4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for March 2008

Flat

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So, when I realized in a panic that the March Madness Biathlon was quickly coming up, I figured I needed to get a good training session in at Central Park. My intent was to do the 2 full loops of the park with enough days to recover before the race on Sunday.

There was no better day than this past Wednesday when the temps got up to 60 degrees and I was able to get out of work right at 5pm. I headed out around 6pm from my apartment, heading up first avenue towards Central Park. I picked up a good amount of speed heading up past 46, 47th St, and headed down the hill at 48th St that joins the UN part of 1st Ave to the tunnel part of 1st Ave. Unfortunately I hit a patch of very large potholes. Did I say I had picked up a good amount of speed? Well, I managed to get past the potholes without falling off the bike, but immediately could tell that I had a flat.

Uggg. I had a flat. My first thought was that I didn’t have my patch kit with me. Now that I’m a Savvy Cyclist, I can change or patch flats by myself! When I got off the bike, I found the back wheel going flat. A closer inspection showed that I managed to put a large dent in the rim of the wheel. Well, even if I had my patch kit, no way I could fix that.

I spent the next 45 minutes walking/pushing/carrying the bike back home to Stuyvesant Town, enjoying the perfect weather lamenting the perfect workout just ruined. I was impressed at how easily I was able to get the back tire off, pull out the tube, and find the puncture hole. Great practice from the Savvy Cyclist class.

Dropped the bike off at Metro Bikes on Thursday. With that kind of damage to the rim, they the wheel was not repairable – I needed a new one. Well, $140 later, I have a new rear wheel, and I get to go into the biathlon quite unprepared!

By the way, the forecast for 7:30 AM tomorrow, when the race starts – 30 degrees… Aaarrrrggghhhh

Written by SCL

March 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm

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Yay – I’m a savvy cyclist.

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As I mentioned the other day, I had signed up for a class sponsored by Bike New York, called Savvy Cyclist.  These are the same people that bring you the Five Boro Bike Tour.  The class was great, and definitely lived up to expectations.  When the class is free, it is really hard to complain too much, so I’ll only mention that the facilities could use some work!  The class is run out of the Recycle-A-Bicycle workshop facility in Long Island City.  The building is very old school – NO HEAT!  I’m sure during most of the cycling season, heat is not required, but man, we needed it on Sunday morning.  Temps were 35 degrees at the start of the day, with a breeze off the East River.  It was very cold in the building.  The morning was hard, very hard.  Thankfully, we spent most of the afternoon in the sun and by the end of the day was quite comfortable.

Our intrepid, and very experienced leaders, Kevin and Roger, really knew their stuff and made the day fun.  There were 10 of us and experience really ranged from beginners to seasoned cyclists looking to take the certification exam so that they too could spread the good word about bike maintenance and safety.  There was also a wide age range young to not-so-young.  I learned that it is very, very bad to bike against traffic, and that in a battle between a bike and car, car always wins.  But seriously, I learned a lot about how to ride in traffic with confidence.  I learned how to properly wear and adjust my helmet, and learned how to change a flat tire – amazing!  The drills we did were great, and then we had fun during our group ride around Long Island City.

The other great advantage was the approximate 15 miles I biked that day, including the 2 trips over the 59th St bridge.  Anyway, I’ll try to get on the bike again this week and ride in Central Park, as I prepare for the March Madness Biathlon, which is next Sunday.

Once I get through this race on Sunday, I’ll focus more on my running again, as I get ready for the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which is the first Saturday in May.

Happy running (and biking)!

Written by SCL

March 24, 2008 at 10:10 pm

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Getting back on the bike

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Last year I finally bought a bike. I’ve been thinking about it for years, but never was able to pull the trigger on the $1000 price tag for a halfway decent road bike, and the lack of storage space in my NYC apartment. Last summer I finally bit the bullet on both counts and have been sooooo happy. I really fell in love with bike riding. There is nothing better than a good ride in Central Park when the roads are not so crowded, or riding over the Williamsburg or Manhattan Bridges and riding through some of the emptier parts of Brooklyn towards Coney Island. The city has done remarkable work in the last couple of years in laying down bike lanes, and Transportation Alternatives is a great organization for promoting biking, bike safety, etc, in NYC.

Last year when I ran the Scotland Run 10K, I got to Central Park super early, and was able to watch a bike race in progress. Through some research I was able to find that it was a biathlon sponsored by New York Triathlon. It looked like a lot of fun. Once I got my bike and trained up for it, I participated in their Central Park Biathlon race. 2 mile run, 12 mile bike (2 loops around Central Park) and then another 2 mile run. It was a lot more intense than I thought it would be. When I got off the bike, I felt that I could hardly walk, let along run 2 miles. I was looking forward to the next year when I could improve on that effort. Shortly after the new year, I signed up for the first biathlon of the season, the March Madness Biathlon. Great plan. Except, the race is next week and I have not yet gotten on the bike this year! It is not going to be fun. After work today I managed to get out on the bike and do a quick 4 mile hard ride up and down 1st and 2nd aves to loosen up the muscles a bit – despite the still sore shoulder, slight head cold and very windy conditions outside. On Saturday, I’m registered for the Savvy Cyclist class, run by Bike New York. In the class, I’ll hopefully learn how to maintain my bike, change a flat, etc. I’ll report back on how it goes.

Anyway, I’m glad I got out on the bike today, glad I’m taking the class on Saturday, and a little scared about the biathlon next weekend. Fun, fun, fun. I’ll try to get a run in tomorrow morning, since it’s now been more than a week since my last run.

Written by SCL

March 20, 2008 at 9:08 pm

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Injuries suck

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You’ll hear a lot on my blog about injuries because I’m always getting them!  Nothing major, and nothing that has ever required surgery.  But those nagging kinds of injuries always trip me up.  Did I mention that I weigh 225 pounds? (on a good day) That doesn’t help!

It’s a viscous cycle.  I can’t beat 4:30 because I’m not fast enough.  I can’t get faster unless I run more.  When I run more, I eventually get injured.  Rest, rest, rest.  Start over.

Last week, I had a great run on Thursday night – strong 5.2 mile loop near my house, about 9:15 pace.  I noticed my knee was not feeling quite right, and sure enough, I could locate a particular pain point when feeling around behind the right knee.  I don’t know what it is exactly, but I always call it tendonitis – pain at the end of one of those tendons you can feel behind the knee.  In the old days, I would run on the pain for awhile until the pain got worse, rest for a few weeks while hoping it would go away, and then wonder about why the pain didn’t go away.  Then I finally got wise to feeling around and locating the specific pain point, and then icing the spot.  That does wonders.  A good regimin of ice for a few days generally gets rid of the ‘tendonitis’.  So anyway, I felt a little tendonitis last week after my Thursday night run, and did not run over the weekend.  Been icing and resting – figured I’d be good to go by Monday or Tuesday.

Ahh, the gods have other plans.  Sure enough, in the shower this morning, while shampooing my head, I felt the all too familiar ‘crack’, and sharp pain under my left shoulder.  The muscle under my left shoulder is most definitely ‘pulled’ – no running for me for a few more days. 

I have a long and storied history with various back issues – lower back, neck, shoulder, etc.  Lower back pain is the worst – you can’t sit, you can’t stand up, every step is a giant pain.  Hard to get in and out of bed.  Neck pain is not quite as bad.  Walking and sitting is fine – but you can’t turn your head or bend down depending on the reason (like tying shoes).  Shoulder pain is the best of the back pains, as it does not prevent sitting, standing, walking, head turning, etc, but still comes with it’s own very annoying pain until the muscle strain subsides. 

Grrr.

Written by SCL

March 17, 2008 at 3:43 pm

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In the beginning…

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It all started back in 1994.  At the time, I lived on the upper east side in Manhattan, just off 1st Ave.  I jogged recreationally in college and continued to do so after graduation.  It seemed like a good way to stay active.  So, of course, when the New York City Marathon came around, I went out to watch.

I’ve seen the marathon on TV before, but on the TV, they only focused on, or I only really noticed, the contenders, those really fast runners.  When I watched that first marathon in person, on 1st Ave, I was struck by how many normal people actually were running the thing.  Fat, skinny, tall, short, young, old – they were all represented.  And crazily enough, it looked like they were having fun!  If they could do it, certainly I could too.

As a spectator, back in 1994, I was curious to know what it would take to finish in the first half of the field.  That would really be an accomplishment, to finish within the 50th percentile.  In 1994, that median finishing time was 4:17:57.  I had no chance then – I was just starting out.  Interestingly enough, that median time has gotten slower in the subsequent years, as more, presumably slower, runners have joined the ranks.  In this past marathon, 2007, the median was 4:23:39. 

1994 – 14867 out of 29735 – Joaquin Demonet Hetland – Age 30 – Mexico – 4:17:57.
2007 – 19303 out of 38607 – Martine Planchon – Age 55 – France – 4:23:39

I’m not exactly sure why I fixated on 4:30.  I figured once I hit 4:30, then it would be an easy jump to get to that next step, the 50th percentile.  But one step at a time.

Fast forward to 1996.  I successfully ran my first!  5:27:31.  For a first attempt, this was awesome.  Even though I was pretty thoroughly injured and did not run much in 1997, I was right back at it in 1998.  By 2000, I got my time down to 4:50:18 (net time – more on that another day).   I was home free – 4:30 here I come.  Well, after several marathons later (8 in total), I still haven’t gotten there.  My last attempt was 4:51:43, not much of an improvement, eh. 

So, this year, I am determined!  This will be the year I finish in 4:30.  And my trials and tribulations will be noted here! 

Written by SCL

March 14, 2008 at 2:46 am

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