Monday, October 15, 2012

Shades of Death Half Marathon

The plan was for this half to be my final tune up race for the Philadelphia marathon, but things have not been going to plan for quite some time when it comes to my running. The misery started last October when I injured my right hamstring while training for the New York marathon. I managed to run the marathon and do pretty well, but the hamstring injury lingered, and forced me into a long period of rest and rehab. I was not able to run almost all winter, and had to settle for just a little light jogging with plenty of rest all spring.

By June, my hamstring injury made good progress, and I was able to put in some decent mileage, and in July was able to start with some faster running. I had my heart set on a November marathon, but I think in hindsight that desire combined with having missed so many months of training forced me into an overly aggressive build up that had a good chance of ending badly. And at this point I would say it has ended badly. I have had recurring issues with my left quad and/or hip since late summer, and ever since a 20 mile run a week and a half ago, it has been throwing fits every time I run. If that wasn't enough, I've been having recurring pain on top of my left foot, and my right posterior tibial tendon is inflamed. In addition, I have been having recurring intestinal issues that cost me the better part of a week of training in late May, and again in mid September, when I think my frustration peaked this year.

The week before this race I trained with the hope that I was going to be able to nurse myself to Philadelphia, but that ended the week of the race when the situation with my quad deteriorated rapidly. After a hard workout on Sunday that left me with a limp, I took Monday and Tuesday off hoping to get some healing. The rest helped, but a 9 mile run on Wednesday made it clear that a longer layoff will be required. I cut my planned 9 miles to 4 miles on Thursday, and I think that's when I decided to make this the season finale rather than a tune up.

I did not run Friday to get the leg a little more recovery. I ran an easy 6 miles on Saturday because I typically feel sluggish after a day off, and considered it necessary to get a little work in before the race. Training hard the previous week and missing and cutting short most runs the following week is not ideal lead up to a race in my mind. This made me nervous, but I tried to not think about that and just go out and run. What made me more nervous was how much worse my leg felt after the 6 miles on Saturday. I was worried racing 13.1 miles could really do some damage, but at the same time I really wanted to get something out of all the training I put in. Maybe not the best idea, but I decided I would give it a try.

This is a small race (about 400 participants) in a rural North Western New Jersey town, but to the credit of the organizers it's put together like one of the bigger, well run events. There are shuttles from parking to a middle school, where competitors got to hang out at a heated gym before the start. This was a nice touch on a chilly morning, as was the availability of real bathrooms. Laying around on the gym floor I almost felt like I was at an indoor track meet for the first time in ages. I almost got a little sentimental, there. But not too much.

I believe the event was a success last year, and word got around, because for a race this small, quite of few pretty strong runners showed up. Listed start time was 9 am, so I got up at 8:35, warmed up for about 10 minutes, and went over to the start. And here came my only gripe with the event. They didn't start on time. It went off 15 minutes late because the RD was waiting for people to finish their bathroom business. I HATE when I warm up expecting an on time start and the race starts late, but thankfully, the delay wasn't ridiculously long, and around 9:15 off we went.

The RD called the course "flat and fast." I am not sure I would go so far as calling it "flat." I mean, look at the picture below. Does that look "flat?" It is a two loop course along rural roads. There are corn fields, cows, horses, the charming smell of manure, and of course, a few rolling hills spanning the first 3 miles of the loop. Nothing terrible, but noticeable. More obnoxious than the surprise hills were the long sections of road where you had to run into the wind, and the barren landscape, and the low number of competitors. Running through a barren corn field all alone with the wind pushing you back has a way of making me pay attention to how exhausted I am getting, which is not a good thing. I would say 11 out of the 13.1 miles were a time trial, and time trialing to a fast time is not easy.

Which brings me back to my goal for this race. At a minimum, I was hoping to run 1:19:00 or better to meet the new guaranteed entry standard for the New York marathon. Secretly, I was hoping I could be closer to 1:17. This is the result, splits recorded at the mile markers:

1 mi    6:12.01   
1.01 mi    5:56.4   
1.01 mi    6:05.85   
2.03 mi    12:05.15
1.01 mi    5:55.72   
1.01 mi    6:01.15   
1 mi    6:02.88   
1.02 mi    5:59.7   
2.01 mi    12:03.6   
1.01 mi    6:08.95   
1 mi    5:44
0.11 mi    0:36
Finish 1:18:50

Not quite the time I hoped for, but I got my NYC qualifier and a hard fought 42 second PR at the distance.

I spent the first few miles figuring out how I felt. I started out fairly gingerly, and with the biggest hill of the race coming at the end of the first mile, mule 1 was my slowest of the race. Halfway through loop 1 I remember thinking that I was not feeling that great, but the second half of the loop seemed a little net down hill and with the wind at my back, so I recovered a little and thought that maybe I wasn't feeling so bad about the prospects for a 1:19. At any rate, I could tell that a 1:17 was not in the cards, and decided that I would run to hit the NYC qualifier. A 1:19 is right around 6:02 per mile, and that seemed to be the fastest I felt comfortable running without thinking I was about to blow up, so my mid race strategy turned to trying to run splits right around 6:00-6:03 to put myself in position, and hope to summon the anaerobic reserves in the last mile to get over the hump.

By the end of the loop and at the beginning of the second loop I caught up to a couple few guys that left me early on. I got up to as high as 3rd place, but eventual 3rd place caught me with 2 miles to go, and I couldn't hang with him over the last mile. The hills and the wind on miles 7, 8, and 9 took their toll. I remember that miles 9, 10, and 11 really sucked. I felt like I was close to blowing up, and had the urge to slow down or drop out. I kept telling myself that this is actually good because that's how I felt in both of my other good half marathons. When eventual 3rd place caught me at the start of mile 12, I relaxed just a bit and took a light breather to gather myself for the final push to the finish. He took off at probably a 5:3x pace at the 12 mile marker. I followed the best I could, but couldn't stay with him, and managed around a 5:44 13th mile, which is what got me under 1:19.

The last couple of minutes of the race were interesting because my watch was displaying hours and minutes, but not seconds. At 1:17, I could see the finish, but without seeing the seconds, I couldn't tell if I was close enough to finish under 1:19. I kept running hard, but at this point my legs were starting to tie up, and I felt like I was slowing. When my watch showed 1:18, I was still far enough from the finish that I couldn't read the finish line clock, which resulted in a few anxious moments until finally, around 100m from the line I saw I still had around 30 seconds, and I could tell I would get there in time.

I crossed the line pretty happy. Rolled around and sat around on the ground for a bit to catch my breath, drank a couple of red bulls they were nice enough to put out, and got a free quad/hip massage, which actually seemed to help my ailment. I got my NYC qualifier and my leg didn't blow up, so I am pleased. Now it's time to let it heal. So no running for a while. And probably no marathon this November. But I am alright with that because at least 2012 hasn't been a total loss.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

New York City Marathon 2011

In brief, it was a lovely day for running. Sunny, high 40s and low 50s, and I finished in 2:45:50, shaving 1:55 off my PR

set in Philadelphia last fall.

5k splits I got off the tracking web site:

5k    20:07
10k    39:49     (19:42)
15k    59:29     (19:30)
20k    1:18:58    (19:27)
half    1:23:14
25k    1:38:57    (19:59)
30k    1:57:46    (18:49)
35k    2:17:47    (20:01)
40k    2:37:42    (19:55)
finish    2:45:50

I was did not go into this race expecting a PR because my training did not seem to indicate I was fit enough for a serious shot at it. Although I had a pretty solid summer and September where I managed to squeeze in a little more mileage than the same period last year, I had a rather miserable October where I had trouble finishing some key workouts, and decided to start cutting back on mileage early due to residual fatigue that seemed to refuse to go away.

As far as racing, I had a somewhat disappointing 17:30 5k in early September, and an encouraging 18 miler on rolling hills that I ran in 1:53:49, or 20 seconds faster than last year, despite a day with 100% humidity and high 60s temperatures. I am now thinking the big effort that day may have played into my struggles in October.

Anyway, given that I was feeling miserable most of the last month, I tapered early and hoped for the best. Being that the NYCM is a massive race and a logistical nightmare, I was forced to take the 5 am shuttle from the medowlands, and arrived in the start vollage by 6 am. I then spent a couple of hours sitting/laying on the grass in a tent as a bunch of boorish Frenchmen and other foreigners stepped on me as they moved around the bodies of runners that were stacked like firewood. Not a fan of this nonsense.

Anyway, after a couple of hours of this nonsense I got up to go use a portajohn and drop my luggage, only to realize that I misjuged how early I would need to do all this. I had to scramble to make it to my corral before it closed, and wound up having to miss any sort of warm up.

Eventually, they brought us to the start. And we stood there, packed like sardines, for a good 45 minutes. Joy. The one

bright spot was seeing the pro men's introductions. These little guys jogged through the crowd of ligned up runners and gave out some high fives. Geoffrey Mutai had a giant smile, and looked like he was skipping along. I loved that.

Anyway, after all the usual pleasantries from the Mike Bloomberg and Mary W, we got under way about 6 minutes late :rollseyes:. I decided I would take it easy up Verrazano bridge, and came through the mile 6:50-ish or so. I was careful on the steep descent off the bridge, and did that downhill mile in 6:10. I wasn't feeling great, during the opening miles, I suspect due to having to skip my warm up. It wasn't until around 4-5 miles when I realized that I was actually feeling pretty good.

Despite feeling good, I chose to resist the urge to push the pace too much for the next few miles, and concentrated on staying relaxed and running low 6:20s for the next few miles. There were many bands lining the streets in Brooklyn, and the crowd support was amazing. I have never experienced anything like that before. The miles clicked off very quickly, and after the 8 mile mark or so, I started to push the pace on the flat and slightly downhill sections just a little, but not too much, because I knew the Queensboro bridge was looming around the 15 mile mark. The section from 10k to 20k generally had nice, level terrain, which allowed me to make up some time and brought me to the half at 1:23:14, and still feeling decent, though starting to tire.

The section from 20k to 25k took us over the infamous Queensboro bridge. Here, I just eased back and tried to save my legs. Once we got off the bridge and hit 1st avenue, I kind of threw caution to the wind and used the downhills to really push the pace. I clicked off 3 miles in 6:01, 6:03, and 6:09, which really did a number of my quads, but brought back on pace for 2:46. I think the insane crowds on 1st avenue defilitely played into my decision here.

From 30k on, my legs felt pretty horrible, so I did slow a little. Pretty much just tried to stay within myself because my legs were starting to feel like they might give out at any moment. The last 5 miles were definitely very difficult, especially with the climb up 5th avenue. The same climb that I used headed in the other direction on 1st avenue to put myself in PR territory. My quads were not functioning too well at this point. I managed to keep it around 6:25 until I made it to mile 25. There I did some math in my head, and realized that I might have a shot to dip under 2:46, which I did with a 5:56 26th mile. I did not make the new NYC marathon guaranteed entry standard by 50 seconds, but I am still really happy with a PR I never expected, although I am sort of disappointed that I chose such a quad buster of a course this fall. Maybe I would have had that 2:45:00 or better on an easier course. Oh well.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Groundhog Day

Well, it has certainly been a while since I have updated. I think in part that is because I only get the urge to write when something has been bugging me, and that hasn't happened in some time. I have also not run any races, so I didn't even have a race report post in me. However, I do have something I want to get off my chest today.

I believe today is the fourth week in a row that I am working remotely due to weather related public transit disruptions. Last week, during yet another day spent out of the office, I saw on Good Day New York that Central Park has set an all time record with 56 inches of snow through January, compared to an annual average of 22 inches. I suppose that maybe I should be optimistic now that both Punxsutawney Phil and Staten Island Chuck predicted an Early spring today, but I don't really buy into rodents making climate predictions.

I can say, however, that I am really weary of this winter. I am tired of spending up to four hours a day commuting every time a couple of inches of snow comes down. I am tired of risking injury every time I go out to run on ice covered roads. I am frustrated that training for my spring marathon is behind schedule because I have not been able to get in the mileage I had planned on, and the track has been snow covered since Christmas, leaving me with no place to run intervals.

Anyway, I am thinking it can't be worse than six more weeks of this. Hopefully, by mid March this will all be over and I can go back to bitching about the heat and humidity. That is looking mighty appealing right now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Philadelphia Marathon

This race was my first marathon, and I spent around 23 weeks training using the Daniels Plan A with a peak of 90mpw as general guidance. I had two tune-up races, a September 18 miler I finished in 1:54, and a somewhat disappointing 1:20 half marathon in October.
Once I got to the start I jogged about ¾ miles to at least get warm enough to stretch out a little. I wasn’t planning on going out particularly hard, but I never feel comfortable starting a race without at least an abbreviated warm up, but at the same time I wanted to conserve my glycogen stores as much as possible. I came in trying to run 2:48-ish, primarily projecting from the 18 mile race, and a 1:35 15 mile MP run I did 2 weeks out. The plan was 6:30 miles for about 6 miles, then pick it up to 6:25-6:20 for as long as I could manage.
During most LT and marathon pace workouts I have done in preparation for this race I needed 3-4 miles to get into a groove and start feeling comfortable with the pace, but today I remember thinking that I felt really good right from the start, good enough that I actually went a little ahead of planned pace and passed the timing mats that were supposedly at the 10k mark around 39:4x.
I say supposedly because a couple of mile markers at the beginning of the race were almost certainly misplaced. After mile 2 I hit the split button at every mile marker, and my watch showed 6:49 for mile 3 and 6:03 for mile 4. There is no way my pace would vary that much when I am running at a steady effort, and my Garmin recorded 1.07 miles from marker 2 to marker 3, and 0.94 from 3 to 4. Anyway, none of this is really important except for the fact that I was really annoyed and momentarily confused. Maybe I am spoiled because I have run many New York Road Runners races and have never encountered poorly placed mile markers, but I expected better from a major race like Philadelphia. However, I do think that based on the pace my Garmin was indicating that the 10k timing mat was placed correctly.
Anyway, moving on, the race was going pretty smoothly at this point. I was feeling relaxed, taking a few sips of water at every aid station, and sticking to my plan of taking a total of 5 gels, one every 4 miles starting at mile 4. The only thing that did not go to plan is the straw drinking thing. This was going to be my first time using a straw, but at the very first aid station the damn thing fell out of my mouth as I was reaching for a cup of water. Oh well. I found that I don’t have that much trouble drinking without one in a marathon compared to a half because I am not having to gasp for air nearly as much due to the slower pace.
Pretty much everything else went as well as it could have gone. I was focusing on trying to keep a steady 6:20-6:25 pace, easing up a bit on the few up hills, and trying to avoid the temptation to hammer the down hills. The course is indeed fast. I remember just one hill that really forced me to back off my pace, and I think it was around the 9-10 mile mark.
I passed the timing mats at the halfway mark in 1:23:4x, and at that point I was starting to feel fatigued. I never ran into a wall, and I think I finished with glycogen stores to spare, but from the halfway mark I got progressively more fatigued, and past 18 miles it really took concentration to stay on pace. It didn’t get really bad until about 24 miles, at which point my legs were under the kid of distress I had only previously experienced inside a squat rack at the gym. I did fall off pace a little, running my last 4 miles around 6:30 pace and finishing in 2:47:45. Needless to say, I was pretty thrilled with how my race went. I could not have asked for a better day.

Intervals (GPS Interval) (split button hit at mile markers starting mile 2. Missed mile 1)

Distance TimeTotal Time Pace

2.01 Mi12:43.2312:43.236:20

0.05 Mi0:16.7412:59.975:35

1.07 Mi6:48.8119:48.786:23

0.94 Mi6:03.8025:52.586:28

1 Mi6:20.5732:13.156:21

1.02 Mi6:21.6338:34.786:15

1 Mi6:15.9044:50.686:16

1 Mi6:29.6251:20.306:30

1.04 Mi6:24.7057:456:10

1.02 Mi6:29.301:04:14.306:22

1 Mi6:12.491:10:26.796:13

1 Mi6:17.691:16:44.486:18

1.11 Mi6:56.821:23:41.306:16

0.9 Mi5:36.651:29:17.956:15

1.01 Mi6:22.851:35:40.806:20

0.99 Mi6:21.881:42:02.686:26

1 Mi6:23.201:48:25.886:24

0.98 Mi6:21.051:54:46.936:29

1 Mi6:21.822:01:08.756:22

1.01 Mi6:23.732:07:32.486:20

1.01 Mi6:28.622:14:01.106:25

1 Mi6:26.482:20:27.586:27

1.01 Mi6:29.402:26:56.986:26

1.01 Mi6:25.672:33:22.656:22

1 Mi6:31.322:39:53.976:32

1.24 Mi7:52.242:47:46.216:21

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Surprise Holidays

I did not even realize it was Veteran's Day until I got to work. It is not an official holiday for the company where I work, but the bond market is closed, which means none of out clients are trading, and our client services people are mostly out. Since we have just finished a release and not quite started working on the next one, this pretty much means that I have little to do today. I am thinking early lunch, then head home around 4:00.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I really wish I could find a way to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again. It would probably save me a lot of pain. Then again, maybe I just can't be any other way, and I need the worst kind of motivation.