4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for the ‘Looking Back’ Category

Back in the Saddle (Again)

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Hi there!  After a luckluster year so far filled with injuries, I’ve taken the last couple of months off, and am now starting to work back into running shape.  I consider myself to (yet again) be back in the saddle after injury, hoping that this time I’ll figure out how to stay healthy.  Seems like since I turned 40 in 2011, it is so much easier to get injured, and each injury is harder to recover from.

The year started out decently enough, with a lot of running in January – March, including a lot of speed work, and I was rewarded with a 10k PR (52:43) at the Brrrrrrooklyn Hot Chocolate 10k in January and also a 10 mile PR (1:27:56) at the Cherry Tree 10 mile race in Feb.  Things quickly went downhill from there.

In March, I had an awful Georgia Marathon, (5:12:35) in part because it was really hot that day, which I was not trained for, and also because of the super hilly course.  After that, I sort of lost my mojo, and recorded a DNF at the Verrazano Half Marathon in April.  Then I started having calf issues, which I ignored, which eventually resulted in a badly pulled calf, which put me on the shelf for a few weeks in May.  It also caused me to downgrade the Red Bank Olympic tri to Sprint Distance, where I had to walk most of the running portion.

Once my calf started feeling better, I did a bit of running in June, but late in June my lower back started to hurt, which led to my first ever bout of sciatica nerve pain in my left leg, which was very painful, quite scary as it is so different from muscle pain, and lasted for more than a month before getting better.

Now all of that is behind me.  I’ve changed some things in my diet, to hopefully help me lose a few pounds.  I’m also now seeing a personal trainer, and starting up a new running program.  For the moment I’m focusing on tempo intervals on the treadmill, but look forward to getting back out on the road shortly, getting back to some races, finding a winter or spring marathon to tackle state number 12, and perhaps even challenge that elusive 4:30 marathon!


Written by SCL

September 1, 2012 at 11:23 am

Flat Marathon – no thank you

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This thought has been hanging with me for awhile, but thanks to two recent blog postings I came across, I was reminded to write about it.

My best marathons have come on hilly courses, NOT flat ones.  What?  Doesn’t make sense, you say?  If you think about it, it kind of does make sense, because on a hilly course, the flats, uphills and downhills make great use of a variety of muscles over time, spreading the damage, so to say.  Others have recently proffered their explanations:

  1. Laura / Absolut(ly) Fit / 50 x 25 – you know, the first youngest female to run a marathon in all 50 states?  Yes, in her recent post on how to recover quickly from a marathon (great post by the way), she devoted a couple of paragraphs on her thoughts regarding hilly vs flat marathons.
  2. Georgia Marathon Blog – my next marathon is the Georgia Marathon, and on their website they have a TOTALLY AWESOME BLOG that consists of a variety of (presumably) regular running people who write great posts on distance running.  How cool is that?  Other marathons should take note and copy… Anyway, a recent posting on that blog provided some additional insights on exactly the same topic!

In looking at my own history, some of my very best marathons were quite hilly:

  1. Big Sur 2005 – Has a very hilly reputation, lots of big hills, and a monster hill in the middle of the race.  It was my 7th marathon, and can you guess what I did?  That’s right, a PR! 4:37:37.  This PR would stand for almost 4 years, through a few more marathons, lasting until:
  2. Austin 2009 – Not nearly as hilly as Big Sur, but definitely a hilly course.  I had an unbelievable (for me) PR of 4:22:16,  The nice thing about this hilly race is that the last 6-7 miles are downhill, and in that particular year, those last miles had a tailwind.  While that combination of factors allowed me to cruise to that amazing PR, I believe it was the hilliness of the course that kept me relatively fresh at the end of the race.
  3. First Light 2011 – While not necessarily billed as a hilly marathon, this race is interesting because the first 10 miles are pancake flat, and then miles 10-21 are very, very hilly, and then the last 6 miles are pancake flat.  I treated the first 10 miles as a warm up, and then attacked the hills, and honestly, this was the only marathon I ever ran where I didn’t feel like I hit the wall.  My finish of 4:37:10 was far beyond what I thought I was capable of that day.

Of course, there are other factors that go into a successful race, like the training leading into it, and the weather on race day.  Maybe it is coincidence that those 3 races I mentioned are the ones I feel are my best marathons, and were the hilliest ones I ever ran.

Also interesting to consider is my half marathon PR history, where FOUR TIMES my PR was set on the old Brooklyn Half Marathon course, the one that started in Coney Island and spent the first 8 miles on the boardwalk and on flat Ocean Parkway, and ending with 5 brutal miles twice around Prospect Park with LOTS of hills.  Yes, every time I ran that race between 1999 and 2008 (4 times), I set a new PR on that very hilly course.

While several of the worst marathons I ever ran were of the flat variety, interestingly enough, the weather was not cooperative for any of them: New Jersey 2002 (cold, windy and rainy day), Chicago Marathon 2010 (super hot),  Providence Rhode Races 2010 (super hot)

Another thought is perhaps I’ve always trained harder when I knew I had a hilly marathon coming up?  Possible, I suppose, but I usually approach my marathon trainings in much the same way.  Yes, my small sample of races certainly isn’t definitive, and perhaps many of my flat races were done in less than favorable conditions, but like I said, my best races have been on hilly courses and my worst on flat courses.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

My next marathon is the Georgia Marathon on March 18, which I hear is a hilly course. 🙂

Written by SCL

January 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

2011 Highlights – Part 2

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As you all know, I’m not so great at posting here anymore.  My we’ve come a long way (and in the wrong direction) since I posted for 28 days straight leading up to the 10-10-10 Chicago Marathon!

Anyway, this post concludes the ‘highlights’ I wanted to point out regarding 2011.  Find Part 1 here.  Upon further reflection, this post is not so much about anything in particular I did in 2011, and so the ‘highlight’ title is a bit of a lie, as this is more a celebration of January running (for me), and my inverted bell curve of running over the last 13 years.

Below you will see my total miles per month, from the years 1999-2011, covering 13 years.

  • Jan – 798.6
  • Feb – 706.1
  • March – 631.7
  • April – 659.7
  • May – 517.7
  • June – 316.1
  • July – 433.8
  • Aug – 532.4
  • Sept – 692.7
  • Oct – 706.4
  • Nov – 682.7
  • Dec – 730.7

What is striking about this is that I ‘peak’ in Jan in mileage, generally decline through June, and then start another steady increase, peaking again in Dec.

For one, it is clear backup for the statement I keep repeating to anyone who might listen, namely, “I hate running in the hot weather!”  What more proof do you need?

For two, it is a clear indication of the other statement I keep repeating to anyone who might listen, namely, “January is the month I always renew my love for running.”  Partially it is the clean slate of a new year, and partially it is probably due to my birthday, which occurs early in Jan, but whatever the reason, January is the month I most consistently run.  I can only count two years where January was my highest total month of the year, so it is not that January is always my biggest month, however, it is my most consistent month, and every year is among the top few months in total miles.  Since 2005 (past 7 years), January is at least in the top 4 monthly mileage for the year.

If you look at the numbers above, the inverted bell curve is quite clear.  However, it is not perfect.  My goal for 2012 is simple.  March must have at least 28 more miles than April, and November must have at least 24 more miles than October.  If I can accomplish both of those, and keep the other months in their relative places, then I will have attained perfection!


Written by SCL

January 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Still here…

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Hey, I’m still here, just haven’t been motivated to write in my blog through injuries I had in the spring and summer. 

I had a very busy winter and spring of training and racing, and after a marathon, half marathon and olympic distance triathlon within a 4 week period in May, I needed a break.  In short, I had hip and groin issues, primarily caused by glutes that ‘stopped firing’.  I’ve been working with a personal trainer and am just now starting to get back to being healthy again.  Summary of the last 4 months:

  • May – 61.2 running; 59.8 biking
  • June – 0 running; 14 biking
  • July – 18.4 running; 40.8 biking
  • August – 39.5 running; 84.4 biking

My runs are a good 60 seconds per mile slower than my typical training pace, but that is OK.  I suspect I won’t be back to full form until I start speed workouts in the winter time, and I hope to be back in PR shape by the springtime.  In my past experience, when injured, it takes a good 12 to up to 24 months to get back to full strength where I feel like I’m capable of PR’s.

The impetus to get back on some sort of track now is that I have the Poconos 70.3 race quickly coming up on Oct 2.  I registered for the race early, and it is quite expensive, so I really want to get it done rather than defer.  While my longest run so far is only 5.7 miles, my longest bike ride only 27 miles, and with no time in the pool in the last 3 months, I know this will not be the race that I was hoping for, but I do think I’ll be able to get it done, and within the 8 hour cutoff.  My biggest fear is not being able to finish the swim before the swim cutoff time, but I think and hope the swim is down current in the Delaware River, which would be a big help.

In the next couple of weeks, I have some big tune up races I’m really looking forward to:

  • 9/10 – a 5k race in my ‘home park’, East River Park.  NYCRUNS is holding a race with East River Park Track Club and I can’t wait to participate.  My running log says that I’ve run in the park 265 times since 1999, and NEVER in a race.  Hopefully all the Irene flood waters will have receded by then. 
  • 9/11 – War at the Shore in Long Branch – middle distance triathlon.  Relatively short Ocean swim, with a bike and run that is close to olympic distance.
  • 9/18 – Yonkers Half Marathon – I plan to ride my bike to the race so that I’ll get a good brick workout done

Then in October, the town where I have my weekend house, Little Silver NJ, and the neighboring town, Shrewsbury, both have small 5ks I hope to be able to run in.  I’m also hoping to convince my 15 year-old to join at least one of them…

I found that being injured was actually not so awful.  First, I Hate (note the capital H) running in the summer and this was a great excuse to take a break in the hottest months of June and July.  Second, it was refreshing not to have to get up early on the weekends for races or training runs/rides, and make my family sacrifice their plans around my races.  Was great to be home more often for my kids.

I’m on the prowl for upcoming marathons.  While I’m not registered yet, I have my eye on Rehoboth Beach, Delaware on Dec 10, which would be my 10th state!  For the spring, I’m tentatively looking at either of Georgia Marathon, Eugene Marathon, or Fargo Marathon – would appreciate any feedback or thoughts on those races.

Anyway, that is my update, and I hope to post more often than every 4 months going forward!

Written by SCL

September 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Back in Time

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Don’t quite know why but I was inspired to click the Dec 2008 month in my blog archive, and I just had so much fun browsing the entries.  That was in the day where I did a lot of blogging, before Dailymile took over as a place to log my daily workouts and in the days before work became so busy I hardly have time to even post in Dailymile, let alone blog! 

I’m sure you won’t have as much fun browsing as I did.  But in case you have some time on your hands, here are some of the better posts:

  • 12/8/08 (2 years ago today) – full recap of all my weekend activities
  • 12/5/08 – day NYRR announced 5000 participant race caps
  • 12/12/08 – a good ol’ fashioned soaking
  • 12/25/08 – the day I discovered Dailymile
  • 12/31/08 – my bloody sock

Written by SCL

December 8, 2010 at 5:43 pm

Posted in Looking Back

Fun With Numbers

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

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

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

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

A distribution of my running weeks, since 1999:

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

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

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

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


Monthly Miles

Written by SCL

November 28, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Posted in Looking Back

4 Days to the Chicago Marathon

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4 days to the Chicago Marathon!  And I’m thinking about time predictions…

I’m very proud of my marathon history.  I’ve run 12 marathons over the last 14 years.  I have many that were disappointing for one reason or another, and many that were kick-ass awesome.  It is fun to periodically look through the results and just remember the races, the courses, the weather conditions on race day (I’ve seen it all), the trips to get to them, the hard work that went into certain ones.  There is a certain satisfaction in seeing the list ‘on paper’ as if it is a permanent record.  I’m really looking forward to adding Chicago to the record, and see where it falls.  My marathon history:

  1. 1996-11-03 – New York City Marathon – 5:27:31 (PR)
  2. 1998-11-01 – New York City Marathon – 5:35:33
  3. 2000-05-28 – Vermont City Marathon – 4:48:01 (PR)
  4. 2000-11-05 – New York City Marathon – 4:52:03
  5. 2002-04-28 – New Jersey Shore Marathon – 5:02:34
  6. 2002-11-03 – New York City Marathon – 5:06:22
  7. 2005-04-24 – Big Sur Marathon – 4:37:37 (PR)
  8. 2007-11-04 – New York City Marathon – 4:51:43
  9. 2008-11-02 – New York City Marathon – 4:31:25 (PR)
  10. 2009-02-15 – Austin Marathon – 4:22:16 (PR)
  11. 2009-11-01 – New York City Marathon – 4:44:05
  12. 2010-05-02 – Providence Rhode Races – 4:46:29

Historically, my proudest, and best, races have *always* been in the spring.  This includes Austin Marathon, which was February, technically winter, but it was in spring-like conditions (in Texas).  This is because I actually get a good, full, hard, cycle of training done in the months leading to the race.  My summer training never goes well, and that includes this year.  I know my training is not where it needs to be, or should be, for me to reach a 4:30 marathon, let alone a 4:22 PR.  With that expectation set, I’m ready for whatever I am able to do, and I look forward to my race in January (First Light Marathon), and my race in the spring (undetermined at this time) to properly ramp up my training and go for that PR.

My prediction has a lot to do with the weather, which is still a little bit of an unknown.  We know the temperatures will be in the 50’s to start, and rise to the 70’s.  Much of the race should be in the 60’s, which is a little on the warm side for me.  If the dewpoint creeps up to the upper 50’s, that will add complication and multiple minutes to my time.  That all said, if conditions are really good (low dewpoint, not a lot of running in the sun), I predict a time between 4:35 and 4:40.  If the humidity creeps up, or the temps are too high, or the sun is a factor, then I predict a time between 4:45 and 4:50.  Looking forward to seeing how it goes, and analyzing the results!

While in Chicago, I’ll be missing one of my favorite races, the Staten Island Half Marathon.  This is perhaps my 2nd favorite non-marathon NYRR race, behind the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  I love the ferry ride to SI, the great staging area they have at the baseball stadium, the usually great weather, and the relatively flat course, etc.  It was also my very first half marathon, back in 1996.  Here is my SI Half race history:

  1. 1996-09-15 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:17:54 (PR)
  2. 1997-09-21 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:24:45
  3. 1998-09-20 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:18:11
  4. 2000-10-15 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:15:37
  5. 2007-10-14 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:06:41
  6. 2008-10-12 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:00:20
  7. 2009-10-11 – Staten Island Half Marathon – 2:01:14

Interestingly enough, this is not a PR course for me.  Only time I PR’d it was my very first one.  I’m sure this is because it is a fall race, and I am *never* in my tip-top racing form in the fall.

Good luck to everyone racing in SI, I’m gonna miss it!

For reference, my full race history is here.

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Written by SCL

October 6, 2010 at 12:57 pm