Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seven hard miles at Bethpage

Today's run (Bethpage State Park): 7.25 miles

It wasn't exactly night and day, but today's run went far better than yesterday's struggle on the trails. I really wanted to stay in and skip my run, but my wife pushed me out the door saying that I'd complain all day if I didn't get my run in.

I decided that a long run was in order, so I went out to Bethpage around 9:00 AM.Yesterday I'd confirmed that the park would be open this week. The last time I visited (admittedly many weeks ago), the gates were closed and locked with a sign saying "Park closed to winter sports."

There were only a few cars parked in the big lot so I found a spot near the entrance to the bike trail. I was a little nervous when I started off, concerned that I'd be once again plagued with low energy and sore legs. By the time I reached the top of the first hill, I knew I had enough fuel to get me halfway through my intended seven miles. The question was whether I'd have enough to get me back.

The weather was very nice -- mid 40's, clear and sunny. Being that it was the middle of the week, there weren't too many runners and cyclists, although there were some. I bounded down the big hill knowing that, when I returned later, it would not be so much fun. I always dread that last challenge, especially after many miles of hard running.

Bethpage's bike trail is rolling, with very few flat sections. There are a couple of steep hills to deal with between miles one and two. At least on the way back you get nice downhills when you need them. It's much easier for me to run long distances at Bethpage than almost anywhere else, because it's a linear course and therefore easier to gauge progress.

I felt fine through the first three and a half miles so, after the turnaround, I picked up the pace to get past a group of walkers who had suddenly appeared ahead of me. Taking on seven miles today was a calculated risk because I have not run that distance in months. My current base is closer to four miles and by mile five I was starting to feel fatigued.

There's a point about 1.5 miles from the trail head where the path rises steeply over a short distance. On the way out it's not a problem on fresh legs, but on the way back it can be a struggle. I used my usual technique of pretending I was running downhill which works okay on 2% grades, but not so good on this monster.

I did manage to get over that hill and enjoy a mostly downhill run over the next quarter mile. Still, that final long hill loomed large and I just kept thinking about how good I'd feel once I finished. The hill was as hard as I thought it would be, and only the view of the top and the level road that followed, kept me going.

I finished my run and semi-collapsed in my car's seat, guzzled 20 oz. of water and headed home. Tomorrow I'll take it down a notch and do an elliptical session at an easy pace. Today's run was my longest in months, and it felt very hard. Hopefully it will push my base a little further. The half marathon is in May and I have a long way to go before I'm ready.

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