4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for January 2009

Jan 2009 in Review

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It was an amazing month for me.  First time I ever reached 100 miles in a month!  Between 15 runs and 7 trips to the gym, I ‘worked out’ 22 out of 31 days.  Also, I did the first 2 weeks of the Hundred Pushup Challenge

Big event for Feburary is the Austin Marathon, on Feb 15.  Once that is done, time to start swimming and biking as I’ll have 5 months to get ready for the New York City Triathlon.

Running – 103.1 miles over 15 runs!

Races – 2 (Fred Lebow Classic (5M) – 41:21; Manhattan Half Marathon – 2:08:50)

Biking – 0 miles – 0 rides

Injuries – 2 (healing foot blister, mild left neck and shoulder soreness)

Sicknesses – 0

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 7


Written by SCL

January 31, 2009 at 9:29 pm

Bib number 36?

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If I read the email I received from the folks at the Austin Marathon properly, I am bib #36.   Wow!  Never had a number that low before.  Maybe never will again?  I signed up very early, so maybe they assign numbers based on registration order?  Otherwise, I guess it is totally random.

I feel soooo special!

Written by SCL

January 30, 2009 at 8:41 pm

Posted in Austin Marathon 2009

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Nailed the speed workout

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Speed workout tonight in Central Park was a 4 mile tempo run of the middle 4 miles of Central Park.  While this is the least interesting of the various workouts we can do, it is always a great chance to race the distance on a familiar course and with lots of hills.

It is the middle 4 miles in Central Park, but clockwise, opposite the direction of most races and the direction that most people run.  What makes this hard is the the first mile includes Cat Hill on the downhill.  That mile is always too fast and then the rest is tough.  Mile 2 is mostly uphill, and there is a fair amount of uphill in the last mile.

Kept a nice, hard steady pace.  Took the first mile too fast, something like 7:40.  On the fast downhill, I could feel my right shin acting up.  For me, it always gets worse on the downhills and better on the uphills.  In the 2nd mile, with a lot of uphill on the West Side, the shin loosened up.  After that, I pushed hard on the uphills and coasted a bit to recover on the downhills.  Finished the 4 mile course in 32:13, soooooo close to 32 min and an 8 min per mile pace.  In the 11 times I’ve done this workout, this was the fastest time ever.  My previous fastest of 32:29 was way back in Dec 2001.

Very happy with how that went!  It felt so much easier to run without the extra layers I had added for the Manhattan Half Marathon this past weekend.  Also, my toe pain did not act up at all.  It seems to hurt a bit when walking, but no pain at all when running.  That works for me!

For next weekend, I need to get a 20-21 mile long run in for my Austin Marathon training.  Forecast is currently calling for a warmer day on Sunday, so I’ll plan my run for then.

Written by SCL

January 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

Pain in the toe!

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Started noticing a pain in the toe today.  Left foot big toe is hurting a bit when I put pressure on it.  It is not a nail issue, but more of a joint pain – hoping it goes away soon!  I’ll test it out in my speed workout tonight.

Also, since Saturday, my left shoulder and neck has been slightly stiff.  I thought it was getting better, but then yesterday morning I did a great set of pushups (Week 2, day 3 of the hundred pushup challenge) and wonder if that made things worse.

This weekend I started on a regimen of Vitamin C, as the paranoia of getting sick before the Austin Marathon is settling in.  Hopefully, some extra C will keep any germs at bay…

Written by SCL

January 27, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Manhattan Half Marathon Race Report

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Word of the day was COLD.  No way around it.  14 degrees at the start and not much higher at the finish.  The CNN clock said 14 degrees at the start, still said 14 degrees one hour later at the 6 mile mark, and then was up to 15 degrees two hours later at the 12 mile mark.  After the race, the WeatherBug on my phone said it was 18 degrees.  Going back to 1999 (that is how far back my detailed records go), this was the 2nd coldest race I’ve ever run in.

My plan was to run the full race, and then another 6 mile loop of the park afterwards, for 19 total miles.  Since I’d be running longer than the half marathon, I layered up more than normal.  Ski hat and earmuffs for the head, three shirts and a heavy jacket for the upper body, tights and sweats on the legs, and 2 pairs of socks under my sneakers.

I drove in my car which allowed me to stay warm for a bit longer than if I had taken the subway over.  Was parked before 6:30 to get a good spot by the 72nd St entrance, and made 2 quick trips to the port-o-potties.  By 7:30 got in my race gear and headed for the start.  The start area was very crowded and all the corrals seemed very full.  It seems people did a good job of getting to the corrals on time.  I was in the 4000’s, further back than normal.  Considering that the last corral is 6000, it is a bit sad that with an 8:14 pace time, I was placed way back in the 5th out of 7 groups.  Maybe this is because the half marathons bring out a faster crowd than the shorter races?  Also frustrating was that the person checking numbers at the corral was not really checking and there were a ton of 5000 numbered people that incorrectly got through into my group.

After a rendition of the national anthem, we were off.  Due to the crowds, it took forever for me to cross the start line.  Well, not forever, but much longer than usual.  Took 4:03 to pass the start line.  Typically I can get through the start line in less than 1 minute.  The start was still pretty organized without a crazy amount of passing or being passed, so I guess the corral system is still working.  In the early miles, kept a nice steady slowish pace.  I was warm enough with all the layers, but felt completely bogged down and heavy from them.  Nice push up Cat Hill, Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the west side.  My slowest mile of them was mile 4, which is up the Harlem Hill.  I also made a quick bathroom stop at the end of loop 1, so that mile was slightly slower.  Water was a little tough because of the large chunks of ice in the cup.  Gatorade was much better.  I guess because it freezes slower, those cubs just had little pieces of ice, sort of like ice shavings.

  • 1 – 9:32
  • 2 – 9:39
  • 3 – 9:25
  • 4 – 9:54
  • 5 – 9:40
  • 6- 10:12

2nd loop was another story altogether.    Started well by pushing nicely up Cat Hill, and was looking forward to the next water stop.  Unfortunately, there was very little water to be had.  The volunteers were doing the best they could to fill cups, and there was a mass of runners trying to get the cups.  I just decided to skip the stop and keep going.  Most of the going is flat or downhill into the next water stop anyway.  In hindsight that was a mistake.  Somehow started feeling a little lightheaded after that, I think from the layers and the cold and lack of water.  Since I was still planning another loop of the park afterwards, I took a long walk break leading into the next water stop at the bottom of Harlem Hill, where there was to be Gatorade.  Unfortunately, there was no Gatorade at all, just half frozen cups of water.  I took 2 cups of water and a Gu.  The water was so cold, it made my insides somehow feel colder and I started getting brain freezes!  Got myself going again and charged up Harlem Hill pretty well.  It was around this point, though, that I lost all will to do another loop of the park afterwards.  With the extra layers, slight lightheadedness, very limited and frozen water on the course, and no street vendors to buy from on the way, I was really concerned about pushing ahead with the extra loop.  That decided, I figured I could turn up the pace for the last couple of miles of the race and call it a day after 13.1 miles.  So, ended up with a very strong last 2 miles, and finished in 2:08:50.

  • 7 – 9:38
  • 8 – 9:41
  • 9 – 9:47
  • 10 – 12:13
  • 11 – 9:47
  • 12 – 9:25
  • 13 – 9:04
  • 13.1 -0:48
  • In the end, I was disappointed I did not get all my miles in.  This is potentially really bad because the Austin Marathon is in just 3 weeks and while I’ve put in a lot of overall miles, I have not had quality long runs.  Since I didn’t push too hard, I’ll at least be recovered enough to do a speed workout on Tuesday night, and I’ll try to make sure my other workouts are on bridges or hills.  On the other hand, I was really happy with my pacing, which was very consistent – almost every mile (with the exception of my bathroom break, walk, and final mile) was between 9:25 and 9:54.  I’d like to be at 9:30 pace for the first half of the Austin Marathon, to give me a good cushion in the 2nd half to break 4:30.

    I want to know how dangerous it really is to not have all the layers on.  I’m sure I would have fared much better without my outer heavy layer, but I was afraid I’d be too cold.  Some runners had shorts on, and some seemed to only have a single shirt layer.  Is that healthy?  There was even 1 volunteer (or just a crazy bystander?) at the 102nd St cutoff on the East Side that had no gloves, no hat and a very light jacket on.  I could not believe that he was still there the 2nd time around.  How did he stand outside for 2+ hours.  Anyway, I’d love to be able to go out in fewer layers, but I’m afraid of getting sick, or some sort of frostbite from long exposure.  I can only hope that it will warm a little so I can get a good long run in on Saturday, and then potentially one more a week before the marathon.  Of course, this year, when running a Feb marathon, would be the year when the temperatures in Jan would be 4.5 degrees below normal (according to the New York Times).

    I did feel a great sense of accomplishment getting out in the cold conditions and getting a quality workout done.  Congrats to all the people that raced and finished.  It was not easy!

    Written by SCL

    January 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Beautiful East River Park Morning

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    Actually went on a morning run today!  I needed to, because I’m heading out to my NJ house right after work and I didn’t want to miss another day.  For a true early morning run, I’d need to be out the door by 5:30 to be back in time to get my 7 year old ready for school.  I wasn’t that extreme.  But I was able to get myself ready for a run as I got her ready for school and was out on 14th St at 7:10, ready to head to East River Park.  Had just enough time to get the run in, get ready for work, and get to the office by 9.

    I’m glad I went because it was quite nice out.  While it was only 32 degrees, it felt wonderful after all the recent cold weather.  And, there were so many people out running in the park.  Based on the number of people out there, you might think it was spring already!

    Took it a bit easy as I just wanted to fill some miles between my speed workout Tuesday night and my planned long run on Sunday.  Covered the 4 miles in 36+ minutes.

    It was pretty cool to see the setup of the snowboard ramps, in preparation for next weeks big Red Bull Snowscrapers event.  you can see a rendering here of what it will look like, although the ramps seems to be set up in reverse of what is shown in the picture.  A bit of excitement for our normally boring park!

    Written by SCL

    January 23, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    Highway robbery

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    Just felt like I needed to vent a little.  It is the little things like this that make me so mad!

    Last Sunday, before my long run, I was on the upper east side, and wanted to fuel up.  Headed into a bagel store on the east side of York Ave, around 76th St or so.  Picked up 2 bagels and a Poweraid.  I was very suprised to see that they were going to charge me $2.50 for the Powerade.  I’m sorry, but even in NYC, that is highway robbery.  Maybe this was an honest mistake on their part?  I made a big stink and made sure everyone within earshot knew I thought they were crazy.  I told them I’d go to another store to get it cheaper.  Went to a gourmet fruit stand across the street and picked up a Gatorade for $1.50. (Note: as far as I’m concerned, and as far as I can tell, Gatorade and Powerade are generally the same price).  I’ve paid $1.75 and even $2.00, typically in midtown, so when they tried to charge me $2.50, it just really made me mad.  I felt completely validated when, during my run, I stopped at H&H on 2nd Ave and they charged $1.50 for the same bottle of Powerade – no fuss necessary!

    Written by SCL

    January 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Posted in Uncategorized

    ICY speed workout

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    I was recovering pretty nicely from Sunday’s long 17.5 mile run.  By Tuesday, I only had some muscle tightness in the right leg.  Otherwise felt fine.  So, went ahead with my normal Tuesday night speed workout in Central Park with NYRR.  I hardly ever stretch on my own, but in this class, there is a very thorough 15 minute stretch before we get started.  Good thing, because it loosened up any lingering muscle tightness and I was ready to go.  The workout was 2 mile intervals at the lower loop of Central Park.  The problem was that some sections of the course were icy from the snow over the weekend.  The lower loop is 1.7 miles, so our 2 mile course was slightly longer than 1 loop.  I would estimate that about 1/3 of that loop had poor footing conditions due to the ice.  That kept the times down a little bit.  My intervals were completed in 16:15 and 16:20, very consistent.  Weather was on the cold side, about 25 degrees, thankfully with little wind.

    I’ll get 1 more run in before Sunday, where I will run the Manhattan Half Marathon at training pace, and then complete another 6 mile full loop of the park.  This will be my 2nd to last long run in preparation for the Austin Marathon, quickly approaching on 2/15.

    Made it to the gym tonight – been able to go 1-2 times each week.  Not a lot, but enough to keep some momentum.

    Written by SCL

    January 21, 2009 at 11:24 pm

    Course change for Manhattan Half Marathon

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    Unless I’m totally going crazy and this was already done last year, I notice that the course for the Manhattan Half Marathon is slightly different this year, and a nice little improvement!  In the past, the race would start in the East 80’s behind the museum, and finish in the 102nd transverse, the 1 mile distance creating a problem for the race staging and bag drop.

    This year, the race will start on the West Drive  at 63rd St, and then after 2 full counter clockwise loops (same direction as in the past) will finish in the 72nd St transverse.  This creates a much more centralized staging area, in the bandshell.  While the start and finish are in different spots, this is similar to the staging at the fitness mag 4 miler in Sept.

    This works well for me too as I will be forced to do the harlem hills at the north end of the park in my training loop of the park after the race.  My understanding is that the course for the Austin Marathon has changed from years past and there are now a couple of new hills in the last 2 miles, so I need to get the extra hill work in.

    Written by SCL

    January 20, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Long run done!

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    Only 4 weeks to the Austin Marathon, and I had so far only managed 1 long run, as I failed miserably on a planned long run 2 weeks ago.  So, with my back to the wall, and time running out, I needed to get back on track with my long runs.

    Thankfully, I was able to finish a 17.5 mile run long yesterday.  Course (see it here) was my typical loop of lower Manhattan, then over the Williamsburg Bridge, up Brooklyn and Queens to the 59th St Bridge, then up to 85th St and 2nd Ave, and finally down 1st Ave all the way to 14th St.  This is the same run I did on Sept 21st, 6 weeks before the New York City Marathon.  Back in Sept, I finished in 3:09:43.  Yesterday, I did it in 3:04:54, shaving 5 minutes off my time.  I guess that is good news!

    After 4 days of frigid temperatures, yesterday finally warmed up a bit.  Although we had about an inch of snow in the morning, the temperatures rose up to about 32 degrees in the afternoon.  A big concern of mine is spending a lot of time outside on a long run in the very cold weather, so I was glad for the little bit of warmth and even some sun when I started out.  I was at my New Jersey house in the morning and then had some business to take care of on the Upper East Side, so I would not get started until about 1:30pm.

    I was dressed on the warm side, with 2 shirts and my new warm outer shell layer.  Also had a loose pair of pants over my running tights.  In the beginning, I was heading south and was in the direct sun for awhile, and felt nice and warm.  I tried to keep the pace very slow, doing my best not to speed up to cross through the intersections.  Kept a very nice comfortable slow pace to start.  Took a brief 2 minute bathroom break when I passed by the Staten Island Ferry terminal.

    Opened a fresh PowerAid at the start of my run, and it lasted up to the Williamsburg Bridge, about 6 miles in.  Just after the bridge, I stopped for a water, and took my first Gu.  That water lasted me to the midpoint of the 59th St Bridge, at about 11.5 miles, which is where I took my 2nd Gu.  After coming off the bridge, I made it up 2nd Ave to H&H Bagels, which is on about 80th St or so, where I picked up another PowerAid, which lasted me to the end.

    At times, I felt slow and sluggish, but as the pacing was purposely kept on the slow side, it was all-in-all comfortable.  I really did not push the pace at all until I got back into Manhattan in the last 6 miles of the run.  I had enough in me to run a hard final half mile.  I was liberal with allowing a couple of walk breaks.

    It was nice to see so many runners out and about – I guess people were taking advantage of the warm spell and the brief sun in between snow storms.  As I said, we had a good inch of snow in the morning, and then by 6pm it was snowing again – we probably had another inch in the evening.  I had no problems with footing, ice, or slippery conditions at all.  Mostly everything was in good shape.  The only little problems was Driggs St, at McCarren Park, which was only plowed in the center, so the shoulder was icy, and the first quarter mile up the 59th St Bridge was a tiny bit icy.

    I was down for the count last night and spent most of the night in bed.  Today I’m feeling great and should be fine for my speed workout tomorrow night in Central Park.  There is not a lot of time between now and the Austin Marathon on Feb 15.  My plan is to run the Manhattan Half Marathon at training pace on Sunday and then run another loop of the park, to get to 18 or 19 total miles.  Then, the following weekend, on 1/31, I hope to do a 21 mile long run.  Then a 2 week taper into the marathon…

    So far, this has been an amazing month for me.  While I was unable to get a long run in earlier in the month, I’ve done a lot of running.  With yesterday’s run, I’ve completed 69.1 miles for the month so far.  I’ve run 10 times, been to the gym 4 times, and am in my 2nd week of the hundred pushup challenge.  Quite an active month, with almost 2 weeks to go!

    Written by SCL

    January 19, 2009 at 8:13 pm