Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trail Running Iz Hard

NEW POLL UP -> Vote!


I'm still here, by the way. The last week has been crazy and my workouts have reflected that. I'm starting to worry about the 70.3 but have decided that I'll give it a couple more weeks to see if I can't settle into a better routine before I think about reconsidering.

As for the Easter Marathon, it turned into the Easter Half Marathon. It was still a great race, though. The vibe was fantastic. Since it's a free trail race in the Bronx, it was very laid back and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. One thing I underestimated in a major way was what kind of impact the whole trail thing would have on my running. I've been told that trail running is hard. On an intellectual level, this makes a lot of sense. There's less pavement and therefore less surface regularity, for starters. But no matter how much sense anything makes, I tend to learn things the hard way.

At the very least, I decided not to bring my Vibrams to the race. While packing up to go in the morning, it occurred to me to bring them along and do maybe a lap in them. Thank goodness I decided against that. There were rocks, trees, mud and water all along the trail. I probably would have struggled to make it through a lap in them. I barely completed two laps in regular shoes!

I arrived at the race already intending not to do the marathon. I was tired, unexpectedly partner-less, and very late to the start of the race. But I thought a half would still be a good run for the day. As I was putting my things down and getting ready to start, I saw a person signing the 10k book (the race is technically three distance options, 10K, Half Marathon, Marathon). As I picked up a number from the table, she asked if I was doing the 10K. I replied no and informed her of my intention of running the half marathon. She said that's what she had planned to do also but that she was probably just going to stick with the 10K.

I didn't think much of it and began the loop. First of all, the race course was marked with orange tape. It was well-marked but did require some attention in order to avoid going the wrong way. Anyone who knows me will tell you that, when it comes to paying attention, saying I'm bad at it would be putting it mildly. Needless to say, I got lost approximately three times along the trail. Fortunately for me, there was someone in the relatively near vicinity each time who yelled at me to turn around or take the other left or go up and not down the hill and so on and so forth. That beginning part was challenging, but fun, as it took us through the foresty parts of Van Cortlandt Park. After that the route came back for a short segment back on the same pavement area where we started, but rather than taking a turn for the start line, we turned right back into the woods for what was certainly the most challenging set of hills I've run all year. It was one after the other, with some so steep that even people who looked like elite runners had to walk up one or two of them.

The loop ended mercifully after that part and it was back to the beginning. After that lap, I was right there with the girl I'd met when I arrived in being ready to call it a day. I signed the 10K book and everything. But the fact that I was about to give up on the second loop kept eating at me! I stayed longer than I would have otherwise. Just as I was about to leave, someone walked up to me and asked how it went. It was the girl from the beginning! She said that she immediately regretted only doing one lap after telling me and so did a second. I thought if she could do it then I definitely had one more lap in me. So I set out for round 2! Classic runner experience.

The second lap was lonely but I was definitely glad I did it. Even though I didn't complete the full marathon, I accomplished what I'd set out to do that morning. And a half marathon on Easter ain't half bad, if I may say so.

Well, this post is getting a bit long. Before I go, though, here's a streak summary:

4/17 - Phoebe Loop, 4/18 - 6-7 miles with NYRR and running to a comedy show, 4/19 - Phoebe Loop, 4/20 - Run home, 4/21 - Phoebe Loop, 4/22 - Run home, 4/23 - Quidditch, 4/24 - Half Marathon, 4/25 - 5 miles with NYRR, 4/26 - Phoebe Loop. Too many Loops! Ah, well. I'll get my act together in the coming weeks.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


The quality of my workouts has been too sporadic recently. I really need to get started on my half Ironman training plan ASAP. Bearing that in mind, I will cover my last two streak runs. Also, earlier in the week I considered why I don't write about my runs every day. The truth of the matter is that I don't always have time! I know it shouldn't be too hard to come up with a few words and the MapMyRun map, but I still have difficulty not posting something at least somewhat thought-out and cohesive.

Since this whole streak thing began, I've gotten much better about planning what I like to call a functional commute. This simply means running somewhere I have to be anyway, where I would normally either walk or take the subway. On Friday, this happened to be a friend's apartment.

The run itself was interesting. Again, I had my backpack as we were going out afterward, but I'm getting increasingly comfortable with doing that. It wasn't so bad.

Yesterday the quidditch team went up to New Haven for a scrimmage against Yale. They were very gracious hosts and it was a really good, albeit long day. Just before we left, the weather took a turn for the worse and didn't let up, even in the city. Although I probably ran a mile while playing quidditch, I'm always a little insecure about that and how much running actually took place. For good measure, I ran home from the train station:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thank Goodness

This is a shorty. Just a quick record of my run today, which was a Phoebe loop because I had other things this evening as well. Today is technically Friday, so everyone enjoy!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guinea Pig Workout

Today I went for a workout with Jared, who recently began working as a personal trainer. He wanted to try out a workout he created for a client tomorrow and I was more than happy to be the guinea pig. The workout ran long, so I didn't do all of it, but the idea was that it simulated a triathlon. My warmup was as follows:

10x up and down a flight of stairs
20 jumping jacks, jumping jack squats, and twist mountain climbers
8x up and down a flight of stairs
18 jumping jacks, jumping jack squats, and twist mountain climbers
6x up and down a flight of stairs
16 jumping jacks, jumping jack squats, and twist mountain climbers

After that we began the swim portion, which was a series of core exercises, mostly focused on the plank. After that we did some pull-up and push-up exercises. The last thing was a ride on the bike, which alternated sprints at a really low resistance (1-4) and a steady pace at a massive resistance (20-25). While I was sprinting, I also had to do exercises with a 10lb weight in each hand. It was pretty tough.

The workout was great and lasted just about an hour. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to do the run, so I had to get my streak run in by running home from the gym. I was even wearing my backpack! By the way, I love my backpack because it's ginormous and has Tony the Tiger on the front.

Unfortunately, it's not long for this world because one of the straps is about to detach from the top. I'm toying with trying to fix it, though, because I love it. Anyway, here's my run home:

Today's Streak Run

It occurred to me that I might be more transparent with my streak runs. Also, why wouldn't I post my run every day? It's an automatic daily entry for me. So here is today's run. It's a Phoebe loop extended to the Upper East Side. I managed to get out and in while it wasn't raining, which I consider a victory.

I also forgot to mention that yesterday was the second installment of NYRR's Run and Learn series. This week we did the usual 3ish mile run and then learned some yoga for runners from an instructor at lululemon. It was interesting. I'm still not ready to do yoga on the regular, but it's always cool to do something interesting. The run was fast, but maybe not as fast as last week.

Lastly, I want to congratulate all my friends who have recently completed a couple of half marathons. Congrats to my boot camp buddies who completed the Big D half marathon this past Sunday and to my friend Meghan who ran the Great Bay Half Marathon the Sunday before. Great job, guys!

PS - A new poll is up. Cast your vote!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Natural Movement: Sounds Weird But Is Really Cool

Saturday brought yet another full-length day of running and quidditch. At 10:30 in the morning I met Jared, a few members of the team, and the Barefoot Running club, which now gathers with a Natural Movement Meetup group that I've now joined. We met at the southwest corner of Columbus Circle. I was running late, unfortunately, so didn't have time to put on my Vibrams. It was fine, though. The whole idea behind natural movement is that you do a lot more running on trails and natural surfaces than on concrete. Maybe it was better that I wore regular shoes for my first time doing this. Aside from the running itself, the natural movement group incorporates nature into its workouts in other ways as well. These include climbing trees, walls, rocks; jumping over or on benches, etc. In Central Park I suppose it's a strange mixture of parkour and natural movement, but still. At various points, we were climbing trees, playing tag, bouldering, passing logs back and forth, lunging across a field, etc. It was a great workout and so enjoyable because it involved doing things I hadn't done in years. Quidditch was good too, as usual, even though we played with modified rules that involve less running.

Today (technically yesterday, but who's counting) is my third Runniversary. That is, it's been three years to the day since I ran the 10k that started me on my running and triathlon odyssey. It was called the Skunk Cabbage Classic and omg I just realized it's now a half marathon, too! You go, Finger Lakes Running Club. Anyway, it was a gorgeous run. And how could it not be, Ithaca is Gorges, after all (sorry, sorry, I couldn't resist). Here is a link to the route. It's a half marathon, but the 10k had much of the beginning portion in common. I finished in 1:06:56. And I'll tell you something else, I was damn proud of each of those six 11-minute miles. I still am. When I started training for that race in February of 2008, I struggled to run 3 miles on the treadmill, sometimes having to dial the speed back to under 5.0 mph. It was a humbling experience. I didn't really consider myself a runner until a good year and a half after that 10k because it wasn't something I thought I could claim until I had the numbers to back it up. I was absolutely wrong about that. Being a runner isn't about a certain pace or how many PRs you set in a year. It's about getting out there on the road or on the treadmill, putting one foot in front of the other, and pushing yourself a little faster or farther as time goes on, no matter what that distance or speed is.

Running is different things for different people. Exercise, a release, distraction, victory, pain, pride, vindication, glory. It's what it needs to be for those who accept it as a challenge. And those who do accept it find themselves in a community of people who not only care about their own success, but that of their fellow runners, as well. Part of the magic of the New York City Marathon is that the community unites with 2 million residents of the city in this spirit. On that day, 2 million spectators and 44,000 fellow marathoners, most of them complete strangers, are united in their desire for each runner to cross the finish line. And, even though it's an extraordinary example, this spirit typifies the one you'd find at any race, from the marathon to a local 5k.

These are just a few of the things I've come to understand in my three years as a runner. I'm hardly a veteran, but I'm not afraid to say I've been around the block a few times. Literally, of course. The Phoebe loop doesn't run itself, you know. To all you beginners out there, keep it up. Do your thing. You're a runner, and don't let anyone (including yourself) tell you otherwise.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Vote, Plz!

To the right, you'll see my poll about stretching. Please vote! If I get enough votes, I'll be able to plan posts around the results and I think that would be helpful. As workouts go, I'm approaching my 60 day streak mark. Yesterday I did a 5k along the Upper East Side. I think I did it in about 27 minutes but again, timing is fuzzy.

Another cool anniversary is also coming up! On April 11th, it will be two years since I ran my first marathon and three years since my first 10k, which was the first race for which I ever trained (aside from high school). I'll have to do some introspection on both of those things, as they were momentous occasions in my running career. For now, though, I need to take Phoebe for a walk.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pillow Fight, Quidditch, and Awesome Run

I enjoy a good pillow fight as much as the next person, but I was not prepared for what awaited me on Saturday when I headed down to Union Square with six other members of the quidditch team. Feathers and fuzz swirled in the air; it was mayhem! Wielding pillows, we entered the fray to find a diverse pillow fighting crowd. Many people wore pajamas. Two guys even had on full body spandex suits, one green, one blue. And anyone wearing anything even slightly conspicuous dramatically increased the likelihood that they would be whacked. I'm definitely glad Jared convinced me to abandon my favorite post-quidditch locale, Toast, in order to broaden my horizons.

Practice was pretty decent, too. We warmed up by doing five repetitions of this massive hill in Riverside Park. For any of you Plano Boot Camp readers, I'm sure this workout would have been a walk in the park. Admittedly, my hillwork has been lacking in recent months, so I found it to be quite challenging. After the hill, we went straight into the usual out and back Dino Park run, which is slightly over a mile (thereby taking care of my streak requirement for the day). We then went straight into scrimmaging and did conditioning afterward. As usual, Jared had a fiendish circuit workout planned. He calls it Animal Crackers, though I know fearless boot camp leader T calls it Animal Kingdom. I'm including a diagram below. Please enjoy my super advanced Microsoft Paint skillz.

We did fifteen minutes of that. Most of it is fine for me, but the crabwalk KILLS me and it takes me forever to do it all the way down the field. OH, and we had to combat these things, which makes crabwalking and bear crawling quite painful if you're not careful:

Stupid spiky balls. To be fair, I was mostly able to avoid them.

So that was Saturday. Yesterday I did a 2ish mile run that was basically the Phoebe loop with a little distance added in. That was good, but today was even better. The NYRR are doing a free run series each Monday in April which consists of a short run and then a lecture or short class on a specific topic. today was stretching, but that wasn't the best part. The best part was that I, along with an older gentleman, led the fastest pack on the first half of the run! In my vibrams! DOUBLE WIN. The run was technically supposed to be 3 miles, but they didn't actually measure it out, they just said we'd go fifteen minutes running north and then turn around. Since we were running significantly faster than 10 minutes per mile, we probably ended up doing close to 4 miles in that thirty minutes and then a total of almost five with the warmup and cooldown segments. It was fantastic. I didn't keep up the same pace for the entire run, but we were definitely flying for the first half.

The stretching part was really good, too. I'm terrible about remembering to stretch and doing it properly and long enough, so I found it very helpful and informative. I'm also really looking forward to the next few Mondays!