Through the woods and over the river, year two

A couple weekends back, I did my longest training run to date: 21 miles from Montgomery to New Hope. Last winter, I did a shortened version, but this year it fell perfectly on my calendar and I did the whole thing. I am not kidding when I say (and I said this during the last couple miles and everyone agreed, so it’s not hindsight speaking) it felt like six miles. Never before had a run of such a great length felt so short. I ran with Kate and Sarah, and we caught up and exchanged stories and chatted the whole time. Martin and Kate’s husband Nick had driven to Lambertville (across the river from New Hope, technically our “finish line”) and then ran back on the route until they found us and turned around to run with us into town. The landmarks we passed on the run, which have become iconic to the runners who have participated in this run several times, were no less exciting to pass this time around, and also made the run fly by. It felt so good, and so easy, that I forgot to take the Gu that I had brought (I had Clif Shot Bloks though). I’ll take that as a good sign. Most consider the route to be hilly, but compared to all the ups and downs I’ve done on every other long run this year, it was actually easier. There was a gradual up – then several miles – and then a steep down, basically.

Me, Sarah, and Kate, immediately after finishing the run. Note the Welcome to Pennsylvania sign.

After touching ground on the PA side and seeing my watch hit 21 miles, we stopped, snapped some pictures, and walked back over to New Jersey. Recoverosas at Full Moon Cafe were in order, as well as eggs and the like. For being called Full Moon Cafe, there is a lot of half moon decor. Just saying. They do have specials on every full moon night though, which is pretty cool.


While standing up and walking to the car after our meal did not feel as good as walking back over the bridge right after finishing the run, I must say that I felt pretty darn good after this run. Recovery felt 100% within a couple days, and while I was still a bit tired, I even did the weekly intervals workout two nights later.

Boston is in thirteen days! I have many more training updates to share, since this run to PA was a long time ago (or so it feels – it’s even “warm” now!). Stay tuned for all sorts of runners-high-induced banter.


The in-between season (and Santa is real…)

I hardly ever have “in-between seasons” in terms of training. Why? Well, I’m usually injured, and that takes the place of an in-between season. So, I’m either “getting back” from an injury, training and training well, or I’m injured. After the New Jersey Marathon, I thought I would finally have an in-between season, when I could rest when I felt like it, and run when I wanted to. Less than three runs into this period, I hurt my IT band…so that was that. I’m back at that place again: my goal race is over (though I’ve done some speed workouts and raced a 5k since then…oops?), the next race on my plate will be the biggest of my life to date, and I want to do everything in my control to train 100% healthy for it, as I did throughout the fall and for my first marathon.

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t know how to have an in-between season. Or rather, I’m pretty bad at it. I had a plan to treat the Philly Half like it was a marathon, to ward off any injuries since I was doing so well in that department. Then, start running whenever I felt like it, and cross train. I only followed that plan for less than a week. Why?!?!

Well, here’s what I did instead that does not follow the plan at all, and why:

Helped pace a friend to a 10k PR

The Saturday following Philly, I went to a run at 7 AM with a group I normally don’t run with, just because it usually involves a lot of stopping, and slower running than I prefer even on easy days. When one member of the group announced he needed to do a tune-up “race” at around 7:20 pace, and others were joining him, I thought it would be a great opportunity to finally run with everyone. Why should I say no because I’d just done a half, when others who had ran the full (or three fulls this fall…guy is nuts) were going? Insert peer pressure, exhibit 1. The route he chose was pretty hilly, and I mainly just ran right with him, or slightly ahead of behind. When he kicked it in, I didn’t follow. So at least I was good about that. My legs were still tired and I had a “looking forward to actually recovering” mentality going on. Overall, it was fun to help a friend and I’m glad I did it.

Ran with a new, fast group

A friend sent me a message following the half, inviting me to join an “enclave” of runners in my area for runs. Since I had a friend coming to visit, I had off work, and I didn’t think the PI workout scheduled would help me prepare for the 5k Thursday, I decided to skip the PI workout and go to one of these runs at 3:30 the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was cold and rainy, and I ended up doing a nice 8.3-miler with one other girl from New Brunswick (who ran a 3:06 marathon debut in October). We had some good chats and warmed up to average a pace of 7:45, a pretty solid medium-length run with rolling hills. I think it will help me to run with fast runners as I train for Boston. More on this later, but I almost have an overwhelming amount of training-partner resources becoming available to me for the winter and spring right now….I definitely need to look at all my options when the time to set a plan gets closer and take advantage of every single one. Not many runners can say this, and I know I am lucky. Back to the run…I have no pictures from this run because my hands went numb. I will say that I wore my Oiselle Flyer Jacket from Hood to Coast…and it was the perfect weather for it.

Seattle-20130822-02376Insert peer pressure, exhibit 2: these runs are happening weekly, and everyone seems to be training hard despite having raced a marathon or half recently. How do I know if my body has truly adapted to training and won’t fail me like it used to on any random day? I don’t. I know it’s better to be careful until after the holidays, when I should start training for Boston (on fresh legs). It’s really cool to be invited to run with 3:0x marathoners and feel like our training paces are similar. It’s inspiring and motivating to think that maybe my body is finally making sense, and I can do what they do at last: reach 40 mpw, run more than one faster workout a week, etc. But if it’s not ready yet, I can’t risk it. I’m having trouble differentiating between listening to cues from history versus listening to cues from my body, and knowing what’s best in the long term to run as fast as possible. Perhaps in normal jargon this is the issue of overtraining vs. undertraining, on a personal basis?

Ran PI workouts + fast 300s

I went to the workout last Tuesday night. I thought about why I shouldn’t go: I should still be resting in the “in-between season.” I thought about why I should go: I wanted to. It was as simple as that. I missed it, and I’d rather be running fast around a track on a Tuesday night than anywhere else. So, I went. We did 4 x 2000m. I thought it would be a good goal to try to hit 8:00-8:07 for 2000m, or 6:24-6:30 pace. My first one was 8:14, bleh. I didn’t want to leave with a sub-par workout effort, post-“season” or not, so I managed to run 8:02, 8:02, and 7:56 for the remaining three intervals. That was better. The cooldown back to downtown was a peculiar experience, as I somehow got colder and colder as the two miles went on. Weird. Peer pressure, exhibit 3: running fast is fun. 

On Thursday, I wanted to run 4 x 300 very fast in preparation for the 6th Annual PI Mile (which is tonight!). It was warm-ish and humid, and after running about 4.5 miles as a warmup, I stopped at the track and ended up running the 300s in just a sports bra…in December. So humid. Anyway, I have hardly had good workouts on this particular track for whatever reason, but I was shooting for 60 seconds per 300. I gave myself as minute rest of walking/slow running. I felt very, very good on these 300s! As in, smooth and fast. I actually felt fast, like I wasn’t just a “marathoner.” I ended up running 60, 60, 58 high, 57 high/58 low. I considered running even more 300s, I was having so much fun, but I decided to save it and run back. The cooldown was slow and sluggish – funny how that works. Self pressure, exhibit 4: now I think I could be “fast.” Oh dear. 

Explored a new trail

It isn’t really “new,” but it’s improved. I checked out the Lawrenceville-Hopewell Trail on Saturday. I thought I’d get off the roads like I used to, during the “in-between season.” It was pretty fun, though I was tired and just didn’t feel like running a full 8 miles like I thought I would (so I didn’t; I ran 7.4), which almost never happens. I wrote all about the experience  (as well as some cool history about the area) on our store page on, so you can read about it here.

Ran in the first snowfall

It snowed for real in NJ on Sunday. I wanted to run in it! So I did. Back-to-back days of 7+ miles, not my normal schedule. I probably should have only done 3, but I started from a location from which I would need to run farther to run anywhere fun.

This brings me to today. The PI Mile is tonight. After the 300s, I think I’ve got it in me to go pretty fast. My goal is always a year-best time…since I hardly ever race a mile. This year, that would put me at sub-5:49, which I ran at TCNJ (a week before the marathon…) in April. I do think I have the potential to dip under 5:40, but we’ll see what happens. The first matter of business will be a non-traditional warmup…because you see, it currently looks something like this outside:

I have no idea how long it takes to shovel the entirety of lane one of a track, but that is what I’ll be attempting to do soon. I also brought spikes with me. Might as well do it right…. [My left foot is feeling slightly weird, as of yesterday (a day I didn’t actually run). Hoping, wishing, praying it’s not a stress fracture. I haven’t had any pain yet, or felt it running, but this is a glimpse into my paranoid mind, if you were wondering….]

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Last but not least…this is entirely unrelated, but I should announce it as a follow-up to my last post: SOMETIMES, SANTA IS REAL. As you know, on Thursday night I had officially accepted the fact that I was unable to do Ironman 70.3 Princeton next September. I couldn’t spend $300 on it on December 16th; it just wasn’t practical. On Friday, something ridiculous happened. I was not expecting it at all. Thanks to the generosity of two friends, I now have the means (via a gift card) to register for the race. I was so surprised and happy I was practically crying. What an amazing gift. So, I still need to register and officially get into the race, but I am registering for the Princeton Half Ironman on Monday at noon. Scream with me. AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! I still can’t believe that happened.

Questions for you: Am I doing the “in-between season” all wrong? How do you handle running peer pressure? Should I run when I want to, or make myself hold back? Have you ever shoveled a track (wish me luck…)? 

Through the woods and over the river to PA

This post could have a lot of potential titles…such as:

– How to never find half of your running group/why Garmins should have walkie-talkies

– How to have a truly epic destination run

– The road to becoming a legit blogger

– How not to recover after your long run

– Runners are crazy and I wouldn’t change it for the world

….But I’m going to leave it as is. On Sunday, I had some long run plans that were, well, complicated. Normally, I would go over maps online and do calculations ahead of time to figure out exactly what time we needed to end up where, so this would work. But, I was exhausted and opted for extra sleep, thinking, I’m sure it will work out. 

The plan was, Kate was running 20.7 miles from point A. Brennan and I were meeting her fiance at point A to put dry clothes and other such post-run necessities in his car. Kate was arriving at point B to pick up Martin, who would run 16.2 miles. Brennan and I drove to point C, where we were to figure out what time we should leave to run ~1.7 miles up the road to meet Kate and Martin to continue on the run to New Hope, PA. There was a parking lot at this point C, which is why we weren’t directly on their route. It turned out we had more time than we’d thought. We spent the time taking pictures.

“I’ve never taken a jumping picture before! Now that I have a blog I think it’s required!” –> this made logical sense to me at the time….

Eventually we decided the time had come to meet the others down the road. Up is actually a better word to use – the run was uphill immediately. And we felt it. “I’m so glad we both feel like crap,” we agreed once we stopped at the meet-up point. We did some dynamic stretching…and jumping around…and inspecting an abandoned shack on the corner…before we yelled, WHERE ARE THEY, IT IS SO FREAKING COLD! We waited five minutes or so past the time we expected them to reach us. Brennan was convinced we miscalculated, or they were running super fast, and we had missed them. There was no way of knowing (bring to mind the Garmin walkie-talkie feature idea, courtesy of Kate), so we eventually continued on our way. At least we had each other, and we would all meet up at the river!

Me running through the Sourlands.

We saw some peculiar sites while in the woods: a house on top of the mountain that looked as if it was ready for floodwaters to come through, small houses, huge houses, houses with closed front gates, deer, unmarked trailheads (it took some restraint to pass them by…).

Approximately mile six…I’m having a good time (and midfoot striking?! Sweetness).

The scenery changed a bit after was crossed Route 31, the first busy road we came across. The woods were replaced by fields and farms. We saw the occasional horse or herd of sheep. I was so grateful for the bright sun on a cold day, but the wind was pretty brutal! I started to feel much more warmed up and got into a good rhythm as the run went on…much improved from the awkward and stiff first few miles.

Silos = photo op! Photo idea credit (sun placement) goes to me, but the awesomeness that ensued is props to Brennan’s iPhone.
“Should I look at you?” …still learning the whole taking-pictures-while-running-because-I-blog-now thing.

We saw our fair share of pickup trucks along the route, which of course got Kip Moore’s “Somethin’ Bout a Truck” stuck in my head, and I began to daydream of what it would be like to run these sunny roads in summer!

We were getting closer and closer to the river, and brunch! I had a small moment of excitement when we stumbled upon South Hunterdon High School, because for some reason I find it to be like a lost piece of a puzzle when I discover where schools are in New Jersey I have heard of but never seen. I think this is a side effect of high school cross country. Also hosting spike nights at the store.

We felt the elevation start to drop, and we coasted in to Lambertville! When Brennan’s Garmin hit 12 miles somewhere on the way down, I said out loud, “Now, imagine if we turned around right now. That would be a marathon. I wonder what that would feel like.” More on that later.

We passed Full Moon, the cafe where we were planning to meet everyone post-run, and continued on to the bridge. Honestly, the point of that was to say we went to Pennsylvania, I think…also to make the run over 13 miles. I have a slight obsession with bodies of water and therefore running over bridges, so I was all for it.

Picture on the bridge, PA over my right shoulder!

What a great way to end a great run! We stopped at the cafe heading back to end our 13 (13.4, actually) miles of fun…and saw Kate and Martin in the distance approaching us! We yelled and waved, both parties curious and confused as to what had happened. It turned out they left point B a little later than planned, and then made a wrong turn! Conclusion: they were behind us the whole time! They were at our meeting point a good fifteen-plus  minutes after we decided to take off, so in hindsight, what we did made sense. Oh well. Next time we’ll get it right…and maybe I’ll do the 16.2!

I ordered a delicious omelette at brunch, and I didn’t even think I liked omelettes. Best of all…#recoverosas! Let the word be spread. With the hashtag, apparently that is necessary.

recoverosa (n.) – mimosa consumed after a long run, because hydration is important

We came up with all sorts of new terms as we enjoyed our post-run fun. They include: recoverita, rungover, runger/rungry. We are taking suggestions for a word for post-run beer…nothing clever came to us. This is pretty much why this post could be about not recovering properly, FYI.

You need to go here. That is all.

All that beverages-besides-water talk/consumption, plus the fact that I went country line dancing later that evening, and one of the best places ever, the Colorado Cafe. I had been there once before, and I wanted to get a picture for tradition’s sake (and to put it on here, duh), but my phone died randomly just as I handed it to a stranger to take a photo of my friend and me beneath the sign! My luck. Well, there are worse things. Overall, it was the best possible Sunday I can think of. 🙂

The group post-run at Full Moon Cafe with our #recoverosas.

Longest run ever!

First 2 hour run! (Ignore the extra 16 seconds…I accidentally split my watch instead of stopping it, and did not realize this until 16 seconds later, apparently. Picture spoiler, I know.)

This past Sunday I ran my farthest run ever! I met up with Kate, Martin, Daniel, and Julie at Montgomery Middle School at 8:30am (Brennan was out of town 😦 ). It was a beautiful winter morning: sunny for once, as Sundays should be, 20-25 degrees, with minimal wind. Martin had mapped 17 miles, but I wan’t quite up for that…so I gmap-pedomedered (a new verb, by the way) a 13.1-miler, cutting off a loop in the middle. I thought breaking away from them at that point would work out well, since he and Kate were planning on doing 7 miles at 7:20 around then, which I also was not ready for. However…we missed an integral turn very early on in the run, and ended up adding on a couple miles. Once we reached the canal, we reassessed…they ended up running something similar to my original plan, which would now equate to 15-16 due to our mistake. I decided to turn early on Canal Rd. to run up tothe Griggstown Causeway (I love the word “causeway” – makes me think of going somewhere exciting). The towpath wasn’t an option – it was covered in 5-6 inches of uneven snow. Running through that for 3 miles would make me grumpy, not to mention frozen.

Included: 15.23 mile long weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works....
Included: 15.23 mile long run…my weeks are rather long run-heavy, but hey, it works….

I got into a good rhythm once I waved Martin and Kate off on their extra loop. I checked in with my form via the circular mirrors on the side of the road meant for cars coming out of driveways, which was neat. I felt strong for the whole rest of the run, save for some noticeable tightness in my right Achilles/lower calf. Back at the parking lot, my watch read 1:57:xx. There’s no reason I shouldn’t run two hours! I thought. So, I ran a couple laps around the lot until my watch said the magic numbers: 2:00:00. I walked around and stretched, satisfyingly tired. Longest run ever! What a feeling! It would’ve been great to run with others for the entire run, but the company for the first seven was great! When I got home, I mapped the route I ended up running, and it came to 15.23 miles, putting me at an average of 7:52/mile! I secretly hate when I map a long run and it ends up being significantly over 8:00 pace when it didn’t feel like it was. I was pleased with this.

My favorite part of the long run!
My favorite part of the long run!

During the run, I asked myself, What am I doing differently? referring to the past four years in college, in regards to running. I think I’ve got it: Each night, I’m not worrying about injuring a specific body part more than any other. That is, I’m not letting any pain or ache get to the point where it could turn into a real injury. Normally, if I say, “my hip’s bothering me,” for example, it usually means I’ve already developed a stress fracture. That is why I have to be so incredible careful with my training. After a long run or a hard workout that leaves me wondering if it will push me over the edge and leave me injured, I ask myself, “If you could ice one thing right now, what would it be?” and it takes me more than five seconds to think of what to ice, I’m fine. That’s not to say aches and pains aren’t inevitable, but how you respond to it is very important. Catching them early and taking extra precautions (e.g., cross training for two days instead of one or none, hopping on a precautionary rehab routine along with your regular resistance training) is key. I am (hopefully) starting to respond to hard training as a “normal” runner does. I like it.

Lucky 13

I’ve been running long with Brennan almost every weekend since December, and I found out about a small group that has been meeting Sunday mornings that runs around our pace. So, Brennan and I met up with them this past Sunday morning, and it was very successful. The group is a sort of tributary of a larger Saturday morning group, consisting of a few members who wanted to go a bit faster than the group typically ran. Among them is a girl who ran 3:10 in her first marathon (!). Pretty awesome. It was fun to meet another female to run with, because that doesn’t happen to me often. She had mapped out a route that totaled 12.95 miles, but we ended up missing an important turn and improvising, making it 13.5 miles. The highlight of the run was a pretty country road called Mountain View, which did not fall short in advertising. To the left, we could see the Sourland Mountains, and it was quite the view, even on a hazy, cold morning (can it be simultaneously hazy and cold? I really think it was). A house was being built just past a curve in the road, and I am so jealous of whoever will be living there! (In the meantime, it provided the means for a construction porta-potty break, obviously.)

Mountain View Rd: worth the hills it took to get there.
Mountain View Rd: worth the hills it took to get there.

The miles flew by, that is, once my shins loosened up. They have been tight ever since I ran in Kayanos for our Asics group run at the store. That is kind of strange, but they say (we say, I guess) that different shoes work your feet and muscles differently. Practicing what I preach…guess that yields consequences. Oh well. The aforementioned 3:10 marathoner ran seven miles before she met us, en route to a 20-miler; she’s training for Boston and is evidently training very hard. We had some nice chats along the run, and finished strong. My hair was a sweaty mess as usual, and therefore had froze during the run, which was kind of awesome. And gross, some say, but mostly awesome. Because I am crazy and like to get things done all in one day, I headed right to the gym to do some ab work, stretching, and upper-body lifting. My calves were noticeably tired and tight getting out of the car, but the feeling was well deserved. It was my first planned run (getting lost doesn’t count, nor do thee addition of relay legs by the way) over 13 miles since October of 2010, and even then it was estimated by time (on trails). That run in October 2010 was an estimated 13, also, making this my longest run ever. I liked that. Can I imagine having done seven before? No, not yet. But two or three? Probably. I’m excited for what is ahead, yet being super cautious as always. 13 is my favorite number, after all!

Speaking of the Kayano run, it was a good time! We ran Pretty Brook: tripped over signs, got caught in some blinding headlights, lost a runner along the way (it was unfortunate…but he is okay), charged up some hills, chatted about butts going numb, and chased it down with some beer and veggie pizza, a Thursday night staple. And struck this pose:

Asics Run