4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

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21 Days to the Chicago Marathon

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21 days to the Chicago Marathon!  And today I marked it by running 20 miles, my last long run before the big day.  Today was the 18 mile NYC Marathon Tune-Up race in Central Park.  I added 2 miles to the start of the race to get to 20.

No sugar-coating here, the run was rough.  I simply started having a rough time on the 2nd loop of the park, and then did a lot of walking in the 3rd loop.  The 18 mile race portion was finished in 3:15:54, although you won’t find it in the official results because I forgot to attach my D-tag! DOH!  This is the 4th time I’ve run this race, and my 2nd slowest.  It was more than 21 minutes slower than last year.  There were very good reasons why my time was slower, and so I completely accept the outcome:

  1. Last year was cooler and a little rainy, my favorite conditions
  2. Adding 2 miles to the start of the race means I was not starting completely fresh, and my performance thus started tailing off 2 miles sooner than it has in prior efforts
  3. On Friday night, I slept oddly on my left side, and my left shoulder and lower back were very stiff on Saturday and still not back to normal today.  As a result, my shoulders were a bit on the sore side, and my lower back barked a little bit, especially late in the race

I will simply hope for better on race day.  I do have to say though, last year I nailed this race and did better than I thought possible.  It ended up being the highlight/peak of my season, as my 10k race a few weeks later, and my NYC Marathon were disappointing.  Peaked too early.  I had a similar issue in 2007, a strong tune-up, and a less than stellar marathon.  So this time, rather than peaking too early, I plan to peak at just the right moment, on 10-10-10!

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Written by SCL

September 19, 2010 at 6:54 pm

New Jersey State Triathlon Race Report

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I raced in the olympic distance New Jersey State Triathlon on Sunday, which is held in Mercer County Park, in the south central part of the state, not too far from Princeton.  It is the largest triathlon in New Jersey, and is very well run.  They have a sprint on Sat and the olympic on Sunday, which keeps the overall number of participants down for each day.  There were 1350 sprint finishers and 913 olympic finishers.  I was 837 out of 913, and 100 out of 101 in my age group.  I lost 14 minutes with a flat tire on the bike, which cost me a good 60 places overall, and a couple of spots in my age group.  In all, really had a lot of fun in the race, despite having to swim with no wetsuit (which was frightening to me), getting a flat on the bike, and having to run in the extreme heat and humidity.  Would definitely do this race again!

Race started at 7:30am.  Left my house before 5am to arrive before 6am, to make sure I had plenty of time to get ready to go.

Swim – 50:17 – I am not a swimmer at all and never did an open water swim with no wetsuit.  Wetsuits were not allowed as the water temperature was 86 degrees.  I was very slow, and kept getting asked by the lifeguards if I was OK!  Got passed by many waves behind me.  But slow and steady does get it done, and I was surprisingly not last out of the water, a good 35-40 people were slower than me

T1 – 3:41 – with no wetsuit, transition time was much faster than previous races!

Bike – 1:40:39 – at 25.5 miles, was actually longer than the typical 40k of an olympic distance bike ride.  As mentioned, I lost 14 minutes with a flat tire.  Boo!  Otherwise the ride was great.  I averaged 18 MPH on the flat course and was happy with it.

T2 – 2:10 – scarfed down an entire sports bottle of Gatorade and took my time getting things done

Run – 1:15:11 –  the run was simply brutal.  The temps were up to about 90 degrees and the dewpoint was pretty high in the upper 60’s.  There was also a lot of sunshine.  While the run course had shady places, about half of it was in the sun.  Did a lot of walking.  There were thankfully plenty of water stops, and at some of them, they managed to have cold water.  Some also had ice, and at 4.7 miles, they had towels dipped in ice cold water, which was amazing, and helped me run much of the last 1.5 miles into the finish.  As horrible as the run felt to me, and as slow as it seemed, this was my best placing in the individual events.  I finished 717 on the run so outran most everyone that was at the back of the pack like me.  In fact, way more than half of the field took longer than 1 hour to run the 10k, which gives you an indication of how rough it was.

Overall time – 3:51:55

In summary, really enjoyed this race, my 2nd olympic distance tri and 5th overall.  I have room to improve in all areas, and am looking forward to my next tri, on Oct 3, in Red Bank NJ.

Written by SCL

July 27, 2010 at 6:45 am

Posted in Race Report, triathlon

Providence Rhode Races Report

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(2 months late, but better late than never.  The reality is that I was not happy with how I did and was simply not excited to write about the race.  The first section was written in the 2 weeks following the race)
  • Time – 4:46:29
  • Place – 696/948
  • Age Group – 152/192

Well, this is not the type of report I thought I would be writing.  On Sunday, on immediate reflection, I was happy with my finishing time.  The day was humid and warm, and the sun was strong.  The water stops were sparse and the course was not exciting.  Given that, my time was respectable.

However, after stewing on it for a couple of days, I’m finding that I’m really unhappy with how I did.  I’m coming away from this event with more drive and interest in properly getting it done next time.  In fact, it was in the late stages of the race, trudging through the tough late miles, that I finally realized why I keep coming back for more. (this was my 12th marathon)  This is the only distance, so far, that I have not been able to ‘defeat’.  I clearly can race short distance events, and can even ‘race’ a half marathon.  I can run a half marathon where my fastest miles are the last 2.  However, I constantly feel like I’m getting ‘defeated’ at the marathon distance, by not being able to properly finish the race by running well in the last 10k, or not taking significant walk breaks, like I had to do on Sunday starting at the 15 mile mark.

I will be focusing on tri’s over the next 2 months, and then I can’t wait to hit the training hard for my next marathon.  I think I will try to run less, but make them more intense efforts.  I think adding more intensity to my routine workouts will enable me to race deeper into the events.  We will see, and I’m excited about the challenge.  Anyway, on to my report…


I left the above intact as it is my raw reaction to how the race went in the days after I ran it.  I can recognize the troubles from that day as simply just having a hard time in the humidity.  I’ve been dealing with it daily over the last month here in NYC where the heat and humidity has been out of control this summer.

Since so much time has gone by, I’ll just list some highlights of the day and the race

  • Love out of town races where I stay in a hotel that is close to the race site.  Stayed within a 5 minute walk to the start area, so was able to sleep in, relatively speaking, compared to other marathons I’ve done.
  • Start area was very informal, and it was great to hear Ian Brooks as the pre race announcer.  Over the years, he has been the announcer at many NYRR races, and the familiar voice was quite settling.
  • Was feeling strong in the early miles.  While it was a humid day, the early temps were not super hot.  I got messed up a little because I thought the race was relatively flat, but there ended up being a few unexpected hills in the early miles.  I confused a medium hill at the 4-5 mile spot with the larger hill that we wouldn’t hit until the 7-8 mile range, and think I ended up working too hard on the hills, all told.
  • While it was an out and back course, it was done in such a way that you never really ended up mingling with people in other stages of the race.  Many of the miles were on great biking trails.  Providence really has some marvelous biking trails.
  • The wheels started coming off for me around mile 15.  Once we got to that stage, the sun started coming out, and the temps rose considerably.  It seemed like the back portion of the race was into the sun, and every time the sun came out, I just felt completely wilted, and lost all will to run.  Spent a lot of time walking the remainder of the race
  • That leads to the one real complaint I had, which was that there were not enough water stops, and in the later stages of the race, the Gatorade stops ran out of Gatorade.
  • Really enjoyed the camaraderie with other runners out on the course in the late stages.  We kept passing each other, as we were all walk/running, and having a hard time dealing with the heat.
  • They had a great post race spread, including beer and pizza!  Never was served a post-race beer before, so that was neat.  I did pass on the pizza though.  Maybe that was fine for the 5k and half marathon participants, but just thinking about pizza after that marathon made me feel sick!

Anyway, disappointed by my performance in this race, and looking forward to redeeming myself in future efforts.  I may not be able to get back to where I want to be by 10-10-10 for Chicago, but I’m planning to run First Light Marathon in January, and for that race I expect to be in tip-top shape, and beat my PR!

Here were my splits:

  1. 9:14
  2. 9:13
  3. 9:26
  4. 9:34
  5. 9:49
  6. 9:37
  7. 9:44
  8. 9:51
  9. 9:45
  10. 9:47
  11. 10:02
  12. 10:33
  13. 10:09
  14. 10:15
  15. 10:30
  16. 12:18
  17. 11:43
  18. 12:14
  19. 12:15
  20. 12:51
  21. 13:15
  22. 13:28
  23. 11:41
  24. no split here
  25. 24:20
  26. no split here
  27. 14:46 for last 1.2 miles

Written by SCL

July 20, 2010 at 9:59 pm

13.1 New York Race Report

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I’m usually good about at least getting the race reports up on my blog, but I’m behind – still have not written up the March Madness Biathlon from last weekend.  For another day, perhaps…

Yesterday was the inaugural 13.1 New York race.  I’ve had this on my radar since mid-August, when I purchased a pair of shoes at JackRabbit and first saw a postcard advertising the 13.1 race series.  The website had ZERO information about the New York race, but my interest was piqued, as I’m always looking for non-NYRR race opportunities in New York, and the half marathon has become one of my favorite race distances.

By NYC Marathon Expo, we had a location (Queens), and then over time we found out the date, exact location, and race course.  Signed up as soon as I figured out that I did not have a long run scheduled for this weekend in my training for the Providence Marathon.

I was definitely a bit concerned about the course existing solely in Flushing Meadow Park, thinking the park was not big enough, and that the narrow paths and turns would be a problem.  Turns out the park is REALLY big, and had no problem accommodating the course.  Yes it was crowded in the first mile, but once that cleared up, the course was clear enough, and very well marked with signs and road markings.  There were also plenty of water stops, with lots of water and Gatorade, with friendly, helpful, volunteers.

I again perfectly executed the pre-race strategy of getting things done before the masses, to get to the start line early.  Had some company this time, as I picked up Michelle on the way.  Good thing I had the extra time as I was under the impression that bag check was at the start, not the finish.  So, little bit of confusion, but got my bag checked before the masses, and used the bathroom before the masses, and got a nice spot at the start line.

I fully intended to not ‘race’ the distance.  I intend to shoot for a PR (1:56:42) at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, and for this one, I was thinking to finish just under 2 hours.  In the early miles, I realized that was not going to happen.  I could not maintain the necessary 9:09 pace.  I found that my comfortable pace was about 9:20-9:25 per mile, and settled into that pace.  Even that pace didn’t feel completely great, I think because I had run 5 of the previous 7 days and my legs simply didn’t feel fresh.  I know with a proper taper, I could probably go a little faster in the marathon, especially with another 2 hard weeks of training before my taper.  So, long story short, I was happy with 9:20-9:25 pace.

You can see from my splits below, my pace was very consistent.  Not quite sure what happened in mile 6 (slowest mile by far at 9:59), but besides that, my times were very consistent.  That is also what happens when the course is flat as a pancake, as this was.  Well, mostly flat with the exception of about 8 trips by small bridge over various highways that crisscross the park.

This ended up being a perfect practice run, I think, for the marathon in Providence, because that race is also mostly flat.  It was nice to settle into marathon race pace, and not have to worry about stopping at lights, dodging cars, stopping into bodegas to buy drinks, and to not have to carry my bottles of water or Gatorade.

Even though I wasn’t feeling perfect, I had enough in the tank to run the last mile in 8:32.  The medal they gave at the end was really nice, and they also had a nice spread of food, and a great party.  All in all, a great time, and I hope they continue with another race next year.

My official time was 2:01:52, which ranks 8th fastest out of 32.

834 / 2103 – overall
528 / 923 – male
99 / 158 – age group

  • Mile 1 – 9:01
  • Mile 2 – 9:15
  • Mile 3 – 9:22
  • Mile 4 – 9:25
  • Mile 5 – 9:25
  • Mile 6 – 9:59
  • Mile 7 – 9:18
  • Mile 8 – 9:37
  • Mile 9 – 9:06
  • Mile 10 – 9:22
  • Mile 11 – 9:11
  • Mile 12 – 9:24
  • Mile 13 – 8:32
  • Mile 13.1 – :49

4 weeks to Rhode Races!

Written by SCL

April 4, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Coogan’s Salsa Blues and Shamrock 5k Race Report

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Ran one of my favorite races today, Coogan’s Salsa, Blues & Shamrocks 5k.  It is loads of fun, from getting to tour around and hang out at the amazing Armory on 168th, to the electric atmosphere out on the streets, to the many many kids running on the course.  The only downer on this race are the multiple hills to endure.  Every time I run this race, I forget a bit about how bad the hills are, and then surprise myself how well I perform on them.  This year was no exception!

Last year, I set a PR, finishing in 24:47.  In fact, I also set one on this course in 2007, 25:34.  The reality is that I don’t have many 5k opportunities, and so this being really the only non cross country 5k course I’ve run since 2001, I am able to PR it even though it is very challenging.

This race tends to be on the chilly side, but today was really nice, and warm in the sun, and seemingly no wind.  Perfect conditions for a PR.  I again perfectly executed the race day logistics.  First, was able to find a parking spot on 181, near where I was planning to go to brunch.  Then, made it to the Armory to get my number before it got insane.  Then, used the bathroom and checked my bag before they got insane as well.

Was lined up in my corral by 8:40.  I really hate to complain about anything about this day, but I do have to stop and complain about the corral setup.  First, at 8:40 AM, 20 minutes before race time, they were only just trying to put up the tape that separated one corral from another, while tons of runners were already milling around.  Second, The corral entrances were very confusing, especially at the 2000 and 3000, where I was.  Nobody seemed to know exactly where to go.  Third, there did not seem to be any volunteers at the corrals.  And finally, there was no effort at all to keep slow people out of the up front corrals, and many slow runners were up front, who I had to dodge and weave around in the first mile.

OK, that said, I loved the experience, even with the dodging and weaving necessary in mile 1.  I thought long and hard about my race strategy, even writing up some notes for Michelle as it was her first time on the course, and I even read my blog post from last year to help remind me how it goes, and get myself mentally into the flow.  I was putting everything possible into my own mental preparation to go for the PR.

I’ll just give you the high level blow-by-blow of the race.  For me, the interesting details are in the preparation, and not in the delivery.  That said, in terms of highlights, mile 1 was rough because of the weaving about, but held back a little and tried to stay consistent – 8:00.  In mile 2, the course opened up and I was able to focus on form and pace.  First a long downhill into Fort Tryon park, and then a long downhill uphill out.  Stayed within myself, but pushed the uphill – 7:57.  Mile 3 is where the rubber hits the road.  Uphill continues out of the park, then downhill, then a nasty 4 block uphill halfway through.  Last half mile is downhill, and I gave it all I got – 7:44.  Last .1 was .43, for a finishing time of 24:27, a new PR by 20 seconds!

Afterwards, had a nice brunch with Michelle, and Amy and her husband Dave.  They walked us over afterwards to an amazing overlook of the Hudson River, palisades area, and GW Bridge.  In fact, it is the spot where there was a giant landslide in 2005, almost 5 years ago, and apparently just finally now all fixed up.

Anyway, great race, and looking forward to running it again next year, and bringing my PR time down again!

Time – 24:26

Pace – 7:52

Overall – 1529 / 5629

Age Group – 221 / 502

Written by SCL

March 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm

Posted in Race Report

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Cherry Tree 10 Mile Race Report

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Yesterday was the Cherry Tree 10 mile race, 3 loops around Prospect Park, organized by the Prospect Park Track Club.  This was originally not on my radar, because I’m deep in marathon training, and I knew this race was at the tail end of a vacation I was taking in California.  However, once I realized the race was Sunday, and I was flying in on Friday night, I convinced myself that the 10 mile race is a perfect opportunity to practice race conditions and signed right up.  The race also offers a relay option, which looked like a lot of fun – teams of three where each person runs 1 loop of the park.

First off, in terms of goal, I fully expected to PR this race.  I had only ever run 3 races at the 10 mile distance, and my PR was set way back in 2002, at 1:31:54.  Considering that time is 9:15 pace, and I just recently completed the Manhattan Half Marathon in 9:05 pace, I would have been upset if I didn’t PR.  Considering this race was 3 miles shorter, and an easier course (besides the big hill heading up to Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park is really not that bad), I wanted to get my pace under 9:00, and finish sub 1:30.

Few really nice things about this race.  First, the 10am start time.  Most NYRR races these days start at 8am, or earlier for some of the long ones, so I really appreciated the extra time to get out there.  Also, number pickup, bag check, and post race spread, was indoors at Bishop Ford HS, a 10 minute walk from the start.  Plenty of parking at the school.  This made for a very relaxing, and WARM, time in getting ready for the race and unwinding at the end.  They even offered massages afterwards.  The final nice thing about this race is the small field.  There were less than 1000 participants, much smaller than any NYRR event, most of which fill out at 5000 people.  The Haiti run this weekend had no cap, and over 9000 finishers.  OMG, holy traffic jam!  So, overall, this was a fantastic experience.  Having a school to go to after the race for bagels and hot chocolate reminded me of the good ole days when NYRR used to do this for all of the winter races.  Those days are long gone, so this is a great throwback.

Pre race, I was having flashbacks to October, when I ran the Nike Human Race.  It had a similar start position in the park, and so the first 6 miles would be a great approximation of how much improvement I’ve had since then.  On that day, I went out way too fast in the first mile, suffered shin splits, and had a rough race, finishing in 58:52, or 9:26 pace.  I was clearly not looking for a repeat performance.

On to the race itself.  I was able to get pretty close up to the front and so had ZERO congestion at the start of the race.  Again, I found myself running a very strong first mile, TOO strong.  Mile 1 was 8:34.  I know full well that I cannot sustain that pace over 9 miles and so tried to dial it back.  Once I came around to the start area again, I realized that the start line is on a downhill.  That probably explains why mile 1, twice in a row, was too fast.

This time, luckily, my shins cooperated and did not flare up.  Slowed the pace to 8:54 and 9:00 in the next 2 miles.  I really wanted to keep the miles in the 9:00-9:10 range, hoping that I’d be able to run a couple of stronger miles at the end to get me in under 1:30.  It did work out that way.  You can see that mile 5, 6, and 7 were very consistent.  Mile 9 was the slowest, but this included the 3rd time up the big hill, so perfectly understandable. At mile 9, I was at 1:21, so knew I had 1:30 in the bag, only needing a 9:00 final mile.  The last mile had lots of downhill, and with a little pushing, pulled off a strong 8:23, my fastest mile.  Finishing time was 1:29:19, a 8:56 pace.

  • Mile 1 – 8:34
  • Mile 2 – 8:54
  • Mile 3 – 9:00
  • Mile 4 – 8:45
  • Mile 5 – 9:06
  • Mile 6 – 9:11
  • Mile 7 – 9:11
  • Mile 8 – 8:56
  • Mile 9 – 9:16
  • Mile 10 – 8:23

My time of 1:29:19 was good enough for 385 out of 736 finishers, so close to 50th percentile!

Happy to add another PR to the record book, my first since Coogan’s 5K, almost a year ago.

On another note, patiently awaiting my Daily Mile tech tee shirt!  There were a few DailyMilers out there, and if we had shirts to wear, would make it easier to spot each other!  Maybe it will show before Coogan’s in 2 weeks.  One can dream…

Written by SCL

February 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Race Report

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Manhattan Half Marathon Race Report

with 6 comments

Yesterday was the Manhattan Half Marathon, 2 loops of Central Park, and the kick off of the five borough NYRR grand prix of half marathons in NYC.  Half marathons in Central Park are very tough, 2 full loops of the park, but this was my 8th (3 Grete’s, 5 Manhattan halves) so I knew exactly what I was in for.  As predicted earlier in the week, I did not see a PR in this race, and was predicting a finish between 1:59 and 2:00.  A month ago, I would not have thought sub 2-hours was possible, but I’ve been working really hard, putting in lots of miles (for me), and had a great start to speedwork in Jan, and so I felt I was ready for sub 2-hours.

Last year I ran the race, but didn’t ‘race’ it, (race report here) as I was planning to add on miles afterwards.  Turns out I didn’t because it was freezing cold that day.  But 2 years ago, I did race it, and surprised myself by running under 2 hours.  I felt like I’m as well, or better, trained now than I was 2 years ago, so my real goal was to beat that time from 2 years ago, which turned out (I found out afterwards) to be 1:59:05.  It requires a very smart effort.  It is very easy, on this course, to lose it in the 2nd half, so my goal was to keep within a comfortable, but strong pace, the first loop, and then push as I felt possible in the second loop.  2 hours is 9:09 pace, so at each mile marker, I’d be able to gauge where I was.

Was really a great day for racing.  37 degrees, although humid and overcast, and very little wind.  At the last minute, I decided on lightweight long-sleeve shirt, and no gloves or winter hat, just regular cap.  I was very comfortable, although started getting a little cold in the 2nd half when there was no sun, and the temps did not rise at all.  Was at the park around 7:15, and had just enough time to use the bathrooms, change, go through my preparations, check my bag, and get to the corral with 10 mins to spare.

At 8am, we were off!  I did get caught up in the race excitement to start and found that mile 1 was 8:55, too fast.  Was hoping that my comfortable pace would be around 9:10, with gas in the tank to push the last miles to ensure sub 2-hours.  Fast early miles would not help.  Slowed a little for mile 2 (although that mile has cat hill) and then evened out in mile 3.  Mile 4 has the Harlem Hill upswing, and a crowded water stop with Gatorade.  Combined, those caused the slowest mile yet at 9:31.  However, made that time up on the long downhill on the West side into mile 6, and completed the first loop in 55:04, which was ever so slightly over my goal, but very close, and I was feeling good.

  • Mile 1 – 8:55
  • Mile 2 – 9:18
  • Mile 3 – 9:11
  • Mile 4 – 9:31
  • Mile 5 – 9:10
  • Mile 6 – 8:56

In loop 2, tried to keep the same consistent pace, but push a little in spots where it felt right.  First 3 miles of the loop were very consistent, but right at my goal pace, didn’t make up any ground here.  Then, mile 10, which has the same Harlem Hill and important water stop as mile 4, was done again in 9:31 (hows that for consistency!).  I panicked a little at that point.  At mile 10, I figured I was about 30 seconds BEHIND my 2:00 goal, and thus 90 seconds behind 1:59, and thought it was time to start pushing hard.  In mile 11, you have the rolling hills of the west side, and I pushed up each of the hills, finishing the mile in 8:47.  Mile 12 is mostly downhill, and as I was able to maintain the same pace as mile 11, but with less effort, using the hill to save something for the last mile.  Mile 12 was 8:37.  At that point, I knew 2-hours was in the bag, but, I really wanted to beat my 2008 time, and would be awesome to finish under 1:59.  Mile 13 was very tough.  There are uphill and downhill sections, and I tried to use every one to my advantage.  Last quarter mile is on a downhill and found the last bit of gas to push it hard.  Mile 13 was 8:37!

  • Mile 7 – 9:07
  • Mile 8 – 9:10
  • Mile 9 – 9:09
  • Mile 10 – 9:31
  • Mile 11 – 8:47
  • Mile 12 – 8:37
  • Mile 13 – 8:37
  • Mile 13.1 – :46

Crossed the finish with an official time of 1:58:54!  6 seconds faster than my predicted 1:59, and 11 seconds faster than my course PR, set 2 years ago.

I was very happy with the effort in this race, executed exactly as planned, and I am excited about the prospects of setting a half marathon PR later in the year.  In 2008, when I ran 1:59:05 in Manhattan, I then beat 1:57 both in Bronx and Brooklyn in the upcoming months.

In a final summary, this was a strong negative split.  Last 6 miles were finished in 53:43, more than a minute faster than the first 6 miles!  Also, this was my 4th fastest half marathon ever, out of 31!

Written by SCL

January 25, 2010 at 6:48 am

Posted in Race Report, running

Fred Lebow Classic Race Report

with 3 comments

Today was the Fred Lebow Classic, 5 mile race in Central Park.  It was also my birthday!  I won’t repeat my thoughts on this wonderful race, you can read the first part of my race report from last year for that.

First, a view of my long history with this race:

My first was the first year the race was held, in 1995, and this was my 12th out of 16 years!

With all the troubles I’ve had in the last months of 2009, I knew I would not be able to approach the PR I set last year of 41.24, 8:16 pace.  But, with the great effort in Dec, and nice speed session this past week, I was hopeful I could finish in 42:30, or 8:30 pace.  You can see from the picture above that this did not happen, but I was very close, and I am satisfied with the effort.

I’ll go back to the beginning.  Was up at 5:30, dressed in my race layers including 3 tops and 2 tights.  Threw on a couple of jackets for good measure.  Packed my sneaks, running hat, gloves, etc and headed out the door around 6:20.  For a Sunday race, I would pick up my race number ahead of time, giving me some extra time to get to the race, but this was a Saturday race and I didn’t have time to get my number earlier in the week.  This meant I needed to stop by the NYRR office before heading up to the race start.  Even with said stop, everything went quicker than planned and I was in the start area by 7:05am.  Took this picture of the start line.  Just loved the flags flying and the sun coming up beyond the horizon.

Wandered around the start area, used the bathroom before they got too crowded, pinned my number, attached my D-Tag, changed my necessary clothes, and check my bag in the cluster&uck known as the bag check.

Actually, the bag check was completely ridiculous.  The bag check itself was fairly narrow, only using half of the 102nd St entrance roadway.  The other half was completely closed off.  Also, they were only letting people out on the East side of the check so there was a massive line of people trying to get into the narrow space to check their bag, and an equally massive line of people trying to get out, in the same place, to get to the start line.  Very poor logistics, as far as I’m concerned.  I don’t know how it could have been done better, but I know it was NO GOOD.  And I was checking my bag 20 minutes before race start, which I know was earlier than most people in the race.

Even with the bag check delay, I was in my corral with a good 10 minutes to spare.  Speaking of the corrals, I actually had a number in the 2000 range, putting me in the 3rd corral.  I think this is the first time I was that low.  It was nice to get that much closer to the start!

Shortly before 8am, Mary Wittenberg talked about Fred, introduced the singer for the Star Spangled Banner, which was played, and then we were off!

Tried to take it easy in the first mile.  Since I was pretty close to the start, it was not that crowded.  It was so cold my toes and nose felt frozen.  I knew they would thaw as the race wore on.  We hit the west side and I tried to push up the hills and recover on the downhills.  Felt pretty good, until the toes on my right foot started thawing and I realized my right shin was bothering me.  Ruh Roh.  Wasn’t horrible, so just continued to run through it.

Made it easily through the hills on the West side, but it wasn’t enough to loosen up my shin.  My shin tends to loosen up on uphills, and get worse on downhills, and I had run out of uphills, at least for the moment.  Again, although bothering me, I was able to continue to run through it.  However, my splits were a little slower than I wanted, 8:50 and 8:40.  I knew after 2 miles that 42:30 was out of reach, but pressed on to see how close I could get.

Took it easy on the downhills on the west side so I would not further aggravate the shin.  Finally, got around the bottom of the park and started hitting the uphills again.  This is where the shin started to loosen up to the point where it was not a problem at all.  Mile 3 seemed to go by really fast, although my time was still on the slow side, 8:52.  Mile 4 is where I really turned it up, and was able to breeze up cat hill.  Kept pushing hard in mile 5, especially in the last quarter mile with all the downhills.  Splits here were 8:33 and 8:16.  Finished with 43:15, only :45 behind my goal.

After that, stuck around to cheer the rest of the runners through the finish line.  All in all, very happy with the race and effort.  And then proceeded to have a great birthday.

Next race is Manhattan Half Marathon, where I fully expect sub 2 hours…

Written by SCL

January 10, 2010 at 12:11 am

Posted in Race Report, running

New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

with 4 comments

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 Race Report – Part I

with 6 comments

Wow, hard to believe another year has gone by and another New York City Marathon has also come and past.  This is the third year in a row that I ran, and my 7th NYC since 1996.  As I’ve also run in 4 other marathons, this was my 11th overall.

My goal, of course, was 4:30, obtained at the Austin Marathon in Feb, 4:22, in friendly conditions (downhill, wind at back for much of last 8 miles).  Last year in NYC, I just missed out, finishing in 4:31:xx.  Even though I had put in lots of miles, in fact, more miles in the 12 weeks before this race than any other marathon previously, I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t really have it in me to finish in 4:30 (outlined here).  In many ways I had a great race and a great time, which you’ll see here, but, at the end of the day, I started coming apart in mile 19 or so, and totally lost it after 21 miles.  But, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

I was in the 3rd wave this year, which meant I’d have a 10:20am start time.  I was also assigned to the Staten Island Ferry, as transportation to the start.  Although I could actually take advantage of the ferry and get a much later start than in years past, I just found myself so jumpy and nervous about the race, that I ended up getting almost as early a start as I have in years past.  Was up at 4:30, out the door by 5:15, and at the ferry in time for the 5:45 ferry.  Ferry was not super crowded, certainly less crowded than a typical weekday or weekend trip, and everything was well organized.  Took awhile between the ferry ride and the shuttle bus to the start area, but eventually we were dropped off in a HUGE line of people trying to get into the fort.  Line moved slowly and steadily, delay was essentially a cursory bag check, and then we were in the fort!

First job was just to scout around.  Find my corral in the blue start, find the food, all the bathroom lines, etc.  First thing I noticed was that even though the orange and blue corrals are right next to each other, you cannot get through from one to the other.  That worked out nicely for us as there were a ton of port-o-sans in the area that would prove to never get very crowded.  This was my first blue start, Alberto Salazar Village, and I thought it was the best organized of the bunch.  Very large open concrete (key) space right next to the corrals with all the food and drink stations, and then another large tent area further away, again with all the food and drink stations and port-o-sans.  Passed the time with a careful eating strategy, changed into my race clothes and shoes, and checked my bag at around 8:30.  Was not terribly cold out with temps forecasted in the 50’s, so decided to go with short sleeve top and shorts.  With 2 hours to kill, mostly standing around, went with a throwaway long sleeve t-shirt and shell jacket, the kind they sell at the expo.  Spent much of the rest of the time walking around, using the bathrooms, eating, and just watching the insanity at the corrals.

I have to say the corrals seemed much better staffed this year than last.  Last year, it seemed that it there were mostly high school age girls trying to keep the peace, and that was not working.  Or, perhaps, they do a better job with the blue corrals than the green corrals?  In the blue corrals this year, there were big guys from the US Coast Guard trying to keep order.  That still didn’t stop people from rushing the corrals, jumping the fences (much higher than last year by the way) or otherwise loudly complaining about the injustice of their not being allowed in, when they were in fact LATE.  I really find it amazing how people can not take enough self interest in where they need to go or need to be to get themselves to the assigned place on time.  And I have no sympathy for the people that wait until the last minute to go to the race, check their bag, and try to find their place.  This is the NYC Marathon, with 43,000 participants, not some rinky dink 1000 person race where you can waltz right up at the last minute.  When will they learn??  I’ve seen in race reports that the green corrals were poorly done, but in the blue, everything seemed well organized, and everyone that showed up on time made it to the proper wave.

As for myself, I was in the 2nd corral of the 3rd wave.  Even in my corral, after wave 2 had completely gone by, there were many people trying to rush the front of the 3rd wave to catch up.  Even through the gates were completely closed, and those people were completely late, having already missed the cannon, these people were still completely unruly, threatening and downright ugly towards the volunteers trying to keep everything nice and orderly and safe for the rest of us.  Finally, about 5 minutes before the start, they allowed us to walk up to the start line.  After a few turns around a maze of buses parked in the toll plaza, we were in front of the start line!  I had worked my way up most of the way through the first corral of people and was about 5 rows deep from the start line!  Right in front of the place where the announcer guy was doing his thing from, and where a military lady sang God Bless America.  I was literally standing right under her while she sang.  When it was done, after a few short words, they moved us right up to the start, and the cannon boomed, and we were off!

This was my 7th NYC Marathon, and this start will be one to never forget.  It was as if I was in the lead pack going up the bridge.  It was a truly awesome experience.  Since most people in wave 3, presumably, are not faster than 9 min per mile pace (slowest third of the participants, the lead group didn’t even break away from me that quickly.  Virtually all the way up the bridge, I could clearly see the empty bridge ahead, and the running lanes were not very crowded.  It was a great experience.  Unfortunately though, it was windy, really windy, almost directly a headwind, although slightly from the left side.  After a few minutes of fearing I might lose my hat, I took it off and carried it the entire length of the bridge.  Brightroom got 2 nice pictures of me holding my hat!

My goal was to try as much as possible to stay completely “within” myself for as long as possible, and not jump out to fast in the classic areas (bridge, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, 1st Ave).  A 4:30 marathon is approx 10:18 per mile.  My goal was to keep to 9:45’s or so for the first half.  Each mile clicked off in 9:45, or better, was 30+ seconds that I was ‘banking’ for late in the race, when my pace would most definitely slow down.  So, here, in the first mile, in the lead pack, with little in the way of crowds or obstructions, I tried very hard to hold back, and succeeded.  First mile was in 9:48, and then the 2nd mile, all downhill, was in a reasonable 9:05.  Then I settled into a nice easy 9:30-9:50 pace for the early miles.

Once we hit the 2nd mile, then the faster people behind me in the wave started to pass, and there were a lot of people passing me in the first 5-6 miles.  It did not feel crowded at all though, until we hit mile 4, which is where we merged with the green start.  In theory, the people in the green start are even slower than those in the blue start, and this was likely the case.  While we picked up an additional set of people at that merge, it still didn’t feel too crowded.  One thing that struck me in these miles is that this is where I was having so much trouble 2 weeks earlier, when I bagged on a 21 mile run, and went into the subway at 36th St, after only 13 miles.  On this day, continued breezing down 4th Ave, feeling great and having a grand ole time.  At this point, 4:30 felt totally possible.  I kept telling myself that I felt great and just needed to stay within myself and hold back.  However, the other voice in my head said that it is a long race, and of course you should be feeling great at this early point.  If you were feeling badly this early, then it would truly be a very long day.

At around mile 6, I noticed that I was starting to pass people, slow people, walkers.  Uh oh, this means we’ve caught up to the slower people from wave 2.  This would actually turn out to be an unexpected problem for a long time.  I wasn’t expecting to have to do the dodge and weave thing until much later on in the race.  I guess that is the worst part about being in wave 3.  When I was in wave 2 last year, I didn’t have that problem and didn’t have to worry about passing people, for the most part, until much later on in the race.  My last observation from this first third of the race was the improved merge section at mile 8.  This was slightly altered from years past, and made for a wider and more controlled merge.  Good job NYRR!

  • Mile 1 – 9:48
  • Mile 2 – 9:05
  • Mile 3 – 9:28
  • Mile 4 – 9:40
  • Mile 5 – 9:50
  • Mile 6 – 9:38
  • Mile 7 – 9:48
  • Mile 8 – 9:46

This next section is actually my favorite part of the race.  When you make that right turn at mile 8, onto Lafayette Ave, the nice controlled 4th Ave course turned into what seems like mass chaos!  The street is narrower, so the running lane is packed, and to top it off, the crowd is large and very wild and enthusiastic.  The whole section of Lafayette, from mile 8 to mile 9, mostly  uphill, mind you, just feels great.  The crowd gives some of the best vibes here and really makes for such an enjoyable experience.  Yes, the crowd is better in the last miles in Central Park, but by then, I’m so miserable I don’t really notice it.  Here, in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, in mile 8,9, I’m still feeling fresh, and able to fully experience, enjoy and embrace the power of the crowd.  I do have to remind myself to not push hard here and stay within myself.  The 9th mile, through this area, uphill, was 9:58, and right within what I would expect.

I continued to have very consistent and reasonable miles through this area.  Mile 11 was slower, but that was because I decided to take my first Gu at the 10 mile water stop, adding a good 30 seconds to my time.  Mile 13 was also on the slow side, but that was because I decided to take a bathroom stop here.  That probably added 30-40 seconds as well.  So even though I lost a minute between the Gu and bathroom, I was still cruising along, seemingly on autopilot, at 9:45-10 minutes per mile.  This is EXACTLY where I wanted to be, and I was very pleased, and happy with my race so far.  I still thought it was totally possible to finish in 4:30.  I crossed the halfway mark at 2:09:07, which meant I needed to do the 2nd half in 2:21, or about 10:50 per mile.


Written by SCL

November 10, 2009 at 12:07 am