4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for July 2009

July 2009 in Review

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I realize that today is only July 30, but since I still cannot even come close to any active activity tomorrow with my back injury, can post this month end summary a little early 🙂

Running – 44.8 miles over 9 runs.  Happy with the number of runs, but they were all on the short side, which is why my mileage for the month is a little low.  Leaves me at 405 miles for the year, significantly ahead of the 366 I had last year through 7 months.  With New York City Marathon training coming up, still possible to get to 800 for the year.

Races – 1 (New York City Triathlon – 3:06:27)

Biking – 148.8 miles over 8 rides, easily my biggest bike month ever!

Swims – 5

Gym workouts – 2

Softball games – 2  (2 wins, 2 rainouts)

Injuries – 2 (nagging groin getting better; severe lower back spasm)

Sicknesses – 0


Written by SCL

July 30, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

New York City Triathlon Race Report

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This past Sunday, I raced in the New York City Triathlon.  It was thrilling and grueling at the same time, and I came away from the race with a renewed excitement about triathlons, and even more awe for everyone that can compete in half and full ironmans.  Of course, I ended the day on a huge downer, experiencing a MAJOR back spasm after the race was over.

Rise and Shine

The day started with a 3:30 alarm.  I had taken out everything that I needed the night before, but not necessarily packed it.  Specifically, I needed to separate everything needed for the transitions as that would have to dropped off before the start of the race.  In all, there was a LOT of gear to stuff into my bags.  The bulky items were my bike helmet, wetsuit and running shoes.  In addition to that, had spare clothes and lots of little items.  By 4:15, I was about ready to go.  Checked the weather, and saw a brief storm about to blow through the city.  So, waited it out about 15 minutes and left at 4:30.  Grabbed an umbrella on the way out.

The Commute

Outside, it was not raining.  Walked over to 14th and 1st, to Hot and Crusty, and picked up a bagel and Gatorade.  Then hopped in a cab for the ride up to transition, at 72nd and Riverside.  On the ride, was mentally trying to figure out if I forgot anything.  Only thing I could come up with was a towel.  Would have been very helpful to have a towel for transition, and another one for after the race.  That was all I had forgotten, so not too bad.  On the way up in the cab, it started pouring again.  Cabbie went across 57th St and intended to go up 12th Ave, which was a standstill.  So, he headed up 11th Ave instead and dropped me off at 70th St, which was also starting to back up with traffic.  By then, the rain was tailing off, and was able to walk without umbrella to the transition area.

Transition Prep and Pre Start

By then, it was 5:20, the transition areas were filled with lots of people, and they were making announcements that the transition areas would close at 5:45 to prepare for the race.  So, was able to get into transition, get to my bike, and put out everything I needed: helmet, bike gloves, bike glasses, Gatorade bottle, socks, running shoes, and running hat.  Also, at that precise moment I was putting out my things, it started raining hard again.  Did the best I could to cover everything, especially my running shoes.  In addition, I left the bulkier of the bags I brought with me, so I would not have to check it at the start.

Next up was the 1 mile walk up to the swim start at 99th St.  Long procession of racers walking through the Riverside Park dawn was pretty cool.  Took this opportunity to eat my bagel.  Made it out towards the start area at about 5:55.  The race was to start at 5:50, but I didn’t see anyone in the water yet.  Uh, oh.  By then, the rain had stopped and it was clearing outside.  It seemed there was no more threat of rain.  Not sure what the delay was, but was h0ping they were not going to cancel the swim at the last minute!

At that point, reached the staging area for the start.  First stop was to pick up my timing chip.  That part was pretty unorganized and a bit of a mob scene, but was able to find my way to where my chip was, pick it up, and attach to my ankle.  Next were the bag drops, so had to change into my bike/run shirt, pin my race number, pack away my sneakers, apply body glide and suntan lotion, etc, pack my bag and load it onto the appropriate truck.  Then, time to get body marked with my number.  That didn’t go so well, as I had already put suntan lotion on my arms, and the markers don’t work so well on skin once a lotion has been applied!

By that time, the first waves had gotten started, so just watched the race from the sidelines.  First few waves were the professionals and age group elites.  They were very strong.  Then many waves followed.  Passed the time by walking around among the various start corrals, caught up with a friend who was also racing, and then got my wetsuit on.  The race started about 25 minutes late, and they were trying to make up the time by starting the waves every 2.5 minutes, rather than every 3 minutes.  They maintained a 20 minute gap between the earlier yellow start waves, and the later red start waves.


Finally, around 7:35am (about 10 minutes late), my wave got up to the start line.  It was quite scary, standing up on the dock staring down the Hudson River.  All I could think of was the moment you get to the top of the big drop in a roller coaster, and you can see the everything in front of you, and you are scared out of your mind!  There were a LOT of people in my wave, some jumped in the water, and some sat waiting on the dock.  I made the mistake of jumping in the water.  Try as I might to just tread water and hold my spot, the downstream current kept pushing me into the other people already in the water and I kicked a bunch of people trying to hold my position.  Finally, the horn went off, and everybody was by me very quickly!  There were 3 or 4 of us lagging behind in the water, myself probably being in the last position.  The first 4-5 minutes were very calm.  Had most of the course to myself until the waves behind caught up.  Then migrated over to the seawall side, which was less crowded.  Kept switching between freestyle, breast stroke, side stroke and floating on my back.  Could tell that I was making great time due to the downstream flow of the river.  It seemed that I passed the 300 m sign very quickly.  As the swim progressed, and people from the waves behind me caught up, it started getting more and more stressful as I got passed by.  Managed to pass a couple of people myself, somehow, one with a matching orange cap from my wave, and also one with a white cap from the wave in front of me.  Kept on floating my way down the river and all of a sudden, the finish was in view and I worked my way out of the water to the long run into transition.  My watch said 25:01, which is blazing fast for me.  This is almost faster than the time for me to swim a half mile in my sprint tri last month.  Yes, I was stronger, and had better form than last month, but this was mostly due to the downstream current!  It was about a 300 yard barefoot run, on concrete, to get to the timing mat and entrance to transition.  Ran about half and walked about half, while getting the wetsuit off down to my waist.

Swim time – 28:19.


Transition area was pretty long, maybe 100 yards.  Ran to where my bike was parked.  Took my time getting my wetsuit off and putting on my socks and shoes, so I would not hurt myself.  Then got my glasses and helmet set, drank some Gatorade, and took off with my bike out of transition and onto the bike course.

T1 time – 6:27


Start was very slow.  Couple of sharp turns and steep uphills to get onto the West Side Highway proper.  Only the northbound side of the highway is used.  Right lane for heading north, left lane for heading south, and the center lane for break downs.  There were many more people broken down than I expected, even though, generally speaking, the quality of the roads were pretty good.  Much better than the streets of Manhattan than I’m used to riding on.  Bike course was deceptively hilly, but no one hill too crazy.  Big hill heading towards the GW bridge, then another big hill to get to the Hudson Bridge toll to the bronx, and then lots of rolling hills on the northern most portion of the ride.  I only had to get down into my smallest hill gear twice, and in neither instance for that long.  Water management was tough.  I had 2 water bottles, but was very thirsty, I guess from the humidity.  So, had to ration the water.  One bottle to the turnaround, and then the 2nd bottle for the return, finishing it about 2 miles from the end.  The end of the bike ride was actually pretty tough.  We went south all the way to 57th St, and then a sharp uturn and back uphill to get to the 79th St off ramp.  While I did my fair share of passing people (loved passing people with a lower race number than me, which means my finishing time was faster than theirs) but also got passed by lots of faster people starting behind me, which included most of the under 35 waves.

Bike time – 1:25:00 = 17.5 MPH


T2 is a lot simpler since there was no wetsuit to deal with.  Simply remove helmet and glasses and put on running cap!  Then swig rest of Gatorade bottle, and back off on the road.  T2 time so slow because of the size of transition.

T2 time – 2:43


Did not have severe muscle soreness as I started on the run, very good news!  But, could not run the steep hill out of Riverside Park at 72nd St.  Just walked up that hill and then started running again across 72nd St.  I was truly amazed at the crowd support on 72nd St.  People were lining both sides, practically from Riverside Park all the way to Central Park, in some places leaving very little space for the runners to go through.  Cops were cheering, people were cheering, little kids were high 5ing people, it was a ton of fun.  Very similar to the best areas of crowd support in the New York City Marathon.  Ran all the way into the park and started the tough 5 mile upper loop.  The first uphill up the west side was where I started noticing that the run was really, really hard.  I was feeling really tired, and was trying to contrast how I feel in the late miles of a marathon.  The big difference is that in a marathon, my legs would be very sore.  That was not the case here, in fact my legs still felt somewhat fresh.  What was bothering me was my ‘core’, for lack of a better term.  My stomach and chest felt heavy and sore.  Once I past mile 2, I could not run through the uphills anymore.  So, did a lot of walking up some of the west side rolling hills, up both parts of Harlem Hill, and then a bit on the west side.  It was par for the course though, as lots of people were walking, both the uphills and downhills.  My first 2 miles were both under 9:30 pace, but my last 4 miles were more in the 11-11:30 range.  In the end, finished the run in 1:04, for a 10:19 pace.  Not bad at all considering!  There were plenty of water stops and lots of people cheering us on.

Run time – 1:04 – 10:19 per mile


Ran down cat hill into the 72nd St Transverse, and was able to run all the way across 72nd St, into the little turnaround by the fountain and into the finish line.  Actually had a really strong finish and passed a bunch of people into the end.  Picked up a bunch of food and drink at the finish area, picked up my bag and pushed my way through family reunion.  Then found an empty bench to chill out on for awhile, cool down and refuel.  Then went to find a port-o-san to change into dry clothes, which is where back disaster struck…  THE END!

Overall Time – 3:06:27.  350/420 in my age group

Written by SCL

July 30, 2009 at 6:39 am

Great job by Brightroom

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Wow, Brightroom did an awesome job getting pictures at the New York City Triathlon.  Check out my pictures here: http://www.brightroom.com/view_user_event.asp?EVENTID=47511&PWD=&BIB=3777.  Yeah, there are a lot of dorky looking ones, but some cool ones too, especially on the bike.  Gonna be hard trying to decide which one(s) to buy.

They actually have one of me coming out of the swim.  Since there is no race number visible, they must have done it by facial recognition?  Amazing!

Good job Brightroom!

Written by SCL

July 27, 2009 at 7:14 pm

New York Triathlon in the books!

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Raced in the New York City Triathlon yestderday.  Had a blast.  It was a rough race and totally beat me down, but I felt such a great sense of accomplishment afterwards.  Then, the roof caved in, I pulled a muscle in my lower back changing my clothes in the port-o-san, and will be in bed for a few days, and probably without running or biking for 10 days to 2 weeks.

Plenty of time to write up my race report.  In the meantime, here are the vitals:

  • Swim – 28:19
  • T1 – 6:27
  • Bike – 1:25:00
  • T2 – 2:43
  • Run – 1:04
  • Total – 3:06:27
  • Age Group – 348/418
  • Overall Place – not available

Written by SCL

July 27, 2009 at 10:14 am

Suspiciously too consistent

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I’ve noticed something very troubling – too much consistency.  I know consistency is good, and you often want your individual runs to be consistent.  But each and every run should not be done at the exact same pace.  Lately, my runs have been ridiculously consistent:

  1. 7/2 – 42:19 / 4.6 = 9:12 pace
  2. 7/5 – 54:23 / 5.9 = 9:11 pace
  3. 7/9 – 57:03 / 6.2 = 9:12 pace
  4. 7/11 – 53:57 / 5.9 = 9:09 pace
  5. 7/14 – 36:22 / 4.0 = 9:05 pace
  6. 7/18 – 36:25 / 4.0 = 9:06 pace
  7. 7/19 – 42:12 / 4.6 = 9:10 pace
  8. 7/22 – 30:57 / 3.4 = 9:06 pace

So, over my last 8 runs, my pace has been between 9:05 and 9:12 for each one!  In contrast, in the month of June, my runs, of similar distances, ranged from 8:37 to 10:12.  What’s also amazing is that some runs felt fast, some felt slow, and some, on the streets of Manhattan, are subject to having to stop, speed up, or slow down to get through some of the intersections.  As far as I’m concerned, this is luck more than anything else.  It will certainly not last for long.  Once the New York City Triathlon is over, I’ll start mixing in long runs and speed workouts again.  I think it is fair to say, though, that I’ll never see another streak like this again!

I would actually be quite happy if I could run one more at that same pace, in the tri on Sunday.  In a standalone 10k race, I certainly would run faster than 9:05 pace, but after a 45 minute swim and 90 minutes on the bike, I’ll be pretty beat by the time we get to the run and would be satisfied to finish with that pace.  Plus, it will be hot, and the run is in hilly Central Park, including Harlem Hill at the north end.

Big race is in 2.5 days, and I’m fully into my taper.  Did my last training swim this morning, and tomorrow and Saturday are both total rest days.  Also fueling up and will spend the next 2 days getting nice and hydrated.  In short, looking forward to soaking in the whole experience this weekend, and having a fun race!

Written by SCL

July 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm

5 days to go!

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5 short days left till the New York City Triathlon!  I just love the lead up and anticipation for a big race.  I usually don’t get to experience this in the summertime since I don’t do a whole lot of racing in the summer.  I truly hate the heat and humidity that goes along with it.  However, triathloning seems like the perfect summer sport (swim and bike is manageable in the heat) and has totally re-invigorated my summer workouts.

The idea of racing a triathlon myself first entered my consciousness in 2005.  I was in California to run in the Big Sur marathon (awesome race, and highly recommended, by the way) and we were visiting some friends in Los Gatos, CA.  While they were impressed that I was preparing to run the marathon, I was more impressed at their involvement in triathlons.  It seemed so out of reach for me, as I hadn’t ridden a bicycle in years, and couldn’t swim more than a length across a pool.

Then, in spring of 2007, I was in Central Park early for a NYRR race, and saw a bike race going on in the park.  Turned out it was one of the New York Triathlon Club biathlon events.  I decided that I really wanted to do that myself!  So, in June 2007, I finally relented and dropped the $1000 plus required to get a basic road bike, and started going on bike rides.  Signed up for my first biathlon in fall 2007, and first started really thinking that I could work up to a real triathlon.  Now, 2 years later, I’ve done 2 sprint triathlons, and am 4+ days away from my first Olympic distance tri!

In my final preparations this week, I had slated this morning for my last bike ride.  Dragged myself out of bed at 5:30, checked my computer and saw the rain coming.  Regardless, I got myself all ready to go out and brave the conditions.  I’ve never before ridden my bike in the rain, and actually saw this as a great opportunity to get some rain riding in just in case it was rainy on Sunday morning.  My conclusion was that biking in the rain gets one somehow more sopping wet than running in the rain, and now I’ve got some good ideas how to handle my gear and clothes if there is a threat of rain on race day!  In spite of the weather, and literally pouring rain, had a nice, easy, 11 mile ride.

I realize it is entirely possible that the weather forecast can change before then, but, currently, according to WeatherBug, Saturday’s forecast is rain free, and Sunday’s forecast calls for rain in the afternoon.  It will be hot, in the 80’s, but I think that is better than lots of rain on Saturday and Sunday morning.  I know that if there is heavy rain in the days leading up to a triathlon, it is possible for the swim portion to be cancelled.  Even though the swim is hardest for me, and worries me a lot, I’ll still feel cheated if the swim was cancelled.  Hopefully that won’t be the case!

Written by SCL

July 21, 2009 at 8:21 pm

More maintenance – blogroll

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Made some major changes to my blogroll.  Removed a few stale entries and added a bunch of the active ones that I’ve been reading faithfully.  Welcome:

Written by SCL

July 20, 2009 at 4:45 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

NYC Triathlon Staging

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Less than 6 days to the New York City Triathlon.  Yikes!  Yay!  Help!

I finally figured out what was bothering me about the way the race is staged.  Bear with me, as I don’t get to the point for a few paragraphs.

Last week, race officials released the Athlete Guide, which has the start times for the various waves.  I’m used to road races where people usually line up by ability, so that the fastest people are in front and the slower people behind.  In the Philadelphia Triathlon last year, I entered in the Clydesdale division, which was one of the last to go, and the triathlon I did earlier this year was so small that the fastest people were by me before the swim was over.  That is the way it should be!

This race kicks off Sunday at 5:50 AM, with the professional men, and then professional women, and then the age group elites.  So far, so good.  Then, the oldest men and women divisions, following by the rest of the women, youngest to oldest.  So far, so good as well.  Then, some of the older mens divisions.  At age 38, I’m in 35-39, which has 4 waves, starting from 7:21 AM to 7:30 AM.  I don’t yet know which of those 4 waves I’m in.  Men 35-39 is followed by men 30-34, then men 25-29 and then last wave is men 24 and under.

I know I’m going to be one of the slower people on the course.  Based on my training, and what I know of the event, I think I’ll finish in the 3:20-3:30 range, which is pretty far down the scale of finishing times.  While people of all age groups and ranges will surely finish faster than me, it is most certainly younger men that will beat me out.  The problem?  Most of the men that are younger than me will be starting AFTER me.  This means they will be passing me the entire race.  Lots of people will be blowing by me on the swim (to be expected), but even on the bike and run, where I will be relatively stronger, 20 and 30 something guys, especially the type running this race, will certainly still be blowing by me.

I think that will be hard to adjust to.  I don’t mind being passed by faster people, but, the faster people should be starting before me, not after me, and I’ll have to constantly remind myself not to try to keep up with them, for risk of bonking too early.  I wonder how they come up with the staging, and if it is the same each year, or if it changes from year to year, and if other triathlons are staged similarly…

Anway, still super excited about the race, and my taper this week.  Did an easy 4.6 miler last night, swam 1000 easy meters this morning.  Rest of the week includes an easy bike ride tomorrow, a run on Wednesday, and softball Thursday night.  Friday and Saturday will most likely be days of total rest!

Written by SCL

July 20, 2009 at 4:38 pm

Housekeeping and race planning

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Been doing some cleaning and housekeeping today, and took some time to finish up my Race Results page.  Added my marathon, biathlon and triathlons to the bottom.

Regarding marathons, on Nov 1 I’ll be running NYC for my 7th time.  Sort of decided to branch out in future years and run some of the other great fall races, and add to the 5 states I’ve currently run marathons in.  Would love to do an out of state spring marathon, out of state fall marathon and local summer triathlon each year.  With 45 states to go, and 2 races a year, will hit all 50 states in time to turn 60!

Time to starting thinking about spring 2010…

Written by SCL

July 19, 2009 at 3:51 pm

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Starting to taper for New York City Triathlon

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Have started scaling back the bike rides and runs, in preparation for the New York City Triathlon, in 8 days!  I will still be swiming hard over the next week, since my swimming is so bad.  Swam twice this past week, but prior to that, it had been a month since I last swam.  Yesterday morning swam about a half mile, and it really wiped me out.  Made sure several of my laps were side stroke and back stroke, both of which I’ll be using a lot to get through the 1500 meters swim portion next Sunday.  I’ll plan to swim twice again this week, perhaps Monday and Thursday.

This morning, did a 4 mile run down to East River Park and back.   Will run once or twice again this week, but nothing more than 5 miles.  Will probably get 1 easy bike ride in this week as well.

I’m curious to see what the swim is going to be like in the Hudson River.  My assumption was that the river flowed from north to south, but that is not the case.  It is a tidual estuary, which means that it flows both north and south, depending on the tide.  From what I’ve read, the flow is south when between high and low tide, and the flow is north when between low and high tide.  For next Sunday, low tide is 7am, and my start time will be close to 7:30.  So, it will be starting to move to high tide, which I think means I’ll be swimming against a slight current.  The way the staging works, the elites and most of the women start  prior to 7am, and the men have the later start times, mostly after 7am.

Still really nervous about the swim, and how it might then negatively affect the rest of my race, but super excited as well.

Written by SCL

July 18, 2009 at 9:12 am