2018 TCS New York City Marathon – race recap

This was the big one, the one race I have been looking forward to running since I decided to enter the New York City Marathon back in 2014 for the first time. I didn’t get in that year or the year after. My wife got in through the lottery in 2016 (read the race chase recap here) and in 2017 I finally got in through the lottery…which then clashed with a family event which led to me having to defer. Quite a build up. 2018 was going to be the year. I had a long time to plan for this.

As you may know from previous races I have run to raise funds and awareness for autism charities over the last few years. This year I chose to run for the Organization for Autism Research (Run OAR). I had met members of this charity group at expos over the years and always promised I would run for them one day. With my own entry I was able to choose to run for them with no minimum fundraising commitment. They were a very gracious team and they provided everyone with a free training plan. Although I had already chosen a specific plan (which I will talk about later in this write-up) I was still able to interact with the team coach and take part in some of their online pre-race presentations.

This was going to be the largest race I have ever taken part in. As soon as I was a year out I was able to book my hotel room. I followed the same trip plan that we my wife and I took back in 2016 when she ran. Staying in ‘Hells Kitchen’ mid-town about a 10 minute walk from the Javits Center and about 10 minutes or so from the New York Public Library where the buses would leave for the race village on the Sunday morning.

So, re-winding a few months before the event I decided to choose a new training plan. This time using the Hansons Marathon Method. This is a unique approach to marathon training and the plan has had a lot of success from professional and amateur athletes alike. I decided to put this to the test for myself and committed to a 14 week plan which would start early August about a week post the New Jersey State Triathlon. The 14 week plan started off at 40 miles per week peaking at 60 miles per week. The longest run on this training plan was 16 miles where previously I would have run 20-22 miles in preparation for the marathon distance. This plan is highly structured and includes two specific speed workouts each week. The mid-week distances were greater than I was used to and with the ‘shorter’ weekend long runs this would explain the distances run each week. One of the key factors behind this plan was ‘cumulative fatigue’ which essentially is to use speed/strength workouts with minimal recovery to build up a stronger base. The aim is not to train for the first 16 miles of the race but the ‘last 16’ miles of the race. I decided to give it a go and programmed all my workouts into Garmin watch ready to go each day. By the way, they were not exaggerating about cumulative fatigue. This training plan pretty much wore me out but I was committed and stuck to the plan as best I could. Whether or not it would work for me would be seen on November 4th!!!

A very structured approach to marathon training

The weekend finally arrived (thankfully…I guess I was getting a bit obsessive about it) and I made my way up to NYC on the train. I met up with our friend Stephanie (who also traveled up and ran in 2016 with my wife) on the train and we traveled up to New York City together. Once we arrived in Manhattan we dropped bags at the hotel and headed to the expo at the Javits Center. Stephanie and I were in the same starting village and wave (blue-wave 2) so we planned on meeting up the next day.

Arriving at the expo

I travelled up with Stephanie who was running this event again. We planned to meet up again at the race village the next morning.

This was a huge expo. I remembered when my wife ran it there was so much to see. The expo volunteers were great. The logistics for getting to and from this race are involve selecting your mode of transport pre-race (bus or ferry) and selecting post race poncho or bag check (it’s all about the poncho). The volunteers made sure that I had all the right details in my packet including wave and corral, wristband for post race poncho and the timing of my transport to the race. Following this was the t-shirt pickup. There was a selection of shirts of different sizes to try on before picking up the shirt. This was a good job as they ran small for their size and so I was glad of the opportunity to make sure I got something that would fit.

Welcome to the NYC expo

The T-Shirt sizing area. What a great idea.

The official store had lots of (highly priced) memorabilia for the weekend

The official store had lots of (highly priced) memorabilia for the weekend

From there it was onto the official gear store (run by New Balance this year vs Asics when my wife ran). I tried (in vain) not to spend too much money while there. My goal was to get a jacket from the race. I did get one in the size and color I wanted (one of the last) and I have to say that the Asics jacket my wife got a couple of years earlier was much nicer. Still I would wear this jacket everywhere and as much as I could after the race (weather dependent…it wasn’t a warm jacket).

After checking out of the official race gear store there were some great opportunities for unique photos to remember the weekend by before entering the rest of the expo. Once we were in the main expo, Stephanie and I bid each other farewell until the next day and I was able to spend some time exploring. I stopped by the OAR booth and picked up my charity village wristband which would provide me access to the specially reserved area at the athletes village on Sunday morning.

Making memories

The money shot for the day

Previewing the course for tomorrow’s race

I found my name on the runners wall

I found my name on the runners wall

After spending some time in the expo I made my way back to the hotel to formally check in, get my gear ready for the next day and relax before heading out to the charity dinner at Carmine’s just off Time Square.

Finishing up at the expo

Finishing up at the expo

My big purchase from the expo was a NB running jacket

Flat Ian making an early appearance

One of the things my wife had me do before leaving for New York was to grab a Sharpie and write my name on my shirt. There is so much information on the NYC marathon bib that there is no space for the runners name. She remembers people shouting out names from the crowd and remarked that it was such a great experience I had to find a way to get my name on my shirt. So a Sharpie it was.

After relaxing in the hotel and charging up all my devices for the next day I made my way to the team dinner. It was a great evening with so much food. This was a great team to run for and everyone seemed very excited to be a part of the team. They kept bringing out more and more food but when the mountain of cannolis was brought out I bid my farewells and made my way back to the hotel for an early night…via Starbucks so could get my regular pre-race cookie. The clocks went back an hour during the night so I was pleased to get home early and take advantage of that extra hour of sleep. It was going to be an early wake up the next day.

Walking through Times Square on the way to dinner

My pre-race cookie. Keeping the streak alive.

After a pretty good night’s sleep, the first of my ‘4’ alarm clocks went off at 4:00am. I had set 4 alarms for 4:00, 4:01, 4:02 and 4:03…I wasn’t going to take any chances. My bus was set to leave the New York Public library at Bryant Park at 6am and I still had to check out, stow my luggage and walk across town. I also recalled the long lines for the buses from when my wife ran in 2016. I had a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar for what would be my first breakfast of the day and got myself bundled up together with my race bag (to be disposed of at the race village) and headed out to Bryant Park. I was wrapped up in a few layers and had brought with me a spare mylar blanket and some spare towels to sit down in the starting village. We would be waiting around for a long time.

Wrapped up for the cold start.

It was a brisk walk to the buses and once I arrived it was very well-ordered. You get on a bus, it is filled and they go off with minimal fuss. I got settled in for what would be at least an hour ride. I sat towards the rear to the bus and was surrounded by a whole group of British runners, some from my hometown. I tried to start a conversation with my seat mate for the journey only to find out he was Italian and spoke no english. Ha, just my luck. I settled in and enjoyed (?) the ride to Fort Wadsworth over in Staten Island. We arrived at 7:15am. Having been up since 4am it was time for my second breakfast. I wasn’t set to go off until 10:15am so lots of time to wait around although we needed to be in the starting corrals by 9:45am.

Once through security and entering the village I searched out the charity tent area to check in with the team, grab a cup of coffee in the heated tent (and the reserved port-a-potties for the charity village). Getting to the charity village involved moving through a sea of people. With 50,000+ runners in various waves there were plenty of people milling about before the race. Once my wrist band had been checked I went into the charity tent village area to relax for a while. I had plenty of time to wait around and I would spend some time here before going out to meet Stephanie.

The view from the bridge into Fort Wadsworth as we arrived in Staten Island

Arriving at Fort Wadsworth and waiting to clear security

The sign says we have arrived

A sea of people relaxing and waiting for the start

Heading to the charity village which was much less crowded

Warming up inside the heated tent with some coffee pre race

After chatting with the other OAR runners I made my way out to meet up with Stephanie in our color village (Blue), after another stop at the private port-a-potties. Although there were signs everywhere as the place was so big it took a while to walk and find Stephanie. Once we were together we hung with a crowd of runners and chilled out until our wave was called. In the meantime we heard the cannon go off for the elite runners and the first wave. A loud bang in the distance. It wouldn’t be long before it was our turn.

Signs, signs, everywhere signs…

The sun was coming out and it was starting to get warmer. I had already lost a couple of layers at this point.

We had been chatting with a group of runners from all over and there happened to be another British runner with us. This would be his second marathon and he and I were in the same wave and corral so we hung out until the start of the race. Stephanie was in corral B and I was further back in corral F so we wished each other good luck and made our way off to our respective corrals when they opened at 9:45am. I left my hooded jacket with one of the runners we were hanging with as they were not going off until Wave 3 at 10:45 and it was still cold enough for an extra layer.

Once in the corral we made our way up to the base of the Verrazzano Narrows Bridge where the race was to start. I was feeling relaxed and ready and now it was all up to my performance on the day and to see if the Hansons training would truly pay off.

In our corral and waiting to go. That’s my Starfleet command hat.

Walking up to the bridge

I see it. After all these years I was finally at the start line

It still took a while to even reach the start timing mat

After all these years waiting I was finally at the start line. My goal was to hit my pace as best I could with a goal of 3:45 (stretch goal) second goal 3:54 (PR) or break 4 hours if possible. My iPhone was switched off, I would need to save the battery to find everyone at the finish line, and I didn’t plan to listen to music. My wife told me when she ran the crowds were so loud she couldn’t hear her music anyway. Let’s do it!!

The start of the race is from Staten Island from the foot of the bridge so we start the race by essentially running up hill. We would reach Brooklyn by mile 3. The sky was sunny and clear blue. The view from the top of the bridge right into downtown Manhattan was truly breathtaking. Let’s just stay the up half of the bridge was a little steeper than I had expected. This would be the first of 5 bridges we would be crossing during the day. Once clearing the bridge we were welcomed by the first of what would be a lot of very vocal crowds for the day. Welcome to Brooklyn. This would be our home for miles 3-12.

The race is split into 3 starting waves. The green and blue waves start from the top of the bridge and the orange wave starts from the lower deck and all three waves merge at the 5K mark. If you think it is crowded for the first couple of miles it was nothing to when everyone merged at mile 3.

The crowds were amazing and having my name on my shirt was a really good piece of advice. The water stations were plentiful and clearly signed so that you could see them from a distance.  Despite the crowds I was still able to keep pace. My first mile was over 9 minutes but that was due to me going easy up over the bridge and weaving a little through the field where I could. I was holding a low 8 minute pace for miles 2 and 3 and still under 9 minutes through mile 4 including my first water stop. The field of runners were packed into the streets which sometimes appeared narrower. The first water station was at mile 4 and as it was beginning to warm up I decided to walk through each water station and alternate between water and Gatorade at each station.

I was slightly behind pace but maintaining in the region of my goal pace through mile 7. By mile 8 I needed to take a potty break which slowed me down somewhat but I was able to get back on pace shortly after. I was over an hour into the race by now which meant it was 11:30am. I had been up since 4am. Usually I would be done by a marathon at this time and I still had another 18 or so miles to go.

As I said before, the crowds were great, well maybe, except for the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood toward the tale end of our time in Brooklyn. The sheer number of runners still didn’t stop people trying to cross the roads in their neighborhoods. We even encountered an old lady in the worlds slowest powered wheel chair who was determined to cross the street regardless of the oncoming surge of runners. All part of the on course entertainment I guess.

We spent 9 miles in Brooklyn which was by far the longest stretch of any borough during the race. The road ahead was rolling hills and all you could see ahead was a mass of people. We then entered into Queens across the Queensboro Bridge around mile 14. I was beginning to notice that this course was hillier than I had expected. The bridges also added more to the overall elevation. We hit the halfway point as we were going up towards the Queensboro Bridge. At this my splits were already slower and I passed the timing mat at just on the 2 hour mark. I figured out very quickly that NYC was not the place to PR. The crowds are too much to get a clear pace and you cannot help but weave about as the roads are not that wide. I also think that as we were already past noon the heat was becoming more of a factor. PR gone, let’s see how I would handle the second half and see how close to 4 hours I could get.

My splits for the first half

My goal for Queens was to enjoy the race and maintain my pace. This was a more quiet part of the course but this all lead up to entering Manhattan for the first time as we crossed the 59th Street Bridge onto First Avenue. The run across the bridge was pretty much a silent march. Yes, another hill. As it was a bridge there were no crowds. All you could hear was an eerie silence and the footsteps of your fellow runners. I will admit that at this stage I had to stop and walk up the bridge for a little. I knew that once I rounded the corner after crossing the bridge I would be in Manhattan and the noise and crowds would be insane. I needed to regroup so I would be able to enjoy my experience. I knew my wife and other family members would be waiting somewhere along the route at mile 17 so that motivated me to go onwards.

Once you get away from the silence on the bridge into Manhattan you are hit by what I can only describe as a wall of sound. Think ‘THe Beatles at Shea Stadium’ kind of noise. Utterly crazy. And what a spectacle. Crowds multiple people deep on each side of the street. Again, I’m glad I had my name written on my shirt. These crowds were keeping me motivated. I kept looking left and right for my wife (she’s not that big LOL). As I had put a Red Fraggle puppet on a pole to help her find me in 2016, this year I was looking for Super Grover on that same pole. Pretty easy to spot from a distance I thought.

We spotted each other

I was very relieved to see her

Always time for a little TLC

She had prepared a few signs for the route. This was the first.

I have to admit that seeing my wife really helped. She was tracking me and she knew my goal time so she must have known I wasn’t hitting my splits. When she asked me how I was doing I had to admit that I was struggling a little. I think the heat was getting to me by this stage. My heart rate was more elevated than normal. It could have been a combination of many things, adrenaline, caffeine in my energy gels (not doing that again) and perhaps just the whole being up for multiple hours playing trains, planes and automobiles getting to the race start. I was just feeling tired. But after having seen my wife and family I had a new pep in my step as I made my way up First Avenue and headed out towards the Bronx.

This was probably the shortest part of the race after Staten Island as you are really in and out of the Bronx very quickly. It is just miles 19 and 20 and for that you have to cross two more bridges. People around me were definitely starting to tire at this stage. I wasn’t doing so great myself but I started recognizing people I had either started with or had passed me in the earlier miles of the race. I’ve never truly ‘hit the wall’ in a marathon but I was definitely feeling it a bit here. Was it the training plan that only took me up to mile 16? I don’t think so based upon the Facebook group from Hansons Marathon Method runners who all seemed to be PR’ing left and right, it must be me. I would later find out from all my friends running the race that they were all fading around the second half of the day. I think I mentioned before that this, although not the hilliest marathon I’ve ever run (see Baltimore, Pittsburgh, DC and Delaware), it was just relentlessly rolling.

Once back into Manhattan we had another 10K to go to get to the finish line in Central Park. I remember my wife saying that the run up Fifth Avenue to was tough at this stage in the race. It was all uphill until around mile 23 where we reach Central Park for the first time. This was the second location where it was planned to meet up with my wife and family again. Time to start looking for Super Grover.

They found me again…or I found them.

The best kisses are at mile 23

Another motivational sign

My splits for the second half of the race were disappointing for me. The race goal itself was a bust but I made a choice to just soak in the atmosphere as this may be the only time running this race and experiencing this marathon major. It was an incredible experience and one I had been looking forward to for a long time. All I wanted to do now was to finish under 4:20 and enjoy the last few miles. After my brief but energizing stop for a kiss with my wife I certainly picked up the pace over the last two miles. Central Park is not flat by any means but as we left the park and rounded Central Park South before returning into the park, the crowds were huge, the noise was amazing and it was a really great way to motivate myself to get to that finish line. And there it was. I saw it and made my way across under 4:20 (4:18)…although Tiki Barber crossed at the same time and they shouted out his name….who does he think he is??? Well, he’s Tiki Barber!!!

Not my best but I still finished and that’s always a good sign

See, I finished!!!

I was cooked. I was tired. I was relieved. I made it through the five boroughs of New York CIty. The biggest marathon in the world. In fact, I ran the race faster than it took to get to the start line. That is truly crazy. I was so happy to get my medal.

This guy!!! My personal medal handing out volunteer!!! I was so happy to see him.

Hey, look!!! It fits!!!

I got my mylar blanket from another volunteer and made my way to where the post race goodies were being handed out. We were given a clear bag which contained water, gatorade, an apple and something else…I cannot remember. All I wanted was the water. I was so tired. Then came the walk out of the park to where the ponchos were being handed out. That was a loooong walk. I actually had to ask a volunteer to loosen my laces on my shoes as I just couldn’t bend down at that moment to undo my shoes without the fear I could not get back up again.

Cooling down and happy

Amongst the many leaving the park….all walking slowly

Finally we excited the park onto Central Park West where the ponchos were being handed out

The view suddenly changed

And this is why I ran this race…well, one of the reasons

I was finally able to get through the crowd and had arranged to meet up with my family at the JCC in Manhattan where a good friend had provided me with a guest pass so I could get showered and change into some fresh clothes which my wife had brought along. What an amazing shower. Loved it. Felt so good. It was around 3pm by the time I was able to feel fresh and clean. We left the JCC and headed out to get a cab, grab my luggage and head for a nice post race meal.

There was no way we could get a cab at that time of night at that location and Uber was pricing us at around $90 for a journey down town so we decided to head to the subway on 72nd street and ride down to 34th street which was near my hotel. Luckily runners ride for free on race day. 🙂

We grabbed my bag from the hotel and headed to Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen which was on the same street as my hotel and where we had celebrated my wife’s New York City Marathon in 2016. I was very hungry. I had been thinking about being here since I passed the deli on the way to the buses at 5am that morning.

Heading to Ben’s. Both wearing our respective NYC Marathon jackets.

Ready to indulge and treat.

Some great matzo ball soup to help refresh and revive.

Don’t question why I am wearing my Delaware Marathon shirt and not my New York City shirt. That was packed in my bag and I was too hungry to change my clothes at the hotel. This was what I had put in my change of clothes bag. The medal, however, was a giveaway that I had run. That and the way I was walking probably were the hints.

After dinner we made it over to the train station in time for a 7:30 train back home which meant I would probably be in my own bed just after 9pm. It had been a long day and I was still going to work the next day. Once on the train my Garmin buzzed and told me I’d been sitting still for too long and to ‘Move’. Ugh…as you can see from the picture below, after 33 miles on my feet, moving was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment. I won’t discuss here how I lost my car in the parking lot carrying all my luggage for an extra mile only to remember I parked the floor above. As I said…it was a long day. Finally I got home and other than doing my teeth and going to bed I cannot recall much once my head hit the pillow.

Really???

It was not the PR race that I had been planning for. I’m not sure I would jump straight back into another Hansons plan without losing a few extra pounds (yeah…that doesn’t help). It was a truly memorable event logistics aside and I was really happy to be able to run for this charity. In fact, I received a thank you card and a team medal in the mail soon after the race. Very thoughtful. I would run this race again if the opportunity arises but would love to run it with my wife next time.

A nice surprise from the charity after the race.

So that’s my (very long) New York City marathon recap. It was almost as long as my build up to the race. Memories 🙂

 

2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon – race recap

I wasn’t going to do it. No sir, I wasn’t going to do it. I have run this event every year since 2011 and after running the same course (pretty much) each year I decided to sit this one out. I think I even registered for the 2017 race before I ran the 2016 event this was how predictable this race became for me. So my wife and I (who has run this with me since 2012) decided to skip this year. End of story.

…So why am I writing a race recap? Well, in preparation for the 2018 New York City Marathon I had chosen a new marathon training plan. For most of my marathons I have been using Hal Higdon marathon training programs but with my build up to New York I wanted to try something different. This time around I picked a Hansons Running marathon training plan. This was a new approach for me and I had been following the plan strictly (more or less). I had all my paces set and programmed into my Garmin and was sticking to plan. This race happened to coincide with a 12 mile run on the training plan. Additionally, my company wellness program was promoting a discount code for people who wanted to sign up for the race weekend. With permission from my wife (she decided not to join) I signed up just over a couple of weeks in advance of the race weekend. This would be a chance to put this training plan to the test.

Arriving late on a Friday evening and rushing into the expo

Obligatory race bib photo…with my hand written corral assignment

I headed to pick up my packet on the Friday evening after work. As usual, it took forever to get into the City on a Friday evening and I arrived with about 45 minutes left before the expo closed for the night. I picked up my race bib and as I had signed up so late I didn’t have my name printed on the bib or a specific corral assigned. I had to go over to get a corral assignment based upon my estimated finish time. Not a big issue but I’ve never signed up for a race this late. Interestingly, the expo was much smaller than it had been in previous years. There had been years when the expo was really big, now it just seemed a little light. Brooks was still the main apparel sponsor but there was nothing unique that jumped out at me. Not that I got much chance to see the expo. They started to switch off the lights around 15 minutes before the end of the expo hours and they announced that it was time to pack up (so to speak). The hint was taken and I headed home.

Expo was pretty empty

Heading in to see what was on show

The expo wasn’t as big as I had experienced before for a Rock ‘n’ Roll race

I was feeling confident going into the race weekend based upon my recent training and was hoping that my recent hard work was ready to pay off. I got my gear ready the night before and looked forward to what the day might bring. My half marathon PR of 1:51 was back in April 2016. I was hoping to get close the next morning.

Flat Ian, ready for some shenanigans…well, it’s me…let’s just hope for some nice safe fun 🙂

Race day arrived and I got to the starting area early. I bumped into a colleague as soon as I arrived at the staging area and we chatted for a while which helped relax the nerves. I got into my corral. The weather was overcast, warm and muggy, not ideal for a fast run but I still felt good and ready to go.

You can see how muggy it is at the beginning of the race

Our corral was called and it was time to put my recent training to the test. The first couple of miles went off well. I felt good. Something weird happened with my GPS running around the tall buildings so by mile 3 I had a zany 6:29 mile appear on my watch which threw me off a little. I had to start doing math every time I hit a mile marker going forward. You will see from my mile splits below that I tried to reset my laps by hitting all the buttons on my watch until I at least matched with a mile marker (for the split distance at least). The training seemed to have been working through the first few miles. I felt good and my pace was where I wanted it to be.

Around mile 7 the sun started to come through the clouds and it started to warm up, and with that, I started to slow down a little. As I headed up Kelly Drive the sun became stronger and my splits started to get slower. Miles 9 and 10 were almost 20 seconds slower and by the time I crossed over the Falls Bridge to Martin Luther King Boulevard I was fatigued and the next few miles were about a minute slower. Hmm…I may have pushed just a little too much at the start. Not sure it was the training or the heat. I managed to pick it up a bit in the last mile and made it to the finish line in a good compared to prior years but disappointing compared to plan time of 1:55. One of my better half marathons but about 5 minutes slower than plan. It was warm by the time I finished and as I was relieved to get a cold towel and some iced water. Oh, and some chocolate milk. Always a win!!!

My lap splits (with a little glitch for laps 3-5)

Based upon my splits I’m not sure if it was my training plan or the heat or a combination of both. I see that my last mile split was more on par with my earlier splits but still, a good takeaway knowing that I felt strong for the first half of the race. I still had 6 weeks to go until New York and time to complete the training and taper for my goal race.

A medal and some chocolate milk. A win.

So, I know that next year I will definitely not be running this race (I have signed up for the Atlantic City 70.3 triathlon) so my streak is broken. I’m okay skipping this one for a while. I’m sure I will be back again though but a break will do me good.

2018 New Jersey State Triathlon – race recap

At the end of July I made my triathlon comeback. If you recall from last year, I had a ‘slight’ accident during my Half Iron distance triathlon in Williamsburg, VA and as a result I had to pull out of this event last year. As soon as the registration opened up for 2018 I signed up. I wouldn’t say my wife was happy about it but I needed to get back in the saddle…so to speak.

The hardest thing for me going in to this event was my lack of training. Since my accident I had not either gone on a bike or trained in a pool since last July. My main concern was not the bike, I’d just go slower if needed, but training in the pool. My shoulder has not been the same since the incident and still has both an audible and physical pop when I rotate it, so when the first swim training session appeared on my TrainingPeaks app I was a little apprehensive. Fortunately, I survived that and my actual fitness in the pool wasn’t as bad as I thought it may have been. With that said, I stuck very closely to the training plan and was able to maintain and build upon my swimming strength over the next 12 weeks.

That gap certainly did a number on my fitness…well, that and the extra 10 pounds that I put on since last tri season. Oh well. I was committed now and was willing to squeeze everything into the spandex when the time called for it. What was cool about this year though was that my whole family are now riding bikes so I got to do more recreational riding with my wife and my boys.

Race week was rapidly approaching and I was getting excited and eagerly awaiting receiving my race number and final instructions. When I received my confirmation I noticed that it said ‘Aquabike’. Wait a minute? Aquabike? That’s the swim and the bike…but not the run? I quickly went back through my race registration emails and it also said aquabike. Oh no! This was a disaster. After all the build up (in my own mind) for this come back race I seemed to have registered for the wrong event. This is also a race that constantly posts updates about selling out. (Insert audible head slap here!). I emailed the race director only to get their ‘Out of Office’ response. 😦 Ultimately I did get a response which told me to look to speak with them at packet pick up on the weekend to see what could be done.

I was a little concerned when I arrived at the race site on Saturday afternoon. They were just clearing up from the Saturday morning Sprint race. Fortunately the first person I spoke to happened to be the race director. Things were looking up. I explained my predicament, that this was my comeback race, that I had to pull out of last years event from injury and that I messed up (honesty is the best policy, right?) and it didn’t hurt that I was wearing a prior year event shirt and I mentioned the year when they cancelled the event mid race which was supposed to be my first triathlon. Okay, I poured it on a bit. No worries though. She walked me over to the timing table and let me adjust (and pay the extra fee) to upgrade to the Olympic triathlon. Yeah. They moved my number into the right category although I would still be racked and staged with the aquabike athletes. After that, race packet pickup was fine. I just had to swap out my swim cap color now that I was in the corrected event. Once All was taken care of I took a lap around the staging area and merchandise tent to see if there was any fun (or something unique) to buy. Seeing as I had just paid to upgrade my race the wallet stayed in my pocket this time.

The finish line for tomorrow’s event

The transition area was spacious for the event

The merchandise tent

So with everything now settled with the race all I had to do was go home, get my gear together and hope that my training had been enough (and that my confidence was there for the swim and the bike). It was a little surprising then (and not very settling for my nerves) when I got my race packet out to put with my race gear and noticed the name on the bib was not mine!!! Who the heck is ‘Gary’?

What the… #identitycrisis

I immediately jumped on to the Facebook page for the event (who doesn’t turn to Facebook for answers?) and before I sent a message to the race team I noticed that many people had experienced the bib name mess up. Phew.  I was not alone. I hadn’t picked up the wrong bib. Okay, if that is the worst that happens I’d be fine the next day.

Usually, this race is extremely hot. The water is usually so warm that wet suits are not allowed. The day is hot and sunny. This year however I woke up to find out that it had rained overnight and it was misty and cool. I arrived at the race site and racked my bike and got my equipment all set up. It had been raining and the ground was soft and damp. I laid my gear out on plastic bags to keep everything dry and packed my socks and shoes inside plastic bags as it was still misty. This was the year that people had wetsuits. I was ill prepared. It was misty and raining. I had sunscreen but no wetsuit. Oops. Anyway, I headed down to the race start by the side of the lake and waited for my wave to get into the water.

A wet start to the day and glad I brought the plastic bags

Ready for the off

As I was now in the 46-50 age group my wave was much later than it had been in previous years. We were almost one of the last waves out. It was such a big wave that it was broken into 2 groups so I was in the second half as my last name starts with ‘S’. Although apparently my first name is Gary!!! Finally the time to go arrived and I got into the water with everyone else ready for the off. The water was still warm so I was going to be okay without the wet suit.

My goal for this event was to finish (without any embarrassing incidents). My swim was okay. I managed to keep a good line but I was actually faster than my last race in 2016 when I had just finished my first 70.3 race (43 minutes in 2016 vs 40 minutes in 2018). Quite a surprise.

The swim leg

My transition was pretty much a lonely event. As I was racked with the aquabike racers, they had all set off earlier than I had. There was practically no-one around when I was in the transition area where I was set up. That’s at least good as the struggle I endure to put on Injinji socks on damp feet during a triathlon is something no-one needs to see (LOL).

With the swim portion complete it was time for the bike. Did I mention that rain and the mist? Wet roads and slick tires for someone who’s last race ended with a bike fall. Yeah, that was going to to boost my confidence at riding at speed! The transition area was wet and muddy and my cleats were caked in mud by the time I got to the bike mount area. I subsequently slipped while trying to clip in and whacked my ankle bone. Ouch!!! Eventually I was able to clip in and was off. The ride was incident free but I was over cautious especially in the corners. It didn’t help that I saw someone go down and saw an ambulance at the side of the road 😦  This is where I lost a lot of time in the race. In sunny 2016 I did this course in 1:07, this year 1:34. That’s a significant decline in performance. Yes, some could be explained by road surface conditions, but how much was due to nerves. I don’t know but we will see in 2019 (I’ve registered for the correct race this time!!!)

The bike leg

The weather had begun to improve by the end of the bike leg. While the sun wasn’t out as it had been in 2016 (that day was in the 80s) but it was dry and warm. The run was uneventful for me but I saw a couple of people stagger and go down due to the heat. I was tired by the end of the run and my splits definitely declined in the second half of the 10K. I ran this slower than in 2016. I think this was more due to the extra pounds than any else. I ran this in 1:06 vs 59 minutes in 2016.

The run leg

At least I finished this event without needing a trip to the medical tent. That’s a win. I really like this event. It is well run by CGI racing. They do a great job with all their races that I have participated in (Love Run, Rutgers Unite Half). Slower this time than last time I ran the event, but I will be back in 2019 and will now have something to beat.

The spandex may be tighter than previous years but I finished without a trip to the med tent

Well done ‘Gary’!!!

2018 Delaware Marathon – race recap

It’s been many months since I last updated anything on the blog…and I was already a few months behind with that post too. So with some big races still to write-up I need to catch up on all that has gone on since my last post.

Following on from the Walt Disney World marathon weekend I had a pretty quiet Winter/Spring. In the last few years I have always taken part in a late winter/early spring half marathon and then worked up to a spring marathon. This year, however, I skipped the half marathon and used the time to prepare for the Delaware Marathon which took place on April 28th.

Training through the winter is not one of my favorite things to do but does demonstrate commitment to your goals.  With the snowy, cold and icy winter we had I had to maximize outdoor runs while minimizing risk of slips/falls/frostbite(!!!), so there were a lot of indoor treadmill sessions. At one point during this training cycle I managed to break the treadmill!!! It was winter and my wife and I were using the treadmill everyday so packing on a large number of miles each day and ultimately one day the drive belt just gave up and it stopped (apparently you have to maintain and lubricate the track…oops). Luckily we were able to get an engineer out and have it fixed and I was able to mix up some outdoor workouts with my gym membership which I keep as back up. Lesson learned. I keep a maintenance kit and now have the engineer’s business card attached to my refrigerator for regular maintenance.

With ‘disaster’ averted (my wife blamed me for that one) we were back on track. I was feeling good going into the Delaware Marathon. The race began and finished on the Wilmington waterfront and was a two loop race. This race was run by Corrigan Sports who also run the Baltimore Marathon that my wife and I ran back in 2014. That was a well-organized race although much bigger than Delaware. Here they still put on multiple races; a full marathon, half marathon and marathon relay.

The expo was held at the DoubleTree Hotel in Wilmington, Delaware. I travelled down on the Saturday before the race for packet pickup. Although I work closer to Delaware I was unable to go after work before the weekend. The drive to Delaware was just over an hour and this was partially the reason I picked the race as I didn’t need to be away from home or get a room overnight. The expo however was actually much smaller than I anticipated. I paid for an hour on the meter and I was in and out within 20 minutes. Packet pickup was quick, efficient and easy. The race shirt was Under Armor (as was the Baltimore Marathon…good to have a race team based around Baltimore).

Small expo for this race. It took longer to find street parking than the time I spent in the expo.

Quick and easy packet pick up

The race is 2 loops of the same 13.1 course!

Obligatory pre race bib photo

Making sure I had my usual pre-race cookie I settled in for an early night. You will note that my ‘flat Ian’ is well dressed. I made an effort, after all, Delaware is the ‘First State’.

Pre race oatmeal raisin cookie…have to keep the ‘tradition’ alive

I went for the ‘dapper’ look for this race. #makinganeffort

Race day arrived and I got up early….really early. I wanted to make sure I was able to park close to the race location before the roads began to close. I needn’t have worried. It was an easy drive and the parking lot was just over the street from the race village. I got there early (I mean really early) and hung with the growing crowd until time came to get into the corrals. I was aiming for a race between 3:50 and 4:00 which may have been a bit ambitious (seeing as I had a few extra winter pounds on my frame). It was a beautiful morning but a little chilly at the start of the race. I felt toasty(ish) in my large plastic bag that is now a staple of my race gear. Once installed in my corral I waited for the signal to go.

Arriving at the starting area

Dunkin were providing coffee to keep runners warm

The race started and finished at Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park on the Delaware waterfront

Waiting to go. My toasty warm trash bag did the trick on the chilly morning

Once we were out and on the route I felt pretty good. I was managing my first few miles around the 8:15-8:30 pace and feeling pretty comfortable…and then there was the hill after Brandywine Park. It was quite unrelenting and lasted almost two miles straight up. I slowed down a little but was able to continue running. My splits were fairly consistent for the first half of the race. I was pretty pleased I had managed the initial climb up the hill in Brandywine Park without stopping…at least the first time. Then all of a sudden at mile 12 to 13 someone had put another hill on the course!!!!

My first half splits. Pretty consistent.

I’ll be honest. I knew this course was considered hilly but I still was not prepared for where exactly in the race these hills would be. The run up from mile 12 to 13 was tough. As this was a loop I would be running again I knew that this hill would again be appearing but between mile 25 to 26. I wasn’t looking forward to that and I think I let that thought get in my head. I was pretty tired when I hit the halfway point. My first half split was 1:53:29 with an average pace of 8:40/mile. This was what I had been hoping for in training. I was hoping I could sustain this for the second half.

As this was where the half marathoners and marathoners split, the runners thinned out pretty quickly. We were directed to take a quick out and back along the waterfront as part of the turnaround for the marathon. It wasn’t clearly signed and a few of us were not quite sure where the turnaround was. I saw one guy continue running, and was unsure and turned around where I thought I had seen other people turn around only to worry for the next mile or so that I had cut the course short. I kept asking people running along side me. Ultimately my mileage and my race tracking showed me I hadn’t cut the course.

The second loop started off with that worry and the knowledge of the hills that were to come. My second round of splits really told the story. It was almost immediate that I slowed down. By the time I got to Brandywine Park I was almost 2 minutes per mile slower….ignore the splits shown from mile 22-24…I hit my lap button by mistake and was just trying to get aligned with the mile markers. The second half of the course had much less runners and as we were going through mostly residential areas the spectators were limited. There were a few fresh legged relay runners….grrrr…they don’t make you feel good as you are struggling late in a race. I will say though that the day was beautiful and the sun was out.

My second half splits

Once I had the hill at my 25 again I knew that the second half struggle was nearly over. It was a shame. I felt fairly good coming into this but I was just tired. I didn’t have the energy to sustain my second loop. My second half split was 2:15:59, over 20 minutes slower. Still, crossing a marathon finish line is always a win so with a combined time of 4:09:28 it was still not my worst by any means. As you can see from my picture below, I’m still smiling.

A finish line is always a win

The race itself was well supported although there could be have been a few more water stops on the back half of the loop. As this was primarily residential I can see how this may have been tough logistically. I think the race team did a great job but I think this is going to be a one and done race for me….those hills!!!!

My elevation map. That last little blip at mile 12 and mile 25 were tough

Thank you for reading.

 

2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – recap

Hey…remember that big race weekend back in January that I was going on about for months and months.  Well it happened… This is me trying to catch up and recap the weekend.  Apologies for being AWOL for a few months (I haven’t posted anything since my November recap). Life is great, work is busy, my kids are awesome and involved in so many extra curricular activities that I just haven’t found the time to sit and get to the blog for a while. My other impetus for catching up is that I have another marathon in just under 3 weeks and I’d better recap the last one before I think about the next one.

So here goes…

Our weekend started earlier than anticipated. We were closely monitoring the weather forecasts here in the northeast. Snow was predicted late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. We were due out early on Thursday and were a little anxious. A work colleague suggested I call our airline and see if we could change our flights due to the weather. Luckily we were able to do so and move our hotel reservation from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport. We made it to the hotel around midnight but we at least got there. Phew.

The plus side was that we were able to get a free shuttle to and from the airport hotel and were able to catch our Magical Express to our resort (Port Orleans – French Quarter) around 9am on the Thursday when we didn’t really plan on arriving until early afternoon. We got an extra half day of time in the Magic Kingdom and we decided to make the most of it.

As none of our FastPasses were available until around 3pm we looked around for some rides where the lines were reasonable. I think we caught the last week of winter break from some of the southern schools. The park was heaving. We were able to get on a couple of rides (Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress) when I suggested the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover). I like this ride. My wife does not. This did not improve when the ride broke down in Space Mountain…in the dark. She was not amused. We were eventually evacuated off the ride by some Cast Members and as we excited they gave us a free FastPass for any ride in the park that day. Now she was happy.

On the TTA…

…off the TTA

As we excited the ride we tried to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade which was washed out by rain the last time we were here. This would be our first time seeing it. As we arrived at a viewing spot, the family in front of us got up to leave and offered us their place. Front row right at the hub. So far the bonus day was working out. We even skipped a 75 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion with our extra FastPasses.  Awesome. We even got to ride Splash Mountain…some of us twice. It is never open when we visit during marathon weekend so this was a first time for all of us. For real!!! In all my years coming here back to 1981 I don’t think I have ever been on that ride. A new family favorite for sure.

Awesome bonus FastPass

We just saw the cost of our vacation!!!

It was a cold day in the Park. I haven’t been down here in weather this cold. We were all wearing hats, gloves and coats. Weird to be so dressed up for a day at Walt Disney World. After a nice fun dinner at Skippers Canteen and a ride on the ‘Jingle’ not ‘Jungle’ Cruise (another first time experience), a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and a view of the new firework show, we headed back to our resort for a relatively early night. It had been a long day but a bonus one at that. Tomorrow was Expo Day and the boys were going to run the Mickey Mile.

A cold but fun day at the Magic Kingdom

As we were staying a host resort we were able to utilize the race transportation. Buses ran fairly regularly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo. As our resort was the first stop for all the buses we were fortunate that we never had to worry about there being enough seats on the bus and waiting for the next bus to come along. A huge advantage of staying at French Quarter (there was only one bus stop for this resort).  We arrived at the expo and went over to the Field House to pick up our bibs and race shirts as well as the boys race bibs. This was our first return to a runDisney race since 2015 and we were surprised to see how things had changed. All the runDisney merchandise was in the same building on the lower floor so we spent some time (and money) there before heading over to the fields for the start of the kids mile races.  I’m really proud of my kids. They both did a solid job running the mile and their times were pretty decent too. It was a far cry from their first runDisney races back in 2012.

Arriving at Wide World of Sports for the expo

At the Field House for the bib pickup

The boys are all set for the races

Heading to the start line

They did it!!!

This was 6 years earlier at our first runDisney weekend

After the kids races we headed into the general expo. We were in and out of there relatively quickly as we didn’t see much of anything we really needed and wanted to spend our time with the boys in the park (as they had been incredibly patient so far…we didn’t want to lose that!!!)

As there were no direct buses to EPCOT (our park of choice for the day) we decided to take a bus over to the Beach Club and walk to the International Gateway entrance in World Showcase. It was a nice cool afternoon and we had a great time wandering around the park. We stopped for an early dinner at Via Napoli (another family first this trip) for a night of carb loading and later got a prime spot for the Illuminations fireworks before heading back for a relatively early night.

My wife and I were keenly watching the weather forecast for the morning. Although we had escaped the snow back up in the northeast we hadn’t entirely escaped the cold temperatures. It was time for the original running gear to be jettisoned in place of the warm running gear that we threw in to our suitcases as we got closer to race weekend.

We were up bright and early (too early if you ask my wife…always) and got our running gear/costumes on for our first event of this weekend, the Half Marathon. It was a pretty short bus ride to the start line and we were there early enough to grab a character photo with Minnie Mouse before meeting up for a photo opportunity with our friends from Team Shenanigans.

With Minnie and previewing our Star Wars costumes for the Half Marathon

Team Shenanigans at the Half Marathon

I knew from what I had been reading that they were using a new wave corral system for the race start and the announcers seemed to really emphasize getting to the corrals early to try to be up front. From what I had read the corrals now had multiple waves within them. We made our way over early and found a good place to sit down and wrap up ourselves in space blankets and towels to keep warm. It was quite a wait as we were there so early but luckily we were up front and once the race started we didn’t have to wait around too long.

Trying to stay warm during our wait in the corral

Soon enough we were off and making our way down the familiar route towards the Magic Kingdom. Although it had been 3 years since we last ran here we pretty much were familiar with the route. After all, this was our 4th runDisney Half Marathon. We made our usual stops on the way to the Magic Kingdom (noticing that they were missing the Black Pearl pirate ship photo stop) and headed up towards the park. One big (huge, enormous and massively welcome) change was that when we approached the Magic Kingdom this year, instead of running to the right of the entrance and entering Main Street from off stage, we ran right in through the park entrance. I LOVED IT!!!!!

Our usual stop on the way to the parking lots to the Magic Kingdom

Our first character stop on the course – Wreck-It Ralph and Venellope

At the entrance to the park

At the entrance to the park with the dedication plaque

Finally in the park. Back where we belong.

Truly the best part about these races. Running up Main Street towards the castle.

Some fun stops along the way – The Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit

Some fun stops along the way – The Great Goofini

Some fun stops along the way – Sebastian

Some fun stops along he way – Suzy and Pearla

Running through Fantasy Land

Our Castle shot – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for

On our way back to EPCOT with another ‘Power Couple’

Arriving in Future World

Heading to the finish line

We did it! The Half Marathon and first part of the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge is done.

It was still quite cold by the time we finished the race and we were on the clock for the baby sitter so we didn’t hang around long at the finish line. Instead we headed back to the resort, grabbed some breakfast on the way to our room and arrived just as our youngest was waking up. Our eldest was still fast asleep. That was the easiest money the baby sitter we hired had ever earned…unless you count the part where she had to be at our room by 3am.

We quickly got showered and dressed and made our way over to Hollywood Studios. We were all pumped to get on with our day and see all the Star Wars stuff and meet the Guardians of the Galaxy….well, the boys were. My wife kind of fell asleep while waiting for the bus!!!

Zzzzzz…. She will hate me for this picture being on the blog

When we arrived in the park we had some photos taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. He was impressed by all of our medals and made us do these poses with them.

My boys were in their element. All the Star Wars activities, shows and parades. They loved it. Me too.

The highlight of the day for my boys was meeting Baby Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy.

We are Groot

After a fun afternoon we stayed to watch the Star Wars fireworks. Not before I took part of my routine night before a marathon ritual….a cookie (and a great one) as well as my boys who were still telling me they ran the mile.

Yeah, yeah….the mile

Then it was back to the resort to try and get some sleep before the big day. Marathon Sunday.

It was up early again…for the babysitter as she met us at our hotel room for a second day at 3am. We told here our expected ETA based upon the last time we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon together. We are both much faster runners but at Disney we take our time and soak up the fun. Based upon past times we told her we would be back for 11am. We then headed down to the lobby for the bus to the race.

I’ll drop you a little clue here as to our costume theme for this race.

It’s not easy being green

Unlike yesterday’s ride which seemed to be smooth and fairly speedy, we stopped at every bus stop along the route. Early on the seats were all filled and the driver just seemed to be stopping to tell people to take the next bus. Once we were out of the resort we hit traffic. We later found out that a car had broken down and was blocking a lane. Once we arrived we didn’t have much time to wait around. We were too late for another team meet up. We swooped quickly by the remaining Team Shenanigans runners who were waiting to go to later corrals. I stopped to say hello and wish our friend Sandy good luck on her first marathon and then headed straight for the corrals.

Like yesterday we were able to get up front in our corral but it was still fairly cold to start and we were again glad for our towels and space blankets while we sat waiting for the race to get started. It wasn’t too long before we were up and out of our corrals and heading into what was my wife’s 10th marathon and my 20th marathon. Finally, after all this time and training we were on our way.

A fun billboard just past the starting line

As was the case yesterday, we followed the same route as before but this time they had changed up all the characters. Gone were the days of us saying “We will get that tomorrow” on the Saturday or “We’ve already stopped before” on the Sunday. A nice touch. This was after all the 25th Anniversary Marathon so there must have been some extra planning involved in setting up this years event.

Almost there

We have our Rainbow Connection

Launchpad and Scrooge McDuck

The Evil Queen from Snow White

We headed up to the Magic Kingdom and through the front entrance again (runDisney…please keep this as part of the race in future) and from there we spent what seemed like forever enjoying the park. Our mile splits up to this point were something akin to 10 minute miles until we hit the park and then we started having close to 20 minute miles for our time in the park.  Totally worth it!!

Main Street. My happiest place in the Happiest Place

With the Tweedles and the White Rabbit

With Lady Tremaine, Anastasia and Drizella

The nice Castle photo

A pretty darned impressive Castle photo

Once we were through the Magic Kingdom came the long road towards Animal Kingdom up through cone alley and what seemed liked one of the longest out and backs that I can remember. It was definitely warming up which was good. It wasn’t hot by any means but comfortable running weather.

Carl, Russell and Doug from ‘Up’

With Clarabelle as we approached the Animal Kingdom

Once we hit Animal Kingdom we knew we were almost half way. We had made it past the water treatment facility too which was a major plus! We were now close to 3 hours for our first half. Oops. How much was that babysitter again? Oh well, we were having a boatload of fun.

The parking lot out of the Animal Kingdom is long and winding. That is always a tough little section as it appears to go on forever but we set off for our next location which would be around mile 17, the Wide World of Sports. On the way we soon came across our friend Laura, the ‘Chicken Hat Cheerer’. As always out there on the course being everyone’s best cheering squad and bringing plenty of supplies to share. Usually Laura is stationed between mile 20-21 but I believe she may have had a little run in with course security which led her to being stationed around mile 15. Not that we minded in the slightest.

A much needed lift at this point in the race

Our obligatory Haunted Mansion photo

There is so much construction around Walt Disney World right now but Disney managed to make the best of it. Archeologist Pluto was out there digging up dinosaur bones.

Usually the Wide World of Sports is one of the hardest parts of the race. It’s essentially a long twisty out and back. Yes, you do hit the track (for less than a full lap) and you get to run around the stadium, but there is not much else to look at usually. This year runDisney really pulled out the stops and made this less of a drag as they had plenty of character opportunities dotted around the grounds.

With our friend Goofy at the track

Minnie was waiting for us at the soccer fields

Mickey and Donald were waiting for us at the baseball stadium

In the outfield and rounding for home

After the Wide World of Sports its up and over the ramp towards Hollywood Studios. With so much construction we were ‘blink and you miss it’ time in the park. As we entered they were giving out the candy (always a favorite part of the race). I took a bag of Malteasers to stick with my British roots. One huge surprise backstage was the chance to meet up with Oswald. I thought he only appeared on the West Coast at Disneyland. This is one of my eldest’s favorite characters so we had to stop for a photo with him.

Feeling ‘Lucky’ with Oswald

And before you knew it we were through Hollywood Studios and out onto the walkway to the Boardwalk and to the entrance to World Showcase.

We had just over a mile to go. It was now a journey around the world to reach Future World. As we entered I sent a quick text message to members of Team Shenanigans who were waiting inside the Mexico Pavilion. A few weeks earlier I had sent over my PayPal payment the moment someone had the brilliant idea of setting up a margarita stop in Mexico at the end of mile 25 and just before entering Future World. I have some great team mates.

Cheers from Mexico

Running through World Showcase

We made it to Future World

We had to stop to say hello to the choir at Mile 26

We did it!!! Marathon number 10 and number 20!!!!!

Mission Accomplished

We did it. Just under 6 hours. 5:57 to be precise. Slowest but probably most fun marathon to date.

What a beautiful and fun day

Yeah We Did!!

Another marathon (my 5th Disney and my wife’s 3rd Disney marathon) and another Goofy Challenge (my 4th and my wife’s 2nd). Lots of miles and lots of memories.

Not much chance to sit around for recovery. We had a very expensive baby sitter on the clock.

As a special surprise at the finish line, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, each finisher was awarded a special pair of Mickey Ears.

Magical Mickey Ears

Heading out to celebrate the marathon

After a quick shower we headed out to celebrate the rest of the day at the Animal Kingdom where we got to experience the land of Pandora together. Lots of fun (and desserts) that evening. Upon returning back to our resort I stopped by the front desk to ask a few questions and pick up these special celebration buttons for us all.

This was the longest trip to Walt Disney World we had taken with the boys. We stayed an extra couple of days after the race and made the most use of our park time. We spent our post race day in EPCOT and finished as always with our last day in the Magic Kingdom.

While we were in EPCOT I headed to Mouse Gears to get our new marathon ears embroidered to remember this weekend.

On our last day we did something that we have never really had the opportunity to do before when the boys were much younger. We arrived before the park opened and got in early. We stayed from park open to park close. We rode the most rides in one day we had ever ridden and finished our goal of riding all the mountains at Walt Disney World (Splash, Thunder, Space and Everest). No one skipped any rides except for Tower of Terror…but my eldest rode that twice in a row!

We were early enough to get some great family photos in front of the castle before the crowds came for the day. We also finally got our boys to do a fairly decent jump shot. A truly memorable race weekend and family vacation.

We left with many happy memories. This was a great marathon weekend for all of us.

Thank you for reading and staying in touch with the blog. Apologies again that this is so late.

Closing out the park

November 2017 – Month in review

November 2017 – Garmin Connect

This month the focus for me was preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 19. I had just come off one of my biggest months of training in October. With the way the calendar fell I had three 50 mile weeks. The taper was most welcome. Together with the post marathon recovery which took longer than usual this was one of the smaller mileage months for me.

I still managed to churn out 127 miles (26.2 of which was the Philadelphia Marathon).

The weekend after the Philadelphia Marathon was Thanksgiving so I had a little extra time in the mornings to work out. It’s nice to be running in daylight at this time of year. It doesn’t happen much.

My wife and I had a good showing at the annual Bucks County Road Runners Thanksgiving 5 miler. This was our second fastest time for this event which we have run dating back to 2010. It was a cold morning but the sun was out and we made the most of the fine conditions to put the pedal down. I was more than pleased that I was feeling normal the morning of the race as I was feeling sore longer than normal after the marathon. Also…this race had pie!!!

Nice sunny day for our run around the park

Some solid splits for this run

They had pie

With that being done it was back to training for the upcoming Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge. This would be my first ‘Philly to Goofy’ (*) training cycle since 2014. I started doing the weekend back to back runs with doubling the distance of the Saturday runs on the Sunday. Only 7 weeks between Philly and Disney this time around.

My big ‘Black Friday’ purchase this year was to register both my wife and myself for the 2018 Philadelphia Marathon. That sets up quite a busy year for me in 2018 if you add to that the Delaware Marathon that I signed up for at the expo a week earlier.

2018 is looking like this for me now:

January – Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge

April – Delaware Marathon

July – New Jersey State Triathlon – Olympic Distance

November – New York City Marathon

November – Philadelphia Marathon

Thank you for reading.

(*) This is where the blog’s name comes from. Running the Philadelphia Marathon and then running the Goofy Challenge a few weeks later – Philly to Goofy – Philly2Goofy 🙂

2017 Philadelphia Marathon – Race recap

On Sunday 19th November I participated in my sixth Philadelphia Marathon. I have come quite a way since my very first marathon also in Philadelphia in 2011. This race would take my total number of marathons to 19 setting the stage for number 20 in January at Walt Disney World. Trying not to get ahead of myself though, I’d like to focus on my experience for this race.

Last year the running of the Philadelphia Marathon transferred hands from the City of Philadelphia to the race team that hosts the Broad Street Run. They made some changes to the weekend, some welcomed and some less so. One of the changes was to split the half and the full races into separate days and different courses. They also created a challenge event for those that participated in both races, the ‘Rocky Challenge’. If you follow my recap from last year you can read how that unfolded.

This year the race organizers announced the challenge (rebranded the ‘Liberty Bell Challenge’) at the time of registration. Seeing as I will be running a 39.3 mile event at Walt Disney World in January I decided that I would focus on just the marathon this time around. I do occasionally need to get some sleep.

As always, I was getting excited prior to race day as I followed my friends running the Chicago Marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon and the New York City Marathon in the weeks leading up to Philly. I was just waiting for it to be my turn. Soon enough though the weekend rolled around.

I visited the expo on Friday evening. It was again held at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Center City. Packet pickup was fairly straight forward. I was only doing the marathon this year but it looked like they were pretty organized for the challenge runners unlike last year when no one seemed to know what I was talking about.

Arriving at the Convention Center

Expo time

Once I picked up my race bib and shirt I went back to a table I had passed on my way to packet pick up to do a quick meet and greet with Bill Rodgers who was signing copies of his new book. I asked him to sign my bib as I had met him previously but didn’t think to ask him for his signature. I hoped that having a four time Boston Marathon and four time New York City Marathon winner and former Olympian sign my bib would automatically make me run faster…

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pick was well organized

Bib pickup was fairly easy

Once I had finished meeting Bill (he’s a talker 🙂 ) I headed over to the expo and to the race merchandise area. As per prior year it was well stocked and divided up into men’s and women’s sections. I made my purchase of a puffer vest that I had looked at the prior year and passed on and also a new beanie. I was happy with my purchases but even happier about the bag that they provided for my new gear. Okay, maybe I get too excited by race expos but I thought that if they are going to take the time to provide logo bags then they might enhance the running experience on the day. We shall see.

Meeting Bill Rodgers

Fingers crossed this brings me good luck

At the expo they had the Lexus pace car on display. It was covered with the names of all the runners. This was not an alphabetical list so after a few minutes of looking for my name I gave up. I’m sure it was somewhere on there. Why would it not be alphabetical????

Seriously…not alphabetical?

Seriously…not alphabetical?

I didn’t make any major purchases at the expo…unless you count registering for another marathon. Yup, I’m now registered for the 2018 Delaware Marathon in late April. I had my eye on this as I can drive there on the day and I was looking for a spring race. They were offering a discount so I went for it. Looks like another winter training plan for me. With no other merchandise jumping out at me and no other needs or accessories that were required I headed home for an early night and hopefully a restful weekend.

Something different

My next race…after my next race

What was planned to be a restful day came to a grinding halt early Saturday afternoon. While I was driving the family to the car dealership so my wife could do some test drives, I had a major cramp in my left calf. It came from nowhere and was extremely painful. I couldn’t walk for a good amount of time and I was seriously concerned. I reached out to my runner friends for advice and they all told me to hydrate. I started pounding water for the next couple of hours to which came the next bit of advice…don’t drink just water, electrolytes…you need electrolytes. So at this point I was heading home and started taking salt tabs every 30 minutes or so as I tried to massage out my calf. Then I was told to take an Epsom salt bath which I did and followed that up with a hot shower. Next up, icy hot applied to the area and then a calf sleeve. Desperate….you betcha!!!!

Well, with nothing more that I could do I headed to bed. Hoping that the rain that had been coming down all afternoon would give way to some better weather (spoiler alert – it didn’t) and that I would get a good night’s sleep so that I would wake up rested, relaxed and hopefully with a seemingly normal feeling calf muscle.

All set and ready for the next day

….so at 3am when my neighbors were still partying I sat up in bed and decided then and there that I was buying my eldest a full drum kit when he needed it…

My alarm went off around 4am. I started to get ready, very bleary eyed, listening to the wind and rain outside the window and feeling my calf muscle still sore and tight. I guess my goal time was out for the day.

I headed downtown hoping to get to my regular parking lot before they started blocking off the roads and was able to make good time. It was still raining while I was driving down and also as I walked to the race staging area holding onto my rain poncho and praying it didn’t fly away. Thankfully as the morning started to break the rain stopped. There was still a very strong wind and it was cold but at least the rain had stopped. That was something.

Heading to the race start and clinging onto my poncho so it wouldn’t fly away

Unfortunately due to the amount of rain which had been falling steadily since Saturday afternoon the ground was saturated. It was pooled with water and muddy in many areas. I met up with a colleague who was also running and we headed to bag check together. In past years (each of the 5 previous times I have run this race) bag check is in Eakin’s Oval itself on the paved area. This year they had moved it off to the side of Eakins Oval. While the trucks were on the street you could only access this by walking across the grass…which happened to be almost ankle deep with wet mud in places. Another annoying aspect of the bag check was that it wasn’t sorted by bib number nor alphabetically, it was a first come first served process. Everyone went to the first truck they saw which was out of the way of the soggy ground. This became a mad crowd surge as people started hearing the National Anthem being sung. We had only a few minutes to get to our corrals before our waves went off and people were still queueing up to check their bags.  Crazy. What a mess. I ended up with a tag from truck 2 and my bag was put on truck 3. I’d have to hope that they sorted the bags out before I got back at the end of the race.

A grey morning start at the corral

The race had already started before I made it to my corral but my corral had not yet been released. It was a mad dash but I made it. Talk about an adrenaline rush. It was crazy. Although the rain had cleared it was still cloudy. The temperatures were in the high 40s but with winds of 25mph+ and gusting well above that the temperatures felt much colder.

Once my corral was released and we were underway I kept up with the pack of runners around me. I had set my goal time to sub 3:50 hours and a secondary goal of 4:00 hours. This meant running a pace in the mid 8:30 minutes/mile. As we were running down towards Delaware Avenue (around mile 2) a gust of wind blew as we passed by a gap in the buildings and everyone moved sideways. Wow. It was strong. I was able to maintain a pace between 8:25-8:30 minutes/mile for the first 7 miles or so despite the headwind but as I ran towards Chestnut Street around the old city I felt my calf tweak again and I knew at that time I would have to back off or at least do something different.

I had not been doing any run/walk intervals during races since running the Mohwak Hudson Marathon back in 2016. With the sudden jolt to my left calf I decided to minimize any pain/damage and go back to my old intervals. My Garmin watch still had alerts as I had never turned them off so I just settled into a 4:00/0:30 minutes/mile run/walk ratio so that I could keep my momentum going. This slowed my pace a little but not considerably so I was able to keep moving at a decent pace. My sub 3:50 may be out of reach but I felt good for a sub 4:00 hour (or close to it).

Running up Chestnut Street towards Drexel University was like a 2 mile wind tunnel. All around me people were losing hats/visors. I tightened my hat on my head and just pushed into the wind waiting for a break when we turned the corner up towards Fairmount Park.  The wind was pretty brutal.

The sun was out though so it was still an enjoyable run. The crowds were out to cheer despite the cold and the wind. That is one of the best things about the Philadelphia Marathon. The crowd support for the first 10 miles is great. It thins out a lot in Fairmount Park until you get back to the Art Museum around mile 14 and then thins again until you hit Manyunk. Still, the crowds are one factor in this race that keeps me coming back again and again.

The run through Fairmount Park was fine (once you get beyond the big hill up to Memorial Hall) and I’m glad we get to spend more time in the park so that we can avoid the old out and back that used to be around mile 17. This however prevents you from hitting the half way mark at the Art Museum as used to be the case when the Half and Full marathon was run on the same day. We hit the Art Museum around mile 14 since they changed the course and I was there just in time to see the race leaders making their way up the finish line. Yup, they were 12 full miles ahead of me…and running in singlets in this weather.

The slog…sorry, run…up to Manyunk along Kelly Drive is scenic but into wind is just tough. Very tough. There is no shelter from the wind the whole time you are running. The course is fairly flat but it felt like you were running up hill all the way as the wind was just relentless. Some of my friends behind me took pictures next to trees that had been snapped in the wind. Yes, I’m not exaggerating that the wind was strong.

At least when we entered Manyunk we were sheltered from the wind by the buildings. This also made it much warmer for those miles. The run through Manyunk is an out and back from mile 19 to 21. There is a slight uphill but with a break from the wind this didn’t seem too bad. I was slowing a little though. My pace had fallen off while running miles 14 to 19 into the head wind. I was probably not looking to make my 4:00 backup goal. My goal was to finish and do so with a smile.

So, thinking that if you are running into wind you would have it on your back on the way in would make sense…neh, all of a sudden you get a cross wind on the way back from mile 21 to 26 (insert face palm emoji here…) The run back was steady. I was just looking to finish at this point. My legs were aching more than usual for a marathon. I can really describe conditions as though you were running uphill the whole way because the wind was honestly that strong on the day.

I made it to the finish line in 4:08. Not my best time but again not my worst. I was very relieved to finish this one. As I was running the finisher chute there was a runner receiving emergency medical treatment just in front of the finish line. I saw someone go down just after they crossed the finish line. It was not an easy day. Still, marathon number 19 was in the books.

Another marathon finish in the books

Marathon #19 complete

I stopped for a large cup of hot coffee on my way home. I’d earned that for sure. Usually I’m pretty much up and about the afternoon of a marathon but I was cooked. I needed to rest up. I reviewed my running data and looked at my charts. Holy moly that was an effort today. My time in the highest heart rate zone was insane. 2:31 hours out of the 4:08 was almost at maximum effort. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said it was not an easy day.

24 ounces of pure gold

A little too much time in the high red zone

Interestingly enough, it took me a few extra days to recover from this race. I’m usually sore a day or two after a marathon but I was really struggling even by day 3. I finally was able to run properly just in time for our Thanksgiving Day run on the Thursday post race.

I told my wife I may be taking a break from Philly after this year, after all, I’m running the 2018 New York City Marathon next November. That was until Black Friday when I signed both my wife and myself up for what will be the 25th anniversary running of the Philadelphia Marathon. I’m a sucker for a special medal.

So, until next year…