4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

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Speed training and cold weather

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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

Brrrr, and back update

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So, the Manhattan Half is on Saturday, and it is going to be a cold one!  I’m a little sad I’m not running this year, as it brings back fond memories of the cold 2009 edition.  If you want to get a sense of what to expect, read my report from that race!

Back update – yesterday I wrote about the pain in my back, which inflicted itself on me on the subway Tuesday night.  It is much better today.  I am able to almost stand up straight and can walk with a significantly reduced limp!  Yay for progress!  The fact is, if I had a softball game today or a race, I’d be out there.  Perhaps a little tight, but able to get it done.

Unfortunately, I have no plans tonight and my impulse is telling me to go and run.  The prudent side of my brain is telling me to take a rest day, but the irrational side of my brain is telling me that we will have 4 inches of snow on the ground tomorrow morning and so you better run tonight, as there is a good chance I will not be able to run at all on Saturday too.  I wonder who will win out…

Written by SCL

January 20, 2011 at 7:00 pm

Posted in injury, weather

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

5 Days to the Chicago Marathon

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5 days to the Chicago Marathon!  And I decided to take a rest day this morning.  I could have ran, and under other circumstances I would have, but with only 1 day off after a hard triathlon, with some muscle soreness in my legs, just decided to give it one more day.  In a perfect world, I’ll run Wed, Thurs and Saturday, but I have to be at work extra early tomorrow and a morning run might be difficult.  We will see.  I did walk to and from work today, which is 1.8 miles each way.  Not much, but enough to stay loose.

So now there is a lot of chatter about the weather forecast.  When the 15 day forecast first included 10-10-10, the forecast was looking quite chilly, with the high forecasted to be in the 50’s.  Not sure exactly what happened, but the opposite is now being predicted.   It is now supposed to be warm, with a high in the mid-70’s, although with a morning low in the 50’s.  Since the race starts at 7:30am, heat really should not be a factor for much of the race.  However, the temperature is not the only value in the equation.  The most important factor, at least for me, is dewpoint.  If the dewpoint is below 55, then conditions will be perfectly comfortable.  If it gets below 50, then the conditions will be great.  However, if the dewpoint is up towards 60, or in the 60’s, then it will be uncomfortable, regardless of the temperature.  We probably won’t get a gage on dewpoint and humidity for another couple of days.  The other factor in the equation is the sun.  If it is in the 60’s, with low humidity, the conditions might be great.   However, if there is a lot of sun on the course, and the run is into the sun, then it can also become very uncomfortable.  I don’t know anything about the course to know if sun might be a factor or not, so hard for me to judge.

The folks organizing the marathon are certainly taking the weather seriously this time around, after extreme temperatures in 3 recent years.  Today, they sent an email to all participants outlining their Event Alert System, a color coded system to alert runners on the course about the conditions.  On the surface, it seems quite hokey and easy to mock, however, on race day, if conditions become extremely hot again, that system should allow for better communication with participants about what is happening, and when to slow things down, and when to (potentially) shut it down.

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Written by SCL

October 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm

13 Days to the Chicago Marathon

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13 days to the Chicago Marathon!  This morning I rested and slept in, until 6am.  My back is still a bit tight and stiff in places, and I think a little worse after my 4 mile run yesterday, so decided to take it easy this morning.  My intention is to exercise tonight, late in the day, so I can just take it easy afterwards.  I was scheduled to play softball tonight, but that was cancelled due to rain.  That will make it easier for me to get a run in, and then take it easy afterwards.

Otherwise, I’m just really looking forward to the fall weather coming into place, but it is just slow in happening.  Even now, when the temperature has dropped somewhat, the dewpoint and humidity is still high, and less than tolerable for my taste.  Right now, the temp is 69 deg, but the dewpoint is 66 deg, or sky high.  Yes, it will not be as bad as mid-summer, but it will still feel far too humid for me.  And it sounds like we can expect more of the same all the way through Thursday.

Here’s to hoping for good weather in Chicago on 10/10.  See the long range forecast here: http://www.myforecast.com/bin/expanded_forecast_15day.m?city=14745&metric=false

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Written by SCL

September 27, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Right Now

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My run tonight was intended to be a ho-hum mid-week 5 mile run, but it turned into one of the best non-race running experiences I’ve had in a long time.

Let me back up to this morning. I set the alarm early, intending to get up early for a bike ride. Although I did get up early, ended up staying home to work. Partly because I was too lazy, and partly because I’m still worried about my elbow, and partly because I had a lot of work to do. So, I vowed that I would, absolutely, get out for a run tonight. I have a long run planned for Saturday, and so today’s run was really for nothing more than getting some miles in and giving me a rest day tomorrow, my literal definition of junk miles.

Fast forward to tonight. My first responsibility was to pick up my 14 year old from her dance school at 7:30. Home before 8, and my next responsibility was to hang out with my 8 year old until 9, as my wife was working in the bedroom till then, and my 8 year old has a cute way of missing me when I’m not around and wanting my company. This meant no run until 9:30 or so. And, unfortunately, the temps were dropping steadily by the hour.

Layered up, 3 shirts, tights and pants on bottom, extra pair of gloves, ‘gator’ thingy that covers the neck and throat, and I was finally ready to go. I really was dreading this, but also looking forward to the challenge. WeatherBug was reporting 24 degrees, but with sustained 25 mile per hour winds, out of the north! Ouch!

I decided on a route that takes me south (with the wind) and then back up north (against the wind). On a day like today, I thought it was better to have the easy effort in the first half with the wind and then once warmed up, battle the wind in the second half. This is against what one would typically do in the winter time, where common convention says run against the wind first to have an easier second half.

Last decision was playlist. I have a ‘running’ playlist of about 16 songs that I typically listen to on short runs. It would have lasted for my planned 5.2 mile run, but for some reason, I decided to play the 5-star playlist on my iphone, which is about 90 songs that I don’t mind hearing when running. I think in my mind I was hoping for some variety. And, this ended up being the highlight of my run, and a big reason I got through it so easily.

First up was Bat Out of Hell. That is one of the perfect running songs, and one I don’t hear so often. It is long, and one I can really get into. One can get lost in that song, and at a good 10 minutes or so, by the time it is over, a mile has gone by. And that is what happened. I was running, with the wind at my back, like a bat out of hell!

The song ended, as I worked my way down Allen St (1st Ave), approaching Delancey St. I didn’t really notice though, as I was focused on the intersection and getting through it. Delancey is tough, because if you miss it, that means up to 60 seconds of waiting to cross. As I approached, I saw there was no way to catch it on the green. But, with literally dozens of runs down that way, I knew that the westbound traffic has a left turn light, and then a slight delay before it goes green for everyone. And, later at night, it is definitely possible to slip behind the turning cars and before the rest of the traffic comes through. I saw my opening, and went for it. As I hit the island in the middle, I could see that the full green had not occurred yet, and I was able to get all the way across. Victory!

Once I made it across, and shifted into a lower recovery gear, my brain registered the next song that had just begun, The Boss’ Born to Run. How perfect is that: “baby we were born to run!”. Once past Delancey, you hit a nice downhill down to the East River. With the wind at my back, listening to Born to Run, literally felt like I was flying. I think I may have hit that runners high people talk about. As I approached the river, in the darkness, I noticed the huge hulking Manhattan Bridge, high above, and it struck me how just yesterday morning, I was literally running a couple of hundred feet above my head, over that same bridge to Brooklyn. Was just in awe.

Got down to the river and turned south, headed for South Street Seaport and my turn-around point at Wall St. I was anxiously waiting to see what song would come up next, and it was another gem of a running song, Van Halen’s, Right Now. “Don’t wanna wait till tomorrow. Why put if off another day?”. I felt like it was perfect, it did perfectly define the run. Right Now perfectly summed up what I was doing. Getting the run in, despite the weather, despite the time, despite how busy my life is. Exactly, “why put it off another day?”

Those 3 songs took me almost all the way down to the turn-around point. I knew that it would get hard once I turned around, and I would have to deal with the wind head on, but I had such a great start to the run, and I was in such high spirits, that it didn’t matter.

The rest of the playlist doesn’t matter, in fact, it is a bit of a blur. No doubt, the rest of the run was hard, as I came down from the runners high. On the way back, I started feeling bogged down by the layers, and started noticing how my legs were not fresh and how my quads were a bit sore, and then the wind kept blowing until the finish.

But, finish I did, and after I hit stop on my watch, and then hit stop on RunKeeper on my iPhone, the iPhone battery promptly died. Even that worked out perfectly.

So, at the end of the day, my junk mile run turned into one of the most satisfying experiences I’ve had on a ho-hum daily run in a long time.

Written by SCL

January 28, 2010 at 11:54 pm

Wind Chill or Real Feel?

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I’ve always measured my winter running primarily by the temperature and secondarily by the wind chill.  Wind chill is a relatively simple calculation, or chart, based on the air temperature and the wind speed. No doubt, it is a highly subjective number for us runners, but a good measurement to compare cold weather runs to cold weather runs, and also a good guide on how to dress, if it is windy.  I don’t like to rely too much on this number, or use it as the comparison point when talking to other runners, as it literally changes minute by minute, based on the wind, and also depends on what direction you are running in, or if you are in a place where the wind is shielded, like a park, or a place where the wind is stronger, like on the wind tunnel streets of NYC.

I have noticed two trends:

First, some people are reporting a new number, called the “Real Feel”.  Actually, it seems like *most* people are quoting this number, or at least calling the number real feel rather than wind chill.  I had never heard of it before the last couple of weeks, so was curious to find out more about it.  Well, it is the trademarked new formula used only by AccuWeather to more accurately calculate what we’ve always called wind chill.  In theory it is more accurate because it takes additional factors into play.  I guess the reason I was caught off-guard is because so many people are talking about it.  Yet, weather.com, wunderground.com, weatherbug.com, intellicast.com, and weather.noaa.gov, ALL the places I go for my weather, use the wind chill number.  So, why are so many people talking about Real Feel?  Where are they all going to get this number?  I guess congrats to AccuWeather for getting the term so far into the runners mainstream?

Second, and more troubling to me, is I have seen some people report the wind chill, or real feel, as if it is the actual temperature outside, without even mentioning the air temperature.  I understand it is a lot sexier to say I ran with a Real Feel of 5, than to say I ran with a temperature of 20 and a real feel of 5, but as I said above, the wind chill, or real feel, is a highly subjective number, constantly changing, and based on a number of factors, primarily wind speed, which is always changing.

To each his or her own, of course, but for me, I will primarily report on the air temperature for my runs, and only really mention the wind chill if it is a really windy day or some kind of extreme, like today!

Happy winter running folks, and to all of you out there in these extreme cold temps, you are all HARD CORE!

Written by SCL

January 3, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Posted in Reflections, weather

Tagged with ,

Great long bike ride yesterday

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Only 13 days till the New York City Triathlon!  Nervous about it in generally, and most specifically, nervous about the swim.  Since the pool I go to has been under renovation for the last 2 weeks, its been 4 weeks since I have last gone swimming.  Pool supposed to be open again as of today, so I should still be able to get 4 swims in between now and race day. 

Thanks to all the bike riding I’ve done lately, the tri distance of 24.4 miles does not scare me at all anymore.  Yesterday was my longest bike ride ever, at 36.5 miles!  See the main course here.  At the end I was really beat and  didn’t feel like biking through the streets of Queens and Brooklyn all the way back to the city.  So, I hopped on the A train, took it to Fulton St, and biked another 2.5 miles from downtown Manhattan back to my apartment.

It was a great day for bike riding, although a little windy.  Headed over the Manhattan Bridge, through downtown Brooklyn and then down 3rd Ave to the 68th St pier.  Took in the sights for a moment, and then followed the path along the Belt Parkway around to Coney Island.  Picked up a corn dog, and then followed the bike path all the way around to Flatbush Ave and took a right turn to Rockaway.  Brief stop at Riis Park to admire the beach, and then heading back to Queens by the long, long, long way of Cross Bay Blvd.  All in all, a great ride, and I’m hardly sore today, which is great news.  Took a few pictures, which you can check out on my DailyMile profile.

Was quite active over the last week.  Had good longish runs (6 mile range) on Thursday and Saturday, and rode my bike to and from softball on Wednesday.

On tap for this week is the gym and pool today, running tomorrow, softball (bike ride to/from again?) Wednesday and then time to start my taper into the triathlon…

One last note, so very thankful for the low humidity July.  Really making for nice training weather at a time of the year where that is usually not the case!

Written by SCL

July 13, 2009 at 8:22 am

Back in the morning run routine

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Got out for a morning run.  Hopefully today is the start of a good new habit of morning workouts.  Yesterday was the last day I needed to get my 7 year old out of bed at 6:30 and out of the house at 7:05.  That schedule was just not conducive to morning workouts.  My kids don’t sleep till 10:30 or 11, and then it is really hard to get up any earlier than 6am.  Therefore, morning runs have been scarce the last 3 years.  Katie will be at a new school next year, closer to home, so the new morning routine in Sept will hopefully allow for running or time at the gym.  It is also quite possible that I was inspired by Jason and Ari, who both wrote about morning running this week.  Some of my friends on dailymile also run and workout in the morning, which is great.

Anyway, back to today’s workout.  4 miles total, out to the bottom of East River Park and back.  Felt very sluggish, either because of not being used to the morning, or still shaking the cobwebs from my triathlon on Sunday.  In terms of injuries, my groin only bothered me at the beginning, and loosened up within the first half mile.  My ice and stretching is, I think, helping to keep the problem at bay, and I think it is finally starting to get a little better.  The tendonitis behind my left knee also did not bother me at all today running, although I still feel it when I press around the area with my fingers – will continue the ice treatments.

Total time was 37:16.  2nd half was slightly slower than first half.  That is a big sign that things weren’t perfect.  Normally, I negative split this course.  Should have happened today as well, since I was running into the wind in the first half and with the wind the 2nd half.  Rain was also a factor.  While it was light when I started out at 6:30, it got progressively heavier and I was soaked through by the end.

We’ll see if today is a one-shot deal, or if I can make it a habit again…

Written by SCL

June 18, 2009 at 8:47 am

Video update

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Video update

Written by SCL

May 28, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in swim, video, weather