Monday, July 1, 2013

Deliciously Sore

My neck, my back..... Remember that awful rap/song by Khia? Obviously she was not referring to the weekend activity that I prefer to engage in. (The song is a disgustingly objectifying piece of crap non-music that no one should EVER listen to). Weekends are for running and er, recovering from  long jaunts outside in the sun, rain, snow, sleet, wind, etc. They aren't meant for other things. Maybe an occasional kayaking trip, or SUP lesson, or a bike race....

I'm addicted to the delicious soreness that remains and/or comes in full-force a few hours/days after a particularly grueling exploit. It is a constant reminder of the brute physical force and endurance required to carry one's heavy self miles across concrete, asphalt, dirt, gravel, rocks, and rogue tree roots. Even the stiffness that presents itself after a difficult exploit is welcome. It says "I did something EPIC." While the mileage I ran and walked this weekend wasn't what I would call EPIC,  it was enough to bring on the pleasant exhaustion and satisfaction that comes from that sustained effort.

This weekend, I endeavored to run 37 miles on the TGNY100 course. Why? Because one of my trail-runner friends had planted the seed in early June.  I was going to be in NY anyway training for my third Marine Corps Marathon in October and a possible September TNF Endurance Challenge in Georgia. What was I thinking? That I'd run my age, you know, just because I should. Actually, one of my Facebook friends and fellow trail runners convinced me to consider signing up for the TGNY100 because I had been looking for a way to train for the NJ Trail Series 6-hour Running With The Devil race at Mountain Creek in July. He suggested that I try the TGNY100, but I couldn't get my registration in quickly enough. So I decided that I would try to run some of the course anyway, unsupported. I admit that I had a lot of anxiety about pursuing such a long, unsupported run.  I didn't want to bandit the actual race so I made sure to start a good 20 minutes after the official start. This would ensure that I wouldn't get tempted to stop at any of the aid stations--they would be torn down after the last official runner passed through.

I woke up at 4 am, after having slept 5 hours (for some reason, it is essential that I not sleep too much before a long run. I think I run better and can go for longer on less sleep. Go figure.) I took the subway from Brooklyn with the early morning revelers who were returning home/headed for more partying. On the way I downed a Smooth Caffeinator Picky Bar, my favorite pre-long-run food, and a few sips of Lemon-Lime Heed (disgusting but effective.)

I exited the Times Square Subway station to be greeted by Broadway lights, and streets already starting to fill up with tourists. At 5:20am. The city that never sleeps. And this is why I love my hometown! I felt the energy of the city and the recently departed runners drawing me in and giving me the okay to get started.

I began running on Broadway at 47th, north to Central Park. Did you know that Central Park is uphill in every direction, even on the downhills? That's what it felt like during those first two or so miles. I remember thinking to myself that whoever was participating in the bike race that was happening in CP that morning had it easy; at least they had wheels!

The course then took me onto Morningside Drive with its beautifully verdant park on the right and majestic Union Theological Seminary/Columbia University-owned buildings on the left. As Morningside curved into 122nd, the first major hill stood before me. I made friends with that hill. After crossing Amsterdam and making a right onto Riverside drive then passing Fairway on 12th you enter the Hudson River Greenway on 135th. Um, HELLO? How did I not know this was here? Yeah, I'm one of those New Yorkers.

I ran and walked some on the Greenway for a few miles, getting spectacular views of the Hudson River and the George Washington Bridge. At some point I entered Fort Tryon Park in Inwood and after a mile or so (maybe two, maybe three, maybe .25 mile?) I crossed the Henry Hudson Bridge into my old neighborhood, Riverdale. It was really cool to be able to run from Times Square to Riverdale. Who knew that eight years after moving from my small one bedroom across from Van Cortlandt Park, I'd be running there from Times Square instead of hopping on the 1 train? I relished the opportunity to run through one of my favorite parts of the Bronx; I was especially excited to run in Van Cortlandt Park again, the scene of my very first trail race in the late 1990s (where I wore a too-tight pair of Brooks and couldn't walk for days) and the site of many a pre-marriage/pre-child run.

I passed the VCP ball fields filled with weekend cricket-players on my left and the tortoise and hare statue in the distance and entered the wooded part of the park, onto the well-groomed cross-country trail. The course then took me onto the John Muir trail (oh the fond memories!) and briefly onto the Croton Aqueduct trail. I love running in the woods alone, especially on tight single-track. However, I do NOT like running under dark and spooky underpasses. This is the case in VCP.  But I soldiered on, reminding myself that I had traversed this many times in the past and that there had been many runners here earlier, and none of them had been kidnapped I supposed...
After some twists and turns, the trail brings you to the other side of VCP in the northeastern part of the Bronx. Contrary to popular belief, the Bronx consists of much more than Jonathan Kozol's South Bronx or the industry and tractor trailers of Hunts Point. This particular neighborhood has neatly groomed houses and clean streets. I stopped at a corner store (bodega) and refueled with some Gatorade and Lays chips. Good thing the chips are a lot saltier than they used to be.  The cashier asked if I was part of the group that had been in there earlier, because you know, "You're late." I told him that I wasn't technically part of the race and then he said, "Well 85 more to go!"  I smiled, nodded, thanked him and left knowing at that I wouldn't be doing 37.

I ran next to the Woodlawn Cemetery for a bit and then after crossing a few avenues (I think) and  entered the Bronx Park Greenway, which follows the Bronx River and then intersects the Pelham Bay Park Greenway. There were more than a few people out running, skateboarding, walking, and even a group heading out for a canoe trip taking advantage of this day that had started with a beautifully ominous cloud cover and then morphed into brilliant sunshine. Some gave me quizzical looks (most likely because of the bright yellow "Running With The Devil" t-shirt I wore), and others shot me a good morning nod. At this point I was about 18 miles in. My neck, back, feet, and hips started to hurt. And let's just say I should have had an extra supply of Body Glide handy.  This was also when the sun started to beat down furiously, roasting my already very dark skin. (And yes, black people can get sunburn. I am living proof.)

As you enter Pelham Bay Park, New York City's largest park, you leave an urban landscape, cross the Pelham Bridge over the Hutchinson River, where you stop and appreciate the noisy aquatic birds and the families out fishing,  plunge into lush greenery and begin smelling forest and the briny waters of the Long Island Sound.

And this is where I missed the turn into Orchard Beach (I'm sure it was well-marked) and ran over the bridge to City Island instead.  I made the decision to stop here. A Dunkin Donuts Iced Coffee sounded like a great idea at that point since I was boiling, had run out of water and Heed, and was pretty satisfied with the mileage I had done for the day. According to my GPS, it was a little over 23 miles. I took it.

The first 22 miles of the TGNY100 course re- introduced me to some of the awesome urban road and trail running that is part of what makes New York City so incredibly varied and exciting. I didn't finish the 37 miles that I had intended to do, but I am appreciative of the fact that I was able to run through two boroughs on a gorgeous summer day, and test my endurance in my hometown.

Next: Finger Lakes 50s 25K


  1. I have so enjoyed reading your Blog, and find it inspiring that you take on these challenges head on! Great job!!

  2. Thanks Meg!It's a fun to live life head on (well, most of the time anyway!)

  3. I loved reading this post! I found your blog through a FB post. I plan to spend some time reading through it. I am somewhat new to distance running. I am going to be running my first half in April. You are beginning to make me think that longer distances are possible...even if I have some extra weight. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Awesome! We can all do it-it's only a matter of when! Run on!