4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for January 2011

Jan 2011 in Review

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I haven’t posted here in awhile, I guess because I’m sort of in-between at the moment.  My big winter race is done, and now I have time to kill before my succession of exciting spring events.  And with all the snow we’ve had, I just haven’t been putting in a lot of running – also not stressing about it at all…

Running – 83.9 miles over 11 runs.  Half of those miles came in the first 9 days!  The highlight was running the First Light Marathon on my 40th birthday!  In all, a nice healthy start to the year though, and continues my streak of now 14 months in a row of 70 or more miles.   I’m certainly ahead of schedule for the year because I have set NO particular running goal for the year.  So invigorating!

Races – 1 (First Light Marathon – 4:37:10)

Biking – 0

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 3 (the start of a new habit???)

Softball – 0

Injuries – Tweaked something in my lower back mid-month, but not a big issue and did not hold me back much

Sicknesses – None

Weight – will start reporting my progress here so I can be held accountable.  My weight and body fat is the worst it has been since Jan 2007, when I first started recording such measurements.  I have a long way to go to simply get back to where I have been much of the last couple of years.  This month serves as a baseline, and I hope I see it going down from here.


Written by SCL

January 31, 2011 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Brrrr, and back update

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So, the Manhattan Half is on Saturday, and it is going to be a cold one!  I’m a little sad I’m not running this year, as it brings back fond memories of the cold 2009 edition.  If you want to get a sense of what to expect, read my report from that race!

Back update – yesterday I wrote about the pain in my back, which inflicted itself on me on the subway Tuesday night.  It is much better today.  I am able to almost stand up straight and can walk with a significantly reduced limp!  Yay for progress!  The fact is, if I had a softball game today or a race, I’d be out there.  Perhaps a little tight, but able to get it done.

Unfortunately, I have no plans tonight and my impulse is telling me to go and run.  The prudent side of my brain is telling me to take a rest day, but the irrational side of my brain is telling me that we will have 4 inches of snow on the ground tomorrow morning and so you better run tonight, as there is a good chance I will not be able to run at all on Saturday too.  I wonder who will win out…

Written by SCL

January 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Posted in injury, weather

Pain in the … back

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I’ve been feeling great lately from an injury point of view, and was just thinking about how I have not had any back problems in awhile.   I think it was Joe that was recently complaining about his own back issues on Twitter, and I completely identified with that as I have had lots of back problems over the years, and realized it had been awhile since I had my last episode.  Actually, a search of my own blog revealed that is was only in Sept that I last had a problem, while preparing for the Chicago marathon – lol.  That one only cost me 3 days of training, which I guess is why it was forgettable to me.

I will never forget the massive back spasm that hit in a port-o-potty at the finish of the New York City Triathlon in 2009 (talk about BAD timing) (race report here), or the one that caused me to run my slowest 10k ever in 2004 at the Nike Run Hit Wonder (check my results page), or the one that hit before the NYC Half in 2007 causing another very slow race (another stand-out on my result page), and countless other ones over the years.

This week I went to the gym on Monday night.  I intentionally took it easy since I had not been there in a month.  I’m sure the squats, situps, back extensions, and other weights strained my back a bit, but I felt fine.  Then last night I ran a great speed workout in Central Park without any issues.  However, on the subway ride home, I took an odd step down a stair, and felt the familiar twinge in my lower back.  I could tell it was not awful and took it easy the rest of the way home and then laid out on my bed.

This morning I awoke to a lot of stiffness, but thankfully no pain.  While I limped around all day today, I know it could have been so much worse.  Based on how I felt today, I think I’ll be out running again in a couple of days and hopefully back out to the gym by the weekend as well.

Meanwhile, I will practice trying to stand up straight, count my blessings at the lack of severity and good timing, and start obsessing about when it might happen again!

Written by SCL

January 19, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Posted in injury

Running Mantra

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One more thing about the First Light Marathon.  I successfully employed a running mantra!

On the trip out, I read the Feb ’11 issue of Runners World.  Superb issue, by the way.  Enjoyed it cover to cover, including all of the features.  One of the articles was on using running mantras to get through running efforts.  While I didn’t take the effort to create my own mantra, and the article did not talk specifically talk about using a song as a mantra, I decided to make one from one of the songs that had made it to the top of my running playlist, Galvanize, by the Chemical Brothers.

Michelle turned me onto this song last year, and I had put it on my primary running playlist.  Since it is a relative newcomer to that list, it has become one of my go-to songs of late.  As I was reflecting on the article, I realized that the key lyric, “Don’t hold back”, and it’s really catchy and rhythmic spot in the song, including the secondary lyric “The time has come to push the button” would serve as the perfect mantra.

I think it worked!  I did not run with my music, but I did have my phone with me, and Galvanize was the last thing I listened to just before the starting gun (they literally started the race with a pistol) went off.  This helped to keep the song fresh in my mind, and in the middle to late stages of the race, especially on the uphills, I went back to those 3 words (Don’t hold back), and that section of the song.  It really propelled me on that day!

I realize this may not be exactly what Runners World was thinking about, but I do recommend you download that song, put it on your running playlist, and use it to propel you on your next big effort!

Written by SCL

January 17, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Posted in Reflections

First Light Marathon Race Report

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I know I owe you guys a race report for the First Light Marathon, which was 8 days ago!  The funny thing is that I find very little motivation to write a report after the race is over.  For me, I’m more interested in posting about the effort that went into *preparing* for the race!  Once the race is done, I’m quickly ready to turn the page and move on.  This happens for bad races, of course, but also apparently, for good races, like this one.  I’ve had a hard time writing this report, and also, I never filed a report for my best marathon ever, my 4:22 PR effort in Austin in 2009!

So, without further adieu, here are the highlights!

On Sunday Jan 9, I completed the First Light Marathon, in Mobile Alabama, on my 40th birthday!  It was my 14th marathon and my 8th state.  With a finishing time of 4:37:10, it was my 3rd fastest.  As usual when travelling to out of town races, I had a blast, and really enjoyed the whole experience.  It was smallest marathon I’ve ever run, with only 471 finishers.  My finish position was 241, sooooo close to my holy grail of finishing within the 50% percentile!

The weather leading up to the race was fantastic.  Thurs and Fri were spent in New Orleans, and Sat in Mobile.  The weather was clear, with temps in the 50s and 60s.  However, a storm was getting ready to come through that was promising snow and ice in the southern US.  The night before the race, the weather forecast was for low 30s, with freezing rain and sleet.  However, in reality, the day dawned 39 degrees, and just overcast.  The rain was forecast to hold off till after lunchtime!  In summary, perfect marathon conditions!

The course was unique in the sense that the first 10 miles were completely flat.  As well as the last 5 miles.  However, miles 10-21 were very very hilly.  I drove the course the day before to get familiar with what was in store.

I had recently come to terms with the fact that I did not care so much about my finishing time for marathon racing (see the latter part of my 2011 plans post).  I had previously been fixated on finishing under 4:30, and as a result was mostly unhappy with my marathon race days.  This time it was about getting it done in a way that was comfortable for me, and such that I didn’t flame out in the last 10k.  So I was liberated to start conservatively without caring so much about the split times.  Check out the consistency in those early miles.  Mile 10 was slow because I made a potty and Gu break.

  • Mile 1 – ???
  • Mile 2 – 19:53
  • Mile 3 – 10:19
  • Mile 4- 10:18
  • Mile 5 – 10:12
  • Mile 6 – 10:22
  • Mile 7 – 10:28
  • Mile 8 – 10:41
  • Mile 9 – 10:46
  • Mile 10 – 11:17

Then we hit the hills.  And guess what?  I started pushing the uphills, and passing lots of people on every hill.  And I got faster!  I really got into a groove and fell into a great rhythm, pushing the uphills and coasting the flats and downhills.  I am most proud that I ran EVERY SINGLE one of the uphills, including the last big one that some guy watching from the sidelines called “the monster”.

  • Mile 11 – 10:25
  • Mile 12 – 10:26
  • Mile 13 – 10:10
  • Mile 14 – 10:04
  • Mile 15 – 9:51
  • Mile 16 – 10:38
  • Mile 17 – 10:10
  • Mile 18 – ???
  • Mile 19 – 21:41
  • Mile 20 – 10:27
  • Mile 21 – 10:20

My first 10 miles took 1:44:16, and the 2nd 10 miles took 1:43:52.  I actually negative split the first 20 miles, with the 2nd half being extremely hilly!  And not only that, but I did NOT hit the wall at mile 20, and had enough in the tank to run a relatively strong last 10k.  Yes, I did hit the wall, in mile 23 and had a few slow miles, but I had no miles slower than 12 minutes – for my last few marathons I had at least 4 such slow miles in each race.  In mile 24, I realized I had a Gu left and that propelled me, by mile 25, to run strong the rest of the way in.

  • Mile 22 – 10:55
  • Mile 23 – 11:37
  • Mile 24 – 11:59
  • Mile 25 – 11:41
  • Mile 26 – 10:20
  • Mile 26.2 – 1:56

So even though my finishing time was :7:10 beyond 4:30, I was still extremely pleased with the effort.  Because the race field was so small, I was running by myself the last half mile into the finish.  And with a 12:16 last 1.2 miles, I was CHURNING into the finish on all cylinders, picturing that I was the winner of the race!  All of the cheers were for ME!  It was a great feeling…

The highlights for me were:

  • Small town race feel – I loved the small field energy.  For those of you that need crowd motivation to get through a marathon, this might not be for you, but I really enjoyed the laid back nature.  The most common ‘cheer’ I got from the sideline was “mornin'”, with that southern drawl and a smile.  It was a fantastic.
  • Relay – there was a relay within the full marathon, with relay stations at 5, 10, 15 and 20 miles.  There energy at those stations was great, and it gave me something to look forward to at those major mile-stones.
  • Chicken soup broth – at the water stop in the 18th mile, they were handing out warm chicken soup broth.  It was fantastic!  I think that was what gave me the energy to run the full distance of the ‘monster’ hill that immediately followed, and even the smaller hills that were to follow in the next couple of miles.
  • College campuses – The course took us through the USA (University of South Alabama) and Spring Hill college.  Nice change of scenery.
  • People running the ‘double’ – Saturday was Mississippi Blues Marathon, and there were many people that ran both events, or the ‘double’.  There was one fit looking guy that passed me easily in mile 23.  I shared some words of encouragement with him, and was then very impressed when I heard him chatting with the guy in front of me that he ran the marathon the day before as well.  However, I was more impressed with the other guy in that conversation, who must have been 15 years older than me, and who also ran the marathon Saturday.  I had been trying to keep up with that older guy for much of the late miles and just could not do it.  So impressed with those people!
  • Post race party – the had a great spread of food post-race, with a great live band.  They moved the party indoors because of the cold, and it was a fantastic way to unwind after the race was done

Already looking forward to my next marathon, Flying Pig on May 1…

Written by SCL

January 17, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Mobile, Here I Come!

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First Light Marathon is a mere 4.5 days away, and I’m getting excited about the trip out there.  Came across this very informative and entertaining article in the Press-Register.

  • Informative – Mobile is the host of this week’s GoDaddy.com bowl game.  Now I have some interest to perhaps watch!
  • Entertaining – A crowd of 40,000 watched a mechanical Moon Pie drop from the sky on New Years Eve!  Some additional research uncovered this article outlining many more odd New Years Eve droppings in other cities.
  • Sensible – The author states that the 7:30 marathon start time is completely unreasonable.  I agree!

In training news, I ran an easy 4 miler last night, and have some light speed-work planned for tonite.  Then probably an easy final tune-up on Friday.

 This is gonna be fun…

Written by SCL

January 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm

2011 Plans

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I’m not much into resolutions for New Years.  There are some things that I’d like to do before the year is out, but I’d rather call them goals or plans!

First off, my biggest plan for the year is to race Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains on 10/2!  I’m very scared!  But also excited.  A half iron in the summer is a much scarier proposition to me, when I’d probably have to swim with no wetsuit, and deal with super hot temps.  I think in early Oct the weather will be great, even if it is  unseasonably warm or cold.

As a result, the bulk of my year will be focused on swimming and biking.  I’m very concerned in finishing the swim portion of the half iron before the cutoff, and dealing with that is first and foremost.  Secondly, my longest bike ride ever is 50.3 miles, and that is also my only effort greater than 40 miles.  So, I will work hard to ride my bike often and build up to being able to easily do 50 miles.

That will unfortunately dictate less running.  That is fine though.  I hit my 1000 goal last year.  I expect to be in the 700-800 range this year, considering I have a spring marathon, a fall half-iron, and possibly a very late year marathon.

Another big event of the year is the Tough Mudder in April, joining Joe and #teamsuck.  I’ve been thinking about these adventure races for quite some time.  A friend of mine was telling me about adventure races a good 5 years ago.  Then they had the Urbanathlon a couple of years back in NYC, and in recent years, these mud runs have been popular.  A friend of mine did the Warrior Dash last year, and since then I’ve really wanted to run one.  So when Joe put the feelers out there, I bit.  I have to say I’m a bit nervous about it.  It is a 9 mile event, but on a ski slope mountain, and with multiple obstacles along the way.  It will be a test of endurance, will and strength, and I can’t wait!

My other big event of the year will actually occur in 6 days.  On that day, I will turn 40 (age group bump) and also run in the First Light Marathon in Mobile, AL.  Since I realized over a year ago that my b-day would fall on a Sunday, I knew that the best way to mark it would be with a marathon.  Luckily, my wife is supportive and has not given me a hard time and is happy to tag along, even though Alabama is not her idea of a vacation spot.  We will spend 2 days in New Orleans, which I’m sure will be a great time!

Otherwise, I’ll fill in the year with other tri’s and races.  Firmly also on the calendar is 13.1 New York in March, Flying Pig Marathon (15th marathon, 9th state) in May, and Red Bank Triathlon (Olympic) later on in May.  Once the summer hits, it will be all about swim and bike training.  I’d like to do another marathon late in the year, but I have to research where the late year races are and compare to the states I have not run in before.  I’ll leave that research for another day.

I’ve been burned several times with hanging my hopes on running a marathon in 4:30, and failing, so going forward, I will go in with no time expectations, and see what that does for me.  Along the same lines, I have absolutely no time expectations for Tough Mudder and 70.3 Pocono Mountains.  So, in a sense, this will be the year where time is irrelevant!

The final goal of the year is to lose some weight.  I used to be diligent about weighing myself, and when doing so, my weight and body fat stayed constant.  However, since I stopped checking my weight about 6 months ago, I’ve gained a good 10 pounds and some body fat percentage.  Therefore, I’d like to halt that behavior, lose the 10 pounds I’d gained and then the next 10 pounds which was my original goal.  I’m not good at watching what I eat, so this will be very difficult.  That will easily be the toughest goal to attain in the year.

Written by SCL

January 3, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Looking Ahead

2010 Year in Review

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Where do I begin?  It is so hard to succinctly summarize all that happened in the past year, and not make it so long that people stop reading before they get to April!  While certainly not brief, I summarized as much as possible.  I completely understand if you don’t make it to the end 🙂

In many ways, this was a spectacular year, but there were definitely some disappointments mixed in.  My main goal for the year was 1000 run miles and have 1500 run and bike miles combined.  I easily beat those down.  I’m really not obsessed with hitting targets, but I do think it is a great way to measure progress, and my progress is good!  I knew 1000 miles on the run was very attainable due to the simple fact that I would be training for 3 marathons during the year.  That would ensure three sets of high mileage months.  In the end, I had 1071.4 miles on the run.  The bike is another story and I have a hard time gauging what an appropriate goal would be.  I pulled 500 miles out of the air as a goal, and ended up with 565.7 miles!  Combined, I had 1637.1 miles in total!

I participated in 15 races.  Generally speaking, the ones from April through September were disappointing, and the ones Jan-March and Oct-Dec were well-done and satisfying.  This is primarily due to my inability to run well in the summer and the heat and humidity.  This is the biggest thing I’d like to change in regards to my running, but I can’t seem to get myself to perform well in the warmer months.

My marathons were both disappointing.  I technically have excuses for both of them (hot weather), but the results were not what I wanted.  It is all about setting the correct expectations though, and I really think that mentally I’m OK with not setting a goal of 4:30 in the marathon going forward.  As it was stated in the Phineas and Ferb episode my kid was watching this morning, “the joy is in the journey.”  That really struck a chord with me.  It is not so much the results in the race that matter to me.  Sure, a PR or excellent race is welcome, and will make me feel good, but the true joy for me is in the process of preparing for the race.  It is the training to get my body to perform the effort needed.  It is the planning of the trip to an out of town race.  It is the anticipation leading up to the race.  It is being a part of the race, toeing the start line.  These are the things that make me happy, and not so much that I finished in 4:29 vs 4:49, etc.  I’ll cover my plans for 2011 in a separate post, but you’ll see from some of my plans, that it is more about participating and less about the time I finish with.

That said, I had many proud achievements in the year, the best of which were:

  1. Consistent running throughout the year.  I ran a minimum of 70 miles each month of the year, and had 4 months of over 100 miles.  It may not seem like a lot to some of you, but for me, these are really high numbers.  Every week I feel the challenge of work and home tugging at me and pulling me away from some of my running and biking exploits.  I had a lot of change in my job this year, which only added a lot of stress and additional time required, but I was able to find a balance and at a minimum hit a number equivalent to 15+ miles per week, or 3 runs.  A very fine minimum if you ask me!
  2. New Jersey State triathlon – the water was too hot for wetsuits, and I swam the entire 1500 meters without it.  It took me a looong time (about 50 minutes), but I did not stop to rest on a buoy one time, and kept having to tell the lifeguards on the course that I was fine.  In that race, I had a flat tire on the bike, costing me 14 minutes of time, but I didn’t let that deter me.  The day was super hot and humid, and I was wilting on the run, but so was everyone else.   I placed much higher in the run than I expected, and to give you an indication of how hard it was, over half the field race slower than 10 min per mile pace!  The time was irrelevant that day.  It was about perseverance, and pushing through to the end.
  3. Participating in fewer NYRR events – of the 15 events I participated in during the year, only 6 of them were run by NYRR!  They have become too big for me and I much prefer to run in smaller events, even outside the city if possible.  They don’t need me to be successful, and I’m happy to participate in just the few events I love each year.  Of course, part of this reduction is natural in my increase in bike and triathlon events, but I still went out of my way to enter non-NYRR run races in NYC, like 13.1 New York and PPTC Cherry Tree and Turkey Trot events
  4. Social running – I am anti-social by nature, and I don’t generally look to meet up with others.  I still much prefer to run on my own.  However, I really had some great meetups with new friends I’ve met on Dailymile and Twitter.  One such highlight was a bike ride to Piermont in late October with Daniel, Jen and Michelle.  I also met up with Sharon for the first 8 miles of my most recent 21 mile long run, and came out a few times to run with Josh and his speed crew in Central Park.
  5. Marathons and Triathlons – results not withstanding, am very proud I added 2 new states to my totals in 2010.  I now have run 13 marathons, in 7 states, and will add 2 more (First Light in Mobile AL on 1/9, and Flying Pig in Cincinnati OH on 5/1) in the coming months.  I am also proud that I completed 3 triathlons in 2010 and I have found that participating in those races is what gives me the most satisfaction as an athlete.  Unfortunately tri’s are more complicated to plan and more expensive to join, so I could never hope to race more than 2 or 3 per year, but it is my new athletic passion.
  6. Getting over Shingles – On a business trip to Nairobi in May, I came down with Shingles.  It was very uncomfortable and difficult, but I believe it is my active lifestyle that reduced the pain and eased my recovery.  In total, I lost 3 weeks of training, and missed a triathlon because of it.  As soon as I was well again, I reeled off 15 days of running in a row to get back on track!
  7. Blogging 28 straight days prior to the Chicago Marathon – See them here:  1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28

List of races and performance:

  1. 1/9 – Fred Lebow 5m – 43:15
  2. 1/24 – Manhattan Half Marathon – 1:58:54
  3. 2/21 – Cherry Tree 10m – 1:29:19 (PR)
  4. 3/7 – Coogan’s 5k – 24:27 (PR)
  5. 3/28 – March Madness Biathlon – 1:22:49 (PR)
  6. 4/3 – 13.1 New York – 2:01:52
  7. 5/2 – Providence Rhode Races Marathon – 4:46:29
  8. 5/22 – Brooklyn Half Marathon – 2:04:50
  9. 7/11 – Long Branch Tri Series Long Course – 2:54:57
  10. 7/25 – New Jersey State Olympic Triathlon – 3:51:55
  11. 9/19 – New York City Marathon Tune-Up 18m – 3:15:54
  12. 10/3 – Red Bank Triathlon – 2:23:02
  13. 10/10 – Chicago Marathon – 4:53:15
  14. 11/25 – PPTC Turkey Trot 5m – 42:17
  15. 12/5 – Joe Kleinerman 10k – 53:27

Thanks for all of your interest and support in 2010!!!

See my prior year end reviews here: 2009 2008

Written by SCL

January 1, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Posted in Reflections

December 2010 in Review

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Running – 102.4 miles over 17 runs.  My 4th 100 mile month of the year!  I focused entirely on running this month, in preparation for my next marathon on 1/9.  I had one long run and even one rare treadmill run.  Also had two speed workouts.  The 17 runs in the month was my high water mark of the year, and my 2nd most all time in a month, only trailing last Dec when I ran 19 times.  In fact, Dec is my 2nd highest month of running when you add up all my years logged (back to 1999).  January is the only higher month.  I ended the year with 1071.4 miles, beating my goal of 1000, and 270 more than last year.  I finished with 171 runs for the year, obliterating all prior years.  My previous best was 149, way back in 2001.

Races – 1 (Joe Kleinerman 10k – 53:27)

Biking – 0

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 1

Softball – 0

Injuries – Dealing with off and on very tight, and sometimes painful, calves and shins

Sicknesses – None  (Zicam to the rescue!)


Written by SCL

January 1, 2011 at 9:52 am

Posted in Month End Summary