4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for August 2008

Nice late nite run

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Sometimes, it is really hard to get the run in.  I knew it would not happen on Friday, or over the long Labor Day weekend, since I’ll be out of town, so I was able to squeeze in a nice, relatively long, 6.5 mile run last night.  I couldn’t get out of the house till 10:30 PM, on the late side.  The nice thing about late night runs is that there is less traffic to deal with – much easier to get through intersections and crowded places.

The route is one I started using earlier this year, and love.  I’ll eventually tire of it, but it works great for me now.  Across 14th St, down 4th Ave / Centre St / Church Ave to Battery Park, then up the East River path and Ave A back to 14th St.  It is 6.5 miles, longer than my typical 4-5 milers, but shorter than a long run – nice challenge when I feel I need to do a little more.  Everything felt great tonight.  No aches or pains, felt like a nice swift pace, and I was able to get through all the major intersections with no wait!

A fun game I play sometimes is “guess the pace”.  When I’m really in tune with how things are going, I can usually guess what my pace and finishing time is in a run.  On average, this run takes me about 1 hour to finish.  On good days, I’ve finished in the 55 to 56 min range, and in the heart of the summer, I’ve finished in 65-66 minutes.   Based on how I felt, I was sure I beat 1 hour, and was hopeful that I approached 58 minutes.  I guessed that my finish would be between 58 and 59 minutes.  My finish time was 1:00:58, more than 2 minutes slower than my guess.  I won’t complain since the run felt perfect – guess I’m still not quite at my peak fitness level from earlier in the spring.

By the way, really like the Map My Run site.  I hope to map all my runs and put links in here.

Also, as a frequent runner of East River Park and the East Side in general, loved this blog post.


Written by SCL

August 29, 2008 at 4:27 pm

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Cat Hill Repeats (and more!)

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Another great running class this week.  Workout was .25 mile repeats up Cat Hill in Central Park.  Cat Hill is a quarter mile hill, bordered by a sheer rock face with a statue of a black panther, or cat, on the top.  As most Central Park races finish on the upper east side portion of the park, this hill is usually part of the last 2 miles of any race.  The workout can be grueling depending on how hard you push.  The twist this time was that after the main workout, (5 of these repeats), we were to run a 1 mile time trial from 72nd St up to 90th St.  This is to simulate the last mile of a race when your legs are tired, and it includes the Cat Hill incline.

I ran with the 8:20-8:40 pace group again.  The 1st repeat was kind of on the slow side as a warm up.  Got much faster from there.  For the most part, I just hung around the back of the group.  I prefer to be right up front or in the back.  Running hard in a group of people in close proximity makes me nervous.  I’m on the tall side and my stride is a bit longer than others.  My fear while running in a group is that it is too easy to get tangled up with someone else – definitely don’t want that, so back or front of the pack it is.  For the most part, the pace was consistent throughout, and I was quite happy to hang in the back – finished in the 1:59-2:04 range for each.

After the main workout, we lined up for the 1 mile time trial.  My detailed running log goes back to 1999, and since then, I’ve done this Cat Hill workout in class 15 times.  I’ve never seen this 1 mile run at the end, so it came as a big suprise.  We kept the pace on the slow side up the hill, and then really pushed hard the last half mile.  I managed to finish the mile in 7:42 – an amazing time for me!  Gives me hope that I can run the fitness Mind Body, Spirit Games 4 miler at 8 minute pace per mile next weekend…

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August 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

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Nice 4 miler

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Was able to get out for a 4 mile run last night, and in the daylight too!  Ran to the end of East River Park and back.  Finished in 35:09, a very strong time for this course.  The big question is, how far can I get it down when all out in race conditions – can I get it down to 32:00?  We’ll find out in 10 days…

It was nice having a bunch of other runners out in the park today, to help pull me along.  Twice I came upon another runner at about the same pace as me and was able to pass the other running and keep the pace up.  You never want to get passed by someone you’ve just passed yourself.  In both cases I was able to stay ahead.  That is also fun because most of the times, runners are blowing by me and I can only pass the walkers or very slow runners.

While the weather was still a tad too hot for my taste, it was still nice for August – 78 degrees with low humidity.  The best part was actually feeling a cool breeze off the East River towards the end of the run.

One other note about East River Park.  It can be an annoying place to run.  The promenade has been closed and under construction since summer 2001, so runners must use the main road, which is in horrible condition- very bad footing.  It also generates massively large puddles after it rains.  As a rule, I can’t run the park within 24 hours of moderate rain due to the puddles.  Right now, there are no puddles because it hasn’t rained in over a week.  However… there is one spot where they have a water fountain/sprinkler for the kids.  They obviously never shut the thing off, and something is very wrong with the drainage.  Even now,  with no rain in over a week, there are huge puddles in that spot, and runners/walkers have to squeeze through one narrow path that has managed to stay above water.   Hate to see what that looks like after it rains!

At least the lack of recent rain has muted the smell near the Williamsburg Bridge!

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August 26, 2008 at 6:41 am

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Gotta start hiting the gym

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Shoulders are sore today from the long bike ride yesterday.  Whenever I spend more than an hour on the bike, my upper arms and shoulders definitely get sore.  Gotta get to the gym more often to work on shoulders and upper body.  I downloaded an upper body workout from Mens Health, so now I just need to get myself to the gym and start working!  Just hard to find the time between work, family, running, biking, New York Mets, etc.

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August 25, 2008 at 5:47 pm

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The Week in Review

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Even though I didn’t update my blog at all last week, it was still quite productive.  As I recapped in my last post, last Sunday I ran 15 miles, mostly flat, and and at a nice slow touring pace.  Definitely some aches and pains during the run, but all in all, it was great.  Looking forward to a faster and more challenging 15 miles in the next 2 weeks.  Gotta pump up the miles if I hope to beat 4:30 in the marathon!

48 hours after the long run, on Tuesday night, I was back in action.  The speed workout in class this week was 1.25 mile repeats along the East River, starting at 82nd St.  I cut the workout short (2 repeats instead of 4) since I was recovering from the long run, but I was glad I was able to get out there and run hard without pain only 2 days after the 15 miler.  Covered the 1.25 mile repeats in 9:53 and 9:50.  Not bad – better than 8 min per mile pace.

On Thursday night, I intended to run 5.2 easy miles.  The 5.2 mile course near my apartment comprises of 2 loops around Stuyvesant Town, using the service roads and hitting each of the 4 loops, running against traffic.  This is a common run for me when I don’t feel like leaving my neighborhood, especially in the wintertime.  Got a very late start, about 10:15 PM.  It was a clear night and I was able to see a very cool looking 2/3 moon rise over the East River!  When I finished the first 2.6 mile loop in a pedestrian 25:30, I kicked it up for the 2nd loop and finished that loop in 23:15.  Total for 5.2 miles was 48:45, about 9:22 pace.

On the injury front, I’ve had lots of minor ones over the years.  One of my recurring themes has been tendinitis in the right knee (others are back pain and plantar fasciitis).  For me, the trick to solving knee tendinitis is finding the exact pain point and applying ice.  A few months ago, I started feeling the tendinitis coming on again, but could not pinpoint the exact pain point (easier said than done – most of the time, the pain point is NOT in the knee).  Interestingly enough, with this bout, I did not feel any pain at all while running, only when resting and flexing the knee.  So, I kind of ignored it.  Finally, on my Thursday run, the knee was bothering me a little during the run, so decided it was finally time to take care of it.  I was able to locate the source of the pain (back of leg about halfway up between the knee and the hip) and have started a regiment of ice.  Hopefully, the pain will melt away in the coming days!

Finished the week off with a great bike ride today.  Total of about 28 miles, up the Hudson River and over the George Washington Bridge to Palisades State Park.  Ended up at the Ross Dock section, which is the first stop point when you enter the park from the GW Bridge.  I look forward to exploring more of the park in the future, all the way up north to the NY State Line and the New York section of the park.

Upcoming race: 9/6 is the fitness Mind Body, Spirit Games – this is a 4 mile race, and I intend to use it as a time trial.  My NYRR start time is based on 8:15, my fastest pace per mile for any race over 1 mile.  I did this about 1 year and a half ago in a 5k race.  I’m hoping the weekly speed workouts will help me finish somewhere between 32 and 33 minutes.  My fastest 4 mile run was 33:44 back in December 2001.

Looking ahead, the following week is the Queens Half Marathon, where I finished in a disappointing 2:06 last year.  I’ll be looking to get under 2 hours this year.

Written by SCL

August 24, 2008 at 9:46 pm

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Long Run – Touring Pace

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I felt like I needed to start getting some long runs in.  I run lots of half marathons during the year, but don’t often push myself to run longer.  In fact, after reviewing my running log from last year, I saw that only twice, yes twice, did I run anything longer than 13.1 miles.  Now that’s probably the real reason I did not finish in 4:30 last year!

I had no choice but to take advantage of the beautiful weather yesterday.  It was on the hot side during the day with the sun out, so I decided to wait until about 6pm to head out.  Also, since it was the first real long run of the year, I decided to pick a relatively hill-free course, and also I decided I would take it very slow – touring pace, if you will.

I arbitrarily decided to run about 15 miles and determined that I would start on the east side, head down the east river, up the Hudson river and then back across to the east side and down 1st ave whatever spot will get me a 15 mile run.  According to my map (Microsoft Street and Trips 2008) that cut off point would be about 79th St.

Like I said, the day was perfect, although still a little on the warm side the first miles while the sun was still a factor.  Besides the heavy foot traffic congestion at South Street Seaport, the walkways and bikeways were not too terribly crowded.   I did really well in the first 8 miles.   My first Gatorade got me through the first 4 miles.  A second Gatorade at Battery Park cost me $3 – highway robbery, but there weren’t many places to choose from.  About a mile up the Hudson River Park, I came across the Nike Runners Station, a spot that serves as a rest and refreshment area for runners (also a giant Nike advertisement).  I graciously used one of their Port-o-sans and noticed that their Gatorade’s were only $1.50 each – now I know!  They also sell PowerBars and PowerGels, which is nice to know.  Continuing up the park, I took a long walk break at Chelsea Piers, finishing up Gatorade #2.  I noticed the vending machines there charge only $1.50 for PowerAid, so I picked up one of those!  At that point, the sun was really going down and it was not so hot.  I continued at my leisurely pace up the rest of the way on the West Side to Riverside Park.

That was where the fun ended and the hard run began.  First of all, it is not easy to find your way out of that park.  Second of all, the way out is a big hill, and then on 79th St, the uphill continues as you head East.  Muscles started barking at that point – right achilles, left calf, etc.  (note to self, time to buy new shoes!)  I hit Central Park at 77th St and headed down the West Drive to the bottom of the park, and 6th Ave.

At this point, I was verrrrrry close to calling it a night and hopping in the subway.  But, I argued to myself, the benefits of a long run are not really realized until you are in the last miles, the miles the body is not used to slogging through.  Point being that slogging through miles 13, 14 and 15 will reap huge rewards the next time I try a 15 mile run.  So, right foot pains and all, I managed to continue on my way, making a water stop at 3rd Ave in the 40’s.  Best part was the strong last quarter mile down 1st Ave listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers.  Final distance, 15.3 miles.  Time of 2:53:02.  Had a nice pasta dinner and went right to sleep!

Time was on the slow side, but hey, first long run of the season, far from race condition.  I’ve got a benchmark now!  My next long run will probably be of similar distance, but this time will add some bridges or Central Park hills to the mix.

Written by SCL

August 18, 2008 at 6:39 pm

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Breaking News: Wave start for the NYC Marathon

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So, as you know, I’m in the New York City Marathon again this year, and training hard for a 4:30 or better time, which would be a first for me!

Today I got the notification from NYRR that they will be introducing wave starts this year.  I, for one, am quite happy!  I think this is great.  The marathon is just too big and crowded for a mass start.  Last year there were two big problems I ran into.

  • First, it took me almost 25 minutes to cross the start – this is unacceptable.  I was in the Green Start, which goes on the lower level of the bridge.  There was construction on the lower level last year, so I guess there was half the normal space through the start.  Wow was it a slow start.  We didn’t move for like 15 minutes after the start and it took 25 minutes to cross the line.  In the mid-early miles, I then got mixed in with all the slow people from the red start that crossed their start line before I did.  I spent a lot of energy passing slow people and weaving in and out of crowds.  I think this is part of the reason why I hit the wall hard by mile 15.
  • Second, at the end of the race, it was mayhem past the finish line trying to get to the baggage checks.  There was a massive mob of people that wanted nothing more than to get their bag and find a place to sit.  However, the massive crowd was not moving because of the narrow roadways and the horrible bag pick-up process.  Could you imaging, finishing the marathon and then getting trampled to death after you’ve crossed the finish line – trust me, it could happen.

A wave start will help solve both these problems.  At the start of the race, there will be about 13,000 people crossing the start in 3 groups, so each group will have about 4000+ people.  There will be 3 waves, each separated by 20 minutes.  This should allow everyone in the wave to cross the start within a few minutes of their horn and prevent faster people from having to weave in and out of the slow people in the early miles.  Also, this should help stagger the finishers to avoid the unbelievable crowd mob that forms past the finish line.

The only problem with this is that the race is going to start a little earlier than in years past.  As a result, they are starting the buses earlier (4am or 4:30 am), and redirecting most people in Manhattan to the Staten Island Ferry to get the start – yuch!  Ferry to SI, then board a bus to Fort Wadsworth.  I’d rather get the bus at midtown and have that take me all the way to the start, no “transfer” required.

Written by SCL

August 13, 2008 at 11:09 pm

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Gotta love (hate) the speed workouts

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So as part of my strategy of running the New York City Marathon in under 4:30, I’ve signed up for the Bob Glover running class offered by the New York Road Runners.  The class is offered in 10 week sessions, 5 times per year.  I’ve taken the class once or twice a year, mostly every year, over the last 12 years.  I usually take the class in the dead of winter, Jan-Mar, as a way to get into shape for the spring.  And let me tell you something… it works!  However, I have a big love-hate relationship with the class.

There are many reasons why I love the class.  10 weeks of these speed workouts easily improves my race pace by 30-60 seconds.  The intensity of these workouts is something I simply can’t replicate on my own.  When the class is going on, I’m at least assured of 1 good, hard workout per week.

There are also a few nitpicky reasons why I hate the class.  Depending on the workout, the instructors sometimes have a hard time keeping the groups together.  Also sometimes people people push the groups too fast, and then I have a hard time keeping up.  Finally, while this is not a problem in the Jan-March session, during the rest of the year, the class is just too damn crowded!

But, the class works, and makes me love it and hate it at the same time.  Yesterday’s workout was awesome.  1/2 mile intervals on the 102nd st transverse and the upper east drive.  I went with the 8:10-8:40 per mile pace group, and finished each interval (trailing behind the group mind you) at 3:41-3:45.  That is better than 7:30 per mile pace – see what I mean about the groups going out too fast!  The group leader actually made a concerted effort to push the fast people to the group in front of us, however, that didn’t do anything to slow the group down and keep us better together – I still trailed the group and finished with virtually the same time.

*** Update *** – One of the coaches commented and pointed out that if the pace was too fast, I could have moved back a group.  That is a very good point and one that I considered.  This class groups into many different paces and it is always possible to move back (or forward) a group.  The group behind me was running at a 4:15 pace, which I thought was too slow for me so I stayed where I was.  Let me just clarify and say that I *love* the class way more than I *hate* the class.  The hate is more about speed workouts being hard, and less about the operation of the class.  It is impossible to create workouts that will please every person on every day and there are many other factors involved like the weather being bad (which to me means hot), or the park being crowded (which it is at the this time of the year), or me being in less shape than I want to be (unfortunately true and why I’m taking the class in the first place)!  ***

Anyway, it was a (relatively) cool evening, and the workout was awesome.  Can’t wait till next week!

Written by SCL

August 13, 2008 at 10:54 pm

Do Watches Lie?

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So yesterday I finally made it out for my run over the Williamsburg Bridge and back.  It is a 5.9 mile route down 1st Ave, over the bridge, up Roebling to Metropolitan.  Then turn around, back over the bridge and up Essex and Ave A.  I really like the route as it provides a nice hill workout without going to Central Park.

Forces conspired against me, and I wasn’t able to get out of the house until 9am.  Earlier would have been better, especially at this time of the year when each hour adds a layer of heat that makes it more and more uncomfortable.  It was getting hot, but still not that horrible.  It was nice that the going down 1st Ave was mostly in the shade.  Started getting tough over the bridge – there is no shade really and the sun was directly in front of me.  It may be psychological, but when the sun is in my face, it makes me feel hotter and more tired!

I seemed to have several delays along the way.  For one, I wasn’t paying proper attention and missed the best cross of Delancy and so had to wait half a light cycle to get across onto the bridge.  Also, I made a bodega stop for water and stopped a couple of times to drink.  Also, the trip back just seemed much slower and getting up the bridge on the return trip seemed really difficult.  In cooler times of the year, I usually have a very strong finish up Ave A, but this time there was no energy for a particularly strong finish.

Typically, it takes me 55-57 minutes to finish this course.  With the heat and the stops along the way today, I’d have been happy with anything up to 58 minutes.  Surprise of all surprises though, when I checked my watch at the end, it said 54:36!  I somehow managed to run my 3rd fasted time on this course.

Amazing – wonder if my watch is broken!

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August 11, 2008 at 6:44 am

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Followthrough is hard

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Superficially, I can look at what I’ve done this week and be very pleased. But, both of my runs this week were not quite what I set out to do, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed. It highlights one of the challenges I face – giving up too early or quickly.

On Wed night, it was relatively cool, and I set out for a planned 6.5 mile run that I call the downtown loop. 14st St to 4th Ave. Down 4th Ave and Lafayette and Centre, over to Church, down Church all the way to Batter Park, then up the East River and up Ave A back to 14th St. The problem, I guess, was not enough hydration during the day, and a big lunch at McDonald’s. As I approached Battery Park City, I had increasingly painful stomach cramps. So, I made a pit stop at the Staten Island Ferry (very convenient), but decided to drop out and take the subway back home. In all I ran 3.6 miles, and a better than 10 min per mile pace, but, I really wanted to get the long run in.

This morning, I wanted to get up at 6am and then do a 6 mile run that takes me over the Williamsburg Bridge and back. However, I couldn’t drag myself out of bed till 6:30 and then did not have the time to do that run. So instead, I did my 4 mile run to the end of East River Park and back. I ran a very good time of 36:20 for the 4 miles, but again, didn’t get the run in that I wanted – 6 miles with the 2 big hills. Beautiful morning, by the way – 66 degrees!

Oh well. Still 12 weeks or so till the marathon and plenty of time to get the longer and harder runs in. Just got to figure out how to follow-though on them.

Written by SCL

August 8, 2008 at 6:59 am

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