4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for May 2009

May 2009 in Review

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Running – back to respectability with 59.5 miles over 9 runs (50 miles per month minimum is my goal).  June is always my worst running month of the year.  Last year I only did 15.1 miles.  Will certainly do more than that this year, with triathlons in June and July.

Races – 1 (Brooklyn Half Marathon – 2:02:46)

Biking – 78.4 miles over 4 rides

Swims – 3

Gym workouts – 1

Softball games – 3  (all losses)

Injuries – 1 (nagging thigh/groin)

Sicknesses – 0


Written by SCL

May 31, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Brooklyn Half Marathon Race Report

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Wow I had a lot to say, sorry about the length 🙂

First, right off the bat, I think this was a wonderful event, and very well organized by NYRR.  With the exception of the NYC Marathon, this is probably the biggest NYRR race, in terms of participants, I’ve ever run in.  There were almost 9,500 finishers!  I was very nervous about the start, because the first part of the course was directly into the main walkway back from the bag check to the start line, and with port-o-potty lines between.  However, they did manage to clear the roadway and get the race started very cleanly, although 10 minutes late.  Better to start 10 minutes late and have a good clean start, than to start on time with confusion and congestion in the race course.

Also, the finish was fantastic.  Again, with the exception of the NYC Marathon, I’ve never, ever, seen so many people lining the finish of a race.  It was really incredible, especially with the surroundings of the boardwalk, Coney Island classic sights (parachute jump, Wonder Wheel, Cyclone, etc), and the beach and ocean and the Atlantic Highlands, NJ off in the distance.  (My weekend house, in Little Silver NJ, is sort of in the area of the Highlands, and so I’m even more fond of that view).  The festivities at the finish were also great, and it was real nice to have the opportunity to walk the boardwalk, use the baseball stadium, and visit Nathans.

My only complaint, logistically, is that the water stop at mile 3 / mile 6 was very, very poorly done.  This was the only water stop that was covered twice on the course.  For people on the inside, it was mile 3, and the first water stop of the race.  For people on the outside, it was mile 6, and this was the 3rd water stop.  Even though there were essentially 2 threads of runners coming through that spot, water was only on the left side of the road.  When I was at mile 3, the leaders were just started to pass us by at mile 6, and I was thinking to myself that those people will never be able to get over to the left side to get a drink.  When I came around the 2nd time, at mile 6, there was nothing left on the table.  The volunteers were working hard to refill, but there was a mass of people trying to get water and Gatorade.  I simply skipped it, and luckily, didn’t seem to cause me too much issue.  There should have been water tables on both sides of the road, or, there should have been twice as much water and Gatorade.  It simply didn’t seem like it was being treated as 2 water stops, but rather the same as the other water stops, which only served the course once.

My only other complaint is that they twice advertised the race as ‘almost’ full, even though they signed people up till the last day.  Maybe they changed their minds on the size of the field, but it is false advertising in a sense.  With caps on races, people are now incentivized to sign up early before races sell out, even if they are on the fence about running.  I wonder how many people signed up, because the race was ‘filling up’, and then did not end up running.  That also needs to be handled better in the future.

But, those aside, the race was pulled off wonderfully, and I really enjoyed myself.

For me, the day started out poorly.  I made the decision to drive, since parking was easy, they had a shuttle from the finish to the start, and it would allow me to get home faster and in more comfort than a long subway ride.  Also, I am an early bird when it comes to races.  I love to get to races real early, so I’m not rushed in my preparations, and so I simply don’t get caught in the masses checking my bag and using the bathrooms, etc.  I planned to get to Keyspan Park by 5:45 to catch one of the first buses to the start.  Was up just after 4am, and out the door and in my car at 5am.  Heading down the FDR Drive to the Brooklyn Bridge, when all of a sudden the traffic came to a stop, and not a third of a mile down the road, at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, I could see more flashing lights than I’ve ever seen in my life.  Apparently, there was a 3 car crash, closing both sides of the FDR.  I was S.T.U.C.K!  Not much else to do except hang out with drunk party goers trying to head home – “Party of the FDR”.

Eventually, after at least 45 minutes, they were able to back us out to the South Street exit, where I took the streets down to the Battery Tunnel and was on my way.  Luckily, I gave myself so much extra time that I was still a bit on the early side.  Parked my car by 6:15 and was at Prospect Park by 6:45, still plenty early.  Plenty of people already there, and I walked into the park, to the start area, to use the bathroom, find a bench to change my clothes, put on suntan lotion, and go through my other preparations.  Then headed back to the baggage area, dropped my bag off around 7:30 and walked back to the start.  Got on the bathroom line one last time (which took 20 minutes to get through) and then got into the 5000 range corral just before 8am.  Race kicked off about 10 minutes late.

I expected, in a race of 10,000 people, that the course would be very crowded and it would be hard to work around people in the early stages of the race, but that was not the case at all.  First of all, the corral area was fairly narrow.  For that reason, the corral area was very long, and it also took a long time to get to the start line (6:12, for me), but once we got across the start line, the course was not crowded at all.  There was plenty of room to maneuver, and for the most part, crowding was not a problem at all (except for the water stops!).  To me, this means the wave starts are still working.  Actually, the most shocking site of the day, was that there was somebody going through the corrals, kicking people back that did not belong.  Way to go NYRR!

Finally, on to the race proper.  For several reasons, I was really worried about the race.   The key to doing this race well is to sufficiently hold back in the early hilly miles to save energy for the end.  I tried really, really hard to do this.  The trick is to keep a fast enough pace so that you don’t kill your overall time, but hold back enough to stay fresh.  I managed to do this.  Even though I could have gone faster, I kept the early miles in Prospect Park in the 9:15 to 9:30 range.  Mile 5 was the one I really concentrated on this, as it was the 2nd time up the big hill.  Took that one as slow as I reasonably could.  By mile 7 we were heading out of the park.


  • 1 – 9:27
  • 2 – 9:22
  • 3 – 9:26
  • 4 – 9:12
  • 5 – 9:41
  • 6 – 9:38


Out of the park, down the ramp to the Prospect Expressway, and then up the hill to Ocean Parkway proper.  Then, it was the long, straight road to Coney Island.  Thankfully, the sun was off the left side, and not direcly in front.  Believe it or not, for me, it makes a big mental difference, not be running directly into the sun.  There was some shade, but not enough to be a big help.  Early on Ocean Parkway, there was little breeze, but as we got closer and closer to the Ocean, the breeze was more noticeable, and was a nice, cooling, breeze.  Slight downhill most of the way.

First couple of miles on OP were good.  Since I missed the mile 6 water stop, I took an extra long stop at mile 8, and ate my Gu there.  The next 2 miles, 9 and 10, were both on the slower side.  I ‘did the math’, at mile 10, and figured that I was right on pace for 2:05.  I knew 2:00 was not happening, too much time to make up, but I could, with a push, get down to 2:02-2:03.  My strategy for that was swinging my arms from time to time.  That is a good way to increase the pace without working much harder.  It worked for me.  I was able to pick up the pace for miles 11 and 12.  By mile 12, The end of Ocean Parkway was in view, and it was time to put the pedal to the metal, and push as hard as possible into the finish.  There was a pretty strong headwind on the boardwalk, but the big crowds were enough to keep me pushing.  In the end, miles 11, 12 and 13 were the fastest of the race!  There is nothing better than a negative split at the half marathon distance, and that was the case this time.  First 6 miles in 56:49 and the last 6 miles in 55:50.

  • 7 – 9:19
  • 8 – 9:11
  • 9 – 9:44
  • 10 – 9:45
  • 11 – 9:11
  • 12 – 9:08
  • 13 – 8:48
  • 13.1 – :48
  • Official time – 2:02:46
  • 5242 out of 9415 total finishers
  • 3510 out of 5074 male finishers
  • 684 out of 975 male 35-39

In the end, I was happy with the consistency, and also that the muscle pains in my legs were not a big problem.  Hopefully the naggy pain in my upper thigh/groin did not get any worse.  I was also happy that the warm weather was not a bigger problem.  It was definitely on the warm side, and very sunny, which makes it worse, but it was not humid, and so was manageable.  It was offset by some time in the shade, and some breezes, which both negated the sun a bit.     

I finally figured out the reason why I was so unhappy about the change of the timing of the race and the race course.  That is because the Brooklyn Half Marathon used to be my PR race.  Prior to this year, I’ve run it 6 times, the last 5 times setting new half marathon PRs.  I always run strongest in winter and early spring, and so was always in best shape for this race when it was held earlier in the year.  Anyway, this run of PR’s at the Brooklyn Half is over, and I’ll have to work harder on my PR’s in the future!

Next up, sprint triathlon in 2 weeks!

Written by SCL

May 31, 2009 at 7:38 pm


with one comment

My finishing time in the Brooklyn Half Marathon was 2:02:46.  Very consistent throughout.  I did not go all out in Propect Park, and found the energy to finish strong over the last 3 miles.  Can’t complain with the result at all, considering the warm temps and my leg issues.  Full race report probably tomorrow or Monday.

I’ve started creating a race results page, starting with half marathons – check it out.  This was my 8th fastest out of 28 total.

Written by SCL

May 30, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Posted in running

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Think I messed up

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Last night, I decided I would go to the gym and swim, rather than run, to rest my legs for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  Good plan.  However, I did something kind of silly.  

Over the last few weeks, a nagging injury to my upper thigh/groin area, has gotten steadily worse.  Lately, I’ve been icing and trying to stretch daily, to try and loosen things up and get better.  But, the reality is that it has not gotten any better, and in fact, may have been getting worse.  My leg does not hurt when I walk and sort of does not hurt when I run (I can feel it when I start out, until it loosens up a bit), but I can definitely feel some pain when I flex my leg in certain ways, or when I do certain stretches. 

Anyway, when at the gym last night, I did some very light weight lifting before my swim.  I decided to have a look at leg machines to see if anything looked promising for exercising my thighs, and spotted the abductor/adductor machine.  Got on that, and felt like it was just what I needed, and worked the area where I am feeling pain.  So, without really thinking it through, I did 3 hard sets of both abductor and adductor, on a pretty strong weight.  Then went for my swim and didn’t think anything of it.  Until today, when I noticed my legs hurting more than expected.  Then, realization slowly washed over me.  Of course.  My thighs are in pain because of a rough new workout on muscles that are not used to that kind of work.  I’m sure the muscle soreness will not magically go away by 8am tomorrow for the race.  I can only hope that with a slow start in the race tomorrow, they reasonably loosen up and do not cause to much trouble in the race.  

I think I need to lower my 2:00-2:05 expectation to 2:05-2:10.  Drat…

Written by SCL

May 29, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Posted in gym, injury, swim

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Video update

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Video update

Written by SCL

May 28, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in swim, video, weather

NYRR dipping its feet?

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Happy to see NYRR announcing a triathlon (their first???) , to be held in Flushing Meadows Park, on August 23rd.  This is big news, and maybe a sign to come of more triathlon events in the New York City area.  Right now, besides the New York City Triathlon, we are limited to the New York Triathlon Club events, many of which are outside NYC, and some of which are only biathlons 

I will not participate, as I’m already in in the Harriman State Park Triathlon in June and the New York City Triathlon in July, and I think that is enough for me for the year.  But, hopefully this is a success, and they can figure out how to add some triathlons to the schedule going forward.

On a related topic, I also notice that New York Triathlon Club has added a new Staten Island Triathlon to their schedule, on August 30.

Written by SCL

May 27, 2009 at 8:12 am

Posted in NYRR, triathlon

Nice 10.3 miler

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After yesterday’s freak out about the Brooklyn Half Marathon, I went out tonight for a 10.3 mile run – my 3 bridges 3 boros course.  Finished in approx 1:40, which included several stops to drink, and one bodega stop by buy a water.  I was very satisfied overall and think I’m in fine shape for the race on Saturday.  I know the Williamsburg Bridge, Pulaski Bridge, and 59th St Bridge will not properly approximate the constant hills in Prospect Park, but it is as close as I can get without running in Prospect Park itself.  

I ran a very strong final 3 miles, and definitely could have done another 3 if in a race condition.  I’m still worried that I might take the hills too hard, and will need to try to hold back a bit, especially in the first loop of the park.  Since they are expecting upwards of 10,000 runners in the race, it will be sufficiently crowded enough to hold us all back a bit, I’m sure.

Biggest and nicest surprise of the run was the newly painted bike lane on Driggs, covering all of my portion on that street (Williamsburg Bridge to McCarren Park).  Good news for runners, and great news for bikers!  Passed at least 20 people using the new lane.  This is a great one to add as a feeder to the bridge.  The biker with a leashed dog trotting alongside seemed a bit dangerous to me, but I guess if you must bike with your leashed dog trotting alongside, better to do it in a bike lane than on the sidewalk or on the main road.  

Anyway, definitely feeling better about the race, as long it is not a hot and humid day.  I still think sub 2 hours is a stretch, but we’ll see how close I can get to it.

Written by SCL

May 25, 2009 at 9:13 pm

Nervous about Brooklyn Half Marathon

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Getting a bit jittery about the Brooklyn Half Marathon coming up next Saturday.  

  1. Since the Austin Marathon in mid-Feb, I’ve only had one run over 7 miles.  I’ve been putting a fair amount of miles in, and was well trained for marathon distance 3 months ago, so will just have to hope that is enough.  My intention is to run 8-10 miles tomorrow, so at least I’ll have another longish run under my belt.
  2. From the beginning, I was not happy about the timing of the race.  I’m not a good hot/humid weather runner, and much prefer the race in the March timeframe, it’s historical spot on the calendar.  I’ve had very strong times in this race, but always as the culmination of my strong winter training.  Simply put, too much time has past since I hit my peak training in Feb/March.
  3. Finally, I think reversing the race course will be a problem for me.  First 7 miles is 2 loops of Prospect Park, and then the final 6 miles is totally flat down Ocean Parkway and on the boardwalk.  Eerily reminds me of the New York City Half Marathon course, where I have not done well both times I’ve run it.  The hills, in the heat and humidity, just wiped me out for the rest of the run.  I will need to be very careful not to go out too fast in the hills, or, hopefully the heat and humidity won’t be a big problem.  I think this is a mental block more than anything else.

This was always my favorite race on the calendar.  March was the perfect time of the year for a half marathon.  The beach and boardwalk, at the race start in Coney Island in the early morning, was always so peaceful.  And the race course was very fair.  Flat for first 9 miles made it easy to get into a groove.  If you managed the pace correctly, and saved just enough in the tank for the last 4 hilly miles in Prospect Park, you could really push the hills and get rewarded with a fast time.  My last 3 Brooklyn Halfs (2005, 2007, 2008) were all PR’s, with the last 2 both under 1:58.  The difference with this course is that I’ll be afraid to push the hills hard, and, if I come out of the park at all on the tired side, it will be a long slog down Ocean Parkway, likely running into the sun…

I understand that all things need to change eventually, and the new date and configuration of the race will create a great day for the borough of Brooklyn.  Upwards of 10,000 runners are expected, and it will certainly be a party atmosphere at the finish in Coney Island.  But, it will create a tougher race for me.  I think under 2 hours will be a stretch, but I hope to be close.  I fully expect to finish under 2:05, which is 9:33 pace per mile.  Wonder how I will respond… 

Today, did a 26 mile bike ride, up to George Washington Bridge.  See the course here.

Written by SCL

May 24, 2009 at 9:14 pm

Posted in bike, running

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First hot weather run of the year

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I was very naive at the start.  The humidity was not high, and the temperature didn’t seem too crazy, at 84 degrees, but it was still the afternoon and the sun was shining.  That, combined with not having run in anything higher than 72 degrees since early September (except for a couple of rough runs in South Florida in December), made this run very difficult.  I guess I’m just not ready for hot weather running yet.  I know it will get easier, with more practice, as the hot weather becomes entrenched.

Two mistakes, I think.  First, I tried to run too far, and second, I didn’t bring water or Gatorade with me.  I chose a 6.2 mile route, out and back through East River Park and down the East River a ways.  There is a water fountain in front of the track in East River Park, about a mile into the run, which I would pass at miles 1 and 5.

Could feel the heat pretty quickly, but the first half of my run was into the wind.  Running into the wind is good in the heat, because it helps evaporate your sweat, and keep you feeling cooler.  I did dial the pace back a bit.  With a quick stop at the water fountain, my first 2 miles were done in 18:21.  After another 1.1 miles, I hit the turnaround, and was then running with the wind.  There was less resistance here, so the going was easier, but it felt much hotter without the wind.  My pace was steadily dropping as the middle 2.2 miles were finished in 21:27.  

Then, things started to get really hard.  The sun started really bothering me, and I started feeling very dehydrated.  Did not stop before getting to the water fountain again at the 5 mile mark.  Drank a lot there, but could not continue running.  Was feeling dizzy and just very tired.  Alternated running and walking the rest of the way.  Probably walked almost half of the last mile.  Final 2 miles was done in 21:20, not bad considering the walking.  6.2 mile total was 1:01:09.

The hardest hot weather run is the first.  I’ll be better prepared the next time, and hope to be properly acclimated by the time we get to July and the New York City Triathlon.

Written by SCL

May 23, 2009 at 8:02 am

A Race With No (Good) Name

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Most races we run in have nice catchy names, worst case named after city or location (New York City Marathon, Austin Marathon, Brooklyn Half Marathon, etc), and in the best case, a wonderfully creative name (Grandma’s Marathon, Flying Pig Marathon, and my new favorite, Slacker Half Marathon).  A quick check at Daily Mile shows the following races happening on Sunday, all with nice names:

  • Spring Lake 5
  • 9th Annual Delaney Dash
  • 100 Miles of Nowhere
  • Together for Derek 5K
  • Great Hudson River Swim

The names of the races make it real easy to talk about, and to Google Search to see what other people are saying about the race.

I really would like to talk about my upcoming sprint triathlon, organized by New York Triathlon Club, on June 14, but the name is just not one that is easy to type, and it definitely does not roll off the tongue.  I guess what confuses matters is that they run both a triathlon and a biathlon at the same time.  The wonderful name: NY TRI/BI-ATHLON SERIES #1.  Isn’t that just so original!  All kidding aside, NYTC does put on wonderful events.  I’ve twice run their biathlons in Central Park, and would love to do more of their races if I had the time.  One does need to think ahead though, as the best races, especially the ones in Central Park, do sell out early.

Name aside, I’m super excited about the race.  This sprint distance triathlon will be a perfect tune up for the New York City Triathlon in late July – .5 mile swim, 16 mile ride, and then a 3 mile run.  It is in Harriman State Park, which I’m sure will be beautiful at that time of year.  Only problem is that it is a bit of a hike from NYC, starts early on Sunday morning, and I’m committed to picking up my sister-in-law and family at JFK the night before.

With the triathlon in mind, I made it to the gym this morning to swim in the pool.  First morning workout in a long time.  My 7 year old is off from school today and tomorrow, which freed up the time for a morning workout.  And a nice workout it was – actually swam 20 full laps of the pool, which I think is close to the half mile distance of the race.  My swim technique is awful, which, from a glass half full perspective, can only get better!  If I can get to the pool twice per week before the race, then I’ll have a good 5-6 workouts to figure out how to make it work.

Next up though, the Brooklyn Half Marathon, next Saturday, with it’s newly redesigned course.  More on that another time…

Written by SCL

May 21, 2009 at 6:21 pm

Posted in swim, triathlon

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