4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

NYC Marathon Tune Up Race Report

with 5 comments

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!

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Written by SCL

September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

5 Responses

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  1. Good Luck in NYC

    I am running as well

    brooklynrunning.wordpress.com

    brooklynrunning

    October 2, 2009 at 1:07 pm

  2. 2:54:40 is a great time for that race – good job! The rains made it extremely difficult. I felt like I was running on two sponges for 18 miles. There was a point during the second or third loop when I thought (hoped) the rain was slowing and might stop, but no such luck.

    I didn’t get into NYC this year through the lottery, and when NYRR required volunteering as another requirement in addition to the 9 races, I said no more. So my marathon is this coming weekend in Albany.

    Howard

    October 4, 2009 at 7:30 am

  3. Howard – good luck in Albany! I think this will be my last NYC Marathon for awhile and I plan to focus on races in other states for the next bunch of years. Also, like you said, simply don’t feel like doing the 9 races plus volunteer. Those NYRR races have just become way too big to do too many – they clearly don’t need me!

    SCL

    October 4, 2009 at 11:50 am

    • Ran Albany yesterday – my first sub 4:30 – did it in 4:25:55. Really great weather, nice course, small field of runners, well organized, good folks running it. Definitely one to consider for future fall marathons in place of NYC.

      Howard

      October 12, 2009 at 4:19 pm

  4. I hear ya as far as the numbers of people running in the NYRR races – it’s really getting out of hand. Whenever I do run them now (only the halfs or longer), I just go to the very back and start at the end. I could not believe how many people were out there for the Tune Up last weekend. I stood at the start line until everyone went by – it just never ended.

    I started doing that last year when they started threatening people with disqualification if you didn’t stay in the recreation lane. Problem is the rec lane is only about 8 feet wide and the first mile or two it’s packed, you really can’t run, you have people who are inconsiderate, and then you have the walkers lining up in the 7 and 8 minute pace lineup area.

    Since it’s chip/tag timed, I figured it wasn’t worth it and it was much more comfortable at the back – especially during those early miles. By the time I’d get into my pace and be passing people, things would thin out.

    Howard

    October 4, 2009 at 6:16 pm


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