T-1 Week to the Brooklyn Half: Finally, a Decent Workout

About a month ago, I ran the Jersey City Marathon.

And just like that – five weeks is up, and I’ll be running the Brooklyn Half Marathon at the end of this week.

Going into this, I was a little hesitant. After previous marathons, I’ve taken a few weeks of recovery time before I started running harder, and I wouldn’t have considered running a goal race only five weeks removed from a marathon.

But sometimes, you need to take advantage of an opportunity – even if it’s not optimal.

Since NYRR changed the way time qualifiers work for the NYC Marathon, I wanted run an NYRR Half Marathon and have a shot at qualifying for NYC. I put in for the lottery for the United Half in March – which would have lined up well with my training for Jersey City – but I didn’t get in.

When I was accepted through the lottery for the Brooklyn Half, I figured I might as well give it a go. I know I’m capable of running a 1:25 half – the time qualifier for a 40 year old man – when I’m in peak condition. The real question is whether I’ll be sufficiently recovered from the marathon to perform that well this weekend.

Until this week, I wasn’t sure. But as this week draws to a close, I’m feeling a little hopeful.

The Plan for the Week

Race day is at the end of this week – Saturday.

So that leaves time for a solid long run to start the week and an abbreviated workout in the middle of the week. I haven’t built up a ton of miles to require a solid taper, but I will shorten my easy runs a bit to alleviate any potential fatigue.

The plan for the week ended up looking like this:

  • Sunday: 16 mile long run with a progression towards race pace
  • Monday: 8 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 6 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 6 miles, with 3 x 5 minutes at race pace (2 minute jogging recovery)
  • Thursday: 5 miles easy
  • Friday: 4 miles easy
  • Saturday: Race Day! 2 mile warm up and 13 mile race (15 miles, total)

And here’s how things went.

Sunday on the Virginia Rail Trail

This weekend, we were out of town to watch our daughter run at a track meet in Virginia. We were staying in Falls Chuch, and on Saturday I set out to explore and found the Washington and Old Dominion Rail Trail.

The trail was a little over two miles from our hotel, and it went for 10+ miles in either direction. Perfect for a long run.

So I woke up early-ish, drank my coffee, and hit the road. It had rained overnight, and it was a little overcast at first. But the weather cleared up, and it was warm and sunny by the end.

I started off by retracing my steps from the previous day – two miles through a couple of housing developments to get to the rail trail. I turned east and headed towards Alexandria.

The beginning was fairly uneventful and nondescript. I ran along the highway for a bit, and there was nothing special. Eventually, the trail passed through Benjamin Banneker Park in Arlington – a nice respite from the highway.

At one point, the rail trail ran into the Four Mile Run Park. It looked to be a bit more scenic – and offer some shade – so I jumped onto that trail for a bit. But the signage was confusing, and I lost the trail at one point. I managed to find my way back to the rail trail, so I continued on there.

Eventually, it ran along a stream and through a park. That provided some nice shade and some interesting scenery. It also ran by an old train car that was set up as a little museum. I’d love to come back and check that out some day.

I ran out eight miles and then turned around. Things felt good, and I was moving along at a good clip. I didn’t pay attention to the pace until the ten mile mark. I hit that mark in 1:24:20 – a good pace for an easy long run.

I took a gel at nine miles, and after the ten mile split I started to progress down towards a faster pace. I’d been running 8:00 to 8:30, and I started by opening up my stride and running just a little faster.

Mile 11: 7:44. Good. Moving in the right direction. Speed it up a little more.

Mile 12: 7:17. Getting there. Keep going.

Mile 13: 7:08. I was hoping to get under 7:00 here, but I didn’t quite make it.

Mile 14: 7:15. I tried to speed up – although I didn’t press things too hard – but it wasn’t happening.

For the final two miles, I eased up to a jog. No sense pushing too hard with a race coming up at the end of the week.

Total time: 2:10:59.

A little slower than last week, and in that respect it was a disappointment. I had again hoped to get down to race pace – ~6:30 – for at least a mile or two towards the end. I wasn’t even close.

In retrospect, the rail trail ran slightly downhill towards the east. That meant that after the turnaround, I was coming slightly uphill for six miles straight. So I’ll give myself a little grace here. But still, I should have been able to finish a little faster.

Monday’s Recovery at the Reservoir

Monday, I had eight easy miles on the schedule.

I woke up a little late, and I was rushing. So I stuck to the paved road of the Reservoir instead of the dirt trails of the Reservation.

I was a little stiff from the long run the previous day – and the long car ride back with atrocious traffic – but I eased into things and felt good by the end.

The first lap was slow, but the remainder of the run was under 9:00/mi – and the last few miles were down around 8:10-8:15. A good pace for an easy aerobic run – especially the day after a hard effort.

Tuesday: Back on the Trails

Tuesday, I hit up the trails for my easy six miles.

As usual, the first mile was a little slow. But once that was behind me, the pace picked up.

I hit the turn around point and retraced my steps towards home. Those last three miles were all under 9:00/mi – a good clip for a trail run.

It’s amazing how much the trails have changed in the past few weeks. With the foliage fully grown in, branches are starting to hang down over the trail and I need to duck more often.

That cover also works wonders for the weather. It was sunny in the morning, and it was bordering on warm outside. But the moment I set foot in the woods, it felt like the temperature dropped considerably. The sun and the heat were gone – although the humidity was still there – and things were much more comfortable.

Just one of the reasons I love trail running.

Wednesday: A Final, Short Workout

Thus far, I’ve had a great time with my easy, aerobic runs and a pretty disappointing time with my workouts. I just haven’t been able to get on pace and sustain things.

Today was my last chance to see if I could run at race pace. I planned to do a modified T workout – 3 x 5 minutes at 6:30/mi with 2 minute jogging recoveries. Usually, this workout would be longer (6-8 reps) and have shorter recoveries (1 minute walking).

But my goal today was really just to test out my legs and see if I could run the pace comfortably – without tiring myself out.

The weather was a little warm (low 60’s) and there was a light mist falling on the Reservoir. The weather forecast for Saturday had been looking similar – although it now looks like it might be a little cooler (high 50’s) and without the light rain.

I warmed up with a lap around the Reservoir, and I felt pretty good. I had a bounce in my step, and I was hopeful that things would turn out well.

I launched into my first rep, and about a minute in I looked down at my watch to see that I was going too fast (~6:15). This is good news – as I didn’t feel like I was going fast – and I tried to course correct. Towards the end of the rep, my watch flashed 6:50 for a minute, but I think it was an issue with the instantaneous GPS reading. I flipped over to lap pace, saw that I was on track, and finished up.

The next rep went well, too. A little more evenly paced.

On the final rep, I started off a little slow in the beginning. Two thirds of the way through, my lap pace read 6:35. But I was running about 6:25-6:30 through the end, and the lap pace came down in that last quarter mile.

Overall, my pace was 6:31, 6:31, and 6:33 – for an average of 6:32/mi. It felt pretty good, and it was definitely sustainable for a long time. Although I took advantage of the two minute recoveries, I didn’t need the extra time and I didn’t feel like I was racing through the reps at a faster pace than I could sustain.

My goal pace for the race is 6:30. So I’ll chalk this mini workout up as a success.

Come Saturday, I’ll have the advantage of my New Balance SC Elite v3 shoes, a pacer targeting 1:25, the excitement of race day, and slightly better weather. While none of that guarantees a successful outcome, it certainly nudges things in the right direction.

After every workout since my marathon, I’ve been left with doubts about whether my goal was achievable. But after today, I’m much more hopeful.

Is it a sure thing? Absolutely not. But is it possible? Absolutely.

Thursday – An Easy Five Miles

Although I’m not doing a hard taper for the upcoming race, I am taking it a little easier in the final days.

So today, I’m running an easy five miles – instead of the usual six to eight. WeeViews is also running a contest / promo for claiming local legend status on Strava, so I switched up my routes a bit to try and claim something before the end of the week.

When I first got back into running a few years ago, I ran a lot of loops up and down a street near my house (St. Cloud Ave). It’s also a Strava segment, and I planned it out so I could do two efforts today and two efforts tomorrow and claim the local legend.

The run went well. An uneventful, easy five miles. The local elementary school is at the end of the block, and during the second loop I saw people walking their kids to school.

When I got back home, I checked Strava to check on the segment details. To my chagrin, I realized the privacy settings which blocked out the start and end of my run had also cancelled out one of my efforts for the local legends purposes … Oops.

Friday – Four Easy Miles, and Another Segment Attempts

Friday was my last day at home before the race. I planned an easy four miles – a final shake out before we headed into the city.

I was also searching for another segment to tackle for the WeeViews local legends contest. There’s a segment in my neighborhood going up a hill that no one had run in a few months – so one attempt would get me to be the local legend. Nice.

I ran up the street, attacked what I thought was the segment, and then looped back home. Four miles done.

But then I checked Strava and realized I turned back too early. I didn’t finish the segment. Doh.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll be able to find a random, orphaned segment in the city to attempt on Sunday.

Race Tomorrow!

And just like that, training is over. The NYRR Brooklyn Half is tomorrow, and I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.

Since the Jersey City Marathon, I was able to bounce back and build my mileage back up pretty quickly. I’ve hit 60 miles the last couple of weeks. My easy runs have felt really good, and I didn’t feel slow and sluggish as long as I have in the past.

After my first couple marathons, it took two to three weeks to feel normal. This time, I was pretty normal by the end of the first week.

But my workouts told a different story. Every time I tried to do some kind of workout, it would go ok … but never quite what I was hoping for. I tried to end some of my long runs at race pace (~6:30/mi), and I couldn’t quite get there.

The final workout this week on Wednesday was the first time I really had a decent effort. It was short, but it gives me a glimmer of hope for tomorrow.

I’m targeting 1:25 because that’s the time qualifier for the NYC Marathon for a 40 year old man. If I were to be realistic, I’d probably try to pace for 1:28 or 1:29. But what the hell – we’ll give it a go.

The first half of the race in Prospect Park is hilly, and then it looks like smooth sailing down Ocean Parkway. So my plan is to try and find the 1:25 pacer, hang with them through the park, and see how things go.

A 1:25 finish is an average pace of 6:30. If I can make it through the park with an average pace of 6:35 or less, then I can (hopefully) shade the pace down a bit in the second half and eke it out. Running an even 6:25 in the second half would get me there. But I could also average 6:25-6:30 over the last miles and hope for a final surge of 6:15-6:20 in the last two or three miles.

Wish me luck, and I’ll be back with a race report after the race.

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