twenty mile fun: hills, trains, and chews

I am well on the other side of my first 20-miler of the year! As all marathoners know (gosh, I almost sound like I consider myself experienced…I don’t yet), getting up and over that hump is a big relief. If you can run one 20-miler without any (well, many) mental or physical roadblocks, it’s safe to say you are prepared for a marathon, if someone was like, Surprise! Run 26.2 in two weeks! What a good feeling. Speaking of “getting up and over,”

I took hills to a new level this weekend. The destination spot of the run can be seen at the very highest point on the above chart. It’s a part of the road I have only ever been via bike, and that whole extra loop in that territory was an area I was eager to explore. Pretty much everyone in the area knows exactly where I am talking about when I reference this hill and this road. It comes with a beautiful view – if you turn around at the top that is – and then another beautiful view less than a mile later.

Here’s a photo my friend took from almost the top of the hill, while biking in the fall:

And no that is not, nor will ever be, my bike. In case you were wondering.

The hill starts way before this, and then there’s the sharp turn you see in the picture. It goes past a stable…not the best smell to waft at that point. Just before the climb, I experienced something that had never happened before on a long run: I HAD TO STOP FOR A FREIGHT TRAIN. See, as I was approaching the base of the hill, I noticed two things: one, there was a herd of cyclists coming up behind me on the opposite side of the road, and two, there was a railroad crossing about 200 meters ahead. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if a train came right now? So of course, on cue the bells start sounding and the gates came down. I reached the crossing just as the cyclists did. “Great timing, right?” I yelled with a laugh, and threw my hands in the air. While it would have been cool to chat with the cyclists, or better yet, see who was faster up the hill as soon as the gates went back up, I’ve heard stories about freight trains that take twenty minutes to cross, so I decided to run up and down the road. Luckily it was only a few minutes long. So, that was a first….

As soon as that loop was over, I headed to the more familiar stretch of the road, where the previous “biggest hill” is located. And did that one.

This is actually the view from the other side. The side I climbed is more gradual, but longer.

It’s pretty easy to tell where the big hills were….

I must give photo credit to the guys behind Hidden NJ. One thing you should know about me (if you haven’t realized it already…) is that I can’t get enough of learning the history behind places I frequent. Whether it’s photos taken inside a friend’s house from twenty years ago or a historic landmark I pass on a run, it excites me incredibly. I just discovered this site as I was searching for photos and spent way too long on it….If you want to learn about when East and West lines were drawn for New Jersey though, check it out here.

Back to the run. In an effort to experiment with something other than gels after suspecting they may be causing stomach distress (I think it actually was a stomach bug of sorts…but I still don’t want to stop during Boston!), I took along PowerBar Energy Chews. It was nice that I could have just one chew at a time, and spread them out over several miles. It was kind of strange to chew while running…believe it or not, it was my first time doing so. In the future, I think I’ll try the Clif Shot Bloks instead. The PowerBar chews were very, very chewy. There was no one to save me if I choked out there, just saying. I didn’t hydrate well because I didn’t want to carry a bottle…also could not find the bottle pre-run anyway…first sip of water was at the municipal building (this was planned, it was either there or my house) just before mile 18. Needless to say I downed two full glasses of Nuun when I was finished. Other than lack of water though, I have no complaints. I did the entire thing alone, and it wasn’t so bad. Much, much better than last year’s 20-miler, even though nothing really went wrong on that either. I felt fine all day and night after that – much less tired than after my 18-miler for some reason. All of this left me super relieved. Another conclusion drawn from both the long run and Tuesday’s hill loop interval workout: hills are way easier than they used to be, even last fall. Making hills the name of my game was such a good idea. Never looking back. I may be in a relationship with hills from now on.

My friend was in town, and fortunately we both agreed to do the best activity humanly possible right after my 20-miler: MAKE LOTS AND LOTS OF PANCAKES. With peanut butter, Nutella, and bananas. I made so many I had to actually save some for later. Got a little over-ambitious. :/

PANCAKES.

I have a long list of other things I want to write about very soon! I just wanted to write down the 20-miler recap so, you know, it actually happened. 😉

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