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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 6.18.29 PM
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…

Screen Shot 2016-05-27 at 6.06.16 PM
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!

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


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.

Cadence on 4M PR.png
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.




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.

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!

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!
Self at the Start
Brave Face at the Finish. Walking the almost mile stretch from the finish line to the poncho pickup was pure agony.
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.

Marathon Training Week 4, A Slow Improvement

After last week’s capitulation, this week needed to be pretty decent to give me a little more confidence. Luckily, or perhaps by design, it was exactly that and I feel more or less back on track. But it didn’t start out that way.

Two days after I abandoned my long run at mile 7, I had to run an 8 mile ‘regular run’. This is one of the things I don’t quite get about NYRR’s Virtual Trainer. This was supposed to be my recovery week, and yet it kicks off with an 8-miler at marathon pace, which I’ve been struggling to hit for the entire training period. Sure enough, I ran 7.43 miles in 1:12:05 (9:42). It was 82˚ and I was feeling a little unwell, but even so that’s a weak performance after a day’s rest.

The next day I was scheduled to run my intervals, and then had 2 consecutive days off. I switched things around and took the two days off, and instead ran my intervals on a Friday evening, in the cool (almost dark) and with no thoughts of an early rise the next day or work. Guess what? I nailed it…

I was supposed to run 3 miles easy, then do 8x400m at 2mins and reduce down to 1:48 if I could managed it. My splits after the 3 miles were: 1:58, 1:48, 1:48, 1:49, 1:51, 1:50, 1:48 and 1:47. After the splits, the idea was to run a mile at marathon pace (my range is 9:06 to 9:16) and I rain it in 9:10. That’s about as good as it gets to nailing your training.

Intervals Wk4

The next day, I ran an As You Feel Regular Run (7.43 miles, same as at the start of the week) and managed it in 9:24 without really trying. The difference was huge. I think there is a lot to be said for putting in a 2 day break for people who clearly have not been running as much as the training program demands. Jumping from ~20 miles per week to 33 – 35 in a space of 2 weeks, in mid summer, doesn’t seem particularly wise.

Finally an 11 mile long run on Sunday, with 2 miles at marathon pace, wrapped up a week that wasn’t easy, but seemed designed to help. I just wish the rest days were a little better placed.

With my adjusted 2014 distances and times, I am now clearly ahead in 2015 than 2014, and feeling better. I am looking forward to my rest day tomorrow, and what looks like a tough week in training.

Week 4 Summary