10 Miles, 10 Smiles, +10 cadence

Ahh, the post-marathon blues. There’s only one way to shake them off, and that’s to go for a run. Which I did.

If you’re not familiar with it, Prospect Park is Brooklyn’s answer to Central Park, only smaller and has fewer tourists. The road loop is popular with runners and cyclist alike, and is exactly 3.33 miles long, making 3 laps 10 miles. Today was intended to be a relaxing ‘as you feel’ recovery run after last week’s heroics in the NYC Marathon, but I also had half a mind to run this at a slightly faster pace than I’ve been running this distance during my training. Also in the last few weeks of my marathon training, I started to focus a lot more on cadence, which is something I am ashamed to say I’ve somewhat neglected over the last few years.

There is a lot of debate around cadence, however ideally it’s supposed to be 180 steps per minute, or about 3 steps per second, or faster. That should apply whether you’re strictly a casual runner, a club runner or you’re an elite. Speed is determined by a combination of stride length, or stride rate (cadence), so increasing one or the other (or both) obviously increases speed.

Many of my training runs have an average cadence in the high 150’s or into the 160’s. I am very rarely getting into the 170’s, but I have noticed that when I am feeling good and have faster runs, it’s my cadence that is higher. Let’s take a look at my 10 mile run today Vs my 10 miles run in September (which was actually a race!) in regards to cadence.

Bronx 10M Cadence
Bronx 10m race in September, 167 SPMM

My stride here looks pretty consistent, and averages 170 spm. You can see the poor miles I had (7, 8 and 9) and frankly the paces were all over the place. An 8:30 followed by a 9:30 and then a 10 and 11:34. This is my normal ‘mono’ stride approach to running, if you ignore the fact I ran a poor race!

Prospect Park 10m Cadence
Casual run today, but an improved 172 cadence.

So here there is less consistency but a higher average. The consistency is really down to when I am focusing on my faster stride rate, and then I slow down when I lose a bit of concentration (or tire slightly at the end). Prospect Park is also hilly which impacts your cadence slightly, with downhills inviting longer strides as you recover a little cardio and uphills inviting shorter quicker strides. My pace though is far more consistent with only a 10 second variance after miles 1 and 2 (on a hilly course) and then a nice negative split at the end. Even if I do say so myself.

I am going to be focusing a lot more on cadence in the next few months and running up to my NYCHalf in March where I’m hoping to not only PR but get closer to that magic 180spm!

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Maraton PR – How I Beat a Younger, Faster, Fitter me.

It has been 6 days since I completed the NYC Marathon and set my new marathon PR of 4:25:07 (still unofficial but I’ll be within seconds of that time). My goal this year was always to beat my 2014 time (4:33:33) and although I did it, I am somewhat surprised at the way in which it happened. For much of 2017, the signs have not been good. In most of my races, and in all of my training, I was slower in 2017 than in 2014 although I ran more miles and more consistently in 2017 (912 miles up to Marathon day compared to 848 miles, and additionally in 2017 I only had 2 weeks with zero mileage, compared to 4 weeks in 2014). It seems it’s true what they say, miles count.

So while 2014  was my first full year of running seriously and I was highly motivated to get into shape after years never really having a fitness regime, 2017 was a year I thought I could build on that base fitness.

So let’s take a quick look at my 2014 preparation and performance Vs 2017. First off, the races.

2014 Vs 2017 Race Pace and Time
2014 looks good until the big day!

So what’s going on here? In 2014, my long races were consistently in the 9:10 – 9:20min/mile range, which is pretty consistent, all the way to the Bronx 10m. That was one of my best races in 2014 (and perhaps of all time) with a pretty cool 8:31mins/mile pace over 10 miles (my current PR). The Staten Island Half 2 weeks later was another PR at 8:52min/mile. In 2017, I haven’t run any races over 10m at faster than 9:38/mile and although I slowly increased my pace, it didn’t come close to even my 1st race of 2014.

The 18m tune up is really what I thought would be the major predictor of my marathon form. 31 minutes (1:40/mile) separated my 2014 form from 2017 which is huge. There is no doubt that 2017 me could not possibly keep up with 2014 me in any of those races.

So what happened in the marathon? Well truth be told, I ran a pretty poor marathon in 2014, considering my condition – looking back now and seeing I only consumed 2 gels and missed breakfast, it’s amazing that I finished at all.

If there’s one chart that tells the story of my two races, it’s the one below.

 

2014 Vs 2017 Cumulative Pace
How to run a marathon, and how not to run a marathon in one handy chart.

This chart shows my cumulative average pace per mile, so is effectively a smoothed out line of my pace from start to finish, where the last mile is my average pace for the whole race (not the actual pace of my last mile).

Miles 1 – 5 show a similar trend. Mile 1 is just getting started, some selfies, some crowding and an uphill start – it’s supposed to be slow. Mile 6 both times was when I took a pit stop (my bladder was consistent, even if my pace wasn’t) hence the sudden brake on my pace, but from then onwards it’s two very different stories.

In 2014, from mile 7 – 10, I am maintaining a 9:30 pace pretty evenly. From mile 10, I start to slow down for the rest of the race. That’s a 16 mile decline in pace which gets more and more dramatic. Remember this is a smoothed out chart and each mile the impact of the decrease is less and less (because you’re averaging it out against the whole distance) and yet that line gets steeper and steeper as I slow more and more dramatically. To give you an indication, my pace at mile 10 was 9:34 (close to the 9:31 average at that time) whereas my pace at mile 20 was 10:57, a full minute slower than my average at that time.

In 2017, there’s a completely different story. From mile 6 all the way to mile 21, I am slowly getting faster, and more remarkably from mile 7 to 21, there is only an 8 seconds per mile difference in average pace. To contrast with 2014, mile 10 was a 9:51 pace (17 seconds slower than in 2014) and mile 20 was 10:03 pace, or 55 seconds faster than 2014.

I read somewhere once that for every 10 seconds you try and ‘bank’ in the 1st half of a marathon, you will loose 30 seconds in the second half. What that really means is going out faster than you’re able to maintain in the 1st 13 miles will cost you 3x more than you’ll gain. With my slow and steady pace this time around, I did not start to slow significantly until mile 23, and by that point with only 5k to go, you can dig in really deep and finish it off. In 2014, I was feeling the same way by mile 15 with still 11 miles to go. That can crush anyone.

2) Hi5Marathon

I knew from the start that to get my PR, I had to beat 10:26 per mile, and keeping my pace as close to 10:00/mile would certainly do that. I didn’t know if this was something I could maintain over 26.2 miles for certain, especially given my 18m tune up was actually slower than this, but two significant things changed since then.

The first was that my NYRR Virtual Running Coach scorned my after my 20 mile long run, because I reported how much water and gel I consumed, which was far too little. Despite access to the right information, it never dawned on me that given my age, weight and gender, I really needed to be consuming gels every 3 – 4 miles, not every 6 – 7 miles which I had been doing. Changing that strategy in my last few long runs took out almost all of the fatigue I was feeling in the last few miles.

The second was the temperature. In was 55 degrees on race day (most of my long run training days had been in the 70’s or 80’s) and there was misty rain as well, which kept me cool. Had it been in the 40’s, I could have been faster still, but it’s been such a warm autumn in New York that it could have easily been in the 70’s.

3) Speed

I am honestly not sure if I will run another NYC marathon, or another marathon at all. You sacrifice a lot, you can’t really train for other types of races at the same time, and almost everything defers to it for 4 months of the year. Having said all that, it’s an amazing feeling and something I am still buzzing about six days later. Tomorrow I am having a recovery run with my running club, and will have just a slightly lighter spring in my step than if I’d missed this PR. This really has made my 2017!

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.

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.

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.

CityStrides

When I started running seriously about two and a half years ago, I used a couple of apps to get me going. On my first run, I used Couch to 5K  because I need some help and guidance starting out, but I also tracked the run using MapMyRun because somehow it felt more public and because I love tracking progress of anything. 

So for the last 30 months or so, I’ve tracked every run I’ve ever done using this one app.

To be honest, I’ve found it very motivational and one of the reasons I’ve stuck with this other app and have been loathed to try any others, is because I like all of my history being in one place. When talking to other runners, they seem to all use different apps, whether Strava or RunKeeper or something by Nike etc. Well, a new website called CityStrides may change all that.

I found the site because they had been re-tweeting my workouts that get automatically posted by MapMyRun. The idea of it is to map out all of the streets you’ve run in a particular city, and track which streets you’ve run Vs the number of streets you still have to run.

Apparently I have run about 2% of Brooklyn’s streets

You can see what other people have run in their cities, and there is a leaderboard based on percentage of streets individuals have completed. Amazingly, the website actually imports all of your workouts from various apps and other websites. I don’t know every compatible running app, but MapMyRun worked, Strava apparently works and I think a number of others too. My import too most of a day, as it had hundreds of workouts to import, but it seemed to work flawlessly.

The idea is simple, seems fun, and having a look at the routes of different people in cities you know, or don’t, was good fun. There are a lot of quirks and minor issues with the site; searching is really painful, as searching for “New York” brings up every city in the state, and searching for “New York City” brings nothing, as does “New York, New York”… although Brooklyn was easy enough to find. Also finding friends, or people you know through affiliations like running clubs or other common attributes isn’t possible, and it doesn’t do anything like match you to people who run similar routes etc. Maybe there are privacy issues around doing this, but having the option to share and connect to people would be really interesting.

Not an App

There is no app, as far as I can tell (which isn’t a bad thing), and it doesn’t try and track your runs for you (you need another app to do that). Both of these things I think are positive, and the website works really well on mobile devices (at least on iPhone and iPad)

Looks good on iPhone

My hope is that the developer takes this idea much further. The back end of this thing must have a LOT of data, and that could mean a lot of really helpful information. Looking up routes with minimal traffic or road crossings (based on fastest average speed) or routes with hills or no hills, or with water fountains, or restroom facilities etc. The developer has tapped into a huge amount of information, and it looks like there is potential for this to grow in future.

On an iPad

Search Still Needs Work