Running up that hill

Later this year I will be part of a 7-person team running the River to Sea Relay – 91 miles across New Jersey. Last month the team got together to try to work out an initial plan for who will run which legs. For some reason, and I’m still not sure why, I was intrigued to run the leg nicknamed “the beast”. It is billed as “hilly, tight, tough, long & hard”.

Someone was kind enough to record the entire route of the R2C relay on Map my run/ride (the course may be a little different this year depending on how things look following Hurricane Sandy).

I worked out from this that the leg known as “the beast” starts somewhere in Lambertville, NJ, which is a nice little town, so perfect for a family day out. Friday seemed to be the perfect day for this (kids off school, my work closed) so we all headed out for the day.

When we arrived I set up the GPS so Joy would be able to find me when I finished my run and they settled in to play in the park for about an hour while I ran. I didn’t try to find the exact starting point, as all I really wanted to do was see how bad the hills really were to decide if I wanted to persuade someone else to run it on race day instead. With my planned finishing point (not exactly where the finish is on the route map) I would end up with about 7.7 miles whereas the leg is listed as 8.6. As I was pretty much leaving out the mostly flat part of the course I figured this was good enough to decide if I wanted to stick with it.

There was only a short distance to the start of the first hill, which was also the biggest hill – it was fairly tough going, and I kept wondering when it was going to end, but ultimately I decided it wasn’t as bad as I thought. After that hill it seemed relatively easy and I seemed to be coasting along quite happily for the rest of the run. The scenery was really nice (I should have taken my phone out of my belt but didn’t think of it while running along), and I realized I was going to be quicker than I thought and would be waiting a little while to be picked up.

Here’s the summary of my run:

I got changed in the car and we drove back down to Lambertville where we had a very pleasant lunch at Lambertville Station, enjoyed with a local brew (River Horse Belgian Freeze) and a slightly less local brew (Weyerbacher Merry Monks).

After lunch we had a very pleasant wander around the town and stopped in a very friendly ice cream and espresso bar called Buck’s. The kids were happy playing with a girl they made friends with while we ate a brownie with ice cream and I enjoyed a coffee.

We walked halfway across the bridge towards New Hope, PA, but it was time to head back home (and pick up my bike from the shop where it had been serviced on the way back, so I could ride on Saturday morning).

Great day out.


Overdoing it

Today I overdid it.

This was one of my “days off work just to run” days. The original aim was to run in new places, but today and the last of these runs have been local and on the same path (the D & R Canal towpath) – last time this was because I wanted to run long and this seemed like a good place to do it. Today, it was because of the weather prediction. If the snow really came down, I didn’t want to be driving back, exhausted, along treacherous roads.

My aim today was to do at least 24 miles, although I secretly hoped I could actually push myself to do a little more and get an unofficial marathon done. When I woke up it still hadn’t started snowing, and my plan was to try to get the run done early to avoid as much of the snow as possible. I ate a POWERBAR Harvest Bar Double Chocolate Crisp bar, got dressed and headed out.

I knew I would probably need my wind/rain jacket but initially I was concerned at first because it was warmer than I expected. I decided not to stop and take it off (for the first time I was using a Geigerrig hydration backpack I’d picked up on a deal site, so it would have meant stopping to take that off).

I felt good and because of this I think I went out way too fast. I passed 10 miles still feeling great and mentally better than my last run on the same stretch so I had a plan to keep running to 13.1 miles before turning round, hoping to get that magic distance done. It’s a good path to run, but there are still a few spots where you have to stop to cross fairly busy roads (especially because it was rush hour when I hit these on the way out). As it turns out there is work being done on a section of the path near Colonial Park, and it was blocked off by a 6′ high fence, and there were people working just the other side, so I had not option but to turn around at just a little bit more than 12.5 (turns out this was probably a good thing).

I reached the “half” mark at a little over 1 hour 48 mins, and was still feeling good, but by about 15 miles I started to struggle. I wasn’t quite expecting that by the way I had felt before but I had no choice but to push on. After a while I decided I needed to stop for a short while, my calf muscles were really tight so I did some stretching and massaged them as best I could. It seems to do some good as I was able to do an 8:25 mile soon after that, but the mile times slowed again after that. By this point the snow was coming down pretty hard and my shades were getting covered (I knew that taking them off would mean snow in my eyes though which wouldn’t have been fun).

By the time I got to 22 miles I was really struggling, but I pushed myself to try to keep running, desperate to get the 24 miles I’d promised myself. I did it, but I was still just over a mile from home. I turned off the timer and walked. I was cursing (out loud – good thing there was no one around to hear) the whole way home, stopping to try to loosed up my muscles, and even occasionally breaking into a very slow jog. I was freezing by the time I got home as the snow was coming down pretty hard (it definitely felt a lot colder than when I started) and it took a while after getting home for me to stop shivering (even after a shower).

Still, it was a good run, and I’m proud I did 24 miles in about 3.5 hours (full details here).

As a side note, because of the predicted snow I ran in my Vivobarefoot Neo Trail shoes and they did the job reasonably well but weren’t the most comfortable for the run (I felt like my left ankle was pulling a little on the inside, and they were rubbing the bottom of my feet making me concerned about blisters, although I didn’t actually get any).

I’ve been trying different shoes for long distances, but for some reason have been neglecting my old favorite, the Merrell Trail Glove. Mine are really worn (it’s been about a year since I got them and I used them for every long run last year). I finally decided that I would get a new pair – there’s a new version, and I’ve heard they are even better, so I can’t wait to try them out.

Why running is better than cycling

Okay, let me start by saying that I don’t really think running is better than cycling. It’s just because of what happened today that I am saying that.

As a result of the cancelled 5k, and as I have just signed up for the Tour de Franklin 100k ride (and if you feel like donating to this worthwhile cause: donate here), I decided I would go and ride with the group today (I haven’t been out for a ride with them for months, and missed a lot of rides last year too because of running). As it was going to be cold this morning (just below freezing) I spent some time yesterday switching pedals on my road bike so I could wear my winter shoes (those pedals are usually on my mountain bike as that’s what I usually ride in the winter when it’s cold), and pumping up the tires etc.

As they were planning on 48 miles, I decided it would be too much to ride to the start (this would have made it 60 miles in total), given my lack of cycling over the winter, so I loaded the bike in the car and drove over.

As we rolled away from the bike shop (where we start) I soon noticed that my gears were not working properly, the chain was jumping. Not enough to jump into the next gear, but enough to make riding difficult. I stopped several times to try as many different adjustments as possible but nothing was working.

So, I made my way back to the car (only about half a mile or so at that point) and headed home where I changed into running gear and made it to the start of the club run.

I got in a quick (quicker than expected) 9 mile run, went home, showered, changed, and then drove back to the shop to get them to take a look (and it was about time it was serviced anyway and even though I have the tools, I don’t have the time to spend trying to resolve a problem where I’ve pretty much already reached my knowledge limit in what I can try to fix it). When I got to the shop (Bike N gear in case you’re wondering where to trust with your bike in Central NJ) I had a catch up with Gary (the owner) as I hadn’t seen him for a while, and the guys rolled in from the ride so I chatted with them for a little while too.

So, today I think running is better than cycling because you don’t have equipment that can let you down (except your own legs).

Race postponed

Early in March I was thinking I would like to do a 5k this month. I looked through all the listings and found one in a local park. The date was perfect for my schedule so I signed up on the 4th.

11 days later I received an email which stated, in veiled language, that they didn’t have enough people signed up and were postponing (the wording indicated they had new sponsors and to make it more of a success they were changing the date) to September.

The problem is that the new date is the day after a local 5k that I do every year, so it doesn’t really work well into my schedule. So, what to do? It’s a charity event so I don’t necessarily mind the money going to them, but the email didn’t given any options to get refunds – do you think that’s reasonable? To change the timing of something so dramatically, just 8 days prior to the event, and to just point out that “it’s great news because it gives you more time to train” (not a direct quote – I’ve paraphrased) just seems a little out of order. I do understand to some extent: they want to keep the people they’ve already got signed up, and it is a charity.

What would you do? I’m inclined to just go with the flow and maybe I’ll run it anyway if I feel I have the time, but I can’t help thinking there may be other runners out there who signed up for this and know they won’t be able to run on the new date, and maybe the $22 it cost to sign up is enough of an outlay that they may not be able to do the races they wanted to this year. Thoughts?

Introducing RUNNJ.ORG

Back in December I was trying to find out about where to run in NJ and in doing so I decided to make a list along with some basic information about the places. This turned into an idea for putting anything I could think of that’s running related in NJ on a website.

At the moment, the website consists of a page of places to run, a page of running clubs and a page linking to races.
Run NJ

I think I may add a newsletter page, perhaps including information on some upcoming races etc.

The forum is likely to disappear – too many spammers, and it’s probably not a worthwhile addition anyway. I’ll leave it for now in case anyone decides to join now that I’m starting to try to get the word out.

I’ve also created a Facebook page for it, Run NJ on Facebook which I intend to post to when new content is added to the site. Now I just have to convince my running friends to “like” the page.

Links to the website and the Facebook page now also appear on the right hand side of my blog page.

Any thoughts or more ideas? Places you’ve run before you’d like to comment on or see added to the site?

Please share with anyone you know in NJ (or who happens to have an interest in running in NJ).