4:30 or Bust: A Quest for Marathon Mediocrity

Posts Tagged ‘running

Treadmill was actually not bad!

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Spent the last couple of days away with the family.  I really wanted to get a run or two in on this trip, but was sort of frustrated by the location we were in, outside of Boston.  It seemed that all the roads were either multi-lane state highways, or narrow winding roads with no shoulders.  So, in order to run, I would need to get on the treadmill.

Keep in mind that, before this year, I have not run on the treadmill since at least 1995, maybe longer.  From ’93-’95 I was a member at NYHRC and would sometimes run on the treadmill.  Hated it then, and kept having shin issues, which I guess I attributed to the treadmill, even though I know logically that the treadmill is a softer surface and should be easier on the shins.

Since then, I have been an avid outdoor runner, eschewing the indoors and the treadmill.  I’ve run outside in any condition you can think of.  The only conditions I hate are the ones we’ve had this summer, hot and humid.  All this time, I’ve harbored ill-will to the treadmill and scoffed at people that use it to get training in when the weather is bad.

Anyway, fast foward to 2010.  I took a business trip to Kenya, and there I had to run indoors on the treadmill, for safety reasons.  Carjacking is a common sport in Nairobi, so a (slow) runner would be easy pickins’.  After 2 treadmill runs on that trip, I realized that it is really not at all that bad.  Yes, boring, and yes the sweat is really annoying, and running right next to other people you have to stare at in the mirror is annoying, and time limits are annoying, etc, etc, etc.  Far from a perfect workout, but it will do in a pinch.

And that is what I needed yesterday.  Went down to the hotel treadmill, just wanted to get my 4 miles in.  Lo and behold, turned the pace up to almost 9 minutes per mile (faster than any of my recent training runs), and after 2 miles found I still had more to give.  Decided to tack on an extra mile, for a total of 5, and also turned up the pace, first to 8:40 or so, and then close to 8:00 for the last half mile.

In all, had a fantastic workout, and while it was boring, and annoying in a bunch of ways, it was manageable, and I am happy to know that the treadmill can serve as a viable alternative when the need arises.

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Written by SCL

August 1, 2010 at 8:49 pm

Posted in Reflections, running

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Final long run for Providence Marathon done

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Reposted from my Daily Mile report.  Click here for the route.  Finished 22.1 miles in 3:57:08.

4th and final of my planned long run for Providence Marathon, in 3 weeks on May 2.  Since the marathon is relatively flat, I decided to come up with a new long run route that was flat.  Best place for that is the greenway around Manhattan, so I traced it all the way back and beyond to 20 miles and ended up with a starting point at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx.  I really wanted 22ish miles so I needed to find a short route in the park as a starting point, and Amy C came through with a couple of options, including ‘the flats’, a gravel loop that is 1.4 miles in the area of the park where I wanted to start.

So, I started with that loop, headed down Broadway into Manhattan, down Seaman to the end and hooked up with the top of the Greenway.  It literally is the top, as there is a quite a large hill in the early 2 miles to the GW Bridge.  At the bridge, the path very quickly gets down to sea level and then the rest of the run was to be flat.

At least that was the plan, until I got about 125th st, where the greenway was CLOSED!  Needed to detour over to Riverside, which is up a LONG and STEEP hill to get up to Grants Tomb.  Then along Riverside and Riverside Park before I could hook up with the greenway at 96th St.

The worst part of this run was when I hit the wall at mile 12.  Yes, mile 12.  Not sure what happened, but I totally lost it, and had to stop and walk awhile.  The best I can describe is that I felt a weird sugar imbalance.  At this point I was in the 40’s, which is a crowded area with street vendors.  Tried to get a pretzel, but the guy only had hot dogs, so I ate one, and then got a Gatorade.  Between those, I started running again at 42nd St, and felt much better.

Had my fair share of soreness, tiredness, etc the rest of the way, but was able to work through it.  In fact, the best part was that the last 2 miles was done at 10:15 pace!

Thought a lot about the NYC Triathlon on this run.  The flats loop in Van Cortlandt Park is approximately where the bike turn-around is on Mosholo Parkway.  The top part of the greenway is on the Henry Hudson Parkway, which is the bike course, and Riverside Park passes through the start and end of the swim, and the transition areas.  Made me excited about my planned triathlons this year, which will be my focus starting on May 3!

Written by SCL

April 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Cherry Tree 10 Mile Race Report

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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…

Written by SCL

February 22, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Posted in Race Report

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The fun part…

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I love so many things about marathon training.  Running with a purpose.  Eating whatever I want.  Watching the miles pile on.  The journey to meet a difficult goal.  Impressive comments I get from people who don’t run.  But the thing I love most of all, the part that I have the most fun with as I get ready for a marathon, is the PLANNING!

I absolutely love the planning aspect.  Starting with planning which race it will be.  Then, for the out-of-town races, the planning of when to go, where to stay, what to do, etc.  Planning the race day logistics.  And most importantly, planning the training.

It is funny, because on the one hand, I don’t really plan my training out very well at all.  For the most part, I wing it.  My marathon training has no start date.  I don’t count the weeks left to the race.  What I do on a given day is typically based on how I feel and how much time I have that day, and not what the ‘training plan’ says I need to do.  I watch at the macro level to make sure that I’m generally getting enough miles in, that my mileage is increasing properly, and that I’m getting the right cross training in, but I do not micro-manage the day-to-day workouts.

However, on the other hand, the one aspect I do plan very carefully is my long runs, and my goal activity for each weekend leading up to the race.  And that is what I’m working on now for my May 2 marathon, Rhode Races in Providence RI.

Couple of holes still, but here is how it is shaping up now.

  1. weekend of 1/23 – Manhattan Half
  2. weekend of 1/30 – 15 miles
  3. weekend of 2/6 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride?
  4. weekend of 2/13 – on vacation
  5. weekend of 2/20 – on vacation
  6. weekend of 2/27 – long run 18 miles
  7. weekend of 3/6 – Coogan’s 5k race
  8. weekend of 3/13 – TBD, default being 10 miles.  Maybe long bike ride?
  9. weekend of 3/20 – long run – 20 miles
  10. weekend of 3/27 – March Madness Biathlon
  11. weekend of 4/3 – 131 New York Half Marathon
  12. weekend of 4/10 – last long run – 21 miles
  13. weekend of 4/17 – start of taper – 10-13 miles
  14. weekend of 4/24 – taper
  15. weekend of 5/1 – BIG RACE

BRING IT!

Written by SCL

January 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

If a tree falls in the forest…

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Last night had a truly wonderful run over the Williamsburg Bridge and back.  Hill run, in windy conditions, while minding the slippery conditions, was completed at 9:17 per mile, a pace I seem to have had a hard time hitting lately.  It was my 13th run in December, and I think the increased workouts are making a difference!

Anyway, was coming up Ave A in the bike lane (LOVE the bike lane here, by the way, so much safer for us runners) and came upon a car parked in the bike lane.  Annoying, but nothing I’ve never seen before, just need to go around.  As I was getting ready to go around the car, a bike comes hurling around in the other direction, and the lady on the bike screams and hits the car as she goes past.

Now, I am a biker as well, and I totally understand the frustration, but really, hitting the car as you go past, on roads that are already slick with slush and ice?  Not smart, and not the best way to get your message across.  If something were to happen, trust me, it would be the ‘crazy’ biker that would get in trouble, and at much higher risk of injury, not the driver in a non-moving vehicle.

The kicker though, as I passed the car, was seeing that nobody was in the car to hear or feel the outburst…

Written by SCL

December 23, 2009 at 7:17 am

Rather blustery day

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I’ll start out with the bad news, at least for me.  I’ve been really bad lately with my eating habits and over the last couple months, let myself slip to a point I should not have gotten back to.  Stepped on the scale this morning and was shocked, SHOCKED, to see a number that I have not seen since Jan 2007, that I thought I would never see again.  I guess not necessarily shocked, since the numbers have been creeping up, and I ate very poorly yesterday.  So, I guess no suprise really, but hopefully the kick in the arse to clean up my act.  I was so proud of myself in late July.  At that time, for the NYC Tri, my weight was as low as it has been in 15 years.  I guess I stopped caring in the lead up to the NYC Marathon, and then the time off afterwards really did a number on me.  So, add another goal to my pile, but need to get my weight back down a bit to a more comfortable level.

Now, onto the run today.  I’d really like to get to 800 miles for the year, which will require ~93 miles in Dec.  That would be a high mileage month for me.  When not training for anything, I’ll typically get 40-60 miles in a month.  When training for something, I’ll get up to 80-100.  I have no races this month, and am still recovering from injury, but feeling better and so will give this a go.  Will have to add 1 or 2 long training runs to make it, and WILL try.

With that in mind, decided to run the relatively longer 6 mile run out and back over the Williamsburg Bridge.  My running windows in the morning are pretty small, and today I needed to be home by 7:10 so my wife could leave for work.  So, was out of bed by 5:30 and out of the house by 6:00.  Was warm, at 65 degrees, amazing for Dec, but very windy.  Wanted to go with a singlet on top, but have already put them away for winter, so pulled out a short sleeve tech tee instead.

Was really deserted out on the bridge.  Eerily deserted.  Reminded me of this run I did in the middle of winter, when it was 11 degrees and I saw very few people on the bridge.  Today, I was all the way over to the ‘landing’ on the Brooklyn side before I saw anyone else.  First was a couple running, then a guy trying to walk off his drunken state, and then another lone lady.  I guess the rain from last night combined with the wind kept people away.  Or, maybe it was just too early for most other people!  Did see several more people, and bike riders, on the return trip, including the same 3 runners seen the first time over.

Otherwise, this was hard.  The wind was really whipping around, especially up on the bridge.  Kept the pace slow and even and finished at about 10 min per mile.  I’m definitely out of practice with this run, as last time I did it was way back in August!

Made it home by 7:05, then quickly posted it up in my Excel log and on DailyMile, showered, and got my 8 year old up for school, and transitioned into that whole ‘get to school and work routine!’  All said, though, running really is a great way to start the day!

Written by SCL

December 3, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Posted in diet, running

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New York City Marathon Race Report – Part II

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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