I’m so happy to be able to give blood again after my kidney donation, but it’s become logistically more difficult – Baystate has suspended their program entirely, and the Red Cross only has one location in Western Mass. It’s in an industrial suburb of Springfield, about half an hour away for me, so it could be worse but I’m bummed to have to drive there! I gave Tuesday afternoon and had a full day’s rest before the 8-mile run on Thursday morning, but I still noticed the effects.
I started out with intervals, which went OK, but then I didn’t have much left for the run itself. Whenever I felt like I just had to stop running, I would check my Fitbit and see my heart rate at 168, so it was consistent (exactly 3 times my age, but more likely the reason is it’s about 3x my resting HR). Then I would walk for a while, my chance to pull off more of the hundreds of tick-trefoil burs I picked up in one second of dodging a puddle. I see that they are called Stick-Tight (Desmodium sp.) and ranked among the hardest to remove from one’s socks! Deep fog gave way to sun where there are banks of wild tansy (I put some in my bandana to sniff) and sunflowers, picking up the rays. From the Meadows I ran to the Connecticut River bike bridge, where I watched a rowing team put their crew boat in – lifting above their heads and pivoting to the river in one smooth move, very balletic.
I was still easily winded for Friday’s five miles, so it was great to accompany Jonathan’s walk for the first few. Sunday’s long run (16 miles) also maxed out my energy. I moved up to 63.58% of Easthampton, still 3rd place, but was able to improve all CityStriders’ experience by fixing two streets on Open Street Map – Scout Road, a dirt road which doesn’t even exist on Google Maps and ends in a maze of ruts before the last node, and part of Paul Street which was closed/abandoned when The Commons development was built. I got a few photos, not great quality, but alas the flying pig weathervane didn’t come out at all. Finishing this up 9/8, so now only a week and half behind…
A good week with not much to report. Fourteen miles is a bit of a psychological hurdle, but it went really well and I was very happy with the pace! I’m glad I take photos even when they don’t come out well, because they are memory triggers: the friendly black cat with a white mustache I met at the beginning of the long run, the yellow lab in a window which looked like a cutout until it moved, the fake owl side-by-side with a real squirrel, and a couple of weathervanes (typical rooster but perched on a mini dovecote, owl that looked like terracotta but was presumably fresh copper). In order to cover the south edge of Easthampton—I’m up to 49.13%!—I ran up Mountain Road/141 to Southampton Street in Holyoke, which I’ve driven many times. It’s always different on foot! From there I took a side street I’d never noticed (Line Road), which turned into a different Mountain Road, a steep dirt road across the very edge of Southampton with a few surprisingly huge houses (reminded me of back roads in Susquehanna County).
I don’t have an overall theme this week, but it was a good one. This training plan works so well every single time – the mileage ramps up at just the right pace. The week’s total is now marathon distance, and I was realizing that for the next six weeks every long run will exceed a half-marathon. Right now that seems a little intimidating, when 12 miles was about as far as I could go on Sunday, but I know when I get there I’ll be ready. Highlights of the week:
42.2% of Easthampton – I’m adding more than 5% a week, successfully balancing completing short streets with plugging away on the long ones. Easthampton is easier to manage than Northampton was – fewer total streets (346 vs 539) and also much smaller (14 vs 36 square miles). The person in first place has a private profile so I can’t see if they’ve been running recently, but I don’t think they’ve changed from 92.49%. I’d love to complete Easthampton first!
Expanding my range in Northampton to other beautiful neighborhoods like Village Hill. I’m taking more photos here as well so I’ll have two galleries on this post.
I picked some mint gone wild at the edge of the Northampton community gardens and crushed it in the bandana I carry. Wow, why did I not think of scent as an extra enjoyment that way? I do stop to smell flowers, enjoy woodsmoke etc., but bringing something with me to sniff… so many possibilities!
I realized I’ve been expanding my intangible collections (sightings/photographs) – for years I’ve kept an eye out for interesting weathervanes, but now I’m also looking for Little Libraries and cool mailboxes. So many fun things to enjoy but not have to own!
A delightful experience on East Street: as I approached four or five cattle in a pasture, a pickup truck approached from the other side. The cows started mooing and heading for the corner gate even before it pulled into the driveway – they clearly recognized the engine, just like dogs do. Cross-species excitement!
Less delightful but interesting: I picked up a huge cloud of gnats about an hour in, which followed me for several miles despite my attempts to whisk them off with flailing arms and my bandana. The little black dots dancing around my head were like wearing one of those black veils with dots, or a fringed hat.
I covered most of East Street, which runs along the flank of the traprock ridge connecting Mount Nonotuck to Mount Tom – several miles of great views.
I’d heard about the Treehouse Community in Easthampton but had never seen it – what a lovely place with a great mission.
In training for each of my previous marathons, I’ve developed a minor injury as the mileage climbs – typically around week 13 or 14. I’d been wondering if that will happen again, but this is different: I fell full-length (even hit my chin!) just a minute after starting my Sunday long run. I tripped over nothing as I was adjusting a strap on my Camelbak. I hadn’t warmed up yet and in fact I was probably extra-stiff because it was a cold bike ride (5:15am, 50-ish degrees – I wore gloves). I scraped my knees and palms and bruised my thumb enough that it’s a little swollen and still somewhat painful four days later – and of course I was shaken up and annoyed with myself. But I was so lucky! A big advantage of being short and slow is I don’t have as far to fall and can’t build up as much momentum. If I were six feet tall I’d probably be out of commission for a while. A few years ago I fell on a steep downhill and hurt my hand badly enough that I had to stop running for at least a month – just short of a fracture, thank goodness, but the whole arm was painful.
It makes me extra-appreciate a bunch of things: how amazing it is that the body heals itself – and so quickly! – how much health and ability are matters of luck, how fortunate that I could finish that 11-mile run and get back to my normal training. But it also makes me wonder if we are the only creature than can damage ourselves by tripping – as opposed to falling from a height, or while jumping. Just a few years ago I learned the terms “committed biped” (ie humans, who always walk on two limbs) and “facultative biped” (creatures who can walk on two limbs sometimes, like gorillas and bears, but typically don’t). Facultative bipeds would just land back on all fours where they belong. We have this potential energy of a heavy head way up in the air on a body that can turn into a lever. I guess it must be so evolutionarily advantageous to be upright that it’s worth effectively living on a small cliff – just like it’s worth it for mountain goats to risk falling. And we are remarkably sure-footed – I’ve caught myself when tripping the vast majority of times.
If something else happens and I do have to drop out of the marathon, it would be sad but fine. I wanted to enjoy the training process itself, and I am! Highlights of this week:
I met a Sphynx cat (or part-Sphynx, as it had patches of fur) on a weekday run. I won’t say where just in case (petnappers do exist), but it was friendly and encouraged me to pet it. The wrinkled skin was as soft as it looked.
Northampton has so many beautiful neighborhoods. The Round Hill area gardens are delighting me.
A slightly weird thing: the biggest development I ran through has signs for both “Carillon Circle” (the correct name) and “Carrilon Circle” (the typo). I figured they couldn’t be two different streets, but it’s a long road that intersects itself so I did wonder.
I was really lucky to stumble across Wonky Owl Farm a few weeks ago – it no longer exists! The sign is gone and the roadside furniture was being given away. I’m glad I noticed it when I did!
On my long run last week I had forgotten to take the walk break on the first couple of half-miles and had been doing it just once per mile. This week I forgot about it entirely for the first few miles and spontaneously decided to abandon the Gallowalking. It sounds good theoretically, but I did my first three marathons without it, and I haven’t been noticing any benefits. Galloway talks about people beating their best marathon times by a lot when they implement his method. BUT – how was their pace before? If you’re going out too fast and walking the last three or four miles, run/walk could definitely improve your time. If you’re pacing yourself well, as I do, it’s not as clear how it would help, unless you make a point of running faster during the run segments – and that would make it harder to know what’s left “in the tank” for me. The approach I use, where I pretend that the first 20 miles of the marathon is the last training run and the 6.2 is the actual race, has worked really well. Here’s someone reporting on exactly that – he concludes “Galloway’s method helps runners, even some good ones who run in the 3:00 range, to run faster marathons…..even, ostensibly, by large amounts…..simply because they haven’t learned or aren’t disciplined enough to run good marathons without them.”
Going back to walking only while drinking, combined with my photo and map-checking stops, seems just as good as extended walk breaks, and the 10 miles went by easily without much fatigue. I was super-thrilled for my pace to naturally match the 13:44 I need to finish in 6 hours! It was a rainy morning, so that helped. I’m glad I’ve been getting up at 4:30 on Sundays; I don’t actually get out the door until well after 5, but so far that’s still gotten me home, with bagels, early enough to feel like the day isn’t gone.
31.79% of Easthampton! (Still in 5th place.) I got in some long roads, the entire eastern corner (a narrow little “handle,” so easy to complete), some nice residential streets, and all of the Harvest Valley Condominiums. It’s a tremendously boring development with so many almost-identical houses, but the gardens were nice, the main street is “Lazy ‘D’ Drive” (love a lazy letter!), the views of Mount Tom would be awesome on a clear day, and it led me to identify a trait of newly developed neighborhoods that I’d been sort of aware of without thinking about: offset cul-de-sacs branching off a main road are really easy for things like plowing, deliveries, and running every street. You just go straight, left, straight, right etc. until you’re done; no possibility of getting in a loop or skipping a street.
I’m trying the 90 free days of Fitbit Premium so I get access to some data I didn’t have before (sleeping heart rate etc.), but nothing seems particularly interesting. Mostly they market the workouts etc., which I might explore. The main new number, though, is a proper timed mile on the Smith College track, now that I’ve researched the markings (this was the most helpful site): 10:18. On the one hand, that’s faster than my approximately timed miles earlier this year. On the other, it’s significantly slower than my fastest 5K (Westfield in 2018, so not that long ago: 9:37!). And although I told myself I’d start at 60% effort and move up, either my “dial” is broken or I don’t have the same stamina I used to, because I was only able to pick up the pace at the last half-lap. Oh well!
I vaulted into 5th place at CityStrides for Easthampton – 24.86% of streets. It will take me a long time to move up one more notch, as the current 4th place runner is at 54.34%. Some minor fun things – see below – and I found the new-ish Easthampton fish ladder, which I’ll return to some spring when it’s open for visitors.
My guideline for when to start planning hydration on a run used to be eight miles/90 minutes, but now that I’m slower I’ve moved it down to seven. For my first marathon I used Gatorade, for the second water and gels, and finally water plus dates for the New York Marathon, which worked best of all. Huge advantage: not having to clean sports drink out of my CamelBak reservoir… But I’ve been doing so well with exercising in a fasting state that I’m exploring electrolytes without calories.
Now that I’ve been doing my “eating window” (start eating at noon or later, stop around 8 or 9) for years, my body is very well-adapted to it and, subjectively at least, my blood sugar levels feel rock-solid. I’ve followed a normal long run (5-6 miles) with several hours of biking and hiking before eating anything, and felt totally fine (way better than in the old days when I’d eat breakfast first, fuel after a long run, and still be wiped out for the rest of the day). Jeff Galloway’s Marathon! is full of “eat a PowerBar to raise your blood sugar” (literally, he recommends keeping levels high by eating every 30-60 minutes all day) but that wouldn’t be good for me. This article confirms that it can be good to train while fasting, but recommends fueling for the longest training runs. I have races scheduled starting in week 12, so probably I’ll add dates back in to the 16-mile long run in weeks 10 and 11 if I don’t experience any problems until then. I do worry about losing electrolytes through sweating, and I want to be mindful of my one hard-working kidney! My local running store carries SaltStick products so I got the caps (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D). I took one capsule an hour into my 7-mile run and felt fine. I’ll plan on one every hour of running, but I also stuck a gel in my pack just in case I end up bonking as the runs get longer.
This week took me to #10 in Easthampton on Citystrides (16.76%). I mostly covered the industrial area (found the Topatoco building) and some suburban streets – nothing spectacular but fun as always. I’m definitely at the upper edge of a pace that will let me finish Hartford in under 6 hours (13:44 max!), so it may be tougher to keep running marathons as I slow further with age. Comparing to week 3 of training in previous attempts, I’m around 2 minutes per mile slower than 2004, 1.5 minutes slower than 2015, and 1 minute slower than 2018. An extra reason to enjoy each one I get to do. I see the Walt Disney World Marathon is a 7-hour course… and here’s an old list of “Time Friendly Marathons,” so there must be others. Old Colony Marathon is listed, in Springfield – aha, it’s now in Westfield but it’s 14 laps, no thank you!
Exploring Easthampton is great – I’m so glad I picked this as my challenge. It’s fun moving up the CityStrides ranks quickly at the beginning. I went from 22nd place to 15th and doubled the percentage covered (12.14% of the streets) by knocking off a lot of short streets. The low-hanging fruit won’t last forever but it’s fun. I found a new conservation area to come back and explore (Pomeroy Meadow Conservation Area), vicariously enjoyed amazing gardens, saw tons of bunnies, and amused myself puzzling over why the years on the fence at Williston seem to be in random order (answer: it was originally tied to meeting a fundraising goal per class). The Williston gateway has a plaque for William Leonard Pitcher, class of 1891, “with the happy knack of making people feel better” (reminds me of Jonathan!) My favorite find was Wonky Owl Farm. I also spotted a bunch of mushrooms I’m pretty sure were king bolete (Boletus edulis), which I’ve always wanted to try, but they were on someone’s lawn (South Street near Glendale) so I’d need permission to pick them and I didn’t have a knife or bag anyway. Maybe I’ll get a chance to go back someday.
Avg pace/fastest split
Tue 6/29 (82°F/81%)
Gave blood later that day but it didn’t have much of an effect based on subsequent numbers, yay!
Still backdating this to keep them all in 2018 – posted 1/1/2019
The one thing I really, really disliked about the New York Marathon was the emphasis on buying stuff. I had been looking forward to the email newsletters until I realized that they almost only/always were pitches for the paid training programs, gear, other races, etc… money money money. So by the time they started pitching the MarathonFoto packages, including a full set of tips on how to make your photos come out well, I was totally turned off. When I got the pre-race “Last chance for $60 download!” pitch, I researched the company and saw Yelp reviews that complained the photos were lousy and high-priced. I avoided the start corral photographers. But… I regretted those decisions, and ended up buying the download package at $70 after seeing some great preview photos. If I had to do it over, I’d follow the tips, pose for everything, and spring for the pre-race package. The number and position of the photographers make for some truly special shots. And you get the full-res photos and permissions at that price, so it’s actually not that unreasonable. I was also looking forward to the promised video, but that turned out pretty light on personal content and it’s kind of cheesy. Here’s a selection of my favorite shots:
Next time, I would:
leave more time for the start
bring fuel for the trip to the start
wear give-away socks and put on fresh vaseline right before the start
not take quite so many photos (I don’t regret that I did, but the 2nd time I wouldn’t want as many)
as mentioned above, buy the pre-race photo package and pose for everything
investigate the food bag more thoroughly and ingest or toss the heavy things
Training went fine, and I’m glad I wasn’t more ambitious with it. CityStrides helped keep it fun!
Despite the hassles and cost, it was amazing! If I only had the chance to run one marathon, I’m tempted to say this would be the one… but on the other hand I’m so glad it wasn’t my first, because it was hard enough without being new to the distance and the whole experience.
The shirt is the nicest race shirt ever and I love wearing it!
Dates and water is much better than Gatorade, but the caffeine gels are a great addition for the distance
Overall, I’m so glad this was the central experience of 2018 for me!
Posted on 1/1/2019 They were so not kidding about Mile 27! After the finish line, we walked to get the medal, then the heat sheet (which we needed because of the trek to get the ponchos), then a bag of food – VERY heavy! – then eventually the poncho. It was cold and getting dark and it was crowded and confusing – I had to backtrack for a medal, help someone else to find the food bags, and then wait ages for a poncho. There were crowds around the poncho distribution areas and the one where I first lined up ran out of them twice before I got one. I was too tired to thoroughly investigate the food bag – I would have tried the protein shake if I’d found it then, but didn’t want it later – and just ate pretzels and the apple, which wasn’t really enough. People were sitting down along the edge of the road even though we were encouraged to keep walking. I really needed a porta-potty but there weren’t any until after the poncho pickup, so at least a mile after the finish.
The poncho felt great – warm, sturdy, fleecy, and so official! I had planned to walk back across the park near where we came out (72nd St), since we were staying at my mom’s place in the east 80s and it would be a fairly straight shot. But I started to realize that since everything was fenced off for the finish lines, I wasn’t going to be able to cross the park. It looked like I’d have to go all the way north to 85th St or down to 66th St, which felt closer (the other way probably would have been shorter overall, and looking at the map now I might have been able to cross at the 79th St transverse). Even once I got to 66th St, it looked shut down, but a race volunteer told me to walk through unless the police stopped me. The traverse was empty and quiet, and I slipped into a meditative trance. I wouldn’t have wanted to run another step, but walking felt fine. It was about another 2 miles to get home.
The other great thing about the poncho was its marker status. There weren’t many of us on the East Side wearing one, but each time we’d greet each other with “Congratulations!” A few non-runners gave me a shout-out as well. I got back to the apartment, greeted Jonathan, took a shower, and we walked further uptown to have dinner with my mother and stepfather, and then walked back again. Fitbit shows 68,261 steps for the day, which I think is my all-time record. I was very tired and had some soreness over the next few days, but really not too bad. And when I got back to work, this was waiting for me:
One more post to come, on post-race reflections and the official photos, and this blog goes back into mothballs!