Race report: 2014 New York City Marathon

Selfie with a subway advert for the 2014 New York City Marathon

Get Your Together On

It was not my fastest marathon I’ve run, but of the three I have now completed, I must say that this was the most satisfying in that I had a strong finish.

But let’s start at the beginning, in 2012, when I was originally scheduled to run this race. Of course that didn’t happen, and I chose to come back and run it this year. Throughout this training cycle, including two 10k races, I’ve felt I could have a chance to break my personal-best time, but I also wanted to have fun in this race and soak in the atmosphere, the joy, of running through New York. In my mind, they’re not mutually exclusive, but I’d go for the latter if the former becomes out of reach.

I tried not to stress myself out between landing in New York and the race, although getting into the expo to pick up my bib was a bit of an ordeal (the queue wrapped around several times on the streets surrounding the convention centre).

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Training update: on the road to NYC

I have just started week 3 out of 22 in my training for the NYC Marathon. I’m using the same 22-week schedule that led up to the Vancouver Marathon to train for NYC. I plan to run at least three days a week (tempo, speed or hills, and weekend long run), with extra days for easy runs or cross-training when I can fit them in. I want to see if it was the training or race-day actions that contributed to my massive bonk on the Vancouver course.

I’ve also booked my flight to New York, so it’s getting a bit more real; it’s a bargain, but I’m flying out of Sea-Tac. As much as I would love to fly out of Vancouver (YVR), and on a non-stop to boot, the lack of choices (only two non-stops) and high cost forced my hand to fly out of SEA. I still have to book accommodation, and that cost will make me more determined to find work in order to finance this trip.

How about you: are you training for a race this summer? Tell me about it!


Almost time for the marathon

2012 Vancouver Marathon promotional poster: "For those who find the bliss in blisters."

Less than 24 hours to go until the start of the Vancouver Marathon. I’m not nervous now, but I’ll probably feel it a bit more when I’m standing in the corral, waiting for the gun to go off.

The marathon is the culmination of almost six months of solid training. And that training is as much a milestone as finishing the race itself, so that mission is accomplished. It almost fulfills the “Redemption” theme I gave myself at the start of the year.

I’ll also be going into this marathon knowing I’ll be doing this all over again in six months. I somehow managed to be selected to run the New York City Marathon! I’ll detail my future plans with my next post, when I run down my experience at my hometown marathon. For now, to everyone who’ll be joining me at the starting line on Sunday, whether in the full or half marathon in Vancouver, or in the many other runs taking place around the world: have a great race!


Training update: soaked

Last year around this time, I ran 27 km during a training run, and I actually quite enjoyed it, despite the cold, windy conditions. This past weekend, it was also windy, but I certainly did not enjoy this long run that I completed in exactly three hours.

This was the third of three consecutive weeks in which I ran segments of the Vancouver Marathon course as a preview. It was actually OK for the first 20 minutes, but once I was on the Burrard Bridge, the rain started. And it never stopped the whole time I was out on the run. It’s been said that a run in the rain can do wonders, but this was not one of them. I thought the rain would be tolerable, but once I rounded the turn on the Stanley Park seawall around Prospect Point, I got buffeted by strong headwinds. Even when I exited the park and away from the water, the rain just continued.

There was a point around km 20 when the laces on one of my shoes became untied. My hands were so numb it took me several attempts to re-tie them. I don’t know how or why, but I kept going once that ordeal was done. I wanted to finish at least 26 km, but it wasn’t to be that day. I finally stopped my watch at the three-hour mark, 25.5 km, and a lot of soaked clothes.

What with this rain and the snow from a few weeks ago, I’m just hoping the running gods will take all this horrible weather into account and give Vancouver Marathon participants a decent day for a race.


22 weeks to a marathon

This week marks the start of 22 weeks of training toward the Vancouver Marathon. If my attempt to train for the same event last year was any indication, I’m expecting epic long runs in ugly weather conditions (like this long run in February 2011). But the weather is not what’s worrying me. I’m planning to DIY the long runs (as opposed to joining a clinic), and that means having to generate a schedule that would gradually increase my weekly long-run distances.

Screen-grab of my proposed distances for long runs as part of marathon training, represented numerically and with a chart.

Running + spreadsheet = awesome!

The essence of this plan is that from January onward, I take every fourth week as a rest week, resume the next week at the last longest mileage, and build from there until I end up with 35 km three weeks before the marathon. It generally follows the 10% rule after the mileage goes over 26 km. I figure that I’m comfortable enough with half marathoning that I can work my way quickly up to 21 km.

My training plan involves 3-4 running sessions per week; I want to incorporate some cross-training. And if that’s not enough, I’ve bought some minimalist shoes as a birthday present for myself; I want to give those shoes some mileage as well. My early race goal is for a finish time of under 4:20, which corresponds to ~6:10/km (9:56/mi).

Is the plan workable? Are there any other tips you can provide with regard to the long-run schedule?


Photo marathon? Yes it was.

My "bib" for the photo marathon

This past weekend, I participated in the 3rd annual Vancouver Photo Marathon. Its 12×12 logo means that participants receive a 12-exposure roll of film at the start. Each hour for the next 12 hours, a theme is revealed, and participants have to use a single shot from that roll that represents that theme. There’s no real time limit to complete a single shot, but the completed roll of film has to be handed in by the time the 12 hours have elapsed.

12 hours, 12 themes, 12 exposures

As a runner, the use of the word “marathon” in the event name seems fitting, and that was my mindset throughout the day. The mental aspect of finding an appropriate photo is compounded with the physical in terms of all the walking I did (14 kilometres is a reasonable estimate). There were “water stops” when I had to return to home base in the West End to retrieve the newest theme. Given all the walking I did, the need to stay hydrated and fed was essential (especially on such a warm day).

And like in an actual marathon, I encountered an equivalent to a “wall” in the late afternoon, when I fell a theme behind amid flagging energy. A quick dinner before the 11th theme was revealed gave me a boost; the disappearing sunlight gave me more reason to get one more decent shot. The last shot was a bit fortuitous in that I didn’t have to go far, and took it within 20 minutes of the theme being revealed. That could be compared to the final sprint at the end of a race.

I think that finish made it a great experience overall; there is a certain level of endurance required to complete this marathon, not to mention the ability to think on the fly when finding a photo for the theme. It certainly invigorated my interest in photography; I’m already looking at a local project that will soon be accepting submissions. For now, I’m just hoping the prints come out OK. All the participants’ photos will be displayed on September 25. That should be fun!

(Speaking of running, the time has come to start training for real. As I mentioned last week, I am aiming to run in the Fall Classic. I’ve given myself 15 weeks, which should be enough time.)


Training update: hurting enough to stop running (and cross-train instead)

As a follow up to my last two entries, I probably shouldn’t have done the back-to-back runs last weekend, even if they were done at a very easy pace. I could have rested up and done some cross-training instead. At least that’s what I did this week. Tuesday night was at the pool, Thursday was a test run, then on a gym bike, and today (Saturday) I effectively cycled my scheduled run mileage (32 km / 20 mi).

I hope to see my specialist soon, but self-diagnosis indicates my pain is due to an overworked Achilles tendon, possibly exacerbated by improper shoes. Even though I haven’t felt much pain during the runs of the last two weeks, that is never a green light to do anything excessive.

I feel I have to be proactive to avoid exacerbating the injury, but I fear I have lost valuable training time ahead of the Vancouver Marathon. There are five weeks left and I’ve already missed two long runs in row (of lengths 30 and 33 km / 18.6 and 20.5 mi). The schedule has one final run of 36 km (22.4 mi), to take place in two weeks. And I’ve read in Marathon and Half Marathon: The Beginner’s Guide (2006) that I should ease myself back to my scheduled training, but only when I’m effectively pain free in the affected area.

Is there enough time for recovery? With about a month left for training, should I focus instead on a future race? If I have to write off racing in May, I feel that it wouldn’t be so bad than if I were running out of town. I’d like to hear how you handled an injury during training, and if I should do anything else (besides what I’ve mentioned above) to put me at ease.


Training update: injury

It’s been said that as a runner, it’s a matter of when, not if, you get injured. I can count one instance where a nagging injury really curtailed my running: after finishing my first marathon in 2009, I suffered from weeks of knee pain. I recall not taking it well; I ended runs partway, and felt miserable and angry on the walk back to where I started. (I posted about it here.)

After a couple of weeks of this, I visited my chiropractor and focused on cross-training. Lo and behold, that worked: I ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon pain-free.

This brings me to what happened last week. My training clinic held a tempo time trial. At the time, I intended to hold back and average under 6:00/km. But the competitive urge kicked in, and I averaged under 5:30/km. Not only that, I ran a negative split, with the second half done in a headwind. The wind was so strong at the end that I was surprised I managed forward movement in the last 400 metres. At the time, it felt great, but the run came at a price. What was a niggling ankle problem moved up the leg and became a strained adductor muscle. Later this week, after some icing, and no running, it spread to the inside of the knee, then partially returned to the ankle.

Needless to say, with the aches on my leg, I was dreading the scheduled Saturday run earlier today. On the other hand, with the unexpected week off, I was also anticipating it. Even though I’m scheduled to go 30 km, I knew I wasn’t going to go that far. Even the 16 km scheduled for those training for a half marathon might be too much. In the end, I ran for almost 10.5 km (or 75 min) with no significant pain during the run. It’s a small victory for sure, but I’m not out of the woods yet. Another easy week, possibly with a trip to the pool, is in order. Hope it works, because the Vancouver Marathon is 6 weeks away…


Running different paths keeps me sane

Central Valley Greenway: New Westminster, Columbia Street

This weekend, I ran the Central Valley Greenway. (The portion in the picture above is in New Westminster, on Columbia Street, south of the Pattullo Bridge.) The full length of the greenway is around 24 km, paralleling most of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line and finishing at Science World. But since today’s run is scheduled to be 30 km, I had to add a bit extra on my run home.

The greenway is starting to become a favourite of mine for the varied scenery, from downtown New West, through Burnaby Lake Regional Park, and along a street (Grandview Highway North) that has been mostly reconfigured for the greenway. Just as importantly, I get to mix up the location of my long run.

The training clinic I’ve signed up for in preparation for the Vancouver Marathon is based at the west side of Vancouver, and the long runs have used some variation of the seaside paths, from Spanish Banks to Stanley Park. I’m not really complaining, considering it’s always a great location for a run, but I think that at some point, the monotony has set in. And for someone who lives in the east side, I feel like I’m neglecting my own neighbourhood for the long runs.

But there is a downside: as the long runs get longer, the time spent running gets longer as well. I normally run by myself anyway, but being part in a group makes for a much different experience. And as the runs approach four hours, the insanity factor kicks in; I certainly felt it at points during today’s almost-30 km run. Keeping that balance, therefore, is probably the reason I’m planning to restrict my off-the-beaten-track runs to one or two more before the marathon.

(Photo credit: flickr @ buzzerblog)


Training update: cold breezes can’t get me down

This past week has been quite cold, for Vancouver at least. The last few days in particular have mostly been below 0°C (32°F), and the air so dry that I’m sure I’ve accumulated enough static electricity to power a house.

My scheduled runs this week also did not escape the cold. On Monday, there was a brief flurry that left some sidewalks a slippery mess. I thought I could escape all that by going on a treadmill. But both of them were occupied. I thought I could wait it out, but after almost 20 minutes going very slowly on a bike, I figured I could have just gone outside from the get-go. And so I gave up, added more layers, and went outside.

Wednesday’s run was intended to go a little longer, and it served as a preview for the next run: cold, with a breeze that cut right through me. I only went an hour, but I thought that was the extent of my endurance of winter running.

And then came Saturday’s long run. By the time the training group gathered for the 8:00am start, a snowfall warning has been in place for Vancouver, although it wasn’t expected to start until around noon. If that held, we should have enough time to make it back without having to trudge through snow. Even though it snowed intermittently, it didn’t last long enough to stick. But it was an easterly wind, combined with temperatures below 0°C, that was the story for this run. For almost 20 km out of the 27 total today, we were faced with conditions that would make runners elsewhere in Canada think twice about running outside. The fact that I ran just under the prescribed long-run pace (6:50/km or 11:00/mi) was impressive enough for me. And would you believe it: the snow started to come down just before noon, right after I’d finished my de-stretching. The weather guys got it right for once!

I’ve run in colder temperatures (this past New Year’s Day for example, when it was below -5°C but sunny and little wind), but today’s run was an extreme by Vancouver weather standards. I can’t help but feel a touch of pride for attempting it, but of course I only felt it once my whole body thawed from the experience.