Last weekend seems like a century ago (it’s been a long, hard week), and so although it’s a bit belated, I’m happy to report that I conquered a new distance last Sunday with a strong 16-mile run.
On Saturday, I ran my first race in quite some time. It’d had been over two months since my last road race, and I didn’t really have any racing goals. The race, part of the FITNESS Mind, Body + Spirt Games, was only a 4-mile course, but my running schedule that day had me doing 7, so I decided to run up to the park to get in about 3 miles ahead of time.
The run to Central Park was a nice warm up, so my muscles were nice and loose. We were running counter-clockwise on the outer loop, which is how I always run when training, so I know the course like the back of my hand. On top of that, the weather was pretty ideal – high 60s, and a bit overcast. In other words, it was the ideal set up for a PR. As I was waiting in the corral, though, I knew that for many reasons, a PR just wasn’t in my future that day. For starters, my left hamstring was a bit achy from my Friday night run. It was also the first week of fall ultimate, and I potentially had 3-4 hours of frisbee playing later in the afternoon. The biggest reason, though, was the fact that I was determined to have a good, long run on Sunday, and I wasn’t about to do anything on Saturday to jeopardize that.
All in all, the race was enjoyable, and I felt pretty good with the run afterwards. (I didn’t feel great about the photos I got in my inbox a few days later, but that’s always the case. Must work on this between now and marathon day) I averaged around 8:51 minute miles, which certainly isn’t anything to write home about for a 4-mile race, but my 3 miles earlier were in the 8:45 range, so I was happy to have pretty consistent pacing throughout all 7 miles. While running the rolling hills on the west side of the park around mile 3, I was really feeling that hamstring. Right about then, I made the executive decision that ultimate wasn’t happening. (My sincerest apologies, MUD, but marathon training is the priority this season. I can’t afford any more injuries at this point!) While I did feel bad, I was comforted by the fact that a) I knew our team had plenty of subs and b) I got to enjoy a leisurely stroll through Central Park after the race, instead of jetting home to swap my running shoes for cleats. This lady was playing Handel’s Concerto Grosso 12. It was lovely.
I spent the rest of the day laying low and mentally prepping for Sunday’s 16-mile adventure. I tend to get a bit bored doing similar routes on consecutive days, and since I really enjoyed running the bridges a couple weeks before, I’d decided on a variation of this route for Sunday’s course. I carbed up on Saturday evening, got plenty of sleep, and woke up Sunday morning to the same beautiful running weather I enjoyed the day before. I loved absolutely everything about this run. The course naturally lends itself to dividing into 4 smaller routes – the 3 bridges, then the East River stretch – which makes it a breeze, mentally. I felt strong all the way through mile 16, and never once felt winded or like it was an effort to keep putting one foot in front of the other. When it was time to take my second gel between miles 12 and 13, I actually felt like I’d be fine without it. In the interest of being consistent with my race day nutrition, though, I decided it was best to stick to the plan and took it anyway. (Contrary to just about every other runner I know, gels don’t gross me out or mess with my stomach at all. In fact, I actually sort of like them, which I realize makes me an anomaly.) I clocked in at around 2:49, which is 10:30 mile average. Super speedy? Heck no. But for this first marathon, my sole focus is endurance as opposed to speed.
The rest of the day was devoted to kickball, beers, wings, and football. Not a shabby Sunday, if you ask me. This weekend I’ve got two more races – the Fifth Avenue Mile tomorrow morning, and the Newport Liberty Half Marathon on Sunday. Given that this half marathon was my first road race ever last September, I’m really looking forward to running it a second time. It sort of feels like my own special running anniversary. On top of that, I’ll be running the race with my friend Briana (she has a blog of her own), and it just so happens that this is Briana’s first race, as well. Being a part of other runners’ milestones is always a rewarding experience.
And speaking of milestones, I’d like to give a special shout out to my favorite running blogger, Ali On the Run, who will be kicking butt at the Hampton’s Marathon tomorrow morning. Not only is it her first marathon, but she’s raised over $16,000 for charity. She’s definitely an inspiration. This week, I was finally able to snag one of her awesome I Heart Sweat fundraising t-shirts, and I can’t wait to wear it during Sunday’s race. Good luck tomorrow, Ali!