Archive for ‘Long Run’

July 31, 2015

The Downeast Relay

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A couple of months ago I got an email from an old friend asking if I would be at all interested in doing an overnight, self-supported, 100+ mile  relay through the Maine wilderness.  To which I of course responded, Hell yeah! Accordingly, last week I packed up snacks, gels, gear for all possible weathers, my Garmin watch, a headlamp, and pretty much anything I owned with a reflector or flashing light.  Finally after many hours and several flight delays, I arrived in Bangor at 1:00 Friday morning, 21 hours before the start of the second annual Downeast Relay.

I had started this post by writing a pretty thorough race report, but I soon realized that what I really wanted to convey and remember about this race (aside from the sight of a bald eagle flying overhead or sunrise over a bog) were the things I learned out on the trail.  The Downeast Relay was a totally different beast than anything I have ever tackled before.  I didn’t fully appreciate just how different it would be until I got out there, but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

The race is run on a rails-to-trails trail that meanders northeast along the coast, starting in Ellsworth, Maine and finishing 102.7 miles later in Eastport (the eastern-most city in the US).  Much of it is pretty remote, and the 16 relay legs were pretty much defined by where the trail intersects drivable road.  The race allows teams of 4-8 people, but it seemed that most (including us) had around 5.  We had divvied up the legs based on an algorithm built by a member of the support crew, and I had been assigned the Runner 4 position, which gave me legs 4, 8, 11, and 14, totaling 22.7 miles.  Having run a solid 20-miler last weekend, I felt confident that running a bit further in 4 pieces wouldn’t be any problem (though I was a bit nervous about the prospect of running off into the night without hope of cell phone reception or human contact until the next hand-off).  Although my stamina didn’t turn out to be an issue, I did fail to adequately factor in the additional muscle fatigue that trails take as compared to road miles, as well as the effects of not sleeping.  (I had actually also not appreciated how much there would be to do between running legs, which would render napping pretty much impossible.)

I am eternally grateful to my team and our indomitable Sherpa/shuttle bunny for all the organization they did before race day.  We had decided to use two vehicles to give everyone more space for gear, but that meant that in addition to our dedicated driver, one runner had to drive each leg and two others were needed for navigational duties.  The driving directions provided by the race organizers were great, but navigating the back roads of Maine in the dark still took considerable focus and attention.  Given the remoteness of the trail, the cars often had to traverse much greater distances than the runners in getting to the hand-offs, and on shorter legs there was little time to waste in getting to the next dropoff.  In some cases we actually leap-frogged cars to ensure that the next runners made it to their rendezvous points in time.  In addition to the driving, navigating, and cheering runners in and out, there was also the preparation of gear and nutrition for the next leg, so down time was minimal.

I’m no stranger to all-nighters—I was an architecture student at MIT, which rendered me nearly nocturnal for several years.  That said, none of my previous experience prepared me for running a race in the middle of the night.  I found that the mental fatigue took a greater toll than the physical tiredness.  By my third leg I was putting considerable effort into staying focused and on pace.   (It probably didn’t help that it was a boring, slightly uphill 7-mile stretch that went straight ahead with nothing to look at but seemingly identical pine trees.)  I have been an enthusiastic follower (read: uber-geek) of ultra-running for years, and even though my relay distance was nowhere near ultra levels, I feel like I got a tiny taste of the challenges of day-long events.

The other challenge of the relay that I had not really forseen was the physical effect of starting and stopping several times.  I’ve done lots of two-a-day workouts, but never with only an hour or two between.  I was running at or near my threshold pace, and the breaks between legs seemed to provide minimal recovery and maximal opportunity for stiffness to develop.  I was pretty liberal with the tiger tail before and after each leg and I’m convinced that’s the only thing that saved me in the end.  So, advice to newbie relayers (and myself for next year):

  1. Gear. I’m sure there is such a thing as overpacking, but if you don’t have major space constraints, bring everything you think you might need. There was rain in the forecast, not to mention 30-degree temperature swings from day to night, so I tried to assemble a variety of clothing that I could layer as needed.  In the end, I brought:

2 long-sleeve shirts

1 sleeveless shirt

1 short-sleeve shirt

1 bra

2 pairs shorts

4 pairs socks

2 pairs shoes

1 rain/wind jacket (convertible to vest)

I wore all of the shirts with the exception of the short-sleeved one and never changed shorts, but I was very happy to have fresh shoes and socks to change into as the race progressed.

  1. Organization. A few of the more experienced runners organized their gear in Ziploc bags clearly labelled for each leg.  I will definitely follow suit next year.  Anything that can eliminate thinking or stress or frantically digging around a dark car at 4 AM trying to find your gels is worth the effort.
  1. Nutrition. This was a tough one. Given that our race started at 10 PM, I wasn’t really sure how much, or even if I would feel like eating.  I brought Accelerade powder and a gallon of water, a bag of nuts, 4 gels (2 of them with 20 mg of caffeine), 2 bananas, a couple of protein bars, and a thermos of coffee.  I nibbled a few nuts at a time throughout the night, which I think was a good move since they packed a lot of fat and calories into minimal bulk.  I also kept up a steady stream of coffee, counterbalanced by a lot of water to stay hydrated.  The surprise was how much I was craving sugar by the end of the race, though—I’m fairly well fat-adapted and though I had brought some carb sources I hadn’t expected to dip into them too much.  It was probably the lack of sleep combined with a pace much closer to a 10K than a long run, but I found myself really wanting something sweet as the race wore on.  I ate a banana and a half and took a caffeinated gels on each of my last two legs.  There was also a bag of mini peppermint patties floating around the car, and I had one of those before each of the last two legs as well.  I felt like I was eating a lot—certainly much more than I would have in a marathon—but I also had a very light dinner before the race and totally missed breakfast on Saturday morning, so I still probably ran a caloric deficit.  I was one of the few on our team that did not have any gastro issues at any point, so either I got lucky or the fueling strategy worked out.
  1. Sleep. Before.  As much as possible.
  1. Training. Obviously run trails if you can to build up your stabilizers.  Perhaps more importantly, get used to the fatigue.  One member of our team said that he had done a few clustered workouts on a consecutive afternoon, evening, and morning, which I thought was a great idea.  It would also be useful for fine tuning a fueling strategy.

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I wish trail running in the middle of the night were a more readily available pursuit—I really had a much more direct experience of running and my own mind than I ever have before.  It was actually somewhat unsettling—I experienced time and space very differently out on the trails.  When I was running through the dark without discernible landmarks, I really lost all sense of time passing, from what time of night it was to how long I had been out there.  My perception of distance was incredibly accurate, though, and—maybe this was just the lack of sleep—but it seemed as though time were only evidenced out there as the byproduct of covering a distance at a given pace, and didn’t objectively exist outside of me.  It was both terrifying and freeing in the way that real encounters with ourselves usually are.

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April 9, 2015

Passover Running and a Squeaky Toe

The past few weeks have been a blur of deadlines, lots of training, and totally inadequate sleep.  By last Wednesday the cracks were starting to appear and I was starting to feel the warning signs of overtraining.  We were headed to Balitmore on Thursday to spend Passover with the Caveboy’s family, so I was looking forward to catching up on some sleep and having a good excuse to back off the 2-a-days.  We had a lovely holiday, but between the cooking and Seders I’m pretty sure I ended up more sleep-deprived that before.  I did manage to get some good runs, though possibly a little too good.

I’ve nearly eliminated easy runs from my schedule to make room for the biking and swimming, and the result has been that I’m now finding pacing much more difficult when I do have an easy day.  I went out for a 6-miler on Friday and a 7 on Saturday with the intention of keeping my heart rate down and running 9:30-10 minute pace.  The neighborhood around the Caveboy’s home is relentlessly rolling, though, and I found myself continually charging up hills, realizing it, and then trying to bring the pace down on the downhills, which never works.  On Sunday I had semi-tired legs and 12 miles at 8:13 pace on the schedule.  It was one of those days where I really wanted to have done my run, but not to actually do it.  For starters, nutrition was a challenge since most of my usual pre-run foods were not kosher for Passover.  While avoiding leavened bread and corn syrup has never been a major issue for me, we also further distinguish Passover meals from the rest of the year by preparing food with separate dishes and utensils.  That means no blender for smoothies, no GU’s, and no Accelerade.  I was hoping to scrounge up some honey packets, but had no success, so I ended up slicing up an orange, putting it in a zip-loc, and smooshing it into my running belt.  To quote Eric Cartman, “Now that’s what I call a sticky situation.”   I didn’t want to stray too far from the Caveboy’s, so I mapped out an annoying multi-loop neighborhood route which would at least avoid any major traffic.  It was overcast and windy and the loop turned out to be even hillier than I’d imagined.  According to the Garmin data, I had two climbs at 5%, and 1,100 feet of gain.  I had to do one section of it three times, which was demoralizing since I knew after the first one exactly how much it sucked.  Since the route was continuously up and down I tried not to look at the Garmin pace too much and just go by feel.  I spent most of the last loop telling myself to pull up my big girl tights and just get it done, which I eventually did.  The verdict was an average 8:14 split, with which I was pretty damn pleased.

I had noticed a weird sensation in the tendon in my big toe the day before, and after the long run I tried to figure out what was going on.  It didn’t hurt, but it felt like the tendon was sliding against something.  When I moved it I could feel friction and it was actually making a squeaking sound.  A visit to Dr. Google determined that this is actually a thing—it’s likely a form of tendonitis in which the sheath rather than the tendon itself is inflamed.  Dr. Google further recommended RICE, which was fine since I wasn’t planning to run on Monday anyway.  By Tuesday morning it was no longer squeaky, so I went ahead with my 5x1K intervals as planned.  Sure enough, post-run the squeak was back.  My initial instinct was to push through the rest of the week’s runs as scheduled since next week will be a taper before the More Women’s Half, but I may actually be getting smarter, because I reconsidered.  The half next week is not an A race, or really even a B race.  It’s too close to the NYC half to be much of a data point, and I’m doing it solely to get my 9 NYRR races in this year.  Risking injury to get a few more training runs in for a race that doesn’t matter is stupid.  I scrapped my Thursday tempo run in favor of a bike tempo, and may skip the 8-mile “long” run this weekend too.  I have a 4-mile race (again for my NYRR 9) on Sunday, but I will probably avoid additional running unless all systems are go.

 

On the Passover fueling front, when we got back from Baltimore this weekend I made a batch of my Passover-approved Caffeinated Quinoa, which has been my pre-workout breakfast all week.

 

Caffeinated Quinoa

1 cup water

1 cup strong black coffee

1 cup quinoa

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cocoa

½ tsp salt

 

  1. Combine water, coffee, salt, and quinoa in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Cover and simmer until all water is absorbed. (The quinoa is ready when the curlicues are visible.)
  3. Stir in cinnamon and cocoa.

 

Serve, or refrigerate for later.  Stir in milk, almond butter, nuts, dried fruit, etc if desired.

 

March 13, 2015

I need a plan.

The New York Half is in two days and somehow I still have no game plan.  Despite the countless demi-marathons I’ve run over the years and having run the race last year, I just don’t have a  good feel for Sunday.  The fact that I’m returning from injury and have only been training for 5 weeks with limited mileage is the first question mark.  I’ve been hitting my paces on the intervals and tempos, but I do feel like my speed over distance suffered a bit with the time off for the stress fracture.  I’ve been putting in more training hours in the past few months than I ever have, but the bulk have been swimming, biking, and strength training.  Post-injury I’m still limiting my mileage only to the ‘quality runs,’ so my monthly totals are looking more like my weeklies were last year.   I feel like the change in training approach along with the added strength sessions has definitely made me leaner and given me more power in my legs, but the past few weeks have been almost like getting used to running in new body.

To top all of that off, I got hit with a cold this week, so my running didn’t so much taper as drop off a steep cliff.  I’ve been (for once) erring on the side of extra rest, so I did a short interval session Tuesday morning before the cold really set in, a brisk 3 miles Wednesday night in an attempt to shake the congestion loose, and another easy 3 on Thursday morning.  My last strength session was Monday and I’ve done no swimming or cycling this week.  I’m still feeling a little stuffy, but my five pronged defense of hot tea, Echinacea, vitamin C, bone broth, and frequent use of the neti pot seems to be working.

Still, the pacing question remains.  My last long run was an 8-miler, which I ran at 8:15 pace.  It felt quick, but not bad.  The half marathon A goal this season is sub 1:45, which basically means running 8 flats.  My gut tells me that’s probably a little too fast to sustain right now, but part of me wants to just go out like a Kenyan and let the chips fall where they may.  The course is fast—all the hills are in the first 5-6 miles through Central Park, and then it’s pretty much a gradual downhill to Battery Park.  That said, if I plan to negative split I’ll need to allow a little extra time for the terrain at the beginning and then really book it at sub-8 pace for the second half.  The Central Park hills aren’t that bad, but I know from experience that they can take their toll if you go out too fast.  My worry is that if I get caught up in the moment and take off at near 8’s through the park I’ll end up nursing a side stitch for the rest of the race.

So the real question is, how much can I actually handle right now? How fast is too fast in the park?  To add to the fun, thanks to my Garmin’s altoceloraphobia, last year I lost satellites for most of the stretch through Midtown, so I can’t really plan on reliable pacing once I hit the flat anyway.  In the end this race may be more of an exercise in just going with the flow.  Given the head cold and that it’s my first real race back since my injury, I think I’d be happy to run close to a PR (1:50:44), and then gun for 1:45 next month in the Women’s Half.  Still, the weather is looking pretty ideal—mid 40’s with some clouds, and I want to do my best and start the season on a high note.  This should be my first run in ages not done on tired legs, so maybe there’s still hope for some race day magic.

March 4, 2015

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

I’m late in posting, but this week has felt largely like a rehash of last week.  It’s been pretty much run, bike, swim, snow, ice, slush,  repeat.

To further the déjà vu, last Thursday’s tempo run was the same as the previous week–1 easy, 5 at 7:49 pace, 1 easy–with no evening workout.  Friday was a cardio rest day, but I did strength training in the morning.  Saturday I usually do an easy run for my morning workout, but was eager to get back in the pool to continue working the drills from this week’s swim class.  After 45 minutes in the pool my stroke was feeling great, and I believe I also isolated the cause of my swimming endurance problem.  It’s a minor detail, but it seems that I’m not actually inhaling in any meaningful way when I breathe.  I’m not really sure what to do about it yet, but acceptance is the first step, right?

After Saturday’s swim I had a light lunch and then hit the trainer for my first aerobic-targeted workout on Trainer Road.  It was 90 minutes of easy-ish spinning, and other than getting a bit saddle sore, it really wasn’t bad.  I had some errands to run and a pile of laundry to do, so the rest of the afternoon was quickly consumed with that.  I went to the Murder By Death concert Saturday evening with Long Run Buddy, which was super fun, but also had us out way too late.  LRB had a 5K in the morning and I needed to get the Caveboy off to the airport and then bang out a 15-mile run.  5:30 AM came around much too early.  For the run I planned to run a loop of Central Park, then cut west to the Hudson River path and run south, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and back home.  It was the closest I could approximate the NYC Half course without the street closures, and I figured having the bridge climb at the end of the run would be a good challenge.  Per my training schedule I was aiming for 8:30 pace, which was faster than I’d run any of my long runs so far, and 15 miles was the longest I had run since the Brooklyn Marathon back in November, so I was a teensy bit very nervous about this one.    I’d checked the weather the day before and it showed pretty perfect coditions–clear skies and a high of 40, so I threw on tights, a long sleeved race shirt, my Ice Breaker hoodie (love!), gloves, and my sunglasses and hopped on the subway to Central Park.

InconceivablePB

The park definitely felt colder than 40 degrees and the sky looked a bit ominous, but I was undaunted.  I started out the run feeling great.  I was light and fast and it was inconceivable I would ever get tired.  My pace slowed on the Harlem Hills more than I would have liked—and I say “my pace slowed” and not “I slowed my pace” because I felt like I was still running fast.  It’s just that I wasn’t.  Still, I cruised down the back side of the hills and pushed through the rolling stretch that makes up the north west section of the loop.  By the time I exited the park at Columbus Circle and headed for the Hudson River path it had started to snow and I was having to stay focused to maintain the 8:30’s.  The river path is flat and I hoped that once I dialed the pace in it wouldn’t be too hard to maintain.  Other than stopping for a few quick photo ops of the frozen Hudson I did manage to cruise along, roughly on pace.  I knew I’d lose some time and momentum when I cut across the island to the bridge though, and predictably, the climb there felt hard.  What I had not predicted was the ½” of snow that had fallen in the time it took me to get from Central Park to the bridge.  The pedestrian section of the bridge is basically a wooden boardwalk, so in addition to dodging oblivious tourists taking selfies I was also slipping on every step.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to see a concrete running surface as when I reached solid ground on the Brooklyn side.  Happily, the downhill stretch (or proximity to home) gave me a second wind, and I was able to bring in the last couple of flat miles at 8:15’s.  It was a welcome surprise when I checked the Garmin and saw my average pace was an 8:34.  I arrived back home cold, chapped, and wind burned, and was grateful for a hot shower.

Photo Op.

Photo Op.

I cleaned up, made lunch, and was feeling good until my digestive system suddenly decided to go on strike.  I don’t think it had anything to do with the run necessarily—my stomach had felt fine the whole time I was out.  I curled up on the couch for an hour, but I still had a bunch of chores to get done before I was back to work on Monday.  Other than a headache and the tummy troubles I didn’t actually feel terrible, so I decided just to power through it as much as I could.  Of course, the problem was that I needed to get some calories and hydration back into me, and that was proving to be a challenge.   After several hours, lots of tea, and a couple of yogurt and kefir cocktails, I felt a bit better.  I got the important stuff on my to-do list done and did manage to eat a small dinner without repercussions.  I probably only ended up at net 500 calories on the day, if that, and went to bed at 9.

I woke up Monday morning tired, hungry, and fighting what I used to refer to in college as my “tired sore throat.”  I would get it without fail if I pulled a couple of all-nighters during finals, and now it’s become my red flag that I’m overtraining and getting run down.  Once again, I skipped my Monday morning strength training in favor of more sleep.   Tuesday I felt much better and the 5×1000 intervals went off without a hitch, so I’m chalking up the Monday fail to lack of sleep and calories.  We had yet another snow/freezing rain/regular rain event yesterday, so getting to swim class was a bit of a swim in itself.  Class was mostly kick drills and one-arm pulling, which felt weird and awkward and I kept forgetting to breathe (more so than usual).  Then I’d remember about the breathing when my lungs started screaming and completely forget that I was supposed to be paying attention to my arm position, which was unfortunate since that was the whole point of the awkward endeavor.  This morning I upgraded myself to the medium lane and still ran into feet, so something must be working.

February 17, 2015

Keeping Track

Last week was probably my most solid training week since my stress fracture, and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am.  I ran 30.8 miles, biked 19.4, swam 1200 yds (that’s an estimate since I’m still struggling with lap count, but more on that later…), and I also got in two strength training sessions.  Running-wise, I had my mile-repeats on Tuesday, an easy 6 on Thursday, and a 12-mile long run Sunday.  Saturday I bricked my swim workout with another easy 6-mile run, which, happily, did actually feel easy.  I’m still working to build my swim endurance, but my efficiency is improving and I’m definitely wasting less energy on my kick now.

Central Park

Central Park, with not another person in sight…

 

For Sunday’s long run I met Long Run Buddy in Central Park, which we had nearly to ourselves, thanks to the 14 degree temperature and frigid wind gusts.  We bundled up and decided a legitimate warm-up was in order.  After a shuffley mile we picked up the pace for our park loops.  LRB had a 90-minute easy run in HR Zone 1-2 on his schedule, so we ended up pulling back a bit on the 8:30 pace I was targeting and settled in around 8:40.  At mile 10 LRB peeled off at 92nd street to wrap up his workout, and it was at that point that sucked on my water bottle in vain and discovered that the nozzle had completely frozen.  I do love winter running and generally don’t really mind the cold, but that seemed a bit much.  Consoling myself that I could always eat snow if necessary, I got ready to push up the Harlem Hills the second time.   I was nervous curious about how I’d do on the hills, especially on loop two, but I felt pretty strong throughout.  I was definitely not able to push the pace as much as I was in the fall, but I’m confident that I’ll get the uphill speed back with a some focused time and effort.  In any case, I still felt good endurance-wise, and I was able to pick up the pace for the last two miles.  I finished my 12 in the park and still had about mile back to LRB’s apartment, and in an effort to stay warm I opted to just jog it back.  All-in, I ran 13.8, which makes me feel much better about my 14-er coming up this weekend.  After a hot shower the feeling returned to my fingers and nose, and LRB and I hit up a beer hall for some post-run sustenance.

LRB's liter o'beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

LRB’s liter o’beer and my teeny-tiny Riesling.

Monday I was off work for the holiday and logged a 45-minute strength training session, 8 miles of HIIT interval biking, 3 loads of laundry, and some marathon cooking.  My running bras are clean and my freezer is well stocked, so that made me a happy girl.  We had our wine critic friend over for dinner last night which resulted in more imbibing than was perhaps prudent, especially given this morning’s intervals.  I hit the treadmill feeling a bit sluggish and fought my way through 10×400’s at 6:40 pace.  It was not my most stellar performance and I had to take a couple of my recovery intervals at a walk, but I gritted my teeth and made it through the full set.  In fact, I know that I made it through because I used my snazzy new counting bracelet, which I made yesterday to keep track of my pool laps.

10 beads on the left.  Count 'em.

10 beads on the left. Count ’em.

I got some great suggestions last week on how to keep count in the pool, but apparently I’m hopeless.  I think the real problem is that I’m still concentrating so much on technique that I just don’t have the mental bandwidth for anything else.  Right now, my thoughts during swimming go something like this: “1, 2, 3, breathe!  Lead with the crown of your head!  3, breathe!  Don’t push the water down! 2, 3, breathe!   1, 2, head down! Breathe!  Straight legs!  Relax! 3, breathe!  Turn!  Breathe!  Crap, is this lap 11 or 13?  Breathe!

I was racking my brains all week trying to think of a low-tech solution, and I remembered that in my knitting travels I’d seen instructions for making row-counting bracelets.  I dug around in my crafty bins and found some stainless steel beads, jump rings, and black cord and I was all set.  I think the result looks moderately adult enough that I can wear it all day, and it worked beautifully for ticking off my intervals this morning.  I’ll be trying it out in the pool tonight.

The general idea is that the cords are a bit longer than the beaded area, leaving a short gap.  The beads will slide along the cord, leaving a space between the counted beads and the ones ‘on deck,’ but there’s enough friction that they don’t slide around on their own.  I’ll put up a separate post this week with the materials I used for my bracelet, along with instructions and photos.  It’s a fast project and these would make a useful gift for your favorite runner or swimmer.  (Or knitter.)  These could range from masculine to feminine, simple and elegant to colorful and fun depending on your choice of beads and hardware.  The only real constraints are selecting beads and cord of compatible size, and making sure your materials will survive the water if you plan to swim with it.  I tend to gravitate towards minimalism, but you could easily incorporate number and letter beads for a personal touch, too—names, inspiration, a mantra, or PR’s.

October 6, 2014

Fast

Last week was the final push of my overload month before the taper.  I had strength training Monday, intervals Tuesday, easy run Wednesday, tempo Thursday, and an easy run Friday, followed by the Yom Kippur fast on Saturday.  It took until Thursday for the soreness from the strength training to finally subside, and by Friday I was pretty wrung out and facing  26 hours without food or drink.  To top it off, I had my final 20-miler scheduled for Sunday, which gave me about 10 hours to fuel up and rehydrate.  Oh, and I needed to get a good night’s sleep in there, too.

I’m beginning to think that Paleo might be the answer to Jewish dietary laws, though… It’s easy to find dairy-free meat recipes, Passover is no sweat, and it turns out that being fat-adapted makes fasting much easier.  Friday post run I made sure I hydrated thoroughly, and I made us some Bulletproof herbal tea after dinner to kick up the fat-burning.  I got through it without too much difficulty this year, and as soon as it ended I started pounding water.  Sunday morning I felt surprisingly good, and it was time to get down to business, as I had a tight schedule to keep.

Grete’s Great Gallop – Race Report

I had signed up for Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, which started at 9, but I needed to get in another 7 make it a 20-miler.  I wanted it to be as continuous a run as possible, so I had worked out some fine-tuned logistics with Long Run Buddy.  Caveboy and I took the train into lower Manhattan, then started running up Hudson River Greenway toward Central Park.  I was hoping to hold a 9 minute pace for the duration, and getting to the corral on time put some pressure on holding pace.  LRB was also racing the Gallop, and had kindly agreed to pick up our numbers and shirts and handle the bag check.  I arrived at the park about 10 minutes before the start with three quarters of a mile left to run.  After a couple of out-and backs near the start I met LRB at our corral just as the Star Spangled Banner ended.  I was fastening the last pin on my number as our group shuffled toward the line, and we were off.

The weather could not have been more perfect for a race—it was 50 degrees and sunny at the start with a light, cool breeze.  My goal for the run was to do the 20 under 3 hours, and I was hoping the race atmosphere would keep me focused for a strong finish.  The course was just over two laps of the park, run clockwise (not the normal direction), presumably to emulate the end of the New York Marathon.  Looping that way, the hills are shorter and steeper, and I felt a little sluggish on the climbs for the first lap.  I tried to keep our pace right around 9’s, but like the Bronx run, the crowd and terrain made keeping a steady pace nearly impossible.  Also, LRB and I evidently don’t like getting passed.  Right around the start of lap two we caught the 1:55 pace group leader, who seemed to be running too fast and appeared to have largely lost his pack.  We decided to stick with him for a while, mainly just to outsource the pacing duties.  Maybe it was the psychological relief of knowing that I was ticking off each hill for the last time, but somehow during lap two I felt better and better with every mile.  We ended up passing 1:55 Guy a few minutes later and at that point I stopped checking the Garmin for the rest of the race.  I had a bit of a kick left for the finish, and by my watch it was 2:59:43 for 20.2 miles. I still haven’t come down from the high.

This week it’s on to the taper, and I’m planning to follow the Runners’ World recommendations here. I’ve never tapered for more than a few days for a half marathon, so I’m curious how I’ll handle two weeks.  If only I could apply all that excess energy and enthusiasm to cleaning out my closets.

-ModC

October 1, 2014

Shut Up and Run

Five Borough Series: Bronx 10-Mile

Sunday was the Bronx 10-Miler, and with it I ticked off borough number four on my list.  I planned to run it with Long Run Buddy, and we decided to shoot for an 8:15 pace, which was my distance-adjusted equivalent marathon pace.  Rationally, I knew I should be able to do it, but 8:15’s sounded fast and, truth be told, I was a wee bit concerned about keeping it up.  Sunday was fairly warm and I was coming off a hard week of training with only one rest day before the race.  If there’s been an emergent theme to this season though, it’s that I’m tired of being scared to run fast*.  As I shuffled up to the starting line, I decided that I was not really interested in listening to any more neurotic self doubt.  My new motto was shut up and run.

With almost 10,000 people running down Grand Concourse, the first few miles required the usual NYRR bob-and-weave techniques.  Eventually we found a pack running at our pace and tried to settle in.  The course was shaped like an arrow with very short arms, with the first turn around mile 4 and the return to the vertical leg at mile 5.  About 3 1/2 miles in I heard a wave of applause from the runners ahead, and cheered as the leader (and eventual winner) passed by.  A minute or so later we passed another lone runner, and shortly thereafter, a larger pack that included the first two women.

I wish I could add some interesting local color of the Bronx here, but I really completely failed to take in any of the scenery.  The course was rolling enough that a lot of runners weren’t holding a steady pace, so between the crowd and the grade changes, I was primarily focused on holding my speed and not tripping myself and others.  At the halfway point I was still feeling good and not really registering the uphills too much.  I had been fighting a slight side stitch since the first mile, but I tried to stay relaxed and belly breathe as deeply as possible.

By mile 7 I definitely felt like I was working, though, and that was where the mental game really began.  My brain was making a very good case for slowing down–I had Marathon Hell Week coming up, it was hot, who was I to think I was fast enough to run 10 miles at 8:15 pace, and why did I really need to pass these people, anyway?  As all of this was running through my mind, though, I noticed that my legs seemed strangely unaffected.  I was holding pace just fine, nothing hurt, and my breath was even and controlled.  Sure, I would preferred to have the whole thing be over at that point, but it was really going perfectly well.  I repeated “Shut up and run” to myself, pulled it together, and enjoyed a few blissful minutes of brain silence.  I wasn’t in the Zone exactly, but I did feel a bit like my body was doing what it already knew how to do and I was free to experience the ride without the incessant chatter from upstairs.

It was up and down a few more small hills, and then I was in the chute before I knew it with a good crowd cheering us in.  I tried to pick off a few more people as I approached the finish line, and then it was over.  As soon as I was clear of the runners coming in behind me, I checked my watch. My average split was 8:14–right on target.  I’d like to say that I’m over the race and pace anxiety and I now fully trust my fitness and the training.  The reality is, though, I’m already worrying over my last 20-miler this weekend.  I’ll continue to work at building my confidence, and I really want to have the courage to lay it all on the line on race day, Shalane Flanagan-style.  From here on it, the gameplan is shut up and run.

*Yes, I know that 8:15’s aren’t actually fast in the grand scheme of things.

September 24, 2014

A Very Long Run and My Paleo Power Smoothie

Sunday I had another 20-miler on the schedule and decided to reverse my usual route to avoid getting caught in the climate change march.  Perhaps to underscore the theme of the demonstration, the weather had turned unseasonably muggy and I was eager to get an early start.  

My run started with a loop of Central Park, then south along the Hudson River Greenway, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and up to Prospect Park. The uphill climb from the bridge was a bit of a slog, but when I got to Prospect I felt like a new person. I was at 17 miles at that point, and I decided to run the full loop and finished on the uphill, just for added fun. I was about 2 miles from home when I finished, but my legs still felt pretty good and I decided to keep running the rest of the way. I have to say that cutting the ‘unknown’ mileage on race day from 6 miles to 4 seems huge psychologically. We’re T minus four weeks to Baltimore, and I think I’m actually more excited than scared.

Now for the smoothie that fueled all those miles… My go-to recipe has evolved and over the years I’ve tweaked it to really optimize for long run fueling. The basis is black cherries, which have amazing anti-inflammatory properties.  The anthocyanins they contain protect connective tissue and may actually be more effective than aspirin as a pain reliever.  A few years ago I started using peach instead of banana for a little sweetness, as it’s lower in sugar and also high in potassium.  I recently replaced whey protein with gelatin, which has been getting lots of play in paleo circles recently.   In addition to providing about 6g protein per tablespoon, gelatin also protects joints and aids digestion.  The ginger root has been my latest tweak, both for its anti-inflammatory properties as well as its stomach-settling abilities.  For the liquid component I usually go with almond milk, but depending on your run pace and ability to digest fat on a run, you can swap in coconut milk.

I know there are a million paleo smoothie ideas out there, but I think this is worth adding to the mix:

Modernist Cavegirl’s Paleo Long Run Smoothie

1/3 – 1/2 cup frozen black cherries

1/3 -1/2 cup frozen blueberries

1/4 of one frozen peach, sliced

1/4 cup full-fat yogurt (if you abstain from dairy, throw in more peach for texture)

1 tbsp gelatin

~1/4″ – 1/2″ grated ginger root (I keep it in the freezer)

1/2 – 3/4 cup coconut or almond milk

Throw the ingredients through ginger root into a blender with about half of the coconut or almond milk.  Slowly blend, adding more liquid until desired consistency is reached.

 

 

September 17, 2014

26 and Change

Old Crotan Aqueduct Trail

 

Unlike most things in adulthood that I look forward to, this weekend actually exceeded my expectations.  Saturday the Caveboy, Long Run Buddy, and I met up at Grand Central and headed north on MetroNorth to Tarrytown.  It was a beautiful day for a trail run, and though the leaves haven’t really started to change yet, it definitely felt like fall was in the air.  Running southward, as we were, the trail is slightly down hill and it made for a perfect easy run to just put on the cruise control and enjoy the scenery.  The Old Crotan Aqueduct trail is now part of the state park system and is wooded for most of the section we ran, but there were a few clearings that overlook the Hudson as well.  After just about 8 miles we reached the northern end of Yonkers and turned off the trail at the Greystone train station on MetroNorth.  One the way back I stopped at NYRR headquarters at 89th St. and I picked up my Tune-Up race number in the hopes of buying myself a little extra time and sleep in the morning.  The race started at 7 AM at the northern end of Central Park, so a few extra minutes of sleep was a precious commodity on Sunday.  I was up at 4:30, at the park before 6:30, and still had to rush to my corral thanks to extra long lines at the porta potties.

 

My approach for the Tune-Up was to really use it as a dry run for the marathon and approximate as many conditions of race day as I could.  I planned to run at goal pace, wear my race day gear, and not to carry my own fluids and test out how I did with Gatorade.  I’ve written before about my struggle with pre-race anxiety, and I fully expected to feel the pressure to perform on Sunday in all its shaky, stomach-churning splendor.  I slept surprisingly well the night before, but I told myself that I wouldn’t try to talk myself out of any anxiety I felt before the Tune-Up, as I knew it would be there on marathon day, too.  At the starting line I did feel some jitters, but they were mostly physical and not the Plague of Doubts that I’ve struggled with in the past.  Mentally I was actually incredibly calm and clear on what needed to be done.  I would simply go run around Central Park three times at an 8:50 pace.  No drama.

 

My legs did feel a little tight and nervous for the first few miles of the race, but I figured that was to be expected and so it didn’t concern me.  The course started just before the Harlem Hills, so each loop began with a short downhill followed by the longest climb of the circuit.  I spent the first lap finding my pace, trying not to charge the hills too much, and making mental notes about where the aid stations were located.  As I passed the starting line for the second time, I really settled in and relaxed.  I figured that if I could turn in a solid second loop, even if I got tired, I could take the third lap one hill and mile at a time and just focus on holding my pace.  The amazing thing was, I wasn’t getting tired. The hills just came and went.  It wasn’t that it was effortless, it was just unencumbered by worry, second-guessing, and emotional baggage.  It was actually fun. The last lap felt no harder than the first miraculously, and I finished right on target at 8:51 pace.

 

I think the biggest factor, though, may actually have been my attitude about pre-race nerves this time.  I didn’t fight it and actually welcomed it as a training tool.  I’ve always read that the secret to beating anxiety is just to accept it will be there and do whatever you want anyway.  It’s much more easily said than done, but I think I actually did it this time.

 

~ModC
September 12, 2014

Weekend Plans

I have three items of awesomeness to look forward to this weekend:

1. Long Run Buddy found us a great trail, the Croton Aqueduct, for tomorrow’s mileage. Have I mentioned how much I appreciate mass transit for enabling point-to-point runs?

2. I have the NYRR 18-Miler on Sunday in Central Park. If I can run this at or near marathon race pace, I will be thrilled. Three Harlem Hills repeats will probably kick my ass, but that’s what I’m there for. Also, nice people will hand me water and Gatorade, rather than me strapping it to various parts of my body for the duration of the run. Bonus.

3. All week, Weather Underground has been showing a HIGH of 71 on Sunday. Glorious! It gives me hope that fall is really on the way. I know we’ve had an incredibly easy summer in New York this year, but I still can’t wait for the leaves to turn. My personal seasonal rank is:

1. Late Fall
2. Winter
3. Regular Fall
4. Spring
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10. Summer
To quote a favorite Simpsons line, “Everything’s coming Milhouse.”

-ModC