4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for September 2009

NYC Marathon Tune Up Race Report

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First, couple of things to get out of the way before I get into the race details:

1) On long races like this, you overhear lots of things.  The best one today was this exchange between guy and gal.  Gal – “Are you running the marathon this year”.  Guy – “No”.  Gal – “Why are you out here.  You are a lunatic”.  Guy – “Because I’m a runner”.  Yes, why are any of us out there, putting in lots of miles, running in the rain or heat, giving up our weekends, etc.  Because we are runners!  I think that totally sums us up nicely!

Kind of killing the moment was when guy later said “I still have to get in my 9 races for the marathon next year…”  Oh well.

2) This last Sunday in Sept is a sad day for me.  Each of the last 2 years, I sat through horrible, season ending losses at Shea Stadium, as the Mets got knocked out of the playoffs against the Marlins.  2 years ago, I ran the Tune Up race first.  Last year, I oped not to run the Tune Up race, since it was the last day at Shea Stadium, and I wanted to get there early, and not be hobbling all day.  At least this year we don’t have to worry about late season collapses!  Also, since the Mets screwed me over on my partial package season tickets, I don’t go to nearly the number of games I used to go to, and so am not nearly as emotionally invested anymore.  But, this is another story.

In summary, this race went as well as I could ever have hoped.  Earlier in the week, I mused that sub 3 hours was well within reach, and it turned out that was very true!  Would have been happy with my prediction of 57 mins in 1st loop, 59 mins in 2nd loop and 63 minutes in last loop.  Turns out I knocked that right out of the park.  Was extremely consistent, and did not have nearly as much of a drop off in the last loop as I expected.  In fact, I ran all hills all 3 times, including Harlem Hill and Cat Hill.

First Loop – Goal time was 57:00, actual time was 57:07.  I had a hard time getting loose in the beginning.  The rain was annoying, and raining pretty hard.  Was also getting passed by a lot of people.  This tends to happen a lot early in races, as many people don’t make it to the race and the proper corral on time, so lots of fast people end up in the back and then need to pass much of the rest of the field.  I had no problems at all getting up the hills, but by mile 5, the pace just felt a little too fast, so dialed it back a tiny bit.  Generally felt like I was struggling a little bit to keep up, and was a little concerned about bonking in the last loop.  I attributed this mostly to my waterlogged socks, shoes and shirt.  I was constantly wringing water out of my shirt to try and offload some of the weight.

  • Mile 1 – 9:10
  • Mile 2 – 9:32
  • Mile 3 – 9:27
  • Mile 4 – 9:22
  • Mile 5 – 9:42
  • Mile 6 – 9:52

Second Loop – Goal time was 59:00.  Actual time was 58:07.  All in all, very pleased with this one.  While the rain had slackened off to more of a drizzle or mist, the roadway itself was soaking wet from the earlier hard rain, and so we were still running through big puddles, and small streams on the hills.  Had dialed the pace back to 9:45ish per mile and that felt very comfortable.  No problem getting up Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the West Side.  In mile 9, a guy passed me talking to 2 others about the NYC Triathlon, but his information was not quite right, so I pointed out the corrections.  At the next water stop, he seeked me out, and we ran together for about a mile and chatted about marathons and triathlons.  Was nice to talk to someone for a little bit in race (VERY RARE FOR ME) and distract my mind from the pace.  That mile ended up being 9:12, my second fastest mile in the race.  It was also a downhill mile, and no water stops, so not surprising it was fast.  I lost him at the next water stop, and he zoomed off ahead, and then I settled back into the 9:40ish pace.  Used the water stops to my advantage here and was able to run up Cat Hill, still feeling pretty comfortable with the pace.

  • Mile 7 – 9:40
  • Mile 8 – 9:59
  • Mile 9 – 9:36
  • Mile 10 – 9:12
  • Mile 11 – 9:47
  • Mile 12 – 9:51

Third Loop – Goal time was 1:03.  Actual time was 59:26.  When I hit mile 12 at about 1:55, I knew 3 hours was easily in the bag, as I would have been allowed almost 11 minutes per mile the rest of the way.  Knowing I was in solid shape, just focused on keeping within a manageable pace so that I could run up the hills.  I was prepared to walk up some of the tough hills, but obviously wouldn’t if not necessary.  First up was Harlem Hill, and I was able to just keep my pace and keep motoring up the hill.  Felt a great sense of accomplishment when cresting the hill and was charged up for the rolling hills on the west side.  Again, focused on keeping within my pace and not pushing.  Around this time, the rain started coming down hard again, even harder than the start of the race.  Once we got down to the mile 16 marker at the bottom of the park, I realized that 2:55 was within reach if I ran it up Cat Hill.  I could feel myself starting to lose it here, but I was determined to get up Cat Hill without walking, and finishing in under 2:55.  It was hard, but I made it up to the top of Cat Hill, even skipped the last water stop, and kept my 10 min per mile pace to the end.  I had no ‘push’ left in me for the last mile, but at the same time, I had enough energy to keep going.  Finished in 2:54:40, and very proud of it!

  • Mile 13 – 9:42
  • Mile 14 – 10:05
  • Mile 15 – 9:57
  • Mile 16 – 9:46
  • Mile 17 -10:09
  • Mile 18 – 9:43

Aftermath – I had checked my bag pretty early, before the masses, so I was hoping my bag would end up at the bottom of the pile and stay dry.  But, no, somebody specifically put their bag under mine, so mine was on top.  So, bag was soaked through.  Luckily I packed my dry clothes into another drawstring bag inside the main bag, so they were dry.  Went into PortoSan and changed everything and came out pretty dry.  Managed not to pull my lower back muscle, which I did at the NYC Triathlon.  Then, shuffled back to the subway, and home to enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

Of course, 18 miles is not 26 miles, and I would have needed to dial the pace back, especially in the last few miles, if this was the actual marathon.  On the plus side, I still have 4 training weekends to go, which will include 2 long runs and a half marathon, so lots of opportunity to continue to build my stamina, and I think I am on pace to peak right at the correct time, namely Nov 1.  Based on my performance today, I think 4:30 in the marathon is very attainable, although I’m doubtful of beating my PR of 4:22.

Looking forward to the last 5 weeks of training!


Written by SCL

September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

Course change at New York City Marathon?

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While reading this season’s issue of New York Runner (Fall 2009), the periodic publication of New York Road Runners, came across an interesting tidbit in an article about the upcoming New York City Marathon:

“This year, a few adjustments – including a new placement of the start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and an expanded loop in the Bronx – will make the route faster and more exciting than ever.”

Not sure exactly what the change is, and how it would make the race ‘faster’, but the race could certainly benefit from having the start line higher up the bridge, so more of the participants can get up on the roadway before the horn sounds.  It would also make for a slightly shorter trip up the bridge.  I honestly can’t see them moving the start too far up the bridge, so that would only allow for a slightly longer course in the Bronx.

This must be a late breaking change, since the map published in the handbook is identical to the map published last year.   Over Willis Ave Bridge, left on 135th, right on Alexander Ave, left on 138th, directly to Madison Ave Bridge.  The marathon website doesn’t get down to street level details in the map.  Personally, I would rather see them straighten out the Queens portion of the race, which is quite a bit circuitous, to expand the Bronx portion, but, we’ll just have to wait and see for the specifics.

UPDATE: Some details have emerged.

Written by SCL

September 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

NYC Marathon Tune Up

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My New York City Marathon training is going really well so far.  My older nagging injuries (groin pain and knee tendonitis) have gone away.  The strong back spasm I suffered after the NYC Triathlon is all better as well.  I’ve already even gotten over the typical fall cold, sinus infection.  Finally, the weather is cooperating now (hot, humid days mostly gone), and so I can finally just focus on running without distractions.  Well, I did have a minor issue this week, poison ivy!  I (apparently) mishandled some of it last weekend, and have several rashes, some bad, on my legs and arms.  Not quite as itchy now, but it will still probably be a week till it all goes away.  It has not really affected my running though…

Last weekend I ran 17.5 miles, so also getting the mileage up there as well.  Followed that up with 3 runs so far this week totaling 14.5 miles, although my 6.5 mile run last night felt very sluggish, and I could feel some shin tightness in my right leg.  Gotta keep an eye on that.

Now, time to turn my attention to my race on Sunday, the NYC Marathon Tune Up 18 mile race in Central Park.  It will be a tough race, 3 full loops around Central Park, and, the forecast is for rain.  But, it is a great (fantastic even) marker of where I am in training.  It is great to have a long run, in race conditions, with hills, etc.  So much better than a self regulated long run in the streets.  I would really like to finish in under 3 hours, which is definitely within reach.  Worst case, I think I could do 57 min in first loop, 59 in second loop and third loop in under 1:03.

Beyond this weekend, I have long runs planned each of the next 3 weekends, and then the Nike Human Race the weekend before the marathon, so, I’m keeping busy!

Written by SCL

September 25, 2009 at 6:19 am


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Went out for a 4 mile run yesterday, and I definitely got the ‘autopilot’ feeling.  The one where running feels very fluid, very consistent, and feeling like I could run for miles.  I don’t get there too often, but really enjoy it. 

My autopilot pace felt like around 9:30 per mile.  Hope I can continue to hit that as I enter the late stages of NYC Marathon training.  Would be great if I could maintain that for awhile (15 miles?) in the marathon.  Eventually it will start degenerating into 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, etc. 

Sunday’s 18 mile race in Central Park will be a great test.  Race conditions, and hills!  Wonder how long I can keep to 9:30 pace.

Written by SCL

September 22, 2009 at 11:29 am

Congrats to Ryan Hall

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Great effort by Ryan Hall to win the Philadelphia Distance Run half marathon yesterday, in a tune up for the New York City Marathon.  Beat out 3 Kenyan’s with a strong last mile, to finish in 61:52, winning by 4 seconds!


Written by SCL

September 21, 2009 at 8:12 am

No run today

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Had been planning a recovery run this morning.  Did 17.5 miles on Saturday night, which went really well by the way, and although not quite fully recovered, would be feeling good enough to get a run in this morning.

However, not meant to be.  When working in my yard in my NJ house on Saturday, I came across some poison ivy, and didn’t handle it properly, I guess.  I was wearing shorts at the time, and now am incredibly itchy on my right leg and right wrist area.  Not unbearable, but annoying nonetheless.  I’m sure I could have run with this, but just don’t want to further aggravate it with excessive sweating!

I also had a very minor knife accident in the kitchen on Saturday and ended up with a pretty deep cut on my right pointer finger.  Not bad enough to go to the hospital or anything, and nothing that would prevent me from running, but just an annoying issue to deal with.

All it means is another day of rest, which I suppose is a good thing.  Should take it easy this week with an 18 mile race planned in Central Park on Sunday.

Written by SCL

September 21, 2009 at 6:18 am

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Shore Runners Summer Showdown Race Report

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As I said in my August 2009 month in review post, “better late than never”.  This race was almost a month ago, on Aug 22, but it is still important for me to write up the race, how I did, and my impressions.

First of all, one of my goals is to run in more smaller, “local”, events.  In the past, I’ve tended to run many New York Road Runners events, but those have gotten so big and stressful to deal with.  Also, I’ve also decided not to try to get in the required 9 races to get an automatic entry to the New York City Marathon.  Instead, I intend to focus on marathons in other states going forward.  I’ve got 5 states, and look forward to trying to get the other 45 done.  I will definitely still run some NYRR events, but they simply won’t be my first choice anymore.  So, I jumped at the chance to run in this race.  I noticed it listed in the events section of Daily Mile and was interested for 2 reasons.  First, it is about 15 minutes from my weekend house in New Jersey, and second, it is a cross country race, which I’ve never run before.

I almost backed out at the last minute.  The races was smack in the middle of one of those rainy spells we had in August, and the forecast was for rain.  Since this was a cross country race, I was a little worried about poor footing, etc.  But, the opportunity to run in a small local 5k, and to try out a cross country race was too great, so I decided to go for it.

And a small 5k it was.  I decided to register on race day.  When I showed up to register, there was some kind of commotion.  Apparently, at the race location, they were missing both the list of number assignments for the people that pre-registered, and missing the stack of race numbers for race day registrants.  No problem though, we were all patient about it, and they eventually received both missing items and got everyone signed in.  At check in, I also got a nice looking green Saucony technical singlet!

The rain started about 15 minutes before the start of the race.  Didn’t seem to bad as it was some kind of sun shower, and we could sort of remain dry by standing under some trees.  About 5 mins before the start, the race director herded us all towards the start area to talk through the course.  It would take us around the ball fields, through the woods, around the polo field, back through the ball fields, through the woods and then around the polo field again to the finish.  A few minutes later, we were off.  In all, the most informal start I’ve ever seen for a race!

Did I say this was a small race?  There really were not that many of us.  And it seemed like a healthy proportion were young, high school and college, kids, who looked very skinny and very fast.  Many of them took right off and left me in the dust.  So settled in with a fairly small set of middle of the pack runners.  First stage of the race was through a big open field in high grass.  Definitely harder than your typical road surface.  About a half mile in, we entered a wooded section that was narrow, hilly, and muddy!   But that section was short and we entered another large open area and ran around a giant polo field.  Then, a short trip back in the woods, and another open field section, before we entered a longer wooded section.  This wooded section was hilly, and very muddy.  The muddiest area was on a steep downhill, so had to really cut the pace down to make sure I didn’t fall down.  All of the running in the grass started to get to me, and I was losing it in the last mile – did have to stop to walk once.  Crossed the finish line, in 27:46, and was handed a number, 76.  Had to check in at the main tent to provide my name and race number, so that the race could be properly scored.  Did I say it was a small race?

Anyway, I mentioned it started raining about 15 minutes before the race.  It continued to rain at the start of the race, and stopped when I was at about mile 2.  When the rain stopped, the humidity was noticeable, and the sun also started to come out, making it seem really hot.  Maybe another reason I bonked in that last mile.

In summary, I had a blast.  It was a lot of fun, but also very hard.  I managed to finish at 8:57 pace per mile, slower than I would have expected in a road race, but better than I though I could do on a slippery and muddy cross country course.  I look forward to maybe trying this again next year, and also looking for other small races in Monmouth County!

Written by SCL

September 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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Alright, time to start blogging again

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Over the last month, I sort of fell out of the habit of posting in my blog.

First, I was a bit depressed after having a bad back spasm after the New York City Triathlon.  It was really crazy to be on such a high after crossing the finish line, and then being on such a low just 15 minutes later lying flat on my back wondering how I was going to retrieve my bike a mile away and get it, myself, and my stuff home.  Definitely went through a little bit of withdrawal for a couple of weeks there.

Second, in the aftermath of my injury, I really appreciated all of the support that I got from my friends on Daily Mile, which doubles as an exercise tracking site and a social network, and found that I started posting more and more details of my runs there, which is supposed to be the point of the blog.

Finally, it is simply hard to find the time to do this properly.  In fact, in writing as far as I’ve gotten so far, I’ve already been interrupted by my 8 year old to play a couple of games of Candyland (she beat me twice!), and now am trying to watch the Giants and Cowboys on TV.  Between work, the actual exercise, home and life in general, it is just very hard to find the time to blog.

But, I will try.

Written by SCL

September 20, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Posted in Reflections

August 2009 in Review

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Better late than never, I suppose!

Running – 88.3 miles over 16 runs.  Actually a pretty spectacular month.  By far, most miles ever done in August.  Also, I’m hard pressed to find another month where I had as many as 16 runs in the month.  And all that on the heels of a severe lower back spasm in late July.

Races – 1 (Shore Runners Summer Showdown 5k – Cross Country – 27:46)

Biking – 37.1 miles over 1 ride – May have only been a single ride, but it was a great one, over GW Bridge and up 9W to Alpine

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 1 – NOT enough!

Softball games – 3  (1 win, 2 losses, including playoff loss)

Injuries – 1 (recovering from severe lower back spasm)

Sicknesses – 0

Written by SCL

September 17, 2009 at 6:18 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

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