the race day experience for me!

Anyways, I thought I would share my “virtual” experience with you. Have you run a virtual race? What was your take on it?

Here Comes 2018!

A very festive “Hello” to all of my readers out there! I decided to take a few days off for the holidays and I have to say while I enjoyed it with family, I cannot help thinking about my running and getting my racing started in 2018. Even though I took off from this blog for the holidays, I have managed to get out for a few runs. It has not been easy I will admit that. As I am writing this post the temperature outside feels like 4 degrees with a pretty stiff wind. However every time I do complete a run, it always feels great and that’s something I hope that all of you who have been doubting a run in this weather can experience!

The weather was very cold by me this week!

While it has been difficult to take that pivotal first step for each of my winter runs, I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by a great group of runners who have pushed each other to continue training for the 2018 United NYC Half Marathon despite the cold weather! Many of these runners are from all across the country. The temperature in some of these states has consistently been colder than NYC and yet they continue their training. There are stories of “come backs” from injuries and different setbacks along with relentless efforts to conquer personal race goals in 2018. As I am seeing these great runners in this group, I have developed a short list of objectives that I am choosing to serve as guidelines for myself to take my running and my overall well being to the next level. I wanted to share those with you as we approach 2018 because I firmly believe that anyone can apply these to their personal journeys. I hope you enjoy them and better yet, use them to guide you in 2018!

Surround Yourself With Winners

I am not saying to go out and find people who win races, but people who are strong minded and aim high to achieve and meet personal objectives. As I mentioned above I’ve been fortunate to be part of a Facebook group of motivated runners. That is the type of group you want to surround yourself with. But that’s not all. Sometimes you also need to limit the time around people who will do the opposite. You know the type – the ‘nay’ sayers. Those that tell me “your crazy”, “why run, just walk” or some other absurd negativity. These are also the type who might get you to do things that might otherwise pull you away from the things you really need to do. You truly become a product of your environment so make that environment the “winners”.

Everyone in this pic belongs to my gym – a couple are trainers. All of them have that positive energy around them! Find those winners!

Consistency is Key

My next objective for 2018 is to remain consistent with my running journey. The same notion can be applied to anyone out there. Whether you want to be a runner or you are aspiring to be a fashion designer or any other thing that you are passionate about, it has to be on your mind ALL THE TIME and you always have to strive to be better at it. Life has its ways of being very busy at times and I know I am guilty often of using that as an excuse to not get out and run or have a work out. So this year one of my main objectives is to keep the consistency as much as possible and work at avoiding busy schedules and conflicts coming up that keep me from my consistency. In my first objective that I described above those ‘winners’ that you should be surrounding yourself with will not allow you to fall into the temptation’s or conflicts that will keep you from your consistency. This is another reason why you should strive to surround yourself with positive influential people who will not tempt you to do things that could be destructive to your goals. A perfect example for me are the several friends who have gotten me out the night before crucial training runs or better yet, a night before a race day. You can always find a reason to “have to” attend a party or a happy hour. But when you are focused in on a goal, you have to maintain yourself as the number one priority. Those positive influences also will understand if you say no to a night out of drinking. Better yet, they may never even pose the invite to you. That will inevitably help you stay more consistent on your objectives.

I enjoy a good cigar from time to time, but I have to learn to save them for post race only!

Challenge Yourself

Last year I started to run several races. I was fortunate that I had several personal bests during a lot of my races. However several of those personal bests were simply because it was the first time running those distances (lol)! I had never run a 5 mile race before. Never ran a 10k before. Never ran a half marathon before. I hadn’t run a mile all out since senior year in high school! Therefore now in 2018, the floor has been set. I can continue to allow ‘father time’ have their way with me and allow myself to age and use that as an excuse for not getting faster, or I can push like I haven’t before and try to best those times I set in 2017. As I mentioned above, the cold weather has been tough to train in. While my longer term training plan at the moment is geared towards the half marathon that I am running in March, mentally I am also looking at a race that I have in a couple of weeks. That race is a 10k in Central Park. I only ran one 10k in 2017 so my objective is to beat this time. I really don’t want to make any excuses about cold weather being a factor. I will be disappointed if I don’t PR at my upcoming 10k. This is the challenge I present to myself. These are the challenges you should present to yourself if you want to continue to improve yourself!

A pic from the only 10k I ran in 2017. Must run faster than 51:16 in my upcoming 10k!

Accept Your Mistakes, But Learn From Them.

This point is something that I did a lot of in 2017. I ran tangents on race day horribly in 2017. There were races where I ran so much more in distance that I swore my GPS was wrong. I cannot do that in 2018. That partying that I did before race day? No mas. Can’t have that repeat itself in 2018. Lack of consistency? It can’t happen either. We all know where we have failed or hit a bump in the road. Allowing yourself to accept those mistakes is fine, but allowing them to happen again is a no-no. The only way to improve yourself is to understand why you made a mistake, fix it, and don’t allow it to happen again. New mistakes will happen in 2018 and you will have to devote time to work on those mistakes. We don’t have time to keep dwelling or re-visiting the mistakes of 2017!

I’ve been saying for weeks that I cannot wait for 2018 and I’m excited even more for it now! I also can’t wait for the weather to get warmer, but I don’t know when that will happen. I do know that 2018 is just days away. If you haven’t decided on a way to make yourself healthier or to simply create a better version of you, obviously now is the time. The gym’s may be crowded and everyone will flock for that healthier food next week at the supermarkets but don’t let that deter you from starting the process! Use my 4 guidelines above to work at the better version of you! And like I always like to say, when all else fails, get up out of your seat and GO FOR A RUN!

I want to thank all of you that have been reading this blog this first year of its existence and wish you all a healthy, safe and prosperous New Year!

Running away from 2017,

Cesar

Happy New Year my friends!

Workouts For The Week – 12/11 thru 12/17

With the holidays here, I feel compelled to stay on top of my workouts a bit more! Sometimes you see things play out on paper (or on a blog!) and you can either look back on them with pride, or you get ticked off because you realize you slacked off! This week was in the middle for me. I have to admit that the weather has been getting in my way but since I made it a point to start doing some strength training, I feel like I am making out ok on bad weather days.

Here is how my week went work out wise!

Monday 12/11:

This day was a complete fail as it was my Christmas Party At work. I knew going into this day that I would not be able to get anything out of it workout wise. However I was proud of myself for one thing. I usually end up staying to the end of my Christmas parties and end up going to after parties, getting home really late and feeling like crap the next morning. Not this year! Left at 8:30pm after a few drinks and was in bed by 10pm. I will take that away as a plus!

Tuesday 12/12:

I had big plans to get a run in on this day, but my daughter had “Sports Night” at her school, where kids and a parent compete in races and challenges. There was some running involved but it wasn’t quite a workout. Got home close to 9pm and sadly called it a day. This was a day where being a parent just got in the way. We will have those days- but that is when you need to bounce back hard!

Wednesday 12/13:

I came home this day hell bent on running. The weather however was frigid. Wind chill factor on Wednesday night was in the single digits. I opted for the treadmill at the gym on this day. I don’t speak too often about the treadmill because I flat out hate it! Its more of a “dreadmill” for me. Something about this machine that just doesn’t allow me to get into my natural running groove. Also my breathing in the gym is not the same when running as it is outdoors. Never the less, got the running done

Distance – 5.0 miles / Time- 42:32 / 8:24 per mile

Thursday 12/14:

Here was a day to finally work on that strength training! I want to pay attention to my arms, triceps and biceps. Also, maybe because it is more of a vanity thing, I want to work on my chest as well lol. A small part of this is also because I keep flirting with the idea of doing a Spartan race in the future and I know I will need to have strong upper body strength for this so I want to slowly start building that.  I was able to hit all of the body parts that I wanted as well as get some stomach and core exercises done at the end! All of this after a 15 minute warmup session on the bike!

  • 15 minutes of warm up on the bike
  • 3 sets of bicep barbell curls, 12 reps each, 45 lbs, 55 lbs, 65 lbs
  • Alternated above three sets of barbell curls w/ 12 x 15lbs dumbell front raises
  • 3 sets of bench presses, 10 reps each, 115 lbs, 135 lbs, 145 lbs.
  • 3 sets triceps pulldowns, 12 reps each 40 lbs., 50 lbs., 60 lbs
  • 3 sets of butterfly machine, 12 reps each 125lbs., 145 lbs., 155 lbs.
  • 2 minutes of ab roller exercises alternated with 60 second planks (3x)

Friday 12/15:

When I tell you that the weather is just flat out messing with me I am not joking! Friday was pretty quiet at my job so I decided to leave a bit early and try to sneak in a run before I had to get my daughter from school. Almost as soon as I get off the train at my stop, it starts to snow at a rapid pace. By the time I got home and changed into my running gear, there was already a nice coating on the ground. I was determined to get a run in. My earlier run in the week was on a treadmill so that didn’t leave me with the best feeling in the world. My run wasn’t the longest but I had to cut it short because the snow was really coming down hard and I was not comfortable with the footing my sneakers were giving me. Still, a 5k run was completed!

Distance – 3.2 miles / Time- 27:59 / 8:33 per mile

Saturday 12/16:

I was able to get to the gym on this day as my wife had a day of Christmas shopping ahead of her. To help her out, I agreed to hang with my daughter the whole day. The only way for me to get any type of workout now was going to be at the gym as they have an awesome kids program there to keep them busy while parents work out. I followed up my strength training from Thursday with the same workout just lighter weights and more reps.

  • 20 minutes of warm up on the bike
  • 3 sets of bicep barbell curls, 15 reps each, 45 lbs, 55 lbs, 55 lbs
  • Alternated above three sets of barbell curls w/ 15 x 15lbs dumbell front raises
  • 3 sets of bench presses, 12 reps each, 95 lbs, 115 lbs, 135 lbs.
  • 3 sets triceps pulldowns, 15 reps each 30 lbs., 40 lbs., 50 lbs
  • 3 sets of butterfly machine, 15 reps each 105lbs., 115 lbs., 125 lbs.
  • Various ab and core exercises to close out the workout

Sunday 12/17:

Not only did I wake up excited because I was finally seeing Star Wats the Last Jedi, but there was no snow in the forecast and the mercury was going to go close to 40 degrees! I finally was going to try and get a long run in. To make a long story short. mission accomplished! I was able to get in just under 7 miles on Sunday. I felt really good thru out the entire run. I wanted to start slow and easy and I definitely did accomplish that. First three miles we 8:24, 8:33 and 8:24. Once I had three miles in the books, my strides started to open.  Each of the final 4 miles were progressively faster. Final mile was 7:19 pace. No calf pains after and no stiffness anywhere. Long run day was a success!

Distance – 6.7 miles / Time- 55:10 / 8:14 per mile

 

The temperatures are supposed to be back in the normal range this week. Well its about time! The only good thing about this cold snowy weather is that if I get in the day in the high 30s or low 40s, it actually feels like a heat wave to me. I’m debating if I should follow a half marathon training plan or if I should just go at it alone. I keep saying I want to focus on strength training and while I have started, I don’t think most half marathon training plans touch upon strength training. This will be on my mind heavily as I enter this week!

How did your workouts go last week?

Baby Its Cold Outside!

It seems that winter decided to come early on the east coast this year! Technically, it is not winter yet and we have already had 2 snowfalls and on Wednesday, we had windchills of single digits! If this keeps up then we are in for a very cold and perhaps, even a long winter.

For some of us, we have some races coming in the spring that we would like to get ready for. Personally, I have the United NYC Half Marathon in March and that is going to require me to workout all winter! I’m praying for nice conditions come race day. Pictured just above is the scene from last year’s NYC Half- cold with snow on the ground!

For some of you reading this, you might be eager to just start a running program. The weather can be a deterrent for starting a running plan unless you choose not to let it! Barring the fact that you hit the lotto tomorrow and relocate to warmer climates, here are some cold weather tips that I follow when I need to run in the cold and nasty weather! Follow these and you should be able to confront cold frigid temps!

  • Check the weather and plan accordingly. This might sound obvious but you have no idea how many times people tell me they didn’t realize it was ‘that cold’. In winter, the wind chill is a factor and while the mercury might read 40 degrees out, the wind chill can make it feel like 30 or 20 degrees. That difference is huge if you are dressing for 40 degrees. You do not want to underdress for winter weather.
  • Once you have checked the weather, dress for weather 10 degrees warmer than it is outside. Once you get going on your run, you are going to heat up. Having too many layers may make you a sweaty and uncomfortable mess.
  • Layer up! I know folks think they can wear that one super thick pullover or sweatshirt but that’s not ideal. Layering up is the way to go. I tend to start with long sleeves at 50 degrees and add a layer for every 10 degrees it goes down. The layers don’t have to be thick because they will trap heat in between. The key thing to be cognizant about is the layer against your skin. This layer should never ever be made of cotton! Cotton doesn’t wick away moisture and being wet and cold is not something you want in cold weather. Go with wool or other materials that wick away moisture. Under Armour makes great shells for cold weather that I love as bottom most layers and their layers wick away moisture also!
  • As winter drags on, you know that most of the time you will likely have to deal with night time running. Here is a post I wrote a few weeks ago with tips specifically for running in the dark. Make sure to implement these during your cold weather runs!
  • Cover those extremities! Gloves, hats, scarves are a must especially a hat. It’s a known fact that 90 percent of your body heat leaves via your head. I can never understand why folks run in cold weather without a hat! Those fingertips need protection too. Don’t worry about the iphone, they sell gloves with special fngertips for the phone too!
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Picked these up at this year’s NYC Marathon expo and they are racking up winter miles!

  • Ok so you are now dressed. No running yet because you must stretch, stretch and stretch some more! I am a big believer of stretching in general. In cold weather, double or even triple the amount that you stretch! Your muscles tend to contract more in the cold and they will take longer to get loose and limber. A lot of muscle strains happen in cold weather because people do not take the time to adequately stretch. Don’t let this happen to you!
  • If you know you will be dealing with wind on your run, and there tends to be a lot of wind in the winter, plan your run accordingly. Find out which way the winds are blowing and break your run up into two segments. Your first segment, should have you running into the wind so that when you come back, the wind is at your back. In the cold weather, you do not want to do the opposite!
  • If the temperature tends to get extreme, in my opinion single digits or anything below zero is extreme, then it may be time to find a treadmill. I personally despise the treadmill but Wednesday night for example, I bit the bullet and ran 5 miles on the treadmill. Wind chills were making it feel like 5 degrees and for me, after a long day, I was not in the mood to deal with the cold, the winds and the dark.

Wednesday night was also the motivation to write this post! It would have been very easy for me to stay home and throw on sweats and call it a day. But remember, its December! There are still parties to come, still tons of food to consume and you need to stay ahead of the game! Don’t let the cold weather keep you on the couch and feeling guilty. Follow these steps above and you will be ready to brave the cold and come back from your run feeling like you have conquered the world!

Have a great Thursday my friends!