Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Running: My first full loop in Central Park (with Lainy)!

In my January update post, I mentioned that I was supposed to run a half marathon in January but didn't, because that was the day in snowed. The entire 13.1 mile course was in Central Park, including 2 full loops (just over 6 miles) plus a portion of the loop again. To date I've run in Central Park many times, but I've never run the full loop. And since I didn't get to run it for that event, I've been wanting to do it...

So when my good friend Lainy and I made plans to hang out on Sunday and needed something to do, I came up with a brilliant plan: Let's run the full loop in Central Park!

This was historic for me because it was my first full loop, and it was historic for her because to date, her longest run ever was 4 miles. How exciting for us both! And who better to make running history with, considering Lainy was my partner for my first ever 5K just 2.5 years ago!

First, to get you familiar with the park (since some of you asked), here's a copy of the map from CentralPark.com (it's also available for $4.95):

Central Park Map002
layout of Central Park
I woke up excited on Sunday morning - ready to make history!

Ready to run! Pink & black - my favorite running colors!
It was sunny but about 35 degrees out. In my opinion, that is perfect running weather, but chilly for biking. However, I didn't let that stop me from riding the cruiser to Central Park!

On the 59th St Bridge, which wasn't even a struggle. I barely realized I was even biking up that long hill till I was just about at the center.

Hang on Lainy, I'm on my way!
I met Lainy at her place and we walked over to Central Park. We were totally ready to make history!

Inside the park at East 72nd Street, posing for our "before" photo, which an older gentleman was nice enough to snap for us
After explaining to her why I wear a Heart Rate Monitor, GPS and two ID bands - then laughing at how ridiculous I am, it was time to begin. (If you're dying to know: The Garmin has a chest strap/HRM capability but it doesn't give me the detailed stats my Polar does. So I use my Polar to track my HR stats and the Garmin to track my miles. Then I wear a RoadID because it lists my name/blood type/veganism right on the front -- with access to other vitals online -- and I wear a VitaBand because it also links to my medical history but doesn't have my blood type or veganism prominently displayed. However, it has a feature my RoadID doesn't - it's linked to a credit card so I can buy little things with it if I need a water or something. So now you know why I have to wear 4 things on my wrists when I run. Hey, you asked!)

It was cold, so we had to start moving to get warm!


We started running at a nice pace that was comfortable for the both of us. (If you want to follow our route using the map above, we began on the East side of the park at 72nd Street and ran counterclockwise.) I'm really never in a rush anyway. I start every run by assessing how my body feels and then I adjust accordingly, going faster if I can or slower if I need to. Besides, my primary goal with every run is to finish. In order to do that, I pace myself to be able to finish. If I am having a super awesome running day and happen to be able to run faster and happen to hit a time or pace record, then that's great. But that's never my goal.

Shortly into our run I hit her with "Oh, by the way, I'm blogging this. Sorry I should have warned you in case you wanted to wear makeup or something..." But I think by now she knows any time we hang out, pics are likely to end up in a blog post. Good thing she's a good sport!

Running up the first little hill, Cat Hill (you can just about make out the cat statue on the rock in the center of the photo. I've photographed it before, during other races.)
Occasionally we took walking breaks (but not very many) and I reminded her that it's all good. And I told her my running mantra: "Run when you can. Walk if you must. But never stop!" I think she liked that one!

We were talking so much while we were running that I actually forgot to take photos! It wasn't until I realized we were approaching the dreaded hill at 110th Street that I had to stop and grab a photo. I'm not quite sure you get the full idea of the steepness and length of this hill, but it's significant (and this isn't the whole thing - the hill turns to the right beyond what is shown here)

at the base of the great hill in Central Park
Elaine told me to go ahead without her on the hill, if I wanted. Like I said above, I had no desire to finish fast but I did want to challenge myself on the hill and see how far I could get without stopping, so I told her that I'd wait for her at the top.

As I was running up that hill one thing struck me immediately: It really wasn't bad at all. Sure I wasn't breaking any speed records, but I was running only slightly slower than I'd run normally. I didn't feel like I was going to die and I didn't feel the need to stop -- so I didn't stop. Another thing struck me: Running up this hill is MUCH less challenging than biking up this hill. I was actually surprised how relatively easy it was, especially compared to pedaling that cruiser up it.

I ran all the way to the top and waited for Lainy. To her credit, she wasn't far behind me!

Yeah! We did it! We conquered the hill at 110th Street! Who's awesome and has their thumbs up? These 2 chicks!
As we kept running, shortly after that I glanced at my Garmin and realized we were just past the halfway point, around the 5K mark! So of course I told Elaine the same thing I tell myself all the time - once you make it to the halfway point, you know you got it. If you did it once, you can do it again! Let's do it!!

Running in Central Park, and not because I'm being chased by a mugger or rabid dog. I don't think teenage me ever saw this day coming...
The next time I glanced at my Garmin I saw we were at 4.14 miles! While still running, I told Lainy "You did it! You beat your distance record! Congrats!!" We high-fived as we continued running. It was a special moment. 

As we ran, we chatted. We talked about how long we've known each other (8 years now!) and I pointed out all the great ways our lives have changed in that time. We are completely different people now than we were in 2004. I was 33, separated from my husband and living in Yonkers in a house by myself. I was heavy and depressed and very lazy and sad. Lainy was like a little sister. At just 24, she was in a very transitional period in her life. She lived at home, was going to school and working part time. We've both changed and grown so much since then, and in great ways. She's still like a little sister but in a lot of ways I got to see her become an adult - personally and professionally. I'm so proud of that girl!! *sniff*

Oh yay, there's that building I like on Central Park West!
While running, I provided my usual Sheryl-isms and positive insights about Weight Watchers, life, running and being awesome in general. I think I helped a few things click for her because Lainy declared me her running coach or fitness coach or something like that. It was very sweet to know my words got through to her and she appreciated them :)

Lainy had to tie her shoelace. On her way up, this happened.
Around this time on the course, I noticed a pedicab ahead of us that was pedaling unusually slowly. I had the feeling he was waiting for us to pass him so he could talk to us. Sure enough...
Him: "So, you girls are hardcore runners, huh?" 
Me: "Helllll yeah, we are! You know, we're the type to wake up, go for a run in Central Park, train for half marathons and marathons. It's just what we do. It's who we are. Hard. Core. Runners!"
(Much giggling ensued)

Then we picked up our pace and left him in our hardcore running dust! (not really, but it's a good visual. In truth, I'm sure he passed us...)

Running shadows
And soon we were at mile 5! Less than a mile to go! At this point, I checked on my Garmin often to give Lainy the countdown while I reminded her how awesome we are and that we can do it!
We can!
We will!
We are! 
(And soon we will say:)
We did!
Sure enough, the sign for East 72nd Street was just a few dozen yards away - I told Elaine we were running all the way to the light at 5th Ave. Then I kicked it into high gear for that final little sprint, turned around, threw up my victory arms and high-fived Elaine. I stopped my Garmin & GPS, then made her pose for an after photo-

After running the full loop in Central Park, our first time and Lainy's first time running over 4 miles!
After that it was time for coffee & a bagel! I needed the coffee to warm me up and I love a bagel after a run! (NYRR no doubt planted that routine in my head)

On our quest for post-run food, we passed a church with a sign that said "Astounded by Grace". I hadn't even noticed it, but Lainy did. I asked her to get in front of it and "look astounded". This is the result -

Lainy - astounded by grace... or something
Finally we made it to a bagel shop! I got a "White Russian" - it was pumpernickel with sesame seeds. And they had tofu lox. How could I pass that up? I've never even seen it before!

Post run meal - bagel, tofu cream cheese & coffee with soy.
After we ate, I had to say good bye and was on my way.

Here are my heart rate monitor stats for the day:

Bike to Lainy's:
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 30 minutes 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 100%
  • Average Heart Rate: 142 
  • High Heart Rate: 157
  • Total Calories Burned: 238 
  • Total Miles: 4.25 
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 2     
 Run in Central Park:
  • Total Time: 74 minutes, 36 seconds
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 68 minutes, 50 seconds 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 92%
  • Average Heart Rate: 152
  • High Heart Rate: 182
  • Total Calories Burned: 662
  • Total Miles: 6
  • Pace: 12'26" 
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 13      
Ride home (I ran a few errands, so it was a different & longer route)
  • Total Time: 70 minutes 
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 43 minutes 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 61%
  • Average Heart Rate: 137 
  • High Heart Rate: 166
  • Total Calories Burned: 466 
  • Total Miles: 8.5
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 5     
And then I made myself a nice healthy dinner for 8 PointsPlus -

omg yummy healthy dinner!
Coconut oil (1), peas (1), onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, Gardein "chicken" strips (3), Tofu Shirataki Macaroni shaped noodles and simmer sauce (3)
How is that for an awesome day? It was SO GREAT to make history and spend time with Lainy. And I'm pretty sure this is only the first of many runs in Central Park together! I <3 you, Lainy!! We did it! And I can hardly wait to do it again!

For more information about running in Central Park, check out this article by Bob Glover on the New York Road Runners website.

(and this is random, but since so many people like my photos, here are a few from the ride home after I left Lainy...)

Whole Foods bounty
I caught part of a bike messenger cricket? polo? game on Broome St in Manhattan
I want a slick looking bike like these!
first time in months and a perfect shot!!
My favorite graffiti on the Willy B - you have no idea how lucky this shot is! (taken while riding uphill, aimed blind - without looking - having to guess where to point the camera and when to shoot while balancing with one hand on the handlebars with about 40 extra pounds of groceries. And I only get 1 take because I'm moving!)
Heck yeah! Back on the Willy B! I missed my bridge!
The light was just beautiful
Top of the beautiful Willy B
This graffiti changes often so I like to get this shot a lot
Kissing Georgia
Occupy Everything
That's all, folks!


  1. Thank you so much for this recap! Fun, informative abd inspiring as usual! I am still nervous about doing two loops but i guess I should calm down and just have faith in my running plan.

    If I see you running there one day, I'm totally coming over to say hi!

  2. Hey, Sheryl aka Bitchcakes is back! Great blog, wonderful friendship and..... Man I want to have a year living in NY!! It's a desire you and you alone created.... Hmmm, how to fulfill?...

  3. Huge congrats to You and Lainey! What an inspiring post...I am 50, live in California and have always wanted to live in NY but it's never happened and probably never will. But reading your blog often times makes me feel as if I do. Love your city, love your energy and love your documentation of your active life and your surroundings. Thanks Sheryl!! You are looking and sounding better than ever!!

  4. Sheryl - I ran the More Marathon in 2007 (now they just do the half...) in Central Park -- 4 times around that loop! I still remember that little uphill slope and slightly dreading it every round :-P - Good luck on your training!

  5. I LOVE YOUR GROCERY PICS! Don't stop! Keep grocery pics coming. Always.

  6. Hey Sheryl,

    Loved this post as well as your recent vegan one. I'm vegan as well, so I love seeing other vegans talk about it in a easy going and non-judgmental way. But just wanted to let you know that tofu lox is usually tofu cream cheese with real fish lox. It's made for people who keep kosher and want their fish without dairy. I'm not sure if that's exactly what you had, but it's likely. Just FYI for next time!


    1. Hi Kate - I hadn't even thought of that! Thanks for the warning. It didn't taste fishy at all. Quite honestly it was totally tasteless but I won't take my chances next time. Thanks. I'll file this one under 'learning along the way' :)