Neighborhood run around

Old neighborhood, new directions

Today’s run (street): 4.75 miles
Yesterday’s run (street): 3.25 miles
Sunday’s run (Bethpage): 5.1 miles

Another busy work week resulted in a zero workouts between Monday and Thursday. Last Sunday I went to Bethpage and ran along  the northern end of the bike trail from Haypath to Washington Ave and back. I worked from home yesterday and got in a surprisingly brisk run around my neighborhood. This morning I planned to meet SIOR at Massepequa Preserve for a group run, but I had an unexpected issue that delayed me from getting out early enough.

Everything worked out and I considered a number of places to run (the track, Stillwell, business park…) but ended up sticking close to home. My one  concession to routine was to run without a planned route. I picked a direction and chose lefts and rights at random. After seeing the route map on Garmin Connect, I realized that it looked pretty much like my usual pattern. What was different was the order and direction that made it seem like a different experience.

Only so many ways to cover these streets

Two years ago this weekend, me and my buddies ran the Brooklyn Half. There’s no way I’d be ready to do that today. I want to start working on my base and hope to get in five or more miles tomorrow. According to the latest prediction, the weather should start to clear around 8 AM.  I may bite the bullet and go out earlier even if the rain is still coming down. Maybe I’ll run at the track. If the rain gets too bad, I’ll never be more than 200 meters from my car.

Brooklyn Half retrospective

Good luck to KWL and FS tomorrow!

Today’s run (street): 3.4 miles

One year ago, it was the eve of the Brooklyn Half marathon, the biggest race that I’ve ever entered. I’d trained hard for this half and followed a modified version of the Hal Higdon plan. I did progressively longer base runs every weekend and managed to fit in speed workouts every week. Except for the fact that I’d taken on a consulting engagement that caused me to drop my weekly mileage from 24 to 16 for the last two weeks, I’d felt prepared.

I ended up having a tough race and wound up in the medical tent after I’d finished. There was nothing I could blame it on. I wasn’t injured and the follow up I did with my doctor (including a stress test) revealed no health issues. So far, I’ve run one good half marathon and two disappointing ones. I may not be built for that distance. Perhaps I should stick to 5 and 10Ks.

Making our way to the corrals last year

I did have a great time with my friends and the experience of running a big NYRR race was not lost on me. When I think about my disappointing performance, I try to keep in mind that I held a competitive pace (for me) for the first 5K. My race went off the rails once we left Prospect Park, but the final minutes running to the finish line along the Coney Island boardwalk will remain an indelible memory.

One year later, the idea of running a half marathon is more of an abstract concept. The long winter and my ruptured disc kept me off the roads through much of the first three months of the year. The elliptical and treadmill sessions I did to maintain my fitness took a toll on my base conditioning. And as we runners know, when preparing for long distance racing, it’s all about the base.

Even though I haven’t done a run over five miles since New Year’s day, I’ve seen great improvement with my injury recovery and I’m preparing to do at least one 4+ mile run this weekend. Today was a work from home day and I only intended to run about 3 miles before settling into business mode. I ended up going almost half a mile longer. While it wasn’t a fast run, it felt a lot more natural than it did last week.

My running goals one year ago are much different than they are today. Racing is still on the table, but it will be a few months until I’ll be able to maintain a competitive pace throughout an entire 10K. I saw an announcement that the Dirty Sock race will be run for the 10th time in August. I’ve had great experiences running that race, but it’s a tough trail run. I may be better off targeting Cow Harbor in September for my return to the starting line. I just need to be careful that I don’t push too hard and set back my recovery progress.

Race Report: 2014 Brooklyn Half Marathon

Runsketeers represent!

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF KWL

Yesterday’s run (NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon): 13.1 miles

My quads are aching this morning, no doubt due to the pounding that my legs took running down Ocean Parkway yesterday. The last five miles felt endless, but the final 200 meters along the Coney Island boardwalk made the experience all worth it. Although my performance wasn’t great (2:25), it was in line with expectations. More importantly, it was a great day spent with great friends, each of whom ran excellent races.

After the horrible attack at the 2013 Boston Marathon, security has been stepped up at most major races. Due to this, race participants were asked to arrive extra early and were restricted in terms of what could be brought to the race. As a result, I only brought things that I could carry on my run or things I could discard. I ended up not “donating” my extra layer that I wore to stay warm before the start. In retrospect, I wish I had (at least) taken it off during the race.

My day started very early. I’d set my alarm for 2:35 AM so I could be fully prepared when my friends arrived at my house at 4:20 AM. The plan was for me, TPP and Runska-buddy LS to drive to my friend KWL’s house in Queens. SIOR was to meet us there at 5:00 AM where we would then be driven by a friend to Grand Army Plaza near the race start. It was a tight squeeze in Mark’s SUV, but that all went according to plan.

Clearing security

PHOTO COURTESY OF SIOR

Walking to corrals
Crowds building prior to the start

After going through security, we walked along Eastern Parkway, past the Wave 2 corrals and made our way to check out the starting line. We took some pictures and proceeded to the baggage drop off where KWL handed off his bag that contained items belonging to members of our little crew. Soon after that, speedsters SIOR and LS headed over to the Wave 1 corrals that started 45 minutes earlier than Wave 2. KWL, also a speedster, was relegated to Wave 2 due to his bib number.

ER, LS, SIOR & TPP looking fresh and ready

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

TPP and KWL near the baggage drop off

TPP and I walked around and tried to stay warm in the chilly, breezy 58° weather. We found a grate in the street that was supplying a little heat and stood on it for about 15 minutes. We were soon joined by other runners who had the same idea. We decided to head to an area that’s adjacent to the Brooklyn Museum that had direct sunlight. We hoped that would keep us warm. KWL eventually came by, and we hung out a bit before going into our very crowded corral pen. People were very friendly and I enjoyed talking to other runners as we prepared for the start.

TPP and me waiting for the start

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

The Brooklyn Museum was the center of the start area 

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PETITE PACER

View of KWL’s corral

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

TPP and I were in the 6th corral of the second wave. We made our way to the starting line and began running once we crossed over the mat. Off we went! As I made my way down Washington Ave. with TPP at my side, I thought, “This is it. I’m running Brooklyn!” I adopted a brisk but sustainable pace and moved well for the first couple of miles that wended around the Botanical Garden and Grand Army Plaza. Prospect Park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux who also designed Central Park. It’s beautiful, though hilly, but much more manageable than some of CP’s challenges.

I had hopes of finishing around 2:10 and was on track to do that through my first three miles. I thought that the seven miles in and around Prospect Park would be the toughest part of the race, but the final five miles really took a toll. I was discouraged to see my split times increasing after the fifth mile and by 10K, my overall pace had increased by 30 seconds. I felt okay as I ran, but was unable to generate much speed.

Once we came out of the park and headed towards Ocean Parkway, I had hopes of making up some time. The straight run down Ocean is primarily flat, although there was a small climb as we made our way up the ramp and turned left towards the road. The park provided a lot of shade, but Ocean Parkway was lit up by the sun. I kept telling myself to remove my long sleeve top layer that I’d planned to discard. For some reason I didn’t. I’m not sure if that would that have made a difference, but had I done it, it probably would have helped.

I felt every mile, but never felt overly taxed until the end. I dutifully stopped at the Gatorade and water stations and, although I wasn’t making good time, I felt fully in control. A woman who I was chatting with in the corral told me how the cross streets along Ocean Parkway are in alphabetical order. Watching the letters change gave me a sense of progress. In my two previous half marathons, ten miles is where I began to really feel the effort. Once again that was the case. I locked into a sustainable pace and tried to hold on for the final 5K.

I could see the Belt Parkway overpass in the far distance and I focused on that. Soon after, I saw the 20K sign and did the math in my head that I only had half a mile to go. We turned onto Surf Avenue where the roaring crowd of spectators provided a huge wall of sound. I spotted the Cyclone and the sign saying 800 meters to go, beginning the longest half mile of the race. We turned left toward the boardwalk and I saw the 400 meter sign. I was so ready to finish. When I saw the chute in the distance, I gave it everything I had.

The finish line, a sight for sore eyes and legs

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

I crossed the line and collected my medal, feeling completely drained. I downed a cup of Gatorade and grabbed a banana and made my way through the crowd. KWL found me and I sat down feeling overwhelmed. As in previous long runs and races, I felt a little light headed. KWL got me a space blanket and TPP gave me her cup of water. LS got me more water and I took a GU gel to try to get more electrolytes into my system.

LS, SIOR and TPP relaxing post-race

PHOTO COURTESY OF KWL

I was still light-headed even after taking fluids and electrolytes. My friends decided that I should visit the medical tent and I walked over with SIOR, TPP, LS and KWL. TPP spoke with one of the medical workers who allowed me to bypass the line and brought me right in. They put me on a cot, made me swallow two salt packets, drink Gatorade and eat a banana.

The EMT took my blood pressure which was a little low. The doctor said that the pounding my legs had taken had pooled blood below my waist and that lying down would help. It was feeling back to normal soon, but they insisted on running an EKG (I guess they had to run these tests due to liability concerns).

They eventually retook my pulse which had returned to normal and released me. Once I reunited with my friends we walked over to the street on our way to the F train that would get us back to Queens. We quickly realized that the F train back would take us over an hour, KWL suggested we take a car back to his house. He flagged down a limo, negotiated a great price, and we were soon on our way.

After we arrived at KWL’s we collected our race bags, gave each other hugs and said our goodbyes. SIOR had driven her own car and headed off to LI while LS and TPP rode back with me. The LIE was like a parking lot, but chatting with LS and TPP made the time go by quickly. We arrived at my house and said our goodbyes.

It was only around 1:00 PM, but it already felt like a very long day. Despite my side trip to the medical tent, it was a great experience. I so appreciate the generosity and support of my friends. They happen to be extremely fun and interesting people and that made a good race great. I don’t care a bit about my time and finishing when I did was not a great surprise. My race performance has definitely declined over the past two years and I’m planning to get a checkup to make sure everything is on track.

An interesting day in Brooklyn

 

This morning started early and involved some complex logistics. The Runsketeers and our Runska-buddies managed our way from the top of Prospect Park to the Coney Island boardwalk, along with 27,000 others. We had lots of fun running the NYRR Brooklyn Half. I’ll post a full race report tomorrow.

Brooklyn Half: The calm before the storm

7 miles around the park then five straight to Coney Island

The Brooklyn Half will happen in less than 24 hours. This will be my third half marathon and my first NYRR race. My training for Brooklyn started well and stayed on track until I accepted a full time position on top of my consulting practice. This caused my training program to go off the rails. However, until this week, I did manage to maintain my targeted weekly mileage.

Today is dark and gloomy and heavy rain is predicted for a good part of the afternoon, going all the way past midnight. Better that happen today than tomorrow. I’m working from home today, which will involve a busy morning. Later in the day I’ll turn my attention to preparing for the race.

The increased security practices that have been put in place after the 2013 Boston Marathon are restricting what can be carried to races. I need to figure out my gear strategy since the only acceptable bag for race transport is being distributed today at the pre-race party that I cannot attend. Fortunately, SIOR and her entourage will be able to hold our stuff and hopefully get it to us at the finish.

I’m looking at tomorrow with a combination of excitement and curiosity, although I’ll admit to being a little nervous about the logistical complexities. I also need to run 13.1 miles in the morning. I’ve done it before, and my weekend base runs should have prepared me for that distance. The last time I ran a half marathon was in 2012 and I managed to meet my performance goal. Unless I find some unexpected strength and energy that will allow me to maintain a competitive pace, I will be running this race purely for the experience tomorrow.

A large part of the excitement tomorrow is the shared experience. The Runsketeers (SIOR and TPP) will be there, plus friends LS, KWL, FS (among others). I’ve only run in Brooklyn once, when Adventure Girl and I crossed the bridge through DUMBO and then north to the water. I’ve always wanted to run in Prospect Park and, from the course map, it looks like I’ll be spending more than half the race in and around it. Once we leave the park, it’s a straight shot along Ocean Parkway. I hope the wind is coming from the north on Saturday!

Until then it’s waiting time. Morning will come soon enough and my friends will be at my house by 4:30 AM as we begin our journey to Grand Army Plaza. This should be fun.

Runsketeers weekend, dinner and a Mother’s Day run

Me and the moms (minus SIOR’s chin)

Yesterday’s run (street): 5.7 miles
Today’s run (Bethpage trail): 9.6 miles

This has been a Runsk-terrific weekend. Yesterday, our queen of speed, SIOR, hosted a great dinner for our small group, including grownups and kids ranging in age from 2 to (almost) 16. The food was great, the company was great, and the energy level was high. TPP and I finally got to meet Mr. SIOR, who was a personable and welcoming host, and their fantastic, adorable kids. It turns out that Mr. SIOR and I have some friends in common. What are the chances of that?!

Earlier in the day on Saturday, I went out for 5.7 miles around my neighborhood. My new schedule makes it difficult for me to run during the week, so I needed to cram some mileage into the weekend. The run itself was unremarkable, though I worried that a mid-length run on Saturday might affect my running performance today. There are a number of reasons why I fell short of my planned distance of 12 miles today, and that could have been a factor.

Today’s Mother’s Day long run started in different places for the Runsketeers. TPP and I met along the bike trail north of Haypath Rd with the goal of eventually meeting up with SIOR, who was starting her run at the southern end of the Massapequa Preserve. TPP and I ran north and turned around when we reached the point where I’d calculated that our southern direction would get us to the Bethpage lot in time to rendezvous with SIOR.

For different reasons, the timing had us at Bethpage earlier than expected. Me and TPP waited about 10 minutes before resuming out southern direction with the intention of intercepting SIOR along the trail. We all met up at the bottom of the big hill right before the lot, and ran north, making a brief stop at Bethpage. We all got water from the fountain because, while it was relatively cool, it was extremely humid. The two “rests” along the way may have contributed to a degradation in my ability to maintain pace. In retrospect, I think it was my failure to bring a water bottle that made my last miles very difficult.

We ran further north and I watch SIOR grow steadily smaller as she opened up space between me and TPP. TPP was able maintain a better pace than me and I followed about 30 feet behind her until we met up with SIOR who was waiting for us at Old Country Rd. SIOR suggested taking a picture at that point, which was a good idea since we often forget to do that. It would have been great to get a selfie at dinner last night, but we never got to it. I think that’s because we were having too much fun to think about it.

Shortly after we took our pictures, I reached the point where I needed to stop running. SIOR continued all the way to Sunnyside Boulevard (mind blowing, considering all the miles she’d already covered and the challenging hills north of Washington Ave). TPP ran another mile and met up with me where I’d stopped. After she returned, we started walking back to our cars knowing that SIOR would eventually catch up. That happened about a mile north of where we parked, so the three of us got to have a nice talk without anyone worrying about finding an oxygen tank for me.

I ended up covering 9.6 running miles, plus those walking miles at the end. I wanted to finish my Brooklyn training with 12 miles, but I didn’t quite get there. I think with a resting taper, carrying water and maintaining a consistent pace next Saturday, I’ll be able to get through the distance. There’s no way I’ll PR and there’s a good chance I won’t beat my original half marathon time when I ran with an injured knee. But Brooklyn is about the experience and being with friends. I hope they won’t mind waiting for me at the end.

Performance is down, but excuses remain high

Ready or not, here it comes

Today’s run (treadmill): 25 minutes

My running has slid back into the questionable range. I had a tough time running a very slow 5K on Sunday. That may have been due to over-training last week, shoelace malfunctions or something less obvious. This week was the start of my new job and, after taking my usual Monday rest day, I skipped Tuesday as well. This morning was a return to 4:00 AM running and it didn’t go particularly well.

After 20 years of commuting on the Long Island Railroad into NYC, I had a break over the last year. I didn’t miss riding the the train and I still don’t. But instead of the train, I’m now driving 75 miles a day to and from my new office. Driving is not fun and I’ve decided to head out around 6:00 AM to minimize the amount of traffic delays on the LIE, Route 95, etc. Consequently, the window for early running before my commute is short. And unlike train commuting when I could take a seat and sleep, I need to be 100% alert when on the road.

I happened to have an all day meeting in the city today, so I got on the treadmill at 4:00 and ran for 25 minutes. It was one of the toughest workouts I’ve had in a while, and I’m wondering why. Since I’m making plenty of excuses about my sub-par 5K performance, I’ll make more by saying that two days of driving on highly trafficked roads, plus full days in the office, have exhausted me. I’m hoping it’s just that. Brooklyn will happen soon and my running confidence has taken a big tumble since last week.

Steep road to the Brooklyn Half

Scene of the crime

Today’s run (Bethpage Bike Trail): 5.25 miles

Have you ever had one of those long runs that felt so effortless that it seemed you could run all day? If that’s the case, I am extremely envious, because today’s kick-off to my Brooklyn half marathon training was the opposite of that. The one positive that came out of today’s workout was that I planned to run five and I did it. However, the experience itself was not good and it raised some questions about my fitness.

I had every reason to think today’s run would go well. Yesterday’s race was only a two mile leg. Although it was a tough two, it wasn’t an endurance challenge. I wasn’t pleased with my lack of stamina that caused me to slow considerably a couple of times, but my Garmin showed I’d averaged under 9:00 for a good part of the time. I figured an easy run on the paved Bethpage trail would be a nice recovery.

It was much colder this morning compared to yesterday’s race conditions. The temperature display in my car showed 28° and it was breezy outside. I had dressed for the cold, but the wind made it feel far more uncomfortable. But that was an irritant, not an obstacle. I felt fine for the first few minutes and it helped that my route went downhill for much of the first mile. By the time I reached the wooded section, just east of the park drive, I started feeling an energy debt. I made my way up some short but somewhat steep sections and realized this was not going to go well.

I often hit a wall around 30 minutes into a run, but I can usually manage through that. Today that wall came at the 10 minute mark and it never went away. Even at a 10+ minute pace, I felt weighted down. I think I’m starting to react to tree pollen that was released with the spring-like weather we had earlier this week. It may just be that all the indoor training on the treadmill at easy paces has softened me up for cold weather endurance running.

The tough running continued and I considered truncating today’s distance to 4 miles. I decided to stick to the script and adjusted my speed to maintain forward motion. I wasn’t happy to be running so slow, but I reminded myself that this was supposed to be a recovery run and I’d committed to this schedule. All the indoor training and the lack of real elevation on my neighborhood roads were working against me. The hills really took a toll on me today.

One down, nine to go

But this is why we train, right? I remember going from middle distance to double digit mileage the last time I did half marathon training. In a way it was tougher to get through a hilly six miles those first weeks than to double that distance after many weeks of base runs.  Next weekend I go for six. I’m thinking about resting Monday and Tuesday and then going for another four or five miles on Wednesday. Perhaps I’ll run 80% of my previous weekend’s distance on each mid-week run. I may use Tuesdays for weekly speed work. But not this week. At this point I need a couple of days of rest.