4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for November 2008

Long (wet and cold) Run

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The good news is that it is done.  The bad news is that it seemed to take hours to dry out and get my body temp back to normal after my 15.5 mile run in the cold rain today.  Today is 11 weeks before the Austin Marathon, and today I covered the same long run I did 11 weeks before the New York City Marathon.  See here for how it went last time.

The run almost didn’t happen at all.  Yesterday morning I did the right thing and got to the gym.  While moving some 35 pound plates around to do some bench presses, I accidentally banged my leg hard into the metal bar that holds said weights when they are not in use.  Ouch that hurt!  It was a hard shot to the shin, an inch or two below the knee.  I can be clumsy at times, and definitely bang myself on various obstructions from time to time, but this one was bad.  Iced when I got home and then iced again before I went to bed last night.  Was feeling pain with each step and was very worried that the shin would not hold up for 15 miles.  I managed to sleep 11 hours last night (needed to catch up from all the eating and traveling earlier in the weekend) and this morning the pain was definitely way down.  It was not hurting anymore when walking, only when applying direct pressure to the spot.  So, I forged ahead. 

The forecast was for rain all day, so there was no advantage to getting out early, or trying to wait it out.  When I got up at 8am, it was already raining.  Took care of some stuff at home and made it out around 11am.  I was actually looking forward to the run in the rain.  I like the rain, usually find it refreshing, and think it is important to get some long runs in with bad weather, in case bad weather hits on race day.  While it was a bit refreshing, 15.5 miles of rain was, all in all, not fun!  The big consession was that I would leave my tunes at home.  I once got caught in a bad rainstorm with my MP3 player, it got wet, and then was on the fritz for a couple of days until it dried out.  One of the buttons never quite recovered.  So, with today’s forecast, I decided to leave it at home.

Picked up a Gatorade at the Bodega on the way out.  First 2 miles was my typical route down East River Park, which included a slog through a ballfield to get around the construction, which by the way, will not end any time soon.  Nice, easy start to the run.  I did forget to use the bathroom on the way out, so stopped at the East River Park track, which was unfortunately commadeered by 3 homeless guys.  They did stay out of my way as I took care of business.

Next couple of miles was down the East River past South Street Seaport.  I was thankful here for the 1 mile + portion under the FDR drive, and out of the rain!  Still feeling really good in the early miles here.  As the rain was mostly out of my face, I concluded that the wind was at my back.  Since I would be running a good 6 miles up the Hudson River, into the wind, that was not a happy conclusion.  But for the moment, I was fine.

Made the turn through lower Manhattan, past the SI Ferry and Battery Park to the foot of the greenway up Hudson River, which is about the 4.5 mile mark.  Started the trek up the Hudson River.  This was very difficult.  The wind was not blowing hard, but it was definitely tending out of the north, so the rain was constantly in my face, and collecting on the front of my shirt.  By then, my clothes were all waterlogged, and I could feel the extra weight.  It was not a downpour, just a steady light to regular rain, so it could definitely have been worse.  I stopped at the Nike Runners Station to buy a bottle of water, which I planned to use later on for my Gu.  There were 2 people working there, who were very friendly and helpful.  They probably didn’t have too many visitors today.  In fact, that was the best thing about today’s run.  There were virtually no bikes out on the path, and few tourists/walkers.  Even Central Park, which I’ll get to later, was deserted.

Continued my way up the Hudson River, inhaled the Gu at Chelsea Piers, took another little water breakat 57th St, and managed to find the way out of Riverside Park at 79th St.  The section up from 59th St to 72nd St was also under the highway (Henry Hudson Parkway, this time) and I was very, very thankful for the time out of the rain.  Till this point, about 9 miles into my run, the going was totally flat.  79th St is where that changed.  Big hill to get over 79th/77th over to Central Park.  As I mentioned, Central Park was completely empty, almost eerily so.  I was a little disappointed as I passed the marathon finish line to see that all signs of the marathon finish were gone.  Not sure if they still paint the pavement at the finish, but definitely no signs of it anymore.  There should be some sign, or homage to the marathon at the finish line year round!

By this point, I was totally and completely waterlogged, but happily not feeling too cold.  Once out of Central Park, I worked my way south and east to 1st Ave.  Once out of the park, I felt the solid wind at my back, which made up for the long run into the wind.  That also meant I had less rain in my face, which was a welcome change.  At that point, the run was definitely getting harder.  I figured that this run would be a piece of cake after just recently completing the marathon distance, but I was definitely cooking along at a faster pace than I did in August, and the faster pace translated to a bit of pain and difficulty.

The last 2 miles is where I really missed my tunes.  When struggling in the last miles of a training run, turning up the music and picking out some of my favorite songs make it easier to get the job done.  Somehow though, the blocks blew past, I managed to get up the little hill below 34th St on 1st Ave, and then was all of a sudden back in Stuytown and near the finish line!

I finished the 15.5 mile run in 2:36:48, a very respectable 10:15 per mile pace.  This is significantly faster than the 2:53 I did on the same course in August, and the pace per mile was also faster than my best marathon training runs in October.

I was definitely cold and wet at the end, and even a long hot shower could not get all the chill out.  That is one thing I’m concerned about as I do long training runs in the middle of winter – how to keep warm on long runs.  My legs and stomach both came out of this run very red and very cold.  Even after the shower, it was probably an hour or so until my body temp felt back to normal.

Anyway, looking forward to the next long run, likely New Year’s weekend.


Written by SCL

November 30, 2008 at 10:16 pm

East River Park speed workout

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I’m a firm believer that speed workouts is a great way to get faster.  The only problem is, I hate them!  I have a hard time doing them on my own, which is why at least for one session a year, I’ll take the 10 week NYRR running class.  Since the next session doesn’t start till January, and I’m right now in training for the Austin Marathon and wanting to get some speed workouts in, I gotta do it on my own.

It is a little challenging to get it in at this time of year.  My preference is to go to the track at East River Park.  Since the track is not lit at night, and the park can be a little spooky at night, it is only a good option in the daytime.  Since it gets light late and dark early, I can only really get to the track on the weekends.  And, the weekends is when I want to run long, or am busy or away, so don’t really have room for a speed workout.  Needless to say, getting the speed workout in is a challenge.

We were let out of work at 3pm today, so I had a great opportunity to get to the track before it got too dark, and I took advantage!  Construction in the park is currently problematic.  I recently passed by on the FDR Drive and noticed that the northern most part of the park appeared totally closed for construction.  With that in mind, I headed over the 10th St bridge instead.  The construction caused quite a meandering route.  At the end of the bridge, you must run through a playground to get to the newly built promenade area.  Then, at the dead end part of the promenade (the rest is still under construction) you need to run across a baseball field to get back to the main road, and then over to the track.

With that out of the way, I got down to business.  Started with a 1 mile interval.  I pushed hard, but didn’t go all out.  For some reason, it felt slow, and it was a bit windy, so I was very concerned that my time would not be so great.  At the end, surprise of all surprises, i finished in 7:21, much, much better than I expected.  Took a few minutes of a break and then did a 2nd mile repeat, finishing this time in 7:35, not as fast, but very respectable.  I followed that up with 2 half mile intervals, finishing each in 3:35, or 7:10 pace.  I could not have been more pleased with the result.

The track was not very crowded, about 10 other total people on the track over the 40 minutes I was there.  Most interesting site was a pair of people who did at least part of their run backwards!  It was a very odd sensation, catching up to people who looked to be running at you, but were really running in your direction.  I ultimately passed them by.

On the way back, I decided to take the promenade all the way up to the north end of the park to see if the connector to 20st St was open, and it was!  So I was able to head back up the way I normally run, rather than going over the 10th st bridge and up Ave C.

Happy to take advantage of the daylight hours to get in the speed workout.  Need to figure out how to get some more of these in over the next few weeks.  Sunday, I plan to run long, about 15.5 miles, along the same route I ran in August when training for the New York City Marathon.  That route will take me down the East Side, up the West Side to about 79th St, then down Central Park’s West Drive, and then through midtown back to 14th and 1st Ave.  First 8-9 miles is totally flat, so looking forward to this, the easiest of the long runs.

We’ll be heading out to South Central PA tomorrow morning to spend the holiday with some family, and then we plan to sightsee in Philadelphia on Friday, head to my NJ house Friday night, and back to NYC on Saturday.

Happy Turkey Day to all!

Written by SCL

November 26, 2008 at 9:13 pm

2009 planning

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Thinking ahead to 2009 a little bit.

NYRR has released dates for Jan – March races.  I’ll most likely run the Fred Lebow 5 mile race, on 1/10.  I love this race.  It is the first race of the year (with the exception of the New Years Eve run), is usually around my birthday (1/9) and Fred is a big role model for me.  He passed away in 1994, around the time I started running seriously, and his story is a great one.  In addition, I’ll definitely run the Manhattan Half Marathon.  It is exactly 3 weeks before the Austin Marathon so will fit right between my long runs 2 and 4 weeks out.  I’ll most likely skip the Bronx Half Marathon, for the same reason, which is just 1 week before the Austin Marathon.  Finally, I’ll probably run the Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K on March 1.  That is a fun, and fast race.  Lots of hills for such a short run, but a huge downhill in the last mile makes for a super fast finish.

On the bike/swim side, New York Triathlon Club has released their 2009 schedule.  Under consideration is the March Madness Biathlon on 3/29, Queens Biathlon on 5/17 and the New York Triathlon Series #1 on 6/14 at Harriman State Park.  I think I’ll need to get a good triathlon practice in before the New York City Triathlon in July.

Written by SCL

November 23, 2008 at 11:00 pm

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Sunday morning run

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Dragged my butt out of bed at 6:30 this morning and was out the door at 7:15 for a nice 10.3 mile tour of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.  Have a full plate of familiy activites today, so my only real chance to get a 10 miler in was first thing this morning.  Despite the cold (25 as I headed out the door), I forged ahead.  Went with the 3rd shirt layer for the first time this year.  Also had 2 pairs of gloves and 2 ear coverings.  I feel badly for the people running in the Philadelphia Marathon today.  That race started at 7am and so I’m sure was very uncomfortable.  

Felt very sluggish in the early miles today.  Not sure if it is because of the extra layers, not eating anything this morning, the cold, the early start, or all of the above.  I did bring a Gu with me and felt a lot better after eating it at about 5 miles into the run.

The fun part of today’s run was the 3 times I crossed paths with the New York City Marathon ‘blue line’.  I wasn’t really thinking about it, and so was suprised at the first encounter.  That was on McGuiness Blvd and Greenpoint Ave.  Hit the line again on 21st St in Long Island City as I was approaching the Queensboro Bridge.  Just reminded me how strange the Queens portion of the marathon in.  My run today, and the marathon course, both travel over the Pulaski Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge.  My route is very direct, and the marathon course is roundabout.  When I crossed the blue line on 21st St, it was heading in the opposite direction!  The final time I hit the line was after getting off the Queensboro Bridge and heading down 1st Ave.  Looking forward to running again next year.  I’ll get an automatic entry after I fulfill my volunteer obligation.  I’ll be volunteering at the Joe Kleinerman 10K on 12/7.

My final time on the 10.3 mile run was 1:36:54, a pace of 9:24.  Not bad at all considering the cold, early start, and breeze.

Written by SCL

November 23, 2008 at 2:04 pm

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What is the weather in Austin in Feb?

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I have a few minutes to kill, so I’m sitting outside at Madison Square Park (awesome free wifi by the way), freezing, but catching up on email, blogs, etc.  Hopefully I’ll get a run in later tonight, but with the cold weather, I’m just kind of curious what the weather is like in Austin in February, as I prepare for the Austin Marathon on Feb 15.  I know Texas is hot, but when I was there previously in November, the weather was awesome.  I figure the weather in Feb is pretty awesome as well.

So, went to Yahoo Weather (don’t worry, powered by The Weather Channel), to find the historical averages for Austin.  Average high 65, average low 44.  So far, so good!  50’s is perfect, 40’s and 60’s are manageable.  But, what if we have a record hot or cold day, what is in the realm of possibility?  Record high is 99 and the record low is -1.  Oh no.  So, it could be beautifully perfect, or it could be New York dead of winter, or New York dead of summer.  Regardless, it will be fun, and sub 4:30!

Was able to get to the gym this morning after getting 7 year old off to school, and before work.  I’ll try to get a late run in as well.  On Sunday, I may try for a 10.3 mile loop over the Williamsburg and 59th St bridges.

Anyway, I’m freezing now, they are cleaning up the tables and chairs, and I just had to stamp a rat out of the way, so I’m outta here!

I’ll write more about my diet another time (so far, ehhh), but I’m proud to say that on this visit to Madison Square Park, I resisted the Shake Shack!

Written by SCL

November 20, 2008 at 6:53 pm

Winter is coming!

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7:15am – waiting for the M15 bus on 1st Ave to take 7 year old to school, watching the snowflakes come down.  Can’t really call it a snow flurry, really just a few flakes, but exciting.

10:15pm – running around the Stuytown loop, watching a few snowflakes come down.  Again, can’t even call it a flurry, really just a few flakes, but exciting.

Winter is definitely on the way.  30 degrees and windy for my run last night.  While definitely an outlier of a cold day for November, I still prefer running in that weather vs the outlier of a warm day in May, which would be in the 70’s and humid.

Since it was a late run, and windy to boot, I took it easy.  Did not push at all.  5.2 miles in 50:00.  Guess that is my true ‘training’ pace.

Written by SCL

November 19, 2008 at 7:13 am

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Catching up

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It feels like it has been forever since I last wrote in my blog.  It’s actually been 9 days, which is too long a break.  It’s just been hard to get the time to sit and write.  Life is pretty hectic right now and it’s hard enough just to find the time to exercise, let alone write about it!  On top of already feeling guilty about escaping my house to run in the evenings, my 7 year old was complaining to me about how I’m never around and how I need to spend so much time exercising and running.  She certainly has learned how to pull the right guilt strings, and I’ll try to be careful to make sure I make time to spend with her, as well as time to run and go to the gym.

Anyway, going back over a week to last weekend, I fully intended to get a nice 6-7 mile run in, but I couldn’t get myself out the door.  Sunday was my target, but the timing just didn’t work.  My mother-in-law had her birthday party, my wife was working much of the afternoon/evening, and I needed to be around for my kids.  Then, I skipped Sunday night and Monday morning.  It didn’t help that I was still trying to shake off a cold and had a really bad cough.  Running in the cold isn’t necessarily the best thing for that!

By Monday night, I finally made some time to run.  Decided to do the out and back down over the Williamsburg Bridge.   Nice, strong effort.   Covered the 5.9 miles in 54:12.  It was nice not to cut the run short, or stop mid-run for Gatorade, which are my last memories of that course from the summertime.

Got to the gym on Tuesday, and then out for another run Wednesday night.  Wed night I did another 5.9 mile run.  Up to 38th St on the East River, and then looped all the way down 1st Ave to the East River and up Ave A.  Had another nice run, but didn’t catch Delancey Street properly and had to wait 45 seconds for the green light.  Including the stop, finished the 5.9 mile loop in 56:43.

Didn’t do much in the way of exercise the entire rest of the week.  Went to the Knicks game with my wife on Friday night, which was lots of fun.  Haven’t been to a game in Madison Square Garden in years.  Knicks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder (who the heck are they?) 116-106.  On Saturday morning  I shuttled my wife and 7 years old to the Noguchi Museum in Queens for some arts and crafts.  While they were in the museum, I was planning to head out to the remnants of Shea Stadium to snap some pictures of the destruction, but Mother Nature decided to downpour on us, so I skipped it and headed back to Manhattan to help my 12 year old get some things done in the rain.  Late in the afternoon, we headed out to my weekend house in New Jersey till early Sunday.

Was able to get a good run in last night (Sunday).  Did the 6.5 mile downtown loop.  It was actually a spectacular run.  I always obsess with catching the green lights on major intersections, and on this course, I know all the places to speed up to make it through smoothly.  I can notice a distinct difference now vs a few months ago.  It is definitely easier to hit the necessary marks to get through the green lights.  There was a stiff wind blowing against me on the trip downtown.  Since the headwind was in the early miles of my run, I was able to keep a strong pace and not get slowed down too much.  This worked to my advantage, as I definitely had the wind at my back in the last 2 miles when heading uptown.  With the wind, I had a very strong finish, and ended up finishing the 6.5 mile course in 58:20.  This is my personal best on this course, by 7 seconds beating the record set in April, at the height of my fitness before the summer.   

Was able to get to the gym again tonight, so I feel like I’m back on track.  Trying to plan my long run strategy in preparation for the Austin Marathon.  I’m thinking of doing the same set of long runs, in the same intervals, that I did for the New York marathon.  This will give me a great comparison to see where I am in my training.  My first long run will be right after Thanksgiving, about 76 days before the race.

In fact, looking back on the week, I ran 3 times for 18.3 miles and got to the gym twice.  I really love this weather (all runs this week were in the mid 40 degree range) and look forward to great runs in Nov and Dec before the frigid weather hits.

Written by SCL

November 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm

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No, not the D word

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This year, I’ve proved that stepping up the training will lower your marathon time.  I dropped 20 minutes off my time from last year, and I think it was a direct result of running 605 miles from Jan-Oct, rather than the 447 miles I ran last year.

However, there is still room for improvement, and I think the best place to get it from is by dropping some pounds.  I don’t like to dddd, dddd, dddd, dddddiet.  (Jeez, can’t even say the word).  I eat like a pig – very unhealthy.  Snack all the time, eat big lunches all the time, just don’t at all watch what I eat.  I like to say that running gives me the freedom to eat what I want.  In a sense that is true, when I’m running, I don’t gain weight, but I’m also not losing weight.

In the beginning of 2007, I came off a strech where I did very little exercise, and my weight was 235, with body fat of 25%.  After I picked up the running, and started going to the gym, by April, I quickly brought my average weight down to 227 and body fat down to 23.5%.  And I’ve pretty much been there ever since.  Last month was the first time I actually had my average monthly weight below 225 (224.9!!) with body fat down to 22.4%. 

I think it is time to try the diet thing and see what happens.  If I can bring my weight down 10 pounds for the austin marathon, I think it will make a big difference.

To try and help me stay on the wagon, I will not make it a strict diet.  But if I can simply eat healthy breakfasts, reasonable lunches on most days, and snack on fruit instead of junk, I should be able to lose 10 pounds…

Written by SCL

November 8, 2008 at 11:03 am

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Back on the road

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Nice little 4.6 mile run last night.  44:28.  First run since the marathon.  For the most part, my muscle soreness seemed to have retreated, and I was itching to get out for some exercise.  Took awhile to loosen up.  Right hamstring was tight, which went away pretty quickly, and also I could feel the plantar fasciitis in the right foot.  It went away also, but I’ll need to keep an eye on that.  If it keeps up, I’ll have to head back to my podiatrist for some treatment.  This was a big problem for me in 2004/2005 when I stepped up my training after recovering from patellar tendonitis.  Then it acted up last year when I stepped up training for the marathon.  I was actually pleasantly suprised that it hadn’t bothered me yet this year.

In terms of the run itself, the portion along the East River was much windier than I expected, of course a headwind.  Since the weather is still on the warm side (60 deg at the time) it felt nice.  When those winds kick up in the wintertime, ouch.  Also managed to run through all the major intersections without issue. 

Around the 3rd mile, legs started feeling very heavy.  They eventually loosened up again, but then I could feel both hamstrings barking a bit.  In hindsight, maybe I should have waited another day or 2 before the first run, but I didn’t push the pace at all and had a nice time.

Written by SCL

November 7, 2008 at 12:27 pm

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Wonderful reflection of the marathon

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I’ve read lots of reviews and accounts of the New York City Marathon – I thought this one was the best:


Written by SCL

November 6, 2008 at 12:01 pm

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