4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for November 2010

November 2010 In Review

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Running – 106.2 miles over 16 runs.  This was my second highest monthly total ever, 1.7 miles short of my total from April.  I had the benefit of 2 long runs, which helped to bump up the total.  This leaves me at 969 for the year, easily within reach of my goal of 1000 for the year.  15 of my last 16 months are over 70 miles, a huge accomplishment for me.


Races – 1 (PPTC Turkey Trot 5 Miler – 42:17)

Biking – 0

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 2

Softball – 1 win and 1 loss.  We won our division championship!

Injuries – None, although I seem to be getting several blisters on my feet after my long runs

Sicknesses – None



Written by SCL

November 30, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Fun With Numbers

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I had an epic running week this week, at least for me.  I ran 9.9 miles on Tuesday, 5 on Thursday, 5.1 on Saturday and 20.3 today.  My total for the week was 40.3.  While many of the people I follow on Twitter and DailyMile can do that easily, for me this is a huge week.  It got me to thinking, I wonder if it was my biggest week ever.

My training log goes back to the very end of 1998.  While I have pockets of data prior to 1999, it is nothing reliable, so the beginning of 1999 is where I can start.  I grouped all of my runs by week in a long list.  623 weeks in total!  Upon further analysis, I found that this ranked as my third biggest week ever.

  • Second biggest was 40.8, back in 2005, the week I ran the Big Sur Marathon.  On that week, I ran 5.5 on Monday, 5.9 on Wednesday, and 3.2 on Saturday.
  • The winner, of my biggest week ever, was actually in April of this year!  In that week, I ran 22 miles on Sunday, from Van Cortlandt Park all the way down the west side and around the battery and up the East Side to my apartment, in training for the Providence RI marathon.  In that same week, I ran 4 on Monday, 5.9 on Tuesday, 4.8 on Thursday, and 6.5 on Friday

So there you have it, my top 3 weeks ever!

A distribution of my running weeks, since 1999:

  • 40+ = 3
  • 30-39.9 = 18
  • 20-29.9 = 63
  • 10-19.9 = 209
  • 5 – 9.9 = 137
  • .1-4.9 = 93
  • 0 = 100

That’s right, in the last 12 years, I’ve run 0 miles in the week 100 times, and less than 5 miles 93 times.  My average week is 10.59 miles.  The fact is that prior to 2008, 50 miles was a good month for me, and 600 miles for the year was a magic number I (barely) attained only 3 times.  Most years had far less miles.  After a disappointing NYC Marathon in 2007, I vowed to increase my mileage, and since early 2008 I have been able to do so.  The distribution with only the weeks since 1/1/2008 is much different, and my average is more than 65% higher at 16.66 miles:

  • 40+ = 2
  • 30-39.9 = 15
  • 20-29.9 = 36
  • 10-19.9 = 57
  • 5 – 9.9 = 23
  • .1-4.9 = 10
  • 0 = 9

If you look at my monthly totals, you’ll see that I’ve only hit 100 miles in a month 4 times, and that includes this month, Nov 2010.  See below for my full monthly summaries (click for a bigger view).  I’m sure there are other interesting statistics here, but that is for another day…


Monthly Miles

Written by SCL

November 28, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Looking Back

PPTC 5 Mile Turkey Trot Race Report

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Thursday was the 5 mile Turkey Trot in Prospect Park.  I finished in 42:17, and had a great time.

Typically, my family travels for Thanksgiving.  But this year, we had an early holiday last weekend, and so we remained behind in NY.  I decided to take advantage and run in the turkey trot race, which would be my first ever!  With so many half marathons and marathons on my race calendar, I was really looking forward to this short distance race, to try and air things out a bit.  With a planned long run on the weekend, the Thursday morning race fit perfectly, especially considering Thursday is the same day of the week I’ve been speed working lately.

My goal for the race was 42:30, which is 8:30 per mile pace.  It would not quite be a PR for me, (my PR is 41:24) but would still represent a very fast effort.  I arrived at that goal because I have been doing speed work over the last month, which is making me faster, and also because I ran a quick tempo run recently at under 9 pace.  I figured that in race conditions I should be able to get down to 8:30 pace.

The day dawned beautiful, in terms of running conditions.  It was 40 degrees, with no wind.  I wasn’t sure how to dress properly, and wore a base layer and heavy shirt on top, and running tights on the bottom.  When I got out to the park, I realized I had overdressed, and put on the spare lightweight shirt I brought with me just in case, in place of my original 2 layers.  Also skipped the gloves and ear coverings.  Additionally, I perfectly executed the pre race activities, which included registration, changing of my clothes, 2 trips to the bathroom, and some meet-up time with Michelle.

As the race started, I knew I wanted 8:30 pace, but didn’t really have a strategy.  I knew the course was first across Center Drive, which would be uphill, then on the main loop we’d hit part of the long downhill to the bottom of the park, and then a full loop of the park.  I knew I needed to save just enough for the big hill, which would come in the 3rd mile.  I set out at a good hard, but manageable, pace, and happy to see that I could maintain 8:35-8:40.  I knew I had a bunch in the tank for a fast last mile, and so long as I kept myself with 20-30 seconds of 8:30 pace, I’d make my goal.

In execution, the race was perfect.  Very consistent first 4 miles, and then was able to hammer it home.  My splits were 8:35, 8:42, 8:32, 8:35, 7:52.  My finishing time was 42:17, beating my goal by 13 seconds!  Very pleased I was able to get it down to around 8:30 in race conditions.  My ultimate goal is even faster, perhaps down to 8 pace in short races, but with the winter to train, those are springtime goals.  Next weekend is the Joe K 10k in Central Park, where my goal will again be 8:30 pace.

Written by SCL

November 28, 2010 at 5:50 pm

Posted in Race Report

Book Review: Personal Record – A Love Affair with Running by Rachel Toor

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How exciting.  My first ever book review.  I will admit that I don’t read many running books.  I also don’t read many autobiographies, or memoirs.  But I happened upon this one, and just loved it so much, I had to share.

I randomly stumbled upon this book.  I have never heard of Rachel Toor before, and had never heard of this book before.  One of my purchases at the Chicago Marathon expo was a spur-of-the-moment subscription to Marathon & Beyond.  M&B appears to be the running magazine I’ve been looking for all of my adult life, but that is a story for another day.  As part of the deal, I was able to choose 2 back issues, and one of the issues I selected had a brief, but very positive, mention of this book, which was new at that time.  I was inspired to immediately order it from Amazon!

Based on this book, I think Rachel is a fantastic writer.  Entertaining, to the point, and quick moving.  She has written regularly, apparently, for Running Times, which I have never read, and has occasionally appeared in Marathon & Beyond, which is a new magazine to me, so I don’t think I’ve seen her writing before.

The book is a series of 26 (plus a .2 at the end) essays covering her life of running.  It starts out describing Rachel’s life as a non-runner, but with running friends, and covers her slow transition to a runner, and then a very serious runner.  The book covers her approach to running, details some of the relationships with people who have been important to her running life, and also some of the most important races and events she has participated in.  My only criticism, perhaps, is that if you read Running Times and Marathon & Beyond, then you might already be familiar with some of the chapters in the book.

This book had no problem keeping me entertained.  I only wish the chapters didn’t stop at 26 (marathon length), but rather went all the way to a 50 mile (chapter) ultra!  Maybe she is holding out on us for a sequel.  Now that I know Rachel Toor, I will be on the lookout for her additional works.  As it happened, today I was flipping through the current issue of Runners World, Dec 2010, and lo and behold, she was the author for the issue’s Life & Times column.  Again, a breath of fresh air.

Highly recommended all around!

Written by SCL

November 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Book Review

NYC Marathon Course – mess with it?

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I love how the Wall Street Journal is taking more of a dip into the local NYC world, also covering sports, and really doing a great job of covering the marathon in the last week around our big race.  Last week, there was an article, quoting one of my Twitter friends(!), asking if NYC should have a 2nd marathon race, and today there was another article questioning whether the course should be changed, as the current course is over capacity, creating less than perfect conditions for runners, and hampering growth.  Wanted to provide my thoughts:

Add another – YES!  I am in favor of this.  It will never have the cachet of the main event on the first Sunday of November, but NYC needs other options.  There are other race organizers in NYC besides NYRR, and enough room for them in the city.  In fact, I’m so happy the 13.1 Marathon organization staged a half marathon race in Queens in the spring, which I ran, and it will continue next year, and I’m already registered for that race!  The biggest problem is clearly getting the cooperation of the city agencies necessary to close down the various streets, plus sanitation etc, to make it work, but I bet it can be done in such a way to minimize disruption, although that likely means staying out of Manhattan.  There are lovely places to run in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and upper Manhattan to create a fun and different event.  I personally might not run as I’m focusing on marathons in other states now, but I know many people in NYC that would jump at the chance to run an alternate race.  It really is a travesty that we only have one marathon distance race to choose from in the boroughs.

Change the course? – NO!  Don’t do it.  I think this would be a huge mistake.  The race must cover all five boroughs, and must continue to go through the same amazing neighborhoods currently covered.  The only change I would make is to finish the race on Central Park South, or Central Park West, to ease the congestion that occurs at the end.  I didn’t run this year, so I don’t know if the 10 minute additional separation between waves made any difference, but each of the last 3 years when I ran, the wait and walk to retrieve baggage was completely and utterly horrible.  That is the one thing that should be changed.  Leave everything else as is!  The wave starts creates enough separation at the start of the race, and by and large, the marathon course can easily handle the participants.  It is the start at the bridge, and the area past the finish in Central Park, where more capacity is needed.  Chicago had 37,000 runners, all from one wave, and their finish system, including baggage retrieval, worked great after the race.  I think they simply had a wider space to work with. 

On another side note, a new friend I met at a conference yesterday pointed me to this other article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, profiling a 70 year old guy who races ironman triathlons.  Very inspiring stuff!

Written by SCL

November 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm

A Nice Week of Training

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Today was a big day in NYC running circles, the New York City Marathon.  A thoroughly exciting event which makes for a distracting (in a positive way) week leading to the race, and an amazing race weekend.  I was not running this year, and nor did I have time to get to the expo or spectate, but I did follow all of my virtual friends on Twitter today, which was loads of fun.  Congrats to everyone that got it done!

My 2009 experience, including expo, can be found in several installments.  I’ve also got my 2008 race report here.

As for my current activities, I’m knee deep in training for my next marathon (First Light in Jan), and trying to take the training very seriously this time around.  For fall races, I blame my typical poor showing on not training well in the summer.  I don’t have that excuse for a winter race, and so am trying hard to follow through on getting in the miles.  This past week was pretty stellar:

  1. Monday – after a 16 mile long run on Saturday, I was going to take Monday off because I already had a softball game, but the softball game was cancelled, and I decided when I got home late that I should get a workout in.  Just went for a 4 mile run in East River Park, but got the work in, rather than taking the rest day.
  2. Tuesday – went to the gym to lift weights for the first time since Feb.  Will try to do this once a week as a cross training activity
  3. Wednesday – was a busy day at work, followed by a reception which caused me to get home past 8pm.  Again, I felt it was really important to get some work in, and went out late for a 4.4 mile run down to East River Park.  My other option was to go to sleep early, which I really wanted to do, but instead I dragged myself out and got in the miles, done at a strong pace
  4. Thursday – My 4th week in a row of speed work, did some hard intervals into the marathon finish line, which was really inspiring since the finish line was already built up.
  5. Friday – Took the day off, partially because I had no time to run, and partially because I think it is important to take days off after hard efforts, but mostly because I came down with a fever on Thursday night.  Thankfully I was able to ditch the fever quickly and had no other cold symptoms.  I chalk it up to liberal use of Zicam!
  6. Sat – easy 1.1 with my 14 y/o daughter – really happy my daughter is interested in light running to stay active, and this is the 2nd time we’ve been able to go out together around the park on a weekend morning.  I’m definitely not a ‘push your kid into stuff you like to do’ kind of parent, but also hope that my long history of running and staying active will rub off.
  7. Sat – I felt I still needed to get a real workout in on Saturday because the run in the morning was really nothing more than a warm up.  Headed down the East River for an extended run.  3.1 out and back for a 10k in total.  This run was very rewarding.  It is a little complicated to explain in detail, but on the way down, there was another runner than passed me and opened up a big lead on me.  On my way back, when I hit the promenade, the same runner was in a similar position to me and opened up another lead.  However, as we made it up the greenway, and started running along the water, it because very windy, with a still headwind.  She was clearly affected by the wind and slowed considerably, enough for me to catch up, pass, and then open up my own lead by the end!  I was grateful for her presence, as it gave me a little extra motivation to push a little extra hard to get a good quality workout done.

At the end of the day (or week, I suppose) I only covered 22.2 miles, but that was with no long run, and with some quality efforts in there.  A good week to build on.

Written by SCL

November 7, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Marathons Galore!

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This is a great time of the year, namely marathon season.  Big marathons are going on virtually every weekend, and now with Twitter and Dailymile, I know of so many people running each of the races.

This past weekend was Marine Corp Marathon, where the runners had great conditions.  It was fun to track everyone’s activities for the weekend and on race day.  Congrats to everyone that got it done!

This weekend is the New York City Marathon, which also looks to have ideal conditions, although perhaps a tad bit on the cold side.  I’ve run it 7 times, including each of the last 3 years.  This year, I’m just hoping to have the time to spectate.  In years past, I would spectate from several spots along the course.  I think that strategy is more of a challenge now that they have wave starts.  In fact, for the first time, the waves will be 30 minutes apart, which means the fast runners will start out an hour ahead of the slowest, creating a much larger gap than when there were no waves.  This is definitely necessary due to overcrowding on the course, especially after the finish line, but just makes it harder to spectate multiple people at different paces from multiple spots on the course.

Then, last, but not least, we have the Philadelphia Marathon.  They have the hardest job of all, waiting patiently through all the other fall marathons until they finally get their shot on Nov 21.

As for me, and my next marathon, this past weekend I got my first long run done for the First Light Marathon.  Ran 15.8 miles in 2:47.  Ran the same course I’ve done in the past as my first marathon long training run.  While on the slower side compared to previous efforts, it was 4 minutes faster than the same effort in August!

Written by SCL

November 2, 2010 at 6:04 am

GPS Course Measurements

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We are all complainers by nature, and I do it too, especially on Twitter where there is an audience of other complainers to fuel the fire.  While in real life I am typically not a complainer, there are certain things that do get me all riled up.  Usually I ignore it, and every once in awhile I get riled up enough to blog (edit added: and therefore complain myself) about it.

You sometimes hear people complaining after finishing a race that the race was too long because their GPS watch shows a longer distance than the length of the race.  I’ve run local races myself where I’ve wondered about the placement of mile markers and felt some miles were shorter and longer than the rest.  In fact, in the Red Bank triathlon, I mused that perhaps the last mile was short as I clocked an unbelievable 8:06(ish) for that mile.

However, this is a ridiculous notion when it comes to major marathon events.  You can be sure the length of the course is accurate.  After the Chicago Marathon, I heard from several people complaining about how much ‘further’ they ran then 26.2 miles.  Again yesterday, after the Marine Corp Marathon, I started seeing other people with the same complaint.  This time, rather rudely, I posted my protest of the comment in the places I saw it.

Please check out these 2 really informative posts about GPS and race measuring, and then come back here.

  1. This guys blog is the most informative I’ve ever seen about running, biking and swimming, and my newest MUST READ blog.  He recently re-linked to his 2009 posting about understanding how courses are measured.  http://www.dcrainmaker.com/2009/03/racing-line-understanding-how-courses.html
  2. I randomly saw a link to this in my Twitter stream recently (had been retweeted by Tracy http://twitter.com/#!/Nemtynakht).  Not sure how old this is, but it covers much of the same territory. http://www.hamptonrockfest.com/hamptonhalf-GPS.html

Thanks for coming back…

So, at the end of the day, the GPS in your watch is, quite simply, not completely accurate.  Also, to run the minimum distance, you have to run in a straight line all day, and perfectly cut the corners in every spot.  It is simply not possible.  Personally, on everyday runs, I use the GPS to guestimate my distance, but then I almost always re-measure on DailyMile, RunKeeper, MapMyRun, or some such mapping site, to get a true distance.

Check out the map of my Chicago Marathon run, which ridiculously came in at 27.3 miles! If you zoom in, you can start to see the imperfections and the not-so-straight-line course that it plotted.  http://www.trainingpeaks.com/sw/3MJ3MGV34VXQ365LXPRLA7KNXU

OK, I feel better now…

Written by SCL

November 1, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Posted in Rant

October 2010 in Review

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Running – 98 miles over 15 runs.  A stellar month.  Included a marathon, plus my first long run for my next marathon, plus a triathlon, plus my first run ever with my 14 year old daughter plus 3 speed sessions.  I’m now at 862.8 miles on the year, already shattering my previous high for a year (801) and well on my way to 1000 miles for the year.  Considering I’m training for a marathon again, should hit 1000 with no problem.  In looking at the graph below, each month in the last year has been high mileage (for me), with every month since May higher than the last.

Races – 2 (Red Bank Triathlon – 2:23:02; Chicago Marathon – 4:53:15)

Biking – 80.5 miles over 4 rides.  This included the Red Bank Triathlon, and an epic Twitter ride to Piermont.  I’m over 565 miles for the year, I believe the most I’ve had in a single year.  This also clinches my other goal for 2010, which was 1500 run and bike miles for the year.  I have signed up for my first half iron next year (Poconos), gulp, so I expect even more miles in 2011.

Swims – 1 – Just the tri

Gym workouts – none

Softball – 2 wins and a loss.  On our way to the playoffs after 1 more season game

Injuries – Just right foot issues after the marathon.  Caught it early and treated it with ice.  Much better now, so never developed into achilles tendonitis or planar fasciitis.

Sicknesses – none

Written by SCL

November 1, 2010 at 6:15 am

Posted in Month End Summary