4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Posts Tagged ‘Race Report

Cherry Tree 10 Mile Race Report

with 3 comments

Yesterday was the Cherry Tree 10 mile race, 3 loops around Prospect Park, organized by the Prospect Park Track Club.  This was originally not on my radar, because I’m deep in marathon training, and I knew this race was at the tail end of a vacation I was taking in California.  However, once I realized the race was Sunday, and I was flying in on Friday night, I convinced myself that the 10 mile race is a perfect opportunity to practice race conditions and signed right up.  The race also offers a relay option, which looked like a lot of fun – teams of three where each person runs 1 loop of the park.

First off, in terms of goal, I fully expected to PR this race.  I had only ever run 3 races at the 10 mile distance, and my PR was set way back in 2002, at 1:31:54.  Considering that time is 9:15 pace, and I just recently completed the Manhattan Half Marathon in 9:05 pace, I would have been upset if I didn’t PR.  Considering this race was 3 miles shorter, and an easier course (besides the big hill heading up to Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park is really not that bad), I wanted to get my pace under 9:00, and finish sub 1:30.

Few really nice things about this race.  First, the 10am start time.  Most NYRR races these days start at 8am, or earlier for some of the long ones, so I really appreciated the extra time to get out there.  Also, number pickup, bag check, and post race spread, was indoors at Bishop Ford HS, a 10 minute walk from the start.  Plenty of parking at the school.  This made for a very relaxing, and WARM, time in getting ready for the race and unwinding at the end.  They even offered massages afterwards.  The final nice thing about this race is the small field.  There were less than 1000 participants, much smaller than any NYRR event, most of which fill out at 5000 people.  The Haiti run this weekend had no cap, and over 9000 finishers.  OMG, holy traffic jam!  So, overall, this was a fantastic experience.  Having a school to go to after the race for bagels and hot chocolate reminded me of the good ole days when NYRR used to do this for all of the winter races.  Those days are long gone, so this is a great throwback.

Pre race, I was having flashbacks to October, when I ran the Nike Human Race.  It had a similar start position in the park, and so the first 6 miles would be a great approximation of how much improvement I’ve had since then.  On that day, I went out way too fast in the first mile, suffered shin splits, and had a rough race, finishing in 58:52, or 9:26 pace.  I was clearly not looking for a repeat performance.

On to the race itself.  I was able to get pretty close up to the front and so had ZERO congestion at the start of the race.  Again, I found myself running a very strong first mile, TOO strong.  Mile 1 was 8:34.  I know full well that I cannot sustain that pace over 9 miles and so tried to dial it back.  Once I came around to the start area again, I realized that the start line is on a downhill.  That probably explains why mile 1, twice in a row, was too fast.

This time, luckily, my shins cooperated and did not flare up.  Slowed the pace to 8:54 and 9:00 in the next 2 miles.  I really wanted to keep the miles in the 9:00-9:10 range, hoping that I’d be able to run a couple of stronger miles at the end to get me in under 1:30.  It did work out that way.  You can see that mile 5, 6, and 7 were very consistent.  Mile 9 was the slowest, but this included the 3rd time up the big hill, so perfectly understandable. At mile 9, I was at 1:21, so knew I had 1:30 in the bag, only needing a 9:00 final mile.  The last mile had lots of downhill, and with a little pushing, pulled off a strong 8:23, my fastest mile.  Finishing time was 1:29:19, a 8:56 pace.

  • Mile 1 – 8:34
  • Mile 2 – 8:54
  • Mile 3 – 9:00
  • Mile 4 – 8:45
  • Mile 5 – 9:06
  • Mile 6 – 9:11
  • Mile 7 – 9:11
  • Mile 8 – 8:56
  • Mile 9 – 9:16
  • Mile 10 – 8:23

My time of 1:29:19 was good enough for 385 out of 736 finishers, so close to 50th percentile!

Happy to add another PR to the record book, my first since Coogan’s 5K, almost a year ago.

On another note, patiently awaiting my Daily Mile tech tee shirt!  There were a few DailyMilers out there, and if we had shirts to wear, would make it easier to spot each other!  Maybe it will show before Coogan’s in 2 weeks.  One can dream…

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Written by SCL

February 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Race Report

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New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

with 4 comments

I know, I know, it is late, but better late than never!  Check out part 1 here:

As I started on the 2nd half of the marathon, I really felt completely comfortable, and happy with my pacing.  However, the voices in the back of my head said “you should still be feeling good at this point, only halfway”, and I also reminded myself that I still had the hard half to go, and so could take nothing for granted.  Would still just focus on taking it slow, and conserving energy for the late stages where I would need it.

The Queens portion of  the course is very short.  In my first few NYC marathons, it was also pretty sparsely populated with spectators, but that has changed in recent years.  Now there are lots of people watching, and making lots of noise.  I never liked how the course seemed very jig-jaggy through Queens, with lots of turns.  However, they made some subtle changes this year to reduce some of the turns and straighten things out.  I think this makes the Queens portion of the course slightly shorter, which is made up with a little extra room in the Bronx.  I can only otherwise say that I was feeling good here, and got lost a bit in the support of the crowd.  Mile 14 was completed in 10:09, and before I knew it, we were approaching the Queensboro Bridge.

At that stage of the race, the bridge is a killer.  I firmly believe that charging hard up the bridge last year was my downfall in missing 4:30.  So this year, I decided to just take it easy up the bridge and incorporate walk breaks.  I walked early on up the bridge for about 2 minutes, and then again as we reached the top.  This is actually where I started feeling my first muscle issues, namely spasms in my hamstrings.  It was not bad, but just the first cause of concern.  Seemed related to the cold wind, which could be felt here as a cross breeze from right to left.  It went away as soon as we were off the bridge.  In addition to dealing with the incline is the challenge of dealing with the congestion.  You essentially have 2 lanes of traffic for running, but with lots of people walking, (sometimes 3 and 4 abreast) there is a lot of energy lost in just weaving your way through the walkers up the hill.  My approach was to try and find somebody running at my pace and just stay right behind them, and let that person pick through the crowd.

I do enjoy the relative serenity of the bridge.  With no people cheering, it is very quiet, and a chance to recollect before you hit the big crowds again when you come off the bridge.  The cool thing I saw here, that I didn’t remember from years past, is that as we were coming down the ramp off the bridge, there were people stationed above on the main structure of the bridge, literally hanging over the concrete side, above the runners and cheering.  It was a nice welcome into Manhattan, and to the 16 mile mark.  Only 10.2 miles to go!  At this point, was still right within my strategy as mile 15 with the uphill was 11:08, and mile 16, with some uphill in it, was 10:46.  Little slower than I wanted at this point, but still no cause for concern. At this point, my time was approx 2:40, which meant I had 1:50 to cover 10.2 miles, or almost 11 minutes per mile.  So, still feeling good about 4:30.

  • Mile 14 – 10:09
  • Mile 15 – 11:08
  • Mile 16 – 10:46

At this point, we hit 1st Ave, which on TV they tend to call the  “Canyon of Sound”.  In my experience that is not really true.  Yes, the crowds are HUGE on 1st Ave, but they are very sterile.  They tend to stand around and watch, and are not so into the cheering and screaming, as they are on other parts of the course.  This may be because the Ave is so wide that the spectators are set apart quite a ways from the runners.  Again, I just focused on slow and smooth and enjoying the energy.

I had two people to look for here.  Michelle, was going to be at around 72nd St, and a work friend, CW would be in the 90’s.  I didn’t know which side they would be on, so guessed left.  Started looking for Michelle after 70’s St, and was able to easily pick her and her sister out from the crowd.  A quick hello, high five, and an awesome picture, and I was off on my way again. 

Mile 17 at NYC Marathon

As I approached 90’s St, started looking for CW.  Lot of people watching here, so I was focused on the front set of watchers, and almost ran right by her, and her boyfriend as they were set back in the sidewalk.  Luckily, she saw me and called out my name, and I heard, so I was able to see her, give a wave and smile, and carry on.  Still feeling great through this stretch.  I did not take a walk break, with the exception of the water stops.  However, this is where I started getting worried, as my times were slower than my pacing felt.  I was feeling good, but my miles were slowing here, in the 10:45 to  11 range, rather than the 10:30 range I felt.  That was a bad sign.

  • Mile 17 – 10:34
  • Mile 18 – 10:43
  • Mile 19 – 10:56

No only did I take it up 1st Ave without walking, but I also ran the entire length of the Willis Ave Bridge, which is also a clear first for me, and a good half of the Bronx portion without walking.  Did take a walk break towards the end of the Bronx portion, but thought I did pretty well through this area.  Over the Madison Ave Bridge back to Manhattan and the 21 mile mark.  This is where everything changed for me.  As I crossed 21 and hit the button on my watch, I simultaneously noted the really slow time of 11:47 for the mile, and first felt the twinges and muscle spasms that would haunt me the rest of the race, in my legs.  It was at this moment that I knew that 4:30 was totally out of reach.  Even though I was “feeling good”, my times were just way too slow.  And now, in my defeated spirit, my legs started barking at me big time.

The muscle spasm that I had was weird.  Sort of felt it in my lower quads, almost at the top of my knees.  Felt it in both legs, and it seemed to hurt regardless of whether I was running, walking, and stretching didn’t help that much.  At times I was able to run through it, at times it was too much and I took significant walk breaks.  The uphill stretch from 110th to 90th St before you enter the park was the worst.  I walked most of this, and it resulted in my slowest mile, 14:16, for mile 24.  The crowd is so loud and encouraging here, but I just couldn’t get myself together enough to make a real push.  The emotions felt here were truly mixed.  I was very disappointed and upset that 4:30 was not going to happen.  Not only missing 4:30, but I could see that 4:35 wasn’t going to happen, and then 4:40.  On the other hand, I really did feel a huge sense of accomplishment for getting as far as I did.  I was going to finish the race, and I was also going to beat thousands of people also running the race.  And since this will be the last NYC Marathon I will run for awhile, I tried hard to enjoy the last miles, through the most amazing park, the most amazing crowd, in the most spectacular mass participation sporting even there is.

  • Mile 20 – 11:44
  • Mile 21 – 11:47
  • Mile 22 – 12:49
  • Mile 23 – 12:46
  • Mile 24 – 14:16
  • Mile 25 – 13:17

I walked through the mile 26 sign and water stop, and then started to run again, and managed to keep running to the end.  It is mostly a blur, but I really did savor the very loud crowd on Central Park South, and appreciate and enjoy the final third of a mile through Columbus Circle, back into the park, and the final stretch I run hundreds of times up into the finish line.  My pace was still incredibly slow (14:44 for last 1.2 miles) but I ran it, with no walking, and was happy I was able to get that done.

  • Mile 26 – 12:24
  • Mile 26.2 – 2:30

My finishing time was 4:44:05.  In the end, really not that bad.  It is my 2nd fastest NYC Marathon, and my 4th fastest overall out of 11.  While disappointed I didn’t get to, or close to 4:30, I was still very happy with the overall experience.  Of course, then started going through the inevitable reflection of what could I have done better?  A suggestion was made that taking salt in the race may help to avoid muscle cramps.  I will need to experiment with that next time around.  Otherwise, I don’t know there was much else I could do differently.  I think the slower time was simply a reflection of not having trained well enough.  I worked through several injuries in the last few months, starting with a severe lower back spasm in late July, and then shin and groin issues.  I got a lot of miles in, but there were not hard, quality miles.

Anyway, with the exception of the approx 50 minutes it took me to get from mile 21 to mile 25, I totally had a blast and enjoyed every other moment of the day!

My tentative plans for 2010 include Rhode Races Marathon on 5/2, and possibly Chicago on 10/10.  Will also mix in two triathlons, possibly a duathlon, and lots of road races and biking!  Trying to get to 800 miles for 2009, but since I’ve continued to have groin issues and have put in limited miles in the last 3 weeks, it is not looking like that will happen.  If I don’t make it in 2009, then it WILL happen in 2010!

Happy running…

Written by SCL

November 25, 2009 at 9:17 am

New York City Marathon Race Report – Part I

with 6 comments

Wow, hard to believe another year has gone by and another New York City Marathon has also come and past.  This is the third year in a row that I ran, and my 7th NYC since 1996.  As I’ve also run in 4 other marathons, this was my 11th overall.

My goal, of course, was 4:30, obtained at the Austin Marathon in Feb, 4:22, in friendly conditions (downhill, wind at back for much of last 8 miles).  Last year in NYC, I just missed out, finishing in 4:31:xx.  Even though I had put in lots of miles, in fact, more miles in the 12 weeks before this race than any other marathon previously, I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t really have it in me to finish in 4:30 (outlined here).  In many ways I had a great race and a great time, which you’ll see here, but, at the end of the day, I started coming apart in mile 19 or so, and totally lost it after 21 miles.  But, let’s go back and start at the beginning.

I was in the 3rd wave this year, which meant I’d have a 10:20am start time.  I was also assigned to the Staten Island Ferry, as transportation to the start.  Although I could actually take advantage of the ferry and get a much later start than in years past, I just found myself so jumpy and nervous about the race, that I ended up getting almost as early a start as I have in years past.  Was up at 4:30, out the door by 5:15, and at the ferry in time for the 5:45 ferry.  Ferry was not super crowded, certainly less crowded than a typical weekday or weekend trip, and everything was well organized.  Took awhile between the ferry ride and the shuttle bus to the start area, but eventually we were dropped off in a HUGE line of people trying to get into the fort.  Line moved slowly and steadily, delay was essentially a cursory bag check, and then we were in the fort!

First job was just to scout around.  Find my corral in the blue start, find the food, all the bathroom lines, etc.  First thing I noticed was that even though the orange and blue corrals are right next to each other, you cannot get through from one to the other.  That worked out nicely for us as there were a ton of port-o-sans in the area that would prove to never get very crowded.  This was my first blue start, Alberto Salazar Village, and I thought it was the best organized of the bunch.  Very large open concrete (key) space right next to the corrals with all the food and drink stations, and then another large tent area further away, again with all the food and drink stations and port-o-sans.  Passed the time with a careful eating strategy, changed into my race clothes and shoes, and checked my bag at around 8:30.  Was not terribly cold out with temps forecasted in the 50’s, so decided to go with short sleeve top and shorts.  With 2 hours to kill, mostly standing around, went with a throwaway long sleeve t-shirt and shell jacket, the kind they sell at the expo.  Spent much of the rest of the time walking around, using the bathrooms, eating, and just watching the insanity at the corrals.

I have to say the corrals seemed much better staffed this year than last.  Last year, it seemed that it there were mostly high school age girls trying to keep the peace, and that was not working.  Or, perhaps, they do a better job with the blue corrals than the green corrals?  In the blue corrals this year, there were big guys from the US Coast Guard trying to keep order.  That still didn’t stop people from rushing the corrals, jumping the fences (much higher than last year by the way) or otherwise loudly complaining about the injustice of their not being allowed in, when they were in fact LATE.  I really find it amazing how people can not take enough self interest in where they need to go or need to be to get themselves to the assigned place on time.  And I have no sympathy for the people that wait until the last minute to go to the race, check their bag, and try to find their place.  This is the NYC Marathon, with 43,000 participants, not some rinky dink 1000 person race where you can waltz right up at the last minute.  When will they learn??  I’ve seen in race reports that the green corrals were poorly done, but in the blue, everything seemed well organized, and everyone that showed up on time made it to the proper wave.

As for myself, I was in the 2nd corral of the 3rd wave.  Even in my corral, after wave 2 had completely gone by, there were many people trying to rush the front of the 3rd wave to catch up.  Even through the gates were completely closed, and those people were completely late, having already missed the cannon, these people were still completely unruly, threatening and downright ugly towards the volunteers trying to keep everything nice and orderly and safe for the rest of us.  Finally, about 5 minutes before the start, they allowed us to walk up to the start line.  After a few turns around a maze of buses parked in the toll plaza, we were in front of the start line!  I had worked my way up most of the way through the first corral of people and was about 5 rows deep from the start line!  Right in front of the place where the announcer guy was doing his thing from, and where a military lady sang God Bless America.  I was literally standing right under her while she sang.  When it was done, after a few short words, they moved us right up to the start, and the cannon boomed, and we were off!

This was my 7th NYC Marathon, and this start will be one to never forget.  It was as if I was in the lead pack going up the bridge.  It was a truly awesome experience.  Since most people in wave 3, presumably, are not faster than 9 min per mile pace (slowest third of the participants, the lead group didn’t even break away from me that quickly.  Virtually all the way up the bridge, I could clearly see the empty bridge ahead, and the running lanes were not very crowded.  It was a great experience.  Unfortunately though, it was windy, really windy, almost directly a headwind, although slightly from the left side.  After a few minutes of fearing I might lose my hat, I took it off and carried it the entire length of the bridge.  Brightroom got 2 nice pictures of me holding my hat!

My goal was to try as much as possible to stay completely “within” myself for as long as possible, and not jump out to fast in the classic areas (bridge, Clinton Hill, Williamsburg, 1st Ave).  A 4:30 marathon is approx 10:18 per mile.  My goal was to keep to 9:45’s or so for the first half.  Each mile clicked off in 9:45, or better, was 30+ seconds that I was ‘banking’ for late in the race, when my pace would most definitely slow down.  So, here, in the first mile, in the lead pack, with little in the way of crowds or obstructions, I tried very hard to hold back, and succeeded.  First mile was in 9:48, and then the 2nd mile, all downhill, was in a reasonable 9:05.  Then I settled into a nice easy 9:30-9:50 pace for the early miles.

Once we hit the 2nd mile, then the faster people behind me in the wave started to pass, and there were a lot of people passing me in the first 5-6 miles.  It did not feel crowded at all though, until we hit mile 4, which is where we merged with the green start.  In theory, the people in the green start are even slower than those in the blue start, and this was likely the case.  While we picked up an additional set of people at that merge, it still didn’t feel too crowded.  One thing that struck me in these miles is that this is where I was having so much trouble 2 weeks earlier, when I bagged on a 21 mile run, and went into the subway at 36th St, after only 13 miles.  On this day, continued breezing down 4th Ave, feeling great and having a grand ole time.  At this point, 4:30 felt totally possible.  I kept telling myself that I felt great and just needed to stay within myself and hold back.  However, the other voice in my head said that it is a long race, and of course you should be feeling great at this early point.  If you were feeling badly this early, then it would truly be a very long day.

At around mile 6, I noticed that I was starting to pass people, slow people, walkers.  Uh oh, this means we’ve caught up to the slower people from wave 2.  This would actually turn out to be an unexpected problem for a long time.  I wasn’t expecting to have to do the dodge and weave thing until much later on in the race.  I guess that is the worst part about being in wave 3.  When I was in wave 2 last year, I didn’t have that problem and didn’t have to worry about passing people, for the most part, until much later on in the race.  My last observation from this first third of the race was the improved merge section at mile 8.  This was slightly altered from years past, and made for a wider and more controlled merge.  Good job NYRR!

  • Mile 1 – 9:48
  • Mile 2 – 9:05
  • Mile 3 – 9:28
  • Mile 4 – 9:40
  • Mile 5 – 9:50
  • Mile 6 – 9:38
  • Mile 7 – 9:48
  • Mile 8 – 9:46

This next section is actually my favorite part of the race.  When you make that right turn at mile 8, onto Lafayette Ave, the nice controlled 4th Ave course turned into what seems like mass chaos!  The street is narrower, so the running lane is packed, and to top it off, the crowd is large and very wild and enthusiastic.  The whole section of Lafayette, from mile 8 to mile 9, mostly  uphill, mind you, just feels great.  The crowd gives some of the best vibes here and really makes for such an enjoyable experience.  Yes, the crowd is better in the last miles in Central Park, but by then, I’m so miserable I don’t really notice it.  Here, in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, in mile 8,9, I’m still feeling fresh, and able to fully experience, enjoy and embrace the power of the crowd.  I do have to remind myself to not push hard here and stay within myself.  The 9th mile, through this area, uphill, was 9:58, and right within what I would expect.

I continued to have very consistent and reasonable miles through this area.  Mile 11 was slower, but that was because I decided to take my first Gu at the 10 mile water stop, adding a good 30 seconds to my time.  Mile 13 was also on the slow side, but that was because I decided to take a bathroom stop here.  That probably added 30-40 seconds as well.  So even though I lost a minute between the Gu and bathroom, I was still cruising along, seemingly on autopilot, at 9:45-10 minutes per mile.  This is EXACTLY where I wanted to be, and I was very pleased, and happy with my race so far.  I still thought it was totally possible to finish in 4:30.  I crossed the halfway mark at 2:09:07, which meant I needed to do the 2nd half in 2:21, or about 10:50 per mile.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Written by SCL

November 10, 2009 at 12:07 am

Nike Human Race Race Report

with 5 comments

Saturday, Oct 24, 2009, was “the day the world runs”, and I took part in the New York event, a 10k race in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.  I jumped at the chance to run this race, because, I enjoy running in Prospect Park and rarely do.  Only chance I really have has been at the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which I’ve done on and off over the years.  This 10k race was also the perfect taper event for 8 days before the New York City Marathon.

Weather was potentially a factor, but luckily, it held out and there was no rain.  Rained hard overnight, but stopped early in the morning.  By racetime, only remnants were the wet roads and the humid air.  It was actually quite humid, but luckily not too hot at about 60 degrees.  Showers started to kick in after the race, but thankfully the race itself was dry.

Start was at 8am, so 5:30 alarm, 6:15 out the door, and arrived at the park around 7:15.  Plenty of time to get the pre-race stuff done (change of clothes, bathroom run, bag check) in a leisurely fashion.  Had the bag checked by 7:40 and lined myself up with the 8 minute per mile people.

I’m so used to running NYRR races in New York City, I had to keep reminding myself that this was not an NYRR event.  The start was very professional, and well staged with enough port-o-potties, an organized start line by pace time, and buses to transport our bag the half mile from start to finish, and keep them dry in case of rain!  But I did a double take when the announcer guy was none other than Ian Brooks, who has announced at many NYRR events over the years.  Lately I’ve heard someone else doing the race announcements for NYRR, so nice to see that Ian is still out there, with his awesome British accent.  Although (sorry for the mini-rant here as I am a stickler for logistics and details), he incorrectly referred to us having the D-Tag chip rather than the ChampionChip.  First of all, D-Tag is not a ‘chip’, it is a ‘tag’!  The confusion is because NYRR has started using D-Tag, although at the Staten Island Half, the announcer there kept referring incorrectly to the ChampionChip.  Cmon people, let’s get it right!

Anyway, back to the point! Shortly after 8am, the horn sounded, and we were off!  I could tell right away that I was going too fast.  I almost started hyperventilating early and could feel myself breathing heavy.  I tried to back off a bit but keep a hard pace.  My 10k PR, set in early 2007, is 52:43, and I was thinking that if I could keep my pace around 8:45, I would have a chance to PR.  Then, the bad news started to surface.  In the first mile, I could feel my shin acting up.  I’ve had my fair share of shin issues lately and was praying it would hold off and allow me to run through it.  The advantage to running in the park is that there are a lot of uphills (and downhills), but in particular, the uphills are good to loosen up the shin and sometimes make the pain go away before having to stop and walk.  The big hill is in mile 2, so I felt I just needed to hold up to that point.  Even with slowing down, and taking a water stop before mile 1, I crossed mile 1 in 8:15, which is way too fast.  I have a feeling that marker was not quite accurate, but hard to tell.  Anyway, dialed the pace back a notch, hoping it would help, and worked up the big hill in the northeast corner of the park.  Crested it, and started working down the other side, but shin was still tight.  Very tight. 

Made it as far as the water stop just after mile 3, and decided on a walk break.  Walked about a quarter mile, trying to stretch it out, etc.  Then started back into run mode.  Shin pain was still there, but starting to abate, so just pressed along.  Very soon we completed the first loop and started the second time around.  This time, finally, in mile 4, as I worked up the hill for the second time, the shin pain subsided significantly.  Was then able to safely push hard the last 2 miles into the finish.  My biggest complaint about the race occurred here, namely the 5 mile marker placement.  The placement was highly suspect, as you will see by my splits below.  I am a very consistent runner, and miles 5 and 6 were run at a similar hard pace, yet you’ll see the major difference in time.  Finish was actually on a nice downhill, so cruised in very fast.  Finished in 58:29, which is not bad at all, but several minutes slower than I thought I could do if my shin didn’t act up.  After finishing, I went out to the last straightaway and cheered many more runners into the finish.

Overall, this race was great.  Water was plentiful and there were many stops with lots of tables.  The post race spread was great, although the grounds were completely muddy.  Hope they run this again next year, and again in Prospect.  If so, I will be there!

And to top it all off, ended with a fantastic brunch in Park Slope with great company, namely 5 new friends met over the last year on DailyMile and Twitter.  Great food and great conversation.  Then off to the rest of my weekend!

  • Mile 1 – 8:15
  • Mile 2 – 9:48
  • Mile 3 – 10:20
  • Mile 4 – 9:41
  • Mile 5 – 10:54 (I DONT THINK SO!)
  • Mile 6 – 7:44 (I WISH)
  • Mile 6.2 – 1:42

Written by SCL

October 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Staten Island Half Marathon Race Report

with 5 comments

Let me start by saying that I love the Staten Island Half Marathon.  Of the Grand Prix events, I enjoy this 2nd most, just behind Brooklyn.  The course is not particular difficult, has great water vistas and great views of the Verrazano Bridge.  It also has a wonderful staging area in the parking lot of the Richmond County Bank Ballpark, and top it off with the wonderful opportunity to take the Staten Island Ferry in the early morning.

This was my seventh running.  I ran 4 times in the 90’s, on the old course that ended in Fort Wadsworth.  This is the third year in a row I’ve run the newer course, as part of my final preparation for the New York City Marathon.  Considering the marathon is in 3 weeks, I decided I wouldn’t run this as a race, but rather as a strong tempo run.

This year the race had an 8:30 start, an hour earlier than in prior years.  I felt the 7:30 ferry was cutting it too close, so decided to go for the 6:30 ferry.  That necessitated a 5am alarm, and getting out of the house by 5:30.  The early morning ferry ride, starting in the darkness and ending with the rising sun, was so peaceful.  Sat on the Brooklyn side, views are just stunning with the sunrise on a nice morning.  Was quite cold though.

Once at the staging area, got my number, used the ‘facilities’, and then sat on the waterfront and read my book (The Mists of Avalon) for 15 minutes.  Then used the facilities again, changed my clothes, dropped off my bag, and made it to my corral with 10 mins to spare.  All in all, a perfect pre-race strategy.  No stress, no waiting on lines, etc.

My goal was to finish under 2:05, and if things went really well, perhaps push it down to 2:01 or so, which is similar to what I did last year.  So, the early strategy was to do about 9:30 per mile and then slowly push the pace faster in the second half.  My shin has been acting up lately, and it was starting to bother me in the first 2 miles.  Luckily it was not so bad and I was able to push through it to the third mile, where my shin started to loosen up.  Uphills are good for the shin, and there were enough uphill spots in the early miles to keep it under control.

  • Mile 1 – 9:26
  • Mile 2 – 9:27
  • Mile 3 – 9:23
  • Mile 4 – 9:13

The other nice thing about this course is that the streets used are very wide, and have lots of straightaways.  This is especially true when you get to mile 5 and the out and back on Father Capodanno Blvd.  It starts with a nice long downhill into the straightaways.  Was still feeling really good here so did start to push a little.  The out portion to mile 6.5 was slightly into the wind, so required a little more push to maintain the pace.  I knew that I could coast a little with the wind on the way back to prepare for the big hill as you approach mile 8.  Mile 7.5 to 8 is a pretty steep uphill coming off the Blvd and into Fort Wadsworth.  It is the toughest part of the course, and I knew that it was mostly downhill after that part, so I pushed it hard as well, and finished that mile with a very strong 9:28.

  • Mile 5 – 9:36
  • Mile 6 – 9:16
  • Mile 7 – 9:24
  • Mile 8 – 9:28

With the hardest part behind, and only 5 miles to go, now was the time to start pushing, especially on the downhills.  Significant downhills in mile 9 and 10.  Was still feeling super strong here and was able to maintain a nice hard 9:00-9:15 pace, and then really pushed it all out on the last mile, and finished with a very hard sprint into the finish.

  • Mile 9 – 9:12
  • Mile 10 – 9:02
  • Mile 11 – 9:23
  • Mile 12 – 9:07
  • Mile 13 – 8:23
  • Mile 13.1 – :45

My official time was 2:01:14, which I was very happy with.  Overall, was very similar to the race I ran last year.  Virtually the same pacing, with a similar hard finish.  My time last year was about a minute faster, at 2:00:19.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m still really happy with my time, and my race strategy, but since the strategy and conditions were almost identical to last year, and last year was 1 minute faster, it unfortunately tells me that I have not gotten any faster in the last year, with all the running and biking I’ve done.

Feeling great going into the last weeks of New York City Marathon training.  Planning for a 20-21 miler next weekend, and then a 2 week taper into the race!

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

Shore Runners Summer Showdown Race Report

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As I said in my August 2009 month in review post, “better late than never”.  This race was almost a month ago, on Aug 22, but it is still important for me to write up the race, how I did, and my impressions.

First of all, one of my goals is to run in more smaller, “local”, events.  In the past, I’ve tended to run many New York Road Runners events, but those have gotten so big and stressful to deal with.  Also, I’ve also decided not to try to get in the required 9 races to get an automatic entry to the New York City Marathon.  Instead, I intend to focus on marathons in other states going forward.  I’ve got 5 states, and look forward to trying to get the other 45 done.  I will definitely still run some NYRR events, but they simply won’t be my first choice anymore.  So, I jumped at the chance to run in this race.  I noticed it listed in the events section of Daily Mile and was interested for 2 reasons.  First, it is about 15 minutes from my weekend house in New Jersey, and second, it is a cross country race, which I’ve never run before.

I almost backed out at the last minute.  The races was smack in the middle of one of those rainy spells we had in August, and the forecast was for rain.  Since this was a cross country race, I was a little worried about poor footing, etc.  But, the opportunity to run in a small local 5k, and to try out a cross country race was too great, so I decided to go for it.

And a small 5k it was.  I decided to register on race day.  When I showed up to register, there was some kind of commotion.  Apparently, at the race location, they were missing both the list of number assignments for the people that pre-registered, and missing the stack of race numbers for race day registrants.  No problem though, we were all patient about it, and they eventually received both missing items and got everyone signed in.  At check in, I also got a nice looking green Saucony technical singlet!

The rain started about 15 minutes before the start of the race.  Didn’t seem to bad as it was some kind of sun shower, and we could sort of remain dry by standing under some trees.  About 5 mins before the start, the race director herded us all towards the start area to talk through the course.  It would take us around the ball fields, through the woods, around the polo field, back through the ball fields, through the woods and then around the polo field again to the finish.  A few minutes later, we were off.  In all, the most informal start I’ve ever seen for a race!

Did I say this was a small race?  There really were not that many of us.  And it seemed like a healthy proportion were young, high school and college, kids, who looked very skinny and very fast.  Many of them took right off and left me in the dust.  So settled in with a fairly small set of middle of the pack runners.  First stage of the race was through a big open field in high grass.  Definitely harder than your typical road surface.  About a half mile in, we entered a wooded section that was narrow, hilly, and muddy!   But that section was short and we entered another large open area and ran around a giant polo field.  Then, a short trip back in the woods, and another open field section, before we entered a longer wooded section.  This wooded section was hilly, and very muddy.  The muddiest area was on a steep downhill, so had to really cut the pace down to make sure I didn’t fall down.  All of the running in the grass started to get to me, and I was losing it in the last mile – did have to stop to walk once.  Crossed the finish line, in 27:46, and was handed a number, 76.  Had to check in at the main tent to provide my name and race number, so that the race could be properly scored.  Did I say it was a small race?

Anyway, I mentioned it started raining about 15 minutes before the race.  It continued to rain at the start of the race, and stopped when I was at about mile 2.  When the rain stopped, the humidity was noticeable, and the sun also started to come out, making it seem really hot.  Maybe another reason I bonked in that last mile.

In summary, I had a blast.  It was a lot of fun, but also very hard.  I managed to finish at 8:57 pace per mile, slower than I would have expected in a road race, but better than I though I could do on a slippery and muddy cross country course.  I look forward to maybe trying this again next year, and also looking for other small races in Monmouth County!

Written by SCL

September 20, 2009 at 9:54 pm

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