4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for December 2009

2009 – the year in review

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Wow, what a year.  Headed into 2009 totally energized from a great 2008 (see 2008 year end report) with a clear picture of what I wanted to do in 2009.  Namely, 2 marathons (Austin, NYC), my first olympic distance triathlon (NYC) and 800 miles running for the year.

2009 could easily be broken down into 3 pieces.  First, Jan – July, was just stunning, with everything going about as well as I could have imagined.  Aug-Nov seemed like a series of failures, one after the other, and Dec was a period of intense renewal.

Summary of efforts

  • Run – 801 miles completed, over 127 runs, beating my previous record of 762.4 set in 2008.  The year was bookmarked by my 2 highest mileage months ever, 103.1 in Jan and 94.9 in Dec.  In fact, my Dec mileage is amazing because I was not training long at all, and so had to get it done with a whole bunch of short distance runs.  My 19 runs in Dec shattered my previous high.  In a typical month, I’ll only run 9-11 times.
  • Bike – 464 miles over 23 rides.  This was my 3rd summer with the bike, and I did some intense training for the NYC Triathlon from March to July.  Along the way, I completely ignored pain in both elbows, which finally caught up to me, and I therefore only went on 1 ride after the tri in July.  So, this is a bit of a failure and I look forward to a full year of biking in 2010
  • Swim – 19 swims in the year, 2 in triathlons.  I am such a beginner here, so even though I can’t quote, unquote, swim, and only progressed minimally in the year, I’m still very proud of where I am.  There is a LOT of room for improvement here in 2010
  • Gym – 37 workouts in 2009, or 3 times per month on average.  I need to figure out how to get to the gym more often.  My elbow doc has prescribed for me a bunch of arm and upper body related exercises to hopefully smooth out my elbow pain.  I am currently in a good gym habit, but how do I keep motivated throughout the year?  No idea…
  • Softball – Great summer and fall seasons.  Overall record of 10-9-1.   Made the playoffs in both seasons.  I injured my groin or hip at some point late in the season and totally ignored it, which is part of the reason I did so little running in Nov.  Need to be smarter about it next year.

That is 226 distinct pieces of activity!

Perfect 2009 (Jan-July)

The year began deep in the throes of marathon training.  With a Feb 15 marathon, I would be training and long running through the winter.  That was hard.  Last winter was cold, and I had to cut short 2 of my long runs, most notably on the day of the Manhattan Half Marathon, when the air temp was 11 degrees!  However, I really was well-trained, and completely nailed the Austin Marathon, with a time of 4:22:16.  I would have been happy with anything under 4:30, and could not have imagined 4:22.  The downhill and tailwind in the last 8 miles helped a lot, but the result is directly related to how well-trained I was.  The whole Austin Marathon experience was amazing with 4 days in town and great race support.  While I had several pre race reports on my blog (check Feb 2009 archive), silly me never actually wrote the race report itself.

But it was not only the marathon that was great.  On Jan 10, I PR’d Fred Lebow 5M in 41:24 and on Mar 1, set a 5k PR at Coogans in 24:49.  Not only did I set 3 PR’s in the first 60 days of the year, but I am really proud that I managed to PR both the 5k and marathon distances in a 2 week period!

After those races, I started focusing on swimming and biking.  The olympic distance of the NYC Triathlon was still very scary and daunting to me, so I signed up for a warm up triathlon at Harriman State Park in June.  That also ended up being another spectacular race and day, and it was during the 3 mile run portion, which was quite hilly, and which I nailed in 25:50 where I truly felt like I was an “athlete” for the first time.  Running alone doesn’t do it for me, and the run/bike duathlons get me in the neighborhood, but adding the swim, and nailing that race on a challenging course really just left me with an amazing feeling of accomplishment that I never had before.

Of course, I had to double up the distances from the sprint distance tri to the olympic distance tri, and made the final push on the swim and bike side in preparation for the New York City Triathlon in July.  That race was H.A.R.D.  But, I did it, and considering it was my first olympic distance, I can’t complain at all about it.  A great learning experience, and I know I can improve on my time in the years to come.

Nothing Going Right 2009 (Aug-Nov)

So, one minute I’m basking in the glory of completing my first olympic distance tri, and the next minute, I’m literally on the floor in pain from a severe lower back spasm.  Needless to say, that was the low point of my year.  The trip to get my bike from Riverside Park, and then get home will all my gear was simply horrible, and then I spent the next 3 days in bed and 10 days without running.  It took about 3 weeks for me to recover and get back into the running game, in preparation for the New York City Marathon.

However, nothing seemed to break my way.  By then, I knew my elbows were messed up and I was no longer able to bike easily.  I had been planning to ride the New York Century bike tour on Sept 12, but I got very sick that weekend and had to skip it.  Also, my marathon long runs were laborious, and in my short training runs, I just seemed to have lost the speed I had so happily attained early in the year.  Even the marathon itself did not go well for me.  I felt great up until 21 miles, but my splits were too slow, and then I had severe knee cramping the rest of the way, finishing in a disappointing 4:44.

Also during this time, I injured my groin and/or hip playing softball, which impacted my running, and also started running into shinsplint issues.  Boneheaded me kept playing softball anyway, and in the 2 weeks after the marathon really put myself out of commission, to the point where I twice in November took 10 consecutive days off from running.  In my time off in November, I gained a lot of weight and just started getting that unhealthy feeling I get when not active.  In that second half of November, I was sure 800 miles for the year was out of reach.

Strong Finish (Dec)

And then we got to Dec 1.  That day was a tweet up run in Central Park, a beautiful night for running, and a full moon over the park.  I was feeling down on myself from my injuries and lack of progress, but found myself running with Michelle (http://runningdowndreams.wordpress.com) who was even more down on herself because she had to stop and walk during the 5 mile loop.  That day, while I felt fat and bloated from not enough running and too much eating over Thanksgiving, my injuries were finally feeling better, and I decided I would give it the old college try to get to 800 for the year, even though I needed 93+ miles to get there.  Michelle was also talking about giving it a go to get to 1000 miles from the year, which required something like 130+ miles in Dec.

From that day on, I felt completely motivated to get out there as often as possible to reach my goal.  And, gosh darn it, with a 3.9 mile run on Dec 31, I made it!  I was also able to accompany Michelle for her 1000th mile, on another tweet up run on Dec 29, that drew at least 15 of us out to Central Park in the frigid cold weather.  She returned the favor, and came out to Manhattan for my last run.

It is also in 2009, slowly over the year, but in full force in December, where I embraced the power of the social network.  I’ve met so many people this year, first through my blog, then through DailyMile, and finally through Twitter.  I now feel like I’m part of a real running community for the first time, even though I’ve been running consistently in NYC since 1994.  Even though we all come from different backgrounds, walks of life, and even parts of the country, we all have a common interest that ties us together, and the community is so supporting, motivating, and interested in what I have to say.  So, thanks, to all of you I’ve come in contact with over the year, and thanks for your motivation and support!

Back to reaching my ultimate 2009 goal, not only did I get the 93+ miles in, but I did it smartly.  Took days off when I needed to, ran slow when I needed to, and set a steady but consistent pace from week to week.  I even had to work around a horrible stomach flu, which put me out of commission for a few days, a big snowstorm in NYC, and lots of cold weather.  This month of December has totally re-energized me to start 2010 in the best mindset possible.

I will post separately in the coming days on my goals for 2010, but I’m super excited, stoked even (although I really can’t use that word anymore after seeing this Onion video), about what is to come.

Written by SCL

December 31, 2009 at 8:11 am

Posted in Reflections

Time to think about your technology

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Year end / year begin is always a great time to draw a line in the sand.  It provides a natural marker for measuring what we’ve done, or to compare our efforts from year to year.

It was 11 years ago today, 12/26/1998, when I started my running log, and I just love the ability to go back and see what I did in prior years.  The genius about starting just before the new year is that I had the complete statistics for year 1, or 1999.  It was far from a stellar year, logging only 350 miles, taking virtually the entire summer off, but I have it, in full, and can look back and remember it in its entirety.

About a year ago, I discovered DailyMile.  My first posted workout was on 12/28.  And since I was using it on 1/1, I also have a full year of statistics available to me on the platform.  So, when I get ready to write my obligatory year in review post later on this week, I’ll be able to use the site to get a full picture of what I did over the last year, and probably include some screen shots of their graphical analysis tools.

Just recently, I discovered RunKeeper.  The jury is still out on RunKeeper as I’m trying to figure out how well it is going to work for me.  For example, the GPS on the iPhone leaves a lot to be desired, so my distances on RunKeeper are usually not right.  But, so far I like it, and it looks like a keeper, as it allows me to capture data on pace and elevation that I can’t really get anywhere else.  Again, since I’ll be using it on 1/1, at the end of the year, I’ll be able to use it to get a picture of the full year of 2010.

Just something to think about.  With a fresh start to the year, maybe time to think about the tracking technology you use, so that at the end of the year, when you are ready to look back, that technology has the full picture for you.

Written by SCL

December 26, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Posted in Reflections

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If a tree falls in the forest…

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Last night had a truly wonderful run over the Williamsburg Bridge and back.  Hill run, in windy conditions, while minding the slippery conditions, was completed at 9:17 per mile, a pace I seem to have had a hard time hitting lately.  It was my 13th run in December, and I think the increased workouts are making a difference!

Anyway, was coming up Ave A in the bike lane (LOVE the bike lane here, by the way, so much safer for us runners) and came upon a car parked in the bike lane.  Annoying, but nothing I’ve never seen before, just need to go around.  As I was getting ready to go around the car, a bike comes hurling around in the other direction, and the lady on the bike screams and hits the car as she goes past.

Now, I am a biker as well, and I totally understand the frustration, but really, hitting the car as you go past, on roads that are already slick with slush and ice?  Not smart, and not the best way to get your message across.  If something were to happen, trust me, it would be the ‘crazy’ biker that would get in trouble, and at much higher risk of injury, not the driver in a non-moving vehicle.

The kicker though, as I passed the car, was seeing that nobody was in the car to hear or feel the outburst…

Written by SCL

December 23, 2009 at 7:17 am

December progress towards 800

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At the end of November, 2009, I stood at 706.1 miles for the year.  My goal had been to get to 800 miles for the year, so I needed 93.9 miles to get there.  After the New York City Marathon, I had sort of written this off, since I was badly beaten up and not feeling like I’d be able to put in a lot of miles.  But on Dec 1, after a month of very little running, and what felt like enough healing, on a run, I decided well enough to try and make this happen.  93.9 miles is within reach, but not easy for me, considering I’ve only ONCE ever logged that many miles in a month.  Most of my heavy months top out in the upper 80’s.  I just don’t run often enough, or long enough consistently, to get much higher than that.  I knew it would require hard work, and for things to break my way in terms of weather, illness, and the busy-ness of life in general.

I can proudly say that I’m getting there, and it is definitely still within reach.  True to my nature, I have been the mark of consistency so far in the month, and have had to deal with my fair share of obstacles.  But 20 days into the month, I stand at 61.2 miles.  30.7 in the first 10 days, and 30.5 in the second 10 days.  This leaves me with 32.7 to go in the last 11, or right exactly on pace!  It also means I have to keep up with this, for me, breakneck pace, which has included running out of winter clothes to run in and sometimes forced to go out late at night.

Planning to write about some of the details of first 20 days, but no time now!  To be continued…

Written by SCL

December 21, 2009 at 8:11 am

Posted in running

Source of the Pain and some 2010 plans

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I had the most amazing epiphany on Saturday night, when I took some time to ice my (what I’ve been calling) sore thigh/groin/hip.  I was hurting pretty good after the NYC Marathon and fall softball season and have been working on recovery.  I’m feeling much better now and starting to run a lot again, but I still most definitely have some acute pain in there that I would love to get rid of.  It doesn’t bother me much when I run, more discomfort than pain (see previous post on subject), but it is now just a nuisance I am trying to take care of.

Anyway, as I was icing, and feeling around, I FINALLY was able to trace the source of the pain back up to a particular spot, almost all the way to the hip.  I was simply overjoyed that I now know the source of my pain!  Sure enough, when putting pressure on that sort spot, I was able to flex and move my leg with no pain, which I couldn’t really do before.  I had a similar experience with knee injuries in the past, and it amazes me how the sore spot, the source of the pain, can be completely different from where you think the pain is coming from.  In this case, it is clearly a sore spot under my hip, that is causing the pain that I thought was in my groin or thigh.  Now, the clear course of action is to ice that particular spot along with my gym workouts and runs, and I think the pain will start to subside altogether.  At least that is the hope.

Otherwise, I have been running a lot lately and trying really hard to get up to my goal of 800 miles for 2009.  I currently stand at 26 miles for Dec, and need another 68 to get to 800.  Left to my own normal devices, I know I will fall short, so I either need to consistently run 4 times per week, or need to mix in 2 longer runs, one next week, and then another one the last week of the year.  If I can get those 2 long runs in, or continue 4 runs per week, then I will make it!

My immediate future plans call for running the Fred Lebow 5M and the Manhattan Half Marathon.  Then, once the rest of the NYRR schedule comes out, I can solidify the rest of my plans.  I’m intrigued by the 131 Marathon New York, being run in Flushing Meadows and also the E Murray Todd half marathon, which is close to my NJ house.  In addition, there are 2 duathlons early in the year to choose from, one in Prospect Park and one in Central Park.  Haven’t yet scouted out which triathlons I will target.  My spring season will culminate with Rhode Races, a marathon in Providence, RI, which, as of yesterday, I’m officially registered for.

So, a time to finish up the year strong, reflect on the year’s accomplishments (and failures) and also look ahead to what I hope will be a great 2010.

Written by SCL

December 8, 2009 at 7:43 pm

Rather blustery day

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I’ll start out with the bad news, at least for me.  I’ve been really bad lately with my eating habits and over the last couple months, let myself slip to a point I should not have gotten back to.  Stepped on the scale this morning and was shocked, SHOCKED, to see a number that I have not seen since Jan 2007, that I thought I would never see again.  I guess not necessarily shocked, since the numbers have been creeping up, and I ate very poorly yesterday.  So, I guess no suprise really, but hopefully the kick in the arse to clean up my act.  I was so proud of myself in late July.  At that time, for the NYC Tri, my weight was as low as it has been in 15 years.  I guess I stopped caring in the lead up to the NYC Marathon, and then the time off afterwards really did a number on me.  So, add another goal to my pile, but need to get my weight back down a bit to a more comfortable level.

Now, onto the run today.  I’d really like to get to 800 miles for the year, which will require ~93 miles in Dec.  That would be a high mileage month for me.  When not training for anything, I’ll typically get 40-60 miles in a month.  When training for something, I’ll get up to 80-100.  I have no races this month, and am still recovering from injury, but feeling better and so will give this a go.  Will have to add 1 or 2 long training runs to make it, and WILL try.

With that in mind, decided to run the relatively longer 6 mile run out and back over the Williamsburg Bridge.  My running windows in the morning are pretty small, and today I needed to be home by 7:10 so my wife could leave for work.  So, was out of bed by 5:30 and out of the house by 6:00.  Was warm, at 65 degrees, amazing for Dec, but very windy.  Wanted to go with a singlet on top, but have already put them away for winter, so pulled out a short sleeve tech tee instead.

Was really deserted out on the bridge.  Eerily deserted.  Reminded me of this run I did in the middle of winter, when it was 11 degrees and I saw very few people on the bridge.  Today, I was all the way over to the ‘landing’ on the Brooklyn side before I saw anyone else.  First was a couple running, then a guy trying to walk off his drunken state, and then another lone lady.  I guess the rain from last night combined with the wind kept people away.  Or, maybe it was just too early for most other people!  Did see several more people, and bike riders, on the return trip, including the same 3 runners seen the first time over.

Otherwise, this was hard.  The wind was really whipping around, especially up on the bridge.  Kept the pace slow and even and finished at about 10 min per mile.  I’m definitely out of practice with this run, as last time I did it was way back in August!

Made it home by 7:05, then quickly posted it up in my Excel log and on DailyMile, showered, and got my 8 year old up for school, and transitioned into that whole ‘get to school and work routine!’  All said, though, running really is a great way to start the day!

Written by SCL

December 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Posted in diet, running

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November 2009 in Review

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Running – 42 miles over 5 runs.  Considering 26.2 was in one day, pretty pathetic in terms of runs and mileage.  Kind of goes with the territory of being a little banged up, I guess.  At 706.1 for the year, so need ~57 miles to beat my annual record set last year, and 93.9 to get to 800 for the year!  Feeling better, so I will go for it!

Races – 1 (New York City Marathon – 4:44:05)

Biking – 0 – elbows still messed up. Need to go back to Dr and hopefully get some PT

Swims – 0 – gotta get going with this again

Gym workouts – 3 – focused mainly on leg exercises and also some elliptical and spinning

Softball games – 2  (1 playoff win and 1 playoff loss)

Injuries – 1 (re-aggravated, nagging groin/thigh issue)

Sicknesses – 0

While maybe not reasonable given the time of the year, I need to lose some weight.  I’m currently about 10 pounds heavier than I was at the time of the NYC Triathlon in late July.  We’ll see…

Written by SCL

December 1, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Month End Summary