Number 12

On 59th St. around mile 25.5 [Photo: Anwar Ragep]

Last Sunday I ran my 12th marathon. It was a big deal for me, personally, for a number of reasons. It was my first post-injury race. I had family come into town and run it with me. It was NYC’s first big event like this in the post-covid era. I hadn’t run a marathon in 5 years. For the past 14 weeks I have thought about this race every single day. When I was laying in bed Saturday night before the race, I felt so excited to go run. I really put in the time and effort to train for this thing. Even though I still have some lingering congestion from the super-cold that appears to be going around the city right now, I knew that I was recovered enough that it would not be a factor.

Rounding the corner from West CP Drive onto 59th St. [Photo: Anwar Ragep]

This was 50th iteration of the NYC Marathon. But because of covid related travel restrictions for foreign citizens entering the country, international participants were largely absent this year. In an effort to pad the gap, NYRR offered automatic entry to members of all of the local clubs. As a result, my brother-in-law was able to score a bib. My sister actually also got entry, but ended up having to defer because of a stress fracture that she suffered during training. She made the trip out to NYC anyway and joined the cheering crew, along with Britt and our friend Anwar, who provided most of these great photos!

Post race with Britt, and Britt with the sign she made [Photos: Anwar Ragep]

Race day started out awesome. My brother-in-law Jessie and I arrived in the start village nice and early. It was chilly, but not miserably so, especially once the sun came up. I was super fired up by the time the gun went off. My first few miles were way too fast. But I was able to rein it in by the time I hit mile 10 or so. Ultimately energy was not an issue, but pain sure was. starting around mile 16 I started to get a familiar burning/stabbing sensation where my IT band wraps around the outside of my right knee. It got bad enough that I needed to stop and stretch it out a handful of times. It slowed me down a lot, but honestly I’m glad that I didn’t try to just push through it.

[photo: Anwar Ragep]

My finish time goal was to do 3:45 or better. The last time I did this race was six years ago and I did a 3:43, so it seemed like a reasonable goal. By the time I made it to Central Park I looked at my watch, saw that I was in the low 3:20s and realized that if I really kicked I might be able to get close to 3:35ish. Starting around Mile 25 I gave it all I had, and really kicked hard when I saw the sign saying I was only 800 meters from the finish. I ended up finishing just under 3:36, which I am very pleased about. Not only was it my PR for the course, but it was only about 10 mins off my best marathon time, ever!

With Jessie enjoying some victory beers after the race. [Photo: Brittany Maschal private collection]

One cool thing that the New York Times does after every New York Marathon, is devote an entire section to the marathon, the Monday after the race. It includes the name of each finisher with their finish time and overall place. They also run a handful of photos from the race, including the one below of the runners in the start queue on the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island. Upon closer inspection, I spotted my brother-in-law (highlighted below right). So cool!

I’m so grateful for all of the people who have supported me during my surgery recovery and training process, especially Britt. Sunday was a very special day for me and I will remember it my whole life.

Running Update – Loud Shoes Edition

First run in Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

New Gear:

About 15 years ago, a friend turned me onto Mizuno running shoes. They are light, relatively inexpensive, and had the support that I needed for my gait an pronation. They are great shoes. I generally love me some Japanese design. Function-wise, Mizuno was no exception. They have been my faithful go-to running shoe ever since then. For some reason, however, they just keep making them uglier and uglier. From a visual design perspective, the only distinction between my most recent pair of Mizunos and a pair of granny-style mall walkers is the fact that the colorway is not white on white. I know that running is not a fashion show, but I’m running the NY Marathon in a few weeks and I want to wear some good looking kicks for the race. I’m not exactly a young buck anymore, But hey man, I’m certainly not a senior citizen yet either. Until then I’m not trying to give off any grandpa vibes with my footwear. After imagining the horror of opening up the NY Times on Nov. 8th and seeing a photo of myself running down 5th Avenue sporting old-guy kicks, I went on a quest for a non-geriatric looking pair of running shoes to race in.

I had heard good things about the brand ON. I think that they are a pretty good looking shoe and decided to try a pair. They had a nice fit for my foot and seemed okay for running…. except for the fact that the sole design is super prone to rock collecting. Given that I have been running on trails or gravel roads 3-4 times per week, they just weren’t practical. When I wore the ONs, I was forced to stop every half mile or so to remove (some quite sizable) stones lodged in the out sole. They are probably fine for city running, but I’m not going to gamble on wearing them for a marathon without having worn them on at least a few long training runs.

Prevailing public opinion (especially of non-runners) seems to be that Nike is the obvious choice in running shoes. I have had a love/hate relationship with Nike runners since my first pair of Air Pegasus that I wore in high school track. There has always been something not quite right about the way they work on my feet. The past couple of years I have picked up a few pairs of Vapormax, but mostly just for looks. I have never actually run in them. They are not comfortable at all on my feet, even just walking around the city. Summer 2020 I picked up a pair of deeply discounted Nike trail runners that I actually think are great. So when I saw the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, I thought I would give them a shot. The visual design is about as non-octogenarian as it gets. In fact, when I first took them out of the box, I was worried that they might be a little much. After my first run in them, I was hooked. They are insanely comfortable and light. I only wore them for three shortish runs before breaking them out on last week’s 20-miler. Didn’t even get a blister. They are honestly the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn and they seem to give me a literal bounce in my step. All of that said, there are definitely some drawbacks. First: they are insanely expensive as far as running shoes go (roughly double the price of the Mizunos I was using). Another downside is that they appear to be wearing out much faster than the average running shoe. The front section of the out sole is super soft, almost tacky to the touch. This is awesome for gripping the road, but I’m already seeing significant wear after putting only 50ish miles on them. Based on these facts, I’m not sure that I will be able to justify these as a daily runner. I may have to reserve them for training/racing, only. For now, I will enjoy these kicks to the maximum (as well the fresh still-in-the-box pair that I will race in next month), even if it means my theoretical photo in the Times ends up looking like that middle aged guy who is desperately clinging to youth by wearing loud sneakers! ūüėČ

NYC Marathon 2017

The marathon was especially exciting this year because an American woman won for the first time since 1977. It was also cool because I was able to reconnect with a couple of my friends from high school (one is in the last two photos below). For consistency’s sake, we watched the race from the exact same spot as last year. The photo above is almost identical to the one from last year, haha. The whole thing makes me very stoked to run Philly later this month.

De La Weekend: NYC Marathon Edition

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Sunday morning we had the pleasure of soaking in the energy of the NYC Marathon. Whether I’m running or watching, this race gets me every time. We posted up along the course in Brooklyn to cheer for our friends who were running (and for everyone else). The weather could not have been much better.

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B staying warm in her little spot of sunshine.

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View from the E. River Ferry on our way home.

No. 11 and New Dec(k)or

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This was one of those times where I got so distracted by life that I didn’t even realize it was going to be a 3 day weekend until last Friday. I wasn’t at all upset when I realized that Monday was Columbus day. Saturday I completed my 11th marathon. My post-finish photo to the left is courtesy of B. It was also my first race since I had ligament reconstruction on my ankle. Even though I felt pretty good on Sunday morning, I was definitely happy to have Monday as a bonus recovery day.

B didn’t waste any time giving me a honey-do list on Monday since I was going to be around the house all day. One of the items on the list was to hang a couple of skate decks (above) that had been stacked in the corner for several weeks now.

One additional mention-worthy-item is that the weather has officially turned fallish. Driving back from Hartford on Sunday there were a lot of leaves that had already changed colors in western Connecticut near Danbury. Monday, the high temp in NYC was still cool enough to be deemed hoodie weather. I’m pretty excited about that. The in between seasons are definitely my favorite.

Lastly: my second favorite BBC1 DJ, Phil Taggart put on a fantastic session Sunday night. I’m linking to it here (avail for 30 days, only).

Number 10

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This is a kind of long and personal story about a race I ran last Sunday. The story actually starts several years ago. In a former life, I was a very avid runner. Everything from vacation schedules to weekly social activities revolved around running. I have never been exceptionally fast, or anything like that. But running was a hobby that I dedicated a lot of time and energy to. As I started to rack up races, I thought it would be cool to run 10 marathons.

By the end of 2011 I had completed nine marathon finishes, including NYC (twice). I was on a roll. During this process, I qualified for the 2012 New York City Marathon. When late October 2012 rolled around I was all trained up and ready to go. About that time, Hurricane Sandy came through and wrecked up this whole region causing the city to cancel the race. I wholeheartedly agree that cancelling the race was the correct decision. Even so, it was more than a bit disheartening for me to have put in so much work without being able to enjoy the reward. Since it was to be my 10th, I was determined to make this marathon really count. I had high hopes for a new PR. I had invited family to come from out of town. They made it as far as DC (from Alaska).

After the decision was made to cancel the race, they offered all of the would-be participants automatic entry to any one of NYC Marathons in the following three years. The let-down from 2012 caused me to have a lot of introspection relating to the way that running had basically consumed all of my free time. The hobby was especially time consuming when I was training for something and I was almost always training for something. I concluded that I would take a break from competing (against myself [I have never been fast enough to compete for real]), and just enjoy running. So I chose to use my automatic entry for 2014. I did run some races in 2013. But I ran with my friends for fun, and did minimal (if any) training.

When 2014 cropped up, I was ready to buckle down again and get serious about putting forth an honest effort that November. Since I had become very out of shape, I decided to start training in early summer. I had dropped a few LBs and started to pick up the pace by September. This is also when I crashed my moto, partially severing my left quadricep muscle. As one could imagine, the injury made walking quite difficult for a while and running was virtually impossible. Even though I had mostly recovered from the injury by the end of October, I had missed the most crucial weeks of training. I decided to cancel my entry to the race, seek a medical deferment and try again in 2015.

FF to 2015>> Almost every aspect of my life has changed since 2012. I have a different job. I live in a different neighborhood. I have a new partner in crime. I’m feeling generally more balanced and content with life. As I began training for the race this year, the idea of finishing a 10th marathon evolved into a symbolic mile marker (pun intended) for me. I saw it as a sort of capstone on transitioning to a different phase of life. This understandably probably sounds very corny. Just the same, I felt like those aspects of my life that I had been chasing since the beginning of 2012 had finally started to fall into place. In my mind, being able to finish this race would be a tangible piece of evidence of this.

I put together a 19 week¬†training program. It wasn’t perfect. I missed some runs. But I had a good network of friends helping me stay accountable. Ultimately, even though I didn’t get back into perfect shape, I was able to get into viable marathon shape. A few weeks before the race I did an 18 mile race on a flat course and ended up inadvertently pacing about a quarter of a minute per mile faster than I had intended. This gave me a lot of confidence going into the end of October. The last few days before the race I was having a lot of anxiety. I hadn’t trained on hills at all. I was second guessing how well I would be able to¬†keep my pace over the Queensboro Bridge, and up 1st Ave.¬†And blah blah blah, this story is getting too long.

Paul Harvey-style, here is the rest of the story: Sunday morning November 1st came along, I woke up at 4:45 (thanks to daylight savings, it only felt like 5:45). I put on my sneaks and made the short walk to the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Battery Park. As soon as the ferry set sail, all of my anxiety faded very quickly. I was there on this giant orange boat with runners from all over the world. Various languages could be heard conversing in low voices about what we were all about to undertake. I watched my fellow marathoners, sharing bananas, texting loved ones and gramming the Statue of Liberty. All of this while we glided in unison over the calm grey predawn harbor toward the starting line. I was reminded of how this race meant so many different things to so many people. My fears of not being able to meet my self-imposed running goals transitioned into feelings of gratitude to be able to participate in such a grand event. I was also feeling grateful for all of the good things that have happened in my life since Hurricane Sandy.

My race went as well as it could have. The weather was perfect. I came out too fast (as always) and died early (as always). Along the course I saw my girlfriend cheering for me,¬†not once, but twice. I saw friends who had come out to support, one of which snapped the photo above (thanks, Jon). Even though this course has always been traditionally slow for me, the energy was so amazing that I felt like I was winning the entire time. And even though I didn’t get a PR (or anywhere near), I did get my PR for the course. I finished a solid six minutes faster than I did last time I ran NYC.

I know that in this day and age it isn’t really a big deal to complete a marathon. For a lot of people, finishing ten is not even a great¬†feat. But¬†for me, when I crossed the finish line last Sunday, it was a very¬†significant personal accomplishment. For me, it was the race of a lifetime.