Saturday, January 29, 2011

Snowy Adventures

Dark silhouettes of trees and houses created a striking contrast to the white snow-covered New Jersey cliffside. The partially-frozen Hudson River boasted large floating ice chunks to the east, while strong chilling currents rushed along the west side of the river. The snow-dusted GW bridge looked splendid against the white cliffside, with the light grey sky above and silvery waters below. It was a picture-perfect scene in every respect. This is the kind of day when I wish I would bring my camera on runs... or at least my iphone. Running along the Hudson River Greenway this afternoon was such a treat - the views were simply breathtaking!!

Once again, I was a lonely runner braving the elements in sub-freezing temps. Running in solitude is one of my favorite pastimes - the luxury of being out in nature, alone with your thoughts and the beautiful world around you. It's a time to feel truly alive, with your feet striking the ground in time and your rhythmic stride carrying you forward.

The run began on relatively clear paths; the sidewalks around the apartment were essentially snow-free. The hill leading down to the Hudson Greenway was also fairly clear (minus a few strategically placed ice patches). I didn't hit snow until the wooden footbridge that passes over the West Side Highway... the staircase had become a solid slope of snow! Turning sideways and clinging to the railing for dear life, I slowly inched my way down the icy slope with tentative baby steps. Upon reaching the Greenway, clear pathways greeted me once again and it was smooth sailing for a while.

As I neared the end of the greenway (by the Little Red Lighthouse) and wound my way up the hill, the terrain got progressively worse. The path was completely covered in snow, where footprints from adventurous pedestrians left an uneven snowy obstacle course. I braced myself and plunged up the hill, slipping and sliding and nearly falling over the entire way... it was a pathetic excuse for a run, yet I could not resign myself to walk. By the time I reached the 181th St footbridge on the Henry Hudson Parkway, enough was enough. The pathway ahead was covered in packed snow as far as the eye could see. Trying to keep my balance was an awesome core workout, but at the end of the day who wants to be constantly worrying about slipping every 5 seconds? Not my idea of fun.

Since the GW bridge was right there, I endeavored to find the pedestrian entrance. This has been a goal of mine since moving to the city 10 months ago. However, no matter what random roads or paths I explored, I never stumbled upon the right place. Today, as I headed down 177th searching for the elusive bridge entrance, a man walking in the other direction shouted at me "It's closed!" I didn't really care if it was closed, I just wanted to know where it was. I tried asking him but it was futile. Don't think he understood English very well. All he could say was "It's closed! Come this way!" And so we went to scope out the entrance on the northern side, which was guarded by a locked gate. Apparently both entrances had both become icy snow slopes that were unsafe and therefore closed. Not minding at all, I continued onwards, completely thrilled that I FINALLY discovered the pedestrian entrances.

Shortly after the bridge a ramp on my right beckoned to me. It appeared to lead down to the water level. My adventurous streak took over, and having no idea where I would end up, I plunged into the unknown. Skidding down long rampways and jogging down snowy slopes, my immediate goal was to reach the bottom as quickly as possible without falling. I ended up alongside the beginning of the Henry Hudson Parkway - go figure. Knowing where I was didn't necessarily mean I knew where to go from there, and all around, pathways were covered with an even layer of completely untouched snow, about 16" deep. There was no choice but to continue onwards, so with high knees, and even higher spirits, I jogged through the knee-deep snow drifts. My socks were completely drenched, snow was caked around my ankles, my leggings were soaked, and my toes were going numb, but I was having the time of my life!!! It was like being a kid again, frolicking in knee-deep snow. Pure, white, untouched snow is such a rare and beautiful luxury in the city, that for a brief instant, I nearly forgot I was in New York.

The dream was short-lived and reality hit again when I reached the edge of the highway ramp. Continuing alongside the ramp, I ended up on Riverside Drive - finally! - and proceeded home. For the rest of the day, my mind kept flashing back to moments from the run... the breathtaking views of the Hudson River, the snow covered hills and slopes, the forest filled with pure untouched snow... it was all so perfect and peaceful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow and Slush

Neck warmer: check. Smartwool headband: check. NB Running fleece: check. Two pairs of LS shirts: check. Two pairs of pants: check. Thick socks: check. Two pairs of gloves: check. I packed up my pink Shape bag (which I got for free from Pilates for Pink in Union Square) with all the necessary paraphernalia and headed into work. Today I had a running date scheduled with a running buddy, Coleman, and I was totally jazzed about it!

Despite the fact that NYC just had a huge snowstorm the day before (and the morning of) our scheduled run, we both held on to hope that the sidewalks would be clear. Literally the only thing keeping me going was the promise of company on the run - the fact that a friend would hold me accountable gave me the extra incentive to get out there in sub-freezing weather the day after a snowstorm. As the workday drew to a close, Coleman informed me that he was stuck at his office later than expected and encouraged me to go ahead by myself. Neither of us knew the conditions of the roads, or if the West Side Highway was even clear enough to go running. However, I had already decided I was running that night, no matter what, so the encouragement was a bit unnecessary, but welcome nonetheless. After all, I didn't go through the effort of packing my pink Shape bag for nothing! And so I ran.

Thing started off well; the sidewalks just outside my office were completely cleared. Then I reached an intersection and things went downhill. It was a mess! Snow piled up right in front of me blocked my route and forced me to venture into the street, where I was greeted by a vast stretch of slush puddles. With an awkward stride, I cautiously jogged through the slush, trying to avoid splashing on myself as much as possible. Things were even worse on the West Side Highway. The sidewalks weren't clear AT ALL, forcing me to run in the highway towards oncoming traffic. This is scary in any conditions, let alone at night, in the snow, slush, and ice! I proceeded with caution, but never stopped running.

Finally crossing the highway and reaching the Hudson River Greenway, I was thrilled to discover it had been cleared! Except for the occasional ice patch, the Greenway was in great shape. My pace quickened rapidly as I found my stride and started cruising along. Although the greenway was clear, intersections remained a challenge. Dirty slush puddles are just a by-product of winter in NYC - wherever the sidewalk dips down and meets the street drainage, snow melts, thousands of people walk every single day, dirt accumulates, and you end up with miniature swamps - deep puddles of gross melted snow the size of a small pond. These can be completely unavoidable, and sometimes you are forced to step straight into the unknown, not knowing when your foot will hit solid ground... and wholeheartedly embracing the fact that your footwear is going to be completely soaked hereon out, for the remainder of the run. Regardless, I astutely navigated the minefield of slush that faced me at each intersection, and successfully completed 3 miles. It was exhilarating. The best part is, no one else was out on the Greenway. I was one of about five runners who actually ventured out in the snow tonight. The beauty of the solitude provided by the nearly-abandoned waterfront was an incredible added bonus for being out there. I returned to the office to gather my things, completely rejuvenated and ready to enjoy the rest of my evening!

Yay for running at night in the snow & slush!!! It's such a confidence booster. I'm extra psyched because the odds were stacked against me tonight. The city streets were a snowy, slushy mess, it was late, I was sleepy, and my plans fell through with Coleman. Despite all that, I still got myself out there for a run. As an added bonus and reminder of my rare January night run in the snow, I am already sore (and I finished less than 2 hours ago!). Yay!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Oversleeping is becoming a bad habit

It was eerily quiet as I opened my eyes, rolled over and looked at the clock. 7:43am. wait... what??? 7:43am!!!??? NO! It can't be! I completely overslept and didn't even hear my alarm. That means I missed the Manhattan half marathon. I was supposed to be awake at 6:30, when my alarm went off. By 7:43, I should have already been at Central Park, picked up my tee-shirt, checked my bag, began to warm up, and made my way to the starting line. Instead, I was still lying in bed under the blankets in my pj's. This can not be happening.

This morning's mishap was a major bummer for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I was really looking forward to this race! The Bronx Half Marathon last year was a great race - very enjoyable and fairly effortless despite minimal training. The route left something to be desired, but overall it was a good course and definitely the high point of my 2010 racing season. As a newbie to the city, I was thrilled to learn about the Bronx Half just in time to register. Once I discovered the race was part of a larger Grand Prix series (one half marathon in each borough, spread throughout the year), I vowed to complete the full circuit in 2011. I had such high hopes for this year. However, considering I didn't even make it to the starting line of the Manhattan Half - the first race of the year - that dream died long before it even began. Sometimes I can be way too ambitious in over-planning.

Guess it's for the best after all. I mean, I haven't ran more than 10 miles since the Ted Corbett 10-miler over a month ago, and with the holidays, harsh winter weather, a weakened immune system and a long string of nasty illnesses, I spent way more time with my sheets and blankets than my running sneakers and my New Balance fleece. Mostly out of guilt from missing the race, I vowed to run regardless... and proceeded to stay in bed until about 11:30am. Later that day, I finally took myself outside for a quick 3-mile run just before dusk. Let me tell you, that run was brutal. It was painful. My lungs ached from the icy cold air, my eyes stung from the freezing atmosphere. My toes, fingertips and nose began to go numb. I slipped on the ice and slid through the snowy slush. My legs were sore, my stomach had cramps, and every inch of my body was just screaming at me to stop, from the very second that I started. So, needless to say, it was a painfully slow run. Before I hit 3 miles, I was completely beat. I have no idea how I would have ever lasted 10 more miles on top of that, at sub-freezing temps first thing in the am. It just would never have happened. If I had attempted the half, I seriously think I would have hurt myself. That is pretty much the ONLY reason why I am okay with my oversleeping this one time, and actually very grateful that I did.

Still, I was extremely disappointed in myself. This is the second race I've slept through since moving to the city. Not to mention oversleeping and missing a running guide tour, along with missing out on a long run with friends purely because I slept in too late to meet everyone. This is getting to be a major problem. If I can't drag my but out of bed for something that I love and truly enjoy doing, then there's no hope left for anything else in my life. I am doomed to miss out on things simply due to sheer exhaustion and an inability to get myself up at a reasonable hour... even when I have something exciting going on!

Not to mention all the money I've wasted on race registrations for missed races. Besides these two NYRR races that I slept through, there was the Niagara Falls Half marathon that my friend bailed on me, so I had my registration deferred. Then, the following year I completely forgot about the race and didn't remember - or plan - far enough in advance to get my passport ready. There was about $70 down the drain. Besides that, there was the Ocean Drive Marathon, which I was completely psyched about running in March 09, yet unfortunately I got in a major car accident the week before the race, tore a tiny intercostal muscle, and couldn't run. Thankfully the race director was kind enough to defer my registration to the following year. The next year rolled around, and I found myself untrained, un-prepared, unemployed, and faced with a job offer that required me to move the NYC the very same weekend as the marathon. Needless to say, I once again ate about $70-$90 in race registration fees for a race I never even got to run.

This is getting to be extremely discouraging. Not only am I loosing tons of money on all these missed races, I've let myself (and others) down more times than I care to count. Even with a good nights sleep, sometimes I can't even drag my but out of bed for a run. Oversleeping has always been a problem for me, but it reaches new heights when it starts to interfere with the life I want to be leading. Something's go to give. This is getting to be a really bad habit!