4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for the ‘New York City Marathon’ Category

New York City Marathon Tomorrow!

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Just wanted to wish everyone running the NYC Marathon GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN tomorrow.  The weather looks to be awesomely perfect.  My advice is to slllooowww down in the first half.  Don’t underestimate the toughness of the hills in the last 6 miles of the race.

As for myself, I’ve run it 7 times and am pretty much over it.  That said, it is the most awesomest race in the world and still, by far, the most exciting marathon course I’ve ever run, out of 9.  Maybe I’ll try again some year, but, it is super expensive, and hard to get into unless you either want to raise money for charity or commit to 9 NYRR races the prior year.  It is also super big and crowded, and I’m finding I enjoy smaller races more.  The way I figure it, my not running the race gives an opportunity to someone else who otherwise would be shut out 🙂

My NYC Marathon History:

  1. 1996 – 5:27:31 (PR at the time)
  2. 1998 – 5:35:33
  3. 2000 – 4:52:03
  4. 2002 – 5:06:22
  5. 2007 – 4:51:43
  6. 2008 – 4:31:25 (PR at the time)
  7. 2009 – 4:44:05

From the archives, my all of my 2009 marathon related postings, and my 2008 race report:

It’s a little (OK very) messy due to my inconsistent use of tags and categories over the years, but I’ve got other (sometimes interesting) marathon related postings in the Tag or Category.

I don’t think I’ll be able to spectate tomorrow.  If possible, perhaps I’ll get to mile 11/12 on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg which is easily accessible by the L train.  I have great spectator memories from the past.  In the end, my best strategy to watch from multiple points on the course, and hit spots that were less popular, was to watch at mile 7/8 on 4th Ave, then mile 14ish in Queens and then mile 21, just after the madison ave bridge.  Now with the wave starts, it is actually harder to watch from multiple places and still see everyone you want, because of the large gaps between the fast runners and the slow runners.

Again, for everyone running tomorrow, have a great one!

 

 

 

 

Written by SCL

November 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

NYC Marathon Course – mess with it?

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I love how the Wall Street Journal is taking more of a dip into the local NYC world, also covering sports, and really doing a great job of covering the marathon in the last week around our big race.  Last week, there was an article, quoting one of my Twitter friends(!), asking if NYC should have a 2nd marathon race, and today there was another article questioning whether the course should be changed, as the current course is over capacity, creating less than perfect conditions for runners, and hampering growth.  Wanted to provide my thoughts:

Add another – YES!  I am in favor of this.  It will never have the cachet of the main event on the first Sunday of November, but NYC needs other options.  There are other race organizers in NYC besides NYRR, and enough room for them in the city.  In fact, I’m so happy the 13.1 Marathon organization staged a half marathon race in Queens in the spring, which I ran, and it will continue next year, and I’m already registered for that race!  The biggest problem is clearly getting the cooperation of the city agencies necessary to close down the various streets, plus sanitation etc, to make it work, but I bet it can be done in such a way to minimize disruption, although that likely means staying out of Manhattan.  There are lovely places to run in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and upper Manhattan to create a fun and different event.  I personally might not run as I’m focusing on marathons in other states now, but I know many people in NYC that would jump at the chance to run an alternate race.  It really is a travesty that we only have one marathon distance race to choose from in the boroughs.

Change the course? – NO!  Don’t do it.  I think this would be a huge mistake.  The race must cover all five boroughs, and must continue to go through the same amazing neighborhoods currently covered.  The only change I would make is to finish the race on Central Park South, or Central Park West, to ease the congestion that occurs at the end.  I didn’t run this year, so I don’t know if the 10 minute additional separation between waves made any difference, but each of the last 3 years when I ran, the wait and walk to retrieve baggage was completely and utterly horrible.  That is the one thing that should be changed.  Leave everything else as is!  The wave starts creates enough separation at the start of the race, and by and large, the marathon course can easily handle the participants.  It is the start at the bridge, and the area past the finish in Central Park, where more capacity is needed.  Chicago had 37,000 runners, all from one wave, and their finish system, including baggage retrieval, worked great after the race.  I think they simply had a wider space to work with. 

On another side note, a new friend I met at a conference yesterday pointed me to this other article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, profiling a 70 year old guy who races ironman triathlons.  Very inspiring stuff!

Written by SCL

November 10, 2010 at 5:38 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

New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

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I know, I know, it is late, but better late than never!  Check out part 1 here:

As I started on the 2nd half of the marathon, I really felt completely comfortable, and happy with my pacing.  However, the voices in the back of my head said “you should still be feeling good at this point, only halfway”, and I also reminded myself that I still had the hard half to go, and so could take nothing for granted.  Would still just focus on taking it slow, and conserving energy for the late stages where I would need it.

The Queens portion of  the course is very short.  In my first few NYC marathons, it was also pretty sparsely populated with spectators, but that has changed in recent years.  Now there are lots of people watching, and making lots of noise.  I never liked how the course seemed very jig-jaggy through Queens, with lots of turns.  However, they made some subtle changes this year to reduce some of the turns and straighten things out.  I think this makes the Queens portion of the course slightly shorter, which is made up with a little extra room in the Bronx.  I can only otherwise say that I was feeling good here, and got lost a bit in the support of the crowd.  Mile 14 was completed in 10:09, and before I knew it, we were approaching the Queensboro Bridge.

At that stage of the race, the bridge is a killer.  I firmly believe that charging hard up the bridge last year was my downfall in missing 4:30.  So this year, I decided to just take it easy up the bridge and incorporate walk breaks.  I walked early on up the bridge for about 2 minutes, and then again as we reached the top.  This is actually where I started feeling my first muscle issues, namely spasms in my hamstrings.  It was not bad, but just the first cause of concern.  Seemed related to the cold wind, which could be felt here as a cross breeze from right to left.  It went away as soon as we were off the bridge.  In addition to dealing with the incline is the challenge of dealing with the congestion.  You essentially have 2 lanes of traffic for running, but with lots of people walking, (sometimes 3 and 4 abreast) there is a lot of energy lost in just weaving your way through the walkers up the hill.  My approach was to try and find somebody running at my pace and just stay right behind them, and let that person pick through the crowd.

I do enjoy the relative serenity of the bridge.  With no people cheering, it is very quiet, and a chance to recollect before you hit the big crowds again when you come off the bridge.  The cool thing I saw here, that I didn’t remember from years past, is that as we were coming down the ramp off the bridge, there were people stationed above on the main structure of the bridge, literally hanging over the concrete side, above the runners and cheering.  It was a nice welcome into Manhattan, and to the 16 mile mark.  Only 10.2 miles to go!  At this point, was still right within my strategy as mile 15 with the uphill was 11:08, and mile 16, with some uphill in it, was 10:46.  Little slower than I wanted at this point, but still no cause for concern. At this point, my time was approx 2:40, which meant I had 1:50 to cover 10.2 miles, or almost 11 minutes per mile.  So, still feeling good about 4:30.

  • Mile 14 – 10:09
  • Mile 15 – 11:08
  • Mile 16 – 10:46

At this point, we hit 1st Ave, which on TV they tend to call the  “Canyon of Sound”.  In my experience that is not really true.  Yes, the crowds are HUGE on 1st Ave, but they are very sterile.  They tend to stand around and watch, and are not so into the cheering and screaming, as they are on other parts of the course.  This may be because the Ave is so wide that the spectators are set apart quite a ways from the runners.  Again, I just focused on slow and smooth and enjoying the energy.

I had two people to look for here.  Michelle, was going to be at around 72nd St, and a work friend, CW would be in the 90’s.  I didn’t know which side they would be on, so guessed left.  Started looking for Michelle after 70’s St, and was able to easily pick her and her sister out from the crowd.  A quick hello, high five, and an awesome picture, and I was off on my way again. 

Mile 17 at NYC Marathon

As I approached 90’s St, started looking for CW.  Lot of people watching here, so I was focused on the front set of watchers, and almost ran right by her, and her boyfriend as they were set back in the sidewalk.  Luckily, she saw me and called out my name, and I heard, so I was able to see her, give a wave and smile, and carry on.  Still feeling great through this stretch.  I did not take a walk break, with the exception of the water stops.  However, this is where I started getting worried, as my times were slower than my pacing felt.  I was feeling good, but my miles were slowing here, in the 10:45 to  11 range, rather than the 10:30 range I felt.  That was a bad sign.

  • Mile 17 – 10:34
  • Mile 18 – 10:43
  • Mile 19 – 10:56

No only did I take it up 1st Ave without walking, but I also ran the entire length of the Willis Ave Bridge, which is also a clear first for me, and a good half of the Bronx portion without walking.  Did take a walk break towards the end of the Bronx portion, but thought I did pretty well through this area.  Over the Madison Ave Bridge back to Manhattan and the 21 mile mark.  This is where everything changed for me.  As I crossed 21 and hit the button on my watch, I simultaneously noted the really slow time of 11:47 for the mile, and first felt the twinges and muscle spasms that would haunt me the rest of the race, in my legs.  It was at this moment that I knew that 4:30 was totally out of reach.  Even though I was “feeling good”, my times were just way too slow.  And now, in my defeated spirit, my legs started barking at me big time.

The muscle spasm that I had was weird.  Sort of felt it in my lower quads, almost at the top of my knees.  Felt it in both legs, and it seemed to hurt regardless of whether I was running, walking, and stretching didn’t help that much.  At times I was able to run through it, at times it was too much and I took significant walk breaks.  The uphill stretch from 110th to 90th St before you enter the park was the worst.  I walked most of this, and it resulted in my slowest mile, 14:16, for mile 24.  The crowd is so loud and encouraging here, but I just couldn’t get myself together enough to make a real push.  The emotions felt here were truly mixed.  I was very disappointed and upset that 4:30 was not going to happen.  Not only missing 4:30, but I could see that 4:35 wasn’t going to happen, and then 4:40.  On the other hand, I really did feel a huge sense of accomplishment for getting as far as I did.  I was going to finish the race, and I was also going to beat thousands of people also running the race.  And since this will be the last NYC Marathon I will run for awhile, I tried hard to enjoy the last miles, through the most amazing park, the most amazing crowd, in the most spectacular mass participation sporting even there is.

  • Mile 20 – 11:44
  • Mile 21 – 11:47
  • Mile 22 – 12:49
  • Mile 23 – 12:46
  • Mile 24 – 14:16
  • Mile 25 – 13:17

I walked through the mile 26 sign and water stop, and then started to run again, and managed to keep running to the end.  It is mostly a blur, but I really did savor the very loud crowd on Central Park South, and appreciate and enjoy the final third of a mile through Columbus Circle, back into the park, and the final stretch I run hundreds of times up into the finish line.  My pace was still incredibly slow (14:44 for last 1.2 miles) but I ran it, with no walking, and was happy I was able to get that done.

  • Mile 26 – 12:24
  • Mile 26.2 – 2:30

My finishing time was 4:44:05.  In the end, really not that bad.  It is my 2nd fastest NYC Marathon, and my 4th fastest overall out of 11.  While disappointed I didn’t get to, or close to 4:30, I was still very happy with the overall experience.  Of course, then started going through the inevitable reflection of what could I have done better?  A suggestion was made that taking salt in the race may help to avoid muscle cramps.  I will need to experiment with that next time around.  Otherwise, I don’t know there was much else I could do differently.  I think the slower time was simply a reflection of not having trained well enough.  I worked through several injuries in the last few months, starting with a severe lower back spasm in late July, and then shin and groin issues.  I got a lot of miles in, but there were not hard, quality miles.

Anyway, with the exception of the approx 50 minutes it took me to get from mile 21 to mile 25, I totally had a blast and enjoyed every other moment of the day!

My tentative plans for 2010 include Rhode Races Marathon on 5/2, and possibly Chicago on 10/10.  Will also mix in two triathlons, possibly a duathlon, and lots of road races and biking!  Trying to get to 800 miles for 2009, but since I’ve continued to have groin issues and have put in limited miles in the last 3 weeks, it is not looking like that will happen.  If I don’t make it in 2009, then it WILL happen in 2010!

Happy running…

Written by SCL

November 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

New York City Marathon DONE!

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Crossposted from DailyMile. Full blog post later in the week:

My 7th New York and 11th Overall. 4:44:05 is good for my 2nd fastest NYC, and 4th fastest overall.

I had a great race on so many levels. Unfortunately, my finishing time doesn’t necessarily show it, 15 mins slower than my goal.

Highlights:
– Getting almost right to the front of wave 3 and starting up the bridge almost in the ‘lead pack’
– Perfectly executing my strategy. Purposely held back in the early miles and in the classic ‘awesome crowd’ spots, hoping it would lead to a strong finish. 2:09:17 in the first half, right in my goal range.
– Seeing Michelle at mile 17 and CW (someone I work) with at mile 18
– Not stopping for a walk break AT ALL on 1st Ave (outside of water stops), a first for me. Not only that, but I also ran the entire way through the Willis Ave Bridge. Even running half of it would be a first for me
– Running the full last mile – from 25.2 to 26.2

Lowlights:
– I could tell in miles 19-21 that 4:30 was probably not going to happen. Even though I was ahead of schedule and wasn’t walking, my times were gradually slowing too much. Would have to turn it up to meet goal
– Just past mile 21, started cramping in my quad. Well not quite quad, maybe more like just above the knee? Anyway, stopped to stretch several times, and had to do a lot of walking.

In all, had much fun, as always. Finishing, and pushing through the adversity, is such an accomplishment., and I’m proud I was able to do it. I know others out there had a worse time. Saw a 4:15 pacer having a tough go in the last miles, way behind schedule.

Future plans – my next marathon will be Rhode Races, in Povidence Rhode Island on May 2. I’m thinking of running Chicago next fall, as the race falls on 10/10/10 – I think that would be so cool.

In the meantime, I’ve got to get some speed back and will focus on shorter, faster runs through the winter, and sub 2 hour half marathons in Manhattan and Bronx.

Written by SCL

November 2, 2009 at 9:05 am

Final thoughts before New York City Marathon

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In about 23 hours, I’ll be crossing the start line of the New York City Marathon, on the Verrazano Bridge!

On the one hand, I feel over-confident in the sense that I’ve run this race 6 times before and feel like I know everything there is to know about it, the hills, the bridges, the bends, the crowds, the morning preparation routine, etc.  I’ve also spectated a few times.

On the other hand I don’t feel like I’m properly ready.  I’ve put in a lot of miles, but not as many as I’ve wanted with nagging groin and shin injuries lately.  Also, my last long run was cut from 21 miles to 13 miles.  Also, my speed is down from where I’ve been in the past.  In short, while my goal is to beat last years 4:31, and to beat 4:30, I really am not sure I have it in me this time.

4:30 is definitely possible, but I’ll need to run a smart race and have everything fall into place. In particular, I need to make sure I hold back in the spots later in Brooklyn where the crowds are really great, Clinton Hill from mile 8-9, and in Williamsburg / GreenPoint from 11.5-13.  Those are spots where I tend to go too fast, and I think part of the reason I start to lose it at the end.

4:30 comes out to about 10:18 per mile.  So, the trick, and the key, is how long can I keep the miles in the 9:45-10:00 range.  For every 9:45 mile, I gain 30 seconds to allow for slowing down at the end.  In a perfect world, I would not be slowing down at the end, but in practice that always seems to be the case.  My strategy is to run 2:07-2:10 in the first half, and be fresh enough so that I could run the second half in under 2:20.  A tall order, and something I’m really nervous about, but welcoming the challenge.

The one thing I have going for me is my mileage base.  I analyzed back 12 weeks prior to each marathon I’ve done since 2000, and I’ve put in more miles for this one than any other!

  • 2000 Vermont City – 180.8
  • 2000 NYC – 164
  • 2002 Jersey Shore – 139.5
  • 2002 NYC – 187.1
  • 2005 Big Sur – 201.5
  • 2007 NYC – 137.1
  • 2008 NYC – 217.6
  • 2009 Austin – 232.9
  • 2009 NYC – 242.9

Some years, the mileage was pathetic, like in 2007, where my goal was, of course 4:30, but I finished in a disappointing 4:51.  The 242.9 miles I’ve done in the last 12 weeks (just over 20 miles per week) is the stat that helps to alleviate my anxiety.  You can also see from the screenshot below, that I’ve had a nice steady progression and taper. (Daily Mile has some great metrics as part of their latest updates!)

 

 

training

Running - Past 26 Weeks

With the exception of week 30 (back spasm) and weeks 35/36 (sick), my running numbers, for me at least, are pretty solid.

 

 

In terms of preparation, ate a nice big pasta dinner last night, with those leftovers planned for tonight.  Drinking a lot today to stay hydrated.  I will drink a ton today, and then once hydrated, will hardly drink in the morning before the race.  This strategy has worked very well for me in the past and prevents me from having to use the bathroom multiple times during the race.  Of course, will have some candy tonight, after trick-or-treating is all done!

Also just trying to stay calm and relaxed.  By myself in my NJ house last night, so it was very calm, peaceful and quiet.  Just me and the 5 loads of laundry assigned to me 🙂  Also had a really good night sleep.

I like to get to the race early, and sort of enjoy the calm before the storm at Fort Wadsworth, and so will probably take the ferry at 6 or 6:30.  The best advice I can give anyone running this race for the first time, especially if you are in the first wave, is to get there as early as possible.  You will not believe how crowded it gets, how long it will take for you to use the bathroom, check your bag and find your corral.  Last year there were almost fistfights between the marshals (mostly high school kids best I could tell) at the corrals, and the people fighting to get into their space even though they were late.  Anyway, I will get there early, get my bag checked in a leisurely fashion, and just have extra throwaway layers so I don’t get too cold during the wait.

The weather is looking to be pretty good.  Rain is forecasted for tonight and maybe early in the morning.  Once the rain clears out, it will be in the 50’s tomorrow, but maybe windy.  That is the biggest wildcard.  If it is windy, it will be out of the north, which means we would be running into the wind for much of the first 20 miles.  Will cross my fingers that it is not so bad.

In the end, I just want to have fun and enjoy the experience.  Especially since this will be my last NYC Marathon for awhile.  Starting next year, I’m going to run fall marathons in other states, so want to make sure I savor this one, and hopefully with an under 4:30 finishing time!

Written by SCL

October 31, 2009 at 10:24 am

New York City Marathon Expo

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48 hours to go to the start of the New York City Marathon, and I have caught the bug! No, I’m not sick, although my wife and Katie (my 8 year old) are.  I think they got sick from me, so I’m safe!  The bug I’ve caught is the super excitement of what may be the greatest mass participation sporting event out there!  The city is really transforming this week into marathon mode, and yesterday I headed to the expo to take part!

On a side note, when I checked my RSS feed this morning, I *already* had 4 completed marathon expo reports!  Wow, I’m behind the times!  Check out their great blogs…

Don’t have time to go into full details, but I had a lot of fun.  The only complaint that I do have about it (its human nature to complain about something, right!) is that the exhibition space is relatively small (the Austin Marathon exhibition space was almost as big), with much of the space is taken up by the big name vendors, Asics, Nike, Foot Locker, Garmin, Timex, Polar, Saucony, Poland Spring, Gatorade, and so on.  There were not a whole lot of the smaller vendors with more interesting items.  Yes, there were some, but just not enough!  I think that is why I liked the Austin Marathon expo so much, because there was a greater mix of bigger vendors and smaller vendors.  Here, many of the smaller vendors were actually a subset of the large Paragon section.

Anyway, expo really was great overall, and I picked up lots of stuff, including:

  • tech tee
  • White cap
  • Heavy gloves
  • singlet
  • long sleeve under layer
  • throwaway jacket
  • light gloves
  • Amphipod
  • Socks

In short, I went hog wild!  Here are the pictures I got on my phone:

My favorite ‘swag’ item is the Timex refrigerator magnet where you can punch out the pieces of a digital clock grid to show your finishing time, just like a real digital race clock! 

In all, spent about 2 hours wandering around, very tiring work.  Was also able to meet up with Michelle and chat for a few minutes.

Can’t wait for Sunday and will try and write up some final thoughts beforehand.

Written by SCL

October 30, 2009 at 9:04 am