4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for September 2008

Been a slow week!

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Not only have I been bad in the last week about posting to my blog, but I’ve been equally as bad in getting my runs in!  In fact, I missed a whole week of running.  I had a nice long run a week ago Sunday, and then didn’t run again until this past Sunday.

The biggest problem was a blister I developed on the left side of my left foot, below the ankle.  It first happened in my running class the Tuesday before.  I developed a hole in my sock which led to a bad blister.  Before heading out on my long run Sunday, I put a band-aid on the blister, and figured I’d be fine.  About 2 miles into the run, I guess the sweat on my foot caused the band-aid to shift away from the blister.  I could feel this happen and was at first quite uncomfortable.  I figured I’d stop at a Duane Reade or CVS on the way and patch it up.  I can’t understand how this happened, but I did not hit any kind of drug store on the next couple of miles of my route – aren’t these stores everywhere?  Eventually, the pain subsided and I decided to finish the run without the stop.  The result was a badly aggrevated blister and so I decided to not run for the week and treat it with lots of neosporin.

The timing was good in the sense that I went to the New York Mets games on Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun, (I know, a glutton for punishment) and had a lot less time available to get the runs in.  Finding the time to run with job and family is hard enough.  it is impossible when you also go to 4 baseball games in a week! 

Anyway, now the blister is almost all healed over.  I was able to get out and run 5 miles on Sunday night, which definitely felt rusty after the 7 day layoff.  Tonight is running class again, where I’ll give the blister another good test.  Then I should be back in the swing of things.   Figure I’ll get a good run in again Thursday and then run long again on Sunday.  Will try to get up to 20 miles.  I’m feeling like Triboro Bridge this time – now that is a long bridge.  I’ve hit that on previous long runs and it can be a challenge. The bridge is quite long, lonely and out of the way of my normal running routes.  I’ve gotten lost on Randall’s Island on the swtichback to Manhattan, and the end of the bridge leaves you way up on 125th St, which makes for a long way back down to 14th.

Anyway, thankful for the cooler weather, and keeping the fingers crossed to keep the injury bugs away.


Written by SCL

September 30, 2008 at 4:46 pm

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Running long

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Finally got my long run in last night.  17.5 miles!  3:08.  See the route here.  Generally speaking, felt great.  Little slower than I would have liked, and definitely a little tough in the small uphills on 1st ave in the last 3 miles.  Good news was that I was very strong up the 59th St Bridge at 11 miles in.  Also, ran a strong last mile.

Biggest problem are blisters developing on side/back of my left foot since I changed my shoes.  Gotta keep an eye on that.

Just need to add 8.7 miles, and at least with this run, only 1:22 to spare under 4:30.  In addition to the SI Half, I should be able to get 2 more long (18-20 miles) runs in.  So far, so good…

Written by SCL

September 22, 2008 at 7:01 am

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Great speed workout tonight

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Great bounceback tonight after Sunday’s Dreadful, Disasterous, Depressing and Demoralizing Queens Half Marathon.

Had a great speed workout tonight in running class.  While still a tad hotter than perfect for me, the weather was more my style.  66 degrees!  Workout was two 2-mile tempo runs around the lower loop in Central Park.  First of all, felt very strong – no pain or stiffness at all from the half marathon Sunday.  I can still remember a time when running a half marathon would put me on the shelf for a week.  Now I’m able to put in a hard run 2 days later, which is fantastic.

I went with the 8:00-8:30 pace group.  For the first repeat I was able to stay with the front part of the group most of the way.  We passed mile 1 in about 7:47, and then finished mile 2 at 15:35.  Very strong.  For repeat #2, I was not able to stay with the group at all.  I very quickly started falling behind.  I didn’t make a hard effort to stay with the group because I was afraid I would not be able to finish strong.  I passed the mile 1 mark at about 8:15, and was well behind the main group and a good 10-15 seconds behind the back of the group.  My strategy did pay off.  I was able to run a strong second mile, and pass 2 people at the back of the group.  Final time was 16:01, equating to about 7:45 for the final mile.

In my history of taking the running class, I’ve done this workout twice before.  My times tonight were stronger than both of those previous efforts!  In all, I ran 7.3 miles, and really felt great.  Looking forward to another day of rest tomorrow and then back on the roads Thursday…

Written by SCL

September 16, 2008 at 9:05 pm

Queens Half Marathon Report

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Wow that was hard.  At least for me.  As readers of my blog know, I HATE running in the summer and HATE running in the heat and humidity.  The conditions on Sunday morning were very humid and it really killed me.  While not nearly as bad as the humidity the previous week for the fitness mag 4 mile run, it was not the best of conditions for 13 miles.  I’ve already read two reports (here and here) from people that were quite satisfied with their runs, but for me, it was Dreadful (note the capital D).

It didn’t help that the New York Mets game I was previously scheduled to go to on Saturday turned out to be a doubleheader.  As a result, I didn’t get to sleep until after midnight, and was up at 4:30 to get to the race comfortably before the start.  If you drive, you really need to get to this race early as it is hard to find a spot close to the start.  I was there before 6 and still ended up parking .689 miles (measured on MS Street and Trips!) from the park, competing with lots of other cars also looking for spots.  Boy was that a long walk back to the car after the race.

I must take a moment apologize to Laura, who runs the Absolute(ly) Fit blog.  A few weeks ago, she asked for opinions on the course and specifically asked if it was hilly.  I commented that it was not that hilly at all.  Boy was I wrong – I somehow did not remember that it was actually very, very, very hilly.  I think the reason why is because last year I felt really good and ran a very strong first half of the race – didn’t notice the early hills.  The latter part of the race is much flatter, so when I struggled in the late miles last year, I mentally didn’t blame it on the hills and blocked them from memory.  I noticed it big time this year – in the first miles it seemed we were constantly going uphill or downhill.  The uphills seemed to be long gradual inclines, and the downhills seemed to be very short and steep, not good for recovery or keeping a steady pace.

Before the race, I had decided to try to keep the race on the slower side, at marathon pace.  With the humidity and the lack of sleep, I realized that sub 2 hours was not going to happen today.  My goal marathon pace is about 9:45 per mile, which leaves room to get in under 4:30 in the marathon.  I felt fine for about 3 miles, and then, all of a sudden, each hill seemed hard, my legs felt like lead, and I was completely drenched in sweat.  I knew it was going to be bad when I was praying for the water stop at mile 4!  By mile 6 I was taking significant walk breaks, resigned to a poor time, and fighting depression.  If the race was the old 2 loop course I’d probably have dropped out.  I kept going though, the humidity seemed better later in the race, and I was able to get through it.  At the end, I finished in 2:17, which is 10:27 per mile.  With the exception of a poor showing at the NYC Half Marathon last year due to a back injury, it was my slowest half marathon since 1998.  If I have that kind of a day on Marathon Sunday, I’ll be lucky to break 5 hours, let alone 4 and a half. 

For me, the problem really is the heat and humidity, and I’ve seen it before.  The trick is overcoming it.  I remember one year (2000, by looking at my old records) where I ran 2:11 in Grete’s Great Gallop.  That is a Central Park race, 2 loops of the park, where the hills are killer.  That day was cool, in the 50s.  I was energized by the great race and had very high hopes for improving my time on the mostly flat Staten Island course, exactly 1 week later.  On that day, it was hot, in the 70’s, and I finished in a disappointing 2:16.  I think that is the case here too.  With a cooler day, I know my time would have been much better.  At least that is what I will keep telling myself until the SI Half.  Again, the trick is being trained well enough to get through those tough days.

One note about the early miles.  Not sure exactly how or why this occurred, but I felt bad for the many many people that were late to the race and were actually running AGAINST the race course, on the sidewalk, presumably to try to get to the start to drop off their bag and then start the race proper.  Even at one mile into the race, people were following the course backward to try to get to the start.  These poor people, presumably, had no idea that the course doubled back and forth on itself several times, perpendicular from the start point.  Following the course itself is the longest way of getting back to the start.  I appreciate the early start time to stay out of the heat, but a 7am start in the far reaches of Queens is really tough.

Anyway, ONWARD!

Written by SCL

September 15, 2008 at 5:36 pm

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New Shoes!

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Picked up new shoes Tuesday.  The last pair was Saucony Grid Hurricane.  Got more mileage out of those shoes than I ever have before – 378 miles.  Also have not had any injury problems with them.  So, just picked up another pair of Hurricane’s.  New model is mostly black – very stylish.  Nothing like the first run with new shoes.   They always feel so tight and light and fast.

Went from the shoe store (Super Runners Shop in Grand Central) to my running class.  Workout was a 2 mile interval and then a 1 mile interval on the East Drive in Central Park.  2 mile interval was from about the 102nd St transverse to down about where the drive splits off to 5th Ave at about 66th St.  I went with the 8:00-8:20 pace group.  I pushed really hard to keep up with the group.  We passed 1 mile at ja little under 8 minutes.  The group picked up the pace and I managed to stick with them.  We finished the interval at 15:15, which means I ran mile 2 in about 7:20 – amazing!  2nd interval was back uptown to about 84th St, behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In that 2nd interval, I quickly fell behind the group and trailed the whole way.  Still pushed really hard and managed to finish the mile in 7:43, not bad at all!

Couple that with a 6.2 mile run on Monday night, and the week was off to a great start!

Still undecided about the Queens Half Marathon on Sunday.  Not sure if I will race it and try to get under 2 hours, run it at my marathon pace and try to finish in 2:10 to 2:15, or just go out on my own for a 16 mile run.  I know the competitive spirit will win out, and I’ll go to the race and try for under 2 hours.  I’m still on track to run all 5 of the borough half marathons, which would also be a first for me.

Written by SCL

September 11, 2008 at 11:02 pm

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4 miles in heavy humidity does not equate to 32 minutes…

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Busy weekend, so only able to post this race report now for the fitness Mind, Body, Spirit Games 4 mile race this past Saturday.  I was defintely a little nervous about the weather, since Tropical Storm Hannah was poised to attack Friday night into Saturday.

I was up at 6am and checked the weather.  No threat of rain, at least for the morning.  Temperature was 75 – good.  However, the dewpoint was 74, very very very bad.  I hate running in the heat and I hate the humidity.  I’m no meteorologist, but I do know that the closer the dewpoint is to the air temperature, the higher the humidity.  In my experience, if the dewpoint is over 60, the run may be a little uncomfortable, if over 65, then the run will be bad.  A dewpoint of 74 is off the chart as far as I’m concerned.  This was going to be a rough day.

The air was heavy and oppresive.  I was drenched in sweat by the time I got to the subway.  By the time I reached the race, my clothes were sweated through and it looked like I had already put in the 4 mile run.   I was feeling good though and thinking positively about my chances of finishing around 8 min pace: distance was only 4 miles; in race conditions it is easy to be picked up by the crowds; last mile virtually all downhill!

In the past 6 months, NYRR instituted a policy of wave starts at races.  The faster you are, the closer you will line up to the start, measured by your fastest per mile race pace in races over 1 mile, over the last year.  In my limited experience with it, I think it is a great was to keep the start and the first mile orderly.  I personally like to get as close to the start as possible, so my goal is to cut down my fastest pace per mile.  My official pace is 8:14, which I managed to do at a 5k race in 2007.  For this race, it was good enough for the 4th wave.  All the other people I noticed in my wave were slower than 8:14 pace (you can see their pace on their race bib), so I think I was very close to the cusp of getting into the 3rd wave.  That’s why I’m desperate to get my time down a little, which was the goal of this race.

Simply stated, not going happen on this day.  The humidity was just too oppressive.   I’ll need to give it another go another time – maybe the Race to Deliver in November.

Mile 1 – 8:03 – did great on Cat Hill.  Nice hard pace.

Mile 2 – 8:20 – held back a little to try to save energy for mile 3, which has several uphills.

Mile 3 – 9:10 – the hills and humidity were too much.  Couldn’t keep the pace up.

Mile 4 – 8:54 – By this mile, I was done!  Ended up walking twice.  The 2nd walk was a mistake because I misjudged where the finish was – I was closer to the finish than I thought and really didn’t need to walk.

Total – 34:27

Considering the humidity, 34:27 is not bad for me for a 4 mile race.  It ranks as my 3rd fastest in 12 races at this distance.  I’ll take it.  Time to focus now on distance, not speed.  I may skip the Queens Half Marathon on Sunday and instead run 15 or 16 miles on my own with some big hills.  Need to get at least 3 good long runs in before the Marathon.

Written by SCL

September 8, 2008 at 9:14 pm

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Nice forecast for Saturday

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My next race is the fitness Mind, Body, Spirit 4 miler on Saturday morning.  I’m using this as a speed race to see if I can get down below 8:15 per mile, and hopefully down to 8 min per mile.   Will be tough, but is possible.  The course will help.  Up the East Side from 68th St and then down the West Side.  Cat Hill will be in mile 1, no Harlem Hill, and the last mile will be downhill – perfect!

The last time I ran this race was 2004 – check out one of the pictures.  On that date, there was a deluge of rain in the hour before the race, completely flooding everything in the bandshell / 72nd St transverse area.  I had never seen flooding like that in the park before.  The rain stopped before the race started, but the damage was done as everyone was totally waterlogged.

Forecast for this Saturday?  Rain, rain and more rain.  We are supposed to get the remnants of Hurricane Hannah on Saturday, so this is shaping up to be lots of fun…

Friday Night
Rain likely with a chance of thunderstorms. Rain may be heavy at times. Lows in the upper 60s. Southeast winds 10 to 15 mph…diminishing to around 5 mph after midnight. Chance of rain 70 percent.
Rain with a chance of thunderstorms. Rain may be heavy at times. Windy and humid with highs in the upper 70s. Southeast winds 15 to 20 mph…becoming east 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph in the afternoon. Chance of rain 80 percent.

Written by SCL

September 4, 2008 at 9:35 pm

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August 2008 In Review

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Running – 68.2 miles (3rd highest month in 2008) over 12 runs

Races – 0

Biking – 37.5 miles over 2 rides

Swims – 0

Visits to gym – 0

Written by SCL

September 4, 2008 at 9:21 pm

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Downtown loop again

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I finally have a name for the loop that I run down 4th ave and chuch and up the east side – the downtown loop.  See it here.  Ran this again last night around 9pm.  Same run I did last Thursday night.  Boy was it tougher today for some reason. 

Well, I know the reasons.  For one, it was about 5 degrees warmer than last time and a bit more humid.  The heat got to me.  Made a 7-Eleven stop on Church Ave for Gatorade and then 2 more stops along the way to drink.  The second reason was that I started out too fast.  I know the timing of the lights on 14th St to get all the way to 4th Ave without having to stop.  Ave A to 2nd is pretty leisurely, but to get through 3rd Ave, I need to sprint the block.  Need to then keep the quick pace to get across 4th Ave on a green light where I turn to head south in the bike lane.  I also realized that if I don’t keep a fast enough pace, then I will get stuck waiting for the green at Houston St, so I picked up the pace all the way down to Houston and made it through the green light.  The quick early pace definitely tired me out.  Anyway, the result of the early quick pace and the hotter weather and the time to stop for the Gatorade translated to a 1:02:58 time, exactly 2 minutes slower than the same course from a few days ago.  This one defintely was intense.  Can’t wait for tonights speed workout in Central Park…

Observation of the run: say what you will about the New York City Waterfalls public art exhibit, (kills nearby trees with saltwater, looks really bad on windy days, etc), but on a night like last night when there was little wind, and the waterfalls were lit up, it really did look nice and inspiring.  Normally when I pass by at nighttime, the Falls and lights are off, so don’t know what was different about last night…

Quick shout out to the guy at the 7-Eleven who gave me 2 quarters in change, rather than the 49 cents I should have gotten.  Nothing worse than having to run around with all that useless change in your pocket! 

Quick raspberry to the family of 4 that walked side by side on the little sidewalk space sandwiched between the FDR on-ramp on one side and the East River on the other side, just north of the ferry terminals, allowing exactly NO space for a runner to get through. Cmon – we were facing the opposite direction and you had plenty of time to see me coming!

Written by SCL

September 2, 2008 at 4:56 pm

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