4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for October 2008

Grand Prix finisher

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With a successful Staten Island Half Marathon today, I completed the NYRR Grand Prix circuit for the first time ever!  Last year I only missed Manhattan, so I’ve completed 9 GP events in a row.


  • Manhattan – 1:59:05
  • Bronx – 1:56:54 (PR)
  • Brooklyn – 1:56:41 (PR)
  • Queens – 2:17:01
  • Staten Island – 2:00:20

My first half marathon in 1996 was Staten Island, so it feels fitting to reach this milestone on the same race.  Now that I’ve completed them all in one year, I won’t feel the same desire to do it again.   Seems like this is the right time to celebrate my history of the distance.  See below for the number of halves per year – this includes things like the Grete’s Great Gallop and New York City Half Marathon.  27 in the last 13 years:

  • 1996 – 1
  • 1997 – 3
  • 1998 – 3
  • 1999 – 2
  • 2000 – 4
  • 2001 – 1
  • 2002 – 0
  • 2003 – 0
  • 2004 – 1
  • 2005 – 1
  • 2006 – 0
  • 2007 – 5
  • 2008 – 6

What I love about the half marathon distance is that it is the gateway to the marathon.  My goal is to always be in half marathon shape.  From there, it is not a big reach to prepare for a marathon, or an olympic distance triathlon, which is in my goals for 2009.

Written by SCL

October 12, 2008 at 3:03 pm

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Staten Island Half Marathon

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In short, had a pretty spectacular race.  Finished in 2:00:20.

The day started out with an early morning ferry ride to SI.  I took the 6:30 ferry so I could chill out and enjoy a bit of serenity before the masses arrived on the 7:30 ferry.  It was a perfect ride.  Still dark when we left, the sky brightened during the trip.  2 giant cruise ships passed us the other way into New York, and in the distance, I could see a cruise ship heading out to sea.  Maybe Sunday morning is a busy time in the cruise ship timetable?  The ferry was virtually empty and very calm.  The start area was also very quiet and peaceful in the early hours.  Was able to catch up on some reading – currently reading Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson – and listen to some tunes on my Creative Zen (by the way, the perfect MP3 player on the other side of the ipod).

Pre-race management was perfect.  Even though it was a bit chilly early on, I had a light jacket and long pants to stay warm.  Also got just the right amount of food at the right time.  Timed the port-o-potty  visits just right, had my bag checked in, and got to the corral about 15 minutes before race time.   I even managed to apply some sunscreen on my face, anticipating a lot of time in the direct sunlight.  The only remote problem was that I noticed late last night that I was out of Gu.  It would have been nice to have one, but I’d have to do this race without.  Not possible, as far as I know, to buy it late Sat night or early Sun morning.  I’ll definitely pick some up at Paragon or Jack Rabbit this week.  I really don’t like PowerGel.  That also wasn’t an option anyway because I picked up my race number this morning (NYRR gives out PowerGel for the half marathons, but only if you pick your race number up before Sunday)

Onto the race itself.  After very poor showings in my last 3 races, I had decided it was OK to take it a bit easy today and treat it as a training run for the New York City Marathon.  Playing a part in that decision was the sun, which was very bright today – the weather was forcasted to go up to 70 degrees, on the warm side for me for a long race.  I figured I would keep it slow for the first half, which was into the sun, and then maybe I’d pick it up in the 2nd half.

As much as I tried to hold back back in the first 3 miles, I finished them all in the 9:05-9:15 range.  Then made a conscious effort to hold back in the next few miles.  Next few miles were in the 9:30 range, which I think will be my marathon pace.  In those miles, the sun was still directly in front of us and I was really afraid of it negatively affecting me.  I wasn’t thinking 2 hour finish at all.  I know you need to average under 9:06 per mile to finish in 2 hours.  While not far off that pace, I’d thought I had quite a bit to make up in the 2nd half.

I was feeling great as we hit the turnaround at about 6.5 miles.  Hit the ‘big hill’ hard and passed several people on the way up.   After the ‘big hill’, and passing Fort Wadsworth, I was still feeling great.  The sun was behind us, and there was a little bit of a cooling breeze.  The competitive juices started flowing and I decided to push hard the rest of the way.  I was expecting to finish in the 2:03 to 2:04 range – I thought I had too much time to make up to get to 2 hours.  Kept a nice steady pace through miles 9, 10 and 11 as I knew mile 12 had a lot of uphill in it.  Mile 12 was hard, but with only 2 miles to go, I had the energy to push through it.  Continued to pass a lot of people on the uphills.  I skipped the last water stop with a mile left in the race.  It was on the downhill and I didn’t want to lose momentum so close to the end.  Gave the last mile everything I had.  I finished mile 12 in 8:48 and mile 13 in an amazing 8:15, which looks to be my fastest mile in any half marathon race, and finished in 2:00:20.  If I knew I had a real shot at under 2 hours, I’d have pushed it a little bit harder in the middle miles.  Can’t really complain though – I’m quite satisfied.  No pain at all during the run and no soreness so far afterwards.

Was then able to book it back to the ferry to catch the 12:00 back to Manhattan.  Home by 1:10.


  • mile 1 – 9:12.7
  • mile 2 – 9:04.3
  • mile 3 – 9:08.6
  • mile 4 – 9:25.6
  • mile 5 – 9:40.6
  • mile 6 – 9:17.0
  • mile 7 – 9:28.1
  • mile 8 – 9:24.5
  • mile 9 – 9:14.4
  • mile 10 – 9:13.3
  • mile 11 – 9:13.9
  • mile 12 – 8:48.7
  • mile 13 – 8:15.7
  • mile 13.1 – 0:51.3
  • Total – 2:00:20

Looking ahead to my last long run next week, I’m probably going to run an out and back over the Manhattan Bridge and then down 4th Ave in Brooklyn to 95th St.  This is a nostalgic run for me and I usually get this one in at some point in my marathon training.

Written by SCL

October 12, 2008 at 2:41 pm

Wave Start 2 plus miscellany

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Few notes for a Thursday morning:

  • I got wave start #2 for the New York City Marathon.  Means I’ll be starting at 10am.  Also implied is that it won’t take 25 minutes to cross the start line again – that was miserable last year!  They have not yet posted our actual numbers, so don’t know which color start I got just yet.  Was in the green start last year which goes through the lower level of the bridge, and also spends a mile on the Gowanus Expressway before you hit the streets of Brooklyn.  Yuch.  My least favorite of the 3 start options.
  • Looking forward to the Staten Island Half Marathon on Sunday.  Forecast is amended to upper 60’s, not lower 70’s.  This is a very good thing!    Since the day will be nice, I’m looking forward to the ferry ride, and the views of the harbor from the start area.  Last year I was amazed at all the boat traffic in the harbor – cruise ships, giant shipping boats, etc.  Even though our fair city is completely surrounded by water, the water is just not part of our everyday life – it is so easy to forget that it is there and how much it is used.
  • Saw this post from Pigtails Flying and signed up for the Worldwide Festival of Races.  Why not!  I had skipped the Nike Human Race thing because it was (in part) just a marketing scam to buy their Nike+ stuff, but this one has no strings attached.  To be fair to Nike, I was out of town for that weekend and couldn’t run in the Randall’s Island race.  I wanted to participate on my own, but couldn’t (or should I say wouldn’t) get past the ‘buy the equipment’ requirement on the website.
  • I’ve not actually mentioned it here yet, but I’ve signed up for the Austin Marathon, which is Feb 15.  Going to make a nice weekend getaway with my wife – no kids!  We’ve been to Texas once before, in 1998 I think, and absolutely loved it – I’ve always wanted to go back.  The weather was perfect (we had gone in November), the BBQ food is amazing, and the sites were fun.  Was looking for a spring marathon, and thought Austin would be perfect.  Since winter and spring are my strongest running seasons, I fully expect to PR that race!

Have a great weekend!

Written by SCL

October 9, 2008 at 6:11 am

Got a run in this morning

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Was able to get a 4 miler in this morning, my typical run to the end of East River Park and back.  First morning weekday run for me since 8/8.  Nice time of 35:55.  At 50 degrees, the weather was perfect.  Lots of people running – got passed a few times and was able to pass a few people myself.  Glad they finally repaved Ave C from 18th St down to 14th St.  That street has been a hazard for a long time!

Got to try to get more of these morning runs in.

Written by SCL

October 8, 2008 at 7:31 am

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More splits this year at the marathon

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NYRR had already announced the wave start for the New York City Marathon this year, but now also announced that they will enhance the use of splits this year. Of course, the wonderful NYRR and Marathon websites make absolutely no mention of the news, but I read it in the new Fall 2008 issue of the NYRR magazine, New York Runner.

They will capture splits at each mile starting at mile 16.  Very cool, but, I have to say, these are not the splits I want to share with the world – some of them will be ugly!

Update: Looks like this is old news.  Guess these changes were both announced at the same time, back in August.  I found this article.

Written by SCL

October 6, 2008 at 8:07 pm

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Got the long run in

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Great news!  I was able to get a good long run in on Sunday.  20.7 miles in total, in 3:37.  Check it out here.

Anyone who follows me here knows that I have had some good runs, and also some bad ones.  The bad ones are usually on days when it is hot, or humid.  I am really affected by the weather in the summertime when it is hot.  My most recent failures were at the fitness mag 4 mile run and the Queens half marathon, both on humid days.  In sharp contrast, the weather Sunday was P.E.R.F.E.C.T.  Rain early in the morning.  I waited the rain out and started my run after 8:30.  The temps held steady in the upper 50’s, there was a nice breeze out of the north (to mimic typical New York City marathon conditions!), no rain, and a steady cloudcover (no sun!).  These conditions are perfect for me, and it showed.

First part of the run was down 1st Ave to Canal St and then over to the Manhattan Bridge.  I opted to go over the bridge on the bike side, because it was more convenient.  Very little bike or foot traffic, so this bridge was a piece of cake.  First problem of the day was missing the connection from the bridge to Flushing Ave.  You’ll see on the map what I did, which added a bit to the run.  Then Flushing Ave was under heavy construction – had to run on the sidewalk for a bit.

Next section was long stretch of Flushing Ave to Franklin – left on Franklin.  This turns into Wythe, which goes all the way through Williamsburg, under the bridge and up towards Greenpoint.  This was the first time I ran that way, and loved it.  It was very deserted.  No need to stop at all.  Took Wythe all the way to McGuiness and linked up to my normal route over the bridge to Queens.

While working my way up past the 59th St Bridge towards the Triboro Bridge, I started noticing a blister on my right foot.  I’ve had blister issues on my left foot in the last few weeks since changing to my new sneakers.  Not much I could do here except just run though it and hope for the best.  Still feeling very strong here, working up Crescent St to the bridge.  Took an exdended stop before the bridge (which was about the halfway point) to eat a granola bar and took a little walk break.

The Triboro Bridge is very long and very lonely.  Only encountered 2 other runners (together) going the other way.  It’s been a few years since I ran over this bridge.  Many, many, many more steps required now.  There have always been 2 sets of staircases in the middle of the bridge, which are now under construction.  To get around these 2 sets of staircases, there are, believe it or not, like 8 different sets of staircases to navigate.  A little pain for runners, I’m sure a huge pain for bikers!  Lots of construction on Randall’s Island, where the path lets you out.  Looks like they are building new car ramps into and out of the Island (badly needed I think) and rebuilding lots of the road.  Finding the footbridge to Manhattan is always an adventure, but I’ve done it a few times and had no problem there.

Still felt really good as I went over the bridge to Manhattan and started my way down 1st Ave at 127th St.  My start down 1st Ave was approaching 16 miles, which is exactly where you hit 1st Ave on the Marathon course, coming up from 59th St.  While I was starting to hurt a bit, I felt much better than I did at 16 miles in the marathon last year, which is a great sign with 4 weeks to go in training.  Miles 16-20 got progressively harder heading down 1st Ave, but I was able to finish very strong.  Since there is a mile every 20 blocks, it was also easy to approximate a water break every mile, which I took advantage of.

All in all, a great run.  Consumed 2 Gatorades, 2 Waters, and 2 Gu’s on the way.  I did have a blister on my right foot, but not as bad as the ones on my left foot.  With proper care, it won’t hold me back at all.  This run was completed in an average of 10:31 per mile, verses 10:50 and 11:18 for my last 2 long runs.  Considering we still have 4 weeks to go, and another chance to get a 20 miler in, I’m very confident about a good race.  Still don’t know if I can get in under 4:30, but I think it will be close.

The run really knocked me out.  My lower legs and leg muscles felt very sore, the kind of pain you feel after a marathon.  I think that is a sign that I pushed myself properly and stretched the muscles out to the point where they won’t be suprised when the race rolls around.  Still sore today and had a hard time getting down stairs.

Looking forward to the Staten Island Half Marathon on Sunday.  That race can be tough when the sun comes out.  Extended forecast says high in the lower 70’s.  If we can have some clouds, and keep the temps in the 60’s, it will be a great day.  I’m not going to kill myself to finish under 2 hours, but would really like to finish in 2:10, which should approximate my goal for the 1st half of the marathon.  I’ll take off tomorrow and hope to get 2 runs in before the race Sunday.

Written by SCL

October 6, 2008 at 7:42 pm

Loving this issue of Runners World

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Lot’s of great New York City Marathon coverage in the November 2008 issue of Runners World.

I’m only 25 pages into the issue and there is already an article about the Judd Ehrlich documentary about Fred Lebow, ‘backstory’ sidebar about Mary Wittenberg, links to coverage on runnersworld.com, and what looks to be several features related to the marathon.

My favorite little tidbit, though, was in the Ask Miles column. Not related to the NYC Marathon, but rather my goal of ‘mediocrity’.  The mean finishing time in 2007 for men’s marathons was 4:20, and 4:49 for women.   So, it sounds about right, if I can finish in 4:30, I’m right in the mediocre range!

Written by SCL

October 6, 2008 at 7:01 pm

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September 2008 in Review

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Running – 83.4 miles over 11 runs – Only months I ever had more was April 2005 when I ran the Big Sur Marathon and May 2000 when I ran the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon.

Races – 2 (fitness mind, body, spirit games and Queens Half Marathon)

Biking – 10.3 miles – 1 ride

Softball – 2 games (1 win, 1 loss)

Injuries – 1 (nasty blister under left ankle)

Swims – 0

Visits to gym – 0

Written by SCL

October 1, 2008 at 6:59 am

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