Monday, January 9, 2017

Fresh For 2017

Hope your new year is off to a good start. Mine is going pretty good so far. I got a gym membership last week for the YMCA. It's been challenging planning workouts but it helps with my daily preparation. Last week, I started marathon training for the 2017 season. I'm running four days a week now instead of three. I have really enjoyed running in residential neighborhoods because it is quiet and the traffic is very light.

My next marathon race is the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington. I love running races in New York but I want to take the opportunity to travel while I have a chance. Another race I plan on running in is in West Point for the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon. Right now, I'm still in the process of finding more races to run in this year.

That is currently what I have going on in the new year. Until next time.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Look Back

As 2016 comes to its conclusion, I want to take this opportunity to reflect on a pretty good year. Hope your holidays were amazing this year, mine were excellent. If I have looked forward to writing this post for some time now, you know that it has been a pretty good time. Despite writing on a regular basis sometime in May, a lot of amazing things have happened and I want to share those amazing moments with you.

New Scenery and New Outlook
In August, I made the decision to relocate to another part of New York State along with a career change. Almost four months in, the change has been nothing short of spectacular. My outlook on life has been awesome and making small changes in my life have made me the person I am right now. I kept telling myself why this did not happen sooner. Something about being in a new environment that brings out a side in you that you never knew existed. Also, my parents moved to New Jersey because my father started a new job for a new company. It was stunning leaving a place you have called home for almost twenty seven years to relocate to a new place. I'm telling you, the change in scenery is scary at first. As time passes, the feeling becomes amazing and that perfectly describes what I went through. Talking with my parents during the holidays, they are loving the new environment and their new employers have been very supportive of them. It was beautiful celebrating the holidays in a new home and most importantly, spending quality time with my family.

Drug Free
This can fall under the new outlook topic but this is a tremendous milestone in my life. I completed another milestone this year but I'll get to that momentarily. A few days prior to Christmas in 2015, I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol completely. I have avoided other drugs too but struggled at first ridding myself of alcohol. As I am writing this, I have been sober for over one year and there is no going back. I have noticed small positive changes in my body physically and emotionally. Since getting rid of alcohol, I've fallen in love with two beverages: coffee (Deathwish) and water.


Sitting down with a good book
Undoubtedly, this year has been dominated by paperback books. Honestly, I can't tell you the last time I have read this many books in a year. I have read works by David Sedaris, Stieg Larsson, Augusten Burroughs, and many more. Never thought this would happen but I've started reading the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling. I would say to myself, this is a series I will never read and sure enough, three books in, I'm hooked. I'm still reading on a regular basis. It is nice talking to others who give me excellent recommendations on future readings.


Running
This year has been exciting for how much running I have accomplished. Four half marathons, a team relay race, and two marathons is the most races I have participated in since I started running a few years ago. I have really come along way since running my first 5K back in 2012. I participated in my first team relay race, Seneca 7 back in April. This event was so much meeting so many competitors and teammates along the route. The course was a total of 77.7 miles around Seneca Lake with teams of seven runners. Even though our team got disqualified, it was so much participating in that event and did some of my best running. Earlier in the month, I ran in the worst conditions for a half marathon. The event took place in Syracuse where there was almost zero visibility along with sleet, hail, and snow mixed into the challenge. Along with the races, it was awesome meeting so many runners during group days. I accomplished a personal best in a half-marathon race running in under 1:40 back in July at Saratoga Springs Spa State Park.

My biggest milestone this year has to be completing my first marathon race this year. Fittingly, it was in a city I have called home for several years. I was honored to have participated in the first annual Herald of Victory event in Binghamton on Memorial Day weekend. You can read my race recap here. Six months later, I completed my second marathon in Philadelphia. Not only was this the biggest race I have been a part of but I also accomplished a personal best time of just under 3:30. I can not wait to see where my marathon running journey takes me in 2017. Thank you to everyone for giving me a reason to fall in love with running. Yes it is very difficult to complete a marathon with all the training and preparation but it was all worth it in the end.

 I have to say that it has been a great year for running


Those are the biggest moments of this year but here are some other moments from 2016:

Podcasts. I have been obsessed with podcasts lately and it has allowed me to listen with an open mind. My most played podcast is The Joe Rogan Experience, which you can subscribe to on iTunes. I love the guests he has on the program ranging from educated professors to comedians. The show is very entertaining and you might learn something too. Other podcasts I've listened to are How To Be Amazing, Total Human Optimization, and No Meat Athlete Radio. I'm always looking for new podcasts to listen to so please leave suggestions in the comments box.

Watching a game in the Green Monster section at Fenway Park
Running in Central Park
More punk and hardcore shows
Working out in a gym/training facility
Deathwish Coffee

More writing. I've enjoyed writing on this blog a lot this year and looking forward to continuing into the new year. Thank you to everyone who have viewed the blog. Please leave comments and feedback. I would love to hear from you. Thank you for making this an awesome year for me. Good luck to everyone striving for a better life in 2017.

-Matt

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.