Ultramarathon & Marathon Training During Ramadan

It’s not hard. (إن شاء الله) Well I should say it’s not impossible, but it’s certainly not easy. When presented with the most recent heatwave in NYC I was left with to options, run in the heat or not train at all. (I’m not a fan of treadmill running now that I’ve started a serious relationship with outdoor running, so that was not an option.) Over the past couple weeks I have made it a priority to run at least four times a week, even logging over 16 miles on a Sunday run.

Going into this training season I hadn’t planned to run an ultramarathon at the end of August. It just happened. Really. I did know that I would need to log miles during Ramadan in order to hit my marathon training goals. So then this ultra moseys onto my schedule and there’s no turning back. I haven’t even run a marathon yet. I keep telling myself if I can run 30-40 miles a week in the heat and without hydration I can deal with a flat ultramarathon course with a cool start and a couple hours of running in the heat with hydration.

My ultimate goal is to finish the 50k, but I have an ambitious 4:59:59 or better goal time tucked away in the back of my mind. I was under the impression that I could hit my goal time on some of my longer runs, but I’ve found it hard to hold a slow pac, even on long runs. Last weekend I completed my run at a sub-9 min ave pace of 16.55 miles (if you don’t count the 5 minutes of water breaks, traffic lights and figuring out where we were). I believe the cooler, evening conditions aided in keeping a slightly faster, conversational pace with my fellow running buddies. My goal finishing pace is 9:39 or so for the 50k. I’m hoping that I can complete my 20 mile run this weekend at that pace, but if I stay in the low nine minute range I may be in for a surprise on race day.

I feel like I’m in a grove at this point. My weeknight runs have been at 7:50-8:40 mile averages. I don’t feel drained as much, which I can likely attribute to sitting in the air conditioning for a few minutes after runs to lower my core temperature.

Some of the things that have worked for me during Ramadan race training include:

  • Listening to my body instead of trying to hit specific paces
  • Not wasting energy by making unnecessary movements
  • Wearing breathable clothing
  • Not running more than than 6-7 miles (approx. 10-11k)
  • Starting runs within two hours of sunset
  • Having at least a .5 litre bottle of cold water nearby when the sun does set
  • Starting long runs close to sunset

Every mile during my runs I try to do a tune-up check on my body. I think about my form, my breathing, any tension in my body and how my body feels overall. I feel like this has definitely helped keep me on track and keep my mind off of the fact that I cannot rehydrate like many of my fellow runners post-run. Two more weeks to appreciate the simple things like a sip of cold water after putting a hard workout.

3 Running PRs!! (And the Brooklyn Half Recap)

Well I guess the title is a little deceiving since two of my personal records are in races that I’ve run for the first time ever, but you’ve gotta start somewhere! Right? [This will likely be a long post]

After completing my first half marathon in April 2012 I told myself I’d stick to shorter distances and casual running. In the end I didn’t put much effort into running and crossed it off my calendar by December, then I registered for the Honolulu Marathon. With an ambitious goal of 3:35:00 I told myself I’d start running again to build a base in March and planned my first 5k for early April 2013. This is where the PRs started.

PR #1 – JFK Runway 5K Run (April 2013)

My goal time for this race was 25:00, factoring in the fact that I had only been back in my running shoes for three weeks, I thought it was a reasonable goal time. The course was flat and the weather was cool. The only con was the headwind that decided to pick. The entire start/finish set-up, including the clock, toppled a few minutes before the start.

Look at that kid go!

The run was nice and there weren’t too many people. I ended up finishing in 24:36, just ahead of the 9 year old that I spotted picking up speed beside me. In addition to surpassing my goal and getting to run on an active runway legally, I finished in the top 100 which was an added perk.



PR #2 – Newport 10000 (May 2013)

I read up a bit on this course and two factors in choosing to register for this race were the location and the elevation. The course was practically flat, with one small hill just before mile two. I didn’t think the turns would be much of an issue and was looking forward to the run along the boardwalk, with views on Manhattan.

Race Day arrived and the weather did not want to work with the runners. I believe the forecast mentioned a 90% chance of rain in the morning. The rain was cooling, but the Newport10k Finishpuddles that it created made a world of difference when trying to avoid potholes on this road race.The turns ended up being a slight problem only due to the fact that some were very sharp and people needed to flush themselves together along them, lest you opt for wide turns during the race.With a sub-50 goal in mind I pounded along each mile, hoping that the rain and turns weren’t hurting my times too much.

I was a little nervous when I made it to the boardwalk since it was wet and potentially slippery, at least in my head. Once I passed the mile 6 marker I knew I was basically home free. As I made the final turn a friend who had finished the race already shouted my name and ran along the side as I crossed the finish. Once chip times were posted I was a little happier, 48:49. Another friend crossed shortly after, 52:XX, on his first 10K as well. That deserves celebration!!

PR #3 – Brooklyn Half (May 2013)

The race that I didn’t plan on running had me in mind. After some very mild coaxing I decided to run the Brooklyn Half. My goal time for a half is 1:40:00, but my only goal for Brooklyn was to finish (and hopefully PR). Although I hadn’t completed any runs longer than 8-9 miles I was assured by friends that my weekly mileage would easily carry me over the finish line.

Brooklyn Half Moments

                 Brooklyn Half Moments

Thankfully a friend let me stay at her place on Grand Army Plaza, so I slept in and wandered out just after 7am with no bags to check. The corrals were filling up quite nicely by that point and the first wave had already started. I got to watch a couple speedy friends zip by the library as I walked to my corral. By the time I crossed the start line 33 minutes had elapsed. I started picking off runners early since I started in a slower corral (no offense peeps). I had also never run Prospect Park and received mixed reviews on the ‘hill’ in the park. I tried to take it a little easier until I hit the hill, just in case it turned out to feel like Harlem Hill. The hill around mile 5 wasn’t bad at all. It was a little like Cat Hill in Central Park, maybe a slightly higher grade. The downhill for the next mile was great, it was my best split (7:24).

After leaving the park I cruised, sipping a few ounces of water at each station. I made sure my legs felt fine and I didn’t feel tired after each mile marker. I did munch on jelly beans intermittently throughout the race and they kept me energized. Near mile 9 a dog ran by. He ended up crossing the finish line as well. At mile 10 I realized how good I still felt, and time was still on my side. Somewhere after mile 11 you run out of lettered streets which only means one thing: you are getting close to the finish.

The only gripe I had was the extreme narrowness of the boardwalk entrance. It would be nice if they could somehow widen it for runners. Once on the boardwalk you only have a few hundred feet to go so you have to go all out. In all it was a great run, I did PR by about 7.5 minutes (1:46:32)!!! I know I have a 1:40:00 waiting to be chipped away, but ultra/marathon training has commenced.

This year has definitely kicked off on the right foot and I’m excited for the races I have scheduled for the second half of the year.

What I’m Thankful For: Three Weekends Of Aiding Hurricane Sandy Survivors

November proved to be one of the months I was most grateful for. I can’t think of a more worthwhile and gratifying way to spend a little bit of my own time than helping those that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. 20121104_085245Like thousands of others, I originally planned on volunteering at the ING NYC Marathon. Instead I headed out to Staten Island on Sunday, November 4th with a ferry full of runners and other folks looking to lend a helping hand. That day turned out to be more rewarding than I could have imagined. I was in awe of the number of people that were willing to go into a disaster zone without a second thought.

20121111_111836We didn’t come with a real plan. We didn’t want anything in return. We were simply strangers coming together to help strangers in need. I guess you could say the feeling was euphoric. I definitely wanted to share that feeling with others so for the two next weeks I went out to Far Rockaway in the same manner. Myself and the folks who joined me worked at the homes of complete strangers for as long as we could. At sunset we headed to the bus stop and waited with volunteers and locals to get off of the inlet. The commute back to the train was the low point. Even then we made the best of the 1.5 hour long bus ride, which should have only been twenty minutes.

The smiles and hugs were the only compensation that we accepted. As we lifted floor boards, ripped out drywall and pulled out waterlogged insulation we tried to make light of a 20121111_150050really tough situation. One owner joked with his wife that he didn’t want to get the floor dirty as we trudged though muck while clearing his basement. What many people fail to realize is that these were working class people who were simply living the ‘American Dream.’ For many they spent a pretty penny to move to their communities and in a matter of hours everything was turned upside down. Suddenly you are tapping into reserve funds to pay for water removal and electrical rewiring. This was the last thing on anyone’s mind since everyone was comparing this storm to Hurricane Irene, which did minimal damage to New York City.

Beyond the tears and feelings of doubt you could see the light coming back to those that lost almost everything. The people in the homes I went to were much stronger than they realized. I immediately thought of the lines:

20121111_152448Through this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade
And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me unafraid
William Ernest Henley
You think about what you would do in a situation like this, but you never really know how you will react until you are living through this nightmare. I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to sustain no damage to my home, but I am even more grateful that I was able to provide an ounce of assistance to a few people in Staten Island and Far Rockaway during some of their darkest hours.


Merry Christmas.

Jersey City Victim Faces Additional Attacks

In the early hours of October 28th Jersey City police walked into what was described as a ‘scene from a Halloween bloodbath movie.’ Hours before that Luis Rivera, 39, had an encounter with his roommate, Joseph DeLeo Jr., 28, that left him feeling uneasy. After Rivera returned to his room he was confronted by DeLeo who was wielding an 8-inch serrated knife.

Rivera says that he was pleading for his life, saying, “You’re going to kill me.” to which DeLeo responded, “You’re already dead you f-ggot.” When his third roommate walked out of his room he rushed to the aid of Rivera where he was subsequently attacked by DeLeo. Rivera stated that he pretended to be dead in an effort to save his life.

Rivera noted that DeLeo did admit to being homophobic which puzzled Rivera, who is openly gay.

DeLeo’s initial charge of aggravated assault was upgraded to attempted murder in addition to a count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, numerous weapons counts and one drug count. His $35,000 cash or bond was increased to $500,000 by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Francis B. Schultz. This still seems like a drop in a bucket when compared to the injures sustained by Rivera. He was stabbed 28 times which resulted in lose of a kidney, spleen, a collapsed lung that left him on a ventilator for three days, minimal use of one leg and no use in the other due to severe nerve damage. Rivera will need to partake in intensive physical therapy in an effort to regain use of his legs.

Even after all of this he is now facing attacks from supporters of the alleged attacked, DeLeo. One such post, although not addressed to any specific person said, “…I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE AND HAVE YOUR NAME [sic]…” It appears that this comment made reference to undesired phone calls after the poster publicly advertised their own phone number.

More anti-gay sentiments have been directed at Rivera. One of the comments, in the image below, was made by the mother of the alleged attacker. Please note that the ‘Like’ to the third comment was done by Ms. Loughner.

Statements like this are the last thing you would expect towards an innocent victim that was brutally attacked in his home.

Follow up responses by relatives of DeLeo did not share the sentiment of Ms. Loughner, thankfully.

You can only hope that in this day that people would understand that spewing hateful messages is impressionable and you may be unknowingly leading someone to think that they have the right to attack someone not only with words, but physically with no repercussions for their actions.

Sending DeLeo to prison will not magically make Rivera walk again nor will it bring back any of his organs, but what we can hope a just verdict will do is minimize attacks on someone simply on the basis that they are not what you would prefer them to be. People should not be lead to believe that this is acceptable or tolerable.

Can we stop the senseless and hateful attacks on our fellow human beings?

Marriage Equality In New York

Today started the first of what will be a new wave of marriage certificate applicants in New York state. Soon to be newlyweds lined up along Centre Street in lower Manhattan in the early hours of the morning in hopes of being among the first few of the 800+ couples that entered a lottery enabling them to marry today. Over 2000 couples registered for the lottery throughout the five boroughs. Throughout next week City Clerk’s offices will also be open for an extra two hours.

Among those lucky couples were Perin  Hurewitz and Harriet Kirk, who were married in Canada and can now legally get married in New York. They opted to forgo the tradition ceremony and have a civil ceremony following the receipt of their certificate. Throughout the area there were people of all faiths and races there to celebrate one thing, equality. You could feel the sense of unity in the air, not even the 90 degree temperature didn’t stop thousands of people from joining in the celebratory energy.

Another couple that recently celebrated their soon-to-be marriage with a joint bachelorette

party had their ceremony officiated by Rev. Pat Bumgardner, one of NYC Pride’s 2011 Grand Marshals. Lt. Dan Choi served as the Maid of Honor and unofficial ring bearer. The union of Jeanette Coleman and Kawane Harris brings them one step closer to the full equality that they both hope to eventually enjoy. Jeanette would like to re-enlist in the Army, but DOMA keeps her wish from coming to fruition.

Happy Marriage Equality!

Cash As A Wedding Gift

At some point in your life you come to the realization that a good portion of your income will be contributed towards the weddings family and friends. Whether there is a gift registry or not, money is always a tried and trusted gift when in doubt. The question inevitably becomes, ‘What is the appropriate amount to give?’ I thought everyone just knew what they were supposed to give.

When I posed this question to a few people one guy mentioned that had only been to one wedding and had no idea that there was a ‘cover fee’ to attend. Most of the others agreed that a number of factors playing a part in the size of the gift they have given newlyweds. I’ve come to the realization that people don’t wake up knowing what amount is adequate and sometimes someone needs to give the wrong gift in order to see the true value of a gift.

After a recent wedding I received a message from a friend asking how much I had given to the couple, if I was willing to share that information, he added.  I obliged and told him my cash gift was in the $100 range. The next message left me a bit puzzled, he gave $54. Yes, it was a multiple of 18 so it was a nice thought. He felt that this was a fair gift from him and his guest. I know, I know, you shouldn’t expect to have money thrown at you at your wedding. The real reason people are there is to share in that special moment where two people are joined in marriage, but where do you draw the line? Isn’t it okay to expect a fair, or decent, gift? After all most wedding include hours of open bar, more food than most African tribes can eat in a month, sweet wedding favors, and live bands.

I’m not sure what the standard gift amount is in other parts of the US, but I wouldn’t expect it to be too different from NYC when you look at a few key elements. $100 would be my standard response to inquiries on an adequate cash gift amount. Should you decide to bring a guest, double your gift amount. Sometimes you’ve got to count your pennies and decide which weddings you can truly afford to attend. In the end if you truly can’t afford that 5th wedding this year, maybe you consider forgoing it. If not, pack a bag lunch for a few weeks so you don’t encounter any awkward moments.

Bronx Woman Murdered, Boyfriend Commits Suicide

There shouldn’t be a sadder ending to a story than finding out that a loved one has passed away. Well that is what happened to one Bronx woman who went missing almost two weeks ago, on June 12th. Sadder still is the fact that her body was left in a park and set ablaze.

Jasmine Nunez was reported missing by family members last weekend. She was last seen with her boyfriend, Andres Ceballos. With her disconnected phone number and no activity on any social media accounts there was little to go off of. Then there was a 911 call reporting a brush fire that led police to  a body  in James Baird Park, Dutchess County. Jasmine’s sister, Melanie, spoke to Andre and quoted her as saying that, “I talked to him the day after she was found. He sounded so calm.” Only recently was the body found at the park tentatively identified as Jasmine Nunez. Details leading up to her murder and body being set ablaze are still sketchy and the incidents leading up to her untimely death are still being investigated.

Nunez’s boyfriend was seen in the Washington, D.C. area after her disappearance and police eventually caught up with him, pulling him over on Route 58 near Emporia, VA. At this point a pursuit occurred when lead to a foot chase in where Ceballos took his own life before police could catch up to him.

The family of Nunez believes she was a victim of domestic violence. She would have been 23 next week.

My Love For Snowpocalypse

How much do I love snow? Let me count the ways. I definitely have a pep in my step when it comes to weather forecasts showing a 50% chance of snow. The past two weeks in New York were a particularly happy time for me. This is taking into consideration the fact that most trains were not running and I had to suddenly shell out $104 for a monthly metrocard. Most people assume that I am only happy about the snow because I don’t drive in NYC and I don’t have a sidewalk or driveway to shove. Au contraire, I like to shovel as well.

After helping a friend shovel during our Christmas Weekend Snowpocalypse I tried to take a bus to my place. The #FailWhale showed his face and then I begin a trek to my train station. My walk was interesting to say the least. Although some people definitely showed little regard for their fellow human by speeding down streets in the heavy snow there were others out singing as they trudged home.

Snowpocalypse De. 2010

Two days later the snow was definitely in a less desirable state. I am keeping hope alive that the wintry mix forecast for next week changes to a total whiteout, you should too! For those that truly despise the snow and wish it wouldn’t snow in the Northeast, my suggestion is to move to the Caribbean, it’s bound to snow eventually up here.


AYCJ to Buffalo, NY

September 7th started off very early for me, I headed of out the infamous T5 bright and early. Jetblue’s JFK terminal is a land of happiness and joy for many travelers with the start of Jetblue’s 2nd All You Can Jet pass promotion. I’ve finally calculated all my travels and I will be flying over 21,300 miles this month, can we say exciting!

Before 8:00am I was already in Buffalo, NY and en route to

Niagara Falls the first time. With about seven hours to see as much of Buffalo as I can with not much more than a bus pass ($4) and my camera I set off. I couldn’t walk across the Rainbow Bridge to the Canadian side, which I hear offers a more scenic view, because I am currently without my lost passport. While on the bus to the Falls I was speaking with the bus driver and she mentioned Buffalo’s City Hall as a place to check out that was also decently priced, read free. The 28th Floor houses an observation deck that offers great views of the city, you can actually see all the way to Canada. Right in front of City Hall there is the McKinley monument, in the memory of the 25th President, who was shot and assassinated in Buffalo. President Fillmore, the 13th President, is buried in Buffalo and there is a statue alongside City Hall in his likeness.

I had heard things about the Grain Elevators although there wasn’t much that I could find as far as actually visiting these relics. I was able to snap a few photos from across the canal. Apparently Cheerios are manufactured in Buffalo but I wasn’t around to smell them. Thanks to the train system in Buffalo, which offers a fair free zone, I was able to go from Erie Canal area to Anchor Bar. This was my last stop before I headed back to the airport and back home. I wasn’t able to justify spending $11 for 10 wings but it was nice to check out the places that holds the title of being the birth of the buffalo (hot) wing.

I made it back to the airport just before 3:00pm, already having checked in, only to hear that the flight was going to be delayed for about an hour. I enjoyed Buffalo

during  my short stint there  and would recommend it to anyone looking for a little change of scenery from the busy city life. My first trip, even with the delays, was a good one and I look forward to the rest of my jetting with this year’s All You Can Jet pass. Next stop, Boston, MA!

The Art of Fasting

As millions of people around the world are fasting during the month of Ramadan there are millions of people who are not fasting. Those that aren’t fasting may not t fully understand what fasting for Ramadan entails and haven’t taken to researching such information. Due to this there are some things that they may do or say which is unnecessary.

1. No we cannot drink water during the day. I am not fully sure if there are other religious practices that allow individuals to drink water while they are fasting but during Ramadan nothing should be consumed, not even water.

2. Asking, ‘Does this bother you?’ Or some variation of the question when you are about to consume something. If I personally was bothered I would just excuse myself from the situation. There is no need to ask and if you feel you may offend someone maybe you should excuse yourself from the observers presence.

3. Telling people that ‘He/She/I’ am fasting when we are somewhere that involved food (during the day). If I am offered food or a drink I simply say, ‘No thank you.’ There is no need to volunteer additional information when it is not a matter of national security. I promise I will make it through the event without eating or drinking.

4. Each day of fasting begins at Suhoor, or day break. Yes, that’s before sunrise, contrary to popular believe. So if the sun rises at 6:05 suhoor was probably 5:10.

5. Each day of fasting ends with iftar at sunset. Usually this is started with consumption of a date and then a meal. Keep that in mind when if you ever invite someone to do something or to have them for dinner.

6. You do not fast one eid. Ramadan is almost over and with that it’s almost time for Eid. It’s a celebratory time and you are obliged to each and in some cultures give zakat.

In the United States Ramadan started on the 12th of August and ends on the 10th of September unlike most of other observers around the world. I definitely look forward to spending this Eid with friends before doing a bit of traveling, inshallah.