The Brooklyn Half Marathon – No PR!

It’s almost a week since I ran the Brooklyn Half marathon for the 3rd consecutive year, and if I am honest, I was really hoping I’d beat my half marathon PR of 1:56:07 after getting 2016 PR’s at 5K and at 4 miles. Although I did beat my course record from 2014, I missed out on a PR, and by quite a margin. 1:59:08 was my official time, a full three minutes short of my PR. I’m pretty disappointed, although perhaps it’s fate that I’ll have to beat this record at Staten Island in October, which is where I set it in the first place.

I am no 100% sure why I missed it by such a margin, but looking at the data my Garmin captured, it looks like it was a case of setting off too quickly.

All the way until mile 7, I was more than a minute ahead, and even at mile 9 was still 20 seconds ahead (although my GPS was buzzing a little before the markers at this point, as I was probably not running the most optimal route). Looking at the table below, getting this extra time at the start may have cost me later on.

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This is exactly what not to do in a race…

At mile 9 I’d fallen behind for the first time, and never got my pace back under 9mins/mile. By that time, I had planned to be running @ 8:40/mile or faster for the remainder of the race.

What’s quite interesting is looking at my stats from my watch at this point (below). I can see that although the race starts downhill (which should be easier), it’s also now on a straight with less crowding, what happens is my pace slows and at the same time my heart rate actually increases. I could understand if my pace simply slowed through tiredness, but my HR goes in the other direction indicates a lack of conditioning and readiness, which I wasn’t expecting. Or simply that banking almost 2 mins of time at mile 4 was a terrible idea! Yes… probably that…

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Here is what starting too fast does to you…

So, what now?

Well I have a 3.2 mile run on June 1st for the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge. I did this in 26:10 in 2015… so perhaps I can grab that PR instead!

2nd PR of 2016 – Red Hook Crit 5K

For the 2nd year running, my 5K PR has been set at the Red Hook Criterium 5K race, my official time was 23:21 beating last year’s 23:36 by 15 seconds. Five grueling 1000m laps, with a field packed with elite and sub-elite runners, I placed 208th out of 240 runners!

The Red Hook Crit is better known for its crazy cycling circuit, but in recent years the 5K has started to feature more prominently. This year the men and women ran separately. The men’s race was won by Abebe Sihine Mekuria in a breathtaking 14:45 (or 4:45 min/mile) with the second placed Jack Davies also finishing under 15 minutes with 14:53.

The women’s race was won by Zeineba Hasso Hayato in 17:36 and 2nd spot also under 18 minutes was Jennie Cohen with 17:59.

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Closing in on the Finish Lane on Lap 5

So this is now officially the fastest 5K I’ve ever run, and 2016 is shaping up to be a good year for setting PR’s.

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3 races under 23 minutes

Next up is the Brooklyn Half. In 2014 I ran it in 2:00:11 just missing out of two hours, and my Half Marathon PR is still 1:56:07 on Staten Island in the same year. I should definitely beat my course record, although that PR might be a little trickier to get, given in 2014 I was at peak marathon fitness at that time.

Let’s see…

Fred Lebow Cross Country Championships 5K

27:23 (8:49/mile) was my time, which is actually my best NYRR 5K time since I started running with them in 2013. It’s almost 4 mins slower than my 5K PR but nonetheless I’m happy given my condition this year and the deadly hills on this race.

There is a 150ft climb in Van Cortland Park over a mile (between .85 and 1.85 miles), and the decent is so steep and slippery, you can’t really make it up or go full tilt. I really could get a taste for cross country.

Looking at my race, I held steady at around 8min/mile until the hills, then dropped off massively. I caught people on the up hill, but didn’t maintain any advantage on the down hill as I was unsure of my footing and letting go.

The middle section of this race beat me up, but something was left in the tank for the last half mile.
The middle section of this race beat me up, but something was left in the tank for the last half mile.

I have one more 4m race on Dec 5th to wrap up the year!

5K – Fred Lebow Cross Country

The 5K is often wrongly considered the “beginner’s” run, thanks to many fun runs and charity runs around the country being that distance. The 5K is actually one of the toughest races you can be in, if you actually race it. In the ideal 5K you are literally on your last legs as you cross the finish line, with nothing left in the tank other than sweat and spittle. If you find you have an extra spurt over the last 100 meters, you didn’t run hard enough mid-race, but if you cramp up and collapse after 3 miles, and don’t make that final 0.1, you ran too hard or just were not prepared. The 5K is literally 13- 14 minutes of agony, if you’re a serious 5K athlete.

Thankfully I am not a professional runner in the 5K category, so it won’t quite be like that of me, but the 5K is a great opportunity to stretch your legs and maybe just about get a PR. I don’t often run this distance, but have enough races under my belt now to know what to expect; good, bad and ugly.

My PR for 5K was this year in April, when I ran the Red Hook Criterium in 23:36 (7:36/min), on a flat road-course of 4 1.25KM laps.

My Red Hook Criterium Lap Times
My Red Hook Criterium Lap Times

The slowest race I have run, for which I still have the times, was in June 2013 when I struggled in New Jersey finishing in 31:28 (10:09/mile) in blazing heat having been grossly under prepared.

Tomorrow I am running the Fred Lebow 5K Cross Country race in t \he Bronx at Van Cortland Park. In 2013, I ran the same course in October 2013 in 28:12 (9:06), although I had forgotten my running shoes that day and ran in some very flat minimal Merryl shoes.

So, after a middle of the year lull, I am hoping to go out with a bang (I have a 4m race in 3 weeks as well) – I should beat my 2013 time fairly easily, but probably won’t get close to the Red Hoot Crit time given the hilly course.

Now the Marathon is Over, I Can Focus on my Running

OK, let’s talk about my 2015 NYC Marathon. It would be a mild understatement to say it didn’t exactly go as I planned. Back in July on this very blog, I was pretty bullish about getting this one right compared to 2014, but a combination of a niggling foot injury, a personal loss and what my wife described as “second year marathon syndrome” somehow combined to knock me off track. What’s frustrating is that I knew as early as late September that I had missed far too much training to really have a go at last year’s record, but I allowed that to be an excuse to give up entirely on a decent run. I am going to describe below exactly what happens when, and how it feels to, entirely abandon your training. My time was 5:25:55, or 52 minutes longer than in 2014.

2014 Vs 2015!

In 2014, with the 5% adjustment for the GPS inaccuracy, I ran 481 miles during my training from July 17th to Nov 2nd (not including the marathon itself). That’s an average of 4.5 miles per day for 108 days.

In 2015, I ran just 335 miles in 112 days (July 11th to Oct 31st) or an average of just 3 miles per day. So in 2014 I clocked 50% more miles than this year. The effect?

2014 Vs 2015, 5K section paces and cumulative time.
2014 Vs 2015, 5K section paces and cumulative time.

The difference is dramatic as you’d expect. I started much slower and slowed down much faster, and from around mile 9 onwards (around 15 km) I was really uncomfortable. 17 miles is a long way to run when you’re already struggling and I’ve never had a bigger urge to quit something than I did on that day. Somehow though I convinced myself to keep going (after all I didn’t want to miss out on a post-race poncho) and made it across the finishing line.

Looking OK at about mile 22... I was faking!
Looking OK at about mile 22… I was faking!
Finish Line
Crossing the Finish Line!
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Self at the Start
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Brave Face at the Finish. Walking the almost mile stretch from the finish line to the poncho pickup was pure agony.
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The Sea of Ponchos!

In the title I said that now this is over, I can concentrate on my running. Well that’s true to an extent. It feels like a huge burden has been lifted and at this point I am not intending to run another marathon on 2016. I have two more races this year, a 5K in a week and a 4-miler in early December before a trip to Chile. Next year I am going to focus on the half-marathons and some middle-distance improvement before doing this again in 2017.

7 miles here, 3 miles there…

Back to basics this week and a routine.

7.5 miles on Tuesday evening, at a not-too-shabby 9:27/mile for a good 70 minute workout, and squeeze in 3.2 miles this evening in a chirpy 27:41 (8:52).

I’m feeling more positive about my running.

The Staten Island Half Marathon

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Staten Island lit up during sunrise.

The Staten Island Half is one of my favorite races of the year, and definitely my favorite of NYRR’s Five Borough Race Series, which also includes; the Fred Lebow Half Marathon (Manhattan Half), NYC Half, Brooklyn Half, Queens 10k and the Bronx 10m.

The Staten Island Half is probably the most low key of all the races, as it’s out on New York’s often unfairly maligned Staten Island. All of the races have their own characteristic and running all six of them is both challenging and very rewarding, but I like the Staten Island one the best. Here’s why.

If I look at the other races first, there’s the Fred Lebow, which is just over 2 laps of Central Park in January. It’s always freezing cold, and you never leave the park, and it’s right in the middle of the “off season” meaning on the most hardy runners participate, or those looking to qualify for something else. I ran it in 2014, and will definitely run it in 2016 for the sheer hell of it, but it’s no glamor race.

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Fred Lebow Half Marathon, AKA Manhattan Half, first of the Five Borough Series

The New York City Half in March follows, which is the headline race, and one which you can qualify for by running four of the previous years’ six races. Confused? You will be. Regardless, this is the one everyone wants to run, and it’s a fantastic course composed of a single lap of Central Park, then a dash down Fifth Avenue through Times Square before heading out to the West Side Highway and down to the Financial District. You get to see a fair bit of Manhattan and run through a traffic-free Times Square, what’s not to love? Well it’s very crowded, very expensive and unless you qualify it’s tough to get into.

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The Brooklyn Half this year was a wet one!

Next up in May is the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Given this is my home borough, it should be my favorite, but there’s a few things about it that I don’t like. First off, as New York’s ‘hippest’ borough, this is very quickly turning into the one race you just have to run. NYRR has been quick to pick up on this, and are marketing it as the country’s largest half marathon. Sure enough, with over 26,000 finishers in 2015, this is a huge race. It’s crowded at the start and things don’t really start to open up until mile 6 or 7. Still, with such high participation, including 14,000 women in 2015, it’s hard to knock an event that attracts so many young people, and it finishes on Coney Island’s famous boardwalk!

In June you get the Queens 10k. This one really isn’t that much fun in my opinion. It’s always baking hot (this year’s was a simmering 88˚ at 7:30am) and it’s in an area inland and goes through some heavy marshland. If you love 99% humidity and mosquitos, this one’s for you, but otherwise it’s just a grueling 10k in the middle of summer in the middle of a suburban landlocked park with highways on both sides. Still, getting anywhere near a PR is a real badge of honor in this race.

Next up is the Bronx 10m, which is a great race, right in the middle of peak marathon training. I really like this one, and the t-shirt is the best of the bunch! My only minor complaint is they run a 5k at the same time, and the start line gets crowded and confusing, but otherwise this is a close contender for my favorite.

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Staten Island is home to lots of cops (and ex-cops), FDNY and military personnel. This is a race for patriots and fans of the flag!

Last, but not least, is the Staten Island Half. This race gives you all the benefits of a small town race (friendly spectators, a little quieter, nice cops, finish line is in a baseball stadium, and it’s a little bit hilly. Staten Island being the home of many NYPD and FDNY families, means the race attracts plenty of flag bearers and has a genuine ‘all-american’ feel, that lacks in some of New York’s other races. The race starts at the northern tip of the island with a view of Manhattan’s southern skyline, and heads south for around 6 miles. New to 2015, the course loops back up the north western side of the island along the beach road and eventually along the wooden boardwalk. The temperature for the two years I have run it has always been perfect for this length of race (around 55˚) with a little breeze and no clouds. The last part of the race takes you through Fort Wadsworth (which is where the marathon starts) up a very steep incline and over a bridge to the final mile back to the stadium. It’s a tough little race!

Staten Island is full of large beautiful houses, mixed with some oddly deserted spaces.
Staten Island is full of large beautiful houses, mixed with some oddly deserted spaces.

Even though Staten Island’s course is hilly, there is a relatively small field of runners, so it’s not too crowded, it’s very quiet which lends itself to a quick race. My half marathon PR was achieved here; another reason I really like it.

So, for this year I knew I was going to be slow, and my 2:11:24 (10;02/mile) was my slowest half ever by a full five minutes, but getting through it was a minor victory in itself.

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Sometimes your worst performances make you feel like you earned the medal the most!