Race Report – Gridiron 4 Mile Run

Hi everyone! I have been away from this blog for a few days. Apologies about that but this thing they called a job, kind of got in the way! I also have been working on some other running related things that kind of some how fell into my lap. I will likely be a little forthcoming on that in the next week or two!

Lost in my absence, was the fact that I ran a race finally! I tell you, it has felt like forever since I have run a race. While I did do an unofficial 5k on New Year’s Day with my gym and I also managed to do a virtual 5k with New York Road Runners, nothing compares to the feeling of an actual race, particularly one at Central Park! Add the fact that I got shut out of the Fred Lebow half marathon and that they cancelled the Joe Kleinerman 10k and I was really itching to get a race in. Well finally the day to race came!

RACE:  NYRR Gridiron 4 Mile Race & Longest Football Throw

DATE:   Sunday, February 4, 2018 9:00am

LOCATION:   Central Park

DISTANCE:   4 Miles

WEATHER: Cloudy, 34 degrees w/ 5mph winds.

GETTING TO THE RACE & PRE-RACE:

I like to document this because the time leading up to a race can dictate the outcome of your race. This was my first race in a while and I was anxious as all hell. With the race being started on the upper easy side (102nd street traverse), I thought I had a good chance of finding some street parking if I got there early enough. I got to the area around 7:30am- Mind you the race didn’t start til 9:00am. After circling for about 15 minutes, I decided to look for a parking garage close to the park. Found one right on 102nd street just east of 5th avenue but it had a line waiting to get into the garage. That was ok, I was early. I was waiting on that line, I noticed a guy walking to a parked car down the block. I bolted off of the line and followed the guy. Sure enough he was pulling out. Free parking was scored!

Meeting up with some members of the United NYC Half Group

 

Adding to the excitement of the pre-race was the fact that I was meeting up with some members of our United NYC Half Facebook community. Close to 30 of us in the group had signed up for this race and several were eager to meet before the race. It was great to meet up with several of them before the race! The cold weather had us a bit frozen, but I think it was safe to say that we all made some new running friends and we likely started a new trend that could carry over to other local races leading up to the United NYC Half Marathon on March 18th!

THE FIRST HALF:

I usually start out in D corral for NYRR races, but this time I started in E corral to run along side one of the members from our online group who had never run a NYRR road race. Knowing this runner, I don’t think she belonged in E corral as I’ve seen her pace and it is definitely faster than E corral. However NYRR has a policy that they  will only move you up once you have recorded a time with them. At the start of the race, it was very crowded and I found myself dodging a lot of slower runners and even walkers. The first mile ran along the 102nd street traverse from the east side of the park to the west side. Once we turned onto the west drive of the park, there was some up hills to overcome. I was taking it easy during this first mile because the crowds just did allow me to stretch out my stride. My first mile was clocked at roughly 7:36. Not bad for the first mile of any of my runs, since I am usually slow in that first mile!

As I approached the second mile, you could tell that the crowds were starting to thin out a bit. I remember seeing a nice area of space and darted for that. It coincided with a down hill and I remember just flying down the hill for about a good 200 meters. Truth be told, that whole second mile felt like a down hill. The mile time was reflective of that. 6:38 was my split for mile 2. What the hell was that? Pretty fast by my standards.

A nice loop in Central Park on Super Bowl Sunday

 

THE SECOND HALF:

Mile 3 was an upward climb as we crossed over from the west side and back to the east side of the park . Up “Cat hill” we went and I was definitely feeling some tired legs up this hill especially after a 6:38 second mile. As we started the climb I could feel my legs getting heavy and my breathing starting to get rapid. There was a brief point where I got distracted. There was a purposely made up division in the road. If you went left it meant you were rooting for the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl. Going right mean you were rooting for the Patriots. At that moment, I felt like stopping and turning around because I hate both teams. But if you need to know – I went right (lol) .

After that distraction, I focused on controlling my breathing and just taking relaxed strides. Once my breathing was under control I tried to pump my arms and my legs a bit more to get up the rolling hills a bit stronger. Mile 3 definitely wasn’t the fastest mile of the race, but I prevented myself from burning out. In fact, I was actually pleased with my mile split considering that 3rd mile was filled with hills, 7:12 pace!

Once I got past the 3rd mile, it dawned on me that there was only a mile left. This is what I hate about short races, its like you are alway churning a rapid pace each mile. You can’t take a mile off! I know myself, I can always churn out a fast final mile. But like I said, in a short race, all of them had been fast this was going to be a bit of a struggle. I locked my mind into a sustainable rapid pace and told myself just to stay at this pace until the finish line came into sight and then let it all hang out. That’s what definitely happened. My final mile, 6:40. I have never put two sub 7:00 minute miles together in a race before! Hey I’ll take it!

My analysis:

My final time was 28:42 for an average pace of 7:11. This was good enough for a PR at the 4 mile distance. For my first race of the year, I was very pleased with this. If that first mile wasn’t as crowded, I may have run that mile a bit faster. All in all this was a great way to start Super Bowl Sunday!

PR for the 4 mile distance!

5 Ways To Keep Your Runs Interesting

Cheers to another day my friends! I have gotten a few messages from folks who have started running recently who are struggling to stay motivated in their new journey. It’s new to them and what is still fresh in their heads is how much they have always hated running. Further, if they haven’t run a race yet, they may not have had the opportunity to witness the positive enthusiasm that running can bring to keep them motivated during their workouts. So this morning I thought I would share some ways that can keep running interesting. For me I can’t say that running is ever boring for me, even after all these years. Maybe the reason it isn’t boring is because I call upon some of these every now and then to “keep things interesting”! Here are just a few of those!

Run with headphones. Whether they are wired or bluetooth, running with headphones is a game changer. I have a few playlists that I fire up when I go for my runs. For me it’s 90’s alternative since that’s what I was listening to in high school when I first picked up running years ago and quite frankly, I still love those tunes too! But I have a few other playlists too, like some old school hip hop and another with latin vibes. But music isn’t the only thing you can listen to. Podcasts have become favorites of runners, or maybe even a newscast. All of these can and will make your run go by a lot faster!

Some songs from my 90’s/Alternative Rock Playlist

Mix Up Your Running Routes This is one that I like to do a lot. Let’s be honest here, if you are running the same route over and over again, this will get boring. I always say that running can lead you to be a sightseer whether it’s when your travelling or even in your own neighborhood. Take a look at your runs, if you’re doing the same ones over and over again, mix them up please or consider changing the length of your runs if you must use the same routes.

Track Your Runs. There are a number of running apps out on the market today that track your runs from your phone by use of GPS. I am a fan of Map My Fitness & Strava, but I must say that Strava is quickly becoming my favorite. These apps have information that keeps me wanting to come back and run again and again. One of the reasons Strava is becoming my favorite is because of all the info they give you out of just one run. They will calculate portions of your run and compare them to similar portions you have run before and tell you how you compared to those. Further Strava is quickly becoming another community but solely made up of runners, which means you can follow your friends and compare how you do. I always say numbers can tell a story and Strava’s stats tell you your story while keeping you motivated. Map My Fitness is always coming up with challenges to keep you motivated and thats part of the reason I continue to use them as well as Strava!

Just a few of the stats from Strava that keep my running interesting!

Run With A Group. This is something that I personally had not tried until this week. I’ve always run alone in my neighborhood but since creating a facebook group for the United NYC Half Marathon, I’ve met a lot of runners online in preparing for that race. Some who live close to me, and when I say close I mean New York City (lol), expressed interest in running as a group to prepare for our race in March together. I ran with the group for the first time this week. We had 6 people in the running group and it was an awesome experience. I’ve always heard that group running is fantastic but it was hard to vouch for that without a group to run with. I highly recommend that if you need a change a pace in your running, find a group or even just a friend and go for a run with them. While your chatting away, those miles will trickle by with ease!

Good chats, good friends and good running within a group!

Mix Up The Type Of Runs You Do. Running doesn’t always have to be about going out and running the same distance. As I mentioned up above, the same route can get boring but also the same type of run can get boring. I always like to get a track workout into my routine if not once a week, at least every other week. This allows me to do intervals on the track which in turn help me build my speed. Hopefully most people have a community or high school track near by that they can have access to. If so, I encourage a track work out! Other times, I like to go find a decent sized hill by me and just run up that hill 10-20 times. This will no doubt challenge you but it will be different from your usual run. Plus hill work will make you a stronger runner in general and that is always a plus when running a race! Tempo runs are also a good way to mix things up. Tempo runs involve running portions of a long run much faster than other portions. For example on a 5 mile run, running miles 1,3 & 5 easy but cranking it up for miles 2 & 4. These are just some ways you can mix up the type of runs you do.

When you look at the above, in my opinion, running can indeed be fun! Like with any other task if you do the same thing over and over again you will naturally lose interest. I’ll update this from time to time when I find new ways to keep running interesting. Want to be updated – follow my blog!! lol

Have a great Thursday everyone!

Display Your Pride For New York City!

Happy Monday to all!

New York City has just gone thru one hell of a cold spell. The temperature has not been near freezing for over a week. Wind chills have had it feeling below zero for quite some time. Still, I have seen so many posts on social media of people running in this cold weather.Seeing this is quite inspirational. It shows a drive and determination that you just don’t see in too many place.

I myself ran a 5k on New Year’s day in zero degree weather. New Yorkers for lack of a better term can be crazy at times with their running. For me, it has to do with a very busy schedule so my time to run is limited. That being said, whenever I plan on getting a run in, I hold myself to that no matter what it is doing outside. For others, as well as myself, there is a great sense of pride to running in New York City. That can also be said for the hundreds of thousands that flock to New York City each year to run races here.

With all of the above in mind, I had an idea to make accessories and shirts with the hashtag #irunnyc on them. For me it is one of my favorite running hashtags. I’m proud to be from New York City and I love running thru out the streets of New York! I have had several runners, both from New York and from out of town express the same pride. I’ve started a page on this blog that has a few items on it that display the hashtag. I am hoping that you will give it a visit and check it out. If you do, check back often as  I will be adding more things from time to time. If anyone has something that they would like to see with the #irunnyc hashtag on it, let me know and I will try my best to make it happen! If nothing else, I will have fun wearing some of these items over time to some of my upcoming races!

For now, be proud of your city and display your pride with #irunnyc accessories and apparel!

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!

10k Tuesday

If I’ve learned two things in the past couple of years while running they are the following.

  • If I’m having a bad day – then I need to go for a run because it means I need some “me with me” time
  • As I get older I need more rest between runs!

Well Tuesday came and I encountered both. I came home after a long day at work and not wanting to bring my work issues home, I went on a run. The weather was calling me as it was a gorgeous night for the end of November! For whatever reason, I wanted to try and run a 10k. My last two runs were Thursday and Saturday, a 5 miler and 4 miler respectively. Saturday was an easy run after my race from Thursday so on Tuesday I decided it was time to step it up a bit in miles.

 

Starting my run I felt good. Strides were strong and pace was steady for an evening run. I note the evening run because I prefer not running at night but at this time of the year during the week, you virtually have no choice. Somewhere around mile 4 or my run, something happened that hasn’t happened in a while. I caught a nasty calf cramp. I blame this primarily on 2 things. I had done some strength training on my legs the night before but nothing serious. With strength training being new for my legs, maybe I didn’t bounce back well? Also I have a tendency of lifting my stride to run on the balls of my feet when I feel strong. Usually I don’t do that my entire run and reserve it for the last mile or two but remembering my race on Thursday, I ran on the balls of my feet for most of that race. I usually don’t run like that the entire time because I reserve that for my increased pace. I likely over did it on the balls of my feet on Tuesday. As I am typing, my calf is a little tight but I am fairly certain that it will be ok. In hindsight, I likely should have taken one more night off from running and not run on Tuesday. I say that because I am starting to notice that after hard runs, I am needing two days to feel 100% again. Hey I guess it’s old age My last 2 miles on Tuesday, I went back to running “heel to toe” and while I could feel my calf annoying me, it wasn’t painful. My pace slowed during the last two miles but I was pleased overall with my pace for the night!

At times you have to listen to your body if you have long term goals. I could have continued on the balls of my feet on Tuesday but I could have paid the price for that dearly. I will have to watch my strength training on the calf machine going forward and also stretch that muscle out even more before I run. These things will happen but it’s how you learn and adjust that will make the difference.

Today I will take the day off and watch that big old tree in midtown get lit (aka the Rockefeller Christmas Tree). I must admit though that I am eager to get back and run again to see if the calf flares up!

This all makes me curious – do you all run heel to toe or on the balls of your feet? Running minds want to know! lol Hope you all are having a great week!

When The Wind Blows!

Sure it’s easy to read the title of this post and call it a day! Sunday it was blustery in New York. Winds were steady at about 25-30 miles per hour all day with gusts over 40 miles per hours. This was after a full day of rain on Saturday. If you recall my post from Friday, I needed to get a run into my schedule that wasn’t a treadmill run. I will admit, I was out pretty late on Friday night celebrating a friend’s birthday, so the rain on Saturday made it easy for me to skip a run on this day. In hindsight I regret not running on Saturday, Which meant I had to face the winds on Sunday.

If you are like me you woke up and saw everything blowing around. I took a quick trip to the bagel store and the route there and back usually sees a lot of runners taking a Sunday morning jog. Not today. I had doubts about taking that run. Gusts of up to 40 miles per hour kept rattling my window and taunting me. Knowing I have a race on Thursday coming up I asked myself, “what if we wake up Thursday and the winds are blowing then”. That was enough to get the running shoes on and head on out the door.

On A Windy Day, Consider Forgetting About Pace!

 

My five mile run was interesting to say the least. I thought I felt good on the first 2-3 miles of my run. I wasn’t going all out but I wanted to go fast enough to stretch my strides out as I went along in hopes of getting faster as the run went on. That didn’t quite happen when it was all said and done. My fastest mile was my 3rd mile and it started to get slower after that. That was simply due to the route I ran. It was an out and back loop. The wind was at my back on the first half. On the second half, it was like running into a wall. To the people driving by in cars, I probably gave them a chuckle. There were times I had to squint just to avoid leaves and debris from blowing around in my face. There were times were it was blowing pretty hard that I had to put my head down in an effort to barrel thru the winds. Those last two miles sucked. At the end it felt like an uphill climb for 2 miles even though it wasn’t.

But I stuck to my plan. I got a chance to test out how things feel when the winds blow. Next time I might wear some shades or goggles to keep the crap out of my eyes. Sure it was inconvenient to run in the wind but the debris swirling was a bit of an issue and something I learned next time I run in these types of conditions. Yes I said next time I run in these conditions. If I’m sticking to a plan and the winds are blowing on the day I have a run, screw it, I’m going out there. I equate it to running a hilly course, “the uphills will kill you but the downhills will kiss you.” The winds will smack you in the face but they will propel you also when they are at your back. Yes I know I didn’t make my analogy on the winds rhyme like I did with the hills but you got my point right??

Here are a few other things I took away as tips for the next time you or I have to tackle a windy run:

  • Consider wearing shades- debris will fly into your eyes
  • Don’t wear loose fitting clothing. I had a wind breaker on that was just flapping all over the place creating drag! Wear tighter fitting gear!
  • Be ready to have some mental strength. You can’t control the wind so don’t give into it!
  • Definitely consider doing a loop run so that not only will you have to run against the wind but you will also run with it at your back!
  • Forget pace. You will not run your normal pace on a windy day so don’t over exert yourself trying to nail it. Just cover the distance you need to on a windy day!

How about you? Did you stick to your plan this weekend? If you didn’t, there’s always a new time go start or make up for a day that was skipped. Brush off the hiccup in your plan and press on! Thanksgiving is coming and YOU KNOW you will eat more than you should. We all will. You have 3 days to offset what will inevitably go down on Thursday. Here’s your push – go do it

When Dark Is The Only Option

Running-Night

Two weekends ago we had to turn the clocks back an hour. Each year, the night when we turn the clocks back, I rejoice like most people because we get that extra hour of sleep. However once Sunday afternoon rolls around, I realize that this sucks. It gets dark fast! That leaves people who want to run one of two equally unpopular options. Either switch your runs to early morning, which for several people is difficult, or go running in the dark.

Running in the dark can be serene but of course it can obviously be dangerous. However it can come off successfully if certain things are followed. Here are some of the things that I follow because as I noted above, until spring rolls around, I will likely be doing alot of runs in the dark.

  • Invest in some articles of clothing that have reflector strips. These do work and cars will notice you when their headlamps shine on you. Don’t just have one strip on your body, get them on your sneakers, your top, maybe even on your head. I prefer reflector strips over lights and lamps because those will eventually die out!
  • I love to listen to music when I run just as you do, but when running at night, I have the volume all the way down. Take that precaution times two if you have sound drowning ear buds. You have to be able to hear some of what is going on around you in the dark.
  • Try and find areas that are lit up more than others. I like to run in my neighborhood but its very dark to the point that I cant see the sidewalks and some them are uneven or have cracks. I found a stretch in my neighborhood however that is well lit because the street lamps are brighter. Its a drive from my house but I’ll drive out there, park and then run. The drive is worth it for me to see the ground.
  • Make eye contact with a driver at any intersection you come to. You think he may see you in the intersection but theses days, you know everyone is on their phones or doing something else while behind the wheel. You may lose a few seconds on your run but stop and make the eye contact before crossing in front of a car!
  • Find someone to run with. Trust me, there is one of your friends that is likely in the same predicament as you are. Run together and stay safe together!
  • When training for longer distance races, try and schedule shorter runs at night while leaving the longer runs for when you will have time to run during the day. While the longer runs are important, your safety is too. Its okay to do the shorter runs in the dark.
  • Always run against traffic. Yes I know that sometimes staring at headlights coming at you can be annoying, but its safer than cars coming at you from behind. Truth is these days drivers are distracted by so many  things and while you would like to trust drivers driving behind you, you just can’t take that chance.

What are some of your night time running tips? I plan on keeping this list growing for all to reference! Don’t be afraid of running in the dark, just be smart and safe while doing it!

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Find those well lit areas to run at night!