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Training Log Archive: Jon X

In the 7 days ending Nov 1, 2009:

activity # timemileskm+mload
  Running3 4:23:08 36.8(7:09) 59.22(4:27) 4502148.1
  Circuits1 30:0060.0
  Pilates1 30:0060.0
  Total4 5:23:08 36.8 59.22 4502268.1

» now

Sunday Nov 1, 2009 #

Running race 3:02:36 [5] 42.19 km (4:20 / km) +450m 4:07 / km
shoes: Brooks Ghost

The Big Day, the New York Marathon 2009.

An amazing experience and a very tough one too! 1198th (of approx 43000).


Due to be up at 4.15am to get the subway to the ferry to the bus to the start. The clocks in the US due to go back an hour overnight. So the night before was comedy in our apartment as we tried to work out which gadgets would pick up this change automatically and which would not. In the end it was like the beginning of Four Weddings and A Funeral as five alarms went off in fairly quick succession!

On the streets and the subway there was an interesting juxtaposition of two distinct sets of people, marathoners clutching their clear clothing reclaim bags, and costumed revellers making their way home from Halloween festivities. All was like clockwork at the Staten Island Ferry, Rosco and I were on the 0530 ferry and in the first group off it. Yes really. Jon and Rosco. In the first group off the first ferry. Punctual as ever.

However that was not to last as the first five buses in the convoy took a wrong turn near Fort Wadsworth, we had to wait a while to turn round and join the back of the fleet!

However still there at 0630 so more than three hours before the start, and early enough to get space in the open-sided marquee for a bit of shelter from the wind and drizzle, huddled up in many layers plus foil blankets and bin liners. Others looked pretty chilly, one poor soul had tried to cover himself in leaves to keep a bit warmer, not really ideal prep I imagine! Managed a bit of a snooze in fact and so the wait didn't seem too long, and by 0830 they were encouraging wave 1 runners to drop off their kit and move into the corrals for the 0940 start. We took our time but were getting a bit twitchy about it and so were up there by just after 0900 - just as well as with minimal warning they closed the corrals at 0910, catching many wave 1 people out and forcing them to wait for wave 2 at 1000.

Lots of nervous waiting in the corrals and a slow move through to the base of the bridge - gradually shedding layers as it became apparent we were starting at the base rather than higher up as I had expected, so less exposed to the wind while waiting at the start. No real space for any warm up apart from a few static stretches, not ideal but at least I had expected it.

I was in the second corral back (of eight) so had decided to start at the back of it as I thought it would be full of sub three hour runners and I didn't want to get dragged into too fast a start. Some of them didn't look that quick but by the time I realised that I was already at the back! Finally the start ceremony began...I discarded the final layer.....0940 arrived....then they introduced the elite runners.......then they interviewed an elite runner......but finally the howitzer sounded, ol' blue eyes came onto the loudspeaker, and we started to move!

I was almost at the start line when the person two in front took off and dropped their jacket, it caught in my feet and I started to fall........but the one saving grace of the packed start was that we were so close together that I didn't have room to do so, and with both hands on the back of the person ahead I stumbled gracefully across the first timing mat and my race began....

The start is quite steeply up in the first mile, up to the high point of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, and by 30secs in I was still only at a jog, already panicking about the time being lost in the crush. I can only think that one fat lady in particular must have thought it was a half-marathon when she wrote down her predicted time......

Luckily it opened out a bit fairly quickly and I could get more into my running - I even remembered to look to my left to see the Manhattan skyline and to my right to see the Atlantic Ocean. Even so I was relieved when the 1 mile marker came up in 7:24, not too disastrous - my plan was to try and run my miles not faster than 6:45s and not slower than 6:51s but I always knew the first mile would be slow in the early crowds and as it includes 150ft of climb.

The second mile downhill off the bridge required a bit of self-control but I got it about right, used the slope to get some time back (6:19) without going too fast, and then we came into Brooklyn and the start of the crowds and bands and noise - a good time to enjoy it and look about a little bit whilst still early in the race and feeling comfortable.

Got into a good rhythm at the right speed through Brooklyn from miles 2 to 8 and was quite enjoying having space to run whilst still having lots of runners all around. There was a bit of a headwind but somehow despite all the people I never really managed to get any protection from it, could perhaps have tried a bit harder to do so. After about 4 miles after a slight rise there was a great view straight down the next 4 miles with a huge mass of people ahead. After keeping pace with Mr Incredible for a couple of miles I did however eventually decide a small gap would be good so that not all my race photos would show us running side by side! Little did I know that a few miles later I would be passed by Minnie Mouse.....

Took a gel at 10km and drinks at mile 4 and mile 7, although this was a bit frustrating as others seemed to need to slow significantly to take a cup and every time I took a drink I was losing about 10secs on the mile split. I had my name on my running vest and was getting some shout-outs from the crowd, at one point I turned round for one of these and it was SGB - thanks! As we turned off Fourth Avenue on to Lafayette around mile 8 then there was quite a long climb, pushed on a bit up there to try and keep the mile split close to where it needed to be.

Kept the pace pretty steady up towards halfway and still fairly comfortable, feeling I would like to be 30secs further up on schedule but also aware of the need to conserve energy where possible. Another gel at 20km and a drink at 13 miles, then the short climb up the Pulaski Bridge to the half-marathon marker just inside 3 hour pace (1:29:41).

Previous stats geeking meant I knew that last year 1600 people went through the half-marathon in 90mins and only 1000 of them broke 3 hours. Up to now I would have been worried if I had been passing lots of people but I knew that now that would start to change and I needed to be doing so if I was maintaining the correct pace.

And it wasn't long before the Queensboro Bridge came into sight. Really quite a long way above where the course was at that point - yikes. And it really was a long tough climb up to the high point, pretty much a mile uphill on the lower deck of the bridge with no crowd on that section. This was the first section where people were obviously starting to suffer, I kept it going well up here in rhythm with a couple of others, and passed a lot of people. I even found time to look to the left and see the Manhattan skyline again, pretty much the last time that I remember looking around at all. But it was still a climb and that meant more valuable seconds lost to 3 hour schedule......

But of course the climb means there is a descent off the bridge too, a sweeping descent that leads down to huge noisy crowds on First Avenue. Running through the lower tier of the bridge you really can hear the roar of the crowd from First Avenue before you get there. I knew I needed this descent and the next few miles to gain some seconds back before the tough final section. But instead coming off the bridge suddenly I got sharp stomach cramp and slowed down instead of speeding up, no idea why but I got it under control and it disappeared fairly quickly once the course levelled off - more seconds lost though.

The crowds on First Avenue were brilliant - lots of noise, lots of music, lots of encouragement to individual runners. Just what I needed to pick up the pace slightly but not too much, starting to feel it a bit more by now but still running strong and passing people. Grabbed a sip of drink at 17miles and got Gatorade not water by mistake, lucky I realised before I poured any onto my head!

Down to 18miles and the 'gel zone' - unsure about taking one after the stomach cramp but felt I needed it. Lost a few seconds when the person right in front for some reason couldn't grab a gel without stopping. Took the gel - vanilla flavour which I have never had - ate it and it was VILE. Seemingly no ill effects though and down past the 102nd Street junction at 30km - there is MC shouting me on, I am starting to have to dig in a bit already, hopefully I will still be running this strongly next time she sees me at 23miles!

On we go to the end of First Ave and across the Willis Avenue bridge into the Bronx. The bridge is only a slight incline but is nasty metal grilles with thin carpet spread over them - I can feel my hamstrings a bit by now as we head down to 20miles. Only 10km to go I tell myself. A sharp lefthand bend where a big black man with a microphone is cheerleading the crowd - he sees me coming - "Ladies and Gentlemen, here we have JOONNN, looking goooooddd". No slowing down here then!

Back out of the Bronx over Madison Avenue Bridge and onto Fifth Avenue. I tell myself this is the home stretch now, south back towards Central Park. It is definitely starting to hurt though and mile 21 was too slow - it doesn't matter that I took a drink during the mile, I don't get those seconds back and I don't have many to spare.

Down through mile 22, still under 7 min miles but fighting hard to stay on pace now. And ahead of me I can see the long climb up Fifth Avenue looking a little longer and a little hillier than I thought it was when I looked down it two days ago. In fact it is uphill for nearly a mile. Ouch. But I am not giving up on sub 3 hours just yet - this really hurts and I may have to do another one if I don't beat it today. I am swinging my arms through and trying to keep my cadence up, I may be suffering but I am still passing people up the climb. There at 23 miles are MC and SGB, no way am I running the extra 5 yards to the side of the road to take another gel from them though. Not sure it is encouraging that MC in her coat can keep up with me for nearly a block! But mile 23 is still under 7 mins, there is still a chance.....

From there it is interminable uphill, surely we must turn right into the park soon? At last we do and the course levels off. I know I need to pick up the pace and I try to although my hamstrings are so so tight now, I know that just up here is the 24 mile marker and then a descent, that descent is my last chance to get some seconds back. At 24 miles I know I am 20 or 30 seconds too slow and I try to accelerate into the descent. Again I get stomach cramp on the descent and just don't pick up speed at all. The cramp goes quickly but on the short climb that follows I am really struggling and people are starting to stream past me. The 40km and then 25 mile marker take forever to appear and I know I am not going to make it inside 3 hours but I am still giving it all I can - and the crowds are great, they can tell I am in pain (I imagine it is pretty obvious!) and it feels like every fourth or fifth person is encouraging me by name.

At last the bottom of the park appears and it is a gentle climb up to Columbus Circle but I have never struggled so much on a gentle climb in all my life. It seems to go on for ever but finally it levels off and the course swings right just after the '800m to go' sign, back in the park and up (yes up AGAIN) towards the finish. The last few yards are flat then downhill and the crowds in the bleachers here are probably amazing, however really all I can notice is that there is noise and that I can see the finish, that it is getting closer, and finally that I have crossed the line and that I can stop.

Really quite emotional once I finished, proud of myself and relieved too, the last two or three miles was so hard as my legs tightened up but I fought all the way, the moment I crossed the line I could hardly walk or even stand. Although looking around me I am hardly alone in that! On one level I am disappointed I didn't break three hours but even immediately I finish I feel I gave it the best I could on the day, paced it well but the course is tough, maybe tougher than I thought beforehand. I need to remember just how much I dug in for those days in the future when I start to think about the 3 hour barrier and to wonder whether I really did get everything out of myself in the final three miles....right now I know I did.

It is a long long walk in the sea of foil blankets afterwards, twenty blocks up the park to the final few baggage trucks. I can only manage a stride length of a few inches but eventually I get there. Ross and Paul are there at their truck, one is looking a little more chipper than the other but they have both found it an amazing experience too.

Out of the park to meet MC and SGB and Helen Gardner - they take us to a restaurant (still with our blankets on) and give us a cold beer. The best cold beer I have ever tasted. Ever.


Stat Attack

5k splits

10k splits therefore are

mile splits
7:27 up Verrazano
6:19 down it
6:53 drink
6:56 drink
6:52 uphill
7:01 drink
6:50 drink
(half marathon 89:41)
7:01 up Queensboro Bridge
6:54 down it, stomach cramp
6:51 drink
7:06 drink
7:25 up Fifth Avenue

Saturday Oct 31, 2009 #

(rest day)

feet up day today.

Friday Oct 30, 2009 #

Running 33:45 [3] 4.29 mi (7:52 / mi)
ahr:121 max:141 shoes: Brooks Adrenaline Aug 2009

Feeling much better after 11 hours sleep and quite excited about the race after a tour round the race expo......and a little bit of spending there too of course...

Rosco and I headed out late afternoon for a jog round the last section of the course, met Paul Couldridge out doing the same (or rather, the same but faster!). Did a few sets of strides which felt easy although slight tightening on my dodgy quad on the fourth one so as a precaution didn't do any more.

All the national flags were out on the final stretch from 26miles to the finish and the Scotland flag is the first one - felt atmospheric and speeded up without even thinking about it, let's hope it works like that on Sunday!

Thursday Oct 29, 2009 #

(rest day)

We're here!

Apartment seems ideal and a great location just south of Central Park and near Times Square/Theater District.

Didn't run but a decent amount of exercise as on arrival we went for a walk up to Central Park where marathon setup is well underway with bleachers, mile markers, finish line, porta-potties (yes they really call them that) and so on all in place - plus a worryingly vast field hospital at the finish! Checked out the last couple of miles of the course too - quite 'undulating'!

And it is time to begin loading up on the carbs - a good start made this evening.....

Wednesday Oct 28, 2009 #

(rest day)

Far too much last day last minute stuff to do at work, stayed there far too late as it was. And then packing. Would have been quite sensible to fit in a little more sleep too.

The race seems very soon.....exciting!

Tuesday Oct 27, 2009 #

Running 46:47 [3] 6.29 mi (7:26 / mi)
ahr:135 shoes: Brooks Adrenaline Aug 2009

Lunchtime run out along the Carse road and back. Dark, a bit breezy, and raining so hard the road was flooding by the time I ran back. Lovely.

2 miles steady to warm up, 2 miles at marathon pace, 2 miles steady to warm down.

Ran the middle 2 miles at average 6:40 with average pulse 143 (first one with the wind and second one against), slightly quicker than intended but felt pretty comfortable throughout so all seems to be in order....


Quad still feels a little odd at times but - touch wood- seems to be okay. Not tempting fate by putting an end date against the injury on AP for a few days yet though!

Monday Oct 26, 2009 #

Pilates 30:00 [2]


Circuits 30:00 [2]
shoes: Brooks Adrenaline Aug 2009


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