Looking at the forecast for this past weekend, I realized that Sunday would be the best day for a long run. Sunday had temperatures in the 40’s versus Saturday’s temperatures in the 20’s. Unfortunately, I worked on Sunday, so it was never really an option no matter how much I wanted it to be. Are you tired of me talking about cold winter? How about working on weekends? Well, lucky for you, it seems like one of those will be ending soon…and no, I’m not leaving my job. SPRING MIGHT BE HERE.
But let’s rewind first, as I still did some running in the cold over the weekend. Like most runners who have managed to get outside this winter, I was kind of over it. Didn’t want to pile on the layers. Didn’t want to do more loops of Central Park because the west side might be a skating rink. More importantly, I wanted to stay under the warm blankets.
Eric and I had afternoon plans to visit my friend and her new baby (he’s adorable, even though he tried to poop on me), so I had to get up early and get moving. I woke up at 7am and immediately made some hot coffee. I certainly could have done with a couple more hours of sleep (and therefore some warmer temperatures!), but coffee always makes the morning just a little better. A vanilla Honey Stinger waffle, banana with peanut butter, and some water, and I was set.
My last few runs have all started out with some stiff legs, requiring a few miles to warm up. Saturday was no different, as my legs were not in the mood for 18 miles. Mentally I wasn’t quite in the game either. Running 18 miles would put me at 48 miles for the week…considering I haven’t broken 40 miles/week for this training cycle, this was a bit of an unplanned pump. By “unplanned,” I clearly mean that I sometimes make my runs up on the fly, and the weekly plan doesn’t quite add up as a smart training plan would. Oops.
So anyway, my Garmin took forever to get signal…I know I live in a big city, but I thought the new version had some sort of memory for where you start from. And I start from the same 10 yards for every single run. Oh well. Despite being 18 degrees, it didn’t feel too cold out – either it wasn’t too windy or I’m getting too used to all this cold business. Away we go.
As expected, my legs were definitely not in the mood for 18 miles…my muscles were stiff and I almost felt like I was waddling along. I told myself that maybe I should do a legit long run…most running literature (not sure if “literature” is the right word…) suggests doing your long run one to two minutes slower than marathon race pace, which I’m certain I’ve never done. Despite not quite having the right footing, my pace was hanging around 8:00/mile, which I was okay with. I quickly got to the park and settled in for what would be almost three loops of the park. Two full loops, last loop I skipped Harlem Hill. For those who don’t run in the city, one loop is six miles, and skipping Harlem Hill (which is a large hill, as the name might suggest) makes it five miles.
I counted down the miles from the second I hit the park, which is no way to do a long run. My legs were still a little iffy, and I spent a couple miles wondering if I should cut the run short. Maybe I was biting off more than I should be chewing. Maybe I’ll injure myself with this mileage increase. Maybe I just don’t want to be doing this. (I recently told Eric that I was going to give up running and he said he would slap me, right then and there. I have delusional thoughts now and then.) But anyway. I chugged along because that’s what distance runners do. I kept my eye for anyone I might know – something that would perk me up out of my negative mindset. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen on loop 1, but instead I saw a bit of commotion for the set up of an NYPD/FDNY race – and lots of police in the park! Safest I’ll ever be, I suppose.
Heading into loop 2, my legs finally loosened up a bit. I also spotted Dani right away, which was a nice pick-me-up and a reminder that we need to run together one of these days! My legs kind of came out of nowhere, and my pace dropped down to 7:30-7:45…what is happening?? I suppose you know you’re a distance runner when you need a seven mile warm-up, haha. After rounding the bottom of the park, I approached Cat Hill for the second time. A bit in front of me, a guy was running with music coming out of his backpack. Normally, I hate when people play music for the rest of the world to hear…but his song?
THE EYE OF THE TIGER.
If that doesn’t get up you a hill, I don’t know what will. Thank you, sir, for your Cat Hill motivation. If only we ran the same pace so I could get that music all the time…
Most of loop two went by well, and I took a couple chews every couple miles. Life was grand, I was feeling better about running. This was, of course, until my legs felt like they couldn’t move anymore. I felt myself back hunching over (aka terrible running form), so I stopped for a minute to regroup. What I really wanted was some water – I was too lazy to bring a handheld (per usual). I pondered eating the snow, thought about running back home to get some water. Wondered why I didn’t put a couple dollars in my pocket to buy a bottle from the vendors in the park. Figuring maybe an energy burst would help, I ate some chews quickly before heading on my way. I made sure to focus on my form, which helped quite a bit. The upcoming downhill also helped, and soon enough I was on my way for loop 3.
The highlight of loop 3 was that it was shorter than the first two loops (since I cut out a mile, crazy how that works), and that I was almost done! You also know you’re a distance runner when you say, “Less than an hour to go! Hooray!” Flew around the south side of the park and then up Cat Hill (again, I KNOW). That feeling of “STOP SUSAN, PLEASE” came back, so I pulled off to the side at the top of the hill and stretched my legs for a bit. I took the end of my chews – nice that it meant that the end of my run was near, not so nice in that I could use more energy! With less than four miles to go, I told myself the end was near and to just keep pushing. My legs will be tired at the end of a marathon, and that’s when it gets tough and you need to push through.
As I mentioned, there was a NYPD/FDNY race going on, so I passed a bunch of NYPD runners. As I approached the 102nd Transverse (apparently they’re finish line), a guy on the sidelines yelled, “C’MON! THERE’S NO WALKING WHEN YOU CAN SEE THE FINISH!” at a guy who was runner, which made me laugh and think about how true it is. I turned on the 102nd Transverse, which was crowded with race people – not what you want to run through after 15 miles, but oh well.
I pushed up the hills of the west side, basically just wanted to be done. Eventually, I found myself in some sort of organized group run…and a girl was running with a speaker in her hand. I assumed it was a Nike group, and they were moving along quite well. The girl who seemed to be the leader/pacer was energetic and checking on her runners, and I’ll admit her group and the music helped me in those couple miles I was near them. Sometimes getting caught in your own thoughts in a long run can be dangerous, and I needed a break from counting down every minute. I was even able to pick it up for the final mile in the park. Check and check.
I got up and out of the park, and it’s an easy less-than-half-mile back to my apartment. HOORAY. Eric was still in bed when I got home – ha. I guess I ran enough for both of us.
Saturday, March 7 – 18.27 miles in 2:22:50, avg pace of 7:49
Not my best run, but I guess it’s a good thing my pace was still pretty good despite not feeling it at all. I definitely need to be more conscious of my weekly mileage since everything was pretty tight after making a bit of a mileage jump.
Question time…do you prefer out and back for your long runs? Big loops? Repeats of the same loop? Don’t get me wrong, I love running in Central Park and it’s great to be able to zone out, but sometimes I like a big loop where you only see everything once.