Archive for May, 2011

21
May
11

Race Report: 2011 NYRR Brooklyn Half Marathon

Throughout the year the New York Road Runners hold a series of six half marathons (seven if you’re a lady) — The NYRR Half Marathon Series consisting of the Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx, and Staten Island Half Marathons, Grete’s Great Gallop in Central Park, and the More Half Marathon also in Central Park (I don’t include the NYC Half Marathon because so few local runners get a chance to run it). In my mind the Half Marathon Series is better than the other two and the king of the Half Marathon Series is the Brooklyn Half Marathon (there’s a NYC pun in there…). Manhattan takes place in January, so you might freeze. Bronx and Queens are in the summer, so you’re probably going to bake. There could be good weather for Staten Island, but honestly, I’ve never really wanted to go there. The Brooklyn Half held in May is at an ideal time on a good course — twice around Prospect Park then down Ocean Parkway to the Coney Island Boardwalk. Sounds exciting, right? It is!

Unfortunately, there are some crappy aspects of this. First, it’s in Brooklyn, which even on good days mean that it’s going to take two hours of trains to make it there. However, even worse, the race started at 7am and baggage cutoff was supposed to be around 6:20am (in reality it was 6:40am). This meant I either needed to crash on a friends couch in the city and get up at 4am to make it to the race in time, or suck it up and get up at 3:30am and drive to Coney Island, park there, and take the subway to Prospect Park. It gets even better with the F train not running, which meant it was the day for a Q train. Ughh.

Nonetheless after going to bed at 10:30 last night I woke up a little past 3am ready to get in my car and drive the hour plus to Coney Island. I really don’t like driving and don’t consider myself to be good at it. I’m pretty sure the 45 miles from here to Coney Island is the furthest I’ve driven in the NYC area in almost a year. The fog had started to move in by the time that I arrived at Coney Island giving a bit of a surreal feel with the little bit of neon on at 5am. By the time I arrived in Prospect Park 5:45am the sun was starting peek through and there were signs that the fog would be gone soon.

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

Prospect Park Lake Shortly Before the Race

The route seemed pretty straight-forward. Twice around the park, including the hill on the north side of the park, then a long straight run to a finish on the boardwalk. I had told myself that my goal was going to be 8 minute miles. As usual, I had no idea how fast I did my first mile because it was a little bit more than a minute before I crossed the starting line. The clock was somewhere around 9:15. For the rest of the race I would spend each mile thinking through what my next mile would have to end at to make me have an 8 minute mile. I failed for the next twelve mile markers. There were a few times, such as when I came out of the park toward Mile 8 when I thought I had it, but then I realized I was actually closer to a seven minute mile.

This race was made of three different parts. First was the two loops around Prospect Park, which was very enjoyable. I love running in Prospect Park, it has nice hills to keep it more interesting, beautiful scenery, is quiet, and, perhaps most importantly, lacks the mobs of tourists wandering about. Although the hills make me slower, I can tell that living at the top of a large hill has dramatically improved my hill running and made it significantly less painful. The second part was a straight shot for five miles down Ocean Parkway. While it seems like this would be a great chance to get to know Brooklyn, it’s not like the NYC marathon. The side roads along Ocean Parkway provide a strong buffer from the communities you run through. Also, running on a nearly perfectly straight road for five miles is horribly boring. Especially when it’s so wide and isolated as Ocean Parkway. Finally, we turned onto Surf Avenue and quickly headed over to the Coney Island Boardwalk.

I had thought the boardwalk would be this wonderful place to finish a race, and from a scenic point of view it was a simply wonderful place to end a race. But from a footing point of view it was a nightmare. The way the boardwalk gave inconsistently and how some boards were incredibly loose or had enormous screws sticking out. As it had been raining for most of the past week in New York the boardwalk was still moist in some spots which made for horrible traction. A great spot to end a race, but let’s face it, if you’re going to run a lot on a boardwalk you’re not aiming to set a PR for that span.

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

The Awesome Finish Line for the Brooklyn Half

As I wrote earlier, I was originally aiming for 8 minute miles. This would put me slightly slower than my PR set at the 2010 NYC Half Marathon, but still very respectable. I realized after about four miles that I was on a PR pace and not only that I didn’t feel like I was running really hard. I’m certain I could have run harder, but hey, it’s supposed to be an off week.

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Pace and Elevation for the Brooklyn Half Marathon

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

Brooklyn Half Marathon Splits

That’s right, not a single mile was at my goal pace. This is exciting on some levels, but also horribly disappointing. It means that I’m far too stupid to properly set and run a pace. On the bright side, I felt just fine at the end of the race. I had the usual case of no appetite after a race and was tired, but that was much more because of getting up at that god-forsaken hour this morning. When I crossed the finish line, just like last week, my clock time was better than PR. So the question was by how much?

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

2011 Brooklyn Half Marathon Results

I wish I had known that I was so close to breaking 1:40. I’m certain that I could have kicked in a bit more over the last few miles and broken it. None the less, I am extremely pleased with my time and it portends well for running a good race in Chicago this fall.

Keep Running.

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20
May
11

Messy Running: Why Do We Get Away With It?

If you’ve ever blown past a water stop in a half marathon, you’ve probably seen something of a mess. The roadway is wet all the way across, empty water cups line the road causing a dangerously slippery surface, and without a doubt there are always numerous empty foil packages from people who felt the need to chow down on some GU only 2 miles into a 4 mile race.

Water stop during 2010 Des Moines marathon, photo by Phil Roeder (CC-By licensed)

Water stop during 2010 Des Moines marathon, photo by Phil Roeder (CC-By licensed)

I realize that drinking water during a race can be very difficult, especially if you’re new to the sport or trying to set a PR. I also realize that sometimes it can be hard to grab those flimsy little cup. But what I always have a problem with is that despite the huge number of trash cans around water stops and the number of wonderful volunteers working to keep the area clean it seems like most cups end up on the ground. Often it seems like people grab a cup of water without thinking about how they’re going to drink it. They try to take a drink, realize it’s not that easy, and then throw the whole glass on the ground next to them or behind them. That’s an awesome feeling when you splash damage from someone’s half sipped cup of water that they’re allowed to just throw on the ground.

What’s worse is the fact that we, as runners, are allowed the throw crap wherever we want on the course allows for all sorts of other shenanigans. I’ve seen my fair share of hats and shirts just left in the middle of a roadway during a race. Seriously? You couldn’t wait for a trash can? However, by far the worse is the sort of shenanigans that this allows, at seen in this video from the New York Road Runners of the 2010 NYRR Mini 10k, an all women’s race that takes place in June of each year. You’ll notice something interesting at 1:55 of the video:

At first I thought that Lornah Kiplagat was just having problems grabbing a cup of water. But then I considered the situation a little more: this is a 10k race and she is a professional runner — she doesn’t need water in such a short race. At the end, yes, but at the beginning or middle that’s not the case as the water wouldn’t even make it into her system by the end of the race. No, she appears to be intentionally grabbing the cups and tipping them onto the ground to make it so the people behind her have to either dodge the water or get their feet wet. In a word, that sort of behavior is bullshit and totally unbecoming of our sport. The reason why it is enabled is because we’re allowed to be slobs on the race course. Some people will say that if we had to make sure all of our trash made it into trash bins we’d change the sport, make it less competitive, and slow it down. You might be a little correct, but I don’t think it would harm the sport any. You don’t hear people saying that triathlons are less competitive because they can’t leave any waste on the course, so why do we get away with it.

It’s time to up our game and say no to letting people treat the course as their own personal trash can.

Keep running.

19
May
11

Race Report: 2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k

I’m not certain why this race report took me forever to get up. Oh well, it’s up before my next race…

Another 10k in the park, over the same course as the Scotland Run 10k a couple of weeks ago.  I was feeling a little better, but still wasn’t feeling great. It’s hard for me to feel great about a race when I have to get up so ungodly early for a race. As another larger race I was back in the yellow bibs for this race, no big deal, I wasn’t feeling like I was going to go crazy on this run anyway. No PR for me. Well, at least that was the plan. As usual, epic fail.

2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k Pace and Elevation

2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k Pace and Elevation

Alright, no times there, but you can tell that I held a pretty steady pace despite the hills in Central Park. So, here’s the RunKeeper splits:

Pace for 2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k

Pace for 2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k

Yeah, clearly I was going fast. My previous best 10k was from the Scotland Run a few weeks ago where I had a 7:44 pace. None of my miles were anywhere close to that. I was going fast and feeling pretty good, but I didn’t have a good idea of how good. I was trying to be a good runner and not use headphones, so I wasn’t getting updates on my pace during the race. Furthermore there was a huge slow moving mass at the start and I had no idea how long it took me to cross the starting line. I crossed mile 1 around 9:00. I felt as though I was running a 7:45 pace. Mile 2 was crossed at 16:15, there was no way I was running a 7:45 pace. I felt comfortable. I whipped through the 5k mark with a clock time around 24:20 or so. I had done the 5k somewhere around my best 5k pace. Wow! I crossed the finish line at 47:20 CLOCK TIME. This meant I had certainly smashed my PR for a 10k race, which was 48:02. The question was, by how much? A lot!

2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k Official Results

2011 NYRR UAE Healthy Kidney 10k Official Results

I’m now in the strange situation where not only my 4M pace is faster than my 5k, but now my 10k is faster too. Wow. It was a good day. Next up, the Brooklyn Half Marathon. Once again, I’m not trying to set a PR. Partially because I need to wake up at 3am to make it to Coney Island to take a subway back to Prospect Park and then make it into my corral by 6:40am. But first, a little picture of 2U, the U2 Tribute Band playing after the race.

2U - The U2 Tribute Band

2U - The U2 tribute band playing after the race. These guys even tried to look like the band.

Keep Running.

10
May
11

Race Report: 2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope

This will be a pretty quick report. It was the usual 4 mile route traveling up the east side of the park, across the 102nd St transverse, down the west side, and finishing on the 72nd St transverse. I warmed up with a rather long 3 mile run from the starting line up and around the reservoir, and back to the finish line. The weather was near perfect, calm and about 50 degrees to start the run. After running a few races without pre-race announcements I’ve come to appreciate NYRR’s announcements and the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner”, which was beautiful, even if the lyrics were messed up again. As this was the Japan Day Run for Hope (planned before the earthquake and tsunami) there were officials from the Japanese Embassy who addressed the runners. This was probably the saddest part of the race largely because the ambassador felt the need to stress that Japanese food was safe to eat. The scientist in me wanted to scream at this point. Of course it’s safe to eat, there hasn’t been that much radiation. Ughh. Anyway, back to the race.

As usual, we had that strange start stop thing before the starting line. I’d love to model that as a multi-agent system to see what causes this crush, but whatever. It probably took about a 45 seconds to cross the starting line, which seemed long for having a red bib. Most of my miles were pretty even, or at least better than last time. First mile looked like it was about 7:40 thanks to the crush of runners, mile two was a little over seven miles, and mile 3 and 4 were pretty decent at 7:26 and 7:12. Now, last 4 miler in the park I complained about going out too fast in the second mile. But I never bothered to actually look at the elevation. Mile two is almost entirely downhill, so it makes sense that I’m faster. I’ll keep that in mind for future runs.

2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope splits from RunKeeper

2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope splits from RunKeeper


2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope Elevation and Pace

2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope Elevation and Pace

As we came along side the lake toward the 72nd St transverse I was tired, but not exhausted. Toward the finish line I saw the clock ticking toward 30:00. I knew I’d finish under it because I didn’t cross the start for about 45 or so seconds, but something about beating the clock still resonates with me. I don’t think I actually made it. Probably crossed the finish at 30:01 where I was immediately greeted by Mary Wittenberg, who had also just completed the races and told me and all the other runners to keep moving along. The final results, a PR, but not by much. I’m moving down my 4M time incrementally, from 7:20/mi to 7:19/mi and now 7:17/mi. At this race sometime in the next three years I might break into 6:59/mi range. That would be awesome.

2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope Results

2011 NYRR Japan Day Run for Hope Results

Incidentally, I’ve noticed that this is best age-grade percentage that I’ve had in a race yet, which is encouraging. It means that at least if I’m not getting much faster, I’m not getting any slower and doing better than other people in my age bracket. And now, six more weeks of training until Grandma’s Marathon. I’m stoked!

Keep Running!

02
May
11

Race Report: 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

Winter starts early and ends late in Minnesota. Snow can remain on the ground from the beginning of October until the end of April. For those of you keeping score, that’s seven months out of the year. Thus, it’s natural that once Minnesotans get a taste of Spring they want to drink it up for all that it’s worth. This is the premise behind the Get In Gear 10k, 5k, 2k, and Half Marathon.

Apparently this event has been held for more than 30 years. Although I grew up in Minnesota, I didn’t start running until I had lived away from Minnesota for more than ten years, therefore I never had any knowledge of this “Rite of Spring” in Minneapolis. Three years ago Get In Gear added a half marathon to the existing 5k and 10k, and while it’s a good size event with about 1000 finishers, you still feel a little lost in a sea of 1800 5k runners and 3100 10k runners. What’s more, the 10k and Half Marathon start at the same time and share the same course for the first 4.8 or so miles. This gives you a bit of a big race feel even in a medium sized half marathon.

Looking at my training schedule for Grandma’s Marathon I saw that I was supposed to run 10M on Saturday and 20M on Sunday. I had a greet week of training before this and decided to do the half marathon and then run the seven miles home. I figured I could manage this because I wasn’t necessarily “racing” this race, rather I was running with my Grandma’s Marathon partner and attempting to keep our Marathon pace of around 9min/mi. Or, as she put it, we wanted to beat Mutai’s 2:03:02 Boston Marathon time for our half marathon.

What we didn’t anticipate when we signed up was that it was going to be about 50°F and a steady rain during the entire race. Thankfully the event had access to the shelter where we and thousands of other runners could cower while we waited for the race to start. About 10 minutes before the start we squeezed way to the starting line and ungraciously budded up to a point where we felt that most of the really casual runners would be behind us. The rain and wind picked up as someone sang a nearly inaudible rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. The horn went off and we started to run. The course started on a nice wide stretch so there wasn’t any of the silly run-walk-run-walk that comes with most over-enrolled races. About 400m we ran under a wide overpass and got a taste of music — either “Blue” by Eiffel 65, or “Fuck You” by Cee-Lo Green. Things were shaping up nicely…Unfortunately, because of the rain this was going to be the only music during the race. 13.1 miles with me muttering the lyrics to “Fuck You” the whole way. My running partner apparently had less profane tastes and had “Blue” stuck in her head.

As stated beforehand, our goal was to maintain a constant pace for the race. Somewhere right around 9min/mi. Yes, this is much slower than I can run in a half-marathon, but it would be good practice for Grandmas. Most mile markers had someone shouting off the time, unfortunately, often times you only heard the seconds which made it difficult to tell your exact time. Luckily clocks were provided at 4mi and 10mi. We estimated that we were running pretty close to our goal, despite the nasty rain.

A little after mile 4 the thousands of 10k runners veered back over the Ford Parkway bridge to the finish while we began our long out and back portion of the course. Despite being an out and back for the next eight miles, it was gorgeous scenery. Yeah, we lost nearly all of the fans except for a few die hard locals who lived on the street and drug their kids out at 10am in the rain to cheer on runners (mad props for that, that was AWESOME), but the bigger highlight was the river. The entire distance was running above the mighty Mississippi with the beautiful tree lined bluffs in Minneapolis on the opposite side of the river. It was quiet, but not rural race quiet. Just the right level of noise to keep you going.

The turnaround was around mile 9 and wasn’t the best. Because it was a true 13.1 course it went over a grass…err…mud median in the middle of the road. If I hadn’t already gone through dozens of puddles I might have been annoyed, but one of the great things about not racing and just running is that small things don’t bother you as much. The rest stops during this section of the course were great with folks handing out GU packets. I’m a little torn on this. During a half marathon I don’t need a GU packet and normally don’t need much water, so it’s nice that they were handing them out and I grabbed one, but didn’t open it, the first time we passed the aid station. The second time we passed the aid station they were helpfully opening the GU packs, which is great for runners, but bad if you just want to hoard the packs.

Around mile 11 my running partner managed to find some extra legs inside of her and push us forward as we climbed the last set of hills toward the Ford Parkway bridge and back across the Mississippi to Minnehaha Falls Park. At mile 12 we really kicked it into gear as the wind and rain kicked up on the bridge. We managed to cross the line at 1:55:43.

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Results
Distance Time Pace Overall Place Division Place Sex Place People Passed Passed By
13.1 Miles 1:55:43 8:50/mi 397/1030 87/141 280/494 29 4
10 miles 1:29:25 8:56/mi 438/1037 97/142 303/499 25 60
4 miles 35:41 8:55/mi

438/1036 93/142 296/495 299 100

A couple of words on the results: first, they look a little rubbish because WordPress.com enjoys stripping out all my CSS. Arghhh! Second: I’m not certain what is up with the numbers when it comes to people passed and passed by. According to the results between mile 4 and mile 10 I should have fallen 35 places back, but my overall place remained the same. I’m not certain what to make about this. It’s helpful that MTEC provides this information, but the numbers just don’t add up. And now, back to chatter about our pace.

For most of the race we had a conversation going, so I had no idea about how our splits were recorded in RunKeeper. I feel happy that I’m finally getting to the point where I know what a 9min/mi pace feels like. While these cant be considered to be exact, they show that almost all of our miles were under 9min/mi and that we certainly got some kick for the last part of the race. It looked even better when I looked at the pace/elevation graph.

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Splits

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Splits

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Pace and Elevation

2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon Pace and Elevation -- That Flat Line is Nice!

Post race there was an enormous amount of food and beverage, including lots of chocolate milk, thanks to a new sponsor DynaMoo, a purveyor of chocolate milk that is pastuerized in a special way such that it doesn’t require refrigeration. My running partner was so high on endorphins after the race that I’m pretty sure we’ll appear in some propaganda for them. The food tent was quite a distance away from the finish line, and it was now raining very hard and I felt very cold. I don’t think I would have found it if we didn’t run into some 5kers who told us about it and all the goodies (Clif Bars, Salted Nut Rolls, Bagel Bites, Bananas, Yogurt, Popsicles, Yum!).

At this point I decided that even though I was supposed to go 20 in the rain it wasn’t going to happen. I hopped back on the shuttle bus and got a ride back with my running partner and took a nice long hot shower.

This was a GREAT event. It was extremely well managed and despite the miserable weather the people, both runners and volunteers, did a great job. I was impressed with the knowledge of the runners about how to run a race course — of course that might be one of the differences between doing a 5k and a half marathon. No silly walkers at the front of the line, no groups eight abreast running. Race staff provided clear instructions and excellent support. It really was a top notch event for what is still early spring in Minnesota.

My Bib and Medal from the 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

My Bib and Medal from the 2011 Get In Gear Half Marathon

Keep running!




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Marathon Times

2011 NYC Marathon3:57:45
2011 Hartford Marathon3:58:17
2011 Chicago Marathon4:20:16
2011 Grandma's Marathon4:07:43
2010 Big Sur International Marathon4:22:49
2009 NYC Marathon4:37:05
2009 Twin Cities Marathon4:43:28
2009 Pittsburgh Marathon4:14:38
2008 Erie Marathon5:11:40

Upcoming Races

  • Nov 6 - New York City Marathon, New York, NY
For previous races, check out my Race Log