4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Movin’ On Up

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This marks the end of the road for 430orbust.wordpress.com.  But… the blog will live on at http://430orbust.com!  Please go to the new site (you should actually already be redirected there) and update your shortcuts or RSS feeds, etc.  Hope to see you on the other side 🙂




Written by SCL

September 6, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Back in the Saddle (Again)

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Hi there!  After a luckluster year so far filled with injuries, I’ve taken the last couple of months off, and am now starting to work back into running shape.  I consider myself to (yet again) be back in the saddle after injury, hoping that this time I’ll figure out how to stay healthy.  Seems like since I turned 40 in 2011, it is so much easier to get injured, and each injury is harder to recover from.

The year started out decently enough, with a lot of running in January – March, including a lot of speed work, and I was rewarded with a 10k PR (52:43) at the Brrrrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k in January and also a 10 mile PR (1:27:56) at the Cherry Tree 10 mile race in Feb.  Things quickly went downhill from there.

In March, I had an awful Georgia Marathon, (5:12:35) in part because it was really hot that day, which I was not trained for, and also because of the super hilly course.  After that, I sort of lost my mojo, and recorded a DNF at the Verrazano Half Marathon in April.  Then I started having calf issues, which I ignored, which eventually resulted in a badly pulled calf, which put me on the shelf for a few weeks in May.  It also caused me to downgrade the Red Bank Olympic tri to Sprint Distance, where I had to walk most of the running portion.

Once my calf started feeling better, I did a bit of running in June, but late in June my lower back started to hurt, which led to my first ever bout of sciatica nerve pain in my left leg, which was very painful, quite scary as it is so different from muscle pain, and lasted for more than a month before getting better.

Now all of that is behind me.  I’ve changed some things in my diet, to hopefully help me lose a few pounds.  I’m also now seeing a personal trainer, and starting up a new running program.  For the moment I’m focusing on tempo intervals on the treadmill, but look forward to getting back out on the road shortly, getting back to some races, finding a winter or spring marathon to tackle state number 12, and perhaps even challenge that elusive 4:30 marathon!

Written by SCL

September 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

January 2012 in Review

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Running – 99.5 miles over 16 runs.  January was a stellar running month for me, as it usually is…  Both the number of runs (16) and number of miles (99.5) were my highest since Dec 2010 and therefore beat all the months of 2011!  I started speed training again and did 4 speed workouts.  The month also included one long run in the lead-up to my next marathon, which will be Georgia’s Marathon on March 18.  The clear highlight for me was when I tied my 10k PR last weekend in Prospect Park.

Races – 2 (LIRRC Hangover 5m Fun Run – 45:23; Brrrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k – 52:43)

Biking – 0 miles over 0 rides.  Will kick this off again in March, leading into the March Madness Biathlon 3/25

Swims – 0.  Will kick this off again after my 3/18 marathon is done

Gym workouts – 5

Softball – Offseason

Injuries – Finally, nothing that is holding back my training!

Sicknesses – Just a bit of a stomach bug for a couple of days

Weight – Gained about one pound vs Dec.

Written by SCL

February 5, 2012 at 1:39 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Brrrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k Race Report

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Been awhile since I wrote a genuine race report.  Was absolutely necessary this time, because it turned out that I TIED MY 10K PR, which had been set 4/1/2007.

PR’s are really great, and should be savored.  They are just not easy to come by.  My running career is 18 years, and I’ve run dozens of races at the common distances.  To PR, it means I have to be better today than I have *ever* been at that distance in the past.  This is just harder and harder to do as time goes by.  Don’t get me wrong, my PR’s are all still “attainable,” as I don’t feel I have ever been so well trained as to not be able to get to that level of fitness again.  The surprise to me was that I have already reached the level of fitness where my PR’s are in reach again, only 6 months removed from injuries, and only focusing on speed in the last month.

With NYC Runs entry to the race scene, I’ve been reinvigorated to run races here in the city, as NYRR races are unwieldy big.  Yesterday’s race was the first of their Freeze and Fuhgeddeboudit winter series, a 10k in Prospect Park.  With the promise of hot chocolate after the race, and souvenir mugs, I’ve had it on my radar for a few weeks.

Based on recent training runs, and the success I’ve had so far in the three speed sessions done in January, I thought I could realistically run under 9 pace for the race.  I’m very familiar with Prospect Park, and the hills there don’t scare me very much.  With that understanding, my goal was 55 minutes.  Prior to the race, I casually checked my race results page, and saw that this would be my 28th 10k race, and that my PR was set in 2007.  I did not have a PR on my mind at all, and it barely registered with me that my PR was in the 52:xx range.

Pre race was definitely a chill scene.  First, race organizers emailed us to let us know the Q train had service changes this weekend, so I knew to get up a little earlier to take a different train.  I arrived at the race site around 35 minutes before race time, which was plenty of time to pick up my number, change my clothes, drop off my bag, and walk the half mile to the start.

The only problem of the day is that it was announced that the race would be untimed, due to problems with the new timing equipment that was to be used.  I was a little bummed, but didn’t really mind.  NYC Runs will certainly show some growing pains as they get bigger, and we’ll just have to be patient with them.

Crossing the start line, I had a hard time pressing the start button on my Runmeter, and so I estimate that I started it about 1-2 seconds late.  The start was about half way up the hill leading to Grand Army Plaza.  This was nice because it meant on the 2-loop course, we’d only have to run that hill 1.5 times, and the first being right at the start.  I worked hard up the hill and was noticing that I was having a hard time getting loose in the 2nd half of the mile.  I realized that I started out too hard and was running a pace I could never keep up.

I crossed mile 1 in 8:16, too fast.  I backed off the pace a bit and just focused on a good steady effort.  I was really surprised to see 8:24 in mile 2, almost the same pace as mile 1.  I backed off even more and hit 8:37 in mile 3.  By then I felt completely warmed up and loose.  Mile 4 would be the hardest mile in the race, for me, as it included the uphill into Grand Army Plaza, with then rolling ups and downs afterwards.  When I hit that mile in 8:37, I knew I had 2 mostly downhill miles to go and thought I would be able to average 8:30 pace for the entire race.

At that point, I started to do the math in my head and figured that an 8:30 pace would be 53 minutes, give or take.  I was hopeful I’d be able to finish strong and beat 53 minutes.  I thought my PR was close to 52 minutes, so again had no thoughts of a PR.  I stayed focused and was able to finish the last 2 miles in 8:31 and 8:25, with 1:49 rounding out the last .2 (Note that I think the 6 mile sign placement was short due to its placement in the middle of a construction zone, and the very slow time I manually clocked for the last .2).

I stopped my watch right at the finish and was super happy with the 52:41 it showed.  I knew I had to add 1 or 2 seconds to compensate for the trouble I had at the start.  First thing I did was check my race results page, and was beyond surprised to see that my old PR was 52:43.  Since I was slow getting my clock started, and the race was not officially timed, I just called it even and am saying that I tied my PR.

Was beyond elated.  Beyond the obvious of knowing that my training is in a great place right now, and has me in a position where my PR’s are within reach, this very strong and consistent effort on a hilly 6+ mile course gives me a lot of confidence in my ability, and gives me hope that it will be a great running year.  My last great stretch of running was in early 2009 when I set PR’s at the 5m, 5k and marathon distances over the first 3 months.  I’m optimistic that I’ve got another great stretch coming up, hopefully culminating in a strong Georgia Marathon on March 18…

Written by SCL

January 29, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Posted in Race Report

Flat Marathon – no thank you

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This thought has been hanging with me for awhile, but thanks to two recent blog postings I came across, I was reminded to write about it.

My best marathons have come on hilly courses, NOT flat ones.  What?  Doesn’t make sense, you say?  If you think about it, it kind of does make sense, because on a hilly course, the flats, uphills and downhills make great use of a variety of muscles over time, spreading the damage, so to say.  Others have recently proffered their explanations:

  1. Laura / Absolut(ly) Fit / 50 x 25 – you know, the first youngest female to run a marathon in all 50 states?  Yes, in her recent post on how to recover quickly from a marathon (great post by the way), she devoted a couple of paragraphs on her thoughts regarding hilly vs flat marathons.
  2. Georgia Marathon Blog – my next marathon is the Georgia Marathon, and on their website they have a TOTALLY AWESOME BLOG that consists of a variety of (presumably) regular running people who write great posts on distance running.  How cool is that?  Other marathons should take note and copy… Anyway, a recent posting on that blog provided some additional insights on exactly the same topic!

In looking at my own history, some of my very best marathons were quite hilly:

  1. Big Sur 2005 – Has a very hilly reputation, lots of big hills, and a monster hill in the middle of the race.  It was my 7th marathon, and can you guess what I did?  That’s right, a PR! 4:37:37.  This PR would stand for almost 4 years, through a few more marathons, lasting until:
  2. Austin 2009 – Not nearly as hilly as Big Sur, but definitely a hilly course.  I had an unbelievable (for me) PR of 4:22:16,  The nice thing about this hilly race is that the last 6-7 miles are downhill, and in that particular year, those last miles had a tailwind.  While that combination of factors allowed me to cruise to that amazing PR, I believe it was the hilliness of the course that kept me relatively fresh at the end of the race.
  3. First Light 2011 – While not necessarily billed as a hilly marathon, this race is interesting because the first 10 miles are pancake flat, and then miles 10-21 are very, very hilly, and then the last 6 miles are pancake flat.  I treated the first 10 miles as a warm up, and then attacked the hills, and honestly, this was the only marathon I ever ran where I didn’t feel like I hit the wall.  My finish of 4:37:10 was far beyond what I thought I was capable of that day.

Of course, there are other factors that go into a successful race, like the training leading into it, and the weather on race day.  Maybe it is coincidence that those 3 races I mentioned are the ones I feel are my best marathons, and were the hilliest ones I ever ran.

Also interesting to consider is my half marathon PR history, where FOUR TIMES my PR was set on the old Brooklyn Half Marathon course, the one that started in Coney Island and spent the first 8 miles on the boardwalk and on flat Ocean Parkway, and ending with 5 brutal miles twice around Prospect Park with LOTS of hills.  Yes, every time I ran that race between 1999 and 2008 (4 times), I set a new PR on that very hilly course.

While several of the worst marathons I ever ran were of the flat variety, interestingly enough, the weather was not cooperative for any of them: New Jersey 2002 (cold, windy and rainy day), Chicago Marathon 2010 (super hot),  Providence Rhode Races 2010 (super hot)

Another thought is perhaps I’ve always trained harder when I knew I had a hilly marathon coming up?  Possible, I suppose, but I usually approach my marathon trainings in much the same way.  Yes, my small sample of races certainly isn’t definitive, and perhaps many of my flat races were done in less than favorable conditions, but like I said, my best races have been on hilly courses and my worst on flat courses.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

My next marathon is the Georgia Marathon on March 18, which I hear is a hilly course. 🙂

Written by SCL

January 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

2011 Highlights – Part 2

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As you all know, I’m not so great at posting here anymore.  My we’ve come a long way (and in the wrong direction) since I posted for 28 days straight leading up to the 10-10-10 Chicago Marathon!

Anyway, this post concludes the ‘highlights’ I wanted to point out regarding 2011.  Find Part 1 here.  Upon further reflection, this post is not so much about anything in particular I did in 2011, and so the ‘highlight’ title is a bit of a lie, as this is more a celebration of January running (for me), and my inverted bell curve of running over the last 13 years.

Below you will see my total miles per month, from the years 1999-2011, covering 13 years.

  • Jan – 798.6
  • Feb – 706.1
  • March – 631.7
  • April – 659.7
  • May – 517.7
  • June – 316.1
  • July – 433.8
  • Aug – 532.4
  • Sept – 692.7
  • Oct – 706.4
  • Nov – 682.7
  • Dec – 730.7

What is striking about this is that I ‘peak’ in Jan in mileage, generally decline through June, and then start another steady increase, peaking again in Dec.

For one, it is clear backup for the statement I keep repeating to anyone who might listen, namely, “I hate running in the hot weather!”  What more proof do you need?

For two, it is a clear indication of the other statement I keep repeating to anyone who might listen, namely, “January is the month I always renew my love for running.”  Partially it is the clean slate of a new year, and partially it is probably due to my birthday, which occurs early in Jan, but whatever the reason, January is the month I most consistently run.  I can only count two years where January was my highest total month of the year, so it is not that January is always my biggest month, however, it is my most consistent month, and every year is among the top few months in total miles.  Since 2005 (past 7 years), January is at least in the top 4 monthly mileage for the year.

If you look at the numbers above, the inverted bell curve is quite clear.  However, it is not perfect.  My goal for 2012 is simple.  March must have at least 28 more miles than April, and November must have at least 24 more miles than October.  If I can accomplish both of those, and keep the other months in their relative places, then I will have attained perfection!


Written by SCL

January 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Speed training and cold weather

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This is the week of the year that I am always the most excited about running.  The start of the new year always invigorates me to do more and better, despite the cold temperatures.  Therefore, I typically sign up for speed work in Jan.  In fact, and this will be the subject of my next planned blog post, January is the month of the year in which I’ve logged the most cumulative miles, at least over the last 13 years of my running log…

I love my Excel running log, and sometimes I can get lost in it.  Tonight is the first session of the NYRR speed training class that I’ll be taking, which runs for the next 10 weeks.  My log tells me that this will be my 20th NYRR speed class session since 1/1/1999, and my 11th time taking the session in Jan out of the last 13 years!  I skipped 2011 because I was a bit burned out after training for a Jan marathon.  I’m not quite sure why I skipped 2003.  It most like was due to injury (?) as 2003 was my lowest running year on record with 123.2 miles.  I think that was the year I had a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that year that took months to heal.  Or was it the year I had patellar tendinitis?  Who knows anymore…

Anyway, my interest today was in the weather.  I can’t help myself, as a recovering numbers AND weather geek!  It has been interesting to see so many people comment on Twitter on both the exceptionally warm weather we had over New Years (highs in the low 50s), and the exceptionally cold weather we are having today, 20s and dropping. 

I took a look at the weather conditions for the first day of the Jan speed session I attended over the years, and was not so surprised to find it is pretty evenly split between cold, normal and hot:

  1. 1-4-00 – 55 – rain
  2. 1-2-01 – 21/2
  3. 1-8-02 – 34 / 26
  4. 1-6-04 – 28 / 22
  5. 1-4-05 – 48
  6. 1-3-06 – 35 – fr rain
  7. 1-4-07 – 55
  8. 1-8-08 – 57
  9. 1-6-09 – 31 / 25 – fr rain
  10. 1-5-10 – 27 / 15

Four times over 45 degrees, three times under 30 degrees, and three right in the 30s.  Tonite will certainly compete for coldest yet, as the temperatures might get below 21, but it is not very windy and so the wind chill should stay above the 2 degrees it was in 2001.

Written by SCL

January 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

2011 Highlights – Part 1

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Hi, it’s me!  Been a long time since I posted anything of substance.  Now that we are at year-end, figured I’d try to put some updates out here.  Isn’t that what all the cool kids are doing these days?

In this post, rather than bore you with lists of details of what I did, didn’t do, and want to do, I’m highlighting a particular accomplishment I am very proud of, which is participating in 16 races.  Yes, on the face, that’s a nice accomplishment, and something I’m happy about, but even more importantly, only one of those races (Brooklyn Half Marathon) was organized by New York Road Runners.  While they once were a staple of the race scene for me, times have certainly changed and I am just not interested in their races, for a number of reasons many of you are aware of, such as fewer races on the calendar, huge numbers of participants, race caps which creates inflated demand, among others.

For me, races are so much fun, and the motivation for all the training I do during the year.  Without races to look forward to, my training would most certainly dip significantly.  I know we all refer to them as ‘races’, but the reality is that I’m not a ‘racer’.  I’m out there to have fun, complete the distance, and depending on where I am with my training that day, if the result is a fast time or a PR, that’s just icing on the cake.

I (sort of) managed only a single running PR this year, which was at a 4 mile race by Long Island Road Runners on 3/6 which I completed in 34:03.  I say sort of because my old PR, set in Central Park on 4/9/2000, was in the days before we had chip timing.  My official time in that race in 2000 was 34:23, but the fact is that it took me 22 seconds to cross the start line that day, which I recorded on my Timex.  My net time was therefore 34:01, but in those days, net time was not officially measured.

EDIT: Sorry, after double checking some more, I see I also set a PR at the unusual 8k distance, which I had only raced once before, way back in 1998!

Here are my 2011 races, and where applicable, the host:

  1. 1/9 – First Light Marathon
  2. 2/12 – Cupid’s Chase 5k NYC
  3. 3/6 – LIRRC 5 Miler (Long Island Road Runner Club)
  4. 3/27 – March Madness Biathlon (New York Triathlon Club)
  5. 4/2 – 13.1 New York
  6. 4/10 – Tough Mudder PA
  7. 5/1 – Flying Pig Marathon
  8. 5/15 – Red Bank Triathlon (Sandy Hookers)
  9. 5/21 – Brooklyn Half Marathon (New York Road Runners)
  10. 7/27 – Fla-Vor-Ice 5k (NYC Runs)
  11. 9/10 – East River Park 5k (NYC Runs)
  12. 9/11 – War at the Shore Triathlon (Sandy Hookers)
  13. 9/18 – Yonkers Half Marathon (NYC Runs)
  14. 10/25 – Roosevelt Island 5k (NYC Runs)
  15. 11/27 – Duck Run 8k (Long Island Road Runners Club)
  16. 12/10 – Rehoboth Beach Marathon

I really spread things out, with three marathons, four 5ks, two triathlons, a duathlon, and numerous ‘small’ events, which I find I enjoy much more than the behemoth NYRR events.

16 races in the year equals my total from 2001, and is my 2nd highest yearly race total ever.  The prize for most races in a year is awarded to the year 2000, when I ran 20 races.  Of those 20 races, 19 were organized by New York Road Runners.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that currently runs 19 NYRR races in a year due to some of the reasons already mentioned, but I’m sure it was quite common in the past.

I’m really happy to see NYC Runs emerge as another option here in NYC.  I ran 4 of their races last year, and expect to run even more of them in the coming year.

In 2012, I already got my first race out of the way earlier today, and am looking forward to planning out another jam packed schedule.

For more info on my career race history, check out my Race Results page!

Written by SCL

January 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Reflections

New York City Marathon Tomorrow!

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Just wanted to wish everyone running the NYC Marathon GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN tomorrow.  The weather looks to be awesomely perfect.  My advice is to slllooowww down in the first half.  Don’t underestimate the toughness of the hills in the last 6 miles of the race.

As for myself, I’ve run it 7 times and am pretty much over it.  That said, it is the most awesomest race in the world and still, by far, the most exciting marathon course I’ve ever run, out of 9.  Maybe I’ll try again some year, but, it is super expensive, and hard to get into unless you either want to raise money for charity or commit to 9 NYRR races the prior year.  It is also super big and crowded, and I’m finding I enjoy smaller races more.  The way I figure it, my not running the race gives an opportunity to someone else who otherwise would be shut out 🙂

My NYC Marathon History:

  1. 1996 – 5:27:31 (PR at the time)
  2. 1998 – 5:35:33
  3. 2000 – 4:52:03
  4. 2002 – 5:06:22
  5. 2007 – 4:51:43
  6. 2008 – 4:31:25 (PR at the time)
  7. 2009 – 4:44:05

From the archives, my all of my 2009 marathon related postings, and my 2008 race report:

It’s a little (OK very) messy due to my inconsistent use of tags and categories over the years, but I’ve got other (sometimes interesting) marathon related postings in the Tag or Category.

I don’t think I’ll be able to spectate tomorrow.  If possible, perhaps I’ll get to mile 11/12 on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg which is easily accessible by the L train.  I have great spectator memories from the past.  In the end, my best strategy to watch from multiple points on the course, and hit spots that were less popular, was to watch at mile 7/8 on 4th Ave, then mile 14ish in Queens and then mile 21, just after the madison ave bridge.  Now with the wave starts, it is actually harder to watch from multiple places and still see everyone you want, because of the large gaps between the fast runners and the slow runners.

Again, for everyone running tomorrow, have a great one!





Written by SCL

November 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

October 2011 in Review

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Running – 63.5 miles over 11 runs.  While October started out on a very sour note, namely a really bad lower back spasm on 9/27 which cost me the Ironman 70.3 Poconos race, and 2 weeks of training, I ended the month very strongly.  This was my biggest mileage month since April, and puts me in easy striking distance of 600 miles for the year, which historically had been my marker of a good running year.  I’m training for the Rehoboth Beach marathon on Dec 10, so this month included the first of 3 planned long runs.

Races – 1 (Roosevelt Island 5k – 27:23)

Biking – 0 miles over 0 rides.  Taking time off the bike until the new year

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – Massive month here!  Worked out at the gym 4 times, saw my personal trainer twice, and attended 3 yoga classes – first time ever for yoga!

Softball – 2 wins!  My team was an undefeated 6-0 in the fall season!

Injuries – Severe lower back spasm cost me 2+ weeks of training.  Otherwise, both my turf toe and hip/groin/glute issues have lingered, but improved significantly

Sicknesses – 0 – Zicam continues to serve me well!  Just take it a bit when I feel a cold coming on, and it works every time.

Weight – Unfortunately, up slightly from Sept.

Written by SCL

November 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Month End Summary