Palisades trails

Trail, bare trees, and the Hudson River.

If you take the subway to 175th Street in Washington Heights (northern Manhattan), cross the George Washington Bridge into New Jersey, and take a right, you’re all of a sudden in the woods, running on dirt trails along the Palisades cliffs and spotting deer, hawks, and other runners and hikers. It’s great! I did 9.5 miles out at the Palisades last weekend and it was just lovely.

The trails aren’t quite as technical and the elevation doesn’t change as much as it will in the 50k on Bear Mountain, but it’s still a good workout and a nice change from running park trails. There’s no water available in the winter (and only a single water fountain I’m aware of in summer) so you need to carry whatever you need. There are two main trails – the Long Path along the cliff tops, and the Shore Path down by the edge of the river. I almost always stick to the Long Path, running an out-and-back, but I suppose going back and forth between the two on the handful of connector trails would give some good elevation gain. Maybe next time.

Looking north along the Hudson River.

Bear Mountain 50k: I’m doing this!

For a few years now I’ve had my eye on Rainshadow Running’s Gorge Waterfalls 50k in Oregon as a race that I really want to run as my first 50k. I entered the lottery for the spring 2017 race but didn’t get picked. Now the spring 2018 race has, sadly, been canceled due to the terrible fire this summer. But I’m in a spot right now where I feel like I have the time and energy to train for a 50k. So? Plan B: the North Face Endurance Challenge Series 50k on Bear Mountain, New York, May 5, 2018. I’ve registered and this is my first week of training.

Logistics: This will (duh) be my first race longer than a marathon. 50k = approximately 31 miles, so around 5 miles longer if all goes as planned. The elevation gain will likely be around 4,500 feet across the 31 miles. To put that in context, the Breakneck Point half marathon I ran this spring had about 4,500 feet of elevation gain across 13 miles. I’m not saying Bear Mountain won’t be hard, but the climbing won’t be as fricking insane as it was at Breakneck. Race start time is 7 a.m. and a ten-hour cutoff means I’ll need to finish by 5 p.m. All during daylight; no headlamp needed. I would love to average 12- or 13-minute miles, but even 15-minute miles on average would keep me well under the cutoff.

Training: For a training plan, I’m using the “first 50k” plan from Krissy Moehl’s Running Your First Ultra. The book itself is a little sparse and could’ve used some editorial work, but the plan seems very solid, built on four-week cycles of three weeks of increasing workload then one week of recovery, with weekly totals that aren’t daunting except for two or three weeks near the end. It’s a 24-week plan so it will be the longest I’ve ever trained for a specific event. I’m going to include as much strength work as I can and also focus on quality daily nutrition (vegetarian always, vegan when possible) and getting tons of sleep. I’m lucky that there are trails right here in Prospect Park that I can use for mid-week runs and speed/hillwork. I’m hoping to get out of town most weekends, by train or bus, to run on Bear Mountain itself or around the Cold Spring/Beacon area.

I don’t really want to post a weekly training log but maybe I’ll post one for every four-week cycle. And hopefully I’ll post about some of the trails I get out to run on, outside the city. Plus general ramblings about gear, nutrition, and general preparation. Here I go!

Portland Marathon race report

Ready to run! This picture makes me so happy.

Here’s my attempt at a quick (and very delayed) summary of the Portland Marathon. It was a fun race, and I’m glad I did it. My final time was 4:47:44. That’s about a 7-minute PR. I’m happy to have beat my last marathon time, but I was really hoping to keep a more steady pace toward the end and finish in 4:30:00 or faster. Didn’t happen. Training was solid, but I think nutrition during the race didn’t go so well. I was too amped up and didn’t take enough calories in. Adrenaline does not get you through 26 miles. Ever.

The race was well organized, despite a lot of uncertainty in the months before the race about permits, and the weather was good. My dad, my husband, and a friend were all running it as their first marathon. The out-and-back course (with a bonus mini out-and-back in mile 3) meant we saw each other a few times and passed around some high fives. My entire family came to cheer, unexpectedly (I’d assume between twin nephews and an hour drive into Portland that wouldn’t work out). Grandma, Mom, two sisters, and toddlers holding signs in their double stroller right before mile 26? Best cheer section you could ask for.

I kept a solid pace of 10:15s for the first 16 miles or so. I should have kept these closer to 10:30s, but I was having so much fun! There was music along the course, and a lot of spectators considering it’s a smaller race. But then around mile 17 I started…slowing…down. I ran the whole thing, no walk breaks, but I was pushing into the 13:00/mile zone by the final miles and really hurting. I’m bummed about that. I need to be smarter about taking in calories during the ENTIRE race. I’m thinking Tailwind might be a good idea – it worked great at the Breakneck Point half which was a shorter distance but almost the same amount of time on my feet, and I didn’t feel crashed at all then. Also I think road running is just a LOT harder on my body.

Anyway, it’s done. I got sick right after and took a solid 3 weeks off to recover. I’ll run NYC next year, either pacing Frans or pushing for a new PR … we’ll see.

Portland Marathon training week 16 of 16

Monday 10/2/17: Off.

Tuesday 10/3/17: 3 miles easy, watch-free.

Wednesday 10/4/17: 4 miles in the park with a few friends, picking up the pace a little in the second half.

Thursday 10/5/17: Off.

Friday 10/6/17: 3 miles easy.

Saturday 10/7/17: Off.

Sunday 10/8/17: Portland Marathon! 26.7 miles on my watch. First two-thirds was amazing, second third was more of a struggle than I expected. Sigh. Still a PR. I will probably write a race report soon.

Totals: Running 36.7 miles

Portland Marathon training weeks 14-15 of 16

I’m combining two weeks because I forgot to post the first one!

Monday 9/18/17: Off, just light yoga and vigorous foam rolling after work. I’m feeling pretty rough after Sunday’s long run.

Tuesday 9/19/17: Easy 5 miles

Wednesday 9/20/17: Off.

Thursday 9/21/17: Off.

Friday 9/22/17: 8 miles at a good clip (tempo-ish?)

Saturday 9/23/17: Partying at a wedding most of the day.

Sunday 9/24/17: Too tired (and slightly hungover) to get myself out for a run, so I pushed it to Monday.

Totals: 13 miles running, though counting Monday’s 12 it would be 25 miles running.

Monday 9/25/17: 12 miles in the park before work, 10:36 avg pace.

Tuesday 9/26/17: Off.

Wednesday 9/27/17: Two short tempos (1.5 miles each around 10:00/mile) for 6 miles total.

Thursday 9/28/17: Off.

Friday 9/29/17: Easy 4 miles. Cooler weather feels amazing!

Saturday 9/30/17: 10 miles on my bike.

Sunday 10/1/17: Final “long” run: 7.5 miles.

Totals: 29.5 miles running (would make better sense to subtract Monday’s long run and call it 17), plus 10 miles biking.

Portland Marathon training week 13 of 16

After this week, it’s taper time!

Monday 9/11/17: Easy run after work was cut short because I felt frickin’ seasick. The only reason I can think of is that I had an eye exam on the way home from work, and the doc used some eyedrops that might have affected something balance-related. 2.5 miles. Ugh.

Tuesday 9/12/17: Off.

Wednesday 9/13/17: Morning 400s! Warmed up, ran 8×400, was about the run the final interval when a woman who had found a scared, slightly scratched up lost dog in the park asked me to help her sort the dog out. Sweet dog, and we managed to find the owners and everyone was tearfully, happily reunited … but this was my second run of the week that was cut short! Good news is there was none of the nausea I was feeling Monday evening.

Thursday 9/14/17: Off, and feeling a little pain from the 400s (or maybe from the lack of cooldown?).

Friday 9/15/17: Easy 3 miles before work.

Saturday 9/16/17: Off.

Sunday 9/17/17: Final long-long run. The humidity has been WAY up this weekend and this was tough. 20 miles in 4 hours even, for a 12:00/mile pace. I’m not entirely happy with that pace, but just getting it done was a struggle, so there it is.

Totals: 29.4 miles running.

Portland Marathon training week 12 of 16

Very happy to find Bush Terminal Park. Mile 7 or so of Sunday’s long run.

Monday 9/4/17: Off. Legs feeling trashed from the duathlon.

Tuesday 9/5/17: 4 miles easy before work, with a nice sunrise!

Wednesday 9/6/17: Off. I think the duathlon broke my right quad?

Thursday 9/7/17: Feeling a lot better. 4.5 miles with some tempo-ish pace in the middle. Slightly sore at the end but not hurting like Wednesday.

Friday 9/8/17: 4 easy miles before work.

Saturday 9/9/17: Mostly off, but quite a bit of walking in the Labor Parade in Manhattan.

Sunday 9/10/17: 17 miles: a little bit in the park then following the same route as last week down to Coney Island. Bonus: finally finding Bush Terminal Park in Industry City. It was a beautiful detour!

Totals: 29.5 running, gotta get back on my bike now.

New York City Duathlon

Final run. My running form is mid-collapse and I am exhausted and soaking wet but LOOK AT THAT SMILE.

I signed up for the New York City Duathlon 6 months ago, despite the fact that it would take place during the final stretch of marathon training. What was I thinking?

Well, I’d been intrigued by the idea of a duathlon for a while. A bunch of my running club friends are getting into triathlons, and while the swim leg doesn’t appeal to me (I like swimming, but more in a flopping-casually-around-in-the-ocean sort of way, and there’s no way I have time to get myself to a pool regularly), I love both biking and running, so why not combine the two in a race? So that’s what I was thinking.

But … marathon training. Yeah. I started out with high hopes of getting two quality bike rides in each week, in addition to my four weekly runs, and that worked for a while, but then it was just one bike ride a week, and before I knew it, I hadn’t been on my bike in a month and the duathlon was right around the corner. Eek. I almost bailed, thinking it was just stupid to go in with basically no bike training. But then a friend texted offering a ride to the race (plus support and cheering during it), and someone pointed out I’m really comfortable on my bike, even if it’s gathered a little bit of dust lately, and I decided to go through with it.

The only duathlon-specific training I did was two days before the race, when I convinced my ever-accommodating husband to set up camp (as in, his folding camp chair) in the park and watch over a transition area I put together so I could go through all the motions of the race. I arranged my bike, helmet, bike shoes, and gloves, then took off for a half-mile run. After the run I swapped shoes, got my bike gear on, and rode a little loop of the park. Back at base, I dropped the bike, switched shoes again, and went out for another half-mile run. I returned triumphant and convinced that at least I wouldn’t die during the race.

Race day dawned and it was raining, but not as heavily as it had been earlier. We loaded bikes onto the bike rack, drove to Central Park (it’s easy to find parking at 6:30am!), and started sorting ourselves out. I picked up my timing chip, which goes around the ankle with velcro, racked my bike in the right spot, and fiddled with the layout of my helmet, gloves, running shoes, and plastic bags (for rain protection) under my bike. I should’ve taken my bike out for a quick spin – there was plenty of time – but I was nervous and didn’t really think of it. Participants trickled in – we counted around 200 on the registration list but they definitely didn’t all show up. Everything was friendly and well-organized. An announcer talked us through the course, the national anthem was played over the sound system, I started feeling cold and decided to just run in my gloves instead of putting them on later, and then suddenly we were all on our way to the start line.

Leg 1: 2.2-mile run. The run portion was an out-and-back, starting uphill on Cat Hill. I took off aiming for a pace between 9:00 and 9:30, but eventually settled into more of a mid-8:00 groove. Which was sustainable for 2 miles, no problem, but made me nervous in the overall context. Run 1 official time: 19:34 for 9:19/mile pace (but on my watch, 19:25 over 2.28 miles for a 8:32/mile pace).

Transition 1: Felt reasonably quick and controlled, though untying and retying shoes takes time! 1:11.

Leg 2: 12-mile bike. Wheee! Okay, I LOVE going as fast as I can on my bike. Two loops of Central Park is a hard course, and the hills kicked my butt (see: didn’t train), but I did my best to conserve energy by being smart with my gears. The road was slick and the rain was picking up toward the end, so I was cautious on the big downhills and even braked once or twice. I went through my entire bottle of water during the bike ride. Official bike time 45:55 for a 15.7 mph pace (15.9 mph on my watch).

Transition 2: My first experience of rubber legs. Wow. As I jogged my bike through the transition area to my rack I was yelling, “This feels so weird!” over and over. Then I got to the rack and found a dude in my spot with his bike upside-down, fixing a flat. What to do? I looked around frantically then finally just leaned my bike against a fence, and a volunteer told me that was fine, but I had to grab my shoes from underneath flat-tire guy, which I apologized for (really, he should’ve been apologizing, right?, but I was a little loopy), and I swapped shoes and headed out on the run, took a wrong turn, got sorted out by more volunteers (thank you!), and ran at a weird stumbling pace back up Cat Hill. 1:12 for the transition. I think the wrong-turn business got counted as part of the run leg.

Leg 3: 2.2-mile run. My legs are broken! The rain is crashing down! Everything is uphill! I am so hungry! I felt pretty disastrous for the first half mile but then my legs started working a little better and I realized I was so close to the finish and was going to make it. The rain got heavier by the minute, and my stomach was growling at this point, but I passed a few people and managed to stay at a pace just under 9:00/mile. The downhill stretch to the finish line was fun. Run 2 official time: 19:56 for 9:29/mile pace (but on my watch, 8:43/mile pace).

Results: I finished 60/104 overall, 14/38 for women, and 4/9 in my age group, with a final time of 1:27:50. I’m really happy with those results and with the fact that I stayed strong through the whole race and didn’t fade (much) at the end.

Gear: I wore capris and a short-sleeved tech shirt. This was warm enough, even with the rain. A little padding would’ve been nice – I might look at tri shorts if I do this again. My Giant road bike is nothing special but it’s like my two-wheeled best friend. I rode clipped in with a pair of Giro lace-up shoes, and I ran in a lightweight pair of Brooks. Regular old helmet and bike gloves. Sunglasses were not necessary in the gloomy weather.

Lessons learned: Next time I might bring a little food for the bike leg, or at least put Tailwind in a water bottle. Having friends at the race for support is the BEST. Duathlons are super fun, but you should train for them. I’ll definitely be doing another one.

Portland Marathon training week 11 of 16

We’ve had a couple of cooler weeks now and it feels sooooo good.

Monday 8/28/17: Off.

Tuesday 8/29/17: 4 miles easy before work, plus heel dips.

Wednesday 8/30/17: Evening intervals: warmup, then 9×800 at marathon pace (between 9:45 and 10:00/mile), then cooldown. Just 30 seconds jog between intervals. I really enjoyed this workout.

Thursday 8/31/17: Off.

Friday 9/1/17: Practice run for Sunday’s (gulp!) duathlon. This was just a half day at work, so in the afternoon I took my bike, my duathlon gear, and my helpful husband to the park to do a dry run of all the transitions. Half-mile run, 2.6-mile bike, half-mile run, switching shoes between legs. This was also my first time using duathlon mode on my watch! Everything went smoothly, it was surprisingly fun, and I’m feeling much less nervous about Sunday.

Saturday 9/2/17: Semi-long run with running buddy F. We added a new leg through Industry City to an otherwise regular route down to Coney Island. 14 miles, avg 10:58/mile, final mile in 9:24. Soaked our legs in the ocean at the end, grabbed coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and hopped on the subway home.

Sunday 9/3/17: New York City Duathlon – my first-ever duathlon, and in the rain, no less! 2.2 miles run, 12 miles bike, 2.2 miles run. I had a blast. Race report coming soon, if I can figure out something more coherent than “This was really fun!” to say about it.

Totals: 30.4 miles running, 15 miles biking.

Portland Marathon training week 10 of 16

Total solar eclipse. This blew my mind.

An eclipse!

Monday 8/21/17: Both Grandma’s birthday AND a total solar eclipse, followed by a 3.5-mile recovery run. On hills. Of course.

Tuesday 8/22/17: Flying back to NY.

Wednesday 8/23/17: Evening tempo stuff: 1 mile warmup, 2 miles around 10:00/mile, minute jog, 1 mile around 9:20/mile, minute jog, 1 mile around 9:15/mile, 1 mile cooldown. Hard work but it felt good.

Thursday 8/24/17: Off because I was too lazy to get up and climb before work.

Friday 8/25/17: Easy 4 miles before work.

Saturday 8/26/17: Off.

Sunday 8/27/17: Serious long run! 18 miles, across the Manhattan Bridge and then up the Hudson River Greenway all the way to Harlem. Slightly slower than planned, but the initial pace felt very sustainable and I picked up the pace to 10:00/mile average for the final 2 miles. Average pace 11:27/mile.

Totals: 32 miles running and that’s all! 6 weeks until the marathon.