Local mom tackles 3 trails to train for a 5k — check out the routes & the results.
Heck, you can even drag the kid and/or dog along (or not!)
Tis the season. Or so I've been told...
Time to get off my bum and get moving. For months now I've managed to do the bare minimum in exercise. Enough to keep my kid entertained and most of the dreaded winter weight at bay (notice I said, most) but not enough to ready me for the impending 5k I am signed up for — or the 10k I one day aspire to complete.
To be completely transparent, for years now I have alternately used my son as an accessory or an excuse - depending on what suites my needs. When it comes to exercise, he was for many years my go-to excuse. You know what I mean, "Oh, I can't jog faster, I have Oliver with me." Or, "Sure we'll go for a hike, but we should probably do Owl's Head, so Oliver can make it on his own."
Now things are starting to change. We have recently discovered he actually enjoys running, and he's not bad at it. Suddenly he's a rambunctious 6-year-old and not only can he make it around the lake (or ATL as the locals refer to it) by himself, he is pretty hard to keep up with. He is now my inspiration. He's my partner. He's wearing me out.
So, not to be outdone by my child, I decided this year I would tackle a few 5ks in anticipation of conquering a 10k at the end of the summer. I mean, if Oliver enjoys running so much, and wants to be in family races, well, I'm the one to do it with him. However, I don't like following plans or workout schedules — I'm more of the spontaneous type. The only exercise I had been doing before this "training" started was hitting the gym on a somewhat regular basis 2-4x/week to use the elliptical for 45 minutes, random leisurely walks ATL, and the occasional Hot Yoga class (gotta warm up somehow!). I have no idea what I was thinking when I proclaimed this goal. I have no organized training plan in mind.
Here's my basic plan - I've picked out 3 local trails of varying terrain that are quickly accessible from town and the perfect length to train on. Below are quick overviews of each. Check them out and see what you think. (Then, if you need a laugh, read on for the results of my first run of the year.)
1. Heaven Hill Trails
(aka a walk or slow trail jog day)
The new Heaven Hill Trails have been my go-to place for flat, off-the-street training. I jog a bit, walk a bit, try to talk myself into jogging a bit further, and stop to take lots of scenic pics and selfies. I really can't help myself, these trails are new, well-maintained, and the views are excellent. There are three color-coded options to choose from of varying lengths (.9, 1.4, and 1.5 miles) The green features several wooded shoot-off trails that we loved exploring on our cross-country skis this winter, however with the warmer spring weather upon us, we are drawn to the open fields that the orange and blue showcase. We have even been so bold as to mix it up and lengthen our workout by combining a bit of the blue to the orange lately.
As I'm ramping up my workouts, we usually plan to spend about 45 minutes on the trails 3-5x per week. As of late Oliver has taken to running the orange loop at top speed and then waiting for me at the trail entrance — as you can see in the picture below, I am never far behind (*cough*cough*).
Side note: Well-behaved dogs are allowed to be off their leashes as long as they are under your control. So, be prepared for a lot of friendly four-legged encounters.
Want to know more before you head out? Check out this blog for more detailed information on the Heaven Hill Trail system!
2. ATL - Around The Lake
(aka a fast walk or paved jog day)
This local favorite is paved, well-lit, and a scenic 2.7 miles. While I always enjoy a walk in the woods, the accessibility of the Mirror Lake Walkway has an undeniable allure. Whether it's a quick walk with coworkers at lunchtime, or a jog next to Oliver after school, there's something satisfying about doing the loop.
For my "official" training purposes, and to keep the 6-year-old boy entertained, I now try to jog next to him as he practices his biking skills. I find the distance is fairly perfect for both of us to have fun and get a good workout in. I try to go ATL at least 2-3x per week.
I will say, while it wasn't a 5k, the last organized race I did was the popular Jingle Bell Run around the lake. This family-friendly holiday event was Oliver's first time in a race, and it's when I discovered just how much he loves to run. Did you hear me, I said "loves." I have never, not once, ever uttered the words "love" and "run" in combination together when talking about myself. I don't know where this child gets it, but he begs me to race. All. The. Time.
For the purposes of 10k training, I will try to do the loop 2x in a row at least once a week. Starting... well, when I finally can do it once without wanting to fall down.
Side note: Lake Placid has to be one of the most animal-friendly villages in the Adirondacks - seriously, there are even several pet-friendly lodging options! You will encounter lots of furry friends on this walk, so please remember you to keep your dogs leashed and be sure to clean up after them — there are plenty of garbage pails along the way.
3. Henry's Woods
(aka a fast walk or jog, work-your-butt-off kinda day)
Okay. Henry's Woods is my favorite outdoor 2-3x/week workout. The route we take is just about 3 miles, however it's nothing like the beautifully flat lake loop. There is an incline that gets your heart pumping (no matter which direction you choose), and plenty of dips and curves to keep you on your toes while confusing your muscles. While it takes us longer to do this loop, you can definitely feel the results in all kinds of random places.
I usually take this trail on my lunch break while Oliver is in school. Yes, I feel somewhat guilty, but there are so many cool discoveries to be found in this Adirondack wonderland, he gets distracted and goes slower than on the other trails. I mean, where else can you find a tree with a face (and other features), a Bridge To Nowhere, and random benches made of tree roots? Not to mention, while the path is wide and very well maintained, it is a wooded trail and the darkness falls a bit sooner than on the other two routes.
Side note: Henry's Woods is popular year-round — although no matter the amount of vehicles in the lot, it strangely always feels fairly quiet and secluded. However, on any given day you will probably encounter a few hikers or xctry-skiers, bikers (mountain bike & fat tire), and dogs. Again, we love friendly dogs, and they are often unleashed on this trail — as long as they are well behaved and under their owner's control!
For my official training, I am going to try to knock this route down to 51-52 minutes. I know many people can probably do it quicker, and that it might seem like a long time for a mere 3 miles, but for the life of me I have never hiked it in under 55 minutes. So, that's my goal. What do you think, can this old mom do it?
5k today? Sure, why not!
Alright, so... Oliver and I were on spring break this past weekend and there was a nearby race. Perfect! I figured we should try it out - just to get a baseline for our future endeavors. I did Saranac Lake's annual Daffest 5k Zoom In Bloom run last May, and came in with a time just under 34 minutes. I had no idea what to expect for this race, but I decided to bite the bullet. I mean, it's not like I was going to embarrass myself in front of anyone I knew! I tend to turn bright red when I run, and when I say bright red, I mean I look like I am going to pass out — bright red. So, this is awesome, a totally anonymous race! I also thought it was best to run it without Oliver so I could get a real time - when we did the winter run he ninja-kicked, talked, and ran in circles for much of the way.
Oliver was bound and determined to run the 1-mile family run "and win it," so I signed him up and our friend Greg offered to accompany him. (Yes, I am a Mom. I didn't want him to run in an unfamiliar town by himself for the first time - what if he couldn't find the route, what if he didn't want to finish, what if he saw an ice cream truck?)
As we headed out for the run, I got a surprise message that another family member was going to run the 5k. And, not only was he going to run in it, he planned on running with me. I was psyched to have a partner, but there went my anonymity — not to mention he brought along a cheering section! Now, it's really game on. I am seriously in this race. I have never run with anyone of adult age. I don't wear a watch or listen to music to keep up my pace. I have not done any actual training, and I definitely have not run 3+ miles on pavement in over a year. I often do 4-5 miles on the elliptical, but I know that is totally different. I am determined not to slow him down (hahahaha).
David is a runner and actually has a handy-dandy watch that tells the pace (what!?). And this marks the day where I learned my first valuable running lesson... setting a pace. We started out and everything just felt slow to me. David pointed out a few folks that were pacing at 10 minutes and warned me that I may be going a bit too fast (he knew I was trying to break 32 minutes). I, being the experienced runner that I am (not), didn't listen. I ran, and ran, I hit the 1-mile mark at 10:10. And about 10 yards later I decided it was time to walk. And then run. And then walk some more. Repeat this combo until almost the end of race.
And then... the piece de resistance... we came around the final turn. And there are the family members cheering us on, ahhh now I really don't want to be embarrassed! David told me to slow down, take some deep breaths and get ready, because once we hit the final length we weren't stopping, we had to finish strong. I took a breath, said okay and that I was ready, and off I went - full throttle. I saw the finish line, crossed the gate and was ready to throw my hands up in victory — and then saw the length of track still ahead. WHAT?? In my head I was done. I was suddenly having flashbacks to high school - I abhor tracks. I literally stopped. I walked. I told David to finish without me. I am sure it looked like the struggle I have pulling Oliver out of a candy store. I literally revolted. I didn't even try to jog it. I was worn out. (Shake your head with me now.) I walked, nay, I strolled across the finish line. And here is the sad result — if I had just jogged, or even walked a bit faster, I would have hit my goal. But, no. I came in at 32:02.
Oliver on the other hand was more competitive than I could ever have imagined. He finished his race in 9:12, was the top 6-year-old, and placed 7th overall. I am so glad I didn't run with him — he would have kicked my bum! I would never have lived it down. It just makes me want to train harder, so when he joins me in a 5k I have even a slight chance of pacing him!
Alright, so there you have it. This lazy mom got up, got going, did my first 5k of the year, and now I have some upcoming goals to reach - I still have to break 32 and finish a 10k. Perhaps I might even google one of those training programs everyone raves about, try to find a running partner, or at least get a watch. But first, I think I will aim to actually run consistently for a few miles and maybe even jog across a finish line!
Ready to come run one of Lake Placid's awesome upcoming races? From June's Lake Placid Marathon & Half and September's Lake Placid Classic & 10k to a variety of road routes and trail runs, the Adirondacks are the perfect place to break out the running shoes.
See you on the trails - just throw some water at me if I'm not moving!
The Adirondacks Spring Into Action this week: