4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Flat Marathon – no thank you

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Advertisements

Written by SCL

January 22, 2012 at 7:08 pm

2011 Highlights – Part 2

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by SCL

January 21, 2012 at 9:29 pm

Speed training and cold weather

leave a comment »

This is the week of the year that I am always the most excited about running.  The start of the new year always invigorates me to do more and better, despite the cold temperatures.  Therefore, I typically sign up for speed work in Jan.  In fact, and this will be the subject of my next planned blog post, January is the month of the year in which I’ve logged the most cumulative miles, at least over the last 13 years of my running log…

I love my Excel running log, and sometimes I can get lost in it.  Tonight is the first session of the NYRR speed training class that I’ll be taking, which runs for the next 10 weeks.  My log tells me that this will be my 20th NYRR speed class session since 1/1/1999, and my 11th time taking the session in Jan out of the last 13 years!  I skipped 2011 because I was a bit burned out after training for a Jan marathon.  I’m not quite sure why I skipped 2003.  It most like was due to injury (?) as 2003 was my lowest running year on record with 123.2 miles.  I think that was the year I had a nasty case of plantar fasciitis that year that took months to heal.  Or was it the year I had patellar tendinitis?  Who knows anymore…

Anyway, my interest today was in the weather.  I can’t help myself, as a recovering numbers AND weather geek!  It has been interesting to see so many people comment on Twitter on both the exceptionally warm weather we had over New Years (highs in the low 50s), and the exceptionally cold weather we are having today, 20s and dropping. 

I took a look at the weather conditions for the first day of the Jan speed session I attended over the years, and was not so surprised to find it is pretty evenly split between cold, normal and hot:

  1. 1-4-00 – 55 – rain
  2. 1-2-01 – 21/2
  3. 1-8-02 – 34 / 26
  4. 1-6-04 – 28 / 22
  5. 1-4-05 – 48
  6. 1-3-06 – 35 – fr rain
  7. 1-4-07 – 55
  8. 1-8-08 – 57
  9. 1-6-09 – 31 / 25 – fr rain
  10. 1-5-10 – 27 / 15

Four times over 45 degrees, three times under 30 degrees, and three right in the 30s.  Tonite will certainly compete for coldest yet, as the temperatures might get below 21, but it is not very windy and so the wind chill should stay above the 2 degrees it was in 2001.

Written by SCL

January 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

2011 Highlights – Part 1

with 2 comments

Hi, it’s me!  Been a long time since I posted anything of substance.  Now that we are at year-end, figured I’d try to put some updates out here.  Isn’t that what all the cool kids are doing these days?

In this post, rather than bore you with lists of details of what I did, didn’t do, and want to do, I’m highlighting a particular accomplishment I am very proud of, which is participating in 16 races.  Yes, on the face, that’s a nice accomplishment, and something I’m happy about, but even more importantly, only one of those races (Brooklyn Half Marathon) was organized by New York Road Runners.  While they once were a staple of the race scene for me, times have certainly changed and I am just not interested in their races, for a number of reasons many of you are aware of, such as fewer races on the calendar, huge numbers of participants, race caps which creates inflated demand, among others.

For me, races are so much fun, and the motivation for all the training I do during the year.  Without races to look forward to, my training would most certainly dip significantly.  I know we all refer to them as ‘races’, but the reality is that I’m not a ‘racer’.  I’m out there to have fun, complete the distance, and depending on where I am with my training that day, if the result is a fast time or a PR, that’s just icing on the cake.

I (sort of) managed only a single running PR this year, which was at a 4 mile race by Long Island Road Runners on 3/6 which I completed in 34:03.  I say sort of because my old PR, set in Central Park on 4/9/2000, was in the days before we had chip timing.  My official time in that race in 2000 was 34:23, but the fact is that it took me 22 seconds to cross the start line that day, which I recorded on my Timex.  My net time was therefore 34:01, but in those days, net time was not officially measured.

EDIT: Sorry, after double checking some more, I see I also set a PR at the unusual 8k distance, which I had only raced once before, way back in 1998!

Here are my 2011 races, and where applicable, the host:

  1. 1/9 – First Light Marathon
  2. 2/12 – Cupid’s Chase 5k NYC
  3. 3/6 – LIRRC 5 Miler (Long Island Road Runner Club)
  4. 3/27 – March Madness Biathlon (New York Triathlon Club)
  5. 4/2 – 13.1 New York
  6. 4/10 – Tough Mudder PA
  7. 5/1 – Flying Pig Marathon
  8. 5/15 – Red Bank Triathlon (Sandy Hookers)
  9. 5/21 – Brooklyn Half Marathon (New York Road Runners)
  10. 7/27 – Fla-Vor-Ice 5k (NYC Runs)
  11. 9/10 – East River Park 5k (NYC Runs)
  12. 9/11 – War at the Shore Triathlon (Sandy Hookers)
  13. 9/18 – Yonkers Half Marathon (NYC Runs)
  14. 10/25 – Roosevelt Island 5k (NYC Runs)
  15. 11/27 – Duck Run 8k (Long Island Road Runners Club)
  16. 12/10 – Rehoboth Beach Marathon

I really spread things out, with three marathons, four 5ks, two triathlons, a duathlon, and numerous ‘small’ events, which I find I enjoy much more than the behemoth NYRR events.

16 races in the year equals my total from 2001, and is my 2nd highest yearly race total ever.  The prize for most races in a year is awarded to the year 2000, when I ran 20 races.  Of those 20 races, 19 were organized by New York Road Runners.  I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that currently runs 19 NYRR races in a year due to some of the reasons already mentioned, but I’m sure it was quite common in the past.

I’m really happy to see NYC Runs emerge as another option here in NYC.  I ran 4 of their races last year, and expect to run even more of them in the coming year.

In 2012, I already got my first race out of the way earlier today, and am looking forward to planning out another jam packed schedule.

For more info on my career race history, check out my Race Results page!

Written by SCL

January 1, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Reflections

HRM

with one comment

Yesterday I ran a 5k race in East River Park, finishing in 29:56.  I typically run 5k’s quite a bit faster, but I’ll take it, and am satisfied considering I’m still returning from injury.  Today I raced the War at the Shore triathlon at Long Branch, NJ.  It was a ton of fun, but really difficult because the ocean (swim) was roaring today, and I had to deal with rain and winds on the bike and run.  I finished in 2:20:26, which I’m satisfied with, and served as a great tune up for Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains, which is in 3 weeks.

As nice as these races were, I was more satisfied by what my watch told me my heart rate was during those efforts.  You see, ever since the Flying Pig Marathon on May 1, my watch / heart rate monitor was telling me that was heart rate was sometimes dangerously high.  I was seeing HR spikes during my workouts that were abnormally high.  It would spike at a high number and then go down to a normal number, for no obvious reason at all.  I was pretty sure it was on the fritz because sometimes the watch would report 200+ when I wasn’t even running, it would sometimes show a very high number when I ran at an easy conversational pace, and because my own personal test of my pulse during workouts did not agree with my watch was telling me.

It took me so long to confirm the non-issue because at first I was injured and stopped running, and second I was in a little bit of denial because when I started running again, I knew I was out of shape, and it was the summertime where my HR tends to be higher.  In the beginning, before it kept getting worse and worse, I thought that what the watch was telling me was reality.  Lastly, I balked at buying a replacement strap for my watch because it costs over $50, and I just didn’t want to spend the money.

In my first effort at debunking the watch, I ran on the treadmill at my gym, where the equipment contains HRM’s.  However, once your pace goes over 4 MPH, the machine stops telling you your HR – I guess a safety feature.  In my second attempt, I actually Read The Manual for my watch, and it said you should run the strap through the wash if it seemed it was not reporting accurate numbers.  So, I did that, and then it would report normal numbers for the first part of my workout, before spiking high again.

Finally, with a half ironman triathlon coming up in a few weeks, I knew I needed to bite the bullet and just buy a new one to confirm for once and for all if I had a problem that warranted seeing my doctor.  So I did buy a new one, and it arrived on Friday.  During my races on Sat and Sun, my heart rate showed very normal and consistent numbers with no high spikes at all, and so I am now satisfied in seeing that I have nothing at all to worry about.

In reflection, I think I figured out what happened here.  On April 10th, I participated in the Tough Mudder, and let’s just say that both my watch and heart rate strap got down and dirty and ended up with a lot of caked in mud that day.  I suppose I damaged it permanently, as in my workouts soon after, I can see these odd spikes that were not happening earlier.

Anyway, I’m happy that I have a clean bill of heart rate health, and while I will continue to keep a close eye on this possible issue, I think I’m fully in the clear.

Written by SCL

September 11, 2011 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Reflections

Still here…

leave a comment »

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by SCL

September 1, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Construction disappointments

leave a comment »

I recently was looking at my blog entries from last year, and came across this positive gem, which included descriptions of several construction projects along my routes that had been making great progress or were completed.

Unfortunately, 2 of those projects, a year later, are still not done.  These are the expansion of the sidewalk down at the bottom part of the East River Greenway, approaching South Ferry, and the reconstruction of the promenade just south of the South Street Seaport.  These both seemed so close to completion last year, I cannot believe a year later we are still waiting.

I understand there are so many construction projects underway in the city, and construction of parks probably gets a lower priority, but just disappointing that we had to go the entire summer last year without enjoying them, and who knows how much longer it will take this year to get them done.  And on top of those, the promenade construction in East River Park continues at a snails pace.  Maybe this will be the year that gets finished up…

Written by SCL

April 8, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in Reflections