Cherry blossoms in Waveny Park, Spring 2020

Training Recap #23: 466 miles in 3 months!

The New Normal: Running during Covid-19

I hope and pray everyone is doing well and staying safe. It’s been a while since my last post. Time to reflect, write and share what’s going on.

Being outside and exercising in nature has become my refuge and peaceful place during this unprecedented time of the Covid-19 global pandemic that is crushing the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area. I live in Connecticut and work in New York City, and being quarantined in my home 24×7 has taken its toll on my mental health. Every day I look forward to driving to a park to run. How are you coping with this New Normal? Please leave a comment below. We’re all in this together.

Stress, anxiety and depression are impacting me daily. In January and February, I still commuted to my company’s New York City office. In late March, quarantines, social distancing, and face masks entered our vocabulary. By March 30, all town parks and fields in Fairfield County were closed. My favorite Waveny Park was closed. The walls were closing in. The Connecticut DEEP, responsible for state parks, was considering closing them as well. I haven’t run regularly on roads in many years, and was concerned that may be my only option. At the same time, treadmills were selling out.

I was not in a good place. I couldn’t wrap my head around potentially losing my job, being cut off socially from family, friends, and co-workers, and having my running taken away from me.

The good news is that state parks stayed open, except for a few popular parks where parking and visitors limits were imposed. For the past year, I drove to Larkin State Park in Southbury, Connecticut for my long runs on a beautiful rail-to-trail segment. The not-so-good news is that I am now driving to Larkin State Park for my daily runs, so 6 times a week I drive 90 miles round-trip! At least gas prices have dropped to around $2.30 per gallon!

January 2020: Ramping up to 40 miles per week

On December 29, I closed out 2019 with my longest run since I started my journey 18 months ago, a 16-mile trail run at about 9 minute pace. I was ready to ramp up my long runs and weekly mileage in January to train for my 50-mile maiden ultramarathon, the Dam Yeti 50 in Damascus, Virginia on June 6 (only 5 months away – if not cancelled!).

The December momentum didn’t carry over into early January, and I fell short in the first two weeks, logging 28 miles each week on 5 and 4 days of running, respectively. I had to step up! For the next 3 weeks, I hit 40, 41 and 41 miles on 5 or 6 days of running. My long runs increased to 17 miles, and on one of the weekends I ran 8 miles on Saturday and 17 miles on Sunday, for a weekend total of 25 miles.

To complement my running, I started to strength train again. I had suffered what I believe to be a rotator cuff injury from lifting in October 2019, and rested and healed for most of November and December. I was starting all over again, and my shoulder was still painful during certain lifts. In addition, the higher mileage and long runs created a catabolic effect, reducing my strength and countering the natural anabolic effect of strength training.

February 2020: How far is 20 miles on trails?

My momentum from January carried into February, and I sustained my long runs and weekly mileage. Counting the last 3 weeks of January and the first week of February, I ran 4 consecutive weeks of 40-43 miles, with an 18-mile run on February 9. I felt a little banged up and the following week I rested, other than a mid-week, 5-mile run in Waveny. The third week, I was back up to 32 miles on 5 days of running. This set me up to close out February with my best week: 45 miles on 5 days, with 10 miles on Saturday and 20 miles on Sunday! My longest “long” run and my best weekend with 30 miles. What’s your long run, and how do you manage the inevitable pain? Please comment below and let me know!

March 2020: 190 miles!

Consistency is key. Both physical and mental health are fundamental to consistent training, which in turn leads to long-term improvement and new goals. In March, I continued the 45 miles per week, with a 20-mile long run on Sundays, preceded by a 10-mile run on Saturdays. The time for my best 20-miler in Larkin State Park, with about a 1,000 foot elevation gain, is 2 hours and 54 minutes (8:40 mile pace).

March 2020 long runs
Long runs: February 29-March 1 and March 7-8
March 2020 long runs
Long runs: March 14-15 and March 21-22

In March, while maintaining about the same running volume, I added quality, with a hill-repeat workout each week after a warm-up (200’s uphill, jog back downhill), and 100-meter strides on grass each week after a medium run. I continued the strength training and core workouts.

By the last week of March, I again felt a little banged up, and skipped my Sunday long run. This reduced the week’s mileage to 24 miles.

Just as my consistent training was yielding positive results, and my confidence level continued to improve, the Town of New Canaan closed Waveny Park on March 30. Boom! This created additional anxiety and depression. What was next? Would Connecticut close its state parks? Would a shelter-in-place order restrict us from outdoor exercise? I started to think about buying a treadmill, just in case. However, as mentioned earlier in the post, Connecticut didn’t close its state parks, and starting April 1, I would drive 90 miles round-trip to Larkin State Park for my daily runs.

466 Miles in 3 months

To recap: The first 3 months of 2020 represents huge progress for me. I ran 466 miles on 62 out of 90 days (69%). Two blocks of 4 weeks at 40 miles and 45 miles, respectively. That’s an average of 7.5 miles per run. I logged 10 runs of 15 miles or more (longest: 20 miles).

In the prior 3-month period (October to December 2019), I ran 339 miles on 60 out of 91 days (66%). That’s an average of 5.6 miles per run.

Let’s see what I can do the next few months!

How are you doing so far in 2020? and how is Covid-19 affecting your physical, mental and emotional well-being? Thanks for reading! Be well and stay safe!

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