Happy 2014! It’s been 2 months since my last post; 2 months since I crossed the NYC marathon finish line and became a marathoner. I’ll never be able to run it for the first time again. The feeling of doing it for the first time is behind me and that newbie thrill is gone. Does this mean that I’m done running? Not at all. Dr Seuss said it best – “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”.
I may have completed a marathon but I didn’t conquer it nor was I pleased with my performance. I intend to have a rematch with the NYC marathon in 2014. Also, the training never stopped; the Disney World marathon is on for next week! The numerous winter storms didn’t make it easy to train outside during these last 2 months, especially for the 20 milers. The Disney World marathon is pancake flat so I would at least expect to perform a little better than in NYC with its bridges and such. Although it’s an easier course, a marathon is a marathon and the final 6 miles is no joke. After the NYC marathon, I learned a few things and decided to switch up my approach slightly:
1. Cross training every other day (after a 10K run if possible) by lifting weights, doing push-ups, squats, sit-ups, etc.
2. Hill routes are not enough, a constant hill is the way to go. It’s all about the vertical! One 5K treadmill session per week with 3.5 degree incline is a 1,000 ft ascent.
3. No speed during long runs. To feel like you can run more at mile 20 is more precious than anything. Running too fast in the beginning will ruin everything. Slow and steady wins the race, I suppose.
On the weekends, I’ve been hiking upstate. Hiking is one of the best cross training methods for marathons and mountain summits (Mt. Rainier). Here are some highlights of 3 hiking trips:
Hike 3: Raccoon Brook
This hiking trail was at Harriman State park, about an hour north from NYC. I decided to put extra weight in my backpack for a challenge. I’m starting out with 5 pounds but should be at 40 pounds in 6 months. Although most of the fall foliage was gone, a trip in the great outdoors is always scenic on a clear day. And there’s always interesting people who travel the journey with you. A fellow marathoner was in the group, can you guess what we chatted about for an hour?
I also learned how fun scrambling is. A scramble is when you have to use your hands to hold/grab trees and rocks to ascend steep hills. Nothing beats the feeling of being at the top of a mountain (in this case 1,150 ft).
We passed by Pine Meadow lake but the water was too cold to swim in unfortunately. But overall, it was a good 8-9 mile scenic hike with good views and weather.
Hike 4: Kaaterskill Falls
This hiking trail was in the Catskills; 2 hours north from the city, and 5 extra pounds in my backpack. The temperature was below freezing during the entire day which turned out to be a good thing. The views were even better with the white powder everywhere. I was immediately drawn to these icicles hanging off the rocks. I couldn’t help myself, I had to have one, the biggest one, the Ice Sword! I must’ve held the ice sword for an hour while going up the mountain. It was so cold that it never melted.
After working our way to the top (1,110 ft ascent), we took some pictures and then worked our way down being careful not to slip on ice. I was lucky to come across a guy who summited monsters like Aconcagua and Denali which make marathons look like a 5K. Throughout our descent, I was able to ask all of my Mt. Rainier questions. From what I gather, it’s not as deadly as some perceive it to be. He actually considered it a “fun hike and a good workout”, ha.
Finally, we headed to Kaaterskill falls. The view was well worth the effort. Overall, this was my favorite hike. 8-9 miles of awesomeness.
Hike 5: Schunemunk Mountain
It was below 15F for the entire day at the mountain and I totally regretted taking things to the next level by putting 10 pounds extra in my backpack. Most of the hiking group consisted of future Kilimanjaro trekkers and a few experienced hikers who I will refer to as the billy-goats. By the way, the Ibex is my favorite land animal.
During the ascent portion of the hike, I had some conversations with the Kili group.It looks like they will have quite the New Year’s day summit party after a 5 day climb. After an hour, it turned out that the billy-goats were way ahead of the Kili group; I was somewhere in the middle but eventually caught up to the billy-goats at the mountain top and was amazed to find plant life here.
Once the Kili group caught up, we decided to split into 2 teams. For the next 2-3 hours, it seemed endless. The billy-goat pace was faster than a speed walk, and I had to actually jog in the snow and ice to keep them in my sight (yes I fell behind every now and then as usual). With ice under snow and rocks everywhere, things were getting serious. With or without hiking poles or boot spikes, we were slipping and falling all over the place. I was the winner with 10+ falls. There was no more picture-taking by this point.
The trail markers became confusing and we were off track by 2 miles. This 9 mile hike has now become 13 miles; a half marathon distance. We had to speed it up even more to meet up with the Kili team at the meet spot. There were areas in which the only way to proceed was to slide down rocks. My pants now have a huge rip in the backside. There were a few instances where a bad slip could lead to a 20-30 foot drop, and you had to hold on to branches with your life, kind of. The snow found its way through my flimsy gloves and my hands were wet. The sun began to set during the descent portion. This is where most of my falls occurred. I could then see it, the snow field from the beginning. By this point, I had nothing left, as if I ran a marathon or something. And guess what, we were the first group to arrive; however, we had to wait 45 minutes in the freezing cold for the other group to arrive. I don’t know what frostbite feels like, but my hands must have been close. Whew, what a workout. Ok, I’ll just take a hiking break until March.
These last 2 months went by quickly. I gained 3-5 pounds and became a Candy Crush addict. Aside from running and hiking on my free time, I spent a good portion of my Christmas break watching American Horror Story (3 seasons), Hardcore Pawn episodes (crazy customers), and playing Grand Theft Auto 5 (Game of the year for me). Let’s see what the winter brings.