4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for April 2010

Last few days to Providence Marathon!

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Just in my final preparations for Rhode Races Marathon in Providence on Sunday.  Two things about the race course so far that I love:

  1. Even though the marathon and half marathon are run at the same time, on the same day, and have the same start and finish lines, the courses completely diverge at 2.5 miles.  This means the marathoners will have the excitement of a few thousand more runners at the start, and in the first 2 miles, but then we’ll have the entire rest of the course to ourselves.  This eliminates the issue of getting caught up running the pace of the half marathoners, which would be too fast.  This was a problem for some when I was at the Austin Marathon last year, who got caught up running faster than they should, only to find they were pacing with people running half the distance.  The only downside to this is that since this marathon is fairly small, the running crowd will thin out pretty quickly.  I know this is much more logically challenging for race organizers, but I think it creates a better experience for the runners.
  2. While essentially an out and back course mostly on the east side of the harbor, the course is interestingly mostly not running on the same exact roads on the back portion as the out portion.  There are several criss-crosses along the way, which is where the water stations are strategically located.  As a result, even though I only count 7 physical water stations, they cover 14 actual spots on the course.  Brilliant!  I just hope the water is plentiful and the confusion is limited!

Other fun facts:

  1. We’ll be using the Chronotrack B-Tag, rather than the D-Tag.  The B-Tag apparently stays right on your bib, and thus eliminates having to fasten it the shoe.  Sounds like this is brand new, and if it works well, I presume we’ll be seeing it at other races down the line
  2. Indoor bag check at the Westin Hotel!
  3. Free beer (Harpoon) at the finish line!

Super excited about the race, but more than the race, excited about the experience.  Just love the idea of the road trip (me and my wife, no kids!), touring around town, browsing the expo, running 26.2 miles, and a day of rest from work afterwards!

Only thing left is to figure out how to stay healthy and injury free for the next 4 days.  Would love to beat 4:30 and even 4:22 PR, but the chips will fall where they may, and I have 2 other chances planned in the next 9 months (Chicago 10-10-10 and First Light 1-9-11)


Written by SCL

April 27, 2010 at 6:43 pm

Posted in Rhode Races

Checking in With Two Weeks to Go

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Rhode Races Marathon is coming up in less than 2 short weeks, and I’m feeling really ready.  I’ve had mostly great runs, and have put in more miles before this race than any marathon prior.  I overdid it in the last 2 weeks and then had a bad run on Saturday, but with a day off yesterday, bounced back with a great 4.6 mile run tonight.

Way back on Jan 16, I posted my 15 week training plan.  I have to say, I have executed it perfectly.  Here is a recap of my plan and what I accomplished:

  1. weekend of 1/23 – Manhattan Half (completed very strong race.  Last 3 miles at 8:40 pace)
  2. weekend of 1/30 – 15 miles (completed 15.8 miles)
  3. weekend of 2/6 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride? (completed 10.3 miles)
  4. weekend of 2/13 – on vacation (nothing!)
  5. weekend of 2/20 – on vacation (completed Cherry Tree 10 mile race – PR – strong race)
  6. weekend of 2/27 – long run 18 miles (completed 17.5 miles)
  7. weekend of 3/6 – Coogan’s 5k race (completed race – PR)
  8. weekend of 3/13 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride? (completed 10 mile run)
  9. weekend of 3/20 – long run – 20 miles (completed 20 mile run)
  10. weekend of 3/27 – March Madness Biathlon (completed race – PR)
  11. weekend of 4/3 – 131 New York Half Marathon (completed race – little unhappy with pace, but really not bad)
  12. weekend of 4/10 – last long run – 21 miles (completed 22.1 mile run)
  13. weekend of 4/17 – start of taper – 10-13 miles (supposed to do 10 miles, but bagged it after hard efforts earlier in week)
  14. weekend of 4/24 – taper
  15. weekend of 5/1 – BIG RACE

So with the exception of a less than stellar 13.1 New York half marathon, and skipping my first taper run this past weekend, I completed all my planned runs, and was satisfied with virtually all of them.  I even executed my plan of running lots of miles, and running hard, in the last 2 weeks before my taper.  This period culminated in an awesome run in Oakland, CA last Thursday, where I ventured up into the hills of Piedmont, behind Lake Merritt.  380 feet of elevation gain in less than 2 miles, and then the same feet of elevation loss in 1.5 miles.  Check out the elevation chart below, including the 5 and 6% grades on the up and down.  After that, still had 3 miles to go on tired legs.  Was a great training session.

Oakland Run Elevation

Looking forward to a nice 2 week taper, and then hopefully a strong run.  I am extremely hopeful that I can beat 4:30, but not so hopeful I can match the 4:22 I ran in Austin last year.  That was a special race, but my 4:22 was more directly related to the 250 feet of elevation loss, and wind at my back, in the last 8 miles, than anything else.  I think those factors subtracted 5 minutes from my time.  I’ll have to work that much harder to make those 5 minutes on a course that doesn’t have the same kind of downhills.  There is a chance, and I’m looking forward to the challenge…

Written by SCL

April 19, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Posted in Rhode Races, running

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Final long run for Providence Marathon done

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Reposted from my Daily Mile report.  Click here for the route.  Finished 22.1 miles in 3:57:08.

4th and final of my planned long run for Providence Marathon, in 3 weeks on May 2.  Since the marathon is relatively flat, I decided to come up with a new long run route that was flat.  Best place for that is the greenway around Manhattan, so I traced it all the way back and beyond to 20 miles and ended up with a starting point at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  I really wanted 22ish miles so I needed to find a short route in the park as a starting point, and Amy C came through with a couple of options, including ‘the flats’, a gravel loop that is 1.4 miles in the area of the park where I wanted to start.

So, I started with that loop, headed down Broadway into Manhattan, down Seaman to the end and hooked up with the top of the Greenway.  It literally is the top, as there is a quite a large hill in the early 2 miles to the GW Bridge.  At the bridge, the path very quickly gets down to sea level and then the rest of the run was to be flat.

At least that was the plan, until I got about 125th st, where the greenway was CLOSED!  Needed to detour over to Riverside, which is up a LONG and STEEP hill to get up to Grants Tomb.  Then along Riverside and Riverside Park before I could hook up with the greenway at 96th St.

The worst part of this run was when I hit the wall at mile 12.  Yes, mile 12.  Not sure what happened, but I totally lost it, and had to stop and walk awhile.  The best I can describe is that I felt a weird sugar imbalance.  At this point I was in the 40’s, which is a crowded area with street vendors.  Tried to get a pretzel, but the guy only had hot dogs, so I ate one, and then got a Gatorade.  Between those, I started running again at 42nd St, and felt much better.

Had my fair share of soreness, tiredness, etc the rest of the way, but was able to work through it.  In fact, the best part was that the last 2 miles was done at 10:15 pace!

Thought a lot about the NYC Triathlon on this run.  The flats loop in Van Cortlandt Park is approximately where the bike turn-around is on Mosholo Parkway.  The top part of the greenway is on the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is the bike course, and Riverside Park passes through the start and end of the swim, and the transition areas.  Made me excited about my planned triathlons this year, which will be my focus starting on May 3!

Written by SCL

April 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Love to See the (Construction) Progress

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Just back from the Mets game at Citifield.  Still energized and won’t be able to sleep for awhile so thought I’d take this opportunity to write a little for my blog.

This was my 2nd highly satisfying game witnessed in person this week, both ending in a Mets blowout win.  I’ve been to hundreds of games at Shea Stadium, but in the last 2 years of Shea’s lifetime, 2007 and 2008, it seems like they almost always lost when I was there, and in sometimes brutal fashion.  I was in the park on the fateful last day of both years when tragic losses to the Marlins booted them from playoff contention.  Even last year, I saw 4 games, all losses, the last one a road trip to Washington DC, a loss on a walk off 2 out 2 strike grand slam homerun to a rookie nobody.  Brutal, brutal stuff.  But this year, I’m 2 for 2 in the win column!

I did not intend to write about the Mets, but rather, the great progress I saw in various construction projects, on my 6.5 mile run this morning.  This morning I ran my ‘lower Manhattan loop’ route.  On average, I run this route about every 2-3 months, and so can easily see the differences from run to run.  There are several great construction projects ongoing that continue to make good progress.

  1. Battery Park – looks like the construction, that has been going on forever, is about done.  The park actually looks really great for the first time in a long time
  2. Staten Island Ferry terminal – the front of the terminal has looked like a war zone for years as well.  The west half that opens to Battery Park looks to be just about all done with construction.  It will be great when this is all done because then it will be easier to link from the east river greenway, across the ferry terminal entrance, and over to the promenade leading to the west side greenway
  3. Expansion of pedestrian path at southern tip of east river greenway – they are in the process of building an extension to the sidewalk over the river, presumably to build a bike lane along the existing sidewalk?  Whatever the  purpose, it looks like the concrete has been poured, and they just need to put up a railing of some sort to get it open.  The extra space in that spot will be a welcome addition
  4. Greenway from Wall St to Seaport – Looks like the heavy construction is all done here now and they are working on some landscaping.  Looking forward to this being done so eliminate the slight detour that is in place now.  This section is to be the sample of what they intend to build all along the east river greenway.

Anyway, love seeing these improvements to our park, pedestrian and exercise space, and look forward to them being completed.  I love to see improvements in my running as well, but that goes without saying…

As for my training, in the middle of a very heavy 2 week period of running, with a 20-22 mile long run scheduled for Sunday.  Then 2 weeks of taper before the Rhode Races marathon on May 2.  Feeling good and very much ready for a strong sub 4:30 race.

Written by SCL

April 9, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Posted in Mets, Reflections, running

13.1 New York Race Report

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I’m usually good about at least getting the race reports up on my blog, but I’m behind – still have not written up the March Madness Biathlon from last weekend.  For another day, perhaps…

Yesterday was the inaugural 13.1 New York race.  I’ve had this on my radar since mid-August, when I purchased a pair of shoes at JackRabbit and first saw a postcard advertising the 13.1 race series.  The website had ZERO information about the New York race, but my interest was piqued, as I’m always looking for non-NYRR race opportunities in New York, and the half marathon has become one of my favorite race distances.

By NYC Marathon Expo, we had a location (Queens), and then over time we found out the date, exact location, and race course.  Signed up as soon as I figured out that I did not have a long run scheduled for this weekend in my training for the Providence Marathon.

I was definitely a bit concerned about the course existing solely in Flushing Meadow Park, thinking the park was not big enough, and that the narrow paths and turns would be a problem.  Turns out the park is REALLY big, and had no problem accommodating the course.  Yes it was crowded in the first mile, but once that cleared up, the course was clear enough, and very well marked with signs and road markings.  There were also plenty of water stops, with lots of water and Gatorade, with friendly, helpful, volunteers.

I again perfectly executed the pre-race strategy of getting things done before the masses, to get to the start line early.  Had some company this time, as I picked up Michelle on the way.  Good thing I had the extra time as I was under the impression that bag check was at the start, not the finish.  So, little bit of confusion, but got my bag checked before the masses, and used the bathroom before the masses, and got a nice spot at the start line.

I fully intended to not ‘race’ the distance.  I intend to shoot for a PR (1:56:42) at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and for this one, I was thinking to finish just under 2 hours.  In the early miles, I realized that was not going to happen.  I could not maintain the necessary 9:09 pace.  I found that my comfortable pace was about 9:20-9:25 per mile, and settled into that pace.  Even that pace didn’t feel completely great, I think because I had run 5 of the previous 7 days and my legs simply didn’t feel fresh.  I know with a proper taper, I could probably go a little faster in the marathon, especially with another 2 hard weeks of training before my taper.  So, long story short, I was happy with 9:20-9:25 pace.

You can see from my splits below, my pace was very consistent.  Not quite sure what happened in mile 6 (slowest mile by far at 9:59), but besides that, my times were very consistent.  That is also what happens when the course is flat as a pancake, as this was.  Well, mostly flat with the exception of about 8 trips by small bridge over various highways that crisscross the park.

This ended up being a perfect practice run, I think, for the marathon in Providence, because that race is also mostly flat.  It was nice to settle into marathon race pace, and not have to worry about stopping at lights, dodging cars, stopping into bodegas to buy drinks, and to not have to carry my bottles of water or Gatorade.

Even though I wasn’t feeling perfect, I had enough in the tank to run the last mile in 8:32.  The medal they gave at the end was really nice, and they also had a nice spread of food, and a great party.  All in all, a great time, and I hope they continue with another race next year.

My official time was 2:01:52, which ranks 8th fastest out of 32.

834 / 2103 – overall
528 / 923 – male
99 / 158 – age group

  • Mile 1 – 9:01
  • Mile 2 – 9:15
  • Mile 3 – 9:22
  • Mile 4 – 9:25
  • Mile 5 – 9:25
  • Mile 6 – 9:59
  • Mile 7 – 9:18
  • Mile 8 – 9:37
  • Mile 9 – 9:06
  • Mile 10 – 9:22
  • Mile 11 – 9:11
  • Mile 12 – 9:24
  • Mile 13 – 8:32
  • Mile 13.1 – :49

4 weeks to Rhode Races!

Written by SCL

April 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Great long run!

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Sorry to all of you that care about my training, but I’ve had very little time to blog about my training for the Rhode Races Marathon, coming up in 6 weeks (EDIT: umm, 4 weeks due to delays in getting this post finished!), on May 2.  My training has gone really, really well this year, and I’m looking forward to a great race.

Saturday (actually 2 Saturdays ago now, as I’m pathetic about making time to write) was a big test for me to see where I am with my fitness.  It was the third of four planned long runs leading to the race.  This run was 20.3 miles, a giant loop starting on 14th St in Manhattan, heading down to Manhattan Bridge, then up through Brooklyn and Queens to the RFK Bridge, to Randall’s Island, back to Manhattan and 5.5 miles down 1st Ave to the end.  See map here. I love this course.  I love the fact that it is one giant loop.  I’m not good with smaller loops.  A friend asked if I’d be running loops in the park, and the clear answer to that is NO.  That doesn’t work so well for me.  It is too easy to give in and quit early.  Therefore, I plan my long runs so that I end at home and the only way to end early is to get on a subway.  I’ve done that before as well, but it is pretty rare.

Anyway, back to the run.  I wanted to get a nice early start, as the day was to be warm and sunny, but that wasn’t meant to be.  I definitely take my time getting out of the house, to make sure I don’t forget anything and also to make sure I’ve taken care of any GI needs.  I also made sure to eat some breakfast at least 30 minutes before getting out.  That all added up to a 9am start.

As I went through this run, a theme emerged.  And this is one I think can be applied to distance running in general.  It goes something like this: “And Scott WINS in a 20 round TKO!”  The entire run, I was breaking it down into logical segments, generally because I would drink after each one.  However, in the last 5.5 miles down 1st Ave, which is deceptively hilly by the way, I visualized the uphills as rounds of a boxing match, and the subsequent downhills as the recovery time between rounds.  Mentally, this really, really worked for me at the end of the run.  The hills beat me down, but DID NOT knock me out.  At the end, I was the one standing, and was awarded the TKO.  When I wrote it out, ended up with only 19 ’rounds’, but hey, literary license is allowed!

Early Miles (5 segments)

  • To Manhattan Bridge (mile 1.4) – Down 1st Ave and Allen St to Manhattan Bridge.  I was in the shade for this portion, and just took it real easy.  Had to speed it up to get through Houston on the green light, and miraculously was able to get through Delancey without having to stop for red light.
  • Over Manhattan Bridge (mile 3) – mostly uneventful.  I went on the bike side, not the pedestrian side.  I really don’t think of myself as a pedestrian when I run, and I am very careful to move all the way over as far as possible when a bike is coming.  There were a bunch of bikers, but not nearly as many as you would see on Bklyn or Williamsburg Bridges.  Few casual pedestrians as well.
  • Around the Bklyn Navy Yard (mile 4.4) – Sand St Bike lane to Flushing Ave all the way around to Franklin/Wythe. (mile 4.4) – Nice area to run.  While the traffic is fast, there is not a lot of traffic, and no cross traffic because of the Navy Yard.  Here the sun was shining down, from the right side.
  • Wythe around to Williamsburg Bridge (mile 5.5) – This is a very peaceful area, with some great views of Manhattan and the bridge.  Hasidic area, and lots of people out and about, presumably walking to synagogue on Sat morning.  Still feeling great, had a nice steady pace going.  Still working on first Gatorade bottle.
  • Continue on Wythe to end, becomes Norman, to Manhattan Ave (mile 6.8) – Wythe continues to be very quiet in north Williamsburg, and was able to keep a great steady pace going.  At the end, took my first break to buy a water at a bodega.

In summary, these early miles were easy, as they should be in a long run.  After the 1st mile though, the sun was a constant factor.  The relative calm of the streets allowed me to fall into a nice steady pace.  Again, I broke down the run into segments, but more for making the time pass, and executing my hydration plan, it was not as mentally needed here as it was later in the run.

Middle Miles (6 segments)

  • McGuiness over the Pulaski Bridge (mile eight) – In past runs, I would take Manhattan Ave, or McGuiness itself, but they are both crowded with cars, leaving a narrow space for running.  I recently discovered the bike lane on Leonard, which is perfect to use.  So Leonard to GreenPoint Ave, then down the little hill to McGuiness and then over the Pulaski Bridge.  Very little shade here as well, but was pleasantly surprised I was easily able to get up and over the bridge.  Once over the Bridge, when I crossed over on Jackson Ave, stopped in a shade spot to take my first Gu and drink a bunch of water.
  • 21st St past Queensboro Bridge, to 40th Ave (9.2 miles) – Jackson to 21st St, left on 21st St, and up all the way to bridge.  Heavy traffic area, but lots of room on the road.  Still feeling good.
  • Make way to Crescent, and up to RFK Bridge (11 miles)  – little jig-jagging through industrial streets to get to Crescent, and then Crescent all the way to bridge.  When this long run doesn’t go well, this is the segment when I start to tire, and notice the aches and pains.  But this time, just felt great and kept the nice steady pace going.  Just before the bridge, I stopped to get a new water, and was craving a banana.  However, the 2 bodegas I stopped in both did not have fruit.  So went without.  Frankly, I didn’t miss it,and wasn’t even starving at the end, so this is more of a mind over matter issue I need to deal with.
  • RFK Bridge (12.5) – Main span of the bridge has some spectacular views.  And it was such a clear day, I felt like I could see all the way out to Long Island.  Was really happy to see the old construction GONE – see my blog post on the subject.  Continuing theme of endless sunshine and no shade.
  • Randall’s Island (13.5) – The end of the bridge drops you off more on the south end of the island, and you need to run on the road to get up to the pedestrian path to Manhattan or Bronx.  Was also nice to see that the road construction here is finally finished as well.  Road is nice blacktop now, have not seen that in a long time here.  They are still missing painted bike lanes.  There really should be one, and maybe that will be done this upcoming year?
  • Pedestrian Bridge to Manhattan (14.5) – walked up the steep ramps to the bridge proper, and at that point inhaled my 2nd Gu, and gobbled down a bunch of water.  Worked into the run again as I came off the bridge and around the bend to 1st Ave and 126th St, 112 blocks, and 5.5 miles) from home.

Last Miles (8 segments)

  • to 96th St
  • Hill 1 peak at ~84th St
  • Hill 2 peak at ~70th St
  • Hill 3 peak at ~58th St
  • Hill 4 peak at ~50th St
  • Hill 5 peak at ~42nd St
  • Hill 6 peak at ~30th St
  • The end – 14th and Ave A

It was while I was working up the various hills on 1st Ave that I started thinking about the rounds of a boxing match analogy, and for me, at the end of a long run like this, with all the little rolling hills, it totally worked for me.  Battled up the hills, and then ‘sat in the corner’ on the downhills to recover.  I did not walk up any of these hills, and still felt strong going up the last hill.  The mistake I made was assuming I was done after the last hill, when in fact, I had almost a mile to go down to 14th St.  In the first half of the last mile I started feeling very weary, as if I was in ‘hitting the wall’ territory.  But I also knew how close I was to being done, and something flipped, and the last half mile ended up not being a problem.

Finished the 20.3 miles in 3:26:59, a 19 second PR from my previous best effort on this course!  This was a great run, and now I have one long run left as I work the last weeks of training for Rhode Races Marathon in Providence on May 2!

Written by SCL

April 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Rhode Races, running

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March 2010 in Review

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Running – 82.3 miles over 13 runs.  267.6 miles YTD is a record through March.  More importantly it is 6 of 7 months with 80+ miles, a level I never, ever, reached before Sept 08, covering 14 years.  For the first time, I think I could get to 1000 in the year, considering I’m running a Marathon 5/2 (Providence), 10/10 (Chicago) and planning one for Jan 2011.  So, there should be little running ‘down time’ this year.

Races – 2 races, 2 PR’s! (Coogan’s Salsa Blues and Shamrocks 5k – 24:27 PR, March Madness Biathlon – 1:22:44 PR)

Biking – 93.9 miles over 6 rides.  Made good use of the weeks where the weather was nice.  Nice little base to get started in my tri training.  My right elbow is still a concern, but it has been very manageable.

Swims – 1 – NOT ENOUGH!

Gym workouts – 0 – UGH!

Injuries – 0 (even old nagging injuries have been on the decline.  I did get 2 blisters after my last long run, but I don’t think they count)

Sicknesses – 0 (I’ve been taking Zicam as soon as I start feeling any cold symptoms, and it has so far kept me healthy going back to December)

Weight – Flat – lost slightly less than half a pound, but also gained a few tenths of fat percentage.  Not happy about that, and there is a lot of weight available for me to lose if I could control my eating!

Written by SCL

April 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Posted in Month End Summary