4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for March 2011

March Madness Race Report

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Yesterday was the March Madness Biathlon in Central Park.  First the vitals:

  • Overall time – 1:28:08
  • Overall place – 197/376
  • Age Group – 26/41


  • Run (2.3 miles) – 19:41
  • T1 – 1:00
  • Bike (12 miles) – 46:10
  • T2 – 1:42
  • Run (2.3 miles) – 19:32

History of Central Park Biathlons:

  • 9/16/2007 – 1:24:45
  • 3/30/2008 – 1:26:17
  • 3/28/2010 – 1:22:44
  • 3/27/2011 – 1:28:08

As you can see, it was not my best.  Actually it was my worst.  But I was sort of expecting it because I haven’t been on my bike much, I was sick last week, and have had a few nagging injuries.  With the negative stuff out of the way, I can say I really had a great time.  There is NOTHING better than being in the transition area of a triathlon or duathlon and just taking it all in.  Even yesterday, when it was 28 degrees before the race, everyone was so upbeat and excited about racing.  It really was a great time.

As far as my race goes, I went out a bit tentative on the first run, and then settled into a consistent 8:30-8:45 pace after cat hill.  I found I was able to catch quite a few people that must have charged up the hill and then found they could not sustain it for the full 2.3 (I’m calling it 2.3, although the official distance is 2 miles) distance.

I blew through T1 very quickly.  It helped that I didn’t need to change my gloves.  I only needed to get my helmet on and get on my bike.

I was surprisingly consistent on my bike on the 2 loops.  My best time for a loop around the park is just under 20 minutes.  I completed the first loop yesterday in 22+, and then was also pretty strong on the 2nd loop, just a hair slower.  The only problem I had was at the top of harlem hill the 2nd time around, when my chain came loose and then got stuck really badly.  An experienced bystander thankfully was able to help me get it loose.  I lost about a minute in total.

I had a little trouble in T2.  The bike rack I was assigned to was a little low to the ground and I could not secure it with my seat.  I needed to use the handlebars.  I unfortunately forgot this when trying to rack the bike, when I went for the bike seat.  When I realized my mistake, I had to get the bike all turned around again, which took some time.  Also, with my frozen feet, I was a bit slow getting through the transition area.

I did well on the last run.  It literally took about 1 mile for me to gain all feeling back in my feet because of the cold.  But once I got into my groove, I really was able to set a good 8:30-8:45 pace.  It felt like I was picking people off one by one.  I probably passed about 20 people in total on the run, and only got passed myself 3 or 4 times.  The finish is in front of the boathouse parking lot on the way down cat hill, and so this remains the only race I regularly run where the finish is on such a sharp downhill.  It makes for a fast finish for sure!  This downhill finish is even better than the downhill finish of Coogan’s.

Interestingly, the first run and last run took me exactly the same amount of time.  My official time shows a 9 second difference because the start was not chip timed, and it took me 9 seconds to get to the start.

All in all I had a blast again, and can’t wait to do this race again another time.  And yes it was cold, but interesting enough, I went back in my running log and saw that when I did this race in 2008, it was also the same 28 degrees at the start!  So perhaps not so unusual.  Afterwards, sampled a muscle milk (yuck) and picked up a few Zico Coconut Waters, which were the perfect recovery drink.

Next up, 13.1 New York on Saturday morning…


Written by SCL

March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Posted in bike, Race Report, running

Updates and upcoming races

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Just wanted to catch you up on what’s happening with me. In the last two weeks, I’ve been dealing with a bunch of issues, it seems.

First, I’ve had these nagging injuries that don’t all seem to want to go away. Two weeks ago I went for a bike ride on Tuesday night and followed that up with a 10 mile run on Wednesday night. While the run was fantastic, I evidently aggravated something new in the groin/hip, which I could feel a bit at the start of my run, but was quite painful after the run was over. I needed to take 3 days off to recover before my planned long run on Sunday.

My long run on Sunday was great! I plotted a hilly and challenging course (see it here) starting with a loop of Central Park, then up (literally) St Nicholas and Ft Washington to Fort Tryon Park. There I met up with Joe, who accompanied, and paced, me down Riverside back to Central Park. 20.6 miles in all, and feeling good.

On Monday, I lifted weights at the gym and did my first pool swim of the year (gotta start tri training), and then promptly came down with the flu on Tuesday afternoon. I really took good care of myself, but the flu is the flu, and I’m still not 100%.  Today is day 4 in a row with no workout!

In all, this means I’m not quite prepared for this Sunday’s March Madness Biathlon in Central Park. I just have not been on my bike enough, and have not had a chance to work on hills yet. The double loop of the park will be tough, to say the least. That is OK though. It is my 3rd MM, and my 4th biathlon in CP, so I have nothing to prove this time around.  Participating is reward enough. I am just regretting that it will likely be 30 degrees (or colder) at race time early Sunday. Not ideal for biking, at least for me!

Then, upcoming is 13.1 New York next Saturday, and the Tough Mudder, with Joe, the following Sunday. Looking forward to all 3 events in these 3 weeks! Hopefully I’ll be motivated to post some race reports here…

Written by SCL

March 25, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Posted in injury, Looking Ahead, sick

A great day, with Beer!

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Today was a great day.  Well, after the bit about losing an hour of sleep last night was done, I suppose…

First, I loved today’s #dailymission on dailymile, asking people what they do with their race bibs after the race is done.  For me, I have a manila folder that they all get shoved into, but after I write the date, distance and race name, if any are missing, and then also my time.  My folder is quite big now, and it is a lot of fun to flip through.  The folder actually came in handy when I created my Race Results page.  Today I did flip through for awhile and took a picture, and it brought back so many great memories of races gone by.  Here is what my collection looks like, the one on the bottom is my first, You Gotta Have Park 5k from May 21, 1994.

Then, the greatest part of the day was the Beer Run in Brooklyn, organized by Claire, whose blog is aptly named Will Run For Beer.  So many people came out.  It is essentially bar hopping, but with the bars spaced a quarter to a mile and a quarter apart so that we have to run from bar to bar.  The route today was 6 bars and 4.5 miles.  I had to get home to my family (I’m really grateful they let me disappear with my running gear for a few hours all the time), so had to bail after the 4th bar, but it was a lot of fun.  Met a couple of new people, and caught up with a bunch of others I’ve met before.  In all it was a blast.  I ran about 3 miles from downtown Brooklyn to the start at Prospect Park, and then another 3.5+ on the beer route, for a total for the day of 6.6 miles.

The downer news is that I’m dealing with a couple of naggy injuries that just seem to be getting worse, not better, so I’m stepping up the ice treatment, and might start a regiment of (gasp) stretching, to see if that will help.  Methinks it is time to replace my running shoes, which are now up to 633 miles…

Have a great week everyone…

Written by SCL

March 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Posted in injury, Meetups, running

Flat Tire in NJ

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Got a flat tire on my bike ride today in NJ.  You can see the incompleteness of my route in the picture.  This was not supposed to be a point-to-point ride 🙂

I’ve been trying to ease back into biking, in the lead up to the March Madness Biathlon, which is coming up in 2 weeks.  I decided to try and ride at my weekend house in NJ.  I just love riding my bike out in NJ.  There are limited traffic lights, limited traffic, and lots of country roads with shoulders and room to ride.  It is so refreshing not to have to first get somewhere, like Central Park or West Side Highway or to the outer reaches of Queens or Brooklyn, before getting into a good riding rhythm.  I can get right to it practically outside my door.

I intended for this to be a 12 mile loop.  I was a little discouraged by the fairly strong wind, which I was riding into to start.  That would mean I would be with the wind to finish up and I was really looking forward to that part.  However, I would never get there.  About 6.5 miles into the ride, I could hear the telltale sound and bumpy ride indicating a flat tire.  My first thought was that this would not be a problem because I have my patch kit.  This would be a good practice for tire patching, and I’d be back on my way in no time.  My second thought was that I forgot to bring a spare tube with me, so that if I had a problem patching it, I would be stuck.

I got the tire off, and the tube out, fairly easily, and found the problem spot.  Unfortunately, when I dug into my patch kit, I found that the rubber cement was in bad shape.  My kit is old, I think almost 3 years now, and the glue was just mostly dried up.  I did the best I could, but after 30 minutes, 2 attempts to ride, and running out of CO2 to pump it up, I knew it was a lost cause.  My wife doesn’t drive, and so I needed to call a cab to get picked up (how embarrassing).

Anyway, lesson learned.  I always need to have my spare tube with me, and need to make sure my patch kit is fairly fresh.  Although the ride was short, it was a good one, into the wind, and tending uphill, so a good workout with an elevated heartrate.  Looking forward to getting out on my bike again soon…

Written by SCL

March 12, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Posted in bike

LIRRC 4 Miler Race Report

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Today I ran a 4 mile PR at the LIRRC race at Eisenhower Park! I had decided not to sign up for the Coogan’s 5k race, which was also today, and then found I actually had time to race, so decided at the last minute to go out to LI.

This fit for me as well because I had recently decided to scale back on my NYRR races and wanted to focus on other small and local races. LIRRC races certainly fit that bill. There were only 43 runners today! Yes it was rainy, but I’m sure the field would be similarly small even on a nice day. The small size was very refreshing. On the other hand, Coogan’s, while a fun and challenging race, has simply gotten too big in recent years. Ft Washington Ave simply can’t handle 5000 people. Also, it seems that in this race a lot of slow people sneak up to the first corrals, gumming up the works. I regret not going only from the standpoint that many of my Twitter friends ran Coogan’s and it would have been fun to meet up.

Anyway, back to my race. On the early Sunday morning, it only took me about 35 minutes to get to the park, which had plenty of parking and a clean bathroom. What more could you want!  About 20 minutes before race time, I put down my $10, and I was in.  It started raining about 15 minutes before the race and then tapered off to light showers and mist by start time.  The race director gave us a description of the 2-loop course, apparently a new course, and then waited it out until 9am on the nose, when they blew the start horn.

I realized shortly before the race that I had a shot at a PR.  My last 4 mile race was 2.5 years ago and my PR was set way back in 2000.  My old PR was 34:23, so I just needed 8:35 pace to beat it.  While still not in tip top shape, and my ultimate goal is to run 4 miles in 32 minutes, I was pretty sure I had 8:35 pace in me today, and so I was intent on keeping at least that pace.

I had a hard time pacing in the first mile.  While the race was really small, there were several guys at about my pace and I stuck with them.  I get uncomfortable running in a pack and so I was trying to create some separation between myself and the others, which I think caused me to speed up a bit too much in that first mile.  Mile 1 had a lot of turns in a wooded section of the park so there was lots to pay attention to.  Before I knew it we hit the 1 mile mark, at 7:57.  Yipes, I knew that was too fast for me, so decided to slow it down in mile 2.  It turned out I didn’t need to try to slow down, nature took care of it for me.  Mile 2 opened up through open spaces and ballfields, and unfortunately against a very stiff wind.  In fact most of the 2nd mile was into the wind, up until we turned back towards the start area.  Mile 2 was 8:38, which I thought was perfect for that stage of the race, considering the wind.  Miles 3 and 4 were a repeat of 1 and 2.  In mile 3 I was starting to tire, and also trying to save energy for the windy conditions I knew would greet me in mile 4.  Still, I was a bit disappointed to finish mile 3 in 8:50.  That meant I would need to turn it up in the last mile for my PR.  And turn it up I did.  Despite the downpour that developed by then, I managed to push it out in the last half mile and mile 4 was completed in 8:37.  Towards the end, I could see that 34 minutes was almost within reach, but I just didn’t have the room left for that last surge, and my official time was 34:03, which is a 20 second PR.

Overall was satisfied by my race, even though my fast first mile almost killed it for me.  I bet if I could have held back to 8:20 or 8:30 in mile 1, I would have had a much faster mile 3 and 4.  Good lesson learned.  Afterwards, I hung around for the awards ceremony, where I learned that I was 3rd in my age group, and won a ribbon, and that I finished in front of the female winner!  Then hopped back in the car for a quick 45 minute trip back home.

All in all, great fun, and I look forward to running another LIRRC race in the future…

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I really do appreciate PR’s.  I don’t get them that often.  PR’s should be hard to get.  To get a PR you have to be in your tip top shape vs any prior effort of the same distance in your entire running career.  I have to say it does bother me when people complain about racing and not getting a PR, or have an attitude of every time out they should have a PR, but I suppose that is a rant for another day.  My 4 mile PR has stood for 5 races over 11 years, and I’m glad it has been reset.  Before today, my last PR obtained was one year ago, at the Coogan’s 5k race!

Written by SCL

March 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

First Ride of the Year

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While I will run in just about any weather condition, and usually enjoy myself, on the bike I’m a bit of a wimp.  I don’t like riding in cold weather.  I don’t have the right gear, and having my extremities cold is really annoying, and so I just bide my time until the weather warms before I get my ride of the year in.  I wasn’t planning to ride my bike today, but the day was much warmer than I expected, in the upper 50’s,  and I had time in the afternoon, so I took advantage.

It worked out nicely because the reality is that I need to start getting on my bike.  I have the March Madness Biathlon coming up in 3 weeks, which includes 2 loops of hilly Central Park.  I’d like to get a bunch of bike training in before then to have a strong showing on the bike.  Then it will be time to focus on my planned tri’s, Red Bank Triathlon on May 15 and then down the road, Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains.  Since it was my first ride, and I didn’t have a whole lot of time, I just went to East River Park, which is flat, to do some intervals.  What I wasn’t counting on was the (seemingly) gale force winds blowing out of the south.  At least it seemed that way.  Consider this – my hard intervals heading into the wind were only at about 12 MPH, while my hard intervals coming back with the wind were in the 22-23 MPH range.  Those are speeds I’d expect to see when working on the tough hills in Central Park, not on the flats in East River Park.

It was about 10.4 miles in total.  I really enjoyed myself and hopefully it is warm enough that I can get out 2 times per week.  In the early weeks I expect to keep all my rides to 1 hour and slowly work in hills leading up to the Biathlon.

I enjoy comparing to prior years to see comparisons.  Here are my first rides of the prior years, since I bought my bike in June 2007

  • March 20 2008 – 4.1 miles up and down 1st and 2nd Ave
  • March 7 2009 – 13 miles – to Central Park and a full loop
  • March 8 2010 – 10.3 miles – loop to Queens and Brooklyn over Queensboro and Williamsburg Bridges

Written by SCL

March 5, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Posted in bike

Loving Runmeter

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I’m a tech guy at heart, and over the years have experimented with different tech related to running.  While I skipped the whole Garmin movement in the last 2-3 years, I did previously toy with the old Timex model that GPS-mapped runs based on a device you would strap to your arm.  That was awful, and I very much looked forward to the day that I could map my runs more easily.

My appetite was whetted in 2009 when I first starting running with my iPhone:

  • Initially I tried using MapMyRun, but didn’t like the web interface and mobile app, and found that it drained my iPhone battery so fast it was not very usable.  That was also in the day before IOS multi-tasking so it was sometimes difficult to both record the run and listen to music.
  • My next attempt was using RunKeeper to map my runs.  I loved the RunKeeper site, and the maps it generated, and I loved that it could automatically tweet my runs when completed.  I used it for a few months, but only for short distance runs as it also seemed to drain my battery.
  • Then, this past July I bought the new Timex GPS watch.  The watch itself is awesome, and I love how it can easily record my triathlon splits, and GPS map my runs, but I HATE that it uses Training Peaks as the software.  Leaves much to be desired for my needs, compared to what I know about Garmin and the Garmin Connect website that tracks runs and miles.

So, anyway, my previous attempts were all good, but not quite perfect.  In the last 2 weeks, I’ve started using RunMeter, and it is as close to perfect for my needs as I can get.  Let me count the things I love about it:

  1. GPS maps my runs.  Yes it is limited to the GPS capability of the iPhone, but that honestly is comparable to what I get on my Timex GPS watch, however it gets a good GPS signal right away, rather than the several minutes it takes my watch to lock into a signal
  2. When I start a run, it posts to both Twitter and dailymile.  Followers on those sites can click the map to see what route I’m running and how I’m doing in almost real-time.  If they post a comment to me, RunMeter will read it back to me on the run!  How cool…
  3. If I choose, it will read me my stats on the go, either at set time or distance intervals
  4. Allows me to store routes, reuse them, and compare my times from one effort to another
  5. At the end of the run, it will cross post to Twitter and dailymile, and send me an email with vital stats.  I can also edit the tweet and enter the dailymile narrative before posting.
  6. The data is all stored on my iPhone.  The data is MINE.  It is not locked away on another website.  If dailymile or RunKeeper or MapMyRun, etc, shut down, guess what, my data is gone with it.  With RunMeter, so long as I have an iPhone, I have access to my data, can export it to a standard file format, and view in a Google map, etc.
  7. Great use of battery life.  Because all the data is stored locally on the phone, and it only updates my map every few minutes, the battery drain is low.  On my long run this past weekend of about 3 hours, it only used 30% of my battery, and I was also listening to music the entire time.  This is amazing, and much better than I saw with previous apps I’ve tried!  It means I can use RunMeter for marathons, which I knew I could never do with RunKeeper or MapMyRun.

It works for me because I already always run with my phone.  My phone has my music, and unless I’m running a race or speed workout, I listen to music on the run.  Since I am used to running with my phone, it is great that I can take advantage of the GPS capability to map the run as well.

I still rely on my Timex watch for my heart rate readings, and as a backup GPS, and I still intend to use it in races for accurate manual mile splits (as auto GPS miles splits are worthless), and for timing my triathlons, but I would love to find a way to get my heart rate directly on my iPhone.  If that were possible, then I’d leave my watch at home for most training runs.

Yes, it cost $5 for the app, and another $1 for the custom voice, but so far, it is money well spent!

Written by SCL

March 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Cupid’s Chase 5k Race Report

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Found this sitting in my drafts.  Little bit late… 🙂

On Saturday (well, a few Saturday’s ago at this point) I ran the Cupid’s Chase 5k in Riverside Park.  All in all, I really enjoyed the event.  It is refreshing to be able to run a small 5k in the confines of Manhattan Island, and so I’ll gladly overlook the shortcomings, and instead focus on the good stuff.

First of all, I’ve never run a race in Riverside Park.  I’ve covered the promenade, obviously, and the park segments south of 96th, but I’ve never run in the park proper above 96th, which is where the race was located.  The park was absolutely beautiful, buried in probably still at least half a foot of snow and ice.  It was so bad that when you could find a bench to sit down on, the snow came almost all the way up to the bench itself…

There were lots of volunteers out there, and so friendly.  Although I did get the oddest question when I went to get my t-shirt.  “Are you single or taken”?  “Huh”, was my response.  She had to repeat the question a few times before I understood.  Of course, I’m taken, which means I got a white shirt.  The single folks got red shirts.  Many people work their race shirt on top of their running clothes, so you could see who was single and who was taken.  I thought it was fun.

The course was a little challenging because it was narrow, there was lots of ice on the course, and it looped around on itself.  I wasn’t expecting a PR effort anyway and so I didn’t let those things bother me.  Another odd thing was that the race was chip timed, but there was no starting mat, so the final numbers were gun time rather than net time.

The best part was that the loot bag actually had some interesting stuff in it, and there was a great spread of food for after the race.  I was able to bring some food home for my kids, which was an added bonus.

I had a pretty strong, consistent race.  While it was not quite as fast as I wanted, I’ll take it considering the race conditions and the cold weather.  My splits were nice: 8:22, 8:11, 8:00, 1:11, although I wonder about the mile marker placement as I know my last .1 was not that slow.  My finishing time was a respectable 25:46, which was 1:20 short of my PR, and my 4th fastest of 38 lifetime 5ks.

All in all, I enjoyed the time.  Sure it wasn’t so well put together as an NYRR event, but it was definitely more fun!

The staging area

Written by SCL

March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

Feb 2011 in Review

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Running – 82.4 miles over 12 runs.  15 straight months over 70 miles! While I have definitely stepped back a little this year from prior years, I had 2 marathon long training runs which boosted the total.  As the weather warms, I expect to get out on my bike more and run less.  At the end of March I have the March Madness Biathlon, and I’ll need to get some solid bike rides in before then.  With a marathon and already 2 long runs for the next one, my average distance per run so far in 2011 is 6.9 miles, which is a half mile higher than any prior year ever.  The highlight of this month was running on my vacation: 1 run in Paris and 2 runs in London including a speed workout led by my friend, who is an accomplished triathlete and trainer!

Races – 1 (Cupid’s Chase 5k – 25:47)

Biking – 0

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – 5 (impressive considering I was away for a full week and Feb is a short month)

Softball – 0 (it is official we will be playing again starting April!)

Injuries – Sore shoulder for a couple of days, probably from the increased activity at the gym

Sicknesses – None

Weight – unfortunately went up a bit since Jan.  Weight up about 1 pound, and body fat up about .5 percent.


Written by SCL

March 1, 2011 at 6:57 am

Posted in Month End Summary