4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for February 2009

Getting my bike and swim on

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Time to start focusing on the swim and bike portions of the triathlon as I start training for the New York City Triathlon, coming up late July.

Took a couple of big steps today.  First, took my bike into Metro Bikes to get a tune up.  In addition to basic free tune up I get from purchasing my bike there, I’m also getting the more extensive ‘drivetrain’ tune up.  I want them to do a good cleaning of my chain and a good thorough check of everything else.  I’m also getting the handlebars retaped.  One of these days, it will warm up and I’ll start getting some rides in.  I think we change the clocks next weekend, which means we’ll start getting daylight till 7pm – can’t wait.

I also went to the gym tonight and went in the pool for the first time in about 8 months.  I am a really bad swimmer, and I’m essentially starting from the very beginning.  Did about 18 pool lengths in a variety of bad forms, but trying to work on breathing, which is my big weak spot.

Will be running in the Coogan’s 5k race tomorrow morning.  Forecast is for rain, sleet or snow, so we’ll see what happens.  This is a very fast 5k course due to the hills, especially the downhill in the last half mile.  I’ve set PR’s the last 2 times running the course.  I was hoping for dry conditions so that I can attempt to finish in 25 minutes.  My PR is about 26 minutes.  I just hope the weather is good enough that they don’t turn it into a fun run.  I want to use this to bring down my NYRR corral pace time, which is currently 8:14.

Wow, that session in the pool really wiped me out.  Need to get to bed!

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Written by SCL

February 28, 2009 at 10:36 pm

Posted in bike, gym, swim

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One way to stop a bad habit

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I’ll get back to blogging shortly.  Been just lazy about it, trying to finish my Austin Marathon race report, etc.

I have a bad habit.  Namely, after lunch, I’ll stop at the convenience store / lotto stand downstairs and pick up a candy bar or some other sweet.  Today, I was going to be especially bad and pick up 2 of them.  One for now (Reese Whipps), and one for later (M&M Peanut Butter).  But, shock of all shocks, the guy now wants $1.25 for each of them.  I DON’T THINK SO!  This is not the first time I’ve been outraged this year by consumer goods pricing.

Guess that habit is cracked…

Written by SCL

February 27, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Posted in diet

Austin Marathon Race Report – Prerace

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The Austin Marathon was this past Sunday, at 7am.  I always like to be at races early to make sure I don’t rush myself through my final preparations, so I set my alarm for the insanely early hour of 4am.  My plan was to be at the start area by 5am to be sure I got a good street parking spot close to the start and finish area.  Our hotel was about a 10 minute drive from downtown, so I had plenty of time to get ready and get out on my schedule.

I made sure to get all my clothes set up the night before so I wouldn’t forget anything.  Only problem was that I was still totally undecided on what to wear.  It felt very cold on Saturday, in the mid 40’s in the morning and not much higher than 55 in the daytime.  The forecast for Sunday morning was 44 degrees, so I was not sure if I would wear long or short clothes for the race.  I had them both ready to go.  First check was the weather, and the temperature was 51 degrees.  Great news!  At 51 degrees, and a forecast of sun later in the morning, I figured I would be fine with short sleeves and shorts.  However, I would watch the temps carefully.  As it was only 4am, it was possible that the temps could still drop several degrees by 7am.  That was a mistake I made before the New York City Marathon this past year.  On that day, the temperatures continued to drop in the wee hours of the morning and I was not warm enough before the race.

Next concern was food.  I had collected a bowl of cereal, oranges, a banana and 2 small bagels from Saturday’s hotel breakfast.  The cereal was not portable, so I ate it in my room.  The rest of the food would come with me for the 2 hour wait before the race.

Was out of the hotel by 4:35, and was camping for the best spot well before 5am.  At that time, downtown was still deserted and I could essentially park wherever I wanted.  The start was on Congress Ave and 1st St, and the finish was on Congress Ave and 8th St, so I decided to park 1 block off Congress, in the middle, at 5th St.  Turns out I was about a half hour too early, as the parking spots all filled up around 5:30.  I filled the time by constantly checking the weather, thinking through my race strategy, using the port-o-potties (3 times), eating, and reading my book.  By the way, I’m currently on book 2 of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan, The Great Hunt.

The temperature did not go down, but stayed right at 51 degrees.  So, I decided to stay in my short sleeve shirt and shorts.  It was a tiny chilly so I wore a throwaway long sleeve tee until just before the start of the race.  In terms of food, I was sort of stuffed from 3 days of eating BBQ like a pig, but I forced myself to eat.  1 orange, 1 banana, 1 small bagel, and half a bag of pretzels.  I did not drink anything.  This is a common strategy I use before races – I drink A LOT the day and night before the race to get nice and hydrated, and then do not drink at all before the race.  If I drink before the race, then I invariably need to use the bathroom during the race, which is no good.

Since I was parked so close to the start and finish, I decided not to check my bag.  That meant I needed to stuff the giant car keys in my amphipod holder, along with 3 Gu’s.  Luckily it fit, barely!  At 6:35 I left the car for the last time and went on the back of the bathroom line, which was starting to back up.  Took awhile to get through the line and was ready to line up for the race at 6:50.

I’m guessing the bib numbers were assigned based on the sign-up order.  I signed up for the race on the 1st or 2nd day it opened, and ended up with the most amazing number, 36.  In the pre-race materials, it clearly stated that anyone with a number <300 could line up in the first corral, and then everyone else was to self line up by pace.  Now I normally would not go all the way to the front of the race line like that, but I WAS INVITED, and so did not feel bad at all.  Truth be told, there was nobody up front checking numbers so anyone could have lined up there, and there were others that didn’t belong.

Being up front was a really cool experience.  There were 2 wheelchairs lined up for the wheelchair competition, which would start 5 minutes before everyone else.  A guy with bib 1, and a woman who looked really fit were posing for pictures.  While there were lots of serious looking runners there, there was nobody famous.  A big deal was made about there being no elite field for the race.  AT&T was supposed to be the title sponsor, but backed out.  Therefore, no prize money, and thus, no elite field for the first time in the history of the race.  In addition to the marathon, with 5000 people, the half marathon started at the same time, with 8000 people.  It was quite a sight to look back from the start line and see people lined up as far as the eye can see, seemingly all the way back to the Texas Capital building, which is back on 13th St or so.

At about 6:55, they announced that the race would start 10 minutes late.  Later it got pushed back another 5 minutes, to 7:15.  The start announcer was having lots of problems with his microphone.  It was some kind of wireless device that kept losing its connection to the receiver.  It apparently required a clean ‘line of sight’, and people or things kept getting in the way.  It was a big problem for the guy singing the national anthem, as it the microphone kept cutting out on him.  All the runners filled in the gaps and it turned into a true group rendition. It was also neat watching the final preparations of the race director and the lead vehicles.  The race director kept giving the announcer guy cues of exactly what time to start.

Finally, at 7:15am the horn went off!

Written by SCL

February 18, 2009 at 10:02 pm

Working on the race report…

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Time consuming stuff, so I’m actually dreading it.  Too busy with work and home after being away 5 days…  Anyway, see my Austin Marathon official stats below.  I want to frame it!

Notice that I not only beat my 4:30 time goal, but with my place of 1998 out of 4051, I beat more than half the runners, my other general marathoning goal!

Austin Marathon Details

Written by SCL

February 18, 2009 at 11:24 am

Posted in Austin Marathon 2009

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Austin Day 3

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Saturday was day 3 in Austin.  Another great day.  The weather was cold, though.  We were very suprised when we stepped out into what could have been a New York winter day.  Cold and windy.  It was in the mid 40’s, so definitely warmer than your typical New York winter’s day, but colder than we were expecting, for sure.

My goal for the day was to drive the marathon course, and along the way, we would stop off at several touristy stops.  We drove the 1st six miles of the course, and then went to the Austin Botanical Gardens, at Zilker Park.  It was small, compared to others gardens I’ve seen, and since it is the tail end of winter, there was not a lot in full bloom, but it was still wonderful.  They have a great Japanese Garden, complete with a half moon bridge.  They also have a spectacular bamboo forest.  A few of the roses were in bloom, and we also went through the Prehistoric Garden, which has a statue of a dinosaur that was native to the area.

We then hit the marathon course again for another 8 miles or so, and turned off at Mt Bonnell.  It is a large hill with great views of Lake Austin.  It is more like a scenic overlook than a tourist destination.  We hiked up the many stairs to the top, admired the view for a bit, and headed back to the car.  Apparently, lots of people go there to picnic, and there was a couple with picnic basket, setting up for a Valentine’s Day lunch.

Finally, we drove the remaining 13 miles of the course.  We intended to stop off at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum, but changed our minds at the last minute to get a head start on our late lunch / early dinner plans.  

It was really useful to drive the course ahead of time, to get an idea of the hills, the turns, and the different stages of the course.  You can only appreciate the look of the hills at the end of the course once you’ve seen the whole thing and can grasp how big they are and how late in the race they appear!

For our late lunch / early dinner, we went to Salt Lick BBQ.  This is the place that was most strongly recommended among the people we spoke to.  It is way out in the sticks, about a 40 minute drive south and west of Austin, in the hill country.  And yet, when we arrived there at 2pm and put our names on the list, we were told it would be a 1 hour wait.  1 hour (and even 2 hour) waits are typical, it seems, and they had a guy singing and playing the guitar for entertainment in a heated tent.  It was still quite chilly (low 50’s), so we stayed in the tent to listen to the entertainment while we waited.  The wait did end up being 1 hour, but it was well worth it.  Probably the best BBQ I’ve ever had!  And the meal was topped off with a great Pecan Pie for me and a Blackberry Cobbler for my wife.  Another fantastic meal.

We were back at the hotel early and watched Get Smart, before retiring early to bed.  Had to be up early the next morning for the Austin Marathon, which started at 7am.

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Austin Day 2

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Friday was day 2 in Austin.  Had a great day.  The weather was stunning.  Early on it was in the 60’s and cloudy, but eventually the sun came out and the high was 79 degrees.  Thankfully the weather would cool before the marathon, but it was just perfect for being out and about.

In the morning, my wife had a business meeting on the campus of University of Texas, so I wondered around for a bit and just sat outside with my book, enjoying the weather.  Also got the worlds fastest haircut at some place on 26th and Guadaloupe.  Afterwards, we met up with another of my wife’s business contacts at Ranch 616, a diner style restaurant with great Texas food.  The special of the day was Chicken Fried Chicken, and I couldn’t pass that up.

After lunch, we had a couple of hours to kill before the Austin Marathon race expo, which was held at the Palmer Events Center, across the lake.  So, we did a lot of walking, and then spent an hour sitting in the shade just behind the expo location.  Just before 3pm, we headed into the expo, and it was a total mob scene.  Very crowded!  Waited about 15 minutes on line to get my bib, bag and shirt.

I went a little bit crazy at the expo and bought lots of stuff:

  • 1 tank top from the ‘discount’ guy.  Last summer I killed 2 of my tanktops from all the sweat, and I can’t get the stink out anymore.  So, I need some replacements.  Unfortunately, he only had 1 XL in a style that I liked.
  • 3 cheap pairs of ‘throwaway’ gloves from the same discount guy.  Figured I’d use one for the marathon on Sunday and then have 2 extra for future cold races or New York City Marathon.
  • Speed laces – I got this at Super Runners Shop last year, but have since had a hard time finding them.  These laces tighten and loosen by drawstring, rather than tying.  I absolutely loved them, and am glad I got some refills – 1 set of fasteners and 2 sets of laces
  • Austin Marathon branded mesh hat and gloves.  My old NYC Marathon branded gloves have gotten a bad case of the stinks, and need to go in the garbage.
  • 3 pairs of shorts (buy 2 get 1 free) from the sub4usa stand.  I love their DryLyte Compression shorts.  I bought 2 of these at the Big Sur Marathon expo in 2005 and after 4 summers of hard use, they were falling apart.  Should be set for a few more years now.
  • 3 pairs of socks – For my size 13 / 14 feet, extra large socks are a must.  I have a very hard time finding them in the running stores in New York.  I tried Super Runners Shop and Jackrabbit, to no avail.  At the expo, I splurged $20 for 3 pairs of super duper, toe reinforced, blister free, dry, etc socks.  Now I can throw away all of my old blister-causing socks.

We walked all around downtown in the evening and then headed to South Congress St to go to Guero’s Taco Bar for dinner.  Unfortunately, the place was packed, as was all the other restaurants in the area.  So, we went back to the hotel and had a great meal at Texas Land and Cattle, a chain restaurant, but still very good.  We ate in front of a fireplace, and topped it off with a great brownie with ice cream.

All in all, a wonderful kid-free day!

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 3:47 pm

A ‘fiery’ marathon

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Have a few hours to kill in the airport before heading back to NY tonight, so will try and post details of my trip and the Austin Marathon yesterday.

But first, check this out: http://nofearofthefuture.blogspot.com/2009/02/fortean-fireball-weekend.html – during the marathon, there was some kind of meteor or space debris that fell in the northern sky.

Written by SCL

February 16, 2009 at 3:14 pm