2015 New Jersey State Triathlon – Recap (not race recap…)

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I have to start off by saying that this is a tough post to write, not because of my performance on the day but because despite all my training and all my preparation for this event it was not the outcome I had planned.

I was coming to the end of the bike portion of the race when I was called off my bike by a volunteer about half a mile from the transition to tell me that due to a report of a lightning strike on the course, the race was cancelled for the safety of the competitors.

The race directors posted a statement later which read in part:

“As disappointing as that is, we would much rather explain to you why we took such action then having to explain to the family of an injured athlete why we didn’t.

You cannot argue with that.

I would still like to record on this blog my experience leading up to, during and after this event so I can share the good and the bad as well as the surprises and the lessons learned for the weekend. Here goes…

Back in October last year I signed up for the New Jersey State Triathlon. This was to be my first triathlon. I originally signed up for the Olympic distance (1,500 meter swim/23 mile bike/6.2 mile run) but having not worked as hard in the pool as I really needed to I decided to pull back to the Sprint distance (500 meter swim/11.5 mile bike/3.1 mile run) so I knew I would be able to finish. It was the swim leg that really had me worried. I was confident about the bike and run sections having done three duathlons in the last few years.

After having joined a swim club back in October but going pretty rarely due to business travel and the access to the pool over the winter being limited I joined up with a pool closer to my house and committed to going 2 to 3 times a week and swimming. I kept up that commitment and have logged a number of long (for me) swim sessions over the last 2 months to give me the confidence that a) I wouldn’t drown, and b) I had enough in me to complete the Sprint distance.

I had joined the Bucks Country Triathlon Club for information and tips back in October and ordered my club tri-suit back in February. I picked it up in early May and it was snug but I guess it was supposed to be so it wouldn’t drag in the water. Tri-suits do not require any form of modesty whatsoever. It did fit a little more snug following our recent trip to the UK and the enormous quantities of chocolate I consumed over there…but it was worth it :-)

The day before the race arrived and I left work a little early to head over to Mercer County Park for packet pickup. The race was being put on by CGI Racing which have put on a couple of other races I have participated in over the last couple of years, namely the LOVE Run Half Marathon and the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon, both of which were very well run.

The packet pick up area

The packet pick up area

Tomorrow's finish line

Tomorrow’s finish line

My goal when I got to the park was to pick up my race packet, ask a couple of questions that I had and then look at any expo they had (never having been to a triathlon expo). Packet pickup was in an open field by the transition area as was the expo. It didn’t take too long to pick up the packet and then the race shirt. I then went over to the information table to ask my couple of questions. A volunteer recommended I walk the transition area to get familiar with the swim entry/exit before the race. I hadn’t thought about that but it was a great idea. It also helped calm my nerves a little to see what I would be getting myself in for.

Packet pick up was smooth

Packet pick up was smooth

There was an information booth and an area to look up your bib number if you didn't have it with you

There was an information booth and an area to look up your bib number if you didn’t have it with you.

The expo was a few tents surrounding the packet pick up

The expo was a few tents surrounding the packet pick up. It was small with a few vendors.

Once I had my packet and shirt and the volunteer had walked me through all the items in my race packet (including the ankle bracelet for the chip) I walked around in the order of the next day’s events. The swim, the bike and then the run.

I walked down to the lake to see the entry point and the exit as well as to look out over the water along the course. The first thing that struck me was that I wasn’t too intimidated by the course. I wasn’t really sure in my mind how I would have pictured the swim as I’d only seen an Ironman competition on TV and not anything shorter and having only done lap swimming and no open water swimming before I didn’t really have a sense of the length.

Swim entry point

Swim entry point

Swim course outlined by buoys

Swim course outlined by buoys

Swim entry view

Swim entry view

A panorama of the whole course from start (on right) to finish (on left).

A panorama of the whole course from start (on right) to finish (on left)

The exit of the swim

The exit of the swim

The transition area from the swim to the bike

The transition area from the swim to the bike

As I was walking along the lake I came across this sign…

Yes...that will calm my nerves!!!

Yes…that will calm my nerves!!!

So on entry to the transition area I went over to see where my bike would be set up the next day and to look for where I would be going both out and then in once I was transitioning.

Racks and racks all set up

Racks and racks all set up

My designated spot for the race

My designated spot for the race

Worth checking where to head in advance so you don't panic on the day.

Worth checking where to head in advance so you don’t panic on the day.

Walk up the chute out onto the road with the bike.

Walk up the chute out onto the road with the bike. This was both the out/in route for the bike portion.

The start to the last part of the triathlon

The start to the last part of the triathlon

The finishing chute

The finishing chute

Having walked through the area I took a look at the VIP area as the Bucks County Triathlon Club had a team tent set up for the weekend.

VIP area

VIP area

Tent placed ready for the weekend.

Tent placed ready for the weekend

Benefits of being part of a triathlon club

Benefits of being part of a triathlon club – private port-a-potty

So with the packet picked up and the walk through completed I headed off to join the family for the evening. We were getting together by the pool to chill out with the boys for the evening. I was beginning to get a little antsy so I left early to start to get my gear ready for the next day.

I needed to get my bike off the bike trainer and oil the chain and pump the tires. All was going well until….ssssssssss…what? What’s going on? sssssssss….

Yup, my rear wheel tube had split at the valve. I have to admit that at 9:30pm the night before my first triathlon and having never changed a tire on a bike in my entire life I was a little freaked!!!!

A few messages to biking friends and a post or two on Facebook groups guided me to YouTube. I must have watched the ‘How to change a tire’ video about a dozen times. Ultimately…and messily I changed my tire tube. Luckily I had a spare. When I bought my bike they threw one into my gear bag. Never thought I’d use it though!!!

Eek!!!

Eek!!!

What????

What????

Done!!!

Done!!!

Ugh...

Ugh…

Ultimately I got through this little last minute emergency and packed my bag ready for the next day.

Finally ready for the big day.

Finally ready for the big day. I bet no one else has a transition bag this cool!!!

I didn’t get much sleep that night. Between the adrenaline rush of the bike incident and the thought of the swim and how I would handle the transition my mind was racing. I got about 4.5 hours of sleep.

Race Day

I got up around 4:15am with the goal of leaving home around 5-5:15am as it was a 30 minute drive to get to the race. I was a little tired but excited. I had all my gear laid out the night before and I had my Powerbar and some water ready for when I was getting dressed. I had left random notes all over the house to remember my Garmin, to remember my water bottles in the refrigerator, etc.

Packing the car and racking my bicycle in the dark was an interesting experience. Nevertheless I was all packed up and ready to go. I headed out to the race area. By the time I got to Mercer County Park there were plenty of people there. I parked next to a lady who looked like she was an experienced triathlete. I nervously made small talk as we unpacked our cars and then made my way over to the transition area where volunteers were marking up everyone with their race numbers (number on each arm and age on one calf).

D-Day. Triathlon or bust.

D-Day. Triathlon or bust.

It was tight at the transition area as my neighbor seemed to have a lot of gear (well…a lot of space) and luckily I was at the end of the rack so I had a little extra space at the end to play with. I set up my gear and looked around at all the people there. I heard them announced the water temperature and they announced it was not wetsuit legal. I had looked this up in advance and this time of year was typically very warm so I had not rented a wetsuit for this race. Glad I hadn’t spent the money at that moment.

Setting up my gear

Setting up my gear

Pretty much ready to go

Pretty much ready to go

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

Craaaazy busy

I made my way over to the port-a-potty’s and waited in line. The lines were not long but didn’t move fast. I figured it takes people so much extra time to get in and out of these tri-suits!!!

One last check of my transition area

One last check of my transition area

After the bathroom stop I made my way over to the transition area for one final run through of my gear, picked up my swim cap and goggles and made my way to the swim start area. I don’t have photos from here as my phone was in the transition area, my phone isn’t waterproof and my tri-suit doesn’t have any pockets. Ha. I guess I should get myself a GoPro ;-)

I saw that people were being directed around the side of the boat house where they were allowed to do a practice swim. I hadn’t planned on it or given it any thought but I saw so many people going over there and it was almost an hour until my swim group went off that I decided to give it a try. After all this would be my first open water swim.

As I was walking down the ramp into the water I bumped into a colleague from work. We were both doing our first triathlon so it was nice to meet someone probably as anxious as me.

I took my first steps (it was rocky) into the water and although I didn’t follow the whole practice course I swam for about 5 minutes out and back. Wow. You cannot see anything in the water!!! At least I now how an idea of what to expect for the real deal within the next hour.

After exiting the water I bumped into a fellow Bucks County Tri-Club member and we chatted a little until I reconnected with my colleague. We hung out as the first few waves went off and he left about 10 minutes ahead of me and joined his wave.

The swim started in the water so there was none of that mad dash into the water. That was good for me as I was worried about that at the start. I only pictured what I had seen on TV and those usually are the beach starts when everyone runs in at the same time. By starting in the water I could make sure I had enough space around me when I started swimming.

Swim course

Swim course

I was given some advice before the swim which essentially was to wait for the gun (or the word to go), let the fast people go, count to ten then pick a spot and take my time going out. That would leave me a little behind everyone but out of the way of the main body of swimmers.

Eventually my wave was called to the start. As we watched the previous wave go off everyone took their place and we went into the water. The temperature was comfortable and I felt remarkably relaxed at this point. I wasn’t racing anyone but just wanted to complete the swim without any major issues. I had plenty of space around me although I did line up towards the rear. Eventually our wave was released and we were off.

Within the first 100 meters I was just focusing on staying calm and moving forward as I normally would with regular bilateral breathing every 3 strokes. At one point however I came awfully close with a fellow swimmer and almost took a mouthful of lake water. Yuk! As started to cough a little and one of the race supervisors on a nearby kayak asked if I was okay. I gave him a thumbs up and then continued on my way. Next thing I know I’m being yelled at to go left by another person in a kayak and as I looked up I was veering almost off the course. After a couple of course corrections I eventually figured out how best to keep sighting while swimming and I made it around the first turn.

I could hear another wave behind me be released as I was swimming. A little while after I made the second turn and headed in I was passed by the leader of the wave. I was swimming pretty steadily (mostly freestyle) and pretty much keeping a pace along with a bunch of other competitors and so I thought I was doing okay.

As I saw the exit approaching I focused on my form and made a beeline for the exit of the swim. As I made it to the shallow water I tried to stand up only to feel a little dizzy as I got upright. Luckily there was a volunteer in the water to catch me and hold my arm for a few moments until I could get my footing. As soon as I was steady I made my way up the exit ramp and headed out towards the transition area.

My one and only professional shot from the day - Exiting the swim

My one and only professional shot from the day – Exiting the swim. Proof I didn’t drown.

I got into the transition area and made it to my bike. I had read a few tips about bringing extra bottles of water to wash sand/grass/dirt off your feet and this was a really good tip. I dried my feet and put on some talc to help put on my Injini socks (not the easiest to put on in a rush), grabbed my bike shoes and helmet and made my way out of the transition area. Once we exited the grass area the volunteers told us to mount the bike after we crossed the red line which was the start of the bike course.

Bike course

Bike course

As I set off on my bike the sky was getting really dark. They had mentioned that there was a chance of rain towards the end of the race so I was hoping it would hold off while on the bike. I don’t mind running in the rain (although not when it was like the LOVE Run Half Marathon type of rain LOL).

I started off steadily and used the first mile to get down some water and a Gu gel packet. As I was progressing through mile 2 the rain started. Gently at first but by mile 3-4 it was steady and beginning to get harder. By mile 5 the rain was beating down hard and stinging my exposed skin. I started to see flashes of lightning and felt a little concerned about being out in a storm. I keep moving along (a decent pace for my hybrid bike) and despite the rain and the puddles was maintaining a consistent pace. I was however getting wet. Very wet. I could feel my socks squelching in my bike shoes and my bike helmet was not keeping my head dry from the elements.

Interestingly there were a number of cars on the course as we were riding and some were not very considerate to the cyclists. There police were doing a great job at the road junctions but it was still a little hairy given the conditions at the moment.

The rain was a downpour as I was approaching the last third of the bike route but I hadn’t seen any notification from the course volunteers and I hadn’t heard any siren or anything at this point.

As I approached mile 10 the rain seemed to lighten up and I made my way back into the park. I was hoping that my shoes that I had left in the transition weren’t soaked but luckily I had another pair of shoes and a dry pair of socks in my bag (which hopefully wasn’t soaked itself).

As I made my way to the transition area all of a sudden I started to see a whole bunch of folks walking on the side of the road ahead of me. I saw a few wearing medals so I just assumed these were the folks who had finished much faster than my wave. But then I heard a volunteer telling us to slow down and get off our bikes. At this point I was at mile 10.9 of the 11.5 mile route. They told us that the race had been cancelled due to lightning. I was stunned. I wasn’t exactly sure what to do at that point. I got off my bike and started walking back to the transition area in a daze.

As I walked my bike in I heard a member of the race organizing team shouting at everyone to get away from trees, metal and bikes as there was lightning in the area. They told us the transition area was closed and if we should go and sit in our cars until the storm had passed. As my keys were in the transition area I asked if I could get them and they said yes if I hurried.

I saw a bunch of folks standing under the Bucks Country Tri Club tent and so I quickly ran up and left my bike there and then ran to the transition to grab my gear. Yes it was soaked. I quickly dashed back to stand under the tent with everyone else. I was totally at a loss for words. I felt I was doing great and I was so happy to have completed the swim but I just felt that I had had the stuffing knocked out of me.

I was very disappointed. But not mad. What could I do?

We waited under the tent until the storm passed. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. I noticed while I was standing under the tent that I had damaged my front brake…needless to say that was part of my tire changing experience from the night before so I decided to say goodbye to everyone and head over to my local bicycle store (Guy’s Bicycles) and have it checked out.

As I was driving home I called my wife and told her how upset I was. She said it had been very dark but it had never rained at home. In fact the sun was out. I asked her if it would be alright if I went for a short run when I got home so I could get my mind clear and plan my next move and she was okay with that. She was disappointed for me too.

I was still dressed in my wet tri suit as I dropped off my bike but the sun was now shining again and so I quickly went home, changed my shoes and grabbed a hand-held water bottle as it was very hot by now and just went out and ran my 5K. That was pretty much all I had left to do to finish the triathlon.

I must have looked a little silly running through the local park in a skin-tight suit all marked up with permanent marker on my arms and leg but I didn’t care. I was out and I was finishing my race my way.

Feeling determined after my 5K

Feeling determined after my 5K

I took a long hot shower and hung my gear out to dry, stuffed my wet shoes with newspaper and came back to reality. I uploaded all my data after I’d had a chance to eat and relax and few hours to remove myself from the events of earlier in the day.

Overall I cannot be that disappointed. I didn’t quit, I didn’t DNF the race, the elements were out of my control. I was really pleased and proud to have completed the swim and the swim to bike transition. I learned a few lessons during that and also take away confidence that I can do this.

Looking at my stats I did a triathlon on the day. I just did it my way and didn’t give up despite the situation. It would have been too easy to be down about the experience but by getting myself out for that 5K it turned a bad situation around and I know now that I can do this.

My triathlon - my way

My triathlon – my way

My goal for next year is to return to the New Jersey State Triathlon and do the Olympic distance as I had originally intended for this year. I am confident that I will do this now. I have committed to my swim training and will only get stronger and have more endurance in a years time.

My next move was to find a local triathlon in the next few weeks to achieve my goal of completing a triathlon this season. I don’t want to wait another year. I took  a look around and settled on the Medford Lakes Colony Sprint Triathlon on Sunday August 23rd. By the end of next month I will be a triathlete.

As a follow-up, the race organizers wrote to everyone and said “A decision will be made in the next few weeks on what will be offered to our Sprint athletes please be patient as we must first do our post race due diligence.” I will wait patiently.

They also offered to send finisher medals to Sprint participants. I was not sure what to do. I usually display my race medals but I didn’t get a chance to finish this one. My wife says that after all the training and in completing the distance on the day I should take it but I don’t feel like I would want to display it. So what I have decided to do is to accept the medal, not display it but put it on the side with the goal of replacing it with the real deal in 2016. That will be my motivator. Once I have my 2016 New Jersey State Triathlon finisher medal I will donate the 2015 medal to ‘Medals 4 Mettle‘.

That is my silver lining and my motivation for next years event.

Thank you for reading.

Washington Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K – Race recap

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On July 4th this year I signed up on the day and took part in the Washington’s Crossing Revolutionary Run 10K. This was quite a change for me as I usually don’t do many races last minute. I’m quite the planner when it comes to my race activities (see here). This is also the location where I did the Bucks County Duathlon and the ‘Chasing The Unicorn’ Marathon.

On the day before the race I saw a message from a friend and Mickey Milers teammate saying he would be in the area for the weekend and was looking to see if anyone was interested in running this race. For the last few years we have always been away for the holiday weekend and in the years prior to that I wasn’t a runner so this race was never on my radar. So, my wife gave me the ok and I was all set to go. I mentioned it to my father in law at dinner the night before the race and he said he was interested in joining me. Ultimately my friend had a very long day in New York City and decided that he wasn’t going to be there so my father in law planned to go if the weather cooperated in the morning.

The race start was 8:30 am and was a 20 minute ride from my house so I got to sleep in a little. Hey, it was a holiday weekend. The rain early in the morning stopped around 6am and we decided to make a go of it. We arrived early enough to register and saw that there were plenty of same day participants. The parking was down the street from the start/finish area in Washington Crossing Historic Park but was easily walkable. It was a much more crowded event than I had anticipated.

As it was July 4th I was prepared with my INKnBURN ‘Sam’ Tech Shirt. Yes, as long as I kept my mouth shut, no-one would be the wiser that this incarnation of Uncle Sam was originally from Great Britain. I guess there is some irony in me wearing the shirt. Anyway, I was there representing all naturalized US citizens so I could get away with it….just. I don’t think my father in law was too impressed but I think he knows me well enough now that nothing surprises him anymore :-)

Uncle Sam...or Sam I Am?

Uncle Sam…or Sam I Am?

Who wore it best?

Who wore it best?

Yes...he's probable pretending he doesn't know me right now

Yes…he’s probable pretending he doesn’t know me right now

There were 3 races, a 1 mile fun run, a 5K and a 10K. All were timed at separate intervals of 15 minutes between each start so we had time as the earlier races moved to their designated points.

We didn’t see the 1 mile fun run go off but we headed to our designated starting line (the one spray painted on the road outside the park) and waited in the corral/crowd with everyone else.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us.

The 5K crowd was lined up just ahead of us

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

We waited another 15 mnutes at the 10K start before it was our turn

Ready to go

Ready to go

So…when you are at Washington’s Crossing Historic Park on July 4th you tend to see a lot of Revolutionary War reenactors and today was no different. We were actually lined up next to an area where they were setting up a period style outdoor camp for later in the day. The race director gave out instructions for the 5K ahead of us and said to wait for the ‘go’. He didn’t mention what the ‘go’ signal was, or if he did we didn’t hear him. We were chatting away in the corral when there was the most incredibly sharp BANG! Yes, the starting gun was a Revolutionary period musket. We both jumped as we were not expecting that. Okay, we knew what the ‘go’ was now for the 10K but again where we were in the crowd for the 10K start we didn’t hear the race director’s instructions for our turn to go and again we were caught off guard when the musket was fired again. I can only imagine how my heart rate spiked at that point. Funny though. You’d have thought we would have been a little more aware. Maybe my shirt was distracting people ;-)

The course itself took a small loop inside the park and then there was an out and back for about 5 miles on River Road (Pennsylvania side) which was closed off for the occassion follwed by another half mile loop around through the park to the finish line. It was a fairly flat course with the only elevation towards the turnaround. There were adequate water stations on the course which was good for it is was a hot and humid morning. For the 10K I wore my daily use water belt so I didn’t really have to stop as I had an 8 ounce bottle with me.

10K course along the Delaware River (Pennsylvania side)

10K course along the Delaware River

As I wasn’t really planning to run this event I had no expectations on time or any planned pace but I just went out and ran how I felt. Since I’ve been experiencing a back issue for the last couple of months (in fact I had already visited the chiropractor twice in the last three days) I wasn’t sure what I would feel like.

Well, I guess I just got all caught up in the excitement of it all. It was very crowded at the start so I skipped my usual Galloway run/walk interval but settled in soon after that and managed to hold a good pace. As the course was relatively flat it was nice and easy to maintain my pace. We ran in the shade of the trees alongside the river (although it was overcast) but it was still a hot and humid day.

stats

I managed to complete my 10K in a time of 52:34. Not close to my PR from a couple of years ago (I don’t run many 10K’s) but respectable enough for me based upon my recent form.

Race Result

Race Result

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

After the finish. The shirt was a hit with the spectators.

My father in law came in just after the hour mark and he seemed happy too, especially as it had suddenly become much warmer towards the end of the race.

My father in law in action

My father in law in action

I was pretty happy with the result and pretty happy with the slices of fresh watermelon at the finish. It was a sweet reward for a last minute race. After that we headed back home and spent the rest of the holiday with the family at the pool before catching some fireworks later in the day.

Hope you all had a very good 4th July holiday wherever and however you celebrated.

Thanks for reading.

 

June 2015 – Month in review

June – Nike+ Summary

A little late but here goes my recap for my June 2015 activities. My Nike+ activity shows just under 70 miles run for the month. I may have to start moving away from sharing the monthly data from this platform going forward as it just shows running and none of the swimming and cycling I am currently doing in the run up to the New Jersey State Triathlon in July (my first triathlon). So here are my real stats (courtesy of Garmin/Map My Fitness).

June – Map My Fitness Summary

June – Map My Fitness Summary

As you can see from the calendar there was quite a bit of swimming and cycling in the first half of the month. for a total of 127 miles (I don’t swim THAT far yet).

The reason the numbers look a little lower (other than focusing on the swim more) is that my family and I took a trip to the UK mid month and with a general focus on visiting my family and sightseeing with the boys we only managed to sneak in a few short runs during the trip.

Playing tourists at the Tower of London

Playing tourists at the Tower of London

At the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens

At the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens

Took the boys to Parliament Hill in London to show them where we got engaged.

We took the boys to Parliament Hill in London to show them where we got engaged.

One of the highlights of the running on this trip was to take my wife on a tour of where I grew up and to visit (run by) old houses where I or my relatives lived as well as past the schools and friends houses around my old neighborhood. Good times.

The house I grew up in. They put up gates...to keep me out?

The house I grew up in. They put up gates…to keep me out?

Wonderful running in the countryside near my old home.

Wonderful running in the countryside near my old home.

My old school (new campus built since I left).

My old school (new campus built since I left).

I also had the chance to catch up with many old friends during the visit and on one occasion a friend of mine (Michael) who had just completed the London Marathon invited us to run with him. This was great as I never would have ventured out on the route he took us. I haven’t lived in the UK for almost 14 years and not lived near where I grew up for almost 20 years so the guided tour was just what we needed. We were very fortunate that the weather was great while we were there (although I did pack a few long sleeve running shirts…just in case).

Catching up with friends while running. Good times.

Catching up with friends while running

Not that we were limited to these occasional runs while over there, as a family we walked and walked and walked all over London. Both my 8 and 5-year-old boys kept up and didn’t complain once, even when my Fitbit told us we had walked 10 miles one of the days. A great visit back and I certainly ate more chocolate than I ever had in such a short time. Well, we had to do the Chocolate Tour of York when we were there.

Good times were had.

Good times were had by all in attendance

We got back from what was a great trip on July 1st. I hadn’t been near a pool in 2 weeks and it showed on my first day back (although that may have been a combination of British chocolate and jet lag). Only a few weeks from the big day so lots of work still to do.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

May 2015 – Month in review

May - Nike+ Sumary

May – Nike+ Summary

142 miles during May. As you look at my monthly stats you will notice that there were a lot of rest days but that’s not the whole story. It’s been a busy month.

At the beginning of May my wife and I ran the 2015 Pittsburgh Marathon. We had been looking forward to this race weekend for a long time (we had signed up last September) and we included a family trip as part of our race weekend. It was a lot of fun. The race was great and we had a good time showing the boys around my wife’s alma mater (University of Pittsburgh).

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon

After some recovery from the race and the trip I rested up a little more than normal as I undertook my first (unofficial) ultra-marathon where I ran ‘Goofy in a Day’ for the charity organization ‘Give Kids The World’. This was effectively the two days we ran at Disney rolled into one day and was the distance of the half marathon and the full marathon combined. It was a great experience and I was fortunate to have a couple of folks separately run about 12 miles with me. This definitely helped get over some of the tougher miles. My fellow Mickey Miler team-mate Tammy drove up and ran 9 miles with me which took me over the 20 mile mark and marathon distance and then a I co-opted a colleague who was running to join me and pace me for a few miles when I was into the 30s.

Goofy In A Day

Goofy In A Day

Goofy In A Day

Goofy In A Day

I was astonished at my actual time/pace for the day. I’m not sure I would rush to undertake such a challenge again too soon but ultimately I raised $1,500 for ‘Give Kids The World’ and brought my fundraising through running total to $13,000 over the last few years for both Autism Speaks and Give Kids The World. I’m quite proud of that fact.

I am a brand ambassador INKnBURN apparel and on May 4th this year they offered a secret product that you had to sign up for sight unseen. The hint was that it was May 4th (when people celebrate Star Wars day) so I threw caution to the wind and purchased this mystery item and waited for my package to arrive. When it did it was “O.M.G!!!!!! I’m hyper(space) ventilating”. It was a full sleeve Boba Fett t-shirt!!! Although my wife thinks I said I was bald and fat…and she calls me a Trekkie. I still love her though. I also love my INKnBURN. So proud to be an ambassador.

Boba Fett

My INKnBURN Boba Fett shirt

Now, getting back to that 142 mile image up at the top, since I started this blog I have always used the Nike+ image to start each monthly review. With the Pittsburgh Marathon over and the Goofy in a Day done I am now able to concentrate on my summer goal of completing my first triathlon (New Jersey State Triathlon). Some of my running days are now being replaced or supplemented with biking and swimming. Swimming is where I need to most work so I am trying to concentrate on that skill set the most for the time being. In regards to biking, I typically only get out during the summer months and then only at weekends. Well, we managed to rectify this situation this month by setting up a gym at home.

Both my wife and I have long commutes to and from our places of work and with the activities for the kids it is getting harder and harder to get to the gym before or after work. As both of us are training for the Marine Corps Marathon this October we are both needing to get our miles in at the same time. Typically I go out in the dark with a headlamp before dawn but I didn’t want my wife to be outside at those hours so we finally purchased a treadmill for the home (a NordicTrack Commercial 1750) so she can run inside when I run outside in the early morning hours. We also now have the flexibility to jump on the treadmill when the boys are in bed or when one of us is travelling for business and the other has to stay home with the boys.

A trip to the Home Depot was required

A trip to the Home Depot was required to set up the base for each machine

The end result - our private workout space

The end result – our private workout space

So as I cleared out my office to make way for the new machine (we figure after 17 marathons combined it is more than a fad) I decided to also set up a bike trainer so I could get some bicycle time in during the week. So far so good. Together this has allowed me to do a couple of brick workouts (bike to treadmill) in preparation for the triathlon in July. I’m also getting to the gym early enough to get around 30 minutes of swimming in a few times a week. I’m getting there…slowly, but still I can see some improvement. So now I cannot use the Nike app alone to recap the month. I use Garmin Connect to give me the ability to record all activities so its not just 142 miles this month but 171 miles. Again, pleased with this although I’m finding muscle groups I never thought I had. I am sure my body will get used to it. I hope so!!!

Garmin Connect - May 2015

Garmin Connect – May 2015

Garmin Connect - May 2015 detail

Garmin Connect – May 2015 detail

This Memorial Weekend we celebrated our 12th wedding anniversary. We had a great family weekend together with the boys at Sesame Place and we also took them to Philadelphia for a day at the Franklin Institute and tosee the Lion King before I had to jet off again to Arizona for business.

Celebrating at Sesame Place

Celebrating at Sesame Place

Enjoying the Lion King touring production in Philadelphia

Enjoying the Lion King touring production in Philadelphia

While in Arizona I took advantage of the unseasonably cool (for Arizona) temperatures and enjoyed some time exploring the area through running from my resort. It was a busy week with many hours sitting on planes and in airports but looking back it was a good trip that yielded some good work.

Taking in some of the sites

Taking in some of the sites

Exploring new areas to run

Exploring new areas to run

So May was a pretty busy month by both running, racing, home and business activities but was rewarding all around.

Thank you for reading.

2015 Pittsburgh Marathon – Race recap

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On May 3rd my wife and I ran the 2015 Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. This was my 12th full marathon and my wife’s 5th. I guess we are hooked at this point.

I had wanted to run this marathon for a couple of years. Each of the last two years clashed with either the New Jersey Marathon or the Broad Street Run. Both my wife and decided to forgo these options and we signed up last September for Pittsburgh when the race registration opened up. Between September last year and May this year we both ran the Baltimore Marathon and the Walt Disney World Marathon (and Goofy Challenge). I don’t think either of us had taken a break in training since last summer.

We decided to make this a family trip with our two boys as we had wanted to take them to Pittsburgh to show them where my wife had gone to college. She is an alum of Pittsburgh University and my wife and I hadn’t been in Pittsburgh toghether since 2003 and not yet with the boys. Originally we had planned to head out on the Friday afternoon and stay through Sunday but after the hotel debacle at the Baltimore Marathon last year we changed our reservation to arrive on the Saturday and stay through the Monday. At least we would have a place to shower post race! It was also going to be just the four of us on this trip so we had to find someone to look after the boys while we were running. I am thankful for the magic of Facebook and my wife’s connections.

I had been struggling with a back issue since March and so the day before the trip I booked an appointment with my chiropractor to ‘straighten me out’. I always get a realignment before a race but I somehow cannot seem to shift this current issue. So with the adjustment made I took it easy that day and tried to get a good nights sleep. I woke up on Saturday morning and I could barely stand. Not a good start to the weekend. Ahead of me was a 5 hour drive…

We started our day like a usual school day and were out the door around 7:30am. It was a beautiful day and there was little to no traffic for the journey. I was, to say the least, very uncomfortable. I couldn’t sit without pain. Everyone was asleep in the car and I was tossing around the idea of whether or not I would even start the next day. We pulled in at a rest stop after 3 hours to refuel and take a snack break with the boys. I did the best I could to move around and loosen up. Still no good. Oh well…only another 2 hours left to drive :-(

Finally we made it to Pittsburgh and we headed straight to the Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in the city. We parked as close as we could and headed in. I was still not feeling great. My plan was to find someone offering free massage at the Expo! Worth a try.

We have arrived at the expo

We have arrived at the Expo

Ready for the expo

Ready for the Expo

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Once inside we headed up to the Health and Fitness Expo

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Up these cool stairs to the Expo

The Expo itself was a decent size, there were three concurrent races going on after all (the full, the half and the marathon relay). There were lots of vendors and the room was pretty tight to maneuver. The bib and shirt pickup was on the right of the hall and the packet and race gear bag was on the opposite side…therefore you had to navigate through the Expo to get both. Clever!!!

We are here

We are here – Game On Pittsburgh

Bib pickup

Bib pickup

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

Shirt pickup. Green for the gents and pink for the ladies

I ran ahead and got our gear bags while my wife stayed with the boys who were making cheer signs for us.

The little half of the cheer squad

The little half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

The big half of the cheer squad

We then headed to look around the hall. We took turns down each aisle so the boys were being supervised. It was a big and crowded hall and although there was a small children’s area it only kept the boys occupied for so long. Finally when it was my turn to look I found someone demoing a TENS muscle stimulation machine. I sat right down and had the vendor attach the patches all over my back and cranked that sucker up. I made it about 10 minutes before I finally felt okay to move on. It did help a little.

We took the chance to explore the Expo. We saw the actual medal for the first time. Big and heavy. Hey, the slogan is ‘Runner of Steel’ for a reason you know. We also were able to find ourselves on the wall of entrants to the race. Cool.

Here it is. Tomorrow's reward

Here it is. Tomorrow’s reward

Wall of entrants

Wall of entrants

Hey, I know these people

Hey, I know these people

Bridge photo op!!!

Bridge photo op!!!

Official merchandise section

Official merchandise section

This was actually one of the first Expos where both my wife and I walked out empty handed. We were looking for a cool Pittsburgh Marathon souvenir but by the time we got to the Expo on Saturday afternoon there was no merchandise left save for a few baseball caps and some cotton tees. Disappointing to say the least. No mugs, cups, or anything similar. :-( At least I was able to move again.

We headed from the Expo to our hotel. We had booked at the Doubletree in Bigelow Square which was less than a mile from the starting area…and happened to also be less than a mile from the Expo. Wish I had known that before I threw the car in the expensive parking lot!!! A cool touch when arriving at the hotel was that if you told them you were checking in for the Marathon they provided you with a specially themed roomed key.

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

The hotel room keys were branded with the Marathon logo for guests

We set ourselves up in the room. I went to lay down for a rest after the long drive and the boys played in the room (we had a suite) while my wife went out for a walk around the area to scope things out. When she got back we got ready to meet up with an old college friend of hers for dinner. We took a trip out of the city and into the suburbs and met up with them at Bucca di Beppo in Robinson Town Center. It was a nice dinner and the friends had two children the same ages as ours so it was a really pleasant and relaxing evening.

As we headed out of the restaurant my wife spotted an Eat ‘n’ Park restaurant. I had been talking with the boys about these special cookies that they are famous for. I did what was probably an illegal u-turn, pulled into the parking lot and told the boys to wait in the car with their Mommy. I’d be back in a few minutes :-)

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

Part of the Pittsburgh experience and not to be missed (by us anyway)

A few minutes later I stepped back in the car with a box of cookies and we took the best family photo ever!!

Raising our kids right

Raising our kids right. Cookies before bedtime.

Thus, I continued my usual tradition of a cookie the night before a marathon. The boys were tired enough even the sugar cookies didn’t keep them up too long after.

With the race the next day I set out my gear and set about rolling out my muscles with my Tiger Tail stick massager. My wife worked deep on my back and I finally felt like I was able to move enough without too much discomfort. With that I hit the pillow and waited for the morning alarm call.

Ready for the big day

Ready for the big day

We woke up around 4am as we had told the babysitter that the roads would be closing and they she should get there early. The good news was that I felt so much better than the day before. Not pain free but totally not to the point that I was bothered by anything. I was going to make it after all (to the start line at least). Both my wife and I were up and dressed by the time the babysitter arrived. She was early…and on a bike. Genius!!! Had we known she was going to cycle in we would have told her a much later time.

Rather than sit in the room with the babysitter we decided to head down to the lobby around 5:15am where the hotel had set up pre-race refreshments for the runners staying in the hotel.

One of us was more awake than the other

One of us was more awake than the other

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Pre-race food. Can you tell what was missing?

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

Yes, they even had a security guard at the table

We watched as a steady stream of runners came down to pick up some food. Each and every one who came down asked for coffee. Yup, that was what was missing. Unbelievable. It was 5am and the hotel did not provide any coffee even as more and more people were requesting it. They didn’t think to send someone over to the kitchen. They told folks that there was a Starbucks up the street. I’m not sure about you but I don’t know many Starbucks that open up at 5am on a Sunday morning. Oh well, the 7-11 was also nearby. But that opens up at…you guessed it…7am!!!! So with no coffee, people grabbed food and headed back to their rooms or milled around the lobby.

Around 6:15am we decided to make our way over to the starting corrals. They were laid out in specific streets. Corrals were between blocks with an empty street between for foot traffic before the start and when the corrals moved up. We checked our bags and hit the portapotties one last time. It was a chilly in the air and we used old mylar blankets from a previous race until it was time to start.

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Keeping toasty in our mylar

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Corrals were set up within city blocks

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Approaching the start line. Almost showtime.

Okay....SHOWTIME!!!

Okay….SHOWTIME!!!

And we were off

And we were off

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the City

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

Pittsburgh Marathon course map

It didn’t take us too long to get warmed up as we started the race. The water stations were frequent and plentiful. The best part of this course was that it took you pretty much around the City and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. The course kind of reminded me of how we got to see a lot of Baltimore when we ran the marathon there last October. We were passing through neighborhood after neighborhood but the neat thing about this course was that we were crossing back and forth over the river. The first half of the course crossed 5 bridges.

Bridge #1 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #1 – 16th Street Bridge

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

All the bridges had the same color scheme through the City. Very cool.

Bridge #2 - Rachel Carson Bridge

Bridge #2 – Rachel Carson Bridge

...and of course, the 'jump shot'

…and of course, the ‘jump shot’

I'm assuming we are crossing this one next!

I’m assuming we are crossing this one next!

We then headed over to our third bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Bridge #3 - Andy Warhol Bridge

Bridge #3 – Andy Warhol Bridge

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I was getting used to this view.

I was getting used to this view.

By mile 7 were were approaching our 4th bridge. As we were still running along the river we hadn’t experience much elevation save for the up and over the bridges. I knew that there were hills to come. We took it fairly easy, comfortable but making a good pace (averaging around a 10 min/mile pace). Running along the river were approached the ‘Duquesne Incline’ which gave us a bit of a hint as to how much hillier the second half of the course would be.

At the 'Incline'

At the ‘Duquesne Incline’

Go Pitt!

Go Pitt!

At mile 11 we hit the 5th and final bridge. This was by far the biggest bridge we had crossed so far and it was also at this point that the half and full marathons split off into their respective directions.

Bridge #5 - Birmingham Bridge

Bridge #5 – Birmingham Bridge

As we got across the bridge we were directed to the right which would lead us up an almost mile long incline up to Oakland and the University of Pittsburgh campus. We took it slowly up the hill and as we went steadily we were able to make it up to the top without having to stop beyond our normal Galloway run/walk breaks. My wife was getting excited to be running back to her old campus and seeing it from a new perspective.

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

I think using the shuttle may be considered cheating in a marathon

Oooh...Primanti's...they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

Oooh…Primanti’s…they make very good sandwiches (with the french fries inside the sandwich)

She was so happy to be back on Campus

She was so happy to be back on Campus

So of course there had to be another jump shot

So of course there had to be another jump shot

As we ran through the campus we made sure to stop and take some pictures and also make note of places to take the boys back later and show them.

With the Pittsburgh Panther

With the Pittsburgh Panther

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

Outside the Cathedral of Learning

We stopped outside the Cathedral of Learning. It is such an impressive building. We were lucky enough on our last visit to get a tour of the special nationality classrooms inside. Worth a visit for sure.

Once through Oakland we passed through lots of residential neighborhoods. There were many people who came out on the streets to cheer the runners on. The day was getting hotter and hotter as the hours progressed. Volunteers were handing out orange slices and many of the water stations were handing out wet cloths to keep runners cool. We were hydrating at every water station. Typically I rotate between a sports drink and water between each station but for this race as the temperature was rising I was taking both at each station.

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Crowds came out to cheer on runners

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

Always look for fun signs. This was a good one.

As we approached mile 17 to 18, my wife started to feel uncomfortable with her knee. We took a few extra seconds each walk break but I could see she wasn’t comfortable. She had a similar issue at the Baltimore Marathon but that was much later in the race and when we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon earlier this year she had a great run with no pain. By mile 19 we had to head over to the medical tent where my wife was able to apply some icy/hot cream to the area (she usually carries a small tube but forgot this time) and she also took a couple of Tylenol. The medic marked her bib accordingly that she had taken something and made her take another drink before moving on.

We took it slow and steady. The goal now was just to finish. We were slowing down so not looking to get her a PR. We just had to finish. The good news that from mile 19 onwards it was pretty much all downhill towards the finish line. We did quite a bit of walking. We abandoned our usual run/walk schedule until she felt comfortable enough to continue and then just took the approach that we would run until a certain landmark, walk for a bit until we hit another landmark and then run again. That seemed to work and as we approached mile 25 I could see the determination on her face to finish. My back had begun to twinge when we stopped at the medical tent and I felt like I had stiffened up a little while we stayed there but once I started moving again I was able to deal with it.

Finally…and yes I do mean finally…we hit mile 25. I think that many of the problems we were experiencing may have been due to the heat. Despite drinking two cups at each water station by the time I hit mile 25 my shirt was bone dry. It was hot out there. Not humid, hot.

Finally we rounded the corner and saw the finish line. We ran the last half mile hand in hand and as we did so we ran past an announcer who was just ahead of the finish line. She called out our names over the loudspeaker as we crossed over. The sense of relief was great. I was feeling ok but my wife seemed more than pleased that it was over for now. Our time was 4:50. Even with all the stops and walking more than usual we were only a few minutes shy of my wife’s PR. At the end it wasn’t so bad after all.

We made it!

We made it!

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Pleased to be done and despite the discomfort, totally happy with the race.

Yeah...Marathon #5 in the books

Yeah…Marathon #5 in the books

...and Marathon #12 for me.

…and Marathon #12 for me.

After taking in some water and some food (thank you Panera Bread) we made our way over to the finishers village.

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Don’t forget the cookies…

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And that's why we run!!!

And that’s why we run!!!

Runners of Steel

Runners of Steel

5, yes 5!

Marathon #5, yes 5!

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Pleased with our day

We had a great time. We really enjoyed the course. The crowds were great and the support was all over the course. I would totally recommend this as a destination race if you are not from Pennsylvania. It was a well run event and although it was a hot day the volunteers were prepared to look after everyone on the course.

After making our way back to the hotel to relieve the babysitter (she says the kids were actually well behaved). We quickly showered and within the hour we were out and about for an afternoon of activities.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

A quick shower and change, Looking happy and feeling much better.

First stop, Station Square.

First stop, Station Square.

We took the boys to Station Square where we saw a fun little fountain show. It was hot and the boys loved getting just a little wet. From there we crossed over the street to the Duquesne Incline which we had run past earlier in the day.

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The Duquesne Incline

 

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View from the bottom looking up

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain

Asher was a little uncertain…maybe because his older brother told him it was a thrill ride and that you would go up really slowly and then drop down the hill at speed. Think Walt Disney World’s ‘Tower of Terror’. Not very nice but his reaction was priceless.

View from the observation deck at the top.

View from the observation deck at the top.

We ran this town

We ran this town

My favorite running buddy

My favorite running buddy

Time to follow directions

Time to follow directions

It was earned and it was good

It was earned and it was good

After we went back down the incline (Asher wanted to ride it all day now) we headed over to the University Campus as we had dinner plans with another of my wife’s friends. We got there early and had time to look around the campus.

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

The future students outside the Cathedral of Learning

Apparently he's a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

Apparently he’s a big fan of Gene Kelly. Who knew?

We had a great meal with friends at a restaurant on campus which my wife had remembered. It had been a long day but we still managed to head over to another old favorite place of hers for ice cream. Yum.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

I think I did enough for my ice cream.

Now that the race was over and we were both feeling a little better we could take advantage of being on vacation for the next day.

We caught up a little on sleep

We caught up a little on sleep

The next day we headed down to the campus again to pick up some University of Pittsburgh gear seeing as we hadn’t been able to get any souvenirs at the Expo before the race. We also visited around the campus and saw all the places my wife had lived when she studied there. She was really excited to show the boys around and also to investigate the newer areas of campus which hadn’t been around when she was there. It was a really enjoyable day and the boys seemed to be taking it all in and having fun.

Outside the basketball arena

Outside the basketball arena – the little guy is in there somewhere

After a long day in the sunshine we left Pittsburgh around 3pm to make the long drive home. Everyone agreed it had been a great trip and my wife and I agreed that it was worth it for the race itself. It was great to say that we are both ‘Runners of Steel’

:-)

April 2015 – Month in review

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

April 2015 – Nike+ Summary

148 miles this month. Also a little late in posting but better late than never.

I think at this point we can all agree that spring finally arrived. There were a couple of days where I may have taken my run indoors to the treadmill but that is because I couldn’t get my head around pulling out my winter clothes again. It wasn’t going to happen. April…it’s spring enough for me.

April was the peak of the training for the Pittsburgh Marathon and the start of the taper. The race day is May 3rd so the plan is to get to that start line rested and healthy.

The month started with me signing up for early bird pricing for this year’s Philadelphia Marathon. This was my first marathon back in 2011 and is essentially my hometown marathon. I have done it every year except last year when I was in Florida at that time. I love the crowds and the course. If you haven’t ever run this race (the first have of the course is different from all the other half marathons that Philadelphia hosts and the second has great scenery) I highly recommend looking into it.

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With only a couple of weeks left until the Pittsburgh Marathon, and two of us in the house training for it, we had to do a bit of juggling to get our final long runs in without interfering with our weekends and our boys’ schedules. I ended up doing my last 20 miler on a weekday before heading to the office. Yup, up at 2:30am and out the door before 3am. Still managed to get the boys to school and be in the office on time. I will confess that I did drink an excessive amount of coffee that afternoon and I slept like a baby that night. Long run done. Bring on the taper.

Just a couple of days later I ran the Rutgers UNITE Half Marathon. It was perfect weather for running and my performance was really something I was proud of considering I’m coping with a slight injury. You can read my recap here and listen to the recap with my friend John on his podcast, the ‘Runner of a Certain Age‘.

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The next day was a time for recovery. After a 20 mile run and then a hard pushed half marathon I took a rest day from training. I also took a day off from work to volunteer to chaperone a school field trip for my son’s class to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. So, looking after four 8 years…totally relaxing!!!

Me, the boy and the T-rex

Me, the boy and the T-rex

I had another work trip to Atlanta during the month. The weather wasn’t looking great and it was hot and humid. There was a pretty big storm one day but it picked up in the afternoon and I couldn’t waste the opportunity to go out and run. I took a 5 mile run after work along the Chattahoochee River Trail. It was great. A perfect end to a busy day…plus earning a few extra calories never hurt.

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

Along the Chattachoochee River Trail

After my little work trip to Atlanta I got the chance to bring my eldest son to work for our ‘Bring Your Kids To Work’ program. He had a great day and I was able to show him around the office. He managed to find a certain picture on display in the buildilng. Looks familiar don’t you think?

He fits in quite well

He fits in quite well

He recognized this Dopey fellow

He recognized this Dopey fellow

Towards the end of the month we finally had a free weekend. When I mean a free weekend I mean not totally overloaded. My wife encouraged me to go running in Tyler Park. I hadn’t run there in 10 months so I was really glad to get out in the sunshine. I wore my new INKnBURN ‘Run or Die‘ shirt and it felt cool and fit great. Truly a fun afternoon with no timetable. Perfect.

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A great end to a busy month. Lots to look forward to in May. WIth the Pittsburgh Marathon at the beginning of the month (we are making a mini-vacation out of the weekend with the boys) and my attempt to run ‘Goofy in a Day‘ for charity, it’s going to be quite an adventure.

Again, sorry for the delay in posting but life gets in the way sometimes…in a good way. I’m not complaining.

Thanks for reading.

 

Goofy In A Day Recap

Yesterday I ran (and completed) my Goofy In A Day 39.3 mile run fundraiser for ‘Give Kids The World‘ Village. Rather than describe me going around and around in circles for 7 hours I thought I’d just recap the day with my Tweets in the order they were posted. I’m very tired today but it was totally worth it. As of today I raised $1,250.

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1b

2

3

4

5

6

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8

9

10

40

11

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13

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39

15

38

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17

37

36

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35

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25

34

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