Training never stops

I’ve gotten this far, can’t stop now. The 2013 goal is not to just run a marathon, but to run one in less than 4 hours. Based on the only experience that I’ve had at this distance, I’m 8 minutes too slow. The new focus will be on strength and speed training. The 9 min/mile pace has to dissappear for good, only 8s and 7s are acceptable now; the bar has been raised. Up until now, 7s have been quite rare so there is alot of work to do.

Speed, The Next Frontier
After the unofficial NYC marathon run on the eventful Sunday November 4, I intended to take a week off. But my legs were just fine after 72 hours of rest and they were somehow itching for a run again. Thursday came, and off I went on a short neighborhood run to test out the post-marathon legs. With speed on my mind, I ran at “huff-n-puff” pace. Back on my block after 31:23 minutes, I check my performance, OH MY GOD. 4.24 miles @ 7:24 pace! This was the fastest average pace for a 30 minute run in my running history, and then I checked the mile splits. I BROKE 7! Mile 3 was 6:56, that is out of this world; insane. Did I just run a mile in less than 7 minutes? It occured to me that I should start racing 5k and 10k races to put the speed to the test. I signed up for the Flushing Meadows 5K race (November 17).

November 12th was Veteran’s day, great day for a morning 13.1 mile run. Again, with speed on my mind, I attempt my fastest half marathon, and success. 1:52:01 @ 8:32 pace. 4 of those miles were 7 paced, YES. How long can I keep this up? 3 days later, I run for 6 miles but didn’t break 8 pace once, how dissapointing (I’ve spoiled myself, meh).

My First 5K Race Ever
Race day arrives, only 187 people on a 40 degree morning. As soon as the runners lined up … “On your mark, GO”! Whoa, is everybody sprinting? Am I sprinting too? I’m going all out, breathing hard, not thinking about pacing myself or how I’ll feel at mile 12, this is a freakin race. My heart started to beat hard, damn, I had to slow down a tad to avoid a heart attack. Half a dozen runners pass me at mile 2 but no more after that, grrr. It was all done in 23:23 @ 7:32 pace. Although I came in 37th place (top 20%), I knew deep down that this could be improved upon.

The Thanksgiving Long Run to Burn 2012 Calories
After another 5.87 mile session @ 8:21 pace, I made plans to burn 2012 calories on Thanksgiving day morning. 2000 calories is like 2/3 of a marathon journey by the way. I always thought runners were on crack for wearing shorts on 40 degree days, I thought it would be a good idea to try it out for once. My legs were freezing but fine after a half hour. Once again, the lone wolf went out on his journey through the various neighborhoods, bike lines, parks, and roads while avoiding cars, dogs, large branches, and kids who wander aimlessly in front of me. Although I didn’t break 8 pace once, I maintained 8:30-ish pace until mile 13. For some reason, my body always deteriorates by this point, it sucks. This is when the 9 and 10 paces start slipping out due to either a 30 minute walk break or a drastic slow down. Its the lack of glycogen most likely; more carbo loading and hydration is key or just more long run sessions. The results are in with exactly 2012 calories burned (according to my app): 17.86 miles in 2:39:44 @ 8:56 pace. The threshold pace for a 4 hour marathon is 9:09, and 8:56 is too damn close. Well, there is a whole year to work on this.

Now for a well deserved Thanksgiving Feast.

The substitute NYC Marathon

For the first time in my life, I decided to run the NYC marathon this year. And for the first time ever, it was canceled for obvious reasons. Many runners shared my tale, whether they were locals or traveled from far away. But unlike many, I have foreseen this event somewhat…

Dreams and Visions
I had 2 dreams prior to the cancellation. In the first one, I was in the front with the elites on the Verrazano bridge until a blizzard suddenly came. All of us had to jump off the bridge onto these zipline cords leading us to a small mountain. The runners then started to run in different directions. I didn’t know which way to go, ended up running miles in the wrong direction, and could not finish the race. The final thought was: I had to train again for next year’s marathon. The second dream was finding out that there was a sudden change to the course. That’s all I remembered but the final thought was: I’ve been cheated out of the race, it’s not the same. In a strange twisted way, this all happened in real life.

Friday (2 days before the marathon)
I returned from the expo with a bag full of goodies as if it was a trick-or-treat basket. As I was going through all of the stuff and admiring my race bib, the worst announcement appeared on TV… “The NYC marathon will be canceled”. I stared at the screen until it sunk in, then paced around my apartment a bit. I didn’t know what to feel. Hurricane Sandy didn’t flood my house but it did shatter my plans. All the training, fund-raising, and sacrifice throughout the year for this moment has been delayed for another year. The sadness quickly transformed into anger and rage. As I gazed outside the window thinking of how far I’ve come, there was only one thought in my mind… I’m running a marathon anyway!

I wasn’t alone, not at all. I quickly reached out to my fellow wolves who trained and traveled the journey with me. We gathered a wolf pack of 5 to run a 26.2 mile course which closely resembles the actual course as it covers 4 boroughs.

We all were to meet at Columbus circle (lower left corner of Central Park) at 8am. Many runners had the same idea; to do what we trained to do. It turns out that central park became the marathon course for the “Run Anyway Marathon“. But running circles in central park is not what the wolf pack had in mind.

26.2 mile long run with the Wolf Pack
Off we went, the fearless 5, without water/Gatorade stations or clear roads. The first few miles was the happiest for me. To know I wasn’t alone in this. We cheered at every runner who passed by because we all had something in common that day; the joy of running. Just like in my dream, it was as if we were the elites running an alternate course; it was awesome! I’m the wolf to the right in the below.

The wolf pack typically runs a bit faster than my comfortable pace but I figured that I’d keep up as long as possible. From Central Park, across Queens borough bridge to Queens, south across the Pulaski bridge to Brooklyn, west across the Williamsburg bridge to downtown Manhattan, North west to Riverside park, north to Harlem. 14 miles down in about 2 hours.

I started to break down during the following 4 miles (miles 15-18 on Riverside park), it was obvious that I couldn’t keep up the pace. Either way, I’ve never lasted this long with the wolf pack, which is an accomplishment in itself. 2/3 of the journey down, 1/3 to go.

So I become the lone wolf once again. I took one last GU and proceeded through Harlem to 1st Avenue, north to the Bronx, a U-turn back into Manhattan to fifth Avenue. Then slowly and painfully, made my way back to Central Park where glory awaits. Nothing, nothing, nothing could have prepared me for the last 6 miles; the final 10K; the darkest hour. My precious 8:30 – 9:00 pace became a sloppy 10:30 – 11:00 pace. Every mile required a walk break. Oh, the pain. I developed the “walking dead” zombie walk by mile 25. I kept checking my distance to see if I was there yet. Mile 26 was at almost walking speed, 3:21 pace. Unreal, this was it, 0.2 miles to run up a Central Park hill. Almost there, almost there…

I DID IT!!! This is me seconds after:

26.2 miles in 4 hours and 8 minutes and 3000 calories burned! Without cleared roads, water/Gatorade stations, or cheering crowds. My wife met up with me at the finish line to scoop me up from the ground. I thought this would be the post to end this blog, but the JC_Path_To_Marathon continues! There is an official NYC marathon to run, and it’s not over until I get the medal and photos to prove it. But now I’m sure that the distance is achievable. All runners get a 2013 NYC marathon freebie. I’m looking forward to another year of new training sessions with the wolf pack, new friends, races, travels and journeys. But first, its celebration time!

My lovely wife, best friend, and #1 fan.

The Wolf Pack; the coolest group to run with, thanks again guys!

To all who follow my blog or read this particular post, thank you for taking the time to read my story. This is just the beginning…

NYC marathon cancelled

Its true, for the first time ever. Too many people without power, many homes flooded and destroyed, not enough resources to have the 5 borough race, controversy, bad attitudes toward runners during the post-hurricane week for even considering a race while others suffer, etc. I intend to write a proper post in a few days. The race was cancelled 2 days before marathon day, I had just returned from the expo with my bib in hand. I agree that it should’ve been cancelled or even rescheduled to December or something. So I have another year, the JC-path-to-marathon continues…

This can’t stop many of us from running 26.2 miles tomorrow though, myself included!