With the start of the school year and the return of my 90-miles-each-way commute, I’ve spent the past few weeks class prepping and research planning and meeting attending and generally just working to settle into a new rhythm.
But unlike last year when I was struggling just to keep my head above water, this year that hasn’t meant slacking in the training department. With adventure racing nationals in three weeks and the Philly marathon five or six weeks after that, I’m pretty committed to getting myself to the start lines prepped and rested and raring to go.
The weekday workouts have been pretty simple – a date with the treadmill or trainer before or after work when I’m up at school, and taking to the trails on the days that I work from home. But for the long outings, I’ve had to get creative.
Take this weekend, for instance.
I knew that I wanted to get in a 60 mile ride in preparation for nationals and an 18-20 mile road run for Philly. I also knew that we had a bar mitzvah much of Saturday and I needed to earmark at least half of Sunday for grading and prep.
At first I contemplated knocking out the run on Friday afternoon. Friday was Brent’s birthday and his cross-country girls were throwing him a small surprise party to celebrate. My plan was to run from home to his school (7.5 miles away) and then loop around for another 12-ish before finishing with the team.
Of course, when the clock struck noon, I was still neck-deep in writing and quickly realized that the very thought of an early afternoon solo 20 miler left me wanting to hide under the bed.
Time for a new plan.
Saturday’s bar mitzvah included a service and luncheon, followed by an evening snowboarding-themed extravaganza. I thought that the morning festivities would end by 2 and the party was set to begin at 7:30, leaving us with 5 hours of downtime.
I emailed Brent with a proposal: “What do you think of bringing our bikes with us Saturday morning and heading out for a long ride directly from the synagogue?”
I was pretty sure that we’d be close enough to the tow path that we could do a quick and flat 60 miles and get back in plenty of time to clean up in the bathroom before the party began (gotta love paper towel sponge baths… thank goodness it was a casual affair!). Then, I could get in my long run Sunday morning and still have the entire afternoon to be productive.
After a bit of back-and-forth, Brent signed on, and yesterday morning we packed our car full of gear and readied ourselves for an adventure.
The lunch wound down by 1:30 and we were changed and ready to go by 2. The only problem? I’d misjudged our location – it turned out that we were 25 miles away from the towpath and completed surrounded by hills.
So, off we went, for what turned into a 62-mile hill ride through the far western suburbs of Philadelphia. The route turned out to be fantastic – lush woods, babbling brooks, wide meadows and fields – but by the time we returned to the synagogue to get ready for the party, my quads were shot and my mental prowess was fading.
How in the world could I get through 18-20 miles just 12 hours later?
I pulled on my compression socks (what good they would do for my aching quads, I had no idea), chased the ride with a fruit punch Powerade and a strawberry wheat beer, and we settled in for an entertaining evening of hora-ing.
We got to bed around 1 AM and when I woke up at 7 to get ready to run, I had some serious doubts.
Luckily, I have some great running buddies who were more than willing to help me get through the next few hours.
At 7:50 AM, I parked the car and ran one mile to the Kelly Drive Loop, where running buddy #1, Laurel, was ready and waiting after the first half of her long run. We set off at a surprisingly quick clip and followed the running path around the river. The Philly Rock n’ Roll half marathon was this morning as well, so the roads were closed and we enjoyed the pre-race calm as we headed toward the art museum.
5 miles later, we pulled into a parking lot at the start of Boathouse Row and picked up running buddy #2, Bess, before heading back out to the path for the second half of the loop. We stuck to the sidewalk to avoid the race and made it back to our starting point without incident.
At that point, we said goodbye to Laurel, who had one more mile back to her car to round out 19 miles, and Bess and I started toward the art museum once again. This time the race was in full swing and we bobbed and weaved our way through the crowds of spectators and clueless bikers who thought they’d be able to pass through with ease. No such luck.
We made it back to the art museum and as Bess turned to head for home, I plugged in my shuffle and prepared for the final push. Four more miles stood between me and my car, and my legs were feeling remarkably fresh, given the 15 miles I’d just run coupled with the activities of the day before.
Volunteers were cleaning up water stations at that point as the last of the walkers passed by (does that frustrate anyone else? If the race is open to people of all speeds, leave the water and gu out until everyone is done!), but several bands continued to play as I passed by each consecutive quarter-mile marker.
With two and a half miles to go, my right IT band started to get cranky, and I resorted to pausing every half mile for a quick (and largely unproductive) stretch. Still, when I arrived back at my car 19 miles later, my body felt surprisingly okay. Sure, my muscles were keenly aware that they’d been working for the past almost-3 hours, but I didn’t feel any worse than I have after the dozens of long runs from training seasons past.
Shivering commenced in short order and I headed home for a long shower and a hot lunch. 20 minutes later, I sat down with my computer to begin an afternoon of work.
Within an hour, I was asleep on the couch.