Monday, March 27, 2017

Fallen Comrades Run…West Point Half Marathon

Good morning everyone. It is Monday, currently recovering from an amazing weekend in downstate New York. I really needed it especially after a long work week. I traveled by train from Albany to Garrison between Amtrak and Metro-North.

I ran my eighth half marathon yesterday, Fallen Comrades Run. This was the first year that they opened this race to the general public. I found out about this race through the Running In The USA website. My cousin Torey, Ben, and Fran also ran in the race. Shout out to Torey's husband, David and awesome host, Miranda for cheering us on throughout the entire race. Running on the United States Military Academy campus in West Point was absolutely beautiful. We started outside Michie Stadium and finished on their field.

Miles 1-4 were mostly downhill and windy and had the upcoming hills in the back of my mind but did my best to not let it consume me. Checking my watch, I ran a 7:30 mile which is a great pace for me. My goal was to not start very strong and tire towards the end. The first few miles allowed me to take in a wonderful view of the Hudson River on their campus. You can also see the railroad tracks shuttling passengers between Albany and New York City.

Mile 5 was the first big hill which I thought would be the last of the major hills. I would be proven wrong later on. My running was smooth going up hill but I was in need of a bathroom.

Between 6 and 7, I had to detour for a break. I ended up with a nine minute mile because of it but I felt so much better after that stop. Started catching up with some of the runners approaching mile 8 winding through the residential streets.

Mile 9 was the beginning of a very steep hill but I managed to pass runners struggling on their climb. Maybe it helped having the military bagpipe band members playing. Miles 10 and 11 ended up where we ran in the beginning. More winding downhills and found out about THE BIG HILL coming up.

Mile 12 would intersect with the mile 9 marker halfway up, which made the hill steeper and longer. I slowed my pace a little bit and was making good strides passing runners. It was a relief finishing that big hill and finishing on flatter terrain approaching the stadium. My final time was just under 1:37:00 with a 7:24 mile. I set a personal best of approximately 3 minutes and placed inside the top 100 runners overall. In terms of results, it was a very successful day and the weather held up during the race.  The temperature was in the upper thirties with overcast skies. My cousin also set a personal best during her race, awesome job. My Garmin watch told me I ran just under 13 miles but that was the least of my worries. The course was very challenging and fun. It was an honor running alongside amazing athletes, service men, and service women.

Thank you very much to United States Military Academy, NYC Runs, spectators, and all the volunteers who made the event possible. I truly appreciate all your hard work and dedication.

One reason why I love running, amazing family support

Also, thank you Miranda for being an awesome host all weekend. You are simply amazing. Once again, thank you to Torey for making the trip and husband David for cheering us on and taking pictures. It was a pleasure meeting Ben and Fran, who ran in the event as well. Congratulations on finishing, both of you did great. Good luck Fran in the Gettysburg Marathon.

 Great job everyone. You were all amazing out there.

I'm really running out of words so it is time for me to recover for a couple days. Looking at running a 10K race Saturday.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Training for vegan eats and sweets

Week 7 of marathon training concluded yesterday with a 16.5 mile run in under 2:15 with a 8:08 mile. My total miles for the week was a total of 28.8 miles. On Monday; Wednesday; and Friday, I run four miles as a part of my circuit training. I'll get into more detail shortly. The weather conditions and route were absolutely beautiful. For the most part, it was not very cold and the sunshine was a big help keeping me warm. Along with running in a local park, I ran onto residential streets nearby because there is not a ton of vehicular traffic to deal with. The nearby trail is nice but it is tough with all the snow still on the ground, especially after last week.

Whenever it is my day to do a long run, I like to have a light breakfast before running so I am focused and fresh for my workout. My light breakfast consisted of a cup of tea and a smoothie. For the last few days, I'm attempting to reduce my grain intake, notably breads and pastas. My smoothie consisted of: kale; blueberries; banana; avocado; and almond milk. In the past, my routine was to have a bowl of oatmeal with chopped fruit. I decided to make a change and have smoothies. After my light breakfast, I felt more energetic as the run progressed. Since it helps me, I will continue with that regimen. I pack a small portion of grapes, Lara Bar, banana, my water bottle, and Vita Coco Water for my post run fuel.

In my previous post, I stated my miserable emotions prior to and during the run. I was so close to just quitting training until I saw an index card on my dresser drawer. On the card, I wrote an Embedded Circuit Training regimen awhile back that I almost forgot about. After reading it, it gave me a great idea to do my running indoors at the YMCA instead of jumping right out of bed in the morning to start running. Well, Presidents Day (Monday) will be the exception since I do not have to work that day. Ok, I'm on call for my current job. Anyway, I tried the embedded circuit training for three days and really fell in love with it. The change was very beneficial because it kept me very focused and it was nice being indoors for a change instead of running strictly outdoors. Initially, I was dreading having to do the miles on a treadmill but it dawned on me that the facility has a track upstairs. It might look tedious, it gave me a brand new outlook on marathon training. Yes, my weekly miles will be reduced a little. In the long run, it is essential to have your legs fresh whether it is for an upcoming race or still training.

After my run, I decided to splurge at two local food eateries. The first stop was Elevation Burger in Latham for a Vegan Burger. Yes the burger is five dollars but it beats Five Guys and they use fresh ingredients. I added lettuce; caramelized onions; hot pepper relish; tomato; and pickles. It was very good and will be making a future trip back there soon. Next time, I will either get two burgers or a burger and fries. Stop number two took me to Troy called Nibble Inc. Doughnut Shop. My friend Jenna told me about this place having vegan doughnuts, so I was immediately sold. Any establishment with good vegan options, I want to visit. Saturday, they had three different vegan options so I got one of each to sample (Strawberry Cocoa; Orange Cardamon; and I forgot the third flavor. All the flavors were amazing. The gentleman behind the counter told me that they are also available at Whole Foods. That is good to know next time I am down that way. The doughnuts were on point and will definitely stop in again for a few more. They also have gluten free and non-vegan treats as well.

That is my training update for now. I can't wait to start a brand new week tomorrow. Also, I'm getting very excited for upcoming races. Happy Reading.

Look at my face, you can't deny the deliciousness

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Marathon Training Update

Since it has been five or six weeks into marathon training, I thought an update would be useful. This past Friday, my mind was a complete mess over the smallest issues I have no control over. I became depressed and started to question myself for my purpose in training. It started to become emotionally draining when no one is around for support. I initially decided not to run Saturday and quit training all together to get myself still. As Friday came to a close, my heart began to change urging me to go do this long run. I did not do it last week out of fear of a possible injury. Instead of just getting up right away to start running, I began with a light breakfast and tea to ease my nerves.

My run started on the Zim Smith Trail and I was starting to regret that decision. Totally forgot that it snowed the day before and the trail was completely covered. It was pretty miserable running through a heavy pack and my feet started to get wet. After five to six miles, I turned onto a road off the trail that had some residential streets along the way. In total, I completed sixteen miles in over 2.25 hours. It was very slow for me (8:25 pace) but I knew that in the beginning. After the run was finished, my running spirit was revived. Prior to yesterday, I decided to run 4 miles 3 days then do a long run on Saturday. Initially, I was doubtful this experiment would work. After one week, I believe this is a good training plan allowing me to keep my legs fresh for the long run. Is it something I would recommend to other aspiring marathon runners? I would say no because I'm self trained. Any training plans you research should be consulted by a trusting coach. Someday, I will invest time and money into one. Right now, my goal is to get another personal best at my third marathon coming up. I need to work on making stretching post run a habit more often. Right now, my goal is to be ready for Vermont City Marathon (Burlington) coming up in May. Wow, this update was longer than I anticipated. I will have more updates as the marathon approaches. Thank you for reading. Good luck to all runners on your upcoming races. Happy Running.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cabbage Tofu Wraps

Since I've posted my home made food dishes on Instagram a few times, I thought it would be a great opportunity to post on my blog. My first post will be Cabbage Tofu Wraps. I was inspired by the awesome Chef, Mary Mattern. Check out Nom Yourself. She makes some amazing food dishes. Thank you Nom Yourself for making me love cooking even more.

Quick disclaimer: Feel free to use a variety of vegetables in your wraps. You do not have to use just the ones listed. 

Cabbage Tofu Wraps
1 head Cabbage
1 package Extra Firm Tofu
1 Avocado diced
1 cup Shredded Carrots
2 cups Brown Rice
1 cup Frozen Corn
1 cup Frozen Edamame
Dash Minced Garlic

• Drain tofu
• Cut into pieces and marinate with olive oil
• Cook until golden brown
• Place into bowl and set aside

• While tofu is cooking, prepare rice according to instructions
• Once rice is cooked, transfer to large bowl and set aside

• Either cook veggies on stove top or microwave, if suitable. Once cooked, place into bowl

• Cut cabbage and peel off leaves individually
• Lay out the leaves and assemble wraps, starting with the rice. Then, place vegetable mix on top. Top that layer with tofu.
• Before rolling up the wraps, cut up Avocado into cubes to place on top of the mix.
• Roll wraps and cut in halves. ENJOY!!!

Again, feel free to experiment with different vegetables. You do not have to use the ingredients listed above. I will make these wraps again in the near future trying out different items. Let me know what you think and would love to hear your feedback.

On a side note, I just finished week four of marathon training. The training is going pretty good with consistent paces and excellent weather conditions. As of this post, I have almost 125 miles logged for the month. Upcoming races are the Fallen Comrades Half Marathon in West Point and Vermont City (Burlington) Marathon.

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.

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.


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.