Sunday, February 27, 2011

My Typical Weekend Run, from Astoria to the Upper East Side, in Pictures

Today got off to a slow start, running-wise. I woke up at 10 and decided to lounge with my coffee, a batch of chocolate chip pancakes and the Sunday New York Times before heading out for the usual weekend nine-miler.

Breakfast of champions.
I headed out at noon and realized just how warm it was after about 30 seconds. I turned back around to de-layer and change into shorts. Yay!

I figured my readers outside of NYC might enjoy a visual other than the usual Google map. But first, full disclosure: these are not my pictures. I'm a minimalist who doesn't ever run with her phone. Sorry. Many thanks, Google Images!

Running from my apartment to the pedestrian entrance of the Queensboro Bridge takes me about 15 minutes. This is the usual view from the top, of the East River between Manhattan and Roosevelt Island:
At around the 30-minute mark, I'll land at the end of the pedestrian walkway on the Manhattan side of the bridge at East 60th Street and First Ave. From there, I'll make my way west to Central Park. This part of the route varies depending on where the traffic lights are green and where and where I'm most easily able to avoid having to stop to walk and weave around herds of UES families clogging up the sidewalks.

I'll usually enter CP at East 72nd Street and 5th Avenue and merge with the many runners also headed north to the reservoir at East 85th Street. Confession: I have no idea where exactly the notorious "Cat Hill" that people love to complain about actually is, but I think it's around here somewhere? I personally don't think hills are evil (though we'll see if I'll be eating my words if/when I'm ever faced with the famed "Heartbreak Hill" in Boston), and after dozens of NYRR races, I barely notice them anymore. If you just keep running, they're behind you before you know it!

Once I get to the first entrance, I'll climb up to the path along the perimeter of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir: Isn't the view pretty? Sadly, the water is still iced over at the moment.
One loop around the reservoir is approximately 1.7 miles. Even though the scenery is great, I've never been able to loop it more than twice before getting bored of running in circles. I'll usually just go around once before running back down through the park.

I'll usually run back down the same way I came and exit the park at around East 65th Street and 5th Avenue and eventually make my way to the NQR subway station at East 60th and Third Ave. I guess it's fitting that I end up right outside of this place: Dylan's Candy Bar! (Un)fortunately, I rarely have cash on me with which to go inside.
That rounds out my nine miles! I used to tack on the three miles all the way back home when I was doing 12-mile NYC Marathon training runs last fall.

In other news, my friend, Megan, tapped me as an interview subject for students in a writing class she's teaching, and one that came up was what I think draws readers to my blog. Even though I get a decent amount of weekly visitors, I know I don't actually have that many fellow runners in my circle of friends.

So, question: If you're not a runner, why do you read my blog? I'm curious! :)


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Nine Miles, Fueled by Marathon Coffee

After 10 blissful hours of sleep, I was happy to see the sun shining without the wind blowing when I woke up this morning, though Accuweather told me it was still only 23 degrees outside. No more shorts for the time being-- for today's run, I was forced to resort back to this get-up:

Winter, please go away already.
I started my day with a "power breakfast" of two cups of "Marathon Coffee" and a smoothie made up of frozen strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries,  unsweetened vanilla almond milk and a vanilla Power Bar Gel.

As previously mentioned, I received the coffee as a sample to review from Ben at The Running Company. Although I liked its strong flavor and felt energized throughout my run, I'm still convinced any performance effects would be more mental than anything else. (I don't doubt it will prove helpful in putting an extra spring in my step during my 6:30 a.m. weekday runs, though! :) ) After fueling up, I set out for a nine-miler.

These days, my go-to long run route entails running from my apartment to and across the Queensboro Bridge, and then around the Upper East Side (this part varies depending on where the green lights are!) until I can cross into Central Park and make my way up for one lap around the reservoir and then back down through the park and the east side to catch the train home at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street. While the reservoir path is completely clear of ice (yay!) some parts are rather muddy, so be warned if you're heading that way!

People are often quick to label me as "hardcore" when they learn that I often run from Queens to the city, but if you look at my Google map, you'll see that getting to the other side of the bridge isn't even three miles. It amazes me how clueless some people here are about the outer limits of Manhattan! (I had an ex-boyfriend whose parents shunned public transit, always either driving or cabbing it in the city. Imagine if they knew I'm currently living in one of of the "big bad boroughs." But I digress.)

Anyway, once I got home and chugged some water, chocolate milk and some more coffee, Roomie and I set out for some brunch paninis at Il Bambino. Mine included scrambled eggs, smoked bacon, artisan cheddar and truffle oil. So delish, but it predictably sent me into a food coma for the rest of the afternoon. I was thinking of making shrimp stir-fry for dinner tonight, but I'm still so full! Maybe I should tackle my laundry first (ugh) and see how I feel.

How do you choose when to take your rest days? I take two a week and my decision is usually pretty easy since I base it on the weather forecast. This week it's looking to be tomorrow and possibly Tuesday:

Enough already!
But tomorrow is a holiday off from work, so I'll be busy enjoying a sushi lunch with Carla and possibly getting a manicure (thanks for the birthday gift certificate, Roomie!) and seeing Chicago on Broadway with the Roomie (fingers crossed we can get rush tickets!).

What are your go-to distances when you're not officially training for a big race? Mine are six miles for weekday mornings and eight to nine for weekend long runs. Believe it or not, I rarely get bored with it.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring, was Please come back!

When I woke up at 6:30 yesterday morning, it was already 52 degrees out. You know what that means: six miles in shorts!

Scored these on sale ($10!) at Old Navy on Thursday!
Sadly, after a couple of days of spring-like conditions, winter is back in full force. Although it was bright and sunny when I woke up this morning, Accuweather told me it would be a blustery Saturday, complete with 60 mile-per-hour winds. So instead of running: cookie baking! I'll do my eight miles tomorrow.

I'd been wanting to try this recipe posted a while back by Megan of The Runner's Kitchen. These Salty Nantucket cookies (or, as I'm calling them, "Thank You, Daddy" cookies-- I sent half the batch off to Oregon this afternoon. My dad did my taxes for me and figured out that my total refund is almost the equivalent of one month's rent!). The main tweak I made was using dried tart cherries instead of cranberries (because I think the latter are boring-- am I weird?) I also didn't have grinder sea salt and found that the fine salt didn't stick so well to the first post-oven batch, so for the rest, I sprinkled it on the the dough balls before baking.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2/3 cup (1 stick plus 1 2/3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs1/2 cup egg whites
1 cup dried cranberries, preferably unsweetened tart cherries
1 cup white chocolate chips or chunks
Grinder sea salt

Mmm, cookie dough.

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line baking sheets with aluminum foil.
  2. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and fine sea salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter with the sugars until creamy. Add the vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl, mixing it in a little at a time, until the flour is well incorporated. Stir in the cherries and white chocolate chips.
  5. Use an ice cream scoop or two spoons to drop balls of dough (about 2 tablespoons each) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just golden.
  6. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately sprinkle them with a light dusting of sea salt. Let cool on the baking sheets for about 1 minute, then remove them to a wire rack and let them cool completely. Makes approx. 30 cookies.
In other news: did you hear about next year's registration changes for the 2012 Boston Marathon? Boston Athletic Association Executive Director Tom Grilk noted the new rolling admission system comes in response to the backlash from qualifiers who were shut out after last year's rapid sell-out (which I wrote about here). At first glance, it seems a bit confusing, but what the BAA is ultimately giving the fastest qualified runners the earliest opportunity to sign up, which I do think is fair. I hope to someday qualify for Boston, but seeing as the the time limit for women in my age group is 3:40 (and being lowered to 3:35 for 2013) and my next goal is to run NYC in sub-4:00, I have a ways to go before I can legitimately worry about getting in.

But, in my opinion, a key aspect that race organizers don't appear to have addressed is that these standards don't apply to charity runners, who I firmly believe should especially be expected to qualify. They most certainly should not have registration access before qualifying runners-- you can bet I would have been more than irked if one of these runners was able to snatch up my guaranteed entry spot into the New York City Marathon before I had a fair chance. If the physical challenge of qualifying for and completing the Boston Marathon isn't something of key importance to charity runners, I personally think they should find a different race, as there are plenty of others happening all year round throughout the country.

Also in the news this week: sidewalk rage. According to recent research, it's real. No wayyy! Honestly, I can sympathize with anyone else who suffers. Here in NYC, when we're not traveling underground, walking is literally our mode of transportation. Please pick up the pace, veer to the right and kindly put out your cigarette. And for the love of God, don't shove a flyer in my face, especially when I'm running.

Lastly, I ended up signing up for the Coogan's Salsa, Blues and Shamrocks 5K on March 6. I'm excited to race this distance for the first time in four years. I'm not excited to have to trek from Astoria to Washington Heights on a Saturday morning. Here's hoping the MTA gods will be on my side. And that I can break 24 minutes!

Question No. 1: Do you have any "boring" foods that you avoid if possible? My others include grapes, oranges and peanut butter.

Question No. 2: Do you ever suffer from sidewalk rage??

Question No. 3: Do you set an alarm for weekend workouts? Even though I'm naturally an early riser, I never do. If I end up sleeping until close to 10 a.m. (as I have been lately), I take it as a sign that my body needed the extra rest. One of these days, I will make it to the New York Running Company's Saturday morning group runs...


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Look at My Winter Morning Running Routine

Remember my summertime look at my morning routine? Winter is not quite the same. I sleep in most of my running gear-- tights, tops (it was 17 degrees and felt like 4 this morning--NYC winter morning runs require at least two top layers), socks and watch, and also have a programmable coffeemaker that I set to start brewing 10 minutes before I wake up. So when the alarm goes off at 6:30...

6:30: Put on running shoes and strap on iPod arm band.

6:32: Wash face and put in contact lenses.

6:34: Pour and consume a cup of coffee with half and half.

6:40: Grab keys and gloves and head out the door to run either one of these routes (both approx. six miles):

7:35: Arrive back at the apartment.

7:37: Hop in the shower.

7:47: Put on the Today show to listen to as I get dressed, brush hair and put makeup on.

8:00: Brush teeth.

8:03: Catch the news on the Today show as I throw together a packed lunch.

8:10: Catch up on e-mail.

8:25: High-tail it to the subway.

8:30: Hop on the train. Try not to lose my balance as I peruse Twitter or the newspaper.

8:55: Arrive at the office, just in time to grab more coffee. All hail the office Keurig machine.

It's been a pretty slow week at work, but some of the mail I've been getting livened it up. First up, the folks at Stonyfield Farms were kind enough to send me some coupons for a free stash of its OIKOS organic Greek-style nonfat yogurt. I was excited to try the caramel and chocolate ones! I jazzed it up by adding in some tart cherries this morning. My only beef with these is that the serving sizes are tiny! I might have had one of each flavor for breakfast this morning…

It's like dessert for breakfast-- always a win in my book!
Also, thanks to Ben at The Running Company, I received a bag of its “Race Day Blend” Marathon Coffee. I am psyched to try this out! (I don’t call myself “the caffeinated runner” for nothing.) It’s whole bean, though, so I’ll have to wait and sneak it in the store on my next trip to Trader Joe’s to grind it. If I end up liking it, you can bet I’ll be trying it before some upcoming races (ahem).

Are you a morning or evening person when it comes to working out? Even though it's sometimes hard to pry myself out of my warm bed in the mornings, it's way easier for me to go first thing versus at night (when it's pitch dark), and when I'm off of work, I just want to go home and eat and veg. Sleeping in my gear and having my coffee ready for me are big a.m. motivators. :)


Friday, February 4, 2011

I'm Back in Action...Meet My New Best Friend.

After six full days of rest, I decided to get back on the road again yesterday. Although I made it through without a hitch, it's still an icy mess out there!

Yup, yup. Bring on the spring races and shorts weather.
In other news, I also finallyyyyy got my foam roller and tested it out tonight. Exhibit A:

Hello, friend.
Of course, I had no idea how to use the thing, so I had to prop up my MacBook and turn to Runner's World and YouTube...

Determination. And yes, that is my kitchen. Only open area in the apartment.
But I soon got the hang of it:

So serious.
What's the purpose of the foam roller, you ask? Using one as part of a running routine is known to prevent injury and improve performance. My knees started feeling a little weak and creaky after the recent Manhattan Half-Marathon and after a few days of unintentionally slow post-race workouts, I decided to give myself a break and used some Amazon points to make the purchase. I think the Manhattan Half course is significantly "hillier" than most of the other CP races-- it was my most challenging one in a a long time, and, come to think of it, I felt this same slight pain after I first ran it it in 2009. I ran (and ellipticalled) right through it, and although I miraculously recovered in time to PR at the super-fun Country Music Half, in hindsight, ignoring my discomfort probably wasn't the wisest choice. I intend to make good use out of this thing!

As for big weekend running plans, I don't really have any. I was really hoping to join up with The Running Company for their weekend group run tomorrow, but it's looking like the weather will be crappy. As for Sunday, I've got big brunch plans with some friends I haven't seen in a while (ASME '08 Reunion!!!) and then a Super Bowl party with the Roomie. You read that right. Really, I'm in it for the friends and food (I'm making brownies).

If not for Roomie's cheese-themed snacks, I wouldn't even know who's playing.
Good luck to Shannon, Ali, Fiona, and everyone else running the NYRR Gridiron Classic!