Stillwell Woods: good running and bad parking

Standing in the Field of Dreams

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.3 miles

I had a tight morning schedule but I really wanted to run the trails this morning. As soon as I was able to break free, I headed over to Stillwell Woods hoping that everyone was out Black Friday shopping and I’d have the place all to myself. When I arrived I saw that some cars were parked near the trail head. It wasn’t crowded, but there were two SUVs whose owners had randomly parked sideways, taking up seven spaces between them. Obnoxious.

Nice parking buddy

 I’d dressed for cool weather and wore my Zensah calf sleeves although it turned out to be mild. Still, I appreciated the compression on some of the steeper sections. I said hello to a few mountain bikers who were getting their bikes ready for their rides and then slipped into the woods.

The temperature was in the low 50’s but the single track was relatively firm except for a few places that had direct sunlight. In those places, the dirt was rutted with tire tracks and I carefully ran along the edges to prevent a slip in the mud. I followed the path along my regular loop and crossed paths a few times with groups of runners from the local high school.

I kept it relatively short and enjoyed the change of pace from running on hard pavement. I finished with a loop around the “Field of Dreams”, a large open area that sits west of the woods. Although I didn’t cover much distance, I still felt pounded by the terrain. Stillwell’s trails can be tough on the legs.

Shortly after I returned to my car, the owner of one of the carelessly parked SUVs rode up after finishing his ride. I stared at him, watching him struggle to get out of his now-tight spot between me and another car that was parked closely on the other side of him. I’m sure he wished I’d back out to make it easier for him, but I wanted to teach him a lesson.

Once I got ready to leave, I noticed this sign was posted in front of me. SIOR and TPP will be at Stillwell on Sunday for Rob’s Run, a 5K cross country race that is staged there every year. 700 participants battling along the same narrow path is a bit too tight for me. I raced the Xterra Run at Stillwell about five years ago. With only about 90 runners, that seemed like Stillwell Woodstock.

Short and steep running at Trailview

Trailview welcomes you

Today’s run (Trailview State Park): 2 miles

Today is my birthday and it’s been a good one so far. I’m not much for big celebrations and my family and friends respect that. I did enjoy a nice lunch at the Lemonleaf Grill (spicy Panang curry), the great cards, thoughtful and fun gifts, calls and emails. And there’s still more to come!

I had looked forward to today’s run which I planned to do at Stillwell Woods this morning. I haven’t been on a wooded trail since March’s relay race in Bethpage and I thought a change would be nice. When I arrived at Stillwell, I saw that the enormous set of athletic fields were packed with tents and people who were there for some lacrosse-related event. I drove into the lot despite the hundreds of cars, many double parked along the drive. In the past I’ve been able to find spots way down near the trail entrance, but today there wasn’t a space to be found.

If I wasn’t wearing my H/H Trail Lizards, I would have driven to the nearby high school and run on the track. Instead, I decided to head home and take a birthday rest day. When I reached Jericho Turnpike, it occurred to me that I could run the trails south of Stillwell (i.e., Trailview) that probably had plenty of parking. I was there in two minutes and, while the lot was crowded, there were still plenty of spaces.

I wasn’t looking to run long today, so Trailview was a good choice. The loop is an out and back measuring about two miles, but with its steep, gnarly, rocky climbs and precipitous drops, you can get quite a workout. As soon as my Garmin captured a signal, I was (literally) off and running, mostly because I wanted to get to the starting point ahead of a large group of hikers.

The short run seemed to go by quickly and I was very happy with my response to the hills. I actually liked going up more than going down, because I feared catching a root and tumbling down 20 feet of rocky trail. I maintained a fairly high heart rate which has been my goal for my current training. I always forget how challenging Trailview can be.

Later in the day, the family headed over to Syosset-Woodbury Park for some other activities. There are some great hills and I took on the biggest a couple of times. I got outside a couple of times today but didn’t overdo it either time. I’m planning to cover 9 or 10 miles tomorrow and need to reserve a little energy for that.

8 miles at Bethpage, but parking was the toughest part

X marks the parking spot (map and picture)

Today’s run (Bethpage bike trail): 8 miles

Today was my longest run of the week and I knew I’d be doing it somewhere on the Bethpage bike trail. I just didn’t know when or where I’d start. GLIRC had a clubhouse run scheduled for this morning and I considered joining them for that. Those runs start at 8:00 AM sharp in the parking lot of the GLIRC office in Plainview. I wasn’t in the mood for running with a big group, so I decided to skip that event and do my long run solo.

TPP was also doing her long run at Bethpage today and I’d hoped to cross paths with her at some point. We did end up finding each other on the trail (she was easy to spot in her vivid pink running gear) and we ran together a bit. TPP was having a tough time this morning and decided to head back to her starting point. Despite that, she ended up covering almost 8 miles.

The Hal Higdon plan called for 8 miles today, although my ER plan had me down for 9. Since I ran 7 miles last Sunday, I decided that eight was enough today. I recall from my last half marathon training cycle that the challenge of going from 5-6 miles to 8-10+ took some acclimation. I was concerned that I’d hit the wall after 45 minutes or so, but I never felt depleted. I stayed around 80% of max HR throughout the run, largely due to maintaining an easy, but steady, pace.

Before I took my first step on the Bethpage bike trail, I had a frustrating experience trying to find a place to park my car. I’m planning to get a 2014 Empire Passport so I didn’t want to pay the Bethpage parking fee today. I was hoping that they weren’t charging for entrance this morning, but when I arrived I saw that the toll house was open for business. I thought about other options and turned around. I then drove to the small lot that is located off E. Bethpage Rd near Old Country Rd.

When I arrived at this lot, every one of its ten or so spots was filled. So much for that. I was 30 minutes past my planned start time and still had no place to park my car. I was going to park along Haypath Rd. but I wasn’t sure that was okay. I then noticed some cars with people who looked like runners parking along Colonial Rd and found a spot near them. I took care to see any signs restricting parking along the street. Seeing none, I parked and crossed the road to the bike trail.

It was only a few minutes after that when I saw TPP. Despite her claim that she was struggling, she looked strong as I watched her coming south in my direction. I wanted to follow the trail north all the way to Sunnyside Blvd. After a few minutes of running in that direction, TPP decided to head back to the lot where she’d parked. She’s really cut down on simple carbs and sugar and has been having trouble maintaining her targeted performance levels. I’m confident that will soon change.

I wasn’t thrilled about covering the section of trail north of Washington Ave because it has a series of long hills. It was no picnic, but I did better than expected. I’m sure last weekend’s hilly workout helped prepare me for today’s. The only difficult times were when I was coming up steep hills against 12 MPH winds. I maintained the best pace I could, shortened my stride and got through those situations fairly well.

Today’s route, with out-and-backs at both ends

It takes a while to cover eight miles and I ended up needing to go south of my starting point to pick up miles 7 and 8. That took me close to the start of the north trail. I kept waiting for my energy level to drop but it never wavered, except when I was a couple of tenths away from my finish point. That was obviously a psychological response to almost being done.

This training program has been nudging my weekly mileage beyond my average of 18. The past couple of weeks were 21 miles and this week I covered 23. That was with two rest days instead of my usual one, meaning my average run length has increased measurably since I’ve started training for Brooklyn.

Bethpage running with a clear head

Bi-directional out-n-back

Today’s run (Bethpage State Park): 5.5 miles

The downside to taking headache remedies is when those medicines affect the quality of my sleep. Although Excedrin is merely a combination of aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine, it is amazingly effective in treating my migraine-like headaches. Unfortunately, caffeine taken late in the day, plus pseudoephedrine, makes it hard for me to get to sleep that night.

That was the case last night, but somehow I managed to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. Perhaps it was the absence of a pounding headache that made the difference. The weather outside was sunny and bright, although it felt unseasonably cold. I put on a long sleeved 1/4 zip shirt and a pair of lightweight running pants and headed to Bethpage for a run.

When I arrived at the park, there was a line of cars waiting to get through the entry tollbooth. That was very unusual for an early Sunday morning. As I moved closer I noticed kids being dropped off and when it was my turn to go through, my park friend told me that a big soccer tournament was being held today. I proceeded to the lot where I usually have my choice of spots and saw that the lot was as full as a Long Island train station at 9 AM. I finally found a place and quickly made my way to the trail head.

My route today went west on the old bike path for half a mile before I reversed direction to take on the big hill. My plan was to start the northern trail extension at the one mile mark and then do a four mile out and back. I felt good on the run, the high forties temperature and steady breeze counteracted the heat from the sun. The only negative was something in the air (pollen?) that aggravated my throat a little.

There were lots of cyclists out and a handful of runners. At one point I was running up a steep hill when a young woman came up on my left, said good morning and was gone from sight in less than a minute. She was probably running in the six minute mile range. I often wish I could run at that speed, but I know it requires a much different approach to training than I’m willing to follow. It also helps to be younger.

After the turnaround, I prepared for the predominantly uphill section that I’d face for the next half mile. That went by surprisingly smoothly and I finished my run feeling strong. When I got to my car, I noticed there were still cars swarming around, looking for spots. I guess the tournament must be an all day thing.  But I was done, ready to start my non-running day. It was great to run outside after yesterday’s gloomy weather. Best of all, no more pounding headache.