Twofer on the track and road

One run already done

Today’s runs: 3.5 miles (track), 1 mile (street) = 4.5 miles

For some reason my Garmin has stopped recording my stride length. It used to show up under “cadence” but it’s no longer there. A search of the web yielded no useful information and Garmin Connect does not mention it in any of its forum posts. I’m disappointed and puzzled why stride length is no longer displayed. It’s a useful data point that helps me understand why I’m hitting certain paces (or not). I looked to see if there was a new software update, but apparently I’m current. I sent a note to Garmin support and expect to hear back in one to never days.

My thoughts about running at Stillwell shifted to the track this morning. I felt like doing some mindless running that didn’t include the paranoia of tripping on hidden roots or having mountain bikers stealthily coming up behind me on a single track path. It’s hard to explain why I find the track so appealing. I think it may have to do with being able to run outside without too much distraction and no crazy drivers.

I had the track to myself until a woman showed up to walk. That was fine and soon another runner appeared. It was a woman who seemed to be moving along well, but somehow I caught and passed her. I was running okay but not all that fast. Just faster than her I guess. I did 14 laps and headed home. Along the way I started regretting keeping it to only 3.5 miles. I decided I’d add another mile when I got home.

Road & Track

Going out for my second run was strange. I was fully “recovered” from my track workout and probably could have repeated the same distance in my neighborhood. I decided I’d keep to the plan and followed a route close to my house. The whole time I felt I was running by remote control, as if I was still at home while my body was out doing the run on its own. That was probably due to being fully warmed up, making the run feel really easy.

After I finished I thought about my experience and realized that the second run probably felt effortless because I knew I only had to cover a mile. I started thinking about a “day of running”, where I would run a mile in my neighborhood starting early in the day and come back home. At the top of the next hour (and every hour subsequent to that) I would run another mile. If I did this from 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM I could cover ten miles. If every run was a little longer I could do a half marathon or more.

So if I cover 14 miles in one day, is that the same as doing a 14 mile run? Or would it be cheating to say that?

At Stillwell, tie goes to the runner

Lots of time spent in the zone today

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4 miles

Back in the days when running Stillwell Woods meant seeking out the most technical and challenging trails, I would measure my performance in terms of who got the best of whom (me versus Stillwell). Prior to my bout of pneumonia in early 2010, I was dedicated to hard running on trails and I looked for the most difficult terrain wherever I ran. Two months after being hospitalized for pneumonia, I ran the Xterra race at Stillwell as a way to prove that I still had it.

While my performance in the Xterra race was very good, I found myself less inclined to take on Stillwell’s steeper inclines and treacherous drops. I still ran there frequently, but I’d usually follow a loop that presented far fewer obstacles. Sort of a bunny trail, compared to sections of the black, yellow and white trails that have signs saying, “Most Difficult.” I told myself that my loop was better, because I never lost my way on it. Deep down I knew I was avoiding the unrelenting challenge of Stillwell’s inner paths, which I had nicknamed the “The Zone of Intensity.”

Trail conditions were rough at first, due to the deep grooves left by mountain bikers that had frozen as hard as stone. This always makes for tricky footing and the lack of a rock plate in my Helly Hansen Trail Lizards made for some uncomfortable landings. As I moved deeper into the woods, the trail conditions improved greatly. This is probably because the trails I was taking on would have been too hard for bikers to manage during yesterday’s rain, hail and snow.

Instead of my standard loop, I made a point of turning onto paths marked as more or most difficult. Yesterday’s hard running and today’s frigid cold had an energizing effect on me and I wanted to take advantage of that as long as I could.

On the tougher trails, very little time is spent on level terrain. You are either facing a series of climbing switchbacks or you’re looking down at them. Some descents are scary and slowing down or stopping could cause you to tumble down backward. It was just like old times! I was glad to maintain so much energy throughout these sections. By two miles I felt like I’d run more than double that distance.

The only way out is up
Perspective showing steepness

At one point I found myself at the bottom of a section where all trails out looked like 20% grades or more. I took a few seconds to assess which hill to climb. I didn’t want to pick the wrong one and find myself on the wrong side where I’d need to go through that exercise again. It turned out I chose wisely (I used the direction of the sun as a guide) and soon was on my way. A few minutes later I found myself in familiar territory outside the “Zone of Intensity.”

The rest of the run was far easier and I encountered many more people hiking and running on the flatter trails. Looking at my data on Garmin Connect, I can see that my pace outside the the “zone” was two minutes faster than when I was running through the tough sections. It was hard to believe that whole run took me less than 50 minutes.

Today and yesterday were great workouts that tested me in very different ways. I’m happy with my conditioning, but I’m not quite at target in terms of speed. I’ll continue to focus on that in the coming weeks and will continue to get trail runs in when practical. In the old days, I would usually report that Stillwell got the best of me on runs like this. Today, I’d call it a tie. And a tie at Stillwell is basically a win.

Choosing the difficult path

The trail rarely taken

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.5 miles

I went to Stillwell Woods this morning for a change of pace and the opportunity to run in shade. The clouds have moved out and the humidity (and dew point!) is higher than yesterday. Even though Stillwell offers a nice break from my neighborhood streets, I don’t feel like I’ve taken full advantage of its breadth of choices. Nowadays, I tend to follow the same few trails, but I decided to change that today.

When I arrived at Stillwell Park, I saw an open tent with mountain bikes set up by Santa Cruz, a bike manufacturer. A few months ago Scott bikes did the same thing, offering people the opportunity to test their bikes on Stillwell’s trails. Due to that, I was a little concerned that I’d get over-run by mountain bikers on the trails. It turned out that I only encountered a few groups of riders who shared the path nicely.

Unlike the route I normally follow, I turned left on a path marked “most difficult.” In the past, I would take on Stillwell’s hardest technical trails. Over time, I’ve found myself running the same, less challenging loop. The trees were doing a nice job of blocking the sun as I made my way through the ups, downs and root covered paths. After a couple of miles, I started to feel fatigued and I needed to take a minute to rest before continuing.

It turned out to be a more difficult run than I’d intended. The upside was getting through a good workout with scenery far more interesting than my neighborhood streets.

Stillwell Woods fun: toughest trail run this year

Finally found my way across the full preserve

Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 4.5 miles

Now that the Barclays is over and Bethpage is open once again, I considered heading over to run the bike trail. But I changed my mind on venue and opted for Stillwell Woods instead. A few miles on the wooded trails is a great way to free your mind, body and soul. That is, if they don’t beat you to a pulp.

I usually run the same route at Stillwell that starts on the main trail and follows north, and then east, before looping back around to the trail head. I usually run it twice, for a distance of about 4 miles. I like this course because it’s primarily hard packed single-track, with a few rocky and hilly sections thrown in. The challenge of getting through this loop is moderate at best, but it’s a great experience running among the trees, plants and animals.

This morning’s Stillwell run started like usual, and I followed my standard loop until I turned left instead of right, just before the one mile point. This little change quickly turned the dial from easy to difficult. Instead of my familiar paths, I soon encountered the first of many sharp inclines up rock, scree and sand, followed by numerous steep, carved out, drops.

Technical trail running can be fun provided you’re wearing the right shoes and have an understanding of your course. I had neither, but I did my best. Thinking I’d run my usual route, I wore a pair of road shoes that performed remarkably well in most circumstances, but barely had enough bite for some particularly steep inclines.

I’d brought a compass and that was very helpful for navigating across the entire preserve. Still, I didn’t know what to expect from minute to minute. The route I’d taken brought me up and down, with almost no level sections between the one and three mile points. I began to get frustrated by this pattern because I didn’t know what lay ahead. I only knew it would be tough running.

Just when I started to think about taking a break or even walking some of the difficult sections, I found myself on a familiar trail that’s part of my normal route. Knowing the worst was over, I happily followed my way around to the trail head and ran the paved drive almost to the street and back. 

Ups and downs through the first three miles

What started as a routine Stillwell run turned out to be an exhausting hill workout with lots of technical terrain and obstacles. I needed to duck under or leap over a lot of stuff and all that sand was irritating. I was proud of myself for meeting every hill challenge head on. But I did need a mid-day recovery nap to get my energy back, so I could play soccer with my daughter.

Tomorrow I’ll go back on the road again. Perhaps I’ll head to Bethpage for six miles or so on the bike trail. After today’s run, that might feel easier than usual.

Central Park, eight months later

Friday’s run (Central Park): 3.3 miles
Today’s run (Stillwell Woods): 3.3 miles

I thought it had been a while since I’d run in Central Park, but I was shocked to see on Garmin Connect that the last time I’d run there was last October! I had assumed I’d been there more recently but after checking the blog history I confirmed that was accurate. Knowing that, I am especially happy to have returned to Central Park.

The weather was almost perfect when I got to the park. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the 60’s. It took a surprisingly long time to acquire a signal on my Garmin. As soon as it locked in, I was on my way.

I began my run by going counter-clockwise along the Center Drive loop. I was surprised to see lots of runners coming from the other direction because that’s opposite of the direction arrows on the bike path. I was running strongly and staying just below a nine minute pace through the first mile. By the time I reached the top of Cat Hill I had slowed a bit, but I still felt strong.

The humidity was higher than I’d first thought and I decided to limit my run to the loop below the reservoir. I gritted my teeth through the hilly sections just below the Great Lawn and Terrace Drive and enjoyed the downhill sections that followed. I continued on some the paths off Center Drive and finished on Central Park South at 7th Ave. It was a great run and my overall pace was actually faster than what I achieved on the NHP 8K.

This morning I headed to Stillwell to run the trails. I downloaded the latest 3 Non-Joggers podcast to listen to while I ran. That helped me get through some very technical and steep terrain. I ended up covering almost exactly the same mileage as I ran on Friday, but the required effort was much greater.

On my way off the trail I encountered three women who were asking people to sign a petition that would limit mowing the big field. This would help protect the wildlife and aid conservation efforts to eliminate invasive species. I was happy to sign.

I’ve been on vacation since yesterday afternoon. Since then, I’ve had two really interesting runs. I’m hoping to do a distance run in the next few days. Tomorrow is Father’s Day so maybe I’ll give myself the gift of running the hills on the Bethpage bike trail.