Posts tagged ‘Prospect Park’

April 14, 2015

Still Squeaky

On Sunday I had the Run For the Parks 4-miler, another NYRR race in my quest for the 9+1 and guaranteed entry for the 2016 NYC Marathon.  After a 20-mile bike ride on Saturday I was in no mood to get myself up and in Central Park by 7:45 AM for a race that—if all went well—was going to take me less an half an hour. Off I went, though, hoping that my tired legs and squeaky toe were up for it.  The subways can be kind of a crapshoot on Sunday mornings, so I allowed a lot of extra time for travel and ended up (for once) arriving a good bit early for the race.  It was still fairly cool out so I used the time to warm up and probably put in close to a mile before I started working my way to the start.  I hadn’t run since Tuesday due to the toe squeak, so I was anxious to get some strides in and feel out a good race pace before we started.  I was hoping for a pace in the low 7’s, but every time I thought I was probably approaching that and checked the Garmin, my pace was actually low 7’s/high 8’s.  It didn’t seem like the best sign, but I finally hit it and held it long enough for it to sink into my brain and then headed off to the start.

The race had a strong turnout, which is great since 100% of the proceeds go to park programs, but 8,000+ people in Central Park does get a bit crowded.  I was in the third corral thanks to my Prospect 4-miler time, and I figured having fast people around me would help a lot with the pacing.  We got off to a quick start and I focused on breathing and finding a good rhythm.  I pushed pretty hard and I really don’t remember much of the race other than trying and succeeding in overtaking some chic in a Boston Athletic Association jacket, and dropping one of my gloves half a mile from the finish.  That was upsetting because 1) they’re my favorite lucky running gloves, and 2) I knew it was stupid to try to take them off when I was that close to the end.  I clocked in at 28:55, which was 7:14 splits—30 seconds/mile better than my Prospect 4-miler in February.  As soon as I cleared the chute I worked my way back to where I dropped the glove, waited for a break in the runners, and did something resembling one of those football player drills to dart out, grab the glove off the ground, and then run back to the curb without disrupting the flow of the race.  Thus reunited with my gloves, I headed back to the finish to wait for LRB, who was running with a newbie friend.  When the results were posted it turned out that I had finished 13th in my age group and 103rd overall woman, which, given the field size, is probably my best finish ever.  It was totally the gloves.

After the race and some brunch with LRB and his friend, I hit the pool to work on the two-beat kick we had learned in class last week.  (And by “learned” I mean attempted with much awkward flailing.)  Since I had already put in a hard cardio effort I decided just to really focus on technique on the swim.  I spent 30 minutes kicking down the pool one length on my back, then working on the two-beat kick swimming back.  Since I could catch my breath on the kicking lengths, it took some of the pressure off timing the breathing with the two-beat, and by the end I felt like I was starting to get the hang of it.  I suspect that my kick form could still use some work, though.  It feels more like flinging something icky off my foot than a singular flutter kick, but I think it’s progress nonetheless.

This weekend I also officially joined the Brooklyn Tri Club, and we had our first bike workout of the season bright and early this morning.  I was able to hang with the other newbies, but I am getting my first bout of seriously cold feet for the upcoming races.  When I started this whole tri endeavor, it was the swim that scared me.  Now it’s the bike that I find myself dreading.  Despite all the time I spent on the trainer this winter, being on the road is a whole different world.  I find riding in traffic really nerve-wracking, and I still find  the feeling of being clipped in terrifying challenging.  After my ride on Saturday I decided to wear running shoes when I’m riding on the streets for the time being, and only clip in when I’m in the park or otherwise out of traffic.  That has at least eased some of the anxiety I have when cabs are whizzing by me inches from my elbow.

I’m actually surprised at how vulnerable I feel when I’m just riding fast in the park, though.  I love going fast on skis or skates, but on the bike I just keep thinking about broken bones and road rash.  This morning we were working on keeping a fast cadence and spinning on the small chain ring, and I was having a really hard time convincing myself to pedal downhill.  I hope know that a lot of this will work itself out as I get more comfortable on the bike and log some more road time.  My first sprint tri is a month away, though, and I feel woefully underprepared at the moment.  I’ve been focused on running these past few months and I still haven’t done a real brick workout, let alone an open water swim.  I need to just sit down and layout my training calendar for the next four weeks, get the key workouts scheduled, and I know I’ll feel a lot better. But between work, training, and minimal sleep requirements I can’t seem to find the time.  Also, I’m getting worried about the squeaky toe.  Before the stress fracture, I would have just run on it and not worried unless I could hear it over my ipod, but now I’m afraid of another boot-bound month and lost training hours.  I keep reminding myself that part of the reason I wanted to do the tri was for the challenge—to learn to swim properly, to get better at biking, and to do something that a few years ago I thought I could never, ever do.  Then there’s the part of me that keeps screaming, “screw this!  I just want to run!”  One of these days, she’ll come around, right?

November 18, 2014

Brooklyn Marathon Race Report

Brooklyn Marathon

Brooklyn Marathon

Months ago, when I signed up for the Baltimore Marathon, I also searched for a backup option.  This was my I-wake-up-on-race-day-with-a-stomach-flu plan B, and knowing it was there took away some of the added stress of preparing for a big race.  The Brooklyn Marathon was perfect for this, as it was less than a month after my A race, and was practically in my backyard.  The entire distance is run in Prospect Park, and while it sounded monotonous, it also meant that I knew every inch of the course.  I also know that I could easily recruit pacers for moral support.  It wouldn’t be glamorous, but it wasn’t bad for a fall back plan.

I had never envisioned running both races, but after the less than stellar day I had in Baltimore, I found myself thinking about Brooklyn again.  I really wanted another shot at the distance, partly to see if I could improve my time, but mostly to conquer my fear.  I spent so much of the race in Baltimore in such a dark place that I didn’t really want to let the memory fester until a spring race.  Brooklyn seemed like the perfect opportunity to take another shot at 26.2, but I was worried about the possibility of overtraining or injury.  After gauging my recovery for two weeks, I decided to grab a spot knowing that I could defer the registration until next year if I didn’t feel up to it in any way.

I wasn’t quite sure how to manage the build-up taper with only three weekends between races, so I winged it.  I essentially reversed my taper for two weeks, which gave one week of actual workouts, and ran a 15-miler in Prospect last Saturday at half marathon pace.  Monday I started my taper again.  On Saturday the Caveboy and I volunteered at NYRR’s 60k, so I was up at 4 AM and on my feet for about 10 hours, though I did remember to wear my compression socks at least.  I really had no idea what to expect on Sunday.  I had only run 85 miles in the almost-month since Baltimore, and 40 of that had come during my one workout week.  My 15-miler had felt great, but I wasn’t sure if I’d lost any endurance.  I was much more nervous than I would have liked.

Sunday morning I awoke to perfect conditions–overcast skies and 40 degrees with no wind.  I got dressed, then second-guessed all of the gear I had laid out the night before.  I got dressed again.  We headed over to Prospect a little before 8 and I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of a race with only 400 people.  At 8:30 we lined up at the start and were off.  The route started with 3 laps of the lower (flatter) half of the course, followed by 6 full laps.  Caveboy had agreed to run the first two lower loops with me and promised to keep me from going out too fast.  Given my uncertainty about the whole endeavor, I had decided that the A goal was to go sub 4-hours, and B was just to beat my time at Baltimore.  More than that, though, I just wanted to have a decent experience.

As nervous as I was at the starting line, the minute I started running, it all just fell away.  Maybe it’s just that running in Prospect Park is my happy place.  I started counting my breaths and steps and locked in a nice relaxed 9-minute pace.  The three flat laps flew by and soon we were climbing The Hill that would start each of the remaining full loops.  The hill–Mount Prospect–is about .4 miles at about 3% grade.  It’s not terrible, but it’s definitely long enough to make you hurt after a few laps.  The loops, while potentially monotonous, actually broke the race into nice digestible chunks, though.  I figured that the first two would be no sweat.  The third would mean I was half done with them, and by the end of the fourth there would only be two left, which seemed manageable.  Long Run Buddy had mercifully agreed to pace me for the final laps, and also promised to make sure I was drinking and taking in nutrition, which had been a problem at Baltimore.

I was resolved to learn from my previous mistakes and keep my speed in check early and on the hills. For the first few laps I aimed for easy 9’s, and deliberately slowed to 9:20-9:30 up the big hill. My legs felt good and I wasn’t really feeling the climbs at all, but I wanted to make sure that my quads weren’t shot by the time I got to laps 5 and 6. I found LRB at the start of the fourth loop and we had a quick discussion of how I was feeling and the strategy going forward. I was walking through the water station before the hill on each lap and had been taking a gu every 4 miles since mile 8. By the start of the fifth lap my legs still felt good, but I was reaching the point of not wanting to eat or drink. In Baltimore I was worried I was one of the unfortunate people who just can’t take in nutrition past mile 20 and I pretty much stopped trying. This time, I kept sipping on my water bottle and was able to put down a gu at 21. It seemed to sit okay and I felt some of the loopiness ebb as the sugar hit my system. I got up the hill on lap 5 with no drama and knew there was only one more climb to go. I still felt strong over the rest of the lap, but was beginning to feel the fatigue creeping up.

At the aid station I had a minor crisis involving my last gel, cold fingers, and a stuck zipper, which luckily pulled free before I totally lost my composure.  Once I was refueled, LRB yelled “Make this hill your bitch!” and we started the climb.  I had been expecting the last assault on the hill to be excruciating, but my legs felt miraculously good.  At the top I did some quick low-blood-sugar math and told LRB that I thought I needed 9 flats for the last three miles to get it in under 4 hours.  He picked up the pace a bit as we started a downhill stretch and I turned on my ipod for the first time and did my best to shut off my brain.  Over the next mile I started to dissociate a bit.  I could tell I had a good turnover going, but I couldn’t really feel my legs, due to either cold or fatigue.  There was a little uphill at the marker for 25 and suddenly–Whoosh–I had the biggest runner’s high of my life.  We rounded the bottom of the park and in no time we were at the turn off to the finish line on the lower loop.  I hadn’t looked at my watch since the 24th mile marker and had no idea how close I was to 4 hours.  There was another slight climb up to the 26 mile mark, but I wasn’t feeling anything at that point.  One last curve and I saw the finish line up ahead.  LRB dropped off and I kicked as hard as I could.  The gun time read 3:57:44 as I crossed.  My official time clocked in a 3:57:18; I actually managed to negative split it by almost two minutes.

I couldn’t be happier with the experience.  I actually enjoyed running this race, not just finishing it.  I know I could have run it faster, and as I crossed the finish line I realized that I probably still had a few miles left in me.  Even so, I wouldn’t change a thing.  There’s always next time.

~ModC

August 4, 2014

Only Happy When it Rains

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.)

Gray Manhattan Bridge View

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.

Brooklyn Bridge 5K

 

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.

July 21, 2014

Long Run, Now with 50% More Boroughs

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.

 

Prospect Park

Prospect Park

 

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.

 

Brooklyn Bridge, (nearly) empty

Brooklyn Bridge, (nearly) empty

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.

Hudson River Greenway

Hudson River Greenway

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.

Central Park

Central Park

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.

 

July 14, 2014

Harder than I Thought

I read a quote recently that went something like, “Most things we deem impossible are really just much, much harder than we expected.”  That kind of sums up my long run today.  I’ve been feeling a little sluggish the last few days, but when I left this morning I was confident I could get through 18 miler on my schedule.  The first red flag was that when I got up at 5:45, the thermometer in the back yard already showed 73 degrees and 75% humidity.  I’ve been really lucky that so far this summer I’ve managed to avoid long runs on days with the usual New York humidity, but my streak was apparently at an end.

After my smoothie and butter coffee I headed out on my usual route of Brooklyn Bridge Park to Prospect.  I kind of spaced out for the BBP section, which was my first mistake.  I wasn’t running crazy fast, but I was not focused on keeping my heart rate down, either.  My stomach was feeling a little sloshy, so I also didn’t drink much in the first 5-6 miles, which was Mistake #2.  When I started up Park Slope’s titular hill to Prospect I finally reined in the pace a bit, but by that point I was almost 7 miles in.  The first lap of the park went okay and I actually felt a little better than I had earlier, thanks mostly to the shade on the west side, but I was still sweating buckets.  When I came around to the more exposed eastern side I tried to control my heart rate and effort in preparation for the hill at the end of the lap.

Lap 2 steadily degraded as the temperature continued to climb.  On a side note, I’ve been toying with the idea of switching to a fat-adapted fueling approach for the marathon, and I made a coconut oil-based gel concoction to try on this run.  I had brought two regular gels and two of the coconut oil, figuring I would use some combination depending on how I was feeling.  I was getting pretty hungry by the time I got to Prospect, but fearing a mess with the homemade gels, I waited until I got to the trashcans around the south side to eat one.   I seemed to tolerate the fat just fine, though it didn’t take the edge off my hunger at all. (Mistake #3.)  I should note here that I did a little research after the run, and confirmed that in higher temperatures, the body shifts to burning a higher ratio of glycogen to fat, so this may not have been the best day to start my experiment.

By the end of Lap 2 I was starting to feel very low-blood-sugary, so I had one of the normal gels before starting the last lap.  The sugar combined with the bit of shade and downhill section of the park helped enormously, but by the time I rounded the lake at the bottom I was dragging again.  I was taking walk breaks on a lot of the uphills by that point, and was just trying to pull it together enough to get the job done.  I only had about half a mile left after I left the park, so I had a mercifully short downhill finish.  Even with all the walks at the end, I still somehow finished just under the RLRF 9:32 proscribed pace.  My watch lost two miles somewhere in Lap 2, but this graph pretty much encapsulates the suck-fest that was this run:

 

140713_Graph

Because who doesn’t like an info graphic?

 

June 30, 2014

Week 3 Recap

A few months ago I decided that I really wanted to get serious about incorporating some lifting into my training.  I’ve never done any formal strength training and I wanted to make sure I did it right and learned the proper form, so I signed up for monthly personal training sessions at my gym.  I’ve dubbed my trainer Kali the Destroyer for her brutally intense workouts, but she’s really helped me to pinpoint my weaknesses and target the muscle imbalances that can lead to injuries. I usually schedule my sessions with her with as much recovery time before my long run as possible, but thanks to my travel and work schedule, I ended up meeting her at 7AM Friday morning.  I am generally intensely sore for a couple days after a strength session, so I knew going in that I would not be fully recovered before my long run on Sunday.  I asked KtD that we go easy on the legs, and she took me through a few inclined squats for some hip-strengthening and then cooked up an unholy combination of upper body and core work for the rest of the hour.

Saturday morning dawned painfully, but thankfully I had already booked a 9AM massage. As painful as it was, I think it really did accelerate the recovery process a bit.  My core and arms were completely shot, though, and I was glad I had planned to take Saturday as a rest day.  We did a lot of walking around the city, but otherwise I just tried to hydrate well and stretch periodically.  Sunday morning I was up at 5:30 and out the door at 6:40.  It was already 70 degrees and sunny, but thankfully the humidity was pretty low.  I had 17 miles at 9:32 pace on the schedule, and I decided to start with a flat out-and-back in Brooklyn Bridge Park.  It would have been nice to finish on the flat instead, but the shade there is minimal and I knew that by running it early I would also avoid most of the crowds.  As I got warmed up it became apparent that I was, as expected, still pretty sore from Friday.  My arms were less of a concern, but I was definitely feeling my core on every grade change.

From Brooklyn Bridge Park I headed up Union to Prospect Park.  I texted the Caveboy my progress at that point, which turned out to be a useful benchmark since my Garmin filled up with data a few miles later and started autopausing intermittantly for the remainder of the run.  I guessed it was about 6.5 miles to the top of Prospect, and each lap of the park is about 3 1/3 miles.  I planned to do 3 full laps (which I promised myself would include 3 solid climbs of the Mt. Prospect hill at the end), and then would have about half a mile of downhill to finish, with another mile or so walk home to cool down.  The park laps actually went by fairly quickly, and, although I was definitely working harder in the heat, my cardio effort felt good throughout.  I was stopping for water breaks at the start of each lap, and it seemed that every time I started running again my core would tighten up and then gradually relax as I ran.  My watch was missing what I guessed to be almost two miles by the time I finished the last lap of the park, and I tried to do some conservative mental math about where I should finish.  I thought I had about .75 miles left, and after a quick walk for water I started down Union toward home, feeling pretty good and still holding my form together.  I don’t know if it was the downhill or just fatigue setting in, but after about a third of a mile my lower abs went into some kind of tired spasm.  Every inhale and every step hurt.  I slowed to a walk for 30 seconds and then started up again, determined to finish out the last half mile.  It seemed bearable for a minute or so, but then the spasm returned.  I continued to run-walk, grinding out the last bit slowly and painfully.

As it turned out when I checked MapMyRun later, I had actually finished the 17 miles near the top of the park, and ended up running about 17.6 all told, so technically the complete ab fail happened after the scheduled run was over.  I’ve never experienced anything quite like that level of muscle fatigue on a run before, and it was a good reminder of what could potentially happen in 26.2 miles.  That said, I’m pretty sure this was due to the complete shredding of my core on Friday, so I’m not overly concerned about a repeat performance right now.  Today I feel shockingly better than I did even before the run yesterday, so it does seem that I’m bouncing back quickly.  I have intervals tomorrow, but if I don’t feel 100%, I may cross train instead and push the runs out a day.  This week I have my first 20-miler of the training cycle, so the name of the game is recover, recover, recover.

ModC