Running with pride in the 18th ranked state

Greenbelt trail head

Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

A few years ago we went on a vacation to Colorado Springs, supposedly the fittest city in the country. Except for the Olympic Training Center, I saw scant evidence of that. Even on the trails I saw few other runners, but I did see some fit looking deer. I hadn’t thought much about fitness relative to geography since then, but Runner’s World has an interesting analysis of how each state compares in terms of running.

My home state, Massachusetts, came in first (overall), followed closely by my brother’s adopted state (Vermont) which ranked third after Oregon. New York, where I’ve lived since 1990, came in 18th. At the other end of the scale is South Dakota (48), West Virginia (49) and Louisiana (50). South Dakota’s low ranking surprises me because I’d assume the runners there are fairly hard core. I also expected New York to rank higher given the active running communities on Long Island, NYC and boroughs, as well as the suburbs north of the city.

The route

Doing my part for New York, I got out early today and headed off to the northern end of the Greenbelt bike trail. After seeing people on the trail yesterday, I thought it would be interesting to take on the long hill along Sunnyside. The air was cool and dry and the sun was still rising when I made my way across the middle school field. I quickly reached the Woodbury neighborhood that leads to the start of the bike trail.

Running before 8:00 AM on a Sunday in the fall is a peaceful experience. Almost no cars and just a few people out walking their dogs. I made it to Woodbury Road and followed the path that starts flat but begins to climb after a quarter mile. The section I ran continues on a moderate incline until reaching the apex where it gets somewhat steeper. I took it to the overpass at the Northern Parkway and turned around. It was far easier going the other way, although a 10 MPH wind undercut the downhill’s efficiency.

Once I reached Woodbury Road, I turned right and followed it east for half a mile before crossing the street and switching direction. Along the way I passed Meyer’s Farm that had a sign saying you could buy ears of corn for $0.16. I thought that was a good deal until I realized that I have no idea how much an ear of corn normally sells for. So I continued on cornlessly.

The section of sidewalk that leads to the Woodbury neighborhood is one of my favorite local routes. In fall, the path gets covered with leaves and parts of the walk are unpaved so it’s like being on a mini trail run. I soon reached civilization and did the opposite route through the neighborhood before crossing back toward the middle school and then back home.

Later in the day my son and I retraced part of my morning route (walking, not running) and I took the above picture of the trail head at Woodbury Road. I felt I covered a lot of ground this week, but I only totaled 17 miles. Not too far off the mark, but I do need to stretch my base runs past six miles on weekends.

Running the hills on Sunnyside Boulevard

The ups and downs of hill training

Today’s run (street): 5.3 miles

There’s a time every day when runners have to face up to their workout. You know you’re going to do it, but until you do, it remains unresolved. My plans for running this weekend were set: hill and speed practice, but I wasn’t sure what I’d do on either day. My wife was already finishing up her treadmill run this morning when I decided to take on the challenge of the last section of the Greenbelt bike trail. A few miles running up and down the hills on Sunnyside Boulevard would be good preparation for James Street and Waterside Ave next week.

After a mile on relatively flat roads, I reached the start of the bike path. Soon enough, the road began to rise. The temperature was 57 degrees and humidity was a moderate 67%, so the level of effort felt manageable. The span of Sunnyside becomes steeper as you go south, and I kept a watch on my Garmin to see how it affected my heart rate. I managed to keep it between 80 and 86% of max for the climbs, even after two cycles.

I would have liked to follow the trail further, to the point where it parallels the LIE access road. It’s there that the path undulates into a series of difficult, but useful hills. I didn’t feel like negotiating the traffic to get across Sunnyside today, and I was concerned that doing too much might wear me out. I think the workout and the distance I covered today were just what I needed.

I’m going to focus on speed tomorrow and I’ll probably head over to the high school track in the morning to run intervals. After that, it’s more about cross training, core and at least two day’s break from running. I may do a final base run on Wednesday, but if I do, it will be at an easy pace. Cow Harbor is less than a week away. I’m hoping for weather as good as today’s.

A running first: Bethpage Park to home

Before the run and all the hills

Today’s run (Greenbelt Trail): 6.6 miles

Ever since my first run on the Bethpage bike trail five years ago, I’ve always envied those who lived near the path. How great would it be to run across the street or through your backyard onto a protected trail that runs from Bethpage State Park to the start of the Massepequa Preserve? Pretty great I thought. I knew of the Greenbelt trail north of Bethpage that runs in various forms all the way to Cold Spring Harbor. But up until recently, that was mostly dirt paths with separations between sections.

Now that the Greenbelt has been paved all the way to Woodbury Road, I’ve been running parts of it from the north and other parts from the south, starting at Bethpage State Park. My dream of running from my house to Bethpage was getting closer to reality, but I had never run the full distance. That is, until today.

My friend KWL is a great runner and triathlete who finishes half marathons in 100 minutes and rides Gran Fondos, sometimes within days of each other. He and I have done many runs together, and once we mountain biked at Stillwell and followed that with a long trail run. KWL loves hills, and though I don’t, I couldn’t help suggesting that we run the full length of the northern Greenbelt from Bethpage to my house.

This morning we drove to Bethpage and parked my car in the lot before getting on the bike trail north. We kept a moderate pace, because it was hot, humid and we knew there would be hills. To his credit, KWL never complained about running so easy. I tried to make a case for the benefits of LSD and he accepted it. KWL is participating in a Ragner Relay at the end of the week. This race is the first Ragner staged in Canada and it goes from Cobourg to Niagara Ontario, A total of 192 miles. Each team has 12 runners who run three legs each.

A few years ago, Adventure Girl captained a Ragner team that ran the Woodstock to Bronx course and I remember the details, logistics and team management that went into that. Not to mention the fact that everyone ran about 20 miles, throughout the day and night. KWL won’t need to worry about all of that, but he’ll be doing all that running.

Our run today took us past the spot where I’d previously turned back toward Bethpage. There was almost another mile of running before we would reach my southern turnaround point from last Saturday. I was excited to have traveled every foot of the paved Greenbelt, but I also knew we were now at the foot of the first of three sizable hills.

With nothing to do but face the challenge, we made our way either uphill or down for the next three miles. By this time the heat and the hills were starting to get to me, but I wasn’t looking for an excuse to stop. Once we’d passed the third hill I knew it was mostly down or flat the rest of the way. We reached Woodbury Road, the end of the line. Not for our run, but it was the end of the paved bike trail.

We proceeded to cross the street and run through the local neighborhood before exiting at the middle school and making our way to my driveway.  According to Garmin, we’d covered 6.6 miles with a total elevation gain of 440 feet. It sure felt higher than that. We cooled off and drove back to Bethpage to get my car. Along the way, we noted the ground we were covering and the fact that we’d just ran that entire distance.

I’m looking forward a shorter and (hopefully) easier run tomorrow. I finally got the chance to run all the way home from Bethpage, and I was fortunate to do it with great company.

If you like hills, you’ll love this run

Did I mention there were hills?

Yesterday’s workout (elliptical): 30 minutes
Today’s run (Greenbelt trail): 5.9 miles

Yesterday’s weather gave me no expectations for an outdoor run on Friday. Much of Long Island received 5+ inches of rain, with measurable flooding in low lying areas. The area where we live sits 200 feet above sea level, so we rarely have floods. However, we do get our share of weather related power outages. I had a busy schedule (surprising for a Friday) so to save some time, I did an elliptical workout while my wife ran on the treadmill.

Today was a different story. Yesterday’s gray skies transitioned to clear and sunny. Humidity and heat were expected later in the day, but it was comfortably cool at 8:00 AM. I’m planning to run the Greenbelt trail from Bethpage State Park to my house on Tuesday morning. My friend is coming by, and we’ll park my car in the lot and then run north. When we get home, he’ll drive me back to the Park to get my car. I’m excited by the idea of running that route which will measure close to seven miles.

My route today mimicked part of that run. I cut through the middle school and then through neighborhood #3, before reaching the start of the newly paved bike trail. Unlike the previous time I ran this way, I had some expectations about the hills I’d encounter. I learned later that I should have expected more.

The part of the bike trail that goes along Sunnyside Boulevard starts flat, so the going was fairly easy at first. There are still orange webbed “fences” set up on the path where they continue to do construction, but it’s simple to step around them. More difficult are the three unpaved sections that are either 10’x20′ rectangular mud patches, water filled puddles or beds of sharp rock. Getting around them was slightly difficult, but it wasn’t the biggest challenge of the morning.

Do you like hills? I don’t! About halfway through Sunnyside, the elevation begins to increase at a 5% grade for the next half mile and then down again. The next three miles followed a similar pattern. It was a little like running the big hill at Bethpage over and over again. Along the way I saw a number of cyclists who were struggling as much as me (or more) to get up these hills. And they had gears!

Per plan, I went as far as Washington Ave. before turning around for the second half of my run. At this point, I’ve run most of next Tuesday’s route. There is still a .7 mile section in between today’s turnaround point and the farthest I’ve gone north from Bethpage. I look forward to experiencing that new ground next week. I hope it’s all downhill.

Running from home to the Greenbelt Trail

 

Section of the new bike trail I covered today


Today’s run (Street + Greenbelt Bike Trail): 5.25

There’s nothing like the promise of a Saturday morning training run. It’s the start of the weekend and a break from business obligations. On those rare Saturdays where my schedule is open-ended, I usually go to a local park or Preserve. It’s a treat to run among interesting scenery, rather than gazing at my neighborhood’s expanse of manicured lawns and avoiding careless drivers. 

The drawback to park and Preserve running is the need to travel to those locations. It bothers me that I have to drive my car to get to my running destination. Stillwell Woods and Trailview are only five minutes from my home (and Bethpage is ten), but getting to them still involves logistics. If I could only get to the Greenbelt trail without needing a car…

Well it looks like my wish has been granted. This morning I decided to explore the area near my house where the town has paved some bike trails. These trails run along the busier roads that I’d always dismissed as too dangerous to run. I started from my front door and did a loop around some local roads before cutting through the middle school into neighborhood #3. This neighborhood has an exit out to Woodbury Road, exactly where the new path starts.

The trail along Sunnyside, heading north

Suddenly, I was on a protected multi-use trail that would theoretically connect me all the way to the Massepequa Preserve trail head, 13 miles to the south. I ran along the path and saw evidence of progress, with construction signs and a few short gaps in the paved surface. Sunnyside Boulevard, the road that parallels the path, has a long hill that goes for 3/4 miles. It’s steeper than Waterside Ave. on the Cow Harbor course and will be a good local training spot to prep for that challenge.

Once I made my way past the Northern State Parkway just north of the LIE, I stopped to figure out where the path continued south. There were a number of “No Trespassing” signs around this area that I took more as a suggestion than a warning, since I was seeing lots of cyclists zooming by. I tried to understand the safest way to get across to the paved path that continued on the other side. At that moment, two riders came across, and I asked them how far the bike trail went. They spoke the magic words, “All the way to Massepequa Preserve.” Awesome.

Truth be told, I wasn’t feeling my best on the run, and the long uphill section on Sunnyside had worn me out. I’d considered reversing direction and heading home at that point, but now I had to continue long enough to see where the path would lead. I crossed the street and followed the trail south until I reached the point where the service road diverged from the LIE. I then doubled back and crossed back over to where the path continued north.

The run back was easier, even though there were some short hills to address. Most of the next mile was downhill and that helped restore my energy level as I went along. Shortly before I reached Woodbury Road, I took a tangential path to see where it led (it terminated a block west) and ran to the the crosswalk that led me back into neighborhood #3.

It was exciting to know that I could actually run to Bethpage from my house if I really wanted to. It would be about 6.5 miles – doable – but then I’d have to run home. I’ve run 13+ miles a few times, so it’s in the realm of the possible. However, I think I’ll need to do a lot more base training before I take that on.