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.

 

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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.

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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…

5K – Under 24 Minutes Again

Yesterday I ran the Eileen Dugan 5K at Brooklyn Bridge Park, finishing 28th out of 168 in 23:59. It was only the second time I’ve finished a race under 24 minutes, so I am pretty happy with it.

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Just crossing the line, in 23:59.

My splits were decent, all under 8 mins with the middle mile the slowest. It took a good 5 – 10 seconds to get over the start line (which wasn’t clocked) so it was gun Vs finish. I was a good 23 seconds shy of my PR, but I have another 5K later this month so there’s a chance.

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Decent Splits, pretty pleased with Mile 3

The race was won by South Brooklyn Running Club’s Ben Carter in 18:02 and the top women’s finisher was Serena Hunt in 19:59.

I haven’t ran a huge number of 5K’s over the last 3 years, but looking at my finish times, the last couple really have shown a big improvement in my speed, but I know I can do a lot more to improve this with strength and speed work, which I have seriously neglected since I started running.

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Gradual Improvement. Next race is the 2016 Crit.

This evening it will be a long slow 8-miles as I prepare for two up and coming races, the Red Hook Crit 5K and Brooklyn Half Marathon. The latter I am hopeful of a course best (I’ve never cracked two hours), as for the former, I am really hoping for a 5K PR.

Red Hook Crit 5K

So last year, this is the race I came 120th out of 135 runners, which I was very pleased about  as I got my 5K PR in some style, and the race had an incredible field, the winner crossing the line in 14:21. Yesterday’s winning time at the Brooklyn Bridge Park would have placed 40th, just to add some context. It was 4 laps of 1.25K each. This year it’s 5 laps of 1000m each, so to figure out how to break my PR, I need to work in Kilometers.

My time last year was 23:36 over 5K, which is 4:43/KM. So I am looking at doing laps quicker than 4:43. During my marathon training I’d quite often do 400m laps in about 1:50 but remember that feeling pretty tough – well this is 1:53 per 400m which for me is very fast. But I managed it once… all I need to do is manage it again and knock off 1 second somewhere!

Easy eh? I’d better get to the track…

First PR of 2016 – 4 Miles

Four miles is an unusual race distance. It certainly isn’t an Olympic distance, and there aren’t that many 4 miles races compared to 5K’s, 10K’s or Half Marathons, but in NYC there are several per year hosted by NYRR and others. I’ve grown quite fond of the distance; just being that almost extra mile longer than a 5K, you can’t go almost flat out like you do in a 5K but you don’t need to hold back as much as you do in a 10K, so it’s a pretty nice distance.

I targeted this race to be my first realistic PR for 2016, and I pretty much race the entire race as I planned, which is a great feeling. My prior PR was 34:27 in 2014, and today I ran 32:19, over 2 mins faster.

I’ve slowly improved from the first 4M race I ran in 2013 (see below). I had a dip in 2015 but overall it’s a pretty decent improvement from my early races to go from around 9:30 min/mile to 8:05 today.

4 Miles 2013 to 2016

Splits

Mile was started steady, I actually love a slow start, and in most NYRR races you’re in the crowds anyway, so panicking and flying off isn’t a great idea. I did the first mile in 8:15, which was a little quicker than I expected, but I felt great. Mile two I just kept my breathing the same, but increased my cadence slightly (which is pretty visible below) and completed mile two in 7:45.

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Cadence Against Distance. After passing the crowd in the first mile, I quicken my stride slightly.

Mile three was mostly a slight climb, and this is where I was glad I had not been going any faster, because although the hill had me gasping little, I never felt uncomfortable, and completed it 8:14, which was still way ahead of the pace needed for a PR.

Mile four felt like the hardest mile, but I ran 7:50 again, and looking back at my pace and HR, I can see it was the most strenuous, but no slower than mile 2 which felt pretty good.

So… finally some good running news after a pretty disappointing 2015. I have two more 5K’s in April and then the Brooklyn Half in May.

HR and Elevation 4M PR
GPS’s are never great at capturing pace as the satellite tracking is not always consistent. But the elevation and HR are accurate, so this makes interesting reading for me.

 

 

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2016 – A Year of Bests, or Near Misses?

This post is mildly scatological, so apologies in advance. If you’re squeamish, give it a miss.

Today was the New York City Half Marathon, and I was running it for the 3rd time. In 2014, I managed my first ever sub-two hour race at this event by two seconds (1:59:58) but since have only come in under that time on one other occasion, despite being a much more experienced runner now than I was back then. Today I was planning to at least score a Course Best and perhaps have a go at my PR at this distance, which stands at 1:56:07

I started the day incredibly tired, and my stomach felt ‘not quite right’, perhaps due to a slightly poorly judged Chipotle on my lunch break yesterday, but I managed my coffee and some breakfast and managed to stay reasonably warm hiding in the subway at 59th St until the last minute.

The first few miles also went well – I needed a 9:07 or so per mile to hit my target. Mile 1 was a nice warmup of 9:26 followed by an 8:39 and 8:56 (on the uphill in Central Park). But then the stomach cramps hit me(!) If you’re a runner and know what that’s like, you’ll need no further details, but if you’re not and you don’t, just take my word for it that it feels terrible.

Somewhat amusingly (read that again with your ‘dripping sarcasm’ voice), New York Road Runners decided for reasons only they will ever fathom, not to put any porte-potties on the west side of New York’s central park. So from mile 3 to mile 6, there is no bathroom.

Now you might think this would make you run more quickly (as is often remarked and joked about amongst runners) but for me at least the opposite was true. I was too tense and too uncomfortable so my pace slowed to 9:12 and then 9:24 for the next two miles. Finally just before mile 6, an oasis of Royal Flush ports-loos beckoned, and I took my break.

Stopped Off for a Whoopsie

Three minutes later I was off again. I felt so much better, and cranked out six sub-8:42 miles (8:32, 8:18, 8:41, 8:36, 8:36, 8:28) and for those 6 miles caught and even overtook (for a short while) the 1:55 pace maker who was running around 8:46.

In the very last mile, I dropped to 9:17 and the last 400 meters took me 2:17 (in my track repeats training I can often do these in 1:48). The tank was just empty, and so I crossed the line in exactly 2:01:00… the three minutes I lost, plus the prior 2.8 miles at 9:xx almost certainly cost me a course best, and perhaps a PR given I was chasing the race for 6 miles faster than planned, or I had trained for.

However this does give me great hope for beating my other records this year. A 4 mile “Run for the Parks” race is in a few weeks, and I’m looking to beat my PR which is 34:22. The Brooklyn Half Marathon is in may, where my course best is 2:00:11, but I really want that PR in my home town race, and then there’s the Red Hook Crit 5K, where last year I set my 5K PR with a 23:36 time, which I am also hoping to beat.

So this year with either be a year of records… or a year of excuses. Let’s see.

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.

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!