Posted by: mmartininycmarathon | September 6, 2009

Thank you sir… may I have another… and another!


Central Park Full 6.1 mile loop

Central Park Full 6.1 mile loop

Happy Sunday to my marathon supporters! As the Marathon race day draws closer I will try and post more often with updates on training and some interesting stuff I need to be aware of and have been incorporating into my training, etc. This post should be a bit of an adventure as what started out as a normal training run with a new running buddy turned into an unexpected day of running and whirlwind of unforgettable events!

read on and comment!

I met Sharon through our Team for Kids website, Flotrak where your able to friend and message different members of TFK. It is like a Facebook for runners and it really is nice to be able to link up with TFKers that you may not have met otherwise and have all your training and TFK group runs online. They offer a slue of training videos, updates on runs and tips on all your training. For the international and out of New York members, this is the only way they can hook up with everything they need to be able to be properly ready for race day. So, we have been emailing and chatting back and forth and with our busy schedules never were able to meet up at group runs or for our own training run so Saturday morning was going to be great to finally be able to meet and run together.

7.45am- Hoboken, NJ

We decided since the group run in the morning was going to be in the city, that we would do a different route and do our run in Hoboken. It would be a first for me as I ALWAYS run in the city and Central Park as you all know. Sharon lives uptown so it was a quick run for her to come down to me on First St to start our run. After explaining that she may be getting a cold we went on our way in hopes that she would literally run it out of her system. We started running towards the Hudson River and if anyone has not seen this, it is some of the best views of NYC. The air was crisp, clouds were white and the sky was a perfect blue.

It was a perfect morning to run and so far everything was GREAT. We made our way back up towards 11th street on Hudson and I saw some things I have never seen in Hoboken before. The massive cliffs and winding loops of sidewalk and streets were a sight to see. Meanwhile the spectacular views of NYC were on our right hand side. At this early time in the morning there were a few other dedicated runners out getting their long runs in before the holiday weekend. Around mile 3, Sharon started experiencing some issues in which we needed to stop for a bit. This would be the story of the day as like on any run and race, regardless of all the training and preparation you have put in, ANYTHING can happen. Today would not be the day for Sharon but a TON of kudos for her trying and getting through it! She is participating in the Philly half marathon, using this as part of her training in a couple of weeks. I personally rather have her have some issues on a training run on a long weekend, then for her have to pull out of a race. It is quite demoralizing in a way to have to pull out of a race you should be able to complete, but it happens. It is one of the things that makes running so interesting, it is what makes it so intriguing.

As we continued on we would be able to complete 2-3 miles before we would have to stop, take a break (a couple times getting fluids) and then move on. It wasn’t what we had planned but we managed a total of 10-11 miles per her incredible Garmin watch that can track everything from your pace to total mileage, elevation, etc. It really is like having a mini computer on your wrist and the weight of it is not much more than a normal watch like I use. So, after about the third “break point” we decided it wasn’t her day and that we would use it as a warm-up or a shorter run for the week.

Since I only ran one time the entire week because of work, it might have been good to have it be a less intensive run and I decided that I would shoot to get the full 16 Sunday. We talked about what possibly could have happened, nutrition and basically our goals for the month of Sept. It was nice talking to another runner going through training, just for a moment and explaining my true strategy for the rest of training. I literally walked away with much more clarity of what my goals were for Sept and Oct. Like I posted in the last blog, this IS the month to take the most serious. This month IS the critical month and you have to stick with the long runs and the additional parts of your training to be fully prepared. So, after departing from 11th street I jogged back down to my apartment to re-group and figure out what I should do. It was still early, around 11am and I would still be able to get in an additional run if I felt up to it. It was as if I didn’t have enough for the day. The sun was out, and it was just so beautiful that I decided, I would give myself a goal and run a 14 mile run and use the run with Sharon as a warm-up, an appetizer to the main course.

Oh would it be so much harder than I thought in my head.

11.45am – (23rd and 6th ave)

I stopped at my gym, the New York Health and Racquet Club to drop off a change of clothes and get started with the second set for the day. I actually had to sign up as a new member and met Phil who was intrigued by the Marathon and the journey (thanks for the support Phil!). I saw him before I hit the lockers and told him about what I was about to attempt. All I heard was,

Crazy! Good Luck!

I was motivated to do this. I felt like I could. I had the energy and knew it might have been the best idea physically but that mentally I would be able to get through it and if I needed to drop out of it, I would. It also gave me some additional help during the run to refer back to this moment as in many moments to help me get through.

So your probably thinking, why would you ever do something like this? Why not just do one loop and call it a day. How can you be out there by yourself for that long? I suppose I was itching to be out there, even alone, to have some alone time to think about everything in my life. I sometimes love to have that alone time, and experience a runner’s high. Even though a couple hours I was an hour ago that I was wrapping up a run with Sharon I needed more. So, today would be the day of surprises. Perhaps it was just to feel the satisfaction knowing I did something I never thought I could.

Off I went….

12.01pm – 23rd and 5th ave

I started on the normal 5th ave route up to 59th street and went across to Columbus Circle. I segmented out my long runs to make it seem shorter. 59th street helps even though it is relatively long, but again, it will be mile 26 of the course I should get used to running this, know the surroundings and how it feels to run it. So I enter Central Park and instead of making a left, I go right. This decision set me up to run Harlem Hill at the top of the park, I easily could have run the opposite direction but if I am going to do this full Central Park loop, we HAVE to have Harlem Hill included.

First Loop

At this point I was feeling decent considering I was on mile 2-3.  To the right is what the entire 6.1 mile loop of the park looks like. What isn’t included is the different elevations but there are three main hills throughout the park… Cats Hill, Harlem Hill and the the trio of rolling hills on the West side. It is a great training ground for runners and helps having all the people and other runners out there with you. I wanted to try and keep a 8.30-9 minute pace which I think I kept for the first half of the loop. Checking my watch I was about 30 minutes in including the mile or so running up. From past experience one of the normal training times to complete the full loop is about 54 minutes or so. I would periodically check the time and then I became so focused keeping on pace that it would consume me on the run so I switched it to just the normal time to mentally block that out. The sun was getting hotter and I would begin to search for shaded areas because they would be substantially cooler. As I approached Harlem Hill at the 102nd street transverse, I referred back to the previous long run with Elizabeth, and thought about her command to take the hill slow, you got a long way to go. As I was going up the hill, I could feel my quads burn a little. I knew this was going to be a long run and I just yelled at myself (even with other bikers and joggers beside me) that I got this, I can do this. One great thing with a running partner is you don’t look as crazy talking out loud pushing each other. In this case, I was my own motivator, my own source of inspiration. I got through and basked for a moment in the glory of making it up the beast but then realized I had another 3 miles back down where I started. I hadn’t popped any GU and told myself, let me just try and get to Shakespeare, that would be my next goal point. If I could just get there, I can enjoy Gatorade and GU. AS I worked my way down, I noticed a couple laying out in their bathing suits catching some rays and thought, how LUCKY you are to lay down and relax, I kinda wish I was you right now, but must continue on. I stopped at a vendor just short of Shakespeare and asked how much further, he just said a little ways, just a couple more blocks. OK, I hope it REALLY is a couple more blocks. Finally seeing it I ran over, got in line; again tourists packed the vendor and I just asked the vendor if he could just get me a Gatorade real quick knowing this family of tourists would ask for everything under the sun for themselves and the two kids. I thanked them for letting me get the Gatorade, popped the GU and slowly got back started down to 72nd street. Interestingly enough the park not only breaks up with the transverses but with the amount of people on the lower loop. It was a good change for me, after going through 3 miles with not many people around it was actually a little nice to see people out. Everyone was enjoying the weather but ironically not as many as last Sunday. Perhaps Sunday was an exception but there was a TON of people around then. I looked up at the CNN clock and noticed the time, 1.17pm. I was 1hr and about 16 mins into the run. About 76 minutes for a approximately 8 miles at about a 9:30 per mile pace. Not too bad considering… in my head I was trying to calculated it as I got to the bottom of the park, but decided I couldn’t and gave up on it. Once I hit the start I walked onto a dirt path along the running road to regroup for a second. Drank the rest of the Gatorade that remained, threw it out and was on my way.

Second Loop

I was hoping the GU was kicking in and assumed it was. Felt good at this point and continued on the same path knowing I actually could do this. There as a little doubt towards the end of the first loop of me physically being able to complete an entire second loop but again, I thought to myself, if I just break this down in little parts it will be manageable and mentally Ill be able to get through. So I decided that if I could make it to the 72nd street transverse I will be OK. Once I got there, I would need to go to Fred Lebow since that is a major meeting area for runners and they have a couple of water fountains. On the way up, I started tightening up on my right side which never happens and thought, I have had water and Gatorade, perhaps I need more water but I don’t want to buy water and carry it when I can wait to get to Fred. Well, if I really need to Ill buy it but let me try salt. I read somewhere that if you have cramping issues you can get a handful of salt and lick it off and that will help. Now just to find some, ah the vendors have pretzels and they need salt for pretzels, so let me ask one of the nice vendors for a pinch of salt. The first vendor I saw I asked nicely if I could have salt and he said NO, get out of here… I was a bit surprised the anger that was spewed for a simple request of salt (perhaps other runners have asked for salt from him that day). I found the next vendor and he happily obliged and I was on my way. It was a different texture and taste that I was used to and it was a nice break. kept that taste for a little while, then it became annoying. BUT the cramping did subside and I was happily on my way.

I had past 72nd Street and was on my way to the first hill. At this point I did dread Cats Hill. On the second go around Cats Hill can seem enormous, but I found the strength to push through and crest that hill. Afterwards, I felt a bit tired and had to stop. First time stopping, I didn’t want to but the sun was starting to bother me and I felt like I needed to walk for a moment to gather my composure again. A older gentlemen jogged past me, and though he could have been 3x my age, I decided I HAD to run, so I ran along side of him for a bit. I would begin to try and remember these other runners, and would from time to time catch up with them and likewise. It was a little game of cat and mouse that I am sure we all play as we run a long course. Being careful not to interfere with them, but enough that maybe they would bleed some energy into me or I would bleed some into them. This old man helped me get me back on track and I continued on up to Fred to get some water, wash the salt taste and get refreshed. This is part of the stretch of a straight run that runs along the reservoir that seems so long. I have come to despise this stretch as you can see the turns ahead and you just move forward. After refreshing up, I continued on to notice my old man struggling along and right at the end of the reservoir going onto another rolling hill section there was a very tall young looking runner that was running besides him. I decided why not make it three, so I got to the right of them and for a moment we were three runners, as if we were a pack. Then we disbursed and I believe the young fella ran ahead of me. At this point it was small moments like that, that helped get me to the next battle site. Which in this case, would be getting to the 102nd street transverse and start the journey back to Harlem Hill. I noticed on the way there, Central Park has a collection of all the tree depris and they name it the storm collection or something of that nature. Something new to see and realize.

Harlem Hill

So, it was Harlem Hill time and it sure was a monster of a beast at this point. As in previous posts, you wind your way around as seen on the map (right by Lasker Park and Pool) and once you have completed that portion you ascend on Harlem Hill. The elevation range is 32m / 105 ft with a distance of 1.15 miles all the way around. Needless to say, on the second journey around, it was tough. I actually paused before I began to get my composure and noticed yet another couple laying out, laughing and enjoying the small patch of grass. I thought, OK, I gotta get up this… Once I do this, everything is easy. Two runners approached in the short distance I thought, maybe if I ask them if I could join them we could help each other up this beast. I decided not to, and at that point didn’t want to waste a breath asking them to “help” me up. I found the strength to get up and started making my way up. I again gave myself a little prize which would entail the newly discovered water fountain at the top. Once it was in site I rushed over to it and waited behind a young couple on bikes. The girl looks a me, gives me a slight smile and the boy follows up with a look. I must have looked like holy hell but didn’t care. Then I hear the girl whine about having to go up a small hill for the second time. I thought, OK I shouldn’t whine, no negativity, think positive positive positive. I treked up to find a pack of bikers, well a family and I hear who I assume is the daughter complain that it could be easier to walk. I looked over, smiled and said, nah, its ALOT easier on the bike. Some one else said something that I can’t recall but let them know its a lot harder the second go around and a lady just said your doing good, in which I replied Im trying! Put a smile on my face as we descended down and obviously they brisked by quickly as I just had some encouragement.

The rest of the run back down was up and down. I had stopped twice from what I recall for a walk break and gather my composure and at some points I felt strong, only to wait for when I would hit a wall, the wall never came. I tried making it to the 72nd street transverse like the first loop but fell short about 200 yards or so and that would be the last walk break I took. Walked past a couple taking about how they were attending a wedding at the Tavern on the Green and how it is hyped up and so expensive. I could only think of how it would be the finish line of the Marathon, and my parents and Mary and Mike would be there to watch me finish. I got started telling myself again to keep going, once I get past 72nd street I would be OK. I got past and once I was in the spot where you can see the  CNN clock the time read 2.18pm. It was about 1 hr since the last time I was in that area which meant I had done the loop in about 60 minutes and looked at my watch and it read 2:18, I was shooting for 2:20 and once I felt comfortable, I had one last kick and pushed it ever so slightly for a nice finish. I smiled inside knowing I had just finished two full loops of the park after running 10 miles in the morning and quite possibly could total out at 24 miles for the day. Total time for 14.6 miles…. 2:19:38 (9:34 per mile pace)

I don’t quite consider and won’t label this run as a 24 mile run considering the first portion was a broken up run at a slower than usual pace and then there was about a 40-45 minute gap of when I finished the first set and started on the second. I did however do a straight 14 miles including 2 loops of the park in which I feel accomplished. It wasn’t so much about the distance but more about when I myself that YES I will be doing two loops and I did it. I listened to my body very carefully and it was craving an intense run. When I was making my way around the park, it was a different feeling of fatigue I hadn’t felt before if it was just the first loop. The first 10 miler had an affect on my body regardless of the amount of time during and in between the two runs. I now have more confidence that if I keep up with the training and stay injury free that I will be able to complete the NYC Marathon. This run veered off course but turned into a valuable insight for me and what my body is capable of and where it is at this point of the training. I will now take a look at the schedule and adjust as necessary. I may skip a 20 miler and may do a couple more 16-18 mile runs, but to start off Sept with this momentum is awesome. I look forward to the month of Sept and we’ll take it as it goes.

I want to thank Sharon for getting out there and trying her best. Some days will be better than others, but hopefully we’ll be able to get in  a long run again soon! And as always, thank you (YES YOU!) for reading, checking in and being a great support system. I always think of everyone who is supporting me in times when I lick salt off my hand, trying to get up Harlem Hill, dumping Gatorade on my face and even when I yell at myself to keep pushing.

THANK YOU and Happy Running!

View from Hoboken

View from Hoboken

View from Hoboken

View from Hoboken

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