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April 8, 2013 / jessicamcelroy

Tunnel Skyline Snake

This Week’s Long Long Run

My marathon training buddy, Josh, and I went on a truly epic run this weekend. I wanted to explore new territory for my longest long ever, so on Friday I went on the Runkeeper site looking for running routes in my area for inspiration. I found an interesting route mapped by a local runner that wound high into the Berkeley hills, climbing 1,250 feet in the first 6 miles, then snaking back down. The title of the post comes from the main roads we followed.

We were scheduled for 15 miles. Josh finished around 15, because we were close to a subway station and he was starting to feel shin-splinty. But since I was feeling good and was back on familiar roads at that point, I went an extra two miles all the way home for a total of 17 miles.

I love that every time I increase my mileage as I train for this marathon I’ll be setting a new personal distance record… Each time it takes days just to wrap my head around the new reality. I never thought I’d be capable of running 17 miles, let alone have the desire to do so!Image

So, about that route..

It’s one thing to map a route, and another to actually run it. Not far into the run, it became pretty clear to us that the map I had used as inspiration was probably someone’s bike route. We were on winding rural roads with no sidewalks to speak of for long stretches. We saw plenty of spandex-clad cyclists on the road (so it’s clearly a popular bike ride) but no one else on foot.

It was a harrowing experience at times, having to run on the road and listen for trucks, cars, and cyclists coming up behind us. To make things worse, it got increasingly foggy the higher we climbed. By the time we reached Skyline Road, it really felt like we were up in the clouds. Visibility was so poor, we couldn’t see oncoming bikes and cars until they were twenty feet in front of us. It was eerie!

Here’s Josh forging his way through the fog:


Trudging uphill, flying downhill

It was pretty mentally challenging to do nearly 6 straight miles of steep uphilll, but the downhill miles that followed more than made up for it. I discovered that I absolutely love downhills. When we got on Snake Road, where our descent began, I quickly forgot about the exhausting slog leading up to that point. My legs felt totally rejuvenated, circling underneath me and picking up speed until it seemed like I couldn’t even stop if I wanted to. I was having so much fun, smiling and yelling like a kid on a roller coaster.

Downhills are a great opportunity to bring down your race time, yet we often don’t utilize their potential. Even though we look forward to recovering on the downhills, there’s a natural tendency to restrain our speed on them. We tend to lean back and apply the brakes a little, striking our heels on the ground, out of fear of losing control.

Once on a group run with the Go Wow team Coach Stephanie taught us her downhill running technique, showing how you can let go and use gravity to your advantage. The key is to lean into it slightly, keep your feet beneath you (hitting the ground with the middle of your foot), and trust that you’ll be able to maintain control even as you fly down the hill at breakneck speed. Once I recognized and corrected my tendency to resist the downhills, I was amazed at how fast I could go.

For more on hill running technique:

The great thing about hill running is that the quest for a good hill often gets you out into nature. Even with the fog we had some pretty views along the way that served as a good distraction from the tiredness in our legs:


My favorite part of running is eating.

Josh and I went out for a bite in Berkeley, basking in our post-run glory. We talked about how running 15-17 miles, especially when it involves hills, might seem like a strange and masochistic idea of a fun Saturday morning activity. It’s not without its rewards, though. The best reward of all is digging into a big breakfast of eggs, sausage, homefries, and buttered toast with a 1,700 calorie deficit!

This weekend was the first time I’ve ever done my long run on Saturday, and It was amazing to wake up on Sunday with an entirely free day stretching out ahead of me. So many possibilities!

I got an intense craving for cinnamon rolls, so my friend Dave and I tried out a vegan cinnamon roll place near my house called Cinnaholic. They were fresh out of the oven and OH SO DELICIOUS! Just because they were vegan doesn’t mean there was anything nutritious about them:


I also had quite an adventure biking home from Trader Joes with a whole week’s worth of groceries. I had just bought this cool new rear basket for my bike, and I overestimated how much it would hold. Not to worry, though, the mini bagels and bread made it home unscathed:

New Favorite Way to Cross-Train

I also used my free Sunday to do my first non-running workout in a while. I went to Hipline for a cardio dance class called Shimmy Pop. It was as fun as the name suggests! It felt more like dancing around at a girls’ slumber party than a workout, though it definitely got my heartrate up.

I had been to Hipline’s Arabic dance class before, which focuses on teaching style and technique. While I definitely want to continue improving in Arabic dance, these cardio classes are a nice change of pace. And it’s great for cross-training!

10 weeks to go…


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