4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for January 2010

January 2010 in Review

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Running – 102.5 miles over 16 runs.  Big mileage month, my 2nd biggest ever, a hair behind Jan 2009.  Lots of miles without trying too hard!  Year is definitely off to a great start in the running dept.

Races – 2 (Fred Lebow Classic 5M – 43:15; Manhattan Half Marathon – 1:58:54)

Biking – 9.3 miles over 1 ride – earliest in the year I’ve ever been on on the bike.  Although left elbow is in much better shape, still have some concern about my right elbow.  For now, will try to bike once every 2 weeks.

Swims – 2 – gotta get this up to once per week

Gym workouts – 5 – not bad but need to step this up too.

Softball games – 0 (but spring training is coming!)

Injuries – 0 (wow! zero injuries to speak of right now.  Sure there are lots of little tweaks and annoyances here and there, but nothing to keep me off the road)

Sicknesses – 1 (just a cold mid month that kept me indoors for about 3 days)

Weight – Lost 1 pound over the last month, adding to the 1.7 lost in Jan.  Still have 4 more to lose to get back to where I was last summer

Written by SCL

January 31, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Right Now

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My run tonight was intended to be a ho-hum mid-week 5 mile run, but it turned into one of the best non-race running experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Let me back up to this morning. I set the alarm early, intending to get up early for a bike ride. Although I did get up early, ended up staying home to work. Partly because I was too lazy, and partly because I’m still worried about my elbow, and partly because I had a lot of work to do. So, I vowed that I would, absolutely, get out for a run tonight. I have a long run planned for Saturday, and so today’s run was really for nothing more than getting some miles in and giving me a rest day tomorrow, my literal definition of junk miles.

Fast forward to tonight. My first responsibility was to pick up my 14 year old from her dance school at 7:30. Home before 8, and my next responsibility was to hang out with my 8 year old until 9, as my wife was working in the bedroom till then, and my 8 year old has a cute way of missing me when I’m not around and wanting my company. This meant no run until 9:30 or so. And, unfortunately, the temps were dropping steadily by the hour.

Layered up, 3 shirts, tights and pants on bottom, extra pair of gloves, ‘gator’ thingy that covers the neck and throat, and I was finally ready to go. I really was dreading this, but also looking forward to the challenge. WeatherBug was reporting 24 degrees, but with sustained 25 mile per hour winds, out of the north! Ouch!

I decided on a route that takes me south (with the wind) and then back up north (against the wind). On a day like today, I thought it was better to have the easy effort in the first half with the wind and then once warmed up, battle the wind in the second half. This is against what one would typically do in the winter time, where common convention says run against the wind first to have an easier second half.

Last decision was playlist. I have a ‘running’ playlist of about 16 songs that I typically listen to on short runs. It would have lasted for my planned 5.2 mile run, but for some reason, I decided to play the 5-star playlist on my iphone, which is about 90 songs that I don’t mind hearing when running. I think in my mind I was hoping for some variety. And, this ended up being the highlight of my run, and a big reason I got through it so easily.

First up was Bat Out of Hell. That is one of the perfect running songs, and one I don’t hear so often. It is long, and one I can really get into. One can get lost in that song, and at a good 10 minutes or so, by the time it is over, a mile has gone by. And that is what happened. I was running, with the wind at my back, like a bat out of hell!

The song ended, as I worked my way down Allen St (1st Ave), approaching Delancey St. I didn’t really notice though, as I was focused on the intersection and getting through it. Delancey is tough, because if you miss it, that means up to 60 seconds of waiting to cross. As I approached, I saw there was no way to catch it on the green. But, with literally dozens of runs down that way, I knew that the westbound traffic has a left turn light, and then a slight delay before it goes green for everyone. And, later at night, it is definitely possible to slip behind the turning cars and before the rest of the traffic comes through. I saw my opening, and went for it. As I hit the island in the middle, I could see that the full green had not occurred yet, and I was able to get all the way across. Victory!

Once I made it across, and shifted into a lower recovery gear, my brain registered the next song that had just begun, The Boss’ Born to Run. How perfect is that: “baby we were born to run!”. Once past Delancey, you hit a nice downhill down to the East River. With the wind at my back, listening to Born to Run, literally felt like I was flying. I think I may have hit that runners high people talk about. As I approached the river, in the darkness, I noticed the huge hulking Manhattan Bridge, high above, and it struck me how just yesterday morning, I was literally running a couple of hundred feet above my head, over that same bridge to Brooklyn. Was just in awe.

Got down to the river and turned south, headed for South Street Seaport and my turn-around point at Wall St. I was anxiously waiting to see what song would come up next, and it was another gem of a running song, Van Halen’s, Right Now. “Don’t wanna wait till tomorrow. Why put if off another day?”. I felt like it was perfect, it did perfectly define the run. Right Now perfectly summed up what I was doing. Getting the run in, despite the weather, despite the time, despite how busy my life is. Exactly, “why put it off another day?”

Those 3 songs took me almost all the way down to the turn-around point. I knew that it would get hard once I turned around, and I would have to deal with the wind head on, but I had such a great start to the run, and I was in such high spirits, that it didn’t matter.

The rest of the playlist doesn’t matter, in fact, it is a bit of a blur. No doubt, the rest of the run was hard, as I came down from the runners high. On the way back, I started feeling bogged down by the layers, and started noticing how my legs were not fresh and how my quads were a bit sore, and then the wind kept blowing until the finish.

But, finish I did, and after I hit stop on my watch, and then hit stop on RunKeeper on my iPhone, the iPhone battery promptly died. Even that worked out perfectly.

So, at the end of the day, my junk mile run turned into one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had on a ho-hum daily run in a long time.

Written by SCL

January 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Manhattan Half Marathon Race Report

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Yesterday was the Manhattan Half Marathon, 2 loops of Central Park, and the kick off of the five borough NYRR grand prix of half marathons in NYC.  Half marathons in Central Park are very tough, 2 full loops of the park, but this was my 8th (3 Grete’s, 5 Manhattan halves) so I knew exactly what I was in for.  As predicted earlier in the week, I did not see a PR in this race, and was predicting a finish between 1:59 and 2:00.  A month ago, I would not have thought sub 2-hours was possible, but I’ve been working really hard, putting in lots of miles (for me), and had a great start to speedwork in Jan, and so I felt I was ready for sub 2-hours.

Last year I ran the race, but didn’t ‘race’ it, (race report here) as I was planning to add on miles afterwards.  Turns out I didn’t because it was freezing cold that day.  But 2 years ago, I did race it, and surprised myself by running under 2 hours.  I felt like I’m as well, or better, trained now than I was 2 years ago, so my real goal was to beat that time from 2 years ago, which turned out (I found out afterwards) to be 1:59:05.  It requires a very smart effort.  It is very easy, on this course, to lose it in the 2nd half, so my goal was to keep within a comfortable, but strong pace, the first loop, and then push as I felt possible in the second loop.  2 hours is 9:09 pace, so at each mile marker, I’d be able to gauge where I was.

Was really a great day for racing.  37 degrees, although humid and overcast, and very little wind.  At the last minute, I decided on lightweight long-sleeve shirt, and no gloves or winter hat, just regular cap.  I was very comfortable, although started getting a little cold in the 2nd half when there was no sun, and the temps did not rise at all.  Was at the park around 7:15, and had just enough time to use the bathrooms, change, go through my preparations, check my bag, and get to the corral with 10 mins to spare.

At 8am, we were off!  I did get caught up in the race excitement to start and found that mile 1 was 8:55, too fast.  Was hoping that my comfortable pace would be around 9:10, with gas in the tank to push the last miles to ensure sub 2-hours.  Fast early miles would not help.  Slowed a little for mile 2 (although that mile has cat hill) and then evened out in mile 3.  Mile 4 has the Harlem Hill upswing, and a crowded water stop with Gatorade.  Combined, those caused the slowest mile yet at 9:31.  However, made that time up on the long downhill on the West side into mile 6, and completed the first loop in 55:04, which was ever so slightly over my goal, but very close, and I was feeling good.

  • Mile 1 – 8:55
  • Mile 2 – 9:18
  • Mile 3 – 9:11
  • Mile 4 – 9:31
  • Mile 5 – 9:10
  • Mile 6 – 8:56

In loop 2, tried to keep the same consistent pace, but push a little in spots where it felt right.  First 3 miles of the loop were very consistent, but right at my goal pace, didn’t make up any ground here.  Then, mile 10, which has the same Harlem Hill and important water stop as mile 4, was done again in 9:31 (hows that for consistency!).  I panicked a little at that point.  At mile 10, I figured I was about 30 seconds BEHIND my 2:00 goal, and thus 90 seconds behind 1:59, and thought it was time to start pushing hard.  In mile 11, you have the rolling hills of the west side, and I pushed up each of the hills, finishing the mile in 8:47.  Mile 12 is mostly downhill, and as I was able to maintain the same pace as mile 11, but with less effort, using the hill to save something for the last mile.  Mile 12 was 8:37.  At that point, I knew 2-hours was in the bag, but, I really wanted to beat my 2008 time, and would be awesome to finish under 1:59.  Mile 13 was very tough.  There are uphill and downhill sections, and I tried to use every one to my advantage.  Last quarter mile is on a downhill and found the last bit of gas to push it hard.  Mile 13 was 8:37!

  • Mile 7 – 9:07
  • Mile 8 – 9:10
  • Mile 9 – 9:09
  • Mile 10 – 9:31
  • Mile 11 – 8:47
  • Mile 12 – 8:37
  • Mile 13 – 8:37
  • Mile 13.1 – :46

Crossed the finish with an official time of 1:58:54!  6 seconds faster than my predicted 1:59, and 11 seconds faster than my course PR, set 2 years ago.

I was very happy with the effort in this race, executed exactly as planned, and I am excited about the prospects of setting a half marathon PR later in the year.  In 2008, when I ran 1:59:05 in Manhattan, I then beat 1:57 both in Bronx and Brooklyn in the upcoming months.

In a final summary, this was a strong negative split.  Last 6 miles were finished in 53:43, more than a minute faster than the first 6 miles!  Also, this was my 4th fastest half marathon ever, out of 31!

Written by SCL

January 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

Posted in Race Report, running

PR? No, and that’s OK

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Came back from an early morning run, which was autotweeted by RunKeeper.  TK (Pigtails Flying) was up and out early and we had a little twitversation and she asked me if I was going for a PR at the Manhattan Half on Sunday.

It’s funny.  I hadn’t really thought about it yet.  The quick answer, of course, is no, as I’m not quite in PR shape yet.  But it got me to thinking about PR’s, a bit of history with them, and reminding me just how special they are.

My running goes in cycles.  It ends up slightly different every year, but if you normalize out my years, it goes something like this: Start running hard in Jan, including speed work.  Run hard through winter and spring.  Start getting run down in late spring.  Virtually stop running in summer when it is too hot.  Start up again in August when I panic about fall marathon.  Train for fall marathon, run it, and end the year in recovery mode.

For me, in that cycle, late winter and early spring is my sweet spot for a PR.  In fact, if you look at my half marathon history, scroll down in my results page, (how is it possible I’ve run 30 of them???) you can see my PR’s.  They have ALL come in the springtime, or late winter: Brooklyn 99, 00, 05, 07, 08, Queens (which used to be in spring) in 99 and 01, and Bronx 08.

But, this gets harder to do in each year, and that is the key point.  With each successive faster PR, you have to work THAT much harder each time to work back up to that peak performance to reach the PR. My last half marathon PR was Brooklyn 2008, where I ran 1:56:41.  Right now I know I am not near that pace, but yes, I’d love to beat it in a spring half marathon this year.  However, I’ll need to work harder than ever to get there, and hope injuries don’t hold me back, or there are no adverse conditions on race day, or any other number of things to keep a run from being perfect.

But, if I can get to that PR, it will be mighty sweeeet, and you know I will savor it, because once I hit that down cycle and start to work back up next year, who knows if I’ll be able to reach the same level of peak performance again.

Last year, I ran a winter marathon (Austin in mid-Feb), so I actually did not have a down period after the NYC marathon, and I was in peak condition in winter.  I actually PR’d 5 mile, 5k and marathon distances between Jan and March 1.  I will never forget how great things were in that period of time, and how special it was.  I hope I can get somewhere like that again, but it will take a lot of hard work.

Good luck to everyone running the half this weekend.  Conditions should be great, mid to upper 30s and dry.

Written by SCL

January 22, 2010 at 7:30 am

Posted in Reflections, running

Every other day?

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Why does my blog traffic spike every second or third day?  So strange.  It’s not like I put a new post up every 2 or 3 days.  New posts go up maybe once per week, if I’m lucky!

Written by SCL

January 17, 2010 at 11:24 am

Posted in Reflections

The fun part…

with 3 comments

I love so many things about marathon training.  Running with a purpose.  Eating whatever I want.  Watching the miles pile on.  The journey to meet a difficult goal.  Impressive comments I get from people who don’t run.  But the thing I love most of all, the part that I have the most fun with as I get ready for a marathon, is the PLANNING!

I absolutely love the planning aspect.  Starting with planning which race it will be.  Then, for the out-of-town races, the planning of when to go, where to stay, what to do, etc.  Planning the race day logistics.  And most importantly, planning the training.

It is funny, because on the one hand, I don’t really plan my training out very well at all.  For the most part, I wing it.  My marathon training has no start date.  I don’t count the weeks left to the race.  What I do on a given day is typically based on how I feel and how much time I have that day, and not what the ‘training plan’ says I need to do.  I watch at the macro level to make sure that I’m generally getting enough miles in, that my mileage is increasing properly, and that I’m getting the right cross training in, but I do not micro-manage the day-to-day workouts.

However, on the other hand, the one aspect I do plan very carefully is my long runs, and my goal activity for each weekend leading up to the race.  And that is what I’m working on now for my May 2 marathon, Rhode Races in Providence RI.

Couple of holes still, but here is how it is shaping up now.

  1. weekend of 1/23 – Manhattan Half
  2. weekend of 1/30 – 15 miles
  3. weekend of 2/6 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride?
  4. weekend of 2/13 – on vacation
  5. weekend of 2/20 – on vacation
  6. weekend of 2/27 – long run 18 miles
  7. weekend of 3/6 – Coogan’s 5k race
  8. weekend of 3/13 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride?
  9. weekend of 3/20 – long run – 20 miles
  10. weekend of 3/27 – March Madness Biathlon
  11. weekend of 4/3 – 131 New York Half Marathon
  12. weekend of 4/10 – last long run – 21 miles
  13. weekend of 4/17 – start of taper – 10-13 miles
  14. weekend of 4/24 – taper
  15. weekend of 5/1 – BIG RACE


Written by SCL

January 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

Dec 2009 in Review

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Wow, realized in the excitement of year end, and my year in review post, that I forgot to post the simple December month in review.  So, here goes:

Running – 94.9 miles over 19 runs.  Met my goal of 800 miles for the year (801.0) on the last possible day!  94.9 miles represents my 2nd highest mileage month ever, behind Jan 2009 effort of 103.1 miles.  19 runs in a month is easily the most runs I’ve ever done in a single month.  Very happy with such a strong finish to the year, especially considering the stomach virus that knocked me out for a few days, the big snowstorm we had (messing up the streets for a week) and the super busy holiday season.

Races – 0

Biking – 0 – elbows still messed up.

Swims – 0 – To start in the new year

Gym workouts – 6 – starting to make this a habit again!

Softball games – 0

Injuries – 1 (improving hip injury)

Sicknesses – 1 (nasty stomach flu took me out of commission for 2 days, and then several more days to get back to full strength)

At the end of November, I stated that I needed to lose some weight.  While not much, my average weight did drop some – 1.7 pounds by the end of the month.  I’ll take it.  Better down than up.

Written by SCL

January 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Posted in Month End Summary