Final NYC Marathon Reflections

You know what? I’ve done all the training, reviewed the course and elevation maps and strategy guides, talked ad nauseum about and obsessed over the NYC Marathon for months. I’ve also expressed my gratitude for all those who have helped me get to this point, and understand that even though I run for myself, I get to do so because of the amazing people in my life. So, if I were to post a “final marathon reflections,” I would just rehash old posts and yadda yadda yadda.

TCS NYC Marathon

Happy Halloween and Good Luck from Jim and H. B. Skeleton!

So, instead of posting all that, I’m just going to say this:

Good luck to everyone running the NYC Marathon tomorrow! Thank you to everyone volunteering at the NYC Marathon! Thank you to my family for organizing a post-race party! Thank you to everyone who has wished me luck! And thank you to everyone who has stopped by this blog, read my rambles, and maybe even enjoyed them!

Good luck, everyone! We got this.

TCS NYC Marathon

And an unofficial GOOD LUCK from NP_NYC!

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10/30/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 6:25 a.m., Bethesda Fountain; NYC Marathon Thoughts

I’m going to break this entry into two parts: This morning’s November Project NYC workout, and my random marathon thoughts.

But first! Bib and newly-tagged NYC Marathon shirt! Soon to have my name and (possibly) blog URL tagged on it:

November Project NYC Marathon

Woot! Neon is the way to go!

NP_NYC Workout at Bethesda Fountain

So . . . Paula RadcliffeBart Yasso, Desi Linden, and Dean Karnazes worked out with us this morning. What?! No big deal. Also, Brogan Graham, one of November Project’s co-founders, pounded out burpees, push-ups, dips, lunges, and bear crawls with us because #justshowup and #whatisthis. We also had lots of people in town from other Tribes for the marathon. Just awesome to see so much NP love this morning!

Bethesda Fountain

Bethesda Fountain, much brighter than it was this morning.

The workout consisted of two phases: During phase 1, we broke into two large groups. Both groups began by doing 20 burpees. Then Group 1 lunged through the terrace near Bethesda Fountain in Central Park while Group 2 bear-crawled. At the end of the terrace, everyone ran up a flight of stairs and then bunny-hopped up a second flight. Then everyone did 10 push-ups, 10 dips, and then back to the beginning for more burpees. Repeat for 20 minutes.

Bethesda Fountain Terrace

The gorgeous terrace.

Most of us NYC marathoners took it easy, and I got to do push-ups with Brogan and meet some members of the NYC Tribe that go to the 6:28 a.m. Wednesday workouts (I’m generally a 5:28 a.m. guy). There is something wrong with me when I think that 60 burpees is an easy, pleasant way to start the day.

Phase 2 of the workout was a “burnout.” Essentially, everyone not running the NYC Marathon started at the Fountain end of the terrace, did four or five burpees, and then ran through the terrace, up the stairs, down the stairs, and back to the start. The rest of us lined the terrace and cheered them on. It was wild! Each interval was timed, so if you didn’t make it back to the start in a set time, you joined the cheering squad. We went through seven or eight rounds before the final round, which was just crazy. NP_NYC’s Jason “won” the burnout, with Rob a few steps behind. NP co-founder Brogan also put forth a strong showing, demonstrating the meaning of “leading from the front.”

Marathon Thoughts

I’ve written race previews about my other recent races, but the NYC Marathon needs no introduction. I outlined the course in my pace strategy post, and all of my posts about training have essentially been about training for this race. I believe that, considering my injury which kept me from running between April and June 25, I trained as well as I could, and I am ready to run a solid race.

Of course, doubts have crept into my mind. During my 22-mile long run, I felt the burn in my legs at mile 21. I also did not log tons of miles, peaking at about 50 miles in my peak training week. These two facts could lead me to be concerned that I am not ready to run this marathon as fast as I want.

But poo poo to them! I have to remember these things as well:

  1. During those early weeks of marathon training in July and August, I was still returning to running after injury.
  2. During that return period, with the support of my doctor and physical therapist, I was biking upwards of 100+ miles per week as I prepared for the NYC Century Bike Tour.
  3. Also during the pre-return and return period, all the hours I spent in the pool, which, combined with my time on the bike, helped me build a solid aerobic base on which to begin marathon training.
  4. My solid performances in the Bronx 10-Mile (6:02/mile pace) and Staten Island Half (6:10/mile pace, with a strong sense that I could have run slightly faster if not fearing for my life on the boardwalk).
  5. Maybe most importantly, all of the love and support I have received from my family, friends, girlfriend, NP_NYC, coworkers, and what I might call the Spirit of the Universe, or, in a less spiritual sense, the feeling that I’m not in control of the world, and that my lack of total control is OK with me.

More thoughts to come tomorrow. For now, happy Friday and, if you can (I’m having a hard time), think about something other than the NYC Marathon.

Happy running, everyone!

10/28/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 5:28 a.m., Wards Island: Aggressive Dance Moves!

Hey! Did you know the NYC Marathon is only four days away? Haha, you probably already knew that. But just in case you haven’t read a newspaper, seen an advertisement on the subway, or checked your Facebook feed lately: The NYC Marathon is ONLY FOUR DAYS AWAY!

November Project NYC

Morning crew! Katie, Ashley, Me, and Sarah

For many, the NYC Marathon means increased traffic in New York City. For others, the day has no special meaning. For me, it indicates the culmination of over a year of hard work returning to the sport of running, and a chance to participate in an event I never thought possible. So, when I lined up with the members of November Project NYC to take our post-workout group photo this morning, and half the members raised their hands when asked if they were running this Sunday, I realized just how many people are looking to Sunday as both the celebration of their hard work, and the beginning of the next chapter in their running stories.

Of course, before we got to post-workout, we, you know, worked out. Here’s what we did:

  • Do 10 pushups.
  • Run across the Wards Island Bridge and down to the East River footpath.
  • Do 10 burpees.
  • Run back across the Bridge to the starting area.
  • 30 seconds of AGGRESSIVE dancing (or, if you are Myles, you dance by doing burpees)
  • Run back across the Bridge.
  • 20 mountain climbers.
  • Run back across the Bridge.
  • Repeat for 35 minutes.

I covered about four miles during this workout, and spent my time talking to fellow Tribe members Rob, Jess, and Ian. I also spent a little bit too long on the aggressive dancing portion when John played “Rebel Without a Pause” by Public Enemy because, hey, who doesn’t love bouncing to Chuck D, Flava Flav and Terminator X at 6 a.m.? I also threw up more high fives today than ever before, in part because I could feel the collective excitement of the impending NYC Marathon.

November Project NYC

Amazing! Thank you, Liysa! And yes, those are aqua socks.

At the end of the workout, I received a good luck card from the Tribe, which was so thoughtful and wonderful! I also received a colored safety pin from Liysa, who advised me to pin my shoe so that if I felt beat up and in pain during the marathon, I could look down and channel the spirit of NP_NYC. Amazing! I have already pinned my shoe. Thank you, Liysa! I know you’ll do great on Sunday.

NP Marathon Card Cover NP Marathon Card

NP_NYC is running #Mile7 of the NYC Marathon. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the Tribe will be loud, supportive, and ready to rock all day. So excited to run through there and throw down lots of high fives and smiles.

I know we’re all tapering and not hitting the roads as much, but despite that:

Happy running, everyone!

Weekend in Vermont! Road Running, Trail Running, Pumpkin Ice Cream, and a Severe Lack of Moose Sightings

I traveled this past weekend with my girlfriend, Melissa, and her parents to their home in Wardsboro, VT, about as far south in Vermont as one can live. We had temperatures in the 50s, likely the last warm days before the snow falls and people trade in their running shoes for cross country skies. We rolled through hills covered in gorgeous maples with leaves turning orange, red, brown, and the occasional tree maintaining its green coverage, and ambled through country roads shaded by tree branches and lined by horses and cows. More importantly, we slept without the subway’s rumble under our apartment. Really beautiful, even if the sun stayed behind the clouds for most of the weekend.

Isabella the dog

Meet Isabella, the cutest dog in all of Vermont!

When I arrived on Saturday, I ran a quick 5.5 miles on Wardsboro’s main road, a quiet stretch lined by cabins on one side and a river on the other. My out route was entirely uphill, and my in route entirely downhill. Even though the occasional car rushed past, I enjoyed the solitude of the run, and the fact that I ran fast on my in trip downhill without pushing too hard. The house, however, was up a steep hill, which slowed me down a bit but reminded me of the many bridges to come during the NYC Marathon.

We then attended the Gilfeather Turnip Festival, at which there were neither turnips nor turnip soup (we arrived too late). We did, however, get to sample some Vermont maple syrup candies, learn about goat cheese (unpasteurized goat cheese is a big thing in Vermont), and visit the bustling Wardsboro government office.

Wardsboro, VT

A might government center.

Later that day we rode to a pumpkin farm, where we ate cider doughnuts and lots of pumpkin ice cream.

Pumpkin farm

Can you tell which one is not a scarecrow? I sure can’t ;).

Cider doughnut

I ate three more of these after my 9-mile trail run, nailing the marathon training nutrition plan.

We hit the trails on Sunday, and I did a 9-mile trail run in Jamaica, VT, while Melissa and her parents hiked . The trail was only about 3 miles long, so I ran out, back to the start, out again, and then ran a short distance back to my crew. The trail was mostly flat with a few steep uphills and, like the road, was bordered on one side by a river. I tried to keep the run easy, but made it up and down the trail in about 19 minutes each time. I felt great at the end, though, and as the marathon approaches, I’m happy to get in some hard runs close to marathon pace if only to train my mind about how that pace feels.

Jamaica, VT trail run

Looking super dorky on the trail.

Jamaica, VT trail

View from the end of the trail.

After my run, we hiked to the end of the trail and up a dam. Atop the dam, we surveyed the land, enjoyed a snack, and took some pictures. The views were incredible, and I cannot wait to return in the winter and cross-country ski down the trails.

Jamaica, VT trail

Halfway up the dam trail and feeling good.

Jamaica, VT dam

View from the top of the dam.

Aside from some pushups and core exercises, those runs comprised my workouts in Vermont. We spent the rest of our time attempting to go to flea markets (which were all closed due to the overcast and slightly rainy weather), eating homemade turnip soup, and watching horror movies, including “Plan 9 From Outer Space” and “An American Werewolf in London.” I left Vermont feeling exhausted but relaxed and ready to conquer another week, although disappointed that we did not see any moose.

Jamaica, VT trail

And of course, what trail hike would be complete without a trail ride?

Vermont moose

Seriously, behold the majesty of this stuffed moose! See how much larger it is than the deer in the background? Amazing.

NYC Marathon in FIVE DAYS! My schedule for the next few days looks like this:

  • Wednesday, October 28: November Project NYC 5:28 a.m. workout on Wards Island, and 7 p.m. shakeout run in Central Park
  • Thursday, October 29: 3-4 mile run in Central Park, with some stretching and core work at the gym. Also, Happy Birthday, Katie!
  • Friday, October 30: Potential NP_NYC 6:28 workout at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park
  • Saturday, October 31: 2 mile run followed by epic Halloween party on Long Island, followed by all the sleep
  • Sunday, November 1: NYC Marathon, all the cheesecake, all the parties, all the sleep.

So close!

Happy running, everyone!

10/21/2015: Morning Workout, November Project, 5:28 a.m.: It’s a Long Fly Ball!

Taper time is slow time. With no workouts on Monday and Tuesday, I almost didn’t know what to do with my life. The next 11 days before the NYC Marathon are going to drag!

Good thing I had November Project NYC to enjoy this morning.

I woke up at 4:30, strapped on my workout and bike gear, and rode over to East End Avenue and 86th Street. I crossed the 72nd Street transverse in Central Park and rode up East Drive to 84th Street, and then across to the East River. I had never visited the Park that early, and it was dead quiet. Eerily quiet, especially after Sunday’s 22-mile run through the crowds of beast cancer walkers. Once I returned to the City streets on the East side, however, cars flew past and I had to wait at stop lights. At 5 a.m. What a contrast.

The workout

In honor of the Mets’ strong postseason run, our workout was baseball-themed. We broke into teams of six or eight, and then split into groups of three. We then played two “innings” of baseball.

Top of the 1st

Group 1 began by running suicides on the basketball/hockey court next to our staging area. Each “player” started on the base line, ran to a line at the top of the key, did a pushup, ran back to the baseline, then to the center line, did two pushups, back to the baseline, then to the far key, three pushups, back to the baseline, all the way to the far baseline, four pushups, then over to the benches next to the court for four dips, and then back to the baseline. That scored one “run.” Repeat for 7.5 minutes.

Group 2 began by running a grotto/stair loop with one burpee to cap it off. That scored one run. To score a second run, each player had to run two stair loops and do two burpees. For a third run, three stair loops and three burpees. Repeat for 7.5 minutes.

Bottom of the 1st

Group 1 and Group 2 switched workouts.

November Project NYC

Scoring runs before the sun.

Top of the 2nd

Group 1 returned and performed suicides, but did squats instead of pushups, and step-ups on the bench instead of dips. This was supposed to last for 7.5 minutes, but we somehow kept going for over ten.

Group 2 returned and performed grotto/stair loops, but did Coopers (a burpee with straight arms and a higher jump) instead of burpees.

Bottom of the 2nd

Groups 1 and 2 performed the opposite workout.

The “winning” group was the group that scored the most “runs.” That happened to be my group, “Go Blue,” with 81 runs, one run ahead of the second place group. We won a pumpkin! I

Overall, it felt great to be outside in the near-60 degree weather. it was also fun (in a sadistic way) to do suicides, something I haven’t done since high school hockey practice. I definitely held back in order to preserve myself for the marathon, but I felt tired and ready for a nap afterward. Riding my bike home after the workout felt good. I ran about 3-3.5 miles throughout the workouts.

At lunch I hit the gym later to stretch and to do some core work. I generally follow this core routine, and threw in a 75 second plank for good measure. My stretching included moves to stretch my piriformis, IT bands, hip flexors, quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Definitely do not want any injuries creeping up before the marathon!

For the rest of the week, I will be running another 15-18 miles (including a longish run of 8 miles on Sunday), and spending the rest of my time reading recaps of past NYC marathons, race strategy guides, and trying not to talk excessively about the marathon. Woot! So pumped.

Happy running, everyone!

So Much To Catch Up On!

Wow. Sometimes you live your life and realize that it’s been DAYS since you last updated your blog. So, let’s do it! Four days of marathon training, condensed into one post.

10/15/2015: Morning Run, 6.2 Miles

After November Project NYC’s intense Wednesday session, Thursday morning’s run felt like a welcome return to form. Straightforward loop of Central Park. Not much to report. I also hit the gym at lunch to do some core and stretching work.

10/16/2015: Morning Run, 8 Miles

As this past week was my final week of high mileage before the marathon, I wanted to get in at least one additional long run before my final 22-miler. I really wanted to run 9, but the extra ten minutes I spent in bed before the run prevented that. No big deal. The weekend mileage more than made up for that one missed mile.

Later on this day, my girlfriend and I hosted a horror movie marathon for some friends. We curated a list of meta horror films, including “Scream,” “Murder Party,” “Tucker and Dale vs. Evil,” and “The Cabin in the Woods.” We scheduled five films in total (the fifth film, “Return of the Living Dead,” is not meta horror but amazing nonetheless) and, while we only made it through three, I applaud our friends for sticking around into the wee hours. In fact, both Melissa and I were shocked that anyone RSVP’d yes at all! We will have to do this again.

Scream the Movie

10/17/2015: Morning Workout: 180 Pushups, 180 Situps, 56 Burpees; Afternoon Run, 5.2 Miles

November Project NYC’s Friday workout involved no running. Instead, the Tribe performed 180 pushups, 180 situps, and 56 burpees. Ouch! When I saw that workout posted on Facebook, I thought, “Damn, I have to do that because #solidarity.”

This was a tough workout. It took me about half an hour to complete all the moves. I started by breaking it down into manageable chunks: sets of 20 pushups, 20 situps, and 6 burpees. After doing five sets like this, I changed the set to 10 pushups, 10 situps, 6 burpees, 10 situps, and 10 pushups. I picked a spot of grass near the 72nd Street entrance to Central Park, and people took pictures of me, cheered me on, laughed at me, and stared awkwardly. Sounds about right for NYC!

After depleting most of my glycogen, I ran 5.2 miles through the Park. This was a surprisingly good run on a gorgeous day, although it took me about 20 minutes to find a rhythm.

Later that evening, Melissa and I went to our friends’ CBGB’s-themed murder mystery party. My character was based on Billy Idol, so I spray-dyed my hair platinum blonde, painted my nails black, and wore tight pants and Doc Marten’s. Melissa was a Cyndi Lauper wannabe, so she wore lots of bright colors and turned her hair pink. I got so excited about the evening that I actually wrote the song that my character wrote based on his bio. Such a fun evening! We’re thinking about doing one of these mystery parties at our place. Just need a theme . . .

Murder Mystery Party

Melissa and Jim, a/k/a Anna Filaxis and Byeezus Idolatrus

10/18/2015: Morning Run, 22 Miles: The Hardest Run of the Training Season

So, not surprisingly, I only slept about six hours each night. I also failed to pick up GU packs for my long run. No worries, I thought as I threw on my running shorts on Sunday morning. I’ll replace the GU with a sandwich bag filled with candy corn! I also skimped on pre-run nutrition, eating only Greek yogurt and a spoonful of peanut butter before the run.

Because I’m running the NYRR 60k two weeks after the marathon, I wanted to use this run as both a final long run and a training session for that race.  For the marathon, I wanted to perform a training run that lasted about as long as I anticipate being on the marathon course. Dr. Maffetone talks about the benefits of this in his book The Big Book of Endurance Training, and other anecdotal evidence from friends who have run marathons supported this theory. So, as my goal time for the marathon is 2:55, I thought that 22 miles at my maximum aerobic heart rate pace of 7:45-8 minutes/mile would do the trick.

For the 60k, I wanted to preview the course, which involves a 5.2 mile loop of the Park plus eight 4-mile inner loops of the Park (72nd Street transverse to 102nd Street transverse). So, I figured that I’d run a 5.2 mile loop and four 4-mile loops to get to 21, and then finish it off with another mile. I thought it would be a good idea to get a sense of what it’s like to run Cat Hill five times.

A few things went wrong almost immediately out the door. First, the weather had dropped 10 degrees from the previous day, so I wore gloves for the first time this year. This made it more difficult to check my heart rate monitor during the run. Second, the annual breast cancer awareness walk happened to be that morning, so the Central Park loop was completely mobbed, despite the fact that the walk was supposed to be confined to a lane the size of an NYRR race. This made it difficult to get to water fountains and to maintain a steady pace. I had to duck through groups constantly, and wound up running on the grass every couple of minutes. Third, because of the crowds, I drank much less water than usual (once every four miles as opposed to once every two). And finally, candy corn, a/k/a pure high fructose corn syrup and food dye, provided no energy boost.

So, by mile 21, my legs were screaming. A combination of frustration at the crowds plus poor nutrition and water intake plus OK-but-not-great sleep plus the new angle of not being able to check my heart rate constantly added challenges to the run. It took a lot of willpower to fight through that final mile. I ran slightly harder than I wanted to as well, ending up with a 7:34 minute/mile pace (which included a jogged first mile). Maybe worse was the hardcore sugar craving I had after the run, which lasted most of the day and involved some sodas, Halloween candy, a mocha frappuccino, and a milkshake. That’s how you nail your pre-marathon nutrition plan!

While I was disappointed in how I performed on this run, I am so glad that it happened now and not on November 1. It just reinforces things I already know: 1) sleep properly; 2) relax in the crowds; 3) eat and drink properly; and 4) when you perform poorly, your body gets out of whack, which inspires additional poor nutrition choices. I’m probably being too hard on myself, but hey!  want to rock the marathon.

Here are the route and mile splits from the run. That last mile was a real pain.

Central Park Run22 Mile Run Splits

I finished up Sunday watching the Rangers lose to the Devils with my friend Sam at MSG. We talked all things training and marathon and Rangers hockey as my legs recovered, and my emerging favorite player Oscar Lindberg notched his fifth point in six games as a rookie. As Sam said, no one has told Lindy that he’s not supposed to be this good yet, and that’s a good thing. I then got dinner with my friend Nick, who is back in NYC from San Francisco.

New York Rangers Oscar Lindberg

LGR!

All in all, a good training bloc, and an even better bloc of fun and good times with good people. It’s taper time, so I’m envisioning about 20 miles this week plus lots of time in the gym to stretch and do core work.

NYC Marathon in less than two weeks!

Happy running, everyone!

Race Preview: The Staten Island Half Marathon, October 11, 2015

Staten Island Half Marathon

Staten Island Half Marathon Banner (repost from nyrr.org)

In two days I’ll run the Staten Island Half Marathon for the second time. Last year’s Half was my first half marathon, and I finished in 1:44:42 (8:00/mile pace). I then ran the Fred Lebow Half Marathon in Central Park in January at a 7:22/mile pace, finishing in 1:36. Due to my injury, I was unable to run the Brooklyn Half this spring, but ran a 1:29:36 while training (6:50/mile pace).

After my strong finish at the Bronx 10-Mile two weeks ago (1:00:20, 6:02/mile pace), I am confident that I can PR. While I am targeting a 1:20 time (6:06/mile pace), I’ll be happy to finish the race with a strong effort. This race is just a chance to gauge my estimated finish time for the NYC Marathon.

How can we put forth a strong effort on the windy, deceptively hilly course? Let’s go through our race prep analysis:

Know Your Race: As discussed above, I’m going to attempt to average a 6:06/mile pace if I’m feeling strong out there. I will likely start off around a 6:15/mile pace, run harder than usual in the middle flat section of the course, relax around mile 10 (see the Know Your Course section), and then run hard the last 5k.

Know Your Course: The course is an out-and-back finishing at home plate of the Staten Island Yankees’ stadium. Last year’s course (this year’s is slightly different) consisted of 3-4 opening miles flowing through a series of small hills, similar to the first three miles of this year’s Bronx 10-Mile. I’ll take a lot of deep breaths and let other runners charge past me on the uphills, and smile as I surge past them on the downhills. I want to save my quads for the later half of the race.

Miles 4-9 include a long downhill and then 4.5ish miles of out-and-back flat running. As indicated above, I want to push the pace through this section to make up any time I might have lost on the initial hilly section, and any time I might lose on the following hilly section. Other runners recall a strong headwind on the return section of this run (miles 7-9), but I don’t remember the wind. The goal here is to average 6:00/mile or faster.

Mile 10: This mile killed last year’s dreams of finishing under 1:40. Mile 10 starts with .7 miles of uphill at an average 3.3% gradient, the same gradient as Cat Hill in Central Park but twice as long. Last year I completely underestimated the toll this hill would take on my quads, running hard up the hill to maintain my 7:40/mile pace and being unable to maintain anything close to that after the hill. This year I plan to give the hill a moderate push, preserving my legs for the final 5k. Even if I run mile 10 at a 7:00/mile pace, as long as I can push hard the last 5k, I’ll be happy with my effort.

The last 5k: As hard as I can go. This part of the course is different from last year, and seems to have some hills. At this point in the race, hills become opportunities to accelerate, not hold back. The final half mile is mostly downhill, which culminates in a steep descent into the stadium. That will be a good feeling.

Be Willing to Adjust: The course might be windier than I remember. If so, I might have to adjust my overall pace expectations. My legs have recovered from the Bronx 10-Mile, but I still have the remnants of a cold. If I’m still slightly sick during the race, I might have to adjust expectations. If I’m not careful and run the hill at mile 10 too hard, I cannot get mad at myself for “ruining” the race. I have to maintain positive thoughts and fight through any physical pain that arises.

Nutrition: The positive eating has already begun! Breakfast today included two slices of sourdough bread with some peanut butter, and a protein shake made with 2% milk. Snacks will include cashews, and lunch will be ramen with egg and baked chicken. Not sure about dinner yet, but tomorrow will feature Greek yogurt, more eggs, more salad, and probably some rice with chicken and vegetables for dinner.

During the race, I plan to have a gel right before the start, one around mile 5, and one around mile 10, with water right after each gel. I’ll use this as an opportunity to practice marathon fueling without the fear of bonking.

Woot! I’m excited, although for reasons unclear to me I feel less confident about this race than I did for the Bronx. It might have to do with putting forth another hard effort; it might just be the slight cold talking. It’s just a feeling, though, so I am going to work on replacing it with a feeling of confidence. That’s one of the great revelations of my adult life: feelings are not facts! Relentless forward motion.

Good luck to everyone running the Chicago Marathon this weekend!

A special shout out and good luck to my cousin, Kristen, who is running her first marathon in Hartford this weekend!

And to everyone, happy running!