4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for June 2009

Some day, I WILL do a half ironman

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T minus 31 days till the New York City Triathlon.  Need to get a good bike ride in this weekend.

I’m really high on triathlons after having a great time at Harriman State Park 2 weeks ago.  I WILL do a half ironman some day – they seem so cool.  I’ve getting notices from the Toughman Triathlon in Westchester that is coming up and I’m jealous that I currently could not come close to doing it.  2010 may be too lofty of a goal, but come 2011, I will complete a half ironman!

Did a 4 mile run to East River Park and back yesterday afternoon, after my 13 year old graduated from 8th grade / Middle School in the morning.  The humidity was up, and I had a tough time ‘finishing’.  Managed to keep the pace just under 9 mins per mile, but likely would have stopped to walk in the last mile if it didn’t start raining.  I HATE running in the summer!

Regarding the graduation…  It’s funny.  I’m 38 years old.  I don’t feel old, and even I don’t lament my birthdays going by – they don’t make me feel old either.  Maybe I’ll feel different when I get to 40 in a year and a half.  But, yesterday, my 13 year old graduating middle school and getting ready for high school in Sept struck me in an odd way, and actually is making me feel old.  I don’t like that!

Guess I gotta keep running! And biking! And swimming!


Written by SCL

June 25, 2009 at 4:04 pm

East River Park Promenade

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Thanks to The Lo Down, I see the next section of the East River Park Promenade is finally open for business!  This is the section behind the track.  Hopefully they can get on with the rest of it quickly.  I won’t use the promenade section much, as I use the main road for my runs, but the faster they get the promenade all opened up, the faster they can repave the rest of the main road, which is in a very bad state of dips, valleys and holes, and good for swimming after it rains.  I was ecstatic when they repaved the northernmost section in the winter, and hope the rest can be repaved by this upcoming winter.

I remember the uproar when they first closed down the promenade (Daily News Article), just before July 4, 2001.  Only been 8 years…

Written by SCL

June 23, 2009 at 5:44 pm

Posted in East River Park

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My weekend

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Just a recap of my recent activities:

Friday – in the summer time, I get out of the office early on Friday and so took advantage of the extra time to go to the gym for a workout.  With my leg issues, I focused mainly on my lower body.  Little surprised at how crowded the gym was in the mid-afternoon.  Seemed as if many were regulars.  It must be nice.

Friday night my wife did a comedy monologue at Magnet Theater, the culmination of the improv class she’s been taking for the last 2 months.  Just prior to the class, found I had a flat tire on my car (second tire in 2 months), which wiped out our plans to head to my New Jersey house Friday night.

Saturday – got the tire fixed first thing in the morning, and then went out for a nice 4 mile run down to East River Park and back.  Run actually felt great.  My leg injuries kept themselves to a minimum, and I felt like I ran a pretty good pace.

Sunday – Father’s Day so didn’t do much of anything.  Just took it reaaaaal easy.

Monday (today) – got up early for a run.  Decided to run my 6.5 mile Lower Manhattan Loop.  It was very hard.  I think it was a combination of the humidity, and also just not being accustomed to running long distances in the early morning.  Had to stop and walk at about mile 4 and then stopped again to buy a Gatorade at mile 5.  Then, tonight, played softball.  We had a really nice come from behind win 9-7.  Our record is 3-4, and we are still in this thing!

Anyway, I may or may not get up early to go to the gym tomorrow.  We will see!

Written by SCL

June 22, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Posted in gym, running

Triathlon Race Report

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Sunday was the 24th annual New York Tri/Bi-athlon Series at Harriman State Park, run by New York Triathlon Club.  This sprint tri consisted of a 1/2 mile swim, 16 mile bike ride and 3 mile run.  All in all, I did really well (for me), finishing in 1:54:41.  I felt like my time was great, but, in sharp contrast to running races, it is a little hard to compare the time directly between races.  This is because the distances in sprint tri’s are always slightly different.  For instance, the race I did last year was a .9 k swim (more than a half mile), the bike was 24k (little less than 15 miles) and the run was 3.1 miles.

What makes me most proud about this race was that it was very hilly, at least for me!  The bike course had it’s fair share of hills, including a 3 mile uphill in the middle, and, the out and back run was up and down hill.  Passed lots of people on the bike uphills, and ran very strongly throughout the entire 3 mile run.  This was a great tuneup for the New York City Triathlon, 5 weeks from this upcoming Sunday.  Now I need to double the swim and run, and add 8 miles to the bike ride.

Anyway, back to the race and day.  I always like to get to races really early, so I have plenty of time to calmly get myself ready to go.  Race was at  8am, wanted to get there by 6:30, which meant leaving the house at 5:30.  Problem was that I picked up my visiting sister-in-law and family from JFK on Saturday night.  Knowing that, I took a 2+ hour nap on Saturday.  So, when I got back from the airport after midnight Sat night, I had a hard time falling asleep.  Probably ended up with 3 hours of broken sleep.  Considering the nap on Saturday, and just being generally pumped up, I was feeling better than expected, but I know my body wasn’t as rested as it should be.

At 6:30, there were already lots of people at the park.  Joined the crowd in picking up my number, and getting my bike and all my stuff to the transition area.  Had lots of time, so was able to leisurely eat, change, use the bathroom, and place out the items I’d need at the various transitions.  Swim cap and goggles for the start.  Bike helmet, socks and sneakers for the bike, and then my running cap and Gatorade for the run.  With about 20 minutes to go, got my wetsuit on and headed out to the lake for the start.

Wave start was about 100 people per wave.  My number put me in the 2nd wave, with at least 2 waves behind me.  Good in the sense that there would be people behind me coming out of the swim, but bad in the sense that I’d be passed by a lot of people as the later waves got started.  I made sure to start at the back of the wave, since I would not be going fast.  The horn sounded, and we were in the water.

The swim turnaround was a giant orange buoy a quarter mile out in the lake.  It seemed really far away.  As I settled into my ugly swim, ran into problem number one.  I found that I had a very hard time seeing in my goggles.  I had blue tinted goggles, which I thought would be good for an outdoor swim.  Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, and the water was kind of dark.  As a result, I could not see at all, and the goggles seemed to somehow get fogged up.  After about 1/10 of a mile, I decided to ditch the goggles.  I thought it would be better to see clearly with no goggles, than to not be able see with the goggles on.  Then, the problem would be keeping my eyes as dry as possible.  I wear contact lenses, and was very afraid of losing one, or both.  At one point, I almost lost one of them.  So, I did a breast stroke and back float to get through most of the swim.  Once all the fast people passed us by, I was able to hold my own among the slower people out there.  Eventually, I found a nice rhythm, and was able to comfortably finish the swim portion.  Was also very thankful to retain both contact lenses.

Swim – 24:39

My biggest goal of this race was not to finish last in the swim, and I did not!  About 16 people had slower swim times than me.  It will have to do for now, but clearly that can be improved over time.  Transitioning was a little rough.  It was about 100 yards from the beach to the transition area,  on pavement.  The trip could best be called a lumber.  During said lumber, I was able to get halfway out of the wetsuit.  Once I got to my bike rack, got the rest of the wetsuit off pretty quickly and got my socks, shoes and helmet on.  Then, on the bike course.

T1 – 2:59

Started out with a pretty easy pace, without pushing too hard.  The early part of the bike is where I hit my second problem – trying to get rid of the excess air I accumulated in my body in the swim.  When I swim, I know I don’t breathe properly, and eventually feel like I need to let out an enormous burp.  I noticed this in my triathlon last year, and then again this time.  All of a sudden, I felt a big urge to burp, but couldn’t actually get it out.  Of course, I didn’t want to stop and get off the bike to burp, so tried to slow down, adjust my position, and figure out how to make the burp come.  I even tried patting my back (as best as one can pat themselves on the back) as one would do to burp a baby.  Eventually, in about the 2nd mile, on a downhill stretch, the burp did come.  Then, I was off to the races.  Eventually, I will hire a swim coach and learn to breathe the right way, to hopefully avoid this issue.

With the burp behind me, I started to push on the bike.  Early miles are flat to manageable hills, then about 4 miles in, there is a long downhill stretch, following by a 3 mile uphill.  To make matters worse, at the bottom of the long, and steep downhill, was a very tight u turn which takes you uphill.  I had been warned about this and so was able to downshift prior to hitting the turnaround.  If you forget to downshift, it will be really hard to get going up the hill, and some people lose their chain and have to stop to fix.  In extreme cases, people that don’t realize the turn is coming take it too fast, and wipe out on the turn.  As I said, I was prepared for the turn and did it really well.  The next portion, the 3 mile uphill was really, really hard.  As hard as it was for me, it was hard for everyone else too, and I was even able to pass a few people that really had a hard time with the hills.

I tried to take some time to simply enjoy the scenery in the park.  Parts of the ride were through wooded areas, with nice views of streams and rapids.  Lots of wild life about, and a deer actually crossed the road in front of me at one point.  Also passed several lakes, one of which was completely fogged over.  Just a beautiful scene all around.  The last few miles were mostly straight, and not so hilly, so was able to keep a nice pace to the end of the bike ride.

Bike – 1:01:10

Had a very fast transition to the run because my bike rack was very close to the entrance to the transition area.  Got my bike back on the rack, traded my helmet for cap, took a large swig of Gatorade, and was then off on the run.

T2 – :41

The start of the run was tough on the muscles.  Hurt for about the first 50 steps.    Then stopped at the water stop for water, and when I started up again, my legs felt OK.  Heavy, but OK.  First half mile of the run was a pretty steep uphill.  I like uphills, and do pretty well on them, so this didn’t phase me too badly.  Pushed up to the top of the hill, and then entered a bit of a downhill.  On the downhill, settled into a very steady pace.  Held back even a little bit, because it seemed like the rest of the run out was downhill to the turnaround point and I expected an uphill after the turn around.  Funny thing was, when I got to the turnaround point, we were actually going downhill.  Somehow I was confused, and thought we were going downhill approaching the turnaround, when in fact, we were uphill!  Wild.  With the mind playing tricks on me at a little sprint tri, I’d hate to see what kind of crazy things the mind will do when doing ironman distance races.  Anyway, the return trip was pretty easy, especially with the steep downhill the last half mile.

Run: 25:50

Felt great after the race.  After drinking some more Gatorade and eating a banana, cheered in a bunch of the people still finishing up.  Then the long drive back to the city, and a well deserved 2 hour nap in the afternoon.

Again, I was very happy overall with my time and experience.  I’m starting to become hooked.  I can see myself doing 2-3 tri’s per year.  Next priority is to work harder on the bike and practice uphills.

Transition Area
Transition Area
Lake at Harriman State Park
Lake at Harriman State Park


Written by SCL

June 19, 2009 at 1:27 pm

Back in the morning run routine

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Got out for a morning run.  Hopefully today is the start of a good new habit of morning workouts.  Yesterday was the last day I needed to get my 7 year old out of bed at 6:30 and out of the house at 7:05.  That schedule was just not conducive to morning workouts.  My kids don’t sleep till 10:30 or 11, and then it is really hard to get up any earlier than 6am.  Therefore, morning runs have been scarce the last 3 years.  Katie will be at a new school next year, closer to home, so the new morning routine in Sept will hopefully allow for running or time at the gym.  It is also quite possible that I was inspired by Jason and Ari, who both wrote about morning running this week.  Some of my friends on dailymile also run and workout in the morning, which is great.

Anyway, back to today’s workout.  4 miles total, out to the bottom of East River Park and back.  Felt very sluggish, either because of not being used to the morning, or still shaking the cobwebs from my triathlon on Sunday.  In terms of injuries, my groin only bothered me at the beginning, and loosened up within the first half mile.  My ice and stretching is, I think, helping to keep the problem at bay, and I think it is finally starting to get a little better.  The tendonitis behind my left knee also did not bother me at all today running, although I still feel it when I press around the area with my fingers – will continue the ice treatments.

Total time was 37:16.  2nd half was slightly slower than first half.  That is a big sign that things weren’t perfect.  Normally, I negative split this course.  Should have happened today as well, since I was running into the wind in the first half and with the wind the 2nd half.  Rain was also a factor.  While it was light when I started out at 6:30, it got progressively heavier and I was soaked through by the end.

We’ll see if today is a one-shot deal, or if I can make it a habit again…

Written by SCL

June 18, 2009 at 8:47 am

Triathlon Tuneup in the Books

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I wish I had more time to write these race reports 😦  Full report to follow. 

Yesterday I finished the sprint triathlon at Harriman State Park organized by New York Triathlon Club.  I had an awesome race and finished in 1:54:40, unofficially.  There was some kind of issue with the timing chips, and the official results are still not posted on the site.

The swim was rough, I was better than decent on the hilly bike course, and I rocked the 3 mile run.  Again, full details to follow later in the week.

Picture of the lake and the transition area.

Written by SCL

June 15, 2009 at 2:19 pm

Posted in triathlon

Triathlon prep

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In final preparation mode for my second triathlon ever, and my first of the year.  I’m running (I wonder, do you call it running, or something more generic, like participating?) in a sprint triathlon at Harriman State Park on Sunday.  I’m worried that I’m woefully unprepared for the overall event, the transitions, and the swim.   Just in normal pre-race panic mode.  Have been working on necessary preparations though:

  1. Yesterday managed to get my wetsuit on and off.  Getting that thing on is not easy.  Once you get it on, it is then also not easy to get the zipper up.  Was able to remember the tricks from last year, and it went pretty well.  Feeling good then about getting it on and off.  Although, the wetsuit itself is NOT comfortable, so not looking forward to wearing it pre-race.
  2. Completely cleaned my bike chain and drivetrain, then re-lubed it up.  That was a very, very, very messy job.  I’ve had my bike for 2 years, rode over 1100 miles, but have never made any attempt to clean the chain.  While it doesn’t look like new, it looks very clean, and is no longer totally black and gunked up.  I don’t know how much faster it will make me in reality, but mentally, I think it will be a big help.
  3. Cracked open my “Your First Triathlon” book, by Joe Friel, for some last minute inspiration and preparation.  Bought the book about 3 years ago when I first had thoughts of maybe doing a triathlon some day, and then read through it last year when I was getting ready for my first.  This time around, just skimming the highlights, and it is helpful also from a mental perspective.

Otherwise, excited about the race.  Coincidently, found out that a woman who works in my office, and also a beginning triathlete, is participating in the same race, so at least I’ll have someone to commiserate with beforehand.  She is also not strong with the swim, so it may be a race between us to see who is last out of the lake!

Will try to make tomorrow a restful day, and cross my fingers for good weather Sunday morning…

Written by SCL

June 12, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Posted in triathlon

Week in review

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Haven’t had a chance to write in the last week, so here is a review of what I’ve been up to!

Went to Middlebury VT last weekend.  My wife was speaking on a panel at alumni weekend at the college.  Middlebury is very nice.  We stayed at a great bed and breakfast, and tooled around the various small towns there including Bristol and Vergennes.  Also went to the Robert Frost trail in Bread Loaf, but it was mostly closed due to some flood damage from the winter.

I brought my bike with me to Middlebury, and had an amazing, and humbling ride.  My intention was to bike out and back from Middlebury, on rt 125, to Lake Champlain (see route here).  It was about 15 miles each way.  The hills were relentless, and wore me down to no end, and I could only cover about 12 miles before turning around.  24 miles in total, and a really awesome and hard workout.  I realize that real bikers and triathletes can handle these kinds of hills with no issues, so I need to figure out how to add more hills to my bike workouts.  I like riding at my weekend house in Little Silver, NJ, but there are very few ‘real’ hills out there.  Anyway, it was an awesome ride, and a great tune up for my triathlon this weekend.

As good as the ride was, I think the hills aggrevated my groin.  It was really acting up on Sunday and Monday.  The good news is that it helped me to isolate exactly where the pain is coming from, so now I know where to focus my ice treatments.

Monday night was softball, up in Inwood.  With my groin issue, I was not able to run full out, but the light running in the outfield and on the bases, combined with lots of stretchng, actually made it feel a little better.  Collectively we had a great game, and won 11-7.

Didn’t do any workouts on Tuesday because I had to run down to my weekend house and do some lawn and grounds care, and morning workouts are too hard until school is over for my kids.  Wednesday nights are no good for swimming because there is only a small window the pool is available for lap swimming, so I went for a run last night.

Did my 4 mile out and back to East River Park.  I have a hard time doing ‘easy’ runs, and ran it pretty hard.  Finished up in 34:56, about 8:45 pace.  The groin issue is so far not preventing me from running.  It only bothers me a little as I get started with a run, and loosens up pretty quickly.  However, I’ve lately also been feeling some tendonitis behind my left knee, and that I can feel with every step in a run.  It is not a lot of pain, but just a little bit of very noticeable discomfort.  While not preventing me from running, I think it would prevent me from running all out in a speed workout or race condition.  So far, ice on its own has not done anything.  May need to work on leg based stretches and exercises to smooth it out.

It is interesting.  These are my first real injuries since I started this blog over a year ago.  In the past, I constantly had injury issues and I think this is the longest I’ve ever gone without issue.  My last big injury was when I blew out my lower back in July 2007.  Historically, I’ve always had leg problems on my right side – patellar tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splits, etc.  Left leg was always great.  Therefore, never really focused on left side.  My current injuries are on my left side.  Ooops.  Guess I need to pay attention to both sides going forward!

This morning, heading to my older daughters school.  She is 13 and graduating middle school in 2 weeks.  Today is an honors ceremony, and she is doing a solo tap dance routine.  Then off to work, and hopefully to the pool to swim tonight.

With my triathlon coming up quickly on Sunday, I need to make sure I’m well prepared for all 3 events, for the transitions, and most importantly, need to practice getting the wetsuit on and off!

Written by SCL

June 11, 2009 at 7:24 am

Discomfort vs Pain

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Was listening to the Steve Somers interview of Dave Lennon of Newsday from last night where they were talking about the Mets injuries, and Jose Reyes in particular, and discussing discomfort vs pain.  Discomfort is something you can continue to work through, where pain is when you need to shut it down.  It really hit home for me, because I’ve been having lots of discomfort lately in my legs.  I’m still running, through the discomfort, and hoping I can hold it at bay and turn it around, before it starts becoming pain.  Once we get to ‘pain’, then it will be time to take a break.  In addition to the thigh/groin issue I’ve been having for a few months, I’ve now starting feeling some tendonitis behind my left knee.  Time to ice religously, stretch daily and focus more on swiming and biking for lower impact on my legs.  Most years, I run hard in the winter and spring, and then dial it way back in the summer before picking it up again in September.  That break usually gives me the time to heal from any injuries that start up.  But, this year, with my focus on summer triathlons, I’m not taking the normal break that I usually get this time of the year.  A good goal, then, for future years, is to figure out how to stay injury free, while running year round.

Yesterday, managed to swim and run.  Was able to get up early to go to the pool at the gym.  Covered about a half mile in the pool.  It was an ugly half mile, with lots of breaks, and not a whole lot of good free style, but I’ll take it.  Half mile is the swim distance at next weekends sprint triathlon at Harriman State Park.  Last night I was supposed to play softball, but once the rain started coming down  around 5pm, the game was cancelled.  That freed up my time to go for a run last night.  

I felt obligated to run, since it was National Running Day.  My new favorite rainy day course is going down 1st Ave to East River, then down the East River bike path to Wall Street, and then turning around and running the reverse.  This run was not easy at all.  To start, I had some ‘discomfort’ at the start due to my injuries, and it took a little while to warm up.  Then, my legs just felt generally tired and dead.  I’m assuming this is because I was not fully recovered from the Brooklyn Half Marathon from Saturday.  I struggled through it, and finished the 5.2 miles in 50 minutes and change.  Actually, not bad at all considering my slower pace, and not catching a couple of traffic lights at major intersections.  Could be my imagination, but it seemed like there were more runners out on East River than I usually see, hopefully due to National Running Day.  As an aside, they’ve started digging up the entire sidewalk south of South Street Seaport, to at least Wall St.  I thought maybe this would be the site of the new Water Taxi Beach, but I see that the beach is already open!  Hopefully they get this construction done quickly so that we can get the full extent of the walkway back in this very crowded area.  

I know I’ll be fine for my tune up triathlon next week, but need to be careful to make sure my legs are OK for the New York City Triathlon, which is 7 weeks from Sunday.  In the meantime, I’m thinking about finding the time to go see a doctor about the thigh/groin injury to find out exactly what it is.

Tomorrow afternoon, heading out to Middlebury, VT.  Bringing my bike along – will try to get a good ride in on Saturday, and maybe a run as well on Sunday morning.

Written by SCL

June 4, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Posted in injury, running, swim