4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for October 2008

Looking ahead

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We may be a mere 36 hours from the start of the New York City Marathon, but I’m looking ahead to another big New York City sporting event – namely the New York City Triathlon.  Registration opens in a mere 2 hours and 35 minutes.  Need to stay up to make sure I get in.  Last year I tried to register.  I heard the race filled up quickly, so made sure to sign up on the first day of registration.  By the time I got to it, around 4pm, registration had filled up.  They filled all the spots in about 8 hours.  So, this year I’m not leaving it to chance.

At the end of the day, missing the registration last year was probably a good thing.  I am not a swimmer at all, and barely was able to get myself trained up to Sprint distance, let alone the Olympic distance of the NYC Tri.  With the experience of last years Philadelphia Sprint Triathlon (highly recommended, by the way) behind me, I think I’ll be able to get trained up for the Olympic distance by next summer.

Anyway, lots of time to worry about the training.  For today, just need to worry about getting registered!

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Written by SCL

October 31, 2008 at 8:32 pm

In the home stretch

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Sitting in the Detroit airport waiting for my flight back to NY.  Thinking that maybe I’ll see a bunch of runners heading in for New York City Marathon weekend!

I’m doing OK, but definitely not the smooth kind of week I’d have hoped for leading to the race.  Felt the first throat tickle of a cold on Sunday morning and it is steadily progressing through it’s phases.  Two days with sore throat, then 2 days with head congestion, now into runny nose territory.  Should be all passed by Sunday, I hope!

My trip was more annoying than it should be of course.  On WednesdayTuesday, we had a lot of rain here in NY.  My original 2:25 flight was canceled.  Bumped to the 8pm flight, which was then delayed by over an hour.  Didn’t get to Ann Arbor till midnight or so.  Had to be up early for the conference so didn’t get a lot of sleep that night.

I was able to get a great 5.5 mile run in on Wednesday evening though.  Ann Arbor was very pretty, with the leaves not yet all fallen from the trees, there was lots of great color.  Only problem was that it was cold!  39 degrees, with wind chill of 34.  Good thing I was thinking ahead and brought hat and gloves with me.  After a little wine at dinner, I was dead tired and got a great 9 hours of sleep last night.  Speaking of cold, it was 22 degrees this morning – nice winter preview.  I wasn’t sure if I should do the run with my cold in the cold weather, but I have to say, felt much better after the run – seemed to help clear my head a bit.

Anyway, super psyched for the marathon Sunday.  Big day tomorrow – I’ll try very hard to pick up my race number at lunchtime, since I’ll need to get home quickly for Halloween (gotta remember to bring my reg card and chip with me).  I work on 38th St and so it is a quick and easy trip over to Javits from the office.

I’m finishing this up now after getting home.  Of course, flight was delayed an hour, then had to wait another hour on the taxi line at LGA.  Cool flight though.  Landing pattern took us right over the Verrazano Bridge and up 4th Ave in Brooklyn.  My final preview of the first 15 miles of the race!

Written by SCL

October 30, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Milestones

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Where to start.  First, had a great 3.1 mile run last night.  3.1 mile course is a single loop of Stuyvesant Town in the service road, hitting all the loops, and then 2 times around the oval in the middle of the complex.  This used to be a very typical run for me, my default run essentially, but I have not done it in a year.  Last year, after my disappointing New York City Marathon (where I did not beat 4:30), I decided that I needed to seriously increase my mileage.  Immediately after the marathon, I started running this course as 2 full loops around Stuyvesant Town, or 5.2 miles.  Now, I’ve ditched the 3.1 mile route, my shortest course is 4 miles, and I’ve made the 5.2 mile version and other longer runs a more regular part of my routine.  Running this 3.1 mile route is just a reminder to me of how much harder I worked this year than in years past!

Since I ran this as 3.1 miles and not 5.2 miles, I was able to push harder than I normally would on the course.  Felt really great and had a strong initial 2.6 miles.  Then, with Disco Inferno on the MP3 player, I turned it into high gear for the last .5 miles.  As I hit the oval loops, I saw 2 young people (NYU students probably – lots of them in Stuytown these days) pushing a good pace in front of me.  Around the first loop I slowly crept up to them.  At about the 1 loop point, I made my move and passed them both.  I could just tell that they were not happy about this and so I entered ‘sprint’ mode.  I could feel them on my tail and see them just behind me in the shadows.  About 2/3rds around the 2nd loop I could sense that they finally dropped back and so I was able to beat them out as I finished my run with the 2nd loop.  My final sprint was in record breaking territory.  The last .5 miles was registered in 3:37, easily the fastest ever done in that portion of the course.  The overall time for the run was 26:44, my third fastest on record, covering approximately 240 previous runs since 1999.  Even with my head cold, I was totally energized with the great effort, crisp weather, and a ‘win’ in the loop!

In terms of measurable milestones, my run last night took me over the 600 mile mark for the year.  While not yet at my record for miles in a year (that will occur on Friday or Sunday) 600 was always a giant milestone for me, and if I could hit it, would typically do so on the last week of December, if not on 12/31.   I’ve only done it 3 times, and reaching the mark in October is a big accomplishment.  In prior years, I would consider a good month to be 50 miles.  In any given year, I’d have a couple of months of upwards of 70 miles in the month and a couple of months with little, if any, miles.  The most typical month would be 10-12 runs averaging 4-5 miles per run.  Like I said, this is a big accomplishment for me, and I’m really hoping the increased mileage this year will carry me to a better than 4:30 finish Sunday.

Forecast for Sunday seems to have been ammended again.  Now it says sunny, with high around 50.  Will be a little chilly, but hopefully there will be no wind out of the north…

Written by SCL

October 28, 2008 at 6:46 am

T minus 6 days

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New York City Marathon is coming up in exactly 6 days, and I’m very excited.  Got a 4 mile run on Saturday at East River Park.  Yesterday I got to the gym and had a nice workout, including lots of sit ups (trust me, need lots of work there).  In the morning, I also got in a little hard labor raking leaves and planting bulbs at my New Jersey weekend house.  Also, even though I’m eating like crazy, my weight is very stable.  All very good signs.  Also did some toenail maintenance on Saturday – little too gross to describe here, but better to get those things out of the way well before the day of a big race. 

Yesterday morning, though, woke up with a little tickle in the throat.  Seemed to get progressively worse during the day.  So far, just seems like a cold and not an all out illness.  Went to sleep at 9pm last night and got 9 good hours of sleep in.  Still bothering me this morning but will try to get rest, rest and more rest this week.  My business trip may actually be a blessing in disguise.  At home, I’m lucky to get to sleep by 11 (my kids are usually up till 10:30) and need to be up by 6 to start the get-ready-for-school routine.  Middle of the night nosebleeds (or other such interruptions) are not uncommon.  While away, I should be able to get a good, uninterrupted, 9 hours each night!

I’m on the upper east side quite a bit, and last night I was looking for the giant banner they usually hang up on the Queensboro Bridge, and the blue line.  Not there yet, but should be very soon!  Forecast for Sunday looks OK – 30% chance of showers and temps in the low 50s.  That would be fine with me.  While I would have gladly taken yesterdays weather, 50’s is definitely better than 60’s.

Definitely will be focused on rest today, but may still try to get in an easy 3-5 miler later on.

Written by SCL

October 27, 2008 at 11:02 am

Tapering, I guess

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Kinda hard to taper when you usually don’t run any more than 3 times per week!  I guess I’m tapering in the sense that I’m running 4 milers rather than 6 or 7 milers.  Took some extra time off after last week’s 21.5 mile final tuneup.  Was able to get two 4-mileish runs in so far this week.  Trying to run every other day from now till the marathon on Sunday.  Since I’m traveling Tuesday afternoon till Thursday night, it allows me to run both Monday and Friday at home, which is nice.  I’m also looking forward to a nice run in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, which is the location of my trip.  In terms of good news, I’ve also have been to the gym a few times.  When I can get in the habit of going, or more accurately, make time to go, it feels great to do some good cross training on days when I’m not running.

On a final note, I’m paranoid about a lot of things, especially injuries, but could you imagine the injuries you might get running around New York City barefoot?  I can’t imagine what this guy goes through.  Good luck to him!

Written by SCL

October 25, 2008 at 1:38 pm

Business Trip – perfect timing

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I’ve been very healthy this year.  Haven’t had so much as a cold since the winter.  So, of course, I’m paranoid that I’ll get some kind of sickness right before the New York City Marathon to mess up my plans to finish in 4:30.  If I don’t get sick, maybe I’ll throw my back out at the gym, or maybe the power will go out Saturday night and I’ll miss the bus to the start.  Or maybe I’ll forget to bring my running shoes to the race, etc.  I know that I’m a worrysome type of person, but I just can’t help it. 

Anyway, back to the point of this post.  I don’t travel on business often, just once or twice per year.  It turns out that I will be going on a trip next week, right before the marathon.  I’m going to Ann Arbor, Michigan, which by the way, I’m sure will be a lovely place to get in a nice leisurely training run.  However, now I’m doubly paranoid of getting sick on the plane, etc.  Guess I’ll need to load up on vitamins and such.  I can remember twice in the last few years getting sick after passing germs with random people on airplanes.  I’ll be getting back late Thursday night, so Friday will be a crazy day – running around (1) to make up lost work time, (2) going to the expo to get my race number and (3) going trick-or-treating with my kids, if I come back sick, there will not be a lot of time to get better before Sunday! 

Any advice?

Written by SCL

October 21, 2008 at 5:14 pm

Final tuneup – check!

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Wow, didn’t mean for the length of this post to be so long.  I guess a good long run must be accompanied by a good long post.

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Today was the allotted day for my final long run in preparation for the New York City Marathon.  First, though, spent the morning with my wife and kids at the New York Botanical Gardens.  We had a great time there seeing the Japanese Bonzai and Kiku (Chrysanthemum) exhibit.  It was really cool.  And cold!

Saw a pack of runners on the drive up, over the Willis Ave  Bridge.  That can only mean one thing – New York City Marathon coming!  Lots of runners cover the last 10 miles of the marathon course as a training run in the 2 weekends before the race.  I have not done this myself, as I’m not a proponent of running with traffic and hate running on the sidewalk – that run is not for me.  If anything, I’d run it in reverse, and what’s the point of that!  Instead, I usually pay homage by covering the early miles of the race in my last training run, and this is exactly what I did today.  My course was 10 miles out over the Manhattan Bridge and down 4th Ave in Brooklyn to 95th St.  Then 10 miles back the same way.  I added a couple of miles through East River Park on the way back to get the mileage up to 21.5 miles, farther than I’ve ever run in my marathon training.

Due to the family outing in the morning, I did not get going until the afternoon.  Since the day was cool and I would finish very late in the day, I was concerned about the cold.  It was a bit of a windy day, with winds out of the north.  This meant that my first 10 miles would be with the wind in the mid-afternoon sun (very good running conditions) and the 2nd half would be against the wind, and in the shade since by then the sun would be going down (not so good running conditions).  To make sure I wouldn’t be too cold in the 2nd half of the run, I went a little overboard – 2 long sleeve shirts and long running tights.

By far, the most interesting part of my run was the Manhattan Bridge.  Last year, in a very similar last training run before the marathon, I almost got killed on the Brooklyn Bridge – well, not literally killed, but I’m sure the bikers had blood on their minds.  The Brooklyn Bridge is very dangerous to runners, in my opinion.  The bridge is split between pedestrians in one lane, and bikers in the other lane.  On nice days, there are an awful lot of pedestrians on the bridge.  I tried to stay on the pedestrian side as much as possible, but invariably had to move to the bike side to get around hoards of people.  The bikers on the bridge were just plain mean.  Several of them said something to me as they zoomed by and there were some close calls for sure.  I promised never to run on that bridge again, at least on a nice day.  The Manhattan Bridge is a great alternative.  It is not nearly as crowded, and in fact, the entrances on both ends are much, much easier to navigate.  I’ve read about biking accidents, so easier to navigate is a relative term, but for runners, the Manhattan Bridge is much more orderly than the Brooklyn Bridge.  Unfortunately, it is steeper, but that is a good thing when you are training, right?

The Manhattan Bridge has 2 paths, the north side is for bikers and the south path is for pedestrians.  Now, which side is appropriate for runners?  I honestly don’t consider a runner to be a pedestrian, but I think the intent is that the runner go on the pedestrian side.  I decided to go on the bike side, just because from my approach down Allen St, it is far easier to get on the bridge there, then to cross over to the south side.  The trip from Manhattan to Brooklyn was pretty uneventful, with one exception.  As I crested the middle of the bridge, I noticed another runner much further down the bridge coming towards me.  I was happy to see a fellow runner, but that runner’s gait was very strange.  As I got closer, I saw that this person was running towards me, but backwards!  I have never seen anything like this before.  NYRR used to have an April Fool’s run of 1 mile where everyone would run it backwards, but I have never seen this in the wild.  Don’t know what the story was here, but this guy was pretty young and wearing jeans.  He didn’t seem to be seriously exercising at all.  Don’t know what it means, but it was just very odd!

Run through Brooklyn was just fine.  Good to familiarize myself with 4th Ave again and where the hills are.  Since 4th Ave is such a major thoroughfare, the cross streets have short green lights and most traffic turns up or down 4th.  So, it was not necessary to stop very much.  Since the first 10 miles was in the warmth of the sun, and with a tailwind, it was definitely on the easy side. 

Sure enough, after the turnaround, I could feel the headwind at times, and I ended up mostly in the shade.  The long straightaway on 4th Ave, and relative flatness was great for keeping up my pace and momentum.  Felt great back up 4th.  Biggest issue was finding a bathroom.  I eventually found a gas station with an indoor store with a bathroom and was able to take care of that business!

As I mentioned in a previous post, this run is a bit nostalgic for me.  When I first started running the New York City Marathon, and was less familiar with all the great running routes in the city, I used to use the marathon course for long runs.  I’d take the R train down to 95th St, and then either run the 10 miles to Union Square, or extend the run by going up to the 59th St Bridge.  Since the 59th St Bridge takes you to mile 15, I would feel good covering the entire first half of the course.  I also wistfully remember listening to Jet or Giant football games on my walkman.  Now, the walkman is replaced by MP3 players, which, sadly, don’t come with AM radio.  So today I was not able to listen in on any games during the run. 

The most interesting part of the run was on the trip back over the Manhattan Bridge.  You can tell from the earlier part of my post that I am very self conscious about running in the wrong place.  I decided again to stick on the bike side, but made a strong effort to keep as close to the side as possible and stay out of the bikers way.  As I started up the bridge, I saw several other pedestrians (true walkers) and figured I was in fine shape.  Part way on the uphill I came across a pack of young people casually walking across the entire path.  Now that is not very nice, and even dangerous on their part.  I actually warned them to look out for bikes coming down behind them. 

My run on the bridge was great considering it was mile 18 of my run.  This was a great tune up for the 59th St Bridge on the marathon course.  Nice hard effort up the bridge and I was enjoying the downhill when, at the last second, I noticed a biker coming at me, who didn’t move around me.  Remember, I’m already conscious of potentially being on the wrong side and I’m making an effort to hug the side to stay out of the bikers way.  There was plenty of room for this guy to go around me, but instead (he must have had a bone to pick) purposefully did not move out of my way.  He actually came to a full stop (he’s on the uphill mind you) and yelled at me for being on the wrong side.  I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say and yelled something stupid back at him.  Then he went on his way and I resumed my trip down the bridge.  What gets me is that I’m a biker myself, biked hundreds of miles in the city when triathlon training, and I understand the frustrations bikers feel towards pedestrians.  This is a big problem in the city as more and more people use bikes.  I think the bikers get yelled at by the drivers, so they in turn yell at the runners.  Then runners get upset at pedestrians.  Why can’t we all just get along – we need to learn to live with each other, slow down a bit when necessary, and adapt to our surroundings.  It is a big city, with lots of people using the infrastructure – we don’t get it all to ourselves.  As a runner, biker and driver, I can feel from all perspectives.  The funniest part was that further down the bridge, I came across a pack of tourists, I guess, with some kind of camera and props.  Looked like they were trying to set up for some kind of picture on the bridge.  I certainly don’t think that belongs!

Anyway, I felt great in the first mile off the long bridge downhill to East River Park.  The last 2 miles through East River Park is one of my typical short runs, so I’m very familiar with it.  When well trained, I run this portion in 18-19 minutes.  In this run, the last 2 miles were hard.  Took a few walk breaks and finished it  21:30.  I guess that is about what I would expect to be doing in the last miles of the marathon, 11 minutes per mile or so.

All in all, a great run.  Little sore today, but not so horrible.  Actually feel better than I did after the half marathon last weekend where I was running really hard in the late miles. My finishing time was 3:46:30, over 21.5 miles.  Pace was about 10:38.  Considering all the stopping for cross streets and wait to buy drinks in the stores, I think a 4:30 marathon is still within reach.  I will certainly be obsessing about it over the next 2 weeks.  

In all, drank 3 waters, 2 Gatorade’s and consumed 2 Gu packets.  Also, had a granola bar.  Then, ate like a pig when I got home, and still weighed 3 pounds less this morning than yesterday morning!  

Looking forward to a little bit of a taper now.  Once I rest up for a couple of days, I’ll try to work in some visits to the gym and bike rides.

Written by SCL

October 20, 2008 at 1:58 pm