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.

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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!

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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.

Brooklyn Bridge 5K
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.

Brookyn Bridge 5K MMR
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.

5K Race Time and Pace 2013 - 2016
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.

 

 

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.