Summer crusing

As I've mentioned before, I have a love-hate relationship with New York. The city oftentimes brings out the worst, basest, least human behavior in people. But there are other times, like yesterday, when the city, in an astonishing display of altruism, manages to do something so generous that it even makes an 18-mile run appear somewhat easy.

Yesterday was the third weekend of a new NYC program called Summer Streets where the city shuts down Park Avenue from 72nd street down to City Hall. That's about a four mile long corridor through typically congested streets from Central Park to the Brooklyn Bridge. For me, who has 1) already run everywhere in the city and 2) needed to run 20 miles--this was right up my alley.

I mapped out a course with 1.25 loops around Central Park, exiting the park at 90th street, crossing over to Park Ave, then going all the way down to City Hall and then back up to 72nd. Of course, for some reason when I mapped this out I forgot that this run was supposed to be 20 miles and actually mapped out 18--but I didn't realize this until after the run.

When I got on the subway to head over to Central Park I could already feel myself getting hungry--which is not the best way to start off your run. I downed a GU and hoped that it was just my stomach acting funny and not actual hunger. As it would turn out later in the run, it was actual hunger, I guess and PB&J don't cut it anymore for a pre-race meal. I tore open a GU every 45ish minutes, not because I felt the need, but because I was feeling hunger pains.

I started at my usual spot near the 6th Ave entrance to the park. I take off and I instantly notice that I'm going out fast and spend the first couple of miles trying to reign in my speed, but when I pass a mile marker for a running race and notice that the elite runners will be passing me in a few minutes, I can't really concentrate on slowing down--it's just not acceptable. Also, I realize that this might be the race that The Laminator is running, so I try to keep an eye out for his bandanna.

After about three miles the runners break off from my route and I'm alone on the hilly northern quadrant of the park. However, I am feeling really good--unbelievably good. Even the 100ft+ climb at Harlem Hill doesn't slow me down. I'm actually at the point where I'm whistling (sometimes singing) along with the music. This, I know, is good.

I round out the park and exit at the runner's gate. After snaking through some 20 blocks I make it to Park Ave and 72nd street, where I can start running on the street. At this northern end of the closed streets the crowds are pretty thin. I hear a mom with her son riding in a seat attached to her bike say "The street is closed? All the way down? Isn't that fantastic?" And in my head I agree with her.

As I run down the street toward the Met Life building I think "why doesn't the marathon go there here?" The view is stunning and the high buildings provide ample shade. My immediate answer is that if the route went through Park Ave, there is no way to re-route the course to keep it going through all five boroughs of the city. My second response, which my knees alert me to a few minutes later, is that Park Ave is heavily banked, with the center of the avenue raised higher so that rain water will drain off to the sides. It made for a painful 1.5 miles before the Met Life Building.

On the other side of the Met Life Building, the streets were flat and much more populated. I was enjoying this down hill portion of Park Ave and was waving hi/thank you to all the volunteers along the route who were carrying big-ass "Caution: stop ahead" signs before each live cross street.

The run was going great partly because I was in shade the whole time and partly because I was getting to see the city from a new perspective. However, there were two problems I anticipated having along the way. First, once I left Central Park I knew water would be scarce. Park Ave, oddly enough, does not pass by any parks (technically it becomes 4th Ave at Union Square, but even then I would not brave the Saturday morning farmer's market to look for a water fountain). So I filled up my water bottle as I left the park and crossed my fingers that there would be a water-fountain at the turn around point near City Hall. When I got to the turn there there was indeed a water fountain--but it wasn't working!! So I resorted to my backup plan: Starbucks. I dashed in, ask for some water, and dashed out.

Starbucks was also the solution for the second problem I foresaw: lack of bathrooms. The bathrooms at mile 7 were my gastrointestinal "point of no return." After that point there would be no more bathrooms along the run unless I start a Starbucks along the way. Fortunately--and uncharacteristically--my bowels stayed in tact for the whole run. No need for the bathroom at all during the run.

I get to the end of the run, counting the blocks until I can finally stop. At 69th street there's a bit of a hill that I trudge over and use the downhill to break into a sprint before I stop at 72nd street. I look at my watch. 2:30:00. My first thought is that I must have done something really right today because 20 miles should have taken me three hours. I celebrate uneasily while I walk to a convenience store. As I walk, I try to do the math in my head and realize to do what I just did would require a sub-eight minute pace. Actually it would require a pace faster than my 10K pace and probably faster than my 5K pace. And then I remember mapping out the route only to 18 miles. Damn it.

I was upset--but not at my performance. I was upset that even though I told several people I was running 20 miles this weekend that I still managed to map out an 18-mile route. That was just a dumb mistake. I am, however, very proud of my run--and being able to separate performance from planning is a significant step for me. First, I ran at an unbelievable pace of 8:20 (which makes me second guess my tempo pace and what my goal pace should be for these next two races). Second, I was able to keep in my bowels in check the whole time (yea!). Third, if I had run all 20 miles I still would have come in about 12 minutes faster than my projected finish. Go me!

After this great run I went home, took a cold shower and went out for power breakfast with wifey and The Laminator (who is in good spirits post-Marathon). After shopping a bit with wifey we went home and spent the rest of the day glued to the TV watching an amazing night in marathoning (WTF Deana and Paula?), men's 100m (WTF 9.69?), and swimming (WTF greatest athlete ever?).


Jess said...

Nice job on the 18, even though it was 2 short of your goal distance for the day.

Marcy said...

Dude, we're just going to have to get you a Garmin already ;-)

Progman2000 said...

For some reason I am always jealous when I read about people running in the city - I really need to get to central park one of these days for a LR - nice read!

Nitmos said...

I got up today wondering how your bowels might have responded to this weekend's long run. Thanks for the update!

No word on what came out of your nose?

The Laminator said...

Nice run again, sRod. I'm upset that I didn't get to enjoy Summer Streets this week because of my race but I'll be there next week to enjoy the unique sights. Nice recap!

Laura said...

I definitely want to try running Park Ave next time they close it. The cambre sounds pretty nasty, but how cool to run down the street like that!

Steve Stenzel said...

I HATE running hungry. I didn't know NY shut down a road like that - that's awesome! Nice job!!