June Runners of the Month: Marie Barnett and Xander Woolverton

Marie Barnett and Xander Woolverton at the 2017 Chicago Marathon

Marie Barnett and Xander Woolverton at the 2017 Chicago Marathon

On April 10, NBR’s youngest member arrived: Oliver, the son of NBR super couple Marie Barnett and Xander Woolverton. Both Marie and Xander are standout runners on NBR’s Local Competitive team, and Marie co-led the Wednesday Mourning Doves run for the past five years until a recent move to Clinton Hill.

The pair met at Oberlin College in freshman year, but didn’t become friends (Marie: “He wasn’t very interesting or intriguing”) until they spent a night dancing together at a party during their senior year (Marie: “Strange dancer but very intriguing.”)

At the time, Marie was a competitive runner. Soon after they started dating, she won her Indoor Conference Championships in the 3,000m and came in second in the 5,000m the next day. Xander watched her train through the Ohio winter for the Boston Marathon, confused about what was happening when she went for long runs during 15-degree blizzards.

“Xander didn’t really understand the sport, the grit, the nuance, and what it meant to me,” says Marie. “I think he choked on his own lungs when he tried to run 3 miles with me during our first year together.” But his competitive personality got the best of him, and he started working to keep up with her, eventually developing his own passion for the sport.

Today, they support each others’ goals and push one another, sometimes training together and sometimes running apart, but always including running in their daily lives. Having a child hasn’t slowed them down. In the two months since Oliver’s birth, Marie has already started adjusting to postpartum running—and Xander has hit a hot streak, setting PRs in both the 10k and the half marathon.

Marie running the Fifth Avenue Mile. Photo by Ken Allen.

Marie running the Fifth Avenue Mile. Photo by Ken Allen.

When did you join NBR and why?

Xander: I joined in 2011 after James Chu spotted me doing a workout at the McCarren Park track. At the time, I was a member of another running club and had been looking for a group with more fast people to train with.

Marie: Xander was telling me how great it was. Then I met some of the women and appreciated the energy and vibe. I was glad to be part of a fun team that had numerous ways to access meetups and each other, at all levels of ability. I also wanted to run faster.


How has running changed for you since having a baby?

Marie: It’s changed so much! I ran up until 40 weeks pregnant (very slow and short), and am now adjusting to integrating my mom body with postpartum running. We have to be more intentional in coordinating to get our runs in. I am motivated to be patient and smart about coming back, and know things won’t feel exactly the same. I know way more about pelvic floors, and my pain threshold is higher! 

Do you want Oliver to be a runner when he grows up?

Marie: Of course, some part of me would love if he becomes a runner at some point in his life, so we can run places together and do some races. While I won’t push him to run, a lifestyle with physical activity is a must in our family.

Xander: I totally agree. I played lots of sports when I was a kid and in school, and I think that playing any sport (except football) is so important.

You are both very fast runners. Are you competitive with each other?

Xander:  When I first started running seriously, Marie was faster than me, and I was definitely competitive with her. But now, I don’t really feel competitive. I try to support her in pursuing her goals, whether they are related to running or something completely different, and I feel that same support from her.

Marie: In addition to agreeing with what Xander said, I still hold fondly the memory of blowing by him in the LA Marathon and beating him by 6 minutes. And I imagine we compare our age-graded percentiles (mine are usually higher) in races more than the average couple… 

Xander: I disagree that her age-graded percentiles are usually higher.

What do you do when you're not running?

Marie: I love spending time with Xander and Oliver doing absolutely anything. I love seeing friends, art, being around plants, dinner parties and of course consuming IPAs, red wine and a good whiskey. Aside from that, I spend most of my time as a clinical psychologist at a cancer center, helping kids, teenagers and young adults make sense of their illness and create their own narrative around life and death. 

Xander: After spending time with Marie and Oliver, I have a very busy job. But I love cooking and spending time with my friends.

What’s your favorite race distance?

Marie: The marathon (grit, endurance, subtle intensity, the buildup), followed by the 5k (far but also super hard, fast training).

Xander: I love the 3,000m and the 5,000m, but really anything on the indoor track. I love the banked turns, the competition of racing and of course that hacking cough you get from the dry air at the Armory in Washington Heights.

What’s your favorite running route in NYC?

Marie: I like routes for different reasons. Running to the Brooklyn Promenade and around the carousel is one of my favorite Doves runs. I also enjoy long runs with an NBR crew running bridges—Brooklyn (only before 7/8 am!), Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridge combos—or running around Battery Park and up the West Side Highway (great for long tempos). A daily favorite now is Prospect Park loops.

Xander: Definitely this route which has a tour of the Brooklyn Bridge Park, Red Hook and Prospect Park.

What has running taught or changed about you?

Marie: Running has been part of my life since middle school. My relationship to running has changed with me as I have grown up. It is a form of therapy for me, and running on teams helped me build significant physical and mental toughness. I used to be very anxious and regimented about runs and racing. In other words, my mind got it my way. Now, I have learned gratitude for running, and how to use my mind to push my body harder. And I am amazed that being older does not mean slower.  

Xander: Setting ambitious goals and working to achieve them is what running is all about. When you are 16 weeks away from a marathon, it can be difficult to imagine that, on race day, you are going to be ready to attempt to run 26.2 miles at your goal pace. But if you are honest with yourself, make a plan and stick to that plan, you will be ready.

What is the worst part about being a runner?

Marie: Random running injuries (i.e., when I tripped on a Doves run and literally shattered my clavicle) or deserved running injuries (e.g., chronic overuse, trying to jump into workouts too much). Sometimes I feel sad I don’t have more time to do it; distance running really can be a time drain on the day.

Xander: I’m torn between losing toenails and the inevitability that my body will eventually break down as a result of the hobby that I love so much.

Xander running the Washington Heights 5k

Xander running the Washington Heights 5k

Best advice to running newbies:

You can’t be chasing PRs all year round, so balance yourself by sometimes having goals to just run without a pace or even a watch. (Run to the beach! End your run at a bar!) Remember, you are choosing to run and if it starts to feel stressful or cause anxiety in other areas of your life, it’s time to reset. Coaches, if you have one, can be amazing. Also, don’t only hang out with other runners.

Fun facts:

Marie: I ran up Pikes Peak (a 14,115 foot mountain) while attending a Colorado high altitude running camp in high school. 

Xander: I am starting to suspect that almost all of the outdoor tracks in NYC are 440 yards, not 400 meters.

Current running goals:

Marie: To beat the sh*t out of postpartum running. My plan is to PR in the 5k on my training buildup to a marathon PR in 2020. It seems more possible to run fast after having a baby: Your pain threshold is higher, you tolerate less crap, and you only have limited time for runs, so you have to make it count! 

Xander: Since Oliver was born, I have PRed in the 10k and the half marathon! There’s no way that’s going to continue forever, but I’d love to keep that going as long as possible.  

Marie running at 38 weeks pregnant. Photo by Drew Reynolds.

Marie running at 38 weeks pregnant. Photo by Drew Reynolds.

Providence Marathon Race Report: Miriam Beyer

The night before, we went to a baseball game. The original plan was to go to the game Sunday afternoon, after the race, but the forecast for Sunday afternoon—like the forecast for Sunday morning and the entire marathon in Providence—was 100% rain.

“Do you want to try to go to a game tonight instead?” my husband Tom asked over lunch. We were at a small cafe overlooking the river in Pawcatuck, Connecticut.

I was perplexed. A baseball game? The night before a big race? Is that a good idea? This was the last season the Pawtucket Red Sox would be at McCoy Stadium in Rhode Island, before they moved to Worcester. Tonight was our only opportunity to see them play. 

I finished my omelet and watched the river and in the end could come up with no good reason why we shouldn’t go to the game that night. What’s the harm! We had an early dinner and went to the stadium.  

It actually was perfect. I sat still, rested my body for three hours, and let the game and spring evening distract me from stressing about the race. In a break after the third inning, three people in giant eyeball costumes raced on the field to advertise a local optometrist. Green eye broke the tape, with some heat from brown eye (visual help, from 2018). It was delightful.

At the top of the seventh, with the PawSox down a run, we left the ballpark and went back to the hotel in downtown Providence. One of the nearby restaurants was hosting an outdoor barbecue with a very loud, very large sound system.  

“Do you think it will end soon?” I asked, laying out my race clothes to the bass beat.

“No,” Tom said. He was right.

In the morning, it was indeed raining, though not pouring. Runners huddled under bus stops, shrouded in ponchos and plastic bags. I warmed up, my three poncho layers slapping behind me like a deranged blue bird.

In the corral, I ripped off pieces of the ponchos and wrapped them around my fists. I did not wear gloves, since I knew they would immediately get wet and heavy. But my hands are usually cold and I will run in mittens into July if necessary. I pulled the ends of my arm warmers over my knuckles and bounced lightly to the music, keeping my knees loose. I felt gratitude for my NBR friends and training partners, who had kept me running through the winter. I thanked the ponchos for their service and winced, parting with them. I have never been particularly great at running in the rain.

p1.png

When my watch buzzed at the first mile, it was buried under my arm warmer and I decided to not wrestle with the layers, to not look. I assumed there would be time clocks along the course, and I thought: I am going to get comfortable in the rain and I am not going to stress.

The first time clock was not until the half. I saw I was 1:38 and did the math, sort of whimsically: If I do this same thing all over again I’ll have 3:16. I was feeling strong, working but not laboring. I extracted a second gel and promptly dropped it, fingers clumsy from the rain, which had not stopped drizzling since the start line. I swore, picked it up, and resumed.

Around mile 20, a strange thing happened. I felt good. This was my 14th marathon, and this had never happened. I had no register of time since the halfway mark, but I could see that I was reeling in runners. Ahead I saw a woman who had left me around mile 10, now shuffling and twisting. I passed her wide, in an arc of respect.

Someone, somewhere, started screaming, “Brooklyn! Brooklyn! Brooklynnnnnnn!” The NBR singlet, the love it gets. Someone, somewhere, instructed, “Use the bike path!” I was confused until I realized he was right: It was buoyant. I tried to spring.

p2.png

Tom was at 24 in his blue raincoat, and he ran alongside me on the sidewalk with encouragement. A nice cop at 25 cheerfully yelled, “Bring it home!” At the last turn, the finish in view, a woman I hadn’t seen on the course and I dug in to race home. When I crossed I didn’t know who beat whom because I could see only the time: 3:16. 

Irony is an often mis-cited concept but this was ironic. In the race where I had not once monitored my pace, I ran the most consistent marathon of my running life. My half splits were 1:38:22 and 1:38:34, 12 seconds apart. In the race where I ceded control, I ended up running more controlled than I ever had. In the race where I gave up control the night before, I ended up being more relaxed than I ever had.

If I consciously execute this strategy in the next race, will it work? Probably not. Marathons, like life, are full of surprises. It’s part of why we return to them again and again. They toss the pick-up sticks of our body into the air and splash them down in a new configuration, that we study and pick through with curiosity until the next race. I will always love the marathon.

After the race, we went to a restaurant for lunch. “It’s going to be about an hour, hour and a half,” the host said. I stared at her, my eyes graying and dull, lengthening like Wile E. Coyote’s when he realizes he’s run off a cliff. There was nothing to do but put in our name and wait. We went back into the rain and got wet all over again, checking my watch every five minutes to see how much time had passed. After about 40 minutes we could take it no longer and wandered back to the restaurant with hope.

The host brightened as we came in. “Welcome back,” she smiled. “Your table’s all set.”

May Runner of the Month: Jennifer Herr

If you’ve been running with NBR for any length of time, chances are, you’ve run with Jennifer Herr. Formerly NBR’s board president, she leads the Tuesday Just Central Run, Saturday Bridge Run and Sunday Funday Long Run, and is a regular at Wednesday Morning Doves and Thursday Night Track.

She joined NBR five years ago when, after a year of running by herself, a safety incident convinced her to find a group to train with. “At the finish line of the Brooklyn Half Marathon I saw a pack of NBR members having fun in Coney Island,” she says. “I attended my first Narwhals Run the following weekend.”

The camaraderie of the club has kept her coming back ever since. “We go above and beyond to encourage and cheer each other on at every race, workout and event, and definitely have each others' backs! I love being a part of that.”

Running the Bronx 10 Mile

Running the Bronx 10 Mile

What she does when she’s not running: I'm a Construction Manager for WeWork, and have been involved in design and construction in NYC over the past 15 years. Some projects I've worked on are Bushwick Inlet Park, affordable housing along Bushwick Ave, and the NYRR Run Center at Hearst Tower. I'm also a devoted partner, step-mom and cat-mom.

How she initially got into running:  In 2013 I signed up to run the McCarren 5K with a couple friends. Our goal was to run the whole thing at 10 min/mile pace, but after treadmill training for a few weeks, I exceeded our goal by running a 27 minute race and was hooked! I started training outdoors in Bed-Stuy, gradually tackling longer race distances, including the NYC Marathon that year.  

Favorite race distance: I love to race middle-distances: anything from 4 miles to half marathon. My least favorite distance is the marathon, but it's a love-hate relationship—I can't seem to stop running them.

Favorite NBR run: That's tough. I love different ones for different reasons: Just Central for allowing me to run with my neighbors at the crack of dawn; Doves for helping me improve my speed by chasing a great crew of NBR regulars; Thursday Night Track for being my hardest weekly workout with the reward of pizza and beer, Saturday Bridge Run for being the best start to every weekend with old and new friends; and Sunday Funday for being my most constant and fulfilling weekly adventure with NBR over the past 5 years.

Best running memory: The Salzburg Austria Marathon was the most gorgeous setting I've ever run in, along the base of mountains, through farmlands, woodlands, estates and old world cityscape. Finishing the Copenhagen marathon in 80 degree temperatures with my boyfriend and friends screaming and blowing kisses to me for my final kick was also memorable. And at the Berlin Marathon weekend Breakfast Run, I felt a profound sense of pride and inspiration running alongside NBR teammates Alisa, Gregg, HJ and Bev through the streets of Berlin, into the Olympic Stadium, seeing Jesse Owens' name and records inscribed on the stadium walls near the relic of Hitler's spectator box, and enjoying the German pastries at the end. I will also never forget racing in costume as a Runaway Bride and Roller Derby Queen with the all-girl "Hood to Philly"/"Hood to Haven" relay teams; many laughs were shared over two great weekends with NBR teammates.

“Finishing the Copenhagen marathon in 80 degree temperatures with my boyfriend and friends screaming and blowing kisses to me for my final kick was memorable.”

“Finishing the Copenhagen marathon in 80 degree temperatures with my boyfriend and friends screaming and blowing kisses to me for my final kick was memorable.”

Favorite running route in NYC: Long run to Highland and Forest Hills Parks—we've only done the full route twice with the Sunday Funday crew, but it's very adventurous and scenic. We should run it more.

What running has changed about her: Running's given me balance and peace. In my youth and college years, I was heavily involved in organized sports (gymnastics, tennis, basketball, tae kwon do and lacrosse) but I struggled in young adulthood once that participation ended. For several years, I filled the void with a lot of unhealthy things. When I started running in my early thirties, it quickly restored the discipline, purpose, pride, competition and sense of community that other sports had given me. Running has also taught me that age is not a deterrent to athletic success. My speed is only improving as I approach age 40, and I'm inspired by my NBR masters peers who also continue to excel. I aim to run for the rest of my life.

Favorite post-race food: Dim Sum! After a half or full marathon, I usually camp out in Chinatown or Flushing to gorge on soup dumplings, rice rolls, turnip cake and bok choy.

Favorite piece of running gear: I'm a sneakerhead, so it's gotta be the shoes! I train in Adidas Energy Boosts, race in Nike 4% Flyknits, and enjoy shopping far and wide for the best and most unique color ways of those shoes. (Ask me about the three pairs of watercolor style Adidas Energy Boosts I once had shipped from Japan—I will proudly show you their glamour shots.)

“The running community is the greatest, most supportive network to be a part of, so don't be intimidated.”

“The running community is the greatest, most supportive network to be a part of, so don't be intimidated.”

Favorite songs to run to: "Unstoppable" & "The Greatest" by Sia

Favorite pro runner: Usain Bolt for his swagger

Favorite running social media account: Darcy Budworth's Instagram (founder of the Take The Bridge race series, coach at Mile High Run Club). Darcy and I are work colleagues and collaborated on NBR's participation in the Williamsburg Bridge Take The Bridge race; I'm amazed by the array of things she accomplishes professionally and within the running community on any given day, and how well she documents it all.

Best advice to running newbies: The rewards of running go beyond pace, race times or how you compare to others. Give yourself a chance to find out how much running benefits your physical and mental wellness. The running community is also the greatest, most supportive network to be a part of, so don't be intimidated.

Current running goals: To run the Brooklyn Half marathon at a sub-8 min/mile pace, and the 2019 Marine Corp. Marathon in less than 4 hours.

Fun fact: I came in 3rd place at the 2016 Bed-Stuy 5K and the 2018 Bed-Stuy Turkey Trot, where I won a Sweet Potato Pie!

“My least favorite distance is the marathon, but it's a love-hate relationship—I can't seem to stop running them.”

“My least favorite distance is the marathon, but it's a love-hate relationship—I can't seem to stop running them.”

May Runner of the Month: James Gray King

When he crossed the finish line of the London Marathon on April 28, NBR team captain James Gray King completed an incredible challenge: He earned the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal for running all six of the world major marathons in the past 18 months (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City). Less than 5,000 people in the world have ever achieved this.

His new goal? “I’d like to run fewer marathons so close together, and see what I could do by training all out for one to really go for a great time. And maybe have a week off?”

NBR’s board chose James as one of May’s Runners of the Month to recognize his achievement.

James joined NBR in 2015. “I was pretty new to running and wanted to run with a group. Plus the singlets looked cool!”

James joined NBR in 2015. “I was pretty new to running and wanted to run with a group. Plus the singlets looked cool!”

What he loves about NBR: Mostly it’s the people, I have met some incredible friends (and my girlfriend Natalie) through NBR and been through good times and bad with them. It has also pushed me to be a better runner than I ever thought I could be. Overall though, having run races far and wide now, it’s pretty incredible to be able to hang out with teammates all over the world!

What he does when not running: I work in an Apple Store, and listen to all the same Hardcore and Indie bands I listened to 10 years ago. I am pretty sure I’ve become that old man that doesn’t think new bands are any good, although I’m trying to be better at that (sort of!).

How he got into running: We had a wellness challenge at work in February of 2015. I decided I would run a mile a day, pretty much my first miles ever. I hated it! That said, around the same time a friend was putting together a team for the charity Yamba Malawi, to run the Rock N Roll Brooklyn Half in the October. I am somewhat stubborn, an optimist and rather like doing things for charities. I decided to give it a shot and said to myself if I broke 2 hours I would run more... Low and behold, I beat it by the narrowest of margins and the rest is history!

Favorite race distance: I am 100% smitten with the marathon. At their absolute hardest is when you see the absolute best in people. It is also such a universal event for a city to get behind and you discover such a unique sense of character at each race that I feel it’s making my travel much richer. Conversely, I hate 5Ks and am pretty terrible at them!

Favorite NBR run: Thursday Night Track—because it's the best, but also I'm a run leader and it would be weird if I said something else.

“I am 100% smitten with the marathon.”

“I am 100% smitten with the marathon.”

Favorite NBR memory: I’m torn between seeing the NBR cheer squad out in force at mile 20 of the Berlin Marathon, and when six of us went on a group run in Amsterdam with all our singlets on. We likely looked like a very strange and non-threatening gang!

Best running moment: My first NYC Marathon finish in 2016. I think that’s when I really caught the bug!

Favorite running route in NYC: The 10-mile loop starting in Williamsburg, going over the bridge and looping back over Queensborough bridge is old faithful for me on mid-week longish runs. And running to the beach (any beach!)

How running has changed him: It has made change the bar for what I believe I could achieve. When I ran my first mile, I honestly could not understand how people could run 26 of them, let alone try to get quicker. It has also made me a more diligent person and (slightly) more organized. It also taught me I still have a problem with liking merch, I’ve just traded band T-Shirts for race shirts!

“You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did.”

“You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did.”

Favorite post-race food: Beer?! And chocolate milk. Like a proper grown up.

Favorite running gear: Nike 4%s!!!

Favorite pro runners: Kipchoge and Mo—by the time this is out I assume one of them will have just won London (again). They have such different mental approaches but are both incredibly down to earth considering the scale of their achievements.

The worst part about being a runner: The chafe! And being flaky with weekend plans!

Best advice to running newbies: Keep at it! You might the regret the run on you’re on, but you’ll never regret the run you did. Also, slow down as you learn and try to go a little further instead.

Fun facts: I once played in a hardcore band called Xmas Lights. And I lived in Kenya for a while, before I became a runner, what a missed opportunity to learn from the best!

Form Tip: Look to the Horizon

Like so many things in life, good running posture starts with the head. When the head tilts in any one direction, the body shifts off its optimal support axis which causes you to compensate—and generally become discombobulated. 

The head tilt and gaze are usually connected, so when you run, let your gaze guide you: Look out ahead naturally and scan the horizon (unless you're on a technical switchback in the Pyrenees, Killian Jornet–style). That'll straighten your neck and back into one line. If this doesn't work, try imagining a straight line so the weight of your head is carried down through your feet.

Doing this right can improve oxygen flow and conserve energy.

Unless you're trail running, work on not looking at the ground, not stretching your neck or jutting out your chin like Jay Leno. Poor head posture can lead to fatigue and injury.

For those pre-meds out there, get this: The head has a serious influence on your running because of the vestibular apparatus in the ears and cerebellum directly defining and regulating the body's position in space. If you doubt it, try running while vigorously shaking your head—ha, thought not. This regulation is accomplished through the neck muscles, which provide balance to the head and extend their influence to the rest of the muscular system of the body. 

What is the optimal distance of gaze? 10 meters? 40 yards? What's a meter? Who knows. The thing to keep in mind is keeping your head in a straight line with the weight supported down between the shoulders through the hips to the balls of your feet—like when you carry baskets on your head. (In fact, that's our next mile competition.) 

You will not—or should not—find a machine like this to warn you each time you slouch. Instead, try to internalize it. 


April Runner of the Month: Jeff Poindexter

Jeff Poindexter first ran for NBR at the Red Hook Crit in May 2016. “I wanted to run for a local team that could possibly challenge and beat the best of NYC,” he says. Since then, he’s been surprised to watch how being part of NBR has helped him grow as a runner.

As someone who loves 200 meter races just as much of the marathon, Jeff’s become a standout on NBR’s local competitive team, and was chosen as April’s Runner of the Month.

IMG_20181206_171335_529.jpg

What he does when not running: I work as a doorman/lifeguard for a residential building on the Upper East Side call the Concorde. 

How he first got into running: I've played sports my whole life. I was always one of the fastest. In elementary school, every year the physical fitness test came up and we had to run a mile. I used to eat skittles for energy during the mile. 

Best running memory: In high school, nine men including my brother and I won the regional meet. We were the underdogs, facing teams three times bigger than us.

Favorite post-race food: Pasta!

Favorite piece of running gear: Gore Windstopper 

Favorite song to get pumped up pre-run: Anything Juicy J

Favorite pro runners: Ryan Hall, Shalane Flanagan and Kip Lagat

Favorite running social media account: Runner’s World

Advice to running newbies: Don't be so quick to compare yourself to others. Be the best you. Take your time building mileage and take hard days hard, easy days easy. Do dynamic stretching before your run and static stretching after. Finally, water, water and agua!!!

Current running goal: I'm racing the Queens marathon and NYC marathon this year, thanks to NBR for the motivation.

Fun fact: When I'm not playing frogger in the streets of New York, I like to participate in some fitness modeling. You know, trying to inspire people.

 

Coaches Corner: Why You Should Try Plyometrics

Eight miles before the end of his first-ever ultramarathon, Tom Vrizi started to get a nasty case of IT band syndrome. He finished the race, then limped around in pain for the next month, trying to run through it.

Finally, he consulted Dr. Google, trying to figure out what was weak, and how he might fix the problem with the right strength training exercises.

The exercises worked, and made him realize something: Other NBR members were also suffering from running-related injuries that might be avoided if they started strength-training. “During a drive to pick up race bibs, while sitting in traffic, I had the idea to lead a workout for the club,” he says.

The first plyo class took place on Monday, April 13, 2015. “I remember because I was still sore on that Friday and had a race the next day,” Tom says. (It ended up being the most successful race he’s ever ran.)

Now an NASM-certified personal trainer, Tom leads a plyo class every Monday night, helping his fellow team members stay strong and injury-free.

IMG-20170529-WA0003.jpg

What can plyo do for runners?

  1. It helps strengthen the fast twitch muscles runners use for speed.

  2. It can work your cardiovascular system if you’re pushing to do the exercises quickly.

  3. It helps strengthen the bones—the stress from landing from a jump helps make them less brittle.

“I've had many people tell me that my plyo class is responsible for them being able to hit PR after PR without injury. Some people go on to conquer longer distances than they ever thought they could,” Tom says. And, although he admits that he’s hurt himself due to his own clumsiness, he hasn’t gotten a chronic “running injury” in years.

What is Tom’s plyo class like?

The class is built around three four-minute sets that consist of four exercises done for 30 seconds each, then repeated with no break. Between every set, Tom switches it up with some running drills. “This gives muscles a chance to recover ATP and clear any lactic acid that built up,” he says. “The longer break we take between sets is aimed at a full recovery so you can give each set your all.”

The class focuses on exercises aimed at strengthening the things that city runners typically lack. “One of the main problems with being a city runner is never facing steep challenging climbs (bridges don't count),” he says. “The other is the complete lack of lateral motion. Conga squats emulate having to get your knees up on a big climb. To help with lateral motion we do side-to-side exercises, such as side leg lifts, clam shells, lateral jump squats, etc. These were the key to curing my IT band syndrome. Additionally, we do pushups to keep our arms and chest strong to enhance arm swing.”

Class typically ends with core work, and a few stretches for the hips, hamstrings and calves. “Contrary to my previous incorrect stance, I’ve learned that stretching isn't evil.” 

635652305810785591.jpg

What's the best strategy to approach plyo exercises?

For the true plyo experience, try to spend as little time as possible on the ground between jumps.

Plyo exercises have three phases:

  1. Concentric: the time in the air

  2. Eccentric: the time recovering from your landing

  3. Armortization: the time between when you stop your decent and launch again

“You want to land softly and controlled with feet facing forward in the eccentric phase, and then quickly armortize and get off the ground. The more time that's spent in the bottom of a squat, for example, the weaker the jump will be.”

If I hate cross-training, what's the least I can get away with?

If you work on your feet all day: “5-10 minutes of single leg balance work combined with side leg lifts and clam shells.” 

If you sit in an office chair all day: “5-10 minutes of hip flexibility and mobilization followed by 5-10 minutes of single leg balance work combined with side leg lifts and clam shells.” 

“Neither scenario will result in you getting faster,” says Tom, “but it will help you avoid injury and keep moving.” 

How should I incorporate plyo into my training to get the most out of it?

Tom suggests doing plyo the day after a long run, and taking a rest day afterwards. “Long runs and plyo have totally different goals. You can then take a rest day to recover by taking a walk or another light activity.” 

Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap: Wataru Iwata

When I was 5 or 6 years old, I enjoyed flying kites.

The Myrtle Beach marathon reminded me of those old days flying kites.

Marathon training is like winding the line for the kite, making sure that the line is the right weight, not broken, not entangled and long enough to fly your kite as high as you can.

The race itself is like patiently unwinding your line, according to wind speed. Sometimes the wind dies down, sometimes it gets gusty.

Each mile, you carefully unwind the energy and everything you prepared, covering the distance with the right pace, making sure that you don’t waste unnecessary energy, telling yourself not to get carried away or too excited. Also, if you are in competitive battle, you don’t want to show how much extra line you have left to your friend until the right moment.

When I watched the Tokyo Marathon live stream on Saturday night, Suguru Osako, arguably best Japanese marathoner today, training with Nike Oregon Project, started his race positioned at the back of lead group, as usual.

It looked all “in control” until half way. He looked calm and composed. He looked so lean—different from Yuki Kawauchi, who is built stronger. Suguru looked even more shaved than when he finished third in the 2017 Boston Marathon (his debut race) and when he broke Japanese record with 2:05 in Chicago 2018.

Around mile 18, he started slowing down and soon started walking with his shoulders shaking. It clearly looked he had hypothermia, probably due to very low body fat percentage, like Galen Rupp, Shalane Flanagan and many other elite athletes who suffered last year in famous rainy and windy Boston Marathon.

I thought to myself, Maybe the line he chose for his kite was too fine. (Who am I to judge though?)

Going back to my race….

Until last year, I used to do only two marathons per year. Typically one marathon in the spring and another in fall. But this year, I wanted stir things up a little bit and challenged myself to start the year with two spring marathons. 

Myrtle Beach was my first on March 2, and I plan to run New Jersey on April 28.

Preparing for this double marathon, I have been running about 70 miles per week since the beginning of December.

As I approached the date of Myrtle Beach, I almost felt like I didn’t want to give up my 70 miles a week streak .

At the same time, I was bit lazy with my speed training—in the cold weather, I never felt comfortable doing intervals. I was drifting from the leader pack on Saturday’s local competitive long tempo runs. Maybe I was doing bit too much volume, and not enough quality, but I told myself this was part of experience, and I would try and see.

Doing two marathons eight weeks apart is a new experience for me, and I am only halfway through.

I decided to use the Myrtle Beach Marathon as a continuation of my long run training.

I have been increasing my longest long run:

  • 12/15 13 miles

  • 12/23 17 miles

  • 1/5 17 miles

  • 1/12   17 miles

  • 1/19   19 miles

  • 1/26  19 miles

  • 2/2   20 miles

  • 2/9   16 miles (setback week)

  • 2/16  21 miles

  • 2/23  22 miles

So I aimed to do a 26 mile “long run" at the race, starting with sub 7 minute/miles and seeing how long I could hold the pace without proper pre-race “tapering” or a lot of speed training.

The first 14 miles went as I planned, in the  6:55-7:05 range. (Carefully unwinding my line: Some miles had a tail wind, some miles a head wind. I was always asking my body how I felt.)

From miles 15 to 20, I was still within 10-15 seconds of my target (except for mile 17, when we had a slight incline and head wind at the same time).

From mile 21, I started thinking, Do I unwind the line same way I was doing? Or do I save? In a way, these were sort of negative thoughts. I wanted to have more or less “seamless” training to the New Jersey Marathon.

IMG_0915.jpeg

I started easing a little bit and took it to the end. Finishing miles are always tough in the marathon, but I wasn’t suffering like I was in the NYC marathon when I was climbing the 5th avenue “wall” and entering Central Park.

It almost felt serene. There were many fewer spectators than the NYC marathon, many fewer volunteers. I never noticed any spectator shouting “NBR.” I told myself, “Okay, this is a long training run.”

When I crossed the finish line, I received my medal and heat sheet, but I didn’t really need it. I continued jogging to the area where they were giving pizza, donuts and bananas.

I grabbed a few bites and continued walking to my hotel (Courtyard by Marriott), which was two minutes from the start/finish area. I knew I only had a hour to check out at 11 am.

I could have nicely asked for a late check out. But I didn’t really want to bother. I did 20 minutes of my routine stretching and yoga, took a 20-minute hot shower and I didn’t really feel any of the pain and calf cramps I usually feel after 26.2.

I didn’t really unwind the line I had. My kite didn’t fly as high as it should have. But it was okay. My time was 3:08:16, about 30 seconds slower than my PR in NYC.

スクリーンショット 2019-03-03 10.55.26 PM.png

It was a perfect 60 degrees and flat course, but I am feeling confident that I “saved.”

I usually run the next day to flush out the lactic acid but I usually can’t run faster than 9:00/mile since my legs are tight. But, this time, I felt fine doing 8:00/mile. I ran from my home in Dumbo to the West side, up to 14th Street and caught the subway.

Now, my real challenge starts. I have eight weeks to first rest my body, then start training hard with long tempo runs, intervals, supplemental core and strength training to get myself ready to fly my kite the highest I can in New Jersey on April 28th.


Myrtle Beach Marathon 

PROS:

  • weather was nice.

  • flat course

  • easy travel (90-minute flight) from NYC

  • good number of fluid stations. 

CONS:

  • would be better if spectators didn’t smoke

  • mile markers were little off

  • didn’t have an energy gel until mile 22

March Runner of the Month: Kaitlyn DiBello

image2.png

Kaitlyn DiBello started running 17 years ago, first as a mid-distance runner/long jumper, then a steeplechaser in high school and a 5k/10k and cross country runner in college. Before moving to Brooklyn she was a head cross country and track coach.

So when she arrived in the neighborhood in July 2017, she was looking for a team to run with, and fell right in with NBR. “Most of my best running memories have come from being a part of this team,” she says. “Even though we’re competitive, at the end of the day we celebrate each other’s successes no matter how big or little they are.”

Today, as the coordinator for NBR’s women’s local competitive team, Kaitlyn is currently aiming to break 3 hours in the NYC marathon. But she’s not the kind of person who feels like one goal is enough: “I’d also love to break 19 minutes in the 5K, break 40 minutes in the 10k and run a sub 1:25 in the half.” Oh, and she dreams of one day qualifying for the Olympic trials in either the marathon or 10k. Her strategy for getting there? Training crazy hard with NBR. “I honestly I wouldn’t be half the runner I am without this team.”

image3.jpeg


Favorite race distance: Marathons and half marathons! I love the feel of pushing myself and doing something I love for miles upon miles. But I’ll always have a special place in my heart for a good 5k or 10k, especially on the track.

Favorite race: The NYC Marathon and the NYC Half. The fact that the whole city is out there cheering you on is such a surreal feeling. It is always an honor to represent both NBR and Brooklyn in those races on the streets we train on every day.

Favorite NBR run: Either Tuesday Night Tempo or Thursday night track. I love pushing myself with the team and the promise of pizza afterwards is always great. But in summer Narwhals and local competitive definitely become favorites, especially when we get to hit summer streets.

image5.jpeg

Best running memory: Finishing the 2018 NYC marathon. It was my second marathon and I set out to qualify for Boston. I had trained on and knew the course. As I passed my co-workers and teammates on Bedford Ave, I knew I was in a good position. With my parents cheering me on when I hit 1st Ave I knew I had to keep pushing. Having teammates throughout the whole city, especially on 5th Ave, helped me overcome the tougher pieces. I really knew I had a chance when I passed mile 24 and saw my mom jumping up and down and my dad yelling at me to keep going. As I rounded to the finish I could feel the excitement build, and had tears in my eyes when I crossed the finish line in 3:06. I immediately thought of my grandfather. He was one of my biggest supporters and had cheered me on at every single race. Once that medal was placed around my neck I dedicated it and my race to him knowing how happy he would have been for me. The best part of the race was checking my phone and seeing how many teammates, friends and family members had texted me either during the race or after with congratulations. Knowing that they had been with me the whole time made the accomplishment that much sweeter.

What running’s taught her: That anything is possible. If you told my 10-year-old self that I’d be a marathoner, I would have thought you were crazy. But now I know that no dream is to big. Knowing that every ounce of work I put in allows me to get better pushes me to work hard. It has also reminded me to stay humble, to keep dreaming and setting new goals.

image4.jpeg

Favorite post-race food: Anything with chocolate, and a good cup of Irish breakfast tea! I have a big sweet tooth. I also love having a superhero muffin from Shalane Flanagan’s cookbook on hand.

Favorite piece of running gear: My garmin. It feels weird to not have it there. I’m also a huge Asics fan and can’t go wrong with either my GT-2000s or DS trainers which have seen their fair share of blood, sweat and tears. Those who really know me know that I’m never seen without a pair of shorts and a tank top on—regardless of the weather.

Favorite songs to run to: I have a whole playlist that I will gladly share with anyone who wants it! I always have to start with either “The Champion” or “Good Girl,” both by Carrie Underwood, “Miami 2017” by Billy Joel, “Heartland” by Celtic Thunder or “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Hard to Be a Saint in the City” by Bruce Springsteen or “I Want It All” by Queen.

Favorite pro runners: Shalane Flanagan, Deena Kastor and Paula Radcliffe. Having watched these ladies over the years I have learned how to not only be a better runner but also how to train smarter and how to pick myself up after I fall. Seeing how they have collected themselves after a downfall and remained true to who they are and celebrated their successes just proves to me that if you dream it and work hard, you can achieve it.

Favorite running social media account: Brooklyn Running Company. Though I may be biased since I work there part-time.

Best advice to running newbies: Don’t quit! Running is all about being patient and sticking with it. Continue to work hard, and find a running partner. Also sign up for a race or set a goal. I have found that when I have a targeted goal in mind, I train smarter. One thing I was always told is that if you’re not enjoying it, then you need to fix something. Make sure you find the fun of it.

Want to nominate an NBR member as Runner of the Month? Send the board nominees along with a brief description. The dimensions looked for are: performance, improvement, participation, volunteering and support. A runner does not need to fulfill all of those categories, but it’s a good starting point. We will feature runners from any pace, showcasing the breadth of our team—from our inspiring top scorers with incredible performances to brand new runners hitting significant running milestones. 

Celebrating NBR's 10th Anniversary!

Hello all! For our tenth anniversary, we wanted to celebrate the individuals who run for this team. We have started a video series, which will feature all kinds of our awesome runners so we can learn more about who we are and what the team represents. 

The first one features your current board of directors, to give a sense of what is important to us and help everyone know us a bit better. The next one will feature other folks on the team—maybe you! Please reach out if you'd like to be interviewed! It's easy and fun. And you get to come to my office and eat a bunch of snacks :) 

We are aiming to have four videos, one released each quarter. 

We want to recognize all of the incredible runners on NBR. What better way than going straight to the people who make this team great?