4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

2009 – the year in review

with 2 comments

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

2 Responses

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  1. Very great year Scott, keep up the outstanding work and effort in 2010.


    December 31, 2009 at 1:34 pm

  2. Scott, what a great year in review. I loved reading it and hearing your perspective on your entire year of running/cycling/swimming.

    I am really proud of all you have accomplished this year. That NYC Tri is not easy but you did it!! Plus your 5 mile PR and 5k PR!!! WOW!! Super impressive!!

    I remember that run on December 1st. Wow, seems so long ago. I was so upset that I had to stop and walk after 2 miles, and I so appreciated you staying with me and encouraging me. I also appreciate you being there for my 1000th mile.

    I was happy to be there today for your 800th!! It was great!!

    2010 is definitely going to rock. Your a smart runner (unlike me) and I look forward to many more runs and tweet ups. Also, NYACK!!! :O)

    It’s been fun. Happy New Year!!!


    December 31, 2009 at 2:52 pm

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