Attacking the hills at Bethpage

View of the recently re-opened bike trail head

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 5.3 miles

I was up very early with hopes of getting to Bethpage before 7:00 AM. I couldn’t get my act together and ended up stalling until almost 8:00. Although I felt okay, I was experiencing some of the symptoms that caused me to cut my run short yesterday. I debated whether to stick around and run closer to home, rather than heading to the park.

This is the last weekend I have to train for the upcoming 5K and I knew that I’d be better off running at Bethpage because it provided the best resource for hill training. When I arrived I saw a crowd of people setting up for the “Lean on Me” 5K Walk and Talk that benefits the Breast Cancer Network. It looked like it was going to be a fun event.

Walking and Talking today at Bethpage

My plan was to run the longest hill of the bike trail a couple of times. The hill goes on a bit, one trip up and down equals a mile. After I reached the top for the second time, I headed north and ran the upper trail to Haypath Road and back. Like the rest of the bike trail, the upper section is rolling and it has a few hills. One hill is fairly steep, but its relatively short length makes it manageable.

Once I got by those hills it was easy running and I reached the end having covered 5.3 miles. When I got back to the trail head I saw that the crowds had grown at the Walk and Talk event and the music was booming. I hoped the rain that was predicted to move in would hold off and I’m guessing that it did.

Despite feeling a little off, I had a decent run and the hill practice will hopefully pay off next Saturday. I’m not sure what type of workout I should do tomorrow. That will be determined by the weather and the way I feel. I probably should do some speed work before I taper off, but I don’t want to push hard if I really need the rest.

Hitting the hills in my guestroom

Elevation gain: first mile and a half

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

Another rainy morning put me back in the guest room on the treadmill today. As I edge closer to my mid-October race, I’m beginning think about the challenge of running long hills. The first half of the Town of Oyster Bay Supervisor’s 5K looks scary on an elevation map, but having run it last year I know that the length mitigates the grade of the hill. I do recall seeing people struggling along the way, but I kind of liked that section.

Last year I prepared for the lengthy rise by running repeats of the hill at the top of the Bethpage bike trail. Four times down and four times back up equaled four miles and a good workout. Now that Bethpage’s bike trail is extended north, there are two more challenging hills that I can use for practice. Their lengths aren’t anywhere as long, but one hill is impressively steep.

This morning I used the incline feature of my treadmill throughout my run and noted the way it affected my heart rate. It seemed like a 1% increase in elevation yielded a higher response than a commensurate increase in speed. By the end, I got my heart rate into zone 4 territory. Next time I’m on the treadmill I’ll focus more on incline and less on speed. That should help, at least until after the race.

Hybrid run through the Bethpage trails

Helpful and tasty

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 6.2 miles

I had been doing well earlier in the week, knocking off a couple of intense treadmill runs followed by a good effort on the road. By Thursday afternoon I had a sore throat and a lack of energy. I treated the symptoms using a couple of packets of Emergen-C (handed out at the Cow Harbor race festival) and that seemed to help. Still, I decided on Friday morning to forgo my workout.

After getting to bed early, and sleeping a rare eight hours, I was ready to go out for a longer run. I was still feeling a little tired and took an Accel Gel 2nd Surge to give me a boost. I’d taken 2nd Surge before the Cow Harbor race and liked that it provided good energy. Better still, it didn’t leave me feeling sluggish later in the run and the chocolate flavor is surprisingly good.

My plan was to run at Bethpage and do a “hybrid” run that would cover about 5 miles over both the wooded trails and the newly paved bike path extension. I ended up getting out late and didn’t start my run until 10:00 AM. I ran south on the old bike trail until I reached the cut-in to the woods and headed north along the path that changed between dirt, gravel, soil and sand.

I mostly got it right, but I over-thought my direction and took a trail that went west, forcing a turnaround at Plainview Rd. I corrected my mistake and guessed correctly from there. I followed the path out to the new paved trail that intersected just below South Park Drive. The transition to pavement was jarring and the sun and heat were suddenly factors.

The intersection with Haypath Road came quickly, and I continued north, first past Old Bethpage Road and then to Old Country Road where the paved trail ends (for now). I turned around after noting the location of the dirt trail that continued across the street. I’m hoping that they eventually put some stop signs at the locations where the bike path intersects with the road. 

I was past the three mile point by the time I reached Old Country Road and I knew by then that my 5 mile run would be extended to six. I was feeling the effort, so I picked up my speed in an attempt to re-energize my stride. It helped a little, and I maintained a decent pace as I made my way south towards my finish point.

Before I could enjoy the relatively flat last mile of the run I needed to get past a couple of hills that rise 100 feet in 3/10ths of a mile. Once I cleared that point, I picked up the pace again and finished my run after covering 6.2 miles. After missing my run on Friday, I was happy with the additional unplanned mile.

I’m still not 100% but this run didn’t seem to do me any harm. I’m going to try for another longer run tomorrow, but I may stay local to do that. My next race is a 5K so I’m going to need to work on my speed at some point. That race starts with a long hill so I’ll need to start training for that as well.

Ever higher on the Bethpage trail

Entrance to new bike trail extension

Friday’s run (street): 2.5 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.9 miles
Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 6.9 miles

My excitement about Bethpage’s bike trail extension continued this morning when I headed over to the park for my last long run before Cow Harbor. I wanted to cover at least 6 miles to prepare for next Saturday’s 10K distance. Most of the humidity we experienced on Saturday had moved out the time I started my run this morning. With temperatures in the mid 60’s, conditions were near perfect.

I brought along the RooSport that worked well during yesterday morning’s run. I was able to verify that the pocket’s design did a much better job keeping its contents dry than the SPIbelt. I was curious to see how the front fitting pouch would feel through a longer run.

Instead of starting with the new trail extension, I decided to run the first mile on the old bike trail so I could take on the big hill that comes at the end. I’m used to dealing with that challenge after six to twelve miles of running, so it seemed like a snap this morning. While that was true, I knew I had some more hills to deal with throughout the rest of my run.

I haven’t felt great this weekend and I was somewhat concerned about my readiness for a long run. I ate an Accel Gel prior to the start to give me a boost and I think it helped. I got to two miles fairly quickly and remembered the rolling course from last weekend. My plan today was to run as far north as I could on the newly paved trail before turning back.

The first paved section ends at Haypath Road and, with no road traffic, I crossed easily to the continuing trail. This was new ground for me and the trail followed along the line of an adjacent neighborhood before wrapping into a wooded section. The route was rolling, but the elevation was biased in the northern direction. That made me happy because it meant I’d have more downhill sections than uphill when I returned.

I crossed Old Bethpage Rd. and continued until I reached Old Country Rd. I was a little confused at that point where the trail picked up again. It looked like I’d need to cross that busy road and I didn’t feel like doing that today. I was at 4 miles by then, so I turned around and headed back. I knew I’d cover close to 7 miles by the time I reached my starting point.

The run back went by quickly despite a few challenging hills near the end. The RooSport fell short of expectations over the length of the run. My Brooks shorts don’t have the same stiffness at the waist than some of my other running shorts and the phone-laden RooSport pulled down the front enough to be distracting.

I finished much stronger than I’d expected to at the start. My pace wasn’t super fast but it was credible. Now it’s time to taper, which means I’ll rest on Monday, run on Tuesday and Wednesday and rest again on Thursday and Friday. The parts are finally in for the elliptical (after waiting half a year!) so with repairs scheduled for Monday I may get to use it this week. I’m looking forward to an elliptical session, after going so long without that cross-training option..

A big surprise at the Bethpage bike trail

Northern entrance to (now paved) trail extension

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 5.25 miles

Years ago I was at a management off-site in Montauk where we stayed at a well known resort. We arrived late at night and went directly to our rooms. I was pleased to see my small, but cozy, bedroom, with a modest sized window that looked out at the ocean. I went right to bed so I’d be ready for the early morning meetings.When I woke the next morning, I was astonished to discover another room, twice the bedroom’s size, with floor to ceiling windows looking out to the beach.

I had a similar experience this morning at Bethpage State Park, where I planned to run the bike trail. I knew that they were doing work on the north end of the trail but I didn’t really understand what it meant. I decided to explore the paved path that led to the golf courses, since I’d hardly seen them in all the time I’d run there. I first encountered a group flying large, remote control planes over the open field. Very cool, but I couldn’t stop to watch.

As I made my way deeper into the golf course, I was interrupted by a groundskeeper who told me I couldn’t run there and that I needed to head – immediately – to the bike trail. When he realized I wasn’t trying to break any rules he got nicer and explained the risk of flying golf balls. I turned back to where I began, and decided to explore what looked like a small section of newly paved trail that extended off the driveway leading to the parking lot.

I saw other runners running there and became curious how far this path would go. I expected the answer to be a few hundred feet, but then I saw a runner turning around and heading the other way. I was amazed. Clearly the trail went far enough to be worth a return run. I followed the paved path and saw that it continued past my line of sight. A teenage runner coming from the other direction asked me how far the path led. I asked him the same, and he said “about 20 minutes.” Hmmm.

This new trail was like a gift. I read that they were extending the bike trail at some point but I didn’t think they’d actually done it. Soon I realized that the patch of paved road that I’d recently encountered after coming to the end of a dirt path was part of this trail. Like the rest of the bike path, this extended portion was rolling, with some tough hills along the way.

I followed the extension to where it ends on Haypath Road. I saw that I could cross the street and pick up the Trailview path that runs all the way north to Cold Spring Harbor. Instead of doing that, I decided to head back. I didn’t bring any water and I was beginning to feel overheated. The hills were no kinder on the way back but I welcomed them. When I got to the end, I doubled back another half mile for the distance and ended up covering 5.25 miles altogether.

I’m very excited about this new extension for many reasons. First, I now have another option to run at Bethpage when I don’t feel like doing the usual bike trail. Second, the new bike trail section has numerous exits into the wooded trails that provide options for combining trail and road running. Third, I can now explore Trailview as it goes further north. Theoretically, I will be able to run from Bethpage into my own town. With a few busy streets in the way that might be too good to be true. But you never know.

Bethpage run plan ruined by Barclays

Today’s run (street): 6.3 miles

Last night I thought about heading to Babylon in the morning to run the Dirty Sock 10K. I planned to cover the same distance on today’s run and thought it might be fun to do my workout as a race. I ultimately realized that signing up for the race but not running it all out would not work for me. And I knew I wasn’t ready for either the course or the pace that I’d want to hit.

Instead, I went over to Bethpage to run the bike trail. With just four weekends before Cow Harbor, I knew I needed to work on my base and prepare for the Northport hills. When I got to the gate I was stopped by a guy who told me that there was no access to the parking lot or trails due to the Barclays 2012 golf tournament that’s being held on the Black course.

That was disappointing. I thought the parks were for the people, not for the banks that sponsored golf events. It’s not as if I wanted to sneak over to watch. The only thing more boring to me than playing golf is watching other people play.

With no opportunity to run at Bethpage, I headed back to my neighborhood. I considered the routes I could follow to cover 6 miles and decided to run to the business park that has a long loop and some hilly sections. After one time around the park, I cut over to neighborhood #3 and made my way through to Woodbury Road where I continued east.

The per capita income of Woodbury NY is one of highest in the country, yet the condition of the sidewalks along its busy main road is terrible. The grass overgrows the pavement, the concrete is uneven and tree branches hang down so low that some sections are barely passable. I managed to get through it without slowing down too much, and I cut north into a neighborhood to bypass the worst sections on the way back.

I was fortunate to have cool temperatures and moderate humidity throughout most of the run, but I ended up soaked with sweat just the same. It was a solid effort and I was pleased to cover the distance this morning. I had no regrets for having missed Dirty Sock after three consecutive years of running it. But I do regret that Bethpage will be closed to runners until after August 30.

Twisting and turning on the Bethpage trails

So that’s where I ran – thanks Garmin!

Today’s run (Bethpage trails): 3.25 miles

I’d hoped to cover more than three miles on the wooded trails at Bethpage this morning, but that distance turned out to be more than enough. I really like Bethpage’s trails because they are well groomed and diverse. The terrain varies between mulch, dirt, loose rocks and sand. I don’t care much for the sandy parts, but they are just part of the challenge.

In terms of technical terrain, Stillwell has it beat, but Bethpage provides some fun twisty trails that seem to go in circles but really just wind around (see top of picture). I usually get disoriented when running in the woods and today was no exception. I’m always surprised where I come out. Today it was at the top of the big hill along the paved bike trail.

The humidity was high and I felt like the week’s activities were catching up to me as I neared the finish of my run. I circled the parking lot before calling it a workout and headed back home to start our day, which is also my last day of vacation. It’s been a great week and it’s always disappointing when a vacation ends. Even though this turned out to be  a low mileage week for running, it was a high mileage week for everything else.

Chia Surge provides "gritty" experience

Still waiting for my surge

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 6.2 miles

I took an unscheduled rest day on Friday and hoped to make up some miles today. The weekend weather was supposed to be hot and humid, so I planned to get out early before temperatures got into the 80’s. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to Bethpage State Park until 8:00 AM, and the heat was already rising.

Prior to my run, I tried the last of the “test gels” that I’d recently purchased at REI. This brand was called Chia Surge and, according to its website (VITALYTE), “Chia Surge is the first gel to combine Whole Seed Chia and Palatinose for mile after mile energy and muscle fuel, with Beta Alanine and BCAA’s to buffer lactic acid and improve muscle performance.”

That sounded pretty impressive and I had high hopes that it would help me through my planned 6.2 mile run this morning. The gel contains Chia, a seed that is featured as a natural source of energy in Christopher McDougall’s book, “Born to Run.” I had experimented with Chia seed after I’d read the book and found the energizing claims inconclusive.

If you think you’d be squeamish about putting a thick, sweet, but slightly chemical-tasting syrup in your mouth, you may want to avoid this product. That’s because it gets worse when you feel the grittiness of hundreds of Chia seeds that crunch as you (involuntarily) chew them. I followed my ingestion of Chia Surge with a rigorous flossing session.

Still, I’d hoped that the gel would provide that promised surge that would get me through the heat and my challenging route along Bethpage’s rolling bike trail. I began my run at the trail head and took note of my energy level. I felt a little below average, with heavy legs and low energy. There was no surging going on, at least at that point.

A look at my splits showed some interesting metrics. I’d covered mile one in 10:30 which, even for me, is slow. But something weird happened after that and my pace dropped to the low 9:00’s for the next couple of miles. Was it a delayed reaction to the gel? Or did that easy first mile warm me up for the next two? If it was the former, I’d say that Chia Surge provides a little extra energy for a short time.

By mile four, the heat was getting to me and the running became more difficult. I’d filled my gel flask with water and used it strategically because it only held 4 ounces. I like that it fits nicely in the pocket of my Brooks running shorts. The route is out-and-back and I’d wished I turned around sooner at that point, but it was too late. I had to do my full six.

I struggled through the rest of the run and dreaded the last hill that took what was left of my energy. I definitely slowed down after mile three, but considering the heat and my low energy start, my overall pace wasn’t terrible (10:17). I certainly felt like I got a good workout.

I can’t say that Chia Surge helped or that it didn’t. I was more impressed with the experience I had with both the Accell and the Chocolate #9 gels last week. It would be unfair to judge a product based on a single use, but it’s unlikely that I’d try Chia Surge again. There are too many other options out there, and none of them require dental floss.

An easy seven at Bethpage

Ongoing work near the Bethpage trail head

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 7.3 miles

I finally made it back to Bethpage this morning to get in some distance without being confined by the borders of my neighborhood. Bethpage provides a paved trail that reaches as far south as Massapequa Preserve. The out and back is over 13 rolling miles and this provided a great practice course for the LI Half. There are some sections that involve crossing roads, but normally there is little traffic to consider.

It felt cool and the park was virtually empty when I arrived at 8:00 AM. I noticed that the construction fences were still up since the last time I’d run there. I still don’t understand exactly what they’re doing, but I’m curious to see how it turns out.

My plan was to run easy today. Despite the cool air, I could tell that it was going to be humid and I wasn’t looking to set any records. I set off in a trot and soon the first hill was behind me. I’d brought a gel and a small bottle of water, but didn’t use either on the run today. There was no point where it got so hard that I felt that I needed them. If I was pushing my speed, it would have been a different story.

The part of the Bethpage path that I always dread comes near the end, with two hills that can really test my stamina over the last 1.5 miles. Today I approached them like any other challenge on the route, keeping my stride short and my speed at a manageable level. I was soaked with sweat by the time I finished, but I still felt strong. It was the longest I’d run I’d done since the LI Half in May.

I’m hoping to cover over 20 miles this vacation week. That will help me reach my monthly target. I’ve run more than 80 miles in each of the last three months and I’m hoping to continue that for June. It’s supposed to get very hot and VERY humid as the week goes on. That could curb the length of my runs unless I drag myself outside early and beat the heat.

Running among the bikers at Bethpage

Many riders out for a good cause

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 8.2 miles

Yesterday morning’s run was surprisingly difficult. I knew from the start that I was off my game and I hoped that I’d get back in the groove by today’s run. Happily, I did. I headed to Bethpage this morning to run the bike trail, with a plan to cover about eight miles.

The weather was fantastic at 8:00 AM, with sunny skies, low humidity and a temperature of 52 degrees. The lot was filled with cars when I arrived at the park, and I saw that an MS charity bike ride was being staged at the trail head. I remembered this event from last year. It’s a non-competitive ride that includes cyclists of all ages.

The bike path begins with a short, but pronounced, hill and I could tell right away that I’d have little trouble taking on Bethpage’s challenges. I’d run this path numerous times during my half marathon training and could always gauge whether I was in for a good or bad experience within the first half mile. I decided to pick up the pace and see what I could handle.

I’d brought along my gel flask that I’d filled with a GU gel and water. I decided to hold off using that until I’d reached the halfway point, when I would encounter a series of steep rises. My energy was good, but the temperature, with the direct sun, was rising.The first hill was tough and the second two were tougher, but I made it over and back the Southern State in decent shape.

Throughout the run I encountered numerous cyclists, most of whom gave me a wide berth and warned me of their approach. There were a couple of jerks, as usual, who sped closely by, but the majority of riders shared the road respectfully.

I passed a number of other runners along the way, and that told me I was pacing well. I didn’t look at my Garmin through most of my run, because I didn’t want to be distracted by metrics. I parceled out my gel solution and wished near the end that I had mixed in two GU’s rather than just one. But I never reached a point where I was close to bonking. I took on little K2 and Everest (my nickname for the last two hills) feeling quite confident.

I wore my test shoes and they performed really well. By mile seven, the bottoms of my feet were getting sore. I’ve experienced that with every pair I own of late. It may have something to do with running exclusively in shoes that lack stability control. Too bad, but I’m not switching back.

After I crested the final hill, I enjoyed the last downhill section that leads to the head of the path. The bike event volunteers were standing at the end waving pom poms and cheering the cyclists as they finished. They all gave me a big cheer as I crossed and I yelled, “Did I win?!” That was fun.

I did well today, 8 miles at a mid-9:00 pace. I was pleased, especially compared with yesterday’s performance. My friend TC, who ran the LI Half with me, ran a 10K this morning in 49 minutes. Congrats to him. Also impressive was my friend KWL, who rode the 103 mile Grand Fondo from the GW Bridge to Bear Mountain (and back) today.

Quite the weekend for activity. Another colleague ran the Brooklyn Half yesterday. It’s the season for racing. NHP 8K is happening in two weekends. Hope I feel as strong on that day as I did today.