Building the running engine again

I’m not one of those people who misses the Winter when it’s the Summer. I actually never wanted it to end. A typical NYC winter has its 30 degree days, but there are enough 40-50 degree days scattered throughout; the perfect weather.

30437681

If you’re a runner, then I know you’ve been taking a beating during this week’s heat and humidity. At the end of a hot weekday run session, I typically stop at the closest grocery store to buy a Gatorade. Since I’m the sweatiest person they’ve seen all week, dripping on their floor, and exhaustion all over my face, the reaction is usually the same. “Is there a gym nearby”?, “Is it raining”?, “What were you doing out there”? The answer is always the same, “I was just running”.

This would be week 3 of my 21 week NYC marathon training program. It’s quite simple. All run sessions take place all over the streets of New York (mostly Queens and Manhattan); the Earth is my treadmill. No running on Fridays, three 6-8 mile run sessions between Monday and Thursday, and one long run on the weekend. And if possible, some cross training in between. The long run mileage gradually increases each week and is based on last year’s TFK training schedule. On average, this routine consumes 5 hours of the week. After a few weeks, you forget what it feels like to not have your muscles tired from the previous workout. You never really get a break. Marathons are for those who like pain or numb to it.

tumblr_mi4fm9oGLq1s5odbco1_500

Training Report:
My performance isn’t what it used to be. Prior to the Spring months of shin splints and stress fracture, my average pace was below 8:30. Now I’m lucky if I reach 9:00. But I’m just glad to run without pain again. I’m using my calfs like never before with these minimalist sneakers. The goal is to build them up and get back to 8:30 and below.

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
June 16 Sunday 8.05 9:24 All that cruise food still being digested…
June 18 Tuesday 6.78 9:14 Slowly getting there
June 20 Thursday 6.20 9:30 Running in the rain is the best!
June 22 Saturday 8.27 8:50 Ran with the wolf-pack!
June 24 Monday 6.35 9:00 Yay, back to 9:00
June 25 Tuesday 6.22 9:34 Oof
June 27 Thursday 6.24 9:04 Didn’t even feel like running that day 

Random Thoughts
Halfway through 2013. Traveled a bit, ran about 10 races, and finally got rid of my Android Galaxy S1. So far, Star Trek and World War Z are on my top 2013 movie list. For the PS3, the games of the year so far would have to be Tomb Raider and The Last Of Us (currently playing), with Metal Gear Rising in 3rd place.

I’ve downloaded quite a few Apps this year, Starbounder was my favorite and kept me occupied for weeks. Its addictive, challenging, has tilt controls (coolest part), techno soundtrack, and I finally finished all 60 levels. You’re basically this hover craft thing speeding through these 3-D obstacle courses. 

In regards to training for the NYC marathon again, I’m actually not as excited as last year. Perhaps that will all change when October arrives and there is just a few weeks left to the big race; the race that inspired my blog. Maybe its time to seek out an additional hobby, time permitting.

Cruising the Western Caribbean

After a non-stop 2 days (Previous Post) in Orlando, it was time to board the Carnival Dream cruise ship. I made an effort to run 3 miles on the treadmill every day during this cruise (and I hate treadmills). But this was actually the best way to adapt to running with the minimalist sneakers, I may not be ready for the roads yet. I’ll run longer and farther when I get home, but for now, its vacation. A trip to celebrate 3 years of marriage and to get away from the city life.

Day 3: Launch Day
300px-Carnival_Dream
This was a big boat. You end up walking a mile just trying to find your stateroom. The first day starts off with the buffet lunch madness; the first meal of the cruise. All the kids were hogging up the ice cream machines. Finding a seat in the eating area is like finding parking in NYC. After the chaos, the best thing to do is to tour the ship and find out where everything is. And forget about swimming in the pools, they’re always full beyond capacity. And of course, the welcome aboard show is not to be missed. Claim your seats 30 minutes early or watch the entire show standing. This ship had a break-dancing crew performing, which was cool.

Day 4: Day at Sea
A lazy relax day. On day-at-sea days, the best thing to do is relax and eat cruise food all day. This is where you gain that extra pound or 2. Sorry Carnival, but other than the fruit and French toast, your breakfasts were weak. There’s usually fun things to do and funny shows to watch to keep you occupied. You know I had to get my ping-pong and mini-golf on. Every night there was adult comedy, parties, and 24-hour pizza. It’s good to end your nights with laughter, fun-times, and food.

Day 5: Cozumel, Mexico
Instead of heading to the island of Cozumel, me and my wife decided to spend our day in the mother land by taking a ferry with several others. Once we arrived in Mexico, we headed to Rio Secreto where we would be cave spelunking. The cave was awesome and I recommend this tour. You’ll learn a lot from the tour guides as you walk/swim/duck/squeeze your way through it. Without our helmet lights on, the cave is pitch black, (we all turned off the lights once). They didn’t allow cameras but there was a photographer with us the entire time to sell us pictures at the end. This photo was our favorite.
DSC_0088
After we dried off, a mexican buffet awaited the cave spelunkers and we were hungry. Nom nom. Now it was time to head back to the ship for a double entre dinner.

Day 6: Belize
How can you go to Belize without swimming at the great barrier reef? It’s snorkeling time! The waters were clear and the corral was colorful. Sadly, many of the big fish weren’t around due to a huge storm a few days prior. But still, it was the great barrier reef and was quite impressive. In my opinion, the snorkel sight which was chosen didn’t top snorkeling in Hanauma bay in Hawaii or shipwreck sights in the Eastern Caribbean. I’d try a different area within the great barrier reef next time.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
After swimming in the endless aquarium, our catamaran sailed to Bannister Island for a beach break; it was a nice little island. I made sure to trade a dollar for some Belizean coins at the beach bar (a weird collector hobby of mine).

Day 7: Isla Roatan, Honduras
Great island. After a 30 minute drive from the port, we arrived at Gumbalimba park (another recommendation if you visit this island). Once you see the insectarium (creepy), get an island history lesson on pirates in a bat cave, walk through hummingbird garden, and cross the shaky pirate bridge, you arrive at the animal preserve (the real reason for going). There are macaws and parrots everywhere (can’t leave without a parrot on the shoulder picture).
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
And then, there was Monkey Town. These Capuchin monkeys just jumped on us like we were tree branches. They wrap their tails around your neck for balance. Since they’re monkeys, you can’t wear or carry anything because they’ll just think it’s theirs and snatch it away, except for your camera for some reason.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC
After a difficult goodbye to Monkey Town, we headed to Tabyana beach; the best beach on the island (so they say). The beach was quite impressive. On the way back and before getting back on the ship, there was time to shop in the local marketplace. Once again, I had to get Honduras coins.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 8: Costa Maya (Mahahual), Mexico
A small Mexican town. Just a 10 minute drive away from the port was this small strip of hotels by the beach. We decided to try out this Mexican salsa cooking class (Mayan style) and learn how to make 3 different types of salsa. We got to eat our creations at the end but I forgot the secret recipes. And then again, one last swim at the beach. This would be the last outdoor activity of the trip, it wasn’t easy to get out of the water and leave it behind.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 9: Day at Sea
This was very similar to Day 4 except that eating all day isn’t as fun as it used to be. You can’t leave a cruise without heading to the front/back of the ship for one last sunset over the endless sea. But this time, there was a lightning storm in the distance. I could watch the lighting from a distance for hours. A photo could not capture the epicness of the storm cloud and the light show.
 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Day 10: Time to go Home
Vacation comes and goes but the memories and experiences travel back home with you. Back to New York, back to work, and back to marathon training. I’m out of ideas for the next trip. I’ve had enough beaches for a while, perhaps a Europe cruise/tour or something next time. But a Mount Rainier summit is on the top of my bucket list, maybe next year…

Seaworld and Universal

Its been quite a while since I went on vacation. Before the review and recommendations, there are a few announcements. Not too long ago, I was convinced there would be no more full marathons after I complete my first. Somehow, I signed up for the Disney marathon in January 2014. Also, all shin splints and pains are gone ever since I’ve switched to minimalist sneakers. And finally, NYC marathon training is in full effect!

Day 1: Seaworld
Me and my wife took an early JetBlue flight to Orlando during the climax of tropical storm Andrea. We checked into Loews Royal Pacific hotel (on-site). The package deal came with park tickets, transportation, early entry to Harry Potter world, and fast passes. With most of the Seaworld parking lot empty, the non-stop pouring rain did not kill the experience at all. Good thing we packed rain jackets although walking around in swim trunks would’ve worked as well. Seaworld is a combination of aquarium, amusement park (rides), and circus (shows). Water animals are my favorite so I was looking forward to this place.

Shows:
Obviously, you can’t go to Seaworld without seeing the Shamu show. Orcas are bigger than I thought. When finding a seat prior to the show, make sure you sit in the “splash zone” seats on purpose. It didn’t make sense until the orcas were lined up with their tails in the air.
20130606_120546(0) 20130606_120547OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another must-see show is the Dolphin show; a combination of human and dolphin acrobats. There was someone who rode 2 dolphins by standing on them, which I didn’t think was possible before.
20130606_102215 20130606_102042

And 3rd, the pirate/seal show is a good one, quite funny.

Rides:
The 2 big ones: Manta and Kraken; coasters with big drops, loops, and twists. If you’ve been to 6 Flags Great Adventure, then Manta is like the Superman and Kraken is like the Medusa. Due to the heavy rain, these rides were down for most of the day. Eh, maybe next time. I’ve been on enough coasters. There is a log flume ride (every park has one) but we were already soaked. And avoid the Wild Arctic helicopter simulation, it will get you sick, trust me. Just take the “walk” option to arrive at the same Beluga whale/Polar bear/Walrus area.

Aquariums:
They were really good. The best place to be when its pouring rain outside.
20130606_091149 20130606_114256
20130606_153206

Food:
All I have to say is: BYOL (bring your own lunch). Unless you like amusement park hamburgers and fries all day.

Interaction:
The Stingray Lagoon was pretty cool. Just stick your hand in and you can feel them all up. Feed them at your own risk though, they have strong suction and your fingers can easily strike their teeth, which can hurt. Feeding dolphins at the Dolphin Cove was great. First time I touched a dolphin, their skin feels like rubber. $7 for a handful of sardines. Out of all the dolphins, the fat one kept eating all our sardines.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was the grand opening of the Antarctica exhibit. Imagine wearing shorts on a 80+ degree day and walking into a huge room full of king penguins, but its 32 degrees.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA 20130606_150045
20130606_145843 20130606_144929

We had the unique behind the scenes experience to speak with the penguin caretakers and actually got to hold a baby penguin. This dude was the fluffiest thing you could imagine. I think his parents were behind the gate monitoring us.
20130606_144814 20130606_145118
20130606_145137 20130606_145011

Day 2-A: Islands of Adventure
The most important thing… get a fast pass. Don’t even bother going without one. The best thrill ride is skipping 60 minute lines. The ideal strategy is to start with the Islands of Adventure and then head for Universal Studios. I had no idea how crazy people get for Harry Potter world. We were there 10 minutes after the park just opened and somehow a 35-40 minute line formed for the Harry Potter ride. The ride was worth the wait and the world itself was quite impressive. I hear that its expanding too.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next stop… Jurassic Park land. T-Rex caught the Shoryuken uppercut. The River Adventure log flume ride was cool. You’ll get sick and tired of the theme song which is played in a loop the entire time though.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next stop… Toon town. All I have to say is… Popeye water ride. Not a dry spot on me and more soaked then the day before. If you wear a lot of make-up, good luck. The best part was finding the tugboat with the water guns to get my revenge on the kids who were shooting me. I wasn’t the only one who had vengeance. Firrre!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were other opportunities to get wet on a water slide or a log flume but I was not dressed for the beach.

Next stop… Lost Continent, only good thing here was the Mythos restaurant. Just like rides, there were lines for this restaurant, but not for us since we setup a 12:00 reservation (great idea wife). Great food and big portions.

Next stop… Marvel world. I just had lunch so no Hulk coaster for me. However, the Spiderman ride was awesome. 

Day 2-B: Universal Studios
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With the fast pass, it was a non-stop 5-6 hour blur of rides. I’ll just discuss my top 3. Right at the entrance, we skipped a 45 minute “Despicable Me” line. It was for kids but it was still fun, and I’m a big kid. The MIB (Men in Black) ride was so cool that I did it twice (fast pass remember). 6 people to a moving pod and you get a laser gun to shoot all aliens that pop up. With an almost empty pod, I took 2 guns and blasted away. Finally, with luck on my side, it was the grand opening of the Transformers ride; my favorite. Trust me, go on this ride even if you don’t have a fast pass.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And I bumped into a mad scientist who drove this DeLorean car.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And yes, Simpsons world just came out. I had to try the “Flaming Moe”.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Night 2: Citiwalk
There is a long strip of restaurants, night clubs, and shops right outside the parks. We ate at Latin Quarter and called it a night. Resting was much better than partying after being on your feet all day and getting shaken up from all the rides. How do the parents do it with all their kids!?

Day 3-9: Carnival cruise to the Western Caribbean
To Be Continued…

Wall street madness and my first trail race

Where did Spring go!? I think New York has 2 seasons, winter and summer. During Spring and Fall, one day might be 40 degrees and the next day might be 80 degrees. It messes with my mind. Well, summer approaches. It used to be my favorite as a kid because it meant NO SCHOOL. Now, the summer represents hot and sweaty days. For a guy who doesn’t like the heat much, there’s no choice but to adjust quickly. NYC Marathon training starts in a week. And since we are on the heat subject…

OFF TO THE RACES :
NYRR Wall Street 3-Miler @ Downtown NYC
May 30th, 2013. 6:45PM and 89 degrees. 5,164 finishers.
Results: 8:02 pace, 1172 place, 77% percentile, (C+)

Wall street 3m
The race was at 6:45PM. A race right after work? Weird. So I left the office with my running clothes and race bib for the first time. NYRR sent out a warning for “heat advisory”. Oh crap. There I was in downtown Manhattan with 5000 others already sweating at the start line with tall buildings blocking any sort of breeze. Its only 3 miles, it’ll be over in no time I thought. 

wall

On your mark, GO! What a rush. There’s always those first 5 minutes of the race where you are just happy to finally start running but don’t realize how fast you are going until you start breathing too hard. It was funny at times, many pedestrians here and there trying to get across the street by cutting through the mob. The roads became narrow as we snaked through the city blocks. Running on the sidewalks avoiding pedestrians became the popular thing for some of us. 

So I went all out in mile 1 with a 7:20 pace. Mile 2 was a 7:35 pace. I’m on target! But it was too good to be true. With one more mile left, my body felt exhausted all of a sudden, like my energy evaporated in the hot muggy air. I had the dry mouth and was sooo thirsty. Fool, I should’ve stopped at the only water station at mile 2. It was the longest last mile ever. My pace dropped to 9-ish pace. It felt like mile 13 at a half marathon. Mile 3 turned many runners into joggers/walkers.

Motivation: I ran for the water bottles at the end of the race.
Lesson: If temp > 80 degrees, run with water bottle in hand and hydrate every 2 miles.

Just when I thought my shins were getting better, they were once again bothering me. And there was another race scheduled 3 days later. Should I race?

OFF TO THE RACES :
Forest Park 4 Mile Trail Race @ Queens, NY (2 miles from home)
June 2nd, 2013. 10:00AM and 80+ degrees. 312 finishers.
Results: 8:18 pace, 80th place, 74% percentile, (C)

20130602_094047

I had an idea. Why not use this race to try out new sneakers. It was another 80 degree day but  there were plenty of trees in Forest Park (my local training grounds) to umbrella the sun. I totally didn’t expect this to be a TRAIL RACE (I didn’t read the description carefully). This would be my first. This actually worked out since the experimentation sneakers were the “Merrell Men’s Barefoot Trail Glove”.

MRL-W15647-101510

I jogged 2 miles to the start line to test out these “barefoot” sneakers. Not bad, these lightweight sneakers feel great and no shin pain so far. The race started and ended on the Forest Park race track. It was a small enough race to finally line up right at the start line for once. On your mark, GO! Running through the woods for 4 miles was different. You can feel every rock and branch with the barefoot sneakers. Much of the race didn’t feel like a race. I imagined myself running with a tribe hunting animals or evading spears while being chased by an enemy tribe. So the goal was to keep up with the pack even if I trip on a few rocks. Oh, and there were hills hills hills (they don’t call it Forest Hills for nothing).

Overall it was a good experience and ended with a power sprint to the finish line. The best part, NO SHIN PAINS after all that. After 2 months of shin splints or whatever was bothering me, resting, icing, switching sneakers, stressing, etc., I finally found THE CURE, minimalist sneakers. With this discovery, I decided to play some handball for 30 minutes and then run home for an 2 extra miles. 

Motivation: I ran to test out new sneakers and for the cure.
Lesson: Start training with minimalist sneakers and build calf muscles.

Training Report:
It seems that I’ve been racing more than training; totally backwards. This is what happens when you register for a bunch of races and get shin splints that never go away. I managed to squeeze in one training run on Memorial day at least:

RunDate Distance Pace Comments
May 27 Monday 6.67 8:55 These past 2 months have been the worst.

Random Thoughts
Although I may have found sneakers that don’t cause injuries, my calf muscles are sore beyond belief, as if I never used them before. Running barefoot is quite different then running with actual sneakers. Perhaps after a few weeks, my calf muscles will get stronger and adapt to the Merrells. For now, I’ll just walk downstairs backwards and walk like I’m going through 3 feet of snow. Well, it’s June, and I think its time for a vacation…