4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for the ‘First Light Marathon’ Category

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

First Light Training Update

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Been awhile since I’ve posted an update of my training here.  With only 11 days remaining until the First Light Marathon, I’ve peaked my training and am now into my taper.  Highlights since I last gave a training update:

  • Week before last – I felt like I had been nursing sore calves and so worked hard to stretch and massage them out, and only went for two easy 4-mile runs during the week, down East River Park.  These were both early morning runs, before the sunrise, and I was surprised to see many people out there in the dark and cold.  On Tues 12/14, this including a covering of snow and flurries!  Topped out the week with an epic 21.3 mile run
  • Epic 21.3 mile run – On Sat 12/18, trekked up to Van Cortland Park for my last long run before marathon training.  Met up with Sharon as she lives near the park, and she stuck with me for the first 8+ miles, which included a loop of the soccer fields at VCP, and then down through Inwood and the top part of the west side greenway.  Then we split up and I continued with hills in Central Park and then the Queensboro and Williamsburg bridges.  It was a hard run, but I got it done, and felt comfortable that I’m ready for another 26.2
  • Ill-advised speedwork – 3 days after my long run I met up with Sharon and Josh in Central Park, and we did a hard (for me) loop of the park.  I was not prepared, didn’t warm up and didn’t stretch, and had a lot of trouble with both my shins and my calves.  I was actually limping for 2 days afterwards and in serious pain.  I need to be much smarter next time out – lesson learned!
  • Blizzard run – After getting some miles in on Saturday, on Sunday I was planning for a longish 10 mile run.  However, the NYC blizzard changed those plans.  Instead I did go out in the blizzard for a short run.  It was a really rough challenge, with the deep snow (5-6 inches when I went out) and the strong winds.  I thankfully had a turtleneck style shirt I could raise up over my mouth nose and cheeks for protection.  It was nasty.  I managed to get 3.3 tough miles in.
  • After 20 inches of snow, outdoor running is really difficult.  If I lived closer to Central Park or the west side, I’d have run outside, but in my neighborhood, the treadmill is the only option.  Ran on the treadmill last night, and managed 4.8 miles!

At this point, I’m safely in my taper.  I may do a longish run (6-10 miles) on New Years Eve evening, to make up the lost miles this past Sunday.  It would still give me 9 days to finish up my taper.

I leave you with some recent pictures:

Protecting myself from the elements on a blizzard run


My lonely blizzard footprints on the run in East River Park

My bridge (Williamsburg) illuminated in the blizzard!

Same bridge on the day before, a grey (but pretty to me) day


Happy Holidays!

Written by SCL

December 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Rainy Day Update

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Today is a rainy day in NYC.  I’m not feeling motivated to do much of anything this afternoon.  Can’t even watch the Giants game at 1pm due to the bad weather in Minneapolis.  The game was pushed to Monday, and then pushed to Detroit when the Metrodome roof caved!  So, this was the perfect time for a blog update and report on my training for the First Light Marathon, which is 4 weeks from today.

Speaking of the weather, I’ve been trying to understand what the weather might be like for the marathon.  Yes, Mobile Alabama is typically a warm place, and the average high is 60 degrees for the beginning of January.  However, last year it was 25 degrees at the race start and only got up into the 30’s, with a lot of wind.  So, it certainly can be cold, but it might also be very warm.  Not much I can do about it, other than cross my fingers and hope that it is a perfect day in the 40s and 50s!

Which brings me to today.  It was very rainy and very windy, and while I didn’t want to go out, I really felt like I needed to get the miles in.  Also, it is possible that marathon day will be in the 50’s and rainy, so it really is important to practice running and dressing in the conditions.  I decided for a run over the Manhattan Bridge and back.  I like to run down Ave A and Essex to Division St, which then leads over to the run side of the bridge.  On the Brooklyn side, I extend my run up the Sands St bike lane before I turn around.  In all, it is 6.8 miles with 2 good hills in the middle!  My other option is the Williamsburg Br, which I’ve run many times in the past.  However, that route is a mile shorter, and also that bridge is more crowded than the Manhattan Bridge.  Was happy with the choice to run over the Manhattan Br.  The rain was hard in the beginning, but then it tapered off in the middle, but came back with a vengeance for the finish.  It was quite windy throughout.

Yesterday I also went out for a run, 5.2 miles down the East River and back.  In the first half mile, I hit 1000 for the year, which was my goal and and a big milestone for me.  There will be more reflection at the end of the year, but I’m really happy with the miles I have been able to put in.  I believe next year will be more focused on biking, so I may not have another shot at 1000 miles in a year for awhile, so I will enjoy it while I have it!

In other news, I’m noticing that the pace of my normal runs is dropping, which I know is a direct result of all the speed work I’ve done.  My runs lately have been in the 9:15-9:30 range, rather than the 9:45-10 range that was typical.  I had signed up for the 10 week NYRR speed session which ends next week.  Unfortunately, I was only able to make 5 of the 10 sessions.  However, I did make up for it with 2 short distance races and 2 outings with @speedysasquatch and his speed crew in Central Park.  So in all, 9 hard speed efforts, and I’m definitely noticing the difference.

As for plans in the next few weeks, I have a doozie of a 21.5 miler planned for next weekend. See the planned route here.  Then I’m looking forward to a 3 week taper.  I set my last 2 long runs 3 weeks apart, and the last long run 3 weeks before the marathon.  I think providing this opportunity to heal is important.  Before the Chicago Marathon in October, my training was not in the right place and I didn’t really taper.  But this time I’ve put in a lot of miles and hard effort and feel I’ll need the 3 week taper to heal up.  I have not had any injuries per se, but I have felt quite banged up in a few places.  Most recently, both of my calves have acted up.  Thankfully a bit of self treatment has swatted that problem away, but I still have other minor lingering soreness that I hope to have all better by 1/9.

This holiday season always flies by so fast that I know I’ll be jetting down to New Orleans (first destination on the trip) before I know it.  Can’t wait!

Written by SCL

December 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Joe Kleinerman 10k Race Report

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Today was the Joe Kleinerman 10k race in Central Park.  As I posted the other day, I thought I had a fair shot at my PR for the 10k distance.  This was based on the notion that my PR is around 8:30 pace, and I raced 5 miles last week at 8:27 pace.  However, in the end, the PR was not meant to be.  I missed it by 43 seconds, and look forward to finding another shot at it.  My finishing time was 53:26, and my PR is 52:43.  The weather was not a factor, at least for me.  It was 30 degrees with a little bit of a wind.  Not bone chilling cold, and no discernible big winds to deal with.  I much prefer this to the opposite condition, which is 70’s and humid that you might find in early June.

While I was able to maintain an 8:34 pace for the first 3 miles, the first 2 miles had significant hills, harlem hill and the rolling hills on the west side, which was definitely tougher than what was in the first 2 miles in the Prospect Park race last week.  It simply took too much out of me, and I then lost 45 seconds in the next 2 miles.  I actually felt good cresting cat hill and had a good second wind in that section of the park.  The only hope I had was that giving it my all would result in something similar to the 7:52 I ran in the last mile of the race in Prospect Park.  However, my 6th mile was 8:18, and I knew PR effort was done.  I took water once, in the 4th mile, which was part of why that mile was slow compared to the rest.  Here are my splits:

  • Mile 1 – 8:41
  • Mile 2 – 8:23
  • Mile 3 – 8:37
  • Mile 4 – 9:07
  • Mile 5 – 8:47
  • Mile 6 – 8:18
  • Mile 6.2 – 1:35

Not to say I’m unhappy.  I’m actually very happy with the effort. I’m happy that despite pushing very hard over the first 3 miles, and then hitting a rough spot, I was able to recover nicely, power up Cat Hill, and run a very strong last mile, which was actually my fastest of the race.  It encourages me to think that I could PR the distance with another few weeks of speed work.  I likely will not race 10k for awhile, as there are none upcoming on the NYRR calendar, and I’d have to search elsewhere.  Also, I have lots of longer distances races planned for early next year.

As a side note, it seems to me that NYRR runs many fewer winter races than they used to.  I can recall a time when there were winter races almost every weekend, but there are only 2 races each in Jan and Feb.  That is too bad.  Probably a result of the parks department being stingy with how the park is used, and the effort required by NYRR to put on these races, that have grown so much in recent years.

Anyway, after 2 consecutive short distance races, time to turn the page and focus back on my marathon training.  First Light marathon is 5 weeks from today.  My last long run will likely be in 2 weeks.  The biggest problem I have right now is extreme tightness in both of my calves.  Interestingly enough, it bothered me more yesterday when I was running slow, and this morning in a slow warmup, than it did in the hard effort of the race.  It clearly is not holding me back, but I need to be careful with it to ensure it doesn’t become a bigger problem.  Maybe time to find The Stick or a foam roller, to work it through.

Written by SCL

December 5, 2010 at 5:32 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

Turning the Page

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Yes, yes, I know, late again with my race report.  Still working (in theory) on my Chicago Marathon race report.  The short version is that it was a great day, a great race, hot, sunny, with lots of walking late in the race, and super glad it’s done!

Time to turn the page, and my attention is now fully turned to my next major race, the First Light Marathon, on 1/9/11.  This race is happening, as plane tickets are purchased, and hotels are reserved.  Looking forward to a couple of days in New Orleans, and then a fresh marathon PR (hopefully) in Mobile on race day.

I don’t really create training plans, except to ballpark the dates and distances of my long runs.  I was originally planning my first long run last weekend, but then had a chance to go for a fun (leaf peeping) bike ride up to Piermont with some twitter friends.  Couldn’t pass that opportunity up and so postponed my first long run a week, to this week.  Of course, forgetting that, I was thinking I might drive out to Eisenhower Park for the LIRRC 5 miler on Sunday.  Unfortunately, I’ll run long this weekend instead, and have to put running in a LIRRC race off to another time.

Met with the group (@dnorton, @bklynrunner, @jenbolstat) by 8am, on a perfect day for bike riding, warm (not hot) and very little wind.  Meeting spot was the George Washington Bridge, and we headed over the bridge and up 9W about 16 miles to Piermont.  After a stop at Bunbury’s Coffee Shop for some awesome muffins, we headed out for a look from The Pier, which has an awesome view of the Hudson River.  Then turned around to head back.  The hills are a bit nastier on the way back, but managed to get through it.  The ride was much easier with friends!  I took the subway to and from home rather than add the necessary 20 miles to bike the round trip – no sense in pushing things if not currently training for anything on the bike.

Then yesterday I decided to join up with Josh and his crew for speed work.  They informally meet for speed workouts in Central Park each Tuesday.  Now that I am also speed working, and the day worked out for me, I decided to be a little social and meet up with more folks I know through Twitter but had not really met before.  @speedysasquatch led the way, and I was joined by @sharonpaige, @magdalenafox and @herroyaltallness.  I was arguably the slowest of the group, but no matter.  Did my best to keep up on the 6 x 800 meter workout at the Great Lawn, which was followed up by a blast of core work which I’m definitely feeling today!  I believe I won the ‘dirtbag’ award afterwards, as both the newcomer, and the dirtiest of the bunch after literally using the dirt and lawn (and surrounding acorns – ouch) to support the core work.  In all, ran about 5.3 miles (I think because I forgot my watch/GPS at home) – good work.

In other news, since the marathon I have been dealing with some pain in my right heel/foot.  Nothing major, noticed it early, and a regimen of ice twice daily seems to have done the trick, so I’m feeling back to full health.  I’m looking forward to my long run this weekend, continuing speed work, and working my way back into the shape required to NAIL a 4:30 (really 4:22 PR) marathon in January.

Marathon Fever is in full swing, as the MCM folks get to strut their stuff on Sunday!  Good luck to you all…

Written by SCL

October 27, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Successful Recovery Week

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It has been a week since the Chicago Marathon. The more I reflect, and read other people’s accounts of the race, the prouder I am of my accomplishment. It was one of my slowest marathons ever, but I ran a consistent race and was done in by the sun and heat only in the late stages, when the temps topped 80 degrees. I was also within 5-10 minutes of my predicted time. Not bad at all! My race report is in progress, and I will finish it soon.

I’ve had a nice recovery week so far. Took 2 days off and then went for an easy 2 miler on Wed. Wanted to loosen things up and test out my sore right leg before speedwork on Thurs. All systems go!

Speedwork Thurs was perfect. It was hill repeats, but a short workout, and not too strenuous. Perfect way to ease back into speed. That effort was about 3.2 miles.

Then today I ran 4, at a nice clip. Was rough though because it was very windy, and it seemed like I was always against it. I also continue to have lingering right shin discomfort, but nothing too bad yet, and I’m sure it will be fine with some attention paid to it.

I finally looked at the calendar and think next weekend should be my first long run in my training for First Light Marathon. But, some Twitter folks are planning a long ride to Nyack, which I might do instead.

Written by SCL

October 16, 2010 at 3:59 pm