My friend Kristen and I were both hosting out-of-town guests, so we decided what better way to show them a good time than a Munch Around The Village Scavenger Hunt? My houseguest Beth and I skipped breakfast and opted for just coffee in preparation, but we were still stuffed after all the eating we had to do to win the competition (woo!). For my part, I had half a lamb gyro, a handcrafted almond gelato on a stick, a pain au chocolat, and a gourmet peanut butter cup. Then to celebrate, we went to Agave for margaritas, where I tried to have just one but was peer pressured into two. Darn it!
Beth and I skipped dinner because we were running short on time, but we needn’t have worried – my friend Barry was hosting a wine and cheese party that was fully stocked. I would not doubt that I ate at least 1/2 pound of cheese all by myself, plus crackers to serve as a vehicle for getting the delicious crumbly (stilton with apricot!) and soft (brie with black pepper!) cheeses into my mouth. Oh, yes, and about 1.5 bottles of wine. Needless to say, I went home quite full, quite drunk, and quite dehydrated – not the best way to get ready for my long run of the week.
But run I must, since I was going out for my second training run with Justin Gimelstob. I threw on my running gear and headed out, not even glancing out the window (shades were still drawn since Beth was still sleeping). It was only when I got outside that I noticed the sky was an ominous shade of gray. Looking on the bright side, at least it was fairly cool for a change! Perfect temp for a run.
I headed across town to meet Justin at the southeast corner of the park, arriving right on time and finding him waiting for me. Since this would be Justin’s first truly long run (over 11 miles), he brought a plastic drop bag with some food and drinks that he wanted to practice consuming mid-run. We jogged to the main loop, hid the bag in some bushes, and were off.
When we first entered the park, we came up on the Race for the Cure run/walk to benefit breast cancer research. I had been expecting this, but for some reason I thought it was only on the west side. In retrospect, I ran this race a few years ago and should have known the course, but I had heard about the road closing on My Upper West, and they only mentioned the west side closings. Oops! Luckily, there were volunteers holding tape to kind of rope the participants in on the left side of the road, so we were able to run unimpeded on the right.
Still, seeing the crowds impressed Justin – he had never done an organized race before, and could now appreciate how it might be difficult to run if there were thousands of others around. I suggested that it would be great if he could try to get a race in at some point (even a 5K), but with his busy schedule, he didn’t know if that would be possible. As we passed the finish line at the 72nd Street transverse,
As we went up Cat Hill, I eased off on the conversation, thinking Justin would want to focus on running and not on talking. Not so! He chatted the whole way up, while I was out of breath trying to keep running and talking at the same time. I complimented him at the top, and as we were approaching the reservoir, we felt a drop or two. Uh oh! The rain held off though, at least for the time being.
When we came down the hill on the northeast side of the park, we saw a bunch of Gu-branded trash cans and volunteers at the park entrance – odd. This couldn’t be where the Race for the Cure was starting – that would be more than 5K to circle all the way down around the park and finish at 72nd. We dismissed it, though I did take note of the row of portapotties – those might come in handy later if all the wine and cheese from the night before started to set in!
The hill to get back up on the west side was tough, but Justin handled it like a pro and was even pushing the pace on me – I was totally impressed. He was putting me to shame! I felt really out of breath by the time we reached the top, just trying not to show it and be a good pace leader. (In truth, Justin was definitely leading me for parts of that.)
As we came down the west side, we found some really back-of-the-packers… but were grateful because we had the aid station volunteers to cheer us on and give us water. Nice! I showed Justin how to drink while running by squeezing the side of the cup together, and felt proud of my oh-so-expert knowledge that I was now teaching to a pro athlete :) Again, I emphasized to him that it would be great if he could do a race between now and the marathon, just to get used to drinking on the run and all that other stuff.
Turned out, he didn’t need to do another race – we soon found ourselves in the middle of the Race for the Cure! Because it’s a run/walk, there were people who were doing the 5K at a 30 minute (or slower!) pace, and it seemed that these walkers made up a good chunk of the field – the road was packed. We spent quite a bit of time dodging and weaving (“great practical training,” I assured Justin) as we approached 72nd Street from the west side. At this point, it became SO crowded that we ended up climbing the short hill to the street level and then coming down on the other side – anything to avoid the crowds. What Justin didn’t know was that I also wanted to go that way so I could steal a drink of water from the fountain – I was really exhausted! Am I past the age where I can drink all night and run all day? I hope not.
As we got back to the southern end of the park, it started to rain – more than just the drop here or there that we had been experiencing all along. It wasn’t a downpour by any means, but it was enough that most of the Race for the Cure participants were pulling out their umbrellas to use for the rest of the walk – which of course didn’t make it any easier for the two of us trying to dodge the crowds. We were finishing our first loop of the park at this point, so we headed for the bush where Justin had stored his drop bag. We were surprised to find that someone had stolen his bottle of Gatorade right out of the bag! I was shocked – they hadn’t taken the whole bag (which also contained some nutrition bars and some sort of chocolate protein drink), just the Gatorade. I always think of runners as a nice bunch, so I was pretty surprised, and I would assume that if it was a homeless person or something, they would have taken the rest of the provisions as well. Darn Relay for Life participants! :)
As Justin had his protein shake, I told him that due to the rain, if he wanted to, we could stop there and he could do his long run another day. Tricky me – trying to seem all benevolent, when the truth was that I was exhausted and wanted to quit! After a little bit of thought, Justin foiled my plan, saying he felt strong and wanted to keep going, even in the rain. Okay then… guess I was in for it.
The rain ended up being somewhat pleasant for running – the air had that delicious smell of earth that you normally get in the spring, and I inhaled it deeply. Both of us started settling into the run much more than we had so far, listening to our music instead of trying to converse. Made the running a lot easier for me! Sometimes I could hear the music that Justin had on, and I got really excited when Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” came on – that is one of my favorite workout songs. We chatted a bit about music, and he told me that he had asked all his Facebook fans and Twitter followers to start sending him good workout music; I promised to do the same. Let’s hope he likes country!
The second time up around the Harlem Hills was brutal for me, but Justin got through it like a champ. Best part? Shortly after we hit the top, Justin hit 11.5 miles – his longest distance yet! Meanwhile, I was at 13 miles, which was my longest distance since Minneapolis. The difference between us was that I was dying with exhaustion, while he was going strong. I was thoroughly impressed.
Lucky for me, the west side is pretty much my “home turf,” so the miles to get to the end went very quickly. We said our goodbyes at the southeast corner of the park (right where Justin hit 13.1 miles – his first half marathon!), and I continued on home to get in a full 16.1 miles. That’s a mile more than I needed! I felt totally hardcore having not only gone that long distance, but having done it in the rain. What can I say – desserts, margaritas, wine, and cheese are great fuel!
Nah, I take it back. While that last sentence may have been the usual end to an Absolut(ly) Fit post, I think the truth is really that I want to try to start eating healthy and getting to bed the nights before a long run. While I felt accomplished having done the 16 in spite of everything the day before, I’d prefer to do these long runs when I’m well-rested and can really enjoy the journey instead of just the proud ending.