4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Posts Tagged ‘central park

NYC Marathon Tune Up Race Report

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First, couple of things to get out of the way before I get into the race details:

1) On long races like this, you overhear lots of things.  The best one today was this exchange between guy and gal.  Gal – “Are you running the marathon this year”.  Guy – “No”.  Gal – “Why are you out here.  You are a lunatic”.  Guy – “Because I’m a runner”.  Yes, why are any of us out there, putting in lots of miles, running in the rain or heat, giving up our weekends, etc.  Because we are runners!  I think that totally sums us up nicely!

Kind of killing the moment was when guy later said “I still have to get in my 9 races for the marathon next year…”  Oh well.

2) This last Sunday in Sept is a sad day for me.  Each of the last 2 years, I sat through horrible, season ending losses at Shea Stadium, as the Mets got knocked out of the playoffs against the Marlins.  2 years ago, I ran the Tune Up race first.  Last year, I oped not to run the Tune Up race, since it was the last day at Shea Stadium, and I wanted to get there early, and not be hobbling all day.  At least this year we don’t have to worry about late season collapses!  Also, since the Mets screwed me over on my partial package season tickets, I don’t go to nearly the number of games I used to go to, and so am not nearly as emotionally invested anymore.  But, this is another story.

In summary, this race went as well as I could ever have hoped.  Earlier in the week, I mused that sub 3 hours was well within reach, and it turned out that was very true!  Would have been happy with my prediction of 57 mins in 1st loop, 59 mins in 2nd loop and 63 minutes in last loop.  Turns out I knocked that right out of the park.  Was extremely consistent, and did not have nearly as much of a drop off in the last loop as I expected.  In fact, I ran all hills all 3 times, including Harlem Hill and Cat Hill.

First Loop – Goal time was 57:00, actual time was 57:07.  I had a hard time getting loose in the beginning.  The rain was annoying, and raining pretty hard.  Was also getting passed by a lot of people.  This tends to happen a lot early in races, as many people don’t make it to the race and the proper corral on time, so lots of fast people end up in the back and then need to pass much of the rest of the field.  I had no problems at all getting up the hills, but by mile 5, the pace just felt a little too fast, so dialed it back a tiny bit.  Generally felt like I was struggling a little bit to keep up, and was a little concerned about bonking in the last loop.  I attributed this mostly to my waterlogged socks, shoes and shirt.  I was constantly wringing water out of my shirt to try and offload some of the weight.

  • Mile 1 – 9:10
  • Mile 2 – 9:32
  • Mile 3 – 9:27
  • Mile 4 – 9:22
  • Mile 5 – 9:42
  • Mile 6 – 9:52

Second Loop – Goal time was 59:00.  Actual time was 58:07.  All in all, very pleased with this one.  While the rain had slackened off to more of a drizzle or mist, the roadway itself was soaking wet from the earlier hard rain, and so we were still running through big puddles, and small streams on the hills.  Had dialed the pace back to 9:45ish per mile and that felt very comfortable.  No problem getting up Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the West Side.  In mile 9, a guy passed me talking to 2 others about the NYC Triathlon, but his information was not quite right, so I pointed out the corrections.  At the next water stop, he seeked me out, and we ran together for about a mile and chatted about marathons and triathlons.  Was nice to talk to someone for a little bit in race (VERY RARE FOR ME) and distract my mind from the pace.  That mile ended up being 9:12, my second fastest mile in the race.  It was also a downhill mile, and no water stops, so not surprising it was fast.  I lost him at the next water stop, and he zoomed off ahead, and then I settled back into the 9:40ish pace.  Used the water stops to my advantage here and was able to run up Cat Hill, still feeling pretty comfortable with the pace.

  • Mile 7 – 9:40
  • Mile 8 – 9:59
  • Mile 9 – 9:36
  • Mile 10 – 9:12
  • Mile 11 – 9:47
  • Mile 12 – 9:51

Third Loop – Goal time was 1:03.  Actual time was 59:26.  When I hit mile 12 at about 1:55, I knew 3 hours was easily in the bag, as I would have been allowed almost 11 minutes per mile the rest of the way.  Knowing I was in solid shape, just focused on keeping within a manageable pace so that I could run up the hills.  I was prepared to walk up some of the tough hills, but obviously wouldn’t if not necessary.  First up was Harlem Hill, and I was able to just keep my pace and keep motoring up the hill.  Felt a great sense of accomplishment when cresting the hill and was charged up for the rolling hills on the west side.  Again, focused on keeping within my pace and not pushing.  Around this time, the rain started coming down hard again, even harder than the start of the race.  Once we got down to the mile 16 marker at the bottom of the park, I realized that 2:55 was within reach if I ran it up Cat Hill.  I could feel myself starting to lose it here, but I was determined to get up Cat Hill without walking, and finishing in under 2:55.  It was hard, but I made it up to the top of Cat Hill, even skipped the last water stop, and kept my 10 min per mile pace to the end.  I had no ‘push’ left in me for the last mile, but at the same time, I had enough energy to keep going.  Finished in 2:54:40, and very proud of it!

  • Mile 13 – 9:42
  • Mile 14 – 10:05
  • Mile 15 – 9:57
  • Mile 16 – 9:46
  • Mile 17 -10:09
  • Mile 18 – 9:43

Aftermath – I had checked my bag pretty early, before the masses, so I was hoping my bag would end up at the bottom of the pile and stay dry.  But, no, somebody specifically put their bag under mine, so mine was on top.  So, bag was soaked through.  Luckily I packed my dry clothes into another drawstring bag inside the main bag, so they were dry.  Went into PortoSan and changed everything and came out pretty dry.  Managed not to pull my lower back muscle, which I did at the NYC Triathlon.  Then, shuffled back to the subway, and home to enjoy a leisurely afternoon.

Of course, 18 miles is not 26 miles, and I would have needed to dial the pace back, especially in the last few miles, if this was the actual marathon.  On the plus side, I still have 4 training weekends to go, which will include 2 long runs and a half marathon, so lots of opportunity to continue to build my stamina, and I think I am on pace to peak right at the correct time, namely Nov 1.  Based on my performance today, I think 4:30 in the marathon is very attainable, although I’m doubtful of beating my PR of 4:22.

Looking forward to the last 5 weeks of training!


Written by SCL

September 28, 2009 at 9:07 am


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Went out for a 4 mile run yesterday, and I definitely got the ‘autopilot’ feeling.  The one where running feels very fluid, very consistent, and feeling like I could run for miles.  I don’t get there too often, but really enjoy it. 

My autopilot pace felt like around 9:30 per mile.  Hope I can continue to hit that as I enter the late stages of NYC Marathon training.  Would be great if I could maintain that for awhile (15 miles?) in the marathon.  Eventually it will start degenerating into 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, etc. 

Sunday’s 18 mile race in Central Park will be a great test.  Race conditions, and hills!  Wonder how long I can keep to 9:30 pace.

Written by SCL

September 22, 2009 at 11:29 am

Hill Repeats in Central Park

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The twist… on my bike, not on my feet!  First time I’ve done hill repeats on my bike.

I only have 19 days till the New York City Triathlon, and think I need a little more hill work on my bike.  So, last night, biked out to Central Park, did 3 hard repeats of Harlem Hill, and then a full loop of the park, including the hill again.  In all, it was about 17 miles.  Feeling great today, with the exception of my constantly nagging knee and groin.  Good news on the groin is that I found a stretch online that works the exact muscle causing me the most pain.  Trying to do that stretch once a day.  Still keeping it firmly in check.  Tendinitis in my knee is not as bad as it had been, and I’m continuing to ice it, and focus on lower body exercises at the gym.

Had a couple of other good workouts over the last week.

Ran 5.9 miles over the Williamsburg Bridge and back on Sunday morning.  It was a beautiful morning.  About 66 degrees with low humidity.  The sun was strong though, and was tiring on the bridge.  I had to stop at a bodega for water, which would not be necessary in cooler temps.  The bridge was not too crowded, and it was cool to see 3 other runners both times I crossed the bridge.  Guess I wasn’t the only one doing that workout!

On Saturday morning, I did a long bike ride at my house in New Jersey, from Little Silver to downtown Freehold and back.  Came out to about 29 miles.  The return trip was done about 7 minutes faster, I think because of the wind, and also I think the return trip has more downhills.  Length of the bike portion of the olympic distance triathlon (24.4 miles) does not scare me at all anymore!  As I mentioned, I just think I should work on hills a little more.

Also got a run in midweek last week.  It was on Thursday night, when it kept raining on and off.  Rained hard for my first 2 miles, which helped keep me cool in the humidity.  Overall, had a nice 4.6 mile run.

Just trying to keep on keeping on, in spite of the ‘discomfort’ in my knee and groin.  Very excited about the upcoming New York City Triathlon.  Biggest issue for me is swimming.  I have not been in the pool since my last sprint triathlon in Harriman State Park 3 weeks ago, and of course, the pool I go has been closed for the last week for renovations.  It opens tomorrow, so tomorrow, I will need to go swimming!

Written by SCL

July 7, 2009 at 7:58 am

Central Park loop

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Went for a great run around Central Park last night.  I very rarely have the opportunity to go on a regular training run in Central Park, so when I do, it always feels wonderful.  Especially now when I’m not training for anything in particular and can slow down and enjoy the park, the hills and the general surroundings.  Too often in the park, I’m doing a hard speed workout, or running hard in a race, when I don’t really fully enjoy the surroundings.

The park was in full use last night.  I started out right around 7pm, and there were still cars driving around.  With an over abundance of bikers, it actually felt dangerous.  Bikers don’t stop at lights, cars do, and edge into the runners lanes on the left.  Runners need to stay way off to the left to avoid both cars and bikers.  It was much better as it got later and the road closed to car traffic.  This would be a good argument to always close the park to car traffic, especially from April to October.

Since it is the beginning of bike riding season for me, I couldn’t help but compare my experiences of running around the park vs biking around the park.  Biking seems so much easier because it is much faster – get a lot more satisfaction in being about to circuit the park in 20 minutes on the bike, vs the 55 minutes it takes me to run.  On the other hand, the hills don’t phase me at all when running, but on the bike, they can still be quite tough.

Finished in 54:50, just under 9:10 per mile.  This is just over 2 hour half marathon pace.  I think if it was a half marathon, I would have been able to step up the pace and finish under 2 hours, which is my goal for the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  The only problem I had was with some shin splints.  It started acting up on the long downhill stretches on the west side.  I was able to run through it, and the muscle loosened up once I started on the uphills on the East side again.  The shin issue is worrisome – I’ll need to keep my eye on that and do some stretches before running.  In the past, it would be a problem for me if the weather was cold or if my shoes were old, neither of which is happening right now!

I’m off on vacation as of 5pm today!  Renting a minivan and taking a family road trip down to Asheville, NC.  I’ll bring my running stuff but, based on where my hotel is located, don’t know if I’ll actually be able to get any running in.  I think I might be able to do a (easy) hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains on Tuesday with my 13 year old, which would be fun.

Written by SCL

April 10, 2009 at 3:19 pm

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Manhattan Half Marathon Race Report

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Word of the day was COLD.  No way around it.  14 degrees at the start and not much higher at the finish.  The CNN clock said 14 degrees at the start, still said 14 degrees one hour later at the 6 mile mark, and then was up to 15 degrees two hours later at the 12 mile mark.  After the race, the WeatherBug on my phone said it was 18 degrees.  Going back to 1999 (that is how far back my detailed records go), this was the 2nd coldest race I’ve ever run in.

My plan was to run the full race, and then another 6 mile loop of the park afterwards, for 19 total miles.  Since I’d be running longer than the half marathon, I layered up more than normal.  Ski hat and earmuffs for the head, three shirts and a heavy jacket for the upper body, tights and sweats on the legs, and 2 pairs of socks under my sneakers.

I drove in my car which allowed me to stay warm for a bit longer than if I had taken the subway over.  Was parked before 6:30 to get a good spot by the 72nd St entrance, and made 2 quick trips to the port-o-potties.  By 7:30 got in my race gear and headed for the start.  The start area was very crowded and all the corrals seemed very full.  It seems people did a good job of getting to the corrals on time.  I was in the 4000’s, further back than normal.  Considering that the last corral is 6000, it is a bit sad that with an 8:14 pace time, I was placed way back in the 5th out of 7 groups.  Maybe this is because the half marathons bring out a faster crowd than the shorter races?  Also frustrating was that the person checking numbers at the corral was not really checking and there were a ton of 5000 numbered people that incorrectly got through into my group.

After a rendition of the national anthem, we were off.  Due to the crowds, it took forever for me to cross the start line.  Well, not forever, but much longer than usual.  Took 4:03 to pass the start line.  Typically I can get through the start line in less than 1 minute.  The start was still pretty organized without a crazy amount of passing or being passed, so I guess the corral system is still working.  In the early miles, kept a nice steady slowish pace.  I was warm enough with all the layers, but felt completely bogged down and heavy from them.  Nice push up Cat Hill, Harlem Hill and the rolling hills on the west side.  My slowest mile of them was mile 4, which is up the Harlem Hill.  I also made a quick bathroom stop at the end of loop 1, so that mile was slightly slower.  Water was a little tough because of the large chunks of ice in the cup.  Gatorade was much better.  I guess because it freezes slower, those cubs just had little pieces of ice, sort of like ice shavings.

  • 1 – 9:32
  • 2 – 9:39
  • 3 – 9:25
  • 4 – 9:54
  • 5 – 9:40
  • 6- 10:12

2nd loop was another story altogether.    Started well by pushing nicely up Cat Hill, and was looking forward to the next water stop.  Unfortunately, there was very little water to be had.  The volunteers were doing the best they could to fill cups, and there was a mass of runners trying to get the cups.  I just decided to skip the stop and keep going.  Most of the going is flat or downhill into the next water stop anyway.  In hindsight that was a mistake.  Somehow started feeling a little lightheaded after that, I think from the layers and the cold and lack of water.  Since I was still planning another loop of the park afterwards, I took a long walk break leading into the next water stop at the bottom of Harlem Hill, where there was to be Gatorade.  Unfortunately, there was no Gatorade at all, just half frozen cups of water.  I took 2 cups of water and a Gu.  The water was so cold, it made my insides somehow feel colder and I started getting brain freezes!  Got myself going again and charged up Harlem Hill pretty well.  It was around this point, though, that I lost all will to do another loop of the park afterwards.  With the extra layers, slight lightheadedness, very limited and frozen water on the course, and no street vendors to buy from on the way, I was really concerned about pushing ahead with the extra loop.  That decided, I figured I could turn up the pace for the last couple of miles of the race and call it a day after 13.1 miles.  So, ended up with a very strong last 2 miles, and finished in 2:08:50.

  • 7 – 9:38
  • 8 – 9:41
  • 9 – 9:47
  • 10 – 12:13
  • 11 – 9:47
  • 12 – 9:25
  • 13 – 9:04
  • 13.1 -0:48
  • In the end, I was disappointed I did not get all my miles in.  This is potentially really bad because the Austin Marathon is in just 3 weeks and while I’ve put in a lot of overall miles, I have not had quality long runs.  Since I didn’t push too hard, I’ll at least be recovered enough to do a speed workout on Tuesday night, and I’ll try to make sure my other workouts are on bridges or hills.  On the other hand, I was really happy with my pacing, which was very consistent – almost every mile (with the exception of my bathroom break, walk, and final mile) was between 9:25 and 9:54.  I’d like to be at 9:30 pace for the first half of the Austin Marathon, to give me a good cushion in the 2nd half to break 4:30.

    I want to know how dangerous it really is to not have all the layers on.  I’m sure I would have fared much better without my outer heavy layer, but I was afraid I’d be too cold.  Some runners had shorts on, and some seemed to only have a single shirt layer.  Is that healthy?  There was even 1 volunteer (or just a crazy bystander?) at the 102nd St cutoff on the East Side that had no gloves, no hat and a very light jacket on.  I could not believe that he was still there the 2nd time around.  How did he stand outside for 2+ hours.  Anyway, I’d love to be able to go out in fewer layers, but I’m afraid of getting sick, or some sort of frostbite from long exposure.  I can only hope that it will warm a little so I can get a good long run in on Saturday, and then potentially one more a week before the marathon.  Of course, this year, when running a Feb marathon, would be the year when the temperatures in Jan would be 4.5 degrees below normal (according to the New York Times).

    I did feel a great sense of accomplishment getting out in the cold conditions and getting a quality workout done.  Congrats to all the people that raced and finished.  It was not easy!

    Written by SCL

    January 26, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Nice speed workout

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    Went out last night for a group speed workout in Central Park – NYRR class.  Workout was at the lower end of the park, 600 yard repeats into the marathon finish line.  Done this workout often over the years, and yesterday was one of my best.  Did 6 repeats – check out the consistency:

    • R1 – 2:05
    • R2 – 2:05
    • R3 – 2:06
    • R4 – 2:06
    • R5 – 2:06
    • R6 – 2:05

    Went with the 7:30 – 8:15 pace group and was somewhere in the middle.  Defintely not up front, and not trailing either.  What was great about the workout was how consistent it was, and how in the later repeats, I was able to pass more and more people late in the repeat.

    Weather was nice and stormy.  31 degrees with freezing rain.  Total workout was 6.5 miles.

    Written by SCL

    January 7, 2009 at 10:16 pm

    Long (wet and cold) Run

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    The good news is that it is done.  The bad news is that it seemed to take hours to dry out and get my body temp back to normal after my 15.5 mile run in the cold rain today.  Today is 11 weeks before the Austin Marathon, and today I covered the same long run I did 11 weeks before the New York City Marathon.  See here for how it went last time.

    The run almost didn’t happen at all.  Yesterday morning I did the right thing and got to the gym.  While moving some 35 pound plates around to do some bench presses, I accidentally banged my leg hard into the metal bar that holds said weights when they are not in use.  Ouch that hurt!  It was a hard shot to the shin, an inch or two below the knee.  I can be clumsy at times, and definitely bang myself on various obstructions from time to time, but this one was bad.  Iced when I got home and then iced again before I went to bed last night.  Was feeling pain with each step and was very worried that the shin would not hold up for 15 miles.  I managed to sleep 11 hours last night (needed to catch up from all the eating and traveling earlier in the weekend) and this morning the pain was definitely way down.  It was not hurting anymore when walking, only when applying direct pressure to the spot.  So, I forged ahead. 

    The forecast was for rain all day, so there was no advantage to getting out early, or trying to wait it out.  When I got up at 8am, it was already raining.  Took care of some stuff at home and made it out around 11am.  I was actually looking forward to the run in the rain.  I like the rain, usually find it refreshing, and think it is important to get some long runs in with bad weather, in case bad weather hits on race day.  While it was a bit refreshing, 15.5 miles of rain was, all in all, not fun!  The big consession was that I would leave my tunes at home.  I once got caught in a bad rainstorm with my MP3 player, it got wet, and then was on the fritz for a couple of days until it dried out.  One of the buttons never quite recovered.  So, with today’s forecast, I decided to leave it at home.

    Picked up a Gatorade at the Bodega on the way out.  First 2 miles was my typical route down East River Park, which included a slog through a ballfield to get around the construction, which by the way, will not end any time soon.  Nice, easy start to the run.  I did forget to use the bathroom on the way out, so stopped at the East River Park track, which was unfortunately commadeered by 3 homeless guys.  They did stay out of my way as I took care of business.

    Next couple of miles was down the East River past South Street Seaport.  I was thankful here for the 1 mile + portion under the FDR drive, and out of the rain!  Still feeling really good in the early miles here.  As the rain was mostly out of my face, I concluded that the wind was at my back.  Since I would be running a good 6 miles up the Hudson River, into the wind, that was not a happy conclusion.  But for the moment, I was fine.

    Made the turn through lower Manhattan, past the SI Ferry and Battery Park to the foot of the greenway up Hudson River, which is about the 4.5 mile mark.  Started the trek up the Hudson River.  This was very difficult.  The wind was not blowing hard, but it was definitely tending out of the north, so the rain was constantly in my face, and collecting on the front of my shirt.  By then, my clothes were all waterlogged, and I could feel the extra weight.  It was not a downpour, just a steady light to regular rain, so it could definitely have been worse.  I stopped at the Nike Runners Station to buy a bottle of water, which I planned to use later on for my Gu.  There were 2 people working there, who were very friendly and helpful.  They probably didn’t have too many visitors today.  In fact, that was the best thing about today’s run.  There were virtually no bikes out on the path, and few tourists/walkers.  Even Central Park, which I’ll get to later, was deserted.

    Continued my way up the Hudson River, inhaled the Gu at Chelsea Piers, took another little water breakat 57th St, and managed to find the way out of Riverside Park at 79th St.  The section up from 59th St to 72nd St was also under the highway (Henry Hudson Parkway, this time) and I was very, very thankful for the time out of the rain.  Till this point, about 9 miles into my run, the going was totally flat.  79th St is where that changed.  Big hill to get over 79th/77th over to Central Park.  As I mentioned, Central Park was completely empty, almost eerily so.  I was a little disappointed as I passed the marathon finish line to see that all signs of the marathon finish were gone.  Not sure if they still paint the pavement at the finish, but definitely no signs of it anymore.  There should be some sign, or homage to the marathon at the finish line year round!

    By this point, I was totally and completely waterlogged, but happily not feeling too cold.  Once out of Central Park, I worked my way south and east to 1st Ave.  Once out of the park, I felt the solid wind at my back, which made up for the long run into the wind.  That also meant I had less rain in my face, which was a welcome change.  At that point, the run was definitely getting harder.  I figured that this run would be a piece of cake after just recently completing the marathon distance, but I was definitely cooking along at a faster pace than I did in August, and the faster pace translated to a bit of pain and difficulty.

    The last 2 miles is where I really missed my tunes.  When struggling in the last miles of a training run, turning up the music and picking out some of my favorite songs make it easier to get the job done.  Somehow though, the blocks blew past, I managed to get up the little hill below 34th St on 1st Ave, and then was all of a sudden back in Stuytown and near the finish line!

    I finished the 15.5 mile run in 2:36:48, a very respectable 10:15 per mile pace.  This is significantly faster than the 2:53 I did on the same course in August, and the pace per mile was also faster than my best marathon training runs in October.

    I was definitely cold and wet at the end, and even a long hot shower could not get all the chill out.  That is one thing I’m concerned about as I do long training runs in the middle of winter – how to keep warm on long runs.  My legs and stomach both came out of this run very red and very cold.  Even after the shower, it was probably an hour or so until my body temp felt back to normal.

    Anyway, looking forward to the next long run, likely New Year’s weekend.

    Written by SCL

    November 30, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    Cat Hill Repeats (and more!)

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    Another great running class this week.  Workout was .25 mile repeats up Cat Hill in Central Park.  Cat Hill is a quarter mile hill, bordered by a sheer rock face with a statue of a black panther, or cat, on the top.  As most Central Park races finish on the upper east side portion of the park, this hill is usually part of the last 2 miles of any race.  The workout can be grueling depending on how hard you push.  The twist this time was that after the main workout, (5 of these repeats), we were to run a 1 mile time trial from 72nd St up to 90th St.  This is to simulate the last mile of a race when your legs are tired, and it includes the Cat Hill incline.

    I ran with the 8:20-8:40 pace group again.  The 1st repeat was kind of on the slow side as a warm up.  Got much faster from there.  For the most part, I just hung around the back of the group.  I prefer to be right up front or in the back.  Running hard in a group of people in close proximity makes me nervous.  I’m on the tall side and my stride is a bit longer than others.  My fear while running in a group is that it is too easy to get tangled up with someone else – definitely don’t want that, so back or front of the pack it is.  For the most part, the pace was consistent throughout, and I was quite happy to hang in the back – finished in the 1:59-2:04 range for each.

    After the main workout, we lined up for the 1 mile time trial.  My detailed running log goes back to 1999, and since then, I’ve done this Cat Hill workout in class 15 times.  I’ve never seen this 1 mile run at the end, so it came as a big suprise.  We kept the pace on the slow side up the hill, and then really pushed hard the last half mile.  I managed to finish the mile in 7:42 – an amazing time for me!  Gives me hope that I can run the fitness Mind Body, Spirit Games 4 miler at 8 minute pace per mile next weekend…

    Written by SCL

    August 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

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