4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

No Ironman 70.3 Poconos for me :(

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Today was supposed to be the day that I raced my first half ironman, but that was unfortunately not meant to be.

It all started two weeks ago, the day of the Yonkers Half Marathon.  In what was to be my final real training session, I rode my bike to Yonkers, ran the race and then rode my bike home.  In total, it was 38 miles on the bike, plus a hilly half marathon.  It was the perfect tuneup for what would be a hilly race in the Poconos.  I thought it all went well, and while the 2:17 half marathon was slower than I wanted, I was very satisfied.

Then the next day, I noticed my mid back was a little tight.  In what was a lack of judgement, (very clear in hindsight) I played softball that night, and aggravated my back even more.  At that point I was not concerned because it was mid back, which in my experience feels better after a couple of days, and is a much more mild injury than straining the lower back or the neck/shoulders.

And so I rested for a couple of days, and by Thursday my back was feeling better.  On that day, however, my left eyelid swelled something fierce, and I took it as a sign to take a couple of more days off.  That coincided with a road trip to Syracuse.  On Friday I spent hours in the car, first taking a side trip to Utica to see the Distance Running Hall of Fame (small, but very cool), driving home to NY, and then driving to my house in NJ.  I believe all the time in the car re-aggravated my mid back again, which started bothering me again on Saturday.  I again wasn’t too worried as it was mid-back and I was sure it would feel better within a couple more days.

On Sunday, it was feeling better and I started planning how I would spend my last week of training before the race.  However, during the night, I felt I strained it a bit again.  On Monday I stayed home from work as a precaution, and the extra time in bed really helped a lot and by Monday night it felt fully better.

Now I was getting really worried that I wouldn’t be able to race.  In my despiration, I decided to push myself hard on Tuesday.  The point being that if I strained it again then I knew I could not hold up for 70.3 miles and would skip the race.  However, if I felt good after working myself hard on Tuesday, then I would pronounce myself fit to race.

Tuesday morning I ran 4 miles and felt great.  Well, the run was rough but that was because it was super humid that day and it was my first run in 9 days.  However, I was very encouraged.  Tuesday night I got on my bike for about 45 minutes, and again felt good.  I thought I was good to go.

The proverbial ‘turning point of the game’ occured on Wednesday morning, when awkwardly sitting on my bed, I felt the muscle in my lower back go.  When the muscle in the lower back gets strained, in means immobility and pain for 2 days, and then another week plus before I’m able to run again.  I know the drill well, because I do this every 2 years or so.  The last time was just after the NYC Triathlon in 2009, over 2 years ago.

And so, my dream of my first half ironman was over.  Yes I was sad and bummed out about it, however, I know it is for the best.  Due to my hip/groin injury, I missed 3 months of training and so I knew I was not in the shape I wanted to be to run this race.  It is not the kind of race you want to go in without full preparation.  Also, I’ve been blessed to have run 15 marathons and raced 8 triathlons, and in the grand scheme of things, missing one is not a big deal.

So today, instead of racing, I spent the day hobbling around and getting a preview of what it will be like to move around when I’m in my 80’s.  Yes, I may be hobbling around now, but next week I’ll start running again, I will run a marathon in Dec (my sights are set on Rehoboth Beach), and I will be healthy enough next year that I will be able to toe the line for my first 70.3.

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Written by SCL

October 2, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Posted in injury

September 2011 in Review

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Running – 52.2 miles over 9 runs.  Sept saw a steady progression in training until the bottom fell out in my final preparation for Ironman 70.3 Poconos.  During the month, I finally felt like I was healthy, for the first time in a long time.  I started building the distance as well, with runs of 9.6 and 13.1 miles.  I also competed in 3 races.  The only thing I was unhappy with was my speed.  I’m accostomed to running 5k races in 25-27 minutes, and half marathons in the 2:00-2:05 range, and my races this month were well below.  However, there is good reason for this (recovering from injury), and I know my times will come down next year, once I start speed work again.

Races – 3 (East River Park 5k – 29:56; War at the Shore Triathlon – 2:20:24; Yonkers Half Marathon – 2:17:10)

Biking – 79.5 miles 4 rides.  Good quality rides, and again, good progression in preparing for my race.  Ultimately, I believe it was biking home after the Yonkers Half Marathon that initially aggravated my back, and ultimately causing severe injury.

Swims – 4

Gym workouts – 0

Softball – 1 (win!  And first time I felt healthy in softball all year, due to the hard work I did with my personal trainer to heal my hip / groin / glute)

Injuries – My hip/groin/glute issue is almost all gone!  I worked with a personal trainer all summer, and those injuries are slowly diminishing.  As a result, my running this month was completely pain free!  My downfall though was my back, which started acting up the day after the Yonkers Half Marathon, and ended with a severe lower back muscle spasm earlier this week that ended any hope I had of competing in Ironman 70.3 Pocono Mountains.

Sicknesses – 0

Weight – Down slightly, but honestly, I didn’t take enough measurements during the month to properly compare it to prior months.

Written by SCL

October 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

HRM

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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…

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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

April 2011 in Review

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Running – 70.7 miles over 10 runs.  17 straight months over 70 miles!  I was so obsessed with getting to 70 miles again, that I ran 16.7 miles during the week of the Flying Pig Marathon.  I know this would not be advisable for someone who has only run a max of 19 miles in any of the prior 5 weeks, but I did it anyway, running slowly and carefully planning the running rest days.  My life seems very hectic these days, and since I’ve been adding biking and other things to the mix, and I’ve been a little injured, I’ve had a hard time getting the run miles in.  70 should be easy to reach in May as I have 45+ miles of races planned – marathon, half marathon, and olympic distance tri.

Races – 2 (13.1 New York – 2:04:48; Tough Mudder – time not applicable)

Biking – 68.9 miles over 4 rides.  Still relatively short and flat rides.  Just trying to build up some strength for harder rides when the weather warms up

Swims – 1 (very sad and scary, since I have an Olympic distance tri in 13 days)

Gym workouts – 2

Softball – 2 (both wins – nice start to the season)

Injuries – My injuries haven’t changed since last month.  1 – A sore right foot that is a minor annoyance and does not at all affect my running.  I find stretching my calf makes it feel better.  2 – Sore left groin/hip/adductor.  This has also not gotten any better and I’m starting to get concerned.  It doesn’t affect my running per-se, since it doesn’t hurt when I run and I don’t think it affects my gait, but it does bother me when flexing around.  Sadly, softball, which I love to play this time of the year, seems to make it worse.  Therefore, I’m taking it easy when playing softball and watching the hard cuts and cold starts, and trying to be more diligent to massage, stretch and ice the injury.  I had the same issue on my right side about 2 years ago, and it did go away on its own.

Sicknesses – 0

Weight – unfortunately static.  From last month, average weight was exactly the same and average fat % was down slightly by .3 percent.  I am currently a pound heavier and half a percent body fat higher from my baseline in Jan, which was already way too high.

Written by SCL

May 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

Flying Pig Marathon Results

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A race report will probably come at some point in the next couple of weeks, but for now, here are the details of how I did today at the Flying Pig Marathon.  My goal was 4:45, and ultimately would be happy with anything under 5 hours.  I finished in 4:58:04, and had a great time, so overall I’m happy.  I had trouble trying to push the pace today but overall was pretty consistent, as you can see by the splits shown below.  In fact, I finished much stronger compared to others with similar pace.  My overall place was 2928, but my place was better in the 2nd half of the race (2702), and really strong in the last mile (1983).  I did pass a lot of people in the last 2 miles, in my push to beat 5 hours.  I’ll take it.

Marathon #15 and state #9

My slowest marathon since NYC Marathon 2002.

Written by SCL

May 1, 2011 at 8:29 pm

Posted in Race Report

Tough Mudder – Part I

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It has been 2 weeks since I completed the Tough Mudder with Joe and Nate.  This was easily the most bad-ass thing I’ve ever done in terms of physical activity, fitness or racing.  Here is the intro from the website, to give you a taste:

Tough Mudder is not your average lame-ass mud run or spirit-crushing ‘endurance’ road race. It’s Ironman meets Burning Man, and it is coming to a location near you. Our 10-12 mile obstacle courses are designed by British Special Forces to test all around strength, stamina, mental grit, andcamaraderie. Forget finish times. Simply completing a Tough Mudder is a badge of honor. All Tough Mudder sponsorship proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.

In the moment before it started, I was easily more scared of this than anything I’ve ever done before.  I can think of 2 other instances where I was also scared to do what was about to be done, but they don’t compare.

  1. The 1st was my first Olympic distance triathlon, the NYC Triathlon.  I wasn’t scared of the race per se, but it hit me when it was my turn to get up on the pier to start the race, looking out into a mile of Hudson River to the finish pier.  It felt like that sickening moment when you crest over the top of a roller coaster and are about to go hurling down the other side.  In that moment, I was scared, but it was a fake kind of scared, because I knew inside I could get it done.  I had a wetsuit on, the swim was with the current, and in my mind I knew I really had nothing to fear.
  2. The 2nd was coincidentally my second Olympic distance triathlon, the NJ State Triathlon.  I was not scared of the race or the distance, but the fact that the water temperature was too warm to allow for wetsuits.  I would have to swim the entire 1500 meters without the buoyancy aid  of a wetsuit, which had gotten me through all my other triathlons.  In that moment, I really was scared that I would not be able to complete the distance.  I wasn’t scared for my life, as I knew there were lifeguards and buoys in the water, and if I couldn’t do it, the worst that would happen is that I would have to endure the embarrassment of being helped out of the water and then missing the rest of the race.  In the end, I got it done, and was so proud of the accomplishment.
But the fear this time was different.  It was the fear of the unknown, and the fear of really possibly hurting myself.  Not only was this an endurance event to the level I’ve never tried before – it was 11+ miles up and down a ski mountain, with several miles of technical trail running – but it also included dozens of obstacles, running the gamut from crawling through mud, to carrying a log up a hill, and jumping 15 feet into the water.

Tough Mudder is run on both Saturday and Sunday.  We did the event on Sunday, and adding to the fear was finding out that about 25% of the participants did not finish the course on Saturday, and that one of the obstacles was closed down because it was too dangerous.  There were also vague reports of people breaking bones, and that was something I was not interested in happening, an was actually scared about.

Joe, Nate and myself kept asking ourselves why, why were were even bothering to do this.  In a way, we all clearly like adventure and challenges.  Nate did the Tough Mudder last year and was disappointed because it did not live up to the expectations (it was apparently the first TM event and it was not as hard as billed and there were lots of kinks), so he wanted another shot at the tougher course this time around.  Joe had experienced serious heart problems in the last year, which ultimately were fixed, but he was reduced to running 11-12 minute pace per mile in his races, including the NYC Marathon.  Since he had a clean bill of health, he wanted to celebrate with something awesome, and this certainly fit the bill.  As for myself, I had no idea what I was getting into.  A friend had turned me onto mud events, and I thought it would be a fun challenge.  When Joe was asking for people to join him, I threw my hat into the ring.

I think I am speaking for all 3 of us, when I say that as we were sitting around Nate’s kitchen table on Saturday night in Allentown, we were all a bit afraid of what was to come…

Written by SCL

April 24, 2011 at 11:35 am

Posted in Race Report

Consuming

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Today I played the role of a healthy triathlete consumer 🙂

I spent a little time at the JackRabbit New York City Running Show.  What drew me in was the Atlantic City style payment.  Yes you have to pay $10 to get in, but you get a $15 discount card, and since I was going to be buying at least $15 of stuff, plus getting my normal 10% discount, I felt like I would be getting a deal!

What was also nice about the event is the long list of speakers, including some famous people like Matt Long and Scott Jurek, covering a multitude of topics of interest to runners and triathletes.  I was only able to listen to the half hour discussion on ‘running a faster and more enjoyable marathon’, and it resonated with me and I enjoyed it.

Otherwise, the event was similar to a marathon expo, just without the ‘discount racks’ and the multitude of options you’d see at large races.

I felt I hit jackpot as I was able to buy the 3 critical items that I’ve really had my eye on for a long time.

  • swim goggles – I’ve been using a pair of basic swim goggles that were uncomfortable and constantly pinching me.  So I picked up a nice new pair of BlueSeventy goggles that adjust nice and easily and feel great
  • hydration backpack – I’ve been wanting to buy one for a long time, but when I’ve shopped for them in the past, I’ve only seen models that are marketed for trails and hiking.  I really liked the Nathan brand they had, it felt comfortable to me, and I now will be carrying 70oz of liquid on my longer runs in the summer, and on my bike rides!
  • Sunglasses – my old sunglasses, which I only use for biking by the way and not for running, were messed up and scratched up, and just plain falling apart.  I picked up a new pair.  I offhand don’t remember the brand it was they were selling as I don’t have them handy, but I’m really happy to have a new pair to wear on my bike rides.  They claim a lifetime guarantee to cover even scratches to the lens, so I hope these will last for several years.
In all, I really enjoyed the event, just wished I had more time to listen in on the different speaker sessions.  For those interested, it runs for one more day, tomorrow 4/23.

Written by SCL

April 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Grete Waitz passing

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So sad to hear of Grete Waitz passing due to cancer.  She was the one that sparked my interest in the NYC Marathon while she won 9 races in 11 years when I was a kid.  I also loved running in her namesake half marathon race, Gete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, which I ran in 1997, 2000 and 2004.  I wish I could run it this year, but it is the day before my first half ironman…

Another enduring memory, and an inspiration for me as I started running, was when she ran the NYC Marathon with Fred Lebow in 1992, while he was in remission from brain cancer.

She will be missed…

Written by SCL

April 19, 2011 at 8:56 am

Posted in Tribute

Construction disappointments

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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