Over the Bridge

Pink Laces are tied up and hitting the pavement.

It’s the end of week three of my C25K training and I’ve been alright / comfortable / motivated. I haven’t been blogging, well, because I didn’t want to jinx it.

What I truly missed while recovering from my sprain wasn’t the excess socks and sports bras in my laundry pile, or increased productivity during my day since I was kick-starting it an hour earlier and with a run, but the exhilaration of exploring my city.

It was a daily game of choose your own adventure. I could run in Central Park, along the water, under the Verrazano, down a new avenue. This afternoon I ran over the Brooklyn Bridge. It was a as crazy and tourist-packed as you would imagine for a beautiful 61 degree Saturday. I opted to run in the bike lane to save myself the agony of budding photographers. I’m sure I was in the background of at least 15 photos — and I’d love to see them actually. I witnessed wedding photos (the dress was beautiful) and a few who looked to be hardcore training. I’m sure I passed one or two prepping for the Marathon next week. In fact on my train ride up to Jay Street-MetroTech, a man sitting beside me was wearing an ING NYC Marathon fleece. And that got me thinking… Maybe I’ll have that jacket next year? 🙂

Overdressed in a white long-sleeve thermal, maroon running leggings and my pink laces tied right, fall in the city never felt so good.

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Eight Weeks

It’s been eight weeks since I was told not to run. I rearranged a few days in my training schedule and ended up enraging my ankle. Enraging — or, well, honestly, spraining.

It was a tough call to go get an x-ray. I didn’t want to know the results. You can’t run your 1/2 marathon. You won’t be prepared for your full marathon. You might have a stress fracture. You may see repeat damage and pain. You can’t. You are unable. You’re injured.

I haven’t worked out or ran for eight weeks and this morning I knew I could. I’ve decided to start from square 1. Hit the reset button. I’m starting a Couch to 5K training program (C25K by Zen Labs) and I’m excited to be back in the game. The eight-week program sets me up for the 5K Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day. I’ve used this program before, when I started serious training and long-distance running, and I enjoy it. Easing you into the training, the first day is alternating 90 seconds walking and 60 seconds running, coupled with mandatory five-minute warm-up and cool-down. The program builds over the weeks using the alternating method until you can run 30 minutes (approximately your 5K) without walking.

This may seem easy to some, especially those who are in [marathon] training and are running 3 complete miles on the easy days. But for me, someone who, by doctor’s orders, waited four weeks to be cleared for a “long walk,” I’m happy to start at mile 0. This blog still is my journey to 26.2. I’m just not going to get there as quickly or as easily as originally planned. And that’s ok.

Time for a break

It’s not that you want to take a break from running; it’s that you rolled your ankle.

I’ve been dealing with a case of stubbornness for the last week as a result of my too quick re-entry into my training schedule after I was on vacation. A hard nine-mile run followed by five days off should not be followed up by an intense restart back in. I had an easy three-mile run on Tuesday, followed by a painful and dismal five-mile run in the rain on Wednesday and a sore three-miler on Thursday. By Friday, my ankle was naturally swollen – so what did I do? I ran / walked my scheduled 10-miler on Saturday. (Ok, in my defense, it was Summer Streets in NYC!)

And now I need to have the talk: The injury talk.

One of the most important things about running is to take extra care of yourself – your ankles, your feet, your heels, your legs. These parts are what enable you to hit the pavement every morning and to crush miles in one afternoon session. And I’ve been a little reckless. But I feel like we all are.

It’s hard enough fitting in your schedule into a jam-packed life of work, school, personal, family, etc. Missing one day of training effectively ripples into your entire program. I have a goal in mind and I don’t want one set-back to set me back.

This is where the reverse psychology is much needed – and comes in. I will still be prepared if I take an extra rest day instead of logging another three miles. I even looked to the experts on this one: The Guardian: The Running Blog says that by taking a complete day off that you won’t “lose any fitness, and your legs will be a lot fresher when you next train.” And Runner’s World told me to back off because “whether you’re sore from overworked muscles or an injury, your body needs more energy to put toward repair, lengthening total recovery time.”

So I did.

After a planned rest day yesterday, an impromptu rest day today and plenty of icing, I will be attempting a slow five miles tomorrow – with every intention of resting if I still need it. While I have a 10K on Sunday, I want to ease back into my training and not contribute to any ankle injuries that would prevent me from running my 13.1!

What are your at-home remedies for running injuries? Do you run through the pain? When is it time to take a break?

Staying on Track

Five weeks into my training schedule and I realize that it’s difficult to fit every run on every assigned day.

I’ve been following Hal Higdon’s Marathon Novice 1 training guide, which has been a really great program, which plans out 18 weeks of training. And even with two rest days and a cross train day scheduled in every week, vacations and work schedules get in the way!

Recently, I went out of town for a wedding and had to swap around my training days. I went so far as to switch a nine mile long run with a five mile one. That’s quite a difference, but I wanted to log in my miles.

I wasn’t so imbalanced with the differing mileage as I have been since I’ve been back. My first run after my five-day break was my best yet – my fastest mile at a pace of 8:21! But I could feel it – my ankle was stiff and didn’t adjust back to my training schedule as quickly has I had hoped. I’m contemplating rearranging my routine again, but tomorrow is a rest day so hopefully one day off my ankle will be fine!

Luckily, I don’t have any other weekend getaways planned that would interfere with my training.

How has vacation planning affected your training schedules? Do you try to squeeze your miles on your vacation time? Or do you rotate around your miles per day?

A Run in the Park

All of the long-term New Yorkers I know have admitted that they don’t do the touristy things because they live here and could hypothetically do them whenever they want to. Well, I’ve lived in New York just shy of one year and this is the second time I’ve been to Central Park. I guess that means I’m officially a New Yorker.

To break this curse, I did the unthinkable: Ran the perimeter loop of Central Park, and absolutely loved it.

Because of my adjusted training schedule, I need to do a 6-mile long run before my weekend trip, which fit perfectly with Central Park’s outer loop trail. I was not sure what to think of iconic running spot. Would everyone be marathon athletes? Parents with strollers? Would the park be empty at 6 am? (I was afraid of being on premises before 6, because I didn’t want a ticket.)

The park was filled with all of the above – not empty at all. There were hardcore Ironmen-in-training, triathlon athletes, marathon runners, power walkers with free weights, strollers, dogs, campers… just to name a few. I probably got passed by everyone but the campers. They were on a mission for Shakespeare in the Park tickets.

The first mile was rough, because I was too focused on not getting lost in the 58 miles that weaves through the Manhattan garden. Finally after an enthusiastic message of only “five more miles to go,” I looked up.

The Upper East Side (and, yes, Upper West Side as well) of Manhattan takes your breath away. The architecture is so royal and transports you into the heydays of the city on Fifth Avenue. I could not get over the buildings, one after the other, with crown molding, ornate wrought iron banisters and artisanal terraces.

I simply cannot run on a treadmill. What I love most about running outside is the landscape; seeing something in the distance and getting TO it, and then having it behind you. I started seriously running when I lived in North Carolina. There is a beautiful stretch of homes on Queens Boulevard (appropriately fitting) and I wanted to see them – so I ran by them. It’s become a nice sport. I had found my new Queens Boulevard on Central Park East.

Central Park, much like the rest of New York City, has something new every turn. I peddled my legs passed the Guggenheim (oh that is where it is), the reservoir, the bridge that’s in every Central Park scene in any and every movie, a pool (did you know there was a pool in Central Park? I did not), two restaurants and the American Museum of Natural History.

Between my starting point on the south side of the park and mile five, I encountered the west side of the park, which was all one 2.5 mile-uphill battle. I wish I had quit back at the pool and hoped in.

Since this was probably my last run of the week, I bribed myself with a GU if I made it to mile four and – at a very slow pace – I made it. I was still on target for my personal time, so I ripped open the GU and continued on. Two miles (at my fastest time EVER) would only be like 15 / 20 minutes, I tricked myself… and then a quarter of a miles later, I spotted a water fountain.

Water is not my best friend when running. I learned in Bikram yoga, that it’s more beneficial to take quick sips as replenishment and not to chug a water bottle. I wasn’t sure if the same rules applied to long-distance running, so I went ahead and drank way too much. A slow start to my final mile on top of sore and worn out calves. It wasn’t my strongest finish.

I recognized that aids, such as GU or shot blocks, are there for people like me. I’ll need to stick to them for now and ease water into my running schedule, especially because I know my body won’t be able to do 26.2 without H2O. For now though, I’ll need to test what works for me.

What are your preferences for water during your long runs? Do you have certain mile makers for water breaks? Do you come prepared with water bottles clip belts? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments below.

Race Credit

NYCRuns is an organization in New York that hosts most of the races in the area. They have been the managers of the Shore Road runs that I have fit into my training schedule – and the Brooklyn Marathon I hope to complete in November of this year.

The organization offers a unique credit program for volunteers. For each race that you volunteer for, they credit your NYCRuns account with $25 to use for a future race registration. It’s a great way to stay involved in the running community whether you are in training or not.

Last night, I volunteered at the Riverside Park Summer Mini-Series 5k in Riverside Park, Washington Heights. I had never ventured that far up the west side – and I quickly realized that I had been missing out. Riverside Park boasts beautiful New Jersey city views over the Hudson River. The trail in the park is quite a challenge with a series of hills that were steeper than they looked. The 5K race itself was over in a flash – with the winner coming in just shy of 17 minutes.

I was tasked to manage the water station. My new friend, a fellow volunteer, and I prepared by filling up 100 Dixie cups of water – and, within the first few minutes, saw we needed much more than that!

The course was designed as a a there-and-back path (unfortunately some runners chose to make their own trail… literally). The water station was stationed at the bottom of the first hill and, in the same position, right before the final hill of the race after the turnaround point. The top racers were already coming back to the hill as the majority of runners were just coming down it. I passed out water cups to a few hundred runners during the 5K. Hydration is important 🙂

As most of the runners made their way back up the hill and to the finish line, the other volunteer and I cleaned up the discarded cups. After checking in with the volunteer coordinator, we were done.

I have been volunteering here and there with NYCRuns for the last year and it’s been a great program. The credit is always appreciated, but even more so, I enjoy spending a few hours behind the scenes and venturing across the city.

Have you volunteered for a race before? What are the best races to volunteer for? What are your favorite perks to volunteering?

P.S. September 14 is the Queens Marathon and NYCRuns is in need of volunteers to help with the event. If you are free that day, I encourage you to attend! Double credit if you arrive one hour early (yes, that’s 5:30 am!). I am sad that I won’t be in town for this race.

The First Post

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.

There’s something about the chill I get every time I see pictures of runners crossing that finish line – whether it’s for a 5K, 1/2 marathon or 26.2 – that is so electrifying.

I’ve always been a pretty fit person and I’m willing to try anything once. But a marathon has always been unattainable in my mind. I don’t know the first thing about proper footwear or gels or athletic clothes that have pockets. I have a two hour commute every day and couldn’t possibly stick to a training schedule. I don’t know where I’ll be in the four months it would take to prepare.

And then one day, I grabbed my sneakers – gray adidas with pink laces – and just ran.

I’ve tried training before and I didn’t make it quite through it. I’m hoping through this blog, I can share my stories with you and learn from others in the running community as well. Wish me luck.