Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Philadelphia Marathon

Hello everyone, it has been a few weeks but I have been looking forward to writing this post for some time now. This past Sunday, I ran in my second marathon in Philadelphia. It was a beautiful experience not only being in my favorite city but getting the opportunity to run through sections I have never seen before. Almost six months ago, the time for my first marathon was over 4:08:14. Sunday, my time was just under 3.5 hours and I could not be any more happier with the overall result. While I am thinking of it, thank you very much to all the volunteers, event coordinators, Police, EMT, sponsors, and the awesome spectators on the course cheering. You were all amazing and made my race weekend very memorable. Here is my recap:

Saturday 5AM: Awake 

Drove to the Albany-Rensselaer station to catch the 7:10 AM train to Philadelphia. It was my first time riding an Amtrak train and it was a surreal experience. So glad I chose this mode of transportation over driving four hours alone. I put all my required tasks in my phone to keep me focused on the big objective. Yes it is a little odd but it truly put my mind at ease and made my day much less stressful. After a brief layover in New York City (Penn Station), I take another train to my destination.

Saturday 1:30 PM: Pre-Race

Arrive in Philadelphia and walk to my hotel which was about a mile and a half away. Wait is this real? 70 degrees outside and I'm walking around in shorts. Check into my room then walk to the Convention Center to pick up my race packet. After picking up the race packet, I walked around checking out the sponsors/vendors. The marathon had corrals/groups based on finishing times. I took the opportunity to change mine from Purple to Black based on my strong training for this race. I purchased CEP Compression Socks and Tailwind Nutrition through an amazing small business, Philadelphia Runner. Unfortunately, I did not get the opportunity to wear the socks during the race because of the cold weather but my next run or race. The Tailwind flavor I picked out was Green Tea Buzz which had caffeine in it and it is also Vegan.

Speaking of Vegan, congratulations to all the plant-based athletes who finished the marathon on Sunday. It put a big smile on my face seeing signs along the course who run for amazing causes.
After picking up my race materials, I headed back to the hotel only to get caught up in a big protest against President-Elect Donald Trump. Got back to the hotel and did a nice workout with some weights. It has been some time since I picked up weights and it was a great feeling. After relaxing a little bit, I walked around downtown looking for some eateries to get my carb-loading in full effect. First, was a pizzeria called Slice for a broccoli rabe and vegan mozzarella piece made to order. Walked around the corner to Hip City Veg for a Cheese Steak. You have to get one if you are in Philadelphia. Relax, it was 100% Vegan and plant-based. Also, I ordered a small side of Quinoa Chili and Sweet Potato Fries with Sriracha Aioli. Got back to the hotel to eat this big pre-race meal and it was absolutely delicious. I would recommend Hip City Veg to any Vegan out there looking for a great place to eat in Philadelphia. Went to bed early so I can be ready for the big race.

 This is my carb-loading meal. Don't judge me.

Sunday 5AM: 2 hours until race time

Awake after a good nights sleep and getting really excited to run. It was a little disheartening in terms of weather though going from seventy degrees to thirty with 40 mph gusts of wind. I was not going to let that deter me from my objective. I found eating a small meal before a race really helps, in my case, a peanut butter sandwich with a banana. Get on the hotel shuttle to take runners to the starting line (Benjamin Franklin Boulevard) and get stretched out to acclimate myself in these tough conditions. I did not have too many expectations, ok there was one, to set a personal best for this race.

7:10 AM: Horn sounds and the race is begins

We were the fourth group to go off after the Elites and I got off very good. My pace was very consistent and smooth through downtown. My shoulders got tense during a couple parts of the race especially at mile 4. I did not get water until mile 6 to avoid runner congestion. Did not use a port-a-potty until around mile 12. One of my favorite cheering sections was South Street and Chestnut Street, getting spectators energized and hearing them yell out your name. I knew getting into University City section would be a challenge in terms of elevation changes. So, I used this opportunity to conserve my energy through Fairmount Park to have a strong finish back at the Art Museum. The first half was very good in terms of pace and stamina.

The true test was a beautiful run along the Schuylkill River on Kelly Drive. It was relatively flat for a simple down and back portion of the course. It has been almost six years since I have been in this section of Philadelphia, up to Boathouse Row. I did not see the leaders coming back until miles 15-16 so it was not as embarrassing. Most runners stated that reason for not liking this race. My objective was to have a strong finish once I hit the turn around point in Manayunk. Speaking of Manayunk, the cheering section was the best cheering section on the course and the energy was just off the charts. Thank you very much for making my race much more enjoyable. I didn't push very hard the last six like I wanted to but I decided to not be gassed before the finish line. You have to listen to your body and know your limits. The mindset changes over the course of a long run and that is a beautiful thing about running.

10:40 AM: Finish Line
As I approached the finish, my objective was to crossing the line with more energy and spring to my step, compared to six months ago. I was hopping around a couple times and arms raised in the air, getting the crowd into it and achieving a personal best time of 3:29:25. After getting a medal put around my neck, it really hit me that I'm not only a runner but I'm a marathon runner after completing my second one. I can't wait for my next race coming up sometime next year. After loading up on post-race fuel and getting my bag from the check station, it was back to the hotel to stretch,change clothes, and re-hydrate for the long trip home.

Caught the 1:30 train to New York to catch my breath and reflect on an amazing weekend. I had the chance to talk to a wonderful couple across the aisle who also completed the marathon and reflected on events leading up to race day. It is really amazing what you can learn from others when you are surrounded by other like-minded people.

Waiting for the 5:15 train home, I went to another amazing vegan eatery, The Cinnamon Snail, next to Madison Square Garden. It was an early dinner and dessert but it was very delicious.

Smoked Sage Seitan Burger and Pumpkin Ciffron donut

Got on the train and got back into Albany after 8 PM. It was nice seeing my house-mates congratulating me when I returned home. I wanted to write this yesterday, but I simply had no energy to get into detail. Philadelphia, you have been amazing as always. Thank you for being an awesome city. Ok, I am upset that you ripped up Love Park especially running by it before mile 1 marker. Despite that, I still love you.

I would like to thank everyone that was involved with race weekend. Carb Boom Energy Gels, GU Energy Gels, Lara Bar,  and Tailwind Nutrition for powering me through the entire race. Once again, thank you to all the spectators, volunteers, Police, and EMT for making an amazing day safe and memorable. Let's see what 2017 brings for challenges and goals. Thank you readers.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Moving and Tapering

I wanted to do this update a couple days ago but did not have the energy to write this post. This past weekend, I was helping my parents clean out the old house so they can get stuff moved into their new home a few hours away. Also, I got a 13.8 mile run in Sunday before coming home later that day. It was a beautiful run not only with the weather but the ability to keep an excellent pace. My confidence is very high right now and would love to keep it that way as the marathon draws closer. With less than three weeks until the Philadelphia Marathon, I am done with the long runs and have started tapering. I'm still going to run three days a week but the runs will be much shorter. As I am writing this, I ran approximately 12km this morning at a 6:47 pace.

My method of travel to Philadelphia? It will be my first time riding a train in my lifetime so this will be an eye-opening experience. Sorry that this is a short blog post but I promise my marathon recap will be in greater detail. Until next time everyone.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Massage Rolling and Training

Since it has been over a week, I figured it was time for another post about my training. The training has been going pretty good and starting to see amazing results. Still running three times a week but there was a slight change in the schedule. My longer run is on Saturday but since it rained heavily, I decided to do it the next day so I was more refreshed. I felt some pain in my stomach during the run but I pushed through and did very well. If you are wondering, I did eat right after stretching. My paces for the three runs were 6:46 (6 miles); 6:40 (4.82/7.76km); and 6:46 (12.05). Very confident in my progress and can't wait to put that to the test in Philadelphia, 26 days from now.

Aside from training, stretching has been very important to me whenever I take part in a recreational activity, such as running. My habit is to always stretch before and after a run to prevent long term injuries. I decided to take it one step further by purchasing a massage roller. A massage therapist highly recommended it to me after running the Saratoga Springs Half Marathon back in September. After putting it off for a couple weeks, I decided to purchase one at Target for about $20 and it has been a great investment. The company that made this product is Gaiam. I've tried other massage rollers before that were not very comfortable on my legs or did not get results. Maybe it is because I'm not a big fan of hard plastic rollers and it was too expensive. The one I purchased is very simple to use with discs that can be arranged in numerous ways contouring to your body. It would've been tough to use a foam roller on a wooden floor so I opted for a massage roller instead. It is easy to use and can be taken on the go for your next running event. The rubber plastic discs are forgiving on the body and reach sore spots easily. If you do not have a massage or foam roller, I would highly recommend purchasing one to save you troubles down the road.

 Restore Adjustable Massage Roller

Sunday, October 16, 2016

About Time

Influential music in my life

If you are anticipating a marathon training update, here it is and it is going to be short. I ran three days the past two weeks. The first week was 7.56 miles, 6.2 (10K), and 3.1 (5K) with the pace under seven minutes in that set. The next week was 10 miles, another 5K, and 11.94 miles with the pace under seven minutes again. Running three days a week has really helped with my speed work and my confidence has grown as the marathon is about one month away. I will continue this trend for the next two weeks until November starts so I'm fresh for Philadelphia. That is my running update.

Last night, I witnessed an amazing show in Clifton Park. Pennywise played their About Time album in its entirety along with some of their classic songs and a couple of cover songs. They covered Ben E. King's Stand By Me, doing a great version of it and Bad Religion's Do What You Want. How did I hear about Pennywise? My aunt had a copy of Spin Magazine in 1998-99 with an advertisement promoting their latest CD. A couple years later, Pennywise released, Land Of The Free? that included my favorite song Fuck Authority. Now this is 2016 and they are still a tremendous influence on my life. Every single piece of music they have made has been nothing short of amazing. If you are a big punk/hardcore lover, this band should be at the top of your list.

All the bands that played with Pennywise were very impressive. I have become fans of Unwritten Law, The Runaway Kids, and Strung Out after that show. It felt like a Vans Warped Tour show with only a few bands but the way it is suppose to be. All the fans in attendance were into the show whether it was sing-alongs, crowd surfing, and pitting. You know a show is going to be great when the guitarist of the opening band runs off stage and joins the circle pit while in sync. Wish the show could've been sold out but the attendance was good overall.

Check out The Runaway Kids on Facebook

Strung Out Facebook

Along with the amazing show, I prepared some sweet dishes that were simple and delicious.

Brown Rice with Chickpeas, Edamame, and Avocado

Sweet Potato Chili

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Get Still and Be In Touch With Nature

Listening to a podcast last week, Aubrey Marcus, founder of Onnit gave listeners five tips to live a healthy and prosperous life aside from diet and exercise. One of them was getting out in natural habitat and exploring what the land has to offer. After a nice Sunday morning walk with my cup of coffee and bag of pastries, I decided to take a day trip to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Why Stockbridge? If you are an art lover, I would recommend visiting the Norman Rockwell Museum. It was truly an eye opening experience viewing all the amazing pieces of art work on display. Having no cell phone to distract you also helps you get in touch with your sights. I never understood why people bought cameras to museums. The main purpose of artwork is to stimulate your visual senses so you can remember pieces and sharpen your mind. It has been a very long time since I've been to an art gallery or museum. Norman Rockwell is one of my favorite illustrators/artists because he does an amazing job describing the American way of life in the twentieth century. Even to this day, his work is very influential among other artists. It was difficult absorbing all that information but it was an amazing experience. Pictured on the right is Norman Rockwell's studio.

After the museum, I drove through the scenic roads of Massachusetts to Jacobs Ladder to hike the Appalachian Trail.  The weather was not not all that great but it held up for my six mile trek. The terrain is rough and narrow in certain spots but not too difficult. I would definitely go on another hiking trek in the near future. Be prepared with the weather by packing all the essential gear: proper clothing to cover your body, footwear, and back pack. Even for a short hike like mine, packing food is important along with a bottle of water to stay hydrated and energized throughout the trek.

 On the Jacob's Ladder Trail
 That's me out there getting in touch with nature. Can't wait to explore more of the Appalachian Trail.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

New Era in Binghamton Hockey

It has been about a week since the news broke about Binghamton will be losing their longest running franchise, the Binghamton Senators. Even though I live a couple hours away now, it was sad to hear the news but I'm not surprised. The rumors have been circulating for months and Executive Vice President of operations, Tom Mitchell confirmed those rumors on Monday. The AHL team will be relocating to Belleville, Ontario after Ottawa Senators owner, Eugene Melnyk purchased the team. It is becoming a recent trend of NHL teams owning farm teams and plus Yardmen Arena underwent a massive upgrade.

My thoughts on what has transpired? Obviously, I'm sad to see the franchise of 15 seasons leaving Binghamton but at the same time, it makes sense logistically. Lately, that has been the direction of most AHL teams especially in California as of late. Massive renovations and upgrades attract new and existing fan bases. Simply, Floyd L. Maines Arena could not keep up with the newest trends. I can't even call it by its new name. I always refer to it as Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. So many memories of going to hockey games including my parents taking me there when they were the Binghamton Rangers in the early 1990's. A few more memories would be watching the Senators win their first conference title on home ice, two Calder Cup Finals games in Binghamton for the first time since 1982, their first Calder Cup Championship followed, then a parade downtown, and watching them raise the banner on opening night of 2011-2012 season.

I admire Tom Mitchell's dedication of keeping the American Hockey League here in my hometown. Yes it is difficult when franchises move but there is always a new day when the hockey tradition has not lost a step since 1973. Looking at the possible NHL affiliates, it looks like it could come down to the New York Islanders; New York Rangers; and New Jersey Devils. There is a good chance it will not be a future Las Vegas NHL team because of logistics but it will not be ruled out. The New Jersey Devils look like they are staying put in the capital district and they are still under contract even though attendance has been lackluster. Personally, it comes down to the Islanders and Rangers. If I had a choice, I would like to see the New York Rangers affiliate come back to Binghamton for the first time in 20 years. Not only does it make sense logistically but the future looks uncertain in Connecticut regarding term agreements. We'll see what happens. I just want to say thank you to everyone who was involved with the Binghamton Senators: players, front office, writers, arena staff, and most importantly the fans. I wish I can be there for the farewell season but I'll be thinking of you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for all your hard work and dedication keeping the spirit alive.

Running With Confidence and Great Fuel

Look at that excitement. That's confidence right there!

That has been the theme for my marathon training for several months. In the past, it was difficult to follow that keynote but for yesterdays run, it was very important. It started a couple days prior to the longest run training run, 21+ miles. Crazy as this sounds, I was really excited about this particular run wanting to end the peak training on an excellent note. After running 21.26 miles in 2:35:15, I was very happy and surprised with the result. I was expecting to run a little over 3 hours but it was almost 30 minutes quicker than expected. My run was very smooth and did not tire very easily at a 7:18 pace.

As far as what to eat and drink prior to running, I simply stick with toast and a banana to prevent running on an empty stomach. For hydration, simply enough water (in my case it was a full bottle) and some Coconut water to get electrolytes in my system. I don't like to load up on a lot of food prior to a run because chances are, you are looking to replenish right after a run anyway. After my long run, my post race fuel consisted of oatmeal with a banana, coconut water, water, a Kind Snack Bar, and Primal Strips Vegan Jerky.

I use to eat Clif Bars whenever I did a long run but they were so heavy, rich in filling, and hard to absorb while running. Lately, I've fallen in love with Kind Snack Bars because of the lighter portions and fewer calories. The flavors consumed and purchased are Dark Chocolate Nuts & Sea Salt, Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel & Dark Chocolate Nut, Roasted Jalapeno, Dark Chocolate Mocha Almond, and Dark Chocolate Chili Almond. An even better bonus is that it's made with non-GMO ingredients, excellent source of protein and dairy free options. Thank you Kind Snacks for fueling my workouts.

It has been several years since I had a piece of jerky, way before my vegetarian period. One day, I went to Healthy Living Market and Cafe in Saratoga Springs for a couple treats. All of sudden,  I had a craving for vegan jerky. After walking around looking for it, I found it next to the checkout lines. Primal Spirit Foods makes meatless vegan jerky and let me tell you, they were delicious. Excellent source of protein, non-GMO ingredients, vegan, no preservatives, and no artificial colors. It is a perfect portion for one serving size and you can not taste the difference with regular jerky. The only three I have tried are Thai Peanut, Mesquite Lime, and Hot & Spicy. All three were very good so it is difficult to choose a favorite. If you forced me to choose, it would be Mesquite Lime. After finishing all three, I will make another trip to the market to restock.

My advice to all runners is approach every training day with confidence whether it is short or very long.  The Philadelphia Marathon in November is fast approaching, exactly seven weeks away. Obviously, I will share my experience with everyone once the event has concluded.