This Saturday was a gorgeously warm, almost hot, Spring day, which was a wonderful relief from the constant, uncertain threat of rain that has been hanging over the City recently. It hasn’t actually rained that much, but every day this week the meteorologists have predicted showers, if not thunderstorms, and our plans have hung in anticipation of some torrential downpour that never quite materialized. Not that I have any complaints about my access to the outdoors, as I did a tremendous amount of running this week, but it was still nice to step outside and just have blue skies and warm sun instead of non-committal overcast.
I ran a lot Saturday – the most mileage I’ve put in on one day since the marathon back in November – but it was an odd, cobbled together total. I started the morning with the weekly 3.5 mile run to Gym Park, but due to an unusually high level of unexpected chaos (now that we have two kids, no level of chaos is either unusual or unexpected) Nat and I got out the door late. Typically, it takes us just a little under 30 minutes, since I can push myself to keep up an 8 minute pace the whole way, but this week, with the motive of not wanting to miss the start of class, I started out much faster than I normally would. I ran the first mile in 7:56, which wasn’t bad, so I tried to speed up a little. I did mile 2 in 7:53. Better. Could I keep it up? It was an effort, but I did mile 3 in 7:26, then kicked into a sprint for the last half mile, and got my pace up to 6:45 for the end. We made it to the gym just as the class was starting (and Peter Segal wants me to believe there’s no practical side to running!), and I paused to catch my breath as Nat greeted his little toddler friends. It’s always sobering to think that I pushed myself to the brink to do a 3.5 miles at a near 7 minute mile, and Gebregziabher Gebremariam can pound out 26.2 doing a mile every five minutes. Speaking of relativity . . .
The plan for the rest of the day was to leave the gym shortly after Nat’s class ended, then run about 4 miles to meet up with our friend John, who would join me for another 6 miles down to Ditmas Park to pick up a set of car keys, and end by meeting up with M and Angelica in South Slope for the “Touch-A-Truck” event (a fundraiser that allowed kids to play in and around the sort of large vehicles that little kids go nuts over. I’d spent the last few weeks referring to it as “Toddlerpalooza,” a term that was much more amusing once Nat started repeating it). En route, I got a call from M who was worried that Toddlerpalooza would be too crowded if we showed up at 1, like I had planned, so I decided to cut out Ditmas Park and just figure out how to get the keys later. John was waiting for us on his stoop in Prospect Heights, just a few blocks from the entrance to Prospect Park, and after refilling my water-bottle at his place we headed off through the park.
I do almost all my running alone (well, alone except for Nat, that is). M and I used to run together a lot when we both trained for the 2008 marathon, but since the jogging stroller has become a necessary part of most runs, we’ve mostly run separately. While I really like the solitary aspect of my runs, it is nice to meet up with someone else, especially for the sort of casual, just-out-for-fun run I was on Saturday. My favorite way to run is actually to have a destination but only a vague sense of how I’m going to get there; I’d looked at a map that morning and knew where I was going in relation to Prospect Park, but didn’t actually know the route there and figured I could connect the dots on the way. John and I chatted south through Prospect Park, then followed Ft. Hamilton Parkway until we ran into the southern edge of Greenwood Cemetery and I realized we’d left the park at the wrong entrance and were about a mile south of where we were supposed to be. I knew where Touch-A-Truck was in relation to Greenwood, however, so we followed the edge of the cemetery north, then followed 20th street and the growing procession of toddlers and strollers until we found Toddlerpalooza. At this point, I’d run 11.5 miles and was quite hungry, so I washed down a slice of pizza with a bottle of Muscle Milk and assumed I was done running for the day. Since I’d run 15 miles just on Wednesday, 11.5 seemed good for Saturday.
Unfortunately, Touch-A-Truck was bit of a disappointment, for us at least. Nat was, of course, fast asleep when we arrived, and when I woke him up he was dazed, very clingy, and dead-set against touching any trucks, let alone climbing around inside them. Eventually we gave up, wrote off our entrance-fee as a donation to a good cause, then went to find some of our friends and their toddlers who had finished touching trucks and were playing in a nearby park.
There was still the matter of picking up the keys, however, and there is no easy public transportation connection between Sunset Park and Ditmas. It would take forever by either bus or subway, and since I estimated it would only be a little over 3 miles each direction . . . well, if you’ve read a few of my posts, you know how my logic works. I left Nat and the stroller with M at our friends’ house, and headed back out on the sidewalk, retracing my patch along the edge of Greenwood cemetery, cutting over on Church Avenue to Ocean. Ocean is a broad avenue with two wide, pedestrian meridians that made running easy – the last time I’d run along Ocean Avenue was during the Brooklyn Half-Marathon way back in 2008. Once again I was running off a general knowledge of local geography, as I knew the relative relationships between the major avenues, but not exactly how Sunset and Ditmas corresponded. I knew Ocean would eventually lead me to Beverly, which would lead me to Argyle, which would lead me to Kate and Franklin’s.
At this point, I was also starving. One of the most important things to factor into a long run is when and how much to eat in order to keep your body fueled, and I hadn’t planned for these last six and a half miles. I’d had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast, then a slice of pizza and a Muscle Milk for lunch, but that was it over about seven hours. That was approximately what I’d have eaten over that time on a non-active day, and by running 18 miles I’d burn roughly 2,400 calories, which is more than my typical caloric intake for the day. I was beginning to entertain thoughts of pulling a Dean Karnazes and trying to eat a slice of pizza while running, but I was afraid my stomach would rebel and I’d be stuck out in the middle of Brooklyn. Luckily Kate offered me a Cliff bar and a glass of water when I showed up at their place, and that was enough to get me through the end of the run. Keys in hand (or rather, tucked into my short’s pocket), I headed back to Sunset Park.
At first, when I realized I was going to rack up 18 miles, I was tempted to just push it to an even 20, but since I was already going to have increased my weekly millage by 30% more than last week’s (the safe rule of thumb is 10%), I decided that was just asking for an injury. Also, it’s psychologically very hard to move a long-run goal towards the end of a run. At the half-way point, yes, but at mile 16 I was so fixated on that number 18 that pushing the end-point back, even just two miles, caused my mind to pitch into despair; I wanted to do it, but I didn’t desire to, and the last miles of a long-run are much more about desire and determination than what one is physically capable of.
So I pulled to a walk at 18 miles, about a third of a mile from where M, Nat and Angelica were with our friends. I had passed a smoothie place on the way to Ditmas, and had been fantasizing about some massive, protein infused concoction for the last six miles. Blended beverage in hand, I walked slowly back to meet up with my family. I hadn’t planned on two long runs in one week, but I was pretty happy with myself, both because all of the day’s running had been enjoyable, but because I’d logged 42 miles in one week, which is the second most miles I’ve done (training for the marathon in 2008 I did 46 once). It was a great way to end a week of running, and prepare myself for heading back to work Monday. Now I’ll be trying to squeeze running in between teaching and two kids at home, which is going to make things interesting (and most likely slow down this blog – this post is four days late!). But I’ll make it work; I need to.