Sunday, December 26, 2010

End of the year wrap up: 2010 Goals

Looking back, I have to count 2010 as a good running year. I came up short of a couple of goals, but I hit a lot as well. Most important, I had a great time running, and feel more fit than I ever have.
Here's how I did on the goals that I set for the year:

1] Requalify for Boston... in Boston.
- Crushed it. Needed a 3:30:59, but ran a PR 3:20:06.

2] 3:20 Marathon
- Got it. Boston 3:20:06, and again in NYC 3:20:37

3] Sub 7 minute pace Half Marathon
- Success at the Brooklyn Half - 1:30:50 (6:56 pace). There was a time when I couldn't run any race sub 7. Now only my marathon PR is slower.

4] 19 minute 5k
- Came up just short on this one. I ran a 19:06 in Maine and 19:05 in the Percy Hutton 5K in NYC. On the upside, I placed 3rd in my age group in both races.

5] Sub 40 minute 10K.
- Although the running calculators rate this as an easier goal than the 19 minute 5K, I didn't come very close on this one. In fact, my PR from December of 2009 still stands. Something must be done. When's the next 10K?

Other highlights:
- Breaking 5:30 at the 5th Avenue Mile. Between running and spectating, this race is always good fun, and feeling good about my time made it that much better.
- Road trip to the National Marathon in D.C. with Tim and Peter. Good friends, good running, good times.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Boston vs New York

At the New York Marathon last weekend, I hoped to beat my PR from Boston in April, partly because of my training, but partly because I had decided that NYC was an easier course than Boston. It didn't go that way. I went out a bit faster, but hurt more on the last 10k, and ended up 30 seconds slower. I walked away thinking, no, New York is the harder course. It wasn't a PR, but is was an NYC PR, so good for me!
Hmm, it's starting to sound like every time I run a marathon I decide that it was the hardest course ever. Time to get some hard evidence to support my self serving conclusion. Sure, I had lots of ideas. Boston is famous for it's hills, but NYCM has some hills too. NYCM has more turns, and NYCM is more crowded -- a lot more crowded. Turns and crowds definitely through me off my stride, and in theory could account for increased fatigue. Still there must be a more scientific way to compare.
Comparing average times doesn't work, since Boston is mostly runners that qualified by time. So how about course records? Boston has the faster records both for men and women, by about 2 minutes. That might not work either though, since these marathons pay top runners to show up. If one spends more money than the other, they could skew the results. Except for Margaret Okayo. 
Margaret Okayo of Kenya holds the course record in BOTH New York and Boston. She won New York in 2001 in 2:24:21, then won Boston in 2002 in 2:20:43, and then repeated in New York with a course record 2:22:31.
So there you have it. New York is the tougher course. Pure science has spoken. 
Digging deep at the end of the NYCM

Thursday, November 11, 2010

NYC Marathon Race Report - the numbers

For some reason, it always takes me a while to post about a marathon. Part of it is just that the energy available for extracurricular activities is low. Energy aside though, it's not as easy for me to write up a marathon as it is a 10k or other shorter race.
I think the main obstacle is that there is so much that happens on marathon day, that it's hard to boil it down to a post that captures the essence of the day. Other bloggers have attacked this problem by posting shorter, targeted entries, so I'll give that a try. Here is the short, cold, hard race report:

My goal was to beat my PR of 3:20:06, which I set at Boston in April. I felt in shape to do it, at least by a little, but NYC is a different course. I decided to go with the theory that NYC is an easier course.
My average pace in Boston was 7:38, so I was looking to start at 7:25-7:30. This seemed like it wouldn't be going out too fast, but give me some room to fade at the end.
I stuck to the plan pretty darn well, but by the time I hit mile 20, I was really feeling it. I had to dig really deep for the entire last 10k. My pace slipped quite a bit, but I kept it together and never completely crashed. In the end, I finished 31 seconds slower that in Boston -- 3:20:37. It's unfortunate that I couldn't keep pace enough for a PR, but I'm proud of myself for hanging in for a solid time.
My Garmin was not much use (a story for another post), so the best numbers I have are the splits published by the NYRR. They clocked me at every 5K, and I did the math to get an average pace for each split. A marathon is 42.1 kilometers, so the last entry is for 2.1k.

last 2.1k8:23

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What next for Boston?

On Monday, October 18, registration for the Boston Marathon opened... and closed. The 21,000 slots were filled in 8 hours. The previous year, registration had been open for months before closing, but it closed earlier than expected, which may have played a role in this year's rush.
This raises 2 questions:
  1. What, if anything, will the B.A.A. change for next year?
  2. How what effect will this have on the broader running community?
In this video, Guy Morse of the B.A.A. makes it clear that they are considering all options:

Here are the options that I can think of:
  1. Do nothing. Many hot ticket events work this way -- first come, first served. (yuck!)
  2. Tighten the qualifying standards (including limiting the time window).
  3. Increase the field.
  4. Institute a lottery.
Boston has a lot of prestige in the marathoning world for a number of reasons; it is the oldest U.S. marathon, it is run very smoothly, has a great course and... it has qualifying standards.
The qualifying standards are Boston's defining feature for many of the runners I know, but I'm not sure that the B.A.A. sees it the same way.
If they don't tighten the qualifying times, it will be interesting to see if other marathons try to take Boston's place for qualifying prestige. Last year, the Exeter Marathon ran it's first race with 54 finishers. This race has tougher qualifying times than Boston, and no other way to gain entry. This year, rebranded as the Gansett Marathon, it will certainly grow. On their Facebook page, they reported 3500 hits on their website in the 2 days after Boston closed.
My guess is that other, bigger marathons will notice Monday's blitz, and market themselves with qualifying times. As more and more people take up running, these organizations will come to see qualifying times not as a way to restrict the field, but as a way to promote an event.
At any rate, it seems clear that marathoners are both increasing in numbers and getting more interested in performance. All good in my book.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Marathon Mojo

At mile 24 of this year's Boston Marathon, there were some unusual thoughts running through my head. The race was going really well. I was on track for a finish time that I would be very happy with, but it was getting harder and harder to hold pace. In order to summon the will to press on, I promised myself plenty of rest and reward at the end. Strangely, it occurred to me that I would be running yet another marathon in New York, and that thought made me weary -- even though New York was 6 months away.
So, I made myself a deal. If I could keep pace to the end, I would just jog the New York Marathon at an easy pace. After a few hundred more yards, I modified the bargin. I would skip New York entirely.
I finished Boston on pace, and very happy. After a short recovery period, I began training and racing again, but shorter races only. My marathon mojo was gone. I knew it would probably return at some point, but it was not clear that it would be back in time for New York.
Well, long story short, my marathon mojo did return, and I'm very excited about the marathon, now just 2 weeks away.
Training has gone well, including plenty of long runs culminating in a full 26.2 mile training run last weekend. I reached the taper without any issues with injury, and now I just need to get myself to the starting line with fresh legs.
I've done an about-face on the deal I made myself in Boston. Not only am I running, but if the weather cooperates, I'll be looking for a PR.
At this point, I think my biggest challenge will be keep a cool head at the start. I'm in the Local Competitive Start this year, which means that I will probably be standing next to folks that will be taking off at much faster speeds than I should. I'll just have to ignore them, and run my own race. If I can do that, I have a feeling that it's going to be a blast. Hope to see you there!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Museum Mile

Today was my favorite race of the year -- the 5th Avenue Mile. It runs from the Metropolitan Museum to Central Park South, and to me it is a celebration of what it is to be a runner in New York.
The race is run in many heats, separated by gender and age, and at the end features separate races for local elites and international professionals. I love to run this race, but the format also allows me to watch it. I get to see the top runner over 70 break the tape, and I get to watch some of the fastest runners in the world.
I missed last year's race (grrr!), which meant that I had 2 years of training to beat my previous best time. I was pretty sure I could do it, but I really didn't know what to expect. It's the only race under 5K that I run, so how could I know? At the 5th Avenue Mile, that unknown just adds to the fun. My time from 2 years ago was 5:52. This morning, I fired up the McMillan Running Calculator, and entered my best 5K time. Mr. McMillan predicted a time of 5:30 today. It seemed a bit ambitious, but there was only one way to find out.
I met PL at 9AM to jog down to the start, where we picked up our numbers and began spectating. After seeing one group start, we headed to the finish line where the real fun is. It was inspiring to see the younger runners, but soon it was time to jog back up to the start for my heat. There are no corrals for this race, so you just have to guess where you should be standing at the start. Too close to the line, and I would just get run over by faster runners. Too far, and I would get hung up in traffic. Being 49 in the 40-49 heat, I had to be a little conservative.
Before long, the gun went of and we were running. And when I say running, I mean really letting it fly. I was going as fast I would in pretty much any speed workout, and it felt great.
I finished the first quarter in 1:19 -- faster than I can recall ever running that distance. The second quarter, which was uphill came in at 1:27. The third quarter was downhill at 1:22. From there it flattened out, but I felt great, and managed a 1:21 to finish at 5:29, a 23 second PR. Props to the McMillan Running Calculator for nailing my time within one second.
I felt great after the race, and had a blast watching the rest of the heats with fellow Flyers SJ, GM, KM and NYFlyGirl. We saw TH and PL both PR in the next heat, and all the amazing runners that followed, including awesome performances in the 60-69 and over 70 groups.
Then came the local elites and the pros, who blew us away with their athleticism. Both the men's and women's pro races were down to the wire, with multiple contenders. It was a blast.
Afterward, I put in some easy miles in the park with TH and PL. All in all, a great day.
Next weekend, it's back to running long - November 7 is coming up, and my NYCMarathon mojo is back!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Training Race

Today was the NYRR Marathon Tune-Up, an 18 mile race in Central Park with the stated purpose of helping folks prepare for the NYC Marathon. The course is three loops in the park, and is well supported including timing, water, and everything else associated with an NYRR race.
Although people train for the marathon with many long runs, folks don't generally race any distance closer to a marathon than a half marathon, so it makes sense for the NYRR to provide something to bridge the gap.
Still, I've always used this event as a supported training run, rather than a race. At this point in the process, it feels like an 18 mile race would be too much of a disruption in training. I was down for a 22 mile long run this weekend. If I raced hard for 18 instead, would I be able to do the 22 next weekend? Maybe if I was more ahead in my schedule, or if I was younger or fitter, but as things are, I think it would set me off course.
Instead, I ran the 18 at a moderate pace, chatting with PL most of the way, and then picked up to marathon pace for an extra 4 miles. It felt good -- challenging, but not too much.
I got the impression that I was not alone in not racing this race. In any given NYRR race, there is probably a decent number of folks who aren't really pushing (say 30%?), but in this race, my guess is that the vast majority of the 4,597 finishers were training rather than racing. What do you think, 85%? Of course, this could just be me assuming that most people think as I do... How could they not?