Monday. Wrapped up a fairly decent week. Thursday night I made it to run practice — only a few of the very hardy and only 1 of my regular running crew made it. We did hill repeats via running the underpass hill then up and back down the “bowl” on the westside of the park. Then we repeated the whole thing 4 times. Although I was dead last, I was really surprised that I didn’t totally stink. I made special note as I was going up that hill on which sometimes it feels like I’m going backwards that I was making it up the hill and it wasn’t total pain. It wasn’t easy but I was doing better than I thought I would. I was able to give it a real effort. Let’s put it this way, I’ve done MUCH worse.
Friday I had yoga class. I jumped on the rowing machine for 10 minutes before class. I think that helped me to loosen up a little because I did a little better in class. I still struggle with so many of the poses — they make it look so easy but I find so much of it hard — I’m lacking either the strength or the flexibilty but I keep trying. We were doing a lot of poses that were hard on my knees so I had to modify almost all of that sequence. We all had blankets to put under our knees and I thought everything was okay until I felt my knee go pop in the bad way and had to stretch to get it to feel semi normal. I finished the class but I didn’t have time to go back up to the rowing machine to pop it back in, was just going to have to work it out. I did get to the pool for a quick review of my swim stroke. I swam for about 20 minutes.
WW went okay, I didn’t lose any weight but I didn’t gain either — I stayed just the same. That’s okay sometimes I feel like just fending off weight gain during December is a success.
I was nervous about Saturday’s workout. I had to do a 4.5 hour run and it was a key workout. I had to hit the time. Last weekend I had a disaster run and it had been so cold out — I only made it 2.5 hours before my knee gave out and I bailed. The weather forecast for this weekend was worse than the previous. I was looking at 13 degrees with wind chill. I had the option to take my workout indoors but who can run 4.5 hours on a treadmill?
We were supposed to start with the team swim at 6 a.m. and follow it with the 15k (~9 mile) race in the park. I didn’t want to miss the swim because I had been working on my stroke and wanted to get any tips from the coaches (okay maybe I wanted to hear someone say “wow! you’ve really worked on that!). New York Road Runners was thinking about canceling the race because of the cold and icy road conditions. I had to do a lot more than 9 miles, 4 1/2 hours would be about 20 miles for me (if I just ran it straight). How was I going to do the swim, get my body temperature back up and into the park and do the run without getting cold? I was really troubled by the memory of last weekend.
Finally I decided I had to give up on the swim. The best way to make it through was to bundle up, find my Yak Trax (contraptions you can put on your shoes and prevent slipping and get a grip on the icy path) and head out to the park. I was dressed in too many layers but I figured better to be able to take off than put on something you don’t have.
I started my run from home. I was worried I wasn’t going to make it 4.5 hours so I decide to start running as soon as I left the door. The streets were in bad condition and I was happy to have my yak trax to keep a grip. Thankfully there were very few people out so I was able to run pretty much the whole way to the park.
I got to the park and it didn’t seem that cold. It certainly didn’t feel like 13 degrees and I didn’t even feel a wind. I started running on a path leading into the wooded section of the park. I was immediately impressed with how easy it was to run on the path with the Yak Trax. I was also relieved to have a different route. I started to meander down the paths through the park — sometimes running in little circles and not even caring that it would normally seem extremely inefficient to me. I found my way up through poets walk, down by Bethesda Terrace and into the boat house. So far I had not run at all on the roads and I decided to try to see how long I could continue.
Behind the boathouse was little road that looked like a service road. I started to head up to it. At the start of the road was a large map that said it was the start of the “Ramble.” The map showed trails going every which way into the woods. I thought what the heck? I had to kill 4.5 hours, as good a time as any to start to explore the more unknown sections of the park.
As soon as I entered the Ramble I fell in love with it. It was really beautiful — not just because the ground and tree branches were covered with snow but because it was so quiet and peaceful. Non of the normal weekend hub bub of the park. No tourists, no horses and carriages, no runners. Just me and the occasional dog walker who would look up annoyed as I was clearly the intruder plodding through their sanctuary. I decided an extra friendly hello was going to be my passport. I was in a good mood and willing to share.
I ran up and down path after path learning my way around. The southern routes ended up by the water. The northern ones meandered over towards Belvedere castle. I started to explore some of the western trails and decided to head back before I got too discombobulated. Then I saw a staircase leading up to Belvedere castle. Stairs, hmm, I bet some coach somewhere would want me to run up those so I tried. Due to the ice, I ended up just walking up them but with as mucho gusto as I could muster without falling. I ran down the path and found myself on the oval. I knew where I was — this was where we do that ugly workout of 1/2 mile and 1/4 mile intervals for speed work. I was happy keep my little run alive.
Then I saw the running race was in fact going on. The actual race had been cancelled and they changed it to a “fun run.” I saw the runners coming down the westside. I got the brilliant idea that I would run over there and go find my friend Mo. I ran opposite the race and saw a lot of friendly faces. Everyone was cheery and nobody seemed miserable at all. I thought the weather was fine (although I had yet to unzip any of my layers and I was very happy to be wearing my lobster claw gloves for the first time ever on a run.)
I found Mo near the reservoir and ran with her for about 5 miles or so until the end of the race route. That was a nice diversion for about an hour and I was thrilled to find that I had used up over 2 hours of my run time already. Only 2 and half hours to go.
I left Mo and ran back down to see if I could find any more runners to run in or cheer for. I didn’t recognize anyone. I found myself at the bottom of Cat Hill and at the boat house. The Ramble was calling me again. There were so many trails on that map, I had done only about 8 of them so far, there were another 10 more to do at least. So I headed back up into the woods.
After a bit I ended back up at the castle stairs and went up them again and down into the oval. I found my way onto the bridle path and just kept running and running. I went up to 102nd on the path and looped back down around the reservoir. I looked at my watch and I had hit 3 hours. It felt like Christmas. I got so excited. 3 hours!! 3 hours and I wasn’t close to tired. Nothing hurt. No knee popping or scraping. 3 hours!! I felt a surge of energy take over and I ran back up t0 102nd street. I was deliberately staying off the road and anytime I could run in the actual snow I would. (Remembering Lisa said running in the snow would feel more like running in the sand.)
I paid no attention to my route. I didn’t really care. I ran down sidewalks, across the baseball field. Plowed or not I didn’t care. I saw another set of stairs on the side of the field leading up a little hill. I ran (well, marched) up those too. I was deliberately picking the hardest routes I could find. The icier, the rockier the chunkier the better. I knew with 100% certainty I was doing a good workout route for MDS.
The time was flying by. For the last loops I just kept to the bridle path around the reservoir. Every time I looked at my watch another 15 minutes had gone by. 3:30, 3:45, 4 hours!!! And no pain!! Nothing. Not even a whimper. I was walking maybe 1 minute every 20 minutes or so. I let the terrain dictate when a good walk point appeared but I didn’t want to walk to long because I was afraid I would get cold. I was giddy. I was high. I couldn’t believe that I was running over such craggy terain and not caring a bit. I started doing an inventory of everything that was going right:
My knees did not hurt. Wow. No popping, no scraping.
My New Balance 909 running shoes that I had bought to try for MDS were working great. (Occurred to me that maybe that had something to do with my knees feeling good?) They also have some kind of water repellent feature that were keeping my feet dry. http://www.nbwebexpress.com/newbalanceWT909OR.htm. I bought them a size wider because that was the recommendation for running in the desert. (I guess your feet swell and you have to have enough room for bandages and such.) I hadn’t really been in love with them on the shorter runs I had tried them on, but now after 4 hours I was beginning to understand their appeal.
I was wearing smartwool ski socks. I thought they would have fallen down and become annoying. They weren’t falling down. They weren’t causing blisters. My feet were warm and dry. They made my running shoes fit better and my calves were warm.
My new Infinit formula was still tasting great at 4 hours and I felt 100% fine. The guy at Infinit adjusted my Ironman formula and took out some of the protein I had in there (he said didn’t recommend that for ultra running over days). I had plenty of calories and my stomach felt fine. (I haven’t been able to take any solid foods or even gus after 2 hours of running so I think I’m going to be an all liquid lunch in the desert).
I dressed properly. I was dressed with a lot of layers and felt fine. There is a lot to be said for warmth.
I loved my Yak Trax. Charlee bought these for me last year when we were doing trail running in New Paltz. Not once did I feel off balance. I ran over ice and it didn’t matter if it was smooth or chopped up. I felt very secure. (Although I did see more than one other runner running the trails with just plain old running shoes and I was wondering how they were doing it — I would have been too nervous.)
From head to toe I had no complaints. I was feeling great and I was going to hit my key workout time of 4.5 hours.
At 4:29:22 I hit Columbus Circle. I did it. 4.5 hours with NO PROBLEM. I felt so good I couldn’t believe it. I felt strong. I felt healthy. And I was pain free. I wanted to tell someone, anyone. I kept looking around for someone but it was just a bunch of tourists. Oh well, I decided walked to Westerly to do my grocery shopping.
On the way home from the grocery store I started to get cold. I had a bag of groceries in each hand. I started to walk faster to try to get warm. Finally I just decided to run with the groceries. “Now you’re just showing off” I said to myself. I felt so good I felt like shouting. I was experiencing a high like my Thursday morning chasing Jac and Ally around the park endorphin high. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever had runner’s high. This was a new experience for me.
I came home, I stretched, I felt fine — more than fine. Honestly I could have run more if I had to. Granted I wasn’t running race pace or anything, but my new fancy schmancy Forerunner 305 said I was running 13 minute miles when I was out on the trails. That’s not terrible for me at all. Of course I couldn’t help but think why couldn’t I have felt like this on marathon day? But I guess that’s how it goes. Sometimes it’s your day. Sometimes everything just clicks. One week you are huddling under an electric blanket tasting the salt from your tears. The next week you are making a guest appearance as Rumble Girl and nobody to witness it except for a few dogs in the rambles.
I took Sunday off because I had several holiday get-togethers. I decided not to berate myself and would get on my trainer on Monday instead.
This morning the strangest thing happened. I felt really good. I got down on the floor and did 50 situps. I never get down on the floor to do my core work — that’s what power yoga and fight club is for. Then I did 25 reverse crunches and 25 crossing crunches. I attempted pushups but there is some bone still sticking in my shoulder so I can’t really do those but I tried to do 10. I was able, however, to do the plank. I did the plank it 5 times. Then I did 30 seconds of wall squat (squat while leaning your back against the wall.) I did that only 3 times because I felt my knee popping.
Then I decided to go for it. In my yoga class they do a modification of a handstand. You stand with your back toward a wall and go into downward facing dog. Then you lift your feet up against the wall to go into the beginning of a handstand. I have been too scared to try this in class. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it. I have visions of my shoulders just collapsing under the weight. The instructor keeps saying it is not that hard, not that hard. Yeah well this is the same guy who was trying to get us to hop around the room while in a plank position!!!
I don’t know what got into me but I decided this morning I was going to try it. I know for most people this is no big deal but for me this was huge. I did it!! I couldn’t believe it, but I got both feet up on the wall. I couldn’t hold it that long — maybe I did 15 seconds before I got scared and came back down. For me it is more scary than actually hard, but I did it. And then I did it again!! It’s not as hard as a pushup but it’s harder than the plank. (At least for me.) I found this site with a perfect demonstration of it. http://www.healthline.com/blogs/exercise_fitness/2008/05/fast-fitness-easy-handstand-for-balance.html It’s scary at first but it counts as an inversion which is supposed to be very good for you (we always have to end our yoga sessions with five minutes of inversion.)
Progress comes in little steps not in big leaps. And sometimes the little steps are with the help of a wall.