Let’s Talk about Long Runs (20 days to Marathon)

So today I ran 20 miles as part of my preparation for the NYC Marathon on November 5th. It’s the longest run in my training plan, and arguably the hardest day so far. Before we go into how I did over 20 miles, let’s talk about 18 miles.

Below is a chart showing my 18m run in 2014 Vs my 2nd attempt at it in 2017. I did manage to finish my 1st attempt a few weeks earlier, but 70 degrees plus more than 90% humidity and a crisis of confidence meant I actually stopped at mile 12 and walked off the course. I was fully intending to quit but after sitting down and eating a Honey Stinger for 5 mins, I (literally) got back into the race and finished. There were a few 11+ mins miles in there…

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Pretty much by mile 5 there is a 30 second difference, which stays constant up to about mile 12, and then widens significantly to well over a minute. Not good.

Now in 2014, I never actually ran a 20-miler. I ran 20 miles during the weekend of my Staten Island Half, but really in 4 broken parts. A warm up for the race, the race itself, a cool down and then 6 miles to get what was eventually 21 miles. I remember feeling pretty beaten up by the end of it and was doing 10mins/miles during those last 6, which back then was very slow (although I’d take it this year!)

Enough about the past, let’s talk about today. In short, I screwed it up. I’ve been having issues with taking on board fluids and gels, I get an acid reflux when taking water or gels when running, so often try and hang on with minimal intake. That’s not particularly bright on a day when it’s pushing 73 degrees and there is 83% humidity. My NYRR coach scorned me for only taking 3 gels and drinking about 30oz of fluid every hour, when I should have been taking in about 20oz every hour.

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The net result was a continuously slowing pace after mile 15 (10:32, 10:58, 11:27, 11:32, 12:40!) Given my sole goal is to beat my 2014 time of 4:33:33 this is bad news, and it puts me around a 5 hour finish time. I’ve got three weeks to fix thing…

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21 Days to the NYC Marathon

It’s 21 days until the 2017 New York City Marathon, which will be my third. I thought this year was going to be ‘the’ year, and perhaps it still will be, but the omens have not been good.

I was expecting 2017 to be a year of PR’s and PB’s but instead a niggling knee problem and ongoing issues with my right foot and ankle have clipped my wings, and a general malaise set in throughout the year. Compared to 2014, which was my first ‘serious’ year of running, the races I’ve run this year speak for themselves. Let’s take a look.

Here is a table of my Five Boro’ Race results from 2014 and 2017, and below this is plotted on a graph showing pace per mile for each race.

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With the exception of one race, the Queens 10K which is the shortest, my race pace is slower this year than in 2017. Not only that, but the gap is pretty consistent among the Half Marathon races (46 seconds at Staten Island, the latest, and 49 seconds at Fred Lebow).

I’m not sure where this leaves me, other than to make sure I run a really good tactical race on the day. In 2014, I should probably have run around 4:10 to 4:15, and instead only managed 4:33:33. My min/mile dropped from 9:24 for the first 5k down to 12:25 for the last 5k giving me an average of 10:26 per mile.

In 2017, my predicted (and recommended) pace is 10:20 – 10:38 per mile. If I can hold the higher end of that, without going too fast at the start, there is a chance I can pull this one of out the bag. A marathon PR really would make this year worth it.

 

Heart Rate and Heat Soak

OK, so 6:08 hard fought miles today, just a little less than yesterday’s 10K race, but it was hot hot hot.

After a sprightly start @9:27/mile, my pace slowed to a drastic 10:59 during the last mile, which I partly walked. I wasn’t quite ready for the crash my sugar and carb-free day would bring me, along with some stifling late spring New York heat and humidity.

So here’s the chart – my old ticker Vs pace.

Heart Rate and Heart Soak
Getting Hotter and Slowing Down

I’ve been humbly reminded this evening what it’s like training during the summer! Yay for Fall Marathons!

Half Way to 90

It’s been a while, but I’m back to cover the second half of my 2017 running, particularly as I am having another crack at the NYC Marathon in November. More of that later. For now, here’s a quick recap of 2017 so far.

Goals

I started the year intending to run at least 1,000 miles (last year I did 652 and my personal best was way back in 2014 when I ran 952 miles. It’s been all down hill since then! With 452 miles logged since the start of the year, and my official marathon training yet to start, I am pretty confident that I’ll get to 1,000 by the end of the year, even if I am very slightly behind schedule right now.

Lifetime Distance
All down hill since 2014

Another goal was to run all of the New York Road Runners ‘Borough’ races, plus the Marathon, so seven in total. I have managed to run four out of four so far, although my pace and progress has been hampered somewhat by niggling knee pain (pretty much classic Runner’s Knee). I have seen my pace slowly improve over the hour races from a pedestrian 10:08/mile in the Fred Lebow Half Marathon as the start of the year, to a relatively sprightly 9:10/mile in my latest race, a 10k in humid Queens, New York on my 45th birthday.

Queens 10k Finish
Who doesn’t love 98% humidity…

Hitting 45 Years of Age

Is 45 a milestone? It’s not like 21, or 40 or some other round number, but it somehow feels significant to me. It’s half way through my 40’s, so I am officially in my mid-forties, something that sounds like a generic term for pre-middle age. I started running 5 years ago (and started this blog then too) and while I improved pretty significantly in my first two and a half years, I do feel like it’s been a slow steady decline since then. However there is plenty of evidence that late starters can be very quick runners, even faster than people who start in their teens or 20’s, so I am quite determined to reverse this trend.

My best marathon time was in 2014 when I completed it in 4:33:33, whereas in 2015 it took me 5 hours and 25 minutes, almost an hour more. This year I am targeting 4:15, and have signed up for a training plan starting on July 17th to hit that target.

Nutrition

One last thing is that I’m going to focus a lot more on nutrition than I have previously. Starting today I’m focusing on cutting refined sugars from my diet. I am pretty ill-disciplined with food – it’s not that I exactly eat badly consistently, but I am prone to buying sugary snacks at the work vending machine, or on the way home, or just devouring cookies or chocolates from time to time. Time to reduce the gut!

Strength Training 

OK, here we go. I don’t know why I am some useless at this, but my lack of cross-training or strength training is almost certainly at the root of many issues I have with posture and injuries. I’ve had problems with my right leg for years. It’s either my ankle, foot, knee, hamstring or lower back, but always on that right side. So I will be adding planks, burpees, squats (including jumping squats) and my least favorite ever, pushups!

er… I’ll let you know how I get on.

OK enough typing for now… I need to go out for my 6 mile run, and it’s 79 degrees out with 80% humidity. Bring it on!

What a Difference 3 Weeks Makes

It’s certainly true that it takes longer to recover lost fitness than it does to lose it in the first place. However don’t ever let that put you off getting back into the swing of things if you’ve let your fitness regime slide and are worried about how long it will take you to recover most of it back. Let’s take a look at two 8-mile runs I did; one on Nov 6th (the day of the NYC Marathon) and one today a mere three weeks later.

The TLDR; version of this is that on Nov 6th, I ran 8 miles @10:04 min/mile for a total time of 1:20:37. On Nov 27th I ran exactly the same course in 1:16:23 @9:32 min/mile, which is just shy of my regular long run speed. The temperature was more or less the same (46 degrees today and 52 on Nov 6th) so that wasn’t really a factor. What was a factor was the average weekly mileage for the 4 weeks prior to the run. My average before today was 28.8, whereas my average prior to Nov 6th was 13.7, so less than half.

So here’s a breakdown mile by mile. After starting at more or less the same pace, 3 weeks ago I had to back off that pace quickly and never recovered. Today although I slowed slightly to a steady pace, I was able to maintain it for most of the run.

8-miles-v-8-miles
On Nov 6th I’m struggling to maintain my usual long run pace. On Nov 27th, I’m almost back to my usual training run time.

Another thing I looked at was my heart rate. Today there was a glitch because my watch was loose for the first few mins so it looks like a spike, but even accounting for that my average HR was lower today, despite a faster run, than 3 weeks ago.

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OK, so this is hardly scientific, and it was only a training run based on how I felt like running. But the stats, and how I felt while running tell the same story, which is after three weeks of gradually increasing mileage after a few months of barely keeping up, seems to have made a big difference.

Nest week I have a 4m race, the final one of the year and my marathon qualifier. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s quicker than the 4m race I ran last week.

Happy running!

4m Race to Deliver

Two weeks ago I set out to reboot my running after a rather lackluster summer. After that post, I ran 17.5 miles the following week, and I’ve just completed 19.5 miles this week ending in a ‘race’ today. Upping my mileage slowly in readiness for the Fred Lebow half marathon in January is the current plan.

Today I was only hoping to finish within 36 mins, and given my evening runs have been in the 10 mins/mile range was pretty sensible. I finished in 35:08 which is a bit better than I’d hoped.

 

race-to-deliver
Fall Races are Best!

I’m back on track to complete the 1000km challenge (You Vs Year on the Under Armor App) and I have one more race in 2 weeks in Brooklyn, which is another 4-miler. My goal is to beat the 35:08 I got today!

 

Happy Thanks Giving All.

Reboot. Restart. Marathon Day.

It has been five months since my last post, and I’ve had a somewhat indifferent summer of running and I’m heading toward a disappointing year. I set out with the best intentions and didn’t have the focus, will power or determination to see things through. My head hasn’t really been straight in regards to many things this year, perhaps I am falling into a mid-life crisis of sorts, but my running is definitely one area I thought I’d persevere. But I didn’t.

It all started reasonably well with 5k and 4m PR’s back in April… but I didn’t push hard enough in the Brooklyn Half Marathon to get my PR (course best but 3 mins short of my half PR). My Queens 10K was respectable, but again short of a PR I set in 2014 by about a minute. After that, I’ve done nothing special and frankly barely keep up the weekly miles to stay still – I’m struggling to maintain 10 mins miles.

Even the relatives easy You Vs Year challenge on MapMyRun / Under Armour challenge is now something I could miss out on. I’m barely 40km ahead of schedule, whereas at one stage I was 200km ahead.

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Just staying ahead of the baseline!

In the first half of this year, I averaged 16 miles a week (no a lot, but enough to maintain a point of fitness). In the second half of this year, I’ve average barely 8 miles per week. Not nearly enough to meet the goals I set out to achieve.

So what now? Well today is NYC Marathon day… I am going out for a run right now, will target 8 miles (a well known course I do) and take a look at my time and statistics Vs other times I have run that exact course, and see what I can do to pull things back into shape in the remainder of the year. I’ll be right back, after that run…

…back! So after a puffing 8.01 miles @ 10:04 pace, I actually feel a bit better about things. First of all, being able to run 8 miles non-stop after a pretty atrocious few months of barely keeping in touch with running, is somehow hugely motivational. My body seems to be telling me, I’m still hanging in there with you!

I have two 4-mile races coming up in the next 4 weeks, the first on Nov 20th and the second on Dec 3rd. It would be great to end the year on a high and set some new goals for 2017.

Also, yesterday I completed my volunteering for NYRR, which means I am on target to be eligible for next year’s NYC Marathon as well as running all of the major Borough Races; Fred Lebow Half, NYC Half, Brooklyn Half, Queens 10K, Bronx 10m and Staten Island half.

Onward and upward…