Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Number 4

(Has it really been a year?)

I ran another marathon on Sunday. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. I wasn't in as good shape as last year, and it was really windy, but I finished in 4:03:31.

I would really have liked to get in under 4, but overall it was a good performance. I stopped for the portapotty at about 5 miles in. I shouldn't have waited for it, but there were only 2 people (guys!) in front of me, and I knew my time wasn't going to be great anyway. In the end, that break took 4:16 and was really annoying. (As a comparison I took another pit-stop later in the race, and I was only off the course for 0:46.) I'm not sure that doing something different (bushes?) would have led to a sub 4 finish, but when I ended up missing it by less than that bathroom break it was frustrating.

I crossed the half at 2:03:15. I knew that didn't bode well for a sub 4, but I felt I had more in me. Around mile 15 (I say around - the course was measured in Km which was confusing), I picked up the speed. I was finishing Km's in just under 5:30 and I started doing the math. I could see that I was still going to miss by a minute or two, but I had a fantasy of really burning through the finish.

As it turned out, I couldn't make up the lost time. Even though I wasn't going to make it, I pushed myself to keep running hard, even though my quads were hurting. I slowed a tiny bit, finishing Km's in about 5:40, but for the most part hung on through to the finish. I thought I could get a sub 2 second split, but even missed that - coming in with 2:00:16 for the second half.

I'm still pretty proud of that negative split. (Although if you take away the bathroom stops both splits are pretty even at about 1:59!) I had put in the miles for this race, but not the hard work of speed workouts or enough tempo runs. It was also a tough day to race, although not really a tough course. The mental toughness to keep going is something that I didn't really have earlier on in my racing experience.

Just recovering now, and haven't thought about the next one yet. I have been thinking about moving down to half's and concentrating on speed. But I've said that before...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Aftermath

Well the video is online:

You can see me on the right of the screen, wearing my trademark marathon outfit (see above). Notice the cramping at the end, and then the limping away. Ouch. I limped forward to get my medal, heat sheet, and food. Then began the long walk to the baggage.

They start the baggage trucks in reverse order, and so truck 62 was first. I had to walk back to 29, and then to about 14 to get out of the park. Mile 27! As I limped along, people kept asking me if I was alright. On the 5th guy, I said I was really cramped, which meant he started walking with me to the medical tent. He handed me off to another volunteer, and by the time I was at the medical tent, I decided to just keep going. I didn't want to stop - I just wanted to get out of the park.

I was not in as bad shape as after my first marathon, but not in as good shape as last time. As I exited the park I tried to stretch but found that I couldn't really do it. It either hurt too much, or I physically couldn't get into the right position. It's now been 4 days, and I can still feel pain in my calves and the bottom of my hamstrings. Last time by this time I had gone out for a short run. I may try tomorrow morning - but it will be a gameday decision.

I need to analyze how the run went, but I think I'll leave that for another post...

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

The Race

Mile 1: Over the Verrazano we went. It was crowded, but I tried not to do too much dodging. But I had to a little, just to keep some space to run. I tried to keep in mind that iwas a long day ahead. I ended up running the first mile (which is uphill) in 9:29. Nice slow pace, I thought to myself.

Mile 2: I kept up with what I thought was a slow and comfortable pace. Until I passed the marker, and hit the Garmin. 8:18. Fast, but I figured it had the downhill part of the bridge.

Mile 3: Still keeping a steady comfortable pace. I wasn't wearing headphones so I could concentrate on my breathing - which was totally fine. Finished the mile in 8:07. I was concerned that it was too fast, but I felt really good. Who knows, maybe it was a good day for a PR. Definitely the perfect weather for it.

Miles 4-8: I felt like a machine. 8:07, 8:07, 8:04, 8:04. Nice and steady. I'd forgotten how enthusiastic the crowds in Brooklyn were. They were amazing, cheering each runner like they knew them. (I found myself looking at the fans sometimes to see if it was someone I knew - they called my name with such excitement!)

Miles 9-10: The various starting colors merged here, and it got a little crowded. Not terrible, just a little less space. 8:18 and 8:08.

Miles 10-12: Ran through Williamsburg, home of many Hassidic Jews. Always interesting to see their reaction, and there were a fair amount of people cheering - albeit in a much more subdued fashion. 8:08, 8:18, 8:03. (That included a re-tying of one shoe.)

Mile 13: I'd been thinking about the bathroom at eah mile marker when I saw the portapotties. I remembered from reading my old report that I went at mile 13 last year. Part of a scheme to add the time to my first half, in order to get a negative split. I did the same thing this year - though I actually used a portapotty this time. :) 9:07 for the mile with the break.

Mile 14: Over the Pulaski Bridge. I heard someone complain how the bridge was ugly and in such a weird place. I said "look to your left" and as she did she say the Manhattan skyline. "I feel much better" ws the response. I passed the halfway point at 1:49:15. I was feeling really good. I definitely kept in my mind that the race really starts at the end - but I wasn't tired. I made some calculations in my mind and figured out that even if I slowed down in the second half, I could still set a PR. Unexpected, but it would be really cool. I finished the mile (which included the bridge) in 8:24.

Mile 15: This includes the beginning of the Queensboro Bridge - the real monster of the NYC Marathon. I managed to keep running even as many people slowed to a walk. But it's a long bridge. Only about a third of this mile included the bridge, and my split was 8:45.

Mile 16: The bulk of the bridge. I felt like I was putting in the same effort, but my Garmin was showing my a pace of over 10 min/mile on the uphill. The distance measurement was passing noticeably slower. After thinking about the PR in the morning, I could feel it slipping away here. 9:06 for the mile.

Mile 17-18: A little surge of the downhill ramp, and the entry into Manhattan. Tons of crowds at this point, and it really energizes a runner. I was supposed to see a friend here - but way too crowded and I never saw him. 8:34 and 8:40. Not bad splits, but I could feel that it was harder to get these splits.

Mile 19-20: The crowd thins out as we moved higher up on 1st Avenue. And then the Willis Ave Bridge. I remembered stopping to stretch here in 2005, and I just kept pushing on. 8:54 and 9:10. I had no ability to speed up and this point, and the PR was clearly gone. I had a secondary goal which I'd been saying all week, and that was to finish in under 9 minute miles. That's what I was shooting for now.

Mile 21: The Bronx. My home borough, though not really in that neighborhood. They had pumped up music there and a giant video screen where you could see yourself. It was exciting, but I was really tiring. 9:14

Miles 22-23: I was really struggling. I was calculating in my head how likely it was to reach my goal. I was counting on 10 minute miles, and my chances were looking good. My main motivation at this point was just to keep running - I didn't want to stop and walk. That had really been devastating to me in 2005, and I just forced myself to keep going. 9:16 and 9:25.

Miles 24-25: I saw the first friend here after missing all the others. Was really nice, but I was in bad shape.
(I faked the smile for the picture.)
I entered Central Park at 90th and tried to energize myself. There were small rolling hills, and I had nothing left. I was cramping every few minutes. Nothing that made me stop running, but it was altering my stride and I was very uncomfortable. I was grimacing, but I wasn't going to stop. 9:49 and 9:36.

Mile 26: The last mile. In my previous effort, this was my fastest mile of the day. But this was a different day. I was not doing well, but kept focusing on continuing to run without stopping. I had serious cramps in my calves, particularly on the left. It had been bothering me all week, and was really making its presence known now. I soldiered on to Central Park South where I heard someone call my last name. Too crowded to see who it was at the time, but I just wanted to finish. I saw the sign for 1/2 mile left and was really getting excited to be done.
And then, BAM, I got a major cramp just as I was heading back into the park. This was about mile 25.9. This time I had to stop and grab my leg as I hobbled a few steps. One runner ran into me and I apologized as I tried to move to the side. A race volunteer came over to me and put her arm around me, and asked me if I needed to stop. I was so close. I really didn't want to stop, and I said no thanks and hobbled away. After ten or twenty feet it subsided and I continued on. Even with all that drama, I still hit 9:47 for the mile.

Mile 26.2: The big finish. I knew I had nothing left for a sprint, but I guess I tried to speed up just a little. I had reached my goal of continuing to run, I had reached the 9 minute mile goal, and I had reached my next arbitrary goal of getting in under 3:50. I had nothing forcing me to sprint except wanting to finish strong. I just kept up the pace and raised my hands as I came into the finishing area.
And then just for fun, I got another major cramp as I crossed the line. (Should be interesting to see that in the pictures.) I crossed the line hobbling, and only stopped my watch a little later. My official time, I later found out, was 3:49:04.

Monday, November 08, 2010

The Lead Up

I started earlier this year way out of shape. I'd put on about 20 pounds over the winter, and was the heaviest I'd ever been. Through February I'd run a grand total of 2 miles. I started off slow with 30 miles in March, and then 72 in April. I continued to build a base until starting marathon training in earnest in July. By the time the marathon came I'd run 829 miles for the year. And I was 25 pounds lighter.

I'd been real careful through the whole cycle and felt no pain in my legs at any point. I slowly added distance, and then only added in speed in the later months.

Unfortunately, in the last week I've had some trouble. I started feeling cramping during the day, particularly in my left cramp. I wasn't sure if it was from pushing too hard in my last track workout, or just "taper madness" as I eased down on the running. (And started obsessing about the marathon!) Either way, I didn't feel so confident in the last week. Well, I wasn't going to cancel at this point...

Saturday I carb-loaded. (Like I do every day!)

I spent Saturday night trying to figure out what to wear. I ended up finding my old marathon shirt from 2007, with my name on it. I got a good idea for "sleeves" to use knee socks. (Or what I'd call tube socks.) I cut off the tips so my hand could go through, and used gloves for my hands. But these stayed up much better than sleeves cut off from another shirt.

I obsessed about socks and shoes. I ended up using a new pair of Asics Nimbus socks, and went with my old Nimbus shoes. I was worried that the new ones had caused me problems - and I still think they may have hurt me. So I went with the old ones which had just under 350 miles on them.

Sunday morning I got up at 4:45. Showered, had coffee and oatmeal, and got ready. It was a new month on the Jewish calendar, which calls for longer morning prayers. There were actually services in the Athletes Village, but I didn't think I'd get there that early. The earliest I could pray at home was at 5:41 and so that's when I started. I was out of the house shortly after 6.
I should mention that I was assigned to a 6:15 ferry to Staten Island. I remembered from last time that the ferry situation is a complete mess, with nobody checking what time you're supposed to be there. (How could they anyway? It's public transportation.) Also, for me to get to the bottom of Manhattan at 6am is very difficult. The subways don't run so frequently at 4am. (And c'mon, 4am for a 10 o'clock race!!) As it turns out, even at 6am the subway was a mess. I drove into the city to miss all the local stops in the Bronx. I ended up still requiring 3 trains, and then a shuttle bus to the ferry.

At the ferry station I overheard people saying that it was so crowded at 6, the people had to wait over a half hour to get on a ferry. I smiled inwardly as I got on a ferry in less than 5 minutes.
On the other end there were shuttle buses taking us to the start line. Once again it was so much better doing this at 8:20 versus 7:20 (or 6:20!). I still had to wait in the cold exposed area, but it wasn't too long.

I ended up getting to the athletes village about 8:50. It had taken me about 2 hours and 45
minutes to get there from home. (It would end up taking me just 5 minutes longer to get back to the Bronx by foot.) I was very happy with that, since it was a cold morning.

A little hard to see, but it was in the 30's at 7 - which is when they wanted me to get there. It was around 45 degrees by 9, and the sun was out. Much more comfortable.

I hung out by the baggage trucks and had a second Clif Bar. Within a short time it was time to head to the corrals. I checked my bag and went to the portapotty. There was an announcement that there were 5 minutes left to the corrals being closed. I was next in line. I went in, and thirty seconds later they announced the corrals were closed. Damn. I rushed over anyway.

Well, there was a line extending out the back of each corral. That was good enough for me. I ended up merging with my corral. I was in a lead corral (for the second wave) but ended up being behind a couple of thousand runners. Fine with me - I wanted to start slowly.

I had on a sweat suit, which was good because it was cold. I saw some snuggies there - still not sure if that was a good idea. Easy to get off, but they're open in the front. I had cut up the seams of the sweatpants to make them easier to remove with shoes. It worked out well for me.

Anyway, at 10:10 we headed up towards the start line. After a few announcements, the canon went off, and the familiar strains of Sinatra's "New York, New York" start playing. We were off...

Friday, November 05, 2010


Marathon day is almost here. And I'm going crazy.

I ran my last track workout on Tuesday, and it called for 6 x 400m. It was my last interval workout, and they were such short intervals, that I couldn't help but push myself. I could tell I was pushing hard, but it didn't feel like I hurt myself. But since then my legs haven't felt quite the same. Occasional twinges and cramps which I haven't felt for 8 months. Maybe it's just "taper madness" but I'm kind of freaking out a little bit. I don't want to limp this thing through. Anyway, still a couple of more days.

I kept track of the weather forecasts, and it has become clear that it will be sunny but cold. Some say that's good for running - but I really don't like the cold. In the insane way this race goes, I'm supposed to take a 6:15 ferry to Staten Island - for a 10:10 start time. And during those few hours before the start, the "real feel" temperature is going to be in the 20's! Forget heat stroke here, we have to worry about frostbite!!

Anyway, I'm rushing to work like usual. Not sure if I'll get another chance to post, but you can track me via my number above. Thanks for the all your support!