When I run, I think. Last night I was thinking about the turmoil in our world – the terrorist attacks in our country and abroad, the conflict between our elected representatives and the folks they’re supposed to represent, the wave of anger that sometimes feels like it’s going to drown our country…it was pretty dark. The four letter word that seems to be most prevalent in all of those conditions seems to be hate, a word that I try not to use.
As the miles started ticking off, I began considering all of the other four letter words that I’m more inclined to use and realized how many of them have positive, even joyous, connotations. As I started listing them in my head I knew I needed to jot them down for the days that feel dark and populated by those who would rather hate than love. Here are my top 50, in alphabetical order. You know, because I’m a librarian and all.
What are your essential four-letter words?
Seeing that I have a couple of races next month, running this 10 miler seemed like a good idea when I impulsively registered for it on Thursday. Of course, I haven’t run as much recently as I would have liked and I had a ladies night out with drinks and nosh at dp’s and Mama Mia at Cap Rep last night…whatever. I was in.
I woke up this morning cold. Last night’s rain really made things feel chilly this morning and getting dressed to run was a little challenging. I settled on a skort,* tank and long sleeved pullover, which I ditched immediately prior to the race. Foolishly, I neglected to bring any nutrition, a bandana to keep the sweat out of my eyes or my Camelback. This is what happens when I don’t pack a bag in advance, dumbass. (That’s me talking to myself, btw.)
The conditions were pretty much ideal with clouds preventing too much sun and fairly mild temps in the lower 70s. We began (and finished) at an elementary school, but wove through a few neighborhoods and some lovely rural areas as well. I had no idea what to expect from the course and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t too hilly. There was a beast of a hill somewhere around mile 7, but I made it to the top of that one with the encouragement of a few ladies who opted to walk up it. All I needed was that “Don’t stop!” and I mustered up the will to get to the top. Too bad they weren’t behind me when I hit a wall during the 10th mile. That last damn mile did me in!
I was home by 10:30 and would definitely consider running this one again. I love a small race that supports a good cause and Castleton is super close. It was a good morning.
*skort is one of my least favorite words, but I do like to run in one.
This first week of summer vacation has been nonstop fun and shenanigans. I’m not sure I could maintain the pace for 9 more weeks, but I’ve really enjoyed starting my summer in gangbuster fashion.
A little bit of everything!
The U2 show gave me the perfect opportunity to spend some time in my most favorite city, NYC. I swapped some Amex points for Amtrak credit and indulged myself with a round trip ticket to Penn, arriving early enough in the city to leisurely walk to my hotel on 8th and 52nd. Once I dumped my overnight bag, the day was mine until Chrissy’s arrival in the later afternoon. The weather was ideal – sunny, blue skies, low humidity, truly the dream. I treated myself to a pedicure and manicure and then hit up a deli salad bar for a cheap and tasty lunch, which I enjoyed al fresco in Central Park.
The remainder of Wednesday was totally U2-centric. It ended up being a late night, but by 10:00 Thursday morning, we were on our sneakered feet running in Central Park. Again, the temperature was a dream and we wove our way around the park for nearly 7 miles including a lap around the reservoir and a quick stop at the castle.
Tree at the castle in Central Park
Following our run we cleaned up, checked out and enjoyed a terrific Indian lunch on 9th Avenue. I wanted something fairly light and they cobbled together a samosa chat dish for me that wasn’t on the menu. Following lunch and some walking around, Chrissy headed north on her train and, since I was on a later train, I headed south on foot. I hit up my favorite haunts, picked up the necessary tariff to get back home (cookies from Rocco’s for the boys), and took in the vibe in Washington Square Park, before catching my own train to Albany. Great getaway.
In our ongoing quest to check items off our runner’s bucket list, Chrissy and I headed south to take on Sunday’s Walkway over the Hudson half. Due to the crazy early start time (7:00 a.m. with a suggested arrival time of 90 minutes earlier), we drove down Saturday evening and enjoyed a few hours of hanging out with friends, including another Sunday morning warrior, and an ideal sunset walk.
Morning came early. We bumbled around having some breakfast, preparing our gear, and getting sunscreen-ed prior to leaving the house well before 6:00. Parking was kind of a pain in the ass, but after a solid 15 minute walk we found our way to the port-a-potty line, right in front of the starting line. After a flyover by some historic planes and the national anthem, we were off promptly at 7:00.
The first couple of miles were challenging with what felt like a few decent hills. On a hot morning I worked really hard to pace myself and committed myself to maintaining a slow and steady pace. We traveled from the roads to the beautifully shaded rail trail before we ventured out onto the walkway and crossed to the west side of the Hudson. The sun was really beating down by this point, mile 7 or 8, and I took my brag worthy 7 Sisters shirt off and continued in my tank, relishing the faint breeze on my shoulders. I began taking two cups at the water stations, drinking one and dumping the other over my head.
The mile markers were great with notes about the environmental themes the race is based upon and encouraging images. The support was great with lots of spectators and enthusiastic folks lining the trail in numerous spots. Mile 8 was particularly significant because of the height I reached as I jumped into air after noticing the snake curled up on the side of the trail. I got elevation!
Not being familiar with the course was a little disconcerting. I just didn’t know what remained between me and the finish line. Fortunately, it was surprisingly shady and not terribly hilly. Despite those positive conditions, I was friggin spent and the last two miles were kind of hellacious as my feet burned uncomfortably and I rode the line between muscling though and feeling nauseous and a tad dizzy. When I finally caught a glimpse of the finish line, I couldn’t have been happier. Half marathon #5 in the past 10 months is in the books. Time to find another race.
Sometimes the hardest part of a run is getting your sneakers on. You know, just finding the time and the motivation to get out and get it done. Often, that first mile just feels endless as tight muscles loosen and lungs gasp to find their rhythm. I’ve learned to endure these sensations, knowing that it’s going to get better, easier, less painful. And it does if I push through and keep going.
There’s a lesson in that which goes far beyond feet and pavement.
Many runs are less traumatic to the body. They’re just an opportunity to exercise your limbs and your muscles and they provide a certain sense of satisfaction and accomplishment upon completion. I have a lot of those runs recorded in my Runmeter app. I consider them standard.
Once in a while, though, you hit a run when everything is perfect. You’re with one of the few people in the world that you enjoy running with. The weather is ideal, with a light breeze, warm sun and shade just when you need it. The air smells incredible wafting around your head with the earthy smell of the Hudson softened by the fragrance of the last of the lilacs. The path feels flat and smooth under your feet and all you can do is smile as your legs and lungs unite to set a pace as one you feel you could maintain for countless miles.
I had that kind of run yesterday – all the way to Troy
I’m still smiling.
When Chrissy and I registered and participated in this race last year, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wasn’t until after I committed to the event that I read online that this particular course is considered to be the most technical trail race in New England. It was probably best that I didn’t know that ahead of time because without a doubt, Seven Sisters is the hardest race I’ve ever run. My body literally hurt for days, including in previously unimaginable places like my forearms. (That was from holding my arms up at an angle to protect myself in case of a fall.) The course for those unfamiliar is absolutely insane. There are rocks to climb, trails covered in hunks of shale to maneuver and, thanks to all the recent rain, an impressive amount of mud to slide through. The morning started with rain, but by race time all that remained was a balmy humidity and quiet enthusiasm.
Unlike last year, I knew what to expect this time around. As I slipped and slid through a quagmire, I did so with a smile on my face. It struck me that this race was like childbirth – afterwards you forget how frigging hard it was and sign up to do it again. If you ever would have told me that I would willingly run 12 miles of muddy trails up and down mountains, much less pay for the opportunity to do it, I would have told you that you were crazy. Seeing that I’ve done this event twice now, I guess we now know who is crazier.
One of the more tame trails.
When you run trails as challenging as these, attention to the task at hand has to be focused. Seriously, you can not look around and check out the scenery because your concentration has to be on your feet. There are uncountable ways to break an ankle or take a finish preventing spill and I was lucky to escape with only a bruise on the top of my foot, an injury that occurred early in the race and was forgotten by the second mile. I managed to stay on my feet the entire race and believe, from the comments I received from my fellow runners, that had there been an award for grace and poise I would have been a contender. I certainly wasn’t in the running for any speed awards, but my goal time in this kind of race is “uninjured,” with a casual goal of beating our time from last year, which we did by 7 minutes.
On the top. Sort of.
Two days later, stairs are painful and I’m very much looking forward to my late afternoon massage. The intensity of the hills is beginning to fade, the mud has been washed from my clothing and I’ve joked that perhaps we need to do the race again next year with a go-pro to document how rugged the course is and what bad asses we are. Maybe we’ll even PR again.
I know there’s some kind of Jersey saying about gym, tan and something else, but I’m a New York girl, not a New Jersey one, so my trio of activities is a bit different.
First, I took a run. In all honesty, I wasn’t too excited about getting outside again not knowing what the weather was going to bring after a morning that included heavy, wet snow. I motivated myself with the knowledge that this very day might be the only day in my entire life that I would have this opportunity. I was rewarded for my commitment to living when the sky got blue and it became warmer than it had been in days. I hit it just right.
My plan was to follow the wall around the oldest part of the city. I went in a clockwise direction, which eased me into things by beginning in a downhill direction. Keeping the wall to my right, I circled the oldest parts of this beautiful city, pausing to pet a puppy or take a photo when I found it necessary. The route took me past the hauptbahnhof, through grassy paths and across water. It was a run that will stay with me even though my running app neglected to record it.
After the run, I gave Quinn the secret code word to gain access to the hotel room, grabbed my swimsuit and went to the sauna. God, I love a sauna! That dry heat just does it for me and even though I was decidedly overdressed, I thoroughly enjoyed stretching out and taking a little time to relax. Someday I may get beyond my American puritanical sensibilities and go bare, but I’m just not there.
My final stop was the hotel bar for a beer to bring to our room. The Franziskaner Weissbier provided the perfect buzz and I’m feeling remarkably mellow. Vacation and its magical combination of getting away, yet being in the moment, is really working for me. Life is good and I know how lucky I am to have this life. Next up, yet another S – soccer. Go Bayern Munchen!