Category Archives: Running

Days 119-121- How I Spent my Week

MIrror Mirror 119/365

Or otherwise entitled, The Great Blog Catch Up!

What is there to say in a blog recap of an uneventful week.
Catching up on posts missed during trips, or holidays, is wonderful. Numerous fantastic pictures and great tales of adventures and exploration provide enough material for several independent posts.

But what to do about an uneventful week, where my only excuse for not posting is a lack of inspiration?
The answer, I suppose, is to give up and post a multi-day post, for the first time since starting this blog. (My double day during the Ragnar Relay does not count, since it really was one giant day).

Day 119 Monday– holiday for some, slow, lazy work day for others.
Pictured above are the ducks that nest in our campus fountains. More on these adorable guys later, but I did discover that my eyes were not deceiving me, and there is a bright yellow, fluffy, albino duckling amongst the group. Recently I have mentally grasped the concept that I will not be at this job forever, and this has made me realize how many wonderful perks I take for granted–these fountains and access to their outdoor space chief among them.

Pane of Glass 120/365

Day 120 Tuesday– Not much to report today. My picture, of the view from my grimy apartment window, tells the story. My knee has flared up recently and combined with increasing exhaustion and the heat wave, I have taken it easy this week– not doing much of anything, including exercise. I will tell myself this is a fantastic training strategy. There are training plans with dips as well as peaks in mileage, after all.

Reflections 121/365

Day 121 Wednesday. I did go for a run today, and would love to report that as soon as I got out there, I felt just wonderful. But, I cannot. I realize now I should have been more careful when a subtly boasted about running through the coldest of the winter days, because this is comparatively so much easier for me than running in the heat. So now I am called to task as I grunt, and sweat, and skip my runs as summer heats up. This will have to change. If I run the NYC marathon, and I plan to, I will need to do some very long runs, on some very hot August days. Perhaps I just need to acclimatize. Perhaps. The picture is an iPhone snap taken as I walked back across the bridge from the East river at the conclusion of my run. I wonder if sweat is bad for the iPhone?

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Day 112- Watching Running

Running 112/365

I used to watch runners with a sense of wonder and awe, no matter the runner, no matter the speed. Neither made any difference for me, these people were running, something I couldn’t, and so I was impressed. It is humorous to me how much this attitude has changed in the little over a year that I have been running myself. I may have several races–and a chunk over a thousand miles–under my belt now, but I am not so far off from the shuffling run-walker of previous years.

Yet now when a runner passes me, I look them over. What is their form, do they know what they are doing, are they wearing warm clothes because it is a “cold” 40 or 50 degrees, are they–in effect–a “real runner” ? And I watch the “real runners” even more closely: the fast ones, the effortless ones, the ones that seem to be gliding over the pavement as they whip by me. The other day a short (shorter than I) latino man came flying by me on the trail. I hate to make the perhaps racist comparison to the way the Tarahuma were described in Born to Run, but it begged to be made. He had a perfect fore-foot strike, a nice kick back, and most significantly a lightning fast cadence. I matched his cadence for a while, and it felt like it could easily be twice mine–and I have lately been working on developing a high cadence myself.

One thing that has changed the most in my own form and my assessment of others, is the appearance of effort. I used to think that a super fast stride, pumping arms, labored breath, were signs of good running. During my first ever 5K I pointed out to my friend that I had been developing abdominal pains while running. It turns out that instead of moving my arms back and forth, I was twisting my upper body from side to side. I realized I had borrowed this from gym classes, which are not at all about conservation of movement, but instead try to maximize the number of muscles utilized and their level of exhaustion. But good running, at least long distance, is about doing as little as possible–bringing into play as few muscles as you can, and yet moving forward, rapidly and consistently.

I have now developed a fore-foot strike that is starting to irritate me in race pictures. Instead of the nice, spread out legs of the past, with my feet off the ground, I am now always caught with one leg directly below me and the other bent up behind–taken from the front I look like I am standing, without an explanation for my look of utter exhaustion. But, I am also hurting less– much less. I used to have recurring calf pain, that is all but gone now and my fairly serious hip injury has not flared up once since changing my stride. And so, while I might look like I’m standing to my former self (and others like me), I figure I also may be starting to look like a “real runner”. At least to those other “real runners” who slow down long enough to take a look.

This discussion came out of the fact that I can watch the bridge that leads to my running trail from my work office, pictured above (although this specific shot was taken from outside the building). The man pictured appears to have excellent form.

Day 110- The Brooklyn Half Marathon

Nathan's 110/365

Around avenue J and Ocean Parkway, 10-11 miles into running the Brooklyn Half Marathon, I saw two green parrots flying from tree to tree by the side of the road. “Of course,” I said to myself, “the Parrots of Telegraph Hill.”

I was exhausted enough to mix up San Francisco with Brooklyn, but not, thankfully, so delirious that I had imagined the parrots. They are, it turns out, a well known immigrant group adding flavor to the NY borough. Sadly, these birds were some of the lone aspects of Brooklyn culture experienced on the course– except for the Coney Island finish line and the tree lined glades of Prospect Park. I was a bit disappointed in the course, waiting patiently for my two loops of Prospect park to finish, I had pictured myself emerging at mile 7 into the streets of Brooklyn and experiencing the character of this borough I hope to know better. Instead, I climbed up an entrance ramp and found myself on a highway– a moment very reminiscent of my Toronto Half Marathon, when my visions of running through my beloved city were replaced by an endless waterfront thoroughfare.

But I get ahead of myself, as my journey began three and a half hours earlier, at 5.50 am, in Manhattan. Then, I stood at a street corner and waited for three work colleagues to share a cab to the Prospect Park start line. There were a few reasons to be concerned about the start of this race: it was early (7am), in Brooklyn with the most direct subway stops closed for the weekend, with a baggage check that closed early (to be able to ship the bags to the finish), and nightmare tales of port-o-potty lines from the previous year. Yet all of these things went smoothly, and I was able to get into my corral by the 6.50 cut off– which I think was never actually cut off.

And this is where my self doubt began, because I was not at all trained for this race, and had no time goal– a first for me. I should note here that my time goal for my half marathon in January was under two hours, a goal I achieved with a time marginally over 1.59, and that this has remained my half marathon standard. As I started the race I felt like I might need to pee again, and told myself that I might just have to stop, and that would be Ok, since time didn’t matter in this race. Then I wondered at this attitude, since being so unmotivated, even after the start of a race, was such a new experience for me. Likely this was because 6 weeks ago, just when I needed to start training for this race, I had to stop running to rehab my knee. Then, returning to running, I got sick with two separate spring colds, and was only able to manage two strong weeks of training (one with a 10 mile and one with a 12 mile run), before the Ragnar relay the previous weekend. The relay race had been exciting, fun, and doable, but had left my sleeping schedule a mess, and me still somewhat sleep deprived. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been too hard on myself, when I had absolutely no expectations of myself race day morning.

This changed after my first climb of the Prospect Park hill. The hills in Ragnar had all averaged about 200 feet, and so cresting the 100 foot hill in the park I turned the corner thinking I was half way there, and was shocked to see the summit. I whipped through the next turn of the park then, thinking that I had this in the bag. The hills were nothing, and the rest of the park was downhill. But here is where lack of training comes into play, because as I summited the hill for the second time, I was now exhausted. That huge kick I had felt going down the downhill park stretch in the first loop was gone, and I had force myself to swallow my Gu as my stomach (not happy with me since the unrest of Ragnar) seemed displeased once again.

Still, I felt that I must be able to get an under 2 hour pace, and counted on the excitement of the flat and fresh Ocean Parkway stretch. And here is when I came face to face with what was in fact a long, long highway stretch, bringing back memories of my most painful race ever, and with nothing to break up the monotony but an alphabetized stretch of streets, mile markers, and fluid stations. During this long stretch my pace had slowed, imperceptibly, but effectively, with no landmarks, twists, or turns to spur me on but a building at the far far terminus of the road that slowly grew to be a recognizable form, from an original reddish smudge.

I had anticipated the excitement of hitting 12 miles and knowing that I was almost done, with just an ocean stretch to look forward to. But a glance at my watch told me I would need to kick it hard, so hard that I wouldn’t enjoy the entrance to the boardwalk as I had hoped. The tiny climb to reach the boardwalk felt like a mountain, and the bouncing and uneven ground felt like the very floor was out to get me, waiting to snag at my tired, and it turns out heavily blistered, feet. I heard someone cheering for my team from the side, but did not look over. Instead, I stared at my watch as it turned from 1.59 to 2.00. It remained 2.00 as I crossed the finish line, an actual time of 2.00.30.

Truly this is a great time for me considering my approach to the race, which was beyond casual. I had even taken my strength training class this week, knowing that it might leave me with tired legs for the race, but feeling that it was important to my knee rehab to continue it. What was amazing was how I could come so close to a goal, and just not have it in me to shave away a few mere seconds. But, when I came face to face with the reality of these 30 seconds during the last half mile of the race, it was now too late to undo them.

After being momentarily dizzy at the finish, I perked up quickly when I was able to drink properly for the first time since that morning. Even removing my shoes to find a bloody sock and a nasty blistered surprise couldn’t dampen my mood: Although the course was below expectations, the finish was up to them. Truly there is no better way to celebrate an accomplished half marathon, than Nathan’s hot dogs while napping on the beach with friends.

Day 108- Sunset over Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn 108/365

Last night all I wanted to do was run a slow four miles to stretch my legs before the half on Saturday. Instead, I had a quintessential New York night, the kind of evening where you are surrounded by the vibrancy of a city so alive, it is impossible not to join with it.

I ran down the East River, from 63rd to about 6th street, and along the way people sat at tables, with table cloths and open bottles of wine. At 6th street we met up with running team-mates, doing sprint work on the track. No speed work for me, between a relay race one weekend and a half marathon the next. In fact, it was barely a run– instead a tired, short jog, with a few stops for stretching, photography, and meeting up with my friend.

From the track we walked over to the lower east side, to a Himalayan restaurant I have spoken about previously. From there, it was frozen yogurt with the college students in St. Mark’s Place.

And how, on such a night, do you see a sunset over the east-side boroughs? My picture tells the story.

Day 104- Recovery

Ragnar 104/365

I mentioned last week that I am participating in the Rockefeller walks program: a competitive step program at work, where we wear a pedometer and try to achieve specific step goals.

Last Sunday, I walked over 31,000 steps, doing a 12 mile run and numerous errands. Thursday, running around preparing for the Ragnar relay, and going to Queens to meet the van, I netted over 17,000 steps. Friday and Saturday, at the relay itself, I covered a combined 51,000 steps (not bad considering that much of my time was probably spent in a van, but then not sleeping does free up more opportunities to step).

This Sunday, after waking up from a 13 hour sleep, I covered 5,800 steps (if you don’t count all the steps I accomplished during my afternoon nap, where I dreamed I was still running the relay).

I call this recovery.

My running shoes, pictured above, were likely happy for the rest as well. I wonder when I’ll break it to them that they’re running a half marathon on Saturday.

Days 102 and 103- The Ragnar Relay

Sylvain Tattoo

At 10am Friday morning a group of 6 of us arrived in a giant 15 person van at a parking lot in Woodstock, NY. We would soon be joined by another 6 running friends and team-mates. Starting at 12pm, and for the next 25 hours, we would travel entirely on foot to arrive at Dobb’s Ferry, just outside of NYC, 180 miles away.

Lest you think me completely insane, or incredibly able, I will point out that these were not the same feet (or not always the same pair). Instead, one set would head out, run one leg and then switch. This would continue on, exchanging amongst the 6 runners in one van, then amongst the 6 in the other.

A beautiful description of running this race, as an ultra team no less!, was posted by JS at Blue Serge Suit. I highly recommend you check it out.

I intend to go a different approach. Instead of the prose that was so perfectly captured by JS (and so perhaps not worth repeating here), I will give a blow by blow description of what it feels like to run one of these races.

To set the scene I will introduce our Van:
SB1- French triathlete, master of dark humor, driver extraordinaire (Pictured above)
JC- Close friend and running-mate, primary purveyor of the potty humor, and team PB&J maker
SB2- Self appointed coach and master navigator, time-keeper, keep on tracker, and master of the calm
JM- lifter of spirits, player of the tunes, and owner of super-speedy legs
PM- Push-up master, start-line dance master, and hill conquerer

And now our “day”, which you may be able to tell from above, was actually 2.

Fri. 8.30 am: I join my van at breakfast. I’m not hungry, but realize this may be the last real food I’ll see for a while, so I eat toast for the carbs and bacon because it’s bacon.

Fri. 9.30 am: We are joined by the other van in the parking lot. I hand out the costumes, which are donned by all. Music blares on our van stereos and we start to paint the windows. The combination of the crazy costumes, loud music and adrenaline creates a powerful cocktail. Hijinks ensue:

Fri. 10.30 am: We have arrived at the start line, checked in showing our safety gear and are now taking the safety course. There are a smattering of runners around, but not as many as you might expect from the competing 200, 12 person teams. Since the starts were staggered from 8am to 4pm, many runners are already on the course, while others are still in bed or arriving.

Fri. 11am: We cheer JS’s team as they head off. I think this may be my one opportunity to see JS on the course, who is starting an hour before us. I am wrong. We run into him several more times at every major exchange, and at the finish.

Fri. 11.30 am: Our team assembles and we take photos, many photos, proudly displaying our silly costumes:

Fri. 12 pm: Our start time! PM sends us off with a dance that has the announcer uncomfortable enough to request an early stop to the shenanigans. Although we are competing for this distinction with both the Rock Star and Richard Simmons’ teams, we may still be in the running for the kookiest, silliest team at the start line. This is a good thing.

Fri. 12.31 pm: PM hands off to JM. After PM sets off, the reality of the whole venture hits many of us: JM seems nervous, JC and I frantically search for a copy of our course routes to keep with us when we run, SB (as usual) stays calm. When PM returns he seems happy about his run, but does mention the hill (a word that will be redefined for all of use during our routes).

Fri. 12.40 pm: We drive along the course and arrive at a left turn just in time to see JM running right by it. We call to him frantically and he corrects course. Potential crisis, the size of which we will never know, has been averted.

Fri. 1.10 PM: JM hands off to me for my first leg. It is hot. We are also standing on baking asphalt and it is 1pm. I decide to take my water bottle, then change my mind, then change my mind again. I don’t run with it. A member of another team comes up to me and says he hopes the route takes a turn, because he knows this road well and there is no shade. This is not helpful.

Fri. 1.25 pm: I am in the middle of a mile long hill climbing over 200 feet. I am hot. I think this may be the hottest I have ever been during a run.

Fri. 1.40 pm: I am nearing the end of my run. I am going downhill now and have cooled down enough to enjoy myself. A few minutes ago I ran into my team mates on the course waiting for me with water and had never been so happy for support and water on a measly 3.6 mile leg. Now I am actually enjoying myself and am a bit disappointed when I see the exchange point so soon up ahead. I am pictured below, reaching for the water, red and sweaty.

Fri. 2pm: JC is in the middle of her very hilly run. We drive past chickens on the side of the road, then lounge on a rustic stone wall as we wait for her to come by. She trots by in excellent spirits considering the size of her hill.

Fri. 2.11 pm: I realize that I need to drive. I am very nervous about the 15 person van, but soon discover it drives much like a car. I am very, very relieved, since this driving has been a concern of mine for some time, ever since I found out that it is a rarity for a NYer to own a license. I’m a good driver and I love driving, but I haven’t driven for ages, and nothing nearly as big as this van. I’ve also been known to get into minor fender-benders while tired. Specifically, I have hit one tree and two posts, never another car.

Fri. 2.30 pm:SB2 is on his course. We drive ahead and sit at an intersection by a gorgeous orchard. I am hungry now and eat rice salad SB1 has made for us. A member of the community comes up and yells at us, asking if we have permission to run in her town. This cannot ruin the beauty of the moment, so it does not.

Fri. 2.51 pm SB2 hands off to SB1. Since we need to give the safety gear to our team at the major exchange before they can check in, we drive ahead quickly. As we drive the course we see how hilly it is and decide we need to go back to give SB1 support. We do so, then rush back to the major exchange. SB1 is under the impression that his route was supposed to be “easy.” It is not. He runs at a blistering pace for the hilly, hot route thinking that there is something wrong with him because he is so tired. He blames the cigarette he smoked that morning. We reassure him that it was the route not the cigarette; perhaps this was a mistake?

Fri. 3.27 pm SB1 hands off to the first runner in the second van. We are finished our first set of legs! We are happy, relieved and hot. There is little shade at this exchange so we decide to drive straight on to the next major exchange in New Paltz. I drive, navigated by SB2 and the soothing voice of Catherine, our French GPS who joined us on the route up. At first she was a joke, but our primary driver is French, our secondary driver bilingual and our navigator learned French in High School. Catherine was there to stay.

Fri. 5 pm We arrive at the next major exchange in New Paltz. We organize our car, change, use the restrooms and walk into the town. We lose PM. He calls from the car and we think he was in the car all along. He laugh about this, till we learn he was actually in the porto-potty. We have a light dinner at a Bistro. The host looks at us and then rushes off unbidden to bring water. After dinner we try to nap on the lawn by the car, but it is still early and others around are talking. There is a loud phone call to a “Josh”. JM decides he hates this Josh, there is a photo of me dozing with my arms over my ears, so clearly I agree.

Fri. 8.44 pm The last runner of Van 2 has arrived and handed of to PM again. There is now much talk of running in the dark. Vests and tail lights are worn, headlamps are outfitted with fresh batteries. Some teams run by like Christmas trees, covered in blinking lights. We have mini flashing Leis from the dollar store strapped to our vests.

Fri. 9.13 pm JM has headed off, very very nervous about running in the dark. Perhaps this has to do with his nearly getting lost earlier, in daylight. He is covered in flashing leis. We drive by him and he is running with other runners and seems more comfortable. I am trying now to memorize my route, but it has about 8 turns and I do not have that kind of confidence in my memory (especially when lefts and rights are concerned).

Fri 9.43 pm JM hands off to me. I’m not nervous, but this time I probably should be. I run off, then turn into a dark and twisty local community. (I have written a long post about this route yesterday, so I will not repeat it here.) Instead I will show a picture of me, cresting the 250-feet-in-less-than-0.5-mile hill. I seem happy to see the water bottle. I am very happy to see my cheering team mates, who I haven’t recognized till probably just the moment this picture was taken.

Fri. 10.32 pm 5.1 miles done, I hand off to JC. She heads off on a hard 6 miles that turn out to be fairly easy. Many runners though seem to be walking. Perhaps it is the overall exhaustion.

Fri. 11.34 pm JC hands off to SB2. At this point things become blurry and I don’t seem to remember much. I may have been driving, I may not. I think we weren’t giving support because it was a support-free leg, but I can’t be sure.

Sat. 12.20 pm SB2 hands off to SB1. Again, I have no recollection of this at all. I know I was definitely driving at this point, and that we did make it safely. We arrive at a main exchange and meet up with our team who have spent a few hours at a hotel. They seem tired. We are tired. I recollect nothing.

Sat. 1.22 am SB1 arrives and hands off to Van 2. I try to back out of the parking lot, but it’s tight and there are people behind who are moving, but not in the direction I feel I need them to. My mind is not moving fast enough to process the directions that more than one person seem to be giving me simultaneously. I have SB1 back out, even though he just ran. He does an excellent job. I then offer to drive to the hotel, but I think confidence in me may be shot.

Sat. 2am We are in the hotel and have taken very quick showers. We set our alarms to 3.30 am and try to sleep. I sleep and dream about running and exchanges. When we wake, we check our phones for news about the other team and realize we may have rested too long since we still have to drive to the next exchange. As we leave the hotel it almost feels like we’ve been there for a full night. JM comments wonderingly that “people are still running,” I reply that this will be him soon enough.

Sat. 4.20am We are rushing to the exchange, driving past runners. The van ahead of us is speeding as well, and we determine they must be in the same boat. At our exit there is a major highway detour. Catherine become pushy, continuously demanding we “tournez a gauche” when no gauche is available. We start to prepare PM that he may have to leap out of the car and run immediately. He seems to be a good sport about this, but may be too tired to argue.

Sat. 4.30 am We arrive at the exchange, and PM jumps out as we park. On the way in we see our amazing volunteers, but don’t have the time to say hi or thank them. This makes us sad, but we are in too much of a rush and too exhausted to worry about this for long.

Sat. 4.38 am Van 2’s runner arrives and we exchange. We are off for our final legs!

Sat. 5.38 am PM finishes a very hard 7 miles and exchanges with JM. At our exchange there are no volunteers, we assume they are wisely sleeping. All goes smoothly without them. We have also stopped at a gas station where I’ve washed down a caffeine gu with a coffee. I’m starting to feel awake, but wondering how long till I crash.

Exchange

Sat. 6 am JM is running along a trail portion and we take a slight, Catherine suggested, detour. After driving around in circles we arrive at the exchange, but intend to head back out to support JM. Since I’m feeling a bit dizzy and have to run next, I hop out to get fresh air and use the port-o-potties.

Sat. 6.16 am I start my last run, only 5 more miles and my Ragnar runs will be complete. It is flat and beautiful, although alongside a highway. I start out at a good pace, excited to be almost finished and happy for the nice route. The road is busy, with the hum of tractor trailers, but at one point all traffic in both directions just stops. It is dead and eerily quiet. Then a truck rolls by and all is back to normal.

Sat. 6.40 am I start to flag. I have a headache and the sun glaring in my eyes is not helping. Things, mainly my face, are hurting and I start to wish for the end. I hear a whirl of footsteps behind me and a runner, who turns out to be a member of the winning team that started at 4pm yesterday, overtakes me. He takes the time to give me encouragement. So do the cyclists racing along the shoulder. I am clearly not in Central Park any more. As I reach the end of this route I turn right onto a four lane highway with a median. To run against the traffic I would have to cross it. At first I do not, then I notice other runners up ahead on the other side of the road. I wait, then cross. Then, a little while later, I notice the runners up ahead crossing back to get to the exchange. I do the same. I do not feel comfortable running across this road, nor in my decision making ability at this stage in the game. This is probably the moment that felt the least safe for me in the race, but all ends well. JC is waiting for me up ahead. I give her the baton, and I am done!

Sat. 7.02 am JC heads off on a short route. We cheer her on half way, she is also happy to be finishing.

Sat 7.33 am JC hands off to SB2. We are worried that he is going to smoke the short 3 miles, so we don’t stop for support. Plus SB1, who has done most of the driving, needs some time to collect himself before a very hard 7 mile leg.

Sat. 7.59 am SB2 hands off to SB1. We are starting to see the teams we started with again, having lost them in the chaos of the middle legs. We chat with the guys who rented a giant Mercedes van, with driver. We also run into the “Rock Stars.” They make a big mistake. One team member points to SB1 in his presence and tells his team mate that we are his competition. Rock Star, who starts out well ahead of SB1, calmly announces he has it in the bag. SB1 hears and remembers.

Sat. 8.30 am We are in a gorgeous community, with sprawling houses and stately trees. We have stopped a few times for SB1 and each time Rock star appears several clicks ahead of him. SB1 is focused and determined, refusing water, but eagerly accepting a gu. We drive happily to the finish, knowing we are almost done.

Sat. 8.53am We barely have time to park the van and get to the exchange when SB1 blows in, just ahead of Rock Star. The final exchange with Van 2 is made– Van 1 is finished! We are gleeful and excited. Our intention was to run to the finish with SB1, but when we see his final overtaking kick we know better than to interrupt the end of a strong, strong race.

Sat. 9.10 am A woman writing for a local community paper asks us questions about our team and running through her town. She takes our picture. Since JM had posted about how much he loved the last route, we give her the Tumblr. account. I later come to regret this decision when I log on to read a post about a Van 2 member’s diarrhea, and remember the post concerning sex at a Pizza Hut. We head off to the finish line.

Sat. 10.30 am We are at the finish. We clean the van, then wait. Other teams are trickling in, but it is still early. No team has officially finished. I line up for a free massage. We learn our team is lost at an exchange, but soon they have found their way. We eat, then wait some more. I am amazed that I feel almost normal, although it takes me 5 minutes to answer the question as to whether I was Van 1 or Van 2, and 10 minutes to decide on coleslaw over potato chips.

Sat. 1.07pm The last member of Van 2 runs towards the finish line. We join him on the other side and run across cheering to receive our medals.

180 miles complete. Traveled entirely on our own 24 feet.

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Day 101- Crossing the Hudson

Hudson 101/365

I took this picture as we drove across the Hudson river, at around 8pm on Thursday night on our way to Woodstock NY for the Ragnar relay. The next time I crossed this river it would be at 10.30 pm, somewhere between New Paltz and Poughkeepsie, and I would be on foot.

This route summed up everything that was both terrifying, exhausting, and elating about the Ragnar relay: night running on some very dark roads; tough, tough hills, and spectacular routes that made for once in a lifetime experiences (until I do the race again, of course).

As I headed off for my first night run I wasn’t too nervous about running at night. I have done it before, both by myself on hot summer nights and on a training run with my team. I was concerned about finding my way, since my route seemed to have a pretty high number of twists and turns. It turns out I was right about the latter, except for the support of some other amazing vans participating in the race I would have taken at least 2 wrong turns (or at least been concerned about my choice). (The vans drop off their runner and then drive to the next exchange point, with the option of providing support along the way.) At those moments, with unclear forks and unlabeled streets, there always seemed to be another support van there to direct me.

I knew that I would be running by the river for most of the way, but I also knew that I would likely not see it. It seems that I was running into the depths of a nice community, with large well-spaced houses alongside the river and narrow unlit windy roads: darkness. As I twisted and turned in this darkness I could hear frogs and smell the river, and my head lamp reflected off the moisture in the air. Every time I felt a little uneasy, another participating van would drive by and cheer. On two occasions I ran down a hill and saw support teams. I would wave to them, both happy for the company in the darkness, and happy to turn the corner and run back into it: the dark and the silence, except for the frogs and the slapping of my own two feet. For a while I could see a blinking runner up ahead of me, but she was running slowly. I closed the gap and then passed her, cheering her on.

This was the perfect opportunity to run on deserted streets at night, without the nagging voice that I was doing something stupid and with the knowledge that there was a ton of support around me just on the outskirts, should I need it.

For a brief while I ran next to the river and a waterside bar. I saw the bridge I would cross blinking up ahead of me, it seemed far and high. It was stunning and beautiful and yet still so far away, and although I wasn’t quite voicing it to myself just yet I knew I’d have to climb pretty high to reach it. I hit a fork in the road and another participant sent me to the right and up a hill. The Hill.

There were many “The Hills” on this Ragnar course, but this one was mine– 250 feet in half a mile, 3 miles into an already tough run at 10.30 pm at night with 4 hot hilly miles on my legs from that morning. I ran up it maintaining my running cadence, but with the darkness had no idea how to pace myself. I stopped to walk, then ran, then walked once more very briefly and now, seeing the top and a runner I had seen blinking ahead of me, broke into pace again. As I ran towards the top I heard voices and cheering, and someone saying, “aren’t you glad you took this route from me!”. I thought it was odd that this other runner had also traded routes, then I was able to see clearer and recognized my own team mates, waving a beautiful bottle of water. I passed the other runner, drank the water and turned down a short hill. And there was my bridge, waiting to help escort me across the Hudson.

This was that moment that we all know we’ll have in an experience like this. Exhausted, happy, overwhelmed at how amazing it was that I was going to be crossing this bridge, I felt tears in my eyes. The bridge was lit up with different colored lights and below on the other side was a small riverside town with a church, a town I did not even know the name of. In fact, I had no idea where in NY-state I was, just that I was crossing the Hudson river, on foot. And that in another mile I could collapse back in my van, hope for maybe an hours sleep, and then wake up and do it all over again. This seemed both exhausting and wonderful.

And it was.

Overall report of the relay to come.