4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

2011 Highlights – Part 1

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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

New York City Marathon Tomorrow!

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Just wanted to wish everyone running the NYC Marathon GOOD LUCK and HAVE FUN tomorrow.  The weather looks to be awesomely perfect.  My advice is to slllooowww down in the first half.  Don’t underestimate the toughness of the hills in the last 6 miles of the race.

As for myself, I’ve run it 7 times and am pretty much over it.  That said, it is the most awesomest race in the world and still, by far, the most exciting marathon course I’ve ever run, out of 9.  Maybe I’ll try again some year, but, it is super expensive, and hard to get into unless you either want to raise money for charity or commit to 9 NYRR races the prior year.  It is also super big and crowded, and I’m finding I enjoy smaller races more.  The way I figure it, my not running the race gives an opportunity to someone else who otherwise would be shut out 🙂

My NYC Marathon History:

  1. 1996 – 5:27:31 (PR at the time)
  2. 1998 – 5:35:33
  3. 2000 – 4:52:03
  4. 2002 – 5:06:22
  5. 2007 – 4:51:43
  6. 2008 – 4:31:25 (PR at the time)
  7. 2009 – 4:44:05

From the archives, my all of my 2009 marathon related postings, and my 2008 race report:

It’s a little (OK very) messy due to my inconsistent use of tags and categories over the years, but I’ve got other (sometimes interesting) marathon related postings in the Tag or Category.

I don’t think I’ll be able to spectate tomorrow.  If possible, perhaps I’ll get to mile 11/12 on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg which is easily accessible by the L train.  I have great spectator memories from the past.  In the end, my best strategy to watch from multiple points on the course, and hit spots that were less popular, was to watch at mile 7/8 on 4th Ave, then mile 14ish in Queens and then mile 21, just after the madison ave bridge.  Now with the wave starts, it is actually harder to watch from multiple places and still see everyone you want, because of the large gaps between the fast runners and the slow runners.

Again, for everyone running tomorrow, have a great one!





Written by SCL

November 5, 2011 at 11:05 am

October 2011 in Review

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Running – 63.5 miles over 11 runs.  While October started out on a very sour note, namely a really bad lower back spasm on 9/27 which cost me the Ironman 70.3 Poconos race, and 2 weeks of training, I ended the month very strongly.  This was my biggest mileage month since April, and puts me in easy striking distance of 600 miles for the year, which historically had been my marker of a good running year.  I’m training for the Rehoboth Beach marathon on Dec 10, so this month included the first of 3 planned long runs.

Races – 1 (Roosevelt Island 5k – 27:23)

Biking – 0 miles over 0 rides.  Taking time off the bike until the new year

Swims – 0

Gym workouts – Massive month here!  Worked out at the gym 4 times, saw my personal trainer twice, and attended 3 yoga classes – first time ever for yoga!

Softball – 2 wins!  My team was an undefeated 6-0 in the fall season!

Injuries – Severe lower back spasm cost me 2+ weeks of training.  Otherwise, both my turf toe and hip/groin/glute issues have lingered, but improved significantly

Sicknesses – 0 – Zicam continues to serve me well!  Just take it a bit when I feel a cold coming on, and it works every time.

Weight – Unfortunately, up slightly from Sept.

Written by SCL

November 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm

Posted in Month End Summary

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.

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


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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