Bouncing Back from the Brooklyn Half: A Recovery Week

Last weekend, I ran the RBC Brooklyn Half Marathon.

It was a great race. I came up a few minutes short of my goal (1:25), but I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up the next morning and someone sent me a screenshot from the NYRR website. They had posted an article about the race – and the featured image was me crossing the finish line.

Eight miles into the race, I knew I wasn’t going to hit my goal. So I gave myself permission to ease up a little bit, in hopes that my legs wouldn’t be quite as thrashed as normal following the race. I have a few local races coming up, and I’d love to bounce back quickly and race them well.

But this week is still a recovery week first and foremost. I only had five weeks between the Jersey City Marathon and this half, and I want to make sure I’m fully recovered before I launch into training for some local 5ks.

The Plan for the Week

I had no workouts on the calendar, and my plan for the week was simply to hit 60 miles of easy running – mostly trails but also some roads.

Here’s how things broke down:

  • Sunday: Easy 12 miles through the city
  • Monday: Easy 6 miles on the trail
  • Tuesday: 11 miles on the trail
  • Wednesday: 6 miles on the road
  • Thursday: 8 miles, trail
  • Friday: 7 miles, trail
  • Saturday: 10 miles, road

And here’s how things turned out.

Sunday’s Easy Stroll Through the City

The race was Saturday morning. But I got a good deal on the hotel in Brooklyn, so we stayed in the city for the weekend.

I woke up Sunday with a vague plan – cross the Brooklyn Bridge, run up the western perimeter of Manhattan, and cross town at Canal Street to take the Manhattan Bridge back towards the hotel. That should be somewhere between 11 to 13 miles, depending on how I meandered through the city. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel post-race, so I was playing it by ear a little bit.

I also took a little detour down to a Strava segment south of the hotel. WeeViews was running a contest to claim a Local Legend, and this was my last opportunity for the week.

When I first hit the road, I did feel a little stiff. But it wasn’t bad for having run a half the day before.

I ran down to the Strava segment, circled the block, claimed the Local Legend, and then headed up towards the Brooklyn Bridge. By the time I got there, I was feeling pretty good. I passed a couple of other runners, and I snapped a quick picture on my way across. Perhaps it was because it was Sunday – and it was early – but the bridge wasn’t that busy.

On the Manhattan side, I headed south and west towards the bottom of the island. I spied the Statute of Liberty off in the distance, and I took a detour through Battery Park by Clinton Castle. They were doing some construction, so I couldn’t get a clear shot of the Statue of Liberty, and I moved along up the western edge of the island.

I ran up towards Canal Street and passed a lot of other runners. It was much busier here than it was in Brooklyn. I spotted this little garden in Rockefeller Park with Jersey City in the background. Further along, I was happy to find an open bathroom for a quick pit stop.

Eventually, I saw the sign for Canal Street and headed east. The first couple of blocks near the tunnel were dicey with traffic, but once I got a couple blocks into the island it was easy going.

As I passed through Chinatown, I saw a couple people stop on the sidewalk and take pictures. I looked to the right and saw the view above. I had to stop and take a picture myself – I had nearly run right by this without noticing it. The view straight down Canal Street was perfectly non-descript and nothing like this side street.

Eventually, I got back to the Manhattan Bridge. I was starting to feel a little tired, and I was looking forward to being done. I got confused about how to actually get on the pedestrian walkway, and I somehow ended up on the bike path instead. Luckily, there weren’t many cyclists out, and I picked up the pace to cover the bridge before more showed up.

Once I got back on the Brooklyn side, I meandered towards the hotel. I hit 12.5 miles and turned down 3rd Ave towards my hotel. I decided to call it there and walk the last few blocks.

It was a great little run through the city, and I felt pretty good. I hadn’t looked at my watch throughout the run, and I noticed my pace was on the slower side. But that’s perfectly normal.

After breakfast and a nap, we grabbed some pizza, hit up a thrift store, and sat through traffic to get back to Jersey.

Monday’s Easy Six on the Trails

Monday morning, I woke up and hit the trails for an easy six miles. After the long-ish run on Sunday, I wanted to take it easy.

I’m also trying to mix things up, spend some time on some new trails, and add a little extra elevation.

So instead of the usual out and back with rolling hills, I threw in a 5k loop down to the lower part of the reservation and back up the hill. It was a nice change of scenery, and between the hills and the single track trails, I went a little slower.

But it was a good recovery day, and I was feeling pretty good already.

A Meandering Tuesday on the Trails

Tuesday, I planned out a slightly longer run – about 10 miles. I was going to the southern tip of the reservation and then looping back along the western ridge at the top of the hill.

I started off by running four miles south like I usually do on my eight mile out and back route. But instead of looping back north, I took the hill down to the bottom.

I always forget how steep it is, and I carefully pranced through the rocks. This is the very end of the Lenape Trail – a 35 mile trail through Essex County. I often think of attempting the full thing, but when I get to this last part I wonder how I could manage to survive this at the end of 35 miles. I’m half convinced I’ll just fall flat on my face.

But today, my legs were fresh, and I was able to bound down to the bottom. I ran across to the blue trail and headed back north. I took a wrong turn, and I ended up staying on the blue trail – which is pretty hilly. It also meandered a bit, so by the time I got home I hit 11 miles instead of 10.

It was a great run, through, and I felt strong throughout the full length. I didn’t feel tired or beat up as if I’d just run a race. Good sign.

The route included ~1,100 feet of vertical gain. So checkmark for hills.

It was also hot. It got up into the 80’s this week, and I’m now realizing that it’s shirtless running season. Every time I step out the door, I think, “This isn’t so bad.” Then, a half mile into the run, I’m peeling off my shirt.

Wednesday: Six Miles on the Roads

Wednesday, I had to drive down to the office. So I only had six miles on the schedule.

I switched back from the trails to the roads. Instead of my usual route at the Reservoir, I ran some of the roads near my house. The scenery is less interesting, but there are a lot more hills. There are also a few Strava segments that I feel like claiming local legend status on.

The first mile was dreadfully slow. Maybe that long trail run was a bit more draining than I had thought.

But after I got to the top of the hill (the end of the second mile), I was loosened up. The third mile was downhill, and I was cruising along below 8:00/mi without even trying.

The rest of the run was pretty fast – but under control and a low heart rate. Another good sign of improving fitness and full recovery.

Thursday’s Trail Run

I woke up Thursday and hit the trails. It was still hot, although it was supposed to cool off later in the day after some rain. I looked at the weather, and it was going to thunderstorm later in the morning.

I ran my usual eight mile out and back on the trails. It was uneventful, but in the second half I felt like I was flying along. Towards the end, I looked up and saw some dark clouds. I thought I heard thunder in the distance, but I wasn’t sure.

I turned the corner towards my house and stopped my watch. Finished in 1:12:14. A solid effort – and my heart rate was under control except for a few hills.

A few minutes after I got in the house, the skys opened up. The timing had worked out perfectly. If I’d been out there for another five minutes, I would have gotten soaked.

It rained hard for 10 or 15 minutes. And then it stopped. Just like that.

Friday: An Easy, Hilly Trail Run

Friday, I repeated (more or less) the 6 mile route that I ran on Monday.

Now that it’s getting into summer, the foliage is growing in thick. Just about every time I’m out on the trails, I’m have a moment where I think, “Where am I? This doesn’t look familiar.”

It just changes so much from day to day. Today, there was a little part of the trail that’s nearly completely filled in by bushes on either side. I ran right by it and had to to a double take. I may need to carry my garden shears with me to clean things up one of these days.

Further on, I missed a turn completely, so I modified the route a little bit. But there was another parallel trail just a little further on.

About four miles into the run, I was cruising along on some single track trail. It wasn’t overly technical – but there were some roots and rocks to be aware of. And then I landed just wrong on my right foot, and I turned my ankle.

I got my left foot down quickly and took the weight off my right foot. Luckily, it wasn’t bad, and I was able to walk it off. I slowed down for the rest of the run, and I felt fine by the time I was done.

This is the double edged sword of trail running. On the one hand, you’re more likely to hurt yourself in some minor way. But on the other hand, you strengthen your feet and legs so much that what could otherwise be catastrophic is not a big deal.

If I wasn’t used to trail running and I turned my ankle like that on the street, I’m pretty sure I’d be down and out for a bit with a sprained ankle.

Saturday’s Hot, Sunny Run

I wrapped up the week with 10 easy miles on Saturday. I had no pressing need to get up and out early, so I didn’t set an alarm. I eventually got up a little before 8, and I hit the road just before 9.

The sun was up, and it was warm. It felt fine in the beginning, though. I ran about five miles north to Verona Park and then looped back towards home. The way out is net uphill, and the way back is net downhill.

About three miles in, I looked down at my watch and saw my heart rate was a little elevated. My breathing was ok, so I wasn’t too worried. I was cruising along at what I thought was a decent aerobic effort.

After I turned around in the park, I thought things would get easier when I started going back downhill. But now, my heart rate was even higher. My mouth was dry, and my legs were starting to feel a little dead.

Seven miles in, and I was ready to be done. Other than the race last week, this is my first real summer run in heat and direct sunlight. It always hits different that first time.

I slowed down a bit, and I finished up the full 10 miles. I was really feeling it at the end, moreso because of dehydration than anything else. After I got home, cooled off, and drank some water, I felt a lot better.

I ran the ten miles in 1:20:39 – a great pace for a regular easy run. But the effort felt a lot harder than easy.

This will serve as my reminder to a) take water on the longer runs from now on (until the fall) and b) ease up on the pace in the heat.

Weekly Reflections and Looking Ahead

Overall, this was a great recovery week.

I bounced back from the race last weekend immediately, with an easy twelve miles on Sunday. I hit my mileage goal for the week (60 miles) and I started working in more hills. I did close to 4,000 feet of elevation this week, when a normal week is closer to 2,000 ft.

With the week coming to an end, I don’t feel any lingering fatigue from either this week’s race or the marathon last month. In fact, my paces on some of these easy runs have been even better than before the half marathon.

I’d say that I’m ready to get back to training. The first thing on my schedule coming up is the Fitzgerald’s Lager Run 5k on June 9. That’s two weeks.

I’ll start sketching out my race schedule for the summer and fall, and then I’ll fill in my training plan in a future post. I’ve got about 20 weeks to Chicago in October, so it’s time to look at the big picture and piece together a plan.

Enjoy the long weekend, and get out there and go for a run!

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