4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for August 2008

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!

Written by SCL

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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Upcoming races

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Not much going on in August in terms of races, so in looking ahead to September, I’ve signed up for the following:

9/6 – fitness Mind, Body, Spirit Games – 4 miles – I normally skip the short races, but now that NYRR stages runners based on their finishing times (faster runners get to start towards the front), I’m going to try to use this race to lower my benchmark.  Currently, my pace used is 8:16.  It will be very tough to lower that, but I’m gonna try!  This is where the speed workouts are key.

9/14 – Queens Half Marathon – last year they pushed the start time to 7am, which is just plain cruel.  You need to get up pretty early in the morning to get to the far reaches of Queens in time for the start of this race.  Last year I ran a disappointing 2:07 or so.  Looking to get back down to under 2 hours.

Not running 9/28 – Marathon Tune Up – unfortunately, it coincides with the last regular season home game at Shea stadium before the Mets move to Citi Field, so I’m gonna skip the race.  I did run this race last year and then also went to the Mets game and it was very painful – physically and mentally (this was the game where the Mets got crushed by the Marlins and kicked out of the playoffs) .  Not looking forward to repeating that performance.  I’ll need to run my own long run on another day.

I was hoping to do good long bike ride or race in Sept as well, but I’ve got conflicts for both the NYC Century Bike Tour and the Twin Lights Ride in Monmouth County.  Oh well, there’s always next year.

Written by SCL

August 5, 2008 at 6:37 am

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Early (relatively) run today!

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Managed to get out before 7am today to do my 4 mile run to the end of East River Park and back!  Pretty cool this morning but the run was mostly in the sun and I felt wilted!  Tough time finishing.   Took water stops both ways at the water fountain at the track.  If it is not the summertime I never need to stop for water on this route.  Summertime, need 2 stops…

4 miles – 37:28

Written by SCL

August 4, 2008 at 7:09 am

Biking my favorite long run

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My favorite long run is a 10.3 mile loop from 14th St down to the Williamsburg Bridge, up through Brooklyn and Queens (over the Pulaski Bridge) and over the 59th St Bridge and back down 1st Ave to 14th St.  When in training for the marathon, I’ll run this route several times and when I need to get a really long run in, sometimes I’ll do 2 loops, or extend the run a few miles in Manhattan or Queens.  I love this run because 1st Ave has relatively little cross traffic below 14th St.  Same is true for the areas of Brooklyn and Queens.  Here is the precise run route:

  • Start at 14th and A.  14th St to 1st Ave.  Left on 1st Ave
  • 1st Ave down to Delancey (1st Ave becomes Allen St below Houston)
  • Left on Delancey and over the Bridge
  • When bridge path splits, stay on left side
  • At end of bridge, u-turn on S5th St to Driggs
  • Right on Driggs.  Follow Driggs all the way past McCarren Park to McGuiness Blvd
  • Left on McGuiness.  Take it all the way over the Pulaski Bridge
  • Right on Jackson Ave
  • Jackson Ave to left on 21St St
  • 21st St up to 59th St Bridge
  • After Bridge, down 1st Ave to 14th St
  • Left on 14th St to end on Ave A

Today I was still a bit sore from my speed workout in East River Park on Friday night.  So, I decided to go for a bike ride instead.   Central Park and the Hudson River Greenway would have been too crowded for my taste on a nice day like today, so I decided to do a time trial of my favorite 10.3 mile loop.  Since I normally run opposite the street traffic, and on my bike I would be the traffic, this would be in reverse of my normal route.

Overall, it was a great ride.  I got stuck when the Pulaski Bridge was in the open postition, lost a couple of minutes waiting for it to close.  Also, I was a little to aggresive getting started at one of the lights and jumped the chain out of its gear.  Had to stop for a minute to fix that problem.  In total, the time trial was completed in 44:12, an average of almost 14 miles per hour, not bad with the stops, traffic lights and traffic.  Much faster than running!

Written by SCL

August 3, 2008 at 9:26 pm

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Back into the swing of things

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So in a moment of panic today, I realized that the New York City Marathon is only 3 months away – 3 months from tomorrow to be exact.  I am very serious in my attempt (again) this year to crack 4:30.

I hate running in the summer.  I really do.  I find the heat and humidity oppresive and all of a sudden can’t run more than 4 or 5 miles without gallons of water and gatorade.  Other times of the year I can run 8-10 miles and consume 1 single bottle of water.  Typically my training really suffers in June, July and August.  I did better this year in July than I have in the last few years, and I was miserable.  2 weeks ago I did 2 lower-5 loops in Central Park at (gasp) well under 10 min per mile pace, and I took a 5 minute break between loops to water down.

I had been pushing myself in July because I was registered for the New York City Half Marathon, which was last Sunday.   In the early part of the year, I finished each of Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn Half Marathons in under 2 hours, with the last one, Brooklyn, at a PR of under 1:57.  My time in the New York City Half Marathon, 2:10:30.  Respectable, but almost 15 minutes behind my race time from less than 3 months ago.

Anyway, like I said, 3 months away from the marathon, got to really dig in now.  Tonight I went to East River Park and did a speed workout on the track, all out.  2 x 1 mile (7:35 and 7:51) and 2 x .5 mile (3:42).  After that, I was done.   My apartment in Stuyvesant Town is 1.1 miles from the track, which allows for a nice warm up and cool down, so my total was 4.7 miles.  I’m gonna sign up for Bob Glover’s NYRR running class so that I can keep up with the speed workouts.  More on that another time.

Written by SCL

August 1, 2008 at 9:33 pm