December 2015 – Month and Year in review

December is over and a new year has begun. Time to take a look back at the month, the year and look forward to what 2016 has in store.

Dcember 2015 – Nike+ Summary

December 2015 – Nike+ Summary

For the month of December I ran 128 miles, swam 1.3 miles and cycled 39 miles. This is nothing compared to the 1,150 each way journey I embarked on from my home to visit my parents in Florida. Interesting journey…just pleased (and relieved) that my 9 and 5 year old passengers were awesome the whole way down.

2015 – Nike+ Summary

2015 – Nike+ Summary

All in all for the year I ran less but still racked up mileage by introducing swimming and biking as I started my triathlon career. A total of 1,964 miles for the year. 1,576 running, 366 cycling and 22 swimming. No wonder I am so tired.

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

Our ride to Florida. The kids were in the back, not on top (as tempting as it may seem).

See...they're in the back. This is outside a Dunkin' Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

See…they’re in the back. This is outside a Dunkin’ Donuts at 5am. #roadtrip

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

After two days of travel we were glad to reach our destination

Before I revisit the year I’ll take a quick look back for the month of December.

With such a mild December I was able to still run outside for the most part, even when I visited Atlanta, GA for business (although it was cooler there than I had expected). It was just a matter of avoiding the rain. More often than not I was outside. When I got to Florida, the weather was glorious. Very hot and humid so that slowed my pace a little but I was fortunate to have my parents look after our boys so that my wife and I could get out almost everyday for mid to long runs. It worked out great.

Nice to have a chance to run together

Nice to have a chance to run together

While we were down in Florida we signed up for a the local Bradenton Running Club’s Annual Manatee River 5 Mile Run. We even signed the boys up for the kids races. It was a hot day and not much shade but it was a good day to be out there. I also met up with my fellow Mickey Miler team-mate Robert.

Ready to run

Ready to run

Running family

Running family

Discussing race strategy

Discussing race strategy

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

With a fellow Mickey Miler and a junior one

Reward for his 200 meter run

Reward for his 200 meter run

Making it look easy

Making it look easy in the 400 meters

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Reserve in Palmetto, Florida

Beautiful location at the Emerson Point Nature Preserve in Palmetto, Florida

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Being out-sprinted by my wife

Determination

Determination

A great end to a fun year. Lots of family time and a great chance to get out and run a lot. We did eat a lot of ice cream on vacation so the running was badly needed!!

2015 – Looking Back

It was a very busy year. My wife and I ran 3 marathons together and I ran 4 in total. This included us running for Autism Speaks while we ran the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World back in January. We ran the Pittsburgh Marathon together in May and the Marine Corps Marathon together in October. I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November as well as a few half marathons during the year. Happy to be able to compete and even better for being able to run with my wife for most of these events.

In May I ran my first unofficial ‘ultra-marathon‘ (any run longer than 26.2 miles is considered an ‘ultra’) for the charity ‘Give Kids The World‘. I ran 39.3 miles in one day (the equivalent of the Goofy Challenge – a half marathon followed by a full marathon but all in one day). This charity is supported my my running team, the Mickey Milers and through this event I was able to raise $1,250 for this cause.

This was also the year I ventured into triathlons. I attempted (weather shortened) my first triathlon back at the New Jersey State Triathlon back in July. I was able to finally complete my goal of a sprint triathlon at Medford Lakes, NJ and then added a final sprint event before the end of my triathlon season in Hightstown, NJ so I could concentrate on my Fall marathon schedule.

It was a year of accomplishments for me and I’m grateful I was able to complete these events and remain relatively injury free.

2016 – Looking Forward

While my running schedule isn’t set for the full year, I am signed up for a couple of big events. First, my wife and I are signed up to run the New Jersey Marathon on May 1st. I’ve run this event twice before and this is still my marathon PR race. We also entered ourselves for the New York City Marathon in November. We will not find out about whether we get in until March so I’m looking at other races in the Fall just in case although I haven’t committed to any yet. Of course, I will be signing up for the Philadelphia Marathon as long as I am around that time of year.

The big event for me this year is that I will be participating in my very first Half Iron distance triathlon (70.3 miles) in Kingston NY in July. This is quite a step up from the sprint triathlons I did in 2015. I hope to be in good shape and ready when the time comes. Looking forward to it very much.

My other goal this year is to work on speed (and stay injury free). I’m looking for a fairly local goal race in the Fall (maybe before New York if we get in) to see if I can get to that 3:45 marathon time goal I seek. We shall see.

Thank you for sticking with me for the last few years as I have been writing this blog. I hope that I have lots of good stories to share in 2016 (and beyond).

Wishing you all success in all your endeavors this year. Happy New Year.

 

November 2015 – Month in review

November 2015 – Nike+ Summary

November 2015 – Nike+ Summary

November was a busy month. Running miles were 115, 18 miles on the bicycle and 1.3 miles in the pool. There were no business trips during the month but a few races and of course the 2015 Philadelphia Marathon. Running distance was less due to the taper and rest and recovery days around the marathon.

The month started off with a bang. I was coming off from the Marine Corps Marathon in late October followed up a week later by the Philadelphia Rock and Roll Half Marathon on Halloween. Because Pope Francis had visited Philadelphia in mid-September this race had been pushed back to Halloween which then collided with the Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge 10K run the day after. My father-in-law had signed up for both not realizing the proximity of the races so we looked to transfer his bib for the 10K over to me so as not to lose the race fee as he didn’t want to run back to back races.

The only slight downside of this was that the clocks changed back on November 1st and I ended up getting up early the day after a half marathon while everyone was still in bed taking advantage of that extra hour. The weather was cool and it was still a fun race. I carried over my Halloween weekend costume with my Ink N Burn Boba Fett shirt which I matched up with a recent addition from the Disney Store to complete the look. I met up with a fellow Mickey Miler (Matt) before the start of the race. I ran a respectable time considering it had just been a week since the Marine Corps Marathon and only a day since the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon.

With fellow Mickey Miler Matt before the race

With fellow Mickey Miler Matt before the race.

The race recap

The race recap. Pace much faster than previous runs this year. Felt good.

Post race...getting a little 'Bounty Hunter' attitude on.

Post race…getting a little ‘Bounty Hunter’ attitude on.

The reward for a little pace work.

The reward for a little pace work.

This was ‘part’ of my so-called taper up to the Philadelphia Marathon. Not sure I was really resting my legs fully…as you can read in that race recap. But with the pace I hit I was feeling confident going into the race. Unfortunately the race didn’t go according to plan but still, crossing the marathon finish line is still a success. Marathon number 14 was complete.

Marathon number 14 complete.

Marathon number 14 complete.

There were a few days of rest before my wife, my father-in-law and I attended our local running club (Bucks County Road Runners) Thanksgiving 5 Miler. It was a little chilly but not as cold as it had been in previous years. We soon warmed up. Our pace helped warm us up to. Nice to have everyone back and running together. My father-in-law was nursing a sprained ankle so he volunteered this year so he was still with us at the race. It was a good start to our Thanksgiving weekend.

Waiting for the race to start.

Waiting for the race to start.

Race recap - we ran side by side and held a good pace. Felt strong.

Race recap – my wife and I ran side by side (she’s fast) we held a good pace. Felt strong for just a few days post Philadelphia Marathon.

Together with my father-in-law who was volunteering on the day.

Together with my father-in-law who was volunteering on the day.

Waiting for the Thanksgiving 5 Miler to start.

As soon as the race was over we grabbed a quick cup of coffee and headed home to partake in our usual Thanksgiving household tradition, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (on DVR…we planned ahead) and then Mickey Mouse waffles with the boys. Fun times.

Mickey Mouse waffles. A family Thanksgiving tradition in our house.

Mickey Mouse waffles. A family Thanksgiving tradition in our house.

Mickey Mouse waffles. A family Thanksgiving tradition in our house.

Mickey Mouse waffles. A family Thanksgiving tradition in our house.

It was nice to have plenty of family time with all the business travel and races we have been doing over the last few months. While my wife headed to the mall on Black Friday I took the time to go see the new Pixar movie with the boys. It was a nice change of pace.

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I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving. I apologize for being late with my month in review. I’m just squeaking this under the wire before the end of the year.

Thank you for reading.

 

2015 Philadelphia Marathon – Race recap

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The Sunday before Thanksgiving is usually the date for the Philadelphia Marathon. This is one of my favorite races at my favorite time of the year. It was my first marathon and I have run it every year since with the exception of last year when I was in Florida with my family over Thanksgiving week.

The Philadelphia Marathon was my very first marathon back in 2011, in 2012 it was the first marathon where I ran under 4 hours and in 2013 I ran the 20th anniversary marathon with my wife on a glorious late Fall day. It’s always been a good time.

This year my wife decided to opt out running this with me as she thinks her three marathons during the year were more than enough and it was very close to the Marine Corps Marathon which we was our big Fall race together.

Coming off the Marine Corps Marathon where I had struggled quite a bit going through I was able to get back into my running groove with a few good recovery runs and also two races, the Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon and the Cooper Norcross Run The Bridge 10K race (no race recap on that race but will cover in the month in review). I felt good going into marathon weekend and set my sight on a very ambitious race goal of 3:50 or better (my current PR is 3:54).

With a full weekend of family activities ahead I took a half day on the Friday before and headed down to the Expo (again held in the Philadelphia Convention Center) on the Friday evening. That’s good and bad. Good because the expo wasn’t jam-packed with people and as I was on my own I had an opportunity to spend some time looking around. Bad because heading into Philadelphia and trying to park near the Convention Center on a Friday evening isn’t the easiest thing you can do. Lesson learned.

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Heading into Center City Philadelphia

The expo was set up as it had been in prior years. As you entered you went to the left where there was a children’s area (Comcast had set up a screening area with some kids programming which was nice) and just behind that was the stage for the speakers series (I didn’t attend any sessions this year). Past that there was a large area segregated into marathon, half marathon and Rothmans 8K bib pickup. As it wasn’t too busy at the time I attended I was in and out really quickly. I think there were more volunteers than participants at the time I was there.

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I always get excited arriving at an expo. This being one of my favorite races was no different.

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Expo hall was not crowded when I visited.

Expo hall was not crowded when I visited.

It was a decent sized Expo. Not too big, not too small.

It was a decent sized Expo. Not too big, not too small.

Plenty of stalls to visit...and spend money at.

Plenty of stalls to visit…and spend money at.

Bib pick up was simple and easy.

Bib pick up was simple and easy.

There seemed to be more volunteers than visitors at this hour.

There seemed to be more volunteers than visitors at this hour.

That's me.

That’s me.

One thing that was an improvement over the last time I ran the race and all the previous years (2011 through 2013) was the race merchandise. It was actually very well set up (still not the biggest area) but it was divided up into men, women, youth and general merchandise. What was more impressive was that there was just so much variety. Okay, a lot of it was brands I had not heard but there was so many different types of shirts, running gear, colors, styles. More so than I had seen at many other expos. Some were reasonably priced (and you know what race gear pricing can be).

Official Gear Store was pretty well stocked.

Official Gear Store was pretty well stocked.

Plenty to chose from. Men's selection.

Plenty to chose from. Men’s selection.

Women's selection.

Women’s selection.

Youth selection. Don't see this much for kids at many expos.

Youth selection. Don’t see this much for kids at many expos.

Lots of styles for this race. More than usual. Many types of shirts and jackets.

Lots of styles for this race. More than usual. Many types of shirts and jackets.

I actually ended up buying a half zip top with the race year/logo and the list of streets from start to finish on the back. I thought that was pretty cool and unique. That, and my Marine Corps Marathon jacket have seldom been out of my rotation since.

I liked this. Thought it was pretty unique.

I liked this. Thought it was pretty unique.

The sponsor of the race was GORE-TEX. They had a very large booth where you could enter for a prize of some running gear. I actually went to check out the shoes as they do make a Brooks Adrenaline GTX shoe which is my favored shoe. It’s definitely more of a trail shoe based upon the sole design and as I do most of my running on the road, the shoe seemed a bit more shoe than I need as a day to day training shoe. Still, nice to have an option.

GORE-TEX had a large presence in the center of the hall.

GORE-TEX had a large presence in the center of the hall.

Having spent too much money (really, anyone surprised?) I headed back home knowing that I could rest easy the day before the race…like I ever allow myself to do that. We had a full weekend of activities. I was a little antsy when I got home so I set out my gear on the Friday evening and watched the hour by hour forecast for the next couple of days.

The day before the race I typically eat a decent breakfast after a short run and then have lunch as my main meal and have a light early meal (around 5pm). Well, not this year :-( While I did get my run in and then a fairly reasonable and healthy lunch, I spent the afternoon on my feet going shopping for birthday party supplies. Then we had long-standing plans for dinner but that was a late 9pm event which is atypical for me anyway. I ended up nibbling bits and pieces through dinner…mainly the bread basket. Anyway, everyone had plenty of wine and I had plenty of water before heading home for the night. But not before changing up my outfit…again.

I ended up swapping the tank for a t-shirt but otherwise used the same get up.

I ended up swapping the tank for a t-shirt but otherwise used the same get up.

This is the 4th time I have run this race. The first year the weather was perfect (low 50s). The second year it was really cold (low 30s). The third year was glorious sunshine (low 60s). The forecast for this race looked to be around high 30s but what was going to be different was strong gusting winds. I didn’t want to be over dressed when I was going to be sheltered from the wind so I still dressed fairly light.

I had learned my lesson about my shoe lace incident at the Marine Corps Marathon and had done my best to make sure my shoes would not inhibit me in any way. After all, this was the goal race for the year. I had my goal time and was really feeling confident that I would at least get close to my PR. Hmmm….

Race day morning.

I got up early, it was windy and cold out. I made myself a cup of coffee for the road and took myself down to the city. I knew that since Boston they have really ramped up the security at the race. This was just a days after the Paris attacks and the City had ramped up the security even further. They had trucks blocking the streets, barricades and checkpoints for runners.

Security had been ramped up.

Security had been ramped up.

Barricades surrounded the race perimeter.

Barricades surrounded the race perimeter.

Everyone was checked. Certain articles like opened bottles were not permitted inside.

Everyone was checked. Certain articles like opened bottles were not permitted inside.

I'd learned from the Marine Corps Marathon and made sure I was there early enough to make it through before the big crowds.

I’d learned from the Marine Corps Marathon and made sure I was there early enough to make it through before the big crowds.

Bag check was quick and easy as usual. All set up in Eakins Oval.

Bag check was quick and easy as usual. All set up in Eakins Oval.

Dressed up, feeling confident and ready to go.

Dressed up, feeling confident and ready to go.

Busy at the staging area.

Busy at the staging area.

As dawn was breaking I made my way over to the corral for the 7am start.

This is my stop.

This is my stop.

Keeping warm in my trash bag. Not stylish but very practical.

Keeping warm in my trash bag. Not stylish but very practical.

While waiting in the corral we heard from the race organizers and Mayor Nutter. He has really dedicated himself to this race and this would be his last as Mayor of the City. He stays at the start line to see runners off and then stands at the finish line high fiving runners as they cross. It’s a long day for him but he seems to enjoy it.

This year, with the event being so close to the attacks on Paris he mentioned how the City stands with Paris and they actually had the French National Anthem sung at the start line.

There was a slight delay at the start as there was a car accident further up in the route that needed clearing. It set everything back about 10 minutes but we were soon ready to go. I took off my trash bag and handed it to a gentleman near the corral fence wearing a Boston Marathon shirt who I would get to see many times during the race. More on that later.

Soon it was go time for our corral and before I knew it we were off. It was a little congested for the first mile. I was using a new run/walk interval for the last couple of weeks based upon Jeff Galloway’s guidelines on his website. Run 3:00/Walk 0:30. This was kind of an experiment as this was the shortest run interval I’ve used for a long time.

Hey look...getting my high five from the Mayor at the start.

Hey look…getting my high five from the Mayor at the start.

I settled into my pace. It was a little slower than planned. Running closer to 9:00 minutes per mile rather than my goal pace of 8:45/mile. I think I knew early on that this might not be what I was looking for, but at least I may get close to sub 4 hours.

In the meantime, I had been trying to maintain my pace near the gentleman in the Boston Marathon shirt. I figured that anyone who has qualified for Boston should be able to manage an even pace. As he was in my corral I kept him in my sight. I would drop back during a walk break but make up the distance to him during the run. So far it was working.

As we rounded South Street around mile 4, we then had to run up Chestnut Street from 6th Street to 34th Street. While there are crowds that line the sides of the street pretty much the whole way (which is great) it was a very tough run as it was directly into a headwind. It was cold and windy and I took quite a beating getting up to 34th Street which is where the largest hill on the course is located. After being beaten up by the wind for the last 3 miles it took a lot out of me to get up that hill. I was pretty much running 9:00 minute miles at this point. Hoping that somewhere on the downhills I would make it up. I still had Mr Boston Marathon shirt in my sights.

We passed the Philadelphia Zoo and up to Memorial Hall (the second and last big hill) and I felt a little back to my normal self again. As we rounded the traffic circle to head down to Martin Luther King Jr. Drive I caught up to the man in the Boston shirt and introduced myself. I mentioned I had been following his pace for the last 8 miles and he said he had noticed me running back and forth (I hope I didn’t come across as a stalker!) and introduced himself as Dave. We ran alongside each other for a while chatting until my walk break, caught up again and continued for about half a mile or so before he was ahead of me again.

Around the half way mark I was still maintaining my 9:00 minute pace so all wasn’t lost. It was after rounding the Philadelphia Museum of Art when all the half marathon runners disappear that the course really becomes less crowded. It’s a long run out and back from here on in. Running up Kelly Drive was into the wind again. While not as strong as it had been earlier in the day (probably because the buildings had more of a wind tunnel effect) it was still fairly noticeable.

Around mile 14 Dave joined me. He wasn’t having the greatest day either and he joined me in run/walking for about a mile or so. We chatted about his races and I found out he lives locally so it’s a close to home race for him too. He had run Boston twice and had a better PR than me…all the more reason to run with him :-)

At mile 15 I stopped for water at the next water station, Dave was running with a water backpack and I dropped back a little from him. My pace had now dropped to 9:30 minutes per mile. Eek. Well, let’s just get in from here. There is a small out and back on the other side of the river from mile 17-18. I saw Dave on his way back as I was running down. I had a little work to catch back up to him. This is my least favorite part of the race. It’s just to get the distance in on the course. It’s quick. A downhill but a miserable uphill. Nothing great but heck, it’s between mile 17 and 18. Once back over the bridge we turn left and make the gradual climb up to Manayunk.

Manayunk is usually a nice place to get your second wind. Although it is situated at the part in the race where many people are close to hitting the wall (mile 20) it’s always heavily populated with spectators and supporters. I did notice this year that although there were plenty of people around it was less crowded than I ever remembered in past years. The weather may have had something to do with  it (and maybe the Eagles game that afternoon). Still, at mile 20 when someone hands you an orange….aaah bliss.

My favorite part of this race is the turnaround at mile 20. I know it’s a 10K from here. It’s not all flat but I know I can make it. I had slowed to 10:00 minute mile pace from here. Not great but not a disaster. Still moving. That’s what counts.

As I excited Manayunk around mile 21 I caught up with Dave again. We ran together for a little but he admitted he was hurting quite a bit. I stayed with him but he told me to run my race and he would be okay. I told him I would see him at the finish line and wished him well.

From then on it was a slow steady run to the end. The headwind we ran into was now a crosswind. I wasn’t hurting but I wasn’t setting my race alight with any change in pace. I was just head down committed to my run/walk breaks. I know I wasn’t going to break 4 hours at this stage. There was no way I could make up the pace but my goal was to break 4:15 for the day. I felt confident I would finish as I’ve been in this position before and knew my body could get there. I did manage to drop my pack back to under 10:00 minutes per mile, actually dropping a 9:30 minute mile in there somewhere (must have been flat!!). With less than a mile to go I dug deep and found a kick (not a big one mind you) to get me down the last quarter-mile to the finish. I needed my high five from the Mayor!!!

I made it to the finish line under 4:10. That was good enough for me today. Wasn’t my greatest race. I had missed out on most of my race goals. It didn’t go according to plan, but anytime you can cross the finish line of a marathon is definitely a good day in my books.

Not my best. Not my worst.

Not my best. Not my worst.

I was relieved though that it was over. I wasn’t hurting, just tired. It was my 4th marathon of the year and (sitting here writing this many weeks later) I will admit that my legs have been tired since the Marine Corps Marathon.

This is the lady I chose to get my medal from. I was happy to see her.

This is the lady I chose to get my medal from. I was happy to see her.

I crossed the finish line. I look happy.

I crossed the finish line. I look happy.

Philly does a really good job at the finish line. Although there are lines for the post race food, there is always plenty of water, mylar blankets and a lot of food. The best part is that they give you a bag to carry it in. Only the second race this year where that happened. It’s tough to be holding water and all your extra post race fuel. Nice touch Philly, nice touch.

Handy helper.

Handy helper.

As I had promised, I waited for Dave at the finish line. It wasn’t too long before he made it across and I was glad to see he made it. I could see he wasn’t feeling too comfortable but he was still smiling.

Dave and I together at the finish line.

Dave and I together at the finish line.

That’s what is great about running. I meet plenty of people out and about and it’s great when you get to share an experience with someone. A week after the race Dave had a significant health scare but thanks to his level of fitness he is back on his feet again and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before he is outpacing me.

Now to the medal. Wow. What a great medal. I think it easily out does all my runDisney medals. Philadelphia did a great job replicating the Liberty Bell. It actually works as a bell to. It was so funny hearing all the ringing as I was walking back to my car. I’m sure thousands of little angels were getting their wings that day LOL.

It really rings.

It really rings.

Move over runDisney. I have a new favorite medal.

Move over runDisney. I have a new favorite medal.

The Full and Half Marathon medals side by side.

The Full and Half Marathon medals side by side.

Once home I quickly showered and as per usual, didn’t relax. It was only a couple of hours later that I was back out at Sesame Place with my kids. Hey, I have to keep moving.

Shouldn't every marathon be followed up with a trip to a theme park?

Shouldn’t every marathon be followed up with a trip to a theme park?

Then onto one of my favorite places for an after race celebration.

The boys ate like they had run the full marathon.

The boys ate like they had run the full marathon.

I love this event. I can’t wait to run it again. I also know there is sub 3:50 in me somewhere.

Thanks for reading.

(Apologies to you all for my late posting of this entry. I typically like to get my race reports done within a week of the race. Sorry. Family, work, life.)

October 2015 – Month in review

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October 2015 – Nike+ Summary

My Nike+ app shows that I ran 143 miles this month. You can see that there is a gap just before the marathon towards the end of the month. I took a few days off before the marathon as my wife was in California and I was looking after the boys and also to rest up my body before the race. I was tired. It’s been a busy year of running already and I was approaching my 3rd marathon of the year combined with a lot of business travel.

Not much cross training. I think I had one session in the pool early on in the month. I had been traveling to Atlanta early in the month and then to Scottsdale. As soon as I got back home my wife had to head to California. Tag team parenting as well as tapering for a marathon has never been so chaotic…but we survived.

Early in the month I had my final long run planned before the marathon. It was supposed to be the first weekend in October. We my niece’s 3rd birthday party early Saturday and my wife was running the Princeton Half Marathon on the Sunday additionally they had predicted Hurricane Joaquin to make an appearance along the east coast. I had little choice but to get up early in my hotel and armed with a Powerade and a bag of Swedish Fish, knock out a 20 miler on the hotel treadmill before breakfast.

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Prepared for the storm!

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Does that really say 2:06am?

This wasn’t my favorite run. I was trying to break in my new shoes for the upcoming marathon. I had bought the newer model of my usual shoe online. Same size. I’ve been in the same shoe for 4 previous models. This model apparently runs a half size smaller. Yup, one heck of a blister. First time ever with this brand. Luckily I was able to go back to the running store and get this remedied before race day.

Once all the training was done we headed to Virginia to run the Marine Corps Marathon. It’s such a great event, regardless of our own personal experience this year. I highly would recommend you look toward this if you have any interest.

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At the Iwo Jima Memorial after completing the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

The week after the Marine Corps Marathon we ran the 2015 Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. It was on Halloween so it was a great excuse to run a race in costume. Although it wasn’t a runDisney event we still managed to run in a Disney theme, Alice in Wonderland. Not much of a surprise there. It was a great day weather wise and a great return to finding our pace which did not seem to come with us on our journey to Washington DC!!

Our costume choice - Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

Our costume choice – Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

At the end of the month the early registration opened up for the 2016 New Jersey State Triathlon. If you’ve been following my ‘adventures’ in triathlon you will know that this was to be have been my first event. As it happened it was cancelled mid race and I never got to finish. The organizers offered those who competed and were unable to finish discount towards entry for 2016 which would work in the pre-registration period. I decided to enter again but this time for the Olympic distance in 2016. Fingers crossed. Lots of training to do over the winter to keep my fitness up on the bike and in the pool.

November brings me to the end of my racing season. I have the Philadelphia Marathon coming up the week before Thanksgiving. A very special race for me. It was my first marathon back in 2011 and also the first marathon where I ran under 4 hours back in 2012. I ran again with my wife in 2013 but we missed last year due to being in Florida for Thanksgiving. Hopefully it will be another great race weekend this year. Looking forward to it.

Thank you for reading.

2015 Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – Race recap

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On Halloween my wife and I ran the Philadelphia Rock ’n’ Roll Half Marathon. This is a race I have run since 2011 and my wife and I have run together since 2012. Every year we seem to say to each other that we should probably skip this race as we have done it so often but somehow we always find a reason to sign up. I will point out that we have already signed up for 2016 thanks to a $50 registration offer that was emailed to us the day after this race. What can I say, I guess this is going to be part of our annual plan going forward.

What was different about this year was the actual event date moved from mid-September to October 31st due to Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia falling on the usual race weekend. I guess he has priority (although judging from the pictures when he was here there were far more port-a-potties for that event than the half marathon!!!). With the race falling on Halloween that was just another excuse (should we really need it) to run in costume.

We were unable to attend the expo this year as the race fell on a Saturday and not a Sunday as was always the case on the original dates. My father in law was kind enough to go down to pick up our bibs and race packets on the Friday when we were at work so that was a big help. It’s tough for people coming from out-of-town to do packet pickup for a Saturday race especially of there is no general race day pick up option. They did offer a $30 day of race option but that was limited to 750 participants (out of the 15,000 expected).

Another change in the event was the course this year. On the same day that the race was taking place, Temple University were playing a football game against Notre Dame University. ESPN hit town and they had set up around Independence Mall with an all day pre-game show. The course traditionally (well at least since I’ve been running this event) takes you down past Independence Hall and back up through China Town (behind the Convention Center) up Arch street and back up to the Art Museum. This year the course had to be changed and I hadn’t really taken notice of this until my father in law pointed it out the night before the race.

My wife and I had just completed the Marine Corps Marathon the Sunday before which had been a little rough for us, so heading straight into a half marathon was a little unnerving. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I had done the Goofy Challenge earlier this year but the difference in that event was that we were feeling great. We struggled the week before during the Marathon. I had realized that my issue was self-inflicted (shoe laces too tight) and I had some nice recovery runs during the week but I was concerned about my wife and how she would hold up.

On race day we picked up my father in law around 5:15am and drove into Philadelphia. We made pretty good time and parked in my usual spot, a parking garage a couple of blocks away from the Art Museum area. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the parking garage to the pre-race area. We arrived just after 6am and my wife refused to get out of the car. I guess she was still tired from her recent trip to California and also still in recovery mode from the previous weeks marathon. My father in law also chimed in and said we didn’t have to be the first people there. Around 6:30am I turned the engine off and reminded them that Rock ’n’ Roll are notorious (at least from my experience and some friends experiences) for being very short on providing port-a-potties. Why take the risk? Last year there were long lines and this is always a big race packed into a small starting area.

It was still dark when we headed out. It was a little colder than planned. My father in law was not in costume and wasn’t very surprised that we were. I’m not sure he totally appreciated our efforts as I was getting into my costume in the parking lot (judging by the eye roll when I put it on!)

Making our way to the starting area. Still the middle of the night if you ask my wife.

Making our way to the starting area. Still the middle of the night if you ask my wife.

Partial costume reveal while my wife is trying to stay warm.

Partial costume reveal while my wife is trying to stay warm.

As we got closer to Eakins Oval where the race started and finished it began to brighten up and we immediately got in line for the bathrooms and then on to bag check. It was a little crowded but we were able to have a bathroom break and gear check done and we went over to one side to stretch before the run.

Sun was breaking as we arrived

Sun was rising as we arrived

My wife and father in law keeping warm pre-race

My wife and father in law keeping warm pre-race

Our costume choice - Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

Our costume choice – Alice in Wonderland and the King of Hearts

As it happened, we were not hanging around too long. We had just finished stretching when we saw a whole bunch of folks sprint past us. People took a quick look and asked who they were. I noticed that they had different bibs from ours and I realized they were the elite athletes who were being transferred from their warm tent somewhere to the front of the corrals. Sure enough, as soon as they passed us we started to hear the National Anthem being sung. We were not even in our corral yet. I was surprised how little time we actually left ourselves pre-race. Not my style really. I’d rather be there early than stress out. We were in corral 10 and my father in law was in corral 22 or 23. We got into our corral and couldn’t see how far back my father in law had to go, so we pulled him in with us. No-one was checking our bibs and he was still wearing a trash bag. Listen, I’m sure he wasn’t the only one in corral 10 who was supposed to be further back, but as I’ll get to later it worked out well.

Waiting for the word to go

Waiting in our corral to be released

The starting line with City Hall in the distance

The starting line with City Hall in the distance

That's a lot of corrals behind us.

That’s a lot of corrals behind us.

I knew there are bunch of people from my running team (the Mickey Milers) in this event and as it was a local race for us there were plenty of other people we knew who were running the event but it was so crowded and we had very little time before the race that we ended up not seeing anyone :-( although I did bump into Sarah and Matt pre-race which was nice. I got to wish them congratulations on their recent engagement.

The race announcer was British and his name was Ian. I liked him for some reason. Anyway, it was soon our time to go and we wished each other a good race and went off on our way.

I knew early on that the course had changed because there were a tight turn to the right within the first mile. I hadn’t seen the new map but I actually preferred the new route to the event this year. As we could not run down to Independence Hall we now took a route up John F. Kennedy Boulevard and turn back down Market Street before rounding City Hall. In previous years were would have started off similarly but we would have gone down towards Independence Mall and then turned left to go behind the Convention Center. Here the roads are pretty narrow and there are cobble stones (I recall) and some tight turns. The new course took full advantage of the wide streets around City Hall and after the loop around took us back towards the starting area.

Normally we would be hitting the starting area around mile 5 but we had just reached mile 3. They were still releasing the corrals as we passed by. I think it was number 22 at this point and there were more to go. Wow. What a long wait. I’m glad we pulled my father in law in with us. He would have still been waiting to go as we were already 5K in.

I was intrigued as to where they would get the extra mileage from as the loop around the East River and West River Drives is 8 miles. As we approached the Art Museum we took a right hand turn up Spring Garden Street which turned out to be an out-and-back. It was a nice gentle uphill with wide areas on both sides of the median. I actually enjoyed this so much better than the old course. I hope they decide to keep it. We ended up back at the Art Museum at the 5 mile point and from there the course would be the same as previous years.

Course map for the Half Marathon

Course map for the Half Marathon

The changes to the course for 2015

The changes to the course for 2015

With the new course, the great temperatures (now that the sun was up) and the fact that the streets were wide (one of our complaints from the prior weeks Marathon) my wife and I were actually running a decent pace. Where we had both struggled last week it seemed we were different people. It did help that our costumes were getting us a lot of shout outs from the spectators. It’s good to be the King.

We had a very enjoyable run from mile 5 to 8 up to the Falls Bridge. I mentioned that I was looking forward to hearing the rocking bag pipes band that we had seen every year and just as I said that we saw that they were just getting on the stage we were passing. Sadly, we were too fast this year to hear them!!!

The race at this point was no different from prior years. The course was the same. The only difference was that with the timing of the race being in October it was much cooler and less humid than prior years (note – it is back to the original time period of mid-September in 2016) and that there were plenty of people running in costume which was fun. Some were very creative although this was not a runDisney event where you see many people run in costume. For some reason we saw a lot of ‘Waldo’s’ so it wasn’t really hard to find him at this event. The other major difference was that we were kicking it!!!

I ran this race in 2011 and this was my first sub 2 hour marathon. The course is fairly flat and fast. We have run as a couple every year from 2012 and run anywhere between 2:02 and 2:06 together. We were looking at being close to 2 hours at our current pace as long as we could hold it together.

Seeing the 'Rocker' towards the last 5K of the course.

Seeing the ‘Rocker’ towards the last 5K of the course. He’s a lefty.

Enjoying our little costumed run

Enjoying our little costumed run.

With the last couple of miles ahead we focused on our pace. I think my wife was a little uncomfortable. I know she was having a hard time running directly into the sun the last few miles and regretted not bring her sunglasses. Something to do with them not matching her costume. That’s dedication. Me? Sunglasses always…I couldn’t look any worse.

If you haven’t ever run this race before, the finish line is at the bottom of the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (think Rocky). However, the last 0.2 miles are uphill. Very uphill. Yup, we had to power up the hill but we did and crossed the finish line together again. We just missed out on the 2 hour mark with a final time of 2:00:35. So close. Considering how we ran the week before I thought this was an awesome time and we both felt very good so that’s what was great about our final time.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

With our medals after crossing the finish line.

Our splits for the half marathon

Our splits for the half marathon

As we made our way out of the finish line area and back to the post run finishers festival we saw two runners who passed us in the last couple of miles. I know there was a costume contest as part of the event and if they were entered I truly hope they won. Awesome costume…especially running a half marathon in jeans!!!

Party on Wayne and Garth!!!

Party on Wayne and Garth!!!

There are always lots of food choices post race but by far my favorite is the chocolate milk. So glad they have this at the finish line. Good stuff.

We went over to pick up our bags and stretch out a little. It wasn’t too long after that my father in law came over. He ran a 2:23 half marathon. I guess putting him up in the higher corral worked to his benefit and he ran a great time.

With the afternoon being full of activities for our boys on Halloween we didn’t really have much time to stick around. The headline act at this Rock ‘n’ Roll race was the Gin Blossoms. My wife knows their music as I think they were big in her high school or college years. I was still in England in those days and was unfamiliar with them so I wasn’t too upset either way. I’m sure it would have been a fun event.

We all had a great run

We all had a great run

Father/Daughter combo

Father/Daughter combo

It's good to be the King

It’s good to be the King

What was nice about the medal this year (after finally using nice ribbons last year) they actually themed the medal around the change in date and it had a Halloween theme to commemorate the event being run on October 31st. Nice touch Rock ‘n’ Roll group.

Our Halloween themed medal

Our Halloween themed medal

As I mentioned very early on in this post, we have already signed up for 2016. We say every year we are going to pass. We figured at the $50 entry fee we may as well sign up. If one of us cannot make it then we are not too much out-of-pocket as the full cost is around $90 I think if we have to decide later. At least we have something on the calendar to work towards. It’s a local race so no matter what I’m sure we will end up running it again the year after too :-)

Thanks for reading.

2015 Marine Corps Marathon – Race recap

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Back in March of this year my wife and I received confirmation that we had been accepted through the lottery for this years Marine Corps Marathon. This was to be the 40th Anniversary race and was sure to be a special weekend. My wife has a knack of choosing inaugural or anniversary races to run (her first and second marathons were the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon and the 20th Philadelphia Marathon back in 2013).

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Little did either of us know that leading up to the actual race weekend we would both be flying in and out-of-town pretty much until the week of the race so that meant lots of juggling schedules to get our training runs in. Fortunately we were able to get a couple of long runs in together as we approached October so that was a nice change as mostly we train separately due to our hectic lifestyles and looking after our two boys.

The weekend finally arrived and we headed down to our hotel on the Friday evening before the race (one of us was jet lagged from having just returned from California two days earlier and slept most of the way). Oh the joy of driving down to Washington DC on a Friday evening…

Our hotel was one of the partner hotels which we booked through the race website and all things were taken care of before we arrived. We were staying in Tyson’s Corner which was about 45 minutes by Metro to the Expo in the city and just a little less to the Start/Finish area on Sunday.

On Saturday morning we headed to the Expo. It was a little chilly and there was a bit of a breeze. We hoped that the weather the next day would be a little better considering we would be heading to the start line about 4 hours earlier than our start to the expo. The Metro that weekend was undergoing maintenance and some areas were single tracked. Genius planning I may add when you are expecting 30,000 runners and their entourages to descend on the event and telling them they must take the Metro.

On the Metro on our way to the Expo

On the Metro on our way to the Expo

Finally we made it to the expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the center of DC (it was about a 10-15 minute walk from the White House). There were two other conventions going on at the same time so it was a bit crowded but the staff there were helpful and the signs were pretty clear as to where we should be going, although at the time we arrived it was starting to get pretty crowded.

This way

This way to the Expo

Getting closer

Getting closer

It looked quiet outside...

It looked quiet outside…

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Once we got inside the expo hall it was pretty busy. It was around 10am by the time we actually went to pick up our bibs. Probably the busiest time of the day and we seemed to have been in the longest line to get our bibs. I guess ‘S’ is a popular start to surnames. The actual bib pick up process was very orderly (this was the Marines after all). The Marathon was set up on the left side of the area and the 10K on the right. The t-shirts were at the far end and organized in male/female tables staffed by the volunteers.

Entering the hall

Entering the hall

It was busy when we arrived

It was busy when we arrived

Pick up was clearly signed and managed

Pick up was clearly signed and managed

I know her

I know her

The t-shirt pick up area

The t-shirt pick up area

Speaking of volunteers, it was good to see Sid Busch who just recently completed his 200th marathon. As well as running in honor of fallen heroes, Sid often volunteers at races. We saw him handing out bibs when we ran the Baltimore Marathon last year.

Once we had our packets it was time to explore the expo. First though we had to pass through the official merchandise which was provided by Brooks. I had a goal of getting myself one of the marathon jackets that I had seen online the day before. The place was packed. Insanely so. The line for the registers zig-zagged all the way back near to the entrance of the merchandise area. I made a beeline for the jackets only to find that there were none left in my size. There were other styles of jacket in my size but not the one I wanted. I looked around at the other racks and tried on a couple of other sizes but to no avail. Suddenly out the corner of my eye I saw someone hang one of the jackets on the rack and I grabbed it. It was the size I needed. Perfect. I was happy. Now just to find the Mrs who was having her own jacket dilemma. She was trying on a bunch of different jackets and sizes. I was liking them all but she wasn’t sure until a lady walked passed her and told her that she looked amazing in a specific jacket. Sold! Now just to navigate the cash registers…

Official merchandise provided by Brooks Running

Official merchandise provided by Brooks Running

How's this for a check out line?

How’s this for a check out line?

I was in line so long I thought I would be riding the Haunted Mansion when I got to the end.

I was in line so long I thought I would be riding the Haunted Mansion when I got to the end.

The lines were pretty efficient and we finally reached a cash register. I don’t usually go crazy buying stuff at expos because I know it’s usually over priced and typically don’t need anything but this was a special race and we had a goal to get ourselves something as a reminder.  Brooks were providing VIP Porta Potties on race day if you spent over $200. I wasn’t sure we would make it but somehow or other we spent $200.93…but they had run out of the VIP passes earlier in the morning. Oh no…we have to go to the bathrooms with the regular people LOL.

Finally out of the merchandise areas and into the main expo itself. First stop, Bryer’s ice cream were giving out samples. I’m guessing that was a very popular booth that day. I was already planning how I was going to come around a second time.

Proper race fuel

Proper race fuel

Look at that smile. It only takes ice cream before lunch.

Look at that smile. It only takes ice cream before lunch.

Other than the official merchandise we didn’t really pick up anything from the expo. There were not too many races displaying and it was a little crowded. We seemed to stop by every booth giving out free stuff for spinning a wheel so it’s pretty much like having both our boys with us. We did stop to look at this car but having seen the mileage this gets we decided to stick with something a little more fuel-efficient for our journey home.

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We stopped by the pace car on the way out and left our names along with everyone else and of course we had our obligatory bib photo before we left the hall.

The official pace car

The official pace car

Remember kids, do not even think about doing this to Mommy's and Daddy's cars.

Remember kids, do not even think about doing this to Mommy’s and Daddy’s cars.

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As ready as you can be

As ready as you can be.

With the expo over it was time to find a place to eat lunch. We had a few hours before our group dinner later and judging by where we were situated we could get some sightseeing in before dinner. We headed out of the expo and found a  ‘Potbelly’s’ nearby was open and stopped in for lunch. We stood in line behind Jeff Galloway of all people. He’s so approachable and easy to talk to and always encouraging. He was running the next day and also appearing at the expo as an honoree of the race this year.

We spent that afternoon sight-seeing. We were not far from the White House so that was our first stop. From there we walked the National Mall and around the Washington Monument making our way up to the Lincoln Memorial. I’ve been to DC many times but this was the first time I had actually been up to the Lincoln Memorial close up. Amazing.

Waiting to be invited in for tea

Waiting to be invited in for tea

But the invitation never came. Maybe next time.

But the invitation never came. Maybe next time.

Spot the tourist.

Spot the tourist.

My wife calls this the 'Jenny Water'...

My wife calls this the ‘Jenny Water’…

Wonderful view

Wonderful view

I was very impressed to be here

I was very impressed to be here

After walking way too much for the day before a marathon we decided to hop in a cab to Georgetown to look around before we had to meet up with everyone for dinner in Crystal City.

Some of my fellow Mickey Milers who live locally around the area had found a restaurant nearby to get together the night before the race. It was great to see so many. I think there were ultimately over 20 of us from near and far and a fun time was had by all.

Mickey Milers meet up

Mickey Milers meet up

Somehow I feel partially responsible for my team mates shirt (thanks Ian)

Somehow I feel partially responsible for my team mates shirt (thanks Ian)

After a nice dinner with the group we headed over to the Metro to get back to our hotel. When we arrived on the platform I bumped into someone else I knew through the runDisney community and we chatted with him and his wife as we were waiting for the Metro. Given the current one track service it was helpful that he was there. He lives in the area and helped us get on the right train…which took a long time.

I was a little worried about getting to the start line the next day. With that in mind my wife agreed that we should probably get the first train the next day. The Metro was due to start running at 5am on race day. As we left the Metro station and headed toward the hotel we met up with another runner who was coming back to the same hotel as us. We started talking about getting to the race on time and he mentioned that he didn’t want to get up too early for the Metro and would probably Uber his way there…we never did find out what happened to him, but more on that later.

With the final preparations done we went to bed hoping to catch a few hours before we had to head out to the Metro for our 5am(!) train.

All set

All set for the morning

So 3 something in the morning arrived and it was time to get up. Both of us got ready and headed downstairs to the lobby where we were able to sit by the fireplace for a few minutes before following the other runners to the Metro station just before 5am. When we got on the platform we met up with another Mickey Miler, Brad, who was staying at a nearby hotel. Brad had run the race before and was a good source of advice and a great person to talk to as we travelled to the race start (which included a change of trains). We were very glad we took the first train because apparently there was a real SNAFU that morning with the Metro.

It seems that in addition to the single track service, that one of the trains hit an animal on the track which caused further delays. Getting to the start is not any easy thing for this marathon. The nearest open Metro station is Pentagon which is a good 10 minute walk from the starting area. Nevertheless we got there early enough and were able to get through security (metal detectors and bag check) fairly easy. At this point we said good luck to Brad and we went about our own way to get ready for the race. We were surprised that it didn’t seem that busy. We wouldn’t find out why until later in the day but needless to say we were able to get our gear ready, there were no lines for the bathrooms and we were able to find ourselves a spot to sit down in a tent.

Made it to the starting area

Made it to the starting area

Security is taken seriously at the start

Security is taken seriously at the start

Bags were checked and all runners had to go through metal detectors

Bags were checked and all runners had to go through metal detectors

With Brad at the starting area

With Brad at the starting area

Her first Marine photo op of the day

Her first Marine photo op of the day

Too quiet...where is everyone?

Too quiet…where is everyone?

Sitting under the tent and keeping ourselves warm.

Sitting under the tent and keeping ourselves warm.

Luckily we were sitting in the tent as very shortly thereafter it began to rain. I knew that it was in the original forecast but we thought it would have passed before the start of the race. This caused additional problems at the start area.

It seems that in addition to the single track trains and the accident on one side of the tracks, the rain was now causing problems with the metal detectors at the security lines. Apparently half of them ceased working due to the conditions.

We followed everyone to the corrals and when we go there we noticed that some of the people we were expecting to see we not there. This was due to the security line problems. We took our group picture and went over to the corrals. Unlike many other races where there are separately timed corral wave starts, this marathon uses the honor system where runners line up at their anticipated pace and finish time. There are no wave starts meaning everyone just goes off at the same time.

Walking in the last bits of the rain to the corrals

Walking in the last bits of the rain to the corrals

Mickey Milers about to run the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

Mickey Milers about to run the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon

We figured this would be a safe pace for us to run.

We figured this would be a safe pace for us to run.

Once inside the corral we were in for a real treat. This marathon is known for its great starting experience. Firstly the national anthem was sung and then over head a performing parachute team jumped down to the start line trailing some very large American flags. Shortly thereafter, helicopters flew over the corrals. It was an incredible few minutes.

The parachute performers landing at the front of the corrals.

The parachute performers landing at the front of the corrals.

The helicopters then roared overhead.

The helicopters then roared over head.

Just before we were about to start (they fire a Howitzer) our friends joined us. They had missed the group photo due to the security lines but made it just at the start.

Mickey Milers ready to go

Mickey Milers ready to go

So, no waves and everyone going at the same time. Sounds like a good idea if everyone is lined up in their correct pace areas. The faster runners at the front start to open up a lead and the mid and back of the pack gently ease behind them in a natural stretch of the field. The problem today was that with so many people stuck in security they had to keep the start open an extra 45 minutes to get everyone in. That meant that many of the runners were not lined up in their correct corral. Faster runners who hadn’t made the start needed to get through slower runners to be able to run their race. Also, wheelchair and hand cycle athletes always start ahead of the runners. Late arrivals started behind the runners and at the pace they go, this meant that the crowd would have to part to let them through.

Very crowded start to the race

Very crowded start to the race

Very crowded start to the race

Very crowded start to the race

Sounds like a bit of an unfortunate mess. Added to this, the first 8-10 miles of the course is fairly narrow (and there is a big hill that will slow you down at mile 2). With the recent rain, people already had wet shoes and puddle jumping became part of the challenge of the day in addition to the jostling of the other runners. With wet leaves on the ground we also saw people take a tumble early on. This was going to make it into one tough day for many people.

Finally, we saw the start line.

Finally, we saw the start line.

It actually took us 13 minutes to cross the start line.

Once we were actually out and running we spent most of the time focusing on footing (puddles) and positioning (people). It’s not very often that at mile 8 of a marathon I’m feeling like this is taking too long. It was pretty draining staying focused. It’s a shame really because during the first few miles I didn’t really get to see or appreciate much of the course. It was still lightly raining at this point. I think by the time we got to Georgetown it was the heaviest it would be during the race but it was still early on and we had many more miles to go.

Around mile 5 to 8 there is an out and back section which is narrow on both sides. At this point we had to make space for two hand cyclists and a pace group which made it very tight. Thankfully the woody surroundings were enough to lift our spirits. It was very quiet (surprisingly) maybe because people we just focused on moving forward at this time. Maybe because the crowds both before and after this section were so loud and supportive it just seemed much quieter. Either way it was calming. I was amazed thought at one point when a runner ahead of me cut the course and jumped from mile 5.5 to beyond mile 8. I know it shouldn’t bother me but it does. People train hard for this and to cut 3 miles and then claim a marathon medal is a little mean spirited. We did see someone take a pretty bad tumble at mile 8 just behind us and my wife immediately turned around thinking it was me. That says a bit about the crowds. Normally my wife and I run alongside each other. It wasn’t possible here.

Once we left the wooded area we ‘stormed the District’ as we headed into DC proper. We crossed over and ran behind the Jefferson Memorial alongside the Potomac River. They were handing out orange slices to the runners and these were amazing to have right there and then.

So now we are in the District of Columbia. Firstly, wow…you are so close to Reagan National Airport you think planes are going to land on you (this close to the Capitol and the White House!!!) and you could see the runway as we ran along the river. Second, you are now in a National Park which essentially means real bathrooms!!!!

As we crossed over into the District we were greeted by a band of Marines playing us on. It was great. There were so many people out and cheering us on.

And the band played on.

And the band played on.

We made it from VA to DC

We made it from VA to DC

The Jefferson Memorial just around the corner

The Jefferson Memorial just around the corner

As we rounded the Jefferson Memorial (which itself is a pretty narrow pathway) through to Mile 12 we approached the Blue Mile. The Blue Mile section of the course is where fallen service members are commemorated by pictures along the roadway decorated with American flags. Incredibly moving seeing the images of these very young men and women and their families. Heartbreaking.

As you complete the Blue Mile volunteers holding flags were cheering us on. We should have been cheering them on.

Running along the Blue Mile

Running along the Blue Mile

Running along the Blue Mile

Running along the Blue Mile

Once out from the Blue Mile we round the park and headed into the National Mall area. As we excited the park we noticed there were signs every few yards that must have been set up by a local running club. Not only were they calling out individual team mates (and it seemed to be a big club) they were funny and kept my mind of the fact that as tired as we were feeling we hadn’t yet reached the half marathon distance!!!

Once we hit the National Mall area the crowds were deep and loud. Great motivation and I think we actually picked up the pace for a little while. This stretch of the course was flat and a good excuse to do a little sightseeing.

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Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Touring the Nation's capital

Here was a great sign that we saw as we toured the Capital.

Mommy time

Mommy time

Once we rounded the Capitol Building and were moving around the Smithsonian Institute we saw our fellow Mickey Miler Dave who had travelled down from New York to cheer us on during the race and also brought us much welcomed treats. He had a cooler with water, Coke, Swedish Fish, pretzels and oranges. What a star. I gave him my biggest sweatiest hug which I’m sure he appreciated at much as the orange slices we took from him :-).

So grateful to Dave for coming to cheer us on and provide some refreshments for all of us.

So grateful to Dave for coming to cheer us on and provide some refreshments for all of us.

Our next challenge would be the infamous ‘Beat the Bridge’. This is the cut off point for the Marathon. If you don’t make it to the bridge by 1pm you are not allowed to complete the marathon and they open the bridge back up to traffic.

As we rounded the Mall I started feeling a really sharp pain in my right foot. Let’s just say it hurt. Bad. I’d never had this before during a race or even a long training run. It was very weird. Also around the same time my wife started having a little trouble with her hip. We were a bit of a mess and we were only at mile 18. Eventually though we made it to the bridge at mile 20.

We made it.

We made it.

Shari decided it was time for a little ‘pick me up for the last 10K’. This was NOT what I thought she meant…

Mile 20

Mile 20

Not the 'pick me up' I thought she meant.

Not the ‘pick me up’ I thought she meant.

So at mile 20 you cross the bridge. It is one heck of a long bridge. Although we technically ‘Beat the Bridge’, by the time we got to the other side I think it had beaten us. At this point both of us had to stop every few hundred yards to walk. I couldn’t figure out my foot pain but I did learn that I can indeed swear like a sailor (or a Marine) during that bridge crossing.

Finally we made it over the bridge and we were back into Crystal City for what would be the last 4 miles. As we rounded the corner away from the bridge we were treated with Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins.  I could swear I heard angels singing…

This was a real pick me up

This was a real pick me up

Miles 22 to 24 was an out and back around Crystal City. We again saw Brad who was just ahead of us and a few other Mickey Milers who were running roughly the same pace. At the turnaround there was a fire engine which was providing a light mist to cool runners as the temperatures were now rising.

Once we left Crystal City it was back to Arlington and the last two or so miles past the Pentagon through the starting line and towards the finish line at Arlington National Cemetery.

At this point the pain in my foot was bad to the point that I was probably using some very bad words and not doing so very quietly. Shari was also very uncomfortable at this stage. We knew this was our slowest marathon to date (non-Disney) and we were just looking forward to finishing up and getting off our feet.

As we hit mile 26 you see the finish line. It is one heck of a 0.2 mile straight uphill. This is where we would ‘Take the Iwo’, a reference to the Iwo Jima Memorial at the top of the hill. As we ran up the hill there were great crowds on either side and also the Marines were out there in full force cheering us (I think yelling at us is more an appropriate description) to make it up the hill. The ground had ‘Oorah’ written in big letters. I looked at Shari and shouted “Oorah” to which she shouted back “Don’t ‘Oorah’ me!!” with eyes that scared the living daylights out of me at the time. I guess she was hurting badly too.

Finally we made it across the finish line. The Marines were on hand at the finish line and as we made it through the finishers chute we both agreed that this was the hardest race we had done.

Glad to see that finish line behind me

Glad to see that finish line behind me

We were presented with our medals by a Marine who saluted us first and then placed the medal around our necks. We thanked him for his service. I mean really, we just ran a race but he and all the other Marines who were helping out at the race do far braver and more challenging things than run a road race. These guys are true heroes.

Happy to have finished and happy to have a Marine photo again.

Happy to have finished and happy to have a Marine photo again.

Getting my medal

Getting my medal

It was a great treat at the finish line to be presented the medal by a Marine.

It was a great treat at the finish line to be presented the medal by a Marine.

As it was the 40th anniversary Marine Corps Marathon the medal had a little extra special look to it. Beautiful piece.

Proud to have earned my medal

Proud to have earned my medal

We sure look happy to have finished.

We sure look happy to have finished.

As we walked beyond the finish line and the medals we were in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial, the memorial for the Marines. What a very special place to have as a finish line. Just incredible.

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Oh...one final Marine photo opportunity. She made the Marine on the left smile....short jokes are funny!!!

Oh…one final Marine photo opportunity. She made the Marine on the left smile….short jokes are funny!!!

As we exited to the finish line area to the family reunion and finish festival areas it was very crowded. It was very organized at the finish with the Marines handing out a water bottles, a plastic bag to carry post race items (nice touch…are you listening runDisney, Rock ‘n’ Roll Philly?) and also the famous ‘Finisher Jackets’ in lieu of a mylar blanket. There were also bananas and pre-packaged food boxes.

Nice touch. One that other races should consider.

Nice touch. One that other races should consider.

That's a fancy little jacket to keep you warm post race. "Mission Accomplished" is right.

That’s a fancy little jacket to keep you warm post race. “Mission Accomplished” is right.

Beyond the food and water was the finish line festival…which is where the chaos began. I’m sure it’s the same every year (as per what I have read) but it’s really hard to get out of the area. The finish festival had some merchandise and there was an amazing band of Marines rocking out on the stage. They sounded awesome. We looked around a bit, grabbed some free samples of watermelon (which was amazing) and made our way up towards the Metro station….BIG MISTAKE!!!

The line for the Metro (remember, running only on one track) was ridiculous. It stretched out of the station for 3 blocks. I can only imagine how crowded it would have been on the platform and in the station itself. Crazy.

The finish line festival

The finish line festival

The amazing band of Marines

The amazing band of Marines

The line for the Metro

The line for the Metro

Still the line for the Metro!!!

Still the line for the Metro!!!

We decided to not take the Metro and to move our way out of the finish area where we might have the chance of grabbing a taxi. Again, BIG MISTAKE!!!

The roads were still closed as the line for the shuttle buses was almost as long as the Metro. The line of regular traffic meant that getting a cab was useless as we would have just sat there with the clock ticking. It had been a long race for us and we were behind schedule so we decided to wait on the return journey and find a place to eat.

There were places close by within a 10 minute walk. As we were wandering around we met a local and asked where we should go. She pointed in a general direction and we saw a restaurant with a bunch of runners sitting eating and drinking so we went in and took a table inside. I can only imagine what the staff were thinking. All these stinky runners in one room with no ventilation….charming. Once we sat down I took of my shoes and bingo….found out what was causing me pain.

When I first started running I had a very nervous habit before races of tying and re-tying my shoes to feel a good fit. In fact I stopped to tie and re-tie my laces twice in my first marathon. Finally, so as not to cause a major accident from runners behind me, I started to use ‘Lock Laces‘ in all my running shoes. Never had to tie laces again and with the addition of being elastic they could stretch out a little as my feet swelled over the course of a marathon.

A couple of weeks before the marathon I started to break in my new shoes. They were the newer model of the shoe that I normally wear, the Brooks Adrenaline GTS. Little did I know that the new model ran a half size shorter. I ended up with a rather nasty blister for the first time ever following a 20 mile training run. I quickly went back to my local running store and was able to up-size them to a new pair with no problem…except I hadn’t fully broken them in and hadn’t really put the Lock Laces in at the right tension. Over time I’d started putting in the laces a little tighter and tighter until there was little, if any, give left in the elastic. It appears that on this occasion I had simply set the laces up too tight. That was why around mile 16 I started to feel pain. As much as I adjusted the laces from there on in it was too late. There wasn’t enough give to ease the pressure on my foot. Once I took the shoe off I saw what I had done. Let’s face it, it was a simple and stupid fix but caused 10 miles of real discomfort. Incidentally, I adjusted the laces when I got home and two days later ran a pretty fast 5K split with no pain whatsoever. I felt pretty dumb.

Anyway, with the shoes off we were able to comfortably eat our way back to happiness at this restaurant. This included a nice apple cobbler dessert with ice cream. Yum!

Seated and shoeless. Look who I am smiling now.

Seated and shoeless. Look how I am smiling now.

My celebratory veggie burger

My celebratory veggie burger

Earned my medal...earned my dessert.

Earned my medal…earned my dessert. Note there are two spoons despite what my wife will tell you.

After lunch and the time off our feet we headed out. On the way we asked the hostess where the nearest Metro was. It was right up the street and there were no lines. We made a beeline for the Metro station and got on a train within a minute of arriving on the platform and headed back to our hotel. Having moved out the area and taking a break for lunch saved us plenty of time off our feet and waiting for a train. GOOD IDEA!!!

Once back to the hotel we had little time to hang about as we had to be on the road and back home before it was too late. We set off around 5pm and due to a traffic accident ahead of us didn’t make it home until nearly 10pm. Ugh. But considering the long day I will tell you I slept very well that night!!!

All cleaned up and ready for our drive home.

All cleaned up and ready for our drive home.

Talking with friends in the couple of days after the race they all agreed that it was a pretty tough race. I don’t think its the course itself which was challenging, but the whole mess up at the beginning of the race with people starting late and then fast runners pushing through what was a crowded course (which it probably wouldn’t have been on a normal year) made it exhausting just to keep going. It was fun though. Glad I got to see all my fellow Mickey Milers and got to experience the great parts of this race first hand. I would highly recommend that you give it a try.

In the days post the race, the Marine Corps Marathon Race Director acknowledged that there had been issues at the start and that they ended up extending the time they kept the bridge open for about 30 minutes later than originally planned to accommodate the runners who had been affected. Then you realize you were not just making this stuff up on your head.

I look back and say that it was tough but we got it done. You cannot run a race like this and see wounded warriors, Marines running in full gear packs, people running with American flags held high and experiencing the Blue Mile without it having a very emotional and motivating effect on your experience.

Well done to everyone taking part in this event whether they be runners, volunteers or spectators. It was a great day to be a runner.

OORAH!

September 2015 – Month in review

Septmber 2015 – Nike+ Summary

September 2015 – Nike+ Summary

Another busy month. According to my Nike app I ran 143 miles and my MapMyFitness calendar showed I had a total of 207 miles (143 miles running, 62 miles cycling and 2 miles swimming). 

September - Map My Fitness

September – Map My Fitness

This month included the Hightstown Triathlon, my 3rd(ish) and last triathlon of the year and also the last few weeks of training for the Marine Corps Marathon so plenty of training during the month in preparation.

Fall definitely made an appearance during the month but luckily it was still fairly warm during the triathlon so I was able to enjoy the last days of summer. Our boys went back to school, my youngest is now in Kindergarten so both boys are together again at the local elementary school.

My two guys heading into school together

My two guys heading into school together

Also, as he has now moved up to Kindergarten, he is now at Sunday school every week vs every other week like last year. This allowed my wife and I to have 3 hours together on Sunday mornings so we were able to get some marathon training in together which was a great as we probably hadn’t had a chance to run together as a couple since the Pittsburgh Marathon back in May.

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

Nice opportunity to get out on the trail together

We’ve been taking the opportunity to get some of the long runs in along the Delaware Canal as it is fairly flat but very close to where we take the kids for Sunday school so we can save some time. It’s been great running there as the temperatures have cooled. We changed our route up a bit this year and crossed over the Delaware River at Washington’s Crossing so we ran both on the Pennsylvania side and the New Jersey side. Just to mix things up. On one of the times we were running together we crossed back to the PA side and saw a group of Revolutionary War re-enactors walking around Washington Crossing Park. We got a bit of a surprise when they started shooting off muskets and it didn’t really help when we ran through the park and my wife pointed out to them that I was British…thanks Babe, appreciate that.

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The British are running...the British are running...

The British are running…the British are running…

Work is ramping up again so I am back to traveling for a while and finding some time to squeeze my training in. I find fitting the swim training in a bit more difficult as I’m not close to my gym but I did manage to find an LA Fitness near the hotel in Atlanta to allow me to get a swim day in before the triathlon. My triathlon races are done for now for this year and once I am back home during the winter months I can ramp that up again with plans for next year.

So we end the month just a few weeks away from our big race of the year, the Marine Corps Marathon. My wife and I are really looking forward to running this together. We will be travelling down without the boys this time around as it is going to be a pretty quick trip. I definitely want to take them next summer to visit the museums and enjoy the sites. That will be a fun vacation. We can scope it all out as we are running along the route.

My upcoming race calendar should now be set through the end of the year (perhaps):

October 25 – Marine Corps Marathon (Washington, DC) – This will be our first time running this event.

October 31 – Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon – I ran this event on my own in 2012 and as a couple in 2013 and 2014.

November 1 – Cooper Norcross Run the Bridge (Camden, NJ) – I ran this event for the first time in 2013.

November 22 – Philadelphia Marathon – In 2011 this was my first marathon and also the first where I broke 4 hours in 2012. My wife and I ran this together in 2013.

November 26 – Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 Miler (Langhorne, PA) – We try to run this every year (since we started running) and only missed it last year by being out of town. Here is my last recap of that race.

Looking forward to October and beyond. Thank you for reading.