My favorite Half marathon

index
As a young lad (4 years ago), I decided to become a runner. My first race was the Brooklyn Half marathon 2011 in which I struggled to finish in 2 hours and 4 minutes. Non-existent calf muscles, kung-fu pants, and cheap bandana to a race? Yep, I had a lot to learn.

https://jcpathtomarathon.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/83161-597-003f.jpg
That was the start of a new lifestyle for me. Although I swore to never run such a distance again, that distance has become the norm every weekend for 2 years now.

In regards to the Brooklyn Half, I’ve never missed an opportunity to revisit my first race course, my favorite race. In the following year, 2012, I finally ran the Brooklyn Half marathon under 2 hours (1:56). Since the end of 2012, I trained hard so that I could run it under 1:50. At the Brooklyn Half 2013, I was a minute too slow (1:51). This 1:50 barrier remained ever since. No matter how hard I pushed on any training run, the total time was always greater than 1:50.

IMG_198622460382461

Throughout 2014, I barely trained to be honest. It was mostly due to a brutal winter and the shift to a different goal (Mt Rainier). At the NYC Half marathon in March 2014, after running 2 full marathons a few months prior (NYC 2013 and Disney 2014), I made another attempt to officially break the barrier. My performance wasn’t any better, but not worse; 1:51 again. Sometimes you have to accept things. Just like there is a terminal velocity for how fast something can fall, I have reached my terminal velocity for a Half marathon. For the past 2 months I’ve been running only twice a week (one 10K and one Half). I’ve been more focused on weight training (upper body), my “Crazy Abs” workouts, and my “Empire State” stairmaster workouts (100 flights with 30-40 lbs). The Brooklyn Half 2014 was right around the corner and I already had my expectations; another 1:50+ race. So I raced the Brooklyn Half like, whatever man. My finish time, 1:45:45. What?!

OFF TO THE RACES:
Brooklyn Half @ Brooklyn, NYC
May 17th, 2014. 7:00AM and 58 degrees. 25,587 finishers.
Results: 8:05 pace, 4924th place, ~81% percentile, (B-)

bkhalf_elevation I don’t recall much from the first 6 miles, but the weather was great. Once you pass the mile 7 marker, you exit Prospect Park and enter Ocean parkway; 6 car lanes wide and no uphill. Its one of my favorite moments.

BK2014_SightsofBK07

The miles just went by. At mile 12, I starting thinking that there was a chance at breaking the barrier this time. With Coney Island in sight, slowing down was out of the question. I thought “perhaps I can beat my time by a whole minute or 2”.

BK2014_SightsofBK11 BK2014_SightsofBK15

Crap, just passed the finish line and my GPS lost its signal. I still don’t know my finish time. How was I to pose in the finish line photos, victorious or failure? Both?

BKhalf2014_1

I later found out that my finish time was 5 minutes faster than ever before for a Half marathon. Victory! Finally, a finish time that I’m proud of. Could I reach 1:40 someday? BK Half 2015? Maybe, but first, a full marathon under 4 hours please! In conclusion, the weight training, Crazy Abs, and Empire State stairmaster made the difference this time. I wonder how much of a difference it can make in a full marathon. At the finish line party, it was good to meet up with several runners who I haven’t seen since 2013. Also, I finally met Dominick; a fellow jogger blogger http://1etc.wordpress.com who killed it with a 1:35. He may have convinced me to try out a west coast race next year.

Random Thoughts

Although I’ve been focused with the Mt. Rainier training lately (2 months left), there is still time for trying new things. The new race last year was the Spartan race, and it was cool, but not for me. This year, it’s the Color Run. I couldn’t turn it down especially since it’s only a 5K away from my building. We’ll see how it turns out this weekend. After watching Godzilla and Neighbors, I would say, watch Neighbors and just Youtube the final Godzilla scene. Also, Bates Motel is a show that entered my list of approved shows worth watching.

 

No time for breaks

7f8cbfe6-ad74-11e3-b5e4-123139077938-medium

With 3 months left until the glorious Mt. Rainier summit attempt (yes attempt), there is simply “no time for breaks”. If I’m not running, I’m lifting things. If I’m not lifting things, I’m doing tornado kicks and swinging swords, staffs, and kwandos in the kungfu temple. If I’m not at the kungfu temple, I’m hiking trails upstate. If I’m not hiking upstate, I’m going up/down my 6 story apartment building with a 30lb+ backpack until I reach 80 flights. Rest days force themselves in my schedule as my body makes sure to remind me by shutting itself down every now and then. This is what I get for booking 2 marathons and a mountain summit within 3 months of each other.

IMG_195504041614725

There comes a point in ones training when the doubts infect the mind like a disease. As for marathon training, it may occur when you don’t see any progress in speed or mileage after a few weeks of consistent training. As if you’ll never become fit enough to reach your goal. I’m starting to have doubts about Mt. Rainier, but I still have to try. As a runner, a hill is a hill. They require some effort especially if the uphill lasts for a half mile or so, but you know that there is almost always a downhill right after. Also, the only extra weight required is the weight of your clothing. But what if there is no downhill? And what if 20%-25% of your body weight is added on your back? And what if the uphill is non-stop for hours, for 2-3 days straight? This is the monster I face.

Mt_Rainier_peaks

Approximately half of the people who attempt to summit Mt Rainier are turned back by fatigue (not in good enough shape), altitude sickness, or bad weather. Additionally, it can get quite dangerous toward the top and there have been some accidents. With so many obstacles, could this average city dweller summit this 14,411 ft giant? Although I don’t have control over the weather, I can at least be in good enough shape to not be turned back. This is where the training comes in…

_

Mt. Rainier Training Session 1:
Total elevation gain: 2,250 ft
Total backpack weight: 30 pounds
Total hike time: 3 hours and 30 minutes

After 7 guided hikes since September 2013, I became confident enough to be an independent hiker. The Hudson Highlands is one hour north of NYC via the Metro North rail. With 25 lbs in my backpack and 3 liters of water, I started my first solo journey at the Washburn trail head; a mile or so walk from the Cold Spring station. The goal was to summit Mt. Taurus (1,400 ft), descend back down and switch to the yellow trail. Descend further until the red trail intersection but remain on the yellow trail while ascending 450 ft to Breakneck Ridge (white) trail. Finally, descend back via the yellow trail and then exit via the blue trail to complete the loop. The additional 100 and 150 ft hills on the yellow trail resulted in a 2,250 elevation gain; half of the July’s end goal.

taurus

Although many hikers begin their Hudson Highlands journey via Breakneck Ridge, deaths occasionally occur due to its steepness. I just don’t have time for dying right now and ascending that type of steepness with a heavy backpack isn’t the training I need anyway. It took an hour to reach the Mt. Taurus summit and there were several viewpoints along the way.

20140506_132900 20140506_133915

20140506_135102 20140506_144116

I enjoyed the trek but my trapezius muscles have never felt worse (the backpack). The yellow trail was rather flat until the red trail intersection. By this point, the steepness had me using my hands to manuever around rocks; light scrambling. All of the marathon training didn’t make this easy since different muscle groups are required. My back and neck muscles were sore, followed by the upper glutes. I found myself alone surrounded by trees and rocks with nothing except my thoughts to keep me company.

20140506_145658 20140506_150222

Every 10-15 minutes or so, I just stood there catching my breath, chugging some water while thinking “What the hell are you doing out here Jon”, and “Will you be able to get out of here before dark or get out alive?” I was supposed to exit the way I came, but my water supply was almost empty and I was quite exhausted after 3 hours. Once I was on the blue trail and noticing that I had a little less than an hour to catch the train, I just started jogging. Don’t ask where this energy reserve came from. I managed to keep jogging until I reached the road and then kept going until the train station with a few walk breaks of course. Ha, the marathon training finally came in handy; I made it in time for the train (only one each hour). Not bad for my first real Rainier training session.

Meanwhile in Central Park…

OFF TO THE RACES:
Run As One 4 miler @ Central Park, NYC
April 27th, 2014. 8:30AM and 48 degrees. 8,029 finishers.
Results: 7:38 pace, 1493rd place, ~81% percentile, (B-)

IMG_296151296150186

Just when I thought my performance suffered over the winter, I whipped out a 4 mile race effort equivalent to my record last year. There is nothing much to report here, just another Central Park loop and perfect weather. It was the run home which I found to be much more interesting. I bumped into a wolf pack runner, Matt, who also raced the 4 miler with his buddy from the UK. It turns out that his buddy ran the Boston marathon under 3 hours, which was a week ago.

IMG_273244455666907

Since they were headed to Brooklyn and I was headed home to Queens, I had the opportunity to run with this athlete to the Queensboro bridge and across it. As the super runner admired the sights on the Queensboro bridge, I was breathing hard trying my best to stay alongside him. And then I made the request of requests… “Can you run at your usual marathon pace until we get to Queens? Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you”. The pace quickly changed from 8:00 to 7:30 to 7:00. He looked like he was jogging, but I was running hard. The pace went to 6:30. He still looks like he was jogging, and I’m running for my life. The pace went to 6:00. By that point, I was just chasing him as he widened the gap between us. Thanks to him, I discovered what it’s like to run at 6:30 pace and right after a 4 mile race, incredible. Once in LIC Queens, we said farewell, and I proceeded to run another 10K to my casa.

OFF TO THE RACES:
Japan Day 4 miler @ Central Park, NYC
May 11th, 2014. 8:00AM and 61 degrees. 5,707 finishers.
Results: 7:44 pace, 1007th place, ~82% percentile, (B-)

1508569_10152084754197409_2222231335387101931_n

Pretty much a repeat of the previous 4-mile race except for the fact that I wasn’t in the mood to race and I missed my chance to pee before the race started. 18 seconds slower under such conditions isn’t bad at all.

 Random Thoughts

I’m in Boston for 3 days next week (business trip) and looking forward to doing some morning running on some new routes (not looking forward to working in the office though). Most importantly, my favorite Half marathon is this Saturday; the Brooklyn Half! Now I’m off to watch the Sunday lineup: Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, and Veep.