Reach the Beach, Part 1

I am off to return to the great state of my birth, New Hampshire, to be part of a 12-man team in the 200-mile Reach the Beach relay. I will be running three different legs over the course of 24 hours for a total of 19.09 miles. To prepare I’ve made some interesting adjustments to my training over the past few weeks by running twice on some days. So for example, instead of running my mid-week 10 miler for marathon training, I would run five miles in the morning and five more in the evening. We’ll see how it works out starting tomorrow afternoon. Looking forward to it!

Good luck to all you other RTBers!

(The photo below is not New Hampshire, but it is a beach.)

Not New Hampshire

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The Haribo Experiment

Around mile 13 of this morning’s 20 mile long run, two of my teammates and I decided to stop by a bodega at West 155th Street to get some Gatorade before we crossed into the Bronx at Yankee Stadium. I was getting a case of the shakes while running up the hill and knew that I wouldn’t be able to get through the next seven miles without putting something solid in my stomach – and gels were not going to do it for me. I’m usually pretty picky about what I consume during a run but I took a chance on the first palatable thing I saw – a bag of gummi bears. Somehow they spoke to me.

I knew I was taking a risk. Either it would make me sick within the next mile or it would be the perfect sugar boost to power me through the rest of the run. I ate the whole bag and washed it down with blue Gatorade. It was pretty darn tasty.

It turns out that those adorable little German wonders worked well for me. I finished the long run in pretty good time, averaging about 8:00 per mile. And not once did I ever think that I would vomit, which is a great sign. It’s funny what you crave during big workouts. Another member of my team has since urged me to give Clif Shot Bloks another chance – they’re not as cute as gummi bears but I’ll give them another try on the next long run.

Guilt

I was so excited when I got up this morning and remembered that today was going to be a rest day for me with nothing actually planned. I was thinking that maybe at some point today I’d buy a tub of ice cream and catch up on my Netflix queue – and that would be about as productive as I’d get. But after about an hour of enjoying my morning coffee, checking emails and watching the morning news, I noticed the cover of the latest issue of Runner’s World, still untouched, sitting on my desk.

REST RIGHT
Make the Most
Of Your Days Off

I flipped to Alyssa Shaffer’s article on page 47 and read it over a bowl of Lucky Charms. Along with eating properly and getting enough sleep, the article advises the exact opposite of what I wanted to do today. Instead of having a lazy day with a bag of chips, it is recommended that you take in some light exercise. Guilt got to me and I could no longer justify sitting around watching TV all day. I have the time to get out there, after all. So I ended up taking a trip to the pool (which just reopened after being closed for two weeks) for an easy half-mile swim. And as a bonus, I was rewarded with a fairly empty lane, which is one of the benefits of swimming mid-day. I’m glad I went in the end, but out of guilt? I’ll call my mother if I want a healthy dose of that.

Out with the Old

This morning I took a look at you, Old Shoes, and with a rush of nostalgia remembered all the good miles we had together, the storms we weathered and the hills we climbed. But you are flat, falling apart and, frankly, you don’t fit that well anymore.

So I tossed them.

And went out and got myself a new pair.

Men's Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4The shoes I tossed were a pair of ASICS that I had for almost two years that I would occasionally take out for a shorter run, but I finally got rid of them to make space for something new. The new pair is actually the second pair of Nike Zoom Vomero+ 4 that I bought this summer. I still have the first pair, in blue, which I bought in June  – but they are rapidly reaching the 300 mile mark and will probably only last another month. I am pretty sure that this is the fastest I’ve ever gone through one pair of running shoes. So it looks like the new red pair might be what takes me through the marathon in November. I already took them out for a few miles this afternoon just to give us a chance to get to know each other and I think we are going to make a good match.

It may be sad to toss an old pair, but there’s a sense of accomplishment that comes with it – those shoes represent hundreds of miles that I ran on my own two feet. And the new pair represents hundreds more that I will run in the coming months.

One great thing about running is that it’s a fairly inexpensive sport – but the cost of shoes can be painful in these tough economic times, especially if you are putting on some serious mileage. Do you have any advice on how to be a Running Recessionista? Any tips on recycling old shoes? Feel free to comment.

Second Month Roundup

September is here and that means that we are staring Fall right in the face. There are only a few days left to wear white acceptably and even the weather in New York is quickly shifting from summer humidity to cool autumn air. And I noticed on my run this evening just how much shorter the days have already become while I watched the sun set over the Central Park Reservoir as early as 7:30 p.m.

It also means that Month 2 of my RUNemployment has come to a close. I look back on a summer with strange weather that made fun outings difficult and an economy that made those same plans nearly impossible. The job search is still going on for me and at least there are a couple of prospects, but I am very eager to see this job market start to repair itself. For my sake and for anyone else who might be in the same position.

Hey – where’s that silver lining? Oh, yes, my training. Focus on my training remained very strong during August and I finished the month logging a total of 170.4 miles. I’m in a place where I already feel prepared for the NYC Marathon and I still have a few more weeks of training to get me in an even better position. Two months to go and I’m very ready.

But if I learned anything in August, there’s this one light-bulb moment I had. So usually I prefer to run alone because it gives you time to think, reflect and work through some ideas. You can also run when and where you want at whatever pace you want. But this one realization I had from last month is that running with friends is unbeatable quality time. Obvious, right? But it’s recession friendly, too: in this expensive city where socializing often means drinks and dinners, a long run with a friend is a cheap and healthy way to catch up. Example: I just finished a great 19 miler with my friend and teammate Kevin early on Monday morning. It gave us time to talk about what we did over the weekend, about what’s happening next week and how much we both like this new grape flavored Gatorade. (I’m also admitting publicly here that he is faster than me, and that pushed me to run at a speedier pace than I might have done solo. So, thanks, Kev.) We had social time that was better than a day of exchanging emails and, as a bonus, it cost far less than an evening of multiple glasses of bourbon and ginger ale.

And that’s what I take away from Month 2. Running and racing can be a great way to challenge yourself, but in this age of impersonal socializing through Facebook and Twitter, running with a friend is a terrific way to really connect with others.

Some Thoughts on Central Park

If you can believe it, last night I took the subway to Central Park to run someplace different for a change of scene. Wait a minute – change of scene? Isn’t this where all New Yorkers go to run? Sometimes it seems that way. But if you’ve read my other posts, you probably know that I prefer to run in quiet and unique places to get away from the crowds we encounter every single day in the frenzy of New York City life. So while I love being in the company of other runners, I have to admit that I don’t make it to Central Park all that often.

But Central Park is legendary and every New York runner should visit every now and then. It might be missing a few trees these days, but it is still unparalleled as far as public parks go.

Now keep in mind that it’s as close to a backyard as most of the nearly 9 million residents of New York City will ever actually have, so crowded paths should be expected. Expect cyclists, dog walkers, baby strollers, in-line skaters, speed walkers, slow walkers, tourists, photographers, sunbathers, ultimate Frisbee players. Oh, and other runners too. I think you get the idea: lots of people. But despite the crowds (or maybe because of them, depending on your point of view), Central Park is a great place to run and shouldn’t be missed. If you’re visiting from out of town, make sure it’s one of your running destinations. If you live here and you’ve never been there, shame on you.

Since there’s already so much information on the park out there I’ll limit this to a few reasons why running in Central Park is a great experience:

1. Variety. There’s a good mix of flat stretches and some challenging hills. You also have the choice between road running on pavement or the softer, cinder trails of the bridle path and reservoir.

2. There are plenty of water fountains (functioning during the warmer months only) and several restrooms (but I will not vouch for cleanliness). If you are looking for locations check out this map.

3. It’s the perfect training ground for New York Road Runners races, most of which take place in the park.

4. You can easily figure out a route for almost any length of run. The circular design of the loop also makes it easy to start and stop in the same place.

5. You get incomparable views of the NYC skyline as buildings peek out between the trees in an incredible juxtaposition of nature and urban life.

6. You can practice crossing the Marathon finish line at Tavern on the Green.

This map from NYRR is a great resource for exploring routes of all lengths. Bored? Find ways to mix it up. If you want more information about the park including its history and upcoming events, visit CentralPark.com.

Don’t Forget the SPF

More than a few times over the past few weeks I’ve had friends say to me “Wow, you look so tan! Did you go anywhere fun?” No, definitely not. I mean, Brooklyn’s fun and all but I’m hardly going to spend my summer on a tropical beach vacation without a regular paycheck. I do have to admit that I’ve spent a few nice days laying out in the park with a good book and maybe I took off on a day trip to Long Beach while the rest of you were at work, but that wasn’t nearly enough to look like I just spent a week in the Caribbean.

And I realized:

I’m tan from running so much. No, more specifically, I’m tan from running so much in the middle of the day. And let’s take it another step: I’m tan from running so much in the middle of the day without wearing sunscreen. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong here.

My schedule has completely changed. Up until a couple of months ago I usually ran in the evenings or [occasionally] early in the morning before work. I didn’t see a need to protect my skin because the sun wasn’t strong enough to do any real damage at the times I usually went out for a run. Now, though, mid-day seems to be the most convenient time for me and so I run out the door when the sun is at its most intense, thinking I’ll be able to outrun those damaging rays. But I’ve finally learned my lesson. It took a few bad sunburns that resulted in goofy tan lines – you can clearly see the outline of my singlet and I have this white band on my left wrist that is exactly the width of my Garmin – but I learned my lesson. Now I don’t leave the house without putting on plenty of my Coppertone Sport 50 SPF sunscreen, which is “Ultra Sweatproof” and “won’t run into eyes and sting.” I’m not sure I can speak to those claims but it seems to do the trick.

And yes, this brings me to another issue: the dangers of running in mid-day heat, especially in the height of summer. So be sensible about when you run and don’t overdo it. If it’s too hot, alter your schedule to run during cooler times of the day. And be sure to keep yourself hydrated before, during and after exercise. If you aren’t certain about where any water fountains might be along your route, bring something to drink with you. For more tips on beating the heat, there are a few good articles in the Running in Cold or Heat section of RunnersWorld.com.

And I’ll try to do a better job of following my own advice.