4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for April 2011

Tough Mudder – Part I

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It has been 2 weeks since I completed the Tough Mudder with Joe and Nate.  This was easily the most bad-ass thing I’ve ever done in terms of physical activity, fitness or racing.  Here is the intro from the website, to give you a taste:

Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a location near you. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, andcamaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor. All Tough Mudder sponsorship proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

In the moment before it started, I was easily more scared of this than anything I’ve ever done before.  I can think of 2 other instances where I was also scared to do what was about to be done, but they don’t compare.

  1. The 1st was my first Olympic distance triathlon, the NYC Triathlon.  I wasn’t scared of the race per se, but it hit me when it was my turn to get up on the pier to start the race, looking out into a mile of Hudson River to the finish pier.  It felt like that sickening moment when you crest over the top of a roller coaster and are about to go hurling down the other side.  In that moment, I was scared, but it was a fake kind of scared, because I knew inside I could get it done.  I had a wetsuit on, the swim was with the current, and in my mind I knew I really had nothing to fear.
  2. The 2nd was coincidentally my second Olympic distance triathlon, the NJ State Triathlon.  I was not scared of the race or the distance, but the fact that the water temperature was too warm to allow for wetsuits.  I would have to swim the entire 1500 meters without the buoyancy aid  of a wetsuit, which had gotten me through all my other triathlons.  In that moment, I really was scared that I would not be able to complete the distance.  I wasn’t scared for my life, as I knew there were lifeguards and buoys in the water, and if I couldn’t do it, the worst that would happen is that I would have to endure the embarrassment of being helped out of the water and then missing the rest of the race.  In the end, I got it done, and was so proud of the accomplishment.
But the fear this time was different.  It was the fear of the unknown, and the fear of really possibly hurting myself.  Not only was this an endurance event to the level I’ve never tried before – it was 11+ miles up and down a ski mountain, with several miles of technical trail running – but it also included dozens of obstacles, running the gamut from crawling through mud, to carrying a log up a hill, and jumping 15 feet into the water.

Tough Mudder is run on both Saturday and Sunday.  We did the event on Sunday, and adding to the fear was finding out that about 25% of the participants did not finish the course on Saturday, and that one of the obstacles was closed down because it was too dangerous.  There were also vague reports of people breaking bones, and that was something I was not interested in happening, an was actually scared about.

Joe, Nate and myself kept asking ourselves why, why were were even bothering to do this.  In a way, we all clearly like adventure and challenges.  Nate did the Tough Mudder last year and was disappointed because it did not live up to the expectations (it was apparently the first TM event and it was not as hard as billed and there were lots of kinks), so he wanted another shot at the tougher course this time around.  Joe had experienced serious heart problems in the last year, which ultimately were fixed, but he was reduced to running 11-12 minute pace per mile in his races, including the NYC Marathon.  Since he had a clean bill of health, he wanted to celebrate with something awesome, and this certainly fit the bill.  As for myself, I had no idea what I was getting into.  A friend had turned me onto mud events, and I thought it would be a fun challenge.  When Joe was asking for people to join him, I threw my hat into the ring.

I think I am speaking for all 3 of us, when I say that as we were sitting around Nate’s kitchen table on Saturday night in Allentown, we were all a bit afraid of what was to come…


Written by SCL

April 24, 2011 at 11:35 am

Posted in Race Report


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Today I played the role of a healthy triathlete consumer 🙂

I spent a little time at the JackRabbit New York City Running Show.  What drew me in was the Atlantic City style payment.  Yes you have to pay $10 to get in, but you get a $15 discount card, and since I was going to be buying at least $15 of stuff, plus getting my normal 10% discount, I felt like I would be getting a deal!

What was also nice about the event is the long list of speakers, including some famous people like Matt Long and Scott Jurek, covering a multitude of topics of interest to runners and triathletes.  I was only able to listen to the half hour discussion on ‘running a faster and more enjoyable marathon’, and it resonated with me and I enjoyed it.

Otherwise, the event was similar to a marathon expo, just without the ‘discount racks’ and the multitude of options you’d see at large races.

I felt I hit jackpot as I was able to buy the 3 critical items that I’ve really had my eye on for a long time.

  • swim goggles – I’ve been using a pair of basic swim goggles that were uncomfortable and constantly pinching me.  So I picked up a nice new pair of BlueSeventy goggles that adjust nice and easily and feel great
  • hydration backpack – I’ve been wanting to buy one for a long time, but when I’ve shopped for them in the past, I’ve only seen models that are marketed for trails and hiking.  I really liked the Nathan brand they had, it felt comfortable to me, and I now will be carrying 70oz of liquid on my longer runs in the summer, and on my bike rides!
  • Sunglasses – my old sunglasses, which I only use for biking by the way and not for running, were messed up and scratched up, and just plain falling apart.  I picked up a new pair.  I offhand don’t remember the brand it was they were selling as I don’t have them handy, but I’m really happy to have a new pair to wear on my bike rides.  They claim a lifetime guarantee to cover even scratches to the lens, so I hope these will last for several years.
In all, I really enjoyed the event, just wished I had more time to listen in on the different speaker sessions.  For those interested, it runs for one more day, tomorrow 4/23.

Written by SCL

April 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Grete Waitz passing

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So sad to hear of Grete Waitz passing due to cancer.  She was the one that sparked my interest in the NYC Marathon while she won 9 races in 11 years when I was a kid.  I also loved running in her namesake half marathon race, Gete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, which I ran in 1997, 2000 and 2004.  I wish I could run it this year, but it is the day before my first half ironman…

Another enduring memory, and an inspiration for me as I started running, was when she ran the NYC Marathon with Fred Lebow in 1992, while he was in remission from brain cancer.

She will be missed…

Written by SCL

April 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

Posted in Tribute

Construction disappointments

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I recently was looking at my blog entries from last year, and came across this positive gem, which included descriptions of several construction projects along my routes that had been making great progress or were completed.

Unfortunately, 2 of those projects, a year later, are still not done.  These are the expansion of the sidewalk down at the bottom part of the East River Greenway, approaching South Ferry, and the reconstruction of the promenade just south of the South Street Seaport.  These both seemed so close to completion last year, I cannot believe a year later we are still waiting.

I understand there are so many construction projects underway in the city, and construction of parks probably gets a lower priority, but just disappointing that we had to go the entire summer last year without enjoying them, and who knows how much longer it will take this year to get them done.  And on top of those, the promenade construction in East River Park continues at a snails pace.  Maybe this will be the year that gets finished up…

Written by SCL

April 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in Reflections

13.1 New York Race Report

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This past Sunday was the 2nd annual 13.1 New York race, in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.  For the 2nd year in a row I had a really nice time.  See last year’s report here.

I was heading into the race with low expectations, because my training has not been great, I was sick in the last 2 weeks and having a hard time getting back to 100%, and I’ve had a couple of nagging injuries in recent weeks.  That said, my goal is always to beat 2 hours, but I knew that was unrealistic.  I was also hoping to beat my time from last year, which was 2:01:52, but I knew that was also a bit of a stretch.  In the end, my realistic goal was 2:05, and so that was where I wanted to be.

The day was promising in terms of the weather.  Early in the morning, it was 39 degrees, with a bit of wind.  I was really undecided on what to wear.  I was thinking I could get away with shorts and short sleeve shirt, but I brought lots of extra clothes anyway, just in case.  I also brought my gloves and ear coverings, just in case.  At the last second, I grabbed a long sleeve cotton shirt, which I figured I’d be able to wear afterwards.

I got out to the park quickly, and was able to find the correct Citifield parking lot among the various constructions and road closures in the area.  I arrived more than an hour early, so had plenty of time for race prep.  I walked all the way around the trainyards to the start area, and then around the tennis center to get to the park proper, and the finish staging area.  It was a good 15 minute walk.  I used the restrooms twice, and then made a decision to go with tights, and a long sleeve tech shirt and a short sleeve tech shirt over.  But I decided to forgo the gloves and ear coverings.

Once finished up with the bathroom again, I headed for the gear check, AND COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES.  The line snaked all over the place, with hundreds of people in line, waiting to check their bag.  We still had 30 minutes to the start of the race, but I was not waiting on that line if not necessary.  And for me it was not necessary, since I had my car.  Unfortunately, the car was far away, but I had enough time to get to my car, drop my stuff, and make it to the start line with 5 mins to spare.  It was on the walk to the car when I realized I was overheating quickly, and not even running yet, so I decided to shed the heavy layers, and go instead with shorts and a short sleeve tech shirt.  I used the long sleeve cotton shirt as a throwaway, to stay warmer until the start.  Ultimately, I’d glad I made this decision.  For the most part I was plenty warm during the run as it was a very sunny day.  The only times it was a problem was when we were running into the wind.  Since the course had lots of changes in direction, when we were against the wind, it was never for long.  So for me, it all worked out.

On to the race itself.  My hopes were to start out at a 9:10 pace, and see if I could keep that pace easily.  I quickly saw that this would not be the case, as my splits, while consistent, were a bit too slow.  There was a lot of weaving around people in the first mile, as there was no structure to the start and a lot of slow people managed to get up front.  After 4 miles, I realized I was about a minute behind 2 hour pace and I didn’t feel like I’d be able to make it up.  From then on, I just tried to keep my miles under 9:30, which would keep me at under 2:05.

They did a great job with the water stops.  They were placed every mile, and each one had water and gatorade.  The volunteers were doing a great job, and they always had what I wanted.  I took a drink about every other mile, from mile 1 to mile 9.  I also took a Gu at mile 7.  You can see from my splits where I took my Gu, as it resulted in my slowest mile of the race, and the only mile slower than 10 mins.

In the late miles, I thought I had 2:05 in the bag, but at mile 11, I did the subtraction math and realized I miscalculated by FORGETTING ABOUT THE LAST .1 MILES!  Rookie mistake.  That meant I needed to make up a little time in the last 2 miles.  I was feeling good and so was confident I’d do it, but I really had to dig hard in both those last miles to push the pace.  The last mile was my fastest, at 8:56, which tells me I had a solid and successful race.  I came into the finish at 2:04:48, a mere 12 seconds under my goal.

The other interesting thing about this race are all the turns on the course.  I made a very conscious effort to ‘run the tangents’ to get as close as possible to the official distance of the race.  In fact, I think it is very possible that running the tangents and cutting the corners as best as possible might have been the difference in getting me under 2:05.  With a margin of victory of 12 seconds, it comes out to less than a second per mile.

Again they had a great post game spread and music/entertainment.  There was a beer garden, but I had to skip it since my bag was left at my car.  Had a great time at the race, and look forward to running it again.  A breath of fresh air compared to the NYRR efforts, so long as you show up early to get your bag checked before the masses 🙂

  • Mile 1 – 9:18
  • Mile 2 – 9:32
  • Mile 3 – 9:24
  • Mile 4 – 9:26
  • Mile 5- 9:29
  • Mile 6- 9:43
  • Mile 7 – 9:36
  • Mile 8 – 10:01
  • Mile 9 – 9:34
  • Mile 10 – 9:51
  • Mile 11 – 9:45
  • Mile 12 – 9:22
  • Mile 13 – 8:56
  • Mile 13.1 – :49

Written by SCL

April 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

March 2011 in Review

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In summary, I’m not so happy with the efforts put forth in March.  Just didn’t get nearly as much done as I wanted.  There are a bunch of real good reasons why, so I’m not upset about it, but I do feel there was more that could be done.  On the positive side, I had the most hits on my blog in this month than ever before, so thanks!

Running – 70.5 miles over 10 runs.  16 straight months over 70 miles!  Highlights were a 4 mile race PR in LI, and a good 20+ mile long run for Flying Pig Marathon.

Races – 2 (LIRRC 4 mile race – 34:03 PR; March Madness Biathlon – 1:28:09 PW)

Biking – 48.4 miles over 4 rides.  Just a few easy rides, culminating in 20 miles the day of March Madness.  I also got stranded with a flat

Swims – 1 (better than nothing!)

Gym workouts – 3

Softball – 0

Injuries – Sore right foot.  Sore left groin/hip/adductor

Sicknesses – 1 (flu with fever for 2 days, and then a good week+ trying to get back to full strength)

Weight – unfortunately went up again last month.  I am up more than 1 pound and about 1 percent of body fat since January. – WRONG DIRECTION


Written by SCL

April 1, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Inspiring Video

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This has probably made the rounds before, but I’ve never seen it.

Talk about falling and getting back up.  Go and watch this: http://tridigest.com/the-race


Written by SCL

April 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized