Aug 28, 2010

Self-Transcendence Marathon: 5:35:40 (PR)

Photo by Carl Cox
Going into this past Tuesday's Self-Transcendence Marathon, I didn't have high hopes for breaking six hours. My training has been really lacking for a couple of months due to loss-of-motivation over the unexplained decrease in performance that has started in March and has gradually gotten worse with very little to show for it. Add to that the fact that I've literally not done a long run since May, and I knew I was screwed.

Also doing this race were my friends and coworkers Cathy and Scott. It was to be their first marathon.

Tony wisely advised that I go out and do a cycle of 8 minutes running and 2 minutes walking from the very start of the race, and I took that advice. I am familiar with that strategy and know it produces results, but have never tried it because I simply prefer to run. However, I knew that I had to do something in this race or else I'll struggle through the second half of the race in an epic suffer-fest that I normally don't experience until after 40 miles as opposed to 14.

As it happened, I was able to keep up the run/walk cycle all the way until half-way through lap 7 (out of 9), averaging between 11:30 and 13:00 per mile for the first 22 miles or so. At about mile 22, I simply didn't start running again when I was supposed to, and walked the next 1.5 miles. Just before the start of my last lap, Cathy was finishing hers and I ran with her and watched her finish. I then resumed walking for about a mile, and then put on some music and ran most of the last two miles.

By the halfway point it was apparent that if I didn't crash too hard (which was a big if), I was destined to PR (Previous PR was 5:43:59) and was actually on pace to break 5:30, perhaps even 5:25. This was either really good news or really bad news - it could have meant that I went out too fast and might pay for it later. As it happened, we split the difference - I didn't break 5:30 (mostly because of walking that eighth lap), but also picked up a new PR with over 8 minutes to spare.

I've gotta wonder - what kind of time would I have produced in a marathon if I tried running 8/2s back when 10 minutes per mile felt like 12 minutes per mile does now?

Steve is taking a break from writing regular updates to this blog.

Aug 22, 2010

Race Preview - Self Transcendence Marathon

On Tuesday morning I will once again run the Self-Transcendence Marathon.

It will be my third time running this particular race, and my 22nd marathon or ultramarathon finish. This is the only marathon held in the county that I live in, and not produced by the local running club, but rather an eastern religious organization based in Queens. It's so logistically easy that I can't help but run it. In fact, like both of the previous two times I've run it, I intend this year to go to work in the afternoon after running the marathon in the morning.

The course, which is all asphalt and completely flat, consists of nine laps around Rockland Lake. People sometimes comment that it sounds unimaginably boring, but I never thought so. Over the years, I've probably run around Rockland Lake several hundred times, and I still enjoy going for runs there. For some reason, like a big bowl of macaroni with garlic and butter, I just find running the 2.96 mile course very comfortable. And a lot healthier.

My first time going around Rockland Lake, in 2005, with 1-year-old joey in the backpack.

Anyway, my marathon PR (5:43:59) was set at this race last year. I'm kind of out of shape, so I don't expect to get another PR this year, but who knows. I plan to do 8 minutes running/2 minutes walking routine for as long as I can maintain it. I've never taken a run/walk strategy in a race, so perhaps it'll work well, and I'll surprise myself and do better than my conditioning would normally allow.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention one of the most exciting aspects of Tuesday's race - my friend Cathy is running it, too - it's her first marathon! And she's going to smoke me.. (:

Steve is taking a break from regular updates to this blog

Aug 10, 2010

Yes, something like that..

When I complain about the problems I've had lately, I imagine my ultrarunning friends thinking,

Greets to the daily what (pardon my french, by the way)

and in retrospect, if they were really thinking that, they were right.

I still can't explain the problems I was having, but despair and loss of motivation were not the answer.

Reminds me of a quote I pulled off the ultra list:

Q: How do you prepare for a 100-miler? A: Be the toughest person you can be. If you've had the worlds shittiest day and its now 100 degrees out and everything sucks...go for a 20 miler and show the world who's boss. - Mike

New entries for Steve's blog are published on Mondays and Thursdays at 10:00am NY time

Aug 6, 2010

Taking our Chances with Failure

I stole this from Kim's blog today.

"Ultrarunners tend to play it safe.
They line up 'challenges' they know they can finish.
And run them carefully
Well within their 'limits'.
We believe that success is never failing.
At the Barkley success is about over-reaching our abilities,
and living to tell about it.
Sometimes success is getting your ass out alive.
Some people 'get' the Barkley. Some don't.
But the Barkley is all about leaving the comfort zone.
The Barkley is about taking our chances with failure.
True success is not the absence of failure,
It is the refusal to surrender."
-From Laz, Race Director of the Barkley

The decision has been made - it's time to stop second-guessing myself and put in five solid months of hard work.

Steve is taking a break from writing regularly scheduled updates to this blog.

Aug 3, 2010

ATY72 vs JJ100

ATY buckles in 100, 200, and 300 mile denominations

On July 28th, last Wednesday, I received an email from the race directors of the Across the Years race in Arizona. My name was picked off the waiting list and I have been invited to compete in the 72-hour event there. This normally would be great news, but it meant making a tough decision. A really tough decision. I replied and asked for a couple of days to think about it.

The decision is this: for reasons that I won't go into here, I cannot run both the Javelina Jundred 100-miler (which is in late October) and ATY. Thus, registering for ATY would mean withdrawing from JJ100. I've been racking my brain for the last week, and got advice from numerous friends (thanks!)

I don't want to be dramatic about this - but the reality is that this is occupying my thoughts constantly. So.. finally, last night I decided to write everything down and see where the races stand.

Appropriate for experience levelTony: "Finish a 100-miler first. Then move up to the 48/72 level. Don’t skip a step and go from insanely difficult to super-extremely insanely difficult. :) Really, knock out your first 100. You can do it. You haven’t been able to do it despite all of you hard efforts. You have the time to get ready for it now. Go for it."JJ100 *2
Time to prepareLess than 3 monthsLess than 5 monthsATY72
Desire to do it"That sounds like a cool race.""This is a life-lister for me."ATY72
Cost$200$480 ($380+50% non-refundable portion of JJ100 registration)JJ100
Friends who'll be thereTony, Eric, Jamie, Dave, Sarah, Jenn, Lane, othersRayK, Illiana, other acquaintancesJJ100
Family FriendlinessFamily sees me once every 15 miles, has to wait around and be careful not to miss me.Family sees me once every 10-15 minutes. Always knows where I am to within a mile.ATY72
Vacation Time FactorHalloween; running out of vacation/choice time in 2010. This has been on my mind since April when I made the mistake of using 2 weeks up on a single trip.New Years - I get new vacation time in 2011, which means I'm not cutting it close.ATY72
Time running with othersIt's lonely in the back of the packShort-loops, lots of people around constantlyATY72
CourseDesert trails, 15 mile loopsThe same 0.8 mile loop for 72 hoursJJ100
Trip add-on potentialSkiing in Utah or Colorado? Desert in the winter? Christmas at my Parent's place in CA?Got to hurry back to workATY72
Mental Game DynamicJust keep going, stay ahead of cutoffsJust keep going. ATY72
Ease of getting in next yearSells out.. 6 months after opening.Small Field and high demand = Lottery. Wait list. Vague probably-incorrect rumors of final year?ATY72
Airfare$350 per person$450 per personJJ100
Options for 2011Finishing JJ100 would Qualify me to enter Western States Lottery, plus give me the confidence to Enter Leadville (both life-listers)I'd get some confidence from a good performance at ATY, but no qualificationJJ100
PreferenceAll things being equal, I'd rather do ATY72ATY72
State of mindThinking about ATY has motivated me to start training again.ATY72
HandicapSince my preference is ATY, I'll try to compensate for unintentional influence. Here's a point to JJ100JJ100

One thing I noticed myself thinking when writing this up was excitement when ATY would have an advantage, and corresponding disappointment for JJ100. I did my best to not let that influence the result, but I realize that it's impossible to be impartial. For that reason I added the last row (handicap).

JJ100: 8
ATY72: 10

I am going to give myself one more day to think, but unless someone or something changes my mind, I'll be registering for ATY72 and withdrawing from JJ100 tomorrow.

Steve is taking a break from regularly scheduled updates to this blog.