As my good friend in Ohio, Jon Politi, says of some of his Spinning classes, “Small, but mighty!”
Sunday morning, Bob, Michelle, Greg, Russ, Ben, Sonja and yours truly set off from 9W/Route 202 for our eight-mile ascent up into Harriman State Park to Lake Tiorati. Now this isn’t an odd occurrence on a Sunday morning, except that we were doing this on our feet rather than on our bikes. After 1,300 plus feet of climbing we all arrived at the top feeling stronger and more empowered of our ability to tackle even the most hilly of courses. Once again Ben took top honors covering the distance in a little under an hour, with the rest of the crew shortly behind.
Arriving at the top we got to see the last of the ongoing participants in the New York Triathlon Series making their way through the bike course. We observed that many of the slower cyclists were wearing the best looking and most coordinated outfits. Michelle, who took second overall in the last running of this race, quipped that her $500 bike beat the heck out of everyone’s $6,000 bikes. We did agree that riding a bike with a banana saddle and sipping a Big Gulp was perhaps a bit overboard, but then felt even sorrier for the one who got passed by that rider.
After trying to identify the category of this particular triathlon, somewhere between a sprint and Olympic distance, we officially stuck our flag in the ocean silt announcing the anointment of a new category of Sprolympic triathlons. All of the bees hovering around us and the propensity for pollen in the air around Harriman gave us the expanded idea to rename this particular race The Sprolympic Wheeze. Laugh now, but its going to catch on.
Getting back to our own eight-mile run, this was a terrific experience and we all agreed that it better represented the conditions we might face on actual race courses, both for the bike and run courses. In the past the Bear Mountain Ascent has started at the bottom of the hill on 9W/Route 202 and climbed to the top of Perkins Memorial Drive, approximately 4.5 miles and 1,500 vertical feet. Portions of this climb are steep as hell but what makes it really challenging is the run back down to the bottom, which we have appropriately named the Shin Splint Sprint due to its unforgiving nature. Our route this time made for a great time trial, both for the bike a well as the run. For those living in NY, this would be a terrific course to run after completing your base period of training as a diagnostic and then again at the end of your build period focusing on building strength. It would be a clear indicator of gains in efficient technique, leg strength, turnover and endurance.
One of the things I most miss about not living in California is the lack of access in NY to real hills to readily train on. Living in Pacific Palisades, I took for granted how easy it was to hit one of the trailheads of the Santa Monica Mountains, where I cut my teeth as a runner. Getting older and moving east, I definitely lost my ability to fly effortlessly up those hills, real hills, not the kind that you find in Central Park, but the kind we find in Half Ironman Races or IMLP. These are relentless hills that last for miles and suck the life and enthusiasm out of anyone who is unprepared to embrace them as a well-known friend, who you still want to hang out with, even though you know they have their faults and can make your life miserable for a few tortuous minutes here and there.
The Race with Purpose team training for the fall Chicago and NYC marathons are two weeks into their own strength-build period. This is my favorite period of training, because in training for a single endurance event, we can easily get caught up in spending most of our time on how we are going to perform on race day, and we all know we’re going to run those hills intelligently, using efficient motions, small quick steps keeping our egos under control in a controlled effort to spare limited glycogen resources for the end of the race when we’ll need them most. That’s all well and good but it also can dull our competitive spirit and stifle creativity and experimentation, which are both extremely important in any discovery process. Training for a race, is just that, a discovery process, even for the veterans who may have forgotten just how exciting it is to charge up a hill until they taste metal. Sometimes you just have to take your legs out for a spin to see what they’re still capable of doing. They just might surprise you.