4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

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13.1 New York Race Report

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This past Sunday was the 2nd annual 13.1 New York race, in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens.  For the 2nd year in a row I had a really nice time.  See last year’s report here.

I was heading into the race with low expectations, because my training has not been great, I was sick in the last 2 weeks and having a hard time getting back to 100%, and I’ve had a couple of nagging injuries in recent weeks.  That said, my goal is always to beat 2 hours, but I knew that was unrealistic.  I was also hoping to beat my time from last year, which was 2:01:52, but I knew that was also a bit of a stretch.  In the end, my realistic goal was 2:05, and so that was where I wanted to be.

The day was promising in terms of the weather.  Early in the morning, it was 39 degrees, with a bit of wind.  I was really undecided on what to wear.  I was thinking I could get away with shorts and short sleeve shirt, but I brought lots of extra clothes anyway, just in case.  I also brought my gloves and ear coverings, just in case.  At the last second, I grabbed a long sleeve cotton shirt, which I figured I’d be able to wear afterwards.

I got out to the park quickly, and was able to find the correct Citifield parking lot among the various constructions and road closures in the area.  I arrived more than an hour early, so had plenty of time for race prep.  I walked all the way around the trainyards to the start area, and then around the tennis center to get to the park proper, and the finish staging area.  It was a good 15 minute walk.  I used the restrooms twice, and then made a decision to go with tights, and a long sleeve tech shirt and a short sleeve tech shirt over.  But I decided to forgo the gloves and ear coverings.

Once finished up with the bathroom again, I headed for the gear check, AND COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EYES.  The line snaked all over the place, with hundreds of people in line, waiting to check their bag.  We still had 30 minutes to the start of the race, but I was not waiting on that line if not necessary.  And for me it was not necessary, since I had my car.  Unfortunately, the car was far away, but I had enough time to get to my car, drop my stuff, and make it to the start line with 5 mins to spare.  It was on the walk to the car when I realized I was overheating quickly, and not even running yet, so I decided to shed the heavy layers, and go instead with shorts and a short sleeve tech shirt.  I used the long sleeve cotton shirt as a throwaway, to stay warmer until the start.  Ultimately, I’d glad I made this decision.  For the most part I was plenty warm during the run as it was a very sunny day.  The only times it was a problem was when we were running into the wind.  Since the course had lots of changes in direction, when we were against the wind, it was never for long.  So for me, it all worked out.

On to the race itself.  My hopes were to start out at a 9:10 pace, and see if I could keep that pace easily.  I quickly saw that this would not be the case, as my splits, while consistent, were a bit too slow.  There was a lot of weaving around people in the first mile, as there was no structure to the start and a lot of slow people managed to get up front.  After 4 miles, I realized I was about a minute behind 2 hour pace and I didn’t feel like I’d be able to make it up.  From then on, I just tried to keep my miles under 9:30, which would keep me at under 2:05.

They did a great job with the water stops.  They were placed every mile, and each one had water and gatorade.  The volunteers were doing a great job, and they always had what I wanted.  I took a drink about every other mile, from mile 1 to mile 9.  I also took a Gu at mile 7.  You can see from my splits where I took my Gu, as it resulted in my slowest mile of the race, and the only mile slower than 10 mins.

In the late miles, I thought I had 2:05 in the bag, but at mile 11, I did the subtraction math and realized I miscalculated by FORGETTING ABOUT THE LAST .1 MILES!  Rookie mistake.  That meant I needed to make up a little time in the last 2 miles.  I was feeling good and so was confident I’d do it, but I really had to dig hard in both those last miles to push the pace.  The last mile was my fastest, at 8:56, which tells me I had a solid and successful race.  I came into the finish at 2:04:48, a mere 12 seconds under my goal.

The other interesting thing about this race are all the turns on the course.  I made a very conscious effort to ‘run the tangents’ to get as close as possible to the official distance of the race.  In fact, I think it is very possible that running the tangents and cutting the corners as best as possible might have been the difference in getting me under 2:05.  With a margin of victory of 12 seconds, it comes out to less than a second per mile.

Again they had a great post game spread and music/entertainment.  There was a beer garden, but I had to skip it since my bag was left at my car.  Had a great time at the race, and look forward to running it again.  A breath of fresh air compared to the NYRR efforts, so long as you show up early to get your bag checked before the masses 🙂

  • Mile 1 – 9:18
  • Mile 2 – 9:32
  • Mile 3 – 9:24
  • Mile 4 – 9:26
  • Mile 5- 9:29
  • Mile 6- 9:43
  • Mile 7 – 9:36
  • Mile 8 – 10:01
  • Mile 9 – 9:34
  • Mile 10 – 9:51
  • Mile 11 – 9:45
  • Mile 12 – 9:22
  • Mile 13 – 8:56
  • Mile 13.1 – :49

Written by SCL

April 6, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

March Madness Race Report

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Yesterday was the March Madness Biathlon in Central Park.  First the vitals:

  • Overall time – 1:28:08
  • Overall place – 197/376
  • Age Group – 26/41

Splits:

  • Run (2.3 miles) – 19:41
  • T1 – 1:00
  • Bike (12 miles) – 46:10
  • T2 – 1:42
  • Run (2.3 miles) – 19:32

History of Central Park Biathlons:

  • 9/16/2007 – 1:24:45
  • 3/30/2008 – 1:26:17
  • 3/28/2010 – 1:22:44
  • 3/27/2011 – 1:28:08

As you can see, it was not my best.  Actually it was my worst.  But I was sort of expecting it because I haven’t been on my bike much, I was sick last week, and have had a few nagging injuries.  With the negative stuff out of the way, I can say I really had a great time.  There is NOTHING better than being in the transition area of a triathlon or duathlon and just taking it all in.  Even yesterday, when it was 28 degrees before the race, everyone was so upbeat and excited about racing.  It really was a great time.

As far as my race goes, I went out a bit tentative on the first run, and then settled into a consistent 8:30-8:45 pace after cat hill.  I found I was able to catch quite a few people that must have charged up the hill and then found they could not sustain it for the full 2.3 (I’m calling it 2.3, although the official distance is 2 miles) distance.

I blew through T1 very quickly.  It helped that I didn’t need to change my gloves.  I only needed to get my helmet on and get on my bike.

I was surprisingly consistent on my bike on the 2 loops.  My best time for a loop around the park is just under 20 minutes.  I completed the first loop yesterday in 22+, and then was also pretty strong on the 2nd loop, just a hair slower.  The only problem I had was at the top of harlem hill the 2nd time around, when my chain came loose and then got stuck really badly.  An experienced bystander thankfully was able to help me get it loose.  I lost about a minute in total.

I had a little trouble in T2.  The bike rack I was assigned to was a little low to the ground and I could not secure it with my seat.  I needed to use the handlebars.  I unfortunately forgot this when trying to rack the bike, when I went for the bike seat.  When I realized my mistake, I had to get the bike all turned around again, which took some time.  Also, with my frozen feet, I was a bit slow getting through the transition area.

I did well on the last run.  It literally took about 1 mile for me to gain all feeling back in my feet because of the cold.  But once I got into my groove, I really was able to set a good 8:30-8:45 pace.  It felt like I was picking people off one by one.  I probably passed about 20 people in total on the run, and only got passed myself 3 or 4 times.  The finish is in front of the boathouse parking lot on the way down cat hill, and so this remains the only race I regularly run where the finish is on such a sharp downhill.  It makes for a fast finish for sure!  This downhill finish is even better than the downhill finish of Coogan’s.

Interestingly, the first run and last run took me exactly the same amount of time.  My official time shows a 9 second difference because the start was not chip timed, and it took me 9 seconds to get to the start.

All in all I had a blast again, and can’t wait to do this race again another time.  And yes it was cold, but interesting enough, I went back in my running log and saw that when I did this race in 2008, it was also the same 28 degrees at the start!  So perhaps not so unusual.  Afterwards, sampled a muscle milk (yuck) and picked up a few Zico Coconut Waters, which were the perfect recovery drink.

Next up, 13.1 New York on Saturday morning…

Written by SCL

March 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm

Posted in bike, Race Report, running

A great day, with Beer!

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Today was a great day.  Well, after the bit about losing an hour of sleep last night was done, I suppose…

First, I loved today’s #dailymission on dailymile, asking people what they do with their race bibs after the race is done.  For me, I have a manila folder that they all get shoved into, but after I write the date, distance and race name, if any are missing, and then also my time.  My folder is quite big now, and it is a lot of fun to flip through.  The folder actually came in handy when I created my Race Results page.  Today I did flip through for awhile and took a picture, and it brought back so many great memories of races gone by.  Here is what my collection looks like, the one on the bottom is my first, You Gotta Have Park 5k from May 21, 1994.

Then, the greatest part of the day was the Beer Run in Brooklyn, organized by Claire, whose blog is aptly named Will Run For Beer.  So many people came out.  It is essentially bar hopping, but with the bars spaced a quarter to a mile and a quarter apart so that we have to run from bar to bar.  The route today was 6 bars and 4.5 miles.  I had to get home to my family (I’m really grateful they let me disappear with my running gear for a few hours all the time), so had to bail after the 4th bar, but it was a lot of fun.  Met a couple of new people, and caught up with a bunch of others I’ve met before.  In all it was a blast.  I ran about 3 miles from downtown Brooklyn to the start at Prospect Park, and then another 3.5+ on the beer route, for a total for the day of 6.6 miles.

The downer news is that I’m dealing with a couple of naggy injuries that just seem to be getting worse, not better, so I’m stepping up the ice treatment, and might start a regiment of (gasp) stretching, to see if that will help.  Methinks it is time to replace my running shoes, which are now up to 633 miles…

Have a great week everyone…

Written by SCL

March 13, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Posted in injury, Meetups, running

LIRRC 4 Miler Race Report

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Today I ran a 4 mile PR at the LIRRC race at Eisenhower Park! I had decided not to sign up for the Coogan’s 5k race, which was also today, and then found I actually had time to race, so decided at the last minute to go out to LI.

This fit for me as well because I had recently decided to scale back on my NYRR races and wanted to focus on other small and local races. LIRRC races certainly fit that bill. There were only 43 runners today! Yes it was rainy, but I’m sure the field would be similarly small even on a nice day. The small size was very refreshing. On the other hand, Coogan’s, while a fun and challenging race, has simply gotten too big in recent years. Ft Washington Ave simply can’t handle 5000 people. Also, it seems that in this race a lot of slow people sneak up to the first corrals, gumming up the works. I regret not going only from the standpoint that many of my Twitter friends ran Coogan’s and it would have been fun to meet up.

Anyway, back to my race. On the early Sunday morning, it only took me about 35 minutes to get to the park, which had plenty of parking and a clean bathroom. What more could you want!  About 20 minutes before race time, I put down my $10, and I was in.  It started raining about 15 minutes before the race and then tapered off to light showers and mist by start time.  The race director gave us a description of the 2-loop course, apparently a new course, and then waited it out until 9am on the nose, when they blew the start horn.

I realized shortly before the race that I had a shot at a PR.  My last 4 mile race was 2.5 years ago and my PR was set way back in 2000.  My old PR was 34:23, so I just needed 8:35 pace to beat it.  While still not in tip top shape, and my ultimate goal is to run 4 miles in 32 minutes, I was pretty sure I had 8:35 pace in me today, and so I was intent on keeping at least that pace.

I had a hard time pacing in the first mile.  While the race was really small, there were several guys at about my pace and I stuck with them.  I get uncomfortable running in a pack and so I was trying to create some separation between myself and the others, which I think caused me to speed up a bit too much in that first mile.  Mile 1 had a lot of turns in a wooded section of the park so there was lots to pay attention to.  Before I knew it we hit the 1 mile mark, at 7:57.  Yipes, I knew that was too fast for me, so decided to slow it down in mile 2.  It turned out I didn’t need to try to slow down, nature took care of it for me.  Mile 2 opened up through open spaces and ballfields, and unfortunately against a very stiff wind.  In fact most of the 2nd mile was into the wind, up until we turned back towards the start area.  Mile 2 was 8:38, which I thought was perfect for that stage of the race, considering the wind.  Miles 3 and 4 were a repeat of 1 and 2.  In mile 3 I was starting to tire, and also trying to save energy for the windy conditions I knew would greet me in mile 4.  Still, I was a bit disappointed to finish mile 3 in 8:50.  That meant I would need to turn it up in the last mile for my PR.  And turn it up I did.  Despite the downpour that developed by then, I managed to push it out in the last half mile and mile 4 was completed in 8:37.  Towards the end, I could see that 34 minutes was almost within reach, but I just didn’t have the room left for that last surge, and my official time was 34:03, which is a 20 second PR.

Overall was satisfied by my race, even though my fast first mile almost killed it for me.  I bet if I could have held back to 8:20 or 8:30 in mile 1, I would have had a much faster mile 3 and 4.  Good lesson learned.  Afterwards, I hung around for the awards ceremony, where I learned that I was 3rd in my age group, and won a ribbon, and that I finished in front of the female winner!  Then hopped back in the car for a quick 45 minute trip back home.

All in all, great fun, and I look forward to running another LIRRC race in the future…

EDIT: I forgot to mention that I really do appreciate PR’s.  I don’t get them that often.  PR’s should be hard to get.  To get a PR you have to be in your tip top shape vs any prior effort of the same distance in your entire running career.  I have to say it does bother me when people complain about racing and not getting a PR, or have an attitude of every time out they should have a PR, but I suppose that is a rant for another day.  My 4 mile PR has stood for 5 races over 11 years, and I’m glad it has been reset.  Before today, my last PR obtained was one year ago, at the Coogan’s 5k race!

Written by SCL

March 6, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

Cupid’s Chase 5k Race Report

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Found this sitting in my drafts.  Little bit late… 🙂

On Saturday (well, a few Saturday’s ago at this point) I ran the Cupid’s Chase 5k in Riverside Park.  All in all, I really enjoyed the event.  It is refreshing to be able to run a small 5k in the confines of Manhattan Island, and so I’ll gladly overlook the shortcomings, and instead focus on the good stuff.

First of all, I’ve never run a race in Riverside Park.  I’ve covered the promenade, obviously, and the park segments south of 96th, but I’ve never run in the park proper above 96th, which is where the race was located.  The park was absolutely beautiful, buried in probably still at least half a foot of snow and ice.  It was so bad that when you could find a bench to sit down on, the snow came almost all the way up to the bench itself…

There were lots of volunteers out there, and so friendly.  Although I did get the oddest question when I went to get my t-shirt.  “Are you single or taken”?  “Huh”, was my response.  She had to repeat the question a few times before I understood.  Of course, I’m taken, which means I got a white shirt.  The single folks got red shirts.  Many people work their race shirt on top of their running clothes, so you could see who was single and who was taken.  I thought it was fun.

The course was a little challenging because it was narrow, there was lots of ice on the course, and it looped around on itself.  I wasn’t expecting a PR effort anyway and so I didn’t let those things bother me.  Another odd thing was that the race was chip timed, but there was no starting mat, so the final numbers were gun time rather than net time.

The best part was that the loot bag actually had some interesting stuff in it, and there was a great spread of food for after the race.  I was able to bring some food home for my kids, which was an added bonus.

I had a pretty strong, consistent race.  While it was not quite as fast as I wanted, I’ll take it considering the race conditions and the cold weather.  My splits were nice: 8:22, 8:11, 8:00, 1:11, although I wonder about the mile marker placement as I know my last .1 was not that slow.  My finishing time was a respectable 25:46, which was 1:20 short of my PR, and my 4th fastest of 38 lifetime 5ks.

All in all, I enjoyed the time.  Sure it wasn’t so well put together as an NYRR event, but it was definitely more fun!

The staging area

Written by SCL

March 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Posted in Race Report, running

First Light Training Update

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Been awhile since I’ve posted an update of my training here.  With only 11 days remaining until the First Light Marathon, I’ve peaked my training and am now into my taper.  Highlights since I last gave a training update:

  • Week before last – I felt like I had been nursing sore calves and so worked hard to stretch and massage them out, and only went for two easy 4-mile runs during the week, down East River Park.  These were both early morning runs, before the sunrise, and I was surprised to see many people out there in the dark and cold.  On Tues 12/14, this including a covering of snow and flurries!  Topped out the week with an epic 21.3 mile run
  • Epic 21.3 mile run – On Sat 12/18, trekked up to Van Cortland Park for my last long run before marathon training.  Met up with Sharon as she lives near the park, and she stuck with me for the first 8+ miles, which included a loop of the soccer fields at VCP, and then down through Inwood and the top part of the west side greenway.  Then we split up and I continued with hills in Central Park and then the Queensboro and Williamsburg bridges.  It was a hard run, but I got it done, and felt comfortable that I’m ready for another 26.2
  • Ill-advised speedwork – 3 days after my long run I met up with Sharon and Josh in Central Park, and we did a hard (for me) loop of the park.  I was not prepared, didn’t warm up and didn’t stretch, and had a lot of trouble with both my shins and my calves.  I was actually limping for 2 days afterwards and in serious pain.  I need to be much smarter next time out – lesson learned!
  • Blizzard run – After getting some miles in on Saturday, on Sunday I was planning for a longish 10 mile run.  However, the NYC blizzard changed those plans.  Instead I did go out in the blizzard for a short run.  It was a really rough challenge, with the deep snow (5-6 inches when I went out) and the strong winds.  I thankfully had a turtleneck style shirt I could raise up over my mouth nose and cheeks for protection.  It was nasty.  I managed to get 3.3 tough miles in.
  • After 20 inches of snow, outdoor running is really difficult.  If I lived closer to Central Park or the west side, I’d have run outside, but in my neighborhood, the treadmill is the only option.  Ran on the treadmill last night, and managed 4.8 miles!

At this point, I’m safely in my taper.  I may do a longish run (6-10 miles) on New Years Eve evening, to make up the lost miles this past Sunday.  It would still give me 9 days to finish up my taper.

I leave you with some recent pictures:

Protecting myself from the elements on a blizzard run

 

My lonely blizzard footprints on the run in East River Park

My bridge (Williamsburg) illuminated in the blizzard!

Same bridge on the day before, a grey (but pretty to me) day

 

Happy Holidays!

Written by SCL

December 29, 2010 at 3:43 pm

New York City Half Marathon #lotteryfail

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There was much uproar this week regarding the New York City Half Marathon.

In a nutshell, the lottery system was unfair to us New Yorkers, as we had about a 12% chance to make it through the lottery, where US and international folks had about a 72% chance to get in.  Really, that is no joke or typo.  This is inherently unfair, and NYRR has already taken steps to fix it.  I hope they do more.  Their official statements are here.

But really people, it is a lottery, you should expect not to make it.  Even if they allowed fewer non NY’ers, the odds were still stacked against you. 

I did enter the lottery, I did not get accepted, and it is fine with me.  I really did want to run, but I can think of other things to do with my money.  The big, and possibly only, problem I had with the process is that it just took “too damn” long.  In looking back at my records, I registered for the lottery on July 13.  That is JULY, over 5 months ago, and the race will not occur for 3 more months.  That length of time is insane!  And I didn’t even register on the first day.

I think NYC Triathlon has the lottery thing done right.  They opened the lottery on Nov 1, kept the lottery open for 3 days, and then immediately picked the winners.  No waiting for months, hanging in limbo, to see if you made it or not.  No dragged out registration period to inflate the number of people who want to sign up.  etc, etc, etc.

Anyway, it took about 5 minutes to get over my disappointment on Wednesday.  Thankfully, on that very day, a Twitter friend was posting about the Tough Mudder event he is planning to run, and asking for people to join him.  Now that sounds like a fine substitute to me!  Signed myself up today…

Written by SCL

December 17, 2010 at 11:20 am