Race Report: NYC Half-Marathon

Well, it turns out that last weekend's race was in fact the slowest of the 4 half-marathons I've run this year. While I was disappointed in my finishing time I'm really glad I ran the race. Running down Seventh Avenue from Central Park to 42nd Street - with the entire avenue blocked off on both sides and relatively full of spectators - was the coolest running moment I've ever had. Pictured below, courtesy of NYRR, is a view looking up Seventh; not as dramatic as the view I had looking south to Times Square and beyond, but it gives you a sense of what it was like.

There was a brief period of time Sunday morning where I wondered if (hoped that?!?) the race would be cancelled due to some pretty impressive thunderstorms in the area. By the time I left our apartment at 6:15 the rain had slowed to a drizzle and the big thunder and lightning had moved out. After the storms departed we were left with....hot and humid. The NYRR stats page on the race says 70 degrees and 90% humidity, but it sure felt worse than that.

The race was well-organized, as are all of the NYRR races. There were a ton of volunteers guiding the 10,000+ runners into their starting corrals on the east side of Central Park. This race had the most participants of any I've run in this year, so it was interesting to see the logistics as a preview of what Chicago might look like with 35,000 or so runners. All I can say is I hope there are a LOT of porta-potties. The picture below (also courtesy of NYRR) will give you a sense of the number of runners involved:

After taking care of business and the usual pre-race festivities (in this case the national anthem, the declaration of the day as NYC Half-marathon today by the deputy mayor, various announcements (wet grates are not your friend, warnings to take it easy given the heat and humidity, etc.). The move up to the starting line was very orderly and we were actually running at pretty much full pace by the time we got to the starting line.

The first seven and a half miles were in Central Park - a full clockwise loop from 85th Street on the east side and then from the starting line down to Central Park South and Seventh Avenue. The park portion was pretty much what you'd expect - hilly. I had to make a quick pit stop during mile 3 or so (fortunately I've never had to make a 'long' pit stop during a race). My time wasn't so bad, but I was already feeling quite hot by the time I left the park

As mentioned above, the portion of the race going down Seventh Avenue through Times Square and then west on 42nd Street to the West Side Highway was really cool and made it relatively easy to ignore my discomfort. I actually took off my headphones as I left the park to listen to the cheering and the bands along the next couple of miles of the course. I never found the promised misting stations, but one of the aid stations was handing out sponges soaked in ice-cold water. Very nice.

The last four miles down the West Side Highway were a real slog. While the terrain wasn't as mind-numbingly boring as the trip up the Ocean Parkway in the Brooklyn Half-Marathon, it wasn't all that exciting either. At this point in the race I was feeling so used up that I walked at each water station - which seems to show up very frequently - drinking a full cup of water and pouring another on my head to cool off. Other than chatting a bit with a woman wearing Texas flag running shorts (she was from Austin), I spent most of my time willing myself not to walk other than at the water stations. While the last few miles felt really, really slow, in the end I never ran a mile at slower than a 9.9 minute/mile pace (with the exception of the mile in the park with the pit stop)....but, that said, it only takes 15 extra seconds per mile (not so much) to add 3+ minutes to your total time. Ultimately, the difference between my best race (Brooklyn, at 1:54:02) and my slowest (this race, at 2:02:42) is about 40 seconds per mile.

On crossing the finish line we were greeted with ice cold towels and the medal pictured below.

As silly as it may sound, it was incredibly gratifying and emotional to get the medal. I've had this wave of emotion at the end of three of the four half-marathons that I've done - which I think is a combination of relief, satisfaction, pride, and exhaustion all mixed together. I can only imagine what it will feel like at the end of 26.2 in October.

I've thought a lot this week about the results, my performance, what I could have done differently, etc., and I'll be back to you soon to share some thoughts on all that and some lessons learned.

A New Perspective On Hills

I've always dreaded running hills and believe they are a weak spot for me. I will frequently pass people while running in the park on a flat or downhill grade only to be passed by those same people on an uphill.

I'm reading a new book published this week called Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach; the author is a Brad Hudson, a coach who is currently training Dathan Ritzenhein, a member of the US Olympic team. Ritzenhein ran last Sunday's NYC Half-marathon in 1:01:38 - almost exactly half the time it took me; he placed third (the only American in the top 10) - about 4,900 places ahead of me. Kind of puts things in perspective....

In any case... Hudson's book is very good so far. One of the centerpieces of his training approach is the use of hills for a number of different purposes, the argument being that running hills can contribute significantly to overall fitness levels. Without having a fully developed plan for incorporating some of his approach into my trainging program, I went out on this morning's run inspired to really attack the hills. It's a whole different thing mentally to say you are going to speed up on a hill rather than slow down, which is what I usually do. After the first few miles I arrived at Cat Hill on the East Side and did a couple of 15 second sprints while going uphill. While I hadn't planned to do so, I found myself speeding up each time I got to big hills on the balance of my route.

Though the conditions were tough and the park was super-stinky (garbage, rot, urine, ginkgo, etc. in various places) I turned in a good time, finishing the main loop in just under 52 minutes - an 8:36 pace. Not bad for a day with temps in the upper 70's and high humidity. Most importantly, I've got a whole new perspective on hills.

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A Strange Definition Of 'Amenities'

Also from the recent Chicago Marathon newsletter - some good advice for first-time marathoners:
While there will be no shortage of runners leading the way, “knowing the course” means knowing the locations of the mile markers, aid stations, medical facilities, restroom facilities, PowerGel distribution, entertainment zones, and much more.

As an endurance sport, the marathon will challenge you mentally and physically like never before. Being keenly aware of the resources and services available to you along the race course is critical.

In particular, you should know where you can find race day essentials such as Hinckley Springs water, Gatorade, drop-out buses, medical and restroom facilities. These necessities can be found at the 20 aid stations along the course. Prior to the race, be sure to familiarize yourself with the aid station locations by viewing the course map and list of icons representing each amenity online at chicagomarathon.com.

While you’re at it, learn the streets and neighborhoods you will be running through, and which amenities will be awaiting you around each turn. The more familiar you are with your surroundings on race day, the more comfortable and confident you will feel throughout the race.

Hmmm - drop-out buses and medical facilities are amenities?!?
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From the most recent Chicago Marathon newsletter:

Did you know? The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is internationally known for its flat and fast course. There are no significant hills and the highest area of elevation is 24 feet.

A Very Fine Run

Had a really good run today - adding an extra lower loop of the park to turn a scheduled 7-mile run into 8.9 miles. Finished the run in 1:19:48, which is 6+ minutes faster than the last time I ran this route (about a month ago).

It's a great feeling to run more than the target distance; I feel like it gives me flexibility to shorten or even skip a run later in the week.

Seven tomorrow, three on Friday, and sixteen on Saturday....

Weekly Training Update, 11 Weeks To Go

Here's the week 6 training update:

Week 6 target mileage: 40 miles
Week 6 actual mileage: 38.6 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 208 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 201.5 miles
Variance: (6.49) miles

Training miles to go: 418

Left it just a little short last week, so I've still not done a full 40 miles in a week. This week's number is *just* 37, including a 16 mile run on Saturday.

Race Results: NYC Nike Half-Marathon

Finished today's race in 2:02:47 (unofficial time). Not my fastest time and not my slowest time among the 4 halfs I've run this year.

Full report to come later.

Running Down A Dream Does It Again & the NYC Half-Marathon

Running Down A Dream calls out a pair of New York Times articles on half-marathons in Half Marathons are So Hot Right Now. You can find the NYT articles here and here.

I'll be running in the NYC Half this weekend. Here's what I have to look forward to:

Central Park
At the Start, runners and spectators will hear the singing of the national anthem.

NIKE Sponge Station - (Seventh Avenue btw 54th-55th Streets)
Stay cool at the Nike sponge station.

Times Square Sing-A-Long - (Eastside of Broadway and 44th Street)
At 44th street and Broadway, spectators and runners alike will have the opportunity to sing along with Broadway performers as they belt out favorite classic songs. Don’t worry about forgetting the lyrics; they’ll be displayed on a giant video screen that will also feature a live runner cam.

Who: Broadway performers Catherine Porter, Ben Roseberry, Susan Spencer and Matthew Stocke along with over 10,000 runners running through Times Square

What: Sing-a-long to all-time favorite songs. The playlist includes classics like “Uptown Girl,” “I Will Survive,” “Born To Run,” and “Dancing in The Streets.” Plus 40 other songs!

Where: On the eastern sidewalk of Broadway at 44th Street (near Toys R Us)

Date: Sunday, July 27th, 7:30 a.m.: Arrive on location to get a spot to watch the video screen; 7:35 a.m.: (Approximate) Elite Runners race through Times Square; watch it on the big screen! 7:45 a.m.: Sing-a-along begins as the packs of runners begin to stream through Times Square!

Toyota Hybrid Turn to the Finish (42nd Street and the West Side Highway)
Samba New York!
This visual and musical attraction zone, set on a stage parallel to the West Side Highway, will dazzle runners and spectators with a colorful display of traditional Brazilian costumes, dancing, and capoeira. Inspired by the samba schools of Rio de Janeiro and adapted to the setting of New York City, this performance company puts on shows that offer the exhilaration of Rio Carnival. Race marshals will be distributing Toyota cheersticks all along the course to help you cheer the runners on!

NIKE Downtown Cheering Zone — (West Side Highway and Harrison Street)
This zone will feature DJ entertainment, fresh waffles, spectator kits, and more!

Battery Park
Post-Race Festival
(8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.)
Enjoy post-race amenities including free Jamba Juice product samples, Nike+ shoe trials, and the Toyota Engines of Change experience. At 9:45 a.m., catch the awards ceremony and raffle prize announcements on the main stage celebrating the top 10 male and female finishers!

I'm not sure which is more exciting: the NIKE sponge station or the Toyota Hybrid Turn to the Finish.....

With this weekend's race and the Queens half-marathon in September (which I'm hoping to run with my friend Jordi), I will have run the 9 races I need to qualify for the 2009 New York City Marathon; still open, of course, is this year's new requirement to volunteer at a race as part of the qualification process.
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A Great Story

As you can imagine I love talking about my running journey with friends and colleagues. I have a colleague at work who is on her own running journey; she ran her first half-marathon earlier this year and is now training for the New York City Marathon. Check out this link to learn about her story.....
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And I Thought It Was A Big Deal To Run A Marathon.....

Jaw-dropping story from Wired Magazine on an ultra-long distance runner named Dean Karnazes: The Perfect Human. Karnazes at one point ran 50 marathons in 50 days. Wow.

Some of my favorite quotes:
SHOW YOUR BODY WHO'S BOSS: "The human body has limitations," Karnazes says. "The human spirit is boundless." Your mind, in other words, is your most important muscle. As a running buddy told him: Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention to arrive safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: Wow!! What a ride!"
GET USED TO IT: "To prepare for the searing heat of the Badwater race, Karnazes went on 30-mile jogs wearing a ski parka over a wool sweater. He trained himself to urinate while running (emphasis added). He got so he could go out and run a marathon on any given day – no mileage buildup or tapering required. This training made the extreme seem ordinary and made the impossible seem the next logical step"
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Great Marathon Story

I love the web.

I am a regular reader of Lifehacker and read with interest a recent post called: The Best Tech Tools and Fitness Plans to Get in Shape.

That post led to Hack Attack: Motivate yourself and Hack Attack: How to hack a marathon - two post chock full of goodies about preparing for and running a marathon (the Chicago Marathon specifically!).

Best of all - a link to a runner's story of his New York City Marathon experience at The New York City Marathon: Now It Can Be Told.

If you only have time for one of the links, check out the last one. Kind of makes me wonder why people put themselves through this....even though I really know the answer why.
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The Big Picture

The Boston Globe runs a feature called The Big Picture, featuring 'news stories in photographs'. I've enjoyed it a lot in the couple of months I've followed it.

The most recent entry is a set of photos from China - Beijing mostly - in advance of the Olympics. There are some great shots you can check out here.

Weekly Training Update - 12 Weeks To Go

Here's the week 5 training update:

Week 5 target mileage: 37 miles
Week 5 actual mileage: 36.9 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 168 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 162.9 miles
Variance: (5.14) miles

Training miles to go: 458

No long run last week as I split Saturday's 13 mile run into 2 separate runs (see Commitment......or Insanity).

This week will be my first 40 mile week, and I'm off to a good start with 9 miles on the treadmill here in Baltimore this morning. Next week is an 'off' week - I have to run *only* 37 miles; after that - 7 weeks in a row over 40 miles, peaking at 45. Yeow!

The NYRR/Nike NYC Half-Marathon is this coming Sunday, which will be a fun way to get in a long run.

Commitment......or Insanity?

This week's training schedule included a 13 mile run for yesterday morning (Saturday). While I thought I'd adjusted to the heat and humidity, that's apparently not the case. I set out at about 7AM yesterday and got my fanny kicked by the combination of heat, humidity, and hills up in Connecticut. I decided to stop after about 7.5 miles and call it quits. There's an argument to be made for running a route where quitting is not an option, as I stopped running at ou house just before beginning my second loop of Candlewood Isle.

Given that I'd run 18 miles last weekend, I felt pretty lame for having stopped and had the sense that I could have in fact finished the planned 13 mile run if I'd just pressed on.

In the end, I set out again late yesterday afternoon for another 5.5 miles, thereby finishing what I'd started. It was a grueling hour of running, but I felt great for having finished the day's target mileage (albeit in two segments) and enjoyed a dip in the lake to cool off.

Weekly Training Update - 13 Weeks To Go

With my first really long training run under my belt, here's the week 4 training update:

Week 4 target mileage: 35 miles
Week 4 actual mileage: 36.1 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 131 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 126 miles

Training miles to go: 495

I feel I'm getting into a rhythm now. For the first couple of weeks of the training program, I wasn't dealing well with the fact that I *had* to follow a specific schedule; it was a big mental shift to go from a mindset of 'I'll do around 30 miles this week' to 'I have to follow a specific day-by-day plan if I'm going to get in all the appropriate training allowing for work trips, vacation, etc.' It's also a big deal for me to have gotten through the 18+ mile run last weekend as it gives me confidence in the training program and new insight into the mental and physical challenge of stretching out the distance to 26.2 miles.

Although today's run was shorter than plan (by two miles) it was great to turn in a performance with some speed and to see that I'm feeling quite good.

The big question now - which I've mused about before - is whether to set a specific time target for the marathon or whether my goal should (just) be to finish. I've heard arguments on both sides - including advice from a friend who has done multiple Ironman races to consider you first marathon a 'catered training run'. Something to think about as the training progresses.

Variance: (5.0) miles
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Calling All Marathoners

My friend and marathon partner Chris and I were talking last week about what we might do the night of the marathon. Since neither of us has run 26.2 before, we don't have any sense at all of what we'll be up for. So....for those of you who have run a marathon - how did you feel the night of the race? What are we likely to have the energy for?

Let us know in the comments or via email.


Right Back At It.....

Had a very nice run this morning and felt no ill effects from the long run last weekend. I ran 6.2 miles total, including the 5.1-mile Central Park loop at a pace of 8:30 per mile. I think I'm finally getting used to the humidity and my pace is improving as a result.

More details coming soon on Saturday's run as well as the weekly training report. Stay tuned!

Did It!

Don't have the official mileage yet, but I finished 18+ this morning in 3:14:30.

Thank you to everyone who sent good luck wishes via the comments or email!

Wish Me Luck!

The marathon training program I'm using includes 5 runs of 18-22 miles. I'm doing the first of these tomorrow when I'm up in Connecticut. I'm shooting for 18, which will be 2 miles farther than I've ever run.

I've been tired and achy this week. I'm not sure why but suspect it has to do with lots of mileage in the heat and humidity. Though I've been dreading tomorrow's run for most of this week, now that I've figured out my route I'm starting to get a bit psyched for it.

Wish me luck!

Lots of Joe McNally....

Joe McNally is a photographer who is well-known for the magic stuff he does with lighting. I came across a long entry on his blog today that I wanted to share with you. The entry, which is called Welcome Adorama! and concerns his efforts to maintain a group of photos he took for a project called Faces of Ground Zero, is an interesting story and has some great pictures.

This post follows one from last week called Rollin' With The Pride of Midtown; if you are interested in photography you'll enjoy his detailed description of how he captured this fantastic image of a firefighter driving his rig through Times Square. Even if you're not interested in the process you should still check out the photo!

McNally published a book earlier this year called The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets From One Of The World's Top Shooters. I recommend it highly.

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Random, But Interesting

Yesterday's run was 5.5 miles in Central Park; in just 49 minutes I lost 1.8 pounds of water.

Check Out My Wordle

According to the Wordle web site, "Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes." Here's a wordle of The Longest Run from July 7, 2008.
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"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

Haruki Murakami has written a memoir titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running that is worth checking out if you are a runner (full disclosure - I work for the book's publisher). The book will be released July 29th.

The quote I used for the title of the post comes from this passage, where Murakami writes about a mental aspect of running marathons - having a mantra:
One runner told of a mantra his older brother, also a runner, had taught him which he's pondered ever since he began running. Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.
An excerpt from the book was published in a recent issue of The New Yorker, but unfortunately all that's online at this point is an abstract.

You can check out what some other runner/bloggers have to say about the book here and here.

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Weekly Training Update - 14 Weeks To Go

I looked at the Chicago Marathon website today and was excited to see the countdown to the race is in double digits. Last week was a good training week, especially since it seems I'm over the cold that has been dragging me down. I might even be adjusting a bit to the heat and humidity.....

The weekly stats:

Week 3 target mileage: 34 miles
Week 3 actual mileage: 34.7 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 96 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 89.9 miles
Variance: (6.1) miles

The week four schedule includes runs of 5, 7, 5, and 18 miles. I'm a little intimidated by the concept of 18 miles, but there's not much to be done about that. I will be in Connecticut and will have to do three loops of our neighborhood (and then some) to get to the mileage goal. Not ideal, but better than running on the busy two-lane roads in the area. I'm still looking for good alternative routes in CT but haven't come up with anything yet.

Overall, I'm feeling good.
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Is It Possible To 'Beat The Heat'?

Very relevant article in the New York Times on exercising when it's hot and humid: To Beat the Heat, Learn to Sweat It Out. Lots of information on why we're affected by the heat and humidity but unfortunately there's not much to be done other than just getting used to it, or as the article says:
"Heat is the X factor. Sometimes you have to just forget it and move on."

If You Love Hamburgers.....

...then check out the recipe at Cook's Illustrated for Old-Fashioned Burgers. The site is subscription-only but this recipe is currently available free.

I made these hamburgers a few weeks ago and can comfortably say they were the best burgers I've ever made!

Two Great Concerts

I had the chance recently to see one of my favorite musical artists, Lyle Lovett, twice in the space of three days. Lyle played with his Large Band at the Beacon Theater in New York City on Sunday night and at Ives Concert Park (outdoors) in Danbury on Tuesday night. Both shows were fantastic. The band played a lot of songs from Lyle's most recent album, It's Not Big It's Large [Deluxe Edition]; it's a great album you should check out if you've not heard it.

We had a bit of rain at the show on Tuesday, but as we were walking in we were treated to two rainbows - something I've never seen before. In the photo below, the second rainbow is somewhat faint, but you can see it to the right of the very visible one.

Below is a shot of Lyle and part of the band from the end of Tuesday's performance.

The Large Band is a collection of a group of what seem to be pretty accomplished musicians, and it seems to me most of them have been touring as part of the Large Band for a good number of years now. Talking about the band on Sunday night, and the fact that he really appreciates the chance to tour with them regularly during the summertime, Lyle said:
"It's a wonderful thing when something you love to do turns into your life."
I think that's a great point of view.

On Listening To Customers

Over at Photoshop Insider, today's guest blogger - John Nack, the senior product manager for Adobe Photoshop - has a great post responding to Photoshop Insider's poll asking users what new features they'd like to see in the Photoshop product.

The post is a fascinating interesting inside look inside the innovation/product development process and the tradeoff between giving customers what they want as opposed to giving them tools they didn't even know they needed.

There are parallels here to book publishing as well, where there's a sense that it's the publisher's role to be a tastemaker for the consumer - to select and publish books in anticipation of interests readers might not be able to identify.

Running In The Summer - Too Much Information?

Dressed and out of the apartment about an hour after yesterday's 9 mile run, I'd clearly not had enough time to cool off as I arrived at work a dripping, sweaty mess.

Later in the day I was pleasantly surprised to find Running Down A Dream's Top 5 Tips For Post Run Cool Off; the tips will come in handy over the next couple of months.
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Weekly Training Update - 15 Weeks To Go

This is the first of what I hope will be weekly posts as I work through my training program for the Chicago Marathon on October 12.

First, some stats:

Week 2 target mileage: 32 miles
Week 2 actual mileage: 21 miles

Target cumulative miles through last week: 62 miles
Actual cumulative miles through last week: 55.2 miles
Variance: (6.8) miles

Last week was a pretty big miss. As I mentioned here, I was fighting (am still fighting) a head cold that has affected my running. After sleeping 10 hours on Friday night (about 4 more than is typical for me) and waking up feeling like junk, I decided I could not face the day's scheduled 15 mile run.

Everything I've read so far suggests the weekly long run is the most critical part of a marathon training program; those runs are supposed to be sacred. I opted to take a sick day/mental health day in the interest of recovering more quickly and managed to make up some of the lost mileage by with a decent run on Sunday.

The week three schedule includes runs of 7, 7, 5, 3, and 12 miles. In spite of uncomfortable conditions yesterday, I managed to run 9 miles in Central Park, giving me a little mental victory as a way to start the week. I'm increasingly aware of the importance of the mental/psychological aspects of running all this distance. Halfway through yesterday's run I was thinking I'd just do one loop of the park, but then decided to go for the extra couple of miles; the overall run was pretty slow, but it left me with a sense of accomplishment and positive frame of mind for the week.

I had the extra pleasure yesterday of running into Chris (the friend with whom I will run Chicago) on the east side of the park - that was fun!
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