You need to run 600 yards to run a mile

1,800 feet of hell

As far back as elementary school, I’ve struggled with running fast paces over long distances. I really did try. In fifth grade, I ran the 50 yard dash for the track team and even placed first in my town for the standing broad jump (still the apex of my athletic career). These events were part of the Presidential Physical Fitness test that every kid had to take to pass gym class. Running 150 feet and jumping six feet was relatively easy. It was the 600-yard timed run around the field that haunted me all the way through high school.

I wasn’t alone. We all dreaded the “Six Hundred”, a seemingly endless distance. Now that I have some perspective, I realize that 600 yards is a mere third of a mile. One and a half quarter repeats! I actually remember my high school time (2:12, the temperature of boiling water : ) that put me right in the middle of the pack. What was regarded then as a mediocre time actually calculates to a 6:27 pace. If only I had more perspective back in those days. At the time, all I could think about was the painful burning in my throat and the relief that it was finally over.

A recent suggestion by my running and blogging buddy She Is Out Running brought back memories of the Six Hundred. SIOR proposed that she, TPP and I do a timed mile run. I thought that was a great idea. I’ve come to terms with my race times slipping over the past few years, but I’m still achieving credible times when I do repeats. A mile distance is a great way to see how far I can push my anaerobic capabilities.

Intervals (for most of us) are a combination of short but intense bursts of speed, followed by a similarly short jog or rest. The biggest challenge of running a flat-out mile will be to sustain that intensity for a much longer period. I can go full speed for 200 meters and maintain a 180 SPM cadence through a full quarter. After that I begin to fade. Maybe that was why running the 600 as a sprint was always so difficult.

The fastest mile I can remember running was a 7:51 at Long Beach that led to my 10K PR. I’d started at the front with all the hollow-eyed ectomorphs who took off at the gun like whippets. I was passed by a lot of people and thought I was having an off day. When I saw the Mile 1 timing clock, I realized those speedsters were running six and seven minute miles. So that’s why people use pacers!

Maybe speedsters SIOR or TPP can do a pace lap for me when I do my timed mile. I’d return the favor, but I fear my 6:27 days are far behind me.

No expectations, but plenty of Hope

 

Last year I participated in a race that was put on by my division’s parent company. Before the race even started, one of my colleagues shared the tweet he planned to send after he finished. I told him that I never write my headline until I’m done with the race. Too many things can happen between the start and the finish lines. I don’t know what my friend ended up tweeting, but I still hold fast to that policy. I ended up having a far different race experience than I’d anticipated that night.

Tomorrow is the Hope for Warriors 10K and I’ve set no expectations in terms of how I might do. I’ve done this event twice and have a good understanding of the course. Two years ago, I attained a 10K PR at HFW, after almost skipping it because I hadn’t really trained. 2011 was a year of personal bests. I got a another PR at the Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot, just one weekend after Hope for Warriors.

This year has not produced many race highlights. My best performance came early on at the Long Beach 4 mile Snowflake race, where the Petite Pacer beat me over the line in an impressive burst of speed. Since then, I haven’t broken a 9:00 pace in a race, even in 5K’s. I’m going to run the best race I can tomorrow. As always, I’ll wait until I finish before I compose my headline.

Redemption run gives hope for Dirty Sock

The Garmin doesn’t lie

Today’s run (street): 3.25 miles

With the Dirty Sock trail race happening on Sunday, I had one more run to go before I finished my taper. Yesterday’s run was disappointing and Tuesday’s was similarly mediocre. I’ve recently committed to pushing harder on training runs and that paid off last week with a few decent runs. When I say decent, I mean closer to last year’s average pace. Certainly not as fast as the paces I used to hit while training for a race.

The Dirty Sock is a tough course. The terrain isn’t especially bad for trails, but the steamy weather conditions and muddy paths make the last miles difficult. My time expectation for this race is about 59 minutes, which is five minutes slower than my 10K PR. I’m usually happy to run it in under an hour. Actually, the way I’ve been running, I’m concerned about breaking 62 minutes.

Hope came this morning with a run that redeemed my spirit. The difference today was that I kept a steady focus on speed. It wasn’t an impressive pace for many readers of this blog, but it was almost a minute per mile faster than what I “achieved” yesterday. I’m not going into Sunday’s race with a string of fast runs under my belt, but at least I ended training on a good note.

Preparing to run the Snowflake

Even though I’ve been away from the office since Thursday, this has probably been the busiest week I’ve had this year. I’m not complaining, but my plans to run today needed to be postponed. I was planning to go into the office tomorrow, but that’s also going to have to wait a day.

I may head to Bethpage on Tuesday morning to enjoy the peaceful experience of running without the weekend crowds. I am definitely in the mood to take on some hills and push the pace. Even though the Snowflake Race will happen on the pancake-flat streets on Long Beach, I’ve found hill training to be a great way to improve my speed.

My friend Steve, who has run this race with me the last two years, won’t be able to join me this year. He has two reasons, one good and one bad: paternity leave (good), knee injury (bad). I’m anticipating a very cold morning on race day and a very big crowd at the starting line. I have done pretty well at this race and, last year, I achieved a 4 mile PR. I don’t know about this year, but I plan to be competitive. I may be busy, but not too busy to get out and start training tomorrow. 

Race Report: 2012 LI Half Marathon

Proud to earn the medal

LI Half Marathon: 13.1 miles — 2:08:47 (PR)


This morning I ran my second half marathon and the results were (happily) better than the first. I finished the race almost 14 minutes faster than last year. All those weekends at Bethpage clearly paid off, and a healthy knee took care of the rest.  


My day started early and I was joined by my friend TC who came by my house at 6:00 AM. We did last minute preparations, like pinning bib numbers and packing our gear bags, before we headed over to Eisenhower Park. The roads were clear and we made good time. We quickly found parking spots and walked over to Charles Lindbergh Boulevard where the start of the race was being staged. In our excitement we forgot to take notice of where we’d parked. It was something we’d regret later.


Even though we were early, the crowd was already large. It quickly grew to thousands and, before we  knew it, race time had come. Last year there was a dearth of porto-pottys and this year it appeared as though they’d doubled the number. That made things much easier for people and prevented the need to use the grounds along the starting line as ad hoc facilities.


I located a spot in the 9:00 pace range and after some unexpected fireworks, the crowd was off. With over 5,000 runners on the move, we basically shuffled past the starting line. It was good that the race provided a starting line sensor that captured net times for runners, but for some odd reason “official” times are calculated from gun time. 

Consequently, my “official” pace was based on a time that was three minutes longer than my actual time.  It’s a bad policy because it punishes people who follow the rules and line up at their pace range, rather than move to the front of the line. I really don’t understand that. Since they record the runner’s net times, why don’t they use them?


But while this race is about performance, it’s also about the experience. Knowing what to expect after running the race last year really helped me manage my expectations. The loop around Nassau Coliseum, that felt so long the last year, went by very quickly today. I couldn’t believe how soon we reached the 5K mark and I appreciated my healthy knee when we passed the four mile sign. That was the moment of truth for me last year, when I debated whether to drop out to protect my knee.


I maintained a steady pace as I made my way up Post Road to Jericho Turnpike, stopping for the briefest time to grab water to wash down some GU Roctane I had put in my gel flask. That turned out to be a great way of managing fuel. I hit the 10K mark in just about an hour and I ran strongly through the next few miles. At one point, on Brush Hollow Road, a band was playing a fast tempo blues song that perfectly matched my cadence. Although I usually prefer silence when I run, I appreciated all the live bands that played for us today.


When I reached Wantagh Parkway I was still feeling good, but the sun had come out and the entrance to the Parkway was the steepest incline we’d yet encountered. I made it up fine and enjoyed some of the downhill sections, although one uphill section went on for a while. All along the race, I thought about the quote: “Run the mile you’re in” and that helped me focus on the moment, instead of thinking about the miles ahead.


Once we hit Carmen Avenue I was pretty psyched because I knew that I would beat last year’s time by a measurable amount. I was careful not to mistake the full marathon’s 24 mile marker for a sign that we’d reached 12 miles (like I did last year) and when I saw the 11 mile marker, I knew I had enough in reserve to finish with some strength.


We entered the park and I actually needed to pass some runners on the narrow pathway. I saw my dentist up ahead and greeted him as I caught up. I yelled “Let’s go!” and we picked up the pace. He was able to sustain it, but I needed to drop back to my previous pace after a couple of minutes. I knew when I was getting close to the end, and started to feel some excitement. My Garmin said 2:04 and I knew I had a good chance of breaking 2:10, which was my stretch goal.


The last quarter mile was hard and the crowd along the path was deep and LOUD. I saw the finish line and put in as much effort as I could until I crossed. I was in so much better shape than last year at the end. I saw TC, who had nailed the distance in 1:50, waiting near the line. We celebrated each other’s performances and made our way slowly to the Finish Line Festival. The crowds were so thick that we decided to skip the festival and head to the UPS trucks to get our stowed gear.


We had no clue where to find our cars, so we walked around for over thirty minutes until we finally located the lot where we’d parked. I thought back to last year when I could barely handle the ten minute walk to my car after the race.


A foot soak with Dr. Bonner’s peppermint soap helped a lot this afternoon and I’m going to take a couple of days off from running to recover. I am pleased and happy with today’s race and I’m proud of my friends who also ran today. Is it realistic to think that I could break 2:00 in a half marathon some day? I’m not sure I can, but after today’s race, I can considerate it a possibility.

Upping my game to reach an elusive PR

Today’s workout (elliptical): 25 minutes

Tabata training and intervals have got me thinking about my current racing performance. The good news is that, since last June, I’ve been on a streak where I’ve set new PR’s for 4 miles, 8K and 10K. In addition, I’ve achieved best ever times on five races that I do every year. The bad news is that I’m about to come around again to those races and the challenge of meeting or beating my best times will be much harder.

I believe that my improved performance is attributable to three things: more racing experience, smarter preparation methods and better weather conditions. I can’t count on the weather and there’s not much more I can do in terms of race day prep. The key for continued achievement in 2012 will be better training. I have a few ideas about that.

My next race is six weeks away. It’s a 5K and I generally run those races as a controlled sprint. 5K is the only distance where I didn’t PR in 2011, even though I ran three of them. My 5K PR is 25:50 (8:19 pace) from a race I ran in 2009. I came within 16 seconds of that time last December, but almost doesn’t count.

The key to my training for the Marcie Mazzola 5K will be a much greater focus on intensity. This, coupled with increased core and strength workouts, may help me move the time needle from 25:50 towards 24:52 (8:00 pace). I have no expectation that I’ll get there in April, but I may yet beat my 8:19 PR.

Race Report: 2011 Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot

A new PR for TER

Today’s run (Long Beach 10K Turkey Trot): 6.2 miles

54:35 (8:47 pace)

I was looking forward to today’s Turkey Trot for a number of reasons. First, Long Beach, with its boardwalk, beach views and small city charm, is a great place to run. Secondly, the organizers of these Long Beach races put on great events that seem low key, but are actually supported by the actions of many. The third reason I looked forward to this Turkey Trot is that last year’s race was my fastest 10K to date, and I was hoping to improve on that.

I’m pleased to report that I have a new 10K PR, finishing with a time of 54:35. This is almost a minute faster than my current personal best for that distance. It’s interesting to note that while the average pace of my typical training runs has slowed since last year, I achieved best-ever times on five of my annual races in 2011: the New Hyde Park 8K, Dirty Sock 10K, Great Cow Harbor 10K, Run for the Warriors 10K and today’s Long Beach 10K.

The temperature this morning was a mild 53° when Team Emerging Runner arrived in Long Beach. I picked up my race number and noted that the stiff winds coming off the ocean were making it feel far colder. I had a long sleeve jersey over my intended short sleeve race shirt but we ducked behind the stage and I did a quick swap. Those brief seconds when I was without a shirt were mighty chilly.

A view of the boardwalk from the beach

I wore a winter jacket as we waited for the start and it kept me quite comfortable. I saw many runners who seemed fine wearing short sleeves and running shorts but that wouldn’t have worked for me. We watched the start and finish of the 1-mile race that precedes the 10K. This race is for kids, and it was won by a 15 year old boy who came over the line in 5:34.

Soon it was time to line up for my race so I handed off my jacket to my son and hoped not to freeze in the 10 minutes before the starting horn. Since I was wearing all black in direct sunlight and the people behind me were blocking the wind, I felt fine. I sized up my competition near the front of the line and, as usual, I felt like I was among a fast crowd. Unlike last year, I knew not to be concerned by the droves of faster runners that might fly by me in the first few minutes.

The race started and we were off. The hundreds of runners pounding the boardwalk made quite a racket. I waved to my family as I passed by and then focused on my form and pace. Last year I ran the first mile in 8:05. I didn’t want to run that pace so close to the start because I had a lot more race to run. I stayed with the pack and passed the first mile at 8:15. Still a little too fast, but I felt okay.

We were off the boardwalk at this point, still heading east, and as we reached the turnaround on Broadway someone yelled, “Here comes the wind!” He wasn’t kidding, the southeastern wind hit us full in the face and I realized that this wind would be present for much of the race. It really wasn’t that bad and as I heated up, I appreciated the cooling effect.

I decided to run as hard as I could for as long as I could, thinking I could slow down later if necessary. It took longer to reach 3 miles than I’d hoped and I passed the 5K sensor in 27:45. I actually ran a negative split for the second 5K.

I took a Roctane gel shortly after that and soon we were running parallel to the water on the northern side of Long Beach. I was still feeling strong and was maintaining good form. I was glad that I’d run this race last year because I knew what lay ahead. I watched the ocean’s horizon as we ran south and soon after passing the 4-mile marker it was time to turn west. We soon reached the street that would lead us back to the boardwalk.

After a quick scramble up the ramp where I jockeyed for position in this narrow section, I was back on the boardwalk that would lead me to the finish line. Unfortunately it wasn’t that simple, and I recalled that last year’s final run on the boardwalk seemed to take forever. I was still running well and finally saw the 5-mile marker, so I knew that I had 1.2 miles left to go.

Like last year, this seemed to be the place where many runners pulled out all stops and ran the last mile as fast as they could. I got passed by at least six runners but I couldn’t generate the leg turnover required to hold them off. Instead I focused on getting to the end. Where the heck was the finish line?!

As I knew it would, the finish chute finally became visible with about 500 feet to go. I put every effort into this final sprint, and as I got closer to the race clock, I realized I might break 55 minutes for the first time. I came over the line in 54:35 with my wife, son and daughter cheering me in with fist bumps. I felt drained but I still had some strength. I ran a good race.

Unlike last weekend’s 10K, when I surprised myself by running a decent time, I had higher expectations for today. I had hoped for a similar performance at this year’s race but I beat my own expectation handily. I plan to run one more race this year in December, probably a 5K or a 4-mile race that I’ll do mostly for fun. My biggest performance target this year was today’s Long Beach 10K and I’m pleased with how that turned out.




			
					

A little wind may make a tough course tougher

It was nice to take a rest day this morning, especially since it’s been a busy week. I probably should have run through a quick set of core exercises or done some upper body work, but I decided to enjoy my coffee and the extra time instead. I’m hearing that the rain will clear out tonight but tomorrow morning will be very windy. I’m not sure what that will mean to runners, but if the wind comes from the south that long hill on the first mile and a half will be a lot tougher.

Again I’ve reached the point where my training ends and the result of that effort will be reflected at the finish line the next day. I’m not expecting a 5K PR considering the hilly course and the possible wind issue. Either way, if it’s tough for me then it will be tough for the hundreds of others who will also participate. This may be the first time I race in October. Seems hard to believe, but I think it’s true.

Correction: I ran the Cape Cod Marathon Relay in October!