4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for the ‘New York City Marathon’ Category

New York City Marathon Course Changes Confirmed (???)

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About a month ago, when reading the NYRR Runner magazine, I noticed a brief mention of  course changes in the New York City Marathon for 2009.  There have been slight course changes through the years, and I’m always interested in logistics such as these.  The original quote from the magazine was:

“This year, a few adjustments – including a new placement of the start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and an expanded loop in the Bronx – will make the route faster and more exciting than ever.”

At the time, the map posted online was unchanged from last year’s map, but in this, the final run up to the marathon, I took another look and found the updated course map here.  I’ve noticed 2 subtle changes so far.  The quote suggests that the start will be higher up the bridge, which can’t be confirmed, of course, until race day.  The other changes seem to be:

  1. McCarren Park – In some past years, the marathon went through north Williamsburg on Berry Street and thus around the west side of McCarren Park.  In the last few years, the route went up Bedford Ave, but then made an unfortunate end around the park, with a left turn on N12th and then a right on Nassau, essentially going around the park, rather than continuing straight up Bedford.  Well, this year, looks like the course will go straight up Bedford, and through McCarren Park, eliminating the 2 turns required to go around the park!  This more direct route actually is shorter, so this length needs to be made up elsewhere, namely in the Bronx.
  2. Bronx – In past years,  after Willis Ave Bridge, there would be an immediate left on 135th St, a right on Alexander Ave, and finally a left on 138th St to the Madison Ave Bridge.  Will be different this year.  Wonder if it is related to the massive construction occurring on the Bronx side of the Willis Ave Bridge, but instead of the left off the bridge, we will continue straight to 138th St, make a left, and then take an odd detour around Morris and Rider Aves, up to 140th St.  I guess what is unfortunate about this is that it adds back the 2 turns that we lose in Williamsburg!  I seem to remember 135 being a downhill and Alexander being an uphill, so I wonder if the new route eliminates a hill – that would be a bonus!

Anyway, not sure why I’m so interested in the logistics, but in case it is not highlighted in the pre-race materials, thought you should all know!

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Written by SCL

October 25, 2009 at 8:18 pm

Taper time for New York City Marathon

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Really wish I had more time for posting here.  So much to tell, and no time to sit and write it down.  In a nutshell, things are OK.  Not perfect, but still very much OK.

I’ve had a mixed go of it in my long runs.  The good news is that my best long runs have been my races – awesome job at the Tune Up 18 mile race and the SI Half Marathon.  My other long runs have been OK, but less than spectacular, and then my last long run, this past Sunday, was cut down to 13 miles, from a planned 21, due to the cold and windy weather, but also because of my not so fresh legs.

My legs are a bit of a concern.  In the last few weeks, I’ve had issue with a shin split on the right side.  Been manageable, but it is ‘there’ and I have to pay attention to it.  I do not fear it giving me a hard time in the marathon, since uphills always loosen it up, especially at the start of a run, and, the New York City Marathon has one long hill to start the race!  But also, I’ve had problems with my groin.  I’ve had nagging groin issue for probably almost a year now, but it had not been a problem at all when running.  However, last week, I somehow tweaked the right side playing softball, and it has been much worse in the last week.  I’ve been resting quite a bit, working it out in the gym, icing, stretching, etc, and I seem to have it under control.  Did a hard 4.6 mile run last night with no ill effects. Not so much worried about it, but a little concerned about what it will do when I’m 20 miles into the race and ready to push hard in the last miles to get myself under 4:30.

All in all, I’m in really high spirits, and very excited about marathon week.  Hoping to join in on some Tweetups, or DailyMile meetups, etc, and meet some of the great people in person that I’ve met online in the last year.  I’m also really going to try to savor the week and race, as I do not intend to run this marathon for at least 5 years.  This will be my 7th in New York City, and I will start running fall marathons in other states next year, so I can add to my state collection – which stands right now at 4 – and maybe hit 50 states sometime around when I turn 65!

Anyway, good luck to everyone out there preparing for the big race, and I’ll try to be better about posting updates here.  Looking forward to the Nike Human Race on Saturday in Prospect Park, despite the rainy forecast.

Written by SCL

October 21, 2009 at 4:46 pm

Staten Island Half Marathon Race Report

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Let me start by saying that I love the Staten Island Half Marathon.  Of the Grand Prix events, I enjoy this 2nd most, just behind Brooklyn.  The course is not particular difficult, has great water vistas and great views of the Verrazano Bridge.  It also has a wonderful staging area in the parking lot of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and top it off with the wonderful opportunity to take the Staten Island Ferry in the early morning.

This was my seventh running.  I ran 4 times in the 90’s, on the old course that ended in Fort Wadsworth.  This is the third year in a row I’ve run the newer course, as part of my final preparation for the New York City Marathon.  Considering the marathon is in 3 weeks, I decided I wouldn’t run this as a race, but rather as a strong tempo run.

This year the race had an 8:30 start, an hour earlier than in prior years.  I felt the 7:30 ferry was cutting it too close, so decided to go for the 6:30 ferry.  That necessitated a 5am alarm, and getting out of the house by 5:30.  The early morning ferry ride, starting in the darkness and ending with the rising sun, was so peaceful.  Sat on the Brooklyn side, views are just stunning with the sunrise on a nice morning.  Was quite cold though.

Once at the staging area, got my number, used the ‘facilities’, and then sat on the waterfront and read my book (The Mists of Avalon) for 15 minutes.  Then used the facilities again, changed my clothes, dropped off my bag, and made it to my corral with 10 mins to spare.  All in all, a perfect pre-race strategy.  No stress, no waiting on lines, etc.

My goal was to finish under 2:05, and if things went really well, perhaps push it down to 2:01 or so, which is similar to what I did last year.  So, the early strategy was to do about 9:30 per mile and then slowly push the pace faster in the second half.  My shin has been acting up lately, and it was starting to bother me in the first 2 miles.  Luckily it was not so bad and I was able to push through it to the third mile, where my shin started to loosen up.  Uphills are good for the shin, and there were enough uphill spots in the early miles to keep it under control.

  • Mile 1 – 9:26
  • Mile 2 – 9:27
  • Mile 3 – 9:23
  • Mile 4 – 9:13

The other nice thing about this course is that the streets used are very wide, and have lots of straightaways.  This is especially true when you get to mile 5 and the out and back on Father Capodanno Blvd.  It starts with a nice long downhill into the straightaways.  Was still feeling really good here so did start to push a little.  The out portion to mile 6.5 was slightly into the wind, so required a little more push to maintain the pace.  I knew that I could coast a little with the wind on the way back to prepare for the big hill as you approach mile 8.  Mile 7.5 to 8 is a pretty steep uphill coming off the Blvd and into Fort Wadsworth.  It is the toughest part of the course, and I knew that it was mostly downhill after that part, so I pushed it hard as well, and finished that mile with a very strong 9:28.

  • Mile 5 – 9:36
  • Mile 6 – 9:16
  • Mile 7 – 9:24
  • Mile 8 – 9:28

With the hardest part behind, and only 5 miles to go, now was the time to start pushing, especially on the downhills.  Significant downhills in mile 9 and 10.  Was still feeling super strong here and was able to maintain a nice hard 9:00-9:15 pace, and then really pushed it all out on the last mile, and finished with a very hard sprint into the finish.

  • Mile 9 – 9:12
  • Mile 10 – 9:02
  • Mile 11 – 9:23
  • Mile 12 – 9:07
  • Mile 13 – 8:23
  • Mile 13.1 – :45

My official time was 2:01:14, which I was very happy with.  Overall, was very similar to the race I ran last year.  Virtually the same pacing, with a similar hard finish.  My time last year was about a minute faster, at 2:00:19.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still really happy with my time, and my race strategy, but since the strategy and conditions were almost identical to last year, and last year was 1 minute faster, it unfortunately tells me that I have not gotten any faster in the last year, with all the running and biking I’ve done.

Feeling great going into the last weeks of New York City Marathon training.  Planning for a 20-21 miler next weekend, and then a 2 week taper into the race!

NYC Marathon Tune Up Race Report

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First, couple of things to get out of the way before I get into the race details:

1) On long races like this, you overhear lots of things.  The best one today was this exchange between guy and gal.  Gal – “Are you running the marathon this year”.  Guy – “No”.  Gal – “Why are you out here.  You are a lunatic”.  Guy – “Because I’m a runner”.  Yes, why are any of us out there, putting in lots of miles, running in the rain or heat, giving up our weekends, etc.  Because we are runners!  I think that totally sums us up nicely!

Kind of killing the moment was when guy later said “I still have to get in my 9 races for the marathon next year…”  Oh well.

2) This last Sunday in Sept is a sad day for me.  Each of the last 2 years, I sat through horrible, season ending losses at Shea Stadium, as the Mets got knocked out of the playoffs against the Marlins.  2 years ago, I ran the Tune Up race first.  Last year, I oped not to run the Tune Up race, since it was the last day at Shea Stadium, and I wanted to get there early, and not be hobbling all day.  At least this year we don’t have to worry about late season collapses!  Also, since the Mets screwed me over on my partial package season tickets, I don’t go to nearly the number of games I used to go to, and so am not nearly as emotionally invested anymore.  But, this is another story.

In summary, this race went as well as I could ever have hoped.  Earlier in the week, I mused that sub 3 hours was well within reach, and it turned out that was very true!  Would have been happy with my prediction of 57 mins in 1st loop, 59 mins in 2nd loop and 63 minutes in last loop.  Turns out I knocked that right out of the park.  Was extremely consistent, and did not have nearly as much of a drop off in the last loop as I expected.  In fact, I ran all hills all 3 times, including Harlem Hill and Cat Hill.

First Loop – Goal time was 57:00, actual time was 57:07.  I had a hard time getting loose in the beginning.  The rain was annoying, and raining pretty hard.  Was also getting passed by a lot of people.  This tends to happen a lot early in races, as many people don’t make it to the race and the proper corral on time, so lots of fast people end up in the back and then need to pass much of the rest of the field.  I had no problems at all getting up the hills, but by mile 5, the pace just felt a little too fast, so dialed it back a tiny bit.  Generally felt like I was struggling a little bit to keep up, and was a little concerned about bonking in the last loop.  I attributed this mostly to my waterlogged socks, shoes and shirt.  I was constantly wringing water out of my shirt to try and offload some of the weight.

  • Mile 1 – 9:10
  • Mile 2 – 9:32
  • Mile 3 – 9:27
  • Mile 4 – 9:22
  • Mile 5 – 9:42
  • Mile 6 – 9:52

Second Loop – Goal time was 59:00.  Actual time was 58:07.  All in all, very pleased with this one.  While the rain had slackened off to more of a drizzle or mist, the roadway itself was soaking wet from the earlier hard rain, and so we were still running through big puddles, and small streams on the hills.  Had dialed the pace back to 9:45ish per mile and that felt very comfortable.  No problem getting up Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the West Side.  In mile 9, a guy passed me talking to 2 others about the NYC Triathlon, but his information was not quite right, so I pointed out the corrections.  At the next water stop, he seeked me out, and we ran together for about a mile and chatted about marathons and triathlons.  Was nice to talk to someone for a little bit in race (VERY RARE FOR ME) and distract my mind from the pace.  That mile ended up being 9:12, my second fastest mile in the race.  It was also a downhill mile, and no water stops, so not surprising it was fast.  I lost him at the next water stop, and he zoomed off ahead, and then I settled back into the 9:40ish pace.  Used the water stops to my advantage here and was able to run up Cat Hill, still feeling pretty comfortable with the pace.

  • Mile 7 – 9:40
  • Mile 8 – 9:59
  • Mile 9 – 9:36
  • Mile 10 – 9:12
  • Mile 11 – 9:47
  • Mile 12 – 9:51

Third Loop – Goal time was 1:03.  Actual time was 59:26.  When I hit mile 12 at about 1:55, I knew 3 hours was easily in the bag, as I would have been allowed almost 11 minutes per mile the rest of the way.  Knowing I was in solid shape, just focused on keeping within a manageable pace so that I could run up the hills.  I was prepared to walk up some of the tough hills, but obviously wouldn’t if not necessary.  First up was Harlem Hill, and I was able to just keep my pace and keep motoring up the hill.  Felt a great sense of accomplishment when cresting the hill and was charged up for the rolling hills on the west side.  Again, focused on keeping within my pace and not pushing.  Around this time, the rain started coming down hard again, even harder than the start of the race.  Once we got down to the mile 16 marker at the bottom of the park, I realized that 2:55 was within reach if I ran it up Cat Hill.  I could feel myself starting to lose it here, but I was determined to get up Cat Hill without walking, and finishing in under 2:55.  It was hard, but I made it up to the top of Cat Hill, even skipped the last water stop, and kept my 10 min per mile pace to the end.  I had no ‘push’ left in me for the last mile, but at the same time, I had enough energy to keep going.  Finished in 2:54:40, and very proud of it!

  • Mile 13 – 9:42
  • Mile 14 – 10:05
  • Mile 15 – 9:57
  • Mile 16 – 9:46
  • Mile 17 -10:09
  • Mile 18 – 9:43

Aftermath – I had checked my bag pretty early, before the masses, so I was hoping my bag would end up at the bottom of the pile and stay dry.  But, no, somebody specifically put their bag under mine, so mine was on top.  So, bag was soaked through.  Luckily I packed my dry clothes into another drawstring bag inside the main bag, so they were dry.  Went into PortoSan and changed everything and came out pretty dry.  Managed not to pull my lower back muscle, which I did at the NYC Triathlon.  Then, shuffled back to the subway, and home to enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

Of course, 18 miles is not 26 miles, and I would have needed to dial the pace back, especially in the last few miles, if this was the actual marathon.  On the plus side, I still have 4 training weekends to go, which will include 2 long runs and a half marathon, so lots of opportunity to continue to build my stamina, and I think I am on pace to peak right at the correct time, namely Nov 1.  Based on my performance today, I think 4:30 in the marathon is very attainable, although I’m doubtful of beating my PR of 4:22.

Looking forward to the last 5 weeks of training!

Written by SCL

September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

Course change at New York City Marathon?

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While reading this season’s issue of New York Runner (Fall 2009), the periodic publication of New York Road Runners, came across an interesting tidbit in an article about the upcoming New York City Marathon:

“This year, a few adjustments – including a new placement of the start on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and an expanded loop in the Bronx – will make the route faster and more exciting than ever.”

Not sure exactly what the change is, and how it would make the race ‘faster’, but the race could certainly benefit from having the start line higher up the bridge, so more of the participants can get up on the roadway before the horn sounds.  It would also make for a slightly shorter trip up the bridge.  I honestly can’t see them moving the start too far up the bridge, so that would only allow for a slightly longer course in the Bronx.

This must be a late breaking change, since the map published in the handbook is identical to the map published last year.   Over Willis Ave Bridge, left on 135th, right on Alexander Ave, left on 138th, directly to Madison Ave Bridge.  The marathon website doesn’t get down to street level details in the map.  Personally, I would rather see them straighten out the Queens portion of the race, which is quite a bit circuitous, to expand the Bronx portion, but, we’ll just have to wait and see for the specifics.

UPDATE: Some details have emerged.

Written by SCL

September 27, 2009 at 7:31 pm

NYC Marathon Tune Up

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My New York City Marathon training is going really well so far.  My older nagging injuries (groin pain and knee tendonitis) have gone away.  The strong back spasm I suffered after the NYC Triathlon is all better as well.  I’ve already even gotten over the typical fall cold, sinus infection.  Finally, the weather is cooperating now (hot, humid days mostly gone), and so I can finally just focus on running without distractions.  Well, I did have a minor issue this week, poison ivy!  I (apparently) mishandled some of it last weekend, and have several rashes, some bad, on my legs and arms.  Not quite as itchy now, but it will still probably be a week till it all goes away.  It has not really affected my running though…

Last weekend I ran 17.5 miles, so also getting the mileage up there as well.  Followed that up with 3 runs so far this week totaling 14.5 miles, although my 6.5 mile run last night felt very sluggish, and I could feel some shin tightness in my right leg.  Gotta keep an eye on that.

Now, time to turn my attention to my race on Sunday, the NYC Marathon Tune Up 18 mile race in Central Park.  It will be a tough race, 3 full loops around Central Park, and, the forecast is for rain.  But, it is a great (fantastic even) marker of where I am in training.  It is great to have a long run, in race conditions, with hills, etc.  So much better than a self regulated long run in the streets.  I would really like to finish in under 3 hours, which is definitely within reach.  Worst case, I think I could do 57 min in first loop, 59 in second loop and third loop in under 1:03.

Beyond this weekend, I have long runs planned each of the next 3 weekends, and then the Nike Human Race the weekend before the marathon, so, I’m keeping busy!

Written by SCL

September 25, 2009 at 6:19 am

Autopilot

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Went out for a 4 mile run yesterday, and I definitely got the ‘autopilot’ feeling.  The one where running feels very fluid, very consistent, and feeling like I could run for miles.  I don’t get there too often, but really enjoy it. 

My autopilot pace felt like around 9:30 per mile.  Hope I can continue to hit that as I enter the late stages of NYC Marathon training.  Would be great if I could maintain that for awhile (15 miles?) in the marathon.  Eventually it will start degenerating into 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, etc. 

Sunday’s 18 mile race in Central Park will be a great test.  Race conditions, and hills!  Wonder how long I can keep to 9:30 pace.

Written by SCL

September 22, 2009 at 11:29 am