Saturday, June 07, 2008

Towpath "Train"ing Run

The goal today was to run my first ultra-marathon: 34 miles from Trenton to New Brunswick on the Delaware-Raritan Canal towpath. The Towpath "Train"ing Run is an annual event that the Raritan Valley Road Runners puts on. There are designated paces - 7:30, 8:30, 9:30 & 10:30. Runners can start at many "stations" along the towpath. The idea is to have everyone finish together - a large "train" that builds as the event goes on. It is non-competitive. Awards are given to runners that finish the entire length, and records are kept year-to-year so people receive awards at 100 mile increments. Everyone's mileage for the day is tallied and an equal dollar amount is donated to the Cancer Institute of NJ.Many people would think that the reason I did not accomplish my goal today would have been the extremely hot and humid weather. The temperature varied from about 70 degrees at the 6 AM start to 85 degrees at the 11 AM finish. But I never felt dehydrated. I used electrolyte capsules for the first time since 9th grade football practice. I carried a bottle and the supported run supplied plenty of water and Gatoraid.

I also did not bonk. I loaded with pasta last night. I had a decent Cheerios & banana breakfast at 4:15 AM. I consumed a Powerbar double mocha gel every hour. I drank Gatoraid.

But I stopped at 24.9 miles. I stopped because my thighs hurt a lot. I didn't want to do too much damage to my legs with so many other races coming up in the next few weeks. I didn't want to undo the progress I made this spring with healing my Achilles tendon problems. And I knew I was lacking in long runs with only one 2 hour and one 3 hour day this year under my belt.

I got back on the train after hitching a ride with Ed with 2.3 miles to go, from DeMott Lane to the end. That part really hurt. My total for the day was 27.2 miles. So it was sort-of an ultra, since I did run one mile beyond a marathon. I kinda wish I was running an official marathon, because my time would not have been so bad. At 24.9 miles I was at 3:37 = 8:43/mile. The run felt easier than really racing a marathon. If I had to race a marathon I think I could have easily ran about 3:37 or faster. One thing this event does for me every year is show me I am in much better endurance shape than I believe I am in at this point in my yearly training cycle. Though I didn't complete 34 miles, it is fairly amazing to me that I could relatively easily run 27 on sub-30 mile weeks and a lot of cycling.

I think the thigh pain that contributed to my decision to stop was because none of my long runs were at 8:30 pace, which is what we were required to maintain. I knew my long runs were slower than 8:30, but I figured since they were at Watchung Reservation, they were hilly and the trails were rougher, and that would compensate for a slower pace. Plus I couldn't run those long runs any faster because they were so close to the event - two and one week away, respectively. An important outcome of the "Train"ing run is to inform me that if I want to run a fast Escarpment Trail Run in the end of July, I will have to do some faster long runs.

After the run there was a great picnic. Socializing, eating burgers and drinking 5 or 6 beers made my thighs feel much better ~! All the photos are here.

Group that started at 6 AM in Trenton. L to R standing: Ken M, Me, Steve W *, Pete P, Laura S, Bob J, Lauren M*, Jen D, Dennis M, Lesley W, Zsuzsana C*; stooping: Jorge R.
(*Completed 34 miles!)
Thanks to Sonya S for the photos!

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