NYC Marathon pre-race thoughts

6 11 2010

Thoughts, expectations, and goals on the eve of the 2010 NYC Marathon:

I’ve had a very strong training season for this marathon, my 5th marathon overall and 3rd NYC Marathon. I achieved new highs in monthly mileage (203 miles September, 206 miles October; previous high 156 miles) and in weekly mileage (52 miles, then 58 miles, then 60.6 miles; four weeks 50+ miles; previous high 50 miles). A key component of my training has been including medium-long mid-week runs (topping out at 14 miles) most weeks, an addition that has substantially improved my fitness and endurance during the long runs. While going longer than I ever have before, I also consistently completed speed and tempo workouts, including 8×800 workouts that got progressively faster, highlighted by my final speed workouts of 8×800 in 3:22 average time and 3×1 mile all sub-7. I’ve gone longer and faster than ever before, and the work I put in has shown in shiny new PRs in the 4-mile (28:56) and half-marathon (1:43:52) distances. The latter race to me was my real coming out party as a much better distance runner, as I was sub-8 on 10 of the 13 miles, including a 7:46 on the last mile, with a PR of 7:12 over my 2010 Manhattan half-marathon time.

My progression at the marathon distance has been steady: from a 4:51 (NYC 99), to 4:18 (Seattle 09), to 4:05 (NYC 09), to 3:59 (Green Bay 10), but the progression in my training and mindset has been more noteworthy. In my first marathon, my goal (as a prior non-runner) was to complete a marathon for the sake of running a marathon. The crowds were incredible and I fell in love with the NYC marathon, but for a number of reasons I stopped running until February 2008. In Seattle, my goal was mostly just to finish, ideally with a respectable time, on a beautiful course in a city I love (and once lived in). I had typical overtraining injuries in the preparation that limited my distance as the marathon approached, and I limped in to the finish with cramps over much of the last 10 miles. In NYC last year, I started strong, was constantly reminded of how much I love the NYC marathon (Brooklyn in particular), and then faded as I got into Harlem and the Bronx and struggled to the finish. NYC 09 was the first marathon I ran the entire distance without walking, however, and was an incredible day of running for me and a huge PR. Green Bay was the first marathon I was able to put in real marathon training (2 20-milers and a 22 in the course of 40-50 mile weeks, plus far more long runs than previously), hitting my first 50-mile week and new 132-mile and 156-mile months. An overtraining injury that struck at 5 weeks prior to the marathon reduced my training substantially in those critical weeks 4 and 3 plus the taper, but I ran a strong race through 16 miles before really dropping my pace in the last 10. Nonetheless, I had the physical and mental strength to push hard at the end, through the last miles and my lap around Lambeau Field, to finish with my first sub-4 marathon! I felt a real sense of accomplishment as a marathoner and of my potential for the future.

As I look back on the splits from my two most recent marathon efforts (NYC 2009, half splits 1:52:23, 2:13:32; Green Bay 1:51:53, 2:07:43), I see my progress as a runner in the critical area of pacing. I actually ran the first 11 miles of NYC faster than GB, with miles 1-7 of NYC at an 8:20 average pace (GB was 8:27), but last year at NYC I wasn’t sub-9 after mile 12. In both cases, I clearly started too fast for my training at the time and that showed in the dropoff at the end (NYC miles 20-26 were 10+, with 22 and 24 actually 11+; GB was better, with only miles 22, 23, 24, and 26 over 10). I have learned these lessons and hopefully will show that on the course this year. Interestingly, my goal pace actually will have me aiming for last year’s (then) too-fast pace on 4th Ave as this year’s goal pace on 4th Ave.

Without further ado, my NYC Marathon 2010 race goals:

A+ goal: 3:37 (8:17/mile pace). If everything breaks right (the weather is a great start!) I think this is what my body can do on its current training. Obviously this requires a neutral split or a negative split and pacing the first half correctly, something I have never done before in the marathon. However, see above, there are a lot of things I have never done before in training for a marathon either.

A goal: 3:39 (8:22/mile pace). I feel confident that if I run smart and nothing odd befalls me, this is what I can do. I note that my Staten Island half-marathon time, run in the middle of training with essentially no taper, predicts 3:39:02.

A- goal: 3:40 (8:24/mile pace)-3:43 (8:31). My favorite part about these goals: they really require me to run at the pace I ran over the first half of my last 2 marathons, and then repeat it. I can totally do that. (Although more likely what it would mean is a first half in 1:49, and then I lost several minutes in the second half.) Times in this range mean I did a good job pacing and lost a bit at the end. Achieving this goal would mean a huge PR and still easily my best marathon pacing ever.

B goal: 3:45-3:49. A huge PR still, but would clearly indicate that something went wrong (early pacing too fast, endurance problems, or both). Still a fine effort that I would be happy with and that would also represent my first sub-2 second half of a marathon.

C+ goal: 3:50-3:59. This would represent an incremental (but still substantial) improvement over Green Bay and establish that I really am now a consistent sub-4 marathoner. This would also represent over 2 hours on the second half, something I would like to leave behind as a part of my past.

C goal: finish. Finishing a marathon is always a major accomplishment, and something I’ve only done 4 times in my life. A fifth marathon (with two this year, four in two years) is still a major milestone for me as a runner.

Overall goals: run a happy race and enjoy everything about the NYC marathon: from the runner-filled early morning subway, to the anticipation at the SI Ferry terminal; to the passage across the bay toward the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and past the Statue of Liberty (looking all inspiring, and shit); to the waiting and waiting in the runners village at Fort Wadsworth and in the corrals, to the momentous start and run over the bridge; through the incredible crowds on 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, along Bedford Avenue from Hasidic through areas I know and love well, through a taste my Polish ancestry in Greenpoint and over the Pulaski Bridge; through the nebulous zone in Queens, home of two of my favorite inspiring runner-writers; over the Queensboro Bridge listening to the pat-pat-pat of feet as the runners have their last period to themselves; through the walls of noise on First Ave; through the streets of the Bronx and Harlem, where I will see friends and family (including a short run with OHK); up the last major climb on 5th Ave as the park starts to border the runners before enveloping them at the Engineers Gate and entering running routes I know well; back out onto Grand Army Plaza and onto Central Park South, with midtown intimately cheering me on; back into the park at Columbus Circle and back onto a road I know and love as a runner; up that last hill at mile 26 and the push to the finish at Tavern on the Green (as the finish will always be); and crossing the finish line, knowing that I have given the very best effort I can that day, taking the medal and the mylar and walking with all of the other marathoners as we all realize that we have pushed our bodies to do incredible things, and that now our bodies were letting us fully know about it.

The last paragraph was such a thrill to write- I killed off the “stay calm” vibe I had going most of today. Hey, it’s marathon Saturday. I know what is up ahead. It cannot come soon enough. I am ready for my run with Haile Gebrselassie, Meb Keflezighi, Hendrick Ramaala, Martin Lel, Peter Kamais, Robert Cheruiyot, Derartu Tulu, so many of my running friends, and 45,000 other runners, in front of 2 million cheering spectators, on the bridges and streets of the greatest city of the world.

I will be on the 5:30 a.m. ferry to Staten Island and then on to the orange corrals, starting in wave 1. My race day garb will be the same shirt I’m wearing in my dailymile avatar (red Pearl Izumi with white highlights) with black Asics shorts and white Brooks Adrenaline shoes. Less than 12 hours to my wakeup call! Eeep! (So, so, so very excited!) Let’s do this! Best race wishes to everyone else running the NYC Marathon tomorrow! This is why we run!





Race goals

14 05 2010

Today I arrived in Green Bay and ran a glorious final short run before the Green Bay Marathon. Along with driving along much of the course and eating a lot of pasta and potatoes today, the gravitas of Sunday’s race is unavoidable. So how fast do I think I can go?

I will choose traditional goals rather than the more entertaining dinosaur goals of my fellow Green Bay Marathon runner Jeri. It is her first marathon, wish her well if you haven’t yet done so!

A Goal 3:45 (8:36/mile pace)

My A goal is aggressive but achievable if I run smart. Run smart in this means the opposite of 2009 NYCM (where my goal was 3:50 and I started out at an 8:21/mile pace over the first 10K (51:52), kept an 8:36/mile pace over the following 5K, finally started running at the goal pace during 15K-20K, and then completely went to hell after leaving Brooklyn (half-marathon splits 1:52, 2:13). Yeah, don’t run like that again, OK?

The only thing giving me pause about my A goal are the minor hip and shin issues I had that caused me to back off somewhat after the 5 weeks to go point, including in the taper. I certainly lost a little fitness (more hopefully didn’t gain all that I could have), but I trust my training and was broadly happy with it (see previous post). I am particularly happy with the paces of several of my long runs, including the 20-miles at 7 weeks to go with a bunch of Boston runners, the 20-miler at 5 weeks to go at a sub-9 pace, and the Penn Relays 20K at 8:17 pace on tired legs (and even on really tired legs after a way-too-fast start, I still averaged an 8:30-ish pace). Plus, the 10K I ran (also on tired legs) predicts a 3:44 time. 3:45 seems completely legitimate based on the sum of the data. I need to run smart, take salt several times, stay within myself, and then push at the end. The weather looks great (start temp upper 40s at 7 a.m.) and I feel completely healthy, so those variables are kindly enough in my favor, too.

B Goal 3:50 (8:47/mile pace)

A huge PR, and definitely fully within my abilities. Again, running smart is the key. Also, my Penn Relays 20K (run on tired legs and with imperfect strategy!) time predicts 3:50. I can totally run a 3:50.

C Goal 3:59:59 (9:09/mile pace)

I’ll finally break 4 hours in marathon #4! New PR! Getting a 3:59:59 would mean I faded, but nowhere near as badly as I did at the 2009 NYCM (where my pace in miles 20-26 was between 10:18 and 11:21, running the whole time). Even if I have a fade, my much better distance conditioning this cycle makes me think that it wouldn’t be nearly as bad as at NYCM. I also know my salt needs much better thanks to lessons painfully learned in the Seattle Marathon, where I cramped from miles 16 on. I could totally run a 2:06 second half at this point no matter what, right? (I’ll be stunned if my first half is any slower than 1:55, and a 1:52-1:53 seems highly likely unless injury is involved.)

D Goal finish

Always a worthy goal in a marathon, because the marathon has a million ways to kick your ass, and finishing means you have completed an incredible effort. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the run, run happy, enjoy running on Lambeau Field, enjoy the art of movement – enjoy it all, relish the pain that is certain, just run. Any day that you have run a marathon is a great day!





Training for the Green Bay Marathon – update

3 05 2010

It’s taper time! So how did I do in my training for the Green Bay Marathon?

Things I’m happy about

– I basically hit my long-run schedule perfectly, save for a couple weeks of intense work/travel/weather in Feb/early March. (I’d really like to have the last week of January, the first 2 weeks of February, and the first week of March back. Alas.)
To wit, my long runs in this cycle:
22.46, 20, 20, 18, 17, 17, 15.6, 14.4, 14.1, 13.2, 13.1. That’s 11 runs of half-marathon distance or further, easily a best for marathon training for me. Throw in five runs of 10-12 miles, plus more runs of 7-10 miles than ever before, and that’s a good training cycle.
– I hit a 50-mile week for the first time ever. Heck, I hit a 40-mile week for the first time ever.
– I ran PRs in two races when my legs were fried. My Scotland Run 10K PR was after 41 miles the previous 6 days. The Penn Relays Distance Classic 20K PR was run after a hard 10 the afternoon before and 4 miles run immediately before the race, and yet I still maintained an 8:17 average pace over 20K. I’m very proud of these race times in anti-taper mode.
– I ran 156 miles in April, a personal best.
– I was mostly injury-free, which is really a big difference from last year’s marathons (where my training had fewer miles!). I had some minor issues in my left hip and right shin that caused me to lose some miles and take several unplanned days off over the last 3 weeks, so I’m a little bitter I didn’t hit 200 miles in April, but in the big picture I am in way better position injury-wise than I have ever been in marathon training. I definitely took the better-safe-than-sorry approach the last 3 weeks, making sure I hit my long runs. For example, I only ran twice April 14-22, but ran 27 miles those 2 days. Not ideal, but I’d rather arrive at the start line healthy and have confidence that I can run a great race.

Things to work on for future marathons

– I did very little speed work, and did fewer tempo runs than would be ideal. This was really a planned anti-injury measure, as I was reaching weekly and monthly totals I had never run before. I made the conscious decision to reduce injury risk by not jumping way up in miles and at the same time throwing in heavy speed. I also ran a fair number of runs at recovery pace, again mostly as an up-the-miles-without-injury strategy. As much as anything, I wanted to put in a significant number of long runs in this cycle to get my body much better prepared for the distance. Of course, I think this base sets me up very well for future training. For future marathons, I will relish being able to mix the speed work in and include more tempo, now that I’ve given my body the base to handle the miles. The good news: I can see that my speed is not at the levels it was last summer/fall, so I have real room to improve in the future.
– Start training earlier. After the NYCM last November, I basically didn’t run until the last week of December. January was also a light training month other than the Manhattan Half-Marathon, which at least gave me a jump in my distance base. But I really didn’t begin training in earnest until February 13.
– My weight is higher than I’d like. I don’t really lose weight while in full marathon-training mode, partly because I do a lot less cross-training/weights when I am in intense running mode. With winter the high point of the year weight-wise, and jumping right into marathon training, this wasn’t going to be ideal (January-February as the high point of the year work-wise didn’t help, either). Also, over the last several weeks of marathon training I get antsy about giving my body any excuse to move muscle protein from my legs to anywhere else. Summer, with no marathon training until August, on the other hand is great weight-loss time for me. I expect to run the NYCM at least 10 pounds lighter than I will run Green Bay, which certainly should translate to minutes off my race time.

Conclusions

I basically did what I wanted to accomplish this training cycle: run far more training miles than I have before, and do it with a larger number of long runs than I did before. My only real deviations from plan were the lost training time in Jan/Feb and the lost runs the last 3 weeks because I was being proactive about preventing injury. Given that I will reach the starting line with my legs healthy (barring something highly unfortunate in the next 13 days), I’m OK with that. I’m well-prepared and ready for a serious PR in Green Bay. Now I just need to survive the taper.





Race report: Penn Relays Distance Classic 20K

19 04 2010

My goal for the Penn Relays Distance Classic 20K was to race on tired legs, in order to simulate the feel at the end of the marathon. To accomplish this goal, I ran a hard progression 10-mile run the afternoon before, plus 4 miles immediately pre-race (making 27 miles in 18 hours including cool-down). Despite the importance of the Penn Relays, this race was actually quite small – no chip timing, signs at registration posted with duct tape, times recorded officially from the timer clock by hand (with a few timer clocks on the race), rip the identifier off your bib to determine order of finish. It was quite a refreshing change of pace from the large NYRR races. The warmups and start in historic Franklin Field were particularly inspiring.

It was a beautiful morning for a race – cool and clear. The course started on the street in front of Franklin Field. Because it was a small race, I was nearly toeing the line at the start (maybe in the third row of people). Awesome! Alas, perhaps too awesome. It was not only a small race, but a small race with very fast runners. I started out way way too fast, and kept seeing 7:00, 7:21, 7:24 simultaneous paces when checking the Garmin during mile 1. I felt good, but knew it wasn’t sustainable, yet I had problems appropriately slowing down because I felt comfortable and because of the fast company.

Distance markings were sparse (and some were questionable), but the recorded splits were interesting. The first mile marker was actually at 1.1 miles, with Garmin recording a 7:50 pace over the first 1.1 miles. Whoa. My 3-mile split was 23:57 (7:59 pace over the first 3 miles)! Way too fast! Continuing my splits, 4th mile 8:09 (32:06), 5th mile 8:09 (40:15), 6th mile 8:39 (48:54), 7th mile 8:09 (!) (57:03), 8th mile 8:24 (1:05:27), 9th mile 8:38 (1:14:05), miles 10-12 8:30 average (25:29 timed, not official 12th mile, no mile markers seen), 1:39:34), stub 4:00 (0.49 miles, 8:05 pace). 10K splits 50:32, 53:02. I was definitely putting in significant effort from mile 8 onwards, in contrast to the easy feel over the first 7, but I was very happy to maintain a sub-8:40 pace throughout, especially after going out way way too fast. It was particularly cool finishing the race with 3/4 lap on the track at Franklin Field.

Overall time 1:43:34 (8:19 pace), a new PR! OK, I had never officially run the distance, but still a PR even if by default! I did beat my official 20K timing in the NYCM (1:46:09), so I am going to call this race a 20K PR by 2:35. Awesome!

I’m very happy with the overall effort, particularly given the anti-taper for the race. A very encouraging run for 4 weeks from today. Though it would be really nice before then to learn not to run out too fast at the beginning of a long race.





Race report: Scotland Run 10K

5 04 2010

The Scotland Run 10K is near and dear to my heart, almost as much as the Coogan’s 5K. It was the first 10K I ran in my return to running in 2008, and I also had a great time with it in 2009. Even though last year’s run was cold and rainy, it just seemed appropriate for a Scotland Run. Possibly I just have a thing for bagpipes? (See: Coogan’s) Or kilts? Plus, the seafood stew and haggis afterward were spectacular.

Last year’s Scotland Run was a glorious PR, my first time with a sub-8 pace in a 10K. I was well-rested and had a great race. This year? I was anything but well-rested, having run 41 miles the previous 6 days (including a very fun 20 miler the previous Sunday with EG, AG, A, L, TK, MP, DN, and LK). But the goal of the spring isn’t a 10K PR, it’s to run a great marathon on May 16. Running fast on tired legs is a step to that goal.

In contrast to last year, the weather was gorgeous. (Sadly, also in contrast to last year, there was no haggis or seafood stew at the end. Alas.) A few words from Alex Ferguson (hehe, I hate ManU) and we were off. Scotland Run is a clockwise loop of Central Park, with a finish that is always pleasant for NYCM finishers. I started comfortably fast and then tried to hang on for dear life. I felt strong and fast from the start, with splits over the first 4 miles of 7:45, 7:27, 7:34, and 7:54 (net uphill). I specifically was happy how I felt going up Harlem Hill.

In mile 5 I had to dig in – here I was feeling the previous week’s heavy training. As I hit the 5-mile marker (5th-mile split: 7:30) I was really suffering. The suffering clearly affected my mental state, as I had a first: my first time getting water in a short race. I also nearly had another first: immediately after swallowing the water I nearly vomited, causing me to pull off to the side and stop for a few seconds before regaining composure and continuing on. The last 1.2 were tough for me (certainly qualifying as a bonk!): in addition to what should be racing to the finish, the last mile is net downhill and should have been the fastest. Instead, my mile 6 split was 8:02 (!), stub 1:37 (7:33 pace). I crossed the finish line at 47:49 (7:42 pace) physically beat, but with a shiny new PR (by 1:20) for my efforts! I am very, very happy with this run, particularly given that I was running on tired legs (41 miles the previous 6 days). Happy happy run!

Splits 7:45, 7:27, 7:34, 7:54, 7:30, 8:02, stub 1:37.

Two cool bonuses: in addition to the 10K race PR, my 4-mile split (30:40) and 5-mile split (38:10) were both faster than my PRs at these distances. Note to self: I really need to race a 4-miler and (especially) a 5-miler. My 5-mile split was over 3 minutes faster than my 5 mile PR (which dates from 2008).





Race report: Coogan’s 5K

7 03 2010

The Coogan’s Salsa, Blues, and Shamrocks 5K run is a perennial bloom of spring, my favorite NYRR race other than the NYC Marathon. I love the spirit and the music in Washington Heights, the views of the George Washington Bridge and the Hudson River, the kids races, warmup in the armory – everything about the race has a flair. I also like the out-and-back course layout (seeing the leaders come at you), and I even like the hills. Plus, Coogan’s and I have a history – Coogan’s was my first NYRR race, in March 2008, when my goal was merely to finish (I had completed training runs of 1.8 and 2.2 miles (a week before!) prior to the race). This year, my goals were a bit elevated: at least a PR, maybe even pushing toward a 7 minute/mile pace? My week-before training run distance this time was 15.6 miles. So, a little different in 2010.

A mile of warmup had me feeling pretty good. The legs felt loose, and the running conditions were ideal, low 40s and sunny blue skies, long sleeves and shorts weather. At the start, my legs churned at a pace that seemed about right, a glance down at the Garmin revealing a pace in the 6:40-6:50 range. Excellent. But as the hills of mile 1 started to make their presence felt, I obviously slowed despite feeling good. At mile 1 I glanced at my split and was disappointed to see 7:27.

Mile 2 starts with a significant downhill into Fort Tryon Park that gave me a joyous instantaneous 6:12 pace. As I turned around at the bottom I could feel the accumulated speed as I started the first uphill dip. By the more severe uphill out of the park, I just didn’t have the push to get into the gear I needed to be in (and should have had no problem achieving). Mile 2 split 7:32.

Mile 3 was just trying to hold on. Unfortunately, I didn’t have what I needed to press the downhills (my body type really does well on downhills) and there was more grimace on the uphill than there should have been for my pace. As I approached the George Washington Bridge, I thought I might donate my cookies to Washington Heights. I held on, but lacked the push I needed to end the race strong. Mile 3 split 7:30, stub ~0:49. Overall time 23:19 (7:30 overall pace), well short of a PR (50 seconds) and a disappointing effort given where I thought I was (and where speed work was suggesting). Alas.

Things that console me after this disappointing effort: (1) I hadn’t incorporated too much speed work to date, focusing more on getting the long miles in early (which has been my biggest weakness in prior marathon training regimes); (2) I am still running at middle-of-winter weight (snow and cold this year haven’t helped), probably the biggest problem; (3) Garmin had me at 3.18 miles, though I usually run tangents very well (and this course should be well-positioned for good tangents), which would be 7:19/mile, closer to PR pace. How I blew my tangents this badly on this course is an excellent question I need to consider more thoroughly.

I was happy to briefly catch up with Scott and Michelle after the race as they chatted about their happy runs (congrats on the PR, Scott!).

It was still a glorious day in Washington Heights. I look forward to Coogan’s 2011!





The Black Knight Didn’t Know How Irritating a Flesh Wound Is

3 03 2010

“It’s just a flesh wound.” (video)

I must have the absolutely dumbest running injury ever. At mile 7 of Saturday’s 15-miler, I fell hard on an icy sidewalk, bloodying my hands and my right knee. A solid fall that really hurt and led me to think I’d have to stop my run, I loudly used a wide assortment of 4-letter words with plenty of present participles and gerunds thrown in.


Such beautiful red blood!

After washing out my wounds with snow for several minutes and then applying bandages, I realized that my knee had a solid 2″ abrasion, but actually was uninjured. A large scrape wouldn’t stop me, so I started back up and continued a quality 15.6 mile run. The post-fall part of the run was easily the strongest I felt, making for a very pleasing Saturday effort.

I haven’t run since. Not because my knee proper is at all injured (walking or sitting, it feels great), but because the skin on my knee refuses to stop slowly oozing blood. A scrape on the kneecap means that any significant bending of the knee reopens the wound a little. Sitting, standing, and stairs have been brutal as I try to gently prevent any reopening of the wound. My legs just want to go – and I have to tell them no. Just because of a flesh wound.