This morning, I had my long run scheduled. I know it’s a Friday and not a weekend, but I have a girlfriend coming to visit for the weekend, so I didn’t want to make her sit around waiting for me to finish my long run. Plus, today is the first day of the new Financial Services practice fitness challenge for work, so I figured it would be great to intimidate everyone else by opening the contest with a 20 mile run 🙂
I was absolutely exhausted all day yesterday, honestly wanting to go to bed around 4pm. I hung in there, and debated cancelling my run, but decided that as long as I got a good night’s sleep and also fueled up pretty well, I could hopefully “git ‘er done.” As such, I had a pretty big pasta dinner (made a healthier version of this creamy farfalle with bacon, tomatoes, and peas) and went to bed super early (10pm, after catching up on the Top Chef finale. Angelo, you were robbed!).
When my alarm went off at 5:45am, I was feeling pretty good… until I looked out the window and saw that it was still really dark out (where was the sunrise?) and raining. NYC had been hit with major storms last night (especially in Brooklyn and Queens, where tornadoes actually touched down!), and despite what Weather.com was telling me (partly cloudy, no precipitation), it seemed like they weren’t over. I headed back to bed. But after lying there for 10 minutes, I couldn’t get back to sleep. I needed to get this run in, darn it! Finally, I got up and dressed – since when do I let a little rain stop me?
When I got outside, I realized it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. The sun wasn’t completely up yet, but it wasn’t actually dark out, and the rain seemed to have stopped. I headed over to Central Park, entering at Columbus Circle, with the plan being to do two full loops and then head over to the Hudson River to run along the greenway all the way to the southern tip of Manhattan. An ambitious trek!
The first loop around the park was great, though a light rain did start up when I was about halfway through. I was making excellent time though, with my first few miles just about 8:00 and then a bit slower as I settled into a pretty steady 8:22 pace. Not bad considering all the hills in the park! Unfortunately, I was pretty wiped out after that lap, and realized that I had forgotten something key about long runs: you need to fuel up before and during them. Guess who had skipped breakfast and neglected to bring any gels/bars? Oops. I tried to make do with water from various fountains, but let’s face it, hydration is not the same thing as fuel.
Despite the rain and my exhaustion, I was actually having a nice, peaceful run. Central Park is so nice in the early morning, when you get to see all the other fit people out for their morning run/bike/whatever. I was reveling in all this fitness tranquility until my second loop around, when I heard something awful even before I could see it: a lone bagpiper practicing in the meadow. Now, if there’s one kind of music I can’t stand, it’s anything played by a bagpipe. However, if I thought bagpipes were bad, I didn’t anticipate just how bad it would be to hear bagpipes practicing. The worst! Not only is it horrible and grating and screeching, but now you’re adding in wrong notes and stopping and starting and playing the same passage over and over. UGH. I couldn’t believe that this guy had the nerve to practice in public (where the sound would assault many ears) instead of just playing in his apartment, until it occurred to me that his apartment building probably didn’t allow such a nuisance as bagpipe music, particularly not at 7am. I think we know what the right solution is here: move to Alaska, live 50 miles away from any neighbors, and practice your bagpipes there.
Eventually I made it out of the bagpipes-of-death zone, but now it was time for my second round of scaling Cat Hill. Thank goodness I was only doing two loops and not three – made it much easier to get up the hill when I knew it was my last time! Even still, I could tell my pace was flagging in this lap, and I could definitely feel the effects of not having eaten breakfast or brought any gels. In the past, I’ve experimented with cutting back on what I eat during a race, but doing a long run on a completely empty stomach showed me exactly where I needed a boost – mile 8 was my breaking point. Duly noted for next time!
Unfortunately, I still had to get through this time. The Harlem Hills were particularly brutal on this lap, and by the time I hit the Three Sisters (little rolling hills after the monster hill in the North Woods), I was just plain feeling worn out. I just kept reminding myself that while I could give up now, it would put the 12+ miles I had already done to waste, because I really wanted to get a 20 mile run in this weekend. Sure, I could quit and just call today a medium-length run, but then I’d have to do another 20 later in the weekend. No, thank you! This was my long run and I was going to make it count.
As I came down the west side of the park, I cheered inwardly that I was close to done with my two loops. I tried not to think about the fact that I still had another 7 miles to go, and instead focused on the idea that the last 7 would be easy since it was all flat. Unfortunately, my feet were already pretty sore, and I was getting wiped out, so flat or not, it was going to be tough!
To brighten my mood, the sun came out as I approached the Hudson River, making for some white puffy clouds and a pretty view as I ran. Unfortunately, I really couldn’t focus on doing much but counting down the miles, am-I-there-yet style. I felt like I was really dragging, and wished more than once that I was wearing some kind of sign saying “I’m running 20 miles today!” so that the people who passed me (presumably doing shorter runs) would get why I looked so terrible. Taking such a long break from marathons really set me back – I felt the way I’ve seen most people look when they’re doing miles 20-26 in a marathon. I need to get back in better shape, stat! Miles 20-26 tend to be my favorite part, so I want to make sure I can enjoy them when it comes time for Hartford.
But I did what mattered today: I finished. As I neared my destination (a friend’s office building in Battery Park, where we planned to meet up and go for coffee/breakfast), I had to circle a little bit to get in the full 20 miles, but ended up doing 20.1 in 3:03:26 – a 9:08 pace. Yippee! I felt such a sense of accomplishment after going that far, especially with such a great time. I had only dropped 9 seconds from my previous long run of 16 miles, and I think if I had brought some food and been able to refuel mid-run, I could have been even faster.
Now, you may have thought increasing my mileage by 5 miles a week was crazy, but how about this idea: I had planned to do a 25 mile run next weekend, as my last long run before the Hartford Marathon. But after today’s long and difficult run, I was very disappointed to not get a medal or anything for my accomplishment (I swear, this was harder than most of the marathons I’ve done). What if I just tack on a little teeny tiny extra 1.2 miles, and do the Adirondack Marathon? 🙂 Thoughts?
Suddenly, I think I may be back in business for a full fall marathon season to rival last year’s…