Manhattans are Paleo, right?
You know those days when you feel light and fast and like you could run forever? Sunday was not one of those days. Last weekend I got really lucky with the weather for my long run, but this Sunday was hot, bright, and cloudless. I prepared for my third 20-miler as well as I could–I hydrated and beet-loaded, filled my water bottle halfway and froze it, and got to bed early on Saturday.
The route was a variation on the usual Brooklyn to Central Park run. I skipped Prospect this week and ran straight to the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Central Park, picking up my friend along the way. From the north end of the park we peeled off to Morningside Park, enjoyed* the hills of Morningside Heights, cut across Columbia’s campus, and ran south along Riverside Park. It was a beautiful day and a lovely route, but I really had to work for this one. I probably started off a little too fast given the heat, but I think this was mostly just a case of having an off day. Despite the struggle, I was happy that I was able to pull it together mentally enough to get through it. I keep reminding myself that having a lackluster 20-miler is still something of an uptown problem, especially compared to a few years back when I was trying to fight through and IT band injury.
Sunday also marked the end of what I’m thinking of as my first major training block for the marathon. Next week’s long run is only 15, and then I’m debating whether or not to squeeze in another 20 before the half marathon on Labor Day weekend. From there on, I’m taking advantage of the NYRR fall race calendar to spice up my long runs. As it stands right now, starting in September I’ll have a race every other weekend until the marathon. That is not to say that I’ll actually be racing them, but I thought that it might help dispel some of the pre-race anxiety to make the starting line feel a little more routine. It also gives me the chance to practice race day fueling and decide if I’m going to carry any of my own hydration for the marathon. It’s going to require some creativity to get the distances on my schedule in some cases, but I can always keep running after the finish line.
*By ‘enjoyed’ I mean, tried to convince myself that the burning in my quads was a unique gift from the universe, to be treasured and savored.
The Caveboy has been away on business this week, so I’ve made destressing and catching up on some rest my priorities. To that end, I’ve been meditating at least 10 minutes a day and trying to get as close to eight hours of sleep as I can. My running schedule this week was:
Tuesday: Intervals – 12×400 @ 6:56 pace
Wednesday: Easy – Brooklyn Bridge run commute
Thursday: Tempo – 2 easy, 3 @ 7:54, 1 easy
Sunday: Long – 18 @ 9:17
I used to run the 400 when I ran track, so I was actually looking forward to the intervals this week. They were fun, but tiring and Wednesday my legs felt pretty heavy. I was not overly enthused about the gym and decided to run to work instead. It was a fairly cool morning and the beautiful day and views from the bridge more than made up for my general lethargy. The tempo on Thursday wasn’t bad, and I skipped the easy run/cross train workout on Saturday and brewed beer instead. (It’s a black saison, which is now bubbling away happily in the basement.)
On Sunday morning, the smell of the malt syrup and hops still lingered in the apartment when I left for my long run. I was planning to do the Prospect-Central Park run again, but made a few adjustments to the route to avoid the New York Triathlon that was staging in Riverside Park. Sunday was perfect summer run weather as far as I was concerned–overcast, light rain, and about 65 degrees. I made good time through the Brooklyn section and started over the bridge around 8:20. I saw a few police officers wielding orange flags as I passed the halfway point, but no one stopped me and there didn’t seem to be any blockades to pedestrian or bike traffic. As I came down the slope to the off ramp in Manhattan, though, I saw a wall of runners forming a starting line up ahead. Two bagpipers were piping away enthusiastically, and I figured the start was imminent.
I jumped up on a lamp pedestal behind a race photographer just as the gun went off, and waited 4-5 minutes while several hundred runners took off toward Brooklyn. Once the flow had stemmed to a trickle of walkers, I jumped into the fray and made may way 100 yards upstream and off the bridge. From City Hall Plaza it was a short jaunt across Chambers to the Hudson River Greenway. I met a friend just before the turnoff to Columbus Circle and Central Park.
By the time we got there, the the triathlon run was in full swing and going the opposite direction we were, so we got to enjoy lots of cheering spectators and the energy of the triathletes as they entered the home stretch of their race. I was able to finish strong through the Harlem Hills, and ended up averaging a 9:02 split. Having someone to act as a pacer with fresh legs at the end of my long runs for the past few weeks has been a huge help, and I hope I’ll be able to maintain the same intensity without one in the race. Then again, maybe I just need to make a fast friend on the run.
Sunday was the first time in recent memory that I was nervous before a long run. I think it was a combination of having last week’s pain still fresh in my mind, along with a somewhat sluggish easy run on Saturday morning that had me worried what Sunday’s 20 would bring. I slept badly and dragged myself out of bed at 5:45 to feed the kitten and make breakfast. I was thrilled to see solid cloud cover and hoped the temperature wouldn’t climb too much in the coming hours. Thankfully, the clouds hung around and the weather stayed cool and breezy all morning. I ended up having perfect conditions for what turned out to be a really lovely run.
Maybe it’s just the architect in me, but one thing I love about urban long runs is having the opportunity to experience whole swaths of the city in a continuous flow. I always enjoy seeing how neighborhoods merge into each other (or don’t), and how the urban scale changes and shifts. I planned my route for the 20-miler around New York’s two great parks–Prospect and Central, but I was also looking forward to all the parts in between.
The Caveboy had decided to join me for the park portions, and we started out with the usual run up Union to Prospect. We did only one lap this week, and it felt great to turn out into Grand Army Plaza knowing that I would not have to contend with the Mt. Prospect hill any more that day. From there the Caveboy hopped on the train and I turned down Flatbush Ave to Atlantic, then to Court and on to the Brooklyn Bridge.
The combination of the early hour and the clouds seemed to be keeping the tourists at bay, and I relished the chance to run the bridge without having to constantly dodge pedestrians, bicycles, and tourists taking selfies. Once over the bridge, I cut across Lower Manhattan to the Hudson River Greenway, taking in the view along the water. I should note that I had mistakenly plugged my Garmin into a non-charging port on my computer the night before, so my battery died somewhere around mile 13. I still had Map My Run going on my phone in my waist pack, but I had no real-time pace data for the second half the run. I had a bit of a headwind along the water and by that point in the run, I really had no idea if I was running 8:15 or 10:15 miles. Whatever it was, I was in a pretty comfortably rolling-along pace, so I just went with it and hoped I would end up in the ball park of the 9:32’s I was shooting for.
Pretty as it was, the 5 miles along the Greenway were probably the most monotonous of the whole run, and I was grateful that I had a friend to meet me at 65th Street, where we turned east and headed for Central Park. The Caveboy was waiting for us there and provided fresher legs for pacing. My route had us looping around the south end of the park, then up the east side, around to the west, and ending around 86th Street, near my friend’s apartment. I figured that if I could get through the Harlem Hills at mile 18 or so, it would be a good sign, training-wise. The Caveboy set out at what seemed like a pretty good clip, though again, I couldn’t tell how much my perception of pace was being colored by fatigue at that point. Overall, I felt really good, though–definitely better than last week’s 18 or my first 20-miler.
The time in the park went by much quicker than I expected, and before I knew it, the hills were upon us. I managed the first two climbs without too much trouble, and really only dragged on the final hill, which at least set up a nice downhill finish. My friend rallied me for a final kick at the end, after which I happily laid down on a bumpy, acorn-strewn patch of dirt under an oak tree and put my feet up.
I’ve been wanting to revive the blog for ages, but there’s been a lot going on and I’ve had too many balls in the air to really give it the attention that I think it deserves. In the past year I’ve moved to New York and embarked on a new chapter of my career, this time as a part owner of a new firm. Running has been my constant and has really saved my sanity at times, and I’ve also significantly revamped my training this season, with great results so far. I’m looking forward to outlining my new approach on the blog, as well as some nutrition tweaks I’ve been exploring. I’ll be getting down to brass tacks in later posts, but for now I’ll start with my broader strategy and goals for this season.
After working through the IT band injury last year, I felt like I still had a lot of work to do on my mental game. I was incredibly frustrated and disappointed to have put all the work into training for the marathon and then have it all fall apart when I was so close to the goal. It was almost a year before I raced again, and it took even longer for me to get my fire back. I’ve long struggled with putting too much pressure on my performance and having major pre-race nerves as a result. The marathon debacle really made it clear that I needed to reevaluate how I was approaching not just my racing, but my running in general.
I run to get stronger, to manage my stress, and for the primitive joy in it. I’m also the type of person who loves keeping score, logging miles, and tracking my stats. I thought that all the numbers and goal-setting was the problem, and I tried just not racing to see if I enjoyed it more without the pressure of competition. I immediately got bored and slow. After really thinking hard about it and looking back at my most inspired (and most successful) periods of running, I realized that what I really needed were better goals.
Step 1 was to figure out my season. My sometimes-coach and mentor suggested that I try more racing to get over my race nerves by making it make it more routine, “like going to work.” I laid out a schedule with the goal of racing every 6-8 weeks through the winter and spring. I picked mostly half marathons and 10K’s (my favorite distances), as it would allow me to focus and get into a training groove and then just tweak and reset between races. I ended up with the schedule below. There may be a few more shorter fun runs thrown in this summer, these are the main events:
2014 Race Schedule
January 25, 2014 – Brrr-ooklyn Hot Chocolate Half, Prospect Park – PR 1:55:12
March 16, 2014 – NYC Half, Central Park – PR 1:52:46
April 5, 2014 – Scotland Run 10K, Central Park – PR 50:51
May 17, 2014 – Brooklyn Half, Prospect Park
June 1, 2014 – Celebrate Israel Run, Central Park
June 22, 2014 – Queens 10K, Flushing Meadows
September 28, 2014 – Bronx Run
October 18, 2014 – Baltimore Marathon
The schedule culminates in the Baltimore Marathon, and I wanted to come up with a training plan that would I looked back at my training when I had PR’ed previously (the advantage to keeping meticulous records), and analyzed what worked. My best running had been on a modified version of the plan in Run Less, Run Faster by Bill Pierce, Scott Murr, and Ray Moss. I like the structure of their training, which gives incredibly detailed workouts based upon a goal race pace. I’ve been following their tables since last fall and incrementally adjusting my race goals after each cycle. I’ve been thrilled with the results and have PR’ed each of my races so far this year. (I have some thoughts on why their approach works for me, and what the downsides are, but more on that later.) I’ve also hired a personal trainer who I see once a month to help with strength training and injury prevention. This week, my training looks like this:
Tuesday: Intervals – 2×3200 @ 8:04/mi pace w/400 RI
Thursday: Tempo – 5mi @ 8:19 pace
Sunday: Long – 12mi @ 8:48 pace
This morning’s intervals were glorious, and if the weather holds, tomorrow’s easy run will be a run commute to and from work over the Brooklyn Bridge. There will be more in the coming weeks on training, strength, and nutrition, so check back soon!