There’s something immensely satisfying about a “last long run”. In reality there’s no real last to it at all, of course – next weekend will bring a much longer long run but for all the weeks of preparation culminate with the penultimate effort the weekend before a race. I started the 18 week training cycle for this race on Halloween of last year, the day after I couldn’t quite PR in Cape Cod, my last marathon of 2011. It might seems like an arbitrary distinction, to roll from racing on day X to training on X+1, and to some degree it is. But these are the mental tricks that have to be played to maintain motivation, to provide a structure on which to build progress. It takes 18 weeks to get ready – and today I’m done with all but the last of those, in the process having run some 662 miles.
Today’s last run was 16 miles, and though not a PR for that distance (Boston Prep 2012 was that) today was my fastest non-race time on my regular 16 mile route. This despite some pretty gnarly winds. It leaves me feeling quite optimistic about next Sunday. My stated goal is to break 4:00 hours but a part of me I don’t know whether to trust or not thinks that might be too conservative.
A not-so-brief recap of the New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Roll, my first marathon of 2012.
Start: The start line could literally not have been closer to my hotel. This is a really fantastic arrangement for me, no need to wait in the port-a-potty lines for the overly hydrated.
Mile 1: Friggin cold out here, many people are running in long sleeves but I have none. The start is slow due to the crowd – I’m much closer to the front than I was in St. Louis but I want to be further up in my next Rock ‘N’ Roll race. There’s no mile 1 marker though so not sure how behind pace I am. I really want a Garmin.
Miles 2-3: After looping around a bit we’re running west along St. Charles St. They’ve stopped the street cars for the race so I follow other’s lead and hop up on the trolley right-of-way to run a dirt path along the tracks. The advantage here is softer ground and more room to maneuver but I miss a water table this way. The trees on this road are freaking huge and beautiful.
Mile 4-5: We turn back to overlap ourselves & run east along St. Charles. I read an article saying the organizers had rejiggered the course to increase the amount of there & backs to cut down on the number of cops needed to block intersections. Typically this kind of thing is irritating but this is such a gorgeous road full of massive oaks so I don’t really mind. One interesting difference – the trees on the south side of the road we are on now are draped in beads. Are these permanent or leftovers from the recent Mardi Gras parade? Unclear.
Mile 9: Running through this dude’s legs, and into the French Quarter. Some drinkers on the fringes here – not sure if they’re up early for a morning beverage or still up from last night. I heard bars here close at six am but it’s almost 8:30 now, kind of a no-man’s-land for any non-gatorade drinker.
Mile 11-12: Straight shot up Esplanade to the park. This road is fairly torn up, footing is tricky but fortunately no twisted ankles. The half-marathoners split off around, including the cute girl I had been pacing myself on. Most of the (many) folks running in tutus exit here.
Mile 13.1: My watch time at the half is 1:54:45. This is 42 seconds behind my time at last year’s BAA half, but I’ve got another half to go. Feeling solid. My mental plan from the beginning was to not be stressed by anything before mile 16, then worry about the last ten when the time came.
Mile 15: Long boring stretch up the west side of City Park. My eyes keep wandering off to the right looking for gators in the waterway but sadly there are none. To the left is a levy of some sort blocking the view west – afterward I learn the Orleans Canal is hidden behind there.
Mile 16: There have been opportunities for free beer in several places along the course but here some people have trays of martinis, olives & all. I pass on the drink but am starting to feel fatigued. This is my first mile with a split above 9:00 – at 9:06 I’m still under my goal of 9:09 (for a 4 hour finish), but just barely.
Mile 17: There’s a table handing out Gu – I’ve been carrying some but had forgotten to take my second and this gives a much needed boost. The high school guys handing them out are excited and dynamic – “look at your face, you definitely need one of these”. You have no idea how right you are dude. Some girl screams “you’re sexy and you know it” in my general direction – this makes my day.
Mile 18-19: Running along the lakeshore. Lake Pontchartrain is HUGE. Once we turn east the wind is more at our backs, thankfully. This part of the course reminds me of my 20 mile training run in Chicago prior to Baltimore last year.
Mile 20: Horrible mile for me, 9:39 split, slowest of the race. Ready for the last turn at the University of New Orleans. I see no interesting buildings or landmarks here, just a police cruiser blocking the road telling us to head back the other way.
Mile 21: There’s no much in the way of hills in the whole course (the elevation map is here), but this mile marker is at a relative high point, at the top of a bridge over the Bayou St John. Despite the hill, my split at mile 21 is back down to 8:57. I’m definitely going to make my 4:00 goal.
Mile 23: The doldrums of the long miles home. I can’t even be bothered to look for gators on the way back south. My splits around here are fluctuating from 8:50 to 9:10, I’m trying and failing to do any math but keep trying and failing anyway. Since the course is doubled back here I’m watching the slower runners coming north – with the last ones I see I estimate I’m 10 full miles ahead of them. I cannot express how glad I am that I don’t have 10 miles yet to go.
Mile 25: I ditch my headphones. Crowds starting to build as we cut into the park, lots of finished people cheering us on.
Finish: Brilliant. I actually really like this last mile, winding around in the park. I still have enough gas in the tank to push past a few people, watch time 3:54:57, a PR for me (!!) and nearly 15 minutes ahead of my previous best. Asthma kicks in as I cross the line but the medical tent doesn’t have any albuterol – this is becoming a recurrent problem for me at the end of marathons. I stumble off to find my breath, some liquids & listen to blues on the grass with my new friends.
2 Responses to “New Orleans Rock ‘N’ Roll Marathon”
Not much good to say. It hasn’t been terribly positive week, I haven’t been feeling healthy or strong, and as of yesterday morning I was pretty well convinced I was going to have to drop out of my race in New Orleans, two weeks from today. It’s also the first time year I haven’t hit 40 miles for the week. Also, I’ve stopped posting POTDs, something that has almost always given me joy.
But, tomorrow is a day off, a good thing. And some tomorrows are better than today.
Edit to add: I’ve realized from looking back this week marked 20 weeks in a row with a half-marathon length long run. A positive to build off of.
Three weeks from today I’ll be running my race down in New Orleans. I think we’re finally close enough to check in with the weather – the 10 day forecast looks like lows in the mid-50s and highs around 70, with rain as the only possible problem. This past week I’ve run 48 miles, a high for the current cycle. From here I’m supposed to start tapering down somewhat but we’ll see, I’d like to keep it above 40 for numerical consistency’s sake. My three 20+ mile runs leading up to this race had splits of 8:57, 8:39 & 8:43, so I’m thinking it’s not unrealistic to think I might bring this race in under 4 hours (a 9:00 split would be ~3:56). Breaking that barrier would be a nice validation of this winter’s work.
The highlight of the day was supposed to be the Patriot’s winning the Superbowl, but in the end, it was not to be. In retrospect, the highlight was today’s Super Sunday 5 in Kendall Square. This was my first race with a sub-7:00 split, a vast improvement from my last 5 miler in 2007. Bitter cold and tons of fun, I’d definitely like to run this guy again.
Training-wise, this marks the end of 14 of 18 weeks of prep for New Orleans. Less than a month to go.
Today marks the end of week 12 of 18 for training for New Orleans Marathon training, as well as week 1 of 18 for Green Bay (woo! for overlapping). This morning was also the Boston Prep 16 Miler in Derry, NH. I was (and I guess, am, or am trying to be) happy with my times today – despite a (“moderately challenging“) hilly course the first 13.1 was the fastest gun time (1:48:31) I’ve run in a half-marathon since… 2004? And my total 16 mile time was a PR (I have a local 16 mile route I run and my time today was ~2 minutes faster than my best there). Honestly the only thing that is bothering me is that I placed 47/50 in my age/sex division (M30-39) – this is disheartening. I know I really should be assessing myself against myself but it’s hard to look at the rest of the times and realize how slow I am in comparison with a competitive, motivated field.
But the Patriots won & are heading to the Super Bowl again so who am I to complain. All in all, all is well.
Song of the day is from Florence & the Machine – this came up randomly and kicked me across the last half mile.
One Response to “Run fast for your mother run fast for your father, run for your children for your sisters and brothers”
I’m not sure why daily mile thinks there were 53 weeks last year but no first week this year, but regardless. Today marks the end of week 10 of 18 in New Orlean’s Rock & Roll Marathon preparation. I bumped yesterday’s long run to 19 miles and have been feeling some effects from that since, but it’s a necessary evil as 3 of the next 5 weeks are scheduled 20′s. This weekend has been one of the warmest January weekends in Boston’s history – I was overdressed yesterday and quite comfortable running in shorts & no gloves today.
So – New Orleans. I’ve bit the bullet, booked my flight and hotel and now just need to find some sort of Sunday night tourist-type plan beyond the race to help justify the trip. It needs to fit into the realm of activities possible after running 4 hours (ie, nothing walking or standing) and in a best case scenario would involve a single impressive alligator or multiple smaller alligators. Ideas?
If you follow my little section of the photoblog you may have seen the sad news that my big camera has (…maybe) bit it, not with another loud flashy bang across the pavement it deserved, but a sad & sucky ambiguous error message indicating Something, Somewhere has gone wrong. Honestly – I’ve been using SLR less and less on a day to day basis since I got my new phone, but it gives me considerable anxiety to consider not fixing or replacing it. So I’m not gonna do that. I want to have a real camera, whether I still carry it every day or not. I do though think it’s prudent to stall a couple months til I’ve squirreled away a little cash (and until the new T4i comes out).
Today ends training week #7 of 18 for New Orleans Marathon. The past few days have been the toughest temperature of the season but I am still frostbite free.
3 Responses to “Err 99 sucks and makes me want to cry.”
Today marks the end of week 6 of 18 for New Orleans Marathon training. I also noticed this week I’ve hit 10 consecutive weekends with half-marathon or longer length long runs, and 20 consecutive weekends with a 10+ mile run. That’s decent. I’m hopeful I’ll be able to continue that streak through the holidays until the Boston Prep 16 Miler I’m doing with VK in late January. It’s not too late for others (you?) to come smash some snowbanks with us.
ps. Anyone for a college bowl pool? I’m guessing on most all of these like you probably will be too.
Dishearteningly, the guys on the BCS selection show reminded us that K-State hasn’t won a bowl game since 2002. Our Cotton Bowl opponent Arkansas lost two games this year, to #1 LSU and #2 Alabama. I’m not sure how I feel about all this, but honestly I’m not terribly confident about how this is gonna turn out.
Today ends week 5 of 18 in my training cycle for the New Orleans Marathon. I’ve had a pretty good week, both mileage and pace-wise, taking advantage of our extended moderate temps. As long as the snow stays away, I’m optimistic about the possibilities for this March.
Oh also, today was our annual joint birthday party for my sister & her daughter. It was pretty much exactly like this with slightly older nieces pieces. Isaboo went with me to the mall to help me find gifts for everyone, for which I am extremely thankful.